Sunday, April 30, 2006

Sorry, Chief!!!! 

Missed him by that much!!!

Press rollback and destructive technology 
It occurs to me that what the pressies think of as "rollback" is really simply the natural consequence of "Google" becoming a household name.

It used to be that primary sources were not reasonably available on the Web. Even if you were inclined to do some digging, you had to go to the library. And even then, only a few urban libraries and university libraries had full collections.

So when some reporter reported X, and X was false, the news consumer had no recourse, no way of efficiently fact-checking the reporter.

Reporters, on the other hand, often had access to clipping services (old school) and more recently, the Nexis/Lexis or Factiva databases, or their own in-house research departments to track things down. As a result, newsies got used to being thought of as authorities. As credible.

Unfortunately, there's little evidence to suggest that such a reputation was EVER warranted. With the advent of Google, the playing field was suddenly leveled.

Lexis/Nexis catches some things that Google doesn't (Dave McLemore came over to my blog recently with some stories on a wounded female veteran that I had missed without Lexis/Nexis, and quite rightly busted me for it). But Google is more than sufficient for the consumer to reasonably evaluate lots of claims made by the ink-stained wretches in the high-gloss media.

And what do we find?

Well, we uncovered a bunch of serial plagiarists (from the left and the right), and loads of just plain awful reporting.

It is my opinion as an expert on operations at the small unit level and as one with first hand knowledge of much of the inner game of operations in a small little corner of Iraq called Ramadi in 2003 - 2004, that reporting on the Iraq war is particularly bad. But journalists haven't exactly distinguished themselves on the financial journalism front, either (witness Howie Kurtz's book, "The Fortunetellers").

But it is only now, when the masses have access to Google, and the masses have an efficient way to conduct computer-based hobby reporting AND have an efficient way to distribute their findings to a small group of influential people (blog readers), that it becomes clear that the media emperors had no clothes.

And now that everyone is pointing and laughing - and deserting news outlets, sending stock prices plummeting even during the broad equity bull market of recent months (which means that NY Times stock price declines cannot be explained by phenomena external to the NY Times and media sector specifically), mediacs are feeling the heat.

Except they're too thick-skulled, thin-skinned, and full of themselves to accept responsibility for strengthening their product, and instead blame everyone else for "rollback."


The President does not have the power to lessen the importance and relevance of the news media.

Only two entities have the power to do so: The news media themselves, and their customer, the citizenry.

(Crossposted at PressThink)

(See also this post from Tapscott)

Saturday, April 29, 2006

More proof that educrats are dumbasses ... 
One out of every seven graduating seniors - 75 students in all - are named "valedictorian" at Westview High School in Beaverton, OR.(No, that's not Beaverview High in Weston, you perv! And yes, Beaverton's a really nice place, but not quite for the reason you would think from its name.)

Yes, the REAL valedictorian in my graduating class, and a former schoolteacher, recently quit the Oregon Public School System in disgust. (Maybe that very district! I know she lives in Beaverton.)

The reporter does a great job of digging into the consequences of valedictory inflation:

The rising number of valedictorians is not lost on college admission officers.

"All of us acknowledge that what valedictorian means is different now than it was 20 years ago," said Martha Pitts, assistant vice president for enrollment at the University of Oregon. Pitts said UO used to offer a scholarship to every high school valedictorian but ended the practice years ago because there were simply too many.

That's right, you dolts. By watering down the achievement, you screwed over your REAL valedictorians.

And here's a district "executive administrator, Rick Miller.

"We're talking about many different things, including, is there a need for a valedictorian? It's kind of an old vestige," Miller said.

Spoken like a true product of the education establishment. Your commitment to mediocrity is touching.

I also like the reporter's deft and wry wit, in selecting these words as the closer for her article:

In a perfect world, we would have all students achieving at that level," said Mike Osborne, Beaverton School Board chairman. "They would all be valedictorians."

Isn't that special?

Splash, out


And now a word from the Chief of Staff ... 
General Peter Shoomaker, (retired), delivers a stinging rebuke to the generals who called for Rumsfeld's recommendation:

“I’ve been in the Army 37 years, and I have worked for some tough people,” Schoomaker said. “We’re soldiers. We’re warriors. I’ve never been intimidated in my life, by anybody.”

Schoomaker said that he “offers a lot of military advice, and I have never not been heard.”

He noted, however, “that I can’t say I’ve always been agreed with.”

But no military professional should fool himself into thinking that “offering advice” and “having it taken all the time” are one and the same thing, Schoomaker said.

As top military leaders, “We are responsible to provide independent advice” to civilian leaders, who in turn have the Constitutional authority to make strategic decisions, he said.

“That doesn’t mean they agree with our advice all the time.”

And if a military officer’s advice is not taken, Schoomaker said, “You can’t run around here with your nerves on your sleeve, [protesting] every time someone does something you don’t agree with.”

Military professionals who respect the chain of command must learn when the time has come to accept that, having had their say, they must step back and allow higher-ups to make the final call, he said.

Instead, “I think you end up at a point [saying to yourself] look, is it legal, is it moral, is it ethical, can I live with the consequences?” Schoomaker said.

“If you can’t, you’ve got a responsibility to do something about it, and do it while you’re in the position,” Schoomaker said.

“But if you’ve gone through all of that, and lived with it, I’m not quite sure what we’re doing here cleansing our consciences afterwards,” Schoomaker said.

“I think it’s inappropriate.”

In fairness, I don't think this rebuke can be applied to General Zinni, who actually retired well before 9/11. And as Chief of Staff, Shoomaker's a bigger dog than any of them.

Splash, out


Thursday, April 27, 2006

From a Reader... 
Something nobody ever talks about is that history has alreadyanswered the question of whether or not more troops would have stoppedthe violence in Iraq or made it worse. All you have to do is look atthe last time a great western power fought a protracted Musliminsurgency, which is the Algerian War of Independence (1954-1962).

The French had 500,000 troops in Algeria, which at that time had apopulation of 9 million. If you scale the troop-to-citizen ratio up tomatch Iraq's population, that would mean we'd need 1.5 million troops inIraq. We currently have about 138,000.

The French lost 18,000 troops killed over an eight-year period, or2250 a year. Again, if you scale it up to Iraq ratios, it would be 6750a year. We're losing about 700-odd a year, and that figure is falling.

Between 350,000 and 1.5 million Algerians were killed. To scalethose figures up to Iraq, multiply them by three. So far in Iraq, about32,000 have died, including terrorists.

The French used a policy of collective punishment in Algeria: If avillage harbored insurgents, the village was bombed from the air or hitwith artillery strikes. The French also tortured suspects to death,rounded people up by the thousands and shot them without trial, and putabout 2 million in concentration camps. And they still lost the war.

With less than 10% of the troops (proportionally) that France had in Algeria, and with a policy not of conquest but of partnership, look whatwe've accomplished. More importantly, look at the slaughter we'veavoided.

Something to thank Rumsfeld for.

Thanks for the laughs 
Not sure where they came over from, but I'd like to thank everyone who came over to this thread and called me a Chickenhawk.

To wit:

You, sir, are a true chickenhawk. The living breathing embodiment of privilege without principles, logic without sincerity, rhetoric without wisdom.

You have no sense of what it means to fight and, therefore, your very claims of needing a war are base out of dangerous ignorance.

The guy who sent me a link to a recruiting website was especially funny.

Why don't you come on down and call me a chickenhawk personally? Meet me at my unit. You'll know you're on the right side of the building from all the combat infantry badges on soldiers' chests and the shrapnel scars visible on a few of them.

Best laugh I've had in a long time.

Of course, when you simply don't have even a basic factual grasp of the issues themselves, and don't even understand the post, I guess the ad hominem attacks are about the only round you have to put in the breech.

(The guy who posted anonymously at 11:05pm, I don't mean you. You rock. Here's what you wrote:

The problem we face in any military option is that we don't know where and what to bomb. Recall that after the Israeli bombing of its nuclear sites in the 80s, Iran has spread out and buried large parts of its military and nuclear infrastructure, we know not where.

If that were not enough, we learned in Iraq that all the smart bombs in the world are only so effective against masses of people willing to throw their bodies at us. And Iraq is considerably smaller than Iran.

We're overstretched in Iraq, and don't have the resources to attack Iran unless we reinstate the draft. What if, after bombing Iran, the regime fails? Who will secure THAT country?

So it's back to diplomacy, for better or for worse. Note that we currently have good relations with Pakistan, another nuclear proliferator, and of course India.

Far better to make the public pretense of dealing diplomatically with Iran while supporting dissidents and agitators behind the scenes.

You are quite correct that some of Iran's nuclear program may be underground, and we don't know where it is. How much is anybody's guess. We know that a number of key sites are above ground, though, and we know where they are because the IAEA has visited them.

These sites will have a lot of capital invested in them, and a lot of skilled technicians. Iran's program can be set back substantially by hitting them, and hitting them hard. But you are correct - if Iran is willing to go through the time and expense of recocking their whole program and putting it underground, the task becomes much more difficult, and cannot be reliably achieved using air power alone.

Which is why I suggested also targeting Iranian industry as well.

Iran has a parliament. They have local rulers with local interests and local constituencies. They have a lot of practical people, even if their current president is a nutcase (though the nuclear program seems to predate him.)

These people do not want to see industry in their provinces destroyed. They do not want to see Iran's ability to export oil destroyed. (Iran's economy is not exactly diverse. It can be ground to a halt with the crippling of a relatively few and finite number of key sites.

If the regime in Iran falls, the risk to the United States is that Iran will become a haven for terrorists. Except, unfortunately, it already is. It will just not be a source of nuclear technology and material for them.

I am not advocating an occupation. I see this as primarily a Navy/Air Force fight, and the Navy and Air Force have plenty of reserve capacity. The Iranians are civicly organized enough to take care of themselves - even if the regime falls.

You are right that we have good relations with Pakistan and India. Pakistan, of course, is a marriage of convenience - we needed Pakistan to get at the Taliban. And Pakistan is not likely to transfer nuclear technology to rogue states when Pakistan itself - and particularly Musharraf - is a prime target for the terrorists they support.

India also has nukes, but they are a far more trustworthy government than any other in the region. Likewise, they are frequent targets of terrorist attack. They are unlikely to transfer nuclear technology to Sudan (Which remains Al Qaeda's most friendly government still in power) when that technology could be turned upon them in blackmail or outright strikes in Kashmir.

We also know why India and Pakistan developed nukes: To deter each other. I don't blame them. Why is Iran developing nukes? It was a reasonable idea while Saddam Hussein was in power. Iran had no choice but to work on a nuclear program, since Saddam was doing the same thing.

(I think anyone who argues for a policy of diplomacy MUST concede that had we not taken down Saddam, the Iranians would NEVER have negotiated away their nuclear program.)

So why does Iran need nukes now? To protect themselves from Qatar? Hardly.

The only reason Iran would need nuclear weapons now is to deter or blackmail the United States and the other western powers. That is their only practical use. So why would it be in the United States' best interests to allow this?

To compare Iran with India and Pakistan is folly. Iran is in a class by itself. Any nation which is a known supporter of terrorism abroad that has pledged to provide nuclear technology to Sudan has essentially already declared war on vital American interests.

If that were not enough, we learned in Iraq that all the smart bombs in the world are only so effective against masses of people willing to throw their bodies at us.

Actually, they are extremely effective against such people. So are claymores. But since I'm not advocating an occupation, they wouldn't have much of a target. They'd have to go abroad.

They could go into Iran - which would be the fastest way I can think of to get the Sunnis on our side.

We have plenty of capacity to attack Iran - and even invade it, if need be - though probably not on the jump. It would take mechanized forces which have mostly traded in their Bradleys for Humvees in Iraq.

We cannot, however, SUSTAIN the occupation, or control the countryside once we do...and that is a cause for caution, and an argument for continuing the path of diplomacy.

Far better to make the public pretense of dealing diplomatically with Iran while supporting dissidents and agitators behind the scenes.

Why is that better? When has that ever worked? How long have we been doing that with Iran already? How long have we been doing that with China? Cuba? How long did we do that with the former Soviet Union? With Iraq? None of it worked. That's not a strategy to succeed. That's wishful thinking. That's something you HOPE will succeed - but you have no reason to believe it will.

You can't even say the risk is lower. Because continuing down that path almost guarantees a nuclear Iran AND a nuclear Sudan. And then what will you do?

And if Sudan has a nuclear weapon - or even nuclear knowhow, Chad will want one, too, etc. etc. Chad will have little choice but to pursue nuclear weapons, since Sudan has already attacked them several times.

Furthermore, we know that Sudan has been a long time provider of support and succor to Osama Bin Ladin and Al Qaeda, and may well have been the nexus of Saddam's relationship with Al Qaeda anyway.

Once Iran has a nuclear weapon, then if the US must intervene in the middle east again, how will we support the effort? From what port? Answer: We can't. We cannot concentrate so much material and manpower in any port of debarkation whatsoever.

Qatar can be bullied into submission. So can Kuwait and the UAE.

The other Arab States know this. They may pay lip service to their own people, but do not underestimate the fear and loathing Arabs have towards Iranians.

Anonymous, you are right to have offered an alternative strategery - and you are alone among the 30 commenters who have done so. But how will your strategy of continuing to support dissidents make it in Iran's best interests to scuttle its nuclear ambitions? How will you actually get your wish to come true - particularly in light of the fact that a nuclear Iran is overwhelmingly popular with the Iranian people?

That said, at present, I do see an alternative course of action for the moment, short of war: Quarantine all shipping in and out of Iran.

This will require the Russians to shut down their pipleline for maximum effect. They might go with it, though, if they know that the alternative is for the US to attack Iran outright.

Robert Lewis:

Uh, with whom do you intend to invade?

Who said I advocate an invasion?

Where will the troops come from?

Diego Garcia, Al Asad, Guam, and the carrier groups.

Have you looked at the retention rates for lower grade officers?

Yes. They're better than they were under Bill Clinton.

Are you volunteering to lead troops into Iran,

Yes, if that's where the President wants me.

where, during the Iraq-Iran war they sent waves of suicide shock troops against US supplied Iraqi weaponry?

Doesn't bother me. Actually, I'd much rather fight them that way than dodge IEDs. I'd much rather fight suicide troops than smart ones who know when to disengage. If you think those tactics will be effective against Americans, you don't know anything.

They didn't work in the Pacific Theater either - and the level of firepower an infantry platoon can bring to bear on any kind of mass attack now dwarfs anything considered by a WWII or Korea infantryman by a factor of 100 or more.

If Iran uses poison gas, then that will be the end of their country as we know it. They will rapidly lose the capability to use chemical weapons ever again.

Dave Johnson:

But the Iraqi Shiites are aligned with Iran.

No, I believe that Iran is trying to align itself with the Iraqi Shias. But Iraqis - even Shias - loathe and despise Iran and are deeply suspicious of Iran. Iran is lending material support to some of the Shia militias as it stands as part of its efforts to ingratiate itself with them - and to expand its influence. But there is no love lost between Sistani, Iraqi Shias in general, and the Iranians.


Oh, I dunno, why don't we do something really radical like overthrow democracy and set the stage for tyranny there for decades. And for good measure, set up a brutal 'secret police force' for the dictator.

Oh, wait, we did that, 1953-1979

What on earth do the New York Yankees have to do with this?

Seriously - your point is a red herring. You have to aim your arguments before opening your mouth. Nothing we did in 1953 has a shred of relevance to the decision before us now. Oh, and there is no risk whatsoever that we'll be overthrowing a democracy, so what's your point?

Regarding 140 dollar/barrel oil prices - You would probably see a further spike in oil prices if there is war - or imminent war between Iran and the U.S. Once that conflagration is over, though, that price will likely drop down to prewar levels - just as it did in 2003 and 1990. Everyone said there would be an oil crisis, and that flatly didn't happen - though the brief spike in 90 contributed to a recession here.

If Iran becomes a nuclear power, though, the petroleum markets would have to build a permanent risk premium in oil prices - to account for the risk that Iran would blackmail the world's oil markets, or use its nuclear weapons to force other countries to lower production. The United States Navy's mission is to ensure open sea lanes enable the free flow of commodities - including oil - at market prices. If the US can no longer do that in the region, because of the deterrent effect of a nuclear Iran, then that risk premium would have to be priced into every barrel of oil in the world.

In short, allowing a nuclear Iran will not mitigate higher oil prices, in the long run. Rather, it will take a temporary market anomaly - demand exceeding suppply - and make it permanent.


You might want to do some reading about what "fascist" means. I'm sorry your professors didn't educate your dim little brain. It doesn't mean what you think it means. For example, there is nothing "fascist" about advocating the prevention of Iran from becoming a nuclear power. That is a legitimate policy goal for a socialist, democratic, Marxist, or right wing power equally. Calling me a "fascist" would do nothing to explain my position or the reasons behind it.

Sorry, but your frankly ignorant of the term.

Anonymous: 6:26AM -- Before you call someone else "asinine," you might want to learn to spell it correctly, friend.

Dr. Magoo:

The bigger point is one that robert lewis brought up earlier - we don't have an army right now with which to fight a new war.

Doctor Magoo, there is this thing we call a "Navy." And also this other thing we call an "Air Force."

You might look into it some time.

and military recruiting has been well short of its goals for many months.

False. Your mouth is writing checks your fund of information can't cash. For example, the Army exceeded its recruiting goals for seven months consecutively through December of last year. And every single one of the Army's 10 divisions exceeded its reenlistment goal for the fiscal year 2005. The Army did miss its ANNUAL target for first time enlistments because of shortfalls early in 2005. The Army exceeded its goals consistently throughout the later half of 2005. Haven't seen numbers for 2006 yet, but anecdotally, they look good in my corner of the Army. I've got so many new soldiers coming in they've swamped my supply sergeant's ability to issue new gear! I've never seen anything like it! I had to detail one of my best young sergeants to working with these troops - now fully a platoon in strength - before they ship to basic and AIT!

As problems go, I've had worse.

Anonymous: 11:42

Sue, let's go into Iran. While we are at it, I suggest wiping off the face of the earth Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Lybia and Syria, on the way to Iran.

Why? Are Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, and Syria pledging to turn Sudan into a nuclear power?

Saudi Arabia, the country that gave us 17 of the 9/11 terrorists, should be left alone,

Geez, I'm tired of seeing this dumbass argument come up again and again. Saudi Arabia is at war with Al Qaeda and has killed hundreds of them, and managed to round up 90% of the Al Qaida leadership in their country (as they existed on 9/11/01.)

There are a lot of nasty Wahabbist influences in Saudi Arabia. But the Saudi government is an important partner in the war on terror. When you say these things, you are essentially saying "screw you" to the Saudi Security forces which have been engaged in desperate running gun battles in the streets of Riyadh with Al Qaeda for years.

You're also showing your ignorance of how the War on Terror played out. If 9/11 changed everything for the United States, the bombing of the embassy housing complex in Riyadh in November 2003 changed everything for the Saudis.

By the way - calling me "too dumb to finish high school" isn't the smartest thing in the world to do if you can't even spell "Libya."

Oh, and don't call me "Sue."

Splash, out


Life in Education School 
I was in a graduate education program in Hawaii for a while, back in 1993 or so.

90% waste of time and money. Eventually, I stopped even buying the books, and still got A's.

The two exceptions were a class on special education, which was actually quite good, and a class on education philosophy, which was well-sourced, with a lot of reading. But that guy had a real degree: Guitar performance from Berklee College of Music.

We hit it off right away.

For the rest of them, it was basically either nonsense, muddle-headed pap, with a few decent classroom techniques worked in between.

The fad was heterogenous grouping, and the people were hostile to anything that smacked of tracking.

I was an AP student in high school, and if it wasn't for tracking, I would not have bothered with school at all.

So right away the School of Ed and I didn't see eye to eye. It wasn't exactly because their position had much foundation in research at the time, either. It was a bunch of people who were mediocre students themselves who later became college profs in the only field mediocre students could get A's in graduate level courses wanting to feel good about themselves.

I told them if I were an AP or "gifted and talented" student, it wasn't my job to be a surrogate teacher. And they sure as hell didn't want me to be a role model!

My position was that even if all classes were heterogenous, students would track themselves, anyway.

I never got the credential, because I couldn't figure out how to teach for free for months and still cover rent in Hawaii. I did teach on the payroll for a semester as an emergency hire, and enjoyed it. High School Band. Yes, I had no life.

But I couldn't get student teaching credit for it, so I left the education system for good.

The weird thing was, in those days, I was a mainstream Democrat! Not a conservative at all! And I was still put off by those people.

No wonder we have a shortage of good teachers. Sharp, smart people with a lot on the ball and who have some other options don't want to waste their time with those clowns. And so they don't.

Teaching is tough.

Teaching is challenging.

Why not make education school just as challenging?

And why not make a concerted effort to recruit strong people from other careers? Not just pay lip service to it and still make them take these stupid classes. Get them into the classroom quickly, and support them right away.

After one full-time four-week boot camp during the summer where they get a crash course in ADA, administration, and a few other musts, get them into the classroom early. These people would be successful, serious people transitioning from other careers. Have them teach a half day and take classes AT THE SCHOOL, NOT IN A UNIVERSITY with a master teacher another half day. After a semester or so, you should get a basic credential. Pay them in the meantime.

Believe me, if you made it simple, and didn't waste peoples' time, you'd get a lot of takers. From strong candidates.

For anyone who wants a Masters, it ought to be as challenging as any other Masters program. Why should we pay people thousands of dollars extra for the rest of their careers for a simple ticket-punch? Make them rise to the occasion. Most will. The ones who can't don't warrant the extra money anyway.

Splash, out


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Wonder why teacher education is so f*cked up? 
Meet Dr. Peter McLaren, professor, Graduate School of Education, University of California, Los Angeles.

Yeah, come on down and teach at the University of Miami and post that shite, punk.

He teaches a course on Marxist Humanism. Imagine that.

Here's Marxist Humanism for you:

I don't blame McLaren, though. He's already a morally-blinkered retard.

I blame the dimwits who hired someone like this who should know better, and decided they should grant graduate level credits to our future educators who sit through his class.

Splash, out


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Yom HaShoah 

Today is Yom HaShoah ... Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Atlas Shrugs has a lot to say about it. I'm afraid I can't find the words. I'm posting some images instead, and maybe something will come to me as I go through them.

I never knew the backstory to this well-known photograph. But it's haunted me ever since I was very small.

One thing I've noticed over the years is that the casual Holocaust historian - people who see a few movies, or perhaps have read Elie Wiesel, have really been sheltered from the enormity of the Nazi crimes. For example, this image only hints at the huge amount of sexual violence perpetrated upon women and girls during the Holocaust. Most people don't have a clue - not only were Holocaust victims dehumanized and slaughtered. That wasn't enough. The Nazis actually recruited gangs of sexual predators - known rapists and sadists doing jail time in Germany and elsewhere - to terrorize the inhabitants of the Warsaw Ghetto, for instance.

They were not just industrialized murderers. They were also sadists of the most inhuman kind.

This is an artist's impressionist rendering of Bergen-Belsen, the concentration camp where Anne Frank perished, most probably of typhus. The end came for her just days after her beloved sister, Margot, passed away, also from typhus. Had Anne lived just another few weeks she would have been liberated, though many died even after liberation.

The sign on this painting is difficult to read - but it likely is identical to the title of this watercolor: Haben Sie Meinen Bruder Gesehen? (Have you seen my brother?)

This image needs no explanation.

I wish I could say that this painting, entitled "Two Women," was an artist's exaggeration.

It isn't.

Of all the photographs of the Holocaust I've seen, this one is one of the most personal and iconic:

The woman, whose face is not visible, is everywoman. Her child everychild. I hope the child was too young to fully understand what was about to happen. Somehow I doubt it. But to the very end, this mother has her body between the rifles and her child.

So that's why I went to war willingly. To quote one of our founding fathers, I have sworn eternal enmity against every form of tyrrany over the mind of man.

And when our leaders pay lip service to "never again," they'd better mean it.


That's it 
I was agnostic until now - actually I preached caution. But now I see no reasonable alternative.

It is time to take down Iran.

Any military move must be so devastating in its impact that the Iranian industrial capacity is set back years, if not decades, across a variety of industries.

I would not advocate "surgical" strikes. If there is advantage in using more firepower rather than lesser, then we should use more. We will receive no credit for restraint.

There can be no doubt about the U.S.'s resolve to prevent nuclear technology from being transferred to rogue states and state sponsors of terror. It is the overriding strategic interest of the United States, and all other matters are subordinated to it. That includes Iraq.

Yes, the Iranians can cause a lot of trouble in Iraq.

We can cause even more for them.

It is one thing to develop a weapon for self-defense/deterrence. Openly engaging in nuclear proliferation is quite another.

If the Iranian people want to avoid economic devastation, let them pressure their rulers accordingly.

Apparently, Cynthia McKinney doesn't understand the first amendment. 
CBS puts together a nice little video to remind her of her place.

Lovely twist at the end.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The New York Times drops the ball...again 
Here's the sequence of events:

1.) LA Times official blogger Michael Hiltzik, 53, invents identities and defrauds his readers by using them to comment approvingly on his posts.

2.) Blogger Patrick Frey exposes the scam.

3.) The LA Times suspends Hiltzik.

4.) The New York Times contacts Hiltzik who does not comment.

5.) The New York Times contacts the LA Times, which does not comment, other than stating that Hiltzik violated ethical guidelines.

6.) The New York Times publishes the story, skipping the part about where Hiltzik was actually inventing quotes and arguments and using fake identities as sock puppets to approve his own arguments.

What's missing from this picture?

Why does the Times not contact Patrick Frey? His email address is right there on his blog.

Is this what passes for "reporting" at the Times?

At the very least, they should have checked his employment status with the Los Angeles DA (they blew that, too.)

Splash, out


The military intellectual culture 
James Joyner on uniformity of thought among military officers - most notably on the lack thereof.

Smaller is better 
The artillery is getting a new weapon: The Excalibur features a precision-guided warhead as small as 50 pounds, with a near vertical drop to the target.It's about time.

The Army has depended on Air Force CAS for far too long, while the Air Force has steadfastly resisted creating and fielding munitions that are suitable for close-in urban combat.

If the new weapon can be fielded down to Brigade level or below, the amount of firepower the Army can deliver in the first few minutes of the fight increases exponentially - as does the Army's ability to follow up on urgent and perishable intelligence.

A cordon and raid can take hours to plan and execute at the company level. But with this weapon, the Army will be able to flatten a suspected enemy safehouse in a residential area within minutes of getting the report, with a small fraction of the collateral damage you would expect from a fixed-wing airstrike.

It will also allow the Air Force to preload its planes with other types of ordnance not duplicated by the Excalibur system, resulting, I believe, in a faster response and more flexibility across the fire support system. Close Air Support can take a day to plan, even under ideal conditions. Synchronizing the ground operation with a fixed wing presence is difficult under any circumstance. Indeed, infantry units dedicate a full-time staff officer in the S-3 section, a captain, to working the aviation piece into the battle. This is in addition to the Fire Support Officer and the Aviation Laiason Officer.

Our M109 Self Propelled Howitzers are largely gathering dust. It's a fine system - but the enemy rarely chooses to engage or allow himself to be engaged in open areas where our artillery and Close Air Support can be effective. Many of our cannoncockers have been relegated to quasi-infantry and quasi-police tasks on the ground in Iraq.

Significantly, the Excalibur would represent a huge increase in capability on the part of our artillery forces, looked at in terms of the spectrum of options it opens to the maneuver commander. The Crusader would have represented an incremental advance, and done almost nothing to deny the safety of cities to the modern guerrilla fighter. The Excalibur, if it works out, will change all that. The M109, the 155, and the 105 can still cover much of the open area battlefield. The Excalibur enables us to reach out at the enemy where he lives and breathes. The Excalibur isn't an incremental improvement. The Excalibur could usher in a quantum leap forward in Army doctrine and the potency of battlefield military intelligence, gathered at the local level.

Rumsfeld was right to scrap the Crusader and focus on transformative technologies like this one.

Splash, Out


Eliot Cohen smacks down retired generals 
Here's Johns Hopkins Professor Eliot Cohen:

One could say much to defend Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld against the recent attacks of half a dozen retired generals--that the indictments are either old ("not enough troops," a trope from April 2003) or vague ("ignoring the Powell doctrine"), plodding ("violating the principles of war," a hazy collection of often-ignored, self-contradictory military platitudes), or downright silly (being disrespectful in meetings, as though generals would never, ever, be caught dressing down subordinates in front of their peers). Generals, one might note, may yield to vanity and pique, institutional parochialism and thwarted ambition, limited introspection and all the other foibles of proud men. One might, finally, observe that in the unhappy generals' account of Iraq there is no alternative strategy proposed, no fellow general held to account by name, scant acceptance of personal responsibility for what went awry on their watch, little repudiation of contrary statements made on active duty.

Read the whole thing. Cohen concludes by castigating Republicans as well as Democrats for exploiting retired flag officers.

I remember being surprised, as a young lieutenant in 1992, when Admiral William Crowe publicly endorsed Clinton over the President whom he served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. At the time I was very much a Democrat (though not registered as one) and pro-Clinton, and very much in the minority in my peer group.

I also remember attending a function at Fort Benning, while in the Infantry Officers Basic Course in 1992, where a recently retired colonel was brought in as a guest speaker a few months prior to the election, and he told us "if you're supporting Clinton this year, you might as well turn in your crossed rifles" (the infantry branch insignia that infantry officers wear on their collars).

I was offended, and thought he was a bit of a jerk, and his remarks in that context were highly inappropriate. I never felt that way and still don't, and served with excellent Democrat and Republican officers and enlisted alike.

But if Republicans are uncomfortable with the fact that General Zinni and General Batiste and General Eaton and General Swannack are violating protocol by calling for Rumsfeld to step down, why did they trot out General Tommy Franks so much when Franks, also retired, publicly endorsed Bush in 2004?

Why did they trot out Colin Powell as a speaker at the Republican Convention in - I don't know when his first one was - 1996 or 2000.

Sauce for the goose.

Overall, I agree with Cohen - but it's easy to overstate the argument, and my objections to the current constellation of retired flaggies are centered more on substance than on protocol. As Cohen argues in his lead paragraph, the public statements from this group are fact-deficient, inarticulate, and for the most part wholly lacking in substance - as I've argued here on this blog.

Splash, out


Sunday, April 23, 2006

What passes for modern liberalism 
UPDATE: No, I wasn't blacklisted at all. Simple software glitch at PressThink. Jay's working on it. Post withdrawn, with my apologies.


Apparently, I've been blacklisted at PressThink. At least, when I try to comment I get this message:

Can't call method "allow_reg_comments" on an undefined value at plugins/Blacklist/lib/Blacklist/App/Submission.pm line 298.


Those who pride themselves on speaking truth to power aren't used to truth being a two-way street.

I guess blacklisting me - if that's what Jay Rosen has done, is easier than arguing on the merits.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

A snapshot of the Army in the late 1990s 
I couldn't determine the exact year, but I thought this Chief of Staff of the Army's survey of Majors from what appears to be the late 1990s or 2000 to be very interesting.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Swim the straits of Gibraltar 
UPDATE: Links fixed.

David Broyles and Rush Vann have a plan:

1. Swim the Straits of Gibraltar.

2. ???


Seriously, the two Texas National Guardsmen - Austin residents both - are planning to swim the 13 - mile Straits of Gibraltar - a feat accomplished by only 15 Americans so far in history.

The goal, to raise money for the benefit of disabled veterans, via the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes.You can pledge a donation at www.swimthestrait06.com.

Countercolumn makes the papers! 
You can read all about it here

Kind of a weird take. And describing "Countercolumn" as "The Countercolumn" sort of reminds me of the old cartoon when Wiley E. Coyote dressed up as "The Batman."

I sort of wish the reporter had also pointed out that I also defended the right of retired officers to speak out freely, and defended the value of their dialogue. Indeed, I don't believe you can be a Hackworth fan while still be critical of the fact that these generals are speaking out. Hackworth went on "Issues and Answers" while still on active duty, and was publicly critical of the U.S. Viet Nam policy - and continued his criticism throughout the remainder of his life,

The actions of this group of generals is far less problematic than Hackworth's, yet there's been a couple of generations of young soldiers who grew up as great Hackworth admirers.

It is legitimate for all of us to examine the CONTENT of these generals' public statements for soundness and reasoning, and compare them with what they have said previously. It's also appropriate to fact-check what they say, when the media fails to do so, as I did with MG Batiste's false claim that Shinseki was retired early.

I also object to the practice of attributing a verifiable assertion with the weak "asserts" or "claims," when four minutes of looking would bear out that I was, in fact, correct. That's an old journalism pet peeve of mine, and it comes straight out of the AP Guide to Newswriting. After all, to print my assertion without bothering to check it out does no justice to General Batiste. I could have written that he microwaves puppies between performing scientific experiments on neighbors' children, which would have been a contemptible lie, and the reporter still would have left it up to the reader to check out the claim.

It's also strange to me that the reporter doesn't credit Gateway Pundit with the research I linked to on the timeline, but maybe he felt that since Gateway is not a military blog, it's beyond the scope of his article.

I also don't "serve as a portal" for anybody else, really, beyond the hopelessly out-of-date blogroll on the right side of the screen.

But I'm glad the Boston Globe is still trying to wrap its brain around the blogosphere.

The Globe's piece would have benefited from somone who understands that there is a legal distinction between active duty service members and reservists, under Article 88 of the UCMJ, but the reporter did well to understand that Article 88 does not prohibit criticism of public officials in the furtherance of a political discussion, "even if emphatically stated."

So this reporter demonstrates an awareness of the article's provisions well beyond the norm for his profession.

Splash, out


I reject criticism of General Zinni as an antisemite 
I want to go on the record rejecting any criticism of General Anthony Zinni as antisemitic. Yes, I'm aware of some of the things he's said that the ADL is clucking their tongues over. Well, I'm aware of ONE thing he's said that has their peyots all in a twist, and it's wholly unconvincing.

There are lots of real Jew-haters out there. There's no reason to believe Zinni is among them. There are also legitimate criticisms to be made of Zinni. I think accusing him of antisemitism is a cheap and desperate sliming.


To America 
The following letter, which I am transcribing verbatim, speaks for itself:

In all these 50 years we have been told that we didn't fight back. Against the most insane odds, perhaps, in the entire history of man, my two sisters and I escaped from the "death march," and though Hitler slaughtered most of our family, in some tragic, yet glorious way we won. Hitler perished and we lived, and today six beautiful human beings call us "mother." By only brother, who after surviving six concentration camps was shot in the leg in his attempt to escape is the father of two.

Our resistance, of course, was entirely spiritual. Made up perhaps only of love for each other. The mystery of it all still defies me.

What also defies me is the fact that it took six years for the world's mightiest forces to defeat the beast. I was unarmed, untrained in the business of killing, didn't even have a shoelace for a weapon, weighed about 40 pounds. Yet? I have always been told "didn't fight back." That accusation, too, falls within the insanity of Hitler's design to annihilate the Jews. Nonetheless, it hurts. It always did.

On VE Day, May 8th, 1945, the very day the war ended, the merchant marine ship, the SS Brand Whitlock, after nearly five weeks at sea, sailed into the sunlit harbor of Newport News, VA. Two days later, in Baltimore, MD, the ship discharged its never before seen cargo: The first survivors of Auschwitz. My two sisters and myself. In our battered being we carried the innocent, charred souls of millions of children, women and men. And we thank this best of all countries, America, for putting its healing arms around our weeping hearts.

-Isabella Leitner

Photograph by Susan May Tell

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Anti-Semitism at the NY Times? 
Judge for yourself

Introducing Milblog Wire 
I'm absolutely thrilled to be a part of Milblog Wire, which is going to be a terrific way for newspaper editors to get access to good, quality military analysis, commentary, and reporting by military members, veterans, and their families.

In a nutshell:

The Milblog Wire functions like any other wire service, aggregating stories from the field and making them available for your readership. The difference is now it comes direct from folks the American public has a high degree of trust in, not an overseas stringer.The content providers for the Milblog Wire are serving military members, their former comrades in arms, and their friends and families.

We are not affiliated with the Defense Department or acting on its behalf. We are self-policing for accuracy and scrupulous in maintaining the confidence of the public. We offer the good news that is overlooked by the ambulance chasers and a firsthand glimpse into the world most people just read about. We also don’t shrink from reporting the difficulties and downfalls of our efforts. We will provide the full gamut of rich media reports from our correspondents.

Anchor members so far include Greyhawk, Sgt Hook, TF Boggs, American Citizen Soldier, BlackFive, Winds of Change, and the man who's putting it all together, Uncle Jimbo.

This is an exciting project with a lot of potential, and I'm thrilled to be a part of it, and honored to be in such esteemed company.

Now, one thing will be changing -- up to now, I've had full rights to the blog, didn't license anything, and it was basically a hobby for me to get some things off my chest, vent, rant, rave, or whatever. If I screwed up on a post, I didn't mind much, because it only hurt me and my own credibility.

Which meant I almost always wrote off the top of my head, one draft, with no fact-checking process to speak of.

But now that everything I write will be part of a wire service, and could wind up in someone's newspaper, it's not just the CounterColumn brand that's involved. It could be a whole bunch of brands. You can probably expect less frequent postings, but more polished, and more carefully sourced and checked than in the past. Overall, it will be a better product.

Yes, we will be compensated for any stories news outlets pick up, at standard rates for freelancers. Which means, in the newspaper world, next to nothing, of course. The key is to sell articles and content in volume - like any syndication effort.

I am proud to announce that a portion of all proceeds from the MilBlog Wire (not sure yet how much - ask Uncle Jimbo) will be donated to the good people at Soldiers' Angels.

The best thing you can do is write your local newspaper editor and ask them to include content from MilBlog Wire on a regular basis. Help spread the word!

All the best, and thanks so much for reading, writing, bitching, complaining, and holding me accountable since November 2003. It's been a blast.

Splash, out


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Pact 
I don't like to cite to rightie mags, normally, but interviews are hard to spin. Here's FrontPageMag's interview with terrorism expert Thomas Jocelyn, with a tantalizing detail:

Just recently, however, al-Massari confirmed that Saddam had joined forces with al Qaeda prior to the war. Al-Massari says that Saddam established contact with the “Arab Afghans” who fled Afghanistan to northern Iraq in 2001 and that he funded their relocation to Iraq under the condition that they would not seek to undermine his regime

If true, it explains why the secular Hussein regime was spared while so many Arab nations were targets for Al Qaeda's attacks prior to the war.

If it pans out, you read it here first.

The last word on the Pulitzer goes to Wonkette 
You got the message, Times? You need more barely-edited nuts on your Style pages, and fewer on your OpEd pages.


Riddle me this, national media... 
UPDATE II: As another blog commenter points out, ALL of the press coverage on Dawn Halfaker happened after she was wounded, and features her not as a warrior, but as a victim and amputee. (I hadn't gone back and read the news stories Dave McLemore pointed out). The larger point stands. Withdrawal of post withdrawn.

UPDATE: Turns out Halfaker did get some coverage prior to being wounded, as Dave McLemore points out in the comments section. Post withdrawn. Well, except for the "tough, tough warrior" part. --JVS

1LT Dawn Halfaker, a West Point graduate, and a tough, tough warrior, won a bronze star last year for leading her platoon in a six hour battle in the defense of a police station in the Diyala Province of Iraq.

So how come she has to have two of her limbs blown off before she gets one word of coverage in the press?

That's right...Not one word before today.

Splash, out


Via Cori Dauber.

Just who elected Bill Keller? 
Scott Johnson on the New York Times and the winners of this year's Pulitzers:

Following in the footsteps of the AP last year, New York Times reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau won the Pulitzer Prize today for their treasonous contribution to the undermining of the highly classified National Security Agency surveillance program of al Qaeda-related terrorists. As I argued in a column for the Standard, the Risen/Lichtblau reportage clearly violated relevant provisions of the Espionage Act -- a particularly serious crime insofar as it lends assistance to the enemy in a time of war.

Juxtapose the Times's award-winning reportage with the Times's highminded editorial condemnation of President Bush for allegedly failing to follow proper procedure in declassifying the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate key judgments. Today the Times instructs us: "Even a president cannot wave a wand and announce that an intelligence report is declassified."

Waving a wand is apparently a prerogative reserved to Times executive editor Bill Keller, who made the decision to "declassify" the NSA surveillance program in the pages of the Times. According to Keller, the publication of the NSA story did "not expose any technical intelligence-gathering methods or capabilities that are not already on the public record." Thus Keller waved his wand, and the Times blew the NSA program. Smarter folks than I will have to reconcile the trains of thought at work among the editors of the New York Times.

What he said.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Hold your horses ... 
Via a commenter, Coalition Casualty Count is reporting 901 known civilian deaths in March of 2006. Which, according to their numbers, would make this the deadliest month for Iraqis since August of 2005, and the second deadliest on record.

If true, this would cast doubt on the optimistic numbers previously reported by the Brookings institution. Not sure what the discrepency is, yet.

Splash, out


Light blogging... 
I've actually been posting over at the critically-acclaimed PressThink, where some of America's best journalistic minds have just in the last two days argued:

1. Tommy Frank's medals are bogus
2. Senator McCain is a retired Army General
3. Al Qaeda's not a global organization
4. There's no democracy in Iraq
5. General Anthony Zinni commanded CENTCOM "in Iraq!"

Too funny!


Sunday, April 16, 2006

Let's Get Rummy 
GatewayPundit has a history of "Let's Get Rummy" going back all the way to 2003. Can you feel the love?

That was then, this is now 
Today's That-was-then-this-is-now award goes to General Anthony Zinni, the former CENTCOM chief-a-roni who is currently leading the pack of retired flaggers calling for Rumsfeld's head on a pike.

But here's Zinni himself, in his statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee, back in the spring of 2000:

Finally, despite damage inflicted by Operation DESERT FOX strikes, Iraq has not forgone its missile and WMD programs and continues to resist the reintroduction of Uninited Nations arms inspectors...

While Iraq's WMD capabilities were degraded by UN supervision and set back by coalition airstrikes, some capabilities remain and others could quickly be regenerated. Despite claims that WMD efforts have ceased, Iraq probably is continuing clandestine nuclear research, retains stocks of chemical and biological munitions, and is concealing extended-range SCUD missliles, possibly equipped with CBW payloads. Even if Baghdad reversed its course and surrendered all WMD capabilities, it retains the scientific, technical, and industrial infrastructure to replace agents and munitions within weeks or months.

Iraq remains the most significant near-term threat to U.S. interests in the Arabian Gulf region [Heh. So much for the "no threat to us" lie. - JVS]

Iraq persists in its deliberate attempts to shoot down coalition aircraft...

I believe that Iraq is likely to remain a significant threat to the region for the foreseeable future.

Hat tip: American Thinker, via a Countercolumn reader. Much more here.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Batiste perpetuates a myth 
Here's General Batiste on Shinsekigate:

I suspect, going way back five years to the beginning of this whole war, there were ample times when people said to him, as General Shinseki did, "We need more." In the case of General Shinseki, he was retired early. And as I recall, the secretary didn't even go to his retirement ceremony; I have never forgotten that.

Right. I'm sure it's seared -- seared into Batiste's memory.

The problem is, it didn't happen.

Shinseki was not retired early. That's an old-wives tale right out of the John Kerry playbook. Shinseki's term as Chief of Staff ended on schedule and not a day early. His term was not extended. But Rumsfeld is under no obligation whatsoever to extend Shinseki's tour of duty, in any case.

Secondly, Shinseki's term as Chief of Staff ended in June 2003, right on schedule. But Rumsfeld announced that his term would not be extended in March 2002. It was not until February 2003, almost a year later, that Shinseki advised Congress that the occupation of Iraq would require hundreds of thousands of [imaginary] troops.

Third, it cannot even be said that extentions of the Chief of Staff's term are routine. The usual term is four years. Shinseki served out his full four years. No Chief of Staff since World War Two has served any longer than four years.

So it cannot really be said that Rumsfeld made Shinseki into a lame duck, since no one could reasonably have expected Shinseki's term to last longer than four years.

The more you shovel this crap, the smellier it gets.

Splash, out


Friday, April 14, 2006

Generals on the record 
The following passages were contributed by a reader Reg Jones:

On the record with John Batiste:

1. Batiste, 10/06/2004:
PHILLIPS [CNN]: General, while we watch the successful operations go down side by side with Iraqi troops, of course we continue to see a lot of violence throughout Iraq. We see children being targeted and, most recently, Ambassador Paul Bremer coming forward saying there was a mistake in the strategy in Iraq, and there just weren't enough troops post Saddam Hussein.

Do you agree with that?

BATISTE: Let me answer that by saying that while we were conducting the operation in Samarra, at the same time we were conducting a battalion task force level air assault into an objective in the vicinity of Sharkak (ph), at the same time we were conducting a battalion level operation in the vicinity of Muqdadiyah. And at the same time, we were conducting a battalion level operation south of Balad. So, I think we had plenty of flexibility. Add to that the Iraqi security forces. They really do bring a lot to the fight now.

2. Batiste, 12/24/2004:
Afterward, Rumsfeld flew off for Tikrit in a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter flanked by an aerial security escort. Army Maj. Gen. John Batiste, commander of the 1st Infantry Division, met Rumsfeld in Tikrit, where the secretary also met with troops. Batiste told Rumsfeld that he was "comfortable we're heading in the right direction" regarding security issues for the upcoming Iraqi elections slated for January.

3. Batiste, 12/24/2004:
Rumsfeld visits 1st Division in Tikrit. MajGen. Batiste: "It is an honor to welcome to the 1st Infantry Division our country's 23rd Secretary of Defense, The Honorable Donald H. Rumsfeld. This is a man with the courage and the conviction to win the war on terrorism..."

4. Batiste, 01/13/2005:
"Together with civic, tribal and religious leaders, the Iraqi security forces have achieved irreversible momentum towards prosperity and representative government. Based on the competencies of the Iraqi team, I am confident in the future of Iraq. We are right where we need to be in this important mission."

5. Batiste, 01/13/2005:
"Tony Capaccio with Bloomberg News, sir....on the helicopters, how many did you have three weeks ago, and how many do you have today, to give a sense of buildup there for quick reaction?

GEN. BATISTE:"... I'm not going to give you numbers. But suffice it to say I've got twice what I had, and it's more than enough."

6. Batiste, 04/13/2006:
BATISTE:...It is much harder than warfare, and you need to have sufficient troops on the ground to control the people, to secure the borders, to intimidate the insurgency, to own the ground in every respect. My area in Iraq was the size of the state of West Virginia, huge. And we were forced over time to conduct a series of movements to contact where we only controlled the ground for a moment in time; that's not how you fight an insurgency.

JIM LEHRER: Did you ask for more troops?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: We always asked for more troops, within our chain of command.

JIM LEHRER: And what happened when you asked for more troops?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: We saluted and executed; I had to keep my soldiers alive and focused on the mission at hand.

JIM LEHRER: As you know, Secretary Rumsfeld has said from the beginning every time the military asked for more troops in Iraq, they were given what they wanted. Not true in your case?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: I suspect, going way back five years to the beginning of this whole war, there were ample times when people said to him, as General Shinseki did, "We need more." In the case of General Shinseki, he was retired early. And as I recall, the secretary didn't even go to his retirement ceremony; I have never forgotten that.

7. Batiste, 04/14/2006:
"We went to war with a flawed plan that didn't account for the hard work to build the peace after we took down the regime. We also served under a secretary of defense who didn't understand leadership, who was abusive, who was arrogant, who didn't build a strong team."

# posted by Reg Jones : 12:38 AM

Footnote on Batiste [courtesy David Axe, DefenseTech.org, 4/13/2006]:

I met Batiste a year ago when he was commander of the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq. We spoke for an hour about the insurgency, the Iraqi Army and the upcoming January election for an interim national assembly. The difference between Batiste's attitude then and his attitude now is suprising. Last year, he said the insurgency was "not an impressive effort", insisted that Al Qaeda was behind the worst attacks in Iraq and predicted that everday Iraqis would soon turn against insurgents. And the kicker -- he described the chunk of the World Trade Center that he kept in his office to remind himself why we had to invade Iraq.
From the safety of retirement, and with his buddies watching his back, Batiste has lashed out at Rumsfeld. But Batiste is guilty of lapses in judgement just as gross as Rumsfeld's. The only difference is that Rumsfeld ranks higher, so his lapses have greater consequences. I'm not defending Rummy. But if Batiste were Secretary of Defense instead, I doubt we'd be much better off.

Below are excerpts of my interview with Batiste:

Q: What is the insurgent strategy?

BATISTE: I haven't seen an insurgent strategy. I've seen disparate efforts. A piece of me says that we give them too much credit.

Q: What is the gravest threat [in the 1st Infantry Division area of operations]?

BATISTE: Al Qaeda.

Q: How are Iraqi security forces shaping up?

BATISTE: The enemy ... he's a coward, is what he is. It's not an impressive effort, and these great Iraqi security forces are figuring that out.

Q: What does a successful election mean for Iraq?

BATISTE: A good election is a huge victory. Our challenge is to give Iraqis an alternative to an insurgency. You know, I carry a piece of the World Trade Center ... to remind me why we're here.

Q: Why are we here?

BATISTE: To end radical Islamic fundamentalism.

Q: But wasn't Saddam Hussein's regime hostile to radical Islamists?

BATISTE: We could argue about that all night.

[end of interview]


# posted by Reg Jones : 12:57 AM

The "arrogance" of Generals Abizaid and Casey:

1. 04/30/2004 Briefing
Q General Abizaid, Bret Baier from Fox News Channel. I wanted to ask you -- obviously, there have been a lot of critics out there saying that you need more troops on the ground. Whenever we ask somebody here in the Pentagon or throughout the administration, they say if General Abizaid asks for it, he's going to get it. Do you have enough troops in Iraq? Why haven't you asked for more beyond the extension? And are you pleased with the number currently?

GEN. ABIZAID: ...So asking the question about do we need more capacity in Iraq, we need more Iraqi security capacity and we need more international security capacity. I think many of you have heard me say on a number of occasions that I do not favor large increased numbers of American troops unless they have to deal with an immediate security problem, which is what we currently have. I do favor the inclusion of more international troops, especially more Muslim troops... I believe, and I think Iraqis will second me on this, this needs to be less of an American occupation and more of an international military activity that includes Iraqis,international forces and Americans. Am I comfortable with where we are now? Militarily, yes. If the situation were to move into less secure circumstances than are currently visible in the country, I would go to the secretary and ask for more forces, and General Sanchez agrees with me on that. But I don't see a need to do that now.

2. Casey, 06/27/2005:
"GEN. CASEY:...I went around to visit all the division commanders just prior to coming back and asked them, one, how's the situation, how are things going? And to a person, they all responded that this is moving in the right direction in their areas. Then I asked them did they have enough troops to do what they needed to do. And to a person, they all said they had what they needed to get the job done."

# posted by Reg Jones : 1:48 AM

Finally, on Gen. Shinseki:

Senate Armed Services Committee Testimony, 06/25/2004

SEN. CLINTON: At some point, Mr. Secretary, will there be any kind of after-action review by the civilian leadership in the Pentagon with respect to this mission? You know, certainly those of us who heard General Shinseki, who at the time was the Army chief of staff, testify, based on his best knowledge and experience, the numbers that were needed, have to conclude there was at least a debate within the professional military. Now how that debate was determined -- obviously, we have a regime of civilian leadership -- is obviously clear. But I'd think to dismiss out of hand testimony we heard with our own ears and testimony that was very compelling and led to the public embarrassment of a distinguished soldier is a little bit difficult for us to accept.

MR. WOLFOWITZ: I'm sorry. I don't think to disagree with someone should be publicly embarrassing. General Shinseki was in fact disagreeing with all of his colleagues on the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the combatant commander, General Franks. Isn't that right, General Myers?

GEN. MYERS: Actually, we didn't -- as we discussed about troop strength with then -- the commander, General Franks, which we did many times during the planning, during conflict, and then for post-conflict and then later on, with General Abizaid, the issue of more troops never came before -- never was brought up in our deliberations. Nobody said, "You need more." It was General Franks that proposed what he thought was right. We'd have discussions and talk about it, and then we'd provide our military advice to the secretary and the deputy secretary. But there was never a push inside the Joint Chiefs of Staff for more forces.

SEN. CLINTON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SEN. WARNER: Thank you very much, Senator, that you raise that question which -- continually raised about General Shinseki's figure. And my own independent research on that reveals that -- I'm not questioning the integrity of that fine officer -- but I cannot find any trace of the Joint Staff ever discussing a figure of the magnitude that he mentioned right from that seat you're in, Secretary Armitage, nor in the Army and its deliberations, of a figure of that nature. If I'm wrong, let somebody show me the documents that support that anywhere in that building that figure was discussed and carefully thought through...

Of course they weren't. The figure was absurd from the get go. Where were the 400,000 troops going to come from? I've asked that time and time again, and no one has been able to answer the question.

These people who scream about these 400,000 troops remind me of the stories of Adolf Hitler's final days in Berlin, barking out orders to maneuver imaginary armored corps. Delusional.


Flak Vest Follies, Redux 
James Dunnigan on body armor:

The new, heavier, body armor arriving in Iraq is creating a potential public relations problem. Many of the troops don't want to wear the new stuff. Why? Because the heavier new armor could get them killed.

A lopsided scorecard... 
Compare and contrast the fawning press coverage given to MG General Swannack (Ret.), my old division commander when my battalion was attached to a brigade which was attached to the 82nd Airborne, and his call for a new SecDef

and the Icarus Drowning press treatment given to XVIII Airborne Corps Commander LTG John R. Vines, announcing that his intelligence is telling him that Al Qaeda is conducting a strategic withdrawal from Iraq.

In other words, Al Qaeda has been defeated in Iraq.

Al Qaeda in Iraq and its presumed leader, Abu Musab Zarqawi, have conceded strategic defeat and are on their way out of the country, a top U.S. military official contended yesterday.
The group's failure to disrupt national elections and a constitutional referendum last year "was a tactical admission by Zarqawi that their strategy had failed," said Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, who commands the XVIII Airborne Corps.
"They no longer view Iraq as fertile ground to establish a caliphate and as a place to conduct international terrorism," he said in an address at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

I know, we've heard that before - the "last throes" of the week and all that. But a gradual disengagement by Al Qaeda would certainly help explain the substantial decrease in the number of car bombs and the number of civilian casualties, dontcha think?

And when you factor in that an increasing number of those civilian dead is as a result of the Shia getting some long overdue payback, then the slowdown in civilian casualties is all the more remarkable, because not only is the number of murdered civilians down, but Al Qaeda is responsible for a smaller fraction of them than before.

And if you follow events back to the early indications of red-on-red violence, and the rebellion against Al Qaeda by local sheikhs in Ramadi and out by the Syrian Border - ably reported on by Bill Roggio last year, it makes more and more sense.

What news outlets will successfully disengage themselves from the narcissistic gossip-fest catfight of all the retired generals and take a step back and look at the big picture?

Well, forget it: I'll do a compare and contrast for you...

Number of news stories this afternoon hitting on Swannack: 1,037.

Number of news stories hitting on John Vines: 8.

And one of them is The Jawa Report - a blogger.

Anyone still think they're being well served by the mainstream media?

Splash, out


Is Hilton refusing to serve wounded troops? 
Every Friday evening, Fran O'Brien's Steakhouse, on the grounds of the Capitol Hilton in Washington D.C., hosts a complimentary steak dinner for wounded servicemen staying nearby.

According to initial reports, Hilton is refusing to extend Fran O'Brien's lease, because they're afraid of liability if one of the servicemen is further injured, and because they won't install additional wheelchair ramps.

Seems difficult to believe thus far. Well, not really, if you know what I know about lawyers and about callow, yellow-bellied business managers and execs who think that they work for lawyers rather than vice versa.

Still, based on what I've read so far, the notion that liability concerns arising from the servicemembers' disabilities are behind the decision not to renew the lease are not well sourced yet. I have an open mind on the issue.

If it pans out, however, I will never darken a Hilton door as long as I live. That includes Hampton Inn and Doubletree and all their other brands as well - and Hilton can be sure that hundreds of other readers from this blog alone will know exactly why.

Feel free to email a copy of this post to Dan Boyle at dan_a_boyle@hilton.com.

Splash, out


Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran! 
Former Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force General Thomas McInerney sketches out a plan to keep Iran from getting nukes:

1. Bomb Iran.

2. Steal underpants.

3. ???

4. Regime change!

Resenting Decentralization 
Big Lizards has an excellent and perceptive take on the motivations and mores behind the four generals who have come out against Rumsfeld:

Even before the Iraq War, Secretary Rumsfeld embarked upon a revolutionary reformation, not only of how we fight wars but also the entire organization of our military forces. He is pushing towards smaller units, more unit independence (moving command decisions down the ranks), much greater reliance on Special Forces, and a reorganization of units to be self-sufficient rather than specialized.

It's hardly surprising that some men who have invested so much of their lives in one particular way of running a war would be angry, rebellious, and confused by a completely different way of running a war...

Zog confused! Zog not like new flint-tipped spears. Zog want hit mammoth with rock.

Seriously, I think it's easy to overplay the "Clintonista" card - at least in a doctrinal sense. After all, it was the Clintonistas, under Shalakish-touchy-feely or whatever his name was, that really pushed to develop Operations Other Than War doctrine, and get ahead of the game on the whole "nation-building" meatball, while the troglodytes from the Reagan/Bush I era picked fleas out of each others' silverbacks and brachiated, dreaming about putting an armored corps on line.

Some of these guys like Zinni might have some fond memories of Clinton's glory days. But they were also responsible for much of the groundwork for Rumsfeld's transformation.

The Unity of Command point is far more telling. In the old days, an officer took orders from ONE direction - the chain of command. But in Iraq, everything a commander does has to be carefully coordinated in several directions: He gets his orders from the chain of command. But he must also coordinate carefully with the State Department (via the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and his representatives) the Iraqi Army, the Iraqi police, and a whole host of other sheikhs representing a smorgasbord of tribal interests - not to mention the mullahs.

The successful combat commander is going to be comfortable dealing with and coordinating with and getting cooperation and buy-in from all of them, while simultaneously understanding and engaging with both western and Arab news media.

It's a lot for a drooling Infantry cro-magnon like me to wrap his brain around. And the competing interests and simultaneous efforts do combine to ensure that unity of command -- in the very limited sense that we've always understood it -- goes out the window. But - and this is key - it's the only way to ensure unity of effort.

Captains and colonels and generals all operating within a single, simple, linear chain of command would fail, because that system would do nothing to ensure unity of effort among all pro-Iraqi forces, military and civilian alike. It would do nothing to foster local cooperation between U.S. units and Iraqi police. Indeed, it would only breed suspicion and ignorance, and rapidly ensure that the Iraqi police and militias and Army and sheikhs and mullahs and the U.S. all operate at cross purposes even more than they do.

Engaging all sources of authority, Iraqi and Western, into the command structure is the only way to ensure the execution of a common strategy.

This simultaneous engagement of military and civilian authority, Iraqi and American, at the national level all the way down to the municipal, from Prime Minister down to the local grammar school headmaster, along with the media, is the mark of the consummate modern day warrior, from the general all the way down to the lieutenant and very often below that.

The ability to grasp that dynamic, intuitively, and to master it, is the essential quality that differentiates officers who "get it," in General David Petraeus's words, from officers who don't.

If they're still griping about "unity of command" on today's multi-polar battlefield in which U.S. troops are operating as guests of an Iraqi government sovereign over its own territory, then maybe - just maybe - they still don't "get it."

Splash, out


More from me, here

Thursday, April 13, 2006

"Trailer" trash 
My take on the whole WMD trailer flap:

The report that the WMD trailers were almost certainly not actually intended for WMD production was not actually transmitted to Washington - to the bowels of the Pentagon, actually, until two days before the President made his "we found the weapons of mass destruction" statement. Meanwhile, the CIA and DIA (remember, DIA = Pentagon) had just the day before published their finding that the trailers probably were WMD facilities.

In order to argue that the President deliberately decieved the public with that statement, you have to simultaneously hold the view that

a.) A bureaucratic report on a technical detail takes just two days to move from Iraq to the Pentagon to the Deputy Undersecretary to the Undersecretary to the Secretary to the White House staffer to the Chief of Staff to the President.

That's about six separate bureaucratic steps in the stovepipe. It is not going to happen.

b.) You would also have to argue that the President would be prudent to dismiss the joint findings, published just one day prior, of the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency.


Splash, out


General Peter Pace on Rumsfeld and the Planning Process 
Quoting General Pace:

Let me just give you Pete Pace's rendition of how the process worked building up to Iraq. First of all, once it became apparent that we may have to take military action, the Secretary of Defense asked Tom Franks, who was the commander of Central Command, to begin doing some planning, which he did. Over the next two years, 50 or 60 times, Tom Franks either came to Washington or by video teleconference, sat down with the Secretary of Defense, sat down with the Joint Chiefs and went over what he was thinking, how he was planning. And as a result of those iterative opportunities and all the questions that were asked, not once was Tom told, "No, don't do that. No, don't do this. No, you can't have this. No, you can't have that." What happened was, in a very open roundtable discussion, questions about what might go right, what might go wrong, what would you need, how would you handle it, and that happened with the Joint Chiefs and it happened with the Secretary.

And before the final orders were given, the Joint Chiefs met in private with General Franks and assured ourselves that the plan was a solid plan and that the resources that he needed were going to be allocated. We then went and told the Secretary of Defense our belief in Tom's plan and in the resources, and I know for a fact, because I was there, that when the Joint Chiefs were called over to the White House, several of the questions that the president asked specifically were about our understanding and belief in the plan, and whether or not the amount -- proper amount of resources had been allocated. He did that both with us, just the Joint Chiefs, and then again when all the combatant commanders were in from around the globe well before a final decision was made.

We had then and have now every opportunity to speak our minds, and if we do not, shame on us because the opportunity is there.

It is elicited from us. You know, we're expected to. And the plan that was executed was developed by military officers, presented by military officers, questioned by civilians as they should, revamped by military officers, and blessed by the senior military leadership.

Then, when we go to Congress, part of our confirmation process is, "Will you, General Pace, if confirmed, give your personal opinion when asked?" And the answer to that question is, "Yes, I will, sir." And I have been for almost five years now asked my personal opinion multiple times by members of the Congress of the United States in testimony, and I have spoken my personal opinion.

Now, I've given my best military advice to the Secretary and to the president, as have the other officers who have the privilege of being Joint Chiefs or being combatant commanders. Our troops deserve and will continue to get our best military thinking.

I wanted to tell you how I believe this system works, and I wanted to tell you how I have observed it working for five years, because the articles that are out there about folks not speaking up are just flat wrong.

Rumsfeld Roundup... 
The Moderate Voice has a terrific roundup of blogger reaction to the recent spate of retired generals calling for Rumsfeld's resignation.

Remember, though, that America has hundreds of retired flag officers - and scores of them have retired since Rumsfeld took over as SecDef.

Look, there is always a broad spectrum of opinion within the military. And reasonable people differ over innumerable policy decisions. Reasonable arguments can be made, for instance on whether it was sound policy to disband the Iraqi army, on whether troop levels were optimal, on the extent to which the U.S. taxpayer should resource reconstruction projects, CERP projects, and hundreds of other questions.

And where there is a spectrum of informed opinion among Generals, the SecDef and Commander in Chief are entitled to make a policy decision. And no matter what policy decision they make, half of the generals are not going to get their way.

But from what I've seen so far, the policy desicions specifically objected to by these officers are entirely and legitimately within the realm of the Secretary of Defense to make.

Furthermore, the military is a community, and within that community are a number of professional journals. Proceedings, Military Review, Infantry Magazine, Logistics, and literally scores of other policy journals. Any officer with an idea can push the idea behind the scenes, through the chain of command, through personal contacts, through blogs (though blogs work better for us company level dorks at the pointy end of the stick), and there's a professional dialogue which informs military decisionmaking and military advice to civilian authorities.

But military advice is just that - advice. As long as this republic subordinates the military to civilian authorities, that's all it can be. And the civilians at the top of the chain command are free to accept it or reject it. That doesn't mean civilians should meddle in or micromanage the operational details best left to military professionals. But on broad decisions of policy, and on matters that require an extensive interface between State Department functions and large budgetary issues, and on matters that involve prioritizing resource between the different MACOMS, then those decisions properly belong to the Service Secretaries, the Secretary of Defense, and the President.

Rumsfeld may be a demanding boss. But we should remember that it is not the SecDef's job to make generals happy. It's not the SecDef's job to rubber stamp every general's pet weapons system or pet project and then go back to Congress and ask them to make the taxpayer pay for it. Many generals are still peeved over not getting their shiny new Paladin artillery system, and that was Rumsfeld's doing. And while reasonable people disagree over the necessity of the Paladin system, that was a legitimate decision for the SecDef to make, in that commanders at all levels must carfully allocate limited resources among competing priorities.

I haven't seen any serious charges that Rumsfeld does not have a grasp of detail. No one seems to be arguing that he's corrupt, or has broken the law. None of these generals is arguing that Rumsfeld has done anything unconstitutional. It all comes down to these generals not feeling like Rumsfeld listens to them. General Baptiste hints that in his opinion, Rumsfeld doesn't understand the principle of war, or is insufficiently ruthless in applying them. Unfortunately, the press accounts I can find don't expand on that opinion in sufficient detail to make it useful. (It's as if all they were interested in were scoring a political point, and informing the public or advancing the debate just is not a consideration.)

Well, just because Rumsfeld didn't take the advice of these generals doesn't mean he didn't take the advice of any of them. Rumsfeld listens to a lot of people every day. But he's not obligated to take the advice of any particular constituency, or anyone else other than the President.

In the absence of evidence that Rumsfeld has broken the law, acted unconstitutionally, or is simply incompetent, as opposed to unpopular, then the blasts from these generals against the proper and reasonable exercise of civilian control over the military strikes me as slightly unseemly.

But only slightly. We are still a democracy, and retired officers (and cantankerous reservists like me) do get to make their voices heard, and I'm glad we have a wide spectrum of opinion within the military, and that we do get to hear some different ideas from officers who have recently retired - though I don't think this crop has done much to advance the football.

Now, one thing that strikes me about these four is how utterly inarticulate they have been at explaining their reasoning. Liet. Gen. Newbold, in particular, couldn't even organize his thoughts into a coherent essay on why we boloed the war.

Now, take a look at this defense of Rumsfeld by retired USMC three-star Mike DeLong, who was CENTCOM's deputy commander under General Franks:

Dealing with Secretary Rumsfeld is like dealing with a CEO," DeLong told CNN's "American Morning" on Thursday.

"When you walk into him, you've got to be prepared, you've got to know what you're talking about. If you don't, you're summarily dismissed. But that's the way it is, and he's effective."

DeLong was the deputy commander of U.S. Central Command from 2000 to 2003 under Franks.

Now, if Newbold, with years to reflect on the issue, couldn't organize his thoughts for a coherent Time Magazine essay, is it surprising if he had a hard time organizing his thoughts for a Rumsfeld briefing?

Meanwhile, the three generals whose opinions matter most - Former CENTCOM boss Tommy Franks, his Deputy Commander DeLong, and the current Chairman of the JCS General Peter Pace, are vocal in Rumsfeld's defense. Apparently, they didn't have a problem with him.

Splash, out


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Did the media fall for another hoax? 
On Sunday, the Associated Press reported that the moojies launched "their strongest attack in six weeks" against the government center in Ramadi, the seat of the Al Anbar Province.

But Bill Roggio notes that the incident didn't make a blip on the CENTCOM press releases, and an AP photographer working in Ramadi didn't mention the fight on his blog.

So Bill did some digging, and it turns out that "the strongest attack in six weeks" turned out to be hardly noticable."A little busier than usual, but just another day for us," says the Brigade PAO.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Next time someone tells you... 
...that Cheney lied when he said "we'd be greeted as liberators," tell them to read the April 10th 2003 New York Times.

Here's what John Burns wrote from Baghdad:

Saddam Hussein's rule collapsed in a matter of hours today across much of this capital city as ordinary Iraqis took to the streets in their thousands to topple Mr. Hussein's statues, loot government ministries and interrogation centers and to give a cheering, often tearful welcome to advancing American troops.

After three weeks battling their way north from Kuwait against Mr. Hussein's hard-core loyalists, Army and Marine Corps units moving into the districts of eastern Baghdad where many of the city's five million people live finally met the kind of adulation from ordinary Iraqis that American advocates of a war to topple Mr. Hussein had predicted.

Amid the celebration, many of Mr. Hussein's troops and officials simply abandoned their posts and ran away.

Much of Baghdad became, in a moment, a showcase of unbridled enthusiasm for America, as much as it metamorphosed into a crucible of unbridled hatred for Mr. Hussein and his 24-year rule.

American troops, but almost as much any Westerner caught up in the tide of people rushing into the streets, were met with scenes that summoned comparisons to the freeing of Eastern Europe 14 years ago.

There was no word on the fate of Mr. Hussein or his sons, Uday and Qusay, targeted by American bombs in a western residential area on Monday. But his whereabouts -- even his very existence -- seemed irrelevant as American Marines used an M88 tank recovery vehicle to topple a large statue of Mr. Hussein in the central Firdos Square.

Crowds surged forward to stomp on the downed statue, whose head had briefly been covered in an American flag, and several men dragged its severed head through the streets.

A burly 39-year-old man named Qifa, assigned by Mr. Hussein's Information Ministry to keep watch on an American reporter, paused at midmorning, outside the inferno that had been the headquarters of Iraq's National Olympic Committee, to ask the reporter to grip his hand. The building, used to torture and kill opponents of Mr. Hussein, had been one of the most widely feared places in Iraq.

"Touch me, touch me, tell me that this is real, tell me that the nightmare is really over," the man said, tears running down his face.

It was real, at last. When the city awoke to find that the American capture on Monday of the government quarter in west Baghdad had been followed overnight by a deep American thrust into the city's eastern half, the fear ingrained in most Iraqis evaporated.

Iraqis on foot, on motor scooters, in cars and minivans and trucks, alone and in groups, children and adults and elderly, headed for any point on the map where American troops had taken up positions — at expressway junctions, outside the United Nations headquarters, at two hotels on the Tigris River where Western journalists had been sequestered by Mr. Hussein's government -- and erupted with enthusiasm.

Shouts to the American soldiers of "Thank you, mister, thank you," in English, of "Welcome, my friend, welcome," of "Good, good, good," and "Yes, yes, mister," mingled with cries of "Good, George Bush!" and "Down Saddam!"

But reporters who crossed one of the deserted midtown bridges across the Tigris into the western area of the city discovered quickly that Mr. Hussein's hold has not been wholly broken....

American commanders in the city barely paused to soak up the celebrations before warning tonight that much hard work remained to be done in extending the pockets of American control in east and west Baghdad into areas that remained no-man's lands, or worse, pockets of active resistance.

Those pockets were clearly still dangerous today, but they were also isolated. Many people seemed joyous. A middle-aged man pushed through a crowd attempting to topple a statue of Mr. Hussein outside the oil ministry with a bouquet of paper flowers, and passed among American troops distributing them one at a time, each with a kiss on the cheek.

A woman with two small children perched in the open roof of a car maneuvering to get close to a Marine Corps unit assisting in toppling a Hussein statue outside the Palestine and Sheraton hotels, the quarters for foreign journalists, wept as she shouted, "Thank you, mister, thank you very much."


Splash, out


(Via Newsbusters)

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