Almost 40 years ago I was involved in a Marine Corps operation which by now is old and unclassified, so I don’t think I’m saying anything that’s going too far. We were never told it was classified but in reality, this exercise is all too similar to the impetus behind a popular movie, Three Days of the Condor. Other events unfolding throughout the 1990’s and into the new millennium share a familiar theme.
Three Days of the Condor came out in 1975, two years after the Marine Corps field exercise called Operation Alkali Canyon in the Mojave Desert . This exercise is also mentioned here. As a slight off topic point, his article refers to the Marine Corps discipline problems in the early 1970s. I agree with his observation. I can admit not only is he correct, it was one of the principle reasons why I left after only one tour. Drugs and race relations were a serious problem although I learned how to work with people who I took a strong disliking to because of their personal addictions and sometimes criminal behavior.
Back on topic, the exercise was held in U.S. climate conditions approximating those found in the mid-east. At this point in my life I was running about 8-10 miles almost everyday. I was previously stationed at Twentynine Palms and knew what it was like working in scorching temperatures. I may have not liked it, but I took the job as seriously as one could. Even still, when you’re working in that heat and moving heavy equipment along with walking in boots through loose sand, 120+ temperature, you feel it. The purpose of the exercise was conducted as though we invaded a country in the mid-east. Sound familiar?
HMM-161 was called upon to support Operation Alkali Canyon in MCB Twentynine Palms from 2-16 September 1973 in a joint exercise with elements of the armor battalion. I was part of the detached Marine Corps Tactical Air Operations group from Quantico Virgina stationed in Santa Ana California. The purpose of the exercise was to simulate real world fighting conditions preparing to secure specific identified assets in an un-named mid-east country. When you look back at this exercise and the real events that soon followed in October, you should be able to see the linkage and orchestrated events leading up to and including one of the largest tank battles ever conducted when Egypt and Israel went toe to toe in the desert.
The 1973 war between a consortium of Arab countries and Israel sparked an oil crisis in October 1973, when the members of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries, OAPEC (consisting of the Arab members of OPEC, plus Egypt, Syria and Tunisia) proclaimed an oil embargo. By the end of the embargo in March 1974, the price of oil had risen from $3 to nearly $12 per barrel. Oh how we would love that price now.
Why is this important to talk about now? There are several good reasons I would like to suggest you think about. First, the exercise I was involved in wasn’t created on a whim. Sure you might think it was a coincidence, it just happened to preceed a similar and real event a short time later. If you believe a huge and expensive operation like the one I was involved with was a coincidence, I would like to sell you some swamp land and call it beach front property. Next, you see a movie that aids in desensitizing us about the reality in which we live. That reality is oil and it’s the life blood of any developed nation. Without it, we would be facing a catastrophic crisis. The events beginning with the desert wars involving multiple nations in the 1990s and the follow on invasion of Iraq, were also no mere coincidence.
Today, we are gifted with and dependent on electronic technology. The Internet has become the backbone of worldwide communication. It’s also used to manage many devices including electrical power generation, satellite and military communication as well as everyday banking transactions. Our present system of data communication wasn’t created with enough robust security features and there have been innumerable hardware and software technologies developed to counter the constant attacks generated by sophisticated criminals and nation sponsored. Recent events disclose there are power stations at risk as well as many ATM dispensers. (Note: 95% of ATM’s still use Windows XP)
I’m including a few background sources, if you care to read and understand more about the precarious world in which we live.
- The Arab Oil Embargo (1973-1974)
- 35 Years After the Oil Embargo
- 1973 Yom Kipper War (YouTube video)
- The U.S. and the Persian Gulf: The Logic of Intervention (Harvard Crimson article 1976)
- Mystery Assault on Power Grid (WSJ video)
- Hackers text ATMs for cash via Windows XP flaws (ZD-Net)
“Land of the free … because of the brave!”