Friday, December 31, 2004

More on vehicle armor 
This time from the Boston Globe.

Via Phil Carter.

I haven't found any numbers comparing the per capita charitable donations and foreign aid of the United States and a broad series of other countries yet - at least any that I can source and trust.

But you can find a good comparison of the US and the United Kingdom here.

As usual, it's not just a matter of adding up total donations and dividing by the number of people. Any valid nation-by-nation comparison will have to be adjusted for national income, gini factors, GDP, disposable income, percentage of GDP committed to foreign aid, percentage of GDP committed to the defense of other countries (in effect subsidizing their welfare states, in many cases), the strength of various currencies, and even competing definitions of what constitutes a charitable donation.

You also have to take into account how charitable donations are treated in various tax codes.

So next time you see a big list, putting the US at the top, or at the bottom, beware.

It's easy to discount charitable contributions (43% of all charitable contributions in the US, but they don't count as charity in the UK apparently), or defense-related foreign aid and put the US near the bottom.

Or you can discount national incomes or a percentage of GDP and put the US near the top.

Express aid levels in Euros and the US comes out substantially weaker than it did three years ago, when the dollar was very strong against the Euro. So maybe you convert everything to constant dollars. But what year do you select?

The bottom line:

I could concieveably affect the debate by coming up with a ranking system rigged to say almost anything I wanted to say. I could put the US either at the top of a list of developed nations in terms of charity, or I could put it at or very near the bottom, just by tweaking how I process the data.

Be careful what you read and where it comes from.

Splash, out


Iran Torturing Bloggers 
Let's see if the New York Times gives this anywhere near the play they gave to Abu Ghraib.

They told very important points about the unjustifiable treatment they had received, including: 1- Physical torture, punches and kicks: "he banged my head to the bench that made my recently-operated nose bleed, and later I found out that they broke my nose"; "they punched us"; "we were alone in single cells for months"; and things of this kind...
2- The classical questions about sexual relationships [to create moral scandals]: "Write down the names of your boy/girl friends"; "tell us about your illegal [= out of marriage] sexual relationships"; "what kind of relationship have that girl/guy had with you?"; "how many times have you been raped, or have you raped?"; and worst of all, they gave the names of 6 reformist activist to one of the girls asking her to confess in writing that she had had illegal sexual relationship with them. And when the girl refused, they brought in a former prisoner (who had turned to their side under torture) who told the girl face to face that he had had sexual relationship with her!

Much more if you click on the link.

Incidentally, you can call the Iranian consulate in London at 020 7937 5225. Remember to use dialing instructions for your long distance company. (i.e., 011, country code (44 for the UK), city code. I haven't been able to get through yet.)

And additional comments from the Iranian expat in the UK who broke the story to the English-speaking world:

I really wonder why mainstream English language media paid little or no attention to this. In which other closed government system you hear the President's advisor spreading the words of innocent prisoners talking of being tortured?! Come on guys this is not an unproved rumour, President's advisor (the ex Vice President) who's also a government committee member has officially published it on his own bloody website. This only shows that the mainstream western media are much more interested in the nuclear issue than the human rights problems of Iran. And it also shows that the Iranian government and their negotiators are very skilful in diverting the attention of the west, from real and serious problems (oppression and social discontent) to less important but tricky issues (the nuke stuff). oh well hopefully the support of English, French and Dutch language sites will change this.

Good question. I think the story doesn't allow reporters to bash the US enough. It also underscores the need in and readiness of the middle east for democratic reforms. Which, if true, would prove to reflect well on the Bush Doctrine and be pretty embarrassing to a certain class of people in the west. So it's just not interesting to them.

Splash, out


Thursday, December 30, 2004

Tsunami on Wry 
Well, I haven't posted on the tsunami yet. Other people have and have done a good job.

I just can't find the words.

I never thought the war in Iraq could seem like a trivial concern.

Give until it's painful.

Letters, I Get Letters 
I spent 26 years in the Air Force, most of them in imagery intelligence.  My career took me to Vietnam, Germany, and England overseas, and to Washington, DC, Omaha, NE, Sumter, South Carolina, and Denver, Colorado.  I know the intel business pretty well.  My best friend, until he retired, was the collections manager for Humint in Europe.  He had some interesting tales to tell after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The US military has an exceptional military intelligence system in place that includes more than a dozen types of intelligence collection, interpretation, reporting and dissemination.  It's not where the people work that is the problem, it's the bureaucratic mindset of the upper echelon that's the problem.  I can't tell you how many times I've been told that my interpretation was "too controversial".  I can't begin to tell you how many times events proved me right, either, but the number was far greater than 1, and my record was better than 50% - by a lot!

It doesn't matter what kind of unit collects the intelligence, if it's not believed, nobody will know it exists.  If the people at the top fear that the report might get them in hot water, and sit on it, it again becomes useless.  Only when we have people with enough gumption to tell the truth, report even the uncomfortable and even BAD news, will we have a viable intelligence organization.  Most bureaucrats are unwilling to place their careers in jeopardy, even if it means putting the nation in jeopardy.

Here's another from one of the ink-stained wretches within the bowels of the Defense Intelligence Agency:

Great job with your comments to the article, I work for the Defense Intelligence Agency in the Pentagon and was surprised to see that someone even knows we exist, we are affectionally called the redheaded stepchild of the intel community.  I concur with you on most of your points, for far too long we have had established lines of thinking in that we will fight a linear enemy similar to the USSR and we are paying the price today in Iraq.  I'm a recent college grad, out nearly 2 years and have found that there is sadly an Old Guard of thought that is unwilling to accept we live in an age where our principal adversary is motivated by religion and cannot be defeated soley on the field on battle.  Until we learn that we cannot just call in the AC-130 or drop JDAMs we will continue to quiet and noisy wars from Europe to the jungles of Asia.

Thank you for putting forward the argument we have to go on the offensive, for far too long we've wanted to take the defensive route and its time we went all out, we are fighting a war just as involved as WWII, I know you saw it firsthand.

Here's one from an artillery officer who served near me in Iraq:

I don't blame congress for a body armor shortage today, but I sure as hell blame them (not Rumsfeld) for the fact that you and I both went to war without one.  Our only casualty was shot through the back in a place where he would have been protected had we been issued the good stuff.  Congress could have funded that equipment long before the invasion, but they didn't. 
I also blame them for our battalion, as well as most of the others from Fort Sill, having to spend about an entire year's budget in about a month to buy equipment we needed but couldn't afford prior to getting wartime funding.  All active duty units, mind you. 
I blame their lack of providing 10 years worth of adequate funding for the fact that the stuff we needed wasn't immediately available because production had been cut back because we couldn't afford to buy the stuff we needed -- like M16 magazines.  In one case, certain NBC filters we needed for our MLRS launcher overpressure system weren't even being made any more because, in times of tight budgets, nobody bought them for annual replacements since Desert Storm.  They were brought back into production in March.  During the invasion.  Good thing old Saddam didn't really have WMD, huh?

Yeah, for some reason magazines always seem to be a problem. That and weapons cleaning gear. I pull my hair out trying to get enough weapons cleaning supplies for troops. (I think the final answer is to make troops sign for it and pay for what they lose, and periodically inspect for it, to make sure they have it, rather than treat the pieces as expendable items.)

It's the little things.

Fortunately, Iraq was a pretty dry climate, and rust was (usually) not a huge problem (although see a post from November called "When Seasons Change."

Weapons hold up pretty well over there as long you dissassemble them and wipe the dust off from time to time. If we fought in a wet or humid climate things would be a lot dicier.

I'll bet Marine Corps units don't have as much trouble getting weapons cleaning gear as we do (hint to Army logisticians).

Splash, out

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Speaking of the incompetence of journalists 
Bob Herbert comes up with a breathtakingly ignorant column today.

You might think that the debacle in Iraq would be enough for the Pentagon, that it would not be in the mood to seek out new routes to unnecessary wars for the United States to fight. But with Donald Rumsfeld at the apex of the defense establishment, enough is never enough.

So, as detailed in an article in The Times on Dec. 19, Mr. Rumsfeld's minions are concocting yet another grandiose and potentially disastrous scheme. Pentagon officials are putting together a plan that would give the military a more prominent role in intelligence gathering operations that traditionally have been handled by the Central Intelligence Agency. They envision the military doing more spying with humans, as opposed, for example, to surveillance with satellites.

Oh, perish the thought!!! After all, if only we had better satellites, they could have picked up those boxcutters on 9/11/01. No, it's not as if Al Qaeda actually did an end run around our technological prowess and satellite technology and exploited the lack of HUMINT, right?

Further encroachment by the military into intelligence matters better handled by civilians is bad enough.

Objection, your honor: Assumes facts not in evidence. It has not been established that intelligence is better handled by civilian agencies. It was, after all, George Tenet, a civilian, that assured the President of a 'slam dunk' case of WMDs in Iraq, right? Hell, the CIA did such a fantastic job of predicting 9/11, the Cole incident, finding Mohammed Farah Aideed, the invasion of Kosovo, and the fall of communism in Russia.

"Among the ideas cited by Defense Department officials is the idea of 'fighting for intelligence,' or commencing combat operations chiefly to obtain intelligence."

Damn right. That's one of the many advantages of the offensive. You get to go through their file cabinets and raid their computer hard drives. You don't learn ANYTHING on the defensive, except what the enemy has already done.

Armies have been executing raids, prisoner snatches, reconnaisance in force, and movements to contact for the express purpose of developing intelligence since the dawn of modern warfare, you drooling ignoramus!

That is utter madness.

No. It's reality. Sorry you've led such a sheltered life, Bob.

The geniuses in Washington have already launched one bogus war, which has cost tens of thousands of lives and provoked levels of suffering that are impossible to quantify.

Objection, your honor. It has not been established that the US attack has indeed, provoked new levels of suffering. Indeed, it's been well established that the suffering was already in place, and was indeed even more widespread before the US intervened.

Ignorance of military affairs is one thing. But combining it with a short and selective memory is a horse of a different loving.

We don't need to be contemplating new forms of warfare waged for the sole purpose of gathering intelligence.

What's new about it, Bob? C'mon. Explain to me what's novel about taking the offensive to develop intel?

Part of this plan to further aggrandize Mr. Rumsfeld is being drafted under the direction of Lt. Gen. William Boykin, a deputy under secretary of defense who has already demonstrated that he should not be allowed anywhere near the most serious matters of national security. General Boykin, who once had the job of directing the hunt for Osama bin Laden, is an evangelical Christian who believes God put President Bush in the White House.

Wow. I've never seen so many logical fallacies condensed into a single paragraph. It's almost Dowdian!!!

But Herbert manages to simultaneously become ensnared in argumentum ad homineim circumstantial and denying the antecedent: Even if you accept the premise that Boykin is an evangelical Christian, it does not in any way undermine or counter the logic of the offensive as a means to develop intelligence. But watch how Bob Herbert embraces his fallacy.

He has described the fight against Islamic militants as a struggle against Satan and declared that it can be won only "if we come at them in the name of Jesus."

True. But again a nonsequitur. Thomas Jackson was an evangelical, too. And one who understood the value of the offensive, and kicked the crap out of the Union in the Valley.

General Boykin asserted his views in speeches that he delivered in his military uniform at religious functions around the country. In one speech, referring to a Muslim fighter in Somalia, the general said: "Well, you know what I knew - that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol."

Nonsequitur. Boykin could have appeared at religious functions wearing a ballerina tutu and claiming that Moses was half wizard, half platypus and it would still have no bearing on whether offensive action for the purpose of developing intelligence makes sense.

General Boykin was forced to apologize after media accounts led to widespread criticism.

Yeah, yeah. MacArthur and Patton were both roasted in the media, too. So was Robert E. Lee.

How difficult is it to come to the conclusion that this is not a fellow who should be making decisions on matters involving armed conflict with Muslims?

It doesn't matter if we're in armed conflict with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It still makes sense to develop intelligence through offensive operations. (The alternative is the strategic defensive. Which is otherwise known as "losing." Putz.)

"The last time Mr. Rumsfeld tried to force himself into the intelligence collection and analysis business, he created a boutique C.I.A. in the bowels of the Pentagon under the command of Douglas Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy. The office essentially fabricated a link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden - a link used to justify the Iraq invasion, and one that Mr. Rumsfeld was not getting from the C.I.A."

Herbert is propagating a lie, here. Rumsfeld was right: There was a link between Saddam and Al Qaeda. (Zarqawi). It may not have been an operational link. But Herbert, drooling ignoramus that he is, is incapable of discerning anything other than an operational link, because he apparently doesn't understand logistics.

As Mr. Rumsfeld sees it, if the professionals won't give you what you want, find someone who will.

Again, Herbert seems wholly ignorant of some pretty basic facts here. The fact is that the military has always had its own intelligence shops separate from the CIA. Keeping an intelligence agency within the Pentagon is not a Rumsfeld creation. For instance, Mr. Herbert, you may be surprised to know that the Defense Intelligence Agency has been in existence for 40 years.

Indeed, Mr. Herbert, had you had even the foggiest inkling of what the Hell you were talking about, you would also have been aware that Union General George B. McClellan also developed an in-house intelligence/counterintelligence capability, under the direction of Allan Pinkerton.

I have no idea where Herbert gets the idea that the only professional intelligence organization in federal service is the CIA. Well, actually, I do know. Ignorance.

The rest is just the wrongheaded conclusions of his singularly misinformed illogic. But it's always rich when someone from the New York Times, of all places - and particularly one so clearly and completely out of his depth, accuses other people of hubris.

Splash, out


Monday, December 27, 2004

World's Dumbest Headline Award 
Goes to - who else? The New York Times!

"Attacks on Shiite Leaders Raise Fears of Sectarian Violence."

Fears?? What the hell do the terrorists have to do to actually get condemned for DOING sectarian violence?

Attack! Attack! Attack!!!! 
Behold the value of the offensive.

Some might say this Tommy and his men were lucky.

In part.

I believe it was a keen sense of timing, and remarkable Fingerspitzenfuhl, coupled with sheer decisiveness at the moment of truth.

When you attack, don't blink.

Splash, out


Hat tip: Arrrrgh!

Baldilocks on The Donald 
The problem with the mainstream media is that so few of them are (or recognize) real men, that such foreign beings actually frighten them. Real men communicate with each other (and everyone else) without the…er…nuance that characterizes the exchanges between more neutered types.

I don't think it's that so much. There are real men all over the place. In all walks of life. But journalists thrust themselves into the impossible job of having to analyze, and provide perspective on, things they do not understand.

You know, like warfighting. Operations. Logistics.

There is nothing in a journalists' education which prepares him or qualifies him to do so to any useful extent. And it's not something he can learn on the job, because his editors don't have those skills either.

Some guys are quick learners - the ones who know their limitations, and who pick up the phone and ASK when they're in over their heads. The ones who are masters of negative capability. The ones who eschew 'gotcha' journalism and scoopism, and simply learn to tell a story. With the bejeezus reported out of it behind the scenes.

Those are rare gems. Those are few and far between. And those are real men (and real women!)

Murrow was one. Ernie Pyle. Today, I think of John Burns at his best. Esther Schraeder of the Los Angeles Times (most of the time). I think of William Greider when he wrote Secrets of the Temple (but not his execrable columns on the Iraq war.) Sy Hersh at the top of his own game.

The Donald is an alien being to the press because he's competent. Reporters, generalists that they are, are almost universally incompetent. At least, compared to those professionals on the beats which they cover.

And when I think of my own reporting two years ago, before the war, with a very few exceptions, I think "What an idiot I must have been!"

But that's good. It means I'm growing.

Splash, out


Poll: U.S. Troops Support the War in Iraq 
No surprise to me.

The results:

Sixty-three percent of respondents approve of the way President Bush is handling the war, and 60% remain convinced it is a war worth fighting. Support for the war is even greater among those who have served longest in the combat zone: Two-thirds of combat vets say the war is worth fighting.

I can see the New York Times writeup already:

"In a recent Gannett poll of US troops, nearly a third of combat veterans do not believe the war in Iraq is worth fighting. The poll raises new questions about the morale of troops in Iraq, one of whom recently grilled Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on the Bush Administration's failure to provide vehicles with adequate armor protection."

F***ing morons.

In addition, 87%% say they're satisfied with their jobs and, if given the choice today, only 25% say they'd leave the service.

And the New York Times writeup: "A quarter of US troops say they plan to leave the service, raising the specter of draft."

Compared with last year, the percentages for support for the war and job satisfaction remain essentially unchanged.

Again, the New York Times: Other poll findings suggest that the Bush Adminstration, whose embattled Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has come under fire for using an autopen to sign letters of condolence to families of US troops killed in the "war" on terror, has failed to make progress in selling support for the war to the troops. The poll also found that job satisfaction rates in the military have remained stagnant for the past year.

More actual poll findings:

•60% blame Congress for the shortage of body armor in the combat zone.

Ok, asshats. What shortage???? SHOW ME the U.S. unit currently in Iraq that doesn't have the modern kevlar vests for its troops. I'm calling your miserable, stupid, ignorant bluff!

I will donate 100 dollars to the charity of your choice if you can show me a U.S. unit in Iraq right now that cannot equip its soldiers with kevlar vests and plates.

•12% say civilian Pentagon policymakers should be held accountable for abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

This will be surprising to the media. And SHOULD get a lot more play than it will. But the fact is that the troops on the ground know that there is nothing in Pentagon policy coming down authorizing them to do what was done to the detainees in Abu Ghraib.

Thes idiots can dig and dig and dig, and grasp at straw after miserable straw. But George W. Bush had personally made it clear he does not condone torture.

(The link to an article in which George W. Bush clearly and publicly ruled out the use of torture, originally in this post, has apparently expired, unfortunately.)

Essentially, the troops know damn well that the six idiots in Abu Ghraib were acting on their own volition. No, they weren't carrying out secret guidance from Rumsfeld - Andrew Sullivan's recurring wet dream notwithstanding.

Splash, out


Dauber on Milblogs 
No, not that Dauber. Cori Dauber!

What makes the media environment in which this war is being fought so radically different is that for the first time troops inside the combat zone can also critique the media's reportage of events they themselves witnessed in this compressed fashion, and in a way that is widely, indeed globally, available. That's never before been the case, and as the ability to milblog becomes more widely known among the force, and the availability of milblogs becomes more widely known to the news audience, this is bound to have more of an influence on the way news coverage is interpreted.


Let's hear it for disruptive technology!

Splash, out


Sunday, December 26, 2004

First, we kill all the HR professionals. 
Well, I wouldn't go that far. Yet. But here's the latest piece of stupidity from California:

Headline: 'Master' and 'slave' computer labels unacceptable, officials say

LOS ANGELES, California (Reuters) -- Los Angeles officials have asked that manufacturers, suppliers and contractors stop using the terms "master" and "slave" on computer equipment, saying such terms are unacceptable and offensive.

The request -- which has some suppliers furious and others busy re-labeling components -- came after an unidentified worker spotted a videotape machine carrying devices labeled "master" and "slave" and filed a discrimination complaint with the county's Office of Affirmative Action Compliance.

The very idea that any public official would waste their time and effort actually dealing with such a stupid complaint is repugnant. But actually, HR professionals think about this crap all the time, and have created a cottage industry in fighting phantom fears of liability lawsuits.

What's more, check out the pathetic attempt to add "perspective" to the article:

In June, the Los Angeles city council unanimously passed a law requiring that any companies doing business with the city disclose profits they may have made from slavery in the 19th Century. In 2000, the council supported federal legislation seeking reparations for descendants of slaves.

As if that were even relevant!

Of all the HR issues this story raises, the reparation idea is about the furthest afield. The only thing the two ideas have in common is that they both involve the word 'slave.'

Makes you just want to go to City Hall and slap somebody.

Splash, out


Saturday, December 25, 2004

It just wouldn't be Christmas without a weapons post! 
A US Army lieutenant colonel writes in:

Procurement was a mess [in WWI] The excellent M1918
BAR was not allowed to be shipped overseas, so American troops fought with
French Chauchault LMGs (the worst machinegun ever made) and most troops
(Sgt. Alvin York) had US-made M1917 Enfields rather than M1903 Springfields.

--(The M3 Grant was awful because the US didn't have the
factories to make castings for a large turret until 1942; the M3 was a
compromise of a riveted [and later welded] hull mounting the M2 75mm and a
tiny cast turret with a 37mm.)

[Moreover] The M4 Sherman was a fine medium tank with adequate armor,
suspension and firepower, it only improved with each mark. The main failing
was a 75mm main gun that was a modified M2 infantry howitzer (equipped the
infantry regiments' cannon company) and did not have enough velocity to
penetrate armor because it wasn't supposed to: Tank Destroyers fought enemy
tanks with their high-velocity 3-inch (a naval piece) or 76mm guns whilst
tanks fired HE at enemy AT guns, strongpoints, etc. This was a doctrinal,
not technological or logistical issue. The M4 tank caught fire because it
carried a lot of ammo (not gasoline as often thought, though the 100-octane
aviation fuel was a problem in the M4 and M4A1) that split open and burned
when the vehicle was penetrated; the M4A3 of mid-1944 had a Ford V-8 engine
and 'wet stowage' that surrounded the main gun (a third of which were now HV
76mm) ammo with a pressurised water jacket that doused the fire like an
early halon system of today's M2 Bradleys and M1 Abrams. All Shermans were
given an extra piece of applique armor in England prior to being shipped to
France; one can see the square plates welded on the sides of the hulls where
the ammo racks were located (two on the right and one on the left). When
the full inadequacy of the Sherman was realized by the US Army's Armor Board
in summer of 1944, the Ordanance Board was given the approval to begin
building M26 Pershings armed with 90mm main guns though these heavier tanks
required more shipping space to transport to Europe. 20 M26s made it to
Europe in January, 1945 and several tank battalions were equipped with them
by V-E Day in the 3rd and 9th US Armored Divisions, to include the 14th Tank
Battalion at Remagan.

It took 40,000 Shermans to defeat them. And 50k T-34s....

--US Marines fought World War II with Springfield .03's - a fine bolt-action
rifle, but of WWI vintage; only at Guadacanal, the USMC had Garands after
that. The Army went with the M1, which was the finest infantry weapon
produced up to that time, and only issued the .03's to snipers and
grenadiers as it was easier to mount the launcher and manipulate the
ballistite launching cartidge.

--Landing craft sank. A lot. And our torpedos malfunctioned due to
corruption and mismanagement in the Rhode Island fuse factory.

-- Myth- M113s, M2 Bradleys and M109-series howitzers are all made from aluminium armor that is strong,lightweight but will melt. [Drivers sitting on top of the vehicles were] rare and due to mines, not burns. A titanium plate was developed and issued to bolt on under the first third of the hull of M113 ACAVs and M551 Sheridan light tanks; some of my tracks still had these in Germany in '87-'88. This problem was addressed in the 1980s with the M2 Bradley with media hysterics (dramatized in HBO's Pentagon Wars), resulting in the up-armored M2A2 in 1990.

--The M16 and propellant issue is complex, but the rifle was never meant for Europe rather the jungles of SEA. The rifle was finely tuned to use a commercial powder (DuPont IMR 4895) but the Army issued it with ball propellant ("We've always done it that way!") without telling the manufacturer and the rifle fouled itself. The weapon was poorly issued in RVN as a self-cleaning rifle with no cleaning kits (M14 .30 cal/7.62mm bore rods and chamber brushes were too big) and little training was conducted. Congressional hearings followed, as did re-training issuing of small calibre cleaning kits and modifications to the rifle (chrome plated bores and
chambers, forward assists).

Thanks for the clarification.

I wish everyone a very merry Christmas, and plentiful ammunition.

Peace on Earth through strength,


Friday, December 24, 2004

First Command Update 
From the Stars and Stripes:

Lawyers handling refunds in the First Command Financial Planning case have received hundreds of e-mails in the past week regarding the payouts, mainly from troops serving overseas.

Wayne M. Secore, the attorney administering the restitution program, said his staff is working to respond to those soldiers and other affected by the case as quickly as possible. But troops have until March 15 to recoup their losses, which he said leaves plenty of time for officials to handle the requests. In addition, that deadline can be extended if troops can’t file in time because of unusual hardship, such as serving in a combat zone, he said.

The refunds will be available only to customers who bought and sold their systematic investment plans between 1999 and this year, Secore said. Eligible individuals should be receiving letters detailing how to obtain the payouts in the next few weeks.

Secore said troops with additional questions can contact him at secore@secorewaller.com.

Investors who still hold their First Command plans may be eligible for arbitration to recover certain service fees. Those claims will be handled through the National Association of Securities Dealers, the brokerage industry’s self-policing organization.

Well, no. The fact is that ALL First Command clients are eligible for arbitration.

In fact, if I were a securities lawyer, I'd be looking real hard at what percentage of First Command clients were in Destiny and Destiny II. If First Command agents were signing EVERYONE up for the same funds, there may be some chance for an unsuitability claim.

It would be a long shot.

More plausible, though, would be "failure to disclose." Which is a pretty common NASD arbitration claim. That's not a First Command issue, really. Every broker has a responsibility to know his customers, recommend suitable investments, and disclose all relevant expenses, fees, and risks.

Each case would be unique, but you don't have to still hold First Command plans, or be a member of the affected class, to file an NASD arbitration claim.

Splash, out


What the troops REALLY think of Rumsfeld 
Read it.

Courtesy of Powerline, again.

There was a good deal of resentment against Rumsfeld in the ranks in September of 2003, when the 12-month 'boots-on-the-ground' policy was announced - which kept us on the ground another 3 months after we were told we'd be heading home in December.

But that faded quickly.

Rumsfeld has the respect of the troops.

The media doesn't.

AP Caught in Another Baldfaced Lie 
Powerline catches them in the act.

Danny Pearl's Favorite 
From the Countercolumn Ministry of Stupid Facts:

There's a long tradition in Irish traditional music to name tunes after well-known players, or after friend's of well-known players, either as a gesture of affection, or because the name of the tune - if it ever had a name - has become lost to antiquity, and the tune just becomes associated with a well-known player.

Cases in point:

Lady Anne Montgomery
Chief O'Niell's Favorite
Dowd's Favorite

There are dozens, if not hundreds of tunes like this. (See also "delight."

It's a mark of respect, and a mark of affection.

The late Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl, who met his fate murdered by Al Qaeda terrorists, was also a devoted amateur fiddler. His favorite tune was a very well-known and widely-played traditional Irish tune called "Red-Haired Boy," which is also known by the title of a song written to it's melody, "The Jolly Beggarman."

It's happening very slowly. It will take years. But the tune is starting to become known, in Bluegrass and Irish Traditional circles, as "Danny Pearl's Favorite."

And from now on, that's what it will be for me.

Danny Pearl's Favorite.

Splash, out


Thursday, December 23, 2004

Sticking up for Rummy 
Victor Davis Hanson sticks up for Rumsfeld, and raises a point I've been stewing over for a while but haven't gotten around to:

The idiots calling for 'more troops' not only haven't a clue where they come from, but also haven't a clue how to employ them.

We could have 500,000 troops in Iraq and not accomplish anything more than we are now. Giving them all security missions would be a waste of time. Security is Iraq's job, now. Not ours.

Our troops should be aggressively going after the insurgents in offensive operations.

Don't give me crap about why we should spend scarce resources hardening mess halls (HA! It was a suicide bomber anyway, dipshits!). Don't give me crap about why we should spend scarce resources on putting an extra layer of armor on a vehicle. We're trying hard to do that anyway.

What I want to hear from the critics is how can we develop our intelligence capabilities to better find the terrorists in their homes? How can we better clobber the enemy where he lives, where he least expects it?

We have the number of troops already. What we don't have is the intelligence.

Because until we can get it, then another 400,000 troops will just be targets collecting a paycheck and eating.

This is the gaping hole in Sullivan's argument.

Fuck what the terrorists might do to a mess hall. Fuck what the terrorists might do to the polls on election day.

I want the public to be screaming about what we're going to do to the insurgents.

All I want us thinking about is how to get close enough to them at a position of advantage and shove a bayonet in their necks and twist it.

Splash, out


Whitewashing Islam? 
I got a lot of email on my recent post noting that Muslims (and Jews) were still a little sore about the Crusades.

My favorite:

I don't know where you got your 'facts' concerning the crusades, but they are a bit askew. Everytime I read someone who brings up the 'evil crusades', I know I'm reading someones stuff, who just wants to rail against Christianity.

Uh oh. They're on to me. :-)

Actually, I'm a huge fan of Christianity. I'm a Christian myself. I'm not always a huge fan of Christians. Particularly ones who torch shtetls. I guess I'm weak in my faith.

Here's an educator, though, with the most lucid and useful response among them:

I think you go too far with “they remember and tremble” especially for Muslims. Yes, the pogroms against Jews in Europe that were integral parts of the Crusades were indeed absolutely wretched affairs and discredit much of the enterprise, but that is only part of the story. The Seljuk Turks that had moved into Palestine/the Middle East in the 10th-11th century were much more intolerant and were upping the ante of persecution of Christians in the Middle East as well as putting pressure on Byzantium. (And it is worth recalling that the Jihads that put much of the Middle East, North Africa and most of Spain into Muslim hands were at times incredibly brutal and destructive affairs). Pope Urban in his call for a Crusade specifically cites this increased persecution as a reason for the Crusades. Muslim rule over the Christians of the Middle East included its share of persecution and restrictions that were a kind of religious apartheid (Christians had to wear distinctive clothes and badges, could not give testimony in Muslim courts but could be tried according to Islamic law, etc) – and this was an expansionist apartheid which Muslims worked very hard to spread.

I teach Balkan history regularly and though the fashion is to talk about Pax Ottomanica the hatred that Islamic rule inspired among all of the peoples of the Balkans suggests that the Pax Ottomanica school is part of the romanticization of Islam that plays up every Muslim achievement (of which there are certainly many) and relativizes every crime and cruelty. Islam was waging Jihad against the Medieval West long before the West responded with Crusades, which many Medieval scholars are now arguing were ultimately defensive. So much of the current Muslim kvetching about the Crusades is part of the effort to portray themselves as victims of centuries of Western oppression, which allows many Muslims to neatly sidestep the fact that they conquered and crushed much of the Christian Middle East and North Africa, engaged in vast butcheries in Anatolia (which was once one of the most heavily urbanized and advanced regions in Europe-Western Asia) and ruled over large areas of Southern Russia and the Balkans with a great deal of cruelty in ways that retarded these regions development for centuries. The Crusades were nasty in the way that Jihad or any religious-ideological war will tend to be nasty. To say that they were uniquely cruel seems questionable. Simply because Muslims today have integrated 19th century anti-clerical and anti-Medieval narratives of the Crusades into their own mytho-history doesn’t make it gospel truth – Jonathan Riley-Smith in the Oxofrd History of the Crusades has a very good discussion of this.

Moral to the story – first, try to avoid waging religious-ideological war/crusades, and secondly if you are going to wage such a war – don’t lose.



The Crusades certainly attracted a lot of un-knightly scoundrels, but
we should really consider the background.

"... Suddenly, in 1009, Hakem, the Fatimite Caliph of Egypt, in a
fit of madness ordered the destruction of the Holy Sepulchre and all
the Christian establishments in Jerusalem. For years thereafter
Christians were cruelly persecuted."

Up till then, for hundreds of years, Europeans made pilgrimages to
Jerusalem, but evenutally, from about 800 on, pilgrims were badly
treated and massacred.

The Seljuk Turks started taking over in that part of the world. The
battle of Manzikert is probably one studied in war colleges.

In degree of barbarity, I doubt the Crusades come anywhere near the
ferocity of Genghis Khan (for starters).

It's depressingly true, though, that whenever you mix war and God, man
is always the loser.

On the other hand, the West's last crusade was in 1270 - about 730 years
ago. We gave up that particular form of barbarity, and have been
waiting paitently ever since for Islam to leave their barbarity behind.

And more:

The point of your correspondent (and, hopefully, the students in question) is
not that the text is uncomfortable--it's that the text is entirely _too_
comfortable, presenting Islam as a happy-slappy-Wonder-Pup feelgood religion
that didn't have some pretty serious calls toward violence and intolerance in
its doctrine. To take your Crusades example, it would be like a book about
Christianity that didn't discuss the Crusades or the Inquisition (or The Future
Punishment Of The Wicked And Intolerable).

That said, it may well be that these things (the present violence of Islam and
the past violence of Christianity) would indeed be better left to a separate
discussion, sort of a "stupid things people have done because they convinced
themselves that God wanted it" class.

This being my blog,

I get the last word.

Training Bitching 
The Los Angeles Times is gleefully parroting a sergeant's leaked complaining memo saying the unit was poorly prepared for war.

The soldiers said in interviews, e-mails and official documents that they were sent to war this year with chronic illness, broken guns and trucks with blown transmissions.

The unit's M-60 machine guns reportedly were in such bad condition when the soldiers deployed in February that one sergeant — in a section of a post-training summary sent to his commanders that was titled "gun maintenance" — wrote: "Perhaps we should throw stones?"

The allegations come a month after another National Guard unit alleged that its training at Ft. Bliss was so poor that soldiers feared incurring needlessly high casualties when they arrive in Iraq early next year.

Although the military has defended its troop preparedness, the willingness of units to go public with allegations suggested growing concern among National Guard and reserve members.

Well, gee...thanks for the formulaic C-league analysis, pal. But the UNIT didn't go public with the concerns. Some SOLDIERS did. Which is nothing new. I was bitching about logistics and pay problems very publicly over a year ago. So why does it suggest a GROWING concern?

Answer: It doesn't. It reflects a CONSTANT concern, not a growing one. More than that, it reflects a kneejerk, reflexive, fill-in-the-box pack mentality among journalists who can't tell the difference between a gripe and a scoop.

The M60 machine gun bit is interesting - I haven't seen one in the inventory in more than a decade. I don't trust that bit of information. I suspect either the reporting was sloppy or a mistake was made somewhere else along the line. But it sounds like a command failure to me, not an army failure. The M60 is a simple enough piece of equipment. If you can get the parts, the unit armorers can fix them no problem. If you can't get the parts, that's where a resourceful company XO can jump into the game, hanging out at the maintenance facility on post and hobnobbing with the chiefs until he can get some M240 B's. It wouldn't be difficult.

I have no idea what the deal was with turning in ID cards to use the latrine. Units do stupid things on mobilization. My unit was no exception. (Well, maybe we weren't THAT stupid!)

But that's the decision of the command, and the command has reasons that reason knows not of. And part of that overall process is to get people's attention.

There is some truth, however, to the claim that soldiers are being sent to war having never fired some of the weapons they will be expected to use.

The reason is that units simply cannot get the ammunition it would require to do this to published standards. If I have 4 .50 cal machine guns in the company, the Army will only allocate enough training ammunition to qualify 8 gunners: a gunner and an assistant gunner for each weapon.

The problem is that when we go downrange, these guns often get put out on the perimeter, and then are manned in shifts by whatever unit gets tasked with perimeter security. Which is a very different equation from who's got the paragraph and line number for the gunner and assistant gunner positions in the MTOE.

The solution: The Army should allocate enough ammunition so that ALL soldiers in a combat arms unit can at least familiarize fire on all weapons assigned to that battalion, to include the Mk-19 and the .50 cal. machine gun.

The rest of the article sounds like good old fashioned bitching to me. Our vehicles sucked, too. We went overseas with a vehicle readiness rating of around 50%. I swear to God, if I walked through the motor pool and PMCS'd every vehicle to standard, half of them had deadline faults.

We left Iraq at close to 90%. (Well, minus the vehicles destroyed by RPGs, IEDs, etc.)

The fact that the reporter is calling "defense officials in Washington" tells me that he doesn't know how to report this. He should be raiding rolodexes calling retired Chief Warrants and Sergeants major.

This isn't a Pentagon story. This is a Fort Bliss and Battalion leadership story.

Splash, out


Ill Equipped to Evaluate History 
There's a meme going around that American soldiers, marines, and airmen in prior wars were somehow properly equipped for those wars, and only today are we sending poorly equipped troops into battle.

Al Neuharth drops it into his latest column here like a backhanded slap while he fastens the chains around the necks of newly free peoples everywhere.

But it's nothing new.

That meme has got to be put down like a sick animal.

Here are the facts:

--The Continental Army nearly perished at Valley Forge for lack of warm clothing.

--Equipment and uniforms in the American Civil War, even for the Union side, were so bad in some instances that the term "shoddy" stays with us to this day.

--The handgun used in the Spanish-American war was wholly inadequate.

--In WWI, thousands of US troops perished or became seriously ill due to poor living conditions (go figure!)

--At the outset WWII, American fighter pilots were completely outclassed in their Brewster F2A Buffalo fighters planes. The Japanese shot them out of the sky like so many skeets at the Battle of Midway. They were so bad that the Navy first pawned them off on the USMC, and then finally retired the fighter from active service altogether.

--American tanks -- except possibly for the Grant -- were pathetic throughout the war. The Sherman was flammable as a match. The 76mm armament was inadequate to defeat the Tiger. They only way they could figure out how to defeat a German Tiger tank was to send a whole platoon against it, try to overwhelm the German gunner and get in a rear shot, and hope against hope to have single crew left at the end. The only saving grace was that the Germans could make so few Tigers: Less than 2,000 were ever made.

It took 40,000 Shermans to defeat them.

--US Marines fought World War II with Springfield .03's - a fine bolt-action rifle, but of WWI vintage. The Army went with the M1, which was the finest infantry weapon produced up to that time, and only issued the .03's to snipers.

--B-17 Bombers initially had almost no firepower in the nose. German fighters figured this out fast. The deficiency was not corrected until the B-17 G model was introduced.

--Landing craft sank. A lot.

--American troops hit the Korean peninsula ill-prepared for the cold weather, and so short of weapons cleaning gear that the soldiers had to cut patches out of their uniforms to swab out their barrels. The lubricant froze in the cold, locking bolts in place and deadlining vehicles.

--American soldiers in were issued the M113 personnel carrier. Which was a good idea. But making the bodies out of magnesium - which is strong, lightweight, and burns - was a bad idea. So bad that drivers stopped operating them from inside the vehicle, and instead tied ropes to the controls and controlled the vehicles by sitting on top of them.

--The M16 rifle was ok, contrary to popular belief. It was an excellent design for the European battlefield, once we accepted that hardly anyone ever got a shot off beyond 300m. But the propellant used in the early variants of the ammunition was inadequate to force the bolt to recycle. The slightest grime or mud provided enough friction to slow the bolt action down, causing it to fail to expel the cartridge, and chamber the next round. The result was rampant feeding problems. It got so bad that many US troops took to using the more reliable AK-47.

And NONE of these armies routinely armored their trucks. Some local variants were fashioned. Soldiers sandbagged their hearts out. But there was no central, coordinated, theater-wide effort to uparmor vehicles ANYWHERE until late 2003.

And only recent advances in ceramic and ballistic technology even make it feasible.

The only reason anyone could bitch about a shortage in Kevlar vests in 2003 is because we had enough of them for the guys who didn't have them to stand out.

Bloggers and media consumers need to confront this "ill-equipped" meme whenever it arises.

The fact is that the US Army fighting in Iraq right now is the best armed, best-equipped, best watered, best-fed army in the history of mankind.

And the next army, the next OIF rotation, will have it even better.

Splash, out


Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Background on the UNC Lawsuit 
A reader emails in some background on the lawsuit filed against the University of North Carolina by some Christian students objecting to a requirement to read books portraying Islam in a positive light:

Some background you may have missed on the UNC/Quran required reading post.
The requirement was several years ago, not current, and-as I understand it- was not to read the Quran but instead a book on Islam & the Quran which left out many-shall we say- objectionable & questionable teachings of both in order to portray it as a religion of peace void of any negative intonations. UNC requires incoming freshmen to read a book for freshman "orientation" (& indoctrination) purposes every academic year.  For years these requirements have had a very liberal bent. Now, UNC is supposed to be the university of the people, and the people of NC are not very liberal, in fact rather red/conservative.  The complaint of the students was that the required reading would not include the questionable and quite negative aspects of the Quran, and the followon "orientation" discussions would not allow open challenges to the book or the liberal image of Islam. These concerns were the product of a series of required books for freshman that told only 1 side of the world's story--the liberal side. There were never any counterbalancing requirements for freshmen on the opposing end of the spectrum.
It was suggested that in fairness, the next class be required to read a similar work on Christianity. The university elites went ballistic, and you know how far that got, and there were fears the ACLU would get involved if such a book was required.  I believe this is where the discrimination piece came into play--you can require students to read about Islam but not about Christianity.
To be honest, I don't really recall all the specifics of the issue, but I do know there was more to it than just an immature student whining.  Thought you would like to hear some of the other side of that coin.

Ok, that would mitigate the case somewhat.

But the UNC is not obligated to portray Islam in either a positive, nor negative light - nor do its professors need to conform to any set standard regarding how Islam may be portrayed.

Christians have been candy coating and glorifying the Crusades for centuries. They even have events like Billy Graham's Crusade, and Campus Crusade for Christ.

Sure, time heals all wounds. But most Jesusland residents do not have a clue that the Crusades were among the most singularly cruel and violent events in Western History. Armies marching through Eastern Europe on their way to the Holy Land would routinely merrily engage in Pogroms, and crucify Jewish children for sport.

And that was before they even got to the Muslim lands.

Christianity forgets. But Jews and Muslims remember - and tremble!

Again, one cannot understand the Middle East and Islamic society without first understanding this dynamic.

Indeed, one cannot even fully understand why moderate Jews feel uncomfortable with a Nativity display on public land, without some understanding of the cultural memories underlying the issue.

So maybe a text on Christianity would be warranted.

But it wouldn't neccessarily make these kids happy, either.

Would THAT requirement be subject to a discrimination lawsuit, too?


Uncomfortable texts do not discrimination make.

Splash, out


A Modest Proposal for Social Security Reform 
Critics are right: Individual investors make boneheaded investment decisions.

Data from Dalbar, Inc., and Watson Wyatt demonstrate that the ACTUAL returns experienced by 401(k) holders, after money flows in and out of stock funds, bond funds, and money market funds are taken into account, are just a fraction of the returns experienced by a buy and hold investor, or a participant in a professionally managed, asset-allocated, low-cost defined benefit plan.

Let's not simply mindlessly copy the TSP options and let investors freely choose between them. Social Security is not a pure investment vehicle, but a social insurance program.

Therefore, I propose the following:

• Keep the TSP options, but repackage them into a series of cohorts. Investors don't select indexes, then; they select their year of anticipated retirement. That's it.

• The account balances are then put into a pool of cohorts of people who plan to retire in or close to the same year. (Say, in 2,3, or 5 year increments. Whatever creates a manageable asset level in a cohort).

• These cohorts, optionally, could be further subdivided into "aggressive," "moderate," or "conservative" funds. This isn't a must, though. I can see arguments either way.

• Each cohort fund is professionally managed, risk budgeted, and asset allocated among large caps, internationals, corporate bonds, treasuries, and cash. We may be able to do small caps, maybe not. The sheer size of the Social Security program may wring all of the diversification benefit out of small caps. We'll see.

• At retirement, individuals select a desired income level. The SSA will tell them what their expected maximum annuitization rate will be, and they will tell them how much money they can expect to leave their children if they died immediately after annuitization. Investors can then adjust one number or the other to arrive at their desired income level. Benefits will be annuitized. Leftovers may be passed to heirs. But they have to decide what their annuitization benefit will be.

• The bulk of the Treasury exposure within the fund should be in TIPS. Benefits should be indexed to inflation. (Actually, even better, half the benefits could be indexed to inflation, and half to wage growth.)

• Keep a maximum benefit in place; use the proceeds to raise the minimum guaranteed benefit. Yeah, it's redistributionist. Deal with it. Like I said, this is a social insurance program.

• No, you don't get to call the manager. You don't get a statement in the mail more than once per year (with your tax refund). You can switch between aggressive and conservative portfolios once per year, MAYBE. But you can't switch out of your retirement age cohort unless you qualify for SSA or become terminally ill.

The idea: To maximize the risk-adjusted return on any given investor's portfolio while minimizing the variability of returns among those in a given age cohort. Variance among an age cohort only adds risk, for which the unsophisticated program participant, in the aggregate, will be uncompensated.

Splash, out


More Social Security Stupidity 
The Bush Administration is touting the Federal Thrift Savings Plan as the model for social security reform. And rightly so, in my view. It's a great, great program, with minimal costs.

But Treasury Secretary John Snow has come out on Fox News Sunday and argued that "these are going to be safe investment vehicles."

I wonder what would happen if a private stock fund company - even one specializing in index funds - came out and started touting its own mutual funds as "safe investment vehicles."

Well, scratch that. I know what would happen:

The Securities Exchange Commission and the NASD would have compliance lawyers all over their asses and fine the bejeezus out of them for making "promissory" statements with no basis in fact.

I'm all for reform. And yes, compared to, say, opening an unlimited brokerage window in the social security program - an option NOBODY is seriously proposing - the expected risk of any and all of the portfolio options, in the TSP, in terms of the expected variability of returns, is relatively low.

But let's not create the illusion that a small cap stock fund or an international stock fund - both of them options in the Federal Thrift Savings Plan - are "safe investment vehicles." That's just hypocritical and irresponsible.

Splash, out


The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has jumped on the "Sack Rumsfeld" bandwagon, arguing that Rumsfeld should step down, claiming that "he has done a terrible job of running the war in Iraq."

But after Srebrenica, after Rwanda, after Darfur, after revelations of the systematic sexual exploitation and rape of African girls by UN soldiers, and after the Oil for Food Scandal implicated members of his immediate family, this same editorial board has no problem with Kofi Annan.

The stupidity and moral and intellectual obtuseness of the American left simply knows no bounds.

Thanks to Boots and Sabres for pointing out the links.

Splash, out


Tuesday, December 21, 2004

This conservative needs to grow up 
Normally, I'm sympathetic to complaints concerning the liberal dominance in academia and the lack of real tolerance for diversity of opinion.

So when I saw this story linked on Drudge about conservative students filing discrimination lawsuits against their universities, it certainly piqued my interest.

But this kid needs to grow up.

At the University of North Carolina, three incoming freshmen sue over a reading assignment they say offends their Christian beliefs...

...Conservatives claim they are discouraged from expressing their views in class, and are even blackballed from graduate school slots and jobs.

"I feel like (faculty) are so disconnected from students that they do these things and they can just get away with them," said Kris Wampler, who recently publicly identified himself as one of the students who sued the University of North Carolina. Now a junior, he objected when all incoming students were assigned to read a book about the Quran before they got to campus.

"A lot of students feel like they're being discriminated against," he said.

Listen, Wampler. You don't know what discrimination is. Requiring Christian kids to read about the Quran is not discrimination.

Scripture admonishes Christians to "be harmless as doves, but wise as serpents." (Matthew 10:16)

Islam is the fastest growing religion today. More importantly, Islam dominates the cultural, political, and religious life of entire continents. And a perversion of Islam, radical Islamofascism is the number one threat to world peace and prosperity today.

Just as you cannot intelligently study Western European history and literature, or American History and literature without some understanding of Christianity - the midaeval period, the Great Schism, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the Great Awakening, you cannot intelligently observe the world without some command of the basics of Islam. You cannot cast a vote intelligently without understanding the basics of Islam.

And increasingly, you cannot even understand your neighbor without some understanding of Islam. And you sure as heck can't be as wise as a serpent.

Shut up and read the book, kid.

Splash, out


Andrew Sullivan is calling for Rumsfeld's head.

Powerline pretty much devastates his argument, first by presenting a quote from Sullivan, ca. April 2003:

Look what didn't happen. There was no attack on Israel; Iran didn't intervene; Turkey didn't invade; chemical and biological weapons were not used. These weren't accidents. They were a function of an extremely intelligent and flexible war-plan, one that combined special forces, air-power, high-tech weaponry, local fighters, and old fashioned infantry in a military-technological nexus the like of which has simply never been seen on earth before . . . Of course, as you read this, the press will be touting the new "disaster" of post-war chaos. The refrain of "losing the peace after winning the war" will be deafening.

John Hinderacker then adds:

I suppose Andrew would say that he's changed his mind because a year and a half later, there is still violence in Iraq. But that doesn't negate anything he said last year, and if looting didn't discredit the war effort in April 2003, when the looting was at its height, why does it discredit the war effort now? (emphasis mine.)

To which, again, I would add:

What, precisely, is the evidence that I higher troop level in 2003 would necessarily result in lower troop levels now?

Splash, out


Quote of the day 
"Do we understand why Abraham Lincoln didn't just start the American Civil War with the army he ended it with?"

From an anonymous commenter.

More good stuff in my normally quiet comments section here.

Scroll down a bit.


Avenger Red Six Hates Whiney Bitches. 
That said, he has some on-target thoughts on getting the job done in a combat zone.

Now I know what you're going to say. Blah blah something about having the right equipment and force protection for our soldiers. You want to know what force protection is?

DISCIPLINE. When you have discipline, everything else falls into place.

I'm disgusted by that convoy that refused orders in Baghdad. Give me a dune buggy. I'll deliver your groceries on Haifa street.

Just do your mission and shut up. It's not as bad as it seems on TV. Quit watching the news and actually come down here. And check your bad attitude at the door.

I second the hilarity on convoys. Humor is a big part of what kept me going. That and the cameraderie of "guys who left the gate."

There's no better company in the world.

Coincidentally, the wounded soldier in the incident was, apparently, SGT Lizzie.

Splash, out


First Command Investors: Don't Panic!!!! 
I'm getting e-mails from First Command clients who are wondering how to sell their funds.

The thing is, while I recommended ditching First Command advisors back in February because of their fee structures and because I wasn't getting a warm fuzzy over their rigorous financial and academic backrounds, I never recommended a Destiny II fund selloff, or any other fund selloff, for that matter.

Here's why:

1.) If you hold the fund outside of an IRA, Roth IRA, 403(b), 401(k), Coverdell, or 529 (there are a few others, too), then if you sell the fund even to buy another fund within 60 days, you'll have to pay a capital gains tax on any profits.

2.) If you hold the fund IN a retirement plan, and you don't know exactly what you're doing, and you just call up the fund company and get them to send you a check, you will

a.) waste your retirement plan contribution limits in prior years, because if you don't use them you lose them - they can't be made up,

b.) you will owe income taxes either on the entire amount (traditional IRAs) or on all the profits (Roth IRAs),

c.) You will also owe state and local income taxes on the same amounts.

d.) If you are under age 59 1/2, you will have to pay a 10% early withdrawal penalty

e.) You will give up all those future years of tax deferred or tax-free growth.

Meanwhile, while Fidelity Destiny I is a dog by any definition, Destiny II has performed reasonably well. Both funds also have reasonable expense ratios going forward. And both should benefit from a deep and capable team of stock researchers at Fidelity in the future.

The contractual plans were lousy plans. And the First Command advisors may have been lousy advisors. But that doesn't mean that Destiny II is a lousy investment going forward.

If you want to keep that much money in a largecap fund with a bit of a growth bias - and a lot of observers believe that's where the 'sweet spot' of the equity market is now, since large growth stocks didn't fully participate in the 2003 rally, then it may be better to stay put than to risk a tax bill trying to move around.

I also don't recommend you try to do everything yourself. If you had a serious interest or temperament for handling your own investments, then you probably wouldn't be with First Command, anyway.

That's fine. There are some terrific advisors out there who can help people like you.

Again, I like the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (napfa.org), which will give you referrals to local fee-only financial planners. For smaller accounts, that will be a bit expensive, since you pay by the appointment or by the hour at first. But you already got the commissioned advisor point of view. So an appointment with a good fee only practicioner could will give you a look at your plan from an entirely different perspective.

Plus, if you DO need to stay put for tax reasons or because the fund you're in is already good, a commissioned advisor would have absolutely NO incentive to tell you that. In fact, all his incentives encourage him to move you around, to churn your account to generate more commissions.

He'd also have no incentive to recommend the Thrift Savings Plan to you. Many of them may not even know what the TSP is, or how it works.

Don't laugh...I mentioned it in an article in a newsletter I wrote for a major, household name bank, and they sent it back wondering what the heck a TSP was?

Your typical Series 6/ Series 7 broker isn't very likely to know much about it, either.

And they hate index funds.

Splash, out


Monday, December 20, 2004

For Guitar Players Only 
Wanna hear some wild flatpicking?

Check out Seamus Egan's version of "The Mason's Apron/My Love is In America."

Wow. (The sample doesn't do it justice.)

I always thought of him as a flute player. I knew he played some tenor banjo.

Well, he tears the guitar a new soundhole with a flatpick.

I thought John Doyle--another favorite player of mine-- must have been practicing!

Nope. That was Seamus Egan.

Splash, out


Quote of the Year 
Comes from Eden, proprietor of Just One Bite.

Among my bodily oddities is that sometimes, when I tilt my head to the side, I get dizzy. The simple solution from my doctor was, "Don't do that." Apparently it's the result of liquid in my ear or something, but not worth worrying about.

Thing is, it can be fun. The sensation is somewhat like being drunk, without the hurling of slurred insults, stumbling about, and fucking someone else's husband in the bathroom.

The thing is, it never works out that positively for me.


The Wall Street Journal Bungles Social Security Reform 
Here's the Wall Street Journal's Greg Ip making a hash out of the debate on Social Security:


By way of comment, I'm simply including the text of an email I just wrote him.

As an interested observer of and supporter of some form of privatization of Social Security assets, I read your column today with some interest.

My comments follow:

1.) Your statement in the third paragraph, that to restore solvency that benefits would have to be cut or taxes would have to go up ignores a third possibility - and thereby misses the entire purpose of a partial privatization.

The whole idea is to increase the rate of return on social security assets. All we have to beat is the risk-free rate of return, which is currently a fistful of unmarketable treasuries yielding perhaps 2-3%.

Provided the government is successful at increasing the rate of return on SS assets, it is possible, then, to maintain benefits at current levels or higher without a corresponding increase in FICA.

2.) You drastically understate future liabilities for the social security system. Unless you can demonstrate that actuaries have identified a future point where the worker/retiree ratio will again generate an operating surplus that will be sustained - and I don't think you can - then unfunded liabilities for "the entire future" are infinite.

Don't know what flack spoonfed you the 10 trillion dollar line, but if he told you that that's the figure for the entire future, you've been had.

The figure is meaningless without a time frame. But time frames are meaningless unless the demographic challenges reverse themselves at some identifiable point in the future.

3.) Your statement: "By 2042, the IOUs will be spent."

The IOUs, unfortunately, are already spent.

4.) Re: your statement: To keep Social Security afloat, private accounts would probably be coupled with steep cuts to traditional benefits.

Ok, for whom? Point him out to me? Has he paid in a cent? No one is contemplating steep cuts in traditional (I'm reading "guaranteed") benefits to anyone in the workforce. Workers would be free to keep the current SS structure for themselves if they prefer. You left that part out for some reason.

As for anyone not yet in the work force, a worker's career typically lasts 40 years. Can you identify any 40-year time period in the history of the capital markets in which a portfolio of stocks did not outperform a portfolio of treasuries?

How about we make the hurdle even easier and dial it back to 30 years?

20 years?

Here's another risk, which you totally ignore: The risk that traditional Social Security benefits will be wholly inadequate for someone who desperately needs the income to live on.

Your argument that a worker would probably be worse off than under the current system simply lacks basis in fact.

4.) "Under most proposals, workers would generally be steered to diversified funds such as index funds"

Ok, is ANYONE seriously arguing that Social Security include a brokerage window that would allow investors to put everything down on losses-dot-com?


Then why not so state?

5.) You quote Mr. Gramlich as noting that there is no history of the government reducing benefits to retirees. But that's not Mr. Gramlich noting a fact. That's Mr. Gramlich making a claim. And that claim is false: the Clinton Administration raised taxes on Social Security benefits in the mid 1990s. If that's not a benefit cut I don't know what is. Why did you not point that out?


Jason Van Steenwyk

Andrew Sullivan's lost it 
I hate to say it, because probably more than any other person, Andrew Sullivan influenced me to start blogging.

But this time he's come off his meds.
Now that Powell has gone, Rummy will see it as a matter of cojones that he stay for a while, if only to prevent sufficient manpower being deployed to win the war in Iraq...

This statement is stupid on so many different levels it's hard for me to know where to start.

Rumsfeld wants to prevent us winning? By refusing to deploy more manpower? (From where, General Sullivan?????)

...and to let memories of Abu Ghraib fade. (Sorry, Rummy, but mine won't.)

Why? After all, your memories of the sheer brilliance of the campaign to destroy the Taliban - one of the most remarkable military campaigns in military history for its innovation and outside-the-box thinking, have already faded.

Likewise your memory of the fastest mechanized advance in the history of warfare, and a Baghdad that fell without a seige.

Your appreciation of the fact that we have not seen a terrorist attack on U.S. soil since September 11th, 2001, and have actually seen several plots foiled, seems to have faded pretty quickly.

You don't seem to have figured out that it was the MILITARY who broke the Abu Ghraib story, not the press. Abu Ghraib was already under investigation when the New Yorker caught onto it.

You have already forgotten about Rumsfeld the Transformationist, who stood up to the entrenched Army types like the SAINTED General Shinseki, and insisted on developing a strategy and force structure for the next TWO wars instead of the next one.

You also haven't figured out that Tommy Franks is easily the best theater commander the Army's had since Ridgeway. He's better than Schwartzkopf, better than Powell, better than Abrams, who was no slouch, and certainly better than Westmoreland.

Sullivan, these guys are functioning wayyyyy beyond what you're equipped to analyze now.

You were better off obsessing over gay marriage.

Splash, out


Sunday, December 19, 2004

Evidence of Al Qaeda's Defeat in Saudi Arabia 
Captain's Quarters links to this Washington Post story.

Al Qaeda forces in Saudi Arabia have shifted their strategy and are now almost exclusively searching for U.S. and other Western targets in the kingdom while avoiding attacks on domestic institutions in a bid to strengthen their flagging network, according to security officials and Saudi experts on radical groups.

Security forces have arrested or killed 17 of the 26 most wanted militant leaders in the country. Two others on the most wanted list are believed to be dead or badly injured, while a key operational planner reportedly fled the kingdom, Saudi security officials said.

Saudi officials said that they have dismantled three of four known al Qaeda cells and that the insurgents are finding it harder to obtain ammunition, weaponry and money. The size and scope of the attacks have also dwindled since last year, when car bombs in Riyadh blew up two Western residential compounds and caused more than 200 casualties.

"The people who are still there are not as skillful as the ones who were there in the beginning," said Brig. Gen. Mansour Turki, a spokesman for the Saudi Interior Ministry. "We feel more confident than we did in the beginning of this fight. We thought it would take much longer to be in control. We cannot deny that there are still possibilities that the terrorists could execute more acts, but they are not as strong as they were a year ago."

You heard it here first.

44,000 Troops Lack Body Armor? I'm throwing the bullshit flag! 
Senator Dick Durbin, D-IL, argues in today's Democratic Party's weekly radio address, that 44,000 U.S. troops-or more than a quarter of the troops in Iraq or Afghanistan still lack adequate body armor. That 44,000 number is, quite simply a lie.

First of all, the 44,000 number is over a year old, dating back at least to October 14th, 2003.

Oops. Make that October 13th, 2003.

Second, the 44,000 number was suspect even then. Army sources at the time were citing a shortfall of 30,000. The 44,000 figure was some partisan congressmen counting complaint letters and sticking their fingers in the wind.

You can view the provenance of the 44,000 number, and see how it was bandied about more than 13 months ago here.

So the Democratic party is claiming that since October of 2003, not a single additional soldier has been equipped?

Blow the whistle, ref. There's a flag on the play.

The figure seemed high to me at first glance since I never encountered a single soldier, airman, or Marine in Iraq who didn't have the latest kevlar vest after about September of 2003. Actually, my own unit was in Iraq for a couple of months before getting the new vests, and every time I went somewhere I'd stand out. "How come you guys don't have the kevlar vests?" people would say.

"Dunno. We're guard! We don't get shit!"

"Well you guys have balls of solid rock!"

"Well, what are you gonna do? NOT fight the war?"

Finally we got them around the first week of July of 2003.

(P.S., what's the deal with the idiots on the pentagon beat? Why are they just taking the claim at face value? Why does it fall to me to dig this obvious crap out?

Forget incompetence at the Pentagon. The REAL incompetence is with the reporters on the military beat!)

Splash, out


Congratulations to Powerline, for being named Time Magazine's "Blog of the Year" (which is itself a delightful Time Warner dig at a competing network. :))

Saturday, December 18, 2004

How NOT to report a story: The Christian Science Monitor 
Greyhawk does a super job exposing a Christian Science Monitor reporter as a charlatan hack.

Hat tip: Cori Dauber


Here's the letter I wrote to the reporter and the Christian Science Monitor:

Your article was so full of distortions and half-truths I didn't know where to begin.

A serving military blogger does a pretty good job here, though:


I'll stick to questioning your grasp of factual matters.

1.) You claim that the Defense Department has acknowledged more than 5,500 servicemen have deserted since the war began. Where are they? What's your sourcing? CBS? Do you believe everything they tell you?

To quote an old newspaperman's maxim, "if your mother says she loves you, check it out."

2.) Yes the Guard and reserve are not seeing the numbers they originally targeted. But you don't mention one of the primary reasons: the guard and reserve rely on a certain number of troops leaving the active duty ranks. But since the reserve component is on active duty so much anyway, soldiers are just staying on active duty.

3.) You fail to mention that polls show that the military voted overwhelmingly for George Bush. Why? Shouldn't that be relevant in a story about troop morale?

4.) Your sourcing is one-sided. It's pretty clear you didn't try very hard to get a perspective other than the Quakers and other less respectable anti-war groups. And where you did, you failed to identify the nature of the groups...one of your basic responsibilities as a reporter.

5.) How many times did you mention Viet Nam? News flash: this ain't Viet Nam.

6.) You claim that the number of reserve officers wanting to resign has jumped. Ok. How many? How do you know? Why are they wanting to resign? My own Guard battion was mobilized in 2003 and deployed overseas in March-April. We had one officer resign. Not over policy, but because he made oodles of money as an executive. If he deployed, his family would have lost their home.

But we had perhaps 10 officers join the battalion from elsewhere in the guard, eager to volunteer. Several deliberately put off their IRR transfers, or came back after IRR. Did you mention those numbers?

7.) Your use of the loaded term "semi-draft" was both inaccurate and irresponsible. Perhaps an anti-war writer could justify it on an opinion page (although the claim would never stand up to analysis).

But on page 1? It's an embarrassment to your paper.

Had I been your editor, I would have handed this back to you for a significant rewrite, along with a stern warning about one-sided and sloppy sourcing, loaded language, and the casual flinging about of unsourced claims.

I'll keep you posted if I receive a reply. All relevant parts in the paper's reply or rebuttal, if any, will be posted verbatim.

Jason Van Steenwyk
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Just picked up a copy of Robert Shiller's "The New Financial Order."

Looks promising. I'm a big admirer of his. He's the guy that published "Irrational Exuberance" in March of 2000. Perfect timing.

(I have an autographed hardcover copy of "Dow 36,000," the author's signature dated 1 March 2000, within ten days of the Naz peak and the beginning of the crash, that I think is precious).

Shiller rightly argues that the benefits of financial structure--the spreading of risk, the intelligent allocation of risk among different hazards, accrue mostly to the well-heeled. What's needed is some structure to extend the benefits of modern ideas on risk management to the working and middle classes.

Some interesting ideas:

1.) Insuring the value of a family home. We already do that, to an extent, with annuities with a guaranteed death benefit, and with certain mutual fund structures. It would not be hard to come up with a structure to do the same with home values, indexing it to, say, similar REIT indexes.

2.) Livelihood insurance. People can insure against income loss through disability. But we haven't come up with a structure to insure people against entire industries vanishing, through no fault of their own.

Well, we have unemployment insurance.

3.) True intergenerational income insurance and wealth transfers.

I'm eager to hear how Shiller develops his arguments. Rich people figure things out pretty quickly, and tend to insure to the hilt. The lower and middle classes could benefit a great deal - and with them ALL of us - by extending financial innovation and risk management to address their needs.

Splash, out


Team America Reviewed in Italian Newsmag 
I've been curious to see what Europeans would make of the animated satire "Team America: World Police." Especially after the hilarious opening scene in which Team America levels the Louvre in order to kill a couple of ragheads.

Fortunately, the Italian webzine Panorama publishes a review.

The bad news, it's in Italian. For those of you who don't know Italian, just think of it as a cheap knockoff of Romantch.

They fight the ragheads, humiliate pinko movie stars, and save the homeland.

The inventors of Southpark have created the Rambo of the 21st Century: Five marionettes that yack nonsense sarcasmo on Bush's enemies.

They sport middle-American, small-town names like Joe, Gary, Lisa, Chris, and Sarah (Note to Italians: Sarah wouldn't seem like such a uniquely American name if you hadn't been so merrily complicit in slaughtering Jews over the centuries, asshats.)

The men are square-jawed; the women fearless. Indomitable and armed to the teeth, they are determined to rid the public square of the enemies of civilization.

So what if, in their antiterrorist orgy, they mistakenly destroy Paris or the Pyramids of Egypt? For the heroes of Team America: World Police, a film by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, have come not to wring their hands, but to act.

To the rhythm of a rock hymn "America: Fuck Yeah!", the leitmotif that accompanies every action scene, Team America not only attacks the Arabs - it takes dead aim at Hollywood liberalism.

Actually, it's a pretty straight-up review, and makes no anti-american points Parker and Stone don't already include in their film.

Do I think, as Andrew Sullivan does, that it was the best film of the year?


But hearing Kim Jong Il sit at a piano and sing the touching, heart-rendering ballad, "I'm So Ronery" was alone worth the price of admission.

Splash, out


Taking liberties 
Powerline has uncovered a beauty.

Here are some questions from a recent Cornell University poll:

"All Muslim Americans should be required to register their whereabouts with the federal government." Agree: 27%

"Mosques should be closely monitored and surveilled by U.S. law enforcement agencies." Agree: 26%

"U.S. government agencies should profile citizens as potential threats based on being Muslim or having Middle Eastern heritage." Agree: 22%

"Muslim civic and volunteer organizations should be infiltrated by undercover law enforcement agents to keep watch on their activities and fundraising." Agree: 29%

And what does AP say?

The poll found that 44 percent favored at least some restrictions on the civil liberties of Muslim Americans

As Powerline correctly points out, the only measure that could be considered an infringement of civil liberties would be the registration idea. There is no civil right to prevent a federal agent from attending a worship service in a mosque to uncover conspiracies. And given the widespread use of Islamic charities as front organizations for terrorist fundraising, it would be stupid for the government NOT to try to infiltrate these organizations.

It violates no article of the constitution to do so.

To be fair, though, the AP reporter is just parroting one of the bullet statements from Cornell's summary of the study itself.

CAIR's not too happy about another of the poll's findings: Nearly half of the poll's respondents, 47%, believe that Muslims are more likely than other religions to encourage violence.

Gee, ya think??????????

Friday, December 17, 2004

Cori Dauber hammers on some terrible, horrible, no good, very bad reporting from the New York Times.

I simply cannot figure out how they get to that one million figure. This shows all the signs of a reporter who was handed a press release and didn't stop to check the figures -- or to think them through.

How can this make sense? The most we've had in Iraq at any one time is 150,000. Many, as we know, have served more than once. We've only been in Iraq since March of 2003, which is less than than two years, and there's only been one massive and complete turn over. (Afghanistan, where troop levels have held below 20,000, can't possibly make up the difference.)

More to the point, which Army study? done when? by which organization, institute, published where? How can a major media outlet get away with this kind of shoddy citation (something a blogger would get hammered for.)

For what it's worth, of the 130 or so Iraq veterans I came home with in March about 9 of them self-reported minor or severe depression or requested referral to mental health professionals when next screened at the first drill after terminal leave expired, which happened to be in July.

Of those nine, a certain number carried forward some problems and stressors from prior to the war. At least two that I know of were on anti-depressant or anti-anxiety meds at some point before the war. So while PTSD symptoms can be aggravated by a less than ideal home life, I can only firmly attribute the depression/anxiety to the war for perhaps four or five of those nine, at best.

Others may be having problems they reported through other channels, or didn't report at all. But all studies have to deal with selection bias.

In any case, the media seem to be wayyyy WAYYYYYYY overreporting the mental health story.

What I can't figure out is: these knuckleheads will harp on soldiers being a bunch of fragile, fainting pantiwaists as soon as we get home, haunted by PTSD and debilitated by memories.

Because we're just that easily shattered.

But these same idiots will still argue that post-abortion syndrome is a myth.


The truth is somewhere in between.

Splash, out


...In which Jason gets fisked!!! 
A few days ago, I issued a challenge: If more troops were the answer, then where would they have come from? How would those force levels be sustained? And what is the evidence that higher troop levels in 2003 would significantly reduce troop levels now?

A reader takes the time to fisk me. I'll leave it to you guys to decide whether his points hold water, in the comments section. Play nice!!!

A challenge...

Me: to Andrew Sullivan, who's criticizing General Tommy Franks for saying we had enough troops for the mission, and to the small army of armchair generals who are kvetching at Rumsfeld and Franks for not deploying enough troops:

Where in the world do you think those troops would have come from?

How about, for starters, NATO? The Russians? Latin America? The Middle East? Asia? And we’re talking substantial amounts here. Not 200 or so Salvadorians and 100 or so Estonians et al and calling that a friggin alliance. How about the Persian Gulf War model? (Ok, here comes, on your part, the ubiquitous snicker about French soldiers and so forth). It may be, as you imply, (with, I might add justifiable ‘plausible deniability’ built in) that you are a “land warfare expert’ but you are clearly not a strategic thinker who understands the strategic power of diplomatic alliances. But Bush could not go to the allies because he was more concerned feeding his domestic political base which thrives on dissing the world. None of that excuses the ‘allies’ for their own short-sighted refusal to see their own national security interests were served by seeing the Iraq invasion successful (success defined successful occupation) But Bush 2 made this impossible. The old man understood it the pre-requisite to victory. In the end all the excuses in the world won’t change that.

Or, if that failed, or you just don’t like it period….here’s a really unique idea; How about a draft? Shazam….how about on 12, Sept 2001, we called for a draft? Or, if you don’t like that, how about when the decision was made to invade Iraq (what do ya say, somewhere around May 2002?), WHEN OUR LEADERSHIP KNEW we could be facing manpower shortages, that we called for a draft? How’s that Mr. Splash Out? Fight a war the old fashion way! Stand the fuck up and be counted. How fucking unique in this day and age. Or do we take this proposal as another straight line for Rumsfeld to denigrate draftees? You know damn well why they could NOT have instituted a draft. You fucking know it. You fucking know it. And so do I…and that’s where we really separate the men from the boys.

Me: From where? Who? How long could we have sustained it? What other commitments would we have had to shortchange? What's the evidence that more troops in 2003 would mean the necessity of a smaller force in 2005?

Chaos and a vacuum of security, inevitably lead to trouble on the ground. The “evidence”? See past 18 months. Why would that conclusion follow? Logic, which, especially in war time, I grant you, is no slam dunk, pardon the pun….but what the fuck else do you want to go with over logic? Me? I’ll stick with logic and a sound knowledge (all things relative of course) history

Me: Who are these idiots who think resources grow on trees?

Evidently the ones that did not bring the necessary resources to Iraq. Or, anything even closely resembling them. And before you start lecturing me about the realities of war, and the realities of the ‘fog of war” please understand yours is not the first generation to go war. Some of us even went to wars where losing a 1000+ men in a MONTH would not have been unknown. So, I understand, I know from hard experience, that things don’t always go as planned. That said…this was, and is, a monumental fuck up.

Me: I sure don't see many land warfare experts among them.

Well, you have a point there. But you do not always have to be accident reconstruction specialist to spot a 40 car pile up on the freeway and to offer the commentary that “this fucking looks bad”. So here you have a lot of assholes opining on what they know little about. So what else is new? But even a blind blog finds a truffle now and then.

Me: If having more boots on the ground in 2003 was the answer, who was the President who cut entire corps sized elements out of the Army that liberated Kuwait?

This is silly and irrelevant, and irresponsible. At SOME point, the people IN power NOW have to take responsibility for their decisions. Do you start asking who created the deficit in the 1980’s that necessitated the budget cuts that hit the military in the 1990’s? Why stop there? Who caused the fucked up economy that forced (some would say) Reagan to run a deficit to get the country back on its feet? Carter? Who handed Carter a shitty economy? Nixon? Well, Nixon got the shit end of the stick because LBJ refused to pay for a war we were fighting. Hmmmm, seems things are coming full circle. Screw all that man……let someone stand up NOW and take some god damn responsibility for what the hell has gone wrong, and what is going wrong. But what do we see? Today they get Presidential medals.

I think the reader fails to consider, though, that hinging our decision to go to war on the decision of Russia and France to participate (when we knew since long before the war that they were on the hook to Iraq's oil revenues and stood to lose billions from a reasonable application of odious debt doctrine - even before the UNSCAM story broke) would have been tantamount to an abdication of U.S. sovreignty to the United Nations. The U.S. does not require a permission slip from Moscow to defend its interests. Bill Clinton didn't seek one when he intervened in Bosnia, Kosovo, or attacked Iraq in 1993 and again in 1998.

Second, the reason we didn't institute a draft in September 2001 was because a draft would have been a stupid idea. I mean, even Democrats who WRITE BILLS calling for a draft won't even vote for their own bills!

Third, I think my correspondent fails to draw a connection between theoretical increased troop levels in the spring of 2003 and the prospect of reduced troop levels now.

The other points-especially on economic causality, are well taken. Bush, after all, went to war with the forces he had. The vastly reduced army was a fact of life in 2003, and Bush made the decision to go to war knowing that. If it turns out that the Army is too small to accomplish its mission, then the buck stops with the Bush office.

I think the attitude that this hinges on the American army is short-sighted, though. It is not the American army which will win or lose this war. It is Iraqis.

And given proper support, I do not consider the issue in much doubt.

Splash, out


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