December 29, 2005
Will the Real Journalist Please Stand Up?
It has become a staple of conservatives that "you can't trust the msm and the best information about Iraq is on the Internet". I keep looking for something to prove that proposition wrong, but the harder I look the more it is confirmed.
Last month a blogger by the name of Bill Roggio went to Iraq to report on the war as an imbed with the US Marines. Most readers are, or should be, familiar with Roggio, who's work initially appeared on his site The Fourth Rail and now appears at ThreatsWatch.
Roggio isn't just any blogger, however, for his daily reporting on the details of our operations in Iraq far surpasses anything I've seen elsewhere. He became a must-read for me last spring when I was looking for information about the war, and simply could not find such reporting elsewhere. His work has attracted much attention, and his website(s) receives a far amount of traffic, as he well deserves.
Roggio's articles, or posts, describe the various campaigns and battles in a matter-of-fact way. Analysis is done only after facts are presented, and the tone of his prose is measured, never shrill or harsh. He believes that we are winning the war, but is no chearleader for the administration.
Because Roggio does not make his money from writing, but does this as a hobby, taking time off work, and paying the expenses necessary to travel to Iraq, was quite an undertaking. To help raise the $30,000 necessary for the venture, he asked his readers to help. Like so many others, I contributed a few dollars.
The good news is that the msm noticed Roggio. The bad news is that they decided to attack him.
The title of Monday's Washington Post story on Roggio sets the tone for the rest of the article:
Bloggers, Money Now Weapons in Information War
U.S. Recruits Advocates to the Front, Pays Iraqi TV Stations for Coverage
In other words, Roggio is a propagandist, and what he does is no different than the US Military paying Iraqi TV stations to run certain stories. To the Post it's all part of a larger propaganda war, and apparently only they count as objective observers.
To be fair, they do give Roggio his due, quoting him on why he went to Iraq:
"I was disenchanted with the reporting on the war in Iraq and the greater war on terror and felt there was much to the conflict that was missed," Roggio, who is currently stationed with Marines along the Syrian border, wrote in an e-mail response to written questions. "What is often seen as an attempt at balanced reporting results in underreporting of the military's success and strategy and an overemphasis on the strategically minor success of the jihadists or insurgents."
Unfortunately, the article got many of it's facts wrong on Roggio, which he subsequently pointed out in a response posted on ThreatsWatch:
There are three problems with this article which require a response: the use iof incorrect facts which could have been easily checked; the portrayal of my embed as an information operation; and equating U.S. military information operations with al-Qaeda propaganda efforts.
Readers should go to both the Post article and Roggio's response as I cannot recap the entire debate. However, he did contact the Post writer to set the record straight:
In an email to Mr. Finer expressing my displeasure with being labeled a military information operation, Mr. Finer suggested I read the entire article. I assured him I did. The title and subtitle are not meaningless to the context of the article; it is implied I was a tool of the military, when in fact the military had no influence whatsoever in what I said from Iraq.
The details of my embed are then followed with a discussion on military information operations, the Lincoln Group’s activities in paying for positive articles to be published in Iraqi publications, and the military funding Iraqi radio stations. The implication is clear: a blogger embedding in Iraq must be part of a nefarious scheme by the military to influence the perceptions on Iraq.
The truth is far more mundane. I wasn’t paid a dime to report from Iraq by the Marines, nor was I influenced in any way in what I could or could not write about. I had full control over the where and when of my embeds. Never once was my work subject to the approval or review of the military. I wrote what I experienced, both the good and the bad.
Interviewed by Hugh Hewett on his radio show, Roggio said that in other conversations with Mr Finer, the latter said that he couldn't understand why Roggio "might be upset" with the Post article. Talk about a difference in perspectives.
Journalism in America
In the unsigned editorial, the journalist "urges Americans to search for truth, freedom." He or she spent 10 months in Iraq, and would like to share what he believes are some "revelations" about the United States. Excerpts follow:
Lesson One: Many journalists in Iraq could not, or would not, check their nationality or their own perspective at the door.
One of the hardest things about working on this story for me personally, and as a journalist, was to set my "American self" and perspective aside. It was an ongoing challenge to listen open-mindedly to a group of people whose foundation of belief is significantly different from mine, and one I found I often strongly disagreed with.
Lesson Two: Our behavior as journalists has taught us very little. Just as in the lead up to the war in Iraq, questioning our government's decisions and claims and what it seeks to achieve is criticized as unpatriotic.
Along these lines, the other thing I found difficult was the realization that, while I was out doing what I believe is solid journalism, there were many (journalists and normal folks alike) who would question my patriotism, or wonder how I could even think hearing and relating the perspective "from the other side" was important.
Certainly, over the last three years I've had to acquire the discipline of overriding my emotional attachment to my country, and remember my sense of human values that transcend frontiers and ethnicity.
Lesson Three: To seek to understand and represent to an American audience the reasons behind the Iraqi opposition is practically treasonous.
Every one of the people involved in the resistance that we spoke to held us individually responsible for their security. If something happened to them -- never mind that they were legitimate targets for the U.S. military -- they would blame us. And kill us.
And many American journalists often refer to those attacking Americans or Iraqi troops and policemen as "terrorists." Some are indeed using terrorist tactics, but calling them "terrorists" simply shuts down any sense of need or interest to look beyond that word, to understand why indeed human beings might be willing to die in a violent struggle to achieve their goal.
Lesson Four: The gatekeepers -- by which I mean the editors, publishers and business sides of the media -- don't want their paper or their outlet to reveal that compelling narrative of why anyone would oppose the presence of American troops on their soil. Why would anyone refuse democracy? Why would anyone not want the helping hand of America in overthrowing their terrible dictator?
Wouldn't we as women be joining with them in any way we could? Wouldn't the divisions between us -- how we feel about President Bush, whether we're Republican or Democrat -- be put aside as we resisted a common enemy?
Lesson Five: What it's like to be afraid of your own country.
Once the story was finished and set to come out on the street, I was rushing back to the States -- mostly because we could no longer work once the story was published -- and I found I was scared returning to my own country. And that was an amazingly strange and awful feeling to have.
We need to begin to be able to look again at our government, our leadership and ourselves critically.
The Courier-Journal piece contains so much moral relativism, is just so...horrible, that to disect it is not even necessary. It is almost at the level of self-parody, a caricature of the most gross and insulting sort. Yet somebody wrote it, a reporter hoping to influence our opinion of the war in Iraq.
To be sure, it would be an error to automatically assign the views of the Courier-Journal reporter to all journalists, including Mr Finer at the Washington Post. Yet who can really doubt that such thinking is all too common among members of the Fourth Estate?
And this is exactly why people such as Bill Roggio and Michael Yon are so valuable. While I would never issue a blanket statement like "you can never trust anything in the mainstream media", I will certainly say that between Bill Roggio and the Washington Post, Roggio is the real journalist. And he stands tall indeed.
December 24, 2005
What has always struck me about the Bible is how little attention is paid to the birth of Jesus.
Only two of the four gospels, Matthew and Luke, mention His birth at all, and neither at any length. The manger scene receives only a few sentences in Luke, and none at all in Matthew, who is mainly interested in the visit of the Magi("wise men"). The gospels of Mark and John do not consider His birth worth of mention at all.
On the other hand, all four cover at great length His arrest, trial, crucifixion, and resurection.
Further, when one reads the letters of Paul, James, Peter, John, and Jude, they hardly if ever mention the birth of Christ, but are again deeply concerned with the meaning of His crucifixion and resurection.
And yet Christmas is the most popular holiday on the Christian calendar. Theologically, it should be Easter.
The reason for this, as most people know, is cultural. And that is fine, I've got no problem with things as they are. The music alone makes this season the best time of the year, as far as I am concerned.
Anyone who delves into the New Testament quickly learns that althoug the Christmas story is beautiful, in and of itself it doesn't have much meaning for us, other than to get things started. The real message of Jesus is that he died for our sins on the cross, and to have eternal life all we need do is to believe in Him.
That said, the Christmas story of Matthew and Luke is worth rereading
Matthew 1:18-24 (New International Version)
The Birth of Jesus Christ
18This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[a] because he will save his people from their sins."
22All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"[b]—which means, "God with us."
24When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.
The Visit of the Magi
1After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem 2and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east[b] and have come to worship him."
3When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ[c] was to be born. 5"In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written:
6" 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'[d]"
7Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him."
9After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east[e] went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
The Birth of Jesus
1In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3And everyone went to his own town to register.
4So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
The Shepherds and the Angels
8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ[a] the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
It is only in the West where Christmas is the biggest holiday on the Christian calendar. I have been informed by reliable sources that in the Eastern Orthodox Church Easter dominates. Wikopedia elaborates:
Easter is the fundamental and most important festival of the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox. Every other religious festival on their calendars, including Christmas, is at best secondary in importance to the celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord. This is reflected in the cultures of countries that are traditionally Orthodox Christian majority. Easter-connected social customs are native and rich. Christmas customs, on the other hand, are usually foreign imports, either from Germany or the USA. Eastern Rite Catholics in communion with the Pope of Rome have similar emphasis in their calendars, and many of their liturgical customs are very similar.
Christmas is not ignored, but is rather seen for what it is; the necessary preliminary to the crucifixion and Resurection. That Christmas is the larger holiday in the West is a cultural, and not religious, tradition.
December 23, 2005
Humvee Armor II, and Why So Many Critics are Clueless
An issue that still occasionally pops up is the issue of armored Hummvees. All you have to do is google for "Humvee armor scandal" or something similar and you'll find the following criticisms of the Pengagon, Rumsfeld, or even George W Bush:
- The Humvee should have been built with armor in the first place
- Once we realized that we were facing an insurgency we should have uparmored our Humvees faster
- Pentagon bosses like Rumsfeld and Myer were told about the problem early on but ignored it because they're stupid and/or don't care about the troops.
- The bosses at the Pengtagon made high-tech weapons a priority when they should have made armored Humvees their priority.
- Nothing like this has ever happened before in all of recorded history, or at least before Vietnam, the only war any of them seem to be aware of.
Basically, war critics say that this episode demonstrates "criminal negligence" and/or "incompetence" on the part of the administration, or as many put it, "BushCo". What is almost funny is that when you read their "recommendations" as to what the military should do, the miliary has already been doing these things or is in the process of doing them. It all reminds of of John Kerry during the 2004 elections, everything he said we should do we were already doing.
It's all, of course, a bunch of nonsense. The reality, as usual, is more complex.
First, What is a Humvee and Why did we Build It?
Up until 1980s the US military used the venerable jeep of World War II fame. In 1983 a company called AM General was awarded a contract to build a vehicle known as the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, or HMMWV, pronounced "Humvee".
It was designed to replace the venerable Jeep, various models of which which we had used in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Anyone who has seen a picture of a jeep knows that it is relatively small, and there is no practical way any armor can be put on it.
The idea behind the Humvee was simple; something bigger and more modern was needed. In the post-Cold War era, the army wanted to move from a "heavy" to a "light" footing. Remember all that talk in the '90s about "lighter and faster"? How we were going to get away from tracked vehicles because mobility (strategic and tactical) would be the key to success?
The Humvee would fit into this. Along with the new Stryker, it was light and fast, but could carry a lot more than the old Jeep. Sure, it was unarmored, but it wasn't meant to be a front-line vehicle.
And in Desert Storm, it worked. The M-1 Abrams tanks and Bradlee fighting vehicles led the way, and the Humvees stayed in the rear. The Humvees could carry enough to be useful, but didn't burn that much gas (more on that later).
Where's Your Crystal Ball?
Now, there are some among us who pretend like they knew all along how Iraq was going to turn out. They act like they knew there would be an insurgency, that Saddam destroyed all of his WMDs, and that of course we needed armored Humvees.
Not so fast.
It's Not That Simple, Stupid
In addition to crystal balls, the critics have extraordinary project management and mechanical abilities. All that you do is fire off some paperwork, a factory starts slapping armor on Humvees, and you ship them off to Iraq. How hard can that be?
Pretty hard, according to W Thomas Smith, who wrote about this issue a few days ago for National Review. His story got me thinking about this entire subject again. I first wrote about Humvee armor last December, when this issue came to the forefront at a meeting between Rumsfeld and some troops. With additional information from Smith's article, it's time for another post.
Smith looked into why it seemingly took so long to get uparmored Humvees into the field. No matter where he looked, he got the same four answers
* These things take time.
* Replacing the Humvee is not really what it's all about.
* The Humvee was not designed to handle mine and IED attacks.
* It is far more complex than anyone realizes.
Critics like to bring up World War II. During that war, the time between initial design and production could be measured in months (double digits, but months nevertheless). True enough, but this misses several critical points.
Quality control was sacrificed to meet the demand for quantity. Not that manufacturing was "slipshod" or anything, but it was expected that a relatively high percentage would break or crash. About 50% of our aircraft losses during the war were from non-combat causes; take off or landing accidents, weather, simply getting lost, or mechanical failure. If this occured today it would be national scandal.
With tanks we sacriciced technical superiority as well. Our best tank of the war, the M-4 Sherman, was decidedly inferior to the worst German tank (the Pz 4) at the time it went into production, and we knew it. We deliberately decided not to design a more advanced tank because we thought quantity better than quantity.
Now think about that a minute. "Quantity over quality". And the enemies tanks are superior. Can you say "cannon fodder"? The entire strategy of "overwhelming the enemy with numbers" presupposes that you will take horrendous losses while doing so, which we did.
Lastly, weapons were less complex back then. Yes, so was design and manufacturing techniques, but in the final analysis it is simply easier to produce a piston engine fighter than a modern one. Those who advocate that we build "more, and cheaper" weapons don't know what they are talking about(remember Gary Hart in the 1980s?). "More and cheaper" weapons don't work for a number of reasons I don't have time to get into here but if I remember I'll take that up in another post.
Yes I know there's a difference between a Humvee and an F-22, but uparmoring a Humvee is still complicated.
You Can't Just Snap Your Fingers
Smith tells us why it's not so simple
Presidents, Defense secretaries, and generals can't just issue orders that vehicles be built.
Once all options are weighed, including accepting the realities like weight reduces speed and nothing can protect against all and changing threats, the military makes the decision as to exactly what type of vehicles it needs to win wars and save lives.
Then the big vendor companies — like General Dynamics, United Defense, and Boeing — which are geared-up to manufacture large numbers of already contracted combat armored vehicles, aircraft, and other weapons systems; must choose to compete for the new project by conceptualizing, designing, and developing a new system which ultimately their company may never be contracted to produce in numbers large enough to justify their own development. Yet, those companies have to retool some of their operations for specific R&D if they hope to compete. The risk and cost is enormous.
Consequently, smaller start-up companies able to expend all of their energies on a specific design characteristic or particular vehicle are often the best way for the government to go: But only if those companies have the start-up capital to begin designing without a contract.
Then the companies — whether monolithic defense contractors or small start-ups hoping to win a big government contract — have to factor in the reality that the dynamics of the battlefield are constantly changing. For example: Lately, there have been fewer IED attacks in Iraq, but the mines and the roadside bombs are much larger.
Each time the threat changes, the scientists have to go back to the labs; the engineers to their drawing boards; the marksmen, explosives experts, and test drivers back to the ranges.
The Next Generation
My perception is that it is not common knowledge, but the military has been hard at work fielding new vehicles.
The MUV-R's manufacturer, South Carolina-based Force Protection, is currently producing much-larger mine-and-blast protective vehicles — the Buffalo and the Cougar — which are already in service with U.S. forces in Iraq. The Buffalo, which CBS News' Bob Schieffer called a "Humvee on steroids," is a mine-clearance vehicle. The Cougar is a troop transport, but geared for the same market that the M113 armored personnel carrier would be. Not a Humvee.
Therein lies the problem.
"The Humvee is a glorified jeep," says Blount. But the Army and Marines are now using the Humvee for a purpose for which it was never intended.
So it's not so much a question of replacing the Humvee, as much as it is developing a brand new armored vehicle with the same speed, climb, and general off-road performance capabilities of a Humvee.
That may well be the MUV-R, and that vehicle could be on the ground and running in the fourth quarter of 2006, a phenomenal feat considering the concept was realized one year ago. And vehicles weren't initially slated to roll of the line until 2007.
Today, a fully armored proof-of-concept vehicle is charging over the hills and racing around the mud and red clay roads in the backcountry of South Carolina, not far from where the Buffalo and Cougar are manufactured in Ladson.
At 10-12 tons — more than twice the weight of an up-armored Humvee — the MUV-R cruises at 65 miles per hour with burst speeds of up to 80. It can carry 6-to-10 fully armed soldiers, and it has a roof-mounted weapons system, remotely controlled by the right front-seat passenger, giving a whole new meaning to the term, "riding shotgun."
Moreover, the vehicle's design features can enable it to withstand — basically deflecting — enormous blast and ballistic impact from every angle.
I can't find the "MUV-R" on the internet, and don't have time now for an extensive search (if you find it please let me know). But I do encourage everyone to check out the links to the Cougar and Buffalo, one, because the photos make it clear that they're not just glorified Humvees, and second because the performance specs are fairly impressive.
The Next War
It used to be that it was said that "generals and admirals always want to fight the last way". In other words, they think the next war will be like the last, and request weapons accordingly. The best example of this is the Maginot Line. French generals thought that any future war with Germany would be like World War I, so they planned for a defensive campaign. Ooops.
Now, however, it is the civilians, and war critics in particular, who seem to to think that all future wars will be like Iraq. They tell us we don't need the F-22 (guess the China-Taiwan controversy will magically disppear) or advanced warships (ditto). We are told that Iraq is the wave of the future.
There are at least three possible conflicts that may break out in the next five years, all of which will require high-tech weapons on our part.
China/Taiwan - My analysis shows that there is a good chance the PRC will make it's move shortly after the 2008 Olympics in Bejing. If we do get into a war with them over Taiwan, it will be an old-fashioned shoot-out on the high seas coupled with (or mainly) air battles overhead.
Iran - Everyone knows they are developing nuclear weapons. Their president, and many before him, have stated that once they have them they'll use them against Israel. Any war with Iran will necessitate the use of our most advanced aircraft and weaponry.
North Korea - It is not terribly likely that Kim Jong il will send his army south, it is possible that war could erupt. Much of it will be a nasty ground campaign, but in order to take out the massive amount of artillery he has hidden in the mountains just north of Seoul, not to mention taking out his nuclear assets (another debate I know), we will again need high-tech aircraft and weaponry.
History and More History
The critics seem to think that this incident is unique in history. At least this is my general perception, but I think it correct.
The first time I looked at the issue of Humvee armor I did a little survey of all that we did wrong in World War II and Vietnam and came up with this:
We entered World War II with 80% of our torpedoes being defective. That's right, folks, up to 80% of the torpedoes that we fired didn't work for one or more of three reasons: they dove too deep, they failed to explode on contact, or they detonated en route to the enemy ship, the magnetic detector being the culprit (ideally a torpedo goes under the enemy ship and detonates to achieve maximum damage, thus a magnetic detector is required to detect the steel of the ship).
Not only did we enter the war with inferior and outright lousy tanks, we never did achieve parity with the Germanys. The reasons why we stuck with the venerable Sherman are many (and some quite valid), but that does not excuse the fact that we entered the war with inferior tanks. (Note to techies; yes I know this issue, like all others concerning military hardware, is very complex).
The Shermans that we did finally build couldn't deal with the hedgerow country in Normandy in the days and weeks after the D-Day invasion. The tanks became stuck in the hedgerows that were all over the area and became bogged down. Finally a US sergeant came up with the idea of welding a fork-like scoop to the front of the tanks. When they came to a hedgerow they were able to plow the hedges up and keep moving. None of this was anticipated, as arguably it should have.
However one comes down on the debate about US tanks, no one can dispute that our aircraft were almost universally inferior, especially to those the Japanese had. Our F4F Wildcat couldn't match the famous Mitsubishi Zero, the F2A Buffalo was a joke, the and TBD Devastator obsolete . At least theSBD Dauntless was a good aircraft.
We went into Vietnam with F-4 Phantom fighter aircraft that didn't have guns. In our infinite wisdom we had thought that the days of gunbattles in the sky were over and everything would be decided by missiles. Wrong. Pilots quickly discovered that while missiles were preferred, there were many cases where only a gun would do. To rectify the situation we strapped a gun onto the center hard-point of the Phantoms (or some of them anyway), and only later reincorporated a gun into the aircraft.
Victor Davis Hanson, in an article in National Review last February, reminded us of other things that we seem to have forgotten:
Most of our armored vehicles were deathtraps, improved only days before the surrender. American torpedoes in the Pacific were often duds. Unescorted daylight bombing proved a disaster, but continued unabated. Amphibious assaults like Anzio and Tarawa were bloodbaths, plagued by terrible planning and command. The recapture of Manila was clumsy and far too costly. Okinawa was the worst of all operations, and yet was begun just over four months before the surrender — without careful planning for kamikazes, who were shortly to kill nearly 5,000 American sailors. Patton, the one general who could have ended the western war in 1944, was earlier relieved and then subordinated to an auxiliary position with near-fatal results for the drive from Normandy. Mediocrities like Mark Clark flourished and were promoted. Admiral King for far too long resisted the life-saving convoy system and thus unnecessarily sacrificed merchant ships; Admiral Bull Halsey almost lost his unprepared fleet to a storm.
No I am not excusing true incompetence. What I am saying is that it is in the nature of war that unexpected things happen, one of which is that sometimes you end up needing different weapons than the ones you thought you needed. It's easy to say that someting should have been done "faster", and to be sure there's always room for improvement, but from where I sit the Pentagon handled the situation regarding Humvee armor reasonably well.
December 21, 2005
Election Analysis by MEMRI
MEMRI, or Middle East Media Research Institute, is one of the most valuable organizations around. Their main task is translating news stories that appear in the Arab press into English and other Western languages, and then disseminating them worldwide. The idea is that in order to change that part of the world you need to understand it first.
As such, I highly suggest you at least bookmark their site, if not get on their mailing list.
While the purpose of today's post is their recent analysis of the elections in Iraq, we'll start out with a few of their recent stories about articles that have appeared in the Arab press:
Hizbullah Al-Manar TV’s Children's Claymation Special: Jews Turn Into Apes and Pigs, are Annihilated and Cast Into the Sea
So as you can see, MEMRI is a great source of information regarding the Arab world. Unfortunately, much of that news is quite depressing. On the up side, however, we have to start reforming the Middle East somewhere, and as fate would have it Iraq is the place. It will take much time, but I am absolutely convinced that if we stick it out, in the decades to come we can transform the entire region for the better.
Democracy in Iraq
As I mentioned, in addition to translating news stories, MEMRI provides it's own analysis. Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli, Senior Analyist at MEMRI, has a particularly insightful and concise view of the recent elections in Iraq in a piece titled "The Elections in Iraq — The Roots for Democracy"
It's worth hoping over to read the entire article, but here are a few of Dr Raphaeli's observations:
There were two parliamentary elections in Iraq in 2005- the first on January 30 and the second on December 15. There were, however, significant differences between the two:
1. Participation - The first election was boycotted by the Sunnis. Although self-imposed, the boycott reflected somewhat negatively on the legitimacy of the election and its outcome. In the second election, there was overwhelming Sunni participation with a view of playing a significant role in the country's political process. In the AnbarProvince, the heartland of the Sunni-led insurgency, 88 percent of the eligible voters exercised their right to vote. Contrary to previous Sunni position, Dr. Adnan al-Duleimi, a key leader in the Sunni community, stated that his group will enter into alliance with anyone who is committed to the integrity of Iraq.
2. Security - In the first election, people voted under the cloud of the threat that "blood would flow in the streets." In the second election, the Sunni insurgents held their fire. Security was maintained through curfews, restrictions on the movement of non-authorized vehicles, closure of borders with neighboring states and an effective cordon sanitaire around the polling stations established by the Iraqi security forces, aided unobtrusively by the U.S. military.
3. Methodology - In the January election, Iraq was treated as a single constituency with the votes cast distributed among the different slates on a strictly proportional representation method. In the December elections, there was a more complex system with the 275 contested seats divided into two categories. The largest category of 230 seats were divided among the 18 governorates with Baghdad receiving the largest share of 59 seats and al-Muthana Province, in the south, with the smallest share of 5 seats.
The remaining 45 seats, known as the compensatory seats, will be divided according to a complicated mathematical formula.  The compensatory seats would help small parties or even individual candidates who may not receive enough votes to qualify for a seat in one governorate to be elected with the help of votes cast in for them in the other governorates or overseas.
4. Duration of Parliament - The parliament elected in January was a transitional one entrusted with the responsibility of promulgating a new constitution with its provisions for a general election. The December election has elected a parliament for a term of four years operating in a fully sovereign Iraq.
5. Scope of Voting - In the first election, the voters cast two ballots, one for the parliament and one of the Council of the Governorate where they live. In the Kurdish region there was a third ballot for the Kurdish parliament. In the December election there was one ballot for electing a new parliament.
The Key Concerns of the Iraqi Voters
Most commentators agree on a number of key concerns for the overwhelming majority of the Iraqi voters. These include:
(a) the restoration of security;
(b) the building of the foundations of a modern state with functioning services-electricity, water, health and petrol;
(c) the ending of corruption;
(d) the creation of employment opportunities; and
(e) the exiting of the multinational forces.
Political configuration after the Election
Even when the results are made public, it is a safe assumption that four or five key political groups in the new parliament will negotiate extensively over the future government's agenda and the distribution of its portfolios, particularly those commonly referred to as the sovereign ministries, among the winners. After the previous election in January, it took the two leading coalition partners three months to form the current government and that only after the U.S. president called on the party leaders to conclude their bargaining.
The Sunnis will enter the new parliament with renewed political vigor and with determination to seek far-reaching constitutional and political concessions. The willingness of the other partners to make the concessions will be inextricably tied to the capacity of the Sunnis to deliver on the issue of the cessation of the insurgency.
There is a common agreement, however, that unless the Sunnis join the political process the stability of the country and indeed the future of democracy will be in jeopardy. The United States will no doubt use its good offices to insure that concessions are made by everyone to bring the Sunnis in full force into the next Government of Iraq as part of an exit strategy of the multi-national forces.
December 19, 2005
The Defeatocrats keep complaining...
...but freedom advances across the Middle East.
From a press release issued today by Freedom House:
The people of the Arab Middle East experienced a modest but potentially significant increase in political rights and civil liberties in 2005, Freedom House announced in a major survey of global freedom released today.
The global survey, "Freedom in the World," shows that although the Middle East continues to lag behind other regions, a measurable improvement can be seen in freedom in several key Arab countries, as well as the Palestinian Authority. In another key finding, the number of countries rated by Freedom House as Not Free declined from 49 in 2004 to 45 for the year 2005, the lowest number of Not Free societies identified by the survey in over a decade. In noteworthy country developments, Ukraine and Indonesia saw their status improve from Partly Free to Free; Afghanistan moved from Not Free to Partly Free; and the Philippines saw its status decline from Free to Partly Free.
According to Thomas O. Melia, acting executive director of Freedom House, "The modest but heartening advances in the Arab Middle East result from activism by citizen groups and reforms by governments in about equal measures. This emerging trend reminds us that men and women in this region share the universal desire to live in free societies."
The global picture thus suggests that the past year was one of the most successful for freedom since Freedom House began measuring world freedom in 1972.
(Hat tip NRO)
Yes the advance of democracy is slow.
Yes Iraq is still rated "not free" by Freedom House.
Yes there will be setbacks in the future.
But when has it not been this way?
As I recall, the American South was not totally free in 1867, and that's putting it mildly. Rarely does a country go from complete tyranny to complete freedom overnight. In this regard Japan and Germany were the exceptions.
So it will take time to get Iraq right. But time is now on our side, as the terrorists are slowly but surely being defeated. Their strategy of attacking Iraqi civilians has backfired, and we see the results in the elections of a few days ago where the Sunni's participated in great numbers.
All we have to do is to stay firm. At the beginning of the War on Terror I said that it was really about willpower, and current events are proving this out. And yes, Iraq is the central front in the War on Terror, and no it doesn't matter that Saddam didn't plan or know about 9/11. We can't stick our head in the sand, our offensive strategy of engaging the enemy on his turf is working despite greater than anticipated difficulties (Clausewitz smiles knowlingly; google for "friction of war").
As Freedom House notes, freedom is advancing steadily if slowly. And as Margaret Thatcher once said, "This is no time to go wobbly"
December 17, 2005
Today I went up to Washington DC to see off a young Iraqi man who is going back to visit the country of his birth. I forget exactly how long he said he would be gone, but I seem to recall it as a month or so.
He is today an American citizen, and has one of the most amazing life stories that I have ever heard. He is also a very impressive person in his own right, someone that I predict will make a name for himself.
His name is Jesse Kaveh, and here is his story, as told to Jamie Glazov of FrontPage Magazine:
Under Saddam Hussein, my family witnessed more atrocities than are reported or even imagined by any human rights group. After the gassing of Halabja, my home town, things had never been brought back to any sense of normalcy. There were constant raids upon the town as well as surrounding areas in which Saddam's Fedayheen would randomly storm peoples’ homes and find males between the ages of 16-35 and label them as rebels. Several family members disappeared but no one would say anything.
There were soldiers stationed everywhere and no one knew where Saddam's secret service was. He had agents in what appeared to be every market place and cafe and so people were always looking over their shoulder and would try to avoid large gatherings. Everyone watched what they said and kept conversations to very general terms and people were rarely close.
One night in particular stands out above all other nights. On May 16, 1989 (I only know the date because of what happened), I remember it was raining really hard. My mother had me in her arms and we were over at my uncle’s home -- which was right down the road from where he had a small farm.
A large group of soldiers kicked in the door and started shouting. We all were put on the ground, noses touching the floor, while family members were kicked and one of my cousins I later found out was raped. They had an order from a Baath party official that my uncle was supplying the Iranians with food and he was a traitor. They grabbed him and bound him along with his three sons. Everyone knew what would happen but at the same time we knew there was nothing we could do to stop it.
Raids in my part of Halabja continued until the night my mother and father were murdered. This happened on December 13, 1990. It was dark outside and my mother, father and I were huddled next to the fire. The soldiers in black, as well as several others, came banging on the door that night. They came to round up what they deemed as more rebels. This time it was my father. My father was never a rebel; he was a farmer. Nonetheless, it was Saddam's orders and his personal militia from Tikrit that came and dragged him out of the home. Before they opened the door, my mother told me to go run and hide. I hid in a crawl space in my parents’ room by the stairs. I heard my mother screaming and pleading with the soldiers and a father's deep voice also saying something. After a very short time, BANG, and the deep voice stopped and my mother replaced that voice with screams. Then, BANG, the screams stopped and all that was heard was the jeep leaving.
I didn't know what was going on and then another small group of men entered the home. I thought the men in black had come to get me too and they had found me. The difference was these men in black were U.S. soldiers operating in the area at the time. They came to see what had happened and rescued me and another person.
My family personally witnessed one-third of their relatives dragged away never to be seen again.
The "U.S. Soldiers" Kaveh refers to were Special Forces guys operating in the area. Keep in mind that this was before the Gulf War. In other words, they were on a "black" mission, in a country that we were not officially fighting.
They could have just left the young Jesse there. If they took him back there was no guarantee they could get him into the United States. The State Department might have considered their action kidnapping a foreign national.
But they took Jesse, and a young girl that they found, back with them to their base in Turkey. After some wrangling, they were granted entry into the United States, and both were adopted by families. Jesse found a home in the Washington DC suburbs.
So much for John Kerry's view that American soldiers are "terrorizing" Iraqi women and children.
And, as you might imagine, Jesse is an enthusiastic supporter of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
I first met Jesse at the counter rally to the the anti-war protests in Washington DC on September 24 of this year. He has since been a regular at our Friday night rallies outside Walter Reed Army Medical Center as we counter Code Pink and their ilk (select "Rallies and Protests" at right).
Soon he will take a trip back to the Kurdish region of Iraq, where he will spend a few weeks with relatives. When he gets back I will try and find out about the trip, and if he is going to post anything about it.
Lafayette Park, Washington DC
Early this afternoon a handful of us went uptown to give Jesse a goodbye.
Lafayette Park is just north of the White House, which you will see in the background of these photos. It is the site of daily protests by groups ranging across the spectrum from right to left. Today I could see at least two other groups besides ourselves.
One of our party had a portable podium and sound system, and for a few hours people spoke about freedom and the war. Jesse was just finishing up as I arrived, and I did not get a good photo of him.
I'm the guy in the red hat in this next one. Jesse is in the white shirt and skullcap.
In the background of this next photo you can clearly see the White House. To the left of our speaker, Kristinn, you can see some people with bright pink and yellow signs. They are members of Code Pink, a radical leftist group that also protests outside of Walter Reed Army Medical Center every Friday night. We counter them each Friday night with a rally of our own. Small world, we meet again at Lafayette Park.
Passers by sometimes stopped and listened. Some took photos, and we got a few thumbs up. Others debated us for a bit.
After the rally ended, I walked closer to the White House so I could get better photos of the leftists.
Lo and Behold, one of the leftists I ran into was none other than "Squeeje Man", a regular Pinko at the Friday night anti-war protests. He is so named because during the summer he would go into traffic when cars were stopped at the light and try to hand the drivers literature.
He no doubt recognized me, and was obliging enough to pose for a photo
I don't know who the group was behind this display.
What a country.
December 15, 2005
There They Go Again
John Kerry, that is. A few days ago he said that our troops were"terrorizing" Iraqis.
Yesterday he announced that there was a "solid case" for bringing articles of impeachment against President Bush.
Later, a Kerry aid tried to deflect criticism, saying that it was an "Impeachment joke".
Uh huh. I think that he just got caught saying what he really meant. Mamy mainstream Democrats are now so deluded that they actually believe that "Bush lied!" to get us into war with Iraq. They actually think that it was all some sort of plot to... well there are so many variants it's hard to know which is the most current.
Howard Dean tried to take back one of his wilder comments, too, with equally less success, in my opinion.
During an interview on WOAI Radio in San Antonio last week Dean said that we were going to lose in Iraq:
Saying the "idea that we're going to win the war in Iraq is an idea which is just plain wrong," Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean predicted today that the Democratic Party will come together on a proposal to withdraw National Guard and Reserve troops immediately, and all US forces within two years.
"We can and have to win the War on Terror."
"We can only win the war -- which we have to win -- if we change our strategy dramatically. ... if we want to win the war on terror we cannot pursue the failed strategy we've pursued..."
"I'm not as worried about the President's credibility as I am about the lives of brave American soldiers giving their lives and coming back wounded."
"We need to redeploy our troops and stop making our troops the target over there."
"We are for the troops. We're going to stand up for these troops. They deserve better support than they are getting."
"Not only do most Democrats, most Republican Senators now believe the 2006 has to be a transition year. ... We want to serve our troops better. We believe they deserve better. We want to serve our people better and we want to win the war on terror. And we want to do it smart because we can't do it the way we're doing it now."
Of course he issues no plan himself, because he doesn't have one.
President Bush, however does, and it is right on the White House web site for anyone who bothers to look. And I suggest that you do, if for no other reason than to see just how detailed it is.
I've noticed that many Democrats have been saying that the plan is not detailed enough. On a theoretical level something can always be "more detailed". But you don't want a national strategy document to start discussing what individual military or civilian unit does what, because that is tactics, not strategy.
Apparently one group that is not looking there is the MSM. CNN tells us that "Fifty-eight percent of those polled said Bush doesn't have a clear plan on Iraq". Maybe if they reported on the "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" document mentioned earlier, people would know.
December 13, 2005
The Washington Times has a "History Lessons" section on their editorial page that has become a must-read. From today's edition:
From "Why the U.S. bombed," The Washington Times, Oct. 16, 1998, by National Security Adviser Samuel R. Berger:
"Following the Aug. 7 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the United States launched a missile strike against a factory in Khartoum, Sudan, as well as against terrorist camps in Afghanistan. Since then, some critics have suggested that we acted precipitously when we struck the Sudanese Al Shifa plant. But, given what we knew, to not have acted against that facility would have been the height of irresponsibility.
"First, we knew that the Osama bin Laden terrorist organization was bent on large-scale violence against Americans... And we had information that bin Laden has been seeking chemical weapons to use in his terrorist acts.
"Second, we had physical evidence indicating that Al Shifa was the state of chemical weapons activity... We found the presence of EMPTA, a chemical essential for making deadly VX nerve gas...
"Other products were made at Al Shifa. But we have seen such dual-use plants before -- in Iraq. And, indeed, we have information that Iraq has assisted in chemical weapons activity in Sudan.
"Third, we had information linking bin Laden to the Sudanese regime and the Al Shifa plant. Bin Laden lived in Sudan ... until he was expelled under international pressure. He left behind associates and facilities and has maintained a close relationship with the government...
"To those who assert we did not act appropriately, I would ask: With information that bin Laden had attacked Americans before and planned to do so again, that he was seeking chemical weapons to use in future attacks, that he was cooperating with the government of Sudan in those efforts, and that Sudan's Al Shifa plant was linked both to bin Laden and chemical weapons, didn't the United States government have a responsibility to the American people to counter this threat? I believe the unequivocal answer is yes."
I recall clearly when this happened, and in my opinion this incident does not get the attention it deserves.
Consider what happened:
- President Clinton received intelligence that a plant in Sudan was producing chemical weapons.
- The President acted on that intelligence by having our military destroy the plant.
- Later it was discovered that the intelligence was faulty and that the plant was not producing chemical weapons.
Anyone beside me see an analogy here?
My Position on President Clinton
I did not vote for Bill Clinton in either 1992 or 1996. I supported his impeachment and removal from office for lying under oath. I disageed with many of his policies.
But in this and other policies toward Iraq I supported him. At the time I thought that he did the right thing by having the pharmaceutical plant in Sudan destroyed. Yes, like many other conservatives I too wondered if maybe it wasn't meant to divert attention from scandals at home. I won't deny that. But I said at the time that in the end I thought he did the right thing.
And he did. In fairness to President Clinton, he is not trained in intelligence matters. He's a smart guy, I'm sure he asked tough questions, but what the intel people told him made sense. I'd have done the same thing.
At the time he was criticized once it was discovered that the intelligence was faulty, but it was nowhere near the level of attack that has been leveled at President Bush. To be sure, a ground invasion is a much more serious affair than letting loose a few cruize missiles. But by the same token, the intelligence saying that Iraq had quantities of WMD was a lot stronger than the intel on Sudan.
In the end it's pretty simple: Before April of 2003 everyone who mattered thought that Iraq had quantities of WMD, and had good reason for thinking so. Iraq was a threat, and the sanctions were falling apart. President Bush was presented with this information, and did what any prudent person would have done; taken military action to end the threat. He did, and the world is better off for it, WMD or no.
December 12, 2005
The Shift from "Kinetic" to "Non-Kinetic" Operations
I'm convinced that far too many people just read and hear the daily news stories about Iraq and assume that "it's just more of the same." Another day, another IED, another American casualty. A few stories here and there about new Iraqi Army units, maybe something about a military operation by our forces, but it all becomes blurry to many folks
And in a war without traditional front lines, it's easy to be lazy and take that attitude. After all, there are no neat maps in the newspapers like there were during World War II, where they could show exactly how much progress we were making - or not.
In this war it's more difficult. You have to pay attention, read and discern. And it's taken me some time to find the best sources of information.
One of them is Bill Roggio, a blogger currently in Iraq imbedded with the US Marines. And in a few of his recent posts he talks about the switch our forces have made from "Kinetic to Non-Kinetic" operations. Here's how he describes it:
If you have a discussion with military officers in Western Anbar Province about the current and future status of military operations in the region, invariably the conversation will lead you to the reconstruction efforts of the Coalition. The phrases “switching from kinetic to non-kinetic operations” or “moving from kinetic operations to reconstruction” are often voiced.
Just the other day while at Al Asad Air base, I joined a group of senior staff officers of Regimental Combat Team – 2 in mid conversation at dinner, and the topic of the discussion was reconstruction efforts in a small strategic city in Anbar. Their concerns were the state of a water treatment plant, the status of schools and assisting in rebuilding them, electric power generation, and other mundane municipal issues. While these topics may seem less than glamorous to military officers, they astutely recognize their importance in countering the insurgency.
Major Tom Shoemake, the commander of the Civil Affairs Team in Hit, explains the mission, “Civil Military Operations is just another form of counterinsurgency warfare. Its predominantly a non-kinetic counterinsurgency tool. It takes place after the kinetic operations complete. After the fighting stops, you are not going through neighborhoods busting down doors, now you have to go in security and stabilization mode, you have to execute Civil Military Operations, you’ve got to get the power back on, drinking water is available, the essential services people need are there, the businesses are open. Its a whole different skill set.”
This is impressive. For some time now it has become clear that our forces are doing things that were unthinkable in previous ages. There is no more "firebreak" between civil affairs/engineering units and fighting units. Now they do everything.
In another post Roggio interviews Major General Richard A Huck, Commanding General of the 2nd Marine Division in Anbar Province. Again, the issue of the transition from kinetic to non-kinetic operations came up:
Major General Huck illustrates the level of difficulty in transitioning from hot operations to classic low level insurgency warfare; “The kinetic piece is checkers, the stabilization and reconstruction piece is chess… We are in what is called phase four [of the counterinsurgency operations], stabilization and security is the hardest part.” Colonel Stephen Davis has described the reconstruction phase as “playing chess on a fourteen level board.” Both state the Marines, soldiers, airmen and navy personnel in their command are well prepared to deal with this transition.
From what I have seen while embedding at the platoon level in Western Anbar and Ramadi, they are right. The leadership at the junior officer and Non-Commissioned Officer level are well in tune with the importance of fighting a low level insurgency in Iraq. The “Strategic Corporal” is alive, well and operating in Iraq, and executing a mission outside of the range of combat operations, and venturing into the realm of Civil-Military Operations.
So anyone who tries to tell you that we're not making progress, and that every day in Iraq is more of the same, just doesn't know what they're talking about. Our troopers are winning, and they know what they're doing.
Asked about an immediate pull out, Gen Huck responded
“Are you kidding me? We are getting closer to where we want to be, why would we want to withdraw now? These tigers just took five towns on the western Euphrates, why would we want to leave?”
Exactly. It would be foolish to pull out just when we're well on the path to achiving our goals. Yes it will be difficult, and there will be setbacks, but if we have patience we can see this thing though to victory.
Iraqis Taking Action
By now, anyone who follows what is going on in Iraq is up to speed on the incredible progress the Iraqi Army is making in fighting more and more of the war on their own.
But how about Iraqi citizens? We occasionally hear that our intel guys are getting more tips, and I'm sure they are.
But in this story, you'll see what some ordinary Iraqi citizens did who got tired of the terrorists in their midst
Citizens Turn Over 'Butcher of Ramadi' to Iraqi, U. S. Troops American Forces Press Service WASHINGTON, Dec. 9, 2005 ˆ The terrorist known as "the Butcher of Ramadi" was detained today, turned in by local citizens in the provincial capital of Iraq's Anbar province, U. S. military officials in Iraq reported. Amir Khalaf Fanus -- listed third on a "high-value individuals" list of terrorists wanted by the 28th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team -- was wanted for criminal activities including murder and kidnapping. Ramadi citizens brought him to an Iraqi and U. S. forces military base in Ramadi, where he was taken into custody. Fanus was well known for his crimes against the local populace. He is the highest-ranking al Qaeda in Iraq member to be turned in to Iraqi and U. S. officials by local citizens. His capture is another indication that the local citizens tire of the terrorists' presence within their community, Multinational Force Iraq officials said, adding that Iraqi and U. S. forces have witnessed increasing signs of citizens fighting the terrorists in Ramadi as the Dec. 15 national elections draw near. Officials said 1,200 more Iraqi soldiers recently have been posted in Ramadi. About 1,100 Iraqi special police commandos and a mechanized Iraqi army company completed their planned movement into the city. This plan has Iraqi security forces assuming more of the security responsibilities from the U. S. forces, officials said. As in other locations, as security improves, Iraqi police also will be introduced gradually. (From a Multinational Force Iraq news release)
A Call to Arms
Citizen Smash issues a Call To Arms:
THE CENTRAL FRONT in the War on Terror is now on Capitol Hill.
One need not be young or even able-bodied to enlist in this campaign. Simple literacy is sufficient. If you feel that our Civilization is worth defending; if you believe Liberty is worth fighting for; if you know in your heart that Freedom will Prevail, then I have a message for you:
I WANT YOU
I have no more patience for critics, bench-warmers, and spectators. It's time to put down your pom-poms, get down from the bleachers, and take the field. If you lack the will, courage, or stamina for this fight, I have no further use for you. You are dismissed.
Follow my lead, or get out of the way.
THE ENEMY is circulating a petition, urging the Congress to withdraw our troops from Iraq. They plan to deliver copies of this petition to Congressional offices across the nation next Wednesday, December 14.
In the meantime, their legions are calling, writing, faxing, and lobbying their Congressional Representatives, and pressuring them to release a statement on the same day endorsing the MoveOn.org Cut & Run Plan.
December 14 is D-day. We have less than one week to prepare.
To this point, I have released three sets of Mission Orders. Mission Four will be released later today.
The first mission is to Call your Congressman. He needs to hear from you -- if he is pro-victory, to know that you support him, and if he is anti-victory, to know that his position will cost him your support. The toll-free number for the U.S. Capitol Switchboard is 1-888-818-6641. If you have not yet done this, you are delinquent. It only takes about two minutes to accomplish. It's very simple: you talk, they listen. CALL NOW.
The second mission is to spread the word about our campaign via talk radio and and other forms of mass communication. This is a force multiplier mission. It's not enough to take action yourself -- I need your help to spread the word. If you don't have time to wait on hold, at least forward these missions via email to like-minded people. DO THIS NOW.
The third mission is to write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper(s). This will take a little bit more thought, time, and effort than the first two missions. But it's not that much when you consider that others are spending several months or even years sweating it out in Iraq and Afghanistan to fight for your freedom, and all you are doing right now is surfing the Internet. Get off your butt and start writing.
What are you waiting for, an engraved invitation?
Dead on target, and I'll go do as much as I have time for.
For the record, I don't know that I'd call even Moveon.org "The Enemy", but at this point they're certainly not in favor of winning (they are the one who are circulating the petition referenced above).
And any resolution before Congress about pulling our troops out is bound to fail.
Nevertheless, we must stay ahead of the curve. If we let them get away with this stuff unchallenged, they will be able to bend the weak to their side. It'll not happen on my watch.
December 8, 2005
Is This What John Kerry Meant?
As I related the other day, John Kerry thinks that our troops are terrorizing the Iraqis
Interviewed by Bob Schieffer on CBS' "Face the Nation," Mr. Kerry was talking about what he said was a need to "transfer authority to the Iraqis," when he added: "And there is no reason, Bob, that young American soldiers need to be going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children, you know, women, breaking sort of the customs of the -- historical customs, religious customs, whether you like it or not. Iraqis should be doing that."
Maybe this is what he had in mind
or maybe these
These photos and more from the Third US Army
And yes, there is more good news coming out of Iraq.
Getting Chilly at Walter Reed
Last Friday, Dec 2, was the first really cold night in front of Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington DC.
But although temperatures were low and the wind blowing, spirits were high among the Freepers who showed up to counter the Pinkos.
If you're not familiar with the situation read this post of mine which explains everything
In summary, a pro-Castro group called Code Pink holds an anti-war protest outside of Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington DC every Friday night. They lie and call it a "vigil", but we've got the goods on them.
Countering them is a real pro-troops rally right across held on opposite street corners from the Pinkos. It is organized by the good people of Free Republic. Wounded veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are taken out to dinner every Friday night on a luxury bus, and return to the hospital at about 9:30 They reenter the hosipital right where the Pinkos hold their protest. We want the troops to see a pro-troop rally, and not just the Pinkos. As it is, the Pinkos have been packing up and going home at 9pm, we suspect so that they won't have to look at the troops on the buss flipping them off, which they have done.
My apologies if my photos of last Friday aren't as good as usual, but my hands freeze up pretty quick once I take my gloves off. Tomorrow night I'll wear light gloves under mittens and see how that works.
Here we are, all bundled up.
Here are the Pinkos across the street from us. We counted maybe 11 of them, versus about 26 I believe for us. We've outnumbered them every time I've been there.
I took this photo from behind some of our people, looking across the street from the Pinkos. In order to get some distance, I shut off the flash. While keeping the shutter open longer gets you more distance at night, you also get blurryness if there's too much movement.
As I mentioned earlier, the Pinkos pack up and go home promptly at 9pm. As soon as they do, we rush over and seize their corners.
More on Code Pink
I'm not going to write in detail about Code Pink, because I've done that before. You can find all posts about them by going to the Categories section at right and selecting "Rallys and Protests"
The best single source of information about any leftist individual or group is David Horowitz' excellent database DiscoverTheNetwork.org You can find his entry on Code Pink here. Among other fun facts you'll learn that they gave $600,000 in cash and aid to the terrorists in Fallujah before our forces liberated that city.
Michelle Malkin has an excellent post relating how the Pinkos support Hugo Chavez, the wannap-be dictator of Venezuela and Fidel Castro protege.
If you thought I exaggerated earlier by calling Code Pink a "pro-Castro group", consider that they had planned on traveling to Cuba at the end of this month to celebrate the New Years.
Travel to Cuba by Americans is illegal. But the leaders of that noxious group think they're above the law. Some of their members, however, are not so sure. The latest from their website:
We have some bad news to relay about the Cuba trip. We knew that this trip was a challenge to the Bush administration’s restrictions on travel to the island.
However, we had anticipated that, as in the past, the government would either let us come and go without incident, or would send us a letter after we returned. Instead, we—CODEPINK, Global Exchange, and some of the participants—have already received ominous letters from the Treasury Department, calling on us to “cease and desist” our plans for the trip, demanding the names of all the people who had signed up, and threatening us with a million dollar fine and ten years in jail.
When some individual participants received these letters, they canceled their plans—leaving us without the “safety in numbers.” And while our organizations are willing to fight the government on this (Global Exchange has been fighting the travel restrictions for 15 years!), we feel that right we are too overloaded with other efforts, such as stopping the war in Iraq, to take on a prolonged legal battle right now.
We have therefore, with deep regret, decided to cancel the trip and will be returning your deposits in the mail. We are very sorry for any inconvenience we have caused you—to say nothing of the disappointment of not spending the New Years together with our friends in Cuba!
"our friends in Cuba" need any more evidence?
If you can stand to read it, here's the Code Pink post on their protest (er, "Vigil") outside of Walter Reed.
Unless someting intervenes, I'll be there tomorrow night too. Dressed more warmly, this time!
December 6, 2005
Yes we have a Strategy and Yes we are Winning
Of the many Iraq war fallacies that we hear from the naysayers is that we have no plan, no strategy.
Of course we have one. All you have to do is listen. But then, I've noticed that the same people who say we have no strategy are the ones who claim that President Bush "insinuated" that Saddam knew about or helped plan 9/11, when no one else has such a recollection.
For anyone who has not been paying attention these past few years, the White House released the National Strategy for Victory in Iraq
What is "Strategy"?
Properly understood, strategy refers to a plan for applying scarce means to achieve the nation’s goals.
Mackubin Thomas Owens, writing on NRO, summarizes the definition of "Strategy" as follows:
First, strategy relates ends, the goals of policy (interests and objectives) to the limited resources available to achieve them against an adversary who actively opposes the achievement of the ends.
Second, strategy contributes to the clarification of the ends of policy by helping establish priorities in light of constrained resources. Without establishing priorities among competing ends, all interests and all threats will appear equal. In the absence of strategy, planners will find themselves in the situation described by Frederick the Great: “He who attempts to defend too much defends nothing.”
Finally, strategy conceptualizes resources as means in support of policy. Resources are not means until strategy provides some understanding of how they will be organized and employed.
The Nineteenth-Century military theorist Carl von Clausewitz offered this clarification
The activities characteristic of war may be separated into two categories; that which are mainly preparation for war, and war proper.
What Clausewitz meant is that it is one thing to raise, train, and equip an army, quite another to win a war with it. All the best weaponry in the world is so much useless junk unless it is properly employed. Further, war is about much more than fighing. One must take into account the social, political, economic, and psychological aspects of it as well.
Back to Owens on NRO:
All too often, strategies do a fine job of describing the goal but don’t address the plan to achieve the goals. But this is the essence of strategy: How do we apply scarce resources in the most effective way to bring about our desired end? If the president’s Iraq strategy left this out, it would be a serious omission. But this is not the case. The document lays out three interconnected tracks that describe the “how” of the U.S. approach in Iraq. These tracks incorporate “eight pillars,” or strategic objectives:
* Defeat the Terrorists and Neutralize the Insurgency
* Transition Iraq to Security Self-Reliance
* Help Iraqis Form a National Compact for Democratic Government
* Help Iraq Build Government Capacity and Provide Essential Services
* Help Iraq Strengthen its Economy
* Help Iraq Strengthen the Rule of Law and Promote Civil Rights
* Increase International Support for Iraq
* Strengthen Public Understanding of Coalition Efforts and Public
* Isolation of the Insurgents
As sophisticated observers are always quick to point out, insurgencies are never won by military means alone. There must be a political track leading to a stable government. To bring about this outcome, the document calls for isolating the real enemy elements by driving a wedge between them and those who can be won over to the political process. The second component of the political track is to engage those outside the political process by inviting them to participate in the governing process if they are willing to turn away from violence Finally, the political track calls for building stable, pluralistic, and effective national institutions capable of protecting the interests of all Iraqis, enabling Iraq to be fully integrated into the international community.
What gets me is that so may critics, from Pat Buchanan to John Kerry, pompously offer their "solutions" that are really little more than restatement of what the administration has been trying to do all along.
So Is It Working?
We are according to the people who ought to know; the troops fighting the war in Iraq. This article in the Christian Science Monitor discusses the "perception gap" between the soldiers in the field and (many) civilians in the US:
Like many soldiers and marines returning from Iraq, (Corporal)Mayer looks at the bleak portrayal of the war at home with perplexity - if not annoyance. It is a perception gap that has put the military and media at odds, as troops complain that the media care only about death tolls, while the media counter that their job is to look at the broader picture, not through the soda straw of troops' individual experiences.
The story goes on to relate the experiences of Corporal Mayer and his comrades, and how they befriended several Iraqis, including two 9 year old girls. Read the whole thing.
Max Boot, writing in the LA Times last month, also says that the war looks quite different when you talk to the soldiers about it:
American soldiers are also much more optimistic than American civilians. The Pew Research Center and the Council on Foreign Relations just released a survey of American elites that found that 64% of military officers are confident that we will succeed in establishing a stable democracy in Iraq. The comparable figures for journalists and academics are 33% and 27%, respectively. Even more impressive than the Pew poll is the evidence of how our service members are voting with their feet. Although both the Army and the Marine Corps are having trouble attracting fresh recruits — no surprise, given the state of public opinion regarding Iraq — reenlistment rates continue to exceed expectations. Veterans are expressing their confidence in the war effort by signing up to continue fighting.
The economy in Iraq is doing pretty well, too, which is something you read absolutely nothing about in the media:
There are also positive economic indicators that receive little or no coverage in the Western media. For all the insurgents' attempts to sabotage the Iraqi economy, the Brookings Institution reports that per capita income has doubled since 2003 and is now 30% higher than it was before the war. Thanks primarily to the increase in oil prices, the Iraqi economy is projected to grow at a whopping 16.8% next year. According to Brookings' Iraq index, there are five times more cars on the streets than in Saddam Hussein's day, five times more telephone subscribers and 32 times more Internet users.
The growth of the independent media — a prerequisite of liberal democracy — is even more inspiring. Before 2003 there was not a single independent media outlet in Iraq. Today, Brookings reports, there are 44 commercial TV stations, 72 radio stations and more than 100 newspapers.
This past Saturday evening Fox News had an excellent one-hour special on Iraq in which they showed clips from popular Iraqi TV shows. It was amazing stuff. One show features the confessions of captured terrorists. The idea is that by having them tell their story on TV, about how they killed ordinary Iraqis and why they did it, will take away any "glamour" anyone sees in such activity.
No doubt, as Boot admits, there is a large terrorist problem in Iraq. No one denies this. Yet to portray all as lost is foolishness. Consider that
Since the Jan. 30 election, not a single Iraqi unit has crumbled in battle, according to Army Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, who until September was in charge of their training. Iraqi soldiers are showing impressive determination in fighting the terrorists, notwithstanding the terrible casualties they have taken. Their increasing success is evident on "Route Irish," from Baghdad International Airport. Once the most dangerous road in Iraq, it is now one of the safest. The last coalition fatality there that was a result of enemy action occurred in March.
So yes we have a Strategy and Yes we are Winning.
But I've posted on that so much I can't begin to list all of the links. If you're interested just go to the right under "Categories" and choose "Iraq."
The Big Question
The question at this point is now if we're winning, for I think that anyone who is either not not hopelessly partisan or simply cannot see beyond the daily headline would have to conclude that trends are seriously our favor.
The question is whether we will be allowed to win. This is an issue because as I told you in the previous post the Democrats have become the Party of Defeat. They do not simply think we are losing, but by advocating that we pull out immediately they are advocating defeat.
Let's fight tooth and nail to see that doesn't happen. Too much is at stake.
The Party of Defeat
There's just no more doubt about it.
The Democrats, or most of them anyway, are advocating our defeat in Iraq. Oh, and they say that our troops are terrorizing the Iraqis.
Then yesterday we had John Kerry tell us that our troops were terrorizing Iraqis. As he put it to Bob Schieffer on CBS'"Face the Nation"
And there is no reason, Bob, that young American soldiers need to be going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children, you know, women, breaking sort of the customs of the -- historical customs, religious customs, whether you like it or not. Iraqis should be doing that."
Can you imagine if this guy had been elected president?
I can't either. But he might have been, and that's scary.
Now, the most charitable interpretation is that he meant to say that the act of armed soldiers going into civilian homes is frightening to it's inhabitants.
But given his participation in the Winter Soldier nonsense of 1971, its more than probable that he actually thinks our troops are terrorizing Iraqi civilians. Here's how he described our soldiers to Congress on April 22 1971
They told the stories at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.
Although no doubt at times some of these things happened, most of what the Winter Soldier investigation "discovered" turned out to be false.
But it Gets Worse
Next up we have none other than the Chairman of the Democratic National Party himself, Howard Dean. During an interview on WOAI Radio in San Antonio the other day gave us his strategy for defeat:
Saying the "idea that we're going to win the war in Iraq is an idea which is just plain wrong," Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean predicted today that the Democratic Party will come together on a proposal to withdraw National Guard and Reserve troops immediately, and all US forces within two years.
oh, but he's a strategic military genius also. His solution:
"We ought to have a redeployment to Afghanistan of 20,000 troops, we don't have enough troops to do the job there and its a place where we are welcome. And we need a force in the Middle East, not in Iraq but in a friendly neighboring country to fight (terrorist leader Musab) Zarqawi, who came to Iraq after this invasion. We've got to get the target off the backs of American troops."
Dean didn't specify which country the US forces would deploy to....
Uh, maybe because no other country in the region wants to host a large US force? The Saudis had lots of US troops in their country after the Gulf War and all that did was anger the extremists in their midst(another story). No one else is eager to repeat their experience. Murtha, also strategically challenged, offered much the same "solution" in his proposal a few weeks ago.
I suppose I should't condemn the entire Democrat party; after all, a few, like Joe Lieberman, are sensible. And some Republicans are weak-kneed. But when the House Democrat leader, Nancy Pelosi herself, calls for a "rapid withdrawal from Iraq" (regardless of consequences), I'm sorry: The Democrats are the Party of Defeat.
Hat tip Belmont Club for many of the links in this post, but you should be reading that site anyway.
Michelle Malkin also has a roundup of posts about Howard Dean's defeatism.
Wednesday Morning Update
The Washington Times reports this morning that not all Democrats share Dean's view of Iraq:
Dan McLaughlin, a spokesman for Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat who faces re-election next year, said: "The senator disagrees with Mr. Dean, and he also feels in regard to establishing a timetable for troop withdrawal that is not the way to go. ... At this point, the long-term national security interest are paramount issues, and cutting and running in Iraq is not the solution."
Interesting to me that he uses the term "cutting and running". This has become a term of opprobrium towards anyone who advocates leaving Iraq immediately.
A spokesman for Sen. Ben Nelson, Nebraska Democrat, who also faces re-election next year , said: "Senator Nelson believes that victory in Iraq is obtainable through establishing clear and measurable objectives, and he does not support immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops."
I applaud both Nelsons. Some may say that because both are in redish states, they may simply be looking towards their reelection. Maybe so, but if we criticize foolish words we must applaude wise ones.
"Every Democrat I know of in the House of Representatives wants to have success of our policies in Iraq," said House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat. "They want to see a democracy; they want to see stability."
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said the war must be won militarily, economically and politically, and added: "We have the ability to win all three."
Neither Hoyer nor Reid are in any danger of being defeated at the polls. Perhaps they realize that Murtha and Dean have gone too far. Let's hope so, because while it is tempting to find advantage when the other party goes off the deep end, it is in the best interests of our country when both parties want to win the war.
But just when you think some Democrats are being reasonable the genuis Charles Schumer weighs in:
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said Iraq should be divided into "three autonomous regions."
If you want an instant civil war, Turkish troops in the country, instant condemnation by our allies, and even more interference from Iran, then yes, by all means partition the country.
Over the past year or so it's been distressing watching some of the divisions within the GOP. Hagel and McCain have gone out of their way to criticize the president at times. But it seems now that the divisions within the Democrat party are even more pronounced. It is my hope that the more reasonable ones win out. Unfortunately I don't see much hope of this happening. The Democrats are the Party of Defeat and of Michael Moore, and it looks like they will remain that way for some time.
December 5, 2005
Book Review: "Disinformation: 22 Media Myths That Undermine the War on Terror" by Richard Miniter
If you have ever been debating the War on Terror and Iraq with liberals, and had any one of these thrown at you...
- Halliburton has been getting rich from their contracts in Iraq
- Halliburton got their contracts for Iraq through a no-bid process
- Iraq under Saddam had little or no connection to al Qaeda
- Iraq under Saddam had little real connection
- "Suitcase" nuclear weapons are a real threat
- Terrorism is caused by poverty
- Paul Wolfowitz told Congress that oil revinues would pay for the Iraq war
...then this book is for you.
Miniter takes these and other myths and effectively demolishes them. At 275 pages, including endnotes and index, it is a pretty quick read. Miniter moves through his topics without delay, making his points and moving on. It is not an in-depth treatment of any one-particular subject, but more a primer and quick database for debate or blogging.
This is the second book of Miniter's that I've reviewed. The first was Shadow War: The Untold Story of How Bush is Winning the War on Terror While it had a few minor flaws, the book makes a valuable addition to anyone wanting to know more about the War on Terror than you'll find in the newspapers. Miniter is a persistent investigative journalist, traveling the globe in search of information. That he comes up with as much as he does shows in his work.
Miniter's latest is Disinformation: 22 Media Myths That Undermine the War on Terror. While there is nothing earth-shattering in the book, it makes a valuable addition to one's library, and I recommend it.
As the title indicates, Miniter goes through 22 myths about the Iraq War and the general War on Terror. He is nonpartisan throughout the book, but it will definately rankle liberals more than conservatives. Of his 22 myths, only two are labeled "conservative myths", and all-in -all they are pretty minor.
The book is divided into 6 sections, with the 22 myths spread between them:
* Myths about Bin Laden
* Myths about September 11
* Myths about Iraq
* Myths about Terrorism
* Liberal Myths
* Conservative Myths
I consider his most valuable chapter to be the one in which he demolishes the idea that there was little significant connection between Saddam's Iraq and al Qaeda. Minter goes through four types of connections:
1) Meetings - Saddam's intelligents agents met many times with al Qaeda operatives. However, Miniter does not believe that there is solid evidence that Mohammed Atta met with Iraqi intelligence in Prague.
2) Money - Iraq funded many terrorist groups, including al Qaeda affiliated terrorist organizations.
3) Training - especially details on Salman Pak, the terrorist training facility southeast of Baghdad. Training included simulated hijackings on the fuselage of a Boeing 707.
4) Personnel - Iraq harbored many terrorists, both memebers of al Qaeda and those of other groups. For example, Iraq harbored al-Zarqawi before the 2003 war. Abu Nidal and Abu Abbas, the latter having planned the 1985 Achille Lauro hijacking, both found refuge in Saddam's Iraq.
The two "conservative myths" that Miniter takes on are "Racial Profiling of Terrorists Works" and "The US border with Mexico is the most likely place for al Qaeda terrorists to sneak into the homeland. I won't rehash his arguments here, but suffice it to say that although you may not completely agree with him he does make a good case with each.
All in all, Disinformation is a good addition to your bookshelf. While it contains no bombshells, it contains enough information, presented succinctly, to be of much use in helping to understand the War on Terror.
December 1, 2005
The Kidnapped Activists
Four activists have been kidnapped in Iraq. Most news outlets have a story or two on this, mostly just describing them as "peace activists"
Which no doubt they believe themselves to be. And noone deserves to be kidnapped or worse. It's the old saw about if you walk down a dangerous street at night flashing a wad of money, and are robbed, you may be naive, but you don't "deserve it".
Further, our prayers should go out to them that they are speadily released.
Just who are the people who have been kidnapped?
Todays Washington Times caught my attention with this AP story:
Four Christian peace activists taken hostage in Iraq belong to a group that has spent more than 15 years walking into some of world's hottest war zones, usually armed only with notes explaining that they aren't there to convert anyone.
Ok, I thought, this is interesting. "arn't there to convert anyone" St Paul would have a few things to say about that.
The Chicago-based organization -- supported by several Protestant denominations that believe Christianity forbids all war and violence -- has sent activists into war zones, including Bosnia and Haiti, since the late 1980s. It has about 160 members around the world and about a dozen in Iraq.
The Bible is not a pacifist document, and most certainly does not "forbid all war and violence", as anyone who has actually read it knows. But ok, let's read on.
The group adamantly opposes the Iraq war, saying the kidnappings are "the result of the actions of the U.S. and U.K. government due to the illegal attack on Iraq and the continuing occupation and oppression of its people."
Despite its name, Christian Peacemaker Teams works in the name of peace, not religion, Miss Phillips said.
"We are very strict about this: We do not do any evangelism; we are not missionaries," she said. "Our interest is to bring an end to the violence and destruction of civilian life in Iraq."
Ok, that does it, I said to myself. I've been on a number of mission trips and know a bit about how these things work. I've also done research into left-wing Christian groups and know how they operate, also (yes I've looked into the religious right, and no I'm not a fan of Falwell or Robertson).
Let's find out exactly these folks are.
What better source to turn to that David Horowitz' excellent database on leftist groups, DiscoverTheNetwork.org? We are immediately rewarded with an article about the group, Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). Here's what we discover:
* Anti-war NGO with a strong, pro-Palestinian militant, anti-Israel agenda
* Repeatedly condemns Israeli government policies, while making no
mention of the Palestinian terror campaign
* Maintains a seasonal presence along the Arizona/ Mexico border,
where it conducts what it describes as "a campaign to challenge
U.S. immigration policies that result in hundreds of migrant deaths
in the dessert every summer"
*Maintains a continuous presence in Iraq, protesting the U.S.-led
invasion and blaming America for inflicting great suffering on the
CPT publications also reflect a consistent pro-Palestinian agenda, in sharp contrast to the CPT mission statement related to nonviolent conflict resolution. One example is an article published by the Global Ministries, documenting the January 2003 CPT Ohio Conference. While repeatedly condemning Israeli government policies, there is no mention of the Palestinian terror campaign and the hundreds of murdered Israelis.
Clearly, the evidence demonstrates the vast gap between CPT's claims to work for peace "through non-violent means," and its biased political agenda. CPT's strident advocacy is part of the NGO-led divestment campaign designed to promote demonization and isolation of Israel in the framework of the on-going political conflict.
Just as I suspected.
Go ahead and visit CPT's website. It's about what you think expect, they look like the standard leftie "peace" group to me.
As Christians, we must hope and pray that their hostages will be speadily released unharmed. We can expose their political agenda while still wishing them nothing but good on a personal level.
Monday Evening Update
Silly me. James Robbins writing at NRO makes an excellent point that escaped me; kidnapping your allies is pretty stupid:
A sensible terrorist political warfare strategy tries to drive wedges into the enemy society by isolating the groups you will never be able to win over and appealing to as wide a base as possible. The Swords of Truth Brigades should not be threatening the CPT team; they should be holding a joint press conference to denounce the Coalition. The way they are behaving is comparable to the North Vietnamese shooting Jane Fonda with a firing squad instead of a camera in 1972. The terrorists really do not know who their friends are. They kidnap humanitarian workers. They target journalists. They bomb the U.N. Lenin must be spinning in his tomb.
Lenin may be spinning in his tomb because of the stupidity of the terrorists, but he's smiling because of the actions of the kidnapped. They are behaving like perfect useful idiots. Do they blame the terrorists? Of course not! From their website:
We are angry because what has happened to our teammates is the result of the actions of the U.S. and U.K. governments due to the illegal attack on Iraq and the continuing occupation and oppression of its people. Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) has worked for the rights of Iraqi prisoners who have been illegally detained and abused by the U.S. government. We were the first people to publicly denounce the torture of Iraqi people at the hands of U.S. forces, long before the western media admitted what was happening at Abu Ghraib.
You just can't make this stuff up.