Date ►►► April 30, 2007
The Virtue of "Torture"
Ayn Rand once published a book titled the Virtue of Selfishness, which I didn't actually read: While I like her fiction, I find her nonfiction bombastic and often hilariously uninformed about everything from philosophy to science.
But that won't stop me from stealing the title for this post. What I really want to talk about is Dean Barnett, John McCain, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (hereafter KSM), and the moral status of both torture and "torture."
Virtue, in this case, means showing that some technique will save innocent lives while not itself being morally repugnant... which is precisely the case I prove for "torture" -- but reject for torture.
Let's set one boundary condition for this debate: We are not interested in either torture or "torture" as punishment; only as a means of extracting information. The other debate is for another time (and probably another blog).
So read on, MacDuff; and damn'd be he who first cries "this is puff!"
Dean has an excellent post up at Hugh Hewitt's blog that makes the case for some version of what he calls torture, even though he really means "torture" (I'll get to the distinction in a few pages):
THE TORTURE DEBATE brings out a similar absolutism from torture opponents. They tend to casually assume that people who support “coercive interrogation techniques” do so because they’re congenital sadists who have just been waiting for this moment in history so they could begin water-boarding Muslims with impunity.
That’s not the case. The people who support coercive interrogation techniques, and I am one of them, do so sadly. Unfortunately, given the nature of the war we’re in, certain moral compromises are a necessity. Using coercive interrogation techniques is one of them.
Alas, Dean's case is almost exclusively utilitarian (as seen above)... can't make an omlet without breaking a few heads, that sort of thing. He conflates it with, e.g., the firebombing of Tokyo; while both "torture" and the horrors of war can be severally moral acts, they aren't the same thing and shouldn't be used as analogies.
And I'm not particularly sad about us using "torture" (not torture) on terrorists such as KSM. Nor do I feel joy. I do take some satisfaction in the thought of KSM's blubbering breakdown, blabbing every bilious villainy to his Marine Corps interrogators. But other than that, I have no opinion, because he is a no-count.
The problem with Dean's utilitarian argument is twofold:
- It requires him to cede the moral high ground from the git-go, arguing that of course torture/"torture" (he doesn't distinguish, though we shall -- below) is morally wrong, but in such and such a case it's a necessary evil.
I think it a breathtaking leap of faith to declare that inflicting pain on some prisoners to gain information is necessarily a moral wrong, whether or not it's balanced by some greater good to be gained. How can anyone make such a pronouncement without even hearing the case?
- Second, the argument that we may do evil X because it's for the greater good requires a threshold calculation that almost nobody is prepared to make -- because it's almost impossible to quantify.
Threshold calculation? Huh? Don't worry, rhetorical help is on the way...
On the threshold of a scream
We often say "the ends don't justify the means," but obviously some ends justify some means: If we could save a thousand innocent lives by harshly scolding a terrorist, I suspect John McCain, Hillary Clinton, heck, even Pat Leahy would go for it. So the problem becomes defining, for any particular end, what level of "means" is allowed -- where every term must be well defined.
It should be clear that there's no easy way to do this. In Dirty Harry, we watched Det. Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) stomp on Scorpio's (Andy Robinson) gunshot leg to force him to reveal where he buried a teenaged girl alive; and most of us thought Harry was justified. But that's because the circumstances were about as exigent as they can get: An innocent high-school girl was (we presumed) trapped in a grave, slowly suffocating to death; and equally important, by that point in the movie, we knew to 100% certainty that Robinson's character was Scorpio... and was guilty of murder and kidnapping.
That makes a big difference. Suppose we had not one but three suspects, and we were only 70% certain that one of them was the killer; would it be morally just to torture each of them, hoping that one of them (a) would be Scorpio, and (b) would reveal where he buried the girl? In that case, we're guaranteed that two of the people we torture are innocent of these serial killings and don't know anything about the girl; and there's a 30% chance that none of them is guilty!
So what threshold of certainty need we have about a person's guilt to inflict either torture or "torture" upon him, and what kinds of information are valuable enough to warrant such extraordinary treatment? That's a question impossible to answer in the abstract; it requires a case by case evaluation.
The futility of utility
Dean also raises the question of the effectiveness of torture or "torture," and here he does a good job, I think:
And then there’s the persistent intellectual incoherence of the anti-torture voices. They can’t decide whether they’re against torture because it doesn’t work or whether they oppose it solely on moral grounds. This confusion belies their own sense of their argument’s weaknesses. If you add up the consensus of informed opinions, torture sometimes gets you some really useful and actionable information, and sometimes gets you utter rubbish. Torture opponents know this, which is why they cherry-pick experts who argue that torture never works. Because if a consensus formed that torture produced any good information, and the media acknowledged that consensus, torture opponents know their position would become politically untenable.
This we can use: Obviously, if the only point of torture/"torture" is to extract information, we have no grounds whatsoever for using techniques that are highly unlikely to succeed; all of our moral argumentation should be focused solely on those extreme techniques that actually work... of which there certainly are some.
(And of course we must apply basic information testing to ensure that the prisoners are not simply telling us what we want to hear or what they want us to think. But that's true of any method of interrogation, including the interview conducted by a cop when he pulls you over for speeding, and need not concern us here.)
The mechanics of morality
So if we decide not to essay the utilitarian argument for torture/"torture," then how can we approach the problem? Let's tackle it head-on instead: What would make an interrogation technique "immoral" or "wrong" in the first place? There are several definitions, in decreasing order of universality. An action is immoral if...:
- It violates a code laid down by God, whichever deity that represents to some individual, or by some other power (karma, the cosmic balance, etc.) that transcends all temporal powers; this is believed to apply to everyone, everywhere, whether he accepts it or not.
- It violates a code of conduct laid upon every person within a society; this applies only to those within that society's jurisdiction.
- It violates a code of conduct especially laid upon interrogators: police not being able to interrogate without first "Mirandizing" a suspect, for example; this applies only to those persons who hold the special status of approved government or private inquisitors with special authority beyond that of an ordinary citizen. (I'll lump constitutionality, law, and departmental regulations and pratices into this same category.)
(Call them the codes of God, Man, and Yale, if you prefer.)
Number (1) gives us little help; I don't recall any passage of the Bible (either Jewish or Christian) that discusses what level of interrogation can be used to extract information... the only limitations on the infliction of fear, pain, or injury by the government relate to punishment, not interrogation.
Clearly Islam doesn't restrict the use of either torture or "torture" during interrogations. It's possible that some sects of Buddhism or Hinduism explicitly do, but I would be surprised; and in any event, it's silly to suppose that a Christian nation like the United States would take its cue from the life of Siddhartha Gautama or from the Bhagavad Gita. So we must look elsewhere than God for moral guidance on interrogation techniques.
Number (3) is very specific; but it's too volatile, able to be changed on the fly or suspended in various circumstances. We cannot rely upon mere police department regulations or university standards of behavior, because all it takes is a new chief administrator to change the whole system.
So our primary guide must be number (2), the code of society: This is usually quite explicit, universal (at least, it's supposed to be universally enforced), and at the same time relatively stable over time, with defined and difficult (but not impossible) rules for change.
Social morality: a two-way street
Even within society, there are two classes of rules: a tiny fraction of moral rules that apply to everyone within the jurisdiction of the society, and the vast majority of rules and protections, which only apply to those who accept the social contract.
A better way to describe the distinction, however, is by who such rules are intended to protect. The first group of social rules, the ones that apply to everyone, are designed to protect us from our own worst impulses: they prohibit actions so vile and despicable, they "sear the very souls" of their actors. Even an ordinary person forced by circumstances to commit such horrific crimes irreparably debases himself: Treason, forcible rape, child molestation, and murder of innocents fall into this category. From such sins, there is no restitution, no absolution, and no return.
The second class of social rules and protections are designed to make life smoother. Violations can be expiated by punishment (incarceration, caning, depending upon society and circumstances) and the payment of weregeld. Violations can also be justified either in advance or ex-post facto by exigent circumstances: A hiker lost in the wilderness and starving to death finds an empty hunter's cabin stocked with food; it is perfectly reasonable for him to break in to prevent his own death... though he must leave a note and money (or pay compensation later, if he hasn't enough on his person).
But if the cabin in fact belongs to a bandit and is stuffed with stolen loot, then the owner cannot expect society to give a rat's patootie about his property; if he has a broken window and loses a bunch of his supplies, tough luck.
A man who lives a lawless life has no business demanding social protection from lawlessness.
Unlike the other kind of societal rules, which are designed to protect the potential perpetrator from debasing himself, these rules are actually protections for the potential victims... and the victims must be worthy of such protection.
To scare-quote or not to scare-quote
And at long last -- I know you've been holding your breath waiting, and I wouldn't want you to topple over from lack of oxygen -- we come to our distinction between torture and "torture":
- Interrogational torture (no quotes) comprises the deliberate infliction of death, maiming, or physical agony for the purpose of obtaining intelligence; by its very nature, torture violates the first type of social rule, the one that applies to everyone everywhere within the jurisdiction of the society;
- "Torture," by contrast, is here defined as extreme interrogational techniques that do not rise to the level of actual torture, but which achieve their results through fear, confusion, lies, false friendships, or the infliction of pain, discomfort, or annoyance that falls below agony, maiming, or death; "torture" violates only the second type of social rule -- the protections of which are not available to outlaws.
Thus, Dirty Harry stomping on the gunshot wound of the Scorpio killer is a type-1 violation; it is a moral wrong that can only be justified by the most extreme circumstances. And torturing a group of suspects in the hopes that one of them is actually the kidnapper and will tell the cops where the girl is buried is a moral wrong that is probably never justifiable.
However, police can (and do) trick a suspect into confessing by falsely telling him that his partner already fingered him as the ringleader. Prisoners can be denied privileges such as TV watching until they identify who shivved some guy in lockup.
And a terrorist cannot use social rules to shield himself from, e.g., waterboarding:
- Waterboarding itself is a type-2 violation, as it works its magic by the fear of drowning, not by actual physical torment (such as beatings, burnings, or mutilation);
- Terrorists, by definition, have violently rejected our society and its protections... thus, they have no right to demand protection from type-2 violations -- only from type-1 violations. All we need show is that our suspect is guilty to some chosen degree of certitude, and that the technique to be used is less painful or injurious than actual torture.
This is a much firmer moral basis for extreme interrogation techiques than Dean's utilitarian argument; this argument is robust, confrontational, and easily understood: we're not hurting KSM enough to call it real torture; and KSM has no grounds to toss and moan about it, considering how willing he is to go much further himself... and against actual innocents!
It is not, therefore, immoral for us to very selectively use non-torture "torture" on thugs like KSM. In fact, because the techniques, properly applied, save the lives of thousands of innocents, I can only end where I began: with the virtue of "torture."
Date ►►► April 29, 2007
Also Sprach Santayana
San Francisco freeway collapse
(Hat tip to Friend Lee.)
"And Why the Sea is Boiling Hot, and Whether Pigs Have Wings"
Just a small point to make in this story, which is mostly about a speech Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 95%) made to leftist activists in California.
I pass lightly over her fabrications about President Bush -- she seems to believe that Bush's people put up that "Mission Accomplished" sign on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier in order to claim (prematurely) that the entire Iraq War was finished -- to commence taking victory laps. She is belied by Bush's speech itself, the transcript of which is readily available:
In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country.
We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We're bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous. We're pursuing and finding leaders of the old regime, who will be held to account for their crimes. We've begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons and already know of hundreds of sites that will be investigated. We're helping to rebuild Iraq, where the dictator built palaces for himself, instead of hospitals and schools. And we will stand with the new leaders of Iraq as they establish a government of, by, and for the Iraqi people.
The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort. Our coalition will stay until our work is done. Then we will leave, and we will leave behind a free Iraq.
He gave the speech, as its very words proclaim, to commemorate the end of "major combat operations" -- that is, the force-on-force part of the war; and indeed, he was accurate about that: The Iraqi Republican Guard was broken, Hussein's tank divisions were shattered, and his favorite palaces stood in ruins. His sons were dead, and he himself was on the run (he would be plucked from his "spider hole" on December 13th, 2003, and executed just three years later).
But the fact that Hillary Clinton is willing -- eager? -- to prevaricate to achieve her goals is hardly even news... so I won't even mention it. Forget I said anything; erase, erase, erase. This is, after all, the woman who claimed for years that she was named after Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to climb Mount Everest... which he did when Ms. Clinton was five and a half years old -- conjuring up the charming image of a little girl with no name, awaiting some knight to perform a deed daring enough to finally supply her a moniker.
Instead, I want to focus for a moment on a statement made by John Edwards. This single sentence perfectly encapsulates the disordered thinking (in a clinical sense) of the Democrats:
Edwards, the 2004 vice presidential nominee, said the world needs to see that "America can be a force for good."
"What their perception is that America is a bully and we only care about our short-term interests," Edwards said. "The starting place is to end the bleeding sore that is the war in Iraq."
Let's pull that apart a bit. How can the Iraq war possibly be an example of America only caring about "our short-term interests?" What conceivable short-term interests could be found in going to war with Saddam Hussein and the Baathists?
If all we wanted was the oil -- which I suppose is the only feeble ratiocination that flickers like a birthday-cake candle in the oxygen-deprived brain of the former senator -- then why didn't we just cut a deal with the dictator, as France, Russia, and others did?
If nothing else, Hussein had proven himself amenable to selling off oil leases at bargain rates to avoid being attacked by great powers. Or even France.
- And if we didn't just want the oil... then whatever we did want, for good or for ill, is necessarily a long-term interest!
I'm tempted to say "that's so Edwards." But really, such mental confusion goes far beyond the politician known as the Pink Sapphire (formerly known as the Silky Pony). It has become almost canonical for Democrats to say, "Under the criminal Bush regime, A has occurred... and the first thing I'll do as president to fix that problem is B" -- where B is a complete non sequitur to A, of course.
- Under the criminal Bush regime, America's economy has completely tanked, and the the federal deficit is spiraling out of control, higher and higher every year. That's why, when I'm elected president, my very first order will be to completely divest America from all investments in Israel.
- Under the criminal Bush regime, terrorism around the world and especially within our very own borders has skyrocketed since 9/11. When I'm president, I will take the necessary steps to safeguard our country... starting with a promise in writing to ensure that all Americans, regardless of skin color, have a level playing field when it comes to jobs, education, and government contracts.
- Under the criminal Bush regime, our air has become unfit to breathe, our water unfit to drink, hundreds of children die of tobacco-related illnesses every day, and the earth's temperature has risen so high that most people now boil their eggs in their swimming pools. America needs a president who can actually solve our terrible environmental problems... and I pledge to you that my very first executive order, on January 20th, 2009, will be to establish a living wage that will provide a decent lifestyle to every American citizen, resident, transient, and bum -- regardless of race, color, national origin, or legal status.
Thus, it became clear to me several months ago that some clever entrepeneur has created Democratic speech-synthesizing software: The candidate (or rather, his campaign's computer consultant) enters his favorite stump-speech slogans, catch phrases, and pithy, rhyming sing-song into the database, along with the general themes of the campaign.
(This database is kept updated throughout the campaign; if a particular saying starts to be ridiculed on Jon Stewart's show, it can be replaced by something eerily similar but distinct enough to pass.)
When a talk is needed, the speechwriter selects the audience from a drop-down menu: Anti-war veterans, Militant gays, Unionistas, CAIR, La Raza, or NPR. Mousing over the "gasbag" icon pops up a menu with varying speech lengths: Sound Bite, Press Statement, Stump Speech, Commencement Ceremony, Denial of All Charges, and Multi-Hour Keynote Address.
Once the writer finishes selecting options, a full speech is randomly generated by stringing together poll-tested, trite-and-true phrases from the most recent (1998) edition of the Lexicon of Liberal Liturgies, spiced by selections from the candidate database -- and complete with the word "(Applause)" arbitrarily inserted after several of the paragraphs. (That last is for consumption by the elite media: They can count them and announce -- in advance -- that the speech was interrupted that many times for sustained hosannas.)
Nothing else could explain the bizarre periphrasis and linguistic contortion that litters the Democratic campaign trail like condoms after a gay-pride parade.
Date ►►► April 28, 2007
Forgive My Unstiff Upper Lip
There is a fascinating, little back-story concerning that top al-Qaeda agent that we just announced having captured, Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, and our closest ally for the last, oh, 192 years. First, let's dress the stage a bit. From the Times of London:
Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, a former major in Saddam Hussein’s army, was apprehended as he tried to enter Iraq from Iran and was transferred this week to the “high-value detainee programme” at Guantanamo Bay.
Abd al-Hadi was taken into CIA custody last year, it emerged from US intelligence sources yesterday, in a move which suggests that he was interrogated for months in a “ghost prison” before being transferred to the internment camp in Cuba.
Oh dear. I hope he wasn't inconvenienced, not being able to hide behind his barrister.
So who was Abd al-Hadi anyway? Here's part of his c.v.:
Abd al-Hadi recognised the potential for turning young Muslim radicals from Britain who wanted to become mujahidin in Afghanistan or Iraq into terrorists who could carry out attacks in their home country. He realised that their knowledge of Britain, possession of British passports and natural command of English made them ideal recruits. After al-Qaeda restructured its operations in Pakistan’s tribal areas he sought out young Britons for instruction at training camps. In late 2004 Abd al-Hadi met Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer, from Leeds, at a militant camp in Pakistan and, in the words of a senior investigator, “retasked them” to become suicide bombers.
They were sent back to Britain where they led the terrorist cell that carried out the 7/7 bombings, killing 52 Tube and bus passengers.
Oh... you mean that Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi! The mastermind behind the horrific attack in Great Britain, carried out by British subjects who happened to be Moslem jihadists.
But here is the part that is just delicious, in a bitter-sweet, black-comedy sort of way:
Abd al-Hadi has also been linked to a number of other foiled al-Qaeda plots to carry out attacks in Britain. But the Security Service, which has previously sent officials to question detainees at Guantanamo Bay, may not have the opportunity to question him directly.
The Government’s recently adopted position in favour of closing Guantanamo Bay is likely to act as a bar on agents travelling there.
Because Tony Blair's government has gone on record demanding that we shut down Camp X-Ray at Guantánamo Bay and end all interrogations there, it just doesn't seem, well, entirely cricket for agents of MI5 and MI6 to trundle off to the place they don't believe should exist, to interrogate people they don't believe should be at the place that oughtn't exist -- and possibly even use techniques that should never be used on the people who shouldn't be at the place that oughtn't exist in the first instance.
But of course, they do need some answers to those interrogatories from the man who is where he shouldn't be. So what is British intelligence to do?
It's so simple, I'm surprised you didn't think of it yourselves (for shame!):
British Intelligence would have to rely on relaying questions it would like asked by American interrogators.
And there we have it... the absurdist solution to the surreal conundrum of how to eat your spotted dick and have it, too:
Just send the people who shouldn't be running the place that oughtn't even be there to use the techniques that mustn't be used to interrogate the man who isn't supposed to be held, so that the folks who are too moral to be there themselves can nevertheless gain the critical information they need -- but mayn't have.
As Tom Lehrer sang, "it's so simple, so very simple, that only a child can do it!" Or, it appears, a Brit. (And jolly good thing that we didn't listen to the Brits and actually close the joint, what?)
Has anyone asked Sen. John McCain (R-AZ, 65%), who has also called for the dismantlement of Camp X-Ray, what he thinks of all this?
And the Winners Aren't... Big Lizards! (Version 007)
(But they're pretty danged good ne'ertheless.)
Thus spake the Watcher's Council. This week, the winners be...
Amongst the Council members:
- Earth Day, by Done With Mirrors
This is an interesting piece that, even without mirrors, demonstrates the folly, the hubris of believing that the only explanation for climate change is the big-footed human race, with all its factories and wind-breaking livestock. A sample (emphasis added):
I read years ago about... the punishing storms that re-drew the coastlines of Flanders, Holland and Friesland in the 12th century. All because of climate change.
The North Sea incursions were catastrophic on a Hollywood scale: sea surges punched through the dunes (you can see the relics of the old coast in the line of islands off the coast of Holland, Germany, and Denmark), killed perhaps 100,000 people, and turned vast agricultural districts into reed seas. In 1231, the sea flooded up river channels into the inland lake of Holland and by 1300 it had become a bay. In 1277, thirty villages in the lower Ems basin were drowned and the Dollart formed. In floods in 1240 and 1362, sixty parishes in the diocese of Schleswig were drowned, amounting to half the agricultural land of the realm. The island of Heligoland was 60 kilometers across in C.E. 800; by 1325 it was only 25 kilometers in diameter at the widest, half the loss having come in a single storm in January of that year. Today it is only 1.5 kilometers at the widest. The English ports of Ravenspur and Dunwich drowned about the same time.
And all that was before the internal combustion engine, the Frigidaire, the Industrial Revolution.
Read it all; then the next time some environmentalist starts instructing you on the wickedness of the automobile -- which has raised temperatures by 0.7°C in the past 100 years -- you can seize his beard and give it a firm tug (or her beard, as the case may be).
Amongst the feeble and infirm:
- The Big White Lie, by City Journal
This is one of those pieces that is fully and wonderfully described, fractal-like, by its opening sentence:
The thing I like best about being a conservative is that I don’t have to lie.
Think of Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%), and you'll understand upon the instant.
And lest we forget, the full panoply of vote achievers can be perused at this link.
Date ►►► April 27, 2007
"Who Controls the Past Controls the Future..."
"...Who controls the present controls the past."
I'm getting angrier and angrier about the brazen attempt by the elite media -- all of them -- to rewrite history... history that is so recent, the ink has barely dried. I was perusing the New York Times article on George Tenet's spit-and-tell biography, and I stumbled across this paragraph:
Mr. Tenet hints at some score-settling in the book. He describes in particular the extraordinary tension between him and Condoleezza Rice, then national security adviser, and her deputy, Stephen J. Hadley, in internal debate over how the president came to say erroneously in his 2003 State of the Union address that Iraq was seeking uranium in Africa.
Just in case anybody here missed it the last time, here is the quotation from the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation into the pre-war intelligence, released in 2004. As before, scroll to page 8 on the pdf:
The intelligence report based on the former ambassador’s trip was disseminated on March 8,2002....
The intelligence report indicated that former Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki was unaware of any contracts that had been signed between Niger and any rogue states for the sale of yellowcake while he was Prime Minister (1997-1999) or Foreign Minister (1996-1997). Mavaki said that if there had been any such contract during his tenure, he would have been aware’of it. Mayaki said, however, that in June 1999, [name redacted] businessman, approached him and insisted that Mayaki meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss “expanding commercial relations” between Niger and Iraq. The intelligence report said that Mayaki interpreted “expanding commercial relations” to mean that the delegation wanted to discuss uranium yellowcake sales. The intelligence report also said that “although the meeting took place, Mayaki let the matter drop due to the UN sanctions on Iraq.”
I have now seen the same pugnaciously ignorant pronouncement of falsity from AP, Reuters, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and several other newspapers; and it has become clear that this is no accident: I am now convinced that the elite media editors have literally conspired with each other to rewrite the past. They pretend that the Intel Committee report said that Bush lied and Joe Wilson was right about Iraq seeking uranium in Africa -- when in fact, it was the other way 'round.
The media rely upon the fact that the vast, vast majority of their readers no not remember that the Senate Intelligence Committee conducted a lengthy, extensive, detailed, and bipartisan examination of pre-war intelligence; and that the readers would not have access to the report even if they should vaguely recall it. The drive-by writers and editors know they won't be called on their deliberate disinformation campaign... so they have no check of conscience to stop them.
This is utterly despicable. They will do more damage to the First Amendment by their thuggish, irresponsible lying than a hundred McCain-Feingold bills and a thousand Patriot Acts could ever do.
The Party said that Oceania had never been in alliance with Eurasia. He, Winston Smith, knew that Oceania had been in alliance with Eurasia as short a time as four years ago. But where did that knowledge exist? Only in his own consciousness, which in any case must soon be annihilated. And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed -- if all records told the same tale -- then the lie passed into history and became truth. 'Who controls the past,' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.' And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. 'Reality control', they called it: in Newspeak, 'doublethink'.
Bear in mind, this entire article is nothing but an advertisement for Tenet's book, a puff piece that assumes throughout that Tenet's version is simply the truth, hence any competing view is biased, irrelevant, and ultimately ignorable. For example, on the claim that the "sixteen words" were "erroneous," the Times never even once bothers to ask anyone else: neither the White House nor the British MI6 (who made the original claim); they don't quote from the 2003 State of the Union speech; and God knows they never mention the Intelligence Committee report.
The article makes its pronouncements in the same spirit as one would say "Bill Clinton said erroneously that he never had sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky." (But of course, the Times today would never say that.)
In fact, they don't even put a single question to George Tenet himself! The article takes as its only source Tenet's holy writ.
Thus, we have the spectacle of a major newspaper that won't even go so far out on a limb as to say that Hamas is a terrorist group (it's only alleged); but they know for a fact that Iraq never, ever, ever tried to obtain uranium ore from Niger or any other country on that continent.
On another point, George Tenet now claims that he only used the term "slam dunk" to say that a good job of salesmanship would "sell" the war:
During the meeting, the deputy C.I.A. director, John McLaughlin, unveiled a draft of a proposed public presentation that left the group unimpressed. Mr. Tenet recalls that Mr. Bush suggested that they could “add punch” by bringing in lawyers trained to argue cases before a jury.
“I told the president that strengthening the public presentation was a ‘slam dunk,’ a phrase that was later taken completely out of context,” Mr. Tenet writes. “If I had simply said, ‘I’m sure we can do better,’ I wouldn’t be writing this chapter -- or maybe even this book.”
Even while recounting this, the Times couldn't even be bothered to interview Bob Woodward, in whose book Plan of Attack the exchange occurs, as CBS News reported:
”McLaughlin has access to all the satellite photos, and he goes in and he has flip charts in the oval office. The president listens to all of this and McLaughlin's done. And, and the president kind of, as he's inclined to do, says ‘Nice try, but that isn't gonna sell Joe Public. That isn't gonna convince Joe Public,’” says Woodward.
In his book, Woodward writes: "The presentation was a flop. The photos were not gripping. The intercepts were less than compelling. And then George Bush turns to George Tenet and says, 'This is the best we've got?'"
Says Woodward: “George Tenet's sitting on the couch, stands up, and says, ‘Don't worry, it's a slam dunk case.’" And the president challenges him again and Tenet says, ‘The case, it's a slam dunk.’ ...I asked the president about this and he said it was very important to have the CIA director -- ‘Slam-dunk is as I interpreted is a sure thing, guaranteed. No possibility it won't go through the hoop.’ Others present, Cheney, very impressed.”
Not "strengthening the public presentation was a ‘slam dunk,’" as Tenet now says he said... just "it's a slam-dunk case."
Which version should we believe? The one Tenet tells in his book, defending his career, now that he knows no stockpiles of WMD were found in Iraq (not counting all the stuff we found that was the wrong kind of WMD)? Or should we buy the version that everybody else in the room told to Bob Woodward in 2004?
For heaven's sake, the version that Tenet retails today doesn't even make semantic sense. What on earth does it mean to say "strengthening the public presentation [is] a ‘slam dunk’?" I can't even parse the sentence. It's like saying "adding more cayenne pepper to the stew is a home run": It might make the stew into a home run, but the act of adding a particular spice is not itself a home run.
Nor does the Times tell us who George Tenet is. As a young man, Tenet worked three years for Republican Sen. John Heinz (Teresa Heinz Kerry's first husband). But from 1985 on, he was a Democratic wunderkind.
In that year, Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT, 95%) brought Tenet into the committee as director of the committee's oversight of all arms-control agreements. In 1988, the chairman of that committee, then Democratic Sen. David Boren of Oklahoma, made him Staff Director of the committee.
Sometime in early 1993, President Clinton invited Tenet to join his national-security transition team; and when the transition was complete, Clinton appointed Tenet Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Intelligence Programs at the National Security Council. Two years later, Clinton elevated him to Deputy Director of the CIA; and a year later, the president made him acting Director of Central Intelligence, to which position he was confirmed in 1997.
We are not talking about a career civil servant here; Tenet was never a bipartisan, neutral, above-the-fray kind of guy... he was a golden boy, a protégé first of Pat Leahy, then David Broder, and finally Bill Clinton. The Times mentions none of this.
They do slightly hint at the fact that he might have somewhat of an axe to grind, since he believes he was blamed in part both for 9/11 itself -- he was DCI for four years before the attack -- and for the CIA claims of huge stockpiles of WMD that filled the various intelligence estimates that were partially responsible for our decision to invade Iraq.
Tenet in particular is aware that Vice President Dick Cheney and then National Security Advisor, now Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice both advocated dumping Tenet early in the first term. But the Times does not really address the point that Tenet definitely has a dog in the tree: When he lambastes Cheney and Rice, he is getting even with people he sees as having thwarted him (for example, on the inclusion of the sixteen words in the 2003 SOTU).
Even so, I strongly suspect that the New York Times reads into Tenet's book what it wants to read, ignoring much that might mitigate the anti-Bush charge the Times wants Tenet to make.
For instance, this Sunday, Tenet will appear on 60 Minutes as part two of his publicity tour (part 1 was the puff piece in the New York Times and other, lesser advertising broadsheets). In the CBS interview, according to Matt Drudge, George Tenet says the following (hat tip to Friend Lee):
The High Value Detainee program uses “enhanced” techniques said to include sleep deprivation, exposure to extreme temperatures, and water boarding, in which suspects are reportedly restrained as a steady stream of water is poured over their faces, causing a severe gag reflex and a terrifying fear of drowning. In Sunday’s interview, Pelley challenges Tenet on the “enhanced interrogations,” a topic that gets little play in his much-anticipated book, At the Center of the Storm. “Here’s what I would say to you, to the Congress, to the American people, to the President of the United States: I know that this program has saved lives. I know we’ve disrupted plots,” he tells Pelley. “I know this program alone is worth more than [what] the FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency put together, have been able to tell us.”
Evidently, the Times writers and editors don't read the Drudge Report. Of course, they probably think it's a blog. They do reluctantly admit that Tenet sometimes defends Bush, generally speaking:
Despite such sweeping indictments, Mr. Bush, who in 2004 awarded Mr. Tenet a Presidential Medal of Freedom, is portrayed personally in a largely positive light, with particular praise for the his leadership after the 2001 attacks. “He was absolutely in charge, determined, and directed,” Mr. Tenet writes of the president, whom he describes as a blunt-spoken kindred spirit.
But even here, the paper tries very hard to put a quid-pro-quo interpretation of Tenet's defense: After all, Bush did award him a Medal of Freedom... what do you expect Tenet to say? And then they return to prune-picking more attacks on Bush administration stalwarts.
I truly believe that the American mainstream news media are drifting back in time, back to the days of the 19th or even 18th century. Back then, newspapers chose up sides in joyous abandonment of any shred of impartiality, referring to John Adams as a "tyrant" and depicting Abraham Lincoln as a "hairy ape." And the media appear to remain blithely unaware that, as their credibility goes, so go their subscribers.
But what's a few million dollars in lost advertising revenue? It's just so much rubbish; at least, compared to the urgent work of saving the world... from Republicans.
Date ►►► April 26, 2007
I've been reading the speech that Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT, 75%D) gave on the Senate floor, passionately arguing against the surrender bill that the fatuous Democratic majority in Senate and House have just passed (Power Line has the complete transcript). And I came across this passage that quite literally made my mouth fall open.
It's so obvious once Lieberman points it out... but I must confess, I never realized it until I read Lieberman saying it. You will be as stunned as I, I predict (all emphasis added):
In his speech Monday, the Majority Leader described the several steps that this new strategy for Iraq would entail. Its first step, he said, is to "transition the U.S. mission away from policing a civil war -- to training and equipping Iraqi security forces, protecting U.S. forces, and conducting targeted counter-terror operations...."
There is another irony here as well. For most of the past four years, under Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, the United States did not try to establish basic security in Iraq. Rather than deploying enough troops necessary to protect the Iraqi people, the focus of our military has been on training and equipping Iraqi forces, protecting our own forces, and conducting targeted sweeps and raids -- in other words, the very same missions proposed by the proponents of the legislation before us.
That strategy failed -- and we know why it failed. It failed because we didn't have enough troops to ensure security, which in turn created an opening for Al Qaeda and its allies to exploit. They stepped into this security vacuum and, through horrific violence, created a climate of fear and insecurity in which political and economic progress became impossible.
For years, many members of Congress recognized this. We talked about this. We called for more troops, and a new strategy, and -- for that matter -- a new secretary of defense. And yet, now, just as President Bush has come around -- just as he has recognized the mistakes his administration has made, and the need to focus on basic security in Iraq, and to install a new secretary of defense and a new commander in Iraq -- now his critics in Congress have changed their minds and decided that the old, failed strategy wasn't so bad after all.
What is going on here? What has changed so that the strategy that we criticized and rejected in 2006 suddenly makes sense in 2007?
Uh... yeah. What?
What has changed, of course, is that President George W. Bush has changed! He was finally persuaded that we could not win a "war of attrition" (to use a term that might resonate with older readers); it failed under Gen. William Westmoreland, and it was failing under Gens. George Casey and John Abizaid. Rather, Bush was finally convinced by Fred Kagan, Gen. Jack Keane, and Gen. David Petraeus that we needed a true counterinsurgency strategy, one that focused on restoring basic security to Iraq area by area... that is, turning red to pink and pink to white.
And -- like a weathercock with its arrow reversed -- the Democrats in Congress instantly and automatically point the opposite direction from the prevailing winds from the White House.
When Bush supported the war of attrition, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%) and Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) were totally opposed to it, pointing out that such wars had never worked. But when Bush comes around and finally admits the point, rejecting a war of atttition... then Reid and Pelosi embrace it with both arms and one leg!
I'm not entirely comfortable with the United States Congress turning into Monty Python's "argument clinic." (Perhaps the president should publicly denounce NAMBLA, just to see what happens.)
How long can Joe Lieberman continue the farce of caucusing with the Democrats, while they shamefully reject their duty to fight the war against a vicious, expansionist, theocratic ideology -- which Lieberman himself considers the greatest issue facing America today? At some point, doesn't something break?
Bear in mind, there is nothing that Lieberman can do to make Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY, 84%) the majority leader of the Senate. As Scott Keyes notes at Political Insider, by the nature of the organizational vote that began the 110th Congress last January, the Democrats will control both the committee assignments and the Senate agenda until the 111th Congress convenes on January, 2009. (Hat tip to lefty blogger Hilzoy.)
So how did it flip when Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-VT, 90%D) jumped? Let Keyes explains:
What's the difference between now and 2001? A small but important distinction. When the 107th Congress was convened on January 3, 2001, Al Gore was still the Vice President and would be for another two-and-a-half weeks. Therefore, because of the Senate's 50-50 tie, Democrats had nominal control of the chamber when the organizing resolution came to a vote. With Dick Cheney soon to come in, however, Democrats allowed Republicans to control the Senate in return for a provision on the organizing resolution that allowed for a reorganization of the chamber if any member should switch parties, which Jeffords did five months later. There was no such clause in the current Senate's organizing resolution.
That provision never existed in any previous Congress, and it does not exist in the current organizing resolution for the 110th. Alas, Lieberman can jump all he wants, but Reid will remain majority leader at least until noon, January 3rd, 2009. Still, Joe Lieberman is a man of principle; and I believe that if he jumped ship, it would send shock waves through the moderate Democratic community.
As Lieberman has already proven, he has a personal rapport with voters that extends far beyond his identification as a Democrat: When the Democrats ran nutroots nominee Ned Lamont against Lieberman in Connecticut, independent Lieberman crushed Democrat Lamont 50% to 40% -- or by 11%, if you consider only the two viable candidates and ignore distant Republican Alan Schlesinger.
I believe that most of Lieberman's personal constituency, not just in his state but in the country as a whole, would follow him to the Republican Party. Even without being on the ticket, just as a campaigner, he might very well be able to throw some close Senate races in 2008 to the Republicans... and possibly some close states in the presidential vote, as well. He cannot stop the Democrats from running amok for the next twenty months, but he might be able to threaten their majority so seriously, he forces them to serious-up about the war.
Go, Joe! Go across the aisle; you will find more kindred spirits than you may imagine.
Date ►►► April 25, 2007
The Mything Link
So the Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, in a snit, have subpoenaed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: They demand she some and testify about pre-Iraq war intelligence -- and about one element in particular:
Republicans accused Democrats of a "fishing expedition." But Democrats said they want Rice to explain what she knew about administration's warnings, later proven false, that Iraq had sought uranium from Niger for nuclear arms.
Ah, we come around once more, in the fullness of time, to arguing over President Bush's famous "sixteen words" from his 2003 State of the Union address:
The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
But in the meanwhile (since the last go-round) -- did I miss some huge revelation? Has the claim that Iraq "sought" yellowcake from Niger been "proven false?" Did I miss some great and powerful bombshell that was dropped subsequent to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's report of July 7th, 2004?
Perhaps my memory fails, but I was under the distinct impression that that massive report on pre-war intelligence in fact found that those words were true -- not just literally (the Brits were reporting such), but in the deeper sense as well... that Iraq really had tried to obtain uranium from Africa. Oh yes, here is it... page 43 (page 8 on the pdf):
The intelligence report based on the former ambassador’s trip was disseminated on March 8,2002....
The intelligence report indicated that former Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki was unaware of any contracts that had been signed between Niger and any rogue states for the sale of yellowcake while he was Prime Minister (1997-1999) or Foreign Minister (1996-1997). Mavaki said that if there had been any such contract during his tenure, he would have been aware’of it. Mayaki said, however, that in June 1999, [name redacted] businessman, approached him and insisted that Mayaki meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss “expanding commercial relations” between Niger and Iraq. The intelligence report said that Mayaki interpreted “expanding commercial relations” to mean that the delegation wanted to discuss uranium yellowcake sales. The intelligence report also said that “although the meeting took place, Mayaki let the matter drop due to the UN sanctions on Iraq.”
The "former ambassador" referenced above, from whose debriefing this "intelligence report" was prepared, was some guy named Joe Wilson. (Scooter Libby hinted to me that the former ambassador's wife was in the CIA at the time and may have had something to do with his trip to Niger.)
But according to the impeccably credentialed Reuters News Service, the warnings "that Iraq had sought uranium from Niger for nuclear arms" were "later proven false." And if you can't trust Reuters, well, who can you trust?
Therefore, the only possible conclusion is that the president and his entire administration, including Condoleezza Rice, must have lied; and the Senate Intelligence Committee Republicans -- presumably due to Condi's bullying -- must have conspired to slip that supposed confirmation into the 2004 report.
Secretary Rice should be dragged before Chairman Henry Waxman's (D-CA, 95%) committee and interrogated about her Iraq lies and deceptions!
...And about the firing of those U.S. attorneys.
...Oh, and Katrina, and the Pat Tillman cover-up.
...And isn't it about time we got to the bottom of yet another scandal? What did Condi know (and when did she know it) about Bush stealing the 2000 election? It's the most urgent question facing our country today, and all else must stop until we finally get some answers... under oath!
Thus is born the great and powerful mythic lore that sustains the American Left.
Date ►►► April 24, 2007
Ruminations On the State of Things In Iraq
Most of this post derives from several sources:
- Historian Arthur Herman's article in the Wall Street Journal, "How to Win In Iraq (and How to Lose);"
- Weekly Standard contributing editor and AEI scholar Fred Kagan's article in the current issue of the Weekly Standard, "Friends, Enemies and Spoilers." (Hat tip to frequent commenter Tomy for drawing our attention to this article.)
- Previous posts by Big Lizards or articles by Bill Roggio and Michael Yon (as linked at the time);
- What I see in the mainstream media, including Fox News, filtered through the knowledge base formed by the sources above.
Just as the title indicates, I'm simply looking at the current state of things in Iraq -- which is not only not "deteriorating," as the elites would have us believe; it's pretty good and is getting better; at the end, I'll mention a few things we can all do to help keep things moving in the right direction...
So what is this "new strategy" anyway?
We have already discussed, in How to Win/Lose In Iraq (based upon the Herman article), that the new counterinsurgency strategy envisions a very different way of fighting a war. First and foremost, in counterinsurgency, the emphasis is upon maintaining everyday security on the streets -- "clear and hold" -- rather than on hunting down and killing bad guys (the "search and destroy" tactics we used unsuccessfully early in the Vietnam war).
Sometimes clear and hold demands searching out and destroying a particular enemy; but on other days, it may demand adjudicating disputes between neighbors or neighboring tribes, engaging in simple policing in some dangerous areas, reconstruction and clean-up, police and army recruiting, training Iraqis in modern economics, marketing, and business practices, and so forth.
A second element of counterinsurgency is to deliberately mingle Iraqi and American forces to a tremendous degree, at Joint Security Stations (JSSs), as Kagan explains in the Weekly Standard article:
The new plan pushes most U.S. forces out into the population. Americans and Iraqis are establishing Joint Security Stations and Joint Combat Outposts throughout Baghdad. U.S. and Iraqi soldiers eat, sleep, and plan together in these outposts and then conduct mounted and dismounted patrols continually, day and night, throughout their assigned neighborhoods. In Joint Security Stations I visited in the Hurriya neighborhood, in the Shiite Khadimiya district, American and Iraqi soldiers sleep in nearly adjoining rooms with unlocked and unguarded doors between them.
Being constantly seen in and among the Iraqi population, while we're doing everything we can to maintain the security of ordinary Iraqis and help them in their daily lives, we obtain far more intelligence tips; Americans are seen more as "part of the solution" than "the big problem." Kagan notes that since the counterinsurgency operation began, "[intelligence] tips have gone up dramatically over the past two months, from both Sunnis and Shiites."
Second, the basic strategy of counterinsurgency, as developed by French Lt.Col. David Galula, envisions a particular way of looking at the war in order to concentrate our forces:
Galula divided his own district into zones: "white," where government control was complete or nearly complete; "pink," where insurgents competed with the government for control; and "red," where the insurgents were in complete control. A successful counterinsurgency involved turning pink zones into white zones, then red into pink, through a block-by-block, neighborhood-by-neighborhood struggle to force the terrorists into the shadows.
Besides a continuous and visible military presence and the red-pink-white model, the third element of counterinsurgency is a sense of inevitability about our eventual victory -- so more and more terrorist supporters jump ship and come to our side instead. The large number of Sunni tribal leaders who have broken from al-Qaeda and now fight against it, along with the formation of an explicitly anti-al-Qaeda Sunni political party (see below), are strong signals that the third element is working as well.
So how goes it, mate?
Drive-by media sources I read earlier said that three of the projected five new brigades have now been deployed to Iraq, and Kagan and Roggio confirm this.
Now, if a person imagines that the "surge" consists of nothing more than adding a few troops to the same failed strategy -- I name no names, but refer you to a senator whose initials are Harry "Pinky" Mason Reid -- he might be tempted to believe that the "surge" is 60% completed, and that the 40% reduction in sectarian violence is all that it will accomplish.
That opinion betrays ignorance of the counterinsurgency strategy itself. Kagan notes that the real heavy lifting has yet to begin:
Most of the military operations of recent months have been laying the groundwork for clear-and-hold operations that will be the centerpiece of the new plan. Coalition and Iraqi forces have targeted al Qaeda and other Sunni insurgent cells in Baghdad, in their bases around the capital, and in Anbar, Salahaddin, and Diyala provinces. They have established positions throughout Baghdad and swept a number of neighborhoods in a preliminary fashion. They have begun placing concrete barriers around problematic neighborhoods to restrict access and change traffic flow to support future operations. Targeted raids have removed a number of key leaders from the Shiite militias as well, reducing the effectiveness of Sadr's organization, which was already harmed by his hasty departure for Iran early this year....
Major clear-and-hold operations are scheduled to begin in late May or June, and will take weeks to complete, area by area. After that, it may be many more weeks before their success at establishing security can be judged.
In other words, the very significant drop in sectarian murder we have seen in the last two months has not been due to the actual clear-and-hold strategy, turning red to pink and pink to white, because that phase has not even started yet. Rather, the drop in murders is the result of mere preliminaries, "laying the groundwork" for the major operation to come.
This bodes very, very well: When we shift from groundwork-laying to insurgent clearing, the bad guys will face an assault many times harder than what they have experienced to date... and they're already being disrupted and dispersed!
Evolution in action
Naturally, as with any battle plan, this one has not survived first contact intact: We are already making changes as the enemy responds. Fortunately, Gen. Petraeus's strategy is flexible enough to accomodate.
When al-Qaeda in Iraq reacted to the troop buildup by fleeing Baghdad to the southern suburbs and nearby towns, and also northward into Diyala province, we responded by redirecting some of the American and Iraqi Army troops to reinforce those areas.
When the leaders of both the Mahdi Militia (Muqtada Sadr) and the Badr Organization (Abdul Aziz al-Hakim) ordered their terrorist groups to stand down and not fight us, we seized the advantage to make more thorough pre-sweeps through Shiite areas, such as Sadr City, a neighborhood within Baghdad.
And as Iran began to take a more aggressive and explicit role in the fighting in Iraq -- shipping explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) to Shiite militias, training insurgents to build their own EFPs, and even sending the Iranian Revolutionary Guards "Qods Force" into Iraq to train and even fight alongside Iraqi insurgents -- we began methodically hunting them down, capturing a number of high-ranking Iranians and infuriating President Ahmadinejad... a sure sign that those operations were successful.
What about more generally?
The Iraqi Assembly of Representatives is not only stable, it's growing stronger as more and more Sunnis come to accept it as the legitimate government. There is no sign of any popularly supported attempt to overthrow it; no Hussein-like "strongman" looks likely to seize control.
When the six members of the government who were also top players in the Mahdi Militia resigned their portfolios, on Muqtada Sadr's orders, Sadr announced that this would cause the government to collapse. It did not, and there is no sign of a motion of no confidence.
Rather, the Shia-dominated government has moved to take firmer control of the Iraq National Police, which used to have a serious problem with Shiite-militia infiltration. From the Kagan article (reparagraphed for clarity):
[S]ectarian killings have dropped because of dramatically increased partnership between the Iraqi police, the Iraqi army, and American forces. The Iraqi police were heavily implicated in the killings; the Iraqi army less so.
U.S. forces do not tolerate such behavior. The partnership has helped American units identify individuals within the Iraqi police and army who have participated in atrocities. As these individuals are identified, U.S. and Iraqi leaders work to prepare evidence packets to support their arrest, detention, and conviction.
As a result, the Baghdad Security Plan is supporting efforts to weed out the worst elements from the Iraqi Security Forces. In some cases, entire police units have been pulled off line, vetted, and "re-blued"--that is, retrained after the removal of known felons and militia infiltrators. In this way, the security plan is improving the quality of the Iraqi Security Forces, which is essential to giving these forces legitimacy in the eyes of the Iraqi people.
This can only occur through the close cooperation of American and Iraqi forces at all levels.
The Iraqi demand that we create courtroom-ready "evidence packets" to go after the infiltrators, rather than just using military intelligence to pick them up as enemy combatants, is actually a very good sign: It means that the Iraqis no longer think of Iraq as a country under occupation, but rather as a sovereign nation that must operate under the rule of law, not "military expediency."
In my opinion, the same is true regarding Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's decision to stop the construction of the ugly, prison-like wall surrounding the Sunni Baghdad community of Adhamiya, which is next to the radical Shiite community of Sadr City: While such "barriers" certainly are effective -- there's no denying that -- you cannot wall off all the dangerous areas of Baghdad or Iraq, because then you have de facto partitioned the country.
Maliki called for "other means of protection for the neighborhoods." I suspect what will actually result is a compromise: less intrusive fencing with sensors, better gating to isolate approaching vehicles and minimize the impact of a car bomb exploding at the gate itself, and more cross-neighborhood patrols of national and local police. I believe this would better serve to bring Iraq together than would a series of walled-off "Baghdad bantustans." (Bill Roggio disagrees, seeing the wall as "a crucial component of the Baghdad security plan.")
The same Roggio piece above notes the formation of a new Sunni political party that is specifically anti-al-Qaeda:
In Iraq's Anbar province, the Anbar Salvation Council continues to gain steam in its fight against al Qaeda. Seven new tribes have just joined the Anbar Salvation Council's political movement, the Anbar Awakening. Last week, the Anbar Salvation Council announced it was forming the Iraq Awakening, a national political party which would "oppose insurgents such as Al Qaeda in Iraq and reengage with Iraq's political process." The Iraq Awakening is scheduled to meet in May, and will be the first Sunni political party to openly oppose al Qaeda in Iraq.
The oil-revenue-sharing bill continues to work its way through the Iraqi parliament. This is the most critical economic compromise that must be wrought, determining whether the Sunnis of Iraq will have any access at all to the Iraqi economy: Needless to say, if they don't, they will have no incentive whatsoever to remain bound by ties of nationalism to the rest of Iraq. Failure to enact this bill would be a death-blow to a free and democratic Iraq.
Fortunately, the Shia and the Kurds -- who control all the oil -- recognize this necessity, and the party leaders have agreed upon a plan (the one mentioned above). There also appears to be broad general agreement on the principle of "un-de-Baathification," allowing former members of the Baath Party who have no blood on their hands to rejoin society... just as Germany eventually had to allow low-level ex-Nazis, most of whom only joined because it was necessary to conduct business, to eventually rejoin German society.
We are still waiting, however, for significant movement towards nationwide local elections.
Democrats gone wild
Looking ahead, there is very little that the Democratic majority in Congress can do to prevent us from fighting this war for at least the next two years:
- Unlike in 1973 and 1975, Congress does not have a cowed or compliant president to sign its defeatist bills; President Bush has promised to veto any bill that seeks to impose an artificial timetable for withdrawal or undercut the authority of the Commander in Chief to conduct war;
- Also unlike the end of Vietnam, there is no significant number of Republicans so anxious to surrender that they are willing to defy their own president to override a veto; there is virtual Republican unanimity on that point;
- The Democrats in Congress, while they have the majority, do not have the overpowering majority they did in the mid-70s; in fact, their margin in each house is slim: in the Senate, 49 Democrats and two Independents who caucus with the Democrats (51%); and in the House, 232 Democrats (53%). By contrast, back in the 94th Congress (elected in 1974), the Senate was 60% Democratic, while the House was one representative shy of 67% Democratic.
- Many of the Democrats in both House and Senate were elected or reelected from fairly conservative districts in 2006... districts that certainly don't favor enforced defeat in the Iraq war;
- The Democrats' willing accomplices in the humiliation of America -- the elite media -- no longer enjoy an information monopoly, as they did back in the 70s; there is no "Uncle Walter" to tell Americans that we have already lost the war... just an Ugly Stepfather Harry Reid;
- Despite the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth from the Bush administration about what would happen if supplementary war funding weren't approved by April 15th, in reality, the president has a wide latitude of spending power within Congressional appropriations: He can shift funds around from elsewhere in the military budget to cover ongoing operations for more or less the entire remainder of his term;
- But he won't have to do -- since the Democrats do not dare do anything to get the "anti-military" label slapped across their mugs again; not with a tight election coming up! The public attitude towards our military is very, very different today than it was in the mid-70s;
- And even the longer-term future looks brighter than it did at the end of the Vietnam "tunnel": While some conservatives are disenchanted with George W. Bush and less than enthusiastic about Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and especially John McCain, conservative despair is nowhere near the depths it was during the Watergate-dominated periods of the administrations of Richard Nixon and Gerald R. Ford. Conservatives will vote -- which they did not do in 1976, once Ford defeated Ronald Reagan for the GOP nomination. There is, thus, a very good chance that the tide will turn again, and Republicans retain the presidency, retake the Senate, and maybe even retake the House as well;
- Finally -- and most important -- today, we have the horrible example of Vietnam and what happened in the aftermath of our shameful surrender, which we can throw in the faces of those counseling just such a betrayal in Iraq.
But what can I do?
All those who support the war can do their part to help win it by refraining from, on the one hand, schoolmarmish hectoring of every wartime decision the Commander in Chief makes, and on the other, Edvard Munch-like despair at every setback. (Republicans are especially prone to the latter.) Remember that we still get most (not all) of our news from the elite media, and they have a vested economic and class interest in forcing a humiliating loss for America. Don't trust them to tell the truth.
Send or raise money for organizations like Soldiers' Angels that support our troops in the field. Press your local churches, synogogues, mosques, and civic groups to similarly support the troops, whether or not they support the war.
Keep abreast of what is happening in both the larger war on global jihad and the individual wars in Afghanistan and Iraq by reading books, newspapers and magazines, and especially non-MSM sources such as Bill Roggio and Michael Yon (now sometimes carried by Dean Barnett at Hugh Hewitt's blog).
The next time Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Silvestre Reyes doesn't know -- or care -- whether al-Qaeda is predominently Sunni and Shia, I want every questioner at the townhall meeting to be able to educate him. Maybe it will eventually stick.
If you have a Republican representative or senator, write him immediately and repeatedly, demanding that he support the war effort and refuse to join with Democrats who want to see us defeated in Iraq and Afghanistan. Use your superior knowledge base to point out the terrible catastrophe premature withdrawal would create.
If you have a Democrat in both positions, but you live in a nominally conservative or patriotic district, then write them both anyway. Who knows? Our pal above, Rep. Silvestre Reyes, actually supported a troop increase of 20,000 - 30,000 men, back in December, 2006.
If you live in San Francisco or Boston, write to fence-sitting members of Congress on either side of the aisle. If they're cowardly enough to be afraid of the war, they should be cowardly enough to be afraid of an outraged electorate, too!
Blog (or at least comment) in favor of fighting the war by the smartest means possible (which I personally think is Petraeus's counterinsurgency strategy at the moment, but that's up to you).
Talk to your liberal friends about the war (yes, you "have to"). It's not enough to preach to the choir; you must preach to the anti-war "sinners." Don't hector them; but let them know that it is not a given that the war is "lost," that in fact it's going pretty well; that the Iraqis and the United States are both much better off with Saddam dead; that this is an existential fight; that the Democratic leadership really does want us to lose (look at Majority Leader Harry Reid); and so forth. Not every liberal wants to commit cultural suicide... look at Mort Kondracke and Joe Lieberman.
The biggest danger is if Republicans in Congress lose heart or misplace their courage, and the bulwark against despair or cowardice is a high morale. It would be humiliating indeed if those not even under fire sank into low morale at the very time our troops' morale is high. So don't do it, and don't let your congressional representatives or your governor do it.
Hold your head high; you're not being shot at. Be the eyes, the ears, and especially the mouth of reason and courage.
And that's the way it is, April 24th, 2007, in what is still the greatest nation that has ever existed on this planet.
Date ►►► April 21, 2007
"Not Responsible for Advice Not Taken"
The title, of course, is a wonderful aphorism by science-fiction writer Larry Niven that I have used (with attribution) many times. But it is particularly poignant in this case.
When Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%) declared that the Iraq war was "lost" -- and even presumed to read the minds of the Secretaries of State and Defense to pronounce that they agreed with him -- Reid cited, as his only evidence, the multiple suicide and car bombings that occurred on Wednesday, April 18th, 2007. Those five bombings on one day proved that the counterinsurgency strategy was a "failure," Reid pronounced.
On that day, nearly 200 Iraqi civilians died (hat tip to Eason Jordan blog IraqSlogger -- and my apologies for mistaking it for a milblog earlier!) Within hours, Sen. Reid rushed to the microphone in palpable glee at being able to declare defeat and squirt insults, like a squid squirts ink (and for the same reason), at President Bush and Gen. David Petraeus. Petraeus is commander of Multinational Force - Iraq (MNF-I) and architect of the 60%-implemented counterinsurgency that Reid, with his solid history in military studies, has dismissed as doomed.
Most of the deaths that occurred on Wednesday came from a single suicide truck bombing in the parking lot of the Sadriya market in Sadr City, a Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad. That explosion alone killed at least 140 people; the other four bombs together killed about 50 more (the exact death toll is subject to some dispute). The Sadriya market bombing accounts for more than 70% of Wednesday's fatalities.
For Reid's conclusion of "failure" to be valid, he must assume that the Sadriya market bombing occurred because of a systemic failure of Petraeus's counterinsurgency strategy. Reid must show that the bombing occurred because of some flaw implicit, or at least implicate, in the strategy itself... not because of either a freak chance or somebody failing to do his job.
(Shorthand distinction: A flaw is implicit if it's already present in the strategy but unseen or unrecognized; a flaw is implicate if it arises as a natural consequence of the strategy. Thus, a yolk is implicit in an egg, but a chicken is implicate.)
To un-generalize my point, suppose your strategy for reducing energy costs in an apartment building you manage comprises:
- Insulating the whole building;
- Replacing the ancient cooling and heating systems with much newer, more efficient units;
- Replacing all the incandescent bulbs in the common areas with fluorescent lights;
- And replacing the old refrigerators with new ones.
Your cost-saving strategy is not discredited if you get socked with a huge electricity bill one month -- because a tenant went AWOL, leaving his electric stove set to 450 degrees!
So what about the Sadriya bombing? It turns out it was only successful because of exactly the kind of idiocy in the analogy above; the explosives-laden truck could not even have gotten into the parking lot -- except that Iraqis removed the concrete barriers that would have forced it to pass through a guarded gate and be searched:
As part of the new Baghdad security plan -- which Petraeus helped design and is in charge of implementing -- large concrete barriers were brought in to restrict access to the parking area after a military "red team" determined that area too was vulnerable. But on April 15, three days before the deadly attack, Iraqi officials ordered the 12-foot "Texas barriers" pulled away after local residents complained about the obstruction.
Clearly, then, the problem the led to the massive death toll last Wednesday was not systemic to Petraeus's counterinsurgency strategy; it was neither implicit nor implicate... unless one assumes that Iraqis will always rebel against security measures, though it means their own suicide, and will never be able to learn the routine caution that Western nations pracice. The suggestion seems terribly bigoted to me.
The flaw was in individual and local Iraqi officials, who listened to the immediate complaints of Sadr City merchants about inconvenience instead of explaining the long-term value of security to their constituents. But that lesson was made, with brutal emphasis, by al-Qaeda itself last Wednesday. Perhaps it will now sink in.
Anybody have Harry Reid's cell-phone number? I would love to ask him whether he really argues that a strategy should be considered a "failure" if even a single Iraqi screws up a smallest piece of it on an isolated occasion.
If so, then can we consider the Congressional Democratic majority likewise a failure? Several of them have signally failed to do their jobs in the past 90 days -- starting with Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) and Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid, who have yet to pass a single major bill or indeed do anything at all, other than launch scurrilous and ill-advised attacks upon every Executive official from the lowly assistant to Alberto Gonzales to our military commanders in the field.
Harry Reid: doomed failure who has already lost. Kind of like the sound of that...!
Speak For Yourself, "Pinky"
This is by way of addendum to our previous post, Into Every Life, Some Reid Must Fall. Now it's falling into the lives of Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates.
Our squirrelly little Majority Leader of the Senate, Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%) -- who spent Thursday telling reporters that the Iraq war was "lost" and that the "surge" had been proven a "failure" -- now goes even further in his hubris: He purports to speak for the Secretaries of State and Defense, flatly stating that they, too, believe the war is lost and the counterinsurgency a failure. (Hat tip to Tom Bevan of Real Clear Politics.)
In the clip, Reid does not quote anything they said to that effect, because of course they have said no such thing. Nor does he claim they told him this privately. He simply announces, ex cathedra, that they agree with him that all is lost!
Oh, and he also implies that President Bush thinks so, too... though here, he allows as how he might not actually know what Bush thinks. (Evidently Reid believes he does absolutely know what Rice and Gates think.)
What next? Will Reid announce tomorrow that he channeled the brain of Gen. Petraeus -- and that the commander of MNF-I also believes his own counterinsurgency strategy stinks?
Date ►►► April 20, 2007
Huh, Big Lizards Wins Again...
...I knew joining the Watcher's Council was a clever idea!
Unaccustomed as I am to modesty, I humbly accept this signal honor. But weren't we supposed to get gold trophies, or an aquarium, or something?
The protocols of the learned elders of the Watcher's Council:
- Fighting Back Was Not an Option, Part 2 (but you already knew that), by Big Lizards (you already knew this, too, o wise).
Wherein, we examined the phenomenon of the student victims at V Tech who did not fight back against the mass murderer, may his name be forever blotted out, and asked ourselves whether we have bred the capacity to fight out of a portion of the younger generation. (Obviously not out of other members of that same generation... those who chose to join up and head to Iraq.)
Naturally, I couldn't vote for myself. Not because of any natural disinclination to grub for any votes I could get, including my own, but because those are the rules. Otherwise, everybody would vote for his own, and we would have a 12-way tie every week. But the piece that I put as number one in fact came in at number 2 -- Media at Its Worst On Display at Virginia Tech, by Cheat Seeking Missiles... which is about exactly what the title implies.
Among the laity:
- The Laughter in the Dark, by Belmont Club.
In which Wretchard suggests that those who enable the terrorists by blurring all distinctions between right and wrong -- the Ward Churchills with their snide accusations about "Little Eichmanns" -- are perhaps worse than the terrorists themselves, who at least have strong opinions about right and wrong (however evil those opinions are). This is the piece I picked as number one in this category, putting it even ahead of my own nomination, And Yet There Are Heroes, by the Remedy.
Actually, it's very interesting to read these four pieces back to back: The two winners deal with blaming the victims, to some extent; but mine blames them for not fighting back, while Wretchard's villainous enablers blame the victims because the enablers have identified with the enemy.
And the other two cover peripheral yet fascinating issues surrounding the shooting.
As we always announce, all of the nominations that actually received votes can be found at Weaselpalooza!
Date ►►► April 19, 2007
Into Every Life, Some Reid Must Fall
Today's lily-livered belly crawling by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%), flatly announcing that "this war is lost," should disqualify him from the "leadership" position he now occupies, say I... since he is no longer leading but deserting.
Reid triumphally pronounced defeat in a press conference he called shortly after leaving the White House and his discussion with President Bush. Reid particularly singled out the counterinsurgency strategy -- which of course he belittled as "the surge" -- as having been an abject failure... because there were some big bombings yesterday:
"Now I believe myself ... that this war is lost, and that the surge is not accomplishing anything, as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday," said Reid, of Nevada....
Well, who could argue with that? I also conclude that, since it was chilly yesterday, therefore global warming is false.
People of at least ordinary intelligence understand that both global warming theory and the counterinsurgency strategy must be evaluated after a reasonably long period of time: ten years or so for the former, six or seven months for the latter. In both cases, a single day is void of meaning.
I have had my suspicions about Reid from the git go. Consider the biography of Harry "Pinky" Reid. First, Reid is one of those politicians who has never held any other job in his life besides -- politics. And even at that, he has never held a political job that had any actual performance standards, no administrative job like governor or even mayor. He served as lieutenant governor; but of course, that has fewer administrative responsibilities than being a dormatory R.A. at UC Santa Cruz, or even being Vice President of the United States.
(Oh, but let me be precise here: Reid allegedly worked as an attorney for two years in the mid-1960s, between when he received his J.D. and when he first ran for the Nevada state assembly. No idea if he actually argued any cases -- unlikely -- or whether he simply clerked for some local judge or worked as a junior peon in a Searchlight law firm. And then, there is that odd, three-year gap between when he failed to be elected senator in 1974 and when he turned up as Nevada gaming commissioner in 1977, during which he must have done something. Maybe he worked as a Pai Gow poker dealer or pit boss at a craps table. But that about covers it.)
During Reid's entire, illustrious, forty-year political career -- as state legislator, lieutenant governor, Nevada state gaming commissioner, U.S. representative, and senator -- with attendant array of "leadership" positions -- he has never once distinguished himself, never stood out, never brought himself to public attention. I suspect that virtually nobody in America except for political junkies could name the majority leader... unlike his counterpart, the Squeaker of the House.
Even Reid's "scandals" have been little and insignificant peccadillos: some land deal trifle in Nevada, having contacts with Jack Abramoff, free boxing tickets, and earmarking a bridge that would marginally help his bottom line -- bagatelles all. He can't even be spectacularly corrupt. One might guess that no crook in his right mind would concoct a spectacular scheme that depended upon somebody like Harry "Pinky."
Reid is like Sir Joseph, the Lord Admiral in Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta H.M.S. Pinafore: a man who rose from "office boy to an attorney's firm" to "ruler of the Queen's Navee" without ever once having set foot upon the deck of a ship:
If you want to rise to the top of the tree,
If your soul isn't fettered to an office stool,
Be careful to be guided by this golden rule--
Stick close to your desks and never go to sea,
And you all may be rulers of the Queen's Navee!
One might also compare Sen. Reid to a eunuch in a harem: He is aware of something wonderful going on all around him, but he is unequipped by nature to participate.
But we crave more illumination from the majority leader from Searchlight:
"The (Iraq) war can only be won diplomatically, politically and economically, and the president needs to come to that realization," Reid said.... [Once we withdraw our troops in defeat, as Sen. Reid would counsel, then how strong of a diplomatic, political, or even economic "hand" does he think we would have?]
Reid said he did not think more U.S. troops could help. "I think it's failed, I say that without any question," he said of the troop increase.
The "troop increase," which is how Reuters avoids mouthing the words "new counterinsurgency strategy," has been under way for less than two months; and only half of the projected troops have yet been inserted. It will take several more months before we really have an idea how well it will work.
But even so, even with only a fraction of the force we intend to bring to bear turning red to pink and pink to white, and even including the attacks yesterday, the death rate in Baghdad over the past two months is dramatically lower -- about 40% lower than the two previous months.
And that also includes the annual Islamic religious celebration of massacring pilgrims on the road to Karbala, some of which spilled over into Baghdad (killing more people than were killed yesterday).
Good Lord, imagine being adrift in a lifeboat with Harry "Pinky" Mason Reid. He would announce that we were toast and suggest we capsize the boat -- within sight of the Port of Long Beach!
Reid is a reedy drudge, a drab, little man in a drab, little suit, toiling away in a drab, little office in the bowels of an ineffectual body of Congress, which has itself become a mere footnote in the march of destiny. Reid is Walter Mitty without the saving grace of imagination:
- He waves his abnormally small fist -- former amateur boxer! -- and announces "we killed the Patriot Act!" But of course, he did no such thing. All he managed was to delay its reauthorization for a short bit by filibuster; it was reauthorized intact a couple of months later.
- He bemoans that Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was replaced by Justice Samuel Alito, because that allowed to Court to uphold a federal law banning partial-birth abortion -- a law for which Reid himself actually voted!
- He cannot decide whether he is for or against immigration, for or against gun control, for or against abortion.
"Pinky" Reid is the Director, from C.S. Lewis's seiminal novel That Hideous Strength, the third of his Perelandra series: the man who was never quite awake yet never entirely asleep, never found in broad sunlight nor yet in starry night; always betwixt and between, never actually deciding anything -- but ruling N.I.C.E. (the National Institute of Coordinated Experiments) as a perpetually ambiguous demonstration of the philosophy of perpetual twilight.
There is, however, one silver lining to the dark cloud Reid uses to rain defeatism and despondency on Gen. Petraeus's parade; this one nugget of information jumped out at me, perking me up immeasurably:
"I know I was like the odd guy out yesterday at the White House, but at least I told him what he needed to hear, not what he wanted to hear," he added. ["Him" means the president; that "him."]
It is indeed heartening to read, from Reid himself, that his delusion that we have already lost the war is not shared by his fellow Democrats in the House and Senate delegations; Reid was, as he put it, "the odd guy out."
Odd indeed; and thankfully, more or less out -- of the reckoning. And by his own withdrawal. I suppose that even footnotes must have their footnotes.
Date ►►► April 18, 2007
Striking a Blow for Civilization
As many of you know -- though for others, it will be a killer shock that will send you reeling away, screaming dark imprecations at me, never to return to Big Lizards, halving out readership, and destroying the entire franchise... huh, maybe I shouldn't tell you!
Oh heck. Full disclosure, blah.
As many of you know, both lizards are somewhat pro-abortion-rights, albeit Sachi much more reluctantly than Dafydd. So I thought you might appreciate the thoughts of admittedly pro-abortion-rights commentators on today's excellent Supreme Court decision upholding the federal ban on the most gruesome and barbaric "medical" procedure allowed (until today) in contemporary America.
The cases decided in one decision today are Gonzales v. Carhart, 05-380, and Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood, 05-1382.
Shades of grey
First, let me clarify where my abortion tolerance begins and where it ends. It is impossible to hold any position at all on abortion without first holding a position on when, not human life, but human personhood begins. Some folks may not even recognize that they have such a position, but they do; they're just remarkably unself-aware.
- Some believe human personhood begins at the moment of conception. Thus, any clump of cells that will develop into a human being, if left to prevailing natural processes, is necessarily a human person at all points of that process... right from the very beginning.
- Others believe that, while a human zygote (a fertilized human egg) is unquestionably the first stage of a human being, it does not become a human person -- with attendant rights, duties, and protections -- until later in the process. They point to the immense structural differences between a zygote, an embryo, a foetus, and a late-term foetus and argue that personhood depends upon some element of that pre-natal development.
What follows is just my personal belief and isn't part of the mainline argument of this post; I'll indent it, and you can skip ahead without losing the thread.
I fall into group 2. I cannot look at a zygote and see it as morally equivalent to a living baby.
For me, the particular critical area of development is the cerebral cortex -- that which most separates human beings from the other creatures on the planet, in terms of biology.
(The only exceptions are the cetaceans, which have well developed cerebral cortices, but which clearly do not have human levels of intelligence, alas. As a science fiction fan, I would love the idea that we had a couple of "alien species" on the planet that we could talk to; but this has been studied for decades... and every scrap of evidence points to the conclusion that they're just clever animals.)
So I would allow abortion only up until such time as the cerebral cortex is fully formed and functional -- though not fully developed, of course, since that happens only at adulthood. I believe there is a fairly clear point where the cortex activates, and it's usually somewhere around the 26th week (around the end of the second trimester). I would allow abortion for any reason before cortical activity rises to a certain point, and afterwards, disallow it for any reason except to save the life -- not the "health" -- of the mother... and even then, every effort should be made to save the baby, even if that puts the mother at some increased risk.
I do not believe that a human person is nothing but a lump of protoplasm. I believe humans have non-destructable souls. But I also believe that human souls do not inhabit non-human bodies, else we would see them in animals. Until cortical activity rises to a certain level, the developing body is not yet human: I literally believe that the soul cannot "fit" into that body until the body is ready to receive it, and ensoulment occurs sometime after that period of cortical activation. Since I obviously cannot know when after that point ensoulment occurs -- traditional Jewish teaching is that it occurs when the baby takes its first breath after being born -- I would outlaw abortion after cortical activation (that is, when cortical activity rises above a certain point).
All right, back to today's Court decision upholding the ban on partial-birth abortions.
I refuse to use the deliberately obscurantist medical circumlocuation, "intact dilation and extraction," the very purpose of which is to conceal what is actually done. A person would have no idea from this title that after dilating the cervix and extracting the body of the baby, the real work begins. I'll let Wikipedia describe what happens next, in their (generally supportive) article on the subject:
An incision is made at the base of the skull and a suction catheter is inserted into the cut. The brain tissue is removed, which causes the skull to collapse and allows the fetus to pass more easily through the birth canal. The placenta is removed and the uterine wall is vacuum aspirated using a suction curette.
All this while everything except for the head is dangling outside of the mother's birth canal. So I think "partial-birth abortion" is the most vivid and accurate name for the horrific procedure.
Obviously, since I completely oppose late-term abortions (after cortical activation), I cannot help but applaud a Court decision that bans one form of late-term abortion, albeit a rare one. But many partial-birth abortions are performed earlier in the pregnancy, at a time when I do not categorially oppose abortion. So why do I oppose partial-birth abortions, even in the second trimester?
For me, this is the tipping point: Suppose the doctor slipped up and allowed the head to emerge as well -- but then continued with the "abortion" anyway: He just went ahead with the incision and the suction catheter and removing the brain tissue of a "foetus" that was actually lying in the mother's lap. What would happen then?
I believe he would be arrested and tried for murder... with special circumstances. The doctor would have delivered a live baby -- and calmly killed it in full view of its mother. At an absolute minimum, it should be considered "depraved indifference to human life;" but I think murder charges would be filed. The DA would call it infanticide, and nearly everybody in the country would agree.
The distinction between infanticide and legal abortion cannot be four inches movement down a tube.
For me (see above), the second trimester is a grey area: the foetus has some distinctly "baby-like" features, while other features (mostly in the higher brain) are not well developed. It's not yet a person, but it's getting somewhat close. Similarly, at the very end of life, a person can lose so much of what makes him a person that decisions about life and death similarly become murky: I support withdrawing life support under some circumstances; but I totally opposed starving Terry Schiavo to death -- and I still believe it was immoral, despite clear post-mortem evidence that Schiavo was not aware enough to notice.
A lot can tip the scales when in the grey zone. And one very strong distinction to me is between a baby that is born and a foetus that is still in the womb.
By the very act of inducing labor and allowing it to proceed virtually to the point of birth, the doctor has tipped the scales from allowable abortion to criminal infanticide. The foetus has become an independent baby... at least as far as this one abortion-rights supporter believes.
As bad as the more common form of second-trimester abortion is, it does not even begin to approach the Nazi-like, nausea-inducing horror of partial-birth abortion. (In dilation and evacuation, the foetus is killed and dismembered inside the womb, then the individual pieces are extracted.) D & E is itself pretty gruesome to contemplate; but there is no point at which the dependent foetus becomes, for all intents and purposes, an independent, delivered baby.
The road not taken
Finally, there is the question of precedent. Both Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 95%) and Barack Obama (D-IL, 95%) make a big to-do about the "departure" from Supreme Court precedent of this ruling:
This decision marks a dramatic departure from four decades of Supreme Court rulings that upheld a woman's right to choose and recognized the importance of women's health.
I strongly disagree with today's Supreme Court ruling, which dramatically departs from previous precedents safeguarding the health of pregnant women.
To which I reply -- so what? Even if it's true that Gonzales v. Carhart/Planned Parenthood "departs" from precedent -- which claim itself is questionable -- why should we care? The Court is not bound by any previous court rulings... not even its own.
It has the power to overturn itself, as it has many times in the past; for example, when Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896), upholding "separate but equal" racial segregation in the public schools, was overturned 58 years later in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954). Does any respectable lawyer, Democrat or Republican, complain that Brown didn't follow the racist precedent of Plessy?
For that matter, did Hillary Clinton object when the Court decided Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) -- thus overturning 170 years of Supreme Court precedent? Since the beginning of the very idea that the Court could overturn federal laws (Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 in 1803), no United States Supreme Court had ever found a constitutional right to an abortion.
It doesn't even follow the precedent of Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 1965, as the Roe decision claimed; since the "right of privacy" doesn't have any obvious connection that I can see to the right to kill a foetus.
In 1973, the year of Roe v. Wade, Hillary Rodham was a newly minted attorney -- though I'm not sure she was yet an attorney at law. So she must have been fascinated by that Court decision. Yet I will eat a bug if anyone can find a Hillary Clinton quotation complaining that Roe v. Wade "marks a dramatic departure" from Supreme Court precedent.
(In 1973, Barack Obama was 12 years old, so I don't hold him to the same standard. But surely he studied Roe v. Wade at Harvard Law in the late 80s. If he ever objected to Roe because it "dramatically departs from previous precedents," it certainly hasn't come to my attention.)
Thus, the entire argument against today's decision, that it violates precedent, is nothing but a shibboleth: It's an infallible guide to those who vehemently oppose Gonzales vs. Carhart/Planned Parenthood. It is an ersatz argument that needn't be further addressed.
So yes, I absolutely and enthusiastically applaud this Court decision, in which we managed to hold onto Justice Anthony Kennedy (who wrote the decision) and the four conservative members -- Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito. It's the best news to come out of the Court since they prevented Al Gore from suing his way into the White House.
I rarely say this, but... three cheers for Anthony Kennedy!
Date ►►► April 17, 2007
Fighting Back Was Not an Option, Part 2
Three sober, responsible, respectable, intelligent gentlemen have made a very good case for not discussing so-called "solutions" (on either side of the aisle) for such terrible crimes as yesterday's massacre at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
Dean Barnett and Hugh Hewitt of HughHewitt.com and John Hinderaker of Power Line each says that there will come a time for understanding the macro-politics of the shooting spree; but that time is later. Now is the time for grieving, they argue -- and for healing. Hugh just said some hours ago that everyone should talk as if the parents who lost their children are listening. And I completely understand his point.
I just don't agree with it.
Were I actually talking to one of the bereaved, of course I wouldn't start discussing how to prevent such evil in the future. But I'm not; I cannot imagine anyone suffering such a loss reading a political blog the next day. It's absurd.
I'm talking to readers who, while they may be in shock, did not actually lose a loved one in this particular shooting. Any pain and loss they feel, however real and wrenching, is due to empathy with the victims.
Empathy is a vital and decent response; a man who feels no empathy for a parent who lost a child is probably a psychopath. But empathic pain is simply not in the same league as the actual pain of such a terrible loss to those who suffer it themselves. Even those who know what such pain is like from personal experience don't feel it as intensely when empathizing with a stranger as when it happened to them.
I can well understand those in the midst of such agony not wanting to hear or see anything about how to prevent such atrocities. Their brains are filled to bursting with memories that have abruptly become more precious than diamonds yet sharper than a razor. But for many of the rest of us, our pain is not so much in the gut as in the psyche... and the only balm for psychic pain is cool-headed, rational thought about solutions to the problem.
If you don't agree, I won't be offended. Stop reading this post; because from here on, logical analysis is all it will contain.
I will put the rest in the extended entry, forcing you to make an overt action to continue.
The one possibly odious trick I have played is the title, which makes a political point itself: I see the circumstances of the Virginia Tech shooting and of the British hostages as betraying the same very poignant -- and dangerous -- perspective: helplessness as a virtue.
But the two circumstances also differ in a way that at first appears vast, but upon reflection seems not so great after all. When a soldier, by inaction, renders himself helpless, we call it cowardice; but civilians do not seem to be under the same duty as a member of the military, one who has voluntarily assumed responsibility for protecting and preserving his society.
Surely, however, adult civilians are not completely bereft of any such responsibility; in fact, assuming personal responsibility for the lives and freedoms of others is, by my reckoning, exactly what separates the child from the adult. When a boy or a girl freely accepts that he has a certain duty towards his fellows, even when nobody will ever know whether he fulfilled it or not, that is when boy becomes man and girl becomes woman.
The epiphany is usually a series of small revelations that mount up over time, but it can also strike like the fangs of a diamondback in the dark night of the soul. Either way, dawn can begin at any age past puberty and can take a number of years, or a few short days... or else a lifetime can pass without the change completing.
The epiphany is this: Each one of us is a foot soldier for civilization; when evil threatens, we must do our utmost to thwart it.
Your utmost may be as simple as snitching on your best friend when you discover he has systematically looted the company you both work for... or as profound as Virginia Tech Engineering Professor Liviu Librescu, a Holocaust survivor, who gave his last full measure blocking the doorway to his classroom, allowing his students time to escape out the window.
If President Bush is decent, he will award a Presidential Medal of Freedom -- the highest award a civilian can receive -- to Professor Librescu (later, when his loved ones have recovered a bit more).
But if Bush is just as well as decent, he would instead award the Medal of Honor, which is available only to active-duty members of the military. Because when the shooting started, Professor Librescu's society had come under attack by a demonic evil; and every adult man and woman on the scene, each already a member of the unorganized militia of the United States of America, was instantly activated to defend his civilization, including Professor Librescu.
There is no difference in my mind between Professor Librescu using his own body as a human shield and a National Guardsman being activated and sent to Iraq, and both should be equally eligible for the Medal of Honor.
But Professor Librescu was 77 years old when he died; there was little he could do against a young, armed man like the killer (whose name is known, but which I will not honor with remembering) beyond delaying him for a minute or two. Professor Librescu did what he could, and it was enough: He saved many lives that were, in some sense, his responsibility. He was a teacher -- and his last breath was spent teaching the greatest lesson of all: transcendent duty.
But what about the other presumably adult men and women at that campus? Most were nowhere near the scene and therefore never had the opportunity to test their courage, their honor, and their worth. This is a minor tragedy in itself; it's the subject of one of the greatest poems ever written in English: "Elegy Written In a Country Churchyard," by Thomas Gray.
But there are others; there are also those who were there, who were close by. What did they do? How did they acquit themselves?
Did they gather those around them and hurry with them to safety? Did they save themselves? Each of these is a minor virtue, and I don't want to knock it. Sometimes, such minor virtues are all that a person can achieve, given the time, place, and opportunity.
But surely there must have come a time when a man or woman, hiding not far away, saw that the gunman had turned his back. What that person did in that moment is the true assay of character.
Maybe someone charged at the gunman -- but foul fate intervened, and the butcher heard, turned, and added another victim to his hellish toll. Anyone so killed is as heroic as Professor Librescu.
But -- and I hate the thought, even as it screams insistently -- it is virtually inevitable that there were others who were there, who saw an opportunity, but who were frozen to the spot with dread. Or else they talked themselves into believing that there was nothing they could do. Or worst of all... some must have done nothing because they had been carefully taught that "nothing" was what they were supposed to do. I cannot help thinking that for many students at Virginia Tech yesterday, just as for the fifteen British sailors and marines, "fighting back was not an option," because to them, it is never an option.
That's a job for "professionals."
Let me take a brief detour here to a post written by Dean Barnett, and to what he said yesterday while guest-hosting on Hugh Hewitt's radio show. I like Dean, though I've never met him. But I think he has exactly the wrong attitude about this spree killing. Dean wrote:
What makes tragedies like this one so gut-wrenching, though, is precisely their inexplicable nature. They are truly, literally senseless.
And yet it’s in our nature to try to make sense of the things we don’t or even can’t understand. But I’ll tell you something: Searches for reasons and explanations here are going to bring us up empty. The painful fact is that terrible things happen. There are evil people who do evil things. There’s nothing more to it than that. There’s no policy prescription that can make things like this never happen again.
This from the same man who earlier worried that that dreadful phrase would become "the epitaph of the Western world!" Dean makes a catastrophic logical error in this passage: He conflates the agent and the enabler.
He is correct that nothing we do can completely prevent evil people from attempting to perpetrate such heinous acts; but there is a great deal we can do to frustrate them when they try. And the failure even to try to stop evil is the great enabler of evil.
We know this; it's even an aphorism: The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. So why does Dean Barnett so blithely absolve those good men and women who had a shot but did nothing?
Because Dean, like everyone else who grew up in post-World War II America, has been bathed from birth in the fountain of futility. There's nothing you can do; don't even try. Let the authorities handle it... they're professionals. We must sit quietly and wait for instructions.
As with every other sane person, Dean must reject this rot -- intellectually. But as with every other child of the second half of the 20th centry, overcoming the doctrine of moral inertia requires constant mental battle. Don't get involved. Don't make waves. Would you rather be a live coward or a dead hero? According to the doctrine, the answer to that last question is "live coward," incredibly enough; good thing Professor Librescu was too old to have been infected.
Yesterday, while he guest-hosted for Hugh, Dean read an e-mail from a listener who groped for words to describe the eighteen-year course in the doctrine of moral inertia endured by everyone who passes through the public school system (and most of the private ones as well).
The writer was trying to talk about the professionalization of America, where every decision is left up to the "experts;" but Dean dismissed the e-mail out of hand, because its writer bemoaned the suppression of dodgeball, which appears to have annoyed Dean beyond all reason.
It was a metaphor, but it went right over his head. "Dodgeball wouldn't have solved this problem," Dean snapped -- and I had the awful impression that he imagined the e-mailer was saying students should literally have thrown basketballs at the shooter. In his post, he put it this way:
One emailer said that we had turned our kids into a bunch of wusses, and that if we brought back things like Dodgeball, things would get better.
It was a sneer, and I was very disappointed in Dean. I hope he reconsiders; what the e-mailer meant was that schools have systematically beaten the fighting spirit out of American children, who then grow into dispirited adults, for whom "fighting back is not an option."
We can overcome such conditioning; that's why I have not given up on Western Civ, unlike some. But it takes effort and will.
Here is a sidebar story about the doctrine of moral inertia, its reach and falsity and how it was overcome. Sachi tells this story from her own experience:
On September the 11th, 2001, a little after six o'clock in the morning, I got on the Hollywood Freeway in California. I was on my way to work, which I had just started a week earlier. The orientation for new government employees was scheduled for 0900, but I left early to avoid the traffic.
As soon as I turned on the radio, I discovered that something horrific had just happened in New York City: The second airplane had just struck the World Trade Centers.
I listened as a New York City DJ described people jumping from the tops of what were still, for a few minutes more, majestic, 110-story fingers pointing skywards. I was shocked into numbness; they had rationally decided to plunge to their deaths, rather than stay and be incinerated.
Then I heard the twin towers collapse, first one then the other.
By the time I got to the office around 0730, I already knew that Flight 93 had crashed somewhere in Pennsylvania, possibly because passengers fought back against the highjackers.
At nine, I went to the meeting, which was about anti-terrorism procedures, ironically enough. Our job requires us to fly so often that we have to know how to behave in case of a terrorist attack... such as a airplane highjacking. But the CIA agent who was our instructor was emotionally drained.
"I was supposed to show you this PowerPoint presentation," he said, "which tells you what to do in case..." He paused; "but in light of today's incident, all the instructions I was going to give you are out the window. Obviously, they no longer apply."
What the agent was going to tell us was that, in case of a highjacking (or any other take-over attack), do not resist; do whatever the highjackers tell you to do; keep low profile; and for God's sake, don't be a hero. It is an easily survivable situation.
Well, so much for that.
What we all learned instead on that day of rage was that we cannot always rely on someone else to rescue us. Sometimes, ordinary citizens are summoned to do extraordinary things -- as the passengers on Flight 93 must have realized.
We now know that there are evil-doers out there to whom "death is a promotion," as Cal Thomas said; they will happily die just in order to harm a few of us.
They are like Terminators, and no law or persuasion will stop them. They must be stopped by force: our force.
When some or all of civilization is at stake, failing to fight back is not an option... not even for us civilians.
It really makes no difference what tools the students should have used to fight back. If someone had had a gun, that would have been useful; but absent a firearm, a running tackle would work just as well, albeit with a great deal more personal risk. (Aboard Flight 93, the weapon of convenience was a rolling food cart.)
If several people had compacted together to rush the shooter simultaneously, he couldn't have killed them all -- and likely would be so startled that he didn't kill any of them.
How many innocent lives would have been saved, had just one or two people done his utmost, not merely to allow some students to escape, but to thwart the evil itself?
We don't know, but that's a lesser issue: The greater issue is that, by fighting back against evil, the students, faculty, and staff at Virginia Tech would have fired the shot heard round the world, the meme that "fighting back is always an option." Whenever such a massacre is aborted by extraordinary courage on the part of ordinary people, we send the message that good men (and women) must do something to prevent the triumph of evil.
But whenever we allow the moment to pass, and we remain hunkered down, hoping the butcher wanders away -- translation: oh Lord, please let him shoot that girl over there instead of me! -- we send exactly the opposite message: We reinforce the unAmerican idea that "we must sit quietly and wait for instructions."
We will lose forever that which makes us exceptional, not just Americans but all men of the West. And worse, we will lose it to terrorists and psychopaths, to tyrants and the grey horde... none of whom deserves such a cheap victory. We will console ourselves that there was nothing we could do; but in reality, we will have sat down and surrendered to a bunch of nobodies for a fistful of nothing.
Then the whole world will be barbarians until men learn a new way to coerce nature, and the swordsmen, the damned stupid swordsmen will win after all.
The Soundering of Floundering
That sound you hear -- is the sound of Democrats running just fast enough to miss the train. "By jingo, what rotten luck!" I doubt their more radical constituents will be fooled.
For some reason known only to Eris, Goddess of Chaos, the Democrats seem to have convinced themselves that, no matter what President Bush said, he would sign their troop-handcuffing funding bill in the end. But as it becomes increasingly clear that he will veto it instead, just as he promised... it turns out that the Democrats never did have a "Plan B."
So what are they going to do? They don't know. It's obvious they can't simply proceed with the defunding of the war; they simply don't have the votes even to pass such a bill, let alone override a presidential veto. The House surrender bill passed by a bare majority, 218 to 212... and surprise, so did the Senate version, 51 to 47.
If even one, single Democrat refuses to go along with cutting off the troops and leaving them to the tender mercies of al-Qaeda and the Mahdi Militia, if a solitary member crosses the aisle in either house, the bill goes down in flames.
Congressional Democrats say there is no doubt President Bush will soon be confronted with legislation calling for an end to the Iraq war.
But the new majority must decide how far to go in trying to tie Bush's hands and what will happen after the president's inevitable veto.
The debate is likely to expose fissures among Democrats, who remain divided on whether to cut off money for the unpopular war and risk leaving troops in the lurch.
"My feeling is at a certain point we're going to have a 'come-to-Jesus' moment in the caucus and talk about whether you fund (the war) or not," said Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash.
"Baghdad" Jim McDermott (D-WA, 95%), you'll recall, visited Saddam Hussein in 2002 to show solidarity and received a $5,000 payoff from a Saddam insider, Shakir al Khafaji. It would be a miracle indeed if Baghdad Jim were to have a "come-to-Jesus" moment. He was reluctant to vote for the bill pushed by Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%), not because it would hogtie our military commanders, but because it actually appropriated money to fight the war.
McDermott is trembling with excitement at the thought of making America lose. I suspect it's as close to a religious experience as he is ever likely to feel.
But there are other Democrats who would recoil from a troop-funding cutoff as from a leper's kiss: Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE, 35%), for example, or several of the Senate and House freshmen.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., told reporters Monday that should Bush veto the bill as expected, Democrats would likely opt to replace the withdrawal language with a "softer version" that ties U.S. aid to political progress made by the Iraqi government....
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters Monday he was open to the idea.
"The president is not going to get a bill that has nothing on it," Reid said.
No; but he's likely to get a bill that may as well have "nothing on it." What will eventually land on the desk of the Commander in Chief will be a bill that fully funds the wars and includes vague "goals" and "benchmarks" that the Iraqis ought to meet... but no firm deadlines for withdrawal, and no "triggers" for withdrawal if X, Y, or Z isn't done by time T.
In other words, a clean bill with a little face-saving Democratic window dressing. And Reid and Pelosi will look even more like a pair of jackasses, braying out their defiance as they continue to pull the cart.
Thank goodness for Democratic cravenness. Just think of the fix we'd be in if the congressional Democrats had as much chutzpah as their insurgent allies.
Date ►►► April 16, 2007
What Goes Up...
I never cease to be astonished at how an event can flip from good to bad in a nanosecond -- depending on which way it needs to be spun to hurt George W. Bush.
Two fascinating stories out of Iraq in the last few days. Both would seem, at face value, to be good news. But in the hands of the skillful propagandists in the elite media, both turn into "proof" that the counterinsurgency isn't "working" (by "working," they mean "working perfectly without the slightest back and forth," like turning on a light):
- In response to a large number of arrests of top leaders of the Mahdi Militia by the government of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, forcing renegade cleric Muqtada Sadr himself to flee to Iran -- and to a series of sweeps through Mahdi Militia strongholds in Sadr City, forcing the terrorist group to exit Baghdad and flee south -- Sadr has now ordered those members of the Mahdi Militia who were ministers in Maliki's government to resign their portfolios in "protest." Thus, Muqtada Sadr's followers no longer infest the Iraqi cabinet.
- Sadr called a "massive" rally in Najaf, his original stronghold -- and only 15,000 showed up (media sources across the world said "tens of thousands" attended, but none offered any source for that claim);
Those who have ever had the pleasure of going on a cruise (they're quite reasonable these days) are well aware of the old saying: Cruise-ship entertainers are either young kids on their way up or old has-beens on their way down. What you never see are established and popular acts; they're playing in New York or Los Angeles at $120 per ticket or more.
So using this analogy, does it look as though Muqtada is on his way up -- or dropping like a brick? I think the answer is obvious... and it couldn't happen to a viler guy.
Slither on to have your wisdom confirmed...
Giving up territory is never a sign of strength
The biggest objection people have had about Maliki over the past couple of years is that he is too close to Sadr, to the point of including members of the Mahdi Militia in his actual cabinet. For more than a year now, the United States has tried to get Maliki to sever ties with the terrorist group, to begin a crackdown on Shia as well as Sunni, and especially, to boot the militia out of the government.
Now he has done so -- and the elite media spin it as more evidence of failure! In fact -- honestly, I'm not kidding -- they now embrace Muqtada Sadr as their unofficial spokesman against the Bush administration's refusal to set a firm withdrawal date:
Cabinet ministers loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr quit the government Monday, severing the powerful Shiite religious leader from the U.S.-backed prime minister and raising fears al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia might again confront American troops....
The political drama in Baghdad was not likely to bring down Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government, but it highlighted growing demands among Iraqi politicians and voters that a timetable be set for a U.S. troop withdrawal - the reason al-Sadr gave for the resignations.
What a selfless guy, that Sadr; he joins hands across the ocean with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%) and Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) to demand a specific "timetable" for Americans to declare defeat and go home.
And notice how AP tries to stigmatize Nouri al-Maliki by giving him the new title of "U.S.-backed prime minister"... as opposed to, say, "prime minister chosen by the majority of the Iraqi parliament, who were legitimately elected in a free and fair vote by the citizens of Iraq themselves." Is AP sinking so low that they're trying to encourage paranoid conspiracy mongers in Iraq (and America) who believe that Maliki is nothing but an American agent?
Well... yeah; that's exactly what they're trying to do:
The departure of the six ministers also was likely to feed the public perception that al-Maliki is dependent on U.S. support, a position he spent months trying to avoid. Late last year he went so far as to openly defy directives from Washington about legislative and political deadlines.
Why were Sadr's acolytes in the government in the first place? Obviously, because he believed their presence would influence, or even control, government policy. They threatened to leave several previous times, hoping that their departure would bring Maliki's government down.
Thus, Sadr believed he could ensure that the Shiite government would never go after the Mahdi Militia, and in fact would continue to stroke Sadr himself -- who might even at some future date deign to run for prime minister directly.
Might not the sudden failure of that scheme, as Maliki finally turned on them, be a more logical reason behind the resignations than the dubious idea that Sadr, from his hideout in mullah-controlled Iran, is just worried about the freedom and liberty of everyday Iraqis? (You know, just like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.)
So what will be the effect of the Mahdi Militia members quitting the cabinet? Simple: They will be replaced by ministers who actually care about Iraq, not about the elevation and aggrandizement of one man:
Sadiq al-Rikabi, an adviser to al-Maliki, told The Associated Press that new Cabinet ministers would be named "within the next few days" and that the prime minister planned to recruit independents not affiliated with any political group. The nominees will need parliament's approval.
The media want to stoke fears that this means the Mahdi Militia will go on a rampage again; and it's very likely they will try. But in the meantime...
- We have dramatically diminished their ranks, both leadership and street thugs.
- We have severed their ties with the Shiite residents of Iraq.
- We have humiliated their leader and forced him to flee to Iran -- thus confirming his continuning status as Ahmadinejad's sock puppet.
- We're finally moving against the Mahdi Militia's trainers and suppliers, the Iranian Qods Force; we have captured Qods leaders, intercepted a large number of Iranian-built explosively-formed penetrators (EFPs), and broken up factories where militia members, under Iranian mentoring, were building their own EFPs.
- And we've already swept through and invested large parts of Sadr City, reducing the militia's territory and denying them safe haven from which to launch attacks.
There will be a spasm of violence for a while; Muqtada Sadr knows that his allies in the American Congress are begging for enough bad news to enable them to force the United States to give Sadr -- and al-Qaeda -- the greatest gift possible: our absence. Indeed, it has already begun:
With the political link severed, there are signs al-Sadr's pledge to control the militia might be broken as well. Forty-two victims of sectarian murders were found in Baghdad the past two days, after a dramatic fall in such killings in recent weeks. U.S. and Iraqi officials have blamed much sectarian bloodshed on Shiite deaths squads associated with the Mahdi Army.
They'll try; what else can they do, having "severed" their "political link" with the prime minister? (In fact, it was the other way around: Sadr's ministers resigned because we finally persuaded Maliki to sever his political links with them.)
But the counterinsurgency never expected -- or depended upon -- Sadr's continued presence by proxy in the Iraqi cabinet. In fact, it's best that all Iranian agents, including Muqtada Sadr, be booted out of all government positions. We want former Iraqi radicals to lay down their arms and join the political system... but we absolutely cannot tolerate Iranian lapdogs running Iraq. That is a prescription for national suicide.
Clearly, losing power in the cabinet cannot possibly be a sign that Sadr is on his way up. But how about the fizzled Najaf rally? What does that tell us?
What if they gave an uprising and nobody came?
Soon after we wrote about The 15,000-Man Million-Man March called by Sadr, Zeyad of Healing Iraq questioned that figure; he believes that there were actually many more people present, and that this proves Sadr's strength is growing, not shrinking. (We cannot figure out the permalink of any of Zeyad's posts; you'll just have to scroll down and try to find it. Sorry! It has no title, but it begins with a photo of a medium-sized gathering of people.)
He objects that "bloggers" (a small number who reposted from the original article on Gateway Pundits) posted what they thought was a picture of the rally in Najaf, but which turned out to be a photo of a 2005 rally in Baghdad. The photograph -- clearly a news-type photo taken from a nearby helicopter or small airplane, not aerial surveillance -- was posted by Multi National Force - Iraq (MNF-I) to accompany the article about the rally.
MNF-I never said that the posted photo was of the Najaf rally, and certainly it was not one of the "aerial surveillance pictures" that the military intelligence officers used to determine the total number of attendees: It doesn't look anything like that sort of aerial photography, as can clearly be seen in this comparison of surveillance of Iran's Natanz nuclear-weapons facility and the photo that appeared on Gateway Pundits and other blogs:
Aerial surveillance of Natanz (L), news photo of Baghdad rally (R)
More than likely, it was simply added by the MNF-I webmaster as "eye candy," and he stupidly pulled a file photo of a different rally at a different city at a different time. (As my old DI would say, "yeah, just do it any old way.") But Zeyad is properly irked:
Some bloggers have taken this photo, published in a U.S. military report on the Sadrist demonstration in Najaf, and are running with it as proof that the demonstration was not as large as the media made it to be. And now the photo is all over the blogosphere.
Except that it's not really in Najaf. It's actually a photo of central Baghdad just outside the Sheraton Hotel. Ironically, the misleading photo was posted by bloggers who routinely attack the media for its perceived bias and sloppy reporting.
Zeyad used to be such a pro-America optimistic guy; but ever since he came to the US, he has been poisoned by Democratic "doom and gloomism." But in this case, he was right to point out the mistake, but not to leap to the conclusion that this means the rally was huge.
In fact, we do have a good idea of its actual size, notwithstanding the photo mixup. We quoted from Reuters in our previous post:
Reuters journalists estimated the size of the crowd at tens of thousands, while organizers said the number was far greater. The U.S. military said aerial surveillance pictures showed that 15,000 took part.
However, attacking bloggers who used this photo is unfair. Unlike Zeyad, most of us have never been to Iraq, and we wouldn't know a picture of Baghdad from one of Najaf.
But the main point is that most bloggers do not have the skills or the equipment to properly estimate the size of crowds simply by looking at a picture or two, and that includes Zeyad himself; if he had such training, he would have told us. He is no more able to gauge the size of the rally by looking at the photos he linked than he is to estimate the size of the Baghdad rally in the photo the bloggers posted.
But the intelligence officers at MNF-I do have that skillset, and they have the specialized software to help them: that's their job, estimating the size of, for example, an enemy military unit.
In any event, it doesn't really matter which photograph was posted on the web site, as long as the MNF-I MI officers used the correct aerial surveillance photographs to determine the figure; and as you can see above, it would be impossible for them to confuse the one with the other.
So far, I have not seen any other aerial-surveillance estimate other than 15,000 as originally reported. The elite media have never explained where they got their own claim of "tens of thousands of people."
By the way, here are another pair of photos for you to compare and contrast:
The photo on the left is of the march from Kufa to Najaf that preceded the rally last Monday. The photo on the right is of a march in Karachi, Pakistan, protesting against a hard-line Islamist school. Yes, an anti-al-Qaeda/Islamist march.
Here is what Reuters' caption to this photograph says:
Supporters of Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), a coalition partner in Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's government, attend a rally in Karachi April 15, 2007. Tens of thousands of people rallied in Pakistan's biggest city of Karachi on Sunday to show their opposition to a radical religious school which has begun a Taliban style anti-vice campaign in the capital, Islamabad.
I wonder... does Reuters simply have a key-press macro that reads "tens of thousands of people?"
Nearly all mainstream media described this 15,000-man march as "massive," or "impressive." They desperately want to prove that Sadr is still a force to reckon with in Iraq... because they believe that will force us to embrace defeat and redeploy our troops to nearby Okinawa. Certainly, that is what Zeyad the pessimist believes; he links to actual pictures from the Najaf rally that he appears to believe prove it was massive and impressive (this is the set from Iraq Slogger, from which I copied the picture above on the left).
But is it really? If this were a local blood drive, it would definitely be considered "massive." But for a rally called by Sadr, it falls well short of his previous efforts -- and therefore shows a falling, not a rising star.
Let's recall what kind of crowds Sadr used to regularly gather. Back in August 2006, Zeyad's old school mate, Omar from Iraq the Model, reported on a rally held in Sadr City:
After all, popularity polls do not necessarily reflect the truth and today's demonstration indicates that as well; see, instead of the million figure that Sadr was aspiring to see in Baghdad and out of supposedly 2 million Shia residents of Sadr city only 100 000 showed up and that's only after Sadr summoned demonstrators from the southern provinces and sent busses to fetch them and let's not forget that the demonstration took place in Sadr's own stronghold where it's supposed to take no effort from supporters to show up and march; technically they were asked to march in their own front yard.
A hundred thousand! That is seven times as large as this Najaf rally. And in the past, Sadr has managed to orchestrate rallies of 400,000 plus supporters. So he has gone from nearly half a million, to about a hundred thousand, to fifteen thousand. Which way -- up or down -- would you say that indicates?
Some might argue that since Baghdad is a much bigger city, you would expect a much bigger rally ("Sadr City" is a slum suburb of sprawling Baghdad). But remember, Najaf was Sadr's original stronghold; that was where his 2004 "uprising" erupted. Even though Sadr City was named after Muqtada Sadr's father, Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr, the Mahdi Militia was not a large force in Sadr City back then. As Muqtada Sadr's strength grew, he moved his organization into the capital city of Iraq -- and that was a sign that he was on his way up.
But now, after three years of fighting, and after the expanding crackdown on the Mahdi Militia's insurgency, Sadr is back to calling rallies in Najaf, to which he can barely gather 15% of the strength he could muster a scant eight months ago... and he is too frightened to show up to his own demonstration.
I wonder how many fewer people would have come, had they known beforehand that Sadr himself wasn't going to show his face?
So let's review the seqence of events:
- We have a terrorist group that used to have six members in the Iraqi cabinet itself... but now they're gone.
- The terrorist leader issues a call for a colossal rally... but only 15,000 show up; and that number includes many who wouldn't have come, had they known the leader himself would not be present at his own rally.
- And the reason the terrorist leader didn't dare attend the rally is that he's currently hiding inside Iraq's greatest enemy, Iran, because he's so afraid he'll be seized if he returns to his "home" country.
Sadr and his Mahdi Militia -- it pleases him to call it an "army" -- are not just on their way down; they're swirling around the bowl, about ready to be flushed. They'll remain dangerous to individual victims for some time to come; but their days of glory, when it looked as though they might end up ruling Shiite Iraq, are gone... and such days do not come again.
Weary the wandering fields of barren foam.
Then some one said, "We will return no more";
And all at once they sang, "Our island home
Is far beyond the wave; we will no longer roam."
Alfred Lord Tennyson, "the Lotos-Eaters," 1833, rev. 1842
Date ►►► April 15, 2007
A Winning Ticket?
Over on my favorite blog, Scott Johnson takes a break from profiling third-oboeists in Pennsylvania Dutch oompah bands ca. 1911-1923 to enthuse about a possible Fred Thompson candidacy. His post got me speculating: I'm starting to think that a Thompson-Romney ticket might be a winning combination.
First, let's note that Thompson is 5 years older than Romney (65 vs. 60); thus, Romney saves a little face, since he can say that his time will still come.
And he may be right about that: In 2008, he will be 61; if Thompson serves two terms, then Romney could run as a former governor and sitting VP at age 69 -- not a bad presidential age at all, these days. (In November 2008, Sen. John McCain will be 72.)
If Thompson turns out to be authentically conservative, much of that good feeling among conservatives will spill over to his vice president, which would file off some of the rough edges of Romney's supposed "flip flops." And one or two terms seasoning as VP will surely help people over their morbid fear of a Mormon in the White House.
Thompson's only service in elective office is eight years as a U.S. senator; but he also served as a senior legislative aide to Republican Sen. Howard Baker, and in fact was the chief Republican counsel during the Watergate hearings.
In this wacky election, where the most senior administrator running on either side is a former mayor (New York city has a third again as many residents as Mitt Romney's entire state of Massachusetts), and where the Democratic front runners are a one-term senator, a 0.67-term senator, and a candidate whose primary claim to fame is that she used to be First Lady... I don't reckon anyone will question Thompson's experience -- at least, not in the general election.
Thompson is Tennessee's favorite son -- more even than Al Gore! -- and I can't see anyone, not even John Edwards, taking a single Southern state away from him. In fact, I think he would do at least as well as President Bush did in 2004, and that is self-evidently enough to win.
But I think the addition of Mitt Romney on the ticket could really shake up the race... as I think it will throw "America's lumbar" up for grabs: I refer to the Great Lake states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and even Pennsylvania, each of which went for Sen. John Kerry in 2004 by an incredibly narrow margin.
I think Romney can help with all four states; while he is a conservative, he is neither as brash nor as "folksy" as Fred Thompson. He's more of an "educated elitist" and of the political class, which might sooth the jangled nerves of Upper-Midwesterners and Midlanticers wary of another Southerner in la Casa Blanca. And of course for Michigan, there is also the memory of Romney's father, George W. Romney -- former chairman of American Motors and popular three-term governor.
Those four states boast 58 electoral votes between them, and taking even one or two of them could render the election of a Democrat completely impossible.
I'm not predicting anything, and I don't even know if Romney would accept being Number Two. But I'm just saying...
Date ►►► April 13, 2007
AP Quantizes Counterinsurgency Success
Grudgingly -- peevishly -- truculently, the Associated Press has started to report figures that show us just how successful Lt.Gen. David Petraeus' counterinsurgency has been so far:
Figures compiled by the AP from Iraqi police reports show that 1,586 civilians were killed in Baghdad between the start of the offensive and Thursday.
That represents a sharp drop from the 2,871 civilians who died violently in the capital during the two months that preceded the security crackdown.
Outside the capital, 1,504 civilians were killed between Feb. 14 and Thursday, April 12 compared with 1,009 deaths during the two previous months, the AP figures show.
Let's put this into perspective. In Baghdad, civilian deaths dropped 45% in the last two months; throughout all Iraq, 20% fewer civilians were slain. The rise in killings was in parts of Iraq still in the red zone -- or red zone transitioning to pink -- while the drop in killings was in areas transitioning from pink to white.
Just to remind folks of what these terms mean, I refer you to the Arthur Herman article from the Wall Street Journal. I don't know if subscription is required, so let me quote the relevant portion (you can read more, along with our analysis, in How to Win/Lose In Iraq):
Galula divided his own district into zones: "white," where government control was complete or nearly complete; "pink," where insurgents competed with the government for control; and "red," where the insurgents were in complete control. A successful counterinsurgency involved turning pink zones into white zones, then red into pink, through a block-by-block, neighborhood-by-neighborhood struggle to force the terrorists into the shadows.
Before the counterinsurgency operation began, Baghdad comprises a relatively small red zone (consisting of Sadr City, completely controlled by the Mahdi Militia, and Haifa Street, a.k.a. Sniper Street, controlled by Sunni extremists including al-Qaeda in Iraq, "AQI"); a very large pink zone, where nobody really controlled the streets -- and where most of the violence on both sides occurred; and a tiny white zone -- confusingly called the "Green Zone," which I'll call the GZ to avoid perplexity -- which Coalition forces controlled.
Today, both Haifa Street and Sadr City have become pink zones, and parts of them are actually white (under the control of Iraqi government forces). The white zone around the GZ has expanded markedly, and many pink-zone areas are now much whiter.
Before continuing, let's quickly discuss one controversy, to which this very article contributes:
On Thursday, extremists managed to penetrate the most secure part of the capital - the Green Zone - and launch a suicide attack in the building where the Iraqi parliament meets.
In yesterday's attack on the Iraqi parliamentary, extremists did not "penetrate... the Green Zone," for the simple reason that the parliament building is not in the Green Zone, and hasn't been since 2006 -- at lease according to a State Department official quoted in Black Five.
The Iraqis evidently decided that all the security measures we had implemented when we controlled that building were too intrusive; they didn't like being searched, so they ended the searches and other "intrusive" protections. That building was less secure than the county courthouses in Los Angeles. Surprise, surprise, the building was attacked!
This says nothing at all about the counterinsurgency strategy; the only thing it illustrates is Larry Niven's famous maxim: "Not responsible for advice not taken."
Speaking of the counterinsurgency success, let's get back to it...
In Anbar, the change is even more marked: With 14 of the 18 Sunni tribal chiefs flipping from supporting al-Qaeda to fighting al-Qaeda, that whole province shifted from very reddish pink to very whitish pink. It's not a white zone yet, but it's moving very strongly in that direction.
This shift in Anbar resulted in a lot of civilian deaths during the last two months, because red zones that were fairly firmly under AQI control suddenly became pink zones, where (by definition) the two sides are fighting. In this case, AQI started bombing its own former supporters to try to intimidate them into neutrality. It didn't work, and AQI is on the run from their former stronghold:
The rise in deaths outside Baghdad may also be partly a result of clashes in Anbar province between al-Qaida extremists and Sunni tribes that have broken with the extremist movement.
For example, at least 52 people were killed Feb. 24 when a suicide truck bomber struck worshippers leaving a Sunni mosque in Anbar after the mosque's preacher spoke out against al-Qaida.
Al-Qaeda attacks Sunni worshippers leaving a Sunni mosque -- does that not smack of desperation?
Common sense dictates that when you push vermin out of one area, they will flow into an adjacent area; that is the underlying genius behind Galula's counterinsurgency strategy, which Big Lizards characterized many months ago as not Whack-a-Mole, but rather Seal-a-Hole:
- You clear an area of vermin;
- You hold that area in perpetuity;
- Then you expand control to adjacent areas.
Note that step 2 requires native forces, since otherwise, Americans would have to stay in control of volatile areas forever. But since Iraqis generally plan to live in Iraq for the rest of their lives anyway, that's the job for them. Oh, did we mention who took over the responsibilty of training the Iraqi Army after our early debacle? Some feller named Lt.Gen. David Petraeus. I suspect we're in pretty good shape on that front.
As you can see, we expect the Sunni and Shia terrorists expelled from the red zones (Sadr City or Haifa Street, i.e.) to show up in red or pink zones outside of Baghdad. But when we expand into those areas as well, we force them to flee still further out. And eventually, they run into the Gulf, the rivers, or Iraqi and Coalition forces in the outlands -- where they're trapped between hammer and anvil and ground into dust.
So not only is increased violence outside the white zone not a sign that the "surge" (a woefully inadequate term for counterinsurgency) is failing, it's a nearly infallible sign that it's succeeding: When pink zones are turning white and red zones turning pink, there is always accompanying violence (which is why you need an army), but that still means you are winning.
AP doesn't like to admit it; they spend much of their article trying to mitigate it; but the news of the countersurgency so far is spectacularly good. It is proceeding exactly as planned. And that's as good as warfare ever gets.
Dem Winners, Dem Winners... #005
The incredible, inedible, lucky Friday the 13th results are in -- and guess what! Big Lizards successfully lost again!!
But that's all right; having won once, the precedent has been set, and we are content.
However, there are real winners out there, and the time has come to enunciate and remonstrate, to proclaim and exclaim, to kvetch and to... ah, and to fetch -- not bad, eh? -- the winners hither for your perusal:
Among the sinister Watcher's Council conspiracy:
- Don't Know Your Enemy, by Cheat Seeking Missiles.
This is a charming little piece about the Squeaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%), and her excellent Syrian adventure propping up Bashar Assad ("Don't worry, Bash -- help is on the way"). I voted this one in the second slot; I really enjoyed it, mostly for the snarky writing.
(My number-one pick among the Council members was Heart Rending Stories, by Bookworm Room: "Bookworm" is a proud mother, and she explains, in a motherly way, why the elite media is so fixated upon sob stories, and how that negatively impacts the information they spew upon the rest of the world.)
Among the unanointed who have likely never heard of the Council (and wouldn't care for us if they had):
- Orwell, the Left, and 9/11, by American Future.
If you haven't already read a lot of George Orwell's nonfiction, this will come as an eye-opener; alas, I have read a couple of collections of his essays, so none of this was new to me. It's cool stuff, however; you may not realize how deeply this card-carrying Communist detested and despised the British Left, of which he was (of course) the most prominent member.
My picks in this category were:
- Just in Case the Easter Bunny Goes Psycho..., by Kobayashi Maru, which laughs at the absurdity of Congress ordering the CIA and Pentagon to move global warming up to the number-one slot of national-security challenges;
- Britain On Its Knees, by Melanie Phillips, another excellent Phillips essay -- this time about the fifteen British, er, "heroes" who gave us the memorable phrase "fighting back was not an option," which Dean Barnett thinks might become the epitaph of the Western world.
As always, if you want to read all of the nominees that actually received votes -- and see where everyone stud in the rankings -- head to Weaselpalooza.
This is the Big Lizards Entertainment Network, signing off!
Date ►►► April 12, 2007
Newsflash and Followup: Chairman of Sen. Foreign Relations Committee Is an Airhead
The Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee announced yesterday that the "surge" is doomed; in the next breath, he demonstrates that he has no idea what the new strategy is:
Delaware Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D) said today that the Bush Administration's surge strategy in Iraq is doomed to fail and criticized Army General David Petraeus for offering what he called an overly optimistic assessment of the situation on the ground....
Biden paraphrased comments made by Petraeus several years ago that "there comes a moment in an invasion where you have a brief opportunity to set things straight and then it turns into an occupation," adding that "He was right then, he's wrong now...."
But it was Iraq where Biden was most strident, insisting that advocates of President Bush's strategy for reducing violence and killings in Iraq -- most notably McCain -- had no plan beyond adding more troops. "Assume the surge worked, then what?" asked Biden. "Stay there forever? If you don't stay there forever, what's the political solution?"
He also reiterated his belief that those -- including many within his own party -- who believe that a centralized democratic Iraqi government will emerge are flat wrong. "Not possible," Biden said. Biden has long advocated a proposal that would split Iraq into three sections occupied by the Sunnis, Shias and Kurds, respectively.
...Did I mention that Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE, 100%) is running for Commander in Chief?
Was McCain Really an Early Advocate For "Counterinsurgency?" Actually - Yes!
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ, 65%) has recently been claiming that he was an early advocate of the counterinsurgency strategy we're now using so effectively in Iraq. For example, during his speech to the Virginia Military Institute:
After my first visit to Iraq in 2003, I argued for more troops. I took issue with the statements characterizing the insurgency as a few dead-enders or being in its last throes.
I criticized the search-and-destroy strategy and argued for a counterinsurgency approach that separated the reconcilable population from the irreconcilable population.
That is the course now followed by General Petraeus and the brave Americans and the coalition of troops he has the honor to command.
It is the right strategy.
But I confess, that statement left me puzzled, because I didn't recall any such specific criticism. I knew McCain was a forceful advocate of the Iraq war, and I knew he had repeatedly called for "more troops" in Iraq... but that's the not the same thing, is it? That's all I ever heard in the sound bites that the TV and radio news chose to air; that's all I read in the brief McCain quotations in the MSM print medium.
So I Googled around a bit -- and lo and behold, I discovered that McCain is actually telling the literal truth here: He really did advocate a counterinsurgency strategy eerily similar to what we've just embarked upon under Lt.Gen. David Petraeus.
It just wasn't covered by the mainstream news... only by a few blogs and other web sources.
I don't know the first time he did -- I can't say for sure it was in 2003, right after the Saddam Hussein government fell -- but it was certainly well developed as far back as 2005. See what you think about this McCain position paper on GlobalSecurity.org from November 2005:
To build on what has been accomplished, and to win the war in Iraq, we need to make several significant policy changes.
Adopt a military counterinsurgency strategy. For most of the occupation, our military strategy was built around trying to secure the entirety of Iraq at the same time. With our current force structure and the power vacuum that persists in many areas, that is not possible today...
The battles of Tal Afar, like those in other areas of Iraq, have become seasonal offensives, where success is measured most often by the number of insurgents captured and killed. But that’s not success, and “sweeping and leaving” is not working.
Instead, we need to clear and stay. We can do this with a modified version of traditional counterinsurgency strategy.... Rather than focusing on killing and capturing insurgents, we should emphasize protecting the local population, creating secure areas where insurgents find it difficult to operate. Our forces would begin by clearing areas, with heavy force if necessary, to establish a zone as free of insurgents as possible. The security forces can then cordon off the zone, establish constant patrols, by American and Iraqi military and police, to protect the population from insurgents and common crime, and arrest remaining insurgents as they are found.
In this newly secure environment, many of the things critical to winning in Iraq can take place – things that are not happening today. Massive reconstruction can go forward without fear of attack and sabotage. Political meetings and campaigning can take place in the open. Civil society can emerge. Intelligence improves, as it becomes increasingly safe for the population to provide tips to the security forces, knowing that they can do so without being threatened. The coalition must then act on this intelligence, increasing the speed at which it is transmitted to operational teams. Past practice has shown that “actionable intelligence” has a short shelf life, and the lag involved in communicating it to operators costs vital opportunities.
As these elements positively reinforce each other, the security forces then expand the territory under their control. We’ve done this successfully in Falluja. Coalition and Iraqi forces cleared the area of insurgents, held the city, and today Iraqi police and soldier patrol the streets, with support from two American battalions. And when the Iraqi forces are at a level sufficient to take over the patrolling responsibilities on their own, American troops can hand over the duties. Falluja today is not perfect, but our aim is not perfection – it is an improvement over the insecurity that plagues Iraq today.
In fact, McCain even singles out Gen. Petraeus, complaining that he isn't being used:
Keep senior officers in place. The Pentagon has adopted a policy of rotating our generals in and out of Iraq almost as frequently as it rotates the troops. General Petraeus, a fine officer who was the military’s foremost expert in the training of Iraqi security forces, now uses his hard earned experience and expertise at Fort Leavenworth.
I really was quite surprised. I had never heard him say any of this before, despite paying close attention to war-related news.
This fascinates me, because McCain also talked about the need to explain our strategy to the American people and keep them up to date on how it's doing; he is very emphatic about that. Yet the same forces that cripple the president's efforts to explain the purpose of the war to the American people also interfered with McCain's effort to explain the strategic difference between a counterinsurgency operation and other types of warfare.
The fact that I -- and presumably others; I don't believe myself to be uniquely ignorant about this -- were not aware of what McCain, himself, was advocating for at least the last year and a half (and possibly the last four years, if he is correct about the timeline) reinforces just how difficult such communication is... and that the elite media is part of the problem, not part of the solution.
But why is the media so unhelpful? Several forces contribute:
- Bias against the war (of course);
- Reluctance to get "into the weeds" of military strategy -- or indeed, any other technical subject;
- Finally, simple ignorance: the media's complete inability themselves to understand the strategic distinction.
Of the three problems, I suspect the last is most determinative in this case:
- There is always a market for long, detailed articles on various subjects of interest, and our military strategy during a war is certainly one such subject;
- It would have been very easy to spin such an article in 2004, 2005, or 2006 against the Bush administration's conduct of the war by focusing on the fact that they're not fighting the sort of counterinsurgency strategy they should have been... thus it could be fit into the standard, anti-war, anti-Bush bias.
That leaves only one insurmountable obstacle: The vast majority of reporters working in the elite, big-box, drive-by media have no military experience, no interest in military matters, and -- to put it bluntly -- don't understand the differences between counterinsurgency, force on force, search and destroy, clear and leave, and clear and hold strategies.
I don't mean they're not up to the level of someone who has actually attended the Army or Navy War Colleges; who would be? Even Tom Clancy is woefully out of date; he doesn't even understand the enunciated purpose behind the Iraq war -- a necessary first step, even if you plan to disagree with it.
I mean reporters are not even up to the level of the average John Q. Public, who has at least enough interest in military matters to watch a few war movies (and who probably knows a soldier or two). We Were Soldiers (the Mel Gibson movie) did a great job of explaining the ROE problems in Vietnam, for example.
Most of us here at home -- and even most soldiers and combat veterans -- couldn't have explained exactly how each one worked (until recently, when several military strategists and historians have done a great job laying them out for us -- particularly Arthur Herman, as we wrote about last week). But we at least all knew that there were such things as different strategies, and that a military campaign was victorious or defeated primarily on the basis of whether it adopts the correct one.
We could easily have guessed that you use a different strategy to fight an enemy nation's opposing army than you would use to fight a terrorist group (which rarely has tanks, air support, ICBMs, or a blue-water navy). I sincerely doubt most in the news media know even that much. I base this judgment on the stories they have written... particularly now, anent the misleadingly named "surge."
For example, from everything I read, journalists really do think that the "surge" consists entirely of sending an additional 21,500 troops into Iraq -- and that's all. They simply don't get the main point, that we changed strategies from search and destroy (which failed in Algeria and Vietnam) to counterinsurgency (which succeeded in both).
The increase in troops is a byproduct of that change, not its core: The core of the strategy is turning pink zones to white and red zones to pink (see our Arthur Herman post linked above). Everything else -- the change in rules of engagement (ROEs), redeploying the troops, better integrating American and Iraqi forces in Joint Security Stations (JSSs), and yes, the "surge" in troops by five brigades -- is just the means to the end of turning red to pink to white.
I honestly believe that if reporters had understood what John McCain and others were saying in 2005 or earlier, they would have written article after article explaining it -- and explaining why the strategy of Gens. George Casey (former commander of Multinational Force - Iraq, MNF-I) and John Abizaid (former commander of CENTCOM) simply wasn't working in Iraq.
They would have published those analyses to bash Bush. Fine; he can take it. Maybe it would have alerted him to the problem earlier, and we could have switched to a counterinsurgency strategy a year or two ago.
Elite-media ournalists who understood military strategy the way Michael Yon and Bill Roggio do could have done a much better job of getting out the message of John McCain and others: They would have published detailed analyses in the Sunday New York Times and explicated the strategic differences during a lengthy interview with McCain or Petraeus on CBS 60 Minutes... remember, the context would have been to bash Bush, so bias would be no bar.
We're just starting to see such articles now -- for example, the Arthur Herman piece on the Algerian counterinsurgency of French Lt.Col. David Galula appeared in the Wall Street Journal. But it's still rarer than an honest Senate Democrat.
As bad as media bias is for the nation -- and I agree it's very, very bad -- the damage it wreaks simply doesn't compare to that wrought by media ignorance and stupidity.
I remember the famous comment by Antoine Boulay de la Meurthe, speaking of the execution of the Duc d'Enghien, Louis-Antoine-Henri de Bourbon-Condé on trumped-up charges, and upon the direct order of Napoleon Bonaparte. This nasty bit of business set up the bitter and enduring enmity between the Bonapartists and the House of Bourbon. Boulay said:
Letting ignorant elite journalists set the "story" of the Iraq war is worse than mere bias... it is a blunder of monumental consequence.
Date ►►► April 11, 2007
We Don't Need No Steenkin' Evidence!
Has AP gone wobbly?
They appear to have inadvertently blurted out the truth... that the 110th Congress' Democratic majority wants to get rid of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales -- for no reason other than to show that they can. After the forced resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the Democrats hunger for another scalp, by any means necessary:
It all adds up to relentless pressure on an administration that for six years of Bush's tenure operated with virtually no oversight from the Republican-controlled Congress.
Democrats don't have - or apparently need - evidence of wrongdoing to shake Gonzales' hold on his job or challenge the White House's defense of its internal deliberations.
But the odd thing is... AP doesn't appear to see anything wrong with this.
Is it just me?
Capping the Cooper Caper - What Does Beldar Say?
I was reading the statement by North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, dropping all remaining charges against the three Duke lacrosse team members, and I noticed the following passage:
The result of our review and investigation shows clearly that there is insufficient evidence to proceed on any of the charges. Today we are filing notices of dismissal for all charges against Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans.
The result is that these cases are over, and no more criminal proceedings will occur.
Had Cooper stopped right there, he would have been just about as informative -- and just about as fair -- as Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald was in concluding his lengthy, costly investigation into the Plame name blame game.
But Cooper did not stop there; he went on at some length to this effect:
We believe that these cases were the result of a tragic rush to accuse and a failure to verify serious allegations. Based on the significant inconsistencies between the evidence and the various accounts given by the accusing witness, we believe these three individuals are innocent of these charges.
We approached this case with the understanding that rape and sexual assault victims often have some inconsistencies in their accounts of a traumatic event. However, in this case, the inconsistencies were so significant and so contrary to the evidence that we have no credible evidence that an attack occurred in that house that night.
Note what Cooper said: that he believes the three former defendants are actually innocent. This goes a long way towards making them whole again after their warrentless persecution over the past thirteen months by election-driven DA Mike Nifong (who now faces his own day in court -- rather, before the bar association -- on various ethics charges).
By contrast, Fitzgerald's refusal even to say whether a crime was committed by revealing Valerie Plame Wilson's name, coupled with his tightlipped silence about the alleged violations by Vice President Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and other high-ranking members of the administration, leaves a sword of Damocles hanging over the president's head... deliberately so, in my uninformed gut feeling.
I don't know whether Fitzgerald's animus against President Bush predates his appointment as special counsel or whether it developed during the investigation; but I honestly believe, without a shred of evidence to support it, that one reason he won't answer any questions is that he wants the administration to suffer... even though he could not find a single substantive charge to lodge against any one of them -- other than Scooter Libby's foolish perjury.
But even if I am incorrect that Fitzgerald wants a cloud of suspicion to hover over Bush's head for the next 1.75 years, few on either side would deny that that is the effect of Fitzgerald's refusal to speak. The vice president, the president's top advisors, and the president himself have all been smeared by inuendo for years, while the real liars who started everything -- "Ambassador" Joe Wilson himself, along with his duplicitous wife -- have been lionized; and the man who could lift that cloud smiles and says nothing.
A while back, you may recall that I had a lengthy go-round with brilliant lawblogger Beldar (Bill Dyer):
- Beldar: Did Fitzgerald abuse his prosecutorial discretion?
- Dafydd: Begging the Biggie
- Beldar: Fitzgerald, Libby, and the roles of, and viewing windows for, big lizards (be they mere prosecutors, Special Counsel, or Independent Counsel Godzillas) in the legal-political jungle
- Dafydd: Beldar vs. Dafydd Under the Big Top
- ...And the discussion continues in the comments section of my second post.
My position was that Fitzgerald owes the country a duty to resolve the controversy we set him to investigate. I call upon the special counsil to answer a series of general questions about the case.
Beldar's position was that prosecutors should speak only through indictments (or their lack), and that allowing them to answer such questions was too dangerous to those they may implicate without trial.
I'm curious whether Beldar will now denounce North Carolina's attorney general for his clear and unambiguous statement exonerating three young men falsely accused of a crime... thus, by definition, equally clearly implying that the false-accuser, 28 year old Crystal Gail Mangum, committed a bitter and vengeful felony against three innocent men.
Beldar may land on Cooper with both feet, for consistency's sake; or else he may be able to make a good case that Cooper is not just a prosecutor, he is an elected official, thus has a different duty. But I must confess, the circumstances seem pretty similar to me... though the decisions taken by the two principals, Fitzgerald and Cooper, are polar opposites.
Beldar, care to weigh in on this point? (Alas, he has closed comments and trackbacks on the two linked posts above, so he may never hear about this post at all. I think I'll e-mail him to let him know... I'm sure he'll be wildly appreciative!)
I stand foresquare for scientific progress, particularly in the field of medicine (I want to live forever)... and most particularly for the hot field of stem-cell research. I have no moral qualms about even embryonic stem-cell research, especially when the stem cells are extracted without destroying the embryo that contains them; and I have argued the point rather forcefully.
But it's bloody awful and a bloody shame that the Times of London has just been caught with its knickers down, defending embryonic stem-cell research by pointing to a new miracle cure... brought about by adult stem-cell research.
They've got some bloody cheek!
I refer to this passage in the story:
Diabetics using stem-cell therapy have been able to stop taking insulin injections for the first time, after their bodies started to produce the hormone naturally again....
Previous studies have suggested that stem-cell therapies offer huge potential to treat a variety of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and motor neuron disease. A study by British scientists in November also reported that stem-cell injections could repair organ damage in heart attack victims.
But research using the most versatile kind of stem cells -- those acquired from human embryos -- is currently opposed by powerful critics, including President Bush.
Darn that theocratic Bush! This is one of the most stunning breakthroughs of stem-cell therapy, and he wants to throw it all away, just because his "religion" doesn't agree with science. Science, man! Does Bush think he's God?
Why is the Bush administration trying to stop such a wonderful medical advances from embryonic stem-cell research as a cure for diebetes?
Of course, the elipses above indicates something was cut out. Here is the next paragraph after the first above:
Diabetics using stem-cell therapy have been able to stop taking insulin injections for the first time, after their bodies started to produce the hormone naturally again.
In a breakthrough trial, 15 young patients with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes were given drugs to suppress their immune systems followed by transfusions of stem cells drawn from their own blood.
Needless to say, the diabetic subjects were not embryos, or they couldn't have signed the consent forms.
The chutzpah of the Times aside, I don't want to minimize the medical breakthrough reported here. More and more, we're starting to realize that stem cells may be the "magic bullet" that offers us a splendid panoply of cures for a laundry list of disease and dangerous and crippling conditions -- not just alleviate their symptoms:
They enrolled Brazilian diabetics aged between 14 and 31 who had been diagnosed within the previous six weeks. After stem cells had been harvested from their blood, they then underwent a mild form of chemotherapy to eliminate the white blood cells causing damage to the pancreas. They were then given transfusions of their own stem cells to help rebuild their immune systems.
Richard Burt, a co-author of the study from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, said that 14 of the 15 patients were insulin-free for some time following the treatment. Eleven of those were able to dispense with supplemental insulin immediately following the infusion of stem cells and have not had recourse to synthetic insulin since then, he said.
“Two other patients needed some supplemental insulin for 12 and 20 months after the procedure, but eventually both were able to wean themselves from taking daily shots,” he added. One patient went 12 months without shots, but relapsed a year after treatment after suffering a viral infection, and resumed daily insulin injections. Another volunteer was eliminated from the study because of complications. The therapy, known as autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, has already shown benefits to individuals with a range of auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and lupus.
I am steadfast in my support not only for proven therapies using adult stem cells but also for even greater potential therapies from placental, uterine, and embryonic stem cells.
Anent the last, I understand that a great many people see deliberately killing an embryo as a form of abortion, thus infanticide. However, as we discussed here back in August (linked above), researchers have already developed a very promising technique for extracting embryonic stem cells without harming the embryo, which continues to live and reproduce normally.
But my cause is not helped by elite media idiots who try, for political purposes -- and with all good intentions, I can only assume -- to shoehorn embryonic stem-cell research into a story that is entirely about adult stem-cell research, with the clear implication that Bush's policy would prevent future advances... such as a cure for diabetes.
You cannot raft into truth through a cataract of lies. It is a lie that embryonic stem-cell research shows no promise at all; but it's just as much a lie to say that embryonic stem-cell research has a track record of proven cures. It is at the same stage now as gene therapy was in the 1980s, prior to its first successful use in 1990.
Given time and continued research, stem-cell advances will likely be more significant to future medical care than anything since the description of DNA by James D. Watson and Francis Crick in 1953. We're already seeing extraordinary cures by the use of stem cells; and there is every reason to pour resources into all forms of stem-cell research, including embryonic -- with proper safeguards to avoid killing embryos.
But please, folks on both sides of the debate... stick to the truth: The web is tangled enough as is.
Date ►►► April 10, 2007
Congress Elects Itself President
Congress is getting frisky.
Flush with their success in anointing themselves Commanders in Chief of the armed forces (via the supplementary funding bill for the troops) and chiefs of foreign policy (applauding as Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%, negotiates a separate peace at any price with Bashar Assad), Democratic and a few Republican legislators now want the rest of the cake.
They plan to pass a bill establishing a new heirarchy of national security and intelligence priorities for the United States. Demoted from the top spots are global jihadism and terrorist financing networks, the Middle East, nuclear proliferation, CBW, Red China, and North Korea.
Promoted to the top spot will be -- wait for it -- global climate change!
The CIA and Pentagon would for the first time be required to assess the national security implications of climate change under proposed legislation intended to elevate global warming to a national defense issue.
The bipartisan proposal, which its sponsors expect to pass the Congress with wide support, calls for the director of national intelligence to conduct the first-ever "national intelligence estimate" on global warming.
In other news, this month is shaping up as the coldest April ever. Except on Capitol Hill, which is experiencing an unusually hot high-pressure zone.
Lest you think Congress can be satisfied merely by a quick study, which finds that there are no such "national security implications," legislators insist not only that the CIA and the Department of Defenser report -- they demand the Executive agencies arrive at the correct conclusions... and then act on them:
The measure also would order the Pentagon to undertake a series of war games to determine how global climate change could affect US security, including "direct physical threats to the United States posed by extreme weather events such as hurricanes."
The article makes it pretty plain that the purpose is to completely bypass the EPA and the president and simply force the country to implement the Democrats' preferred solutions (smash the looms, same as their solution to "global cooling" in the 1970s). Once again, science is to be decided by a roll-call vote in the House and Senate:
The growing attention to global warming as a national security issue could open new avenues of support for tougher efforts to limit greenhouse gases, according to specialists.
"If you get the intelligence community to apply some of its analytic capabilities to this issue, it could be compelling to whoever is sitting in the White House," said Anne Harrington , director of the committee on international security at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington. "If the White House does not absorb the independent scientific expertise, then maybe something from the intelligence community might have more weight."
When confronted by scientists who refuse to toe the party line on global warming, it's always in the best tradition of the scientific process to turn to Lysenkoism.
There's not much else to say about this story. You can't parody a farce.
Oh Yeah, We Almost Forgot...
To me, it seems that the "elite" media has gotten worse at reporting the war against global jihadism with every passing month; but this may be the nadir. Today's AP story goes beyond merely being surly about success or trying to shoehorn everything into a "gloss" of failure and defeat. This is positively brazen in its bias.
The story is 25 grafs long, and it's a typical hodgepodge of everything up to the kitchen stink, all crammed together and overcooked like my grandmother's tsimmis. It discusses:
- A gunbattle in Baghdad; notice what is missing from the account:
U.S. and Iraqi soldiers fought a daylong battle with insurgents in a violent area of central Baghdad on Tuesday, leaving four Iraqi soldiers dead and 16 U.S. soldiers wounded, the military said.
The U.S. and Iraqi forces came under fire by insurgents early Tuesday in the predominantly Sunni Fadhil neighborhood - a criminal stronghold in the center of the capital.
A U.S. helicopter was hit by ground fire after it strafed the insurgents, but it returned safely to its base, the military said in a statement.
Two Iraqi soldiers and a child were also wounded.
Let's see... how about any information on enemy casualties, captures, or whether we got the attackers? Or even who won.
But that's not all; there's plenty more bad news to report!
- A woman who set off a suicide bomb among some police recruits, killing 16 Iraqis.
- Another account of a gunbattle; the story is written so badly, it's impossible to figure out whether it's the same one described in the first paragraph (likely) or a different but strikingly similar battle elsewhere (possible, I suppose).
- Artillery fire that "rang out across Baghdad at midday." But we must be losing, because according to the Associated Press, "the target was unclear." Withdraw the troops immediately!
- A car bomb that was targeting Baghdad University but which exploded at a checkpoint instead. (Pssst... doesn't that mean the security forces did their jobs?)
- A Katyusha rocket fired at a grade school, killing a first-grader.
Now we come to AP's favorite part, judging from how often they find a way to squeeze it into stories, whether it fits or not:
- The daily litany of how many Americans died in a war that (we all know) is hopeless...
The U.S. military announced the deaths Monday of four U.S. soldiers - three killed by a roadside bomb and a secondary explosion in southeastern Baghdad and another killed in combat in western Anbar province.
The unit with the three dead soldiers had been conducting raids against militants in the area, and had recently captured five suspects, it said....
At least 3,285 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the war in 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians.
Oh, but we're not done yet... bad news all around! It might at first seem like good news, but AP takes up the anointed-man's burden to find the much more important negative counterpoint:
- Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is against timetables for withdrawal; but on the other hand, there was a "massive rally" called by Sadr. Naturally, then, we can discount Maliki's opposition to timetables.
Let's pause a moment to catch our breath here. Remember, this is all one story. (Perhaps AP should simply publish a column titled the Daily Lamentation.)
We're almost done; the end is in sight. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and the story is within measurable distance of ending.
We've reached the point where boring, pointless trivia is appended to the nearest handy Iraq story, since they can't figure out where else to put it. Such as Maliki's travel itinerary:
- "While he was in Japan, al-Maliki's office issued a statement saying he would travel to Egypt on April 20 for talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and the head of the Arab League, Amr Moussa."
...And curious facts about world geography:
- "It would be al-Maliki's first visit to Egypt - the Arab world's most populous nation." [AP neglects to mention the pyramids, the Sphynx, and Howard Carter's amazing discoveries, financed by Lord Carnarvon, in the Valley of Kings.]
The foregoing accounts for 24 of 25 grafs. In the very last paragraph, AP suddenly remembers something they almost forgot. I think they found it in a shoebox, inside a locked filing cabinet, in a disused lavoratory, with a sign on the door saying "beware of the leopard."
Grudgingly, having nowhere else to put it, they tack it onto the end of this otherwise urgent liturgical recitation of sour news, ranging from dismal to dire. As an afterthought:
Also Tuesday, the U.S. military said it captured more than 150 suspected insurgents in a nearly two-week operation north of Baghdad. Rocket-propelled grenades and launchers, automatic machine guns, sniper rifles and anti-tank mines [probably more Iranian-made explosively-formed penetrators -- the Mgt.] were also seized, it said.
Oh well; I suppose journalistic standards insisted that they mention it somewhere...
The 15,000-Man Million-Man March
Renegade "cleric" Muqtada Sadr, still in hiding in Iran, called for a Million Man March to protest the fourth anniversary of the American occupation of Iraq... a huge show of force that would stagger the crusader infidels and send them fleeing in terror from Allah's land between the two rivers.
Yesterday in Najaf, his prayers were answered. But the fates are fickle with prayer, and sometimes the answer is "No."
The mighty al-Mahdi Militia gathered, along with its acolytes, camp followers, groupies, hangers on, and sunshine allies. They gathered to demonstrate Sadr's strength in the Shiite community and show contempt for America. But while the precise number of people gathered was... dicey, it turned out to be embarassingly small.
The elite media couldn't seem to get their testimony straight. The protest drew "tens of thousands," according to AP; but then they quoted a source who claimed an order of magnitude higher:
Tens of thousands of Shiites - a sea of women in black abayas and men waving Iraqi flags - marched from Kufa to Najaf on Monday, demanding U.S. forces leave their country on the fourth anniversary of fall of Baghdad. Streets in the capital were silent and empty under a hastily imposed 24-hour driving ban.
Demonstrators ripped apart American flags and tromped across a Stars and Stripes rug flung on the road between the two holy cities for the huge march, ordered up by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr as a show of strength not only to Washington but to Iraq's establishment Shiite ayatollahs as well...
Brig. Abdul Kerim al-Mayahi, the Najaf police chief, said there were as many as 600,000 in the march, although other estimates were significantly lower. He said 30 lawmakers made the hike and there was no American troop presence except surveillance from helicopters hovering above.
(We have no word yet on whether Police Brigadier Abdul Kerim al-Mayahi is related to Police Captain Jamil Hussein, but we're still searching for the latter -- who is "a person of interest" in the killing of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman -- on every golf course in Southern California.)
Bill Roggio found some different numbers (neither "tens of thousands" nor "600,000"); the crowd size continued to shrink:
The demonstration in Najaf has been muted. While the Middle East Online claimed "hundreds of thousands of Shiites burned and trampled on US flags," the reality is the protest was far smaller than Sadr would have liked. Reuters puts the protest size in the thousands, and during a press round table briefing today, Rear Admiral Mark Fox noted the Coalition is closely monitoring the protest, and put the numbers at 5 to 7 thousand. The protest is monitored both on the ground and via air, which allows for a relatively accurate count of the numbers of protesters.
Reuters chimed in with a hearty "me too!" on the AP guesstimate ("tens of thousands"). Well, that's quite a range of guesses! But the definitive estimate was that based upon aerial photography by Multinational Force - Iraq:
Reuters journalists estimated the size of the crowd at tens of thousands, while organizers said the number was far greater. The U.S. military said aerial surveillance pictures showed that 15,000 took part.
Naturally, Sadr himself was a no-show for his own protest. Instead he issued series of written statements, including this message to the Iraqi police and army -- almost as if he were live-blogging his Not-Quite-a-Million Mahdi March from a remote location in Tehran:
"And here we can see in ... (Diwaniyah), a civil strife the occupier planned, to drag the brothers into clashing, fighting and even killing... Oh (Mahdi Army) and my brothers (Iraqi forces) enough of this clashing and killing. This is success for your enemy ... and (Iraqi army and police) don't be dragged behind the enemy... God has ordered you to be patient in front of the enemy and to unify your efforts against it, not against the sons of Iraq."
Bill Roggio aptly describes this as a "plea." Certainly, these are not the words of a defiant, winning leader; they read more like a desperate man who sees la rêve slipping away.
What, Sadr, desperate? Why, the man can still call a... well, not quite so large a protest march, but bigger than CAIR can get nowadays. And badness knows, the Mahdi Militia can still put up a fight; well, sort of.
But let's examine Sadr's original plan, how he dreamed the war would play out.
Back in January, when the Coalition and the Iraqi Army initiated the current counterinsurgency operation, Sadr actually ordered his men to stand down. He ordered them not to resist, even if they were arrested. At that time, he made several unfortunate assumptions:
- That Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was no more serious about this "crackdown" on the Shiite militias than he was about the previous ones. Maliki will just make a token effort, he thought, to appease the Americans and relieve some of the pressure on President Bush.
- That the American surge wouldn't last. Sadr assumed he could hunker down, hide in Iran, and wait it out. After Congress forced Bush to retreat, Sadr would triumphantly ride back into Baghdad atop a flying carpet, the savior and true Mahdi.
- And finally, that Sadr could use the "crusaders" to rid himself of dangerously insubordinate followers. He would set them up, deliberately leaking intelligence to the Coalition, which would be so good as to take care of a few potential rivals.
Well... that was the plan, anyway.
Sadr turned out to be a dreadful prophet. First of all, miraculously enough, Maliki was serious this time. Who woulda thunk it? The Shiite-dominated Iraqi government started really cracking down on the militias, especially including Sadr's own.
The omnipotent Mahdi Militia was driven out of the Sadr City slums of Baghdad and forced to run southward... where the American and Iraqi forces were waiting. Caught between the Devil and the deep, blue anvil, they were rolled up and ground down, slain via air strikes if they stood and captured by the dozens if they ran. Again from Bill Roggio:
Operation Black Eagle, the security operation against Muqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Army in the central Shia city of Diwaniyah, has entered its fourth day. The last news from the city indicates 39 fighters have been captured and "several" killed. Two known insurgent leaders have also been captured during the operation.
Diwaniyah is the city where large segments of Sadr's Mahdi Army fled to after the commencement of the Baghdad Security Plan, a U.S. intelligence official told us.
It's almost never a clever strategy to hand your territory over to the enemy. Now that the Iraqi Army with their embedded Coalition allies have dug in to hold what they have captured -- an important element of Lt.Gen. David Petraeus's counterinsurgency -- it's dramatically more difficult for the Shia to attack it than to have defended it in the first place.
In addition, it is none so easy to control a wild bunch like the Mahdi Militia, who are more or less a confederation of teenaged thugs. They have neither the discipline nor the patience of a real army. Without Sadr's constant presence, they will wander off to sniff every tree and fire hydrant they pass.
In fact, some of Sadr's men are already trying to reconcile with the Iraqi government. So it goes.
Sadr evidently has suddenly realized his gross miscalculation. He calls for an all-out war against the "occupier." But it is too late; Sadr's moment has passed, and it will not come again, it will not come, ever again.
The fact that he is too frightened to materialize for his own protest stinks of weakness. The miserably small demonstration stinks of more weakness, as does his rapidly disintegrating Mahdi "Army" and his loss of control over its remnants.
What was supposed to demonstrate Muqtada Sadr's strength instead illuminates his increasing irrelevance to the new and democratic Republic of Iraq.
And yes... that certainly is "good news."
Date ►►► April 9, 2007
In Sign of Desperation, Desertion Rate Plummets!
The New York Times reports that the American military has been "cracking down" on deserters ever since 2002, which they conclude is a sign of desperation:
The increased prosecutions are meant to serve as a deterrent to a growing number of soldiers who are ambivalent about heading -- or heading back -- to Iraq and may be looking for a way out, several Army lawyers said in interviews. Using courts-martial for these violations, which before 2002 were treated mostly as unpunished nuisances, is a sign that active-duty forces are being stretched to their limits, military lawyers and mental health experts said.
“They are scraping to get people to go back, and people are worn out,” said Dr. Thomas Grieger, a senior Navy psychiatrist. Though there are no current studies to show how combat stress affects desertion rates, Dr. Grieger cited several examples of soldiers absconding or refusing to return to Iraq because of psychiatric reasons brought on by wartime deployments.
At an Army base in Alaska last year, for example, “there was one guy who literally chopped off his trigger finger with an axe to prevent his deployment,” Dr. Grieger said in an interview.
Another sad example of how the criminal Bush regime has broken our military, all just to put more billions of dollars into Dick "Haliburton" Cheney's pocket... oh, wait; there is also this next paragraph:
The Army prosecuted desertion far less often in the late 1990s, when desertions were more frequent, than it does now, when there are comparatively fewer.
"Oh! That's very different. Never mind."
So how much has the desertion rate dropped since 9/11? The Times doesn't want to tell -- it doesn't quite fit the Story -- but there are other sources, such as UPI, back in March of 2006:
Desertions from the all-volunteer U.S. military have dropped to half the number faced at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, a report said.
The 2005 desertion rate was 0.24 percent of the 1.4 million members of the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines. In 2001 there were just over 9,500 desertions from all services, while last year there were just over 4,900....
Vietnam-era desertions were far higher. In 1971, the U.S. Army had more than 33,000 desertions, a desertion rate of 3.4 percent.
Thus, the desertion rate today is about half what it was during the Clinton presidency, and just 7% of what it was during Vietnam. Clearly, "active-duty forces are being stretched to their limits," our soldiers and Marines are "worn out," and we're "scraping to get people to go back." Why, they're even too demoralized to make a nuisance of themselves by deserting!
The Army enunciated a clever bit of handwaving to explain why they might be more willing to prosecute desertion today than in the 1990s:
“The nation is at war, and the Army treats the offense of desertion more seriously,” Maj. Anne D. Edgecomb, an Army spokeswoman, said.
Pish tosh! What an obviously concocted rationalization. Why should desertion be treated as something more serious than an "unpunished nuisance," merely because we're in an existential fight against global jihadism?
We may as well let the sociologists have the last word. They will anyway, you know; try and stop them!
Morten G. Ender, a sociologist at the United States Military Academy at West Point, said soldiers’ decisions to go AWOL or desert might come in response to a family crisis -- a threat by a spouse to leave if they deploy again, for instance, or a child-custody battle.
“It’s not just that they don’t want to be in a war zone anymore,” Dr. Ender said. “We saw that a lot during Vietnam, and we see that a lot in the military now.”
Trust the New York Times to focus on the nuances of desertion during time of war.
Dems: ADM More Important Than Starving African Children
The 110th Democratic Congress -- like the 109th Republican Congress before them -- is more concerned with the profits of Archer Daniels Midland than getting food to starving African Children... and even the New York Times has noticed!
The United Nations World Food program supplies food rations to more than half a million impoverished Zambians, 50,000 of them with HIV or full-blown AIDS. But as American-made drugs gradually make Zambians healthier, they also get hungrier; and the food rations are in danger of running out, leading to possible mass starvation.
Hoping to forestall such a dire outcome, the World Food Program made an urgent appeal in February for cash donations so it could buy corn from Zambia’s own bountiful harvest, piled in towering stacks in the warehouses of the capital, Lusaka.
But the law in the United States requires that virtually all its donated food be grown in America and shipped at great expense across oceans, mostly on vessels that fly American flags and employ American crews -- a process that typically takes four to six months.
For a third year, the Bush administration, which has pushed to make foreign aid more efficient, is trying to change the law to allow the United States to use up to a quarter of the budget of its main food aid program to buy food in developing countries during emergencies. The proposal has run into stiff opposition from a potent alliance of agribusiness, shipping and charitable groups with deep financial stakes in the current food aid system.
And the Democrats in Congress seem to be as deeply in thrall to the lobbyists who represent these special interests as were the Republicans in the last Congress. So much for cleaning up the "Republican culture of corruption" to create "the most ethical Congress in history!"
The United States Agency for International Development [USAID] estimated that if Congress adopted the Bush proposal, the United States could annually feed at least a million more people for six months and save 50,000 more lives.
But the Democrats don't want to do it, and they have a glib argument for doing nothing to clean up the corruption inherent in a program that has become almost a foreign-policy "entitlement."
They claim that "decoupling" food aid from domestic agribusiness would quickly cause support for such aid to wane. But if you break it down, what they're really saying is that they, personally, will not vote for food aid unless it's really disguised corporate welfare for Big Food. After all, what difference does "support" (polling) make on Congress' decision to supply food aid -- unless Congress intends to act as a political weathercock?
Representative Tom Lantos, Democrat of California and chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, warned last year at a food aid conference in Washington that decoupling food aid from American maritime and agribusiness interests was “beyond insane.” [Can somebody please tell me what, exactly, lies "beyond insane?"]
“It is a mistake of gigantic proportions,” he said, “because support for such a program will vanish overnight, overnight.”
But according to the acting deputy director of USAID, James Kunder, the Bush proposal would affect only 0.5% of U.S. agricultural exports, thus could not possibly adversely affect American agriculture.
It would, however, adversely affect the bottom line of four specific companies which get most of the contracts... and it would also affect a huge percentage of congressional campaign contributions from Big Food. Now that the Democrats are the majority party, they're in line for the lion's share of that "food aid."
So they don't want to upset the gruel-cart:
Over the past three years, the same four companies and their subsidiaries -- Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, Bunge and the Cal Western Packaging Corporation -- have sold the American government more than half the $2.2. billion in food for Food for Peace, the largest food aid program, and two smaller programs, according to the Department of Agriculture.
Shipping companies were paid $1.3 billion over the same period to move the food aid overseas, the department’s figures show....
Agribusiness and shipping groups vigorously oppose the Bush administration proposal to buy food in developing countries with cash, which they argue is more likely to be stolen. They say that American food is safer and of higher quality and that the government can speed delivery by storing it in warehouses around the world.
And they defend the idea that federal spending should benefit American business and farming interests, as well as the hungry. Without support from such interest groups, food aid budgets from Congress would wither, they say.
Well, there you are; they know the attention-span of their congressional clients.
I apologize if my sense of humor seems to drive out my sense of serious about this serious problem; but I so clearly remember then-Rep., now Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) shrill denunciation of Republicans as fostering a "culture of corruption." She added the following in an Op-Ed directly after the election:
With their votes, the American people asked for change. They cast their ballots in favor of a New Direction.
They called for greater integrity in Washington, and Democrats pledge to make this the most honest, ethical, and open Congress in history.
It's hard to know what she meant by this. Though of course, the next paragraph makes us a bit dubious that when Pelosi says "most honest, ethical, and open Congress," she is not using the normal definitions of those words found in most dictionaries...
The American people called for greater civility in how Congress conducts its work, and Democrats pledge to conduct our work with civility and bipartisanship, and to act in partnership - not partisanship - with the president and Republicans in Congress. [!]
Judging from the Democrats' responsiveness so far -- responsive to the big-money lobbyists, I mean, as the massive mound of pork larded into the supplemental war-funding bill illustrates -- I would have to stick with what I wrote in that earlier post:
So now we know what the Divine Ms. P. means by "the most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history." She means a Congress where all the pork and beans goes to the good Democrats, rather the evil Republicans. And now that the electorate has thrown the old bums out, problem solved.
Meet the new boss...
Date ►►► April 7, 2007
"Fighting Back Was Not an Option" - Correction
CORRECTION: See below.
From the press conference given by the freed 15 British hostages on Friday:
"From the outset, it was very apparent that fighting back was not an option," Marine Captain Chris Air said of their capture in the Gulf on March 23.
How nice. Dean Barnett, in a post on Hugh Hewitt's blog, wonders whether this will be "the epitaph of the Western World."
I don't think so, and my counter-example is by way of a thought experiment...
It's September 11th, 2001; the World Trade Centers have just been hit. The New York Fire Department arrives, takes one look at the buildings, and say, "they're too dangerous and unstable; we can't risk the lives of our fire fighters. Rescue is not an option."
Then they leave. Dig, if the NYFD had chosen this wise course, 343 of their members would not have died when the buildings collapsed... just a few thousand more civilians, instead.
But can anybody reading this post even imagine the fire department making such a decision?
The decision of the Brits that "fighting back was not an option" is an anomaly in the history of the Western World, a statistical blip confined to some parts of western Europe. That sentiment is not found in America, Australia, or even very much in eastern Europe -- which is now largely part of "the Western World," in the sense that Dean means it. (Doesn't anyone remember a Polish hostage attacking his al-Qaeda captors, shouting "I'll show you how a Pole dies" -- ? They managed to kill him, but he prevented the videotape being used as a propaganda tool; we found it during a raid on an al-Qaeda not-so-safehouse in Iraq.)
Correction: Bostonian and Piraticalbob note that this incident involved an Italian, not Polish hostage: Fabrizio Quattrocchi, who tore off his hood and shouted "Now I will show you how an Italian dies!" I believe there was also an instance of a Polish hostage who fought back, but he's not known to have shouted anything.
Pole or Italian, the message is the same: Fighting back is always an option.
In fact, I believe that the Danes and other Vikings would have fought back against capture, as would most other British sailors and marines... and even French and Italian soldiers, I'd wager. The British admiralty should investigate and not be afraid to blame the victims (those who are blameworthy).
The Iranians lucked out: They picked on a bad lot with a bad captain on HMS Cornwall, who got bum advice from a bad Minister of Defense and foolishly obeyed it. The British government just haven't been the same since they removed Margaret Thatcher in a palace coup.
So no, Dean, I do not believe that will be the epitaph of the West. Instead, I believe the other motto you cite in your Townhall.com column will be the rallying cry, once the sleeping giant finally rouses.
Date ►►► April 6, 2007
And da Winners Are... #004
The winners of the Watcher's Council award for best blogposts of the week are...
Among the Watcher's Council cabal:
- The Scourging, by Eternity Road;
I voted for this one; it's a great post. It explains modern liberalism as a secular form of penance in expiation for the sin of material success.
Among the slovenly louts who haven't joined the Council:
- Universal Moral Equivalence, by Gates of Vienna;
This is a clean and simple primer about moral equivalence -- "the worldview tells us that there’s no real distinction between good and bad, between God and the Devil." It's well written and incisive; but it breaks no new ground, which is why I didn't vote for it. (It's also long, over 2,500 words, according to Microsoft Word.) If you like points laid out in a tidy and logical way, however, you will likely enjoy this post.
I voted for "Iran, the EU and the PM," by Oliver Kamm, and I was the only one; to quote the young Indiana Jones, "everyone's lost but me?" Kamm addresses the failure of the Europeans to pull up their socks and confront Iran.
Weaselpalooza, the entirety of entries that received any votes at all, can be found at the link.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq Committing Institutional Suicide
Another day, another suicide bombing in Iraq... launched by al-Qaeda in Iraq against their own erstwhile supporters in Anbar province.
This is so self-destructive, driving even more Iraqi Sunnis into the Iraqi military and police, that the only logical conclusion is that AQI realizes that it gambled and lost. It will never regain the trust and support of the Iraqi Sunni tribes, and there is nothing left now but a desperate, eleventh-hour "Hail Mary" (if that's really the phrase I want): They hope to terrorize the Sunni tribal leaders to the sidelines, so at least they will not fight on the side of Iraq and the Coalition.
But it won't work. By killing and eating its own, like the titan Kronos, AQI will merely spawn even more rage against itself, leading ultimately to its own destruction -- at Sunni hands. Al-Qaeda has become so obsessed with gathering the blood and flesh to feed their hungry god that they can no longer live even among their coreligionists; they have become anathema:
A suicide bomber driving a truck loaded with TNT and toxic chlorine gas crashed into a police checkpoint in western Ramadi on Friday, killing at least 27 people and wounding dozens, police in the Anbar provincial capital said....
The bombing in Anbar province marked the ninth use of suicide chlorine bombs in the sprawling, mainly desert territory that has been a stronghold of the Sunni insurgency.
Recently, however, many Anbar tribes have switched allegiance, with large numbers of military-age men joining the police force and Iraqi army in a bid to expel al-Qaida in Iraq fighters. Suicide bombings are an al-Qaida trademark.
Strange as it may seem to call a suicide gas attack "good news," it truly is: It means that AQI has abandoned all hope of forming any sort of "national front," even among the Sunnis, and now believes that every man's hand is against them. It means that Iraq will never be an al-Qaeda base, no matter what happens in the future; beyond hatred, they are despised; no one in Iraq will aid and supply them anymore.
It's also heartening to know that the Iraqi police did their duty: The bomb detonated at a security checkpoint, after the police opened fire on the vehicle. Had it gotten through, it could have killed a hundred people or more.
In more good news, Iraqi and Coalition forces continue to grind up the Mahdi Militia; so even if Muqtada Sadr decides to return one day, he will come home to very little in the way of the private army that was his only source of political power in the first place:
South of Baghdad, Iraqi forces backed by American paratroopers swept into a troubled, predominantly Shiite city before dawn, and the U.S. military said as many as six militia fighters had been killed.
Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl, a U.S. military spokesman, said eight others were wounded and five detained. There were no reports of civilian casualties in the assault on Diwaniyah, he said.
Residents reported heavy fighting between the U.S. and Iraqi forces and gunmen of the Mahdi Army militia in the city, 80 miles south of Baghdad.
It has also become clear that the Mahdi Militia is fleeing Baghdad, taking its fight to the south, towards Basra. The four British soldiers killed yesterday were blown up by an explosively formed penetrator (EFP), a sophisticated anti-tank weapon which creates a blob of molten metal in a "spear" shape that can penetrate vehicle armor.
EFPs were developed by Western countries as anti-tank weapons in the 1960s or 70s, I believe, and have been used by terrorists at least as far back as 1989 (by the Red Army Faction in West Germany). The models now being found in Iraq come from Iran; in fact, that is exactly what the fifteen kidnapped British sailors and marines were searching for, along with other munitions from Iran, on their routine patrols in the Shatt al-Arab waterway between Iran and Iraq.
In the deep south of the country, the Basra police commander said the type of roadside bomb used in an attack that killed four British soldiers on Thursday had not been seen in the region previously. Maj. Gen. Mohammed al-Moussawi's description of the deadly weapon indicated it was a feared Iranian-designed explosively formed penetrator.
Two more of the bombs were discovered planted along routes heavily traveled by U.S. and British diplomats in Basra. Weeks earlier, the American military had claimed Iran was supplying Shiite militia fighters in Iraq with the powerful weapons, known as EFPs. They hurl a molten, fist-sized copper slug capable of piercing armored vehicles....
The Basra region police commander, al-Moussawi, said two similar bombs had been discovered Friday morning; one was discovered on the road leading to Basra Palace, the compound that houses a British base and the British and U.S. consulates. A second was uncovered in the western Hayaniyah district where Thursday's attack occurred. The area is known as a stronghold of the Mahdi Army, a militia loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
So let us take stock:
- AQI has become so fearful of their former friends among the Sunni tribes that they have turned virtually their entire homicidal attention to them, rather than the rest of Iraq;
- Meanwhile, the Shiite death squads are being driven southwards, away from the capital and away, therefore, from power; they are being driven into the south, where they are being ground up like pork sausage;
- And Iran has planted a number of "gifts" to the British people -- in the form of EFPs now being supplied to the Shiite extremists in Basra province -- along roads frequented by British and American diplomats.
That last point is most worrisome. The EFPs were found in Basra province, which is most easily reached via the very waterway in which the British have now suspended boarding operations since the kidnapping (page 3 of the article):
[The First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Jonathon] Band also confirmed that the Navy had suspended all boarding operations in the northern Gulf while it carried out a “complete review” of the incident which led to them being seized.
Our British allies need rather to step up patrolling and boarding; I hope that the "complete review" leads to beefing up the British naval forces in the Persian Gulf and the Shatt al-Arab waterway, and that future British boarding parties are much more heavily armed -- and more willing to fight, rather than passively allow themselves to be plucked like overripe limes.
Date ►►► April 5, 2007
Dems: Do As We Say, Not As We Said!
Our commenter Tomy directed my attention to this breath of fresh air on the Iraq supplemental funding bill... an opinion piece in today's Washington Post.
What is most astonishing is that it came from the pen -- word processor -- of former Bush-41 Secretary of State James A. Baker III, the fellow who successfully fought the Florida election debacle in the Supreme Court on behalf of his old boss's son, the current president. Oh yes, and the co-chair of the Iraq Study Group.
I rise in astonishment, because Baker has been pretty much of a pain in the tuchus for some months now, demanding more "diplomacy" with Iran and Syria (he does it again in this Op-Ed, but it's still worth reading).
You remember the Iraq Study Group, right? Evidently Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%) does not. They were the bipartisan group (the other co-chair was former Democratic dauphin of the House Lee Hamilton) which produced a series of recommendations anent Iraq. Way back in the dim mists of January, it pleased the Democrats to declare those recommendations the single most important blueprint for moving that thorny problem forward... and they insisted, nay demanded, that President George W. Bush follow every last jot and tittle of that report.
Well today, Baker reminds us of one of the most important of the ISG's recommendations -- one that appears to have slipped Mr. Reid's mind:
The best, and perhaps only, way to build national agreement on the path forward is for the president and Congress to embrace the only set of recommendations that has generated bipartisan support: the Iraq Study Group report...
The report does not set timetables or deadlines for the removal of troops, as contemplated by the supplemental spending bills the House and Senate passed. In fact, the report specifically opposes that approach. As many military and political leaders told us, an arbitrary deadline would allow the enemy to wait us out and would strengthen the positions of extremists over moderates. A premature American departure from Iraq, we unanimously concluded, would almost certainly produce greater sectarian violence and further deterioration of conditions in Iraq and possibly other countries.
In addition, many of the provisions of Lt.Gen. David Petraeus' counterinsurgency strategy embrace the unanimous recommendations found in that document. For example:
The president's plan increases the number of American advisers embedded in Iraqi army units, with the goal that the Iraqi government will assume control of security in all provinces by November. It outlines benchmarks and indicates that the Iraqi government must act to attain them. He has approved ministerial-level meetings of all of Iraq's neighbors, including Syria and Iran; the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council; and other countries.
Well how about it, Sen. Reid? Do you -- or do you not -- wish us to follow the ISG's bipartisan recommendations?
If so, you and Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 90%) surely cannot insist upon timetables for surrender and defunding the troops! As Chairman Baker of the Iraq Study Group writes...
An important way to encourage Iraqis to work together is to hold them to the type of benchmarks that Congress, President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have all considered. If the Iraqi government does not meet those benchmarks, the United States "should reduce its political, military, or economic support for the Iraqi government," the report said. But we did not suggest that this be codified into legislation. The report doesn't recommend a firm deadline for troop removal unless America's military leadership believes that the situation warrants it.
Nothing has happened since the report was released that would justify changing that view. Setting a deadline for withdrawal regardless of conditions in Iraq makes even less sense today because there is evidence that the temporary surge is reducing the level of violence in Baghdad. As Baghdad goes, so goes Iraq.
I can only say -- and I know I'll hate myself in the morning -- that the Democrats were for the Iraq Study Group recommendations before they were against them.
I sure hope Tony Snow is in good enough shape to call a bigger than usual press conference, invite the entire White House press gang -- and hurl the Baker Op-Ed right in their fat, pasty, moon faces.
And thanks, Tomy... that was a great comment.
Date ►►► April 4, 2007
Cutting Off Your Dough to Spike Your Race
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%), in a snit that the president will exercise his constitutional authority to veto a congressional bill micromanaging the surrender, now vows to cut all funding for the war.
As a quick aside, I had no idea just how fatuous Pelosi's entire statement was. First, President Bush explains why he will veto the bill:
"The consequences of imposing such a specific and random date of withdrawal would be disastrous," he said. "Our enemies in Iraq would simply have to mark their calendars. They'd spend the months ahead plotting how to use their new safe haven once we were to leave. It makes no sense for politicians in Washington, D.C. to be dictating arbitrary timelines for our military commanders in a war zone 6,000 miles away."
Perhaps I'm just viewing everything he says through red-state-colored glasses; but honestly, he doesn't sound either hysterical or out of control -- the times when it might make sense for someone to say "calm down." To me, it sounds like a calm, simple, and straightforward recitation of what would likely happen were he to sign that bill.
Then the Squeaker responds:
"On this very important matter, I would extend a hand of friendship to the president to say to him, calm down with the threats," Pelosi told reporters on Capitol Hill. "There's a new Congress in town. We respect your constitutional role. We want you to respect ours.
"When the president says he wants to veto this bill he says, I am vetoing accountability - accountability of my own administration and of the Iraqi government," she added. "He says, I forbid. He told me, I forbid, I forbid accountability. I forbid additional assistance and meeting the health needs of our military and our veterans. I forbid meeting the needs of the people struck by Katrina. I forbid [SCHIP] helping the poorest children in America get healthcare. I forbid disaster agriculture assistance to farmers and cattlemen across the country who need this help."
I forbid? Again, I'm hardly Mr. Even-Handed... but this sounds exactly like Violet Beauregarde pitching a tantrum because she can't have a clown, a pony, a tattoo, and the Harajuku Girls on her eighth birthday party. "You don't ever let me have anything! You don't want me anymore, and I'm going to throw myself in the trash!"
Anyway, back to the annoying Sen. Reid and his puppet friends, who actually seem mature by comparison:
Reid's new strategy faces an uphill battle because many of his colleagues see yanking funds as a dangerous last resort. The proposal increases the stakes on the debate and marks a new era for the Democratic leadership once reluctant to talk about Congress' power of the purse.
"In the face of the administration's stubborn unwillingness to change course, the Senate has no choice but to force a change of course," said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who signed on Monday as a co-sponsor of Reid's proposal with Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis.
What fascinates me is the Democrats' stubborn unwillingness to admit that the appointment of Lt.Gen. Petraeus is a strategic change of course: It marks the first time the American military has treated the Iraq war as a counterinsurgency, rather than a traditional force-on-force engagement of one national power against another.
At the beginning, it was entirely a standard invasion: Our enemies was the Iraqi Army of Saddam Hussein and especially the feared Republican Guard (which turned out not to be as bad as they looked on paper); it was a classical manuever-war of regiment vs. regiment. But that phase quickly ended in total victory for the Coalition, as the Baath Party government completely collapsed.
Then we had an interregnum of several months, during which nobody really knew what to do: There was no replacement government, but the insurgency had not yet started. The Coalition Provisional Authority made some progress (and some regress) at rebuilding the country... but nothing done during this time, no matter how clever or thoughtful, would have prevented the rise of a dueling pair of insurgencies: an al-Qaeda-backed Sunni terrorist insurgency, and an Iranian-backed Shiite militia insurgency.
There was a power vacuum in Iraq, and both of the ascendant powers of the Middle East rushed to fill it. In response, we had to rush back in ourselves, this time into a proxy war between Iran, the transnational Sunni jihadis, the ex-Baathists (who still fantasized returning to power), and the Iraqi Ex-Pats -- Achmed Chalabi and that lot, who had little but the title of "interim Prime Minister."
After that shook out, the Iraqi people voted in three successively more successful elections to create a government... at that moment, the enemy's focus shifted to a true insurgency, à la the Algerian FLN.
Alas, our own strategy was not as nimble; we remained committed to the earlier strategy of force on force... so we were stymied.
We killed lots of bad guys but never seemed to make headway, which is exactly what happened to France in Algeria. Finally, Lt.Col. David Galula realized the dreadful mistake France was making and devised a counterinsurgency strategy instead. The war turned completely around within a year... but the politics at home did not, and the French poodles pulled the plug -- by pretending that nothing had changed, there was no "change of course," and everything was hopeless.
The point is that Petraeus is doing the same thing in Iraq that Galula did in Algeria and will likely have the same impact on the war. Rather than admit this, however, the Democrats continue to insist that the president displays a "stubborn unwillingness to change course." There are two macro-explanations for this rhetoric:
- Majority Leader Reid, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA, 95%), Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and a strong majority of Democrats in both houses of Congress sincerely cannot see the difference between a force-on-force strategy and a counterinsurgency strategy... so they're being honest (but stupid) when they say nothing has changed;
- They do understand that Bush appointed Petraeus precisely in order to make a major strategic change; but for some occult reason, the only "change of course" the Democrats will accept is 180 degrees about... from moving forward to a strategic rearward redeployment to next-door Okinawa.
I would ordinarily find the first explanation sufficient for Reid, Kerry, and Pelosi, whose intellects are -- let's face it -- not quite first-class. But I cannot believe that their Defense aides are that stupid. And generally, senators don't simply blow off their top aides and start freelancing their most important positions. So I have to assume that, at the very least, they have been informed about the distinction between then and now in Iraq.
So that brings us back to explanation 2: that they know, but either they don't care or, more disturbingly... that they actually fear victory more than they fear defeat.
Mindful that they hold a shaky majority in Congress and that neither chamber has enough votes to override a presidential veto, Democrats are already thinking about the next step after Bush rejects their legislation.
Reid said Monday that if that happens, he will join forces with Feingold, one of the party's most liberal members who has long called to end the war by denying funding for it.
Reid has previously stopped short of embracing Feingold's position. When asked whether he would ever consider pulling funds for the troops, Reid said Congress would provide troops what they needed to be safe.
Reid's latest proposal would give the president one year to get troops out, ending funding for combat operations after March 31, 2008.
"If the president vetoes the supplemental appropriations bill and continues to resist changing course in Iraq, I will work to ensure this legislation receives a vote in the Senate in the next work period," Reid said in a statement.
This line makes the entire argument sound like a power struggle between two branches of the government. It's certainly true that both the Squeaker and the Majority Mouse seem quite intent upon aggrandizing the power of Congress at the expense of diminishing the office of the presidency itself. This actually makes sense for them, no matter who wins in 2008:
- If a Republican wins the presidency, then naturally the Democrats in the Senate and House would prefer he arrive already emasculated;
But the Democrats almost certainly believe that the Democratic nominee will be Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 95%); so if she wins... well, let's just say there can only be one queen-bee in a hive.
I don't think the Divine Ms. P. would appreciate suddenly playing lady-in-waiting to Her Hell-to-payness; and I'm sure that Mr. R. will side with Ms. P. on any issue of relative power between the legislative and the executive branches.
Thus I might be tempted to believe the worst -- that the congressional Democrats want to pull out before the Petraeus counterinsurgency can bear fruit because victory in Iraq is the very last thing they want to see -- were it not for this one argument, which the Democrats appear sincerely to believe... and which certainly boosts the meme that Democrats really are that dense:
Reid's proposal is unlikely to pass. But Democrats say they believe with each passing week - as the violence in Iraq continues and voters grow increasingly tired of the war - they pick up additional support.
This argument presupposes, as an axiom not subject to debate, that the strategy will fail, that Iraq will just get worse and worse, and that defeat is preordained by Gaia.
If the Democrats thought, no matter how secretly, that the counterinsurgency had any chance of success, they would not follow their current course: After all, if six months pass and Reid and Pelosi are still struggling to yank us out of Iraq -- at the very same time that Iraq is looking better and more winnable with every passing day -- that cannot possibly be anything but catastrophic for Democratic congressional and presidential chances in 2008.
Instead, if the majority Democrats thought there was even the smallest possibility of success, they would back away, say "we're going to give President Bush one last chance to turn this around," and then wait and see which way to jump when the outcome becomes a little less hazy.
If it failed, then they would be well-positioned to begin passing defeat-and-retreat bills in October, still long before the first primaries in January (unless New Hampshire gets caught up in a game of "can you top this" and changes their primary date to this coming July).
But if the strategy succeeded, then the Democrats could pat themselves on the back, crow with triumph about how their own forbearance gave Petraeus enough time to pull it out, and find some way to minimize the damage.
Therefore, they must truly believe our efforts are doomed. And that means that when the Petraeus strategy actually works, the Democrats are going to end up looking like Charlie Brown when someone line-drives one of his pitches: upside-down with shoes and clothes flying off in all directions.
Now... here is the take-away from this story: There is one remarkable point that has eluded all the "pundants" in the big-box media:
Reid spokesman Jim Manley said if legislation to cut off funding for the war fails, Reid will try again with the hopes of getting new supporters. "It is the next in a series of steps to try to ratchet up the pressure to try to get the administration to change its policies," he said.
The bill to cut off funds for the war would likely be introduced as standalone legislation and would not be tied to the supplemental spending bill, Manley said.
That tells me that Reid is resigned to giving the president a clean troop-funding bill after Bush vetoes the current bill. To a poker player as savvy as George W. Bush, this "tell" may as well be a neon sign flashing "busted flush, busted flush."
Date ►►► April 3, 2007
Raft of Daft Drafts Wafted Aft
Yet another wacky Democratic voice has joined the growing chorus within the caucus to reinstate the military draft... none other than everyone's favorite friend of the military, Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA, 65%):
"I voted against the volunteer army because I felt if we ever had a war, we wouldn't be able to sustain [it]," Murtha said during the March 29 edition of CNN's "The Situation Room."
"This is one of the smallest armies we've had since before World War II, right before the Korean War," added the congressman [this is a great help for anyone who doesn't recall when World War II occurred; now you know it was "right before the Korean War."]. Murtha, a frequent critic of the war in Iraq, claimed that the president's handling of the war has depleted the country's strategic reserve.
"And I think also, everybody ought to be able to serve in this country," Murtha said. "I think we ought to not just have a select few who volunteer. I think everybody ought to be obligated to serve. [Did Murtha just change his mind in mid-ramble, or does he literally see no difference between "be able to serve" and "be obligated to serve?"]
"We'd do it by lottery, and we'd call everybody up," he continued. "I think we have a citizen's army is what it ought to be, not just a volunteer professional army."
Murtha -- Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee Defense Subcommittee -- thus joins House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY, 95%), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. John Conyers (D-MI, 100%), and then-Sen. Fritz Hollings, Rangel's co-sponsor in the Senate. That's three members of the House leadership and one senior senator who want to reinstate the military draft... and they're all anti-war Democrats!
In fact, Rangel admits that the primary reason for reinstating the draft would be to make it virtually impossible for the United States to actually use its military; like the rest of the Democratic Party, they're living in the past, longing for the good ol' days of mass anti-war protests shaking the foundations of the nation (or so they fantasize; the reality was much less melodramatic):
As Cybercast News Service previously reported, Rangel and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) in Dec. 2002 proposed a reinstatement of the military draft in an attempt to stall possible military action against Iraq.
"I think if [members of Congress] went home and found out that there were families concerned about their kids going off to war," Rangel said at the time, "there would be more cautiousness and more willingness to work with the international community than to say, 'Our way or the highway.'"
The funniest part, however, is the expert trotted out to promote the draft: "John Roper, professor of history at Emory & Henry College in Emory, Va." Mr. Roper explains why conscript soldiers are much better than trained, professional volunteers:
"They defeated the professionals who were well trained and who were, on paper, better suited to the battle," he added. "Citizen soldiers accomplished the stated mission in every war from 1775 to 1973.
...Because, of course, everybody knows that the British during the 1700s never conscripted soldiers; and there were no draftees in the Civil War, or among the Axis armies in World Wars I and II (Hitler was morally opposed to forced labor, you see). As well, every member of the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army was a trained, professional volunteer... Uncle Ho would never force anyone to fight against his will!
I'm certainly glad I never attended Emory & Henry College.
"Such a drafted army looked like America, as some like to say of other things," Roper stated. "It was America. Everybody was in the army, all racial groups, all religious beliefs, every kind of character, people from every class.
As opposed to today's American military, one presumes -- which exclusively comprises blacks, the poor, and people who din't studie in skool and got stuk in irak. This was Rangel's other reason for the draft, he claims: Because the military now is "30% minority."
But according to the 2000 census, America is 31% "minority." (Only 69.1% of the American population is "non-Hispanic white.") Today, the population is even more minority than seven years ago; I wonder if the military has kept up? (I doubt it.)
Does Rangel want the military to be whiter than the country, affording its manifold opportunities and advantages to fewer minorities than it does today? Rangel defends his own attempt to reinstate the draft thus:
People "from the lower economic levels of our society" should not be the only ones placed in harm's way, [Rangel] said.
This has got to be a first for Charlie Rangel -- the first time he has ever demanded a federal affirmative-action program to ensure that America's largest employer hires more rich white kids!
In the real world, the military population is more educated, more accomplished, and more likely to achieve success later in life than the American population as a whole. Looking at John Murtha's syntax above -- "I think we have a citizen's army is what it ought to be" -- I'm not sure he would be qualified to enlist nowadays.
But back to Mr. Roper:
"The beauty of the uniform was that it could not be designer made, and the poor could wear it as proudly as the wealthy," he noted. "The beauty of the mission was that a democratic people could vote to start it or stop it.
We all distinctly remember that there was a "national war plebiscite" before each and every one of America's previous wars... until Iraq rolled around. Then, not even Congress got to vote. King George simply flung us into combat, willy nilly, over the stentorian objections of the House and Senate! (And George Bush went it alone, too... he and his forty allies.)
Heavens, I used to think I remembered at least something from my history classes; but evidently, I am a complete ignoramus, unaware of the most basic facts about the rapture and joy with which Americans greeted the draft in ages past... and also so unobservant that I'm unaware of the mass protests and riots against the all-volunteer army, demanding that Rangel's Roundup immediately restore the Selective Service process.
I have forgotten all about the Civil War volunteer riots; and a century later, the dirty, smelly hippies out in the streets in the 1960s, chanting "F--- the trained, professional, all-volunteer army!"
I should start reading newspapers.
In any event, just so long as all the teenagers in this country understand who is pushing this -- the leaders of the Democratic Party -- and that it's the Republicans in Congress and running the Pentagon who vigorously oppose it. But I have the sinking feeling that if Rangel, Conyers, and Murtha ever get this passed... somehow, it will turn out to be all Bush's fault.
-- And Now You Don't!
There is an old joke: Q: How many ninjas are hiding in this room? A: As many as want to be.
In a follow-up to our post last October, Now You See It -- -- in which we told you about an amazing breakthrough technology that made objects invisible to electromagnetic (EM) radiation in the microwave part of the spectrum -- we now bring you the next stunning development on the invisibility front.
Scientists now know how to make an object invisible in the "visible light" segment of the EM spectrum... but only for a single wavelength of light. Thus, a person would still be able to see it (though the color might be odd); but to a laser operating at that exact wavelength, the object would be completely invisible:
Researchers using nanotechnology have taken a step toward creating an "optical cloaking" device that could render objects invisible by guiding light around anything placed inside this "cloak."
The Purdue University engineers, following mathematical guidelines devised in 2006 by physicists in the United Kingdom, have created a theoretical design that uses an array of tiny needles radiating outward from a central spoke. The design, which resembles a round hairbrush, would bend light around the object being cloaked. Background objects would be visible but not the object surrounded by the cylindrical array of nano-needles, said Vladimir Shalaev, Purdue's Robert and Anne Burnett Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
The design does, however, have a major limitation: It works only for any single wavelength, and not for the entire frequency range of the visible spectrum, Shalaev said.
"But this is a first design step toward creating an optical cloaking device that might work for all wavelengths of visible light," he said.
To use the metaphor from our previous post, the field would create an "artificial mirage," directing light around the field, like (analogy-shift alert) water flowing around a rock in a stream.
There are two requirements for true invisiblity, as the eggheads explain (but which should be obvious from inspection):
- The "invisible" object -- an airplane, say -- cannot itself reflect light;
- But the light reflected from background objects must somehow be guided around the "invisible" airplane; otherwise, you would see a black, airplane-shaped hole that would make the "invisible" airplane essentially visible.
Requirement number 2 is the hardest to bring about, even in theory; we already have the concept of non-reflective surfaces. But if the technique here can be expanded to channel light from all EM wavelengths simultaneously, from infrared to ultraviolet, then the object inside the field would truly be invisible: You would look right through it as if it weren't there.
But even with the current system, with only one wavelength bent around the field, invisibility can be very practical:
Although the design would work only for one frequency, it still might have applications, such as producing a cloaking system to make soldiers invisible to night-vision goggles.
"Because night-imaging systems detect only a specific wavelength, you could, in theory, design something that cloaks in that narrow band of light," Shalaev said.
Another possible application is to cloak objects from "laser designators" used by the military to illuminate a target, he said.
Making American soldiers disappear from night-vision goggles would truly mean that "we own the night."
We could also cloak tanks, Strykers, and other vehicles, making it virtually impossible for the enemy to see well enough at night to aim at us, even with their own night-vision goggles. And if a target vehicle or building cannot be "seen" by the specific wavelength used by enemy laser-painters, then their missiles will not be able to lock onto the target and hit it.
But with the full-wavelength version, we become like unto the gods of ancient Greece. Imagine... an entire army of ninja Olympians, able to vanish in plain view.
The tiny "bristles" on the "round hairbrush" are really, really tiny... only about 10 nanometers (100 angstroms) in diameter. For comparison, the diameter of a human hair varies between 17,000 and 181,000 nanometers; so each "nanobristle" is about 1/10,000th the diameter of an average human hair.
This itself is very good: The more technologically difficult invisibility is, the greater the advantage to the United States, the United Kingdom, and other nations in the Functioning Core; such advanced, Western nations are the only ones who have active nanotechnology programs. It's hard to envision the Iranians, who cannot even build their own centrifuges to process Uranium, deciding to develop a nanotechnology processing facility.
For invisibility to be useful, those inside the invisibility field need to be able to see out; I'm not sure whether this would work, however. What it actually means to say that you "see" an object -- a tree, perhaps -- is that light reflects off of the tree and into your eyes.
But if light is channeled around you because of the field -- so that objects behind you could be seen as if you were not there -- then wouldn't the light reflected off the tree be likewise guided around you? If so, then you would no more be able to look out than people on the outside would be able to look in.
But let's assume that limitation can be overcome; the military uses would be staggering, turning our already lopsided tactical advantages into an insurmountable gulf that almost satisfies Clarke's Law; as enunciated by science-fiction writer Sir Arthur C. Clarke, the law reads: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
But there are other uses for invisibility besides military. Consider the architectural uses: You could design a building where entire blocks of floors (and everything inside them) were invisible, making it appear as though the building consisted of segments literally floating above each other.
Factories could be made invisible, so long as you were outside the field-fence; that would remove eyesores that visually pollute the landscape, while still allowing workers inside the plant to see all the facilities as normal. (Again, we are assuming that those inside can look outside; otherwise, workers might object that they felt as if they were in prison!)
How about movable, removable windows? If you could create an invisible section of any size or shape in a wall, simply by activating the nanobristles in that area, then you could turn windows on when you want them, move them around for aesthetic or other reasons, then turn them off when you retire for the night.
Windows would no longer be "weak points" for a burglar to enter; they would be walls, just like all the other walls. And depending on how well you can fine-tune the field, you might be able to select any of a number of preset "opacity designs," similar to hand-carved window lattices... or even design your own.
There might be some drawbacks; as with any "solution," invisibility is actually a trade-off. For example, you could make a freeway invisible, so that people don't have to look at it. But that also means that a driver might not be able to see how fast or slow the traffic is flowing on the freeway until he enters the on-ramp, making it harder to decide whether to take the freeway or surface streets during rush hour. (But on the whole, I still think the trade-off is a good one.)
Back to the military: It would, of course, be critical that American military personnel and equipment to be able to see all "friendly" equipment in combat -- so that one tank doesn't take a shot at an enemy position, not realizing that there is another American tank or unit of soldiers in the way. This is another hurdle that must be overcome; but again, I always bet on ingenuity and optimism, never on defeatism and technological stasis.
Obviously, we've got a long way to go before we have workable invisibility shields. But "a long way" isn't as long a way today as it was 50 years ago, ten years ago, or even last Tuesday. Not only is technology advancing, but the pace of change itself is also advancing. That means that every year, there are more technological innovations and breakthroughs than in any previous year. In the long run, technology changes everything... even moral and ethical "eternal verities." And society will simply have to adjust to those changes.
Thus, I would never bet the rent money against us developing real "cloaks of invisibility" during the next decade, where it will become critical in winning the war on global jihadism. So keep watching the skies (and this blog); we guarantee to keep you up to date on everything we can't see!
Date ►►► April 2, 2007
How to Win/Lose In Iraq
Arthur Herman, he of the "Herman Option" -- which may be less effective now, as Iran tries desperately to convert vehicles to natural gas, than when Herman first proposed it -- has a new article up on the Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal.com: "How to Win In Iraq."
(Be aware; the sub-head is "And how to lose.")
The article is long, so I will summarize its main points, peppering them with my own few thoughts en route, rather than waiting until the end.
Herman not only points the way to military success in Iraq, he also warns of the most imminent danger threatening to turn that victory in defeat. But in the end, I demonstrate why we will likely prevail after all, dodging that deadly peril. At the end of the political steel-cage death match, Democratic defeatism will be the loser (and will have to leave town in November 2008).
So slither on, friend readers...
I intersperse my thoughts amid a quick abstract of the Arthur Herman article. Note that throughout this post, I define "insurgent" as anyone who actively works to undermine and overthrow the current government, whether by corruption, terrorism, death squads, or by open, armed insurrection.
De profundis ad astra
Arthur Herman begins his essay by analogizing the current insurgents in Iraq to the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN, in French) in Algeria a half-century ago -- a Moslem, anti-Western, antisemitic, totalitarian, collectivist, terrorist group that was trying to drive the French out of that colony.
But then he demonstrates that the French army, after repeated failures over many years to come to grips with the Moslem insurgents, hit upon a strategy that was extraordinarily successful, crushing most of the resistance in just a couple of years.
This is the first shocker of the article: Herman, a historian, points out that in fact, we in the West do know how to fight an insurgency; we have done so on many occasions:
In fact, the historical record is clear. The roots of failure in fighting insurgencies like the one in Iraq are not military. To the contrary, Western militaries have shown remarkable skill in learning and relearning the crucial lessons of how to prevail against unconventional foes, and tremendous bravery in fighting difficult and unfamiliar battles. If Iraq fails, the cause will have to be sought elsewhere.
This is more subtlely subversive of the dominant worldview today than anything else he could say. The Democrats -- and most of the world -- flatly say that "there is no military solution." This mantra underpins the entire Democratic policy of forcing American troops out of the "unwinnable" war in Iraq and instead, focusing on "diplomacy," as Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) is doing right now in Syria.
But there is another term for diplomacy undertaken after an aborted attempt to use force: conditional surrender. If we follow this path, the message we send is, "We know we've lost; we just want to negotiate a slightly less abject defeat than our enemy wants to inflict."
But since we do know how to fight against this sort of insurgency, since other countries (and even our own) have done so successfully in the past, then contrary to the Left's assertion, there is a military solution after all. That solution will certainly involve other aspects than the use of force; but military might is a critical element... and we know the road to victory in that element.
Therefore, the failure to vigorously and determinedly pursue victory demonstrates nothing less than cowardice, sloth, or the Stockholm Syndrome on the part of the appeaser: "Peace at any price" is the root of slavery.
Three cheers for the red, white, and pink
The winning strategy in Algeria was developed by Lt.Col. David Galula of the French army, following many years of increasing French military involvement to little effect. Galula managed to turn the war around in just a year or two by his new approach to fighting against the Algerian insurgency, the FLN.
So what is this strategy? First of all, Galula realized that counterinsurgency warfare was unlike ordinary conventional warfare:
Galula's subsequent book, "Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice," laid out the blueprint for success in this form of warfare. From the start, Galula had discarded the assumptions governing conventional conflicts. A decisive battlefield victory of the kind familiar from World War II, he saw, would never work against indigenous, loosely organized but deeply committed insurgencies like the FLN. As he had learned from watching the British mount successful counterinsurgencies in Malaya and Greece, neither heavy casualties, nor the loss of weapons and bases, nor even the loss of leaders, would stop the rebels. Ultimately, indeed, "military action [was] but a minor factor in the conflict."
This is hardly controversial today, but it was a very different world in 1956; then, just a decade after World War II ended, it was virtually heresy to say that France should fight the Algerian war using means completely different from those that had achieved unconditional victory in the greatest war in all of human history.
But of course (as we see now), fighting insurgents in Algeria is vastly different from fighting Panzer divisions in the Rhineland.
Galula likewise realized that civilians played a much greater roll in counterinsurgency than they did in the second war to end all wars, where they were mainly bystanders (or by-victims). Civilians, both government and private individuals, are the counterinsurgent's secret weapon:
Without the help or at least the passive acquiescence of the local population, the government would be doomed. In a crucial sense, it did not matter how many guerrillas were killed, or how many regular soldiers were on the ground; the center of gravity was the opinion of the local community.
Thus, the key to success lay in bringing to the surface the portion of the populace that hated the guerrillas, and then turning that minority into a majority by a combination of political, social and cultural initiatives.
In other words, the successful counterinsurgent needs to win, not necessarily the hearts and minds of the populace, but at the very least, their consent and support -- however grudgling. The people must prefer us to the insurgents.
But this itself requires a strong military effort; Lt.Col. Galula was certainly not dismissing the military side. He was noting that military action was the prelude to the real work: getting the entire country engaged in "fighting" (isolating) the terrorists through civic, economic, religious, and social means.
Galula advocated three basic strategic "stages", beginning with a method of concentrating his forces where they were most needed:
The first was concentration of force. Whereas terrorists were able to do much with little (witness, in today's Iraq, the improvised explosive device or the lone suicide bomber), government forces could do but little with their much. Even after having expanded in number to 450,000 men--nearly one soldier for every 23 Algerians--French forces could not confront the elusive FLN everywhere. So Galula divided his own district into zones: "white," where government control was complete or nearly complete; "pink," where insurgents competed with the government for control; and "red," where the insurgents were in complete control. A successful counterinsurgency involved turning pink zones into white zones, then red into pink, through a block-by-block, neighborhood-by-neighborhood struggle to force the terrorists into the shadows.
This is important, because it allows you to track progress easily: If the white areas are growing, you are winning; if the pink areas are growing while the red areas shrink, you are winning. But if the pink grows at the expense of the white, and if the red grows, then you are losing, and you had better refocus your efforts on the pink zones.
The pink zones are the linchpin: As they go, so goes the war. Every time a pink area comes under your control, becoming white -- that automatically makes all adjacent red areas more pinkish, because now your forces are directly able to take the fight to enemy territory. The insurgents' "complete control" turns into competition... forcing the enemy to draw scarce resources from where he would rather they remain.
This winning strategy was also used successfully in Vietnam by Gen. Creighton Abrams, who assumed command of the Military Assistance Command in Vietnam (MACV) on June 10th, 1968 -- just two days after the Tet Offensive ended in the crushing defeat of the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). Abrams' counterinsurgency warfare (using far fewer troops than the hapless Gen. William Westmoreland had used during his tenure as commander of MCAV) is now largely credited with destroying the Vietcong as an effective insurgency.. while Abrams simultaneously stopped the advance of the NVA and even turned them back. As Herman puts it:
By 1972, the American military there had broken the back of the Viet Cong insurgency, had fought the North Vietnamese army to a standstill, and had forced the government in Hanoi to the bargaining table.
Thus, we already know that the Galula strategy works. This is a crucial point.
Galula's other two stages of victory against an insurgency were "a visible and continuous military presence, in order to build civil institutions of support and trust;" and "a sense of inevitable victory" (emphasis in original). About the first, Herman explains:
In counterinsurgencies, the classic Clausewitzian dictum--that war is the continuation of politics by other means--turned in on itself. Through constant policing and patrolling, by running down insurgents and punishing them on, if possible, "the very spot" where they committed a terrorist attack or outrage, and above all by visibly supporting and rewarding allies, the military occupation would itself become a political weapon: outward and conspicuous proof that supporting the government translated into increased security, peace of mind, prosperity, and eventually social and political advance.
(This sparks an interesting thought: Should we encourage the Iraqis, whenever they sentence a terrorist to death, to erect the gallows exactly where he carried out the terrorist attack that got him condemned? And even if he only gets prison time, maybe he should serve it in the very city he attacked.)
The "sense of inevitable victory" requires the increasing use of native forces... for the obvious reason that a foreign force will eventually leave. When the country is increasingly under the control of the local government, which (by definition of insurgency warwar) is on our side, the populace sees that they will be the eventual winner. Since most people prefer to back the strong horse over the weak horse, to use Osama bin Laden's own analogy, they will increasingly back the government.
In practice, this means they will rat out the insurgents, cease giving them aid and comfort, and (as we see in Anbar province in Iraq), increasingly take up arms on behalf of the government they once opposed.
"Here and now, boys; here and now."
It is one thing to recognize the unique counterinsurgency genius of Lt.Col. David Galula; it is quite another to implement it in the present war... which, while similar to the Algerian insurrection, is also very different in many ways. That success reveals the unique genius of the other David, Lt.Gen. Petraeus:
Herman next shows how the current counterinsurgency strategy of Lt.Gen. David Petraeus, newly elevated to commander of all Multinational Force ground troops in Iraq (MNF-I), consciously matches the Galula strategy almost point by point... and thus stands an excellent chance of producing exactly the sort of victory that Galula achieved in Algeria in the late 1950s.
Lt.Gen. Petraeus understands Galula's strategy better than any previous commander of MNF-I, and he has done a magnificant job of applying it to the present insurgency... starting with the first stage, concentrating his forces where they are needed most:
The current surge of 21,500 troops in Baghdad is a textbook example of Galula's lessons in action. First, as in the northern city of Mosul in 2003-04, where he used a similar grid system, Gen. Petraeus aims to turn things around in the single most vital "pink" zone--namely, Baghdad and its environs, within whose 50-mile radius 80% of the violence in Iraq takes place.... As he has said, "The idea is to end each day with fewer enemies than when it started." Anything more ambitious leads to overreaching, disenchantment, and ultimately failure.
In other words, Petraeus has divided the map into three zones, white, pink, and red, and has focusing on making progress by concentrating his forces in the pink areas. By turning them white, he automatically turns adjacent red areas pink. Thus, stage one.
Stage two is a "visible and continuous military presence."
The nation itself must be seen as the victor when the insurgents are defeated; that means significant movement towards life becoming more normal the more the government has control. If government control is associated with horror, mass executions, kidnappings, and vicious suppression of dissent -- as under Saddam Hussein -- then the people rightly wonder what the difference is between the government and the insurgents.
But when government control means roads, schools, hospitals, banking, commerce, and the people being by and large let alone to be their potty, little selves, then more and more does the populace turn away from the insurgency and long for -- and strive for -- a government victory:
"Increasing the number of stakeholders is crucial to success," writes Gen. Petraeus, again self-consciously following both Galula's model and his own prior experience. In the northern district of Kabylia, for example, Gen. Petraeus had his men operating schools for 1,400 children, including girls, offering free medical support, and helping with building projects and road construction. One of his proudest accomplishments was the help given by troops of the 101st Airborne in rebuilding and opening Mosul University.
Gen. Petraeus's field manual states: "Some of the best weapons do not shoot." They come instead in the form of meetings held with local leaders, wells drilled, streets repaired, soccer leagues organized.... forcing the bond between insurgent and citizen to give way to a new bond between citizen and government.
Stage three requires creating "the sense of inevitable victory." This means the increasing use of Iraqi forces, rather than American forces, to make the counterinsurgency seem less like an occupation and more like a living nation fighting for order against anarchy:
In counterinsurgency terms, [native troops] were more than just auxiliaries in the fight; they were also signposts of the future, of a secure post-insurgency order around which the local populace could rally.
Note that Petraeus's previous Iraq command before being named Commander MNF-I -- was the training of native troops. It was his success at that very job, coupled with his successful counterinsurgency fight in Mosul, that caused the president to select him to that command in the first place.
Petraeus has further applied Galula's "stage 3" to the Iraq situation, beyond merely training the new Iraqi forces, by a move that seems at once bold and bizarre: He has ordered the creation of a number of Joint Security Stations (JSSs), where Iraqi and American troops live together, eat together, and patrol together, completely intermixed.
Besides more deeply incorporating the native troops into the fight, it also embeds Americans into every Iraqi unit -- both army and national police -- leading to reform and the purging of insurgents from the Iraqi forces. This is more than even Galula did to give the fight an Iraqi "brand," and draw a distinction between the government and insurgents, as the latter are exposed and cast out.
The enema within
So does winning the war on the ground, and even winning the active or passive acquiescence of the Iraqi population, inevitably mean victory in the war? Sadly, no. Arthur Herman drops the other hammer in the part of his essay characterized by the subtitle, "and how to lose."
While the French army followed the Galula strategy and systematically wiped out the Algerian resistance, the elite, effete, leftist intellectual poodles led their own insurrection at home.
Led by Existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre, they turned the French citizenry decisively against their own army, convincing them that all the violence in Algeria was the fault of France -- not the FLN -- and turning the war, in the minds of the French populace, in to a war of colonial imperialism, rather than a war to destroy a jihadist movement.
The mission of the Left in human events has always to confound truth with lies, freedom with slavery, and democracy with totalitarianism. In this case, the French Left was led by the man who famously rejected reason as the source of meaning, and who believed that reason itself was a bad-faith attempt to impose order on a fundamentally chaotic world.
The poodles effectively argued that violent Moslem leftist extremists were merely attempting to create more "freedom" for the Algerians to determine their own lives... disregarding the fact that these putative freedom-fighters were in fact great believers in totalitarianism and had nothing but contempt for liberal, Western democratic ideas -- such as freedom, reason, and silly exercises in intellectual self-abuse -- such as Existentialism.
This "revolution" in France itself, Herman recounts, led to the government yanking all the French troops out of Algeria, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The poodles, many of them literal Communists, demanded "self-determination" for Algeria... which in practice, turned out to mean absolute victory by the hard-line Moslems.
Who then proceeded to butcher anyone even suspected of collabortation with the French, turned Algeria into a vast killing field, a crucible to melt the colony into a collectivist dictatorship. The FLN believed in raw power. To quote a great Communist who finally awoke, Eric Arthur Blair (a.k.a. George Orwell)...
When we are omnipotent we shall have no more need of science. There will be no distinction between beauty and ugliness. There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always -- do not forget this, Winston -- always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face -- for ever.’
When the "ACE" coalition of Anarchists, Communists, and Existentialists forced the French to abandon Algeria, colonization was replaced, not by freedom and happiness, but by collectivism and horror. Quelle surprise! So of course, the coalition that had supported the pullout immediately recanted, admitted it was in the wrong, and called for the actual liberation of Algeria... right?
If you believe that, you'll probably vote to reelect President Al Gore next year. In fact, the French poodles wallowed in an orgy of self congratulation. They not only cast Algeria into an abyss of totalitarianism, from which they have yet to emerge; they also brought down the Fourth French Republic itself. The yappy Leftists were top dogs again! Scratch an Anarchist, scratch an Existentialist, and you'll find a Stalinist lurking beneath the epidermis.
I think we all know where Herman is going by this point... the parallels are again startlingly exact, for we have our own coalition of Sheehanites, CAIR-mongers, and weak Reids. Herman convincingly argues that the elite, effete American Democratic intellectual pit yorkies are also following the Algerian playbook.
But rather than Galula's book about how to defeat a Moslem insurgency, the book followed by Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%) is that written by the "ACE" French poodles, who pulled the plug on the Algerian counterinsurgency war at the very brink of victory.
Just as their ideological cousins -- and the ideological forbears of today's Democratic majority in Congress -- did in Vietnam 15 years later (35 years ago): The "peaceniks," chanting "Ho, ho, Ho Chi Minh," crammed defeat down the throats of our victorious troops... thus crippling American military morale and effectiveness for a generation.
The dangerous analogator
But this is no reason to despair. There are a number of differences between us and the French -- and even between us and the United States of 1973 -- that may be determinative in allowing us to escape Santayana's curse of repeating history.
- First and most important, we are not the French. We are Americans; we are exceptional... so it takes far more exceptional circumstances to force us to act like cravens.
- The French Left in 1959 managed to get President Charles DeGaulle, the first president of the Fifth Republic of France, on their side; the American Left has no hope whatsoever of gaining the agreement of President George W. Bush to pull out of Iraq before victory.
- France was fighting to maintain a colony; Iraq has never been a colony of the United States, and we have never attempted -- for all of the Democrats' absurdist rhetoric -- to "colonize" Iraq. We have always fought for a free and independent Iraq.
The French military was, in fact, guilty of using horrible acts of actual torture against the FLN in Algeria to gain intelligence -- the primary claim of the poodles. Although Lt.Col. Galula personally opposed (and thought ineffective) such tactics, they were quite widespread within the army.
By contrast, there is no evidence of American forces using techniques that most Americans would call "torture" on any widespread basis, or with Pentagon approval. Even the claim that Americans "tortured" prisoners at Abu Ghraib are controversial, as few Americans think making male prisoners wear women's panties is in the same league as stretching on the rack, crushing feet, or using cattle prods on the genitals.
We are simply more decent than were the French... and the necessity of holding the political home front is precisely why we cannot become as vicious and indiscriminate as some loons demand.
In 1973, the Democratic, anti-Vietnam-war Congress was negotiating with a wounded presidency and a paranoid president desperate to stave off impeachment and removal. The Democrats very effectively extorting Richard Nixon into caving on Vietnam -- in exchange for Congress agreeing to back off the Watergate investigation. (So much for trusting a Democrat's promise.)
President Bush is neither paranoid nor desperate, and his presidency is neither wounded nor weak. He has plenty enough Republican support in Congress to sustain his vetos.
- By 1973, we had lost over 50,000 Americans (0.025% of the population) in Vietnam... and most of them were conscripts, sent involuntarily and unprepared into combat. To date, we have lost 3,255 soldiers in Iraq (0.001%, or only 1/25th the deaths in Vietnam as percent of population)... and every, last one of them volunteered to join the military, because we have not had a draft for over 30 years.
- And last but by no means least, Americans have a much stronger and deeper connection with our military, more of a martial tradition, and much more communications with our ordinary soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines than did the French in 1959... so it will prove virtually impossible to convince a voting majority of citizens that our men and women are all vicious thugs who revel in war crimes, atrocities, and torture... which was the idea pitched successfully by the poodles about their own troops in the Algerian war.
So read the article -- it's very important -- and take heart; the future of Iraq, the Middle East, and in a sense America itself, is in our own hands. If we maintain the will and refuse to allow our own Republican congressmen (those of you lucky enough to have such) to rabbit on us, we will prevail; and the Democrats can stuff their defeats and appeasements in a sack.
If that happens, then 2008 can be a very good year indeed for world freedom and democracy.
Date ►►► April 1, 2007
The End of a 28-Year Era
The point is only of academic interest, and only interesting to weirdos who thrive on a diet of historical anomalies, but...
Has anybody else realized that the upcoming presidential election will be the first one since 1972 to have neither a Bush nor a Dole on the Republican ticket?
Careful now, don't topple over with astonishment. Just think through every election from 1976 on, and you'll see what I mean: eight in a row.
(Slight corrections made to make the post clearer... thanks, SeanF and myself!)
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