My preliminary conclusion on Monday’s incident is reflected in the title. Of course, as with any intelligence analysis, my conclusion may need to be revised as further evidence becomes available.
I am well aware that a number of distinguished commentators take the view that the collision between the 50,000 ton Liberian-registered tanker MV Alnic MC and the USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) was down to poor watch-keeping on the part of the McCain. A nice four-star admiral, whose opinions I respect (i.e. not Admiral Clapper) emailed me to the same effect.
However, with respect to those taking the contrary view, I’m not buying.
What we know so far
The USS McCain had just completed a successful FONOP (Freedom of Navigation Operation) in waters illegally and arrogantly claimed by communist China in the South China Sea. (The boys in Peking have yet to grasp that just because a sea contains the word ‘China’ in the title, doesn’t mean it belongs to China, any more than the Tasman Sea belongs to Tasmania.)
The Alnic was carrying 12,000 tons of oil from Taiwan to Singapore, somewhat oddly, since Taiwan isn’t an oil producer. Her capacity was well above 12,000 tons. No one has explained why she was so light, which would of course have increased her speed.
In the early hours of the morning, without explanation, she diverted 90 degrees from track, to port, ramming the McCain aft, bows on, to judge from the damage. It is unclear whether her running lights were on. They probably weren’t.
In October 2011, at a time when they were putting intense pressure on Wellington, PLA-Navy intelligence arranged for a large container ship, the MV Rena, to ram Astrolabe Reef off the North Island of New Zealand, causing significant environmental damage. The incident was blamed on out of date paper charts, but the Rena was a modern vessel, with electronic charts and navigation aids. (I was in New Zealand at the time and ran the facts past a Kiwi intelligence contact.)
China is an aggressor state. She currently occupies a chunk of India and has waged or sponsored wars of aggression or terrorist campaigns against most of her neighbours. She is currently engaged in an imperialist policy of expansion in the South China Sea, part of which involves a spurious claim to the Spratly Islands, which are of course British. Her economy is being built up with the help of German-controled trading programs, an aggressive trade policy and systematic theft of Western intellectual property.
China is currently engaged in an undeclared cyber-war against the US, the UK, Australia, Canada and Taiwan. Almost certainly China has stolen the plans of the Arleigh Burke class DDGs, of which the McCain is one.
China only pays attention to international law when it suits her. The Chinese media, which is state-controlled, used the incident to bash the US Navy, the only sure guarantor of freedom of the seas in the South China Sea.
On June 17th, another 7th Fleet destroyer, the Fitzgerald (DDG-62) was rammed, this time by a container ship, the ACX Crystal, killing seven US sailors. Ten were murdered aboard the McCain.
The Pentagon’s line
Right from the start, the Pentagon assumed that the collision was the USS McCain’s fault. Vice-Admiral Aucoin, 7th Fleet C-in-C, was relieved of his command without a Board of Inquiry. The media have followed suit, blaming the US Navy, faithfully towing the Peking line.
I have been aboard the bridge of an American warship at sea and observed at first hand the high standard of watch-keeping. I am a former member of the US Naval Institute and I yield to no-one in my admiration of the professionalism of the US Navy.
I am aware that sailors killed aboard the mighty USS Iowa (BB-61) in 1989 were murdered in a DVD sabotage operation. I’m also aware that the DVD were involved in a series of other post-war attacks on American warships, including the carriers Forrestal (CV-59) and Oriskany (CV-34) during the Vietnam War and the USS New Jersey(BB-62) off Lebanon.
In the latter case Correa/COREA Group assets inside the Pentagon made sure the New Jersey sailed with stale cordite bags, ensuring that her main battery undershot, with unhappy consequences.
The notorious German spy Vice-Admiral Roscoe Hillenkoetter had earlier had a hand in setting up poor Captain Brown in the 1950 Missouri (BB-63) grounding incident. At the time the Missouri was the only US battlewagon in commission. She posed a major threat to the North Korean Navy.
Put shortly, the DVD have been involved in a sustained campaign against the US Navy for over 65 years. The Chinese Communist Party is a German front organisation, which is why you get pro-German members of Congress backing Peking.
The Pentagon have a history of blaming individual officers and wrecking their careers for political reasons. They are also committed to appeasing China.
Although the US military operate to a far higher ethical standard than civilian law enforcement, confidence in American military justice was severely shaken by the 2010 show trial of Lt-Col Terry Lakin. Readers will recall the case: in 2008, a Kenyan/Indonesian citizen, fraudulently claiming to be a US Citizen born in one of two locations in Honolulu, named Barack Hussein Obama, was elected President of the United States. He later supported his claim with a crudely forged, long-form Hawai’ian birth certificate, which contained no fewer than eight different typewriter fonts.
Although the CIA, DIA and DNI were well aware that a 2008 DNA test had ruled out Barack Obama’s claimed maternity, taking his claim to US citizenship down with it, the Pentagon suppressed the results of this test, and other material evidence, from the defense and the court. The trial was a screaming farce and Lt-Col Lakin’s distinguished career as a military doctor was ended, unjustly.
The Administration’s position
President Trump lost control of his administration last week, sadly. His few remaining allies are being cleared out one by one, with the excellent Sebastian Gorka being forced out this week.
US foreign policy is now effectively being determined by Dr Henry Kissinger, who is advising both Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. President Trump’s policy towards China is indistinguishable from President George H W Bush’s, i.e. it’s appeasement, Munich-style, all the way.
I like Henry Kissinger by the way. Our admittedly limited personal dealings have been entirely cordial, indeed he even agreed to have lunch with me at one point, albeit that the lunch, in New York, was canceled, as he got held up in Dubai talking to some Iranians. I do not however agree with Henry over the ChiComs, indeed I’m not sure that we agree much about anything, except maybe the desirability of bombing Cambodia.
President Trump has very properly expressed his sorrow over the loss of American life, but he’s not going to do anything about it. He can’t, unless he fires both Jared Kushner and that house-trained idiot Rex Tillerson, no offense intended, over at State. State won’t even let President Trump bomb Cambodia.
The McCain was rammed
I’m not buying a word of this tripe. Not for one moment do I believe that the watch-keeping on the McCain was not up to the usual high standards of the US Navy. She was rammed, fair and square, or, to be more precise, unfair and square.
After the Fitzgerald was rammed the 7th Fleet’s Rules of Engagement should have been altered to permit commanders of US warships threatened with ramming to respond with gunfire, initially over the bows of the attacking vessel. Commander Chad Graham (I believe I have his name right), a highly competent naval officer, should have been allowed to rake the Alnic with rapid, sustained 5”/54 cal. gunfire, until she either struck her colors and permitted herself to be boarded, or she fireballed.
President Trump with respect is going to have to take a stand on this one. If that means war with Liberia, so be it.
The skipper of the Alnic is keeping a low profile and I don’t blame him. I imagine that he will be whacked by some nice Navy SEALS one of these fine days; but I would much prefer the sailors on board the McCain who gave their lives to be avenged openly.
Tillerson and Kushner are going to have to go. My expectations of them are low, but very frankly I was expecting more of a SecDef nicknamed Mad Dog.
When is General Mattis going to get mad? No offense, but he needs to behave more like a general than a politician, and start smacking the State Department and the Chinese about some. What is the world coming to when we have a four-star American general who doesn’t want to kill commies?
In his defense, the last boat he was on was probably the Staten Island ferry, but I am sure that the ONI have studied the SATINT and looked closely at the Alnic’s track. Merchant ships don’t divert from their course without good reason. She wasn’t a tramp steamer and there wasn’t a typhoon.
The USS John S. McCain is unusual in being one of only three American warships named after a German spy, or, in her case, two German spies.
It’s also unusual for a warship to be named after an admiral who played a key role in losing a battle, in the case of John S. McCain Snr, the First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal.
The first was of course the USS Forrestal, named after Defense Secretary James Forrestal, who was played a key role in the capture and execution of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan in 1937 and was very properly executed by ONI on May 22nd 1949. He should have been fried in World War II, the bastard.
Ironically, and possibly not by coincidence, the Forrestal was the carrier later targeted for sinking off the Vietnamese coast by John S McCain Jnr. Thankfully she survived the plan to fireball her by starting a major fire on her crowded flight deck.
The second was the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. General Eisenhower was an Abwehr agent promoted by fellow Abwehr operative General George C. Marshall well beyond his somewhat limited military abilities.
Since Marshall wanted Eisenhower to lose battles, his lack of combat experience and tactical acumen didn’t matter of course. Eisenhower later became the first German agent since Herbert Hoover to be elected president, whereupon he screwed up the Korean War.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio
Although President Trump is not being permitted to govern America nor conduct American foreign policy, he does have some remaining powers, including the power of pardon. He used that power wisely this week, to pardon the greatest American lawman since Wyatt Earp, Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona.
The Sheriff, now in his 80s, had been convicted in a malicious federal prosecution, if that is not a tautology with respect, conducted wholly in bad faith by corrupt Obama holdovers at the Justice Department.
It is entirely right that the presidential power of pardon be used to correct abuses of the criminal justice system of this sort. Hopefully Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby will be next.
No doubt the holdovers were unhappy that the Sheriff’s cold case posse, who were sensible enough with respect to consult me, had uncovered President Obama’s fraud over his alleged citizenship. Anger at uncovering fraud in the White House is no grounds for prosecuting an honest lawman, however.
I am aware that the prosecutors laid a trumpery charge and claimed that the Sheriff was guilty of a crime, but Soviet state prosecutors said the same in Stalin’s time and the CPS said the same about me!
The Sheriff’s sentencing hearing will no doubt now be vacated from the calendar. The learned judge might even want to spend some court time dealing with real criminals.
My reading this week
This has included Trafalgar: The Biography of a Battle (Abacus, 2005) by respected military historian Roy Adkins. This is a very readable account of the great battle, where we (the Good Guys) whupped the Frogs and the Spaniard (the Bad Guys).
Not being a Napoleonic Wars specialist I learnt things about the battle I didn’t know, such as the short action fought a few days later to intercept a fleeing French squadron.
Our community partner Napoleon knew how to win battles on land, although he eventually met his Waterloo, but he was naive when it came to naval warfare. As Adkins explains, Boney was a control freak, who issued a stream of impracticable and sometimes conflicting orders to his admirals, rather like the Pentagon does today.
I did NOT know that Admiral Villeneuve had actually been relieved before the battle – the French postal system was even more inefficient then that it is now and the orders never reached him. Napoleon later had him whacked, of course.
This is a very good primer and I recommend it. You will be able to read all about Gordon Duff’s illustrious ancestor, Captain George Duff of HMS Mars, who sadly gave his life during the battle. He knocked off a few Frenchies before he went down however, so his life was not lost in vain.
Jerry Lewis (1926 – 2017)
I was sorry to learn of Jerry Lewis’s passing. He was a brilliant comedian, at his best in my view when teamed up with the late, great Dean Martin, who whilst not being an alcoholic, was fond of the odd drink or two.
Jerry Lewis, far from being a fool, was a genius. Being a bit of a genius myself (and modest, with it, which is the nice thing) I am little more sympathetic than some to the difficulties he had in relating with people. Dealing with idiots can be very trying.
Like many great comics, he created more laughs in life for other people than he had himself. That was a shame – I wish that he had enjoyed life more. He enriched the lives of many however with his outrageous talent and comic wit.
Michael Shrimpton was a barrister from his call to the Bar in London in 1983 until being disbarred in 2019 over a fraudulently obtained conviction. He is a specialist in National Security and Constitutional Law, Strategic Intelligence and Counter-terrorism. He is a former Adjunct Professor of Intelligence Studies at the American Military University.