October 30, 2008
Iraq Briefing - 28 October 2008 - No More The "Triangle of Death"
This briefing is by Colonel Dominic Caraccilo, commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), also known as the Rakkasans. They are also known as the Strike Brigade Combat Team. Col. Hickman spoke via satellite with reporters at the Pentagon last Wednesday.
Caraccilo's 3nd Brigade Combat Team is part of Multinational Division-Center, otherwise known as Task Force Mountain. The 3rd Brigade has been operating in a rural area to the south of Baghdad, and are scheduled to return home next month, after which they will have served 15 months in Iraq. They are the last unit on a 15 month tour, all current and future unit deployments will revert to the 12 month standard.
Caraccilo reports to Maj. Gen. Michael Oates, the commander of MND-Baghdad. Hammond, in turn, reports to Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of Multi-National Corps - Iraq. Austin reports to General Odierno, commander of Multi-National Force - Iraq, who on September 16 replaced his one-time boss Gen. David Petraeus in this position. Petraeus, in turn, has been appointed the next commander of CENTCOM.
Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey is acting commander of CENTCOM until Gen. Petraeus assumes command there on October 31. The commander of CENTCOM reports directly to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
The transcript is on the DefenseLink site.
Remember the "Triangle of Death" which in 2006 was considered lost to the insurgents? No more.
COL. CARACCILO: ... the Rakkasan's area of focus has been in the Mahmudiyah Qadha, and this qadha's part of the Baghdad Province, but it's primarily a rural area situated south of the city and its focus is on agriculture. The region's approximately the size of Rhode Island, and it has four main cities named Yusufiya, Lutifiyah, Al Rashid and Mahmudiyah. The qadha's population is 75 percent Sunni and 25 percent Shi'a, with the concentration of Shi'a residing in the towns of Mahmudiyah and Lutifiyah and along the road that connects the two cities.
Now, you're probably most familiar with this region by the name given it -- given it over two years ago, and it was called the Triangle of Death. From 2004 to 2007 the area bound by Yusufiya, Mahmudiyah and a town called Iskandariyah to the south was a nexus for enemy activity, which included Sunni insurgency in the countryside, Shi'a death squads and extrajudicial killings along the -- (inaudible) -- corridor and a virtual highway for both Shi'a and Sunni insurgency resources coming in from western and southern Iraq.
In the past, the Triangle of Death was the site of brutal attacks against coalition forces. It was riddled with IEDs and it was considered no-man's-land for both coalition forces and non-combatant Iraqis.
It's important to highlight the atrocities of the Triangle of Death in order to appreciate how far this region has come. One year ago, in November 2007, coalition forces encountered 73 IEDs. In September, 2008, that number was 15 and most of those were found before they -- before they were detonated. One year ago, the average number of attacks per week was 28. That number today is less than two.
A year ago, our preceding unit lost 50 American soldiers and 277 others were wounded in action. We have only felt the hardship of a fallen soldier once during our deployment, and have sustained only 22 combat-related casualties in the last 14 months.
These traditional statistics of combat, however, do not capture other significant changes in the landscape. In May 2008, Iraq Sons in the 4th Brigade and the 6th Iraqi Army Division launched a wide- sweeping offensive, which focused on security enhancements as well as infrastructure improvement. Our embedded provincial reconstruction team played a significant role in the operation as well....
The Rakkasans are clearly approaching the end of deployment to Iraq, as was stated. When General Oates first addressed the brigade commanders of Multi-Division Center, he asked two questions. First, what do we need to do to leave Iraq, and then what does the plan for transition to Iraq look like?
From my vantage point, it looks like the Iraqis (are) in the lead on a host of issues and strong support for coalition partners....
The improvement all over Iraq is amazing. The "Triangle of Death" is no more.
On to the Q & A. From the first exchange, the dramatic improvement is evidenced by the fact that we will not need to replace Caracillo's brigade with another unit of equal size. Instead, his 4,000 man unit will be replaced by two battalions that total 1,800 troops. The reason is that security is much improved and the Iraqis are capable of managing on their own with only U.S. assistance.
Q Hi, Colonel. This is Courtney Kube from NBC News. I'm just a little bit confused about the very end of your statement there.
So when you leave, when your BCT leaves in a few weeks, you'll be -- you will not be backfilled by U.S. forces. And instead you'll have Iraqi security forces there. Is that what you're saying? Or can you talk a little bit more about that?...
COL. CARACCILO: There is not a BCT that's going to backfill us. So that's the short answer. A brigade combat team will not replace the 3rd Brigade Combat Team from the 101st.
To give a little more background on this, in July or June and July of this past year, there were three brigade combat teams operating in the southern belt -- the Madain qadha, Arab Jabour just to the east and then in this portion of the Mahmudiyah qadha. Now there are two brigade combat teams. When I leave with our brigade combat team, there will be one brigade combat team....
The -- this brigade consists of 4,000 soldiers, the 3rd Brigade of the 101st. When it leaves, it'll be two battalions, approximately 1,800 soldiers at the -- at the very most, U.S. forces. The Iraqi security forces we define as the Iraqi army plus the Iraqi police plus the Sons of Iraq. That's up of -- close to 30,000 Iraqi security forces that operate in this area.
So while the coalition force is drawing down exponentially the security forces have increased greatly. And so there are 30,000 Iraqi security forces standing guard at over almost 1,000 checkpoints and 23 patrol bases throughout our battle space....
Presently 12 of 18 provinces in Iraq are under Iraqi control. Tomorrow that number moves to 13.
So has the violence increased in areas where the U.S. has withdrawn our forces? This is an important question, because it goes to the heart of the "surge" strategy. The surge, if your not familiar, was to temporarily increase our presence in Iraq from 15 to 20 brigades. It was temporary because the Army and Marine Corps cannot sustain 20 brigades there. The idea was to use the extra forces to implement a true counterinsurgency stragegy, which we couldn't really do at 15 brigades (at 2006 levels of violence, anyway). But if the violence went up after we went back down to 15 brigades then they whole thing would be a failure. As a matter of note we have been back down to 15 brigades for several month, the surge having ended mid-2008.
Therefore, this next exchange is important:
Q Colonel, this is Jim Mannion from Agence France-Presse. As you begin to shrink your presence in that area, what do you see are the risks of a revival of violence? And what are the, you know, possible things that could lead to that, things that have to be avoided that could result in a return of violence in your area?
COL. CARACCILO: Yeah, any time we turn over part of the battle space to the indigenous force, the force that lives here, the local population, there's always been a concern that the void that the -- that is perceived will be filled by something other than security.
There is such a large footprint of Iraqi security forces in this area that we don't see and we haven't experienced any return of violence in any form. We've already turned over 17 patrol bases, and tomorrow will be the 18th. And as of yet we have not seen any return of al Qaeda's stronghold, any kind of insurgency -- insurgent activity, because quite frankly the population controls that, and the population has decided that they're not going to have that in their neighborhood. So the Shi'a extremists that were once in Mahmudiyah or along the Jackson Corridor are no longer in this part of the country. Al Qaeda has all but been nullified and neutralized.
As always, you will benefit if you watch the entire briefing. However, there is one more thing that Caraccilo said that I want to discuss:
Q So would it be fair to say that even if there is a flare-up of violence, essentially you're going to be leaving that to the Iraqis to handle at this point?
COL. CARACCILO: I don't want to make it sound like the coalition is not involved in continuing to professionalize the Iraqi army. We have MiTT teams in place, Military Transition Teams, at the division, at the brigade level. They maintain their presence with the Iraqis. They continue to coach, teach and mentor. When an Iraqi division commander or brigade commander wants to have coalition forces with him to continue to train or continue to learn how to conduct operations, we're there.
And we lead from behind at this point, and we enable the Iraqis to be able to conduct their operations. We're not trying to make them look like a U.S. Army force. We're allowing them to work through their processes and to ensure that they can sustain themselves, because that's what's going to matter once, in fact, the coalition actually leaves.
This is straight out of the U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24 (FM 3-24 is the guide for everything we've been doing in Iraq since early 2007. It was written in 2005-6 by a team led by then-Lt. Gen. David Petraeus. Essentially, he was then sent to Iraq to implement the strategy outlined in his book). A few quotes from FM 3-24 will make the point:
1-154 THE HOST NATION DOING SOMETHING TOLERABLY IS NORMALLY BETTER THAN US DOING IT WELL. It is just as important to consider who performs an operation as to assess how well it is done. Where the United States is supporting a host nation, long-term success requires establishing viable HN leaders and institutions that can carry on without significant US support....
6-11. Perhaps the biggest hurdle for U.S. forces is accepting that the host nation can ensure security using practices that differ from U.S. practices. Commanders must recognize and continuously address that this "The American way is best" bias is unhelpful
6-29 Training HN (host nation) security forces is a slow and painstaking process. It does not lend itself to a "quick fix".
A-43. By mid-tour, U.S. forces should be working closely with local forces, training or supporting them and building an indigenous security capability. The natural tendency is to create forces in a U.S. image. This is a mistake. Instead, local HN forces need to mirror the enemy's capabilities and seek to supplant the insurgent's role.
So although this briefing did not lend itself to any big lesson or message to our presidential candidates it does help us understand what is going on in Iraq.
Joe Biden "prohibited from holding news conferences"
Well well. Senator Biden's verbal missteps have gotten so bad that he's not allowed to speak to the press anymore. Don't take it from me, though. Dana Milbank of The Washington Post has the story:
Biden, who once scolded Sarah Palin for ducking reporters, hasn't given a news conference since Sept. 7.....Now even Palin takes questions from reporters on her campaign plane. But the wordiest man in Washington has to make his remarks short, sweet and canned....
Prohibited from holding news conferences, Biden must satisfy his urges in one-on-one interviews with local TV stations. But this, too, carries danger. He got in a tiff with an Orlando reporter who suggested that Obama is a Marxist. Then came an interview in which Biden said Obama's tax cut should go to "people making under $150,000 a year." That didn't match Obama's policy, so McCain pounced, and Biden's spokesman clarified. During satellite television interviews on Tuesday, Biden himself had to explain this and his "gird your loins" mishap.
So much for the benefits of experience. And to think that some people say that John McCain made the wrong choice in a running mate.
So why has Biden been muzzled? Here's one clue:
Here's who he thinks was president when the stock market crashed in 1929:
I'm sure that his "Mark My Words, We Will Face A Major International Crisis" had a lot to do with it:
Here's him telling Joe to "stand up!"
He's had some things to say about who works at 7-11 stores too:
Maybe they're just afraid he'll say this again
"I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy"
I have to admit, though; having Biden as VP for four years could be an awful lot of fun.
October 28, 2008
Iraq Briefing - 22 October 2008 - Much Progress, but "the situation's certainly fragile"
This briefing is by Col. William Hickman, Commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). They are also known as the Strike Brigade Combat Team. Col. Hickman spoke via satellite with reporters at the Pentagon last Wednesday.
Hickman's 2nd Brigade Combat Team is part of Multinational Division-Baghdad, and have been operating in Northwest Baghdad for the past 11 months.
Hickman reports to Maj. Gen. Jeff Hammond, the commander of MND-Baghdad. Hammond, in turn, reports to Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of Multi-National Corps - Iraq. Austin reports to General Odierno, commander of Multi-National Force - Iraq, who on September 16 replaced his one-time boss Gen. David Petraeus in this position. Petraeus, in turn, has been appointed the next commander of CENTCOM.
Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey is acting commander of CENTCOM until Gen. Petraeus assumes command there soon. Dempsey reports to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
The transcript is on the DefenseLink site.
As with so many other briefings, there is a message here for our presidential candidates, most particularly Barack Obama.
From his opening comments:
COL. HICKMAN: Okay, thank you.
Good morning. It's a pleasure to spend some time with you today to discuss our operations in Northwest Baghdad. As mentioned, I'm Colonel Bill Hickman. I command the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), also known as the Strike Brigade Combat Team.
We're out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and currently attached to Multinational Division-Baghdad. Our brigade has been operating in Northwest Baghdad for the past 11 months. And I feel it's important to update you on some of the changes, since our arrival, and entertain any questions that you have.
First, I'd like to comment that the trends you see, on the reduction of violence, across Iraq, are certainly present here in Baghdad and especially visible in our area.
Across the Multinational Division-Baghdad area, there's been an 83 percent decrease in overall attacks from a year ago. Enemy attacks in our area are down more than 62 percent, since our arrival, and over 92 percent since January 2007.
With our Iraqi partners, we are fully engaged and committed to the security of the Iraqi people and the reconstruction of northwest Baghdad. It has been a solid year that we -- we think we made a difference in Baghdad. The situation's certainly fragile. We have a critical mission here in the heart of Baghdad.
Q Colonel, it's Andrew Gray from Reuters here. You had some pretty dramatic statistics on the decline of violence there. Can you explain why, given that dramatic reduction, you still describe the situation as fragile? What are the factors that mean that you still require substantial presence there? What are the areas that you're concerned about that could reverse those trends?
COL. HICKMAN: Well, I still think there are small very disrupted cells that do not want to -- this to progress forward. And those cells right now we continue to target with the Iraqi army, Iraqi police.
I would tell you what I think, if I could get into it, is -- take that, is the reconciliation that's occurring in northwest Baghdad -- I think that's the key. And I think the key is going to be -- and there are really four areas. I think it goes back to what you asked. It's the resettlement, and I'd like to go into more detail, if you'd like to, in a few minutes on that. It's the election piece. It's integration of the SOIs, the volunteers, into the Iraqi security forces and other ministries. And it's the release of the detainees that the coalition force have. I think those are the four key areas that we have to work in northwest Baghdad. And as we progress down the road and are successful in those areas, I think security then will become more evident as we go forward.
I have heard this in every briefing since Maj. Gen. Joseph Fil (Commanding General of Multi-National Division-Baghdad and First Cavalry Division) gave his final briefing before leaving Iraq in December of 2007. During the briefing Fil said
Now, I want to be absolutely clear that while we have seen significant progress during our tour here, we are very mindful that it is fragile and that there is very tough work ahead. Al Qaeda is down, but it is by no means out.
I have heard a similar theme in almost every briefing since then: "We're making tremendous progress but it could all fall apart if we don't stick with it." This is no doubt a warning and message to the American people and our political leaders that we must not declare victory and withdraw troops too soon.
We made the mistake at the beginning of the war of declaring victory too soon and not sending more troops into Iraq to stabilize the situation. At the time we thought that because we'd defeated the regular Iraqi army the country would be like post-war Germany or Japan and we could get on with rebuilding with minimal attention to security. We were wrong then, so let's not make the same mistake twice.
I've posted dozens of briefings on this website. Go through them and you'll hear time and again our commanders making this point. During these briefings I pay attention to assertions the reporters challenge and what they don't. Mind you the journalists who cover these briefings are knowledgable in military affairs. They're not the big-name stars who talk about everything and anything whether they know anything about it or not. I've come to respect the journalists who cover these briefings. And they seem to accept both that we've made great progress but that it's fragile.
It's not just military leaders making this point, either. Jay Nordlinger of National Review recently returned from Iraq, and posted a five part series on his visit (see the October 2008 listings in his archive). However, he sums it up best in his summary article in the November 3, 2008, print edition of the magazine. It's behind a firewall so you can't get it on-line unless you pay, but here's the beginning:
You hear certain things over and over, as you spend some time in Iraq. You hear them from Iraqis, Americans, and others. What you hear is: We've made great progress in 2008. Al-Qaeda, the militias, and the rest of those lovelies are on the run. But our progress is fragile and reversible. If the coalition leaves too soon -- before Iraq can defend itself -- there will be hell to pay. If we leave too soon, our work will be for nought.
You also hear, Iraqis don't want Americans and other foreigners in their country. (That includes foreign terrorists too, of course.) No one likes to be occupied. At the same time, Iraqis are very, very worried about the American departure: a departure that precedes stabilization. It's "Yankee, go home -- but don't leave us at the mercy of the wolves. Go home at the right time."
What did I tell you?
At the very end of the piece he tells of their interview with General Ray Odierno, commanding general of all coalition forces in Iraq. Odierno was commander of Multi-National Corps-Iraq during the critical days of the surge, and he was the one who implemented Petraeus' vision (Odierno was to Petraeus what Patton was to Eisenhower).
In the Faw Palace, we sit down with Gen. Ray Odierno, who is "CG" -- commanding general -- of coalition forces in Iraq. He gives us an overview. And we question him hard. He has a knack for putting things plain. For example, "In 2006 Iraq was a failed state. Now it is a fragile state." We have not yet reached the point of Iraq's being a "stable state." But that is what we're driving toward. Gradually, we are turning matters over to the Iraqis, alone. "I want our forces to reduce their visibility yet maintain their effectiveness. I tell them I want everything." We have invested so much, over these five and a half years: "I hope we'll be able to finish this and do it right."
I fear that Sen. Obama might win the election and become our next president. He has pledged to immediately withdraw our forces from Iraq. This would be a terrible thing to do and risks losing all that we have gained.
The left talks about our losses in Iraq being in vain. They are wrong now, but it might become a self-fulfilling prophesy if Obama carries through on his promise.
Odierno and the other generals would argue mightily with Obama if he was to give such an order, but of course in the end would either carry out his wishes or resign. This would all be supremely ironic, for in the early days of the way the anti-war liberals castigated Bush for "not listening to his generals." I hope and pray that if Obama wins he listens to our generals and sticks it out until victory is assured. I hope for the best but fear for the worst.
October 27, 2008
At the Palin Rally in Leesburg Virginia
Welcome, "Historic Vienna" readers. See my last comment at bottom
What a thrill! It was well worth it to get up at o'dark-thirty this morning and trek across town to RJ Festival Lakes to see Governor Sarah Palin rally a crowd of supporters. Cold weather and cloudy skies did not dampen enthusiasm as several thousands of people yelled their enthusiasm as she made the case as to why she and Senator John McCain should be elected to the White House next week.
Best of all from my standpoint, I managed to get 30 or 40 feet from the speakers podium! I don't think I've ever been that close to someone running for or elected to the presidency. And let's fact it; Sarah Palin is what is driving this ticket. I respect John McCain immensely and think he would make a fine president, but it's her who enthuses the conservative base.
Me, I absolutely love her.
You can see all of the photos on my photobucket site. Unfortunately, they're a bit out of order because I goofed up the uploading but I guess it doesn't really matter.
She spoke for 50 minutes, spending most of her time on the economy and taxes. She clearly distinguished her and McCain's plan from Obama's "spread the wealth" philosophy. Energy was also a topic of much discussion, with the crowd chanting "Drill, Baby, Drill! at opportune moments. Corruption and foreign policy rounded it out.
The crowd loved every minute of the rally. It was in the mid 40s before dawn and for awhile seemed like it was going to warm up. However, a front rolled in and temperatures actually dropped as the winds picked up slightly. No one seemed to mind though, as Governor Palin and the other dignitaries rallied the crowd. Todd Palin was there, and beamed proudly as his wife spoke. Everyone in the crowd behaved perfectly and there were no inappropriate comments, so trolls can just go elsewhere.
Mark Levin nailed it the other day when he said that "Obama's entire campaign is built on class warfare and human envy." We believe that the Republican tax plan is built on the idea that no body's taxes should be raised, and everybody's taxes should be cut. As Jack Kemp used to say, "capitalism doesn't work if you don't have capital," and as such raising taxes on businesses only serves to eliminate jobs, not create them. Knowing this, at periodic intervals the crowd chanted
"Have a Brain, Vote McCain!"
Upon hearing that, Palin responded, "You betcha, that's good!"
Silly me, I didn't bring a notepad so I have to go by memory. I've also never gotten around to buying a video camera, so my apologies, but I won't have any of that for you. The good news was that I met up with a friend from our Walter Reed troop support group, and she wrote up her thoughts and observations, which I'll post here shortly.
As we all know, Obama has been hit hard on taxes since his encounter with "Joe the Plumber." While the left has disgracefully spent it's time investigating and trashing him, we on the right have been focused on the real issue; what Obama's tax plan means for American. And we've come to know that once you get through his smoke and mirrors it's a socialist plan for income redistribution, plain and simple.
Obama and his sort flatter themselves by thinking that their "soak the rich" plans favor "working families" (what is a "non-working family", bty?). This is why they cannot understand why a "Joe the Plumber" could possibly vote for the McCain-Palin ticket.
But Joe the Plumber is not alone in his rejection of Obama's economics. Tito Munoz, aka "Tito the Builder" is an ardent supporter of the McCain-Palin ticket, and he introduced Governor Palin today:
Tito is a small business owner from Prince William County, which is just south of Loudoun County, where the rally took place.
Here are some of his remarks, taken from the Fox News story linked to below:
"Everything we stand for is in danger by higher taxes and less freedom. Everything we stand for is made stronger by people like you, like John McCain and Sarah Palin. This country has given me so much, but I have not been given much time to do my job. My job today is to stand before you, to stand up for freedom"
With this, let's hear from my co-blogger today, whom we'll call "Albion Wilde":
LEESBURG, October 27, 2008-- Tito Munoz, a dark-haired, muscular contractor in khaki work clothes, steel-toed boots, a yellow hardhat and sunglasses, is striding back and forth, beckoning the crowd to ramp up the cheering. We had been cheering sporadically since before daybreak as we waited for Sarah Palin, scheduled to speak at 10 AM at JR's Festival Lakes. Hours ticked by and volunteers passed out red or white pompoms, small American flags and blue-and-white "Country First" and "Veterans for McCain/Palin" signs. A row of individuals in the VIP seats behind the podium had distributed huge black- on-white letters spelling out "VA [HEART] SARAH" and "I AM JOE." More big letters along the side bleachers spelled "MAVERICK." State and local officials and candidates had spoken, including Chairman of the Loudoun Countyr Board of Supervisors Scott York, Supervisor Lori Waters, candidate for 11th Congressional District Kieth Fimian, and 10th District Congressman Frank Wolf. And now, at last, Tito Munoz takes the microphone to introduce Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska and Republican candidate for Vice President of the United States.
With the election a scant eight days away, Mrs. Palin and top-of-the-ticket John McCain are fighting a close race against three powerful opponents: the Democrat contender Barack Obama, the mainstream media shamelessly in Obama's pocket, and the last thirty years of revisionist, Marx-influenced education that has corrupted the very fabric of American freedom. Attempting to substitute a socialist politics of class envy. As immigrants form every corner of the world continue to flock to the United States for freedom of opportunity, the historic message of American exceptionalism, in spite of the 2008 Democrat campaign's new depths of socialist-inspired ideological attacks and character assassination. Like the three other moments in American history that radically altered the course of our history, the Civil War, the New Deal and the Great Society, a loss of freedom at this moment may signal the end of the world's longest-lasting democratic republic. Pressure? Plenty; yet as one speaker today said, "Sarah Palin has responded to some of the most outrageous attacks in the history of campaigning with grace and dignity."
Tito Munoz is now shouting to a crowd electrified with anticipation. "I immigrated to this country from Columbia," he says, evidenced by a pleasant Hispanic accent, "for the opportunity that only America can provide - the opportunities entrepreneurs need. In this election, the opportunities only John McCain and Sarah Palin can bring." Suddenly, a platoon of Men in Black file across the dais behind him, and the crowd stops shouting, "Tito, Tito, Tito" and roars, "Sarah! Sarah! Sarah!" - and the occasional "Todd! Todd! Over here, Todd!" Alaska's First Dude accompanies his wife to the podium, then stands behind to her left while Tito stands behind to her right. For the next fifty minutes, Governor Palin's speech leads the crowd to wave after wave of approving roars.
"It's not inappropriate to point out things about your opponent that you disagree with," she begins, " - the media certainly won't." (Roar!) Her speech continued at a surprisingly calm and easy pace, especially considering the raves surrounding her every point. This is a woman who knows how to work with the audience, easily moving from one GOP plank to another with an assurance that springs from her well-sprung, classical American principles: the trilogy of hard work, independence and opportunity. She gave shout-outs to the many "Joe the Plumber" signs in the crowd, as well as others who self-identified as practitioners of a variety of trades and professions.
Palin concentrated on the economy and tax cuts as the way to stimulate business and development, energy independence (interspersed with chants of "Drill, Baby, Drill!" from crowd).
She knows how to work with the audience, and neither steps on her applause lines nor waits too long before continuing.
And no one in audience said anything inappropriate. Palin said "socialist" once, but that is a pretty accurate discription of Obama's economic plan.
She won't say so herself, but Albion was quite taken with Todd Palin ;-)
Here are some of her remarks, taken from the Fox News story linked to below:
"Remember Joe just asked a simple question, and ever since then Joe has been investigated and attacked for asking that question. But Tito now, Tito has a question of his own. And Barack Obama isn't going to like this one either. Tito wants to know, and I quote, he asked, he says, 'Why the heck are you going after Joe The Plumber. Joe The Plumber has an idea. He has a future. He wants to be something else. Why is that so wrong?' Palin said, "Tito loves this country and Tito isn't the only McCain supporter who feels that way. In fact, I know that we have a lot of small business owners here with us today, and they feel just like Tito does."
Here is a view of the reviewing stand directly to the right of the podium
From the Newsday story linked to below:
Palin portrayed Obama as "on the side of bigger, more controlling government" and warned that an Obama White House would leave the Democratic agenda in Congress unchecked.
"If big government spenders control the House and Senate and, heaven forbid, the White House, they will have a monopoly of power," she said.
"You understand that his plan to redistribute wealth will, ultimately, punish hard work, and it discourages productivity, and it will stifle the entrepreneurial spirit that made this country the greatest country on earth."
After her talk Sarah and Todd came forward, and, flanked by Secret Service, shook hands for maybe 10 minutes or so with all who could reach them. It was fantastic and the crowd loved it whether they got close enough to shake hands or not. After that they went back to the reviewing stand and shook hands before departing. It was hard to get good photos but here are a few of the better ones
At this point they were no more than 15-20 feet in front of us! My poor old camera does not do the event justice. I've got to splurge for a better one. Trust me when I tell you it was awesome to be there.
Ok, now that I'm all fired up for the home stretch, it's back to the campaign!
There's nothing more interesting than reading press coverage of an event that you've attended. From what I've seen so far, most of it seems to be pretty fair. All that is, except for CNN, with their "trots out 'Tito the builder'" headline. Sheesh.
U.S. News and World Report:
On the Road With Sarah Palin in Leesburg, Va
Washington Times: Palin says Democrats will raise taxes
Leesburg Today: Palin Rallies Crowd In Election Day Run-up
Loudoun Times Mirror: Palin stumps for McCain in Leesburg
Bloggers and More
America Needs Sarah Palin:
Leesburg Rally today, with a few photos
Allahpundit, posting at Michelle Malkin's Hot Air now has video of Tito the Builder introducing Palin from CNN:
National Review: The Palins on the Trail
Political Intersection Blog: PI Attends Palin Rally in Leesburg VA :We This This Election is Close Than What Polls Indicate
October 26, 2008
"A Cult-like Atmosphere Around Barack Obama"
I'd say that Mark Levin has it just about right in a post over at NRO's The Corner on Saturday:
I've been thinking this for a while so I might as well air it here. I honestly never thought we'd see such a thing in our country - not yet anyway - but I sense what's occurring in this election is a recklessness and abandonment of rationality that has preceded the voluntary surrender of liberty and security in other places. I can't help but observe that even some conservatives are caught in the moment as their attempts at explaining their support for Barack Obama are unpersuasive and even illogical. And the pull appears to be rather strong. Ken Adelman, Doug Kmiec, and others, reach for the usual platitudes in explaining themselves but are utterly incoherent. Even non-conservatives with significant public policy and real world experiences, such as Colin Powell and Charles Fried, find Obama alluring but can't explain themselves in an intelligent way.
There is a cult-like atmosphere around Barack Obama, which his campaign has carefully and successfully fabricated, which concerns me. The messiah complex. Fainting audience members at rallies. Special Obama flags and an Obama presidential seal. A graphic with the portrayal of the globe and Obama's name on it, which adorns everything from Obama's plane to his street literature. Young school children singing songs praising Obama. Teenagers wearing camouflage outfits and marching in military order chanting Obama's name and the professions he is going to open to them. An Obama world tour, culminating in a speech in Berlin where Obama proclaims we are all citizens of the world. I dare say, this is ominous stuff.
Even the media are drawn to the allure that is Obama. Yes, the media are liberal. Even so, it is obvious that this election is different. The media are open and brazen in their attempts to influence the outcome of this election. I've never seen anything like it. Virtually all evidence of Obama's past influences and radicalism -- from Jeremiah Wright to William Ayers -- have been raised by non-traditional news sources. The media's role has been to ignore it as long as possible, then mention it if they must, and finally dismiss it and those who raise it in the first place. It's as if the media use the Obama campaign's talking points -- its preposterous assertions that Obama didn't hear Wright from the pulpit railing about black liberation, whites, Jews, etc., that Obama had no idea Ayers was a domestic terrorist despite their close political, social, and working relationship, etc. -- to protect Obama from legitimate and routine scrutiny. And because journalists have also become commentators, it is hard to miss their almost uniform admiration for Obama and excitement about an Obama presidency. So in the tank are the media for Obama that for months we've read news stories and opinion pieces insisting that if Obama is not elected president it will be due to white racism. And, of course, while experience is crucial in assessing Sarah Palin's qualifications for vice president, no such standard is applied to Obama's qualifications for president. (No longer is it acceptable to minimize the work of a community organizer.) Charles Gibson and Katie Couric sought to humiliate Palin. They would never and have never tried such an approach with Obama.
But beyond the elites and the media, my greatest concern is whether this election will show a majority of the voters susceptible to the appeal of a charismatic demagogue. This may seem a harsh term to some, and no doubt will to Obama supporters, but it is a perfectly appropriate characterization. Obama's entire campaign is built on class warfare and human envy. The "change" he peddles is not new. We've seen it before. It is change that diminishes individual liberty for the soft authoritarianism of socialism. It is a populist appeal that disguises government mandated wealth redistribution as tax cuts for the middle class, falsely blames capitalism for the social policies and government corruption (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) that led to the current turmoil in our financial markets, fuels contempt for commerce and trade by stigmatizing those who run successful small and large businesses, and exploits human imperfection as a justification for a massive expansion of centralized government. Obama's appeal to the middle class is an appeal to the "the proletariat," as an infamous philosopher once described it, about which a mythology has been created. Rather than pursue the American Dream, he insists that the American Dream has arbitrary limits, limits Obama would set for the rest of us -- today it's $250,000 for businesses and even less for individuals. If the individual dares to succeed beyond the limits set by Obama, he is punished for he's now officially "rich." The value of his physical and intellectual labor must be confiscated in greater amounts for the good of the proletariat (the middle class). And so it is that the middle class, the birth-child of capitalism, is both celebrated and enslaved -- for its own good and the greater good. The "hope" Obama represents, therefore, is not hope at all. It is the misery of his utopianism imposed on the individual.
Unlike past Democrat presidential candidates, Obama is a hardened ideologue. He's not interested in playing around the edges. He seeks "fundamental change," i.e., to remake society. And if the Democrats control Congress with super-majorities led by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, he will get much of what he demands.
The question is whether enough Americans understand what's at stake in this election and, if they do, whether they care. Is the allure of a charismatic demagogue so strong that the usually sober American people are willing to risk an Obama presidency? After all, it ensnared Adelman, Kmiec, Powell, Fried, and numerous others. And while America will certainly survive, it will do so, in many respects, as a different place.
And it will be a different place for the worse.
I, too, have never seen anything like this Barack Obama phenomenon, and I've followed politics since 1976, when I watched the Republican National Convention with my parents. Just yesterday another Republican volunteer and myself were visiting one of our supporters to put up one of the large 4'x8' McCain-Palin signs, and the Obama people had a small office in the strip mall. We chanced to walk by it, looked inside, and sure enough, there was this large poster of Obama like this one that must have been 6 feet tall on one of the walls
I'm sorry, but there is just something weird about all this.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that we on the right don't get carried away sometimes too. We are absolutely in love with Ronald Reagan, and at times I think we take it too far. The Republican presidential candidates tried to "out Reagan" each other to the point of ridiculousness during some of the debates. The Heritage Foundation's "What would Reagan do" is a bit much. And much of the hard core McCain following (who are not to be confused with conservatives) is based in part on a semi-cult of personality.
But all of this pales in comparison to what you see with the Obama following.
What worries me is what the hard-core Obama followers will do after the election if their candidate wins. Obama himself has called for "Universal Voluntary Public Service." Specifically, he said that
"We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we've set. We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded."
Wikipedia puts the size of the U.S. military at 1,436,000 men and women, with an annual budget of $583 billion. Taking Obama at his word, he would create a national service force of equal size in personnel and funding. I can't imagine he'll get full funding for this, at least not immediately, but given that he'll cut the military to the bone I'd imagine he'd use the "savings" to fund his civilian "security force."
Will participation be voluntary? What will this force be used for? Michelle Obama has said that
"Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zone. . . . Barack Obama will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual -- uninvolved, uninformed."
I think that the public justification for any "civilian national security force" would be "social justice" or just to "reduce poverty," in reality it would be political. His activists would spend their time agitating for leftist political goals, all paid for on the public dime. Does anyone doubt that organizations like ACORN would be a recipient of this money?
The damage such an organization could do is tremendous. And it's another reason to work for the defeat of Barack Obama and his cultish followers.
October 25, 2008
Iraq Briefing - 23 October 2008 - Shifting to an Iraqi Operation
If you don't watch the video or read any other part of this post, please skip to the bottom of this post and read Gen. Kelly's final remarks. You won't want to miss them.
This briefing is by Major General John Kelly, Commanding General, Multi-National Force-West, I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward). He spoke via satellite Thursday to reporters at the Pentagon.
Maj. Gen. Kelly reports to reports to Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of Multi-National Corps - Iraq. Austin reports to General Odierno, commander of Multi-National Force - Iraq, who on September 16 replaced his one-time boss Gen. David Petraeus in this position. Petraeus, in turn, has been appointed the next commander of CENTCOM.
Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey is acting commander of CENTCOM until Gen. Petraeus assumes command later this month. Dempsey reports to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
The transcript is on the DefenseLink site.
The good news from this briefing is that in Anbar the Iraqis are absolutely in control and can handle their own security. That said, we still need stay for a bit longer, but the situation is looking very good.
From Maj. Gen. Kelly's opening remarks:
GEN. KELLY: ...We started a share-the-road program where no longer would Iraqi traffic have to do anything particularly different when they came upon military convoys. That was a big change. Moved most of our convoys -- I think something on the order of 95 percent of all military movements, administrative, logistics movements, and that includes the contract convoys -- they all move late at night, certainly after 21:00 or 9:00 at night and they're off the roads by 5:00 a.m. The average Iraqi, of course, is home in bed in at that particular point in time, so they don't even see much traffic, much military activity in the province anymore.
We started to tear down literally hundreds of checkpoints, particularly the ones that had -- certainly were once very necessary as defensive positions all over the province but no longer serve the purpose. And it was kind of an operation Rudy Giuliani that we did to clean up the cities and to, as I say, take down these unsightly defensive positions, roll up the barbed wire in this attempt to convince the average Iraqi that the good news of reduced -- significantly reduced security over the last couple years -- correction, violence -- was real and even the Marines, even the coalition forces felt confident enough to allow them to travel on their own roads around us without having to stop, pull over, be under the threat of any type of gunfire and, at the same time, to break down these defensive positions.
We did PIC on the first of September. That has gone very well. We're still very much engaged but in overwatch with the Iraqi security forces. We are outside the cities, for all intents and purposes -- not to say that we don't go in frequently, to meet with them, to bring training to them.
We still have Marines and some U.S. Army soldiers as police advisers that still live inside police stations, but down to a very small number in comparison. We were up over 115; now we're down below 30. And that's -- the good news is, we are backing out. They're on their own and all we're doing is providing them training.
Even in the area of funding, we have probably in April started to shift away from the U.S. -- the use of U.S. money; as much as we could, started to rely on government of Iraq funding. It's a little harder or more frustrating because the U.S. CERP money, as I think you all know, is -- you know, we can use that in a relative sense, in a lightning quick way, but that doesn't teach the Iraqis how to budget and how to execute a budget, so we really started backing off on the use of money that I have, U.S. money, and forcing -- not forcing them, but teaching them, working with them, to use their own money. And that's turned out very well.
I turned back a fairly significant amount of money of CERP money this year, U.S. CERP money, and I recommended about a 64 percent reduction next year, to only $50 million. But the thrust, the theme will still be to use Iraqi money, not U.S. money, just as in the security LOO, it's to use Iraqi police, Iraqi army, with Marines and soldiers, U.S. personnel, in overwatch.
So as you can see we are well along in the process of handing Anbar back to the Iraqis. Our forces are now in "overwatch" and are not doing the front-line work. We are reducing our footprint as much as possible, by doing everything from running our convoys at night and taking down checkpoints. And because it's such a big issue back here at home, it's also very good news that the Iraqis are paying more of their own way.
A bit more on the money; I've read too many short-sighted people say that the Iraqis should pay us back. One, if we did this it would seem to confirm the left's argument that "it's all about the money and oil." Two, and more importantly, we are not doing this out of the goodness of our hearts (though that is a factor) but because it is in our self-interest to have a stable, pluralistic Iraq. I am convinced that the money we are spending their now will pay dividends in the future, if we stick it out and do not withdraw too early.
Recall that in 2005 and most of 2006 Anbar was considered "lost" to the insurgents. The Anbar Awakening changed all that.
There has been much nonsense written by leftist revisionists on this subject, in which they claim that the turn around in Anbar had nothing to do with the U.S. military and happened on its own. Senator Obama has even adopted this line. They are wrong, as I wrote here in Obama Wrong on Anbar.
The issue in Anbar was that initially after the invasion the Sunnis there thew their support to AUI (al-Qaeda in Iraq) and turned against U.S. forces. U.S. Marines, who were responsible for Anbar, were unable to quell the insurgency, which consisted of indiginous Sunnis and foreign AQI fighters.
AQI wore out its welcome by 2005, however and the Anbaris grew to resent them. They resisted, but so many were brutally killed by AQI that their resistance was pretty much in vain. In 2006, one Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha led the effort to "reach out" to the Marines, who took advantage of the situation movement, teamed with the Anbaris and have been able to defeat AQI. Sheikh Sattar, now known as the founder of the Anbar Awakening, was murdered, probably by AQI, in September of 2007.
I've explained our new counterinsurgency tactics in detail elsewhere, but essentially it involved moving out of our large bases and living among the population, and from there defeating the insurgency village by village. See Iraq Briefing - 04 Feb 2008 - "We do not drive or commute to work" and Iraq Briefing - 22 Feb 2008 - "We are Living with the Population"
Moving on, Maj. Gen. Kelly touches on an aspect of our counterinsurgency strategy that was absolutely key to our success; living with the Iraqis.
Prior to the arrival of Gen. Petraeus, our strategy was twofold: One,we mostly kept our troops at five large bases and send them out on raids based on available intel. Second, we concentrated on building an Iraqi army that could take on the insurgents. Neither worked
The problem with the first was that unless you are living among the populace you don't get good intel, and the people don't respect you because you are not sharing in their danger and their lives. The problem with the second was that the insurgents were building up their forces faster than we could build up the Iraqi Army. We were, in short, losing the race.
In the Q & A session, Andrew Gray of Reuters asked for some statistics. The part of Kelly's response, though, that I find most interesting is about the counterinsurgency:
GEN. KELLY:...And I would tell you, when we first started working with the police, three, four years ago, the relationship was very different. The relationship was we lived in their police stations with them, and took them out on patrol, a very dangerous time, where police were killed in very, very large numbers. So that was the relationship then.
Now the relationship is -- actually when I arrived here it was much more they went on patrol -- that is, the police -- and the Marines went with them but they were in the lead. And at that point, we started to reduce even the numbers that were in the cities with them, because clearly -- the numbers of U.S. personnel, because they were clearly doing well, and it's that whole image of, you know, we took the training wheels off, they were more than ready to leave the driveway and get out on the street. And they've done quite well, actually.
Again, we see that it is the Iraqis who are in the lead.
Another thing of importance that Kelly discussed in this exchange was how far violence had declined:
GEN. KELLY: When I got here -- when I left here, let me put it that way, in '04, we had several hundred incidents a month on a pretty routine basis. When I got here, the incidents were down to the level of about 35 a week. And an incident -- you have to understand in todays' world an incident might be an IED we find, doesn't go off. Another incident would be an IED that goes off but doesn't hurt anyone. It could be a single shot of gunfire. If there's five people shooting at you, that's five incidents. So, frankly, the way we account for it's almost meaningless now.
Because of this decline in violence, Iraqis have been able to redeploy their forces to a more population-friendly manner
GEN. KELLY:...the police now are in the cities. The Iraqi army are outside the cities, but around the cities, but out beyond the suburbs, if you will. And then the Marines are in various places doing various things for the most part outside that -- those areas that even the Iraqi army are responsible for.
Let's be honest, no one wants military units in their neighborhood
The Sons of Iraq program is an important reason for our success in quelling the insurgency I've written about them in previous briefings,so I wont' go through it all again here, but suffice it to say that they are a sort of "super neighborhood-watch" program. Funded by the U.S. we did NOT arm them, though everyone in Iraq seems to have an AK-47. Originally called Concerned Local Citizens, the Iraqis gave them the much more Iraqi sounding name Sons of Iraq.
The SOI program is at an end, as with the near-defeat of the insurgency they just aren't needed anymore. They need to to be disbanded as no society needs a paramilitary force separate from the regular army. The issue is how to do it, because you simply cannot release thousands of young men into an economy with poor job prospects and expect that there won't be trouble. The idea is to move them into other occupations.
There has been some controversy over ending the program, and whether the national government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. See Lt. Gen. Austin's "warning" to al-Maliki in Iraq Briefing - 22 September 2008 - A Warning from Gen. Austin
It is interesting that Kelly reports that he isn't having any trouble with ending the program.
Q General, this is Joe Tabet with Al Hurra. I would like to know what's your assessment of the current status of the Sons of Iraq. How do you see the process to make them join the Iraqi forces?
GEN. KELLY: Yeah, the Sons of Iraq -- we're -- you know this -- depending on where you are in Iraq and where -- what province you're in, the Sons of Iraq are a different issue in each place.
In our case, we have right at about 4,000 of them. They work directly -- don't operate with, but they work directly for the American -- and in today's world, the post-PIC environment, for the local Iraqi army commander. They're given tasks. They're organized in small units....
(What) we asked them about was what they might want to do for an occupation after, what would -- what life would be like after the Sons of Iraq. Interestingly enough, most of them would prefer to go back to being farmers. Anbar used to be a very productive rural province. A lot of things happened in the old days: food for oil -- you know, the impact of the sanctions did a lot to hurt the economy of Anbar, particularly putting its agricultural industry in collapse.
But these young guys would prefer to go back to being farmers. Those that didn't look towards farming very much would like to be police officers and even join the Iraqi army. So I'm hoping that we'll be able to expand a little bit on the police numbers. But they have pretty quality guys. They -- again, they read and write.
So we don't have the same kind of challenges, by any means, that some of the other provinces are having.
One more exchange which gives a flavor of daily life, and how Iraqi concerns have moved beyond security
Q Those cells as refugees, if the Marines start really pulling out, will they just die, in your assessment, or is there still the potential that they could come back?
GEN. KELLY: Well, you know, I walked through the city of Kharma this afternoon with the provincial police chief. No helmet, no flak. And now, it's not -- you know, you do certain things for certain reasons, but we walked down through there today and met with the Kharma city council and the mayor and all, did the same thing yesterday -- two days ago, rather, in Ramadi with the police chief.
And their security concerns -- or a better way to put it, when they talk to me about the things that they need from me, they'll talk about electricity, which is absolutely number one. In the last several months, we have solved -- for all intents and purposes -- we have solved, with the government of Iraq, the fuel problem in Anbar province. We went from 8 percent of what they needed here, gasoline and diesel and that kind of thing, 8 percent, and we've solved that now and they're -- and they're getting at least 90 percent of their allocation every month. So that's off the table. But they talk about health care and schools and all of this.
When I first got here, they'd hit security at the three or the four mark. Now, when we talk, they'll talk about five, six, seven things that they need -- they need help from me; they need help from the government of Iraq -- and then I'll have to say, well, what about security? So we'll remind of them security and then they'll say, "Well, yeah. Okay, security, too." But then I'll look at the police chief and say there's nothing right now that I can conceive of that could come back here that the police, in partnership with the Iraqi army, couldn't handle. And that is my message to them. They can handle it.
But before you lefties say "this proves Obama is right about withdrawing!" read what Kelly says next
GEN. KELLY:...they're not quick to have us leave -- not that they want us to do their fighting for them. They just want us to reestablish something that we decided to disestablish. And when we do that, they're very confident that we can -- we can, you know -- you know, be friends with Iraq forever and not be here forever. That's the key point.
So if we stick it out we can make this thing work. I know that lefties roll their eyes at this, but yes I believe that Gen Kelly is right; if we do this right we can have the Iraqis as friends for a long time. And having an ally - even an imperfect one - in the heart of the Middle East is priceless.
Are you listeniing, Senator Obama?
Previous briefings by Maj. Gen Kelly
Iraq Briefing - 09 March 2008 - "Levels of violence -- stunning to me how low they are"
October 20, 2008
"Freedom of Speech in Jihad Analysis: Debunking the Myth of Offensive Words"
About time someone said this.
From a story in today's Washington Times written by the invaluable Bill Gertz:
A U.S. military "Red Team" charged with challenging conventional thinking says that words like "jihad" and "Islamist" are needed in discussing 21st-century terrorism and that federal agencies that avoid the words soft-pedaled the link between religious extremism and violent acts.
"We must reject the notion that Islam and Arabic stand apart as bodies of knowledge that cannot be critiqued or discussed as elements of understanding our enemies in this conflict," said the internal report, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times.
The report, "Freedom of Speech in Jihad Analysis: Debunking the Myth of Offensive Words," was written by unnamed civilian analysts and contractors for the U.S. Central Command, which is responsible for the Middle East and South Asia. It is thought to be the first official document to challenge those in the government who seek to downplay the role of Islam in inspiring some terrorist violence.
"The fact is our enemies cite the source of Islam as the foundation for their global jihad," the report said. "We are left with the responsibility of portraying our enemies in an honest and accurate fashion."
I hope these guys keep their resumes updated, because they're going to need them if Obama's elected in November. The political correctness on this is bad enough with GW Bush, but it will be absolutely out of control with Obama.
You can download the report from the Times website at the link above. If that disappears, you can go here.
The reason why it is important that we use words like jihad, takfir, Islamist, and the rest is that we need to be clear as to who we are fighting. We need clarity on the nature of the enemy, who he is, and his historical roots. While we must understand that no, not all Muslims accept the idea of violent jihad, we must also understand that all too many do, and that they are the ones currently in control of the umma.
Of course, any "Red Team" is not the end-all-to-be-all. Their job is to provide the "counter" or "alternative" analysis, the purpose of which is to challenge assumptions. It's just that in this case I think they're right.
Read the whole thing, but here is an excerpt from the Executive Summary:
There are a growing number of USG documents that suggest that we stand in danger of (if we have not already) demonizing Islam and/or associating all Muslims with violence simply by invoking the Islamic identity, or Islamist goals, or a particular extremist group. While there is concern that we not label all Muslims as Islamist terrorists, it is proper to address certain aspects of violence as uniquely Islamic. This does not imply that all violence is Islamic, or even that all violence perpetrated by Muslims is uniquely Islamic. The fact is that our enemies cite the sources of Islam as the foundation of their global jihad. We are left with the responsibility of portraying our enemies in an honest and accurate fashion.
There are a lot of problems in our current approach, but one of them is not "demonizing Islam." President Bush and virtually all other Western leaders have gone out of their way to do the opposite.
The problem, rather, is with those who want to define our problem as narrowly as possible. Many do not even want to use the term "war," but rather see it through the lens of law enforcement. They generally see the problem as only al Qaeda and only in Afghanistan. This must end, and we should label our enemies as they are: Jihadists, Takfiris, and Islamists.
October 19, 2008
Joe Biden, Sarah Palin, Dan Quayle, and When a Gaffe is not a Gaffe
Oct 20: Updated at bottom with today's Biden gaffe
And to think that they crucified Dan Quayle because he spelled "potato" wrong.
Unless they do the same to Joe Biden, the media and late night talk-show hosts who made so much fun Dan Quayle need to send him a letter of apology.
Anyone who follows politics knows that Senator Biden is a walking gaffe machine. Consider this small collection of his wit and wisdom:
If you're not sure, Roosevelt was not president when the stock market crashed and TV hadn't been invented in 1929.
And then we have his debate with Alaska Governor Sarah Palin:
" When we kicked -- along with France, we kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon, I said and Barack said, "Move NATO forces in there. Fill the vacuum, because if you don't know -- if you don't, Hezbollah will control it."
Now what's happened? Hezbollah is a legitimate part of the government in the country immediately to the north of Israel."
"Pakistan already has nuclear weapons. Pakistan already has deployed nuclear weapons. Pakistan's weapons can already hit Israel and the Mediterranean."
Pakistani missiles barely have the range to get halfway to Israel, much less hit anything in the Mediterranean.
We could go on and on listing Biden's gaffes, see here and here for material. Joe Biden says stupid things every single week. The man is an absolute walking gaffe machine. But listing them is not my purpose, and would take too long.
The True Story of the Potato
Did you know that the reporters who were in the room with Quayle when he misspelled "potato" didn't know how it was spelled either? It's true. Not only that, but the school had prepared flash cards with the words that were used in the spelling exercise, and the one for the word in question had it spelled as "potatoe"
Bet you didn't know that, either.
In fact, when Quayle noticed the discrepancy between the flash card and the way the student spelled it, he showed the card to the other adults standing with him, and they nodded in agreement that the student had spelled it wrong.
That little fact wasn't reported by the media either.
The true story of what happened can be found in many places, but perhaps the most comprehensive is by Quayle himself in his 1994 memoir Standing Firm. He devotes an entire chapter to the incident.
I'm not going to do a book review here, but suffice it to say that if you think that Quayle uses the book as an opportunity to settle scores, lash out at the media, or engage in bitter "I didn't deserve it," you'll be disappointed. Quayle is the opposite of the stereotypical politician; humble, candid, and amazingly hard on himself.
When Is a Gaffe not a Gaffe?
So why is it that Joe Biden does not suffer the same fate as Dan Quayle? Why is it that Sarah Palin is seemingly held to a higher standard than other Biden? These are not easy questions to answer, but let me take a shot at it.
One is simply how you look and come across. Joe Biden looks and sounds like a senator or professor. He also looks his age. Dan Quayle has a boyish look that chronological age will never wear away. Sarah Palin sounds like a midwestern "everywoman," and makes no attempt to act or talk Washingtonese.
Another is how you handle the aftermath. Quayle admits that he screwed up the press briefing that immediately followed the incident. At this point neither Quayle or anyone in his entourage knew anything was amis (recall that no one in the room challenged the "e" and many thought it correct). When a reporter slyly asked "so how do you spell "potato" again?" he should have realized his earlier mistake and made a joke about it. Unfortunately, he was caught off guard and unsure what the reporter was talking about. It was this "deer in the headlights" part of the incident that made a small mistake into a career defining event more than the incident itself.
All this, remember, according to Quayle himself. I told you he was hard on himself in the book.
The media is on the lookout for anything Sarah Palin might say that is slightly wrong. Rest assured that if she said that "jobs" was a three letter word it would be the subject of late-night jokes for the rest of her life.
Biden, on the other hand, seems to skate along making gaffe after gaffe without anyone other than us nasty right-wing bloggers seeming to care. There is no aftermath for him to deal with because most of the press simply ignore his gaffes.
Therefore, another part of the reason for the disparity of treatment is that Joe Biden is a liberal and Dan Quayle and Sarah Palin are conservatives. The media and comics are overwhelmingly liberal and use their platforms to push their cause, and this means highlighting gaffes by people they don't like and ignoring those of people they do like.
So in the end, I conclude that there are three reasons for the disparity in treatment. Not in order of importance, they are: Image and how you present yourself, how you handle the aftermath, and media bias.
Monday Evening Update
"Mark my words," the Democratic vice presidential nominee said at a Seattle fundraiser Sunday, "it will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We're about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old senator president of the United States of America. Remember I said it standing here if you don't remember anything else I said. Watch, we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy."
Wait a second. I thought that with the ascendancy of The One the rest of the world would all like us again? Isn't that why we are supposed to elect him?
But now "the world" will test Obama with an "international crisis, a generated crisis"? Why would they generate a crisis, if he's the one we've all been waiting for?
But wait, it gets better. Biden continues:
"I can give you at least four or five scenarios from where it might originate," Biden said, including the Middle East and Russia as possibilities, "and he's gonna need help. And the kind of help he's gonna need is, he's gonna need you - not financially to help him - we're gonna need you to use your influence, your influence within the community, to stand with him. Because it's not gonna be apparent initially, it's not gonna be apparent that we're right."
What in the world does that "not gonna be apparent initially...that we're right" bit mean? That he's going to screw it up initially?
Don't leave me yet, there's more:
"Gird your loins," Biden told the crowd. "We're gonna win with your help, God willing, we're gonna win, but this is not gonna be an easy ride."
The garrulous Biden...
or rather, "The blithering idiot"
...said that he's "forgotten more about foreign policy than most of my colleagues know, so I'm not being falsely humble with you."
Oh yes that was certainly humble of you.
"I think I can be value added, but this guy(Obama) has it. This guy has it. But he's gonna need your help. Because I promise you, you all are gonna be sitting here a year from now going, 'Oh my God, why are they there in the polls? Why is the polling so down? Why is this thing so tough?' We're gonna have to make some incredibly tough decisions in the first two years. So I'm asking you now, I'm asking you now, be prepared to stick with us. Remember the faith you had at this point because you're going to have to reinforce us.""
Or maybe he'll be down in the polls because people will come to their senses and realize that he has no idea how to handle international crises, and that his
blithering idiot of a vice president is of no help whatsoever.
October 16, 2008
Obama the Pro-Abortion Candidate
First, lets get this out of the way: Ithought that John McCain cleaned the floor with Barack Obama last night. In the first McCain might have won, and in the second he clearly lost.
But in this third McCain wiped the floor with Obama. Far from and "calm, cool and moderate" I've heard some commentators say, Obama was clearly rattled and flustered throughout. He stammered and stuttered his way though his answers. McCain was clearly in command from beginning to end. McCain had all of the good one-liners. He nailed Obama on the facts time and again.
But that's not what I want to talk about in this post. The subject of abortion - finally - came up in last night's debate. Moderator Bob Schieffer had asked about Roe v. Wade. Here's the relevant part:
McCain:... Sen. Obama, as a member of the Illinois State Senate, voted in the Judiciary Committee against a law that would provide immediate medical attention to a child born of a failed abortion. He voted against that.
And then, on the floor of the State Senate, as he did 130 times as a state senator, he voted present.
Then there was another bill before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the state of Illinois not that long ago, where he voted against a ban on partial-birth abortion, one of the late-term abortion, a really -- one of the bad procedures, a terrible. And then, on the floor of the Illinois State Senate, he voted present.
I don't know how you vote "present" on some of that. I don't know how you align yourself with the extreme aspect of the pro- abortion movement in America. And that's his record, and that's a matter of his record.
And he'll say it has something to do with Roe v. Wade, about the Illinois State Senate. It was clear-cut votes that Sen. Obama voted, I think, in direct contradiction to the feelings and views of mainstream America.
Obama: Yes, let me respond to this. If it sounds incredible that I would vote to withhold lifesaving treatment from an infant, that's because it's not true. The -- here are the facts.
There was a bill that was put forward before the Illinois Senate that said you have to provide lifesaving treatment and that would have helped to undermine Roe v. Wade. The fact is that there was already a law on the books in Illinois that required providing lifesaving treatment, which is why not only myself but pro-choice Republicans and Democrats voted against it.
And the Illinois Medical Society, the organization of doctors in Illinois, voted against it. Their Hippocratic Oath would have required them to provide care, and there was already a law in the books.
With respect to partial-birth abortion, I am completely supportive of a ban on late-term abortions, partial-birth or otherwise, as long as there's an exception for the mother's health and life, and this did not contain that exception.
And I attempted, as many have in the past, of including that so that it is constitutional. And that was rejected, and that's why I voted present, because I'm willing to support a ban on late-term abortions as long as we have that exception..
Unfortunately for Obama, he's not telling the truth.
National Right to Life has the goods. Their article is rather long because Obama told so many lies. Here is the one dealing with the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act that has been the subject of so much controversy:
-- The Illinois Born-Alive Infants Protection Act (BAIPA) was a simple three-sentence bill to establish that every baby who achieved "complete expulsion or extraction" from the mother, and who showed defined signs of life, was to enjoy the legal protections of a "person." As a state senator, Obama led the opposition to this bill in 2001, 2002, and 2003. On March 13, 2003, Obama killed the bill at a committee meeting over which he presided as chairman. In the October 15 debate, Obama said, "The fact is that there was already a law on the books in Illinois that required providing lifesaving treatment." This claim is highly misleading. The law "on the books," 720 ILCS 510.6, on its face, applies only where an abortionist declares before the abortion that there was "a reasonable likelihood of sustained survival of the fetus outside the womb." But humans are often born alive a month or more before they reach the point where such "sustained survival" - that is, long-term survival - is likely or possible (which is often called the point of "viability"). When Obama spoke against the BAIPA on the Illinois Senate floor in 2001 -- the only senator to do so -- he didn't even claim that the BAIPA was duplicative of existing law. Rather, he objected to defining what he called a "previable fetus" as a legal "person" -- even though the bill clearly applied only to fully born infants. These events are detailed in an August 28, 2008 NRLC White Paper titled "Barack Obama's Actions and Shifting Claims on the Protection of Born-Alive Aborted Infants -- and What They Tell Us About His Thinking on Abortion," which contains numerous hyperlinks to primary source
Call the NRLC biased if you wish, but at the end of the day you have to deal with the facts.
As far as the partial-birth abortion excuse goes, the truth is that there is never a reason to do a partial-birth abortion "for the health of the mother." This one is a total fraud.
I'm not at all happy with legal abortion for any reason and at any state of the pregnancy, but if we are going to have them, do we the taxpayers have to pay for them? According to Barack Obama, that would be a "yes". And not only that, but as you'll see, since the culture wars are "so '90s", we can't even argue with him about it
Again, the NRLC has the scoop
-- Obama is a cosponsor of the so-called "Freedom of Choice Act" (FOCA) (S. 1173), which would nullify all state and federal laws that "interfere with" access to abortion before "viability" (as defined by the abortionist). The bill would also nullify all state and federal laws that "interfere with" access to abortion after viability if deemed to enhance "health." Because the term "health" is not qualified in the bill, no state would be allowed to exclude any "health" justification whatever for post-viability abortions, because to do so would impermissibly narrow a federally guaranteed right. In short, the FOCA would establish a federal "abortion right" broader than Roe v. Wade and, in the words of the National Organization for Women, "sweep away hundreds of anti-abortion laws [and] policies." The chief sponsors and advocacy groups backing the legislation have acknowledged that it would make partial-birth abortion legal again, nullify state parental notification laws, and require the state and federal governments to fund abortions.
No doubt some will object that despite all this, Mr. "I don't want them punished with a baby" is still not "pro-abortion" but is "pro-choice." Robert George, in Obama's Abortion Extremism, compares today's pro-choice crowd to those who "accepted" slavery but would not fight against it. Many, such as Thomas Jefferson, were "personally opposed" to slavery, but also opposed abolition. Roberts asks
Would we describe such people, not as pro-slavery, but as "pro-choice"? Of course we would not. It wouldn't matter to us that they were "personally opposed" to slavery, or that they wished that slavery were "unnecessary," or that they wouldn't dream of forcing anyone to own slaves. We would hoot at the faux sophistication of a placard that said "Against slavery? Don't own one." We would observe that the fundamental divide is between people who believe that law and public power should permit slavery, and those who think that owning slaves is an unjust choice that should be prohibited.
Ouch. Be sure and read the rest of his piece, for he lays out the case that even if we do accept the label of "pro-choice" for most people today, Obama himself is so extreme that he deserves the label of "pro-abortion"
For Additional Reading
True Lives: An abortion survivor takes on Barack Obama. An interview with Jill Stanek, who was a nurse at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Illinois. She was the one who brought to light the horrific practice of how official policy was to let living babies who had survived a botched abortion die - slowly, by simply putting them on a table until the expired.
October 14, 2008
Obama's Socialist Plan for Income Redistribution
If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck.
Most Democrats at least hide what they are doing. Not so Senator Barack Obama
Here's what he said if you missed it
Barack Obama told a tax-burdened plumber over the weekend that his economic philosophy is to "spread the wealth around" -- a comment that may only draw fire from riled-up John McCain supporters who have taken to calling Obama a "socialist" at the Republican's rallies.
Obama made the remark, caught on camera, after fielding some tough questions from the plumber Sunday in Ohio, where the Democratic candidate canvassed neighborhoods and encouraged residents to vote early.
"Your new tax plan is going to tax me more, isn't it?" the plumber asked, complaining that he was being taxed "more and more for fulfilling the American dream."
"It's not that I want to punish your success. I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you, that they've got a chance for success too," Obama responded. "My attitude is that if the economy's good for folks from the bottom up, it's gonna be good for everybody ... I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."
This is socialism plain and simple.
But wait, there's more:
This is from one of the debates during the primaries earlier this year
GIBSON: All right. You have, however, said you would favor an increase in the capital gains tax. As a matter of fact, you said on CNBC, and I quote, "I certainly would not go above what existed under Bill Clinton," which was 28 percent. It's now 15 percent. That's almost a doubling, if you went to 28 percent.
But actually, Bill Clinton, in 1997, signed legislation that dropped the capital gains tax to 20 percent.
GIBSON: And George Bush has taken it down to 15 percent.
GIBSON: And in each instance, when the rate dropped, revenues from the tax increased; the government took in more money. And in the 1980s, when the tax was increased to 28 percent, the revenues went down.
So why raise it at all, especially given the fact that 100 million people in this country own stock and would be affected?
OBAMA: Well, Charlie, what I've said is that I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness.
Senator Obama does not like the way wealth is distributed the United States. It's not just that he has different ideas on how to jump start the economy, or how to pull us out of our current fiscal difficulties. No, he thinks he knows better.
Tax policy should be used for two things; funding government programs and inciting certain behavior. The first is obvious. An example of the second is the mortgage tax deduction (which somehow is never described as a 'loophole") which was designed to encourage home ownership.
But Obama is not happy with this. To him taxes should be used to punish some and reward others.
This, then, is the real Obama. The one who wants to remake America. And to think that some say that his radical past and associations don't matter.
On Obama's campaign website is this
Obama's Comprehensive Tax Policy Plan for America will:
* Cut taxes for 95 percent of workers and their families with a tax cut of $500 for workers or $1,000 for working couples.
The Wall Street Journal, in an article today titled Obama's 95% Illusion:
It depends on what the meaning of 'tax cut' is explains why these promises are misleading in some detail, but the bottom line is pretty simple
Somewhere around a third (or here) of all adult Americans pay no income taxes at all. So how can 95% receive a refund? Simple: You just write them a check. This is income redistribution in the name of "fairness."
On the the WSJ:
Here's the political catch. All but the clean car credit would be "refundable," which is Washington-speak for the fact that you can receive these checks even if you have no income-tax liability. In other words, they are an income transfer -- a federal check -- from taxpayers to nontaxpayers. Once upon a time we called this "welfare," or in George McGovern's 1972 campaign a "Demogrant." Mr. Obama's genius is to call it a tax cut.
The Tax Foundation estimates that under the Obama plan 63 million Americans, or 44% of all tax filers, would have no income tax liability and most of those would get a check from the IRS each year. The Heritage Foundation's Center for Data Analysis estimates that by 2011, under the Obama plan, an additional 10 million filers would pay zero taxes while cashing checks from the IRS.
The total annual expenditures on refundable "tax credits" would rise over the next 10 years by $647 billion to $1.054 trillion, according to the Tax Policy Center. This means that the tax-credit welfare state would soon cost four times actual cash welfare. By redefining such income payments as "tax credits," the Obama campaign also redefines them away as a tax share of GDP. Presto, the federal tax burden looks much smaller than it really is.
The political left defends "refundability" on grounds that these payments help to offset the payroll tax. And that was at least plausible when the only major refundable credit was the earned-income tax credit. Taken together, however, these tax credit payments would exceed payroll levies for most low-income workers.
There's another catch: Because Mr. Obama's tax credits are phased out as incomes rise, they impose a huge "marginal" tax rate increase on low-income workers. The marginal tax rate refers to the rate on the next dollar of income earned. As the nearby chart illustrates, the marginal rate for millions of low- and middle-income workers would spike as they earn more income.
Some families with an income of $40,000 could lose up to 40 cents in vanishing credits for every additional dollar earned from working overtime or taking a new job. As public policy, this is contradictory. The tax credits are sold in the name of "making work pay," but in practice they can be a disincentive to working harder, especially if you're a lower-income couple getting raises of $1,000 or $2,000 a year. One mystery -- among many -- of the McCain campaign is why it has allowed Mr. Obama's 95% illusion to go unanswered.
I can answer that last one; because his campaign is incompetent, that's why.
Note to any leftist trolls who may happen by; the issue is not "Joe the plumber". His circumstances are not relevant (and most of what the lefties are saying about him are lies). What's relevant is Obama's plan for socialist income redistribution.
This is incredible. It's Barack Obama in a 2001 interview with Chicago Public Radio station WBEZ discussing how he wants to redistribute wealth in the United States:
Stop the ACLU has a partial transcript:
If you look at the victories and failures of the civil rights movement and its litigation strategy in the court. I think where it succeeded was to invest formal rights in previously dispossessed people, so that now I would have the right to vote. I would now be able to sit at the lunch counter and order as long as I could pay for it I'd be o.k. But, the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society. To that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn't that radical. It didn't break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution, at least as its been interpreted and Warren Court interpreted in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. Says what the states can't do to you. Says what the Federal government can't do to you, but doesn't say what the Federal government or State government must do on your behalf, and that hasn't shifted and one of the, I think, tragedies of the civil rights movement was, um, because the civil rights movement became so court focused I think there was a tendancy to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change. In some ways we still suffer from that.
October 12, 2008
Gen Petraeus' Speech on Iraq - How We Did It
Gen David Petraeus spoke at the 2008 Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, DC, October 7. To be sure, his speech wasn't really called "How We Did It", as I just made that up. But it might as well have been. It's just listed as a "Special Presentation" on the schedule. No matter.
I realize it's long, at 90 minutes, but if you have time it's well worth watching. Gen. Petraeus goes through the horrific situation in Iraq at the end of 2006 and what he and Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno did to change the situation from one that was rapidly deteriorating to the near-victory that we have today.
This speech, as well as other briefings and military videos, can be seen at DODvClips
However, if you don't have time to watch the video, you're in luck, because I did, and my notes follow.
Teaser; if you read on, you'll discover Gen Ray Odierno's nickname.
Regular readers will recognize almost everything here, because these are themes that have been the subject of many posts since the "surge" started. Interspersed with my comments are some of the press briefings in which our commanders have spoken of the strategy and tactics that Petraeus discussed in his speech (note that I have covered many more briefings than appear here. See sidebar, categories, Iraq II 2007 - 2008
- Surge - focus on securing the population
- Before the surge, 55 dead bodies every morning in Baghdad
- The only way to secure a population is to live with the population, to share the risk. You cannot "commute to the fight." See Iraq Briefing - 04 Feb 2008 - "We do not drive or commute to work" and Iraq Briefing - 22 Feb 2008 - "We are Living with the Population"
- Gradually get the population to tell you who the bad guys are
- You must use all the tools in your kitbag. Military force, yes and necessary. But you can't win with that alone. Yes before you can have legislation you must have security. But by the same token once military force has done it's part you then move into economics and building projects.
- The idea is to "spiral upward" - kind of the opposite of a "vicious cycle" downward.
- The political line of operation (Ambassador Crocker) often or sometimes trumped the military
- Petraeus and Crocker worked very closely together. The presented a united front, usually meeting together with Maliki or visiting congressional delegations.
- Cannot allow the enemy to have any sanctuaries, at least within Iraq. See Iraq Briefing - 02 June 2008 - "Attack, Attack, Attack"
- Before you start to clear, you must have a plan to hold and build. Clearing then leaving does not work. See Iraq Briefing - 14 April 2008 - "From Clear to Hold and Build".
- Promote reconciliation; reach out to those who are willing to be part of the new Iraq
- Col. Sean McFarland meeting with Sheik(s) to recognize the Anbar Awakening and reach out to them. See Iraq Briefing 10 December 2007 - Maj Gen Walter Gaskin (the subject is Anbar) and Iraq Briefing - 13 March 2008 - Tremendous Turnaround in Al Anbar
- We could not hand off responsibility to Iraqi security forces until at the very least they ceased to become part of the problem. One of the first things Petraeus had to do was arrest some top level Iraqis - sometimes at the behest of Makiki himself. Although Petraeus doesn't say so, this is another reason why the Rumsfeld/Abizaid/Casey strategy of reducing American forces while counting on the new Iraqi Army to take over was failing. See Iraq Briefing - 04 March 2008 - State of the Iraqi Army, and Iraq Briefing - 24 July 2008 - Confident and Capable Iraqi Leadership
- Be upfront with the press. "Don't put lipstick on a pig" Just tell it as it is. No spin
- Ray Odierno's nickname is "The Big O"
- Me: General Odierno is now the commander of MNF-Iraq, having assumed command earlier this month. During the vital period of 2007-08, he was number two in Iraq, a Lieutenant General in command of Multi-National Corps Iraq. I covered many of his briefings, but his "exit interview" is perhaps the most incisive (and brief, so it won't take much of your time).
- Correct interrogation techniques. We must uphold our values even when the enemy is barbaric
- Several times he mentions Field Manual 3-24 (Petraeus lead the team that wrote it in 2006, while he was a Lieutenant General, and it provided the strategy for what became known as the "surge"). See Book Review - U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24
- You can never stop learning and adapting. The enemy may be barbaric but they are thinking. It is an enemy to be respected in that it is a thinking enemy. What works one day may not work another. What works in one area of the country might not work in another. What works in Iraq might not work in Afghanistan.
- Mentioned the Sons of Iraq (SOI, originally called Concerned Local Citizens) as important to success. They were important to sustain the progress. Me: The SOI were the subject of most briefings, which shows their importance).
- Get the irreconcilables out of society, detain them, and take the pressure off the population. Eventually you might be able to reconcile some of them though and release some.
- Education, social services job opportunities important to long term success. See Iraq Briefing - 09 June 2008 - Job Creation to Defeat the Insurgency and Iraq Briefing - 04 August 2008 - Achieving Durable Security
- They call the strategy "Anaconda" because the idea is to squeeze the insurgents from all directions at once. For example, money is the oxygen for the insurgency, more important over time than ideology
- - The February 2006 bombing of theal-Askari Mosque (the "Golden Mosque") which set off a tit for tat cycle of violence that was spiraling out of control
- Aug 2007 was the turnaround, when the militia lost the support of the populace. Eventually they declared a ceasefire.
- The violence went back up when PM Maliki sent the Army into Basra, but it was a temporary increase.
- The sectarian ethnic cleansing didn't stop because all the people had left/been "cleansed", but because of our troops.
- Violence has of course come down but is still too high. See Iraq Briefing - 09 March 2008 - "Levels of violence -- stunning to me how low they are"
- We found more and more weapons caches as we began to live with the populace. It's starting to fall off because we think we've found most of them
- Mentioned many of the divisional commanders, Major Generals such as Lynch, Fil, Hammond, Oates, as he went around the map of Iraq. All of them were key to our success. There is more work to be done, though.
- Total 200 Iraqi combat battalions today. See Iraq Briefing - 24 July 2008 - Confident and Capable Iraqi Leadership
- Iraq is only producing half of the electricity of what they need. Progress is never as fast or as easy as you'd like.
- Oil production has hit a record for recent years (not sure about way back).
- Many countries have sent ambassadors back to Iraq
- Debt relief is moving forward
- Iraq is open for business
- There are potential storm clouds:
- The SOI need to be reintegrated. 50,000 have, but there is a long way to go
- Can we meet the rising expectations of the population?
- AQI will try to reignite the violence
- Other Sunni and Shiite extremists will try and return
- Iranian special groups
- Violence during elections
- Political disagreements
- Return of displaced families
- Various ethnic disputes
- So progress is real but fragile. Me: This has been echoed in briefing after briefing. See for example Iraq Briefing 17 December 2007 - Maj Gen Joseph Fil
- Our military is vastly better than at any point in our history. We have never fought a war this long with a professional military. See Gen Barry McCaffrey (ret) report "The Most Brilliantly Led Military We Have Ever Fielded"
- We have and need leaders who can do it all; major combat operations to stability, reconstruction, humanitarian operations.
- How we train our leaders is different now.
- Counterinsurgency is the "graduate level" of warfare. Still, our leaders can do all types of operations.
- Video goes out at 65 min, resumes at 68:13
- The way our soldiers have responded to the challenges should be an inspiration to us all
- Our soldiers reenlist knowing they'll be sent back to a combat zone. No bonus can make you do that. They do it because they believe in what we are doing.
- Tom Brokaw said that what he saw in Iraq that day (big reenlistment) led him to say that he had seen the new greatest generation
- We are deadly serious about being first with the truth
- I stand by my bottom-line assessments. See The Gen Petraeus - Amb Crocker Hearings Day 1 and The Gen Petraeus - Amb Crocker Hearings Day 2
- - All units must work as an integrated whole. "Fusion Cells" that broke down barriers between intel centers and government departments. Everyone must work together.
October 11, 2008
Iraq Briefing - 09 October 2008 - Not Yet at the Tipping Point
This briefing is by COL Philip Battaglia, Commander of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. He spoke via satellite Thursday to reporters at the Pentagon.
I believe that the 4th Brigade Combat Team is part of Multi-National Division - Center, which is headquartered by the 10th Mountain Division. Major General Michael Oate is the commanding general.
Maj. Gen. Oates reports to reports to Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of Multi-National Corps - Iraq. Austin reporst to General Odierno, commander of Multi-National Force - Iraq, who on September 16 replaced his one-time boss Gen. David Petraeus in this position. Petraeus, in turn, has been appointed the next commander of CENTCOM.
Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey is acting commander of CENTCOM until Gen. Petraeus assumes command later this month,. Dempsey reports to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
The transcript is on the DefenseLink site.
There was quite a bit of interest in this briefing. If there was any one theme, or question that got asked more than any other, is was about Iranian influence. Since they're relatively close to the border, this is to be expected. But political influence is bad enough, arms and insurgency unacceptable.
From their opening statements
COL. BATTAGLIA:... My mission is to partner with the Iraqi security forces to secure the population, defeat terrorists, interdict the flow of munitions into Iraq and enable the reconstruction efforts of the PRT.
We work very closely with the 10th Iraqi Army Division, the Iraqi border enforcement units and Iraqi police every single day on a wide variety of security tasks. We live where they live, amongst the population and at various outposts and smaller bases throughout our area of operation. We're having tremendous success because we've combined our technological advantages with Iraqi firsthand knowledge of the terrain, the culture and those intangibles that only come from being an Iraqi.
We've seen the security in this area improve significantly since our arrival in July. The provinces are overall very stable, with occasional attacks by special groups and other criminal elements. Our combined offensive operations represent only a small part of what we do. We are very focused on improving the effectiveness of the Iraqi security forces and enabling Dan and his PRT to conduct their reconstruction efforts.
MR. FOOTE:... As Phil mentioned, there had been no American presence or coalition forces presence in Maysan province for well over a year before Iraqi military operations commenced in mid-June. This is a province that has historically faced a lot of empty promises from outsiders and has seen significant militia influence and illegal arms smuggling from Iran
Let me touch briefly on what we're talking about when we mention capacity-building. The chief role of the PRT is to teach, mentor and partner with provincial and local governments, civil society organizations and other provincial actors, increase their abilities, efficiencies, technical expertise and transparency.
So the Maysan province has been neglected, which is a challenge but also creates an opportunity. If we can provide security and then boost the economy in a place like this, we'll have gone a long ways towards defeating the insurgency and stabilizing the country. Hopefully this will also create goodwill that we can leverage.
On to the Q & A
Q Colonel, this is David Morgan from Reuters.
Can you tell us about your border security operations and what you've been able to interdict, what you've been seeing in terms of weapons flowing in from Iran?
COL. BATTAGLIA: Yeah. Thank you very much for that question, David.
As -- in terms of our border interdiction efforts, the improved security throughout Iraq has allowed us -- has allowed coalition forces to focus more in Dan's province, in Maysan. And since my arrival here, I have moved two battalions in the Maysan province, approximately about 1,800 soldiers. And we are partnered with the 38th Brigade of the 10th Army in that province, along with the Department of Border Enforcement forces right along the border and of course the Iraqi police.
In the past three months, our operations, in coordination with Iraqi security forces, have seized well over 8,000 -- I believe you have a sheet here that kind of talks about what we have interdicted -- a lot of the improvised explosive devices, IEDs, the EFPs, the explosively formed penetrators, about 600 of those deadly devices that we have taken off the streets, along with rockets -- 107, 122- millimeter.
What we have found is -- in the rockets in particular, we find that the manufacturer and lot numbers are Iranian-made.
So I hope that answers your question.
Q Give us some idea of whether the volume of weapons has been increasing or decreasing, and who the intended recipients are.
COL. BATTAGLIA: Yeah. Our intelligence indicates that -- we know that we have had an effect and we have disrupted the flow of weapons. After the first two months, primarily in July, August time frame, we have found that our discovery of caches of these weapons systems has decreased. So we believe that and we know that we have interrupted the flow of these explosives. What the normal -- our intelligence indicates that Amarah, in the province of Maysan, was an area -- since there was no previous coalition forces there, for a while, it was an area where these devices were assembled and them from there shipped to other parts of the country, into Baghdad and other places.
The bad news is that Iran is still smuggling weapons into Iraq, the good news is that we are doing a better job of interdicting them.
Kimberly Kagan's Institute for the Study of War has an excellent paper (published Oct 6) on the subject of whether recent attacks were carried out by AQI (al Qaeda in Iraq) or Iranian Special Groups. The authors, Claire Russo and Marisa Cochrane, examine the publicly available evidence and believe that it is most likely Iranian elements that are responsible
In any event, they say, i's important to get it right, because "Giving AQI credit for attacks of which they are not capable has serious consequences. This benefits Special Groups, AQI, and Shi'a sectarian political agendas, and is problematic for Coalition Forces and the SoI(Sons of Iraq)."
Continuing on the same theme of Iranian influence:
Q Colonel, this is Joe Tabet with Al Hurra. Do you think there is any Iranian influence through political -- Shi'a political parties in your area?
MR. FOOTE:...There's no question that there is a certain level of Iranian influence. The four main parties in Maysan province are a Sadrist umbrella party, ISCI, Da'wa and Fadhila. ISCI and Da'wa have ties to Iran, long and fairly strong. Ironically, the Sadrists are probably the most nationalistic of those parties.
Have we seen a ton of malign political Iranian influence to date? Not that I'm aware of. With provincial elections on the horizon, I think we're going to be looking at an interesting time. Iranian influence in Maysan province is to be expected. It's a neighboring country. The tribes along the border have people on both sides. There's going to be some of that that happens, and we expect and accept some of that to happen.
It's the smuggling, the malign influence, the Iranian accelerants that Colonel Battaglia and his folks are very focused on taking care of.
COL. BATTAGLIA: Yeah, exactly, and Dan's absolutely right on that.
We are -- what we experience and what we hear, what I hear from the, from the Iraqi security forces, some of the leaders of the 10th Iraqi Army Division, the police and so forth, same thing.
There is some Iranian influence, you know, not very overt at this time. And, but everyone is kind of bracing a little bit to see what happens during the upcoming provincial elections, I think.
So if I'm reading this right most of the Iranian involvement is military and not political.
One more exchange on a theme that we've heard time and again in these briefings; that although the fighting ability of the Iraqi forces have improved considerably, they still have big problems with logistics.
Q Gentlemen, Bill McMichael, Military Times papers. General Petraeus has repeatedly warned that this might be -- the positive trends in Iraq and the gains that have been made, that the situation is very fragile and things could easily reverse. I wonder if you would discuss what you see in the province you're working in.
COL. BATTAGLIA: I can, you know, lead off on that a little bit and talk about, you know, the Iraqi army and the Iraqi security forces. I have -- I have mentioned here to you about how capable they are. They're able to plan and to execute operations. But of course, we're there and we supply a lot of those enablers -- some, you know, additional intelligence -- intelligence air assets, intelligence platforms to kind of narrow their focus of their operations. All those types of enablers, the Iraqi army has yet to build.
The Achilles' heel of the Iraqi security forces, in my opinion and what I see here in these provinces is their logistical system. And you know, that's well-acknowledged, in terms of maintenance and availability of repair parts. So although the Iraqi security forces are capable and willing to go out there -- that's my experience -- at the same time there are other facets of these security forces that must continue to grow -- you know, logistics, like we talked about, their intelligence assets and other type enablers -- to make them a more capable force....
Logistics is an "unglamorous" aspect of warfare. It's much more fun, if you will, to discuss weaponry and tactics. Yet history shows time and again that wars are as often won or lost on the ability to supply an army or navy in the field. All the advanced weaponry in the world, and the best strategy and tactics, do you no good if you can't keep your troops fed, ammunition coming, and vehicles working.
I am not quite sure what the difficulties are but obviously it is something that needs to be resolved.
The final comment by Mr Foote presents both an opportunity and a warning:
MR. FOOTE: I think the population of Maysan is a very fickle one. Through history -- World War II and the British, earlier Iraqi regimes, Saddam Hussein, the British -- they've heard a lot of empty promises over the years.
We have an opportunity as coalition, American and with the new power of the Iraqi security forces in there, to take advantage of the opportunity to give them optimism and show them reason for a better life. It's not going to last forever. And we're certainly working hard and have had some quick wins with the population, some good press events and humanitarian assistance, some infrastructure things.
Are we at the tipping point, as General Petraeus likes to say, where Maysan has tipped and will be stable? Not yet. I think over the next six to 12 months what Phil and I do and our teams do and what the Iraqi security forces and the result of the provincial elections is going to be key to what happens there.
Are you listening, Barack Obama? If you win, don't pull them out precipitously just to satisfy your extremist anti-war base (and probably your own instincts). If you do, you risk losing everything we've gained so far. President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld were criticized in the early years of the war for not listening to their generals and colonels, some of whom were warning that the strategy was not working and that they needed more troops. Let's not make the same mistake again.
October 9, 2008
Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, and a Tale of Two Americas
John Edwards gained a lot of political traction with his "Two Americas" schtick. Economics may be one way to divide Americans, but it's not the only way.
For a number of years liberals have told us that we should elect their candidates because they are "smarter" than conservatives. This usually, but not always, takes the form of citing university degrees. They tend to denigrate conservatives, most famously Ronald Reagan and George W Bush as "stupid" and "anti-intellectual.
We see this now with their characterizations of Senator Barack Obama and Governor Sarah Palin.
One argument that Obama's followers make as to why we should elect him is that he was once president of the Harvard Law Review, and later taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School. Palin, on the other hand, is mocked as a rube who "only" has a Bachelor of Science degree in communications-journalism from the University of Idaho.
Imagine, if you will, an audience that consists of two groups of people: One, the faculty of Harvard University. The other, Americans from the small towns of the mid-west. Suppose they hear the following speech given by General of the Army Douglas MacArthur (ret) (originally given to the corps of cadets at West Point). A brief excerpt will make the point:
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....
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.
Upon hearing these words, which group will think "yes, these are ideals to which I aspire but may never reach, and which part will snicker?
And when the audience hears this part...
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.
...which group will think "yes, sadly there are those of that type in our country too" and which will sit upright and think "wait, he's talking about me" ?
If later a bugle plays taps for our fallen troops while an honor guard stands erect and proud, which group will salute and put their hand over their hearts, tear in eye, and which will roll their eyes?
And if at the end a flight of F-15s flys overhead in a "missing man" formation, which will thrill at the sight while understanding its meaning, and which, uncomprehending the significance of the maneuver, will simply snear that "it was all just part of the military-industrial complex"?
You ask me, I take the William F. Buckley Jr. approach to government. He famously once said that he'd "rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University."
Before all you liberals get your panties in a wad, no I am not ascribing all of the worst aspects of the Harvard crowd to Barack Obama. If he was in our audience, in good Clintonian fashion he'd put on a good show. Heaven only knows his true feelings, but his radical background and associations are not encouraging.
So go ahead, all you liberals, denigrate Sarah Palin as you wish. Go on, mock her winks, her manner of speaking, her lack of elite eduction, that she has five children, that she - gasp - hunts and fishes, whatever amuses you.
Me? I'll take her alone any day over the entire faculty of Harvard when it comes to running this country.
Iraq Briefing - 06 October 2008 - Three Steps Forward, One Step Back
This briefing is by Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling, Commander of Multi-National Division-North (also known as Task Force Iron) and the 1st Armored Division. He spoke via satellite Monday to reporters at the Pentagon.
Maj. Gen. Hertling reports to reports to Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of Multi-National Corps - Iraq. Austin reporst to General Odierno, commander of Multi-National Force - Iraq, who on September 16 replaced his one-time boss Gen. David Petraeus in this position. Petraeus, in turn, has been appointed the next commander of CENTCOM.
Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey is acting commander of CENTCOM until Gen. Petraeus assumes command later this month,. Dempsey reports to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
The transcript is on the DefenseLink site.
Unfortunately there were technical difficulties about halfway through the briefing and it had to be terminated, but we still have plenty of information that we can learn from.
From General Hertling's opening statement:
GEN. HERTLING: Well, good morning to all of you in Washington. Thanks for having me again. You know, we're right now in our 13th month of this deployment, and it's more and more apparent to me that we measure progress in Iraq not by wins and losses but by gains and regressions, steps forward and then steps backwards.
When we first arrived in the north last September, we saw progress, but it was usually two steps forward for every one step back. Now most days are marked by three steps forward, one step back, and on a good day, we sometimes even experience four steps forward. But there's always that one step back, to be sure. And that's usually pretty frustrating, but it's progress and, most importantly, it's their progress.
Since we talked a few months ago, we had begun Operation Iron Pursuit. We began that at the end of July. We had just started it when I talked to you. And we're doing it to go after al Qaeda fighters further out in their support zones as we had -- as we had chased them from the cities, a few key areas they had-- we had identified in each province.
Basha'er al-Kheir, the operation which means "glad tidings of benevolence" was going on in Diyala. We were seeing significant security gains during the month of August, but during the month of September, quite frankly, because of the Ramadan holidays and the holy period of Eid, the tempo of operations began to wane a little bit towards the end of the month. We'll continue to partner with the ISF as operational tempo increases in the next few weeks now that the holiday's over.
Umm Al-Rabiain, Operation Mother of Two Springs, in Mosul and Nineveh Province, continues. We've executed some extremely successful operations in the north in the last few weeks and some even this weekend. And those have resulted in reduced violence in the key city of Mosul. There's also been an interruption in the foreign fighter flow from Syria, although it's critical to note that al Qaeda is desperately trying to hold on to that city of 2 million Iraqis. Our assessment is that the insurgents have become fractured -- certainly still capable and lethal -- and they are increasingly relying on intimidation to garner support from the local populace.
If you talk to the Iraqi citizens in any of our four provinces, which I do quite a bit, they will tell you that security has improved.
And that's true because across the board in our north, we have seen almost a 60 percent reduction of attacks since we arrived last year.
The Iraqis will also tell you that the economy and the government functions are also improving, but each province is proceeding at a different rate. While we've seen improvements in infrastructure repair and employment figures rising, there are still anywhere between 40 and 50 percent unemployed or underemployed, as we sometimes call it, in every one of the provinces. And much is yet to be done in the area of schools, hospitals, electricity, water and industry in the four northern provinces.
What's different today than when we arrived here over a year ago is the contributions of both the provincial government and the central government.
First, a summary of the operations mentioned above
- Operation Iron Pursuit - I can't find much about this other than a few private Youtube videos.
- Umm Al-Rabiain/Operation Mother of Two Springs - See the excellent analysis over at Understanding War.
- Basha'er al-Kheir/ "glad tidings of benevolence" - The best I could find is a short article in the Los Angeles Times.
Other things to note are:
- The importance of economics in ensuring long term stability
- While much of the focus in the press is on the Iraqi national government, just as important is how well local government functions.
- Our troops are combination warfighters, mayors, city managers, sociologists. They have to get to know their areas like the back of their hand (see Petraeus' Field Manual 3-24).
On to the Q & A
Q This is David Morgan from Reuters. You said that the insurgents have become fractured. Can you talk a little bit about the nature of the threat as it stands now and how it has changed in recent months? What is it that has led to this fracturing, as you describe it? ...
GEN. HERTLING:...There are contributions from both the Iraqi security forces, the people of Iraq, who are tired of the insurgency. This -- both those things have been recurring themes that I've talked about before and that I think all the other commanders have talked about. But also in the north what you're seeing is a combination of the increase in the capability of the Iraqi government, both at the provincial level and at the central governmental level, reaching out for the -- reaching out to the provinces in the north.
So I think there is a feeling, first of all, that the Iraqi citizens are certainly sick of the insurgencies. Over the last year we have killed or captured several hundred -- and, in fact, in the thousands -- of insurgents of different insurgency groups, not only al Qaeda but also Jaish al-Islami, Ansar al-Sunna, Jaish al-Mujahideen, several of the insurgent networks in the northern provinces.
So I think it's a combination of continuing to pursue the enemy, making the cities more secure, allowing the people to get back to work and the governmental outreach to help the people feel like they're being secured by a newly evolving government of Iraq. So I think all of those things continue to fracture the insurgencies more and more.
But having said that, there is still a desire by al Qaeda and other extremist groups to hold on to key areas. We have seen that most of all in Mosul. As they have lost Baghdad, for all practical purposes, there have been other areas which they've tried to hold on to. Mosul is one of those. And because of the proximity to the Syrian border, the proximity to the port of Rabiya, the ability to gain safe havens in the desert around that city of 2 million people, the fact that they can blend in very easily in that very cosmopolitan city, which has quite a few different populations within the city -- Sunnis, Arabs, Kurds, Yazidis, Christians, Assyrians -- they continue to try and control that city.
There was a bit more, but not much. As mentioned above the audio part of the transmission stopped working and the briefing had to be terminated.
Nevertheless, we hear again that AQI (al Qaeda in Iraq) is down but not out. This has been a theme of briefings and is not challenged by the journalists.
The obvious conclusion is that we are winning but have not won. We need to keep the troops there as long as they are succeeding, rotating them in and out as necessary. Contrary to what Maliki spouts off about occasionally (and some in the US parrot), "the Iraqis" do not want us out before they are secure.
Here are a few points that Bing West made in the Sept 15 print edition of National Review
- If we leave before the job is finished and Iraq flys apart, they will hate us because our action precipitated a disaster.
- If we leave before the job is done, and Iraq stays together, the Iraqis will still resent us for not finishing the job that we started and making them do what they will say we should have done ourselves, "since you started it."
So we are where we are whether anyone likes it or not.
We're winning, so let's finish the job.
October 7, 2008
Why Ayers and Wright Matter
I haven't written very much about Senator Obama's questionable associations, but when I have I've made my thoughts pretty clear. I find it hightly objectionable that we should have a candidate from a major party who consorted with figures such as Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers. That he may well become president is disturbing.
There are two questions; how well did he know these figures, and what does it matter? I've answered the former in previous posts such as this one of a few days ago.
The reason why Obama's association with Ayers and Wright is important is that it goes to his judgment. Obama tells us that we should elect him because of his superior judgment. He bases this largely on one thing; his opposition to invading Iraq. The issue, then, is not Obama's character.
For purposes of argumentation lets ignore whether it was wise to invade Iraq.
What does it say about a man's judgment when he associated with Ayers and Wright? The Obama camp would have us believe that Obama didn't know that Ayers was an unrepentant terrorist, or that it was ok to associate with him because he had denounced Ayers, or that because Ayers' terrorist activities took place when Obama was a child.... I never did get that last one.
Where was Obama's vaunted judgment during all of this? If it was so superior, shouldn't have have caught on quickly as to who and what Ayers was? Why did he praise Ayers book on education, for example?
Lets also get over the notion that Obama is somehow excused because he was a child when Ayers was a terrorist. This is so completely irrelevant that it boggles the mind. The question is not how old Obama was when Ayers was committing his terrorist acts, the question is whether Obama knew, or should have known, of Ayers terrorist past during their relationship.
If Obama wants us to believe that his judgment is so superior then he should have been able to figure out who Ayers was pretty quickly. Either way Obama loses; if he didn't know it exibits bad judgment for not being able to evaluate other people (something critical in a president), and if it did it shows bad judgment because no one in their right mind should associate with an unrepentant ex terrorist.
For example, on his very website it still says that "Obama supports tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions." If his judgment with Ayers was so poor, why should we believe he will be able to size up Ahmadinejad any better? Recall that Obama actually used the example of the 196_ Kennedy-Khruchshev summit as a reason to meet with foreign dictators. One reason why the summit turned out so disasterously for Kennedy was that he had failed to size Khruchshev up correctly before meeting him, whereas Khruchshev had correctly judged that he would be able to bully Kennedy.
As for Wright, lets be clear what didn't happen. Obama did not attend Trinity United for a short period 10 or 20 years ago. He didn't just start to attend recently. Wright isn't just some preacher who endorsed Obama. Wright is not just a preacher that Obama went out and got his endorsement. Obama went to Trinity United for 20 years, and heard sermon after sermon. He described Wright as his "spiritual mentor." He only left when it became politically inconvenient to stay.
For that matter, what does it say about Obama's judgment that he attended the Million Man March? If his judgment is so superior, why didn't he figure out who and what Louis Farrakhan was before the event?
Finally, let's not pretend that Ayers and Wright were Obama's only questionable associations. The list goes on. Frank Gaffney, writiing in The Washington Times, goes over more, including Frank Marshall Davis, a Stalinist communist who admired the Soviet Union, Madeline Talbott of ACORN, Don Warden, (who converted to Islam and changed his name to Khalid al-Mansour). "Mr. al-Mansour has worked closely to advance the influence operations in America of one of Saudi Arabia's most insidious royal billionaires, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal." Worse still is Rashid Khalidi, who was
...a former colleague of Mr. Obama's at the University of Chicago and now a professor at Columbia. Mr. Khalidi is an enthusiastic supporter of the Palestinians, fervent critic of Israel (which he calls a destructive "racist" state), an admirer of suicide bombers and a driving force behind the Arab American Action Network (AAAN). This so-called pro-Palestinian "community organization" in Chicago is another beneficiary of the largess of the Obama-Ayers team at the Woods Fund and promotes an agenda that would horrify many of Mr. Obama's Jewish supporters.
If you want to question McCain's judgment over the Keating Five scandal, fine. The investigative report showed that McCain portrayed "poor judgment" and it is a mark against him. I do think you're stretching to compare that, though, to association with an unrepentant terrorist and a racist kook preacher. One can even say that McCain tried to make up for the whole affair with his McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill. Obama, of course, has no legislation to his name.
A Thought Experiment
To all of you liberals who see no problem with Obama's association with Ayers, or don't even think that he "associated" with him, consider if the shoe was on the other foot.
What would you think if John McCain had had the exact same relationship with abortion-clinic bomber Eric Rudolf? Can you honestly say that you'd have no problem with the situation?
For that matter, consider if John McCain had sat in a church for 20 years and listened to a white supremacist.
I know liberals will scream at this, but I do think in all honesty that if McCain had done either of these things we on the right would have purged him from our ranks long ago.
The invaluable Andy McCarthy discusses Obama's radical past and concludes that
What Obama is about is infiltrating (and training others to infiltrate) bourgeois institutions in order to change them from within -- in essence, using the system to supplant the system. A key requirement of this stealthy approach (very consistent with talking vaporously about "change" but never getting more specific than absolutely necessary) is electability. With an enormous assist from the media, which does not press him for specifics, Obama has walked this line brilliantly. Absent convincing retractions of his prior radical positions, though, we should construe shrewd moves like the ostensibly reasonable Second Amendment position as efforts make him electable.
This is why Ayers is so important: it is a peek behind the curtain of Obama's rhetoric. When he talks about "education reform," that sounds admirable and, given the state of the schools, entirely reasonable. But when you look at what the Obama/Ayers program really tried to do to the schools (see, e.g., Stanley's work on this), it is radical. With a guy who speaks in euphemisms -- "change," "social justice," "due process," etc. -- it is vital to have concrete examples of how these concepts are put into action.
I have spoken with several undecided voters who tell me that they see Obama as a moderate, not much different in his positions than McCain. It's all I can do not to let my jaw hit the floor when I hear this. My conclusion is that one, the McCain campaign in general, and Senator McCain in particular, have done a poor job at communicating who and what Obama is. Two, the media are so in the bag for Obama that they're doing as good a job of investigating him as they did with John Edwards. This does not portend well.
October 6, 2008
What McCain Can Do To Win
As I think we're all aware, most of the polls show that McCain-Palin is down about 6 points to Obama-Biden. Six points is outside of the margin or error, and even though the election is of course decided in the electoral college I think it's safe to say that right now McCain-Palin has to play catch up.
This is not as hard as it might seem. A month is an eternity, and bigger point spreads have been reversed. I won't go through them but if you know your electoral history you'll know what I'm talking about.
It would seem to me that there are, generally speaking, three courses of action
1) Talk about Obama's questionable associations, in particular Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers.
2) Promote the McCain-Palin economic package as superior to that of Obama-Biden. Make offshore drilling part of this message. While doing this highlight congressional Democrats who are tied to the fiscal crisis.
3) Portray Obama and Biden as so far to the left so as to be completely out of the mainstream. At the same time, promote McCain-Palin as reformers who will take on their own party and who have and are able to work with Democrats.
I think that McCain ought to do a combintion 2 & 3. No one who is not already turned off by Obama's associations will do so now. The mainstream media is completely in the tank for Obama and is simply not interested in doing any serious investigation.
Here is a recent McCain TV commercial of the type that he needs to do more of
This one has gone viral on right-wing blogs, which is great, but needs to be turned into a TV commercial. If the McCain campaign doesn't do it, one of our 527s need to (if they have, it needs to get out more). The video consists of excerpts from a late 2004 hearing that was to investigate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's illegal bookkeeping.
If you only watch one video here, watch this one:
Here's some footage of Fannie Mae CEO calling Obama and the Dems the "Family" and the "Conscience" of Fannie Mae that he ought to be using
Here is one from the NRCC that tells the story that McCain needs to get out more
Blame Alone Won't Work
Attacking Democrats along won't work, though, because Obama himself was not a part of the current fiscal crisis. even though as president I can't see Obama challenging his own congressional liberals, too many people will simply buy the Hope! and Change! mantra for this to be effective.
David Gelernter at The Weekly Standard gets it pretty much right, I think
McCain might break through the media fortress that protects independents from the truth if he'd repeat a small packet of information word-for-word at the end of every single speech. Soon crowds would anticipate these words and reporters would know them by heart, and they'd start making an impression on the country. Here are mine; but whatever words he chooses, he must start hammering home some simple truths right now.
1. Mr. Obama is the most liberal senator in Washington.
2. Like other liberal presidents, he'd load the Supreme Court with the most liberal judges he could find.
3. Like other liberal presidents, he'd spend tax dollars like they were going out of style--when the economy must have a steady, experienced, pork-hating hand at the wheel.
4. Like other liberal senators, Mr. Obama was prepared to surrender to terrorists in Iraq.
5. Like other liberal senators, he is the wrong man to protect your children against Russia, Iran, North Korea and al Qaeda in dangerous times.
6. I fought for responsible regulation of the mortgage merchants when the Democrats were against it. I don't just talk, I act.
7. My closest Senate colleague is a Democrat, Joe Lieberman. I don't just talk bipartisanship, I act.
8. I picked Sarah Palin because our country needs young leaders who don't just talk; who act.
9. I'll do what I know is right, no matter what China or Germany or the U.N. thinks. You can't protect this nation by talking. You have to act.
10. Don't judge me as a politician or speech-maker. Judge me as a man who is more than talk. I would lay down my life for this country.
Some will wonder why energy is not a bigger part of this equation. I think it should included, but the fact is that the financial situation is dominating the news and has pushed energy to the sidelines.
In the end, campaigns are like wars, everyone is full of advice and if you lose the people whose advice you didn't take predictably say "if only they'd listened to me", not thinking that their advice might have made the situation worse.
October 4, 2008
Barack Obama and the Fall of the Democrat Party
If I had lived throughout the latter half of the 20th century, I'd have been a Democrat during most of it. Unlike most conservatives today I admire FDR. I would have liked Eisenhower, I suppose, but found his nuclear weapons policy unacceptable. I like JFK and RFK, and would probably have voted for LBJ because he was a foreign policy hawk and promoted civil rights at a time when such advances were sorely needed. I would have also probably voted for Humphrey in 1968, but that is the last time I can say I would have voted Democrat. With the nomination of George McGovern in 1972 and Jimmy Carter in 1976, I'd have take a turn towards the GOP. I probably just raised a few conservative eyebrows in this paragraph but so be it.
So here is the current nominee of the Democrat Party
The only, and I mean only, reason Ayers isn't in prison is because the government so screwed up the case that all or most all of the evidence was thrown out. Nobody, not even Ayers himself, disputes his guilt.
Whatever happened to the party of Harry Truman, John F Kennedy, or Henry "Scoop" Jackson? They would be spinning in their graves if they knew what was going on today. Zell Miller is another that I miss. The Democrats have even chased away the last decent member of their ranks, Senator Joe Lieberman.
Even Bill Clinton was a moderate by today's standards, he having famously once been chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council. The DLC is the voice of moderation in the party, but has now been reduced to a shell of its former self. The "progressives", most notably Barack Obama now shun all of its positions.
Amazing, isn't it, how far the Democrat Party has fallen?
The Democrats are now the party of the crazy anti-war left, who welcome Moveon.org and Michael Moore into their ranks. Although Barack Obama did not start out as part of this movement, he has certainly embraced it.
In 2004 this party nominated John Kerry, a man who returned from Vietnam to betray his country by his participation in the "Winter Soldier" tribunal/investigation, and the disgraceful group Vietnam Veterans Against the War. His testimony before the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on April 22, 1971 is positively awful.
And today they've nominated a man who sat at Trinity United Church and listened to a racist kook hatemonger for 20 years and only left when it became politically expedient for him to do so. Say what you want about Sarah Palin's Wasilla Bible Church, there's no comparison. So far I've listened to six sermons from that church, and can find nothing remarkable or out of the ordinary. In fact, they're really quite mainstream and I found them inspirational. So there.
It's also the sheer creepyness of the messianic "Obama worship" that is disturbing. I think that conservatives sometimes go too far with Ronald Reagan, such as when during the primaries the GOP candidates where trying to out-Reagan each other. Commentators fall into this trap too, with Heritage even having a "What Would Reagan Do" section on their website.
Obama's Jimmy Carter foreign policy is grating because it's so naive in irresponsible, but I've already written about that at some length.
Mostly, though, it's Obama's past associations, namely those of Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers, that get me. The Tony Rezko stuff, while bad, is the garden-variety corruption. The man should not be the Democrat candidate.
I've covered the Wright stuff, so now let's talk a bit about his association with the unrepentant 60's terrorist William Ayers.
First, former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy reminds us in National Review of just who Ayers is and how he is still lying today about what he and his terrorist Weathermen wanted to do:
In (a) Fox interview...Ayers preposterously claimed that he and his fellow Weather Underground terrorists did not really intend to harm any people -- the fact that no one was killed in their 20 or so bombings was, he said, "by design"; they only wanted to cause property damage. ...
First of all, "that moment in the townhouse" he's talking about happened in 1970. Three of his confederates, including his then girlfriend Diana Oughton, were accidentally killed when the explosive they were building to Ayers specifications (Ayers was a bomb designer) went off during construction. As noted in Ayers' Discover the Networks profile, the explosive had been a nail bomb. Back when Ayers was being more honest about his intentions, he admitted that the purpose of that bomb had been to murder United States soldiers
In fact, Ayers was a founder of the Weatherman terror group and he defined its purpose as carrying out murder.
Now he wants you to think they just wanted to break a few dishes. But in his book Fugitive Days, in which he boasts that he "participated in the bombings of New York City Police Headquarters in 1970, of the Capitol building in 1971, and the Pentagon in 1972," he says of the day that he bombed the Pentagon: "Everything was absolutely ideal. ... The sky was blue. The birds were singing. And the bastards were finally going to get what was coming to them."
And he wasn't singular. As I noted back in April in this article about Obama's motley collection of radical friends, at the Weatherman "War Council" meeting in 1969, Ayers' fellow terrorist and now-wife, Bernadine Dohrn, famously gushed over the barbaric Manson Family murders of the pregnant actress Sharon Tate, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, and three others: "Dig it! First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them. They even shoved a fork into the victim's stomach! Wild!" And as Jonah recalled yesterday, "In appreciation, her Weather Underground cell made a threefingered 'fork' gesture its official salute." They weren't talking about scratching up the wall-paper.
A Weatherman affiliate group which called itself "the Family" colluded with the Black Liberation Army in the 1981 Brinks robbery in which two police officers and an armed guard were murdered. (Obama would like people to believe all this terrorist activity ended in 1969 when he was eight years old. In fact, it continued well into the eighties.) Afterwards, like Ayers and Dohrn, their friend and fellow terrorist Susan Rosenberg became a fugitive.
On November 29, 1984, Rosenberg and a co-conspirator, Timothy Blunk, were finally apprehended in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. At the time, they were actively planning an unspeakable bombing campaign that would have put at risk the lives of countless innocent people. They also possessed twelve assorted guns (including an Uzi 9 mm. semi-automatic rifle and an Ithaca twelve-gauge shotgun with its barrel sawed off), nearly 200 sticks of dynamite, more than 100 sticks of DuPont Trovex (a high explosive), a wide array of blasting agents and caps, batteries, and switches for explosive devices. Arrayed in disguises and offering multiple false identities to arresting officers, the pair also maintained hundreds of false identification documents, including FBI and DEA badges.
When she was sentenced to 58 years' imprisonment in 1985, the only remorse Rosenberg expressed was over the fact that she and Blunk had allowed themselves to be captured rather than fighting it out with the police. Bernadine Dohrn was jailed for contempt when she refused to testify against Rosenberg. Not to worry, though. On his last day in office, the last Democrat president, Bill Clinton, pardoned Rosenberg -- commuting her 58-year sentence to time-served.
These savages wanted to kill massively. That they killed only a few people owes to our luck and their incompetence, not design. They and the Democrat politicians who now befriend and serve them can rationalize that all they want. But those are the facts.
Going to Tom Maguire at Pajamas Media we now look at Obama and Ayers:
Barack Obama and the unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers have worked closely together on education reform since 1995, and possibly since 1987. Obama has obfuscated and minimized this association in his public statements and on his website. Why the cover-up? We don't know, since we aren't sure what is being concealed.
It's becoming known as the Annenberg Challenge cover-up and it's become big news since the McCain campaign highlighted it in a press release late Wednesday.
This is what we know. Bill Ayers was a leader of the Weather Underground, a violent radical student group of the 1960s. His father, Thomas Ayers, was a prominent Chicago business and philanthropic leader who served as an adviser to Mayor Richard J. Daley, father of the current Chicago mayor. Although he is not apologetic about his terrorist past (and had the bad luck to be quoted as saying, in an interview that ran on Sept 11 2001, that "I don't regret setting bombs. ... I feel we didn't do enough."), Bill Ayers has been accepted back into the Chicago political community and has been an informal adviser to the current Mayor Daley on education reform.
But regardless of his cachet in the liberal circles of Chicago politics, presidential candidate Barack Obama has not been eager to explain his own relationship with Bill Ayers. Published reports from February 2008 gave a glimmer of their ties. In 1995 Ayers hosted a fund-raiser for Obama prior to Obama's run for Alice Palmer's seat in the state Senate; they both served on the board of the charitable Woods Fund of Chicago from 1999 to 2002; and Ayers donated $200 to Obama's state Senate campaign. Other researchers and reporters (for example, Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun Times) noted a few joint panel appearances and a favorable review by Obama of a book by Bill Ayers.
But even this was more than Obama was willing to admit. Asked point blank by George Stephanopoulos in the Philadelphia debate preceding the Pennsylvania primary to "explain that relationship for the voters," Obama prevaricated by pretending he scarcely knew Ayers:This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood, who's a professor of English in Chicago, who I know and who I have not received some official endorsement from. He's not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis.
Stanley Kurtz, writing in National Review, explains why
Although the press has been notably lax about pursuing the matter, the full story of the Obama-Ayers relationship calls the truth of Obama's account seriously into question. When Obama made his first run for political office, articles in both the Chicago Defender and the Hyde Park Herald featured among his qualifications his position as chairman of the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a foundation where Ayers was a founder and guiding force. Obama assumed the Annenberg board chairmanship only months before his first run for office, and almost certainly received the job at the behest of Bill Ayers. During Obama's time as Annenberg board chairman, Ayers's own education projects received substantial funding. Indeed, during its first year, the Chicago Annenberg Challenge struggled with significant concerns about possible conflicts of interest. With a writ to aid Chicago's public schools, the Annenberg challenge played a deeply political role in Chicago's education wars, and as Annenberg board chairman, Obama clearly aligned himself with Ayers's radical views on education issues. With Obama heading up the board and Ayers heading up the other key operating body of the Annenberg Challenge, the two would necessarily have had a close working relationship for years (therefore "exchanging ideas on a regular basis"). So when Ayers and Dorhn hosted that kickoff for the first Obama campaign, it was not a random happenstance, but merely further evidence of a close and ongoing political partnership. Of course, all of this clearly contradicts Obama's dismissal of the significance of his relationship with Ayers.
But Obama followers see nothing wrong with this. They're either in denial or don't care.
And what is Ayers doing today? Why, He's a professor in the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, holding the title of Distinguished Professor.
Which tells you everything you need to know about today's left. The left that makes up the anti-war base of the Democrat Party.
Remember, the only reason Obama has distanced himself from Ayers is the same reason why he distanced himself from Wright; not because he disagrees with them, but because he found it politically inconvenient to remain friends with them. And it's not that Obama agreed with everything Ayers or Wright said or did, that's not the point. The issue is that Obama may not have agreed with everything about them, but was ok enough with them to hang around them. He didn't see them as especially objectionable.
There's nothing to equal any of this on any Republican candidate for president since Watergate, and that happened when Nixon was president, so it's not really the same. The left has nothing like this on John McCain (the Keating five stuff having been thoroughly investigated, and to be sure while he showed "poor judgment it's not like associating with an unrepentant terrorist). They can say what they like about Sarah Palin, most all of it's false and anyway it's all penny-ante stuff compared to this.
Silly me, I forgot it was racist to bring up Bill Ayers! Or so says Douglass Daniel of the AP.
Shame on you for nominating Barack Obama.
Don't take it from me that Obama knew full well about Ayers, take it from Mark Halperin of Time Magazine (h/t TWS)
Halperin: "Is it fair to say that [Barack Obama] continued to associate with [Bill Ayers] professionally -- and personally on a casual basis -- even after he learned?"
Robert Gibbs: "He continued to serve on a charitable board and an educational grant board with money supplied by Walter Annenberg, a Republican who was an ambassador under Richard Nixon. Yes."
Halperin: "But with the knowledge of Ayers' past?"
Apparently it's ok to associate with unrepentant ex-terrorists as long as you condemn them.
October 2, 2008
The Vice-Presidential Debate
Without having checked any of the conservative blogs, and having only see the Fox News all-stars and Frank Luntz' panel of undecided voters, here's my quick take on the debate: It was a qualified "Palin won," and here's why:
She won because she went toe-to-toe with one of the most knowledgeable senators in Washington and not only held her own but won a number of the exchanges.
I qualify this for two reasons.
One, what we saw was two completely different styles. Senator Biden came across as the technocrat in command of the facts and who presented them in a solid manner. He spoke in a perfect east coast/urban/senatorial style. He did not commit any gaffs. Biden also spent much more time attacking McCain than Palen did Obama, which played well to his base but I think may have turned people off.
Governor Palin came across as the person next door who is very informed about matters foreign and domestic. She spoke like a Midwesterner who has stayed in the Midwest her entire life, not counting a few short visits or trips elsewhere. She spoke with confidence in herself and her positions. She didn't spend much time going after Obama, which the hard-core conservative in me saw as missed opportunities. On the other hand, when she go on the attack is was with a smile and almost more in the manner of a good-natured jab, which may have played well with undecideds or those just turned off by Washington partisanship.
So to some extent who won depends on which style you like.
Second, the two did not go into this debate as equals. It was expected that Senator Biden would do well. After 35 years in the Senate, after all, he had better have command of the facts. All he had to do was perform as advertised and avoid major gaffs, which he did.
Sarah Palin was another matter. She has famously not been in politics for very long, and so many people on both sides of the political isle have been wondering if she has what it takes. No one really knew what to expect from her. While she gave a good speech at the convention, her performance in interviews since then has been up and down.
In light of this second qualification, we cannot judge them equally. If Mitt Romney had been the VP nominee we'd have an entirely different scorecard. Palin not only held her own and debated as an equal but did better in many of the exchanges. In light of this, and the fact that I liked her style or at least it did not turn me off, I judge her to have been the winner.
As I mentioned at the start, before I wrote this the only news or commentary I saw was the immediate follow up on Fox News, consisting of the all-star panel and Frank Luntz' panel of undecided voters. The all-stars, moderated by Brit Hume said pretty much what I expected them to say.
The real surprise was panel of undecideds. By an overwhelming margin they were impressed with Palin, and so were now disposed to vote for McCain-Palin. Based on this Luntz predicted that the polls would move their way in the next 48 hours.
I hope he's right.
John McCain At His Best
Do you think that Dear Leader, er, Senator Obama, ever gets hostile questions like these? Or could handle them so well?
October 1, 2008
Barack Obama's Problem with the First Amendment
Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourself to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.
This "will require you" business is about as disturbing as the videos made by Obama supporters.
All of which made me think of a number of troubling aspects of Senator Obama and his movement. One that we'll look at today is that Obama seems to have a problem with the First Amendment. Consider these incidents, collected by Andrew McCarthy
Item: When the American Issues Project ran political ads calling attention to Obama's extensive ties to Ayers, the Weatherman terrorist who brags about having bombed the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol, the Obama campaign pressured the Justice Department to launch an absurd criminal prosecution.
Item: When commentator Stanley Kurtz of the Ethics and Public Policy Center was invited on a Chicago radio program to discuss his investigation of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, an "education reform" project in which Obama and Ayers (just "a guy who lives in my neighborhood") collaborated to dole out over $100 million, the Obama campaign issued an Internet action alert. Supporters, armed with the campaign's non-responsive talking points, dutifully flooded the program with calls and emails, protesting Kurtz's appearance and attempting to shout him down.
Item: Both Obama and his running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, have indicated that an Obama administration would use its control of the Justice Department to prosecute its political opponents, including Bush administration officials responsible for the national security policies put in effect after nearly 3000 Americans were killed in the 9/11 attacks.
Item: There is a troubling report that the Justice Department's Civil Rights Section, top officials of which are Obama contributors, has suggested criminal prosecutions against those they anticipate will engage in voter "intimidation" or "oppression" in an election involving a black candidate. (Memo to my former DOJ colleagues: In a system that presumes innocence even after crimes have undeniably been committed, responsible prosecutors don't assume non-suspects will commit future law violations -- especially when doing so necessarily undermines the First Amendment freedoms those prosecutors solemnly swear to uphold.)
As a former federal prosecutor himself, indeed the one who prosecuted the 1993 World Trade Center bombing masterminds, McCarthy knows what he's talking about.
But wait, it gets better
Michelle Malkin links to the American Issues Project, which reports that
Barack Obama is now using local law enforcement officials to carry out his campaign of legal intimidation by assembling a group of high-ranking Missouri police officials and prosecutors - including St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCullough and City of St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce - to identify and target anyone the campaign determines is producing "misleading" political advertisements.
And just what constitutes "misleading"? Everyone runs adds that are called "misleading" by someone.
Time for the necessary qualifier: As with many conservatives, I believe that McCain-Feingold violates the First Amendment. And, as with many conservatives, I opposed the bill and was and am still mad at McCain over it. But it is nothing compared to what Obama is up to.
Allahpundit was writing about Obama's attorney threatening radio stations over the NRA add and observes that
Usually in cases like this, Obama has his cult followers inundate the offending station with irate, semi-coherent phone calls, like they did recently to try to knock hatemongering smear merchant David Freddoso off the air for the crime of committing journalism critical of The One. For whatever reason they've decided that won't work here, so they're opting for Plan B. Straight out of the Democratic handbook Harry Reid used to threaten ABC's broadcast license for showing the "Path to 9/11," here's Obama lawyer Robert Bauer warning station managers not to air the NRA's new anti-Obama "Hunter" ad if they want to stay in the FCC's good graces.
I don't think this is the change I've been waiting for.