Wednesday, June 30, 2004

The World Tribune is now reporting that US and Allied forces have discovered sarin and mustard gas shells numbering in multiple dozens.

This is a step up from the ten-to-twelve reported by our chief weapons inspector just a few days ago.

The World Tribune's sourcing is murky. But it's worth checking out. I would definitely want CNN or another credible news organization to independently confirm or deny this information.

But I sure wouldn't still be trying to argue that Saddam was not in material breach of the UN resolutions.

Splash, out


I Love a Good Hummer 
Gear junkies, maintenance warrants, and Bn XOs and S-4s: There's some great thoughts on the Hummer--and how to improve it--here.


Tuesday, June 29, 2004

"Jason, When Did You Turn Into A Freeper?" 
So asks a reader, via email.

I'll give an answer, and then ask a question of my own.

I'm not a freeper. I can't remember ever logging into the Free Republic website, other than maybe following a link someone else sent me. Maybe. But I can't even remember doing that.

As hard as it may be for some people to swallow, I think independently. And so do a lot of other people who come to inconvenient conclusions.

I link to The Nation a lot more than I link to the Free Republic or National Review, simply because I read The Nation.

If The Nation and the rest of the left can't convince me of their arguments, it ain't the Free Republic's doing. I don't bother reading them at all. The problem is stupidity on the left.

Here's my own question:

When did the left start assuming that everyone who disagreed with them was "A Freeper?"

Nevertheless, in fairness, here's the rest of my critic's email:

Your blog used to be an
interesting, thought-provoking series of essays on the military and on Iraq,
one that had this liberal military brat sometimes agreeing, sometimes
disagreeing, but always considering. Now it seems you've degenerated into
another generic right-wing blog, busy with Democrat-bashing and cheerleading
for Bush (in my opinion the worst thing to happen to the military in a
quarter-century, but I digress....)

How do you think your salary got paid in the military? Hint: Dubya didn't
actually dip into his personal fortune out of love for the troops. Instead,
the military is paid through taxes-- a perfect example of the government's
power and Constitutional duty to "take things away from you on behalf of the
common good."

That's what a government DOES, see? You can certainly argue that your idea
of the common good is not Senator Clinton's idea; you can argue that the
things being taking away are not producing a proportional outlay of common
good, or that they're taking too many things away, or that they're
over-thing-taking from from some and not enough from others. But the
fundamental principle-- that government takes things away from people for
the common good-- is not open to debate, and to act as if it were is
intellectually bankrupt. You were better than that once.

Now, I'm not an anarchist. Nor am I a libertarian. I see Democratic vs. Republican fiscal policy as simply two children wrestling over who gets to sit on the top part of the Phillips curve.

With the economy firmly in expantion mode, I'm not even particularly opposed to some countercyclical tax increases in order to pay off the national debt. I think there's a reasonable case to be made for that.

That just strikes me as good Keynesian economics.

But that's not the argument Hillary made.

Instead, Hillary made the single argument most likely to lose the midwest.

She'll be quoted on it til the cows come home to roost.

You think Al Gore's Internet statement was an albatross around his neck? This is going to hang on Hillary like a piano anklet.

But then again, the argument worked so well for Mondale, right?

Splash, out


P.S. How did my salary get paid in the military? Through deficit spending! Duh! :)

"The Gears are Starting to Strip" 
So how did the sudden and massive ramp-up in optempo we saw beginning with the GWOT, built upon a military already feeling the strain from over a decade of drawdowns with no corresponding drawdown in pre-9/11 commitments, affect our military?

What happens to procurement budgets? The investment in R&D and technology? What happens to the troops? Does the Army begin to eat itself?

Here's some splendid reporting from the National Journal, which answers these question.

The writer knows who to talk to, and knows what questions to ask and what issues to raise. He's done his homework.

This is one of the best pieces of military reporting of comparable length. I've seen in a long time.

Kudos to the National Journal, and to Sydney Freeberg, Jr.

Splash, out


Dumbest. 419 Scam. Ever. 
Here's the latest e-mail scam:

Dear Sir,

I am Captain Kobe smith of the United States of
America combatant Squad, Assigned to carry out
operation in Iraq. During our course of carrying out
search for the Saddam and his aids, we observed some
consignments loaded in a hidden zone.

We were then curious to know the contents,
fortunately, it was United Staes Of America
Dollars,being kept by Saddam Children. As a matter of
fact, I cannot ascertain the amount in each of then.

Nevertheless, we had to report to our Command Head
Quater, as it is the rules in the United States Army.
But before then, I and some of my colleagues smuggled
some boxes out for our personal used. We did that
without the intention of our superior Officers,
knowningfully well that if the should know, we MUST be
charged for Conspiracy and Stealing.

Presently, we have shipped the boxes out of Iraq,
looking for a trusted person who will Assist us to
Claim it and Invest on our behalf. We do not care the
type of business you may invest in, all we care for is
making sure that at the end of our assignment in Iraq,
we shall get our money.

SHARING: We are ready to share 50% for us, 40% for you
and 10% for any expensive that may occur.

We ask that this Proposal must be kept secret due to
its nature.

If you are intersted kindly get back to me through my
email address:kobe_smith@masrawy.com

Hilarious. The guy even admits to being a criminal right off the bat.

No, I didn't change the email address. I figured some of you might want to send a few monstrous files his way to clog up his inbox.

Splash, out


Liberalism, Defined 
"We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good."
--Senator Hillary Clinton,
San Francisco, California

Heh. Just one more entry in Jason's Big Book of Why Democrats Lose Elections.

An Hillary can probably kiss her presidential aspirations goodbye with that one.

Our Unchurched Media 
The recent Pew poll found that journalists were far, far less likely to be religious than the populations they serve.

That's not necessarily a big deal. You don't have to be religious in order to cover religious people, or politics in the south.

But it's not too much to ask that our AP reporters at least understand it.

"I think he has sold his soul for a mess of pottage," said Lewis, in a reference to a speech Miller gave as a congressional candidate 40 years ago in which he argued that President Johnson was "a Southerner who sold his birthright for a mess of dark pottage" because of his support for the Civil Rights Act.

Pottage is defined as a thick soup or stew of vegetables.

The reporter is flaunting his cluelessness here.

Miller may have been referring to the speech. But it's a lot more likely that he was referring to Jacob, Isaac, and Esau in Genesis, Ch. 25:

And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of [his] venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob.
And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he [was] faint:
And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red [pottage]; for I [am] faint: therefore was his name called Edom.
And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright.
And Esau said, Behold, I [am] at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me?
And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob.
Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised [his] birthright.

See? It's not that reporters aren't religious. It's that they don't even speak the same language, anymore.

Vast segments of the Southern community speak in sentences leavened rich with Biblical allusion, and they do it all the time.

But this reporter didn't get the reference. Nor did he have the wherewithal to look it up in a Biblical concordance (one wonders if he knows what a Biblical concordance is?).

The bottom line:

The cultural divide between national media and the people they serve is a chasm.

This AP reporter covering southern politics doesn't understand southern politics.

And all the "objectivity" in the world--all this misplaced faith in the power of journalistic ethics--can't help him.

Splash, out


An Open Letter to Abu Zarqawi from a Marine 
This letter is for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, “Islamic Response,” and the rest of the so-called “insurgents” in Iraq. I obviously do not have an e-mail address for these vermin, so I am forwarding this letter to my entire address book in the hope you good people will forward it to as many people as possible, and that eventually through the miracle of the internet it somehow ends up in the hands of the intended recipients. Thank you all for your assistance.

This is from my good friend and fellow 3/4 vet. It sums up my feelings as well.

To the terrorists currently operating in Iraq,

I see that you have captured a U. S. Marine, and that you plan to cut off his head if your demands are not met. Big mistake. Before you carry out your threat I suggest you read up on Marine Corps history. The Japanese tried the same thing on Makin Island and in a few other places during World War Two, and came to regret it. Go ahead and read about what then happened to the mighty Imperial Army on Tarawa, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. They paid full price for what they did, and you will too.

You look at America and you see a soft target, and to a large extent you are right. Our country is filled with a lot of spoiled people who drive BMWs, sip decaf lattes and watch ridiculous reality TV shows. They are for the most part decent, hard working citizens, but they are soft. When you cut off Nick Berg’s head those people gasped, and you got the media coverage you sought, and then those people went back to their lives. This time it is different. We also have a warrior culture in this country, and they are called Marines. It is a brotherhood forged in the fire of many wars, and the bond between us is stronger than blood. While it is true that this country has produced nitwits like Michael Moore, Howard Dean and Jane Fonda who can be easily manipulated by your gruesome tactics, we have also produced men like Jason Dunham, Brian Chontosh and Joseph Perez. If you don’t recognize those names you should. They are all Marines who distinguished themselves fighting to liberate Iraq, and there will be many more just like them coming for you.

Before the current politically correct climate enveloped our culture one of the recruiting slogans of our band of brothers was “The Marine Corps Builds Men.” You will soon find out just how true that is. You, on the other hand, are nothing but a bunch of women. If you were men you would show your faces, and take us on in a fair fight. Instead, you are cowards who hide behind masks and decapitate helpless victims. If you truly represented the interest of the Iraqi people you would not be ambushing those who come to your country to repair your power plants, or sabotage the oil pipelines which fuel the Iraqi economy. Your agenda is hate, plain and simple.

When you raise that sword over your head I want you to remember one thing. Corporal Wassef Ali Hassoun is not alone as he kneels before you. Every Marine who has ever worn the uniform is there with him, and when you strike him you are striking all of us. If you think the Marines were tough on you when they were cleaning out Fallujah a few weeks ago you haven’t seen anything yet. If you want to know what it feels like to have the Wrath of God called down upon you then go ahead and do it. We are not Turkish truck drivers, or Pakistani laborers, or independent contractors hoping to find work in your country. We are the United States Marines, and we will be coming for you.

What do Get When You Cross a Frog with a Jellyfish? 
Lest there be any doubt about what a bankrupt organization Reuters must be, check out this beauty from their French language wires:

BAGDAD (Reuters) - A trois jours du transfert officiel de souveraineté, la situation restait très tendue dimanche en Irak, où des activistes menacent de décapiter trois otages turcs et où une explosion a retenti dans la "zone verte", qui abrite le quartier général des forces de la coalition.

That's right: threaten to murder three hostages, and Reuters and the French think you're an activist.

I think Pate causes brain damage.

(Via Michele Catalano, who found it on Little Green Footballs)

Splash, out


Monday, June 28, 2004

The Question of Integrity 
American Demographics and Zogby have some fascinating data on how we choose our leaders. (You can find it at www.demographics.com, but you gotta subscribe.)

Consider the question: What characteristic is most important in defining a true leader?

Is it intelligence? I never thought so. At least as intelligence is most commonly misdefined. But Democrats were more than twice as likely as Republicans--22% to 9%--to select intelligence as the most important leadership trait.

Democrats were also twice as likely as Republicans to choose speaking ability as the prime determinant (4% vs. 2%), and nearly four times as likely to esteem diplomatic skill above all else (11% vs 3%).

Both parties held that integrity and morality (tied together as one option) were the most important leadership characteristics. But the difference between the party lines was nevertheless striking: 77% of Republicans checked the integrity block, compared to just 53% of Democrats.

Among those aged 55 to 69, nearly 75% chose the integrity block, compared with just half of 18-24 year-olds, and half of African Americans.

But what does "integrity/morality" mean? Well, the editors wanted to know that, too. 46% Cited "treating others as you would want to be treated." A third considered morality to mean that the candidate followed Biblical or spiritual principles. And more than 1 in 10 people believed that morality was "staying true to your convictions, whatever they may be."

By that standard, Adolf Hitler becomes a paragon of virtue.

31% of Democrats believed that Bill Clinton's public insistance that he did not have sex with that woman, Monica Lewinsky had nothing to do with morality.

Just How Stupid Are These People?

50% of Democrats believed that when President Bush stated in his 2003 State of the Union address that Iraq posed "a serious and mounting threat, that Bush "acted immorally."

What definition of "morality" leads them to that conclusion?

(Unfortunately, there's no Data on what Democrats thought when President Clinton was saying the same thing back in 1998.)

30% of respondents said that Gore's famous internet statement was immoral--proving that Republicans have been drinking some concentrated stupid juice themselves.

When asked to name an example of a moral leader, Jimmy Carter got the top nod, with 30%. Abraham Lincoln came in 2nd with 18%.

George W. Bush got 15%. Senator Kerry got 2%. Cheney got 1%.

(Where's George Washington?)

Both hispanics and blacks are are more likely than whites to forgive a transgression as long as the candidate shared their moral view of the world. ( 69% and 78%, respectively.) 65% of Republicans would cut a brother pubbie some slack, as well.

More than half of Republicans thought it "very important" that the leader share their moral outlook. But only a third of Democrats thought so.

Women were more likely than men to want the candidate to share their moral views.

Good stuff from American Demographics. With some juicy quotes in the piece from Newt Gingrich, Mark Shields, and others.

My favorite:

"Appeals to Biblical morality have been undermined by academic culture."
--Dr. Jude Dougherty, Catholic University of America

Worth a look.

Splash, out


This Ain't no Tennyson Poem: The New York Times Blows it Again! 
Here's another doozy, from the New York Times, courtesy of another heads-up reader.

When the First Armored Division got orders to mount its counterattack against the Sadr militia, one-fourth of its 30,000 soldiers and more than half of its 8,000 tanks, armored vehicles and artillery pieces had already left Iraq. The division, along with the Second Light Cavalry Regiment, also under its command, did an about-face, recalling troops, unpacking gear and receiving unwelcome orders to extend its stay by 90 days.


The army has no 2nd Light Cavalry Regiment. They mean the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment.

Geez--the New York Times is a big paper. Can't they get an army net anywhere in the newsroom? Why can't they get a fact checker in there to nail these things down?

Splash, out


An officer in Iraq squares me away:

Actually, Jason, the 2nd has been referred to in official documents as the 2nd LCR, 2nd ACR (Light), and several similar designations since they turned in their tanks and drew up-armored HMMWVs years ago (probably when they moved to Fort Polk). If there's a problem here, it's that the Army can't figure out what to call these guys.

Yikes! I've been misfiring all over the place this week! That's what I get for trying to blog on multiple deadlines.

Idiot Watch 
Here are some Green party members protesting in Milwaukee.

Ok, so can we question their patriotism now?

The Dog that Didn't Bark 
Sure, the press needs to cover the insurgency.

But what about the story of the dog that didn't bark?

In the 55 days prior to June 14th, not a single IED has gone off along the 36 mile stretch of highway around Ar Ramadi.

That's the area where CPT Joshua Byers was killed by an IED on July 23rd in what became known throughout the regimental area as "The Fox 6 incident."

I didn't know CPT Byers, although we operated along the same stretch of real estate a lot. But by all accounts he was a good man, and it hit the 3rd ACR--a very tight-knit outfit for a unit of its size-- very hard.(a lot of people believed he was specifically targeted for assassination) and had always been a very dangerous stretch of road.

For months, IEDs and ambushes would go off around there it seemed like every few days. My battalion took several wounded--including some in my company-- along that same MSR when a large IED went off as they were returning from a trip to Baghdad (conducted, in part, to buy pigs for a barbecue! You never saw a more appreciated meal.)

So for a unit to seize and retain the initiative along that stretch of highway (Near Fallujah, Habbaniyah, Ramadi) is quite an accomplishment.

So kudos to my friends in the Iron Ranger battalion, 1-16th Infantry.

I'd take you guys on my flank any day.

Splash, out


It's Official! 
As if we needed further proof of the stranglehold of liberal orthodoxy on our nations newsrooms, Editor and Publisher is reporting that 9 out of 10 film critics are raving about Fahrenheit 9/11.

An E & P survey of 63 daily papers that ran reviews, in "red" and "blue" states alike, finds that 56 gave the film a positive nod, with only 7 abstaining, an almost 90% favorable rating.

The seven in the "anti" camp were: Detroit Free Press, Denver Rocky Mountain News, San Jose Mercury-News, New York Post, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Philadelphia Daily News and the Charlotte Observer.

Among the "pro" crowd were reviewers from moderate to conservative papers such as the Boston Herald, Los Angeles Daily News, San Diego Union-Tribune and Las Vegas Review-Journal.

There you have it, folks--It's not that they're worshipping at the altar of The New Yorker (although they are). It's that our nation's editors have recruited a pack of film critics who have more in common with the cheese-sniffing surrender monkeys at the Cannes Film Festival than with the people they purport to serve.

But then, we already knew that, didn't we.

Splash, out


Sunday, June 27, 2004

Compare and Contrast... 
"The use of Adolf Hitler by any campaign, politician or party is simply wrong."

--Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill.

"The administration works closely with a network of rapid-response digital Brown Shirts who work to pressure reporters and their editors for undermining support for our troops."

--Al Gore, June 24th 2004

It's Not That We Found One or Two Sarin Shells... 
...it's that we've now found nearly a dozen. One was already fired at the Green Zone.

It's in the World Net Daily. Not my favorite rag to cite, but it's a simple statement of fact in a quote from a well-placed official, speaking to another media outlet, FOX News. And those are really hard to spin (unless you're willing to be as dishonest with quotes as the New York Times).

So...are there still people out there trying to argue that Saddam didn't have any chemical weapons?

By the way--our chief weapons inspector says we've found a dozen chem shells. Says it on national television. It's easy enough to verify with another source just by picking up the phone.

Does it make the New York Times???

Not that I can find.


Splash, out


The Importance of Cover and Concealment 
Warning: the link is NOT kid-safe.

Here's a good example of why militias who go up against disciplined armies routinely get their asses kicked.

It's a video of some wannabe mujahedeen who attempts to fire an RPG--presumeably at coalition troops- and decides that the best place to fire it from is from a kneeling position in the middle of the goddamn road.

With nobody laying down covering fire to his flanks and rear. No teamwork at all.

The results are predictable and immediate.

I feel bad for the kid. Well, not that bad. I do feel a twinge of empathy for him, though, since he's just a streetfighter, and he had guts, if not brains. And I can at least respect that.

The guy who deserved the fatal bullet he took was whoever put someone that incompetent out there to die.

The sooner he gets it, the better.

Splash, out


Saturday, June 26, 2004

Taking Me to the Woodshed 
Here's one from a reader:

In my opinion Juan Cole is so moraly and intelectually above you that getting into any detail of your polemic with him is redundant. Really notable your defense of killing classes full of schoolchildren if Zarqawi ( propaganda ghost ? CIA agent ? ) is near .
(i suppose your own children are not included in the deal ) . I pray for you , you are as worst a terrorist as Zarkawi is , only you are a coward and he is not .

Well, that one's rich.

As to the substance, I think you're confusing a recommended course of action with what the law of land warfare says. Saying that hitting Zarqawi in a room full of schoolkids is not a war crime is not at all the same thing as saying I would personally pull the trigger in that instance. There's a difference between a technical argument over what the law says and a military/moral argument over the correct course of action.

I think most of us would rather check fire, and wait for another opportunity.

But at what cost in lives? This reader apparently has a priori knowledge, somehow, that the number of lives saved by killing him now is less than the number of lives lost by hitting him where he stands.

Must be nice to live in an academic environment. The rest of us have to make decisions in the real world.

You are as worst a terrorist as Zarkawi is.

My correspondent apparently lives a blissfully sheltered life. I wonder if people realize how much they make themselves into laughingstocks when they make stupid claims like this.

only you are a coward and he is not.

Assumes facts not in evidence.

By the way, mispelling "intellectually" is a nice touch. My complements.

UPDATE: Someone pointed out that I used the wrong spelling of "compliments." Heh. I guess that's what I get. :-)


Bill Clinton, Then and Now 
Here's Bill Clinton in an interview this week with Katie Couric:

Couric: "What do you think about this connection that Cheney, that Vice President Cheney continues to assert between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda?"

Clinton: "All I can tell you is I never saw it, I never believed it based on the evidence I had."

Bill, you serial liar, you.

Your own Justice department, in 1998, pursued and obtained a criminal indictment against Bin Ladin which containing the following language.

Al Qaeda reached an understanding with the government of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the government of Iraq.

While we're on the subject, the same goes for Al Gore, who argued that the 9/11 commission verified that "there was no meaningful relationship whatsoever" between Iraq and Al Qaeda.

1.) The commission publicly distanced itself from its own staff report.

2.) That's not even what the staff report said. The staff report said that there was no evidence whatsoever supporting the notion that Iraq and Al Qaeda cooperated in attacks against the United States.

The difference is huge.

Splash, out


Objection to the ICC 
From a reader:

I strongly disagree with the Canadian schoolteacher on the likelihood of
the ICC going after US military personnel, and the article you posted by
Juan Cole provides an illustrative example of why:

"I don't mean to be a killjoy, but for an Occupying Power to drop bombs
on residential neighborhoods is a war crime."

Now, what is the likelihood that a large number of foreigners would
agree with him? Further, what is the likelihood that the commander will
stand trial (or even be subject to an Article 32b investigation) under
the UCMJ?

What do you have? A case "where the local court refuses to act despite
clear evidence of a war crime." Instant jurisdiction. Ultimately, the
limits of the courts power are only bound by its ability to define what
constitutes a "war crime." That doesn't exactly fill me with

What's truly irritating to me is that this court claims jurisdiction
over us, despite our not having formally ratified the treaty which
creates it. I consider it an affront to our principles of

On the whole, I agree with this reader, though I'm not sure that this court is,itself, currently claiming jurisdiction over us.

But we already know that the court is already being used as an ideological weapon against the U.S. and U.K., and lawyers are already laying the groundwork for the erosion of limits on the Court's jurisdiction.

Splash, out


War of Ideologies, Cont'd 
The attack on New York and Washington was to conservatives what the Paris Commune and the October Revolution were to Marxists: the birth of an intellectual nation. The real significance of the Osama's attacks on America to future historians may be that it marked the end of the transnational project of a politically correct world order; delineated the final boundary of the European tradition of Marxist thought and created the first post-post-colonial Western ideology. The Global War on Terror is in certain respects spectacularly ill-named. Its principal victim has not been the Al Qaeda network but the old order. The notion of the centrality of the United Nations; the idea that terrorism is a law enforcement problem; the idea that history is an irreversible march toward a Green-Left future are projects as cold beneath the earth as the Taliban's armies. If the European Union as envisioned by France finally dies; it will mark its departure, however long it may linger, from the time Mohammed Atta's aircraft struck the Towers.

From the always excellent Belmont Club.

"Informed Comment" Not So Informed on Raid Tactics, Intel 
Here's Juan Cole, on the latest airstrike against a suspected Zarqawi safehouse in Fallujah:

Some reports, apparently based on aerial surveillance, suggested that they just missed Zarqawi. I'm not sure, though, how you tell that from the top of someone's head, and remain skeptical about these kinds of claims.

Well, no, Juan. We don't normally track these people by taking aerial photographs of the top of someone's head. There are other means.

The US resort to bombing suggests how weak it is in Fallujah, since it means it could not commit troops to an attack on the safehouse.

Well, Gee, Juan. You think maybe--just maybe--Zarqawi would be posting some lookouts? And how do you conceal your raiding party (we're talking a company +) from them on the way in?

And how long do you want to hover a blackhawk at 40 feet--long enough to fastrope a squad down on the roof--in a neighborhood where every 10 year old and his sister got an RPG for Eid?

There is now a plan to set up a security perimeter around Fallujah to curb the activities of the jihadis based there.

A great idea. Actually, I wouldn't let a living soul leave Fallujah until after the handover. Remember how car bombings in Baghdad slowed down when we had a ring around Fallujah? Same deal. I think we should lock the place down.

But I had read several weeks ago that such a security perimeter had already been implemented

It was, for tactical reasons, when the uprising in Fallujah was in full swing. It was not politically sustainable.

Has it lapsed?

Yes. That's why we're seeing more car bombings, now. The factory is likely in or near Fallujah.

The American news media often phrased this bombing as an attack on "al-Qaeda." But these al-Tawhid fighters never pledged loyalty to Bin Laden, and most probably never fought in Afghanistan.

Given their connections and activities, it's close enough for government work. And this is government work.

Zarqawi, who did, was never part of al-Qaeda

Man, you gotta be pretty obtuse to buy into that line of reasoning. Especially given the next argument:

Al-Qaeda anyway is not a top-down organization with a flow chart and a CEO.

Well, no shit, Juan! That's why we're considering Zarqawi to be al Qaeda, as far as we're concerned.

Juan Cole's been in academia too long. Never seen a 1099 form?

I mean, Cole's carping is like driving past a McDonald's restaurant and arguing that because it's a franchise, and not a corporate-owned store, it's not Al Qaeda.

The Bush administration no doubt likes this shorthand because it reinforces the dubious point that the war in Iraq has something to do with the war on terror.

Cheap shot. And not even a good one, because the implicit argument, of course, is that Iraq has nothing to do with the war on terror.

Which, in the light of Hussein's succor to Abu Nidal and Abu Abbas, support to Hezbollah, and to Zarqawi himself, in light of his well known posession of weapons of mass destruction technologies, the attempt on Bush 41's life, and the presence on Iraqi soil of thousands of Ansar al Islam fighters, is an absolutely untenable position.

You can argue whether Iraq was a distraction from what should have been a stronger effort in Afghanistan. And you can argue whether Iraq actually had stockpiles of WMDs recently. And you can certainly argue whether the US had the force structure to handle a long occupation in Iraq, and you can certainly carp on some of the rosier assumptions regarding security in the occupation phase.

But the idea that Iraq had nothing to do with the War on Terror is without basis in fact.

More: (You gotta scroll way down for this)

I don't mean to be a killjoy, but for an Occupying Power to drop bombs on residential neighborhoods is a war crime.

No it isn't. Zarqawi's a legitimate military target. We get to target him whereever he is. He can sit in a class full of kindergartners and we can still target him. It doesn't matter. The Law of Land Warfare does not prohibit us from attacking him anywhere in the world. It prevents us from targeting the civilian population, but it does not prevent us from targeting Zarqawi, even when he has taken shelter among the civilian population.

But, the force used to go after him must be proportional, and should not exceed the minimum force necessary to accomplish our aims.

The principal of proportionality is written into the Law of Land Warfare, but it predates it by centuries, back to the concept of jus in bellum.

You know, since Article 51 of Protocol 1 of the Geneva conventions makes a crime of conducting terror attacks, gee, it sure would be refreshing if Cole and others on the left would level their criticisms at the actual enemy, for a change.

The three women and five children killed are not "collateral damage."

Well, although I do object to using that term to describe people, rather than materiel, yes they are. By definition.

They are human beings.

They are that, too. It is fully possible to be a human being and collateral damage. It isn't that big a stretch.

There are no such things as "precision strikes" in residential neighborhoods

As opposed to precision car bombings?

How 'precise' is NOT going after him? How many innocent people could lose their lives if we let him continue unmolested?

Juan Cole might have no trouble finding a gig writing slogans for bumper stickers. But commanders have no such luxury. Every action has an opportunity cost, and even a decision not to act can cost more lives than a decision to act.

Bombs not only throw off shrapnel themselves, they create lots of deadly flying debris, including flying glass from broken windows, that can kill and maim.

Well, yeah. That would be the general idea, wouldn't it?

We on the outside have no way of judging the various claims made in these sorts of situations. For all I know the Hamadi clan has a lot of blood on its hands and has been blowing up people. But if so, they should have been arrested by a special ops team cooperating with the Fallujah Brigade.

1. As I mentioned before, don't you think Zarqawi's got OPs of his own out to warn him of any troop movement large enough to take him down?

2. Don't you think Zarqawi might have some of his own people in the Fallujah Brigade? Just how tight-lipped do you think they are?

The rule of thumb in Iraq is this: anytime more than a few extremely well-known police officers, ICDC, or other Iraqi officials are involved in ANYTHING, you must immediately assume that the basics of the operation are quickly made known to the other side.

3. Just how long do you think it takes to safely plan and execute a raid? Especially a joint raid between Americans and the Fallujah Brigade? How long did you think Zarqawi stays in one place?

4. Raids are extremely complex small-unit operations. What makes you think the Fallujah
Brigade is capable of executing one with any degree of proficiency?

There were manifestations of public anger over all this in Fallujah

Oh, like we give a shit about manifestations of public anger in Fallujah. They're angry about everything in Fallujah. But when the community supports an insurgency, they just can't expect to get their way all the time.

Sorry, Charlie.

It doesn't do any good to kill 15 guerrillas and their wives and children (if they were in fact guerrillas) if in so doing you create 30 more.

There are two pretty big "ifs" in there. But at least we have SOME intelligence to support the contention that some of those killed were guerrillas. (If they were, then their wives may well have been co-conspirators).

The second big "if," refers to the creation of 30 more guerrillas.

I see no reason to believe that this bombing will create 30 more guerrillas, over and above those who would already become guerrillas, anyway. Where's the evidence?

Further, if one of those killed had been Zarqawi, then it would have been worth creating 30 guerrillas, easily.

Al Gore, Then and Now, Revisited 
"They dare not admit the truth lest they look like complete fools for launching our country into a reckless, discretionary war against a nation that posed no immediate threat to us whatsoever." Al Gore- June 24, 2004

“Even if we give first priority to the destruction of terrorist networks, and even if we succeed, there are still governments that could bring us great harm. And there is a clear case that one of these governments in particular represents a virulent threat in a class by itself: Iraq. As far as I am concerned, a final reckoning with that government should be on the table.”
--Al Gore, February 12th, 2002

...if you allow someone like Saddam Hussein to get nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, chemical weapons, biological weapons, how many people is he going to kill with such weapons? He’s already demonstrated a willingness to use these weapons; he poison gassed his own people. He used poison gas and other weapons of mass destruction against his neighbors. This man has no compunctions about killing lots and lots of people. So this is a way to save lives and to save the stability and peace of a region of the world that is important to the peace and security of the entire world.” -CNN’s “Larry King Live,” December 16, 1998

Thanks to Perry on Politics for the excavating, and to Andrew Sullivan for finding it.

Splash, out


Cool Musician of the Week 
I gotta give major props to a delightful musician I just heard today...a clarinetist, of all things, named Ilene Stahl.

She plays in the Klezmer Conservatory Band. Think "The Chieftains" of eastern European Yiddish and Jewish-American traditional music.

Actually, I've been a fan of the Klezmer Conservatory band (and klezmer music, generally) since the dawn of my career as an amateur frustrated ethnomusicologist at the age of 13.

Everyone in that band can play--I mean, really play. But Stahl is a true gem. No pun intended, but she's one of those musicians who can play a phrase and it's like it's written in stone.


That is all.

Several people also wrote in squaring me away on division organization.

Yes, Virginia, there is a division cavalry squadron organic to the 1st Armored Division. (I was thrown off by its absence on the Division website, but I should have checked other sources.)

Mea culpa, mea culpa.


Backgrounder on the International Criminal Court 
Several people wrote in telling me that the US decision to acquiesce to the International Criminal Court was really no big deal--the court would not have authority to try US servicepeople anyway.

Here's the most useful of the emails, from a Canadian educator who asked that it not be attributed to him:

The ICC isn't really sponsored by the UN--rather, it came about through international treaty, with democratic states being the prime movers and the chief architects of the ICC statutes. The UN Security Council (but not the General Assembly) can request the ICC prosecutor to initiate investigations (the prosecutor can also do this on their own where they have jurisdiction), or require the court to suspend a prosecution. As one of the P5 UNSC members, of course, the US has a veto over any such UNSC resolution. Cuba and Sudan, on the other hand, have absolutely no influence or input at all, unless they happen to be temporarily on the UNSC (and even then, very little).

Second, the Court only has jurisdiction where there is no competent national court, or where the local court refuses to act despite clear evidence of a war crime. As you note, "The United States' system of law, including the UCMJ, is fully capable of trying and restraining our own soldiers, and represents the fruits of centuries of legal thought, guided by the rigorous application of case law and enlightened by the values of a democratic republic." Consequently, the ICC would not have jurisdiction over cases involving US servicemen and women for precisely that reason.

The supposed threat to US personnel on peacekeeping missions has been vastly exaggerated by some US commentators. Ccertainly, Canada, or the UK, or other countries with major peacekeeping or other deployments abroad don't see it as a problem. The only current ICC investigations involve places like the Congo, and perhaps the Sudan if the Security Council is willing to request an investigation (Sudan--like the US, Cuba, Libya, and a few others--has not ratified the treaty). If the UNSC fails to act on the current situation of Darfur, therefore, it will be a US/UK/France/Russia/China P5 failure, not an ICC or UN failure.

Moreover, I'm not sure that Americans realize the extent to which US opposition to the ICC has done damage to the image of the US abroad. I find it very frequently raised by my students, Canadian and international alike.

Thanks to all who wrote in. I hadn't been following the International Criminal Court issue very closely over the years (obviously). I was just happy that my government wasn't playing ball with every bright idea coming out of Geneva and the Hague. Of course, the moonbats who are still trying to call for prosecution of Henry Kissinger for war crimes make a certain skepticism about the internationalist judgement all the more palatable.

I'm not too worried about "the image of the US abroad" on this issue. I think it's time the UN started worrying about their own image in the US, since in many cases, it's the US who can make or break efforts on the part of the UN. And right now, the UN's image isn't all that great with me, and a lot of people like me.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Clarification on the Washington Times Article 
A former cavalry officer and reader sends me this clarification.

I sent Rowan Scarborough's Wash Times article to my former company commander, now-COL Pete Mansoor, now commanding the First Brigade of the 1st AD. I asked about the "four tank squadron" and COL Mansoor said it was just a typo, and the writer meant "four troop squadron." It was the division cavalry squadron.
COL Mansoor's soldiers were among those extended and who have defeated al-Sadr in the south.
I didn't even ask about the 18 tank battalion, because with cross-attachments and units being held in reserve, anything is possible.

Ok, so Rowan knows his stuff, and just made a human mistake. Ok, I can accept that. But he's not getting the fact-check support he needs. So my larger point still stands.

Also, the 1st AD doesn't normally have a division cavalry squadron, although a squadron may have been task organized to it in theatre.


Thursday, June 24, 2004

Military Cluelessness: Washington Times Blows It... 
...but maybe not quite as badly as some people think.

Several alert readers wrote in pointing out this piece from the Washington Times, including this howler:

Within days, a four-tank squadron was rumbling toward the eastern city of Kut.

Now, as any first year tanker can tell you, four tanks do not a "squadron" make. Four tanks make up a platoon.

And as any first year tank officer can tell you, there are generally no "squadrons" at all in an armored division. Tank units have battalions, not squadrons. Only the air force and cavalry units have squadrons.

Then an 18-tank battalion entered Karbala, a holy city where precision operations were needed to spare religious shrines.

Suspect. Battalions normally have a lot more than 18 tanks. A full strength, pure tank battalion has three companies of 14 tanks each, plus a tank each for the S3 and the Battalion Commander.

But tank battalions almost never operate pure. They'll detatch one or two companies of tanks and in return pick up one or two companies of infantry.

In addition, tanks aren't worth a whole lot for most operations in Iraq. They are vulnerable in the cities, they chew up road surfaces and pavements, pulverize sidewalks, get stuck in blind alleys, have poor observation unless the TC sticks his head out the top (and renders himself extremely vulnerable to sniper fire), they burn too much gas and they're too hard to tow for convoy escort duties, they take up too much cargo space, and its too hard to bring their 120mm main guns to bear against a target in the cities without causing an obscene amount of collateral damage.

So the practice has been to take the tank crews out of their tanks and stick them in Humvees. So it's quite possible that a Battalion sized unit would be down to 14-18 tanks.

So I'm not ready to call 'gotcha' on that particular point. But any group of four tanks operating together I'd still call a platoon. The army wouldn't break up a platoon.

Rowan Scarborough's been on the beat a while. I would have thought he would have developed a grasp of rudimentary military terminology by now. Apparently not.

But we can't expect every reporter to be Ernie Pyle. Military reporters should come from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines. But, still, there ought to be someone on the fact-checking staff with enough experience and subject matter knowledge to catch something like this.

Newspapers just routinely make zero effort to recruit veterans onto their staffs. Indeed, the way newspapers recruit, military veterans who get their college degrees tend to get locked out of the industry.

Here's why:

When looking for new reporters, newspapers almost invariably want daily experience. Experience in magazine writing or in other fields typically does not count for much.

The way young people break into the newspaper business is through internships at newspapers during their college years.

But if you're going to college on an ROTC scolarship, or you have reserve commitments during college, then bang! Your summers are spoken for. There's no breaking in.

The effect is a marked underrepresentation of veterans in the newsroom.

With predictable incompetence when it comes to studying the institution.

Who loses?

Newspapers, veterans, and readers.

Who gains?

J-school types who haven't done anything else, and bring nothing to their beats, but who appreciate the job security.

Splash, out


Email of the Day 
From a reader in Texas:

How about explaining to us in a bit more detail why 'quite properly' The Army Times told the Army to get stuffed if a 'gentleman's agreement' and 'taboo' were in effect and they didn't honor it.

Sure. It was quite proper for the Times to tell the Army to get stuffed because we live in a society which upholds the freedom of a free and independent press, and it's not the Army's business to tell newspapers what to print. To the extent they try, then they ought to be taken down a notch.

And kindly explain how the only 'obligation' is to the story and the reader, rather than anyone else (thought experiment: that's your dead recognizable face your mother sees in the paper).

The highest obligation a newspaper has is to the truth. The truth is that soldiers die. The other truth is that all these soldiers have faces. I don't see how an informed electorate is served, in the aggregate, by putting pantyhose over the camera lens.

There are a number of immortal shots which show death imminent, or near imminent. I'm glad we had photographers around to document this, this, this, this and this.

It's just part of recording the truth.

Not to be deliberately hurtful to anyone. But to create a record.

There are two reasons why we haven't forgotten the Spanish Civil War. One is named Pablo Picasso. The other is named Robert Capa.

And kindly give an example of when having a recognizable face is, 'in and of itself', more compelling or necessary to tell the story, instead of just a dead body--include all necessary details.


Be glad to.

My pleasure.

No problem.

There are lots of graphic photos of the dead and dying I am grateful we have. It makes it impossible to deny what happened. You can pay lip service to "never again," but nobody remembers Kurdish victims of Turkish genocide. And nobody would remember Wounded Knee without the famous photo.

Not all of these photos are Pulitzer-winners. But they all contribute to the record.

I'm not saying be cruel or deliberately pornographic (although there are times when pornography is the only way to communicate the scale of obscenity.)

But as a nation, we are not well served by being protected from truth, however ugly.

And we have an army of soldiers--not sacred cows.

Frankly, this piece of yours smells of the smug, self-important attitude that makes so many members of the press a pain in the ass

You wouldn't be the first to accuse me of being a pain in the ass. I hope you're not the last.

--and the very thing I've seen you complain about.

I don't think I've ever complained about a journalist accurately recording truth.

If this is really what you meant, you just dropped down a couple of notches with me.

Well, I don't know what you think I meant.

I don't think this particular Robert King photo was the one I'd go pounding the table for. But the photograph of Father Mychal Judge being carried from the site of the World Trade Center is, in my opinion, a national treasure.

We are at war. The whole nation, through its elected leaders, voted to go to war in Iraq.

So while some of us are minority, dissenting shareholders, we're all in the business of death.

Let's not shy away from it.

Let's not run a photo just because we can. But if there's a photo that's worth running, then editors should have the courage to run it.

Splash, out


Wednesday, June 23, 2004

A Line Crossed 
Check out the photo essay Newsweek has on the MSNBC site.

It's a series of photos by Robert King--who spent a couple of weeks with the 1-124th Infantry in Ramadi late last year.

King was on scene just minutes after an ambush which killed two National Guardsmen in Sadr City.

There's long been a gentleman's agreement in the US press not to publish photos showing the recognizable faces of the bodies of US military dead, although it's been broken from time to time. The Army was really peeved last year at The Army Times for running just such a photo. (The Army Times, quite properly, in my opinion, told the Army to get stuffed.)

Newsweek breaks the taboo, though, in image #3 of that series.

I don't have a particular problem with it. I don't really know how I feel about the practice. That particular photo isn't all that strong, but some of the other photos are, and they tell a compelling story.

I'm not sure if photo #3 adds much to the story. If I were Newsweek's editors, I probably would have left it out.

But if it were in and of itself a compelling photograph, or necessary to tell the story, then sure, I'd publish it. The obligation is to the story and the reader, rather than to the Army or even the families of the soldiers in the photo.

But it's not a step to be taken lightly.

Splash, out


US Government: F*#K the Troops! 
That's my take on today's decision to allow the International Criminal Court to try US Troops for war crimes.

Until the UN kicks Sudan and Cuba off of its Human Rights Council and the International Criminal Court is screaming to try the heads of Hezbollah and Hamas for murder--AND their fundraisers for aiding and abetting terrorism, then I do not, I cannot recognize any moral legitimacy on the part of any International court sponsored by that body.

The United States' system of law, including the UCMJ, is fully capable of trying and restraining our own soldiers, and represents the fruits of centuries of legal thought, guided by the rigorous application of case law and enlightened by the values of a democratic republic.

The United Nations, on the other hand, gives Sudan a General Assembly vote equal to Canada's.


Splash, out


Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Headline of the Day 
Headline: Scientists Invent Car that Runs on Soldiers' Blood

Money quote:

“With this advancement, the United States can finally loosen OPEC's grip on our economy,” exclaimed one of the government-contracted physicist, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “We can tell those greasy, brown sand-monkeys to shove their oil from now on.”


Another Theory on the Four Dead in Ramadi 
From a reader:

I haven't seen an update yet on how the Marine patrol was killed in Ramadi the other day, but your questions on it seemed solid. My guess is they were part of a joint patrol with IP or other Iraqi unit, and that unit was 'bad' and turned on the Marines suddenly and murdered them.

That would explain things.

It would also explain why the military doesn't want to be too public about the circumstances surrounding their deaths.

The entire US exit strategy revolves around these joint patrols and gradually handing off the security mission to the Iraqi security forces.

If word gets out that IP are murdering troops on joint patrols, then it gets pretty hairy getting other troops to go out there.

If those troops were, indeed murdered by IPs, though, (and I'm not willing to say that they were), that's going to spread like wildfire through the ranks. Because their platoon mates know where they were, and the battalion staff knows where they were, and the E-3's to E-6's working in the Battalion TOC know where they were, and they're not going to shut up.

Splash, out


Pseudojournalism at the Los Angeles Times 
Here's the LA Times, on 9/11 commissioners' appearances on "Meet the Press" and "This Week with George Stephanopolous:"

Commission members Sunday repeated that they did not see evidence of collaboration between Al Qaeda and Iraq.

Here's an excerpt from the transcript of Commissioner Lehman's appearance on "Meet the Press:"

The Clinton administration portrayed the relationship between al- Qaeda and Saddam's intelligence services as one of cooperating in weapons development. There's abundant evidence of that. In fact, as you'll soon hear from Joe Klein, President Clinton justified his strike on the Sudan "pharmaceutical" site because it was thought to be manufacturing VX gas with the help of the Iraqi intelligence service.
Since then, that's been validated. There has been traces of Empta that comes straight from Iraq, and this confounds the Republicans, who accused Clinton of doing it for political purposes. But it confirms the cooperative relationship, which were the words of the Clinton administration, between al-Qaeda and Iraqi intelligence.

(emphasis added)

Ok, so a 9/11 commissioner confirms that Iraq and al Qaeda were collaborating on weapons development, and the LA Times perverts that into the exact opposite.

How thickheaded can these people be?

The performance of our nation's media has just been shameful.

Splash, out


(and thanks to Oh, That Liberal Media for the catch.)

Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, You're Busted! 
If you can't trust the Federal Reserve Banks, well, then who can you trust?

Here's a bit from the glossary of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis:

negative amortization:
An increase in the principal of a loan, when the loan payments are insufficient to pay the interest due. The unpaid interest is added to the outstanding loan balance causing the principal to increase rather than decrease as payments are made. This situation typically occurs in an adjustable mortgage with an annual cap limiting any increases in the interest rate, and also in a graduated payment mortgage, which has low initial payments so moderate-income borrowers can afford to make the loan payments.


The Fed gets it exactly backwards.

Negative amortization occurs when there's an artificial contractual limitation on the increase in payments, not the interest rate.

Sheesh, do I gotta do everything around here?

Anyway, it pays to know this term; it's something a lot of you guys who bought houses you couldn't afford on adjustable rate mortgages (with interest rates near multi-decade lows) are going to find out over the next couple of years.

Financial Tip to Military Families:

You can avoid a negative amortization problem by favoring fixed rate rather than adjustable mortgages. If you must go with an adjustable, save some more down payment money and get a fixed. If you still must go with an adjustable mortgage, then strive to cap the rate increases, rather than the payment increase if you can.

In the long run, it will work out to the same thing, but you won't run into the nightmare scenario where you keep making those house payments and yet your unpaid balance keeps getting larger and larger.

And don't rely on price appreciation to bail you out. Not now.

Splash, out


On Gays in the Military 
Andrew Sullivan lays out what 'don't ask don't tell' has cost us, by MOS:

...in the last five years, we have lost 49 nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare specialists, 90 nuclear power engineers, 52 missile guidance and control operators, 150 rocket, missile and other artillery specialists, and 340 infantrymen. We've also lost 88 linguists, many of whom are expert in interrogation. It seems to me that this policy is stupid and cruel in peacetime. It's madness when we are at war.


Heh. I KNEW there was something funny about all those linguists.

Splash, out


Monday, June 21, 2004

Hitchens on Michael Moore 
Here's Hitch's take on Michael Moore's copyright infringing "Fahrenheit 911."

To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability. To describe this film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental. To describe it as an exercise in facile crowd-pleasing would be too obvious. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness. It is also a spectacle of abject political cowardice masking itself as a demonstration of "dissenting" bravery.

Aww, c'mon! Don't candy coat it Hitch!


By the same token, if I write an article and I quote somebody and for space reasons put in an ellipsis like this (…), I swear on my children that I am not leaving out anything that, if quoted in full, would alter the original meaning or its significance. Those who violate this pact with readers or viewers are to be despised.

Got that, Maureen Dowd?

Got that, New York Times?

If Michael Moore had had his way, Slobodan Milosevic would still be the big man in a starved and tyrannical Serbia. Bosnia and Kosovo would have been cleansed and annexed. If Michael Moore had been listened to, Afghanistan would still be under Taliban rule, and Kuwait would have remained part of Iraq. And Iraq itself would still be the personal property of a psychopathic crime family, bargaining covertly with the slave state of North Korea for WMD. You might hope that a retrospective awareness of this kind would induce a little modesty. To the contrary, it is employed to pump air into one of the great sagging blimps of our sorry, mediocre, celeb-rotten culture. Rock the vote, indeed.

The whole thing is delightfully brutal.

Splash, out


Four Servicemen Killed in Ramadi 
The Associated Press received footage of four US servicemen lying dead near a wall in Ramadi, apparently having been shot repeatedly in their heads.

Military spokesperson BG Mark Kimmitt confirms the dead, saying a search was launched after the four failed to check in at the appointed time.

He doesn't mention whether we were able to recover their remains yet. I hope so.

Or I hope we're scouring that neighborhood.

The prime directive is that everybody comes home.


I don't know quite what to make of the circumstances of their deaths. Apparently, we have a fire team-sized unit operating alone, outside of observation and small-arms range and reinforcement from the squad and platoon?

Apparently no one was close enough to have come-a-running when the shots opened up. And standard procedure would have required the squad leader to have immediately accounted for all his men.

This is not something that would have happened when my unit was there. We just did not operate in units smaller than the squad size. I don't believe in splitting squads. They're just not designed that way.

What this suggests to me is that commanders in Ramadi have gotten more confident about the tactical situation there. Otherwise an element that small would not have been deployed alone.

Obviously, that was a mistake in this case.

This is not something I can even imagine happening in a conventional infantry or armor unit in the Army or Marine Corps. We just don't split off fire teams from support in that environment.

It may have been a leaders' reconnaisance (though I doubt it--even leaders' recons usually bring along some sort of security element) or it may have been a special operations unit of some sort.

It seems a little odd to me. I hope some somebody's asking some pointy questions about why four guys were out there all alone.

Splash, out


Saturday, June 19, 2004

"An Outrageous Falsehood" in the New York Times 
Since we're lately on the subject of the NYT butchering quotes, not bothering to check transcripts, and distorting facts, Powerline Blog has the latest lies from the New York Times here.


The Predominance of the Strategic Offensive Confirmed 
You can't win a baseball game without swinging a bat.

I wrote at length about the benefits of a bold, vigorous, and ruthless strategic offensive in this post:

as long as Hamas is busy devouring itself looking for the traitor in their own midst, it's not going to be able to coordinate any major offensives.

This is the beauty of the strategic offensive.

The killing of a leader has value and repercussions far beyond the leader's own death. As long as the Israelis keep aggressively going after them, Hamas has to devote minds and man-hours to defensive measures. They'll have to travel in smaller groups. Their cells will have to operate in more isolation from one another. They will have to rein in communications. They will have to spend scarce resources on expensive MANPADS--which means less money is available for offensive operations.

An attack in one place can have effects far removed from the immediate objective. And when the attack is pressed, effects can compound themselves exponentially.

Success begets success. When Saddam Hussein was captured, sources in the Sunni triangle started singing like birds.

When the Russians pierced the Axis line as they initiated their counteroffensive at Stalingrad, Romanian units miles away broke and fled.

Small, local successess, skillfully and ruthlessly exploited, can be leveraged into huge gains.

Such is the terrible beauty of the calculus of war.

Well, lo and behold, here's Krauthammer:
At the height of the intifada, there were 9 suicide attacks in Israel killing 85 Israelis in just one month (March 2002). In the last three months, there have been none.

The overall level of violence has been reduced by more than 70 percent.

Gee, who woulda thunk?

Splash, out


Why We Fight 
The analogy is simple. For years, you have watched the same large, violent man come home every night, and you have listened to his yelling and the crying and the screams of children and the noise of breaking glass, and you have always known that he was beating his wife and his children. Everyone on the block has known it. You ask, cajole, threaten and beg him to stop, on behalf of the rest of the neighborhood. Nothing works. After listening to it for 13 years, you finally gather up the biggest, meanest guys you can find, you go over to his house, and you kick the door down. You punch him in the face and drag him away. The house is a mess, the family poor and abused...but now there is hope. You did the right thing.

I can speak with authority on the opinions of both British and American infantry in that place and at that time. Let me make this clear: at no time did anyone say or imply to any of us that we were invading Iraq to rid the country of weapons of mass destruction, nor were we there to avenge 9/11. We knew we were there for one reason: to rid the world of a tyrant, and to give Iraq back to Iraqis.

--Maj. Stan Coerr, USMCR


The whole thing is worth a read.

Note particularly his description of the reaction of the people to Iraq.

How quickly we forget.

Splash, out


Putin: Saddam Was Plotting Attacks Against U.S. 
"After Sept. 11, 2001, and before the start of the military operation in Iraq, the Russian special services ... received information that officials from Saddam's regime were preparing terrorist attacks in the United States and outside it against the U.S. military and other interests,"

--President Vladimir Putin, Russian Federation

Friday, June 18, 2004

We Get Results (Well, Sort Of) 
The New York Times, which was among several news sources who misquoted and distorted General Mattis' remarks a few weeks ago, has published a correction:

An article on May 21 about fighting in Iraq quoted two comments incorrectly from a news conference by Maj. Gen. James Mattis, the Marine commander in the desert area near the Syrian border where an American missile strike killed civilians at what some Iraqis described as a wedding party. Denying that account, General Mattis said, "Let's not be naïve, let's leave it at that" (not "Let's not be naïve, bad things happen in wars") and "I don't have to apologize for the conduct of my marines" (not "for the conduct of my men").

I am rapidly losing any respect I once had for the Times.

The problem with the original article was never that Mattis said "marines" instead of "men." I couldn't give a rat's ass.

The problem with the Times article was that Mattis' remarks were taken wholly out of context. The Times article used the "I don't have to apologize for the conduct of my marines" quote in the context of the 'wedding party' incident, and thereby conveyed the impression, falsely, that General Mattis was being cavalier and callous about those deaths.

That was wrong.

Mattis was clearly referring to his Marines in Fallujah, not to troops involved in the wedding party, and was drawing a contrast between the conduct of his Marines in Fallujah and the shameful and criminal conduct of insurgents there--an important contrast which was wholly lost in the Times' article.

This so-called "correction" is a whitewash. A farce. It serves only to perpetuate the lies promulgated in the first article.

I really think the Times is covering for itself here.

You can send the public editor a note, telling him that we noticed, by writing Dan Okrent or Arthur Bovino at public@nytimes.com.

And to let us know when the Times finally develops a commitment to accuracy.

Because it ain't in evidence so far here.

Splash, out


The Lies Continue 
Here's a laugher from the New York Times:

Now, in 17 preliminary staff reports, that panel has called into question nearly every aspect of the administration's response to terror, including the idea that Iraq and Al Qaeda were somehow the same foe.

Remember what I wrote about the law of reversion to the meme.

Now the meme is that the President somehow argued that 'Iraq and Al Qaeda were somehow the same foe.'

This meme is a lie.

No senior administration official ever made such a claim, nor implied it.

More from the same article:

In the face of those findings, Mr. Bush stood firm, disputing the particular finding in a staff report that there was no "collaborative relationship" between Saddam Hussein and the terrorist organization. "There was a relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda," Mr. Bush declared.

The idea that there is a contradiction between the Bush administration's position and the commission's position is another lie. It is perfectly possible for there to have been a "relationship" between Iraq and Al Qaeda without that relationship being "collaborative" w/r/t attacks on the United States.

The commission even states as much.

The report is hundreds of pages long, and the Times is focusing so much energy on the contents of this one paragraph which itself is 1.) Beyond the scope of the commission's expertise, and 2.) a nonissue anyway, because it doesn't tell us anything new. It provides no new information whatsoever. Not a shred.

Far be it for the Times to actually bring that into perspective, though.

Far be it for the Times to do their f^#%ing job.

The New York Times is rapidly becoming an embarrassment to itself.

Splash, out


Stupid Question Alert II 
Why are reporters so stupid?

Why are respected news organizations letting idiots cover the White House beat? Is the White House press pool bus smaller than most buses?

I hate to even ask, but here's a question to the President from a White House reporter I know only as "Deb."

Mr. President, why does the administration continue to insist that Saddam had a relationship with al Qaeda, when even you have denied any connection between Saddam and September 11th. And now the September 11th Commission says that there was no collaborative relationship at all.

The reporter commits several logical fallacies and falsehoods.

1.) There is no contradiction whatsoever with insisting that Saddam had a relationship with al Qaeda and denying a connection between Saddam and September 11th.

It is entirely possible to have a very close relationship with Al Qaeda and not to have been kept in the loop about September 11th.

2.) The commission did not say that there was no collaborative relationship at all. The commission said that there was no evidence that Saddam had collaborated with Al Qaeda in attacks on the United States. That is quite a different thing. The commission did not find any evidence that would rule out such a collaboration. Nor did the commission take a position one way or the other on whether there was a relationship between Al Qaeda and Iraq (prima facie, there was. Zarqawi found shelter and care in Iraq well before the war. The commission does not deny this.)

3.) A "collaborative relationship" != "relationship." A "collaborative relationship" is a subset of "relationship." All collaborative relationships are relationships, but not all relationships are collaborative.

I mean, this is 6th grade logic here, but apparently it's simply beyond Deb's grasp.

She doesn't know what's in the commission's report. She doesn't know what the Administration has been arguing all along. She doesn't know who Zarqawi is, apparently, or where he was in February 2003, before the war (along with a dozen other members of his cell who also found refuge in Iraq along with him). She doesn't grasp the English language--the primary tool of her trade--sufficiently to discern the difference between "relationship" and "connection," nor does she grasp the logic that makes "Al Qaeda" a distinctly different entity from "September 11th," sufficient to understand that one can have a relationship or connection with one, but not a direct connection with another, and that this is no contradiction.

Further, she doesn't have the detatched grace to frame her question as anything other than a "gotcha." "i.e.: why does the administration continue to insist."

This is an unfair and slanted way to express a question she herself simply does not understand. It's the equivalent of asking the President "Do you still beat your wife?"

A better way to ask the question--an ETHICAL way to ask the question--would be something like this:

Mr. President, the Commission reports there is no evidence of a collaborative relationship between Saddam and Al Qaeda, w/r/t attacks on the U.S. But you and your administration continue to assert that some sort of relationship existed between the two. Can you clarify what you believe the nature of that relationship to be, and why it is that you believed that relationship to be a threat to the US?

Of course, those aren't journalist ethics. Too many journalists praise the 'gotcha' question. They confuse it with being "tough minded." And in this case, this woman was showboating.

The real audience wasn't the American people, because the American people derive no benefit from that line or manner of questioning.

Deb's real audience was her fellow journalists in the room.

No. There's a time for the gotcha question. But that time is only when the reporter has done his or her homework, and there's a 'gotcha' to be had.

Being tough-minded is NOT going for the 'gotcha.' Being tough-minded is clarifying the ideas and solidifying your own understanding of the issues, which this reporter--which much of the entire press corps, has not done.

That's why I don't trust journalism ethics to eliminate bias from the newsroom. Journalism ethics, indeed, are part of the problem.

There needs to be less value put on being tough questioners, and more value placed on mastering the CRAFT (not the profession, the CRAFT) of reporting.

This lady hasn't mastered her craft, and looks foolish as a result.

But if you master the craft, then the tough questioning will follow, and it will be far more en pointe, and far more effective for it.

And journalists may be respected once again.

Splash, out


Thursday, June 17, 2004

Email of the Day 
Here's an exerpt from an email I got from a reader in Switzerland:

Hamas: there is a fine line between terrorist and freedom freighter. Ben Gurion, Golda Myer, Tutu, Mandela, Havel, Graf Staufenberg…

Here's my rebuttal.How many busses full of schoolchildren did Vaclav Havel blow up? Or Bishop Desmond Tutu?

Is Europe really such a cesspool of moral equivocation?

Help me understand here.

Are these kinds of views really so commonly expressed? If I went to a cafe in Zurich and said something like that, what would happen? would I be rhetorically attacked by more right-thinking people? Or accepted as an American who 'gets it.'

I guess Jewish children's lives are still cheap in Europe.

This logic is simply perverse.


New York Post Wusses Out 
The New York Post's Washington Bureau chief, Deborah Orin blasts the American press for playing up the Abu Ghraib abuses, but for not airing the harrowing tapes of real torture, from Saddam's own prison cells, which are available, and which she describes in horrifying detail.

Aww, gee, Deb. Don't tease me like that. How about a link?

Splash, out


Wednesday, June 16, 2004

The Financial War on Terror 
Every so often, some clueless reporter interviews some general somewhere who says the war on terrorism cannot be won militarily, and then breathlessly runs the copy to the copy desk thinking he has a scoop.

You knuckleheads! I told you that very thing back in November, when this blog was just a few days old!

I wrote that there is simply no decisive point on the ground at which we can declare that victory over terrorism has been attained. And there's not going to be. It's not like WWII where there's an end zone called the Reichstag.

This is not even a point of contention among military officers, and never has been. Everybody knew going in that this war would not be decided on the battlefield.

Well, everybody but the nattering nabob class, that is.

We cannot win without taking the fight to the enemy--putting him on the defensive, denying him safe havens to train and equip himself, and forcing him to move constantly, and forcing him to rely on inefficient means of communication, such as messenger, for fear of exposing himself to US firepower.

But the war will not be decided on the battlefield. The war will be decided in boardrooms, at brand-new ballot boxes in countries which have never known democracy, by newspapers in lands which have never known a free press, by women in lands which had always quashed their potential, and of course, by guys with green eyeshades pouring over cash flow statements under flourescent lights.

Logistics is usually the decisive factor in wars. And the much of the logistics campaign against Al Qaeda centers on drying up the flow of money.

And much of that money, historically, has flowed from Saudi Arabia.

Here's a recent Council on Foreign Relations report on the fight to put the squeeze on jihadist financing in Saudi Arabia.

The bottom line: We've made progress.

Salient points:

In November of 2002, a NSC task force had had it with Saudi footdragging and was preparing to urge the President to crack down on the Saudis in retaliation. That was not necessary, though. Instead, US diplomats continued to press the Saudis to take more action against the suspect charities--helped along significantly by Al Qaeda's decision to begin hitting targets in Saudi Arabia itself.

Following the Khobar attacks, the Saudis announced a host of new measures to crack down on financing. Donation boxes were cleared out of shopping malls and mosques. Anti-money-laundering procedures were made available to international experts for scrutiny for the first time.

The Saudi government has initiated education reforms aimed at quelling the extremist ideological influence. Radical imams are being pressured or "disciplined." Some have already publicly renounced violent jihadism on state-owned television.

And Saudi security forces are now actively trying to hunt down and kill Al Qaeda members in their country.

Al Haramain, a charity organization thought to be responsible for raising 40-50 million dollars for Al Qaeda per year, was dissolved by Saudi authorities.

The report says:
Due to the forgoing activities, Al Qaeda's current and prospective ability to raise and move funds with impunity is severely diminished. These efforts have undoubtably had a real impact on Al Qaeda's financial picture, and it is undoubtably a weaker organization as a result.

Moreover, at President Bush's urging, Europe finally added Hamas' fundraising wing to its list of banned terrorist organizations. Although only after months of kicking and screaming.

(Note to self: One great way to endear Self to Europeans is to commit to killing Jews.)

The whole report is fascinating reading. I hope it gets the coverage it deserves.

It won't though. Accountants are unglamorous, and there's no art.

Reporters will miss this story for the same reason they missed the building S&L scandal a decade and a half ago (until it clobbered us with a bailout bill of billions of dollars), and for the same reason they're missing the building retirement crisis in the United States which will visit us a couple of decades from now.

It just ain't sexy enough.

But verily I say unto you: It's largely under these green eyeshades, and in these boardrooms and meeting halls in Saudi Arabia where the war on terrorism will be decided. And if Al Qaeda can be crippled and discredited in Saudi Arabia, it will be a powerful blow indeed.

And gosh darnit, I think that's pretty sexy.

Splash, out


60 Minutes: A Reader's Review 
I didn't see 60 Minutes, so I can't comment directly about the show's treatment of the stop-loss issue.

But some of you guys can!

Here's a review of 60 Minutes' stop loss piece from a reader:

Jason, I read your 'stop loss' post of June 2 with interest. It set me up perfectly for the news story about it on tonight's 60 Minutes.

Of course they documented how Draconian and unfair stop loss is. No surprise there. Because of the knowledge your post gave me, I waited with great anticipation to hear whether they'd even mention the soldiers' Individual Ready Reserve obligation...that these men are not having this sprung on them completely unawares. One could argue the army is using the regs in a way they never imagined, and there may be merit to the claim, but one can't exactly say it's forced slavery. You'll also not be surprised to hear the IRR was never mentioned. To watch the story, it sounds like the soldiers were all but taken hostage by the army as they packed their bags to leave.

Of course the leaked e-mail messages from within the army didn't help, nor did the way the army interacts with the media...but I firmly believe CBS approached this story with the 'angle' they wanted and merely fit the facts to that angle. They even interviewed Army Chief of Staff General Pete Schoomaker, and I'd bet my first-born the entirety of their interview with him played out very differently than the product they aired.

Actually, I trust the 60 Minutes crew more than a lot of news shows. The 60 Minutes II crew actually spent some quality time in Iraq, and did their best to get things straight--at some substantial risk to themselves I might add.

The pieces I did see, I thought were reasonable and fair, and while not always flattering, there was a lot that went on in Iraq which wasn't always flattering.

Yeah, you gotta keep an eye on them when it comes to disclosing their corporate relationship with publishing houses, when they interview prominent book authors. But overall, I don't have a bone to pick with 60 Minutes for their past coverage.

In this case, though, if the Individual Ready Reserve topic never came up, it does not speak well of their producer's research. And yes, any veteran on the crew would be familiar with the IRR (although that doesn't mean they'd automatically think of it when considering stop-loss policies.)

I can guarantee you that they called military spokespeople, though, and the military PR offices should have injected IRR into the debate.

The Army's always had lousy PR, though.

We've always been culturally more interested in just getting the job done and coming home, rather than getting our name in lights.

But this is the media age. And poor PR negatively affects mission accomplishment. It's time to learn the art of counterspin, and begin to aggressively practice it.

Splash, out


Financial Tip: Beware of What You Read 
Wall Street Journal personal finance columnist Jonathan Clements has a column today on providing financial assistance to adult children without killing their ambition or work habits.

Most of what he suggests is great.

1.) If your young adult is having trouble with filling her 401(k), don't reimburse her for the whole thing. Instead, provide an incentive to good behavior by offering to match her dollar for dollar.

Good. I'm down with that.

2.) Like the idea of matching contributions? You might also offer to invest $1,500 in her individual retirement account if your daughter comes up with the other $1,500. Similarly, if your daughter has kids, you might promise to invest $1 in a 529 college-savings plan for every $1 she kicks in.

Also a good idea. Particularly if the low income retirement credit applies (see this post here for more on this underutilized tax credit)

You can also leverage your dollars by helping your daughter with the down payment on a car or a house.

In any given year, you and your spouse could each give your daughter as much as $11,000 without worrying about the gift tax. So where's the leverage? While you may help with the down payment, thereafter your daughter would have to make the regular monthly loan payments, thus forcing her to be a little more financially responsible.

A super idea.

But then he suggests a tactic I strongly disagree with:

You could even take this one step further -- and thereby get a payback for yourself. Suppose you are a conservative investor looking for more income. Instead of stashing your cash in a money-market fund that pays less than 1% or a short-term bond fund yielding 3%, you might lend your daughter the entire sum she needs for a home purchase at a 6% interest rate.

In essence, you will have owner-financed your house to your daughter.

Are you f*@&ing kidding me?

Suppose she misses payments. (Daughters have been making mistakes since the dawn of time. Sons, too.)

Suppose she has health problems or an unexpected disability (most young people are grossly underinsured for disability.)

Would you be willing to reposess the house?

Would you be willing to evict your own daughter if you had to?

At the very moment she could afford it least?

C'mon, people.

I don't have a daughter. But if I did, my relationship with her would be too important to risk destruction for a measly mortgage spread when I could just as easily owner finance a house to somebody else.

Owner financing is a great tool--a win-win for both the cash-strapped buyer and the income-oriented seller.

But owner-financing your own children is potentially poisonous.

It makes perfect sense on paper, but we don't live our lives on paper. The plan ignores a major emotional-relationship aspect of money. And while you hedge your credit risk with the title on the house, there is no hedge against the collapse of your relationship.

Splash, out


(Link requires subscription. But c'mon! Don't be cheapskates. It's the Wall Street Journal! And it's less than 7 bucks a month. It's worth it! Stay home and read it with a cuppa Joe instead of going to Starbucks and you pay for it every three days!

Plus, I'm getting more news from the Journal now, so I'll be linking to it, sometimes, too.)

Got Shoes? 
SGT Hook is starting a real important project.

Real important.

Splash, out


Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Inside the Mind of the Enemy 
The Middle East Media Research Institute publishes this translation of an interview with one of the commanders of the May 29th attack at Khobar, Saudi Arabia, in which 22 people were killed. The article was originally published in an Al Qaeda newsletter.

"We went out, and drove our car. We had tied the infidel by one leg [behind the car]. We left the company [compound] and met the patrols. The first to arrive was the jeep of a patrol, with one soldier, and we killed him. With the rest we exchanged fire, and we got through...

"The infidel's clothing was torn to shreds, and he was naked in the street. The street was full of people, as this was during work hours, and everyone watched the infidel being dragged, praise and gratitude be to Allah..."

"We entered one of the companies' [offices], and found there an American infidel who looked like a director of one of the companies. I went into his office and called him. When he turned to me, I shot him in the head, and his head exploded. We entered another office and found one infidel from South Africa, and our brother Hussein slit his throat. We asked Allah to accept [these acts of devotion] from us, and from him. This was the South African infidel...

"We turned to the third site, which was the most fortified center of all the compounds. Our plan was to remain in the car until we were alongside the American Hummer. When we were next to it, the brothers appeared from the windows [of the car] and began shouting 'Allah Akbar,' and shooting them. And I saw the skull of the soldier standing behind the machine gun explode before my eyes. Allah be praised. I think the driver was also killed..

"At the same time, we found a Swedish infidel. Brother Nimr cut off his head, and put it at the gate [of the building] so that it would be seen by all those entering and exiting."

Splash, out


More Rank Ignorance. From the New York Times. Again. 
Apparently the editors of the New York Times think brigadier generals command battalions.

Military intelligence personnel said the unit's two- to five-page memorandums were to be sent for final approval to a three-member board that included Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the commander of the 800th Military Police Battalion, and Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast, the top Army intelligence officer in Iraq.

And again, this embarrassing gaffe could have been prevented had a veteran--or even a reasonably well-informed amateur--been asked to check out the article.

You know, since we're trying to affix responsibility to a particular level of command, I don't think it's too much to ask that the reporter the nation's most prestigious newspaper assigns to cover the story--oh, I don't know--maybe UNDERSTANDS THE LEVELS OF COMMAND!

Splash, out


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