Thursday, March 30, 2006

On to westward 
To you, who lie within this coral sand,
We, who remain, pay tribute of a pledge,
That dying, thou shalt surely not have died in vain.
That when again bright morning dyes the sky
And waving fronds above shall touch the rain,
We give you this—that in those times
We will remember.

We lived and fought together, thou and we,
And sought to keep the flickering torch aglow
That all our loved ones might forever know
The blessed warmth exceeding flame,
The everlasting scourge of bondsman's chains,
Liberty and light.

When we with loving hands laid back the earth
That was for moments short to couch thy form,
We did not bid a last and sad farewell
But only, "Rest ye well."
Then with this humble, heartfelt epitaph
That pays thy many virtues and acclaim
We marked this spot, and murm'ring requiem,
Moved on to westward.

--Capt. Donald L. Jackson, USMC

The Death of Sapper 7 
Read the whole thing.

A word from the NY Times Public Editor 
"Some readers may have already discovered the system launched last month that channels e-mails to Times reporters through the bylines on their articles online. Except for a mid-February post on the Public Editor's Web Journal, there has been little public promotion of the new system or guidance for its use.

So here's a tech moment.

To send an e-mail to a reporter, click on the highlighted byline on an online article. That will lead to a page that offers the option of sending that reporter an e-mail. Reporters can opt out of the system, but I'm told almost none have. Freelance reporters are not part of the system, so their bylines are never highlighted.

What happens to your e-mail? A reporter gets a once-a-day notification if any e-mail has arrived and can review the list anytime to decide what response is warranted for each message."

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

But Murtha and Kerry told us that there was no terrorism in Iraq until we invaded!

A significant development in Ubaydi 
Don't miss this significant but unheralded development in Ubaydi, courtesy of Bill Roggio:

The 2nd Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 7th Division of the Iraqi Army has conducted another independent counterinsurgency operation in the town of Ubaydi in the Qaim region. Ubaydi was the scene of violent fighting during Operation Steel Curtain. Over seventy al-Qaeda were killed in a fierce battle in the New Ubaydi district. Iraqi troops also conducted their first logistical resupply mission in the Qaim region. While I was in the Qaim region, the Iraqi Army units were solely reliant on U.S. Marines for logistical resupply. (Emphasis added).

This development cannot be emphasized enough. There are no significant CSS assets organic below brigade level. If the Iraqis are conducting resupply themselves, in combat, it means that the Iraqi battle staff is synchronizing their combat, combat support, and combat service support assets in real time at the officer level, and have developed a functioning corps of NCOs who are capable of executing that plan - lining up and loading the trucks, and (hopefully) tracking and accounting the supplies.

It means that underlying the Iraqi infantry battalions involved in the raid is a functioning support battalion with a commander and staff gaining valuable logistical experience.

This is a key development in the evolution of the Iraqi army. If it is true, then this unit is truely functioning at brigade level, rather than committing separate and uncoordinated Iraqi battalions. No significant US troop withdrawal is possible until the Iraqis can self support at the brigade level.

I'm sure the traditional media is all over this (NOT!)

Splash, out


Operation Swarmer: What didn't happen 
Here's something a commenter wrote in response to this piece that I want to elevate to the main page, because it deserves a closer discussion:

How many insurgent attacks do you think that amount of ordnance represents? Doesn't look like a lot to me. 34 rifles with less than 100 rounds each, wow, color me unimpressed.

If it took 1500 guys to deny weapons and ammo for, say, 30 bad guys for a week or two, how impressed should we be? How hard is it for them to replace that lost equipment? From what I hear, AKs are a dime a dozen over there, and mortars and explosives aren't a lot harder to come by.

I don't want to say that Operation Swarmer was a screaming home run that knocked the insurgency out of the war. But I will defy anyone to show me anything that ever billed it as such. But the commenter's remarks are fundamentally dishonest. Unfortunately, the techniques - the sleight-of-hand devices exhibited by this anonymous commenter are all too prevalent in many circles.

By focusing exclusively on the "34 rifles with less than 100 rounds each," this commenter seeks to decoy his reader from the real and substantial progress made by this operation.

The rifles themselves, if they are AK 47s or variants, are not in short supply. Nearly every household in the country has one. Dragonov sniper rifles are a different story, though - and a few of them in the hands of well-trained snipers could possibly change the battlefield, at least for a time. I would assume, however, that if any Dragonovs were found, the press release would have mentioned them separately.

But the commenter fails to address a simple battlefield fact: The seizure of ten surface-to-air missiles, including four SA-14 guided missiles in one area, is by itself a significant find, and very possibly short-circuits an insurgent plan to win a huge political victory on the screens of America's television sets.

Anyone with a military memory spanning back 13 years will remember how the downing of two American military helicopters in Mogadishu near an urban stronghold precipitated the American withdrawal from an entire continent. These helicopters were downed at very low level with comparatively antique unguided RPG 7s.

The SA-14s are guided systems which can home in on a helicopter exhaust and destroy the craft and crew from a range of four-and-a-half kilometers.

Now, imagine the following scenario:

The insurgency identifies a coalition unit that uses helicopters for fire support, medical evacuation, and tactical reinforcement. Any of the three will do. They mass in company strength, detaching a squad with all four SA-14s and a couple of videocams perhaps a kilometer away in an apartment building with ready access to a rooftop.

The urban terrain they select helps them rule out a fixed-wing response, while ruling in the use of helicopters. They choose their ground carefully, and wait.

They wait for a squad-or-platoon sized coalition patrol element to wander into their kill zone so they can pin them down. But that's not the real objective. The real objective is to force a medevac flight or a provoke a helicopter airstrike. It will also probably provoke artillery fires as well, but the enemy doesn't care, because his anti-aircraft gunners are safe and sound a klick away, sitting like a venus flytrap, waiting for an unsuspecting fly. And this is where the real ambush is triggered: As soon as the helicopters come in to evacuate the wounded, or as soon as the gunships come in to strafe and rocket the Ali Baba line, the anti-air contingent is activated. With as many as ten anti-aircraft missiles - not RPGs, MISSILES -concentrated against a flight of two helicopters, the insurgency has an excellent chance of bringing them down.

And the cameramen will be at the ready to make sure the footage gets on the six-o-clock news.

At that point, the original ambush becomes secondary - it becomes a footrace to get to the scene of the downed helicopters - a race the Iraqi locals will have no problem winning. More footage for the six-o-clock news. The insurgents then form a ring around the helicopters, force the coalition to fight their way through to the helicopters, and draw as much blood as they can in the fight - and hopefully provoke the U.S. into destroying a city in the process.

Instant Mogadishu II.

Instant Tet.

All this can be effected with a few anti-air missiles and an element of real fighters at about company strength (+)

And if you don't think the insurgency is racking their brains to try to figure out a way to create exactly this scenario, you're off your rocker. This is Ali Baba's wet dream. And this would be precisely the scenario I would try to create if I were a commander on their side.

Downed helicopters destroyed the United States on an entire continent. Desert One helped to destroy a president. And politically, this operation it would cause renewed calls for an American pullout from Iraq in the United States, when what really happened is that the six-o'clock news got played like a cheap harmonica.

You couldn't do it with just one or two missiles. You wouldn't want to concentrate a company and commit to a battle unless you had a pretty good chance of binging down a couple of helicopters. You would want to be able to concentrate your anti-aircraft missiles in the hands of your best troopers to have a good chance of bringing down not one, but TWO U.S. helicopters. And that's the difference between a defeat and a disaster. That would be the makings of a real battlefield defeat.

Unlike AK-47s, the anti-aircraft missiles are not exactly commonplace on the Iraqi battlefield. They are a rarity. And they are very expensive for the insurgency to come up with. The fact that ten of them were concentrated in one area tells me that Ali Baba was up to something, and pretty much rules out the prossibility that it was just a tribal cache.

Operation Swarmer removed that ambush from the realm of possibility, turned tens of hundreds of thousands of dollars the insurgency had to spend to get those missiles into ashes - and very possibly removed from existence the company with which they wanted to execute the ambush.

The mortar rounds, likewise, are deadly IEDs - in some ways more dangerous than a 155 IED, because they are much more easily concealed, stored, and quickly emplaced - often in a "daisy chain" all along a few hundred meters of road.

It's easy enough to put a mortar round out in an obvious place to cause a convoy to stop, and then blow the rest of the daisy chain up and take out much of a platoon - and giving the Moojies another significant victory for the six-o-clock news.

Operation Swarmer took out more than three hundred mortar rounds, or eliminated from the battlefield the possibility of some ten to thirty of those ambushes.

This is discounting the very real, though intangible, institutional benefits that the Iraqi Army gained by being involved in the operation.

But the commenter can't see any of this. The commenter, knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing, focuses on -- on what? On a few small arms and a few dozen magazines of ammunition.

Man, I'd hate to be married to this person.

Splash, out


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Swing and a miss... 
...And the Associated Press strikes out!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Saddam was training terrorists for attacks in London 
From the inimitable Stephen Hayes:

A new study from the Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia, paints quite a different picture. According to captured documents cited in the study and first reported in THE WEEKLY STANDARD in January, the former Iraqi regime was training non-Iraqi Arabs in terrorist techniques.

Beginning in 1994, the Fedayeen Saddam opened its own paramilitary training camps for volunteers, graduating more than 7,200 "good men racing full with courage and enthusiasm" in the first year. Beginning in 1998, these camps began hosting "Arab volunteers from Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, 'the Gulf,' and Syria." It is not clear from available evidence where all of these non-Iraqi volunteers who were "sacrificing for the cause" went to ply their newfound skills. Before the summer of 2002, most volunteers went home upon the completion of training. But these camps
were humming with frenzied activity in the months immediately prior to the war. As late as January 2003, the volunteers participated in a special training event called the "Heroes Attack." This training event was designed in part to prepare regional Fedayeen Saddam commands to "obstruct the enemy from achieving his goal and to support keeping peace and stability in the province."

Some of this training came under the auspices of the Iraqi Intelligence Service's "Division 27," which, according to the study, "supplied the Fedayeen Saddam with silencers, equipment for booby-trapping vehicles, [and] special training on the use of certain explosive timers. The only apparent use for all of this Division 27 equipment was to conduct commando or terrorist operations."


Among the documents released last week was a translation of a three-page Iraqi Intelligence memo regarding a wave of attacks to be conducted by the Saddam Fedayeen. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence website states that it cannot verify the authenticity of the posted documents, but the document appears to be similar to one described in the "Iraqi Perspectives Study." The undated document was apparently prepared in response to orders given on May 5, 1999.

According to those orders, the Fedayeen Saddam was "to start planning from now on to perform special operations (assassinations/bombings) for the centers and the traitor symbols in the fields of (London/Iran/self-ruled areas) and for coordination with the Intelligence service to secure deliveries, accommodations, and target guidance." The execution of the plan would take place in several steps. After the IIS selected 50 "fedayeen martyrs," they were to receive training at an IIS school. Those who passed the tests would be assigned targets. "The first ten will work in the European field (London). The second ten will be working in the Iranian field. The third will be working in the self-ruled field."

Definitely read the whole thing. It contains further evidence of an intent to form closer ties with Bin Ladin, as well.

Splash, out


Plagiarism at the Associated Press 
"We don't credit blogs."

I hope Ms. Alexandrovna knows a good lawyer who can force them to. And cough up a heavy punitive damage award in the process.

More evidence that the Fourth Estate has gotten too big for its britches.

Splash, out


Sunday, March 26, 2006

Putz personified. 
I have to admit I missed the whole Richard Belzer brouhaha.

"You think everyone over there is a college graduate? They're 19 and 20 year-old kids who couldn't get a job."

Yep. What an ignorant, arrogant and condescending punk. Obviously he doesn't know military people.

But he comes from the same city most of our national media base out of, the city with seven of the ten lowest per-capita enlistment rates in the country. That's how he holds the views he holds. You don't see ANYONE talking like this in Birmingham, Oklahoma, or Knoxville, outside maybe a few cloistured campus radicals. It's only in NYC and along the West Coast does this kind of ignorance gain any traction, so that people like Weisberg, whom you would THINK was educated, can regurgitate this stuff and not get challenged on it and begin to think they were onto something or had an insight.

How can you put so much of our media in New York City and not expect demographics to skew coverage this way?

Splash, out


Chabad to the Bone 
Elevated from the comments section, and dedicated to Slate's Jacob Weisberg:

I am an Air Force Rescue Helicopter Pilot with a combat tour in Afghanistan and two in Iraq. I head out to Iraq again in a few months. I am a former Marine and Naval Aviator. I also am a typical liberal jewish guy from Manhatten's upper east side, although my single mom worked two jobs to keep us there. Guess what? all manhattenites do not think like Mr. Weisberg. I joined the military because of the challenge and the desire, since as far back as I can remember, to fly. I have loved serving in the military since day one. I got out and was out for seven years, I had a great job in the theater business that most people would kill for. I was bored to death and thankfully, I was able to get back in the military. I am confident saying that I could have done whatever I wanted to career wise, but I chose the military because (shock of shocks) I like it and I like the idea of serving a nation that gave the son of an immigrant, who sadly died when I was very young and a single mom, a chance to do whatever he dreamed of doing. There are real people east of the Hudson, a lot of them. Even in New York City. By the way, I never met anyone in three branches of the military and 23 years, who came in because they could not get a job. To Mr Belzer, I say...You are a Putz! Educate yourself on a subject before you pontificate on it.

Yeah, don't be such a schlemiel!

Splash, out


Saturday, March 25, 2006

US Fatalities in Iraq Down Every Month since Novemember 05 
Powerline points out the numbers, and asks why the media isn't reporting that.

They should be.

But it would be an easier argument to make if current US fatalities were not higher than their baseline through most of 2003.

But a technical analysis indicates that the trend seems to have fallen below most useable moving averages.


The strategic and tactical offensive pays off. Coalition forces have staged a number of offensives during that period of time, and gone after the enemy aggressively.

Moreover, the number of Iraqi troops involved in joint offensives is increasing exponentially. I've written a number of times before that the US will not be able to withdraw significantly until Iraqi units are functioning independently up to the brigade level.

We're getting much closer to that point.

But withdrawing prematurely is no less dangerous an option than it ever was.

Splash, out


Ben Domenech apologizes 
And does a better job in this post.

As far as I'm concerned, the matter is concluded.

Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel lies with a headline: 
Here's a hysterical headline from the Sun Sentinel:

Religious leaders outraged by plan to punish those who help immigrants

The problem? The plan doesn't make it a crime to help immigrants at all. It DOES make it a crime to help illegal immigrants - a population of criminals by definition which the Sun-Sentinel, in a shameful yet transparent bit of sleight-of-hand refers to as "undocumented" immigrants.

The article begins with some syrupy-sweet depictions of selfless aid workers, denouncing the plan one after the other. The reporter apparently conducted several interviews with charity organizations opposing the measure. There's only one quote from a pro-law advocate, and that one is buried deep, deep in the article, well below the jump.

There is no quantification of the problem whatsoever. No analysis of what illegal aliens cost the country each year in social services.

It's a textbook example of how the news media slants and loads a story.

Splash, out


What hath Swarmer wrought? 
Well, according to the excellent Bill Roggio - who's doing the job the press SHOULD be doing - Swarmer hath wrought quite a bit:

North of Baghdad, Operation Swarmer concludes after six days of sustained operations in the farmlands northeast of Samarra. CENTCOM reports Swarmer resulted in "104 suspected insurgents currently being detained and questioned, and 24 caches discovered," and breaks down the results of the weapons caches:

- Six shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles
- Over 350 mortar rounds and three mortar systems
- 26 artillery rounds
- A variety of IED-making materials and other military items
- Over 120 rockets
- Over 3200 rounds of small-arms ammunition
- 86 rocket-propelled grenades and 28 launchers
- Six landmines
- 12 hand grenades and 40 rifle grenades
- 34 rifles and machineguns of various types
- 1 partridge in a pear tree

It seems Swarmer wasn't the fizzled Potemkin operation some made it out to be. Coalition forces have also been conducting a sustained counterinsurgency sweep on the Jabouri Peninsula near Balad. This is a combined U.S. and Iraqi operation made up of the 1-8 Combined Arms Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division and the 1st Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 4th Iraqi Army Division. Bomb making material, weapons and ammunition have been discovered, along with four SA-14 surface-to-air missiles.

Also, South of Samarra, Coalition forces killed four al-Qaeda and detained one during a raid against a High Value Target described as a "a top al-Qaida in Iraq cell leader who controls a large number of al-Qaida in Iraq associates in the Samarra/Balad area."

Ok, I added the partridge in a pear tree. But that's the only thing I made up.

Look, Operation Swarmer was a significant success. The six hand-held anti-aircraft missiles - and the ADDITIONAL four SA-18 surface-to-air missiles - are a big deal all by themselves. Plus, we took a whole company of Ali Baba off of the battlefield.

Also, the experience and confidence gained by the Iraqi army, and the valuable experience they get planning and staffing an air assault operation, develops leaders, and will be a force multiplier for them down the road.

All this without loss to our side.

But for all that Swarmer wrought, all we see at Time Magazine is rot: How Operation Swarmer Fizzled: Not a shot was fired, or a leader nabbed, in a major offensive that failed to live up to its advance billing

Sun Tzu wrote: "To win without fighting is the acme of skill."

Maybe it's time for Time to get some reporters who understand what the hell they're looking at, because these guys sure as hell don't. Or their editors don't know how to assess what they're seeing. Either way, Time Magazine serves its readers very poorly with tripe like this.

Splash, out


Friday, March 24, 2006

Plagiarism flashback 
"Molly Ivins, plagiarist."

New York Times Hollywood correspondent Bernard Weinraub, plagiarist.

New York Times ace reporter Steven Erlanger, plagiarist (and still working for the Times)

Anne Applebaum, plagiarist.

Ward Churchill, plagiarist.

Martin Luther King, plagiarist.


Joe Biden, not plagiarist.

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) has been cleared of the college plagiarism charge that helped to lead to his departure from the 1988 presidential race, the Wilmington News Journal reported Sunday.

At Biden's request, the Delaware Supreme Court reviewed the allegation in 1987. The court's Board of Professional Responsibility exonerated the senator Dec. 21, 1987, said L. Susan Faw, independent disciplinary counsel for the panel, which prosecutes allegations of unethical behavior against attorneys.

Faw said she had recommended to the court's Preliminary Review Committee, a panel of lawyers and non-lawyers with authority to recommend prosecution, that the matter be dismissed. The charge was later dismissed.

Splash, out


Who's making up news? 
As Domenech goes down in flames, Salon and David Brock, along with a number of other liberal media fellow travelers and reliable dupes are wailing like banshees over the Administration's recent pushback against the media.

Watch how this goes down. Particularly watch how people like Conason and others criticize washingtonpost.com for looking for talent outside the ranks of "trained journalists."

Then remember that the "trained journalists" manufacture datelines, invent and mangle quotes, and plagiarize each other all the time.

Splash, out


Why Rumsfeld Still Rawks 
Via Powerline Via Gateway Pundit comes this illuminating exchange:

Reporter: Do you feel embattled at this point in your tenure? In a recent column, Maureen Dowd quoted an unidentified administration official who described you as an "eccentric old uncle who's ignored." She claims that you don't hold the same sway in meetings.
Rumsfeld: Did you get all that? You want to be on camera, right? That’s a sure way to get on the evening news. The answer to your question is no.

Reporter: Well, I'm asking about the facts reported in the column. Do you feel you hold the same sway in meetings?

Rumsfeld: I'm not going to comment on that.

(Pause)- Rumsfeld looks away for a moment, then...

Rumsfeld: If you believe everything you read in Maureen Dowd, you better get a life.

So now the press is reduced to digging up secondhand anonymous conjecture from slodden-headed quasi-gossip opinion columnists, and spending precious interview time asking for Rumsfeld's reaction to something that clearly doesn't rise to a level that warrants a response.

Can the press become any more cloistered and self-referential? Is there any vignette that better illustrates their narcissistic sense of self-importance?

The Fourth Estate is serving the public very poorly, indeed.

Splash, out


RedState.org founder Ben Domenech is, apparently, a serial plagiarist.

I am, too. But only when crafting military memoranda and integrating doctrinal sources with my own military company SOPs. Other than that, it's a fireable offense.

Full disclosure, and mea culpa: About 11 years ago, I accidentally lifted the phrase "gruesome house of bones" from an earlier, historical work, and inserted it in an article I wrote for another publication. It was my first piece as a professional writer (meaning the first piece of writing for which I actually received a check, albeit four years after its writing, which convinced me that freelance history writing was, as a business model, suboptimal.) It was just one of those instances where I retained the phrase in my notes, transferred it to a legal pad, wrote a manuscript, and rewrote the manuscript, and never worked the phrase out of the prose.

Four little words.

I didn't even realize it until, years later, I read the piece back to myself and recognized the phrase.

I was truly mortified at myself, and it's bothered me ever since. For years. I can't look at the clip and not feel like a heel.

Four little words. It is so not worth it, gang.

Splash, out


UPDATE: Domenech rebuts!

I can rebut several of the alleged incidents here. The most recent accusation, is that I stole a music review from Crosswalk and passed it off at National Review Online. In fact, I wrote both lists myself; I was one of Crosswalk's music review contributors at the time.

The Left has also accused me of foisting Sen. Frist quotes and some descriptive material from the Washington Post for a New York Press article on the Capitol Shooter. But the quotes I used were either properly credited or came from Sen. Frist’s press conference, which I attended along with many other reporters. So it is no surprise that we had similar quotes or similar descriptions of the same event. I have reams of notes and interviews about the events of that day. I also went over the entire piece step by step with NYPress editors to ensure that it was unquestionably solid before it ran.

Virtually every other alleged instance of plagiarism that I’ve seen comes from a single semester’s worth of pieces that were printed under my name at my college paper, The Flat Hat, when I was 17.

In one instance, I have been accused me of passing off P.J. O'Rourke's writing as my own in a column for the paper. But the truth is that I had met P.J. at a Republican event and asked his permission to do a college-specific version of his classic piece on partying. He granted permission, the piece was cleared with my editors at the paper, and it ran as inspired by O’Rourke’s original.

My critics have also accused me of plagiarism in multiple movie reviews for the college paper. I once caught an editor at the paper inserting a line from The New Yorker (which I read) into my copy and protested. When that editor was promoted, I resigned. Before that, insertions had been routinely made in my copy, which I did not question. I did not even at that time read the publications from which I am now alleged to have lifted material. When these insertions were made, I assumed, like most disgruntled writers would, that they were unnecessary but legitimate editorial additions.

But Domenech, unfortunately, doesn't account for the similarity of his movie review of "Bringing Out The Dead" to a Salon.com review of the same movie.

Nor does he explain the similarity of his "translucent and glowing" passage to a Cox News piece (though the timeline is not clear.)

Obsidian Wings has several examples of probable plagiarism which cannot be explained by youthful naivete, a bad college newspaper editor, etc.

Splash, out


General Patreus on leaders who "Get It" 
From the January-February issue of Military Review, here's Lieutenant General Michael Patreus, who commanded the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) in the first year of the war, and later came back as a three-star to head the training of the Iraqi Defense Forces and the rebuilding of Iraqi security institutions:

My final observation, number 14, underscores that, especially in counterinsurgency operations, a leader's most important task is to set the right tone. This is, admittedly, another statement of the obvious, but one that nonetheless needs to be highlighted given its tremendous importance. Setting the right tone and communicating that tone to his subordinate leaders and troopers are absolutely critical for every leader at every level, especially in an endeavor like that in Iraq.

If, for example, a commander clearly emphasizes so-called kinetic operations over non-kinetic operations, his subordinates will do likewise. As a result, they may thus be less inclined to seize opportunties for the nation-building aspects of the campaign. In fact, even in the 101st Airborne Division, which prided itself on its attention to nation-building, there were a few mid-level commanders early on whose hearts really weren't into performing civil affairs tasks, assisting with reconstruction, developing relationships with local citizens, or helping establish local governance. To use the jargon of Iraq at the time, they didn't "get it." In such cases, the commanders above them quickly established that nation-building activities were not optional and would be pursued with equal enthusiasm to raids and other offensive operations.

Setting the right tone ethically is another hugely important task. If leaders fail to get this right, winking at the mistreatment of detainees or at manhandling of citizens, for example, the result can be a sense in the unit that "anything goes." Nothing can be more destructive in an element than such a sense.

In truth, regardless of the leader's tone, most units in Iraq have had to deal with cases in which misticaes have been made in these areas, where young leaders in very frustrating situations, often after having suffered very tough casualties, took missteps. The key in these situations is for leaders to ensure that the appropriate standards are clearly articulated and reinforced, that remedial training is conducted, and that supervision is exercised to try to preclude recurrences.

It is hard to imagine a tougher environment than that in some of the areas in Iraq. Frustrations, anger, and resentment can run high in such situations. That recognition underscores, again, the importance of commanders at every level working hard to get the tone right and to communicate it throughout their units.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Saddam envoy met personally with Bin Ladin 
And they discussed terror attacks abroad. This just in from ABC News:

A newly released pre-war Iraqi document indicates that an official representative of Saddam Hussein's government met with Osama bin Laden in Sudan on February 19, 1995 after approval by Saddam Hussein. Bin Laden asked that Iraq broadcast the lectures of Suleiman al Ouda, a radical Saudi preacher, and suggested "carrying out joint operations against foreign forces" in Saudi Arabia. According to the document, Saddam's presidency was informed of the details of the meeting on March 4, 1995 and Saddam agreed to dedicate a program for them on the radio. The document states that further "development of the relationship and cooperation between the two parties to be left according to what's open (in the future) based on dialogue and agreement on other ways of cooperation." The Sudanese were informed about the agreement to dedicate the program on the radio.

The report then states that "Saudi opposition figure" bin Laden had to leave Sudan in July 1996 after it was accused of harboring terrorists. It says information indicated he was in Afghanistan. "The relationship with him is still through the Sudanese. We're currently working on activating this relationship through a new channel in light of his current location," it states.

So much for the "Al Qaeda could never have cooperated with Saddam because his regime is secular" argument (although that argument should have been blown out of the water by the 1998 Clinton Administration indictment of Osama Bin Ladin).

Some level of cooperation between Iraq and Al Qaeda would also explain why Al Qaeda did not seem to target Saddam. Yes, they targeted nearly everyone else in the region. Why not Saddam? What deal did he strike with them? What was the carrot he was holding out so as not to be attacked?

Splash, out


"Makes me want to puke" 
The problem is not that Good Morning America has a producer on its staff who can't stand the President. It's an entirely legitimate opinion, and nobody should expect anyone working in media - or anyone else - to be a mindless automaton and not to form strongly held opinions.

The problem is that the professional culture at Good Morning America has deteriorated so far, and has allowed itself to skew so far leftward, that this producer actually thought he could send a mass email like he did -indeed, he apparently sent a series of them, over time, according to Drudge - and expect a sympathetic and agreeable audience.

Splash, out


Slate slips 
Slate editor Jacob Weisberg demonstrates that the 4th estate is capable, once in a great while, of a glimmer of self-awareness - he recognizes the deep, yawning cultural divide between the warrior and civilian class. In his essay, "Rough Draft," (The third Slate article with that title in three years), Weisberg writes:

In the upscale sectors of American society, there remains a primal antipathy to military culture, which has only been heightened by revelations about torture at Abu Ghraib and ongoing discrimination against gay people in the armed forces. The real "two Americas" are not rich versus poor or religious versus secular but military versus civilian.

His observation is correct, though I think his view is colored by Manhattan/media glasses. For example, there are plenty of upscale people in Dallas, Omaha, Billings, and Nashville who harbor no such antipathy. Indeed, many business and community leaders and opinion makers in these cities themselves have military experience. Weisberg doesn't speak for the "upscale." He only thinks he does. In reality, he speaks for high-gloss coastal media - and however well-meaning, indirectly establishes its inflated sense of self-importance.

I have a couple of other problems with the piece:

Finally, the young men who might be called do not want to contemplate having to kill, die, or be maimed in a war that inspires little idealism.

Man, Weisberg needs to get out more. One read through the milblogs, or a sharp-eared walk through the billeting area of any effective unit in Iraq would establish the existence - underneath the usual soldier's gripes and complaints and concerns of home - of a strong undercurrent of idealism - a sizeable contingent of soldiers who do believe that the US is genuinely doing good work, is genuinely promoting the interests of freedom and democracy. Money and neccessity might motivate the first combat tour. It does not motivate the second and third. It does not bring retention rates to an all-time high. The only thing that does, in the face of real bullets, are the twin engines of unit cameraderie and esprit de corps and a cause perceived in the ranks as just.

This idealism is also reflected in the pool of new recruits joining my own unit, who are themselves responding not just to new recruiting incentives, but also to the new marketing slogan I see on National Guard recruiting posters: "Defend Freedom."

When I speak with these terrific new soldiers, they want to be up to the challenge of doing exactly that.

Just because Weisberg, as a product of coastal media culture, doesn't respond to any ideals that don't involve freedom of the press doesn't mean what we're doing in Iraq inspires little idealism. It just means that Weisberg is, again, confusing the moral sense of a nation with the stunted moral sense of the professional cynics currently infesting our national media.

Once again, young people without good opportunities in life are handling the fighting and dying for those with better things to do—only this time, there is not even a pretense of shared responsibility for defending the country.

What a snobbish, elitist, condescending, and out-of-touch thing to say.

Some of my troops come from rough backgrounds, sure. Others are suburban white boys. One of my E-4s has two college degrees. I went to the Tank Commander's Course alongside a Staff Sergeant with a PhD in economics. One of my specialists in Iraq ran his own engineering firm. One of my Pfc's runs his own contracting company and pulls in 6 figures per year, easily. My battalion maintenance chief made close to six figures when he deployed to Iraq. Another E-4 I served with in Iraq, a veteran of both the Canadian and U.S. armies, ran his own computer networking firm stateside when he was deployed, earning near six figures.

These are all just off the top of my head, and all excluding the officers.

Some of these soldiers are screamingly intelligent - and many of them can sharpshoot me to death on almost any subject (except, thankfully, convoy operations and training doctrine. I still have them there!) Many of them could be doing anything they wanted. They chose the challenge of the profession of arms - not because they were limited, but because they were called to service.

President Bush and Vice President Cheney react angrily to any suggestion that a draft might be needed, because they know that the prospect of conscription would make their decision to invade Iraq even more unpopular. Having lived through Vietnam and shirked the draft themselves, they understand that if people anywhere near their own station in life were forced to fight, any remaining support for wars of arguable necessity would dry up and blow away.

Right. The President, a former Air Force officer and fighter pilot with years of commissioned service, "shirked the draft."

The argument could possibly be made regarding Cheney (though I'm curious to see if Weisberg ever made the same observation regarding Clinton). But when Weisberg conjures this tired canard to smear Bush with, he reveals himself to be either stupid about the military, or an incredibly sloppy thinker, who's allowed himself to be steeped so long in the cesspool of cynicism we call the national media that he can no longer reliably examine his own reflexive assumptions.

Splash, out


Dateline: Cleveland 
A regular reader and correspondent - and a field grade officer with combat experience in Iraq who also happens to be a keen observer of media coverage of the war - sends in this treatment of a recent Washington Post article:

Bush's Struggle in Reassuring U.S. Is Illustrated by City's Renewed Strife

By Peter Baker, Washington Post Staff Writer

CLEVELAND, March 20 -- As President Bush tells the tale, the battle for Tall Afar offers a case study in how U.S. and Iraqi forces working together can root out insurgents and restore stability. "The example of Tall Afar," he told an audience here Monday, "gives me confidence in our strategy."

Reports from the streets of Tall Afar, half a world away, offer a more complex story Funny, when someone says to the WaPo that everything in Iraq is a disaster, they don't follow that with a paragraph that says "reports offer a more complex story". Comments like that stand unrefuted. U.S. forces last fall did drive out radicals who had brutalized the mid-size city near the Syrian border. But lately, residents say, the city has taken another dark turn. "The armed men are fewer," Nassir Sebti, 42, an air-conditioning mechanic, told a Washington Post interviewer Monday, "but the assassinations between Sunni and Shiites have increased." Increased over the level of before Operation Restoring Rights, or over what they were a month ago? Sorry, I hope that question isn't complex.

The twists of Tall Afar underline the difficulties Bush has had in reassuring a doubtful American public that progress is being made in Iraq. The president and his aides say that the positive developments in Iraq get overwhelmed by the grim pictures of mayhem and massacre that dominate the evening news. If Americans knew about the success stories, the White House maintains, they would understand Bush's confidence of victory.

Yet even the success stories seem to come with asterisks. Using this logic, the defeat of Nazi Germany came with an asterisk: it empowered the Soviet Union. The administration hailed the election of a new democratic parliament last year, but the new body has so far proved incapable of forming a government for more than three months Funny, now that the Iraqis haven't formed a government, the media will talk about the DEC election. Wasn't it the New York Times that knocked the Iraqi election off its front page with a story about NSA communications monitoring that it had held for more than a year? But it just had to run it the day after the elections. U.S. forces have trained more Iraqi security troops, but the only unit judged capable of acting fully independently of U.S. assistance no longer can That's because we changed the standard of TRA Level I to increase the importance of things like ISS and IASSI training, not because the IA can't fight in the current counterinsurgency environment. But why explain that, that would be complex.

The cycle has taken a new spin with the latest evolution of Iraq from violent insurgency against foreign occupiers to sectarian strife bordering on civil war. Since the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra last month, hundreds of Iraqis have been killed in reprisals in a bloody spate of violence that has eclipsed most periods during the three years since the U.S.-led invasion.

All this negative media reporting has taken its toll on Bush's credibility, Republican strategists say, making it hard for him to make people see what he sees in Iraq. Continuing his latest drive to rebuild public support for the war, Bush flew to this Midwestern city on Monday to empathize with the pessimism many Americans feel as the war heads into its fourth year, while trying to explain the basis for his own optimism.

"In the face of continued reports about killings and reprisals, I understand how some Americans have had their confidence shaken," he told the City Club of Cleveland. "Others look at the violence they see each night on their television screens and they wonder how I can remain so optimistic about the prospects of success in Iraq. They wonder what I see that they don't."

To illustrate, he devoted his talk to Tall Afar, hoping to use the progress there as a symbol of hope for the rest of the country. The city of 290,000 in northern Iraq was at one point awash in violence, a haven for insurgents and foreign extremists. An initial U.S. military offensive in the fall of 2004 dislodged them only temporarily. When the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment returned last year, it set about trying a new, more patient strategy that focused more on winning over the local population, building cooperation with Iraqis, surrounding the city with a wall and ultimately flooding Tall Afar with patrols.

As Bush noted, the military heralded the offensive as a model for counterinsurgency. "The strategy that worked so well in Tall Afar did not emerge overnight -- it came only after much trial and error," the president said. "It took time to understand and adjust to the brutality of the enemy in Iraq. Yet the strategy is working."

Bush acknowledged that this offensive stood out. "I wish I could tell you that the progress made in Tall Afar is the same in every single part of Iraq. It's not," he said. But, he added, "the progress made in bringing more Iraqi security forces online is helping to bring peace and stability to Iraqi cities."

The Tall Afar strategy may not apply easily to other areas So what? Strategies that would easily apply to Baghdad wouldn't apply to Tal Afar., particularly Baghdad -- a far larger and more populous city where it would take enormous numbers of U.S. troops to replicate the strategy, military analysts say.

The 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment "did a wonderful thing" in retaking Tall Afar, said Ahmed Hashim, a professor of strategy at the U.S. Naval War College who advised the regiment on counterinsurgency and cultural tactics. But Hashim, who wrote a book on the Iraqi insurgency that is being published next week, said he doubts that the example is readily transferable to the rest of Iraq, in part because of the weakness of the central government in Baghdad.

Hashim said he has also seen indications lately that the insurgents have begun "seeping back in" to Tall Afar now that the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment has rotated home and been replaced by another Army unit. And given the deep ethnic and sectarian divides in Tall Afar, he said, it is quite possible that the city could succumb to civil war, along with the rest of the country.

A Washington Post employee interviewing residents of Tall Afar found continuing anxiety in the streets. "Al-Qaeda Wait a sec. If Al Qaeda is in Iraq, and we are at war with Al Qaeda, someone tell me again why the WaPo thinks we should leave Iraq? Isn't a stock criticism of Bush that he distracted us from fighting Al Qaeda by going to Iraq? But they're there... has started to come back again," said Jaafar al-Khawat, 33, a tailor. "They have started to kill Shiites and Sunnis who cooperate with the Americans. Last Wednesday, they killed a truck driver because he worked with the Americans."

Yasir al-Efri, 23, a law student at Mosul University, said al-Qaeda pamphlets began appearing on the biggest mosque in Tall Afar in the past two months claiming credit for attacks. "The Tall Afar mission failed," he said. He must read the Washington Post editorial page. "The city will turn back to how it was before the battle within two months. The Americans are busy putting cement barriers and barbed wire around their bases and no one is taking care of the infrastructure As the WaPo couldn't be bothered to actually send a reporter to Tal Afar, they were not slowed down on Route Santa Fe by the ongoing sewer construction projects, road paving, mosque rebuildings and the backups of civilian trucks loaded with consumer goods headed into the city, nor do they see the many markets being built between Fort Tal Afar and the city. Why get all bogged down in that kind of complexity?."

Sebti, the mechanic, was more fearful of sectarian conflict. "People now are afraid to send their kids to school," he said. "I have to take my son to and from the school every day. There are two gangs in Tall Afar now that specialize in kidnapping children. Police can do nothing against that." All the more reason to leave Iraq, so the child kidnapping gangs can take over. Let's get out, for the children!

In his Cleveland speech, Bush received supportive applause for removing Saddam Hussein but also faced polite skepticism from some who addressed him during a subsequent question period. No major Ohio politician other than the mayor appeared with Bush, whose approval ratings have sunk below 40 percent, and war protesters demonstrated outside the downtown hotel where he appeared.

One man in the audience asked about Bush's credibility given that some of the reasons he originally gave for the war proved false. The president quarreled with the contention in one instance, denying that he ever made a "direct connection" between Hussein and the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, even though he often linked Baghdad with al-Qaeda generally. "I was very careful never to say that Saddam Hussein ordered the attacks on America," he said. Yes, he said this, and it is fact born out by the record. He linked Baghdad with Al Qaeda because they were linked, as an increasing number of translated Baath party documents from before 2003 are proving: should he ignore this? No, that's the WaPo's job.

Bush acknowledged that the credibility issue -- the failure to find weapons of mass destruction that the administration said were in Iraq. Here's the media at its most mendacious. The article just says that the Bush administration said there were WMD in Iraq. It doesn't say that Bill Clinton and Al Gore said there was WMD in Iraq until they left office in 2001, or that the Clinton-appointed CIA director said in 2003 that there were WMD in Iraq, that Germany said there were WMD in Iraq, and same-same France, Britain and Russia. Saddam's own generals and Revolutionary Command Council believed there was WMD in Iraq in 2003, because that's what Saddam wanted EVERYONE in the world to believe. Yet all this means Bush has a credibility issue. -- affected his ability now to confront Iran, which he has accused of secretly building nuclear weapons. But he offered tough language for Tehran, characterizing it as bent on destroying Israel. "It's a threat to world peace, it's a threat, in essence, to a strong alliance," Bush said. "I made it clear, I'll make it clear again, that we will use military might to protect our ally Israel." What does Bush base this crazy talk on? Why should the WaPo mention that the Prime Minister of Iran threatened to kill everyone in Israel?

Staff writer Thomas E. Ricks in Washington, correspondent Ellen Knickmeyer in Baghdad and a Washington Post employee in Iraq Their reporter never even went to Tal Afar. Note that the "employee" (Iraqi citizen stringer, likely a former Baathist information agency employee) is stated as being located in "Iraq". If he actually visited Tal Afar, it would say it. He's in Mosul. contributed to this report.

From Jason: The observation that the "employee" never visited Tal Afar is an astute one. The Washington Post seems very careful to write around the lack of an on-the-ground presence in Tal Afar. Sure, he may have visited the town. But why would he have to rely on someone else telling him that Al Qaeda has been posting notices and pamphlets at the mosque? He couldn't go see for himself?

(Actually, I suppose everyone and his brother posts notices at the mosque. It's probably the Iraqi version of the Classified section of the local newspaper.)

So, after a close reading of the text, I'm inclined to agree: The Washington Post most likely reported the story without setting foot on the ground.

I'll put the question to Tom Ricks, a Post contact, and I'll also ask him if the stringer is a former Information Ministry employee, although my own sense tells me that's unlikely.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Meatgrinder metrics, redux 
Via Instapundit comes this truly eye-opening set of statistics:

On the third anniversay of the Iraq war, the MSM keeps bombarding us with stories and statistics trying to compare this war to the carnage in Vietnam, trying to make us think that US soldiers are dying at an alarming number due to Bush's failures.
While every lost serviceman and servicewoman is certainly tragic and should be mourned, the actual statistics tell quite a different tale from the MSM and Democratic doom-and-gloom outlook. Comparing the numbers of lost US military personnel to past years, and past presidential terms, may even be a shock to supporters of the war.

Take a look at the actual US Military Casualty figures since 1980. If you do the math, you wil find quite a few surpises. First of all, let's compare numbers of US Military personnel that died during the first term of the last four presidents.

George W. Bush . . . . . 5187 (2001-2004)
Bill Clinton . . . . . . . . . 4302 (1993-1996)
George H.W. Bush . . . . 6223 (1989-1992)
Ronald Reagan . . . . . . 9163 (1981-1984)

Even during the (per MSM) utopic peacetime of Bill Clinton's term, we lost 4302 service personnel. H.W. Bush and Reagan actually lost significantly more personnel while never fighting an extensive war, much less a simulaltaneous war on two theaters (Iraq and Afghanistan). Even the dovish Carter lost more people duing his last year in office, in 1980 lost 2392, than W. has lost in any single year of his presidency. (2005 figures are not available but I would wager the numbers would be slightly higher than 2004.)

In 2004, more soldiers died outside of Iraq and Afghanistan than died inside these two war zones (900 in these zones, 987 outside these zones). The reason is that there are usually a fair number that die every year in training accidents, as well as a small number of illness and suicide. Yet the MSM would make you think that US soldiers are dying at a high number in these zones, and at a significantly higher number than in past years or under past presidents. This is all simlpy outright lies and distortion.

Other unit's mileage varies, of course, but since September 2001, and despite nearly a year in Ramadi Iraq and an additional deployment of several soldiers to Afghanistan for the last year, my own infantry headquarters company has suffered more lives lost due to off-duty accidents (2) than to enemy action (0). A third fatality was only narrowly avoided, by the grace of God, just a couple of weeks ago. (As a result of that accident, several of my own soldiers have sold their sport bikes.)

Shockingly, Jimmy Carter had higher mortality - even expressed per 100,000 soldiers in 1980 than either Bush I or Bush II. What for I can't imagine. The blood spilled in preventable accidents under Clinton, on the other hand, did result in the expulsion of Milosevic from Kosovo, at least, and ultimately, in the discrediting of Milosevic and his subsequent fall from power. But strategically, this had little upside for the United States - and we got precious little credit from the Muslim world for intervening on behalf of Muslims.

Why the downward trend?

1.) Body armor.
2.) Our troop quality is better than ever.
3.) Safer helicopters
4.) Better understanding of injury prevention - especially heat injuries.
5.) More and better institutional experience within OSHA.
6.) Smaller electrical components.
7.) Better enforcement of drivers' licensing regulations
8.) A smaller troop footprint in Germany, with its fast cars and strong beer.
9.) Low tolerance of alcohol abuse in the ranks. A DUI offense is generally considered a career-ender for officers.

The emphasis the Army places on safety management is also paying dividends - and the result is nearly a Brigade of soldiers in the field every few years. I'm sure the efforts are parallelled in other services. But in order to assume command of a company in the Florida National Guard, all officers are first required to complete an online course in safety management. By concentrating on company command and educating its unit level leadership in the principles of safety management, the Army is creating a culture of safety watchdogs. When it's important to the commander, that will drive awareness through the NCO support channels, which is where the rubber meets the road. No matter how educated the officer corps is, you don't really get traction until the NCO corps is fully engaged in the effort. And then there is no stopping you. Sometime in the last few years, the military's tremendous corps of professional NCOs really got engaged in safety management, and safety records improved substantially.

As a result, we have a much larger and stronger military for it.

Thanks, Top! From all of us.

Splash, out


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Intellectual Bankruptcy of the American Left 
Exhibit #7897326:

Isn't cutting the amount of troops in Iraq giving the Saddam loyalists/rebels/insurgents exactly what they want? It's sort of like how we plan to move soldiers out of Saudi Arabia, which was one of Bin Laden's demands of us.

There is no choice in Iraq. We are past the invasion yes or no stage. Abandoning Iraq will fulfill Bush's proclamations that it is a haven for terrorists. It will give Al Qaeda another place to hide. Bush calls Iraq the so-called "front" in the war on terror. Abandoning Iraq will make us deserters of the worst sort.

--Leftie blogger Oliver Willis, November 13th, 2003.

So the most realistic answer - leaving Iraq to the Iraqis while we redeploy to fight the larger war on terror (aka Al Qaeda) is simply off the table for Jeff & Co. Well the only other choice is to stay in Iraq and keep getting killed while Al Qaeda grows and we lose the “big stick” backing up any and all future efforts at diplomacy.

--Leftie blogger Oliver Willis, riding the intellectual weathervane on March 17th, 2006.

Splash, out


It's about time... 
Tired of all the Walmart bashing? Slate sets the crosshairs on Whole Foods.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Saddam Hussein ordered chemical strike against civilians 
The Scotsman is reporting that new documents demonstrate that Saddam Hussein personally ordered the planning of chemical attacks against the Kurdish village of Halabja and other places, murdering 5,000 people at Halabja - many of whom were women and children.

So much for the old lie propogated by Saddam's vile defenders in this country that it was really the Iranians who attacked Halabja.

Splash, out


A retired Major General is calling for Rumsfeld to resign 
UPDATE: See the comments section to this post for an en point critique of my post, and for an interesting professional discussion of fire support in Afghanistan.

MG Paul Eaton (Ret.), the general in charge of training the Iraqi army between 2003 and 2004, launches a blistering attack on Secretary Rumsfeld .

I have a few problems with it, though:

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is not competent to lead our armed forces. First, his failure to build coalitions with our allies from what he dismissively called "old Europe" has imposed far greater demands and risks on our soldiers in Iraq than necessary.

I call "bullshit." First of all, the Secretary of Defense is not the architect of foreign policy. Whatever prewar diplomatic failures there were are not Rumsfeld's doing, but rest at the feet of the President, and of the sainted Colin Powell.

Second, the notion that there was a lack of a coalition is, quite frankly, a lie. The fact is that the coalition that committed ground troops to Iraq consisted of a majority of the Big Eight, a majority of NATO, and a majority of the European Union. Spain was there. The Netherlands. The UK was there. And the US opened new bridges to and new lines of dialogue with Poland and Hungary - two significant emerging economies with a much brighter outlook than France, which is economically stagnant and struggling with a discontented and violent Muslim minority. (Don't tell me they're not violent. Nonviolent minorities don't torch cities by the hundreds.)

The two largest economies in continental Europe are France and Germany. But the notion that we ever had a chance at recruiting large numbers of French and German troops for the effort in Iraq is absurd. First of all, we now know that France was undercutting US policy aims in Iraq even during the Clinton Administration. (Is that Secretary Cohen's fault, too?)

Second, Germany's constitution prohibits it from deploying combat formations overseas.

Third, even if we had recruited Germany and France ground forces into the fight, US forces would be hard pressed to prevent mass surrenders of French troops to any German in sight. (And the New York Times would doubtless report the instance thus: "Entire allied brigade surrenders in Iraq.")

I thought we had a glimmer of hope last November when Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, faced off with Mr. Rumsfeld on the question of how our soldiers should react if they witnessed illegal treatment of prisoners by Iraqi authorities. (General Pace's view was that our soldiers should intervene, while Mr. Rumsfeld's position was that they should simply report the incident to superiors.)

Unfortunately, the general subsequently backed down and supported the secretary's call to have the rules clarified, giving the impression that our senior man in uniform is just as intimidated by Secretary Rumsfeld as was his predecessor, Gen. Richard Myers.

It's called military subordination to civilian authority, General. You might have heard of it.

Mr. Rumsfeld has put the Pentagon at the mercy of his ego, his cold warrior's view of the world and his unrealistic confidence in technology to replace manpower. As a result, the Army finds itself severely undermanned — cut to 10 active divisions but asked by the administration to support a foreign policy that requires at least 12 or 14.

Well, who cut the active Army that far? Answer: The Clinton Administration (though some of the groundwork was laid by Bush I, and then-Sec Def Dick Cheney, though spurred along by a Democratic Congress eager to spend a "peace dividend" (remember that foolish talk?) that turned out to be a dangerous illusion.

But the General doesn't mention the reorganization of the Army. The idea that we need an outsized 12-14 division Army (which we can scarcely recruit in strong economies anyway, and which we couldn't maintain even in the early 90s - the days of 15-man platoons in the 25th Division, which I remember clearly - is plain silly. As long as we have entire divisions wasting their time in Europe - which we apparently don't need for European defense because we're willing to strip troops in Europe to staff the fight in Iraq - you can't tell me there's not some fat to be cut.

The General, I suspect, is caught in an outmoded "cold war" way of thinking. We should not be thinking of the Army in terms of the number of divisions available, but in terms of the number of seperately deployable, self-sustaining brigades. Divisions are just too cumbersome an instrument on the modern low-to-mid-intensity battlefield. Modularity is the watchword of the day. Which is precisely the point of the current transformation underway in the Army - the most radical organizational transformation since the Abrams doctrine. I'm not sure General Easton fully grasps what's going on, because this transformation is going to turn most of our divisions from three-brigade clodhoppers to five-brigade killing machines. The number of active duty brigades - and I'm generalizing somewhat because I don't read Army Times enough - will go from roughly 30 to 50. And thanks to the new Stryker vehicles, the light units will pack a much heavier punch, while replacing some Abrams/Bradley units with Strykers will gain back some of that strategic mobility lost by converting so much of our army from light to motorized, and from air-mobile light vehicles to armored Humvees.

Only Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff when President Bush was elected, had the courage to challenge the downsizing plans.

General Shinseki was a creature of the institution, and was still sore because he didn't get his way with the Crusader project. Rumsfeld kept the Strykers (good move!) but he got rid of the Crusaders, which was an excellent cost-saver. When war broke out in Afghanistan shortly after the project was killed, the death knell sounded for modern mass artillery as we know it: The Army and Marine units going into Afghanistan elected not to take their artillery with them. Fire support would come from organic mortars and air assets.

I saw it myself: The intimidating 155mm M109 [Corrected from earlier "M 9" --JVS] Self Propelled Howitzers in and around Ramadi, Iraq were largely silent. The enemy would rarely provide them with a suitable target, and the brigade controlling them would take 15-20 minutes to clear counterbattery fires - an eternity in a countermortar fight.

The M 109, while not state of the art, is adequate for the mission, and for the conventional battlefield. I would be hard pressed to come up with a bigger waste of time and resources, given our current battle, than the Crusader.

Rumsfeld perceived this; Shinseki did not. Talk about a "cold-warrior's view of the world!"

Now the Pentagon's new Quadrennial Defense Review shows that Mr. Rumsfeld also fails to understand the nature of protracted counterinsurgency warfare in Iraq and the demands it places on ground forces. The document, amazingly, does not call for enlarging the Army; rather, it increases only our Special Operations forces, by a token 15 percent, maybe 1,500 troops.

General Eaton seems to be looking into a rear-view mirror. Enlarge the Army? For the fight we've already had? Why? When it's cheaper and more effective to enlarge and train and leverage the Iraqi Army, General, which was the goal all along. If this effort is successful, then the question of enlarging the current Army - an expensive luxury for a Republic already besodden with a growing Medicare and Social Security retirement burden - becomes moot.

Enlarging the Army would not shorten the war.

Mr. Rumsfeld has also failed in terms of operations in Iraq. He rejected the so-called Powell Doctrine of overwhelming force and sent just enough tech-enhanced troops to complete what we called Phase III of the war — ground combat against the uniformed Iraqis.

Well, if "just enough tech-enhanced troops" were enough to do the job, then Rumsfeld's faith in technology as a force-mulitiplier turned out to be correct. By the way - this faith was also shared by most of the Army's institutional guys throughout the 1990s, and goes back to the reworking of the AirLand Battle Doctrine during the 1990s to take advantage of the information networking revolution - and we're reaping the benefits with the GPS system - undoubtably one of the biggest military innovations of the last quarter century. Thanks to GPS, we can use a platoon to reliably hit a house in urban Iraq where before we would have to use battalions to sweep entire city blocks.

Again, Rumsfeld was right.

Moreover, the Powell Doctrine is not a "doctrine" at all, but an ideal. It is simply a restatement of one of the nine Clausewitzian "principles of war:" Mass.

Mass is good. But it's not the only principle there is. General Eaton totally ignores the corollary principle to the principle of Mass: Economy of Force.

General Eaton's argument would fall apart with just a few informed questions. Yes, Shinseki did float a 400,000 troop requirement, based on some back-of-the-envelope calculations.

General Shinseki might as well have been on crack. That was never realistic, and it was never necessary. General Eaton: Where do you think we could have gotten the troops from?

The U.S. surged nearly 500,000 people into the Gulf Region in 1990-91. But that was with an Army nearly twice its current size. And that was at the tail end of the longest period of sustained economic growth in the history of the Republic to that time, which is the engine that runs the war machine. Actually, we did it with the remnants of a Cold War army that was about to be dismantled on the alter of the peace dividend. The Kuwait war was the last hurrah of the Cold War Army.

To think the Army was capable of surging that kind of manpower again is to harbor an illusion. Even if the Army could surge 400,000 soldiers into theater, what then? The insurgency would know that that force was unsustainable. And that early in the conflict, there was no way a force that large could be guided by any kind of adequate battlefield intelligence. It would have been a bull in a counterguerrilla china shop.

General Eaton would have us shoot our wad in the first 8 months of the conflict and retire exhausted from the field. Al Qaeda has no such time limitation.

By the way...just how many divisions does General Eaton think the two MSRs leading into Kuwait could support? I've been on one of those roads. Push much more than three or four mechanized divisions downrange at the same time in a high-intensity fight which you have to support from Kuwait and you would have some serious throughput issues along some very target-rich supply lines. (Hint: That's one reason why the 4th ID was supposed to come from the North. But the Sainted Colin Powell couldn't close the deal with the Turks.

He ignored competent advisers like Gen. Anthony Zinni and others who predicted that the Iraqi Army and security forces might melt away after the state apparatus self-destructed, leading to chaos.

A larger conventional Army, as organized and equipped and trained in the spring of 2003 would not have prevented that.

It is all too clear that General Shinseki was right: several hundred thousand men would have made a big difference then, as we began Phase IV, or country reconstruction.

Once again - and I'm tired of the NETTIES ("Not Enough Troops) ducking and dodging this rather obvious question: Several hundred thousand men from where, General?

Donald Rumsfeld demands more than loyalty. He wants fealty. And he has hired men who give it.

Man, the Eaton guy is REALLY bitter about being passed over again for promotion.

I'm glad I worked for Franks, whom Eaton doesn't spare, rather than for Eaton.

I'd work for Franks again in a heartbeat.

Consider the new secretary of the Army, Francis Harvey, who when faced with the compelling need to increase the service's size has refused to do so.

Sorry, General Eaton. They're making more brigades, not more divisions. That means there will be more jobs for colonels. But you're still not getting a division command or a third star.

He is instead relying on the shell game of hiring civilians to do jobs that had previously been done by soldiers,

An outstanding idea in many instances. Why should we waste an MPs time making him or her look white-glove pretty at the gate, when we can hire a civilian for less money? That MP who would otherwise be at the gate can go train for war.

Talk about a "cold war" mentality.

First, President Bush should accept the offer to resign that Mr. Rumsfeld says he has tendered more than once, and hire a man who will listen to and support the magnificent soldiers on the ground. Perhaps a proven Democrat like Senator Joseph Lieberman could repair fissures that have arisen both between parties and between uniformed men and the Pentagon big shots.

Ah, the truth comes out. Let's hire a Democrat for the job. Ok. I think Lieberman would do fairly well. But I have no reason to believe that this man who has never held an executive post in his public life that I know of will prove to be a better executor of policy than Rumsfeld was.

More vital in the longer term, Congress must assert itself. Too much power has shifted to the executive branch, not just in terms of waging war but also in planning the military of the future. Congress should remember it still has the power of the purse; it should call our generals, colonels, captains and sergeants to testify frequently, so that their opinions and needs are known to the men they lead. Then when they are asked if they have enough troops — and no soldier has ever had enough of anything, more is always better — the reply is public.

No, general. More is not always better. After a certain point, "more" will bankrupt the country.

Part of exercising command in an environment of scarcity - and all modern economies are environments of scarcity - is the ability to say "no." Congress is historically congenitally incapable of doing so, while at the same time is it institutionally incapable of acting within the time frame needed by an Army. This is a question which goes back to the Revolutionary War, when George Washington despaired of ever finding victory while the Continental Congress was calling the shots.

Washington worked hard, both publicly and privately, to consolidate command powers in the Chief Executive, and to keep them there, throughout his term as President.

That's where they belong.

Our most important, and sometimes most severe, judges are our subordinates. That is a fact I discovered early in my military career. It is, unfortunately, a lesson Donald Rumsfeld seems incapable of learning.

No. Our most important judge is the soberminded judgement of history.

Patton was despised by his subordinates. Until he brought victories. Stonewall Jackson was despised by his subordinates. Until he brought victories. Lee was revered by his subordinates - and lost.

The Secretary of Defense's job is not to make generals happy. It's to push them to the limit to win our nation's wars.

I am disappointed in this essay by MG Eaton. It should have been a sober reflection, with some useful suggestions for moving forward. Instead, it is a small-minded, bitter, and unseemly character assault. Which would be ok, I guess, if it rested on a foundation of sound logistical and logical reasoning. Alas, Eaton's essay fails in every respect - not just glossing over the economy of force, logistical, and fiscal realities which constrain Rumsfeld and any other decisionmaker, but actually ignore these constraints altogether.

A sorry effort from someone who should know better.

I wonder if Eaton was the "official" who blamed Wolfowitz for holding up funding for Iraqi Army barracks in this article?

Splash, out


Sunday, March 19, 2006

New York Times, WaPo Just Not Paying Attention 
The eagle-eyed Greyhawk catches both newspapers with their pants down.

If there was ever any doubt ... 
That the European model of democratic socialism is an utter and complete failure, let those doubts be hereby dispelled:

Youth joblessness stands at 23 percent nationwide, and 50 percent among impoverished young people. The lack of work was blamed in part for the riots that shook France's depressed suburbs during the fall.

Splash, out


Saddam Supported Al Qaeda in the Philippines 
Stephen Hayes is reporting that recently declassified documents establish that Saddam was providing material support to the Al Qaeda-linked terrorist, kidnapper, and murderer Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines, even as Abu Sayyaf was conducting operations against Americans.

Hat tip: Powerline

"Heard in the 'Sphere" 
"So let's put this in perspective. The major news outlets will gleefully write a page 1 story about some guy claiming to be "the hooded man" based on claims from human rights organization (which is a euphemism for anti-US groups) but the release of documents about links between OBL and Iraq "don't have enough evidentiary value"?"

--Commenter on Captain's Quarters

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Reporter Math 
The prosecution rests, your honor.

The New York Times has egg on its face, again. 
Turns out the guy they thought was the 'hooded man' of Abu Gharaib fame - and about whom they ran a breathless front-page story (The Times just will not let that story die!) - was not that man at all.

Why did the Times fall into that trap?

Because according to the Times, "reporting" consists of calling a representative from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, but not bothering to be "diligent" about seeking comment from the military.

Indeed, they could have searched their own pages, or the original documents from the investigation, and found that military investigators had named another man.

Which sort of lends a delicious little twist to the story: When the Times asked the DoD to "confirm or deny" the identity of the man in the photo, the DoD declined to comment. Did the Defense Department realize that the Times was barking up the wrong tree? Did they issue a "no comment" knowing the Times would go with what they got from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, "lawyers for the detainees," and the rest of the usual gang of terrorist sympathizers they usually rely upon, and run the flawed story on its front page.

And the Times, true to form, walked right into it. Brilliant!

Note to Times editors: Next time the Pentagon refuses to "confirm or deny" a story that has no OPSEC considerations to speak of, assume you're being set up, and then go back to the drawing board.

Splash, out


The Iraqi Army develops a sting 
Our brothers in the Iraqi Defense Force appear to have successfully employed the most successful and potent anti-IED force on the battlefield: The trained marksman.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Another media lie 
As a postscript to the below story, CBS's Jim Axelrod is propogating another lie: The notion that "no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq."

US Forces have happened upon at least two chemical IEDs in the spring and summer of 2004.

World Net Daily reports that former UN Weapons inspector Charles Duelfer says we've found "dozens."

Polish forces in Iraq found about 17 chemical shells in 2004.

An additional dozen or so chemical 122mm rockets were uncovered in Baghdad immediately before the war. Saddam Hussein was supposed to have destroyed them years before.

And thanks to Newsbusters.org, we see that Axelrod has a long and sordid past.

Feel Lucky, Punk? 
Well? Do ya?

Air Assault 
The press is accusing the military of "overselling" Operation Swarmer. The military is accusing the press corps of overblowing the operation. Who's right?

Well, we know the press is simply incompetent. And this case looks like no exception to me. But there's blame to go round on both sides.

It's a 101st Infantry Division (Air Assault) operation. The words "Air Assault" in parentheses simply means that the division's equipment and organization is tailored to support helicopter-borne operations (The 101st is no longer an "Airborne" division. The only division-sized element that is still "Airborne" is the 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Bragg).

You know the old saw "if all you've got is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail?" Well, in a unit like the 101st, everything starts to look like an LZ. All their soldiers go through Air Assault school (where you learn how to sling load supplies, hook up vehicles to helicopters, and rappel out of helicopters, and march around and yell a lot, for which they are, on successful completion, granted authorization to wear the coveted "Bullwinkle Badge..."

...so named for obvious reasons.

Upon graduation, the typical 101st division soldier gets paid to obsess over Air Assault missions for the next 3 years he's stationed at Fort Campbell. They love it. It's all they think about.

My unit, the 53rd Infantry Brigade, is technically Air Assault configured, too, as is my former unit, the 29th Infantry Brigade in Hawaii and now California. No, in four years with the 53rd and three years with the 29th, I never once saw the inside of a helicopter. But the 101st will actually give their troops a helicopter ride on a regular basis, and they love it.

Air Assaults are almost never done against a hot LZ. Modern anti-air missiles and the widespread existence of .50 caliber machine guns pretty much make any hot LZ a near suicide mission against serious resistance, as helicopters are especially vulnerable while disgorging troops and equipment into a clearing. Even in Viet Nam, you occasionaly had a hot LZ, but you didn't do it on purpose. It was better to land in a cold LZ a mile or two away and march into the fight, or even better, set up a blocking position through which you hope to force the enemy to retreat.

But any airmobile operation is deemed an "air assault." You can "air assault" into the PX parking lot on Fort Campbell and it's still an air assault.

And so the 101st Division press office - being themselves creatures of the 101st, and inflated with self-importance, believes that the simple fact that they are conducting "The Largest Air Assault Since X" is for some reason a big deal - as if anyone should really care, when what it really means, most likely, is the spare parts truck arrived so they can finally get more than a dozen helicopters into the air at the same time.

really, what probably happened is someone in the 101st J-3 shop probably said, half-asleep over bad coffee, "You know, it's been a while since we've done a major air assault. We should probably conduct some refresher training."

And the Baghdad press offices, being themselves creatures of the clueless media, see the words "LARGEST AIR ASSAULT SINCE X" and they've got visions of Robert Duvall and Ride of the Valkerie in Apocalypse Now.

And so the press release goes out. And the press overreads it. But what it really is is a division staff flexing its air assault muscles and keeping them limber, and exercising the doctrine so they don't get to rusty, just like they used to do at Fort Campbell. Really, there aren't a lot of brigade-sized terror training camps for them to move against at the same time, so that any single piece of intel warrants a division-sized operation. This is really striking an egg with a sledgehammer.

Which is, once your base is secure, the best way to conduct offensive operations.

But the Division PAO got the division logo into the nightly news, which of course is far more important than informing the public. And so there will be much back slapping throughout the 101st.

Splash, out


(P.S., The 101st is truly a terrific outfit (even if they did trash the Baghdad Airport in April and May of 03), I've got good friends in that division, and I even plagiarized my own HHC Tactical SOP from the Rakkasans.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Another Hooah-Don in the making 
Monty, a regular poster at Ace of Spades, is enlisting as an infantryman in the Minnesota National Guard -- at the age of 38.

I am going in with the understanding that I may -- and probably will -- get deployed to a war-zone somewhere. I may be injured, or even killed. I do this of my own free will, gratefully, and glad that I can (finally) be of service to the country which has given me so much.

'Ere's a pint to ye, Monty!

And as for anyone in Florida, my unit's still hiring - across a variety of MOS's. What are you waiting for? Mount up and ride to the sound of the guns! (At least one weekend a month and two weeks a year, anyway.)

Splash, out


Some Dutch promoter has organized a soccer game between gays and Muslims.

Man, heads are gonna roll.

Haig is getting it wrong 
Patrick Lasswell says that Al Haig fails to grasp the nature of protracted conflict.

K-RAQ'S Greatest Hits of the Iraq War 
Who can forget these terrific songs?

My Schawarma
Take This Hijab and Shove It
Lighter Shade of Veil
Sand Gets In Your Eyes
Eensey Weenie Teeny Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Exploding Vest
Mosque Rat Ramble
I Blow to Pieces
Little Old Lady from Habaniyah
Blow the "A" Train
I Show Only My Eyes For You
Feith, Hope, Love
You Can Call Me Al Qaeda
Blow Up Little Susie
The Condi-man
Flashburn-What A Feeling
Raindrops Keep Fallin' on the Dead
My Shell, My Belle
On the Sunni Side of the Street

Order now and you'll be grooving to songs by these unforgettable artists!

Booker T. and the Medium M.G.s
John Lee Hookah
Abu's Traveler
The Talking Headless
Saddam Yankees
The Foo-Gas Fighters
Cannonball Adderly

Call now! Operators are standing by!

Eeyore the Editor Strikes again 
Fact: The economy created 243,000 new jobs in February - a remarkably strong showing.

Fact: The Dow Industrial Average greeted the news by rising 104 points the day they made the announcement.

The New York Times' take:

The Times began downplaying the good news in the first sentence of its March 11 article, stating the report was “igniting concerns” on Wall Street “that higher wages could fuel inflation.”

Read the whole thing. It's maddening.

Splash, out


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Well, Gee....imagine that! 
The Shia finally take off the kid gloves and get serious about putting some bullets in the brains of known Sunni bad guys, and while the New York Times and other outlets screech incoherently that Iraq is edging closer to "all-out civil war," the actual number of insurgent attacks is down 7% this week.

Splash, out


P.S. Hey New York Times: regarding this paragraph:

In one measure of concern, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld hinted in Washington that troop levels might be increased temporarily, to coincide with the arrival of Muslim pilgrims in coming weeks.

Why is that "a measure of concern?" We do that every pilgrimage season as a matter of course! Sounds like prudence to me. In 2004 the first Sadr uprising coincided with the Shiite Arbaeen pilgrimage to Najaf. And last year more than 1000 pilgrims perished in a tragic stampede during the same period.

In 2004, the U.S., if you will recall, was constrained from attacking some Shia areas right away because the streets were clogged with pilgrims, and General Sanchez quite wisely waited until the innocent pilgrims cleared out of the area before putting the screws to the Sadr Brigades.

Splash, out


Al Qaeda being disemboweled in Bangladesh 
Bill Roggio has the details.

From a reader... 
Leaving aside the general semi-literacy of most American
"educators", there is precedent for the use of "certificate"
as a verb.

This quote is from Rudyard Kipling's story _Bread Cast
Upon the Waters_:

Then the engineers' mess - where the oilcloth tables
are - joyfully took him to its bosom, and for the rest
of that voyage the company was richer by the unpaid
services of a highly certificated engineer.

The story, which like just about all of Kipling is worth
reading, is to be found in _The Day's Work_.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Another surrender monkey is born 
Gary Hart, a man for whom I once had a lot of respect, as he was one of the country's best thinkers on the ties that bind a Republic together with his army, has officially lost his mind.

What has gotten into Democrats to make them so quick to take counsel of their fears? To embrace hopelessness and defeatism.

We should be concentrating on finding Al Qaeda and Ba'athist remnants where they live, putting them on the run, and killing them. They do not have the combat power to accomplish what Gary Hart fears - the annihilation of the US Army in Iraq.

Gary Hart's grasp of history is shaky - his analogy with Napoleon's retreat from Russia simply absurd.

For instance:

*There was no scorched earth policy to speak of in Iraq.
* Even if there was, US forces are not relying on local foraging for subsistance, like Napoleonic armies. The US is fully capable of supplying itself from outside the country.
* Unlike Napoleon, US troops don't have to walk, and are never more than two-and-a-half days drive from Kuwait.
* US forces fought their way into Iraq - they are perfectly capable of fighting their way out. But the Iraqis are less capable of stopping them.
* Napoleon did not have unchallenged Air Supremacy.
* The weather in Iraq does not hamper mobility in any way, unlike Russia.
* Napoleon's army was destroyed by the elements far more than by General Kutuzov. But hot, dry weather favors the U.S.
* Napoleon's army was uniformly despised by the Russian populace, which participated in the scorched earth strategy, which is essentially a logistic strategy. U.S. forces are welcome in most of the country. Iraqis are not going to destroy entire cities to spite the U.S.
* Napoleon was successful at Borodino like Grant was successful in the Wilderness. That is, not very. He just kept going.
* Napoleon lost half the remainder of his army in a single river crossing. That's not going to happen in Iraq. The US Army can carry its own bridges, if need be.
* Kutuzov was a beloved figure who united the country. Zarqawi is despised throughout Iraq.
* Iraq is not Russia.
* Sanchez is not Napoleon.

And Gary Hart needs a Patton-like slap across the face.

It ought to be Zarqawi worried about annihilation. Not us.

Jeez, what a loser.

Splash, out


Fifth Column Alert 
On February 12th, the scumnuts at the Los Angeles Times published operational and technical details about a new device designed to defeat the enemy's roadside bombs.

Within five days of that publication, using details from the article, the enemy had published a technical advisory of his own training his insurgents on how to defeat the countermeasure.

There will be a lot of press coverage on the increased efforts to defeat IEDs, and on the vastly increased budget for so doing. Let's see how many reporters mention the LA Times' carelessness, or if the code of omerta prevails among journalists.

Publishing classified information is illegal. The Pentagon Papers precedent upheld that concept. When will the Administration put some of these editors up on charges?

When will the families of those killed or injured by roadside bombs sue the publishers for contributory negligence?

Hat tip: Cold Fury

The indespensable Iraqi stringer 
Ralph Peters dissects press disinformation coming out of Iraq, and skewers the media, closing with this:

The dangerous nature of journalism in Iraq has created a new phenomenon, the all-powerful local stringer. Unwilling to stray too far from secure facilities and their bodyguards, reporters rely heavily on Iraqi assistance in gathering news. And Iraqi stringers, some of whom have their own political agendas, long ago figured out that Americans prefer bad news to good news. The Iraqi leg-men earn blood money for unbalanced, often-hysterical claims, while the Journalism 101 rule of seeking confirmation from a second source has been discarded in the pathetic race for headlines.

To enhance their own indispensability, Iraqi stringers exaggerate the danger to Western journalists (which is real enough, but need not paralyze a determined reporter). Dependence on the unverified reports of local hires has become the dirty secret of semi-celebrity journalism in Iraq as Western journalists succumb to a version of Stockholm Syndrome in which they convince themselves that their Iraqi sources and stringers are exceptions to every failing and foible in the Middle East. The mindset resembles the old colonialist conviction that, while other "boys" might lie and steal, our house-boy's a faithful servant.

The result is that we're being told what Iraqi stringers know they can sell and what distant editors crave, not what's actually happening.

While there are and have been any number of courageous, ethical journalists reporting from Iraq, others know little more of the reality of the streets than you do. They report what they are told by others, not what they have seen themselves. The result is a distorted, unfair and disheartening picture of a country struggling to rise above its miserable history.

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