Who's Flying the New Syrian Choppers?
Reports surfaced Tuesday that Russia is supplying Bashar al-Assad's murderous regime in Syria with MI-17 attack helicopters. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke to this issue publicly, and voiced concern that these attack helicopters might be used to attack the resistance to the Assad regime.
Ya think, Hillary?
Weapons, in and of themselves, do not cause deaths or injury. The users of the weapons do, and in each report that has surfaced there is much hand wringing about this "escalation" and the "intractable" opposition of Russia to aiding in any way to rein in the Syrian government. A single question about these helicopters seems conspicuously absent, however. Not an answer, it must be admitted. But not even this question is being put forward.
Who exactly is flying these helicopters?
Are Syrians going to pilot these new helicopters? Training a pilot is an extremely time consuming effort. In fact it is arguably easier to build a fighter aircraft or helicopter than it is to train the pilot. It is therefore highly unlikely that Assad has a barracks full of trained helicopter pilots sitting around playing canasta because they have no machines to fly. So absent a trained pilot pool, who is going to be flying these new helicopters? Russians? Or perhaps Iranians?
If anyone other than Syrians are the pilots, this puts the transfer of these helicopters from Russia in an entirely different light, and presents a even greater threat to the stability of the Middle East. Of course Russians, when known as the Soviets, have often provided "technical advisors" as they did in Vietnam. The United States did the same thing as well, until the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, when we committed actual combat troops to the war. What will the Russians do if Assad doesn't appear to be winning? Iran is open in its support of the Assad regime, and the same question must be asked of what they will do if their pet dictator begins to look as if he is losing.
Yet the question of who is going to be actually piloting these new helicopters has not been asked. Why not?
Perhaps it's because neither the Clintons nor Barack Obama have any personal experience in the military. They are openly dismissive and derisive of our military. The fact that the question isn't uppermost on their minds illustrates this quite clearly.
I hope this is a wake up call for Mitt Romney should he succeed in November. He was never in the military either, but there are a lot of people who have. And he should be asking them what questions need to be answered.
Jim Yardley is a retired financial controller for a variety of manufacturing firms, a Vietnam veteran and an independent voter. Jim blogs at jimyardley.wordpress.com, or he can be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org