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May 30, 2006

Immigration and Culture

Speaking of immigration, let's step across the pond to Europe and see what's going on there.

So I surf around to MSNBC and this headline jumps out:


Integration questions stir passions in Germany
Experiment seems to have failed; government scrambles to find solutions

One could simply file this in the "where have you been?" category of catch-up journalism. Michael over at DowneastBlog has been talking about this since about forever, and scaring the bejesuts out of anyone who hangs around his site for long.

But that won't do, for the piece in MSNBC is about Germany, and so let's just see what's going on there.

Here are some excerpts

Germany, like the Netherlands, France and Belgium, has a large Muslim population which, by and large, clings to the language and traditions of their home countries.

Unemployment is rampant both among immigrants and native-born Germans, and violence in schools with large immigrant student bodies has caused many teachers to be worried for their safety

The Muslims came as "guest workers", and it was all supposed to be temporary, the article explains. But the companies who employed them got used to the cheap labor, and...well, you know the story. First the worker stays, then his immediate family comes, then grandpa and grandma, the cousins....

The immigrants settled together and neighborhoods slowly began to reflect their new inhabitants. Signs were hung in Turkish, supermarkets sold Turkish products and stands selling kebabs — a traditional meal in a sandwich similar to a gyro — popped up in nearly every German city.

“They came in the sexual revolution and they saw the communes — men, women and children living together. It was a shock for these people, so of course, they put up borders,” said Seyran Ates, a lawyer who works with immigrant women. “It was automatic. They felt, they don’t want us here, and on the other side, we don’t want to be like them; they are immoral,” Ates said.

Predictably, there has been no assimilation. Most of these immigrants don't speak German, and their children do poorly in school. Actually, no, that's not right. The children have proven to be a royal pain in the %$#, the article is just too polite to spell it out in such terms.

But if language were all there was too it, there wouldn't be a problem.

“Being integrated means more than speaking German,” said Angenendt, who says that Germany needs to recruit more skilled workers to survive in the future. “There’s no discussion of how to bring people into the labor market.”

Perhaps provoking the already tense relationship between the government and its immigrants, the German parliament is now debating the implementation of citizenship tests. Germany has one of the lowest citizenship application rates in Western Europe and its laws to become a citizen are much stricter than in the United States, for example.

Yet Germany has no choice but to find a solution to better integrate immigrants and their families. Falling birthrates, along with steady immigration mean that in several decades the country will come to rely more and more on immigrant labor.

Hmmm. So "integration" is all there is to it? That sounds simple enough.

History and Culture

But of course that's not all there is to it. For all the problems we're having here in the states with Hispanic immigration (legal and illegal), our newcomers are from a Western culture. Their forefathers experienced the Renaissance, the Reformation and Enlightenment. The scientific method is not an alien concept to them. And as corrupt as Mexico is, they don't run around cutting people's heads off and planting bombs on airliners.

As if this wasn't enough, Germany, like much of the rest of Western Europe, doesn't have as much experience at absorbing newcomers as we do over here.

Complicating all this furter, we're all infected with unholy trio of multiculturalism, diversity and tolerance, which makes the job much more difficult.

The article passes all this by, which is to be expected. But this is why we have the blogosphere, so that we can discuss the issues that might offend the sensibilities of the MSNBC editor.

Posted by Tom at 9:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 27, 2006

Duty, Honor, Country

Note: I will not be posting again for a few days while some technical work is performed on this blog.

As a tribute to our troops this Memorial Day, I can think of no finer words than those spoke by General of the Army Douglas MacArthur at West Point, May 12, 1962:

General Westmoreland, General Grove, distinguished guests, and gentlemen of the Corps!

As I was leaving the hotel this morning, a doorman asked me, "Where are you bound for, General?" And when I replied, "West Point," he remarked, "Beautiful place. Have you ever been there before?"

No human being could fail to be deeply moved by such a tribute as this [Thayer Award]. Coming from a profession I have served so long, and a people I have loved so well, it fills me with an emotion I cannot express. But this award is not intended primarily to honor a personality, but to symbolize a great moral code -- the code of conduct and chivalry of those who guard this beloved land of culture and ancient descent. That is the animation of this medallion. For all eyes and for all time, it is an expression of the ethics of the American soldier. That I should be integrated in this way with so noble an ideal arouses a sense of pride and yet of humility which will be with me always: Duty, Honor, Country.

Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying points: to build courage when courage seems to fail; to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith; to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.

Unhappily, I possess neither that eloquence of diction, that poetry of imagination, nor that brilliance of metaphor to tell you all that they mean. The unbelievers will say they are but words, but a slogan, but a flamboyant phrase. Every pedant, every demagogue, every cynic, every hypocrite, every troublemaker, and I am sorry to say, some others of an entirely different character, will try to downgrade them even to the extent of mockery and ridicule.

But these are some of the things they do. They build your basic character. They mold you for your future roles as the custodians of the nation's defense. They make you strong enough to know when you are weak, and brave enough to face yourself when you are afraid. They teach you to be proud and unbending in honest failure, but humble and gentle in success; not to substitute words for actions, not to seek the path of comfort, but to face the stress and spur of difficulty and challenge; to learn to stand up in the storm but to have compassion on those who fall; to master yourself before you seek to master others; to have a heart that is clean, a goal that is high; to learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; to reach into the future yet never neglect the past; to be serious yet never to take yourself too seriously; to be modest so that you will remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength. They give you a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions, a freshness of the deep springs of life, a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity, of an appetite for adventure over love of ease. They create in your heart the sense of wonder, the unfailing hope of what next, and the joy and inspiration of life. They teach you in this way to be an officer and a gentleman.

And what sort of soldiers are those you are to lead? Are they reliable? Are they brave? Are they capable of victory? Their story is known to all of you. It is the story of the American man-at-arms. My estimate of him was formed on the battlefield many, many years ago, and has never changed. I regarded him then as I regard him now -- as one of the world's noblest figures, not only as one of the finest military characters, but also as one of the most stainless. His name and fame are the birthright of every American citizen. In his youth and strength, his love and loyalty, he gave all that mortality can give.

He needs no eulogy from me or from any other man. He has written his own history and written it in red on his enemy's breast. But when I think of his patience under adversity, of his courage under fire, and of his modesty in victory, I am filled with an emotion of admiration I cannot put into words. He belongs to history as furnishing one of the greatest examples of successful patriotism. He belongs to posterity as the instructor of future generations in the principles of liberty and freedom. He belongs to the present, to us, by his virtues and by his achievements. In 20 campaigns, on a hundred battlefields, around a thousand campfires, I have witnessed that enduring fortitude, that patriotic self-abnegation, and that invincible determination which have carved his statue in the hearts of his people. From one end of the world to the other he has drained deep the chalice of courage.

As I listened to those songs [of the glee club], in memory's eye I could see those staggering columns of the First World War, bending under soggy packs, on many a weary march from dripping dusk to drizzling dawn, slogging ankle-deep through the mire of shell-shocked roads, to form grimly for the attack, blue-lipped, covered with sludge and mud, chilled by the wind and rain, driving home to their objective, and for many, to the judgment seat of God.

I do not know the dignity of their birth, but I do know the glory of their death.

They died unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in their hearts, and on their lips the hope that we would go on to victory.

Always, for them: Duty, Honor, Country; always their blood and sweat and tears, as we sought the way and the light and the truth.

And 20 years after, on the other side of the globe, again the filth of murky foxholes, the stench of ghostly trenches, the slime of dripping dugouts; those boiling suns of relentless heat, those torrential rains of devastating storms; the loneliness and utter desolation of jungle trails; the bitterness of long separation from those they loved and cherished; the deadly pestilence of tropical disease; the horror of stricken areas of war; their resolute and determined defense, their swift and sure attack, their indomitable purpose, their complete and decisive victory -- always victory. Always through the bloody haze of their last reverberating shot, the vision of gaunt, ghastly men reverently following your password of: Duty, Honor, Country.

The code which those words perpetuate embraces the highest moral laws and will stand the test of any ethics or philosophies ever promulgated for the uplift of mankind. Its requirements are for the things that are right, and its restraints are from the things that are wrong.

The soldier, above all other men, is required to practice the greatest act of religious training -- sacrifice.

In battle and in the face of danger and death, he discloses those divine attributes which his Maker gave when he created man in his own image. No physical courage and no brute instinct can take the place of the Divine help which alone can sustain him.

However horrible the incidents of war may be, the soldier who is called upon to offer and to give his life for his country is the noblest development of mankind.

You now face a new world -- a world of change. The thrust into outer space of the satellite, spheres, and missiles mark the beginning of another epoch in the long story of mankind. In the five or more billions of years the scientists tell us it has taken to form the earth, in the three or more billion years of development of the human race, there has never been a more abrupt or staggering evolution. We deal now not with things of this world alone, but with the illimitable distances and as yet unfathomed mysteries of the universe. We are reaching out for a new and boundless frontier.

We speak in strange terms: of harnessing the cosmic energy; of making winds and tides work for us; of creating unheard synthetic materials to supplement or even replace our old standard basics; to purify sea water for our drink; of mining ocean floors for new fields of wealth and food; of disease preventatives to expand life into the hundreds of years; of controlling the weather for a more equitable distribution of heat and cold, of rain and shine; of space ships to the moon; of the primary target in war, no longer limited to the armed forces of an enemy, but instead to include his civil populations; of ultimate conflict between a united human race and the sinister forces of some other planetary galaxy; of such dreams and fantasies as to make life the most exciting of all time.

And through all this welter of change and development, your mission remains fixed, determined, inviolable: it is to win our wars.

Everything else in your professional career is but corollary to this vital dedication. All other public purposes, all other public projects, all other public needs, great or small, will find others for their accomplishment. But you are the ones who are trained to fight. Yours is the profession of arms, the will to win, the sure knowledge that in war there is no substitute for victory; that if you lose, the nation will be destroyed; that the very obsession of your public service must be: Duty, Honor, Country.

Others will debate the controversial issues, national and international, which divide men's minds; but serene, calm, aloof, you stand as the Nation's war-guardian, as its lifeguard from the raging tides of international conflict, as its gladiator in the arena of battle. For a century and a half you have defended, guarded, and protected its hallowed traditions of liberty and freedom, of right and justice.

Let civilian voices argue the merits or demerits of our processes of government; whether our strength is being sapped by deficit financing, indulged in too long, by federal paternalism grown too mighty, by power groups grown too arrogant, by politics grown too corrupt, by crime grown too rampant, by morals grown too low, by taxes grown too high, by extremists grown too violent; whether our personal liberties are as thorough and complete as they should be. These great national problems are not for your professional participation or military solution. Your guidepost stands out like a ten-fold beacon in the night: Duty, Honor, Country.

You are the leaven which binds together the entire fabric of our national system of defense. From your ranks come the great captains who hold the nation's destiny in their hands the moment the war tocsin sounds. The Long Gray Line has never failed us. Were you to do so, a million ghosts in olive drab, in brown khaki, in blue and gray, would rise from their white crosses thundering those magic words: Duty, Honor, Country.

This does not mean that you are war mongers.

On the contrary, the soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.

But always in our ears ring the ominous words of Plato, that wisest of all philosophers: "Only the dead have seen the end of war."

The shadows are lengthening for me. The twilight is here. My days of old have vanished, tone and tint. They have gone glimmering through the dreams of things that were. Their memory is one of wondrous beauty, watered by tears, and coaxed and caressed by the smiles of yesterday. I listen vainly, but with thirsty ears, for the witching melody of faint bugles blowing reveille, of far drums beating the long roll. In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield.

But in the evening of my memory, always I come back to West Point.

Always there echoes and re-echoes: Duty, Honor, Country.

Today marks my final roll call with you, but I want you to know that when I cross the river my last conscious thoughts will be of The Corps, and The Corps, and The Corps.

I bid you farewell.

Posted by Tom at 10:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 25, 2006

The Anti-Anti-Terrorists

During the Cold War there were three groups of people in the West

1) The pro-communists
2) The anti-communists
3) The anti-anti-communists

Contrary to what some would tell you, yes there really was a communist movement in the United States. While it never stood a chance of overthrowing our government, if given a chance it might have influenced policy more than it did. Fortunately, many communists were exposed, some of the spies, such as Alger Hiss and Julius Rosenberg.

Liberals like to tell us that they participated in helping to defeat the Soviet Union and-how-dare-you-suggest-otherwise. And this is partially true. More precisely, it depends on the timeframe. Prior to the late 1960s we did have a species known as a liberal hawk. They were typified by presidents such as Harry Truman and John F Kennedy Jr, by senators such as Henry "Scoop" Jackson, and by philosophers such as Sidney Hook. During this time, many social liberals were staunch anti-communists.

But all this had changed by the early 1970s. Many liberals spent most of the next two decades opposing US efforts to stop the spread of communism, especially in Central America. They began to oppose every weapons system, from strategic weapons such as the MX and B-1 to theater weapons such as cruise missiles and Pershing IIs. There was never a Soviet proposal they didn't like, and rarely one by Reagan that they did. Some, but not all, became anti-anti-communists, more obsessed with opposing the efforts of anti-communists than anything else. It was at this time that some liberals broke with the Democrat party and became Republicans, calling themselves "neo-conservatives." They retained their (what was considered them) social liberalism, but realized that the Democrat party no longer represented their views on foreign policy.

The New Paradigm

The War on Terror has spawned three groups which closely mirror the ones of the Cold War

1) The pro-terrorists
2) The anti-terrorists
3) The anti-anti-terrorists

Let's go through them one at a time.

The Pro-Terrorists

Fortunately, there aren't very many. Unfortunately, when they do rear their heads they aren't always labeled as such.

One example of a pro-terrorist is Lynne Stewart, who was convicted in February 2005 of providing material support to terrorists, defrauding the government and making false statements.

Examples of pro-terrorist groups would be Code Pink, who in December of 2004 donated $600,000 in medical supplies and cash to the terrorist insurgents who were fighting American troops in Fallujah, Iraq." Another is International ANSWER, which is a front group for the communist Workers World Party. The various groups who participated in the June 2005 "International Tribunal", in which the sanctioned the killing of US troops in Iraq, certainly qualify as pro-terrorist(see section I. 11. in the link).

Although they portray themselves as anti-war, they're not. They're pro-terrorist.

Others are more borderline between pro-terrorist and anti-anti-terrorist. One wonders if the people who make up the Christian Peacemaker Teams are pro-terrorist or just naive "useful idiots."

The Anti-Terrorists

You do not have to believe that invading Iraq was a good idea to be an anti-terrorist, so let's get that out of the way right now.

Nor do you have to be a Republican. Democrats such as Senators Joe Lieberman and Joe Biden qualify as anti-terrorists.

However, you do have to think that since we are there we have to win it to qualify. Iraq is now part of the WOT whether anyone likes it or not. Failure to recognize that is crucial.

More importantly, though, is your answer to questions such as these:

What do you spend the balance of your time thinking about: how to win the War on Terror, or how terrible a person you think President Bush is.

Are most of your ideas on how to better interrogate suspects so that we get the information we need, or are you more concerned with protecting their real and imagined civil liberties?

Do you truely believe that we are in a war, or do you think that "the terrorist thing" is something best handled by international agreements and better police work?

Do you think we brought 9-11 on ourselves?

Do you think that the UN can play a useful war in helping to win the War on Terror?

Do you believe that the spread of democracy (which yes I know involves more than just voting) is crucial to defeating the terrorists?

I don't think I need to spell out which answers make you an anti-terrorist and which make you an anti-anti-terrorist.

The Anti-Anti-Terrorists

No anyone who complains about some aspect of how the Bush Administration is fighting the War on Terror is an anti-anti-terrorist. Yes, it is ok to question some of our intelligence-gathering efforts. But re-read the questions above. What do you spend most of your time thinking about; how to capture or kill terrorists, or whether some aspect of your civil rights are being violated? Yes civil rights are important, but if that's what you spend most of your time worrying about you're not being of help in winning the War on Terror.

Representative Jack Murtha is an anti-anti-terrorist. Cindy Sheehan also qualifies. Groups such as Moveon.org and the ALCU certainly seen to spend most of their time thinking of ways to thwart our efforts. For that matter, most of the "anti-war" groups listed on David Horowitz' DiscoverTheNetwork.org are anti-anti-terrorist, if not outright pro.

Worse, though, is when the national media join in. While Thomas Ricks of the Washington Post is capable of some very good reporting, sometimes I have to wonder which side of the WOT he and his newspaper are on, like when he breathtakingly reported what our military was engaged in a campaign to turn Iraqis against al-Zarqawi.

Sorry, but there is a Fifth Column in this country, and they are making it difficult to win.

Posted by Tom at 9:08 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 22, 2006

Calling all Washington DC Area Bloggers

Sunday evening I went out for a beer with the author of Rule308, a popular blog that concentrates on, well a lot of things, from the War on Terror to daily news events.

As you might imagine we had a great time discussing everything from the War in Iraq to the fickleness of our Republican congress.

Other than the people I meet every Friday or so outside of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, I think he's the only blogger I've actually met.

But since I have to think that many of us live in the Washington DC area, maybe we can arrange some sort of after-work get-together once in a while. If you're in the area and interested, send me an email. Whether you're a blogger, like to comment, or just like reading blogs doesn't really matter.

Posted by Tom at 9:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 20, 2006

Air Show at Andrews Air Force Base

Today I went to the annual air show at Andrews Air Force Base. The official name of the event is Joint Service Open House 2006, which is technically more accurate because all of the services are represented, including the Coast Guard. The aircraft, of course, are the main attraction.

Andrews AFB is in Maryland, just outside of Washington DC.

This year, the weather was perfect. Not too hot, not too cold. A bit of clouds but nothing major.

Modern military aircraft are truly amazing. We saw lots of aircraft demonstrations; F-15, F-16, AV-8, a World War II era P-15 Mustang, a Korean War F-86, even the new F-22. The Canadian Snowbirds and U.S. Navy Blue Angels put on tremendous shows. Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne jumped out of C-130s. As I got there, the US Army Golden Knights parachute team was finishing their landings.

All day, the pilots put their aircraft through their paces today, twisting, turning, and climbing, mostly in afterburner. The thrust ratios of modern jet fighter aircraft is so high that they can accelerate going straight up, assuming one doesn't mind burning a lot of fuel quickly. The result is an aircraft that doesn't seem bound by the laws of gravity. They just go where they want when they want.

And they made it look easy.

So without further ado, here are some of the resulting photos

They let you climb up for a quick look at the crew cabin of this B-1b Lancer. Times have certainly changed, because in the 80s even that would have been classified. Interestingly the pilot was a woman. I spoke with her a bit while in line, as I try to do with all of them. I've been to maybe a dozen airshows over the years, and have always found that the pilots and aircrew love talking to the public and answering their questions.

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The pilot of this B-52 Stratofortress said that his longest mission was 37 hours. For such a large aircraft, the crew area, like that of the B-1, is amazingly small and cramped. The crews call it the BUFF, which stands for Big Ugly Fat F..... I'll let you figure out the last word.

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Here's an AV-8 Harrier making a vertical landing while an F-15 taxies by.

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Several World War II era aircraft were there, including this Navy/Marine Corps F4U Corsiar. The Corsair was one of the fastest fighters of the war, although it was mostly useful as ground attack during our many amphibious invasions. It flew one of the demos.

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In the foreground is a Mig-17 (basically a Korean War era Mig-15 with an afterburner), and in the background an F-86 Sabre. The F-86 and Mig-15 squared off in Korea, while the Mig-17 was one of our main adversaries in Vietnam

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The Canadian Snowbirds taxi out in front of the Blue Angels. The Snowbirds are the Canadian military's precision flight demonstration team. They do everything our Blue Angels and Thunderbirds do, only slower. Only a superpower can afford to spare front-line jets for this type of duty.

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The Snowbirds gave a pretty good account of themselves.

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Here are the next generation of aircraft; the F-35 JSF and F-22 Raptor. First up, the F-35. "JSF" stands for Joint Strike Fighter, because it will be used by all services. It is not in production yet. It will also have VSTOL (Vertical and Short Take Off and Landing) capability, so it will also replace the Marine Corps AV-8 Harrier, in addition to the Air Force F-16 and some of the Navy F-18s. The UK's RAF and Royal Navy are also scheduled to purchase this aircraft.

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The F-22 Raptor, pictured below, will soon dominate the skies. A huge C-5 Galaxy transport is in the background. The Raptor is now in production and I believe a squadron has been formed. I've read where they've put the F-22 up against F-15s and it shoots them down like it's swatting flies. The F-15s don't stand a chance. Expensive? Terribly. Worth it? Every penny. The Russians and Europeans are fielding some very good new fighters, and the F-15 is getting old (it first flew in 1972).

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Here's a view of the F-22's tail, which shows it's unique thrust vectoring nozzles, which give it such great maneuverability. The black tail at left is the vertical stabilizer of an F-117 Nighthawk ("stealth fighter")

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The pilots and aircrew love telling people about their aircraft. The aircraft below is the EA-6B Prowler, the Navy's electronic warfare aircraft.

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This is what they call a "Heritage" flight, which has become popular of late. Aircraft of different eras fly together in a precision flying demonstration. Here we have a WWII P-51 Mustang, a Vietnam War F-4 Phantom II, a Gulf War/WOT F-15 Eagle, and the new F-22 Raptor.

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The U.S. Navy Blue Angels

The stars of the show were the last demonstration of the day, taking off at around 3:30. As with the others, their flying is amazing and they make it look easy.

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This, I think, was my best photograph of the day.

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The Army and Marines

The Army and Marine Corps had their major helicopters and ground vehicles on display. Here is our main battle tank, the M1 Abrams. In the background is a self-propelled artillery piece. I didn't get the type.

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Not Pictured

Around and inside the aircraft hangers behind the static displays, the Army, Marines, and Coast Guard had more displays. Units such as the Rangers and 101st Airborne have displays of what seems to be most of their equipment. I didn't really get a chance to speak with many of them, but I'm sure there were some veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Also, many aircraft flew that I took pictures of but didn't publish here. My cheap digital camera only has a 3x optical zoom, and in most of the photos you only see a barely recognizable shape which, due to some weird rule of physics, seems farther away in the photo than it did live. The F-15, F-16 and F-22 did demonstrations which were absolutely amazing. This was the airshow at which I've seen an F-22 fly. Since they're all using their afterburners for the maneuvers, the sound is quite loud and impressive.

In addition to providing entertainment and information, airshows and military open houses are, of course, part sales pitch. They want to show the public first hand what their tax dollars are buying, and convince us that it's worth it to keep buying more such hardware. Yes I know that there's more to the story than what's shown here. But I've no problem with this type of government spending. Heck, I wish there was more of it.

Posted by Tom at 8:51 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

May 19, 2006

Now Entering Phase IV of the War in Iraq

As I see it, there have been 4 phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom

1) The Initial Invasion

2) Taken by Surprise

3) Finding a New Strategy

4) Consolidating the Government and Taking Down the Militias


1) The Initial Invasion

The March 2003 invasion showed our military at it's finest. It was brilliantly planned and executed. We used just the right amount of troops. We violated all of the old rules of warfare; soften them up with airpower first, the attacker needs to outnumber the defender, don't leave enemy strongpoints in your rear where they can attack your supply lines, and concentrate on destroying each one of the enemies armies in the field.

Yet it all worked perfectly. The relatively small number of troous meant that they could be resupplied easier, didn't get in each other's way in the restricted staging areas in Kuwait, and didn't upset the neighbors. The blitzkrieg-like thrust caught the Iraqis completely off guard. Air strikes led to the disintigration of many Iraqi units despite the short time frame. Supply lines held despite attacks by irregular forces.

Further, none of the things that so many of the naysayers insisted would happen did. There was no "battle of Baghdad" in which the vaunted Republican Guard held off US forces for months. There was no mass humanitarian crisis or flow of refugees. The looting, bad as it was, didn't really have much effect on events outside of pressrooms. And best of all, we weren't hit with chemical or biological weapons.

2) Taken by Surprise

The insurgency was a nasty surprise that was predicted by virtually no one. As the Iraqi Perspectives Project report makes clear, there was no planning by anyone in the Saddam Hussein regime to start an insurgency if they lost the conventional battle.

We were now in the most dangerous part of the war, when we came close to losing control of events. This phase lasted between 18 months and 2 years.

Many of the criticisms leveled at the Bush Administration over our failures are, to be charitable, misguided. I've dealt with many of these fallacies and won't rehash them here.

Much did go wrong, however, and much was our fault. In "What Went Wrong"(digital subscription required), National Review editor Rich Lowry describes them in excruciating detail. Non-subscribers can go to Barbara Lerner's recent article for an assessment of the failures.

Jay Garner, the first person we placed in charge, quickly proved to be not up to the task. His replacement, Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, only had control of the civil authority. Since the military had a separate command structure, this violated the fundamental princple of unity of command.

The CPA set up an Iraqi government called the Iraqi Governing Council, which lasted from July 13, 2003 to June 1, 2004. It proved ineffective and was viewed as illegitimate by most Iraqis. On June 28, 2004, Paul Bremer transfered limited sovereignty to the Iraqi Interim Government. It lasted until the Iraqi Transitional Government took it's place on May 3, 2005. It's main function was to draft a constitution for Iraq, under which new elections would take place.

On the military side, at first we failed to recognise that an insurgency was starting, and when we finally did we failed to form a coherent counter-insurgency strategy to stamp it out. It was at this point that the "more troops!" cry had validity.

The brutal March 2004 lynching of 4 private military contractors in Fallujah led only to an abortive US attempt to recapture the city. We probably should have killed firebrand cleric Moqtada al Sadr in April 2004, but hesitated.

In June of 2004 George Casey replaced Ricardo Sanchez as commanding general in Iraq, the latter sacked over the Abu Ghraib scandal.

3) Finding a New Strategy

It's hard to say exactly when the turn around occured, but my estimate is sometime in late 2004 or early 2005. In April 2005 Rich Lowry felt ready to declare that "We're Winning"(digital subscription required to read entire piece). Lowry summarized the situation as he now found it

If current trends continue, our counter-insurgent campaign in Iraq will be fit to be mentioned in the same breath as the British victory over a Communist insurgency in Malaysia in the 1950s, a textbook example of this form of war. Our counterinsurgency has gone through the same stages as that of the Brits five decades ago: confusion in the initial reaction to the insurgency, followed by a long period of adjustment, and finally the slow but steady erosion of the insurgency's military and political base. Even as there has been a steady diet of bad news about Iraq in the media over the last year, even as some hawks have bailed on the war in despair, even as Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld has become everyone's whipping boy, the U.S. military has been regaining the strategic upper hand.

In November 2004 we recaptured Fallujah once and for all. Moqtada al Sadr at least doesn't challenge us so directly anymore. The initial failures in establishing and training a new Iraqi Army and police force have been rectified, and we are now at the point where many units can perform capably.

Over the past several months, US casualties have gone down, as have IED attacks, and the Iraqi Army has gotten stronger, these despite no decrease in operational tempo.

al-Qaeda in Iraq's leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's strategy proved to be a losing one.

The Sunnis finally saw that their support of the insurgents was counter-productive, and turned on them. al-Qaeda in Iraq has basically admitted that they're defeated.

As all of this occured, the nature of the violence changed. Much of the recent mayhem is sectarian revenge killing, which was mistaken for a civil war by some. The good news is that the Shias are putting and end to the insurgency. The bad news is that it could devolve into ethnic cleansing unless we deal with the perpetrators (see below).

If you don't want to believe me, three Washington Post articles by Thomas Ricks, who was (or is) in Iraq tell the tale.
The Lessons of Counterinsurgency
U.S. Counterinsurgency Academy Giving Officers a New Mind-Set
In the Battle for Baghdad, U.S. Turns War on Insurgents
And let's not forget David Ignatious Fighting Smarter in Iraq from last Friday's Washington Post.

Richard Fernandez, author of The Belmont Club(and arguably the best WOT blogger there is) doesn't share this opinion that we "got it all wrong at first but are now finally doing it right"

The US is not "finally becoming adept" at fighting in Iraq so much as reaping the result of a two pronged strategy. First, building up indigenous and de-Baathized forces (with a large Shi'ite and Kurdish component) and second, destroying the infrastructure of the insurgency.

He points to the impressive buildup of Iraqi forces as evidence(read his post for details or see the CENTCOM posture statement).

He concludes that

In retrospect three of the decisive weapons of victory in Iraq will have been the 190 military transition teams which raised the new Iraqi Army, the Transitional Administrative Law which made a new coalition government possible, and the US Armed Forces itself, which held up the shield behind which the training and political components could take shape. It now seems fairly clear that many of the 'far better' strategies which were suggested in 2004 and 2005 in place of CENTCOM's may not have been as good as they were made out to be. There were many calls for more American troops on the ground, up to 400,000 men. There were even calls for a return to the draft to rescue a "broken army". It had been suggested that it was a "mistake" to fire the old Saddamite Army, which alone could maintain control, or so it was said. In the end, CENTCOM's strategy did not prove so amateurish after all.

On the political side, the Iraqi Transitional Government finally drafted a new constitution, which Iraqis approved in a October 2005 referendum. The new consitution led to December 2005 elections in which a new parliament was elected. Iraqs are now in the process of forming their first democratic government, one that appears to have the support of most of the people, Shia, Sunni, and Kurd alike.

4) Consolidating the Government and Taking Down the Militias

The current phase of the war will be characterized by our attempt to achieve two goals, one political, and the other military.

On the political side it is imperative that Iraq have a stable government that is accepted by the majority of Iraqis. The recent selection of Jawad al-Maliki as Prime Minister was a good sign that we are moving toward this goal. The next step is to select cabinet ministers, which, just as with the selection of Prime Minister, will involve much negotiation, much of it acrimonious and heated. Then the constitutional issues that were left unresolved last year will have to be settled. All this will take several months, and, like everything else in Iraq, will be very difficult, but is attainable.

Military operations will continue against the insurgency, but as the new Iraqi Army and police gain strength resources will be freed up for an additional task, that of dismantling the Shia militias. To avoid inflaming public opinion in Iraq, we want the Iraqi government and army to take the lead in this new operation, which is why it is so important to get a functioning, stable, government in place as soon as possible.

There are two main Shia militias, or private armies. The Mahdi Army is under the control of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The other is the Badr Brigade, or Bader Corps, a creation of SCIRI (Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq), whose head is Hadi Al-Amiri.

One difficulty is that these militias have made themselves popular because they have gone after the Sunni terrorists that have plagued Iraq. The longer term strategy to counter this is to provide an alternative though a stronger Iraqi police(IP) force and army.

In addition
, large scale operations will become more infrequent, and there will be even more concentration on reconstruction and civil affairs, and a stronger effort made to strengthen the Iraqi police.

6) Winning

This war is obviously not going to end World War II style, where combat operations suddenly come to and end one day. There will never be a single VI day to match VE or VJ day. Defeating an insurgency is, in the words of Lt. Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence, better known as "Lawrence of Arabia", like "Eating Soup with a Knife"; you can do it, but it's messy and takes a long time.

The question now is one of time. The Bush Administration and Republican congress, looking at their low poll numbers, may conclude that we need to achieve a timetable for getting troops out of Iraq. The danger is that this may occur before a stable Iraqi government is achieved, and the new Iraqi Army and IP forces are strong enough to stand on their own. As Clausewitz would have told us, military affairs and politics and inextricably intertwined.

Posted by Tom at 8:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 16, 2006

Carl Rove is Wrong

Carl Rove blames Bush's poll numbers on the Iraq war.

Karl Rove yesterday said the continuing war in Iraq rather than President Bush's actions on federal spending, immigration and Social Security is driving the president's job-approval ratings to record lows, but that will change by November.

"The war looms over everything, there's no doubt about it," the White House chief political strategist said in fielding questions from reporters after his speech at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank with close ties to the Bush administration.

The public continues to give Mr. Bush high personal approval ratings, but assessments of his job performance are low. The latest Harris-Wall Street Journal poll showed 29 percent of Americans approved of the president's performance.

Mr. Rove, 55, said the reason is that the war has put voters in a "sour" mood. The Iraq situation, he said, is distracting public attention from the robust 4.8 percent annual growth rate of the economy, an unemployment rate of 4.7 percent, the creation of 5.2 million jobs since August 2003 and the strong performance of the stock markets.

No doubt the war in Iraq is part of the problem. The invasion was brilliant, we screwed up the next 18 months, but are now largely on track. Much of the public only sees the 18 months or so after the invasion, and the stories of how we've turned things around don't get through to many people, especially those who depend on traditional media sources for their news.

But Carl Rove has it exactly opposite; the only reason why President Bush has any positive poll ratings at all is precisely because of the war in Iraq. There is a base who supports him because he took the bold and necessary step of taking the strategic offensive against the enemy, and for recognizing that the defensive war that the liberals want us to fight in the War on Terror is dead wrong.

The Real Reason for Low Polls

There are two reasons for Bush's low poll ratings.

One, he has almost completely lost the support of his conservative base. He has alienated us on so many issues I don't have time to list them all this morning. See here and here for details.

Failure to seriously address the problem of illegal immigration is only the latest in a series of disappointments. In last night's speech the president insisted on finding a "third way" on the issue, one what will end up pleasing no one.

The second reason for his low poll numbers is that the administration seems completely unable to communicate their successes to the public. As such, the middle doesn't recoginze that the economy is in very good shape. You can always pick on one or two statistics, but most economic indicators are very positive. Likewise the war in Iraq. If it wasn't for the internet and reports like this one you'd never know that much was going right over there.

The GOP is fixated on the issue of Hispanic voters, and seems convinced that if they do anything at all serious about controlling the southern border they'll face this huge backlash at the polls. But just the opposite is happening. They are facing a huge backlash from their base precisely because they're not doing anything. This idea that the future of the GOP is tied to keeping or gaining Hispanic voters, who presumably don't want to do anything about illegal aliens, is going to cost them dearly at the polls.

Posted by Tom at 8:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 14, 2006

"The Most Brilliantly Led Military We Have Ever Fielded"

Retired General Barry McCaffrey was in Iraq from April 13 to April 20 He described what he found to two West Point collegues in a 7 page memo which you can find here.

During his visit he met with and was briefed by many of our top generals, including General George Casey, commander of the multi-national force in Iraq. He also met with British, Australian, and Italian generals, as well as several divisional commanders and th3eir staffs. In short, he seems to have gotten around quite a bit of Iraq and made the most of this time there.

Here are some excerpts from the report. It makes for fascinating reading.

From a section titled "The Bottom Line"

1st - The moral, fighting effectiveness, and confidence of U.S. combat forces continue to be simply awe-inspiring. In every sensing session and interaction – I probed for weakness and found courage, belief in the mission, enormous confidence in their sergeants and company grade officers, and understanding of the larger mission, a commitment to creating an effective Iraqi Army and Police, unabashed patriotism, and a sense of humor. …

These are the toughest solders we have ever fielded.

2nd – The Iraqi Army is real, growing, and willing to fight. They now have lead action of a huge and rapidly expanding area and population. The battalion level formations are in many cases excellent o most are adequate. However, they are very badly equipped with only a few light vehicles, small arms, moss with body army and one or two uniforms.

The recruiting now has gotten significant participation by all sectarian groups to include the Sunni. The Partnership Program with U.S. unites will be the key to success with the Embedded Training Teams augmented and nurtured by a U.S. Maneuver Commander. This is simply a brilliant success story. We need at least two-to-fife more years of U.S. partnership and combat backup to get the Iraqi Army ready to stand on it’s own. The interpersonal relationships between Iraqi Army unites and their U.S. trainers are very positive and genuine.

3rd – The Iraqi police are beginning to show marked improvement….

The crux of the war hangs on our ability to create urban and rural local police with the ability to survive on the streets of this incredibly dangerous and lethal environment.

The police are heavily infiltrated by both the AIF (al-Qaeda in Iraq) and the Shia militia. They are distrusted by the Sunni population. They are incapable of confronting local armed groups. The inherited a culture of inaction, passivity, human rights abuses, and deep corruption.

This will be a ten year project requiring patience, significant resources, and an international public face.

4th – The creating of an Iraqi government of national unity is a central requirement. We must help create a legitimate government for which the Iraqi security forces will fight and die….

The incompetence and corruption of the interim Iraqi Administration has been significant. There is a total lack of trust among the families, the tribes, and the sectarian factions created by the 35 years of despotism and isolation of the criminal Saddam regime. This is a traumatized society with a malignant political culture.

However, in my view, the Iraqis are likely to successfully create a governing entity. The intelligence picture strongly portrays a population that wants a federal Iraq, wants a national Army, rejects the AIF as a political future for the nation, and is optimistic that their life can be better in the upcoming years.

5th – The foreign jihadist fighters have been defeated as a strategic and operational threat to the creation of an Iraqi government. … They cannot successfully stop the Iraqi police and army recruitment. Their brutal attacks on the civil population are creating support for the emerging government.

6th – The U.S. Inter-Agency Support for our strategy in Iraq is grossly inadequate. …The U.S. influence on the Iraqi national and regional government has been extremely weak.

The U.S. departments actually fight over who will pay the $11.00 per diem on food. This bureaucratic nonsense is taking place in the context of a war costing the American people $7 billion a month – and a battalion of soldiers and Marines killed or wounded a month.

8th – Thanks to strong CENTCOM leadership and supervision on every level, our detainee policy has dramatically corrected the problems of the first year of the War on Terrorism. Detainee practices and policy in detention centers in both Iraq and Afghanistan that I have visited are firm, professional, humane, and well supervised.

9th – In my judgment, CENTCOM must constrain the force level in Iraq or we risk damaging our ground combat capability which we will need in the ongoing deterrence of threat from North Korea, Iran, Syria, China against Taiwan, Venezuela, Cuba, and other potential flashpoints.

10th – CENTCOM and the U.S. Mission are running out of the most significant leverage we have in Iraq – economic reconstruction dollars.

12th – There is a rapidly growing animosity in our deployed military forces towards the U.S. media. …They (the media) will be objective in reporting facts if we facilitate their information gathering mission. … the enormous good will already generated by the superb performance of U.S. combat forces will ebb away if we do not continue to actively engage media at every level.

Summary

The U.S will remain in serious crisis in Iraq during the coming 24 months. …

The situation is perilous, uncertain, and extreme – but far from hopeless. The U.S. Armed Forces are a rock. This is the most competent and brilliantly led military in a tactical and operational sense that we have ever fielded. …

There is no reason why the U.S. cannot achieve our objectives in Iraq. … This is a ten year task. … We should be able to draw down most of our combat forces in 3-5 years.

It was very encouraging for me to see the progress achieved in the past year. Thanks to the leadership and personal sacrifice of the hundreds of thousands of men and women of the CENTCOM team and the CIA – the American people are far safer today than we were in the 18 months following the initial intervention

Incredible.

His report is not entirely positive, but why would we expect it to be? The picture he paints is a logical one; we are succeeding slowly but surely, and yes there are things we could be doing better. Most wars are like this. We tend to forget much about our prior wars; the internal bickering, incompetence, and technical ineptitude. If our press reported World War II like they do the War in Iraq we'd have never carried it through to final victory.

"This is the most competent and brilliantly led military in a tactical and operational sense that we have ever fielded."

We owe them so much.

Posted by Tom at 9:47 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 13, 2006

Captain Furat - Iraqi Hero - Fighting a New Battle

In all the news from Iraq that gets ignored, maybe the most tragic is that of the Iraqis themselves. You'd almost never know it from most of what you see on TV or read in the newspapers, but tens of thousands of Iraqis are fighting hard against the terrorist insurgents that threaten their country.

After a few false starts, the new Iraqi Army is a force to be reconed with. While no doubt some units are still not up to speed or are not aggressive enough, many are doing their part and then some.

But armies consist of individuals, and as such there are many new heroes in this new Iraqi army, risking life and limb every day, whether they are on the job or at home visiting loved ones.

One of these new heroes is Captain Furat.

You'll remember from my previous reports here, here and here.

We would never have known about him had it not been for the brave reporting of Maya Alleruzzo of the Washington Times.

Last year, she went out with him on several very dangerous missions, one to act as a decoy in order to divert the terrorists attention from convoy that was transporting election materials. The decoy succeeded; Captain Furat's unit was attacked. He and his unit fought back bravely, fighting off the terrorists.

However, when visiting his family, he wasn't so lucky. The terrorists ambushed him, and although he fought back, one of their bullets severed his spine and paralyzed him below the waist. He was brought to the United States, and is now being treated pro bono at Atlanta's Shepherd Center.

Fighting A New Battle

The rehabilitation is tough going for Furat. Maya Alleruzzo spent some time with him and reported last week on his progress

Iraqi Army Capt. Furat surveys the therapy gym as he stands erect for the first time in nearly four months, every inch as tall as he was before insurgents' bullets left his legs lifeless on Christmas Day.

All around him, paralyzed patients are toiling, striving for their own personal victories.

"Where are you traveling to right now in your mind?" asks Basle Roberts, a therapy technician at the Shepherd Center.

"I wish that I could stand without this equipment," Capt. Furat says, resting on a frame used in physical therapy. The rigid metal device is a relief from sitting or lying down, restful positions that aren't always relaxing anymore.

Every 30 minutes, he must shift positions to prevent potentially fatal pressure sores from developing on his paralyzed lower body, one of the many daily battles the former platoon leader is learning to deal with solo.

"It is just me on this mission," says Capt. Furat, 28, whose family is 7,000 miles away and still at risk from insurgents for his decision to fight in the nascent Iraqi army

Read the whole thing.

Maya Alleruzzo took some stunning pictures of her time as an inbed with Captain Furat's unit in Iraq last year. After one of the trucks in their convoy was hit by an IED, Captain Furat led a battle against a group of terrorist insurgents who attempted to ambush them.

Here are some of Maya's photographs from that battle, via Michael Yon

(captions also via Yon's post)

Furat 1.jpg

First Things First: Captain Furat tends to the wounded civilians, providing comfort and security as he commands his men.


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Shielding the photographer with his body: Captain Furat returns fire after the enemy followed on the IED with a barrage of small arms fire.


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Captain Furat taking control.


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Returning fire: the enemy broke contact.


God bless you, Captain Furat, and godspeed in your recovery.

Posted by Tom at 8:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 12, 2006

The USA Today Story

Note - sorry for my longer than expected absence from blogging. Between losing Bengal and a million other things going on, this is the first day in almost two weeks that I've had to blog)

As everyone knows by now, USA Today tells us that the "NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls"

The whole story smacks of a hit piece. It is less a story than an editorial. If you don't believe me read it yourself.

Once again, the left wants us to be more afraid of our government than the enemy. The reason, of course, that they're afflicted with Bush Derangement Syndrome, and couldn't care less about winning the War on Terror.

The story might not be true. We're supposed to take their word that USA Today checked out their sources, which are conveniently anonymous. Given the record of much of the msm, their word doesn't count for a whole lot.

The Bush Administration hasn't denied the story, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's true. Contrary to the way the left wants us to run this war, yes it is a good idea to keep the enemy guessing and no it is not a good idea to announce all of our operations in the newspapers.

Suppose It's True?

If true, what the NSA is doing is collecting records regarding calls that were made. The NSA has records of calls, local and long distance, they know who you called. The object is to discover patterns in order to track terrorists. They do not, however, record, the content of those communications. They were not listening in. AT&T, Verizon, and BellSouth have cooperated with the NSA in this venture. Qwest declined, citing legal concerns.

For the record I hope the story is true. I certainly hope we're doing stuff like this.

Besides, it's perfectly legal.

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross goes through the basics over at NRO.

Two possible laws are at issue, Gartenstein-Ross says, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”) and the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

FISA first

FISA distinguishes between “electronic surveillance,” which collects the substantive content of electronic communications, and “pen registers,” which collect only the addressing information of electronic communications. Although the language of FISA is somewhat convoluted, information about what calls were being made that doesn’t involve listening in on the discussions themselves should be classified as a pen register rather than electronic surveillance under the statute.

However, the definition of “pen register” in FISA shows that the statute doesn’t regulate the government with respect to the technology at issue here. FISA states that the regulations governing pen registers do not “include any device or process used by a provider or customer of a wire or electronic communication service for billing, or recording as an incident to billing, for communications services provided by such provider.” That is precisely what was alleged in this case: The sources who spoke to USA Today said that the three participating telecommunications companies handed over information that was collected pursuant to their regular billing procedures. FISA does not implicate such action.

Ok, but what about the Fourth Amendment? Gartenstein-Ross points out that in Smith v. Maryland (1978) the Supreme Court held "that government collection of phone numbers called does not violate the Fourth Amendment. The Court reasoned that callers cannot have a “reasonable expectation of privacy” in the numbers they dial" From the decision

[W]e doubt that people in general entertain any actual expectation of privacy in the numbers they dial. All telephone users realize that they must “convey” phone numbers to the telephone company, since it is through telephone company switching equipment that their calls are completed. All subscribers realize, moreover, that the phone company has facilities for making permanent records of the numbers they dial, for they see a list of their long-distance (toll) calls on their monthly bills. . . .

[E]ven if [a caller] did harbor some subjective expectation that the phone numbers he dialed would remain private, this expectation is not “one that society is prepared to recognize as ‘reasonable.’” . . . This Court consistently has held that a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties. . . . [W]hen [a caller] used his phone, [he] voluntarily conveyed numerical information to the telephone company and “exposed” that information to its equipment in the ordinary course of business. In so doing, [the caller] assumed the risk that the company would reveal to police the numbers he dialed.

So much for the claim that the program is illegal.

Questions for Congress

Turns out that the NSA isn't the only ones gathering detailed information about your personal life.

Congresscritters are too. Both Republicans and Democrats. Andrew McCarthy describes what they are doing

Collecting your names and addresses. Mapping out your telephone numbers and e-mail address. Making note of your interests. Paying close attention to how you spend your money.

(Congressmen are) folding these bits of information about you and millions upon millions of your fellow Americans, and—you’d better be sitting down for this part—entering it into searchable databases.

Then, worse yet, (Congressmen are) using sophisticated computer programs to develop targeted strategies about how to deal with you in every aspect of your personal life.

"Modern American politics", McCarthy points out, "requires a fair amount of data mining."

While we're discussing Congress, have you noticed the outrage over how Senator Chuck Schumer's (D-NY) aides gathered private credit information about the GOP candidate for governor in Maryland, Lt. Gov. Michael Steele? About the calls for to investigate Schumer, or for him to resign? Neither had I.

History and More History

Abraham Lincoln suspended habius corpus during The Civil War. Easy to say now that it wasn't right, but he had a war to fight, one that makes our WOT look like childs play.

Are you familiar with FDR's domestic survelience program during World War II? Or that he gave what ammounted to secret orders to the US Navy to fight an undeclared war on German U-Boats well before Pearl Harbor?

It's easy to say now that his internment of Japanese-Americans was unjust, but the invaluable Michelle Malkin showed how it was hardly unwise.

Lastly, Mark Levin points out that the NSA program isn't nearly as intrusive as ECHELON, which has been in place for years, and no one in Congress complains about it.

The bottom line is that that their is nothing illegal or wrong with the alleged NSA data mining operation.

Posted by Tom at 7:52 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

An Election in Vienna

(Note - I had intended for this story to run last week, but I got distracted and haven't had a chance to finish it until now)

Small town elections have a flavor all their own. If you're used to following state and national, you're familiar with their contentious issues and massive media coverage. Candidates are full-time politicians, and have campaign managers and political analyists at their side. Every issue is polled and put before a focus group.

Then there are local elections. Throw out everything you read above. In small towns and jurisdictions, the elected positions are part-time, and it's usually just the candidate and a few close friends. There are few big or controversial issues, and absolutely no polling.

On Tuesday May 2 towns and cities across Virginia held elections. One of them was Vienna, Virginia, the town where I grew up.

It holds special interest to me because my mom is the mayor, and she was up for re-election.

Is is cool or what to have your mom as the mayor? I think it is.

Vienna is a town of just under 15,000 people, and is about 15 or so miles west of Washington DC. It is almost entirely residential, with some strip mall-type stores downdown along it's main street. It is located in Fairfax County, which is one of the wealthiest in the nation. The residents of Vienna, like most everyone else in northern Virgina, pretty well off economically.

The town council consists of 6 people, who serve a 2-year term. Every year 3 seats are up for election. The mayor serves a two year term, so every other year the mayor and three council seats are up for election.

Most of the time the council seats are contested. Rarely is the mayorial race contested. This time my mom faced a challenger, one of the council members whose seat was not up for election this time.

All three town coucil members were running for re-election, and there were two challengers.

How You Get Elected in A Small Town

Generally speaking, in small town elections issues do not matter. There are exceptions, of course. In Herndon VA, not too far from Vienna, politicians who supported a "day laborer" (read "illegal alien) center were thrown out. There are also situations in growing communities whereby the construction of a new school raises controversy.

But generally there are no overriding issues because small towns do not control schools and do not discuss issues like abortion, gun control, or the war in Iraq. The situation changes when you get to cities and counties, but again, this post is about small towns.

Getting elected in a small town is all about knowing a lot of people. It's about being involved in the community for years, preferably decades. It's all about participating in everything from the Boy or Girl Scouts to Little League Baseball to serving on the town planning commission or board of zoning appeals.

In short, people vote for people they trust. And they trust people they either know or see who have been involved in their community.

The reason for this is simple; most people don't pay attention to what goes on at town hall. As long as the trash gets picked up and roads are repaired, and taxes don't go too high, they simply have other things to worry about. The big paper in the nearby city (in this case, the Washington Post), ignores the small towns, and what local papers there are don't really do much of what you'd call investigative journalism, mainly because there's not a lot to investigate. In addition, most people don't pay a lot of attention to the local papers.

In short, Johnny-come-lately's rarely win or hold seats on town councils.

Every 5 or 7 years there's a "throw the bums out" movement in Vienna that runs a few candidates. Over the decades I've seen a few of these groups, and they're all the same; someone get's all bent out of shape over one issue and gets some like-minded friends to go in with him. They raise a big fuss and end up with maybe 30% of the vote. You also never see them again.

Election Day

So bright and early Tuesday May 2 I got up bright and early to help mom get re-elected. First I stopped off at my voting place in Leesburg VA to vote, more about which later. I was at my voting place at 6:05 AM, and was the 6th person to vote. Then it was off to Vienna.

My job was to give mom's handout to people coming to the polls. Helping one or another parent get elected or re-elected is a family tradition which goes back over 20 years, and more about that later too.

Here we are, in order from left to right; my sister, Mayor Mom, and myself.

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A Brief Bit of Background

My father was on Vienna Town Council from 1982 until his death in 1996. Mom was appointed to fill his seat, and she won re-election twice after that. In 2000 the mayor, Charlie Robinson died, and the town council appointed mom to fill his seat. The next year she won re-election, as she has done every time since then.

A Family Tradition

For over twenty years it at all possible everyone in the family has helped out election day. We stand outside the polls and hand literature to voters.

I've worked at many elections, not only Vienna town elections but national ones too. Usually, on election day, the candidates and their workers put everything aside and act like old friends. Which, as you might imagine, in small towns they usually are.

In this election one of the council members, George Lovelac,e was challenging my mom. George has been on and off town council for I imagine close to 20 years. Despite the sometimes rivalry, I consider him a family friend. His children were there helping him election day, and a casual observer would never guess that we were running against each other.

It's the same with the council seats. Everything is usually very cordial and friendly among incumbent and challenger alike. Most of the time the challengers are people who are well-known around the community and have served on numerous town boards and commissions. They and the incumbents know each other.

Then there are the "throw the bums out" types that I mentioned earlier. They always keep their distance. This time was no different. Suit yourself, I always say.

Here are some photos from this past May 2

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The challengers to the town council seats had their own headquarters

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Rep Tom Davis, US Congress (R-Va), showed up to shake some hands.

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The Results

Mom won!

Jane Seeman 1358 60%
George Lovelace 922 40%

For Council

Edyth Kelleher 1728
Lori Cole 1581
Mike Polychrones 1460
Susan Stich 769
Blair Jenkins 687

A total fo 2304 votes were cast, which is about 10% of eligible voters, pretty typical for a small town. Kelleher, Cole, and Polychrones were the incumbents on town council.

Congratulations, Mom!

Posted by Tom at 6:27 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 8, 2006

Lost a Little Friend

Hello everyone.

There haven't been any posts for awhile because of both my busy schedule and that I lost one of my little friends over the weekend. I had a bunch of posts planned last week but right now I'm not in the mood to finish them. Give me a few days if you can.

Bengal is the male tabby cat in the foreground of this first photo. I had to put him to sleep over the weekend and it was one of the toughest things I've had to do. He's been with me for about 12 years.

Athena is the gray and white female in the background. She's been with me for about 13 years. We both miss Bengal.


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Goodbye, little friend.

Posted by Tom at 8:42 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 1, 2006

Sudan Rallies - And The Real Reason We Can't End the Crisis in Sudan

On Sunday there were rallies all around the United States to denouce the mass murder that the government of Sudan is committing in the region of Darfur. From the Washington Times

Religious organizations, political groups and foreign nationals led thousands of people in a rally yesterday on the Mall to urge U.S. leaders to help end the widespread killings in Sudan's Darfur region.

The rally brought together an unusual coalition of about 160 Catholic, evangelical, Muslim and Jewish organizations and Democratic and Republican lawmakers to help stop what many have called "a genocide."

This is good. The first step to doing something about a problem is awareness.

There's also a virtual rally for those who, like me, had committments yesterday that prevented our attending the live ones. Details are at Causes of Interest, but essentially if you go to Human Rights First and sign their petition you'll be participating.

Current Efforts to End the Crisis Stymied

From an AP story reported through Yahoo News

The first day of an extended deadline for reaching a peace deal in Sudan's Darfur region saw no progress Monday, and the State Department said its No. 2 official is flying to Nigeria in hopes of prodding the rival factions.

The government said Sunday it was ready to sign the deal. But the rebels still are pushing the government to add a vice president from Darfur and unite its three states — creating a more autonomous region.

In accepting the draft, the government agreed to disarm a militia it is accused of unleashing on Darfur civilians, commit millions of dollars to rebuilding a region devastated by poverty and war, and compensate victims of the fighting.

The militia referred to in the third paragragh is the Janjaweed, a fairly bloodthirsty outfit. You can find more articles on the Yahoo news page for Sudan.

The Real Reason We Can't End the Crisis

(fyi, background to the crisis in Sudan can be found at the bottom of yesterday's post.)

Here, in short, is why the crisis in the Sudan has not been ended (sorry, but due to time I've got to do this without links/footnotes):

Very few nations have cared one whit about the Sudan. The one that has done more than most is the United States. We would love to get strong UN sanctions passed that would pressure the government to change it's ways. But there are three countries on the UN Security Council that would veto any but the weakest resolutions

France, because is making too much money selling things to the government of Sudan, as I recall aircraft and weapons

Russia, because it too is selling weapons to the government of Sudan

China, because it has a huge oil contract with the government of Sudan and doesn't care about anything but the oil.

Other countries that block our efforts in the UN are

Most Muslim countries because of very misguided notions of "solidarity" with a fellow Muslim nation.

Most African countries because of very misguided notions of "solidarity" with a fellow African nation. "African solutions" and all that.

Get the picture?

Some of the African nations have sent troops under the aegis of the African Union, but predictably they aren't doing much good.

What If We Take Military Action?

Ok, you say, SOMETHING MUST BE DONE.

Right. Sure. I actually agree with you. We ought to take unilateral action, if we absolutely can't get strong action elsewhere.

And it need not be an Iraqi-style invasion. A naval blockade and a fe well-placed JDAMS on government buildings in their capital city would do the trick. A few troops maybe, but even Darfur is a large region.

Liberals, maybe even leftists, would probably even sign on.

But for how long?

My cynical side says for about 3 hours.

That's how long I predict it will take the BBC, Reuters, or CNN to put the first tearful Sudanese woman on TV to tell us that the big bad Americans bombed her village or house and killed her children, animals, and family.

And how will the left react? My cynical side says we'll soon see "US our of Sudan!" protests within a week.

But Really, What Should We Do?

Just as I said; try to get a strong UN resolution, and when that fails try to get a regional consensus for strong action, and when that fails take unilateral action, by which I mean a naval blockade and some well placed JDAMs.

The lefties will protest anyway, so we might as well do the right thing.

Posted by Tom at 9:38 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack