Saturday, September 25, 2004

Signing Off.... 
Signing off indefinitely to conduct operations in relief of Hurricane Jeanne.

Thanks so much for reading, and for your many kind (and some not so kind) emails and comments.

I read them all, although I can't answer all of them.

I look forward to writing more in a week or two, hopefully.


Circus Beat Reporter Caught Sleeping With Elephants 
I don't care if you sleep with elephants, as long as you don't cover the circus.

Well, it turns out that one of the Associated Press reporters on the circus beat--the one who wrote this sloppily-reasoned and hopelessly one-sided Democratic Party Press Release for the Associated Press, is sleeping with the livestock.

(Good catch, Powerline readers!)

Now, it's no crime to be a sloppy reporter. Even a biased one.

But Ms. Loven's husband, it turns out, is the president of Green Strategies, a former Clinton Administration flack, and one-time member of the presidential commission on global warming. He's listed on Kerry's website as one of his top supporters on environmental and energy issues.

Now, don't you think Green Strategies might benefit financially from a Kerry presidency?

Of course it would.

Now, don't you think an honest reporter or news organization would be obligated, in the interests of transparency, to disclose that fact?

Of course they would.

The problem is, too many journalists accept the Democratic position as the default. It probably wouldn't even occur to most of these guys that her relationship with Green ought to obligate her from recusing herself from writing on environmental or campaign issues.

Well, she's already married to the elephant. And I don't think she should lose her job.

But for God's sake, get her out of the circus!!!!

Splash, out


(p.s., you can write AP at info@ap.org )

Some Funny Things in a Pretty Good Article  
...from Knight Ridder.

Operations by U.S. and multinational forces and Iraqi police are killing twice as many Iraqis - most of them civilians - as attacks by insurgents, according to statistics compiled by the Iraqi Health Ministry and obtained exclusively by Knight Ridder.

If true...and I don't really have an independent sense whether it's true or not...then it's an important story which ought to be told.

I don't mean to denigrate the story, because I think the reporter did a pretty good job.

But a couple of things strike me as, well, cute:

According to the ministry, the interim Iraqi government recorded 3,487 Iraqi deaths in 15 of the country's 18 provinces from April 5 - when the ministry began compiling the data - until Sept. 19. Of those, 328 were women and children. Another 13,720 Iraqis were injured, the ministry said.

Let's see...if excessive US firepower--say, air strikes, are to blame for the civilian deaths, then you would expect to see women and children make up more than 50% of the total number of deaths, or 1,744 deaths.

But the number of women and children killed is less than a third of that number.

Further, you need to back out the number of women and children known killed by car bombs and other known terror incidents. The resultant number, multiplied by two, would give you an approximate number of Iraqis killed by random fragmentation and gunfire.

The others cannot be assumed to have been noncombatants. Maybe a good deal of them were. But a good deal of them surely were not. The data fails to account for the marked anomaly. The data simply does not support this reporters' hypothesis.

While most of the dead are believed to be civilians, the data include an unknown number of police and Iraqi national guardsmen.

Hmmm. Yeah, that's it. American forces spend money, blood, and treasure arming, equipping, and training Iraqi National Guard forces, so we can go out and kill them when we're done. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Well, obviously, we aren't the ones out there targeting Iraqi Police and ING's.

Well, if the number of IP's and INGs among the dead is unknown, well, gee...doesn't that make it a little hard to tell that the US is killing more Iraqi civilians than the insurgents are?

Many Iraqi deaths, especially of insurgents, are never reported, so the actual number of Iraqis killed in fighting could be significantly higher.

To the extent that its insurgents and terrorists whose deaths are underreported, I certainly hope so.

Boylan said the military conducted intelligence to determine whether a home housed insurgents before striking it. While damage would happen, the airstrikes were "extremely precise,"

For any given piece of ordnance and method of delivery, (And some other factors, like the gun-target line relative to the observer) observers memorize a "danger close" range, expressed in meters.

That range is the distance within which observers are advised to ask themselves "do I feel lucky?"

Any time a zoomie tells you a fixed-wing airstrike is "extremely precise," ask him what the doctrinal "danger close" figure is.

Then figure out how close together Iraqi houses are in Fallujah.

The situation isn't as bad as the raw numbers alone would tell you. But the ordnance is far from surgical.

The Health Ministry statistics indicate that more children have been killed around Ramadi and Fallujah than in Baghdad, though those cities together have only one-fifth of the Iraqi capital's population.

Yes. And do you know why that is? Because the insurgency in Fallujah was making use of children as young as ten to run ammunition and water to the fighters. And there are assholes in Ramadi who, on at least one occasion known to me (in July of 2003) hand grenades to children and encouraged them to throw them over the fence at our troops garrisoning the Ar Ramadi Government center. All while hiding in the back of a crowd. Our own riflemen saw this with their own eyes. The guy doing it got away with it. Our troops did not fire at him, as they couldn't get a clear shot.

Many Iraqis said they thought the numbers showed that the multinational forces disregarded their lives.

"The Americans do not care about the Iraqis. They don't care if they get killed, because they don't care about the citizens," said Abu Mohammed, 50, who was a major general in Saddam Hussein's army in Baghdad

Ooh, now THERE'S a disinterested party. Now, ask yourself how one demonstrates enough loyalty to Saddam Hussein and the Ba'ath Party to attain the rank of Major General.

At least they reveal the bias of their source, though. At least there's some transperency, "Kenneth."

Iraqi officials said about two-thirds of the Iraqi deaths were caused by multinational forces and police; the remaining third died from insurgent attacks. The ministry began separating attacks by multinational and police forces and insurgents June 10.

That's actually interesting. The thing is, if we're winning, the statistics would show the same thing. The ratio would even probably increase, as insurgents' capabilities to conduct offensive operations decline, while coalition forces are able to step up operations against them. So be careful how you use these metrics.

The ministry is convinced that nearly all of those reported dead are civilians, not insurgents.


Most often, a family member wouldn't report it if his or her relative died fighting for rebel cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia or another insurgent force, and the relative would be buried immediately, said Dr. Shihab Ahmed Jassim, another member of the ministry's operations section.

"People who participate in the conflict don't come to the hospital. Their families are afraid they will be punished," said Dr. Yasin Mustaf, the assistant manager of al Kimdi Hospital near Baghdad's poor Sadr City neighborhood. "Usually, the innocent people come to the hospital. That is what the numbers show."

Riiiiiight. Just ask them.

Because the same dynamic that causes families to bury their insurgent dead privately is also at work causing mortally wounded and family members to falsely claim their innocence at the hospital. And when they do, they're counted as civilians. No matter how much explosive residue is on their hands from firing RPGs.

So, I'm glad the reporter is telling the story. Because the shedding of innocent blood is something we need to work constantly to minimize. And where troops are scared and pissed off all the time and see Iraqis killing their buddies or standing by while others do so, the tendency--especially among combat arms soldiers-- is to get a little callous.

So managing and focusing that firepower, and maintaining the restraint and professionalism of soldiers is a constant leadership challenge at all levels of command, right down to that fire team leader or command major specialist with a head on his shoulders.

But you can't take anything...ANYTHING...from Iraq at face value.

Splash, out


"Incredibly Stupid" 
The gang at Pandagon rake me over the coals again.

Suppose that the nation was already running deficits in the hundreds of billions and the only way to finance and support the massive expenditure involved in invading a third country would involve both large-scale tax hikes and a draft.

Now, all that supposed...how do you invade Iran, whether or not you want to? Or do we just run back to the shelter of a Mark Steyn column and pretend that those other countries look like Britain with more burqas?

Again, though, Jesse Taylor misses the point entirely. Where does he think I counseled in invasion of Iran? I mean, especially when I'm already on the record as opposing an invasion of Iran.

Splash, out


Wierd Quote 
Here's Pete Hamill, writing for the New York Times.
The Pentagon image-mongers had learned from Vietnam that all great war photography is essentially antiwar photography.

Uh, yeah. Right. Whatever, dude.

"Rebel Forces" 
That's what the Washington Post calls the bastards who kill applicants for police jobs in Iraq, lending an unwarranted Star Wars and Soldier of the Lost Cause romanticism and panache to simple, brown-shirted thuggery.

Just wanted to let the WaPo know I noticed.

Kerry, Iraq, Ansar al-Islam, and Abu Nidal. 
This is getting tiresome.

Kerry has apparently forgotten the history of Iraq from 1991 through March 2003:

"Iraq is now what it was not before the war, a haven for terrorists."

People, lest we forget: Al Qaeda subsidiary Ansar al Islam was able to operate entire base camps in Iraq before the war. They could operate by the battalion, in the open. They were able to terrorize entire Kurdish cities.

Zarqawi found sanctuary and succor under Saddam Hussein's regime. As did Abu Abbas.

Abu Nidal was responsible for terrorist attacks in 20 different countries. Abu Nidal was responsible for the murders of more than 300 people.

Abu Nidal was sponsored, and sheltered, by Saddam Hussein.

Iraq, Syria, and Libya have all harbored the group and given it training, logistical support, and funding, often using the ANO as guns or hire. Abu Nidal began working with Iraqi intelligence while representing Fatah in Baghdad, experts say. He formed his organization with Iraq’s help and began by attacking Syria and the PLO. In 1983, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein expelled Abu Nidal and his group in an attempt to win American military support for Iraq’s 1980s war with neighboring Iran. Once the war ended, Iraq resumed its support of Abu Nidal.

It is now thought to be based in Iraq, with cells in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.

The Commission also noted a series of links between Al Qaeda and Saddam. No, Saddam was not complicit in the 9/11 attacks. Democrats often try to blur the distinction. But the logistical links were there, according to the 9/11 commission, and the two entities were found to be cooperating.

Kerry's assessment of Iraq's known and established ties to terrorism prior to the war is fundamentally false. Iraq was a major sponsor and provided funding, haven and sanctuary for the most notorious terrorists of the late 20th century.

Kerry's lies on this issue are getting old.

Splash, out


Election 1864. Do You Postpone? 
There's an old military adage that says "the best is the enemy of the good enough." Which means that no plan is perfect. So if you try and make the plan perfect before executing the plan, you will never execute anything and wind up paralyzed and defeated by an enemy who CAN execute in a timely manner.

Rumsfeld knows this, and realizes that imperfect elections in January are better than perfect elections that never occur.

"Let's say you tried to have an election and you could have it in three-quarters or four-fifths of the country. But in some places you couldn't because the violence was too great," Rumsfeld said at a Senate Armed Services Committee (news - web sites) hearing.

"Well, so be it. Nothing's perfect in life, so you have an election that's not quite perfect. Is it better than not having an election? You bet," he said.

Josh Marshall's responding to this with an unhelpful wisecrack:

"Great. Let's run it according to the Florida plan."

Phil Carter is outright opposed to January elections:

But in the long run, I think it's a formula for disaster. It will only increase the anti-government sentiment among the ordinary populations in those areas — Iraqis who don't like the U.S. presence, but don't work (yet) with the insurgents. It will undermine the legitimacy of the next Iraqi government, which already carries the taint of having been installed by the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority. And it will play into the hands of sectarian leaders who say that the current Iraqi government wants to disproportionately disenfranchise certain groups in Iraq.

I couldn't disagree more.

The insurgents will try their damnedest to disrupt the elections no matter when we held them. But we are able to surge our boots on the ground strength in January. We can't sustain that surge.

We've already promised January elections.

Neither Marshall nor Carter are proffering a better solution, other than postponing elections until---until when, exactly?

Until the insurgency settles down?

Well, that's a great way to provide an incentive for the insurgency to settle down.

Marshall and Carter are concerned about disenfranchising the people of Fallujah. So in order to avoid that state of affairs, they're perfectly willing to disenfranchise the entire country--including entire regions and provinces which have already held successful elections. All in the name of legitimacy.

The people of Fallujah are perfectly free to kill, capture, betray, or expel the scumbags in their midst by January. Consider this one more incentive to do so.

Would Marshall and Carter have "postponed" the election of 1864?

What if Lee and Johnston did not surrender their armies, but instead disbanded them--as some had argued for--and let them into the woods to fight a protracted guerrilla campaign, a la John Singleton Moseby?

Should we have put off elections indefinitely in Pennsylvania and Massachussetts because Virginia and Nort Carolina wouldn't lie down and play dead?

No. The idea is absurd.

We should go ahead with the elections. If Fallujah becomes secure enough to hold an election there, they can elect a parliament representative, and then vote in the next national. Along with everyone else.

And until then, I'm not going to waste a lot of time wondering which terrorists I might piss off by disenfranchising. Fallujah disenfranchised itself.

I mean, at some point, people have to accept responsibility for their own cities.

I know that's difficult, when you remember that thousands of West Palm Beach voters couldn't even accept responsibility for their own ballots.

Splash, out


Friday, September 24, 2004

...To Lead You to an Overwhelming Question 
Snippet from a newspaper published within the borders of our good friend Australia:

John Kerry's campaign has warned Australians that the Howard Government's support for the US in Iraq has made them a bigger target for international terrorists.

Think for a second, how that reads.

Reflect on it.

A Democratic presidential campaign--indeed, the candidate's own sister, while acting in an official capacity for the Kerry campaign, is actively trying to undercut the relationship between the US and our bestistest friend in the world.

Ms. Kerry goes on:

"Australia has kept faith with the US and we are endangering the Australians now by this wanton disregard for international law and multilateral channels."

Here's the excellent Baldilocks, scratching her shiny head:

What is the sister of a US presidential candidate doing in a foreign country attempting to influence its election? And what does one call it when such a person—a US citizen—attempts to undermine the relationship of the US and one of its allies when both have joined forces in war?

It's beyond reprehensible. It's sabotage. It's sedition.

Sunday in the Park With George Bush 
The Art of Peace took me to task the other day for my analysis of a major's email claiming progress made in Sammarrah. He cites this article from Stars and Stripes.


I'm not sure where he sees the disconnect between the need to increase the size of the army over the next couple of years and a calming situation in Sammarrah.

My primary source--a major on the General Staff in Baghdad--says the situation in Sammarrah is settling down. Which is confirmed by a secondary source, Lisa Burgess, writing for the Stars and Stripes.

Now, the major I'm citing (actually, via a secondary source, Captain Ed, but the provenance is not in question right now, and a chain of custody can be established, so I consider the information more reliable than something that came from, say, CBS News) is extremely well placed to monitor the situation in Sammarah and the reasons for it.

Now, so's Lisa Burgess, who provides another look at the city. But doesn't tell me anything new, since we knew from the major's email that the insurgents had the initiative in Sammarrah.

Now, Burgess' assertion that any coalition force in Sammarrah proper was almost certain to be attacked "until last week" buttresses the email the major sent in.

As does the fact that she notes that last week, coalition forces were able to establish a presence there without being attacked.

So the major's email pretty much checks out.

I'm not quite seeing exactly where he thinks I'm taking a Bush Administration source uncritically--especially since I haven't seen the Bush Administration weigh in here (unless you think the Major was acting as a spokesman for the official Administration views on Sammarrah. Fat chance.)

I've had a Marine write in from Ramadi claiming "We own this city," and I didn't believe him, for example.

And I don't believe we "own" Sammarrah.

I thought the major was on the right track because 1.) He's a primary source well placed to know the operations in the area, and 2.) His observations generally confirm what I've seen with my own eyes in and around Ramadi.

Fighting continues. It is vicious and brutish. But policemen are trained and hired. Schools and mosques are rebuilt. Hospitals renovated. The Iraqi National Guard slowly gains in strength and competence. An election approaches in January.

The vast majority of neighborhoods, on any given day, witness little or no fighting.

All this is happening.

Just because the press can't tell the difference between Samarrah and Stalingrad doesn't mean the difference doesn't exist.

Now, where I expected to find more criticism (do I gotta think of EVERYTHING around here) is from people who note that yes, the M21 or equivalent anti-tank mines are showing up around Sammarrah and Route Grape.

Recall that last week I mentioned some metrics to watch that would indicate that the insurgency is growing in sophistication or had found new and well-placed avenues of support. One of them was an increase in the number of anti-tank mines used against coalition traffic.

Another metric I don't think I mentioned in so many words, but which bears watching, would be an increase in the ratio of direct fire wounds to shrapnel wounds from IEDs.

I don't have any trend information on the mines. Iraq is among the most heavily mined countries in the world--especially along the Iranian frontier. And the mines are out there. But in Ramadi, it was pretty unusual to find them in local weapons caches. They were used a few times in Al Anbar province, and along Highway 10 between Hit, Ramadi, and Habbaniyah, but they were the exception rather than the rule.

If the number of mines increases sharply across a number of cities simultaneously, that would indicate a new source of support and an increased level of logistical sophistication. Particularly if mines of similar lot numbers showed up in multiple cities, which would indicate a distribution system rather than a local cache.

I don't have the trend information, but it's worth a look.

We do have trend information on the wounds. The ratio of bullet wounds to frag wounds is on the rise.

If the trend continues, that could indicate a.) IED materials are getting short. b.) One or more local IED cells have been disrupted or destroyed. c.) Insurgents are growing more confident about their ability to engage coalition forces in a direct fire fight, and/or d.) Insurgent marksmanship skills have increased, which could indicate an infusion of trained foreign fighters or the capacity to do quality weapons training. I.e., a camp somewhere where this training is conducted.

It's impossible to tell from one metric alone. But take the metrics together and assemble them with art and sense--a la Georges Seurat--the picture comes into view.

Best of all, you don't have to sit through Stephen Sondheim's "Sunday in the Park with George" soundrack.

Splash, out


The Great American Gollum: The Democratic Sellout 
The Washington Post's Dana Milbank thinks that Republican campaign rhetoric is crossing a line.

President Bush and leading Republicans are increasingly charging that Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry and others in his party are giving comfort to terrorists and undermining the war in Iraq -- a line of attack that tests the conventional bounds of political rhetoric.

Well, Dana, the Kerry Campaign has already told the Australian people that they are a bigger terrorism target now thanks to standing with the U.S. on Iraq, and thereby strengthened the hand of John Howard's opponent, who has promised to pull out of Iraq if he's elected.

If that doesn't undermine the war in Iraq, I don't know what does.

Oh, yes I do. How about this:

Joe Lockhart is publicly and literally--using vivid language as suitable for soundbites on Al Jazeera as it is on CBS-- accusing Prime Minister Allawi of being a Bush puppet.

“The last thing you want to be seen as is a puppet of the United States, and you can almost see the hand underneath the shirt today moving the lips,”


This careless, undiplomatic, reckless and ignorant statement plays directly into the hands of those who would undermine the provisional Iraqi government.

Believe me, the insurgents and terrorists will use words like those against us, just as the North Vietnamese used John Kerry's public assertions that American commanders in Viet Nam were war criminals against American POWs at Hanoi Hilton.

This campaign has become cynical beyond belief. They are lusting after the Presidency like Gollum for the Ring, and are willing to sell out any friend and slither under any rock neccessary in order to obtain it.

Dana Milbank misses the point entirely.

The rhetorical line has already been crossed. The Republicans just happen to be pointing out the fact.

Splash, out


Thursday, September 23, 2004

Post-Election Violence 
Barbara Ehrenreich's friends are fantasizing about "taking to the streets" if they don't get the result they want this election.

But my brother, a realtor in Missouri, doesn't want to bother with any more voting machines. In the event of massive fraud, he writes, "It would be time for a 'New Revolution'! . . . Hopefully peaceful, but I wouldn't rule out anything."

Ok. But how will we know whether you can discern a fraud-ridden election from one that is merely clos?

And is your commitment to democracy so strong that you will react equally vigorously to voter fraud from the left?

Oh, No!!! 
Not again!!!

Kerry the Anti-Salesman 
No wonder Kerry left the cookie business. The guy couldn't sell an Ice cube to a bedouin.

"I laid out a plan which will help America protect our troops," he says. "We need to bring other allies to the table."

Ok. So you want other nation's leaders to expend political capital and treasure and send their lads to risk their lives along with theirs.

So why don't you act like it? Why aren't you trying to sell the deal?

Because right now you are calling the U.S. Government incompetent and arrogant. You're arguing that Iraq is sliding into chaos. You argue that thousands of terrorists are slipping across Iraq's borders and that it's become "a magnet for terrorism."

You dispatch your sister to tell Australia that supporting the United States in the war on terror puts them at greater risk than they were before.

You stand with a straight face and tell nations like the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Italy, who have each shed blood for the freedom of Iraq as part of the coalition, that they're members of "a fraudulent coalition."

You can't even be bothered to leave Ohio to speak with Allawi when he comes to the US to say "thank you." But you don't hesitate to all but brand this man--who lives in Iraq every day--a liar, and then have the chutzpah, the gall, the arrogance to tell him from afar that he's out of touch with the reality on the ground.

You tell the world that you want out while you insist that everyone else pile in--even as you tell them it's a disaster.

Ooooh. I'm a foreign leader.

America's support for this war is wavering. Kerry's position on Iraq has more flips than the noon show at Sea World. Terrorists are taking over the country. The war is insanely expensive, it undermines and distracts us from the war on terror and leaves my citizens more vulnerable, less safe, and less secure than they were before.

Yeah, I'm gonna sign on with Kerry.

Where do I sign up?


The president skedaddled out of New York so quickly he barely had time to talk to any leaders.

Ah, good thing you were there in person to pick up the slack and represent our country. What? You mean you weren't? Well, how about at the Allawi speech?

Oh, that's right. You were campaigning in Ohio.


We need to behave like we are at war and respect the lives of our soldiers that are being lost because we are at war.

Agreed, as far as it goes. That's why it strikes me that voting against an appropriations bill that would have supplied lifesaving gear to soldiers in the field strikes me as, well, suboptimal.

They deserve better leadership

The choice isn't between Bush and better leadership. The choice is between leadership and you.

If the trumpet is uncertain, says the proverb, noone will answer the call. Well, no one's been sounding a more uncertain trumpet than you.

Furthermore, judging by your legislative record, you don't seem to be able to lead a group of Senators to the snack bar for a cup of coffee.

How come you can't run on your legislative record, senator?

They deserve a mission with a plan that can succeed.

Ok, where's yours? Because saying we'll get more troops from abroad-absent a public commitment from those heads of state to provide them-is a pipe dream. Hope is not a course of action.

And telling other countries how disastrous a mission it promises to be and how dangerous it is hardly the way to drum up support for the cause. Indeed, even if they wanted to kick in, your rhetoric is going to get played to European audiences and make it much more difficult for these foreign leaders upon which you are relying to follow through.

Question: Have you secured these commitments from foreign leaders already? Are you going behind the president's back and negotiating separate agreements with foreign leaders, like you tried to during the Paris peace talks?

And I think that a president who fails to admit his mistakes is a president who proves that he doesn't know how to make the course correct.

Four words: "I don't fall down."

I've laid out a whole series of things I would have done that would have prevented Fallujah. Let me tell you, if the 4th Infantry Division and the diplomacy had been done with Turkey, you wouldn't have had a Fallujah.


That's just totally incoherent. That's just asinine.

The 4th Infantry Division was already in Iraq long before the Fallujah uprising. It was the 4th ID that captured Saddam Hussein in December 2003.

And Turkey? Since when does Turkey control Fallujah?

The statement assumes facts not in evidence.

"Ask the military leaders. Go ask the military leaders."

Ok. Tommy Franks is endorsing your opponent.

Splash, out


**News flash. There's a difference between "insurgent" and "terrorist." Iraq has thousands of insurgents. Thousands are probably even foreign insurgents. Iraq also has no shortage of common thugs out to prove their loyalty to a given sheik in exchange for the prospect of a job shoveling goat shit in the mosque parking lot. But I don't think Iraq has thousands of terrorists, unless you hopelessly dilute the term 'terrorist' beyond all meaning.

But, seeing as you've already publicly characterized every U.S. Viet Nam War ground commander at battalion level or above a "war criminal," you've already demonstrated your willingness to do just that.)

Poynter Gets a Clue! 
From Poynter Institute columnist Kelly McBride

Journalists can no longer assume the audience will trust the story. Instead, newsrooms will take extra steps to articulate their mission and educate their audience with every story, every day. This is what we did. This is how we did it. This is why you should trust us. We used to hide all this. We didn’t want the competition retracing our steps, tracking down our sources, doing a better story. The mystery of making the news is no longer worth preserving.

Kelly, no "mystery" of making the news was ever preserved except to the detriment of the public. And the only reason the media is waking up to the need for transparency now is because they've been dragged kicking and screaming to it by a series of very public embarrassments.

Nevertheless, McBride is on the leading edge of the awakening to the need for transparency. The future of the news business depends on its credibility, which--for a vastly more educated and savvy news consuming public--depends on transparency. On open-sources.

Open-source journalism is going to lead to a better and more complete product, for the same reason Linux was a superior operating system to Windows for years. Because the American people are not idiots.

McBride is beginning to get it. Unfortunately, there are still some in her comments section who haven't got a clue.

Splash, out


Who's Your Command Financial NCO? 
Speaking of financial education, Fort Carson has done something pretty cool.

Each battalion-sized element on the post has appointed a Command Financial NCO. This would be a financially stable, secure, and savvy soldier who's job it would be to oversee the following:

Conducts financial evaluations
Provides budget counseling and advise to soldiers and family members
Screen and counsel all AER referrals
Refer soldiers/family members to appropriate resources or agencies
Present financial readiness and consumer training as part of the command program
Disseminate financial and consumer information within the command
Schedule unit financial management training with Financial Readiness Program
Provide emergency food locker referrals to soldiers and family members
Attend battalion pre-deployment briefing to describe available resources of family members
Attend Army Family Team Building (AFTB) sessions as an available resource
Provide desk-side briefing to new unit leaders to explain the program
Provide financial and consumer benefits to all newly assigned personnel
Assist unit commanders in emphasizing consumer prevention/education rather than crisis management.

Sounds like a good program. I'd like to see some required training or certification or curriculum for the appointed NCOs in place. It would be real easy to mistakenly appoint someone giving bad advice, or put in one of the First Command Borg.

But that is a problem, I think, easily remedied. It wouldn't be difficult to do a web-based program.

Any thoughts on what such a training program would look like, in outline?


Soldiers To Get Refunds of Insurance Premiums 
Good news for soldiers, thanks to some first-rate reporting by the New York Times' Diana Henriques.

Hundreds of soldiers who unwittingly signed up for high-cost life insurance during basic training at Fort Benning, Ga., will receive full cash refunds from the insurance company whose agents sold the policies, a spokesman for the company confirmed yesterday


The company in question, American Amicable Life, out of Waco, Texas, along with First Command (Why is it these companies always seem to be from Texas?) and a few others--are desperately trying to avoid getting their business models ripped out from under them by congress. A few lousy refunds and a few rogue salesmen thrown out the door is a small price to pay for congressional goodwill.

It's not enough, though.

The tactics used by American Amicable, particularly, were so cynical and unethical that the company should be forced to pay a heavy price for what can only be either a jarring negligence in oversight or willful complicity in the practice.

The relevant state insurance commissions should not only make soldiers whole, but also finance a substantial expansion of military financial education programs.

Here's one that can certainly use the money.

What's more, you can donate. Active Duty military members can even donate by allotment.

(Reserve component soldiers can't do allotments, though. "One Army" concept, and all that. Thank you, ARPERCEN!

I've tapped this program a couple of times to help soldiers. It makes a difference.

Splash, out


Score One for the Lawyers. 
I can't remember who first brought up the argument, but it goes like this: the intellectual rigorousness and disciplined critical thinking skills expected of law school students and lawyers put to shame anything commonly encountered in our nation's journalism schools.

I've never been in a journalism school, but having sat through the intellectually slovenly farce known as 'teacher education and certification curriculum' once upon a time, I can see the validity of the argument.

So what would you expect to see when you have a practiced attorney--in this case Powerline Blog's John Hinderaker--matching debating skills with a former vice president of CBS News?

Why, the lawyer puts him down like a sick animal, of course!

BORGER (The HOST): Well, and the rest is obviously history. Now, Jon Klein, let me ask you--it turns out that this blogger BuckHead is Harry McDougald, who is a very conservative lawyer from Atlanta. Who holds the bloggers responsible here in this battle to control the media?

Mr. JON KLEIN (Former CBS News Executive Vice President): Well, to hear them tell it, they hold themselves responsible. And, you know, that's fine as far as it goes; it's just not any kind of a third-party or any kind of a reliable check or balance against them. They are, you know, journals of opinion. And if they're taken that way, they can be useful. But we can't confuse the opinion of a guy shooting off an e-mail from BuckHead, Georgia, as fact.

Mr. HINDERAKER: I don't understand that, Jonathan. Are you saying that Republicans somehow don't have standing to point out forgeries?

Devastating. Klein's argument is shattered almost before he presents it. The concept of standing--something that would immediately occur to any first year law student--hits Klein's set of assumptions like a boot hits a crotch. Hard. Of course Republicans have standing to point out forgeries. As does any member of a defrauded public.

Klein has no idea how to recover. His counterargument is incoherent. It's inane.

Mr. KLEIN: It's not standing. It's just: What do we make of it? You know, it's somebody's opinion until it's proven.

The question at issue is not a matter of opinion. It is a finding of fact. Were the documents forged, or not? And the series of facts leading to the conclusion that the documents were forgeries is undeniable. Either the fonts match, or they don't. Either the formatting of the memo matches the formatting in common usage at the time, or they don't. Either the memo matches perfectly with the default settings on Microsoft Word, or it doesn't.

There's an old adage: We're all entitled to our opinion. But not our own facts. The memos fell on the facts. Not opionions.

What's alarming is here we have someone who rose to the senior executive level at the Tiffany Network, and he doesn't even have the candlepower upstairs to discern fact from opionion. There is no evidence here that he even understands the difference between the two.

What does that say about the climate of intellectual rigorousness at CBS News?

Splash, out


Wednesday, September 22, 2004

A 1-178th FA Insider Weighs In 
A reader weighs in on the comments section. Apparently, I was right not to be so hasty in calling for the heads of the 1-178ths leadership on a platter.

I am a retired active duty officer that helped train the logistics battalion that supported the 1-178th. I was assigned with the unit from 1996 to 2001 and deployed with them to NTC on a rotation.

I enjoyed my time with the NG and admire them for their dedication. Unit cohesion at the company / battery level is something I as a company commander would have loved to have had. As AD trainers and advisors we witnessed how difficult it is for a unit to train 38 days a year and become as proficient as an AD unit. Many of the soldiers lived over 100 miles from the unit and it was difficult to get them together as a team except for the weekend drill. Battalion and larger size units only worked as a team at the most 1 time per year. This was due to not only distance between companies / batteries, but also lack of training facilities to handle a large unit.

When the SC Brigade deployed to NTC it was missing some key personnel and many AD advisors were functioning in support positions (no leadership positions). It was also the first time they had deployed as a brigade in a very long time. I served as the Logistics Operation officer (and sometimes XO) for the MSB. 2 of my officers were on the LOG OPS staff of the FSB. NCO's also worked out of the LOG OPS section or assisting the companies they were assigned to train. In just 2 weeks the level of proficiency in the logistics unit was rapidly improving and given another 30 days would probably have been as good as many active duty units.

I mention this because though it was against doctorine it is what was needed to get the job done. It is impossible to bring a NG battalion or larger unit together and give it some training for 30 to 60 days and expect it to function by itself as an AD unit. I believe this blending of experience with the NG would greatly enhance unit readiness.

My take: there is no way on God's green earth that a reserve component battalion can get to a level of proficiency approaching that of an active duty battalion, except in a few very carefully chosen areas. And even then it wouldn't happen at any levels above company.

Mechanized units are at an especially severe handicap, since company armories are often located 100 miles or more from their armored fighting vehicles, and crew-served weapon ranges. Training time is limited. And it's further limited by the fact that many units have to spend all friday night and half of sunday traveling by bus to and from their training areas.

But if reserve component commanders choose their battles carefully, and read the Battle Focus Training manual (the 29th Infantry Brigade, rightly, swears by it. I don't see it emphasized much in the other units I've been in), their soldiers can achieve tremendous proficiency at the crew level.

Reserve component squads and platoons are often together for years. These are the basic building blocks of any combat operation. If the foundation isn't in place at the squad and crew level, you'll never build proficient platoons. You'll never build proficient companies.

Apparently, the foundation is in place for the 1-178th. Or they could not have achieved the level of proficiency they attained during a 3-week NTC rotation (last NTC rotation I was on, you only had about 10 days "in the box.")

This retired officer thinks the unit was just a couple of weeks away from Active Duty standards. That could not have happened without some very capable leadership and staff officers in place, somewhere.

Now, granted--this officer served in the support battalion--not in the 1-178th itself. But you'd be surprised how much loggies know.

If the 1-178th had any serious problems at the NTC, this guy would have heard about them.

Based on what I know now, the 1-178th should deploy.

I think this officer's larger point still stands. Why have Readiness Group officers and NCOs sit around with their thumbs up their behinds when the unit they're advising heads downrange?

Guard units should be commanded by guard officers. But if there's a key billet lying vacant, why not bring the advisor along in that billet?

Now, THERE'S the acid test. Will active duty officers and NCOs be willing to work under a reserve component pay system, promotion system, and policies that lock them into their units and prevent them--like reserve component soldiers--from accepting promotions or school slots elsewhere?

If not, why not?

Splash, out


Vindication of the Offensive 
I wrote back in April--you can't win a war playing defense. Sharon's aggressive, shield-of-blows, kill-the-enemy defense against Hamas and Hezbollah would pay off, and would save lives in the long run.


the fact that it took Hamas almost half a year--and dozens of failed attempts--to make good on its threat to inflict immediate and massive punishment proves just how successful Israel's war against terrorism has been.

During those same six months, the Israeli army destroyed most of what remained of Hamas's organization in the West Bank and a substantial part of its infrastructure in Gaza. Just last week, Israeli gunships rocketed a Hamas training camp in Gaza, killing 15 operatives. Hamas leaders, who once routinely led rallies and gave interviews to the media, don't dare show their faces in public anymore. Even their names are kept secret. Hardly a night passes without the arrest of a wanted terrorist. Hamas's ranks have become so depleted that the organization is now recruiting teenagers: At the Gaza border, Israeli forces recently broke up a Hamas cell made up of 16-year-olds.

It is happening exactly as I had predicted it would. The Israelis maintain the strategic initiative. They take develop sources. They take decisive action. They prevent Hamas leaders from exercizing leadership. Hamas is so busy playing defense they are hard pressed to put together a coordinated offensive.

Here's what I wrote back in April.

Meanwhile, if taking the helm at Hamas amounts to a death sentence, Hamas will soon find it hard to recruit quality senior level management for the posts. Their top talent will mysteriously find something better to do.

And now it's Hamas who has to live in fear.

And shall I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis

Terror writ large cannot be eliminated. There are simply too many groups with too many disparate grievances and motivations.

But any given terror group can be defeated. Al Qaeda can, and will, be defeated. Hamas and Hezbollah can be defeated.

As long as we don't lose heart at the critical moment.

"Kill for peace," he said. Without irony.

Splash, out


Junior Officers Leading the Charge 
Here's a must-read article for all military junkies from the Wall Street Journal.

I don;t have time for an extensive commentary just now. But the general thrust of the article is right on target.

Military doctrine as written in 2001 simply did not cover the realities of the war on the ground in Iraq.

So we rewrote the doctrine on the fly, in the field.

What's being taught now in the command and staff colleges in the Army wasn't developed at Fort Benning, Fort Sill, Fort Leavenworth and Fort Knox and distributed to the units from on high.

Doctrine is now percolating from the bottom up. Platoon leaders, company commanders, and battalion level staffs--AND their NCO counterparts--are aggressively writing up their tactical techniques and procedures, and pushing them up the chain of command. Frequently, they're bypassing their chain of command altogether, and publishing articles in military periodicals, sharing them on companycommand.com and similar websites, and starting blogs. (This blog was, at one point, reaching a small, but highly neurotic cabal of Pentagon planners back in December-March, and I was pushing the envelope on a lot of things related to logistics and personnel management).

I can say that I had more leeway to exercize initiative in Iraq than I do now that I'm back stateside. The Florida beancounters, damn them, are trying to be careful with taxpayers' money, no matter how aggressively I try to spend it. :-)

The article, further, paints a vivid picture of how the Iraqi population is being engaged at the grass roots and municipal levels--with lieutenants and captains acting, in effect, as negotiating agents for the U.S. Government.

Most Americans will have no idea how good the junior officer corps is right now. It has never been better.

I look at the NCO corps in my own little corner of the Army. The difference before and after the deployment is like night and day.

The war will ultimately be won at the grassroots level. Neither John Kerry nor George Bush can do much, at this point, but resource it or not resource it. There are no magic pills and no magic bullets.

It will be a long, hard slog, as Rumsfeld put it. There will be setbacks and disappointments all along the way. Our enemies and the enemies of the Iraqi people are ruthless and murderous, and they will ratchet up their bloodthirsty tactics to a crescendo between now and the January elections.

I have no doubt whatsoever that Iraq--given U.S. and international support--will succeed in forming some sort of representative government. None. I never did.

It's not going to be a Jeffersonian ideal. The Iraqis--somewhat inconveniently--have minds of their own. And they do not want a secular state. And that's fine by me.

Victory will not be measured in the few months between now and the January election. It's a blip. A blink of an eye. We will not know our success for another decade. Perhaps three decades.

The Democratic genie is out of the bottle in Iraq.

He will not be stuffed back in.

Splash, out


Four More Guard Brigades on the Hook? 
"Beware the twelve division strategy for a ten division Army."
--General Shinseki

General Dan McNeill, the four star general in charge of FORSCOM, or Forces Command, is recommending that four additional national guard brigades be mobilized in the fight against terror, according to Army Times.

The four brigades recommended by McNeill would be in addition to three National Guard brigades currently training for deployment: the 116th Cavalry from Idaho, the 278th, from Tennessee, and the 256th Armored Brigade, from Louisiana.

(Link for subscribers only. Don't be cheapskates.)

Rumsfeld and the Administration had been resisting calls to expand the active duty army, believing an eventual drawdown in Iraq would leave them holding the bag on an additional 40,000 active duty soldiers they didn't need, which would draw scarce dollars away from needed modernization of existing forces.

The 'small army' scenario, though, is getting more and more untenable by the day.

Splash, out


Dungeons and Dragons and Dan 
Memogate wasn't the first time 60 Minutes buried the truth in favor of the sensational. Here's legendary game designer Gary Gygax--of Dungeons and Dragons fame--on the brand of yellow journalism currently practiced too often at CBS:

In many ways I still resent the wretched yellow journalism that was clearly evident in (the media's) treatment of the game -- 60 Minutes in particular. I've never watched that show after Ed Bradley's interview with me because they rearranged my answers. When I sent some copies of letters from mothers of those two children who had committed suicide who said the game had nothing to do with it, they refused to do a retraction or even mention it on air.

Splash, out


Hat tip: Balloon Juice.

For Financial Services Junkies Only 
Check out my latest article on the wild and wacky world of Errors and Ommissions Insurance for financial services professionals.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Talkin' Baseball 
Via Blackfive comes this precious story about Iraq's first Little League baseball game!

Throughout the game, there were visual signs that Iraq was still a soccer-dominated country as some of the fielders stopped ground balls with their feet instead of gloves. There was even frustration seen among the faces of players learning the new sport.

But in the end, laughter and smiles prevailed from this American game as the Newroz team beat the Brusik team, 10 – 7.

“I am very happy today, it is the greatest moment in my life,” Ahmed Gager, a player on the Newroz team said through an interpreter after the game. “This game is new to us. We never knew about baseball, but now we know about it and we enjoy it.”

One good ballgame is worth many bullets.

Splash, out


Mapes the Yenta 
Ach! Nu!

CBS Producer Mary Mapes didn't just bury expert's testimony that the CBS documents weren't reliable. Now she's playing the
, the matchmaker, inserting herself into the news process by introducing partisans with--she thinks--incriminating documents about Bush to the Kerry Campaign.

She couldn't have become a bigger tool if she had "Craftsman" stamped on her forehead.

Such is the journalistic/ethical climate at CBS News.

This kind of internecine dealmaking--this quid-pro-quo for access--reminds me of another ethically bankrupt Mary who fell from grace and power just a few years ago.

She may be the greatest dealmaker around. The problem is, she's supposed to be an analyst.

Mapes, unfortunately, is a lousy dealmaker. And by ignoring serious doubts about the documents and playing the power broker between the Kerry Campaign and promising hacks, she has forfeited all claims to be an independent analyst or journalist.

Splash, out


UPDATE: More here.

It turns out that Mapes was a well known and outspoken liberal.

Why doesn't that surprise me?

Nevertheless, that's no crime. Newsrooms are crawling with them. I don't even blame Mapes, all that much. I think the larger problem is the command climate set by editors and senior producers at CBS. Editors ought to know the political leanings of their reporters and writers. It's their job to monitor their work and see that their natural biases and enTOOsiasms don't wind up distorting and cheapening their reporting.

Obviously, there's no such system of checks and balances in place at CBS.

Which is why I'm not calling for Mapes to resign. I'm calling for Rather and the President of CBS News to resign.

Splash, out


P.S., Inexplicably, ABC News put this story on the Entertainment page!

Alterman Disses Veterans 
There's no other way to say it.

In this Nation magazine column, Alterman, having first bizaarely asserted that the ads themselves are "morally disgusting," then refers to the Swift Boat Veterans as "A group of liars and miscreants."


So all 245 of these swifties are liars and miscreants?

All of them?

Mr. Occam, can I borrow your razor?

John Kerry, Then and Now 
"Those who believe we are not safer with Saddam Hussein's capture don't have the judgement to be president or the credibility to be elected president."

--John Kerry, Capital Gang, December 2003

"Saddam Hussein took us to war once before. In that war, young Americans were killed. He went to war in order to take over the oil fields. It wasn't just an invasion of Kuwait. This man was heading to the oil fields of Saudi Arabia. [Kerry voted against the war to liberate Kuwait. --Jason] And that would would have had a profound effect on the security of the United States.
This is a man who has used weapons of mass destruction, unlike other people on this earth today, not only against other people but against his own people. This is a man who tried to assassinate a former president. A man who lobbed 36 missiles into Israel in order to destabilize the Middle East. This is man who is so capable of miscalculation that he even brought this war upon himself. This is a man who if he was left uncaptured, would have continued to be able to organize the Baathists, he would have continued to terrorize the people just in their minds, because of 30 years of terror in Iraq."

--January 11th Interview on Meet the Press.

"We have traded a dictator for a chaos that has made us less safe."

--September 20th 2004

“George, I said at the time I would have preferred if we had given diplomacy a greater opportunity, but I think it was the right decision to disarm Saddam Hussein, and when the President made the decision, I supported him, and I support the fact that we did disarm him.”

--Democratic Presidential Debate, Columbia, South Carolina.

"It was the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time."

--John Kerry (Can't find the date. It's an audio clip)

"It was right to hold Saddam Hussein accountable. Absolutely correct. And anybody who doesn’t believe it wasn’t correct ought to go dig around in those graves or even make a judgment about what would happen if you left Saddam Hussein alone to do this."

--Meet the Press, 31 August 2003.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Mr. Edwards, a Moment of Your Time? 
"When John Kerry is president of the United States, we will find Al Qaeda where they are and crush them before they can do damage to the American people."

John Edwards

So does this mean the Kerry Administration will repudiate the Clinton policies from 1993 to the end of his administration?

Hypothetically speaking, if you had reason to believe--say, with a 70% probability of certainty--that Iran and Al Qaeda had developed ties and were cooperating on weapons development, would you strike?

Suppose it was 100% certain, and the UN Security Council refused to specifically authorize military action against Iran?

Suppose you were 99% certain that Iran and Al Qaeda were discussing the transferral of radioactive material to Al Qaeda to construct a dirty bomb, probably intended for use in Israel, but only the UK and Israel were willing to commit troops alongside ours. Would that cause you not to strike?

Hey, Let's Put Her on the Defense Beat! 
The Onion profiles a budding journalist.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Greider Off His Game 
William Greider has reporting chops second to none.

So I got excited when I logged onto The Nation and found a Greider article headlined, Eclipsed: Bush's War is Destroying the US Army, Just as LBJ's War Did.

Unfortunately, it's just an unfocused series of hackneyed cliches analogizing the Iraq War to Viet Nam--with out a lick of orignal reporting.

Greider...you're better than this, man.

Splash, out


More on the 1-178th 
Update: Here's Phil Carter:

Sending this unit into harm's way under these conditions would be tantamount to negligence and dereliction of duty — or worse. This is a formula for disaster...If I were on the Army staff evaluating this unit, I would recommend against sending it for the mean time. I would then fire most of the company and battalion leadership, and either break this unit up into fillers for other Guard units, or reconstitute this unit with a new base of leadership.

No, I wouldn't be willing to write the unit off from afar. Tom Ricks' article doesn't give me enough information to truly evaluate the command here, and Phil is jumping to some conclusions.

So... do you think this unit's soldiers are going to have the discipline to wear their body armor and carry their weapons 24/7 in Iraq if they can't stomach wearing their military uniforms 24/7 at Fort Dix? I doubt it.

First of all, there's no evidence presented that the unit refused to wear their uniforms. No one is saying a mutiny is taking place. The question I would have is this: are these guardsmen the only jokers on the post required to wear their uniforms 24/7? Many of these soldiers will have already had combat tours, or years of service. Maybe we shouldn't be treating them like basic trainees fresh off the bus at boot camp? Do we treat our active duty soldiers like this?

Second, I don't think there's any connection between having the discipline to wear your flak jacket in combat and going through a nutroll every time you send troops--grown men--to the PX. I don't care if they wore ballerina tutus to the PX; as a combat leader I would have no problem enforcing the flak jacket rule in combat. But as a commissioned officer, I would have to do that primarily through the efforts of the NCO's.

No problem.

Well, unless you treat your NCO's like basic trainees, too.

UPDATE: Cori Dauber is wondering whether the challenges in this unit are unique, or whether they are widespread among many Guard units going through the Mobilization process.

I cans state unequivocably that the soldiers of my own unit had many of the same complaints and challenges. I don't believe that they are unique at all. I think it has more to do with the failure of the Army to integrate reserve forces into the force structure. Reserve component soldiers are still treated like second class citizens.

Splash, out


Failure of Command, II 
The WaPo puts CBS News down like a sick animal.

An examination of the process that led to the broadcast, based on interviews with the participants and more than 20 independent analysts, shows that CBS rushed the story onto the air while ignoring the advice of its own outside experts, and used as corroborating witnesses people who had no firsthand knowledge of the documents.


But you wanna see something really scary?

Rather also dismissed the notion that CBS was negligent: "I'm confident we worked longer, dug deeper and worked harder than almost anybody in American journalism does."

This guy's delusional now.

Splash, out


1-178th FA Is Having A Hard Time 
This according to Tom Ricks of the Washington Post.

The article is a must read for leaders of units who are about to deploy, because it hits on some very important things from the soldiers' point of view.

It's not for me to criticize the battalion commander or command sergeant major, here. But having been through the mobilization process myself I might be able to make some useful observations.

Or not.

1.) Leaders should remember that while active duty soldiers CONUS have their families with them as they get set to mobilize, reserve component soldiers are quickly yanked hundreds of miles away from their wives and children--in the 1-124's case. Active duty soldiers get to see their families almost until they head to the airfield. Too often commanders put soldiers in the position of having to go AWOL in order to get the family contact that active duty soldiers get as a matter of course.

Should a soldier violate a direct order and go AWOL? Is that justified? No.

But commanders should realize that families are part of the unit, too. Forget that, and you won't have a National Guard very long.

2.) Active duty soldiers live in modern base housing, either in dorms or in their families--mobilized reserve component soldiers are usually housed in temporary, open bay barracks, not designed or intended to hold soldiers for more than a 2-3 week annual training. For a 60 day mobilization period, this isn't a huge deal. But when predeployment training lasts for months on end--as it has for this unit--it's predictable that frictions are going to arise within the barracks. All it takes is one barracks thief or one guy to hit on another guy's girlfriend, and things go downhill rapidly from there.

Soldiers aren't dumb. They are very much galled by how differently they are treated compared to their active duty counterparts at the same base.

3.) If soldiers have serious problems at home, then the unit loses combat power. I've seen it time and time again. If a soldier's wife is having a nervous breakdown at home, then the soldier isn't very effective in Iraq. And his NCOs spend a lot of time counseling the soldier through the crisis. Often you have to send the soldier home on emergency leave to take care of the problem.

Conversely, if a soldier's life is squared away at home, and his family is supportive of the unit, you will have twice the soldier.

I'm pretty confident that morale isn't as bad as the disgruntled soldiers who are talking to Ricks say. But it's definitely not as good as the Battalion Commander and CSM say, either. The truth is always somewhere in between.

The soldiers want to be in a good, tight-knit unit. I don't think, after 4 months in mobilization training, that the fact that the unit is a composite unit makes much difference by now. Everyone's had a chance to settle in. And I don't think it was relevant to this unit's AWOL problems, anyway. Maybe it was a factor in the altercation between the two batteries. But I doubt it.

As for 36 hours of leave in two months--well, my unit had a similar experience during mob training at Fort Stewart, Georgia.

It sucked, but it was expected for the first 30 to 60 days of train-up. If the training is worthwhile and neccessary, soldiers understand that.

But soldiers have families, and families are part of the Army, too.

We should never forget that.

Splash, out


Saturday, September 18, 2004

Reserve Forces Follies 
Here's Intel-Dump's Phil Carter:

Our nation has sent its reservists into harm's way in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we have not done a good job of preparing them for the hazards there. It took us more than a year to field up-to-date Interceptor body armor to the force. Many of our Guardsmen still shoot, move and communicate with gear that's older than they are. They make do with inadequate pre-deployment training, because the Pentagon continues to delude itself that 39 training days a year is enough to sustain individual and collective proficiency at warfighting. (It's not!) And yet, when our Guardsmen go downrange, they fight the same fight as their active-duty brethren — just with less resources, older equipment, and older soldiers (on the average).

If we are going to send our Guard and reserve units into combat, we owe it to them to set them up for success. That means investing in their short-term readiness, and investing in long-term structural reforms (such as flattening the Guard's bloated headquarters structure and recapitalizing the Guard's aging vehicle fleet) to ensure they're fit to fight. Sending American soldiers into harm's way with anything less than the best is derelict. And unfortunately, that's exactly what we have done.

To Match the Ends and Means 
The notion that we need to move now to increase active duty troop levels appears to be rapidly gaining momentum. Michael O'Hanlon is now advocating that in the latest issue of Parameters, which is a military professional journal.

After criticizing the Clinton Administration for overdeploying and overusing the US military in the 1990s, the Bush Administration is now doing exactly the same thing—except on a much larger scale. Having made the decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein, and having badly underestimated the difficulty as well as the force requirements of accomplishing the post-Saddam stabilization effort successfully, the Bush Administration or its successor now needs to get serious about making ends match means. At present, the latter are insufficient.

Deployment demands are likely to remain great, even if Secretary Rumsfeld and President Bush hope otherwise. Foreign coalition partners in Iraq continue to provide about 25,000 troops, but that number is not trending upward. That makes it likely that US troop strength there will have to remain substantial for a long time to come. Indeed, the US military is preparing for the possibility that its current strength in Iraq of just over 140,000 may have to remain at that level for years. The history of recent stabilization missions suggests that even a favorable scenario might see the number decline to about 100,000 in 2005, 75,000 in 2006, 50,000 or so in 2007-08, and perhaps half that latter number for a period thereafter.3 It is entirely possible that these estimates could prove wrong—and even that the United States could be asked to leave Iraq rather suddenly in the coming year or two. But planners cannot assume such an outcome.

As a result, the typical active-duty US soldier in a deployable unit could literally spend the majority of the next three to four years abroad. In 2004 alone, even before the problems in Iraq in the spring led to an increase in planned force levels there, 26 of the Army’s 33 main combat brigades in the active force were to deploy abroad at some point during the year. Over the course of 2003 and 2004 together, virtually all of the 33 brigades will have been deployed.

O'Hanlon points out that tens of thousands of reservists have already been involuntarily mobilized twice or more since 2001, and all of the National Guard's enhanced infantry brigades will have been deployed by the end of 2006. (Which tells me that my own brigade will come up on the hook by 2007. So the Guard rotation is going to be one year in every four four years, not every five, unless troop strength comes up or our obligations abroad ratchet down radically in that time.

Military Police and other units have already taken it on the chin.

O'Hanlon supports reaching out to France and Germany for more troops (fat chance!) and even ceding some decision making authority to the UN in exchange for more assistance from other countries.

Most importantly, though, O'Hanlon comes out for increasing our troop end strength by 40,000 active duty troops in addition to the 20,000 already surging through the system under emergency powers authorization.

Despite all the above laudable and promising initiatives, the Army— and perhaps the Marine Corps as well, but particularly the Army—needs an immediate increase in active-duty troop levels. In fact, the decision is overdue. At the latest, it should have been made as soon as it became obvious in mid-2003 that the post-Saddam Iraq stabilization mission would be difficult and long. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), it would take five years to fully train and recruit an additional 80,000 troops. (That would be enough for two divisions plus associated support. It would have an annual cost of about $6.5 billion just to maintain the needed forces stateside—not counting marginal occupation-related costs or up-front investment costs, the latter estimated at just shy of $20 billion.10) Even if CBO’s methodology is too cautious, assuming a business-as-usual approach to recruiting and retention at a time when accelerated measures are called for, and even if it might take only half as long to add 40,000 troops, the time to act is now.

The whole thing is a worthwhile read.

Also, and I can't recommend it highly enough, find a copy of "The Minuteman: Restoring an Army of the People," by Senator Gary Hart. He is actually one of the better thinkers on military policy and structure we have.

Bonus: If you purchase the book through Countercolumn, I get a dollar. And you still get a great book! What a country!

Splash, out


Slate's Condescention Toward Military Galls 
Liberals are very much up in arms at John Kerry's cool reception at the National Guard Officer's Association conference in Las Vegas. They're pulling their hair out! And of course, they're blaming it upon us Guard officers, who must be naive, stupid, and hoodwinked.

It's amazing how often liberal rhetoric predicates the ignorance of the American people.

At any rate, here's Slate's William Saletan, looking down his nose at us poor guardsmen even as he displays the rankest ignorance regarding the history and role of the National Guard.

The Guard's primary purpose has traditionally been homeland security.

Wrong. That is only true of our state missions. But most units only spend one assembly out of twelve training for their state missions. The fact is that the majority of combat units in the Army are in the National Guard.

I'm not talking truck drivers. Support units are more common in the Reserves. I'm talking about killers: infantry. Armor. Artillery. What in the world is a battalion of 155mm guns or MLRS rockets going to do for homeland security?

Guard units are trained and organized to fight with an armed enemy on the battlefield. Homeland security has never been the primary focus of national guardsmen.

Indeed, thousands of National Guard units--entire divisions--were called up for the Spanish American War and the 1st world war. The 29th Infantry Division--a guard division out of Virginia and Maryland still in existence today, hit the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. The 35th Infantry Division took more than 100% casualties as part of Patton's 3rd Army. The 100th/442nd RCT, the most decorated unit of its size in WWII, was largely a derivative of Hawaii national guard formations. And the 298th and 299th Infantry Regiments, Hawaii National Guard, served in the south pacific campaign under MacArthur, alongside my own 124th Infantry Regiment, which was in the New Guinea campaign.

The 40th Infantry Division was mobilized and deployed into the combat zone during the Korean War. And the 29th Infantry Brigade (separate) was mobilized for Viet Nam in 1968, although its soldiers did not fight as a unit, but were sent over as individual replacements.

Most of the infantry formations in the Army are in the National Guard. Traditionally, the infantry is not about homeland security. The infantry closes with and destroys the enemy in close combat. Saletan doesn't know what he's talking about.

But these Guard troops aren't being sent to fight the people who attacked the United States in September 2001. They're being sent to—and locked in—Iraq.

I'm getting pretty tired of this straw man. Nobody ever claimed that Iraq attacked the US in September 2001. We weren't worried about what happened in September 2001. We were worried about what might happen in September 2008, if Iraq had WMDs or slipped WMD technology to Al Qaeda. I guess that's a risk Saletan thinks he can afford to lose, though I have no idea why.

What does Iraq have to do with the "national emergency" declared by Bush in 2001? Nothing. The 9/11 commission found "no evidence" of "a collaborative operational relationship" between Iraq and al-Qaida. Four days ago, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell reaffirmed, "I have no indication that there was a direct connection between the terrorists who perpetrated these crimes against us on the 11th of September, 2001, and the Iraqi regime."

Saletan misrepresents the findings of the commission. The commission found that Iraq and Al Qaeda were, indeed, cooperating on weapons development and procurement. True, it had nothing to do, directly, with September 2001. Neither did Nazi Germany, but we still went after them, too.

This insistence that every target of US Arms somehow be tied directly to 9/11 is beyond stupid.

In short, Bush has pulled Guard troops away from their homeland security duties to fight and die in a war unrelated to the service for which they enlisted.

Bullshit, as I've established. For example, all infantrymen--Guard or Active Duty--volunteered for the infantry. For Saletan to argue that service abroad against an armed enemy is not what a Guard infantryman signed up to be ready for is an insult and an affront to all our National Guard soldiers.

A guardsman who did less than he signed up for is coercing other guardsmen to do more than they signed up for.

Perhaps. It depends on the MOS. Take George W. Bush for example. His aircraft did not have a mission in Viet Nam, and was being phased out of service. So, just who, exactly, had to do more???? I'd like a name, please, or a duty position. I'm calling the bluff of this stupid arguement. Who, precisely had to go to Viet Nam because Bush didn't serve in Alabama?

And even if we take Saletan's postulate as true--a postulate he has no business makeing, then how can he admiringly refer to this guy in the next paragraph:

One guardsman is doing something about it. After serving nine years in the Marines and the Army, including combat duty in Iraq, he enlisted last fall in the Guard. The bait he swallowed was the "Try One" program, which supposedly lets veterans sample a year of Guard service before making a longer commitment. Two months ago, invoking its "stop-loss" policy, the Army called up the guardsman's unit for duty in Iraq and changed his one-year commitment to three years. He sued to void the policy, noting that its application to Iraq "bears no relation to the threat of terrorism against the United States."

Now, here's a clear cut case. If this soldier doesn't go, his unit will deploy anyway. And some other schmuck with the relevant MOS and rank will get called involuntarily from another unit or from the IRR and go in his place. That's how the mobilization system works. That doesn't seem to have occured to Saletan.

Most Guard officers, however, refuse to admit that their institution is being abused. They gave Bush standing ovations on Tuesday when he told them that "you're fighting terrorist enemies in Iraq" and that the war was "necessary to defend America."

Saletan hasn't established that the Guard is being abused. There are problems, yes, primarily with personnel and procurement. The integration of large numbers of reserve component troops into the campaign has been rocky. But Saletan doesn't have the familiarity with the military to articulate this case.

Simply deploying a combat, combat support, or a combat service support to a combat theatre is NOT abusing the guard. Saletan is too clueless to realize this, but a lot of Guard officers were ticked off about being underused in the first Gulf War, and distrusted the motivations of the Regular Army, whom they felt were working to keep the guard off of the battlefield, in order to protect their own budgets down the road. Back to Saletan:

Those brave, loyal, hoodwinked guardsmen. They think Bush is one of them. They don't understand that the only presidential candidate who's done the job they're doing now—risking life and shedding blood—is the guy on the other side.

I find Saletan's condescending attitude towards Guard officers --a conceitedness all too common on the left--to be particularly galling. Saletan, Let me know when you're ready to stop looking down your nose at us. I'll then remind you that we're not stupid, many of us are combat veterans now ourselves, and we can make our own assessments of both candidates, thank you.

Splash, out


So What's Your Pimp Name? 
Don't tell me you don't have one! Everybody needs one.

Mine is "Pimptastic J. Dazzle," according to the Pimp Name Generator.

Which is funny, because that's almost exactly what the bitches always call me when I'm beatin' on them for my money. Oh, the life of a freelance writer.

Sometimes the Net is uncanny, you know?

Splash, out,

J.V. Daddy-Juice Blogmutha

Father of the Year Award 
So that guy whose daughter burst into tears after they were attacked by some pro Kerry supporters who tore up their signs?

His name is Phil Parlock. And Rising Hegemon, via Democratic Underground, busts him for staging a set-up. Hege even insinuates that the guy on the left in the baseball cap is his son, and posts a family photo.

It's hard to say. He could be the kid in the gray sweater.

But it's clear that this guy 1.) either staged the whole thing to decieve the AP and make Kerry supporters look like thugs, or 2.) didn't stage the whole thing, but thanks to his experience in 1996, knew exactly what he might be dragging his daughter into, and then did it anyway.


Splash, out


More Infantry Battalions 
The Marine Corps Times is sounding an alarm bell, calling for more infantry battalions in the Marine Corps.

But faced with the prospect of a third or even a fourth Iraq deployment, many Marines may have a change of heart. In fact, a Rand Corp. study presented to lawmakers earlier this year shows that one or two hostile-duty deployments can be good for retention, but a third can be more than many troops are willing to take.

That means the time to start building new grunt units is now, to send a clear signal that help is on the way before Marines make their opinions about the pace of wartime service known by voting with their feet.

The Administration has been resisting a larger standing army and Marine Corps, on the assumption that requirements in Iraq would ramp down rapidly after sovreignty was passed over to the Iraqi government.

I don't see why we should make that assumption any more. Even if we did, we still need to maintain a strategic reserve to deal with other flare-ups, and intimidate the bejeezus out of Iran and North Korea.

I think it's time to get the ball rolling on additional infantry battalions, as well as other high-demand units in the reserve components. To bank on involuntarily calling up reservists away from their full time jobs more than one out of every 5 years (20% of their lives)--even without a crisis--is too much.

It's also long past time to convert these National Guard tank divisions to infantry and MP units that are actually deployable. We don't budget to actually maintain their tanks anyway.

So why doesn't it happen? It's all about strength %'s. Take a tank company. It's at full strength with about 60 guys. But if you convert it to an infantry company, your foxhole strength drops by 50%. Which costs the state headquarters money. Which costs full-time guard and reserve jobs.

Splash, out


The Latest Swift Boat Ad, and "V" Devices on Silver Stars 
"A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon."
--Napoleon Bonaparte

Here's the latest Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad.

My reaction: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Ok, so what Kerry is saying now is at variance with what he was saying more than 30 years ago. Join the club.

I thought the first Swift Boat vet ads were absolutely fair game. But the controversy over whether he threw the ribbons or the medals themselves over the fence is utterly trivial and useless.

You're reaching guys. Big time.

Oh, and that "V" device. A "V" device is issued for certain medals--the bronze star and the Meritorious Service Medal come to mind--to denote medals awarded for valor under fire. You can get a BSM or MSM for doing a really good job while engaged in combat operations against an armed enemy, without actually having done anythin specifically heroic. But the medals with the "V" devices have better stories behind them, so the military issues a little bronze "V" to stick in the ribbon for those guys.

It is true that Kerry's website showed a DD214 which listed a "V" device on his silver star medal.

It is also true that the military does not issue "V" devices for the silver star.

It is true that the DD 214 --the most notoriously inaccurate document in the military--was in error, and Kerry did not have the error corrected when leaving the Navy.

It is therefore true, in the most technical sense imaginable, that when Kerry posted his DD 214 on his website, he in effect was claiming a decoration--the bronze V device on a silver star--to which he was not entitled.

It's also true, however, that I really don't care.

ALL silver stars are awarded for valor.

And I could easily have made the same mistake. I did not know specifically that the "V" device was not awarded for valor. If I were writing up a silver star recommendation on someone, I probably would have checked the "V" device block on the DA form 638 without thinking.

I would not have thought to correct the mistake if it were my own DD 214, unless I knew that the medal was specifically NOT for valor. Which is not the case for any silver star. I find no reason to believe any intent to deceive whatsoever.

Both medals flaps are pathetic nonissues.

I can't help but wonder: of all the undecided voters out there, are there ANY whose votes hare hinging on whether he threw the ribbons or the medals themselves, or whether the V device was authorized on a silver star awarded for valor by definition?

Any at all?


Splash, out


Hanson Makes the Case For Fortitude 
An excerpt from his latest essay in NRO:

Yet leaving unilaterally from Iraq would be a tragic mistake. We have already done something like that before — many times. What rippled out afterwards was not pretty. American helicopters flying off the embassy roof in Saigon in 1975 gave us the climate for the Soviets in Afghanistan, Communists in Central America, and embassy hostage-taking in Tehran. Ignoring murders in Lebanon, New York, East Africa, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, or lobbing an occasional cruise missile as tit-for-tat payback when terrorists harvested one too many expendable Americans abroad, ensured us September 11. In our loony world, losing credible deterrence (and we would) is an invitation for disaster — as bin Laden himself illustrated when he logically thought that the toppling of the World Trade Center would be followed by another Black Hawk Down American pullback.

Leaving Afghanistan to its own misery after the Soviet retreat, not going to Baghdad in 1991, turning boats around from Haiti, or quietly ducking out of Mogadishu all were less messy in the short term, but in the long term left even greater chaos. The ultimate wages were the Taliban, 350,000 sorties for over a decade above Iraq, the current mess in the Caribbean, and terrorist havens and worse in Africa. We forget how often in history a perceived stumble or the half-measure only emboldens enemies to try what they otherwise would not.

In contrast, on those occasions when we have shown the patience to stay engaged after victory — in Germany, Japan, South Korea, Panama, or the Balkans — there was less chance that Americans would be left with either perpetual autocratic enemies or terrorist sanctuaries.



More Military Cluelessness in the Media 
Here's an email to Jonah Goldberg from an unnamed Air Force officer, who was frustrated at the failure of a TV news production crew to correct an obvious uniform gaffe when a USAF LTC went on the air with one of his shoulderboard ranks on backwards.

(Ok, it's not the news crew's job to police uniform regs. But if there were a veteran of any rank anywhere in the room, he would have caught it instantly, and it's a quick fix.)

Anyway, from the email:

I’d feel a bit better if the so-called “military correspondents” could learn the difference between self-propelled artillery and tanks (which have significantly different military utility), would know the rank structure well enough to address sergeants-major as “Sergeant Major” rather than “Sergeant” (which the newest of recruits understands by Day 2 of basic training, along with all the other forms of address from “Private” to “Mr. President”), and that the rifles fired at a military funeral are not a “21-gun salute”, but are from an older tradition of firing three volleys over a grave to signify the conclusion of a battlefield truce to succor the wounded and bury the dead.

The press tries to hire science reporters with some science background to help explain stories to the non-scientist public, but when it comes to covering those of us sworn to defend the nation, the media organizations send reporters who couldn’t readily identify an A-10 and an F-15 if they were standing next to them. Nor do those reporters seem to care to research the issues beforehand. After all, they could learn most of what they wanted to know just by going online and reading the fact sheets from the service Web pages. I guess immersing themselves in a military history course or interviewing content, professional soldiers to gain background information just isn’t as satisfying as spending a (well-publicized after the fact) weekend sleeping on the streets to “truly understand the homeless question”.

Well, I confess I didn't know that about the military funeral tradition and truces.

Lots more on this subject from Garfield Ridge, a new blog from someone who has something to do with the military-information complex in Washington DC. Actually, he's got several posts up on the Iraq war and victory criteria which are interesting and thought provoking, despite having cited me a couple of times. Check him hout.

Splash, out


New York Times: Making Shit Up Again 
Beldar's blog bust's 'em here.

From the Times:

Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, said at a news briefing that the Democratic National Committee and the Kerry campaign were behind the documents

The problem:

McClellan never said any such thing.

Then again, the Times would never put words into anyone's mouth, would they?

By the way, you can email the Times' public editor at public@times.com

Splash, out


Friday, September 17, 2004

Calling Mr. Godwin... 
Want to know what passes for progressive discourse in America today?

I was driving around this evening and had the occasion to listen to some more Air America. Specifically, Mike Malloy's program, which airs on 940 AM in the South Florida market.

Here's what I heard, as close to verbatim as I can get without taking notes:

"Laura Bush knows a thing or two about killing people. She's killed one already that we know of."

"I can't tell you how much I hate these people [Republicans]"

"If you are a Republican, you should be ashamed of yourself. If you are married to a Republican, if you are the son or daughter of a Republican, if you have a Republican friend, if you work for a Republican, if you hire a Republican, you should be ashamed of yourself. All Republicans are thieving, murdering, lying, stealing, snakes. All of them. All of them. I don't care if they're a "moderate" Republican. A snake is a snake."

"[Republicans] are the modern version of Nazi brownshirts. These are the people who dragged Jews out into the street and beat them. These are the people who dragged the Jews into the death camps."

"[Republicans] are the Nazi brownshirts. The thugs who sprang up in Spain and Italy and Germany in the 1920s and 30s. They have no respect for human life.

"The American Nazi Party hates [Dan Rather], because he won't kowtow to the same extent Peter Jennings will, to the Bush Crime Family."

"Ever wonder if these car bombings are actually being conducted by the independent contractors...the Halliburtons, the Dynecorps--to keep Iraq in turmoil, to keep the money coming? Because I have."

"I am complicit in the murder of Iraqi children, and it makes me want to flail my eyes out with brambles. It makes me sick. We are collectively guilty. It's a shame that a murdering little pissant like George Bush has led us into this collective guilt."

"...The war on terror--which would be a war against the Bush administration, if you wanted to be serious about the war on terror."

"There is no slippery, rubbery corpse upon which Dick Cheney will not stand. He will stand on brains and blood and guts and the corpses of children."

"We have a pig in office...There's no point in referencing Hitler when referring to this man [Dick Cheney]. He is far beyond anything Hitlerian."

"American Nazis like Dick Cheney do not have to obey the law. Dick Cheney is a filthy, piggish liar."

"And the neo-con...er, the Zionists. Did you ever think you would see Zionists and Nazis aligned? This is how sick it's gotten in this country."

"Cheney is a vicious, vicious man. He is a mass murderer."

"Cheney is a man motivated by greed and blood. He is a vampire. He is an eater of human flesh. He is a drinker of blood. He is a destroyer."

"We drink blood. We eat flesh. We're vampires. This is the United States of America. We want more dead Israelis, more dead Palestinians, more dead Iraqis. We are America. We are out of control."

Mike. Try the decaf.


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