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"Fourth, we need to invest in the skills and education of our people." (Applause.)
- President Obama, 2010 State of the Union
...Obama's [State of the Union] Address has a readability score for an average 8th grader - two grades lower than George W. Bush's Addresses and the historical average for modern presidents.
I could say lots of smart stuff about that, but I don't want to make the same mistake Obama made:
Though, with his shorter sentences and shorter words, Obama's Address may have been readable for junior high school students, it is not known if the average 12 and 13 year old was able to sit still through Obama's speech. At approximately 7,300 words, only Bill Clinton spoke more words before Congress and the nation in State of the Union speeches since 1934 (in 1994, 1995, 1999, and 2000).
So instead, I ran the State of the Union text through the Typealyzer. The president belongs to this group:
INTP - The Thinkers
The logical and analytical type. They are especially attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.
They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.
About what you expected, right? Except that's President Bush, too - based on the text of his 2002 SotU.
Obama, when analyzed via his speech, is ISTP - an "independent and problem-solving type," and "attuned to the demands of the moment," they "generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts." They would "enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters."
But I say finish High School, first.
Well, here's a must-read:
Someone emailed me this week and requested a list of my favorite active duty milblogs. (Not an unusual request.) I don't do favorites, but I did provide a list of folks currently (or recently) downrange. That list was short (and mostly here) - but that scarcity makes them all the more valuable - a national treasure, even.
But picking favorites aside, I think as far as milbloggers go, I can honestly say Lt G (the name he blogged under) is certainly the best writer among deployed milbloggers who actually published - I think he'll translate to ink on pages well. That he had good stories to tell is a bonus. That he went offline too soon is unfortunate, but unfortunately no surprise. (But worse things can happen.)
Wow, it's been a while. (And someday I should write an update to this post. Downright ironic he didn't last much longer...)
We need a break from discussing politics and war - so how 'bout lets talk religion and war for change, okay?
"I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change. But here's the thing..."
Actually, here's the thing: that was a laugh line. That's why it was followed by a pause. That's why the Vice President and the Speaker of the House responded as they did. (Though I can't say for certain whether Ms. Pelosi's expression is a grimace or her actual smile; I suppose she's doing her honest best.)
But I do know that this kind of stuff makes the global warming crowd grimace - for good reason. Possible loss of true believers is not good.
Especially if this is the only replacement available:
Osama bin Laden sought to draw a wider public into his fight against the United States in a new message Friday, dropping his usual talk of religion and holy war and focusing instead on an unexpected topic: global warming.
Don't worry - he blamed Bush.
For the record, if I ever heard that Osama bin Laden likes pizza my response would be "me too." That would have no bearing on my enjoyment of pizza or the fact that I'd kill bin Laden with a pizza cutter if I got the chance. However, there are those who feel the need to defend global warming in the wake of this news a bit more emphatically than I would my diet. Good for them, sez I.
But here's the thing - as (the aptly pseudonymous) Allahpundit reminds us at (the aptly titled) Hot Air - even though the headlines indicate otherwise, it isn't really about global warming:
People were snickering about this on Twitter this morning, but pathetic though it may be, it's actually nothing new. Al Qaeda's pandered to western leftists by paying lip service to their pet causes in all sorts of ways over the years, most memorably in Bin Laden's 2007 video praising Noam Chomsky and deriding the evils of capitalism and corporations.
In fact, there was more of the same Chomsky-praising this year, too:
And he offered a word of praise for Noam Chomsky, the American linguist and liberal political activist.
"Noam Chomsky was correct when he compared the U.S. policies to those of the Mafia," Al Jazeera quoted Mr. bin Laden as saying. "They are the true terrorists, and therefore we should refrain from dealing in the U.S. dollar and should try to get rid of this currency as early as possible."
And while most media coverage would have us believe bin Laden's interest in global warming is a new revelation - indeed, that the scales had just fallen from his eyes, Allahpundit also reminds us the al Qaeda "mastermind" was touting that cause a couple years ago, too.
We should confess that bin Laden had a near-death experience with global warming a few years back. He narrowly avoided suffering the effects of "climate change" in one of his old stomping grounds - Sudan:
Estimates of the dead from the Darfur conflict, which broke out in 2003, range from 200,000 to 500,000. The immediate cause was a regional rebellion, to which Khartoum responded by recruiting Arab militias, the janjaweed, to wage a campaign of ethnic cleansing against African civilians. The UNEP study suggests the true genesis of the conflict pre-dates 2003 and is to be found in failing rains and creeping desertification.
He should thank his lucky stars he left before that got started. It sounds like wrath of God stuff straight out of the Old Testament, but that story, headlined "Darfur conflict heralds era of wars triggered by climate change, UN report warns" comes from the decidedly left-leaning British paper the Guardian. But while "the true genesis of the conflict" absolutely pre-dates 2003, the idea of climate change as trigger mechanism for conflict in Sudan (more here) is an absurdity. (And note they aren't just talking one war - they're prophesying more.) That bit of apologia could appeal to leftists and radical Islamic fundamentalists alike, but while they may profess somewhat different reasons, the concept that the enemy of my enemy is my friend is truth-in-slogan enough to inspire bin Laden to vocalize his quest for common ground, and should serve to satisfy even the most adamant of unbelievers as to his motivation.
While we're on the topic of slogans, let's dispense with this right away - any scientist who tells you climate change science is settled is mistaken (a polite choice of word) - there are enough scientists who say the opposite that the truth is self-evident. (And no, they aren't heretics.) Turning to the non-scientist, those who accept that same bumper sticker explanation really are acting on faith - and they seem compelled to share that faith with others in much the same way Osama bin Laden might (Insha'Allah) tell you that nothing happens without Allah's will.
But here's the thing - the upside to unsettled science (which, actually, is most science) is that unlike settled science, further research is required. And that's good news for those who support funding of science, and those who survive by such funds.
Berkeley High School's Governance Council, made up of teachers, students and parents, has a modest proposal: Cut science labs and five science teachers to "free up more resources to help struggling students."
Science labs mostly benefit higher-achieving white and Asian-American students, the council believes. The school's enrollment is 33 percent white and 7 percent Asian; blacks make up 28 percent and Hispanics 13 percent.
Well, I certainly don't want to insult anyone's (or any council's) beliefs here. But my bad - that was an American High School, full of American students, and it was cruel of me to imply any similarity to taliban.
Samehni. (And please forgive me for my sins.)
Continued Benson, "I'd just like the Colts to take a moment and think about what this long, bloody clash would be like, not only for their players, who will be putting themselves in the line of fire, but also for their families, who will have to watch their husbands and fathers be shipped out to Miami, some of them for the second time."
...as in definition 2, that is: "in a situation where you have no chance of succeeding, especially due to lack of skills."
Can uniformed active duty military folks participate in a political debate?
But sometimes you don't get a vote - the issue is forced upon you. You're about to see an example, and one that's also a fine example of the proper response. I don't think you can go wrong with the eleven-word answer General Petraeus ultimately (after numerous failed attempts to deflect Senator Evan Bayh, D-In) offered during this April, 2008 (aka "election year") Senate hearing on Iraq.
That particular exchange didn't make the headlines - in fact, it pretty much went unmentioned in the eternal Iraq-is-a-disaster coverage of the day. And that's unfortunate, because it is a great illustration of an important point, one that shouldn't be missed by military and civilians alike.
And note that while the Senator didn't like it, he got just what he was asking for. That's a good lesson for folks who've never worn a uniform, too.
I don't pay much attention to Statehouse campaigns here, so I hadn't noticed (until today - thanks to all you folks who made this an issue!) that recently-elected Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is a veteran, too:
McDonnell is a United States Army veteran. He served 21 years active duty and reserve, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1997. His father was a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force. McDonnell's oldest daughter, Jeanine, served in the United States Army, including a one-year tour of duty in Iraq.
So add him to the list of successful political candidates with a military background. Don't believe for a minute that the point that the only Democrat in the "win" column this year was a military veteran - and that this was a significant contributing factor to his beating the national trend favoring Republicans - hasn't been noticed by the powers that be. (Meanwhile, more on McDonnell's military and veteran policies here. "Making Virginia America's Most Veteran Friendly State" is a great goal - more States should contest it.)
Obviously with 21 years of service - part of a larger family tradition - Governor McDonnell doesn't need "props" to establish his military cred. But he did have a uniformed soldier appearing with him during his response to the State of the Union - Staff Sergeant Robert Tenpenny, who served with Jeanine McDonnell, the Governor's daughter, in Iraq.
At Daily Kos:
And the teabagging, bipartisan response in front of an all GOP audience is over. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell had a "black woman", "asian guy", and "military guy" behind him. The seating chart for this thing must have been six months in the making.
I understand the Democrats sense of "ownership" of all non-white Americans - it's something they've worked hard for. So perhaps even while the president made people forget his own racial composition during the SotU, the Governor's failure is clear. (But here's a full list of the who's who among the Governor's "props".)
So America today is a country with a black man (actually, a bi-racial man, something else frequently forgotten) serving as president - which means it's also a country where other black men and women can wake up every morning and decide whether Presidential skin tone similar to theirs is all that important after all. My 47 years experience with having the same skin color as the president says "no" - it's over-rated. And while I can certainly be a proud citizen of one of the only nations on earth where being of mixed race doesn't keep a man from the highest office in the land, I can't feed or clothe my kids in that pride. In short, in a true "post-racial" America issues other than race are increasingly important to voters. At least, we had best hope so - because the issues that confront us won't discriminate, whether we choose to or not.
Which is another reason why a military background is increasingly attractive in a political candidate. While certainly imperfect, the US military remains the best example of a "colorblind" society on this earth. And while senior officers might take great pains (and create great pains) to "ensure the proper face" is presented for camera-friendly events, when it comes to the mission "just do it" overrides all. Even political party affiliation isn't checked in combat zones.
The problem confronting Democrats is that in an era when voters increasingly see veterans as problem solvers, they're trying to build on the narrative of veterans as another victim class - in other words, one more problem only Democrats can solve. (Part of the reason why all the cool kids brought one to the SotU.) Can they chart a different course in time for the mid-terms? "Military members are a threat to the Constitution" doesn't seem like a winning response, but for now its seems to be all they've got.
*Exit question: I was never a fan of it, but whatever happened to the "chickenhawk" debate? The one where only those who have served have a right to speak up about war?
"A drug free Annapolis? No, but we have D1 football!"
Another reason why there will never be a Salamander Hall at the US Naval Academy. (Bonus: Facebook ban!)
"Suspects, even American citizens, who commit crimes like this one are sent to Guantanamo, subjected to "waterboarding" and years of detention, unless, of course, they have friends in high places, friends who want terrorists dealt with harshly unless those terrorists are their friends or family."
And here I thought there was nothing military-related about the James O'Keefe story.
Update: in fairness, here's a statement from O'Keefe.
While he obviously isn't exercising his right to remain silent, there are some parallels with the White House gatecrashers story here. For now the only thing certain is that if O'Keefe hadn't been the guy who busted ACORN, this wouldn't be getting the attention it is.
Readers will appreciate this story: "A female RAF pilot has revealed how she terrified Taliban fighters by screeching low over their heads in her Tornado fighter jet - a new tactic to avoid killing civilians with stray bombs."
Non-readers will have to find other ways to occupy their time.
(Shamelessly requisitioned from the Navy.)
(And part of my series of salutes to the Brits!)
Let's face it, troops - you guys make a pretty good photo op!
Which makes you criminals! Criminals!
You did not have to be paying much attention during last night's Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union address to notice a young Army Staff Sergeant in full dress uniform seated prominently right behind Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and enthusiastically applauding and cheering at the Governor's attacks on Democrats.
Look it up for yourself right here in the Department of Defense (DoD) Directive entitled "Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces." The purpose of this DoD Directive is to mirror the Hatch Act, which prohibits government employees from engaging in partisan political activity in an official capacity. Since a DoD Directive is considered to be in the same category as an order or regulation, and military personnel violating its provisions can be considered in violation of Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, our Republican friends may have just caused this brave young soldier to break the law. Thank you for that, Governor McDonnell.
Now, my point is not to single out this young soldier for punishment, but rather to highlight the continued use of members of our armed forces as stage props for Republicans.
"Mission Accomplished?" Remember that one! Adds Huffpo author/Navy Veteran (per his byline) Rob Diamond for emphasis. I do - and I remember General Petraeus (or was that General Betrayus?) being accused of partisan politics when he discussed Iraq, too.
I'm certainly reminded of this:
"Props", he said, apparently without irony.
With a banner behind them that said "Support the Troops" and "Transition the Mission" Reid stood with Ret. Lt. Gen. Robert Gard and Ret. Brig. Gen. John Johns and said that the surge should be abandoned.
Gen. Johns said active service military officers, like Gen. Petraeus, were being used as "props" by the administration. "The American people need to be told the truth. The only reason I speak out as a retired officer is the President, as all Presidents do, use the active duty military as props to make it appear that the military is united behind his policy."
Gard, of course, is a Huffpo blogger, too:
...and "retired" didn't always appear with his name and rank when he performed his functions as chairman of the Veterans For Obama steering committee. He's obviously a Democrat first, veteran second (maybe second), but as far as "non-partisanship" he is comfortable working with various Communist organizations, give him "props" for that.
But anyhow, here's the text of the Governor's speech. He does point out that...
My oldest daughter, Jeanine, was an Army platoon leader in Iraq, so I'm personally grateful for the service and the sacrifice of all of our men and women in uniform, and a grateful nation thanks them.
...but through the entire speech he uses the word "Democrats" twice ("In the past year, over three million Americans have lost their jobs, yet the Democratic Congress continues deficit spending, adding to the bureaucracy, and increasing the national debt on our children and grandchildren." And "Now, we should pledge as Democrats, Republicans and Independents--Americans all---to work together to leave this nation a better place than we found it.") so the young Sergeant (who I'd guess was a member of the Virginia National Guard, not the United States Army - something you might want to determine before quoting chapter and verse of any Federal/DoD regulation that may or may not apply) had few opportunities for "enthusiastically applauding and cheering at the Governor's attacks on Democrats."
"One, the first time ever that this -- I've been to a Democratic convention in 40 years, more generals and admirals on the stage than labor union presidents."
- Mark Shields, CNN, at the 2004 DNC.
My first thought on learning Howard Zinn is dead was "heh - he never saw my contribution to his royalty check." Then I wondered who he might have willed it to...
My daughter is taking a (college) history class this semester, and Zinn's is the textbook of (teacher's) choice. The littlest Greyhawk is something of a rebel, though - a freethinker, and absolutely not the gullible sort - so not a candidate for an A-doubleplus grade in the World According to Zinn. She was born in Korea, lived all over the world and is not the stereotypical American college freshman, away from home for the first time and trained to accept anything teacher says as Gospel. She doesn't confuse credibility with typing ability, or assign motive other than profit (financial or otherwise) to those who choose which typist gets approval, print, binding, and endorsement. (Errors often unrecognizable as such to many a 19-year old assured that the programming they're receiving is "radical," and actually a secret, suppressed and forbidden knowledge denied the less worthy.) In short, she is everything a true-believer isn't (but is told repeatedly they are).
Funny and related side story: "Where was I born?" she asked me while filling out an application for college. "Korea," I replied somewhat puzzled - because she knows that.
"I know. But is South Korea the Republic of Korea or the Democratic People's Republic of Korea?"
She was surprised (in a chuckling way) at the answer - but it's revealing that a Communist hell-hole, one of the worst places on Earth for human beings in the 21st Century, calls itself a "People's Republic." Once you've grasped the reality of that, however, you're ready for a People's History of the United States.
She could have dropped the class, of course. But I encouraged her not to. The experience in dealing with propaganda will be good; she'll reinforce her ability to accept facts, reject fiction, and recognize the twisting of each into the other.
Case in point - shortly after the earthquake struck Haiti, USAF Special Operations personnel had deployed to the Port-au-Prince airport to restore and maintain critical flight services there. Prior to their arrival a gridlock had been established, as plane after plane loaded with relief supplies and workers landed to discover they could neither refuel or - in many cases - offload. It took a while, but our boys (I use terms like that to piss off Communists, by the way) restored some semblance of order.
But almost immediately Hugo Chavez vocalized what was already "the People's" official position on Haiti: the Earthquake was an excuse for US military occupation. At that point all was chaos and no one knew what was going on, but lack of knowledge never kept a Zinndinista from recognizing a "teachable moment" - and my daughter's class was treated to a fine example that day. Not only had the US military occupied Haiti, they were stopping the real relief efforts from coming through. No motive for this behavior was presented - presumably that's just how the US military is. (Later Chavez would claim the US had actually caused the earthquake with some sort of secret earthquake-making weapon; that sort of stuff must be reserved for graduate level Zinndoctrination.)
Above, courtesy of my militant bourgeois friends at Argghhh, US Air Force air traffic controllers bringing order to chaos at Port-au-Prince's airport on Monday, January 18. It would be a couple days before they'd bring in an actual tactical control tower to use in place of the one rendered unusable by the quake.
When Air Force special operations controllers stepped off a transport plane Wednesday night at Haiti's main airport, they found chaos.
One day after the earthquake in Haiti struck, relief planes were coming in from all directions, landing on a first-come-first-served basis and getting too close to one another on the ground. Nobody was coordinating. Aid wasn't moving.
The air-traffic control tower was damaged and unsafe. So Sgt. Chris Grove, whose expertise extends to calling in airstrikes from the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, brought his squad to a spot near the runway and set up what would become an air-traffic control center. They went to talk to pilots on the ground. "We told them, hey, we're Air Force combat controllers. We're taking over the airfield," Grove said. From a dirt patch, two young American sergeants began directing air traffic for one of the largest humanitarian operations in history.
When they first arrived, the Air Force special operators set up a headquarters in a rat-infested, trash-strewn hangar. Now cleaned up, that has become the central military headquarters for the relief effort.
In short, in about 87 hours they did more good for more people than Howard Zinn could manage in his 87 years on earth.
Then they did more.
She could have asked me "when is my birthday?" too. In Korea it was early on January 28th, but in the States it was still the 27th, 1991. Today, of course. So off I go to participate in that most remarkable of Capitalist traditions - the obtaining of a gift.
A tangible one, I mean.
Previously Haiti relief from USNS Comfort
Next: Sometimes a hero
Senior Sgt. Mark Todd, credited with taking down the shooter who opened up on Soldiers and civilians at Fort Hood, Texas, on Nov. 5, said he got a call from the White House while he was driving home.
"When you're driving home and you're on your Bluetooth and your phone rings, and someone says they're with the White House --- I'm like, 'yeah, OK...,'" Todd said. Disbelief quickly vanished, and he readily accepted the invite.
"It was great. Unfortunately, the event leading up to this was kind of bad, but the sheer fact they thought of us and asked us to come up here is quite an honor," said Todd, an MP until he retired from the Army in 2007. Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, partially paralyzed and hospitalized since he was shot by Todd, faces 13 counts of murder. Officials say more than 30 others were wounded when Hasan opened fire.
Police Sgt. Kimberly Munley, who happened on Hasan first and was wounded in an exchange of gunfire, will also be seated in the First Lady's box. Military.com could not reach Munley for comment. Munley was shot several times, has had surgery on her knee, and suffers nerve pain. The Dallas Morning News reported that she arrived in Washington on Sunday and spent Monday just resting up.
"It was a very rough trip," she told the paper. "I'm using a walker on occasion. ... Every day is a better day, and I get stronger every day."
Representing military spouses and the National Guard at the speech tonight will be Janell Kellett of Sun Prairie, Wis., whose husband, Maj. Michael Hanson, just returned this month from Iraq with the 32nd Infantry Brigade. Kellett is a volunteer for the Wisconsin National Guard and leads the brigade's Family Readiness Group and other community groups.
"It is just so wonderful that the First Lady and Dr. [Jill] Biden wanted a military spouse with them and to be chosen to represent military spouses," she said. "It's truly a great honor."
The #1 fashion accessory for this year's State of the Union? Some might guess "adopted Haitian baby" - but they'd be wrong (but just wait for the Academy Awards...)
But not just any veterans...
A wounded soldier from Fort Collins is headed to Washington to sit with First Lady Michelle Obama during the State of the Union address.
Army Specialist Scott Vycital was invited to hear President Barack Obama's address. The 34-year-old was hit in the head by a bullet in Mahmudya, Iraq in 2004. He says he had a long recovery but has used federal assistance to get back on his feet, which is likely why he's been invited to hear the speech.
"My life wouldn't be anything as nice as it is now without all of those benefits," Vycital told the (fort Collins) Coloradoan newspaper.
Wounded Manchester Soldier A Special Guest At President's State Of The Union Address
Sgt. Helman Roman gives the same answer to the "hero question" as generations of combat veterans before him.
Does he consider himself one?
"I don't think any member of the U.S. Army feels like a hero," Roman, 41, of Manchester, said Tuesday. "The only heroes are the ones who gave the ultimate sacrifice. It's just a job that we signed up for."
Nevertheless, Roman is getting a hero's treatment tonight as an honored guest at President Barack Obama's State of the Union address. The invitation came from U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, who called Roman a model of courage and strength and, yes -- "an American hero who deserves our many thanks for answering the call of duty."
All the cool kids will have one:
A Fort Drum soldier nicknamed "Bullet Magnet" will be in the audience tonight when President Obama delivers his State of the Union address.
Staff Sergeant Brandon Camacho will be the guest of Congressman Gregorio Sablan, a non-voting delegate representing the Northern Mariana Islands in the western Pacific Ocean.
Sgt. Camacho received five Purple Hearts for wounds he suffered while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A local veteran and Elkhart resident, Sgt. Mitch Nihart of the Army National Guard, will join Congressman Joe Donnelly (D-In) at President Obama's State of the Union address on Wednesday. Sgt. Nihart served both in the first Gulf War and in Iraq in 2007 and 2008.
Injured in Iraq, Sgt. Nihart now serves in a community-based warrior transition unit, or WTU. Sgt. Nihart is able to work out of centers close to his home in Elkhart while continuing his medical care, and calls the WTU program one of the "greatest programs to come out for citizen soldiers and soldiers as a whole."
I couldn't find any stories of Republicans with a "pet vet" at this one. What's up with that?
Update: Ah, here's one - on his way to prison! (A bit extreme a response, but I'm no Huffpo author, so what do I know?)
It's like the '90s all over again - "anti-war" isn't cool anymore. It was big in the '80s and made a roaring comeback the aughts, but less so now and in between. (By "big" I don't mean to imply it was anything on the order of the late '60s/early '70s "anti-war" movement that faded in the late '70s.)
The wars go on, of course.
"We are very pleased with the direction this is going," a senior administration official said of the cooperation with Yemen.
This WaPo story has much of such leakage from senior administration officials, touting the super crazysexycool secret stuff we're (and by we're, they mean Obama) doing over there to keep America safe.
Lex thinks it's a bad idea to publicly announce that sort of thing. Me? I say it depends on your goal. (But if it's "protect America" I don't see where this helps.)
On the other hand, there are just some folks who shouldn't have security clearances because they can't keep their effing mouths shut.
Letters home from the war zone:
Some major steps have been made in these last three months. A big reason for our steady progress is that our soldiers are living among the people of the city and getting to know their neighbors and the needs of their neighborhoods. We have also been instrumental in building a new police force. Kirkuk now has 1,700 police officers. The police are now, ethnically, a fair representation of the community as a whole. So far, we have spent $500,000 from the former Iraqi regime to repair each of the station's electricity and plumbing, to paint each station and to make it a functional place for the police to work.
The battalion has also assisted in re-establishing Kirkuk's fire department, which is now even more effective than before the war.
New water treatment and sewage plants are being constructed and the distribution of oil and gas are steadily improving.
All of these functions were started by our soldiers here in this northern city and are now slowly being turned over to the newly elected city government.
The term isn't used in that letter, but that's pretty much counterinsurgency doctrine in a nutshell: establish security, live among the people, restore services, get everything into the hands of the local government.
You've heard of counterinsurgency doctrine, right? All the cool kids call it "COIN" now. It's what the Army refused to do in Iraq until the surge. Now it's how we're going to win Afghanistan.
Now we know better.
Here's a review at the Huffington Post that I found surprising for many reasons...
The media has tacked again, and now the war in Afghanistan, so far from being called a war of necessity, is sinking into a "quagmire" of Vietnam clichès. Newsweek came out to announce this in an article from December of last year. The article, "Obama's Vietnam," disclaims at the outset that Afghanistan-as-Vietnam is a bad analogy, and, without a hint of irony, goes on to argue that Afghanistan is indeed becoming an "eerie echo" of our never-forgotten war in Asia.
The spearhead of this line of reasoning is that Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, is corrupt and that his government is "incapable of defeating the insurgency." This is a line lifted straight out of the Media Field Manual for Defeating the Vietnam War - an unwritten guide of ethos and talking-point tactics used by the press from the mid-1960s to very successfully, "brilliantly," (as they would say about a Vietcong field general) end that war politically just as the US was winning it militarily.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai is in the cross-hairs of today's media. Karzai makes an easy target as he's surrounded by corruption and lacks the funds and structures to govern to America's high standards of continuity of law and transparency of process. As such, Mr. Karzai has conveniently been "repackaged" as latter-day version of Ngo Dinh Diem, the South Vietnamese leader who was overthrown in a coup that was openly backed by prominent American journalists like David Halberstam of the New York Times and his cohort Neil Sheehan of UPI and later the Times as well.
Mr. Karzai now becomes the American dummy-puppet who was "installed" by the US, who is supported by the US, who, this line of thinking goes, owes his very existence to the US. This view is deeply flawed. In fact, the truth of the early history of the war in Afghanistan lies in its opposite.
Read the whole thing.
Joe ("Beau") Biden III will not seek his father's Senate seat.
That's unfortunate. Not only is he a vet, he's an Iraq vet, and I respect that. In both the NY23 House race and the Massachusetts Senate campaign military veterans scored upsets over the incumbent (and favored) Party. One a Democrat, the other a Republican, and both underdogs.
Arguably, too, both were helped out by inept management on the part of the opposition, but I believe there was an element of pink v gray (and that's not a gender reference) also at work. When times are tough folks turn to the candidate they believe can best handle those tough times, and much of what I describe here becomes an attractive quality.
Does this mean anyone who ever wore a uniform is automatically an attractive candidate? Clearly not - there are many examples in recent history that will prove the point. (And there are those who will express fear at the very notion that anyone who ever wore a uniform should even be allowed to participate in the American political process.)
But I do believe with regards to Scott Brown's success (and any future campaigns) that the mechanic persona - the authentic mechanic, I should add - has been overlooked by many who want to see their own particular pet theory reflected as the key to that success.
I'm certain, at least, it's more significant than the "R" or the "D".
*Not for long - his birth date: Feb 3, 1969.
Cdr Salamandar: "I found something that just might trump [Greyhawk's] entry."
Hard to argue otherwise when Jon Stewart thinks so, too.
Rich Trzupek at FrontPage Magazine on a story we broke a few weeks ago: Trained For the Wrong War.
The popular argument surrounding the development of President Obama's Afghanistan strategy is the administration's narrative of a considerate, well thought out approach versus the opposition's characterization of "dithering." Both are myths, as exposed by "secret" government documents published this week in the New York Times.
The classified communications sent by Ambassador Karl Eikenberry to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were "leaked" by "senior U.S. officials" within days of their receipt last November, but until now the documents themselves had not been published. These State Department cables don't reveal military strategy, but they do expose embarrassing, behind-the-scenes details of the Obama administration's 'Afghan policy" to the light of day.
The Times story accompanying the memos is hardly notable; that the Obama administration felt "President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan is not an adequate strategic partner and continues to shun responsibility for any sovereign burden" isn't news. The obsession with fixing Karzai first is well known (if not well-reported) and has already cost a year of potential progress in Afghanistan.
So what's truly notable here isn't the rehash of old news in the Times coverage (always the White House's paper of choice for messaging) but the revelation by the U.S. Ambassador to Kabul in memos to the US Secretary of State that the President of Afghanistan was an afterthought for inclusion in any discussion regarding the future of his nation. "Before any troop announcement," Eikenberry cautioned, "we should first have a high-level dialogue with Karzai and his new government to explain our goals and obtain agreement on what we expect from them." Sound advice - and seemingly obvious, but why it seemed necessary to make so obvious a statement so late in the process seems equally (and unfortunately) obvious, too.
But it's the second cable that will leave those with an interest in America's wartime foreign policy stunned; in it Eikenberry reveals that those who felt the President was considering all available options (whether deliberately and thoughtfully or timidly and far too slowly) were all being had.
"I now propose that the White House commission a deliberate process to lay out the range of strategic options on Afghanistan and Pakistan," he wrote last November as the "debate" (then presumably on options) neared its conclusion, "broadening the analysis beyond military counterinsurgency doctrine."
"We must consider a wider set of variables before reaching a final decision."
That we had not done so one year after the election of a president who claimed Afghanistan was the central front of the war on terror seems to defy belief. But even after last March's much-heralded "new Af/Pak policy" and the further (and seemingly endless) "debate" on the issue last fall, Eikenberry - Barack Obama's hand-picked man in Afghanistan - asserts that "we have not yet conducted a comprehensive, interdisciplinary analysis of all our strategic options. Nor have we brought all the real-world variables to bear in testing the proposed counterinsurgency plan." Given the reporting on Afghanistan strategy - and the countless contributions from media and think-tank experts over the past several months - it defies belief that the administration itself had not actually conducted it's own comprehensive review. But no matter what you may have heard over the past year, it's beyond conceivable that such an effort could possibly have been conducted without the awareness of the top American civilian in Kabul.
There's no doubt that as desperately as such a thoughtful review process is needed prior to sending thousands of American troops into harm's way, the Obama administration would have been handed a public relations nightmare had they acknowledged the failure as late as November, 2009. After October became the month with the highest American casualties in the war, the president had appeared for a photo op with flag-draped caskets ("The images and the sentiment of the president's five-hour trip to Delaware were intended by the White House to convey to the nation that Mr. Obama was not making his Afghanistan decision lightly or in haste," the New York Times reported at the time) and Eikenberry's revelation just days later can easily be seen as evidence that the event was something of a fraud.
But while he might have known his cause was hopeless, the retired general pointed out (correctly - from a logistical standpoint) that because tens of thousands of troops couldn't deploy immediately, there actually was still time to consider specifics of strategy - and coordinate with allies on the debate.
Not that he felt no sense of urgency. Though long overdue his called-for review of options could be accomplished "by the end of the year" - and "include or lead to high-level talks with Afghans, the Pakistanis, the Saudis, and other important regional players," communications that many might have assumed were ongoing as a matter of course. Even more stunningly, he added "NATO, its component nations, and even the United Nations" to the list. But with growing public pressure from opponents and allies alike, the time for anything but a unilateral decision - at least from the point of view of the decision makers in Washington - had passed.
Still, "I believe there is no option but to widen the scope of our analysis to consider alternatives beyond a strictly military counterinsurgency effort within Afghanistan," Eikenberry argued in his memo. "Such a process of rigorous internal U.S. government deliberations, leading to deeper political-military consultations with allies and other stakeholders, could powerfully build support at home and abroad for the President's eventual decisions about the way forward." But official US policy was established - and included within it was a simple claim that this had already been done.
Those who rely on television and newspapers to provide them with insight would no doubt experience some surprise that it actually hadn't - but while he could have simply been left out of any planning for Afghanistan, presumably Eikenberry has other sources of news.
As far as any updates regarding his two-month old memos, "Mr. Eikenberry declined through an embassy spokeswoman, Caitlin M. Hayden, to comment" on their publication in the Times.
She said by e-mail, "We stand by what we provided during the review process, which got us to the clear strategy we're now implementing, that the ambassador unequivocally supports."
That "clear strategy" argument, like everything else about Afghanistan, would be wonderful if it were true.
Wow - growing evidence that multiple identical letters appearing in multiple different newspapers under multiple names implies some sort of astroturf campaign. I'm shocked, shocked I tell you, at this development.
The story of "Ellie Light" was exposed in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer and Politico, but from there it has really taken off in the blogosphere and Facebook - with the numbers of "Ellie Light" sightings now above 60, and new examples of similar campaigns being identified fast and furiously.
Just wait 'til the even bigger news sites discover this story. I don't have to wonder what will happen - I know - and whoever launched these various letter-writing campaigns should be well aware of what's coming, too. After all, it's happened before, and not long ago... (screen wavers, fades out... and...)
...back in, to 2003:
The letters appeared in roughly 12 newspapers across the country. From Massachusetts to California, and many places in between, family members and local newspapers received letters from soldiers of the 2nd Battalion of the 503rd Infantry Regiment detailing their successes in northern Iraq.
Each letter was signed by a different soldier, but the words were identical...
Here's a surviving copy of the infamous letter. It was huge news in October, 2003. That quote above is from ABC News, but here's coverage from CBS, the New York Times, and even the BBC (and we could go on).
The story (remarkably identical in original numbers to our news of today) of this earth shattering fraud was blown open in USA Today, when a sharp-eyed reporter "found identical letters in 11 newspapers."
It's not clear who wrote the letter or organized sending it to soldiers' hometown papers. If they are part of an organized effort to sway public opinion, it could raise ethical questions for the military, whose officers are trained to refrain from partisan politics.
Ultimately in an e-mail to ABC news a battalion commander in Iraq confessed that the letter-writing initiative was all his idea, but claimed he just wanted to give his soldiers "an opportunity to let their respective hometowns know what they are accomplishing here in Kirkuk." Fortunately the real plan in which he was participating (willingly or not) - to destroy the very foundation of American democracy - failed as a result of the heroic efforts of the global mainstream media watchdog.
The commander was unapologetic, ABC reported, "saying that the letter perfectly reflects what each of these brave soldiers has and continues to accomplish on the ground." In fact, in their story ABC even acknowledged that "Kirkuk has seen improvement over the past several months, and is far less violent than other areas of Iraq" - and even the original USA Today story acknowledged that the soldiers they contacted "directly or through their families said they agreed with the letter's thrust." But the evil intent behind the campaign was made clear - and it went far beyond the level of a lowly battalion commander: "The Bush administration is engaged in a broad campaign to boost what polls show is sagging public support for the occupation in Iraq" - and obviously they were willing to stoop so low as to use the troops in Iraq to do their dirty work for them.
"Firm endorsements of the letter's description of the situation in Kirkuk have since been re-registered by most of the soldiers who were supposed to have written letters," explained the editors of the New York Times, "but that matters little to anyone who ever marched in the military command system." I shudder at the thought of what we owe those courageous reporters, of how close we came to the end of freedom as we know it, and the complete destruction of all that we hold dear.
And I'm sure that soon enough we're going to see a similar response to this latest outrage. With over 60 "Ellie Light" letters identified, multiple "Mark Spiveys," and who knows how many additional discoveries over the past week I'm certain the dam is ready to break - the identical letter from 11 GIs in their hometown papers seems to pale in comparison. For now the only further "mainstream media" coverage is in a blog on the website of the LA Times. But hell hath no fury as a news reporter who discovers he - and his entire profession - has been duped - used even, by the evil machinations of the powers that be. And I'm certain that the explosion is coming.
Any minute now.
A letter to the editor:
A recent Associated Press article stated that President Barack Obama's hesitancy on the Afghan war buildup implies weakness.
I wish world leaders had more of that kind of weakness. Clearly, Obama does not want to send soldiers into harm's way without a clear goal, a solid plan and an exit strategy, three aspects sorely missing from former President George W. Bush's military ventures.
I know that we Americans are used to presidents who play cowboy, who say things like "bring 'em on" and "mission accomplished" without a second thought; presidents who send Americans into battle on falsified weapons reports.
But it seems our current president understands that you don't send soldiers into battle without first nailing down what they're supposed to be doing, and why.
So hats off to Obama's "hesitation." Soldiers are human beings, not chess pieces. It's about time we get a president who understands that.
-- Mark Spivey
Mark Spivey doesn't say what his clear view of Obama's muddled Afghanistan policy is, but whatever it is he feels things are clarified, and wants other people to feel clarity has been achieved, too. That's unremarkable; many people on every side of every issue surrounding Afghanistan feel that the President of the United States has solidly come down in favor of their position. Mark and anyone else can quote Obama to support that contention - so can the people who hold the opposite view.
For example, in Afghanistan America's military and civilian representatives each have different and opposing views of what the "solid plan" is. As for exit strategy, that too. And none of that's going to be clarified from the White House any time soon. Mark Spivey (and everyone else who cares to) is free to take sides in that ongoing debate, but the fact that the debate continues obviously isn't open for debate. The only thing clarified is that there will be no clarity, the only thing certain is that after much "hesitation," President Obama is indeed sending thousands of additional troops into harm's way.
Which brings us to the question: "who cares what Mark Spivey thinks?" That actually has a remarkable answer - and it's "lots of people do."
"Mark Spivey" apparently submitted his feelings as a letter to the editor to multiple publications...
The letter has appeared -- at a minimum! -- at The Minnesota Daily, at the Baltimore Chronicle (on the same page as Ellie Light's letter!), at the San Diego Union-Tribune (where he claims to be from San Diego), at the Naples News (where he claims to be from Naples, Florida), and at Buzzflash.com.
And there are more...
Kudos to Mark - while not quite as successful as "Ellie Light" he's managed to accomplish something most unknown writers can only dream of - getting "ink." Obviously each editor found something noteworthy and profound enough about his feelings that they chose to share them with their readers. Individually that's hardly spectacular, but as a whole it's impressive by any measure. Clearly it helped that he (like Ellie) claimed a local address for each submission, but just as clearly they've each found a message that resonates nationwide - worldwide, even - and that's really an amazing accomplishment. Try it yourself and see if your opinion is worthy of spontaneous global appeal.
Or even just acceptance here in America, where from California to Maryland, Minnesota to Florida, a new message spontaneously went out across the land. Something about two simple letters to the editor appealed strongly enough to an assuredly broad cross-section of gatekeepers that each, independently, in the greatest tradition of the American newsroom, felt compelled to share.
Let others puzzle over the real identities of these new leading lights of American political discourse, these vanguards of a movement of grass roots support. I for one, will salute their accomplishment. (Much as we all salute the troops.) That not one, but two such individuals should suddenly prove false the old adage that rejection is the norm for aspiring writers everywhere should offer all of us nothing but hope.
(You're free to disagree, of course, but your opinion hardly matters. I mean really, who the hell do you think you are?)
Castle Argghhh!!! has a report from Vietnam-era vet who is working aboard USNS Comfort.
You can also follow the ship on Twitter @USNSComfort and get some idea of what's happening on board the ship.
Previously: Quake report
Next: Automatic for the People
Question: what is this man doing?
Dealing with the lingering headache from the Massachusetts Senate election?
Thinking really really hard about Iraq, Afghanistan, health care, the economy and climate change?
Well, yes to almost all, of course - but not in this picture.
Under the guidance of an expert, aides say Obama privately repeated his salute over and over again until he got it down. In a testament to how sensitive the White House is about the commander in chief practicing this basic military gesture, aides would not say who taught Obama how to salute. But every time he uses it, Obama is trying to convey an insider's respect for the armed forces without saying a word.
I'm not sure why the identity of his trainer is a State secret - but here's the photo that accompanies the story:
The caption reads "Aides say President Obama privately repeated his salute until he got it down."
"That attention to detail, that focus on the outward manifestation of what we expect, is compelling," said retired Gen. Paul Eaton, who advised Obama during the presidential campaign. "Whoever worked with him on that did a pretty good job."
There's no evidence of that training here.
The salute represents something important, and doing it right is a sign you grasp that importance. It is indeed the "outward manifestation of what we expect" - but in this picture it's exactly wrong, and saying it's right doesn't make it so. If you're going to use this as the leading example of the tremendous effort and attention to detail the president puts to his task as Commander in Chief, you fail.
Somewhere there may exist a photo of Obama rendering a proper salute. This ain't close. And that's a pretty lame start to a story that goes on to detail the many other things Obama has worked so very, very hard on to support the troops. Of course, if you're just trying to convince the 99% of the population who have no idea what a proper salute looks like that this is a "pretty good" example, then maybe it's the perfect start that tells us everything we need to know: the rest, assuredly - the part that actually matters - is just this good.
On the other hand, as far as ball-washing feature coverage of how the president salutes and what it means, the story is sure a hellalot better than this one from the New York Times in 2003:
A Senseless Salute
When given a salute by uniformed military personnel, Mr. Reagan would return it, shooting his right hand up to his bare head, his smile suggesting that this was something he liked to do. This unnecessary and unseemly habit was adopted by Mr. Reagan's successors, including Bill Clinton and especially George W. Bush, who steps off his plane and cocks a jaunty salute.
This gesture is of course quite wrong: such a salute has always required the wearing of a uniform. But there is more to this than a decline in military manners. There is something puerile in the Reagan (and now Bush) salute. It is the joyful gesture of someone who likes playing soldier. It also represents an exaggeration of the president's military role.
(Attention check: did you notice which name from paragraph one is missing from paragraph two?)
For the record, a salute is a mutual exchange - it's initiated by a junior and returned by the senior. (The higher ranking you are, the more salutes you will render.) However, salutes are not required to be rendered or returned when the senior or subordinate are in civilian clothes.
Anyone can perfect the salute, few will ever get it.
Related blast from the past: Making Legends
The 40 second long video isn't an urban legend, it isn't "an email from a guy at microsoft" or "a sergeant that was there". But what I suppose both Ed and I failed to make clear is that it is, in fact, a de-bunking of a media-fueled urban legend - Obama as military commander, making decisions on strategy, and literally calling the shots (See this week's iteration, examined here). The guy in this video is, in fact, a guy who needs a note card to recite the names of the military commands in Iraq. Multi-National Force-Iraq is not a bit player. It's the top level of command in the theater. It was recently commanded by a guy named Petraeus and is now commanded by this Odierno dude - both of whom have had their name in the papers a few times. If details like the full names of MNF-I or MNSTC-I (you know, the non-combat dudes who are working with and training our Iraqi partners to turn things over to them?) are hard to pronounce tongue twisters unfamiliar to the average American that's okay. The average American isn't nominally in charge of the operation. Whoever is in charge of developing their strategy and issuing their orders (aka "a plan for Iraq") knows who they are. The President of the United States needs a notecard.
As if we needed further evidence that "Homeland Security" is a joke or Congress is incompetent...
The couple accused of attending a White House state dinner last November without an official invitation appeared Wednesday before the House Committee on Homeland Security. But Tareq and Michaele Salahi declined to answer any of the questions posed by lawmakers about how they got past security to attend the function.
Of course they did. It's their right. In fact, not wanting to waste the valuable time of America's busy lawmakers they told the committee ahead of time that they intended to do just that. So, if you're on the committee and your goal is to get information, then you know you're wasting your time. But if your goal is something else - and/or you've just got nothing better to do, you bring them in and have them exercise their rights for the cameras. (On the taxpayer dime.)
And what we got for our dime was a series of lectures to the would-be reality TV stars (you are very, very BAD!) from each member of the committee in their turn, along with proclamations of support for their rights under the US Constitution.
It was certainly noble of the men and women of the House Committee on Homeland Security to take this time to remind Americans that everyone protected by the United States Constitution has the right to remain silent. As a guy who took an oath to defend that Constitution I take it very seriously.
Now, when will the Hearing for the underpants bomber begin?
Oh, hate to be annoying - but if you're going to cite the Ft Hood "incident" as an example of your "seriousness" on homeland security, make sure you get the rank right. Nidal Hasan was a Major.
I'm picky, I know. But at least we all agree it shouldn't be a joke.
Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., called today's procedure a "charade."
Team Rubicon, for those who haven't been following, "is a self-financed and self-deployed group of former Marines, soldiers and health care professionals currently providing emergency relief in Haiti." When they heard of the disaster, they decided to "just do it." While others were busy complaining about the post-quake chaos at the Port au Prince Airport, they went in through the Dominican Republic and have been conducting relief efforts all week.
None of that would be known had it not been for team member Badger Jake, a milblogger who launched his site in 2005 with the story of his trip to Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Katrina ("Although I'm out of school, presently unemployed and living with my parents, my life has actually been kind of exciting...") and followed shortly after with "Peace out civilian world. I'll see you in 13 weeks as a Marine. Check back here, I might have my parents write some updates for me on how I'm doing in boot camp. Otherwise, put the beers on ice."
From there Iraq during the surge and Afghanistan the following year. Then late last year, "I'm a civilian now, a very happy one. I spent the last four years proudly serving in the Marine Corps and now it is time for me to find a new direction in my life." Fortunately the title of that last post (Last Post?) included a question mark - and the answer is no. Three months later he's in Haiti, and blogging again.
Now back to what Glenn said. (Memory jogger: "You want it done right, send a Milblogger.") He's right - if you want to establish order from chaos quickly in the wake of a major disaster you send in the US military (see Katrina), and if you want the story told you make sure someone's along who can tell it. Team Rubicon includes former military - in this case think experienced emergency responders - and that's precisely why they're able to do what they're doing. Combine experience with teamwork, rapid life-or-death decision making, long term existence in austere conditions, and an ability to keep your head while all about you are losing theirs with a desire to fix broken things (and recognize what isn't) and you've got the basic description of the sort of people you want to have around should a disaster strike in your world.
I suppose mechanic is as good a name as any for that sort of person. The U.S. military attracts such people. (This doesn't mean everyone in the military is such a person - far from it.) But the military takes people with (or without) that born desire to fix broken things and provides them with the experience in teamwork, life-or-death decision making, and surviving in austere conditions mentioned above. Somewhere along the way comes the discovery of whether you can keep your head while all about you are losing theirs - and whether you can put up with those who can't (along with those who actually break things, or those who will put forth great effort to fix things that ain't broken) long enough to make a career of it.
"It" being the military. When something breaks the born mechanic will always show up with the right tools, whether he's in a uniform or not.
Previously: Very Nice Things
The Only Thing Worth Dying For: How Eleven Green Berets Forged a New Afghanistan. The first book on Afghanistan for 2010 takes us back to 2001:
On a moonless November night, five Blackhawk helicopters infiltrate southern Afghanistan, dropping Special Forces A-Team--ODA 574--deep behind enemy lines in the mountains of Uruzgan. It is just weeks after 9/11, and the U.S. military, aided by the armies of the Northern Alliance, are routing Taliban forces hundreds of miles to the north. But here in the Pashtun tribal belt--the Taliban's own backyard--Amerine and his men are on a seemingly impossible mission: to destroy the Taliban from within and prevent a civil war from consuming the country. Armed only with the equipment they can carry on their backs, shockingly scant intelligence, and their mastery of guerrilla warfare, ODA 574 must somehow foment a tribal revolt and force the Taliban to surrender. This lone team of Green Berets has just one ally: Hamid Karzai, a little-known Pashtun statesman who has returned from exile and is being hunted by the Taliban.
While Karzai attempts to raise a militia, the men of ODA-574 find themselves outnumbered against a ruthless Taliban force. They are in a land where respect is earned at gunpoint, and Karzai's practiced diplomacy needs the credibility of a warrior in order to unite the Pashtun and build his army. That respect will only come from defeating the Taliban in battle. As ODA 574 contends with a patriot's quixotic dream, a CIA case officer's murky agenda, and a higher command that refuses to follow its own rules, Amerine and his men take up position in a small town that has just hanged its Taliban provincial governor, ready to defend it against a thousand enemy fighters who are on their way to kill them.
THE ONLY THING WORTH DYING FOR chronicles the planning, the battles, and every step of what was arguably the most important mission in the early days of the Global War on Terror, when the men on the ground knew little about the enemy--and their commanders in Washington knew even less.
With unprecedented access to surviving members of ODA 574, Special Operations soldiers and airmen, key commanders and war planners, and Karzai himself, Blehm cuts through the noise of high-level politicians, spies, and generals in Washington, D.C., to narrate the muddy-boots effort that helped install Karzai--then an obscure statesman--as the leader of Afghanistan's transitional government, the stepping stone from which he became the country's first democratically elected president. THE ONLY THING WORTH DYING FOR is the tale of ODA 574, a team of highly trained soldiers who carried out the most politically significant mission from Operation Enduring Freedom. It's the story of uncommon bravery and, ultimately, terrible sacrifice, with consequences that continue to shape the future of the region today.
...of the Indianapolis Colts. Medal of Honor recipient Sammy Davis will be an honorary co-captain for the Indianapolis Colts in this Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the New York Jets.
Sammy Davis, a native of Dayton, Ohio, joined the United States Army from Indianapolis. In November, 1967, Davis was an artillery cannoneer private with the 9th infantry division assigned to South Vietnam. For his service and courageous efforts in Vietnam, Davis was awarded the Medal of Honor--America's highest award for military valor--by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968. Davis is the only Vietnam era Medal of Honor recipient from Indiana. He also received a Silver Star and Purple Heart.Davis earned his Medal of Honor on 18 November, 1967. The citation:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life and beyond the call of duty. Sgt. Davis (then PFc.) distinguished himself during the early morning hours while serving as a cannoneer with Battery C, at a remote fire support base. At approximately 0200 hours, the fire support base was under heavy enemy mortar attack. Simultaneously, an estimated reinforced Viet Cong battalion launched a fierce ground assault upon the fire support base. The attacking enemy drove to within 25 meters of the friendly positions. Only a river separated the Viet Cong from the fire support base. Detecting a nearby enemy position, Sgt. Davis seized a machinegun and provided covering fire for his guncrew, as they attempted to bring direct artillery fire on the enemy. Despite his efforts, an enemy recoilless rifle round scored a direct hit upon the artillery piece. The resultant blast hurled the guncrew from their weapon and blew Sgt. Davis into a foxhole. He struggled to his feet and returned to the howitzer, which was burning furiously. Ignoring repeated warning to seek cover, Sgt. Davis rammed a shell into the gun. Disregarding a withering hail of enemy fire directed against his position, he aimed and fired the howitzer which rolled backward, knocking Sgt. Davis violently to the ground. Undaunted, he returned to the weapon to fire again when an enemy mortar round exploded within 20 meters of his position, injured him painfully. Nevertheless, Sgt. Davis loaded the artillery piece, aimed and fired. Again he was knocked down by the recoil. In complete disregard for his safety, Sgt. Davis loaded and fired 3 more shells into the enemy. Disregarding his extensive injuries and his inability to swim, Sgt. Davis picked up an air mattress and struck out across the deep river to rescue 3 wounded comrades on the far side. Upon reaching the 3 wounded men, he stood upright and fired into the dense vegetation to prevent the Viet Cong from advancing. While the most seriously wounded soldier was helped across the river, Sgt. Davis protected the 2 remaining casualties until he could pull them across the river to the fire support base. Though suffering from painful wounds, he refused medical attention, joining another howitzer crew which fired at the large Viet Cong force until it broke contact and fled, Sgt. Davis' extraordinary heroism, at the risk of his life, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Army.
If that image looks familiar to you, it might be because the ceremony was later used in the film Forrest Gump...
...in which Davis was digitally transformed into Tom Hanks.
Looking forward to seeing him Sunday.
Oh, and Go Colts!
A decorated war veteran and Pashto speaker with multiple tours in Afghanistan, Gant had been assigned by the Army to deploy to Iraq in November. But with senior military and civilian leaders -- including Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates; Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan; and Gen. David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command -- expressing support for Gant's views, he was ordered instead to return to Afghanistan later this year to work on tribal issues.
"Maj. Jim Gant's paper is very impressive -- so impressive, in fact, that I shared it widely," Petraeus said, while McChrystal distributed it to all commanders in Afghanistan. One senior military official went so far as to call Gant "Lawrence of Afghanistan."
The abrupt about-face surprised the blunt-spoken major. "I couldn't believe it," Gant said in a recent interview, recalling how his orders were canceled just days before he was set to deploy to Iraq. "How do I know they are serious? They contacted me. I am not a very nice guy. I lead men in combat. I am not a Harvard guy. You don't want me on your think tank."
Major Jim Gant is the author of One Tribe at a Time. The document is a chronicle of his experience in Afghanistan (as a US Army Special Forces team leader "embedded" with a tribe in the Af/Pak border region) and a description of one possible future there. Its first public appearance was on Steven Pressfield's blog last fall. (Pressfield now has a section of his site dedicated to Gant's work and follow-on discussion.)
Don't be afraid to read the whole thing. This is not the product of a Harvard-educated think tank wonk eager to establish his credibility as a brilliant thinker and invaluable participant in the "Afghan debate." It's the output of one man with no illusions about the difficulty of the task, from on the ground with the people of one valley to headquarters (from the lowest levels to the White House - and the people of the United States). It's brief, to the point, and accessible - and more Gates of Fire than doctoral thesis.
Maybe a Special Forces ODA can understand an Afghan tribe because we ourselves are a tribe. And the Afghans recognize this. As time went by and we fought in many ambushes and engagements throughout the river valley and around other villages, the tribe came to believe that we were on their side and that we had come to help. With this, they began to open up to us. Here's one example:
Our team was in Mangwel. Malik Noorafzhal asked us to stay the night as we had many topics to discuss. Was this safe? I quickly counted over sixty armed warriors providing security. There were sentries high in the mountains (on the Pakistani side) that we were not meant to see, and three layers of security near the Malik's compound. We set up a hasty defensive perimeter (HDP) with our vehicles and got settled. The Malik then approached me and said he wanted to take me somewhere very special.
I, of course, agreed. I grabbed three of my men, we got in several pick-up trucks with Malik Noorafzhal and his men, and began traveling up towards the beautiful mountain range behind Mangwel (with just weapons, no body armor) towards Pakistan. We drove up a valley and past an Afghan cemetery with many large flat rocks emplaced into the ground. We noticed many graves. Off in the distance, what appeared to be an old village had been destroyed.
The vehicles parked and we all got out. Malik Noorafzhal grabbed my hand and we walked hand in hand up a small valley into the mountains. We turned at a small bend and there was a beautiful waterfall. He told us to drink the water.
He then came next to me and said (through my interpreter), "Jim, the last time I saw a person with a face like yours (meaning white) the Russians killed 86 men, women and children of my village." He continued, "This is my old village. We fought the Russians. They never took my village. We are ready to fight again if we have to." He looked at me and finished with, "You have great warriors with you. We will fight together."
Gant isn't afraid to use terms like warrior and winning (which he defines in chapter one). And he doesn't shy away from big issues that (if resolved) will ultimately bring about that win.
The Pashtun tribes will fight any and all outsiders, and refuse to accept being ruled by a central government...
Current policy is to pour more time, money and resources into the ANA and ANP. We have been doing this for eight years now and what do we have? The ANA and ANP are symbols of the central government, which at present is not trusted by the tribes.
Yet we continue to stake the success of our mission on their development. We should continue to develop the will and capacity of the ANA and ANP, while simultaneously preparing the tribes to defend themselves.
This is not a my way or the highway solution - Major Gant is confident in proposing a theory developed in its own execution, but is no crusader convinced he's completely right or completely righteous.
The struggle in Afghanistan is against more than one foe; in addition to the Taliban we're confronted with a bureaucracy that's potentially the one enemy that can't be defeated. But I opened this discussion with sometimes I think we can win the war, and gave one of the best examples I've seen lately of why: it's less because of what Major Gant wrote (hardly new, it's how we defeated the Taliban in the first place) and more that others in that same bureaucracy encountered an unconventional idea that an unconventional man proposed in an unconventional forum, plucked him from the relentless tide that would have sent him elsewhere, and dropped him instead where he was needed most.
But "can win" isn't the same as "will." News from elsewhere:
You may recall Eikenberry from the final days of the surge debate...
The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and senior Afghan officials have resisted moving forward with a bold and potentially risky initiative to support local militias in Afghanistan that are willing to defend their villages against insurgents, according to U.S. officials.
Their concerns have slowed the implementation of a key effort to provide security in places where there are relatively few NATO forces or Afghan police and Army units. U.S. military officials had wanted to get the initiative -- developed under the leadership of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan -- off to a quick start this year.
...before the initiative can be implemented on a broader scale, Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry must approve the release of more money for it.
Eikenberry's unease about the program as it was structured by the military also reflects a broader difference of opinion at the highest levels of the U.S. military and diplomatic headquarters in Kabul about new approaches to combating the Taliban insurgency. While military commanders are eager to experiment with decentralized grass-roots initiatives that work around the ponderous Afghan bureaucracy in Kabul, civilian officials think it is more important to wait until they have the central government's support, something they regard as essential to sustaining the programs.
Ambassador Eikenberry's memos expressed "deep concerns about sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan until President Hamid Karzai's government demonstrates that it is willing to tackle the corruption and mismanagement that has fueled the Taliban's rise, senior U.S. officials said."
...and wonder what's changed? The best answer I can offer is "nothing." He's obviously as determined as ever.
"We've got the watches, they've got the time," Gant reminds us.
In an insurgency, all the insurgents have to do is not lose. All they have to do is wear down the will of the counterinsurgent and in this case, the will of the American people and the American politicians.
If you're a member of one of those last two tribes, "yours" is the answer to "which one first?"
Here's One Tribe at a Time. Read the whole thing.
"Roughly 20,000 U.S. troops will be supporting relief efforts in Haiti by Jan. 24."
But don't worry:
Sensitive to the impression the US is taking too forceful a role, President Barack Obama said on Wednesday night the White House was being "very careful" to work with the Haitian government and the UN.
That's a very nice thing. But I would have said "the priority is to get emergency food, water, and medical care to the Haitian people as fast as possible - lives are at stake, and that trumps all. We'll sort 'hurt feelings' out later."
"I want to make sure that when America projects its power around the world, it's not seen only when it's fighting a war," Mr Obama told ABC News.
And that's a very nice thing, too. For some reason whenever we did anything in the humanitarian department over the last decade (and we did - a lot) if it got any attention at all it was in a story about the over-stretched military.
And photo ops are a fine thing, too - but again, the priority is emergency relief, not stage managing a proper photo op.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- The U.S. Air Force has resorted to an air drop of aid in Haiti.
A C-17 cargo plane from Pope Air Force Base, N.C., has parachuted pallets of food and water into an area outside Port-au-Prince secured by U.S. forces. The military has been reluctant to use air drops for fear of drawing unruly crowds.
The U.N. food agency has reached an agreement with the U.S.-run airport in Haiti's capital to give priority to humanitarian aid flights.
The deal came after the U.S. military was criticized for letting its planes and rescue aircraft land first.
Other than getting Bill Clinton in, I'm not sure what "non-humanitarian" flights were getting priority. I know the US Air Force was initially operating the Airport on a "first come/first served" basis, but I suspect the real problem was less about "humanitarian relief" and more about "we want our photo op, too." (Hence the 'hurt feelings' issue above.)
But here's an account of what was going on at the airport:
When Air Force special operations controllers stepped off a transport plane Wednesday night at Haiti's main airport, they found chaos.
One day after the earthquake in Haiti struck, relief planes were coming in from all directions, landing on a first-come-first-served basis and getting too close to one another on the ground. Nobody was coordinating. Aid wasn't moving.
The air-traffic control tower was damaged and unsafe. So Sgt. Chris Grove, whose expertise extends to calling in airstrikes from the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, brought his squad to a spot near the runway and set up what would become an air-traffic control center. They went to talk to pilots on the ground. "We told them, hey, we're Air Force combat controllers. We're taking over the airfield," Grove said. From a dirt patch, two young American sergeants began directing air traffic for one of the largest humanitarian operations in history.
Hopefully this explanation from the young sergeant will be acceptable to the White House, France, and the rest of the United Nations:
"I know we got some bad publicity about turning some away, but there was nothing we could do," Grove said, standing on the airfield between landings. "Our job is to run a safe and effective air-traffic control operation."
On Sunday, all manner of aircraft, including a Chinese 747 jumbo jet, were lined up along the airfield. Forklifts were unloading the pallets into convoys of trucks. The drone of jet engines and helicopter rotors was constant.
When they first arrived, the Air Force special operators set up a headquarters in a rat-infested, trash-strewn hangar. Now cleaned up, that has become the central military headquarters for the relief effort. It's where Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met Haitian President René Préval on Saturday.
And hopefully one of the first flights in delivered a copy of the new UN agreement.
Fortunately, while France and the United Nations we're busy filing formal complaints regarding the quality of service they were getting from the US military, the US military was busy elsewhere:
As some 200 daily flights transit through the congested and sole functioning Haitian airport in the capital of Port-au-Prince, the U.S. military is looking to open a second runway in the city of Jacmel within a day.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said the Defense Department is sending a port-clearing ship and evaluating additional capabilities to assist the disaster relief effort.
Gates announced that he signed deployment orders this morning to send a port-clearing ship equipped with cranes to get the port operating within a week or two to speed up aid distribution.
Three new airfields and the reopening of the capital's seaport Thursday will dramatically increase the amount of aid flowing into Haiti and help relieve the congestion of round-the-clock deliveries at the main airport, the Pentagon said.
Gen. Douglas Fraser, commander for the U.S. Southern Command, said the capital's seaport will reopen Thursday and can accommodate the moving of about 150 shipping containers per day. He said a commercial ship is scheduled to arrive Friday, when the port's capacity is expected to grow to 250 containers per day.
All of which could give the UN something to file a fresh barrage of formal complaints about:
The increased flow of humanitarian aid and supplies through new entry points likely will cause greater congestion on Haiti's roads, Fraser said, possibly delaying the delivery of relief to a desperate population.
On a more positive note, the UN now has so many doctors and engineers in Haiti that they can start turning others away:
That was two days ago. Today:
Members of Texas Task Force 1 have been on standby in Houston since Thursday to head to the devastated island nation.
But the United Nations mission in the country has declared the search and rescue teams already in the nation are sufficient to handle to the task and the Texas team and others prepared to deploy would not be needed.
The Texas unit, which has been on standby at Ellington Field in southeast Houston, was made up of 80 members including doctors and engineers.
As thousands continued fleeing the ruined capital by bus and on foot, teams of rescue workers defied the odds by finding more people buried in the rubble.
Also in the good news department, in spite of airport delays the good folks of Médecins Sans Frontières are finally getting their giant inflatable hospital inflated, and "hope to start offering medical treatment inside these structures Friday morning."
Here's "Major Military Support for Haiti - At a Glance." Notable: the 250-bed/550 medical professionals/Advanced medical treatment facilities/Helicopter deck-equipped US Navy Ship Comfort arrived early (departed Baltimore Jan. 16, scheduled to arrive in Haiti Jan. 21) and is treating patients. No new pictures or stories of US soldiers distributing food today, however. But hopefully food distribution is continuing in spite of protests from civilian aid agencies; as noted, it isn't about the photo op.
Next: Quake report
Previously: The Hunger (Continued)
...don't you see?
They're simply in need
of guidance from me:
Rachel Maddow, in response, said, "[Brown] ran a coherent campaign, but one totally divorced from reality."
Divorced from reality?
Yes, divorced from reality
that's what I said.
It's a place that exists
right here in my head.
And I know that it's real
And I know that it's true
And I know lots of things
'cause I'm smarter than you.
In other news: just a guess,
but I'm betting Scott Brown
declined an invite
to visit a clown
And that made him angry
and he started to twitch
"I'm top dog in this town,
and paybacks are a bitch!"
But I'm sure the Senator
just hopped in his truck
tuned in a rock station
and wished him "good luck"
Someone might want to "clarify" this really fast:
Soldiers told to stop handing out food
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Food handouts were shut off Tuesday to thousands of people at a tent city here when the main U.S. aid agency said the Army should not be distributing the packages.
It was not known whether the action reflected a high-level policy decision at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) or confusion in a city where dozens of entities are involved in aid efforts.
"We are not supposed to get rations unless approved by AID," Maj. Larry Jordan said.
Jordan said that approval was revoked; water was not included in the USAID decision, so the troops continued to hand out bottles of water. The State Department and USAID did not respond to requests for comment.
A reader writes to Glenn Reynolds: "The "aid" agencies did the same thing in Afghanistan." (Read the whole thing.)
Most GI's I know would risk the wrath of an irate public servant when confronted with this particular "order" - and continue to feed the starving. While order from chaos is a desirable thing, bringing the same "coordination and leadership" mentality to disaster relief that Janet Napolitano does to homeland security will have the same result faster: dead people. So while I'm sure they're very busy, someone in the Obama administration had best figure out which underling came up with this brilliant idea and get them the hell out of Haiti now, before they screw things up even worse. (Assuming they're actually there. And yes, no matter how bad things are, someone can always make them worse.)
PARIS, Jan 20 (Reuters) - One of France's main humanitarian organisations accused the United States on Wednesday of mishandling aid operations in Haiti and causing severe delays to doctors trying to bring vital help to victims of the earthquake.
Francoise Saulnier, head of the legal department of aid group Medicins sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) said days had been lost because the main airport in Port-au-Prince, now under U.S. control, had been blocked by military traffic.
We expect that from the French.
Next: Very Nice Things
The Hunger ("Haitians denounce occupation after U.S. troops arrived at the National Palace")
More Noise ("U.N. peace keepers were given orders to clear the street. Unable to speak the native language, the Jordanian, Pakistani and Indian forces mostly did their talking with nightsticks and rubber bullets... The American soldiers showed restraint." Unlike America, most UN member nations don't have multi-lingual military members. (Though a billy club in the face is an "international language" all its own.) And those armies exist first and foremost because members of those different looking, funny talking other tribes are viewed as a threat. In humanitarian operations that's inevitably a problem - one not solved by distributing identical blue headgear.
Bring the noise (Right now the problem is chaos, but given time that will inevitably be replaced by an impenetrable bureaucracy.)
Thanks, moms (Milblogger just home from Afghanistan, hears from mom... "You just got home, you got a new place, you got a new car, you just went back to work, everything is going fine, and now you want to leave again...." For Haiti.)
Turbulence report ("The US military's takeover of emergency operations in Haiti has triggered a diplomatic row with countries and aid agencies furious at having flights redirected.")
If you thought the earthquake was bad... ("President Barack Obama said today said he's made helping Haiti in the wake of a crippling earthquake the top priority of every U.S. government agency.")
US military response to the earthquake in Haiti ("Defense Department officials are coordinating with their State Department counterparts to provide life-saving assistance in Haiti as quickly as possible after a devastating earthquake struck near the capital of Port-au-Prince yesterday afternoon.")
Haitians denounce occupation after U.S. troops arrived at the National Palace
Port au Prince (AFP) - Hundreds of Haitians attended on Tuesday, between resignation and anger, the impressive helicopters landing of U.S. troops in the presidential palace, in an act considered by many a loss of sovereignty.
"It's an occupation. The palace is the country, represents our power, our face, our pride," Feodor Desanges criticism.
You get this touching little photo with the story:
But unfortunately it doesn't provide a very good picture of the reality of the Presidential Palace today:
...which looks a lot like the sort of place the US military would see as a damn fine base of operations. If you want to cal it a "palace," by all means do.
That story linked above is a Google translation of an AFP story appearing in the Dominican Republic, but AFP offers a version for American readers, too.
US troops secure Haiti presidential palace, hospital
PORT-AU-PRINCE -- US troops descended by helicopter to take control of Haiti's ruined presidential palace Tuesday, AFP reporters saw, as the military earthquake relief operation gathered pace.
Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne division arrived in at least four choppers to secure the executive mansion, a once elegant white building in the devastated city center, now surrounded by a vast refugee camp.
We've got no updates on the progress of the various French official complaints regarding US military relief efforts, but here's the latest on relief efforts in Haiti:
Record Crowds Cause Unrest at Distribution Point
Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs
Story by Fred Baker
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - You could hear the crowd before you could see it.
From the top of the hill that serves as a landing zone for disaster relief here, the crowd looked massive, the largest yet at this U.S. military relief point. It spanned the base of the hill, stretching into the wooded areas to the east and west and sprawled deep into the survivor camp to the north. The calls and cries and dust from the crowd rose into the air as the desperation hit a high.
The end of the day was near and it was obvious that many would leave empty-handed.
(Click image for high-res) U.S. Army Capt. Jon Hartsock stands in a crowd of women waiting for food and water to be distributed in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Jan. 19, 2010. Hartsock is assigned to the 82nd Airborne's 1st Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, and runs the day-to-day distribution of humanitarian aid. (DoD photo by Fred W. Baker III)
It took the Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment here, alongside many local Haitian volunteers, several attempts to calm the crowd. It came dangerously close at times to spilling past the makeshift perimeter set up by the Soldiers.
A handful of elderly women were pulled from the crowd, overcome by the heat and the dust.
Local Haitians walked the line with bullhorns trying to talk the crowd of women into sitting down but those in the back continued to push forward. The Soldiers and volunteers on the perimeter at times held hands to form a human chain to hold the crowd back.
Those passing out the food and water simply sat down, stopping the distribution, as a sign to the crowd that as long as they did not cooperate, they would get nothing.
Eventually the crowd calmed and the distribution restarted, but the event was a likely premonition of relief efforts to come as the military here works to increase the number and push these points farther into the city.
The US military isn't alone in Haiti - also via the Dawn Patrol, "After hours of work, an L.A. County urban search and rescue team pulls a woman from the rubble as crowds begin to chant 'USA, USA'."
Next: The Hunger (continued)
Let me put this as simply as possible. Democrats control everything in Washington right now. They control the White House. They have a huge margins in the House and in the Senate. Democrats have larger margins in both chambers than any party has had for decades. They have zero excuses for failing to deliver. Americans will not find some nonsense about having only 59 Senate seats as an acceptable excuse for failing to accomplish anything. If Democrats think they can win in 2010 by running against Republican obstructionism, they will lose badly.
Candidate Barack Obama promised a lot of people a lot of wonderful things back in 2008 - and naturally a lot of people are eagerly awaiting delivery. To simplify this discussion, let's call those things "unicorns." (In fact, I believe there were folks who did so back in 2008 - but 2008 was a year in which a lot of other folks were ready to "believe".)
That failure to deliver is already the stuff of comedy of the SNL/Daily Show variety. But an increasing number of people who expected unicorn delivery are becoming increasingly angry at those who've failed to deliver, and they aren't laughing. They've yet to take the next step (realizing there are no unicorns) but eventually some will.
There's a bit of a hurdle to clear in that regard - one has to acknowledge that a) you were manipulated, and b) you fell for it, but those who don't reject political involvement altogether (and you can believe this: those folks who used you in the first place won't mind that outcome) will find themselves a) less easily manipulated, and b) right in the midst of the Great American Political Center. Frequently maligned as dull, this is really a remarkable and chaotic place. In fact, it's where people roll up their sleeves and get things done. (And here's a little secret: the terms that define us have been bastardized by extremists, but we're liberal, tolerant, progressive, and reality-based.)
Once here, you'll have to put up with accusations that you're the reason everybody doesn't have a unicorn, but if you can tolerate that we can go on about the business of building a future, which is also a very real and remarkable thing.
News radio from Boston (9:50 PM - live concession speech "any moment".)
Several major news sites - including the Boston Globe - appear to be crashing. But here's the story.
"I'm about to go back out after getting warmed up. I have been battling a severe case of pneumonia for two weeks now. This is too important for me to pass up--- I want to be part of history."
You don't get that level of support with a "narrative" or by "defining your opponent." But you do get that sort of opposition by pissing on people and telling 'em it's raining.
(OBTW, reports are in that Coakley has conceded.)
Real stimulus: "The prospect of a Republican win for the key Senate race in Massachusetts powered U.S. stocks to new 15-month highs Tuesday."
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 115.78 points, or 1.09%, to 10725.43, its highest close since Oct. 1, 2008.The health-care sector saw major gains, but...
"...it goes beyond health care," said Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at Wells Capital Management. "Any kind of gridlock whatsoever is good for Wall Street and Main Street combined, because it means it slows down the radical pace of change that makes it so difficult for businesses to know how to act. It would slow down the change not only for policy but also for the rules of the game."
File Coakley's claims that Brown would be good for Wall Street and would take us back to the Bush years under "true".
The problem for her (and the Democrats) is that a lot of people have come to realize that while "Wall Street" is their euphemism for "fat cat bankers" it also means "everyone with a stake in the American economy." Whether you own stocks or not, you're invested.
Voting in Massachusetts continues until 8PM tonight.
The Wall Street Journal explains Why There Won't Be Exit Polls.
Mr. Brown's surge was so sudden that many of the usual accoutrements of closely-contested elections are missing in the Bay State.
One is exit polls. There will be none tonight from Massachusetts, disappointing journalists and political scientists alike. As Mike Allen of Politico.com reports, the consortium of news outlets that normally organizes such surveys didn't bother when the race was expected to be a blowout and now "wasn't confident a reliable system could be built so fast."
However, Coakley supporters shouldn't give up hope yet. Back to the Journal:
When asked whether "ACORN will try to steal the election for Martha Coakley," a surprising 25% of those surveyed in Massachusetts said "yes." A total of 38% said "no," and another 37% weren't sure. Lest you think concern about ACORN was limited to Republicans, one out of six Democrats thought ACORN would attempt electoral hanky-panky. One out of four African-Americans expressed the same concern, along with the same number of voters who called themselves moderates.
...of the not good variety:
U.N. peace keepers were given orders to clear the street. They did so with force. Unable to speak the native language Creole or even English, the Jordanian... Pakistani and Indian forces mostly did their talking with nightsticks and rubber bullets. No one was seriously injured. But tensions are building.
The American soldiers on hand - members of the 82nd Airborne - showed restraint. Their helmets were off and their guns were intentionally unloaded.
Unlike America, most UN member nations don't have multi-lingual military members. (Though a billy club in the face is an "international language" all its own.) More importantly (also unlike America) most armies are composed of members of one "tribe" with little experience dealing with people who look different than they do. Those armies exist first and foremost because members of those different looking, funny talking other tribes are viewed as a threat. In peace keeping/humanitarian operations that's inevitably a problem - and one not solved by distributing identical blue headgear.
Lex: "Haiti was once a colony of France, which left behind a legacy of dependency and corruption. Haiti was once occupied and administered by the US Marine Corps, which left behind a system of roads, infrastructure and vocational education. So I suppose there was bound to be some friction as the two countries reprise their roles..."
And McQ catches this one: "Speaking on his weekly television show, [Hugo] Chavez opined that the U.S. mission in Haiti was a ruse to initiate military occupation."
Next: The Hunger
If all but one of those polls are right, Scott Brown now has a lead well beyond the margin of error. But, as that Boston Globe 'Dead Heat!' headline suggests, it's not necessarily beyond the margin of Acorn, the margin of lawyer, and the margin of Franken-style recounts.
...says Mark Steyn.
Meanwhile, as far as legitimate absentee ballots go...
If military members or others vote from outside the U.S., their absentee ballot must be postmarked by Election Day and received by election officials no later than 10 days after the election.
Because of the need to count overseas ballots, McNiff said, Galvin must wait at least 10 days before certifying results of the election, meaning the winner may not be seated right away.
In 2007, the U.S. House of Representatives cleared Nicola S. Tsongas of Lowell to be sworn in less than 48 hours after her special election, accepting an unofficial certification from Galvin. The U.S. Senate has shown no sign it will accept anything other than official certified results, McNiff said.
That's partly due to this bit of inconvenience ("Dems plot ways to enact health care bill with 59 Senate votes"). "McNiff said he doubted the election would be so close that it would be decided by absentee ballots cast by people out of the country."
But if by chance you're a military absentee voter who hasn't yet done so, f#$% them, get to the post office.
And now, a brief word from half a century ago.
US accused of 'occupying' Haiti as troops flood in
The French minister in charge of humanitarian relief called on the UN to "clarify" the American role amid claims the military build up was hampering aid efforts.
Alain Joyandet admitted he had been involved in a scuffle with a US commander in the airport's control tower over the flight plan for a French evacuation flight.
Proving once again that "they're making noise and we're making history" still applies (and always will).
Right now the problem is chaos, but given time that will inevitably be replaced by an impenetrable bureaucracy. For his part, "Capt John Kirby, a spokesman for the joint task force at the airport, said the US recognised it was only one of a number of countries contributing to a UN-led mission." So maybe they just aren't speaking the same language.
Speaking of language barriers, here's one of the Marines of the 22MEU, explaining why why he volunteered to go to Haiti:
Next: More Noise
Now on the count of three... Happy Birthday to You...Happy Bir ...hey I'm not singing alone here people.
Happy Birthday dear.
The Boston Globe: "Sen. Kerry says Scott Brown supporters engaged in bullying, threats"
"I'm no stranger to hard fought campaigns, but what we've seen in the past few days is way over the line and reminiscent of the dangerous atmosphere of Sarah Palin's 2008 campaign rallies. This is not how democracy works in Massachusetts," Kerry said this afternoon in a statement.
"Scott Brown needs to speak up and get his out of state tea party supporters under control. In Massachusetts, we fight hard and win elections on the issues and on our differences, not with bullying and threats," Kerry said.
Well, this being the internet age, perhaps we'll soon be seeing video evidence - like this: Coakley Supporters Wrap Cameraman Up in Campaign Sign.
The initiative features over 40 members of a media team working with poll watchers in targeted precincts across Massachusetts. Once the polls open, a real-time news stream of ballot integrity initiative activities can be viewed at www.washingtonnewsalert.com.
For Massachusetts blogger reports, check in with
and Sissy Willis
early and often today.
Y'all keep it clean, no hitting below the belt, and may the best man win.
We ran the live video feed of the DOD briefing with former Army Secretary Togo West and Adm. Vern Clark (Ret.) on the release of their Ft Hood shooting review last week. Since then, some early reviews are in.
Bill Bennett calls it a "whitewash."
Titled, "Protecting the Force: Lessons from Fort Hood," this 80-plus page report mentions the words "Islam" and "Muslim" not once.... You can read about "Motivations for domestic terrorism" such as "animal rights, "white supremacy," and "religious intolerance" thrown in on equal par among other factors that simply were not in play here in the report.
At Powerline, Paul Mirengoff gets it exactly right: "Defense department shows, rather than says, why the Fort Hood massacre occurred."
I don't mean to suggest that the concept of political correctness is absent from the DoD's report. To the contrary, it haunts the document.
It does indeed. You can read the document itself if you'd like (I have), or view the full press conference video here. But to really appreciate the reviews, I think you only need the two-minute version below.
"The immediate problem is radicalization of any sort and for whatever reason," West assures us, then suggests we "suppose it were fundamentalist Christian-inspired."
Adm Clark says that "there's a lack of clarity for comprehensive indicators" of who might pose a threat, "which then limit the commanders and the rest of the chain of command's ability to recognize these threats."
But he can identify one: "Health-care providers are not immune to the stressors that are present in their workplace, and that is true whether they are at home or whether they are deployed. And our recommendations suggest that there is a requirement to put the right programs in place to support these critical people."
Which brings us near a close (for now). Because when I hear deployed health care providers, I think of the 467th Medical Detachment...
Three unit members were killed by the Islamic terrorist Nidal Hasan at Ft Hood, but they deployed last month as scheduled.
"I think they decided that same day (of the shooting) that they were more dedicated than ever in honor of the soldiers that we lost and have stood firm in that commitment," said unit commander Maj. Laura Suttinger. "They were all very dedicated, caring soldiers, and they will not be forgotten. We're carrying on in their honor."
Three soldiers from the Madison, Wisconsin-based unit were killed during the shooting: Maj. Libardo Caraveo, 52, of Woodbridge, Va., Capt. Russell Seager, 41, of Racine, Wisc., and Sgt. Amy Krueger, 29, of Kiel, Wisc.
Members of the unit will be better able to help soldiers overseas since surviving this tragedy themselves, 1st Sgt. James McLeod, of the unit, said. "Even though we lost our fallen comrades, no one is going to stop us from completing our mission."
"This is how it is, mostly: no brass bands, or even drum and bugle corps." I wrote at the time. "No cheering throngs. Just a simple walk in the pre-dawn hours to a bus that takes you to the flightline, to a plane that takes you to war."
And I agree with Clark on the point that they deserve a hell of a lot better than what they get.
A manufacturer putting "Secret 'Jesus' Bible Codes" on military rifle sights is among the most stupid things I ever heard of.
If so then I think that's good news.
Update: This story first appeared on the gun blog Accurate Shooter. Did ABC News rip them off? If so, have they never heard (EX20:15) thou shalt not steal?
Click image for roundup...
UPDATE: Identified as Michael Patrick McManus or by his Buddha name Tenzin Chophak
"Tomorrow at 8:30 AM I will be on the phone with the FBI in Houston." Well, that didn't take long.
Milblogger just home from Afghanistan, hears from mom... "You just got home, you got a new place, you got a new car, you just went back to work, everything is going fine, and now you want to leave again..."
Like Afghanistan, Haiti is one of the more monumental events that's happening now. Its probably going to be one of the more monumental events in my life, and I sure as shit don't want to sit home and watch it on TV.
Moms have a right to worry and express their concern (mine never hesitated, especially when I was getting ready for my second Iraq trip - but she more than earned that right) but the bottom line is they raised sons and daughters with an attitude like that expressed above, and it just might be enough to save civilization for the next generation.
(Being a damn fine American milblogger, he ends each and every post with "I love you Mom." Check it out.)
Next: Bring the noise
"I wanted to be a lobsterman since I was a little kid on the dock," said Feeney, who is now 61 and president of the Massachusetts Lobstermen's Association. "I still love fishing but I hate the business."
While his costs have spiralled, he is being paid the same price for a catch as back in 1992 and 40% less than two years ago.
Feeney has voted all his life for Ted Kennedy, the last scion of America's greatest political family, who took over the seat from his brother John and held it for 47 years until his death last August.
This Tuesday, in the election to fill Kennedy's Senate seat, Feeney and fellow lobstermen will vote Republican. It is a pattern being repeated throughout the state of Massachusetts in what is threatening to become the biggest upset of President Barack Obama's first year in office.
"Kennedy was a good friend of the lobstermen," explained Feeney. "He would help whenever we had a problem. I just think the Democrats have forgotten the working man."
A couple of centuries ago the Brits thought they could get things back under control in Boston without too much trouble...
Then, on the fifth day, the slow kids showed up:
The US military's takeover of emergency operations in Haiti has triggered a diplomatic row with countries and aid agencies furious at having flights redirected.
Brazil and France lodged an official protest with Washington after US military aircraft were given priority at Port-au-Prince's congested airport, forcing many non-US flights to divert to the Dominican Republic.
Brasilia warned it would not relinquish command of UN forces in Haiti, and Paris complained the airport had become a US "annexe", exposing a brewing power struggle amid the global relief effort.
Negative, ghostrider, we do not have UHF freq for our "complaint department". Roger that. Thanks for trying, and have a safe flight. Mudville out. (Clicks mike key twice rapidly.)
Meanwhile, as France and Brazil file complaints, here's a group that just went in through the Dominican Republic:
...we spent a considerable amount of time this morning developing our en-route security plan, as the news reports indicated that the route was plagued by bandits. While planning, we also made contact with several locals who were willing to take us by minivan from SD to the border, and then transfer into pickup trucks for the ride from Jimani to PAP.
We left via two minivans around 11:00, and had an uneventful six-hour ride to the border... Along the road, we passed many UN and other aid vehicles, some formal, most not, returning empty from Haiti. The border crossing was very simple; we didn't even have to get our passports stamped, but did so anyway to observe all the formalities. We offloaded from our minivans and transferred into TWO mini-pickups. We packed and equipped ourselves in light of the fact that news reports implied we would be overrun by mobs of famished civilians once we got to the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. Our arsenal included machetes, hatchets, and (in my case) a folding shovel. We put our dust masks, stowed the doctors and the Jesuit safely inside the vehicles, and climbed on top of the luggage for the last 40 miles to Port-au-Prince. We were ready for anything...
Which in this case consisted of an utterly uneventful hour-and-a-half drive. Several things NOT mentioned in the news happened en route and deserve notice...
Follow their progress through milblogger Badger Jake's site here.
In other news:
Airborne Troops Provide First Glimpse of Relief
Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs
TOUSSAINT LOUVERTURE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, Port-au-Prince, Haiti - Hundreds of 82nd Airborne Division troops from Fort Bragg, N.C., arrived here overnight in the first wave of putting a substantial U.S. military relief effort in place in the wake of this week's devastating earthquake.
As many as 3,500 Soldiers are expected to be on the ground here in just a few short days, as the military finds itself caught somewhere in the middle of finding its feet and moving out to help the tens of thousands left with nothing after the Jan. 12 earthquake.
Air Force C-17s started hauling troops and equipment from the 1st Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment Jan. 15, with the rest of the 800 or so soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team being delivered by ongoing flights through the night.
The planes were packed making use of every square inch of space. Soldiers stacked in with military vehicles, water and other equipment and supplies. With the airport here maxed out on its ability to manage the number of flights coming in and out, officials wanted to waste neither time or space.
"Air planes are stacked up the 'wazoo' up there trying to get down here," one colonel said just before his troops exited the C-17.
The military flights were delayed somewhat yesterday simply because of the limited capacity of the airport. It is, however, running 24-hour operations with flights coming in from around the world as nations reach out to one of the globe's poorest countries.
Army Maj. Larry Jordan, with 1st Squadron, 73rd Infantry Regiment, was on the ground yesterday surveying where the incoming troops would go. Most of the troops here were sleeping under the stars. A handful of tents were scattered about. For the most part there is no running water or electricity.
Right now, the troops are tasked with paving the way for the massive amounts of humanitarian aid coming to reach the communities safely. They provide airport security and a detachment watches over the embassy.
Locals waved at the military helicopters flying over the city today. Acres of tin-roofed shanties were flattened. Toward the mountains, closer to the main impact of the quake, larger buildings had collapsed. Most of the houses are built near or connected to each other so entire blocks were collectively crushed.
"The devastation is absolutely amazing," Jordan said.
Many survivors have set up camps out in the open football-field sized areas. Brightly-colored tarps provide cover for them and the few personal items they were able to recover from the wreckage.
Still, Jordan said that he did not see a lot of crime or looting in the neighborhoods he visited. He also said several Haitian police, both local and national, out in the streets.
"It was not the wild, wild west. There were not gangs of lawless machete wielders running around all over the place," he said.
Jordan did see a lot of locals trying to continue clearing the buildings, removing rubble, and cleaning the streets.
Ohio Pilot Describes Scene in Haiti
By Spc. Darron Salzer
National Guard Bureau
ARLINGTON, Va. - An Ohio Air National Guard C-130 pilot, who flew into the Haiti airport the day after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck, said he was surprised by the condition of the runway.
"When we went in, we expected there to be worse conditions at the airport, but by the time we got there, all communication, navigation and lighting systems were up and running," said Air Force Lt. Col. William Baulkmon, an aircraft commander from the 179th Airlift Wing, based in Mansfield, Ohio.
Late on Jan. 13, members of the wing flew two C-130 aircraft into Haiti with support personnel and equipment.
"We brought in basic cargo such as communication equipment and service members from the various services to accompany that equipment," said Baulkmon. "More than likely we will continue to provide this type of support."
About 45 members of the 179th have been deployed to Puerto Rico since Dec. 26 and were diverted to earthquake relief efforts. They joined forces with two C-130s from the 156th Airlift Wing of the Puerto Rico National Guard, based at Luis Muniz-Marin International Airport in San Juan.
"We were really surprised at how well the airport was set up as we came in," said Baulkmon. "We expected the facility itself to be more degraded, but as soon as we landed, they started to off-load us and we were back on our way to Puerto Rico in less than an hour."
Next: Thanks, moms
Live video feed from the Scott Brown campaign rally (With special guest appearance by New York Yankee fan Curt Schilling.).
Rally comparisons here.
Did Scott Brown commit a thought crime? The folks at Blue Mass Group PAC say yes, (BMG Exclusive: Scott Brown thought maybe Obama was born out of wedlock) and they've got video evidence:
In fact, they're pretty confidant they've got a double-whammy on Scott Brown: "Scott Brown praises Sarah Palin; suggests Obama born out of wedlock".
That's their original "long form" version of the video. It didn't get much attention, so they further cut and posted a 15 second version that gets rid of all that pesky "context". (What they originally thought was a damning revelation of Brown's defense of the Palin family's decisions*.) The new, "improved" version got notice.
I see Brown defending those who accept responsibility here. I have no idea how he completed the sentence (re: Obama's mother) "But more importantly, the fact that she had him when she was 18 years old..." but obviously it would reveal whatever Brown thought was more important. Based on context (and the fact that a Coakley support site cut the video off right there) I'd have to suspect it might be something Coakley supporters don't want to hear.
Or maybe they're saving the best for last. I'm looking forward to the rest of the story.
The DSCC is making hay this morning of this clip in which Scott Brown, in the process of praising President Obama's mother for deciding to have him at age 18, expresses some doubt -- and chuckles uncomfortably -- over the question of whether his parents were married when he was born.
DSCC spokesman Eric Schultz called the video "appalling" and tried to link Brown to the Birther movement, which denies Obama's citizenship and claims he was born abroad -- things he didn't even hint at in the video.
"Now, we find out that similar to the fringe birthers movement, he's raised questions about President Barack Obama's birth. Despite his best attempts to mask who he is, Scott Brown is an extremist who does not represent Massachusetts values, and he owes voters an explanation today on what he meant in this interview," Schultz said.
Birthers? Really? No one doubts who Obama's father and mother are, so I'd think a claim that Obama's father has less parental rights hardly bolsters the Birther position. As far as the "explanation of what he really meant," that seems too easy. Show the rest of the video.
More: And here's an actual claim that Barack Obama's mother was "very young and very single when she had him." But that one is from Michelle Obama. I wonder what she meant by that?
Note also from the Politico link above: "Obama's mother was young and had to marry on the fly (his mother was pregnant when they were married in Feburary, 1981) is central to his biography" - though I'm sure they meant February, 1961, not Feburary, 1981. I honestly couldn't care less about the status or circumstances of Obama's parents' nuptials - to me it's a non-issue, but Brown's position ("I don't know") hardly seems either inflammatory or "fringe".
*I'm not in Massachusetts, so I'm really puzzled by some of the assumptions of the strategists in the Coakley campaign. Besides bringing this "Scott Brown defends young, unwed mothers" issue to the forefront, did they really think emphasizing Brown's opposition to forcing Nuns to perform abortions was a vote-getter for their side?
"We're going to go in big," Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, commander of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, told reporters traveling with Mullen in Helmand. "I'm not looking for a fair fight."
Former Army Secretary Togo West and retired ADM Vern Clark, former Chief of Naval Operations, speak with reporters at the Pentagon providing an update on the results of their independent review related to the Fort Hood shootings, live stream at 12:00 ET.
And - live stream concluded. For the most part professionalism was maintained, but I would call it one of the most angry, contentious, and confrontational pressers I've ever seen. West terminated the whole thing a bit early with an abrupt goodbye.
Will post video if the Pentagon makes this one available. More to follow.
Meanwhile, here's the report.
WASHINGTON, Jan. 14, 2010 - President Barack Obama said today said he's made helping Haiti in the wake of a crippling earthquake the top priority of every U.S. government agency.
82nd Airborne Soldiers Begin Haiti Deployment
Air Force Special Operations Forces have been manning the airport in the capital of Port-au-Prince since about 8 p.m. yesterday, conducting airfield operations in addition to recovery and rescue efforts, said Air Force Lt. Col. Brett J. Nelson.
"Within hours of our arrival last evening, we established airfield control and have maintained that control conducting 24-hour operations at Port-au-Prince airport," Nelson, the commander of the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, 720th Special Tactics Group, said during a conference call with reporters today.
Air Force personnel have been engaged in operations to rescue potential survivors from collapsed buildings, he said. The colonel added that a number of Americans have been evacuated via the airport, but declined to provide an exact figure.
Nelson corrected media reports that said airport operations grinded to a halt after being saturated with aircraft. He acknowledged that operations at the airport have slowed down under the stress, with 44 aircraft crowding the space at one point today, but maintained that operations are ongoing.
WASHINGTON, Jan. 14, 2010 - An initial contingent of 100 82nd Airborne Division troops deployed to Haiti around noon today, and another 800 soldiers will follow tomorrow to support disaster relief and humanitarian support.
A lead element from Bravo Troop, 1st Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, left Fort Bragg today, and the entire battalion, along with a command and control element from the division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, will join them tomorrow, said Army Col. Billy Buckner, 18th Airborne Corps public affairs officer.
Meanwhile, the 82nd Airborne Division's entire 2nd Brigade Combat Team - on tap as the U.S. global response force - "has been told to be prepared to deploy as needed or required," Buckner said.
The DoD has created a Haiti Earthquake relief news page here.
Next: Turbulence report
Previously: US military response to the earthquake in Haiti
It's fourth and two! Bring out the posters!
As a matter of fact, I do: I think the catch phrase "going for it on fourth and one*" could be worked into a fine campaign slogan. She should say that as often as possible.
Oh, and use this as a theme song:
You know, "nevermore" - it's all about the future, and all that.
*Because only a moron would go for it on fourth and two.
We each have our own perception of "CIA agents" - mine's favorable. For most folks that opinion is shaped by whatever faith they have in the accuracy of (at best) second hand accounts (the vast majority of which are fiction) of a group of professionals who shun publicity. Should you meet one in person it's not likely they'll even announce themselves as such.
Here's a first impression of one from a milblogger in Afghanistan: "She's somebody's daughter."
More of the story filtered in: a suicide bomber had struck at Chapman, and we were told to prepare for at least 6 casualties. Little clusters of medics formed around each trauma bed. Lab techs, pharmacy techs, respiratory therapists all went through their paces in preparation, automatic, efficient. One of the bearded special operator medics who we saw frequently while working out quietly showed up, donned latex gloves, and went to the hospital ward to make beds and check supplies, doing the unglamorous and critically important.
And then they were here...
A tough read - edited for opsec, but not to protect the squeamish.
I asked my Afghan friend, "Do your mullahs speak out against violence like suicide bombings?"
Read both. (Via the Mrs, who can never forget or turn away.)
Military Assesses Haiti Disaster, Readies for Response
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 2010 - Defense Department officials are coordinating with their State Department counterparts to provide life-saving assistance in Haiti as quickly as possible after a devastating earthquake struck near the capital of Port-au-Prince yesterday afternoon.
U.S. Southern Command is coordinating with the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development to assess the situation after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake left perhaps thousands of people dead and many more trapped beneath collapsed buildings, officials reported.
And "About 2,000 Marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit at Camp Lejeune, N.C., are preparing to deploy to provide disaster-relief support in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.
The Marines will begin loading equipment on three Navy ships - USS Bataan, USS Carter Hall and USS Fort McHenry -- tomorrow, a process Marine Capt. Clark Carpenter, the 22nd MEU public affairs officer, said he expects to take two days. "
Photos and videos:
Coakley's most recent high-profile case was the "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" hoax, in which she defended Boston authorities' massive overreaction to harmless light-emitting-diode devices left around the city as a promotional gimmick.
So, she's serious about security - and (as the link reveals) she's not afraid to put people in prison and keep them there. I'm not sure that trait (as the article asserts) puts her to the "right" of Ted Kennedy (Joe Stalin didn't have a problem with locking people up, no one would make that claim about him) but certainly no one need fear empty prisons in America if Martha Coakley is in the Senate.
She's even called "a very, very good soldier" by a Pulitzer Prize-winning Wall Street Journal reporter. Read the whole thing.
Looks like the New York Times and Boston Globe are fighting back hard against Scott Brown's claim that the Massachusetts Senate seat belongs to the people. (Neither story references the quote.)
But credit the Globe for this story ("Guard service a key to candidate Brown")
Last month marked the 30th anniversary of Brown's induction into the National Guard. As much as he admires the military culture, it was a civilian emergency, the Blizzard of '78, that drew him to serve. He said he was impressed by the critical role the Guard played in digging out after the storm, which dumped up to 3 feet of snow over 33 hours in some areas, paralyzing the region.
The Guard initially rescued motorists stranded along Route 128, then helped dig out highways, open up coastal areas hit hard by flooding, and transport medical personnel and patients to hospitals, said John B. Encarnacao, a longtime guardsman from Wakefield whom Brown credits with encouraging him to join.
"I'd known Scott since he was a little boy, through his mother [Judith], who was my classmate and a cheerleader at Wakefield High,'' Encarnacao said. "When he said he was impressed with the Guard's response to the blizzard and what did I think of him joining, I told him it was a great opportunity.''
Encarnacao, a Democrat and longtime Wakefield selectman, declined to say whom he supports in the Senate election, however, saying, "Scott would have made a great Democrat, but he comes from a Republican family.''
In basic training, Brown said, he was placed in charge of a platoon of men from backgrounds that were vastly different from his own, growing up in suburban Wakefield.
"They were black, white, and Hispanic, from cities and Appalachia, educated and uneducated,'' he recalled. "I was responsible for getting everyone squared away. It made me grow up really fast, and it's something you never forget.''
The experience instilled in him the discipline he applies to his life.
"Basic training helped to make me a totally Type A person, organized and on time,'' Brown said. "It's why I am like I am. I can bring it right back to basic training. I remember it like it was yesterday.''
Brown went on to Boston College Law School and enrolled in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps at Northeastern University. In 1982, he left BC and moved to New York, where he pursued a modeling and acting career for a year and enrolled part time at Cardozo School of Law, according to his Massachusetts bar application.
He returned to Massachusetts for his once-a-month Guard sessions during that time, a campaign spokesman said. In August 1983, he completed airborne training at Fort Bragg, N.C., National Guard records show. Brown returned to BC that fall and received his law degree in 1985.
Brown describes himself as "probably one of the most qualified soldiers in the entire Massachusetts [Guard],'' having been an enlisted man and trained in infantry, airborne, and quartermaster duties and joining the Judge Advocate General's Corps in 1994.
Back in the early 1970's a recently-returned Massachusetts Vietnam veteran had to remake himself into an "anti-war activist" ("I committed the same kind of atrocities as thousands of other soldiers have committed") to even have a shot at his Party's nomination for a seat in the House. That decision would come back to haunt John Kerry in his 2004 run for president, but times have certainly changed since the era in which Scott Brown enlisted in the Guard.
Brown "kicked off the general election campaign with a visit to the state Soldiers' Home of Holyoke, criticizing Governor Deval L. Patrick's budget cuts that forced closing of the outpatient clinic there a week earlier" and "has carved out a niche as a leading advocate for veterans, colleagues on both sides of the aisle said."
State Senator John A. Hart Jr., Democrat of South Boston, said: "He does his homework, he's comprehensive in his approach, and on veterans' issues, he's one of them and has done a very good job on their behalf."
"Brown's years as a citizen-soldier inform many aspects of his personal and political ethic: the value of discipline and physical fitness, his beliefs about national security, war, and peace, and his priorities in the Legislature," says the Globe.
It's possible the Boston Globe - a paper that endorsed Brown's opponent - believes that's actually a negative. But somehow I don't think John Kennedy would mind Scott Brown representing the people of Massachusetts.
(Fairnes doctrine: Martha Coakley's War.)
(Memo to Martha: not all criminals look like garden club grannies.)
And double ouch:
During Monday's debate with Republican Scott Brown, Coakley questioned why the United States still has troops in Afghanistan. She claimed that the al Qaeda terrorists who were originally targeted by American military action have migrated elsewhere, rendering the mission moot. "They're gone," she said. "They're not there anymore. They're in, apparently Yemen, they're in Pakistan."
A reporter asked Coakley about that claim after a Capitol Hill fundraiser on Tuesday. "Do you stand by that remark?" he asked.
Coakely, standing before a small cluster of reporters and cameras, listened to the question, then quickly looked in a different direction.
"I'm sorry," she said. "Did anybody else have a question?"
In High Bostonian that means STFU, peasant. And as John McCormack discovered, you'd best learn that language PDQ.
As for the question, here's one answer from earlier this week:
McChrystal said al Qaeda, which launched the 9/11 attacks from its Afghan bases in 2001, has demonstrated it intends to "try to come back in to Afghanistan if in fact there is that opportunity with a Taliban regime or ungoverned basis. I think it's incredibly important. I think the president laid that out pretty clearly."
But that's from a guy who - if it wasn't for all the fun to be had hanging out with Hamid Karzai - would have to retire to a meager six-figure pension (in addition to any other income he could scrape up). So obviously he's biased.
Sometimes the dots are connected before someone gets killed. This is the story of one of those times.
Headlines on the upcoming release of the results a Pentagon inquiry into the Ft Hood shootings range from "Emerging picture in Fort Hood review is one of supervisors who voiced concerns, but didn't act" (the Canadian Press) to the New York Post's "Feds' screw-ups in Hood case revealed." The Washington Post runs with "Pentagon inquiry into Fort Hood urges focus on service members who may pose risk" - which at least emphasizes the future rather than the past.
Certainly in the Hasan case someone failed to connect the dots - and people died. But what happens when dots are connected? Lives saved, reduced panic, and less dramatic headlines - but as the following example will demonstrate, that last result isn't due to lack of effort on the part of those who write them.
"Fuck you colonels, captains, E-7 and above
You think you so much bigger than I am? ...
Like Obama said, somebody be held responsible.
But some of y'all gonna be held in the hospitals...
I'm gonna round them up all eventually, easily,
walk right up peacefully and surprise them all
yes, yes, y'all, up against the wall, turn around
I got a mother fuckin' magazine with 30 rounds,
on a three-round burst, ready to fire down
Still against the wall, I grab my M-4
spray and watch all the bodies hit the floor
I bet you never stop-loss nobody no more."
There was at least one empty seat on the plane when the 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team deployed to Iraq late last year. Specialist Marc Hall, author of the above quote, was back at Ft Stewart, Georgia, awaiting trial.
Hall, according to charges, did "on divers occasions, between on or about 08 July 2009 and on or about 08 December 2009, wrongfully make statements to members of his battalion that he would engage in acts of violence against members of his unit..." That's one of five specifications; others include telling [names redacted in released charge sheet] that he would "hurt someone if he was deployed" (specification 4) and "that he was planning on shooting the brigade and battalion commanders" (specification 5).
Specialist Hall also recorded his threat (according to specification 2 as "original songs wrongfully threatening acts of violence against members of his unit" which he distributed to fellow soldiers) and sent a copy to the Pentagon. Shortly after Hall was charged, milblogger Jonn Lilyea noticed the IVAW crew had taken up his cause. Not long after that, Stars and Stripes ran a story on the case. ("Army specialist jailed for threats against fellow soldiers, commanders," the headline read.)
James Klimaski, a Washington-based lawyer, said that Iraq Veterans Against the War, an anti-war group to which Hall belongs, is trying to raise enough money for Hall to hire him as his civilian attorney. While Hall is jailed, his unit has deployed to Iraq without him, according to Klimaski.
"The problem with threats is they can't be contingent," he said. " 'I will do this if ...' Well that's not a threat because if 'if' doesn't happen, then there's no threat. Like, let's say, 'I'm going to shoot the battalion commander if I'm deployed.' Well he's not been deployed, so he's not going to shoot the battalion commander, so there's no threat."
Klimaski also said the definition of rampage means to run around like a crazy person. "That's not a threat," he said.
Klimaski added that those who are a true threat typically don't advertise their intentions.
"Maj. Hasan didn't run around and say, 'Hey, I'm going to blow people away at the hospital, or the infirmary today.' Or the bomber going into Detroit says, 'Oh, I should tell everyone I'm on this plane and blow the plane up,'" he said.
Klimaski also recommends a "rap exclusion" for threats: "Listen to rap songs," Klimaski said. "I mean there are a whole bunch of rap songs talking about killing people all the time. Nobody gets killed from them."
Ft Stewart's response is that the "songs" weren't the only threats, and...
"The chain of command has a legal obligation to the citizens of the United States to investigate and deal fairly with SPC Hall's alleged misconduct," Kevin Larson, a spokesman at Fort Stewart, said in an e-mail. "Anything less would be irresponsible to our citizens and soldiers."
Their headline? "Soldier Jailed for Angry Rap Song."
There's been plenty of news lately about failures to connect the dots - here's the sort of story we'll be seeing more often once those failures are corrected.
...you know it's Barack Obama.
"We don't have personal conversations - we haven't recently. But we've just been through the Christmas holidays..."
I hope he at least got a nice card from Hawaii.
On the other hand, that smile looks like an authentic happy smile.
Update/OBTW - headline on the ABC report: Gen. Stanley McChrystal Says Fight Is in Afghanistan, Not Yemen. (That video here.) Someone might want to tell Martha Coakley. Al Qaeda ain't no garden club.
For GI Joe reviews, try here and here. The consensus is great movie, with emphasis on movie. I haven't seen it yet, but I trust Alex Horton's word on what it gets right and wrong on Iraq. (And the response of the actual EOD folks speaks for itself.)
During today's interview with Jake Rademacher he mentioned it was the folks behind this film who actually pushed for a simultaneous release with his, in hopes of increased visibility for Brothers at War's more realistic/less theatrical portrayal of the Iraq experience.
Live online interview session with 'Brothers at War' Director Jake Rademacher, 1:15 ET.
From the web site:
BROTHERS AT WAR is an intimate portrait of an American family during a turbulent time. Jake Rademacher sets out to understand the experience, sacrifice, and motivation of his two brothers serving in Iraq. The film follows Jake's exploits as he risks everything--including his life--to tell his brothers' story. Often humorous, but sometimes downright lethal, BROTHERS AT WAR is a remarkable journey where Jake embeds with four combat units in Iraq. Unprecedented access to U.S. and Iraqi combat units take him behind the camouflage curtain with secret reconnaissance troops on the Syrian border, into sniper "Hide Sites" in the Sunni Triangle, through raging machine gun battles with the Iraqi Army. Ultimately, the film follows his brothers home where separations and life-threatening work ripple through their parents, siblings, wives and children. BROTHERS AT WAR provides a rare look at the bonds and service of our soldiers on the frontlines and the profound effects their service has on the loved ones they leave behind.
The DVD is now available from Amazon. Join the interview below starting at 1:15 ET.
Update: And that's a wrap. That "did we win the war" question at the end was mine.
"...even the most conscientious TSA officer must weigh his possibility of being personally ruined by a charge of racism or being anti-Muslim against the probabilities of detecting an actual terrorist. There are not many terrorists. There are plenty of people willing to charge racism. Like being a "denier", the charge is sufficient: no real evidence is required, and the result of such calumny is well described in Rossini's Barber of Seville."
I don't know how Rossini's barber worked things out, but fixing this is too easy: put Harry Reid in charge of Homeland Security - no one would ever accuse him of racism. (Or treason, for that matter.)
Sure, he'll have to give up his current job, but it's for the good of the nation.
No, not the General Mills that makes Cheerios - U.S. general: Taliban beaten in Helmand province.
That's the USA Today headline over their report of their interview with Marine Maj. Gen. Richard Mills, who "will take command of the larger force this spring when he moves his headquarters there from this Southern California base."
"They've taken on the Taliban, the insurgency, right in the heartland and they've defeated them," said Marine Maj. Gen. Richard Mills in an interview with USA TODAY.
"I see us moving away from the clear phase and moving into the hold and build" phase, Mills said.
Commanders say violence could increase if militants shift tactics to more large-scale attacks, such as car and truck bombs. "It's the dramatic strike that I worry about," Mills said.
"We're not taking a break during the winter season," said Marine Brig. Gen. Joseph Osterman, who will lead ground combat troops in the incoming command.
As long as we're saluting the Coast Guard, some headlines:
It's cold here where I live, too.
Glenn Reynolds interviews Mike Yon on the SeaTac incident and (more importantly) on Afghanistan - including troop morale.
("More importantly" aside, I'd have asked for Mike's quick response to the CBP response.)
I'll take Grey, every time. I think these days most voters will.
Update: more from Boston's own.
And we had a live stream of the debate here, but that's now concluded. My recap: I think Massachusetts voters will know exactly who they're voting for - there's not much stealth involved here.
And the Brown campaign's online fund raising effort appears to have exceeded expectations. A lot of that money probably rolled in from people watching the debate; as pointed out in the comment below they were at 750k just before. They passed the million dollar mark shortly after.
If he felt otherwise we could certainly go ahead and pop smoke. So, "what would it take for you to say to yourself, 'this can't be done'?" Diane Sawyer asked the general.
"I think that it would be a belief that the Afghan people have lost faith that the future can be better and that we can help them get there," he replied. "If they were to reach that point, then I think that I would sense that this would not be possible. I don't feel that now."
We've cited last year's results from that poll here previously. At a glance, now-evident reversal of what could have been negative trends do indicate that this year's responses are cause for optimism.
At least, if your goals are similar to General McChrystal's. Unfortunately, there are those in the administration with a different agenda, and (as has been the case for the past year) that's cause for concern.
(More to follow...)
The myth they want to expose here is that Umar Abdulmutallab flew with a one-way ticket. Presumably their goal is to expose "bad reporting" on the part of MSNBC ("The first citation of a "one-way ticket" we could find is a report on Christmas day by MSNBC") that's since been used as evidence of government failure to note a "red flag" that could have helped identify the underpants bomber as a threat.
They offer up a healthy dose of neener neener neener to anyone who believed that MSNBC report was accurate (Rush Limbaugh and others) but they miss the real myth worth eliminating: that holding a one way ticket is any sort of "red flag" in the first place. In fact, along with checking the underpants bomber's shoes, that easily-avoided "security measure" was one more item al Qaeda knew would make their designated hitter seem even less of a threat.
Here's another happy news flash for those who think a lack of luggage is a red flag: if you don't already have one you can actually get a suitcase full of clothes at the local Goodwill store pretty cheap (relative to the cost of a bomb, for example). But then again, if you combine no luggage with a one way ticket, then you certainly have.... uh, well, er, ...something al Qaeda isn't likely to do. It doesn't take a nimble adversary to figure all this out.
Al Qaeda doesn't need to know why this plot succeeded where it did. Terrorists don't have to be smart, they just have to be smarter than Janet Napolitano. ("When Lauer asked how a person who bought a 'one-way, trans-Atlantic ticket with cash, checks no luggage, a man whose own father has written a letter to authorities both in his own country and U.S. embassy authorities' got through, Napolitano responded, 'I've asked the same questions Matt.'"). They need to know why - when everything else went predictably well - the bomb did not detonate. Since that's a scoop no reporter could resist, they probably won't even have to wait for Abdulmutallab to explain himself.
Small Wars Journal's Robert Haddick writes at Foreign Policy: This Week at War: Yemen's al Qaeda Scam.
It seems that whenever the international community discovers another al Qaeda franchise, a financial reward to the host seems to follow. Pakistan has perfected how to profit from this perverse incentive. Yemen is now showing itself to be an able student of the same technique.
Since the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, Yemen has generally been upstaged in the headline department by those nations with large contingents of American troops, but this week even Saturday Night Live spoofed the financial aid issue. Yemen has long been a factor in the al Qaeda equation, but connections to both underpants bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and Ft Hood shooter Nidal Hasan have elevated the nation's media profile in the U.S.
Last week CENTCOM commander General Dave Petraeus stated that this year the U.S. would double the $70 million in security assistance sent to Yemen in 2009, an announcement that caused some confusion at the Pentagon. The U.S. acknowledges providing training to Yemeni security forces, and anonymous "White House officials" credited President Obama with ordering cruise missile strikes there last month. However, both Petraeus and Mullen have downplayed suggestions that the U.S. may send any additional forces there.
Back to Foreign Policy:
From Saleh's perspective, he has likely learned from Pakistan how rewarding al Qaeda's presence -- largely benign to him -- can be. The impending deluge of U.S. aid, with Brown's conference to add to the bounty, illustrates the perverse incentives offered to leaders like Saleh.
Does this mean that the United States should not assist Saleh and his government? At this point it has little choice; it can only access al Qaeda by partnering with Saleh, Yemen's ministries, and its security forces. A decade after the bombing of USS Cole in the Aden harbor, the al Qaeda problem in Yemen seems as bad as ever.
Yemen's role as a safe haven for terrorists may stretch back to the Clinton era, but as the Long War Journal reported at the time, that role evolved a bit last year:
In the face of Saudi Arabia's success against the al Qaeda organization, many Saudi operatives have fled to the more hospitable climate in Yemen, joining others who recently arrived from Iraq, Somalia, and Pakistan. Al Qaeda in Yemen announced its merger with Saudi Arabia's al Qaeda organization to form al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP.
However, in announcing his security review last week, President Obama blamed America for that development: "We will close Guantanamo prison, which has damaged our national security interests and become a tremendous recruiting tool for al Qaeda. In fact, that was an explicit rationale for the formation of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula."
"Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. You won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country."
- George Patton
"You love life, we love death."
- al Qaeda
There seems to be an easy enough way to make everybody happy here - but in reality you can't please all the people all the time:
The logic of much of the legal opposition to the use of these weapons, beyond the specifics of the legal arguments in specific circumstances, as has been said to me dozens of times by leading lawyers in the human rights community, academics, and activists, is that the more discriminating the weapon and the less it risks American soldiers in its use, the greater the incentive for it to be used, thus raising the threshold of violence. On a couple of occasions, the American military and CIA officers using these weapons have simply been described to me as "cowards" because they hide behind their computer screens and won't come out to fight, as it were. I've responded by noting that the enemy hides behind its women and children, and won't come out to fight, either. But, very strikingly, the immediate riposte in every conversation of this kind is that the US military has brought this on itself by using weapons that leave the other side with no choice but to use civilian shields.
This argument (reduced risk to soldiers makes war more likely/acceptable) could be applied to body armor, too.
As for more discriminating weapons, yes - efforts to limit collateral damage also weaken "anti-war" arguments. Ditto an all-volunteer force, humanitarian efforts conducted by soldiers in the war zone, the occasional public sacrifice of some young troop who violates a law of war we apply only to ourselves, and any number of things that are generally greeted with sneering contempt by those they threaten most. Take away the stated reasons for being "anti-war" and the "anti-war" folks are left only with unstated reasons, and they really aren't comfortable with stating those.
One could say they lack courage in that regard.
Senior White House advisers are frustrated by what they say is the Pentagon's slow pace in deploying 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan and its inability to live up to an initial promise to have all of the forces in the country by next summer, senior administration officials said Friday.
Tensions over the deployment schedule have been growing in recent weeks between senior White House officials -- among them Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Gen. James L. Jones, the national security adviser, and Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff -- and top commanders, including Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the senior commander in Afghanistan.
The real problem here is that there are "senior administration officials" who view the U.S. military as the opposition in Afghanistan. That, and the obvious fact that President Obama's much-heralded prohibition of "leaks" ("We have deliberations in the situation room for a reason; we're making life and death decisions that affect how our troops are able to operate in a theater of war. For people to be releasing info in the course of deliberations is not appropriate") is certainly not to be believed.
That approach to war is likely to prove disastrous, as both our troops and the real enemy get the message loud and clear: the National Command Authority is a dysfunctional and petty group without a real leader or direction. The highly touted "team of rivals" only functions well when the president can say things like the above quote (or "if you do not agree with me, say so now", "no more finger-pointing" and "the buck stops here") and actually be taken seriously.
But here's the beauty of the tactic employed by whatever finger-pointing "senior White House official" placed that story in the New York Times. The military can either get 'er done at whatever cost in blood and treasure it takes, or explain why the cost in blood and treasure of going too fast is not worth any gain from small-scale acceleration. Option two will enhance the already disastrous perception of the nation's leadership as a petty, dysfunctional, squabbling group whose main priority is shifting blame. Rest assured the Times has those stories ready to go - controversy sells. And whether that copy will be needed or not, the blood and treasure stories are pre-written, too.
But logistics issues can be overcome (for a price). When we first "surged" into Iraq we lived in close quarters in tents and didn't have the menu options in the DFAC we would later enjoy. The farther you were from a major FOB the worse the conditions, but hardship comes with the job, and those who had it worst looked down on those who had it better.
But beyond logistics there's the matter of training and equipping. If you want blood, this is what happens when you make decisions based on desire for headlines, and scoff at training requirements while sending units off to war.
Lots of photos of flag-draped caskets to come. But if you're a "senior administration official" who feels the military is your enemy (and the New York Times will eagerly quote your anonymous told-you-so's) then there really is no downside there.
"Breaking" Thor announced via his Facebook page. "I have just received a video from a source in Af/Pak that is going to cripple the moral authority of Haqqani terror network."
"Didn't know they had any," I thought to myself. That's when the message popped into my inbox from a contact who goes by the name "Rusty".
G or Mrs. G,
A video sent to us from Afghanistan shows top Haqqani Taliban leaders engaged in a sex ring in which they forced young village women into sexual acts, and then later murdered them to cover it up. The video was obtained by bestselling author Brad Thor through a mid-level Haqqani network member who was fed up with the duplicity and hypocrisy of the leadership and who kept a copy of the videos ordered destroyed by the Haqqanis. The video also features an imam's narration condemning the Haqqanis. We've edited the video for content, but it's still disturbing.
Here's that Haqqani Taliban video he's talking about. He's right - it ain't pretty.
The team involved in the incident had been ambushed on three of the previous four days, and their threat perception was understandably heightened. In determining whether deadly force is authorized, that perception of a threat is what matters, not whether it actually was. When the Raven 23 convoy entered Nisour Square, they stopped all traffic, except a white sedan traveling the wrong way. This vehicle continued toward the convoy despite verbal warnings, hand signals and even water bottles thrown at it. When it got too close, it was fired upon but it still kept moving closer. A nearby Iraqi policeman responded and attempted to assist the passenger, but as the vehicle continued to approach it appeared to the guards that the policeman was pushing the car. This confirmed their suspicion that the car was a vehicle bomb and they fired upon it killing both occupants and the policeman.
That's how it started - and then all hell broke loose.
...pleads not guilty. The wheels of justice are turning!
He answered "yes" in English when asked if he understood the charges against him.
After that, his lawyer said Abdulmutallab would stand mute to the charges. The U.S. magistrate judge said a not guilty plea would be entered on his behalf.
"Friday's hearing was brief," we are told. "Abdulmutallab walked into the courtroom wearing a white T-shirt, pants and tennis shoes." No word on whether he was given new underpants to replace his damaged pair.
Earlier this week Andrew Exum (who's non-blogging is fortunately approaching epic fail status) posted The Most Important Thing You'll Read on Afghanistan This Month.
Yesterday, Maj. Gen. Flynn issued a new directive to all intelligence officers and their commanders in Afghanistan outlining a new way forward. He asked the gang at the Center for a New American Security to simultaneously publish a copy for public consumption, and after running the paper through an internal and external review process, we did so today.
A bit unusual, that. You can get a feel for some of the responses (more defiance by the generals?) here. Certainly, "questions were raised."
Some of which are now answered:
In military circles, the talk all week has been about how and why the top intelligence officer in Afghanistan wound up publishing a scathing critique through a small-but-influential think tank. Now, we've got the answers.
When Maj. Gen. Michael Flynn published his tough assessment of the military's spy agencies in Afghanistan, it caught Pentagon officials by surprise -- not least because Flynn distributed it through Center for a New American Security. While Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said through his press secretary that he thought Flynn's findings were "spot on," he made it clear he was a bit uncomfortable with the conduit Flynn used to distribute the report. Reuters, quoting Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell, said Gates had "real reservations about the general's choice of venue for publication."
So how, exactly, did the think tank get picked to publish the report?
Okay - those are the questions. Answers at the link.
But this is one of them: "Obviously, it was an irregular way to disseminate an idea for a serving officer," Nagl said. "Gen. Flynn decided for his own reasons -- you should ask him what they were -- to take this step."
So perhaps more to come. Meanwhile, something for those who thought one of the general's co-author's names sounded familiar.
Senior Airman Smith was one of four service members who died "Sunday, January 3 in Ashoque, Afghanistan, from wounds suffered when insurgents attacked their unit with multiple improvised explosives devices and small arms fire." They were "the first American combat deaths of the year."
Mr. and Mrs. G
I don't know if you are aware but one of our own brave TACP brothers lost his life in Afghanistan this past Sunday. His name is Bradley R. Smith of Troy Illinois. His ROMAD, Michael J. Malarsie was injured in the same attack.
Here is a link in our local news paper. There are links to other sites with more information on funeral arrangements and guests books in the article. Also, here is a link to his Facebook page that people can join and send condolences to his family.
He married Tiffany Smith in February 2008 and became the proud father of Chloe Lynn in October.
"You could tell he absolutely loved his family," said Smith's uncle, Jessie A. Forrest, of Cordova, Tenn.
"He was intent on serving this country, just like his brother," said Smith's cousin, Alicia Forrest, of Cordova, Tenn.
Jessie Forrest remembers how Smith had long talks regularly with Smith's grandpa, the late Army Master Sgt. Jesie Willard Forrest, a World War II and Korea War veteran.
"Smith was assigned to the 10th Air Support Operations Squadron at Fort Riley. The unit coordinates air support of ground operations between Air Force and Army units."
From their web page, a tribute from his fellow TACPs:
(For those not familiar with the term TACP, click here.)
Attention Hollywood - movie potential:
The men had been under surveillance for months, the source said. Mr. Medunjanin was arrested after crashing his car on the Whitestone Bridge in Queens, N.Y., then fleeing the scene. Mr. Ahmedzay was picked up by law enforcement while he was driving a cab in Manhattan.
They'll have to make Ahmedzay something other than a cab driver though - that's a politically incorrect stereotype. There is a good sub-plot possibility here: "Ahmedzay is licensed to drive a taxi in New York City and took the civil service exam to become a firefighter, although his score made him unlikely to get an appointment." Turn that into a discrimination angle and it's Oscar material.
Back to our other hero:
After Medunjanin's apartment was searched, he apparently became upset and left in his car. While driving erratically, he called 911 and made threatening comments, according to a law enforcement official who was not authorized to discuss the case and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. Medunjanin got into an accident and was treated at a hospital for minor injuries.
And these guys aren't even the big starring roles:
Federal investigators questioned Medunjanin and Ahmedzay -- who lived in the same Queens neighborhood as Zazi -- months ago in the terrorism probe. Their photographs were among four shown to Ahmad Wais Afzali, a Queens imam accused of tipping off Zazi that New York police detectives were looking for him, according to Afzali's attorney.
A lawyer for Mr. Medunjanin, a United States citizen who is originally from Bosnia, has consistently denied that his client had any role in any terrorist plot or was involved in any wrongdoing. On Friday morning, the lawyer, Robert C. Gottlieb, accused the authorities of keeping his client away from him and from relatives, and said any statements Mr. Medunjanin may have made if he was questioned on Thursday night or Friday morning would therefore be inadmissible.
I'm thinking George Clooney as a lawyer, and there's got to be a role for that guy from Lost somewhere in here. Worst case scenario: they're guilty beyond all doubt - but that just means we re-write as a European terrorist group and get Matt Damon instead.
White House national security adviser James Jones says Americans will feel "a certain shock" when they read an account being released Thursday of the missed clues that could have prevented the alleged Christmas Day bomber from ever boarding the plane.
Don't know about you, but I didn't see much that wasn't in this roundup that included that quote. My shock (and I'm only pretending to be shocked - I actually expected this) is in discovering that what Obama's National Security Adviser thought would shock Americans was actually stuff that had been in the news for days. No doubt many average Americans were shocked - when they first heard about it.
Others were already suggesting solutions. The review "also noted that the State Department initially failed to realize Abdulmutallab had a valid U.S. visa because his name was misspelled." That's a problem a milblogger suggested a fix for back on December 29th, while government officials were still skiing and surfing. People who've worked security problems in Iraq (or any war zone) tend to think in terms of rapid, effective solutions. There's something about actual threat that tends to sharpen focus and reduce certain barriers to teamwork that bureaucracy otherwise enhances.
But in fairness to Jones, at least someone was shocked:
"That is a shock because we had such a follow-up system when I was there," said Richard Clarke, the White House counter-terrorism director in the Clinton and Bush administrations. Clarke, who worked on the Obama transition team, is now an ABC News consultant.And so was someone else. Actually, former Navy Secretary and 9/11 Commission member John Lehman says "frankly, I'm pissed off."
"The president has ignored the 9/11 Commission's report," says Lehman.
"President Obama continues to totally ignore one of the important thrusts of our 9/11 recommendations, which is that you have to approach counterterrorism as a multiagency intelligence issue, and not as a law-enforcement issue. He's made a lot of commission's members angry for dismissing our report and ignoring key recommendations."
The phrase "lawyer-like, politically-correct approach to national security issues" also appears.
But as for being fired, at least the TSA officer who walked away from his post and precipitated a massive and expensive shutdown of Newark Airport was "placed on administrative leave and is no longer working at the airport". And now there will be at least two on duty at all times. Security is serious business.
None of the e-mails specifically mentioned Hasan's plans for a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, but because he was a member of the military the FBI showed them to a Pentagon investigator with the note "comm" written on it. To the FBI that meant "commissioned officer." The Pentagon investigator thought it meant "communication."
"Figuring out precisely whom Abdumutalab met here in Yemen is important not just for his case, but crucially because it gives the US insight into how al Qaeda here recruits and trains would-be suicide bombers..."
"That same TSA officer walks away from his post... returns to his post, clueless about the security breech. It takes a bystander to alert the agent there was a problem. The tape comes from Continental Airline's surveillance system, because the TSA camera wasn't working Sunday, or for several days prior."
"TSA spokeswoman Ann Davis said in a statement that the guard had been placed on administrative leave and is no longer working at the airport, one of the nation's busiest."
Registration for the Fifth Annual MilBlog Conference and Party is now open. Seating is limited and registrations are on a first-come/first-served basis. The conference registration fee is $50.00 per person and is non-refundable, but is transferable. The fee gives you access to all events:
Friday, April 9, 2010
- Kick-Off Panel
- Opening Night Cocktail Reception
Saturday, April 10, 2010
- Pre-Conference Breakfast
- Awards Ceremony and Party (full dinner and two drink tickets)
A block of rooms has been reserved at The Westin Arlington Gateway hotel, site of the 2010 MilBlog Conference and Party. The rooms are $150 per night. There are a limited number of rooms and they are on a first-come/first-served basis. You may want to reserve your rooms as soon as possible because the conference will be held during The Cherry Blossom Festival this year, so rooms will fill quickly. To book your rooms under our block rate, click here.
In the coming days and weeks, announcements re: panels, speakers, sponsors and other information regarding the conference, can be found here.
UPDATE: From Conference Coordinator as of 7:30pm Thursday Evening -
warning. I just checked the hotel count and there are only 33 rooms left in our block. We are competing with The Cherry Blossom festival this year, so I can't stress enough that if you're going, you need to book your rooms quickly because this year they will sell out faster than in previous years. We secured an 86 room block and after they're gone, we have no guarantee that attendees will be able to get a room at the same rate, or at all.
Better reserve those rooms quickly!
National Security Adviser James Jones promised "Americans will feel a certain shock when they read an account being released Thursday of the missed clues that could have prevented the alleged Christmas Day bomber from ever boarding the plane" - which is certainly a great teaser.
"I am directing Mr Brennan to work with departments and agencies and the Office of Management and Budget on resource requirements that are necessary to address the shortcomings uncovered by our review," sez the prez in the latter document. I'm sure all Americans will agree that no expense should be spared to ensure that never again will we be gripped in the Icy Fist of Fear as we were on Christmas Day.
Still waiting videos of the other briefings. A question from the Facebook Q&A session with Dennis McDonough: "I'd like to know how we are going to afford all these resources without increasing our budget even farther than it is?" The answer: we are going to spend money. See Cairo speech for examples of budget increases the president supports. But "we want to make sure we aren't over-investing when we face challenges here at home."
I don't think this was the sort of investment the questioner had in mind, but here's what the president said in the Cairo speech.
On education, we will expand exchange programs, and increase scholarships, like the one that brought my father to America, while encouraging more Americans to study in Muslim communities. And we will match promising Muslim students with internships in America; invest in on-line learning for teachers and children around the world; and create a new online network, so a teenager in Kansas can communicate instantly with a teenager in Cairo.
On economic development, we will create a new corps of business volunteers to partner with counterparts in Muslim-majority countries. And I will host a Summit on Entrepreneurship this year to identify how we can deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and social entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world.
On science and technology, we will launch a new fund to support technological development in Muslim-majority countries, and to help transfer ideas to the marketplace so they can create jobs. We will open centers of scientific excellence in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and appoint new Science Envoys to collaborate on programs that develop new sources of energy, create green jobs, digitize records, clean water, and grow new crops. And today I am announcing a new global effort with the Organization of the Islamic Conference to eradicate polio. And we will also expand partnerships with Muslim communities to promote child and maternal health.
All these things must be done in partnership. Americans are ready to join with citizens and governments; community organizations, religious leaders, and businesses in Muslim communities around the world to help our people pursue a better life.
I'm not sure why McDonough referenced this as response. A free association/off the top of my head reply in an open forum, certainly, but that seems odd as a first response (to a "how are we going to afford these new security measures" question) from the National Security Council Chief of Staff.
Here's the schedule from the White House blog (but note updated times following):
[UPDATE: The President's remarks will now be at 4:30, other times will vary accordingly, stay tuned.]
This afternoon, the White House will release a declassified version of the security review of the attempted terror attack on Christmas Day.
At 3:00 PM EST, the President will speak on the review
At 3:45 PM EST, there will be a press briefing by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Assistant to the President for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security John Brennan, and Press Secretary Robert Gibbs
At 4:30 PM EST, Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Council Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough will take your questions
UPDATE: Note that the live discussion with McDonough may begin early, so join us a few minutes ahead of time.
Not sure how the change in the president's schedule impacts the Facebook thing, but there you go.
Update - new schedule:
4:30 ET: President Obama Speaks on Security Review of Attempted Terror Attack on Christmas Day.
5:15 ET: Briefing by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs with Secretary Janet Napolitano, and John Brennan
6:00 ET: Dennis McDonough takes questions on Security Review
Hey gals, if your guy won't do this for you, then he doesn't really love you.
(/greyhawk being evil)
Customs and Border Protection official response to Mike Yon story:
"In any situation there's two sides to the story," says CBP spokesman Mike Milne. "You've heard one side, and we're prohibited by the Privacy Act from telling our side."
That's unfortunate, and I feel their pain.
"Unfortunately for us," writes the Seattle Weekly reporter introducing that statement, "the government's side isn't going to be made public anytime soon." I feel their pain, too, but the Privacy Act is a good thing, designed to protect the rights of American citizens, and shouldn't be degraded, bypassed, overlooked or ignored.
Johnnie Von Bernhardi said...
No, he wasn't handcuffed by SEATAC cops or as others have claimed the TSA, but by Customs and Border Protection. He was not handcuffed because he refused to answer the question about how much income he had, but for refusing to allow his luggage to be searched.
That's just the opening line. "Johnnie" refutes many other details of Yon's story in much the same "Yon lied - here's what really happened" manner, but didn't explain how he/she knew so many details of "what really happened" with Yon at SeaTac.
But LW ran a check on the IP "Johnnie" used and discovered it was from someone using a Department of Homeland Security computer.
Since LW provided the IP in his post (18.104.22.168) I checked it myself. From the address returned (7681 Boston Blvd, Springfield, VA, 22153) it appears the branch of the Department of Homeland Security where "Johnnie" has computer privileges is the Bureau Of Customs And Border Protection, specifically the US Customs Data Center.
"Conservatives should get their facts straight before they go off," CBP's "Johnnie" admonishes the Blackfive crew. I think that's true of all people, conservative or otherwise. So (with a nod to the immortal Paul Harvey) now you know the rest of the story. (Or maybe there's more to come.)
Good speech. I, for one, think the president gets better at saying all the right things with every speech he makes. Sure, this is questionable:
But make no mistake: We will close Guantanamo prison, which has damaged our national security interests and become a tremendous recruiting tool for al Qaeda. In fact, that was an explicit rationale for the formation of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. And, as I've always said, we will do so -- we will close the prison in a manner that keeps the American people safe and secure....but let's face it - lots of folks were calling for action in the wake of the underpants bomber's failed Christmas Day attack (that's two major Christian holiday miracles in one year, for those who keep score) and fast action (aside from that slo-mo-no-mo-Gitmo show) is exactly what the president has promised: "taking swift action is critical to staying one step ahead of a nimble adversary."
So we have to do better -- and we will do better. And we have to do it quickly. American lives are on the line. So I made it clear today to my team: I want our initial reviews completed this week. I want specific recommendations for corrective actions to fix what went wrong. I want those reforms implemented immediately, so that this doesn't happen again and so we can prevent future attacks. And I know that every member of my team that I met with today understands the urgency of getting this right. And I appreciate that each of them took responsibility for the shortfalls within their own agencies.
Here's Reuters' roundup of some of the things that went wrong:
About four months before the attempted bombing on December 25, the NSA intercepted telephone conversations in which the leaders of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula talked about the possibility of using an unidentified "Nigerian" bomber in an attack...
The CIA first learned of Abdulmutallab on November 19, when his father came to the U.S. Embassy in Abuja and sought help in finding him... a U.S. intelligence official said Abdulmutallab's father never said that his son "was a terrorist" or was planning an attack. ...U.S. diplomats took part in the November 19 meeting with Abdulmutallab's father in Abuja and forwarded the information by unclassified cable to the National Counterterrorism Center on November 20. But officials said the information was deemed insufficient to revoke Abdulmutallab's U.S. visa...
Critics also say the State Department should have been alert to the threat after Britain denied Abdulmutallab a student visa to attend a bogus institution. U.S. officials say British authorities never informed them that the visa was denied, although they describe cooperation between the two countries since the incident as "seamless."
In late August and early September, White House counterterrorism officials received intelligence about al Qaeda's use of the explosive PETN, known as pentaerythritol, sewn into the undergarments of would-be bombers, similar to the device used months later by Abdulmutallab, officials said.
Telephone intercepts and biographical information from the NSA and the CIA were shared with the National Counterterrorism Center... Critics say the center did not "connect the dots"...
As President Obama and his national security team met at the White House to review the attempted Christmas Day bombing of an American trans-Atlantic airliner, the British government moved Tuesday to reduce strains between London and Washington over intelligence lapses in the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the suspect in the failed attack.
Appearing before the House of Commons, the home secretary, Alan Johnson, retracted an assertion made on Monday by a spokesman for Prime Minister Gordon Brown that implied that Britain had passed intelligence information about Mr. Abdulmutallab to the United States that might have helped avert the attack.
But back to President Obama. This should be reassuring: "I'm pleased that this review is drawing on the best science and technology, including the expertise of Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and his department." That line from the president's speech didn't get much attention, but the Department of Energy, as you certainly know,
...plays an integral part in nuclear nonproliferation, countering terrorism and responding to incidents involving weapons of mass destruction. We provide technology, analysis, and expertise to aid the United States government in preventing the spread or use of weapons of mass destruction.
They haven't yet made a pair of boxers big enough to hold a weapon of mass destruction, but certainly no one wants to be the first person surprised to find themselves seated on an airliner next to a guy with a dirty bomb in his shorts.
White House national security adviser James Jones says Americans will feel "a certain shock" when they read an account being released Thursday of the missed clues that could have prevented the alleged Christmas Day bomber from ever boarding the plane.
Well, "you never want a serious crisis to go to waste," as a wise guy once said.
More to follow.
(This is the beginning of the promised next installment.)
My conclusion on reading Megan Mcardle's post from December 28th on the initial reactions to the underpants bomber: exactly right.
That goes for everything she wrote, but this observation...
Terrorists are bound to get through airport security if they really want, or do something worse, like blow up the crowds of people patiently waiting in line to go through airport security.
...took me back to the morning of September 12th, 2001, when I was part of a long line of traffic basically parked on the side of the road waiting to get onto Barksdale Air Force Base through the only gate then open as part of the recently increased security measures. "My," I thought to myself, "aren't we all a bunch of sitting ducks out here..."
Those lines are all memories now, as enhanced security procedures have become the norm and are more streamlined and efficient than they were back then. It would be very difficult for a terrorist to sneak through - If you don't believe me, just ask Nidal Hasan - who, I suspect, studied such things even closer than I did.
...died in prison.
"He was just very sick," public defender A.J. Kramer said.
And in addition to being one sick bastard, the BBC reports von Brunn was shot in the face during his assault on the Holocaust Museum in Washington last summer.
In other news: "14 terror suspects mistakenly kill themselves."
Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Fourteen suspected terrorists died Tuesday night when the bus they rigged with explosives blew up prematurely, police said.
People talk a lot about the old GI Bill, back in WWII. What they forget to remember is that those benefits didn't come from nowhere. Those benefits came, in large part, because of what happened to the last veterans, the veterans of World War I. And those veterans had to march on Washington to get better treatment.
From an IVAW member writing at This Ain't Hell - regarded as one of the most reliably conservative (or right-wing, if you prefer) milblogs around. The headline: "Partisan Politics Only Screws Veterans".
In this brief (4 minute) video from Afghanistan, "ISAF Command Sergeant Major Michael Hall explains how protecting the Afghan people is the goal of counter-insurgency operations."
More specifically, he's explaining some of the thinking behind General McChrystal's Tactical Directive and ISAF Rules of Engagement. In this example, calling in an air strike on a position from which troops are taking fire.
Part of a series of six designed as an introduction to counter-insurgency.
News from Korea:
The worst one-day snowstorm since South Korea started keeping records paralyzed air and road travel across much of the peninsula Monday, and extended the holiday weekend for most U.S. military personnel and their children.
About 11 inches of snow fell in Seoul by the time the snow stopped Monday night, beating the previous high of just over 10 inches that fell during a storm in January 1969, according to Korea Meteorological Administration spokesman Ko Jung-woong.
I remember a record 10-inch snowfall in Seoul back in '91 (I was there), but maybe they didn't get that much at the airport that time.
Actually, based on the definition of "arrested", what he describes is being "arrested". He wasn't "booked" or "charged with a crime", (I dunno if he was read his rights or not) but he was indeed arrested.
Then there's this:
The test used to determine whether an arrest took place in a particular case is objective, and it turns on whether a reasonable person under these circumstances would believe he or she was restrained or free to go.
I think handcuffs pretty much resolve that. And "the detention of a person need not be accompanied by formal words of arrest or a station house booking to constitute an arrest."
I don't think Mike's going to make a federal case of this, but it might be worthwhile to train security folks on what it is they're doing.
Update: "Their videos and audios should show that I was polite," says Mike. Don't bet on it, sez I.
DEMINT: Gloria, if we -- if we had treated this Christmas Day bomber as a terrorist, he would have immediately been interrogated military-style, rather given -- rather than given the rights of an American and lawyers. We probably lost valuable information.
What's he mean by "military-style"?
"Boss Mongo came up with a modest proposal for our various law enforcement and intelligence agencies in order to help keep known terrorists out of the US," says Starbuck. "Unlike other 'modest proposals', this isn't sarcastic or over-the-top in the least...it's simple, it doesn't violate anyone's rights, it's unobtrusive, and it's cheap. Which leads me to believe that it won't happen..."
It's an idea for a new tool, not a new rule.
Rory Stewart attempts to explain Obama' s Afghanistan policy, as defined in his West Point speech:
But perhaps even more importantly, defining a more moderate and limited strategy gives him leverage over his own generals. By refusing to endorse or use the language of counterinsurgency in the speech, he escapes their doctrinal logic. By no longer committing the US to defeating the Taliban or state-building, he dramatically reduces the objectives and the costs of the mission. By talking about costs, the fragility of public support, and other priorities, he reminds the generals why this surge must be the last.
Yes - he avoids a lot of future blame by refusing to state policy in clear terms, but he also gets results like this from a unit suffering some of the highest casualties in Afghanistan:
"McChrystal's guidance is very clear on its population focus," said another junior leader.
But 1-17 soldiers thought that focus was missing from their operations. "When we first started operations, we were told we were going to stay enemy-focused," said Capt. Jon Burton, an assistant fire support officer who is also 1-17's civil-military and information operations officer co-located with Charlie Company. "That came from brigade."
"That has absolutely been the message that's been delivered from higher," agreed Turnblom, the Charlie Company fire support officer.
When the brigade deployed to Afghanistan, Tunnell announced his intention to pursue a "counter-guerrilla" campaign. Most observers perceived a conflict between Tunnell's approach and McChrystal's population-centric counterinsurgency campaign.
But Tunnell said that his approach was drawn straight from Army Field Manual 90-8, Counterguerrilla Operations (last updated in 1986), and that it was complementary to, not competitive with counterinsurgency. However, he added, the "counter-guerrilla" concept "is misunderstood. ... That's why we don't use the term anymore."
Brenda Donnell, spokeswoman for the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Ga., said FM 90-8 had been superseded by FM 3-24.2, Tactics in Counterinsurgency. "It's not supposed to be used anymore," she said of the counter-guerrilla manual.
And that confusion isn't confined to Afghanistan - and isn't likely to be settled from on high:
Nearly a month after Obama unveiled his revised Afghanistan strategy, military and civilian leaders have come away with differing views of several fundamental aspects of the president's new approach, according to more than a dozen senior administration and military officials involved in Afghanistan policy, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
Members of Obama's war cabinet disagree over the meaning of his pledge to begin drawing down forces in July 2011 and whether the mission has been narrowed from a proposal advanced by McChrystal in his August assessment of the war. The disagreements have opened a fault line between a desire for an early exit among several senior officials at the White House and a conviction among military commanders that victory is still achievable on their terms.
The differences are complicating implementation of the new strategy.
Stewart - who is certainly as well-qualified as anyone to have a go at it - believes he's interpreted the president's message, and seems assured that Obama is defining "a radically different strategy--a call strategy--which is about neither surge nor exit but about a much-reduced and longer-term presence in the country. The President did not make this explicit. But this will almost certainly be the long-term strategy of the US and its allies."
That "neither this nor that" explanation seems fine on one level, but I'd be hesitant to stake my reputation on any interpretation of anything the president "did not make explicit," and here's why.
1. Obama is responding to perceived crisis in much the same way all weak leaders do - by offering up vague "instructions" that can be interpreted as the receiver sees fit. (General McChrystal, therefore, can continue to pursue a counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan while Joe Biden assures America that we aren't pursuing a counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan. McChrystal, of course, will have to word his public statements on the topic very carefully - Biden's crew tend to shit their little silk panties when they feel threatened.) Anyone with a little bit of work experience understands the weak leader/vague instruction approach: if your actions are successful it's because they got it right; if you fail it's because you got it wrong.
2. Much of what could work in Afghanistan would have the same name as what was used in Iraq, and Democrats don't want to be in a position of explaining why they now support something they can be quoted repeatedly as opposing vehemently just a few short years ago. This is true of all aspects of what we used to call the war on terror (which as Roger Simon points out was a euphemism in the first place) - so new names are needed for everything, and where new names aren't expedient vague guidance will have to do.
Word games - only the names have been changed to protect the innocent, or in this case, the folks for whom hypocrite is the worst insult possible.
But if you're not a fan of word games, Barry McCaffrey predicts we'll soon enough be working with numbers instead:
Americans should prepare to accept hundreds of U.S. casualties each month in Afghanistan during spring offensives with enemy forces.
The dire forecast was made by retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, an adjunct professor of international affairs at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, in a periodic assessment of political and security issues he has conducted in the war zone since 2003.
"What I want to do is signal that this thing is going to be $5 billion to $10 billion a month and 300 to 500 killed and wounded a month by next summer. That's what we probably should expect. And that's light casualties," said McCaffrey...
I really hope he's wrong. That's mostly for the troops and their families, but also because I'm not looking forward to what the experts will have to say about that.
Citizens of 14 nations, including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria, who are flying to the United States will be subjected indefinitely to the intense screening at airports worldwide that was imposed after the Christmas Day bombing plot, Obama administration officials announced Sunday.
But American citizens, and most others who are not flying through those 14 nations on their way to the United States, will no longer automatically face the full range of intensified security that was imposed after the attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight, officials said.
The gang of 14 are Afghanistan, Algeria, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Given a goal of enhancing an illusion of security most of those make some sense (though certainly feelings will be hurt), but I'm puzzled by the inclusion of Nigeria. I scan my email for "Nigerians" and delete them unread, but I wasn't aware they were a terror exporter. (At least, compared to Egypt, for example - or a few other trans-Saharan/pan-Sahel fun spots.)
"As a pollster, I'd much rather look at a pollster who is looking at likely voters than a pollster who is looking at adults."
- GOP pollster Tony Fabrizio
Dr Neil Frank: "Climategate: You should be steamed".
In other news, "Louisville could be on its way to seeing its longest period of sub-freezing temperatures in at least nine years." And while "Orange groves in Florida have escaped damage from frigid weather across parts of the state so far", elsewhere "Crude oil climbed above $81 a barrel for the first time in two months as freezing weather and improving economic prospects around the world bolstered the outlook for fuel demand." ("US Stocks Jump As Cold Snap Lifts Oil", says the Wall Street Journal.)
And here are pictures from the "cold snap" in India, where "dozens have died".
It's nice to see cold weather contributing to an economic rebound, but from my POV in south Georgia I could appreciate a bit less rising oil prices and a bit more Global Warming right about now.
Trivia: before his Hurricane Center days, Neil Frank was an active duty US Air Force weather forecaster. He left the NHC before the global warming craze swept the country faster than an Alberta Clipper back in the 1990s, but I seem to recall seeing him at National Hurricane Conferences back then.
In the mail: A Fiery Peace in a Cold War: Bernard Schriever and the Ultimate Weapon. Like any review of a bygone era the book examines a world that was, and an Air Force that was at the forefront of the development of technology that was shaping that world. As with his Bright Shining Lie, Sheehan provides a central character and a supporting cast to tell a potentially dehumanizing tale from a very human point of view.
Interesting reviews in the LA Times, Washington Post, and New York Times. By interesting, I mean surprisingly positive given the subject matter - but perhaps criticizing the product of an icon of journalism (Sheehan bio here) is frowned upon in newsrooms.
Or perhaps it's just a good book.
At a glance, it certainly gives insight (from a different perspective) to the world described in T.R. Fehrenbach's This Kind of War. (Fehrenbach: "Americans in 1950 rediscovered something that since Hiroshima they had forgotten: you may fly over a land forever, you may bomb it, atomize it, pulverize it and wipe it clean of life -- but if you desire to defend it, protect it and keep it for civilization, you must do this on the ground, the way the Roman legions did, by putting your young men into the mud... " but "Americans, even when they are proud of them, do not like their legions. They do not like to serve in them, nor even allow them to be what they must.")
Both - as with all worthwhile chronicles of the past - should be required reading for fans of history yet written.
This US Army-produced film from 1961 (approximately when Barack Obama and I were born) is titled The Challenge of Ideas, and features actor John Wayne, former CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow ("Murrow resigned from CBS to accept a position as head of the United States Information Agency, parent of the Voice of America, in January 1961") and other luminaries of the day describing the ideological battle between the U.S. and Soviet Union.
The film's purpose was to present the opposing sides of the Cold War to members of the U.S. military, and explain their roles as representatives of a nation (John F Kennedy's America, we might call it) that presented its ideology as follows:
"...man is a being with dignity and conscience, with the ability to determine right from wrong, and the obligation to act on that right. From this belief in man as a responsible being flow the beliefs in his other qualifications which we accept - usually even without bothering to think abut them - as parts of that vague condition which we call the American way: his ability - indeed his right - to explore the truth in all things; his ability to govern himself; and his ability to handle his own economic problems."
And who better to present that explanation of the American Way than John Wayne?
"The opposing point of view in this conflict rests on a fundamentally different vision of man," Murrow explains - man as a creature of the State: "In this system the value of individual man diminishes sharply, and the State is all important. The State will run his life for him. His political life, his business life, his social life."
The political, economic, and ideological means the communists intended to use to penetrate and undermine the foundations of free, liberal democracies are also presented.
Propaganda, some might call it.
Exit question: who won the Cold War?
...the revelation by the White House, made in response to a report about the intelligence warning this evening on CBS News, is bound to fuel Congressional demands for a deeper investigation into why American intelligence agencies and the Federal Bureau of Investigation had failed to put together individual pieces of evidence that, in retrospect, now seem to suggest what was coming.
Wait, my bad - the link goes to a new Newsweek story, but that quoted paragraph came from a 2002 report from the New York Times, headlined "Bush was warned bin Laden wanted to hijack planes".
It's hard to read those two stories without wondering what parts of either are motivated less by a concern for public safety and more by a desire for political payback. (Neener neener neener!) There's something understandable about that - to the great detriment of our national security, Democrats spent most of their time and effort since 2002 trying to prove Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al were the second coming of the Third Reich, and that the men and women in the military were alternately their victims and their Gestapo. Now that Democrats are in charge of national security, well, only the names we call things have changed.
To further confuse the issue, bear in mind that the reporters aren't subject matter experts on anything other than attracting readers, something that controversy (plus a dash of ohmygod we could all be killed!!!) certainly assures.
It assures something else, too - pointless overreaction and a reduction in overall security. Reduction as in it's actually easier to sneak on board a plane with explosives in your underpants when "security" is busy checking your shoes. Likewise it's easier to disregard any early warnings - even from relatives of potential terrorists - when you know that someone can't get on a plane without "security" checking them first.
The bottom line - and nothing here is to be taken as excusing security lapses - is that for whatever reason, a guy with explosives was able to get on board a plane and attempted to set them off. He was stopped - and everyone on the plane was saved - when an alert fellow passenger took action. That hero angle - along with the likely absurd responses of the government - struck me as the compelling aspects of the story in the first place.
It's absolutely disgusting that for whatever reason seemingly each and every account of a terrorist act committed with some degree of success on American soil last year (see Abdulhakim Muhammad and Nidal Hasan, for examples) includes a claim by some government official that oh yeah - we knew about him, but it's also a reminder that they won't get 'em all. (In fairness - they did get some.)
But clearly - unless they're motivated by the previously mentioned political payback - a sizable chunk of Americans believes the government must do more to protect them. Fair enough - but for starters, (unless they're actually motivated by desire for political payback and a very misguided notion that Democrats were right about that whole Hitler/Gestapo thing) they apparently want the underwear bomber given to the military, taken to Gitmo, and waterboarded. Where we go from that beginning is anybody's guess - most of mine aren't pleasant.
The irony is that besides buying into the idea that the government can protect them every moment of every day from every psycho out there (a separate issue from whether the government should protect them), these same folks have bought into the myth that the military sanctions and performs torture of prisoners (especially Muslim prisoners) - a myth that inspires guys like the underwear bomber to become underwear bombers in the first place.
And since it also happened on Christmas, you probably missed the release of the latest Taliban video featuring their star prisoner, US Army Private Bowe Bergdahl.
The man in the video looked healthy and said he had been well treated, contrasting his fate to that of prisoners held in U.S. military prisons.
"I bear witness I was continuously treated as a human being, with dignity, and I had nobody deprive me of my clothes and take pictures of me naked. I had no dogs barking at me or biting me, as my country has done to their Muslim prisoners in the jails that I have mentioned."
All Taliban propaganda, to be sure - but for their next episode they'll have some American poll numbers to cite in support of their claims.
Excellent comments on the previous entry have increased my understanding of this situation. I honestly do believe a sizable percentage of Americans aren't motivated on this issue by political payback, and instead are genuinely concerned about the government's inability to keep them safe. Because some solutions to that perceived problem are actually far worse than the problem (this is how fascists, communists, baathists, Islamic fundamentalists and other totalitarian regimes actually do come to power) I'm genuinely concerned about that concern.
"You have a nice little web page that gets some number of visitors," says astonerii, "maybe you could, instead of trying to protect our enemies, use this space to educate people on the difference between a law you would support to protect yourself, your family and theirs and what the politicians have written."
Which I think is a fine idea for the next installment.
But wait - what the hell is ManBearPig?
"ManBearPig" is the sixth episode of the tenth season of Comedy Central's South Park. It originally aired on April 26, 2006. The episode parodies global warming and the book and film An Inconvenient Truth.
In the episode:
Al Gore visits South Park Elementary School and talks about the terrible ManBearPig, "half man, half bear, and half pig", who roams the Earth and attacks humans for no reason at all... Stan's father, Randy, picks up the boys to drive them home. Randy says the former U.S. Vice President is just desperate for attention, because he has no friends. Al Gore phones Stan in the middle of the night and begins pestering him about ManBearPig. Gore then breaks down on the phone, and Stan reluctantly agrees to go to a meeting, where Al Gore tells Stan and his friends that "MBP" is hiding in the Cave of the Winds. At first the boys are reluctant to go with him, but when he explains that he will excuse them from school, they agree to go.
Hilarity ensues, as the former VP's efforts to kill ManBearPig ("I've saved the earth from certain destruction. Everyone is super stoked on me - even if they don't know it") nearly kill the South Park kids instead. You can watch the full episode online here.
But ManBearPig (and Al Gore) returned to South Park the next season for the three-part "Imaginationland" episode, in which terrorists attack Imaginationland, "where all the beings created by human imagination reside."
The South Park kids are brought to the Pentagon to help counter the threat posed by the terrorists who have captured our imaginations ("Do you realize what's going on here? Terrorists have attacked our imaginations - and now our imaginations are running wild!!!")...
...and end up in combat with the evil imaginary creatures the terrorists unleashed - including Al Gore's ManBearPig.
Meanwhile, back in the real world...
NAWA, Afghanistan - Within minutes of leaving the protective barriers of Observation Post Khers for a security patrol Dec. 21, a squad of Marines and Afghan national army soldiers heard the sharp pops of small arms fire nearby.
"They always shoot at us," said Sgt. Mike L. Osburn, a squad leader with 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, who led the patrol. "It wasn't very close. They don't really want to fight today."
For Marines operating from the joint Marine and ANA outpost, referred to by Marines simply as "ManBearPig," getting shot at by Taliban insurgents from a distance is a daily occurrence in this remote northwestern area of Nawa district. ManBearPig is argued to be one of the most dangerous and isolated posts Marines maintain in Nawa.
"Sometimes the shots come close, but usually they're not very accurate," said Osburn, a 25-year-old from Raleigh, N.C., who has completed previous combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan with 1/3. "A few days ago we took machine gun fire that hit our guard tower and around the barricades. You always have to keep an eye over your shoulder.
"It's kind of like the 'Wild West' out here," said Osburn, who leads his Marines on security patrols through what he describes as very muddy, flat and unforgiving terrain where Afghans farm the desert landscape using irrigation canals. "It's not gun slinging every day, but it's not very friendly. When our patrol walks by, kids run into homes, people stop farming and just kind of disappear. It's like an old western where everyone in town knows the bad guys are about to show their face around the corner."
Another danger for Marines and ANA soldiers at ManBearPig is the threat of improvised explosive devices, both on and off of roads. One nearby road is so scarred by blasts and visibly peppered with waiting bombs that Marines, civilians and insurgents alike know to keep well clear of it. Not long ago, Marines discovered an unlucky insurgent who tried planting a bomb and was killed when he accidentally stepped on another bomb's pressure activation plate, said Osburn.
Bravo Company Marines say conducing counterinsurgency operations and working with the population at Nawa's northwestern edge is challenging due to the Taliban's undermining influence and intimidation of local citizens who are afraid to come forward. Sometimes the only way Afghan citizens will speak with Marines is behind a wall or building, where they know insurgents can't see.
"We embed ANA soldiers in each of our patrols," said 2nd Lt. Victor P. Barnes, Jr., platoon commander, 1st Platoon, Bravo Company. "They notice a lot of the little things in town faster than we do. They can tell when something's out of the norm."
Typically, ANA soldiers enlist from Afghan provinces other than Helmand and speak mostly Dari, but an advantage of serving alongside this unit of ANA soldiers is nearly all of them speak Pashto, the primary language in Nawa. This allows the ANA to take the lead in interacting with local citizens if an interpreter is not around, said Osburn.
"Living here with the ANA is very interesting, and we all get along great," said Barnes. "Thankfully, we have an interpreter, but we've learned some Pashtu, they've learned some English, and we're teaching them some of our tactics."
Last week, Marines also included ANA soldiers in their Marine Corps Martial Arts Program training to further enhance the soldiers' combat effectiveness.
When not on patrol in the often knee-deep mud which can stop vehicles in their tracks, Marines spend time at ManBearPig standing guard posts or enjoying precious hours of rest.
Some Marines pursue personal interests in their off time, like Lance Cpl. Ryan C. Jensen, a machine gunner with Scout Sniper Platoon, Bravo Company. Jensen said he has goals of developing his creative skills in many different ways over the months he expects to spend at the small camp.
At night Jensen often plays his harmonica, guitar, drumsticks, reads and writes, or draws in his sketchbook. Recently, he has begun writing rap lyrics for a satirical music video in which he and his platoon mates will star.
"I think we got the lucky card and will be at ManBearPig the whole deployment," said Jensen, a 24-year-old from Sonoma, Calif. "When you're not getting bullets flying over your head, this is a peaceful place. There's a lot to see here for inspiration you can write about. I really want to leave here having bettered myself."
But ManBearPig is certainly not all quiet or fun and games, Jensen warned.
"We've trained hard and we want to be where the action is," he said of his platoon. "We took a [rocket-propelled grenade] attack the first day we were out here and it was a real wakeup call. Right now, this is the place for fighting bad guys."
"Outpost Man Bear Pig -- no electricity, no shelter, a handful of troops -- represents the raw front line of the counterinsurgency strategy," wrote Bing West after visiting the outpost last year.
Afghan soldiers remark that their poorest farmers live better than the Marines, but progress is more important than living conditions to our troops' morale. To the west of Man Bear Pig lies the town of Marjah, the hub of drug trafficking and insurgent activity throughout Helmand. At night, our Marines look at the glow of lights from Marjah and talk about the need for reinforcements to push the Taliban out. Seizing Marjah will throttle exports of opium and show the momentum of the McChrystal strategy, but it will require two more brigades in the south -- and other American brigade commanders can point to Marjah-type strongholds that need to be cleared and held in their areas, too.
They're a hellalong way from Comedy Central - but that doesn't mean they've forgotten how to laugh.