General Elon Musk, the Ketamine Commander, vs. Ukraine

by | Aug 22, 2023 | The Truscott Chronicles

Photo by Tolgahan Akbulut

General Elon Musk, the Ketamine Commander, vs. Ukraine

by | Aug 22, 2023 | The Truscott Chronicles

Photo by Tolgahan Akbulut

Not only does General Musk have a stranglehold on Ukraine’s military communications, he now controls a good portion of U.S. national security.

Republished with permission from Lucian K. Truscott IV

You don’t even need to go back as far as World War II to look at what used to happen when armies took to the battlefield. The last major conflict this country was engaged in was the war in Vietnam. I’m using Vietnam as an example because of the casualties we suffered on the battlefield—some 58,000 dead and over 150,000 wounded. Estimates vary, but as many as 400,000 to 600,000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers were killed over the 10 years the U.S. was actively fighting in Vietnam. About an equal number of civilians were killed over the same period. By any measure, Vietnam was therefore a major war.

The military objective on a battlefield is to lose as few of your own soldiers as possible, while inflicting as many casualties as you can on the enemy. The most important way this is accomplished is with firepower, and the way firepower can be effectively deployed in a war depends on intelligence gathered on the enemy. This is the way intelligence was gathered on the enemy in those days.

We had aerial surveillance overflights by aircraft like the U-2, but when its cameras looked down at the battlefield—which consisted of the entirety of Vietnam, North and South—all they could see was jungle. So the U.S. used F-4 Phantom jets equipped with cameras, both optical and infrared, to peer down at enemy troop movements and vehicles. At a lower altitude, small Cessna planes and a super-quiet Lockheed model were used for battlefield forward observation and airstrike coordination. The Bell UH-1 “Huey” helicopter was used not only to transport troops but as battlefield aerial command posts for ground combat commanders at the battalion, brigade, and division levels. Flying above the reach of ground fire by enemy small arms, commanders looked down at the battlefield and were able to help direct artillery fire and troop movements based on what they could see of enemy positions.

Down on the ground, not much had changed since the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Soldiers used their own eyes or binoculars to look at where the enemy was and what they were doing. The Army formed so-called LRRP units (pronounced “lurp”)—Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol — down to brigade level to send out small teams of infantry soldiers into enemy territory to observe and report on their positions and movements.

At the levels of individual units such as companies and platoons, soldiers manned observation posts stationed outside battalion and brigade and even company-sized basecamps to try and track the enemy, especially at night. They would find places to hide and camouflage themselves to avoid detection by the enemy and wait for VC or North Vietnamese patrols to pass their positions. Sometimes the patrols would engage the enemy, but often their purpose was to report back on where the enemy was and what they were doing.

In Vietnam, radios were used to communicate between observation airplanes and helicopters and troops on the ground. A so-called C and C ship—a Command and Control helicopter—was in effect a flying radio platform. The commander could “punch into” various radio nets on the ground to talk to lower-level commanders at company and platoon and sometimes even at squad levels. On the ground, soldiers communicated with each other using handheld and backpack-sized radios. Most, if not all, of those communications were “in the clear,” in other words, unencrypted and able to be heard by anyone with a radio capable of listening to the frequencies used by the American soldiers. At higher levels of command, coded communications were possible, sometimes using wired connections between commands, sometimes using codes transmitted over radio signals. But the whole thing of battlefield communications was so primitive that in World War II, so-called code talkers were used to communicate by radio, usually Native Americans who spoke languages such as Cree, Comanche, and Navajo that German military units were unable to understand.

The object of reconnaissance and communication was and is to determine where the enemy is located, what they are doing, and if possible, what their intentions are and transmit that knowledge either to higher command or from one command to another. Well, the days of using human eyes, even human eyes enhanced by optical magnification of binoculars and unencrypted radios—those days are over. Now the skies are crisscrossed by satellites and drones, all of them looking down at the enemy. And today, the satellites and drones have another purpose—to aid in communications on the battlefield, because soldiers cannot move in relation to friendly units or against the enemy without communicating their own positions and where they are planning to move.

In Ukraine’s war against Russian aggression, satellites are absolutely essential on the battlefield. Since the beginning of the war, U.S. intelligence has supplied Ukraine with information about Russian troop positions and movements. We have intelligence satellites looking down at the whole country. I’ve reported previously on how Ukrainian units use U.S. satellite intelligence in their targeting of artillery and rocket strikes on Russian positions. Ukrainians using small drones will locate a Russian troop or vehicle position and transmit that information back to higher command, which in turn contacts U.S. intelligence operations that can check the drone’s estimated location against satellite intelligence from that area and provide more accurate location information that is used by Ukrainian artillery or rocket units to strike the target with great accuracy.

How does all of that take place? Well, in Ukraine, it’s all run by General Musk and his web of Starlink satellites constantly passing over Ukraine and the front lines with Russia. Recent reporting by the New York Times and today in a story by Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker tell the story of how Musk’s Starlink satellite network has become the electronic lifeblood of Ukraine’s fight against Russia. At the beginning of the war in February of 2022, Ukraine had a limited digital communications network connected through satellites run by another company. Russia quickly damaged that network with cyberattacks and electronic warfare, leaving Ukraine unable to communicate between its military and political leadership in Kyiv and Ukrainian military units fighting the Russians.

Enter General Musk’s Starlink. As Farrow described it, in the months following the Russian invasion, “fund-raising in Silicon Valley’s Ukrainian community, contracts with the U.S. Agency for International Development and with European governments, and pro-bono contributions from SpaceX facilitated the transfer of thousands of Starlink units to Ukraine. A soldier in Ukraine’s signal corps who was responsible for maintaining Starlink access on the front lines, and who asked to be identified only by his first name, Mykola, told me, ‘It’s the essential backbone of communication on the battlefield.’”

Let’s stop right there and describe the network General Musk controls. With his SpaceX rockets that can carry up to 60 satellites each time one is launched, Musk now has more than 4,500 Starlink satellites in low orbit around the globe. The advantage SpaceX has over other companies, which include rockets launched by NASA, is that the lower stages of Space-X rockets can return to earth and land themselves and are thus reusable. That’s how Musk has gotten 4,500 of them up there.

The New York Times in its recent article on Musk and Starlink ran this illustration of where the satellites are, shown here as a screenshot of an animated illustration:


The satellites basically provide a global wifi network and are accessed from ground stations consisting of a tri-pod mounted terminal about the size of a laptop screen. The satellites are in a low orbit about 300 miles above the surface of the earth, constantly circulating above its surface. Communication from the earth station to a passing satellite occurs through its wifi connection and is passed from satellite to satellite as they pass over the ground station. The signals then get transmitted to other ground stations kind of like a huge digital cellphone network in the sky. But Musk’s network has the massive advantage of not needing cell towers to operate. The satellites carry the signals and do all the work.

It sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Because the whole thing is digital, communications in Ukraine between ground stations can be encrypted, so they are secure from the prying ears of the Russian enemy. The problem, however, is that the whole thing—from the 4,500 satellites to every single station on the ground—is at the mercy of one man, Elon Musk.

Last year, General Musk got upset that the Ukrainians were moving on the battlefield to aggressively take back land that Russia had taken from them, so he cut off communications between Ukrainian Starlink ground stations near the front lines where the Ukrainian offensives were taking place, like the offensive that re-took Kherson. He used what is called “geofencing” to cut off communications between Ukrainian ground forces and Starlink satellites in Zaporizhzhia, Kharkiv, Donetsk, and Luhansk, The New Yorker reported. According to both the Times and The New Yorker, a frenzy of what amounted to negotiations took place between Ukraine, the Pentagon, and Musk to get communications restored. All of this happened after Musk appeared at a conference in Aspen and started talking in an alarming fashion about a peace plan for Ukraine that sounded suspiciously like the one being pushed by Vladimir Putin. The “peace” would consist of Ukraine giving up lands taken by Russia, including Crimea, in return for the end of hostilities.

Elon Musk was acting like a power-player on the world stage. With his stranglehold on Ukraine’s ability to communicate, Musk apparently saw himself in a position to dictate what would happen in the war Ukraine was fighting for its survival. The Times reported blandly way down in its story on Musk that “Senior Pentagon officials have tried mediating issues involving Starlink, particularly Ukraine, a person familiar with the discussions said.” Right after this rather gentle delivery of such shocking news, the Times reported that “The federal government is one of SpaceX’s biggest customers.” They use Musk’s company to launch NASA missions and—you guessed it—military intelligence satellites.

Are you getting this? Not only does General Musk have a stranglehold on Ukraine’s military communications, he now controls a good portion of U.S. national security because our military satellites don’t go up there to look down on Russia and China and any other country we are concerned about unless Elon Musk says they do.

It’s a safe assumption that the Pentagon has a contract with SpaceX for the launches of our intelligence satellites, but astonishingly, the Pentagon did not have a contract with Musk’s company for Ukraine’s use of Starlink satellites and terminals until June of this year. Everything up until then was apparently at the mercy of General Musk. The European Union is sufficiently alarmed over Musk’s control of satellite communications that they are planning to launch a web of communications satellites of their own beginning in 2027. Until then, however, not only is the European Union dependent on Starlink and Musk, so is the NATO alliance.

General Musk has told interviewers that in the past, he voted for Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. But in 2022, Musk went on Twitter (now another of his “X” companies) and announced that he would be voting Republican in midterm elections. He has already announced that Defendant Trump will be welcome back on his mass-communication internet platform anytime he wants on it, and earlier this year, he evinced support for Ron DeSantis when he hosted the Florida governor’s abortive announcement of his candidacy for president. It’s anybody’s guess which way General Musk intends to make the political winds blow next, but it’s pretty obvious which way his wind is blowing.

And now into what the Times calls “a combustible personality,” we must add Ketamine into the mix. According to Farrow in The New Yorker, Musk is now a user of the drug, apparently as an anti-depressant. Musk hasn’t confirmed his use of Ketamine, but Farrow reports that “several people familiar with his habits” have confirmed a Wall Street Journal report that he uses the drug. “Associates suggested that Musk’s use [of Ketamine] has escalated in recent years, and that the drug, alongside his isolation and his increasingly embattled relationship with the press, might contribute to his tendency to make chaotic and impulsive statements and decisions.”

Farrow quotes Amit Anand, whom he calls “a leading Ketamine researcher, as describing “higher doses,” of the drug this way: “You can feel grandiose and like you have special powers or special talents. People do impulsive things, they could do inadvisable things at work. The impact depends on the kind of work. For a librarian, there’s less risk. If you’re a pilot, it can cause big problems.”

So, there it is, folks. General Musk has taken control of the skies with his massive network of internet satellites. He’s welcoming Defendant Trump to use the platform some are now calling TwitX, and he’s endorsing Vladimir Putin’s aims in Ukraine. In ways large and small, he is flying the plane on which we and a larger and larger number of the world’s citizens are mere passengers.

Welcome to the world as commanded by Ketamine-infused General Musk.

Lucian K. Truscott IV

Lucian K. Truscott IV

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist and screenwriter. He has covered stories such as Watergate, the Stonewall riots and wars in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels and several unsuccessful motion pictures. He has three children, lives in rural Pennsylvania and spends his time Worrying About the State of Our Nation and madly scribbling in a so-far fruitless attempt to Make Things Better.

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