Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
February 29, 2008

Empty Ships to Lebanon?

This is an odd announcement:

The U.S. Navy has moved the guided-missile destroyer USS Cole and other ships to the eastern Mediterranean Sea off Lebanon, Pentagon officials said Thursday.
The destroyer and two support ships are close to Lebanon but out of visual range of the coast, Pentagon officials said. Another six vessels, led by the amphibious assault ship USS Nassau, are close to Italy and steaming toward the other three, the officials said.
U.S. Navy ships move closer to Lebanon

Why is this odd?

Because the U.S. is sending empty ships.

The USS Nassau is leading an Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) consisting of an amphibious assault ship (Nassau itself), two amphibious dock ships and some cruisers for ass covering. An ESG usually carries a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) consisting of some 2,200 Marines and their material. It deploys these towards land and supports their fighting. The Marines operate their helicopters and vertical take off Harrier planes from Nassau's large flight deck

But as Navy Times reported on February 4 and on February 22, the Nassau Group left for its current mission without its Marines and their material.

That material is already on the way to Afghanistan and the Marines will follow next week or so.

So the Navy is sending big, hulky and vulnerable assault and landing ships towards Lebanon without the troops and most of the air assets that would eventually be needed for an evacuation operation or the like.

Why do this?

There is currently some huffing and puffing between Syria and Saudi Arabia over the election of a new Lebanese president and the upcoming Arab summit in Damascus that might be related to this. So is this U.S. trying gun-boat diplomacy to put pressure on the Syrian government? I find it unlikely that Assad will be impressed.

The U.S. ships could also be helpful when Israel again occupies the Gaza strip and commits the genozide it deputy defense minister just threatened. A full blown attack on Gaza could provoke a response by Hizbullah with new attacks on Israel's north. But how could the U.S. ships help Israel in Lebanon without any troops to put on the ground?

Nothing of this makes much sense to me.

What is your take?

Posted by b on February 29, 2008 at 17:06 UTC | Permalink


Could they be for an evacuation? It doesn't tell us why or who, but in a way it's more ominous than if the ships were manned with Marines.

Posted by: Dick Durata | Feb 29 2008 17:34 utc | 1

@Dick -evacuation- no, I don't think so.

What land troops would cover the evacuation? Most of the helo's are not on board either. In 2006 the U.S. did evacuate from Lebanon and the 24 MEU was actually involved.

Amid growing turmoil in Lebanon, Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit assisted in the voluntary departure of the first group of U.S. citizens on July 16, 2006. Twenty-one Americans were flown from the U.S. embassy to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, where Marines had staged yesterday to prepare for the operation.Two CH-53 Super Stallion helicopters, bearing a small team of Marines, took off from the British Royal Air Force Base in Akrotiri, Cyprus, just before 2 p.m. local time (7 a.m. EST).

The helicopters landed an hour later on the embassy grounds, where the initial wave of American citizens wishing to leave Lebanon had assembled.After dropping off the Marines and picking up the American citizens awaiting transportation, the helicopters lifted off and returned to Cyprus, landing at approximately 5 p.m. local time.

Evacuation goes well beyond sending a boat with a driver. You need feet on the ground to cover the evacuees ass.

Posted by: b | Feb 29 2008 17:56 utc | 2

Dumb question but (damn the torpedoes) does everyone know they're empty?

Posted by: beq | Feb 29 2008 18:00 utc | 3

everyone know they're empty

Everyone who reads the public Navy Times and U.S. mil-blogs. That will definitly include anyone who is interested in U.S. military postering in the world. Quite a crowd and certainly of diverse nationalities.

Said differently - Hizbullah and the Syrians will know this ...

Posted by: b | Feb 29 2008 18:33 utc | 4

Could be an economic question.
Cost of x days in a ship vs cost of moving by planes in 2 days, . seasicknes of many marines, quarries, etc

Posted by: curious | Feb 29 2008 18:59 utc | 5

What if Israel is planning a "Sherman march to the sea" across Lebanon and needs someone, um, naval, for evacuation?

Posted by: IntelVet | Feb 29 2008 19:11 utc | 6

Hmm - March to the Sea - the brutality of that would fit Israel, but think of being Olmert. Would you trust Bush to really pick you up in Beirut?

Would anyone trust Bush?

Besides of that - the distances are much smaller and unlike Sherman Israel has enough assets and capacity to fight a retreat if needed.

Maybe Bush is just bullying?

Or soemthing else is on board of these ship? Sarkosy sending some troops?

Posted by: b | Feb 29 2008 19:31 utc | 7

Maybe they're empty so when a missile hits from Lebanon the US will have the excuse they're seeking without high casualties. USS Liberty redux. By the time the missile is traced back to Israel and not Hezbollah, it won't matter. Does the Cole still have a big target painted on its side?

Posted by: biklett | Feb 29 2008 19:50 utc | 8

How about as prison ships?

With all the talk going around about another Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon. Maybe they're planning on a big roundup of some sort and will need the ships to disappear the captives?

Just a thought.

Posted by: Night Owl | Feb 29 2008 19:52 utc | 9

Talk about an empty shell.

Is it possible that the US military is only barely taking orders from the preznit and secstate?

"well, we can send a few ships, but the troops are all tied up. It's all we can give you."

Guaranteeing that the sail-by will be only as announced, "a show of force."

That seems too simple an explanation.

It's as if there is some phantom game being played just below the horizon. Why did Israel put that crater in the desert in Syria about 6 mos ago? European banks have just agreed to tighten the screws further on Iranian "money laundering", because the "terrorists" of Hezbollah are still receiving funds.

Posted by: small coke | Feb 29 2008 19:55 utc | 10

maybe they're just going to shell uncooperative areas of Lebanon from a safe distance offshore. that wouldn't be without precedent. it would be a pointless war crime but when has that ever stopped them?

Posted by: ran | Feb 29 2008 20:43 utc | 11

I agree, the intention of the movement of the US ships is not obvious for the moment. One would think that the intention is to pressure Lebanon, and consequently Syria, but that will have no effect. An action in relation to the threatened invasion of Gaza by Israel is a possibility, but we have to wait to see what is intended.

Posted by: Alex | Feb 29 2008 22:08 utc | 12

Tinfoil-hat autothought is "false flag" like #8 said. But since when can serfs like me ever know what is really going on in history, much less in the cutting-edge present? Feints within feints within feints...

Posted by: Cloud | Mar 1 2008 0:17 utc | 13

In a swedish short comedy there was a gag on the bureacracy of the biggest television network (public service, and iirc one of the financiers of said movie). Anyway the movie follows the attempts of making a low budget documentary about the documentary makers dying father. In a crucial scene the documentary maker and his cameraman has the following conversation:

- Are you ready? Where is your camera?
- I am ready but I do not have a camera.
- What do you mean!? I booked this months in advance!
- Well you booked me this whole month, but not the camera.
- So where is the camera?
- It is booked shooting scenes of baby hedgehogs at the zoo this month, but I am here.

Delivered correctly it is quite hilarious. Anyway, that is what came to my mind reading this.

Posted by: a swedish kind of death | Mar 1 2008 1:55 utc | 14

My vote is on empty military without any marines to put on the ships because those fighters are already busy somewhere else. It's a big world with lots of room for lilypads.

Just because it would be kinda funny that the US of A, spending some $500 or $600 billion dollars every year on defense including stealth bombers and missile shields and body armour, has run out of people!

The ships are empty! How fitting.

Hi to Night Owl and the rest of the crew.

Posted by: jonku | Mar 1 2008 9:01 utc | 15

I really appreciate the idea of imposing a rational explanation to mystifying events, but has it occurred to MOA commenters that perhaps this is simply a cock-up of usual DOD proportions?

Not every commander in the US Military Establishment is an evil genius. Hell, most of them aren't really that smart to begin with. Assuming that military motions are somehow part of an explainable phenomenon requires a great leap of logical faith that Bernhard seems incredibly apt at keeping at bay.

Again, I appreciate the intellectual exercise, but let's be careful about reading too much into this.


PS - my conspiratorial mind says this is simply CIA rendition "handoffs" occurring in a geographically convenient (albeit contested) region.

Posted by: Jeremiah | Mar 1 2008 21:12 utc | 16

Jeremiah - I have no idea what you are saying but I deleted the spam-link in your comment anyway.

Pat Lang says

the US revels in hallucination in which the "freedom agenda" fantasy melds with; Israeli and NSC obsession with Hizbullah and Saudi dreams of a restored Sunni triumpnalism in the Levant. The effective interaction of Zionist loathing of the idea of Shia power in Lebanon and the long standing Saudi Mashrou' (project) in Lebanon and Syria makes me wonder if they are actually talking to each other somewhere or if Elliot Abrams is a good and sufficient intermediary.

Three US naval vessels off the Lebanese coast. Wow. What a threat! They can't be seen. We have to tell the target of this strategic information operation that they are there. That will frighten them!! What are we thinking of?

Posted by: b | Mar 1 2008 21:45 utc | 17

We know the answer re Elliot Abrams. So does pl; he is just being polite.

Brief translation of full pl comment: "The Bush govt is living in cloud-cuckoo land."

Posted by: small coke | Mar 2 2008 4:02 utc | 18

roads to iraq

For sure you never read about the Israeli violation of the Lebanese airspace in the western medi, Al-Hayat reported that the Lebanese army counted eight violations yesterday.

Also, Al-Hayat reported about European officials tipped Hizballah to delay any operation against Israel saying that the Jewish state would respond to Hezbollah in Lebanon if the party operates against Israel anywhere in this critical situation.

The warning can be explained today with The U.S. deployment of USS Cole warship.

Hizballah sees this development as a declaration of war by the U.S. against the Arab countries, pushing the region into a confrontation that allows a military involvement, also the significant of the USS Cole warship saying:

It is the same Cole that was attacked by AL-Qaeda in the Gulf of Aden in Yemen where 17 American soldiers died, embarrassed the Yemeni government.

Al-Akhbar says:

This is an American adventure intended to demonstrate support for the parliament majority in Lebanon.

History repeats itself, after nearly half a century of American humiliating exit from Lebanon, the Americans are repeating 1982 mistake.

Posted by: annie | Mar 2 2008 5:10 utc | 19

Listening to an AIPAC symp. Poor Israel...what can they do...they handed Gaza over to the Palestinians in hopes of promoting peace...why magnanimous as they always are they didn't even attach conditions - such darlings those Israelis are...

And, my god, if those ingrates didn't elect Hamas and proceed to continuously subject Israeli cities, etc. to rocket attacks in recent times...So, sigh, Olmert has just no choice but to prepare Israeli & World Opinion for Israel to launch a major attack on Gaza & "cripple Hamas", whatever the hell tha means, but for starters their head poobah went underground after bombing of their headquarters...

Is it an accident that xAm. primaries are about over & for Rethugs to win, they'll have to shift the station to war, terra.... since McCain's slogan is KillKillKill...

Posted by: jj | Mar 2 2008 10:10 utc | 20

What do you mean by "xAm. primaries"? Is this “x” attribute ascribed to all Americans similar to the hard Soviet attribute that debs uses when using the word "Amerikan"? This “x” preface seems common in your posts. Have I, along with 300 million other Americans, now been permanently saddled with yet another negative label?

It appears from your previous posts, and specifically this one, that a primary hope for our (that is, “xAmerikans”) redemption is to elevate abortion into a Sacrament, some sort of sacred ritual to be used to bring about significant increases in abortion for “birth control”.

On another thread in our parallel universe, there is currently a good discussion on “American Exceptionalism”, spawned by a post by Monolycus. In that thread, quite a few posters complained about what rgiap described, and quite correctly, as “the dominant culture” in America. I say ”quite correctly” because of the word “dominant”. That is not to say that a majority of Americans hold such views. It may be so, but maybe not. But such a culture and mindset is definitely in control and in hideous ways. As I live near three large U.S. military bases here in NC, I can say the “dominant culture” in my immediate area is “dominant” both in number and control. I believe I have made such views of mine apparent in previous laments.

But is American culture being degraded by those only dominant as described? It appears from some of your posts that those from the left perspective, as well as those from the right, can also degrade American culture. In the same sentence where reference is made to “xAmerica”, a complaint is lodged against McCain’s slogan of “kill, kill, kill”. Are only those living things connected to humanity by a dominant woman’s cord worthy of death?

Posted by: Rick | Mar 2 2008 12:51 utc | 21


I apologize for being obtuse. I was simply suggesting that not *every* event is traceable to some larger conspiratorial apparatus, as many of MOA's commenters seem bent on. Sometimes a cigar......

The "keeping at bay" comment was meant to suggest that normally, you don't seem too eager to indulge in tinfoil thinking (a quality of your writing I've come to appreciate) and I felt perhaps this post had deviated from that tradition.

Again, my apologies for not being more aware of where I'm posting. International audiences are not always appreciative of regional American writing styles, as I'm slowly learning.

I didn't know there was a spam link in my comment... ??

Posted by: Jeremiah | Mar 3 2008 4:46 utc | 22

Rick - no time to answer tonight. Will do so in next few days. Sorry for the confusion. No, to your understanding of what I was trying to say is short answer.

Posted by: jj | Mar 3 2008 6:20 utc | 23

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