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April 30, 2006

And We Hate Everyone Else, Too

In my last post I wrote about in his latest diatribe Osama bin Laden effectively supports mass-murder by the government of Sudan.

Courtesy of Waled Phares of The CounterTerrorism Blog, here's a summary of Osama's outburst:

* One a long attack on the Cartoons crisis: Blood is needed to cleanse the matter.

* Two, there is a Western war on Muslims and Islam.

*Three, Western policy towards Hamas proves this aggression.

* Four, the United Nations is an infidel and criminal institution.

* Five, there is a Western-infidel aggression against Muslim Sudan. The Black southerners are bandits and the Darfur Blacks are agents of the infidels

* Six, Iraq’s Jihad is to stop future US military bases

* Seven, a cultural invasion is underway: Arab TVs are to be stopped, Muslim liberals to be killed

* Eight, France is to be punished for the female Hijab affair

* Nine, Bosnia’s Muslims were not salvaged by the West

* Ten, The independence of East Timor is a defeat to the Muslims

* Eleven, India and the Hindus are the enemies in Kashmir

* Twelve, Pakistan’s Musharraf is to be killed

* Thirteen, Russia must be punished

* Fourteen: Salman Rushdie is not to be forgotten

* Fifteen: The masses in the infidel lands think like their leaders. Their public (enemies) is responsible

* Sixteen: Calls for Dialogue with the West are to be rejected

* Seventeen: Do not trust the “traitors” including Muftis and moderate clerics

* Eighteen: King Abdallah of Saudi Arabia ignores world realities

* Nineteen: (Western) civilization is attacking ours

* Twenty: It is of the duty of all members of the Umma to offer everything for Jihad, including their lives.

Did he miss anyone?

The serious point, of course, is that he doesn't seem to have any friends. Yes I am sure that millions of Muslims still thrill at his words. Yes I am sure that Muslims volunteer for al Qaeda. And yes, I know that tomorrow I could wake up to another September 11.

But I think you'd be hard pressed to say that al Qaeda is gaining strength, or that we have not put a serious dent in it's ability to operate.

And this is not just an observation about military or secret operations, clandestine cloak-and-dagger stuff either. I'm talking about geopolitical politics as practiced by people at the highest levels of the Bush Administration. Say what you will, they're shutting down al Qaeda, surely but slowly.

Oh, and please, no nonsense about "why can't we capture the tallest guy in Pakistan/Afghanistan?" I dealt with that here.

You just have to realize that it's not all going to be front-page stuff. Richard Miniter's excellent book Shadow War: The Untold Story of How Bush is Winning the War on Terror, is a good place to start if you're not familiar withwhat I'm talking about.

Bottom line: bin Laden's got no friends and presides over a gravely weakened organization. They're still dangerous, just as Germany or Japan were in 1944, but we are winning.

Posted by Tom at 9:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Osama bin Laden Supports Genocide in Sudan

In his latest diatribe, released last week, Osama bin Laden put himself on record as supporting mass-murder of Muslims who live in the Sudan.

Walid Phares has the transcript, and even provides the original Arabic, if you're conversant in that language.

Here's bin Laden on the Sudan

"The West tries to seperate the south, attempts to establish an army there, and is supporting (the south) with money and arms and direct them to call for separation from Sudan."

"The US adopted logistical and moral support to this army (SPLA) through its international tools such as the United Nations and pressured the Khartum Government to sign an unjust agreement that allows the south to separate after 6 years."

"Let Bashir (Sudan's President) and Bush know that this agreement has no value whatsoever and does not engage us. No one has to concede any inch of Islamic land and the south will remain an unseparable piece of Islam's land, by Allah, even if wars will continue for decades to come."
...

(Waled Phares: Bin Laden called on the Mujahideen in Sudan and the Arabia Peninsula to prepare for a long war against the Crusader bandits (in Darfur). Our objective is clear, he said:) "It is in defense of Islam, its people, its land, not defending the Khartum Government. We have a great disagreement with this Government: It failed to apply the Sharia and let the south go."

"The (Jihadists) need to scout the area and get ready for fight on the tribal region of Darfur. The rain season is coming forward, which may obstruct movement. Which is why the occupation (Western-UN) postponed its advance for six months. We should take advantage of factor time to provide huge amounts of land mines, snipers and anti-tank launchers. "



In other words, "I'm going to attack the people who are trying to save impoverished Muslims from being mass murdered."

What a guy.

Austin Bay points out that for a guy who claims to fight in the name of Islam, he sure wants to kill a lot of Muslims:

Muslims, however, remain bin Laden's biggest enemy, perhaps not in theory and propaganda, but certainly in the flesh-and-blood world of murder and human massacre. Bin Laden, al-Qaida and its various affiliates have killed more Muslims than any other religious group, and Darfur is an example.

Since early 2003, nearly 200,000 people have died in the Sudan government's war with Darfur rebels. The Sudan government backs a variety of Islamist militias, many of them operating on horseback or in wheeled "technical vehicles" armed with light machine guns and rocket launchers. Darfur's rebels are a mixed bag of farmers, villagers and pastoralists. The rebels are also an ethnic mishmash, though most of them are black Africans. For the most part, they are Muslims, however, with a leavening of tribal animists.

This reminds of of the class on the French Revolution that I took in college. I remember most clearly the day the professor pointed out that once the monarchy had been overthrown, the revolutionaries quickly turned on each other. The Jacobins went after and murdered their political opponents, mostly the Girondists.

The wolves devour each other.

Ok, so Osama hasn't succeeded in overthrowing anyone. But you get my point.

And, to be sure, he isn't on the side of the government. As he says, "Let Bashir (Sudan's President) and Bush know that this agreement has no value whatsoever and does not engage us." The reason for this is that Osama lived in Sudan for many years, with the approval of it's government, and was expelled by that government in 1996 (after President Clinton turned down an offer by "Bashir" to hand him over to us).

A Bit of Background

The United States and the UK have been trying for several years now to put an end to the near-genocide that has been going on in the Sudan. Simply put, the government in the northern capital city of Khartoum is engaged in it's second mass-murder campaign.

Sudan gained its independence from Great Britain in 1956. The country has been rocked by civil wars. The first, an ethnic conflict between northern Arab Muslims and southern Christians and Animists, lasted from 1956 to 1972. This war ended with the south winning the right to self-government. The second civil war, again between the government backed forces and southern rebels, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), began in 1983. In January of 2005, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the government in Khartoum reached an agreement to end the war and reform the government and structure of the military. The third civil war started in 2003 as a rebellion in the western province of Darfur. As in the first two wars, the fighting is between northern Arab Muslims and southern Christians and Animists, although the government maintains that the Janjaweed, the Arab militias actively involved, are not operating with government aid or approval. The discovery of oil in the south, and property rights and religious and ethnic race-hatred remain primary causes for the oppression of primarily black Christians and traditional Animists in both the southern portions of Sudan and in Darfur.

The government has committed terrible attrocities in all of the above wars. Directly or indirectly, it is engaged in mass-murder.

And Osama is effectively on the side of the murderers.

Posted by Tom at 8:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 28, 2006

The Zarqawi Video

The insane man who is responsible for murdering thousands of Iraqis, Americans, and other coalition troops released a video last Tuesday. From the CENTCOm website

A man identifying himself as Al-Qaeda's Iraq frontman Abu Musab al-Zarqawi appeared in an Internet video on Tuesday in what would be the first public appearance of one world's most wanted militants in at least three years.

"By God, America will be defeated in Iraq," said the man identified as Zarqawi.

Not so fast, buster.

A complete transcript of the video can be found on the CENTCOM website here. Bty, you really ought to bookmark the site and make it part of your regular reading. You can also sign up to receive their email bulletins, which is how I found out about the video transcript.

I'm not going to try and analyze it myself, as I haven't got the time.

Here's Waled Phares of The Counterterrorism Blog. He makes 7 observations regarding the video. Read the whole thing, but here are two

4. A third assertion is to blast the Sunni politicians who "ventured" into supporting the current Parliament, Government and Armed forces. Those "Sunnis" are the internal enemies of Zarqawi, for they have shifted the community into the Iraqi political process by accepting to integrate the various layers of Government. In his eyes, these politicians, including the speaker of the assembly, a Sunni, are obstructing his plans, and therefore his leadership.

5. A fourth assertion is about the other "insurgents." Few weeks ago, the chat rooms aired a number of releases from the "al Qiyada al Muwahhada lil Muwqawama." The "Unified Leadership of the Resistance" is a federation of other Jihadists and insurgents. They have rejected the extreme behavior of Zarqawi, especially the violence against Shiites and Iraqi civilians. At the time, observers in the West thought this was a rejection of Zarqawi as a leader of al Qaida. In fact this was a move by other Jihadists to distance themselves from the misdeeds of al Qaida-Iraq. The "Leadership" didn't criticize Bin Laden per se, but said Zarqawi is deflecting energies by waging an indiscriminate religious war (takfiri) against the Shiites.

Looks like there's some dissention in the ranks. This is no huge surprise. The letter we intercepted last summer (and released in October) from OBL's deputo Al-Zawahiri's to al-Zarqawi showed dissatisfaction with the way the latter was running the campaign in Iraq.

Bill Roggio analyzes the military and propaganda messages in the video. Roggio has moved to The CounterTerrorism Blog, so reset your bookmarks. Among his points

1) MANPADS. First and foremost, as Evan Kohlmann has noted, some of the terrorists standing guard during the scene in the desert are brandishing shoulder-fired surface to air missiles (MANPADS). While this indicates al-Qaeda in Iraq has this capability, very few Coalition aircraft have been shot down in Iraq. The likelihood here is Zarqawi's 'command element' has top priority in fielding these weapons systems. ...

5) The briefing. Zarqawi goes a long way to show he is the military planner and tactical commander. He pours over maps with four other masked terrorists. In one section of the tape, he appears to be pointing at the region around the city of Kirkuk. But remember that this scene, as all the others, were planned through in advance. Zarqawi knows U.S. intelligence will be thoroughly dissecting this tape, and may want to through the Coalition off of his scent.

Again, it seems as if Zarqawi is worried that he's losing control, or at least the confidence, of his fellow terrorists.

Douglas Farah, on the other hand, believes that it and and the latest bin Laden Tape Show Growing al Qaeda Propaganda Strength

What is interesting about the new bin Laden and Zarqawi tapes, besides some of the analysis done by my colleagues on the Counterterrorism Blog, is the fact that al Qaeda has grown increasingly adept at getting its propaganda videos quickly enough to be relevant to current events. This is new, and shows increased capacity and increased interest in keeping their message out in front, even it it may hint at internal problems.

Andrew Cochran, however, notes that while propaganda is all very fine and good, it is no substitute for battlefield victories. I hate to say it, but the VC and NVA didn't win any substantial victories against us in Vietnam, but they beat us in the end anyway. Victory is determined by achieving your political goals, which may or may not be achieved by tactical battlefield successes.

A story in todays Washington Times quoting an Arizona State University study shows that the jihadists propaganda very seriously as a weapon

The report found that jihadist operations use consistent patterns of outreach that establish them socially and religiously, generate public sympathy and intimidate opponents. Threats, in fact, are part of terrorist "talking points."

"Jihadis pursue these strategies using sophisticated, modern methods of communications and public relations," Mr. Corman said. "There's evidence in the documents that jihadis segment audiences and adapt their message to the audience."

Meanwhile, the always valuable StrategyPage believes that it shows that al Qaeda is on the verge of defeat.

Trends are often difficult to make out in this murky conflict, but the recent release of an audio message from Osama bin Laden on April 23rd, and a few days later, a rare video from Abu Musab al Zarqawi delivered the same message. Both sent out signals that failed to connect. Bin Laden urged his followers to go to Sudan and Israel and support the fight against Jews and Christian "crusaders." In Sudan, bin Laden was offering his services to kill Western peacekeepers that have not yet shown up in western Sudan (Darfur), where northern (largely Arab) Sudanese Moslems are killing southern (largely black African) Sudanese Moslems. Islamic radicals in Palestine (Hamas) and Sudan (the government) promptly and publicly rejected bin Laden's offer. This is a visible, to Western eyes, example of how Bin Laden's vision, of using Islamic terror to accomplish anything, has been discredited in the Islamic world. This shift in opinion was played out in Moslem media over the last three years, as Islamic terrorism was applied to Islamic populations in Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The end result was that Islamic terrorism was no longer fashionable. Bin Laden is still something of a folk hero, but in the same iconic way that Che Guevara on a t-shirt or poster is. Ignored, but not forgotten. Bin Laden wannabe Abu Musab al Zarqawi followed with a video, where he urged Iraqi Sunni Arabs to buck up and get on with the war against "foreign occupiers" and the blasphemous (elected) government of Iraq. Zarqawi was basically pleading for the Iraqi Sunni Arabs to stop joining the government. This reflects the shift in Sunni Arab attitudes, against al Qaeda, in the last year. In an attempt to preserve it as a viable movement, Zarqawi has been demoted from commander of al Qaeda in Iraq, to figurehead and pitch man.

Their conclusion is that

No amount of hot air and spin will change the fact that al Qaeda has accomplished none of its goals, and has gotten lots of Moslems killed in the process.

Al Qaeda may not be destroyed, but they are defeated. Bin Laden and Zarqawi just said so.

This is true. The insurgency in Iraq we've been fighting is not the danger anymore. The new danger is these militias, mainly the Sadr and Badr armies. My prediction is the in the next phase we will concentrate on taking them down. This will start once the new government is consolidated. Stay tuned, because I've got a post planned on the phases of the war and where we are now.

Lastly, retired General John Keane has visited Iraq several times and believes that the insurgency is considerably weaker

"I think the insurgency is considerably weaker in one very large respect and its the most important respect. It doesn't enjoy the same support of the people it once had. The people are reaching for democracy and they do not support the insurgents. The majority of the Sunnis is what I'm talking about."

The Key to Success

The key to success has shifted from the military to the political. No great insight there, I realize, but it needs to be said. Last week Iraq achieved a great success with the formation of a new government. Much still needs to be done, such as assigning cabinet posts, resolving constitutional issues left hanging, and getting the resolved constitution approved by the people in a vote. But we can only take it one step at a time.

Posted by Tom at 8:45 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 27, 2006

Some People Still Don't Get It

Chinese President Hu Jintao refuses to back santions against Iran for continuing to develop nuclear weapons and ignoring international pressure to stop.

Big surprise.

China's foreign policy is to distract the United States from it's objective of taking back Taiwan. During the 1990s it used the threat of North Korean nuclear weapons to do this. China could have easily pressured the Koreans into halting it's program, but did not do so. China probably doesn't want to see North Korea obtain nukes, but it doesn't want to end their program, either. They are playing a double game, the objective of which is to distract the United States.

China is doing the same with regard to Iran. Now that Iran is in the news front and center, they see this as a means of distracting the West. As such, they are not going to take any action that might actually convince the Iranians to end their nuclear program.

Some in Congress Get It

Fortunately, this is one area in which our Congress actually gets it right

The House yesterday overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan bill that toughens sanctions against Iran until the country dismantles its nuclear programs, with supporters saying the move is a "key component of our war on terror."

Lawmakers voted 397-21 for the Iran Freedom Support Act, created "to hold the current regime in Iran accountable for its threatening behavior and to support a transition to democracy in Iran."

The bill sends the message "the United States expects Iran to be a responsible member of the international community," said House Majority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican.

So far so good.

Unfortunately, Some People Still Don't Get It

There was opposition to the bill, and it came from both sides of the isle

Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Republican, said the measure reminds him of a 1998 congressional resolution that called for regime change in Iraq, which he thinks was the first step to the "very unpopular, expensive" Iraq war.

The Civil War was unpopular among many people in the North, and it too was expensive. Only 1/3 of Colonists supported independence, 1/3 were loyal to the crown, and 1/3 didn't care. Until Dec 7 1941 the vast majority of Americans wanted nothing to do with the war in Europe, and didn't want to give any aid whatsoever to Britain. But sometimes you do what you have to do. It's called leadership, Representative Paul.

Further, he is saying that he though that the 1998 resolution was all feel-good words but heaven forbid we actually take it literally. Sorry, Rep, but there's a new sheriff in town and he means what he says.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Oregon Democrat, noted all lawmakers "hate this regime," but he favors "strong, smart, constructive, diplomatic efforts" -- characteristics that he says are not present in the bill. "I am very worried about where this all ends," he said.

Heaven help us if this guy gets any real power.

Rep. Eric Cantor, who is Jewish, said Congress must take such threats seriously. "This bill should be the first step and not the last," the Virginia Republican said.

That's what opponents fear.

Fear what?

"It is bad for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, but there are things that are worse," such as giving the country a reason to use one, said Rep. Jim Leach, Iowa Republican.

What the...? Does this Leach guy not read the papers? The president of Iran, "Mad Mahmoud" Ahmadinejad, says every week that he'll blow Israel off the face of the earth as soon as he nuclear weapons.

Oh but it gets better

Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich said the Bush administration has "made a mess of international relations," with the war in Iraq.

"Don't we have enough problems in Iraq to clean up before setting the stage for another conflict with Iran?" the Ohio Democrat asked.

I see. And by this logic we shouldn't have done anything about Hitler because we had our hands full in the Pacific with the Japanese.

Morons and idiots. What will their excuse be if Iran does nuke Israel and kills millions of Jews?

Did you notice that about half of these fools were Republicans?

Tell me again why I should work to make sure the GOP keeps control of Congress.

Posted by Tom at 9:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tony Snow - An Excellent Choice

Yesterday President Bush selected Fox News and radio talk show host Tony Snow to be his new press secretary.

I think that it is an excellent choice.

The selection of Tony Snow was no doubt meant to shore up the conservative base, which the President has lost by promoting a series of ill-considered domestic policies. Tony Snow is an unabashed conservative and has criticized the administration repeatedly.

He is also temperamentally suited for the job of press secretary. Over the past few months I listened to his radio show, and he is always good-humored, even with the most rabid of left-wing callers. He will be able to deal with the likes of Helen Thomas or David Gregory.

Let's get one thing out of the way; no reasonable selection would have satisfied the Bush-hating left. No selection would make them vote Republican or approve of his policies.

Sure, Bush could have selected someone like David Gergen, a man of no principles who has and will be in any administration, Republican or Democrat, as long as it get's his face in the news. While this would have won accolades from the left, they still wouldn't vote Republican anyway or approve of his policies, so in the end it doesn't matter.

More to the point, Bush's biggest problem now isn't the middle. It's that he's lost his base.

Nevertheless, the left will villify Snow. It's already started. But I wouldn't really worry about it very much. They'll attack anyone Bush picks.

FYI, here's Tony's bio

Tony Snow is the host of Weekend Live with Tony Snow, which airs each Saturday from 11am-1pm on FOX News Channel (FNC). Snow also serves as an FNC political analyst and contributes to the network's political and election news coverage. Snow joined the network in 1996.

Snow previously served as host of FOX News Sunday (FNS), the FOX Broadcasting network's Sunday morning public affairs program. As host of FNS from 1996 to 2003, Snow interviewed numerous world leaders, including National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice; Secretary of State Colin Powell; Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; Sen. Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.; Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn.; Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf; and former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Before joining FOX News, Snow was a nationally syndicated columnist with The Detroit News from 1993 to 2001. He was also a columnist for USA Today from 1994 to 2000. Earlier, he served as an editorial writer at The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, VA; editorial page editor of The Daily Press in Newport News, VA; deputy editorial page editor of The Detroit News; and editorial page editor of The Washington Times. Snow's career in journalism began in 1979 when he was an editorial writer for The Greensboro Record in North Carolina.

In 1991, Snow took a sabbatical from journalism to work in the White House for President George H. Bush. He first served as the deputy assistant to the president for communications and director of speechwriting, and later as deputy assistant to the president for media affairs.

Snow earned his bachelor's degree in philosophy from Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina. He grew up in Cincinnati and currently resides in Virginia with his wife, son, and two daughters.

Posted by Tom at 8:07 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 24, 2006

And Now for the Other End of Pennsylvania Avenue

Guess which members of Congress wrote this letter:

April 24, 2006

The President
The White House
Washington, DC

Dear Mr. President:

In the wake of unprecedented increases in worldwide demand for gasoline, particularly in China and India, coupled with other factors, American consumers are facing record prices for gasoline at the pump. Anyone who is trying to take advantage of this situation while American families are forced into making tough choices over whether to fill up their cars or severely cut back their budgets should be investigated and prosecuted. Therefore, we believe that Federal law enforcement agencies and regulators should take every available step to ensure that all Federal laws protecting American consumers from price-fixing, collusion, gouging and other anti-competitive practices are vigorously enforced.

We respectfully request that you direct the Attorney General and the Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission to investigate any potential collusion, price-fixing or gouging in the sale or distribution of gasoline, petroleum distillates or ethanol in wholesale and retail markets. We further request that scrutiny be directed to refining, the transportation of fuel by pipelines, marine vessels and trucks, storage and marketing activities and retail practices to determine if there is any unlawful manipulation of the price of gasoline. Sweeps of retail distribution centers should be undertaken to ensure that retail price movements are in response to a change in market conditions and not price gouging. Finally, we recommend that the Federal Trade Commission examine whether spot shortages of gasoline are the result of illegal efforts to manipulate prices.

Ted Kennedy? nope
Chuck Schumer? nope
How about Bernie Sanders? sorry, try again.

Give up? Read on:

Given the severity of the current situation regarding gas prices, we believe that the Attorney General and the Federal Trade Commission should devote all necessary resources to expedited review of complaints of price gouging against wholesalers or retailers of gasoline and other distillates.

Additionally, we request that you direct the Chairman of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission to bring heightened scrutiny to the trading of energy futures and derivatives to determine whether spikes in prices of oil, gasoline and other petroleum distillates are a result of improper market manipulation by traders or by energy firms.

We believe that protecting American consumers in these unprecedented market conditions is of paramount importance. We know that you share these goals. Consistent with our constitutional authority, we will ask the committees of jurisdiction to conduct oversight of these important questions.

Sincerely,

The Honorable Dennis Hastert The Honorable Bill Frist
Speaker Majority Leader

Unbelieveable.

No, they couldn't recommend something sensible like reducing onerous enviromental regulations so that new refineries could be built, or push for drilling in ANWAR or off the coast of Florida, or even propose some new program to convince Americans that driving a huge SUV with one person in it to work is not the smartest move (readers will note that I did not call for CAFE regulations).

Carterism, here we come, courtesy of the Congressional Republicans.

Can We Fire Congress?

Rich Lowry asks if we can fire Congress:

This oil thing is, needless to say, idiotic. But it points to a larger issue: the GOP problem at the moment is by no means limited to the White House, as folks on Capitol Hill would have it, but very much includes Congress. Bush can get himself a top-notch White House staff firing on all cylinders and consulting like crazy with Congress, but if Capitol Hill is still run by what often seems a bunch of bungling, spend-thrift, unreformable, tin-eared, unimaginative, hysterical pols, not much is going to change.

Take the opportunity the House had with the selection of John Boehner as majority leader. He was a relative fresh face to most of the public, even if, obviously, not a stranger to K Street. What came of this departure? Very little. Did the GOP take advantage of the moment to institute some serious ethics and earmarks reforms? Of course not. Now, in this moment of political crisis, over in the senate the GOP has come up with the $700 million "railway to nowhere," just in time to remind conservatives why they are so dispirited, if they had by any chance forgotten. Then there's the immigration charade, with the GOP unable press what should be--given public opinion--their advantage on the issue and unable to exploit Democratic divisions on it.

On top of all this, they are running pell-mell from Bush with no or little purpose beyond pure panic, when Bush is more actually more popular than they are (Bush's approval is at 33%, Congress' at 25%; Bush's approval rating is 66% among Republicans, Congress' is at 28%). So tell me: Which end of Pennsylvania Avenue is most in need of a shake-up?

We've only got 6 months to turn things around. My only consolation at this point is that the Democrats would be worse.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 23, 2006

Osama bin Laden's Latest Diatribe

Earlier today, Osama bin Laden issued his latest series of threats against the West. it was carried, predictably, on al Jazeera

In the recording, aired on Sunday, the al-Qaeda leader said the isolation and cutting off of aid to the Hamas-led Palestinian government reaffirmed that the West was at war with the Islamic nation.

"The blockade which the West is imposing on the government of Hamas proves that there is a Zionist crusaders war on Islam," he said.

"Zionist-Crusaders" again, eh? Time to check out the Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) again, I think.

Anyway.

Waled Phares, writing at the CounterTerrorism Blog summarizes OBL's main points

1. Hamas: Despite the fact that we (including Ayman Zawahiri) warned (Muslim Palestinians) not to take part in elections in general, the victory of Hamas shows that there is a "Crusader Zionist War against Islam." Cutting foreign aid to the Palestinians because of Hamas victory proves that war.

2. The public (in the West and the US), despite our warnings, continues to reelect these Governments, pay taxes to these Governments, and send their children to fight against us. They (civilians) are therefore part of the war against us. They are responsible for any harm that would be caused to them.

3. Sudan: The Bashir Government is failing in stopping the Crusader War in Sudan. The Crusaders (Britain) has pushed the southerners (Blacks) to separate. The US has armed them and is supporting them. And now, because of tribal tensions in Darfour, the Crusaders are planning on intervening there. We are calling on the Jihadists to fight them in Darfour and Southern Sudan.

4. Long War: We're calling on all Jihadists, particularly in Sudan and the Arabian Peninsula to prepare themselves for a long war.

5. Danish Cartoons: We are asking the Danish Government to remit the Cartoonists to al Qaida.

6. Saudis: We criticize the Saudi Monarch for refuting the idea of Clash of civilization. There is a clash led by the West against Islam.

7. Arab Liberals: Jihadists must silence the Arab and Muslim liberals. (A list has been established, but it wasn't aired).

8. Education: We warn from any change that would affect the educational curriculum in the Arab and Muslim world.

9. Arab TV: We warn against those TV stations airing into the region and propagating Crusader propaganda.

10: Truce: We offered a truce to the West (US and Europe) but their public refused to accept it. They will only blame themselves.

He promises a complete analysis, but that is not up as of this posting.

All good stuff, as Dr Phares' analyses usually are. TigerHawk asks why OBL didn't talk about Iraq. Good question

Less than 2 1/2 years ago, al Qaeda broke the news to the Taliban that it was diverting resources to Iraq so as to humiliate the American "Crusaders."

All this was on the orders of bin Laden himself, the sources said. Why? Because the terror chieftain and his top lieutenants see a great opportunity for killing Americans and their allies in Iraq and neighboring countries such as Turkey, according to Taliban sources who complain that their own movement will suffer... Bin Laden believes that Iraq is becoming the perfect battlefield to fight the “American crusaders” and that the Iraqi insurgency has been “100 percent successful so far,” according to a Taliban participant at the mid-November meeting who goes by the nom de guerre Sharafullah.


Al Qaeda drew a line in the sands of the Sunni Triangle, and the United States Army and Marines walked right across it. First, al Qaeda tried to kill Americans, per bin Laden's orders. It largely failed. Then al Qaeda went after America's allies, and succeeded only in turning public opinion against itself in every Muslim country it attacked. After thirty months of battlefield defeats and political embarrassments, bin Laden won't even mention Iraq in one of his rare public utterances, and he rallies his troops to fight a war where American soldiers aren't. How humiliating. How delightful.

Al Qaeda has lost in Iraq, and bin Laden is desperate to change the subject. He and his organization are at grave risk of being discredited, and when that happens it will be much harder for al Qaeda to attract recruits, raise money, or deal with governments.

But Why Can't We Get Him?

I heard this today from a lady at my part time job. On Sunday's I work at an electronic retail store, and we usually have Fox News on the TV. We were watching the news of OBL's latest and she asked the obvious.

"Since we know he's in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region, why can't we get him?"

Just for the record I avoid discussing politics at work, especially with customers. But I figured I could answer this one without betraying my political sympathies. What I told her went something like this.

We are caught in a Catch-22. When Pakistan was formed in the late 40s and early 50s, it's new government realized that it couldn't control this mountainous region. So it made a deal with the local tribes; you don't make trouble for us and we'll grant you de facto autonomy. They agreed, and a deal was struck. All off the record, of course.

The current president/dictator of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, is in a somewhat precarious position. While his position is pretty solid, it is also fragile. He has been the target of four(?) assassaination attempts already. His enemies are radical Islamists, and there are many of them in Pakistan, and particulary in their security services. In other words, he needs to tread carefully.

So flooding the border region with US troops will create much angst and will likely destabilize the country. Pakistan has nuclear weapons. The last thing we want are these weapons in the hands of Islamic fanatics.

The bottom line is that it is a difficult situation, and if you hear anyone make trite remarks like "why can't we catch the tallest man in Pakistan(or whereever)", you can be sure you're dealing with someone afflicted with Bush Derangement Syndrome.


Posted by Tom at 10:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

China Update - The Mid-Term Threat

The way I see it, the United States faces four threats from foreign entities. From near term to long term, they are:

1) Islamic Terrorism

2) Iranian nuclear weapons

3) China

4) An increasingly Islamic Europe

That last one may be a bit surprising to some people, but the fact is that if current demographic and political trends continue, there will be a seriously large, and fortunately radical Islamic, element in Europe by mid-century. The Islamists could well gain enough political power in Europe to present us with a military threat. Kinda out there, I know, but not outside the realm of reason.

China Threat Update

China is a threat to us because they are determined to take control of Taiwan. Although they would like to do so peacefully, they could decide to use force if peaceful means fail, or if certain events occur, such as the government of Taiwan declaring itself independant of the mainland.

The United States will come to the aid of Taiwan no matter who is president, for historical, political, and moral reasons.

Assume that for whatever reason, China decides that they need to use force to gain political control of Taiwan. What exactly will they do?

The Foreigner in Formasa
links to an article in The Weekly Standard by Christian Lowe that summarizes a Rand Corporation study that poses four actions, or "counter-transformation options", that China might take to defeat or deter the US military.

Following are Lowe's summaries of the four options identified in the Rand study and my comments on each

* Conventional Modernization "Plus": A defense strategy marked by further purchase and development of submarines, aircraft, space weapons, and anti-ship missiles "to strike at perceived U.S. vulnerabilities." The study suggests this is the most likely strategy for China to adopt, largely because of the availability of sophisticated Soviet-bloc weaponry. To counter this the American military needs to boost its defensive training and continue developing anti-missile and anti-sub countermeasures.

Although this is their mostly likely strategy, it is also, I believe, the one least likely to lead to success. To be sure, China is building up it's military at a pace that would astound the uninformed. Further, they've done it without much fanfare, and it has caught our intelligence agencies by surprise. As I wrote in War with China: 2008 - 2010?, the problem China faces is that while their capabilities are growing arithmatically(2, 4, 6, 8), ours are growing exponentially(2, 4, 8, 16). Chinese military analysists watched US capabilities grow from the 1991 Gulf War to OIF in 2003, and what they saw worried them. Even worse, the US is slated to bring several new high-tech weapons systems on-line by the end of this decade, such as the F-22 Raptor, the F-35 JSF, and Virginia class submarines. Even the newest Russian technology will be a generation or two behind these systems.

More to the point, a fight on the high seas plays to US strengths. We got very good at this during World War II, and had fifty years worth of planning to do it again against the Soviet Union. Despite all the hoopla, the PLAN is not yet a threat, and may well be a paper tiger.

* Subversion, Sabotage, and Information Operations: An offensive strategy that aims to scare the population of Taiwan into believing it has no option but capitulation. This, coupled with computer network attacks to cripple U.S. logistics, could "delay U.S. intervention long enough to allow information operations and other coercion against Taiwan to have the desired affect." Rand researches suggest increased training for American logistics forces without the use of computer networks to simulate a potential attack and work through it.
This would certainly be in keeping with the great Chinese theoretician Sun-Tsu, whos 6th-century BC work The Art of War remains a classic of military theory. He emphasized just such things as subterfuge, believing that the best way to defeat an enemy was to attack his weak points, not to attack him head-on, as option #1 would entail.

The disadvantage of this approach is that I wonder of the Taiwanese population is as weak as would be required for this method to work. It is highly time-dependant, and therefore more risky. Further, US planners are well aware of our vulnerability to computer attack, and just as with a fight on the high-seas, computers are our specialty.

* Missile-Centric Strategies: Continue the development and deployment of conventional ballistic and cruise missiles to overwhelm Taiwan at strategic points and deny U.S. forces' defense in depth. This approach attacks "weak points in the enemy rear, denies the U.S. military the ability to use regional bases (Guam for example) as sanctuaries, changes the dynamics in the early stages of a conflict and provides an effective response to strategic attacks by American conventional forces." In response, the American military might have to create even more missiles and missile defenses to counter Chinese threats, change its basic strategy to confront China "to render irrelevant the capabilities of the missile forces," or even pull back from a potential conflict.
I've always thought that this would be the strategy that China would employ. Missile defense will not be able to stop more than a handful of attacks in the near-future, and China has hundreds of short-range conventially-armed missiles aimed at Taiwan. This, coupled with the announcement of a naval blockade, might frighten the Taiwanese population into the acceptance of a polically-acceptable "solution".
* "Network-Centric Warfare" strategy: A Pentagon-invented term, network-centric warfare (NCW) envisions weapons systems and sensors tied together with a computerized network of communications and intelligence gear that will give a commander a wider and deeper view of the battlefield. It would allow for rapid and complex decision-making in combat, helping to overwhelm an adversary's ability to react. China's development of similar technology and operational concepts could threaten America's major military advantage and put some of its most important assets--such as aircraft carriers--at great risk. But the Rand researchers admit China is a long way from matching the United States in this kind of complex technical challenge.

I haven't read the Rand Corporation study (you have to purchase it), but rather doubt that China is capable of challenging us in this field. I remember that before the 1991 Gulf War the newspapers were full of articles that compared US and Iraqi weapons. On paper, it looked about even, with the US holding perhaps a slight edge. Of course, the way it played out, we might as well have been fighting a 19th-century force. Dittos for the invasion of Iraq in March and April of 2003.

The reason we were so successful in both operations had less to do with our weapons than how we "put it all together." Now is not the place for a complete discussion of topics such as C4ISTAR and "network-centric warfare", but suffice it to say that these are not exactly the strong points of a military just now entering the 1980s technology-wise.

The Bottom Line

All this having been said, Lowe says that "the (Rand) study paints an alarming picture of Chinese military progress and a dogged focus on countering American military advances." However, we have one major advangage; people.

"Ironically, a confrontation between two technologically advanced, network-centric militaries willlikely reduce the importance of technology in favor of people and their ability to make rapid but accurate decisions with incomplete or overwhelming amounts of information," Rand notes. "In such a contest, volunteer military personnel drawn from an open, educated society like that of the United States would appear to have the advantage over a stove-piped military embedded in an authoritarian state. But the blinding pace of social, cultural and technological change in China strongly suggests that this conclusion will not always remain true."
.

Not to sound condescending, but the Chinese threat is not on most people's radar screens now. It ought to be.

Posted by Tom at 8:31 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 22, 2006

Fran O'Briens Getting the Boot

Readers of the page will recall that at the end of my posts on our Friday night pro-troops rallies at Walter Reed, I mention that we greet a bus full of troops at the entrance to the hospital. The troops are returning from a dinner at Fran O'Briens Stadium Steakhouse, a popular restaurant in Washington DC.

The restaurant is located in the Capital Hilton Hotel.

The cost of the dinners is substantial. According to an editorial in today's Washington Times, they "...cost $3,500-$4,000 each to serve anywhere from 30-60 people. At least the cost is covered partly by a charity, the Aleethia Foundation. But clearly Fran O'Brien's started this tradition at considerable cost to itself."

Two weeks ago, the Hilton gave Fran's the boot. Their lease was not renewed and they have to be out by May 1.

The problem is 1) the suspected reason for the eviction, and 2) the utter lack of compassion their way of doing business shows for the wounded veterans who go there every Friday night.

Shoshana Bryen, writing in National Review, suspects that the eviction is for one of two reasons. The first is that the stairwell leading down to the restaurant is not ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant, and they either do not want to comply or are worried about a lawsuit if one of the soldiers is injured. Right now, they have to be carried up and down the stairs if they cannot walk, and there have been a few spills.

The other possibility is that the Hilton is simply uncomfortable with having so many amputees come through their lobby every Friday evening. Walter Reed Army Medical Center is the primary rehabilitation center for service members from all branches who have serious injuries such as loss of limb.

The Hilton denies all this, or rather doesn't address it head on. A statement on their website reads

For strictly business reasons related solely to the inability to reach a new lease agreement, the Capital Hilton has elected to terminate the lease with the operator of Fran O’Brien’s restaurant at the hotel. This decision was not at all related to the Friday night dinners for disabled veterans but rather a result of lease negotiations that failed.

Whatever the truth, it is certainly bad publicity for the hotel. As perceptions are reality when it comes to business, I would think that they would realize their mistake and reopen negotiations with Fran's. But apparently this is not going to happen.

For more information

Smash the Indepundit:

BUZZ PATTERSON sends:

I just had a long chat with Hal Koster. Our worst fears are not only well founded but grossly understated. It's a complete and thorough cluster @#$%. (Sorry, my words not his). I haven't been this pissed about anything in a very long time.

...Kelleher's(General Manager of the Capitol Hilton) responses to our questions were blatant lies. Despite what Kelleher says, Hilton has done nothing to support the dinners... never met a bus, never contributed a cent, never negotiated for changes to bring the restaurant into ADA compliance, never advertised the restaurant or the dinners within their own hotel, never provided logistical support... in a word, they've done absolutely zip. In fact, Kelleher hides out in his office and has had no contact with Fran's owner

Save Frans is a website dedicated to saving the restaurant. Kelleher, take notice.

Andi at Andi's World has several great posts

It's not about Fran O'Briens, the Hilton, or property rights. It's about the troops

The Hilton responds to the Fran O'Briens matter

Andi Speaks with Brian Kelleher and gets the Hilton's side of the story

The Washington Times weighs in today

According to co-proprietor Hal Koster, the trouble began earlier this year when lease negotiations with Hilton broke down over the installment of a lift for wheelchair-bound veterans to enter the premises, which are at basement level. "We compromised on just about everything else, but we said, 'You have to do the lift,' " Mr. Koster recounted in a phone interview with The Washington Times. But Hilton balked because the costs would be higher than anticipated.

About a month ago Mr. Koster and business partner Marty O'Brien, son of the late Redskins tackle and restaurant namesake, received an eviction notice. "They haven't said anything to us" beyond the official notice, Mr. Koster reports. But to his mind, it was clear enough that Hilton evicted him because it didn't want to pay for the lift.
...

In the immediate future, a rival has stepped in to be the goodwill enterprise that Hilton apparently isn't. Mr. Koster reports that rival Crown Plaza Hotel has agreed to host the dinners temporarily.

However, the Times notes that this is at best a temporary solution, and that the owners of Frans have not found a permanent location downtown yet.

The Bottom Line

Send an email to the Capital Hilton. Let them know what you think. If none of the addresses on their website work, try this one hhonors@hilton.com , or any of the others listed here.

Update

The email I sent to Hhonors@hilton.com generated an autoreply with a generic message. The other email I sent to the individuals listed on the Save Fran's website bounced, whether due to volume or their being turned off I cannot say.

Posted by Tom at 12:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 21, 2006

The Big Question with Regard to Iran

It seems that every week the president of Iran threatens to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. Here's one from last week

The president of Iran again lashed out at Israel on Friday and said it was "heading toward annihilation," just days after Tehran raised fears about its nuclear activities by saying it successfully enriched uranium for the first time.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called Israel a "permanent threat" to the Middle East that will "soon" be liberated. He also appeared to again question whether the Holocaust really happened.

"Like it or not, the Zionist regime is heading toward annihilation," Ahmadinejad said at the opening of a conference in support of the Palestinians. "The Zionist regime is a rotten, dried tree that will be eliminated by one storm."
...

The land of Palestine, he said, referring to the British mandated territory that includes all of Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, "will be freed soon."

What a guy.

Does he mean it? I'm sure he does. Will the other mullahs let him destroy Israel if or when Iran acquires nuclear weapons? Maybe, but maybe not. Either way, it doesn't really matter, becauase the government of Israel has said many times that it is simply unacceptable for them to allow Iran to have the bomb. The clear implication is that Israel will strike with nuclear weapons first if it becomes known that Iran is so armed.

The question for us, then, is this: Is it acceptable for us to allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons?

Before you quickly answer "no", let's consider the implications of that answer.

Here is my point: All hell is going to break lose in the world, and especially in the Middle East, if we have to bomb Iran.

Reuel Marc Gerecht has a very useful article in The Weekly Standard in which he reviews the arguments against bombing

* "If we bomb, we will kill off the internal Iranian opposition"
- Pretty weak, he says. The chances of a popular uprising overthrowing the regime is pretty small anyway.

* "If we bomb, the Iranians will rise in righteous indignation and a new generation of anti-American Shiite holy warriors will be produced (as if the Sunni terrorists weren't bad enough)."
- Some will, but it's more complicated than that, Gerecht says. Some or many will eventually turn against the regime. Further, we've heard so often that the "Arab/Muslim street" was about to rise up that it's all a case of the boy who cried wolf.

* "If we bomb, the international community will go ballistic."
- Yes they will. And this would be a problem. But would it be any worse than what we endured at the outbreak of the invasion of Iraq? Further many of these same countries will privately congratulate us.

* If we bomb, the mullahs will hit us in Afghanistan and Iraq.

- The administration is afflicted with "Iraq fatigue", he says, which is real and serious. But untimately, this should not affect our decision. Besides, for them to do so would risk annihilaton themselves. They would have to come into the open to do much worse, and it is in this sphere where we hold all the advantages.

* If we bomb Iran's nuclear facilities, we cannot fully verify the damage we've done without a land invasion. And Iranian terrorist reprisals against our troops, if sustained and deadly, might force us to consider the unthinkable: a large-scale land invasion of the Islamic Republic.
- This, Gerecht, is the "most stultifying concern." Bombing Iran would not be a one-time affair, whereby we could sit back after a week or so and let things be. This is not Libya 1986. We would be at war with Iran.

"All of this is frightening. It reinforces the temptation to accept the status quo rather than going on the offensive. Inaction is the default position of "realists," which explains their staying power."

Gerecht is certainly right. If you want to be frightened even more, read James Fallows piece in The Atlantic Monthly, in which he outlines the dangers of air strikes in even more stark terms. But all of this simply brings us back to our central question

Is it acceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon?

Because if the answer is truely "no", then the consequences of our bombing them do not matter.

"He doesn't Mean It"

Get ready, because you're going to hear variants of the "he doesn't really mean it" line in the months and years to come. "He's only saying it for public consumption" and the like.

Well, maybe and maybe not. It's easy to say that when you're not Israel. If you were, you'd whistle a different toon.

Then there's that Hitler thing. Do we really have to go through the 1930s again?

Steyn At His Best

Mark Steyn was at his best the other day

If you think, for example, the European Union and others have been fairly craven over those Danish cartoons, imagine what they’d be like if a nuclear Tehran had demanded a formal apology, a suitable punishment for the newspaper, and blasphemy laws specifically outlawing representations of the Prophet. ...

Anyone who spends half an hour looking at Iranian foreign policy over the last 27 years sees five things:

1. contempt for the most basic international conventions;
2. long-reach extraterritoriality;
3. effective promotion of radical Pan-Islamism;
4. a willingness to go the extra mile for Jew-killing (unlike, say, Osama);
5. an all-but-total synchronization between rhetoric and action.
...

So the question is: Will they do it?

And the minute you have to ask, you know the answer.

Iran, Now

The editors of National Review urge the Bush Administration to end their lethargy and to take the following actions

There are three things we should begin doing now. First, supporting Iranian labor unions. The Iron Curtain would not have fallen without Lech Walesa and Solidarity, and unions could play a similar role in Iran....

Second, we should do everything we can to help Iranian student groups. Roughly 70 percent of Iran's population is under 30. These youths are the most pro-Western segment of Iranian society — and they happen to be mad as hell at Iran's rulers....

(Third), We should massively increase our pro-democracy broadcasts into Iran, both by funding U.S.-based Farsi satellite-TV networks and by exercising a modicum of intelligence in our Voice of America programming.

"None of this is guaranteed to spark a revolution, but it has better odds than doing nothing" they conclude. We must hit them with air strikes, they say, if nothing else works. "This is not a good option", but allowing Iran to acquire nuclear weapons "is incalculably worse."

The Wisdom of the Ages

Perhaps the great Southern General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson said it best

"Never take council of your fears"

The key word is not fear. More than most, Jackson knew the danger of war, both on the strategic and tactical levels. The key word is council. Air strikes would entail much danger. We must be realistic; all hell would break loose in the Middle East. Therefore, they should be our last option. But they must remain on the table, because to talk them off would be to take council of our fears.

Posted by Tom at 8:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Too Little Too Late?

When I'm reading this sort of stuff From Rich Lowry, editor of National Review, you know there are problems in the GOP

Remember that cheesy ad for some TV product back in the day that featured an elderly woman saying, "Help--I've fallen and I can't get up"? Well, that's the Bush White House and the national GOP at the moment. The latest Gallup poll has Bush's approval rating at 36%, and congressional approval at 23%. The satisfied-with-the-way-things-are-going-in-the-U.S. number is at 27%. I hate to say it but the comparison that Dick Morris makes today between Bush and Carter--just in terms of sheer listlessness and a foreign event draining all of a president's strength--has occurred to me more than once recently. What is most disturbing is that as their boat heads steadily toward a disastrous trip over the falls, neither Bush nor the GOP seems to feel any urgency about changing direction, nor seem to have any good ideas about how to do it if they wanted to. (Not that my ideas, or Morris'--drug testing in schools???--are that great either.)

"No urgency" Yup, that about sums it up.

A few recent changes at the White House won't change anything. A new press secretary and job for Carl Rove is akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

This critique of the Bush Administration, however, should not please liberals too much, for I wish they would be more, not less, conservative. I sounded off about this entire issue last week. It's not foreign policy that we conservatives are so concerned about, but it's the domestic stuff that gets us going.

Can anything be done, or is it too late?

The staff of NRO thought the situation serious enough that they editorialized on it yesterday. Money quotes

Congress is not going to be in session for many more days this year. There is not much time for congressional Republicans to promote popular legislation as a way of improving their standing -- even if one assumed, contrary to fact, that they could agree on what legislation that would be. Their fate is therefore tied to the president's. If the election is held with Bush holding a 35 percent approval rating, they will lose the House. If Bush rises to 45 percent by the fall, they will do fine. ...

Even if they recover some spirit and energy, Republicans are likely to lose seats this fall. But they have some influence over whether this election is a setback or a rout. It is up to them how they wish to use it.

The GOP blew it's chance on illegal immigration, dealing yet another blow to it's base. They also largely blew it on lobbying reform. They've spent like drunken sailors for the past 6 years. They passed, and President Bush signed, that stupid McCain-Feingold campaign finance "reform" bill, won't do anything about reducing abortions or ending race and sex quotas (er, "diversity"). On and on.

The only thing saving them is that the Democrats are worse on all of the above issues. They've got no plan, and their leadership is beholden to the Cindy Sheehan left, epitomized by Moveon.org and the Daily Kos.

Can the GOP pull themselves up? The recent changes at the White House are encouraging, as was the victory of John Boehner as majority leader in the House. On the other hand, it all may be too little too late.

The other thing that might save the GOP is what Michael Barone calls "hypothis two". His take is that a reduced turnout by the GOP base might not make that much difference.

Hypothesis Two is one I developed myself, and it's based only on the elections of the last 10 years. In the five House elections from 1996 to 2004, there has been very little variation in the popular vote percentages for both parties. The Republican percentage of the popular vote for the House has fluctuated between 49 and 51 percent, the Democratic percentage between 46 and 48.5 percent.

Barone is a pretty astute observer of politics, and is a veritable walking encyclopaedia of information. We on the right had better hope he's right this time.

Gloom and Doom

Over at National Review's The Corner blog, Jonah Goldberg was all Gloom

I had lunch with another prominent Republican. I asked him if he could remember a time when Republicans were more dispirited. He shrugged and said, "It really is pretty bleak, isn't it." Or words to that effect.


While Ramesh Ponnuru is all Doom

I spoke to a very influential Republican strategist earlier this week, and asked him what he thought the party should do to fix the mess it's in. His answer: "I don't think it's fixable." Republicans are only now as alarmed as they should have been six months ago, when they might have been able to put together an agenda to improve their standing. Now there are too few legislative days left before the election to do that--and it makes more sense for congressmen to spend time campaigning in their districts than for them to increase the number of days in session.

He blames both the White House ("They've known since last September that they needed to put together an agenda and they have failed to do so. Their State of the Union gave us nothing to work on in an election year.") and the Congress ("People believe that all politics is local and you can look at it race by race [and see a good outcome]. That's all horse----."). "So I'm not Mr. Happy, you can say."

No, I'm not giving up. But the first step to recovery is realizing we have a problem.

"Houston...."

Posted by Tom at 8:06 AM

April 16, 2006

He is Risen!

The Resurrection

1After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

2There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

5The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7Then go quickly and tell his disciples: 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.' Now I have told you."

8So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."

The Guards' Report

11While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13telling them, "You are to say, 'His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.' 14If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." 15So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

The Great Commission

16Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Indeed, He is Risen!

For Easter this year the church I attend decided to erect a huge tent in our parking lot and combine all three services into one so that everyone could attend one big service. Usually on Sunday we have three services.

IM000157.JPG

IM000161.JPG

We had great music and an even greater sermon. Pastor Gary was at his best, combining humor, theology, and personal stories into a message that no doubt moved the hearts and minds of everyone there. My hope is that some people who only attended because of a relative were saved this morning because they decided to commit themselves to Jesus Christ. That is, after all, the objective.

Pastor Gary talked about why some people don't believe in the resurrection. One is that the people who saw Christ resurrected were not exactly the upstanding citizens of their day. Among the disciples were 10 fishermen or farmers, a thief and a tax collector. Until quite recently in our history the witness of women was not considered equal to that of a man. In short, these were not reliable people.

But in reality the opposite is true. If you were going to make up a fantastic story, in order to get people to believe it you would use as witnesses people considered reliable by society; educators, administrators, clergy, doctors, military officers, lawyers. Ok, maybe not lawyers ;-) But you get the point. The truthfullness of the story of the resurrection is that common people witnessed it. Further, every last one of the disciples committed themselves to speading the word of Christ for the rest of their lives in the face of violent threats against them. Indeed, it is believed that every one of them came to a violent end at the hands of non-believers.

A second reason why some do not believe is that the claims of the witnesses were so uncommon, so fantastic. By this we do not just mean that he died and came back to life, but the promise of what it meant. John 3:16-18 says

16"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[a] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.

In other words, believe in Jesus Christ as your saviour and you have everlasting life. This is not a minor or offhand promise.

Lastly, some people just refuse to believe, or they believe in the wrong thing. Sorry, but being a good person is not enough to get you into heaven. You can show someone the Gospel and explain it's significance, but in the final analysis either they choose to believe or not.

The decision is up to each of us individually. I have chosen to believe.

Posted by Tom at 7:05 PM

April 15, 2006

Book Review: "How America Got it Right "

A few weeks ago, while outside of Walter Reed Army Medical Center at one of our Friday night pro-troops rallies, I had a short debate with a leftist that summed up the very different ways in which the two sides view the United States. To her, our history was mostly one of doing bad and harmful things, to me, of doing mostly right and good ones.

I'll admit that she at least knew her history, the leftist version of it, anyway. "What about the Monroe Doctrine?" she spat at me, "Have you ever heard of Manifest Destiny?" To her, from our very earliest days to the war in Iraq, the United States has been in the business of exploiting other people for our own selfish interests. Even the Marshall Plan, and military presence in Western Europe drew her scorn. "It was only so you could exploit them economically"

After a bit the back and forth grew a bit heated (I should never have engaged her for so long), and she took her daughter and went down the street to join the anti-war demonstration organized by Code Pink.

Bevin Alexander sees our country from the exact opposite view than the leftist lady whom I met outside of Walter Reed. The title of his 300 page summary of American history says it all: How America Got It Right: The U.S. March to Military and Political Supremacy.

Bevin's thesis, then, is fairly simple; that most of the time the leaders and people of this country have done the right thing, and have done it from the Revolution through the War on Terror. Monrowe Docrtine? Kept the Europeans from exploiting Central and South America. Manifest Destiny? We may not have had the right to push Mexico and Britain aside as we expanded westward, but it was the right thing to do. For all their ranting about American "imperialism", few serious people would deny that the people of the southwestern United States are worse off today than they would be under Mexican administration.

So it goes with the rest of American history as well. The Civil War could have been avoided, he says, but once the Confederacy had been established, Lincoln had no choice but to fight. Our expansion westward destroyed the Indians, but ultimately lead to the formation of something far better. Our reluctant entry into World War I was made by a president who rightly saw that the war was caused by capitalist and imperialist greed on both sides, and would only describe us as "associates", not allies, with Great Britain and France. Harry Truman made many mistakes in fighting the Korean War, but the war was worth fighting. On it goes to our present day, when Bevin sees our invasion of Iraq as the correct action, despite our having made mistakes in the aftermath.

Alexander Bevin is the author of 8 books on military history, and among his other credentials "was an advisor to the Rand Corporation for a recent study on future warfare and a participant in a recent war game simulation run by the Training and Doctrine Command of the US Army" (from the book cover).

I don't agree with everything Bevin says about US history. For example, he is convinced that the Civil War could have been avoided through a "buy out" plan in which the Federal government would have paid slaveowners fair market value to set them free. I hadn't known it, but apparently such a proposal was made at the time. However, I doubt that even if it's advocates had pressed harder for it Southerners would have accepted this solution.

But these are quibbles. For anyone looking for a short and concise history of the United States from the perspective that we are a good nation, this is a book worthy of your attention.

Posted by Tom at 8:40 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

April 12, 2006

Trouble in the GOP

I've been putting this off long enough. For some time now I've wanted to do a post on the terrible state of the Republican Party but just haven't gotten around to it.

But then yesterday I saw this posted by George Conway on NRO, and figured it was time to take this issue on

John Fund, after discussing how disgruntled the GOP base may be, has it exactly right: "Republicans have appeared to the world to be as unprincipled and rudderless as the politicians they campaigned against back in 1994. Unless they change course dramatically in the seven months between now and Election Day, they may well find themselves facing the same fate as the Democratic political dinosaurs of that year that they replaced." I'm disgruntled, too, and I'm going to get it all of my chest this morning: I've never voted for a Democrat in a general election in my life, and I don't expect to anytime soon, but it's been impossible for me over the past couple of years to get enthused about the Republican party. I voted for President Bush twice, and contributed to his campaign twice, but held my nose when I did it the second time. I don't consider myself a Republican any longer. Thanks to this Administration and the Republicans in Congress, the Republican Party today is the party of pork-barrel spending, Congressional corruption — and, I know folks on this web site don't want to hear it, but deep down they know it's true — foreign and military policy incompetence. Frankly, speaking of incompetence, I think this Administration is the most politically and substantively inept that the nation has had in over a quarter of a century. The good news about it, as far as I'm concerned, is that it's almost over.

Ouch

Now, I think Conway goes too far. No doubt we made big mistakes the first 18 months of the war in Iraq. But contrary to what many people seem to think, this is how most wars go. And the notion that we could have had this big grand coalition if only we'd, what? talked to them nicer, well, that's just naive.

Further, Jim Geraghty, also on NRO, asks some relevant questions

Thinking back to the Clinton administration, do we look back fondly at their "foreign and military policy competence" in the way they handled the growing al-Qaeda threat? The cruise missiles fired, once, at the training camps and empty tents? Those decisive, responses to the first World Trade Center bombing, Khobar Towers, the embassy bombings, the U.S.S. Cole?

Do we look back fondly at their "foreign and military policy competence" in the way they handled Iraq? The collapse of the U.N. inspections, periodic cruise missile attacks that had little impact, the leaky sanctions that hurt the Iraqis more than the regime and that the world was ready to repeal?

Do we look back fondly at their "foreign and military policy competence" with, say, their approach to China? Loral? Madeline Albright's champagne toast in North Korea to "friendship between our peoples" with Kim Jong Il?

If you're upset with the current Bush administration's stance on illegal immigration, how did you like the Clinton administration's "Citizenship USA" program, unveiled in August 1995, designed to deal with an INS backload that ended up naturalizing 1.1 million immigrants in time for Election Day 1996?

All true. Bill Clinton got lucky. He was president during a "breather" period, similar to the 1920s. We also remember how he handled our presense in Somalia; badly. Remember "Black Hawk Down"? We had trouble rescuing our soldiers because his Secretary of Defense, Les Aspin, refused the military their request for armored vehicles.

But Conway is definately on to something.

Because as everyone knows, the base of the Republican Part is pissed off.

You can hear it on the radio talk shows. Even Sean Hannity, ever the chearleader, expresses lots frustration with the Bush administration over issues such as illegal immigration and out-of-control federal spending.

You can read it in the conservative magazines, such as National Review.

And you can see it in the blogs.

Let's face it, if 9-11 had never happened, and we'd never have invaded Iraq, what has George Bush or the Republicans in congress done to commend them?

They don't have spending under control.

They are completely unwilling to seal our southern border.

They try to sneak an amnesty bill for illegal aliens past us.

They are responsible for McCain-Feingold, that insane and unconstitutional "campaign reform" bill.

We're at crunch time in Iraq, and the question in Washington is not "how are we going to win" but "when will we bring the troops home".
Contrary to what the idiot left would have you believe, there is a great case to be made about Iraq, but the Bush Administration doesn't seem to want to make it, at least not often enough to matter.

Nothing has been done to reign in an out-of-control liberal judiciary.
Bush only appointed Samuel Alito after the right raised high holy hell when he tried to appoint his buddy Harriet Myers.

Nothing has been done that I know off to reduce the insane number of federal regulations that choke our country. Reagan at least attempted to deal with the problem. Now we don't even try.

Nothing has been done to reduce the number of abortions performed in this country.

No new attempt to reestablish welfare reform has been proposed or passed.

Race and sex quotas, which go under the guise of "diversity" and "affirmative action", are still the law of the land.

We can't get meaningful lobbying reform passed even after getting hit over the head with the Abramoff scandal.

We have some incredibly good economic numbers, and yet the Bush administration is almost totally silent about them. Can't blame the media if you don't try.

I could go on, and if I think of more I'll post them.

Yes I know Bush has done some good things in the domestic policy arena. He at least attempted to deal with Social Security, which is more I can say about the ostrich party. And we did let that stupid Brady Bill lapse. But then I am reminded of his prescription drug bill and the education bill that he basically let Ted Kennedy write...and my head hurts again.

It's not enough to say that the Democrats would be worse, although that's certainly true. John Kerry's recent recommendations for dealing with Iraq are a recipe for disaster. Thank heavens he's not president.

But the bottom line is that we are blowing our chance to change this country for the better. We've still got some time left, but we'd better move fast.

The situation may not be as bad as Bruce Bartlett portrays it in his recent book, but it's close.

There have been many times these past few months where I've said to myself "if the GOP loses congress it's their own fault."

With their cowardace over the illegal alien issue (it's not an "immigration problem!) I'm at the point of saying "if they lose congress they'll deserve it."

No, all is not lost. I'm not going to give up and walk away. That solves nothing. No, we must try to engage the Bush Administration and Republicans in congress and try to change them. It might not work, but if we throw up our hands, that definately won't work. It would also be foolish to stay at home next November, or to form a third party. But the current situation is just about intollerable.

Ok I'm done.

Posted by Tom at 9:29 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

April 11, 2006

Who's Side is the Washington Post On?

The Washington Post is capable of some extremely good reporting on the war in Iraq. See here, here, and here for examples. Unfortunately, yesterday was not one of them.

Here is the headline and subheadline (or whatever you call it)

Military Plays Up Role of Zarqawi

Jordanian Painted As Foreign Threat To Iraq's Stability

Uh-oh. Right off the bat we know we've got a problem. Anyone who hasn't been living in a cave knows that 1) the most vicious third of the insurgency is made up of al Qaeda, a main contributor to that country's violence 2) Zarqawi is (or was) the head of al Qaeda in Iraq. So what is there to "play up"?

But wait, it get's worse.

The U.S. military is conducting a propaganda campaign to magnify the role of the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, according to internal military documents and officers familiar with the program. The effort has raised his profile in a way that some military intelligence officials believe may have overstated his importance and helped the Bush administration tie the war to the organization responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The documents state that the U.S. campaign aims to turn Iraqis against Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian, by playing on their perceived dislike of foreigners. U.S. authorities claim some success with that effort, noting that some tribal Iraqi insurgents have attacked Zarqawi loyalists.

And the problem with this is what exactly?

It all sounds good to me. Bravo to the military, I say. Glad to see that we're not just fixated on the military aspects of fighting an insurgency, but realize that we're in an information war too.

What does the Post want? Would they be happy if our government shut up and let the terrorists have the media to themselves? Or are they just frightened that they don't have a monopoly on shaping opinion like they did just 10 years ago?

I'd be amazed if we weren't conducting a propaganda offensive designed to marginalize al Qaeda. Is't that what we're supposed to be doing? Liberals are always telling us that we can't win it militarily.

Back to the Post article. As if the leading headline was not enough, here's the editorializing

Some senior intelligence officers believe Zarqawi's role may have been overemphasized by the propaganda campaign...

Although Zarqawi and other foreign insurgents in Iraq have conducted deadly bombing attacks, they remain "a very small part of the actual numbers,"...

"The long-term threat is not Zarqawi or religious extremists, but these former regime types and their friends," Col. Derek Harvey, who served as a military intelligence officer in Iraq and then was one of the top officers handling Iraq intelligence issues on the staff of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told an Army meeting at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., last summer.

Oh for heavens sake. Yes we're all quite aware that the insurgency is made up of three groups; 1) ex-Ba'athists, or "regime dead-enders", 2) Rejectionists, non-Ba'athists who simply hate the idea of a Western democracy, and 3) al-Qaeda in Iraq.

But anyone who has not been living in a cave knows that the while al Qaeda is the smallest of the three groups, it is also the most deadly.

And, as Cliff May pointed out, the purpose of quoting Col Harvey is to insinuate "that the U.S. military’s communications effort is dishonest."

A US military spokesman made this clear yesterday, the AP reported in a Post story today

More than 90 percent of the suicide attacks in Iraq are carried out by fighters recruited, trained and equipped by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, a U.S. military spokesman said Monday.

Zarqawi and al-Qaeda in Iraq "are real threats to the citizens, security and stability of Iraq. And we continue to conduct aggressive operations to eliminate the threat they pose not only to Iraq, but also to the rest of the region," Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch said in a statement.

I think that General Lynch has it about right.

Stephen Spruiell looks at the subheadline in the Post story and asks

Are we to believe that, absent the military's efforts to warn us, we would all be laboring under the illusion that Zarqawi is a gentle peacemaker who's just trying to get out the vote?

Scott Johnson of Powerline sums the whole thing up nicely

So here's the situation: (1) Zarqawi, a foreign terrorist, indisputably is conducting deadly bombing attacks, (2) there's disagreement about his precise level of activity and overall significance, (3) playing up his role is reasonably calculated to create deadly conflict among Iraqi terrorist-insurgents. Under these circumstances, should the U.S. "play up" Zarqawi's role or give him the benefit of the doubt? Unless one is on Zarqawi's side or is suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome, the question answers itself.

Sure does.

Posted by Tom at 7:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 9, 2006

Iraq Liberation Day 2006

Today marks three years since we liberated Iraq from the Ba'thists. This was a huge victory for the forces of good, and just as huge a defeat for the forces of tyranny. What remains to be seen is whether we can hold on to our success.

As I write these words, it is not at all clear as to whether we can keep Iraq from sliding into some sort of quasi-dictatorship. We've had two successful elections, and a constitution has been set in place. But violence wracks much of Baghdad and the surrounding environs, and political instability seems the order of the day. These two factors threaten to undo what we have achieved.

And we have achieved a lot, despite what the naysayers would have you believe. That we have not consolidated our success is worrysome, but not a cause for too much dispair. Rather, it is more reason than to take stock of our situation, and, if necessary, to adjust our methods.

But first, let's look at what we have achieved so far. First and foremost, we ended an evil regime. Who can forget where they were when they say this on TV:

Saddam Statue 1.jpg

As Andrew Sullivan wrote at the time

This is an amazing victory, a victory over a monster who gassed civilians, jailed children, sent millions into fruitless wars, harbored poisonous weapons to threaten free peoples, tortured thousands, and made alliances with every two-bit opportunist on the planet. It's a victory over those who marched in the millions to stop this liberation, over the endless media cynics, over the hate-America crowd, and the armchair generals. It's a victory for the two countries in the world that have always made freedom possible and who have now brought it to another corner of the world made dark by terror. It's a victory for the extraordinary servicemen and women who performed this task with such skill, cool, courage and restraint. It's a victory for optimism over pessimism, the righting of past wrongs, the assertion of universal truths against postmodern excuses, and of political leadership over appeasement. Celebrate it. Don't let the whiners take this away from you or from the people of Iraq.

Too bad his own support turned out so fickle. But he was right then, and as such his words are worth repeating.

In a symposium on National Review online a few weeks ago, various experts were asked "What do you consider the most important points to keep in mind when considering Iraq three years after the Coalition invasion?"

Here are some of their replies

Peter Brooks

) In spite of the violence, Iraqis are constructing one of the few democracies in the Middle East.

2) Withdrawing prematurely would leave a vacuum for al Qaeda, Iran, or Syria to fill, destabilizing the entire region.

3) Civil war will be a self-fulfilling prophecy if we buy into the idea, and give up.

4) We're fighting pure evil in Iraq. How many Iraqi women and children have al Qaeda/the insurgents slaughtered?

5) The quickest way to end a war is to lose it; losing would dishonor all those who served — or are serving — in Iraq.

6) Premature withdrawal will be seen as a historic victory for terrorism, encouraging even more bloodshed across the globe.

7) Our allies/friends around the world — as well as our enemies — are watching the strength/durability of our commitment in Iraq.

Jonathan Foreman

The failure of the Administration to get pictures of the work Coalition forces do — from building sewage systems to training Iraqi forces — onto American national and local TV is a strategic defeat, on a par with the occupation government's failure to maintain order after Saddam's overthrow. The fact that millions of Americans wrongly believe that the 100,000 plus GIs in Iraq have achieved nothing there and are under constant attack by a hostile population could force the U.S. government into a premature withdrawal.

It's hard to know what's really going on in Iraq — partly because of the localized nature of the war, partly because the threat of kidnap restricts the movement of white reporters, but mostly because the press corps reports only attacks and death tolls. However, my own visits have cured me of doubts about whether Iraqi freedom is worth the sacrifices of our troops. And when you talk to the some of the thousands of Iraqis who are risking their lives for a new Iraq (just ask them what they think of the "troops out" movement), it's clear that this is as noble a cause as any in our history

M. Zuhdi Jasser
After three years, our losses and frustrations serve as proof of how sorely we were needed in Iraq. Iraq has become an epicenter of Islamist terror. But al Qaeda's fear of a free Iraq is the greatest sign that our mission is on target. Militant Islamists are now on the run in Iraq.

Mackubin Thomas Owens
As we look at the situation in Iraq three years after the U.S. invasion, it might be useful to consider what things might look like if we hadn't invaded.

First and foremost, Saddam would still be in power, and we should not underestimate his ability to have caused a great deal of mischief. Human-rights violations would continue. He would be lionized by other despots for his ability to thumb his nose at the international system. By now, the real "coalition of the bribed," the members of the U.N. Security Council that Saddam was paying off, would in all likelihood have permitted the sanctions regime that boxed Saddam in to wither away.

Free of sanctions, Saddam would no doubt now be in the process of reconstituting his chemical and nuclear-weapons programs.

Having seen us blink in the case of Iraq, countries such as Pakistan would be less likely to help us in our attempt to destroy al Qaeda. There's no guarantee that things would be better in Afghanistan either.

Bill Roggio
Since the fall of Saddam's regime, there have been both triumphs and setbacks for those attempting to establish a free society in Iraq. The setbacks have been tactical and not strategic in nature. For instance, after the Coalition recognized the mistakes in structuring the Iraqi army, the force was quickly restructured to fight the insurgency. There are now almost 50 Iraqi battalions in the lead fighting the insurgency, with another 80 battalions in supporting roles. The Iraqi security forces have yet to meet their full potential.

The political process, while painfully slow, has produced results. The Iraqi people braved the threats and acts of violence three separate times during 2005, and voted in numbers that should shame the citizens of established Western democracies.

Michael Rubin
Success is evident: Iraqis can choose from dozens of television and radio channels, and scores of newspapers. Elections, political debate, and compromise are the norm. When chaos reigns, refugees flee. Why then have more than a million Iraqis returned to their country since liberation?

And indeed our troops are doing much good in Iraq, as Bill Crawford details here and here.

Families United has a very detailed document you can download from their website which outlines how "Life in Iraq has changed immensely since the fall of Saddam Hussein's vicious regime, and the Iraqi people are enjoying freedoms they've never known before." Go to their website and scroll down to Iraq: Then and Now

Gone unnoticed by the anti-war crowd is that American casualties have been steadily falling.

Further, anyone who things that the sanctions regime was working perfectly and was not that costly, doesn't know what they are talking about. This AEI paper (hat tip David Frum) proves otherwise.

Anyone who thinks that Saddam didn't have extensive links to terrorist groups, including al Qaeda, simply isn't in touch with the facts. I've got about a million links in my bookmark folder about them, but you can start with this excellent summary posted on StrategyPage.

Read the whole thing.

For we have achieved a lot by going into Iraq. We are fighting the enemy on their soil, on their turf. As I argued in The Strategic Offensive Part I

For what we have done is nothing short of revolutionary. We have gone to the heart of the enemy camp and destroyed his headquarters. We have seized his leaders and forced the others to flee for their lives. We have grabbed them by the throat and are slowly but surely strangling them.

No more are we probing the enemy listening posts and attacking selected, weakly defended targets. No more are we simply skirting around the periphery.

No I am not saying everything is peaches and cream in Iraq, or that there are not problems. There are.

Andrew McCarthy is pessimistic that we have the political will to "step it up and achieve an unambiguous military victory in Iraq to prevent terrorists from winning a share of power in an outcome that would be a humiliating defeat of the U.S."

He points to an editorial by Reuel Marc Gerecht in the Wall Street Journal (April 03, subscription required), in which he agrees with Gerecht that "combat operations have to be ramped up". Gerecht:

We are now in the unenviable position of having to confront radicalized, murderous Shiite militias, who have gained broader Shiite support because of the Sunni-led violence and the lameness of U.S. counterinsurgency operations. The Bush administration would be wise not to postpone any longer what it should have already undertaken -- securing Baghdad. This will be an enormously difficult task: Both Sunnis and Shiites will have to be confronted, but Sunni insurgents and brigands must be dealt with first to ensure America doesn't lose the Shiite majority and the government doesn't completely fall apart. Pacifying Baghdad will be politically convulsive and provide horrific film footage and skyrocketing body counts. But Iraq cannot heal itself so long as Baghdad remains a deadly place. And the U.S. media will never write many optimistic stories about Iraq if journalists fear going outside. To punt this undertaking down the road when the political dynamics might be better, and when the number of American soldiers in Iraq will surely be less, perhaps a lot less, is to invite disaster.

Amir Taheri, no raving leftist, believes that there is evidence that other parts of Iraq are quiet because the insurgents/terrorists have gone underground, believing that once George Bush's term is over, the Americans will leave. The argument in Washington these days is about when and how to draw down the troops, not about how to smash the insurgency once and for all. For this we have to blame Bush's low poll numbers, for which the president has no one to blame but himself.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani is usually touted as a moderate voice of reason. Yet Andrew McCarthy revealed that he says one thing in English and quite another in Arabic. His view on homosexuality is to the point: "Those involved in the act should be punished. In fact, sodomites should be killed in the worst manner possible." Nice.

The Bottom Line

Were we right to invade Iraq?

Absolutely, and for many reasons. I'll only list a few:

1) We, and most of the rest of the world, had good and valid reasons to believe he had stockpiles of WMD. Hindsight is 20/20. This WMD in the hands of Saddam Hussein was too much of a threat to be ignored.

2) The sanctions were falling apart. The situation was bound to fail sooner or later. Once free of the sanctions, Saddam would have restarted every one of his WMD programs immediately.

3) Saddam was 66 years old when captured. He may have lived another twenty years. His sons were under 40 years of age. This regime may well have remained in power for another 40 years. It is simply not believeable that we could have kept him contained for this amount of time.

4) Far from "rushing to war", Saddam had 12 years to come clean. He could have but didn't. Even if you start at Security Council Resolution 1441, which was passed on November 8, 2002, Opertion Iraqi Freedom didn't begin until March 20 2003. That's almost 5 months, more than enough time for a last chance.

5) Saddam had so many links to terrorist groups it would take me all night to set up links to all of the articles I've got bookmarked.

Lastly, we have achieved a great deal in Iraq since the invasion, as we saw above with the National Review symposium.

We have a republic, if we can keep it.

Posted by Tom at 9:27 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 8, 2006

"The View from Six Inches"

It's not too hard to find both good and bad news about the situation in Iraq. Who is right?

Bill Roggio considered this the other day in a post on the recent bombing of Shiite Mosques. He quotes a U.S. Army infantryman, Capt. Dan Sukman, who likens it to "The War at Six Inches"

How can so many people have a different view of this war? Some say it is successful, some say we are failing, some say everything in between. The war to the infantryman on the line in south Baghdad is completely different than the war to an infantryman in Mosul, which is much different than the war to a soldier standing guard at division headquarters. And none of them see what a brigade staff officer in Tikrit sees, nor does that brigade staff officer see the same war as a company commander in Tal Afar.

Roggio concludes from this that

The media magnifying glass remains on Baghdad, and the wider story of Iraq remains practically untold. The media’s war at six inches is largely reported from the confines of the International Zone and the Palestine Hotel as al-Qaeda and the insurgency puts on a show for their benefit.

My own take is that Iraq is a mixed bag. It's easy to read nothing but bad or good stories. I think to some extent the answer to the question "who is winning" depends on your definition of victory. Al Qaeda, I think, is finished. The Sunnis have concluded that their alliance with them was a disaster, and are turning against them. No, the real danger now is sectarian violence such as what we saw in Yugoslavia.

We have entered Phase II of the war in Iraq. Can we stabilize the political situaion and defang the militias? Time will tell.

Posted by Tom at 7:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 6, 2006

Iraqi Perspectives Project - Part VII

In this final part we come to the end of the Ba'athist regime. Extremely effective American air strikes, coupled with a delusional political leadership, cause mass confusion among the Iraqis.

The Iraqi Perspectives Project is "an unclassified historical report in book form on the Iraqi view of coalition military operations conducted in Iraq." Published in book form by the U.S. Joint Forces Command’s Joint Center for Operational Analysis, the project examines "the perspectives of the Iraqi civilian and military leadership involved in major combat operations gathered through interviews conducted during the fall and winter of 2003/2004, and an extensive review of Iraqi historical documents done in the months since then."

You can download the report here. It is 230 pages and about 7.5Mb.

This series will summarize the report chapter by chapter. I will provide commentary at the end of each part.

Previous Posts
Iraqi Perspectives Project Summary from the Washington Times
Iraqi Perspectives Project - Part II - Introduction and Chapter I: The Nature of the Regime
Iraqi Perspectives Project - Part III: - Chapter II: Skewed Strategy
Iraqi Perspectives Project - Part IV - Chapter III: Military Effectiveness
Iraqi Perspectives Project - Part V - Chapter VI: Crippled Operational Planning
Iraqi Perspectives Project - Part VI - Chapter V: The Regime Prepares for War

CHAPTER VI DOOMED EXECUTION

• The Iraqi regime and military collapsed so quickly that it is difficult to construct a precise picture of the final few weeks.

• Several competent high-level Iraqi officers, including Lt. Gen. Raad Hamdani, commander of the Republican Guard II Corps, could have given American forces considerable trouble if not hamstrung by Saddam’s restrictions.

• Iraqi generals were handicapped by Saddam’s “incessant spying, suspicion, and interference by often militarily incompetent superiors…was a constant psychological stress as well as a serious impediment to making military preparations.”


• Saddam’s December 18 2005 change in war plans (reviewed in Part V) seriously impacted the ability of competent Iraqi commanders to put together a good defense of their country. Saddam’s plan was hopelessly unrealistic and completely unworkable.

• Iraqi commanders, and Saddam himself, expected a coalition invasion to be preceded by weeks of air strikes. They were shocked when the ground campaign began before the air one.

• “Coalition planners underappreciated the psychological effects precision firepower had on Iraqi combat units.” Everyone, from commanding generals to the lowest private, believed that the invasion was unstoppable. Said the commander of the Republican Guard I Corps; “The Americans were able to induce fear throughout the army by using precision air power.”

• Propaganda leaflets dropped by American aircraft also frightened Iraqi soldiers, not for what they said, but because the US Air Force seemed to know just where to drop them it made the Iraqis “feel as if they were in a sniper’s sight.”

• Airpower devastated entire Iraqi divisions, many being completely destroyed without ever having been engaged by American ground forces.

• Saddam was very fearful of being personally targeted by American air strikes, and went to great lengths to hide his movements.

• Because American forces bypassed most cities in the south, leaving the Iraqi forces in them to come out and attack American supply convoys, Iraqi commanders believed reports that their troops were slaughtering the Americans and that everything was going according to plan.

• The Iraqis lost track of events to the extent that they believed that the main American armored attack was coming out of Jordan.

• During the invasion, several Iraqi corps and divisional commanders correctly deducted coalition strategy, and attempted to communicate it to senior Ba’ath party leaders, including Saddam And Qusay, only to be rebuffed. Many times during the invasion Army orders were countermanded and requests denied by the political leadership.

• Saddam delegated operational control to Qusay at some point during the invasion. Qusay, like his father, lived in an imaginary universe and refused to take advice from professional army officers.

• Even after Baghdad had fallen, “the awareness of this catastrophic military defeat only slowly dawned on Saddam and those around him. Those at the center of power still kept a solid hold on unreality.” Saddam kept giving orders to maneuver units that had ceased to exist.

• “As far as can be determined through interviews conducted for this book, there were no national plans to transition to a guerrilla war in the event of military defeat. Nor, as their world crumbled around them, did the regime appear to cobble together such plans.”

• Even as defeat loomed near, the Iraqi bureaucracy, both civilian and military, continued to operate as if nothing special was happening.

My Take

What stands out most clearly in this chapter is how effective the American attack was in creating confusion among the Iraqi leadership, both civilian and military. The United States did three things to help create this state of affairs:

1) Starting the ground assault before the air campaign

2) Bypassing southern cities and leaving them to "wither on the vine"(the Pacific in WWII, anyone?)

3) The effectivness of precision air strikes

From the very beginning the Iraqi leadership was unable to keep up with events on the battlefield. For months they had been "digging in" their units in preparation for what would surely be a lengthy air campaign before the ground assault started. When they realized that coalition ground forces were immediately moving into their country, they found themselves caught on the horns of a dilemna; if they tried to move their units they would be detected and hit with air power, if they stayed in place they would not be where they were needed. As it is, many units stayed in place and were totally destroyed anyway.

Although the authors do not mention "shock and awe", it is clear that our air assault did just that to the Iraqi units that we hit. The report only discusses tactical air strikes (those against military targets), however. The strategic strikes in Baghdad against Ba'athist party and government buildings is left out of the report, so their effect is not assessed here.

At any rate, it is also clear that our air strikes were even more effective than we knew at the time.

Iraqi forces would have been defeated no matter what they did. But we need to remember that if the more competent generals had not been hamstrung by Saddam's insane orders, they would definately have given us a tougher time and inflicted greater casualties on us.

As I mentioned in previous parts of this series, one almost starts to feel sorry for the Iraqi generals after reading page after page of how their directives were countermanded by a delusional political leadership, and how Saddam forced his completely unrealistic plans on them. Althought they were defending an evil regime, for some reason I harbor no animus towards them, assuming of course that they are not guilty of crimes such as murder of civilians.

As Lt. Gen Hamdani was at a meeting in which he gave bad news to Qusay and senior (lackey) generals

Only Qusay seemed somewhat alarmed at the news. The other generals ignored it and turned to discussing the shape that the minefields to the west of Baghdad should take. Hamdani commented on the dismal scene: "It wasthe kind of arguments that I imagine took place in Hitler's bunker in Berlin. Were all these men on drugs?"

Finally, as was mentioned also in part V, the Iraqis had no plans to transition to guerilla war if they should lose the conventional one. While this does not mean that there was no way we should have anticipated one, it does mean that one cannot chalk this up to a failure of intelligence.


Next up: Methodology, Preconceived Notions, and Hindsight

Posted by Tom at 9:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 4, 2006

Iraqi Perspectives Project - Part VI

Of all the chapters I've covered so far as part of this series, this one is the most fascinating. Read on for details about Saddam's WMD that you probably haven't read elsewhere.

The Iraqi Perspectives Project is "an unclassified historical report in book form on the Iraqi view of coalition military operations conducted in Iraq." Published in book form by the U.S. Joint Forces Command’s Joint Center for Operational Analysis, the project examines "the perspectives of the Iraqi civilian and military leadership involved in major combat operations gathered through interviews conducted during the fall and winter of 2003/2004, and an extensive review of Iraqi historical documents done in the months since then."

You can download the report here. It is 230 pages and about 7.5Mb.

This series will summarize the report chapter by chapter. I provide commentary at the end of each part.

Previous Posts
Iraqi Perspectives Project Summary from the Washington Times
Iraqi Perspectives Project - Part II - Introduction and Chapter I: The Nature of the Regime
Iraqi Perspectives Project - Part III: - Chapter II: Skewed Strategy
Iraqi Perspectives Project - Part IV - Chapter III: Military Effectiveness
Iraqi Perspectives Project - Part V - Chapter VI: Crippled Operational Planning

CHAPTER V THE REGIME PREPARES FOR WAR

• The Iraqis were frustrated at how hard it was to talk face-to-face with American diplomats. We had no embassy in Baghdad after the Gulf War, and tried to work through a Polish diplomat. They complained that when they approached the United States to discuss “matters of concern”, “they always rejected us.”

• Because of their inability to communicate with the United States, they used oil to buy influence with “nations that would be key players in any Western military coalition”, including France, Russia, and to a lesser extent China.

• Iraq’s strategy was to use its oil to “gradually alleviate the UN-imposed sanctions and eventually have them lifted.” In fact this policy did have the effect of reducing the impact of the sanctions. However, in the end, countries such as France and Russia looked after their own self-interests and abandoned Iraq.

• Because his oil diplomacy was not sufficient, Saddam believed that he had to convince others of his military might. Weapons of Mass Destruction was an integral part of this campaign.

• Saddam was caught in a Catch-22. On the one hand, he wanted some countries to believe that he had WMD because “they lived in a very dangerous global neighborhood where even the perception of weakness drew wolves.”

• On the other hand, he had to convince the United States and other nations that he did not possess WMD. He did not want to be attacked and in order to get the sanctions lifted it was crucial that they believed that the threat of WMD was gone.

• “When it came to WMD, Saddam was simultaneously attempting to deceive one audience that they were gone, and another that Iraq still had them.”

• Saddam knew that once the sanctions were lifted, he could resume his production of WMD with little threat that they would be reimposed.

• Although it would have made more sense for him to have come clean completely with everyone with regard to WMD, he “found it impossible to abandon the illusion that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction – especially since the illusion played so well in the Arab world.”

• Many members of Saddam’s ruling circle believed that Iraq still possessed WMD in 2003.

• In late 2002, Saddam tried to move away from his policy of ambiguity, as at this time he feared attack by the United States. However, after so many years of deception, few if any believed him.

• The Iraqis tried to remove all evidence of WMD programs, even going so far as to direct that terms such as “nerve gas” be deleted from communications. However, when this was intercepted by Western intelligence agencies, it was viewed “through the prism of a decade of prior deceit.” As such, “what was meant to remove lingering traces of weapons fielded in the past appeared to Western intelligence agencies as attempts to conceal current WMD assets or operations.”

• Saddam feared that Americans or “Zionists” would use UN inspection teams to plant WMD evidence, and use this as an excuse for war. Saddam issued strict instructions to his agents that they were to closely watch the inspection teams. The United States, in turn, viewed this as an attempt to make sure that the teams did not find WMD.

• Prior to invasion, the United States initiated a psychological operations (“psyops”) campaign against Iraq. This included the use of dropped leaflets as well as “individually targeted messages directed at key military personnel.” The Iraqi regime viewed this with great alarm.

• Even when a coalition attack seemed imminent, Saddam’s primary concern was preventing internal revolt.

• The Iraqis expected the war to last as long as 6 months. As such, they stockpiled supplies at key locations. Much of this fell into the hands of insurgents after the initial invasion was over.

• There is no evidence to support the view that Iraqi leaders planned before the invasion to create an insurgency or a guerilla war.

• Although the Iraqis did have plans to destroy their oilfields, Saddam decided against doing so because he viewed them as a source of Iraq’s (and his) wealth.

• When Saddam finally realized that invasion was imminent, he “ordered what was essentially a raid on the Central Bank of Iraq” withdrawing one and one quarter billion dollars and euros. Saddam’s main concern was his personal survival.

My Take

This was the most fascinating chapter of the report. It also puts another nail in the coffin of the Bush Lied! claim. The report makes it quite clear that Saddam intentionally tried to make it appear that he had stockpiles of WMD.

Once it became clear that there were little or no stockpiles of WMD in Iraq, I started to wonder why, throughout the 1990s, Saddam had tried to make it appear that he had WMD so as to "look tough" in the eyes of both his countrymen and neighboring states. What I had not realized was that he was playing a dual game; trying to convince some that he had WMD and others that he did not.

That his policy failed should surprise no one. One's sympathy for Western intelligence analysts grows with the reading of every page of this document. "Does he or doesn't he?" they asked themselves. "What is he hiding?" Saddam's failure to come clean can only have appeared to them to be evidence that he was hiding something.

The analogy is simple; if you're a known criminal who, when confronted by a policeman, makes a quick move to grab something in your jacket, don't be surprised if you get shot. If it later turns out that you did not have a weapon, is it still not your fault?

So if a leader of a country tries to make some people believe that he has WMD, who's fault is it if they believe him?

Our intelligence agencies are not omnipotent. They do not have magical abilities to see all and know all. That most all of the world believed that Saddam had WMD was understandable because he tried to make some of them believe that he did.

Further, if Saddam could deceive members of his ruling circle, why could he not have deceived us? As I reported last week, even Iraq's last foreign minister believed his country had WMD.

I don't have the links handy, but I do clearly recall that one of the reports that looked at our intelligence failure concluded that the people in our agencies made honest mistakes. Far from deceiving or manipulating the evidence, they looked at what they had, took Saddam's past behavior into account, and concluded that he had stockpiles of WMD. I even recall what all the analyists said to the investigators; "in retrospect I now see that there was a different interpretation to the data." Hindsight is always 20/20.

One can see this clearly with the UN inspection teams. We took the Iraqi's close monitoring and interference with of the teams to be evidence that they were indeed hiding something. We knew we were dealing with a dictator, but how could we have known the depth of his paranoia?

Some will still claim that we believed what we wanted to believe. But given all that we know about Saddam's past behavior, and that he was wilfully trying to deceive at least some parties, this argument makes no sense.

None of this is to say that we do not need to revamp our intelligence agencies, or that President Bush should not have fired George Tenant in 2003; he should have. But that is the subject of another debate.

The evidence forces me to conclude that Saddam brought the invasion on himself.

Next up: Chapter VI - Doomed Execution

Posted by Tom at 8:40 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 2, 2006

Iraqi Perspectives Project - Part V

In this part, we see that Saddam never viewed the Coalition as his greatest threat, being much more concerned with internal revolts and his regional enemy, Iran. In addition, Saddam's interference in military matters made a bad situation worse for his generals.

The Iraqi Perspectives Project is "an unclassified historical report in book form on the Iraqi view of coalition military operations conducted in Iraq." Published in book form by the U.S. Joint Forces Command’s Joint Center for Operational Analysis, the project examines "the perspectives of the Iraqi civilian and military leadership involved in major combat operations gathered through interviews conducted during the fall and winter of 2003/2004, and an extensive review of Iraqi historical documents done in the months since then."

You can download the report here. It is 230 pages and about 7.5Mb.

This series will summarize the report chapter by chapter. I will provide commentary at the end of each part.

Previous Posts
Iraqi Perspectives Project Summary from the Washington Times
Iraqi Perspectives Project - Part II - Introduction and Chapter I: The Nature of the Regime
Iraqi Perspectives Project - Part III: - Chapter II: Skewed Strategy
Iraqi Perspectives Project - Part IV - Chapter III Military Effectiveness

CHAPTER IV CRIPPLED OPERATIONAL PLANNING

• Although the highest levels of the Iraqi Army were incompetent at conducting military operations, there were many competent mid and lower-level officers.

• Many of these competent officers were as high as corps and divisional level commanders.

• After the Gulf War, these officers and their staffs “worked hard to make the best of a bad political situation” and “worked hard towards identifying their own shortcomings, and attempted to predict the course of a future war.” Their plans were realistic and made the best use of what they had available to them. Their attitude was one of “pessimistic pragmatism.”

• The plan they developed held until December 18, 2002, when Saddam unilaterally discarded it and enforced the use of his own plan, which resulted in disaster for the Iraqi military.

• During the 1991 – 2002 period, Saddam constantly interfered in the planning process. His primary goal was to prevent internal revolts and coups, and the doctrines he proposed were designed to meet this internal threat. Military efficiency was not his goal, political control from the top was.

• Iraqi planners faced a dilemma; if they dispersed their forces they could better survive air attacks, but to do so would leave them vulnerable to ground assault.

• Saddam’s priorities were 1) internal revolt and coups, 2) regional threats like Iran, and 3) external threats like the United States. However, his military planners took #3 more seriously.

• Some of the more serious effects of Saddam’s late 2002 reorganization were to reduce “the quality of battlefield reporting and leadership situational awareness.”

• Saddam’s December 18 2002 plan centered on the defense of Baghdad as a last-ditch redoubt. Qusay Hussein presented it to his senior officers, and no input or changes to it were permitted. His commanders immediately recognized the plan as ridiculous. For example, it did not take geography into account, “in Saddam’s eyes, the rivers, swamps, and canals simply did not exist.” who nevertheless were forced to carry it out to the letter.

• No guidance was provided to military leaders on how to impliment this plan. Although they met several times, commanders could not agree on an implementation scheme

My Take

One can feel the frustration of Iraqi Army officers as you read this chapter. It is not hard to feel sympathetic towards them. They are already hampered with inferior equipment (relative to the West), the sanctions made it difficult to obtain up-to-date technology, and to top it off their national leader imposes the most insane requirements on them.

It all sort of reminds me of reading about Hitler and his generals. Hitler's "no retreat" strategy at times defied military logic, but the generals had to carry it out anyway or face death themselves.

Like the Germans, the Iraqis were in the service of an evil regime. In a perfect world they would all recognized the immorality of fighting for such a government, and would have refused to fight and sacrificed themselves for truth and justice. Some of the Iraqi officers, no doubt, were true believers in Ba'athism, just as were some of the German officers. But many probably just rationalized what they were doing as "fighting for their country."

To be sure, even under perfect conditions, the Iraqi Army would have been defeated in short order to Coalition forces. Saddam made a bad situation worse. Paradoxically, this was probably to the benefit of his countrymen, for the quick defeat undoubtably saved Iraq from even greater death and destruction.

Next Up: Chapter V - The Regime Prepares for War


Posted by Tom at 8:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 1, 2006

Friends at Walter Reed

This past Friday night we were honored by the addition of some friends of mine from New Jersey who came down to be with us at our weekly pro-troops rally outside of Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Northwest Washington DC.

Background

As regular readers of this blog know, the folks at FreeRepublic have been organizing these rallies for almost a year now. I joined last August. We do this every Friday night from 6:30 to 9:30. The radical pro-Castro group Code Pink used to hang out on opposite streetcorners from us, but two months ago we got the permit for all four corners, so the pinkos are relegated to holding their anti-war protest a half block down the street where noone can see them. For the full story of these events outside Walter Reed go to "Categories" at right and select "Rallies and Protests".

A Great Rally

Linda and her husband Kieran, and their two children Haley and Michael, drove down from their home in New Jersey to join our rally. I met Linda over a year ago at a GOPUSA Issues and Action Conference in Washington DC. Without further ado, here are Linda and Kieran

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Sorry for the blurryness, as my camera doesn't always do so well at night. Also, for some reason my camera resets the date whenever I change batteries, and I always forget to reset it. So no, you're not caught in a time warp.

The weather was beautiful, in the mid 60s. Quite a nice break from the freezing temperatures that we've endured these past several months. If you go through my last few Walter Reed posts you'll see we're dressed as if for a blizzard. However, it was still too windy to deploy the MOAB - Mother Of All Banners, so we just put up our usual half-dozen flags

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Here are a few more photos of some of the patriots who turned out to support the troops. These two held down one of the corners beside the main entrance, opposite to the folks in the photo above.

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Here are the folks on another corner

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Here are my friends from New Jersey again. Kieran is in the foreground, with daughter Haley and son Michael beside him. Linda is hidden behind our many signs

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Throughout all this we always get lots of honks and waves from people in their cars. Last night it seemed like we got more than we usually got, the warm weather probably being the biggest factor. Every now and then someone will shout "bring them home!" or something like that but they are few and don't matter. But I also have to think that since we've been doing this so long that most of the drivers recognize us and are ready with their honks and waves.

Messing with Code Pink

Now that the pinkos are halfway down the street we usually just ignore them. But since I had the camera out anyway I decided to head down there and take some photos.

My first trip down there was on the opposite side of the street to where they were. Although there was no light to stop cars, I thought if I took enough time and timed it right I might get in a decent shot or so. Since it was dark the shutter has to stay open a bit longer than usual, and there's a delay anyway with digital cameras, so night shots are always a challenge.

Wouldn't you know it though, no sooner had I gotten my tripod set up with one of their leaders jaywalks across the street to confront me.

"You can't come down this far!" she says when she gets to my side.

"Really?" I said as aimed my camera at the pinkos across the street.

"We have an agreement with your leaders that you aren't to come down this far" she continued

"Well, call the cops" I replied. "None of you are on this side anyway, so what do you care?" I have no idea if she was telling the truth or not about any "arrangement", and I didn't care. She didn't produce a permit and never called the police. I did get a nice shot of her, though.

"Smile!" I said

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She didn't.

Then she tried to block my view of her group, but didn't do a very good job

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Enough was enough. I got the photo, so headed back.

However, a few minutes later I saw one of our party heading down on the other side of the street to photo the pinkos. I decided to join her.

Wouldn't you know but we were serenaded by their hippie guitar player. He played "America the Beautiful" I think.

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What it's Really All About

Enough about Code Pink. They're irrelevant now that we've chased them off.

The troops in the hospital know full well what goes on outside every Friday night. I know this because I've spoken with enough of them, as in addition to this I and some others pay regular visits to the hospital where we bring them treats and things like books, videos, and the like.

Further, every Friday a busload of the recovering troops is taken to an upscale Washington DC restaurant called Fran O'Briens at 9:30ish. We wave and shout and they wave back at us. It's a tough situation they're in, and most seem so young. But we've all got to do our part, and this is the least I can do.

Last night the bus came before I had my camera ready, so here's a photo from a previous night

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Posted by Tom at 7:38 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack