"...everyone is bored,and devotes himself to cultivating habits..these habits are not peculiar to our town.." Albert Camus "The Plague"

Monday, October 30, 2006

Clearly, The Issue Is Iraq (Cont.)

Marine Capt. Robert Secher

Another soldier's thoughts and suggestions.

See "Iraq Through the Eyes of a Dead Soldier" in the current issue of Newsweek. Marine Capt.Robert Secher became disillusioned with the way the war was being prosecuted but believed in doing the job. He paid with his life. The Newsweek article contains emails home provided by his family. Excerpts:

On working with the Iraqis: Anytime an American fires a weapon there has to be an investigation into why there was an escalation of force. That wouldn't have stopped us from firing, but it prevents us from just firing indiscriminately. We have to have positively identified targets. That is why I am now a big fan of having the Iraqis with us. They can fire at whatever the hell they want, we call it the "Iraqi Death Blossom." These guys receive one shot and the whole unit fires at everything in sight until the attached American unit gets them to control their fire. That's fine with me.

On the "dirty secrets" of war: Of course you've heard about two different sets of Marines being charged with murder.....

I feel bad for those guys. Bush should be ashamed of the predicament that this nation has been put in. And anyone who calls those young Marines killers should think twice. War puts perfectly ordinary young men in situations that can't be judged by laws. They are the situations of survival. The dirty little secrets of war, no one would want to know the horrible things that the "greatest generation" did to German and Japanese soldiers and civilians... ... If you really want to win a war you have to be brutal. You have to be Sherman and raze Georgia as you march to the sea.

On Iraqui military culture: The biggest lesson I have learned over 6 months here is that the Iraqi culture is incapable of maintaining a western style military. The Arabic-style military.... is distasteful to western soldiers: officers who hit their men; officers and senior enlisted men who regularly steal from their men; using leadership to openly grant yourself more food and 'standard of living' items while your men go without.

Newsweek Story

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Clearly, The Issue is Iraq

(the following article appeared yesterday in the "Best of the Web" column from WSJ On Line; thanks to James Taranto)

Best of the Web Today - October 25, 2006


A View From Iraq

Our item yesterday in which we reaffirmed our support for the liberation of Iraq brought some very interesting reader comments. This is from an American there who asks not to be named:

There's been a lot of discussion back home about the course of the war, the righteousness of our involvement, the clarity of our execution, and what to do about the predicament in which we currently find ourselves. I just wanted to send you my firsthand account of what's happening here.

First, a little bit about me: I'm stationed slightly northwest of Baghdad in a mixed Sunni/Shia area. I'm a sergeant in the U.S. Army on a human intelligence collection team. I interact with Iraqis on a daily basis and I help put together the intel picture for our area of operations. I have contacts with friends, who are also in my job, in every are of operations in the Fourth Infantry Division footprint, and through our crosstalk I'd say I have a pretty damn good idea of what's going on in and around Baghdad on a micro and intermediary level.

I wrote heavily in favor of this war before I enlisted myself, and I still maintain that going into Iraq was not only the necessary thing to do, but the right thing to do as well.

There have been distinct failures of policy in Iraq. The vast majority of them fall under the category "failure to adapt." Basically U.S. policies have been several steps behind the changing conditions ever since we came into the country. I believe this is (in part) due to our plainly obvious desire to extricate ourselves from Iraq. I know President Bush is preaching "stay the course," but we came over here with a goal of handing over our battlespace to the Iraqis by the end of our tour here.

This breakneck pace with which we're trying to push the responsibility for governing and securing Iraq is irresponsible and suicidal. It's like throwing a brick on a house of cards and hoping it holds up. The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF)--a joint term referring to Iraqi army and Iraqi police--are so rife with corruption, insurgent sympathies and Shia militia members that they have zero effectiveness. Two Iraqi police brigades in Baghdad have been disbanded recently, and the general sentiment in our field is "Why stop there?" I can't tell you how many roadside bombs have been detonated against American forces within sight of ISF checkpoints. Faith in the Iraqi army is only slightly more justified than faith in the police--but even there, the problems of tribal loyalties, desertion, insufficient training, low morale and a failure to properly indoctrinate their soldiers results in a substandard, ineffective military. A lot of the problems are directly related to Arab culture, which traditionally doesn't see nepotism and graft as serious sins. Changing that is going to require a lot more than "benchmarks."

In Shia areas, the militias hold the real control of the city. They have infiltrated, co-opted or intimidated into submission the local police. They are expanding their territories, restricting freedom of movement for Sunnis, forcing mass migrations, spiking ethnic tensions, not to mention the murderous checkpoints, all while U.S. forces do . . . nothing.

For the first six months I was in country, sectarian violence was classified as an "Iraqi on Iraqi" crime. Division didn't want to hear about it. And, in a sense I can understand why. Because division realized that which the Iraqi people have come to realize: The American forces cannot protect them. We are too few in number and our mission is "stability and support." The problem is that there's nothing to give stability and support to. We hollowed out the Baathist regime, and we hastily set up this provisional government, thrusting political responsibility on a host of unknowns, each with his own political agenda, most funded by Iran, and we're seeing the results.

In Germany after World War II, we controlled our sector with approximately 500,000 troops, directly administering the area for 10 years while we rebuilt the country and rebuilt the social and political infrastructure needed to run it. In Iraq, we've got one-third that number of troops dealing with three times the population on a much faster timetable, and we're attempting to unify three distinct ethnic groups with no national interest and at least three outside influences (Saudi Arabian Wahhabists, Iranian mullahs and Syrian Baathists) each eagerly funding various groups in an attempt to see us fail. And we are.

If we continue on as is in Iraq, we will leave here (sooner or later) with a fractured state, a Rwanda-waiting-to-happen. "Stay the course" and refusing to admit that we're screwing things up is already killing a lot of people needlessly. Following through with such inane nonstrategy is going to be the death knell for hundreds of thousands of Sunnis.

We need to backtrack. We need to publicly admit we're backtracking. This is the opening battle of the ideological struggle of the 21st century. We cannot afford to lose it because of political inconveniences. Reassert direct administration, put 400,000 to 500,000 American troops on the ground, disband most of the current Iraqi police and retrain and reindoctrinate the Iraqi army until it becomes a military that's fighting for a nation, not simply some sect or faction. Reassure the Iraqi people that we're going to provide them security and then follow through. Disarm the nation: Sunnis, Shias, militia groups, everyone. Issue national ID cards to everyone and control the movement of the population.

If these three things are done, you can actually start the Iraqi economy again. Once people have a sense of security, they'll be able to leave their houses to go to work. Tell your American commanders that it's OK to pass up bad news--because part of the problem is that these issues are not reaching above the battalion or brigade level due to the can-do, make-it-happen culture indoctrinated into our U.S. officers. While the attitude is admirable, it also creates barriers to recognizing and dealing with on-the-ground realities.

James, there's a lot more to this than I've written here. The short of it is, the situation is salvageable, but not with "stay the course" and certainly not with cut and run. However, the commitment required to save it is something I doubt the American public is willing to swallow. I just don't see the current administration with the political capital remaining in order to properly motivate and convince the American public (or the West in general) of the necessity of these actions.

At the same time, failure in Iraq would be worse than a dozen Somalias, and would render us as impotent and emasculated as we were in the days after Vietnam. There is a global cultural-ideological struggle being waged, and abdication from Iraq is tantamount to concession.

(what follows is Taranto's take on the shallowness of Democrat views about what to do about Iraq)

This weekend "60 Minutes" aired Lesley Stahl's interview with Nancy Pelosi, who most likely will become speaker if Democrats take the House. The Web write-up suggests how shallow is the Democratic Party's thinking on Iraq:

One issue that she is fighting about here is Iraq. She opposed the war from the start and now, like her, most Democrats support a phased withdrawal of troops beginning later this year.

"Does that not open you up then to that charge of cutting and running? This is just what they're saying," Stahl asks.

"The issue is them. The issue is the war they got us into," Pelosi replies. "If the president wants to say the war in Iraq is part of the war on terror, he's not right."

"Do you not think that the war in Iraq now, today, is the war on terror?" Stahl asks.

"No. The war on terror is the war in Afghanistan," Pelosi says.

"But you don't think that the terrorists have moved into Iraq now?" Stahl continues.

"They have," Pelosi agrees. "The jihadists in Iraq. But that doesn't mean we stay there. They'll stay there as long as we're there."

It seems entirely too pat to say that if we leave Iraq, so will the jihadists. After all, there were jihadists in Afghanistan long before we arrived. But let's say it's true. Where does Pelosi think the jihadists will go? Isn't she worried that some of them will come here?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Lieberman: Last Senate Democrat Strong on National Defense

With yet two more polls showing him substantially ahead, it looks like incumbent Sen. Joe Lieberman, running as an independent and with great support from the Republicans, is going to save his skin. In the Quinnipiac University poll, Lieberman leads the real Democrat, Ned Lamont, 52% to 35% and in the ARG poll it is 49% to 37%.

The Hartford Courant in reporting today quoting Lieberman on his campaign finances:

"I will tell you there is no way I can now match this last-minute Lamont onslaught of attack ads without your help," he said Thursday. "So if you want something better for our democracy than Ned Lamont's $11 million tear-down campaign, and if you believe in my message of putting people ahead of politics, then I ask you today to make a contribution on my website."

But the Joe-needs-help message has been spreading for a while in Washington. Beginning with Rove's phone call, "a lot of Republicans around Washington who know [Lieberman] and like him spread the word," said Charles R. Black Jr., a longtime adviser to the Bush family. Black has not given to Lieberman - "I don't write checks to Democrats," he said, chuckling, and then added, "If I lived in Connecticut, I'd vote for him."

According to those familiar with the events and the pitches for money, no one is dangling the prospect of a re-elected Lieberman voting with Senate Republicans. The senator has consistently said that if he wins a fourth term, he will caucus with Senate Democrats.

That's fine, Black said. "What I tell people is that it's important we have leaders in both parties who believe in a strong national defense and are willing to sacrifice politically if necessary," he said. "Joe is the last Democrat standing in the Senate who fits that description."

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Saturday, October 14, 2006

U.S. Success in Iraq only 50/50:
Col. Ralph Peters

Here is audio from Jim Vicevich's "Sound Off Connecticut" show heard weekday mornings on WTIC, Hartford. Jim is interviewing Col. Ralph Peters, author and NY Post columnist.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Where Are All the News Stories on
Harry Reid's Shady Secret Land Deal?


WASHINGTON (AP) - Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid collected a $1.1 million windfall on a Las Vegas land sale even though he hadn't personally owned the property for three years, property deeds show.

In the process, Reid did not disclose to Congress an earlier sale in which he transferred his land to a company created by a friend and took a financial stake in that company, according to records and interviews.


h/t Limbaugh for Pic

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Holocaust Denial: Now, "Climate change Denial"

Things are really heating up in the debate over global warming. Some comments seen way out there:

‘Perhaps there is a case for making climate change denial an offence. It is a crime against humanity, after all.’ and...

Others have suggested that climate change deniers should be put on trial in the future, Nuremberg-style, and made to account for their attempts to cover up the ‘global warming…Holocaust’ and...

"When we've finally gotten serious about global warming, when the impacts are really hitting us and we're in a full worldwide scramble to minimize the damage, we should have war crimes trials for these bastards -- some sort of climate Nuremberg.”

Monday, October 09, 2006

Of Old Houses, Antiques, Cats, Scots, Llamas Pajamas, Fine Food and Drink, & Fellowship:

Photo loop of a fun day in the country! Many thanks to hosts Christine and Randy; a wonderful time!

Family's Search for Sunken WW II Sub

Here is an interesting article about one family's privately funded search for a lost U.S. submarine, the USS Grunion, commanded by their father. The ship was believed to have been sunk in July 1942 off Kiska in the Aleutians. Here is the lead to the story:

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Underwater sonar images of a black shape against a background of grainy monochrome are safely stored on two computer hard drives at Bruce Abele's home in Newton, Mass.

Blurred by odd shadows and striations, the silhouettes are the biggest clues in more than 60 years to the fate of his father's World War II submarine, the USS Grunion, which sank nearly 5,000 miles west of Massachusetts, near the obscure islands at the tip of Alaska's Aleutian chain.

For decades, relatives of the Grunion's 70 lost crewmen had no information beyond fragmented
U.S. Navy records, and a few rumors, about where and why the sub went down.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Sen. Joe Lieberman Audio from Glenn Beck Interview, 8/22/06

I recently came across this interesting radio interview in which Sen. Lieberman makes clear his strong support for the war on terror. Interesting stuff.

Joe Lieberman audio from interview on Glenn Beck show, 8/22/06.
h/t Wild Bill

Monday, October 02, 2006

Lieberman, Ashcroft, Bingham, Donnelley: 1964 Yale Grads

As a dealer in books I sometimes come across college yearbooks containing the profiles of prominent and famous persons. The 1964 yearbook from Yale University is one such example.

This interesting yearbook documents the college days of four Yale graduates who went on to lead quite different public lives. The class of 1964 included Joseph I. Lieberman, a liberal Democrat, now the U.S. Senator from Connecticut; John Ashcroft, a prominent conservative and former U.S. Attorney General; Stephen Bingham, an idealist involved in progressive causes; and, Strachan Donnelley, Ph.D, a scholar and environmentalist.I have included 2 photos of Lieberman including one showing him "on the stump". There is a thumbnail photo of Ashcroft as well.

Joseph I. Lieberman, the United states senator from Connecticut is running for re-election this year as an independent having been defeated in the Democratic primary by an anti-war candidate.

John Ashcroft was, until recently, the United States Attorney General.

Stephen Bingham was involved in civil rights and leftist causes in the 1960's and 70's and in 1971 was accused of smuggling a weapon to George Jackson at San Quentin prison.

Bingham, one of several lawyers working with Jackson, was accused of being part of an escape plot. Bingham fled the country and lived in exile until 1984. When he returned, he was acquitted of all charges related to the “escape.” Today, he is a welfare rights attorney in San Francisco.

Strachan Donnelley is from the prominent Chicago publishing family: A recent announcement describes his current activities (2003):

Minding Nature: Humans, Nature, and Democracy Strachan Donnelley, PH.D., Project Director: New School University November 7-8, 2003

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting