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Patti Receives National VFW Award
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Award Recognizing "Spirit of Service" to be Bestowed upon Soldiers' Angels Founder Category: General Every summer, thousands of VFW delegates to the national convention converge in a major U.S. city to elect national officers and vote on new governing amendments and organizational bylaws. During this time, recognition will be given to a special woman that has spread her wings in supporting the deployed and wounded service members, their families and veterans.
For founding Soldiers' Angels and other exemplary work that she does to make the world a better place Patti Patton Bader has just been notified that she is the recipient of the VFW 2008 James E. Van Zandt Citizenship Award that will be presented to her at the VFW 109th National Convention in Orlando, Florida on August 20, 2008.
"The VFW Citizenship Award - Awarded for outstanding service contributing to American citizenship. To recognize significant contribution to the spirit of service and dedication to the nation that inspires us to display better citizenship."
"James E. "Jimmy" Van Zandt was Commander-in-Chief of the VFW three times, and a veteran of three wars (World War I, World War II, and the Korean War). He served as an enlisted man in World War I and retired as an admiral following the Korean War. Descended from a pioneer family in Blair County, Pennsylvania, Jimmy worked his way from newsboy to United States Congressman. Recipients of the award named in Van Zandt's honor exemplify his dedication to public service, citizenship, and other admirable qualities."
Other citizens that have had this honor bestowed upon them during the 50 years it's been given out include Ronald Reagan, Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, Hubert Humphrey, John Connally, Sam Rayburn, Jeannie Kirkpatrick, William Bennett, and Barbara Bush.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, with its Auxiliaries, includes 2.3 million members in approximately 8,400 Posts worldwide. Its mission is to "honor the dead by helping the living" through veterans' service, community service, national security and a strong national defense.
The VFW traces its roots back to 1899 when veterans of the Spanish-American War (1898) and the Philippine Insurrection (1899-1902) founded local organizations to secure rights and benefits for their service: Many arrived home wounded or sick. There was no medical care or veterans' pension for them, and they were left to care for themselves.
This is awesome.
Details at A Soldier's Perspective.
Update: Read this too.
Comments on current combat in Iraq
(Mudville ain't my only stomping grounds...)
The soundtrack to the film The Free and the Brave - yours for free. (If you right click and "save target as"). Yes, the "film" is in the left sidebar...;)
This week's Frontline episode (see ad in right side bar) features fellow milblogger J.P. Borda's platoon from Iraq. Highly recommended.
...his [Mike Yon's] book will be out soon, but you can order an advance, signed copy and those will ship out starting today. (He's also got a deal with his publisher where he gets more money for these advance sales, so if you want to help him stay in the field it's not a bad way of doing it.)I'd move quickly on that.
...is a soldier's best friend. (At least, if you believe the LA Times.)
...from Iraq - and you can get an advance copy of his book.
From a recent post...
If there's any hand-wringing at all in the media regarding the lack of coverage from Iraq (the news has been overwhelmingly positive over the past several months, and monthly death tolls for military and civilians have plummeted) it's over the conclusion that Americans are no longer aware of the total body count. (That conclusion is arguable, but I'll save that for another post.)Welcome to that other post.
Here's what Pew had to say about American ignorance of the Iraq body count:
Public awareness of the number of American military fatalities in Iraq has declined sharply since last August. Today, just 28% of adults are able to say that approximately 4,000 Americans have died in the Iraq war. As of March 10, the Department of Defense had confirmed the deaths of 3,974 U.S. military personnel in Iraq.Since the number actually hit 4000 this week - with much media fanfare - I suspect more Americans would get it right if Pew would repeat their survey now. (You'd think they'd have thought of that before they did their survey, but gosh, I guess not...)
In the current poll, more respondents underestimated than overestimated the number of fatalities. A plurality of 35% said that there have been about 3,000 troop deaths, and another 11% said there have been 2,000 deaths. Just under a quarter (23%) said the number of fatalities is closer to 5,000.
The number 4,000 is the correct answer. There's no arguing that point. Nor would I contend that Americans are really paying attention to the Iraq war - most who could tell you the exact body count probably couldn't tell you anything else, even the name of one of the fallen. (Office watercooler experiment: next time you hear someone cite the death toll in Iraq, ask them to name one of the 4,000 and the circumstances of their death. Be polite. If they fail, provide a couple [here's one for a start - here's another] - see how long they're willing to listen.)
It's likely that most who got the wrong answers - and even some who got the right one - did so as a result of a wild guess. But it's also likely that many who answered the question were aware that the number was "three thousand and something" and answered accordingly ("3,000"). While not sure of the exact number they know a bit more about the situation than Pew (and others) would like to give them credit for - given that "3,000" was the most common response I find this a very likely hypothesis.
But many of those who answered "3,000" might have been even more aware of Iraq casualties than the Pew researchers themselves. While 4,000 US troops have died in Iraq, the actual number who have been killed in combat is 3,261. But if they answered based on this figure they didn't read the question in the same way the pollsters wrote it - so shame on them. (I'm not arguing that this is a potentially large percentage - obviously if only 28% can identify the number of American troops who've died in Iraq, few could tell how many died from combat in Iraq.)
Combine the percentage of Americans who chose "3,000" (some of whom were "right") and the percentage who chose "4,000" (some of whom guessed) in Pew's survey and you have 63% - a number that probably at best serves as an "upper bound" to the percentage of Americans who know anything at all about the Iraq war.
Which leaves us with the numbers of folks who were completely out to lunch: "11% said there have been 2,000 deaths. Just under a quarter (23%) said the number of fatalities is closer to 5,000. "
I would expect to see 10% on either fringe of the bell curve, so I find that final figure the most curious of all. What could possibly explain why twice as many Americans significantly over estimate the numbers than under estimate?
And if only 28% can identify the number of American troops who've died in Iraq, and an even smaller number can tell how many were killed in action, how many could tell how many have been wounded there?
Back in 2005, Jack Murtha claimed "Over 15,500 have been seriously injured." He may have pulled his number from an article in the UK's Telegraph from March of that year: " While much was made of the US death toll recently reaching 2,000, little has been said of the 15,000 who have returned home mutilated." Wherever he got his information, he was wrong.
That was three years ago. Today I stumbled across this claim from someone named "Kevin" (comment dated Mar 29, 2008 2:37:15 PM) in comments on a post on an ABC News web site: "Bush murdered more than 4000 US soldiers and crippled another 50000+ US soldiers."
Now no one in their right mind would accept a comment on a blog - even one maintained by ABC News - as a reliable source. But somehow such claims have an odd way of appearing in many such places in a short period of time, and before long you have US Senators and Congressmen making the same claims, and being quoted in "reliable" news sources, and incorporated into "conventional wisdom" that shapes the national dialog on Iraq. Since Americans have no idea how many troops have even died in Iraq it's a fairly easy bluff to run.
Anyhow, since I'd debunked the claims from three years ago I knew where to get actual statistics, and did so - providing them in my own comment, along with links to the sources:
"Bush murdered more than 4000 US soldiers and crippled another 50000+ US soldiers."Oddly enough, my comment has subsequently been deleted. (Yes, I saw it posted, and later it was gone.) That's fine - the topic of the original post wasn't Iraq casualties anyway, and ABC can pick and chose what belongs on their web site and what doesn't.
To date there have been 13,189 (source) troops wounded in Iraq whose wounds were significant enough to prevent their return to duty within 72 hours. By itself that's far short of your 50k crippled claim.
But I suspect (given your use of the term "crippled") you might believe there are 50k+ amputees - this number is even farther from the truth.
"In fact, the number is 719, according to Chuck Scoville, a program manager for the military's joint amputation-care system. Add limb amputations due to accidents, training mistakes, tumors or other noncombat causes and the total is 795 as of Oct. 20, Scoville said." (source)
While "none" would be a better number, I sincerely hope you don't find the actual truth to be disappointing.
Again, what could possibly explain why twice as many Americans significantly over estimate the numbers than under estimate? I surely have no idea...
UPDATE: In her January, 2008 declaration of the failure of the surge, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi almost tells the truth about wounded troops in Iraq:
Nearly 29,000 soldiers have been wounded in Iraq since the war began – 12,918 suffering injuries so serious they were prevented them [sic] from returning to duty.The missing phrase "within 72 hours" is what separates this statement from fact. That omission is non-trivial, as without it the statement implies "forever".
And that's not even true of all the nearly 800 amputees:
Marine who lost a leg in Iraq attains his goal to join his unit for active duty in Afghanistan
Doctors in Iraq had amputated his left leg at mid-thigh. His right leg had been scarred by shrapnel and third-degree burns. Hot metal had singed his left arm and shoulder.
Insurgents were so proud of the ambush that they posted Internet footage of Jones being thrust into the air by the blast.
Most above-knee amputees need an average of 12 to 15 months of rehabilitation, said Jennifer Town, director of the San Diego Naval Medical Center's C5 Program. She oversees an array of specialized care for amputees and other severely injured troops from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
An above-knee amputation makes it harder to use a prosthesis compared to losing a limb below the knee. But that didn't faze Jones, a snowboarder and extreme-sports athlete.
Jones is returning to active duty faster than any amputee ever treated in the C5 Program, said Peter Harsch, the hospital's chief prosthetist.
As he progressed with rehabilitation, Jones realized that he might be able to stay in the Marine Corps. The commanders and his fellow Marines backed his goal.
“They are committed to me and I am committed to them,” Jones said. “I would not be here without them.”
Amputees and other seriously wounded troops are allowed to redeploy to a war zone only if they insist on it, the Pentagon said. They must still be screened for physical and mental fitness.
Jones will be one of just a dozen or so U.S. troops who have returned to the battlefield after becoming amputees during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“If they weren't going back, I wouldn't be interested in deploying,” Jones, 22, said as a technician tightened a screw on one of his three artificial limbs. “It is the least I can do – to be there with my buddies.”
Pofahl said the unit is excited to welcome back Jones, whom he described as extremely positive and friendly.
“It's strange that he believes he hasn't given enough to us. He already gave a leg,” said Pofahl, who has kept in touch with Jones by phone every week or two.
Severely Wounded Troops Find Meaningful Ways to Continue ServingCaptain Dave Rozelle was first.
WASHINGTON, July 13, 2007 – Army Sgt. John Keith likes to finish what he starts. So even after a rocket-propelled grenade tore into the door of his Humvee during his deployment to Iraq, leaving his leg dangling, he wasn’t willing to give up his 15-year military career.
Thanks to a new mentality within the military, and programs to back it up, Keith is among a growing legion of severely wounded troops who are opting to continue their military service. In his case, the former medic is now serving with the Army’s Program Executive Office Soldier to help get state-of-the-art equipment to warfighters quickly as possible.
Sixty soldiers with 30 percent or higher disability ratings have applied to stay on active duty, and all have gotten the green light, said Col. Mary Carstensen, director of the Army’s Wounded Warrior Program.
A contribution from the folks at Walter Reed:
Race of their lives: Walter Reed Soldiers meet life’s, Iditarod challenges
By Sharon Taylor Conway
Stripe Staff Writer
It’s a long race through some of the most extreme terrain known to man and it’s easy to quit.
They run cross steep mountain ranges, intense forests, unmoving rivers and isolated tundra. Man and his team of 16 dogs take on perilous climbs and side hills in long hours of darkness and winds that threaten loss of visibility.
Not unlike the challenges and obstacles our Wounded Warriors face on the road to recovery.
This is the Iditarod.
The 1,049-mile sled-dog race from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska commemorates the historic trail that mushers (dog team drivers) used to carry serum to inoculate Nome residents against a deadly outbreak of diphtheria in 1925.
Walter Reed Chaplain (Capt.) Darrick Gutting, an Alaskan native with a rich family history of Iditarod racing, saw the annual race as an opportunity to prepare Wounded Warriors to face the multiple challenges they face.
The Chaplain led a small group of six servicemembers from the Army, Marine Corps and Navy, and their loved ones on a trek to Alaska for a spiritual fitness retreat centered on the Iditarod, Feb. 28.
The retreat focused on spiritual formation, social reintegration, physical courage and team building through close family relationships for servicemembers recovering from traumatic injury.
“The easy thing would be to quit. I could drive into any of the 18 to 20 checkpoints [along the race trail] and quit,” said Gutting’s uncle Dan Seavey, a four-time veteran of the race who took third place in the very first Iditarod Challenge in 1973.
“Think of the checkpoints as intermediate goals and progress to the finish line. You can quit anywhere you want — it’s very easy to quit,” said Seavey. “Niney-six teams started this year’s race. Seventeen teams scratched this year. Generally, about 20 to 25 percent normally quit.”
Each of the six Wounded Warriors rode with a sled team for the race’s 11-mile ceremonial start.
“The start of the race is completely chaotic: puppies are barking, the crowd cheering,” said Marine Corp 2nd Lt. Andrew Kinnard. “There are all these dog handlers. [These] dogs are built to run. They don’t know that they have to wait [so another team can start]. All they know is that they have to run. It takes three or four people to keep them from running ahead [before they’re supposed to]. It’s like running on a treadmill on the ice,” said Kinnard who rode with rookie musher Martin Koening.
The musher took a turn too sharply and Kinnard took a spill from the sled twice, halfway through the race. Kinnard says he wasn’t afraid at anytime.
The double-leg at the hip amputee didn’t need any assistance to get back into the sled. Kinnard is a 25-year-old Marine platoon commander who has spent nearly two years at Walter Reed recovering from an improvised explosive device blast in the Al Anbar province in Iraq.
Walter Reed occupational therapist Maj. Matthew St. Laurent said Kinnard was not injured from the spill in the race.
“They were aggressive in pursuing. No one held back because of their injuries,” said Seavey.
“It was an incredible experience. Seeing those mountains and that part of the country makes you feel closer to God,” said Navy Petty Officer Third Class Paul Hurley, from Washington, D.C.
“People were cheering the whole way,” he said. “It was a big moral booster.”
“Being in Alaska, you’re out of your element. Walter Reed is like a self-contained bubble. [In Alaska] We would catch some people staring — they’re not used to seeing us [amputees].”
The elder Seavey, whose son Mitch was the 2004 Iditarod winner, said the Soldiers participation was a reminder of the war amidst the excitement of the race.
“It let the rest of us know the war is still going on. The civilian population hasn’t really sacrificed and these fellas have. They personify the fact that there’s a price to be paid,” said Seavey.
Iditarod champion Mitch Seavey helped relate the Iditarod race to the Warriors’ struggles. The champion musher explained training, discipline and teamwork was an interesting parallel.
“Our dogs are very pack-oriented and loyal to each other and me, as their leader. The tougher things get, the more they rely on the pack. As things get more difficult later on in the race, they become more loyal to the musher — the guys seemed to relate to that,” said Mitch.
Gutting explained there is a critical point in training a dog team when, “You realize it’s not you. You can’t say ‘I built this team’. There’s trust there. They let you in — to be a part of the team.
“Patients are allowing us in. That’s the greatest compliment anyone can give me: when someone trusts me enough to let me in, to run the race [to recovery] along with them. Running along with folks, encouraging and empowering one another, that’s what you find in a dog team. Everyone is pulling together.”
“Not one of us is as good and strong as all of us,” said Gutting.
(Seated) Sgt. 1st Class Josh Ferguson of Fort Richardson, Alaska began the ceremonial start of the 2008 Iditarod Race in Anchorage, Alaska with rookie musher Rich Corcoran.
(From left) Juanita Robledo, Iditarod veteran Dan Seavey, Spec. Marco Robledo, WTB, and Shirley Seavey at the ceremonial start.
all pictures courtesy of Marty Cooke
You've probably already heard one or another versions of this recent story from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
Vets for Freedom – a group of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans on a tour of the country — were disinvited from Forest Lake High School by administrators on Monday. These heroes are entitled to an honest answer about the reason for this perverse lack of courtesy.Ironically, Vets for Freedom Executive Director Pete Hegseth is a graduate of the school:
Instead, they’re on the receiving end of a full-press disinformation campaign.
The brouhaha began when principal Steve Massey cancelled the vets’ appearance because of what the school described as about two dozen calls opposing their visit. Some of these apparently mentioned the possibility of protest.
Forest Lake High School principal Steve Massey says he cancelled today’s planned appearance by the Vets for Freedom tour at the school because he doesn’t want politics in the classroom. But the cancellation itself was apparently a response to political pressure.The "politics" were being supplied by those who oppose the group. (Did I mention that VFF is comprised primarily of combat veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan?)
Pete Hegseth, a Forest Lake High grad and the director of Vets for Freedom, told the Star Tribune that he had talked with school officials during the planning process, and made clear that presenters would not make political statements. “It’s Iraq and Afghan veterans talking about what they saw and what they did there, and about what it means to put on the uniform of your country,” he said.
Massey said that the school had gotten several phone calls from parents and others, “some of whom indicated that they may stage a protest if the event took place,” according to the Star Tribune.
If you'd like to see what the kids missed, check out this appearance by David Bellavia - an incredible presentation of a compelling story, and one in which political issues are avoided - until he takes questions from his audience.
I've experienced the internet version of this treatment too many times to count. I write a post about Iraq, and an early comment will accuse me of being a Republican! (Often some other term for "Republican" is applied - "wingnut" being common.) If I bother to respond that I'm not writing as a political party member but as a guy who has been (twice now, and could return sometime in the future) to Iraq I am then accused of claiming that only people who've been to Iraq have the right to talk about it. That accusation is absurd - but the implications of the fact that I have the power to delete comments at will but let theirs stand seems never to cross their minds.
Anyhow, when did victory become a distinct and identifiable Republican characteristic? I'm not saying it is - but there are certainly a lot of non-Republicans out there who believe it without question or hesitation.
More later - hence "prologue".
I've been waiting to post about the conference, (that I was honored to attend) for other angels to blog so I could link them. Then the buzz and blur of daily life stepped in and deprived me of the time I needed to gather my thoughts and post.
The conference was a gathering of 150 Soldiers' Angels and supporters. We participated in workshops, exchanged ideas with team leaders, acknowledged angels with awards, and got to met each other, some for the first time.
It was quite humbling to be among so many who work relentlessly in support of our troops.
The highlight of my trip, and there are many, was to see some old friends and to meet new ones. One of them my "battle buddy", who I was blessed to work with while we were stationed in Germany, MaryAnn Phillips . As the lynchpin of Soldier's Angels Germany she visits the wounded, holds their hands and is in contstant contact with families stateside.
She was interviewed at the conference by radio show host Bob Calvert from "Talking with Heroes"
News Blaze has more here about MaryAnn
Sorry MaryAnn I know how you hate to see and hear yourself talk;P
She is a Godsend to so many families who are so far from their loved ones in need, and although she hates the spotlight, she deserves it.
I got to see Chuck Ziegenfuss and his lovely wife, Carren again. What an awesome pair. Takes a strong woman to stand behind (beside) a strong (willed) man.
For those who don't know, Chuck was injured in Iraq in 2005, and I was the first to visit him at Landsthul, and when my angel duties really began. It was good to see him recovering well, and that he hasn't lost his sense of humor.
Chuck has become the inspiration behind Valour-IT, a program I hold dear to my heart. He suffered serious hand wounds when injured. He had a cast at the conference from yet another surgery for this injury.
You can listen to Chuck Z tell of his experience here in Operation Price of Freedom.
This brings me to angel Beth, also know as Fuzzybear Lioness whose dedication to Valour-IT has helped make it the success it is today. It was good to see her again.
Due to a mishap in room reservations I got to meet and room with angel Shelle Michaels, who I had been linking for a while but had never met. We have alot in common. ;) Mishaps can be a good thing.
It was nice to meet up again with angels, Laurie and Gretta Gretta remembered me but did not know who I was til now, that's ok, I was sort of incognito at the last meeting, but hey NZ Bear was there and he didn't even remember meeting me and we saw the President together. I forgive you NZ.
just giving you a hard time
I got to meet for the first time Blake Powers - a.k.a Laughing Wolf of Blackfive and played a little Texas Poker (for chips - no real money) with The Patriot Guard Riders. I did pretty good, I have a great poker face. (The Chaplin was a hoot - gambling is against his religion but since it wasn't real poker, no harm done :) The Patriot Guards are unwavering in the support and honor they render to families of the fallen. It was truly an honor to meet them.
There were many angel supporters there, one being Brigadier General (Retired) James Combs, a 41 year veteran of the US military. I got a quick introduction but unfortunately, did not really get a chance to talk to him much. He did speak at the conference. He was very appreciative of the support given to his soldiers over the past three years.
His interview can be found here.
One of my biggest highlights was to see Gold star Dad, Robert Stokley again. He's one of the most graceful men you'll ever meet. We discussed a project he's working on in honor of his son. Definitely a worthwhile effort. (And thank you Robert for being our protective escort from the conference thru the dark streets to our hotel.)
Newsblaze did an article on him as well and Bob of Talking With Heroes radio also interviewed him.
I also have to mention the opening of the Soldiers' Angels museum. It was just beautiful and there were so many things on display, thank you letters from the front, photos, flags flown at different bases, awards SA has received and other mementos. To say it was amazing would be an understatement. The video does not do it justice.
The Soldiers' Angels Museum Narrated by Soldier's Angel Holly Aho
(Takes a moment to load.)
Greta has some pictures from the conference and the Soldiers Angels museum here. I hope to find more. (My camera was on the fritz.)
And last but not least my favorite angel(s) for whom if it weren't for, I would not be writing about this.
Patti Patton Bader and her husband Jeff. What an awesome pair. Takes a strong man to stand behind (beside) a strong (willed) woman.
This brings me to the end of the conference review but brings me to America's Favorite Mom. Patti would give you the clothes of her back, literally. Last time I saw her at the MilBlog Conference, I complimented her outfit and the next day she wrapped it up in a bag and gave it to me (we're the same size) I still have it and wear it often. Amazing. Next to my own mother and mother-n-law, she is my favorite mom.
Which is why I voted for her as America's favorite mom, and yoiu can too. Here's Shelle:
First of all I would like to personally thank each and every one of you for truly being Angels on Earth. All Soldiers Angels contribute to a cause that truly makes a difference for the better of those heroes who volunteer to defend our freedoms. Although Patti is the founder and our public persona, without you, none of this would happen.
Our Soldiers Angels chain is only as strong as each link in it and we are one strong organization with over 180,000 volunteers. Together combined we walk the walk and accomplish great deeds of kindness.
Each and every Angel shares in any and all awards bestowed upon Patti and all of you are America's Favorite Moms and Dads. From my heart thank you for your efforts.
Let's pull together and win this contest in a big way. There's a chance if we impress the judges that Patti could be on National T.V. to publicize and promote Soldiers Angels. There's only 8 days left and you can vote everyday!!!
Vote once a day in the "Most Inspiring Mom Online Contest". Contest ends March 31, 2008 . Click here for more information. You need to register or log in to vote!
Soldiers' Angels is an all volunteer non-profit 501(c) (3) organization whose mission is to support the brave men and women deployed away from family and friends in support of the War on Terror in Iraq, Afghanistan and wherever they raise the flag of the United States of America. In the time honored tradition of civilian support of American soldiers, Soldiers' Angels sponsors programs which provide support to American soldiers and their families.
Soldiers' Angels' programs include first responder packs, support, and laptop computers to wounded soldiers who are receiving treatment at American military hospitals; care packages, letters, and support to deployed soldiers; armored blankets to military ambulances; items shipped for deployed soldiers to give children in the war zone; and memorial trees for the families of soldiers who have died in the service of their country.
Donations to offset costs for events as such may be mailed to:
1792 East Washington Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91104
For more information about Soldiers' Angels, please view our website: www.soldiersangels.org or (615) 676-0239.
"May no soldier go unloved, May no soldier walk alone, May no solder be forgotten, Until they all come home." ~ Soldiers' Angels mission as quoted by founder Patti Patton - Bader.
...but will anybody listen? And if so, why?
On the realtive difficulty of the upcoming war:
The man who headed the U.S. Air Force during Desert Storm will tell you, over black coffee in a Lake Oswego cafe, that the potential attack on Iraq is "the fight you dream about, a wonderful kind of war to have."On taking Baghdad:
"Everybody's going to get decorated out of this thing," says Tony McPeak, a four-star general who retired to Oregon in 1995. "Everyone comes home. It has a lot of appeal to me."
"If we go in there and occupy the place for 50 years, which is my prediction, we'll have to rebuild it."On his personal reservations regarding the war, and how they could be eliminated:
Close combat in Baghdad would be stupid, he says, despite what Army generals may advocate.
And yet McPeak will tell you, before the next coffee refill, that President Bush has botched the crucial process of building a coalition, of enlisting the United Nations and of rebuilding Afghanistan as a model of reconstruction. McPeak, who served four years on the Joint Chiefs of Staff advising Bush's father and then President Clinton, says the younger Bush should publicly admit personal failure and start the diplomacy over.On why he didn't like the Bush administration:
"The world would breathe a sigh of relief, and we'd go back and do it right," says McPeak, 67, brown eyes flickering from a weathered face. "I mean, the world would fall in love with this guy. It's not that hard to fix."
McPeak and some other retired generals caused controversy by abandoning their officers-corps' neutrality during the last presidential campaign and supporting Bush, an endorsement he regrets. Aside from Powell, whom he still respects, McPeak dismisses members of the current administration as ideologues who favor big business over the middle class, boost the federal deficit and damage the environment.
On how long we'd be in Iraq:
"We'll be there a century, hopefully. If it works right".Clarification on taking Baghdad:
Is there an alternative to urban warfare in Baghdad?On leadership:
We could put Baghdad under siege and sit on the outside.
Would you really think so three years down the road, with stories from Baghdad of people dead and emaciated kids?
Yes. The impact on world opinion is an argument against that approach. It's an argument for finishing this thing quickly. But, nevertheless, it's a decision we can make. And we've already made decisions that said, 'World opinion's not very important to us.'
I never made a plan that relied on the courage of my own troops. You hope that -- and they generally will -- fight bravely. Your plan ought to be predicated on more realistic assumptions.
For all but the resolutely sightless, it is now obvious that air combat determines the outcome in modern war. In the early hours of March 20, the salvo aimed at [Saddam Hussein] himself was preceded by nearly a month of air attacks in and around Baghdad -- to say nothing of a decade or so of bombing in connection with enforcing the no-fly zones. <...> Because of this aerial preparation, Iraq's air defenses stayed mostly silent and our aircraft were able to begin reducing opposing ground forces immediately. Army and Marine Corps formations, judged by "experts" to be much too small for the job, captured Baghdad in just 22 days, and with comparatively light casualties. Not only did coalition air power systematically disorganize Iraq's ground forces, it did so at small cost.
In 2004, as a military advisor to John Kerry, McPeak wanted to double the number of troops in Iraq:
"We need to about double the size” of our contingent of forces in Iraq.If Kerry agreed, he certainly didn't do so in public.
McPeak maintained that position in 2006 (a personal record for consistency?)
Gen. Merrill McPeak, retired Air Force chief of staff, says if anything the number of US troops there needs to be doubled - to around the figure Shinseki predicted would be needed three years ago - if Iraq is to become truly secure and democratic.(I guess that depends on what your definition of "beginning" is...)
General McPeak lost friends when he started speaking out against the war several years ago. Now, he says, "everybody is sending me e-mails and cards and letters saying 'I wish I had seen it the way you saw it from the beginning,' and I've gotten some of those friends back."
Which brings us to the present day.
"As a combat pilot and Air Force chief during Desert Storm, lives depended on the judgments I made," McPeak says in the spot. "And judgment is what we need from our next commander in chief. Barack Obama opposed this war in Iraq from the start, showing insight and courage others did not."
One could argue that an equally valid statement could be made on behalf of Natalie Mains - but not for Merrill McPeak.
[Iraq is] "the fight you dream about, a wonderful kind of war to have... Everybody's going to get decorated out of this thing," says Tony McPeak, a four-star general who retired to Oregon in 1995. "Everyone comes home. It has a lot of appeal to me."Merrill McPeak on Iraq before the invasion.
Additional discussion later.
Quiz time: Name two current milblogs from deployed troops in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Did you pass?
Noah Shachtman: "I think the golden age of soldier blogs, you know, soldier-on-the-front-line-blogs, is over, unfortunately."
If that's true, the US Air Force will certainly breath a sigh of relief:
Nearly three years after the Army took notice of Soldier blogs and began insisting the writers register with their chain of command, the Air Force is going in a different direction altogether: restricting which blogs its airmen may read.
But while the Army -- which now has regs requiring security reviews of blogs before publishing -- acted to keep sensitive information from getting out, the Air Force's move appears driven by a desire to choose which news sources are legitimate.
"Basically," said Maj. Henry Schott of the command's plans and requirements section, "if it's a place like The New York Times, an established, reputable media outlet, then it's fairly cut and dry that that's a good source, an authorized source."
However, it looks like Air Force members (along with everyone else) might have had a hard time finding any news about Iraq lately:
According to the News Content Index conducted by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, the percentage of news stories devoted to the war has sharply declined since last year, dropping from an average of 15% of the newshole in July to just 3% in February.
There's been a bit of coverage here and there to that story that Iraq is no longer a story, but few people have noticed the actual focus of that coverage - something that's obvious even in the headline used at Pew: "Awareness of Iraq War Fatalities Plummets"
Did you notice it? If there's any hand-wringing at all in the media regarding the lack of coverage from Iraq (the news has been overwhelmingly positive over the past several months, and monthly death tolls for military and civilians have plummeted) it's over the conclusion that Americans are no longer aware of the total body count. (That conclusion is arguable, but I'll save that for another post.) While that statistic is important, from reading the survey itself and the subsequent coverage one is left with the impression that nothing else matters.
This week marks the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq, but you might not have seen much about it on TV recently. Just 3% of the news in February was dedicated to the war and fewer than one in three Americans know how many American troops have died in Iraq. Believe it or not, a study just released by the Pew Research Center shows that press coverage of the war is at the lowest point since the war began.
What should be obvious from the focus of coverage of this story is the revealed (though tacit) acknowledgement by certain sectors of the media and other fundamentally anti-Iraq groups (no, I don't mean IAVA) of something they would otherwise vehemently deny - something that was apparent to everyone else who was paying attention to Iraq from the get-go: the only thing Americans need to know about Iraq is the death toll, the death toll, and the death toll.
Pro or con, there's nothing new about that debate. But surprise! - Iraq returns to the headlines today:
BAGHDAD - The overall U.S. death toll in Iraq rose to 4,000 after four soldiers were killed in a roadside bombing in Baghdad, a grim milestone that is likely to fuel calls for the withdrawal of American forces as the war enters its sixth year.
So, milbloggers are suppressed, and the media presents a selective and narrow view of Iraq - stories to that effect have been told for years now. Meanwhile, milbloggers continue to blog in Iraq and Afghanistan, and as I've noted before, most people continue to ignore them.
You know the funny thing about the whole "Pentagon Silencing MilBlogs" thing? Nobody actually reads blogs from deployed troops. Check the site meters for any of them and you'll see what I mean. Even funnier, when all the brou-hah-ha was raging, no one, and by that I mean no one, linked or quoted any of them on the issue. (This is because no one actually reads them, including those who were the most outraged about them being "shut down".) The Mrs had a nice collection on the Dawn Patrol the other day, for the 4 or 5 folks who might actually give a damn.
I'll add my sincere thanks to the one-in-a-million Americans to whom this doesn't apply. I suppose some might interpret my comment above as a complaint, but while I would prefer more people to read milblogs, I'm long past the point of expecting that to happen anytime soon. Readership of this site (and I suspect others like it) ebbs and flows for various reasons, some of which are beyond my control. During the earliest days of full combat activity in the surge - as death tolls in Iraq spiked - I speculated on one of those reasons:
I suspect my commitment to victory in the war on terror (to the point that I'm actually participating in it when I could have retired to a safer life) and annoyance with those who oppose that goal have a lot of die-hard Democrats assuming I'm a Republican, and perhaps an increasing number of Republicans avoiding my site in their desperate search for other things to talk about.
Both groups wish it [the war] would go away. As a guy just interested in presenting facts, I believe my efforts are less and less appealing to the average American every day."
Again, my thanks to those to whom that sentiment does not apply. I'm fully aware of other reasons for rises and falls in readership, a significant one being my own ability to post things routinely, something that I (and most other bloggers who are deployed with a much more important mission on their hands) find exceptionally difficult in that environment. I accept that, I expect that, but I suspect that other deployed troops who run the risk (be it minimal or otherwise) of irritating their superiors and find (or make, at the expense of sleep or an email/phone call home) the time to get something up on their blog might be more prone to not bother any more once they discover that nobody outside their immediate family cares to spend the 10 minutes to read what they've written. Are there fewer milblogs operating from Iraq and Afghanistan now than there were a few years ago? Yes - but I think the fault for that does not lie entirely with Army policy.
Let's return to those halcyon days of yore - this is an August, 2005 episode of The Daily Show:
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
Okay - upfront, that's cool. Milblogs in Wired Magazine and on the Daily Show, I was glad to see it. But several aspects of this stand out for me today as illustrating my point above. One - the acknowledgement that milbloggers were better than the media in presenting the war to a reading public; two, the discussion of whether the Army could clamp down on those milblogs; and three, Stewart and Hockenberry pretending that they read them. Stewart attempts to recall the name of a blog he's claiming to read, and before he can even describe it Hockenberry provides that name - except he gets it wrong. At least at the time it was something new and different - since then it seems I get email questions from reporters every couple of months asking me the exact same questions Hockenberry did back in early 2005. (Why did you start your blog? Can you give me the name of some bloggers who've been crushed by the Army? What do you think of these OPSEC rules?)
Ahhh, the good old days. Note also that two great blogs that are the focus of the discussion - 2slick's Forum and 365 and a Wake Up (a wake up call being something else entirely) have both joined the ranks of the Ghost Battalions, as so many have before and since. Chris Missick, by the way, can be found here. My good friends at Blackfive, of course, are going strong.
Why did I start my blog? I started it five years ago this month - just before the invasion of Iraq, because I wanted a place to record my own thoughts on whatever might develop, and because I wanted to counter what I anticipated as hostile coverage of our efforts from other sources who would claim to be speaking for the troops. I can't speak for the troops, but I can be the troop who speaks for himself.
Others were on the same wavelength, a few before me and many after. By November 2003 there were enough that I thought it might be a good idea to link together in an informal ring - no rules, no regulations, just a way of stating that each of us was one voice among many others. An additional consideration that I'd had in creating that group in the first place was the belief that milbloggers would come and go, and that each in their turn would be contributing something to a whole that would in many ways exceed the total of it's parts. In short order that "whole" grew to a size that no one could capture in it's entirety.
So March makes 5 years of Mudville, but I missed another anniversary earlier this month. However, I just checked with the Mrs and she couldn't even tell me the month or year of the event either, so I'm safe in that regard.
On March 7th, 2005, The Dawn Patrol made its debut here.
It evolved quickly from it's initial format..
I've decided that the Dawn Patrol should be of our MilBlogs and not of the MSM. I'd rather promote Free Speech from those who help make it possible than those who take it for granted. I know a lot of you liked the Dawn Patrol before, but let's give this a whirl.
...but that limitation didn't accomplish what we really wanted either.
Mrs G had rather quietly been running the MilBlogs Ring since shortly after I formed it in November, 2003. As I said, it grew beyond anyone's ability to capture its totality, and certainly beyond the point of my ability to run it and this blog while continuing a military career. But one thing we both agreed was desirable was a source that would capture as much of that running narrative as was humanly possible, against the backdrop of the story being woven by the media and other voices raised for or against our efforts in the war on terror. The Dawn Patrol was that something. By early June, 2005, the format was established and links were presented without any additional commentary from this site. By the end of summer each entry began with this simple mission statement: Welcome to the Dawn Patrol, our daily roundup of information on the War on Terror and other topics - from the MilBlogs, other blogs, and the mainstream media.
And the rest, as they say, is history. In fact, it may be the most comprehensive history available anywhere on Iraq and the war on terror. On any given day the Dawn Patrol contains links to more information than anyone could possibly consume, but we saw each entry in the series as a menu from which a reader could select whatever might strike their fancy. For three years I've been in awe (and sometimes frustration) with the amount of time and energy Mrs G has dedicated to the task of compiling an ongoing chronology of coverage of the war on terror from multiple perspectives as that history was made. Particularly in an age of RSS feeds such an effort seemed perhaps not worth the effort. But three years later...
Like the MilBlogs Ring itself, the summation of the effort now far exceeds the total of it's parts. The three-year archive of the Dawn Patrol (nearly 600 individual entries - she took some days off...) stands as a unique historical collection of the parallel story of Iraq, Afghanistan, and America - from the (often conflicting) viewpoint of those who lived it and those who reported it.
So this morning I deleted all but the most recent entries in the series from the archives of The Mudville Gazette.
If you think it's tragic that such an archive should be lost forever, let me assure you I agree. But I also think that archive shouldn't be scattered throughout the 5-year archives of this site, and deserve to be compiled in their own right. And so we've created a new site: The Dawn Patrol Archives. New entries will continue to be posted here at Mudville, but moved to the historical archive a few days later. Those who might be interested in finding information on the past years of the war on terror, or a comprehensive chronology of milblogger's experiences therein might find it a useful resource.
As those who are interested in the current and future will always find something new right here.
Thank for sticking around to the end of my rather lengthy post.
Oh, by the way, this:
Hour 18 of a 24-hour mission. Well, two missions really. We had spent the day pulling outer security for General Petraeus himself, while he strolled down Anu al-Verona with no body armor, surrounded by a camo entourage and media parade Patton's ghost would respect, to buy some falafels. I didn't get to meet the Big Man, but I did get a photo of the aforementioned circus from about 100 meters away, with all three rings in action. Trust me, I didn't want to be any closer. No matter how many gorgeous aides there were in his posse who would have been dutifully unimpressed with a too-cocky, too-skinny scout platoon leader who can't get rid of the black bags entrenched underneath his eyes, had drank 10 bottles of water in the past eight hours to fight off sunstroke, and hadn't showered in two weeks.
...is from Kaboom - a milblogger currently in Iraq. Yes, they do write them like that anymore.
And if you hurry you can meet this guy before he leaves Afghanistan.
(Via The Dawn Patrol, of course - where you'll find more every day.)
What? Mudville is FIVE YEARS OLD this month? Yes - more reminiscing to follow, though I expect there will be plenty of new things to discuss, too, over the next five years.
Hope you'll come back soon.
Update: Heh - I beat Mrs G to this one - here's Major John's latest from Iraq.
The following is my translation of an Article in Iraq's Azaman March 14 2008:
Government to create 800,000 new jobs
By Hadeel al-Jawari
The government’s announcement that it was creating 800,000 new jobs is a sigh of relief amid nearly a five-year-succession of bad news, Iraqi economists said. They said the jobs if distributed fairly and equitable should alleviate rampant unemployment which they partly blamed for fueling the current cycle of violence in the country.
“The allocation of 800,000 jobs will certainly reduce the current high jobless rates substantially if they are distributed in an equitable and natural manner,” said Isam al-Mahawili. The government said it was keen to slash unemployment levels in the country and use soaring oil revenues to put the nation to work. Mahawili, one of Iraq’s top economists, said the government took the right decision, adding that reducing unemployment was “one of the most effective ways to revive the economy.” But he warned that ambitious plans like these had little chance of success unless the government reinstated stability and peace first.
Ali Khalifa, a Baghdad University economist, described the move as the right step in the path of combating violence. “Most of the bloody and violent events we see can be attributed to skyrocketing jobless rates in the country. “Accommodating the jobless will contribute to stability and lead to economic prosperity,” he said. Khalifa urged the government to encourage private sector entrepreneurs to re-open their factories most of which have been idle since the 2003 U.S. invasion.
Iraqi Air force is averaging 300 sorties a week
General ROBERT R. ALLARDICE, who is in charge of re-developing and advancing the Iraqi air force, announced that by the end of 2007 the Iraqi air force was able to carry out 300 sorties per week. This means that substantial and significant developments have been achieved in revitalizing the Air force.
General Allardice added, in a closed security TV interview with the DOD on Monday the 17th, the Iraqi Air force academy has graduated its first pilot group and trainers. The Iraqi air force has transformed it self from a dream on paper to a real legitimate weapon with its duty to serve and protect Iraq. The general affirmed that the Iraqi air force is being trained to combat terrorism and insurgency. He pointed out that since the decline of violence, many have returned to their jobs in the air force. US Air force commanders are working hard to help their Iraqi counter parts.
The mission of the multi national forces is to build and Iraqi Air Force capable of protecting Iraq, we have opened an Air Force Academy to train pilots and specialist in Air operations, this mission will take s few years.
Arbil - Voices of Iraq
Monday , 17 /03 /2008 Time 11:52:06
5 minutes' silence observed in Arbil over Halabja victims
Arbil, Mar 16, (VOI) – Life came to a standstill for five minutes in the city of Arbil, capital of the Iraqi Kurdistan region, on Sunday over the 1988 chemical attacks on Halaja, where more than 5,000 people were killed.
"This five-minute mourning is observed in recognition of the people who gave their souls for the sake of the anti-Kurds persecution perpetrated by the former regime on that day 20 years ago," a media figure, Hamza Hamed, told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI).
Halabja, a city 83 km southeast of Sulaimaniya province, came on March 18, 1988 under chemical attacks by the former Iraqi regime, resulting in killing more than five-thousand Kurds and injuring more than 10,000 others.
In spite of the recent escalation in violence in Iraq it remains much more secure than it was in late summer, early fall of 2007. The terrorists in Iraq have escalated their attacks as we approach the fifth anniversary of operation Iraqi freedom. Our forces and the Iraqi forces (now much better trained) and the awakening committees are much better prepared to deal with these terrorist and many of them are being turned in and captured. A number of arrests have been made for the bombing in Karbala of the 16th and Iraqi security forces have set up a special task force to find the killers of the Chaldean bishop of Mosul. There has been much condemnation from Muslim, Christian clergy as well as political leaders. Iraqis commemorated the dark day of the gassing of the Kurds by Saddam’s regime on the 17th of March twenty years ago. All provinces in Iraq observed this day of national mourning. Iraqi refugees who left the country when Saddam was in power are beginning to return to Wasit province south east of Baghdad.
As the fifth anniversary of operation Iraqi freedom approaches, we see Iraqis living in a country ruled by law and governed by politicians elected by Iraqis. Many Iraqis express strong hope for their future and the future of their children. Much has been achieved over the last short five years thanks to the hard work of our men and women who have served and who are serving in Iraq and the Iraqis who are stubbornly holding on to their new found freedom.
Barack Obama has upset Cindy Sheehan:
Senator Obama also denounced any remarks that "disparaged our great country." Hmm…does he denounce remarks that his own wife made about being proud to be an American for the first time in her "adult life?" I wish I could be proud of a nation that tortures people and imprisons them without basic legal rights. I wish I could be proud of a nation that has a sitting president that has been responsible for killing almost a million innocent Iraqi people in a misadventure that was based on lies and is for profit. I wish I could be proud of a nation that rapes its poor people to feed the already rich in a demented reverse Robin Hood affect. I wish I could be proud of a country where over a million children are homeless and hungry every night. I wish I could be proud of a nation that left our black brothers and sisters hanging off of their roofs after Katrina. The list can go on and on. Senator Obama needs to denounce me, because the policies of our government do not make me proud and oftentimes endlessly disgust me.Gosh, sometimes a guy just can't win.
Here's the definition of trend from Merriam-Webster online: "to show a tendency"
Seems pretty simple to me. I think we can expand it thusly: Something that increases with time demonstrates an upward trend, something that decreases over time demonstrates a downward trend.
To double check myself on this, I checked the definition of trend at dictionary.com: "to have a general tendency, as events, conditions, etc."
Hopefully in spite of the different wording between the two sources there's no complexity to this issue. I checked a second definition because I wanted to be meticulous, but I think both definitions and my expansion are accurate.
Coincidentally, meticulous is today's "word of the day" at Merriam-Webster online: meticulous • \muh-TIK-yuh-lus\ • adjective: marked by extreme or excessive care in the consideration or treatment of details
Hmmm... perhaps I used the wrong term - I don't think the 30 seconds spent checking a second source was "extreme" or "excessive". But I digress...
Here are graphs of Iraqi civilian and US military casualties in Iraq, from the Brookings Institute's Iraq Index
I believe I can spot some trends in these charts. Overall I see distinct upward trends through 2006 (and in the example of US military deaths continuing through June, 2007), where a peak seems to be reached beyond which the trend is downward. One can argue causes for these forever, but I don't think one can effectively argue the existence of the trends.
Unless one writes for Reuters:
Attacks across Iraq have fallen by 60 percent since last June, when extra troops were fully deployed. There has been a fall in violence since January but U.S. commanders in Iraq say this does not represent a trend.I should point out that Reuters is talking about "attacks" here - and while they may be down 60% the fatalities (as depicted in the above graphs) are down considerably more. Regardless, I believe I see a trend.
To be fair, the anonymous Reuters "reporter" (the story is sourced to the agency's "Baghdad newsroom") is not claiming there is no trend where a trend is obvious, she or he is merely claiming that "U.S. commanders in Iraq" are claiming this. However, the lack of an actual quote from a named source makes me think the Reuters "Baghdad newsroom" can't be accused of being meticulous (at the least) based on this account. (See a similar story here.)
In another remarkable coincidence, today's "word of the day" at dictionary.com is chagrin: chagrin \shuh-GRIN\, noun: Acute vexation, annoyance, or embarrassment, arising from disappointment or failure. transitive verb: To unsettle or vex by disappointment or humiliation; to mortify.
Allow me to use it in a sentence: "Reuters will experience absolutely no chagrin over this episode."
I entered the word "trend" in Mudville's search window to see what would come up. (Okay, full disclosure: I knew exactly what I was looking for). In an amazing coincidence, I found this story from mid October of 2007 (did you notice I put mid October of 2007 in bold face? That's because I want you to remember that this is from mid October of 2007 for just a little while):
CHARLES GIBSON, ABC ANCHOR: The U.S. military reports the fourth straight month of decline in troop deaths, 66 American troops died in September, each a terrible tragedy for a family, but the number far less than those who died in August. And the Iraqi government says civilian deaths across Iraq fell by half last month.And there you have it - by definition some things are "news" and some things are "not". So for a final search for trends let's return from mid-October to current "news":
KURTZ: Joining us now to put this into perspective, Robin Wright, who covers national security for The Washington Post. And CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.
Robin Wright, should that decline in Iraq casualties have gotten more media attention?
ROBIN WRIGHT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Not necessarily. The fact is we're at the beginning of a trend -- and it's not even sure that it is a trend yet. There is also an enormous dispute over how to count the numbers. There are different kinds of deaths in Iraq.
KURTZ: Barbara Starr, CNN did mostly quick reads by anchors of these numbers. There was a taped report on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT." Do you think this story deserved more attention? We don't know whether it is a trend or not but those are intriguing numbers.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: But that's the problem, we don't know whether it is a trend about specifically the decline in the number of U.S. troops being killed in Iraq. This is not enduring progress.
KURTZ: But let's say that the figures had shown that casualties were going up for U.S. soldiers and going up for Iraqi civilians. I think that would have made some front pages.
STARR: Oh, I think inevitably it would have. I mean, that's certainly -- that, by any definition, is news.
According to the News Content Index conducted by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, the percentage of news stories devoted to the war has sharply declined since last year, dropping from an average of 15% of the newshole in July to just 3% in February.(Did you notice I put "mid October" in bold face type again?)
As news coverage of the war has diminished, so too has public interest in news about Iraq. According to Pew's News Interest Index survey, Iraq was the public's most closely followed news story in all but five weeks during the first half of 2007; however, it was a much less dominant story between July 2007 and February 2008. Notably, the Iraq war has not been the public's top weekly story since mid-October.
Anyhow, here's a graph from Pew:
Does anyone see a downward trend here?
As promised, here's a the latest (wma) version of the Free and the Brave. Right click here and select "save target as". I'll only have this available for a short while - but if you miss this, no sweat - leave a comment and we'll email you a copy.
And thanks to all who've donated to support this project.
This song isn't complete, so expect more to follow. For the story so far (including video and lyrics) see here.
The Mudville Gazette will turn five years old this week. What better way to start the birthday celebration than with the latest version of my music video:
What's new? Well, thanks to folks who hit that paypal button I've begun checking out mixing software. This means I've spent a lot of time over the past week learning to use the program - it also means the above effort began with a return to square one in the audio mix. (Actually the same basic raw components re-compiled in new and better software, then a lot of learning by trial and error.) Other than that, not much new in the actual music, though hopefully you'll notice significant improvement in the overall quality.
As for the video...
From the time I began this project I knew I wanted to include Mike Yon's iconic photo of Major Mark Bieger and Farah. Yesterday I emailed him for permission - his response was quick: "yes you can use that photo!."
Of course, I then realized Mike had a second photo that represented the other end of the spectrum of experiences of Americans in Iraq, one he'd used as the centerpiece of his story Thanks and Praise. Permission for that one followed, and I've nothing but thanks and praise for Mike.
There are great stories behind every picture in this compilation. Hopefully this week we'll have time to review some of them here.
In the meantime, for background on this song, start here. (Short version: I wrote this while in Iraq as part of "the surge" in May, 2007, carried it around in my head for months and finally began recording it when I returned home. Hope you enjoy...)
Sometime later this week I'll post the latest audio version for download...
The Free and the Brave
Over in America, home of the free
Land of unlimited opportunity
People in the streets protest whatever they can
While over in Iraq and Afghanistan
The brave, far from home, are standing tall
and toeing the line, so they can have it all
Some try to complicate it but it's simple to me
They're making noise, we're making history
Osama'd like to think that we can't get it done
And some would like to tell you it's time to cut and run
Me I like to finish something once I've begun
And I don't think I'm the only one
Here making history, hearing the noise
of things that divide and things that destroy
Things you'd never ever want to see on your street
Things you might call the price of defeat
So excuse me if I come home a little annoyed
If while I was making history, you were making noise
We're making history
They're making noise
We're facing the fire
They're playing with toys
Nobody ever said
That it would be easy
They're making noise
We're making history
- Iraq, May, 2007
Noticed at Amazon: Beowulf - the movie version from last Fall. I might buy it. Might, I say, because I already saw it on DVD - the same weekend the movie opened in theaters. That's one of the many perks of serving in Iraq (or elsewhere in the Middle East), for three bucks American (or four for ten dollars) you can pick up any movie within days of it's world theatrical premier.
What's that you ask? The quality? Worth all 300 pennies, I assure you. Most appear to be filmed on shaky, sometimes focused handheld cameras from inside theaters. Even worse than the picture is the sound, captured live on a tiny microphone. I suspect - but can't prove - that these might in fact be unauthorized pirated versions of the sort that have Hollywood lawyers working overtime...
Regrettably, the motion-capture process has made only modest improvements since The Polar Express; while the characters' eyes no longer look so flat and zombie-like, their faces remain inexpressive and movements are still wooden.As noted, the version of the movie I saw was low quality, and I watched it on a small (laptop computer) screen, so I can't offer an opinion on whether the descriptions of the lifeless eyes are accurate or not. I might buy the new release just to see for myself. I can say that I enjoyed the story - and that said enjoyment of the story is fundamental to the success or failure of any movie, regardless of it's degree of live action vs animation. (Spiderman, Lord of the Rings, Who Framed Roger Rabbit...) Suspension of disbelief is nothing new, and I am disturbed as much by the use of CGI actors as I am by the latest version of Beowulf's use of modern English over the original text:
...for anyone interested in computer animation, the most interesting extra feature may be the deleted scenes. Because they were cut long before the animation was finished, they show the process at a variety of different stages--at some points the faces don't even move, making Beowulf look like a Thunderbirds-style puppet movie.
Hwæt! We Gardena in geardagum,Yeah, now that's entertainment.
þeodcyninga, þrym gefrunon,
hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon.
Oft Scyld Scefing sceaþena þreatum,
monegum mægþum, meodosetla ofteah,
egsode eorlas. Syððan ærest wearð
feasceaft funden, he þæs frofre gebad,
weox under wolcnum, weorðmyndum þah,
oðþæt him æghwylc þara ymbsittendra
ofer hronrade hyran scolde,
gomban gyldan. þæt wæs god cyning!
But I suspect that in these tough times for Hollywood there are those who are quite nervous about the potential of CGI. Perhaps it's not there yet, but the time is coming when a human actor - even those surgically rendered to near-perfection, will fall short of their always on time, never in rehab, non-20 million dollar paycheck collecting counterparts. They'll stand out like a blast of olde English in the midst of text on a coputer screen - þæt wæs god cyning!
"If only", I can imagine a producer thinking, "we could replace the writers* with computers as well..."
And stop the piracy too, of course. Then at last people could watch the Academy Awards again.
All of which brings us to the lovely and talented Ms Angelina Jolie, who bares her soul here.
(But sadly, I've reached the limit of my available time (for now) - so if you'll be so kind as to return, we'll continue this discussion later...)
...to John McCain.
I was a reluctant (at best) supporter of "the surge" last year, but having lived it it's impossible to deny it worked.
But I don't think that accounts for McCain's success - nor do I think any of the pundits have acknowledged his real strength within his party. The political center has shifted in recent years, and quite obviously, with actual liberals (not to be confused with those Rush Limbaugh calls "libruls") changing sides almost daily throughout the early part of the decade. This is to the consternation of the more conservative edge of the Republican Party - without recognizing they are now in a "big tent" they haven't hesitated to express their dismay...
Meanwhile there's an extremely narrow range of positions on the issues available to any viable national candidate from the other side of the aisle - as some have noticed, there's really no one anywhere to the left of the Democratic frontrunners. While that won't be acknowledged publicly any time soon, this seems to suit the remaining Democrats just fine. (Though now I wonder if Republicans in the remaining primaries will help them pick a winner? )
UPDATES: just to show you can't lump the actions of a couple of idiotic marines with the rest.
There's this story
And this story of Mama and Boris (USA Today Story (video below)
This one goes way back
Here are a few other videos from Iraq:
Soldiers Find Puppies in Iraq
Puppies in Iraq
Does that matter? The damage is done.
As Laughing Wolf put it:
They have given domestic enemies ammunition to use against the military and in support of the enemy.
During my Dawn Patrol rounds, I ran across this disturbing video within hours of it being uploaded. I immediately emailed BlackFive, to assist in making sure the Marines were aware of it and an investigation underway. The Marines were already on it.
I'm not going to speculate whether it's real or fake, whether the dog was dead or alive, making the video either way is damaging enough. If this guy is guilty it will be the Marines that will happily hang him.
My immediate fear is the retaliation against this marines family. His personal info has been spread all over the net and it's not where he's currently living but I believe of his parents house, not sure. Either way someone got a big WTF is happening moment when the press arrived at their door. I'm not quick to condemn this Marine's family for something stupid he allegedly did.
The Media is acting just as I suspected it would, no surprise there, revealing a name before he's been positively identified, placing this story with a video embedded of the fugitive Marine from NC that killed a female comrade, and I hear they're also interviewing dog owners for their opinion.
Well I'm a dog owner, and although our troops receive yet another blackeye, my thoughts on this align with my fellow mil-spouse, also dog owner, Cassandra, who put's it elequently
however wrong/bad, horrifying and inhumane it may seem, is never going to amount to an act significant enough to encompass the entire war on terror.
So with that thought, I'm going to do what I do best and show what our troops do on a daily basis with very little recognition from the mainstream press.
Starting with BlackFive 's Someone You Should Know
A few stories out of many from MNF-I
Knee Deep in the Hooah! who currently is in Iraq has this to share - Operation School Supply
we worked hard to get 600+ pounds of donated school supplies to the children in the Diyala Province. The donation was the result of Mike’s request and an email I sent to a friend at the Mead Corporation. Mead donated 600 pounds of school supplies, and friends and church members donated more on top of that.
The word 'infantry' just doesn't seem to cover everything we do here. Over the past couple weeks we escorted doctors and medics all over our area, to treat ailments ranging from TB and polio to impotence and measles. Our mobile footprint was relatively light, but the impact was tremendous. We distributed thousands of dollars in medical supplies, comparable amounts in humanitarian assistance, and even more in medical expertise and personal care. The force behind this operation
was almost exclusively American
And it's only befittin to end with The Wolf's story Marines Send Home Some Love
Updates to follow.
...I'm also posting at MilBlogs (with many of my fine fellow milbloggers)