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Back in late 2009, when President Obama decided to halfass his Afghanistan mission and to announce the July 2011 deadline to begin removing the troops he did send there, the DoD was able to manage one concession from the commander-in-chief: he would use language in his announcement indicating that drawdown would be "based on conditions on the ground." It wasn't much to work with, but at least it was something, and the troops gave it their best possible shot.
"That's why they won't work with us," Cpl. Lisa Gardner, one of the Marines, told a reporter traveling with the unit. "They say you'll leave in 2011 and the Taliban will chop their heads off. It's so frustrating."
Later in the day, Corporal Gardner and the other Marine, Cpl. Diana Amaya, reported the villager's reaction back at the base. Lance Cpl. Caleb Quessenberry advised them on how to deal with similar comments in the future. "Roll it off as, 'That's what somebody's saying,' " he told them. "As far as we know, we're here."
Unfortunately for them, Obama also immediately dispatched Joe Biden to make sure anyone who was listening would understand without a doubt that conditions on the ground wouldn't mean a damn thing when it came to a drawdown: "Let me tell you what I'm happy with... You're going to see [troop numbers] coming down as rapidly over the next two years."
Afghanistan certainly isn't the first time US troops have been sent somewhere in numbers too small to do a president's bidding, but since then, 100,000 Americans in Afghanistan have fought the first war in world history against an enemy who'd been assured of their opponent's quitting time. I'm told the Tollybon aren't the sharpest tools in the shed (though they might use those sharp tools from time to time), but you don't have to be able to read to understand that.
Marine Lt. Gen. John Allen, nominated to replace Gen. David Petraeus as head of coalition forces in Afghanistan, acknowledged Tuesday that President Obama's decision to draw down 10,000 troops by the end of this year and the rest of the surge forces by September 2012 was not one of the options proposed to the president by Gen. Petraeus.
Score that Joe Biden: 1 - GI Joe: 0. The President is in charge, the generals will salute smartly and carry on, and as Obama explained to the troops at Ft Drum, he's betting our future on negotiations with the Tollybon. (I hear Paris is a good place for that sort of thing.)
Let's turn back the clock a bit, to April, 2008. General Petraeus testified to Congress on the way forward in Iraq. The graph below (for a full explanation, click here) should help put that moment - along with the before and after - in historical perspective; it's indicated by the dashed red line.
This wasn't the more widely-covered ("Betrayus") testimony of the previous summer, but it was an election year, and Democrats were still heavily invested in a narrative of Iraq as an eternal nightmare of endless war. Then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi even warned the General ahead of time not to come with a message that things were going well.
While there's no doubt he could have done more with more, General Petraeus got what he needed for Iraq. Of course, in April, 2008 the chart above ended where the dashed line is now - and other ways forward had their advocates, too. Which brings us to this moment in the hearings, as Senator Bayh applied all the skills in his politician's toolbox to get General Petraeus to say that reasonable people could certainly discount his advice.
Bayh: In fact reasonable people can differ about the most effective way forward, is that not also a fair observation?
Petraeus: I dont know whether I would go that far, sir. Obviously I think that there is a way forward, I've made a recommendation on that, and so I think in that sense...
Bayh: (interrupting) General, you would not mean to say that anyone who would have a different opinion is by definition an unreasonable person?
Petraeus: Senator lots of things in life are arguable, and certainly there are lots of different opinions out there, but again I believe that the recommendations that I have made are correct...
Bayh: (interrupting) Here's the reason for my question, gentlemen. Just as I acknowledge your honor and patriotism which I think is absolutely appropriate I hope you would acknowledge the honor and patriotism of those who have a look at this very complex set of facts and simply have a different point of view - and as you both are aware some argue that to not embrace the assessment you're giving us is in fact to embrace defeat - or to embrace failure in Iraq, and I simply would disagree with those characterizations and that was the reason for my question to you.
Petraeus: Senator, we fight for the right of people to have other opinions.
Back to the present - or at least, last week. To bring us up to date, here's another graph.
The white part of that is something the White House likes to brag about - in fact, they provided it. I had to add the red myself - the steady rise in American war deaths since Obama took office is something they'd prefer to ignore. We can all hope that negotiations with the Tollybon bear fruit - and that the red line plunges with the white as we pursue the way forward in Afghanistan. But as with Iraq in 2008, that way forward was the topic of Congressional testimony from General Petraeus last week.
LEVIN: I want to pick up the question of Afghanistan, the decision the president made last night. You gave a number of reasons here today where -- for why you -- as I read you, that you are comfortable implementing the decision that the president made, whether or not it was precisely following your recommendation or not, that you do feel comfortable implementing it and supporting it. Is that an accurate reading?
PETRAEUS: I would be a bit more qualified, Mr. Chairman.
There's a notable difference in this testimony compared to the 2008 version.
LEVIN: (inaudible) would you also agree with Admiral Mullen, as he put it to the committee, that the truth is, that we would have run other kinds of risks by keeping more forces in Afghanistan longer. That's his exact words.
And we would have made it easier for the Karzai administration to increase their dependency on us. Those were his words today as well.
We would have denied the Afghan security forces who've grown in capability opportunities to further exercise that capability and to lead.
And that, in terms of risks, we would have signaled to the enemy and to our regional partners that the Taliban still possessed strength enough to warrant the full measure of our presence. They do not.
Would you agree with Admiral Mullen on that?
PETRAEUS: I'm not sure I buy every bit of that characterization, Chairman...
Although the message "you aren't going to put words in my mouth" is still loud and clear - as is this point from the General:
I obviously support the ultimate decision of the commander in chief. That is, we take an oath to obey the orders of the President of the United States.The exchange that followed, however, is noteworthy. The Senator asks "And if you couldn't do that consistent with that oath, you would resign?" - and clearly the expected "yes" response would indicate things aren't really all that bad, so the Senator was probably surprised when the General didn't give it.
PETRAEUS: Well, I'm not a quitter, Chairman.
PETRAEUS: And I don't -- I think that -- I've actually had people e-mail me and say that. And I actually -- this is something that I have thought a bit about.
I think there's much in his comments for every America to think about. I wish congressional testimony from commanders of American troops at war was considered as newsworthy now as it was in 2007. But wish in one hand, shit in the other - slap 'em together and you've got the way forward in Afghanistan.
"I feel quite strongly about this," the General continued - after Senator Levin had tried to cut him off. "Our troopers don't get to quit."
And at the end of the day, this is not about me, it's not about an individual commander, it's not about a reputation. This is about our country.
And the best step for our country, with the commander in chief having made the decision, is to execute that decision to the very best of our ability, to do everything I can during the remainder of my time as commander of ISAF to enable General Allen then to take the effort forward, and then, if confirmed, to be the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, to do everything I can from that position with that great organization to support the effort as well.
Added: scratch Kabul's Inter-Continental Hotel from the list of potential peace talk sites; apparently the Tollybon don't like it.
"For the past three weeks I walked through the villages, mountains and fields of Sabari district in Khowst province with Team Viper, the Bravo Company of the 1-26 Infantry based in the Sabari District of Khowst Province," writes J.D. Johannes. "I had seen a lot of Sabari up close and on foot, but it took the mission to Zambar listening to Hajji Baraun speak to handful of Afghan government officials for me to understand the Sabari and why the Afghan surge has not been as effective as the Iraq troop surge of 2007."
What he's noticed is what's not there. Why that piece is missing indicates what many Afghans, confronted with limited options, perceive as their best bet on the future. Having been assured repeatedly that casting their lot with the Americans (a temporary invader) isn't a wise move* (and being disinclined to do so in the first place) it's hard to fault those who don't want to join the Tollybon for choosing option three.
I can offer another contrast between Iraq a few years ago and Afghanistan now: in Iraq there were a lot more boots on ground reports available for the folks back home. Why that's not the case in Afghanistan today is a topic for another discussion, but when a rare example is available it behooves those interested to read the whole thing.
(*Coming from the Tollybon alone that assurance could have been countered, but coming from the President of the United States, you can't fault them for believing it, either.)
Last Friday the House voted on Libya - twice. The first was a Bill authorizing U.S. participation in the civil war there. It failed. However, the second vote was on a Bill limiting the use of funds to support our now-unauthorized participation in the Libyan Civil War - and it failed too. In short: after voting against the war, the House then voted to pay for it anyway.
The war was rejected overwhelmingly, 295-123.
Paying for the war was approved on a slightly narrower vote, 238-180.
In order for that to happen a lot of Representatives had to vote against the war but for the cost. From reading the Politico coverage I thought most such votes came from Democrats; they reported an "overwhelming majority of Democrats and several dozen Republicans" voted in favor of funding. In reality the vote on Party lines saw Republicans against the war 225-8, but against the cost 144-89. Democrats favored the war by 115-70, and approved of paying for it 149-36. While some of them obviously took that odd against the war but for the cost position, significantly more Republicans voted the same way.
I can at least appreciate the consistency of any who voted consistently, for or against. You can read the roll calls on the specific votes at the links above, but if you want a quick look at whether your Representative is one of those "I support the cost, not the war"- types, I've compiled that list below.
(For what its worth, Democrats Marcy Kaptur of Ohio and Steve Rothman of New Jersey voted in favor of the war - but then switched to voting against the spending. Given that the war was officially unauthorized - and arguably illegal at the time they voted against funding it that actually makes sense. Given the much longer list that follows, that made rare sense last Friday afternoon.)
Without further ado, here's the "against the war but for the cost" crew. See if there's anyone you'd vote for on here. (And don't be surprised when they lie to you about how they "voted against authorizing the Libya war.")
When I first saw this little graph over at Think Progress I thought it did a pretty fair job of depicting the reality of President Obama's planned troop drawdown in Afghanistan.
Of course, that little drawdown is supposed to be completed before the 2012 elections (that's the whole point of it) - but you get the idea. However, Matthew Yglesias thinks the White House didn't like it for other reasons:
Earlier this week, ThinkProgress produced a graph illustrating the fact that Obama's "withdrawal" plan from Afghanistan will leave more troops there than were present at the start of his administration. Seemingly in response, Ben Rhodes from the National Security Council posted a counter-chart on the White House blog depicting combined troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan as steadily declining since the administration took office...Ben Rhodes' national security job is strategic communications (or information operations, if you prefer). That means it's up to him to convince Americans that everything about Obama's various wars is doubleplusgood. Here's his chart (at the White House they call it an "Infographic"):
If I'd made that chart I'd have used Obama's full quote from West Point: "I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home," along with some other important things he said about "the real central front of the war on terror" - but here we can certainly see that when you combine troop levels from both wars (ignoring Libya) you can create a super easy chart that any Obama voter can understand. Two points connected by a straight line representing January 2009 to now, and then the future, which has been restored to its proper pre-election goal. (Another chart showing how much Congress has reduced the spending on those wars over the past couple years would be nice too, but I don't think any such thing currently exists... Besides, Obama brought the troops home, and that's a promise kept!)
But Matthew says "not so fast..."
Unfortunately, in drawing their trend line the White House's graphics team actually left off several salient data points, creating the illusion of steady decline where there has in fact been a surge followed by an un-surge.
Here's a corrected chart:
Follow the links for bigger versions if those aren't legible. I doubt any of the national security experts at Think Progress know it, but that big jump early in Obama's term is the result of a slick little scam he pulled on the American public about an Iraq troop drawdown - but that's all water under the bridge. There's certainly been an overall drawdown since, and hey - it's not like the Think Progress crowd won't do everything they can to get Obama four more years no matter what. (After all, they wouldn't want Jones to come back, would they?)
All an all an interesting series of charts though. But I couldn't help but notice something missing - something that really adds meaning to them...
It's something that's been missing from our national dialog on war since late 2007 - remarkably, prior to that it was all anyone ever talked about.
The chart above shows the combined American death toll from Iraq and Afghanistan, as reported at icasualties. The blue line depicts the monthly totals, the red line a running twelve-month average. The variability in the raw numbers - the cyclical peaks and valleys in the blue line - reflects the "fighting season" in Afghanistan. (Here's another look, and here's another comparison of trends in both wars.) In the red line you see more clearly the steady rise in American deaths from the last year of President Bush's term to the past twelve months - a seventeen percent increase coincident with a seventeen percent reduction in troops.
Simplify the red line to a straight one connecting the Jan, 2009 point to now (the end points) and overlay it on the White House infographic and it looks like this (click the charts below for larger versions):
Of course, what it might look like in the future is hard to predict - a lot of that will be up to a group of people President Obama likes to call the Tollybon. They got his December, 2009 promise we would be leaving, too. Since that's a promise kept maybe they'll be patient; maybe not. If they are, then all the troops will be able to vote in November 2012 just like you.
This is pretty nifty, too (unless you're one of the dead people or their relatives). Add the same date points that Mathew selected to my red line overlayed on his infographic and it looks like this:
Remarkable, I think. Of course, what matters is what those troops accomplish on the road to successfully completing the President's stated goals. And we should never forget what Rhodes emphasizes on the White House web site, "Our troops have provided extraordinary service and sacrifice in both Afghanistan and Iraq for nearly ten years."
Like whatsisname and whosisface, the ones Obama gave that Medal of Whatchamacallit to.
Don't beat yourself up - when most people hear that military members make up less than 1% of the population they don't respond by doing the same math politicians - by their very nature - do instantly. Any candidate will portray themselves as supporting the troops (and thus having their support in turn) but in a national election they aren't really going to worry much about getting the actual votes of some percentage of less than one percent of potential voters. (Who as troops are required to keep their mouths shut when it comes to all that anyway.)
As for any Obama voters grown weary of endless war (or anything else)... you can bet the farm on this appeal:
"Comrades!" he cried. "You do not imagine, I hope, that we pigs are doing this in a spirit of selfishness and privilege? Many of us actually dislike milk and apples. I dislike them myself. Our sole object in taking these things is to preserve our health. Milk and apples (this has been proved by Science, comrades) contain substances absolutely necessary to the well-being of a pig. We pigs are brainworkers. The whole management and organisation of this farm depend on us. Day and night we are watching over your welfare. It is for YOUR sake that we drink that milk and eat those apples. Do you know what would happen if we pigs failed in our duty? Jones would come back! Yes, Jones would come back! Surely, comrades," cried Squealer almost pleadingly, skipping from side to side and whisking his tail, "surely there is no one among you who wants to see Jones come back?"
How many will that work on? A lot more than one percent.
Another diary entry from Lt Barker...
...that one from 8 January, 1775. If the El-Tee sounds a bit peeved, well, it had been a rough winter for the British troops cooped up in Boston, as even a glance at his diary entries reveals; deaths, desertions (sometimes both at once - "A Soldier of the 10th shot for desertion," reads Barker's entry for December 24th, "the only thing done in remembrance of Christ-Mass...") and a hostile population dominate his chronicle of the days. Still, while fair weather seemed far away, General Gage was preparing for it, and two capable volunteers would soon enjoy all the benefits of fresh air and exercise an extended walk through the countryside could bring.
Gage orders two of his officers, Captain John Brown and Ensign Henry De Berniere, to travel the roads west from Boston and to gather and record information along the way. By 20 March, Gage shifts his attention to Concord, where the Provincial Congress has been meeting and a large supply of arms are stored. Once again, Gage sends Brown and Berniere on a mission. Closer to Boston, Concord seems a more accessible goal for recapturing provincial munitions and demonstrating British authority.
De Berniere would document the mission, and everything about it would confirm Barker's description of British activity in Boston as "so noble a field for Satire." As with Barker's diary, we might never have seen this document; however, unlike Barker's there was no hundred-year wait. As the first page of its 1779 publication (in Boston, by then back under rebel control) makes clear, a copy of Gage's orders and De Berniere's report were "Left in town by a British Officer previous to the evacuation of it by the enemy, and now printed for the information and amusement of the curious."
The whole thing is available online at the web site of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and even two centuries later is comedy gold. "We sat out from Boston on Thursday," our James Bond forerunner explains, "disguised like countrymen, in brown cloaths and reddish handkerchiefs round our necks..." Thus camouflaged, they hoped to make their way largely unnoticed through the small towns dotting the country. Almost immediately the two masters of disguise were patting themselves on the back at their great success: "We next went to Watertown," Ensign De Berniere reports, "and were not suspected, it is a pretty large town for America, but would be looked upon as a village in England..." (You know, one of those places where everyone is related to everyone else?) "...a little out of this town we went into a tavern..."
Yeah... so here's what happened next.
"This disconcerted us a good deal," he says - in what may be an early written example of the British penchant for understatement. "We resolved not to sleep there that night, as we had intended..."
The (mis)adventures of the three amigos ("Brown, I, and our man John," De Berniere explains - "for we always treated him as our companion since our adventure with the black woman" - no longer would he have to wait outside in the cold while they ate) had just begun. Fortunately for us all, they'd push on in the face of exposure and adversity repeatedly - eventually identifying the route to Concord via Lexington as the best option for future travels. Thus, if they hadn't been so worried about appearing very foolish, history might have been very different - and we'd all be speaking English today.
Their story continues here. (For those not inclined to read the whole comic epic, our heroes should at least get credit for fooling some people. On returning to Boston "we met General Gage and General Haldiman, with their aid-de-camps, walking out on the neck, they did not know us until we discovered ourselves.")
Footnote - for comparison with Barker, here's the entry for the same day from the diary of Frederick Mackenzie, another British officer in Boston:
8th . It has been signified to the Army, that if any Officers of the different Regiments are capable of taking Sketches of a Country, they are to send their names to the Deputy Adjutant General.
I am afraid not many Officers in this Army will be found qualified for this Service. It is a branch of Military education too little attended to, or sought after by our Officers, and yet is not only extremely necessary and useful in time of War, but very entertaining and instructive.
Mackenzie (of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers) deployed with Percy's relief column on April 19th. His diary can be read here, along with historian Allen French's (who sought out and published Mackenzie's diary) contrast of the two journalists as revealed in their own words:
Barker - a promising officer, eager and restless, is full of youthful intolerance. His chronicle bristles with contemptuous flings at his superiors and at the enemy, whether in the street or in the field. Mackenzie, on the other hand, who must at the time have been hard on his fiftieth year, expresses no such sentiments. A seasoned, experienced soldier, he takes the days work as it comes and discharges it with fidelity.
It's certain after reading De Berniere's account that MacKenzie's concern was more valid than Barker's hurt feelings.
Next - part three: Lt Sutherland's Ride
"First time I saw 10th Mountain Division, you guys were in southern Iraq. When I went back to visit Afghanistan, you guys were the first ones there. I had the great honor of seeing some of you because a comrade of yours, Jared Monti, was the first person who I was able to award the Medal of Honor to who actually came back and wasn't receiving it posthumously."
"As we all know," Matt points out, "SSG Sal Giunta, of the 173rd Airborne, was the first living recipient of the MOH who fought in Iraq/Afganistan. SFC Jared Monti, 10th Mountain Division, was KIA in Afghanistan in 2006. He was posthumously awarded the MOH by Obama in 2009."
Apparently the Pres'ent was at Ft Drum to explain to the troops about their success in Afghanistan and how he's bringing them home now. Anyhow, here's the official excuse:
I contacted the White House to see what happened. I'm told the President didn't have prepared remarks.
I'm sure he was very distracted with his worries over Congress possibly putting a stop to his war in Libya, too.
I'll let the fraud himself explain why this matters. Here he is reading from his prepared remarks at SSG Giunta's Medal of Honor ceremony seven months ago:
THE PRESIDENT: Of all the privileges that come with serving as President of the United States, I have none greater than serving as Commander-in-Chief of the finest military that the world has ever known. And of all the military decorations that a President and a nation can bestow, there is none higher than the Medal of Honor.
Today is particularly special. Since the end of the Vietnam War, the Medal of Honor has been awarded nine times for conspicuous gallantry in an ongoing or recent conflict. Sadly, our nation has been unable to present this decoration to the recipients themselves, because each gave his life -- his last full measure of devotion -- for our country. Indeed, as President, I have presented the Medal of Honor three times -- and each time to the families of a fallen hero.
Today, therefore, marks the first time in nearly 40 years that the recipient of the Medal of Honor for an ongoing conflict has been able to come to the White House and accept this recognition in person. It is my privilege to present our nation's highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor, to a soldier as humble as he is heroic: Staff Sergeant Salvatore A. Giunta.
Now, I'm going to go off-script here for a second and just say I really like this guy. (Laughter and applause.) I think anybody -- we all just get a sense of people and who they are, and when you meet Sal and you meet his family, you are just absolutely convinced that this is what America is all about. And it just makes you proud. And so this is a joyous occasion for me -- something that I have been looking forward to.
The Medal of Honor reflects the gratitude of an entire nation. So we are also joined here today by several members of Congress, including both senators and several representatives from Staff Sergeant Giunta's home state of Iowa. We are also joined by leaders from across my administration and the Department of Defense, including the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen. Where's Mike? There he is, right there. Army Secretary John McHugh; and Chief of Staff of the Army, General George Casey.
We are especially honored to be joined by Staff Sergeant Giunta's fellow soldiers, his teammates and brothers from Battle Company, 2d of the 503d of the 173d Airborne Brigade; and several members of that rarest of fraternities that now welcomes him into its ranks -- the Medal of Honor Society. Please give them a big round of applause. (Applause.)
Being a good con man, he provided a lot of information no one would disagree with in that statement. One of the best, most widely-applicable examples came when he went "off-script" for a moment: "I think anybody -- we all just get a sense of people and who they are."
Postscript: A couple of oldies -
"Just kidding" at Osan:
"Mis-speaking" on Dover:
A small contingent of reporters and photographers accompanied Mr. Obama to Dover, where he arrived at 12:34 a.m. aboard Marine One. He returned to the South Lawn of the White House at 4:45 a.m.
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.
It should have been a "good" day for the project; "This week alone, about two dozen soldiers have died in attacks and accidents." But while the remains of 15 soldiers and three federal agents arrived at Dover while the president was there, only one family elected to participate:The other families chose not to, officials said, under a new Pentagon policy that lifted an 18-year ban on media covering the return of U.S. service members killed in action if families provide permission.Under George Bush, who launched the conflict in retaliation for the terrorist 9/11 attacks, news media were barred from observing the return of fallen troops through Dover airbase.
Obama overturned the ban this year...
President Obama explains why he doesn't need congressional approval to participate in the Libyan Civil War:
The President is of the view that the current U.S. military operations in Libya are consistent with the War Powers Resolution and do not under that law require further congressional authorization, because U.S. military operations are distinct from the kind of "hostilities" contemplated by the Resolution's 60 day termination provision. U.S. forces are playing a constrained and supporting role in a multinational coalition, whose operations are both legitimated by and limited to the terms of a United Nations Security Council Resolution that authorizes the use of force solely to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under attack or threat of attack and to enforce a no-fly zone and an arms embargo.
(That's the unclassified report - there's also a secret one containing "information relating to U.S. military operations" in Libya that we won't see.) I'm a bit concerned by the potential interpretation of that "legitimated by" (or a congressional non-response to that) as acknowledging the UN or any coalition as a higher authority than Congress. I'm sure that's only what it says, not what it means (so it's similar to the US Constitution in that regard; see Second Amendment for an example) and obviously that bit about "supporting" (vice constrained) is the key, right?
If all that legalese confuses you as much as it does me, maybe this line a "senior administration official told ABC News" will help:
"The US role is one of support," the official said, "and the kinetic pieces of that are intermittent."
But that "legitimizing" approval's an interesting thing - as it brings with it the constraint: "the use of force solely to protect civilians." Except at this point in time, that assertion is laughable - and there can't be anyone left in the world who can actually believe it. Witness Hillary Clinton's comments in support of the president's efforts in Libya:
I don't think there's any doubt in anyone's mind that Qadhafi and the people around him have their backs against the wall.... But the bottom line is, whose side are you on? Are you on Qadhafi's side or are you on the side of the aspirations of the Libyan people and the international coalition that has been created to support them? For the Obama Administration, the answer to that question is very easy.
For some reason I can't read that as a defense of protecting civilians, something that seems better defended by the simple phrase "we're just protecting civilians - how can you oppose that?" Of course, the UN is still pretending we're just protecting civilians in much the same way the administration is just pretending we're protecting civilians per UN mandate in official written justifications for our actions. Therefore it will be interesting to see if any administration officials will abandon that pretense in their congressional testimony in support of our support to kinetic activity constrained to protecting civilians mission in Libya and follow Hillary's "hey, we're kicking Qaddafi's ass here - you're either with us or with the terrorists" format. (A line even President Bush didn't apply to his domestic opponents.)
No secret number two: the Libyan Civil War has driven oil prices up (though President Obama likes to blame "speculators") - a predictable impact of the loss of the Libyan supply. (Hey - the whole thing was supposed to be over in a week...) So if you believe Italy is suddenly going wobbly on Libya based on humanitarian grounds four months after losing almost a quarter of their oil supply - "with the government in Rome warning that it has ...enough oil to last 90 days" then you're what certain Chicagoans I know call an easy mark. Of course, Italy (and most of the rest of NATO) still have to get oil somewhere, which drives up prices for them and everyone else, unless offset by reduced demand elsewhere...
Which brings us to "it will be interesting to see if..." number two: it will be interesting to see if Italy continues to express its profound humanitarian concerns now that President Obama (in an amazing coincidence) has opened the US strategic oil reserves to "keep pump prices in the United States down this summer," since that will (coincidentally) reduce demand on the global supply. (Why didn't he just make the speculators lower their prices, you ask? Easy answer: Hey, are you with us, or the terrorists?)
Lastly (for today) on this topic: "Libya is a 'dumb war'" says Glenn Reynolds, "because it's halfhearted, half-assed, and run by committee, and the President can't even articulate the national interest involved."
On points: dumb - yes, halfhearted - yes, half-assed - yes, committee - yes... but as for the President, although I disagree with it, and it's certainly obscure, I thought he articulated the national interest quite well:
It is in America's national interest because nobody has a bigger stake in the Middle East than does the United States of America.
Hillary's and you're either with us or against us makes a nice companion point to that.
Some might argue his statement wasn't as clear and articulate as my interpretation above, but (to use a much more well-known recent quote as comparison) I say it was at least as clear - if obviously not as newsworthy - as Sarah Palin's description of Paul Revere's ride. If that's not articulate enough for you, you're obviously with the terrorists.
Update: never say "lastly (for today)" before 4PM on a Friday:
The House delivered a surprising split decision on Libya Friday: Voting against authorizing the use of American forces there and then, an hour later, refusing to limit funding for the mission.
Apparently a whole lotta Democrats and a handful of Republicans voted against the war but in favor of funding it, (update: not accurate - see here) so President Obama's Dynamic Fear Train of History will continue chugga chugga choo chooing along. (I've heard of people being "against the war but for the troops," but this is the first time I recall anyone saying they were "against the war but for the cost.")
I guess this means the troops will continue to get their combat pay; I'm glad the "not combat" fraud was never extended to screwing them out of that.
A 22-year-old Alexandria man has been charged with shooting at military buildings in the D.C. region last fall, and federal officials said in court papers that he videotaped himself shouting "Allah Akbar" after he fired shots at the U.S. Marine Corps museum in October.
Yonathan Melaku, a Marine Reservist, was taken into custody Friday under suspicious circumstances at Arlington National Cemetery. He had been carrying a backpack that held plastic baggies with ammonium nitrate, a material that can be used to make a bomb, as well as a notebook that included references to Osama bin Laden and "The Path to Jihad."
"I can't suggest to you his motivations or intent," said James W. McJunkin, assistant director in charge of the FBI's Washington Field Office. "Its not readily apparent yet."
McJunkin and other officials would not comment on Melaku's faith.
I'm guessing "Mormon angry about that Broadway show" - but that's just a guess. He could also be one of "those people" Sheila Jackson Lee is concerned about. The Washington Post reporter doesn't seem to know what his motive, intent or faith might be either. Maybe they could set up a telephone tips hotline - I know it's a long shot, but maybe someone out there might be able to provide the missing piece of the puzzle that could unravel this mystery.
Politico frames "Obama's dilemma"...
The generals want to stick it out. His supporters - and a growing number of Republicans - think Obama can't get out of Afghanistan fast enough, particularly now that Osama bin Laden is dead.
And so it's left to Obama to calibrate a withdrawal that preserves a decade of modest but hard-fought gains in Afghanistan but also looks and feels like the war is actually coming to an end.
What the generals want is what every soldier wants - to come home. They'll advise the president on minimum numbers needed to accomplish the mission he gives them - but that's not likely to matter any more now than it has in the past. What most everyone else wants is any money spent keeping them there put to other uses, preferably ones that provide more tangible benefits for themselves. There's an easy way to give both sides what they want, thus there's no dilemma in that regard for the president at all. He shouldn't get a "pass" on that, and certainly not one that blames "the generals" or "the Pentagon" - rather than national security considerations as determined by the President of the United States (about which he should be uncompromising in declaring whether a threat exists or not and definitive if one does) - for the resulting "compromise." Getting that exactly wrong, however, has been the history of troop level decisions since 2009.
Generals, of course, are raised not to complain. It's rare - and unbecoming - when they do. Abuse of that unique privilege of the civ side of the American civ-mil relationship is equally unbecoming in a politician, and anything but rare. This one, more than any other in history, likes to portray himself (to the right audiences) as standing up to the generals against all that army war stuff they do.
What a president is expected to do is to act in the best interest of the United States. As to what ours will do, Politico says "Obama is certain to claim success." That part they got right; he's already done it, (he loves to portray himself as a winner - to the right audiences) he's not confronted with any dilemma there.
Italy breaks ranks over NATO's Libya mission - on humanitarian grounds.
"We have seen the effects of the crisis and therefore also of NATO action not only in eastern and southwestern regions but also in Tripoli," Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told a parliamentary committee meeting.
"I believe an immediate humanitarian suspension of hostilities is required in order to create effective humanitarian corridors," while negotiations should also continue on a more formal ceasefire and peace talks, he said.
"I think this is the most urgent and dramatic point," Frattini continued.
"I think it is legitimate to request ever more detailed information on the results" of the NATO mission, he added, condemning "the dramatic errors that hit civilians, which is clearly not an objective of the NATO mission."
France, which has taken the lead in military operations against Kadhafi, immediately ruled out any pause in the Libya campaign.
I thought France would have been first, not because of a tendency to surrender, but for more practical reasons. But that was just a hunch (Italy was my second guess, I swear!), nothing I would have bet anything tangible on. I have no specific knowledge of any nation's strategic oil reserves and little of other economic considerations that might be plaguing the EU or its member nations (baseline mandatory intel for national security decision makers); armed with that info I believe I'd have gotten it right.
Most people generally advocate diplomacy prior to hostilities. That wasn't the case in this war (I can't recall any other we got into this quickly - but then again, it was supposed to be over in a week), but perhaps it's still worth a shot.
Indeed they did. Lt John Barker, 4th (King's Own) Foot, wrote that diary entry on 15 April, 1775 in Boston. A few days later he would participate in that something else, a mission he'd call, in its immediate aftermath, from beginning to end as ill planned and ill executed as it was possible to be. We Americans have always just called it "Lexington and Concord."
It's not at all hard to imagine Lt Barker as a milblogger - one who candidly displays the honest opinions many readers of milblogs appreciate - and many leaders of milbloggers don't. He describes Lt Col Francis Smith, the commander of the expedition as "being a very fat heavy Man" whose self-placement at the head of one group sent to relieve another under fire during the fighting at Concord meant he had "stopt 'em from being time enough... he wou'd not have reached the Bridge in half an hour, tho' it was not half a mile to it." In addition to that (highly enjoyable) violation of military etiquette, good order and discipline, Barker's earlier "something's up" entry is what we'd call an opsec violation today. If he were a modern milblogger who'd published such a statement on line I'd advise him to take the Article 15 (if offered) and be glad he wasn't Court Martialled.
Back then there were no milbloggers, of course, so Barker's leaders never learned what he really thought. He'd committed no crime; those thoughts weren't public, and confined to his diary they were never intended to be - at least, not immediately. Though he didn't begin his diary until some time after he arrived in Boston, in his first entry he asked himself "why cou'd I be so stupid as not to keep a Journal of those five months, which will in future fill so respectable a place in the Annals of Britain; and wou'd have furnish'd so noble a field for Satire?" Being an observant and knowledgeable participant in events of the day, he obviously anticipated that whatever tales he'd failed to tell, there would still be interesting times for him to document in the months to come.
Later during the war, in a hurried movement of British troops, Barker's journal was left behind to be discovered by one of the American soldiers who had caused that hurry. Details and the subsequent history of the diary can be read here. (Including why Barker is presumed to be the diarist - a point historians haven't challenged while incorporating much of his content into narratives of the events; any doubt of authorship is as insignificant as it is inconsequential, on authenticity there's no doubt.) Barker was spared any potential embarrassment. One hundred years would pass before its publication, coincident with the centennial of the American Revolution.
It's interesting to read his account of April 19th, 1775 today for a variety of reasons. On the surface it's a simple diary entry from a day in the life of a man living an extraordinary day - but there's depth to it. For most Americans, perhaps accustomed to the insurgents' view (to use a more modern term) of the American Revolution, the counterinsurgent's side of the story might reveal something useful, too. Barker's earlier entries describe the life of the British soldier in Boston, far from home amidst a hostile population and serving under leaders who apparently have no grasp of reality of life in the streets. (Soldiers brawling, drinking, gambling... morale issues... at one point they were forbidden to carry weapons in public!) They provide a necessary background for events of the day, along with an essential understanding of Barker's frame of mind and point of view; long before the shooting started he'd had quite enough of it, thanks - but knew he had nothing to look forward to but more. Still, stiff upper lip, as they say...
Here we won't discover the earlier series of strategic miscalculations (beyond second- or third-order effects) that made April 19th inevitable, but we do have one man's observations (and they seem valid, perhaps eternal to soldiering) of tactical failures that led to the ultimate - and much greater - strategic disaster it became. Some are mere hints requiring comparison with other accounts to fully appreciate ("...about 5 miles on this side of a Town called Lexington, which lay in our road, we heard there were some hundreds of People collected together intending to oppose us and stop our going on..."), others are more direct, and all too familiar to those who've ever followed the flag ("...had we not idled away three hours on Cambridge Marsh waiting for provisions that were not wanted, we shou'd have had no interruption at Lexington... We shou'd have reached Concord soon after day break, before they cou'd have heard of us..."). Through many twists of fate, Lt Barker now shares with us his small part in a perfect storm, with glimpses of the larger whole.
If he was correct in calling it satire, perhaps behavior worthy of it is something eternally human, part of our DNA. But what could have been and should have been are arguable; that here we have what was is not. I've little doubt that those who first published this diary a century after it was written - and over a century ago - did not imagine it as anything more than that.
19th. Last night between 10 and 11 o'clock all the Grenadiers and Light Infantry of the Army, making about 600 Men (under the command of Lt. Coll. Smith of the 10th and Major Pitcairn of the Marines) embarked and were landed upon the opposite shore on Cambridge Marsh. Few but the commanding officers knew what expedition we were going upon. After getting over the Marsh, where we were wet up to the knees, we were halted in a dirty road and stood there 'till 2 o'clock in the morning, waiting for provisions to be brought from the boats and to be divided, and which most of the men threw away, having carried some with 'em.
At 2 o'clock we began our march by wading through a very long ford up to our middles. After going a few miles we took three or four people who were going off to give intelligence. About five miles on this side of a town called Lexington, which lay in our road, we heard there were some hundreds of people collected together intending to oppose us and stop our going on. At 5 o'clock we arrived there and saw a number of people, I believe between 2 and 300, formed in a common in the middle of the town. We still continued advancing, keeping prepared against an attack though without intending to attack them, but on our coming near them they fired one or two shots, upon which our men, without any orders, rushed in upon them, fired and put 'em to flight. Several of them were killed, we could not tell how many, because they were got behind walls and into the Woods. We had a man of the 10th Light Infantry wounded, nobody else hurt.
We then formed on the Common, but with some difficulty, the men were so wild they could hear no orders. We waited a considerable time there, and at length proceeded on our way to Concord, which we then learned was our destination, in order to destroy a magazine of stores collected there. We met with no interruption 'till within a mile or two of the town, where the country people had occupied a hill which commanded the road. The light infantry were ordered away to the right and ascended the height in one line, upon which the Yankies quitted it without firing, which they did likewise for one or two more successively. They then crossed the River beyond the town, and we marched into the town after taking possession of a hill with a Liberty Pole on it and a flag flying, which was cut down. The Yankies had that Hill but left it to us; we expected they would have made a stand there, but they did not choose it.
While the grenadiers remained in the town, destroying three pieces of cannon, several gun carriages, and about 100 barrels of flour, with harness and other things, the light companies were detached beyond the river to examine some houses for more stores. One of these companies was left at the bridge, another on a hill some distance from it, and another on a hill 1/4 of a mile from that. The other three went forward two or three miles to seek for some cannon which had been there but had been taken away that morning. During this time the people were gathering together in great numbers, and, taking advantage of our scattered disposition, seemed as if they were going to cut off the communication with the bridge, upon which the two companies joined and went to the bridge to support that company. The three companies drew up in the road the far side the bridge and the rebels on the hill above, covered by a wall. In that situation they remained a long time, very near an hour, the three companies expecting to be attacked by the rebels, who were about 1000 strong.
Captain Lawrie, who commanded these three companies, sent to Colonel Smith begging he would send more troops to his assistance and informing him of his situation. The Colonel ordered two or three companies but put himself at their head, by which means stopped them from being time enough, for being a very fat heavy man he would not have reached the bridge in half an hour, though it was not half a mile to it. In the mean time the rebels marched into the road and were coming down upon us, when Capn. L____e made his men retire to this side the bridge. (Which by the bye he ought to have done at first, and then he would have had time to make a good disposition, but at this time he had not, for the rebels were got so near him that his people were obliged to form the best way they could.) As soon as they were over the bridge the three companies got one behind the other so that only the front one could fire. The rebels, when they got near the bridge, halted and fronted, filling the road from the top to bottom.
The fire soon began from a dropping shot on our side, when they and the front company fired almost at the same instant, there being nobody to support the front company. The others not firing, the whole were forced to quit the bridge and return toward Concord. Some of the grenadiers met 'em in the road and then advanced to meet the rebels, who had got this side the bridge and on a good height, but seeing the maneuver they thought proper to retire again over the bridge. The whole then went into Concord, drew up in the town, and waited for the three companies that were gone on, which arrived in about an hour. Four officers of eight who were at the bridge were wounded; three men killed; one sergeant and several men wounded. After getting as good conveniences for the wounded as we could, and having done the business we were sent upon, we set out upon our return.
Before the whole had quitted the Town we were fired on from houses and behind trees, and before we had gone 1/2 a mile we were fired on from all sides, but mostly from the rear, where people had hid themselves in houses till we had passed, and then fired. The country was an amazing strong one, full of hills, woods, stone walls, &c, which the rebels did not fail to take advantage of, for they were all lined with people who kept an incessant fire upon us, as we did too upon them, but not with the same advantage, for they were so concealed there was hardly any seeing them. In this way we marched between nine and ten miles, their numbers increasing from all parts, while ours was reducing by deaths, wounds, and fatigue, and we were totally surrounded with such an incessant fire as it's impossible to conceive; our ammunition was likewise near expended.
In this critical situation we perceived the 1st Brigade coming to our assistance. It consisted of the 4th, 23d, and 47th Regiments and the Battalion of Marines, with two field pieces, 6 pounders. We had been flattered ever since the morning with expectations of the brigade coming out, but at this time had given up all hopes of it, as it was so late. I since heard it was owing to a mistake of the orders, or the brigade would have been with us two hours sooner. As soon as the rebels saw this reinforcement, and tasted the field pieces, they retired, and we formed on a rising ground and rested ourselves a little while, which was extremely necessary for our men, who were almost exhausted with fatigue. In about 1/2 an hour we marched again, and some of the brigade taking the flanking parties we marched pretty quiet for about two miles. They then began to pepper us again from the same sort of places, but at rather a greater distance.
We were now obliged to force almost every house in the road, for the rebels had taken possession of them and galled us exceedingly. But they suffered for their temerity, for all that were found in the houses were put to death. When we got to Menotomy there was a very heavy fire. After that we took the short cut into the Charles Town road, very luckily for us too, for the rebels, thinking we should endeavor to return by Cambridge, had broken down the bridge and had a great number of men to line the road and to receive us there, however we threw them and went on to Charles Town without any great interruption. We got there between 7 and 8 oclock at night, took possession of the hill above the Town, and waited for the Boats to carry us over, which came some time after. The Rebels did not choose to follow us to the hill, as they must have fought us on open ground and that they did not like. The piquets of the army were sent over to Charles Town and 200 of the 64th to keep that ground. They threw up a work to secure themselves, and we embarked and got home very late in the night...
Thus ended this expedition, which from beginning to end was as ill planned and ill executed as it was possible to be. Had we not idled away three hours on Cambridge Marsh waiting for provisions that were not wanted, we should have had no interruption at Lexington, but by our stay the country people had got intelligence and time to assemble. We should have reached Concord soon after day break, before they could have heard of us, by which we should have destroyed more cannon and stores, which they had had time enough to convey away before our arrival. We might also have got easier back and not been so much harassed, as they would not have had time to assemble so many people; even the people of Salem and Marblehead, above 20 miles off, had intelligence and time enough to march and meet us on our return. They met us somewhere about Menotomy, but they lost a good many for their pains...
Thus for a few trifling Stores the grenadiers and light infantry had a march of about 50 miles (going and returning) through an enemy's country, and in all human probability must every man have been cut off if the brigade had not fortunately come to their assistance. For when the brigade joined us there were very few men had any ammunition left, and so fatigued that we could not keep flanking parties out, so that we must soon have laid down our arms, or been picked off by the rebels at their pleasure.
Young Lt Barker survived the war and continued his military career, ultimately retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel himself. No record of his body mass index or 1/2 mile run time at that point in his life is available online. His youthful chronicle of events that changed the world, as first published (though erroneously attributed) is here.
Part two of this series: The Comic Relief
Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) is readying her next move in a months-long effort to slash Pentagon spending for NASCAR and other sports sponsorships.
McCollum has failed twice to advance proposals that would have changed the way the military awards contracts and doles out funds for those events, as well as for ultimate-fighting sponsorships.
Undaunted, McCollum is mulling a new tactic.
Bill Harper, McCollum's chief of staff, said the lawmaker would likely offer an amendment on the House floor to the 2012 Pentagon appropriations bill that would limit the funds the military could spend on sporting events.
I understand her concern for priorities - and certainly I'm not happy that we live in a world where there are homeless veterans. But if the NASCAR sponsorships promote public awareness and appreciation of the military, wouldn't that translate to support for veterans, too?
As the photo above reveals, NASCAR sponsorships are certainly seen as effective advertising, especially when "your car" appears in photos like this one:
Ignoring the broader results of promoting a positive image, perhaps there are recruiting expenses to be cut somewhere, but I don't think we should start with the more cost-effective examples.
Correction: The wrong photo was used above. That one is the "Digital TV Transition Ford" sponsored by the Federal Communications Commission crashing during its inaugural NASCAR race.
Here's the correct photo:
We apologize for any confusion.
Correction 2: Dammit! - I got it wrong again. That was Lance Armstrong crossing the finish line in one of his many Tour de France stage wins, wearing the familiar yellow version of his US Postal Service-sponsored team's jersey.
One last try:
I got it right that time... The story is here. (Warning: fans of Betty will be disgusted with the enemy victory celebrations.)
On Thursday night, Darrell Wallace Jr., drove his Revolution Racing Toyota to victory in the K&N Pro Series East race at Richmond International Raceway.
In mid-February at Daytona, the Army had to postpone its announcement of support for Revolution Racing--the flagship organization of NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program--after Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) introduced an amendment that would have blocked the armed forces from using taxpayer money to fund NASCAR sponsorships.
The amendment was voted down 281-148, largely along party lines.
Lt. General Benjamin C. Freakley of the Army Accessions Command, the branch of the Army that oversees recruiting, said Friday that racing sponsorships are enormously valuable in counteracting a declining awareness of the Army among young potential recruits.
But I suppose my failures at getting the right photo posted above, followed by my ultimate success, are another demonstration that quitters don't win and winners don't quit. Perhaps some future day in Minnesota there will be no homeless veterans, and proud parents will be able to show their children triumphant victory photos of Betty McCollum, who made it all possible.
Postscript: Darrell Wallace Jr. is a 17-year old African American; more on the NASCAR "Drive For Diversity initiative" here. (If pale, middle-aged Betty from Minnesota succeeds in getting his sponsorship money yanked, I hope she takes the time to educate him about how he was just being used by The Man.)
"His political career began in 1919 when he became Member No. 7 of the midget German Labor Party," Time magazine wrote of their 1938 Man of the Year. "Discovering his powers of oratory, Hitler soon became the party's leader..."
In an explosive tirade that fired up some demonstrators and embarrassed others, a national union leader went nuclear on Gov. Chris Christie, calling him a Nazi over and over.
"Welcome to Nazi Germany," Christopher Shelton, a top official at the Communication Workers of America, told thousands of protesters today outside the Statehouse in Trenton. "The first thing that the Nazis and Adolf Hitler did was go after the unions."
It's more correct to say the first thing Hitler did was create a union, but Shelton went on to call members of the New Jersey legislature "Adolf Christie's generals" for supporting the governor's efforts, adding "They're Nazis, goddamn it" for good measure. (Quick note for the young readers: "Nazi" was short - and pejorative; no one deserved that more - for Hitler's Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei. See etymology here. Directly translated: "National Socialist German Workers' Party," though "labor" is interchangeable with "workers..." Various other national or international socialist groups then and now weren't comfortable with the full name for his organization, declaring Hitler to be "far right" and themselves "left" - or center - and the rest of us somewhere in between.)
Other speakers at the New Jersey event were quick to distance themselves from Shelton's remarks. In that situation I'm sure most people would; however, others embrace such highly charged, emotionally delivered declarations with something akin to religious fervor. It's only with disgust I can turn my attention to Adolf Hitler at all, I suspect a majority of Americans share that sentiment, some perhaps in the belief that if you ignore those people they go away. (After all, it can't happen here...) However, we live in a country where erroneous versions of history are increasingly popular and decreasingly trivial. The notion that Paul Revere's ride had nothing whatsoever to do with gun rights is spreading faster than Tony Weiner's Tweets (or unemployment, or mortgage foreclosures...). Meanwhile, off the top of my head I can name four Republican governors who've been declared Hitler over labor-related issues this year (and not just by labor union officials). Along with Christie they are Indiana's Mitch Daniels, Ohio's John Kasich, and Wisconsin's Scott Walker. (Walker most notably insofar as amount of national news coverage and enthusiastic participation of those who believed the charge - mostly government school teachers.)
The presumably anti-Hitler forces even have a new Hitler quote to support their claims:
"We must close union offices, confiscate their money and put their leaders in prison. We must reduce workers salaries and take away their right to strike" - Adolf Hitler, May 2, 1933
I've seen it repeatedly on Facebook, discussion boards, blogs and other locations over the past several months. It's a fabricated Hitler quote - it sprang into existence in February this year (just in time for the Wisconsin campaign) - but like so many other fabricated Hitler quotes it does sound kind of... Hitlery, to coin a term. (And like at least one other fabricated Hitler quote it sprang into being at the exact moment it was needed to advance an agenda remarkably similar to Hitler's.) It's even dated the actual day Hitler shut down those unions that weren't part of his socialist labor movement (the day after he held massive May Day celebrations), leaving his own Labor Front the only option available to workers. (Except they had no option - they had to join.)
So Hitler controlled Labor in Germany. The question becomes and then what? We know (or at least, we used to) Hitler blamed "speculators" (nudge wink) for Germany's economic woes, launched World War Two (citing his responsibility to protect German citizens in Czechoslovakia and Poland as an excuse) and killed millions - but we're talking about Labor here. We know (or at least, we used to) he revitalized the economy via government stimulus and jobs programs (the autobahn... public works... munitions... Volkswagen... tanks...), but what did Hitler do for those German workers of the mind and fist he claimed his party represented?
Let's turn to William Shirer for the answer. (Quick note for younger readers: his book Rise and Fall of the Third Reich documents exactly that, combined with his experiences as an American reporter in Germany throughout the period when Hitler came to power. It was a bestseller in an America where most people old enough to read had personal memories of World War Two. The entire book is available online for free here, the section on labor referenced below begins here.)
So, did he really slash wages? The answer is yes. Well, sort of yes. For skilled laborers the average fall was one cent an hour: "from 20.4 cents an hour in 1932... to 19.5 cents during the middle of 1936," Shirer says. Things were even worse for others: "Wage scales for unskilled labor fell from 16.1 cents to 13 cents an hour." How could he pull that off without inciting a workers' revolt? Simple: total income grew by 66 per cent. How can this be, you ask? Simple: Hitler reduced unemployment in Germany from six million to less than a million in that same time frame. (What part of socialism do you not understand?)
However, as Shirer makes clear, the typical German worker's income fell in other ways.
Besides stiff income taxes, compulsory contributions to sickness, unemployment and disability insurance, and Labor Front dues, the manual worker - like everyone else in Nazi Germany - was constantly pressured to make increasingly large gifts to an assortment of Nazi charities...
Much of that charity money went to support Germany's many unwed mothers and their children. With Hitler's encouragement and financial support their numbers were climbing sharply in the pre-war years - Der Führer foresaw the need for a large future pool of soldiers.
"Many a workman lost his job," Shirer reports, "because his contribution was deemed too small." How bad were things at their worst? All totaled, says Shirer, "In the mid-Thirties it was estimated that taxes and contributions took from 15 to 35 per cent of a worker's gross wage." I can only imagine an American veteran of D-Day and beyond reading that in 1960 and wondering... taxes, union dues, health insurance all mandatory, and charity "encouraged" - and totaling 15 per cent of gross income! We Americans fought a revolution over less! How could the Germans put up with that?
Shirer leaves no doubt as to how bad it was for the German worker. Those with weak stomachs might want to stop reading here - it keeps getting worse.
There was another heavy cost to the wage earner. As the largest single party organization in the country, with twenty-five million members, the Labor Front became a swollen bureaucracy, with tens of thousands of full-time employees. In fact, it was estimated that from 20 to 25 per cent of its income was absorbed by administration expense.
Okay, at this point you've probably noticed that mandatory taxes, union dues and health insurance combined to support a bloated bureaucracy isn't just a description of Nazi Germany in the 1930s, it also fits America today. (Though we do have cleaner, less inherently disturbing graphics, IMHO.) We all know Nazi Germany was horrible, Shirer from first hand observation. But reading past his general characterizations and into his specific descriptions it becomes obvious that many of the differences are nothing more than semantic - with obvious exceptions that still set us apart. For instance, we still have some states where (except for federal government employees) you don't have to join a union to get a decent job; union officials in twenty-first century America can still negotiate (while calling anyone who negotiates with them Nazis); and our unemployment rate is nowhere near that low. (And some of us wish our mandatory taxes and contributions were only 15% of our gross income...)
Germans also had something called Kraft durch Freude (KdF - translated: "Strength through Joy") that subsidized vacations (the beach, cruises, skiing...) sports, the theater, opera, concerts, (including a "ninety-piece symphony orchestra which continually toured the country, often playing in the smaller places where good music was not normally available") and a host of other diversions. (We've got the NEA and NPR, of course, but ...) Through KdF Hitler even started up his own government motor company (see Volkswagen link above) to subsidize ownership of economical, fuel efficient cars for German workers. (Many who paid in advance were disappointed; no one ever got one...)
Much of the focus of all KdF efforts was on government "health and fitness" guidelines for the German worker, whose "proper diet" and exercise were seen as government responsibility. "To the ordinary German in the Third Reich this official all-embracing recreational organization no doubt was better than nothing at all," says Shirer, "if one could not be trusted to be left to one's own devices."
It provided members of the Labor Front, for instance, with dirt-cheap vacation trips on land and sea. Dr Ley built two 25,000-ton ships, one of which he named after himself, and chartered ten others to to handle ocean cruises for Kraft Durch Freude.
Shirer went on one such cruise himself, and says "the German workers seemed to have a good time." Of course, Shirer could see something the average German would likely not admit: they'd been transformed into nothing more than "serfs" (to use his term).
I always thought Rise and Fall was a cautionary tale - but obviously others saw it as a how-to manual. I'd like to thank our patriotically concerned American union officials for the numerous shrill warnings over the past several months. I'm not clear if it's lower unemployment or subsidized vacations they're concerned these Hitlerific Republican Governors are trying to force on unsuspecting American workers, but at least when they try it we'll recognize it for what it is - the last few steps on the road to Nazidom.
Are you shovel ready, comrade?
Thoughts on the day from my friend Robert Stokely, father of Mike...
1000 hours June 18, 2005, a missed call from a son now in Baghdad and even in the Green Zone, danger of attack did not avoid his brigade as several hurt when rocket propelled grenades were lobbed in. Disappointed I kicked myself for having missed the call into my cell from Mike, but warmed at the sound of his voice, knowing he was trying to call me for Father's Day. Then as I got home later that Saturday, a card postmarked APO Baghdad in my mailbox. Amazed as I opened and read it, treasuring the hand written note and signature "love Mike". How much love could a father ask of a son in war for that son to find time to send a card to arrive perfectly timed for Father's Day. And even more and equally as good - Mike called again and I got to talk to him for Father's Day...
(A post I wrote while in Iraq in '07, during what would turn out to be the worst months of that war...)
Just finished reading Virtual Light, an early 90's sci-fi book by William Gibson. Gibson is credited with creating the "cyberpunk" sub-genre; I'd read his Neuromancer trilogy some time ago and enjoyed it.
Virtual Light is the first book of another trilogy, but I don't know if I'll bother with the rest. It's not bad, but the setting is the "near future" - and that future is now, or close enough to now that it becomes obvious that the future was not quite so bleak as full enjoyment of the story would require.
That of itself provides interest - but of a sort that wasn't the author's intent. I suppose there could be another sub-genre of science fiction: the bleak future that didn't happen. Watch almost any pre-Star Wars sci-fi films of the 70's - Silent Running, Soylent Green, Logan's Run, et al - and you'll see examples what I mean.
Of course, one can't consign such stories into that category ahead of time, right?
And anyhow, perhaps the authors were just off by a few years in timing. We still have a future in which any number of things can happen.
For instance, did you know the Earth was getting hotter?
In 1967, Gibson went to Canada "to avoid the Vietnam war draft", appearing that year in a CBC newsreel item about hippie subculture in Yorkville, Toronto. He settled in Vancouver, British Columbia five years later and began to write science fiction. Although he retains U.S. citizenship, Gibson has spent most of his adult life in Canada, and still lives in the Vancouver area.
This reduces my enjoyment of his work not one bit. I read Virtual Light by flashlight over several nights, just before dropping off to sleep here in my tent in Iraq.
I don't get enough sleep, though. Mostly that's due to long hours. But some days aren't so busy. One Sunday I almost went to bed early - it was Father's Day, in fact. I'd already read and replied to the emails from the kids who really aren't kids any more, and was about to log off and call it a day.
Then into my inbox popped a message from my brother in the states: I'd been invited to view an online album of photos from our niece's wedding.
The event had been planned for a year, at least, and even when I first heard of it I knew I couldn't go - knew I'd be in Iraq on that day.
Our family scattered around the country, my parents' generation and my own. None are left in my hometown, and that wasn't my parents' hometown anyway. Since the third generation is now starting out on their own, we'll see if the trend continues.
"Where are you from?" I'm asked from time to time. If you're looking for a place that defines me, the answer is "I'm not sure."
But from time to time the family gathers, and this time the gathering wasn't far from the fictional setting of Virtual Light. Sometimes I'm there, this time I wasn't. But here was my chance to be there in a virtual sense, after the fact.
Who'd have thought such things were possible, just a few short years ago?
So I clicked the link in the email, and waited while 200+ thumbnails made their agonizingly slow appearance on my screen... Who are these old guys hanging out with the beautiful girls I've known for years? And who are these young adults who look so much like the kids who used to visit Grandma's? ... I'd have to click through for the full version for answers. Those loaded slowly, too.
So much for sleep. I wouldn't miss this for the world.
I think I've already mentioned a memorial at headquarters. I saw a new face among the collection of photographs of the fallen the last time I passed by, as I do every time. This time, "... killed by indirect fire".
"Indirect fire" means rockets or mortars, launched in the general direction of camp. Most land in the middle of nothing, others don't. Here was one that didn't.
I did not know this person, who was on a base other than mine. But like all the faces, hers looked familiar. Like family.
The first picture I saw from the virtual wedding album was one of family at a table. My older brother, the father of the bride, was not among them. But on a shelf in the background, I saw his picture. A picture in a picture, small, visible only upon clicking the thumbnail for the larger image, and waiting and waiting for the pixels to make their way from California through the lens of a digital camera then through cyberspace to me in Iraq. Though his photograph in the background was small it was recognizable to me because it was a college yearbook photo, a copy of which hung proudly on a wall in my parents' home in my hometown, when it was there.
He was in college through the last few years of the Vietnam war. I can remember my being concerned he could be drafted. That was a possible future, but it didn't happen. Instead he graduated, got married, and got a job doing something with computers out in some place people started calling Silicon Valley...
Years later and years ago, I visited him at his home in California. I was returning from two years in Korea, on my way to an assignment near my hometown where one member of my family still lived. Our younger brother, who was getting married a few months later, to a girl who looked the same when I saw her in photos on Fathers' Day this year.
A couple years later the three of us got together in California. Good times.
On one of those visits out West he gave me some paperback books he'd finished reading. Among them, Virtual Light, by William Gibson. I can't recall if he'd given me his opinion of it - probably not.
But years later and a few months ago I was packing to come to Iraq, and grabbed a couple of books off my shelf for the trip. That was one of them.
And a couple months later and a couple weeks ago I clicked through pictures from my older brother's daughter's wedding, sent to me by my younger brother via cyberspace.
No matter how many works of science fiction prove faulty at predicting a disastrous future, people will eagerly consume the next pronouncement of doom. There's a market for such things. There are people who thrive on imagining a future hell.
In the 70's it was nuclear war, overpopulation, pollution, and numerous other threats to all mankind that distracted our attention from that which was truly important. By the early 90's it was the economy, stupid, that was going to bring us down.
Sacrifice: some of us miss family weddings and other big events, others die from indirect fire.
Others get to leave early:
Him: You've been stationed in Germany, right?
Him: Ever been to Landstuhl?
Me: Yes. Shit, you heading that way?
Him: Yes... doc says I've got a tumor.
He was worried about his future, he knew I'd been in Germany, and he needed my advice: "So, what's there to do over there?"
He's heading your way, MaryAnn. I told him to say hello for me.
So, on my last trip out to California - unbelievable to me now it's been over ten years - I had a conversation with my older brother and his then teen-age daughter.
"She wants to ask you something". He said.
She was quite solemn, and quite serious.
"When the time comes and I get married, if Dad can't do it, would you walk me down the aisle?"
She wasn't just worrying needlessly about the future. Her father had cancer, and though he preferred to say he was "living with cancer", he was also dying from it.
Such things matter. Such things are non-trivial, and not to be taken lightly. I am the father of two daughters myself, and I know.
I told her I'd be honored.
He died on Christmas Eve, 1996, and left a wife and two daughters. From her wedding pictures I saw in Iraq on Father's Day, 2007, the wedding held on the weekend that included his birthday, they are all quite beautiful, and he would be proud.
May you sleep well tonight, wherever you are. Elsewhere rough men ride, and tomorrow will be a fine day indeed.
Just received my copy of The Profession: A Thriller, Steven (Gates of Fire) Pressfield's latest. (And just realized it's been a while since I've read me some fiction - or at least, read some acknowledged fiction...)
I enjoyed Pressfield's last novel, Killing Rommel, and thought his treatment of more recent military history was every bit as well crafted as his efforts on the ancient variety. In The Profession he turns his talents to the near future (2032) when major corporations "employ powerful, cutting-edge mercenary armies to control global chaos and protect their riches." (For a lengthier description follow the link.)
Regardless of era, Pressfield's previous focus has always been on the men and women at the center of world-changing events, and he's always done a fine job at presenting the spirit that moves them. I'm looking forward to seeing how he takes that concept into the future. (And wondering if he can convince me that said future isn't already here.)
Anthony Weiner is going away now. (Just kidding. MSNBC will probably be after him for his own show, though I'm not sure what they'd call it...)
Some girls dig him, I guess. (To be clear: not the ladies I'm linking here.) From TV interviews and performances on the House floor I always thought he came off like Jenny's creepy boyfriend in Forrest Gump, who smacked her around a little but apologized later.
Jenny? Things got a little out of hand. It's just this war and that lying son of a bitch Johnson and...I would never hurt you. You know that.
Why's this on a milblog? Let's look back at the earliest days of the scandal. For those who hadn't heard: man in underwear photo sent via his Twitter account to the world; he immediately claims he was hacked, hacked I tell you.
Whodunnit? His first guess was... al Qaeda...
It turns out it was actually Anthony Weiner. (Who I've heard wants to be Mayor of New York City some day...)
There is something actually worth bearing in mind from all this - that for politicians al Qaeda still represents a nuclear option for their own use, something they perceive as the best way to eliminate public opposition to getting whatever they want - and probably focus-group tested in that regard. Used in this context, well, it's just a pathetic moment of desperation - but obviously he thought it would work. (Maybe because it has before - and I don't mean as a pick-up line.)
What began with Paul Revere's warning:
...about 4,000 Massachusetts militia and minute men took up arms and arrived in time to fight on April 19, 1775.
"By day's end, about 20,000 were on the march and maintained an encampment in Cambridge to force the British regulars to remain in Boston.
With remarkable speed, committees of correspondence spread the traumatic news of Lexington and Concord beyond the borders of Massachusetts. By 24 April New York City had the details and Philadelphia had them by the next day. Savannah, the city farthest from the scene of the engagement, received the news on 10 May. Massachusetts' call for a joint army of observation was answered by the three other New England colonies - New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. Each responded in its own way. Within two months three small armies joined the Massachusetts troops at Boston, and a council of war began strategic coordination. This regional force paved the way for the creation of a national institution, the Continental Army.
Formation of a New England army in the first months after Lexington marked the first phase in the military struggle with England, but even as the regional army gathered before Boston, a significant step in the creation of a national force was being taken in Philadelphia. The Continental Congress convened there on 10 May 1775 to resume its coordination of the thirteen colonies' efforts to secure British recognition of American rights. It faced the fact that four colonies were already in a state of war. News arrived a week later that Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold had captured Fort Ticonderoga, an event which expanded the dimensions of the conflict and largely ended hopes of a swift reconciliation with Britain. The Continental Congress reluctantly moved to assume direction of the military effort. Thus far the organization of forces had followed colonial precedents, but to establish an army representing all thirteen colonies Congress had to break new ground.
Decisive action came on 14 June when Congress adopted "the American continental army" after reaching a consensus position in the Committee of the Whole. This procedure and the desire for secrecy account for the sparseness of the official journal entries for the day. The record indicates only that Congress undertook to raise ten companies of riflemen, approved an enlistment form for them, and appointed a committee (including Washington and Schuyler) to draft rules and regulations "for the government of the army." The delegates' correspondence, diaries, and subsequent actions make it clear that they really did much more. They also accepted responsibility for the existing New England troops and the forces requested for the defense of the various points in New York. The former were believed to total 10,000 men; the latter, both New Yorkers and Connecticut men, another 5,000.
The inclusion of troops from outside New England gave a continental flavor to the army at Boston. A desire to broaden the base of support for the war also led John Adams to work for the appointment of a southerner as the commander of "all the continental forces, raised, or to be raised, for the defense of American liberty." On 15 June Congress unanimously chose George Washington.
(From Robert Wright, The Continental Army.)
At last, Paul Revere was ready to ride... no, wait - forgot this part:
Their oars muffled by petticoats, they slipped quietly past the Somerset, the British Man of War positioned as sentry in the harbor, and reached the opposite shore.
At last, Paul Revere was ready to ride... no, wait - forgot the dog story:
At last, Paul Revere was ready to ride...
The above tales can be found in The Life of Colonel Paul Revere, by Elbridge Henry Goss. Published in 1891, Goss' two-volume effort was the first comprehensive biography of a remarkable man best known previously to Americans - and by most to this day - as the subject of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's 1861 poem.
As Goss' work makes clear, Longfellow's version was off the mark. As to Goss' own additions to the epic, subsequent historians would follow his example of relating them without endorsing veracity. But if they ain't true they oughta be, sez I - begging the question: Is it un American, or all American, to believe that everything that followed in the history of our nation - in fact, the world - hinged for that moment on a young girl's willingness to drop her petticoats?
Another look at modern coalition deaths in Afghanistan (numbers via icasualties):
Bear in mind that those lines represent men and women who were fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, or friends or countrymen of countless others. If you don't know someone in that number, bear in mind that the lines are still being drawn. These numbers are all but invisible to Americans; they will never be forgotten only because they will never really be known.
One of the first notable features of that chart is the "fighting season" in Afghanistan (or, as it was called back in 2008: "the REAL Central Front of the Global War on Terror") - evident in the higher figures on the right hand side year upon year.
Another tragic feature is the overall increase from year to year - though there is one remarkable jump (with a simple explanation) in that trend from June to July 2009. In that month the first handfuls of troops comprising President Obama's surge in Afghanistan had arrived - in numbers no one believed sufficient to accomplish something meaningful (beyond providing more Taliban targets). A "WTF moment" followed - when the president let it be known that if anyone thought any more troops would follow they were wrong. (Not everyone in Afghanistan thought that was bad news - just the ones on our side.)
Before the month was out our president gave us a fractured history lesson about Hirohito and MacArthur:
"I'm always worried about using the word 'victory,' because, you know, it invokes this notion of Emperor Hirohito coming down and signing a surrender to MacArthur," Obama told ABC News...- an attempt to illustrate a convoluted definition of "victory" by way of explaining why the word wouldn't apply to Afghanistan. (For multiple reasons, the last time I'll ever try to make sense of what our current president might be trying to say.) That year ended - and the worst yet began - with this announcement:
"I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home."
(Not everyone in Afghanistan thought that was bad news - just the remaining few on our side.)
The eighteen months are just about up - and headlines aside, nothing about our "policy" has changed.
The president's 2008 campaign was built on the idea that the Bush administration had ignored a necessary war in Afghanistan to fight an unnecessary war in Iraq. But as he prepares for his own reelection campaign in 2012, Obama is sounding a different tune.
"By us killing Osama bin Laden, getting al Qaeda back on its heels, stabilizing much of the country in Afghanistan so that the Taliban can't take it over ... it's now time for us to recognize that we've accomplished a big chunk of our mission and that it's time for Afghans to take more responsibility," the president said Tuesday in an interview with Hearst Television.
"We have not had a declared victory in a war -- with the possible exception of the first Gulf War -- since World War II. It is the phenomenon of modern conflict," Gates said.
For Barack Obama this modern conflict in Afghanistan is a complicated and unprecedented thing, but if we do declare victory there it certainly wouldn't be the first time our current president made history.
Not distant far from Taunton road
In Canton Dale is my abode...
My Cot 'tho small, my mind's at ease,
My Better Half, takes pains to please,
Content, sits lolling in her chair,
And all my friends find welcome there
The poet was an older man by '11 - one who'd left the city for an idyllic (but hard working) life in the 'burbs years before. He'd been living the American dream he'd done much to help make possible (he was a veteran of the big war) and he was now ready for (semi-) retirement.
In his description of the well-earned good life at twilight, the once-young warrior showed he hadn't forgotten...
Under an aged spreading Oak
At noon I take a favorite Book
To shun the heat and feed the Mind,
In elbow chair I sit reclined.
When dinner's call'd, I feel prepar'd
For to refresh from frugal board;
When Table's cleared, and dinner ends
With Cheerful Glass drink absent Friends...
The year was 1811 - the poet's name was Paul Revere.
Fifty years later, long after he was gone, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow would write a poem about him, too. I'd humbly submit that Revere's own little-known American epic offers a more accurate glimpse of the man behind the legend.
Revere died in 1818 - before that legend was born. "An obituary in the Boston Intelligence commented, 'seldom has the tomb closed upon a life so honorable and useful'," this brief online biography concludes. That obituary "abundantly praised his private life and public service," writes David Hackett Fischer, "but made no mention of his midnight ride or any of his clandestine activities before the Revolution."
Most Bostonians would have likely known something of all that business, of course. In those earliest years of the nineteenth century Revere was one of many local living legends - though he hardly sought the spotlight, and because of that Americans elsewhere (including we of a much later generation) were almost denied his story. When asked at the end of the eighteenth century to write his version of the epic events of 18 and 19 April, 1775 for the Historical Society he'd complied - but requested his name be left off the published account. Fortunately for us it wasn't. In 1832 that account would form the centerpiece of the first published Revere biography - an article in The New-England Magazine.
The same issue contained an installment of an ongoing series of travel sketches titled The Schoolmaster. While its young author was anonymous, he no doubt had (and read) a copy of the magazine containing one of his earliest published works; his name was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. (His grandfather had served in the Revolution with Revere.)
It's no stretch to believe that even three decades later Longfellow would have recalled the story of his obscure fellow New Englander. Once again - this time in the depths of national despair during 1861's secession winter just prior to the outset of the Civil War - Paul Revere would ride.
Revere's own verses would remain unpublished until another century, and mostly unknown even in ours. Now, should we choose to gaze through the mist of over two hundred years of history, we can begin to see the man. I believe I'll read his words again - then tonight, when table's cleared, and dinner ends, with cheerful glass drink absent friends.
Another page from the official history...
And here's another page from a personal history of a man who flew from those bases - one more time than he flew back...
Having spent the night as a prisoner of the Germans in Frankfurt, I woke up to the sound of boots walking in my direction. A young guard appeared and presented me with a cup of some nasty dark brew of not-exactly-coffee, with bits of debris floating on the top of it which looked like tiny pieces of tree bark.
It had quickly become very clear that this young American wasn't about to be afforded any kind of special treatment by virtue of my elevated rank of Lieutenant. At least I had finally gotten some sleep while in solitary. By the time morning dawned, I had shifted gears mentally to gird myself for a very different future than the one I had planned. Right now my future looked very bleak if not also very brief.
It was of some comfort that somewhere in this building was a friend - a fellow pilot from my squadron we had given up for dead on a recent mission. We had seen him lose control of his plane when it was hit hard by German fire as he attempted a second low pass shooting up planes over their airstrip. Last seen blazing away at them with all he had, roaring through behind his 50-calibers with incendiaries, he was doing better than 200 mph at that low altitude when his badly damaged P-47 hit the airstrip and broke apart, pieces flying in all directions. When we saw just the cockpit itself rolling down the runway, we had no doubt that he couldn't have survived. So it was a truly great thing to have seen him again, even in here as a prisoner, just to know he had survived that spectacular crash.
Interrogation was soon to follow. He wasn't ready for at least one of their questions - an offer to join the Luftwaffe. Read the whole thing. (With some unofficial pictures of life in France in '44 - before that last mission.)
Watch this, children
and you shall see
what "experts agree"
means when seen on TV...
So, the Boston Herald quotes experts saying Sarah Palin was right about Paul Revere. Will the He Man Palin Haterz Klub throw in the towel?
Of course not. I mean, was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor!?!?!? No!
So ABC TV found some experts of their own! "Experts Dispute Sarah Palin's Midnight Ride Account, Agree Paul Revere Did Not Warn the British."
"He didn't warn the British," said James Giblin, author of "The Many Rides of Paul Revere." "That's her most obvious blooper."
"He wasn't really warning the British when he was a captive," said "Rides of Paul Revere" author Giblin. "He was just, in a way, boasting about the capabilities of Americans. 'You don't know what you're going to be up against,' etc.
Okay, really he's the only expert they found willing to say Paul Revere didn't warn the British. And really, he said "He wasn't really warning the British..." I believe that interpretation/hedging hinges on the point that Revere didn't say the actual words "I'm warning you there will soon be 500 men here" - he just said there would soon be 500 men... I mean, you see the difference, right?
Yeah, me neither. I've warned people (especially my kids) about lots of things, but I don't recall saying the words "I'm warning you..." every time I did. But Revere's warning rises above mere "boasting about the capabilities" because while his numbers were an underestimate the obvious point he was making was true and he knew it. The colonists weren't improvising a response; they'd been long preparing for just this day (geesh - Americans used to know what "Minute Men" were all about... or maybe it's just because the bicentennial was part of my childhood) and the Brits were marching into a massacre. (About which, having warned them, his conscience would be clear.)
But lets turn to Giblin's book The Many Rides Of Paul Revere. Before we do, understand that ABC TeeVee doesn't mention this, but it's a children's book (recommended reading level: ages 9-12) - one of many kidlit works he's authored, like Charles A. Lindbergh: A Human Hero ("Adventurer, family man, environmentalist, Nazi apologist, Giblin gives us a sense of the complete man in this balanced portrait..."), or The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler ("It takes courage to write fairly about the person who perpetuated almost certainly the most suffering and misery in the 20th century, and Giblin accepts this mantle and bears it nobly... "), The Rise and Fall of Senator Joe McCarthy ("repeatedly cites Wikipedia"), and even The Giblin Guide to Writing Children's Books - Fourth Edition. (Palin better watch her mouth - ABC TeeVee has found a one-man expert on everybody!) I'm not sure why they left out that his The Many Rides of Paul Revere is a kiddy book, I think it's useful information for adults looking for something for their nine-year-olds to read. (This one is less than 100 pages of large type, so a sharp seven or eight year old could probably handle it, too. And if the following quotes sound a little more grown up than what you're used to hearing from television, that's why.)
This is from the chapter titled "Captured."
Paul was ordered to dismount, and a British officer in the group started to question him.
But Paul turned the tables on the officer. He told the man he had alerted the countryside all the way from Boston to Lexington. And he predicted that the large British force marching toward Lexington and Concord would be attacked by hordes of militiamen who had responded to his call.
So Revere "told" them and "predicted" - not warned. (Even an eight year old could see that - so nah nah nah boo boo to Sarah Palin from ABC!) Then later, after they heard shots from the vicinity of Lexington, the officer realized...
He and his men would have to move more quickly if the advancing troops were to be warned in time.
...so they let Paul and the other prisoners go, so they could get to their friends and warn them about Paul's prediction.
Nice work, ABC. You get a gold star smiley face sticker for history class today.
Tragic news from Iraq:
I disagree with that last paragraph, though. I think it showed that the idea of "no combat troops" in Iraq is an absurdity. And that if Rocket Bingo ain't what it used to be, it's still deadly. Sometimes the guys launching the rockets get lucky... most times they don't.
Five U.S. service members were killed in a rocket attack in Iraq on Monday in the worst single toll for American troops in the country in at least two years, the U.S. military and Iraqi security officials said.
The attack showed Iraq's still precarious security situation despite a fall in violence from past levels as U.S. troops prepare to withdraw from the country, more than eight years after the invasion that toppled former dictator Saddam Hussein.
Two suspected militants involved in the attack were killed when a rocket exploded prematurely on the truck they were using as a launch platform, an interior ministry source said.
I want to believe that.
Coalition deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last twelve months are 25% higher than they were throughout 2008. I'm not sure many people are aware of that. It's not the sort of thing you see on TeeVee; the lower numbers weren't reported then, and the higher figures aren't reported now.
But I don't think anyone in 2008 realized they were living in a "good year" for death in time of war.
(Figures via icasualties)
The Boston Herald: "Experts back Sarah Palin's historical account" - some more grudgingly than others.
McConville said he also is not convinced that Palin's remarks reflect scholarship.
"I would call her lucky in her comments," McConville said.
I'm inclined to believe her remarks reflect something she picked up from a tour guide or a pamphlet rather than scholarship or luck. But right she was, and like the folks at the Herald I've no problem with that.
But what of those folks who didn't have the benefit of knowledge, scholarship, luck or a tour guide? (And no time to Google?)
The first meme being pushed by the Palin acolytes is that Paul Revere did, indeed, warn the British as to the troop levels of colonists awaiting them.
Actually, the point was that Revere warned the British - specific troop levels weren't the point at all. But for the record, Revere told them (his words follow) "I should have 500 men their soon."
Let's acknowledge up front that he was wrong. That number might have been an accurate guess as to how many were already moving at that point in time and within a very few miles of the place where he said it - but to fully appreciate his response we must first examine what Revere was doing on the road in the first place:
The ride of Revere, Dawes, and Prescott triggered a flexible system of "alarm and muster" that had been carefully developed months before... In addition to other express riders delivering messages, bells, drums, alarm guns, bonfires and a trumpet were used for rapid communication from town to town, notifying the rebels in dozens of eastern Massachusetts villages that they should muster their militias.... This system was so effective that people in towns 25 miles (40 km) from Boston were aware of the army's movements while they were still unloading boats in Cambridge.
Of course the British weren't privy to all that. So, Revere's "500 men" claim could be from his reasonable expectation of how many would be roused at that point, an estimate based on months of preparation. Certainly Revere nor anyone else could have had sure knowledge based on personal observation of widely dispersed troops moving to congregate through as broad an area as is involved here. That last point would be obvious to a military professional, but how the British interpreted that intel is open to modern interpretation - at least beyond their known actions. Word was sent back to Boston, and waiting reserves were dispatched - but the main body didn't wait for them and instead pressed on to Concord (via Lexington). Obviously Revere only knew with certainty how many men he could see at any given moment; at that moment in history he was in between Lexington and Concord surrounded by a handful of armed British troops.
Regardless, unless you provide your own definition of "soon" his estimate was a bit off. Forbes says he was lying - other folks who'd likewise been revealed as not quite as bright as Sarah Palin on this issue are eagerly (and pointlessly) embracing that theme. This comes as no surprise; having been demonstrably wrong on an historical fact they've simply re-written the history of this modern debate into an argument over something about which we can only have opinions, and declared that to have been the point all along.
But even here they've failed to do a smidgen of research. Back to the latest Forbes version of history:
What is true is that Revere was briefly captured... Revere was forced to answer the questions put to him. He answered by lying to his British captors, misleading them by overstating the number of armed colonists awaiting the arrival of the Regulars in an effort to give the enemy pause and confuse their mission.And here's the Think Progress version:
At one point in the night, Revere was temporarily detained and interrogated by British soldiers at a roadblock. He intentionally provided them a falsely inflated description of the colonial militia's strength, though only in the most strained metaphorical reading could this be considered a "warning."
Forbes says "at no time did Revere warn his captors of anything..."
I believe - to be polite about it - they're getting into some very shaky ground on the definition of "warn" here. (Along with the definitions of "true" and "not true," for that matter.) But we all agree Revere was incorrect in his "500" number - because that's not open to opinion; we can examine those numbers. So by how much did he "falsely inflate" when "overstating the number of armed colonists awaiting the arrival of the Regulars"? Did he exaggerate just a little or by a lot?
Here's how many Americans had actually responded to those ringin' bells and firin' guns and were gathering to confront the British that day:
According to historical material provided by the Minute Men, about 4,000 Massachusetts militia and minute men took up arms and arrived in time to fight on April 19, 1775.
"By day's end, about 20,000 were on the march and maintained an encampment in Cambridge to force the British regulars to remain in Boston. ("Lincoln reenacts Paul Revere's capture by British" - Lincoln (Ma) Journal, 14 April 2010)
There's an abundance of amazing information on this topic available online for those who'd take a moment to find it. (Didja know: Revere's testimony - oft cited since Palin's comment - was actually suppressed by the rebels at the time. Being a man of truth he couldn't say the British fired the first shot as he had only heard it, not seen it. He also revealed more than the rebels wanted known about their level of preparation...) Twenty thousand may have been marching, but other reliable sources indicate somewhere in the neighborhood of 14,000 colonists were actually in the neighborhood of Boston by the end of the day that dawned with Revere responding to British questions. Perhaps math isn't taught in schools any more either - for the record, five hundred is actually less than that.
But I can't help but think that if ol' Paul had crossed paths with his former captors somewhere along their bloody way home during that long afternoon, he might have responded to any complaints they had about his wrong number with a hearty "well gentlemen, don't say I didn't warn you." (Delivered, of course, in his folksy nasal twang.)
By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.
The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.
On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set to-day a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.
Spirit, that made those spirits dare,
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Concord Hymn"
Postscript: Heh - the He-Man Palin Haterz Klub strikes back - ABC TV has found an expert, too.
(a multimedia extravaganza originally posted in 2009...)
To begin your tour of our MilBlogs TV D-Day and Midway archives, click one of the images below. At the bottom of each post that follows you'll find a similar image that will take you to the next in the series (until you finally return here).
But we'll be adding more to the loop, so on your next trip through you might see more than on the last.
Nylander is survived by his parents, his three children Tyler, Andru, Elisabeth, and his wife Miriam, who spoke at the memorial.
(Apologies to Longfellow.)
Perhaps that's a book the former Governor of Alaska has been reading. Here's her version of the story, as told in Boston this week:
He warned the British that they weren't gonna be taking away our arms, by ringing those bells and by making sure that as he's riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were gonna be secure and we were gonna be free... and we were gonna be armed.
Here's a video version from CNN, as hosted by New York magazine (in their "Daily Intel" section). Their transcript includes the "uhs" and "ums" that most people not reading from a teleprompter include in any conversation, and leaves off all the g's on the end of words whether Palin (like most Americans) did or not. The better to sneer at us, I suppose.
But, not surprisingly, Über-patriot Sarah Palin knows more than the average American. In fact, she may have more expertise on the subject than anybody else. For example, yesterday she revealed some heretofore unknown facts about Paul Revere's midnight ride...
Which, to the chagrin of the sneering set, actually turned out to be heretofore little-known facts, discoverable via spending a few minutes on an internet search. (You can actually learn a lot on teh internets - after you get past the first few pages of search results from the Huffington Post and Daily Kos et al.)
As others have pointed out (see three links embedded in the poem above), it's unfortunate that those who fancy themselves the gatekeepers of American news - on TeeVee and elsewhere - aren't familiar with the content of Paul Revere's writing. I wasn't myself before this very morning, but now that I am I wonder what our nation's various professional teleprompter readers would make of his grammar and style:
We sett of together for Concord, and were overtaken by a Young Gentleman named Prescot who belonged to Concord, and was going home when we got about half way from Lexington to Concord, the Other two Stopped at a House to awake the Man. I kept along, when I had got about 200 Yards a head of them, I saw two officers under a Tree as before. I imeaditly called to my company to come up, saying here was two of them, (for I had told them, what Mr. Devens told me and of my being Stopped) in an Instant I saw four
of themofficers who rode up to me with their Pistols in their hands & said God damn you Stop if you go an Inch farther you are a dead man, imeaditly Mr. Prescot came up, he turned the butt end of his whipp. We attempted to git thro' them but they kept before us & swore if we did not turn in to that pasture, they would Blow our brains out...
...in an instant I saw four of them, who rode up to me, with thier pistols in their hands, said G-d d-n you stop. If you go an Inch further, you are a dead Man, immeaditly Mr. Prescot came up we attempted to git thro them, but they kept before us, and swore if we did not turn in to that pasture, they would blow our brains out...Many thanks to the Massachusetts Historical Society for making such an American treasure readily available to the world. Here's more from their "fair copy" - we rejoin Revere's narration just after the British officer who'd captured him lies about their purpose in being out, claiming that "they were only awaiting for some Deserters they expected down the Road."
I told him I knew better, I knew what they were after; that I had alarmed the country all the way up, that their Boats, were catch'd a ground, and I should have 500 men their soon; one of them said they had 1500 coming; he seemed supprised and rode off, into the road, and informed them who took me, they came down immeaditly on a full gallop, one of them (whom I since learned was Major Mitchel of the 5th Regiment Clap'd his Pistol to my head, and said he was going to ask me some questions, if I did not tell the truth, he would blow my brains out. I told him I esteemed my self a Man of truth, that he had stopped me on the high way, & made me a prisoner, I knew not by what right; I would tell him the truth; I was not afraid...
There's also a later first-hand account of the night's events - Letter from Paul Revere to Jeremy Belknap, circa 1798 - available at the same site.
David Hackett Fischer's book is from 1996, and draws on multiple sources to provide us a clear picture of the man: "If we can see him in Copley's painting, we can also hear him speak in the eccentric way he spelled his words..."
His spelling tells us that Paul Revere talked with a harsh, nasal New Englad twang. His strong Yankee accent derived from a family of East Anglian dialects that came to Boston in the 17th century and can still be faintly heard today.
Such common Bostonians "favored biblical cadences" and "homely expressions," he writes. "But in another way, the provincial ring of Paul Revere's Yankee speech could mislead us. Just as in the surface and subtle depths of Copley's painting, there was more to this man than met the ear."
Perhaps the British officers who'd captured him that night - sent in advance of the main body of "Regulars" in order to close the roads to men like Revere and thus maintain a much-needed element of surprise for the mission (to capture or destroy stores of rebel weapons, powder, and foodstuff) found his low Bostonian nasal twang annoying, too. Whether that grated on their ears or not, they certainly didn't appreciate his telling them that they'd already failed.
More from Fischer:
Then Major Mitchell himself came up to Paul Revere in a high temper. "He clapped [a] pistol to my head," Revere remembered, "and said he was agoing to ask me some questions, and if I did not tell the truth, he would blow my brains out."
Paul revere was angered by those words, and told the major that "he did not need a threat to make him speak the truth." He added contemptuously, "I call myself a man of truth, and you have stopped me on the highway, and made me a prisoner I knew not by what right. I will tell the truth, for I am not afraid."
That is precisely what Paul Revere proceeded to do. He told the truth without hesitation, while surrounded by armed and hostile horsemen in that dark pasture on the Concord road. He spoke with a serene self-confidence, even to these armed and angry men who pointed their pistols at him, and were not happy to hear what he had to say.
"He warned the British officers that if they remained in the vicinity of Lexington Green, they also would be in extreme danger," Fischer concludes, "and he hinted that the expedition coming after them could start a war unless it was warned of the trouble that awaited them at Lexington center."
Neither the British soldiers nor Paul Revere were on a mission to start the American Revolution that moonlit night. But Revere's mission to warn was already a success, and his captor's a failure. He lost nothing in telling them so - in warning them not to press on. The Sons of Liberty had no "sneak attack" planned, the Minutemen were assembled and waiting in the open on the Green. And here we approach the moment described at the outset of this post, as Jonathan Loring, another captured rebel who'd been sent from Lexington (following Revere's warning) to keep tabs on the British soldiers took a que from Revere as the party approached his town.
At last the officers began to feel the full import of what Paul Revere had been telling them. His words of warning took on stronger meaning when punctuated by gunfire. The sound of a single shot had suggested to them that surprise was lost. The crash of a volley appeared evidence that the country was rising against them. As they came closer to the Common they began to hear Lexington's town bell clanging rapidly. The captive Loring, picking up Revere's spirit, turned to the officers and said, "The bell's a'ringing! The town's alarmed, and you're all dead men!"
The British troops stole Revere's horse and chased off the others', then set their captives free on foot while they rode off, presumably to rejoin their main body still approaching Lexington.
I, Sylvanus Wood, of Woburn, in the county of Middlesex, and commonwealth of Massachusetts, aged seventy-four years, do testify and say, that on the morning of the 19th of April, 1775, I was an inhabitant of Woburn, living with Deacon Obadiah Kendall; that about an hour before the break of day on said morning, I heard the Lexington bell ring, and fearing there was difficulty there, I immediately arose, took my gun, and, with Robert Douglass, went in haste to Lexington, which was about three miles distant. When I arrived there, I inquired of Captain Parker, the commander of the Lexington company, what was the news. Parker told me he did not know what to believe, for a man had come up about half an hour before, and informed him that the British troops were not on the road. But while we were talking, a messenger came up and told the captain that the British troops were within half a mile...
The rest, as they say, is history. Ours, whether you're familiar with it or not.
So thank you Sarah Palin! - and in a roundabout way, all you folks who hate her so much, too. (I was happily ignoring her bus tour, but without you overly obsessed morons I never would have learned any of this.) I'm not sure who I'll vote for in the 2012 elections, but I've certainly found something worth reading for this July Fourth.
(Both Blu-Ray only; if you want a DVD version it seems you'll have to wait a bit longer.)
(And of course, there are always the books, for those who prefer the extended writer's cut.)
(A bit of talk about the weather originally posted on June 6th, 2010...)
June 6, 1944, was a day like no other in history. But somewhere in Afghanistan - a land of snow and desert, cold and heat, dust storms and thunderstorms - today and every day a repeat of the process that lead to the forecast that won the war goes on...
Whether an option or not, a June 6, 1944 failure would not have been an orphan.
That memo never became an official statement, but the man responsible for Overlord had every reason to be concerned. Critical among them, the weather forecast. Less than optimal, but good enough probably sums it up, with other considerations adding an element of urgency to the cause.
But that was the news that wasn't, and this was the news that was:
And nothing about it was easy.
"Three things are certain concerning the Forecasts for D-Day," writes James R. Fleming: "1) the invasion was postponed on June 5, 1944; 2) the invasion occurred under marginal weather conditions on June 6; and 3) the German meteorologists decided that the weather conditions were too poor to permit an invasion attempt. That is about all that is certain."
Regardless of the forecast, the actual weather was good enough. But success, of course, has no shortage of fathers - more from Fleming:
The beginning of the end of World War Two in Europe depended on what were arguably the three most critical forecasts in history -- two successful ones by the Allies and one failure by the Germans. On the Allied side, six meteorologists working in three different teams were responsible for the D-Day forecasts. The American team used an analogue method that compared the current weather with past conditions. Their forecast was overly optimistic and would have resulted in disaster on June 5, 1944. The British Admiralty and the British Meteorological Office urged delay. They were aided by the brilliant Norwegian theoretician Sverre Petterssen (1898-1974), a giant in the field of weather analysis and forecasting and an international leader in meteorology during the mid-twentieth century.
In the wee hours of June 5, beneath the storm-drenched skies of England, the Allied forecasters advised General Eisenhower that a very short break in the weather would allow the invasion to proceed. On Tuesday, June 6, 1944, under barely tolerable conditions, the largest amphibious landing force ever assembled landed on the beaches of Normandy.
Ironically the German meteorologists, aware of new storms moving in from the North Atlantic, had decided that the weather would be much too bad to permit an invasion attempt. The Germans were caught completely off guard. Their high command had relaxed and many officers were on leave; their airplanes were grounded; their naval vessels absent...
Two accounts of D-Day have dominated the literature: 1) the heroic story, oftrepeated, in which the American team of Irving Krick and Ben Holzman found the "possible" weather that allowed the great invasion of Europe to proceed; and 2) a standard bureaucratic account by James Stagg published in 1971 that so infuriated Sverre Petterssen that he composed his own historical memoir with five chapters on Overlord. The Petterssen manuscript, written in English and published in Norwegian translation in 1974, has now been published (2001) in an English-language edition that is becoming the third standard account...
"Chaos" is probably the best single-word definition of the job of the military meteorologist, and "consensus" the best description of their output. But if there's a lesson learned from the D-Day forecast, it's one that applies far beyond the small group of people tasked with making weather a force multiplier: you don't have to be perfect, just better than the enemy.
Epilogue: for at least some American weather forecasters, the effort was personal:
"The death of Captain Losey, who is the first American official to be killed in this war, was reported today to Frederick A. Sterling, United States Minister to Stockholm," recorded the New York Times on its front page on April 23, 1940. Captain Robert M. Losey, America's first military casualty in World War II, would not be its last.Cpt Losey was was killed on April 21, 1940 during a German bombardment in Norway, where he was assisting with the evacuation of the American diplomatic legation. He was a U.S. Army meteorologist.
A young and brilliant officer, Losey had taken two master's degrees from the California Institute of Technology while serving as a meteorological officer at March Field in California.
Other milblogs on D-Day, 2010:
Remembering D-Day (Cassy Fiano/Hard Corps Wife)
At Point du Hoc, June 6th (Jonn Lilyea/This ain't Hell)
The Saga of Sgt Richard E. Owen (Mitch "Taco" Bell/The Sandgram)
D-Day - We weren't the only ones there, we had Allies (The Armorer/Argghhh!!!)
D-Day: Currahee! The Airborne goes in (The Armorer/Argghhh!!!)
Eyewitness to D-Day (Assoluta Tranquillita )
Omaha (Laughing Wolf/Blackfive)
Previously in Mudville: MilBlogs, Midway, and D-Day
2010-06-06 12:00:00All done!
- and other Friday follies.
So, the old House of Representatives wants to put Libya to a vote, eh? Good for them, sez I. (I'm betting they make it legal.) Coming two Fridays after "President Barack Obama on Friday asked Congress to pass a bipartisan resolution in support of military operations in Libya" - and two weeks worth of Fridays after we got involved in Libya's civil war in the first place maybe this Friday at 4:30 PM is as good a time as any (especially with Breck Girl and Weinerboy dominating the headlines) to put those pesky national security issues to bed. Then it's Miller time, as we common folk say.
Back to current events in a moment. But first, a show of hands - who remembers this quote from Dick Cheney on Iraq, from back in 2005?
It is in America's national interest because nobody has a bigger stake in a volatile region like the Middle East than does the United States of America.
Is your hand up? If so, do you remember your response at the time? And whether you remember it like it was yesterday or not, what do you think of it now?
For those who didn't recall it - don't worry about your memory failing. That quote wasn't Dick Cheney in 2005, it was Barack Obama in March, 2011, answering a reporter's question "can you articulate the U.S. national security interest in military action in Libya?" Here's the full response.
It is in America's national interest to participate in that because nobody has a bigger stake in making sure that there are basic rules of the road that are observed, that there is some semblance of order and justice -- particularly in a volatile region that's going through great changes like the Middle East -- than does the United States of America.
I struck "making sure that there are basic rules of the road that are observed, that there is some semblance of order and justice -- particularly in a volatile region that's going through great changes" from the quote to get to the core, but obviously that's US national security policy, too. It begs the fair question "Whose rules?" and implies the answer is "Ours - because no one else has a bigger interest," but "implies" is the key word. That entire passage is vague enough to be nonsensical, and while that (unfortunately for us all) doesn't mean unimportant I'm not going to venture down any of the infinite (and endless) available paths in some forlorn effort to find the meaning of it here.
Therein lies one of the problems with national security as articulated by our current president - but it doesn't extend to this portion of the statement:
It is in America's national interest because nobody has a bigger stake in a volatile region like the Middle East than does the United States of America.
- though perhaps that illustrates another. I played a bit of trickery with the source of that quote at the outset of this discussion not to provide another example of how this administration would have us suffer the results of "imperial hubris" no less than the last, but in hopes the reader would view it - at least for a brief moment - through the wrong partisan lens. Kudos to those whose opinion of it didn't change with the source - regardless of what that opinion is.
For another thought exercise, consider your response to a quote like this:
It is in China's national interest because nobody has a bigger stake in a volatile region like the Middle East than does China.
Put any other nation in place of China if you prefer. But after determining your response, ask yourself if you believe any other national leader would ever actually make such a statement.
Final question: Agree with it or not, do you think he meant it?
Enamelled glass goblet from Begram, 1st century AD
This was made in Roman Egypt and exported by sea via the Red Sea and Indian Ocean to India. It was then brought overland to Begram which was the summer capital of the Kushan Kingdom. It was found in a storeroom at the heart of a palace. The decoration shows a scene of people harvesting dates.
From the British Museum's "Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World" exhibit. (Found via Carl Prine, who works the phrase "Of course, I'm something of a sucker for bare-breasted women with blue horns on their heads" into a discussion of Afghanistan history here.)
"It's like ordering room service."
- A Libyan rebel commander, on calling in NATO air support.
"Room service" in Libya probably falls short of what most Westerners expect. Indeed, the Washington Post story that includes that quote describes a Libyan rebel command post that sounds like it wouldn't rate well in Michelin's: "no television screens beaming satellite images, no detailed maps with Global Positioning System coordinates. They don't even have a direct phone line to their NATO counterparts."
It's so bad that when he wants to phone for "room service," the commander has to walk down a hall.
So when a rebel officer on the front line called in one recent morning in need of help, Brig. Gen. Abdulsalam al-Hasi had little choice. He walked down the corridor and asked the American and European advisers in his command center to request a NATO airstrike -- and then prayed for quick action.The American and European advisers aren't NATO, we are assured.
"For us, it's all about not wanting to contravene or jeopardize the U.N. mandate that we're following," said a NATO official in the alliance's headquarters in Brussels, speaking under NATO ground rules that he not be named. The U.N. resolution authorizing military action in Libya speaks only of protecting civilians from attacks by Gaddafi's forces, he said.
"We have no contact with anyone except those people that are next door," Hasi said.
"We cannot be [the rebels'] air power," the official said. "This was a popular public uprising, and it has to unfold that way, in a natural way. It's not for us to do any more in terms of support."More:
The command center is inside a brown, one-story building on a large government-owned campus. Rebel officials requested that the exact location not be revealed for security reasons. On one end of the corridor is Hasi's spacious office; on the other end is a room in which the Western advisers work. Hasi's team of analysts works in between.
Rebel commanders declined a request to interview the Western advisers, whom they refused to identify. Hasi said the advisers include Americans, British, French, Spaniards and Qataris, most of whom appear to have a direct line to NATO officials in Brussels.
A little more than two hours after he walked down the hall, Hasi received a call from the field commander near the front line between the towns of Ajdabiya and Brega. Hasi quickly flashed a smile and nodded. NATO had come through with swift assistance.
As the commander had reported, "I can hear the planes."
I trust readers here will see the picture well painted above. I'm not sure who exactly is supposed to be deceived by the chatter surrounding the Libya op - but I suppose the answer is the same as it is in any con game: people who want to be deceived.
In this case they are legion - but what really makes the whole thing work is the target. Muammar Qaddafi is the prototype real life comic book villain. (Which in no way diminishes the fact that he's a villain, it just makes it easier to shoot missiles at him.) There are others in the world, but unlike say, Kim Jong-il (to name but one) this one leads a nation with oil reserves.
That the chatter ("Who us? Why, we're just protecting civilians...") has moved into the realm of the absurd is a result of deeply flawed assumptions that the mission (eliminate Qaddafi) would take "days not weeks." The script called for the fall of Qaddafi in less time than it took to topple the government of Saddam Hussein, an event to be coincident with the launch of President Obama's re-election campaign (meaning fundraising efforts) and followed in short order by the killing of Osama bin Laden. (That last a truly fine thing, but it's interesting to realize now that vis a vis Libya planning/decision making the Osama kill was a rabbit ready to be pulled from a hat, eh?) Perhaps from a "national security" perspective two out of three ain't bad.
And the fall of Qaddafi will come, of that there can be little doubt.
NATO announced Wednesday that it was extending its mission in Libya by 90 days...
But even little doubt helps explain the ongoing effort to ensure "plausible" deniability - there may come a day when certain someones will be shocked, shocked I tell you, to discover what the people next door have been up to all this time.
Afterthought: I suppose this can be considered a room service menu for Operation Unified Protector. (Click here for larger.)
From the US Army Center of Military History:
The Center of Military History is very proud to offer for electronic download all the volumes of the U.S. Army in World War II "Green Books" collection. This seventy-nine volume series is widely recognized as the definitive study of the U.S. Army's involvement in World War II. All volumes are available in PDF format and some in HTML.
I went straight to the picture books...
Our friends at Team Rubicon deployed to Joplin, Missouri, assisting in the aftermath of the tornadoes there.
Their blog posts from Joplin here.
A look at the (milblog-related) origin of Team Rubicon here.
My friend J.D. Johannes, in Afghanistan with soldiers operating not far from where SFC Petry earned his Medal of Honor:
"There hasn't been an American presence down here since they closed down old COP Spera," said CPT Robert Carter, the Commander of Anarchy Troop of the 6/4 Cavalry, 4 Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division--The Big Red One.
Combat Outpost Spera, positioned in the Kowchun Valley where the borders Khowst and Paktikia provinces meet the Pakistan border was closed down in December 2010. Just beyond the old outpost is fork in the rough mountain road leading from the Sherannum area of Pakistan to Khowst city or Gardez in Afghanistan. It was a magnet for attacks by Taliban and Haqqini network fighters. In population centric counter insurgency, where the goal is to protect the people from the Taliban, COP Spera only provided protection to a village of less than 50 people who are members of a tribe historically famous for rebelling against any form of government. Maintaining a platoon of US Soldiers at COP Spera was not an optimal allocation of resources. Especially considering that the old outpost was in a bowl, surrounded by high ridge lines on three sides. The south eastern side providing easy retreat into the semi-autonomous tribal areas of Pakistan. One of Anarachy troop's missions on a six day operation was to occupy the bowl almost as bait...
From SFC Petry's hometown paper, the Santa Fe New Mexican:
Petry was interviewed by The New Mexican in 1998 when he was an 18-year-old graduating senior at St. Catherine Indian School -- the institution's final graduating class.
Petry told a reporter he was failing all of his classes at Santa Fe High School and almost flunked out before his parents transferred him to St. Catherine. "It helps because you have a lot of support," he said. "I could have graduated last summer, but I came back this year because I like this school."
Also that year, he was given The Bootstrap/SER Award honoring area high school seniors who have committed to improving themselves and the community.
"With a record of fights, suspensions, and ditching school, Petry realized that he was on a path that led nowhere. He tried harder in school and appreciated how it felt to make his parents proud," wrote a teacher who nominated him.
Petry serves as a liaison officer for the U.S. Special Operations Command Care Coalition-Northwest Region in Washington State, and provides oversight to wounded warriors, ill and injured servicemembers and their families.
He enlisted in the Army from Santa Fe in September 1999. After completion of One Station Unit Training, the Basic Airborne Course and the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program -- all at Fort Benning, Ga. -- Petry was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. Petry has served as a grenadier, squad automatic rifleman, fire team leader, squad leader, operations sergeant, and weapons squad leader.
Petry and his wife, Ashley, have four children: Brittany, Austin, Reagan and Landon.
An Army Ranger who lost his right hand and suffered shrapnel wounds after throwing an armed grenade away from his fellow Soldiers will be the second living Medal of Honor Recipient from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On July 12, 2011, President Barack Obama will award Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Arthur Petry, with the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry. Petry will receive the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions during combat operations against an armed enemy in Paktya, Afghanistan, May 26, 2008.
Petry now serves as part of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning, Ga.
"It's very humbling to know that the guys thought that much of me and my actions that day, to nominate me for that," said Petry, on learning he had been nominated for the medal.
At the time of his actions in Afghanistan, Petry was assigned to Company D, 2nd Bn., 75th Ranger Regiment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Petry's actions came as part of a rare daylight raid to capture a high-value target.
On the day of the actions that would earn Petry the Medal of Honor, he was to locate himself with the platoon headquarters in the target building once it was secured. Once there, he was to serve as the senior noncommissioned officer at the site for the remainder of the operation.
Recognizing one of the assault squads needed assistance clearing their assigned building, Petry relayed to the platoon leader that he was moving to that squad to provide additional supervision and guidance during the clearance of the building.
Once the residential portion of the building had been cleared, Petry took a fellow member of the assault squad, Pvt. 1st Class Lucas Robinson, to clear the outer courtyard. Petry knew that area had not been cleared during the initial clearance.
Petry and Robinson, both Rangers, moved into an area of the compound that contained at least three enemy fighters who were prepared to engage friendly forces from opposite ends of the outer courtyard.
The two Soldiers entered the courtyard. To their front was an opening followed by a chicken coop. As the two crossed the open area, an enemy insurgent fired on them. Petry was wounded by one round, which went through both of his legs. Robinson was also hit in his side plate by a separate round.
While wounded and under enemy fire, Petry led Robinson to the cover of the chicken coop. The enemy continued to deliver fire at the two Soldiers.
As the senior Soldier, Petry assessed the situation and reported that contact was made and that there were two wounded Rangers in the courtyard of the primary target building.
Upon hearing the report of two wounded Rangers, Sgt. Daniel Higgins, a team leader, moved to the outer courtyard. As Higgins was moving to Petry and Robinson's position, Petry threw a thermobaric grenade in the vicinity of the enemy position.
Shortly after that grenade exploded -- which created a lull in the enemy fire -- Higgins arrived at the chicken coop and assessed the wounds of the two Soldiers.
While Higgins evaluated their wounds, an insurgent threw a grenade over the chicken coop at the three Rangers. The grenade landed about 10 meters from the three Rangers, knocked them to the ground, and wounded Higgins and Robinson. Shortly after the grenade exploded, Staff Sgt. James Roberts and Spc. Christopher Gathercole entered the courtyard, and moved toward the chicken coop.
With three Soldiers taking cover in the chicken coop, an enemy fighter threw another grenade at them. This time, the grenade landed just a few feet from Higgins and Robinson.
Recognizing the threat that the enemy grenade posed to his fellow Rangers, Petry -- despite his own wounds and with complete disregard for his personal safety -- consciously and deliberately risked his life to move to and secure the live enemy grenade and consciously throw the grenade away from his fellow Rangers, according to battlefield reports.
As Petry released the grenade in the direction of the enemy, preventing the serious injury or death of Higgins and Robinson, it detonated and catastrophically amputated his right hand.
With a clear mind, Petry assessed his wound and placed a tourniquet on his right arm. Once this was complete, he reported that he was still in contact with the enemy and that he had been wounded again.
After the blast that amputated Petry's hand, Roberts began to engage the enemy behind the chicken coop with small arms fire and a grenade. His actions suppressed the insurgents behind the chicken coop. Shortly after, another enemy on the east end of the courtyard began firing, fatally wounding Gathercole.
Higgins and Robinson returned fire and killed the enemy.
Moments later, Sgt. 1st Class Jerod Staidle, the platoon sergeant, and Spc. Gary Depriest, the platoon medic, arrived in the outer courtyard. After directing Depriest to treat Gathercole, Staidle moved to Petry' s position. Staidle and Higgins then assisted Petry as he moved to the casualty collection point.
Higgins later wrote in a statement, "if not for Staff Sergeant Petry's actions, we would have been seriously wounded or killed."
Petry is the ninth servicemember to have been named a recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Of prior recipients, all but Petry and Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta were awarded the honor posthumously.
Included among those recipients are Spc. Ross A. McGinnis, Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith, Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor, and Marine Corps Cpl. Jason L. Dunham, all for actions in Iraq. Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, Staff Sgt. Robert Miller, Sgt. 1st Class Jared C. Monti and Navy Lt. Michael P. Murphy were awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan.
Petry currently serves as a liaison officer for the United States Special Operations Command Care Coalition-Northwest Region, and provides oversight to wounded warriors, ill and injured servicemembers and their families.
He enlisted in the United States Army from his hometown of Santa Fe, N.M. in September 1999. After completion of One Station Unit Training, the Basic Airborne Course and the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program -- all at Fort Benning, Ga. -- Petry was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.
Petry has served as a grenadier, squad automatic rifleman, fire team leader, squad leader, operations sergeant, and weapons squad leader.
He has deployed eight times in support of the War on Terror, with two tours to Iraq and six tours to Afghanistan.
Petry and his wife Ashley have four children, Brittany, Austin, Reagan and Landon.