About Jack

Jack is really a storyteller and explorer and everything else rolls out from there. As a writer, its what he does.  As a trial lawyer, its his most important tool.  As a former CIA officer, the only way to truly motivate people is to connect and to tell them a story that they can feel viscerally.  As a media analyst, what better way to make a point.  In the end, he tries to captivate his audience about the world as much as he himself is captivated. 

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Cheers from Delhi, India.

Always interesting traveling around the world.  I just love the fact that I am just one of millions and that we are all different and all strangely the same.  I see parents kissing their children and children ignoring their parents.  I see people trying to live their lives, sometimes under truly impossible circumstances.

I realize that some never want to call themselves citizens of the world.  I, for one, am proud to describe myself as such.  It seems to me that it places me in a proper context.  War knows no borders.  Neither does peace. Violence, global warming, sickness, pain, love. . .  All of these belong to the world and to falsely categorize them as national issues rather than international ones strikes me as very very strange indeed.

Cheers from Delhi!


A Great Bunch of Guys in Afghanistan!


2nd Platton, Alpha Company, 2nd/508th Parachute Infantry

Herat, Guzara Province, Afghanistan. 2009.



So This is Shangri La?

Herat, Afghanistan.  Many people have looked for it.  Maybe they have just looked in the wrong place.  To be honest, along side the Afghan National Police Headquarters in Herat, Guzara Province, Afghanistan would not have been my first choice either.  But here it is. Well . . . sort of.

It is a two story condemned building.  Well, building may be a stretch.  Really, it is a concrete skeleton of a building with no roof, no walls, six massive wholes in the middle that allow snow, rain, and mud into the center of the building.  These men call it The Atrium.  But to the men of 2nd Platoon, Alpha Company 2nd/508th Parachute Infantry, this place truly is Shangri La. 

They have taken this condemned building andmade it their own.  They've had to.  They had two tents along side it but they needed more, better facilities.  So, with a lot of work, horse trading and ingenuity, they have created this place.  They have scooped out all of the crap from the floors, laid down concrete, sealed up some of the rooms, added electricity, an infirmary, an entertainment system, and more.  And, as if by magic, Shangri La.

To tell you the truth, it almost seemed like a bunch of twelve years olds playing fort, but with real guns.  I don't mean this in a negative way but rather in the best sense ever.  They simply created this out of will.  And, how do I say this, the place is fun.  It has a cool kinda vibe.  And it is home. 

Sometimes, you never know what you are going to find.  But to Sgt. First Class Clint Mack and his band of brothers, this place really is Shangri La!


Into the Streets!

Herat, Afghanistan.  Today is going to get edgy.  And interesting.  Today, I go out into the streets with the American 82nd Airborne and their colleagues, the Afghan Army.  That's right.  You heard me.  Today, joint operations are taking place in the Herat Province here in northwest Afghanistan. 

The purposes of these operations are to help the Afghan Army take the lead and "take back" their country.  There has been a lot of talk about what President Karzai has and has not done.  Well, without hesitation, what is needed most is an effective Afghan fighting force.  Without that, everything is lost.  This is true with 100,000 Americans or 1,000,000  Americans. 

Joint operations of this type can usually go one of two ways.  Things are very quiet or . . .

We will see.


Domination in Afghanistan is Futile!

 Kandahar, Afghanistan.  I was able to convince these soldiers from the 82nd Airborne here in Afghanistan to allow me to tag along with them in their Chinook helicopters as they resupply forward operating bases or FOBs.  FOBs are small little isolated camps scattered throughout the country.  And these helicopters provide everything from "beans to bullets".  But these guys also serve as bus drivers in the air as well.  They transport men and women across this country.  Seems expensive, right?  It is!

Expensive indeed!  But money isn't the issue.  We have proven we are more than willing to spend billions and billions on fighting wars while ignoring humanitarian issues.  Or while the U.S. has such need.  No, the real issue is not money in Afghanistan.  The real is is lack of infrastructure.  No . . . no infrastructure.  As I flew aboard Chinooks all day, it became clear that the vast majority of this country, has absolutely no infrastructure.  I mean no roads, no electricity, no running water, no mail system, no school system.  Nothing.  Now add to that one fundamental thing, geography.

I have never seen anything like this.  The country is overwhelmed by geography.  The Hindu Kush, this massive mountain range, determines much.  And that which is not Hindu Kush, still dictates what happens.  To call this "hilly" is laughable.  Mountainess?  Still a joke.

Now, combine the terrain with no infrastructure and then add one last component - dirt and dust.  And you know what you have?  You have the perfect triumvirate that will chew up and spit out any army.  Like Genghis Khan.  Like Alexander the Great.  Like the Brits.  

Now, lets put mechinzed in front of army and then look at the Soviets and the U.S.

Bottom line.  Nobody has ever dominated Afghanistan and nobody ever will.  The Americans could put not 30,000 but 300,000 troops on the ground and it still wouldn't be enough.  Simply put, the ground will refuse to yield.  And, in the end, so will the people.   

If history teaches us nothing, it should at least teach us that domination in Afghanistan is futile!



A Predator Unmanned Drone - Death From the Sky!

Kandahar, Afghanistan.  As it left the ground, I barely heard it.  In fact, I barely saw it at all except for the fact that I was looking toward the Kandahar Airfield.  It caught my attention as it reached into to the sky, a Predator unmanned drone.  The Predator, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, carries Hellfire missiles that reign down death upon those unlucky enough to be caught in its sites.

The Hellfire missile was originally designed the be a tank killer.  It has become a person killer.  You see, here in Afghanistan, it is being used more and more frequently against people. And there is real fear.  Because the Predator can stay in the air for hours and hour at about 5,000 feet, too high to hear, it can strike when it sees fit.  Unfortunately, it has seen fit to hit innocent men, women and children in this country.

While these Predators have the benefit of being unmanned which means no risk of life of those pilots, the risk to civilians, is terribly real.  In fact, it has been one of the biggest problems that the Americans face.  While it has undoubtedly been effective at taking out some of the baddies, the real question is whether the cost has been far too high.  Just ask the surviving family members who must bury their children, their parents, their friends.  And yet, President Obama is using these weapons more and more in this country.  In fact, President Obama is using them more and more in neighboring Pakistan as well.

And people here and in Pakistan have been begging the Secretary of State and President Obama to stop. However, based upon what I saw in the last couple of hours at the Kandahar Airbase, those calls remain unheeded.  And death from the skies continues. 



A Interesting View in a C-130 Over Afghanistan.

President Obama and Gen. MyChrystal have both stated that Afghanistan needs an army of at least 134,000 and a police force of at least 96,000. The idea behind this is so that those units can step up in this country and the Americans and other NATO troops can go home.  Well, that is the idea anyway.

As I get ready to fly on a C-130 from Camp Kaia in Kabul to Kandahar, I noticed a group of Afghan member preparing to come with me.  There were about 20 of these men, ages 20's to 50's.  They are part of the Kabul police force that has been trained by coalition forces.  They are flying down to Kandahar to train their counterparts in Kandahar.  

As we wait for the plane, I notice these men talking together and taking pictures as a group with a couple of American troopers.  It seems a lot like a graduation photo but it has a hard edge to it.  Hard to describe.

As I jump on the C-130, I am surrounded by these men.  I don't mind those close proximity as it was freezing outside and the snow was beginning to pile up.  As we sat down, we do so in long parallel lines faces one another, so that our knees cross back and forth and back and forth like some strange human zipper. 

One requirement in every C-130 I have ever been in is body armor.  We all have to be wearing it.  Kevlar vest and helmut.  We all have them.  And none of them match.  We each acquired them in their own way.  Their government.  Their employer.  Makes me think about the Sapi plates in my vest I acquired in Israel and the vest and helmet, Gosh know where.  .  .  

As I look down the line of these men, intermixed with the occasional trooper from around the world, it occurs to me just how strange this group of men, me included, really are.   


Afghanistan Coverage - How the World Has Changed.

As a solo journalist going to Afghanistan, technology has truly changed the ability to cover a conflict.  I don't go with a dozen people or a semi-truck full of equipment.  What I take, I carry on my back.  And it has to be enough because there isn't any body else to do it.  So when I pack, I pack like I'm going to the moon because essentially I am.

Where I'm going, there is little opportunity to pick up additional supplies or send one of my producers down the street to pick up a new microphone or camera.  For me, in the middle of Afghanistan, or Darfur, or Kosovo, or Iraq, if I can't find it amongst the gear I've packed, simply put, I'm screwed.

So, what do I pack and carry with me?  A small HD camera with a couple of microphone options.  A good SLR camera.  An audio flash recorder.  My battle tested Macbook.  A sat phone and an inmarsat terminal.  This lets me connect from the field and transfer what I'm doing. And maybe an extra shirt.  Pretty luxurious! Huh?

The real advantage is that when you run light and low drag, I can squeeze into places that massive operations can't even find, let alone get to.  And because the op is so small, people are far less intimidated and far more willing to share their lives with me.  In the end, that is what this is all about anyway.

So as I arrive in Afghanistan, alone, and throw everything on my own back and head off, I know that this is exactly where I'm supposed to be.


Why I Come To Afghanistan.

I've seen too much.  I've heard too much.  I've felt too much.  I've seen the results of war in countries all over the world.  And every time I witness the carnage, I see myself, my wife, my children.  So why would I bother going to another war zone?  Why go to Afghanistan?  Well . . . my answer may surprise you.

Afghanistan is the biggest story of the moment.  President Obama just spoke in front of 4000 cadets at West Point and has decided to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops into the fight.  This brings the U.S. troop totals to more than 100,000.  You add NATO troops and the numbers grow even more.  And today, Secretary of State Clinton and Secretary of Defense Gates testified before Congress today about why this is a great idea.  So you might imagine that I would go to cover the biggest story in the world.  You might be a little right but you would be more wrong.

While I do feel the obligation to cover "the big story", the reason I really go back into a war zone is to cover the little stories.  I go there to look into the faces of children caught up in a conflict that they, hell, few of us, really understand.  I go there to look into their faces and to witness their pain and their suffering.  And to tell their stories.   I want to talk to mothers and fathers about why they love their children, their parents.

I also go to look into the faces of those who fight on the American side.  Sure, I cover the military angles but I am far more interested in the small stories of the men and women who come to this place.  I want to know why the do this.  I want to know what they have sacrificed.  I want to know what they have lost.  I want to know how war has changed them.  Whether they even recognize themselves.

I come to this country to tell the stories that nobody knows.  The stories that everybody should know.


I Appear with Montel Williams Right Now!

Appearing on the air right now with Montel Williams on Air America Radio.  We are talking Afghanistan.  Hope you can listen.