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And be sure to take a break from blogging long enough to buy this book.
Remember Desert Storm?
Ready for combat in the woods of Europe, the military scrambled to get desert camoflage pattern uniforms to all the troops, and green vehicles painted tan. In spite of best efforts, results were mixed.
And most of the available armor was too heavy to wear...
...and often painted wrong, too.
During the second invasion of Iraq, everyone had DCUs - though not all the armor matched...
One minor problem: after the thunder run, most combat was in urban areas.
And there were still all those other hot spots around the globe. Thus was born the latest innovation - the new, one-pattern-fits-all-environments Army Combat Uniform (ACU).
The other services have changed their uniforms too. We're ready for anything now...
(More to follow)
We're with you, GM!
The guys toiling in our department of headlines we thought we'd never see are busy these days. Today's gem comes from the AP, in the NY Times:
Turnaround In Recruiting Puts Guard On Path For ExpansionFirst time since 1993 - wow. But some of the surprise wears off when the AP reveals why it can now publish stories like this. (Read closely - it gets tricky). The story points out that just when things are really turning around, President Bush wants to shrink the Guard!
The National Guard Bureau, the Pentagon office that administers the Guard, issued a statement outlining a turnaround in recruiting and predicting that it would continue to rise this year. In the last quarter of 2005, the Guard signed up 13,466 recruits, above its goal of 12,605. It was the first time since 1993 that the Guard exceeded its goal in that period.
National Guard officials said Monday that recruiting had accelerated so much in recent months that they expected to expand the Guard even as the Bush administration proposes to shrink it.But wait - because here's where things get tricky:
In his 2007 budget, to be sent to Congress on Feb. 6, President Bush would pay for a Guard of 333,000 soldiers; its Congressionally authorized limit is 350,000. Administration officials say that is not a cut, because the Guard now has 333,000 soldiers.So setting aside enough money to pay the actual people in the Guard, rather than the authorized number of people in the Guard - is a cut. (Some fiscally responsible people might call it a good one.)
Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey had said that if the Guard was able to grow beyond 333,000, the Army would shift money from elsewhere in its budget to pay for the extra soldiers.In other words, the number of troops authorized in the Guard won't be cut, there just won't be any money frozen to pay the salaries of Guard toops until they actually exist. (Or if you prefer, "if needed, your check will be in the mail". How you respond to this should be an indicator of your level of trust in "the system".)
Which brings us to how the AP/NY Times decide to frame the issue:
The administration's plan to pay for a smaller Guard has stirred opposition in Congress and among groups like the National Guard Association of the United States, which represents current and former Army Guard and Air Guard officers.But the final word on this belongs to Congress, and you can bet they'll vote their home-State pocketbooks on this one.
Not on the Guard issue so much - that's just an opportunity to look like good guys who stood up to Bush - if the local papers run the story just so. My prediction: the money will be "found". After all, those dollars will represent a fairly small drop in a rather large bucket of taxpayer dollars.
Bucket? Perhaps trough is the better term. Last year's $82 billion supplemental spending bill for the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan included $20 million for a road project in Mississippi, $5 million for the Fort Peck Fish Hatchery in Montana, $2 million for an upgrade of chemistry laboratories at Drew University in New Jersey, and $1 million for the Woody Island and historic structures in Philadelphia. Don't be fooled by any outraged congressional table-thumping over this Guard funding issue - watch your congressman's other hand.
But that, good friends, is half the story. For whatever reason they actually ran it, that headline in the NY Times was too good to just use just once. So here:
Turnaround In Recruiting Puts Guard On Path For ExpansionGood stuff.
The National Guard Bureau, the Pentagon office that administers the Guard, issued a statement outlining a turnaround in recruiting and predicting that it would continue to rise this year. In the last quarter of 2005, the Guard signed up 13,466 recruits, above its goal of 12,605. It was the first time since 1993 that the Guard exceeded its goal in that period.
Perhaps. He's past the first step, having been submitted for consideration for a Pulitzer Prize (or two - writing and photography).
Check out the slideshow at the link. For most it's a brief trip down memory lane, for others an introduction. For anyone honest, it's justification for his ultimately winning both honors.
In 2004 Soldiers' Angels created the Armor Up program providing Kevlar blankets to be used as extra protection on troop vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since then, Soldiers' Angels has purchased 62 of the blankets, which are DOD approved and cost $935 each.
Soldiers' Angel Robin, who heads the Armor Up program, sent this email last night:We thought we would no longer need to send Kevlar blankets but recently got requests from 3 units...
Although the Army is now aggressively sending Armored Humvees into theater, these blankets are very versatile. For example, while steel floor plating stops most of an IED blast, the blanket can absorb additional shock and shrapnel to prevent leg injuries. Some non-combat vehicles have vulnerabilites that can be mitigated with a kevlar blanket. They can also be used as extra protection around gun turrets, or in buildings such as sleeping quarters.
Here's more information about the Armor Up program at the Soldiers' Angels site where you can donate via PayPal.
Please help us get blankets to these units as soon as possible!
Robin has just received a request from a fourth unit. At 10 - 12 blankets per unit, we need to raise well over $40,000. Please help us spread the word!
It's September 10th in America, and birds are singing as butterflies and rainbows color the sky...
My first question: where does Sept. 11 rank in the grand sweep of American history as a threat to national security? By my calculations it does not make the top tier of the list, which requires the threat to pose a serious challenge to the survival of the American republic.Sure, it was awful, but face it - subsequent events have proven it wasn't that big a deal. Those silly wars in the Middle East don't get consideration in this discussion. Real men walk away from fights. There have been no other attacks on US soil, so our responses obviously were a result of hot headed over reaction. And that, by the way, is just what the terrorists want - fearful. over. reaction. We played right into their hands.
Here is my version of the top tier: the War for Independence, where defeat meant no United States of America; the War of 1812, when the national capital was burned to the ground; the Civil War, which threatened the survival of the Union; World War II, which represented a totalitarian threat to democracy and capitalism; the cold war, most specifically the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, which made nuclear annihilation a distinct possibility.
Sept. 11 does not rise to that level of threat because, while it places lives and lifestyles at risk, it does not threaten the survival of the American republic, even though the terrorists would like us to believe so.
As we do by monitoring their terrorist communications - which is the real point of this column:
My second question is this: What does history tell us about our earlier responses to traumatic events?It's like that silly communist thing that collapsed under it's own weight. But not nearly as deadly as the Cuban missile crisis, which was an over reaction to that silly communist thing.
My list of precedents for the Patriot Act and government wiretapping of American citizens would include the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798, which allowed the federal government to close newspapers and deport foreigners during the "quasi-war" with France; the denial of habeas corpus during the Civil War, which permitted the pre-emptive arrest of suspected Southern sympathizers; the Red Scare of 1919, which emboldened the attorney general to round up leftist critics in the wake of the Russian Revolution; the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, which was justified on the grounds that their ancestry made them potential threats to national security; the McCarthy scare of the early 1950's, which used cold war anxieties to pursue a witch hunt against putative Communists in government, universities and the film industry.
The argument boils down to this: All those draconian measures we've taken to prevent another 9/11 have been proven useless - because there haven't been any more 9/11s!
By fighting them, we are losing. By fighting, we reveal our weakness. We only fight them out of fear, and fear is what they want. By killing them we make more of them. If we fight them, they win.
BECAUSE OF BUSH!!!!
Fearless Lefty bloggers weigh in here here and about 50 more here. But as a military guy/Iraq vet still stationed overseas and thus likely to have my every phone call home heard by Karl Rove I have DOUBLE ABSOLUTE MORAL AUTHORITY.
Oh how they must wish they were me.
Update: While I'm on a roll, now that we have DNA technology that could prove guilt or innocence conclusively, we must abolish the death penalty! I demand you take these arguments seriously!
The most heroic, ethically courageous, morally resolute men and women in the world today are the Americans, British, and other forces fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are fighting the most evil men and women currently on the world scene. The American Army soldier, Marine, Navy sailor, Air Force warrior, and Coast Guardsman fighting in Ramadi or Mosul is fighting men and women who kill children and old people for sport. The men and women of the United States military are fighting the remnants of a regime so evil that it pioneered the use of torture against children -- just for the amusement of Saddam and his family. The men and women whom Joel despises rid the world of a dictator so twisted and murderous that he openly admired Stalin and Hitler and sought to match their level of atrocities. The men and women who wear the uniform fought, bled, and died to rid the world of the most dangerous man on the planet in the most flammable place on the planet. They died to save a slave people from the genocidal control of a mad killer who thought nothing of gassing his own people, of wiping out entire regions, of setting up special rape rooms to allow his henchmen and his sons to rape women at will, who amused himself by pouring gasoline down the throats of totally innocent people and setting them on fire.Joel's 15 minutes are up - the greatest thing he'll have done in his life was inspire this response.
The man from Iowa or South Carolina, the woman from Mississippi or Idaho or Oregon or New York or California or Washington, D.C. or anywhere in America who leaves the comfort of home to fight against an evil as monstrous as what did happen and what is happening in Iraq are great warriors. But they are something more. They are saints in body armor, men and women of staggering moral virtue in a time and place when those words mean very little in the modern world. Their lives have the most meaning of any lives being lived on this earth right this moment.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff, cameraman Doug Vogt, and their families. Both men are now at Landstuhl Hospital in Germany, the best place they could be given the circumstances.
Details of the attack are beginning to emerge:
Woodruff, Vogt, and their four-man team were in the lead vehicle traveling in a convoy with Iraqi security forces. They were standing up in the back hatch of their vehicle taping a video log of the patrol at the time of the attack.Such an IED was likely detonated by an observer - and it's equally likely the visible news team was deliberately targeted by the attackers.
The ambush of the convoy was complex. The explosions was followed by small arms fire from three different directions. Iraqi security forces spread out looking for the triggermen while U.S. troops tended to Woodruff and Vogt.
Killing Doctors and Chaplains is suggested as a means of psychological warfare.What a difference a year makes.
If you see a line of soldiers, kill the one you think is the officer. Then, shoot the communications officer - then the machine gunner - then the doctor - if he's there, you'll know by the red cross on his arm.
(Shoot)... the reporter carrying the camera. First because the camera can be used as binoculars; second, it is the most difficult thing to hide the death of a reporter in Iraq.
Whether by design or coincidence, the terrorists want a result beyond the death or injury of a journalist. Whether they get it or not is up to Woodruff and Vogt's colleagues. As with their healing, time will tell.
This is the first sentence of Roger Cohen's NY Times column today: "Are things getting better or worse in Iraq?"
This is the last: "Things are getting better in Iraq."
In between you'll find largely anecdotal (nonetheless valid, and first-hand) observations supporting the conclusion. It's behind the subscription wall, but here are the main points of Cohen's scorecard on Iraq.
The Iraqi Army is "...starting to make its presence felt. ...now represents more than Pentagon wishful thinking."
"We have defeated 70 percent of the terrorists, and I hope to defeat them all by the end of 2006," said Lieutenant Colonel Abbas Mahnal of the IA 1st Brigade, 6th Division, which "owns the battlefield," as American officers put it, in much of western Baghdad.But...
Security: "The checkpoints, and the concrete blast walls mushrooming by the day, reflect the fact nobody has violence under control."
And the potential for Sunni/Shiite civil war: "a big minus." - an understatement.
The Sunni vote: "At Abu Ghraib, a name now synonymous with some of the worst of the many U.S. blunders in Iraq, there were no polling stations in the January 2005 legislative elections, 14 for the October vote on a constitution and 23 in the Dec. 15 election. Those numbers represent a breakthrough in swinging Sunnis behind the new Iraq."
For the Sunni shift he credits U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad - an Afghan-born Muslim: "If in the next couple of months a national unity government is formed, including the Sunnis, that achievement will be in large part his. The Khalilzad presence is a plus."
Baghdad: "...quieter than it was; quiet here is a measure of headway."
The Airport Road: "...it's safer than it was. Patrols by the embryonic Iraqi Army have slashed attacks. Score one for the upside."
"Garbage abounds. Even at midnight in winter the stench of a market in western Baghdad where animals are slaughtered is overwhelming. Why? The guts are left in the road. Many Iraqis remain passive; they do not yet believe in the future. That's not good."
Economic stats - "a stable currency, growing reserves"
Electricity: "intermittent - a reflection of sabotage and more American mistakes."
...and Oil production: "has not reached prewar levels"
As for the neighbors: "Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran will not help America in Iraq."
And as for the outcome: "Anyone who is certain about the outcome in Iraq is wrong."
Which brings us to the bottom line:
"Is insecurity prevailing, as the walls suggest, or freedom, as embodied in those posters? It's the latter, by a small margin. Things are getting better in Iraq."Cohen's entire piece won't endear him to the Left, and within it he has another message they should take to heart:
The country is not the Bush administration: loving or hating what America is doing there cannot be a blind reflection of partisan politics.You know what they say... "if you see it in the Times, it's so".
My recap of the past week's rather incredible (and overlooked) news from Iraq is at No End But Victory.
Friday night Saturday night - time to swap stories.
James Hooker will provide the soundtrack. Nothing like a Piano Bar for swapping stories.
All we need now are the stories...
From our Department of Headlines from the Associated Press we thought we'd never see: Iraqi Army Getting Stronger.
Thermal data from Hell will be reported when possible. Meanwhile, here's the story:
With American help, the Iraqi army is emerging as a lightly armed counterinsurgency force that may control more of the country than the U.S.-led coalition by this spring, U.S. military officials say.But the AP was able to find a downside to that:
''They're not going to be the 101st Airborne anytime soon,'' said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Fred Wellman, spokesman for the military transition command in Baghdad. ``But in 2006, this is the year that the majority of Iraq will be secured by Iraqis.''
But the Pentagon is also grappling with designing a force that assuages the worries of countries victimized by Saddam Hussein's military.Meanwhile, USA Today reports on "insurgent infighting"
''There is a concern in the region about giving them an offensive military capability,'' said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of planning for the U.S. Central Command.
"Now you actually have a wedge, or a split, between the Sunni population and al-Qaeda in Iraq," said Maj. Gen. Richard Zahner, deputy chief of staff for intelligence for multinational forces in Iraq. "It poses a significant crossroads for these groups as they look at where they head."A look at Iraq the Model reveals the Iraqi media has a slightly different view:
The U.S. military cited incidents of insurgent infighting in a rare public description of a split:
• At least six ranking members of al-Qaeda in Iraq have been assassinated by Sunni insurgents or tribal gunmen in separate incidents since September, Zahner said. The killings are usually in retaliation for al-Qaeda's role in violence, such as the execution of local police officers, he said.
• In Ramadi, in western Iraq, he said, armed clashes have erupted between local Iraqi insurgents and al-Qaeda operatives in recent months. At least one high-ranking al-Qaeda member, Abu Khatab, was recently run out of Ramadi by insurgents loyal to the local tribe.
• Near the Syrian border, members of the Albu Mahal tribe, which attacked U.S. positions as recently as March, have lately been pointing U.S. troops to al-Qaeda hideouts, Zahner said.
Iraq's national security adviser, Mouwafak al-Rubaie, also said there is a rift in the insurgency, calling it a "a major step forward in our fight against terrorism."
Iraqi tribes in Anbar arrest 270 Arab and foreign al-Qaeda members!Quick review:
From Dar al-Hayat (Arabic):
The Anbar tribes’ campaign to rid the province of Zarqawi’s terror organization, al-Qaeda in Iraq is in its 2nd day and so far, 270 Arab and foreign intruders have been arrested.
In Iraq it's "The Anbar tribes’ campaign to rid the province of Zarqawi’s terror organization"
In the US: "armed clashes have erupted between local Iraqi insurgents and al-Qaeda operatives"
At least it's being reported.
As is this:
Videotapes of insurgent attacks in Iraq have become a potent propaganda tool for militant Islamists but also a handy training aid for U.S. forces, according to Army briefing documents being given to U.S. officers deploying for duty in Iraq.And this:
Insurgents routinely videotape their attacks and sometimes post the footage on the Internet as propaganda to show tactical victories against U.S. military convoys or helicopters.
A briefing report prepared by the intelligence division of the Army's Training and Doctrine Command shows how the Army is mining the insurgent tapes for ways to avoid casualties.
Back in the United States, the Marine Corps and Army set about devising more thorough, customized and realistic training programs. Some of their revamped methods will get a big test with the latest major round of deployments in Southern California. About 25,000 Marines and sailors, most of them from Camp Pendleton, will head to Iraq in the coming months.On the homefront you'll probably hear this a lot:
The Army, convinced that its urban combat strategies are on track, has focused on beefing up its cultural programs. Hundreds of Arabic speakers now populate its training sites in Germany, Louisiana and California.
"We moved to another phase of operations in which the cultural aspect was important," said Army spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Harms. "It is no longer close in and destroy the enemy. We have to build relationships with Iraqis on the street."
While the Army remodeled, the Marine Corps rebuilt.
The result is Mojave Viper, a little-known national training program based at Twentynine Palms. The monthlong course in urban combat and cultural awareness gives commanders unprecedented flexibility in tailoring training to best suit their units' needs.
President Bush prepares for next week's State of the Union address, he faces widespread discontent over his job performance and the nation's direction that could threaten his party in the 2006 election, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll has found.Less reported will be these other results from the same poll:
In the survey, 43% of Americans said they approved of Bush's performance as president — his weakest showing ever in a Times poll.
On national security issues, Bush's position has deteriorated from its high point after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. For instance, 48% said they approved of Bush's performance in fighting terrorism, whereas 49% disapproved — the first time he has fallen below 50% on that issue in a Times survey.
By 56% to 41%, those surveyed also disapproved of his handling of the Iraq war.
Just 36% expressed a favorable opinion of congressional Democrats, whereas 45% viewed them unfavorably. That's statistically the same as the showing for congressional Republicans, who were viewed favorably by 38% and unfavorably by 44%.Enjoy your weekend!
But other measures point toward a continuing Bush advantage on security questions. When asked who could do a better job of protecting the nation against terrorism, 45% picked Bush, whereas 32% chose congressional Democrats. Independents give Bush a decisive 19-percentage-point edge.
Similarly, 52% said Bush's policies had made the nation more secure, whereas 21% said he had left the nation less secure — and 25% said he had made no difference.
(Previous installment, in which we learned that Army re-enlistments in 2005 were the highest they've been in five years, the number of U.S. troops in Iraq has been cut to the lowest level since last summer, Abdullah Rashid al-Baghdadi, "who is Iraqi," had taken over from al-Zarqawi as "emir" of the new Mujahedeen Shura, or Council, and more, here)
Not exactly. But here are couple of stories that defy recent "conventional wisdom".
Recently the DoD was pressured to launch a much-publicized repayment program for troops that purchased their own protective gear prior to deploying to Iraq.
"Rumsfeld is violating the law," Dodd said. "It's been sitting on the books for over a year. They were opposed to it. It was insulting to them. I'm sorry that's how they felt."The program has been in effect since October. Thus far
Dodd said men and women in uniform "are serving halfway around the world. And they shouldn't have to rely on bake sales and lemonade stands to raise money" to get them the equipment they need.
"The bottom line is that Donald Rumsfeld and the Defense Department are failing soldiers again," said Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Operation Truth, an advocacy group for Iraq veterans.
"It just became an accepted part of the culture. If you were National Guard or Reserve, or NCOs, noncommissioned officers, you were going to spend a lot of money out of your pocket," said Rieckhoff, who was a platoon leader with the 3rd Infantry Division and served in Iraq from the invasion in March 2003 to spring 2004.
Just 29 Army soldiers have sought reimbursement so far for body armor and other equipment they bought to protect themselves on the front lines.Although some are claiming the low number is because the Defense Department hasn't aggressively publicized the program.
Speaking of reservists spending money out of pocket:
Reserve Members On Active Duty Earn More, Pay Study SaysThe financial compensation will never be enough. But this is the problem with exagerating claims of hardship - credibility drops. The real truth would be a better place to start the debate. Similar games are played with numbers of wounded and just about every other aspect of the war. Invariably a chest-thumping congressman appears - usually well lit by camera flashes.
Nearly three-fourths of military reservists called to serve in Afghanistan and Iraq are taking home more money on duty than in their civilian jobs, according to a study on military pay released Wednesday.
News coverage of the National Guard and Reserves often focuses on the financial hardships of its members. In 2004, the Defense Department conducted a survey of reservists in which more than half said they lost income when they were deployed.
However, the RAND study found that only about one-fourth of reservists suffered a loss in income after being activated. RAND researchers compared Social Security earnings data for servicemembers before deployment with Defense Department records afterward.
An interesting read. (Or "read ahead", since there will be more here on the topic later.) The linked author is the same who provided this week's "Military stretched too thin" report.
Hat tip Soldier's Dad, who has a knack for finding such. That's his still-new blog, btw. Bookmark, link, etc. There are several good posts waiting for you there too.
And where better than at a fellow jarhead's?
(Scroll a bit to the Jarhead entry if the trackback doesn't take you right there.)
Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday Dear Blackfive, Happy Birthday to you!
And be sure to wish him many more!
Now everybody can sign his card with a trackback or a comment.
Much is being made of this now widely circulated report:
Study: Army Stretched To Breaking PointFunny though, no major news agencies picked up this Pentagon report:
By Robert Burns, Associated Press
WASHINGTON -- Stretched by frequent troop rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army has become a "thin green line" that could snap unless relief comes soon, according to a study for the Pentagon.
WASHINGTON, Jan. 19, 2006 – Army re-enlistments in 2005 were the highest they've been in five years, with more than 69,500 soldiers choosing to continue their service, the Secretary of the Army said here yesterday.Wonder why that report didn't make the papers? Now back to the one that did:
This surplus in retention made up for recruiting shortfalls the Army has faced, Francis J. Harvey said at a Pentagon news conference.
The Army recruited more than 73,000 soldiers in the last fiscal year and has met its recruiting objectives for the last seven months, Harvey said. The number of recruits who have signed an enlistment contract to date is almost 25 percent higher than it was at the same point a year earlier, he said.
Andrew Krepinevich, a retired Army officer who wrote the report under a Pentagon contract, concluded that the Army cannot sustain the pace of troop deployments to Iraq long enough to break the back of the insurgency.That's certainly debatable; however, the stated goal in Iraq isn't to "break the back of the insurgency" - It's to hand over responsibility for security to the Iraqi forces.
Operation Koa Canyon Creeps Across Iraqi Valley
The latest in a series of offensives in the western Euphrates River Valley has entered its second week, with a combined force of Marines and Iraqi soldiers “making their way inch-by-inch through caves, fields, wadis and islands.”
According to a Marine Corps news release, Operation Koa Canyon (“Wadi Aljundi” in Arabic) has resulted in more than 4,300 artillery and mortar rounds, among other weapons, being found and destroyed.
There have been no reports of casualties.
And (Wall Street Journal, subscription only)
At Perilous Outpost, U.S., Iraqi Troops Work Toward TrustMeanwhile:
By Michael M. Phillips, Staff Reporter Of The Wall Street Journal
RAMADI, Iraq -- In a cramped, sandbagged emplacement atop Observation Post Horea, Marine Lance Cpl. Justin Titzer fixed his stare to the west, along the road where insurgents conceal powerful bombs to hit U.S. convoys.
Next to him, Pvt. Sa'ad Warad Salem, an Iraqi army infantryman, watched the buildings to the north, where insurgent snipers wait to pick off any soldier who raises his head above the guard post's bulletproof glass shield.
It was a moment of mutual dependence. "If he were to miss something, we could get hit by a rocket-propelled grenade or small-arms fire," Cpl. Titzer, a 22-year-old from Fairfield, Ill., said of Pvt. Sa'ad, a 21-year-old from Basra. "We put a lot of trust in [Iraqi soldiers], actually."
American troops in Iraq have long complained that their Iraqi counterparts weren't up to the job of defeating the insurgency. The mantra of President Bush's Iraq policy has been that American forces will stand down when Iraqi forces stand up.
In this decrepit outpost in the heart of Ramadi -- perhaps the most dangerous city in Iraq for U.S. troops -- there are signs that the mistrust is fading. Every day, Lance Cpl. Titzer and his fellow Marines are relying more on Iraqi soldiers.
About half of the 102 Iraqi battalions deployed across the country are capable of leading counterinsurgency operations, provided they have some logistical and medical support from American troops, according to Lt. Col. Fred Wellman, spokesman for the Multi-National Security Transition Command -- Iraq. That's up from just 30 battalions six months ago, he says. By the end of the year, he says, every Iraqi battalion should be capable of taking the lead in such operations -- although it will be far longer before those units can operate without U.S. support.
Ramadi, with a population of about 400,000, straddles the Euphrates River west of Baghdad and is the capital of Anbar Province. The region is the core of the Sunni insurgency against the U.S.-led coalition and the Iraqi government.
As recently as late November, Iraqi army units in Ramadi never ventured into the heart of the city on their own. Now, U.S. commanders say, four of the six Iraqi infantry companies are capable of conducting foot patrols and raids alone, relying on the Marines only for armored transport, medical care for the wounded and covering fire from observation posts. About 10% of operations in central Ramadi are all-Iraqi events; 60% are jointly run with the Marines; and the rest are U.S.-only actions, the U.S. commanders say.
U.S. officials in Ramadi hope that with support from local Sunni leaders who have grown tired of the conflict, they will soon be able to mix Shiite and Sunni soldiers to fight insurgents, but not each other. Col. Gronski says he sees some hopeful signs of a more open attitude toward the coalition among local Sunni sheiks, imams and former army officers, who might not have been willing to talk to him two months ago.
Ramadi's Sunnis have formed a provincial security council of local leaders, and at least one key sheik has expressed regret publicly for having allowed into the local anti-U.S. resistance such extremist elements as al Qaeda in Iraq. While the number of Anbar residents in the military itself remains tiny, 761 Ramadi residents have signed up so far this month to join the U.S.-supported Iraqi police. The sheiks encouraged locals to sign up, something that would have been unimaginable not long ago. And U.S. officers suspect that the suicide bombing that killed 27 police recruits and two U.S. servicemen in early January has deepened rifts between al Qaeda supporters and local insurgents.
Pvt. Sa'ad, who shared the rooftop post with Cpl. Titzer, says the Iraqi army is well-trained and ready to fight. As he ate lentils and sipped boxed orange juice with his fellow Iraqi soldiers one recent evening, he argued that Iraqi troops already have the skills to take on the insurgency alone. What they lack, he said, is the necessary equipment, such as air power, hospitals and armored vehicles. U.S. commanders say armored Humvees should begin arriving in Ramadi for the Iraqi troops soon. Until then, says one U.S. officer, the Marines will have to "soccer mom" the Iraqi soldiers around the city.
On Jan. 15, Sheik Anwar abd al-Razak al-Kharbit, a Sunni leader and member of the provincial security council, sat down in Ramadi over tea and cookies with the Shiite prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the U.S. ambassador to Baghdad, Zalmay Khalilzad, and Gen. George W. Casey, Jr., commander of U.S. forces in the region. U.S. officials believe Sheik Anwar to be influential with the local resistance and hope he speaks on their behalf. His presence at the public meeting was seen as evidence that many Ramadi residents, although they may loathe the U.S. as occupiers, could be ready to do business with the American and Iraqi governments.
The Americans found the sheik's comments refreshing, especially his admission that it had been an error to allow "terrorists into our areas."
Local soldiers, Sheik Anwar said, would fight the extremists once the thorn of American occupation was removed. "We have to work together toward the complete withdrawal of coalition forces and their replacement with Iraqi forces," said the sheik, dressed in a flowing gold and black robe. Locals, he argued, would be better equipped to hunt down foreign insurgents. "People from Mecca know all the roads in Mecca," he said. The Anbar recruits, he said in an interview after the meeting, should include members of the local armed resistance, but not al Qaeda members.
Gen. Casey promised a response within two weeks.
Fewest U.S. Troops In Iraq Since Summer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The number of U.S. troops in Iraq has been cut to the lowest level since last summer, when a buildup for election protection expanded the force to about 160,000, Pentagon officials said Tuesday.
There are now about 136,000 troops in Iraq, according to Lt. Col. Barry Venable, a Pentagon spokesman.
He said this meant that the extra forces in place during the October constitutional referendum and the December parliamentary elections have been removed and a rotation of major combat units has largely been completed.
Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said last month that he expects the troop levels to be brought down further, to about 130,000 by the beginning of March. He and other officials have said still more cuts could be made later in the year if conditions permit -- including the availability of increasing numbers of Iraqi troops.
While over on the other side:
Rifts Deepen Within Iraq's InsurgencyMore:
Council of militant groups reportedly replaces al-Zarqawi
BAGHDAD -- In a further sign of the rifts emerging within Iraq's insurgency, Jordanian-born militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has stepped aside as the head of a new council of radical groups in favor of an Iraqi, according to a posting on a Web site used by Al Qaeda and other insurgent groups.
The statement's authenticity could not be independently verified. It said Abdullah Rashid al-Baghdadi, "who is Iraqi," had taken over from al-Zarqawi as "emir" of the new Mujahedeen Shura, or Council, which groups six extremist organizations including Al Qaeda and whose creation was announced last week.
The formation of the council and the appointment of an Iraqi to lead it come at a time of deepening divisions within Iraq's insurgency over ways to respond to the new realities of post-election Iraq and how to prepare for the day when U.S. troops start going home.
Most notably, some Iraqi nationalist insurgent groups are turning against al-Zarqawi and his foreign Arab volunteers, whose spectacular suicide bombings have served the insurgency's goals well but whose Islamic extremism has come to be seen as a liability by rebels whose aim increasingly is to secure a role for Sunni Iraqis in the new political order.
A statement announcing the formation of the council a week ago, issued by al-Zarqawi's chief spokesman, explained that the council's purpose was to "unite the approach of the mujahedeen . . . in order to dismiss all the differences and disagreements and controversies," an acknowledgment of rifts that have opened within the insurgency in recent months.
Though there was no way of independently verifying the information, the Web site is the main one used by Al Qaeda in Iraq to post news, claims of responsibility and videotapes of attacks. Since the council was formed, the claims of responsibility that previously were posted by Al Qaeda have been made in the name of the Mujahedeen Council.
IRAQ’S most wanted man, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, goes to sleep every night wearing a suicide belt packed with explosives, according to a leading insurgent who met him two weeks ago.But perhaps they won't be Americans:
“He never takes it off,” said Sheikh Abu Omar al-Ansari, leader of a Sunni resistance group called Jeish al-Taiifa al-Mansoura (Army of the Victorious Sect).
“He told me: ‘I would rather blow myself up and die as a martyr — and kill a few Americans along the way — than be arrested and humiliated by them’.”
While the American embassy today resumed its talks with the Sunni leading politicians, 6 Iraqi militant groups announced that they will unite their forces and join the rest of resident of Anbar and Salahiddin in fighting al-Qeda. The new militant groups included the Islamic army, the Anbar martyr’s brigades and the 1920 revolution brigades.More:
Another sign of division between Iraqi insurgents and al Qaeda operatives emerged Monday when insurgents in Ramadi announced a pact against their former al Qaeda allies -- which prompted a round of assassinations between the two sides.And on the other other side, Democrats have a report too:
Reuters reported that Sunni Arabs in Ramadi have begun targeting the terrorist organization in the wake of a devastating al Qaeda attack on Ramadi police recruits on Jan. 5 that killed scores. The larger picture is one of divergent interests: Iraqi insurgents who once allied with al Qaeda against U.S. forces are now looking in part to negotiations in Baghdad to achieve their political goals.
Senator Jack Reed today joined former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and former Secretary of Defense William Perry in a press conference for the release of the report "The US Military: Under Strain and at Risk."To recap the facts: Army re-enlistments in 2005 were the highest they've been in five years. The Army met its recruiting objectives for the last seven months, and the number of recruits who have signed an enlistment contract to date is almost 25 percent higher than it was at the same point a year earlier.
The report is a damning analysis of the effects of Bush Administration policies on our nation's military. By failing to adequately plan for post-conflict Iraq, failing to send enough forces to accomplish the mission with an acceptable level of risk, and failing to adequately equip the Americans sent into harm's way, the Bush Administration has put our ground troops under enormous strain that, if not soon relieved, will have "highly-corrosive and potentially long-term effects on the force."
"For months, Congressman John Murtha and others have warned about the impact of the war in Iraq on our military, particularly our ground forces. The report prepared by Secretary Perry, Secretary Albright, and their colleagues supports these warnings and identifies the serious problems our military faces in recruiting, retention, and equipment readiness," said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Let's play "Who said It?". We'll provide a few recent quotes from various speakers/writers, and you see if you can identify the source.
Ready, here's the first:
So you can imagine the state of psychological breakdown that afflicts a soldier as he gathers the remains of his colleagues after they stepped on land mines that tore them apart. After this situation, the soldier is caught between two hard options. He either refuses to leave his military camp on patrols and is therefore dogged by ruthless punishments enacted by the Vietnam butcher or he gets destroyed by the mines. This puts him under psychological pressure, fear and humiliation while his nation is ignorant of that.And the second:
The soldier has no solution except to commit suicide. That is a strong message to you, written by his soul, blood and pain, to save what can be saved from this hell. The solution is in your hands if you care about them.
And about Bill Clinton . . . . You know, I really think he should have been impeached, but not for a blow job. His policies are responsible for killing more Iraqis that George Bush. I don't understand why to rise to the level of being president of my country one has to be a monster. I used to say that George Bush was defiling the Oval Office, but it's been held by a long line of monsters.And the third:
Let's not forget that ultimately, Osama's vision for the Arab world is far more akin to the Right's vision of America. Remember these old posts? On homosexuality, on militarism, on women's rights, on religion in school, on capital punishment, on free speech, on curtailment of civil liberties, and on a million different other issues Islamic fundamentalists don't share many disagreements with the ideologues running our country.If you want, put your answers in comments before clicking the links below. I'd like to see the guesses...
We've written about the Maine Troop Greeters before, but that's no reason not to do so again.
Especially since the Christian Science Monitor ran a story about them today:
It is well after dinnertime for Kay Lebowitz, but she hardly notices - she has hundreds of American troops to greet.Read the whole thing, then come back here to learn a bit more about Kay Lebowitz - what we've dug up through the power of Google.
Here at Bangor International Airport, she bustles about, sliding next to them at the snack bar. "I always ask them if they have children," she says. "They love to talk about their babies."
A planeload of US Marines, heading to Iraq, files in line to board. She strives to hug all 263 of them. "See you on the way back," she tells them.
"Kay, let 'em go," shouts a fellow volunteer at the front of the queue. "You're holding up the line." But the 90-year-old hardly notices that, either.
Ms. Lebowitz is a member of the Maine Troop Greeters, a community group that has dutifully gathered at this tiny airport in central Maine since May 2003. At the close of this night last Tuesday, the group had tallied 1,403 flights, filled with 260,927 men and women in uniform.
Of the dozens who show up regularly, many are veterans from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. But local residents with no formal military connections like Lebowitz have joined their ranks, too.
Kay Lebowitz, 89, has such severe arthritis that she cannot shake hands. So she hugs every Marine and soldier she can. Some of the larger, more exuberant troops lift her off the ground.That story gives more details about other greeters too:
"Many of them tell me they can't wait to see their grandmother," she said. "That's what I am: a substitute grandmother."
"When the flights are going over, it's heart-breaking," Lebowitz said. "But when they're coming home, it's heart-warming."
Marjorie Dean suffered a fatal heart seizure while she and her husband, Bill, were on their way to meet a late-night flight a year ago. She was 79.Many of the greeters can really connect with the returning troops:
Goodwin missed three days of flights when she was in the hospital for heart surgery.
"I felt like I was in withdrawal," she said. "It was awful not being able to be here for the boys."
Bill Knight, 83, one of the group's organizers, came to the airport just hours after his doctor told him that he has advanced prostate cancer. "It never occurred to me not to come," said Knight, who served in the Army and Navy for three decades.
Francis Zelz, 81, who served in the Navy during World War II, said it is a point of pride to respond even with only a few minutes notice. Many of the greeters were part of a similar welcome-home effort during the Persian Gulf War.
"You get a call at 3 a.m. about a flight in 30 minutes, and you think about staying in bed," Zelz said. "Then you realize, no, I can't do that. That wouldn't be right."
Don Guptill, 71, who served in the Army in Korea, listened as an enlisted Marine, his eyes fixed on the carpet, talked quietly about being wounded three times.While others provide the hugs. Back to Kay:
As the call came over the loudspeaker to return to the plane, the young Marine reluctantly pulled something from his back pocket. It was his Purple Heart.
"He said he was embarrassed to wear it," Guptill said. "I told him: 'You wear it. You earned it. You wear it for all the guys who didn't make it home.' "
The Marines were barely gone when the Maine Troop Greeters began preparing for the next flight. "It's going to be a busy day for us," said Bill Dean, 70, an Army veteran. "That feels good."
John W. Coombs Award RecipientMore:
A civic leader and volunteer, Catherine Lebowitz (“Kay,” of Bangor, nominated by Jim Donnelly) dedicates her time, charm, and elbow grease to make a difference locally and nationwide. Even at 90 years old, she hasn’t slowed down at all! Once a Bangor city council member and as a state representative, now she is out-working younger volunteers on the boards of the Bangor Museum, Eastern Maine Community College, and the Maine Center for Aging, just to name a few. At any hour of the morning Kay gives out hugs of support as a volunteer Troop Greeter. This group brings cookies, homemade fudge and wave flags for every military service man or woman returning or leaving for duty through Bangor International Airport. Known as “Bangor’s Sweetheart” by friends and city officials, June 30 (her birthday), was proclaimed “Kay’s Day” by the thankful Bangor City Council for all her years of service. Kay’s dedication to her community, her state and the nation serves as a role model for us all.
"That first woman hugged me," said Lance Cpl. Jason Hougan, 22, of Long Beach, Miss., still blushing a bit as he shook more hands of veterans and Bangorians.As a result:
"It was weird," he said, collecting himself and looking a bit shocked. "I haven't been hugged in a long time."
The principal hugger ---- 90 year-old Kay Lebowitz ---- led the group of Maine Troop Greeters who invited the Marines and sailors into their "welcome room" for cookies donated by Sam's Club and to make phone calls to loved ones on dozens of cell phones donated by Unicel.
"We just want them to know we love them and that we're thankful for all they've done." she said, tearing up a bit as she returned to embrace a surprised-looking Marine who lingered over her grandmotherly hug.
Marine Lt. David Tumanjan, 24, of Boise, Idaho, said the Bangor greeting is both humbling and gratifying. "It shows us that what we did wasn't in vain," he said.Awesome.
And now, to be fair and balanced, here's Joel Stein makng the case for the other side:
I DON'T SUPPORT our troops. This is a particularly difficult opinion to have, especially if you are the kind of person who likes to put bumper stickers on his car. Supporting the troops is a position that even Calvin is unwilling to urinate on.We're okay with presenting all sides of the argument here.
I'm sure I'd like the troops. They seem gutsy, young and up for anything. If you're wandering into a recruiter's office and signing up for eight years of unknown danger, I want to hang with you in Vegas.
And I've got no problem with other people — the ones who were for the Iraq war — supporting the troops. If you think invading Iraq was a good idea, then by all means, support away. Load up on those patriotic magnets and bracelets and other trinkets the Chinese are making money off of.
But I'm not for the war. And being against the war and saying you support the troops is one of the wussiest positions the pacifists have ever taken — and they're wussy by definition. It's as if the one lesson they took away from Vietnam wasn't to avoid foreign conflicts with no pressing national interest but to remember to throw a parade afterward.
But blaming the president is a little too easy. The truth is that people who pull triggers are ultimately responsible, whether they're following orders or not. An army of people making individual moral choices may be inefficient, but an army of people ignoring their morality is horrifying.
But when you volunteer for the U.S. military, you pretty much know you're not going to be fending off invasions from Mexico and Canada. So you're willingly signing up to be a fighting tool of American imperialism, for better or worse.
But really Joel, if you ever see some troops in Vegas (or Germany), don't try "hanging" with them - no matter how badly you want to.
(Hat tip Mrs G for both stories.)
want to hang with you either.
A few puney Greyhawks to tends to.
The New York Times takes a long look at DHB Industries, the company that makes armor for troops. Having helped them make a pile of cash the Times is now looking at how it's being spent.
Elsewhere, the Times profiles one of the many GIs whose lives were probably saved by that armor.
Some numbers from that story:
American deaths in Iraq numbered 2,225 as of Jan. 20. Of 16,472 wounded, 7,625 were listed as unable to return to duty within 72 hours. As of Jan. 14, the Defense Department reported, 11,852 members of the military had been wounded in explosions - from so-called improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.'s, mortars, bombs and grenades.The first known example of a mainstream media outlet actually reporting those facts instead of the vague but more impressive "thousands of grievously wounded".
Amputations are a feature of war, but the number from Iraq - 345 as of Jan. 3, including 59 who had lost more than one limb - led the Army to open a new amputation center at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio in addition to the existing center at Walter Reed. Amputees get the latest technology, including $50,000 prosthetic limbs with microchips.
Interesting report in The London Sunday Telegraph
Part of the ransom money alleged to have been paid by the German government to win the freedom of the Iraq hostage Susanne Osthoff last month was found on her after she was released, it was claimed yesterday.At the time of Osthoff's release the German government freed Mohammad Ali Hamadi, the convicted killer of United States Navy Diver Robert Dean Stethem . Hamadi had been serving a life sentence.
The German magazine Focus said officials found several thousand dollars in the 43-year-old archaeologist's clothes when she took a shower at the German embassy in Baghdad after being freed on December 18.
The serial numbers on the bills matched those used to pay off her kidnappers, the magazine said.
Some analysts speculated, however, that the money could have been planted on her or given to her by her kidnappers. Ms Osthoff was unavailable for comment.
At the time of Osthoff's release reuters reported:
German hostage freed in Iraq isn't rushing homeIn other hostage news, there's still no word on the fate of American journalist Jill Carroll, who was kidnapped shortly after Osthoff's release.
A 43-year-old German woman who was held hostage in Iraq for more than three weeks will not immediately return home to Germany, the foreign ministry said on Monday.
"She wants to spend a few days with her daughter protected from the public and so will probably not immediately return to Germany," a foreign ministry spokesman told a news conference.
"We assume however that she will leave Iraq in the near future," he said.
Archaeologist Susanne Osthoff, a convert to Islam who speaks fluent Arabic, disappeared on Nov. 25. She had spent more than a decade working on excavations in Iraq.
Her kidnappers, identified as a previously unknown group called "The Revenge Brigade," threatened to kill Carroll if all Iraqi female prisoners were not released within 72 hours.Update:Representative Vito Fossella (R - NY) writes in the Washington Times:
An Iraqi official said six of the nine women under U.S. detention are expected to be released this week. The U.S. did not confirm the release plans.
The 1985 brutal torture and murder of U.S. Navy Petty Officer Robert Dean Stethem was one of the first chapters in the dark history of a radical Islamic global terrorist insurgency. Since then, the world has witnessed the evil face of terrorism time and again, from the bombings of the Khobar Towers to the attack on the USS Cole to the murder of 3,000 innocent people at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.Read it all.
The old wounds of Stethem's slaying were reopened late last month when the German government released his killer, Mohammed Ali Hamadi, a Hezbollah terrorist, after serving only 18 years of a life sentence. That was a travesty of justice.
Hamadi didn't deserve such leniency. He was convicted in 1987 for hijacking TWA Flight 847 and the coldblooded murder of Stethem, a Seabee singled out due to his U.S. military service.
Hamadi beat and tortured Stethem beyond recognition, shot him to death, and, in the final act of inhumanity, dumped his body on the runway two days later. Fingerprints were the only way his body was identified. Hamadi and his fellow terrorists held the remaining 39 passengers hostage for 17 days.
The German government's reason for releasing Hamadi remains unclear, although the subsequent release of a German hostage in Iraq, Susanne Osthoff, has not gone unnoticed. As for Hamadi, he was wise enough not to stick around to ask questions. He gladly accepted his early holiday present and promptly fled to Lebanon, where he reportedly now is hiding.
MilBlog readers should recognize "Soldier's Dad" - his comments on this and many other sites never fail to add insight and fact to any discussion. I'm glad to discover he's started his own blog.
Bookmark, blogroll, and visit often - I know I will.
Back during the 2004 election season John Kerry's campaign site included a blog - complete with a blog roll listing the most prominent left-wing sites. Following Markos Moulitsas' disgusting response ("screw them") to the murder of US contractors in Fallujah, his blog "The Daily Kos" was rapidly dumped from that august "A"list.
In light of the unacceptable statement about the death of Americans made by Daily Kos, we have removed the link to this blog from our website. As John Kerry said in a statement earlier this week, “My deepest sympathies are with the families of those lost today. Americans know that all who serve in Iraq - soldier and civilian alike - do so in an effort to build a better future for Iraqis. These horrific attacks remind us of the viciousness of the enemies of Iraq’s future. United in sadness, we are also united in our resolve that these enemies will not prevail.”My description of Kos and similar sites remains unchanged: they are toilets on the left wing information sewer. But Senator Kerry is now making deposits in that toilet. His contribution is to dust off one of the main themes of his campaign - his response to the last bin Laden tape. "Bush let bin Laden get away!!!"
What the folks at the kiddie table think about all that hardly matters, but this conclusion from the Senator is interesting:
P.S. I want you all to know that I’m reading your many comments. My wife Teresa reads blogs passionately, and I follow blogs too, and I’m glad I can be a part of this – and frankly I’m not worried about taking some slings and arrows along the way. I’ve faced worse! So keep the comments coming -- good, bad, hopefully not indifferent.A great opportunity for Kos readers, whose greatest achievement to date is to make their mother's basements smell 'funny'. For those unfamiliar with the territory, the comments are where the Daily Kos turns truly foul.
But here's what Senator Kerry read in comments there today - the hot topic was speculation that his entry would make Kos a few bucks:
Here is a suggestion that might not win me any friends with the management...However...A nice thought, that last bit. But others quickly shot it down:
This community has built up a reputation such that Senator Kerry feels comfortable posting here. The site is absolutely jammed right now with load times for me at aprox 30-50 seconds. My guess (although highly speculative) is that a significant amount of ad revenue is pouring in because of this diary.
Perhaps Kos could donate a portion of that revenue to a veterans group specializing in helping wounded soldiers rehabilitate.
Liberals shouldn't pretend to be in favour of the military (as a concept most liberals are instinctively against it) when we aren't. The military are 'special cirucmstances' - men who must do a dirty job when all other opportunities and options are exhausted. They aren't men to be lionised and put on a pedestal - they're like toilet cleaners: it's a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it. There's nothing brave or noble about it - it's a dirty, degrading, inhuman affair, but one which is occasionally necessary.Perhaps deluded by the example of the author, the commenter cites his "extensive family military history" as giving him authority on such matters. But he doesn't even know a toilet when he's in one.
Update: Thanks to Soldier's Dad in comments, here's Senator Kerry's response:
Thank you for over a thousand responses to my first - and certainly not last - Daily Kos post!Void of actual policy*, the Democratic Party "platform" is built on two main planks: ignorance and fear. Kerry appeals to both in his first - and certainly not last - Kos "Diary" (the actual term Kos uses for entries by others at his site.) Such appeals aren't limited to Kos - it's a staple of Democratic fundraising applied to get the "base" to open their wallets wherever they can be found. But at sites like Kos a third unfortunate aspect of human character can be tapped: hate. You'll rarely find a post or comment thread that lacks that theme, aimed at anyone who doesn't think like they do. You can summarize Kerry's diary (and it's invocation of all three planks) in five words: "Osama gonna getcha causa Bush!"
As you can imagine, it's difficult to respond to each of you individually, but Teresa and I were impressed with your thoughtfulness, your honesty, and your dedication.
While "liberally" applying such hatred to anyone who doesn't toe the line on Kosthink the site reserves special scorn for those who disagree and have certain other differences from the Kos crowd.
I can't thank all of you enough -- the Daily Kos community, and the blogosphere as a whole -- for all of your effective work during the recent debate over Condoleezza Rice's nomination. Your support and participation in this critical debate meant so much to me.Note the "Gonzalez is next!" reference.
As you and I both know, this is just one more of the many battles we'll be having as we fight for our nation's future. It started with contesting the Ohio vote, it continued with the debate over Dr. Rice's confirmation, and it will certainly continue over the Gonzalez nomination and on many other looming issues. We're going to need to keep working together to make our voices heard and build a better America.
I enjoyed the dialogue we started over the past few weeks, including the chat I had with Armando and DavidNYC on the eve of the committee hearings, and I look forward to future interactions with the Daily Kos community. I hope to have the time to drop by here and participate in the discussion from time to time -- I value your input, and I thank you for caring so much about the future of our country.
Thanks again for all of your hard work. I can't tell you how much I appreciate your continued support. And I look forward to standing with you in the days, weeks, and months ahead.
But not all Democrats get Kos support - just the fanatics. Kos on Joe Lieberman: But does Connecticut truly deserve this neocon? Here he was invoking the Lefty code for "Jew" in response to the Senator's support for Secretary Rice - and unseating him is a stated goal. (Substitute the word "Jew" - or "Juden" - for "Neocon" anywhere it's used by the Left - it's chilling.)
Daily Kos is not a racist or anti-Semitic site per se - their hatred is driven by politics. Agree with them and you're safe; start a "diary" on the site and you're a hero.
A couple of other points to remember about the Daily Kos: The "Screw them" quote is what made Kos the #1 Left Wing Blog in the world**. And every candidate the site has "sponsored" has lost.
* Void of actual policy: The Democrat's position on Iraq is perhaps the best illustration of this. Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, defined the plan in December 2005: "As for Iraq policy, at the right time, we'll have a position."
During his presidential campaign, Senator Kerry claimed to have a secret plan for ending conflict in Iraq - one that he would reveal only if the American people would give him "the power".
**#1 Left Wing blog: In addition to the readership gains from the "screw them" quote and the participation of various Democratic politcal hopefuls, other events are also celebrated primarily for their potential to boost site visits at Kos:
Today, dailykos has received over 700,000 visits, the most I can remember, though markos can tell us if it is the alltime record.
Of course, it was the atrocities in London that helped push the number so high.
For several months the gals of Code Pink have gathered together to protest outside Walter Reed Medical Center, where wounded troops from Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere are recovering. For an example of the sort of attitude they brought to these events, watch this video.
But countering those demonstrations has been an ongoing effort for several pro-troops groups too. Among them a significant number of military family members and veterans, along with groups like Protest Warrior and readers of the Free Republic web site. (For background, see here.)
Thanks to some quick work on the part of those fine folks Code Pink is no longer allowed on any of the four corners that line the main entrance to Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Capt Z will be on CNN's "On the Story" tonight at 7 p.m. EST Saturday. Dont' miss it.
I can assure you, they didn't contact me because of my breathtakingly good looks, iridescent charm, irascible humor, or even my deep humility. There are actually interested in knowing why I blog ... I imagine we may end up discussing media bias, embedded journalists, my life as a pincushion, and the hardships of going through life being this good-looking.
If you miss it tonight, your chance of seeing that handsome mug isn't lost, the show will air again 10 a.m. EST Sunday.
Details here. (Not kidding.)
By jove I think I've got it!
After reviewing the latest open posts, it looks like I may have fixed the the trackback problems for those that have Haloscan.
Those that get the message that you are pinging too fast, it's because your trackback is merging onto the Autobahn traffic of spam, going 160kph (100 mph) and you'll have to wait til traffic clears to get off the Mudville Ausfart (exit). Eventually you'll get thru.
Soldiers' Angels has received over 500 adoption submissions from soldiers during the past week. These men and women have volunteered to serve our country and deserve our support.
Although SA has a "re-enlistment" rate of about 75% among existing Angels who re-adopt after their soldiers' redeployments, we would love to welcome new Angels to the SA family!
...at least one of the milbloggers quoted here. (No, I'm not the title character.)
Monday was homecoming day in California for 600 soldiers of a National Guard battalion that officials said suffered the most combat casualties of any California unit since the Korean War, more than half a century ago.This means
Rusten Currie (Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum)
Danjel Bout (365 and a wakeup)
have finally passed that "wake up".
Mission accomplished. Welcome them home.
Michelle Malkin last week:
On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton appeared on Good Morning America to lambaste the Bush admininstration for not caring about troops who need more body armor. She demanded an investigation.
On Wednesday, Senate Armed Service Committee chairman John Warner did exactly that.
But Hillary didn't bother to show up.
Mr Exum and I exchanged a couple emails on that topic before he published that piece. I think he hit the nail on the head - many times. Read it all.
More on all that later.
(Original post 2006-01-14 17:17:29)
Hey come on in! Grab a beer, pull up a chair - you're right on time to watch the 60 Minutes Murtha interview with me.
What? You'd rather go to the Dentist? Fine, click here.
Okay, extra chair now. Sit down, show's on:
tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick...
MIKE WALLACE, co-host: A vast majority of American troops will be out of Iraq by the end of this year. Who says so? Congressman John Murtha. And tonight he'll explain his plan to make that happen. The 73-year-old Democrat from Pennsylvania is a much decorated war hero from Vietnam and Korea, the heavyweight in military matters in the Congress who stunned the Bush White House last November by calling for the withdrawal of all American troops from Iraq.
Representative JOHN MURTHA: Our troops have become the primary target of the insurgency. They are united against US forces, and we have become a catalyst for violence. My plan calls for immediate redeployment of US troops consistent with the safety of US forces. (Footage of Murtha and Wallace)
Me: The primary target? According to the Government of Iraq, over 7,000 Iraqis were killed in 2005 by "insurgents". Are you sure we are the "primary target"?
Representative JOHN MURTHA: ?????
WALLACE: And now he told us the withdrawal is going to happen sooner than we think.
Rep. MURTHA: I think the vast majority will be out by the end of the year. And I'm hopeful they will be out sooner than that.
WALLACE: Vast majority by the end of?
Rep. MURTHA: I--I think so. (Footage of war protesters)
Me: Well, this is interesting. Before you called for a drawdown the administration said that if the commanders in Iraq determine drawdown is feasible then it will happen. Sounds like everybody is talking drawdown. However, in a recent Town Hall meeting you stated that what concerned you was a draw down "which makes it look like there's a victory". That seems to be the main difference in your approaches. Any comment?
WALLACE: And here's how he says it will happen. Murtha told us that mounting pressure from constituents in this election year will force the Congress to pass his withdrawal plans, or something like it, to bring the troops home.
Are you going to press for a new debate on Iraq in this session of Congress?
Rep. MURTHA: I think you'll see not only debate, I think you'll see some changes.
Me: What about the vote on your demands in November - it was something like 403 to 3...
WALLACE: And is the Congress going to insist upon a major withdrawal from Iraq before Election Day in November?
Rep. MURTHA: Sure. You're going to see a plan for withdrawal.
WALLACE: How do you get that plan through the Congress and impose a withdrawal plan on President Bush?
Rep. MURTHA: I think the political people who give him advice will say to him, `You don't want a Democratic Congress, you want to keep the Republican majority. And the only way you're going to keep it is by reducing substantially the--the troops in Iraq.' (Footage of President George W. Bush)
Me: What about the rarely mentioned House vote last summer, it passed 291-137, that declared it was the sense of Congress that early withdrawal from Iraq should be opposed? You lost votes between then and November... including yours. You voted against this one - back before you "stunned the Bush administration".
WALLACE: Apparently, the president hasn't gotten that message yet. This past week, here's what he told a veterans group about decisions to withdraw troops from Iraq:
President GEORGE W. BUSH: All my decisions will be based on conditions on the ground, not artificial timetables set by Washington politicians. (Footage of a burning car in Iraq; US troops in Iraq)
WALLACE: But it's those conditions on the ground, most Iraqis wanting the US occupation to end, and insurgents killing or maiming Americans that convinced the congressman that it's now time to get our troops out.
Rep. MURTHA: Troops I talk to, and they say to me, `In the daytime they wave at us, at nighttime they throw hand grenades.'
Me: Does that translate into wanting out? Troops I talk to don't want to leave before the job is done.
WALLACE: Who are these insurgents?
Rep. MURTHA: The insurgents are Iraqis. Ninety-three percent of the--the insurgents are Iraqis. A very small percentage of foreign fighters. The Iraqis know exactly who's--who's doing the fighting, they just won't tell us. And--and they'll tell other Iraqis. Once we're out of there, they'll eliminate them. (Footage of President Bush; US troops in Iraq; burning car; Iraqis throwing debris)
Me: What methods will they use to "eliminate" them?
WALLACE: The White House is not as confident that the Iraqis will drive out the foreign fighters. But Murtha says the US troops are now caught in the middle of an Iraqi civil war, and not the fight against terrorists that the White House keeps talking about.
Rep. MURTHA: They take Iraq, and then they talk about terrorism. We're diverting ourself away from the war--the war on terrorism when we're fighting an insurgency in Iraq. (Footage of President and Laura Bush; President Bush giving speech)
Me: Hold on; which is it - the insurgents are mainly targeting us, or we're just caught in the cross fire of an Iraqi Civil War? Make the call.
WALLACE: Murtha's criticism prompted the president to launch a series of speeches to regain public support.
He says you're wrong. Let me show you what he said just two days after your speech back on November 17th.
Pres. BUSH: The terrorists regard Iraq as the central front in their war against humanity. If they're not stopped, the terrorists will be able to advance their agenda to develop weapons of mass destruction, to de--destroy Israel, to intimidate Europe, and to break our will and blackmail our government into isolation. I'm going to make you this commitment: this is not going to happen on my watch.
Rep. MURTHA: He's trying to fight this war with rhetoric. And Iraq is not where the center of terrorism is. So when he says we're fighting terrorism over there, that--that is--we're--we're inciting terrorism over there. We're encouraging terrorism, we 're destabilizing the area over there by being over there, because we're the targets. He said before, there's weapons of mass destruction, he said there is an al-Qaeda connection. There's--many, many things he said turn out not to be true. So why would I believe him when he says the things that he just made that statement? (Footage of President Bush)
Me: "And Iraq is not where the center of terrorism is" - okay, where is that center? You ask him, Mike - he's ignoring me. He served that one right up for a hard-nosed journalist like you - pounce!
WALLACE: Murtha feels that, all along, the White House has been long on spin, short on truth.
Me: Oh well...
Rep. MURTHA: They need to be honest with the public. They need to admit they made mistakes.
WALLACE: Who's "they"?
Me: Yeah! Pin him down! Make him squirm! (/sarcasm)
Rep. MURTHA: The--the administration needs to be honest with the public.
WALLACE: Who's "they"?
Me: Nothing gets by you Mike! Make him give the "money quote". Go, go, go!
Rep. MURTHA: The adm--the president himself needs to be honest with the public. He's getting bad information from somebody. And I've been arguing with him now for several months, and I would hope he's become less isolated.
Me: Speaking of bad information, are we the main target or are we just caught in a civil war?
WALLACE: Face-to-face, have you argued with him?
Rep. MURTHA: I have not talked to him face-to-face.
WALLACE: How come?
Rep. MURTHA: Well, he hasn't invited me to talk to him.
Me: Well, obviously he hasn't got the confrontational skills of ol' Mike Wallace here!
WALLACE: What do you think of President Bush?
Rep. MURTHA: Well, he's isolated, most isolated president that--that I have served with. (Photo of Murtha taking an oath; Murtha by helicopter; Murtha with constituents)
Me: How about a photo of Murtha with Code Pink?
WALLACE: Murtha has served with seven presidents, starting with Richard Nixon. He's been in Congress for 32 years representing Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Most of his constituents backed the war, but the congressman is king here, so his stand has led a shift in some local opinion about Iraq. Murtha, who has two Purple Hearts, told us that if George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld had been in combat themselves, they would have been more reluctant to send young Americans into battle.
Murtha's ties to his brother's lobbying firm are once again coming under scrutiny. Some 10 companies with ties to KSA Consulting, a lobbying firm where Murtha's brother Robert is a senior partner, got $20.8 million in defense contracts. The Los Angeles Times in June reported that the funding was passed as part of the Pentagon's overall $417 billion spending bill.and...
Roll Call recently reported Murtha leaning on Navy officials to transfer the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard to San Francisco on land whose rights were at one time held by a company whose top execs included Laurence Pelosi, a relative of Nancy Pelosi's.And Pelosi supported your cut and run call. But it's all good...
Rep. MURTHA: War is a nasty business. It sears the soul. The--there--the shadow of friends killed, the shadow of--of killing people lives with you the rest of your life. So there's--there's no--there's no experience like being in combat. (Footage of American troops; Iraqis protesting)
Me: How about footage of Code Pink protesting outside Walter Reed?
WALLACE: Murtha wants all the troops home within six months, except for a quick reaction force of about 20,000 who would be based nearby in Kuwait. But he admits that when the Americans leave, the civil war in Iraq will intensify.
Me: And what will that "Quick Reaction Force" do during that intensification?
Rep. MURTHA: When we leave, it's going to continue, and somebody will prevail, just like in our civil war in the United States. Somebody is going to prevail. It's up to them. If they want democracy, they've got to fight for that democracy. (Footage of American troops)
Me: Like the French, in World War II!
WALLACE: But President Bush believes US troops can stop the civil war, and he paints John Murtha as a defeatist.
Me: That might be because Murtha declared us defeated.
Pres. BUSH: Now, there are only two options before our country, victory or defeat. To retreat before victory would be an act of recklessness and dishonor. And I will not allow it.
Rep. MURTHA: Victory vs. defeat is not a policy at all. What is the definition of victory? There's two policies. The one is you stay with an open-ended policy and Iraqis determine when we leave. And the other policy is my recommendation, where we redeploy as quickly as possible. (Footage of Joe Biden, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton)
Me: “Redeploy as quickly as possible” – heh. Good one. Of course, there's also the President's policy, where US commanders on the ground determine our timetable. But actually, you declared us defeated and said you feared a "withdrawal that made it look like victory"...
WALLACE: I asked Murtha why his policy has not been endorsed by prominent Democrats including Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Joe Biden.
Rep. MURTHA: Because they're afraid, they're afraid to--they don't understand it. They think there's a safe way to work their way through this. And they're afraid to get out there and--and make a statement that--that later on might come back to haunt them. (Footage of Murtha)
Me: Last November Newsweek revealed you are actually playing a scripted role for the Party so others wouldn't have to. Here, I'll read it:
Which was precisely what the Democratic leadership wanted Murtha to do. A close ally, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, was anxious to open a second axis of attack on Iraq—and was aware of his growing antagonism toward the war. The two met and agreed that he would make his case in private to the party conference. After that, on his own, he would introduce a resolution calling for withdrawal of troops from Iraq "at the earliest practicable date." Pelosi and the other liberals would keep their distance, while their own Marine charged up the Hill. Framed by long rows of American flags at a press conference, he denounced the Iraq war as a "flawed policy wrapped in an illusion."Now a few years ago you urged President Clinton to withdraw US troops from Somalia, declaring US troops demoralized and defeated. Some might argue this was a political ploy to give a Democratic President military credibility - "cover" so he could cut and run. They could further argue that the same thing applies now - you embarrass a Republican President who doesn't want to cut and run - once again, your Party "scores". Others might insist you're sincere, actually in favor of running from both conflicts. But if so, by what measure are you a "hawk"?
WALLACE: But Murtha's stand could come back to haunt him if President Bush turns out to be right about Iraq.
Me: Yeah, no doubt the media big guns like you won't let him forget it. (/sarcasm - no, really, this time I mean it.)
WALLACE: You left college to fight in the Korean War.
Rep. MURTHA: Yeah.
WALLACE: You stayed in the Marines for 37 years.
Rep. MURTHA: Yeah.
Me: Thank you for helping make the world in which I speak freely. I'm an Iraq war vet, by the way. Those who attack your military service are despicable. In light of your current actions it's like arguing whether a child molestor bought or stole the candy he used as bait.
WALLACE: Last week, you said you would not have enlisted to fight in Iraq and you wouldn't encourage others to enlist.
Rep. MURTHA: Yeah. That's because I disagree with the policy. I mean, I--I--when I was in college, I remember vividly, I stood in my--my--my dormitory room and I looked down, it was in the wintertime, and I said, `I can't stay here. I got--this is not right for me to be here. We're fighting communism and--and I ought to be in the military.' And I remember my mother cried, she was upset, my goodness, I left college. And after that, three of my brothers joined the Marine Corps. My dad and three of his brothers served in World War II, so, you know, we know what it's all about.
Me: But would you join back then if you had it all to over again? I would. Some things like Nazism, Communism, Slavery... you just have to take a stand. Of course, no doubt some veterans of that war against Fascism probably didn't support your war against Communism.
So anyway, if Iraq isn't the current center of terrorism, where is...?
WALLACE: General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, he said your comments are damaging recruiting and hurting the troops. Take a look.
General PETER PACE: It's damaging to morale of the troops who are deployed and it's damaging to the morale of the families who believe in what they are doing to--to serve this country.
Rep. MURTHA: Well, you know, he's frustrated, he's frustrated because he can't meet the goals. Here's what hurts recruitment: they're rotating four and five times, they have no clear mission. It's not what I say that hurts morale, this is long before I said anything that their recruiting had problems. One of the problems they have with enlistment is because they continually say how well things are going, and the troops on the ground know better. (Footage of Murtha)
Me: Okay, hold up. The troops on the ground are reenlisting in huge numbers - if they know better, why are they doing that? And what's that got to do with enlistments? Are you implying the troops are discouraging others from enlisting - while re-enlisting in record numbers? And actually, recruiting goals have been met for the last six months too.
And on that topic - here are some stats on Guard re-enlistment and rotation. Most volunteer for additional tours:
Nationally, of the nearly 500,000 Guard and reservists deployed since September 2001, only about 76,600 have been called up twice - and all but 2,200 of them volunteered for a second tour, according to the Pentagon.Back to you, Mike.
WALLACE: To prove his point, he read us a letter he had received from a soldier in Iraq.
Rep. MURTHA: (Reading) "I am a US soldier currently stationed in Tel Afar. It's frustrating to me that many other soldiers to be fighting a war on an idea with no goal, no end in sight. Iraq as a country is never going to stand on its own until we leave and give them a chance to do so. Our presence is no longer beneficial to anyone." Now, this is an ordinary soldier that's saying this. (Footage of US troops carrying a wounded individual)
Me: Wow - I'll bet a lot more of the ordinary soldiers would say the same thing too. One thing we know for sure is Soldiers aren't afraid to speak up. Here's one that told you to your face about his fellow Guard members volunteering for Iraq after an Afghanistan tour. You ignored him, of course.
Now, about those re-enlistment rates...
WALLACE: But while working on a story about soldiers wounded in Iraq, we heard from many of them with a very different opinion.
You know, in talking to these various people who've lost legs and arms and traumatic brain injury and so forth, I was astonished. They are not taking any punches at the people who sent them there.
Rep. MURTHA: Now, obviously the troops themselves have to believe in what they're doing.
Me: Woah - rewind. Because we just went from a letter from a soldier in Iraq agreeing with you about "Our presence is no longer beneficial to anyone." to dismissing the wounded troops by saying "obviously the troops themselves have to believe in what they're doing." Which is it? I mean, I haven't seen an about face that swift since... well, since you claimed we were the main target of insurgents then stated we were just caught in the crossfire of a civil war.
Me: Don't let him off that hook Mike!
WALLACE: Why do the generals who speak publicly all say that the US is on the right track in Iraq, and that you, in effect, are off your rocker?
Rep. MURTHA: Well, they don't say that to me privately, I will tell you that. You know, they're going to be fired if they speak out. (Footage of letter)
Me: Which General said he was in effect off his rocker?
Me: Do you know how much a General's pension is - plus the book deal? Come on, congressman - name one General that whispers truth in your ear. No way the administration could fire him after that - he'd be bullet proof. Or are you implying they're all simpering cowards, afraid to say what they think?
WALLACE: Murtha told us that 80 percent of his mail has been positive. But he also got this: "Congratulations, you are now an honorary member of al-Qaeda. Your words have emboldened the enemy and endangered our troops on the ground. You have become the new Hanoi Jane." But Murtha has a thick hide.
Rep. MURTHA: When I don't agree with the policy, I have to speak out.
Me: unlike those cowardly Generals who won't speak out, and those soldiers who have to support the war except that one who sent you a letter...
WALLACE: Well, I've got to speak out about you. A year ago, you argued against what you're arguing for now. Let me quote; "A premature withdrawal of our troops based on a political timetable could rapidly devolve into a civil war which would leave America's foreign policy in disarray as countries question not only America's judgment, but also its perseverance." Were you wrong a year ago?
Rep. MURTHA: I was wrong a year ago. And--and--and times have changed since that--since that statement. (Footage of American troops; Zawahiri)
Me: That reminds me. When you first launched your new improved "anti-war" message you claimed that over 15,000 troops had been seriously wounded in Iraq. That was definitely "wrong", as I pointed out here. Then in your Town Hall meeting you changed your claim to reflect the actual number - about half that 15k. I know you're a big time hawk on the armed services committee and all, but did you find out the real number of wounded by reading here?
While we're on that topic, your brother has made money on defense contracts.
One of the companies benefiting from the contracts got $1.7 million, three times its 2004 sales. Other firms got contracts totaling more than half of their sales in 2004. Murtha received $68,000 in campaign contributions during the 2003 cycle from defense contractors.Your brother responded:
"Let's be honest: The name certainly creates some kind of impression, but I can't help that. We're not doing anything improper or underhanded. I'm entitled to make a living, like the next guy."Was he wrong to say that?
We're you wrong to take that money too?
WALLACE: But the change that Murtha wants, pulling all US troops out, could embolden the terrorists--when President Bush announced he'd withdraw just 20,000 troops after Iraq's recent election, al-Qaeda claimed victory.
Al-Qaeda's number two, Zawahiri, in a video message this month he said, "America's plan to withdraw troops from Iraq proved the victory of Islam in Iraq."
Rep. MURTHA: I think they are trying to incite this administration to stay. I think they want us there. Because they--they--we have united the Iraqis against us. We're spending all this money and diverting our resources away from the war on terrorism because we're involved in a civil war in Iraq.
Me: Okay, that's two "civil wars" versus just one "we are the primary target". At least you haven't called us the enemy - tonight.
WALLACE: Zawahiri also says al-Qaeda is growing and increasing in strength.
Rep. MURTHA: If it is increasing in strength, I think it's because it actually helps these terrorists to be in Iraq because it unites the--the world against us.
Me: Okay, let's clarify that, because I'm hoping I got that wrong. The world is taking the side of the terrorists - and you've made the distinction between terrorists and insurgents quite clearly. Is that really what you meant?
While I'm on the topic, you recently said the suicide attacks in Jordan were America's fault. Do you stand by that claim, or were you wrong then? And do you think the Jordanians think that way? Are they part of the "world turning against us"?
WALLACE: Hasn't the occupation done a lot of good in Iraq? Saddam's dictatorial reign over, democracy has begun, schools and factories are reopening, the economy is coming back.
Rep. MURTHA: That election, of course, is being trumpeted as being so important to democracy. When I came back from Vietnam in 1967, they had an election. It was supposed to set the state, it was supposed to legitimize the government, if you remember. And we lost 38,000 people after that. Now, I don't say that this has the same intensity and that we're going to lose 38,000 people. But I'm just saying that there's a lot more things have to be done if you're going to have a democratic government.
Me: The question was yes or no - reread it if you'd like. You're answer was no? And by the way, there were three elections in Iraq in which people risked death to vote, and you just dismissed them all...
WALLACE: How many of your constituents in Pennsylvania have been killed in Iraq?
Rep. MURTHA: Thirteen from my congressional district.
Me: Name one.
WALLACE: Do their families feel that you are--this is a tough one--do their families feel that you are dishonoring their memory by speaking out against the war that they gave their lives to?
Rep. MURTHA: Well, I hope they understand it's my job, my responsibility to speak out when I disagree with the policy of the president of the United States. All of us want this president to succeed. But you just can't sit back and allow this war to continue on without a clear exit strategy. That's the reason I'm so strong about this. I feel--I feel a mission here with my experience that--that I have to help the president find a way out of this thing.
Me: You hope they understand? Have you met with none of them? George Bush even met with the Sheehan family once - but you have no idea how those in your district feel? Or do you know exactly how they feel, you son of a...
Mrs G: Turn the TV off.
I started reading your blog about a year and a half ago while I was living in England (grad school). Shortly after I began, I had a few very long conversations with my wife and decided to join the Marines. I am leaving for Officer Candidate School in Quantico a week from Sunday.We will indeed Max.
I just wanted to thank you for leading the charge in the information war. Having a clear picture of what goes on during our wars and why they matter played a key role in our decision, and certainly helped convince my wife to let me join. You guys keep up the good work, and please pray for me that I will complete OCS and for my wife that she will be OK without me for a few months.
You're about to embark on a Roller Coaster ride, with all the peaks and valleys that implies. If I've influenced you at all I can assure you you'll have days when you curse me for it. (Go ahead, I can take it.) But no matter how many years you give to the Marines I think in the end you'll be proud to have done something most only imagine themselves capable of.
I'll leave you with thanks, best wishes, and this passage from Teddy Roosevelt. You may have seen it before; you are certainly living up to it.
Let the man of learning, the man of lettered leisure, beware of that queer and cheap temptation to pose to himself and to others as a cynic, as the man who has outgrown emotions and beliefs, the man to whom good and evil are as one. The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer. There are many men who feel a kind of twister pride in cynicism; there are many who confine themselves to criticism of the way others do what they themselves dare not even attempt. There is no more unhealthy being, no man less worthy of respect, than he who either really holds, or feigns to hold, an attitude of sneering disbelief toward all that is great and lofty, whether in achievement or in that noble effort which, even if it fails, comes to second achievement. A cynical habit of thought and speech, a readiness to criticise work which the critic himself never tries to perform, an intellectual aloofness which will not accept contact with life's realities - all these are marks, not as the possessor would fain to think, of superiority but of weakness. They mark the men unfit to bear their part painfully in the stern strife of living, who seek, in the affection of contempt for the achievements of others, to hide from others and from themselves in their own weakness. The rôle is easy; there is none easier, save only the rôle of the man who sneers alike at both criticism and performance.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. Shame on the man of cultivated taste who permits refinement to develop into fastidiousness that unfits him for doing the rough work of a workaday world. Among the free peoples who govern themselves there is but a small field of usefulness open for the men of cloistered life who shrink from contact with their fellows. Still less room is there for those who deride of slight what is done by those who actually bear the brunt of the day; nor yet for those others who always profess that they would like to take action, if only the conditions of life were not exactly what they actually are. The man who does nothing cuts the same sordid figure in the pages of history, whether he be a cynic, or fop, or voluptuary. There is little use for the being whose tepid soul knows nothing of great and generous emotion, of the high pride, the stern belief, the lofty enthusiasm, of the men who quell the storm and ride the thunder. Well for these men if they succeed; well also, though not so well, if they fail, given only that they have nobly ventured, and have put forth all their heart and strength. It is war-worn Hotspur, spent with hard fighting, he of the many errors and valiant end, over whose memory we love to linger, not over the memory of the young lord who "but for the vile guns would have been a valiant soldier."
ms Patti Patton-Bader
CIVILIAN AWARD FOR HUMANITARIAN SERVICE
For exceptional dedication and selfless service
leading to the creation of the Soldiers Angels Foundation
which has immeasurable enriched the lives of countless
thousands of service members and their families.
Ms Patton-Bader's talents and marketing skills
provided them with a myriad of services and unending support
at this critical time in our fight against global terrorism.
Her selfless service , abundant generosity, and tireless care
reflect great credit on her, the American Soldier
and THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
SIGNED Lt General Kevin Kiley
Well deserved! For more on our great friends at Soldier's Angels, click here.
If you're fast, you can place a bid in on this item - proceeds from the sale benefit the Valour-IT program.
The seller's blog is here. Stop by and say thanks!
Smash adds "Mikey is also a leader in our local Protest Warrior chapter, and was one of the folks asking tough questions of Congressman Filner last weekend."
A tough guy indeed, but also "a husband, a father, and (even before this incident) dealing with dialysis and getting on the national kidney transplant list."
Thoughts and prayers will no doubt be appreciated. Those able to do more should note the PayPal button at Mike's site.
A wounded Guardsman returns to action:
We thought he would never run again, as he needed permanent plates, screws, etc to reassemble his ankle. He came back with an amazing story about how personal perseverence and dedication can overcome just about anything.Read it all. Lots of hero stories here.
Chat Participant: What happened when you flew over My Lai that day?Next,
Hugh Thompson: We didn't just fly over one time. It was our mission to recon out in front of the American troops. That's what we were doing. I had gunship coverage. It wasn't probably until my second time on station after refueling that we noticed a large number of bodies, which were in our minds unexplained. The reason they were unexplained is they were women, kids, infants and old men. We started questioning what was going on here. We had not received fire. We were not being shot at and it was just unexplainable to us. We had about four direct encounters with the American forces, trying to help and assist civilians that had been wounded.
Chat Participant: How did you decide what to do?
Hugh Thompson: It was clear to us that something was going wrong. And at one time we had asked for assistance on a wounded civilian and a captain walked up and shot the girl we'd asked assistance for. Another time, we'd seen an irrigation ditch full of bodies, of which some were still living. We landed and talked to the Americans on the ground, said there are some wounded civilians in the ditch, can you help them out. And we were told, yes, we'll help them out of their misery. I said, quit joking, how bout helping them, and they said OK. As I took off, they walked to the ditch, and we heard machine-gun fire. [Crewmate] Glen Andreotta, in a shocked type voice, said, "My God, they are firing into the ditch." That was two times we'd asked for help and got people killed. Shortly after then, we saw some Vietnamese who had just made it to a bunker and were hiding inside the bunker. On the other side of the opening, we saw the American forces coming toward them. We just kind of figured those people were dead in about 15 seconds if we didn't do something. That's when we elected to land the aircraft between the American forces and the bunker.
"We thought they had about 30 seconds before they'd die," recalls Colburn. Thompson landed his chopper between the troops and the shelter, then jumped out and confronted the lieutenant in charge of the chase. He asked for assistance in escorting the civilians out of the bunker; the lieutenant said he'd get them out with a hand grenade. Furious, Thompson announced he was taking the civilians out. He went back to Colburn and Andreotta and told them if the Americans fired, to shoot them. "Glenn and I were staring at each other, dumbfounded," says Colburn. He says he never pointed his gun at an American soldier, but he might have fired if they had first. The ground soldiers waited and watched.Thompson:
"I was very upset at that time, and I thank God to this day that they stood where they were, and didn't prevent me from attempting to do what I was doing. I would hate to think about what could have happened or might have happened. I do thank the good Lord many times that they remained at ease."Then:
Thompson coaxed the Vietnamese out of the shelter with hand gestures. They followed, wary. Thompson looked at his three-man helicopter and realized he had nowhere to put them. "There was no thinking about it," he says now. "It was just something that had to be done, and it had to be done fast." He got on the radio and begged the gunships to land and fly the four adults and five children to safety, which they did within minutes.Years later:
Before returning to base, the helicopter crew saw something moving in the irrigation ditch–a child, about 4 years old. Andreotta waded through bloody cadavers to pull him out. Thompson, who had a son, was overcome by emotion. He immediately flew the child to a nearby hospital.
Chat Participant: Do you think that the atrocities committed at My Lai where inevitable given the nature of the war in Vietnam?
Hugh Thompson: No. Soldiers are taught to fight. Soldiers are taught to kill the enemy. This is not what occurred at My Lai.
Chat Participant: Mr. Thompson, what do you think were the factors that allowed My Lai to happen? Do you think it was an isolated incident or just the one that got people's attention?
Hugh Thompson: I think My Lai was a very isolated incident. Don't misunderstand me. I know civilians get killed in war. And I know that civilians get murdered in war. I've had other people tell me this happens all the time. They weren't there. They don't realize how large My Lai was. The Americans, I think, state 112 got killed. The Vietnamese figures 504, and I think they missed a lot. There was over 500 people murdered that day. I would have a hard time living with myself if I thought I was part of an action such as this. More than likely, larger numbers of people had been killed that day by artillery or air power, but not marched down into a ditch and murdered.
Chat Participant: What was your view of the war immediately prior to this incident? And what was it afterward?
Hugh Thompson: I was a military person, I was sent there to fight a war. My country deemed this war appropriate. So one incident by a very small group of people is not going to change my opinion of the war.
Chat Participant: You must be proud of what you did.
Hugh Thompson: I think what we did that day was correct, the correct thing to do. I had a real hard time for 30 years, not really 30 years, because interest waned, but during all the trials and investigations, I had a real hard time understanding why in the world everybody was trying to make me the bad guy. It's hard to live with that.
Eventually he would be a most welcome guest speaker at the US Military Academies.
But for an indication of what his neighbors thought of him, here's a recollection from fellow Vietnam veteran and author John Harriman, one of his many contributions here:
An army warrant Officer helicopter pilot by the name of Hugh "Buck" Thompson was flying overhead of the incident that day. He saw what was going on. He reported the incident over his radio. And then he did something that should force every man and woman in uniform into deep reflection.
Buck landed his helicopter. He got into the face of men who were killing innocent people in whatever frenzied state of mind possessed them. And he personally put a stop to the infamous My Lai massacre.
Of course, the deep reflection that I mentioned is this: "Would I have had the courage to do what Buck Thompson did?" He might well have died in the very ditches where the Vietnamese died, killed by their same bloodied killers.
"Could I ever muster that level of courage in myself?" It's a question for all soldiers, in all wars. That includes you. It's a question that defines the term, courage, at every level. It's a term that keeps new My Lais from happening.
I'm proud to say I knew Buck. He was a captain when I met him, and a long-time Army neighbor of mine in post housing at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Truth be told, he was a bit of a rake, a Gus McRae-type straight out of "Lonesome Dove." He was a heavy smoker, hard drinker, fabulous storyteller. You know the type--once he got going on a story you never knew whether it was a joke or the truth until he got to the punch line. Every tale was a journey.
But the one tale he never told was that of his own courage at My Lai. That news leaked out of his wife Joyce's mouth under the influence at one of the neighborhood blended Margarita sit-arounds.
I had heard about the pilot who stopped the killing at My Lai. From the moment I knew this was Buck's story, I was awestruck. From then on, the word, courage, to my mind, was defined by Buck Thompson's action that day. Compared to him, I don't know even the meaning of the word.
Last week Buck Thompson died at age 62. Many who eulogize him in the media today declare him to be the exception, and the killers at My Lai the rule. A few stories note that he never received as much recognition or credit as he deserved. This last one is true.
For instance, none of those writers knew he was called "Buck".
Spread the word!
Update: By the way, in the excitement over the confrontation itself, a very significant part of the story is being overlooked:
"And Congressman Moran, 200 of your constituents just returned from Afghanistan. We never got a letter from you; we never got a visit from you. You didn't come to our homecoming. The only thing we got from any of our elected officials was one letter from the governor of this state thanking us for our service in Iraq, when we were in Afghanistan."That State would be Virginia. They've got a new Governor now, the one in question has moved on.
Moran did respond a bit later in the meeting, first citing his current reasons for being "anti-war", then adding that his definition of support is different and unpredictable:
...and for those reasons I didn't support the war, and while I certainly support the dedication of the troops and will provide whatever is necessary both to protect them and to provide health care for them, far better that they not lose their lives and not lose their limbs in a mission that is not justified than to give the kind of predictable support that some others have.
Updated from 2006-01-14 02:03:54, see below.
Via email, from Katherine Curtis Stethem:
A travesty of justice occurred last month as Germany quietly released Mohammad Ali Hammadi, a Hezbollah terrorist convicted in the brutal murder of United States Navy Diver Robert Dean Stethem during the 1985 hijacking of TWA flight 847. Who can forget the words of pilot John Testrake, “They have just shot a passenger. I repeat: They have just shot a passenger.” Who can forget the image of a young American being shoved out of a plane onto the tarmac?Katherine Stethem is married to Patrick Stethem, Robert’s brother.
The feeling of betrayal by the German government, our supposed ally, is overwhelming. Commutation of a convicted murderer’s sentence is bad enough, but to grant him safe passage back to his native country is unconscionable. For twenty years this family has had to live with the knowledge that the other three terrorists associated with the hijacking remain at large. Ali Atwa, Hassan Izz-Al-Din, and Imad Mugniyah have, with the assistance of rogue nations, consistently eluded capture.
Hammadi was arrested in 1987 in what was then West Germany for possession of liquid explosives in Frankfurt airport. Chancellor Kohl denied President Reagan’s requests for extradition. The United States was assured, however, of the strictest of sentences contingent upon conviction. The trial began in July of 1988. The West German government spent millions of dollars related to security for this trial. They certainly considered Hezbollah enough of a threat to spend an exorbitant amount of money for security. In May of 1989 Hammadi was found guilty of air piracy and the murder of Robert Stethem. He was also found guilty of possession of liquid explosives in West Germany. This man is a dangerous criminal. Germany has released an obvious threat back into the world. Hammadi is in his early 40’s; he has plenty of years left to wreak havoc. It’s beyond belief.
There is no reason that can be given that will suffice. There is no reason that can be given that will satisfy the question as to why such a threat to humanity would be released at all, not to mention prior to serving his full term. The release of Hammadi has denied Rob’s parents and siblings their sliver of peace in the knowledge that Rob’s brutal killer is, at the very least, incarcerated. The German government has turned a blind eye to the long standing agreement with the United States that should Hammadi be released an extradition would occur. Or, at the very least, the stage would be set, ally to ally, for a rendition.
Robert Stethem exhibited unfathomable courage and unwavering patriotism during his last hours. The Navy declared him a naval hero, evidenced by the guided missile destroyer that bears the name, USS STETHEM. The United States Congress declared Robert Stethem an American hero. When a man or a woman is formally declared a hero, that person becomes a symbol of their country; they belong to every citizen. Rob Stethem belongs to all of us. Germany’s release and Lebanon’s receipt of the murderer of an American hero is not just an insult, an affront, and a betrayal to the Stethem family. It is an insult, an affront, and a betrayal to every American.
The Hezbollah “party” is now seated in Lebanon’s parliament. Granted, the U.S. does not have an extradition treaty with Lebanon, but what better way is there for Hezbollah to exhibit a desire to distance their “party” from extremists than to offer up Hammadi, a dangerous criminal, for extradition? This is an opportunity for Lebanon, the recipient of tens of millions of U.S. appropriations annually, to take a step toward peace and greater world safety. Through the offering of these tens of millions of dollars in aid every year the United States has consistently extended the hand of friendship to Lebanon. It’s time for Lebanon to return the favor. As President Bush stated regarding the war on terror, “If you are not with us, you are against us.” Should Lebanon continue to harbor Hezbollah terrorists, then Lebanon should be formally added to the State Department list of countries that sponsor terrorism and face the consequences.
Lebanon currently harbors other perpetrators of events of terror. The laundry list of such events include the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut in which 220 marines and 21 other U.S. service members were killed, the murder of Col. Rich Higgins whose very date of death is uncertain but was declared dead in July of 1990, the murder of former chief CIA officer in Lebanon William F. Buckley, the abduction of American University in Lebanon professors including Terry Anderson, the 1996 bombing of the Khobar towers in Saudi Arabia in which 19 Americans were killed, and the 1983 murders of some 80 U.S. intelligence officials. These atrocities were committed by Iranian-backed Lebanese extremists. Is this list destined to grow? Hammadi needs to be the straw that breaks this camel’s back.
The best case scenario, of course, would be for Lebanon to join the United States and our true allies in zero tolerance for terrorism. Given the unholy alliance, however, between Iran and Hezbollah, such realignment appears to be a pipe dream, at best. Hezbollah, though seated in Lebanon’s parliament, is but an extension of Iran. Terrorist mastermind and network coordinator Imad Mugniyah makes Osama Bin Ladin look like a hired gun. The world is becoming increasingly dangerous every day that we allow evil and hatred to run unchecked. What are the consequences for Lebanon? What are the consequences for Iran?
I don’t presume to know what the most expedient course of action would be. Should we punish Lebanon through sanctions or elimination of aid? Do we assist Lebanon in somehow wrenching them from the grip of Iran and Hezbollah? Is that even possible? I do know this: doing nothing at all is beyond unacceptable; it is morally reprehensible. Senator Barbara Milkulski of Maryland has drafted a letter to Secretary of State Rice requesting the institution of a formal diplomatic request to Lebanon to turn over the terrorists that are being harbored therein.
We are in support of this administration’s war on terror. With heavy hearts we support this administration’s efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. We grieve for the loss of over two thousand service members and are as equally pained by knowledge of Afghani and Iraqi civilian casualties. There has been so much pain. Too many lives have been lost, on both sides, to now lose momentum by allowing Hammadi to slip through the cracks. To storm two different countries with guns blazing, and then to acquiesce to the release of a walking prototype of terror would be duplicitous and absurd. This administration’s inaction and apparent apathy regarding this event would be a slap in the face not just to the Stethem family, but to the over two thousand service men and women who have given their lives in Afganistan and Iraq, the victims of September 11, 2001, and all of the grieving families and friends left behind.
Our family’s emotions are running high. Understandably, that gives way to impatience. Nevertheless, that is where we find ourselves. We are trusting in our government to exhibit the same fortitude and integrity regarding this issue as they have with other matters of terror. White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card contacted Richard and Patricia Stethem, Robert’s parents, on Christmas Eve. On behalf of the administration, Card pledged attention and support regarding this matter. The Stethem family would like to maintain confidence in this administration. That being said, we hold our government to a high standard. We expect action.
Former representative Don Bailey (D-Pa.) has apparently broken ranks and attacked the war record of fellow Democrat John Murtha:
In a conversation on the House floor in the early 1980s, said Bailey, who won a Silver Star and three Bronze Stars in Vietnam, Murtha told him he did not deserve his Purple Hearts. He recalled Murtha saying: "Hey, I didn't do anything like you did. I got a little scratch on the cheek." Murtha's spokeswoman would not address that account.The story was picked up by CNS, a conservative web site. In their report they also cited excerpts from The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2002, and several quotes from political opponents in the 1990s that raised questions regarding Murtha's record.
Bailey, who lost a House race to Murtha after a 1982 redistricting, said "Jack's a coward, and he's a liar" for subsequently denying the conversation. "That just really burned me," he said.
But the quote used above comes from a Washington Post article that confirms many of the accusations in the CNS story. But before Murtha's political opponents begin jumping for joy, they had best take a close look at how the Post is spinning the story of blue on blue warfare:
Web Site Attacks Critic of WarBeware of Greeks bearing gifts, they say. The Post dutifully notes the actual source of the accusations (Bailey) a few paragraphs into the piece, but leaves no doubt where this story is headed:
Opponents Question Murtha's Medals
Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), the former Marine who is an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq, has become the latest Democrat to have his Vietnam War decorations questioned.
In a tactic reminiscent of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth assault on Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) during the 2004 presidential campaign, a conservative Web site yesterday quoted Murtha opponents as questioning the circumstances surrounding the awarding of his two Purple Hearts.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, "The Swift Boat-like attacks on an American hero, Congressman Jack Murtha, are despicable and have no place in politics."Let me be clear: attacks on Murtha's Vietnam record are pointless. Murtha's latest statements against the success of US troops in Iraq speak for themselves; his current behavior renders his past insignificant. Democrats, grown tired of waiting for an attack on Murtha's war record from the Right, have created their own. He's painted as a victim now - of "right wing chickenhawk" contempt for real war heroes. But those serious about standing up to the current John Murtha would be well advised to let his fellow Democrats and the mainstream media keep this war "unilateral".
(Hat Tip: The Dawn Patrol)
If not for Jeff Goldstein I'd have missed this:
President Bashar al-Assad of Syria secretly incited Iraq's top Shia leader to declare holy war against US and British forces, according to Washington's former administrator in the country.That's from a UK story about the book. The US coverage was focused elsewhere.
In his new book, My Year in Iraq, Paul Bremer said he heard the explosive intelligence in October 2003 as sectarian tensions soared across the country following the fall of Saddam Hussein.
The report came from an extremely senior source, the supreme leader of Iraq's majority Shia community, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
A day after the bruised body of a 7-year-old girl was discovered in a blood-stained Brooklyn apartment, city officials revealed new and harrowing details of her short life yesterday, as well as repeated missed opportunities to save it. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg declared, "We, as a city, have failed this child."Here's a quote from the suspect's brother:
The body of the girl, Nixzmary Brown, was found Wednesday at her mother's home in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Investigators said that the girl's stepfather, Cesar Rodriguez, had banged her head against a faucet in the bathtub and that they were trying to determine whether that was what killed her.
Mr. Rodriguez's younger brother, Miguel, said that he had served in the Army, mainly at Ford Hood, Tex., but was discharged four or five years ago.There's no explanation of why he said that, and given the circumstances, I have to wonder. What has Ft Hood got to do with it?
The obvious answer is because the reporter asked him "Did your brother serve in Iraq?" Which is no doubt a standard question, probably pre-printed on all NYT crime reporter's notebooks.
Or maybe not. It could be just the first thing that ocurred to him.
Brother of man just arrested for killing a baby: "My brother served in the Army at Ft Hood Texas but got out before the war on terror began."
Yeah, that's probably how it happened.
... and you can help.
I am not going to embed with the military. While it sounds exciting (as well as terrifying), I’m only going to be there a few weeks. War correspondence isn’t something a person does for two weeks.I appreciate that comment about War correspondence isn’t something a person does for two weeks. Brevity has been a problem with a lot of recent coverage.
Instead I’m going to the part of Iraq most journalists ignore: the North. Erbil, Sulemaniya, Dohok, and Halabja – the city near the Iranian border where Saddam Hussein massacred thousands of people with chemical weapons.
Here’s what I want to know: does Iraqi Kurdistan live up to the hype? Is it actually a nice place? Or is Iraqi Kurdistan a backwater that is only pleasant compared to the rest of Iraq because it isn’t a war zone? Is it culturally liberal, moderate, or traditionally Islamic? How deeply has economic globalization penetrated the place? Do people there think of themselves as Kurdish first or Iraqi first? Does their pro-American viewpoint extend to Europe and Israel? What do Iraqi Kurds think of Arabs, not just Iraqi Arabs but Arabs in other Middle East countries? Is there any hint that the Kurds are using the Americans, or is the alliance a genuine and heartfelt one? How is the economy? Is it Third World or is it at least up to Lebanon’s level? Can Kurdish leaders be openly criticized in public without fear of retribution or punishment? How free and liberated are Kurdish Iraqi women? How much traction does Islamism have in Kurdistan among the conservatives? If it really is a wonderful place, what, specifically, makes it so great?
These things are rarely, if ever, written about, so I’m going there to find out and report back.
Michael has been providing outstanding insight during his extended travels through the middle east. He's nobody's "shill" Left or Right. Visit his front page and scroll, scroll, scroll.
I look forward to his reports from the Kurdish regions.
That crouch is interesting - most people strolling under the whirling blades of a helicopter adopt that pose. The blades are well above your head, but survival instinct is strong.
This photo was taken by US Army Spc Jennifer D. Atkinson. The picture is one of many produced by military journalists covering the war on terror. They are freely available for use - released by the government and essentially public domain.
Which is why you'll often find them on anti-war web sites. The link is the web page of Thomas Barton. Barton produces what he claims is "a near-daily news bulletin for service members" - and encourages wide distribution. Here's some background from the web site of the group "Not in Our Name" (NION):
Since May 2003, Thomas Barton has been distributing this comprehensive daily compilation of news about our government's immoral war without end. When Thomas began distributing these bulletins via email, notinourname.net was the only place you could go to get up-to-date issues, and all of the back issues as well. Now Thomas has his own page dedicated to "GI Special" -- making our archive redundant and never as current as militaryproject.org.NION was founded in March 2002 (a year before the invasion of Iraq) by members of the Revolutionary Communist Party. NION's stated purpose is to resist the U.S. government's course in the wake of the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks. The RCP believes "that the only way for the oppressed masses to ever liberate themselves is through waging a people's war, and building a new socialist society on the ashes of capitalism." Most US "peace protests" are organized by NION and "fellow travelers'" groups like International Answer.
Speaking of Fellow Travelers, Barton is also the producer of Traveling Soldier:
But we want to do more than tell the truth; we want to report on the resistance to those on top - whether it’s in the streets of Baghdad, New York, or inside the armed forces.In addition to that endorsement, you'll find Barton's compilations routinely available at various other "anti-war" sites. They also trickle down into personal web pages of folks who may or may not be aware of who their intellectual leaders are.
For this, we might be criticized for not being “objective” or “balanced”. We aren’t. We proudly take the side of our class - working people and the oppressed the world over - against those who use their wealth and power to make our lives hell. But producing this newsletter for people in the armed forces is about more than telling the truth. Our goal is for Traveling Soldier to become the thread that ties working-class people inside the armed services together. We want this newsletter to be a weapon to help you organize resistance within the armed forces - and that can’t happen without you.
But speaking of personal web pages - it turns out the photographer who captured that photo has one:
OMG.I'll save you the bother; here's how the image appeared on Barton's "military project" page:
My photos are being used on websites against the war. I'm floored and upset.
The photos are released, but still.
My photo is about a third of the way down the page.
I'm not sure exactly how the photo is supposed to support the claim in that headline, but I suppose that's not the sort of question the consumers of Barton's material are expected (or permitted) to raise.
But after her initial surprise, Spc Atkinson responded:
Sir,This, my friends, is exactly what milblogs are about. Troops speaking for themselves - no reporter, congressman, or "'anti-war' traveler" in between. You want to speak for the troops? You better make damn sure you're not lying when you do so. "Not in our name" indeed.
I am the Army journalist who took the photo used on your website, the one under the caption "Really bad place to be: Bring them home now."
I have read your disclaimer at the bottom of your splash page, and although I fully support your right to free speech, I am saddened by the use of my work.
I realize the photo has been released to the public through the Army, but I am asking that you either remove the photo or my photo credit and post "US Army photo" under the picture. If you prefer, you could post what the original release cutline said and the correct context of the photo. I do not support your website, or your stated intentions.
I'm sure, since you support the troops but not the war, you'll be kind enough to show your support of this particular soldier.
Thank you for your time.
Spc. Jennifer D. Atkinson
I highly encourage all here to visit Spc Atkinson's blog and leave a few words of encouragement - or thanks. Her post doesn't note whether she's sent that letter yet or not. She's been busy though - returning home from Iraq. (In fact she was one of the soldiers who happened to be greeted by President Clinton when he went to Bangor after meeting Jacques Chirac.)
As for Barton...
"a member of the International Socialist Organization, Thomas Barton is a third-generation union activist: His grandfather belonged to the Industrial Workers of the World in Indiana, an uncle helped form a United Auto Workers local in Wisconsin, and another, called "Red," was excommunicated from the Catholic Church. Barton himself has been involved in everything from publishing an anti-Vietnam War newspaper to arguing in D.C. this past week that Chinese sweatshop workers and prison inmates are not the enemies of organized labor, but rather its allies. As he puts it: "It's not the workers who are our enemies—it's the same class of rich people that run both the U.S. and China." He is also a frequent contributer to Socialist Worker Online)...he has a legal right to publish that photo. The question is now a moral one, and the answer isn't likely to surprise anyone.
Haloscan inbound trackbacks do not seem to work. This has something to do with haloscan having a different IP address than your blog so our MT blog won't accept it. Any fixes known for this would be grrreeeat. If you have haloscan and you get it to work we'd be happy to hear about it.
Outbound trackbacks won't show up either, unless we manually add them in and then they'll show up on your blog without any problems. This was recently discovered, so many of the Dawn patrol links in the past year probably went unnoticed unless of course they were to loyal readers.
Those that get the "pinging to fast" we have no clue yet what causes that. We've adjusted throttle time to no avail. We also get that same message when we link so many in the Dawn Patrols. So our outbound trackbacks are not all working either.
Late last week we broke the story of Sgt Mark Seavey's encounter with Congressmen Murtha and Moran at a Town Hall Meeting. Over the weekend the story spread through the blogosphere.
Yesterday the Michael Reagan radio program contacted us, and we put them in touch with Sergeant Mark Seavey. He was a guest on Reagan's program, and today you can hear the audio excerpt on The Liberty Zone.
The armor issue returns.
I'll bet that given the choice most guys would rather have these:
The same kind of earplugs sold to Def Leppard, the Moody Blues, Nine Inch Nails and other rock bands are slowly starting to be used by U.S. military pilots to protect hearing, muffle cockpit noise and ease communications.But are any of those bands still touring?
“These things are phenomenal,” Bradley said. “It cuts out more noise, and I can hear much better. I want to buy this for every Reserve I have who wears a helmet.”
The new earplugs originally were developed for aircraft maintenance workers who often had to stand next to deafening jet engines.
“The pilots got jealous,” said John Hall, audio engineer in the Air Force Research Lab at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
The earplugs are similar to ones Westone sells to rock bands, said Karl Cartwright, head of new product development for the company. Musicians use the plugs not only to protect their hearing, but also to hear the sounds of the individual instruments and voices more clearly.
The noise in Iraq is unrelenting - especially if you're at a camp with aviation assets. (Not to mention combat and other explosions.) And plugs that block all sound aren't the answer. But fat chance the media would recognize a real and widespread threat. In fact, their emphasis on armor, armor, and armor ensures other issues will never be addressed.
And while we're at it, a weapon that can drop a terrorist in one shot would be nice too. Back to you, Senator Clinton.
Farris Hassan, the 16-year-old who travelled to Iraq, gives his first televised interview.
He also spent 10 days in Beirut, where he interviewed a Hezbollah "officer". ''I actually sort of nailed him on one point.'' Farris reports. He flew from there to Baghdad.
"I've always felt that life is not worth living without taking great risks in order to achieve great things." Farris concludes. On the topic of his possible death he adds "If I am to die I'd rather have it happen trying to do something good, trying to help my fellow man."
According to the Miami Herald, Farris is also concerned the media coverage of his trip might encourage ''copycats''.
Kathryn Lopez' interview with Ambassador Paul Bremer, former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.
Quick test: Which of the following is the better way to make money on the internet:
a. Provide content on a webspace that attracts readers, viewers, or listeners - and sell advertising.
b. Just sell advertising on a web page that has nothing but advertising.
Update - Soldier's Dad, in comments:
I'm confused, were you referring to the kid with the million pixel idea, or the Washington Post?Ouch!
But yes, there appears to be no correlation between content and advertising dollars on the internet. In fact, I propose the following:
"On the Internet, there is no correlation between a site's content - or lack thereof - and it's attraction to advertisers."
I'm sure there are other examples supporting this.
And, according to Iranians I trust, Osama bin Laden finally departed this world in mid-December. The al Qaeda leader died of kidney failure and was buried in Iran, where he had spent most of his time since the destruction of al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The Iranians who reported this note that this year's message in conjunction with the Muslim Haj came from his number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, for the first time.Richard Miniter:
There is only one presumably well-informed source who has gone on the record to say that bin Laden was on dialysis: Pakistani Prime Minister Pervez Musharraf. And he later changed his mind.
Foreign government officials who have met bin Laden also insist that he has no problems with his kidneys. Bin Laden lived in Sudan from 1991 to May 1996. I interviewed political leaders and intelligence officials there who knew him. Gutbi al-Mahdi, Sudan's former intelligence chief, told me bin Laden had no health problems during his time in Sudan. In fact, every Sudanese I spoke with denied that bin Laden had any health problems, let alone a kidney ailment requiring dialysis.
Dr. Amer Aziz, a British citizen born in Pakistan, was interrogated by eight CIA and FBI agents, as well as by Pakistani intelligence officers. Strongly sympathetic to radical Islam, Aziz had treated bin Laden for years. He reportedly admitted to visiting bin Laden after the September 11 attacks. Upon his release, he talked freely to Paul Haven of the Associated Press in November 2002. The doctor said he had given bin Laden a "complete physical" in 1999 and treated him for back injuries after bin Laden was thrown from a horse. "His kidneys were fine," the doctor told Mr. Haven. He said "If you're on dialysis, you have a special look. I didn't see any of that," and added that bin Laden "was walking. He was healthy." Aziz was emphatic: "I did not see any evidence of kidney disease; I didn't see any evidence of dialysis."
Aziz later discussed the dialysis issue with the New York Times. "When I hear these reports, I laugh. I did not see any evidence."
He has good reason to laugh -- legions of Westerners have bought the story that bin Laden is on dialysis, with no proof at all.
A great idea, ia email:
Hello,Send a message top the guys and girls at the front here.
Soldiers Angels in collaboration with Library of Life is mounting a Guinness Book of Records attempt, called Operation: Love Our Troops, to create the largest digital Valentine's Day card ever and send the messages to our deployed military.
Library of Life is an organization that offers the public a way to celebrate life and share memories on line, through a digital library that will last forever. They are sponsoring the campaign, hosting the Valentines messages for free and created a way to raise funds for Soldiers Angels.
Before the site is promoted and Operation Love Our Troops is announced to the public, we want to populate the site with genuine, heartfelt messages. We are reaching out to Angels for support with this. We're asking that you visit www.operationloveourtroops.com and send a message of support to the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces. "Who would better deserve the largest Valentine's Day card than our troops abroad," says Patti Patton-Bader.
Library of Life has retained The Bohle Company, a top public relations company based in Los Angeles, to promote the campaign. They will be seeking major media coverage for this effort that will greatly enhance Soldiers Angels visibility.
We are really excited about this partnership and trust you will be too.
Let's show the troops how much they are appreciated. You're welcome to forward this email on to others. We want Operation Love Our Troops to be an overwhelming success. Thank you for helping us attain this goal.
Patti Bader, Founder
Ana-Marie Smith, President
Amir Taheri on the movie Syriana:
THE would-be ruler of an oil-rich Arab state is planning a policy reform that includes allowing girls to go to school and signing an oil contract with China. But days before he takes over, he is assassinated when a remote-controlled bomb destroys his bulletproof limousine in the middle of the desert. Who would want such an enlightened prince out of the way?I haven't seen the movie myself - I'm waiting for the DVD. If I were still in Iraq that wait would be over:
The answer given in "Syriana," the Hollywood blockbuster starring George Clooney, is simple: The murder was planned and carried out by the CIA, the dirty-tricks arm of the United States of America.
But why would the Americans want an enlightened Arab leader murdered at a time that President Bush is publicly calling for such leaders to emerge in the Arab world?
Again, the scriptwriters' answer is straightforward: the U.S. government is controlled by Texas oil interests that cannot allow any Arab state to sign an oil contract with China.
I saw the film in New York last month and did not expect a pirated videocassette version to be already available throughout the Arab world. Yet, in the past week or so, I have received more than a dozen e-mails from Arab friends throughout the Middle East citing the film as (in the words of one) another "sure proof" that the United States will never tolerate democratic leaders in that neck of the wood.Hollywood's impact in that part of the world may occur faster than in the West. I saw "National Treasure", "Team America" and several other titles on their opening weekends on pirated DVDs in a small camp near Baghdad.
Taheri's full article is a must read, and it isn't really about the movie. He explains (at the link) why such stories appeal to a certain segment of the population in the Middle East, and gives a separate explanation for it's attraction to some in the US:
One answer to why anyone might want to make such a film is, of course, the very American desire to make money. As things stand today, there is a large market for dissent in the United States. In a recent trip there, I noticed that unless you took a dig at the Americans no one would even listen to you. In one session, when I politely suggested that George W. Bush might be a better choice than either Mullah Omar or Saddam Hussein, I was nearly booed by my American interlocutors.Read carefully and you'll note that his words weren't written specifically for American readers. In fact, his story first appeared in the Arab media - Asharq Alawsat on January 6, Arab News on January 7, and then the New York Post on January 8. By then, of course, the Morrocco Times had it too. Perhaps pirated versions are also available.
The truth is that there is a market for self-loathing in America today and many, including the producers of "Syriana," are determined to cash in on it.
At the risk of being accused of that myself, here's a bit more:
Here is how the incomparable Evelyn Waugh described the present American situation when the makers of "Syriana" were still nothing but glimmers in their daddies' eyes: "There is no more agreeable position than that of dissident from a stable democratic society."Read it all, of course.
The reason is simple: In a stable democratic society — in which you are protected by the law — you can lie, cheat and mislead, all in the name of political dissent, and be rewarded with fame and fortune.
The fact that the CIA is little more than a costly leaking device used by rival groups within the U.S. establishment to launch accusations and counter-accusations at each other need not bother the makers of "Syriana." The CIA's masters, for their part, would be pleased with "Syriana" if only because it claims that they can do anything at all.
AS for the American self- loathing party, its members would do well to ponder the second part of that quotation from Waugh: "The more elaborate the society, the more vulnerable it is to attack, and the more complete its collapse in case of defeat."
Postscript - A more complete version of the Waugh quote (from 1938) can be found here:
Barbarism is never finally defeated; given propitious circumstances, men and women who seem quite orderly will commit every conceivable atrocity. The danger does not come merely from habitual hooligans; we are all potential recruits for anarchy. Unremitting effort is needed to keep men living together at peace; there is only a margin of energy left over for experiment however beneficent. Once the prisons of the mind have been opened, the orgy is on. There is no more agreeable position than that of dissident from a stable society. Theirs are all the solid advantages of other people's creation and preservation, and all the fun of detecting hypocrisies and inconsistencies. There are times when dissidents are not only enviable but valuable. The work of preserving society is sometimes onerous, sometimes almost effortless. The more elaborate the society, the more vulnerable it is to attack, and the more complete its collapse in case of defeat. At a time like the present it is notably precarious. If it falls we shall see not merely the dissolution of a few joint-stock corporations, but of the spiritual and material achievements of our history.
Over on the west coast, Smash attended another Town Hall meeting:
SATURDAY AFTERNOON, I attended an "Out of Iraq" forum at a local church, featuring a keynote address by anti-war Congressman Bob Filner. After his speech, Filner opened up the floor for questions. He fielded a few softballs from the largely friendly crowd.Click here. (Audio included.) More please.
Then he called on me.
I know that I am going to the Fiesta Bowl, I know where I am staying, and now I just have to wait for someone to call for me to make the travel arrangements. I know there is some type of fundraiser that I will be participating in, just as long as they do not make me throw a football, dance around like an idiot, or kiss the mascot I should be all right. I am not into the publicity thing, but I will do anything to see Ray via satellite.In fact she had been selected to participate in a halftime “throw for charity” during the game. Her challenge was to throw a football through a target 15 yards away - in front of 78,000 fans in the stadium and millions more on TV. If she made it, Tostitos would donate $100,000 to the USO. As a bonus, she'd been told that arrangements had been made for her to speak via satellite to her boyfriend in Iraq following the throw.
That was the throw - here's the catch. He wasn't in Iraq. Faith's boyfriend, First Lieutenant Ray Vera of the 49th Military Police Brigade, California National Guard, had his own secret mission. He had been flown to Arizona to be reunited with her during the game:
Jarvis attempted to throw a football through a target 15 yards away. If she made it, Tostitos would donate $100,000 to the USO. Then, a company representative told her, she would be able to speak to Vera via a satellite link. Her throw had the distance but was wide right. Tostitos still donated $25,000 to the USO.
Then Vera trotted out in a desert camouflage uniform and the two shared a tearful hug before Vera dropped to one knee.
"Faith, I love you with all my heart, and I want to ask you if you'll marry me," he said.
Jarvis was so overwhelmed, she could barely choke out, "Of course."
I can't let his year get along much farther without acknowledging some folks who visited Mudville in 2005 - and left it a better place then when they found it. I'm humbled and amazed at the incredibly talented people who've opted to share their thoughts here. My thanks to them all.
The wife of a Mississippi National Guardsman. She was visited by Hurricane Katrina while her husband was visiting Iraq.
Haider Ajina - a unique perspective on Iraq. Keep 'em coming!
Jules Crittenden - an awesome look at two heroes from Vietnam. Quote of the year here: "It wasn't a matter of living or dying. It was taking care of each other and doing your duty. The anticipation of a future is what you give up. The question was not, 'Am I going to die?' We all know the answer to that. The question was, 'How am I going to die? I am going to die well.'"
And Robert Stokely, "Lucky and Proud to be the Dad of SGT Michael "Mike" James Stokely, KIA Operation Iraqi Freedom 16 Aug 05." Always in our thoughts. We'll never forget.
Thanks again to one and all.
And if you're reading this, perhaps you've got a story to share. We're always proud to help amplify voices here. Send an email, we'd love to add you to this year's list.
Via Michelle Malkin, another revealing moment from the "Town Hall Meeting" featuring congressmen Moran and Murtha. Just before the end of the meeting, Vietnam veteran General Louis C. Wagner spoke on behalf of a friend who had been ignored by the congressman. Unfortunately Murtha had excused himself and departed a few minutes prior.
Video of this exchange begins at the 2:18:30 point in the video:
Hello Mr Moran I'm General Wagner. I'm here tonight, I decided to come at 7:30. And I'll tell you the reason I came at 7:30 is because I want an answer to a letter, to a friend of ours. She wrote this letter to Mr. Murtha, where she pointed out to him that he was causing the insurgents to bring more activity against the soldiers in Iraq, just as the traitors did during the Vietnam war. I was fighting in 1972 with the Vietnamese when people were cavorting with the North Vietnamese.Moran stumbled to respond, but eventually began reciting talking points, noting that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11:
Her son was killed today.
I got the message at 7:30 tonight, and I'll tell you, I wasn't going to waste my time coming here because I knew the trash that was going to be put out. But I'm really mad. Because what is being put out is being used to incite the insurgents to continue this war, just as it incited General Giap to consider the Vietnam war.
He hasn't answered her letter, Mr Moran, but I want to read a paragraph to you. I think its a little instructive:
"I have faith in our military leaders and believe that they are making the necessary steps to train the Iraqi forces and provide for our eventual withdrawal. I also have faith in our executive branch, that they are taking the necessary steps to help the new Iraqi government to get a democratic style government in place and to give them at least a chance of success. Although mistakes were made in the execution of the war and its aftermath, the goal itself is worthy, and in spite of all the negativity that we are constantly bombarded with I believe that there have been some remarkable successes.
"Although my son would surely" - and this, incidentally, this is the one that was killed today - "would surely prefer to stay home with his wife and four young children" - from 10 to 2, I'm adding that - "he is both a soldier and a scholar, he understands that we are in a vital long term struggle against a dangerous ideology, and he is willing to make the necessary sacrifices to defeat it. It is a difficult struggle and will require patience and fortitude both on and off the battlefield. If we lose our will at home, it makes the task for our soldiers all the more difficult. I believe your comments were irresponsible and are contributing to the loss of national will. If they were made to obtain political advantages I would find that abhorrent and unworthy of a former Marine."
Sir, I'm mad. Because that is happening every day when I read the newspapers. I visit Walter Reed, and talk to the young soldiers with their legs blown off. I know you do too.
I can't find one in a dozen that don't believe that they are fighting for a noble cause and are fighting to go back. And I think it's a disgrace when members of our congress, just as they did in 1975 when they sold out the South Vietnamese, are selling out our soldiers today in Iraq.
Thank you sir. (no applause)
Well... uh... Ge.. General... uh.. uh.. we're not gonna end... uh... I'll respond.Moran was actually repeating comments he had made earlier in the evening. Recall the comments from Sgt Mark Seavey:
But..., um... I.. I do respect your point of view, I know it is widely shared. Uhh... and, um..., and I respect your service in the military.
Uhhh.. I do support the troops, and I do believe that the best way for me to support the troops is to make sure that when they do go to war its a war that needs to be fought. Uh... I... (applause) I... In response to the first two... I don't want the applause, because its going to be interpreted that I'm appealing to the audience. But the, uh... with regard to having faith in the troops I do have faith in our troops, and... uh... but with regard to having faith in uhh... the government that sent them, I don't, and the reason I don't is because they deliberately... is because the reasons that we were giving... given to go to war in Iraq were not accurate, uhhh, and, um, uh, and uh we have now found that Saddam didn't have weapons of mass destruction, there wasn't reliable evidence that he did. He was not a threat to the United States despite any number of attempts in any number of speeches to uhhh... tie Saddam Hussein to the attacks of 9/11 he had nothing to do with it. So our going into Iraq was not in response to any attack, or even real threat to the United States, and it seems to me it uhh... it failed on that and any number of other reasons for being a war that was of necessity.
"Yes sir my name is Mark Seavey and I just want to thank you for coming up here. Until about a month ago I was Sgt Mark Seavey infantry squad leader, I returned from Afghanistan. My question to you, (applause)Moran responded quickly: "That wasn't in the form of a question, it was in the form of a statement. But, uhh... let's go over here." And he took the next question.
"Like yourself I dropped out of college two years ago to volunteer to go to Afghanistan, and I went and I came back. If I didn't have a herniated disk now I would volunteer to go to Iraq in a second with my troops, three of which have already volunteered to go to Iraq. I keep hearing you say how you talk to the troops and the troops are demoralized, and I really resent that characterization. (applause) The morale of the troops that I talk to is phenomenal, which is why my troops are volunteering to go back, despite the hardships they had to endure in Afghanistan.
"And Congressman Moran, 200 of your constituents just returned from Afghanistan. We never got a letter from you; we never got a visit from you. You didn't come to our homecoming. The only thing we got from any of our elected officials was one letter from the governor of this state thanking us for our service in Iraq, when we were in Afghanistan. That's reprehensible. I don't know who you two are talking to but the morale of the troops is very high."
But after that questioner, Moran remembered his talking points, and claimed that he was going to respond to Sgt Seavey. This "response" to the veteran of Afghanistan comes at the 37:15 point in the video, and might seem familiar:
"The gentleman that spoke earlier deserves a response. It seems to me that we best support the troops when we make the most responsible decisions as to how their skills, talents, and lives are to be used on behalf of America's interests. I voted for the use of military authorization in Afghanistan to go after the people who attacked the United States and to complete the job. And more than sufficient resources will be made available if they are requested for Afghanistan. There's no question about that.Aparently calling Moran on the carpet on specific topics of troop support is to invite recitation of his current reasons for opposing the Iraq invasion of 2003.
I didnt support the war in Iraq for three principal reasons.
One is that I didn't trust the intelligence that there were weapons of mass destruction. It was not verifiable, it wasn't even current. It was a matter of trust of people who I didn't feel merited sufficient trust on their own...
Secondly, Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the attack on the United States. He never attacked the United States, and so he was no threat to the United States. There were no terrorist operations going on in Iraq. He was a secularist, he was in fact targeted by Osama bin Laden because he was a secularist. He was a brutal dictator, that may be one of the reasons he was able to hold Iraq together in the same way that Tito was able to hold together the Balkans. So we were not responding to any attack.
And thirdly I concluded, in the same way that President Bush the father, the 41st President concluded on the advice of his military advisers, that you don't go to war without a plan to win the peace. And Brent Scowcroft, Colin Powell, any number of others advised him if you go into Baghdad we don't know how you're going to get out, we don't know how you're going to avoid a long-term occupation. We should be welcome liberators, and not long-term occupiers, and for those reasons I didn't support the war, and while I certainly support the dedication of the troops and will provide whatever is necessary both to protect them and to provide health care for them, far better that they not lose their lives and not lose their limbs in a mission that is not justified than to give the kind of predictable support that some others have. It is very difficult to distinguish between support of the troops and support of the war. I support the troops clearly, I appreciate what they're doing, but I think the best I can do is to not put them in harms way unless it is clearly in America's interest.
Of course, back in 2003 Moran blamed a different group for the war - the Jews:
At an antiwar forum in Reston, Va., Moran contended that the U.S. would not be considering military action against Iraq "if it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war… The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going, and I think they should."Other veterans appearing in the Town Hall meeting video include John Brunes of Iraq Veterans Against the War and Garrett Reppenhagen of Alliance for Security.
If your trackback fails leave a comment, we'll move the link up here.
Small Town Veteran linked with Iraqi civilians guide American forces to four weapons caches
Glenn Reynolds (and several readers - including military - via email) on don't ask, don't tell.
A quick note: Congress is responsible for the policy - not the military. And as an e-mailer pointed out at Instapundit, now is probably not the time - the political climate is a bit hot.
But another email pointed out that several (perhaps a majority) of troops getting "kicked out" because of this policy are doing so intentionally. I've seen this happen myself. In one case a young first-termer walked into the legal office and revealed he was gay shortly after getting orders to Korea. (This was the mid-90s - many thought Korea was the worst thing that could happen to you.)
The "process of elimination" took several months, and while the legal wheels slowly turned the assignment could not be officially cancelled, so the Korea slot went unfilled - no doubt resulting in a tremendous workload increase for what would have been the gaining unit. And ultimately someone else got a very short notice assignment. A no-win situation for all - except for the young man who may or may not have been gay, but who eventually became a civilian.
This is nothing new - some readers will recall Corporal Klinger on MASH (the television version) and his attempts at "Section 8". Once "don't ask don't tell" becomes a thing of the past some other avenue for escape will take its place.
The Army has been meeting it's recruiting goals for several months. This must be deeply disturbing to Congressman John Murtha - he's now urging Americans to avoid military service:
"Would you join (the military) today?," he was asked in an interview taped on Friday.Murtha's comments beg the question "But if you had it to do over again, would you enlist for Vietnam?" - but if that question was asked or answered it hasn't been reported in the coverage.
"No," replied Murtha of Pennsylvania, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives subcommittee that oversees defense spending and one of his party's leading spokesmen on military issues.
"And I think you're saying the average guy out there who's considering recruitment is justified in saying 'I don't want to serve'," the interviewer continued.
"Exactly right," said Murtha.
When asked about Murtha's remarks in a press conference, current Marine and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace responded:
Q: If I could switch topics, sir, this week Representative John Murtha was asked if he would join the U.S. military today, and he said no. And pressed in that ABC interview -- and I don't know if you saw it or not -- he said -- the interviewer said, "I think you're saying the average guy who's considering recruitment is justified in saying, 'I don't want to serve.'" And he said, "Exactly right." Can get your response to those statements?
GEN. PACE: You know, when I got back yesterday, one of the first questions I was asked was what I thought about that. I had not seen the clip. I did get a chance to see it yesterday.
A large segment of the clip had to do with opinion about the war, and that's not my lane. This country's strength is based on the ability of its citizens and its leadership to have divergent views.
There were two parts in what I saw that went directly to my lane in the road, which is the health of the U.S. military. One was a statement that the U.S. Army is not well trained. The United States Army is well-trained. It is the best trained army in the world. It has never been better-trained, and we will continue to make sure that it stays well- trained.
The second was a quote that you just mentioned. That's damaging to recruiting, it's damaging to morale of the troops who are deployed, and it's damaging to the morale of their families who believe in what they're doing to serve this country. We have almost 300 million Americans who are being protected by 2.4 (million) volunteer active, Guard and Reserve members. We must recruit to that force. When a respected leader like Mr. Murtha, who has spent 37 extremely honorable years as a Marine, fought in two wars, has served the country extremely well in the Congress of the United States, when a respected individual like that says what he said, and 18- and 19-year-olds look to their leadership to determine how they are expected to act, they can get the wrong message.
Q: Sir, you look and sound a little angry about this. Am I misreading that?
GEN. PACE: I would describe myself as "energized" -- (laughter) -- because we have an all-volunteer, all-recruited United States armed forces. I believe that all young people should have the opportunity to serve their country in whatever way they see fit, and that those who would elect to serve in the armed forces of the United States should be encouraged to do, especially when we're in a war where our enemy has stated intention of destroying our way of life.
Q: So, General, is it irresponsible of the congressman to have made those remarks?
GEN. PACE: I think I've said what I needed to say about that.
General Pace also pointed out that the Army has met its recruiting goals for the last six months.
Last night Congressman Murtha dismissed General Pace's comments at a "Town Hall Forum" in Arlington, Va., sponsored by Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) The Washington Post:
In an emotional two-hour public forum in Arlington last night on the Iraq war, one of the Bush administration's chief critics, Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), renewed his call for an immediate pullout, saying, "We've become the enemy."
Before a crowd of about 600 people that spilled out of the auditorium and into an overflow room and the street, Murtha accused the Pentagon of ignoring a drop in recruitment levels and tolerating such problems in Iraq as low morale and shortages of body armor and other equipment.
"Instead of taking on the real problems, they face it with rhetoric," he said. " 'Murtha's hurting recruiting,' " the congressman said. "They say, 'You're hurting the effort and hurting the troops.' That's what so frustrating to me."
Most of Murtha and Moran's talking points from this event are from 2003-2004 - not enough armor, Abu Ghraib was a result of poor training, troops aren't getting medical care, only poor people join the army - we've debunked them all here over the past several months. As the Post noted, MoveOn.org sent e-mails to opponents of the war urging the faithful to attend. And although several Iraq war veterans turned activist made the long trek to cheer him on, an actual "local vet" also made an appearance. The Post offered a partial quote:
But one veteran angrily confronted him.But video of the event is available on CSPAN - and watching it reveals a much more interesting exchange. Sgt Seavey is the first man at the mike, at approximately the 34:30 point in the video (Update: Michelle Malkin has the exact segment here):
Said former Army sergeant Mark Seavey, who recently returned from Afghanistan: "I keep hearing you say morale is low, and I resent that. I don't know who you are talking to. Morale . . . is very high."
"Yes sir my name is Mark Seavey and I just want to thank you for coming up here. Until about a month ago I was Sgt Mark Seavey infantry squad leader, I returned from Afghanistan. My question to you, (applause)
"Like yourself I dropped out of college two years ago to volunteer to go to Afghanistan, and I went and I came back. If I didn't have a herniated disk now I would volunteer to go to Iraq in a second with my troops, three of which have already volunteered to go to Iraq. I keep hearing you say how you talk to the troops and the troops are demoralized, and I really resent that characterization. (applause) The morale of the troops that I talk to is phenomenal, which is why my troops are volunteering to go back, despite the hardships they had to endure in Afghanistan.
"And Congressman Moran, 200 of your constituents just returned from Afghanistan. We never got a letter from you; we never got a visit from you. You didn't come to our homecoming. The only thing we got from any of our elected officials was one letter from the governor of this state thanking us for our service in Iraq, when we were in Afghanistan. That's reprehensible. I don't know who you two are talking to but the morale of the troops is very high."
Moran - who is one of the few congressmen supporting Charlie Rangel's call to restore the draft - responded quickly: "That wasn't in the form of a question, it was in the form of a statement. But, uhh... let's go over here." And he took the next question.
That was not in the form of a response to Sgt Seavey in any way shape or form.
In addition to declaring the US troops "demoralized", "defeated", and "the enemy", Murtha also recently defended the "insurgents" in Iraq:
Bin Laden said he attacked the United States because of the troops in Saudi Arabia. That's terrorism. Terrorism was in London. Terrorism was in Spain. Terrorism was, obviously, in the United States.According to the government of Iraq, Murtha's "insurgents" killed over 7,000 Iraqis last year:
That's completely separate from what's going on in Iraq. Iraq is an insurgency.
"Very small proportion of the people that are involved in the insurgency are terrorists or how I would interpret them as terrorists."
The year 2005 saw 2,880 terrorist attacks target Iraqi security forces and civilians, Major Abdul Aziz al-Mousawi said. About 1,225 policemen and 475 soldiers were killed, along with 4,021 civilians and 1,709 insurgents, he said. Overall, 7,430 Iraqis were killed, according to the figures.But "we" are the enemy.
Elsewhere on this topic (updated):
Gateway Pundit has video of General Pace's comments here.
Best of the Web Today offers more observations from that Moran/Murtha Town Hall meeting.
MilBloggers weigh in:
Update: More from Mudville here.
Who was given a gold medal by the US Congress for capturing the Penguin?
An Army Special Forces soldier who lost most of his family to the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia has been awarded the Silver Star for heroism yesterday for saving his men during a firefight in Afghanistan.Capt Furat, Iraqi Army:
But despite attempts by his superiors and fellow soldiers to tag him as a hero at a Camp Smith ceremony yesterday, Master Sgt. Suran Sar expressed concerns about receiving the medal for only doing his job, and praised a fellow soldier who was also an immigrant to America and was killed doing his job.
"I feel kind of shame to receive this prestigious award. All I was doing was something I love to do ... it's fighting and serving my country," said Sar, who feels he found a "second home" in the Army's elite Special Forces unit after losing everyone but a sister during the bloody reign of Pol Pott.
"It was early in the morning, around 7 or 8," Sar said, talking about the March 2 firefight. "It was cold and there was fog."
On that day, he led a Special Forces Team of 12 soldiers to inspect a mountainous area 9,000 feet above sea level, in the province of Pakika near the Pakistani border.
There was still snow on the ground when the first UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter carrying six of Alpha Team members touched down on a north ridge.
Soldiers from that helicopter were immediately pinned down by enemy fire, Sar said. His UH-60 carrying another six soldiers landed on the south side.
"There were bullets whizzing overhead," Sar recalled, as his soldiers jumped off the Black Hawk. He said he started firing, killing one rebel.
"One gave up, another dropped his weapon," Sar said, "and another ran into a bunker."
With four of his other team members pinned down by enemy fire in the snow behind him, Sar and his medic decided to pursue the fleeing insurgent.
As he tried to enter a building, an Afghan rebel fired three rounds at Sar from as close as six feet.
"Two of the bullets missed me," Sar said. The third bullet hit his helmet on the right side and barely grazed his forehead. Sar returned fire, killing the Afghan rebel.
Capt. Furat loved a soldier's life. A powerfully built man who once boasted that blood from an earlier battle still stained the knife that hung from his belt, he had begun to gain superhero status among the men he led and the Americans soldiers with whom he fought.Spc. Bryan Anderson, US Army:
Over time, the battles with insurgents became more frequent. Attacks came in spurts, sometimes two or three in a single week.
When such attacks came, Capt. Furat was typically first out of his truck, returning fire, shouting orders, attending to the wounded.
His men, their resolve stiffened by his example, stood their ground in combat time and time again. More often then not, they would drive off the attackers before U.S. forces arrived to support them.
The Tiger Battalion is just one unit of several hundred men, a small part of a larger effort in which hundreds of thousands of Iraqis risk their lives daily by working with the Americans.
But during a recent two-month period in which I served as an embedded photojournalist with his unit, I witnessed something utterly different from earlier accounts of Iraqis cowering in battle.
Army Spec. Bryan Anderson never saw the roadside bomb waiting for his Humvee in Baghdad. Hidden within a concrete curb, it detonated just as his vehicle passed, shredding the soldier's legs and left arm with shrapnel.
"I was conscious the whole time," said Anderson, of Rolling Meadows. "I called out, `I need help!'"
On that October day, Anderson, 24, became the fourth American serviceman to lose three limbs in the Iraq war. Two months later--and just in time for the holidays--he is out of the hospital and vigorously has begun the physical therapy that could have him walking again soon on artificial legs.
He is showing the spunk he learned as a Rolling Meadows High School gymnast, amazing his relatives, friends and caregivers with his grit and determination.
"Everybody keeps telling me that I'm doing excellent and I'm ahead of the game," Anderson said from Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where he is an outpatient. "I do believe it's attitude. You've got to look at it and say, `OK, it's happened. What do I have to do to get better?' And have the will power to do that."
Anderson's right hand, on his only remaining limb, was mangled in the blast.
He also had abdominal injuries and a collapsed lung.
Soon, he will receive a pair of microprocessor-controlled C-Legs, which will help him walk more naturally.
Anderson also will have several prosthetic hands to choose from, including a hooklike one made for grasping, a realistic-looking cosmetic hand, and one that can be used for swimming.
"There isn't a lot he won't be able to do, but he will have to adapt to new ways of doing things," said Paul Schillaci, a physician's assistant who guides Anderson's physical therapy.
"He'll have to put extra effort into everything he does."
That's not likely to be a problem, Anderson said.
And the other side:
Hanan, a 22-year-old Iraqi translator, defied terrorist threats to work in the U.S.-controlled Baghdad area know as the green zone. She ignored the threats. Then she disappeared.From the Boston Globe:
A few days later, a video was sent to her family showing the terrified woman seconds before her death. She lay on her back and screamed as a sharp knife slit her throat and then cut off her head.
BAGHDAD -- More than 7,000 Iraqis, most of them civilians, were killed in violence in 2005, the first year that Iraqi officials have kept such records, an Interior Ministry official said yesterday.From the New York Times:
The year 2005 saw 2,880 terrorist attacks target Iraqi security forces and civilians, Major Abdul Aziz al-Mousawi said. About 1,225 policemen and 475 soldiers were killed, along with 4,021 civilians and 1,709 insurgents, he said. Overall, 7,430 Iraqis were killed, according to the figures.
KABUL, Afghanistan, Jan. 4 - Suspected Taliban insurgents dragged a high school teacher from his house on Tuesday night and beheaded him, the latest killing in southern Afghanistan in what seems to be a campaign against educated community leaders, Afghan officials said Wednesday.Choose sides.
The headless body of Abdul Habib, a teacher at one of the two high schools in Zabul Province, the Sheik Mathi Baba School, was found Wednesday morning.
Gunmen broke into his house near the provincial capital, Qalat, and killed him late Tuesday night, said a spokesman for the provincial governor, Gulab Shah Alikhel. "It was the work of Afghanistan's enemies," he said, the term officials use for Taliban insurgents and other Islamic militants.
This annual year-end special features the best of Army.mil's feature photos, drawn from a variety of Defense Department sources. These photos capture the essence of our Soldiers, living the Warrior Ethos and answering the Call to Duty.
"The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him."
Some of the names below may be familiar to you, others perhaps less so. These are a few of the heroes we - or our fellow milbloggers - found time to recognize. I only regret we couldn't do more. In many of the below accounts you'll find first-person narratives, or comments from people who were there. In other cases you'll find comments from those left behind.
Here's a tip on reading milblog posts: don't miss the comment sections. There you'll often encounter those folks mentioned above. I'm always humbled to find remarks left by the subject of these posts - or the relatives of the fallen. As I noted in one of the earliest such efforts here, I hope we've done right by them.
Some time off we'll look back and realize that there were heroes among us in these days, though many of us didn't know it, and few of them would claim the title.
Coach - if you're in uniform, ordinary heroes are more than names.
Hostage rescue - John Lucas of Knoxville Tn., emails to clarify events surrounding the resue of Egyptian hostages by US soldiers... since Mr Lucas' son was one of those soldiers involved in the rescue, we'll let him take it from here...
TSgt John Chapman - OEF, Roberts Ridge. The Navy has announced it will name a ship for Air Force Technical Sergeant (E6) John A. Chapman...
Gunnery Sergeant Darrell Carver: On one side of the doors stood men who believed they would be judged how they lived. On the other lay men who believed they would be judged on how they died.
Lance Cpl Thomas R. Adametz - Silver Star. Outnumbered, pinned down and under attack from three directions, the Marines of Echo Company were in danger of being overrun by Iraqi insurgents hurling grenades and firing rockets and AK-47s... "I looked out there and saw this crazy maniac firing away so all the Marines could come back alive," said Lance Cpl. Carlos Gomez-Perez, who was severely wounded in the attack.
Spc Kevin Pannell If Kevin Pannell doesn't answer his cell phone, you'll get the message, "You've reached the coolest amputee in the world." More: The gentleman went on to ask Kevin if he thought that war was inevitable, and if he thought there would be more of it in the future.
"Yeah, oh yeah" says Kevin and he went on to explain why we're not speaking German at this very moment.
Sgt Peter Damon - Pete Damon will go to the Fenway Park mound this afternoon to throw out the first ball before the Red Sox-Orioles game with his wife at his side. Jenn Damon will tote a backpack stuffed with the necessities: a screwdriver, a piece of Kevlar string, a cable, and a spare arm.
Sergeant P.G. Crittenden, Royal Australian Air Force, WWII
Katrina: But as the Black Hawk helicopter approached the flooded hotel in the New Orleans East area on Sept. 2, he was stunned by what he saw on its balcony.
"For a minute, we sort of looked at each other and didn't say anything," Sergeant Sorjonen said. "It was something - something you wouldn't expect to see here. Something you wouldn't want to see here."
Katrina: Dr Stanley Tillinghast, M.D.
Katrina: Med 1
Katrina: Sheepdogs in wet shoes
Attacks on multiple positions: Your search for Marine Corporal Joshua Butler in all fields returned 0 results.
The return of the 3/25: Despite the national attention, the Marines arrived to little fanfare.
John Eade and Larry Gwin, the Ia Drang valley, Vietnam, 40 years later.
Marine lieutenant Ryan McGlothlin: "My son told us, to our faces, 'I won't vote for Mr. Bush, but I'll take a bullet for him,' " Donald McGlothlin said in an interview Wednesday.
SGT Michael "Mike" James Stokely: Came across your blog this morning, and thought I'd share my thoughts as the dad of an American Soldier killed in action four months ago.
Some distant sunset, vision fading
And tired eyes gaze 'pon folded flags
While distant drums beat their refrain
Saluting fallen friends whose names
And youth will never fade
Here's to those on other shores,
for them live well, the price is paid
Baton Rouge - the State Capitol - was spared the damage caused by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Shortly after the two hurricanes, Gov. Kathleen Blanco decided to renovate some of her staff's offices. At the time of her decision, Blanco also was hinting at deep budget cuts to state programs and the possibility of laying off 20 percent of the state workforce.Business as usual. More at Generation Why.
The project cost $564,838.
The newly refurbished office space on the sixth floor of the State Capitol includes hookups and mounts for two flat screen televisions, Swedish granite countertops, walnut paneling and frosted laminated glass. The floor, which will not be accessible to the public, was redesigned to add three new offices, a conference room and file storage areas.
Restoration work began on the sixth floor Oct. 10, two weeks after Hurricane Rita struck Cameron on Sept. 24.
The week before work began, Blanco ordered a spending and hiring freeze to rein in state government expenses.
Three days after crews started tearing out the old offices, the administration announced that the state's budget would be about $1 billion short because of damages caused by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. That day, Commissioner of Administration Jerry Luke LeBlanc told a legislative finance committee that the budgets supplying money for public health care and education would need cuts of 20 percent or more and that more than 18,000 state employees would have to be laid off.
From Wikipedia: Force Multiplier-a military term referring to a factor that dramatically increases (hence multiplies) the combat-effectiveness of a given military force.
In Iraq an IED explodes,
An American soldier dies,
But that blast will grow as the media blow
It up before our eyes.
And trumpet to the watching world,
These fifth column falsifiers,
Like sheep they bleat we face defeat,
Our foe’s force multipliers.
Osama and his minions know,
In combat they can’t beat us;
So they hope and pray will come a day,
Our own media will defeat us.
Ignoring all the good we’ve done,
Liberals focus on the gore,
On losses mounting and body counting,
To prove we’ve lost this war.
They disgraced us once in Vietnam,
So now these leftists feel,
That again they’ll win with media spin,
And make America kneel.
But defeatists aren’t the only ones,
Learned lessons from the past;
Back then we swore we’d lose no more,
This time we’re standing fast.
The Internet’s exposed them,
As elitist media liars;
They stand unclothed and widely loathed,
Our foe’s force multipliers.
Some day when all our troops return,
With Iraq on freedom’s path,
The liberal elite who sought defeat,
May face some Righteous wrath.
2d Bn, 327th Parachute Infantry Regiment
101st Airborne Division
I can imagine no better way to recover from the enemy's year in review than to acknowledge heroism.
January, 2005, Iraq. Security is tight for the elections, but the ever-innovative terrorists discover ways to penetrate and kill. The event did receive some media notice, but those reports lacked the details provided by Iraq the Model
The suicide attack that was performed on an election center in one of Baghdad's districts (Baghdad Al-Jadeedah) last Sunday was performed using a kidnapped "Down Syndrome" patient.A few days earlier that month:
Eye witnesses said (and I'm quoting one of my colleagues; a dentist who lives there) "the poor victim was so scared when ordered to walk to the searching point and began to walk back to the terrorists. In response the criminals pressed the button and blew up the poor victim almost half way between their position and the voting center's entrance".
In a land where almost everyone has a horror story to tell, Jassem Aziz's experience of Sunni violence against Shias is particularly grisly. He holds back tears as he talks of how his cousin, Ahmed al-Bahadli, was murdered 10 days ago.A new year had begun.
A Shia Muslim from the Sadr City slums of Baghdad, Ahmed had joined the new Iraqi National Guard, only to be killed in his patrol car when a bomb planted by insurgents exploded.
The next day, as his family took his coffin for burial in the holy Shia city of Najaf, 100 miles south of Baghdad, they were stopped at what purported to be a police checkpoint near the town of Iskandaria and ordered out of their minibus.
Insurgents wearing fake police uniforms shot and beheaded six of the mourners, including Ahmed's mother. Then they ripped Ahmed's body out of the coffin and decapitated him too.
And what a year it would be. As three elections were held in Iraq, the predictions of a violent response from terrorists there were proven true. Attacks were increasingly aimed at civilians, and if there was any "increasing sophistication" displayed by the attackers it was in their ability to play to the media coverage - or lack thereof. 2005 would see many of the most appalling attacks ever in the 3-year conflict in Iraq, but although those assaults were met with condemnation from many, they also had great impact on the worldwide "anti-war" movement - providing a foundation to their claims of quagmire and defeat.
Exactly how solid a foundation remains questionable. But few could deny the impact of these words from Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska: "Things aren't getting better; they're getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality. It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq.".
Delivered in the middle of the year, those comments were cheered by al Jazeera and MoveOn - and no doubt by the many readers and devotees of both groups. Was he right? The following look back at the actions of the enemy in Iraq - and the response to those actions in the western media and political spheres - should provide readers a look at the nature of the beast, and ample opportunity to make that decision for themselves.
Coffins, small and large
BAGHDAD -- A suicide bomber in an explosives-laden SUV killed at least 27, including an American soldier, late this morning in the deadliest insurgent attack in more than two months.One explanation could be found in the words of a terrorist in Syria, who had helped countless mujahedeen cross into Iraq:
Many, if not most of the dead were children loitering and playing near U.S. soldiers at an impromptu checkpoint in Baghdad al-Jadida, a lower-middle class residential district populated by Shiites, Sunnis and Christians.
At the nearby Kindi hospital, hundreds of distraught parents mingled in blood-soaked hallways shouting and screaming as they looked for their children, many of whom were badly mutilated.
"Most of them are children. The Americans were handing out sweets at the time of the attack," a duty policeman at the Kindi Hospital said.
"We have received the bodies of 24 children aged between 10 and 13," said an official in charge of the morgue.
"Why do they attack our children? They just destroyed one U.S. Humvee, but they killed dozens of our children," he said as women screamed, slapped their faces and beat themselves over the head.
"What sort of a resistance is this? It's a crime," he added.
At Kindi hospital, one distraught woman swathed in black sat cross-legged outside the operating room. "May God curse the mujahedeen and their leader," she cried as she pounded her own head in grief, reports the AP.
In the Syrian countryside north of Aleppo where Abu Ibrahim grew up and married, his fundamentalist impulses took their present shape when he met "a group of young men through my wife's family who spoke to me the true words of Islam. They told me Sufism was forbidden and the Shiites are infidels."The AP would note that "foreign fighters are the ones that most often are behind the wheel of suicide car bombs or most often behind any suicide situation" but they would add that this wasn't always the case. They cited an example of an Iraqi involved in a "suicide" bombing:
Abu Ibrahim credited Zarqawi with revitalizing the insurgency, especially since October, when he pledged fealty to Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda leader. Abu Ibrahim said that union helped cement an alliance among several resistance groups in Iraq that formed a joint treasury.
"Six months ago, Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden were different," he said. "Osama did not consider the killing of Shiites as legitimate. Zarqawi did that. Anyone -- Christian, Jew, Sunni, Shiites -- whoever cooperates with the Americans can be killed. It's a holy war."
On election day, Jan. 30, a mentally handicapped Iraqi boy wearing a suicide vest attacked a polling station.
"In war, innocent civilians should not be hurt. It happens. Now we have to see what to do to help the families that were hurt."In addition to unofficial ambassadors of peace, 2005 would also be the year that official representatives of many countries would return to Iraq.
- Marla Ruzicka, founder of CIVIC - the Campaign for Innocent Victims In Conflicts.
Why? Marla again:
"If we are fighting a war against terrorism, terrorism impacts innocent people, so we want to show them that we're against that, and that's why we need to help these families that are so desperate."
Marla's campaign led her to Afghanistan and Iraq, while bullets were still flying and explosions were part of the daily routine. A terrorist killed her last Saturday as she and Faiz, CIVIC's Iraq Country Director, traveled to visit an Iraqi child injured by a bomb. She was 28.
The group said in a statement posted on the Internet that it had killed the envoy, Ihab al-Sherif, but it did not say when or how. The group said "that the verdict of God has been implemented against the ambassador of the infidels, the ambassador of Egypt, thank God."But the insurgents would seek ways to counter that erosion.
"Egypt is one of those at the forefront of the war on Islam and Muslims," the statement said. "Its jails are full of mujahedeen." It showed a video of the blindfolded diplomat identifying himself but, unlike in other kidnappings, it did not show the killing itself, according to the Associated Press.
An insurgent recently told The Times that such scenes were eroding support for the armed group among ordinary Iraqis.
Sympathy for the Devil?
Tips On How To Beat US From Insurgents' ConsultantSome would acknowledge the enemy's "growing media sophistication". Representative K. Michael Conaway, (R, Tx.):
To gauge US public opinion, he has become an avid watcher of satellite news channels, and never misses the White House press briefings
To win the war against the US military and Badr, Colonel Jassam advises the Omariyun to follow two short-term goals - to cement mujahideen control over the Ramadi area, and to stage operations that will increase pressure on US opinion to withdraw troops.
To achieve their second goal, turning Americans against the war, the mujahideen need to shape their operations "to support anti- war sentiment in the west", he says.
Just four days prior to the referendum vote, U.S. intelligence officials released a letter from Ayman al-Zawahri, al Qaeda's No. 2 operative, to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a leader of the insurgency in Iraq. In the letter, al-Zawahri predicted that American forces "will exit soon" and he acknowledges that the war in Iraq will be won "in the battlefield of the media." Al-Zawahri's belief that the insurgency must improve its efforts in engaging in geo-political warfare proves that the battle for the hearts and minds of Iraqi's still goes on. It should come as no surprise that al Qaeda members in Iraq are now attempting to denounce the letter as a fake.But the terrorists did garner some media sympathy.
The letter proves that the media war is a key aspect to their overall effort to thwart democracy in the Middle East. The 6,300-word document outlined the terrorist political campaign to defeat coalition troops in Iraq, not by traditional military victory, but by carefully plotting an offensive on American public opinion.
Their short-term objective is clear: The insurgency must succeed in defeating an emerging democratic Iraq by eliminating its current military protectors. The insurgents' plan is simple: Drag the fight on by continuing to murder innocent Americans and Iraqis until American public opinion has waned.
One of the hardest things about working on this story for me personally, and as a journalist, was to set my "American self" and perspective aside. It was an ongoing challenge to listen open-mindedly to a group of people whose foundation of belief is significantly different from mine, and one I found I often strongly disagreed with.But by October, Human Rights Watch would chastise the "insurgents" in Iraq, noting that "the disregard for the lives of civilians in the mostly Muslim country was backfiring in terms of popular support for the insurgency elsewhere in the Arab world." Media coverage would avoid the word "terrorist".
But going in to report a story with a pile of prejudices is no way to do a story justice, or to do it fairly, and that constant necessity to bite my tongue, wipe the smirk off my face or continue to listen through a racial or religious diatribe that I found appalling was a skill I had to practice. We would never walk in to cover a union problem or political event without seeking to understand the perspective from both, or the many sides of the story that exist. Why should we as journalists do it in Iraq?
Every one of the people involved in the resistance that we spoke to held us individually responsible for their security. If something happened to them -- never mind that they were legitimate targets for the U.S. military -- they would blame us. And kill us. We soon learned that they had the U.S. bases so well watched that we had to abandon our idea of working on the U.S. side of the story -- that is, discovering what the soldiers really thought about who might be attacking them. There were so many journalists working with the American soldiers that we believed that that story would be well told. More practically, if we were seen by the Iraqis going in and out of the American bases, we would be tagged immediately as spies, informants and most likely be killed.
As terrifying as that was to manage and work through, there was another fear that was just as bad. What if the American military or intelligence found out what we were working on? Would they tail us and round up the people we met? Would they kick down our door late one night, rifle through all our stuff and arrest us for "collaborating with the enemy?" Bear in mind that there are no real laws in Iraq. At the time that we were working, the American military was the law, and it seemed to me that they were pretty much making it up as they went along. I was pretty sure that if they wanted to "disappear" us, rough us up or even send us for an all expenses paid vacation in Guantánamo for suspected al-Qaida connections, they could do so with very little, or even no recourse on our part.
The audio tape thought to be by Zarqawi's voice was published on website believed to be owned by Al-Qaeda in Iraq and it his speech, Zarqawi said that Islam doesn't distinguish between people on the basis of civilian vs. military but on the basis of Muslim vs. kaffir (infidel) and that "an infidel's blood should be spilled regardless of his occupation or position unless he had a treaty or a promise of peace".
More coffins, small and large
How dangerous is Iraq? One reporter describes her experience there:
In all that time, as far as I knew, I was never in immediate danger. There was a grenade thrown once, ineffectually, at the back of a Warrior I was in. On one Blackhawk ride near Mosul machine gunners fired on men scrambling on the ground with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. In Fallujah I saw a single improvised explosive device explode, but from a safe distance. And I watched a car bomb burn at a police check point in Tall 'Afar, the explosion killing no one but the people inside the car -- a man, a woman and two young children.In short, very bad things will happen - if you're at the wrong place at the wrong time, as was the case for yet another group of Iraqi children in November:
A suicide attacker steered a car packed with explosives toward U.S. soldiers giving away toys to children outside a hospital in central Iraq on Thursday, killing at least 31 people. Almost all of the victims were women and children, police said.What motivates such attacks? A couple of failed suicide bombers from 2005 offered their unique perspective on the issue.
"It was an explosion at the gate of the hospital," a woman who had wounds on her face and legs told the AP. "My children are gone. My brother is gone."
With no room left at the hospital, emergency workers rushed victims to hospitals in Baghdad, about 15 miles to the north. And when the hospital morgue was full, the workers were forced to place the dead in the hospital garden so family members could find them.
His head and hands were wrapped in bandages and his uncovered face looked like bubbled tar.September:
The young Saudi man told investigators this month that he wants revenge against the Iraqi terrorist network that sent him on the deadly mission that he survived.
Ahmed Abdullah al-Shaya, 18, told Iraqi investigators during an interrogation early this month that he was recruited to drive a car rigged with explosives to Baghdad and blow it up.
He said the objective was "to kill the Americans, policemen, national guards and the American collaborators."
But Shaya said he was injured even before he went on the mission when insurgents detonated a truck bomb he was supposed to leave at a target site.
"They asked me to take the truck near a concrete block barrier before turning to the right and leaving it there," he says. "There, somebody will pick up the truck from you," they told him.
"But they blew me up in the truck," he says.
Ahmed's truck bomb killed nine people, including a family of seven in their house nearby.
A suicide bomber captured before he could blow himself up in a Shiite mosque late last week claimed he was kidnapped, beaten and drugged by insurgents who forced him to take on the mission. The U.S. military on Sunday said its medical tests indicated he was telling the truth.But children and hospitals weren't the only targets in November:
In a confession broadcast on state television Friday, Mohammed Ali, who claimed to be Saudi-born, said he was kidnapped and coerced to agree to the mission. He said he fled after another suicide attacker killed at least 12 worshipers Friday at a mosque in the northern city of Tuz Khormato.
Results from medical tests on the young man were "consistent with his story and characterization of his treatment," Col. Billy Buckner, a U.S. military spokesman said.
Iraq's most feared terror group warned foreign diplomats yesterday to flee the country after announcing it will put to death two kidnapped Moroccan Embassy employees.While the New York Times would report the insurgents were still developing new, sophisticated tactics:
The warning came in a statement posted on an Islamist Web site in the name of al Qaeda in Iraq, which also claimed responsibility for the July kidnap-slaying of two envoys from Algeria and one from Egypt as well as the abduction and beheading of many other foreigners.
On Thursday, another Internet statement attributed to al Qaeda said the two Moroccans had been condemned to death. There was no indication yesterday they had been killed.
"We are renewing our threat to those so-called diplomatic missions who have insisted on staying in Baghdad and have not yet realized the repercussions of such a challenge to the will of the mujahideen," yesterday's statement said. "Let them know that there is no difference in our judgment between the head of a diplomatic mission and the lowest-level employee."
In the deadliest assault, insurgents dressed in women's clothing attacked a police checkpoint in the town of Buhriz, 35 miles north of Baghdad, killing at least 6 police officers and wounding at least 10 others, American and Iraqi officials said. The guerrillas were armed with Kalashnikov rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars, and pulled up in five cars, an Interior Ministry official said. The police officers killed at least two of the gunmen, he added.We looked at the results of these many attacks here:
There's always grim news from Iraq - as the latest Iraq Index from the Brookings Institute confirms.Fighting Back
The number of daily attacks by insurgents trends upwards:
As do the numbers of multiple fatality bombings:
These statistics will be cited by some to support claims of a "growing insurgency". Others will counter that the terrorist attacks are confined to a very few provinces in Iraq:
But few will note one of the key results of those acts of terror:
As complete independence appears tantalizingly closer the people of Iraq grow increasingly angry at those who use terror to end that dream and prolong their agony. As more Iraqi forces replace Americans, expect to see those numbers presented in the final chart climb even higher. This is how the "insurgency" will be defeated.
And consider what tale the attack numbers also tell. A real count of terrorist fighters in Iraq, if such a thing were possible, would likely reveal their numbers are small - perhaps a few thousand - and their organization above small "squad level" non-existent. Al Qaeda in Iraq, probably the most formidable component of a fractious opposition, can accomplish little beyond sporadic (admittedly sometimes spectacular) violence. Their most "successful" attacks involve suicide bombers creating large numbers of casualties - and larger numbers of enemies to their cause. And the majority of their most "highly coordinated" suicide attacks fail, insofar as the attackers invariably die short of their goals.
They have succeeded in slowing progress in part of the country, but elsewhere they are non-entities. As prosperity fattens the pocketbooks of the Kurds in northern Iraq those in the south will notice; they will know why they lack the same, and have more reason to despise those who send human bombs into their markets.
I've been to Iraq - I've seen vulnerabilities. I know what an organized group numbering in the tens of thousands could do. That such things haven't happened can't be attributed to fear or reluctance on the part of the proven suicidal opponent in Iraq. They simply lack the numbers to carry out any truly effective tactical strike.
But a small but violent insurgency will always be able to replenish it's ranks - the presence of the foreign invader will always be sufficient incentive to attract at least enough fanatics to assure the numbers in the first two charts will be maintained. The tipping point in the war in Iraq will not come from killing off insurgents - it will be achieved by replacing the Americans who are killing them with Iraqi forces capable of doing the same.
Throughout the year the coalition offensive operations would focus on al Anbar province, the preferred path for foreign terrorists entering Iraq, and the site of several "insurgent strongholds" - strongholds that fell, one by one, to US and Iraqi soldiers.
But even the most positive trends can be turned. Fighting back against these monsters is to invite sympathy from their supporters, as the events of late 2005 made clear. Even as children and diplomats were butchered in the streets, world headlines were dominated by an ex-American soldier's claims that the US had used "chemical weapons" in the 2004 attack on Fallujah. The "chemical weapons" were white phosphorous smoke rounds - used to "smoke out" terrorists from fortified defensive positions.
Less reported were that same soldier's comments on the "insurgents":
The Iraqi insurrection, in itself, is what I believe to be an honest rebellion. Because it is a guerrilla war against an illegal occupation enforced by our conventional military force, with far superior weapons and technology, it seems obvious that acts of terrorism are also acts of desperation.That could be dismissed as a "fringe" opinion - but it represents many "mainstream" apologists too.
Representative John Murtha's (D - PA) declaration that the terrorists had defeated and demoralized US troops gained widespread media attention - but less noted was his declared opinion of the mujahedeen :
Bin Laden said he attacked the United States because of the troops in Saudi Arabia. That's terrorism. Terrorism was in London. Terrorism was in Spain. Terrorism was, obviously, in the United States.Even Zarqawi's attack in Jordan, perhaps his greatest miscalculation of the year, couldn't give the congressman pause. He blamed the US:
That's completely separate from what's going on in Iraq. Iraq is an insurgency.
"Very small proportion of the people that are involved in the insurgency are terrorists or how I would interpret them as terrorists."
If you remember in Jordan, the bomber said that the reason she became a bomber was because two of her relatives were killed in Fallujah. We lost the hearts and minds of the people.If congressman Murtha is correct, the US is defeated. But if congressman Conaway (see above) is correct...
Their short-term objective is clear: The insurgency must succeed in defeating an emerging democratic Iraq by eliminating its current military protectors. The insurgents' plan is simple: Drag the fight on by continuing to murder innocent Americans and Iraqis until American public opinion has waned....then the insurgets have no better friend than one ex-Marine.
And no greater enemy than the current ones. Marines, soldiers, and Iraqi troops continued to "clear and hold" throughout al Anbar, and by year's end the AP would report:
SAMARRA, Iraq -- After keeping their distance for months, Iraqis in this Sunni Arab city suddenly began cooperating with U.S. troops, leading them to insurgents and hidden weapons caches. The reason: anger over a local tribal chief's assassination by insurgents.And the London Times would offer the latest from Tal Afar
Iraqis in former rebel stronghold now cheer American soldiers
Visiting the city, nestled near the Syrian border in the north-west of the country, there is no doubt that something has been achieved.
New sewers have been dug and the fronts of shops, destroyed in the US assault, were replaced within weeks. Sunni police have been hired and 2,000 goats were even distributed to farmers.
More remarkably, the approach of an American military convoy brings people out to wave and even clap, something not seen since the invasion of spring 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein.
On the final day of 2005, a tiny baby girl would arrive in Atlanta - her lifesaving trip from Baghdad made possible by soldiers of the Georgia National Guard. CNN would obscure the faces of the family in their photo and video coverage, out of fear that the "insurgents" may "retaliate".
If you've been reading Mudville for any time at all you must have gotten the message: the insurgents are on the ropes. Make no mistake about it - they are capable of killing people in large numbers, but their political effectiveness is virtually nil.
"Capable of killing people in large numbers" - proven.
"...but their political effectiveness is virtually nil". - Three successful elections in Iraq support the accuracy of the claim. But an unexpected element has boosted the political effectiveness of the killers of children, aid workers, diplomats, and anyone else finding themselves at the wrong place at the wrong time. No matter how high the body count or how heinous their crimes, terrorists now believe they have allies who won't abandon their cause - and that faint glimmer of hope seems to be all they need.
But if that support should fall in 2006, perhaps we'll have something more upbeat for photo of the year.
You might be surprised at his choices...
A picture's worth a thousand words, they say. On the internet that's an understatement - pictures eat the bandwidth and storage capacity (and thus increase the blogger's cost and reader's load times) well beyond a thousand words per jpg.
But here in Mudville we say damn the cost - pictures tell a needed part of the story. Hopefully ours have taken you places you might not otherwise have been; from the cockpit of chase planes at a space shuttle launch to initial damage surveys over ground zero for hurricane Katrina. From election day in Iraq to Independence day around the world, from Paris to Munich to Rome to New Orleans to Washington to Baghdad to Ukraine to Lebanon we've tried to capture images of the world seldom seen - and looking back at a year's worth I think the bandwidth was worth it.
Those of you without high-speed internet connections should make a new year's resolution to find a way to get connected - the world is passing you by. For the rest of you, set your browser window to full screen mode, here's 2005 in pictures from Mudville. Hope you enjoy.
Circles and Chains - some are unbroken, others will fall.
The MilBlogger Prize - the shots seen 'round the ring.
Jihad Jane - a response from the front.
The Space Shuttle - an 'eagle's eye' view of the launch.
Dos and Don'ts - a day with the protesters - and we do mean "pro". And here's a look at protest and counter-protest. Freedom is a wonderful thing. For both sides: no thanks needed, but you're welcome.;)
The Raptor arrives. Air supremacy never looked so good.
Many of our open posts feature photos from our travels around Europe - this example featured the Bad-Durkheim Weinfest - a centuries-old tradition in Germany.
Mention Katrina and most people think New Orleans - but ground zero was Mississippi. Here are some photos from Keesler Air Force Base - taken with the storm still in progress. Here's a look at what an emergency hurrevac is all about - not sure all those stranded by the storm would prefer this escape route. But given the degree of devastation at the real ground zero this might not be too extreme.
Meanwhile, in New Orleans:
P. Edwin Compass III, the superintendent of police, said most of his officers were staying at their posts. But in an unusual note of sympathy for a top police official, he said it was understandable that many were frustrated. He said morale was "not very good."Fortunately, help arrived.
"If I put you out on the street and made you get into gun battles all day with no place to urinate and no place to defecate, I don't think you would be too happy either," Mr. Compass said in an interview. "Our vehicles can't get any gas. The water in the street is contaminated. My officers are walking around in wet shoes."
But we'll always have Paris...
Like New Orleans, the city's history is still being written, after all.