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A look at Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, who "is believed to lead a force of about 5,000, backed by around 12,000 short- and medium-range rockets" in southern Lebanon.
On Saturday he issued a statement saying to Israel, "You wanted an open war and we are ready for an open war."More background here:
Whether that was bluster remains to be seen. What's clear is that he is south Lebanon's unquestioned ruler, and answers to no one else in Lebanon.
On the walls of his Beirut headquarters -- at least until they were destroyed in an Israeli air strike on Saturday -- two oversized photographs hint at his real allegiances. The portraits were of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, and predecessor, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
There was not a Lebanese flag in sight.
Hezbollah clearly made a decision in favour of fighting over a political role, and felt confident it was strong enough for the fight it knew it was starting.The deployment - or lack thereof - of the Lebanese Army will be an indicator of "rising tensions" (for want of a better term). Lebanon will have to draw a line somewhere, but I expect they'll remain well north of the action - effectively making Lebanon militarily "neutral" (also for want of a better term) in the conflict. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that some sort of communication on that topic between the governments of Israel and Lebanon has already occurred.
Israel says that's because Iran has been feeding the guerrilla arsenal with beefed-up rockets, even sending 100 members of its elite Revolutionary Guards to help launch them, a claim Nasrallah denied yesterday.
Hezbollah, which was founded in 1982 after Iran's Revolutionary Guards were sent to Lebanon during Israel's invasion of the country, is thought to receive between $10 million to $20 million US a month from Iran, and its fighters regularly go there for training.
But Iranian fighters have not been seen in Lebanon in the last 15 years.
Already the new fighting has deepened divisions in Lebanon, mostly along sectarian lines.
The country's 1.2 million Shiites largely support Hezbollah, while Sunnis, Christians and Druse mostly oppose it.
Lebanon's army of about 70,000 soldiers far outnumbers Hezbollah's estimated 6,000 fighters.
But at least for a few more days (after which international pressure will be brought to bear on the Israelis) Israel will be calling the shots - regardless of bluster from Hezbollah. If they are serious about a long and painful campaign, what they've done so far is simply "shape the battlespace" - creating a battleground on which they plan to win, under conditions as advantageous to their goals as possible.
One thing you can be sure of - Israel has no plan to rebuild Lebanon. Once this conflict is over - or placed on temporary hold - the international community will have an opportunity to achieve some real results in Lebanon. (Or a huge mess to clean up, whichever you prefer.) Iran and Syria will certainly do it if no one else will.
Update: More on shaping the battlespace here. John's "endstate" is accurate in terms of a combat phase - but the ultimate endstate is post-combat, when that international community (UN? Syria/Iran?) rebuilds. That's assuming Israel 1) does intend to eliminate Hezbollah as a force in the region and isn't simply "sending a message" (and as noted above they are operating under an as-yet undetermined time limit here) and 2) doesn't plan on a decades-long occupation of southern Lebanon, a prospect which is only unreasonable if enough nations are willing to take advantage of a real opportunity to secure Lebanon. There is a fragile opportunity here for Lebanon's (and the wider region's) future. I imagine there is an endstate that is agreeable to Israel and Lebanon, and in the best interest of the world. Hopefully it won't be used as a bargaining chip for other issues involving Syria and Iran, who will do their best to obstruct any efforts towards that goal.
Yes, there's also the "total war" possibility, involving years of combat throughout the region, that many think inevitable or even desirable. (Choose your reason. On the right: "Time to kill them all and let God sort them out", on the left: "This proves Bush's foreign policy is a failure", and from the media: "Wow, this stuff sells newspapers!!!!") But we ain't there yet.
Whenever young people are accused of committing heinous crimes, you'll find newspaper interviews with their friends and families detailing what great kids they always were. Here's the one for the Iraq Rape Squad.
What’s been your impression of the troops here you’ve talked to?That from a Stars and Stripes interview with Cher. The rest is at the link - do read it all.
It’s not different than the other ones I’ve talked to. They want to get better to get back to their unit. The main thing that people say is they want to get better. They want to go back. Obviously, I can’t speak for them, but it seems to me that going back to their buddies is more important than almost anything else. Going back to their group. Going back to their unit. Going back to their friends. It happened today and it happened a lot at Walter Reed.
It’s been quoted that you’re against the war in Iraq but for the troops. Explain that. Help me understand that. How can you be against the war but for the troops?
I don’t have to be for this war to support the troops because these men and women do what they think is right. They do what they’re told to do. They do it with a really good heart. They do the best they can. They don’t ask for anything.
They just do what they’re supposed to do. So, my beef is not with them at all. I want to go to Baghdad; I’m really excited about doing that. I don’t want to go in the summer, however. I want to go when it cools down a little bit.…
Is that plan in the works right now?
It’s hard. I was supposed to be brought here by the congressmen, but if I waited for them, I wouldn’t be here. I really came because (Col. Gamble) said come over there. I want to go to Baghdad and this congressman asked me if I wanted to go. I said yes. `
Will you do any performing there?
Just talking and going to meet the guys. I’d like to go outside of the Green Zone. I’d like to go to other places. …
Why would you do that?
It would be really exciting for me to go and see people who don’t expect to see anybody. Also, it seems really — when I say this it’s going to sound dumb — but it seems like the least you could do. People are there. They’re fighting. Even though I don’t believe in the war, if they’re there, they’re fighting, it seems like it would be a good place to be.
Talk about Operation Helmet and what the goal is there.
Robin Williams comes to mind as one of the few other entertainers in this category.
Update: I can confirm this passage as accurate:
They want to get better to get back to their unit. The main thing that people say is they want to get better. They want to go back. Obviously, I can’t speak for them, but it seems to me that going back to their buddies is more important than almost anything else. Going back to their group. Going back to their unit. Going back to their friends. It happened today and it happened a lot at Walter Reed.Not the first time I've heard this. In fact, I hear it first-hand on my all too rare visits to the wounded. But Mrs G, who devotes much more time to the cause along with Maryann at Soldier's Angels Germany can testify to this too.
Our time here is fast coming to an end - and Soldier's Angels Germany could use a few more hands. If you're in the KMC area (although Maryann commutes from quite a bit farther away) visit the web site and offer a hand. You'll be glad you did.
'The War Tapes' offers a non-political, first-hand look at war in Iraq frm the POV of three American soldiers actually involved in the conflict. The film "...currently sits atop of Rotten Tomatoes (a site that rates movies based upon their positive and negative reviews) list of best reviewed movies for 2006." I'm glad to hear that.
But while the film may have succeeded in striking a neutral tone, reviewers can't help but inject their own bigotries and prejudices into their reviews. Case in point, this quote from a WaPo piece:
One of the most horrifying passages occurs mostly off-screen, involving the death of several insurgents, Pink's attempt to film the aftermath and the hypocrisy of a military that trains troops to dehumanize the enemy, then reprimands them when they behave accordingly.Somehow I've missed this "enemy dehumanization" training. Was it in a classroom setting, or just a PowerPoint emailed to the global list? (I confess I often delete larger files without reading them...)
That quote certainly wasn't the point of the review - but that's exactly my point here. This kind of ignorance permeates all too many news stories about the military. Whatever the topic, some line like that one is probably implanted like a subliminal IED somewhere in the text. And that constant barrage is how urban legend (or pure ignorance or outright bias) becomes "conventional wisdom". It's time to wave the bullshit flag on this one.
"The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him."
--- GK Chesterton
When you give a speech, your opening remarks set the tone. You must make your key points early (and often) or risk them being lost on all but the most intent listeners. The same is true for writing - or reporting. Your opening paragraphs establish your story. This may in fact be even more important in writing than in speaking - readers can easily move on to something else without the stigma of appearing rude in public, and if you haven't made your point early you've lost them.
For example, here are the opening paragraphs from US Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad's remarks at Center for Strategic and International Studies:
I will give my bottom line up front. I believe Americans, while remaining tactically patient about Iraq, should be strategically optimistic. Most important, a major change - a tectonic shift - has taken place in the political orientation of the Sunni Arab community. A year ago, Sunni Arabs were outside of the political process and hostile to the United States. They boycotted the January 2005 election and were underrepresented in the transitional national assembly. Today, Sunni Arabs are full participants in the political process, with their representation in the national assembly now proportional to their share of the population. Also, they have largely come to see the United States as an honest broker in helping Iraq's communities come together around a process and a plan to stabilize the country.
Moreover, al Qaeda in Iraq has been significantly weakened during the past year. This resulted, not only from the recent killing of Zarqawi, but also from the capture or killing of a number of other senior leaders and the creation of an environment in which it is more difficult and dangerous for al Qaeda in Iraq.
And here are the opening paragraphs from the Washington Post's coverage of the speech:
America's top envoy in Baghdad yesterday denied that Iraq is now embroiled in a civil war but acknowledged growing concern that sectarian clashes could derail the new government if violence is not brought under control. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad also said the new security crackdown in Baghdad has been a disappointment and is being reviewed to make "adjustments."Those lead paragraphs were so fundamentally at odds in meaning I honestly thought at first they must have been reporting on a different speech. In fact, those Post quotes must have come from ad-libbed remarks, questions and answers following the actual speech, or the reporter's faulty memory of the event, in which the only reference to civil war is in this context: "A precipitous Coalition departure could unleash a sectarian civil war...". It is a shame that the Post reporter couldn't find anything in the Ambassador's prepared remarks worthy of a newspaper headline.
"I do not believe that what's happening could be described . . . as a civil war. But there is significant sectarian violence, there's no question about that," he said in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. ". . . There is a risk that the sectarian conflict will expand, state institutions will be overwhelmed. And that's what needs to be avoided." For now, however, he said the government is holding together, and political parties are committed to trying to prevent a full war.
The full text of the speech, along with some interesting discussion in the comments at Belmont Club are well worth your while to read. The Post story is a complete waste of time. That's unfortunate, because they could have just as easily provided the actual text of the speech too - if they really wanted anyone to know what was said.
Or they could take a cue from Glenn Reynolds, who in a characteristically brief and concise link to Belmont says "A LOOK AT what's going on in Iraq." It's really that simple.
Ilario Pantano's book Warlord : No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy will be one of my travel reads this summer. I can't offer my own review now, but here are a couple from the Amazon page:
"Pantano's story is a tough, gritty, no-holds-barred saga of war by one who knows what it's like to be caught in a crossfire."Judging by those two "thumbs up" you won't find any partisan politics involved - and that suits me just fine.
-- Oliver L. North Host of War Stories on Fox News Channel
"Every tenth page of Warlord should be stamped 'this is not a work of fiction.' Some men run from a fight, some hold their own; Ilario is the rare hero that runs to a fight. He is one tough mother!"
-- James Carville New York Times bestselling author, political strategist, and former U.S. Marine
Time to pack up this computer, we have many emails to answer still with little time. If your email has not been answered yet, please bear with us, we'll answer as soon as possible.
When confronted with savagery one can demonstrate courage or flee. The second option is available for a limited time only. Eventually there will be nowhere to run.
The New York Times:
BAGHDAD, Iraq, July 10 -- Insurgents posted an Internet video on Monday showing the mutilated bodies of two American soldiers abducted in June and found murdered days later during a search by American and Iraqi forces south of Baghdad. A message with the video says the soldiers were killed out of revenge for the rape and murder of an Iraqi girl in March, a crime in which at least six American soldiers are suspects.For what its worth, the video does not depict the murder of the soldiers, who may have been killed in the initial attack. The fact that the actual killings aren't on the video indicates this is likely - insurgents generally don't miss such an opportunity. That there are four insurgents in view in the video implies there weren't enough to carry off the third victim, whose body was found at the scene of the attack.
"We present this as revenge for our sister who was dishonored by a soldier of the same brigade," says a message in Arabic on a title card at the start of the nearly five-minute video. Militants had learned of the crime early on and "decided to take revenge for their sister's honor," the message says, according to a translation by the SITE Institute, which tracks jihadist Internet postings.
The Jawa Report has an edited (but graphic) version of the video, along with still images. You can read the coverage of the story there without seeing the pictures or video - they are at the bottom of the post following several warnings.
The Times says the video (and accompanying statement) "deepens the mystery surrounding the rape and killing of the Iraqi girl and the slayings of her parents and younger sister."
American officials have said that the soldiers implicated in that crime are from the same platoon of the 502nd Infantry as the two abducted soldiers, but investigators have yet to draw a direct link between the events.Note that the Times story isn't questioning whether the accused US soldiers actually committed the rape/murders, just stating that at the time of the killing of these two soldiers (who have no connection to the previous crime beyond being members of the same platoon) the belief was that insurgents committed the earlier crime. In fact, according to published reports, the rape was planned to make it appear just so. Other soldiers, interviewed in the aftermath of the killings depicted in the newly released video, implicated those who (allegedly) committed the earlier rape/murders.
It is questionable whether the soldiers were actually killed out of revenge. Iraqis around Mahmudiya, where the rape and murders took place, believed at the time that the girl and the other three victims were killed by other Iraqis in sectarian violence, according to the mayor of Mahmudiya and American military officials. The mayor said the possible involvement of American soldiers only became apparent on June 30, when the American military announced it had opened an investigation into the crime.
However, there are indications that many of the locals didn't buy the "insurgent" story, although comments from neighbors to the effect of "the victims were Sunni - we didn't think they had been killed by insurgents" were published in news accounts only after the arrest of the US suspects. (One could also interpret the comments as an admission that if the victims were Shiite there would be no questions asked.)
Locals might have captured and killed the two Americans in retaliation for the earlier crime, but I suspect that this claim was an opportunity that presented itself only after the fact. Earlier statements made by the terrorist groups claiming to have kidnapped the Americans made no reference to the rape/murder case, which had not yet been revealed.
All the facts behind the entire story will likely never be known. But this is a fine example of why a recently translated al Qaeda manual titled The Management of Savagery should be required reading for all US troops. In this case insurgents took advantage of events in a manner exactly as described in that document.
- Brutal killings must be explained in a manner that justifies the atrocity
- Public opinion must be turned against the enemy soldiers
- Al Qaeda should be seen as the solution to the chaos/savagery - even as they foment more such atrocities (hence the title)
These efforts are to be directed at the local Muslim population in any conflict. In Iraq, with a majority non-Sunni population, they will achieve limited success. But the even more powerful response is desired from the population of the enemy state - erosion of support for the effort on the home front.
Hence whether the killers of these soldiers knew of the rape/murder at the time or not, the perpetrators of that earlier heinous crime have handed a victory to the enemy, perhaps the most significant propaganda victory of the war.
How to counter attack? Use truth. Insurgents didn't "break" the story of the rape and murders in Iraq, even though they had the perfect opportunity to do so when they first kidnapped (or simply took the corpses of) the US Soldiers. The crime was revealed - just as the actions of the criminals at Abu Ghraib were revealed - when American soldiers acted in the manner of the vast majority of American soldiers and sought justice for the victims of the criminals who had disgraced the uniform. It takes a bit of courage to do that - perhaps a different sort than that needed to face enemy fire - but both are common traits instilled in the vast majority of America's modern warriors, before and after they take the oath.
Don't give rapists, murderers, and torturers - regardless of their manner of dress - the credit for that sort of courage.
Elsewhere on this topic:
Military authorities on Monday disclosed that they had filed capital charges of premeditated rape and murder against four of the five active-duty soldiers accused in an attack on an Iraqi family in March.The final suspect, Steven D. Green, who was discharged from the military for a personality disorder before fellow soldiers identified the alleged perpetrators of the crime, pleaded not guilty last week in Louisville to federal charges of rape and murder.
A 15-year-old Iraqi girl, who was allegedly raped, was killed along with her mother, father and younger sister in the attack in a village near Mahmudiyah, south of Baghdad.
Sgt. Paul E. Cortez, Spec. James P. Barker and Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman are charged with rape, murder, housebreaking, arson and drinking alcohol against military rules, the U.S. military said in a statement. Another soldier, Pfc. Bryan L. Howard, was charged with premeditated murder, rape and obstruction of justice. The four soldiers could face the death penalty if convicted.
The fifth active-duty soldier, Sgt. Anthony W. Yribe, is charged with dereliction of duty and making a false statement for allegedly failing to report the incident. Yribe was not directly involved in the attack, U.S. military spokesmen in Baghdad said.
Reports allege that Green fired all of the shots and was one of two soldiers who directly participated in the rape.
(This entry, originally from July 2005, is reposted for Mudville's Independence Day 2006. The tradition will continue this year also.)
The Ramstein Air Base Freedom Fest
All the sights, sounds, smells, bells, and thrills of a carnival in smalltown USA - in Germany.
Entering. The security guys had orders direct from Don Rumsfeld: shoot anyone who even looked like a reporter.
House of horrors - only thing inside was a wax figure of Dick Durbin. It scared no one, though young children cried.
The vomit comet
The band in the beer tent. They were taking requests, and therefore had to play "Bombs over Baghdad" 47 times.
My kids see the artwork of the European masters up close - yet another reason I'm glad to be here.
"Your mom's afraid to ride on this." I said to the youngest hawk "it's too high."
"I didn't say I was afraid!" she vehemently protested too much, "I said I didn't trust it."
"Ohhhh..." says the young'n, "she doesn't... 'trust it'!" while making the quotation mark gesture with her fingers on the last two words.
Update: More here
(This entry, originally from July 2005, is reposted for Mudville's Independence Day 2006. The tradition will continue this year too.)
Something about darkness makes a carnival different.
These places are brighter in the dark...
And faster, more blurry...
In these places of light and shadow, the world Ray Bradbury saw in his mind's eye seems real, and might be waiting just a few steps into the darkness
Dark places that have a more irresistible pull
Wild things beckon, can you walk on by?
Perhaps, for it's time to light up the sky...
John Adams, in a letter to Abigail, his wife, on the Declaration of Independence:
"But on the other Hand, the Delay of this Declaration to this Time, has many great Advantages attending it.?The Hopes of Reconciliation, which were fondly entertained by Multitudes of honest and well meaning tho weak and mistaken People, have been gradually and at last totally extinguished.?Time has been given for the whole People, maturely to consider the great Question of Independence and to ripen their Judgments, dissipate their Fears, and allure their Hopes, by discussing it in News Papers and Pamphletts, by debating it, in Assemblies, Conventions, Committees of Safety and Inspection, in Town and County Meetings, as well as in private Conversations, so that the whole People in every Colony of the 13, have now adopted it, as their own Act.?This will cement the Union, and avoid those Heats and perhaps Convulsions which might have been occasioned, by such a Declaration Six Months ago.
"But the Day is past. The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. -- I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.
"You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not.?I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States.?Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not."
"...from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more"... The photos above come to you from Germany, near the border with France, at approximately the exact center of Western Europe.
And below you'll find links to July Fourth celebrations from all around the world (with more to come - this post will grow!)
Leanne from intricateart.com brings us Bombs Bursting in Air
The (Vast) Right Wing Conspiracy Jones Beach fireworks show on Long Island, NY.
Tammi's World offers a great front porch view of fireworks in a small town in Northern Illinois
The Bow Ramp brings us the 4th of July in Corvallis (with Quicktime movie of the finale.)
ArmyWifeToddlerMom had a Hometown Fourth
Long Time Gone invites you to Party Time in Seoul Korea
Meryl Yourish spends every Fourth at Fort Lee (these are last year's pics - but she promises this years will be up soon!
Liberty and Lilly brings us The Great Anniversary Festival
More to come, including fireworks in Germany.
This July 4th the troops on the frontline won't see the fireworks they'd like, but will likely experience some fireworks they'd rather not. As you celebrate the freedom they make possible, please join us in sending images of your Fourth of July around the world. We'll post your pictures or link your photoblogging of events celebrating Independence Day in America or elsewhere - just send links or photos to greyhawk at mudvillegazette.com.
Want to send fireworks photos (and more) to the troops at the front? Contact our good friends at Soldier's Angels.
(This entry, originally from July 2004, is reposted for Mudville's Independence Day 2006. The tradition we stared then will continue this year also.)
This project began with a suggestion from Diggs (who's somewhere in the Middle East):
Take some pictures of your town's fireworks and send them to a soldier you know over here from your town. Let them know that back home, people still ooh and ahh when something blows up in the sky, and the kids wait happily in anticipation of the next one.
So this entry is under construction. If you've got Independence Day entries on your blog, please leave a comment below. If you'd like to add a picture to the collection, email it to greyhawk-at-mudvillegazette-dot-com and admin-at-mudvillegazette-dot-com. Please identify the location of the shot.)
(Add your links here - leave comments or e-mail)
More to come...