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We've reached the midpoint of the year, and this past week also saw the posting of the 1000th entry on the Mudville Gazette. (Disclaimer: There have been other temporary entries that have been deleted or combined, thus the number of posts is higher than the surviving entries.) Most full-time bloggers would likely consider this a low number of posts for 16 months, but such is the life of a MilBlogger - other things take priority.
Still, I determined to mark the occasion by compiling an update to a previous list done last New Years, a Mudville's Greatest Hits. Those posts that were most visited, in this case for the year 2004 to date, regardless of my personal preferences etc. This exercise admittedly began as a bit of self-congratulatory fluff, but in reviewing these entries I found a similarity in many of them that seemed especially appropriate to note in light of this week's transfer of authority in Iraq: they all dealt with media bias, in many cases a bias that seemed at cross-purposes with the goals of the US mission there.
At the that time they were current many thought that the individual media stories reviewed below were overtly anti-American. Perhaps they were. Viewed collectively the full list (along with so many others that didn't make this list) at least certainly highlights some of the difficulties faced by the Coalition in achieving its goals - difficulties presented both by the nature of warfare and global politics, and by the perception of same cultivated by a media that appears increasingly other-than neutral to a growing number of people.
I hope this compilation can serve as a launching point for future efforts, here in Mudville and elsewhere. This sort of thing should be increasingly common in a thriving blogosphere. Here in chronological order from date of publication, Mudville's Greatest Hits II.
You're Getting Warmer...
A few months before the release of the summer laugh-fest The Day After the British newspaper The Observer published a piece "exposing" a "secret Pentagon report" detailing that the earth was going to end catastrophically in a matter of a very few years due to the effects of global warming, and that the President of the United States knew it. I googled a few key names and detailed the result in the linked entry. My format for presenting the actual facts so blatantly ignored by the Guardian could probably only be used in the Blogosphere. My use of the father/son approach seemed an obvious choice to explain to those who might be tempted to take such a story at face value why a bit of further investigation might be worth their time. I was accused of shooting the messengers - a charge I was not guilty of but one that would be repeated in virtually every entry that follows below. Exposing non-factual information, presenting additional facts, revealing a lack of implied qualification of "experts" or questioning the presence of agendas that override any consideration of truth is quite different from "shooting the messenger." I have open comments for those who'd care to refute anything I say here, but dismissing fact-supported efforts with such an unsupported claim is an actual example of "shooting the messenger". (Chuckling)
Atrocities in Fallujah (and Elsewhere)
The LA Times on their decision to display graphic images from Fallujah: 'While showing the images could erode support for the war, not showing them could have an opposite effect." So they showed them. Media bias? Such issues have been raised countless times since, but it was the brutal killings of contractors in Fallujah that marked a turning point in coverage of Iraq (though perhaps it was just another bend in a long and twisted road). In the minds of many the media seems to have only one filter to determine whether graphic images will be repeated endlessly: will this help or harm the American cause? From this to Abu Ghraib to "flag-draped coffins" to beheadings of Americans and others, the filter has been used, often with the opposite of the desired effect (see "flag-draped coffins" - images that engendered support for Americans and vanished rather rapidly from the public eye) I think they tipped their hand in this self-assessment of coverage of the Fallujah episode, revealing a bias so deep they can't see it - even when it's in black and white.
I didn't "break" the story on Kos' inexcusable response to the horrors of Fallujah, but as a military blogger I was involved in coordinating a response. And I did bring to light the minor fact reported in Heh - that as with most such actions the results were a ton of publicity and a huge upswing in visitors. (Yes - ironically this entry makes Mudville's most visited list.)
UN In Action
Immediately before Seymour Hersh and 60 Minutes "discovered" the Abu Ghraib story three American prison guards were shot and killed by a fellow guard at a UN-run prison in Kosovo. Described as a "Palestinian from Jordan", the shooter was killed by return fire from others in the group he had attacked. The full story is convoluted and incomplete, and the UN apparently wants it that way. An information clampdown was imposed immediately, big media ignored the story, and to this day there have been no significant updates. Mudville began following the story here and has made numerous follow-ups. Murder by fellow UN "peacekeepers" of two American women and one man apparently isn't newsworthy. Perhaps if there were nude photos...?
If you're going to recount a series of events in hopes of clarifying what happened, chronological order is often a useful approach - perhaps the only logical one. The fact that Seymour Hersh knows this and yet jumbled the sequence in his "expose" of the events at Abu Ghraib led me to wonder what the story would read like if the facts were told in a logical manner. This is the result, and in my humble opinion it reads quite differently then Seymour's original piece. A follow up entry here was the first exposure of the connection between Hersh and one of the accused, who was the actual "leak" of the story to the press. (A connection later at least partially verified in a story buried in the New York Times)
The Greyhawk Factor
with links to the previous series on Abu Ghraib. After the timeline Hersh's appearance on O'Reilly revealed more of his agenda and several weak points in his defense of the accused torturers from Abu Ghraib.
Abu Ghraib was an aberration, a tragic and horrible consequence of war. Those who would distort the truth or obstruct it's discovery for their own personal or political gain should be (at the very least) exposed. Mudville led the way in watchdogging the media on this issue, but that watchdog function is a rapidly developing role of the blogosphere in current events, and one at which an increasing number of bloggers excel.
Media spin was virtually out of control by this point, and knowing who was attempting legitimate reporting, who was being deceptive, and who was being deceived was perhaps completely and utterly impossible. In this "watchdog" function there's a fine line between desire for finding the truth and sheer paranoia, but sadly, previous examples cited above might lead one to believe an agenda was being pursued.
Shortly after, the first of the beheading videos made its way onto the internet. The issues of what images should and shouldn't be shown and who is responsible for the actions of others were debated anew. And so it goes.
But arguably, the images question as framed today dates back to 911 (don't most issues?), when networks decided to stop replaying the coverage out of stated concerns for the sensitivity of the audience. I note with some pride that the most visited page in Mudville in 2004 was actually first posted in September 2003 marking the anniversary of that tragic day. Unlike the stories above, this one has not been linked by any "giants" of the blogosphere, has apparently risen to the top on it's own merit and virtual "word of mouth". It's also a story I certainly don't consider "mine" as it's a recounting of the heroism of one man on that day. Rick Rescorla's name should live forever.
Popularity of entries determined by hit count on 30 June 2004 as determined by onestat sitemeter.
If a tree falls in the blogosphere and no one links, does anyone care? Special thanks to the many referrers who made these pages the most visited. In random order:
And if it weren't for readers I'd never be read. Thanks to you for being here.
I've almost completed Gods and Generals. A great read, I'm continually pleased at how applicable to today I find incidents in this fictionalized account of the early months of the civil war, first published in 1996.
Here's a passage detailing a faculty meeting at Bowdoin College, in which Professor Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain responds to colleagues regarding issues they have with his recent lectures:
"Professor Chamberlain, we have received some... somewhat disturbing reports. Please understand, this administration is not attempting to guide you in any direction. In fact, it is widely known here that your teaching is top of the line... first rate. You are highly thought of... most highly."
Chamberlain waited, began to get impatient. "Sir, if you don't mind, can you tell me the nature of these complaints?"
Woods looked uncomfortable, glanced over at Caldwell, who said, "Professor, I have the highest regard for your abilities. But several of the faculty members have been hearing reports of some unusual discussions... unorthodox goings-on in your classroom. It is said that your views on this war--"
"Your views on this war are causing some disruption in this school." Chamberlain looked for the voice, saw a man lean forward from the far corner, Dr. Givens, the old mathematics professor, thin wisps of white hair scattered over a pale spotted scalp.
"Professor Chamberlain?" Woods saw the need to speak up, and took charge. "Have you been advising your students to volunteer for the army?"
Chamberlain looked around the room, saw the stern old faces, and the small smiling face of Grodin. He looked at Woods, saw the weary expression of a man who has better things to do.
"President Woods I have expressed to my students that there is a significance to the events down South.. that it is quite likely our nation is in jeopardy. I have not had to recommend to anyone on what course they should follow, they are quite capable of deciding for themselves."
"Ridiculous!" It was Givens, and he stood up, a bent old man, pointed at Chamberlain and said, "Wars are not fought by children! Young man, if you care about the well-being of this institution, then your time could be better spent teaching these students to consider the greater good!"
Chamberlain stared at the man, tried to understand what he was talking about. "The greater good?"
"This college! The enrollment. What is going to happen to this fine institution if the students rush off and join the army? It's madness! What of their futures? You're teaching them foolishness!"
Woods raised his hands, leaned towards Givens, said, "Please, Doctor, we are all gentlemen here. Your point is understood..."
"No, Dr. Woods, I'm afraid his point is not understood at all." Chamberlain stood up, could see Givens now, small in his distant chair.
"Wars are indeed fought by children, by young people who have little say in where they are sent to die. The greater good? These students may not have a greater good if this nation is dissolved. If this war goes on we will all feel the consequences, whether we understand them or not. It is our job, our responsibility, to prepare these young people for life out there... outside these buildings. And right now that life is very uncertain. I'm sorry if you feel your responsibility ends in the classroom."
Caldwell stood, did not look at Chamberlain, spoke to Woods. "I'm sure that Professor Chamberlain will concede that there is not much that any of us can do that will affect the outcome of this war. The government's problems go well beyond the needs and influences of one small college. Dr. Woods, we have made a great deal of progress in building the reputation of Bowdoin as a place where students may come to receive a modern and practical education,. Professor Chamberlain has contributed greatly to that reputation, and will continue to do so. Certainly he can understand the benefits of not allowing himself to be sidetracked by issues that are so far removed from that goal."
"With all respect to you, Dr. Caldwell..." Chamberlain paused, spoke slowly. "If we attempt to teach these students that the most important lessons they will learn are the lessons to be found within these buildings, then we have done them a most serious injustice. And they will discover that quickly, once they leave here. You.. some of you may be satisfied with the with the job you do, you may pat yourselves on the back after your daily lectures and sit back in your offices, confident that you have done some great service for our young people, but I am having an increasing difficulty with that. Right now... there are professors, men just like us, just as educated, and just as experienced, who are facing their students at the University of Georgia, or the University of Virginia, and telling them that the course their rebellious states are following is the right one, and that they are growing up into a world where the concept of the United States and a Federal government, and the Constitution, and... even the concept of individual freedom for all men, will have no meaning, are obsolete. They will study the history of the United States of America just as we now study the history of England. I'm sorry, gentlemen, I cannot stay focused on my lectures on oratory, or my lessons in German semantics, and pretend that the outcome of this war has no significance."
Is there nothing new under the sun?
A real-life hero, Chamberlain joined the army, fought throughout the war, was wounded six times (once fatally), earned the Medal of Honor for his service at Gettysburg, and became four-term governor of Maine. His heroic tradition is followed by American college professors to this day.
Wounded once fatally? Yes, he died in 1914 of that wound.
But the best introduction to the man may be via the Shaara books. And a great place to obtain them is the author's web site, where Jeff Shaara-autographed versions are available. The site also includes a biography of Michael Shaara, a man whose true genius was virtually unrecognized until after he passed away.
It's Freedom Week in Mudville.
The transfer of power has occurred in Iraq. June 30? Looks like Bush lied.
Want to thank those individuals who made it possible, at great cost to themselves? Soldier's Angels has details on how you can send a few morale-boosting items to the wounded in the hospital at Landstuhl, Germany.
And this week, as we mark the beginning of independence for Iraq and the anniversary of independence in America seems a fine opportunity to do so.
A couple quick notes from someone with first-hand experience with military mail:
The direct mailing address for Chaplain Young at Landstuhl is a military APO. Postage for sending items to him will be about the same as for shipping to New York. The US Post Office gets the package that far, the military takes over after that. So the cost is fairly low for sending something to Europe.
That said, I'd highly advise any one considering such a direct contribution to send via Priority Mail - cost is only slightly higher, and the transit time will be a few days, as opposed to several weeks for "regular" mail.
Obviously perishables should not be sent. And other rules and regulations govern what can and can't be shipped. And if you send a package you'll need to fill out a brief customs form. These are really minor inconveniences - the whole process isn't much more difficult than sending gifts to grandma at Christmas (less so - the lines aren't long now).
But you may prefer to send a donation to Soldiers Angels, who have gotten pretty good at getting what's needed to where it's needed in minimum time. (Yes, they've got a paypal link.)
It's Freedom Week in Mudville, and wherever you are I hope you're celebrating freedom this week too. And whatever method you choose, please consider contributing something to the folks who made it possible.
Update (An e-mail suggestion to clarify): The wounded at Landstuhl are from Iraq and Afghanistan. They are shipped there after emergency treatment at their forward locations.
There's a certain type of salad dressing my daughter likes, and they don't carry it in the commissaries in Europe. These minor little sacrifices are numerous, and don't amount to much, but tasting the foods we've done without serve to add to that feeling of "it's good to be home" - that feeling that set in upon wake up from our first 12-hour sleep here.
Little tastes of home - mom's cooking can't be beat for most folks, but there are some store-bought things you miss too. Minor things that some might call silly - a specific flavor of Pop Tarts, a type of candy, a brand of ice cream, (mmmm... Wendy's Frosty...) or even a variety of "healthy snacks" - the stores can't keep up with demand for low-carb products, for instance.
Coincidentally, I just swapped a couple of e-mails with Patti of Soldier's Angels who reports on efforts to supply just that sort of thing to the wounded troops at Landstuhl:
...we sent 50 cases of oatmeal pop tarts trail mix and asst power bars off along with clothing items... we sent 1000 dollars to the nurse there she will buy supplies. We will make sure our heroes are taken care of
As I said, it's a little thing. I'm sure that as June 30th and July 4th approach the wounded in the beds at Landstuhl will gain satisfaction in their accomplishment with or without Power Bars and other snacks to nibble on. And those who have access to their pay can certainly buy their own candy for that 12-hour gap betwen dinner and breakfast - assuming the small shopette at the hospital is able to keep up with demand.
So there's really no reason at all to support Soldier's Angels in their efforts. I mean, it's not like we don't care about the troops, right? They're always in our thoughts. And on top of that great Army chow if a thousand bucks and 50 cases of Pop Tarts isn't thanks enough then there's probably just no satisfying them...
You disagree? Don't argue, just click here surf the site a bit, and decide what you can do. They don't have a specific "snacks for the troops" fund yet, but if you send a couple bucks their way I'm sure they'll put it to the best possible use.
Maybe I'll skip a Frosty or two...
Update: More here
Don't fret, those of you who may be chained to some desk somewhere, I feel your pain and offer you this image as diversion. In fact, I thank you for taking the time to join me on my little vacation.
The weekend is near...
More travels with Greyhawk in search of America.
"Stand your ground; don't fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here."
- Captain John Parker, 19 April 1775, to the Minute Men at Lexington
Captain Parker was addressing his 77 men as a lengthy column of British regulars approached the village green. Moments later the American Revolution began in earnest. Everything about the quote is uniquely American, to the point I doubt few from other nations would even know why.
I was reminded of the quote by an episode from a series I caught by pure chance on PBS. Rebels and Redcoats, the story of the American Revolution from a British perspective. I enjoyed the show, it offered insights as to how at least some members of the British media view America, but to make a long story short the producers either just don't get it, or choose to pretend they don't. Memo to Europe: It's this simple, Americans didn't want a King. Still don't. That's concept number one you must grasp in order to gain any further insight into our national psyche.
It's apparent that many Europeans don't get it. A minor illustration: during the tour of Heidelberg Castle the guide points out a portrait of the last ruler of the castle, decked in his finest robes, from somewhere around the late 18th to early 19th centuries. "Many Americans say he looks something like George Washington" the guide notes. Perhaps, but only as far as the powdered wig. The Father of our Country wouldn't be caught dead in royal raiment, had in fact declined a possible crown. Americans don't tolerate that sort of ruler. A subtle miscue on the part of our guide, but to be honest he stated that Americans had first brought this to his attention. So perhaps some Americans are equally lacking in an understanding of their cultural heritage.
Hopefully they won't use the Rebels and Redcoats series as a foundation. The BBC program referred to the Revolution as a "Civil War" - fine, it announced from the start its British perspective. But it also compared the Minutemen to the Viet Cong and the Mujahadeen, after first duly noting that such comparisons shouldn't be made. Bad TV? Perhaps. But I couldn't stop watching. I miss having the PBS option in Europe.
In contrast, it took me two seconds to flip past Jerry Springer. I didn't even know he was still on. Another unwanted welcome back to America. Those who claim that the Abu-Ghraib gang were ignorant Hilljacks too stupid to have come up with their torture methods without the aid of a "mastermind" need only watch any single episode of Jerry Jerry Jerry to realize the ridiculousness of their assertions. Like I said, two seconds...
I caught a bit more than two seconds of the Clinton/Oprah lovefest on the tube the other day, and considered breaking my vow of not touching political/"heavy" topics here for a while. I don't want to dislike Clinton - and I refuse to be like the many rabid members of the anti-Bush because he's Bush crowd. But there was something unbecoming in his performance on Oprah, beyond his mere McLuhan-moment presence there. Although his cries of victimhood and his good vs evil defense (I don't recall that approach during his term. An historical re-write? An option stolen from the Bush playbook, and applied in circumstances far less well defined?) may have seemed Presidential to some segment of the American population, it struck me as anything but.
I suppose that perhaps a book review or a comment on television in America wouldn't count as heavy, would it? (Or does that depend on what you definition of the word "is" is?)
Fortunately, Hugh Hewitt saved me the trouble of violating my oath. He saw the same things I did, and isn't on vacation.
Watching television is another bit of mild reverse-culture shock, and is something I will spend little time doing while in America. I will read though. I don't lack for reading matter in Europe but I do lack time. I spent my transatlantic flight reading, with classical music playing in my headphones, ignoring the movies (Calendar Girls, Open Range, other forgettable fare) and television (Happy Days and some other '70's shows) that Air France offered.
(And for balance, here are some nice things about Air France: The wine was good, and was offered at no additional cost. And they didn't lose my luggage.)
So now, across the country everyone's asking: "What's Greyhawk reading while on vacation?"
Why, blogs, of course. As many as I can, given time and a low-speed dial-up modem connection to the internet. (Rendered slower still by what the Mrs. suspects may be terrorist squirrel attacks on the phone lines in the attic. They always go for the infrastructure.) But also books - those always handy results of the sacrifice of trees. Those glorious gifts from Gutenberg.
I finished The Killer Angels, Michael Shaara's fictionalized account of the battle of Gettysburg on the flight over. I liked it enough to grab a copy of Gods and Generals, the prequel written by the deceased author's son, in hopes the younger Mr. Shaara is as riveting as his father. Given the number of subsequent titles I must assume he's doing something right. (And yes I've seen both movies. They're excellent, the books are better.) Gods and Generals contains about 100 pages prior to those used for the first scenes of the movie.
An excerpt, from a pre-war conversation between Captain Winfield Scott Hancock, USA, and a civic leader in Los Angeles:
"Captain, have you seen Hamilton's newspaper this week? The Star?"
"No, missed it."
That damned idiot. He's filling his paper with all kinds of stories about what's happening back East, the election and all. I know him, he thinks he's fair, I suppose. But he's the only news these people have about Washington. I get letters, some correspondence from Delaware, friends in New York, a great deal of commotion about the election, none of it too positive, but then I read about the same events in Hamilton's "news" and I see his slant, his opinions coming through. And that, Captain, is where your troubles might come from."
"About the election? What kind of trouble?"
"This fellow Lincoln, this Republican... he's got a strong following in the North. Too strong, probably. The Democrats are splitting up, fighting it out with each other. From what I can gather, the Southern cause is hurting itself. But when you read Hamilton, you see Lincoln as the devil himself, and the election as a vote to preserve the America way of life. That kind of rhetoric talks to people's passions, not their good sense."
"What Lincoln is doing is responding. There are vast numbers of... idiots - yes, that's the word - in these state governments, who believe that they can make a good speech, rouse the people into a rebellion and defy... defy the word of God!"
Jackson sat still, absorbed the old man's words, felt confused. "The word of God?"
"Major, this country was founded by good Christian men, on the principles of equality, justice, and all of it under God. That has never been done before, never, in the history of the world! This country is God's model, God's message to the rest of the world. 'Look here! We are God's chosen land, this is how God intends man to be governed.'"
"Colonel, they don't believe I can run this department anymore, that my days are numbered. But - they don't know how to run it either."
"The President. The new administration. Let me tell you, Colonel, they have their hands full of troubles. Full. This man Lincoln... good man. I think. If he gets a chance to... well, if the radicals don't drown him out... there's quite a few people around here that think old Davy Twiggs is a traitor, would have him shot. Would probably have had all of them shot. Probably wouldn't have hesitated, like you just did."
"Who knows, Colonel - moral outrage, the love of country, the damned flag? People like to be inflamed, get their dander up, and the problem is, it's too easy. It's too easy to make a speech up in New York and scream about killing the rebels when you don't have to look 'em in the eye. Hell, Colonel, you've seen men die. It's not something you get all fired up to enjoy."
"No sir, but I believe there is some of that same... passion in the South. I saw it in Texas, men who just want to fight, to strike out at something, you can see it in the eyes."
Historical fiction, as I said. But as far as food-for-thought goes, this is a well balanced meal. The book is from 1996, by the way, so any resemblance to current events is purely coincidental.
Here's a quote attributed to Churchill, appended to The Killer Angels:
"Thus ended the great American Civil War, which must on the whole be considered the noblest and least avoidable of all the great mass conflicts of which till then there was record."
An interesting perspective from across the Atlantic and through the lens of time.
I've mentioned this before: the red, blue, white, and grey colors of this blog are the colors of the first American Civil War. (Though some of our British cousins may think it the second.) I prefer to think it would be our only one, but our nation is one born of conflict, and disagreement is certainly a by-product of freedom of speech. It's a wonder we don't come to blows more often than we do. More often than not the cooler heads prevail.
And there you have it, America from Revolution to Civil War to now. Heavy? Perhaps, but I suppose history is a hobby of mine. But I'll seek out other subjects too. I never read one book at a time, and this is a long vacation, (and one in which I'll spend equal time north and south of the Mason/Dixon) so here's what's on tap: books by bloggers.
Something from Roger L Simon, to be sure. Having read his blog and even swapped a couple brief e-mails with him I think I'll try something lengthier. I might even track down a movie or two with his name in the credits. (Note of mild irony: Roger is traveling too, visiting a small corner of my world. I look forward to seeing the result.)
For non-fiction, a Hugh Hewitt offering. In But Not Of, I'm looking forward to his next one too. It will be titled If its Not Close They Can't Cheat, and I don't think it's a sequel to Seabiscuit. Blogs are mentioned in both books, I'm told.
And for those who were wondering about that classical music reference above, I'll be listening to Rock and Country too. I enjoy them all. Ain't that America?
You can never have too many Marines.
Travels with Greyhawk in Search of America (continued)
The vacation is on. These pictures are from Father's Day, a rare one for the Mrs., she actually got to spend it with her dad.
The day prior? The Zoo. Something struck me as funny about seeing animals from all around the world so soon after seeing so many people from around the world in the airport in Paris. There was a bit more international appearance to the people of my hometown these days too. I picked up snippets of Spanish and Japanese while viewing the many creatures great and small.
And some conversations in Idiotarian. I began the day by intentionally misidentifying seals as penguins. "Look kids, penguins!" and they joined with me in referring to them as penguins for the remainder of the two minutes before the sea of humanity moved us on to the next exhibit. I planned on identifying everything as a penguin up until the moment I saw the penguins, then exclaim "What the heck are those?". Mindless dad-taunting of the kids.
My plan fizzled after hearing people misidentify animals everywhere. They were close to being right, but not quite. Forgivable, except the names of the creatures were there for all the world to see. They unintentionally sucked all the fun out of my pretending to be stupid. And no, they weren't playing my game.
They were topped by the family of five or so large-proportioned folks (not that there's anything wrong with that) whose youngest (early teen, I'd guess) was observed taunting a curious emu (often misidentified as an ostrich) who'd wandered too close to the border of its protective enclosure. Junior was snapping his fingers in the Emu's face, shouting "hey" - to what desired goal I'm not sure. A slightly (no more than 50 pounds) bigger sister snuck up on him and shoved him with a punch towards his intended victim. He shrieked a little. His whole family laughed as they walked away, the emu just starred without any response after them.
Google "emu" and one of the top links will be to Eastern Mennonite University. Home of the Fighting Emu? No - home of the Royals, whose mascot is the lion, which is also the name and mascot of the Ramstein High School teams in Germany - but I digress. But coincidentally I did see quite a few Mennonites at the Zoo. (For those unfamiliar, these are people, not exhibits) though since they weren't wearing signs declaring their beliefs they might as well have been Amish, for all I know. I experienced a great moment of pride in America, where such folks could worship as they choose. Yes, corny, I know, but it is something we take for granted, and I assure you it isn't the case in lands ruled by the Panda Cult. (Speaking of which - there were no Pandas at the zoo.)
It took me a while to figure out something different about the Mennonite woman - besides the manner of dress; they had grey hair. I rarely see grey hair on women these days. Most American women generally maintain their original color and Europeans have adopted a bright red or purple hue. Draw your own conclusions.
All in all, it was indeed, a zoo.
As was the mall. My sixteen-year-old daughter has been deprived of this uniquely American experience for some time, and it was high on her list of things to do. What incredible culture shock we experienced strolling past the T-Online kiosks and the Birkenstock boutiques.
We all own a pair or two already, of course, but she and her younger sister did find some other things to buy. Recall my ATM story? Turns out I didn't withdraw enough. Cha-ching!
Speaking of little sister, she's likely the champion fisher in the family. Thirteen years, three continents, three states, eight years of school in four different systems. She adapts.
She caught two that day. If I spend all I've got on zoovenirs and mall food I'll be able to depend on her to keep us fed.
While vacationing I'll not likely be covering the "heavy" sort of topics here, so barring something that really gets my attention you'll see no news or politics under this banner for a while. (Well, a "best of" sort of post perhaps...) But don't worry, I'm recharging the batteries, as they say, for big things yet to come.
Mmmm... the coast. I hope to enjoy some time on a beach sometime soon...
Another image from travel, this from the international holding pen at Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport. Travelers arriving, departing, or just stopping by on their way elsewhere will be able to experience the fullness of French hospitality in these deluxe lounge chairs.
I thought they defined discomfort, until I found my seat on the Air France trans-Atlantic flight. Oh well - c'est la vie, as they say. That's life.
Not far from this solid steel torture rack the World Wildlife Fund had set up a display, a large hollow plastic globe playfully held aloft by a panda, symbol of the group. The contents of the ball? Currency from all around the world. A fundraiser, of course, an opportunity to get rid of that last bit of whatever sort of money in your pocket prior to going to a land where it's unrecognized.
Shortly after claiming our seats in the waiting area a group of three men approached this object and carefully spread a prayer rug out before it. One by one they took turns kneeling and bowing repeatedly.
I'll not speculate here as to their religion or what direction they were facing, and I tolerate observers of all religions. But I couldn't help but mention to my children (teenagers all) to make sure they didn't miss the worshippers paying public respects to their Panda God.
"No dad. They're worshipping the almighty money."
Yes - I'd missed the obvious.
Before you accuse me of callous disregard for the rites of others, please allow me to plead "guilty" - but note the lack of photos of this strange behavior of the members of the Panda Cult. I have to draw the line somewhere.
Actually, I enjoyed the few hours I spent at Charles de Gaulle, wandering about and encountering people from all over the world, all races, all religions, all colors, all languages, all united (judging by their similarity of expression) in their dislike of cross-time zone travel and the accommodations provided by the French.
And praise be to the powerful Panda, we had options for food:
Greetings from somewhere in the USA - it's good to be home, dial-up connection and all.
A quick and true story, with more to follow:
Arrived at the airport Atlanta, jet lagged and weary from 17-odd hours of trans-Atlantic travel, and without the amount of American dollars I wanted. So I set off to find an ATM, couldn't, and finally one of the kids said "ask her" while pointing to a lady in an information booth.
This "ask someone" approach is a last resort for me, especially in Europe where a language barrier can result in you being farther from your destination after following what you thought were accurate directions. But this is AMERICA! No language barrier!
So I approach the young lady, smiling, and say: "I need to find a..." and that's when I realized that after two years overseas and hours of sleepless travel in coach I couldn't remember how to say in English what I wanted. I had forgotten the American term for what the Germans call a Geldautomat!
"Um... uh.." I sputtered, "one of those machines that gives you money..." she's looking at me like I'm at least strange and possibly dangerous, and maybe considering calling the homeland security folks that had just welcomed me home, but suddenly I see the lightbulb come on over her head.
"An ATM?" She asks.
"Yes, that's it, an ATM!" I turn to the kids. "Kids, in America geldautomats are called ATMs!" And now they look at me like I'm worthy of concern. But they're also pointing, as is the nice young lady, at the ATM machines three feet down the wall from the information booth.
"Ahh yes, there they are, thanks." And they work like a charm. (Though I'd forgotten about that 1.50 charge for the privilege.)
It's good to be home.
More to come.
In a loosely related story, I'm travelling towards the good ol' USA too.
More to come.
Yesterday was Flag Day. And, of course, the 'birthday' of the US Army.
Then welcome Kratesis on Travel to the MilBlogs ring. She's apparently heading for Hook's part of the world too. Her description of the Blog: "Just daily ramblings of a disgruntled IRR soldier leaving her way of life to rejoin the military."
In contrast, another new MilBlogger describes her blog this way: "I don't wear the uniform, I just iron it. My life of Kids, Cleaning, and Chaos." The site's called Just an Army Wife, though personally I'd never use 'just' to describe any military spouse - their contribution is enormous.
Come to think of it, the Kratesis description includes 'just' also. I propose this alternative to both: "Humbly sacrificing personal goals and ambitions to secure the benefits of civilization for future generations".
A salute to soldiers and their spouses everywhere.
A belated happy birthday to the Army.
The post below was started long ago. In fact, it's an excerpt from a much longer effort, part of which is linked here. The latest addition? The photos of the scenes along the run. The entry was always intended to be a photoblog piece, but I credit Blackfive (who photoblogs his run here) with reminding me to finish (or at least come closer to finishing) what I'd started.
Hope you enjoy.
Update: It occurs to me we may have begun a theme here, so if anyone else out there has a photo running tour posted please let me know. If not, then get out from behind that computer and start!
Run with me.
Don't worry if you haven't lately, or don't have the right shoes, this run won't hurt a bit. It's virtual, of course. You can be 10 again, or 12, or whatever age you were when last you ran for the sheer joy of it. I run for many different reasons now and joy is still one of them. I'm grateful that I can run. There's joy in that. I've planned a route. Ready?
We're out the door. We walk across the patio, turn the corner around the house, and in three steps we are in the woods. Here we can start to jog, to warm up. The path under our feet is soft and smooth, the smells are of pine rather then the car exhaust and until we begin breathing harder later the loudest sounds we'll hear are the call of birds.
I start my watch, but the time is important today only as to total duration of this run. It's a short one - half an hour at a fairly easy pace - distance is not important but the hills along the route will separate this endeavor from a truly easy day. This initial stretch is flat though, the surface soft and smooth as I said, and will serve to work out the stiffness and minor aches that keep others on the couch.
A quarter mile through the woods and the scenery changes as we emerge from the trees and enter the farm country, our path now an unpaved 'road' between a horse pasture and a planted field. The surface is flat but uneven, closer attention must be paid to ankle-twisting ground below, especially those stretches where tire ruts are deepest. This is not a traveled road, so grass grows tall and disguises treacherous footing. But eyes can not remain on the ground; we run along a hillside, and though only half way up the view is fine. Hills roll in the distance on the far side of the valley below, fading from green to purple to grey in the distance. On roads below a few cars seem like toys and move slowly through the countryside. The entire scene, even the viewing perspective, is like looking at a model railroad layout on a table. A Gods-eye view of pastoral country, quiet and serene. The parallel to hill country in my past is unmistakable.
A tree line ahead marks the turning point in the trail. We're only a half mile along, but we've been speeding up ever so slightly as we've gone. Now we must think slower as a left turn takes us in an uphill direction. Running at our current pace on this early incline will render the remaining distance a bit uncomfortable. Not a steep hill, but a quarter mile at an increasing grade will still start the real heart rate increase and elevated breathing rate that indicate an entry into "the zone" - the just beyond comfort level I'd like to maintain for the duration of this run. The hilltop is in sight, a final push and we're there.
A ridgeline actually, with a paved, single lane road running along it, a mile-long strip of concrete connecting two small towns. Turn a 360 while jogging in place and claim the reward for every hill climb you'll ever complete: the view.
Ahead the little town grows closer. I'd seen it many times from above, a postage-stamp size town from that perspective, looking for all the world like the perfect German version of a Courier and Ives postcard village offering a year-round look at life in four seasons. Snow-covered winter with smoke curling upward from chimneys gives way to spring when the fields stretched out along the valley are brought to life. Summer arrives and the ground becomes a verdant patchwork green.
Autumn follows and the fruit trees planted neatly like soldiers in formation on the hillside are ready for the harvest. I'd never visited this side of the ridgeline until just a couple days ago when I saw the village transform from matchbox town to real as I descended on this road. Now we enter it together. See the large, two story houses on either side of us? Old but solid, and the closer to center we get the older they appear. These small German towns survived two World Wars, mostly without physical damage; the battlegrounds were in other countries and there was no industry here to attract allied bombs.
The comparison to hill country towns in America is unavoidable, inescapable. Homes, small shops, and people appear virtually indistinguishable from their counterparts across the Atlantic. Slight variations in architecture and clothing, and Opels instead of Chevys in the streets, but otherwise I'm sure I've found the archetype for many a small American community.
I have a high-detail Atlas of this part of Germany back at the house. Even though it's highway system is the envy of the world, the vast majority of Germany's roads are narrow country lanes, often unpaved and rarely traveled by traffic faster then bicycles. The countryside is crisscrossed with these roads, utopian for those like me who consider the run or ride through this scenic beauty as the highpoint to plan a day around. I scouted the route the other day, before that first trip through this town. I couldn't resist when I saw the symbol for "monument" on the map in the village center. What sort of monument could such a small town boast? Surely there were no more then one hundred homes here, and a hand full of shops. I had an idea what I would find, and mostly I was right. We're approaching it now.
The paved road beneath our feet is leveling out from the downhill, the effort required to maintain forward motion is increasing. A different set of muscles is in use. My stride is returning to "normal". Around the slight bend ahead is the center of town, and though we've said hello to a few folks along the way so far no cars have passed to force us to the side of the road. We'll slow our pace now to prepare for a brief stop at the monument ahead.
And there it is, just across the main street that intersects this one at the center of town. A small fenced area, gravel covered with nice garden type landscaping and a couple benches facing a five-column memorial. The center column is about fifteen feet tall, capped with a crucifix, and bears two dates. I'd assume the first is the founding of the town and the second the date of the erection of this memorial, though based on the state of the engraving on the other four columns it appears older then it reads.
Those other four columns bear lists of names below years. 1914 is the first year listed, then 1915 and so on, until about halfway down the second column a jump from 1918 to 1940. A 22-year break from war deaths, then increasing numbers for every year of the Second World War. Fifty-six names in total, the dead of two world wars from a town that now, 60 years later, consists of about 100 homes, perhaps a few more or less.
What a price to pay. Could any of the few families of this town be untouched? Most of the twenty or so last names are repeated. The last name listed first below 1914 is Schneider, and six more follow, four in the first war and 3 in the second. The supply of Schneiders was lower then, perhaps? Klinks, Wagners, Braums and others are listed. All German names, but all of which can be found in any American phonebook, or any American military graveyard.
My heart rate is slowing; we must resume our run soon. But note this: the last year listed is 1947, though hostilities in Europe ceased in 1945. Are the additional dead based on the year they died, or the year their deaths were discovered? Did they die then from wounds received years before in combat?
All I have are the names. No cause of death, no place of death. France? Germany? Russia? Poland? Jeep wreck, gunshot, plane crash, disease? The people of this town don't need that, I suppose. They know. And this strange American in their midst will not ask them. Not today. A quick prayer then and we're off on a different road out of the town.
It does not take long to exit that speck of a village, that small cluster of humanity that seems to have paid a high price for the madness of a few. The road rises slowly out of the valley once the last of the homes of the Schneiders are behind us. We are gradually climbing up the far side of the narrow valley from which we entered. We are passing the fields and orchards we viewed as a distant patchwork quilt from the opposite ridgeline, and the incline is becoming steep. There are no farm houses here, for farmers live in the villages and work the fields. Currently there are no farmers out; we have the world to ourselves here.
Save energy, for after this long steady climb we'll have a choice. We could enjoy the view briefly then turn and take a straight and steep route back into the valley, then immediately climb straight to the top of the first ridge, then down to home. This is the shortest route, but neither the climb nor the descents are easy. The other option involves following this road, which you may notice is now rough and crumbling pavement, along the ridgeline through about 3/4 of a mile of dense and scenic woods to where it intersects the first ridge, then following the road along that ridge to our point we first joined it, then down the hill to home. Slightly longer but no steep climb. We can decide once we hit the top. We can't stop now though, we must after all, get home.
Please don't complain. After all, you agreed to join me on this run. You may feel better if you take in the view as we climb out of the valley. Spectacular. And not uncommon for this area. This beautiful and now serene part of the world has changed hands a few times in a once seemingly endless series of wars between Germany and France, and clearly a significant number of people in that town below us felt it was worth dying for.
I researched the name Schneider after my first visit there. It's literal translation into English is cutter, but its meaning is actually "German, occupational name referred to the tailor who made and sold outer garments." So Taylor then, for the English equivalent. I don't know any Schneiders, nor any Taylors, though I'm sure I've met several over the years.
Keep moving... we're almost at the top...
Did you know 17 Schneiders have their names etched in stone on the Vietnam Memorial Wall? I started counting 'Taylors' too but quit after 60. Seventeen Schneiders died for America in Vietnam. None were from West Virginia. Parts of Germany look a lot like West Virginia. I have an uncle who agrees with this. He spent some of WWII here as a POW.
Top of the hill at last, and I don't know about you but I'm sucking air and my heart's pounding like a jackhammer. A cliche, I know, but true, so I said it, though I can't talk too well right now. We'll go slowly until we return from this anaerobic intensity level, okay?
During Vietnam, West Virginia had the highest casualty rate in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. The state had 711 casualties -- 39.9 deaths per 100,000 people.
I did not know that before today. Just discovered that fact on The Wall page. West Virginia rightfully doesn't brag about it.
When my grandmother passed away some years ago the family spent long hours in that house on the hill sorting her lifetime's accumulation of things. My wife found a bible that belonged to my uncle - he did not want it. It's a hardcover, but showing its age, and probably signs of the rigors of its journey to that house. It's English language, King James Version...
And stamped on the inside cover is the imprint of the Stalag where he spent the latter part of WWII, having been shot down over Germany on a fighter mission.
I've brought that book back to Germany where it sits on a shelf in my living room. near a picture of my father in his army uniform from WWII and my Grandfather in uniform from WWI.
In my living room in a house in a small town in Germany; surrounded by hills and forest and tranquil beauty. What would be the thoughts of those who made this possible, at such high cost, to look upon this now?
Look at the view now. Did I promise you it would be worth the climb? You can see nearly the whole course we've run, stretched out behind us and over there on the far ridgeline. And look there, that's the road home, the route is in plain view. Or that longer route, if you'd prefer. It's mostly viewable except for the bit in the trees up ahead. I always tire a little in the valleys, when so little of the course is in sight. How is it I get an energy boost at the top of the hills when I can see the entire road, where I've been and where I'm going? Why are the valley roads sometimes such a chore? I know the road is there, why do I need to see it?
Part of the human condition I suppose. Come, rest awaits us at home, by the fire.
Though we've still got a long way to run.
The video game industry will find them, and transform them into vicious, bloodthirsty killers, while convincing them that war is fun.
"RPG! They've got an RPG!" hollers the team leader of a four-man U.S. Army infantry squad hiding behind a beat-up car on this battle-ridden street.
Pfssssft! KER-Boom! The rocket-propelled grenade overshoots the troops. "That's not the way it went in training," one soldier says, and they continue policing the streets of this Middle Eastern country.
The scenario sounds like a report transmitted from a television crew in Iraq. But it's actually from Full Spectrum Warrior, a new video game for Microsoft's Xbox.
The game, out less than a week, is the latest in a stream of increasingly realistic war games. And it's likely to add fuel to the controversy about games and violence.
Today's ultrarealistic games such as Warrior play like an interactive version of Black Hawk Down. However, some observers are critical of the combat-gaming trend, saying the games can mislead players into viewing war as fun, particularly among the target audience of young men.
Usually we must wait 'til near Christmas for assaults on the fun toys, but fortunately for ignorant, impressionable, and gullible young men everywhere USA Today reporter Mike Snyder is on a mission to save them. Though apparently lacking first hand knowledge, Mike gets quotes from Mary Spio, a gal whose credibility is seemingly enhanced by her Air Force service during the early 1990's:
Mary Spio, 31, who served in the U.S. Air Force during the first Gulf War, thinks video games can create a bloodlust. "What we saw in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal was the tip of the iceberg ? it was a glimpse of a generation of war gamers coming of age," says Spio, now the pop culture editor for One2One Magazine.
"Video games that allow players to kill real human beings are desensitizing generations of American society," she says.
I don't usually read too much after the requisite "Abu Ghraib" paragraph in any news story, but you can go read the whole thing if you'd like.
Afterwards you can vent your hostilities by playing the Army's own online wargame, via the link conveniently provided in the USA Today piece.
And if after that you use your dog to terrify your neighbors into forming a naked human pyramid while you take digital video we'll blame USA Today.
Almost unremarked in the wake of another funeral this week, but far from unremarkable, the final days came this week for a courageous man who lost a battle with liver disease.
Mike Clausen, of course. As reported in the Washington Post.
Mike Clausen Jr., 56, who died in a Dallas hospital May 30 of liver failure, received the Medal of Honor, the highest military award for valor, for rescuing a platoon of Marines trapped in a minefield during the Vietnam War.
In the Marine Corps, Pfc. Clausen liked to disobey authority; he had repeatedly been demoted after every promotion.
"I will come home a live private before coming home as a dead sergeant," he had said.
On Jan. 31, 1970, he seemed to have forgotten his credo.
That day, he was serving with Medium Helicopter Squadron 263. He was part of a mission to extract members of a Marine platoon near Da Nang that had wandered into a minefield while attacking the enemy. They were under heavy fire and frozen in their places, fearing that they would trip a mine.
Mr. Clausen was crew chief of his CH-46 helicopter and guided the pilot to a safe landing in a spot that had been cleared by a mine explosion.
The pilot told him not to leave, but Pfc. Clausen ignored him -- six times, as he repeatedly left the safety of the helicopter to help carry back one dead and 11 wounded Marines to the aircraft.
He then tried to lead the eight remaining Marines to the copter.
On one trip, while he carried a wounded man, a mine went off, killing a corpsman and wounding three other Marines.
"Only when he was certain that all Marines were safely aboard did he signal the pilot to lift the helicopter," read his Medal of Honor citation.
His other decorations included the Purple Heart and the Air Medal.
He once told an interviewer that the Americans pinned down in the minefield mistakenly thought he knew where he was going.
"I ran over there [and] picked up the guys that couldn't walk," Mr. Clausen said. "The ones that could walk were under the assumption I knew where the mines were, obviously, and they followed every footstep I made back to the helicopter."
Raymond Michael Clausen Jr. was born in New Orleans and raised in Hammond, La. After six months of college, he joined the Marine Corps in 1966 and became a jet helicopter mechanic.
He left the service in April 1970 and became an inspector for the Boeing Co. Soon after, he was in a car accident that left him comatose for months, nearly blinded in one eye and without the strength to walk. Back at home, he had all his furniture placed in the center of a room so he could walk the perimeter using the wall for occasional support.
He spent his time speaking to veterans groups and continued to suffer from poor health.
Survivors include his wife, Lois Clausen of Ponchatoula, La.; two brothers; and a sister.
And don't miss this:
The reason that Mike was in Dallas, instead of a VA hospital in Louisiana was due to the fact that when Ross Perot got word of Mike's difficulties, he sent his own personal jet to bring Mike back to Dallas. He then ensured that Mike received the best medical care available.
Kudos to Mr Perot, but this unfortunately points out that the "best care available" is not being routinely provided to veterans now. Something to think about.
Or act upon.
Rest in peace.
From the (Tucson) Arizona Daily Star:
Pat Tillman, who starred at Arizona State and with the Arizona Cardinals before becoming the first NFL player to die in combat since the Vietnam War, received another honor Tuesday when the Pac-10 renamed its defensive player of the year award after him.
Tillman himself won the Defensive Player of the Year honor in 1997 after leading the Sun Devils to a 9-3 record and a win over Iowa in the Sun Bowl.
A great story via honorary MilBlogger Hugh Hewitt. Keith and Nugent passed through Germany on their way in and did a show for the GI's here too. Class acts all around - and that includes Hugh.
A look at the life of American POW's held by China during the Korean War:
The exposure of Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal is a resounding slap on the face of the United States who constantly labels itself "a guard of human rights". A sharp contrast to the brutalities of US forces is the very humane treatment of US prisoners by Chinese army at the field of the Korean War half a century ago.
A recollection by Ms. Zhou Yuanmin, once an interpreter among China's POW administration staff and now a veteran editor of People's Daily, brings us back to the once gun smoke-filled battlefield, and enlightens us as to which country, after all, is the one respecting human rights and democracy.
During his more than one year work there, Ms. Zhou was deeply impressed by the Volunteer Army's treatment of prisoners. "The Chinese army had always exercised 'revolutionary humanitarianism' towards war captives. Beat and curse were not allowed, nor a kick, because this were iron disciplines of an army. Chinese soldiers were forbidden from searching pockets of Americans, letting them keeping their cigarettes and other private items. As for valuables such as gold match, they were registered and kept by the administration authority, and returned to them upon repatriation", Ms. Zhou recalled.
The winter in Korea was bitterly cold. The Volunteer Army distributed clothes, caps, gloves and quilts, all cotton-padded, to prisoners. Their heatable brick beds were always kept warm. Every day they found rice, flour, potato, soybean and meat on their table, for they enjoyed a diet standard same as a Chinese regiment-level cadre. Since westerners were fond of sugar, the POW authority supplied them by month a certain amount of refined white sugar. These food were all extravagant stuff the Chinese army managed to buy from China, but what we were indignant at was the fact that our soldiers were killed by American bombs when transporting them. Later, the POW administration specially bought bread-baking machine to enable prisoners to make fresh bread by themselves, which they liked.
"You know, at that time there were only soybean, sorghum and potato for our soldiers to eat. Sometimes we were short of food, but our soldiers would rather leave food to prisoners, despite that they themselves would starve. Of course, at a time of deficient material supplies, some soldiers had complaints when they saw prisoners were eating even better than themselves, but soon they understood after our leaders discussed the matter with them".
The health of American prisoners was once a visible problem in the camp. Many of them fell ill after a long-term battlefield life and under psychological pressure caused by homesick. The situation was reported to higher and higher authorities and finally reached Premier Zhou Enlai. Personally, Premier Zhou gave the instruction of "enhancing prisoners' nutrition and adopting emergency measures". As a result, a large batch of highly skilled doctors rushed to the camp from across China and set up there a special general hospital for prisoners. The action resulted in the saving of many lives. Once our army captured an American pilot, who was found seriously injured and in urgent need of blood transfusion. We rushed him to the hospital, we transferred blood plasma from home. Some Chinese doctors gave their own blood and finally we saved this American pilot.
Our POW administration respected religious customs of different countries and ethnic groups, and allowed prisoners to celebrate Christmas, Thanks Giving Day and Islamic festivals. Especially during Christmas and the Spring Festival, the camp was filled with a festival atmosphere in which prisoners stage self-made performances. In his family letter, American soldier Green wrote "this Christmas, the whole camp was vibrating with songs from the choir from midnight to 2 am. We talked and laughed. The Chinese army surprised us by gifts, sugar, cake, apple, almond and wine".
Ms. Zhou particularly mentioned the "prisoners' Olympics" staged in November, 1952, which were participated by 500 people. Wearing sports suits from China, prisoners competed in track and filed, boxing and basketball. Some black Americans talented in sports staged a really fantastic show.
Our Volunteer cadres never beat or abused prisoners who made mistakes, but talked with them. If they really made serious mistakes, they would be placed in confinement, at most for one week. Our political commissars personally talked with some officer prisoners who were from the West Point, telling them not to set themselves against China because the Chinese and American peoples were friends.
In the camp, American prisoners were not afraid of Chinese soldiers and cadres, but were afraid of their fellow men-American pilots. The large "POW" characters crossing the camp ground, which were visible from the air, didn't prevent American pilots from dropping their bombs who just wanted to fitful their tasks. Some Volunteer soldiers were thus killed trying to protect prisoners by dragging them into shelter.
At least that's what the People's Daily Online would have us believe.
This moment of bizarro-world reality was brought to you via e-mail from a Mudville reader in China, who writes:
Would you care to put this article up for comment? It is from the Peoples Daily in China. A propaganda piece which I think is full of lies. I would like some ammunition to strike back with. A couple of years back I was told by a Chinese lawyer that the US had started the fighting against the Chinese in the Korean War. I set her straight fast.
I lived in Korea for a couple of years. The propaganda flowing from the North was incredible, the very definition of unbelievable. Unfortunately, I think one must go well beyond the mere willing suspension of disbelief to really accept any description like the one above as fact, Orwellian is the best description I could offer of such believers. And no 'ammunition' can penetrate the kinds of barriers to truth these folks have constructed around themselves.
But then, once upon a time no one thought the Heidelberg Castle could be breached either. And look what the French did to it.
Anybody have any ammo?
There's still a few cool blog names left unused out there, but Digital Marine is now taken. So if you're thinking of starting a blog, you'll have to come up with something else.
Oh, and welcome Digital Marine to the MilBlogs ring.
Regular visitors here have likely noticed a slow down in posts recently. Many reasons for that, most of which have to do with a family and a military career. I'm not complaining or apologizing about either.
But expect an upswing in entries here soon. For those awaiting responses to e-mail, they're forthcoming. For those who've applied for the MilBlogs Ring with no result, results are coming.
Speaking of e-mail, a while back I linked a post from Tim regarding a film project he'd gotten wind of. A few days later I discover this in my inbox, from the filmamaker:
I'm an American filmmaker based in Berlin. I've spent the better part of the last year in Baghdad shooting two films. The latest, Gunner Palace, follows a troop of young soldiers over a few months. This is the war you haven't seen on the news. As a soldier says in the film, "For y'all this is just a show, but we live in this movie."
Our blog for the film is up at this link.
It includes two video clips that I think your readers will appreciate, no matter what their views on the war.
Awesome stuff. Check it out.
I spent yesterday in France, visiting a free nation on the anniversary of the landings that led to that liberation. Time and logistics kept us from attending the events in Normandy; Metz was our destination. Liberated in November 1944 the city features an amazingly beautiful cathedral.
Unknown to us prior to arrival the day of our visit was marked by a gay pride (or perhaps AIDS awareness - such banners were prevalent) celebration. A procession of homosexuals and others (notably the socialists and communists, apparently in a show of solidarity) led by a six-foot-four drag queen made it's way through the streets to the cathedral square and set up operations.
It was quite late before we returned across the border to Germany, arrived home and went straight to bed, so it wasn't until this morning I learned of the passing of president Reagan.
I joined the US armed forces when Ronald Reagan was president, and now I bid a sad farewell to my first Commander in Chief. More later, perhaps, but for now Baldilocks has marked his passing in words that perfectly encapsulate this day and this man.
From the United States Air Force Europe Operational Weather Squadron, the weather forecast for the Normandy area for the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
Update 3 Jun 2004: Are the weather guys hedging their bets?
Today's outlook calls for a spell of light rain and fog on Friday morning, a time previously expected to be just 'mostly cloudy'. Given the minimum conditions needed for parachute drops the following day, this negative trend does not bode well...
(Que foggy lens, wavering blur, harp-like tones, camera on backwards running clock; fade out then in again on black-and-white world...)
"...If you know the enemy and know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt; if you know Heaven and know Earth, you may make your victory complete."
-- Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Fade in: 1944.
Sun Tzu's reference to Heaven is considered a nod to the whims of weather, an acknowledgement of it's impact on all man's efforts; a tribute to nature's callous disregard for those who would plan without consideration for it's vagaries.
Erik Brenstrum, of the Meteorological Service of New Zealand, writing on the 50th anniversary of the event, called the original D-Day weather forecast The Most Important Forecast in History:
RAIN FELL FROM overcast skies and gale force winds drove large waves on to the beaches of Normandy as dawn broke on Monday June 5, 1944. To the Germans watching their defences, there was nothing to show that this was the moment the Allied Armies had planned to invade Europe. In fact, the operation had been put on hold because the bad weather had been forecast 24 hours before. Had it gone ahead in these conditions, the invasion would have been a catastrophic disaster.
Nevertheless, the invasion had to occur on either the 5th, 6th or 7th of June to take advantage of the right conditions of moon and tide. Darkness was needed when the airborne troops went in, but moonlight once they were on the ground. Spring low tide was necessary to ensure extreme low sea level so that the landing craft could spot and avoid the thousands of mined obstacles that had been deployed on the beaches. If this narrow time slot was missed, the invasion would have to be delayed for two weeks.
The decision to postpone the invasion for 24 hours had been taken by Eisenhower and the Supreme Command at 0430 on Sunday June 4. It was not taken lightly, because so many ships were already converging on Normandy that the risk of detection was grave.
Nor had the forecast which prompted the postponement been easily arrived at. Eisenhower's weather advice was provide by Group Captain Stagg, a forecaster seconded from the British Meteorological Office who was coordinating the advice of three forecasting teams: one from the Meteorological Office, one from the Admiralty and one from the United States Army Air Forces.
The advice of these groups was often diametrically opposed. The American team used an analog method, comparing the current map with maps from the past, and were often over-optimistic. The Meteorological Office, aided by the brilliant Norwegian theoretician Sverre Petterssen, had a more dynamic approach, using wind and temperature observations from high altitude provide by the air force, and were closer to the mark.
The decision to invade on Tuesday June 6, taken late on Sunday night and finally confirmed early Monday morning, was based on a forecast of a short period of improved weather caused by a strengthening ridge following the front that brought Monday's rain and strong winds. In the event, Monday's bad weather had already given the Allies a crucial advantage: it had put the Germans off guard.
More to come...
A note from the Stryker Brigades (thanks Todd):
How goes? A while back we installed some gallery software on our site, which follows the Stryker Brigade currently deployed in the Mosul region. Since then we've amassed a collection of 2,500+ photos, all submitted directly by soldiers or their families. I recently went through the gallery and put together a collection of positive images we called "Smiles From Iraq". These are images you won't see on the news. Here's a link to the entry where we introduce the photo album. And here's a direct link to the album
Always a pleasure to welcome a new spouse blog to the MilBlogs Ring. Armysgtswife (aka Homefront Happenings) is the latest to join our 'military family'.
Sombody is handing us a load. Is it little Bobby Novak?:
The handful of valiant American warriors fighting the ''other'' war in Afghanistan is not a happy band of brothers. They are undermanned and feel neglected, lack confidence in their generals and are disgusted by Afghan political leadership. Most important, they are appalled by the immense but fruitless effort to find Osama bin Laden for purposes of U.S. politics.
This bleak picture goes unreported because journalists are rarely seen there. It was painted to me by hard U.S. fighters who are committed to the war against terrorism but have a heavy heart. They talked to me not to undermine policy but to reveal problems that should and can be corrected.
Afghanistan constitutes George W. Bush's clearest victory since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The Taliban regime has been overthrown, eliminating al-Qaida's most important base. But the overlooked war continues with no end in sight. Narcotics trafficking is at an all-time high. If U.S. forces were to leave, the Taliban -- or something like it -- would regain power. The United States is lost in Afghanistan, bound to this wild country and unable to leave.
The situation in Afghanistan, as laid out to me, looks nothing like a country alleged to be progressing toward representative democracy under American tutelage. Hamid Karzai, the U.S.-sponsored Afghan president, is regarded by the U.S. troops as hopelessly corrupt and kept in power by U.S. force of arms.
Those arms are not what they seem. The basic U.S. strength in Afghanistan is 17,000 troops of ''straight-legged'' infantry -- conventional forces ill-prepared to handle irregulars. The new unit assigned to Afghanistan is the 25th Infantry Division, which has been stationed at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, and has not seen combat since the Vietnam War.
And I hesitate to tell him about this since he's kinda busy fighting Osama and his crowd on one side and Reggie "I'm a better man than any GI anywhere" Rivers on the other, but damn! - this guy just dissed Hooks whole Division!
Sorry if this turns your otherwise rosy day sour Top, but I can't let it slide without bringing it to your attention.
Update: Hook responds.
1. U.S. Shifts Focus In Iraq To Aiding New Government
(New York Times)...Thom Shanker
Senior American commanders here say they are writing new orders to shift the focus of the military's mission from offensive combat operations to protecting a new Iraqi government and parts of the economy while building up Iraq's own security forces.
2. Army Investigates Wider Iraq Offenses
(Washington Post)...Bradley Graham
Over the past year and a half, the Army has opened investigations into at least 91 cases of possible misconduct by U.S. soldiers against detainees and civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, a total not previously reported and one that points to a broader range of wrongful behavior than defense officials have acknowledged.
3. At Abu Ghraib, Soldiers Faced Pressure To Produce Intelligence
(Wall Street Journal)...Christopher Cooper and Greg Jaffe
...Interviews with more than 20 interrogators and analysts at the prison -- most of whom haven't spoken out before -- suggest the problems at the now notorious Abu Ghraib prison were more complex than suggested by the widely distributed images of abuse. Seven guards have been accused of wrongdoing, and military and congressional investigators are looking into the case. The interviews show an intelligence system ill-equipped to battle a largely faceless insurgency. Interrogators and analysts at Abu Ghraib, some of whom say they had little experience interrogating prisoners, knew little about the enemy they were fighting. And they were working within a military-intelligence system that was never designed to incarcerate and interrogate thousands of prisoners for months on end.
4. Dates On Prison Photos Show Two Phases Of Abuse
(Washington Post)...Scott Higham, Joe Stephens and Josh White
...The date stamps reveal that the recording of the abuses started shortly after the MPs arrived at the prison and built to a crescendo of perversity, with the naked human pyramid on Nov. 8. One of the photographed incidents stands out because it contains military intelligence officers in the frame -- showing soldiers gathered around three naked men lying shackled together on Oct. 25. Finally, the photographs suggest that two distinct types of abuse occurred at the prison. First, sexual humiliation and crude brutality at the hands of the MPs. Then, the more targeted use of dogs.
5. Iraqis, U.S. Split On New Leaders
(USA Today)...Steven Komarow
The planned announcement Monday of a new Iraqi government was delayed, apparently by differences between U.S. authorities and the Iraqi Governing Council over the proposed leadership. As the U.S.-led civilian administration and members of the council wrangled over the new government, violence in the capital and near the southern city of Najaf claimed the lives of two U.S. soldiers and at least two dozen Iraqis.
6. Shiites Try To Save Truce
(Los Angeles Times)...Charles Duhigg and Edmund Sanders
Shiite leaders made a desperate effort Monday to salvage a truce between U.S. forces and militiamen loyal to radical cleric Muqtada Sadr, even as American military commanders declared that the insurgents had failed to honor the 4-day-old cease-fire.
7. At Least 5 More G.I.'s Are Killed In Iraq
(New York Times)...Edward Wong
At least five American soldiers died in Iraq during a 24-hour period that began Sunday, two of them fighting insurgents in the holy city of Kufa during the unraveling of a cease-fire agreement with a rebel Shiite cleric, military officials said Monday.
8. Car Bomb In Baghdad Kills Four Iraqis
(Washington Post)...Edward Cody
A powerful car bomb killed four Iraqis and wounded about 25 in downtown Baghdad Monday, while two U.S. soldiers were killed in clashes with insurgent Shiite militiamen that persisted despite a ragged truce around the sacred city of Najaf.
9. Iraqi Council Vote Postponed
(Washington Post)...Rajiv Chandrasekaran
The U.S.-led occupation authority ordered Iraq's Governing Council on Monday to postpone a vote on nominating a president because the council's favored candidate is opposed by the authority, council members said. Some members angrily accused the occupation authority of attempting to impose a choice on them.
10. 'I Want To Reconstitute Four Divisions Of The Army'
(London Sunday Telegraph)...Philip Sherwell and Colin Freeman
Ayad Allawi, Iraq's prime minister-designate, has told The Telegraph that he plans to recall four divisions of Saddam Hussein's old army and create a rapid reaction force and anti-terrorism unit to deal with the country's security crisis.
11. Northern Cities Getting Ready For Transfer Of Power
(Washington Times)...Kris Osborn
Here in Saddam Hussein's hometown, the senior U.S. military officer says attacks on coalition forces are down and rebuilding efforts are looking up as the June 30 transfer of power to an Iraqi government approaches.
12. For Iraqis, A Symbol Of Unkept Promises
(Los Angeles Times)...Nicholas Riccardi
...As much as civilian casualties or detainee abuse, the erratic reconstruction of their country has turned Iraqis against the occupation. Many people welcomed last year's invasion, hoping that the world's only superpower could elevate their wretched standard of living. But a year later, the promised $18 billion in U.S. reconstruction money is only now hitting the streets. Projects have been delayed by insurgent attacks and rampant corruption, committed by Iraqis but blamed on the Americans.
13. Memorial Day In A Combat Zone: Taps And Thanks
(Washington Post)...Jackie Spinner
...Hundreds of soldiers in the 1st Armored Division gathered at dusk inside an open hangar not far from the battlefield where four of the division's members had died in just the past 24 hours. The drums beat in rhythm with the patriotic sounds of the trumpets and clarinets, while soldiers with cigarette lighters rushed to keep a ring of torches burning as the sun set. The drill team clicked and clapped and stomped, their feet and guns a methodic waltz between human and machine. And members of the honor guard took their positions, flags hoisted against the backdrop of the airfield and a bombed-out hangar whose twisted metal looked more sinister as darkness set in.
14. Some Seek Date For U.S. Troops To Exit Iraq
(Washington Post)...Peter Slevin
Bursts of gunfire and bad news are prompting growing numbers of foreign policy experts to begin debating the contours of a U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq, echoing a national discussion reflected in opinion polls about the fate of the American mission.
15. Undersec'y Of Defense Eyed In Leak
(New York Daily News)...New York Daily News Staff
There's more trouble for Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith. An FBI investigation into who handed government secrets to disgraced Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi is focusing on Feith, the new U.S. News & World Report reveals.
16. Schwarzenegger Exalts Troops
(Wall Street Journal)...Jim Carlton
While some Republicans shy away from reminding Americans of the soldiers dying in Iraq, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is going out of his way to pay them homage.
IRAQ -- ABU GHRAIB
17. Searing Uncertainty For Iraqis Missing Loved Ones
(New York Times)...Ian Fisher
...With all the anger over the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison, the scandal has deepened another reality for hundreds of Iraqi families — possibly thousands: a searing uncertainty over missing loved ones. The American military is taking steps to improve access to information for the families of arrested Iraqis, and families of prisoners and groups that work with them say that there has been improvement, but that the problem is far from resolved.
18. 3rd Of Detainees Who Died Were Assaulted
(USA Today)...Tom Squitieri and Dave Moniz
More than a third of the prisoners who died in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan were shot, strangled or beaten by U.S. personnel before they died, according to death certificates and a high-ranking U.S. military official.
19. Elgin Resident In Charge Says Abuse Won't Recur
(Chicago Tribune)...Richard Wronski
...Essick can't change those images, which President Bush called "appalling," but he vows the abuse won't happen again. His military police battalion, which took over Abu Ghraib in February, is better trained and supervised than its predecessor units, he said.
20. Rumsfeld Tells West Point Class U.S. Needs Help To Prevail In Iraq
(New York Times)...Marc Santora
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld told graduates at the United States Military Academy on Saturday that in order for the United States to prevail in Iraq and the wider campaign against terrorism, it must convince other nations to join in the struggle.
21. Rumsfeld Extols Lessons Of West Point
(Washington Post)...Associated Press
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, making no mention of the prisoner-abuse scandal that has led to calls for his ouster, told a cheering crowd of graduating cadets Saturday that they will help win the global fight against terrorism.
22. Tillman Killed By 'Friendly Fire'
(Washington Post)...Josh White
Pat Tillman, the former pro football player, was killed by other American troops in a "friendly fire" episode in Afghanistan last month and not by enemy bullets, according to a U.S. investigation of the incident.
23. At Arlington, Bush Salutes The Dead Of Wars Past And Present
(New York Times)...Richard W. Stevenson
...Mr. Bush was introduced at Arlington by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who got a rousing round of applause from the crowd and responded by saying "Wow." Mr. Rumsfeld, whose job seemed in jeopardy a few weeks ago after disclosures about the abuse of Iraqi detainees by Americans, praised Mr. Bush, who in turn thanked Mr. Rumsfeld for what he called "great leadership."
24. Bush Keeps Gun Hussein Had In Cave As A Trophy
(Miami Herald)...Associated Press
President Bush keeps in his White House offices a trophy of one of his high points in the Iraq war: the pistol that Saddam Hussein held when soldiers pulled him from his underground hideaway.
25. Sounding The Alarm On Nuclear Proliferation
(Washington Post)...Peter Slevin
The Armed Services Committee was not exactly the assignment the self-described South Carolina country lawyer imagined for himself when he arrived as a House of Representatives rookie in 1983.
26. Haiti's Security, Financial Woes Leave Even The Police Fearful
(Washington Post)...Kevin Sullivan
...A U.S.-led military force of 3,600 troops has been patrolling the country since Aristide's departure, but is phasing out starting Tuesday, to be replaced by a U.N. peacekeeping team, led by Brazil, with 6,700 soldiers and more than 1,600 civilian police officers. Officials said 1,900 U.S. troops would be rotated out of the country over the next several weeks. Haiti has been almost totally dependent on foreign troops for its security and foreign aid to stave off insolvency and feed its people. Floods last week that killed at least 1,300 people underscored the country's near-total dependence on the international assistance. For days, the only aid to reach people in the disaster areas was donated food ferried in on U.S. and Canadian military helicopters.
27. Offering Aid To Haiti, Marines Extend Stay
(USA Today)...Wire services
U.S. Marines had expected to leave Haiti today, but they could be staying another month to help flood victims and maintain order.
28. Saudi Gunmen Still Missing
(Los Angeles Times)...Megan K. Stack
Authorities searched without success Monday for any sign of the missing suspected Islamic gunmen who terrorized oil company offices and housing compounds in this city over the weekend. Three of the assailants disappeared in a stolen car Sunday morning after killing 22 people, and have managed to evade a nationwide manhunt.
29. Israel, US Conclude Strategic Talks
(Jerusalem Post)...Arieh O'Sullivan
The first high-level strategic dialogue between Israel and the United States in two years concluded Monday after two days of talks. Meeting in Tel Aviv, the Defense Policy Advisory Group (DPAG) was a forum for both sides to discuss and plan far-reaching mutual strategic goals. The United States sent Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy, to head the talks.
30. US Pullout Talks To Begin Next Week
(Korea Times)...Ryu Jin
...U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is scheduled to outline Washington’s security strategy for the Asia-Pacific region at the annual Asian security meeting in Singapore this week.
31. U.S.: China Rethinking Military Tactics
(Washington Post)...Associated Press
The speed with which U.S. ground forces captured Baghdad and the prominent role played in Iraq by U.S. commandos have led China to rethink how it could counteract the American military in the event of a confrontation over Taiwan, the Pentagon says.
32. U.S. Lacks Plan To End Afghanistan Drug Trade
(Washington Times)...Rowan Scarborough
...Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Afghanistan in April and told Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that the opium-producing plant is a threat to stability, two officials said. "I know he has raised those concerns with the secretary," said a senior defense official. "There is a general understanding that al Qaeda is raising money" from the drugs. But officials say that given the political and security picture in the emerging democracy, it is better to leave the crop alone — for now.
33. Afghans Wary Of Karzai Dealings
(Christian Science Monitor)...Scott Baldauf
...Over the past few weeks, President Hamid Karzai - lauded by the US government as a defender of democracy - has held a series of meetings with top military commanders famous for their defeat of Soviet forces and for running a murderous four-year government after that. Presidential spokesmen call the talks an effort at ensuring a stable election process, free of intimidation. Critics - and even the commanders themselves - say the talks were about something else, a deal to promise key cabinet posts to warlords in exchange for their support of President Karzai's candidacy.
34. 4 Afghan Soldiers, 4 GIs Killed In Attacks
(Chicago Tribune)...Noor Khan, Associated Press
...The attack came hours after an explosion killed four Special Forces soldiers traveling in a Humvee, one of the deadliest attacks on U.S. troops trying to stop resurgent militants from wrecking planned national elections.
35. Europe Steels Itself For Visits By Bush
(Wall Street Journal)...Marc Champion, Gabriel Kahn, Hugh Pope and Charles Fleming
Paris is raising its security alert to maximum, protest marchers have been holding rehearsals in Rome, and Turkey is preparing to install antiaircraft batteries around five-star hotels in Istanbul. President Bush is coming to Europe.
36. Russia Joins Anti-WMD Alliance
(International Herald Tribune)...Reuters
Russia on Monday joined a U.S.-led alliance of countries prepared to board ships and raid suspect factories to stem the trade in weapons of mass destruction.
37. Marines, Air Force 'Most Important'
(Washington Times)...Jennifer Harper
Americans have always had a keen interest in their military, but a new Gallup poll reveals the nation's opinion of the armed forces is not ironclad. The U.S. Army and the Marine Corps are now tied with the Air Force as our choice for "the most important branch of the United States armed forces," the poll found.
38. Cash Crunch Curbs Rebuilding In Iraq
(USA Today)...David J. Lynch
...With bank lending almost non-existent and foreign investment in Iraq about as common as a snowstorm, Iraqi businesses are struggling to secure the credit they need for life after Saddam Hussein. Whether these midsize businesses succeed or fail with their job-creating expansions is critical for stability: Iraq's anti-American insurgency is largely made up of unemployed young men. If the economy generated more jobs, extremists couldn't recruit foot soldiers as easily.
39. Halliburton Was Helped By Cheney, Time Says
(International Herald Tribune)...Agence France-Presse
A Pentagon e-mail said that Vice President Dick Cheney coordinated a huge Halliburton government contract for Iraq, Time magazine reported Monday, despite Cheney's denial of interest in the company, which he ran until 2000.
40. Oil Exports Reported To Reach $10 Billion
Iraqi crude oil sales since last year's U.S.-led invasion have topped $10 billion, the U.S.-led authority governing Iraq said yesterday.
41. In Praise Of Do-Gooders
(Wall Street Journal)...John McCain
...It is critical to realize that the Red Cross and the Geneva Conventions do not endanger American soldiers, they protect them. Our soldiers enter battle with the knowledge that should they be taken prisoner, there are laws intended to protect them and impartial international observers to inquire after them.
42. Iraq And The Conservative Crackup
(Washington Post)...E. J. Dionne Jr.
...With the splits on Iraq exposed, other splits within conservatism become more obvious. Small-government conservatives feel ever more free to speak out against the large budget deficits over which Bush has presided. Anti-immigration conservatives speak out against the president's immigration policies. Pro-military conservatives criticize Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's dominion over the Pentagon, reflecting the views of many in the military brass who never much liked Rumsfeld or his plans.
43. Progress In Iraq
(New York Times)...William Safire
...Present Iraqi leaders like Alawi are clearly asserting themselves. We will not like all they insist upon. But they are lurching toward a democratic decision, and despite the hand-wringing of Gloomy Gus & Company, that's real progress.
44. Playing Loose With Missile Defense?
(Washington Times)...Curt Weldon
The Missile Defense Agency is moving forward toward the goal of a layered defense capability against missile attack. Given the pace of missile and weapons of mass destruction proliferation among hostile, irresponsible regimes such as North Korea, a layered U.S. missile defense program can only be considered prudent "good government."
45. A Plea For Enlightened Moderation
(Washington Post)...Pervez Musharraf
The world has been going through a tumultuous period since the dawn of the 1990s, with no sign of relief in sight. The suffering of the innocents, particularly my brethren in faith -- the Muslims -- at the hands of militants, extremists and terrorists has made it all the more urgent to bring order to this troubled scene. In this spirit, I would like to set forth a strategy I call Enlightened Moderation.
46. Filling The Information Gaps On Al Qaeda
(Washington Post)...Victor Comras
The hearings of the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks focused national attention on the need to repair and strengthen our internal defenses against al Qaeda and terrorism. They underscored the importance of information sharing among government agencies. They even suggested that such information sharing might have thwarted the attackers. This same theme now needs to be examined on an international level.
47. U.S. Is Lost In Afghanistan
(Chicago Sun-Times)...Robert Novak
The handful of valiant American warriors fighting the ''other'' war in Afghanistan is not a happy band of brothers. They are undermanned and feel neglected, lack confidence in their generals and are disgusted by Afghan political leadership. Most important, they are appalled by the immense but fruitless effort to find Osama bin Laden for purposes of U.S. politics. This bleak picture goes unreported because journalists are rarely seen there. It was painted to me by hard U.S. fighters who are committed to the war against terrorism but have a heavy heart. They talked to me not to undermine policy but to reveal problems that should and can be corrected.