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(Or: We interrupt this broadcast for the following special announcement...)
NATO warplanes bombed three Libyan state TV satellite transmitters in Tripoli overnight, targeting facilities that have been used to incite violence and threaten civilians, the military alliance said Saturday.
The strike, performed by NATO fighter aircraft using state-of-the art precision guided munitions, was conducted in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolution 1973, with the intent of degrading Qadhafi's use of satellite television as a means to intimidate the Libyan people and incite acts of violence.
Our intervention was necessary as TV was being used as an integral component of the regime apparatus designed to systematically oppress and threaten civilians and to incite attacks against them. Qadhafi's increasing practice of inflammatory broadcasts illustrates his regime's policy to instill hatred amongst Libyans, to mobilize its supporters against civilians and to trigger bloodshed.
In light of our mandate to protect civilian lives, we had to act.
"A series of loud explosions echoed across the capital before dawn," the AP reports, "There was no immediate comment from Libyan officials on what had been hit, but state TV was still on the air in Tripoli as of Saturday morning."
Perhaps those who tuned in on Saturday saw something like this:
The NTC leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil said on Thursday that Younis had been recalled for questioning to Benghazi but was killed before he arrived. Relatives said they retrieved a burned and bullet-riddled body.
The Gaddafi government has said the killing is proof the rebels are not capable of ruling Libya. Spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said: "It is a nice slap [in] the face of the British that the [NTC] they recognised could not protect its own commander of the army."
Ibrahim said Younis was killed by al-Qaida...
So Survivor: Libya continues.
Given the number of other things American and European governments have decided are bad for you, (carbon emissions, salt, McDonalds hamburgers...) this opens up all sorts of future "protecting civilians" strike possibilities.
A parallel discussion to The Vanishing General, begun here. Much - not all - of what follows is a reexamination of generally accepted historical theories on changes to American cultural perceptions over the years - more specifically, how we viewed our nation as revealed in what we wrote about it. What's new is the developing (Google's caveat: Ngram Viewer currently operates on a database of 10% of published works) capability to generate more objective, quantifiable evidence supporting (or refuting) any such theories...
Ignoring trivia, who was our first president? Depends on who you ask, of course. Ask an American from before 1850 and he's likely to tell you it was General Washington...
...though his great-great-grandson (and certainly I and probably you) would be more likely to say George Washington.
We're all right, of course, we just think differently.
Whatever the answer, I found it odd that President Washington was the rarest reference of all.
So along those lines, who was our 16th president? I wondered. Click, click, click... turns out it was Abraham Lincoln.
Though President Lincoln was right there with him - at least, for a while. In the 20th century, Abraham - like George, became the more common reference. I note also that nicknames - Abe is the obvious example here (though I ran Honest Abe and the father of our country, too) rarely make more than a blip when compared to full names. (Common sense tells me just "Washington" and "Lincoln" would be even more frequent, but it would also be impossible to sort references to the men from references to other people, places and things - most of which were named for one or the other.)
But the frequency of occurrence of President Lincoln compared to President Washington led me to wonder whether I'd detected a previously unnoticed cultural shift - a subtle change in American thought. (At least as it was expressed in books.) A few more clicks and I had the answer - could be. (And there's nothing subtle about it.)
Above - "President Lincoln" compared to the first six chief executives (ignore a bogus Lincoln spike around 1800 caused by mis-reads of later books), and below to the next nine. Andrew Jackson rises above the pack a bit, but though a clear second he's still not even close. And while the second chart above shows George Washington remains ahead of Abraham Lincoln as far as being first in the words of his countrymen, to this day references to President Lincoln exceed those of all his predecessors - including President Washington, combined.
The power of the Lincoln effect even pulled his immediate predecessor along; references to President Buchanan as such only rose above the mass during Lincoln's term.
There's a seemingly obvious explanation for this, that during - and because of - the Civil War there were simply more publications that mentioned the president, pro and con. That's true - they doubled (Ngram Viewer is case-sensitive; as a side note it's interesting to see the capitalization trend here)...
...but that doubling is hardly surprising for a time when two Americans claimed the title (and President Davis was the man second-most frequently referenced as president during the first century+ of American history).
...and even that increase (even acknowledging that references to presidents of garden clubs and other organizations contribute to the total, but probably not the Civil War spike) doesn't explain the magnitude of the change between Lincoln and his predecessors. What could is simply the fact that for the first time in history it was thought necessary to remind people who the president was, as frequently as possible - but there's more. Before who the president was could matter, perception of what the president was had to change too, and in Lincoln's term the "power of the president" rose significantly. Much of that was temporary (call it "war powers" or crisis response) and none of it was without opposition (and controversy = more references), but even when the crisis passed the office mattered more because the concept of the Union over which the office holder presided mattered more.
Or, as can now be demonstrated as never before, in post-Civil War America the concept of the United States as a singular entity rather than plural became dominant in American thought. (Another side note: a steady post-World War Two decline in frequency of occurrence is very evident here, too.)
Dramatic new details on the death of Libyan rebel commanding general Abdul Fatah Younis...
The New York Times: Killers of Libyan Rebel General Were Among His Own Forces
However, adds The Guardian, this was not a government-sanctioned killing - the shooters were Islamic extremists from within the rebel ranks:
The leadership of the Libyan rebels acknowledged late Friday that a group of their own soldiers had killed their top military commander, contradicting statements made a day earlier as the rebels scrambled to avoid tribal revenge attacks that could divide their ranks.
Shortly before his death the rebels issued a subpoena for the general to return from the front lines for questioning by a panel of judges, reportedly about charges of treason.
But instead of relying on a legal process, a group of rebel soldiers sent to retrieve him killed him along with two guards, then dumped their bodies outside the city, Mr. Tarhouni told reporters...
Leading the Gaddafi government to quickly weigh in:
The gunmen who shot dead the Libyan rebels' military chief Abdul Fatah Younis were members of an Islamist-linked militia allied to the campaign to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi, according to a National Transitional Council minister.
After 24 hours of confusion surrounding the death, the NTC's oil minister, Ali Tarhouni, said Younis had been killed by members of the Obaida Ibn Jarrah Brigade, a militia named after one of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad, suggesting that Islamist elements were involved.
Tarhouni told reporters in Benghazi that a militia leader who had gone to fetch Younis from the frontline had been arrested and had confessed that his subordinates carried out the killing. "It was not him. His lieutenants did it," Tarhouni said, adding that the killers were still at large.
The Gaddafi government has said the killing is proof the rebels are not capable of ruling Libya. Spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said: "It is a nice slap [in] the face of the British that the [NTC] they recognised could not protect its own commander of the army."
Ibrahim said Younis was killed by al-Qaida, repeating a claim that the group is the strongest force within the rebel movement.
But a rebel special forces officer under Younis' command told The Associated Press that Younis was taken before dawn Wednesday from his operations room at Zoueitina, just east of the main front with Gadhafi's forces.
Fighters from a rebel faction known as the February 17 Martyr's Brigade came to the operations room and demanded Younis come with them for interrogation, said the officer, Mohammed Agoury, who said he was present at the time.
Agoury said he tried to accompany his commander, "but Younis trusted them and went alone."
"Instead, they betrayed us and killed him," he said.
The February 17 Martyrs Brigade is a group made up of hundreds of civilians who took up arms to join the rebellion. Their fighters participate in the front-line battles with Gadhafi's forces but also act as a semi-official internal security force for the opposition. Some of its leadership comes from the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, an Islamic militant group that waged a campaign of violence against Gadhafi's regime in the 1990s.
It can't be ruled out that the LIFG is being framed here - others had ample motive to kill Younes and blame them. (An earlier post on the LIFG - described as "an al-Qaeda farm team that worked with bin Laden in Sudan and Afghanistan" - here.)
Still, "Everything is under control," Ali Tarhouni told the AP Friday night. "This is just a rough stage we are going through and me and my brothers in the NTC are sure we will get over it."
At the graveside Friday, Younis' son, Ashraf, broke down, crying and screaming as they lowered the body into the ground and -- in a startling and risky display in a city that was the first to shed Gaddafi's rule nearly six months ago -- pleaded hysterically for the return of the Libyan leader to bring stability.
"We want Muammar to come back! We want the green flag back!" he shouted at the crowd, referring to Gaddafi's national banner.
Postscript / unanswered question: who's in charge of the rebel army?
Stumbled upon without seeking:
From a 1939 New York Times book review of Carl Sandburg's Abraham Lincoln: the War Years reprinted here. Author Robert Sherwood notes "(The italics are this reviewer's)" immediately following; it's safe to say he isn't paraphrasing that quote from an 1864 Spectator.
So the idea of a chattering class dates back (at least) to a time when this:
...represented high-speed transatlantic communication.
Leaving open the question but was that true, and is it now?
- because I can't top the last one and still be family friendly.
What's the deal with all the kiddy pron aficionados in the news these days? (For reasons other than kiddy pron.) I mean, the Ft Hood bomber and this guy, too.
A Stars and Stripes report out of Wardak province in Afghanistan says the Taliban have started packing donkeys with explosives to use the animals as unwitting suicide bombers. This tactic reflects the Taliban's cruelty and lack of humanity, but wait -- did someone already try it more than 150 years ago?
Yes, according to one reader, who wrote Stars and Stripes that in 1862 a captain with the Union army loaded two mules with howitzer shells, lit the fuse and tried to get the animals to walk into a Confederate camp.
It didn't end well...
Yeah... see my "sensing imminent danger" discussion in a post below. Not everyone in the military has those highly developed survival skillz....
Also the answer to the question, did Maj. Gen. Hooker's last name become a term for working girls?
Amazing colour pictures of London under siege from Nazi bombers during World War II. (A series much more impressive in full size than that scaled-down thumbnail above.)
The powerful images were released to mark the 70th anniversary of the launch of Winston Churchill's 'V for Victory' campaign on July 19, 1941.
Senator Tom Coburn...
"...wants to increase the enrollment fee for single retirees to "approximately $2,000 per year and $3,500 for a family." At the same time he would limit out-of-pocket expenses at $7,500 for those retirees with families. He thinks these changes could save $11.5 billion a year."
I guess the much-touted falling cost of healthcare due to the new "affordable healthcare act" won't produce enough savings to keep military retirees off the chopping block.
That plus the proposed cuts in retirement pay floating here and there would save the government some money, though - no denying that.
In other recent healthcare news - this has already begun, in a way. Under the new health care laws Tricare coverage had to be extended to children of servicemembers up to age 26 ("children" not exactly the right term there - think "college age" - an age cut off in line with what's now mandated for any other health insurance plan). BUT - t'was recently (after months of limbo for the topic) announced that the cost for said beneficiaries would be 186/month (2236/year) per individual covered, well beyond the much more modest sum for the rest of the family paid (and earned) by the retiree*. Top that off with higher co-pays and deductibles of "Standard" coverage, as "Prime" coverage is not yet available. (And no dental care.)
Again - "less than 1% of the population" means something different to politicians than what most people think.
(*Added - or active member, as this obviously hits them in the pocketbook, too - but I suspect it's mostly retirees who have dependents in this age group.)
My friends at This Ain't Hell are all over the Nasar Abdo story (the AWOL soldier busted for an apparent attempt to make bad things happen at Ft Hood). In fact they've been out ahead of media - big and otherwise - on this one.
No surprise to me. They've been the go-to guys in the milblogosphere on what I call fraudvet topics (and there are several elements of that mixed in this story) for years.
(I like TSO's FU to Mother Jones here. They earned it.)
I'd add that the common thread that binds most such stories together is "antiwar" groups that really don't have any sort of filter whatsoever when it comes to membership - or even who might be worthy of support vice who might just be recognizing them as suckers. None of us are perfect in that regard, and some cons are better than others, but recognizing who the bad guys are - at least most of the time - is a critical survival skill conspicuously lacking in most members of groups like IVAW. (I'm convinced it's a character trait inherent in people who gravitate to such groups.) That lack - which is just one aspect of a larger sense of imminent danger - is rightfully viewed as a major character flaw to those of us who spent most our lives in the military world. Though it's less immediately dangerous to most Americans its obviously not insignificant to health and prosperity of civilians either.
The retired cop in the gun shop whose mental warning light & siren went off when a nutter walked in - and thus Ft Hood did not go boom - would probably understand all that.
Man with many enemies dies under mysterious circumstances...
Libyan rebel officials have recalled Abdel Fattah Younes, who is leading the rebels' military campaign against Muammar Gaddafi, from the front line, rebel sources said on Thursday....
A senior member of the rebel National Transitional Council confirmed Younes was in Benghazi but said he had returned from the front line unhappy with the situation on the ground, and officials were trying to persuade him to return.
Younes' home in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi was strongly guarded by soldiers who had blocked the street and were not letting anyone in, a Reuters witness said.
Al Jazeera - Libya opposition arrests senior leader:
Al Jazeera - Transcript: Jalil's remarks on Younes's death:
General Abdel Fatah Younis, the chief of staff of the rebel forces in Libya, has been arrested by the National Transition Council.
He is being held at an undisclosed military garrison in Benghazi.
A rebel source said Younis was recalled from Brega early on Thursday, but could not say why.
Reuters news agency said a senior member of the NTC confirmed Younes was in Benghazi but said he had returned from the front line unhappy with the situation on the ground, and officials were trying to persuade him to return.
Al Jazeera's Tony Birtley, reporting from Benghazi, quoted unconfirmed reports as saying Libya's former minister of interior was arrested for dealing with and smuggling arms to Gaddafi loyalists...
Foreign Policy - The strange, unexplained death of the Libyan rebels' military chief:
Today, we learned that Major General Abdel Fattah Younes Faraj his two companions were shot by gunmen after he was summoned to appear before a judicial committee to investigate military affairs. But the deceased did not appear before this committee, because of the procedures that happened to him, which are under investigation.
The head of the armed group, one of them that actually carried out the assassination, was arrested.
Based on the foregoing, the National Council declares the following:
First, we will hold a three-day mourning period for our martyrs.
Second, we will intensify efforts to find those criminals and the bodies of the martyrs.
Third, this is a final warning to the individuals who are armed inside the cities, we will not allow armed militias within the city limits. They have one of two choices: They have to join the front, or they have to join the national security forces inside the cities.
All efforts will be taken to arrest any individual who is bearing arms within the city limits.
I wish to extend condolences to friends and colleagues and to all of you because of the death of General Abdel Fatah Younes and Colonel Khamis and Major Nasser.
And condolences to all the Libyans and all the tribes, especially the tribe of Obeidat that have paid heavily with more than 40 martyrs and in excess of 500 injured at the front.
We urge everyone to unify and we urge everyone to refrain from paying attention to any of these rumours and activities that the Gaddafi regime wishes to initiate within our ranks.
I ask the Obeidat tribe for its understanding of the situation, and all the other tribes that are here to support the Obeidat tribe and suppot everyone after these accidents, and to remember that ending the regime of Muammar Gaddafi is our foremost objective.
It's our goal and there is no going back. These events will not turn the Obeidat tribe away from the revolution. Relatives of the dead, relatives of the martyrs and some of these tribes are here and we all ask the Allah the almighty to give his mercy upon all of them.
Atlantic Wire - How Reports of a Libyan Rebel General's Death Unfolded:
A tumultuous day for the Libyan rebels culminated with the announcement that Gen. Abdel Fateh Younis, the chief of staff of the Libyan Transitional Council's (TNC) armed forces, has been assassinated.
Rumors had been swirling on Thursday, July 28, that Younis -- once a high-ranking military officer and Libya's interior minister -- had been arrested by the rebel leadership for colluding with Muammar al-Qaddafi, and was being held in a military installation in the rebel capital of Benghazi....
Christian Science Monitor - Libya rebel leader Younes killed, Benghazi wobbles:
Earlier today, Reuters reported that Libyan rebel general Abdel Fattah Younis had been pulled from the front line of the conflict. Now it's been confirmed that Younis has been shot dead, possibly by his own forces... Today's news started with a report at 1:53 p.m. EDT, that Younis had left the active fighting and was at his home in Benghazi.... Two hours after the initial Reuters report, Al Jazeera had the news that Younis had been arrested for smuggling arms to Gaddafi loyalists. ... Some of his men have come back from the front line demanding his release. This is an ugly situation in the making.... Reuters quoted Jalil, who spoke at a press conference: "We received news today that ... Younes and two of his bodyguards were shot at after he was called in to appear before a judicial committee investigating military issues."
Al Jazeera - General's death puts Libyan rebels in turmoil:
That Abdel Fateh Younes, the longtime enforcer for Muammar Qaddafi whose stunning defection to the Libyan rebellion in February was an early indication of the depth of the challenge to Qaddafi's regime, is dead, you can take to the bank. General Younes had been head of the embryonic rebel army from practically the moment he'd switched sides.
As far as the rest of the story - who killed him, when, precisely where, and why - all remains murk and conjecture...
In March, Younes was locked in a cold war of sorts with Gen. Khalifa Hefter, who defected from the Qaddafi regime more than 20 years ago and has lived for most of the time since then in Virginia.
After Hefter returned home in March, he declared himself - with the clear backing of at least some of the rebel leadership - the new head of the rebel military. Weeks were spent jockeying for position, with whispers on one side about Younes's Qaddafi ties, and whispers on the other that Hefter was a CIA asset and not to be trusted as a longtime exile. Younes ended up winning that round and Hefter has been largely behind the scenes since....
Shortly after Jalil's announcement, an agitated group of gunmen arrived at the hotel where he'd spoken, firing small arms and an anti-aircraft gun into the sky, escalating tension in the city. Witnesses said they appeared to hold the TNC responsible for Younes's death.
Several theories about Younes's death were circulating among the Libyan community and observers on Thursday night.
Gaddafi had placed a multi-million dollar bounty on Younes's head after his defection, which could have been reason alone for the assassination.
Then there was the possibility that he had been involved in a confrontation with rebel officials after being recalled from the front lines by the NTC for investigation. Some believed he had been shot after tensions flared at a meeting between the two sides, though Jalil's claim that Younes had been killed after being released from an interrogation seemed to belie that.
Finally, some believed, it was possible that Younes had been targeted for assassination by a rival, perhaps even Hifter. There was no proof to support the accusation, but it reflected a fear among Libyans in the opposition that political machinations had gotten dangerously out of control.
...Younes was never enthusiastically embraced by Libyans in the east, and that made him vulnerable to a challenge.
Hifter, despite having left for exile in 1987, was warmly welcomed when he returned in March.
Hifter had led troops during Libya's war with Chad in the 1980s, after which he switched sides to join the long-simmering anti-Gaddafi movement. Hifter settled in the United States, in Virginia, five miles from the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency.
...Younes's home was under heavy armed guard on Thursday evening, and some Libyan activists expressed fear that his tribe, the Obeidat, would seek retribution for his killing.
New York Times - Death of Rebel Leader Stirs Fears of Tribal Conflict:
BBC - Libyan rebel commander Abdel Fattah Younes killed:
The leader of the rebels' provisional government, Mustapha Abdul Jalil, announced Thursday evening without providing details that unnamed assassins had killed the commander, Gen. Abdul Fattah Younes, and two other officers.
General Younes... had been summoned to Benghazi for questioning by a panel of judges, and members of his tribe -- the Obeidi, one of the largest in the east -- evidently blamed the rebel leadership for having some role in the general's death...
[Jalil] left the news conference without taking questions.
Moments later, a pickup truck full of angry armed Obeidi tribesmen arrived at the front of the hotel. Some fired their Kalashnikovs at hotel windows, shattering them, and others shot into the air. One man raced with his rifle through the front door of the hotel, and two witnesses said they heard gunshots inside. Security guards and hotel guests crouched behind concrete in front of the hotel for cover.
Other tribesmen chased down and tackled a journalist trying to leave the hotel. Shouting matches broke out between the men and the rebels guarding the hotel, and then between the rebel fighters themselves. Two more trucks raced by the hotel firing in the air, one pointing a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, before rebel authorities anxiously sealed the hotel and the block.
"We have been expecting this," a security guard said as he hustled a group of journalists into the hotel for safety. "They are the largest tribe. They control most of the east."
Rebels control most of eastern Libya from their base in Benghazi and the western port city of Misrata, while Col Gaddafi retains much of the west, including the capital, Tripoli.
Late on Thursday AFP news agency reported explosions shaking the centre of Tripoli, as state TV reported that planes were flying over the Libyan capital.
Nato, acting under a UN mandate authorising military action for the protection of civilians, has carried out regular airstrikes in the Tripoli area.
Meanwhile, the South African ambassador to the UN, Baso Sangqu, warned that supporters of the rebels were in danger of violating UN sanctions.
His comments came a day after Britain granted the rebels diplomatic recognition and said it would unblock £91 million ($149m) in frozen Libyan oil assets for the rebels.
"We have noted the calls for Gaddafi must go," Mr Sangqu said. "We maintain that such statements do not bring us any closer to a political solution."
The BBC's Barbara Plett reports from the UN that the growing trend to grant diplomatic recognition to the Libyan rebels is facing opposition on the Security Council, and that moves to back the rebels will further polarise Council members.
An earlier post on Hefter and Younes here.
War is dangerous business, I always thought the odds were long that both these men would survive this conflict. I suspect Younes' fate will be one of those unsolved mysteries... with a very blurry line between sober analysis and crazy conspiracy theory talk.
Update - Reuters: Slain Libyan chief's family vow allegiance to rebels:
Al Jazeera - Mystery over Libyan rebel commander's death:
"A message to Mustafa Abdel Jalil: We will walk with you all the way," his nephew Mohammed Younes told a crowd of mourners in the main square of the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.
"Libya first, until God gives us victory or chooses us as martyrs."
Other family members were beside him.
By Friday, however, it appeared that the bodies had been found and returned to their relatives. Thousands of people gathered in Benghazi's central courthouse square - renamed Tahrir Square by the opposition - to observe Friday prayers and mourn Younes.
They carried coffins apparently carrying the bodies through the square.
Abdul Hakim, a nephew of Younes, told the Reuters news agency that Younes's body had been returned to his family on Thursday, burned and bearing bullet wounds.
And (update) confirmed: Killers of Libyan Rebel General Were Among His Own Forces
(Part one here)
Before the first great battle of the Civil War, a Union soldier could explore the countryside between the opposing lines...
Perhaps more foolish than courageous, Lt James E. Smith had a lot to learn about soldiering and war. He was eager, but he'd joined a unit comprised mostly of men who'd determined - shortly after hearing their first shots fired in anger - they'd learned all they cared to know.
Smith was the only officer in the unit who had voted to stay and fight. As a 'reward' for his courage, when the time came to deliver the written notice to General McDowell, rather than do it in person his commanding officer, Captain Joshua Varian, sent the lieutenant to do it in his place.
(You'll find no spoilers in the discussion of Steven Pressfield's latest book, The Profession, below. I can't tell you why I think "You scared the shit out of me, bro" is as fine a line of dialog as any I've encountered in a novel for years without ruining it, but I'll tell you now that one of the finest lines of dialog I've read in years is in this book. In fact, I can't promise you'll even be able to determine what the book's about from reading this. For that - if you need it - here's the web page. That said, I'll ramble on.)
"T hrough the travail of the ages,
Midst the pomp and toil of war,
Have I fought and strove and perished
Countless times upon this star...
So as through a glass, and darkly
The age long strife I see
Where I fought in many guises,
Many names, but always me...
So forever in the future,
Shall I battle as of yore,
Dying to be born a fighter,
But to die again, once more."
Along the wall in my house given over to bookshelves there's one filled with Tom Clancy's novels. From the time I'd finished Red Storm Rising while on a deployment to Egypt in 1987 to the early years of this millennium I acquired and read them all. I'm not even sure if Clancy has written anything in the last decade, his works became too much for me to read. That's got nothing to do with quality and is due only in part to the length of book/time available ratio. The simple truth is that while I can assure you the late-cold war military - those people and organizations that Clancy described so well - once existed as such, the concurrent fact that I have to use past tense in that assurance is reason enough for me to move on. I witnessed the vanishing of that first-hand, and wish that so much of the competency of that era hadn't slipped away, too. While I enjoy history and believe it to be critical to understanding the present and the future, and I'm as vulnerable as anyone to moments of nostalgia (I do still have all those books, after all), I reject the desirability of living in the past.
Where to now, then? The shelf above Clancy's contains other techno-thrillers, military themed adventures, and spy novels from Alistair MacLean, John le Carré, Ian Flemming and others. Fine books, but few with pages I'd still call white. On up - the next shelf above contains one work: an eight-volume edition of Gibbon's Decline and Fall, flanked by souvenirs of a trip to Italy; on one side a small replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, on the other the Coliseum. None of these things were purchased with that arrangement in mind, it all came together just so during the latest shuffling of the shelves a few months ago.
Above that shelf is one of non-fiction works on America's recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including those written by my fellow milbloggers. But we're talking fiction here (I think) and we've definitely departed that realm. So bring the gaze back downward, past Gibbon, and to the center of that row of books just below.
There's the Steven Pressfield section, books with crisp pages and covers that still shine. Oddly enough, my most recent additions to this particular shelf deal with the most ancient of epic adventures. Or at least on the surface they do. From Gates of Fire to The Afghan Campaign, his fictional accounts of ancient warriors and their battles connect the books above them on my shelves to those on either side and below. In looking at that arrangement now, I'm certain I never thought of it in just that way when placing them all where they are. My decision was simply these books go here, and these belong here, and this one here... and I spent less time thinking that through than you just spent reading it.
Whether conscious or not, the connection was in my mind. Now that I've finished Pressfield's latest work, The Profession, and added it to that mix, I realize it was in his, too. If he stops writing of warriors now (and I hope he doesn't) he still will have achieved something that's only vaguely illustrated in one small section of bookshelves in my little house: he's completed a circle. There's something mystic in that, as there's an element of the mystic in The Profession, too.
That opening line from the book evokes the moment in the movie Patton when the legendary General stands on an ancient battlefield, quoting verses from his "Through a Glass, Darkly" poem to Bradley. I even imagined I heard that distant echoing bugle call from the movie's score as I read it.
But Patton isn't the only modern military leader that comes to mind while reading of Pressfield's fictional General James Salter. MacArthur is the more likely comparison. If you've a bit of knowledge of the classics, however, you'll add Caesar, Alexander, Xenophon, Alcibiades, and a host of other obvious and not-so obvious archetypes to the mix. "Gentlemen," one character encourages his comrades on page eleven, "as Sarpedon said to Glaucus, 'Let us go forth and win glory - or cede it to others.'" This book might be set in the near-future, but it is Steven Pressfield after all.
But let's veer out of those depths a moment, and to another level of the book. Call it the shallows. I don't use that term derisively. If your knowledge of war and warriors is limited to Patton the movie (a good one), or if you've never wondered "What if a re-born Caesar had commanded a modern incarnation of Xenophon's Ten Thousand..." (I never had - until I read this book) you'll still find much here to enjoy. Whereas depth is an aspect of fiction embraced by so many critics and literature professors - and eagerly sought by the readers they influence - I believe the shallows are the level no work of fiction works without. And The Profession works as a beach read, too - something to take along on the vacation. A page-turner, a ripping good adventure yarn, one I consumed in a few disconnected half-hours in exactly that vacation environment, without having to flip backwards through pages past to remind myself of some character or plot detail.
I've already mentioned Alistair MacLean. If you've never heard of him don't worry - he'd faded away before Clancy's day. I read his books so long ago I can recall only vague details of his plots and nothing of his style. Likewise I haven't seen the movies made from them in years, but recall The Guns of Navarone, Where Eagles Dare, and a handful of others as some of the best examples of the genre from back in the day. While rapidly moving the pages of The Profession from my right hand to my left, the thought occurred to me more than once that as far as vision matters, here's a modern movie mostly made. It's a summer blockbuster waiting to happen, maybe even one that will lead others to pick up a copy of the book.
And in the pages of The Profession some might discover the depths I've alluded to above. They're subtle, between the lines - author-inspired but reader-supplied. Pressfield offers much to think about, much to discuss, but he does it without preaching, without telling you what to think. Who you'll cheer for probably depends on what you think of America today - or the direction you perceive our Republic headed. Pressfield's America of 2032 might be a nation worth defending, but beyond the ever-rising price of a gallon of gas, whatever sort of place it is isn't described in much detail in this book - and I don't think that's author laziness or oversight. The idea that perhaps you should spend some time thinking about the events in this story, set in a near future rather than an ancient past, should not be dismissed. If Clancy's warriors have mostly vanished from the military of today, that doesn't mean they aren't somewhere to be found, and the members of Pressfield's Force Insertion seemed very familiar to me.
"Will he be able to navigate those waters?" Pressfield's hero asks the reader regarding Salter's plan to cross a modern Rubicon. "No one ever has."
Indeed, that's a lesson history teaches us. No writer has ever accurately predicted much of the near-future in a thriller, either, but I can describe this one in one chilling word:
So The Profession has found a place waiting for it on my shelves, just under that replica of a ruined coliseum.
I've lost count - are we starting month six?
...the fact that those Western powers are now openly considering an outcome with Gaddafi still in Libya--though at least nominally out of power--clashes frontally with rebels' rejection of the scenario as a non-starter tends to support claims Gaddafi's backers have long made: to wit, that the insurgents exist as a military and political force due exclusively to Western backing, and as such will ultimately accept the conditions and do the bidding of foreign capitals providing them funds, arms, and air support. Gaddafi managing to remain in Libya, therefore, would not only allow him a safe and secure place from which to meddle with the country's new government, but also give his anti-imperialist, anti-Western propaganda ranting a degree of credibility it never enjoyed before.
To be fair to Western allies, there aren't too many other realistic options to accepting Gaddafi remaining hunkered down somewhere in Libya's future if they ever want to extricate themselves from the military operation they bounded into four months ago. Despite that, their pragmatism won't protect them from accusations on all sides that their war costs lots of money, many lives, and much credibility in return for what in the end may not be a whole lot.
(Via Instapundit - and thanks.)
I'll credit the Obama administration with this: the "blame NATO" campaign has been every bit as effective as the bomb Libya campaign has not. As for "the insurgents ... will ultimately accept the conditions and do the bidding of foreign capitals providing them funds" - we've already seen evidence of that.
But most of the above link reminds me of something I wrote back in week four of this one-week war:
From the beginning they've [al Qaeda] been reaching out to those rebels, warning them not to put their trust in western "allies" who don't really give a damn what happens to them - and would in fact dump them in a heartbeat. While they, too, see a few of the rebels as possible "lost members" of their tribe, they also see the much larger group as a huge potential talent pool - especially if the Obama administration acts as they expect/hope they will based on what the Obama administration says. Because for their part, the Obama administration was busy assuring anyone who would listen that Libya was just a
time-limited, scope-limited kinetic military didly-doo
... and a sideshow to boot.
That was one of those quotes aimed at the American voter that al Qaeda and the rebels in Libya were supposed to ignore; a mixed-message approach that defines Obama-era diplomacy. Or warfare. Or everything. (Hey, it works in election campaigns, right?)
Some might wonder why now - since we're withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan - but here's one reason why I think that matters. (Click image for larger.)
That's my improved version of a chart we looked at here last month - along with this one.
Obviously, President Next (and that could be President Same) will still have Afghanistan to contend with, along with Iraq, probably Libya, and possibly a few someplace else's, too. Hopefully none will be major problems - though the combination of all will certainly rise above minor annoyance level.
For those at the top, I mean. For those in the trenches - for those not killed - this will be life-consuming.
Put this on the first blank page, (I commented at Carl's) rather than "This page intentionally left blank" -
"No battle ever repeats itself. The success of a commander does not arise from following rules or models. It consists in an absolutely new comprehension of the dominant facts of the situation at the time, and all the forces at work. Cooks use recipes for dishes and doctors have prescriptions for diseases, but every great operation of war is unique."I suppose that could be cut down to "Cooks use recipes for dishes and doctors have prescriptions for diseases, but every great operation of war is unique" - but here's a longer edit that I think would do better.
- Churchill, from his biography of his ancestor, the First Duke of Marlborough.
But if only one change could be made, I'd vote for this Churchill quote to go on the final page of the document. It's from his own (mid-life) autobiography - a reflection on his youthful combat experiences in a counterinsurgency mission in Afghanistan.
So a lot of people were killed, and on our side their widows have had to be pensioned by the Imperial Government, and others were badly wounded and hopped around for the rest of their lives, and it was all very exciting and, for those who did not get killed or hurt, very jolly.
(Though I believe we could write a better ending than that.)
"With Operation New Dawn coming to an end," writes Bob Tollast at Small Wars Journal, "two security firms, Triple Canopy and Global Strategies Group are already approved to provide over 5,500 contractors to support the biggest State Department Mission in history, joining 6 other firms- a current total of 10 billion dollars' worth of security contracts."
Making Secretary Clinton one of the more powerful mercenary force commanders of recent history...
It's now estimated that as many as 17,000 U.S personnel will stay on in Iraq post 2012. Currently, it appears likely that the security component of this force will act without DoD support, give or take a handful of Marines at the Baghdad Embassy and the small OSC-I component.
While Iraqi politicians will soon debate and vote on the possibility of a stay behind force of American military, Peter Mansoor recently stated his belief that Iraqis will be unable to decide on this within the required time frame. At the current time then, America's future in Iraq looks distinctly contractor based.
The majority will only support the core DoS roles, but a significant outlay will be allotted to private security contractors carrying out static and convoy defense. In short, this defense will involve security for the following missions:
- Security for Police Development Programme Sites by air and land (28 sites in total.)
- Security for the Dedicated 5 OSC-I sites continuing advisory work of Operation New Dawn.
- Security for the four Consulates which will continue the work of key PRT's as well as furthering trade development.
- Provide security for the four Embassy Branch Offices conducting vital reconciliation work in potential "flash-points."
There's much at stake - read the whole thing.
As a companion piece, here's the latest Brooking's Iraq Index.
Previously: Packin' Iraq
On to Richmond!
"At noon, on the 17th of July, the troops under General McDowell took up their line of march toward Fairfax," wrote Charles Coffin in his book The Boys of '61, written just one year after the end of the war. Before long they "reached a hill from which Fairfax Court House was in full view."
In a later edition he eliminated the part played by Varian - though not that of his artillery pieces...
It's possible that between editions, others brought General McDowell's report of the battle to the author's attention. "On the eve of the battle," the commander of Union forces recorded, "the battery of Volunteer Artillery of the Eighth New York Militia, whose term of service expired, insisted on their discharge..."
Lets turn back three calendar pages...
"The personnel of the Battery was, perhaps, unexcelled by any organization that ever went into the service," recalled one of its members in his own memoirs. "The Captain, Joshua M. Varian, was a very popular officer in militia circles, and held in high esteem by all who knew him."
Those who made the cut were some of the finest gentlemen of New York City. All were eager, in the rush of patriotic fever following the Confederate attack on Ft Sumter, to do their bit for their country. When President Lincoln called for 90-day volunteers, they answered.
Unfortunately, their 90 days ended on that march to Manassas. They took a vote, decided they'd done their part, and headed back to New York City. And just as McDowell had stated, as they fled, they heard the roar of the cannon (perhaps including their own - now manned by others) at Bull Run.
They weren't - "But the story of that wild rout has been so often told that its repetition is needless here," concluded author J.E. Smith, who on that day was the lowest ranking officer in the unit.
Upon returning to New York City, Smith formed his own artillery battery - joined by many former members of Varian's - and led it back to war, serving through several battles, including Gettysburg. Captain Varian was otherwise engaged - not in combat, but busy rising rapidly through the ranks of the militia; before the decade was over he was promoted to general.
We'll presume still other veterans of the battery returned to their places among the most prominent business men in the city of New York - in an era when business was booming. (Certainly a more attractive boom than that of cannon.) Meanwhile, for other former members of the unit that fled the battle, politics beckoned.
(Part two of the story is here.)
"The complexity of the withdrawal is evident at COB Speicher, which at its peak was the largest American base in north Iraq -- with 20,000 soldiers and contractors as recently as last summer on an area covering 41.5 square kilometres (16 square miles)..."
Now around 7,000 remain, according to Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Tedesco, who is in charge of the drawdown of the base, and turns 42 this month.
Around 1,500 containerised housing units, each enough to house one or two people, have been either handed over to Iraqi authorities, sold for scrap or moved elsewhere.
Half a dozen sit in one corner of the base with the letters BOR spray-painted on their doors, indicating they are bound for the nearby Baiji Oil Refinery.
Another 1,000 tents, which typically hold between eight and 10 people, have also been taken down, and many of the facilities on the base designed to boost morale are also slowly being withdrawn.
"Some of the nice stuff to have is going away," Tedesco said, noting that the base's Burger King would soon close, as would the Green Bean cafe and commercially provided Internet connections for the soldiers' private use.
Flyers posted on bulletin boards across the base also warn soldiers that postal services will soon end...
"Though plans for a limited US military training mission to stay in Iraq beyond the year-end deadline are gaining traction," the AFP story adds, "according to Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, no concrete moves have yet been made toward a longer-term American presence."
Notably (but not in that story) this is happening on President Bush's timetable. That's quite a gift he left his successor, though obviously there's still some hope in some quarters that presidential candidate Barack Obama's (long forgotten) plan to leave a residual force of some 30,000 American troops in Iraq could become reality.
Next - Iraq: the day after New Dawn
The Wall Street Journal: Rebel Chief Says Gadhafi, Family Can Stay in Libya
Mr. Jalil spoke over a lunch of lamb, garbonzo beans and Pepsi, served in cans adorned with pink paper umbrellas, at a private home in the western mountain city of Zintan, where rebel military leaders have established their regional headquarters.
Mr. Jalil's willingness to accept anything short of exile and criminal prosecution for Mr. Gadhafi is likely to prove unpopular among the rebel rank and file. Mr. Jalil made similar comments to Reuters earlier this month, but had to issue a quick denial after protests erupted in the streets of Benghazi.
As for NATO's war, James Joyner sees Scant Planning for Post-Qaddafi Libya.
And this line was probably overlooked in a previous post on this topic:
...analysts generally agree that Libyan [oil] supplies will largely remain off the market for the rest of 2011.
- a point that other oil-exporting nations certainly appreciate.
And because we're all about the fair and balanced here, I note they're covering the 150th anniversary of First Manassas at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Two young armies faced each other en masse - some 35,000 Union soldiers and 33,000 Confederates - and nearly 1,000 died by the end of that afternoon. The number of casualties reached 5,000 captured, injured or killed.
"When those two armies clashed on that battlefield, that was the largest number of troops engaged in battle and the largest number of casualties ever on American soil," Clark said.
Among the dead on that battlefield was the idea that the War Between the States would be a quick one. But if Americans thought those numbers appalling, they would adjust that view soon enough. The following year came Shiloh, where "Out of 100,000 men," noted Shelby Foote in Ken Burn's classic Civil War documentary, "over 20,000 were killed , wounded, captured, or missing."
Shiloh had the same number of casualties as Waterloo [which ended the Napoleanic wars]. And yet, when it was fought, there were another twenty Waterloos to follow.
Among them, the second battle of Bull Run.
In that regard, the bloodshed of the American Civil War was like nothing the modern world had ever seen. "But Bull Run was probably all for the best," wrote Leander Stillwell - a veteran of Shiloh and other battles - in the memoirs he compiled for his son in the early years of the twentieth century.
Had it been a Union victory, and the Rebellion then been crushed, negro slavery would have been retained, and the "irrepressible conflict" would have been fought out likely in your time, with doubtless tenfold the loss of life and limb that ensued in the war of the sixties.
If you'd bet me a dollar at the beginning of this year that the United States would jump into another country's civil war based in part on a domino theory argument I'd have taken that bet. I'd owe you a dollar now - but before I handed it over I'd consider arguing that we aren't really involved in Libya's civil war... but that would be a bluff, and unless you were a complete idiot I'd be wasting my time.
Unfortunately for you we didn't make that bet - because you're going to need that dollar and a lot more. "Crude Oil Advances for Second Day on U.S. Supply Drop, Europe Debt Talks" reads this Bloomberg headline. And for you CNN viewers out there, "advances" means price rise, actually caused by something not mentioned in that story from just a couple days ago.
Oil rose 0.7 percent after the Energy Department said stockpiles fell 3.73 million barrels to 351.7 million last week. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News forecast a decrease of 2 million. Refineries operated at 90.3 percent of capacity, an 11- month high. European officials meet tomorrow to break a deadlock over a new Greek rescue plan.
"The crude number was very strong," said Phil Flynn, vice president of research at PFGBest in Chicago. "Refineries are operating at the highest rate this season, which suggests there is pretty strong demand somewhere. It looks like U.S. refineries are producing a great deal of fuel for export."
Greece has nothing to do with it - but if you'd have bet me a dollar at the start of this year that because of a war begun in part on a domino theory argument President Obama would open America's strategic oil reserves - and then we'd start exporting fuel...
Of course, whether burned in Giuseppe's Fiat, Pierre's Citroen, Suzy's Prius or Sally's SUV that previously reserved for national emergency only oil has to be replaced. While paying the cost for that has been kicked down the road a few weeks, to do it the president's going to need your dollars and mine, perhaps more than we can spare. (Especially with our gas prices going up, too.) That said, here's a helpful hint for those American parents not on government assistance: if you let the hems out of last year's uniforms, the kids won't need new ones for school this year.
If you make those money-saving adjustments with the TV tuned to CNN, you might even hear our president blaming the whole thing on (nudge wink) "speculators." (If I'd bet you a dollar at the start of this year that the president would be repeatedly using the same code word for Jews that Hitler did in his declaration of war on the United States, would you have taken the bet?)
Enough of all that - here's the deal. America and her European allies jumped into (what we'd bet would be) a one-week to ten-day (or so) war in Libya to eliminate long-time international pariah Muammar Qaddafi. (While announcing we were just "protecting civilians.") What we got was a lesson in why he'd been a "long time" pariah - along with a reminder that it's not as easy to bomb someone out of office as the most bright-eyed of airpower advocates would have us believe. Any non-brain dead senior leaders in the US military know this from experience, having learned the hard lessons of the failure to eliminate Saddam Hussein via cruise missile throughout the 90s (and paying the price for it in the last decade) - but in the Obama era the opinion of defense professionals is viewed with deep suspicion. However, the words "airpower advocates" and "defense professionals" can be written with quotation marks, too - and the sort of people deserving of those warning flags around their job descriptions thought the whole Libya thing was just about the ginger-peachiest slam dunk of an idea they'd ever heard. Grab a six pack, order a few pizzas, get the gang together and watch the whole thing live on the big screen in the situation room over the course of a weekend, plus an afternoon or two.
Italy was on board. Libya's former colonial masters depended on Qaddafi and company for nearly a quarter of their oil supply, but they had a 90 day reserve on hand - more than enough to get through a few days of war, and a few lean weeks (if needed) to get that supply flowing again. Kudos to them for lasting to just about exactly that three month point before suddenly developing "humanitarian concerns" about the endeavor last month.
"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 [Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini] said.
Of course, Italy was just the canary in the coalmine feeling the impact of the loss of the Libyan oil supply.
Later that afternoon President Obama announced he was opening the US strategic reserves, to "keep pump prices in the United States down this summer." At least, that's what Americans were told about the deal. It would have been nice if that were true - nice even if the president's detractors were right in guessing he did it just to score popularity points. But the rest of the world got the grown-up news.
International Energy Agency (IEA) Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka announced that the 28 IEA member countries have agreed to release 60 million barrels of oil in the coming month in response to the ongoing disruption of oil supplies from Libya. This supply disruption has been underway for some time and its effect has become more pronounced as it has continued. The normal seasonal increase in refiner demand expected for this summer will exacerbate the shortfall further. Greater tightness in the oil market threatens to undermine the fragile global economic recovery.
In deciding to take this collective action, IEA member countries agreed to make 2 million barrels of oil per day available from their emergency stocks over an initial period of 30 days. Leading up to this decision, the IEA has been in close consultation with major producing countries, as well as with key non-IEA importing countries.
The IEA estimates that the unrest in Libya had removed 132 mb of light, sweet crude oil from the market by the end of May. Although there are huge uncertainties, analysts generally agree that Libyan supplies will largely remain off the market for the rest of 2011. Given this loss and the seasonal increase in demand, the IEA warmly welcomes the announced intentions to increase production by major oil producing countries. As these production increases will inevitably take time and world economies are still recovering, the threat of a serious market tightening, particularly for some grades of oil, poses an immediate requirement for additional oil or products to be made available to the market. The IEA collective action is intended to complement expected increases in output by these producing countries, to help bridge the gap until sufficient additional oil from them reaches global markets.
"Today, for the third time in the history of the International Energy Agency, our member countries have decided to release stocks." Mr. Tanaka said. "I expect this action will contribute to well-supplied markets and to ensuring a soft landing for the world economy."
Note that the US contribution was approximately half of the total. (For a list of IEA member nations, click here.) That announcement was at least a bit more truthful than what the White House vomited up for American public consumption - except for that bit about expecting "increased production by major oil producing countries" - which was merely hope, and never happened, and "bridge the gap" became a bridge to nowhere.
But that was last month's news - this month's news (except, is it really news if no one really reports it?) was the result of that action. The "soft landing for the world economy" turned out to be the oil prices rise headline quoted above (although obscured there with garbage about Greece thrown in, and no mention of Libya).
In fact, the release of strategic stockpiles had exactly the opposite effect than what was hoped for:
Analysts said the IEA's unexpected decision to employ strategic stockpiles had exerted only a temporary restraint on oil prices. Immediately before the announcement, Brent crude, the most important benchmark, was trading at around $112.50 per barrel. When the IEA board made its decision on June 23, the price fell as low as $103.62, only to rebound strongly in the weeks that followed.
Brent was trading at $118.25 on Thursday, significantly above the level seen before the IEA chose to use the stockpiles held in its member states.
That's today's news (from the British Financial Times), headlined "IEA calls halt to emergency oil release" - a story chock-full of Orwellian goodness. (The release of reserves was so successful they've all promised not to do it again!) The strategic reserves bought us a couple extra weeks of bombing time - but none of those bombs hit Qaddafi. Now we've got empty oil tanks to fill; demand kicked down the road is still demand, and more than a few suppliers are looking forward to cashing in on this bit of lethal international folly.
Don't worry, whether you've been following this news or not (or whether your favorite news source has let you in on it or not), eventually you'll get a choice in all this oil business: pay the cost or do without. Of course, Greece is a separate but concurrent issue, as is the American debt ceiling, and a host of other problems that serve to remind us of another domino theory that's a lot more realistic than any daydreams about the fragile flowers of an Arab Spring...
Which explains why news that
The U.S., the U.K., Italy and France now say they're willing to accept an outcome in Libya that would allow Muammar Qaddafi avoid exile or a trial on war crimes charges...
...comes three days after the US denied negotiating with Qaddafi at all. Meanwhile, the Libyan rebels are begging for weapons to march on Tripoli: "rebels believe they can march on the Libyan capital within "days" with "a bit of help" from friends..."
Days, not weeks, as the odds makers say. Perhaps they believe they could, but certainly they don't like the writing they're seeing on the wall.
Added: Thanks. And this...
"The most cynical investors are placing side bets on where the next US military action will be, as it seems to take ever-greater crises to trigger an exploitable panic."...is damned interesting, too. I'd hate to have to bet my future on that, though, as I've already confessed to not being a betting man. (But obviously if we don't bet our own futures, someone else will.)
Argendahb Awakening? Asks J.D. Johannes, with a caution:
To be sure, a couple small outposts in the villages and few dudes with AKs do not an awakening make, but I saw beginnings of the Anbar Awakening and the situation is similar.
His is a story that could - and should - have been told over a year ago, but we (or anyone paying attention, at least) got this one instead.
And that makes the prospects for Argendahb, and the rest of Afghanistan, all the more grim. Whatever comes it will be difficult to avoid wondering what might have been, but triumph against the odds, even in an effort made more difficult than it had to be by (too many) players on our team, is still something American soldiers strive for. Achieving that would be something worth celebrating.
And J.D. is one of the few telling the tale, and one who's judgment and opinion I respect - rather than suspect. Read the whole thing.
If you ever thought that public attention to the Iraq war was disproportionately large compared to its significance in terms of history I'd disagree - but here's some evidence that you may have been right, courtesy of Google's Ngram viewer. (See introduction here; click chart for larger version):
By 2008 (the last year available) - at least in books in Google's database (and they claim 10% of all of 'em ever are) - Iraq was cited more often than Vietnam was in any year through the late-60s/early 70s height of that campaign. Obviously I ran the searches without the word "war" appended to the country names, but equally obviously war brings a nation more to the forefront of American culture. But was Iraq in 2008 really more important (or profitable - or perceived as either in the publishing industry) than Vietnam was four decades before?
It's worth noting that this tells us nothing of how many books were written about those wars, merely how frequently the country's name appeared in books (relative to all other words) regardless of topic. (That said, "Viet Nam" is compared to all other two-word pairings, thus isn't a perfect fit in this chart.)
It's also worth noting that 2008 was an American presidential election year (though 1968 and 1972 were also), so the percentage of politically-themed books was undoubtedly higher than in off-years. I suspect that most books that mentioned Iraq that year were more broadly focused on American politics in general than war.
And whatever number of books were published about Iraq in 2008, they weren't about current events there - although several had found their way to bookstores in the immediate aftermath of the previous year's surge. Most were a premature effort to "put the whole thing in its proper perspective" - perhaps perceived (at least when the publishing deals were made months before) as an urgent mission given those impending American elections.
For current events one would turn to television, where (conversely) one would find Iraq had vanished from the screen in 2008.
Finally, a didja notice: Afghanistan references almost never exceeded Iraq, though they were close in the 1980s. If asked I would have guessed Afghanistan would have had a bit more press in that decade, apparently I'd have guessed wrong.
I wonder what 2009-2012 results will look like?
And more perspective, this chart narrowed to the years 2000-2008 (click for Ngram Viewer original):
Begging the question: how well do books reflect American culture?
On Monday, rebels said they had pushed government troops westwards after seizing back most of the town of Brega.
The Libyan government denied the claim, insisting that the key oil refinery town was still firmly under its control.
Meanwhile, fighting continues in Brega, where rebels have been trying to push back pro-Gaddafi forces since Thursday, often fighting at close range in residential areas.
The third paragraph is actually separated from the first two by several others in the BBC report, but I believe it reads better like this.
US officials have held face-to-face talks with representatives of Col Muammar Gaddafi's government, the US state department has confirmed.
But "The US" said the meeting "involved no negotiations."
Good thing for Manning that he only outed a vast array of US intelligence and diplomatic secrets and exposed ordinary, unimportant, unprotected Afghans and Iraqis to murderous retribution by Islamist degenerates. If Manning had phonehacked a Labor MP or a wealthy, airhead celebrity - you know, really important and beautiful people - the NYT and the Guardian would be calling for a death sentence.
Notes on blogging: When I read an insightful quote like that I ponder for a while what I can add to it, then write that. Next I write a headline. In this case I killed two birds with one stone.
Add "read the whole thing" as hyperlink. Done.
And this Marine wants a date for his.
And she said...
(Via Hot Air.)
A couple quick observations:
1. Justin Timberlake is a damn fine wing man.
2. (And I checked this theory with Mrs G.) All the male, married Marines going to that Ball just saw their wives' prep cost - gown, hair, etc. - quadruple. (Or maybe they haven't seen that yet - but they will.)
Their numbers have been rising since 2009, it's time once again to dig deep and support wounded troops.
(See Chuck's story here.)
Another chart I generated with Google's Ngram Viewer (for an introduction see previous entry here):
Click the chart for a larger version, or here to view it on Google's Ngram Viewer page. (Which might present a different result if their database grows with time.)
Here we see evidence of a trend, perhaps one we can call cultural. For the first hundred years of our nation's history most references to our first President used his earlier military rank - General. The number of such citations (as percentage of a whole - see part one) plunged just before the Civil War, even as references to George Washington continued to climb steadily. Around 1880 the lines cross, by 1980 "General" Washington had quite literally vanished from our history.
Any number of factors likely combine to explain that. Not among them: America was less militant in the 20th century and beyond. (A fiction, though perhaps American authors liked to imagine it was fact.)
More to follow. In the meantime, for comparison, here's a look at General George Washington and some other Revolutionary figures, two who were elected president and one who was not.
So if the identities of the Mexican criminals were known to the feds, what was the point of Project Gunrunner -- and why is Holder so desperately trying to stonewall by withholding hundreds of documents from Congress?Good answer:
Law-abiding gun owners and dealers think they already know. With the Obama administration wedded to the fiction that 90 percent of the guns Mexican cartels use originate here -- they don't -- many suspect that "Fast and Furious" was a backdoor attempt to smear domestic gun aficionados as part of its stealth efforts on gun control by executive fiat.
By good I mean plausible, there's nothing good about it.
Maybe there's a better answer - but I haven't heard it yet. I can understand something like passing traceable funds/"marked bills" to suspects to help expose networks, and even temporarily allowing those suspects freedom of movement to facilitate that. But this - the transfer of weapons - is another matter entirely. Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence is an axiom especially true of government work, but in this case it's hard to imagine someone that incompetent. That's obviously a factor, along with stupidity, ignorance, hubris and a host of other character flaws Americans can only tolerate to a certain extent in government officials (a vague line well crossed here) - but even all of those flaws combined fail to describe motive.
This, on the other hand, begins to:
"I just want you to know that we're working on it," Obama was quoted as saying to gun-control advocate Sarah Brady in March. "We have to go through a few processes, but under the radar."
Somebody's got some explaining to do. At least, I'd like to think so. I'm not sure somebody agrees, and that's a problem, too. (Or is it a symptom?)
In looking at one of Google's new features this week I realized it was time to update Mrs G's detective work (from 2004) on the Orwell "quote" I've had (unattributed) at the top of this page for years: good people sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf. Back then she was able to identify it as authentic Orwell, derived from two other quotes.
The first is in his Rudyard Kipling essay from February 1942:
It would be difficult to hit off the one-eyed pacifism of the English in fewer words than in the phrase, 'making mock of uniforms that guard you while you sleep'. ... [Kipling] sees clearly that men can only be highly civilized while other men, inevitably less civilized, are there to guard and feed them.
...the second is in his May, 1945 "Notes on Nationalism," in which he wrote "Those who 'abjure' violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf," something he said was "a fact which it is impossible" for a pacifist to accept,"even in his secret thoughts." (Please note my use of quotation marks in the previous sentence - they indicate the part that's a direct quote from Orwell, as does the blockquote above it.)
If he ever actually said the specific phrase good people sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf (or any of the other variations I've seen) he left no record of it. On the other hand, it's clearly an accurate re-statement of something Orwell believed. In other words, those who attribute the direct quote to him as such are guilty of committing an academic party foul, but in doing so certainly haven't libeled Orwell. (In fact, the quote as I use it is close enough to Orwell that I've sometimes wondered if I was guilty of plagiarism in not attributing it to him.)
Whatever you might think of the Orwell quote, consider this an example of how you can use the internet today, or a case study of how misquotes enter our popular imagination. It's been seven years since the Mrs did her quick internet searches, and the power of teh Google has grown. (In more ways than one.) For example: You can generate a timeline for your results. Enter the phrase "rough men stand ready" in the search window, click the timeline option in the left column on the results page, and you can narrow your search to the earliest appearance of the phrase. Some more recent entries can "trick" Google if they include an earlier date, but in this example there are few of those. It was fairly short work to identify this April, 1993 column from the Washington Times as the earliest appearance of the quote. It's by Richard Grenier (since deceased) and can be read in its entirety here.
His context is unimportant to this discussion, so we'll jump to the exact quote...
When the country is in danger, the military's mission is to wreak destruction upon the enemy. It's a harsh and bloody business, but that's what the military's for. As writer George Orwell pointed out, people sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence in their behalf.
However, comma, note what he didn't include: quotation marks. This can't be attributed to ignorance, deception, trickiness or malicious intent on his part - he isn't quoting or even misquoting Orwell, he is accurately stating something Orwell pointed out. (And it's not even the point of his column.)
The quote's next appearance is in a November, 1998 column by George Will:
Remember George Orwell's unminced words: "We sleep safely in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm."
That's the first appearance of a variation (and why I limited my search to the common-to-all-versions "rough men stand ready"), but the careful reader will notice a more subtle difference between that example and Richard Grenier's - quotation marks. Will's version appeared nationwide in his syndicated column, usually under a headline to the effect of "Gap between civilians and the military is widening" - but I like this version, because you can see it side by side with other opinion and editorial pieces of the day. One of those is a stark reminder that Operation Desert Fox, Bill Clinton's biggest-yet Iraq bombing campaign was just a few weeks away.
While context isn't important to this discussion, it's worth noting that Will was writing in association with a visit to a Marine base, so we can't rule out the quote as something he'd seen there on a poster or a plaque on some wall. Whatever the case, not long after that quotes from military leaders repeating the "Orwell quote" began to appear. Here's an example quoting a modern Major General, entered into the Congressional Record for December 7, 2000. (Remember Pearl Harbor?) Here's another two-star citation from July, 2001. Some of the guys who heard this one in person were a few weeks away from being boots-on-ground in Afghanistan.
In the years that followed the quote began to appear in books, including Rick Atkinson's account of the invasion of Iraq - he'd participated as an embed with the 101st. He describes (in his first chapter: "Rough men stand ready") seeing it during a February, 2003 visit to Ft Campbell immediately prior to deploying:
A wall poster on the second floor of the conference center quoted George Orwell: "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."
Of course, by the time that book was published, the quote had already been at the top of this page for a couple of years, and it was something of an internet phenomenon.
This concludes today's lesson in using the internet. It seems appropriate to close with a quote.
To abjure violence it is necessary to have no experience of it.
If you can find it in its original setting, you'll have an interesting read.
See how often phrases have occurred in the world's books over the years. Google Books has scanned over 10% of all books ever published, and now you can graph the occurrence of phrases up to five words in length from 1400 through the present day right in your browser.More:
When you enter phrases into the Google Books Ngram Viewer, it displays a graph showing how those phrases have occurred in a corpus of books (e.g., "British English", "English Fiction", "French") over the selected years.
More details on how that works at the link above, or you can just jump in and play with it here. I did - and I've linked the charts below to the actual results pages, so click 'em if you want a readable version. (For the record: all results below are from searches limited to American English.)
You can compare words or phrases - for example, dog lovers will be happy to know the truth about cats and dogs...
...though cat fanciers can take heart that their significant others have been gaining steadily in frequency of reference over the years.
Or you can discover when a word or phrase first appeared in print - like the British are coming (1827, if you're wondering).
While the other graphs on this page show results from 1790-2008, I shrunk this one to 1775-1850, and using the hyperlinks at the bottom of the result page even found the exact page in the book that first used it. (In the Google database, at least. Note that "over 10%" makes for reasonably good statistics but not necessarily specifics - results may vary as they build the database. Hey, speaking of database...)
Another application - trend spotting. Didja know: in the world of books, throughout the 20th century everyone moved away from cities and towns and into communities.
(This helps explain why community organizers became very important over the past few years.)
And more: discover when a new word or phrase first sprang into being (or into print, at least), and see what impact it might have had on the use of other words or phrases.
For example, we can see there's no correlation whatsoever between the two above...
All by way of introduction. Next: the strange case of the vanishing General. (Coming soon.)
Update/added bonus chart. Here's a comparison of three quotable quotes...
...Churchill's the few, the almost-Orwell "rough men" quote we've featured at the top of this site since 2003 (the Mrs did the detective work here) and the completely bogus Hitler "unions" quote that appeared as if by magic earlier this year. (Ngram Viewer capability only goes to 2008.)
Add "de-bunking" to the list. (Hey, speaking of debunking...) Obviously a very useful tool from Google, with many more applications than those I've demonstrated here.
And here's part two.
In November 1775, Washington sent a 25 year-old bookseller-turned-soldier named Henry Knox to bring heavy artillery that had been captured at Fort Ticonderoga to Boston. In a technically complex and demanding operation, Knox brought many cannons to the Boston area in January 1776. In March 1776, these artillery were used to fortify Dorchester Heights, overlooking Boston and its harbor and threatening the British naval supply lifeline. The British commander William Howe, realizing he could no longer hold the town, chose to evacuate it. He withdrew the British forces, departing on March 17 (celebrated today as Evacuation Day) for Halifax, Nova Scotia.The beginning of the battle for New York:
General Howe ... withdrew his army to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and regrouped while transports full of British troops, shipped from bases around Europe and intended for New York, began gathering at Halifax. In June he set sail for New York... First landing unopposed on Staten Island on July 3, 1776...
General George Washington, to John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, from New York, June 29, 1776:
Washington, GENERAL ORDERS, Head Quarters, New York, June 29, 1776:
Washington to Hancock, from New York, July 3, 1776:
Hancock to Washington, from Philadelphia, July 6, 1776:
Washington to Hancock, from New York, July 10, 1776:
Letters of members of the Continental Congress, Volume 1 (The Carnegie Institution Of Washington, 1921, Edmund Cody Burnett, editor)
The writings of George Washington from the original manuscript sources: Volume 5 (Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library)
John Hinderaker asks: "does celebrating the Fourth of July turn you into a Republican?"
Don't be too quick to consign that question to the silly file. He only asks because a recent paper from two researchers at Harvard University says it is so. From their abstract:
Do childhood events shape adult political views and behavior? This paper investigates the impact of Fourth of July celebrations in the US during childhood on partisanship and participation later in life.
And by golly, they conclude that not only does a good old Independence Day celebration lead young Americans to "shift adult views and behavior in favor of the Republicans," it will "increase later-life political participation," too.
There's much absurdity in that, but it's well blended with large doses of truth. (Truth and absurdity, of course, aren't mutually exclusive descriptions of anything.) I'm not comfortable with the obvious corollary to their finding - that the Fourth of July is a bad day for Democrats - but to better understand why celebrating American independence might somehow benefit Republicans, it might be worthwhile to take a look at it from a decidedly non-Republican point of view.
To that we turn to H.G. Wells, author of Time Machine, War of the Worlds, and a lengthy shelf-full of other works that earned him a reputation as a founding father of modern science fiction. Although he's not as well remembered as a father of modern socialism, it's a title he equally deserves. While less visible, his influence in that arena persists today even more so than the works mentioned above, which only appear on movie screens in state of the art versions at intervals designed to thrill each new generation. The quote below comes from one of his lesser known works, but its blend of socialist worldview and futurist thought makes it an important part of the cannon. However, like most highly-acclaimed literary paeans to socialist utopia, its gawdawful unreadability combined with its author's naive worldview makes reading it a chore, rendered even more unpleasant by its outdated language and style. That latter complaint is easily resolved in modern screenplays for his better-known works, but modern versions of the philosophy revealed (if not born) in Well's The World Set Free - written in full knowledge of the century of failure in any attempt to create the sort of world Wells called "free" - aren't improved by any translation. Garbage is garbage, even in HD3D with full surround sound.
Nonetheless, bad ideas persist. The World Set Free has had a direct and notable influence on a wide variety of "thinkers" since it was published a century ago. Whether they ever knew it or not, non-Republicans including Leo Szilard, Charles Manson, Cloward and Piven, and Barack Obama owe much of their political philosophy to this work.
So, back to the influential original. A brief set up for this scene: war (atomic war, even) has all but destroyed the world, when at last the elite among national leaders choose to gather and set things right. Just when all seems hopeless, the best and brightest cast off the shackles imposed upon them by the unwashed masses, and determine to force upon the unenlightened the benefits of paradise only they were capable of seeing as possible.
Among Well's heroes, the King of England (did I mention this was stupid yet?), who discusses his vision for the future with a skeptical underling on the way to the grand council meeting that will make it all possible.
"Well," said the king, with his hands about his knees, "WE shall be the government."
"The conference?" exclaimed Firmin.
"Who else?" asked the king simply.
"It's perfectly simple," he added to Firmin's tremendous silence.
"But," cried Firmin, "you must have sanctions! Will there be no form of election, for example?"
"Why should there be?" asked the king, with intelligent curiosity.
"The consent of the governed."
"Firmin, we are just going to lay down our differences and take over government. Without any election at all. Without any sanction. The governed will show their consent by silence. If any effective opposition arises we shall ask it to come in and help. The true sanction of kingship is the grip upon the sceptre. We aren't going to worry people to vote for us. I'm certain the mass of men does not want to be bothered with such things.... We'll contrive a way for any one interested to join in. That's quite enough in the way of democracy. Perhaps later--when things don't matter..."
You might find it hard to believe, but Wells was not writing satire here - he actually believed this stuff.
Likewise he was writing in full denial of the knowledge that the American Revolution was the one people's revolution that had worked. Europe had seen well over a century of failures in that regard between 1776 and his day - when World War One was about to mark a turning point, the beginning of another century of more and greater failures, far beyond the borders of Europe, each with more than enough bloodshed to make those with which he was familiar seem almost harmless in comparison.
And here we get to the point. Wells' view of American exceptionalism, something that existed even then - whether acknowledged by those whose utopian dreams (often combined with Armageddon fantasies) led to failures on a horrific scale or not - is likewise revealed in The World Set Free. It's a point of view still popular today. At the council meeting, after the elite had solved all the world's problems in a way only they could (if only they were allowed to before it's too late) the King must turn his attention to the ridiculously infantile (though fully on-board) American...
'From this day forth, sir, man enters upon his heritage,' said the American.
'Man,' said the king, 'is always entering upon his heritage. You Americans have a peculiar weakness for anniversaries--if you will forgive me saying so. Yes--I accuse you of a lust for dramatic effect. Everything is happening always, but you want to say this or this is the real instant in time and subordinate all the others to it.'
The American said something about an epoch-making day.
'But surely,' said the king, 'you don't want us to condemn all humanity to a world-wide annual Fourth of July for ever and ever more. On account of this harmless necessary day of declarations. No conceivable day could ever deserve that. Ah! you do not know, as I do, the devastations of the memorable. My poor grandparents were--rubricated. The worst of these huge celebrations is that they break up the dignified succession of one's contemporary emotions. They interrupt. They set back. Suddenly out come the flags and fireworks, and the old enthusiasms are furbished up--and it's sheer destruction of the proper thing that ought to be going on. Sufficient unto the day is the celebration thereof. Let the dead past bury its dead. You see, in regard to the calendar, I am for democracy and you are for aristocracy. All things I hold, are august, and have a right to be lived through on their merits. No day should be sacrificed on the grave of departed events. What do you think of it, Wilhelm?'
'For the noble, yes, all days should be noble.'
'Exactly my position,' said the king, and felt pleased at what he had been saying.
Wells - and everyone who's followed him in this line of thought - has everything about his topic exactly backwards, thus exactly wrong. There actually was one - and exactly one - people's revolution in modern history that worked. If the result thus far hasn't been a utopia - especially for those who imagine themselves the only persons imaginative enough to imagine their own personal version of one - it remains something worth celebrating for ever and ever more.
Unfortunately for them the weather forecast is fine for my town in America, and the wife and I and a few thousand neighbors are taking the kids out to celebrate that anniversary to our hearts' content.
You know what five o'clock Friday means - its time for Libyan Civil War News! Air Force Times:
Air Force and Navy aircraft are still flying hundreds of strike missions over Libya despite the Obama administration's claim that American forces are playing only a limited support role in the NATO operation.I'm glad to see the military being honest about this; someone asked, they answered. If you're a reporter or a member of the US Congress and that answer shocks you, to avoid future repeats, next time you hear an Obama administration spokesperson say
"The US role is one of support," the official said, "and the kinetic pieces of that are intermittent."
- please try to continue paying attention all the way to the great big word at the end of the 15-word sentence. (Even if it's 5 o'clock on a Friday.)
Golly, maybe next Friday we'll be shocked, shocked I tell you, to learn those intermittent kinetic strike missions sometimes target Qaddafi!!
Update: Then there's this:
Obama has also argued that the conflict does not count as "hostilities" because Gaddafi's forces are so battered that they pose little threat to American air crews.
Which, I think we'll agree, has all sorts of potential future application...
We've looked at events of April 18th and 19th, 1775 from the perspective of three British soldiers, each with distinct personalities and points of view. Two were writing diaries; the outspoken young Lt John Barker and the more experienced (and circumspect) Lt Frederick Mackenzie. The third account, the narrative of Ensign Henry De Berniere, appears to have been written as an official report of events.
Now we turn to a fourth account, that of Lt. William Sutherland, of His Majesty's 38th Regiment of Foot. His is also an official report. As is obvious from the opening statement quoted above, Sutherland was an enthusiastic volunteer. In fact, he seems to have been something close to a 'stowaway' on the boats that crossed from Boston that night, only presenting himself to the leaders of the expedition on the opposite shore. They were apparently quite happy to have him along. As an officer without troops to command he became an outrider on the march, his duties included scouting ahead and rounding up any stray locals he encountered along the way. (He accomplished this task on a horse very likely confiscated from one of those unfortunate locals, though Sutherland himself fails to provide us the exact details of how his mount was obtained. Once under fire in Lexington, the horse would demonstrate either its inexperience in combat or its support of the rebel cause - depending on the sense of humor of the re-teller of Lt Sutherland's tale.)
As a scout, part of his mission was to gather intel, and among the details he relates is a mention of the capture of Paul Revere.
Spelling error aside, his reference indicates Revere was a man Sutherland believed needed no further introduction in an official report, though he did make it a point to explain (with the "why" only in context) that once captured Mitchell and company couldn't keep him. Likewise Sutherland doesn't specifically mention Revere's warning (which he would have received only second-hand), however he does provide testimony on other reports on the strength of opposition the British (more specifically: Lt Sutherland) received along the way.
Sutherland's account was unavailable to historians until the 20th Century. An explanation of its discovery is included in its original publication here. Besides being simply a good read on its own, it offers fodder for a case study in small-unit leadership and decision making in the immediate moments leading up to combat - something that contributed greatly to the day-long slaughter that followed, which in turn launched the larger war.
Of course, like the previous reports we've examined, Lt Sutherland's account can also be read simply as one of true life combat adventure, as experienced by one man on one day. An excerpt - and more recent evaluation of the document (actually two documents, compared in this effort) by Donald N. Moran can be read on the web site of the Sons of Liberty Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution here. (Moran's text also includes other rare accounts, including Major Pitcairn's official report, which, like Sutherland's, was undiscovered for 150 years.) Here we also find an effort at some evaluation of Lt Sutherland, a man who was wounded in the fighting at Concord Bridge, and who closed his report with this statement of humble apology:
However, Moran is not alone among historians in speculating that Sutherland's spirited volunteerism and detailed account indicates a man "looking for personal recognition and possibly promotion" - a consideration that can't be ignored in evaluating his report today.*
"As an aside," Moran adds, "we were interested in finding out if Lieutenant Sutherland was successful in his efforts to gain promotion."
We found a letter dated August 11th, 1775, from Mr. Frances Hutcheson to Lt. General Sir Frederick Haldimand (11). It states: "... this has made the Generals form a Company of Riflemen of which Lt. Sutherland, the pretty Mrs. Sutherland's husband, is appointed Captain" [some things never change!].
More reading for Independence Day - online in their entirety and free:
Late News of the Exursions and Ravages of the King's Troops by Harold Murdock. Includes Lt Sutherland's full report - and a second account from a "Richard Pope," a man still identified only by name today - as published in 1927. (Murdock's title is a direct reference to that of the original publication of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress' version of the story of Lexington and Concord in 1775. By the 20th century - especially post-World War I, it was safe for Americans to write histories of the Revolution wherein British soldiers weren't treated as bloodthirsty myrmidons intent on slaughtering and enslaving helpless farmers.)
"Who fired the first shot at Lexington?" by Donald Moran (including excerpts from Sutherland and several other contemporary accounts).
*Footnote: it's interesting now to evaluate Sutherland's report for commonality with reports from his seniors, to find the Lieutenant's contribution to the "official" record. In many ways his role is clear, and clearly important. (He is, for example, the first officer to report being fired on - the flash in the pan story - by rebels.) In others - including the portions quoted above - less so.
Major Pitcairn's report (see Moran) - likewise undiscovered for a century and a half, would condense Sutherland's (and any other) intel on opposing forces to "intelligence was received that about 500 men in arms were assembled, determined to oppose the Kings Troops and retard them in their march." (Consistent with, and wholly explainable by Revere's warning relayed by Mitchell.)
On this topic Lt Col Smith would report to Gage (here, along with still more accounts) only that which he himself had heard: "We found the country had intelligence or strong suspicion of our coming, and fired many signal guns, and rung the alarm bells repeatedly." In turn, Gage's first report to (Secretary of State for Colonies, in London) Dartmouth (text here - dated April 22nd) explains that "It appears from the Firing of Alarm Guns and Ringing of Bells that the March of Lieutenant Colonel Smith was discovered, and he was opposed by a Body of Men within Six Miles of Concord" - repeating only Smith's report, and near verbatim. (At that time the other reports were still being compiled. Interesting side note: In Gage's letter to Dartmouth Lexington, obviously important but perceived as incidental to strategic-level considerations - isn't even mentioned by name.)Finally, the account Gage prepared for public consumption in the Colonies reads "About 3 o'Clock the next Morning, the Troops being advanced within two Miles of Lexington, Intelligence was received that about Five Hundred Men in Arms, were assembled, and determined to oppose the King's Troops..." a direct quote from Pitcairn.
Notable, however, is something missing: nowhere in Sutherland's account (or Revere's or any others) is found any specific claim that Revere said there would be 500 men at Lexington. That detail ("at Lexington") is provided in Sutherland's quotes of his sources - the man in the sulky and the men with the wood - and from his own sighting of "a vast number of Country Militia going over the hill with their arms to Lexington." Obviously claims of 600 or 1,000 at Lexington were wrong; and if Sutherland actually saw those "vast numbers" himself they weren't bound for Lexington, where 80 militia members were assembling (and had been in town for some time) on the Green as the British advanced. However, many historians have added "at Lexington" to Revere's warning, and then done admirable jobs defending him for being wrong/bluffing etc. A noble defense on their part, indeed, and often convincingly delivered - but necessitated only by their own previous addition to the history.
Lastly, while Sutherland's other details and numbers didn't fit in the ultimate versions of events offered by those above him, his battlefield intel must have had some effect on British preparations - mental and physical - in the immediate approach to Lexington, and on their subsequent actions through Concord, too. This returns us to that case study bit mentioned above; there are lessons learned there still useful today.All done!