Thursday, June 29, 2006

More on religious cluelessness in the Press 
Here's a couple of passages from Father Richard John Neuhaus in First Things: the Journal of Religion, Culture and Public Life:

An eager young thing with a national paper was interviewing me about yet another instance of political corruption. “Is this something new?” she asked. “No,” I said, “it’s been around ever since that unfortunate afternoon in the garden.” There was a long pause and then she asked, “What garden was that?” It was touching.

"uneducated," indeed. And this is from a national.

What prompts me to mention this today is that I’m just off the phone with a reporter from the same national paper. He’s doing a story on Pope Benedict’s new encyclical. In the course of discussing the pontificate, I referred to the pope as the bishop of Rome. “That raises an interesting point,” he said. “Is it unusual that this pope is also the bishop of Rome?”

Actually, I believe historically, they practice what is known as "telecommunion."

He obviously thought he was on to a new angle. Once again, I tried to be gentle. Toward the end of our talk, he said with manifest sincerity, “My job is not only to get the story right but to explain what it means.” Ah yes, he is just the fellow to explain what this pontificate and the encyclical really mean. It is poignant.

Touching, indeed. Our national media is sending innocent kids out to write serious stories on religion when the only thing their fund of information equips them to write is stories along the lines of "So what's the deal with the Pope's funny hat?"

And even then they'd need a backgrounder.

You gonna cover the fish? I don't think it's unreasonable to expect reporters to learn to swim.

Obviously, you're going to have glitches and mistakes here and there. But when journalism pros make excuses for their ignorance - when they wave away atrocious reporting on a rally as if the bad reporting is somehow the fault of the participants - and when editors and reporters, collectively, are not only utterly clueless about religious communities, but are in abject denial about how ill-informed they are (when somehow a liberal education and four year degree didn't imbue one national reporter with the cultural knowledge to comprehend a reference to the Garden of Eden), then there aren't going to be any meaningful improvements made.

The republic is not well-served by lousy quality control such as this. And it is not well-served by the cultural inbreeding that dominates our newsrooms, and makes Pauline Kael syndrome possible.

For those not in the know, Pauline Kael was a longtime film critic in New York. When Nixon slaughtered McGovern in the most lopsided, decisive election in living memory in 1972, Kael, touchingly, said "How can this be? I don't know a single person who voted for him!"

The fact that such an inbred, monolithic, homogenous culture is even possible in a national news organization ought to be a mark of shame for the big-city journalist community. It should have been corrected long ago.

You'd still have the occasional munchkin asking "What garden was that?" But the errors would be a lot less likely to see print.

Assault ministry, indeed.

More here, and a modest proposal:

I propose, for starters, that from now on editors assign religion stories only to reporters who know religion just as well as their publication's political reporters know politics and their sports reporters know sports.

Sounds reasonable to me.

But wait! Plukasiak thinks it's not a journalist's responsibility to "take special steps" in order learn the language and terminology of his beat!

I guess we're going to have to have a good purging of the ranks before we're intellectually equipped to take that little measure.

I'm not mocking simple inexperience, vemrion. And notice I'm not naming names - the experts rolling their eyes at the doe-eyed dorks calling them up from the nation's newsrooms are mercifully keeping the names of the reporters involved to themselves.

Rather, I'm mocking the willful embrace of ignorance and inexperience - which is itself rooted in the atrocious cultural skewing evident in newsroom demographics.

Splash, out


Meanwhile, over at PressThink 
Just to roil the waters a bit, I cited a column illustrating the inability of a secular-left media to understand and report on the religious community. In a nutshell, the column cited a failure of a reporter to comprehend an evangelical reference to the common term "slain in the Spirit," and mistook a desire for the members of Congress to be "slain" as a wish for their violent demise.

Just for a lark, I challenged the Press Think commenters with the following question:

If I said I was "convicted," would you know what I was talking about?" (Hyperlink not in original)

Hilarity ensues.

And ensues some more.

My response is here.

Splash, out


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Asking a New Yorker editor if the NY Times is liberal 
is like asking a fish if water is wet.

"But surely the terrorists knew about the Swift program anyway?" 
No, they didn't.

An interview with Mort Kondrake 
Mort Kondrake talks about media bias and why he's no longer a liberal.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

What on earth does it take? 
From the Rocky Mountain News:

University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill stole the work of others, twisted facts to bolster his own theories and repeatedly violated the most basic standards of scholarly research, the committee assigned to investigate him wrote in a stinging report made public Tuesday.

One of the five committee members recommended Churchill be fired. Two said he should be suspended without pay for two years; the two others recommended a five- year suspension without pay.

What on earth does it take to convince these knuckleheads that this jerk needs to be fired outright?

The UC is an institution of higher learning, not a lifetime entitlement program for its faculty. If he's that bad, why not hire someone else permanently?

Ramadi in the news again 
I've written it before: Ramadi is the real ground zero in the war for Iraq. Fallujah having been wrested from them, the moojies cannot sustain their efforts in Baghdad without being able to use Ramadi as a conduit and base.

Dexter Filkins is there.

But rather than assaulting the city frontally, as the Americans did in Falluja in November 2004 — destroying it in the process — American commanders have decided on a softer and more deliberate approach. This time, they have ringed Ramadi with thousands of American and Iraqi troops, and have begun to reclaim the city, not in one sudden attack, but neighborhood by neighborhood.

Instead of leaving after the shooting stops — as the Americans have been forced to do in other Iraqi cities — the Americans plan to leave behind garrisons of American and Iraqi troops at various points throughout the city. For the first time, they say, they believe they have the manpower to make the strategy work. The combat outpost the Americans and Iraqis started building on Monday morning was the fifth one to go up this month on the southern edge of the city.

Central to the strategy, American commanders say, is the decision to commit significant numbers of Iraqi troops who can hold the neighborhoods after the Americans do most of the work of pacification. That, the American commanders hope, will make the city safe enough for its shattered economy to renew itself and for Iraqi police officers to feel secure enough to start showing up for work.

"I'm a realist," Colonel MacFarland said. "I know we are not going to be here long enough to realize that vision. The Iraqis will have to do that. What we can do is try to impart an irreversible momentum."

What on earth does it take? 
From the Rocky Mountain News:

University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill stole the work of others, twisted facts to bolster his own theories and repeatedly violated the most basic standards of scholarly research, the committee assigned to investigate him wrote in a stinging report made public Tuesday.

One of the five committee members recommended Churchill be fired. Two said he should be suspended without pay for two years; the two others recommended a five- year suspension without pay.

What on earth does it take to convince these knuckleheads that this jerk needs to be fired outright?

The UC is an institution of higher learning, not a lifetime entitlement program for its faculty. If he's that bad, why not hire someone else permanently?

From the comments 
A regular Balloon-Juice commenter makes this point:

The amazing thing about this entire pseudo-scandal is the utter ignorance of the vast majority of commenters, of the degree to which financial transactions are monitored under normal regulatory practices, both to keep the markets honest and to prevent their use as a conduit for money laundering. A lot of bloggers on both sides are a pretty good example. Have they never heard of FINCEN? And, one wonders, how do they think that the SEC starts a lot of compliance reviews under rules 14 and 16? I'd submit it has something to do with the fact that every single stock transaction goes into a database that is regularly data mined by the government for suspicious patterns. Understanding derivatives and calls and so forth is at least a little tricky, but it stuns me that so many people presume to speak knowledgeably about the markets, but are wholly ignorant of the actual mechanics of the markets and the methods used by the markets' traffic cops, which are quite simple and the thing on which the post 1933/1934 stock market (and the international market) is based.

All true. The SEC is one of the biggest data miners in the world. Institutional trades are routinely monitored, even domestically, and without a warrant. A substantial restatement of earnings is often enough to trigger a close look.

If you're so inclined, for more information on law enforcement in the financial world, check out Moneylaundering.com, based right here in South Florida.

Jay Rosen on the SWIFT story 
Jay Rosen, proprietor of one of my regular comment hangouts, Press Think, appeared on Hugh Hewitt's program to discuss the Two Times' revelation of the SWIFT financial transaction surveillance program. The transcript is here.

Here is my response.

Rosen: I certainly felt that the explanations that both papers have given for the judgment call that they made haven't been all that good.

Wow. Either it is against the law to publish classified details of ongoing covert ops or it isn't. Either the SWIFT program itself broke laws or it didn't. No one seems to be arguing either point. It is illegal to rat out our programs, and the SWIFT program was legal.

So where's the "judgement call?"

I do think it's too far to talk about prosecuting the paper.

Watch this: Rosen is going to admit that what the paper did is against the law, that it potentially harmed national security, and further stipulate that newspapers are "not above the law." And yet it's "too far" to talk about prosecuting the paper.

is there some chance that the story could have aided terrorists? I suppose I would say that there probably is some chance of that, yeah. And the Times is not exempt from the laws of the country, no.

Wow. Breathtaking.

What's it going to take, Jay? I mean, any of the rest of us would go to jail for divulging such details in a heartbeat. Sandy Berger got in heap big trouble for doing next to no damage to national security, other than perhaps tampering with records. I'd be sitting in Leavenworth right now if I posted about the SWIFT program on the web. Why? Because I'm not above the law, that's why.

If the Times is not above the law, as you say, then it is by definition not too early to talk about prosecuting them. The only way it is too early to talk about prosecuting them is if you do believe that they are, in fact, above the law that governs the rest of us. Sauce for the goose.

Well, the ability to prosecute the press has been on the books for some time. I think we've talked about this before, and it is a policy decision that successive governments have made that even though it is possible, it would be a bad precedent to set,

Yeah. As opposed to setting the precedent that future newspapers can disregard their basic responsibility as citizens and publish damaging information that assists terrorists with the expectation, basically, of impunity. Setting a precedent that newspapers are, in fact, above the law and beyond prosecution. That's a terrific precedent to set.

Let's see - one precedent causes newspapers to respect the law of the land. The other precedent kills people. It's not that hard a question - if you have any sense of moral balance whatsoever. I guess ethical and moral reasoning just isn't in the curriculum at J-schools these days.

I mean, there's a certain amount of risk in having a free press, but there's always a risk if you are the press in publishing classified information. There's a risk that you're going to get in trouble.

Except that if it never happens, and newspapers expect it never to happen, and that expectation gets worked into the institutional decisionmaking process at news organizations - as it has at the New York Times - it's not much of a risk, is it?

Bill Keller says his amateur reading of the law, and some Times lawyers he spoke with, didn't see much of a risk. Which is precisely why the Times got way too big for its britches, and subverted the right and just role of our accountable officials in three branches of government. The principle of moral hazard is broken here - and the only criteria the Times really considered is whether they will scoop the Washington Post.

And that's wrong.

Well, I don't know that this damaged the anti-terrorism effort.

Well, let's see. Who's in a position to know for sure? The President says it damaged the war effort. The Vice President says it damaged the war effort. The Secretary of the Treasury says it damaged the war effort. The members of the 9/11 commission say it damaged the war effort. John Freakin' Murtha says it damaged the war effort, and advised the New York Times not to publish it.

Is anyone with substantial access to secret information in the war on terror - anyone actually with a relevant fund of information to make an informed assessment - saying there was no damage done?


But Jay Rosen, professor of Journalism at NYU, a self-described anti-Bush "radical" whose only clearance pertains to his bowel movements, has a different opinion.

In fact, I think it's much more likely that the people we're trying to catch know all about this, and have shifted their tactics for that reason.

You think? You think? But you don't know crap, Jay. You have no idea what we were tracking. The people who were in a position to know were dismayed when the program was ruined through exposure. You have no basis whatsoever on which to make that decision. It's pure speculation.

Jay, you're operating so far out of your lane you can't even see the highway from here.

Journalists are supposed to report the facts - not make wild and irresponsible speculations about what we are and are not monitoring. The program was obviously effective enough to nab the Butcher of Bali.


I think they are, and that the Counter-Terrorism Blog basically reported in 2002 that the U.S. was using SWIFT to look at international banking transactions. I would be very surprised if the people running al Qaeda didn't know about that, and there were other ways they could know as well.

So how did we catch Hambali again?

Jay's reasoning is like arguing that we shouldn't prosecute murders committed by drug addicts because they're not as sophisticated as mob hits. That we shouldn't monitor highways for speeders because not every car goes 120 miles per hour.

But yeah, I mean, if you assume they're sophisticated users of the internet, you have to assume that they basically knew the U.S. was trying this, and we know that they were shifting the way they transfer money to other methods. So I don't know if we can automatically assume that there is huge damage.

Amazing. You can assume one thing but you can't assume the other.

Except that people with access to the details of the program, including ongoing monitoring operations, don't have to assume anything. The President, Vice President, Secretary of the Treasury, and congressional leaders all know what we were up to, and what the program was monitoring. And they say different. The only thing I think it's safe to assume is that Jay Rosen is engaging in irresponsible speculation. In fact, his entire argument rests on the premise that despite the unanimous testimony of people who do, in fact, know, that were' not in a position to know.

Reminds me of the more exasperating new-earth creationists desperately trying to reason away the overwhelming evidence that the Earth is more than 6,000 years old by smugly saying "how do you know? Were you THERE?"

More media cluelessness... 
According to the dipshits at the Virginia-Pilot,

This vehicle is a Humvee.

How long have we been at war now?

How many stories have been written about Humvees?

Don't we have an entire brigade's worth of Strykers in and out of the news already?

Are the editors of this Virginian daily even serious about covering the war?

Editors, when will you stop making asses of yourself and hire a few veterans into the newsroom?

Splash, out


(Thanks to Chuck Allen ) for sending this along.

UPDATE: It wasn't just the Virginia Pilot. It appears to be an AP error, as the same caption and photo appears here and here.

Since captions are normally written by the local copydesk, I had given the AP the benefit of the doubt. Obviously they didn't deserve it.

Battle drill defense: What happened at Haditha? 
Newsmax does some good reporting here.

According to the Newsmax version, the civilian deaths occured as part of a standard room-clearing drill - form a four-man "stack" at the door, pop the door, and throw a frag grenade in as hard as you can. Make sure it rattles around a bunch. Then charge in a millisecond after the blast firing at anything that moves and any bodies that don't.

There is no quarter in a fight that close, and there cannot be. There never has been quarter given in a fight that close. Once you are within grenade range, it is a fight to the death. There cannot be any hesitation on the trigger. It would be difficult to practice positive target in any case, because of the smoke, and because you are likely to see only a fraction or glimpse of anyone in a furnished room, and you're going to be shooting through the sofa and any other piece of furniture you see.

If it is true that there was fire observed coming out of that house, then it is not at all clear to me that there was a violation of the rules of engagement. The rules of engagement allow for a close quarters fight like that. Indeed, that very drill was executed countless times in Fallujah.

The fact that four insurgents were spotted fleeing the area by UAV, loading weapons in a car, does lend support to what I would call the "battle drill" defense.

What's the "battle drill defense? That the Marines involved were executing a doctrinally-mandated battle drill when the civilians were killed. Not entirely a safe harbor - I would have to question why, when it became apparent that the Marines had clearly wounded noncombatants, aid was not rendered. And why were no civilians wounded, rather than killed outright? That would be unusual in any fight. Did the Marines simply abandon the people they had killed? That's not unthinkable, depending on the tactical context. But it would be unusual.

So I'm not saying these guys are off the hook completely. But I cannot establish beyond reasonable doubt that the Marines were guilty of a war crime - at least initially, during the room clearing - if the Newsmax story holds up.

Splash, out


Monday, June 26, 2006

Here's Press Secretary John Snow to Bill Keller and the New York Times:

You have defended your decision to compromise this program by asserting that "terror financiers know" our methods for tracking their funds and have already moved to other methods to send money. The fact that your editors believe themselves to be qualified to assess how terrorists are moving money betrays a breathtaking arrogance and a deep misunderstanding of this program and how it works.

Don't miss the whole thing here.

The fact that Snow - and by extension the President - made this rebuke public is a significant gesture.

But it won't be enough.

If this isn't a clear cut case for criminal prosecution for the deliberate airing of state secrets, nothing is. We have a duty to preserve and protect the integrity and potency of our national defense against foreign threats against those who act with a reckless disregard for public safety not just now, but for future administrations. If we don't stick up for ourselves now, we create a new and lower standard for the future.

Prosecute vigorously, and prosecute now.

Splash out,


UPDATE: It wasn't Tony. It was John Snow, the Treasury Secretary. I was apparently smoking crack or something.

UPDATE: Ed Morrissey: When one has meetings with a Cabinet officer, his undersecretary, members of Congress, and the two chairs of the 9/11 Commission, and all of them urge the spiking of a national-security story, that cannot be described by anyone with a shred of honesty as "half-hearted". Not only has Keller revealed his arrogance, but also showed the lack of integrity that led to his decision to publish this story.

Indict the New York Times 
I haven't written about it, but I'm assuming you are familiar with the decision of the New York Times to publish the details of the government's efforts to track the movements of Al Qaeda finances through the international banking system.

This decision clearly causes substantial and irreparable harm to the security of the United States and our allies, and violates federal law in the process.

Bill Keller's defense of the decision is here.

But nowhere in his reasoning does he even acknowledge that the people have a legitimate and compelling interest in keeping our legal clandestine surveillance activities in a time of war from becoming public knowledge. Indeed, shockingly, this obtuse cretin tries to drag conservative bloggers into the muck with him by accusing us of drawing further attention to the story by criticizing him).

And of course, nowhere in his reasoning does he acknowledge the possibility that his paper acted in violation of the laws of the United States. As Glenn Reynolds, himself a law professor, points out, Keller fundamentally misconstrues the law, mistaking the freedom of the press in the first amendment as an institutional freedom, granted to the media industry. It is not. Nor do the statutes and legal precedent allow for the publishing of classified information when such actions cause substantial harm to the national security interests of the United States. I am indebted to Mr. Hugh Hewitt for pointing out the precedent established by the Near v. Minnesota case, decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1931.

The objection has also been made that the principle as to immunity from previous restraint is stated too [716] "broadly, if every such restraint is deemed to be prohibited. That is undoubtedly true; the protection even as to "previous restraint is not absolutely unlimited. But the limitation has been recognized only in exceptional cases: "When a nation is at war, many things that might be said in time of peace are such a hindrance to its effort that their "utterance will not be endured so long as men fight, and that no Court could regard them as protected by any "constitutional right." Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47, 52. No one would question but that a government might prevent actual "obstruction to its recruiting service or the publication of the sailing dates of transports or the number and location "of troops.

And I have written in this space before about the Ellsberg case - a case frequently understood among undereducated journalists.

Although Justice White did not want to grant an injunction to the government in this PARTICULAR instance, he did go on to call for the criminal prosecution of the New York Times and Washington Post under specific statutes.

White specifically cited section 793(e) of 18 U.S.C., on unauthorized possession of a document relating to the national defense, as well as sections 797 (graphical representations of military installations) and 798 (code and cryptographic information), and wrote: “I would have no difficulty in sustaining convictions under these sections on facts that would not justify…the imposition of a prior restraint.”

So while the government's burden to impose a restraint on publication is indeed heavy, the press does not have a blank check, under the first amendment, to compromise national security and endanger the safety of thousands in pursuit of a scoop. Nor are they allowed to violate the law by obtaining classified documents in so doing. In that respect, journalists are under exactly the same law as everyone else. As it should be.

And here's where Keller hangs himself - he relies on the absence of an a priori restraint to inoculate himself and his paper against section 793 and related statutes, when no prior restraint is necessary for an indictment or conviction.

The people have a compelling interest in protecting state secrets from publication in irresponsible newspapers. Not just the Administration, but all future Administrations, Democrat and Republican, and the people. And by "the people," in this case, I believe I can write in the broadest sense of the term - to include not just the people of the United States, but civilized people all over the world, who benefited from the surveillance program rendered useless by the New York Times.

The U.S. Attorney General should seek an indictment against Riser, Lichtblau, Keller, and/or the New York Times itself under federal state secrets statutes.

Further, there should be an establishment of strict civil liability against newspapers for damages or deaths resulting from future strikes which could have been prevented but for the decision of newspaper editors to publish the details of our surveillance programs.

Now that any future terrorist strike that relied in any way on telephone calls from overseas or on money transfers from suspected terrorists abroad will fall into that category, the New York Times and its conspirators, having published the telephone surveillance story and the banking records story alike, had better have some healthy umbrella coverage.

Splash, out


Friday, June 23, 2006

I wonder what Scott Johnson means... 
with his closing statement in this entry?

It is unfortunately past time for the Bush administration to enforce the laws of the United States against the New York Times. The Times and its likeminded media colleagues will undoubtedly continue to undermine and betray the national security of the United States until they are taught that they are subject to the same laws that govern the conduct of ordinary citizens, or until an enraged citizenry decides, like Bill Keller, to take the law into its own hands and express its disagreement some other way.

I agree with Johnson that the Administration should stick up for the country and its efforts in the clandestine war on terror - the decisive front in the war on terror - by prosecuting those who violate the law by recklessly publishing classified information.

But an 'enraged citizenry?'

That's a dangerous idea to put out there.

Splash, out


Windows Replacement 
Been out of commission for most of this week thanks to a dead hard drive. Went back to my spare laptop - the one I had in Iraq - and am working and writing off that one. It was so riddled with viruses though it was barely functional. McAfee got rid of some of it, but there are some Spyware and other crap programs that even an updated McAfee couldn't get rid of. The computer was barely functional.

I finally gave up on Windows altogether and installed Mozilla's Firefox. Or Firefox's Mozilla. Whatever.

It's an easy install and an elegant looking interface. It seems to have imported my cookies and passwords and stuff from Windows no problem. I love the tab feature - I think it will save me a lot of time once I get used to using it, and I can't believe MSFT hasn't adopted something so obvious and convenient.

Not having the same crap popup windows or delays from the virus-infested Windows program either. Everything seems to display just fine. Only downside I see thus far is it seems to have a hard time with Hotmail and with embedded search programs in web pages sometimes. But that may be because I just haven't added the right plugins yet.

But overall, it's like having a new computer.

It would be nice if Microsoft were more serious about virus eradication - why should you have to rely on Norton or McAfee to do what Microsoft ought to be doing itself in order to preserve the integrity of its flagship product?

Further, I think it's time for some serious class action suits against the companies responsible for some of these malware programs. Seems like a better idea than setting off bombs in their lobbies.

Splash, out


On deadline... 
Sorry for the light blogging. On multiple deadlines. More later.

It's amazing to watch these bastards move the goalposts around. 
A reader writes in to lend perspective to David Kay's assertion that the recently found chemical munitions are no more dangerous than those Americans store under their kitchen sinks.

I work at an army base as a plant engineer at a facility which just completed destroying mustard agent. Our people wore expensive, disposable, uncomfortable, inflated suits to protect themselves from 60+ year’s old mustard agent. We have spent hundreds of million of dollars over the last 3 years to dispose of American pre-WWII mustard agent but based on an MSNBC report and from what she said today it was obviously wasted money since the mustard agent was old and degraded. And there are other projects gearing up to dispose of mustard agent and other old chemical weapons, so more money could be saved by stopping these projects. Also our silly congress has mandated that this material can not be transported outside of the military bases where they are stored. Disposal, especially in a non-centralized faculty, is obviously a total waste of money. Degraded mustard agent dangerous? Another one of those Bush lies? Wrong! I wrote and told her that she has no shame. She of all Democrats should know the truth about chemical weapons being on the intelligence committee. Obviously she doesn’t want to discuss the incident where a military disposal unit crew member was severely burned by a French WWII mortar shell filled with mustard agent found in dredged sea bed material in Dover, DE last year. The soldier would, I’m sure, take comfort from her statement today.

The commenter erroneously attributes the statement to Rep. Jane Harman. In any case, Kay does concede that the chemical agents would cause burns, but Kay argues they would not be lethal. Perhaps. But I don't think Kay would like to take any chances.

It's amazing to watch these bastards move the goalposts around.

The Security Council resolutions did not make any exception whatsoever for chemical compounds which are not lethal. Saddam would have been in violation of his agreements and the resolutions had the ordnance been free of toxic chemical compounds altogether - the munitions themselves were a violation of the cease fire agreement and were to be destroyed.

It is now settled fact that Saddam was in violation of the Security Council agreements from day one - and the same people who were arguing that "there were no chemical weapons in Iraq - none" are now arguing that a 500 round stockpile of chemical munitions somehow doesn't amount to a violation.

(No, the stockpiles were not "forgotten." If they were forgotten, then how did we find them? We're not out in the middle of the desert digging holes in the sand at random. Someone tipped us off to them.) And if they were to be forgotten about, why did Saddam have his people go through the trouble to bury them? Why not just put them in a corner of an arms dump and forget about them?

Oh, and the Washington Post's assertion that "there is no evidence that the insurgents have found the chemical weapons" can be fact-checked here.

Do try to keep up, WaPo.

Splash, out


Thursday, June 22, 2006

The USMC recovers a sniper rifle captured two years ago.

And kills the bastard who had it.

The best countersniper weapon is another trained sniper.

Hat tip: Blackfive

500 Chemical Weapons Found in Iraq 
So says a recently declassified report.

Contrast this with Counterbias:

"There were no WMDs in Iraq. None."

Of course, that was written after we had at least two recorded incidents of chemical IEDs around Baghdad in the spring/summer of 2004. So this guy was demonstrably stupid when he wrote it.

More later.

Splash, out


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

On Andrew Sullivan 
Our side abides by the rules of the Geneva and Hague Conventions; Their side makes a stated war aim out of their gross and egregious violations.

Our war crimes are rigorously prosecuted consistent with the rights of the accused to due process of law; their war crimes are chronicled on their propaganda sites as the sentence of an Islamic kangaroo court, as if their foul thuggery and nihilistic bloodlust of even their kangaroo courts bore any relation whatsoever to the tradition of Sharia law.

Our prisoners gain weight in captivity and receive modern health care; Their prisoners are treated with a power drill.

Our soldiers put themselves at great personal risk in order to protect the lives of women and children; their soldiers abduct them and use them as human shields.

Our side builds schools; their side mows down Beslan's schoolchildren like summer wheat.

Our side respects the elderly; their side sets off suicide bombs in old-age homes.

Our side shares soda pops with children; their side sets off bombs at ice cream parlors and soda stores.

Our side trains police officers; their side abducts and murders them.

Our transgressions are the exceptions; theirs are their baseline.

Andrew Sullivan - a man I once admired, and who is more than anyone else responsible for me entering blogging - is now writing that the difference between our side and theirs is not one of kind, but only of degree. Shame on him. This war cannot be tracked or explained on the basis of political points. The moojies kidnapped and murdered laundresses and schoolteachers and riddled civilians with bullets and slaughtered new police graduates long, long before the Abu Ghraib story broke. Abu Ghraib does not in ANY way explain or mitigate what Al Qaeda did to our two abducted soldiers. That Sullivan even tries to do so evinces a moral dysfunction bordering on degeneracy. What Al Qaeda did is an evil in and of itself, and entirely self-contained.

Maybe if the captured soldiers were a married gay couple, Sullivan would just be capable of cutting our troops an even break. But I doubt it even then. I don't think Sullivan could muster a full-throated condemnation of the sadistic vermin who did this unless they first converted to Christianity and enrolled in Bob Jones university.

May they die gut-shot in a filthy alley, tormented by stray dogs gnawing on their entrails, wondering what the Ace of Spades playing card signifies to the US troops that dropped them there.

Unfortunately, that probably won't happen. Our troops are required to provide these jackals with medical care equivalent to that provided to our own brave soldiers. And our professional officers and NCOs will probably see that they get it. More, they won't have to issue the order, because our medics and corpsmen will not need to be told. They will jump to saving the life that's in front of them without orders - yet another illuminating difference between our side and theirs. And one Sullivan, his moral sense so twisted and dulled by the shelter of his life, seems to be unable to grasp.

Splash, out


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Quote of the day 
From Professor Cori Dauber:

Now, note to the staff of the New York Times: here's why you have so little credibility with everyone who has the least bit of familiarity with military issues. I'm not talking about military personnel and vets, and military affairs professors. I'm talking about everyone who has the most glancing, the most casual, the most informal, knowledge about the military. Anyone who has so much as read a book, hell skimmed a book, or engaged in small talk over a beer with someone who's even considered going into the military, that little familiarity with the military would be enough to read this paragraph and immediately understand that almost five years after 9/11, and three years after war began in Iraq, at a time when polls show most Americans believe no issue matters more than the war in Iraq, your reporters can't be bothered to have the most passing understanding of how the military works, and what's worse, the editors who are supposed to be responsible for keeping them honest seem to be alright with that -- because those editors don't know enough to realize how little the reporters know, or don't care.

Oh, by the way, New York Times, Corporal York was at no time "the officer in charge" of anything, because corporal is not an officer rank. Corporal York was an NCO.

You've been covering a war for how long, now?

Splash, out


Monday, June 19, 2006

Michael Fumento Reports from Ramadi 
His riveting account is an absolute must read.

Couldn't quite tell from the footage whether Camp Corrigedor is the old Combat Outpost out on the western side of Ramadi, which was the home of C/1-124 and part of HHC/1-124. Yes, it was hit every couple of days with mortars and RPGs, as well - even during the quieter days of OIF I. At least, from what Fumento reports, Ramadi seems more active now than it was in OIF I.

A couple of things interested me:

1.) The enemy had a pretty good sniper on the payroll, at least for a while. During my tenure there, I don't recall much enemy sniper activity of note - in the sense of long-range precision fire. There may have been one a bit south of us, in the Tamim/5 mile section of the town... which is actually IDEAL ground for sniper operations - on both sides, because there are thousands of apartments on high ground overlooking one of the main thoroughfares. A good sniper sitting back from a window or door in one of those places 500-600 meters away could wreak havoc on road traffic - and has, from time to time.

In central Ramadi, though, there are few good places for long range precision rifle fire in the classic sense. The town is built up on level ground so ranges are restricted, and the few elevated firing platforms, such as minarets, or tall buildings, are too obvious to be occupied by a sniper for long, unless he has a death wish. But Fumento's account notes that the enemy occasionally uses snipers effectively and too good effect.

Few feelings are creepier or more nerve wracking than the feeling that someone has his reticle on your temple right now. A sniper can really put a cramp on the enemy's style. Fortunately, our snipers are better than theirs.

2.) Why put a road off limits just because the enemy plants 18 IEDs there per night? That sounds like a terrific tactical opportunity to me. Any enemy who can organize and plant 18 IEDs in a single night is worth going out of your way to kill. There are a lot of ways to skin a cat - and if I knew such an enemy was making a habit out of doing that in one place, I'd find a way to attack and kill him - through some combination of aerial observation, snipers, OPs, channeling, random traffic control points, and manned or mechanical ambushes. Maybe not on the site itself - that's too obvious - but on the approaches to it. For instance, you could set three ambushes on approaches to and from the site, and observe it from the air or with a sniper team, if possible. The car with the IEDs approaches the site, and the aerial crew observes them, reports the information, and hits them. The ambush is not set until the air crew makes the report. When the moojies are hit, they'll either die, or run, and chances are they'll run right into the ambush, which is now activated and fully alert.

If air is not available, and the terrain does not allow for a sniper team, you could use a series of small battery-operated cameras for the night, surreptitiously emplaced by your dismounts during the day. No one method will work all the time - you have to use them in combination.

Any man who gets out of his car to plant an IED must expose himself, and he can be killed. This is the enemy at his most vulnerable - and the best anti-IED weapon in the arsenal is the trained sniper.

The popular IED sites can themselves be booby-trapped, though this is legally problematic for our troops. Iraqi troops could do so, no problem. The difficulty with mechanical ambushes is that you leave ordnance out for the enemy to capture. But there's no shortage of ordnance anyway.

You also leave mechanical ambushes for the local kids to play with. But the kids can't play on that road anyway, if the moojies are dropping 18 IEDs per night on it. The article doesn't say, but I wonder if that IED road is the northern road up by the river?

If so, it's too bad... that's really the only road in town that has any bearable scenery in it, other than the Saddam mosque. If it is, though, the US commander should look also at interdicting boat traffic on the Euphrates - which is where some of the ordnance and IED planters may be coming from. That area was a frequent site for IEDs and weapons cache sites alike during 2003 and 2004, though we never found anything like that many being planted on one night. Five would have been an active night.

3.) Commanders in Ramadi are still pissed off about the lack of media coverage. So am I. If the media is not covering Ramadi, they are not covering the heart of the insurgency. It seems like the moojies have their A-team in Ramadi, and that's where the friction is greatest, and that's where the unit doctrine is really being written, on both sides. Back before Fallujah was stormed I wrote that Ramadi was really the central piece - the lynchpin of the insurgency. I still believe that. The insurgents must be able to use Ramadi to support their efforts in Baghdad. They clearly have a remote base of support outside of Baghdad. If they cannot use Ramadi or Khalidiyah, Baghdad gets a lot quieter. If Ramadi and Khalidiyah can be denied to the enemy, they must move their base out to Hit, if support comes from Syria. But Hit's a long drive through the desert - and any operations between Hit and points west are very vulnerable to TCP operations. And the TCPs themselves don't make inviting targets out there because they can be set up in open desert.

The problem with the media is that if they don't get out of Baghdad, they cannot appreciate the lay of the land along the stretch between Baghdad and Hadithah - and where do they think the war in Baghdad comes from?

4.) Fumento's account illustrates the difference in coverage you get with a REAL correspondent - someone with military experience himself, who knows what he's looking at - and the drive-by media holed up in their Baghdad hotels relying on stringers.

Splash, out


Sunday, June 18, 2006

I don't think the knucklehead who put white letters on a pink background has any business lecturing anyone else about the Army writing style.

Decent Annual training, though long. Just getting back on the ground and spent some quality time with the fiddle today. Looks like I'm subbing for Roisin Dillon this weekend locally, while she goes off to tour with Cherish The Ladies. Which means I'm filling some incredibly big shoes. I have to be on my game!

I don't have much to add on current events right now. I just haven't been keeping up with anything. Yes, I was thrilled when Zarqawi was killed. Even more thrilled that he lived long enough to know that it was us who got him. Beyond that, I haven't done any reading.

A few operational lessons learned from annual training - but I'm giving my commander the courtesy of having him read them in my formal After Action Review before I discuss anything here.

Four years as a headquarters company commander or executive officer. That's got to be some kind of record! I'm in my third year of command now. I commanded the unit for a year before the war, got bumped down to XO when a Captain came in looking for a job (the decision to disband our antitank company and reinforce the line companies to full strength prior to the Iraq mobilization meant we had an extra captain who took command of HHC as I was only a lieutenant at the time. I was happy to be able to remain as executive officer, though, and hopefully I made a difference.)

I still screw things up on a regular basis, as we all do. But I'm starting to get the hang of the job, and I'm able to see around a lot of planning corners I couldn't see around a few years ago. Maybe I'll write a guide for Headquarters Company commanders and Executive Officers and First Sergeants. I already know the title: "Herding Cats."

The Illest Muthaf******* in a Cardigan Sweater 
Yo, dawg... Bob Saget is Phat!!!

Night, Michelle!


Thursday, June 01, 2006

A commenter on another blog ... 
...has some lucid thoughts on Iraq - especially at the end.

The tragedy of the event is manifest. In any case, as I stated before, COIN is inherently a very tough nut to crack, and a VERY personal war. It certainly varies from city to city, but I know Samarra personally and I can attest to the dangers of the place. Yes, the responsibility can be placed upon the soldiers. Was it within the rules of engagement (was the warning escalated properly, did the soldiers attempt to stop the car, etc?). I can only speculate on legality, but we faced situations like this before (panicky civilians speeding through clearly labled checkpoints, with wounded and dead resulting, albeit very seldom). The consequences of even legal and sanctioned violence at the soldier can have strategic ripple effects (as we see in this case).

Disabling a car is difficult. Bullets aren't stopped by anything in cars except the frame and engine block (and even then, metal on metal causes ricochets). This is certainly not like the movies. You can only aim center mass of the engine (not tires). Combine this with a speeding car, and you have only the split second reaction of a soldier behind a machine gun or rifle who must rely upon his or her training and judgement. Counterintuitively it is the trained combat arms soldier (the trained killer) that does this the best. He, more than the rear-echelon soldiers, possesses the best judgment, skill, and leadership that actually mitigates the problem of illegal shootings. If it was a traffic control point, then it was combat arms soldiers (infantry, cavalry, armor, artillery, or even engineer). You also don't get any idea of the threat in Samarra, where the threat of a vehicle borne IED has always been high. We had a soldier stand one down, wounding and stopping the driver of a VBIED with his M4 rifle, causing him to detonate the VBIED with in 20 meters of the soldier. He was slightly wounded from a huge explosion that disintegrated the car. His judgment and skill earned him a Silver Star. Such is Samarra (not just SOME city north of Baghdad).

I am sure the soldiers that shot the car are the ones that dealt with the dead and treated the wounded on the scene after it was over. A terrible tragedy, and if the violence was illegal, then they will be punished (we do not hide soldier crimes).

As far as the tactics and techniques of check point operations, they are sound. Nevertheless, bad things happen during COIN, even when soldiers are operating within Law of Armed Conflict and the ROE.

I'm no rubber stamp of military doctrine or decisions made prior to the war. I for one am very confused as to why our Army was so averse to training our junior leaders on how to fight a counterinsurgency, if as the generals the criticized Rumsfeld, the planning for an occupation of Iraq was 12 years in the making. If that is the case, it was never translated into doctrine, and doctrine drives training. No Arabic classes. No studying of successful COIN operations in history (Malaysia) nor failures such as Vietnam. No attempt to develop a Lawrence of Arabia model. No studying of Mao, or of the Algergian wars. COIN was, until recently, relegated to the Special Forces of the military. It wasn't until it slapped us in the face that it became a priority. So those that argue about troops numbers are, in my humble opinion, are dead wrong. More soldiers trained in the conventional war model would have made no difference if they weren't TRAINED to deal with a potential counterinsurgency.

One weekend a month and two weeks a year MY ASS!...er, wait. Nevermind. 
Off for annual training tomorrow. Taking care of things today. See you sometime after June 17th!


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