Category ►►► Iraq Matters

January 1, 2012

Barack the Peacemocker

Afghan Astonishments , Iraq Matters , Presidential Peculiarities and Pomposities , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

According to my favorite blogger at my favorite blog (and the Associated Press), President Barack H. "Bubble Boy" Obama is currently in secret negotiations with the Taliban -- to be "mediated," if Obama has his way, by Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi: a Koran-thumping, jihad-urging, radical-Islamist cleric in Afghanistan.

The bare bones of the agreement our president is hammering out with the Taliban is this:

  • Americans unconditionally withdraw all forces from Afghanistan.
  • We give up all objection to the Taliban returning to power (as part of a "coalition" with the Karzai government * ).
  • We build a headquarters compound for the Taliban.
  • We announce that we are no longer enemies with the Taliban.
  • We release all Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay and allow them to return to Afghanistan -- and resume the activities that landed them in Gitmo in the first place.
  • We issue an apology from the deck of the USS Ronald Reagan; after which Obama goes barefoot and bareheaded to Kandahar, where he bows deeply from the waist and begs forgiveness -- for George W. Bush's wickedness.

(That last bullet point isn't official; I'm just logically extrapolating.)

In the Power Line post, John Hinderacker theorizes about what President B.O. has in mind:

[T]he Afghanistan war is deeply unpopular [it is? I thought that was the good war! -- DaH], and Obama wants to run for re-election next November on the boast that he "ended two wars." The baleful consequences of re-installing the Taliban in Afghanistan will not appear until long after the next election campaign, which is all that Obama cares about.

John implies, I believe, that the maneuver will have the desired effect: Obama will be lionized for being the peacemaker, Bush reviled as a warmonger, and this will give Bubble Boy a swift boost into a second term. But bear in mind that traditionally, the closer we approach an election, the more pessimistic become the lads at Power Line.

I have a different take on the political outcome of Obama "workin' the machinations behind the scenes," as Louis Farrakhan might put it. Rather than a political triumph for Obama, I see a soft spot that even the Republican Party will be able to hit while dead drunk and with one eye tied behind its back -- which, to be honest, is the way it usually campaigns.

Here's the plan. We wait until Barack Obama begins strutting and chest thumping about how he has "ended two wars," then we respond thus:

President Obama has discovered a super-easy way to end any war quickly: just surrender. We prematurely withdraw from Afghanistan at the same time we prematurely withdraw from Iraq, leaving the door wide open to an Iranian invasion; what a diplomatic masterstroke! Obama becomes the first president in American history to lose two wars... simultaneously!

It seems the One We Have Been Waiting For actually believes that surrendering to two different gangs of radical Islamists is America's greatest national-security triumph, and he expects us to reward him with another term. Even worse, these are two wars that we had already won -- that is, until Barack Obama took over and found a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Heckuva job, Mr. President.

I have no idea who gave him the cockamamie idea to bring the Taliban back in Afghanistan and to prematurely withdraw from Iraq and allow Iran to take over. It's as if in 1945, after the Germans surrendered in World War II, FDR had entered into secret negotiations with the surviving Nazis to withdraw all American troops, then help restore the Nazi Party to power again in Germany... while simultaneously encouraging the Soviets to seize control of Japan, China, and the Philippines.

Even Jimmy Carter stands in awe of such a colossal concatenation of catastrophe.

Barack Obama has pulled off a feat that none of us thought possible: His foreign and national-security policy has failed even worse than his domestic and economic policy... a breathtaking achievement!

I say, bring it on; how I long to have that debate. What is Obama going to argue? "Look, it has been three months already, and the Taliban has not yet reinstated mass torture-executions of Christians, moderate Moslems, and uppity women!"

Well of course not: Part of Obama's secret deal with the Taliban requires them to hold off until Obama is safely reelected... probably the only clause of the contract they will fulfill; and then only because having Barack Hussein Obama continue to occupy the White House is in the Taliban's best interest, and Iran's as well.

All that's left is to declare all American hydrocarbon fuel off-limits at the very moment the Iranians decide to blockade the Strait of Hormuz; then the cosmic Obasmic failure will be complete, thorough -- and irreversible.

 

* Note that the Taliban and Hamid Karzai's government are deadly, sworn enemies; how's that parlay going to work out?

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 1, 2012, at the time of 12:34 PM | Comments (0)

April 28, 2011

Will "Director" Petraeus Betray Us, or Hooray Us?

Afghan Astonishments , CIA CYA , Iraq Matters , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

With the news that President Barack H. Obama intends to name Gen. David Petraeus Director of the Central Intelligence Agency -- after current top spook Leon Panetta, who spent a couple of years in the Army, shifts to being Secretary of Defense -- we are left with a series of known (and unknown) unknowns. After all, Petraeus has been in the Army for decades and could not thus enunciate his own political positions and opinions; he could only support the policy of the Commander in Chief under whom he served, whether that was Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, or Obama.

Given that tabula rasa, we must identify at least a few of the conundrums:

  • Most urgently, can Petraeus actually master an out-of-control, leak-crazy, internationalist progressivist CIA... or at least render it somewhat less anti-American?
  • Does the appointment mean that the CIA will actually become more like it's "predecessor," the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in World War II? That is, will the CIA show more interest in furthering America's military aims and less in trying to pick the next president?
  • Does the appointment mean that David Petraeus is interested in heading into electoral politics next?
  • Does it show Petraeus is going to "come out" as a Democrat to run against the Republican incumbent in 2016?
  • Does it mean Obama has changed his mind about the need for the United States to have a strong and vigorous intelligence community to further American goals... or does it mean Petraeus has grown in office and now supports Obamunism, full and stark?
  • What will happen to the Afghanistan war effort as Petraeus withdraws, ushering in Marine Lt.Gen. John R. Allen as Commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A) -- a man who has no Afghanistan experience whatsoever? Though Gen. Allen certainly does have battlefield experience in the War Against Radical Islamism: He was Deputy Commanding General in al-Anbar province, Iraq, during the Iraq war.

    But what type of commander is he? Is he like Petraeus, with a deep understanding of contemporary counterinsurgency strategy? Or is he more akin to the Shinseki-ites devoted to the Powell Doctrine of endlessly refighting WWII in all the dorky, little countries found in what Thomas P.M. Barnett, author of the Pentagon's New Map, aptly calls the "Non-Integrating Gap?"

I doubt anyone can answer these questions authoritatively at this juncture in time, as Nixon was wont to say; but they are indeed critical queries.

And here is the last and most pregnant:

  • Will the appointment receive vigorous examination during Senate confirmation hearings, in order to answer some of these unknowns, among others? Or will Republicans and Democrats alike give the war hero a pass -- the former because he is a war hero; the latter because he will have been appointed by the Obamacle, whom all Democrats must prop up and buttress in every imaginable way for the 2012 election?

At the moment, President B.O.'s deft and crafty move has handed us a Petraeus in a poke.

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 28, 2011, at the time of 5:01 PM | Comments (2)

April 18, 2011

Iraq: Oily "Evidence"

Future of Energy Production , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Shocking news:

Secret documents prove that the Iraq war really was all about stealing their oil!

Well... not really; a close reading of the Independent (U.K.) article discloses far less than meets the eye. Let's have a look, shall we, and see what the memos say -- and more important, what they don't say.

All the "secret memos" appear to come from a single source: Elizabeth Conway Symons, Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean, who was Trade Minister in the United Kingdom from 2001-2003, including when the invasion began. Here's the juicy lede:

Plans to exploit Iraq's oil reserves were discussed by government ministers and the world's largest oil companies the year before Britain took a leading role in invading Iraq, government documents show.

The papers, revealed here for the first time, raise new questions over Britain's involvement in the war, which had divided Tony Blair's cabinet and was voted through only after his claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

Secret plans -- exploitation -- clandestine meetings -- claims of WMD. The obvious conclusion to which most readers will leap (or be pushed) is that the evil George W. Bush and his lapdog Tony Blair conspired to loot Iraq of its oil, and that that was the real reason for our invasion. But read a bit deeper, and you find the specifics that debunk the lurid implication.

There were indeed meetings between the government of the United Kingdom and various oil companies, mainly British Petroleum and Royal Dutch Shell; but what they actually discussed was the feasibility of "lobbying" the United States to open oil sales in Iraq -- not theft, sales -- to companies other than France's TotalFinaElf; under Saddam Hussein, TFE enjoyed a virtual monopoly... primarily because France cheerfully bribed the bloodthirsty dictator, cutting him in for a personal percentage under the table:

The papers show that Lady Symons agreed to lobby the Bush administration on BP's behalf because the oil giant feared it was being "locked out" of deals that Washington was quietly striking with US, French and Russian governments and their energy firms.

Minutes of a meeting with BP, Shell and BG (formerly British Gas) on 31 October 2002 read: "Baroness Symons agreed that it would be difficult to justify British companies losing out in Iraq in that way if the UK had itself been a conspicuous supporter of the US government throughout the crisis."

The minister then promised to "report back to the companies before Christmas" on her lobbying efforts.

The Foreign Office invited BP in on 6 November 2002 to talk about opportunities in Iraq "post regime change". Its minutes state: "Iraq is the big oil prospect. BP is desperate to get in there and anxious that political deals should not deny them the opportunity."

After the invasion and overthrow of the Hussein regime, the monopoly contracts were indeed nullified, allowing oil companies from many countries other than France to bid on the oil, including Dutch, Chinese, and of course British companies. The Iraqis retained ownership of their own wells, oil, and natural gas; and of course they reaped the benefit of the free-market bidding between the companies:

The 20-year contracts signed in the wake of the invasion were the largest in the history of the oil industry. They covered half of Iraq's reserves -- 60 billion barrels of oil, bought up by companies such as BP and CNPC (China National Petroleum Company), whose joint consortium alone stands to make £403m ($658m) profit per year from the Rumaila field in southern Iraq.

Last week, Iraq raised its oil output to the highest level for almost decade, 2.7 million barrels a day -- seen as especially important at the moment given the regional volatility and loss of Libyan output. Many opponents of the war suspected that one of Washington's main ambitions in invading Iraq was to secure a cheap and plentiful source of oil.

Note the completely unsourced, vague, and gratuitous non-sequitur at the end of the paragraph above; that is literally the only reference in the story to the pro-Hussein and anti-American conspiracy theory to which the first two paragraphs slyly allude.

To boil a long story down, Bush was urging the Coalition of the Willing to help invade Iraq and oust Saddam Hussein; and the foreign governments, while signalling their willingness, were also saying that they did not want to be "locked out" of bidding for Iraq's oil.

During the long, criminal reign of Hussein, only the corrupt were allowed access; why should countries like the Netherlands, who had no direct connection to Iraq, fight to liberate that country if they would still be frozen out of normal trade relations? Great Britain felt the same way: "Yes, we'll help... but it's a bit thick to ask us to spill British blood and treasure just to benefit the French."

To me, it seems a reasonable request.

So that's the poop on the insidious Iraqi document-dump drama. How much you want to bet that the usual suspects will rewrite the story to try to vindicate the most insane charges by the loony Left, International ANSWER, anti-war radicals... and somehow blame it all on George W. Bush.

And probably on the Koch brothers as well -- the current bête noire of Progressive-obsessive magpie media, such as the Hufflepuffington Post, Daily Kos, Think Progress, and the New York Times. Birds of an oily feather.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 18, 2011, at the time of 11:42 PM | Comments (0)

July 23, 2010

America's Viceroy

Cabinetwittery , Iraq Matters , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

Having failed to overtake Barack H. Obama in 2008's Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton was unable to realize her bitter ambition to become President of the United States; and she is unlikely ever to get the chance again. But through the perversity of Democratic politics, she may be about to be dubbed, as near as makes no difference, America's first viceroy... who is, as Wikipedia puts it, "a royal official who runs a country or province in the name of and as representative of the Monarch."

For McClatchy News reports that as all American military combat troops and all but 50,000 non-combat troops leave Iraq under the "Status of Forces" agreement with that country, the need for some kind of force protection of State Department personnel will become acute. And the Obama administration has decided that, rather than renegotiate the agreement to allow for protective military personnel to remain in country, the United States will simply create a civilian quasi-military security force under the command of the Secretary of State.

That is, Vice Commander in Chief Hillary Clinton will get her own army to play with:

The arrangement is "one more step in the blurring of the lines between military activities and State Department or diplomatic activities," said Richard Fontaine of the Center for a New American Security, a Washington research center. "This is no longer (just) the foreign service officer standing in the canape line, and the military out in the field."

"The State Department is trying to become increasingly expeditionary," he said.

The most identifying power of the monarch is command of the military; ergo, handing it over to a lower-level duchess is equivalent to putting her in complete charge of that corner of our foreign policy.

The introduction of a new quasi-military army under State's control doesn't sit well with the more liberal members of Congress, however; recall, the Left was expecting that Obama would gracefully declare defeat in Iraq and go home, allowing "progressives" to argue that the entire Iraq war was a catastrophe and a war crime. They were overjoyed with the agreement negotiated with Iraq, which clearly did not leave enough combat personnel to protect the mission.

But now, defeat is once again imperiled, albeit in a flagrantly unconstitutional way; and the Left is hopping mad:

Already, however, the State Department's requests to the Pentagon for Black Hawk helicopters; 50 mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles [MRAPs -- DaH]; fuel trucks; high-tech surveillance systems; and other military gear has encountered flak on Capitol Hill.

Contractors are to operate most of the equipment, and past controversies that involved Pentagon and State Department contractors, including the company formerly known as Blackwater, have left some lawmakers leery.

"The fact that we're transitioning from one poorly managed contracting effort to another part of the federal government that has not excelled at this function either is not particularly comforting," said Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

"It's one thing" for contractors to be "peeling potatoes" and driving trucks, McCaskill told McClatchy. "It's another thing for them to be deploying MRAPs and Black Hawk helicopters."

"I know there's a lot of bad choices here," the senator said, adding that she'd choose using the U.S. military to protect diplomats in Iraq. "That's a resource issue."

Claire McCaskill has a 95% rating from the Americans for Democratic Action and was one of the earliest and most ardent Obama campaigners during the primaries and the general election. Perhaps we should keep an eye on other ultra-liberal Democrats in House and Senate to see who else has little trust in the probity and command ability of Gen. Hillary.

Meanwhile, conservatives should oppose the scheme -- I would hope! -- as clearly violative of the United States Constitution, which vests all military command in the president, in his role as Commander in Chief. It's akin to giving a mere cabinet member authority to sign or veto congressional legislation: It subverts our very form of government.

Perhaps between the anti-victory liberals and the pro-Constitution conservatives, we can nip this very, very bad precedent in the bud and do what even McCaskill proposes: Just renegotiate the blasted agreement to allow a protective military force to remain in order to prevent our diplomats and aid workers being shot, blown up, or beheaded.

Honestly, we don't need an American viceroy.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 23, 2010, at the time of 6:56 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

February 17, 2010

Were Iraq Election Candidates Blocked by Iran?

Iran Matters , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Gen. Ray Odierno, our top military commander in Iraq, has made a disturbing accusation that clarifies the previously inexplicable action by Iraq's Accountability and Justice Commission. In January, the AJC barred more than 350 Sunni candidates from the March 7th parliamentary elections, claiming they had "ties" to Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party.

While some of the banned candidates were high-ranking members, thus should be preventing from running, most were minor funcitonaries; during the reign of the Baathists, it was virtually impossible for Sunnis to serve in the government without joining, or at least having close ties to, the Baath Party... just as anyone wishing to progress in German politics under Hitler would have to be Nazi Party member or associate. By banning everyone who was in any way connected with the Baath Party, the AJC in effect banned every viable Sunni candidate from the election, a blatant political attack on the Sunni bloc.

Many Iraq-watchers were taken by surprise, because the action puts the entire election in jeopardy. Why would Iraqis want to throw a monkey wrench into their own political future? Gen. Odierno believes he has the answer; from the Washington Times article:

The Iraqi official in charge of a commission that blocked more than 300 politicians from running in next month's elections is working closely with Iran's Quds Force, prompting the top U.S. general in Iraq to voice concerns about Tehran's meddling in Iraq's fragile democracy.

Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, in a speech, accused Ali Faisal al-Lami, the executive director of the Accountability and Justice Commission along with Ahmad Chalabi, the panel's chairman, of being "clearly influenced by Iran."

Gen. Odierno said both men, according to intelligence reports, were in close contact with Abu-Mahdi al-Muhandis, the top Iraqi adviser to Iran's Quds Force commander. The Quds Force comprises Iran's unconventional military units, which have orchestrated anti-U.S. paramilitary and political operations in Iraq.

Ahmad Chalabi is working for Iran? Surprise, surprise, on the Jungle River Cruise tonight! But it's a grave turn of events that al-Qods is also working hand-in-sock-puppet with the Accountability and Justice Commission, who are running the election. As Odierno says, "It is disappointing that someone like [al-Lami] is put in charge of the de-Ba'athification commission."

Odierno says intelligence reports indicate that al-Lami, the AJC executive director, even planned an attack on American forces and Iraqi military and civilian officials in Sadr City.. which by strange coincidence happens to be the stronghold of Iranian minion Muqtada Sadr and his mighty "Mahdi Militia."

Here we see the dazzling genius of President Barack H. Obama's decision to pull troops out of Iraq according to a pre-determined timeline, regardless of facts on the ground: Iran's agents know that if they can ride out the next few months, America will quit the field. Iran will have a free hand to meddle in Iraq's internal affairs to their black heart's content.

Unless, of course, the Obamacle suddenly finds the huevos to stand up to Iran... as he has clearly shown so often in the past year.

But a military crisis may be about to overwhelm the Obamatrons; for Gen. Odierno plans to "re-evaluate the pace of troop reductions in Iraq within 60 days after the March 7 elections in Iraq." One presumes this will include a written report, the terms of which are sure to leak out.

If, as seems likely, Odierno recommends slowing the withdrawal and doing more to fight against al-Qods and other Iranian incursions into Iraq, then what will B.O. do? Will he cave, as he has so far on closing Guantanamo Bay, thus enraging the Left? Or will be be compelled by mounting leftist frustration to draw his foot in the sand, going ahead with the original withdrawal plan regardless of what his own top general says -- thus further eroding voters' respect for his military acumen and leadership (such as they are)?

Either horn of that particular dilemma will damage his political standing. But then, actions -- and particularly inactions -- have consequences. In an ironic twist, Barack Obama may soon be forced to announce that the Obama who insisted upon a firm withdrawal date... is not the Obama he knew.

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 17, 2010, at the time of 3:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 18, 2009

Oil Follies - and a Gentle Suggestion

Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

Today, Iran sent troops into Iraqi territory and seized one of Iraq's oil wells.

This is nothing new; it evidently happens several times every year:

The field is about 500 metres (yards) from an Iranian border fort and about 1 kilometre from an Iraqi border fort, US Colonel Peter Newell said, adding that it falls on the Iraqi side of a border agreed between the two countries.

There are five other similar fields that also fall into disputed territory, he said. [The territory is only "disputed" because Iran covets it. -- DaH]

"What happens is, periodically, about every three or four months, the oil ministry guys from Iraq will go ... to fix something or do some maintenance. They'll paint it in Iraqi colours and throw an Iraqi flag up.

"They'll hang out there for a while, until they get tired, and as soon as they go away, the Iranians come down the hill and paint it Iranian colours and raise an Iranian flag. It happened about three months ago and it will probably happen again."

In keeping with the absurdity of Obamunism, everyone -- Americans and Iraqis alike -- is desperate for a "diplomatic" solution:

"There has been no violence related to this incident and we trust this will be resolved through peaceful diplomacy between the governments of Iraq and Iran," a US military spokesman told AFP at Contingency Operating Base Adder, just outside the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah.

"The oil field is in disputed territory in between Iranian and Iraqi border forts," he said, adding that such incidents occur quite frequently.

To which I respond, "Well there's yer problem right there!"

Nations always have disputes between them... but territorial integrity is the first and most basic component of sovereignty: If a country cannot hang onto its own territory, it may as well hang it up; it's not really a nation.

(And before anyone starts shouting about immigration, yes I believe that a country must be able to control who crosses its borders; but no, we are not being "invaded" by Mexicans. Immigrants are not invaders; they're guests. They may be unwelcome and unwanted guests, but that doesn't make families the equivalent of heavily armed Iranian soldiers.)

Iraq has been entirely too complacent for entirely too long about so-called "disputed" territory; worse, this lackadaisical attitude, in the Age of Barack H. Obama, has even infected the American military forces in Iraq. This is unacceptable; it's primitivism. And rather than enable it, we should help the Iraqis stamp it out and shift to a modernist conception of sovereign territory.

(The same could be said, by the way, about Japan's complacency when South Korea declares the island of Takeshima part of the Republic of Korea, or when Russia plants its flag on the four disputed islands in the Kuril Island chain, in violation of the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1951.)

So I have a suggestion; it should be familiar to our Commander in Chief, coming from Chicago... but it appears he has never heard of such a thing, so I'll enlighten him:

  1. For right now, send a combined U.S. and Iraqi force into the area; the Iranians will amble on out, smirking. We linger at the border for a few weeks, then withdraw. (This step is necessary to feign weakness and set the Iranians up for step 3.)
  2. Inform Iran that this is the last time they will enter the Abu Gharb oil field, the Iraqi side of the al-Fakkah field, or any other Iraqi oil field... but don't tell them what will happen if they do. We keep troops fairly nearby but not close enough to keep the Iranians from doing what comes naturally.
  3. Within a few months, Iran will do it again; we know they will, because we deliberately signalled weakness with step 1. This is the trigger for which we will be waiting: Our troops move into the region; the Iranians withdraw. But instead of stopping at the border, American troops move into Iranian territory, seize some of their oil wells (on the pretext that they are "disputed territory")... and sit on them.
  4. We invite Iraqi oil workers in to start pumping the oil from these wells and driving it back to Iraq. The idea is not just to chase Iran out of Iraq but to force them to serve penance for their sins.
  5. We hold the wells for six months; then we tell Iran that this seizure was their one warning: The next time Iran invades any portion of Iraq, these wells and unspecified other assets will be annexed to Iraq... permanently.

If we are to introduce Iraq into the community of civilized nations, we must first induce them to break from their bad, old Arab traditions that turn nationalism on its head and keep them a backwards, "third world" nation with a few trappings of modernity. Until they think of themselves as a sovereign nation, nationalism will never trump tribalism.

Such a jump is impossible in Afghanistan, at least anytime in the forseeable future; all we can do there is maintain a more or less "tribal-democratic" government (where each tribe gets a vote -- in the form of each person voting) and keep the Taliban and their ilk out of power. But Iraq can be so much more; they can be a powerful American ally in the Middle East into the future. But we must encourage them to stop thinking like their neighbors and start thinking like us.

We cannot allow them to revert to their former ways; the danger to the United States would be dire.

Alas, this is all fantasy: Barack Obama cannot "feign" weakness because he is weak, and only the strong dare such pretense to draw an attack -- an expected attack -- and turn it back on the enemy. Perhaps someday Iran will school Obama on what it means to act from strength, not submission.

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 18, 2009, at the time of 11:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 12, 2009

"I Reject Your Reality..."

Afghan Astonishments , Iraq Matters , Military Machinations , Presidential Peculiarities and Pomposities
Hatched by Dafydd

"...And substitute my own!"

So reads a t-shirt often worn by Adam Savage, one of the two original starts of the Discovery Channel's series Mythbusters, which I have slavishly watched since the very first episode (I think that was the episode where they busted the myth of the rocket-propelled car launching into the air).

The tee commemorates a pithy summary Adam Savage delivered on the show, I can even remember whether he meant it optimistically or sarcastically: "I reject your reality and substitute my own!" I remember Adam saying that, but I can't recall now what precipitated the remark. But after today, I suggest he send his wonderful t-shirt to another fellow who now has a greater claim to it: President Barack H. Obama.

Take a look and tell me I'm exaggerating:

President Barack Obama rejected the Afghanistan war options before him and asked for revisions, his defense secretary said Thursday, after the U.S. ambassador in Kabul argued that a significant U.S. troop increase would only prop up a weak, corruption-tainted government.

"I'm not happy with the options reality has offered me; I demand you produce new fantasy options more to my liking!"

Let's take an Eikenberry detour. Yes indeed, he was once a military commander in Afghanistan; but he's not the commander now, and he hasn't been for well over two years -- during which time the situation has changed dramatically. Note that he also left before Gen. David Petraeus achieved such a thorough and remarkable victory in Iraq using a very similar strategy.

In 2007, as the Iraq COIN was picking up, Eikenberry was named Deputy Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, and NATO was not officially involved in the Iraq War (as they are in Afghanistan). Thus I see no evidence that Eikenberry has spent any significant time studying the Iraq COIN -- or even talking to David Petraeus, who, as Commander of CENTCOM, is now McChrystal's boss.

Nor was Ambassador Eikenberry a COIN specialist when he wore a uniform instead of a suit. So why should his advice trump McChrystal's in the Obamacle's mind? (Except for the obvious explanation: Because what Eikenberry says, by happenstance or design, precisely matches what Obama wants to hear.)

Eikenberry's argument for why we should abandon Afghanistan is not exactly subtle; I think it boils down to the peculiar idea that the purpose of a counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy is to "prop-up" the existing government, whatever it may be; therefore, since we don't like the fellow that Afghan voters elected, Hamid Karzai, we shouldn't prop it up by implementing a COIN strategy. Instead, we should focus on "training" the indiginous Afghan troops.

Most others experts on the subject I've read -- I'm certainly not an expert, so I must rely on others, such as Fred Kagen or David Petraeus -- seem to believe the purpose of COIN is to improve civilian security throughout the country, thus to enlist civilian support for the war effort against the insurgents and deny the latter the chaos and collapse they need to seize the government.

It needn't incorporate any support for the specific civilian government at all, just for the concept of democratic voting. All we need from Karzai is that he not interfere with Afghan troops' participation in COIN-related joint patrols and operations... which is, incidentally, exactly how we go about training the local forces, both military and tribal militia, in the first place. No joint ops -- no training.

Here is the Eikenberry thesis on display:

Obama's ambassador, Karl Eikenberry, who is also a former commander in Afghanistan, twice in the last week voiced strong dissent against sending large numbers of new forces, according to an administration official. That puts him at odds with the current war commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who is seeking thousands more troops.

Eikenberry's misgivings, expressed in classified cables to Washington, highlight administration concerns that bolstering the American presence in Afghanistan could make the country more reliant on the U.S., not less. He expressed his objections just ahead of Obama's latest war meeting Wednesday.

But there is an even more disturbing possibility: If AP is accurately recounting Eikenberry's objections (and I don't know that to be the case), then he, too, believes that Gen. Stanley McChrystal's recommendations consist of nothing but "send 40,000 more troops" -- rather than "implement a COIN strategy, then decide how many troops we need." (McChrystal adds, "Psst... it turns out to be about 40,000 more than we have right now"). This would put the former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan in the same conceptual box as the elite news media.

It's hard to swallow the contention that a former lieutenant general (that's a 3-banger) in the United States Army would be blissfully unaware of what counterinsurgency strategy is, and how it differs from a counter-terrorism strategy... where we "fire a $2 million missile at a $10 empty tent and hit a camel in the butt". I hope that's not the problem. But if not, then what makes Eikenberry think he's more fit to opine on Afghanistan than the general that Barack Obama himself hand-picked to do just that? (And who is, as I understand it, an expert on COIN strategy.)

(There is a third, even more disturbing possibility: That Eikenberry knows very well that McChrystal is right, that a COIN strategy is the only one that leads to victory; but the ambassador believes that victory is the last thing Obama wants. In that case, Eikenberry may be quietly conspiring to lose the war, either to give Obama's leftist supporters the terrible American defeat they demand, or to deny President Bush the victory he earned. Or both. I certainly hope this is not what's going through Eikenberry's mind!)

But back to the One, who is ultimately calling the shots here. His philosophy of "I reject your reality and substitute my own" is, in fact, the standard modus vivendi of liberalism. As in:

  • "I reject the reality that one must work hard, or at least smart, to live well; I substitute the reality where I can sit around and smoke pot all day but still receive a national income (big enough to pay for my dope)."
  • "I reject the reality that says the best remedy for bad speech is more good speech; I substitute the reality where we can simply outlaw or ban bad speech, and then all that will be left is good speech."
  • "I reject the reality that increasing health-insurance demand (via mandate) while decreasing supply (by driving companies out of business) will result in much more expensive insurance; I substitute the reality where a complete government takeover will lower costs, improve care, and expand the pool of those covered."
  • "I reject the reality that we need cheap energy; I substitute the reality where we can tax the hell out of it, raise energy costs through the roof (as Obama himself gleefully predicted), declare more and more energy sources off-limits, and therefore make America stronger and more prosperous."
  • "I reject the reality that doubling taxation of the average Joe will leave him with less money to spend; I substitute the reality where doubling taxation results in an explosion of new economic growth, causing the economy to take off like a rocket."
  • "I reject the reality that Israel needs the ability to defend itself, or it will be destroyed; I substitute the reality where, if Israel will only give the Palestinians everything they want, while demanding nothing in return, the latter will be so grateful they will become fast friends with the Jewish state." (Alternatively: "I reject the reality that Jews should be allowed to have a state; I substitute the reality where Jews are so uniquely evil that they are the only "race" who should be barely-tolerated strangers wherever they live.")

To the liberal, reality is infinitely malleable: If you don't like it, just hold your breath, close your eyes, strain really hard, and intensely visualize the new reality. When you open your eyes and gasp in a lungful, the new reality will miraculously have been subbed in!

This seems to work in some environments but not others. It works great in Hollywood; and it works reasonably well in two-party politics -- averaging out to being successful about half the time. However, it doesn't seem to work much at all in warfare, where the default reality has a depressing way of contradicting the happy-facers, rudely and abruptly.

Alas, even that catastrophe could play into the hand of Barack Obama and his incompetocracy; after bargaining down the number of troops we need -- and implementing Slow Joe Biden's counter-terrorism strategy, rather than a COIN strategy -- we might be handed a signal, Vietnam-style defeat. Then B.O. could declare:

  1. "Clearly this means the war was unwinnable from the beginning, and my predecessor should never have invaded Afghanistan in the first place."
  2. "I gave the policy of the previous administration every opportunity; I even sent more troops -- not once, but twice! It's time to admit that the whole adventure was a terrible miscalculation, pull out, accept that defeat was inevitable, and MoveOn."
  3. "Now the whole country understands why I have embarked upon a new era of Strategic Reassurance, talking to our enemies without preconditions, instead of the "cowboy militarism" of the Republican Party.

    "We're going to redouble our efforts to talk Iran and North Korea into doing what's best for America, rather than what's best for themselves. I know we've tried it again and again, and it's never worked yet; but by the Law of Averages, that means we're due to hit the jackpot really soon now!"

In the long run, I don't think a strategy of denying reality is a military winner; and a long-run strategy of hoping for American defeat will not be a political winner in 2010 or 2012. But as John Maynard Keynes is reputed to have said, "In the long run, we're all dead."

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 12, 2009, at the time of 5:55 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 17, 2009

General Jones Flipped Here

Afghan Astonishments , Iraq Matters , Israel Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Consider this post an addendum to our last, Gen. Jones Scoffs at Afghanistan "Surge" - Just Like Failed Iraq "Surge!".

Scott Johnson at Power Line points us to a Michael Goldfarb post on the Weekly Standard blog revealing an astonishing decision by our ancient enemy, President Barack H. Obama's National Security Advisor, Gen. Jim Jones.

As a tiny handful of you may recall, towards the end of our previous post, we noted a disturbing tendency of the top brass in all branches of the military; this trend may become determinative in Jones' final decision whether to support or oppose the recommendation of Gen. Stanley McChrystal that we switch to a counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy in Afghanistan, which would require adding 40,000 troops. We wrote:

It's not clear whether Jones is himself an anti-war leftist, but it's not uncommon for top generals to drift left as they progress up the heirarchy. It often seems that the bigger the command, the more the commandant "grows in office;" cf. Eric Shinseki, Anthony Zinni, and of course the ultimate recent example, Colin Powell. It's not hard to explain; at the highest levels of command, a general or admiral is less like a military leader and more like a cabinet secretary. Those who head up gargantuan bureaucracies tend to believe in big-bureaucracy solutions to all problems... witness Powell insisting that we could not depose Saddam Hussein without a buildup of half a million troops.

Powell must have known that was impossible; thus, had his advice been accepted, we could not have invaded Iraq at all -- which would have suited Powell (and Shinseki and Zinni, and probably Jones) just fine.

Then we asked and partially answered the critical question:

Does that make such a general a leftist? In the limited sense of having a more Eurocentric (or even more European) viewpoint, yes it does. The reason that European armies typically refuse to fight is that they can't risk their soldiers' lives on anything smaller than the tank battles of the North-Africa campaign. This fits well with the so-called Powell Doctrine: Never send troops unless it's worth refighting World War II... which of course it never seems to be.

In addition to the other strands of evidence we presented, we now have a new piece of the puzzle, via the Weekly Standard blogpost linked above.

There exists a group that calls itself "J Street;" J Street claims to be pro-peace and pro-Israel but is easily demonstrated to be just the opposite: It's pro-Palestinian and very, very anti-Israel, to the point of being antisemitic, in my opinion -- notwithstanding the fact that most members are ethnically Jewish and many are religious Jews as well.

(How can that be? In my worldview, one kind of antisemitism is to insist that of all the peoples in the world, only the Jews have no right to a homeland and must remain nervous, barely tolerated guests in other people's countries. This definition holds no matter the cultural or religious affiliation of the bigot doing the insisting. There are self-hating Jews, just as there are self-hating blacks, gays, and conservatives.)

As Power Line reported, J Street is holding its first annual feast and gabfest soon, and a great many Democratic senators and representatives have signed aboard as "hosts." Alas, so did a couple of Republicans; but it was clear from the outset that many of these sponsors, even many of the Democrats, were fooled by the seemingly pro-Israel rhetoric of J Street: These hosts weren't Israel or Jew haters; they were just useful idiots.

In the last few days, as word hit the street about J Street, their "Gala Dinner" has been shedding sponsors like my old Alaskan Husky used to shed fleas. From the Weekly Standard blogpost:

The anti-Israel organization J Street has been hemorraghing sponsors for its conference as Senators and Congressmen learned of its true agenda. Just in the last few hours, Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Reps. Michael McCaul (R-TX) and Leonard Boswell (D-IA), have asked to have their names removed from the host committee. [Sen. Thad Cochran, R-MS, 68%, demanded yesterday that J Street withdraw his name as well. -- DaH]

And then comes the kicker, which is the point of this post that you are reading now...

So J Street has played its hole card: Obama national security advisor Jim Jones has accepted an invitation to participate.

And we now have not just a squabble over J Street. We now have a "teachable moment" about the Obama White House.

To tote up some of the positions of J Street, I must combine information dug up by Michael Goldfarb, Paul Mirengoff, and Scott Johnson:

  • Avrum Burg, former speaker of Israel's Knesset (parliament), is closely associated with J Street; he declared that "to define the State of Israel as a Jewish state is the key to its end," then went on to compare Israel to "pre-Nazi Germany."
  • Prominent J Street member Henry Siegman compared Israel to South Africa under apartheid; he also appears to support the Walt and Mearsheimer conspiracy theory about a "Jewish lobby" that controls the American government (search on Power Line for many posts about this offensive and antisemitic absurdity -- enthusiastically and monetarily endorsed by Israel's great friend, former President Jimmy Carter);
  • J Street receives much of its funding from Arab-American and Moslem-American organizations, as well as from Palestinian and Iranian lobbying groups;
  • J Street is "bitterly hostile to the democratically-elected government of Israel" (especially now, under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu);
  • Another luminary invited to speak at the Gala Dinner is "poet" Josh Healey, who suggests that Israel is at least metaphorically "writing numbers on the wrists of babies born in the ghetto called Gaza," yet another equation of Israel to the Nazis; Healy extols a march he joined for "Palestinian solidarity."

With the notable exception of the Obamacle's high priest, Chief of Staff Rahm Israel Emanuel (yes that's his full name), the most consistently leftist members of Obama's cabinet and administration have adopted anti-Israelism as a core element of their leftist foreign policy: That is, they blame Israel, not Iran, for nearly all the violence in the Middle East and demand "concessions" that would, in fact, be an Israeli suicide pact.

Gen. Jones eagerness to participate in the Gala Dinner of such a group as J Street is a very strong indicator that, at least with regard to foreign policy, he is indeed a leftist, aligning himself much more with antisemites Samantha Power, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Jimmy Carter than with Israel supporters like Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT, 85% liberal) or Charles "Chuck" Schumer (D-NY, 100%).

Is it too hard to believe that if Jones is in bed with Power -- policywise, I mean; get your rmind out of the gutter! -- on the demonization of Israel, that he's likely to agree with her position, and that of the others in Obama's leftist bloc (including the One Himself), on Afghanistan?

Asked and answered.

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 17, 2009, at the time of 2:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 16, 2009

Gen. Jones Scoffs at Afghanistan "Surge" - Just Like Failed Iraq "Surge!"

Afghan Astonishments , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

I had forgotten this, but President Barack H. Obama's National Security Advisor, former Marine Corps Gen. Jim Jones, in Fall, 2007, called for an early abandonment of Gen. David Petraeus' counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy in Iraq -- just before it began to show significant progress that led, less than a year later, to a widely acknowledged victory:

In September 2007, Mr. Jones led a study that called for withdrawing forces, effectively ending President Bush's troop surge. "Significant reductions, consolidations, and realignments would appear to be possible and prudent," that report concluded.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democrat Nevada, cited the Jones report as evidence that the troop surge had failed.

"It is discouraging that the president stubbornly claims his failed policy is working even as this latest report describes many Iraqi security forces as focused more on fostering civil war than on suppressing it," he said.

Jones was doing the bidding of the anti-war Left then, and he appears to be doing the same now; in fact, like other lefties, he dismisses Gen. Stanley McChrystal's own COIN recommendation for Afghanistan as nothing more than a troop increase, as opposed to a complete change of strategy:

In an interview with The Washington Times, the former Marine general and NATO commander acknowledged his views on Afghanistan have soured in the three years since he left the military. He said security in Afghanistan had deteriorated "because of the [U.S.] failure to see the interaction of security, development, and governance and rule of law." [Darn that previous administration!]

"I think that is coming clear in spades now, that the failure -- the tendency to focus so much on troop strength and not enough on the other factors, the development of the national Afghan police, for example which was on life support for so many years, the development of the Afghan National Army, which has never really gone fast enough - those are things that as we developed a strategy that was released in March were clearly highlighted. And now everybody is turning full-scale attention to them," Mr. Jones said....

Mr. Jones told CNN on Sunday, "I think the end is much more complex than just about adding 'X' number of troops. Afghanistan is a country that's quite large and that swallows up a lot of people."

Despite his earlier study group's warning that the war effort was in danger of faltering, he said on CNN, " I don't foresee the return of the Taliban and I want to be very clear that Afghanistan is not in imminent danger of falling."

In 2006-7, the cry from the Left was that Iraq was unwinnable. It was the wrong war anyway; we should just declare defeat and yank out the troops, let Iraq go to hell in a handmaiden, and shift all those troops to Afghanistan -- the war we should be fighting! As many have noted, to a liberal, whichever war we're currently fighting is the wrong war; the only good war is the one we're not fighting yet, or which ranks lower on the threat table.

Jones led a war-study group then that concluded the Afghanistan war (the one we should be fighting) was in danger of "faltering" and required many more troops; he opined that the Iraq "surge" had clearly failed, and we should pull troops out of Iraq and send them to Afghanistan... just what then Sen. Obama was saying, among many other liberal Democrats.

But now the Left (except for Cindy Sheehan) has largely abandoned opposition to the Iraq war -- since we inconveniently won it -- and instead focused its ire on Afghanistan... which has become the new "wrong war;" we should be focusing on Pakistan! Behold, Gen. Jones turns on a dime and clearly signals that we thinks we should not "surge" 40,000 troops, we should not switch to the previously successful COIN strategy, and we should not accept Gen. McChrystal's recommendation.

Gone is "the interaction of security, development, and governance and rule of law;" it's time to abandon the failed Afghanistan war and MoveOn.

Do we detect a pattern here?

It's not clear whether Jones is himself an anti-war leftist, but it's not uncommon for top generals to drift left as they progress up the heirarchy. It often seems that the bigger the command, the more the commandant "grows in office;" cf. Eric Shinseki, Anthony Zinni, and of course the ultimate recent example, Colin Powell. It's not hard to explain; at the highest levels of command, a general or admiral is less like a military leader and more like a cabinet secretary. Those who head up gargantuan bureaucracies tend to believe in big-bureaucracy solutions to all problems... witness Powell insisting that we could not depose Saddam Hussein without a buildup of half a million troops.

Powell must have known that was impossible; thus, had his advice been accepted, we could not have invaded Iraq at all -- which would have suited Powell (and Shinseki and Zinni, and probably Jones) just fine.

Does that make such a general a leftist? In the limited sense of having a more Eurocentric (or even more European) viewpoint, yes it does. The reason that European armies typically refuse to fight is that they can't risk their soldiers' lives on anything smaller than the tank battles of the North-Africa campaign. This fits well with the so-called Powell Doctrine: Never send troops unless it's worth refighting World War II... which of course it never seems to be.

Too, James Jones became quite chummy with two senators in 2007: Hillary Clinton and Lindsey Graham (R-SC, 82%). Both follow the liberal line on war; Graham, for example, is further to the left on questions of terrorism intelligence than Sen. John McCain (R-AZ, 63%) (Graham's higher ACU rating comes from policies unrelated to the war against the Iran/al-Qaeda axis). And of course, he twice refused Condoleezza Rice's offer to become Deputy Secretary of State in the Bush administration but appears to have jumped at the chance to be National Security Advisor in the Obama Administration. Perhaps he just found being NSA more attractive than being a deputy secretary... but it's hard not to conclude he found the current administration more congenial politically, as well.

I believe that the One chose Jim Jones as National Security Advisor precisely because of his willingness to accomodate the anti-war Left's party line, no matter how many knots he must tie himself into; and if Jones wants to keep his job, he knows his duty: Rather than advise the president, he must echo whatever flippant argument Obama invokes against the war we're actually fighting, preferring some hypothetical martial struggle somewhere else, at some future time (and preferably on some other president's watch).

I believe Gen. Jones has already decided to keep his job.

Cross-posted to Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 16, 2009, at the time of 6:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 30, 2009

Withdrawing from Afghanistan, Plus Future Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. Pinch Me, I'm Dreaming

Afghan Astonishments , Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , Military Machinations , Obama Nation , Pakistan Perplexities , Terrorism Intelligence , Terrorist Attacks , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

I just heard Bill Kristol on the Hugh Hewitt show dropping a couple of political bombshells:

  1. First, Kristol now believes for the first time that President Barack H. Obama is paving the groundwork for rejecting Gen. Stanley McChrystal's recommendation of a COIN strategy for Afghanistan, including increasing troop levels.

Note that it was the Obamacle Himself who appointed McChrystal to head up his present commands, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A), just three months ago; and he it was who ordered McChrystal to undertake a complete review of the Afghanistan policy.

I suspect Obama expected McChrystal to recommend declaring defeat and pulling out. But in response to Obama's order, McChrystal released a 66-page report to continuing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that called for significantly increasing troop levels there and redeploying the force in a counterinsurgency mode, similar to Iraq.

Ever since, as several bloggers have argued (notably John Hinderaker at Power Line), Obama has acted like a man who deeply regrets having picked an actual fighting general in the first place -- and who wants to prepare the American people for the complete rejection of his own appointee's report, in favor of a phased withdrawal from "the war we should be fighting," as some guy named Barack Obama called it during the campaign (in contrast to Iraq, the war we were supposed to lose, one presumes).

  1. Second, and far more shocking, is some political intel that Kristol received from a person who is in "cose contact" with top Defense officials: That holdover George W. Bush Defense Secretary Bob Gates will be asked by Obama to step down at the end of the year... and that Obama plans to name former senator Chuck Hagel, who never met a war he didn't want us to withdraw from, as his new Secretary of Retreat and Defeat.

Hagel was an infantry grunt in Vietnam for two years, leaving shortly after the Tet Offensive; that experience seems to have colored his attitude towards all subsequent conflicts: He sometimes votes for them (as for example the Iraq war); but as soon as the going gets tough, Hagel demands an immediate and aggressive surrender.

  • He was one of only four Republicans in July 2007 who voted in favor of cloture on a bill to force withdrawal from Iraq starting 120 days from that vote; the other three were Olympia Snowe (ME, 12%), Susan Collins (ME, 20%), and Gordon Smith of Oregon, liberals all.
  • In railing against the Iraq COIN strategy of Gen. David Petraeus, Hagel called it "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it's carried out." (I don't recall Hagel ever issuing an apology, or even a statement, after the Petraeus strategy proved decisive in our victory in Iraq.)
  • Speaking about Israeli's incursion into Lebanon to stop Hezbollah's rocket attacks on their northern cities, Hagel blurted out:

    "The sickening slaughter on both sides must end and it must end now.... President Bush must call for an immediate cease-fire. This madness must stop."...

    "How do we realistically believe that a continuation of the systematic destruction of an American friend -- the country and people of Lebanon -- is going to enhance America's image and give us the trust and credibility to lead a lasting and sustained peace effort in the Middle East?" asked Hagel, the No. 2 Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Yes, the perfect man to defend America -- Barack Obama style. I can just picture the furious and manly letters of strong disapproval Hagel will shoot off whenever some dictator funds and gives safe haven to a terrorist group while they blow up another American embassy.

Currently, Chuck Hagel is Chairman of the Board of the Atlantic Council, a foreign-policy think tank cum policy advocacy group that appears to lean heavily towards diplomacy above everything -- talking loudly and forgetting to bring any stick at all, big or small. (E.g., its International Advisory Board is headed by Brent Scowcroft and includes Zbigniew Brzezinski, Richard Edelman, Lawrence H. Summers, and a huge inflation of bankers and CEOs of vast multinational corporations.)

Hagel replaced outgoing Chairman Jim Jones, who was tapped to serve as Obama's National Security Advisor; Jones was last seen offering what we called "the weirdest explanation to date for cancelling the long-range ballistic-missile defense system in Eastern Europe -- while simultaneously betraying our allies, Poland and the Czech Republic."

Since the Jim Jones appointment as security sock puppet worked out so well for Obama, it certainly seems plausible that he would go back to the same well to draw out a bucketful of Defense Secretary. Admittedly, Kristol just lost his father, Irving Kristol; but it was hardly the sort of shocking or unanticipated demise that might throw William Kristol into a blue funk and darken his normal optimism.

The threatened appointment of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense would be catastrophic for the war efforts, all of them: Iraq, Afghanistan, the war against the Iran/al-Qaeda axis, intelligence gathering, interrogations, dealing with Pakistan, North Korea, China, Russia... and of course, Hagel would be a disaster for Israel, as he would almost certainly back Obama to the hilt in the latter's quest to force Israel back to the indefensible borders of the pre-Six Day War era. (In exchange for the Palestinian's promise that they might seriously consider deciding whether or not to recognize Israel sometime in the distant and not very likely future.)

Appointing Hagel would seriously diminish our ability to protect our allies or even defend ourselves, and in general would signal the end of American power and leadership in the world, at least for a while (say until 2013). Therefore, I conclude that Obama is already plotting to make the appointment.

I must also conclude that the Senate will swiftly approve the nominee; Hagel was once one of them... therefore, "comity of the Senate" and all that, Republicans will probably support him, though he rarely supported them while in that august body.

And there you have it, your recommended minimum daily allowance of political pessimism and national-defense despair.

Cross-posted (of course) to Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 30, 2009, at the time of 5:39 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 22, 2009

Withdraw for Peace!

Iraq Matters , Military Machinations , Obama Nation , Opinions: Nasty, Brutish, and Shortsighted
Hatched by Dafydd

I've been pondering the new Obamic strategy for Iraq: Withdraw from joint patrols to a Fortress of Solitude, withdraw from the successful counterinsurgency strategy (COIN) of Gen. David Petraeus, and announce to the entire world exactly when we are going to withdraw from Iraq altogether. How has that worked out so far?

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari on Saturday alleged there had been collaboration between Iraqi security forces and the insurgents whose massive truck bombings killed 95 people three days ago.

Zebari, whose ministry lost 32 workers in the blast at its headquarters, admitted the attacks were a serious security setback and that the government had failed to protect its citizens.

Wednesday's bombings at the ministeries of foreign affairs and finance culminated in the worst day of violence seen in the conflict-hit country in 18 months, with around 600 people also wounded.

It's not that the entire war is falling apart, mind; it's just a small setback -- set back to about 2006, that is, the nadir of the failed "containment" strategy, in which we cached American forces in moated castles, whence they would sally forth to engage any passing enemy army.

The hallmark of COIN was the remarkable cooperation we got from Shia, Sunni, and Kurd, once we made it clear that we were willing to patrol, fight, and if necessary, die alongside Iraqi forces to protect the Iraqi people. It was that commitment to civilian security that finally turned the tide, snatching victory in 2007-8 from the jaws of a 2006 defeat.

But our new Commander in Chief has other ideas; we no longer patrol with Iraqi forces, fight alongside them, or concern ourselves much with protecting the civilian population. Evidently, Barack H. Obama believes that the two years we've been building up the Iraqi military and civilian infrastructure should be plenty. "Enough!" as he is fond of saying in many contexts. It's been such an incredibly long time that surely our Iraqi partners can stand on their own hands by now.

Let's see... we spent fourteen years (1899-1913) in the Philippine jungles, building up indiginous forces (Philippine Scouts) and inculcating Filipinos with radical ideas such as the rule of law and the evil of involuntary slavery, before we could finally put down the Moro (Moslem) Rebellion and set up a functioning civilian republic. That country is still functioning today, with a vibrant economy (after a recession in the 1980s caused by their brief flirtation with socialism under Ferdinand Marcos), and still strongly allied with the United States. This is the model of a successful counterinsurgency followed by successful nation-building.

By contrast, France under Charles De Gaulle -- whipsawed by the socialists abroad and the French Communist Party at home -- pulled their troops out of Algeria prematurely, only three years after the French COIN strategy finally suppressed the Front de Libération Nationale; thus they never gave the 60% majority of Algerians who opposed complete "independence" from France their opportunity to erect civic institutions and security forces to protect and defend the liberties of a free people. And today, the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria is a socialist totalitarian regime with much closer ties to the Middle East than the West.

President Barack H. Obama carefully pondered these historical examples, analyzed them with his unequaled military acumen... then decided to follow the French example. (Of course!) Ergo, today in Iraq...

Zebari said Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had ordered the arrest of 11 senior security officers on Thursday so they could be questioned on how a four-tonne truck had entered an area where even two-tonne vehicles were barred.

He also made the first official admission that the blasts signalled that security gains made in the past year were under serious strain following a series of deadly attacks in recent months.

"They have been moving their attacks... now they have focused on their main concern, their main attention, on Baghdad and this is a dangerous and a serious development and a security setback," said Zebari.

"This has been going on for the last two months. Every week, every two weeks we see a wave of these bombings and killings of innocent people."

I picture Petraeus tearing his hair out in frustration, watching all the gains of COIN poured out onto the Iraqi sands. Our allies are starting to sound desperate, even plaintive:

But Zebari went further and called for a re-appraisal of the country's entire security apparatus as it was not, he said, obtaining sufficient intelligence to counter the enemy threat....

"Sometimes you can't fight these people with checkpoints. You should be mobile. You should go after them you, disrupt and penetrate their network to get human information. This is the key," he added.

Sadly, however, the real "key" would be a change of leadership here in the United States. That is beyond the grasp of Nouri al-Maliki, Hoshyar Zebari, or any other Iraqi; and the Iranian-backed terrorists in Iraq know they have at least three more years to slaughter and butcher before they must worry about that possibility.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 22, 2009, at the time of 10:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 18, 2009

The Price of Presidential Poltroonery

Iraq Matters , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

On July 2nd, the Iraq government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki unilaterally issued guidelines to the withdrawal of forces agreement; nothing could make more clear how much we have lost by not having President George W. Bush to kick around anymore.

The sudden guidelines, which took American military commanders completely by surprise, included the demand that we cease all joint patrols with Iraqi forces:

In a curt missive issued by the Baghdad Operations Command on July 2 -- the day after Iraqis celebrated the withdrawal of U.S. troops to bases outside city centers -- Iraq's top commanders told their U.S. counterparts to "stop all joint patrols" in Baghdad. It said U.S. resupply convoys could travel only at night and ordered the Americans to "notify us immediately of any violations of the agreement"....

The new guidelines are a reflection of rising tensions between the two governments. Iraqi leaders increasingly see the agreement as an opportunity to show their citizens that they are now unequivocally in charge and that their dependence on the U.S. military is minimal and waning.

The new "guidelines" also reflect demands from Iran. What's next -- no Jewish Marines allowed in Iraq?

I am convinced this Iraqi betrayal would never have happened under President Bush; of all people in the world, Iraqis are most acutely aware of George W. Bush's resolve, his toughness, and his refusal to compromise American security, even to accomodate the vanity of an ally.

But the new administration is a different kettle of monkeys: Maliki understands that President Barack H. Obama is in full diplomatic retreat virtually everywhere, from Russia to North Korea to China -- even to our allies in Europe and Latin America. (Were I a psychologist or psychiatrist, I might speculate that his insensate hunger to meet other heads of state anytime, anywhere, for any reason, and without any preconditions is perhaps best understood as an unconscious need to be loved and approved, possibly due to being abandoned by his father; but I'm not, so I won't.)

In particular, Maliki sees the Obamacle kow-towing to Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, even to the extent of releasing the very Qods Force officers who have been directing the violence and murder by splinter groups of the Mahdi Miliia against not only American and Coalition forces but Iraqis as well:

The strict application of the agreement coincides with what U.S. military officials in Washington say has been an escalation of attacks against their forces by Iranian-backed Shiite extremist groups, to which they have been unable to fully respond....

A spate of high-casualty suicide bombings in Shiite neighborhoods, attributed to al-Qaeda in Iraq and related Sunni insurgent groups, has overshadowed the increase of attacks by Iran-backed Shiite extremists, U.S. official say....

The three primary groups -- Asaib al-Haq, Khataib Hezbollah and the Promised Day Brigades -- emerged from the "special groups" of the Jaish al-Mahdi (JAM) militia of radical Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, which terrorized Baghdad and southern Iraq beginning in 2006. All receive training, funding and direction from Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force.

"One of the things we still have to find out, as we pull out from the cities, is how much effectiveness we're going to have against some of these particular target sets," the military intelligence official said. "That's one of the very sensitive parts of this whole story."

Sensitive -- you think?

Does anybody believe that Barack Obama is ever going to crack down on Iran, in Iraq or anywhere else, so long as there is the faintest thread of a possibility in the One's mind that he can "talk Iran out of" building a nuclear bomb?

Does anybody think Obama would fight to preserve effective rules of engagement from depredations by the Iraqi Council of Representatives (acting as a stalking horse for Iran) -- or even from our own congressional defeatists trying, once again, to cripple our fighting ability?

Or would he just shrug and go with the flow? Especially if he is completely engrossed in trying to enact his domestic agenda to nationalize health care, the entire banking system, and all energy use; raise taxes back to Carter-era rates; and triple the national debt?

I think our military is quite chary of picking a fight with a tough enemy like Qods Force, unless they can be certain that the Commander in Chief will back our hand 100%. Since certainty is certainly lacking, considering the new CinC, I'm not sanguine about our willingness to go after those "three primary groups" of Shia attacking American forces in Iraq.

Worse, Iraqis are extremely sensitive to signs of their allies going wobbly; in the Middle East, an "ally" is a temporary arrangement subject to change at a moment's notice. If Iraqis gain the faintest sense that we cannot be relied upon, then they will find an ally who is more steadfast. Looking around, now that Bush is gone, there are but two other players in Iraq who have been there from the beginning and who appear determined to stay until the bitter end: al-Qaeda and Iran.

I worry that if Obama continues to send a message of weakness, vacillation, and subservience, the Iraqi Shia, in the face of an increasing tempo of attacks from the former, will naturally turn to the latter:

Maliki has occasionally criticized interference by Shiite Iran's Islamic government in Iraqi affairs. But he has also maintained close ties to Iran and has played down U.S. insistence that Iran is deeply involved, through the Quds Force, in training and controlling the Iraqi Shiite extremists.

U.S. intelligence has seen "no discernible increase in Tehran's support to Shia extremists in recent months," and the attack level is still low compared with previous years, U.S. counterterrorism official said. But senior military commanders maintained that Iran still supports the Shiite militias, and that their attacks now focus almost exclusively on U.S. forces.

With the replacement of George Bush by Barack Obama, the mullahs, the bloodthirsty, megalomaniacal, Twelver mullahs, may win after all; and all that blood and treasure will be flushed away. But the most galling part is this: After physically wrenching a brilliant victory around to a humiliating defeat, does anyone expect the One to accept responsibilty for his own stupid decisions?

Of course not; he'll blame Bush. Obama will crow that this proves he was right all along; the war was unwinnable from the start!

There is one possible saving grace: The troop-withdrawal agreement necessarily contains a lot of vagueness and ambiguity (this is, after all, the Middle East). We might interpret it to make Iraq's unnegotiated "guidelines" to withdrawal invalid.

Naturally, that would be a higher level decision than a mere military commander could make. It's political; it transcends strategy. Such a decision requires some stubbornness, resolution, military acumen, and just a little spine. And it must come from the political command, through the Department of Defense, the State Department, the intelligence agencies, and ultimately from the president himself.

Uh oh...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 18, 2009, at the time of 6:37 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 10, 2009

Obamunism II - the Infection Spreads

Iraq Matters , Liberal Lunacy , Media Madness , Obama Nation
Hatched by Dafydd

On Monday, in Obamunism - Through the Eyes of a Child, we lit into President Barack H. Obama for enunciating a very juvenile and immature philosophy, one based upon four pillars:

  • Dividing world actors into either heroes or villains (based on whether they're considered generally Left or Right, respectively), as in the comic books of earlier generations (oddly, many comics have a more sophisticated worldview today than does the president);
  • Misapprehending current events in a very superficial, childish way;
  • Rewriting the chaos of history to make it a more exciting and melodramatic story -- complete with plot, conflict, climax, and dénouement (resolution of the climax)... they remember things not the way they happened but the way they should have happened;
  • And magical thinking, in which deep, non-logical or paralogical connections exist between seemingly disconnected events or people, such that doing some apparently irrelevent thing (throwing the ring of power into a volcano) results in some vital consequence (the evil Sauron is destroyed).

Today, Friday -- bookending the week -- I have a perfect example of such pre-pubescent behavior; but this time, it's not just on the part of the president... it has spread through Western civilization at least as far as Merrie Olde England, as the Times (of London) joins in the juvenalia. Thus Obama does not merely enunciate a philosophy of childishness, he exemplifies what is rapidly becoming a movement of childishness.

In a straight-reporting article on Gen. Ray Odierno's fight in Iraq, primarily in the cities of Mosul and Diyala, we read the following description of the so-called "surge," which I prefer to call the counterinsurgency:

Despite the rise in the number of attacks, overall violence is still far below levels of two years ago when the surge of an extra 30,000 US forces -- a strategy created and implemented by General Odierno and his boss, General Petraeus -- was just getting started. That risk paid off, subduing a civil war that was killing thousands of Iraqi civilians and scores of American soldiers every month.

Let's take a look at that one paragraph. First of all, the definition of civil war is not "kills thousands of civilians and scores of soldiers every month." A civil war requires opposing armies -- each drawn from and led by citizens or subjects of the same country -- engaging in actual combat operations.

Neither of these was true in Iraq. There were initially two armies, that of Saddam Hussein and the one fielded by the American-led coalition. After the former collapsed and up until today, there has been only one army: the latter. In addition, there have been various home-staffed but generally foreign-led terrorist groups... and there is even a small force of militants fielded by a foreign power, Iran. But there is not now, nor has there ever been (during the third millennium) a "civil war" in Iraq.

This is story-telling as described above. It's very dramatic to describe the violent conflict from 2004 through 2007 as a "civil war;" the term conjures up images (in America) of horrific battles like Antietam (Sharpsburg) and Gettysburg and hundreds of thousands of dead soldiers on both sides. In Great Britain, readers envision the English Civil War in the mid-seventeenth century, between "cavaliers" (royalists) and "roundheads" (parliamentarians), in which King Charles I was executed by Parliament, his son driven into exile, the monarchy temporarily abolished, and a new government "Protectorate" established under Oliver Cromwell. Man, that's exciting!

By contrast, the reality in Iraq was nothing like that. The government was never in danger of being overthrown by al-Qaeda, which fielded no real army; the terrorists never really governed territory, though they held sway in some areas (e.g., Anbar province); all they could ever do was kill people, more or less at random.

In addition to the storytelling, the paragraph quoted above demonstrates the oversimplification and superficiality of Obamunism, despite coming from across the Atlantic ocean. Note the claimed provenance of the counterinsurgency: "a strategy created and implemented by General Odierno and his boss, General Petraeus."

This puts all the praise squarely upon the military itself, a safe and politically neutral repository... and it denies credit to the civilians (some former military) who actually crafted the plan, particularly the authors of the American Enterprise Institute's report: Fred Kagen and retired Gen. John "Jack" Keane.

Why should the Times want to deny credit to the AEI? Because it is a preeminent politically conservative organization. To grant the AEI its due entails admitting that the conservative approach to the Iraq crisis was correct; while the liberal view of withdrawal from the cities, handing everything over to the Iraqis, and quickly withdrawing from Iraq altogether -- as enunciated by, e.g., Gen. William Casey and retired Gen. Eric Shinseki, along with nearly every liberal Democrat especially including then-Sen. Barack Obama -- was dead wrong, failed, and nearly cost us the war.

(Even worse would have been the madcap scheme pushed by then-Sen. Joe Biden, among many others, to "partition" Iraq into threes, Sunni, Shia, and Kurd. Within a few months, the Sunni regions would all be controlled by al-Qaeda with support from Pakistan; the Shiite regions would all be controlled by Muqtada Sadr and his puppetmasters in Teheran; and Kurdistan would have managed to provoke a war with Turkey.)

Thank goodness the AEI made such a good counter-case.

Finally, note the truly glaring omission among those who should receive credit for the counterinsurgency, which seized victory from a battlefield where the Left had already declared defeat. Who was the one person most responsible for what the press enjoys calling "the surge?" Who was the actual decider? Who took the political heat? Who was called everything from a moron to a Nazi for pushing it?

The Times has surgically removed President George W. Bush from the story; it's as if he wasn't even there. Evidently, these two generals, Petraeus and Odierno, just got it into their heads to totally change the war-fighting strategy in Iraq. They invented the counterinsurgency out of whole cloth and somehow found a way to increase the forces on the ground as well... and all without any input or decision-making by the Commander in Chief!

Imagine how terrible it would be to have to admit, in one of the most respected organs of the elite media, that George W. Bush was right, and Barack H. Obama was catastrophically wrong on the Iraq war... that if we had followed the Obama-Biden-Reid-Pelosi-Kerry recommendation to declare defeat and go home, we would have lost the war; but because Bush instead implemented a strategy of victory, we have won it. If the Left confessed that, how could it ever hold up its head again?

Far better to praise a couple of more or less apolitical generals, pat the troops on the head, and cut all the political actors out of the picture, like a deranged divorcée cutting her ex-husband's head out of all the wedding photos. Or perhaps more appropriately, the Soviet habit of making former heroes of the revolution "vanish" from official photographs when they fall from power.

But the Times only takes its cue from President Obama himself; during his surprise trip to Baghdad Wednesday, he lavished praise on the American military presence there, crediting them with the "surge of troops;" but he pointedly refrained from mentioning President Bush's courageous decision to implement the counterinsurgency strategy in the first place. This has been Obama's modus operandi from the days of the campaign (which still hasn't ended) through the first months of his presidency: Everything bad that happens in America he blames on Bush; but he shifts credit for all the successes of the Bush administration -- and there were many -- to other entities, either liberal (Congress) or neutral (the military).

This is typically juvenile behavior, now being copied by leftists across America and even in supposedly sophisticated Europe. The childishness of our Childe President is spreading like a virulent malaise through an unsanitary grade school. Heaven only knows how long the epidemic will rage.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 10, 2009, at the time of 2:39 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 7, 2009

I'll Take Both A and B, Patterico

Beggar's Banking Banquet , Blogomania , Econ. 101 , Iraq Matters , Tax Attax , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

Patterico published a post yesterday comparing two statements, one by Rush Limbaugh, the other by Huffington Post commentator Lee Stranahan. (Patterico titled his post "More on Limbaugh," ha ha.)

Patterico draws a parallel between the two statements -- not difficult, since Stranahan cooperated by deliberately crafting his to reflect Limbaugh's -- and our friend Patterico appears to believe he has scored a point by noting that both have the same structure (which was Stranahan's point anyway). Here's Patterico:

If I were a liberal, and if Stranahan had had a major national platform where the entire country was discussing his views, I’d want to tell him to find a different way to say what he said. Do you think it would help Democrat politicians to spend days answering questions like: “Do you also want the Iraq war to fail, like Lee Stranahan?” -- and have to spend time explaining to people that Stranahan didn’t really want soldiers to die? I’d tell Stranahan: You want to say you opposed Bush’s policies, great. Stop saying it in a way that makes it sound like you wanted troops to die. Yes, I know you don’t mean that. People will still think you do -- and frankly, you weren’t all that clear about saying you didn’t. You said it, but the implications of what you said could suggest to some that you might not have meant it....

Rush has had a major national platform where the entire country was discussing his views. As a result, I wish he’d find a different way to say what he said. I say to him: If you want to say you oppose Obama’s policies, great. Stop saying it in a way that makes it sound like you want Americans out of work. Yes, I know you don’t mean that. People will still think you do -- and frankly, you weren’t all that clear about saying you didn’t.

Anyone who bristles at hearing the phrase “You’re damn right I wanted the Iraq war to fail.” -- or who can imagine other Americans bristling at that line -- should understand what I’m saying.

I have a very different reaction than Patterico, however: I am offended by neither statement; neither makes me "bristle." I take each as a pronouncement of the core position of its speaker:

  • Rush Limbaugh wants Barack H. Obama's leftist revolution in America to fail utterly, even if that means many thousands of Americans are temporarily hurt economically; Limbaugh hopes and believes this will make America stronger, so that America will become once more the "shining city on a hill" that Ronald Reagan dubbed us, spreading American-style republicanism across the globe.
  • Stranahan wants America's military opposition to the militant Islamism of the Iran/al-Qaeda axis to fail utterly, even if that means many thousands of American soldiers are killed permanently; Stranahan hopes and believes this will make America weaker and more like a European country, so that internationalism will reign supreme and we have one-world government in the model of the United Nations.

What demarcates these polar-opposite worldviews is not the structure of their presentation but the substance of their philosophies; I ringingly endorse Limbaugh's and resoundingly reject Stranahan's.

I share Limbaugh's statement that he hopes Obama fails in his quest to remake America into a socialist state and remake the American citizen into the New Soviet Man... and I reject Stranahan's statement that he hopes the Iraq war fails to stop the tide of militant, fundamentalist Islamism, "jihadism," and terrorism from washing across the entire world, making America an international laughingstock and making it easier for his god, Barack Obama, to utterly transform us into antiAmerica.

I make no apology for being a partisan in that philosophical, political, and military conflict; and I'm astonished that Patterico doesn't see that we can defend Limbaugh's statement on its merits, and attack Stranahan's on its -- using as controversial language as we want -- without offending middle America or being in the least hypocritical: The two philosophies are substantively worlds apart, which is far more important to ordinary people than Stranahan's tendentiously crafted structural similarity.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 7, 2009, at the time of 12:07 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

February 6, 2009

More Obama Drama As Zinni Gets Spinnied

Iraq Matters , Military Machinations , Obama Nation
Hatched by Dafydd

The Mack Sennett presidency strikes again, this time ensnaring Anthony Zinni, the media's favorite general -- at least while he was bashing the Iraq war (he wasn't so popular when he came out in support of the counterinsurgency strategy of President George W. Bush, Gen. David Petraeus, and the AEI).

After Gen. Jim Jones was tapped to be President Barack H. Obama's National Security Advisor, he called Zinni and asked if he would be willing to take Ryan Crocker's place as ambassador to Iraq. Zinni jumped at the offer, and Jones started the eight-ball rolling. The most competent presidency in the history of the United States swung ponderously into action:

About two weeks later, General Zinni said, General Jones called back with a formal offer for the Baghdad job, and an appointment with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Jan. 26.

General Zinni said he met for more than an hour with Mrs. Clinton, discussing a wide range of Iraq issues with her; James B. Steinberg, one of her two appointed deputy secretaries; and William J. Burns, the under secretary of state for political affairs.

"She thanked me for taking this, and we went over what needed to be done," General Zinni said. "She turned to Steinberg and Burns and said: 'Let’s get the paperwork moving. We’ve got to move on this.'"

The next day, General Zinni said, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. called to thank him for taking the job.

But that was the last word on Iraq that General Zinni said he heard from the administration.

William Burns started ducking Zinni's calls; when they did talk, Zinni reports Burns was "increasingly vague" (!) about the appointment. Finally, Zinni heard from Gen. Jones, who had started the whole process; Jones told Zinni that Obama had decide to pick Christopher R. Hill, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, instead of Zinni... but evidently, like little kids afraid to report the vase they broke playing ball in the house, nobody wanted to tell Zinni.

(Christopher Hill is best known for his lengthy and apparently fruitless negotiations with North Korea, which so preoccupied George W. Bush's second term... that whole farce, when the DPRK claimed it had shut down its breeder reactor at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center -- and then a year later, the North Koreans threatened to reactivate it if they didn't get more fuel and money from the U.S.)

So Zinni is out, Hill is in, and the general to this day has no idea what happened, why he was left spinning like a character from Scanners.

But at least Obama isn't weighed down by all that old-style thinking -- like managerial experience, proper planning, inter-office communication, and common courtesy -- that made the Bush administration the object of scorn and ridicule to the new elites. Now is not the time for thinking ahead or making sure the right hand knows what the left hand is washing. Now is the time for action, action, action!

So what was Zinni's reaction?

"As a sorry offer to placate me, they offered ambassador to Saudi," he said in a separate e-mail message, referring to Saudi Arabia. "I told them to stick it where the sun don’t shine."

Sounds like sound advice. Like Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH, 72%), Gen. Anthony Zinni got his first chance for second thoughts about joining Team Obama.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 6, 2009, at the time of 5:17 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 15, 2009

But in Theory...

Econ. 101 , Globaloney Sandwich , Gun Rights and Occasional Wrongs , Iraq Matters , Liberal Lunacy , Logical Lacunae , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

Of all the crazy memes flogged by Democrats and liberals, this one is, I believe, the most psychotic:

Attorney General-nominee Eric Holder forcefully broke from the Bush administration's counterterrorism policies Thursday, declaring that waterboarding is torture and pledging to prosecute some Guantanamo Bay detainees in U.S. courts.

It was the latest signal that President-elect Barack Obama will chart a new course in combatting terrorism. As recently as last week, Vice President Dick Cheney defended waterboarding, a harsh interrogation tactic that simulates drowning, saying it provided valuable intelligence.

The CIA has used the tactic on at least three terrorism suspects, included alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. In past hearings, Attorney General Michael Mukasey and his predecessor, Alberto Gonzales, frustrated senators by repeatedly sidestepping questions about waterboarding.

It was the first topic discussed at Holder's confirmation hearing, and he made an unambiguous statement about its nature: "Waterboarding is torture."

As a practical matter, Holder said torture does not lead to reliable intelligence. And on principle, he said the United States needs to live up to its own high standards, even in the face of fear and terrorism.

Let's walk it through; what exactly is Holder saying? Many members of President George W. Bush's administration have testified -- from those interrogators who were directly involved in the interrogations of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, each in 2003 (the only time evidence indicates we ever used waterboarding), to experienced military and intelligence experts, to high officials (including, op.cit., Vice President Dick Cheney) -- that waterboarding those three top terrorists in fact yielded a wealth of intelligence; that intel directly led to hundreds of arrests and the disrupting and interdicting of scores of follow-on terrorist attacks against the United States, saving thousands upon thousands of American civilian lives.

Numerous people are in custody in Guantanamo Bay today because we caught them red-handed in the midst of plotting terrorist attacks -- with ample physical evidence to back up the charges -- on the basis of searches and investigations sparked by the intelligence gained from waterboarding Mohammed, Zubayday, and Nashiri.

But no... the Left considers waterboarding to be "torture," and the Left's theory about torture states unequivocally and without exception that "torture does not lead to reliable intelligence."

Ergo, none of the foregoing ever really happened: We didn't actually get intelligence from waterboarding the Three Amigos; we didn't really disrupt any terrorist plots; we didn't actually arrest anyone (or if we did, they were necessarily innocent bystanders); and in fact, we didn't stop further attacks on the country; thus, by a simple deduction, we actually were hit again and again by the terrorists -- and the Bush regime just covered it all up, yet another Bush war crime!

Sure, physical observation appears to indicate that waterboarding, the putative "torture," in fact yielded reliable and even vital intelligence; but appearances can be deceiving. Theory proves this cannot be, so logic dictates we must throw out the observations as obviously flawed.

Oddly, this is the same argumentative technique used in the globaloney debate; perhaps it needs its own name: How about Argument of the Irresistable Theoretical Construct?

  • Your so-called "measurements" claim that the Earth's temperature rise since 1900 correlates almost exactly with solar activity, and there has been no global temperature increase since 1998 (in fact, a decrease). But the theory of anthropogenic ("human created") global warming -- which every legitimate scientist accepts -- belies that claim. Therefore, your measurements must be in error... go and fix them, and don't come back for more funding until you do!
  • According to all supposed observers in Iraq, including those vehemently opposed to the war from the beginning, since the Bush regime implemented the surge, military and civilian deaths have plummeted to the normal base-level of violence found in Arab countries. But as we told you repeatedly, the "surge" could not possibly work, because there is no military solution to military defeat. So who are you going to believe -- the considered weight of expert opinion from nearly all foreign-policy professionals, including some who have won the Nobel Peace Prize... or your own lyin' eyes?
  • All those revisionist historians and economists have been busy tarnishing the reputation of the greatest president of the 20th century, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, producing fact after evidence after measurement indicating that none of his New Deal programs did anything to end the Great Depression, that it continued unabated until the beginning of World War II; but it's utterly impossible in theory that programs with such good intentions -- implemented by a brilliant president who was not only the darling of liberal, compassionate professors and socialist progressives and reformers but even of the masses -- could possibly fail. Clearly then, FDR's NRA and other programs restored the American economy and ended the depression... and any claims to the contrary are just mean-spirited attacks by frustrated conservative Republican robber-barons.
  • John Lott and other eggheads have published numerous books purporting to show that increasing civilian ownership of guns decreases, not increases, the homicide and other violent crime rates; but this is absurd on its face: The only purpose of a gun is to kill; and everybody knows that guns are useless in self-defense because the criminal will simply take it away from the victim (and get very angry). So the only explanation for the spate of pro-gun books is... Lott, et al, are being paid off by the NRA! (The other NRA, the bad NRA -- not the good one of the previous example. Nitpicker.)

Argument of the Irresistable Theoretical Construct: Add that one to the list; it will crop up again and again.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 15, 2009, at the time of 3:01 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

July 22, 2008

In This Corner, the NYT: Even Worse Than We Thought!

Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

The story about the New York Times refusing to run John McCain's op-ed responding to Obama's propaganda piece is "old news"... which wouldn't stop us ordinarily; we love to take on old news -- even ancient history -- if we can offer a unique, lizardly slant on things. But in this case, it had seemed kind of cut and dried, with everything obvious we could say having already been said by, e.g., Power Line and Patterico's Pontiff Vacation (Wolf Howling is on the same track as we).

But here is a rare piece of breaking news on Big Lizards... as in, breaking the facade of elite journalistic objectivity wide open. In a stunningly candid attempt to "defend" his position, the editor of the Times' editorial pages, David Shipley, has admitted that he spiked the McCain op-ed precisely because he doesn't agree with it... despite the fact that "op-ed" -- which literally means "opposite the editorial pages," in terms of its physical placement on the other side of the printed sheet -- has historically also indicated an opinion piece that differs from that of the editors... even at the august NYT:

In an e-mail to the campaign on Friday, David Shipley, an op-ed editor at the newspaper, said he could not accept the piece in its current form, but would look at another version. In the e-mail, released by McCain's campaign, Shipley wrote that McCain's article would "have to lay out a clear plan for achieving victory -- with troops levels, timetables and measures for compelling the Iraqis to cooperate. And it would need to describe the senator's Afghanistan strategy, spelling out how it meshes with his Iraq plan."

In other words, sure, we'll publish your opinion piece... when you adopt Barack H. Obama's position on a set timetable for withdrawal, no matter the facts on the ground.

While no legal rule requires a newspaper to be fair -- obviously, or the elite print media wouldn't even exist -- the Times and other top "news"-papers has certainly claimed for decades that they do not discriminate against those candidates they oppose, that they are unbiased in their willingness to allow both sides of contentious issues to be aired, that they are not simply partisan propaganda mills for liberal Democrats. But this brazen new fracas puts paid to that false preening. Shipley has as much as said that he won't publish McCain's response unless McCain relents and "admits" that Obama is right and McCain is wrong on the critical foreign-policy issue of this campaign.

As I've said before, the new motto of the New York Times should be, "all the news we see fit to print!"

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 22, 2008, at the time of 8:29 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

July 6, 2008

War Trauma, Media Style

Afghan Astonishments , Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

A judge in upstate New York has set up a special court for veterans, evidently on the media-driven, criminal-justice theory that staggering numbers of vets, far more than ever in the past, are returning PTSD-struck from the parade of horribles in Iraq and Afghanistan:

While the defendants in this court have been arrested on charges that could mean potential prison time and damaging criminal records, they have another important trait in common: All have served their country in the military.

That combination has landed them here, in veterans treatment court, the first of its kind in the country.

[Judge Robert] Russell is the evenhanded quarterback of a courtroom team of veterans advocates and volunteers determined to make this brush with the criminal justice system these veterans' last.

"They look to the right or to the left, they're sitting there with another vet," Russell said, "and it's a more calming, therapeutic environment. Rather than them being of the belief that 'people don't really understand me,' or 'they don't know what it's like' - well, it's a room full of folks who do."

All right; I don't really have any objection to such a special court... in theory; though I have yet to see any evidence that veterans, as a group, tend to be more criminal-minded than civilians who have never seen an actual battlefield. (In fact, I'm of the impression vets are less likely to commit crimes than eternal civilians.)

I would expect such a court to be geared specifically towards those vets with extensive combat experience, having seen their best friends murdered by Islamist terrorists, who have seen children blown to pieces by al-Qaeda bombers. I can imagine a veteran who has had to deal with such death-worshippers and human-sacrificers might have problems adjusting to civilian life.

You know, vets like this guy:

Charles Lewis, who stood before Russell at a recent session, may be exactly the kind of defendant the judge had in mind. The 25-year-old acknowledged walking out in frustration from his last counseling session.

"We all know that you're a good person who at times has done some inappropriate things," Russell told him. "It's time to get past the nonsense, don't you think?"

Lewis nodded in agreement. A jet mechanic four years into what he thought would be a 20-year Navy career, he severely injured his leg on the flight deck of the carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in 2004 and was discharged.

One can only imagine the horrors he must have seen. I don't exactly recall which combat operations in Iraq or Afghanistan used carrier-based aviation, nor do I quite understand exactly what trauma would be faced by a mechanic who stayed on the ship. But it must have been something pretty horrendous to produce such symptoms...

Admittedly stubborn -- he walked out of counseling because he got tired of hearing people complain -- the 25-year-old father of four is only now addressing anxiety and attention disorders linked to his wartime service and the toll it took on his leg and hearing. A 30-day stay in rehab to get off prescription drugs began his path through veterans treatment court.

Here is another obvious case of combat psychosis:

The approach cultivates a sense of trust and understanding, said Guy LaPenna, a 40-year-old veteran with a history of stealing and drug violations. The high-stress life of Navy duty aggravated problems he had before, but he said he left the service an angry alcoholic battling mental health issues.

Russell is "appreciative that we're working so hard," said LaPenna, a high-energy personal trainer. He is following the veterans court program to see a petit larceny charge dismissed, "but the real reward is getting my life back and functioning as a member of society, a productive member of society," he said.

Before I get lynched by vets, I want to say that I don't begrudge any service veteran getting some special treatment later in life; vets give a portion of their lives to their country, it's reasonable that they get some consideration in return.

But when the media begins slinging around words like "post-traumatic stress disorder" causing "anxiety and attention disorders" that are "linked to his wartime service" or "the high-stress life of Navy duty," I honestly expect better examples than four gut-churning years working below decks on an aircraft carrier which never came under attack (none of them have).

Rather than allow what could be a valuable program to be hijacked by anybody who has ever worn a uniform, no matter how far removed from the action or whether he even left the United States, I wish they would direct the benefits to those vets who actually fought and bled for America.

And I really, really wish the elite news media would stop trying to portray all veterans -- even those whose service was more or less indistinguishable from similar jobs in the private sector -- as ticking time bombs just waiting to explode. It's offensive and jarringly tendentious.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 6, 2008, at the time of 10:10 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 1, 2008

The New "Fairness" Doctrine

Constitutional Maunderings , Crime and Punishment , Iraq Matters , Military Machinations , Terrorism Intelligence , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd
Why civilian judges have no business ruling on Gitmo cases...
and why Patterico, with the best of intentions, got it so wrong
.

Patterico has been scathing in his denunciation of the Bush administration and the Pentagon for how they conduct the military tribunals. Back in December, he dubbed the tribunals at Guantanamo Bay "Kafkaesque," saying "they just don’t seem fair." He concludes:

But I do know that the procedures in place now just don’t seem fair. If you can’t find out what evidence the Government has against you; if you can’t present your own evidence; if you are arguing to a tribunal that is told to presume that the Government’s position is correct . . . that’s not fair. It runs a real risk of causing us to hold people who are innocent.

There has to be a better way.

Then today, he crows, or perhaps "views with alarm," that a D.C. circus panel threw out the first enemy-combatant classification by the Pentagon of a detainee:

Add this to the Kafkaseque nature of the tribunals process, which has forced detainees to respond to secret evidence, together with the criticism by a former chief prosecutor that the Administration was rigging trials there to ensure convictions, and the picture is not pretty.

So why do I disagree with Patterico, and why do I think he has gone terribly awry? Consider the last line of his earlier post. The real question here is the very one Patterico begs: "There has to be a better way"... to do -- what?

What's all this then?

"Well there's yer problem, right there!"

Those three judges, the "former chief prosecutor" (Air Force Col. Morris Davis), and Patterico all see these Commission hearings as fundamentally judicial. It's not unreasonable to draw that conclusion, since the result is that those found to be unlawful enemy combatants would be held for periods of time up to life -- and could even be executed.

But reasonable does not mean right... and this conclusion is fundamentally wrong: These hearings are not judicial, nor is their primary purpose justice or punishment; they are military hearings to determine if a detainee is dangerous to the United States.

That is why questions of "fairness" are inappropriate. Fairness is a valid, even vital concern in Patterico's line of work as a deputy district attorney. In civilian trials in civilian courts, the most important underlying issue is justice (of which fairness is an essential component). Practically, the most important question litigated is whether the State has proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, by admissible evidence, that the defendant is guilty of the crimes charged.

But military commissions' most important underlying issue is the same as that of every other branch of the military: victory over our enemies. That means safeguarding American citizens and lawful residents and protecting us from international bad guys. Fairness has nothing to do with it.

  • Is it "fair" to bomb a factory during wartime, knowing that at least some of those killed may oppose the war and only be working there under duress, or even as slave labor?
  • Is it "fair" to imprison a captured enemy soldier for years, even if he is a draftee?
  • Is it "fair" to fire upon enemy combatants, even knowing they are using innocent "human shields," who will necessarily be killed as well?

None of these is in any way fair to the innocents (or at least non-guiltys) involved. But in none of these cases is "fairness" the central concern. If any "crime" was committed, it's a war crime; and the prosecution of war crimes is primarily intended to deter our enemies from doing such things in the future, not to bring about abstract justice for acts in the past. For this reason, war-crimes tribunals traditionally grant many fewer "rights" to the accused than are found in civilian trials of ordinary criminals conducted by those same countries.

In the three cases directly above, Patterico would have no difficulty agreeing with me that we cannot invoke abstract "fairness" to refuse to fight in any situation where innocents might be harmed. On the battlefield, nobody except a pacifist absolutist would be so confused; and Patterico is not a lunatic pacifist by any stretch of rhetoric.

But when the military action shifts from the battlefield to a military commission or tribunal, it superficially resembles a courtroom; "counsels" present "evidence" while a (military) "judge" presides. And that is when those who have spent their lifetimes doing yeoman work within the civilian court system, trying to make America a safer and better place, seem to become befuddled. We see this from Patterico to the D.C. Circus to the Supreme Court's Boumediene decision.

It's said that to a carpenter, every problem looks like a nail, and every solution looks like a hammer. To a heart surgeon, every problem looks like a bad coronary artery and every solution looks like a scalpel. And to a lawyer, even many military lawyers, every problem looks like a crime, and every solution looks like a court trial.

Every objection seems to flow from this single, faulty conceptualization of what these commissions are and what they're supposed to do. For example, what about that charge that the commissions are "rigged" against the detainees?

This bloody fight's been rigged!

Col. Davis bases his accusation on three issues: a lack of "openness" at the commission hearings; the use of classified information that neither the detainee nor his counsel is allowed to see (which "could taint the trials in the eyes of international observers"); and that, as the Nation put it in an interview with Davis, "the process has been manipulated by Administration appointees to foreclose the possibility of acquittal."

The piece in that leftist magazine begins thus -- and here is the same misunderstanding, this time flashing in neon letters the size of the Hollywood sign:

Secret evidence. Denial of habeas corpus. Evidence obtained by waterboarding. Indefinite detention. The litany of complaints about the treatment of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay is long, disturbing and by now familiar. Nonetheless, a new wave of shock and criticism greeted the Pentagon's announcement on February 11 that it was charging six Guantánamo detainees, including alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, with war crimes--and seeking the death penalty for all of them.

In the piece, Col. Davis lobs the allegation that Pentagon general counsel William Haynes demanded the tribunals produce nothing but convictions:

When asked if he thought the men at Guantánamo could receive a fair trial, Davis provided the following account of an August 2005 meeting he had with Pentagon general counsel William Haynes--the man who now oversees the tribunal process for the Defense Department.

"[Haynes] said these trials will be the Nuremberg of our time," recalled Davis, referring to the Nazi tribunals in 1945, considered the model of procedural rights in the prosecution of war crimes. In response, Davis said he noted that at Nuremberg there had been some acquittals, which had lent great credibility to the proceedings.

"I said to him that if we come up short and there are some acquittals in our cases, it will at least validate the process," Davis continued. "At which point, [Haynes's] eyes got wide and he said, 'Wait a minute, we can't have acquittals. If we've been holding these guys for so long, how can we explain letting them get off? We can't have acquittals. We've got to have convictions.'"

First, I am rather skeptical that Haynes said exactly this. Was Col. Davis literally transcribing the conversation while it was in progress? Or is this his reconstruction of the conversation days, weeks, or perhaps two and a half years later? Is this exactly what Haynes said, or is this Davis' tendentious confabulation, based upon his appalled reaction to what he thought Haynes meant?

But let's leave this question aside... despite the fact that it cuts to the fundamental "fairness" of the accusation. How can Davis be unaware of the fact that earlier commissions conducted by the same Pentagon, taking place at the same Guantanamo Bay, managed to release hundreds of detainees from custody... including some who went right out and committed terrorist acts?

Finally, I truly question Col. Davis' historical understanding of war-crimes tribunals if he unfavorably compares the "fairness" of the military commission hearings today with the Nuremberg trials after World War II... considering that far fewer accused Nazis were "acquitted" than terrorist suspects have already been freed from Guantanamo, and the accused Nazis in 1945 had far fewer "rights" than the Military Commissions Act of 2006 gave to the detainees in Guantanamo Bay... even before the Boumediene decision.

To me, it sounds as if Davis is repeating at least one absurdist Democratic Party talking point, regardless of how many others he rejects. The viral meme "MCAs are nothing like the fair and just Nuremberg trials" can be "caught" by anyone whose mind is rendered susceptible by overly legalistic thinking.

The allegation that the system is "rigged" against acquittals is silly, because it has already acquitted hundreds; it betrays Davis' conclusion that these hearings just aren't "fair" to the "accused."

“If the law supposes that,” said Mr. Bumble,… “the law is a ass -- a idiot."

In the New York Times article that sparked Patterico's post today, we discover that the D.C. Circuit panel threw out the Pentagon finding against Huzaifa Parhat, an Uighur Moslem from China, because the classified intelligence against him was not as specific and credible as one would demand in a civilian criminal trial:

Pentagon officials have claimed that the Uighurs at Guantánamo were "affiliated" with a Uighur resistance group, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, and that it, in turn, was "associated" with Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

The ruling released Monday overturned the Pentagon’s finding after a 2004 hearing that Mr. Parhat was an enemy combatant based on that affiliation. He and the 16 other Uighurs were detained after the American invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

The court said the classified evidence supporting the Pentagon’s claims included assertions that events had "reportedly" occurred and that the connections were "said to" exist, without providing information about the source of such information.

"Those bare facts," the decision said, "cannot sustain the determination that Parhat is an enemy combatant."

But "those bare facts" are all that we ever get from intelligence operations! That is precisely the reason why civilian courts have no business making the determination whether a person detained is truly an enemy combatant... because the standard demanded by a civilian court for a civilian criminal conviction is virtually impossible to meet in the context of terrorists picked up because of intelligence.

(For one major point, because terrorism is so incredibly destructive, we try to grab them before they carry out their schemes... which means, since the detainee didn't actually succeed, that little evidence is available other than supposition.)

Do these judges imagine that before the Marines open fire on a fleeing vehicle, they must have proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the vehicle contains terrorists? Intelligence is always vague, almost never confirmed, and frequently obtained from foreign sources who do not reveal where they, themselves got it; but if they've been reliable in the past, we must assume they're reliable now, until and unless they disappoint us more than one usually expects from any intelligence. You cannot demand trial-level specificity and sourcing from covert intelligence; it's just not going to be available.

What the court derided -- quoting from Lewis Carroll's the Hunting of the Snark and mocking the administration -- is as good as it gets... and that's the very reason why a civilian court is not competent to make any of these decisions, let alone all of them, as the Supreme Court has now declared. It's as absurd as expecting the D.C. Circuit to approve missile targets in Pakistan.

One law professor understands this point; I'm pleasantly surprised the Times bothered to quote anyone on the military's side at all:

Some lawyers said the ruling highlighted the difficulties they saw in civilian judges reviewing Guantánamo cases.

“This case displays the inadequacies of having civilian courts inject themselves into military decision-making,” said Glenn M. Sulmasy, a law professor at the Coast Guard Academy and a national security fellow at Harvard.

I wonder if Mr. Sulmasy has more or less experience with the needs of the military than do the three judges in the D.C. Circuit panel who decided the Parhat decision.

Old King Cole was a tortured soul

In today's post, Patterico also calls attention to the upcoming trial of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, accused of masterminding the bombing of the USS Cole... and the third detainee, along with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah, who the CIA has said it waterboarded. Patterico notes that Nashiri claims his "confession" was induced by unspecified "torture".

Of course, Nashiri could be fibbing; to paraphrase Charles Bronson in Breakheart Pass, if a man is a thief and murderer, it follows he may be a liar as well. But let's suppose he is telling the truth for once. This point tells us nothing about whether he is or is not a danger: Even if the confession was true, he still might only have given it because of this supposed "torture."

Why do we customarily believe that in civilian trials, coerced confessions cannot be used? Two main reasons:

  1. We believe they are of dubious reliability, since the person being tortured might say anything he thinks his torturers want to hear.

Leaving aside the question of whether waterboarding really constitutes "torture" (it certainly forces people to say things they later wish they hadn't), this objection is easily dismissed: If detailed facts came out during the coerced interrogation that were checked and found to be accurate, and if those facts could only be known by the guilty (such as where the body is hidden, in a murder case), then we may conclude the confessor is guilty.

So that leaves only one reason why coerced confessions are never allowed in court:

  1. Forcing people to testify against themselves is, again, simply unfair; it violates the Fifth Amendment protection against enforced self-incrimination.

But this second point again depends upon thinking that the tribunal is an attempt to mete out justice to a mere criminal, rather than a way for the military to decide whether the country would be safer if we kept the detainee behind bars or even executed him.

Finally, one more purely legal point (bearing in mind I'm not a lawyer): It's plausible to argue that the USA PATRIOT Act allows these tribunals to used evidence obtained for intelligence purposes in military commission hearings, even if the intel itself was obtained by means that would ordinarily render it inadmissible in a civilian court hearing, absent the intelligence angle.

This is a point which I don't believe has ever been addressed by the Supreme Court (not even in Boumediene).

Thus, if we reject "fairness" as the core value we're trying to uphold in the MCA hearings at Guantanamo Bay, and accept instead that the core value is "victory in the war," then we cannot have a hard and fast prohibition on using coerced testimony or even confessions: Again, we're not trying to punish miscreants so much as (a) protect the country from them, and (b) pour l'encouragement des autres.

An army of lawyers

A maxim of the law is that it's better that a thousand guilty criminals go free than a single innocent man be wrongly convicted. But when we're discussing a thousand guilty terrorists, we have to think a second time. When we released Abdullah Salih al-Ajmi from Gitmo (which was clearly a mistake in hindsight), he went right out and killed thirteen innocent Iraqi civilians in a suicide bombing in Mosul.

So if Ajmi is typical, then a thousand guilty terrorists released could kill 13,000 innocent civilians and wound an additional 40,000. That's 53,000 innocent lives destroyed. Some may still believe that's better than keeping one innocent person in Guantanamo Bay... but that is not so obvious to me.

Many folks reading this will object that, even if it's true that judges and lawyers have an overly legalistic bias, it's likewise true that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 had an overly militaristic bias. But the captivity and treatment of enemy combatants, whether lawful or unlawful, is at the core of any military strategy -- thus it's fundamentally a military issue, where the most important issue is victory.

But with Boumediene, the Court has held that henceforth, all major decisions in the detention of combatants -- not just the strictly limited set of decisions that the MCA left up to the D.C. Circuit, but all decisions without exception -- will ultimately be decided by civilian courts, even lowly district courts, by civilian judges who cannot help seeing the "trials" as exercises in legal justice -- where the most important issue is fairness.

Perhaps this new "fairness" doctrine is all for the best; maybe I stubbornly refuse to see the obvious. But certainly nobody on that side of the aisle at any level, from Justice Anthony Kennedy to Patterico, has endeavored to make the case to me that in dealing with terrorists, fairness should trump victory.

I'm listening, but I hear no argument.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 1, 2008, at the time of 7:55 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

June 30, 2008

So Why Do We Need Gitmo? Let Me Count the Ways...

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Sachi

When we capture prisoners of war (POWs), we don't imprison them for punishment; we take them out of commission "for the duration" of the war. That is why they shouldn't get a trial: They're not in the same category as regular "criminals," who can be released without too much damage if the government cannot amass enough evidence for a judge or jury to find them guilty.

POWs -- or in al-Qaeda's case, unlawful enemy combatants -- cannot be released as long as they're likely to attack us again; just like ordinary POWs, terrorists are not held in punishment... they're held to keep them from returning to the fight against us, or at least to be available for a prisoner swap, if the Commander in Chief decides that's in our best interest.

Now let's meet Abu Juheiman al-Kuwaiti, also known as Abdullah Salih al-Ajmi. (Ever notice how many Guantanamo Bay detainees have multiple aliases?) Al-Kuwaiti is a former guest of the Guantanamo Bay resort and gentlemen's club; he's also a former human being -- and newly annointed martyr. Al-Kuwaiti is one of the featured stars in this al-Qaeda promotional video. According to Bill Roggio, he pulled off a spectacular suicide bombing in Mosul last March:

Ajmi was released from Guantanamo Bay and was searching for "a way to reconnect with the jihad." He claimed he was tortured while at Guantanamo Bay.

Ajmi "is seemingly responsible for an earlier truck bombing at the Iraqi Army HQ in the Harmat neighborhood of Mosul on March 23, 2008," said Kazimi. The attack occurred at Combat Outpost Inman, an Iraqi Army base that served as the headquarters for the 1st Battalion, 3rd Brigade of the 2nd Iraqi Army Division.

Thirteen Iraqi soldiers were killed and 42 were wounded after Ajmi drove an armored truck packed [with] an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 pounds of explosives through the gate of the outpost and detonated [himself] in a spot between the three main buildings of the compound. The blast destroyed the facades of the three buildings, including the building housing the battalion headquarters.

Get it? We had him, but we had to turn him loose because of earlier Court decisions. We let this man go because we couldn't prove, to the standard of a civilian court, that he was a "criminal."

He's not a criminal; he wanted to kill, not steal. But we set him free, and he rushed straight out and blew himself up... along with thirteen other people, and injuring an additional 42. As a direct result of an earlier Supreme-Court judgment (with Justice Anthony Kennedy casting the swing vote), Ajmi was released back into the wild so he could kill again. (It could have been worse -- an amusement park or a mega-mall on Saturday afternoon.)

Although Ajmi is surely morally responsible for the thirteen Iraqi solders's death, I do not assign him total blame; he is a combatant, and this is what combatants do. But a significant part of the blame falls on the people who do not understand that this is a war, and a vicious war at that... the people who convince themselves that we're merely keeping carjackers and pickpockets in Gitmo, and by jingo, they should get their rights!

These are the people who demand that unlawful enemy combatants be granted the right to file a habeas corpus petition demanding the government show "probable cause" to think they've committed a "crime," just as if they were civilian criminal suspects: "Better a thousand guilty men go free than a single innocent man be wrongfully convicted!"

But those thousand "guilty men" who go free will not just steal a thousand big-screen TV sets: They will murder ten thousand innocent civilians. And there will be nothing left of the "suspects" but their cremains, assuming we could even sort out the mangled body and ashes left from the terrorist from that of his victims, nothing to try, nothing to find either guilty or not guilty. How clever and ideologically pure does that little saying sound now?

Why do people refuse to believe what our enemy says? Al-Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah tell us constantly that they will kill us and our allies whenever they get a chance, as many as they can, as often as they can manage. If the entire world had a single throat, these are the people who would slit it for the sheer joy of killing everyone. If this is religion, it's more like the Aztecs than mainstream Islam.

So why does our military give a "chance" to terrorists who hunger for the Guiness world record for biggest single-incident slaughter of all time? They do because the courts have taken power, and the courts insist that everyone not provably guilty must be released immediately.

It's precisely because such dangerous human-sacrificers exist that Guantanamo Bay must stay in business. John S. McCain wants to close Gitmo; maybe he's right. The way the Court is running, it's no longer safe for us to hold any prisoner in a prison we control. But we need something like Guantanamo Bay, even if it's in Poland, run by the Polish army.

Five members of the Supreme Court plus all the Democrats in the world think that we can just fold Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh -- not to mention Osama bin Laden, when we finally pull him out of his spider hole -- into the general prison population and treat them like "any other criminal;" Barack H. Obama says he'll restore the old Clinton policy of responding to a terrorist strike by shooting off a volley of subpoenas and writs, as we treated John Gotti.

That's like saying we can treat a nuclear bomb, discovered in a terrorist cache found in Minneapolis or Dallas or Manhattan, as if it were a cherry bomb found in a teenager's desk drawer in Burbank.

We desperately need a prison of last resort, where we can store those people who should never, ever, ever be let out -- and to hell with their "rights."

But to hang onto them once we grab them, we also desperately need conservative replacements for Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the next two Supreme-Court justices who will retire. So vote for McCain! This is our one and only chance for many decades to create a Supreme Court that actually cares more about law-abiding Americans than about those who would murder by the millions, if they only could.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, June 30, 2008, at the time of 4:01 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 11, 2008

Latest and Lamest Attack on McCain

Iraq Matters , Presidential Campaign Camp and Porkinstance
Hatched by Dafydd

Politico reports that Democrats, in a coordinated attack, are once again attacking McCain -- based upon a tendentious, and deliberate misunderstanding of McCain's clear words. It is, without question, the lamest attack yet. (It would have been second lamest, except that no Democratic heavy-hitter jumped aboard the attack that McCain couldn't be president because he was born in the Canal Zone... where his active-duty American naval-officer father was stationed.)

Really? The lamest? See for yourself; here is what McCain said during a television appearance:

The exchange that has Democrats licking their chops began when co-host Matt Lauer asked about the surge strategy in Iraq: “If it's working Senator, do you now have a better estimate of when American forces can come home from Iraq?”

McCain replied: “No, but that's not too important. What’s important is the casualties in Iraq. Americans are in South Korea, Americans are in Japan, American troops are in Germany. That’s all fine. American casualties and the ability to withdraw; we will be able to withdraw. General [David] Petraeus is going to tell us in July when he thinks we are.

“But the key to it is that we don't want any more Americans in harm's way. That way, they will be safe, and serve our country and come home with honor and victory, not in defeat, which is what Senator Obama's proposal would have done. I’m proud of them. And they're doing a great job. And we are succeeding and it's fascinating that Senator Obama still doesn't realize that.”

Without reading the rest of the article just yet, see if you can guess how Democrats from Susan Rice (the anti-Israel foreign-policy advisor to Barack H. Obama) to Sen. John Kerry (D-MA, 90%) to Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 85%) have conspired to attack McCain on this answer. I'll bet you can't; it's too stupid to be believed.

All right, time's up; here they go again:

The Obama campaign and Democratic leaders accused Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) of being confused and heartless after he told NBC’s “Today” show Wednesday that it’s “not too important” when U.S. troops return from Iraq.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said on a quickly organized Obama conference call that McCain’s comment was “unbelievably out of touch with the needs and concerns of most Americans,” saying that to families of troops in harm’s way, “To them, it's the most important thing in the world....”

Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was first out of the gate with a statement, calling McCain’s comment “a crystal clear indicator that he just doesn’t get the grave national-security consequences of staying the course. … We need a smart change in strategy to make America more secure, not a commitment to indefinitely keep our troops in an intractable civil war.”

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) said McCain had “displayed a fundamental misunderstanding about the situation in Iraq, our strained military, and American troops and their families.”

This, of course, is exactly the same misreading Democrats used before when they pretended that John McCain said he would be fine with the Iraq war raging for a hundred years... when in fact he said he would be fine with us having troops in Iraq for a hundred years, if they were not being attacked and were not suffering any casualties. Then -- as now -- he made his meaning clear by invoking our decades-long troop deployments in Germany, Japan, and South Korea... in none of which places are we suffering casualties or coming under attack (barring the occasional terrorist attack that can occur anywhere).

Democrats might have claimed an ignorant misunderstanding the first time; but having had their misapprehension corrected once, the innocent excuse that they 'misunderstood' cannot be resurrected. This is enemy action: The Democrats know darned well that McCain meant (then and now) that it doesn't matter whether we withdraw troops from Iraq if our victory results in a lack of casualties; he was not saying that it was "not too important" to a particular soldier's family when he, specifically, comes home.

To illustrate the preposterousness of the Democrat's intentional misreading, I say: "It doesn't matter how many hours a day the factory operates, so long as it meets its goals without overtaxing its labor pool." The Democrat responds, "that's crazy! It makes all the difference in the world whether some poor woman's husband works eight hours a day or 24 hours a day!"

I know what's next: McCain will say "Good morning;" and the nearest Democratic talking head will jump on a table and scream, "How can that heartless bastard think it's good for soldiers' families to live in mourning for a loved one?"

I wonder if individual Democrats ever react to their leaders' antics by feeling a bit queasy.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 11, 2008, at the time of 6:49 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 29, 2008

McClellan's Losing Campaign - Part II

Iraq Matters , Liberal Lunacy , Media Madness , Plame Blame Game , Wordwooze
Hatched by Dafydd

Scott McClellan's pathetic campaign against George W. Bush -- hence for the election of Barack Obama -- continues apace; he keeps talking about more snippets from the book in interviews.

Today, McClellan bores deep into the Plame name blame game, which he sees as a "turning point" in his relationship with the president. But here is an oddity: It was clear to everyone from at least October 28th, 2005 -- the day that Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald indicted "Scooter" Libby -- that it was not true that Libby was uninvolved in the inadvertent leak of Valerie Plame's CIA affiliation; and it was also well known by then that Karl Rove had testified five times to Fitzgerald's grand jury, correcting some of his testimony. As I recall, we already knew at that time that the correction involved a conversation Rove had with Matt Cooper of Time Magazine... which clearly implied that Rove, too, had inadvertently revealed Plame's employment.

So by late October, 2005, Scott McClellan already knew that what he told reporters in 2003 was wrong. This was the moral "turning point," he now says.

Yet he continued in his White House employment, after Libby's indictment, for six more months; he did not resign until late April, 2006 -- when he was ousted by new White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten. Some "turning point!"

And once again, not a single charge of McClellan's is backed up by any evidence so far released... and much of it is in fact contradicted by strong, available documentation. (And this complete lack of evidence does indeed make McClellan, as Rove put it, sound like a "liberal blogger!")

Not only that, but McClellan and his new allies in the elite media (didn't they used to despise him?) now stoop to deliberate obscurantism to hide the absurdity of what they're claiming. Viz:

[McClellan] was ordered to say from the press room podium that White House aides Karl Rove and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby were not involved in leaking CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity to the press. Later a criminal investigation revealed that they were.

Revealed that they were "involved," yes; revealed that they were criminally culpable? No.

In fact, neither I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, then Vice President Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff, nor Karl Rove, then Deputy White House Chief of Staff for Policy, was ever indicted for leaking Plame's name or CIA affiliation: Libby was indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice, and Rove was never indicted for anything at all.

("Involved" -- what a weasel word! For that matter, Robert Novak, Matt Cooper, and Tim Russert were also "involved," weren't they?)

During the investigation, Richard Armitage, then Deputy Secretary of State to Secretary of State Colin Powell, admitted that he was the first to inadvertently leak to reporter Robert Novak the fact that Lyin' Joe Wilson's wife was in the CIA; Armitage was also never indicted on any charge. Had the leak been intentional, the leaker would almost certainly have been indicted; thus it's a pretty fair conclusion that the Special Counsel believed the leaks were unintentional and inadvertent. (Particularly so since Armitage, like his boss Colin Powell, opposed the Iraq war... so why would be try to "discredit" the guy who was trying to prevent it?)

So yes, Libby and Rove were "involved in leaking CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity to the press;" but AP (and McClellan, so far as they report) fail to mention that they were both exonerated of the accusation that they did so deliberately in order to discredit Wilson.

You would think that would be an important part of the story.

Here's another wonderful bit of half-truth misdirection from AP, which they save to the end as the supposed killer-anecdote that demonstrates, to everyone who already suffers from BDS, what a liar and hypocrite is George W. Bush:

And [McClellan] recalled a day in April 2006, when the unfolding perjury case against Libby had revealed that Bush secretly declassified portions of a 2002 intelligence report about Iraq's weapons capabilities to help deflect criticism of his case for war. High-profile criticism was coming from Plame's husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, in those days before the war. [Take note that AP doesn't reveal what this "declassified" intelligence report was; but I'll let the beans out of the bag in a moment.]

The president was leaving an event in North Carolina, McClellan recalled, and as they walked to Air Force One a reporter shouted a question: Had the president, who had repeatedly condemned the selective release of secret intelligence, enabled Libby to leak classified information to The New York Times back then to bolster the administration's arguments for war?

McClellan took the question to the president, telling Bush: "He's saying you yourself were the one that authorized the leaking of this information."

"And he said, 'Yeah, I did.' And I was kind of taken aback," McClellan said.

"For me I came to the decision that at that point I needed to look for a way to move on, because it had undermined, I think, a lot of what we had said."

Really? Let's stick a few particulars into that vague and smelly indictment...

First, anytime an administrative official speaks to a news source off the record -- even if fully authorized -- that could be called "leaking." As McClellan himself has done this many times (along with every other White House Press Secretary), he should not feign such horror.

Second, let's clarify what "intelligence report" Bush "declassified" in 2003 or 2004 (not 2006). There are only two possibilities that McClellan could be referencing, and the first is easily dismissed:

  • The October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate;
  • Or the 2002 intelligence report on the debriefing of a certain former ambassador who was recommended by his CIA wife to be sent to a certain African country.

The October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate

President Bush relied upon this estimate, compiled by the CIA, in his decision to ask Congress for an Authorization for the Use of Military Force; an AUMF is the legal equivalent of a declaration of war.

By mid-2003, with the war in full swing, the elite media was abuzz with claims that the 2002 NIE had said that Iraq had no WMD and was not even trying to develop any. In particular, these many stories claimed that the idea that Saddam Hussein was trying to obtain Uranium had been "debunked" by the CIA before the war -- and that the war was therefore entirely predicated on a lie.

It turns out that all these stories had a single source: Former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, who had been sent to Niger by the CIA in response to his CIA wife's nagging of the Agency.

It was absurd that the CIA accepted Plame's suggestion of her husband for the trip. Its purpose was ostensibly to determine whether Saddam Hussein was trying to buy Uranium yellowcake, yet Wilson had no expertise whatsoever in nuclear or WMD investigations. He did, however, have one indispensible qualification: He already believed the story was a fairy tale, even before he left for Africa.

When he returned, and after he was debriefed by his CIA handlers (see below), he covertly went to numerous elite-media sources and told them that he had found that the idea that Hussein was trying to acquire Uranium yellowcake was bunk. Later, he published an op-ed in the New York Times (July 6th, 2003) titled "What I Didn't Find in Africa," in which he peddled the same claim.

As more and more people came to believe, because of this disinformation campaign, that the administration had "lied us into war" (a cherished Democratic mantra), the president decided to declassify parts of the NIE on which he had relied. Not the whole thing, as that would reveal sources and methods; just the "key judgments" that the CIA presented the White House. He did so with great fanfare on July 18th, 2003... the day after Scott McClellan was named White House Press Secretary. This is an important point: McClellan was already the presidential spokesman when Bush announced the declassification of parts of the NIE and distributed it to reporters; and even prior to his promotion, he was the Deputy Press Secretary to Ari Fleischer.

Therefore, I suggest that the NIE cannot be the "2002 intelligence report about Iraq's weapons capabilities" that Bush "declassified," which McClellan now says he first found out about in April of 2006. Obviously, McClellan knew about the declassification of portions of the 2002 NIE way back in 2003... when the rest of the civilized world found out about it.

So this cannot possibly be what AP means above, unless Scott McCellan is dumber than a box of Barbara's boxers. That leaves only one other reasonable possibility:

The 2002 intelligence report on Joe Wilson's debriefing by the CIA

On July 7th, 2004, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence issued a document titled Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq. In the section titled "Niger," there is a chapter tantalizingly called "the Former Ambassador." It includes the following summary of the previously classified CIA debriefing of "the former ambassador" -- that is, of Lyin' Joe Wilson -- when he returned from the trip to the African nation of Niger that his CIA wife, Valerlie Plame, wangled for him. The briefing was included in an intelligence report disseminated within intelligence-community circles on March 8, 2002.

When the Senate Intelligence Committee wanted to publish their report, they asked the president to declassify any intelligence in the report that was still classified. Bush complied; we don't know whether Wilson's debriefing was declassified at that point or before, but I don't recall anybody writing about it until after the report came out.

I strongly believe that this is what AP means when they write "Bush secretly declassified portions of a 2002 intelligence report about Iraq's weapons capabilities to help deflect criticism of his case for war." I can think of no other 2002 intelligence report that has made its way into the unclass information world besides these two... and it cannot possibly be the NIE for reasons elucidated above.

But why did this declassification so enrage the Left -- and so horrify Scott McClellan, becoming one of his "turning points?" Let's see what, exactly, former Ambassador Joe Wilson did tell his CIA handlers when he returned. In this case, speculation is unnecessary, because we know exactly what information Wilson gave them from his little Nigerien adventure. From that same chapter linked above:

The intelligence report based on the former ambassador's trip was disseminated on March 8, 2002. The report did not identify the former ambassador by name or as a former ambassador, but described him as "a contact with excellent access who does not have an established reporting record." The report also indicted that the "subsources of the following information knew their remarks could reach the U.S. government and may have intended to influence as well as inform." DO officials told Committee staff that this type of description was routine and was done in order to protect the former ambassador as the source of the information, which they had told him they would do. DO officials also said they alerted WINPAC analysts when the report was being disseminated because they knew the "high priority of the issue." The report was widely distributed in routine channels.

(Redacted) 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). Mayaki 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, (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."

And there you have it: In setting straight the record of prewar intelligence on Iraq, the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee had to note that former Ambassador Joe Wilson (husband of former CIA employee Valerie Plame) told his CIA handlers that the former prime minister of Niger revealed that an Iraqi delegation tried to meet with him to discuss "expanding commercial relations," which the former prime minister believed was an attempt to purchase Uranium.

Wilson then went to the elite media and lied through his teeth... covertly, at first; but when that failed to bring down the Bush regime, overtly in an op-ed in the NYT. Thus, the Senate Intelligence Committee's report exposed Lyin' Joe Wilson as exactly what he was; and for that, the Left will never forgive either the president who declassified the debriefing or the committee that revealed Joe Wilson to the world.

For reference, here is what President Bush said in his January, 2003 State of the Union address... the very "sixteen words" that Wilson flatly claimed in his op-ed "was not borne out by the facts as I understood them."

The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

Sounds like an excellent summary of what former Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki told former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson.

Selective declassification vs. selective leaking

The elite media and its new sock puppet Scott McClellan make much to-do out of this final point, as if it were the synecdoche that encapsulates McClellan's entire charge:

Had the president, who had repeatedly condemned the selective release of secret intelligence, enabled Libby to leak classified information to The New York Times back then to bolster the administration's arguments for war?

Once again, vagueness to the rescue! There are two ways to "selective[ly] release" classified information; one is completely legal, the other criminal, despicable, and a gross and offensive betrayal of the United States of America:

  1. The president or some Congressional committees can legally declassify specific information, in consultation with the agency that classified it, and release it to the general public, including the news media;
  2. A disgruntled government employee, fighting against the express policy of the elected government, can criminally "leak" the classified information to individual elite reporters he believes are friendly to his cause, in an effort to destroy whatever legal intelligence program he dislikes.

AP is correct: The president has on many occasions decried a "selective release of secret intelligence" of Type 2, such as the leak of details about the Terrorist Surveillance Program (the NSA al-Qaeda telephone intercepts) or our perfectly legal -- nobody even denies this -- voluntary surveillance of the SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) system, part of the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program to find and interdict terrorists' money transfers.

This sort of "selective release" does incalculable damage to our intelligence-gathering capabilities, puts human sources at risk, and alerts death-cult terrorists that they should change their modus operandi to avoid detection by intelligence and law-enforcement agents. Such leaks kill good people and aid and abet al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and other evildoers.

But that's not what McClellan is whining about. He was so shocked and horrified that he "came to the decision that at that point [he] needed to look for a way to move on" because the president made no attempt to conceal the fact that he had engaged in a perfectly legal Type 1 "selective release of secret information": He formally declassified part of a CIA debriefing, after consultation with the CIA, possibly even at the request of the United States Senate Intelligence Committee.

Are you able to detect the subtle, miniscule difference between some low-level toady in the NSA leaking details of the Terrorist Surveillance Program, thus shutting off the flow of information about potential al-Qaeda cells in the United States -- and the president declassifying a summary of a debriefing that the Senate Intelligence Committee wanted to release as part of a report on pre-war intelligence, more than a year after the debriefing was conducted?

If so, then you're one up on both the former White House Press Secretary and the elite media!

What McClellan didn't prove in his book

I'm sorry that so many folks are shocked to learn that former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson is a liar; but it's hardly the president's job to keep old intelligence documents classified -- even when the Senate Intelligence Committee wants to publish parts of them -- just to preserve Wilson's reputation... so he can continue to accuse President Bush of lying, when in fact the evidence indicates that all along, the liar was Wilson himself.

And I note, once again, that all of this was printed not only in the Senate report on July 7th, 2004; it was also discussed extensively -- and put into the context of debunking Joe Wilson's lies -- in a July 12th, 2004 column in the National Review by Clifford May. I myself was late to the game; I didn't start blogging (on Patterico's Pontifications) until May of 2005. But by October of that year, I was already posting about this on Big Lizards.

Where the hell was Scott McClellan that he wasn't already aware of this until sometime in April of 2006? The rest of us knew it eight months earlier.

More and more, the evidence indicates that McClellan's faux horror and his "turning points" are entirely fabricated after the fact... and the only two reasons I can imagine are (1) to sell more copies of his book, and (2) to set himself up for a position in the fantasized administration of President Barack Obama.

The saddest part is that even if Obama were elected, then just as with David Brock (anyone remember him?), he would no more give a job to a betrayer like Scott McClellan than he would pluck somebody else's used Kleenex out of the rubbish and blow his own nose into it.

McClellan is burning all his former friends and colleagues for nothing.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 29, 2008, at the time of 6:41 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

May 12, 2008

Greed Is Good - and Sometimes, So Too Is Corruption

Iraq Matters , Liberal Lunacy
Hatched by Dafydd

One of the joys of writing a blog is the opportunity it gives to mock one's enemies. In this case, we rise to mock the naiveté of the Associated Press... which is shocked, shocked to discover bribery and corruption in the Arab Middle East. (Of course, the other possibility is that AP knows its point is asinine yet mendaciously makes it anyway, hoping to fool its liberal readers.)

AP claims to have just realized, to it's spiritual horror, that Iraqi officials are often corrupt... and that the Bush administration, rather than fall off its high horse, declaim about purity of essence, and order mass arrests of everyone from the Iraq prime minister on down, instead turned a blind eye to low-level skulduggery in order to give the new Iraqi government time to become much more stable -- as it has:

The Bush administration repeatedly ignored corruption at the highest levels within the Iraqi government and kept secret potentially embarrassing information so as not to undermine its relationship with Baghdad, according to two former State Department employees. [Now there's as unbiased a pair of witnesses as I've ever seen!]

Arthur Brennan, who briefly served in Baghdad as head of the department's Office of Accountability and Transparency last year, and James Mattil, who worked as the chief of staff, told Senate Democrats on Monday that their office was understaffed and its warnings and recommendations ignored.... ["If only they had listened to me!"]

The State Department's policies "not only contradicted the anti-corruption mission but indirectly contributed to and has allowed corruption to fester at the highest levels of the Iraqi government," Brennan told the Senate Democratic Policy Committee.

First of all, note that the "former State Department employees" immediately ran to tell "the Senate Democratic Policy Committee -- not, for example, the Inspector General at the State Department, the Department of Justice, or even a real Senate committee (one that has Republicans as well); the SDPC is just an unofficial caucus with no actual investigatory or oversight authority.

That should tell you what desired outcome actually motivated these two witlesses.

Second, what have they discovered? That Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki "eviscerat[ed]" "Iraq's top anti-corruption office." Corruption in an Arab country! Stop the presses!

What purpose does it serve to highlight corruption and bribery in a government that is three years old? Isn't it more important to gain a measure of stability first... and only then start really working on applying the rule of law equally and evenly?

Now that the Iraqis have achieved some real stability (because of the counterinsurgency -- which the Democrats fought hammer and tooth) -- this is probably the right time to start pushing them to become more open and transparent. But we must bear in mind, that goes against literally thousands of years of Arab culture. (Arab tribes ran on corruption long before Islam came along; it wasn't even considered corruption... just what Heinlein called "squeeze.") It will be very hard and take decades to root corruption out of Arab society.

But realistically speaking, corruption rarely brings down a government. If the citizens have a reasonably good assessment of the level of corruption, and it's a level they can deal with, then they may even panic if it suddenly disappears.

Sachi made a point about the endemic nature of corruption around the world: Typically, corruption simply becomes an important part of the infrastructure. What the Soviets called the "nomenklatura," the permanent bureaucracy, is so poorly designed, so badly implemented, so enmeshed into every level of society, and so unrealistic in what they require, that it stifles necessary functions of the government.

Corruption is the universal solvent that eats through decades (centuries!) of accumulated crud and allows the system to work. Take away the corruption from, say, Soviet "republics," Arab states, Near and Far Eastern oligarchies, and prehistoric African or South American cultures flooded with ancient Soviet T-62 tanks and AK-47s... and the State will probably collapse.

Some Americans -- especially ideologically pure liberals, who are irritated whenever reality comes along to ruin the fun -- are spoiled by living in a culture where the level of corruption in New Orleans, Chicago, and Detroit is considered a national shame. In most countries, bribing public official to do their jobs is so routine, there is not even an attempt to hide it from public view; they may even advertise their rates. After all, the next guy needs to know who to pay off!

I believe Democrats themselves realize how foolish this carping and whining sounds; I think they're uneasy about the likelihood that most people who read the news or follow obscure congressional non-committee committees are aware that Arab culture tolerates a much higher level of corruption than American culture; even Europeans are more blasé about it than we. So the Senate Democratic Policy Committee is trying to make it seem as though it's taking "testimony" (it has no such authority) about something more interesting and important than the garden-variety collection of "user fees" (bribes) for doing one's job:

Sen. Byron Dorgan, head of the Democratic Policy Committee, said the testimony was critical in light of upcoming legislation that would appropriate more than $170 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Senate Appropriations Committee, of which Dorgan is a member, is expected to approve the legislation Thursday.

"It is a cruel irony if we are appropriating money next Thursday or did appropriate money last month or last year and that money ends up actually providing the resources for an insurgency in Iraq which ends up killing Americans," said Dorgan, D-N.D.

But corruption and support for insurgency are two completely separate problems. When did Democrats first get het up about the latter? Their only reaction to such revelations in the past has been to demand we surrender, flee the region, and allow it to collapse into complete chaos -- and a haven for those very terrorists.

Unrealistic Democratic posturing is a far more dangerous attitude than letting petty corruption in Iraq slide for a while, until the new democratic nation can perform its most critical tasks without corruption to grease the skids anymore. At least bribery helps make things work; sermonizing about Iraqi original sin is just cutting off your nose to wash your face.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 12, 2008, at the time of 10:44 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

April 30, 2008

Ask Not for Whom the Death Toll Tolls

Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

On March 25th, Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered a surprise attack on Sadrite militiamen in Basra. It was such a surprise, he forgot to tell the American forces about it until a couple of days before it began.

We scrambled to catch up with the Iraqi Army to give them the close-air support and logistics they needed. For a while, the battle for Basra seemed a bit dicey; a green Iraqi unit broke and ran during a counterattack, but Maliki was quickly able to replace them with forces he brought in from elsewhere in Iraq. Another front opened in Sadr City, a slum section of Baghdad controlled for many years by the Mahdi Militia; we took the lead there, and we've seen much success.

The fighting has been intense... but at last, with Iraqis in the lead, we're seeing exactly what military experts and even many Democrats have said is essential for Iraq to unite as a viable nation: The Shiite majority has proven that it governs for all Iraq, not just for the Shia... and they did it by finally confronting the Shia insurgent Muqtada Sadr, who has been in hiding in Iran for about a year now, and the Mahdi Militia that he either controls or doesn't fully control, depending who you ask.

Now, after more than a month of fighting, it has become increasingly clear that Maliki's gamble paid off:

  • The Sadrites are in full retreat in Basra and other cities and provinces, and in complete disarray in Sadr City;
  • The Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, has called on his bloc to return to the government in direct reaction to Maliki's campaign against Sadr;
  • Sadr himself has been shown to be near impotent: Recently, he threatened "open war" against the Iraqi government if it did not end the campaign (Operation Knights' Charge) against the Mahdi Militia. One week later, Sadr rescinded the threat and again begged for a ceasefire;
  • Maliki continues the offensive; combat has now changed to mopping up; the Iraqis have demonstrated they can run their own operations and troop movements, needing only logistical and close-air support from us; and most of the political demands of the Democrats upon the Iraq -- including this one -- have been met or are in the process of being met.

Here are the specifics... The return of the wandering Hashemi is a very big story; it's the birth of an Iraq Venus on the half shell:

Iraq's Prime Minister met on Sunday with the Sunni Vice-President to discuss reintegrating Sunni political parties into his Shiite-dominated government as five people died in clashes and a suicide car bombing in Baghdad, police said. [Talk about your non-sequiturs... can anybody imagine a story that begins, "Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton met for a debate last night as 47 Americans were murdered across the country"?

The meeting between Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki and Tariq Al Hashemi came a day after the Sunni leader described the return of his boycotting political bloc, the National Accordance Front, to the Cabinet as a priority....

Al Hashemi has been one of Al Maliki's most bitter critics, accusing him of sectarian favouritism, while the Prime Minister has complained that the Vice-President is blocking key legislation. But Al Hashemi and other Sunni leaders apparently have been swayed by Al Maliki's crackdown against Shiite militias.

And here is the devolution of Sadr's position. Here is Sadr defiant on April 19th:

Anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is threatening a new uprising if an American-Iraqi crackdown against his followers continues.

The cleric says he is giving his final warning to the Iraqi government to stop working with the U.S. military against him or he will "declare an open war until liberation."

Saturday's statement has been posted on al-Sadr's Web site.

The threat to lift a more than seven-month-old cease-fire comes amid fighting between al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia and U.S.-Iraqi troops in Baghdad's Sadr City and the southern city of Basra.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki also has said the Sadrists will be politically isolated if the Mahdi Army isn't disbanded.

And here he is with his tail between his legs just seven days later, on April 26th:

Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called for an end to Iraqi bloodshed on Friday and said his threat of an "open war" applies only to U.S.-led foreign troops -- stepping back from a full-blown confrontation with the government over a crackdown against his followers.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, meanwhile, took a hard line against al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia and other illegally armed groups, setting conditions for stopping military operations against them that included surrendering weapons.

Al-Sadr's new message, which was read during prayers and posted on his Web site, eased fears that the anti-U.S. cleric was planning to lift a nearly 8-month-old cease-fire, a move that would jeopardize recent security gains....

"I call upon my brothers in the police, army and Mahdi Army to stop the bloodshed," al-Sadr said in the statement. "We should be one hand in achieving justice, security and in supporting the resistance in all of its forms."

All in all, April was a very, very good month in Iraq for the forces of democracy, and a catastrophic month for the terrorist forces of chaos and human sacrifice. So how would you expect the mainstream media to characterize the Battle of Basra and Baghdad, which has routed the Mahdi Militia from the south and shattered many of its elite terrorist cells in Sadr City?

You guessed it: US troop deaths push monthly toll to 7-month high in Iraq:

The killings of five U.S. soldiers in separate attacks in Baghdad pushed the American death toll for April up to 49, making it the deadliest month since September. One soldier died when his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb. The second died of wounds sustained when he was attacked by small-arms fire, the military said Wednesday. Both incidents occurred Tuesday in northwestern Baghdad.

A third soldier died after being struck by a bomb while on a foot patrol early Wednesday in a northern section of the capital, while another roadside bomb killed two American soldiers in southern Baghdad, the military said in separate statements.

The spike in U.S. troop deaths comes as intense combat has been raging in Sadr City and other neighborhoods between Shiite militants and U.S.-Iraqi troops for more than a month.

In all, at least 4,061 members of the U.S. military have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

"We have said all along that this will be a tough fight and there will be periods where we see these extremists, these criminal groups and al-Qaida terrorists seek to reassert themselves," U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner told reporters in Baghdad.

"So, the sacrifice of our troopers, the sacrifice of Iraqi forces and Iraqi citizens reflects this challenge," Bergner said in response to a question about what's behind the increase in American troop deaths.

Trust AP to turn a proactive campaign begun against the most deadly group in Iraq (they've killed several times more innocent Iraqis than al-Qaeda has), the militia that currently most threatens the stability of the Iraqi government, into nothing but a rise in "US troop deaths!"

Worse, AP uses selective quotation to make it appear as though the fight is being taken to us, willy nilly, by the Sadrites as they "reassert themselves." (They just started killing the American Army and Marine victims, who were helpless against the onslaught!) Leaping lizards; is AP ignorant of the operational tempo, or do they know what they're implying is the mirror opposite of reality?

I suppose it never crossed the minds of AP writers Slobodan Lekic, Sinan Salaheddin, and Qassim Abdul-Zahra that anytime democratic forces initiate a major operation against terrorists and insurgents, our death toll will necessarily go up: In military terms, that's normally called being "aggressive" and "taking the fight to the enemy."

Figures I've seen indicate that while we lost 45 soldiers, Marines, and British soldiers in April, the Mahdi Militia appears to have lost somewhere between 400 and 1,000 terrorist killers. Once again, we're in that 15:1 ratio of dead enemies to friendlies. I know the Pentagon hates body-count comparisons... but that's a heck of a victory nonetheless.

Of course, while the Associated Press compares the April, 2008 combat-death figure to that of September, 2007, they don't actually tell us the September figure. I suspect it's because that datum might interfere with "the story," which appears to be -- stop me if you've heard this -- that "the surge," as so many refer to it, has failed. After all, if the intent was to lower casualties, and here we just had the highest death toll in seven months, then good heavens, the surge didn't do a thing!

So what was the number of Coalition deaths back in September? According to Iraq Coalition Casuality Count, it was 69 -- averaging 2.3 per day -- contrasted with 1.63 per day this month. In other words, the death toll in April is still less than 2/3rds that of September. And it's important that in September 2007, the counterinsurgency had already begun having its effect and combat deaths were down. The local peak of coalition combat fatalities was May 2007, when 131 troops died (4.23 per day). April 2008 was only a third of that... and that's during an offensive campaign.

iCasualities also reports that April saw 565 Iraq civilian deaths, compared to 752 in September 2007 and 2,864 in February 2007; April 2008's civilian death toll is only 22% of February 2007. I think most folks would consider a 78% drop in civilian deaths -- which is, after all, the main goal of a counterinsurgency strategy, to protect the civilian population -- a positive thing. But from the lack of interest on the part of the elite media to report on this, I suppose they either don't consider "fewer dead civilians" to be positive, or at the very least, they're not sure. ("We're unbiased journalists, so we can't have any opinion!")

Elite Iraq-war journalists: Can't live with 'em; can't... hm.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 30, 2008, at the time of 4:11 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

April 10, 2008

"Time to Begin to... Focus on the Challenges Posed by Afghanistan"

Afghan Astonishments , Iraq Matters , Presidential Campaign Camp and Porkinstance , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

The wit and wisdom of Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, April 8th, 2008:

Without mentioning Senator McCain by name, Senator Clinton responded that supporters of the Bush administration's policy often talk about the cost of leaving Iraq, yet ignore the greater cost of continuing the same failed policy....

"I think it is time to begin an orderly process of withdrawing our troops, start rebuilding our military and focusing on the challenges posed by Afghanistan, global terrorist groups and other problems that confront America," she said.

I think it safe to say that if Democrats have one unifying theme to their national-security policy, it is that Iraq is nought but a "distraction" from the real war, which is against al-Qaeda... but only against the branch of al-Qaeda found along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. They insist we must immediately withdraw virtually all our forces from Iraq and plant at least a significant portion of them in Afghanistan, to fight the good fight there instead.

Let's not speculate (for this post) about the real motivation behind the call to withdraw from Iraq or even whether Democrats are actually sincere in saying they would vastly increase the forces in Afghanistan. Let's assume complete good faith on their part. (I know it's a stretch, but work with me here.)

My question is -- what more, exactly, do Democrats expect us to do in Afghanistan?

We currently have 31,000 troops in Afghanistan as our component of the NATO mission (the International Security Assistance Force, ISAF); we have already pledged an additional 3,000 Marines for fighting and training purposes (to improve the Afghan National Army). Our ISAF allies have collectively sent an additional 28,000 forces, some of whom fight, while others only participate in nation-building efforts, bringing the total current NATO commitment to 59,000 troops.

The former Chief of Naval Operations of the U.S. Navy, now Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, wants this overall figure to increase by 7,500 soldiers and 3,000 military trainers; outgoing ISAF commander Gen. Dan McNeill wants to increase by two combat brigades (3,000-8,000 soldiers or Marines) and one training brigade (1,500-4000 soldiers or Marines):

[U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert] Gates said the number of additional combat troops would depend on several things, including the extent of U.S. and NATO success on the battlefield this year, as well as the impact of a new senior U.S. commander taking over in coming months. Gen. David McKiernan is due to replace Gen. Dan McNeill this spring as the top overall commander in Afghanistan.

McNeill has said he believes he needs three more brigades - two for combat and one for training. That translates to roughly 7,500 to 10,000 additional troops. The Bush administration has no realistic hope of getting the NATO allies to send such large numbers.

McKiernan told Congress on Thursday that while he can't yet say how many more troops he would want there, he believes he needs additional combat and aviation forces, intelligence and surveillance capabilities, and training and mentoring teams.

Marines don't use brigades as a normal organizational force; they prefer the regiment. Gen. McNeill is Army, much of our ISAF committment are Marines... so I'm not sure exactly how many troops he calls for. Let's just split the difference between small brigades and big: 5,500 incoming combat troops and 2,750 incoming trainers.

This would mean that we expect our ISAF partners -- all of whom have pledged more troops (France alone will up their committment by at least 700) -- to pony up an additional 3,500 combat troops and 1,750 trainers... unless the next president plans to increase our own committment by more than President Bush has proposed. As noted above, it's unlikely that we can get the full complement from our allies, whose military budgets are woefully small compared to ours (as ours is woefully small, as percent of GDP, compared even to the average of the last 45 years).

However we reach the goal, that would bring the NATO forces in Afghanistan to a total of more than 67,000 combined combat forces and training forces. That, by the way, is all the force that the top commander of ISAF says he needs; he has not called for additional tens of thousands of men.

So what about the Afghan National Army? We have been training them just as we have trained the Iraqi army. As of December 2007, the Afghan army comprised 57,000 soldiers, or about as large as the current ISAF force level. Presumably they are still recruiting, so we can expect tha tnumber to rise along with the NATO forces. But even as they are now, that makes a total integrated army of 116,000 today, rising to about 125,000 over the next year.

(The Afghans are probably not as close to being a modern army in equipment, strategy, and attitude as are the Iraqis, but that is a very high standard; they're certainly far better than they were just a year ago. Fewer units can take the lead, but they generally fight very well when NATO leads.)

So the real question for the Democrats is this: What could we do with, say, 225,000 troops that we can't do with 125,000? If we funneled even just 100,000 of our current 150,000 Iraqi troops into Afghanistan instead, what exactly would the extra brigades be doing that we're not doing successfully now?

And there's where you nit the snag: Afghanistan is even less a force-on-force war than Iraq. When we shifted from the failed "attrition" strategy of Gen. George Casey to the successful counterinsurgency strategy (COIN) of Gen. David Petraeus, we added only 30,000 extra soldiers, an increase of 23%. In Afghanistan, that would mean an increase of only 13,500 NATO troops -- which is only 3,500 more than we're already increasing them.

Is that all the Democrats envision, an additional 3,500 troops? Or are they thinking of something vastly bigger? I have the bizarre image in my head of a Democratic army of 200,000 extra soldiers, all linking hands and walking the length of the border to "find Osama bin Laden!" When (of course) they fail to find him, they'll declare that he, too, was invented by Bush, just like the WMD; there never was a 9/11 attack; and we can go back to Clintonian somnambulism again.

Back to real life. The main point of the so-called "surge" in Iraq was not the increase in troops but the change in strategy; the strategy -- specifically crafted for the Iraq situation -- happened to require 160,000 soldiers, and we only had 130,000 at the time; thus we increased our force structure by the difference.

There's been no such crafting of a COIN strategy in Afghanistan that I know of, because the situation there is not the same as it was in Iraq. But if we eventually do switch to COIN, we will have to evaluate the military needs from scratch... and we might end up increasing forces, but we might end up leaving them the same or even reducing them. The strategy must drive the troop levels, not the other way round. We won't increase troop levels just to increase troop levels, but only as part of a new strategy that demands more soldiers: The strategy comes first; setting force levels is a byproduct of the strategy.

Needless to say, no Democrat -- and no general advising a Democrat -- has crafted such a strategy or reasonably could, since it could only be done by a COIN specialist like Gen. Petraeus who had spent years in Afghanistan and was intimately familiar with the progress of the war and the nature of the enemy right there. So what the heck do candidates like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and other Democratic elected officials, mean by saying we should be "focusing on the challenges posed by Afghanistan, global terrorist groups and other problems that confront America?" What does "focus" mean in this case?

They advocate pulling troops out of Iraq and putting them into Afghanistan. But doing what? Deployed how? Do they mean for combat or training? What mix of Special Forces, air forces, grunts, and administrative/logistics?

How do they want them organized? What strategy should they follow? What would be their rules of engagement? Can ground forces cross into Pakistan in hot pursuit? How about initiating cross-border contact?

Al-Qaeda's presence is mostly in the tribal areas that span the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan -- Balochistan, which also includes a piece of north-eastern Iran; South and North Waziristan in Pakistan; and several other provinces on both sides of the border; the heaviest fighting is currently in southern Afghanistan, which touches both Iran and Pakistan. According to Bill Roggio, attacks are heavy in Kunar in the eastern region, Khost in the southeast, and Helmand and especially Khandahar in the southern region:

According to NATO statistics, “More than 75% of [Afghanistan] experienced less than 1 security incident per quarter per 10,000 people, supporting the assessment that the insurgency is not expanding across [Afghanistan]. 70% of the events occurred in 10% of the districts. The population of these districts is less than 6% of the population of [Afghanistan].” NATO attributes the increase in violence to increased operations by NATO forces.

The problem is that the tribes there do not recognize the border; and there are many trails that cross the Tora Bora mountains or the Hindu Kush, along which al-Qaeda can retreat into Pakistan when we attack (or into Afghanistan when the Pakistani troops attack).

What we really need is a coordinated operation attacking from both sides simultaneously; but we could never get President Musharraf to go along with it... and I suspect we're even less likely to ally with his successor, who will almost certainly be a member either of the Pakistan Muslim League (N) (the "N" is for Nawaz Sharif) or the Pakistan People's Party of the late Benazir Bhutto, both of which are more Islamist and less America-friendly than is Musharraf.

Sad to say, I don't think that a single Democrat has even so much as thought about these questions, let alone come up with any answers. The Democratic slogan "Withdraw troops from Iraq and send them to Afghanistan!" has every bit as much semantic content as their other slogan -- "Free Tibet!"... none at all.

At some point, we may well change strategy in Afghanistan to COIN... or we may change to some other strategy. We may decide to launch a pre-emptive attack on Balochistan and Waziristan; or we may end up cutting a deal with Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani or caliph-maker Nawaz Sharif, after Pervez Musharraf is voted out.

But there is no way to know at this point what we're going to end up doing, because everything is in flux. Thus it's not not irresponsible, it's imbecilic to announce in early 2008 your military plan for Afghanistan in 2009. It's like a financial manager saying, "in 2009, we're going to sell the following stocks and invest in these others here." How can you possibly know today whether that will be a good decision a year from now?

So even giving the Democrats all benefit of the doubt on sincerity and motive, just taking their pronouncements at face value, I can only conclude, in strict social-science terms, that the Democrats are behaving like poorly trained baboons. Their long-war rhetoric is just empty jingoism, whose only purpose is to make them look tough in advance of elections.

They have no specific plan; they have no grand strategy; they're not even aware that such things are required (or exist). They've never read any books that would explain this to them. They don't even know enough to know that they don't know enough; to borrow a wonderful phrase from Donald Rumsfeld, to the Democrats, military strategy is an "unknown unknown."

I recommend we not put one in la Casablanca. I'm not even comfortable with them sitting on the national-security committees; alas, there's nothing we can do about that.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 10, 2008, at the time of 6:16 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

April 9, 2008

Between the Lines

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters , Liberal Lunacy , Media Madness , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Sachi

It's never safe to take at face value anything written by the mainstream media about Iraq. You must always tease the real story from the misleading and sometimes completely fabricated "first draft of history" they publish. But even propaganda can reveal the deeper truth.

It's now clear that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Iraqi army and Iraqi National Police showed decisive leadership and initiative -- perhaps a bit too decisive! -- during the recent Operation Knights' Charge in Basra. Even AP is reluctantly reporting the latest achievement of Nouri al-Maliki... though of course they couch it in dismissive terms:

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's faltering crackdown [!] on Shiite militants has won the backing of Sunni Arab and Kurdish parties that fear both the powerful sectarian militias and the effects of failure on Iraq's fragile government.

The emergence of a common cause could help bridge Iraq's political rifts.

The head of the Kurdish self-ruled region, Massoud Barzani, has offered Kurdish troops to help fight anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia.

More significantly, Sunni Arab Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi signed off on a statement by President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, and the Shiite vice president, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, expressing support for the crackdown in the oil-rich southern city of Basra.

The elite media used to criticize Maliki for not being able to bring other parties together and for not going after Shiite militias (that is, the Mahdi Militia, a.k.a. Jaish al Mahdi, or JAM). It's true that Vice President Hashemi and Prime Minister Maliki have been bitter rivals; but then, now that Hashemi has decided to support Maliki’s effort, how can the "crackdown" be “faltering?” Rather, shouldn't it now be called "strengthening" -- or even that other favorite media word, "mounting?" (I forgot for a moment: Only problems for Republicans are allowed to "mount.")

Political players in the Middle East are not known for backing the underdog; the best conclusion is that Hashemi has correctly assessed that the Basra crackdown is working, so now he wants to join the "strong horse." Of course, the Associated Press has its own defeatist tale of how the Battle of Basra ended:

The Basra crackdown, ostensibly waged against "outlaws" and "criminal gangs," bogged down in the face of fierce resistance and discontent in the ranks of government forces. Major combat eased after al-Sadr asked his militia to stop fighting last Sunday.

But al-Maliki continued his tough rhetoric, threatening to take his crackdown to the Mahdi Army's strongholds in Baghdad. Al-Sadr hinted at retaliation, and the prime minister backed down, freezing raids and arrests targeting the young cleric's supporters.

How can a campaign that ends with the enemy’s surrender be described as “bogged down?” (Thank goodness they didn't say "quagmired.") It's true that Maliki stated that he would halt offensive action for ten days, but not because he was afraid of Sadr’s revenge; if he feared Sadr, he would never have attacked in the first place -- or at least he would have stopped the moment he saw that the JAM was stronger than he expected.

But instead, Maliki responded to the fierce fighting by sending reinforcements into the battle and driving the JAM out of their entrenched positions. Now it's the Iraqi army that patrols the streets of Basra, not the Mahdi Militia.

There's more, much more that we now learn...

Here is what Bill Roggio (you knew he had to come into this debate somewhere!) has to say about the Battle of Basra:

Subsequent to the ceasefire, the Iraqi military announced it was moving reinforcements to Basra, and the next day pushed forces into the ports of Khour al Zubair and Umm Qasr. Iraqi special operations forces and special police units have conducted several raids inside Basra since then, while an Iraqi brigade marched into the heart of a Mahdi-controlled Basra neighborhood on April 2. And two days after Sadr called for a ceasefire, the government maintained a curfew in Sadr City and other Shia neighborhoods in Baghdad. None of this would be happening had Maliki simply caved to Sadr. [So much for the image of the PM cowering in fear of the sidelined Muqtada Sadr... who is himself still hiding in Qom, Iran, and afraid to show his face even in the Shiite areas of Iraq.]

Maliki's governing coalition did not revolt over this operation. When the Iraqi opposition held an emergency session of parliament to oppose the Basra operations, only 54 of the 275 lawmakers attended. AFP reported, "The two main parliamentary blocs--Shiite United Iraqi Alliance and the Kurdish Alliance--were not present for the session which was attended by lawmakers from radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's bloc, the small Shiite Fadhila Party, the secular Iraqi National List and the Sunni National Dialogue Council." The fact that the major political blocs in Iraq's parliament ignored the emergency session is politically significant, and no evidence suggests that Maliki's governing coalition has been jeopardized since then.

(Roggio is now posting at a new website you should all bookmark, Iraq Status Report)

The ten days suspension of offensive operations in the south was meant to give militia members time to lay down their weapons and surrender. Operation Knights' Charge continues against those Iran-trained, Iran-led elements of the JAM that have not stopped their own attacks, according to Roggio, this time writing in the Long War Journal, which he edits.

One of the reasons cited by the elite media to prove that Muqtada Sadr won the Battle of Basra is that Sadr's followers listened to him and stopped fighting when he told them. But it has become increasingly clear that Sadr himself no longer has operational control over the JAM; those element who were actually fighting against the Iraqi army were under the direct leadership of Iranian Qods Force commanders (the so-called "Special Groups")... as is Sadr himself, as Bill Roggio notes in the Long War Journal:

Just as the new Iraqi forces began to arrive in Basrah and US and British forces were gearing up to augment the Iraqi military, Muqtada al Sadr, under orders from Iran’s Qods Force, called for his fighters to withdraw from the streets. Sadr issued a nine-point list of demands, which included that operations cease. Maliki refused and Iraqi and US forces continued to move into Basrah and conduct pinpoint raids against Shia terror groups. More than 200 Mahdi Army fighters were killed, 700 were wounded, and 300 captured during the six days of fighting in Basrah alone.

Despite Sadr’s so-called "order" for them to stand down, some of these Special Groups continue to fight... and continue to be driven out. Eventually, they will have nowhere left to flee to except back into Iran, where they came from.

The media have also criticized Maliki for "not making political progress." Several senators said as much to Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker during the hearings in the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But now, as Maliki successfully reaches out to Kurds and Sunni and gains their support, do the MSM praise his effort? (Is that a rhetorical question?)

Of course they don't. They accuse him of seeking short term political gain for his own interests:

But other motives may have played a role in the crackdown.

Provincial elections are scheduled to be held before Oct. 1 and Shiite parties are gearing up for a tough contest in the Shiite heartland of southern Iraq, where oil-rich Basra and the wealthy religious centers of Najaf and Karbala are prizes.

A successful crackdown in Basra would have boosted the election chances of al-Maliki's Dawa party and his Shiite allies in the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, whose Badr Brigade militia is the Mahdi Army's sworn enemy.

Let's pause a moment to ponder that last sentence. Nouri al-Maliki was originally a client of Muqtada Sadr. The Dawa Party has historically been associated with the JAM; opposing them on the Shiite side, as AP admits, has been the Badr Brigades (now Badr Organization and no longer functioning as a private militia), controlled by the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (formerly the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq).

So AP says that Maliki attacked the militia associated with his own Dawa Party, rather than the one associated with the SIIC, in order to get more Shia to vote for both Dawa and the SIIC.

This is as creative an interpretation as their line that the Iraqi forces were utterly crushed, and Muqtada Sadr was on the brink of wiping them out and making himself Caliph of Mesopotamia... when he suddenly had a change of heart and surrendered instead.

If that makes perfect sense to you, you're probably a liberal.

And now, Maliki and the leaders of the other parties in the Iraqi parliament are taking a bold step to isolate the JAM even further -- by barring any party that maintains a militia from even contesting seats in the Iraqi provincial elections this coming October. From the same Long War Journal piece linked above:

Less than two weeks after Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki launched Operation Knights' Assault to clear the Mahdi Army and other Iranian-backer militias in Basrah, the Iraqi government is moving to ban Muqtada al Sadr's political movement from participating in the election if it fails to disband the militia. Facing near-unanimous opposition, Sadr said he would seek guidance from senior Shia clerics in Najaf and Qom and disband the Mahdi Army if told to do so, according to one aide. But another Sadr aide denied this.

The pressure on Sadr and his Mahdi Army started on Sunday after Maliki announced the plans to pass legislation to prevent political parties with militias from participating in the political process. "The first step will be adding language to a draft election bill banning parties that operate militias from fielding candidates in provincial balloting this fall," Reuters reported on Sunday. "The government intends to send the draft to parliament within days and hopes to win approval within weeks...."

The legislation is said to have broad support from the major Sunni, Kurdish, and Shia political parties, and is expected to quickly pass through parliament.

This leaves the Sadrists in a pickle: If they disband the JAM, then they're just another (minor) political party in the Shiite alliance. But if they don't, they will be nothing but a militia. At that point, Maliki would have even more support for annihilating all trace of the mighty Mahdi Militia from Iraq: They would be the Iranian version of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

But of course, the elite media assure us that Muqtada Sadr won the Battle of Basra, while Prime Minister Maliki was politically ruined.

Yesterday and today, Gen. Petraeus and Amb. Crocker testified on Capitol Hill to various congressional committees. As a glimpse into our political leaders' understanding of such a crucial issue of the Iraq war and how it relates to the larger war against global caliphism, the transcripts of those hearings are illuminating, frightening, and frustrating.

(The transcript for the House Armed Services Committee hearing can be found here; the transcript for Senate Armed Services Committee hearing here; and the transcript for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing here.)

Judging from the Democratic senators’ questions during General David Petraeus’s testimony before Congress this morning, their understanding of the Basra situation is little better than that of the MSM. For that matter, Democratic senators' understanding of Iraq itself, let alone the war, is completely outdated: They imagine it's still 2006, the "civil war" still rages, and a hundred civilians are being slaughtered each day.

But according to Iraq Coalition Casualities, during last month, civilian deaths averaged 27 per day, not 100; but that included the Battle of Basra. February saw only 19 killings per day across the whole country, a drop of more than 80% from the highs of late 2006, before we changed to the counterinsurgency strategy. This stunning turnaround has mostly flown below the Democrats' Iraq-success radar -- which, to be perfectly blunt, is rarely even turned on.

Some of the exchanges are laugh-out-loud funny, such as this between Gen. Petraeus and a certain senator with a "chest full of medals," during the former's testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The good senator was trying to get Petraeus to admit that our continued presence in Iraq was the only reason that Iraqis have not stepped up to the plate; if we simply walked away, that would make everything much better:

SEN. KERRY: But isn't there a contradiction, in a sense, in your overall statement of the strategic imperative? Because you've kept mentioning al Qaeda here today. Al Qaeda -- AQI, as we know it today -- first of all didn't exist in Iraq till we got there. The Shi'a have not been deeply interrupted by AQI. The Kurds --

GEN. PETRAEUS: Oh, sir, they were. They were blown up right and left by AQI. That was the height of the sectarian violence.

SEN. KERRY: I understand that. I absolutely understand that. But it is not a fundamental, pervasive -- I mean, most people that I've talked to, Shi'a, and most of the evidence of what's happened in the Anbar province with the Sunni is that once they decided to turn on al Qaeda and not give them a welcome, they have been able to turn around their own security --

GEN. PETRAEUS: And we helped them, sir.

SEN. KERRY: (Inaudible.)

GEN. PETRAEUS: And we cleared Ramadi, we cleared Fallujah, we cleared the belts of Baghdad --

SEN. KERRY: And every plan I've seen --

GEN. PETRAEUS: -- (inaudible) -- Baqubah and everything else.

SEN. KERRY: Every plan I've seen here in Congress that contemplates a drawdown contemplates leaving enough American forces there to aid in the prosecution of al Qaeda and to continue that kind of effort.

GEN. PETRAEUS: That's exactly right, yes, sir.

SEN. KERRY: But then why doesn't that change the political dynamics that demand more reconciliation, more compromise, accommodation, so we resolve the political stalemate which is at the core of the dilemma?

GEN. PETRAEUS: Sure. No, that's -- sir, that's a great question. One of the key aspects is that they are not represented right now. And that's why provincial elections scheduled for no later than October are so important. The Anbar sheikhs, for example, will tell you "We want these elections," Senator, as they, I'm sure, did, because they didn't vote in January 2005. Huge mistake.

SEN. KERRY: (Inaudible.) [By this point, Kerry appears to be just making small squeaking noises.]

GEN. PETRAEUS: And they know it. They'll do much better this time than they did before. More important, even in Nineveh province, where because they didn't vote you have a different ethnic group, actually, that largely is the head of the provincial council. So again, all of those.

SEN. KERRY: (Inaudible.)

GEN. PETRAEUS: Yes, sir. Thank you.

Here is another exchange, this time with Sen. Barbara "Mrs. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" Boxer (D-CA, 80%): She seizes an extremely important, even urgent issue in her teeth; and like a deranged Pekingese, she won't let it go:

SEN. BOXER: If I could say, I agree with you that there are certain factions there that certainly support Iran. That's part of the problem. But my question is this. Ahmadinejad was the first national leader --

AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Off mike.)

SEN. BOXER: Can you please cool it back there? Ahmadinejad was the first national leader to be given a state reception by Iraq's government. Iraq President Talabani and Ahmadinejad held hands as they inspected a guard of honor while a brass band played brisk British marching tunes. Children presented the Iranian with flowers. Members of Iraq's Cabinet lined up to greet him, some kissing him on both cheeks. So it's not a question about the militias out there. I'm saying, after all we have done, the Iraqi government kisses the Iranian leader! And our president has to sneak into the country. I don't understand it Isn't it true that after all we've done, Iran has gained ground?

AMB. CROCKER: Senator, Iran and Iranian influence in Iraq is obviously an extremely important issue for us, but it's very much, I think, a mixed bag. And what we saw over these last couple of weeks in Baghdad and in Basra, as the prime minister engaged extremist militias that were supported by Iran. is that it revealed not only what Iran is doing in Iraq, but it produced a backlash against them and a rallying of support for the prime minister in being ready to take them on. Iran by no means has it all its own way in Iraq. Iraqis remember with clarity and bitterness the 1980 to '88 Iran-Iraq war.

SEN. BOXER: Yes. Well, that's my point.

AMB. CROCKER: In which --

SEN. BOXER: And now he's getting kissed on the cheek. That's my point.

AMB. CROCKER: And there was a lot of commentary around among Iraqis, including among Shi'a Iraqis, about just that point; what's he doing here after what they did to us during that war? But Iraqi Shi'a died by the tens, by the hundreds of thousands defending their Arab and Iraqi identity and state against a Persian enemy, and that's, again, deeply felt. It means when Iran's hand is exposed in backing these extremist militias that there is backlash, broadly speaking, in the country, including from Iraq's Shi'a. And I think that's important, and I think it's important that the Iraqi government build on it.

SEN. BOXER: I give up. It is what it is. They kissed him on the cheek. I mean, what they say over the dinner table is one thing, but actually kissed him on the cheek. He got a red carpet treatment and we are losing our sons and daughters every single day for the Iraqis to be free. It is irritating is my point.

AMB. CROCKER: Senator, the vice president was in Iraq just a couple of weeks after that, and he also had a very warm reception.

SEN. BIDEN: Did he get kissed?

AMB. CROCKER: I believe -- (laughter) -- he did get kissed.

SEN. BIDEN: I want to know whether he got kissed. That's all. (Laughter.)

Perhaps the general and the ambassador can educate this sad crew of media manipulators in motley; but somehow I doubt it.

Dafydd adds: "The Lord helps those who help themselves." We should begin an urgent project of homeschooling Senate Democrats.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, April 9, 2008, at the time of 7:08 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

April 8, 2008

ABC Newsflash: 100% of US Troops In Iraq Plan to Vote Democratic

Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

In an ABC News story titled "Surprising Political Endorsements By U.S. Troops," crack reporter Martha Raddatz finds that 80% of all troops interviewed plan to vote for Barack Obama, while 20% plan to vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton Rodham. None at all plans to vote for John McCain.

  • 60% of all the soldiers interviewed said the main reason they supported Obama was that he would bring them, personally, home immediately, regardless of whether the job is finished.
  • That includes 20% whose support for Obama was due to the fact that he would "probably support us a lot more." Raddatz helpfully clarified: By "support," that 20% interviewed meant "pulling out troops."
  • 20% cited Obama's "representation for change." I'm not exactly sure what that means, but clearly Republicans are all lying criminals.
  • By contrast, the remaining 20% of all American troops interviewed supported Hillary Clinton, because "we should have a gradual drawdown."
  • No troops whatsoever supported McCain, or indeed made reference to him. It's doubtful that anyone in the military is aware that the Republican Party still exists. Even those who seemed to support the mission generally were not quoted as having any particular preference for president, oddly enough. One can only surmise that soldiers must look down upon veterans with a strong and particular distaste.

Surprisingly enough, the American military in Iraq totally opposes the war and wants an immediate end to it, no matter what happens, according to ABC:

Though the military is generally a more conservative group, soldiers like Sgt. Justin Sarbaum are just as eager for a pull-out as the Democratic candidates. Sarbaum said he wondered which presidential candidate would be able to better the U.S. relationship with rogue nations, such as Iran, so that soldiers are not sent off to another war.

"Iran is obviously a big issue," Sarbaum said, "Here in Iraq for my third time; starting another war right now -- is it really necessary?"

Although some might think that the survey's sample size -- five soldiers -- is somewhat, er, scant, the overwhelming, Saddam-sized support for a Democrat in the White House in 2008 (100% of all soldiers whose interviews ABC printed) surely makes up for not having interviewed, say, 1200 or 1500 soldiers instead of five.

(And in fact, to be fair to ABC, they did interview six additional soldiers but chose not to print their preferences for president. You can't say ABC didn't go the extra mile.)

Based on the astonishing unanimity of opinion, it's very clear that the Army hates George W. Bush as commander in chief and would much prefer Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. Once again, the elite media has exposed another myth pushed by Christianist conservatives: that soldiers actually want to win the wars they fight. Now that we know they don't care about the mission -- only their personal safety -- I believe the Democrats can and should make a strong case for dissolving the military entirely.

If voters are concerned about so-called "national security," perhaps a bunch of yeoman farmers (equally divided between the sexes and all races, proportionately represented, except for males without color) -- armed with olive branches, trained doves, horns of plenty, and inflatable puppets -- would do a better job "defending" America than a bunch of warmongers in "uniform."

I believe we all owe ABC a debt of "gratitude" (and a couple of Pullet Surprises) for opening our eyes to the "lies" we have swallowed since 1776.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 8, 2008, at the time of 3:22 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

April 2, 2008

Who Won the B. of B., and Who Lost? Hint: Listen to the Military Guys

Good News! , Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

Power Line asks "the question;" so do the Counterterrorism Blog and Col. Austin Bay. Bill Roggio is too busy answering the question to ask it. The elite media thinks it has the answer, but it's fooling itself (and us), as usual.

Paul Mirengoff at Power Line is skeptical of all sides, as is his wont. Alas, in this case, extreme skepticism leads to terminal agnosticism; but I think we have, at the least, a method we can follow to decide who won: Stop paying attention to the spin and just look at the actual facts on the ground.

Uncle!

Start with this one: In any military engagement, the side that calls for a ceasefire soonest and loudest is almost certainly the losing side. Why would the winner be anxious to terminate a successful operation before it's over?

In the case of Operation Knights' Charge, all sides agree that it was Muqtada Sadr who called for a truce, and he did so repeatedly. Buttressing this position is the fact that Sadr accompanied his call for a ceasefire with a series of imperious demands -- for example, that the Iraqi government must immediately release all imprisoned members of the mighty Mahdi Militia who had not yet been convicted of crimes. Yet despite the concession inherent in that last point, nobody, not even the elite media, claim that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has acquiesced to a single demand... but the Mahdi Militia surrendered Basra anyway.

For example, a fawning, almost sycophantic story yesterday on Time Magazine's website mentions the main demand, but then curiously drops the subject without saying whether Maliki accepted it:

One of Sadr's principal demands when he met with the delegation of Shi'ite political leaders to discuss the new cease-fire was that more of his forces be released under the amnesty law. This was to appease his disgruntled followers whose brothers and uncles are the ones behind bars and who feel they have taken an unfair brunt of the surge while former Sunni insurgents are getting paychecks in the Concerned Local Citizens units. Like any good politician, he has to prove he can deliver the goods to his followers -- even if he has to go to war for it.

And there the piece ends! Does anyone think that if reporter Charles Crain had the slightest bit of evidence that Sadr's demand was met, he wouldn't have shouted it from the rooftops? Especially in a piece titled, in typical unbiased fashion, "How Moqtada al-Sadr Won in Basra."

Location, location, location

Another clear indicator is where each side is when the fighting stops. At the beginning of the Battle of Basra, all sources agree that the Mahdi Militia was virtually in control of the city of Basra -- thanks to the British policy of walking softly and carrying a toothpick. The militia patrolled the streets, they shook down citizens, they paraded openly, they held major rallies in public. They kidnapped and killed people at will; they controlled the airport, the seaport, and the oil fields.

Today, it is the Iraqi Army that patrols the streets of Basra; the militia -- again, all sides agree -- has pulled its fighters from the streets and no longer asserts control of the city. From the International Herald Tribune:

Iraqi troops met no significant resistance as a dozen-vehicle convoy drove Wednesday into the Hayaniyah district of central Basra, scene of fierce clashes last week with al-Sadr's Mahdi Army fighters.

Troops set up checkpoints and searched a few houses before leaving the neighborhood after a couple of hours, witnesses said.

Here is what Bill Roggio says:

While the intensity of operations against the Mahdi Army in Basrah and the South have decreased since Sadr called for his unilateral cease-fire, Iraqi security forces continue to conduct operations. Today the Iraqi Army marched through the Mahdi Army-infested Hayaniyah district in central Basrah. On April 1, the Hillah Special Weapons and Tactics unit captured 20 “smugglers” in Basrah. On March 31, Iraqi Special Operation Forces killed 14 “criminals” during a raid against Mahdi Army forces occupying a school in Basrah.

The Iraqi security forces will continue to clear Basrah, according to the Army. During Sunday’s press briefing, Major General Abdul Aziz said several districts of Basrah were cleared, and these operations would continue. “Our troops managed to clear certain areas in Basra, Najubya, Al Ma’qil, Al Ashshar Wazuber and Garmat Ali and other places as well,” said Aziz. “Starting from today, we will work on clearing the other places from the wanted individuals and criminals and those who are still carrying weapons....”

The Iraqi Army has also moved troops into the ports of Khour al Zubair and Umm Qasr in Basrah province on April 1. The Iraqi troops replaced the facility protection services guards, who are often accused of criminal activities.

Clearly, the Iraqi Army ends the operation (or rather, the major-combat element of it) in a significantly improved position from where they started, while the militia is correspondingly dispossessed. Based on this metric alone, the winner should be clear.

Hip hip, chin chin, to the rhythm section

Another good measure is which side controls the post-combat operational tempo. Here again, there is no dispute, even among those who claim that Sadr won: The Iraqi Army continues its operations, while the militia removes itself from the streets, and it hides. The army continues raiding "safe" houses, arresting wanted militants, securing the area, and sending in reinforcements to hold the territory.

The Potter's Field

The "body count" metric is not always dispositive by itself; but combined with the other measures above, it adds its amicus curiae argument. Hundreds of Mahdi Militia members were killed, hundreds more captured, and hundreds more were wounded. Nobody claiming that Sadr won has even hinted that Iraqi Army casualties were anywhere near that high.

Roggio's latest numbers:

The Mahdi Army has also taken high casualties since the fighting began on March 25. According to an unofficial tally of the open source reporting from the US and Iraqi media and Multinational Forces Iraq, 571 Mahdi Army fighters have been killed, 881 have been wounded, 490 have been captured, and 30 have surrendered over the course of seven days of fighting.

Austin Bay has slightly different numbers (because they are official, so probably err on the side of caution):

A dispute over casualties in the firefights has ensued, as it always does. An Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman alleged that Sadr's militia had been hit hard in six days of fighting, suffering 215 dead, 155 arrested and approximately 600 wounded. The government spokesman gave no casualty figures for Iraqi security forces.

No one, of course, could offer an independent confirmation, but if the numbers are accurate they provide an indirect confirmation of reports that Sadr's Mahdi Militia (Jaish al-Mahdi, hence the acronym JAM) had at least a couple thousand fighters scattered throughout southern Iraq. This is not shocking news, but a reason to launch a limited offensive when opportunity appeared.

Assuming Austin Bay's estimate of 2,000 fighters (before Knights' Charge) in southern Iraq is accurate, that means that Sadr lost at least 18.5% of his force killed or captured, taking the official Iraqi Interior Ministry lowball, and perhaps as much as 53% (!) if Roggio is more accurate. But even a loss of 18% of the southern force and an overall casualty rate of 48% is a staggering blow... particularly to a clandestine organization that will now have a significantly harder time recruiting, since they're no longer seen as being "in charge."

How the elite media tries to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory

So how on earth does anyone argue that Sadr was the victor? Very simply; in each case (yes, even with Andrew Cochran's tendentious editorial on the Counterterrorism Blog), those claiming Sadr won -- or more accurately, those claiming that Maliki lost -- completely ignore the facts on the ground and claim that Maliki suffered a political loss because the Iraqi Army didn't grind Sadr's bones to make their pita bread... and do it in six or seven hours, eight tops.

The fact that Sadr is still sucking air, that he can still give orders and have some portion of the militia listen, and the fact that the intrasectarian struggle ain't over yet -- hey, that's good enough to throw Maliki under the tank treads. Time Magazine:

In the view of many American troops and officers, the Mahdi Army had splintered irretrievably into a collection of independent operators and criminal gangs. Now, however, the conclusion of the conflict in Basra shows that when Sadr speaks, the militia listens.

That apparent authority is in marked contrast to the weakness of Iraq's Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki. He traveled south to Basra with his security ministers to supervise the operation personally. After a few days of intense fighting he extended his previously announced deadline for surrender and offered militants cash in exchange for their weapons. Yet in the cease-fire announcement the militia explicitly reserved the right to hold onto its weapons. And the very fact of the cease-fire flies in the face of Maliki's proclamation that there would be no negotiations. It is Maliki, and not Sadr, who now appears militarily weak and unable to control elements of his own political coalition.

He does? Despite numerous calls by Sunni, Kurdish, and pro-Sadr Shiite elements within Iraq, Maliki not only continued to fight, the army continues its operations against Sadr to this very day. Yet Crain, who seems to have an odd and somewhat disturbing admiration for Muqtada Sadr, insists it was really Sadr who won because when he called on his troops to abandon control of Basra, they listened to him. Such loyalty!

In Cochran's case at the Counterterrorism Blog, the partisan nature is diametrically opposite that of Time, which evidently wishes Sadr (hence Iran) would take control of the entire country. It's clear to me, by contrast, that Cochran is furious that Maliki didn't press the assault until every last Sadr lieutenant, every wanted militant, every member of the militia, every Shia who had ever picked up a gun, and Sadr himself were all dead and dismembered... and the little dog he rode in on, too.

(Killing Sadr would have been a particularly remarkable achievement, since I've seen no evidence that Muqtada Sadr has even returned to Iraq from Iran. Certainly none of the articles I've seen has claimed he's back; when they need a Sadr quotation, they always get it from his spokespeople.)

Despite Time and the Counterterrorism Blog being on opposite sides, they link arms to attack the center in a conspiracy of shared short-term interests. Thus, Cochran agrees with Time that Maliki lost; he believes that Sadr won because he's still sucking air, as if a Monty Pythonesque "I'm not dead yet!" is Sadr's only victory condition:

Based on reports from the area since then, including this morning, I'll conclude that the short-term gains that U.S. forces made are bound to give way to a long-term strategic victory in Iraq for Moqtada al Sadr, the broader Shiite community, and Iran, unless the U.S. redeploys significant numbers of our troops to Shiite strongholds throughout Iraq.

Contradictory signals abound in asymmetric conflicts like the Iraqi offensive. An Iranian general who is a designated terrorist played some significant role in the ceasefire, thus vaildating my prognosis. Sadr's backers in Baghdad are claiming victory today, even as U.S. troops patrol their streets. [Sic; Roggio, et al, say it is the Iraqis patrolling the streets; Cochran offers no evidence that American forces are doing it instead.] The British are now freezing plans to withdraw more troops from that city, signaling a lack of confidence that the Iraqis will secure the area anytime this year. But an admission from a U.S. Army general in Iraq is telling:

"Army Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner said he welcomes the Iraqi government’s commitment to target criminals in Iraq’s second-largest city but he concedes there are challenges. He said most of the Iraqi troops “performed their mission” but some “were not up to the task” and the Iraqi government is investigating what happened. The government was surprised by ferocious resistance from followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to the offensive. The Iraqi campaign in Basra also faced desertions and mutiny in government ranks before a cease-fire order by al-Sadr on Sunday."

The "admission" by Gen. Bergner has been flashed around the news world by the drive-by media; it's their only take-away from the fight: Some Iraqi "security units" (as AP calls them) "were not up to the task." Left unexplained is whether these security units were army or police (both were involved in the fight), how many were not up to the task, and whether they damaged the operation or just didn't fight as effectively as we hoped. If it's a small number of units, mostly from the National Police, and if they were helpful but not as much as demanded by our very high standards, that's a far cry from the media implication -- that the entire Iraqi Army is worthless.

But the last sentence in the Cochran quote above is hardly a surprise: We have long known that some National Police stations were compromised by Sadrites. The main 30-man unit that defected to Sadr's side, or probably was in Sadr's pocket all along, has been captured and disbanded... which is yet another blow to the Mahdi Militia, which now has one fewer covert platoon in the Iraqi National Police.

Victory through superior winning

Reading through Cochran's biography, it appears he was a career bureaucrat (lawyer, CPA) at the Commerce Department, then senior oversight counsel to the House Committee on Financial Services, where he first appears to have gotten experience with counterterrorism... in particular, tracking terrorist groups by the financial trail of breadcrumbs they dribble behind them. This is an incredibly valuable skill, and I have no doubt he is an expert in all fields financial and in the finances of terrorism.

But I don't see any indication of a military background or strategic experience. Consequently, I prefer to listen to the military guys, like Bill Roggio and Austin Bay, rather than financial guys like Andrew Cochran. Particularly when Cochran's analysis doesn't even mention any of the military facts on the ground.

So to answer Paul Mirengoff's question, I would have to say that the clear winners were Nouri al-Maliki and Iraq. Not a single one of these points is even in dispute:

  • It was Sadr who called for the truce, made the Mahdi Militia's surrender conditional, then surrendered anyway even when the conditions were not met by the Iraqi government;
  • The Iraqi Army now controls the territory formerly controlled by the Mahdi Militia;
  • The army has continued operational tempo, while the militia is in hiding, its leader afraid to show his face in public (in Iraq, at least);
  • The militia suffered a loss of at least 18% of its total southern force with another 30% wounded;
  • The most that critics of the war can say is that Sadr "won" by virtue of not being killed (wherever he is) and because his Mahdi Militia was not utterly annihilated and have not utterly repudiated him.

If readers still wish to be agnostic about victory, well, it's a free country... now.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 2, 2008, at the time of 4:35 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

March 31, 2008

Elites vs. Roggio - the Split Widens

Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

The elite media, rather than trying to reel in their unsourced and increasingly risible claims of a great patriotic victory by Muqtada Sadr in the battle for Basra and Baghdad, is doubling down. From the Associated Press:

The peace deal between al-Sadr and Iraqi government forces - said to have been brokered in Iran - calmed the violence but left the cleric's Mahdi Army intact and Iraq's U.S.-backed prime minister politically battered and humbled within his own Shiite power base.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had promised to crush the militias that have effectively ruled Basra for nearly three years. The U.S. military launched air strikes in the city to back the Iraqi effort.

But the ferocious response by the Mahdi Army, including rocket fire on the U.S.-controlled Green Zone and attacks throughout the Shiite south, caught the government by surprise and sent officials scrambling for a way out of the crisis.

The confrontation enabled al-Sadr to show that he remains a powerful force capable of challenging the Iraqi government, the Americans and mainstream Shiite parties that have sought for years to marginalize him. And the outcome cast doubt on President Bush's assessment that the Basra battle was "a defining moment" in the history "of a free Iraq."

Bill Roggio's take on the exact, same story from the Long War Journal:

One day after Muqtada al Sadr, the leader of the Mahdi Army, called for his fighters to abandon combat, the fighting in Basrah has come to a near-halt and the Iraqi security forces are patrolling the streets. While Sadr spokesman said the Iraqi government agreed to Sadr's terms for the ceasefire, Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki has said the security forces will continue operations in Basrah in the south. Meanwhile, the Mahdi Army took heavy casualties in Basrah, Nasiriyah, Babil, and Baghdad over the weekend, despite Sadr's call for the end of fighting.

Maliki was clear that operations would continue in the South. "The armed groups who refuse al Sadr's announcement and the pardon we offered will be targets, especially those in possession of heavy weapons," Maliki said, referring to the 10 day amnesty period for militias to turn in heavy and medium weapons. "Security operations in Basra will continue to stop all the terrorist and criminal activities along with the organized gangs targeting people...."

The reasons behind Sadr's call for a cessation in fighting remain unknown, but reports indicate the Mahdi Army was having a difficult time sustaining its operations and has taken heavy casualties. "Whatever gains [the Mahdi Army] has made in the field [in Basrah], they were running short of ammunition, food, and water," an anonymous US military officer serving in South told The Long War Journal. "In short [the Mahdi Army] had no ability to sustain the effort.

TIME's sources in Basrah paint a similar picture. "There has been a large-scale retreat of the Mahdi Army in the oil-rich Iraqi port city because of low morale and because ammunition is low due to the closure of the Iranian border," the magazine reported.

I notice that AP writer Robert H. Reed is aided by three AP writers in Baghdad: Qassim Abdul-Zahra, Bushra Juhi and Sinan Salaheddin. I wonder what part of Baghdad they're from and what are their own positions on the Mahdi Militia... if they come from Sadr City and voted for the Sadr Bloc, what would that tell us about the contribution they may have provided to this AP story?

This is why I reject as nonsense the traditional journalistic claim that their own beliefs and political positions have no bearing on the stories they write; we are all to some extent captive of our own pasts. If the question is who "won" a complex factional struggle between Iranian-backed Shia like Muqtada Sadr and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki -- formerly a protege of Sadr himself, but now backed by the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (even though Maliki is from the Dawa Party) -- then it sure as shootin' does matter whether the observer is a supporter or opponent of Muqtada Sadr. How could it not?

Bill Roggio is completely open about his background and his many embedded deployments. But we know nothing at all about Mr. Reed or his various Iraqi (and one American) collaborators.

It's time for staff writers and especially local stringers in the elite media to start outing themselves, as we bloggers routinely do -- even without benefit of those "multiple layers of editing" that make AP and the New York Times and such so unbiased and nonpartisan.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 31, 2008, at the time of 4:36 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 30, 2008

You Be the Jug

Good News! , Iraq Matters , Presidential Campaign Camp and Porkinstance
Hatched by Dafydd

Here's Bill Roggio's take on the possible capitulation by Muqtada Sadr:

Six days after the Iraqi government launched Operation Knights’ Charge in Basrah against the Mahdi Army and other Iranian-backed Shia terror groups, Muqtada al Sadr, the Leader of the Mahdi Army, has called for his fighters to lay down their weapons and cooperate with Iraqi security forces. Sadr’s call for an end to the fighting comes as his Mahdi Army has taken serious losses since the operation began.

"Sadr has sent a message to his loyalists urging them to end all armed activities," the Al Iraqiya television channel reported. Sadr "disowned anyone attacking the state institutions or parties' offices and headquarters...."

Sadr’s call for an end to fighting by his followers comes as his Mahdi Army has taken high casualties over the past six days. Since the fighting began on Tuesday 358 Mahdi Army fighters were killed, 531 were wounded, 343 were captured, and 30 surrendered. The US and Iraqi security forces have killed 125 Mahdi Army fighters in Baghdad alone, while Iraqi security forces have killed 140 Mahdi fighters in Basra.

From March 25-29 the Mahdi Army had an average of 71 of its fighters killed per day. Sixty-nine fighters have been captured per day, and another 160 have been reported wounded per day during the fighting. The US and Iraqi military never came close to inflicting [such] casualties during the height of major combat operations against al Qaeda in Iraq during the summer and fall of 2007.

Here is the New York Times' version of today's events:

The Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr on Sunday took a step toward ending six days of intense combat between his militia allies and Iraqi and American forces in Basra and Baghdad, saying in a statement that his followers would lay down their arms providing the Iraqi government met a series of demands.

The substance of the nine-point statement, released by Mr. Sadr on Sunday afternoon, was hammered out in elaborate negotiations over the past few days with senior Iraqi officials, some of whom traveled to Iran to meet with Mr. Sadr, according to several officials involved in the negotiations....

Iraqi forces, backed up by American war planes and ground troops, have been in a stalemate with Shiite militias affiliated with Mr. Sadr in Basra for the past six days, in a military operation that has stirred harsh criticism of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Mr. Maliki’s campaign to take back militia-controlled parts of the southern city has met with far more resistance than was expected from militia fighters, Iraq’s defense minister, Abdul Kadir al-Obeidi, conceded last week.

Many Iraqi politicians say that Mr. Maliki’s political capital has been severely depleted by the campaign and that he is now in the curious position of having to turn to Mr. Sadr, a longtime rival and now his opponent in battle, for a solution to the crisis....

The move by Mr. Sadr stood in stark contrast to his actions in 2004, when he ordered his militia to fight to the death in the old city of Najaf, suggesting that Mr. Sadr’s political sophistication and skill at military strategizing has grown in the past few years.

So according to Roggio, a beaten Sadr is desperately seeking a face-saving way out of a war he is losing badly. But according to the Times (reporting by Erica Goode), a triumphant Sadr has trapped American forces and feeble, helpless Iraqi lickspittles and lapdogs in a quagmire; and now we are begging Sadr to give us (following our acquiescence to a series of "demands") a face-saving opportunity to run away with our tails between our legs.

I draw two conclusions: First, Bill Roggio, with his infantry background and current military connections (he has embedded with the Army, Marines, the Iraqi army, and the Iraqi National Police many times during the last four years), is far more likely to understand the situation on the ground in Iraq. Therefore, I trust his take on Sadr's surrender more than I trust the Times.

Second, based on the elite-media coverage of Operation Knights' Charge against the Mahdi Militia over the past week, I can only conclude that it must be an election year.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 30, 2008, at the time of 6:23 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 29, 2008

Elite Media: Never Let Your Right Hand Know What Your Left Hand Is Washing

Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

A sample platter of silly contradictions and absurdities in the AP's confusticated account of the Battle of Basra... thank goodness for those "multiple layers of editing" that separate the professional media from blogs!

Take me to your leader

British ground troops, who controlled the city until handing it over to the Iraqis last December, also joined the battle for Basra, firing artillery Saturday for the first time in support of Iraqi forces....

The fight for Basra is crucial for al-Maliki, who flew to Basra earlier this week and is staking his credibility on gaining control of Iraq's second-largest city, which has essentially been held by armed groups for nearly three years.

Who was that masked man?

With the Shiite militiamen defiant, a group of police in Sadr City abandoned their posts and handed over their weapons to al-Sadr's local office. Police forces in Baghdad are believed to be heavily influenced or infiltrated by Mahdi militiamen.

"We can't fight our brothers in the Mahdi Army, so we came here to submit our weapons," one policeman said on condition of anonymity for security reasons....

Iraqi police said that earlier in the day a U.S. warplane strafed a house and killed eight civilians, including two women and one child. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release the information.

Wait -- does the claim we killed women and children come from the same anonymous Iraqi police who defected to Sadr? Or does AP have rival, unfriendly anonymous sources?

Depends on what the meaning of "civilian" is...

Iraq's Health Ministry, which is close to the Sadrist movement, on Saturday reported at least 75 civilians have been killed and at least 500 others injured in a week of clashes and airstrikes in Sadr City and other eastern Baghdad neighborhoods.

The U.S. military sharply disputes the claims, having said that most of those killed were militia members.

Well actually, Dude, except for those Mahdi Militia members who also happen to be in the Iraqi Army...

'Ere now, what's all this then?

If you're interested in what's really "goin' down" down south in Mesopotamia, try Bill Roggio instead of the Associated Press. Roggio sums up his post thus:

Fighting in Basrah and Baghdad and throughout much of the South continues as Iraqi security forces and Multinational Forces Iraq press the fight against the Mahdi Army and other Iranian-backed terror groups. The Iraqi Army has moved additional forces to Basrah as the US and Iraqi military have conducted significant engagements in Shia areas of Baghdad. The Mahdi Army has taken significant casualties. The US military has denied the Mahdi Army has taken control of checkpoints in Baghdad.

You won't read this in the elite media; it just doesn't fit "the story."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 29, 2008, at the time of 8:33 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Missing Piece

Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

See if you can guess what is missing from this brief news squib about the movie Stop Loss. By "missing," I mean a vital contextual element missing from Nikki Finke's analysis of why Stop Loss and other "Iraq war movies" are doing so badly at the box office:

I'm told #7 Stop-Loss opened to only $1.6 million Friday from just 1,291 plays and should eke out $4+M. Although the drama from MTV Films was the best-reviewed movie opening this weekend, Paramount wasn't expecting much because no Iraq war-themed movie has yet to perform at the box office. "It's not looking good," a studio source told me before the weekend. "No one wants to see Iraq war movies. No matter what we put out there in terms of great cast or trailers, people were completely turned off. It's a function of the marketplace not being ready to address this conflict in a dramatic way because the war itself is something that's unresolved yet. It's a shame because it's a good movie that's just ahead of its time."

Please post a comment that includes a one-sentence observation of what major point Ms. Finke may be missing. (Ignore the poor grammar; she's from the elite media.)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 29, 2008, at the time of 7:11 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

March 28, 2008

Newsflash: NYT Misunderstands Modern Warfare!

Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

This may be quite a shocking story with the potential to shake the worldview of readers of this blog; if there are children reading over your shoulder, they should be sent to bed without their suppers immediately, before you read another line. (Of course, if your kids read faster than you, perhaps they should send you to bed without din-dins.)

Forwarned is four-horned. I don't want to judge before all the facts are in, but it appears from available evidence that the New York Times has only a dim idea of how we conduct modern warfare. And by "modern," I mean all warfare since the introduction of the airplane. First, the factual content:

American warplanes struck targets in the southern port city of Basra late Thursday, joining for the first time an onslaught by Iraqi security forces intended to oust Shiite militias there, according to British and American military officials.

I realize some of you reading this, those with military experience or an interest in military history, may be nodding heads and saying, "yeah, yeah, so what's your point?" After all, we've been using close air support since the Great War... which coincidentally was the first significant war for the United States after the development of heavier-than-air flying machines in December, 1902. (Europeans had a bit of a jump on us here, as they had more wars.)

First, let's introduce one more fascinating fact into the mix:

The strikes by American warplanes in Basra, one on a militia stronghold and a second on a mortar team that was attacking Iraqi forces, were made at the request of the Iraqi Army, said Maj. Tom Holloway, a spokesman for the British Army in Basra.

Major Holloway said that the Americans conducted the air attack because the Iraqi security forces did not have aircraft capable of making such strikes. American and British forces have been flying surveillance runs over Basra since the latest fighting in the city began this week.

“I think the point here is actually that the Iraqis are capable, they are strong and they have been engaging successfully,” Major Holloway said.

All right; so in Basra, Iraqi forces are calling in airstrikes against stubborn targets of Mahdi Militia. Again, what's the point of this post? Isn't that SOP for modern warfare? Of course... and this brings us to the crux of the Times and its "understanding" of that subject. Read on:

But the airstrikes by coalition forces after a four-day stalemate in Basra suggested that the Iraqi military has not, on its own, been able to rout the militias, despite repeated statements by American and Iraqi officials that its fighting capabilities have vastly improved.

In other words, the Times hears that Iraqi army units routinely call in airstrikes during combat, which are supplied by American helicopters and fixed-wing attack aircraft -- and the Times pronounces that a failure of the Iraqi military. Have I missed something vital here?

Let's rephrase the sentence above. Suppose some reporter heard about an American action in which soldiers on the ground called in an airstrike against an enemy position:

But the airstrikes by the [Air Force] after a four-day stalemate in [Upper Iguana] suggested that the [Army Infantry] has not, on its own, been able to rout the militias, despite repeated statements by [Pentagon] officials that [the Infantry's] fighting capabilities have vastly improved.

Do you see why this statement is absurd? It's not a failure of the Infantry when they call for airstrikes from the Air Force, the Marines, the Navy, or even an Army aviation unit; that's how modern warfare has been conducted for decades. It's what distinguishes a modern army from a pre-modern one... coordination between different branches.

The extremely close operational relationship between ground and air forces, which coordinate so well nowadays that they fight as if they were a single unit, is one of the most significant developments of contemporary warfare. And that is exactly what happened in Basra... except in this case, the operational relationship was forged not just between different branches (infantry and aviation) of the same military, but between different branches of two different militaries, Iraq's and America's.

Far from constituting a failure on the Iraqis' part, this is exactly what "success" looks like: the coordination of all branches of allied militaries to achieve victory over the joint enemy.

But the Times doesn't get it; nobody has ever before suggested, so far as I recall, that every time we supply close air support to Iraqi units, that's a black mark against the latter. In reality, this is precisely the relationship we expect and need to see anent the New Iraqi army:

  1. When violence arises, the Iraqis make the initial response;
  2. They evaluate whether the situation can be handled by police or requires military force;
  3. If they decide upon the latter, they build up their own forces and make contact with the enemy, while we ready ourselves in case they need support;
  4. If the Iraqis decide they need support -- close air support, strategic bombing, aerial surveillance, or satellite intelligence -- and they don't have their own helos, fixed-wing aircraft, bombers, drones, or satellites available (they will probably never have MilSats), then they call on us... but it's the Iraqis who coordinate the attack, not the United States.

When all engagements proceed as the one in Basra has, then we can honestly say we have stood up a modern, effective, and independent Iraqi army. At that point, we can withdraw to well-defended bases in Iraq, whence we can sally forth not just to help keep Iraq free -- but also to fight anywhere in the Middle East where American national security requires our military presence.

That's not failure, "Pinch" Sulzberger; that is the face of victory.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 28, 2008, at the time of 3:55 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

March 27, 2008

Iran's Pawn Squirms Under Knights' Assault

Good News! , Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

All right, we've got good news and bad news. Which do you want first?

Why am I asking you?

The good news is that Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is proving steadfast at taking the initiative and maintaining operational tempo (like the military-sounding buzz phrases?) against the Iranian puppet Muqtada Sadr's Mahdi Militia, ensconced in Basra, thanks to our British allies, and in the Sadr City slum of Baghdad. Basra is the second-largest city in Iraq and the center of its oil industry, according to Bill Roggio.

The bad news is that the elite news media still doesn't get it.

In the AP story, good and bad news crowd together like fans and hooligans jostling each other at a soccer match:

The Iraqi leader made his pledge to tribal leaders in the Basra area as military operations persisted for a fourth day with stiff resistance.

"We have made up our minds to enter this battle and we will continue until the end. No retreat," al-Maliki said in a speech broadcast on Iraqi state TV.

The events threatened to unravel a Mahdi Army cease-fire and lead to a dramatic escalation in violence after a period of relative calm that had lasted for months.

Let's get to the good stuff first... a line whose significance not even the reporter, Kim Gamel, realizes: "The Iraqi leader made his pledge to tribal leaders in the Basra area..."

What's significant about Maliki's audience is that he is talking to Shiite tribal leaders in Basra... the very people who would have been Sadr's strongest supporters just a year or so before. I highly doubt he would give a speech to his enemies; in Iraq, that's tantamount to suicide (without martyrdom). Thus the logical conclusion is that "salvation councils," by whatever names, are sweeping Shiite Iraq as they did Sunni Iraq, causing the Shia to reject Muqtada Sadr and his Iranian masters just as the Sunni turned on al-Qaeda this year.

Neither in the AP story nor the New York Times version do we find any recognition of this major breakthrough. Nevertheless, it presages a complete defeat of the Shiite insurgents; just as al-Qaeda in Iraq has been driven from pillar to pooch, to the point where they have but a single stronghold left, in Mosul... and in a few months, they will have none.

I anticipate the same fate for Iran's insurgents in Iraq; but the elite media doesn't understand that this is the real lede, not the fact that 5,000 Sadrites paraded around Sadr City with balloons and banners, protesting the crackdown.

Here is a naturally arising example, by the way, of the Argument by Tendentious Redefinition so beloved of the Left:

The demonstrating Sadrists are angry over recent raids and detentions, saying U.S. and Iraqi forces have taken advantage of the August cease-fire to crack down on the movement.

They have accused rival Shiite parties, which control Iraqi security forces, of engineering the arrests to prevent them from mounting an effective campaign after the Iraqi parliament agreed in February to hold provincial elections by the fall.

U.S. commanders have insisted the fight is being led by the Iraqi government and was not against al-Sadr's movement but breakaway factions believed to be funded and trained by Iran, which has denied the allegations.

The word "cease-fire" has two definitions: the order to stop shooting, or a negotiated truce between warring parties. Clearly this putative cease-fire was not the latter sort; neither we nor the Iraqis engaged in any negotiations to craft a truce with the Mahdi Militia.

But if all AP means is that the leader of the militia ordered his people to stop resisting, then what is the problem with "taking advantage" of that partial surrender to go after the holdouts who refuse to lay down their arms? That's a perfectly normal response -- not just here but in the Middle East, as well. Yet the protesters react as if Sadr's declaration of a unilateral cease-fire created a bilateral truce, which the Iraqis have violated.

It seems clear to me that this is the take-away AP pushes: Those dastardly, Bush-backed Iraqis took "advantage" of the trusting Sadrites to violate the cease-fire in a surprise attack!

But of course, a unilateral cease-fire is just that: one-sided. It imposes no moral or ethical obligation on anybody else, so long as a state of hostilities still exists (as clearly it does).

And of course, it's not as if even the Mahdi Militia itself were keeping this so-called "cease-fire." From Bill Roggio's post:

Basrah has seen an uptick in Iranian-backed terror activity since the British withdrew from the city late last year. Political assassinations and intimidation campaigns have been on the rise as the Iranians work to extend their influence in the oil-rich city....

Sadr's Mahdi Army has been formed by Iran's Qods Force along the lines of Lebanese Hezbollah. Imad Mugniyah, the senior Hezbollah military commander who was killed in Syria in February, was among those behind the formation and training of the Mahdi Army. Iran established the Ramazan Corps to run weapons, fighters, and support to the Special Groups, which include significant elements of Sadr's Mahdi Army.

With Sadr himself having, in his own words (per Roggio), "isolat[ed] myself in protest" of his own failure to conquer Iraq, drive out the Americans, and Islamicize the Iraqis, many of his former commanders have left Sadr behind and led their own attacks against the Iraq government and against the Coalition. Maliki had ample reason to go after them hammer and tooth.

Back to the protesters. The Times has more detail on their complaints, since that -- not the successful extension of the counterinsurgency by the Iraq army to Iran's proxies -- is the focus of the story:

In Baghdad, close-packed crowds numbering perhaps 5,000 demonstrated in Sadr City, the focal point of the capital’s protests, taking over the main street, chanting, dancing, holding up banners, and declaring their readiness to continue to oppose the Iraqi Army’s attempt to wrest control of Basra from Mr. Sadr’s Shiite militiamen, a major onslaught that began on Tuesday....

Some of the protesters criticized the United States -- Mr. Sadr considers the Americans occupiers -- but most of their criticism was aimed at Mr. Maliki and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. Mr. Hakim leads the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, which has emerged as a rival political force to Mr. Sadr’s Mahdi Army and also commands a rival militia, the Badr Organization. [Which, however, has not been attacking anyone lately.]

The protesters criticized what they said was a strengthening alliance between Mr. Hakim’s political group and the Iraqi government to squeeze Mr. Sadr from power. Mr. Maliki’s government depends on support from Mr. Hakim’s party, reducing the need for alliances with the Mahdi Army and making it easier for Mr. Maliki to move against it.

(That shift in support from Muqtada Sadr -- Maliki's original patron -- to Hakim is a direct result of the Mahdi-Militia bloc boycotting the Iraqi parliament for several months last year. Smooth move, Ex-Lax.)

The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on; the Times disgorges the self-description by the protesters themselves, then makes no further comment. My sense is that they side (as usual) with the protesters but are cagey enough to realize that wouldn't go down well with most Americans; so they stand, silent and smug.

But let's ask ourselves: Don't we want "the Iraqi government to squeeze Mr. Sadr from power?" Isn't this the answer to exactly what war critics have decried, that radical Shia would turn Iraq into a theocracy? The Iraq army's Operation Knights' Assault, which (per Roggio) follows a troop buildup that began last August, is precisely aimed at the Iran-backed theocrats in the Mahdi Militia; what more could the Left ask for?

Oh, I forgot; they're only against theocracy and sharia where its allied with America, such as the UAE... where they're the wrong kind of theocrats. When theocracy is anti-American, as in Iran, then the Times is all for it.

Everything the protesters say should make a real American more supportive of Iraq, Maliki, and Operation Knights' Assault; yet by their refusal to take sides between Iran-controlled terrorists and ordinary Iraqis who just want to live their lives, the elite media in fact side with the Sadrites.

Finally, although they're forced to admit it's going fairly well so far, the media wants to assure us that it will all end in tears and defeat. Again from the Times:

American officials have presented the attempts by the Iraqi Army to secure Basra as an example of its ability to carry out a major operation on its own. But a failure there would be a serious embarrassment for the Iraqi government and for the army, as well as for American forces eager to demonstrate that the Iraqi units they have trained can fight effectively on their own.

During a briefing in Baghdad on Wednesday, a British military official said that of the nearly 30,000 Iraqi security forces involved in the assault, almost 16,000 were Basra police forces, which have long been suspected of being infiltrated by the same militias the assault was intended to root out.

I'm not sure I can take seriously such denigration coming from an official of our allies... who sadly failed in their task in Basra, even while we were succeeding in the rest of Iraq. Rather than switch to a counterinsurgency strategy and finish the job, as soon as Tony Blair passed the torch to Gordon Brown, the new prime minister pulled all the British troops back to the Basra airport. From the Guardian in September 2007:

The Iraqi flag flew over Basra Palace today as British troops completed their withdrawal from the city in a move Gordon Brown said was "pre-planned and organised" and not a defeat.

The removal of 550 British troops to the city's airport leaves Basra largely under the control of Iranian-backed Shia militias.

The move came as the US president, George Bush, made a surprise visit to Iraq in an attempt to win support from an increasingly sceptical US public for his "surge" of troops....

The 550 soldiers began handing over control of the palace, the last British stronghold in downtown Basra, to the Iraqi army shortly before 1am local time (2200 BST yesterday), the army said. They then joined the 5,000 other British troops based at an airfield 13 miles away on the fringes of the port city.

And now Basra has become the last redoubt of the mighty Mahdi Militia... and some British bloke sniffs that the operation to clean up the mess the Brits left won't work, because the Basra police are fatally compromised. Thanks, mate.

The hidden assumption is that all members of the Mahdi Militia are true believers who actually declare Muqtada Sadr to be the Mahdi Himself. But as we all know (or ought), a hallmark of powerful political movements is that they force everyone to join the party, literally.

Oskar Schindler likely joined the Nazi Party because it was the only way to do business in Nazi Germany. He obviously had no serious objections to Adolf Hitler -- at first; but by the same token, he was no Horst Wessel either.

The same is likely true for many Shia in Basra or Sadr City who "joined" the militias (Mahdi Militia or the Badr Brigades -- now the Badr Organization). There is no doubt that many members are fanatical fighters; but in addition, a great many are "fair-weather" members. The significance is that the latter can be turned.

Erstwhile "members" of AQI, tribal leaders who supported Musab Zarqawi in 2006, turned against the terrorist leader and against al-Qaeda in general in 2008, once they had a lingering, dyspeptic taste of the caliphate. So too can many "members" of the Mahdi Militia who have "infiltrated" the Basra police forces (alternatively, people who want jobs as policemen in Basra who discover that one of the de facto job requirements is to swear fealty to Muqtada Sadr) will turn, once they see that the federal government really is a government for all Iraqis, as Maliki and George W. Bush have been saying... and not under the leash of the Americans, as Sadr has said (from under the leash of Iran).

That is what counterinsurgency is all about; and that's what our eternal friends the Brits should have been doing in 2007 and 2008, instead of fleeing to the airport and prematurely handing over the province to "the Iraqis," without first inquiring exactly which Iraqis were reaching for it.

But better late than not at all. Let Operation Knights' Assault continue and the good news roll!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 27, 2008, at the time of 6:11 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

March 22, 2008

Democrat: War Without Fascism... What's the Point?

Iraq Matters , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

No, that's not what freshman senator and longtime congressman Robert Menendez (D-NJ, 90%) intended to say; but if he knew anything about either economics, military strategy, or history, he would have realized what his actual point was:

With U.S. troops entering their sixth year of combat in Iraq, New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez demanded Saturday that President Bush give an honest assessment of the costs of the conflict.

You keep using that word, "honest." I do not think it means what you think it means.

Menendez responded, "President Bush should tell us the truth -- that after thousands of lives lost and perhaps [he's not sure?] trillions of American taxpayer dollars, Iraq remains crippled by violence and corruption, still light-years [sic] from building a stable government or a lasting peace." [Does Menendez think a light year is a measure of time?]

"Crippled" should be a comparative term, because what Menendez really means is that Iraq is not as stable or peaceful as the United States, or Great Britain, or Canada. But what about compared to Pakistan, where the Musharaff government is about to fall, the president himself will likely be prosecuted, and civil war may erupt -- where one of the sides will be the Taliban?

Or how about compared to Iran, where internal violence against the Iranian people is endemic, thought crime can be punished with death by stoning, the state employs a terrorist group (Hezbollah) as internal police, and the ruling mullahs are so despised that the government only survives by tyranny and the simulation of elections?

For that matter, Iraq doesn't even look that bad compared to Israel right now: The violence is definitely higher, but at least Iraq is actively fighting against it -- and at least the government more or less accurately represents the desires of the Iraqi people (defeat the terrorists and live in peace).

But I suspect the real explanation of Sen. Menendez's absurdist claim is that he hasn't actually reexamined the condition of Iraq and the progress of the war since he was appointed to replace Jon Corzine in January of 2006. He's completely ignorant of the counterinsurgency and everything that has happened since July of 2007.

The senator argued that the war "has severely depleted the resources and morale of our armed forces" and said Bush should acknowledge "that because of Iraq, we haven't finished the job in Afghanistan, al-Qaida is regrouping and our hunt for America's No. 1 enemy -- Osama bin Laden -- has been compromised."

So Menendez is vexed that we've been so busy nation-building in Iraq that we haven't had time to nation-build in Afghanistan?

The Democrats have a fetish with "finding Osama." I think they envision a human chain of soldiers who would join hands and sweep Afghanistan from one end to the other, eventually netting Mr. Big... a very cooperative Mr. Big who wouldn't, for example, slip across the border into Pakistan or hide out in a cave in the Tora Bora Mountains, laughing at the blundering efforts to find him where he is not.

Although I would love for us to find bin Laden, that is not the central focus of the war against global caliphism. The purpose of the long war is to protect the peace and security of the United States of America; that means defeating the global caliphists, not dropping everything to throw our entire Army into finding one long-disempowered monster.

Bin Laden, far as we can tell, no longer has any operational control over what we loosely call "al-Qaeda." He still has spiritual value, but he will continue to have it even after being captured or killed (caliphism is very big on martyrs). It's far more important that we booted the Taliban out of power in Afghanistan, that they're rising in Pakistan, that we obliterated al-Qaeda in Iraq and turned the Iraqi Sunnis against them and many of the Shia away from Muqtada Sadr and his Iranian masters, and that Europe is succumbing to the temptation to be tolerant of the radically intolerant.

It's important to build a modern, civilized nation in Afghanistan; but that is going to be a much more extensive project than doing the same in Iraq. Afghanistan is far more primitive and barbarous a country; it's civilized than Pakistan, which had the benefit of a couple of centuries of rule by the British Empire.

"New Left" Democrats have the attention span of mayflies. If the war is not all neatly wrapped up after 43 minutes of actual plot (not counting commercials and end credits), like Kosovo, they lose interest and wander away. What does Robert Menendez imagine would happen, if only we pulled 150,000 troops out of Iraq and sent them into Afghanistan?

  1. We would quickly capture bin Laden (who probably isn't even in Afghanistan);
  2. This would cause the collapse of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, so we could all go back to "situation normal, nothing has changed?"

This vision of the long war is frankly childish. It's not too much to ask that in time of war, we elect grownups to the United States Senate.

Finally, we get to the meat of Menendez's complaint, and indeed that of virtually every Democrat in Congress:

Menendez also linked the cost of the war to the United States' faltering economy. "Instead of building barracks in Iraq, we could be helping millions of Americans avoid losing their homes to foreclosure," he said. "Instead of policing the streets of Baghdad, we could be investing in universal health care and a better education system."

There you go: Were it not for the Iraq war, the federal government could take over even more of the nation's economy! Were it not for the money spent on the Iraq war, we could seize control of the housing market; we could offer socialist health care for (rather, force it upon) all American residents, both legal and illegal; and we could finally get rid of those infuriating private schools, which insist upon rowing against the current, countering our vital reeducation efforts in the public schools.

George W. Bush invaded two countries; but he forgot to use that "crisis" to circumvent the normal democratic procecures and reorganize all of society along military lines. The latter is classical fascism... and it is Democrats, not Republicans, who generally practice it (Wilson, FDR, Johnson). If either Obama or Hillary is elected this November, don't imagine for a moment that we'll withdraw from the war against global caliphism; the new Democratic president will simply use the global "crisis" to institute public and private "cooperation and coordination" and eliminate all that wasteful competition of the free market.

We may pull out of Iraq; but when it subsequently collapses, we'll have to go back in; and that will become yet another crisis du jour, to go along with global militant Islamism, global economic collapse (Democrats create the very crises they then exploit), and global warming:

  • To institute socialized medical "alliances" between government and private health-care experts eerily similar to Benito Mussolini's business alliances;
  • To seize control of industry in the name of the environment;
  • To draft "hate-speech" laws and create an American Human Rights Commission that will finally outlaw all that pesky dissent;
  • To reinstate Woodrow Wilson's sedition laws, criminalizing non-cooperation with the Progressivist agenda;
  • To seize more and more national resources through confiscatory taxation and onerous regulation;
  • To use that vast, new revenue stream to reeducate and reform Americans' health and morals -- from what we are allowed to eat, drink, and smoke to what we are allowed to watch, read, and think -- along the lines of It Takes a Village (and Nineteen Eighty-Four);
  • And always, always, to do an end-run around normal democracy, Capitalism, and individual choice... because, during this emergency, there's no time to waste on debate or disputation. The time for selfish indulgence is past; we need action, action, action!

That is what Menendez wants, as does Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%), Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%), and the entire Democratic congressional leadership and the gaggle of committee chairs. This is the core of Progressivism, and has been for more than a century: They long for a terrifying intermarriage between Maximilien Robespierre and Otto von Bismarck, between Jacobite France and totalitarian Prussia.

Had they the opportunity -- under either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama -- they would cast off all restraint and simply implement what they "know" is necessary. After all, they have the vision; how could they allow mere voters to elect the wrong person?

At core, Robert Menendez's great complaint is that we have our war, but we haven't exploited it to get our fascism. Bush has failed to grasp that war is the health of the fascist state... he's completely missed the point of going to war in the first place.

We've squandered the opportunity to abuse the crisis of the moment to implement eternal tyranny over the mind of Man... for our own good, of course. And all for the want of a Democratic president!

Thanks, Senator Menendez, for letting the mask slip. Once again, the choice come November is clear.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 22, 2008, at the time of 4:24 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Failing to Fight the War Machine

Iraq Matters , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Brad

Here is a rare (too rare!) post from our co-conspirator, Brad Linaweaver.

Brad began his political life at the age of four, during the Spanish-American war; he was a conservative then, but the 1960s made him a libertarian, and he burned his AARP card in protest. Then, after viewing the horrors of 9/11, he rose from his walker to become, for the first time, a spry, robust, athletic supporter of what he termed (with pride) "American imperialism."

But he became disenchanted with the war in recent days. Still sharp as a hammer at 114 years young, Brad has now reverted back to libertarianism, going so far as to brazenly, nakedly support Ron Paul for president (it is indeed a blight for sour eyes). He put his clothes back on to be interviewed by Ron Garmon for City Beat's "The Great Hollywood Peace Parade"... yet another left-wing magazine covering Tinseltown as the center of the universe.

(Oddly enough, these progressive corporate dupes have cleverly designed their website so that it's only readable when using Microsoft Internet Explorer; if you use Netscape or Firefox, the text comes up black on black, which is rather hard to read. You must select all the text in order to peruse the article. I'm sorry, but I just find it hilariously ironic that an über-left film rag plays lickspittle to Bill Gates!)

Here -- extracted for your viewing pleasure from endless ramblings about self-immolating musicians, Code Pinko ANSWERistas, and the inevitable fake coffins, puppets, and inflatable beavers -- is Brad's contribution to this magnum gropus. Without führer adieu, heeeeeeeeere's Bradford...!

~

The Republican Party should not pretend to spread democracy to the benighted regions of the world. That is not in the Republican party's job description. Bush is in the wrong comic book. Bill Buckley thought his Iraq policy “un-conservative,” a fact noted by Fox News in his obituary, which I thought unusually fair and balanced of them.

The left is completely failing to fight the war machine. They won in '06 and have failed ever since. They don’t understand even now how the corporate power-elite runs both parties. George W. Bush is such a happy man these days. Why? He’s done his job, serving his masters well, giving us a foothold in Iraq forever. We will never leave. McCain is being unduly optimistic when he said we’d be there a hundred years. We’ll be in Iraq as long as the American Empire exists. Bush went there for one reason -- to stay there.

They’d rather kill people than develop alternative energy.

~

Back to Dafydd. Needless to say, I'll put up a post relatively soon responding to Brad's post, with which I, ahem, take some issue.

Hatched by Brad on this day, March 22, 2008, at the time of 5:14 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 19, 2008

Bad Break for Barack, Wonderful Win for World

Good News! , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

In a stunning disappointment to the Barack Obama candidacy, the Iraq presidential council did a U-turn today and approved parliament's plan for provincial elections in the fall. Alas, the news is even worse than that: All sides agree that the determinant factor in the reversal was the undiplomatic behavior of Vice President Dick Cheney, who reportedly sternly argued the council into withdrawing its objection.

A confusticated Obama may now have to revamp his line that "[John McCain] completely fails to understand that the war in Iraq has done more to embolden America's enemies than any strategic choice that we have made in decades," unless the audacious change-agent intends to argue that a successful, stable democracy itself emboldens our enemies.

From the AP story:

Under strong U.S. pressure, Iraq's presidential council signed off Wednesday on a measure paving the way for provincial elections by the fall, a major step toward easing sectarian rifts as the nation marks the fifth anniversary of the war.

The decision by the council, made up of the country's president and two vice presidents, lays the groundwork for voters to choose new leaders of Iraq's 18 provinces. The elections open the door to greater Sunni representation in regional administrations.

And on the Cheney connection:

The decision by the council came two days after Vice President Dick Cheney visited Baghdad to press Iraqi leaders to overcome their differences and take advantage of a lull in violence to make progress in power-sharing deals to heal sectarian and ethnic divisions.

A spokesman for the biggest Sunni bloc, Saleem Abdullah, said Cheney pushed hard for progress on the provincial elections as well as a long-stalled measure to share the country's oil wealth.

This is one of the four major political "litmus tests" of the success of the counterinsurgency that began last July. The Iraq government must enact:

  1. Provincial elections.

    Elections are now completely signed off at the federal level; it's up to the provinces to design the specifics of each provincial election, much as our own states set up the specifics of gubernatorial and state legislative elections.

  2. A "long-term security arrangement" with the United States to allow us to keep troops there for regional stability.

    The Wall Street Journal reports that Cheney obtained endorsements from the two most powerful Shiite leaders in Iraq (not counting Muqtada Sadr, who is probably still in Iran) for a continued security agreement that would allow us to remain at bases in Iraq. Both Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Sayyed Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (formerly the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq), the largest party in parliament, urged us to stay and gave personal assurances that we would have long-term bases in Iraq for American troops.

  3. An oil-revenue sharing bill.

    According to the same WSJ article --

    There is some reason for hope there too, despite the seemingly endless negotiations that have already taken place over the oil law. After the breakdown in negotiations last year, Kurdistan moved ahead with production agreements with some international oil companies. But Baghdad has responded by essentially freezing those companies out of negotiations for its central government contracts, diminishing their interest.

    And U.S. officials in Iraq say the central government is consolidating its power over oil in other ways. They note privately that the Iraqi central government soon will begin awarding contracts to major multinational oil companies to improve production on the country's giant existing fields, as a likely prelude to contracts for new exploration and production. Kurdistan, meanwhile, has to worry about an eventual cutoff of the revenue sharing that it's now receiving from the central government.

    Iraq's proven oil reserves are so big that only Saudi Arabia's and Iran's are thought to be larger... and Iraq's reserves have barely been tapped so far.

  4. Anti-debaathification laws to allow former members of the Baath Party -- who do not have blood on their hands -- to return to civic life in Iraq.

    When the parliament approved the provincial elections law last month, it was bundled with a general amnesty law that would release all Baathists from prison except for two classes:

    Those held in U.S. custody;

    Those who are charged with or were convicted of specific charges: "terrorism, kidnapping, rape, antiquities smuggling, adultery and homosexuality."

    This was the most important anti-de-Baathification law to pass; the same law also allowed former Baathists (except the above) to once again take jobs in the public sector. Anti-de-Baathification has by most measures been resolved, leading to greater reconciliation.

Given such sweeping, positive political changes since the counterinsurgency produced such a huge drop in killings and al-Qaeda presence in Iraq, the elite media find it ever harder to maintain both party solidarity with the Democrats and also their own credibility. Still, the Democrats been banging the drum and pronouncing that there's no need to worry... all is still lost! (Evidently, the tape loop from 2006 is still running through the heads of the heads of the elite media.)

For real people living in the real world, however, Iraq has turned around and is now a victory at a level it would have been difficult to imagine just eighteen months ago. It appears that even when al-Qaeda and allied terrorists celebrate a historic, holy conquest, it's as ephemeral as Democratic-Party unity.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 19, 2008, at the time of 7:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 15, 2008

Persistence of (the) Vision and the Crisis-Myths of the Fascist Left

Iraq Matters , Liberal Lunacy , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

I am always amazed by the curious immunity the Left has to truth, no matter how well established, if it doesn't fit what Thomas Sowell calls "the vision of the anointed." A factoid that seems to fit the preexisting story persists forever, regardless of how often debunked... just as creationists cite the same "failures" of evolutionary theory over and over, without regard to lengthy -- sometimes even book-length -- debunking:

  • The "stupidity and illiteracy" of George W. Bush (and Ronald W. Reagan), 1999-2008 (1979-2008);
  • The Mohammed al-Dura "murder by Israelis" in 2000;
  • The Bush "suppression" of the black vote in Florida in the 2000 election;
  • The Florida vote in 2000 that Al Gore would have won if "all the votes" were counted;
  • The "specific warning" from the CIA before the 9/11 attacks of 2001;
  • Our Afghan allies who "deliberately allowed bin Laden to escape" from Tora Bora in 2001;
  • The "Jenin massacre" of 2002;
  • The Bush administration "lying us into war" in 2003;
  • The Iraqi "wedding party" massacre in 2004;
  • Police Captain Jamil "Lt. Kyje" Hussein, 2004-2006;
  • "Murders" in the Superdome during Hurricane Katrina in 2005;
  • The "Iraqi civil war" of 2006-2007;

But one has persisted above all others: The ludicrous Johns Hopkins "survey" that found more than 600,000 Iraqi civilians had been killed by the Iraq war. It persists to this day, despite repeated, highly credible debunkings by everyone from statisticians to the military to the Associated Press to the Iraqi government itself. And here it bubbles up again from AP -- an unquestioned bit of lore that has become part of the Left's Iraq-war catechism:

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, 3,987 American soldiers and at least 128 journalists have died in Iraq since the U.S.-led war began. But to me, they were all just numbers until last year.

The best estimate actually available is on a website called Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, which is updated from all reports filed by the international and American elite media, the United States and coalition militaries, and by the Iraq government. As of March 13th, they estimate total Iraqi civilian deaths to be 40,765 plus some unknown number killed before 2005; but civilian casualties were low in the early days of the war (prior to the destruction of the al Askiriya "Golden Dome" mosque in Samarra in 2006).

Thus, the best evidence that comes from actually counting bodies finds only 7% of the original "estimate" from Johns Hopkins, and only 4.7% of their later, upgraded guess of more than a million deaths. But the myth persists and probably will continue to be misreported as fact a hundred years from now, when government-mandated history books will use it to teach the "history" of our imperialist, oil-stealing warmongering in Iraq.

The myth of the 600,000 (or one million) dead Iraqis is successful precisely because it feeds into the general "crisis-myth" of the Left: That America is being led to economic and political disaster (recession, tyranny, loss of rights) by a ruinous war started by the Capitalists to steal Iraq's oil and make billions of dollars for their fat-cat cronies. But really, all the myths above tend to the same overarching story... the imperialist warmongering and crimes against humanity of America and Israel, and the concommitent victimhood of the Left and the ummah.

Before fascism can really take hold, the fascists must discover (or create) an enduring myth of a great crisis that will serve to unify the country under the banner of national socialism; for the Nazis, the myths they finally settled upon were the perfidy of the Jewish "race" (of course) -- and the "martyrdom" of Horst Wessel, a National Socialist street fighter who was killed by a Communist (perhaps even a Jewish Communist!) in 1930.

The triple-crisis comprised the clinging vestiges of Capitalism (which had brought Germany to the disasterous Great War and the Treaty of Versailles, the Nazis preached), the rise of Communism (which threatened to erase national boundaries and put Russians and Slavs above Aryan Germans), and naturally, the mindless genius of the Jews -- who, despite being inferior to Aryans in every way (physically, intellectually, and morally), had managed to foil the rightful ambitions of the master race again and again. Against all three crises stood the bulwark of the Nazi Party.

Wessel came originally from the radical monarchist German National People's Party, but he left them and joined the Nazi Party (and its militant core, the SA "stormtroopers") in 1926. He was an amateur poet as well as a brownshirt, and his poem "Die Fahne hoch" ("Raise the Flag High") became the official Nazi anthem, which today we call the Horst Wessel song.

Although Wessel was a minor player of little account during his lifetime, after he was slain, Josef Goebbels seized upon the "martyr" and turned him into the great, unifying myth-figure of the Nazi movement, according to Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism. Calling him the "Socialist Christ," Goebbels churned out hundreds of thousands of words of "hagiography" about Wessel and his heroic combat against Capitalists, Communists, and Jews.

The fascist crisis-myth is vital to the movement, whether in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s or America in the 21st century, because of its ability to unify the people (Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer!), to crush dissent (stop the mouths of seditionists!), and to rally die Volk behind a leader who will make quick decisions to save them (no time for democracy in such an emergency!).

Fascism's great goal is always the complete unity of the people, the land, and the leader. In practice, of course, eine Reich must become Lebensraum: Socialist states are by nature contraeconomic and can only survive by relentless expansion and conquest; when they run out of land to conquer, they collapse under the bloat of their own unworkable economic policies... as the Soviet Union did in 1991.

They are also by nature totalitarian; and the first step in seizing power is generally to take control of the nation's news sources. By controlling the newspapers and airwaves, they get to write the mythic "first draft of history" without pesky debate or dispute from the peanut gallery. Hence the continued rush of modern American liberals into journalism for the entire twentieth century and what we've experienced of the twenty-first... as well as into other information-hoarding and -controlling fields, such as publishing, teaching, the law, the federal and state bureaucracies, and Hollywood.

This has given the Left command of news and opinion (propaganda mongering), popular novels and histories, children's education and indoctrination, legal interpretation and regulatory regimes, and the great American mass-art forms, television and the movies. Thus they hope to control the totality of information that passes before the eyes, ears, and ultimately the minds of the American people:

"Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."
-- "George Orwell" (Eric Blair), Nineteen Eighty-Four

The American fascist moment came (and went) in the teens, under President Woodrow Wilson; it came and went again in the 1930s and 40s, under Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It came and went a third time in the 1960s and 70s, with the rise of the fascist New Left and the riots, takeovers, demands, and murders of the SDS and Weathermen, NOW, the Black Panthers, the gay-rights movement, and finally the Symbionese Liberation Army. The Left lives eternally with the audacity of hope that a facist utopia is just around the corner.

The unifying crisis-myth of the first fascist moment was the purification of morals by Prohibition, of the national soul by the Great War, and of the white race by "scientific eugenics." This was summed up by Woodrow Wilson's slogan "100% Americanism," and resulted in mass arrest of "seditionists," press censorship, and rule by presidential decree and executive committee.

The unifying myth of the second fascist moment was first the Great Depression that was "caused by Laissez-Faire Capitalism;" and later by the war against the Nazis and their Japanese allies. These crises resulted in the New Deal, which again allowed the president to bypass all normal democratic channels in the rush to remake the entire country according to a "progressive" (fascist) model -- complete with yet another scapegoat race. (First the Jews, then the blacks, now the Japanese; it's not coincidental that FDR was Wilson's Assistant Secretary of the Navy.)

And the unifying myths of the third American fascist moment were:

  • Consciousness raising via psychedelic drugs, music, street theater, puppets, teach-ins, and protests to produce the new, psychedelicized, socialist man;
  • The rise of feminism against patriarchial oppression;
  • The rise of Black Power against the institutionalized racism of "the system;"
  • The rise of countless other protest movements (parodied by Allan Sherman's "the 'Let's All Call Up AT&T and Protest to the President' March," decrying "all-digit dialing" of telephone numbers). The real, underlying purpose of all these "movements" was to level the entire American establishment ("the Man"), so a radical, Stalinist society could be installed in its place. (Hillary Clinton, the man who would be queen, was deeply enmeshed in this radical movement.)

This "consciousness raising" resulted in the entire panoply of Great Society programs: the civil rights movement, the "war on poverty," the Department of Education, the Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Medicare and Medicaid, the National Endowment for the Arts and for the Humanities, and modern radical environmentalism (the Endangered Species Act, the Clear Air, Water Quality and Clean Water Restoration Acts, and so forth). All had the same purpose: the complete nationalization of American life and the end of Federalism.

The last fascist moment was not as successful or totalitarian as the first two, to a large extent because the unifying myths didn't really unify. There was never any national front; the radicals forgot about what the Nazis called the "forgotten man," or what Richard Nixon dubbed at the time the "silent majority."

Thus, the radicals were undercut by "reformers," more moderate in ideology but no less obsessed with power, including the national leader, President Lyndon Baines Johnson. The radical leftists turned on Johnson (and against the Vietnam War, where we clearly were on "the wrong side," they -- including John Kerry -- decided) even during his presidency -- "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?" -- forcing him to withdraw from his reelection campaign in 1968. To this day, leftists hate and despise Johnson.

So far, we have not reached any fascist moment today; the forces of liberal fascism -- many of them youths, as the usual pattern has it, but also quite a few aging hippies, Yippies, and other moldy, 60s leftovers -- have been singularly unsuccessful in their quest for a unifying myth... but as we see, it's certainly not for lack of trying.

The problem is still, as it was four decades ago, that the crisis-myths the radicals put forward (see the top of this post) exclude ordinary people; they still have not learned the lesson that you cannot foment a fascist revolution by appealing only to the fringes. Populism, a necessary element of fascism, only works when one appeals to the center of the population.

The radical revolutionary also cannot attack the military itself; he must co-opt it. In the end, all civilian society must be militarized; thus the successful radical must champion and extol martial virtues, such as courage, sacrifice, obedience, and dehumanization of the enemy. Jingoistic chants of "question authority" (or more strongly, "f--- authority") actually undermine the stated goal of revolutionary transformation: The very system the Left wants to impose on the American people is even more authoritarian than what we have now; and the same slogans they sling with such wild abandon are sent stampeding, like Hannibal's elephants, back through the ranks of the attackers.

To produce another fascist moment, the Left will have to abandon its anti-authoritarian rhetoric and refocus on pure, unabashed, and unstinting populism, where the masses have the "right" to whatever material possessions they think will make them happy... money, cars, consumer electronics, food, drugs, free health care, and free sex; but they must combine this with a censorious control of all aspects of Americans' lives, from drinking alcohol to smoking cigarettes to driving recreational vehicles to (naturally) what they can read, watch, or listen to. You have a right to satisfaction of all your material needs -- but only as we specify.

And they will need an all-purpose scapegoat; that is just as essential as populism -- someone to blame for the inevitable crises intentionally provoked and created by the leader.

We're just beginning to see exactly that progression in the alliance of the New Left and the Global Caliphists, which really began with the 1979 Islamist revolution in Iran; say what you will about Wahhabis, Salafis, and Khomeiniites... they know how to unify a people through mass-media propaganda, and they know how to fight. The Left can learn a lot from their new mentors; the rise of extreme antisemitism among American and especially European "Progressives" indicates they've become good students.

Keep your eyes on the liberal crisis-myths. The time to worry is when they start to "make sense" to regular Americans; that is when they become truly dangerous.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 15, 2008, at the time of 6:35 PM | Comments (24) | TrackBack

February 25, 2008

Bombs and Bombast

Afghan Astonishments , Future of Warfare , Immigration Immolations , Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , On the Border , Pakistan Perplexities
Hatched by Dafydd

In a post today, Tom Bevan of Real Clear Politics gleefully reports that the "virtual fence" program hasn't worked well so far:

Keith Epstein of Businessweek reports that the "virtual fence" all the candidates kept referring to (especially the GOP ones) as the cornerstone of border security turned out to be a miserable failure....

Doesn't this hurt McCain, given that the virtual fence was one of the tools he was counting on to help deliver his promise of "certifying" the security of the border? Will he have commit to building the real "g**damn fence" now?

No, it shouldn't hurt McCain... any more than the early failures of the ballistic missile defense system seriously hurt the BMD program. It just means we have to keep building the physical fence -- while continuing to work on the virtual one.

For some reason, the idea of a virtual fence became the focal point of the ire of immigration-absolutists during the debate last year over McCain-Kennedy. It became vital to anti-plea-bargain conservatives to "debunk" the virtual fence, presumably on the grounds that only a real fence -- three hundred feet high and sixty feet thick, dotted with machine-gun emplacements and sporting a minefield -- could keep out the illegal Mexicans.

They saw the virtual fence as a heavily watered drink some cheapskate bartender was trying to foist on them.

Do I sound a bit caustic? Sorry, I tend to get that way when Republicans act-out like Democrats. In particular, the reflexive bias against technology has always set my teeth on fire.

Democrats in the 1980s became hysterical at the thought of a technological shield against incoming nuclear missiles; and now the conservative wing of the GOP is running around like a chicken with its legs cut off over the possibility of a technological shield against illegal immigration.

I can only conclude that they believe even breathing the words "virtual fence" amounts to "surrender" and "amnesty," as if it were always just a ruse to avoid building a real fence. But the areas suggested for the virtual fence are precisely those that have such rugged terrain that (a) there are hardly any illegal crossings, and (b) it's extremely difficult (if not impossible) to build a "real" fence in the first place.

So that those areas would not be left totally unguarded, various people proposed a network of radar installations, cameras, motion detectors, heat sensors, and a computer system tying it all together... modeled roughly on the Aegis combat system that protects many of our cruisers and destroyers.

Regardless of whether or not this particular version of a virtual fence has worked, we absolutely need one. Believe it or not, keeping out Mexicans is not the only problem we have that requires some sort of barrier:

  • The border with Canada is vastly bigger than the southern border, and it would take a long, long time to toss a fence across it;
  • And then, of course, there's the Gulf of Mexico; terrorists can boat up the Gulf and hop out onto the beach;
  • And there are the Iraqi borders with Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran;
  • And don't forget the borders between Afghanistan and Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and (naturally) Iran;
  • Not to mention borders between our allies and their enemiess;
  • Finally, any physical fence that can be built -- can be breached; cf. the fence that used to separate Gaza from Egypt. Even if we could literally build fences separating us from all potential enemies, those fences can be tunneled under, flown over, or blown up.

We need to keep working on the virtual fence because we are soon going to need it -- desperately, and in many, many places. Similarly, it's a darned good thing that we kept working on BMD, despite early failures of the components of the original Strategic Defense Initiative (particle-beam technology, railgun ground launchers, nuclear-powered pulse weapons)... because now we really, really need it for a completely unforseen adversary. Thank goodness we have it.

It's quite reasonable to argue that the virtual fence technology is not yet good enough to rely upon, so we need to build a physical barrier. But it's wrong -- one of those few actions that are always wrong -- to heap scorn upon a technological program because the early alpha-tests weren't entirely successful. Worse than wrong, it's foolish, Luddite, and short-sighted.

By all means, build the physical double-fencing along the southern border with Mexico; but don't delude yourselves that that's all we need. Or that we'll never need the virtual fence. Or even that we'll actually be able to build an effective physical fence everywhere that we need to stop people from coming... or even along the entire southern border itself.

The physical fence is a stopgap; we urgently need to do two things. As Caiaphas says in Jesus Christ Super Star, "We need a more permanent solution to our problem":

  1. Perfect the virtual-fence, smart-card, and employer verification technologies;
  2. Reform our own legal immigration system so that it is rational, just, and above all, predictable, to take the pressure of millions off the wall.

When law-abiding, eager-to-assimilate immigrants see a system that tells them what they need do to be granted residency or citizenship, they will follow the legal brick road. Contrariwise, if they see a system that arbitrarily excludes them, while welcoming much less assimilable immigrants with open arms, the pressure to just give up and sneak into the country, making a better life for their wives and chilren, becomes overwhelming.

(Imagine that you go through four or five years of university, passing all classes and tests; but at the end, somebody hands you a pair of dice... and you only get your diploma if you roll ten or higher.)

Until these two problems are solved, a physical fence is just a very wide target for bombs -- and bombast.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 25, 2008, at the time of 10:09 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 15, 2008

She's a Self-Made Fool

Dancing Democrats , Iraq Matters , Liberal Lunacy
Hatched by Dafydd

Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) said, just a few days ago, that despite the now impossible to deny military success of the "surge" (how I hate that misleading word, whether Democrat or Republican uses it), the entire Iraq war is lost because the Iraqi government hasn't made any political progress.

Then Wednesday, as if on cue, the Iraqi parliament enacted legislation for provincial elections... resolving one of the three central political -- er -- quagmires standing in the way of building a relatively free and relatively democratic Iraqi nation. (The other two are anti-de-Baathification, which was passed some weeks ago; and oil revenue sharing, which is very close to being fully resolved.)

It appears the Iraqi parliament has accomplished more of its own agenda than has Nancy Pelosi since she and her cronies took over Congress thirteen months ago.

The capper came last night, when the Speaker refused even to call a vote on semi-permanizing the FISA reforms that passed by more than two-thirds in the Senate and had a solid majority already declared for passage in the House. It was simply more important to Nan to:

  • Slime the Bush administration by passing -- on a narrow, party-line vote -- "contempt of Congress" charges against White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former White House Chief Counsel Harriet Miers... for not confessing that political appointees were appointed for partially political reasons;
  • Pay off their biggest special-interest donors, the trial lawyers, who want to get rich feeding off the carcass of the telecom industry, which had the misfortune to agree to help the government track down terrorists in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Indeed, no good deed goes unpunished -- by Democrat-supporting trial lawyers. (By the way... once the lawyers sue Big Telephone out of existence, who will offer the conference-call service litigators live for?)

Looks like Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) may have to share his booby prize with his sister across the Rotunda.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 15, 2008, at the time of 3:51 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 26, 2008

Twisted-Talk Express

Iraq Matters , Presidential Campaign Camp and Porkinstance
Hatched by Dafydd

If this report is true -- and it certainly seems to be -- then John McCain has done a despicable thing... and has made it clearer than ever that in his heart, he is a Democrat -- and in the Clintonian mold:

John McCain accused Mitt Romney of wanting to withdraw troops from Iraq, drawing immediate protest from his Republican presidential rival who said: "That's simply wrong and it's dishonest, and he should apologize...."

As the two candidates campaigned along the state's southwest coast, McCain sought the upper hand with a new line of criticism, telling reporters in Ft. Meyers about Iraq: "If we surrender and wave a white flag, like Senator Clinton wants to do, and withdraw, as Governor Romney wanted to do, then there will be chaos, genocide, and the cost of American blood and treasure would be dramatically higher."

Minutes earlier, the Arizona senator took a slap at Romney without naming him during a question-and-answer session with Floridians, saying: "Now, one of my opponents wanted to set a date for withdrawal that would have meant disaster."

Mitt Romney immediately and vociferously objected that this was utterly false, and he demanded that McCain apologize; instead, the senator doubled down:

Campaigning later in Sun City, McCain took note of Romney's demand for an apology and said it is his GOP rival who should apologize to U.S. troops in Iraq "who are serving this nation in hard times and good" for his position.

So what is McCain talking about? The Associated Press, generally a reliable corner man for McCain (at least during primary season), has flatly sided with Romney this time, albeit while trying to softpedal McCain's false accusation:

While Romney has never set a public date for withdrawal, he has said that President Bush and Iraqi leaders should have private timetables and benchmarks with which to gauge progress on the war and determine troop levels. He has said publicly that he agrees with Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, that U.S. troops could move to more of an oversight role in 2008.

If this account is true -- and it would be passing strange were AP to lie on behalf of Mitt Romney in order to damage John McCain -- then what does this tell us about Mr. "Straight Talk?" I do believe this account for the most obvious of reasons: I have never heard Romney say anything like what McCain claimed he said, and McCain was unable to produce any quotation from Romney to back up his vile accusation.

Rather, Romney has certainly backed the counterinsurgency strategy since it began, long before it bore fruit; here is a statement from Romney dated January 10th, 2007, in which he flatly, completely, and unreservedly supports the then-new policy.

On May 30th, he again cautioned against withdrawal.

In April, he spoke to the Hill, saying President Bush and President Nouri al-Maliki should have their own, private set of timetables and milestones, to monitor progress in Iraq; he said nothing about any withdrawal, and he emphasized that any such measures of progress should be kept strictly secret:

“There’s no question that the president and Prime Minister al-Maliki [of Iraq] have to have a series of timetables and milestones that they speak about, but those shouldn’t be for public pronouncement. ... You don’t want the enemy to understand how long they have to wait in the weeds until you're going to be gone,” Romney said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

While Romney stopped short of describing his preferred timetables as a path leading to U.S. withdrawal from Iraq [that is, he said nothing whatsoever about withdrawal], the concept of secret guideposts for war policy closely resembles Pryor’s plan, which the centrist Democrat first put in writing last month as an amendment to his leadership’s non-binding resolution on troop redeployment.

Romney says we should have secret milestones to evaluate the war's progress; some Democrat says we should have secret milestones and also a date-certain for withdrawal. Ergo, logically, Romney must support the timed withdrawal as well! We deduce this based upon the well-known rule of inference that if two things are roughly similar in one respect, they must therefore be identical in every respect (the Law of Vague Similarlity Means Complete Equality).

Finally, at a town-hall meeting Romney held last September, Romney detailed his Iraq plan:

Romney, along with all the presidential hopefuls, is keeping a close eye on the briefing that Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Amb. to Iraq Ryan Crocker are set to deliver to Congress next week.

While emphasizing to the New Hampshire audience tonight that to withdraw precipitously would bring considerable "regional consequences," Romney emphasized in some of the most detailed language he's used yet about the conflict that he sees the surge that Petraeus and Crocker are to report on as the first element in a three-step process designed to minimize the American presence in Iraq.

After the surge, Romney said he envisioned a draw-down of U.S. troops where those who remained would take on a "support role" away from the front-lines.

Beyond that phase, Romney said he would then like to move to a "stand-by" posture. "Our troops are out of Iraq and are available if absolutely needed" at this point, he explained.

He said he sees these three phases "happening relatively soon," specifically noting that if progress is made getting to the "support role" could happen next year. But while hoping for the best, Romney noted that he'd be monitoring the situation closely "to see what kind of success we are having at each stage."

Anybody besides John McCain see a "date for withdrawal" in that plan? Perhaps I'm just missing it.

Here's some straight talk: Romney's plan was almost identical to that of Gen. David Petraeus, Adm. William Fallon, and George W. Bush; that is exactly what they have all said all along: After the COIN is successful, we can begin withdrawing troops... cautiously.

I can draw only two possible conclusions from this shameless attack on Mitt Romney by John McCain:

  1. Either Mr. "Straight Talk" has demonstrated that he will (if he gets desperate enough) stoop to fabricating accusations against his enemies... that is, to flatly lying about them;
  2. Or else, that John McCain rejects the Petraeus plan as a betrayal and believes there should never be any drawdown in Iraq; in addition, he doesn't want even internal, secret milestones to gauge our progress there... McCain will simply know, via mystic gnosis, how it's going and what to do next.

That is, John McCain wants us to maintain our current level of 160,000 troops in Iraq indefinitely, no matter what the facts on the ground may be, and no matter what the commanding generals in the field would prefer. I can only conclude that under a John McCain presidency, Navy Captain John "Full Throttle" McCain will simply overrule his own generals and admirals based on his gut feeling and micromanage the war, as Lyndon Johnson did.

Conclusion number one means that McCain is fundamentally dishonest. Number two means that, despite his military leadership being the only real selling point he has ever had, he would in fact be a catastrophic Commander in Chief.

I wonder which conclusion is correct?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 26, 2008, at the time of 3:21 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

January 23, 2008

No Fanfair for the Common Grunt

Good News! , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Sachi

I suppose no news must be good news.

When we stop hearing about Iraq, it does not mean nothing is happening. In fact, many good things happened in Iraq last year; we just didn't read much about it in the press. But Bill Roggio reports significantly diminished Al-Qaeda activities in Iraq:

During a press briefing in Baghdad, Lieutenant General Ray Odierno, the Commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, said al Qaeda in Iraq has been ejected from its strongholds in the cities to the rural regions of Iraq.

Al Qaeda in Iraq's network has been significantly degraded, but is still a threat. .... "Although the group remains a dangerous threat, its capabilities have been diminished," said Odierno. "Al Qaeda has been pushed out of urban centers like Baghdad, Ramadi, Fallujah and Baqubah, and forced into isolated rural areas. Many of their top leaders have been eliminated, and finding qualified replacements is increasingly difficult for them." Multinational Forces Iraq also estimates it has significantly degraded al Qaeda's ability to fund operations by dismantling its financier networks and leaders.

Operation Phantom Phoenix, the current nationwide operation targeting al Qaeda's remaining safe havens, was launched on Jan. 8. Iraqi and US forces have captured or killed 121 al Qaeda fighters, wounded 14, and detained an additional 1023 suspects. Al Qaeda's leadership has been hit hard during the operation, with 92 high values targets either killed or captured.

Although most of the missions were US/Iraqi joint operations, Iraqi security forces conducted some completely independent operations, and they were very successful. More and more Iraqis are stepping up to the plate:

Iraq's army and police could be ready to take over security in all 18 provinces by the end of this year as the U.S. military moves toward a less prominent role in the country, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

The Roggio post has some illuminating animation showing the evaporation of al-Qaeda's operational area from December, 2006 to December, 2007 (scroll to the bottom of the post). The difference is so obvious and significant that even honest Democrats, assuming there are any left, can no longer deny that we have by and large won this war and that the counterinsurgency was a brilliant success; it's not exaggerated to say that COIN completely flipped the dynamic of the war.

Powerline has graphs showing the decline of coalition and civilian casualties during 2007, including a 90% decline in sectarian violence in Baghdad from January to December.

So which member of the elite media is reporting this wonderful news, celebrating our incredible sucess? Aside from a few bloggers and some military-related sites, no one is, despite a January 17th press release distributed to the elite media and available online. And Reuters is the only major news service to carry ongoing coverage of operation Phantom Phoenix.

The Boston Globe has some news about increased Iraqi forces. AFP reported on Phantom Phoenix only as an afterthought; the main story was about six American deaths in a booby-trapped house; AFP did not report the overall success of COIN. Fox news posted a story about the reduction of American troops -- without ever mentioning the success that made the troop cuts possible.

Our presidential candidates, both Democrats and Republican, don't mention the war very much anymore; it has become a non-issue. When we seemed on the brink of failure, people couldn't wait to talk about it... how many civilians were blown up today? how many troops were ambushed? quagmire, quagmire!

But here is what actually happened over 2007:



CivilianDeaths9

Civilian deaths in 2007



CoalitionKIA4

Coalition deaths in 2007

Shouldn't this be on the front page of New York Times, rather than "Worries That the Good Times Were a Mirage" and "Heath Ledger, Actor, Is Found Dead at 28"?

It gets harder every day to draw any conclusion except the obvious one: The media elites are downcast that America has finally turned the Iraq war around; they don't want to report our success because they are afraid it will buoy the voters, lead to more successes, and therefore help the eventual Republican nominee: All of the major Republican candidates support victory; all of the major Democratic candidates are deeply invested in defeat.

Victory or defeat; which hand do you choose?

In other words, it's very, very difficult not to conclude that the elite media desperately hope for America to lose -- for the good of the Democratic Party; and that they do everything in their power to bring that about, from suppressing good news to "outing" highly classified intelligence vital to the long war.

Sadly, it's true: The elite news media have become America's new Copperheads.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, January 23, 2008, at the time of 3:23 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

How to Lie About Lying

Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

This one is simply befuddling:

A study by two nonprofit journalism organizations found that President Bush and top administration officials issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat from Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The study concluded that the statements "were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses."

Now, would any disinterested party read the above -- and not think the study authors were accusing President Bush and his administration of deliberately lying us into war? Surely this subtextual implication must have crept in because of bad writing; I can't imagine that the elite media would be so intentionally partisan.

Here are the specific charges:

The study counted 935 false statements in the two-year period. It found that in speeches, briefings, interviews and other venues, Bush and administration officials stated unequivocally on at least 532 occasions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or was trying to produce or obtain them or had links to al-Qaida or both.

"It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to al-Qaida," according to Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith of the Fund for Independence in Journalism staff members, writing an overview of the study. "In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003."

One notes that "Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith of the Fund for Independence in Journalism staff members" -- isn't that a lovely grammatical construct? -- do not deny that Iraq was "trying to... obtain" WMD, even though they appear to include such claims under the category of "false statements."

Nor do they deny the administration's claim that Iraq had "links" with al-Qaeda. They merely dispute the meaningfulness of those links... and dub that another "false statement" by the president and his administration.

Here is that section from the report itself, from their database of "false statements;" it's a perfect primer on the anatomy of a falsehood:

In July 2002, Rumsfeld had a one-word answer for reporters who asked whether Iraq had relationships with Al Qaeda terrorists: "Sure." In fact, an assessment issued that same month by the Defense Intelligence Agency (and confirmed weeks later by CIA Director Tenet) found an absence of "compelling evidence demonstrating direct cooperation between the government of Iraq and Al Qaeda." What's more, an earlier DIA assessment said that "the nature of the regime's relationship with Al Qaeda is unclear."

This one is instructive to deconstruct:

  1. What they say: "In July 2002, Rumsfeld had a one-word answer for reporters who asked whether Iraq had relationships with Al Qaeda terrorists: 'Sure.'"

    What they mean: Rumsfeld asserts that relationships exist between Iraq and al-Qaeda.

  2. What they say: "[A]n assessment... found an absence of 'compelling evidence demonstrating direct cooperation between the government of Iraq and Al Qaeda.'"

    What they mean: The later assessment found that there were relationships, but they did not rise to the level of military alliances.

  3. What they say: "[A]n earlier DIA assessment said that 'the nature of the regime's relationship with Al Qaeda is unclear.'"

    What they mean: Before we found out the nature of the relationships, we did not know the nature of the relationships.

If you can find that Rumsfeld's statement (1) -- which evidently consisted of the single word "Sure" -- is falsified by either (2) of (3), please take to the comments and explain it to the rest of us... because to me, laboring under the disadvantage of having been intensely trained only in the lesser rhetorical art of mathematical logic, they appear to be able to exist in the same 'hood without bothering each other.

Here is another "false statement" (we are meant to understand "obvious lie") that the Center discovered, after digging deeply into the substrata of hidden rhetorical diplospeak. I must admit, this one was a marvel of original research that all by itself may justify the report -- if only to bring this one hidden, obscure falsehood to the light of day:

On January 28, 2003, in his annual State of the Union address, Bush asserted: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production." Two weeks earlier, an analyst with the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research sent an email to colleagues in the intelligence community laying out why he believed the uranium-purchase agreement "probably is a hoax."

This is such an out of the blue, never before seen accusation that I haven't had time to formulate a response. He has me there!

Thus the massive database of dishonesty and mountain of mendacity they unearthed, dutifully reported by the Associated Press... with but a single effort to elicit a general response from the administration -- and no attempt whatsoever to delve into these alleged "false statements" to see whether there is even a contradiction between what the administration said and what the Center for Pubic Integrity said. Yet there is also this unanswered (unasked) question that seems somewhat pertinent, at least to me:

How many of these "false statements" were, in fact, believed true by virtually everybody, Republican and Democrat alike, when they were made? How many were parroted by Democrats, including those on the House and Senate Permanent Select Intelligence Committees, who thereby had access to the same intelligence as la Casablanca? The Center doesn't tell, and the incurious media elites don't ask.

This is as close as they come in their executive summary:

Bush stopped short, however, of admitting error or poor judgment; instead, his administration repeatedly attributed the stark disparity between its prewar public statements and the actual "ground truth" regarding the threat posed by Iraq to poor intelligence from a Who's Who of domestic agencies.

On the other hand, a growing number of critics, including a parade of former government officials [Eric Shinseki? Weasely Clark? Bill Clinton?], have publicly -- and in some cases vociferously ["rabidly" would be the better word choice] -- accused the president and his inner circle of ignoring or distorting the available intelligence.

A growing number of critics! Well, who could argue with that?

Here are a couple of inconvenient truths the AP story neglects to tell us:

  • "A study by two nonprofit journalism organizations..."

    The Fund for Independence in Journalism says its "primary purpose is providing legal defense and endowment support for the largest nonprofit, investigative reporting institution in the world, the Center for Public Integrity, and possibly other, similar groups." Eight of the eleven members of the Fund's board of directors are either on the BoD of the Center for Public Integrity, or else are on the Center's Advisory Board. Thus these "two" organizations are actually joined at the hip.

  • "Fund for Independence in Journalism..."

    The Center is heavily funded by George Soros. It has also received funding from Bill Moyers, though some of that money might have actually been from Soros, laundered through Moyers via the Open Society Foundation.

    Other funders include the Streisand Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts (used to be conservative, but in 1987 they veered sharply to the left, and are now a dyed-in-the-wool "progressive" funder), the Los Angeles Times Foundation, and so forth. The Center is a far-left organization funded by far-left millionaires, billionaires, and trusts.

Even the New York Times, in their "me too" article on the data dump, admits that there is nothing new in this release... just a jumble of statements, some of which later turned out to have been erroneous, others which just constitute heresy within the liberal catechism:

There is no startling new information in the archive, because all the documents have been published previously. But the new computer tool is remarkable for its scope, and its replay of the crescendo of statements that led to the war. Muckrakers may find browsing the site reminiscent of what Richard M. Nixon used to dismissively call “wallowing in Watergate.”

By "wallowing," the Times means those in the terminal stage of BDS can search for phrases like "mushroom cloud" or "yellowcake" and be rewarded by screens and screens of shrill denunciation of the Bush administration... just as Watergate junkies used to do (without the benefit of computers) in the early 1970s. (Mediocre science-fiction author and liberal "paleotruther" Isaac Asimov called this, evidently without realizing the irony, "getting my Watergate fix.")

The Nixon reference appears to have been suggested by the report itself; the executive summary ends:

Above all, the 935 false statements painstakingly presented here finally help to answer two all-too-familiar questions as they apply to Bush and his top advisers: What did they know, and when did they know it?

I'm certain it's sheer coincidence that this nonsense was spewed across the news sockets during the peak of the election primary season... and right before the primary in Florida, of all states. Had anyone at AP or the Times realized how this might affect the election, I know their independent journalistic integrity would have suggested they hold this non-time-constrained story until afterwards. Say, they could even have used the time to consider whether "Iraq and al-Qaeda had a relationship" and "the relationship didn't amount to direct cooperation" contradict each other.

A less charitable person than I might imagine this "database" was nothing but a mechanical tool to allow good liberals easier access to a tasty "two-minutes hate."

But realizing that the elite media has only our best interests at heart, my only possible conclusion is that, despite the multiple layers of editorial input that must occur at these venues, several important facts just slipped through the cracks:

  • The fact that the Center for Public Integrity is a Left-funded, leftist, activist organization with a serious hatchet to grind with the Bush administration;
  • The fact that the Fund for Independence in Journalism is neither independent, nor is it engaged in journalism (it's a front group of mostly the same people whose purpose is to shield the Center from lawsuits);
  • And the fact that the vast majority of the supposed "false statements" are in fact simply positions with which liberals disagree, or else statements widely accepted at the time that later investigation (after deposing Saddam Hussein) showed to be inaccurate.

I must assume that these self-evident facts must simply have been honestly missed by the gimlet-eyed reporters and editors at AP and the NYT. Heck, even Pinch nods.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 23, 2008, at the time of 1:55 AM | Comments (37) | TrackBack

January 22, 2008

The Rap on MRAPs

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Last Saturday, an attack on an "MRAP" (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle successfully destroyed the vehicle and killed one of the four occupants. But far from a slam, this very attack proves just how effective the MRAP truly is.

Important Note: Bill Roggio argues that, contrary to what the New York Times, AP, and other news sources claim, this was not the first combat death suffered by an occupant of an MRAP. I'll take the word of Roggio over that of the Times anyday; even so, the vehicles are a huge improvement over uparmored Humvees, Bradleys, or even Strykers.

The first point to notice about Saturday's IED attack is that the MRAP did its job well, protecting all those riders who were actually inside the secure area of the vehicle:

Three of the four people aboard suffered only broken feet and lacerations. Pending the results of an investigation, it is unclear yet whether the gunner was killed by the blast or by the vehicle rolling over.

But officers on the scene noted that he was the member of the crew most exposed, and that the vehicle’s secure inner compartment was not compromised and appeared to have done its job by protecting the three other crew members inside. “The crew compartment is intact,” said Capt. Michael Fritz. He said the blast would have been large enough “to take out” a heavily armored Bradley Fighting Vehicle.

The AP story on the same incident is even more explicit about the success of the MRAP:

"That attack has not ... caused anyone to question the vehicle's lifesaving capacity," [Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff] Morrell said. "To the contrary, the attack reaffirms their survivability."

The soldier who died Saturday was the gunner who sits atop the MRAP vehicle. Morrell said it is still not clear whether he died as a result of the explosion or the rollover. And Maj. Alayne P. Conway, deputy spokeswoman for the 3rd Infantry Division, said the attack and the death are under investigation.

Morrell said the MRAP hit a "very large, deep-buried IED" and that the "force of the explosion blew the MRAP into the air and caused it to overturn." Despite the size of the explosion, he said, the crew compartment "was not compromised" and the three soldiers inside escaped with cuts and broken bones in their feet.

"I think everybody is still amazed at the fact that, despite the size of this bomb, these vehicles are proving to be every bit as strong and as lifesaving as we hoped they would be," said Morrell, adding that Defense Secretary Robert Gates is "more convinced than ever that these vehicles do indeed save lives."

Before we go further, let's give a little background: What is a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, an MRAP, anyway? Here is what I wrote back in May about the Cougar and the Buffalo, two MRAPs that were being acquired at the time:

Enter the MRAP: the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected class of vehicles. The Marines and the Army have more or less settled on the Couger H-series of MRAP and the Buffalo H-series of Mine Protected Route Clearance (MPCV) vehicles, both manufactured by Force Protection Inc... the latter being a somewhat larger version of the Cougar, equipped with a fork-toothed arm for explosive ordnance disposal (the Buffalo's nickname is "the Claw"):



Couger H-series MRAP    Buffalo H-series MPCV

Couger H-series MRAP (L) and Buffalo H-series MPCV (R)

The great innovation of the MRAP is to redesign the undercarriage itself... and to correct the flaw that made our earlier combat vehicles so vulnerable: their underbelly flatness. MRAPs have a V-shaped hull that channels blast effect to the sides of the vehicle, graphically demonstrated here. Even EFPs have trouble penetrating the undercarriage of an MRAP:



MRAP taking blast

MRAP taking blast; explosive force is redirected to sides of vehicle

Much more at the link, of course. I can't seem to find a single news story that tells us exactly what type of MRAP was destroyed; but Noah Shachtman at Wired Magazine reports that some of his readers have said it was actually a Maxxpro, made by Navistar International Corporation -- formerly International Harvester -- not by Force Protection; Shachtman's readers say that is the type of MRAP used by the 1st Battalion of the 30th IR:



MaxxPro MRAP

The MaxxPro MRAP, by Navistar International

Back to the Times:

Rear Adm. Greg Smith, a spokesman for the American military in Baghdad, confirmed that the attack was “the first death resulting from an I.E.D. attack on an MRAP,” but said that he could not comment on specific damage to the vehicle “for force protection reasons.” [See important note above; the rear admiral appears to be misinformed.]

Admiral Smith said the new vehicle had proven “in its short time here in Iraq that it is a much improved vehicle in protecting troops from the effects of improvised explosive devices.”

“However,” he added, “there is no vehicle that can provide absolute protection of its occupants.”

This is not the first fatality, but there have been only a few; yet MRAPs have been hit by IEDs more than a dozen previous times, according to AP -- few of which have resulted in fatalities, even when the vehicle itself was totaled. It's hard to imagine either an uparmored Humvee or even a Bradley surviving so many attacks while allowing so few occupant deaths.

Far from debunking or deflating the MRAP story, this IED attack is likely to make the Marines (who are in charge of the MRAP program for all branches of the military) even more anxious to replace all "outside the wire" Humvees with Cougars, Cheetahs, Buffalos, and other MRAPs.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 22, 2008, at the time of 4:47 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 21, 2008

Petraeus, Shmetraeus; the Real Question Is - Who's Next?

Afghan Astonishments , Iraq Matters , Military Machinations , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

The New York Times carries the vaguely interesting speculation (whic barely even qualifies as news) that top Pentagon brass are trying to decide what to do with Gen. David Petraeus for his next assignment. The choices seem to be:

  • Commander of NATO, which would give him a strong say in what we do in Afghanistan, where our combat mission is led by American NATO troops;
  • Commander of CENTCOM, which would give him an even stronger say, assuming someone can figure out where to stick Adm. William Fallon. Fallon seems to be doing a bang-up job as CENTCOM commander right now and has said that rumors of his death or imminent retirement are greatly exaggerated.

The idea seems to be for President George W. Bush to give Petraeus an appointment and confirmation before leaving office a year from yesterday. If the administration does not, and if a Democrat wins the presidency, the incoming POTUS will surely do everything he can to sabotage Petraeus' career -- taking petty revenge against him for the crime of rejecting the Pelosi-Reid conclusion that we've already lost the Iraq war... and worse, being proven right!

But if Petraeus can serve a term in a less politically charged job (especially as NATO commander), goes this reasoning, then maybe President Hillary (or President Mike, President Barack, President John, President John, President Mitt, President Fred, or Citoyen Ron) will consider kicking him upstairs to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- a gold watch and a window seat.

I don't know. I don't care. He should stay in Iraq as long as possible, then be moved somewhere he can continue to fight... or perhaps train others to fight. I'm far more interested in the question, who will succeed Petraeus as Commander of Multinational Force - Iraq (MNF-I)?

Here, the Times again channels its beloved anonymous sources:

If General Petraeus is shifted from the post as top Iraq commander, two leading candidates to replace him are Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who is running the classified Special Operations activities in Iraq, and Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, a former second-ranking commander in Iraq and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’s senior military assistant....

Of the potential successors for General Petraeus, Generals McChrystal and Chiarelli would bring contrasting styles and backgrounds to the fight. General McChrystal has spent much of his career in the Special Operations forces. He commands those forces in Iraq, which have conducted raids against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the mainly Iraqi group that American intelligence says has foreign leadership, and against Shiite extremists, including cells believed to be backed by Iran....

General McChrystal, a 53-year-old West Point graduate, also commanded the 75th Ranger Regiment and served tours in Saudi Arabia during the Persian Gulf war in 1991 and in Afghanistan as chief of staff of the military operation there in 2001 and 2002....

General Chiarelli’s strengths rest heavily on his reputation as one of the most outspoken proponents of a counterinsurgency strategy that gives equal or greater weight to social and economic actions aimed at undermining the enemy as it does to force of arms. General Chiarelli, 57, has served two tours in Iraq, first as head of the First Calvary Division, where he commanded 38,000 troops in securing and rebuilding Baghdad, and later as the second-ranking American officer in Iraq before becoming the senior military aide to Mr. Gates.

In a 2007 essay in Military Review, he wrote: “Unless and until there is a significant reorganization of the U.S. government interagency capabilities, the military is going to be the nation’s instrument of choice in nation-building. We need to accept that reality instead of resisting it, as we have for much of my career.”

There are times in a nation's life when its future lies in the balance, and it is within the power of men to turn the tide of history in one direction -- or the other. In this case, the choice of a successor for Gen. Petraeus appears to leave us with two stark directions:

  • If McChrystal is selected, then we have turned towards a policy of clandestine warfare whose only function is to destroy the enemy's will and ability to fight against our interests; this, to my mind, is to return to the cold war strategy of yesteryear, though against a different foe.
  • But if Chiarelli is chosen instead, we will have turned instead towards a policy of undermining the enemy by denying him the fertile breeding ground of political and legal chaos, resentment, fanaticism, hopelessness, and futility that attends failed states. We will be firmly on the path of nation-building.

I believe the latter would infuriate most conservatives... and I believe it essential that we follow that path nevertheless.

I harken back to the seminal book the Pentagon's New Map, by Thomas P.M. Barnett. Barnett's genius was to recognize that virtually all threats to the United States and our interests came from a narrow swath cut through the middle of the map. The Pentagon had long called this jagged cancer in the world body the "arc of instability;" but Barnett realized it was something more profound: It largely comprises those nations that stubbornly refuses to integrate with the rest of the world's politics, economics, and communications net.

Not that the Non-Integrating Gap (as Barnett calls it) is bereft of political organization; factions are constantly maneuvering to bind all the world's disgruntled postal workers into a single, globe-girdling caliphate... that is, groups like al-Qaeda and countries like Iran engage in the ceaseless struggle of nation-building; but the "nation" they're trying to build is one that offers neither friendship nor a place at the table for us.

Turning to our Special Forces, not simply as tools but as the sharp end of our foreign policy, means abandoning the nation-building field to militant Islamism. You can't beat something with nothing: AQ and the mad mullahs offer something: stability under their rule. If we offer nothing but dark-of-night strikes on people, places, or things that piss us off, then we can never win this war.

Rather, it's absolutely essential that we offer a creative, constructive plan to drain the fever swamps that breed bin Ladens and Mezba-Yazdis and build something functioning in its place; otherwise, we may as well resign ourselves to a generational, existential war that we jolly well may lose.

We cannot simply frighten hirabis into quiessence by clandestine ops and air strikes. We're talking about people for whom, as Cal Thomas put it, "death is a promotion." If hirabis eagerly look forward to dying in order to kill us, how do we "deter" them? Besides, they're not even rational actors, and there is no central caliphate command that can surrender to us.

Gen. Petraeus succeeded because instead of just more killing, he gave the Iraqis a "tomorrow." After tearing down the insurgency, he built something better in its place. He protected the civilian population, helped strengthen the rule of law in Iraq, coordinated the "rebuilding" of that shattered state, made military service a respected career choice for Iraqis for the first time since the Baath Party took over, and in general, spread hope that out of the ashes of Saddam's putative empire, Iraqis could grow the green shoots of normalcy.

We need to follow up with another commander who has the same far-reaching worldview as David Petraeus... not just another Special-Ops marauder who can destroy but cannot build.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 21, 2008, at the time of 7:07 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

January 10, 2008

Operation Phantom Phoenix

Good News! , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Sachi

Two new joint American-Iraqi operations are currently under way in Iraq: Phantom Phoenix and Iron Harvest. The first is nationwide operation, while Iron Harvest focuses on a new al-Qaeda safe haven that had been developing in Diyala province, created by terrorists who were pushed out of Anbar. According to Bill Roggio of Long War Journal, Coalition forces have "launched a series of feints in Diyala to confuse al Qaeda's leadership."

Coalition forces are meeting less resistance than they expected, according to AP:

The top U.S. commander in northern Iraq said Wednesday a nationwide operation launched against insurgents was meeting less resistance than expected, but that troops would pursue the militants until they were dead or pushed out of the country.

Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling told reporters in Baghdad that in his area of control alone, 24,000 American troops, 50,000 members of the Iraq army and 80,000 Iraqi police were taking part in the offensive against al-Qaida in Iraq....

First, U.S. and Iraqi forces would try to clear areas of insurgents. Then, Iraqi police would move in to establish some semblance of law and order. Finally, Hertling said, the so-called "Awakening Groups" or "Concerned Local Citizens" -- mostly Sunni fighters who have joined the Americans in the battle against al-Qaida - would be relied upon to maintain stability after troops move out of areas....

Hertling said his troops had killed 20-30 insurgents so far.

Unfortunately, the reason for the light resistance appears to be that the operation was blown, and many of the insurgents fled north to avoid it. Information tends to escape the Iraqi forces. From the Long War Journal post on Iron Harvest:

Both Iron Harvest and Phantom Phoenix "are seeing less resistance than expected," Multinational Forces Iraq reported. "There are expectations that the decrease in resistance can be due to leaks in the [Iraqi security forces] or extremists might have seen an increase in helicopters in their areas prior to the operation."

And from AP:

Hertling said reports that insurgents in Diyala had fled north just before Phantom Phoenix began were probably accurate, a reason troops have met relatively little resistance so far. He also said the insurgen[cy] probably learned of the military's plans in advance.

"Operational security in Iraq is a problem," he said, noting that the Iraqi army uses unsecured cell phones and radios. "I'm sure there is active leaking of communication. That is why we have to keep a tight line on operational security."

It appears that "a tight line" now includes keeping Iraq security forces out of the loop of specific attacks until just before they launch.

I do not understand why Iraqis or anyone else would use unsecured phone lines, given how easily those are intercepted (which should be common knowledge by now). However, communications security is always a number-one concern for any military. Remember, "loose lips sink ships!"

(My father, who handled confidential information all his life as an attorney, is particulary tired of the Japanese media's (or US, for that matter) complete disregard for national security. He even accuses me of talking too much about my work. "'Unclass' does not mean you can disclose to public. It should still be 'need to know basis.'" He is correct about the last, of course; but everything we discuss here at Big Lizards is already disseminated to the public. We never post confidential, classified, or even sensitive information here.)

Unlike the pre-Petrateus days, our counterinsurgency strategy (COIN) requires our troops to remain in the area once we secure it; so once we expel the terrorists -- or even if they flee northward after picking up intel from blabbermouths in the Iraqi Army -- they will never be able to come back. Rremember what happened to Sadr when he fled back to Iran? A few weeks of exile has turned permanent... at least permanent exile from command of any militia units.

It's not necessarily a bad thing that the terrorists fled. With every such retreat, they have fewer and fewer places to go; and eventually, they will run out of options. Bill Roggio reports:

Al Qaeda's attempt to establish a new base of operation in the Mosul region is believed to have been blunted. Yet a series of bombings against Christian churches in the region are believed to be an attempt to stir up sectarian violence in the area, a senior military intelligence officer told The Long War Journal. Al Qaeda has also attempted to increase sectarian violence in the flashpoint city of Kirkuk, where Arab and Kurdish groups are vying for political power in the oil-rich city.

The Samarra region may also be a focal point of Operation Phantom Phoenix. The Samarra-Tarmiyah region is believed to be a command and control node for al Qaeda in Iraq’s central leadership. Multiple media cells and senior al Qaeda in Iraq leaders have been killed or captured in the region, including Abu Abdullah, a regional emir.

Phantom Phoenix may also target the Iranian-backed Special Groups, the Shia terror cells targeting Coalition and Iraqi security forces, Iraqi political leaders, and civilians.

Then can always run away; but unlike the prodigal son, they can't slink home again and expect their former victims to fall on their necks and kill the fatted calf for them. [If they do fall on their necks, it will probably be with scimitars...! -- Dafydd]

Hatched by Sachi on this day, January 10, 2008, at the time of 4:21 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 20, 2007

Today's Huckalunacy: Back to the Future? No, Forward to the Past!

Afghan Astonishments , Elections , Iraq Matters , Military Machinations , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

Some evangelicals, such as Lee Harris at TCS (Technology, Commerce, Society) Daily, passionately believe that conservatives (and even non-conservatives such as myself) who say bad things about Mike Huckabee's campaign for the presidency, are simply haters who despise religious people. We spend our time nitpicking every word that Huckabee utters, find absurd conspiracies (such as the "floating cross" in his Christmas TV ad that was actually a reflection off his bookshelves), and even fabricate supposed faux pas out of thin air. We are the polar opposites of those believers who see Jesus in a tortilla and the Virgin Mary in a rock formation.

Not so! In fact, I knew absolutely nothing about Huckabee until I began to hear his own words. I have assumed from the git go that he is no more or less religious than that other evangelical, born-again Christian who currently occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. And everything I have attacked about Huckabee's campaign has been based upon his own words, either spoken, or in the case of his Foreign Affairs article on his deep, surethoughted foreign policy, written after careful pondering and the hiring of a skillful ghostwriter... thus all, one presumes, the considered position of Gov. Mike Huckabee himself.

So I feel no guilt for bringing to your eyes what I just heard with my own ears, on just about the most friendly venue Huckabee can possibly get: the Michael Medved show, a one-on-one conversation with a pal who has pulled out all the stops to turn his show into a virtual daily campaign spot for Gov. Huckabee.

Today, Medved began by asking Huckabee about the section of his article where he says he wants to build up the military much more rapidly than President Bush is doing. As a reminder, this is what Huckabee wrote, or at least put his name to; I include annotations from myself:

The Bush administration plans to increase the size of the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps by about 92,000 troops over the next five years. We can and must do this in two to three years. [Considering that the president has just barely met his own expansion rate, how exactly does Huckabee plan to double it? Care to tell us?] I recognize the challenges of increasing our enlistments without lowering standards and of expanding training facilities and personnel, and that is one of the reasons why we must increase our military budget. [How would increasing our DoD budget cause recruits to magically appear -- and to magically get 4-5 years of training in 2-3 years?] Right now, we spend about 3.9 percent of our GDP on defense, compared with about six percent in 1986, under President Ronald Reagan. [At the peak of the Cold War.] We need to return to that six percent level. [So he wants to add another $240 billion per year to the DoD budget... if he has a plan for getting Congress to vote this -- without a staggering tax increase -- does he care to share?] And we must stop using active-duty forces for nation building and return to our policy of using other government agencies to build schools, hospitals, roads, sewage treatment plants, water filtration systems, electrical facilities, and legal and banking systems. [That would be a great idea, if we could recreate the Foreign Office of the British Empire; but when has America done such a thing in the middle of a war? The Marshall Plan came after Germany was utterly razed.] We must marshal the goodwill, ingenuity, and power of our governmental and nongovernmental organizations in coordinating and implementing these essential nonmilitary functions.

If I ever have to undertake a large invasion, I will follow the Powell Doctrine and use overwhelming force. [A force that took months and months to settle in the friendly country of Kuwait -- which had just been invaded by Iraq, thus was willing to allow us to do so. Which country in the Middle East would have been willing to make itself a target over a six-month period prior to launching our own invasion of Iraq?] The notion of an occupation with a "light footprint," which was our model for Iraq, is a contradiction in terms. [Oddly, though, it seemed to work -- as even Gov. Huckabee admits a couple of sentences later.] Liberating a country and occupying it are two different missions. Our invasion of Iraq went well militarily, but the occupation has destroyed the country politically, economically, and socially. [Destroyed it? It appears to be doing significantly better by many measures than it was under Saddam Hussein.] In the former Yugoslavia, we sent 20 peacekeeping soldiers for every thousand civilians. [And say, that's worked out well, hasn't it!] In Iraq, an equivalent ratio would have meant sending a force of 450,000 U.S. troops. [Great leaping horny toads. And where were we to get the extra 200,000+ troops? Can Huckabee the Great conjure 20 divisions out of his hat?] Unlike President George W. Bush, who marginalized General Eric Shinseki, the former army chief of staff, when he recommended sending several hundred thousand troops to Iraq, I would have met with Shinseki privately and carefully weighed his advice. [Before or after he publicly smeared you with his "advice" at a Congressional hearing?] Our generals must be independent advisers, always free to speak without fear of retribution or dismissal. [Where "our generals" includes Eric Shinseki, but not, evidently, Tommy Franks.]

Look at that -- lots of attacks on Huckabee's ideas, yet not a single reference to "knuckle-dragging evanvgelicals" or "protofascist Christian theocrats!"

But Gov. Huckabee's military naïveté is perfectly encapsulated by a pithy, sententious aphorism he just delivered on the show, which is what spurred me to write this post. Here is what he said -- transcript from my own memory (but as you'll see, it would be hard to get this wrong):

Donald Rumsfeld famously said, "You don't go to war with the Army you'd like; you go to war with the Army you have." But I say, you don't go to war with the Army you have... you go to war with the Army you need. And you don't go to war until you have the Army you need!

(Actually, what Rumsfeld said was "As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They’re not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time." But Huckabee's paraphrase is near enough to the meaning.)

Think about that for a moment. How many things are wrong with that sentiment?

  1. How do you calculate "the Army you need?"

    Huckabee would use the Powell Doctrine -- where we essentially refight World War II in every military conflict we undertake. The Gulf War was a classic force-on-force confrontation not that different from Patton's North Africa campaign or the Battle of the Bulge. But wars in the future will not much resemble those of the 20th century; and if we're still trying to fight campaigns against agile, assymetrical insurgents with the bigfooted approach of a Colin Powell -- well, look at our Iraq tactics of 2005-2006 and how effective they were.

    And for how many years could we have supported that size of a force in Iraq, by the way?

  2. How long do you wait to go to war, trying to raise the Army you think you need under the Powell Doctrine?

    When Colin Powell fought the Gulf War, he had the advantage of the Reagan Army build-up already under his belt. I understand that Huckabee wants to build up our armed forces; but he's still only talking about another 92,000 troops -- in three years. But he now says we should have used 450,000 soldiers in Iraq, which is more than 200,000 more than we used. So should we have waited six years to attack Iraq?

    What kind of WMD would Saddam Hussein have had by now, had we done nothing for the last six years?

  3. Where exactly would Huckabee have staged an Allied Expeditionary Force of near half a million? Turkey? Kuwait? Iran? Has the governor even thought this through? Which Moslem country was going to allow us to build up such a massive force of crusading Christians on its territory, in the era of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda?
  4. Perhaps Huckabee is covertly saying he wouldn't have invaded Iraq at all; that like President Clinton, he would have been content with occasional bombing runs to "keep Saddam Hussein in his box." And when the sanctions regime collapsed under the weight of the UN's Oil for Fraud bribery scheme, we would have grimly watched -- while building our mighty, Cold-War sized Army -- as Hussein rebuilt his entire arsenal of chemical and biological weaponry.

    (Which, by the way, he might have used against neighboring civilian populations or even his own people, rather than against our soldiers... and the civilian death toll could have been much, much higher... even as high as the ludicrous Lancet guesstimate of 655,000 deaths, or the even more risible Opinion Research claim of 1.2 million.)

    If that is what Huckabee is saying, I wish he would just straightforwardly make that case, so we could confront his arguments... instead of advocating policies that would force us down that road, willy nilly, in future.

  5. And what if our goal to add another 20-30 divisions were delayed indefinitely by a Congress unwilling to increase the military budget by 65%? How long do we wait before going to war... not just in Iraq, but anywhere?

    Years? Decades? Never? But even Huckabee admits that "our invasion of Iraq went well militarily."

    It seems he would preferentially never invade anywhere at all if he couldn't get enough troops to do it more or less like Operation Overlord on D-Day. This is like the king who had the largest army in Europe -- but would never fight for fear of "breaking" it.

Pace, Lee Harris, but this is why so many Republicans don't think much of "President" Mike Huckabee. Those of us who are not captive to the identity-politics of evangelism realize that electing yet another naïve Arkansas governor with no foreign policy experience to the White House is probably a bad idea during an existential war against global hirabah. Heck, the first was bad enough during the American vacation from history!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 20, 2007, at the time of 1:37 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

December 17, 2007

Huckasmears of Yesteryear...

Iraq Matters , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

I'm almost tempted to start a whole new catagory just for bizarre, liberal conspiracy theories that Mike Huckabee buys into; we'll see.

I've been reading Huckabee's article in Foreign Affairs from the January/February 2008 issue. I'm stunned by how many liberal shibboleths the governor would easily pass. (As I type this, Hugh Hewitt is on the same topic.)

Although the article is current, in fact each of these nutroot smears were originally delivered by Huckabee back in September, when he gave a condensed version of this article as a speech at a conference organized by the magazine; so he's been passing these canards for some time. (In that same speech, by the way, he said he was the only candidate with a Theology degree... which, of course, he does not actually have.)

Let's take a look at a couple.

President Bush took "retribution" against Gen. Eric Shinseki

Here's one that no one has mentioned so far:

In the former Yugoslavia, we sent 20 peacekeeping soldiers for every thousand civilians. In Iraq, an equivalent ratio would have meant sending a force of 450,000 U.S. troops. Unlike President George W. Bush, who marginalized General Eric Shinseki, the former army chief of staff, when he recommended sending several hundred thousand troops to Iraq, I would have met with Shinseki privately and carefully weighed his advice. Our generals must be independent advisers, always free to speak without fear of retribution or dismissal.

Mike Huckabee thinks that Gen. Eric Shinseki was dismissed? This is straight out the Democratic talking points. In fact, Shinseki was sworn in for his fixed, 4-year term as Army Chief of Staff in 1999, and he left office in 2003 -- four years later. Huckabee tries to weasel a bit by saying Bush "marginalized" Shinseki; but rejecting a general's advice is not marginalizing him.

Some Democrats make a big deal out of the fact that the Washington Post had an article in April, 2002, claiming that the Bush admininistration had just announced Shinseki's successor... Jack Keane. This, claim Democrats and liberals (such as Mike Huckabee), "undercut" Shinseki and turned him into a "lame duck," or "marginalized" him, as Huckabee says... and all as an act of "retribution" for Shinseki saying that we would need "several hundred thousand" troops to win in Iraq.

There are a two major problems with this Huckasmear:

  1. Eric Shinseki's successor as Army Chief of Staff was not Jack Keane; it was Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker;
  2. The Post published its article in April, 2002... but Shinseki made his comment about needing "several hundred thousand troops" in congressional testimony in February 2003, ten months after the supposed "retribution." (I've heard of preemptive war, but preemptive retribution?)

Here is a clip from CNN, where Wolf Blitzer does a little fact-checking on Paul Begala, who appears to be Huckabee's main source:

BLITZER: As promised yesterday, we want to do a follow-up now on something Paul Begala said in an exchange with Torie Clarke yesterday in our strategy session. Paul charged that General Eric Shinseki was effectively relieved of duty as Army chief of staff for testifying under oath that the U.S. needed lots more troops to secure Iraq.

We promised to check the facts on that. And here's what we've come up with. This is what we know. General Shinseki served out his full four-year term as the Army chief of staff. But the defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld tapped a successor for Shinseki back in April of 2002, more than a year before his retirement.

That person didn't wind up taking the job, but such an early announcement was indeed embarrassing to Shinseki, and some say it wound up undercutting his clout inside the Pentagon.

Here's a critical point on the timing. The Pentagon was planning for Shinseki's retirement nearly a year before the general testified that several hundred thousand soldiers might be need in post-war Iraq. That testimony got a very quick response from the secretary, that would be Donald Rumsfeld, who charged that Shinseki's assessment was flat out wrong.

Rumsfeld says that suggestions, though, that Shinseki was fired are a myth. Our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre, who's done a lot of reporting on this story, says that Shinseki was certainly ostracized and criticized for his testimony about troop levels in Iraq. But Jamie says Shinseki was not fired. He wound up retiring after serving his full four-year term.

This show aired on March 21, 2006... a year and eight months ago. Yet Mike Huckabee still believes, today, that the "arrogant" President Bush, probably acting from his "bunker mentality," took "retribution" on Gen. Shinseki by "marginaliz[ing]" or "dismiss[ing]" him for saying we would need more troops than Rumsfeld was planning at the time. Gov. Huckabee is way behind even the MSM on correcting a Democrat smear of George W. Bush.

Bush "let bin Laden escape at Tora Bora" by outsourcing the battle to the Afghans

Just one more; the rest must wait for another day, another Huckapost:

When we let bin Laden escape at Tora Bora, a region along the Afghan-Pakistani border, in December 2001, we played Brer Fox to his Brer Rabbit.

This is another Democratic talking point against Bush; it was first reported in 2002, starting with the Washington Post, I believe, and then all over the elite media. Every so often, the meme bubbles up again: A 2004 document surfaces that allegedly charges a prisoner with "assist[ing] in the escape of Usama Bin Laden from Tora Bora;" Fox News reports that some Afghan warlord claims he was the one who helped Bin Laden escape Tora Bora, and so forth.

But the fact is that no Army document has ever been presented, and nobody in charge of that battle has ever come forward to say, that we knew then or know today whether Osama bin Laden was personally present at Tora Bora. Jed Babbin did what none of these other news agencies did: He actually interviewed those involved and asked them:

I asked [Lt. Gen. Michael DeLong, deputy commander of CENTCOM during the Afghan conflict] to bottom line it: Had the Bush administration concluded that OBL was present in Tora Bora? Was it the gravest error of the war to not commit enough U.S. ground troops? "Rifle" DeLong said, "Somebody could have made that statement, but it sure as hell wasn't the people who fought the war." No one in the military chain of command -- or in the Pentagon in any position of authority -- has reached this phantom "conclusion" that we blew it at Tora Bora....

After the north fell and then Kabul, "...we got word that Osama bin Laden with his leadership -- what was left of it -- could possibly be up in the Tora Bora mountains. We also got word the same day that he could be in Egypt." Reports poured in, some appeared reliable, that OBL could also be in Dubai or in Pakistan. Franks and DeLong concluded, based on the preponderance of the intelligence that OBL was in Tora Bora. U.S. forces couldn't invade Egypt, Pakistan, or Dubai, but they could take a shot at Tora Bora where a substantial number of al Qaeda -- with or without bin Laden -- were hiding. Once again, the Afghanis were integrated with the American and Coalition forces. Nobody "outsourced" the job to them.

Babbin's piece was published on November 1st, 2004. Considering this Huckasmear along with the one above, and his statement that "If I ever have to undertake a large invasion, I will follow the Powell Doctrine and use overwhelming force," and his unattainable demand that we must raise our Defense budget up to what it was during Reagan's term, during the Cold War (that is, add $240 billion annually to bring it up to 6% of the GDP)... I have to wonder whether Huckabee is simply living in the past. Did he stop following the War on Global Hirabah in 2003, or has he read or learned anything more recent than that? (What next... will he demand we bring back the Crusader program?)

And who is is actual advisor on this? We already know he would have believed Eric Shinseki over Tommy Franks; does he also pine for advice from Madeleine Albright, Paul Begala, and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA, 95%)?

The more I read about him -- in his own words! -- the more I believe that Huckabee is the wrong man for the wrong job at the wrong time. If I may quote Friend Lee (notwithstanding Huckabee apologist Michael Medved), "it can't be hush-a-bye time soon enough for Mike Huckabee."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 17, 2007, at the time of 6:12 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 30, 2007

Bored Now; Turn the Page

Dancing Democrats , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

The gasps of shock and screams of outrage must have been audible from the pot parlors of Berkeley, to the brahmin bashes on Beacon Hill, to the tea and cucumber sandwich fundraisers in Chappaqua: John Murtha has "gone native!"

And indeed, Rep. John Murtha (D-PA, 65%) -- the poster boy for "immediately" ending the war and redeploying all of our troops to next-door Okinawa, whence they could respond to any sudden terror threat in a scant four or five weeks -- went to Iraq, came back, and made some remarks yesterday about the counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy that can only be described as a laudatory about-face:

The Pennsylvania Democrat gave qualified but likely his most glowing remarks Thursday about the Iraq war.

"I think the surge is working, but that's only one element," said Murtha, who chairs the defense appropriations subcommittee. "And the surge is working for a couple of different reasons. And one reason is the increase in troops."

Murtha hastened to assure everyone yesterday he was still for yanking the troops out instanter, and he quickly moved today to claim that the drop in violence in Iraq was another black eye for the Bush administration; still, however, he now finds himself in the growing club of anti-war Democrats who have been forced by circumstance -- or would that be "mugged by reality?" -- into admitting the surge of success by the COIN strategy led by Gen. David Petraeus (Commander Multinational Force - Iraq) and presided over by President George W. Bush.

This singular admission by more and more Democrats may well be responsible for the second leg of our political journey: Now that we are clearly winning, Democrats are simply losing interest in Iraq. They've abruptly grown bored with the Iraq war as an election issue. Now they want to talk about socialist economics, the evils of Bush, and -- ominously enough, from the Democratic perspective -- they want to talk a lot more about illegal immigration:

Congressional Democrats are reporting a striking change in districts across the country: Voters are shifting their attention away from the Iraq war.

Rep. Jim Cooper, a moderate Democrat from Tennessee, said not a single constituent has asked about the war during his nearly two-week long Thanksgiving recess. Rep. Michael E. Capuano, an anti-war Democrat from Massachusetts, said only three of 64 callers on a town hall teleconference asked about Iraq, a reflection that the war may be losing power as a hot-button issue in his strongly Democratic district.

First-term Rep. Nancy Boyda (D-Kan.) -- echoing a view shared by many of her colleagues -- said illegal immigration and economic unease have trumped the Iraq war as the top-ranking concerns of her constituents.

In an interview with Politico, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) attributed the change to a recent reduction of violence and media coverage of the conflict, saying there is scant evidence that more fundamental problems with the Bush administration’s policy are improving. Even so, he agreed voters are certainly talking less about the war. “People are not as engaged daily with the reality of Iraq,” Hoyer said.

The change in mood perceived by Democratic lawmakers comes as one of Congress’ most vocal war critics, Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), returned from a trip to Iraq and told reporters Thursday that “the surge is working” to improve security, even though the central government in Baghdad remains “dysfunctional.”

So we're back to Murtha. But he didn't just stop after saying "the surge" was working; he went on to find so many different ways to contradict himself, it beggars the imagination. From the Fox News story:

Murtha, speaking to reporters Thursday in his hometown of Johnstown, Pa., mixed in renewed criticism of the Bush administration's management of the Iraq war, saying it was waged with too few troops, and that it is too costly.

"We can no longer afford to spend $14 billion a month on this war and let our readiness slip," Murtha said.

But, "If you put more forces in, things will work out," he said. [Wouldn't that cost more?]

"But the thing is, the Iraqis have to do this themselves," he added. "We can't win it for them in Afghanistan or Iraq, and provinces they've (Iraqi forces) taken over, we've done better. We can't win."

Has the honorable congressman ever considered medication?

So what is actually causing the sudden deflation of Iraq as an election issue, particularly among Democrats? I think it's pretty clear: Not just Democratic office holders but Americans in general are beginning to accept the reality that we're now winning the Iraq war:

For the first time in a long time, nearly half of Americans express positive opinions about the situation in Iraq. A growing number says the U.S. war effort is going well, while greater percentages also believe the United States is making progress in reducing the number of Iraqi casualties, defeating the insurgents and preventing a civil war in Iraq.

Roughly half of the public (48%) believes the U.S. military effort in Iraq is going very or fairly well. Judgments about the overall situation in Iraq have been improving steadily since the summer. As recently as June, only about a third of Americans (34%) said things were going well in Iraq.

To be specific, currently:

  • 74% of Republicans think we're doing well, up from a low of 51% in February.
  • Democrats who think we're doing well have more than doubled since then, up from 16% to 33% today.
  • Indies have gone from 26% in February to 41% now.
  • Finally, back in January, 42% of respondents said that Iraq was the worst problem facing America today, making it number one; it's still number one... but now, only 32% say it's the worst problem.

And there's your genesis for the loss of interest in the war as a political issue in the upcoming election.

Democrats are still frantically trying to spin away the rising tide of belief that we're winning; they note that the same Pew poll that shows a rise in those who think we're winning has not yet shown any drop in the number of Americans who want the troops to come home. But there is no reason to expect different aspects of public opinion to move in lockstep; even within public-opinion polling, itself a lagging indicator, we have less-lagging and more-lagging elements.

Logically, public opinion on how we're doing must change first; then opinion on what we should do next will change in response somewhat later. Finally, I believe the last thing to change, the "most lagging" of the lagging indicators, would be the public decision on whether the war was worth it.

But I cannot think of a single instance in which a public perception of American victory was not followed by increased willingness to stay and fight -- and also by a retroactive decision that yes, the fight was indeed worth it all: Time mutes all pain.

(Vietnam is not a counterexample, because despite our resounding victory there under Gen. Creighton Abrams, the American public was tricked by leftists such as Walter Cronkite into believing we were losing, when in fact we were winning. There never was a public perception of American victory and still is not today -- though that is finally starting to change, with the advent of talk radio, which drives publishers to publish serious conservative tomes; and by the arrival of "new media," which allows Americans to discuss the new information coming out about Vietnam.)

If the election becomes focused on economics, that is a much easier argument for Republicans to win; they can contrast their own budgetary proposals to the wild taxing and spending that Democrats have already promised. If it becomes focused on illegal immigration, then I don't know if anybody has an advantage -- if anything, slight advantage to Democrats; but that's a far cry from the huge advantage on the Iraq war that Democrats enjoyed in the 2006 election. And of course, there will be a lot less focus on the "Republican culture of corruption," with the Democrats' predictable failure to do anything substantive about the very abuses they screamed about last year... notably earmarks. (And no Mark Foley problem!)

So we're moving in the right direction. I fully expect that by the time the election rolls around, the number of Americans demanding we pull out will have fallen drastically (it's about 50% right now)... and those saying the Iraq invasion was worth it will be well over the 50% line.

At that moment, the Democrats may bitterly regret their long and frantic campaign to cram defeat in Iraq down America's throat. Running against America has rarely been a winning electoral strategy; I believe the Democrats are about to re-experience that painful lesson.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 30, 2007, at the time of 4:56 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 25, 2007

Reducted

Iraq Matters , Liberal Lunacy , Movie Madness and Fractured Flickers
Hatched by Dafydd

Not a movie review; I haven't seen the movie.

But of course, neither has anybody else. That's the point. According to Box Office Mojo, Brian De Palma's new anti-war, anti-American, anti-soldier tour de farce Redacted, winner of the Best Director award at the Venice Film Festival -- which tells the stirring and subtle story of how American soldiers raped, murdered, and burned a fourteen year old Iraqi girl, and then raped, murdered, and burned her entire family to silence them, and then raped, murdered, and burned the military investigators, then the news reporters who tried to report on it, then families of random American soldiers, then Mr. Whipple, then all the animals at the petting zoo -- has enjoyed a resounding lifetime box office gross of $25,628 dollars.

But wait, that's not entirely fair; that's just the domestic gross. We really should include the international take, too... that would be $71,968 (all from Spain, where the movie opened), for a whopping grand total of $97,596.

Over three days (November 16th, 17th, and 18th), at 15 theaters in its widest release (I believe distributer Mark Cuban has reduced the number of venues since that high point). That works out to a domestic take of 1,700 clams per theater. Assuming a measley two showings per day per theater, and assuming tickets average $8.50 each (factoring in the bargain matinees!), that indicates that about 33 people per showing managed to straggle into the theater, some of whom probably thought they were buying tickets to that animated movie about the mouse who wants to be a cook.

It only seems to be playing at one theater in the LA area now; check your local listings!

Director Brian De Palma is doing everything he can to persuade American audiences to go see the movie:

[De Palma] said the film provided a realistic portrait of U.S. troops and how "the presentation of our troops has been whitewashed" by mainstream media.

De Palma, who looked at the atrocities of conflict in the 1989 film "Casualties of War," which also centers on the rape of a young girl by U.S. soldiers, believes news coverage of wars had changed since the Vietnam War.

"We saw fallen soldiers, we saw suffering Vietnamese. We don't see any of that now," he said. "We see bombs go off, but where do they come down? Who do they hit?"

The U.S. invasion of Iraq was "clearly a mistake," he said, that was perpetuated by "defense contractors, big corporations of America" profiting from the war.

"How many billions of dollars are those companies making? And who gets more famous than ever? The media. There is nothing like a war to fill the airwaves 24 hours a day," he said.

But for some unfathomable reason, moviegoers just aren't responding, no matter how conciliatory De Palma gets. I believe the point of his movie is that the biased, conservative American news media simply refuses to report on the rape and murders in Mahmudiyah, which were ordered by Donald Rumsfeld and the Pentagon; just as they refused to report on the Rumsfeld-ordered Haditha massacre, the Rumsfeld-ordered sex-torture at Abu Ghraib, the Rumsfeld-ordered butchery of an innocent wedding party, and the well-established fact that nearly all the bombings and sectarian violence in Iraq since 2003 were committed by American soldiers disguised as Sunni al-Qaeda groups and Shiite death squads, and operating under the direct orders of Donald Rumsfeld.

So what do you want to bet... the lesson Hollywood will take from Redacted -- and Lions from Lambs (Tom Cruise, Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Michael Pena -- $13.8 million domestic), In the Valley of Elah (Tommy Lee Jones, Susan Sarandon, Charlize Theron -- $6.7 million), and all the other anti-American, spit-on-the-soldiers movies about innocent Moslem terrorists being mugged, raped, and brutalized by vicious, bloodthirsty, criminal American soldiers -- the lesson Hollywood takes will be... "Gee, I guess Americans just don't like war movies anymore; war has become unpopular at the movies!"

You know, like We Were Soldiers ($78 million domestic), Master and Commander ($94 million), Troy ($133 million), 300 ($211 million), and Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers ($342 million).

The lengths the industry will journey in order to avoid drawing the obvious conclusion -- that Americans don't like being told that we're nothing but a bunch of depraved, murderous, racist thugs, the world hates us, and we're responsible for all the ills that befall innocent people everywhere -- is little short of astonishing. I predict the result of the debacle of this spate of films exploring the war against global hirabah will not be a batch of pro-America movies; instead, they will simply stop making war movies altogether.

I reckon the alternative, that Americans like movies where we're the good guys, is simply too horrible to contemplate.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 25, 2007, at the time of 1:56 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

November 17, 2007

Blood's a Rover

Elections , Iraq Matters , Liberal Lunacy
Hatched by Dafydd

Clay lies still, but blood's a rover;
Breath's a ware that will not keep.
Up, lad: when the journey's over
There'll be time enough to sleep.

A.E. Housman, a Shropshire Lad, poem IV

Over on his own blog, frequent commenter Rovin asks what I think the impact of immigration, illegal aliens, the failed immigration bill last year, and the drivers' licences for illegals position of the Democrats will be on the 2008 elections.

In general, I think it cuts slightly against the GOP right now, mostly because if they had passed the bill, they could have beaten the Dems about the head and shoulders for not building the wall. But immigration will not determine this election.

As it stands, if the GOP attacks the Dems for not building the wall, the Democrats can respond that when the Republicans controlled congress, they couldn't even pass an immigration bill with Democratic help. That reminds us of other GOP failures -- such as the failure to rein in spending -- that hurt the Republican argument that we're the adults.

The drivers' license question will not hurt any Democrat with Democratic voters; a few independents might be annoyed, but they won't base their vote on the question. GOP voters might be somewhat more motivated to head to the polls, increasing turnout. On this particular aspect (drivers' licenses for illegal aliens), slight benefit to the GOP.

Look for the Dems to propose a bill similar to what the GOP rejected in 2006, but with real amnesty (not the fake kind that conservatives pretended to find in the previous bill) and with little to no border security provisions. When the Senate GOP filibusters it, the Dems will try to ride that into electoral gain: "The Republicans won't even meet us halfway on immigration... it's 'my way or the highway' to Mitch McConnell!" This will help drive Dems to the polls; slight advantage to the Democrats on this particular aspect.

Added together, they mostly balance out with, as I said, a slight edge to the Democrats.

But I believe this election is going to be dominated by the Great Game being played out right now, where our military is winning a tremendous victory in Iraq -- while the Democrats are desperately trying to force defeat upon us by starving the Army. If the eventual Republican candidate can frame this issue properly, it can inflict a catastrophic blow not only on the Democratic presidential candidate (presumably Hillary) but upon Democratic swing seats in Congress.

The theme should be "they're trying to force another Vietnam-style, manufactured defeat on us, just like they did in 1974."

The biggest danger to the GOP is not that we'll sound alarmist; threats to national security are so serious in people's minds that they won't hold mere alarmism against us, so long as we don't sound hysterical. The biggest danger is that the GOP might be bullied by Democrats and their press gang into muting itself on this issue, so as not to sound "extreme."

Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice -- a marvelous saying I just made up. (I'm thinking of making up another one that goes, "Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue," but I haven't decided yet.) Let's grab the bull by the tail and look the facts in the face: I don't mean this personally or with any disrespect, but the Democrats surrendered to the Communists in 1974, and now they're trying to surrender to the militant Islamist terrorists in 2008.

In fact, I would love to see the following scenario play out during a debate between the Republican and Democratic nominees: They start arguing about national security. In a desperate ploy to save the Democrat, CNN's Wolf Blitzer asks a stupid question about global warming or some such asinine subject.

And the Republican, instead of answering, says... "If you don't mind, Wolf, we're having a serious discussion about national security. Sen. Clinton can decide which question interests her, but I'm going to stick with the important issue." Then he goes back on the attack against the defeatist Democrats, completely ignoring the global warming stupidity.

Heck, he could go ahead and make nearly the entire debate about national security... why not? Nobody ever won a war by "wishin' and hopin'." You win wars with brains, guts, and steel: the intelligence to come up with a winning strategy; the will to implement it and ride it all the way; and enough men and materiel to achieve victory.

Where are the Democrats on any one of these three utterly necessary resources? They have no plan for winning, no stomach for the fight, and they want to starve the Army to buy health insurance for the entire middle class.

Bang on the theme; force the Democrats to defend their wretched record. Be loud enough that they cannot just walk away. Force them to make the argument that imperialist America is causing all the problems in the world... it will only reinforce what we're saying about Democratic America-hatred.

If the Dems want to argue about who really lost Vietnam, great! That's a fight we can win. And far from being ancient history, we can bring it into the present by pointing out that they're doing the exact, same thing today.

Vietnam was an inevitable defeat? You mean, just like you think the Moslem terrorists will inevitably win this war? Vietnam was an imperialist war of aggression -- so what would you call the Islamist militants' attempt to seize Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan -- which has nuclear missiles -- and even France, Germany, and Australia? What do you call their demand for a world-wide Caliphate... with them in charge?

Our "Sister Souljah" moment will come when the GOP nominee has the guts to talk directly to American Moslems and call on them to join the fight against terrorism and extremism in the name of their religion:

Where are you? Where are the Moslem organizations? Are you going to let the Hamas front-group CAIR speak for you?

This is the American Moslem moment: Stand up, denounce all terrorists -- including the animals who kill Jewish babies in Jerusalem -- and join the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, or the Marines. Sign up with the CIA. Take back your mosques from the radicals and shake some sense into your children. More than any other group in America, this fight needs modern Moslems who love life, and who love liberty and freedom, more than they hate supposed "infidels" and "apostates."

And demand that the Democrats join in this call for national wartime unity. Make them squirm.

If they ignore the issue, then the GOP nominee should accuse them of starving our troops and not even caring how many get killed because of their fecklessness. "Pelosi, Reid, and Hillary Clinton won't even debate the issue... it's not important enough to them. They only want to talk about defeat -- and how much they can raise your taxes to buy more pork."

The lay-off notices that the DoD is going to have to start sending out to civilian employees of the military and to defense contractors, if the Dems keep up this tactic, will deal the Democrats yet another body blow: "The Democrats are forcing the military to shut down, all because they hate George Bush more than they love America."

I'm actually getting a bit more confident about the Congressional elections; I've always been confident about the presidential election. I assumed that the Dems would have learned their lesson and started listening to folks like Rahm Emanuel and John Podesta; instead, they're still listening to Nancy Pelosi and MoveOn.org.

  1. The more we win in Iraq, the more desperate they become to force a loss;
  2. The more desperate they become to force a loss, the more obvious they are;
  3. The more obvious they are, the easier it will be to portray them as cowardly and unAmerican in 2008.

I don't understand why they're doing this; but for as long as they continue, we need to pound on them for betraying American soldiers in the field. It's a powerful theme and one they'll be hard-pressed to refute (original definition).

At some point, if they stop, then we can sound the theme that "we forced the Democrats to come to their senses at long last; now let's hope the damage they did to our military can be reversed, before it's too late."

Follow-up with a series of GOP proposals to support the war and help the troops, and let's see how far we can push them -- incidentally pissing off their anti-American base and depressing their turnout.

I know this isn't the analysis that Rovin was looking for; but honestly, because of the stunning success of the Petraeus counterinsurgency, immigration isn't going to have much of an impact on the presidential or Senate races. It may have a larger affect on congressional and gubernatorial races; but those will be driven by unique, local situations impossible to analyze unless you're living in the middle of them.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 17, 2007, at the time of 4:31 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

November 16, 2007

Iraqis Pass Test: Top Shiites Will Be Tried for Mass Murder

Crime and Punishment , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

A few days ago, we posted Iraq in the Balance: Will the Shia Prosecute Their Own?, that asked the question -- Will the majority Shia be willing to prosecute their own officials who commit a horrific string of human sacrifices... or does "retributative justice" apply only to Sunni terrorists?

We noted the mass-murder cases against two Shiite militia heads (Sadrites) who happened to be high muckety-mucks in the Ministry of Health: Former Deputy Health Minister Hakim al-Zamili, and Brig. Gen. Hamid al-Shammari, head of the Health Ministry security force. ("Happened to be," my eye; Muqtada Sadr demanded they be given those positions, presumably for the very task or murdering helpless Sunnis in hospital.)

A few days ago, the top Iraqi court said there was sufficient evidence to try the two for literally hundreds of gruesome murders they appear to have ordered. But there was a potential thorn in the ointment, as we noted in the earlier Big Lizards piece:

By a quirk of Iraqi law, ministries are allowed to block prosecution of their officials if they decree -- truthfully or not -- that those officials were "carrying out their official duties." Naturally, mass-murdering Iraqi Sunni is not one of the official duties of the Iraqi Health Ministry; but the Interior Ministry (the most powerful ministry in Iraq) has used this dodge in the past to prevent prosecution of rampaging police officials.

This is the crux of the point we made:

The consequences of this decision, no matter which way it falls, are so stark and existential that it's not unreasonable to say this opportunity will either make or break the new democratic Iraq.

The question is whether Iraq has truly turned towards the rule of law... or whether they have just substituted the new boss for the old boss, with business still as usual. And here is the answer in yesterday's New York Times:

Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq has approved the trial of two Shiite former officials who are accused of killing and kidnapping hundreds of Sunnis, according to American advisers to the Iraqi judicial system.

The case, which could come to trial as early as this month, would be the first that involved bringing to trial such high-ranking Shiites for sectarian crimes.

An Iraqi judge ruled last month that there was sufficient evidence to try the two former officials, who held senior positions in the Health Ministry. But there had been concern that the ministry might try to block the case by invoking a section of the Iraqi criminal law that proscribes the prosecution of officials who are executing their official duties.

The approval to hold a trial was provided in a memo issued earlier this week by the acting health minister. Mr. Maliki has formally endorsed the decision, American officials said.

Take that, Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%)!

The Times understands the importance of this decision:

The case has emerged as a major test of the ability of Iraq’s judicial system to take on difficult cases, particularly those in which the accused are prominent Shiites.

“This case is as important, if not more important, than the Saddam Hussein case,” Michael Walther, a Justice Department official who leads a task force that is advising the Iraqi judicial system, said in a telephone interview. He added that a successful trial would demonstrate that the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government “is ready to prosecute its own.”

Iraq certainly isn't out of the woods yet, not even on this one case: We still have to observe the trial itself to ensure that it's both fair to the defendants themselves and also thorough... not like the way the Jim Crow South used to "try" accused Klansmen (where the opening statement was sometimes immediately followed by a vote to acquit; no need for the jury even to retire).

But so far, the civilian government of Iraq, not just the Iraqi Security Forces, has chosen justice and modernity. If this trial continues appropriately, then we can say that one great pillar of a free, democratic, and stable society has been birthed in the heart of the Arab Middle East: an honest judicial system.

America, her military, and President George W. Bush in particular were the midwives of liberty.

When Sen. Reid and his Democratic friends hear about this, how many will be overjoyed -- and how many will be crushed with the disappointment of opportunity lost?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 16, 2007, at the time of 3:48 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

November 15, 2007

Ever Get That Weird Feeling...

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Have you ever been talking to some stranger -- at a party, at a convention, at work -- and everything seems to be going fine... when all of a sudden, you realize the conversation has lurched southwards? You may not even know when it happened; but of a sudden, you feel the same frisson that infused Shelley Duvall in the Shining when she discovered that the entire novel that her husband Jack Nicholson had written consisted of nothing but endless pages of "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." That moment when you realize you've been talking to a crazy uncle who escaped from his nephew's attic. Well...

"Every place you go you hear about no progress being made in Iraq," said Senate Democratic majority leader Harry Reid.

"The government is stalemated today, as it was six months ago, as it was two years ago," Reid told reporters, warning US soldiers were caught in the middle of a civil war.

"It is not getting better, it is getting worse," he said.

It's almost as if Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) suddenly started telling us about "tse-tse flies the size of eagles" carrying off young children, which Reid observed during his "nine months in the bush." [Ten points to the first commenter who knows where the tse-tse fly thing came from.] It begins to dawn on the listener that this isn't just Reid playing "Democrats' advocate;" the man truly believes the insanities that he utters.

And that imbues me with an existential terror: If a man with such a tenuous grasp of reality can make his way to the second-most powerful position in the Congress, what does that say about the natural insanity-filters that previously protected us from the worst excesses of parliamentary style democracies? Those filters that are supposed to keep nutbags like David Duke and Ross Perot out of national office -- what happened to them?

Every major newspaper and TV news broadcaster in America has been forced by circumstances to admit that, heck, who'd a thunk it, we appear to have turned the corner and be winning in Iraq now. But Harry Reid can't see it, can't see any of it: "It is not getting better, it is getting worse." (Considering that back in April, Sen. Reid announced that "this war is lost," one wonders how much worse it could be? Is al-Qaeda in Iraq poised to seize control of Kansas?)

  • So Reid thinks it's "worse" now that Gen. David Petraeus, and especially his top counterinsurgency (COIN) aide, Australian Lt.Col. David Kilcullen, have succeeded in turning Iraqi Sunni decisively against al-Qaeda -- even to the point of taking up arms against the terrorists?
  • It's "worse" with the ruling Shia now at least trying to prosecute top Shiite political leaders for crimes against humanity? (We're still waiting to see if this first essay succeeds.)
  • It's "worse" because Iraq's economy is "surging", by many measures already significantly greater than it was under Saddam Hussein?
  • It's "worse" even though thousands of displaced Iraqi families are returning to Iraq, especially Baghdad?
  • It's "worse" despite the huge burst of reconstruction projects, which are no longer being bombed by bin-Ladenites who no longer infest Iraq?

This is quite simply a bizarre and worrisome delusion on a level with "Truther" ravings. But Reid is mostly harmless, because his insanity battles against his raging ineptitude: His inability to get even liberal Republicans to sign onto most of his schemes to declare defeat in Iraq and just "move on" is legendary (and a godsend). But if the filters are unable to weed out the broken Reid and the loopy Ron Paul (and his, ah, interesting supporters) -- would they also fail to weed out the next David Duke?

Without functioning "sanity shields," how do we stop an American Ahmadinejad from being elected president, governor, or senator? I don't fret about a simplistic, unsubtle troll like Rep. John Murtha (D-PA, 65%) or Britain's George Galloway; they have no sway over the Congress anent their madness. The Democratic opposition to the war is not primarily driven by Murtha, who is out of step with his Democratic colleagues on many other issues; it's driven by lunatics like George Soros, a multibillionaire money-changer who has both the intelligence and the resources to turn his fantasy into our nightmarish reality.

I worry about the person who is both insane and intelligent, psychotic but smooth talking. We appear no longer to have a press, punditry, or people who first ask "does this guy connect with the real world as we know it," before asking whether he sounds "sincere." Sincerity is overrated as a lodestone; people can be sincerely demented.

We could survive a hypocritical, lying, vengeance-driven harpy like Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 95%); we've had them before (Nixon, Clinton 1.0). But I don't know that in this age, we could survive a president like Robert A. Heinlein's "Nehemiah Scudder" or the Dead Zone's "Greg Stillson" -- or alternatively, one of the real-life radical-secularist terrorists of ELF and ALF and infesting International ANSWER.

We desperately need to reinstitute the sanity filter in American politics, asking first whether candidates for public office have all their marbles before we even get to the question of whether we agree with some of their tenets: Republicans are no more helped by Ron Paul than Democrats are by Harry Reid -- or than Independents were by H. Ross Perot.

The best weapon against the reality-challenged is of course mockery: Make fun of them. This is not only effective but highly enjoyable. If you're humorless and dour, a "grim and grisly gruesome Griswold," then at least you can point out the insanities of the insane.

I know if feels like fighting a cripple; but unlike some guy in a wheelchair, who might make an excellent president (though our only experiment was hardly a raging success), some guy or gal who literally mistakes fantasy for reality is neither cute nor lovable (nor even livable) when he's sitting in the big chair with his finger on the button. Time to stuff your pity in a sack and loudly beholdest the beam in your mad-uncle presidential candidate's brain.

On all sides the aisle. Reality is too important to be left to the surreal.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 15, 2007, at the time of 7:35 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

November 8, 2007

Iraq in the Balance: Will the Shia Prosecute Their Own?

Crime and Punishment , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

A surprisingly balanced article from the New York Times on a surprisingly vital question that hasn't gotten anywhere near enough coverage:

An Iraqi judge has ruled that there is enough evidence to try two former Health Ministry officials, both Shiites, in the killing and kidnapping of hundreds of Sunnis, many of them snatched from hospitals by militias, according to American officials who are advising the Iraqi judicial system.

The case, which was referred last week to a three-man tribunal in Baghdad, is the first in which an Iraqi magistrate has recommended that such high-ranking Shiites be tried for sectarian violence. But any trial could still be derailed by the Health Ministry, making the case an important test of the government’s will to administer justice on a nonsectarian basis.

By a quirk of Iraqi law, ministries are allowed to block prosecution of their officials if they decree -- truthfully or not -- that those officials were "carrying out their official duties." Naturally, mass-murdering Iraqi Sunni is not one of the official duties of the Iraqi Health Ministry; but the Interior Ministry (the most powerful ministry in Iraq) has used this dodge in the past to prevent prosecution of rampaging police officials.

The consequences of this decision, no matter which way it falls, are so stark and existential that it's not unreasonable to say this opportunity will either make or break the new democratic Iraq:

  • If Health decides to allow the prosecution to proceed against former Deputy Health Minister Hakim al-Zamili and Brig. Gen. Hamid al-Shammari (al-Shammari was head of the Health Ministry security force), then Sunni all across the country -- indeed, across the entire Middle East -- will finally come to the realization that the democratic revolution is for real, that it's not just "meet the new boss." Iraqi Sunni will flock to the polls for the next election, whenever that is scheduled; and they will participate in the Iraqi government wholeheartedly. Iraq will have shown the world that it's not just a new oppression, this time by the majority against the minority.
  • But if the Health Ministry refuses to allow the case to proceed, then for all Sunni in the region (and mind that the Shia are only a majority in a minority of Moslem countries), the "Iraq experiment" will be proven a colossal failure. Overthrowing Saddam Hussein will still have had utility, but nothing like the effect if a fair and just democracy could arise in its place.

One tribe seizing control from another tribe -- Arabs have already seen and understood this. What was unique was the idea that the oppressors would be ousted in favor of free state that practiced justice and rule of law. That is what has never before been seen in the Arab or Persian Middle East.

The two accused Shiite officials are both Sadrites, and Muqtada Sadr personally secured them their positions; curiously, the government is only trying to prosecute them now because of a terrible fumble by the Mahdi Militia:

The case, which involves officials allied with the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia, would have been difficult for the Iraqi government to take on in the past because Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki received crucial support from Sadr supporters in Parliament.

Since the spring, however, when Sadr ministers withdrew from the government, Mr. Maliki has distanced himself from Mr. Sadr’s supporters, and he has allied himself with a rival Shiite group, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council.

Sachi has argued for some time that Sadr made a dreadful mistake by pulling out of the government and then fleeing to Iran; she noted that he was certain to lose control: In tribal countries like Iraq, propinquity is the lodestone of power. If you're not constantly looking down people's necks and breathing over their shoulders, they'll swiftly find some other master to serve.

The Times article recounts the fascinating (if repellant) history of the Mahdi Militia. Modeling itself after the Hezbollah of Iran and Syria (say, there's a shock), the militia began by building hospitals, infiltrating the Health Ministry -- and turning the health industry into a kidnapping, torture, and murder mill. The slaughter was carried out in an organized fashion, by order, and often targeting helpless Sunni already sick or wounded and in hospital... along with their loved ones, who were often kidnapped and butchered when they unwisely came to visit the patient. The two charged individuals together are thought to account for hundreds of these ritualistic human sacrifices.

We should definitely be holding our breath about this story. There are few events that can honestly be called "crisis points," where the fate of a nation balances on the knife-edge of uncertainty; but this qualifies.

So... keep watching the skies.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 8, 2007, at the time of 4:31 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

November 3, 2007

Why Do I Find This CBS Story Less Than Credible?

Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

Right. So I'm reading this CBS story that I Drudged up, and it's telling me that they've outed "Curve Ball." Curve Ball -- sez them -- fabricated a bunch of stories that "drove the U.S. argument for invading Iraq." Why, if it weren't for Curve Ball, that war-criminal Bush would never have been able to lie us into that war, which (according to the Squeaker of the House) is an utter failure!

And I run across this sentence:

More than a hundred summaries of his debriefings were sent to the CIA, which then became a pillar - along with the now-disproved Iraqi quest for uranium for nuclear weapons - for the U.S. decision to bomb and then invade Iraq. The CIA-director George Tenet gave Alwan’s information to Secretary of State Colin Powell to use at the U.N. in his speech justifying military action against Iraq.

They just had to slip it in there, didn't they?

And I sez to myself, sez I, that either:

  1. CBS is so behind the times, they're literally unaware that the Iraq Study Group formally reported that Iraq was indeed on a "quest for uranium for nuclear weapons," and that one source of this datum was none other than Ambassador Joe himself;
  2. Or else they think the readers are so ignorant and stupid they'll never realize CBS just pulled a fast one.

I'm putting my money on Curtain 2, where Carol Merrill is standing. And sadly, there really are a lot of Americans who are that ignorant and stupid.

Oh well. You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time -- and CBS reckons that's good enough for the Nielsons. But for me, when a putative news source makes a whopper like that in the part of a story I'm familiar with, I know how much credibility to attach to their claims about the stuff I'm not familiar with at all.

Pre-posting update: I just noticed something else... "became a pillar... for the U.S. decision to bomb and then invade Iraq." What do they mean, bomb and then invade? I recollect we launched one missile attack that we hoped would kill Hussein; but the next day was the ground invasion.

And then I had a revelation (or acid flashback): It was the 1990-1991 Gulf War that began with a lengthy bombing... not this Iraq war! We began the air campaign on January 17th, 1991; and we didn't start the full ground war until more than a month later, February 22nd. Thus, the "bombing" lasted 36 days before the ground game.

But in the 2003 war, we made one air attack on the Dora Farms (where intel said that Hussein might be visiting Uday and Qusay) on March 19th... and then the ground invasion began March 20th. Checking my memory in Wikipedia, I found these telling sentences:

Before the invasion, many observers had expected a lengthy campaign of aerial bombing in advance of any ground action, taking as examples the 1991 Persian Gulf War or the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. In practice, U.S. plans envisioned simultaneous air and ground assaults to decapitate the Iraqi forces as fast as possible (see Shock and Awe), attempting to bypass Iraqi military units and cities in most cases.

You know, I now suspect the CBS newsroom ostentatiously refused to follow the fighting during the U.S. invasion of Iraq; they declined to honor the war with their presence. To those of us who did pay attention four years ago, the timeline is seared in our brains... thus we wouldn't make such a clumsy mistake.

I'll bet CBS didn't follow the invasion, and now they're just relying upon their vague and hazy memories of the Gulf War 16 years ago. What a maroon!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 3, 2007, at the time of 12:48 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

October 14, 2007

Sing Along With Sanchez - Minor Update

Iraq Matters , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

Former Lt.Gen. Ricardo Sanchez gave a very, uh, interesting speech to the annual convention of the Military Reporters and Editors. It's being played as an indictment of President Bush; but in fact, it's -- oh how I hate to say this about a general who served honorably for three decades -- it's a long and bizarre rant against virtually everybody, left and right, Democrat and Republican who had anything to do with Iraq.

The basic thrust seems to be contained in a single paragraph towards the end: That we should have come in using the Powell Doctrine with 500,000 - 750,000 troops, utterly crushed Iraq, taken command of the Republican Guard, installed an Imperial American proconsul -- preferably, given Sanchez's hatred of L. Paul Bremer, a military man, if you catch my drift -- and then used the Baathist Republican Guard to enforce the diktats of the American leader on the Iraqi people.

He seems most vexed that we haven't somehow brought to bear in Iraq all of our political apparatus -- Sanchez believes that "America" must somehow force the two parties to act in concert -- along with all of our economic might (unexplained), to rein in "the Interagency," whatever that is (sorry about the caps, but I'm not going to waste time rewriting it):

AMERICA HAS SENT OUR SOLDIERS OFF TO WAR AND THEY MUST BE SUPPORTED AT ALL COSTS UNTIL WE ACHIEVE VICTORY OR UNTIL OUR POLITICAL LEADERS DECIDE TO BRING THEM HOME. OUR POLITICAL AND MILITARY LEADERS OWE THE SOLDIER ON THE BATTLEFIELD THE STRATEGY, THE POLICIES AND THE RESOURCES TO WIN ONCE COMMITTED TO WAR. AMERICA HAS NOT BEEN FULLY COMMITTED TO WIN THIS WAR. AS THE MILITARY COMMANDERS ON THE GROUND HAVE STATED SINCE THE SUMMER OF 2003, THE U.S. MILITARY ALONE CANNOT WIN THIS WAR. AMERICA MUST MOBILIZE THE INTERAGENCY AND THE POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC ELEMENTS OF POWER, WHICH HAVE BEEN ABJECT FAILURES TO DATE, IN ORDER TO ACHIEVE VICTORY. OUR NATION HAS NOT FOCUSED ON THE GREATEST CHALLENGE OF OUR LIFETIME. THE POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC ELEMENTS OF POWER MUST GET BEYOND THE POLITICS TO ENSURE THE SURVIVAL OF AMERICA. PARTISAN POLITICS HAVE HINDERED THIS WAR EFFORT AND AMERICA SHOULD NOT ACCEPT THIS. AMERICA MUST DEMAND A UNIFIED NATIONAL STRATEGY THAT GOES WELL BEYOND PARTISAN POLITICS AND PLACES THE COMMON GOOD ABOVE ALL ELSE. TOO OFTEN OUR POLITICIANS HAVE CHOSEN LOYALTY TO THEIR POLITICAL PARTY ABOVE LOYALTY TO THE CONSTITUTION BECAUSE OF THEIR LUST FOR POWER. OUR POLITICIANS MUST REMEMBER THEIR OATH OF OFFICE AND RECOMMIT THEMSELVES TO SERVING OUR NATION AND NOT THEIR OWN SELF-INTERESTS OR POLITICAL PARTY. THE SECURITY OF AMERICA IS AT STAKE AND WE CAN ACCEPT NOTHING LESS. ANYTHING SHORT OF THIS IS UNQUESTIONABLY DERELICTION OF DUTY.

(You'll get no sympathy from me; I had to read the entire speech that way!)

UPDATE: Here is a fully corrected version of the transcript from Michael Yon. Hat tip to commenter SlimGuy.

And here is the paragraph quoted above, in Yon's easlier to read, capitalization-corrected, and reparagraphed version:

America has sent our soldiers off to war and they must be supported at all costs until we achieve victory or until our political leaders decide to bring them home. Our political and military leaders owe the soldier on the battlefield the strategy, the policies and the resources to win once committed to war. America has not been fully committed to win this war. As the military commanders on the ground have stated since the summer of 2003, the U.S. military alone cannot win this war. America must mobilize the interagency and the political and economic elements of power, which have been abject failures to date, in order to achieve victory.

Our nation has not focused on the greatest challenge of our lifetime. The political and economic elements of power must get beyond the politics to ensure the survival of America. Partisan politics have hindered this war effort and America should not accept this. America must demand a unified national strategy that goes well beyond partisan politics and places the common good above all else. Too often our politicians have chosen loyalty to their political party above loyalty to the constitution because of their lust for power.

Our politicians must remember their oath of office and recommit themselves to serving our nation and not their own self-interests or political party. The security of America is at stake and we can accept nothing less. Anything short of this is unquestionably dereliction of duty.

We now continue with the original post...

But here is how the Associated Press portrays it:

The U.S. mission in Iraq is a "nightmare with no end in sight" because of political misjudgments after the fall of Saddam Hussein that continue today, a former chief of U.S.-led forces said Friday.

Retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who commanded coalition troops for a year beginning June 2003, cast a wide net of blame for both political and military shortcomings in Iraq that helped open the way for the insurgency - such as disbanding the Saddam-era military and failing to cement ties with tribal leaders and quickly establish civilian government after Saddam was toppled.

He called current strategies - including the deployment of 30,000 additional forces earlier this year - a "desperate attempt" to make up for years of misguided policies in Iraq.

A quick aside about journalists' ability to read and parse grammatically correct English-language passages. The paragraph from which AP pulled the "nightmare" quoteation above -- in which AP claims that the nightmare is caused by "political misjudgments after the fall of Saddam Hussein that continue today", actually reads thus:

There is no question that America is living a nightmare with no end in sight. Since 2003, the Politics of War have been characterized by partisanship as the Republican and Democratic parties struggled for power in Washington. National efforts, to date, have been corrupted by partisan politics that have prevented us from devising effective, executable, supportable solutions.

(This nice, non-cap version is from a new source I just stumbled across; alas, he includes irritating stage directions and annotations... so nothing's perfect.)

So first of all, a disturbingly large percentage of journalists are retarded or illiterate.

Second, John Hinderaker at Power Line -- who is both intellectually capable and literate -- points out the delicious irony of the AP reporting: The entire first half of Lt.Gen. Sanchez's speech lambasted reporters for reporting "propaganda" instead of truthful news, for the purpose of getting stories onto the front page... but somehow, AP didn't consider that half of the speech newsworthy!

But let's just focus on the part of the speech where Gen. Sanchez attacks all the government people and policies, the only part that AP or any other drive-by news source I've read bothered to report.

Third: Good heavens... what is this obsession that some people seem to have for the idea that we shouldn't have "disbanded" the Iraqi army?

Contrariwise, every general I've heard speak on the subject has said that we didn't disband them: They disbanded themselves, fading back into the civilian population. One presumes this was because the former military personnel thought that -- like Arab conquerers -- we would put them all to the sword.

And are we not talking about the very same army and the same Republican Guard which brutalized, tortured, oppressed, and tormented the Iraqi Shia and Kurds (and even many Sunni) for literally decades? What makes either Gen. Sanchez or AP think that putting those same thugs in charge of enforcing the commands of foreign princes would be a good way to stand Iraq up on its own two feet?

Do journalists, Democrats, and certain old generals suggest we should have squashed Iraq flat, like a steamroller over a banana slug? That we should have utterly annihilated the cities, killed millions of Iraqis, firebombed the rubble, then dispersed the population to die of starvation and disease... and therefore leave them so helpless and shellshocked that they would meekly follow our orders -- as we did to Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan?

Forward to the past, men! Let's relive the most horrific war in all of human history. It's a disturbing position for a modern-day general to take -- and an incomprehensible one for liberals and the elite media.

But if we were not going to fight a "total war" against Iraq, that meant we would have to show, after conquest, that we were not crusaders or conquerers. And that means we could not assume ownership of Saddam Hussein's engines of oppression... no matter how convenient they might be. If our goal was to create a strong and independent Iraq without us killing five million innocent civilians, then we necessarily had to disperse the Iraqi military (though they saved us the trouble by dispersing themselves).

Finally, I have another problem with the speech itself, apart from the reporting about it: Sanchez is simply not a credible, unbiased witness:

  • He only served a single year in Iraq and has been out of the loop since;
  • It was at the very beginning of the war;
  • He had a bitter and angry relationship with Paul Bremer, the top civilian administrator at the time;
  • His career was later torpedoed over the abuses at Abu Ghraib; Sanchez himself says that it was responsible for destroying his career;
  • He appears to have been a follower of Colin Powell, who is hardly a model of fair-mindedness about the Iraq war;
  • And he seems to have a strangely unrealistic conception of how civilian government works... viz:

    "America's political leadership must come together and develop a bipartisan Grand Strategy to achieve victory in this conflict. The simultaneous application of our political, economic, information, and military elements of power is the only coarse of action that will provide a chance of success."

    Which sounds disturbingly like "Why can't Republicans and Democrats in Congress, the entire banking community, the intelligence agencies, and the blogosphere all just get along?"

Reading the speech is like listening to Bo Gritz ramble on, which Friend Lee and I did for four days one evening. At least Gritz did make one joke in the course of his lecture; unlike Sanchez, who sounds as sincere and earnest as a Ron Paul acolyte in the airport.

To try to extract any single piece from this speech's universal critique, while ignoring the rest, is to do both speaker and reader an injustice. (The elite media is unjust. So what else is new?)

I have yet to find a single MilBlogger who defends this speech or the man who made it. Honestly, there is nothing new in this speech, nor does anybody, right or left, emerge unstoned. The Democrats and their "willing accomplices in the media" are once again grasping at the camel's back.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 14, 2007, at the time of 11:32 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

October 12, 2007

The Shia Awaken

Elections , Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

We've talked about this in previous posts -- for example, in The "Don't Make Waves!" Theory of Iraqi Politics -- but it occurred to me as soon as I began hearing about the "Anbar awakening" that the same dynamic would apply to the Shiite areas of Iraq: In short order, the Shiite militias were sure to go overboard in their thuggish, homicidal zeal, and begin brutalizing the Shia... just as al-Qaeda in Iraq did against the Sunni. At that moment, time would be ripe for a "Shia awakening," where Iraqi shia would turn on the militias that presume to speak for them.

Surprise, it's starting to happen... and even the New York Times has sat up and taken note:

In a number of Shiite neighborhoods across Baghdad, residents are beginning to turn away from the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia they once saw as their only protector against Sunni militants. Now they resent it as a band of street thugs without ideology.

The hardening Shiite feeling in Baghdad opens an opportunity for the American military, which has long struggled against the Mahdi Army, as American commanders rely increasingly on tribes and local leaders in their prosecution of the war.

The Times does a remarkable job (for the elite media) of fairly and in unbiased fashion describing the mechanism of Shiite discontent (apologies for the long quotation):

In interviews, 10 Shiites from four neighborhoods in eastern and western Baghdad described a pattern in which militia members, looking for new sources of income, turned on Shiites....

The street militia of today bears little resemblance to the Mahdi Army of 2004, when Shiites following a cleric, Moktada al-Sadr, battled American soldiers in a burst of Shiite self-assertion. Then, fighters doubled as neighborhood helpers, bringing cooking gas and other necessities to needy families.

Now, three years later, many members have left violence behind, taking jobs in local and national government, while others have plunged into crime, dealing in cars and houses taken from dead or displaced victims of both sects.

Even the demographics have changed. Now, street fighters tend to be young teenagers from errant families, in part the result of American military success. Last fall, the military began an aggressive campaign of arresting senior commanders, leaving behind a power vacuum and directionless junior members.

“Now it’s young guys — no religion, no red lines,” said Abbas, 40, a Shiite car parts dealer in Ameen, a southern Baghdad neighborhood. Abbas’s 22-year-old cousin, Ratib, was shot in the mouth this spring after insulting Mahdi militia members.

“People hate them,” Abbas said. “They want them to disappear from their lives.”

A mouthpiece for Iranian puppet Muqtada Sadr carefully explained that all of the Mahdi Militia members committing criminal violence against Iraqis are actually -- by that very act -- not members of the Mahdi Militia... a useful and fluid redefinition that allows the militia to slough off all accountability for the violence that continues, albeit at a much slower rate.

And as Sachi has argued many times in this blog, when Sadr does return from Iran (like the Turkish ambassador to the United States, Muqtada Sadr was withdrawn to his host country Iran for "further consultations"), he will not only find that the remnants of the Mahdi Militia don't want him or any of his "loyal lieutenants" back, but that there's no more militia to return to anyway.

I may as well go public with a bold prediction I have privately made to several friends: Big Lizards predicts that the Iraq insurgency is going to collapse much faster than anyone has publicly dared suggest. First AQI dangles at the end of its rope (there's a nice visual); now the Shia turn on the Mahdi and Badr militias. So who's minding the insurgency?

The collapse of the insurgency would have happened much earlier, in my opinion, were it not for the intervention of foreign forces. No, I don't mean the United States and the Coalition... I mean Iran's aggressive warmongering and the foreign hirabis from central al-Qaeda. Both Iran and al-Qaeda -- the latter may be funded by the former -- saw a national or ideological interest in fomenting a civil war in Iraq.

However, because of the essentially tribal -- not sectarian -- nature of Iraq, coupled with a cohesive Iraqi identity binding the tribes together, both Iran and al-Qaeda were unsuccessful; there never was a real civil war in Iraq... not even in 2006, after AQI blew up the golden-domed al-Askiri Mosque in Samarra on February 22nd. Both sects carried out a long wave of gangland massacres; but neither fielded armies or set up shadow governments.

As it becomes clear that there never will be a civil war, and that the Iraqis have turned against the joint insurgencies (Sunni against al-Qaeda and Shia against Iran), rather than being driven by fear into the arms of their Islamist "saviors," I strongly believe the principals will pull back. In the long run, neither has the resources to remain engaged in a losing war.

This will happen months before the November elections; and the victory in Iraq will play a major role. Simply put, the Democrats have some small nits against the GOP, but they're old chestnuts such as abortion and tax cuts; the only major new argument was over Iraq. In the 2006 elections, the Iraq war appeared to be a loser -- and so too were the Republicans. But they didn't lose as much as the Democrats had predicted; many voters took a "wait and see" attitude.

And good thing they did. If the war goes as I predict, and the very significant drop in violence we've seen continues, accompanied by a significant drop in the level of U.S. forces in Iraq (possibly to as low as 75,000) and a concommitent drop in American casualties, Iraq will increasingly and correctly be seen as a historic American victory.

Bear in mind, this is no guarantee that the voters will reward the Republicans: A Democratic President, Woodrow Wilson, and a Democratic Congress entered into World War I in 1917, won it handily in 1918... and in that same year, the GOP captured both houses of Congress. Two years later, Republicans solidified their congressional gains and added the presidency, all in a landslide. Even so, it's surely better for the sane party if Iraq is considered a victory, not a defeat.

Let's invite the Times to pen the Mahdi Militia's epitaph:

Ali, the Ur businessman, said he expected the Mahdi Army to be much smaller in the future. People simply do not believe its leaders anymore. “There is no ideology among them anymore,” he said.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 12, 2007, at the time of 11:11 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

October 1, 2007

Gratefully Not Dead: Iraq Civilian and US Military Deaths Plummet

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Fair warning: I am not a military strategist, nor do I play one on the internet. But I am an interested layman, and I've read as much as I can understand about counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy without returning to university.

From what I gather, one of the predictions of classical COIN is that, as the country fighting the insurgents shifts to a more effective COIN strategy, the indicator of success will be a significant drop in both civilian and military casualties, including deaths. (From now on, I will only discuss deaths, because it's hard to get data on non-fatal casualties.)

Insurgents practice asymmetrical warfare: They do not target the armed forces of the country the way an army would, force on force (milspeak for army vs. army in the open battlefield); and they don't precisely seize territory... thus eliminating two methods of evaluating military success in other types of wars.

In fact, the Islamist insurgents don't even seem to set up shadow governments (other than vague "caliphates," which are simply dictatorships by the biggest thug), nor do they attempt to win the "hearts and minds" of the civilians, as e.g. Communist insurgents tried in Vietnam, Korea, the Maylay states, and so forth. Rather, Islamist insurgents rampage through a town, killing civilians in essentially random ways, until they're driven out by COIN forces (as in Fallujah I and II in the pre-COIN period of the Iraq war).

Insurgents mostly target civilians; and even when they do attack the COIN army, they prefer to do so by ambushing patrollers, rather than trying to duke it out with an attacking force (the Taliban's catastrophic record against NATO shows why). In order to survive, an insurgency needs a constant stream of "victories," however small, to convince both the civilians who provide the sea of support for them and even for the insurgency's own members that the insurgency is the "strong horse," and everyone better get aboard. Each mass killing is considered a victory.

If instead they suffer a string of obvious defeats, then they start looking like losers: They lose support not only directly (members killed and captured) but also indirectly through a loss of prestige or "face." Fewer dead civilians and "infidel" soldiers (including IDF) directly translates into a loss of power and hegemony ("perceived fitness to rule," as I define it based on Gramsci). Therefore, the proper measure of COIN success is significantly fewer civilian and Coalition deaths.

When the country fighting the insurgency becomes more effective and begins denying the insurgency a sufficient stream of victories -- substituting instead a steady drip, drip, drip of insurgent defeats in the form of killings and captures and interdiction of attacks -- then two things happen:

  • Some civilian supporters of the insurgency rethink their loyalty, start withdrawing support, and begin instead cooperating with the defending country;
  • The insurgents themselves drift away from their former organizations (from fear and boredom), fading back into the general population... or if that is impossible, crossing the border into some adjoining country (as, e.g., Muqtada Sadr has returned to Iran).

So -- you're way ahead of me -- it's no surprise that a drop in civilian and military casualties is precisely what we've seen in Iraq since the COIN strategy was actually implemented in June: An initial spike of military casualties during the pre-implementation phase of preparing the battlefield, followed by the civilian and military death rate plummeting:

  • According to Iraq Coalition Casualties (iCasualties), civilian deaths in September were 746, the lowest since February 2006, when it was 688; civilian deaths have dropped by nearly 75% from the local high in February.
  • AP reports that civilian deaths in Iraq dropped by 50% in September alone;
  • According to Breitbart, September saw only 70 U.S. military fatalities in Iraq (iCasualties reports only 66, plus 3 non-US Coalition deaths)... the lowest total since July 2006.

Here is a table compiled from the iCasualties 2007 figures; ISF means Iraqi Security Forces, including the Iraqi Army, National Police, and local police:

Iraq insurgency killings in 2007
2007 Month Civilian deaths ISF deaths Coalition deaths Total deaths
January 1,711 91 86 1,888
February 2,864 150 85 3,099
March 2,762 215 82 3,039
April 1,521 300 117 1,938
May 1,782 198 131 2,111
* June 1,148 197 108 1,453
July 1,458 232 87 1,777
August ** 1,598
(1,078)
76 88 1,762
(1,242)
September 746 96 69 881

* COIN implementation actually begins after battlefield prep;

** Figure includes anomalous, one-time bombing of Yazidis that killed 520; parenthetical figures exclude Yazidi bombing.

Here are the data for civilian and total killings in line-chart form. Note that for the chart, we have removed the anomalous Yazidi bombing of August 14th. The reason we chose to do this can be found in a previous post, Civilian Deaths in Iraq Are Up, But They're Really Down:



Iraq insurgency killings 2007

The trendline is clear, even brutally clear: The COIN strategy is working exactly as planned. Barring any significant changes, the Iraq war is, for all military intents and beyond all argument, over; and it has ended in victory for the United States and for a free and democratic Iraq.

What remains is mopping up... which will surely be deadly and surely result in the killings of many innocent civilians and of many American, Coalition, and Iraqi security forces. But the mop-up will not change the final result; the insurgency has been broken.

As al-Qaeda is driven out of Iraq, the ruling Shia see less and less reason to support or tolerate the "death squads," which also kill Shia who don't conform to the militias' crabbed vision of Islam. More Shia will join "Mosul awakening" or "Basra awakening" type organizations and begin informing on militias and their murderous activities.

The major Shiite parties, DAWA and SCIRI, will find it much easier to cut the militias off at the knees than continue funding them and then apologizing for their activities; to the extent the militias will continue to exist at all, they will likely transition to launching occasional attacks on rival Shiite parties in advance of elections, as is the Arabic way of democracy: The days of a hundred throat-slittings a day of randomly selected Sunni Iraqis are gone, and they're not likely ever to return... they were situational, caused by Shiite overreaction to al-Qaeda depredations.

The question now changes to the larger geopolitical conundrum: How to use Iraq as a model for transforming the Middle East and the larger Non-Integrating Gap. In the future, no matter who is president, we shall require Gap countries to become more or less democratic states that are basically secure and basically free; and we shall require them to enter the global grid of communications, capitalism, and political moderation.

As Iraq cools down, its very existence should make it much easier to deal with problems like Iran, Syria, and even countries in other regions, such as North Korea and Venezuela. Too, the final success of the Bush policy will induce other Western nations -- those bold, independent trendsetters -- to jump on the bandwagon. ("Oceania has always supported pre-emptive strikes, covert action, and counterinsurgency!")

All I can say is thank you, Mr. President, for quite literally sticking to your guns. You will be remembered... but not the way Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) fantasizes!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 1, 2007, at the time of 7:18 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

September 24, 2007

Cindy Sheehan's Day of Out-of-Tunement Manifesto

Afghan Astonishments , Asquirmative Action , Dhimmi of the Month , Domestic Terrorism , Drama Kings and Queens , Econ. 101 , Enviro-Mental Cases , Hippy Dippy Peacenik Groove , History of Moral Philosophy , Illiberal Liberalism , Impeachment Imbecilities , Iraq Matters , Kriminal Konspiracies , Liberal Lunacy , Logical Lacunae , News of the Weird , Palestinian Perils and Pratfalls , Politics 101 , Scurrilous Scribblings , Terrorism Intelligence , Unnatural Disasters , Unuseful Idiots
Hatched by Dafydd

I rarely do this, as you know: I rarely link to some piece and say simply "read this." (I'm too in love with the sound of my own fingers typing on a keyboard.)

But here's an exception. Read Cindy Sheehan's Yom Kippur "sermon," delivered at Michael Lerner's Beyt Tikkun "synogogue;" you will be -- if not exactly glad, then at least agape. (Rabbi Lerner is Hillary Clinton's mentor, author of the Politics of Meaning and other works of Socialist agit-prop masquerading as theology.)

My response (I love this) is entirely contained in the list of categories I had to attach to this post.

(Well, one more thing. It has always been my understanding that Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, is a day for each person to atone for what he, personally, has done wrong -- not "atone" for his enemies failing to live up to his own lofty standards, apologize for all the times America hasn't followed his lead, or wallow in self-righteous indignation that nobody listens to him. 'Nuff said; read the list of categories above.)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 24, 2007, at the time of 2:36 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 21, 2007

COIN-Op War

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Sachi

Now that General Petraeus' Counter Insurgency (COIN) plan is working, the obvious question is "why didn't we do this sooner?" Mort Kondracke and Fred Barnes agreed with each other last week on the Beltway Boys that "we should have done this back in 2005." But I now believe we could not have done it then or anytime earlier than we did. (This may exonerate Gens. George Casey and John Abizaid.)

This afternoon, I was listening to Hugh Hewitt read from Michael Totton's report from Ramadi. The report was extremely upbeat: After many years of abuse by al-Qaeda, the Sunni tribes are sick and tired of the horrible lives the terrorists forced upon them. When the Americans approached them early this year to join forces against AQI, they were more than ready... they were eager.

With the cooperation of local Sunni tribes, American and Iraqi troops were able to kick al-Qaeda out of Ramadi, completely transforming a once hellish place into, not a Garden of Eden, but at least a place where troops and journalists feel safe without body armor and a helmet. People are now friendly and trustworthy. I heard an identical story from Falluja, and similar ones from the notorious Haifa Street in Bagdhad.

These three observations jibe with what Lt.Col. Dave Kilcullen -- senior COIN advisor to Gen. Petraeus -- wrote in his post at Small Wars Journal describing the development of the "Anbar awakening". Kilcullen paints a portrait of tribal leaders driven to the end of their tether by the rabid authoritarianism and bloodthirst of al-Qaeda, finally snapping and hurling themselves into battle against their erstwhile allies.

The mechanism is clear: Sunnis (and Shia) became so disgusted by and enraged at the high-handed dictatorship of al-Qaeda (or the Shiia militias, depending) that they could not tolerate another minute under the leash. But the operative point that must be understood is that the disgust and anger comes not from the abstract contemplation of rights denied but the palpable experience in thrall to fanatic extremists.

Now to the theory. One vital element of COIN is getting the cooperation of local citizens; a "counterinsurgency" does not work when the whole countryside is against us. The citizens of Anbar, Diyala, Salahuddin, and the Sunni areas of Baghdad must become the eyes and ears of our troops; and they must not betray us to the evil-doers. If the Sunnis sympathize with the insurgents more than they trust us, COIN does not work.

In 2005, neiher Sunni nor Shia trusted Americans; they believed we would side with one or the other faction, try to install an American puppet, or just get tired and leave. They thought of us as conquerors and occupiers. They thought we went to Iraq to steal their oil and their women. When al-Qaeda (or some Shiite Militia) promised to kick out the infidels and bring power to the Iraqis, the people simply believed them.

This was before al-Qaeda forced people to obey Taliban-like rules, and before the leadership began to rape the women and kill the sons of the communities. In other words, when ordinary Iraqis still thought they could coexist with the terrorists.

So how did we go about gaining their trust and their alliance against the insurgency?

I do not believe the Iraqis would ever have been convinced by us simply telling them how evil the terrorists were. I believe the Iraqis needed to experience for themselves the inhuman hatred and violence of al-Qaeda. They needed to come to the conclusion themselves that terrorists are not their friends; in fact, they are the invaders, not Americans. They had to learn what life was like when their rulers considered them inferior beings.

People in Iraq also needed to know that Americans do not give up when going gets tough. They needed to know they could trust us to stay for as long as it took. Iraqis had to overcome anti-Western prejudice and start trusting Americans. They needed the past four years of experience.

I initially supported Secretary Rumsfeld's "small footprint" operation, with MNF-I commander Gen. Casey and CENTCOM commander John Abizaid. Many people now think that was a failure, and I too thought so for a while. But today, I don't think it was either a mistake or failure. The Iraqi people needed to learn just how totalitarian and vicious were al-Qaeda and the Shiite militias.

But if, as Mort and Fred suggested, we had tried this strategy in 2006 of 2005, it would have been an abject failure. The grand military theorist Edward Luttwak believes that if a region is begging to have a war (think of Xugoslavia just after the breakup), you cannot impose a peace upon them until they fight themselves to collapse; then and only then are the combatants willing to look at negotiation with favor. By the same reasoning, then, until the insurgent enablers among the larger population experience the horrors of a one-party sharia state, they cannot know how awful it will be.

Therefore, by luck or by careful planning, we held our ground -- yet allowed the flowering of sharia, so long as it did not directly threaten us. As anyone could anticipate (though few of us did), familiarity bred a great deal of contempt.

But take the personal experience out of the equation, and it would have been darn-near impossible to end up with an "Anbar awakening" -- or a Diyala, Baghdad, or even Basra awakening. Thus, the answer to the question, "why didn't we do this back in 2005?" is that it would not only have fallen apart, it would have increased the distrust and mutual animosity between America and the Iraqis.

Had we done what so many now claim they told us (in retrospect, without witnesses) we should have done, we would still have an insurgency; but we would already have discredited our own COIN operation. In that sense, therefore, it's actually a good thing that we did not decide to try a counterinsurgency until now... so that the unanticipated miracle of the "awakenings" could sweep through Iraq.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, September 21, 2007, at the time of 4:00 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

September 20, 2007

Democrats -- or Dhimmicrats?

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

And while we're on the subject of roll-call votes, how about this one?

For several days now, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX, 96%) has been pushing an amendment to condemn the MoveOn.org ad that asked "General Petraeus -- or General Betray Us?" He also demanded the Senate support our troops and the man the Senate unanimously confirmed as their leader. The text was as follows:

To express the sense of the Senate that General David H. Petraeus, Commanding General, Multi-National Force-Iraq, deserves the full support of the Senate and strongly condemn personal attacks on the honor and integrity of General Petraeus and all members of the United States Armed Forces.

But the Democrats were reluctant to vote for such an amendment; in fact, they ducked it the first time, a couple of days ago. Then today, in an effort to undercut support for the Cornyn amendment, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA, 95%) introduced her own version of the amendment:

To reaffirm strong support for all the men and women of the United States Armed Forces and to strongly condemn attacks on the honor, integrity, and patriotism of any individual who is serving or has served honorably in the United States Armed Forces, by any person or organization.

Note the changes: "Full support" has shrunk to "strong support;" the condemnation of "personal attacks" has become a condemnation merely of "attacks" (I suppose calling someone a liar, a stooge, and someone for whom one must suspend disbelief isn't necessarily personal).

But the most important change: Gen. Petraeus -- the actual victim of Democratic hate speech -- has been erased from our memory. He has become an "un-person." Under the Boxer version, all one need do is assert that Petraeus is not honorably serving (all that lying and stooging), and the hate speech can spew forth without condemnation.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) insisted that, notwithstanding the timeline, the Boxer amendment would be voted on first. But Republicans refused to go along with the trick; they refused to agree to the vote and filibustered... and the Democrats were unable to overcome it, losing the vote by 51 to 46 in favor (60 needed)... and that's including Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT, 75%D), who voted in favor of the Boxer amendment.

We fast forward 38 minutes. At long last, the Cornyn amendment came up for a vote. Mind, by this time, there was no alternative to the Cornyn amendment; if it went down, then the Senate would have chosen not to condemn the MoveOn ad and not to support Petraeus and the troops.

Fortunately, it passed... but by only 72 to 25, with 3 not voting. Shockingly enough, not a single vote against the amendment came from a Republican. Nor did any Republican fail to vote. Rather, all 49 Senate Republicans voted "To express the sense of the Senate that General David H. Petraeus, Commanding General, Multi-National Force-Iraq, deserves the full support of the Senate and strongly condemn personal attacks on the honor and integrity of General Petraeus and all members of the United States Armed Forces."

24 out of 49 Democrats -- 50% of the caucus -- voted against condemning the ad calling Petraeus a traitor, against supporting the troops, and against supporting the man every, last one of them voted to confirm less than eight months ago... during which time, he turned around the war effort, which now is headed towards victory. Among those voting against condemning the "General Betray Us" ad are presidential candidates Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 95%) and Chris Dodd (D-CT, 95%).

The other two senators running for the Democratic nomination for president -- Joe Biden (D-DE, 100%) and Barack Obama (D-IL, 95%) -- were too cowardly to cast a vote. Biden also ducked the vote on Barbara "the Underminer" Boxer's amendment, but Obama managed to crawl out of his hole long enough to vote for the weak-tea Boxer version.

Independent Socialist Bernie Sanders (I-VT, not yet rated) voted for the Boxer version but against the Cornyn version; Independent Joe Lieberman voted for both versions.

So there you have it: One party wholeheartedly supports the troops, supports Gen. Petraeus, and condemns the vicious, personal attack by MoveOn.org which questions Petraeus' patriotism.

In the other party, half of the members do not support the troops, do not support their commander, and applaud and join in the attacks on Petraeus' character and patriotism.

Be sure to let your friends know... especially those on the center-left. Perhaps they should consider the depth of hatred this betokens when they step into the little booth in November 2008.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 20, 2007, at the time of 12:37 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

September 17, 2007

Mr. Greenspan Regrets He's Unable to Bash Today

Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

And so, as the Democratic euphoria and media hyperventilation of yesterday about Alan Greenspan's remark that "the Iraq war is largely about oil" dies, not with a bang but with a clarification, an awful lot of liberals are busy wiping large ovum deposits off of their faces:

Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman, said in an interview that the removal of Saddam Hussein had been "essential" to secure world oil supplies, a point he emphasized to the White House in private conversations before the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Greenspan, who was the country's top voice on monetary policy at the time Bush decided to go to war in Iraq, has refrained from extensive public comment on it until now, but he made the striking comment in a new memoir out today that "the Iraq War is largely about oil." In the interview, he clarified that sentence in his 531-page book, saying that while securing global oil supplies was "not the administration's motive," he had presented the White House with the case for why removing Hussein was important for the global economy.

"I was not saying that that's the administration's motive," Greenspan said in an interview Saturday, "I'm just saying that if somebody asked me, 'Are we fortunate in taking out Saddam?' I would say it was essential."

Ouch. And if that isn't clear enough:

Greenspan said he had backed Hussein's ouster, either through war or covert action. "I wasn't arguing for war per se," he said. But "to take [Hussein] out, in my judgment, it was something important for the West to do and essential, but I never saw Plan B" -- an alternative to war.

The Washington Post demonstrates the difference between its own rational skepticism about the war and the MoveOn-inspired hysteria of its northern rival, the New York Times:

Critics of the administration have often argued that while Bush cited Hussein's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and despotic rule as reasons for the invasion, he was also motivated by a desire to gain access to Iraq's vast oil reserves. Publicly, little evidence has emerged to support that view, although a top-secret National Security Presidential Directive, titled "Iraq: Goals, Objectives and Strategy" and signed by Bush in August 2002 -- seven months before the invasion -- listed as one of many objectives "to minimize disruption in international oil markets."

"Gain[ing] access," of course, amounts to stealing, which is what the Left incessantly accuses Bush of doing (they toss around charges of corruption as if they were routine politicking, akin to Republicans complaining that the Democrats want to raise taxes; this is another legacy of Bill Clinton -- and a preview of what a Hillary-Clinton presidency would be like). But a desire to "minimize disruption in international oil markets" is not remotely like theft, unless we're to believe that stopping a terrorist from bombing an oil pipeline is the same as stealing the oil; the concepts are worlds apart, as rational liberals (there are some) appear to realize.

I know this post has largely been quotation, but I cannot resist the closing paragraphs:

Given [Hussein's evident intent to seize the Strait of Hormuz], "I'm saying taking Saddam out was essential," he said. But he added that he was not implying that the war was an oil grab.

"No, no, no," he said. Getting rid of Hussein achieved the purpose of "making certain that the existing system [of oil markets] continues to work, frankly, until we find other [energy supplies], which ultimately we will."

I wish I had time to surf around and see how many leftie bloggers used the Greenspan quotation yesterday to buttress their insane allegations; but, you know, life is short.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 17, 2007, at the time of 9:28 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

What Would Have Been?

Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

One of the most difficult kinds of science fiction to write well is the alternative history... which, by a genre convention I'll follow, will henceforth be called "alternate history," or simply alt-hist.

It's not acceptable simply to fantasize wildly about what could have happened had the Spartan 300 been given Star-Trek phasers or had George Washington been born a girl ("She would have led a Womyn's revolution and become the first female president of the United Feminist States of America!") The proper name for that activity is not alternate history but day dreaming.

Rather, one must begin from at least a reasonably good grasp of history (without knowing so much that one simply cannot imagine it going any differently) and proceed by logical extrapolation from a strict and appropriate ruleset of inference. Thus, had President William McKinley survived his assassination attempt (a very plausible scenario, as he lingered for eight days before sucumbing to gangrene), that might have had significant ramifications, as Theodore Roosevelt might never have become president. But if Andrew Johnson had been impeached, it likely wouldn't have changed anything significant: He was nearly powerless to stop the abuses of Reconstruction anyway; it would have made little difference whether he was president or not.

However, the cardinal sin is to consider only the bad or good effects of your alt-hist -- and not the other side of the ledger. Alas, that is precisely the solecism committed by Bob Herbert in his New York Times column Saturday, "the Nightmare Is Here"... and he wasn't even aware he was writing alt-hist! (The column is hidden behind the "TimeSelect" iron curtain; the link is to TruthOut's reposting.)

Herbert can only see the bad things that have arisen from the invasion of Iraq and deposing of Saddam Hussein; he cannot, for the life of him, imagine what would have been, had we not intervened. In this, he replicates the failing of the vast majority of anti-war agit-prop churned out, not only by the drive-by media (in particular, the New York Times), but also by activists, Democratic elected officials, and even limp-wristed RINOs looking for way to ingratiate themselves to their liberal constituents while not infuriating their conservative ones. Herbert cannot seem to visualize the horrific things that might have, probably would have happened, had Powell won out over Cheney in 2003:

When the U.S. launched its "shock and awe" invasion in March 2003, the population of Iraq was about 26 million. The flaming horror unleashed by the invasion has since forced 2.2 million of those Iraqis, nearly a tenth of the population, to flee the country. Many of those who left were professionals marked for death - doctors, lawyers, academics, the very people with the skills necessary to build a viable society....

While more than two million Iraqis have fled to other countries, another two million have been displaced internally.

All right; let's suppose that's true. But how many had to flee under Hussein? How many were arrested, tortured, maimed, or sent into internal exile, such as the Marsh Arabs who used to live around the Great Salt Marsh until Hussein drained the wetlands and expelled them to make room for his Palestinian imports?

And those "professionals marked for death"... were any, by chance, Baathist oppressors and war-crimes collaborators? Must we weep for the forced flight of those who, were it within their power, would still be living as lords among slaves?

The worst aspect of the nightmare, of course, is the rain of death that has descended on Iraq since the U.S. invasion. Controversy has surrounded virtually all attempts to estimate the number of civilian casualties, but no one disputes that the toll is staggering.

The U.S. government has behaved as though these dead Iraqis were not even worth counting. In December 2005, President Bush casually mentioned "30,000, more or less" as the number of Iraqis killed in the war. The White House later said there were no official estimates of Iraqi deaths.

Herbert believes the correct number is somewhere north of 100,000. But how many were murdered by Saddam Hussein during his tenure? Most estimate at least one million over ten years, or 100,000 per year -- or an Iraq "nightmare" every year for a decade. How many would have been killed if Hussein's thirst for blood had not been stifled? By now, about 450,000, more than four times even the expansive, unsourced guesstimate Herbert offers for the number who have been killed by terrorist attack or sectarian strife since March 2003.

But this is only a naive, first cut at the alt-hist of us not invading Iraq, thus allowing Saddam Hussein to continue wielding the iron fist inside the iron glove. Herbert must suppose, in his own alternative, that Hussein's close shave will cause him to turn over a new leaf, to reform, to become a democrat (it would be snarky to suggest he was already a Democrat). To count every killing against President Bush in the cosmic ledger book while not counting any saved lives to his credit can only mean that Herbert believes that there would have been no more massacres, no more war crimes, no more crimes against Humanity committed by Hussein, his venomous offspring, or the Baath Party he led -- if only we hadn't invaded.

Let's look instead at another alternate history, one with, I think, the greater plausibility that results from assuming no 180-degree character evolution. Assuming the principals more or less act as they have in the past, what is the most likely sequence of events if, in the end, Bush could not pull the trigger? Consider the following and ask which sounds more plausible... the implied "good ship Lollipop" plot of Herbert's alternate history, or this:

  1. Saddam Hussein continues his murderous ways, committing several more massacres on the scale of those he carried out against Kurds and Shia before; thus, more hundreds of thousands, or even millions, are slaughtered;
  2. The Europeans continue their cheating on the Oil for Food program, continue accepting bribes from Hussein, and ultimately (as was the trajectory in 2003) eliminate the sanctions entirely -- either de jure, by forcing America to accept the "new way," or at least de facto, by refusing to abide by them; so Hussein gets billions upon billions of petrodollars poured into his pockets, to use as pleases him;
  3. Contacts between Hussein and al-Qaeda continue, accelerate, and eventually ripen into fully funded, well-planned and trained, and heavily armed attacks upon their joint enemies: the United States and Israel;
  4. At last, unwilling to wait longer for his patrimony, either Uday or Qusay Hussein (or both) assassinate the over-long-lived father. The brothers fall short of brotherly love and fall out with each other, throwing Iraq into a real civil war -- not the ersatz variety of gangland slayings that we saw with some regularity in 2005 and 2006. As in a real civil war, both sides field armies. The slaughter is extreme -- even for Arabs.
  5. Growing restive at the loss (a scant thousand years ago) of the Persian empire, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sees his opportunity: Iran invades southern Iraq.
  6. Growing tired of being brutalized, the Kurds see their opportunity and declare independence; immediately, the Kurds in Iran and Turkey follow suit, declaring the independent nation of Kurdistan.
  7. Reacting to the foregoing -- both the Iranian invasion and the Kurish separatism -- Turkey invades northern Iraq.
  8. We now have a five-way gang bang in the heart of the Middle East: Uday vs. Qusay vs. Iran vs. the Kurds vs. Turkey, with al-Qaeda circling above like vultures, waiting to build a perch of blood to hatch their nefarious schemes.
  9. Can Saudi Arabia, Syria, Israel, France, the United States, the UAE, Qatar, Libya, and Sudan be far behind?

I say that my "mega-mare" is at least as plausible as the "lark's on the wing, snail's on the thorn" alternate history of Bob Herbert. And mine would be so catastrophic that it dwarfs the paltry problems we've had in Iraq.

I don't know about you guys, but the more I think about what would (likely) have been, the gladder I am that we took the plunge. And all because of a scant 537 votes in Florida. Say... now there's nightmarish alternate history for you!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 17, 2007, at the time of 12:58 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

September 15, 2007

The Times, They Are a-Shamin'

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

The New York Times has become the leading voice for surrender in Iraq. More even than most of the Democrats (or any of the Democratic presidential candidates except, perhaps, Bill Richardson), the Times editors' demand for defeat has become almost hysterical, as if someone had taken their families hostage: "If dat President, whatsisname, Bush don't get outa Iraq, you'll never see yer kids again!"

Unlike most of the Democrats, the Times follows the complete Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY, 95%) line:

  1. Bush lied us into the war in the first place;
  2. Al-Qaeda was never in Iraq before 2003, and probably isn't there today;
  3. Victory is unachievable;
  4. The "surge" is a miserable failure that has actually made things worse militarily;
  5. Notwithstanding (4), the amazing success in Anbar, Diyala, Salahuddin, and Baghdad provinces -- where Sunni tribes have risen up in angry defiance of al-Qaeda, have fought alongside American forces against al-Qaeda, and have more or less driven al-Qaeda out of those provinces -- were not caused by anything America did, and particularly anything President Bush did: They happened "in spite of" the counterinsurgency strategy, not because of it;
  6. All troops should be withdrawn immediately and precipitously, in as ragged a mob and as humiliating a retreat as possible, in order to punish America and teach us a good, hard lesson about electing Republicans;
  7. Any and all resultant damage to the American military, American prestige, American hegemony in the region, stability in the region, the containment of Iran and Syria, and to any American ally in the region (cough-cough the Jews cough-cough) is entirely and exclusively the fault of George W. Bush and the Republicans... even though the GOP has argued consistently against the policy advocated by the Times.

At the moment, they're beavering away at convincing everyone of (4), and they have focused upon two -- only two -- specific complaints they have: that the Iraqi national parliament has been unable so far to pass a bill establishing the rules by which foreign oil leases can be signed by provinces, and that a particular tribal sheikh who was friendly to us, Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, was slain, presumably by al-Qaeda.

This seems a remarkably thin reed on which to base a conclusion of utter despair, hopelessness, and belly-crawling to our enemies. Let's take the last first...

Although it's a tragedy that Abu Risha was assassinated, it's sheer lunacy to imagine that the Sunni response to such an affront will be to meekly return to life under the leash. For heaven's sake, it was precisely this sort of high-handed butchery and depostism that drove the Sunni tribes away from al-Qaeda and into alliance with the Coalition to fight them, as Lt.Col. Dave Kilcullen so ably recounts in an article he wrote for Small Wars Journal, "Anatomy of a Tribal Revolt." The more likely result will be a redoubling of the anti-terrorist combat effort by Sunni Iraqis... which is already an oversimplification, as is virtually everything in the Times' argumentum, as the tribes in question include both Sunni and Shiite members.

That is, if slaughtering tribal sheikhs led to the tribes turning against al-Qaeda in the first place, how can the chowderheaded editors at the New York Times argue that a couple more assassinations will put the djinn back in the bottle?

And as for their triumphant crowing that the oil-revenue-sharing law "seems to be collapsing," the editors should stop sucking up to MoveOn.org and start reading Big Lizards. As I noted some time ago, all of these issues in Iraq will be settled, not by a top-down, authoritarian, nationalist parliament... but by the opposite process: Individuals will settle with individuals, tribe with tribe, province with province, region with region. Once all that is accomplished, then parliament may step in and ratify the "facts on the ground."

As far as the instant case, provinces will simply start negotiating oil leases with various companies... as Kurdistan is now doing:

The legislation has already been presented to the Iraqi Parliament, which has been unable to take virtually any action on it for months. Contributing to the dispute is the decision by the Kurds to begin signing contracts with international oil companies before the federal law is passed. The most recent instance, announced last week on a Kurdish government Web site, was an oil exploration contract with the Hunt Oil Company of Dallas.

The Sunni Arabs who removed their support for the deal did so, in part, because of a contract the Kurdish government signed earlier with a company based in the United Arab Emirates, Dana Gas, to develop gas reserves.

Leave aside the obvious double standard... the Democrat-controlled American Congress has yet to ratify a single one of the major budget bills for next fiscal year, which starts October 1st, I believe; they have languished in joint reconciliation committees for months now. Instead, let's cut to the heart of the Chuck Schumer-New York Times position: What the Times sees as "contributing to the dispute" is actually the beginning of the solution. The next step is for the Sunnis to start negotiating their own blasted agreements with Hunt and Dana Gas and Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon, agreements not only to develop the small amount of proven reserves in areas held by mostly Sunni tribes, but also to explore in the untapped and potentially vast reserves of oil and especially natural gas that are just now being reported in those same "Sunni" areas.

Once Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish provinces are signing oil leases like mad, then and only then will the Iraqi parliament move to ratify the system that will, by then, have evolved. Unlike (alas) the court system, the legislature is typically a lagging indicator -- not a leading indicator; they await strident demands from their constituents before they will act... as I would put it, they only work when threatened.

It's the same here as in Iraq... easily shown by the recently enacted (hah) comprehensive immigration reform bill, the privatization of Social Security and Medicare bill, the litigation-reform bill, and the defense-of-marriage constitutional amendment. Or for that matter, those budget bills, which are far less controversial but appear every bit as contentious.

The only available metric right now for how the counterinsurgency strategy is working -- is that contained within the strategy itself: It can only be evaluated by how well it protects the Iraqi population and reduces the violence from al-Qaeda and from Shiite militias, not by proxy measurements: whether the Iraqi parliament has passed a particular bill, how many American troops have been killed recently, or how well it satisfies the deep, defeatist desires of the elite media. And on the only valid metrics, the so-called "surge" has succeeded much better than expected.

All else is dicta.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 15, 2007, at the time of 12:31 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 13, 2007

Two Left Iraq

Blogomania , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Sachi

It is, one presumes, just a coincidence; but two familiar Iraqi bloggers both left Iraq within the last few days. Although they lived thousands of miles away, we've come to know them very well... one as a respected thinker and member of the most well-known families of Iraqi bloggers in the dextrosphere; the other as an anti-American hack who bemoans the fall of Saddam Hussein, and is very likely the daughter of a former high-ranking Baathist.

Let's take the last first...

A blogger who has been known to us only as "Riverbend," but whom we Lizards disaffectionately refer to "Rubberband," decided to high-tail it out of Iraq back in April. However, after announcing her intention, she exprienced a series of delays due to curfews and the untimely death of her driver's brother. But a few days ago, Rubberband and her parents and a couple of other familiy members finally found their chance to leave Iraq, and good riddance. Surprise, surprise, their destination was Syria, where they are now ex-pats (along with many and many another Baathist exile).

It was a tearful farewell as we left the house. One of my other aunts and an uncle came to say goodbye the morning of the trip. It was a solemn morning and I’d been preparing myself for the last two days not to cry. You won’t cry, I kept saying, because you’re coming back. You won’t cry because it’s just a little trip like the ones you used to take to Mosul or Basrah before the war. In spite of my assurances to myself of a safe and happy return, I spent several hours before leaving with a huge lump lodged firmly in my throat. My eyes burned and my nose ran in spite of me. I told myself it was an allergy.

The day Rubberband and her family were packing the car, another Iraqi left Iraq. His name is Omar, and he is one of the three brothers who started a blog called Iraq the Model. Rather than congenial Syria, Omar's destination was New York City, where he is now a student. In fact his brother Ali -- who left Iraq the Model couple of years ago to start his own blog -- was already in the US, also going to college:

Just two days ago I arrived in New York City and for the coming two years I will be studying international affairs at Columbia University [Isaac Asimov's old alma mater -- DaH], hopefully by the end of that I will get the master's degree I want!

So far I'm still in the process of settling in and figuring out what I need to do in order to actually start my studies. However posting on this blog will continue and a new post will be coming tomorrow if not tonight.

And by the way, in case some of Ali's old readers are wondering where he is and like to contact him, he's going to college at Stony Brooks [sic] in Long Island [Omar means Ali is at the State University of New York at Stony Brook].

Omar talked about coming to America a few weeks ago. He told us about a horrible traveling experience he had when he went to Jordan to obtain an American visa. According to Omar, Jordan is treating Iraqis really badly.

This is hardly surprising, as the last thing in the world Jordan wants or needs is a flood of Iraqi refugees... particularly given that Saddam Hussein transplanted a number of terrorist-supporting Palestinians into Iraq (displacing the Marsh Arabs on land that used to be, and is slowly being reclaimed by, the Great Salt Marsh) -- and I suspect most Jordanians believe there are already more than enough Palestinians in Jordan. But back to Omar's tale:

[R]ecently our Jordanian brothers came up with a truly outrageous practice of discrimination against Iraqis. All disembarking Iraqi passengers now are taken to special passport counters in a hall separated from the rest of airport facilities regardless of the origin of their flights or the airlines they came aboard. Attached to this hall is what Iraqis call “the prison”.

In case you haven’t heard, Iraqi refugees stopped going to Jordan long time ago now because they know they would be turned away...

The most painful scene was of families of four being torn apart; half of the family would be allowed to enter Jordan while the other half would be rejected and ordered to go back. Many preferred to go home together over being separated like this.

One scene like this nearly turned to a tragedy when an old lady suddenly collapsed on the floor from a case of heart attack from all the stress she suffered that day. If not for the good Iraqi doctor among us, she would have died waiting for the medics to arrive.

Miss Rubberband's family knew of the Jordanian situation; that's one of the reasons they decided to go to Syria. (Another reason, of course, is the willingness of Syria to enroll former Baathists in the only other Baathist regime in the world.)

As far as I know, Rubberband and Omar's family both lived in Baghdad. Both are Sunnis... but what a difference between them! Look at the lives they are leading: When I read Iraq the Model, I always feel optimistic even in the hardest time. But Rubberband makes me feel only bitterness and depression. It is hard to believe they both live in the same city (but then, so do Charles Krauthammer and Chuck Schumer).

But of course, the former represents the Sunnis who did not believe themselves superior to the Shia and Kurds and who were not the elect of Saddam; while the latter is of the class that lorded it over everyone else. It's not suprising that Rubberband would be so bitter against America and the Iraqi Shia; she had such a cushy life until that terrible day.

I wish both families good luck. I hope Omar and Ali will be able to come back soon, armed with the knowledge that will help lead their country into the Functioning Core. And I hope Rubberband sees what is happening in Syria and comes to her senses.

I'm pretty sure I'll bat .500 on those two well-wishes.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, September 13, 2007, at the time of 3:00 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 12, 2007

"Surge a Failure, Democrats Tell General"

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

The title -- the headline of a Breitbart story on Gen. David Petraeus' and Ambassador Ryan Crocker's testimony before Congress -- says it all, doesn't it? "Surge a failure, Democrats tell General." I'm sure Petraeus was properly grateful for being instructed.

This is our first post from the Noordam, a Holland-America cruise ship. It turns out to be a bigger pain than expected to post from here: The connection fee is horrendous -- we just dropped $100 for 250 minutes (of which 180 remain); so we must go online, save a bunch of web pages we intend to use, then logout. Then we read the material we downloaded offline and write the post (I'm writing in Netscape Mail). At the end, when the post is finished, I will log on again, paste this text into Movable Type, edit it and check the links, and then post. Yeesh!

Here's the fuller quotation from the story:

Anti-war Senate Democrats bluntly told Iraq commander General David Petraeus Tuesday his troop surge strategy was an abject failure in its prime objective -- forging an Iraqi political settlement. [Or rather, giving Congress a playable reason to surrender.]

Several Senate Republicans [read: RINOs] also expressed unease with US war policy, as the general and US ambassador to Baghdad Ryan Crocker endured a roasting on a second day of high-stakes testimony to Congress.

Resorting to the last refuge of a cowardly scoundrel, Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE, 100%) asked Petraeus two direct questions about the efficacy of the "surge"... then he proceeded to answer them himself, without inviting the commanding general to confuse matters by participating in the interrogation.

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT, 95%) went Biden one better, furiously asking a rhetorical question that tortured the English language until it begged for mercy: "What makes you possibly think that anything further like this is going to produce the results that anybody else has failed to do?" (Senate aides are still trying to pick up the broken pieces of syntax and semantic content Dodd left strewn on the Rotunda floor.) Sen. Lieberman (I-CT, 75%D) must have slid further down in his seat, hoping folks wouldn't think he was with the other fellow at his table.

But that's not what I came to write about (now he tells us!) I actually derived more amusement from the New York Times editorial... which was spoonfed to us on the ship as part of a little digest of the thoughts of the Times, "all the news we see fit to print." In typically condescending fashion, it begins thus:

For months, President Bush has been promising an honest accounting of the situation in Iraq, a fresh look at the war strategy and a new plan for how to extricate the United States from the death spiral of the Iraqi civil war. [Excuse me; perhaps it's my trick memory again, but I sure don't remember that last "promise" from President Bush.] The nation got none of that yesterday from the Congressional testimony by Gen. David Petraeus, the top military commander in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker. It got more excuses for delaying serious decisions for many more months, keeping the war going into 2008 and probably well beyond.

It was just another of the broken promises and false claims of success that we’ve heard from Mr. Bush for years, from shock and awe, to bouquets of roses, to mission accomplished and, most recently, to a major escalation that was supposed to buy Iraqi leaders time to unify their nation. We hope Congress is not fooled by the silver stars, charts and rhetoric of yesterday’s hearing. Even if the so-called surge has created breathing room, Iraq’s sectarian leaders show neither the ability nor the intent to take advantage of it.

Wait... wasn't "shock and awe," which referred to the initial combat phase of Iraq, fulfilled when American forces routed the strongest Arab army in the Middle East in just three weeks? That's less than time than it took the Nazi blitzkrieg ("lightning war") to overrun France.

And there were roses, though I suppose the Democrats have a point that the ousted Baathists, the Democrats' natural constituency, were unhappy. And of course, I'm sure the Times editorialists are at least intelligent enough to understand that the "mission accomplished" banner referred to the mission of that particular carrier, and perhaps secondarily to the successful conclusion of the first phase of major combat operations... not to the entire Iraq war (especially as Bush explained as much in his speech).

Finally, it's astonishing how a prediction of failure by the editors can morph into another example of failure, without ever having to pass through the tedious process of actually coming to pass. "I say it'll never get off the ground... and my prognostication proves the Wright Brothers are a couple of lunatics!"

It's full of boners such as this: "The military does not have the troops to sustain these high levels without further weakening the overstretched Army and denying soldiers their 15 months of home leave before going back to war." Fifteen months of home leave? My, the military certainly has changed; perhaps the soldiers can just spend a year and a quarter lying on the beach and soaking up some rays! This must be similar to the assertion that every moment the president spends away from the White House, no matter what he is doing or how much he works, is to be considered "going on vacation."

The end was so predictable, they probably wrote it in advance of the testimony:

General Petraeus admitted success in Iraq would be neither quick nor easy. Mr. Crocker claimed that success is attainable, but made no guarantee. With that much wiggle room in the prognosis, one would think American leaders would start looking at serious alternative strategies -- like the early, prudent withdrawal of troops that we favor. [And God help the troops that they don't favor!] The American people deserve more than what the general and the diplomat offered them yesterday. [They also deserve more than a "prudent" surrender in the midst of an impressive victory.

For that matter, they deserve more than what was offered by Representative Ike Skelton, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. When protesters interrupted the hearing, Mr. Skelton ordered them removed from the room, which is understandable. But then he said that they would be prosecuted. That seemed like an unnecessarily authoritarian response to people who just wanted to be heard.

"[P]eople who just wanted to be heard..." but who did not wish to extend that courtesy to the commanding general, the ambassador, or any Republicans over whose questioning they chose to chant. I definitely want to see prosecution of such serial abusers of other people's First Amendment rights (I refer to my right to hear what Petraeus, Crocker, and everyone else has to say).

Well! Two once-great American institutions have certainly distinguished themselves this week. (Three, if you count the American protester; though I'd only go so far as to say that they need to be institutionalized.)

We had an inkling that this would be the Democrats' "response" to the testimony (where "response" here means "scripted verbal sneering that resembles the choreographed strutting of a professional wrestler"). It's nice to see that they continue to live down to our low expectations of them.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 12, 2007, at the time of 10:23 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Kagen On Jones

Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

Hugh Hewitt had a little snippet about this Fred Kagan article Thursday, but I decided it needed a more thorough discussion. And besides, it's a good excuse to schedule another post to automagically appear while we're drilling for oil in Alaska, one of the original fourteen colonies that became the United States.

Military analyst Frederick W. Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute -- one of the creators, along with Gen. Jack Keane, of the counterinsurgency strategy currently in use by Gen. David Petraeus -- is rather steamed about the way the media has spun (twisted is the better word) the Iraq report by Retired Marine General Jim Jones. In fact, let's start with Kagan's final sentence:

Presenting the Jones Report as a condemnation of the Iraqi Security Forces, proof of their hopelessness, or support for a rapid withdrawal of American forces or a "change of mission" goes beyond spin. It is simple dishonesty.

There; now the entire rest of this post is officially a flashback.

Who is Gen. Jones? I presume they're talking about Ret. Marine General and 32nd Commandant of the Marine Corps (1999-2003) James L. Jones. After leaving that position, Jones was made Commander of U.S. European Command, and the next day, Supreme Allied Commander of Europe (the two commands have resided in the same general since Matthew Ridgeway in 1952). The latter position, SACEUR, is the top officer at NATO, and descends in spirit from the first "Supreme Allied Commander," Dwight D. Eisenhower, during World War II.

Gen. Jones appears to have no special expertise in counterinsurgency warfare; but he has a lot of combat command experience and appears, from the report, to have thrown himself into the job with vigor, determination, and honesty.

Thus, it is doubly despicable that the Democrats are trying to "recruit" him, without his knowledge or consent, onto their "surrender-now" team.

Back to Kagan:

Some in the media have been remarkably quick to report on leaked copies of reports about Iraq before the average person has a chance to read them. There is a reason, apart from the usual journalistic desire to be first with a story. The reports often don't say what the reporters want them to. First leaks about the National Intelligence Estimate and the report of the Government Accountability Office turned out to have painted them darker -- and in the case of the NIE much darker -- than they actually were. That is even more true of the report of Retired Marine General Jim Jones about the state of the Iraqi Security Forces.

Kagan quotes from the New York Times and the Washington Post, the two newspapers read most often on Capitol Hill (members of Congress are the only important consumers of such scare-stories in the drive-by media) after the Congressional Record, which is typically only read by members ego-scanning for their own names in print. And both newspapers spin the Jones report as if it were some dire condemnation of the war, Donald Rumsfeld, Bob Gates, David Petraeus, and of course, George W. Bush:

The Washington Post made it sound even worse: the report "estimates that '[the Iraqi army] will not be ready to independently fulfill their security role within the next 12 to 18 months' without a substantial U.S. military presence. Logistical self-sufficiency, which it describes as key to independent Iraqi operations, is at least two years away, the report says." Worse still, "the report, which emphasizes the failure of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government to achieve key political benchmarks, says that violence will not end without political reconciliation."

But the reality is that, while Jones pulls no punches on areas of operation that simply aren't working well -- notably the Iraqi National Police, though Jones finds they are improving, and the Iraqi parliament, which Jones finds annoying -- in general, he finds much significant enhancement and an impressive stand-alone ability among Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), particularly the Iraqi Special Forces but the rest of the Iraqi Army as well. Those areas where they are deficient are precisely those that nearly all Arab armies have difficulty with:

  • Logistics, "the procurement, distribution, maintenance, and replacement of materiel and personnel," including the supply and transportation of food, water, fuel, ammunition, armor, arms, and actual soldiers;
  • Fire support, especially close air support -- which of course requires attack aircraft, both fixed and rotary, and coordination with ground units (wouldn't be prudent to strafe your own forces). This is a very, very advanced skill (despite being decades old) that few non-Western nations have ever effectively demonstrated; and it's hardly surprising that the new Iraqi Army is not yet able to accomplish what eluded Saddam Hussein for decades;
  • Intelligence, especially including "SigInt" -- which used to be called signals intelligence to distinguish it from HumInt, human intelligence: Any electromagnetnic means of gathering data. Since this usually means satellite photography, EM transmission monitoring, and unmanned aerial vehicles, and since very few third-world nations have launched military satellites or Predators (actually, I think that the precise number is "none"), again, it's hardly a black mark against the Iraqi Army that they don't have the intelligence-gathering mechanisms and analytic skill that we consider vital to modern warfare;
  • Equipment -- does anybody really expect Iraqis to be building MRAPs, Strykers, and MOABs? Secure communications nets? Cruise missiles?
  • Transportation -- or taking over from KBR, or conducting air assaults across scores of miles?

There are some areas where it's disappointing that the Iraqis haven't stepped up better; but even here, they are improving with every month:

  • Command and control -- everybody knows what this is and why it's so hard in a tribal world;
  • Advanced strategies that require a fully functional national government, such as "clear, hold, build" -- "to clear areas from insurgent control, to hold them securely, and to build durable, national Iraqi institutions," as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrote.

But Gen. Jones concludes, writes Kagan, that most components of the Iraq end of the Iraq war are moving in the right direction; and they are already very well advanced along the road to complete independence:

In other words, the Iraqi Army has made tremendous strides, is fighting hard and skillfully, and is now a critical component of the counter-terrorism campaign in Iraq, but it cannot continue that campaign without continued Coalition combat and logistics support over the coming months (for more on this, see a new report from the American Enterprise Institute released today, "No Middle Way"). Almost all of the trendlines for the Iraqi Army and for security in Iraq noted in the report are positive.

Kagan acknowledges that not every Iraqi institution has put on its manly gown, girded its loins, and pulled up its socks; the Iraqi National Police is still riddled with militia infiltrations, is corrupt, and does not yet think of itself as "Iraqi" so much as the "muscle" for powerful members of parliament.

When the media quotes Jones as concluding that the Iraqi National Police should be disbanded and reconstructed from scratch, they rather give the impression they're talking about all law-enforcement agencies in country. But that is not so: The "locally recruited" police are doing a very good job. Our focus on a "national police" (like the FBI) is, in my opinion, a misplaced construct of our own culture of nationalism... we imagine everyone more or less thinks like us and wants to solve most problems from the head down, rather than from the ground up.

We have both the uniformity and expanded jurisdiction of a Federal Bureau of Investigation and other federal agencies, and also the flexibility and attention to local needs supplied by a city police department or a county sheriff's office; and so too do the Iraqis:

The National Police, the report rightly notes, are broken, and the media has made much of this. But the National Police consist of around 25,000 members, compared to perhaps 300,000 members of the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police. The Iraqi Security Forces can hardly be judged a failure on such grounds.

I have argued before that in a tribal society, reforms must come from the grassroots (or in this case, from the desert sands); the society is simply not set up for top down rule by any means but brutal tyranny and dictatorship. The correspondence here is to focus first on improving the local constabularies in each city, then the provincial cops, and only then the National Police: The first brings immediate security; the second yields communication and widespread order; and the last generates uniformity, predictability, and nationalist sentiment... the last three all vital facets of a finished democracy, but endgames, not opening gambits.

All of which brings us back, by a commodious vicus of recirculation, to the beginning, which was the end:

The issue of [the ISF's] "independent" operations is and always has been a red herring. For Americans concerned about how long their sons and daughters will have to be in harm's way in Iraq, which is everyone, the point isn't how long it will take the Iraqis to operate independently, but how long it will take before they can carry more of the burden of fighting the enemy. The Jones Report makes it clear that they are already carrying a significant part of that burden, and that their ability to do so will increase steadily and rapidly in the coming months--as long as we maintain our presence and our current strategy, which the report clearly judges to be working.

The real question is how many Republicans on the Hill will read the actual report or listen to what Gen. Jones said during his testimony, thus understanding that Jones is in fact far more praising than damning the Iraqis' effort -- and how many will simply skim the fabricated "leak" in the Times and Post and conclude that it's all a waste, and that it's time to pull the plug. That vital unknown, the vision factor, will determine whether we finish the job or abort the mission.

But to paraphrase Anne Frank, I keep my optimism, because in spite of everything I still believe that most congressmen, at heart, actually do care about the country.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 12, 2007, at the time of 6:07 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 4, 2007

NYT Unearths - Then Refutes - Another Stunning Bush Contradiction

Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

In yet another blow to the Bush regime, about which criticism continues to mount, the New York Times reports that, contrary to reported claims by President George W. Bush, Iraq envoy L. Paul "Jerry" Bremer did, in fact, inform Bush of Bremer's plan to disband the Iraqi Army and build a new one.

In the same article, the Times also reports that, contrary to their own reported claims, Bush actually never said he wasn't informed, and is not, in fact, in any disagreement with Bremer. But the important thing to bear in mind is that there's a good Bush bashing in there somewhere, if only we can ferret it out.

In addition, while the Times is unable to actually report any specific criticisms of Bremer by various former administration members, the newspaper is prepared to divulge the fact that such ex-officials are reported to have made such attacks. You follow?

First things first: We open with the proof that Bush was reportedly lying when he didn't quite say that he knew nothing about the plan to sack the Iraqi army and build a new one:

A previously undisclosed exchange of letters shows that President Bush was told in advance by his top Iraq envoy in May 2003 of a plan to “dissolve Saddam’s military and intelligence structures,” a plan that the envoy, L. Paul Bremer, said referred to dismantling the Iraqi Army.

Mr. Bremer provided the letters to The New York Times on Monday after reading that Mr. Bush was quoted in a new book as saying that American policy had been “to keep the army intact” but that it “didn’t happen.”

(Technically, for all legal purposes, we at the Times are not exactly saying that Bush said that, you understand; but the implication is the important thing... and by implication, Bush is a liar! If you forget everything else -- please, we ask you just to remember that much. Just one "two-minutes hate" per day, that's all we ask!)

The cleanup: Technically speaking, Bush meant no such thing: The supposed contradiction is a misunderstanding of a brief oral exchange with the author of a book:

In an interview with Robert Draper, author of the new book, “Dead Certain,” Mr. Bush sounded as if he had been taken aback by the decision, or at least by the need to abandon the original plan to keep the army together. [Where here, "sounded as if" means "can be read that way, if one is determined and sufficiently creative."]

“The policy had been to keep the army intact; didn’t happen,” Mr. Bush told the interviewer. When Mr. Draper asked the president how he had reacted when he learned that the policy was being reversed, Mr. Bush replied, “Yeah, I can’t remember, I’m sure I said, “This is the policy, what happened?’ ”....

A White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the White House is not commenting on Mr. Draper’s book, said Mr. Bush indeed understood the order and was acknowledging in the interview with Mr. Draper that the original plan had proved unworkable.

“The plan was to keep the Iraqi Army intact, and that’s accurate,” the official said. “But by the time Jerry Bremer announced the order, it was fairly clear that the Iraqi Army could not be reconstituted, and the president understood that. He was acknowledging that that was something that did not go as planned.”

But the letters, combined with Mr. Bush’s comments, suggest confusion within the administration about what quickly proved to be a decision with explosive repercussions. [Where here, "suggest confusion" means "our editors here at the Times cannot follow this exchange... therefore, Bush is confused."]

That last point is simply a corollary to the well-known axiom among movie reviewers that if a reviewer cannot follow the plot of a movie, the movie is "confused." If it turns out that the review is the only one who cannot follow the plot, that point is deemed out of order.

On a related note, the decision to disband the Iraqi army is another terrible blow to the Bush administration, against whom criticism continues to mount even higher than it mounted in the first paragraph:

The dismantling of the Iraqi Army in the aftermath of the American invasion is now widely regarded as a mistake that stoked rebellion among hundreds of thousands of former Iraqi soldiers and made it more difficult to reduce sectarian bloodshed and attacks by insurgents. [Please don't be boorish and demand to know who, exactly, widely regards it as a mistake.]

On an unrelated note, it's now widely regarded that it was impossible to keep the Iraqi army intact, and therefore there was no decision to be made... Fate had intervened, according to Bremer -- who is, I might add, the Times' trusted source at the beginning of the article:

“I might add that it was not a controversial decision,” Mr. Bremer said. “The Iraqi Army had disappeared and the only question was whether you were going to recall the army. Recalling the army would have had very practical difficulties, and it would have political consequences. The army had been the main instrument of repression under Saddam Hussein. I would go on to argue that it was the right decision. I’m not second-guessing it.”

Meanwhile, the New York Times has evidently been reading a number of reports and indications:

Mr. Bremer indicated that he had been smoldering for months as other administration officials had distanced themselves from his order....

Some senior administration officials, including the secretary of state at the time, Colin L. Powell, have reportedly said subsequently that they did not know about the decision ahead of time....

General McKiernan reportedly felt unhappy with Mr. Bremer’s plan to slowly build a new Iraqi Army from scratch, as were other American officers. In his farewell meeting with Mr. Bremer in June 2003, he urged him to “go bigger and faster” in fielding a new military.

Thus, as should now be clear, Bush lied and people died. We here at the Times are not exactly sure what he lied about or how those lies caused death and destruction; but there's an opportunity in here somewhere for anti-Bush sentiment to continue to mount ever higher... and by golly, we're pledged to bring such vital reported, potential contradictions to your attention, Mr. Reader!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 4, 2007, at the time of 2:29 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 3, 2007

Civilian Deaths in Iraq Are Up, But They're Really Down

Good News! , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

I have a difficult argument to make. Your natural impulse may be to roll your eyes and accuse me of special pleading... but one's first impulse is often naive.

AP reports, with much fanfare and not a little gloating, that "civilian deaths rose" from 1,760 in July to 1,809 in August. AP's explicit conclusion is that this is a terrible setback for the counterinsurgency:

Civilian deaths rose in August to their second-highest monthly level this year, according to figures compiled Saturday by The Associated Press. That raises questions about whether U.S. strategy is working days before Congress receives landmark reports that will decide the course of the war.

But they embargo a critical fact until later in the article, a point that makes all the difference to their central thesis: The August total includes the huge triple-bombing on August 14th that killed 520 Yazidis (AP's count). The attack occurred far away from the counterinsurgency forces, up in Kurdistan on the Syrian border.

Were it not for that single incident, the civilian death toll would have dropped to 1,289, by far the lowest level this year. So what looks to the naive eye like bad news is, in fact, very good news; the situation is complex and you cannot use a simplistic metric.

Here is where Democrats would doubtless scream foul; but you cannot logically expect that U.S. forces in one part of the country will be able to stop suicide bombings in a completely different part of the country two hundred miles away. When the counterinsurgency expands into Mosul, then will be the time to ask whether we're decreasing the violence there. Until then, the question is not what's happening outside the counterinsurgency but what is happening inside it.

And it was an anomalous attack: Nothing like it had been done before, and it's not likely to be repeated anytime soon. By analogy, suppose you decide you must decrease your monthly expenses. In January, you took home $4,000 and you spend $3,900; in February you spent $3,700; in March it was $3,500. By July, your expenses are down to $3,000.

But then in August, your car's transmission seizes up, and it costs $1,200 to replace it. Your total expenses that month are $3,700; should you wail and moan because you're right back up to where you were in February? No, just the opposite: You should revel in the fact that, were it not for the unexpected car-repairs, you would have spent only $2,500 in August -- a big decrease from July and a huge drop from January.

The $1,200 in car repairs was not a regular expense... it was a one-shot that more than likely will not recur in September and later months. It's absurd to treat it as if it were a harbinger for a massively higher spending in subsequent months.

Getting back to the Iraq death toll, even the 1,809 figure is well below the deaths in November (1,967) and December (2,172), as is the worst month this year, May (1,901). Alas, I cannot find a link to AP's casualty count; but looking at Iraq Coalition Casualties' count of civilian deaths, August (1,598) is only the fifth deadliest month this year, behind (in decreasing order of death toll) February (2,864), March (2,762), May (1,782), and January (1,711): Different counts yield different numbers.

Taking the freakish Yazidi attack out of the equation, the August figure of 1,098 would be the lowest death toll since July 2006, more than a year ago.

To get almost offensively pedantic, considering that we're talking about human lives, the mean average for the first three months of 2007 was 2,445.67. August -- even with the Yazidi bombings -- was 35% below the early average; without the anomalous bombings, it's 55% below the early average.

This is hardly the picture of a "U.S. strategy" that has failed, is in disarray, or is even questionable; rather, it's exactly what a successful counterinsurgency strategy looks like: continued decreasing violence overall (the month to month may fluctuate, especially in response to individual acts of terrorism) -- with the worst violence being pushed outside the area in which we are fighting.

Then, as we succeed in pacifying more areas (such as Anbar and Baghdad), we will expand the counterinsurgency into areas like northwestern Mosul, where the Yazidis were hit.

There are several other nuggets of good news sprinkled through this article ("interred" would be more accurate). First, the Mahdi Militia -- called Jaish al-Mahdi, or JAM -- is losing some of its charm:

Many Shiites see the militia as their best protection against Sunni extremists, including al-Qaida, which have carried out similar attacks on Shiites.

However, Mahdi's credibility has been shaken by allegations of extortion, murder, robbery and other crimes committed by members who appear to be beyond the control of the youthful [Muqtada] al-Sadr, who said he would use the six-month hiatus to restructure the force "in a way that helps honor the principles for which it was formed."

Second, we appear to finally have a clue about the value of wartime propaganda, in this case directed against the "special groups" of the JAM; that is, those elements that are sucking from the Iranian udder:

Leaflets scattered around Sadr City urged people to report on Shiite militants who are cooperating with the Iranians, providing a cell phone number and an e-mail address for people to make anonymous tips.

"The criminal Iraqis who work with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards are toys under Persian control," read one of the leaflets, which pictured a puppet dancing on strings. "Iranian Revolutionary Guards are interfering in Iraq's affairs while Iraqis are dying."

An excellent start; coupled with our stunning and continuing ascendency over al-Qaeda in Iraq, I'd have to say the war is going better than we have been told even by the White House. President Bush appears to be underselling our achievements there, perhaps giving the Democrats enough rope to tie themselves into a Gordian knot by November 2008.

Good news can be found most anywhere, if you're willing to spelunk for it.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 3, 2007, at the time of 7:53 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 29, 2007

The "Maturity Mask" Slips - UPDATED With Embedded YouTube

Iraq Matters , Liberal Lunacy
Hatched by Dafydd

Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA, 80%) has a very, very serious problem: He is a moderately liberal Democrat in a fairly neutral district (WA-3), a district that narrowly went for George Bush in the last two presidential elections. First elected in 1998 by 55%, he won his last three elections by more robust percentages of 62-63%. Baird was handily reelected even in the two years that his district voted for George W. Bush. Cook rates WA-3 as D+0.

He was opposed to the Iraq war from the very beginning, voting against it at every turn.

So what's his problem? Brian Baird's happy career has smashed into the rocks, and the shipwreck began with a dreadful, ghastly decision that Baird made: He foolishly decided to investigate for himself how the counterinsurgency was doing, rather than just taking the word of his leaders, Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) and Rep. John Murtha (D-PA, 65%)... or even his Washington colleague, "Baghdad" Jim McDermott (D-WA, 95%), who earned his sobriquet by flying to Baghdad in 2002 to support Saddam Hussein -- then receiving a $5,000 "donation" from Hussein supporter and Oil-for-Fraud suspect Shakir al Khafaji.

Worse, Baird has one terrible character flaw that spoiled everything: He is honest. Upon returning from seeing the counterinsurgency up close and personal, he wrote an opinion piece for the Seattle Times titled "Our troops have earned more time."

Everybody's got one

The opinion piece could hardly be called pro-Bush; in fact, he harshly condemns the original decision to invade -- but concludes that having started this, we cannot now simply walk away:

The invasion of Iraq may be one of the worst foreign-policy mistakes in the history of our nation. As tragic and costly as that mistake has been, a precipitous or premature withdrawal of our forces now has the potential to turn the initial errors into an even greater problem just as success looks possible.

As a Democrat who voted against the war from the outset and who has been frankly critical of the administration and the post-invasion strategy, I am convinced by the evidence that the situation has at long last begun to change substantially for the better. I believe Iraq could have a positive future. Our diplomatic and military leaders in Iraq, their current strategy, and most importantly, our troops and the Iraqi people themselves, deserve our continued support and more time to succeed.

A few paragraphs later, Baird explains why he changed his mind:

It is just not realistic to expect Iraq or any other nation to be able to rebuild its government, infrastructure, security forces and economy in just four years. Despite the enormous challenges, the fact is, the situation on the ground in Iraq is improving in multiple and important ways....

Our soldiers are reclaiming ground and capturing or killing high-priority targets on a daily basis. Sheiks and tribal groups are uniting to fight against the extremists and have virtually eliminated al-Qaida from certain areas. The Iraqi military and police are making progress in their training, taking more responsibility for bringing the fight to the insurgents and realizing important victories. Businesses and factories that were once closed are being reopened and people are working again. The infrastructure is gradually being repaired and markets are returning to life....

[T]o walk away now from the recent gains would be to lose all the progress that has been purchased at such a dear price in lives and dollars.

At this point, I'm sure you're all scratching your heads (that is, assuming you haven't already been following the story). Come come, ab Hugh; what is this "very, very serious problem" you keep yammering about?

The problem is that even this slight disagreement with "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" is considered apostasy... and the MoveOn.org Democrats (actually, MoveOn.org itself!) have turned on Baird with the ferocity usually reserved for Whittaker Chambers, Ronald Reagan, and Ann Coulter. According to Aaron Blake at the Washington D.C. insider newspaper the Hill:

Rep. Brian Baird’s (D-Wash.) recent conversion on the Iraq war is beginning to affect more than the national dialogue. On Wednesday, liberal group MoveOn.org announced an ad campaign against the congressman in his own district.

Baird recently returned from a trip to Iraq and reversed his position on a withdrawal timetable, citing military progress in the four-year-old war.

MoveOn is calling the move a “flip-flop” and says it goes against the views of his constituents.

Flip flops vs. changing one's mind

There is a monumental difference between a flip-flop -- changing position because the old position became unpopular -- and wising up, changing position because of new and better information and "thinking a second time," as Dennis Prager puts it.

When John Kerry was against the $87 billion after being for it, he cited no new evidence that the troops should not be supported; he was responding to the yowling set up by the nutroots. But this cannot be the model for Brian Baird... for, as the Politico notes:

“Congressman Baird’s new position, in favor of keeping our troops in an unnwinnable civil war in Iraq, is out of line with the majority of his district and the nation,” said MoveOn's Nita Chaudhary in a statement. “Voters don’t want to continue down a failed path. They want representatives who will stand up to President Bush’s reckless policy and bring our troops home.”

This is likely true: Since the war is still unpopular among a majority of the nation, and since WA-3 is more or less a mirror of America, it's likely the case that a majority of Baird's constituents want to see a troop withdrawal. But of course, a majority of Baird's constituents have never been to Iraq to see for themselves.

Even if the constituents are nowhere near as angry and shrill as those who showed up at the townhall meeting (see below), certainly they're not enthusiastic about staying in Iraq; and Baird must have known that they would not be happy. Therefore, this is an example of Baird wising up, not flip flopping.

What is a man?

But the deeper question is whether your duty as a representative is to "represent" your district at the expense of your own ideas and conscience... or to be your own man or woman, make your own best judgment, and presume that if the voters dislike your choices, you'll hear about it at the next election.

I believe John Adams was in the first camp, believing that being a representative was an act of self-abnegation, becoming nothing more than the mouth of your constituents. Of course, that creates a problem in a mixed district; to truly represent his constituents, the representative must suffer from multiple-personality disorder!

I have always been in the second camp: We don't live in a direct, mob-rule democrazy... we elect a person, not an automaton. I want my representative to exercise his best judgment -- and then I'll exercise mine in even-numbered years.

Most constituents, alas, tend to follow Adams, not ab Hugh; this appears to be true in WA-3 -- at least among those constituents who attend town-hall meetings. Baird attended just such a nutmoot in Vancouver, WA, where he was mauled by orcs -- metaphorically speaking, of course. (Amusing detour: Baird joked, "Somebody said to me, 'Oh man, you're going to get killed tonight. I said, 'No, they get killed in Iraq. I'm going to get criticized.'")

But we have no way of knowing whether that meeting was truly representative of the district, or whether MoveOn.org packed the joint with its own sock puppets, a prank leftists are overly fond of playing.

Arguing for the sock-puppet interpretation:

  • The generally moderate nature of WA-3;
  • A huge percentage of the attendees arrived with anti-war protest signs, many pre-printed, some with Baird's name -- just a week after Baird announced his change of mind. That betokens organization.
  • One of the attendees was none other than Jon Soltz, the anti-war activist, chairman of VoteVets.org, and the former Army captain on a panel at YearlyKos who shouted down the uniformed sergeant who tried to ask the very question that has vexed Brian Baird: What should we do if the counterinsurgency works, regardless of previous position on the war? I do not believe that Jon Soltz lives in Vancouver, or even in Washington state; if a reader has information that he does, please let me know.

    But assuming he does not, that means he was transported there by somebody (either his own organization or perhaps MoveOn) in order to confront Baird. And if somebody is willing to go to that much trouble for Soltz, perhaps that same "somebody" is also willing to ensure that the audience was packed with the "right sort" of constituent.

I believe there is ample reason to doubt that the attendees really represent the third district of Washington. In the meantime, MoveOn has announced that it's going to run an anti-Baird ad campaign in his district, presumably hoping for someone much further Left to beat Baird in the primary. (If they succeed, that previously safe district may become vulnerable to a moderate Republican.)

Convenient Lies in Advertising

I'm sure nobody reading this blog is surprised to learn that MoveOn's ad is deeply dishonest. From the piece in the Hill:

The ad does not make specific reference to Baird’s conversion. Instead, it features a soldier who served in Iraq talking about the amount of resistance troops encountered and at the end asks viewers to tell Baird to bring the troops home.

The soldier in the ad served in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 and describes a scene from that time, long before the current troop increase that Baird has cited as the reason for military progress.

Baird voted against the war in 2003 and had opposed it until last month. Republicans have been quick to key on his remarks as evidence of progress in Iraq.

MoveOn disagrees, calling the war “unwinnable.”

This is, of course, a monumental (and dishonest) non-sequitur:

  • Baird is saying that he was against the war from 2003 to early 2007 and supported withdrawal; but now that he has seen the results of the counterinsurgency in mid-late 2007, he no longer supports withdrawal and thinks the troops "deserve" the chance to finish the job.
  • In response, MoveOn says that the fighting was really intense in 2003-2004... so how dare Baird support continuing the fight in 2007!

I haven't seen the ad itself, so I cannot tell whether it makes clear that the soldier's only experience is long before the counterinsurgency phase. (Nor can I tell whether the "soldier" in the MoveOn ad is or is not -- Jon Stolz.) I went to MoveOn's site, but I cannot find the advert there; nor can I find a search function. Eventually, I'm sure it will appear on YouTube.

UPDATE: And here it is! Hat tip to my favorite blogger, John Hinderaker, on my favorite blog, Power Line:



No, the soldier is not Jon Soltz; but no, the advert does not make it clear that the incident described happened back in 2003 or 2004... not recently. While former Sergeant John Bruhns is speaking, white words appear briefly over the bottom of his image reading "John Bruhns, US Army Infantry Sergeant, Baghdad 2003 - '04." That's the only clue.

In the voiceover at the end, a tough-sounding man's voice says "Support our troops; bring them home." Baird's name is not mentioned in the audio; but the words that appear on the screen include "Tell Rep. Baird."

By the way, here is another level of mendacity in this advert: Sgt. Bruhns talks about a protest "in the Abu Ghraib market area" where rioters began shooting at U.S. troops. He goes on to lament that "we were told that we were there to liberate these people; they were shooting at us!"

What Bhuhns and MoveOn fail to mention is that Abu Ghraib is in Anbar province; it was a hotbed of Saddamites before the war (the prison was used by Hussein to house dissidents and others who opposed his rule). If there were a violent riot in Abu Ghraib, it would almost certainly be driven either by "bitter-ender" Baathists or by al-Qaeda.

Contrary to what Bruhns says, those were not the people that we were sent to Iraq to liberate. Those were the oppressors during Hussein's reign, and it's hardly surprising that they should see Americans as their enemies... after all, we had just dislodged them from their well-feathered nests.

(And I'll bet former Nazis didn't like the American presence in Germany after World War II, either.)

Tell me about the rabbits, George...

Since the first surge of Communism in the 1920s (!), the most damaging charge against Democrats has always been that they act like extremely immature teenagers: emotional, unthinking, hormonally driven, and secure in the belief that they are the smartest people in the world... but ultimately acting from pure narcissism.

The accusation is damaging precisely because it's true, and this is a probative example: Baird is not a Bush supporter; he hates Bush almost to BDS levels. He is positively Murthian on the question of whether we should have gone into Iraq at all, calling it "one of the worst foreign-policy mistakes in the history of our nation."

Worse than World War I, where we jumped into a -- dare I say it -- quagmire in Europe that had already killed millions of people, soldier and civilian? In hindsight, maybe it was good we joined: We broke the stalemate and brought the war to a close, at a cost of a scant 115,000 American soldiers killed. But Woodrow Wilson -- who had campaigned on the slogan "He kept us out of the war" -- did not know that would be the result when he ordered us into the fight.

But if we allow hindsight, then how can Baird say today that it's "one of the worst foreign-policy mistakes in the history of our nation?" You can't call upon hindsight until the even is behind you.

Yet even with all this, all it takes is a single instance of not obeying orders, and MoveOn calls up the fanatics to measure Baird's beard and make sure his turban is wound the correct way, on pain of Lieber-tatation... just as happened in 2006, when Sen. Joe Lieberman became Independent-CT, rather than Democrat-CT, after a vicious and fraudulent campaign against him by the nutroots resulted in a primary loss to Ned Lamont. This is like the adolescent who gets almost exactly the iPod he wanted for Christmas... but because it's only 1GB instead of 4GP, he rages that it's totally worthless -- and smashes it on the ground.

Democrats with their eyes on 2008 have tried very hard to act like mature adults this cycle. But with this hysterical overreaction to a slight deviation from the liberal catechism, the mask of maturity has slipped to the floor, revealing them for the authoritarian martinets that they naturally are.

It seems that every time the Democrats have the opportunity to climb out the hole they've dug themselves, there is always at least one group of fools whose immediate and ill-considered response is instead to furiously dig the hole deeper.

Insha'Allah, this will be our salvation a year from November.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 29, 2007, at the time of 4:46 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Iranian President Supports Bush Argument on Iraq

Iran Matters , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

In a surprising development, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today endorsed a key argument made by George W. Bush for maintaining the counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq:

"The political power of the occupiers is collapsing rapidly," Ahmadinejad said at a news conference, referring to U.S. troops in Iraq. "Soon, we will see a huge power vacuum in the region. Of course, we are prepared to fill the gap, with the help of neighbors and regional friends like Saudi Arabia, and with the help of the Iraqi nation."

President Bush has repeatedly argued, and Democrats have just as frequently rejected the point, that if American forces were to pull out of Iraq, Iran would swoop in and try to seize control, both of a country with many sophisticated weapons systems and of the huge oil reserves in Iraq. Now, with Ahmadinejad confirming that his plans do indeed include invading and taking over Iraq as soon as the inconvenient Americans are gone, Democrats must be wondering what they did to deserve such a betrayal.

The candid admission by Ahmadinejad wrong-footed the Democrats. Ever since the counterinsurgency strategy (which they call the "surge," as if it were nothing more than a few extra troops tossed into the bucket) began producing demonstrable progress, Democratic leaders have scrambled to find a way to applaud the counterinsurgency and the troops fighting the war, while denouncing the war itself. Their current rhetorical tactic is to pretend that they had been saying all along that military victory was inevitable, and focus instead on the lack of political progress at the national level in Iraq:

For Democratic congressional leaders, the dog days of August are looking anything but quiet. Having failed twice to crack GOP opposition and force a major change in war policy, Democrats risk further alienating their restive supporters if the September showdown again ends in stalemate. House Democratic leaders held an early morning conference call yesterday with House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), honing a new message: Of course an influx of U.S. troops has improved security in Iraq, but without any progress on political reconciliation, the sweat and blood of American forces has been for naught.

Big Lizards argued in a previous post that political progress is occurring; but it's happening at levels below that of the national parliament and slowly trickling upward, rather than being mandated by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and propagating downward. But Democrats remain focused on ousting Maliki, seeing him as the weak link in Bush's argument. From the AP story that started this ruckus:

Bush and the U.S. ambassador in Iraq have given blunt assessments of political stagnation in Baghdad, and Bush has said it is up to the Iraqi people to decide if their government deserved to be replaced.

But key Democratic politicians, including Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, have called for al-Maliki to be replaced because his Shiite-dominated government has been unable to forge national unity....

Ousting al-Maliki, a longtime Shiite political activist, would require a majority vote in the 275-member Iraqi parliament. As long as the Kurdish parties and the main Shiite bloc back al-Maliki, his opponents lack the votes for that.

In a peculiarly cruel twist of fate, the Democratic elite finds itself unfairly disenfranchised in Iraq, unable even to vote Maliki out of office without somehow involving the pesky Iraqis.

(Ahmadinejad backstabbed his erstwhile allies even on this point: "'They rudely say (the Iraqi) prime minister and the constitution must change,' Ahmadinejad said of U.S. critics. 'Who are you? Who has given you the right' to ask for such a change, he added.")

We'll just have to wait to see the Democratic gameplan, how they'll praise Gen. David Petraeus, applaud his stunning progress in Iraq, and then call for a troop withdrawal according to a definite timetable. I doubt even the Democrats yet know how they're going to pull that one off.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 29, 2007, at the time of 3:56 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 28, 2007

NYT: Analogies Are Meaningless (Unless They Favor the Left)

Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

The New York Times adopts a particularly cynical, even arch position on analogies: They propound the case that only highly trained historians can make proper analogies of one war to another... and even then, only when those historians are reliably liberal (e.g., teaching classes at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government).

The case is weak. Not once does the Times actually address specifics of the analogy that has them particularly vexed: President George W. Bush's recitation of what happened after our abandonment of Vietnam, as an object lesson of what would surely follow if we abandoned Iraq today. Rather than knock down that claim per se, the elite media (in the avatar of the Times) appear to believe that they need only sneer at the very idea of analogies in general, scoff at the suggestion that Bush knows anything about history... and the rest will follow in a burst of some new class of logic hitherto unknown in the world of rhetoric.

To begin with, they must naturally dispute that Bush knows what he is talking about when he recounts what happened after 1973. Since not even the New York Times can plausibly deny the Vietnamese "reeducation" camps, the Cambodian "killing fields," or the Boat People who washed upon our shores, they must sever the causal connection as best they can.

Again, they cannot simply come out and say there was no link -- that all these things would have happened even if we'd still had hundreds of thousands of troops in South Vietnam -- because that would be patently absurd. So this is the best they can do; and they seem to think it pretty clever indeed:

President Bush sent historians scurrying toward their keyboards last week when he defended the United States occupation of Iraq by arguing that the pullout from Vietnam had led to the rise of the genocidal Khmer Rouge in neighboring Cambodia. His speech was rhetorical jujitsu, an attempt to throw back at his critics their favorite historical analogy -- Vietnam -- for the Iraq war. His argument aroused considerable skepticism from historians and political scientists, who note that the United States’ military action in Vietnam was among the factors that destabilized Cambodia.

Probably true, but so what? The Times statement (citing unnamed "historians and political scientists") is a raging non-sequitur. Regardless of whether there would have been re-education camps and killing fields if we had simply stayed out and allowed Ho Chi Minh to swiftly conquer all of Vietnam, the proximate cause of the human catastrophe was our departure, not our arrival.

The proof is easy:

  • We pulled our last soldiers out of Vietnam in March of 1973; but South Vietnam did not surrender until April 1975, more than two years later.
  • The mass killings by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, culminating in the massacre of two million Cambodians, started in 1975 and continued until Vietnam conquered Cambodia in 1979;
  • And the mass waves of Vietnamese "Boat People" fleeing the victorious Communists started in the late 1970s and continued into the 1980s.

None of the horrific consequences ensued until at least two years after we left, continuing up to ten years. The Vietnam calamity did not occur while we were there but only long after we left. Not even the Times' "historians and political scientists" can deny that inconvenient truth, nor pretend not to understand its implication.

As it happens, and despite the liberal tut-tutting, George Bush's history lesson was exactly correct.

In fact, it is the Times itself that is both glib and errant in its misunderstanding of what happened in Vietnam. One can almost hear the writer of the article, David D. Kirkpatrick, chuckling knowingly as he wrote the following:

Historical analogies in public statements are especially suspect. Talking about Vietnam during the run-up to the war there, for example, United States government officials most often invoked Korea or — with increasing frequency as the escalation began — the appeasement of Hitler, according to a tally by Yuen Foong Khong, a professor of international relations at Oxford. The French retreat from Vietnam in 1954 — a precedent that augured failure — was almost never mentioned.

In private, however, the French defeat came up much more often — far more often than Munich and nearly as often as Korea, Professor Khong concluded in his 1992 book, “Analogies at War: Korea, Munich, Dien Bien Phu and the Vietnam Decisions of 1965.”

Policymakers also sometimes bat away facts that mar their analogies. Before the Vietnam War, for example, Under Secretary of State George W. Ball repeatedly reminded President Lyndon Johnson and his other aides of Vietnam’s overriding differences from both Munich and Korea. Arguing that Vietnam was “sui generis,” Ball predicted that the United States would suffer the same fate as the French in 1954.

With admirable restraint, Kirkpatrick abjures writing, "and as we all know, that's exactly what happened!" Which is good, because that's exactly what didn't happen (as Senior Greco reminds us, one should not argue about the statements a man does not make).

I wasn't kidding about the ultra-liberal Kennedy School of Government, by the way:

The Central Intelligence Agency has worried enough about the pitfalls of drawing historical analogies that two decades ago it spent $400,000 commissioning a course in the subject for senior analysts from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. The Kennedy School ran the program until 2001, when the agency itself took it over.

A wealth of military historians have examined the progress of the Vietnam war, first under the "attrition of the enemy" strategy of Gen. William Westmoreland, then under the "counterinsurgency" of Gen. Creighton Abrams. Victor Davis Hanson and Max Boot have been particularly prominent.

Boot notes, for example:

• The danger of winning militarily and losing politically. In 1968, after Gen. Creighton Abrams took over as the senior U.S. military commander in South Vietnam, he began to change the emphasis from the kind of big-unit search-and-destroy tactics that Gen. William Westmoreland had favored, to the sort of population-protection strategy more appropriate for a counterinsurgency. Over the next four years, even as the total number of American combat troops declined, the communists lost ground.

By 1972 most of the south was judged secure and the South Vietnamese armed forces were able to throw back the Easter Offensive with help from lots of American aircraft but few American soldiers. If the U.S. had continued to support Saigon with a small troop presence and substantial supplies, there is every reason to believe that South Vietnam could have survived. It was no less viable than South Korea, another artificial state kept in existence by force of arms over many decades. But after the signing of the 1973 Paris Peace Accords, we all but cut off South Vietnam, even while its enemies across the borders continued to be resupplied by their patrons in Moscow and Beijing.

Following in Abrams's footsteps, Gen. Petraeus is belatedly pursuing classic counterinsurgency strategies that are paying off. The danger is that American politicians will prematurely pull the plug in Iraq as they did in Vietnam. If they do so, the consequences will be even worse, since Iraq is much more important strategically than Vietnam ever was.

Defeat was not foreordained in Vietnam, Boot says; we chose defeat, though we could have chosen victory. Similarly -- and this is the point the "dummy" Bush was making -- we can choose defeat in Iraq, or we can choose victory; it's up to us.

Victor Davis Hanson disputes the Times' entire pooh-poohing of studying past wars to draw analogies to current or future conflicts. In "Why Study War?," Hanson argues (among other points) that war will always be with us:

We must abandon the naive faith that with enough money, education, or good intentions we can change the nature of mankind so that conflict, as if by fiat, becomes a thing of the past.

Since human societies are by nature warlike, we have no choice but to learn from yesterday's defeats to seize victory tomorrow.

Finally, we must recognize that America's enemies (such Ayman Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's number two) regularly use the "lessons" of our "defeat" in Vietnam thirty years ago to recruit killers of Americans today; they argue that we gave up in Vietnam, and we shall give up in Iraq. And were it up to the elite media, I believe that Zawahiri would be correct.

But it's not up to them; more than anybody else in America, it's up to the president whether we continue with a war or don't. Even in Nixon's case, he could have shifted funds around to maintain an Air-Force presence in South Vietnam and could have fought vigorously for economic aid to that country; he chose instead to allow Congress to zero-out the budget, condemning our allies in the region either to a bitter death by torture or to mad flight to get out.

Today we have a president who has chosen victory -- and a congressional majority that has chosen ignominious defeat. I'll let you know later who wins, but the early rounds are trending strongly towards the strong Executive.

So, far from waving away the president's historical excursion at the VFW, lightyears away from persuading us that military analogies are useless, the actual history of the past century tells us precisely the opposite:

  • That analogies can be drawn;
  • That they can contain important and valuable lessons for future conflicts;
  • And that our enemies incessantly cite our failures as defeatist lessons for future wars.

Even Zawahiri believes that America's behavior in past conflicts is a reliable guide to our future actions; so who are we to dispute so eminent an authority? Once again, the Times is full of itself... and just plain full of it.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 28, 2007, at the time of 5:17 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

August 24, 2007

The Ice Man Cometh In From the Cold

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

I don't know how much credence to accord this story, but Izzat Ibrahim ad-Douri -- the King of Clubs in the "Deck of Death" (or is that the duck of death?); highest ranking Saddamite still free and sucking air; undisputed welterweight champion of the Baath Party; and oft known as "the Ice Man" -- purportedly wants to cut a deal... not the Iraqis, but with us:

The leader of Iraq's banned Baath party, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri [sic], has decided to join efforts by the Iraqi authorities to fight al-Qaeda, one of the party's former top officials, Abu Wisam al-Jashaami, told pan-Arab daily Al Hayat.

"AlDouri has decided to sever ties with al-Qaeda and sign up to the programme of the national resistance, which includes routing Islamist terrorists and opening up dialogue with the Baghdad government and foreign forces," al-Jashaami said.

Al-Douri has decided to deal directly with US forces in Iraq, according to al-Jashaami.



Izzat Ibrahim ad-Douri

Izzat Ibrahim ad-Douri

(Am I the only person who thinks ad-Douri looks a little like a red-haired G. Gordon Liddy?)

It's quite obvious why he doesn't want to deal with the Iraqi government, though they would eventually have to agree to any deal: He is suspected of complicity in several of Saddam Hussein's war crimes, including the infamous gassing at Halabjah, which killed as many as 5,000 Kurds. The Kurds would likely object today to anyone involved in that attack (or any other genocidal attack on the Kurds) serving in the government or even reentering Iraq with a guarantee against arrest.

The provenance of the Halabja attack has always been foggy; at first, the American Defense Intelligence Agency attributed it to Iran, not Iraq, based (they said) on the type of VX nerve gas used. Later, however, the CIA reanalyzed the attack and concluded it was perpetrated by Iraq.

Testimony by Halabja residents indicates that the town was, at the time or shortly beforehand, occupied by Iranian troops. This raises the possibility that the VX was aimed at the Iranians, and the Kurds were just innocent bystanders... though I doubt Hussein shed many tears: He had just concluded the al-Anfal genocide against the Kurds, massacring between 50,000 and 100,000 civilians, including women and children -- an inhuman campaign carried out by "Chemical" Ali Hassan Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti, then Secretary General of the Northern Bureau of the Ba'ath Party.

I don't believe either Chemical Ali or Hussein was ever formally charged with the Halabja massacre, which came a little after the al-Anfal genocide; Hussein was hanged for another offense, and Chemical Ali has received five death sentences for al-Anfal.

I don't know how much evidence there is tying ad-Douri to Halabja; but if it's substantial, this may prevent anyone cutting a deal with him. We're not going to forgive mass murder and genocide.

Why is ad-Douri trying to come in out of the cold? Two reasons, I think, one obvious and the other more subtle:

  • He and his men are being chewed up by the American forces on the Syrian border;
  • Even ad-Douri, a native Iraqi, has probably become sickened by the wanton slaughter of Iraqis -- Shia, Kurd, and even Sunni -- by the foreign terrorists who run al-Qaeda in Iraq, his erstwhile allies.

I suspect he has seen what has been done by the Anbar, Diyala, and Baghdad Salvation Councils; and he would like to join with them and even join the government, now that he knows it's not just going to be a Shiite state with the Sunnis relegated to second-class, almost "dhimmi" status (as the Shia were under Hussein, Chemical Ali, and ad-Douri).

There is some documentation for the first motivation:

In return, for cooperating in the fight against al-Qaeda, al-Douri has asked for guarantees over his men's safety and for an end to Iraqi army attacks on his militias.

Recent weeks have seen a first step in this direction, when Baathist fighters cooperated with Iraqi government forces in hunting down al-Qaeda operatives in the volatile Diyala province and in several districts of the capital, Baghadad.

I don't know whether we should or should not accept his offer. If he has just been a military man, fighting for his country (as evil as that country was) and resisting foreign invasion (that is, the United States and other Coalition countries), that's very, very different -- at least to me -- than if he were actively complicit in the crimes against humanity that the former Iraqi regime engaged in as a matter of course. It's akin to the distinction between Erwin Rommel, Kommander, Deutsches Afrika Korps, and Heinrich Himmler, Reichsführer-Schutzstaffel (SS).

There is also the problem of his complicity with AQI: If he ordered, authorized, or aided in significant terrorist attacks, including suicide bombings, he might have to accept some prison time in exchange for coming home. I don't know how involved he was, compared (e.g.) to the Sunni tribes in the Salvation Councils.

If ad-Douri was more like Rommel than Himmler, then I think we should accept the offer with alacrity, even if it requires a lot of cajoling of the Nouri al-Maliki government. Ad-Douri joining the government would go a long, long way towards anti-de-Baathification (which is necessary -- as was de-Baathification in 2003) and towards bringing the Sunni back into the fold.

But if ad-Douri is more like the SS leader, then we should tell him to go to hell... and do everything in our power to hasten the journey.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 24, 2007, at the time of 1:42 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 23, 2007

Quick Hits - They Say That Ginning Up Is Hard to Do

Iraq Matters , Opinions: Nasty, Brutish, and Shortsighted , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

Now I know, I know it's untrue -- if you're in the elite media, that is; if so, then ginning up a controversy, contradiction, confession, corruption, or calamity is as easy as π, no matter how irrational it may seem to ordinary, non-journalist humans.

Our reading material for today's lesson is the short article sent out over the wire (well, over the internets, anyway) about newly hatched Secretary of the Army Pete Geren's insistance that the Pentagon is not going to extend tours of duty in Iraq from 15 months to 18.

I don't know if this is good or bad; Geren has the figures in front of him and I don't. But what caught my eye like an errant fishhook (yes, I know... "eew") was this little attempt at legerdemain... transforming two completely unrelated statements into a "contradiction gotcha":

Asked about comparisons between the current Iraq conflict and the Vietnam War -- a parallel that President Bush drew Wednesday -- Geren said the current conflict is unique.

In a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention, Bush linked the U.S. pullout from Vietnam to the rise of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, and he said the history of U.S. conflicts in Asia have shown that critics of the day are often wrong and that withdrawing from war should never be done for short-term gain.

While saying that "historical analogies help illuminate the present" Geren said the Army "can't be guilty of fighting the last war." The Army, he said, has to consider the unique circumstances of the Iraq conflict and train and equip the soldiers and leaders accordingly.

Oooh, snap! Caught the Bush administration red-fisted in a whipsaw of a contradiction...

  • On the one hand, Bush says that Vietnam taught us that withdrawing in unnecessary defeat leads to terrible consequences;
  • But when the shoe is on the other hand, Secretary Geren says that our soldiers should use different tactics and equipment fighting terrorists in the Iraqi desert than they used fighting Communists in the jungles of vietnam 40 years ago -- completely the opposite of what Bush said!

"John says Mary is too short, but Mary insists the dress is blue, not red. How do you reconcile those two statements... 'Berto?"

We've seen this moonbattery before, of course: The "contradiction" between FBI Director Robert Mueller quoting Deputy Attorney General James Comey saying the Justice Department had trouble with the legality of a classified intelligence-gathering program that had been much talked about -- and current Attorney General Alberto Gonzales saying that the objection was not to the specific element called the Terrorist Surveilance Program, but to a different intelligence-gathering program.

Perjury, obstruction, contempt! Five Democrats sent a referral to the Justice Department, demanding an indictment and investigation -- in that order, I believe -- of Gonzales... but not of Mueller, oddly enough. A couple of days later, when sources came forward to confirm that all three men told the truth (the objection was to the data-mining element, not the TSP), the Democrats quietly dropped the substance of the charge and began rummaging around for a brand new cause of action:

"Well there's yer problem right there... ya got a malfunctioning cause of action; have to remove and replace it with a spanking-new one from the factory!"

Here are some more "contradictions" -- tomorrow's AP stories today!

  • Under intense cross-examination, President Bush finally admited that Saddam Hussein did not plan and execute the September 11th attacks; but then, amazingly, Bush turned around and claimed that al-Qaeda operatives did meet with Iraqi Intelligence Service officers to discuss operational cooperation.
  • Although the president has said that FEMA did everything it reasonably could have or should have done before and after Hurricane Katrina, several of his own fellow travelers in the GOP have instead argued that Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco and the Grand Nagus, mayor of Nawluns, failed to evacuate people quickly enough.
  • President Bush has praised the all-volunteer American Army; but apparently, he doesn't like it enough to send his twin daughters into military service.

Evidently, our fine president, like Mr. Whitman, is large and contains multitudes.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 23, 2007, at the time of 3:58 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 22, 2007

Actual News, For a Change: France to Mediate in Iraq?

French. Gotta Love 'Em. Don't Know Why. , Iraq Matters , Shrinking the Gap
Hatched by Dafydd

One serendipitous benefit of the recent regime change in la Belle France is that LBF no longer reflexively launches a "Chirac attack" against anything American.

Until former French President "Crock" Jacques Chirac departed, making way for Nicolas Sarkozy -- who is not America-phobic -- France refused to have anything to do with post-invasion Iraq.

Under Chirac, France was a close friend and partner in corruption with Saddam Hussein, protecting him from American sanctions and invasions and such in exchange for billions in oil leases. When Chirac's magic frog leg finally failed, and they could no longer stave off the inevitable ouster of Hussein, the French fled Iraq in a snit (which I believe is a French automobile made by Peugot; the rival huff is from BMW, of course).

But now, under Sarkozy, the French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, is said (by the International Herald Tribune) to be interested in trying to broker a deal between Shia, Sunni, and Kurds in Iraq, bringing the factions together in a national agreement:

After years of shunning involvement in a war it said was wrong, France now believes it may hold the key to peace in Iraq, proposing itself as an "honest broker" between the Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish factions. [Yes, that's really what the article says: an "honest broker."]

The shift was one of the most concrete consequences yet of the thaw in French-American relations following the election in May of President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose administration no longer feels bound by the adamant refusal to take a role in Iraq that characterized the reign of his predecessor, Jacques Chirac.

I hope Kouchner is allowed to try, and I truly hope he succeeds; such an agreement would benefit everybody:

  • The Iraqis, who could unify against their common enemies: Islamist terrorists of al-Qaeda and Iran;
  • The United States, which could more quickly draw down troops in Iraq;
  • France, which could begin developing and selling Iraqi oil again;
  • George W. Bush and the Republicans, who could point to victory to vindicate their perspicacity and perseverance;
  • The Democrats, who could... oh, wait -- no benefit to the Democrats at all. My bad.

I rather like this possibility. The French have been known as diplomats since the rocks began cooling; and I'm perfectly sanguine (which literally means "bloody," as in a ruddy complexion , I believe) with the arrangement that America does all the fighting in the world, and France and other European countries do most of the talking... so long as the sword always retains right of final refusal, as of course it always does. A France that sees itself as an American ally, not competitor or enemy, could be a tremendous boon in taming the Non-Integrating Gap, where the wild things are.

And that would actually be a blessing for everyone who matters. Even the Democrats, if they could but believe it.

Nevertheless, as Sir William S. Gilbert said, having a ruddy complexion is not at all the same as having a bloody cheek.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 22, 2007, at the time of 4:05 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

August 20, 2007

Foreign Policy's Ex-Experts

Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

I hesitate to take on this task, mostly because I distrust my own objectivity: I can't be absolutely sure that I'm not rationalizing away data just because I don't like it.

But I'm reasonably sure I have a good case, so I'll go ahead and let you be the judge.

Foreign Policy magazine has rather gleefully published an article in which 100+ "foreign-policy experts" speak out against what the magazine calls "the so-called surge;" they ask about lots of things, but this is the question that will get the airplay in the elite media, considering the imminency of Gen. David Petraeus's report:

In the third Terrorism Index, more than 100 of America’s most respected foreign-policy experts see a world that is growing more dangerous, a national security strategy in disrepair, and a war in Iraq that is alarmingly off course.

In this report, Foreign Policy -- a bastion of the liberal and Realist schools of foreign-policy thought -- teamed up with the "progressive" Center for American Progress (Clintonista John Podesta's baby) to pick 108 "foreign-policy experts." In order not to make the report a complete travesty, they made a stab at balance:

The Terrorism Index is survey of more than 100 of America’s top foreign-policy experts -- including two former secretaries of state [Madeleine Albright and Lawrence Eagleburger], a national security advisor, intelligence officers, and senior military leaders -- and represents the first comprehensive attempt to determine the U.S. foreign-policy establishment’s assessment of how the United States is fighting the war on terror.

The index is based on the results of a survey designed by the Center for American Progress and Foreign Policy. Participants in the survey were selected by Foreign Policy and the Center for American Progress for their expertise in terrorism and U.S. national security. No one currently working in an official U.S. government capacity was invited to participate. [Note that this means no one actually involved in fighting the Iraq war during the counterinsurgency strategy of Gen. Petraeus was surveyed, no matter how much of an "expert" he or she may be.]

The nonscientific survey was administered online from May 23-June 26, 2007. Respondents were asked to self-identify their ideological bias from choices across a spectrum: very conservative, conservative, somewhat conservative, moderate, somewhat liberal, liberal, and very liberal. Twenty-five people identified themselves as some level of conservative, 39 identified as moderate, and 44 identified as some level of liberal. To ensure balance, the survey was weighted according to ideology to make the number of weighted liberal respondents equal to the number of conservative respondents. Moderate and conservative respondents remained unweighted.

The results were not just eye-opening, but suspiciously so; as Reuters reports, even 64% of the self-identified "conservatives" in the non-scientific study said that the "troop increase" had either had no effect at all (36%) or had made things worse (28%).

This is completely at odds with what most conservatives I've read are saying, and my suspicion grew about who these "conservatives" really were; the collaboration with John Podesta didn't help. After some poking around, I located Foreign Policy's list of experts... and as I investigated those I didn't already know, a pattern emerged.

You can see it yourself by the two secretaries of state they picked to survey: Madeleine Albright is, of course, a liberal Democratic partisan hack, Secretary of State under Bill Clinton; she will obviously be among the 90% of moderates or liberals among the experts who say the counterinsurgency strategy is failing. No surprise there.

But consider George H.B. Bush's Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger: From everything I can glean, Eagleburger is a dyed in the wood "Realist," in the mold of Henry Kissinger and James Baker, both of whom Eagleburger served under. More than likely, when asked, Eagleburger would describe himself as at least "somewhat conservative," possibly even just "conservative." Yet even more likely, he opposed the Iraq war from the very beginning, as did nearly all the Realists: Kissinger-Baker Realists prefer subtle, diplomatic machinations of dictators like Hussein, rather than confronting evil head-on. Remember, the Realists, to a man, scorned and mocked Ronald Reagan's approach to the Soviet Union; they even objected to identifying it as an "evil empire."

There are far too many "experts" on the Foreign Policy list for me to run through them all; but I went through the first dozen; in that group, I found two obvious Realists: Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Philip Bobbitt, who, in an article in Time Magazine, rejected America fighting "unilateral" wars and called for us to "accept the responsibility of organizing coalitions to fight a chronic, low-intensity war such as the one we are fighting against al-Qaeda." Yep, I'd say Realist.

I found another who may very well have identified himself as "somewhat conservative," but who would almost certainly reject the war: Rand Beers, longtime National Security Council member (under Reagan, Bush-41, Clinton, and Bush-43). Beers resigned from the NSC in protest of the Iraq war... want to bet what his conclusion was about the efficacy of "the so-called surge?"

There are a number of others I can pick out who would almost certainly call themselves "conservatives" -- but who have pretty much opposed the Iraq war from the beginning: I'll bet Richard Clark calls himself "somewhat conservative," as would Larry C. Johnson. More than likely, so did Michael Scheuer, longtime CIA analyst and chief, who claimed that he "did the research" on connections between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda and found "nothing."

Here is the problem: Foreign Policy magazine and the Clintonist Center for American Progress get to define who is a "foreign-policy expert." They are going to pick people they consider to be serious thinkers... and it's incredibly tempting to dismiss one's political opponents as "not serious."

I believe the editors did their level best to come up with a list of bona-fide experts on foreign policy; but they necessarily skewed towards those, whether liberal, moderate, or conservative, who hewed to the Realist line (Podesta would have recruited heavily among Clintonist liberals like Albright). If they did that effectively among the "conservative" and "moderate" groups, and allowed CAP to pick the "liberals," then it's no wonder that 83% of the entire group thinks "the so-called surge" has failed to make things better.

Here is another absurd result from the survey: "Conservatives," by whopping margins, believe that withdrawal from Iraq would:

  • Create instability beyond Iraq;
  • Lead to Iran "filling the power vacuum;"
  • Lead to Iraq splitting into "warring provinces;"
  • Result in "a bloody civil war [that] would rage out of control;"
  • Mean that "Al Qaeda would strengthen globally;

Nevertheless, Foreign Policy magazine would have us believe that a majority of "conservatives" (54%) believes we should withdraw from Iraq over the next 18 months and "redeploy" to Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf... and more "conservatives" (25%) than "liberals" (23%) or "moderates" (18%) support an immediate withdrawal from Iraq.

This, again, tells me that the "conservatives" selected by the editors of Foreign Policy do not actually represent what I would call post-9/11 conservatives, but rather "September 10th" conservatives -- those for whom the attacks changed very little (if anything at all) about how they view the world. This, coupled with the exclusion of anyone currently fighting (generals or civilians) in the war -- creating an artificial cut-off date for military experts -- has led to a skewed and unrealistic batch of experts, particularly those who self-identify as conservatives: The bias is towards September 10th thinking, such as the Realism school or the Colin Powell "overwhelming force" doctrine.

I think there is good evidence to this effect in this very survey; and for that reason, I put little stock in it. The Foreign Policy editorial board wasn't looking for experts... it were hunting for former experts, ex-experts, the experts of the old, pre-attack paradigm. They went looking for "conservatives" who agreed with them that the war was futile, unnecessary, and already lost, and that we should pull out and concentrate on international coalitions... and by gum, they found a double-handful.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 20, 2007, at the time of 6:03 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

August 17, 2007

Democrat Crowing Causes Sun to Rise

Iraq Matters , Media Madness , Urbane Legends and Fussy Fables
Hatched by Dafydd

This is really a hoot, a tempest in a teabag. Somehow, some media maven started a rumor that when Gen. David Petraeus arrives in mid-September, he won't give any public report on Iraq; in fact, he won't even talk to Congress.

The rumor continues that his report will be ghost-written by White House aides, who are too terrified that Petraeus (Bush's puppet) will accidentally spill the beans that the war is actually catastrophically lost... if those brilliant inquisitors of the majority (yes, I mean you, Pat Leahy, D-VT, 95%!) ask a few inconvenient questions.

Aye, Petraeus may have shown some guts standing up to IEDs and EFPs in Iraq; but he will quail at the sight of Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) and Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%). Ergo, Bush will stuff him in the attic and send the Casa Blanca mouthpiece out to mislead the public and obstruct Congress again:

The Los Angeles Times on Wednesday suggested in a story that it wasn't clear yet whether Petraeus would testify in open session, and Thursday, The Washington Post reported that the White House proposed limiting Petraeus and Crocker's testimony to a closed session.

On Thursday, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe adamantly denied those reports.

"Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will testify to the Congress in both open as well as closed sessions prior to the Sept. 15 report. That has always been our intention," Johndroe said, speaking to reporters at President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, where the president is vacationing [by "vacationing," they of course mean "working in the branch office;" Bush doesn't lounge in a hammock reading a mystery novel, any more than Clinton did when he went to Camp David or Reagan did when he shifted locale to the Santa Barbara Ranch. See here now!].

"And I think it's unfortunate that anyone would suggest that (Petraeus and Crocker) would not do that, trying to start a fight where there really isn't one, because this has always been plan, and in fact, it's even called for in the legislation," Johndroe added.

When a reporter followed up at the ranch with a question about the White House possibly arranging for a closed session, Johndroe said: "No, no." And asked if he was denouncing the Post's story, Johndroe said: "Yes. Although I don’t -- I won't use that term that you used. I just don't think it's correct."

And guess who believes this bizarre, unsourced rumor, swallowing the testimony of anonymous "administration officials" over the official word from a named presidential spokesman? You guessed right: Sen. Reid is already caterwauling about the nerve of Bush to diss the Pinky by hiding Petraeus from Congress:

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid didn’t buy the administration's protests and said it would be "unacceptable" if Petraeus and Crocker didn't appear in public.

"The White House's effort to prevent Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker from testifying openly and candidly before Congress about the situation in Iraq is unacceptable," Reid said in a prepared statement.

"Not only does it contradict the law President Bush himself signed in May, but it appears to be yet another politically driven attempt to avoid giving Congress and the American people an honest and open assessment of a war we can all see is headed in the wrong direction," Reid said.

Mind, there has never been a single shred of evidence that Petraeus won't appear... other than speculation by several over-heated members of the feverish, drive-by media, driven mad by having to stick it in D.C. during August, while everyone who's anyone has gotten out.

"I bet Petraeus won't take questions."

"Ya know, I bet he won't even appear! That coward."

"That louse! Bush won't let him appear."

"Haliburton!"

"Yeah, I bet he's too afraid of what Petraeus might say... and if he does appear and take questions, he'll just give us a Tony Snow job, claiming that al-Qaeda is on the run in Iraq, attacks are down, and deaths are down."

"Al-Qaeda? There is no al-Qaeda in Iraq. In fact, there's no al-Qaeda at all. You know, that's the first time fire ever melted --"

"When we all know the war is headed in the wrong direction -- it's getting worse every day! It's already a full blown civil war, tens of thousands of dead American soldiers, millions of slaughtered Iraqis, all to put billions of dollars into Bush's pocket."

"He's stolen his last peso!"

"Haliburton!"

And of course when September 15th rolls around, and Petraeus comes in as planned and testifies publicly and privately before the D.C. dons, Reid and Leahy and all the little squeakers will take credit: "Were it not for our cries of outrage, the Regime would never have let Bush's lickspittle Petraeus out in public!"

Yeah. And if I weren't constantly clacking these rocks together, Los Angeles would be infested with tigers.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 17, 2007, at the time of 4:46 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

August 15, 2007

Horrific Nineveh Bombing Shows Counterinsurgency Working

Iraq Matters , Opinions: Nasty, Brutish, and Shortsighted , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

Contrary to the line many elite media are taking, the coordinated quadruple suicide bombings in Nineveh yesterday -- which appear to have killed between 250 and 500 Yazidis, making it the single worst terrorist attack of the entire Iraq war -- have not "dealt a serious blow" to the claim that the new counterinsurgency strategy is working.

In fact, they emphatically demonstrate that it is.

Geography lesson

Consider where the bombing occurred:



al-Qaeda bombing of Yazidi Kurds at Syrian Border

Al-Qaeda bombing of Yazidi Kurds at Syrian Border

The red dot marks the approximate area of the four explosions. This is about as far as one can get from our counterinsurgency and still remain in Iraq.

We're fighting heavily in Anbar province in the west; in Najaf in the southwest; in Diyala and Baghdad in the east; and we have a lot of forces in Sulaymaniyah in the northeast, hard up against Iran. The Kurds are very strong in Kirkuk in the north; and the Brits have not yet left Basra in the southeast.

Just about the only place left for al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) to operate with any degree of impunity is in the northwest, in the remote desert inhabited by a smattering of Yazidis. In fact, even the New York Times has noticed this geographic reality, though they try to spin it into a negative:

All three towns [Sinjar, Amerili, Tal Afar] lie north of the main areas affected by the increase in American troop strength that began in March, supporting the notion that, as in numerous earlier American offensives, insurgents have moved from where they are being attacked and restarted their operations elsewhere....

Asked why insurgents would pick such simple villages in the desert for such a colossal attack, General Bergner said: “Perhaps their vulnerability. Perhaps they were a target that they could attack.”

The Times wants readers to believe this shows that the "surge" is a failure. After all, al-Qaeda is simply moving "from where they are being attacked" and "restart[ing] their operations elsewhere."

But that is precisely what the counterinsurgency aims to do: Unlike the previous "attrition" strategy, we don't just attack higgledy-piggledy following the terrorists, allowing them to set the operational tempo; instead, we began by defining an area of control -- the "white" area, using the terminology of French Lt.Col. Galula in Algeria, one of the recent architects of modern counterinsurgency theory. Then we expand from the "white" areas into the adjacent "pink" (contested) areas.

As we invest pink areas and turn them to white, that automatically makes what had been adjoining, enemy-controlled (red) areas into contested pink areas. That is, rather than chase al-Qaeda up and down Iraq, we start in one or two spots and expand outward -- like oil expanding across troubled waters.

"Victory" occurs as we push the enemy farther and farther away from the military, political, and economic centers of the country... which is precisely what we see happening in Iraq today. This attack is a perfect example.

Propinquity

Even more interesting about the geography of this attack: It's virtually on the Syrian border, over which AQI has been smuggling weapons, fighters -- and suicide bombers -- for several years. From the AP story linked above:

"This is way out by the Syrian border, an area where we do think in fact some suicide bombers are able to come across the border. It's an area that is very, very remote - quite small villages out there - and it was disheartening for us, too, obviously," [Gen. David] Petraeus told The Associated Press in an interview.

In the past, prior to the Coalition's new offensive strategy, al-Qaeda had little trouble smuggling suicide bombers across the Syrian border -- either in Anbar or Nineveh provinces -- and then transporting them to Baghdad, or any other location in central Iraq, where the blasts can be more spectacular (and, they hope, visible to the American elite news media parked in the Green Zone) and affect far more mainstream Iraqis. But in this bombing, while they likely got the murderers across from Syria, they were unable to move them very far. So instead, they tried to make lemonade by bombing a tiny sect that lives right at the border: the Yazidi.

I'm absolutely certain that al-Qaeda in Iraq would much rather have killed 250 people in Baghdad (capital of Baghdad province), Ramadi (capital of al Anbar), or Baqouba (capital of Diyala), where our counterinsurgency is actually focused... rather than a pair of villages in Nineveh so tiny, they're not even represented on most maps of Iraq. For that matter, al-Qaeda would almost certainly have rather blown up Kirkuk or Mosul... which, while not being part of the "surge," are at least major cities in the north and eponymous provincial capitals.

The only thread AQI can hang their rampage on (other than "that's the best we could do") is the infamous Yazidi stoning on April 7th, 2007. On that day, between one and two thousand Yazidi men stoned to death a 17 year old Yazidi girl, Du’a Khalil Aswad, for the crime of loving a Moslem boy and planning to elope (and possibly convert to Islam; that part is unclear). After Aswad was murdered, her body was burned and buried with the remains of a dog.

In "retaliation," AQI launched a reprisal massacre of 23 Yazidi men on a bus 13 days later... but that was in Mosul, the capital of next-door Mosul province. Since then, the Yazidi have not been singled out by AQI.

Again, I find it very unlikely that this was planned all along for two obscure Yazidi villages. We know the plan is at least a week old, because AQI distributed leaflets warning about it; but that was likely after they had already smuggled in the bombers... and realized they couldn't move them anywhere where an attack would be more visible and intimidating.

The overwhelmingly likely explanation is that the target was picked primarily for propinquity: The bombers could get to those villages; they could not get even as far as Mosul, let alone Baghdad... the American Army and Marines were in the way.

Religious profiling

Another reason the Yazidi are a curious target is that they are not, in fact, considered Islamic. They are an offshoot of an offshoot of an amalgamation of the pre-Islamic Middle East, archaic Levantine (descended from Crusaders) and Islamic religions, Kurdish culture and language, and bits and pieces of Sufism. They seem to me to occupy a similar position in the Middle East to the Mormons here... I don't mean the mainstream, late 20th-century Mormonism of Mitt Romney; I'm referring to the violent, polygamous version of Mormonism in the 19th century -- the Mormons that initiated the Mountain Meadows massacre, for example.

Those Mormons were driven from pillar to post in the United States; typically, they tried to immigrate west, out of the country (which did not yet extend "from sea to shining sea;" there was a big gap of wilderness in between Missouri and California). But as America kept catching up to them, they found themselves more and more in conflict. Christians tended to consider them heretics back then; some remnant of that prejudice exists today, with many otherwise ecumenical Christians angrily asserting that even present-day Mormons are not Christians.

Similarly, as AP puts it:

Some Muslims and Christians consider an angel figure worshipped by Yazidis to be the devil, a charge the sect denies. The Islamic State in Iraq, an al-Qaida front group, distributed leaflets a week ago warning residents near the scene of Tuesday's bombings that an attack was imminent because Yazidis are "anti-Islamic."

Why is this significant? Because typically, AQI wants to target its ghastly and spectacular bombing attacks against mainstream Shiite targets... such as the al-Askari "Golden Dome" mosque in Samarra. In a pinch, they may punish "rebellious" Sunni tribesmen in Anbar or Diyala. But what impact would result from bombing an obscure, non-Islamic sect that most Iraqis only associate with the stoning of Ms. Aswad? Iraqis (even mainstream Kurds) will likely just shrug. And the distance from there to the nearest front in the war is so great that it will be hard even for Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100%) to argue that this constitutes a failure of Gen. Petraeus's strategy.

Bottom line

Again, I think this shows that AQI is reduced to striking whatever target is nearest to hand, out by the Syrian border, where they're hiding; and they must take "pot luck" when selecting victims. More than anything else, this reminds me of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, where rampaging bands of black and Hispanic youths burned down a thousand buildings -- almost all locally-owned and run businesses in their own neighborhoods. Why? Because those were the only buildings they could get at. Buildings in Beverly Hills, the west side, Palos Verdes, and even many Korean-owned stores and restaurants were too heavily guarded by homeowners and shopkeepers.

This is not to say that AQI will never get lucky again with a terrible attack on an important target in the heartland of Iraq. But such attacks have become fewer and fewer as the counterinsurgency continues:

The number of truck bombs and other large al-Qaeda-style attacks in Iraq have declined nearly 50% since the United States started increasing troop levels in Iraq about six months ago, according to the U.S. military command in Iraq.

The high-profile attacks -- generally large bombs hitting markets, mosques or other "soft" targets that produce mass casualties -- have dropped to about 70 in July from a high during the past year of about 130 in March, according to the Multi-National Force - Iraq.

In 2006, AQI destroyed the al-Askari mosque; in April of this year, they bombed the Iraqi parliament; in June, they knocked down the two remaining minarets of the al-Askari mosque (which few realized were still standing anyway). And yesterday, they bombed an obscure pre-Islamic sect of Kurds living right on the Syrian border, in the extreme northwest corner of the country.

In the counterinsurgency war we're fighting, that's exactly what victory looks like.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 15, 2007, at the time of 6:23 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 14, 2007

One Block at a Time

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Sachi

Wesley Morgan, writing at the Fourth Rail, has a fascinating report on a different kind of ambush in Sadr City. Morgan is an embedded reporter accompanying American troops, led by Lt. Col Jeffery Peterson, along their patrol on the infamous Haifa Street, in the Sadr City slums of Baghdad, in the wake of a massive Shiite pilgrimage -- a "four million man march."

Col. Peterson and his men made a point of dismounting from their Strykers from time to time to chat with the locals. Morgan found the Iraqi people by and large friendly -- which is amazing, considering where they were: It was on this very Haifa Street in 2004 that a pair of election officials were brutally executed in broad daylight, during rush hour; the murders were photographed by an Iraqi stringer.

The "stringer" was later taken into custody as an al-Qaeda collaborator; the American who received the photos got a Pulitzer Prize.

Morgan writes:

The main difference [from Delhi in 2004], it occurred to me after a moment (besides the heat and the presence of a squad of formidably armed and armored US soldiers) was that the people seemed more welcoming: as Peterson walked down the sidewalk, greeting shop owners and residents with a well pronounced Salaam aleikum, I was struck by the people's demeanor.

Scrawny, white-haired, jagged-toothed men smiled up at the colonel from their seats, responding with a pleased-sounding Aleikum as-salaam, and middle-aged men did the same. The women, mostly wearing black robes that covered everything but their face, either greeted us as we walked by or simply smiled back at our greetings. Among younger men there was more of a split: some were enthusiastic, recognizing the colonel or his soldiers and greeting them in English, while others kept their expressions stonily cold, offering us no recognition whatsoever. Children of every age, both boys and girls, clustered around each of us, calling out "Hello mister!" or "Chocolata mister!" and grinning hopefully; many stuck out their hands for high-fives, fist-pounds, or handshakes.

A video report I viewed today at Matt Sanchez’s site confirms this impression (Sanchez is also embedded near Sadr City). Children “ambushed” Matt, clustering around him to have their picture taken, shouting out their own names after Matt named himself. Other children mobbed a female soldier who was giving away chewing-gum.

The scene reminded me of another that I know only from bedtime stories from my mother. It was not Iraq but Japan, 62 years ago today; and different children crowded around American Marines and soldiers, who drove not Strykers but Jeeps.

But it was the same story: Japan had just lost the war, during which they were told that American soldiers were so evil, they literally had horns growing from their foreheads. My mother was a small child, and she was terrified at the image. But when the American keito ("hairy foreigners") finally arrived, the children quickly realized that GIs were not demons... they were kind men whose hearts bled for the starving kids.

Seeing the desperate situation, GIs started to toss candy bars and chewing-gum from their own pockets; it was the only food they had with them. After a while, everywhere the soldiers went, they were inundated by friendly (and hungry!) children. Some, such as my mother’s older brother, quickly learned a few words in English: “Give me chocolate!” and “chewing-gum, please!” The more things change, the more they stay the same.

You may argue that the children in Iraq are not being friendly... they're just hungry, like their earlier "ancestors" in Japan. If so, we're feeding them (and not just chocolate this time). I remember hearing from an Iraq veteran that when patrolling an area, if the children gather around the soldiers or Marines without their mothers objecting, it was a good sign. When the children disappear as soon as they see the troops, it's a warning that something bad is about to happen.

Col. Peterson made a cogent observation to Wesley Morgan:

Another encouraging sign, and a surprising one, that the colonel remarked on and asked the jundis about was the scarcity of posters of Muqtada al-Sadr -- Badr-type posters of ageing, moderate Shiite clerics were everywhere, but we saw Sadr's puffy form only here and there. Even more strikingly, there was very little trash.

It was clear that this was one of the streets that 1-14, and the colonel himself, patrolled regularly. "You have to dismount, get out there on the ground, and talk to people," the colonel had told me earlier in the day – "There is no other way." On these few blocks, it could not have been more obvious that the squadron's soldiers were following this guidance, straight of classical counterinsurgency doctrine, and to good effect.

The part about the lack of trash is more important that we might at first realize; James Q. Wilson's "Broken Windows" theory applies even in Iraq. When Iraqis trouble to pick up the trash in their neighborhoods, especially in such a poor neighborhood as Sadr City, it means that they see themselves as part of that society, not outsiders looking in.

The most important determinant of whether a person is likely to commit violence is whether he sees himself as integrated into the community; typically, only those who see themselves as fundamentally different and apart from the community can callously butcher innocents. If one feels a part of the whole, mass violence is almost impossible.

Morgan’s report is not entirely positive; it's not all Pollyannas and cream. Despite the eagerness of the Iraqi security troops to safeguard the Pilgrims’ march, Morgan is not confident that they have the capability or the equipment to back-up the will.

But taken all in all, this is a good report. We must pacify Baghdad and Iraq one street, one block at the time. Haifa street is not just any old road; it has a dark and vengeful history and mythology all its own. But we will pacify it in the end, just like every other street: one block at a time.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, August 14, 2007, at the time of 11:52 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 9, 2007

The "Don't Make Waves!" Theory of Iraqi Politics

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Or, who needs a grand unified political "settlement" in Mess o' Potatoes anyway?

Congress, and even to a lesser extent the Bush administration, have recently begun demanding a written, codified political settlement of issues in Iraq -- enacted by the Iraqi parliament -- before they'll admit that we're winning the war. The demand is unreasonable; I have thought for some time that that's the wrong way to go about pacifying the country.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, I believe the most important elements of the Iraq democracy project are military: denying the enemies of freedom and democracy the ability to enforce their ideology by gun and bomb. Political "reconciliation" is academically interesting but ultimately non-essential to our victory conditions... an Iraq that is no longer a threat to the United States, not a haven for terrorists, and more or less free and democratic, at least enough so that Iraqis feel themselves a part of society, not apart from society.

It doesn't matter whether the society to which they feel a sense of belonging is Iraq as a whole or just their region. In only matters that they realize that they must defend against invasion and infiltration in all parts of Iraq in order to safeguard their own, just as Texans would still fight against an invasion of New York, knowing that if NY fell, so eventually would Texas.

Thus, we must work closely with the Iraqi security forces (ISF) on security issues, defending against both al-Qaeda and affilliates in the Sunni areas and against Iranian-backed militias in the Shiite areas (and against Turkish incursion into Kurdistan, which means stopping Kurdish separatists operating out of that region to avoid giving provocation)... while at the same time, allow political "settlement" and "reconciliation" to spontaneously arise at the local level and percolate upwards from individual to tribe to province. Only then, years down the road, should we worry about parliamentary laws... if they're even needed.

One consequence of this new way of looking at Iraq -- I call it the "don't make waves" theory -- is that we shouldn't be that much concerned about intertribal warfare within a region; for example, we needn't care about various Shiites squabbling over who will control Basra after the Brits leave. Let 'em fight it out. [This paragraph and two others contain a correction; I wrote "Mosul" but mean "Basra." Hat tip to commenter Brian H!]

So long as all political parties reject Iranian sock puppetry (and fight against those militias that are Iranian puppets), it doesn't matter to us which tribe or group ultimately controls Basra. If they allow free transit out of the province for those who don't like it, that's democracy... in fact, it's federalism; and we should have more of it here, too!

Civilized countries with long histories of rule of law and reasonably honest federal administration often make the serious mistake of assuming that top-down enforcement of political rights should be the short-term goal of every country. But just because it works fairly well for us doesn't mean that's the ideal form of democracy for everyone else. When the long history is instead of centralized repression, tyranny, and corruption that would beggar the imagination of most Americans, the level of trust required for a top-down solution is simply unattainable, probably for decades to come.

In such countries and societies, trust resides much lower; in Iraq's case, trust resolves as low as the tribe: Most Iraqis primarily think of themselves as members of a tribe, and secondarily as Iraqis, distinct from other Arabs or Persians. Many people understand this much, but they don't take the next leap of logic: If that's where trust is found, then that's where solutions must be found as well.

This needn't be done, in fact shouldn't be done, by passing a law through the Iraqi parliament. The way to resolve outstanding problems, such as distribution of oil revenues, anti-de-Baathification, and sectarian violence, is to start at the tribal level and work upwards:

  • Provincial government authorities, even in Shiite territory, should start awarding oil-drilling and extraction contracts to local or nearby Sunni tribes, not just Shiite tribes; and Sunni governors could invite teams of American or British geologists to Sunni lands to hunt for oil, shale, and natural gas reserves: Having their own revenue stream is the greatest guarantee that Sunnis could have. Rather than verbal promises from the Shiite-controlled parliament, Sunnis would begin seeing actual cash money flowing into their communities.
  • Provincial governments, Sunni, Shia, and mixed, could simply start hiring ex-Baathists in defiance of the de-Baathification laws; if the federal government forbears prosecuting anyone, then you have de facto anti-de-Baathification.
  • If Shiite tribes began policing their own members, stopping the sectarian killing -- this can start with tribes that have both Sunni and Shia as members -- that would be more convincing than if parliament "passed a law" outlawing militias. A "Basra Salvation Council," patterned after the Anbar Salvation Council but aimed at Shiite terrorists, especially those controlled by Iran, would also encourage Sunni tribes to turn on al-Qaeda and other foreign Sunni terrorist groups... which in turn would make it easier to expand the anti-militia movement on the Shiite side.

The virtue of each of these suggestions is that none requires either side to stand up in a national forum and loudly support the other side -- at the expense of the speaker's own. Instead, reforms can be carried out quietly, behind the scenes, and at a local enough level that everybody knows everybody else.

Demanding that the current crop of dunderheads in the Iraq parliament cobble together a grand unified theory of Iraqi constitutional law is at best shortsighted, at worst feeding the "fatal conceit" that in a tribal country like Iraq, decisions should nevertheless be made from the top down. Rather, democracy and freedom should begin from tribe to tribe, then spread to village, town, and city. It cannot be imposed from above when the only experience Iraqis have with top-down government is the crushing Baathist and Saddamite repression.

And for Allah's sake, can't we just stop yammering about "political progress?" The best way to talk about something when nobody agrees with anybody else -- is not to talk about it at all.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 9, 2007, at the time of 5:36 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

August 6, 2007

Democrat Inadvertently Blurts Out Truth

Afghan Astonishments , Hippy Dippy Peacenik Groove , Iraq Matters , Pakistan Perplexities , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

A spokesman for the presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL, 95%) accidentally let slip an inconvenient truth... and nobody noticed! (Except the lizards, of course; the lidless eye sees all.)

Defending Obama's feckless threat to invade Pakistan if their war against al-Qaeda doesn't proceed fast enough for Obama, Bill Burton spake:

“The fact that the same Republican candidates who want to keep 160,000 American troops in the middle of a civil war couldn’t agree that we should take out Osama bin Laden if we had him in our sights proves why Americans want to turn the page on the last seven years of Bush-Cheney foreign policy.”

The problem with this puffery is that it's simply not true that "Americans want to turn the page." Some do, some don't; in the most recent USA Today/Gallup poll on the war, 57% say we shouldn't have invaded (i.e., want to "turn back the page"); but 57% is not a consensus. However, a simple substitution makes the statement absolutely true and virtually a tautology. Consider this version with one word rewritten:

The fact that the same Republican candidates who want to keep 160,000 American troops in the middle of a civil war couldn’t agree that we should take out Osama bin Laden if we had him in our sights proves why Democrats want to turn the page on the last seven years of Bush-Cheney foreign policy.

Yes it does; it indicates ("prove" is too strong a formulation) that to Democrats, the war on global hirabah begins and ends with Osama bin Laden: To the congressional majority, we can win everywhere else; but if bin Laden isn't captured and prosecuted, we have lost. But even more ominously, we can lose everywhere else; but so long as we capture bin Laden and put him on trial (in the U.N.'s International Court of Justice at the Hague, of course), then we've won!

Such juvenile thinking permeates the Democratic party more thorougly than Shiite militias have penetrated the Iraqi National Police. Another example, just enunciated by Max Boot in an interview on Hugh Hewitt: the unreasonable demand put upon Prime Minister of Iraq Nouri al-Maliki to ram reforms through the Iraqi parliament... when we, ourselves, deliberately wrote their constitution to weaken the prime minister, back when our greatest fear was another Iraqi "strongman" rising to replace Hussein. We weaken the prime minister, then imagine that if only we replace Maliki with another guy, he'll be able to solve the political problems ("Daddy fix!").

The gravest problem facing America today, in my never particularly humble or hesitant opinion, is the fact that a huge chunk of the electorate suffer from -- and an entire major political party is now based upon -- Peter Pan Syndrome: They've never grown up, living instead in a perpetual state of adolescence and "teen logic":

  • They make unreasonable, truculent demands;
  • They have no idea how such demands could possibly be met, no strategy or even vague suggestion;
  • Yet they promise vast retribution if the magical president doesn't make it so;
  • When thwarted, they fly into a rage;
  • They blurt out horrid things they never meant to say -- then defend their misstatement with the ferocity of Howard Dean defending his latest verbal gaffe;
  • And when the policies they demand (or inflict upon the American people) collapse, leaving a shattered industry or sector as testament to Democratic fecklessness... their only explanation is to shrug and say, "it seemed like a good idea at the time."

Republicans and GOP-leaning independents have it in their power to prevent another Peter Pan presidency. And the first step is to stop forming a circular firing squad at the drop of a disagreement. To quote that great small-f federalist, one of the authors of the Constitution, and perhaps the greatest epigrammatist in American history -- I refer to Benjamin Franklin, of course -- "gentlemen, we must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 6, 2007, at the time of 5:25 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

July 30, 2007

CAIR's Congressman Ellison Praises Key Elements of Counterinsurgency Strategy

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

This is fascinating... Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN, no ADA rating yet), CAIR's puppet in Congress, recently went to Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province in Iraq. There he met with a pair of sheikhs. (CAIR is the Council on American Islamic Relations, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood and longtime supporter of Hamas and praiser of al-Qaeda.) [Fixed a small mistake here; thanks, CDQuarles!]

"They were very upset and concerned that al-Qaeda is misrepresenting Islam," Ellison told reporters on a conference call Monday from Germany, on his way back to the U.S. "And they were talking to me about what I can possibly do to work with them to give a clearer, more accurate picture of what Islam is all about."

The sheikhs are evidently members of the Anbar Salvation Council (or at least support the council's goals and tactics), and they begged Ellison to go back to the United States and tell the American people that Iraqi Sunnis have allied with American soldiers and Marines to fight against al-Qaeda, and that al-Qaeda does not speak for the Sunnis in Anbar province.

Ellison also met with Gen. David Petraeus and MG Walter Gaskin and claims, at least, to be very impressed, both with the generals and the strategy itself. Given what we know about Keith Ellison, this is simply extraordinary:

The group met with Iraqi and U.S. military officials, including Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq.

Ellison said that local leaders in Ramadi told him of how they partnered with U.S. and Iraqi military officials to virtually rid al-Qaeda from the city. Although the lawmakers had to travel in flak vests and helmets, "we did see people walking around the streets of Ramadi, going back and forth to the market." [Keith Ellison applauds our joint patrols with Iraqis.]

There have been fewer anti-U.S. sermons as the violence has been reduced, Ellison said, and religious leaders meet regularly with U.S. military officials. [Ellison admits that the "surge" (counterinsurgency strategy) is working, reducing violence.]

"The success in Ramadi is not just because of bombs and bullets, but because the U.S. and Iraqi military and the Iraqi police are partnering with the tribal leadership and the religious leadership," he said. "So they're not trying to just bomb people into submission. What they're doing is respecting the people, giving the people some control over their own lives." [Ellison endorses the core element of counterinsurgency: working with local forces to protect the population, allowing normalcy to spread; this will starve the insurgents of recruits.]

Ellison said he was particularly impressed watching Maj. Gen. Walter Gaskin, U.S. commander in the Anbar province, greeting people with "as-salama aleikum," meaning peace be upon you.

"And they would respond back with smiles and waves," Ellison said. "I don't want to overplay it. There were no flowers. There was no clapping. There was no parade. But there was a general level of respect and calm that I thought was good."

Partnering between American military forces and Iraqi security forces is an essential component of our new counterinsurgency strategy -- and is fundamentally at odds with the current semi-withdrawal plans being pushed by the Left. Democrats demand (via amendments to legislation) that we cease patrolling with the Iraqis, retreat into some big American Fortress of Solitude, and only sally forth to fight al-Qaeda, as if the latter is going to mass up and challenge America to a North-Africa-style tank battle, rather than operate by stealth, infiltration, and suicide car bombings, as they always have.

Does Ellison realize his praise of the Joint Security Stations (JSSs) puts him on the side of conservative Republicans against Democrats and RINOs? Is he deliberately breaking with Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%), who supports the traditional Democratic defeatist line? Or has Ellison simply not been following the debate all this time and inadvertently stumbled into apostasy?

It makes no difference: There are three possibilities going forward, each of which cuts in favor of war supporters:

  1. Ellison returns to D.C. and continues to praise our joint operations with the Iraqi Army and National Police, thus serving as a lonely bastion of sanity in the House, to match Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT, 75%-D, 17%-R) in the Senate.

In this case, Ellison becomes a fracture point in the otherwise monolithic defeat-mongering among Democratic members of the House.

  1. Ellison returns to D.C., talks to his masters at CAIR (and his secondary boss, Nancy Pelosi), and suddenly discovers that he actually hates the idea of Americans patrolling and allying with Sunni anti-al-Qaeda fighters in Iraq.

If he tries this, his own previous quotation can be thrown back in his face; we can ask him, "When CAIR says frog, do you jump?" Are your constituents in Minnesota -- or Waziristan?

  1. Ellison decides not to return to D.C. but to turn around and head back to Iraq, join the Anbar Salvation Council, and fight al-Qaeda.

Well... in that case, more power to him. Presumably, whoever replaced him in Congress would not be a CAIR congressman (at least not quite so directly!)

We shall watch Ellison's future progress with great interest. Let us hope he continues to grow in office.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 30, 2007, at the time of 3:00 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Miracle On Sand

Iraq Matters , Sporting Gents
Hatched by Dafydd

I recently rewatched the movie Miracle for the first time since I saw it in the theater. I remain convinced that without that "miracle" win against the Soviet Union hockey team in the 1980 Olympics -- the so-called "miracle on ice" -- Amercans might never have elected Ronald Reagan president.

My reasoning is subtle but not, I hope, specious: What Reagan sold more than anything else was hope -- hope that the evil empire could be not just contained but destroyed, hope that the economy could be not just suspended above the brink but driven forward full-throttle. Jimmy Carter, and Gerald Ford before him, and Richard Nixon before that, and every president back to Harry Truman, offered nothing better than limbo... the vague promise that things wouldn't get worse, or at least not much worse. But Reagan offered realistic hope that they would improve and improve tremendously.

But what you cannot believe you will not buy. If Americans did not first believe in hope, they would not have invested in a presidential candidate who peddled it. (Today's Democrats believe in nothing, nihil, as in nihilism; to "Pinky" Reid, hope is a four-letter word.)

What made us believe in hope in November 1980? What broke the charm of the inevitability of American decline? Remember where we were in that year and the preceding eight (in case you forgot, the movie helpfully reminds viewers in the opening collage): the loss in Vietnam, Watergate, the resignation of a president, oil embargos, the fall of Saigon, inflation, stagflation, soaring interest rates that killed business, strikes, the perception that Japanese automobile imports would destroy the American automobile industry, just as Soviet sports teams destroyed American Olympic hopes, serial killers, the Iranian hostage crisis (in which we appeared so helpless)... the dirge sounded relentlessly.

I remember being politically adrift (I was at UCLA at the time), certain I was an American but unsure whether that meant anything anymore. I don't think I was unique.

I was no hockey fan; I'm still not. But I watched that game out of stubborn hatred of Communists; and I was so stunned when we won it that I just sat still and quiet before of the TV screen for perhaps a half an hour, just absorbing and digesting what that meant.

It meant we interrupted our march into the dustbin of history; suddenly we felt brash, strong, American again. Many have remarked that the US-USSR game was the first time they ever heard the chant "USA! USA!" I watched the Olympic gold-medal game that followed (the first and last such I have ever watched), and I felt an elation that another part of me thought was absurd: I didn't even like hockey!

Later that year, when I moved up to Santa Cruz to attend UCSC, I took a new outlook with me. I became profoundly disliked by the leftie students there; but my persona prior to that match would not have aroused any political enmity, because I was politically a tabula rasa. I was never a liberal; I have never considered myself a conservative; but in 1980, I went from being "an American" to being American.

It didn't extend to voting for Reagan, alas; my greatest political regret is that I decided he was the greatest president of the 20th century -- only after my last chance to vote for him in 1984. But I knew I despised Carter in a way I had not before (I had merely been apathetic about him). I did not vote for him either; I wrote in candidates in both elections.

I believe this change to be true of others: That victory introduced many cynical Americans to the audacity of hope, to swipe a book title from a far lesser man than either Ronald Reagan or Herb Brooks, the coach of the 1980 United States Olympic hockey team. Without it, would we have elected the "hope-filled man" as president? I don't think we would have. The "what's the use" drug would have suppressed our traditional American response to travail.

Why am I telling you this? It should be obvious: I desperately hope for a "miracle on ice" effect in Iraq because of yesterday's win in the Asian Cup, beating Saudi Arabia, of all countries. I don't anticipate a Kumbaya moment, where Shia, Sunni, Kurds, and Turkomen come together in a cluster-hug. But I expect, at the very least, an embrace with the final inadvertent gift of Pandora, after all the evils had escaped her box... Hope remained, and she kept it tight and safe.

I want Hope to begin to creep across Mesopotamia; not the wicked hope of empire or caliphate, not the vile hope of slaughtering those whose God is a different shade of doctrine from one's own, but the deep hope that Iraq can pass through this dark night of the soul to emerge reborn on the flip side. The hope that it can shake off the dead, skeletal hands of enmity, resentment, vengeance, and fourteen centuries of arrested moral development and burst forth, fully formed, from Bush' brow as a modern country in at least the periphery of the Functioning Core.

I believe in miracles -- the kind that human beings make for themselves, with perhaps a touch of the divine, God or Muse, behind them. Talking oneself into hope and courage is 90% of the trick; I hope the Iraqis will allow themselves to believe in a miracle on sand.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 30, 2007, at the time of 5:21 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

July 28, 2007

British Withdrawal From Basra: Is They Is, or Is They Ain't?

Buck Up, Old Chap , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

The British are beginning to withdraw from patrolling and policing Basra province, starting with the capital city of Basra; the question is whether the Shia there are or are not ready for self rule.

First of all, this clearly is more fallout from what the lads at Power Line call "the Browning of Britain," the replacement of Tony Blair by new Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Brown, like the rest of the Labour Party, has never been as gung-ho about the Iraq war as was Blair; so it was inevitable that with the passing of the Blair-era (the Blaira?), Britain would begin easing out of Iraq.

But that's not necessarily bad. After all, neither we nor the Brits ever intended 2003 to presage the colonization of Iraq -- no matter what the Democratic rabble thought (or hoped). What would be bad, however, is if it turns out the Brits are leaving too soon, based upon political rather than military calculation. And on that question, there is no consensus:

As American troop levels are peaking in Baghdad, British force levels are heading in the opposite direction as the troops prepare to withdraw completely from the city center of Basra, 300 miles to the south.

The British intend to pull back to an airport headquarters miles out of town, a symbolic move widely taken by Iraqis as the beginning of the end of the British military presence in southern Iraq....

Skepticism is widespread in Basra, as in Baghdad, about whether Iraqi forces are ready to take over. Both the British and Americans will have to assuage the fears of Iraqis that they are being abandoned to gunmen and religious extremists. And both are likely to face intensified attacks from propaganda-conscious enemies trying to claim credit for driving out the Westerners.

Basra is much more culturally monochrome than, say, Baghdad, where our counterinsurgency is centered; the former is almost entirely Shiite. This means there is little of either the specifically sectarian violence (Iraq Shia killing Iraq Sunni for supposed collaboration with al-Qaeda) or of al-Qaeda style mass-casualty bomb attacks. But they have their own problems, summed up by one British civilian official:

“Basra is a totally different environment from what the Americans are facing,” said a British official in Basra. “The problem here is gangsterism, not violent sectarianism. And a foreign military is not the right tool for closing down a mafia.”

Iraqis expressed the same view, saying that militia leaders in Basra typically act more like bandits and extortionists, lining their pockets rather than instituting a Taliban-style religious state. But an unchecked "mafia" can be just as deadly:

“Right now the militias are busy concentrating on getting the British Army out of Iraq,” he said. “After that is done they will turn on the people and try to control them in a very difficult way.” ["He" is "Riyadh, a 22-year-old Iraqi and Basra native who is an interpreter for the British."]

“They will kill people who don’t do what they want,” he added. “There will be no punishment by courts; they kill people on the streets.”

But he acknowledged that if British troops stayed they would be sucked into further deadly confrontations with militias using civilians as cover, leading to inevitable innocent casualties and more hostility.

“If they leave, the militias will eventually fall apart,” he said. “There will be no reason to join them because they will not be fighting the British Army.”

This is what the British hope, but cannot guarantee, will happen.

And that's what makes the withdrawal from Basra so interesting, anent the Iraqi security forces: "Is they is, or is they ain't" ready to take over?

This will be an excellent, if scary, test of the Iraqi National Police and the local police; I do not expect them to pass with the proverbial flying colors; but at least we'll learn whether they're headed in the right direction and what areas still need improvement. The question is, can the Iraqi police, likely infiltrated by Shiite militias, clean up the corruption caused by those same militias?

If so, that would be an incredibly hopeful sign. If they can make at least some progress, that would be encouraging; but if they gleefully join in the looting of the oil-rich province, then that would be a flashing neon warning sign that the Iraqis are not yet ready for prime time.

So keep watching the skies...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 28, 2007, at the time of 5:49 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

July 23, 2007

Democrats Snub Vets for Freedom: Look What You Made Me Do!

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Sachi

During Democrats' slumber party last week, thirty some young veterans gathered on the Hill. They were members of a group called Vets for Freedom, which comprises Afghanistan- and Iraq-war veterans. The vets' aim was to appeal to senators to support the war: They hoped to let them know that a majority of servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan want to finish the job and give Petraeus' strategy a chance to work.

Alas, Democratic leaders were so busy chanting "Bring the troops home" that they couldn't be bothered with actual vets, the very people about whom they so passionately claim to care. The MSM tried to ignore the Vets too; but it became impossible to completely freeze them out when the President of the United States spent a long hour talking with them. (Hat tip Power Line)

Thus it became necessary to crush VFF. When a pro-war group like them becomes visible, the anti-war crowd must pull out all the stops to discredit them. Besides, there was also the fine motive of retaliation driving the Left onward: When anti-war "veterans" groups, such as An Appeal to Redress, started demanding American defeat, they were ripped to shreds by milbloggers. So it's "only fair" that left wing bloggers take a club to the VFF like a fur hunter to a baby seal.

The anti-GOP-war crowd seems to be especialy ticked off by VFF's claim to non-partisanship. This criticism by the Center for Media Democracy, a leading anti-VFF group, is typical:

Who and what is behind the organization Vets for Freedom, a lobby group for staying the Administration's course in the war in Iraq? Contributors to our investigative website SourceWatch are wondering exactly that.... Its supposedly non-partisan patriotic agenda is looking rather suspect. Will it become to the 2006 Congressional elections what the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth were in 2004? A Republican front for waging ad hominem attacks, this time on politicians like John Murtha who are calling for an end to the US occupation?

In fact the CMD has dedicated an entire section of its webzine SourceWatch to discrediting the VFF, alleging they were a "front organization" for the Republican Party. But in the process of trying to prove rampant partisanship, the CMD accidentally makes the case instead that Democrats simply don't support our troops.

Let us take a little journey into the strange world of left-liberal conspiracy mongering...

(Please follow the "slither on" for the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey says.)

The SourceWatch article on VFF begins by referring to them as "a Republican front group managed by Republican-affiliated public relations, media, legal, and political consultants."

Let us first clarify what being a "Republican front group" means: It means that your primary goal is to advance a the GOP's political agenda. Merely receiving most of your support from Republicans is not proof of GOP partisanship; nor does it make you a front group if more Republicans happen to agree with your agenda than do Democrats. Political-party partisanship means that your agenda is the advancement of one party, rather than an independent goal, such as ending legal abortion or rolling back gun prohibition.

Why is this important? Because the CMD calls Vets for Freedom a front group; but the only evidence they produce is that more Republicans than Democrats are aligned with these soldiers and Marines... which the CMD wants you to believe is the same thing.

It's not. For one example, the National Rifle Association usually supports Republicans; but that's just because more Republicans than Democrats support gun rights. But they will support a pro-gun Democrat over anti-gun Republican... so they're not just a Republican front group.

VFF's sole agenda is the full-hearted completion of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; for that reason, they strongly support Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT, 75%-D, 17%-R), even though he is not a Republican. Bearing that definition in mind, let us examine some of the criticism the Center for Media Democracy hurls against VFF.

Claim: members of VFF are "neocon lobbyists"

The CMD's SourceWatch article on Vets for Freedom states that some members of VFF are "affiliated" with neocon Weekly Standard publisher Bill Kristol; by this, they mean that some VFF members sold pro-war articles to Kristol's Weekly Standard, rather than to Time, Vanity Fair, or the Nation:

Non-partisan, bi-partisan or neocon lobbyists?

VFF member Alex Gallo, a West Point graduate who served in 2004 as an infantry officer in Samarrah, Iraq, wrote a pro-war in Iraq article[6] that was published July 18, 2007, by the National Review Online owned by neoconservative Bill Kristol, "the No. 1 cheerleader for the Iraq war." [What the heck? Bill Kristol "owns" NRO? I've never heard that before; NRO is edited by Kathryn Jean "K-Lo" Lopez and supported by donations. Kristol doesn't even write for them, having his own competing conservative magazine.]

Gallo is currently a "masters in public-policy candidate" at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government[8], where he is "course assistant" for Kristol's "Can America be Governed?"[9] In 2006, Kristol assisted VFF-AF in its pro-war in Iraq campaign support of Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.)....

In 2006, former White House spokesman Taylor Gross's public relations firm the Herald Group helped VFF co-founder Wade Zirkle and "fellow Iraq veteran David Bellavia approach mainstream newspapers to offer dispatches from the two as war correspondents embedded with the military. The two eventually got press credentials through the neoconservative Weekly Standard, whose editor, Bill Kristol, became an informal adviser to the group and helped put it in touch with" Republican strategist Dan Senor, who was "on retainer to help with fundraising.

The truth: What do we learn from this? That Kristol -- who supports the war -- publishes writers who support the war. Shocking! It does not make VFF "lobbyists" (who are they supposed to have lobbied -- private citizen Dan Senor, private citizen Taylor Gross, or private citizen Bill Kristol?)

Typically, the word "lobbyist" means a paid advocate for somebody else's position; VFF members talked to congressmen on behalf of their own beliefs, not anybody else's. And of course, nobody paid them to do so. We already have a phrase for such nefarious activity, and it's not "lobbying": It's "petitioning Congress."

Claim: VFF is a "right-wing" organization

By similar reasoning, the CMD leaps upon the fact that right-wing bloggers, magazines, and one supposedly conservative newspaper (the Wall Street Journal), but no left wingers, reported VFF's call for a rally on the Hill on July 17th:

On July 13, 2007, Hegseth issued a second urgent call to action, which was reposted on a number of right-wing-leaning blogs, as well as by the conservative [promoted from "neoconservative?"] online publication The Weekly Standard, in which he asked "every Iraq and Afghanistan veteran who believes in supporting the mission -- and defeating America's enemies -- to converge on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, July 17. It's time the fighters in this war tell their representatives -- face to face -- that now is no time to betray the mission."

The truth: Anti-war left-wing bloggers and editors evidence no interest in promoting VFF's pro-war effort; surprise, surprise on the Jungle Cruise tonight. I'm certain that if Kos or Juan Cole or the New York Times had offered to help spread the word, VFF would not have refused.

Instead of rooting around for some hidden conspiracy behind the VFF swarm on Capitol Hill, the Center for Media Democracy should ask one simple question: Why did only one mainstream news organization -- the Wall Street Journal -- cover the events in Washington D.C.? If it's newsworthy when An Appeal for Redress talks to members of Congress on behalf of retreat, defeat, and surrender, why isn't it equally important when a pro-war group of veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan talk to Congress on behalf of victory?

What is the CMD proving? Only that when it comes to actually supporting our troops -- which includes supporting the mission that they believe is so urgent -- Democrats, RINOs, and other liberals are deserters under fire.

Claim: VFF was only interested in meeting Republican lawmakers

SourceWatch describes Vets for Freedom's meetings with various senators in the Capitol in a way that makes it sound as if VFF were only interested in meeting with Republicans -- with the Left's favorite whipping boy, Joe Lieberman, being the only exception:

Hegseth wrote in his July 16, 2007, update that VFF "will also have a group meeting with Senate leaders to discuss Iraq war policy. In addition, be on the lookout for our afternoon press conference, which will take place just off the Senate floor."

On July 16, 2007, VFF issued a press release stating that it would hold its press conference at 3:00pm on July 17, 2007, in the Mansfield Room (S-207) at The Capitol with "Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Republican Conference Chairman Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), other senators."

This was confirmed in part by a local South Carolina TV news report that stated Senator Lindsey Graham "will join Vets for Freedom and a bipartisian group of senators who support the new strategy in Iraq." It should be noted that the only non-Republican named is Sen. Lieberman.

The truth: So why weren't there any Democrats present at the press conference? SourceWatch leaves us with the impression that VFF only invited "Republicans."

But this is complete nonsense, and the authors of the SouceWatch article clearly know that. The CMD knows very well that VFF did not go to the Hill just to talk to Republicans; rather, their request to meet with Speaker of the House Nancy Perosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) and Majority leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) for five minutes each was summarily rejected. Neither would any other Democratic or even squishy Republican lawmaker agree to meet with them.

But wait... how do we know that SourceWatch was aware of this? Couldn't it have been an honest mistake? Hardly: SourceWatch itself confirms this fact, without evidently noticing that it completely undermines their narrative:

VFF's "mission", Aoife McCarthy reported in The Politico, was "to reassure the GOP lawmakers supporting President Bush's war strategy as they endure a pummeling at home in TV ads and automated telephone calls from anti-war groups. And maybe, the veterans hoped, they could change the minds of other lawmakers...

"The only senators who would meet with the pro-surge veterans were those who already shared their view. The real targets -- war opponents or wobbly supporters -- sent a first wave of senior aides to shield themselves from the pitch," McCarthy wrote.

Neither Democratic leaders nor RINOs have the least interested in what actual veterans of the very wars in question have to say. This is what makes VFF a "Republican front group managed by Republican-affiliated public relations, media, legal, and political consultants"... at least according to SourceWatch.

Claim: VFF has questionable funding sources

From the begining, the Center for Media Democracy has claimed that VFF's funding comes from questionable sources. As of June, 2006, CMD had found nothing more than the following (from the CMD link above):

  1. The VFF has a "rather fancy website."
  2. At one time, but no longer, the VFF's privacy notice on its website stated "We may from time to time share the information our visitors provide with other Republican candidates and other like-minded organizations."
  3. "The organization contests and condemns the views of Democratic Congressman John Murtha, the Democrat calling for the United States to pull troops from Iraq."
  4. "Virtually no information is available about the funders and organizations behind Vets for Freedom"

One year later, their investigation has not progressed much (from the SourceWatch link):

A disclaimer on the bottom of each VFF web page states "Vets for Freedom is a nonpartisan, tax-exempt organization. Contributions are not deductible for federal income tax purposes."

Originally, the organization's precise tax status (501c3, 501c4, 527 committee) was not stated and virtually no information was available on the Vets for Freedom website about the funders and organizations behind Vets for Freedom, making it difficult to evaluate the degree to which the organization might have been part of a war propaganda campaign interacting with the Bush Administration, the Pentagon, the American Legion and/or other ideologically-driven public relations and lobbying efforts that have exploited for political purposes the issues of US war veterans and their families, such as Move America Forward and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. [Not that SourceWatch, or their parent organization the Center for Media Democracy, would ever engage in propaganda by inuendo...!]

The truth: In other words, CMD has no information whatsoever indicating that VFF is funded by the Republican Party, or is a front for Richard Melon Scaife, or is even owned by that well-known proprietor of National Review Online, Bill Kristol.

But perhaps the very absence of evidence is sinister evidence of presence: After all, if VFF didn't have something to hide, why would they go to such extraordinary lengths to cover up all that evidence?

Ergo...

So what do we have here? CMD cannot prove that VFF is a "front group" of the GOP. They cannot demonstrate that VFF is partisan. They cannot even find anything funny about the funding.

CMD set out to discredit these war veterans, presumably on the grounds that nobody who had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan could possibly support those wars (they're all loser high-school dropouts stuk in Irak anyway). Instead, they proved the very point which we pro-war, right-leaning bloggers have been making for years: That Republicans care about the troops... and Democrats don't.

Bravo, CMD; kudos, SourceWatch... keep up the good work!

Hatched by Sachi on this day, July 23, 2007, at the time of 4:29 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

July 19, 2007

A Vietnam Reeducation

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Near as I can make it out from this video clip, here is what Sen. John Kerry (D-MA, 95%) said on C-Span today:

Let me just say to the first part of your question with respect to Boat People and killing... everybody predicted a massive bloodbath in Vietnam. There was not a massive bloodbath in Vietman. There were reeducation camps, and they weren’t [garbled]. Nobody likes that kind of outcome, but I’ve met a lot of people today who were in those education camps who are thriving in the Vietnam of today.

There you go, no bloodbath in Vietnam (no word about Cambodia, land of the Magic-Hat People), just education camps... sort of like combination job-training and day-care centers.

The clip ends rather abruptly, so perhaps Kerry went on to bring up Cambodia and how the killing fields there utterly undercut his own demand that we pull out from Iraq just as precipitously as we did from that Southeast Asian country that didn't have a bloodbath. Anything's possible... but I doubt it.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 19, 2007, at the time of 2:41 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

July 13, 2007

Warner, Lugar Draft Bill to Oust President, Declare Congress Commander in Chief

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters , Military Machinations , Unuseful Idiots
Hatched by Dafydd

[Correction added; see below.]

Republican Senators John Warner (VA, 64%) and Richard Lugar (IN, 64%) have introduced a bill into the Senate that would remove the president as Commander in Chief of the military, requiring him to report to Congress instead and implement battle plans at their direction:

Two prominent Senate Republicans have drafted legislation that would require President Bush to come up with a plan by mid-October to dramatically narrow the mission of U.S. troops in Iraq.

The legislation, which represents a sharp challenge to Bush, was put forward Friday by Sens. John Warner and Richard Lugar, and it came as the Pentagon acknowledged that a decreasing number of Iraqi army battalions are able to operate independently of U.S. troops [because they have been decimated in both men and materials by valiant combat with al-Qaeda and Shiite militias -- as explained deep in the story]....

The legislation would direct Bush to present the new strategy to Congress by Oct. 16 and suggests it be ready for implementation by Dec. 31. [Regardless of what Gen. David Petraeus reports in September, one presumes.]

The proposal also would seek to make Bush renew the authorization for war that Congress gave him in 2002. Many members contend that authorization - which led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 - was limited to approval of deposing dictator Saddam Hussein and searching for weapons of mass destruction.

Fortunately, Warner and Lugar explained in great detail why legislation requiring the president to draft a battle plan at the pleasure of Congress -- a plan that would mandate a return to the strategy of 2005-2006 (which was working so well) -- would actually lead to victory in Iraq:

"Given continuing high levels of violence in Iraq and few manifestations of political compromise among Iraq's factions, the optimal outcome in Iraq of a unified, pluralist, democratic government that is able to police itself, protect its borders, and achieve economic development is not likely to be achieved in the near future," the Warner-Lugar proposal said....

The Warner-Lugar proposal states that "American military and diplomatic strategy in Iraq must adjust to the reality that sectarian factionalism is not likely to abate anytime soon and probably cannot be controlled from the top."

Accordingly, Warner and Lugar say Bush must draft a plan for U.S. troops that would keep them from "policing the civil strife or sectarian violence in Iraq" and focus them instead on protecting Iraq's borders, targeting terrorists and defending U.S. assets.

In short, the "surge," not quite a month old, has failed miserably, so we must retreat, surrender, and declare defeat. Well a day! That's certainly compelling... who could argue with that?

But let no one accuse either gentleman of being an "armchair general." Sen. Warner served in the United States Navy during World War II for a solid year, rising to the rank of PO3. He joined the Marines later during the Korean War, then stuck it out for ten years in the reserves, eventually skyrocketing to the rank of captain. Sen. Lugar's career was even more illustrious: After graduating college, he served for three years in the peacetime Navy. Lugar was also an Eagle Scout. He has 34 honorary doctorate degrees.

[Corrected previous paragraph to add Warner's Marine Corps experience. - The Mgt.]

Legal experts, speaking on condition of anonymity because they have not been consulted, do not appear in the article, and in fact know absolutely nothing about the Warner-Lugar proposal, expressed skepticism that it was even constitutional for the United States Congress to order the President of the United States to craft and implement a specific battle plan.

But what do they know? To paraphrase Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%), Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%), and, well, nearly every other Democrat and RINO Republican... all three branches of government are coequal; but some are more coequal than others.

We shall watch Congress's future antics with great interest.

(One more point needs elucidation, giving me the opportunity to play "sea lawyer" again -- a chance I rarely pass up! But I'll save it for the "slither on.")

Standard disclaimer: I am not a lawyer; I never graduated law school; I never attended law school; I never applied to law school; I know absolutely nothing about the law, probably less than the butcher at the Armenian meat market down the street opposite Ralphs Fresh Fare. But I enjoy playing lawyer on this blog. Try and stop me!

The AP article also contains this:

The proposal also would seek to make Bush renew the authorization for war that Congress gave him in 2002. Many members contend that authorization - which led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 - was limited to approval of deposing dictator Saddam Hussein and searching for weapons of mass destruction.

Curiously, however, the actual operational language in the Authorization for the Use of Military Force in Iraq Resolution of 2002 mentions neither Saddam Hussein nor weapons of mass destruction. It says:

SEC. 3. AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES.

(a) Authorization.--The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to --

(1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and

(2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.

A dizzying array of "whereases" lurk at the beginning, some of which do discuss WMDs; but there are also numerous whereases that talk about the danger of terrorists from al-Qaeda and other groups operating in Iraq; for example:

Whereas members of al Qaida, an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United States, its citizens, and interests, including the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, are known to be in Iraq;

Whereas Iraq continues to aid and harbor other international terrorist organizations, including organizations that threaten the lives and safety of United States citizens;

Whereas the attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001, underscored the gravity of the threat posed by the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by international terrorist organizations;

This seems, at least prima facie, to justify continued combat in Iraq even after Saddam Hussein is deposed in order to prevent al-Qaeda and "other international terrorist organizations" from remaining in Iraq. And then there is also this:

Whereas in December 1991, Congress expressed its sense that it "supports the use of all necessary means to achieve the goals of United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 as being consistent with the Authorization of Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution (Public Law 102-1),'' that Iraq's repression of its civilian population violates United Nations Security Council Resolution 688 and "constitutes a continuing threat to the peace, security, and stability of the Persian Gulf region,'' and that Congress, "supports the use of all necessary means to achieve the goals of United Nations Security Council Resolution 688'';

UNSC Resolution 688 "condemns the repression of the Iraqi civilian population" and "demands that Iraq... immediately end this repression" and "ensure that the human and political rights of all Iraqi citizens are respected"-- which seems a pretty open-ended call to create a democratic state in Iraq and not allow any group -- including the majority Shia -- to impose theocratic, dictatorial rule.

While I don't want to get too far out on a limb or express an opinion before the many lawyers (and sea lawyers!) in Congress have spoken, it sure seems as if the 2002 AUMF authorizes rather more than simply removing Saddam Hussein and bringing in international inspectors to look for WMD.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 13, 2007, at the time of 3:03 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

July 12, 2007

Iraq Preliminary Benchmark Assessment: Pretty Good, Could Be Better

Good News! , Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

Elite media reporting: not so good, vast room for improvement.

The White House has released its first, preliminary assessment of Iraq's progress during the counterinsurgency, Operation Phantom Thunder; and considering how short a time the operations have been fully manned and actually under way (only since June 15th), Iraq has already made quite remarkable progress. (The report can also be downloaded in HTML, rather than pdf.)

Nevertheless, there are areas -- mostly political -- that are lagging. This is exactly what we would expect: The purpose of the new strategy is to give Baghdad "breathing room" to enact the necessary legislation: oil and natural gas revenue sharing; initiating local elections; un-de-Baathification (letting former Baathists who do not have blood on their hands back into government and society); removing police units from sectarian, even militia control; and stopping political interference with military operations. Obviously, political gains will all come towards the end, after security has been reestablished. That's the whole point of the security operation.

By Big Lizards' independent count, seven of the 18 benchmarks are making satisfactory progress, five are not, and the last six are indeterminate for one of several reasons. Let's start with the good news...

Satisfactory

Overall, of the 18 benchmarks established by Congress, Iraq has made clear, unambiguous, satisfactory progress on seven (39%):

  • (i) Forming a Constitutional Review Committee and then completing the constitutional review;
  • (iv) Enacting and implementing legislation on procedures to form semi-autonomous regions;
  • (viii) Establishing supporting political, media, economic, and services committees in support of the Baghdad Security Plan;
  • (ix) Providing three trained and ready Iraqi brigades to support Baghdad operations;
  • (xii) Ensuring that, as Prime Minister Maliki was quoted by President Bush as saying, “the Baghdad Security Plan will not provide a safe haven for any outlaws, regardless of [their] sectarian or political affiliation;”
  • (xiv) Establishing all of the planned joint security stations in neighborhoods across Baghdad;
  • (xvi) Ensuring that the rights of minority political parties in the Iraqi legislature are protected.

Unsatisfactory

They have made clearly unsatisfactory progress on five benchmarks (28%):

  • (ii) Enacting and implementing legislation on de-Ba’athification reform;
  • (iii) Enacting and implementing legislation to ensure the equitable distribution of hydrocarbon resources to the people of Iraq without regard to the sect or ethnicity of recipients, and enacting and implementing legislation to ensure that the energy resources of Iraq benefit Sunni Arabs, Shi’a Arabs, Kurds, and other Iraqi citizens in an equitable manner;
  • (x) Providing Iraqi commanders with all authorities to execute this plan and to make tactical and operational decisions in consultation with U.S. Commanders without political intervention to include the authority to pursue all extremists including Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias;
  • (xv) Increasing the number of Iraqi security forces units capable of operating independently;
  • (xviii) Ensuring that Iraq’s political authorities are not undermining or making false accusations against members of the ISF.

Mixed or inappropriate measures

The remaining six benchmarks (33%) either show mixed results, or else facts on the ground indicate that they are not appropriate metrics at this time:

  • (v) Enacting and implementing legislation establishing an Independent High Electoral Commission, provincial elections law, provincial council authorities, and a date for provincial elections.

This is a multi-part benchmark; the first part -- establishing the electoral commission -- is proceeding satisfactorally, but establishing the law for local elections has not yet happened. Thus, parts 3 and 4 cannot yet be implemented, as they await the law.

  • (vi) Enacting and implementing legislation addressing amnesty [of those who fought against the Coalition or against the new Iraqi government].

The White House and Pentagon believe that the conditions on the ground are not yet ripe for a general amnesty; it's more important to continue to turn more and more Sunnis against al-Qaeda and Shia against the miltias. Once the fighting is over, then it may be time to talk about a general amnesty; but not while the war still rages.

  • (vii) Enacting and implementing legislation establishing a strong militia disarmament program to ensure that such security forces are accountable only to the central government and loyal to the constitution of Iraq.

Again, the Pentagon, the State Department, and even the U.N. do not believe this is the right time to enage in DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration):

Assessment: The prerequisites for a successful militia disarmament program are not present. In fact, international experts, including the U.N., have expressed reservations to advancing this proposal at the present time. The U.N. DDR Advisory Mission to Baghdad Report (April 25 - May 2, 2007) stated, “The Iraq environment makes it most unlikely that traditional DDR can take place, and planning should take this into account.” Likewise, a State Department internal review has shown that the timing is not right for a full-scale DDR program in Iraq. Given the absence of the necessary conditions for DDR, the absence of legislation on militia disarmament has had no effect. The current plan and strategy calls for the passage of such legislation when the necessary conditions are present.

It is silly to count as "unsatisfactory" a benchmark that was premature to begin with; such an assessment does not adequately convey what is actually happening.

  • (xi) Ensuring that Iraqi Security Forces are providing even-handed enforcement of the law.

In this case, much progress has been made; but because we have set such a high standard, they had to say "unsatisfactory."

However, simply saying progress has not been satisfactory gives entirely the wrong impression. As the report says:

Assessment: The Government of Iraq has not at this time made satisfactory progress in ensuring that Iraqi Security Forces are providing even-handed enforcement of the law; however, there has been significant progress in achieving increased even-handedness through the use of coalition partnering and embedded-transition teams with Iraqi Security Force units. The presence of Coalition Forces in JSSs and Combat Outposts (COPs) has had a positive effect on ensuring a more even-handed approach, and Iraqi officials continue to communicate the importance that all terrorist organizations be targeted, regardless of their affiliation or ethnic background. ISF performance has generally been adequate, particularly when partnered with Coalition Forces.

This is another mixed benchmark: They're making progress, but the standard for measuring the benchmark was set much too optimistically. Simply saying they're not making satisfactory progress masks the extraordinary progress they have made, especially considering the starting point last year.

  • (xiii) Reducing the level of sectarian violence in Iraq and eliminating militia control of local security.

Another two parter: The level of sectarian violence in Iraq is down substantially; but there are still too many local security units infiltrated by Shiite or Sunni militias.

  • (xvii) Allocating and spending $10 billion in Iraqi revenues for reconstruction projects, including delivery of essential services, on an equitable basis.

This benchmark has subtlely mixed results: Iraq has made satisfactory progress in allocating the $10 billion; but infrastructure is not yet present for them to spend it.

Elite media disinformation campaign

The final score is thus 39% positive, 28% negative, and 33% mixed or inappropriate measures. This is actually a remarkably good score, considering conditions in 2006.

But that's not what the drive-by media wanted to see. It's not even what their double-secret sources told them: They predicted that the assessment would be "gloomy," would show a lack of progress, and would be more fodder for the Democrats' psalm of surrender.

Thus, they reacted as one would expect from people whose overriding interest is saving the world -- meaning "saving the world from George Bush and the Republicans" -- not reporting facts: They simply ignored the differences between their expectation and the reality... and reported the expectation.

Thus, virtually every news source, from AP to the New York Times to the Washington Post to the Los Angeles Times, and even the Fox News report, falsely claims that there were eight satisfactory benchmarks, eight unsatisfactory ones, and only two mixed -- instead of the seven sats, five unsats, and six mixed one gets from a realistic assessment of the assessment.

I suspect many media sources simply played follow-the-leader without doing their own independent count (as we do above); but the ringleaders knew exactly what they were doing... they were lying.

What is the point of this falsehood? Simple: If the score is 39% to 28%, then clearly the report is overall positive. But if instead it's 44% to 44%, then it's at best disappointing, and perhaps overall negative, if the media decide (as most do) that a tie goes to the cut-and-runner.

As usual, the LA Times is the most aggressive, heading their story "Iraq's failure on benchmarks is fodder for Democrats." The others have more neutral headlines, through they emphasize the negative in the story itself. For example, here is the lede from the WaPo piece:

Iraqi progress on political and military goals sought by Congress has been mixed during the past several months, with slow advances toward some of the targets and paralysis or even reverses in other areas, the White House said today in a much-anticipated assessment.

What, nothing is actually going well? Did we read the same report? (Answer: No; Big Lizards read the report... the Post reread their stories from yesterday, before the report was released.)

AP summarizes (or caricatures) the report thus:

The report said that despite progress on some fronts by the government of Nouri al-Maliki, "the security situation in Iraq remains complex and extremely challenging," the "economic picture is uneven" and political reconciliation is lagging.

Considering this is a preliminary report compiled less than a month after Operation Phantom Thunder began, it's hardly surprising that security would still be "complex and extremely challenging." (All three vague charges could also apply to Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and even Israel!)

Even the New York Times, which makes a faint effort to be even-handed, betrays its bias. They allow a number of hard-core Democratic leftists to negatively characterize the preliminary assessment -- Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%), Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL, 90%), Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100%), and Sen. John Kerry (D-Harvard, 95%) -- but did not ask the opinion of even a single Republican on Capitol Hill.

They also trot out a shopworn Democratic talking point:

Asked why he was resistant to the idea of a change of course in Iraq, which has found wide support among Americans in recent polls, Mr. Bush said he was not surprised that there was deep concern. “I believe we can succeed,” he said, “and I believe we are making security progress that will enable the political track to succeed as well.”

Mr. Bush has said repeatedly that he is willing to be flexible on Iraq strategy and tactics, but that he will be guided by his military commanders, not by opinion surveys.

But what they fail to quote is the long section after the first part of Bush's answer in which he argues that he did change course, disputing the fundamental premise of the Democratic position (and their elite-media water carriers):

I went to the country and said, I have made this decision. I said, What was happening on the ground is unsatisfactory in Iraq.

In consultation with a lot of folks, I came to the conclusion that we needed to send more troops into Iraq, not less, in order to provide stability, in order to be able to enhance the security of the people there.

And David asked for a certain number of troops. David Petraeus asked for a certain number. General Petraeus asked for a certain number of troops. And he just got them a couple of weeks ago....

Since the reinforcements arrived, things have changed.

For example, I would remind you that Anbar province was considered lost. Maybe some of you reported that last fall.

And yet today, because of what we call bottom-up reconciliation, Anbar province has changed dramatically.

The same thing is now beginning to happen in Diyala province.

There are neighborhoods in Baghdad where violence is down. There are still car bombs, most of which have the Al Qaida signature on them.

But they're declining, you know. So there's some measurable progress.

So the Times is still up to its old tricks; but even they were forced to admit much progress, according to the report that yesterday they predicted would report virtually no progress at all.

Their wannabe namesake, the LA Times, has the most absurd take: They imagine that the very idea of measuring benchmarks was a "costly blunder", leading to fury among unnamed administration or military "officials":

The Bush administration's decision to set benchmarks for measuring the progress of the Iraq mission is now seen by some U.S. officials as a costly blunder that has only aided the White House's critics in Congress and its foes in Iraq.

When they began publicizing the benchmarks a year ago, administration officials saw them as realistic goals that would prod the Iraqi government toward reconciliation, while helping sustain political support for the effort at home. The yardsticks include steps vital to Iraq's stability: passage of a law to divide oil revenue among the key communities, reforms to allow more members of Saddam Hussein's party back into the government, and elections to divide power in the provinces.

Yet now, with the major goals still out of reach, the administration is playing down their importance. Administration officials instead are emphasizing other goals -- some of which are less ambitious but have been attained....

In private, many officials were more scathing in their critique, saying that defining the goals in such a way galvanized resistance in Iraq and gave war critics a way to argue that the U.S. mission was falling short.

"You better believe it was a mistake," said a Pentagon official who spoke on condition of anonymity when criticizing administration policy. "In any armed conflict, trying to predict the future is folly. You are setting up some degree of failure."

So all in all, if I had to give Iraq a letter grade on the benchmarks established by the administration, I would have to allocate a B-. It would be a C+, except that three of the six "mixed or inappropriate" benchmarks shouldn't be counted at all. Thus, the proper percent is 7 satisfactory assessments out of 15 valid benchmarks, or 47% positive, compared to 5 out of 15 (33%) negative, which is signficantly more positive than negative.

But grading the elite media's coverage, I have to give them a D+... they didn't so much report on what was actually in the interim report, as repeat and justify what they expected and predicted would be there; they warped their coverage to justify what they wrote earlier, rather than just reporting straight.

So a B- for Iraq and a D+ for the media; looks like both have shown improvement!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 12, 2007, at the time of 5:45 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 11, 2007

"Victory Is Silence"

Afghan Astonishments , Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters , Media Madness , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

Driving home from my épée lesson today, I was listening to the second hour of Hugh Hewitt's show. He was only taking callers who were current active-duty military who had either been in Afghanistan or Iraq; but he made one exception. That exception was such an exceptional call, I simply must share (before Dean Barnett does, I hope!)

The caller's name was Bruce, and he was a civilian. His son is active duty in Iraq right this minute, and Hugh let him on to speak on behalf of the son. What follows is not verbatim quotation; I don't have a transcript, of course, because it was just broadcast less than an hour ago. But the substance is pretty accurate, as any subsequent transcript will prove.

"Your son is currently in Iraq, right?" asks Hugh; "how's he doing?"

"He's going out of his mind with boredom... because he's stationed in Ramadi, and he hasn't heard a shot fired in combat for the last six weeks."

Bruce went on to explain that Ramadi is so peaceful, the residents and Coalition members are rebuilding all the damage caused by years of al-Qaeda infestation. Then he returned to the lack of gunfire in what used to be al-Qaeda central... and Bruce said the following:

"This is what I want to tell all those people in Washington. This is what Victory is; Victory is silence."

He said he had just heard CNN journalist Michael Ware on some news show say that Ramadi was the home base of al-Qaeda in Iraq. Bruce wished Ware would just go there and see for himself what it was really like. But that's unlikely, even though Ware is based in Baghdad. And it wouldn't have much effect on the debate in D.C. anyway: There are none so deaf as those who will not hear.

The Democrats (and some renegade Republicans) hear nothing; nothing penetrates, nothing rattles round their skulls like dried-out knucklebones. But in Ramadi, there is Nothing to hear; and that is exactly what we're looking for: Not a signing ceremony on the deck of the USS Missouri, but just simple peace, quiet, and Nothing.

Victory is silence.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 11, 2007, at the time of 5:38 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

July 9, 2007

Funny Looking Cousin of 'Lay Low, Sweet Sadrite'

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Sachi

Bill Roggio reports: Muqtada Sadr has left the building. In fact, he has emigrated from Iraq (again) for Iran (again).

Muqtada al Sadr, the leader of the Shia Mahdi Army and the Sadrist bloc in parliament, has left Iraq and is in Iran, military sources told Reuters. An anonymous U.S. military intelligence official and a military officer stationed in Iraq told The Fourth Rail the Reuter's report is accurate, but would not say when they believe Sadr left Iraq. Sadr's flight from Iraq and return to Iran comes as Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki issued an unusually strong statement calling for Sadr's Mahdi Army to disarm, and Iraqi security forces continue to battle his Mahdi Army in southern Iraq.

When I heard about him returning to Iraq last May, I knew he would never wield the same influence he used to over the Mahdi Militia: These thugs have no discipline; without the pack leader's constant presence, he cannot keep the dogs in line.

Rumor had it that, despite the plummeting attendance at Sadr's last two "demonstrations," he was organizing yet another. According to Roggio, it didn't quite materialize:

Sadr held two rallies, both of which had poor showings, and had to cancel a July 5 march to Samarra to protest the attack on the Shia holy site of the al Askaria mosque. Sadr's spokesman claimed the Iraqi government wouldn't provide security, but based on the past poor showing of his demonstrations, there are questions that Sadr may have harmed his image with another poor showing.

Remember what happened last protest? I summarized the noisome nabob's predicament thus:

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 realized his boneheaded mistake, so came back to reclaim his power; but per Roggio, it was too little, too late, too bad:

Since his return, Sadr has attempted to position himself as a moderate, nationalist leader, but with little success. He has flirted with the Anbar Awakening movement, and negotiated with Sunni political parties. His Sadrist bloc withdrew from Prime Minister Maliki's government, and abandoned its six cabinet level positions. The Sadrist bloc's 30 members have also boycotted parliament.

Let's run through the episodes so far in the Sadr serial:

  • At Muqtada's order, the Sadrites pull out of the government; the government didn't fall;
  • Sadr tries to make himself middleman between the Anbar Salvation Council and the Maliki government; everyone just stares at him, as at a ring-tailed piglet trotting on stage at the ballet, squealing for attention;
  • Participation at his rallies, demonstrations, protests, disturbances, annoyances, irritations, rashes, and general smirks shrinks from 400,000 to 55,000 to 15,000, to, well, zero;
  • He flees to Iran, then returns, only to find his lieutenants squabbling over his earthly remains as if he were already dead. So he toddles back off to Iran. Smooth move, ExLax.

What does all this remind me of? Oh yes, an old English nursery rhyme:

The King of France went up the hill
With twenty thousand men;
The King of France came down the hill,
And ne’er went up again.

Like the grand Dixie Chicks concert and revival-tent tour, the venue was just a wee sma' bit too big; and Muqtada Sadr -- the Prince of mince -- had to cancel his appearance. Well, Mr. S., I could have told you so. In fact, I did!

Groups like the Mahdi Militia or the Badr Brigades Organization have no natural hegemony; they rule by violence and intimidation. Like the Mafia, once gone, they're forgotten...

[W]hile the death squads are hiding out and laying low, the Iraqi Army and National Police -- and the local police, who are probably even more accepted in these neighborhoods -- will move in and establish themselves as the hegemonic authority. The longer they stay unopposed by the extremists, the more Iraqis come to perceive the elected government as having "fitness to rule," which is the actual definition of hegemony.

I believe this serial has come to its end. There was no climax; it just faded away. In a few months, everyone will be asking "Muqtada Who?" This time, perhaps Sadr will finally read the handwriting on the Babylonian wall and just stay in Iran. At least until they get tired of his odious presence and kick him out as well.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, July 9, 2007, at the time of 11:41 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 8, 2007

High Noonan

Iraq Matters , Media Madness , Opinions: Nasty, Brutish, and Shortsighted , That Was Then, This Is Now , Unuseful Idiots , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

In a comment on a previous post, commenter Terrye said the following:

I know I am an Independent and I voted a straight Republican ticket in 06 while real true blue Republican conservatives like Noonan were telling people to stay home and let the Democrats win.

This started me thinking. This post began as a comment; but like Topsy, it "just grew," and I decided to promote it to the rank of blogpost. So here goes...

First, a whiff of heresy to start the day: Peggy Noonan is not a "true blue Republican conservative;" she is instead a "Reagan conservative," and thereby hangs a tale...

I cannot tell what her political position was BR (before Reagan), but I wouldn't be surprised if she grew up much more liberal than she became later. Regardless, she glommed onto Reagan during his 1980 campaign (or perhaps a little earlier) and hasn't let go since.

Now, many Republicans will argue that conservatism is entirely defined by WWRD ("what would Reagan do?") The problem is that Ronald Reagan -- who was himself eclectic -- chose to define his presidency on only two big (urgent) ideas:

  • Economic policy reform: lower taxes and lower interest rates, though he never carried through to privatizing "entitlement" programs such as Social Security and MediCare, and he never quite understood the importance of small business -- especially independent (non government-subsidized) technological innovation;
  • Confronting Communism around the globe.

Strangely, his eagerness to engage in "foreign adventures" to hit Communism never seemed to spill over into a general theory of active military and diplomatic engagement on behalf of other urgent foreign-policy goals. For example, after Libya committed the Berlin disco bombing, Reagan decided a response was necessary; but his response was limited to a single bombing raid. He made no attempt to get at the root cause -- in Libya, Arabic nationalism rather than extreme Islam -- and resolve it.

Qaddafi pulled in his horns, but not for long; and his subsequent attacks on America (such as the Lockerbie bombing) were more subtle than the Berlin attack had been. He also waited until Reagan was nearly out of office: Because Reagan had set in place no anti-pan-Arabist policy that would survive his own presidency -- he thought Libya a nuisance, not a new anti-American front -- Qaddafi simply outwaited him.

Reagan treated pan-Arabism, and the pan-Islamism of Iran, as annoying distractions to the "real" problem of stopping Communism, rather than as separate, distinct, and very serious threats to America in their own ways. Destroying the Soviet Union was vital, and Reagan was both prophet and general (like Mohammed!) on that front. But he was AWOL on the Arab/Moslem threat.

Today, there is a strong strain of conservatism that loyally plays follow the leader down that same blind trail; they typically oppose the Iraq war as the very sort of "foreign alliances, attachments, and intrigues" that George Washington warned against in his farewell address.

That was good policy... in the 18th century. But that was then, this is now: 2007 is not 1796, and the world is far too interconnected and integrated today to retreat behind the walls of "Fortress America" and let the rest of the world rot. (See the Pentagon's New Map, by Thomas P.M. Barnett, for further information.)

Such Reagan conservatives were willing to go along with the first stage of the Iraq war, invasion followed by the swift collapse of Hussein and the Baathists; but when the war evolved to the counterinsurgency, reconstruction, and diplomacy of today, they lost interest.

For some reason I cannot ken, many "Reagan conservatives" are allergic to an activist foreign policy -- except insofar as it applies to Russia, Red China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, and now Venezuela (anyone detect a pattern here?) In particular, they deride any response anywhere that goes beyond "killing people and breaking things," as if America were a blundering ogre whose only weapon is a massive tree trunk in one hand.

Thus, many -- most definitely including Noonan -- hated the post-war attrition strategy, and now they hate the counterinsurgency strategy... or even the fact that we have a post-war strategy at all. Their preferred plan would have been to smash Iraq flat, bounce the rubble, and then toddle off with a quiet glow of satisfaction at a job well done. Putting the rubble back together again makes the job seem overdone, in their minds, like trying to put the firecracker back together after exploding it.

They deride swamp-draining as "nation-building," which appears to be a term of opprobrium: Either they believe building something is inherently inferior to tearing it down, or they believe our enemies do not deserve (e.g.) the Marshall Plan or the rebuilding of Japan, or else they judge America to be utterly incompetent at doing so... which is a harsh and ahistorical judgment to make, considering our mixed but not at all catastrophic record of achievement at reconstructing the conquered in our own image.

Curiously, this reticence does not carry over to the remnants of the former Soviet Union; we are expected to make them capitalist democratic republics. I believe this to be an example of taking a prophet's action (or inaction), which may have been driven entirely by personal, secular, human considerations, and imbuing it with almost religious significance: We visit the house where George Washington once slept the night; we avoid broccoli because the prophet always hated it.

Reagan never took seriously any foreign policy threat beyond world Communism... so who are we mortals to run where the great man feared to tread? Remember, Khomeini took over Iraq the year before Reagan was elected; yet in Reagan's entire eight years in office, he never did a thing about the rise of the regional superpower and its terrorist arm Hezbollah -- not even when they attacked us and killed 241 Marines and 58 French paratroopers in Beirut in 1983.

For many Reagan conservatives, Reagan himself becomes not merely the greatest president of the twentieth century, which most of us would agree he was, but a Mohammed-like figure who both defines and limits modern American conservatism: Just as many extreme Moslems will not do anything unless the prophet did it first, it seems that a typical Reagan conservative like Peggy Noonan is suspicious of any action that goes beyond what Reagan did -- and what she imagines he would do today, were he only still alive.

Thus, at core, Peggy Noonan is angry at George W. Bush for not allowing the Salafist and Shiite fever swamp to fester, as "the prophet" did: To move beyond the divine master is to become apostate.

Because Bush has actively tried to dismantle the irhabi hirabah infrastructure by a combination of war, diplomacy, and reconstruction or "nation building," which the entire region desperately needs, Noonan feels he has abandoned Reaganism and become just like George H.W. Bush, the first man to jilt her at the ideological altar. (Unlike Jeanne Kirkpatrick -- whom Noonan wishes she were -- Noonan is more of a "feeler" than a "thinker.")

Bush-41 personally betrayed her: She wrote his "read my lips, no new taxes" speech. I think Noonan, like many Reagan conservatives, was always chary of Bush jr., breathlessly waiting for him to "betray the legacy," just as his father did. Thus, at the first sign of deviancy -- whether it's nation-building, immigration reform, or a more robust integration with the outside world, working with other countries rather than dictating to them (as Reagan conservatives falsely remember Reagan doing) -- Noonan, et al, instantly cried "havoc" and let slip the dogs of Reagan orthodoxy.

I have never had much respect for Noonan as a thinker; now I despise her as a spineless defeatist. I fully expect her eventually to find a home in Pat Buchanan/Bill O'Reilly socially conservative populism (as Buckley appears to be doing), thus completing the dawn-to-dusk cycle from naif to Reagan acolyte (Noonan's high) to aging Mother Superior of the First Church of Fundamentalist Reaganism.

She will end her days as an embittered Maureen Dowd of the Right, endlessly railing against the modern and clinging to her narrowing tunnel-vision of Reaganism as if it were poor King Charles' head.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 8, 2007, at the time of 3:25 PM | Comments (47) | TrackBack

July 6, 2007

News Flash: Another RINO Has It Both Ways!

Iraq Matters , Media Madness , So What Else Is New?
Hatched by Dafydd

So yet another Republican who is much more liberal than the mainstream of the GOP conference, Pete Domenici (R-NM, 75%), has broken ranks with the president and come out against the Iraq war... though he cautions he won't vote to end it, either.

Domenici joins such Republican conservative stalwarts as Dick Lugar (IN, 64%), George Voinovich (OH, 56%), Olympia Snowe (ME, 36%), Susan Collins (ME, 48%), Arlen Specter (PA, 43%), Chuck Hagel (NE, 75%), Norm Coleman (MN, 68%), and John Warner (VA, 64%). Remember, the percentages above represent how many times the senator voted with the American Conservative Union.

To the elite media, a senator like Pete Domenici represents a "GOP stalwart":

In another setback to President Bush's increasingly unpopular war strategy, GOP stalwart Sen. Pete Domenici said he wants to see an end to combat operations and U.S. troops heading home from Iraq by spring.

The longtime New Mexico senator is the latest of several party loyalists and former war supporters to abandon Bush on Iraq in the past 10 days. They have urged a change sooner rather than later and further isolated the GOP president in his attempt to defend the unpopular war.

Here is the deep reasoning behind Domenici's content-free announcement:

"I do not support an immediate withdrawal from Iraq or a reduction in funding for our troops," Domenici said. "But I do support a new strategy that will move our troops out of combat operations and on the path to coming home...." [Something like, say, a counterinsurgency strategy?]

"I have carefully studied the Iraq situation and believe we cannot continue asking our troops to sacrifice indefinitely while the Iraqi government is not making measurable progress to move its country forward," he said.... ["Measurable progress" would be, say, enacting an oil-revenue sharing bill? Alas that they're making no progress on that front...]

The senator said the situation in Iraq is getting worse. [Yes, the news clearly indicates the "surge" (I'll bet Domenici calls it that) has failed.] He said he now supports a bipartisan bill that embraces the findings of the independent Iraq Study Group. [Which, queerly enough, include initiating a "surge" (the ISG's term) to secure Baghdad and other vital areas (p. 50 of the pdf). Go figure!]

Hard as it is to fathom, Sen. Domenici doesn't appear to have read Big Lizards at all.

This is what passes for "carefully stud[ying] the Iraq situation" in RINOland: a misinterpretation of a misreading mistakenly missing the mission, followed by an indecisive and ineffective independence from individual initiative in the year 2007 Anno Domenici.

"I don't have a clue what's going on, but I know what I must do about it: nothing! And I'll do it good and hard, too."

Wake me when Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY, 84%) or one of the "Big Four" Republican presidential candidates calls for retreat and withdrawal to nearby Okinawa. Or heck, even when Pete Domenici does.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 6, 2007, at the time of 3:02 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

July 2, 2007

Media Breakthrough: Finally Admits We're In Proxy War With Iran

Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , Media Madness , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

I believe we're starting to see the first cracks in the media dike.

This New York Times story about the announcement by Multinational Force - Iraq today, directly tying Iran to the January attack on American troops in Karbala, is remarkable... Not for the accusation itself, which every reader of this blog or any other in the dextrosphere already knows about; but for the simple, straightforward way it is reported -- without evasion, defeat-mongering, or snideness:

In effect, American officials are charging that Iran has been engaged in a proxy war against American forces for years, though officials today sought to confine their comments to the specific incidents covered in their briefing.

When the Karbala attack was carried out on January 20 this year, American and Iraqi officials said that it appeared to be meticulously planned. The attackers carried forged identity cards and wore American-style uniforms.

One American died at the start of the raid, but the rest of the American soldiers were abducted before they were killed.

Some officials speculated at the time that the aim of the raid might have been to capture a group of American soldiers who could have been exchanged for Iranian officials that American forces detained in Iraq on suspicion of supporting Shiite militants there.

But while Americans officials wondered about an indirect Iranian role in the Karbala raid, until today they stopped short of making a case that the Quds Force may have been directly involved in planning the attack.

Even the headline is non-evasive: "U.S. Ties Iran to Deadly Iraq Attack."

The story is not written with the certainty that the elite media reserves for discussions of the guilt of Republicans charged but not yet convicted of crimes; but it's still a couple of parsecs away from the usual reportage, where this story would be titled "Iranians Refute 'Wild Accusations' of Complicity in Attack." A month ago, this story would have begun and ended with a large number of quotations from unnamed "Middle-East experts," who would mock the American claims as the pathetic flopping of a landed fish; and would abruptly shift on paragraph four to a lengthy recitation of every American soldier or Iraqi civilian who had died, been wounded, been frightened, or had a sprained nose in the previous 24 hours... what I call the Generic Litany of Defeat.

Rather, the Times reports neutrally, giving the evidence a fair shake; they devote a couple of paragraphs to the pro-forma Iranian denial, but again report it with verbal neutrality... and the paper even interrupts the Iranian pish-toshing to lob another accusation:

Previously, Iranian officials have said that the United States is fabricating evidence to back up its accusation that Iran is sending bombs and weapons into Iraq. Some critics have cast doubt on the American military statements about the penetrator bombs, saying the evidence linking them to Iran was circumstantial and inferential.

In remarks that were reported over the weekend, Iran’s defense minister, Mohammad Najar, denied American claims of Iran’s “military interference” in Iraq. “We have many times announced that we are ready to cooperate with the Iraqi government so to restore security and stability to that country,” Mr. Najar was quoted as saying in a July 1 report by the Iranian student news agency, ISNA. It did not make clear which remarks he was responding to. Today’s assertions by the American military spokesman, which were presented at a news briefing here, marked the first time that the United States has charged that Iranian officials have helped plan operations against American troops in Iraq and have had advance knowledge of specific attacks that have led to the death of American soldiers.

I believe we're near a tipping point, though I'm not sure which side of we're on yet. Here is the other coverage of this American charge against Iran that I've found...

Assocated Press:

U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner said the Quds Force, part of Iran's elite Republican Guards, was seeking to build an Iraqi version of Hezbollah to fight U.S. and Iraqi forces - and had brought in Hezbollah operatives to help train and organize militants.

U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner said the Quds Force, part of Iran's elite Republican Guards, was seeking to build an Iraqi version of Hezbollah to fight U.S. and Iraqi forces - and had brought in Hezbollah operatives to help train and organize militants.

"Our intelligence reveals that the senior leadership in Iran is aware of this activity," Bergner told a Baghdad news conference. He said it would be "hard to imagine" that Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei did not know about the activity.

The AP story still includes the Litany; but this time, readers must read all the way to the end to find it. And when they do, they also discover this buried nugget:

An American soldier was killed Monday by an explosion in Salahuddin province, a center for Sunni insurgents northwest of Baghdad. The U.S. military also reported the deaths of five U.S. service members killed in fighting a day earlier, in attacks in Baghdad and western Anbar province.

But violence appeared sharply down in Baghdad and other parts of the country, amid an intensified U.S. security sweep aimed at uprooting Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias in the capital and areas to the northeast and south.

Reuters:

Bergner said the Qods Force was involved in a brazen attack in the city of Kerbala in January when gunmen disguised as Americans made their way into a government compound and killed one U.S. soldier and seized four others whom they later killed.

Washington has long accused the Qods Force of arming and training Shi'ite militants who attack U.S. and Iraqi soldiers but previously it said it was not clear whether these actions were carried out with the full knowledge of Iran's leadership....

"Our intelligence reveals that senior leadership in Iran is aware of this activity," Bergner told a news conference. "We also understand that senior Iraqi leaders have expressed their concerns to the Iranian government about the activities."

Reuters includes the Litany, but it's short and shoved to the very bottom of the story.

Washington Post:

The briefing by U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner laid out what he described as an extensive program coordinated by Iran's elite Quds Force, the militant wing of the Revolutionary Guard, to provide armor-piercing weapons, funnel up to $3 million a month to extremist groups and train Shiite militiamen in three camps near Tehran.

While U.S. officials have repeatedly alleged that sophisticated Iranian-made weapons are killing Americans in Iraq, and that the Quds force is complicit in the violence, today's briefing offered the most specific accusations to date of direct Iranian involvement in specific attacks against U.S. forces.

The general also drew a new link with Hezbollah, saying an operative arrested in March had spent the previous 10 months worked [sic] with the Quds force to train Iraqis after years of commanding a Hezbollah special operations group.

The Post does not include either the Litany or even any specific denials from Iran.

Could the elite media finally have concluded that the state of permanent denial of global terrorist threats, coupled with nakedly partisan assaults on the president, the military, and all Republicans and cheerleading for the Democrats, are the major culprits in the catastrophic drop in readership of American newspapers? If so, it would see they have also finally concluded that their own survival as media institutions is more important that solidarity with the leaders of the Democratic Party -- the Harry "Pinky" Reids and Nancy Pelosis of Congress, the Democratic presidential candidates, and most important... the screaming meemies in the sinister side of the blogosphere.

Elements of the bigfoot media at last admit that:

  • Iran is fighting a proxy war against America in Iraq;
  • That Iran and Hezbollah are intimately connected in a mini-Axis of Middle-East Evil;
  • And that there has been a tremendous reduction in civilian deaths as we have shifted from chasing terrorists to protecting the Iraqi population per counterintelligence strategy.

Can an admission be long coming that the Iraq war is also an intense battle in the war against al-Qaeda?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 2, 2007, at the time of 3:05 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

COINs and Moles and Stuff; a Round-Up

Good News! , Grand Strategy , Iraq Matters , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

Let's start with the good news (sorry, no bad news this time; so this can't be mainstream News!) Baghdad pacification proceeds apace, and we now firmly control half of the city that all agree is the linchpin of Iraq (or, with the recent executions, perhaps the lynchpin):

In the face of stiffening insurgent resistance, U.S. and Iraqi security forces now control about half of Baghdad, the American commander overseeing operations said Friday.

Maj. Gen. Joseph F. Fil, Jr., commander of Multi-National Division Baghdad, told reporters at the Pentagon that progress in securing the capital has been steady and that while he could use more U.S. troops he believes he has enough -- with the recent arrival of reinforcements -- to complete his mission....

Fil said American and Iraqi security forces now control 48% to 49% of the 474 neighborhoods in Baghdad. That is up from 19% in April, he said. Two weeks ago his boss, Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, said about 40% of the city was under control.

Fil defined "control" as "where we have our security forces there and we're denying that space to enemy forces." [In Col. David Galula's lexicon, these would be "white" areas.]

U.S. and Iraqi forces are conducting clearing operations in 36% of the capital's neighborhoods ["pink" areas] -- about the same percentage as in April, he said. In neighborhoods that are neither under control nor in the process of being cleared ["red" areas -- now down to 15% of Baghdad], coalition forces are "disrupting" insurgent forces, Fil said.

And it's not just Sunni areas we're holding, clearing, or disrupting: We have commenced moving heavily into Sadr City, much to the public chagrin (and temper tantrum) of Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki condemned a U.S. raid Saturday in Baghdad's Shiite Sadr City slum - a politically sensitive district for him - in which American troops searching for Iranian-linked militants sparked a firefight that left 26 Iraqis dead.

The U.S. military said all those killed in the fighting were gunmen, some of them firing from behind civilian cars. But residents said eight civilians were killed in their homes and angrily accused American troops of firing wildly during the pre-dawn assault.

It's odd that we're always "firing wildly;" and yet in these gunfights, there typically are major enemy casualties -- and hardly any Americans shot.

Al-Maliki last year banned military operations in Sadr City without his approval after complaints from his Shiite political allies. The ban frustrated U.S. commanders pushing for a crackdown on the Mahdi Army, blamed for sectarian killings.

Al-Maliki later agreed that no area of the capital was off-limits, after President Bush ordered reinforcements to Iraq as part of the Baghdad security operation.

And now he's whining again. Fiddle-de-dee! I suspect it's more for internal theater than any real objection to our raids: Muqtada Sadr, still nominal head of the Mahdi Militia, represents a rival Shiite power source; it's hard to imagine Maliki's loyalty to his old friend would slop over into carrying water for the renegade, virtually illiterate "cleric"... who himself is carrying water (or perhaps Uranium) for the Iranian mullahs.

Maliki's faux anger reminds me of Groucho Marx ("Otis P. Driftwood") in a Night at the Opera. He's having lunch with a floozy he picked up, when he sees rich patron of the opera Margaret Dumont (Mrs. Claypool) -- with whom he was supposed to lunch -- waiting in annoyance at the next table. The waiter brings the check for the meal that Driftwood and his girl du jour just ate, and he picks it up...

Otis P. Driftwood: Let me see that... 9 dollars and 40 cents? This is an outrage! If I were you I wouldn't pay it.

Then Groucho promptly switches tables and begins sweet-talking Mrs. Claypool. I strongly suspect that after declaring our raid to be an outrage, Maliki too will quietly switch tables and suggest a few more Sadr-City oases to hit. (Another movie quote, this time from Casablanca, that is apropos: "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!")

The U.S. military said it conducted two pre-dawn raids in Sadr City, killing 26 "terrorists" who attacked U.S. troops with small arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades and roadside bombs. But Iraqi officials said all the dead were civilians.

Of course... technically, Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri are also "civilians;" they're certainly not in anybody's official army, navy, or air force. So let's say both sides are right: We killed 26 civilian terrorist combatants -- sorry, make that "terrorists," scare-quotes and all.

But what's all this in service of? Where are we really going with this counterinsurgency? Who better to instruct us but retired Australian Lt.Col. David Kilcullen. Who is David Kilcullen, some might ask? Well, Wikipedia is usually fairly reliable for simple biographical details of newsmakers:

David Kilcullen, Ph.D. (born 1967) is a leading contemporary practitioner and theorist of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism. A former Australian Army officer, he left the Army as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2005 and is now a senior civil servant, seconded to the United States State Department. He is currently serving as Senior Counterinsurgency Adviser, Multi-National Force - Iraq, a civilian position on the personal staff of American General David Howell Petraeus.

Currently based at the US State Department, Dr Kilcullen, 39, has a doctorate in political anthropology, focusing on the effects of guerrilla warfare on non-state political systems in traditional societies. (His thesis was on the political power-diffusion effects of successful and failed counter-insurgency operations in Indonesia.) He has served in several counterinsurgency and guerrilla warfare campaigns in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, as well as in peacekeeping and peace enforcement operations. While based at the U.S. State Department he has served as Chief Strategist in the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, and has worked in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Horn of Africa and South-East Asia. He has also written several very influential papers on the insurgency in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

(He also advises Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, which I find surprisingly unsurprising.)

He wrote one of the most fascinating explications of the general purpose behind a counterinsurgency strategy ("COIN") and how it differs from ordinary warfare. Here is the most important point from Kilcullen's important summation of the important purpose and method of the urgently important counterinsurgency in Iraq:

When we speak of "clearing" an enemy safe haven, we are not talking about destroying the enemy in it; we are talking about rescuing the population in it from enemy intimidation. If we don't get every enemy cell in the initial operation, that's OK. The point of the operations is to lift the pall of fear from population groups that have been intimidated and exploited by terrorists to date, then win them over and work with them in partnership to clean out the cells that remain -- as has happened in Al Anbar Province and can happen elsewhere in Iraq as well.

The "terrain" we are clearing is human terrain, not physical terrain. It is about marginalizing al Qa’ida, Shi’a extremist militias, and the other terrorist groups from the population they prey on. This is why claims that “80% of AQ leadership have fled” don’t overly disturb us: the aim is not to kill every last AQ leader, but rather to drive them off the population and keep them off, so that we can work with the community to prevent their return.

Kilcullen notes that this isn't due to kind-heartedness; rather, the purpose of the strategy is fourfold:

  1. To separate the terrorist enemy from his most potent weapons: the Iraqi people;
  2. "The enemy is fluid, but the population is fixed." That is, we know where to find the population, but we cannot distinguish the insurgents from the citizens who just want to live, work, and trade. We cannot kill all the enemy; that's impossible. But we can protect the population and drive out the insurgency. So we do what we can and not what we can't.
  3. By cutting the insurgents off from their captive populations, we "asphyxiate" them:

    [The enemy] has either to come out of the woodwork, fight us and be destroyed, or stay quiet and accept permanent marginalization from his former population base.
  4. Finally, we know who the population is but not who the insurgents are:

    [W]e know who the population is that we need to protect, we know where they live, and we can protect them without unbearable disruption to their lives. And more to the point, we can help them protect themselves, with our forces and ISF in overwatch.

(I know, I know, some of the differences between these points are subtle; don't worry, I don't get them either.)

So if our goal is to protect the population, rather than kill some target number of terrorist insurgents, is it working? Are we protecting the population better than we have been in the past?

We certainly don't know for sure yet; the actual COIN operations have barely begun (they started in earnest about two weeks ago). But even so, already civilian casualties are dropping like a stone; here's Power Line's John Hinderaker, my favorite blogger from my favorite blog:

Iraqi government figures suggest that civilian casualties nationwide were down something like 36% in June, for the lowest total this year. I don't know how reliable these numbers are, but the trend clearly seems to be positive. American military commanders said it is too soon to credit the "surge," since the full complement of troops has only been in place for a couple of weeks and operations are ongoing. Again, though, the cause and effect relationship appears pretty clear.

But it's not just the government; even the elite media agree. The website Iraq Coalition Casualty Count keeps track of all media reports of civilian deaths and woundings in Iraq; it's certainly not influenced by the governments of either Iraq or the United States, and it's a completely different count than the one from the Iraqi government.

Yet it shows virtually the same result:

The civilian death toll shows that in May of 2007, there were 1,782 civilian deaths in Iraq reported by the MSM. In April, it was 1,521, and in March, 2,762.

But last month, June of 2007, the elite media reported only 1,146 civilian deaths: that's a drop of 36% from last month (just as the government figures showed by a different count), a 60% drop from this year's high (February, 2,864 deaths), and the lowest rate of civilian deaths since last July.

So to put it on a nutshell...

  • We now control 50% of Baghdad;
  • We're moving hot and heavy in both Sunni and Shiite enclaves;
  • Our purpose is less to kill insurgents than to protect the population from the terrorists' wicked depredations;
  • And in point of fact, there is hard (albeit early) evidence that we're succeeding at just that.

And that is the very definition of -- good news!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 2, 2007, at the time of 5:51 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

June 29, 2007

Operation Arrowhead Ripper Far Ahead of Schedule

Good News! , Iraq Matters , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

According to Stars and Stripes, Operation Arrowhead Ripper -- the battle for Baqouba, capital of Diyala province, and the self-declared "capital city" of the Islamic State of Iraq (the umbrella group that subsumed al-Qaeda in Iraq) -- is going amazingly well; in fact, commanders on the ground believe they have passed the major-combat phase and now enter the phase where they must purge the population of al-Qaeda support and sympathy, and induce the rest of the citizenry to start outing them:

That sort of information could prove vital as U.S. and Iraqi forces move into the next phase of operations in Baqouba. With almost no hostile fire reported in days, combat operations are winding down. The focus of the effort now is to consolidate control and persuade local residents to begin cooperating with U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces.

The overall intent of this phase of the Baqouba operation, said Capt. Issac Torres, commander of Company C, is to “lock down the local population and keep pressure on them” until they begin turning in al-Qaida and other insurgents who remain in the city.

Col. Steve Townsend, the commander of 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, says that "about half of the estimated 300 to 500 fighters" fled Baqouba; of the remaining 200 or so, we killed 60 and captured 74 (see the sidebar to the article), for a total of 134. We assume the remaining 65 are still hiding in the city somewhere... which is exactly why the new phase of the operation needs to win, if not the hearts and minds, then at least the self-serving cooperation of citizens sick of losing fingers for smoking or being beaten for allowing vegetables potentially to fornicate. (From Michael Yon, hat tip to Power Line.)

The second phase of the operation is the critical component of counterinsurgency (COIN) that was missing at the end of "major combat operations" in Iraq back in May of 2003:

Two years ago, the Islamic State of Iraq declared the city, about 40 kilometers northeast of Baghdad, to be its capital. Fighting in the city and surrounding areas has worsened since last January when insurgents flocked into Diyala province after President Bush announced a plan to send additional U.S. forces to secure Baghdad.

Although fighting to retake Baqouba proved much easier than expected, the next 60 days will prove crucial as U.S. and Iraqi government forces try to win over the local population and restart the economy and government services. [Amazing that everywhere Wahhabi or Twelver terrorists rule, all government functions come to a grinding halt. What bad luck to have so many decades of bad luck!]

The difference this time from 2003? Both the commander of MNF-I (Gen. David Petreaus) and of CENTCOM (Adm. William Fallon) thoroughly understand that we're fighting a COIN strategy -- not a "war of attrition;" in Vietnam terms, we're emulating winner Creighton Abrams, not loser William Westmoreland.

We enter now the most delicate and difficult phase: We must convince the Baqouba Sunnis that al-Qaeda, instead of being mujahadeen and martyrs fighting holy war, are actually terrorist apostates engaging in unholy war -- "irhabiyoun murtaddi" committing "hirabah," to use the "new lexicon" for the war against global jihad (or rather, global hirabah) suggested by Jim Guirard at Small Wars Journal... and assuming I'm getting the endings correct.

(I think I'll change our category "War on Global Jihadism" to "War on Global Hirabah," just to inaugurate the anti-terrorist newspeak. That will take place a few hours from now, after I rebuild the database.)

If once a big enough minority of Iraqi citizens admit that the butchers among them (Shia and Sunni) are not fighting a holy but an unholy war, and that they're terrorists and apostates, not martyrs and faithful, the job will finish itself. So fingers crossed (how Crusader like!) that the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team is as successful in Phase II as they have been in Phase I.

If so, then even Majority Leader Harry "we've already lost" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) and Squeaker of the House Nancy "the surge has already failed" Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) will be hard-pressed to enunciate a convincing reason for immediate panic and withdrawal.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 29, 2007, at the time of 5:19 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

June 27, 2007

Avoid Labor-Day Rush; Panic Today

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

A number of Republican senators and representatives seem to be in a powerful hurry to declare the "surge" a failure -- nearly three months before the military assessment of its success. It truly makes one wonder what they fear most: defeat or victory?

The newest to join the parade of victory deniers (who predict doom and defeat but refuse to vote for timetables for withdrawal) are Sens. Richard Lugar (R-IN, 64%) and George Voinovich (R-OH, 56%). Previous timorous lawmakers include Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME, 36%), Susan Collins (R-ME, 48%), Chuck Hagel (R-NE, 75%), Gordon Smith (R-OR, 72%), Norm Coleman (R-MN, 68%), and Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee John Warner (R-VA, 64%).

Hm... odd: Something seems to stand out about that group of Republicans, but I can't quite put my finger on it. Something about those little numbers after their party and state identification -- the number that measures Republican partisanship.

Oh, wait, maybe this is it: The mean average "Republicanness" of the group of knee-knockers appears to be 60%; the mean average of the rest of the Republican conference is 87%.

Think maybe that could explain it?

Oh, and here's another amusing example of the "multiple layers of editing" that is the hallmark of the elite media. According to the New York Times:

For months, Mr. Lugar has kept his skepticism about the president’s Iraq policy largely to himself, seldom offering anything beyond a hopeful wait-and-see statement. A soft-spoken cardinal of foreign policy, Mr. Lugar is known to his colleagues as anything but a bitter partisan, which made his remarks all the more stinging. [Defeatism is "more stinging" because Lugar is a wishy-washy RINO?]

And according to AP:

Earlier this year, Voinovich and Lugar said they doubted the troop buildup in Iraq would work. But they declined to back a resolution expressing opposition to the troop increase because they said it would have no practical effect. The two senators also refused Democratic proposals to set a timetable for troop withdrawals.

I suppose the only way to reconcile the two is to assume that when Lugar expressed his doubts, he must have been talking to himself. I picture an argument between the two halves of Dick Lugar -- somewhat like the one between Smeagol and Gollum in the Lord of the Rings movie... alas, Gollum appears to have won.

Lugar and Voinovich insist they will still vote against timetables, withdrawals, and defeat; but they simply cannot resist kicking the American military at the least opportunity.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 27, 2007, at the time of 5:32 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 26, 2007

Wacking the Moles, Sealing the Holes

Good News! , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Warning, this post contains no great analysis, no brilliant insights, and no genius-level discovery of hitherto unrealized connections. In other words, it's a great departure from typical Big Lizards fare.

Instead, I assume the smart-man's burden of straight reporting (more or less) of what you might not have seen, depending on how deeply you bore down into the boring world of mainstream journalism.

First, a bit from AP about Operation Marne Torch in Diyala province:

Newly arrived U.S. troops southeast of Baghdad are destroying boats on the Tigris River and targeting networks believed to be bringing powerful roadside bombs from Iran as the military cracks down on extremists from all directions, military officials said.

But a top U.S. commander warned on Monday that three or four times more Iraqi security forces are needed to sustain the progress in clearing the area and stanching the flow of arms and makeshift bombs into the capital....

The brigade commander, Col. Wayne W. Grigsby, Jr., said 21 boats had been destroyed on the river and in the reeds on the banks since the operation began in force on June 15, most with secondary blasts indicating many were filled with explosive material.

He also said the military had gained intelligence from a local sheik about networks bringing armor-penetrating explosively formed projectiles, known as EFPs, on a major road that travels from the border with Iran through Shiite areas to Baghdad. The U.S. has accused Iran of supplying mainly Shiite militias with EFPs, but Tehran has denied the allegations. [EFPs are also sometimes called explosively formed penetrators; even the Pentagon can't seem to make up its mind which phrase to use!]

Lynch said the area had two battalions from the 8th Iraqi army division but added "there needs to be three or four times more Iraqi security forces than are currently present to provide for sustained security. That's the critical piece in all of this."

From June 15th to the 26th is 11 days; that's two boats per day average, though I'm sure it varies day by day. Bill Roggio at the Fourth Rail gives a for-instance:

In Northern Babil province, Operations Marne Torch and Commando Eagle continue. On June 23, Coalition forces detained four suspects, destroyed two trucks and two barges used to transport insurgents and equipment, and found two weapons caches during operations south of Salman Pak. Coalition forces also detained 19 members of an IED cell near Mahmudiyah. The cell is believed to have brought down a bridge in northern Babil....

Maybe I just haven't heard about it before, but I think this riverine campaign is new: attacking boats that insurgents have been using to transport explosives. Obviously, a barge can hold tremendously more cargo than a truck; thus every barge destroyed is the equivalent of at least a "weapons cache," perhaps two -- judging from the size of most such caches that we see on TV. Killing these barges is a very big deal: As Col. Grigsby said, each of those "secondary explosions" was the sound of insurgent munitions dumps going up in smoke.

As for the "networks bringing armor-penetrating... EFPs... from the border with Iran through Shiite areas to Baghdad," mentioned without much comment or analysis by AP, Roggio again has deeper information:

Coalition forces maintain pressure on the Iranian backed "secret cells" of the Qazali Network. A raid in Sadr City resulted in the death of "four Secret Cell terrorists."

In earlier posts, Roggio has extensively discussed Qazali:

Over 20 members of the network were killed, 6 wounded and 1 captured in the raid against “the secret cell terrorist network known for facilitating the transport of weapons and explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, from Iran to Iraq, as well as bringing militants from Iraq to Iran for terrorist training” in Amarah and Majjar al-Kabir....

The raids in Amara and Majjar al-Kabir are the latest in a series of Coalition and Iraqi operations designed to dismantle the Qazali and the Sheibani networks, which are Iraqi manned and led networks operated by Iran’s Qods Force. Coalition and Iraqi forces killed at least 47 members of this network and captured 88 since major operations began in April 27, 2007.

These networks also have deep ties with Muqtada al Sadr’s Iranian backed Mahdi Army. “The dead are believed to be Shiite militiamen loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr who is a dominant force in Maysan province,” Fadhel Mushatat reported from Amara.

Multinational Forces Iraq has essentially taken off the gloves with identifying Iran’s involvement in backing the Qazali and the Sheibani networks. “Intelligence reports indicate that both Amarah and Majjar al-Kabir are known safe havens and smuggling routes for Secret Cell terrorists who facilitate Iranian lethal aid,” noted the Multinational Forces Iraq press release. Qods force is directly identified. “Reports further indicate that Iranian surrogates, or Iraqis that are liaisons for Iranian intelligence operatives into Iraq, use both Amarah and Majjar al-Kabir as safe haven locations.”

Meanwhile, the New York Times explicates a brutal tactic -- houses rigged with bombs -- to which al-Qaeda in Iraq has increasingly turned, as they fail and fail, and fall and fall to American and Iraqi forces.

This story is very well written, almost novelic -- which is not surprising, as the author, Michael R. Gordon, has written at least two narrative histories: The Generals' War : The Inside Story of the Conflict in the Gulf, and Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq. Here is one platoon's adventures on a single day, in a single neighborhood of one city, Baqouba, capital of Diyala province:

The enemy was a phantom who never showed his face but transformed a neighborhood into a network of houses rigged to explode....

Tracer rounds zipped through the air as the soldiers fired antitank weapons, mortar shells and machine guns at the abandoned houses they planned to inspect across the street.

They calculated that the firepower would blow up any bombs the insurgents might have planted in the houses, while providing cover so the first squads could move south across the thoroughfare.

The use of house bombs is not a new trick, but as the soldiers were to learn, the scale was daunting. The entire neighborhood seemed to be a trap.

For those who remember our post about Cougers and Buffalos and other "MRAPs," here is a blast from the past:

Enter the MRAP: the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected class of vehicles. The Marines and the Army have more or less settled on the Couger H-series of MRAP and the Buffalo H-series of Mine Protected Route Clearance (MPCV) vehicles, both manufactured by Force Protection Inc... the latter being a somewhat larger version of the Cougar, equipped with a fork-toothed arm for explosive ordnance disposal (the Buffalo's nickname is "the Claw"):



Couger H-series MRAP    Buffalo H-series MPCV

Couger H-series MRAP (L) and Buffalo H-series MPCV (R)

The great innovation of the MRAP is to redesign the undercarriage itself... and to correct the flaw that made our earlier combat vehicles so vulnerable: their underbelly flatness. MRAPs have a V-shaped hull that channels blast effect to the sides of the vehicle, graphically demonstrated here. Even EFPs have trouble penetrating the undercarriage of an MRAP:



MRAP taking blast

MRAP taking blast; explosive force is redirected to sides of vehicle

You'll be tickled to see that our new toys are already being used in combat in Iraq -- saving American lives and helping to win the Iraq war. From the Times article:

But there were a few early indications that the bomb threat in the area might be more challenging than the Americans had expected. The street the soldiers had raced across was strewn with slender copper wires, which the insurgents used to set off buried bombs powerful enough to upend armored vehicles.

As the platoon watched from its new foothold south of the road, a Buffalo vehicle, a heavily armored truck with a V-shaped body to dissipate bomb blasts and a giant mechanical claw, began to scour the nearby roads for bombs. It found three, which were exploded by American combat engineers.

“Controlled dets,” a soldier called out, referring to a deliberate detonation of a discovered bomb. The good news was that the buried bombs had been found and neutralized. But some had been deeply buried on the road the platoon had just crossed.

One interesting point about Americans is that we take our sense of humor with us wherever we go. Even when clearing houses and streets that have been turned into a weird, live-action videogame of explosives, springtraps, and other deadly snares:

To blast a path through the next bomb-ridden stretch of road, combat engineers brought in a mine-clearing device. A bright fireball appeared over the street and a cloud of gritty dust engulfed the platoon’s house as the soldiers huddled in the back and plugged their ears.

Afterward, as Sgt. Philip Ness-Hunkin, 24, walked to the house next door, he saw copper wires leading to the home. The gate was unlocked and the front door was invitingly open.

“Right in the front door there was a pressure plate under a piece of wood,” he said, referring to a mine that is set to blow when it is stepped on. “Over in that neighborhood there were wires going all over the place.”

“H-BIED,” a soldier called out, using the military’s acronym for a house-borne improvised explosive device.

"House-borne" improvised explosive devices! Only from Americans.

In the end, the platoon commander, 1LT Charles Morton, asked for the entire block of houses to be destroyed by artillery, since it was virtually impossible to move the platoon forward through the maze of munitions and copper-wired mines:

The next morning, an M1 tank arrived. The neighborhood reverberated with enormous booms as soldiers blasted the homes suspected of containing bombs with antitank missiles, artillery and tank fire. The platoon’s advance had been stymied for a day, but there were no American casualties and more bombs had been cleared out.

I have great faith in American military ingenuity; I predict that in just a few weeks, we'll have a much faster and more effective way to stymie such HBIEDs without having to blow up entire city blocks. But in the meanwhile, we are allowing nothing to stop our counterinsurgency operations: Phantom Thunder, Arrowhead Ripper, Marne Torch, and all the ancillary battles they spawn.

All we need now are more -- and more trustworthy -- Iraqi National Police to supplement the Iraqi Army. I am confident we'll get them; we're finally making incredible progress, and the Shiite Maliki government has no interest in handing Iraq back to Sunni insurgents.

They had a bellyful of that for forty years.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 26, 2007, at the time of 4:15 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 20, 2007

Dividing and Conquering, or Dancing With the Devil?

Blogomania , Iraq Matters , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

Two posts over on my favorite blog, Power Line -- one by Scott Johnson, the other by Paul Mirengoff -- appear to be at war with each other.

In the first, Brothers Grim at Foggy Bottom, Scott links to an article by Eli Lake at the New York Sun. Lake reports that the Bush administration is at least mulling the prospect of opening more direct relations with the Muslim Brotherhood -- "the party that founded modern political Islam," as Lake puts it, and the umbrella organization to many Islamist organizations.

The hope is that, if (a big if) the Muslim Brotherhood -- or a significant element thereof -- can be convinced that violence, murder, terrorism, and the mass slaughter of fellow Moslems is counterproductive (if not morally wrong, which may be a stretch for them), then they could serve as a counterideology, which we desperately need, to al-Qaeda, Hamas, EIJ, and other terrorist groups that more or less spun off from the Brotherhood. (Even a Shiite terror ogranization, such as Hezbollah, could be hurt by such a turn, as a "quietist" version of the Muslim Brotherhood would surely increase the appeal of Najaf Quietism itself in Iraq and even Iran, as a counterweight to Khomeini-ism.)

Scott does not offer a direct attack on the idea, but he seems to weigh in against such a move, quoting from a skeptic but not from anyone actually defending the idea. The very title of Scott's post, while a nice pun, also clearly implies that he thinks such a strategy is a fairy tale.

But just four posts later on the same page, Paul offers his own thoughts in Some Sunni Tribes Turn Against al-Qaeda in Baghdad:

Even the MSM has reported, however grudgingly, our military's success resulting from having enlisted Sunni tribes in the fight against al Qaeda in Anbar province. Attacks there have decreased by 60 percent and al Qaeda is on the run.

Now we are having some success in persuading Sunni tribes to help us against al Qaeda in Baghdad. USA Today reports that more than ten such tribes have signed on. Some of them have members who previously have fought alongside al Qaeda. As Lt. Col. Rick Welch explains, this means "they know where they live... who they are... [and] how they operate."

This tactic is working extremely well in Iraq, as Big Lizards has reported a number of times. A strong case can be made that a similar approach can work internationally... and that clearly is what President Bush has in mind for serious consideration; he has not yet made a final decision.

We've often said in other contexts that "you can't beat something with nothing." This is particularly true when fighting an ideology-based threat such as global jihadism: Its power comes from strong, principled, religious belief; those who sign aboard are looking to live their faith more fully than possible in the typical Arab or Moslem cult-of-personality dictatorship.

In Iraq, for example, many are moved by the thought of self-rule and modernity; but for those who are not, for those who crave a deeper spiritual life, it's useless to say "don't follow radical, militant Islam -- follow democracy instead!" It is far more effective to give these people an intense and all-encompassing religious option that emphatically rejects murder, violence, and coercion... such as the Quietism of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani for Shia or the Indonesian Sunni Islamist anti-terrorist group Nahdatul Ulama (NU), which has a membership in the tens of millions.

Can the Muslim Brotherhood become such a force? That is, one presumes, just what the administration is exploring, inviting two Islamic scholars on opposite sides of the question to the White House for discussion and debate -- which, by the way, is a technique Ronald Reagan often used to try to understand a contentious issue.

Certainly, there is no question that members of the Brotherhood have engaged in terrorism in the past, and the Brotherhood has spun off several horrific terrorist groups (including Egyptian Islamic Jihad, led by Ayman Zawahiri of later al-Qaeda fame, and Hamas). One can argue that the Brotherhood radicalizes some people who then split away and form Islamist groups more radical than the Brotherhood.

But it's also true that the organization has denounced many terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda. The Brotherhood supports the idea of sharia law and a world-wide caliphate; but if we could appeal to elements within the organization that reject violent coercion as the path to that caliphate, we might have a serious line of attack in the propaganda war for the ummah... a vital front we have by and large neglected, ignored, even actively shunned so far.

I don't know if the Muslim Brotherhood will turn out to be the proper vehicle for such a front; they may, in the end, prove too radical, too devoted to Islamic rule to balk at the mass killing of innocents. But without exploring the idea in depth, we won't know whether such an alliance would divide and conquer our jihadist enemies -- or fool us into dancing with the Devil, giving aid and comfort (and some cheap laughs) to those very same enemies.

Still, I enthusiastically applaud such "sideways thinking" outside the normal channels of the D.C. political ideological complex, which currently offers only three paths forward, none of them very promising:

  • The "Realism" of Kissinger and Scowcroft, which cuddles up to Arab strongmen to maintain order and security;
  • Incessant military intervention in every potentially troublous Moslem country;
  • Or cowardly and foolhardy retreat to "Fortress America" to contemplate domestic policy and our navels.

I won't say there's "no harm" in investigating this front, because we could be sucked into doing the wrong thing. But I do argue there is a powerful upside that we can no longer afford to overlook. So as Ronald Reagan's mother (he assured us) used to tell him while pushing him around in his pram, "trust but verify."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 20, 2007, at the time of 2:35 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 19, 2007

Why I Won't Call the Iraq Violence a "Civil War"

Iraq Matters , Opinions: Nasty, Brutish, and Shortsighted
Hatched by Dafydd

I noted in the previous post that Michael Yon used the phrase "civil war" to describe what is happening in Iraq; a commenter to that post, BigLeeH, suggests that the definition used (when Democrats hurl the term) is very simplistic:

When the American left applies the term "civil war" to a modern conflict the operative definition is "any war that is none of our d**n business and we should just butt out."

BigLeeH went on to suggest that when conservatives argue that it is too our business, they in essence foment "a needless conflict with the plain meaning of the words."

I have repeatedly objected to that definition of civil war. It's not "the plain meaning of the words;" it's one side's definition of the term, a definition I reject:

  • Neither al-Qaeda nor the Shiite insurgents have fielded an army;
  • Neither of them controls any significant territory;
  • Neither has formed a national front;
  • And neither has set up a shadow government.

These four elements are critical to any civil war, by my definition. I offer for my examples England in the 1640s, America in the early 1860s, and Spain in the late 1930s.

Nothing like that is happening in Iraq, which is why I dispute Michael Yon's conclusion that there is a civil war there:

  • Rather than fight to install a different government, al-Qaeda is fighting to destroy all government in Iraq, leaving it a wasteland of chaos -- in which environment al-Qaeda thrives.
  • And the Mahdi Militia is fighting, not to install a different goverment, but instead to crush Iraq so that Iran can take over.

What is happening in Iraq is no more a civil war than Chicago in the 1920s or Colombia in the 1980s -- or the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt or the Red Army Faction in Japan. Those conflicts, in fact, suggest the correct term (rather, pair of terms): Iraq is suffering a simultaneous gangland war and insurgency.

It's a gangland war, sez I -- like the Medellin and Cali Cartels' violence against the Colombian government -- coupled with a classical insurgency, as in Algeria, the Philippines, or Kashmir.

This is not to minimize the violence in Iraq; but fighting a civil war requires a completely different strategy than fighting a gangland war -- which is an expanded law-enforcement operation -- or an insurgency, which requires a counterinsurgency strategy.

Labels should clarify rather than obscure. The "civil war" label is used far more often to obscure critical differences than to consolodate different elements of a single class.

Thus, Democrats say, "it's a civil war, so obviously the Iraqis don't want us there. Let's leave!" But in fact, if it's a gangland war and an insurgency, they very likely do want us there to help. The Democrats deliberately cover up the distinction so that they can trick us into withdrawal.

As for Michael Yon, he's just being sloppy; I don't think he has any ulterior motive.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 19, 2007, at the time of 6:51 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Yon On Baqouba

Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

Michael Yon has a new dispatch up about the fighting in Diyala province (northeast of Baghdad) and in the southern outskirts of Baghdad. (Hat tip to Scott Johnson and Power Line.)

As always, there are parts I disagree with: Yon continues to beat the "civil war" drum in Iraq; and he states, several times, echoing a long-time Democratic meme, that "al Qaeda and associates had little or no presence in Iraq before the current war."

I have no idea whether he is a Republican, a Democrat, or something else (or nothing!)... but while arguing that al-Qaeda had no presence in Iraq prior to the 2003 invasion, it's pretty hard to get around Musab Zarqawi's Ansar al-Islam compound/training camp -- which operated in Kurdish Iraq years before the invasion. Zarqawi, of course, soon changed the name of his group to al-Qaeda in Iraq and had many juicy exchanges with al-Qaeda number two, Ayman Zawahiri.

But the meat of Yon's dispatch is that, while we made terrible mistakes at the beginning that allowed events in Iraq to deteriorate, we have since rectified and refined our operations there... particularly by appointing Gen. David Petraeus to command of all forces in Iraq:

Throughout 2006, my belief grew that Petraeus should be running this war. And though I had reached my own conclusions, others thought the same....

These words flow on the eve of a great battle, but are on hold until the attack is well underway. Nothing is certain. I am here and have been all year. We are in trouble, but we have a great General. The only one, I have long believed, who can lead the way out of this morass. Iraq is not hopeless. Iraq can stand again but first it must cast off these demons. And some of the demons must be killed.

Where Yon's writing truly lifts off is when he describes battles and campaigns, either post-hoc or anticipatory. Here he talks about the struggle that is to come in Diyala province and its capital Baqouba, and what it will entail. (This is the only long quote from Yon's long article; you should read it all. Yes, I know everybody who quotes from a source says "you should read it all"... but in this case, you really should. All the other times I said it, I was deliberately and perversely misleading you, just to waste your time. But this time, I promise I'm telling the truth!)

Northeast of Baghdad, innocent civilians are being asked to leave Baquba. More than 1,000 AQI fighters are there, with perhaps another thousand adjuncts. Baquba alone might be as intense as Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah in late 2004. They are ready for us. Giant bombs are buried in the roads. Snipers -- real snipers -- have chiseled holes in walls so that they can shoot not from roofs or windows, but from deep inside buildings, where we cannot see the flash or hear the shots. They will shoot for our faces and necks. Car bombs are already assembled. Suicide vests are prepared.

The enemy will try to herd us into their traps, and likely many of us will be killed before it ends. Already, they have been blowing up bridges, apparently to restrict our movements. Entire buildings are rigged with explosives. They have rockets, mortars, and bombs hidden in places they know we are likely to cross, or places we might seek cover. They will use human shields and force people to drive bombs at us. They will use cameras and make it look like we are ravaging the city and that they are defeating us. By the time you read this, we will be inside Baquba, and we will be killing them. No secrets are spilling here.

Our jets will drop bombs and we will use rockets. Helicopters will cover us, and medevac our wounded and killed. By the time you read this, our artillery will be firing, and our tanks moving in. And Humvees. And Strykers. And other vehicles. Our people will capture key terrain and cutoff escape routes. The idea this time is not to chase al Qaeda out, but to trap and kill them head-on, or in ambushes, or while they sleep. When they are wounded, they will be unable to go to hospitals without being captured, and so their wounds will fester and they will die painfully sometimes. It will be horrible for al Qaeda. Horror and terrorism is what they sow, and tonight they will reap their harvest. They will get no rest. They can only fight and die, or run and try to get away. Nobody is asking for surrender, but if they surrender, they will be taken.

The writing is riveting, but more important is what Yon tells us: That despite earlier mistakes -- mistakes about which I am less condemnatory than Michael Yon, since we were in terra incognita, while hindsight is... you know -- today, we are doing things far more right than wrong. We are winning and turning the tide of battle, even according to the previously gloomy Michael Yon.

But he warns of a brutal campaign to come: Steel yourselves, he says, for mass-media reports of mass "civilian" deaths (because terrorists and insurgents are technically civilians... get it?) and horrific, ungentlemanly conduct from our troops. Imagine, surrounding a city, cutting off all escape routes, and then systematically exterminating thousands of al-Qaeda operatives without even giving them a chance to save face by relocating to the province next door. Outrageous!

We often hear of some "neocon" (which the drive-by media now appears to define as any Republican who supports the Iraq war) who used to be a cheerleader for Operation Iraqi Freedom but now repents, confesses that it is not only unwinnable but the greatest war crime in human history, and has joined up with Mother Sheehan to call for all Republicans to be purged from office. Rarely do we hear of the opposite, a person more optimistic today than he was yesterday. The systemic bias of the elite media does not recognize that such people exist, even when confronted by them.

They will not recognize Michael Yon, both because of his message of hope, when they preach only despair; but just as important, because Yon is that most wretched of creatures: a true "citizen journalist." He didn't go to Columbia or any other J-school; he simply writes, in common-sense but compelling prose, what he sees (and as often photographs it as well, which ticks off yet another batch of newspaper folks). Worse, he is a former Special Forces soldier himself... so how could he possibly (argue the elites) cover Iraq objectively?

(For that kind of objectivity, you need someone who graduated from an accredited journalism school and is an active anti-Iraq war protester.)

It's not that Yon flies below the media's radar; rather, they have deliberately tuned their radar so that it cannot pick up people like Yon... like wearing special glasses that filter out the color red. Thus their narrative -- being uninformed by trenchant observers and brilliant wordsmiths like Yon -- floats disconnected and incomplete above the battlefield, struggling to see through the haze of gunsmoke...

The anointed journalist peers through the shifting smoke, and he manufactures fantastic visages of gods and demons (or often a duckie and a horsie). He writes, not about what he has seen (which isn't much beyond the insides of Green Zone bars and mess halls), but what he confabulated in place of real data. His narrative becomes a convenient fairy-tale that just happens, by sheer coincidence, to reinforce everything he always believed about the war before leaving the New York office.

I love Yon for the same reason that the J-school media hates him: He brings to his stories a new organizational principle that generates a unique story line. I disagree with much of what he says; but he says it with zest and sincerity, and he tries hard to back it up.

And that's why you should read it all. It's time better spent than watching reruns of the Sopranos or 24.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 19, 2007, at the time of 2:10 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

June 17, 2007

Even MSM Agrees: Barely Started Counterinsurgency On a Roll!

Good News! , Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

The elite media doesn't realize it yet, but they have given the new counterinsurgency strategy the best review they possibly could -- by admitting that, though it has barely begun, we already now "have full control" of 40% of Baghdad (our target), plus an additional 30% somewhat under control but not fully, leaving only 30% fully in insurgent hands.

In other words, Baghdad is now 40% white, 30% pink, and 30% red. Not bad for a "surge" that just began operations this week:

Odierno said there was a long way to go in retaking the city from Shiite Muslim militias, Sunni Arab insurgents and al-Qaida terrorists. He said only about "40 percent is really very safe on a routine basis" - with about 30 percent lacking control and a further 30 percent suffering "a high level of violence...."

"There's about 30 percent of the city that needs work, like here in Dora and the surrounding areas," Odierno said. "Those are the areas that we consider to be the hot spots, which usually have a Sunni-Shiite fault line, and also areas where al-Qaida has decided to make a stand."

Naturally, this being the Associated Press, they chose to see the Persian slipper as half-empty of tobacco, headlining their piece "US: 60 Pct. of Baghdad Not Controlled." But you don't need to be Sherlock Holmes to be able to do the math.

Most of the article dwelt upon the kidnapping and possible deaths of a few American soldiers a few weeks ago (airborne troops found the victims' ID cards; no word yet whether they're alive or dead) and upon the rise in American casualties that, oddly enough, seems to accompany our increased willingness to engage the enemy. As you can see, these issues fit perfectly with the theme of the article: the percent of Baghdad we control.

And frankly, the verified fact that we control or exert strong influence over 70% of the Iraqi capital, after merely preparing for a campaign, followed by one week of actual combat, is pretty darned good news presaging eventual victory.

Even if the drive-by media can't quite see beyond their front bumpers to realize it.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 17, 2007, at the time of 4:31 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 14, 2007

Counterinsurgency Strategy Working So Far - Even Though It's Just Beginning

Good News! , Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

This is very good news that the Washington Post is trying to spin as bad news (yes, I know you're too stunned to speak).

Let's start with a brief primer of what the counterinsurgency strategy actually entails (blue text represents preparation of the field of battle):

  1. Five new American brigades into Baghdad;
  2. Three additional Iraqi army brigades into Baghdad;
  3. Several new American battalions into Anbar;
  4. The objective is first to restore security to Baghdad and Anbar by driving insurgents out of the capital and out of al-Qaeda in Iraq's home province;
  5. After security is restored to those two provinces, the second objective is to expand that security to adjacent provinces (turning "red" to "pink" and "pink" to "white") by again driving insurgents outward (and killing or capturing them whenever possible);
  6. Continuing in this fashion, "expanding security outward," means that eventually, the insurgents have nowhere else to go in Iraq, and the country will be as pacified as any Arab Moslem country can be.

The fifth and final U.S. Army brigade is now in Baghdad and being readied, along with the Iraqi battalions; while the battalions have moved into Anbar. Thus we have completed prepping the battlefield and are just about to commence the actual security operation.

The Pentagon has just issued a report titled Measuring Security and Stability in Iraq, June 2007; the report covers the three-month period from February to mid-May. It reports... but no, let us allow the Washington Post to characterize the report first, in an article they aggressively title "No Drop in Iraq Violence Seen Since Troop Buildup" (hat tip to Paul Mirengoff at Power Line):

Three months into the new U.S. military strategy that has sent tens of thousands of additional troops into Iraq, overall levels of violence in the country have not decreased, as attacks have shifted away from Baghdad and Anbar, where American forces are concentrated, only to rise in most other provinces, according to a Pentagon report released yesterday.

In other words, without even realizing it, the WaPo reports that the Pentagon reports that the insurgents are being driven out of Baghdad and Anbar -- before the main combat of the counterinsurgency has even begun.

...Which happens to be exactly the victory we want to see in bullet-point 4 above.

This is to be a "clear and hold indefinitely" operation (or as I have dubbed it, "whack a mole and seal a hole"): As we and the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) clear the insurgents out of Baghdad, neighborhood by neighborhood, we move forward -- and the Iraqis stay, holding the liberated regions of the capital against reinfiltration by insurgents and terrorists. That is precisely the plan, as developed and implemented by Gen. David Petraeus, Commander MNF-I.

Clearly, it is working: The Pentagon reports significant drops in attacks in Baghdad and Anbar provinces already.

The good:

Insurgents and extremists are unable to operate as freely in Baghdad because of FAQ [Operation Fardh al-Qanoon, the Arabic name of the current Baghdad security operation] and in Anbar Province because of growing tribal opposition to AQI. Accordingly, many insurgents and extremists have moved operations to Diyala, Ninewa, and the outlying areas of Baghdad Province....

Since January 2007, Coalition reported murders in Baghdad proper have decreased by 51% as militia activity was disrupted by security operations....

In Anbar province, anti-AQI sentiment is widespread, with growing tribal influence as the primary driver of decreasing violence levels. The total number of attacks in Anbar has dropped 34% since December 2006, with Ramadi -- where attacks are at a two-year low -- accounting for the largest decline in violence levels. Attacks in Anbar have dropped from 35 per day in the previous reporting period to just under 26, dipping below average daily attacks in Salah ad Din Province.

The phrase "growing tribal opposition to AQI" in Anbar province refers to this phenomenon, about which we have written a number of times: Iraqi Sunni tribal leaders have gotten fed up with the mindless thirst for blood among al-Qaeda members, and they have declared war on al-Qaeda... and are slowly but inexorably driving them out of the Sunni belt -- Anbar, Diyala, Salahadin, and Baghdad.

The bad:

The overall level of violence in Iraq this quarter remained similar to the previous reporting period but shifted location. Insurgents and extremists are unable to operate as freely in Baghdad because of FAQ and in Anbar Province because of growing tribal opposition to AQI. Accordingly, many insurgents and extremists have moved operations to Diyala, Ninewa, and the outlying areas of Baghdad Province. Outside Baghdad and Anbar, reductions in Coalition force presence and reliance upon local Iraqi security forces have resulted in a tenuous security situation. Sectarian violence and insurgent attacks still involve a very small portion of the population, but public perceptions of violence have adversely affected reconciliation and contribute to population migration.

In other words, the report shows insurgents being driven out of Baghdad (due to Operation FAQ) and Anbar (due to Sunni tribes rising against al-Qaeda, with our help and encouragement; we're fighting side by side with Sunni Iraqis against al-Qaeda!)... exactly the direction we hoped to achieve with the counterinsurgency strategy.

This is what victory in Iraq looks like -- and will continue to look like: It is messy, it's violent, but we can discern actual movement towards the final elimination of al-Qaeda in Iraq as a viable terrorist force and of Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM, Muqtada Sadr's "Mahdi Militia") as a rallying point for Shiite insurgency.

The WaPo's bean-counting take is that, since there is no overall reduction in violence yet (before we begin our offensive) -- merely a shift from our areas of operation to outlying provinces -- therefore the "troop surge" is a failure. But contrarywise, what the Pentagon report demonstrates, and the Post unwittingly reports, is the beginning of victory in exactly the way Gen. Petraeus expected.

As always, I wonder whether the Post writer (Ann Scott Tyson) is simply ignorant of the strategy, what it entails, and what it expects to do... or whether she knows very well that it's working, and she just wants to help Majority Leader Harry "we've already lost" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%) in his urgent task of thwarting the counterinsurgency before it has a chance to succeed... and ruin everything!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 14, 2007, at the time of 6:03 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 13, 2007

It's Like Déjà-Vu All Over Again...

Congressional Calamities , Dhimmi of the Month , Iraq Matters , Unuseful Idiots
Hatched by Dafydd

...Why do I have the feeling I used that line before?

I'm actually starting to lose track of how many times we've lost the Iraq war; at least, according to Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%). But he's at it again. I don't think I've ever before seen a feller so anxious to see his own side lose:

Senate Majority leader Harry Reid and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi challenged the president over Iraq by sending him a letter, ahead of a White House meeting later on Wednesday.

"As many had forseen, the escalation has failed to produce the intended results," the two leaders wrote. [The troops are just now in place, and the new counterinsurgency strategy is just about to begin.]

"The increase in US forces has had little impact in curbing the violence or fostering political reconciliation. [Even before the new strategy begins, violence in Baghdad is down significantly; some has moved outside the capital, but that was the plan: Secure Baghdad, then expand the security outward.]

"It has not enhanced Americas national security. The unsettling reality is that instances of violence against Iraqis remain high and attacks on US forces have increased. [By "attacks on US forces," you of course mean "casualties suffered as US forces take the fight to the terrorists and insurgents, increase the tempo of engagement, and obliterate al-Qaeda in Anbar, Salahadin, Diyala, and Baghdad.]

"In fact, the last two months of the war were the deadliest to date for US troops." [So let's make all those deaths meaningless by retreating just as we're about to launch the full-scale attack!]

Of course, t'other way of looking at it is -- the side he's anxious to see lose isn't his own side at all. Has anybody seen any photos of Harry Reid sitting astride an al-Qaeda anti-aircraft gun? And does anybody know if a Special Forces guy ever gave Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) a "magic hat?"

Is this really the image the Democrats want to project? When the going gets tough, the Democrats have another panic attack. How many more of these spasmodic breakdowns will we have to suffer through before the 2008 elections?

They have become the George Constanza party:

  • They lurch from one crisis to the next;
  • They're crude;
  • They're cowardly;
  • Their normal emotinal state is hysterical overreaction;
  • And they're "unusually good liars."

I grow weary of pointing out every time Reid or Pelosi or some other dysfunctional Defeatocrat (not to mention any names, such as John Murtha, D-PA, 65%) informs us that we've lost, there's no point in continuing, we've learned a difficult lesson, and it's time to crawl away, lick our wounds, and negotiate surrender with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Syrian President Bashar Assad, Grand Kleagle of al-Qaeda in Iraq Ayyub al-Masri, and Iranian Puppet Muqtada Sadr.

You know who "Pinky" Reid has always reminded me of? In Aliens (a.k.a., Alien II) -- anybody remember that great movie? -- one of the Colonial Marines, Hudson, spends the entire movie whining, "That's it man, game over man, game over! What the [expletive deleted] are we gonna do now? What are we gonna do? We're toast, man, we're history!"

But that's really unfair, and I'm sorry I made the comparison. After all, in the end, Hudson actually did his duty and mowed down a bunch of alien monsters.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 13, 2007, at the time of 11:01 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

June 11, 2007

Shades of the Cuban Missile Crisis

Heroes of the Revolution , Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , Terrorism Intelligence , Terrorist Attacks
Hatched by Sachi

In January this year, terrorists pretending to be American troops got through Iraqi security in the Karbala Provincial Joint Coordination Center (Karbala JCC), managing to kill one US soldier and kidnap four. All four soldiers' bodies were eventually recovered; there was no sign of torture or post-mortem mutilation, which ruled out al-Qaeda.

The sophisticated nature of the operation clearly implied that perpatrators were Iranian Qods Force; but it seemed odd that they would kidnap soldiers from the center and then kill them, instead of either keeping them for interrogation and to try to trade for the al-Qods members we're holding -- or else just killing them outright at the Karbala JCC without attempting a difficult kidnapping.

But when Iranian forces directly kidnapped British sailors, all became clear: The first attempt was indeed intended to take American prisoners... but the Americans fought back; and the Iranians -- unable to transport them -- finally had to kill them. The Brits were a second-best choice; but they were more willing to give Iran the propaganda coup it so desperately wanted. And most important, the British sailors could be counted upon not to fight for their freedom, as Americans always do.

To paraphrase the Lord of the Rings, open war was upon us, whether we risk it or no.

Now, according to Bill Rogio, satellite imagery has discovered a mockup of the Karbala JCC inside Iran... conclusively proving that the murderous assault upon American soldiers was planned and carefully executed by the Revolutionary Guards and Qods Force and with full knowledge and approval of the ruling mullahs (reparagraphed for easier reading):

The January 20 attack the Karbala Provincial Joint Coordination Center by the Iranian backed Qazali Network, which resulted in the kidnapping and murder of five U.S. soldiers, has long been known to be a Iranian planned and sponsored strike.

While Iran has insulated itself with its cutouts in the Qazali Network, Multinational Forces Iraq has captured members of the network as well as found documentation which proved Iran's complicity in the attack.

And now it has satellite imagery as well. Aviation Week and Space Technology reported in the June 4 edition that Iran build a mockup of the Karbala Provincial Joint Coordination Center inside its borders, which was used to train the attackers. The "training center" was discovered by a U.S. spy satellite surveying Iran.

The Qazali Network exists -- existed -- within Iraq; a part of a larger, Iranian-controlled Iraqi network, Qazali was set up to receive money, arms, and training from Qods Force. But we have broken it since the Karbala JCC attack:

On May 19, Coalition forces killed Azhar al-Dulaimi during a raid in Baghdad's Sadr City. Dullaimi was described as the "mastermind" and "tactical commander" of the Karbala attack. In March, U.S. forces captured Qais Qazali, the network's leader, his brother Laith Qazali, and several other members.

Multinational Forces Iraq has been heavily targeting the Qazali Network's "secret terror cells" as well as those of the Sheibani Network. Coalition and Iraqi forces killed 26 members of this network and captured 71 since April 27, 2007. Three more members of the "secret cell" were captured and another killed today.

The Sheibani Network the overarching organization that receives support, weapons, advice and targeting from Iran's Qods Force. Senior members of the Qazali and Sheibani Networks are members of Iran's Qods Force.

We don't know for sure, of course; but it seems likely that these satellite pictures were part of the evidence that persuaded Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT, 75%D) to call for the Pentagon to draft plans to attack Iran:

"I think we've got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq," the Connecticut independent said during an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation." "And to me, that would include a strike over the border into Iran, where we have good evidence that they have a base at which they are training these people coming back into Iraq to kill our soldiers."

There is no question but that Lieberman is right about one thing: We are currently in a hot war with Iran -- and we are fighting back hard against Iranian proxy forces in Iraq. The only question is whether we should expand the fight into Iran itself, giving the mullahs a taste of the whip themselves in their home turf.

Other Democrats still don't get it; they live in a perpetual September 10th world. But Lieberman has the right idea, and I wish we had him on our side:

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who is running for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, said sanctions are the most effective tool against the Iranian regime.

"I would talk to them, but I would build an international coalition that would promote and push economic sanctions on them," he said during an appearance on CNN's "Late Edition." "Sanctions would work on Iran. They are susceptible to disinvestment policy. They are susceptible to cuts, economic sanctions in commodities."

Mr. Lieberman said he would leave any such strategy to military generals, but that it could be accomplished through an air campaign. He said failure to stand up to Iranian aggression would further weaken the U.S. position in Iraq and raise the likelihood of acts of domestic terrorism.

"We cannot let them get away with it," he said. "If we do, they'll take that as a sign of weakness on our part, and we will pay for it in Iraq and throughout the region and ultimately right here at home."

There is nothing wrong with economic sanctions and "disinvestment policy"... as an economic attack concommitent to a physical (air) attack.

Regardless of the risk -- such escalation would enrage the Iranians and might even serve to drive the Persian people closer to their mullah masters; Hezbollah could strike inside the United States; Iran could launch a massive attack against Israel -- we cannot sit idly by and allow a sovereign nation to attack the United States without directly retaliating.

So we support the rest of Lieberman's call as well... once again, we're forced to say, go, Joe!

Hatched by Sachi on this day, June 11, 2007, at the time of 7:03 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 3, 2007

Salvation à la Mode

Good News! , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Power Line continues the saga of the incredible shrinking terrorist front in Iraq; we ourselves previously blogged about this in several previous posts, beginning in March:

The Anbar Salvation Council of Sunni tribes in Iraq's Anbar province has not only launched a full-scale war against al-Qaeda in what used to be the terrorists' own home town, they have opened franchises in three other Iraqi provinces as well: Baghdad, Salahadin, and Diyala, all of which used to be under al-Qaeda management. More and more, Iraqi nationalism is beating back sectarian identity, and a desire for peace and good governance is rising up against the tolerance for terrorism and theocracy that accompanies any deal with the "Great Satan" of al-Qaeda.

The most recent Power Line post on the subject (linked above) quotes from the New Straits Times of Indonesia; alas, the link appears to be dead. But the incomparable Bill Roggio -- an American national resource -- had an article up yesterday on the WeeklyStandard.com that covers much of what we know:

The battle between al Qaeda in Iraq on one side, and the residents of the Baghdad district of Amariyah, the Islamic Army of Iraq, and the 1920 Revolution Brigades on the other, dominated the headlines late yesterday and this morning. The Washington Post reported that the battle began Wednesday "over accusations that al-Qaeda in Iraq had executed Sunnis without reason," and portrayed the conflict as one pitting the residents of Amariyah against al Qaeda....

The Anbar Salvation Council has formed a "clandestine SWAT unit" that is capable of operating outside of the western province, an American military intelligence official close to the operations of the group told us. These are the "secret police" described by of [head of the Anbar Salvation Council] Sheikh al-Hais.

Roggio notes that the Anbar Salvation Council has engaged in previous "expeditionary" operations in Salahadin and Diyala, as well as the current fighting in Baghdad. And the American military is cautiously encouraging the movement:

The fighting in Amariyah comes just as Lieutenant General Ray Odierno, the commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, discussed the prospects of reconciliation with insurgent groups, with the exclusion of al Qaeda. "I believe there are elements [of the insurgency] that are irreconcilable, but I believe the large majority are [reconcilable]," said LTG Odierno in yesterday’s press briefing. "The figures I use, I believe, about 80 percent are reconcilable, both Jaish al-Mahdi as well as Sunni insurgents. I believe little, very few of al Qaeda are reconcilable, but there might be a small portion."

To conduct reconciliation talks, each insurgent group will first need to establish a political wing. This is where the Anbar Salvation Council, and its political arm, the Anbar Awakening, came into play in the province. "The Awakening is the face of reconciliation for all practical purposes in Anbar," the American intelligence official familiar with the group informed us.

According to the counterinsurgency strategy developed by Gen. David Petraeus, we must eventually do exactly this; so it appears we are, if anything, ahead of schedule. This bodes well for the report on the counterinsurgency due to Congress in September.

I have heard several people recently, one of them the Senate majority leader, misquoting Petraeus (deliberately or foolishly) about the role of the military in the Iraq counterinsurgency. For example, here is a video clip of Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%) proclaiming that "General Petraeus has said the war cannot be won militarily." He clearly implies that Petraeus meant that "the war is lost" (as Reid had already announced), or at least that it cannot be won.

But what Petraeus really said was that the war cannot be won by military force alone; the most important element is political. Reid professed not to understand the distinction, but it should be clear to all except those who swim in currents of ignorance so strong, their brains turn to oatmeal (to paraphrase Sir Winston Churchill).

The "politics" that Petraeus means is precisely the sort of community retail politics we're now seeing in the Anbar Awakening (the political arm of the Salvation Council): one city, one province at a time. Such "townhall" politics must necessarily precede the macro-politics of the Iraqi parliament; the parliament cannot lead the way.

Our own federal government has a federal bias: Members of Congress tend to assume all political progress in Iraq must come from the national-level on down. But Gen. Petraeus and other military leaders must, of necessity, deal with Iraq at the level of neighborhood, district, and city; convincing neighbors to turn against al-Qaeda (or against Shiite death squads) is what determines whether we get good intel or not. Our soldiers understand, even if Sen. Reid does not, that the strength of Iraq -- and America and every other country -- resides in the people and the communities they form, not in the parliament; the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is a lagging indicator of how the war against global jihad is going.

In short, what the Anbar (or Diyala, or Baghdad, or Salahadin) Salvation Council does is a lot more important than what the Sunni members of parliament do; and what these Sunni tribal leaders are doing more and more nowadays is and killing al-Qaeda's leaders and fighters.

This is what victory in Iraq looks like; this is how counterinsurgency strategy wins. The revulsion by Iraqi Sunnis against the bloodthirst and power madness of al-Qaeda, and their willingness actually to go to war against terrorism, leads them to ally even with Americans to defeat the monsters. The forces of nationalism thus triumph over chaos and human sacrifice.

Clearly, not all Moslems (not even all religiously zealous Sunni Moslems) are violent jihadis. The Salvation Councils and Anbar Awakening may not be "Moslem Methodists," like Indonesia's Nahdatul Ulama (NU); but 'twill serve.

And for everybody except Democrats who were counting on picking up "five extra seats" in the Senate "when we lose the war," it's very, very good news.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 3, 2007, at the time of 1:09 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

May 29, 2007

Strange Betrayal

Blogomania , Confusticated Conservatives , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Nowadays, it seems that whenever President Bush says or does anything, conservatives hunt like crazy for the most disreputable, disloyal, and cowardly possible interpretation -- then cling to it like a sick kitten to a warm brick, even when perfectly reasonable (and much more likely) interpretations are available.

Each excursion into spurious accusation becomes more "evidence" to buttress the next, until they build a gigantic "indictment mountain" of tapioca, which they treat like Mount Rushmore. Every absurd attack makes the next, equally absurd attack easier to hurl: Today, even a single word in a notoriously left-leaning newspaper is enough evidence to prove another Bush betrayal. Hey, where there's smoke...

This must be a relative of the normal Bush Derangement Syndrome, or BDS, suffered by lefties; Bush Betrayal Syndrome (BBS), perhaps. It is rapidly becoming an epidemic among American conservatives...

Rich in Iran-y

Case in point: Scott Johnson, writing on my favorite blog Power Line, sees the complete collapse and betrayal of the Bush administration position on one member of the Axis of Evil, Iran:

The Bush administration appears to me to have thrown [away] its stated policy for dealing with Iran in favor of beseeching the mullahs for "a decent interval" in which to withdraw American troops.... [To avoid confusion, let me note that Scott's term "decent interval" quotes Henry Kissinger, not President Bush or US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker.]

Perhaps yesteday's meeting is to be followed by one in which we ask the mullahs politely to give up their beloved nuclear program....

I would love to know what the Bush administration has in mind for the mullahs' nuclear program. My guess is runs more along the lines of a whimper than a bang.

Scott bases this entire impeachment of the president's policy upon a single source -- in fact, a single line -- or rather, a single word in a single line of a single source... and that source is the Boston Globe. Here is the evidence of betrayal:

In the highest-level public talks between the United States and Iran in nearly 30 years, US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker yesterday reached out to his Iranian counterpart for help in improving Iraqi security and asked that Iran stop supplying arms to Iraqi militia groups.

Note that this is not a quotation; it's is a characterization offered by the Globe reporter, Farah Stockman; based upon other articles of hers I skimmed, she seems to have the political viewpoint typically associated with that far-left newspaper. Yet this one word is the only one that could possibly give rise to Scott's own characterization of the exchange as "beseeching." Scott continues:

Is a story like the Boston Globe's account of yesterday's meeting between Ryan Crocker and his Iranian counterpart to be taken at face value? The Globe reports that Crocker asked that Iran stop supplying arms to Iraqi militia groups. I trust that Crocker remembered to say "please."

Alas, Scott never answered his own question... and of course, the answer is No, a political characterization by the Boston Globe which just happens to fit perfectly with the Democratic agenda of making Bush look feckless and cowardly is not to be "taken at face value;" just as I wouldn't take at face value the declaration by an ardent Evangelical Christian that Mormonism is a cult.

But this accusation of pending betrayal against Bush is even more puzzling; further down on the very same page, the very same exchange is characterized very differently:

On the American side, Crocker reiterated the US demand that the Qods Force, an elite unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, stop funneling weapons to Sunni insurgent groups and extremist Shi'ite militias, particularly factions of Madhi Army, which is loosely controlled by radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

US officials previously had been reluctant to make the claim that Iran supports Sunni as well as Shi'ite insurgents. But yesterday Crocker said he made the case forcefully.

Isn't demanding that Iran stop fueling the terrorists (on both sides) and stop killing Americans exactly what we want our ambassador to do? This seems a far cry from merely "asking" them to give us a Kissingerian "decent interval" in which to surrender. Why is Scott so angry?

But BBS appears to be a much larger problem than just this possible instance would imply:

A mighty hot wind

Conservatives now regularly refer to the "complete collapse" of the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina.

This has been a Democratic talking point since before the hurricane even struck. It was fueled by monstrously misleading media messaging during the crisis -- crazy talk of dead bodies stacked like cordwood in the Superdome's freezer, of cannibalism, of roving rape gangs, of rescue workers being shot at, and of as many as 10,000 people drowned because of "Brownie's incompetence," referring to former Undersecretary of Emergency Preparedness and Response Michael D. Brown.

We thoroughly debunked this Democratic fairy tale in 13 Ghosts. But that hasn't stopped a number of conservatives I've read recently from slapping it onto the gooey mountain of "Bush betrayal."

Miers-ed in betrayal

When President Bush nominated Harriett Miers to the Supreme Court, to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, conservatives went from "we don't know enough about her" to "she's a stealth liberal activist that Bush is sneaking onto the Court to undo the Reagan revolution" in about 2.4 seconds.

It was a perfectly legitimate point to say that Miers didn't have enough of a track record for us to be sure she would practice judicial restraint. Even Hugh Hewitt, who, alone among conservatives, defended her nomination, admitted that he was troubled by her lack of a paper trail.

But that is a far cry from the increasingly bizarre and unsourced accusations that she was a closet fan of expanding affirmative action, that she would "absolutely" vote to expand abortion, and that her main function was to overturn the Patriot Act. When I pointed out that Bush said he knew her well and she was a conservative, rather than partially exonerate Miers -- the response was to push Bush into the same quagmire... it proved he was the Great Betrayer!

The nomination was revealed to be part of Bush's secret plan to betray conservatism.

Bush is selling our ports to al-Qaeda!

The administration approved a deal for Dubai Ports World, an international port-management company headquartered in the United Arab Emirate nation of Dubai, to purchase the company that was managing cargo operations at most large American ports. Initially, the sale didn't even rise to the level of direct presidential decision-making.

The hue and cry from the Right was immediate and almost hysterical. At first, and for some time before it was finally debunked, conservative commentators and bloggers charged that Bush was "handing over port security" to the A-rabs. Once it was finally made clear this affected only cargo handling, not cargo inspections or any other aspect of port security -- and it only changed the managers, not the actual workers (who would remain American dockwallopers) -- then the same voices beavered away finding some obscure reason why this really was a terrible betrayal of American national security anyway. (The conclusion remained the same; they just jacked it up and ran a whole new structure of fact beneath it.)

Honestly, it seemed to me that proving another "Bush betrayal" had become more important to the disputants than than the truth: Evidence that the deal would not affect security at all was rejected out of hand, while even the faintest rumor that Dubai Ports World was infiltrated by al-Qaeda was cited with the same confidence that one might say the Taliban was infiltrated by al-Qaeda.

The rallying cry became 'American ports must be controlled by Americans, not by foreigners.' Lost in the cacophany was the fact that no American port-management company was big enough to take on the job... and also that the company that had been running port ops earlier, the company bought out by Dubai Ports World, was the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O)... chartered in Great Britain, not the United States.

Bush had to be guilty of yet another ludicrously "betrayal" (the most urgent task): this time, that he wanted to turn American ports over to jihadists.

The United States Attorney betrayal

Conservatives have searched high and low for occult signs of "Bush betrayal" in the case of the "fired" U.S. Attorneys (none was fired; the administration chose not to renew their contracts when they ran out).

At the beginning, the dextrosphere rightly noted that there was nothing illegal about the firing; and that the miscommunication by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and his staff, while irritating, was also not a deliberate attempt to mislead Congress.

But the longer Sen. Pat Leahy's (D-VT, 95%) Judiciary Committee hearings pounded on Gonzales and on Pat McNulty, Monica Goodling, et al, and the more the elite media gleefully covered the fishing expedition (which has caught so few fish, they're already digging into the Spamwiches they brought along) -- the more conservatives, smelling blood in the water, turned on Gonzales and Bush.

Now we have the odd spectacle of conservatives using liberal code words to indict Gonzales and the president without actually having to produce evidence of wrongdoing: They say the "timing" of this or that non-renewal of contract was "suspicious," then cast a significant look, as if to say 'if you know what I mean, and I think you do.'

Thus again, conservatives, acting on a strange agenda of their own, lend gravitas and support to the wildest liberal charges against the Republican president. (How long until conservatives begin decrying the "stolen election" of 2000?)

Immigration immolation

The obsession with finding some way to declare that Bush is the Great Betrayer has hit its apocalyptic apogee -- so far! -- in the response by the Right to the immigration bill. There are certainly elements of the compromise that could be changed for the better; but good heavens, conservatives have accused Bush of everything from wanting "completely open borders" to plotting to merge the United States, Canada, and Mexico into some fantasy nightmare called "the North American Union" (whose currency, tied to the peso, of course, would be the "amero").

The most common wild exaggeration is to say that the bill contains "no border security provisions whatsoever;" this utterly discounts the triggers, including the fence, the doubling of the Border Patrol, the tamper-resistant SSN card, and the increase (by orders of magnitude) of employer penalties for hiring illegals... none of which evidently counts. Some of those who oppose any comprehensive bill whatsoever argue that these programs would be good; but it is a "fact" that they will never be implemented. Bush plots not to enforce them, allowing "a hundred million" illegals to swarm in for "amnesty."

The word "amnesty" itself is conveniently redefined to include a plea bargain with a legal penalty -- while still retaining the frisson of the original meaning of forgiveness without any penalty. Argument by redefinition is a tactic pioneered by leftists, who routinely say, for example, that we have "murdered" 30,000 civilians in Iraq... redefining "murdering civilians" to mean "undertaking an invasion to which terrorists respond by killing civilians."

Just a few moments ago, Carol Platt Liebau, sitting in for Hugh Hewitt, accused Bush of saying that anyone who opposed the bill doesn't "want to do what's right for America." Translation: Bush has become as great a betrayer as Sen. John McCain (R-AZ, %), to whom she explicitly compared the president.

Perhaps she didn't read very far into the AP story before her blood began to boil and her vision clouded up; what the president actually said was this:

"Those determined to find fault with this bill will always be able to look at a narrow slice of it and find something they don't like," the president said. "If you want to kill the bill, if you don't want to do what's right for America, you can pick one little aspect out of it.

"You can use it to frighten people," Bush said. "Or you can show leadership and solve this problem once and for all."

One may agree or disagree with the compromise bill; but there is no question that the subject of the paragraph is "those determined to find fault with this bill," not everyone who doesn't accept it or is skeptical that it can succeed. Plenty of people oppose this particular bill but are willing to consider other realistic solutions, rather than making demands they know are impossible. They are not included among those who "don't want to do what's right for America," according to President Bush.

He attacks those for whom no bill is acceptable -- other than pure enforcement and deportation, which they know very well will never pass Congress. He castigates people who want to see any regularization plan crash and burn, even if it takes the entire Republican Party with it, leaving the Democrats with total power. "At least then," such bitter-enders say, "we'll know who to blame when the country is destroyed!"

Feeding the energy creature

This is not simply a distasteful and vulgar repudiation of a man who has done, on the whole, a very good job making very tough decisions in response to a terrible national threat. It is also a tragic example of political self-euthanasia.

Conservatives appear determined, if unknowingly so, to put the GOP out of the Democrats' misery: They act as if they can surgically destroy George W. Bush and the "neocons" (however they define them), while leaving the rest of the Republican Party intact. In fact, they seem to believe that once they thrash the president to death, the country will rally behind a "true conservative."

I'm not sure who they have in mind, and I don't think they know, either. The only option offered is to exhume Ronald Reagan.

"Politics is the art of the possible" -- a saying often attributed to Otto von Bismark, though I doubt he ever actually said it. If one rejects that, one is left saying that politics should include elements that are impossible... which, by definition, is impossible. For whatever reason (and I think it likely that BBS played a great role), we lost the 2006 elections; Democrats captured both the House and Senate, albeit narrowly.

But however narrow their majority, they still control both the committees and the agenda; and they can stop cold any of the GOP's remaining agenda items... unless Republicans stick together and peel off a few Democrats. Republicans alone, without a single Democratic defection, can prevent Congress from enacting a Democratic agenda: But they must rely upon a presidential veto (from the man they are determined to call the Great Betrayer); and again, they must stand firm and united, retaining even the votes of moderate Republicans, who are easily disgusted by the disloyalty of their fellow party members.

We court catastrophe when we join the Democratic dogpile atop the president; and we make fools of ourselves when we imagine we can isolate the damage just to the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, without having it slop over onto the 2008 Republican nominee for president and Republicans running for election or reelection to the Congress. You don't win a fight by clubbing your own head.

It is time for conservatives to focus on the areas where they agree with the fellow Republican in the White House, and on areas where a change can make a compromise bill better, yet not act as a poison pill to kill it altogether. I beseech you, in the bowels of Oliver Cromwell, to leave the Bush bashing to the professionals in the other party.

Unless, that is, conservatives actually crave the freedom from responsibility of the New Deal era!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 29, 2007, at the time of 5:28 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

May 24, 2007

Bowing to the Inevitable

Afghan Astonishments , Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

Big Lizards -- and a whole lot of other folks -- has said repeatedly that, in the end, the Democrats would have to give President Bush the money he needs to keep fighting the war against global jihad... and give it to him without timetables for surrender, without absurd and bogus "readiness rules" that would prevent fresh units from replacing combat-weary veterans, and without 535 "little generals" issuing tactical commands to the troops in the field.

(We tried that last during the Civil War, but it was fewer than 535 back then. Still didn't work.)

The Democrats, for their part, swore that they would never, ever pass such funding without a timeline for withdrawal -- a date certain for American defeat.

Well...

Bowing to President Bush, the Democratic-controlled Congress lined up reluctantly Thursday to provide fresh billions for the Iraq war without the troop withdrawal timeline that drew his earlier veto....

Five months in power on Capitol Hill, Democrats in both houses coupled their concession to the president with pledges to challenge his war policies anew. "Those of us who oppose this war will be back again and again and again and again until this war has ended," said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass.

"I hate this agreement," added Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee who played a key role in talks with the White House that yielded the measure....

Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, alone among the Senate's Democratic White House hopefuls, pledged in advance to oppose the bill. Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware said he supported it.

That left Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois publicly uncommitted in the hours leading to the vote, two leading White House rivals tugged in one direction by the needs of 165,000 U.S. troops - and in another by party activists demanding rejection of the legislation.

After the previous bruising veto battle, Democratic leaders said they hoped to clear the bill for Bush's signature by this Memorial Day weekend.

I know I already talked about this; but it's one of the most important inflection points in prosecuting the overall war, as well as the battles of Iraq and Afghanistan within it: For the first time since last November, we now know for certain that today's Congress hasn't the will to cram defeat down our throats, the way yesterday's did in 1974.

That is a monumental revelation. As much as I have always believed it to be true, it's a tremendous relief to see it verified by actions under the dome.

This also points up the huge distinction between domestic policies, like immigration -- where Congress is typically willing to compromise -- and foreign policy, especially war, where one side must win and the other must lose. As a political (not military) battle, war is a zero sum game: Either you support it, or you don't; you cannot "split the difference" and half-support it.

The congressional kabuki dance also demonstrates the immense superiority of our system of government, a constitutional republic with a strong chief executive, over that of any parliamentary democracy... a more primitive and generally failed form of government that is basically institutionalized tribalism.

To the extent parlimentarianism works at all, it only does when one party seizes so much power that the prime minister more or less apes an American president... as with Tony Blair recently or Winston Churchill during World War II.

But a president has inherent power and the "energy" (as the Federalist Papers put it) to act decisively, while Congress dithers. Even when President Bush's own party wavered, frightened and sweating, Bush stood firm; and by his own force of personality (or mulishness, as you prefer), the plenary powers of the presidency, and the "bully pulpit," he forced Congress to bow to his will.

If this were a parliamentary democracy, he would have been removed as head of the party or his government would have suffered a vote of no-confidence. Bush would have been replaced by an isolationist from the House, who would have pulled out of the war in disgrace and defeat; and if the Democrats won the subsequent election, Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) would now be that "First Speaker."

(Say, maybe that's why lefties so very much prefer parliamentary democracies to our federal republic: Mob rule is much easier in the former.)

Fortunately, we had Founding Fathers who were geniuses, and we shall continue fighting this existential war:

Bush ordered the deployment of an additional five brigades to Iraq in January to try and quell sectarian violence, and he said summer would be critical to the fate of the new strategy.

Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, has pledged to report to the administration and Congress in September on the progress made in the war, and Bush conceded that al-Qaida terrorists and illegal militias will make sure there is heavy fighting in the interim to try and sap the will of the United States.

"And so, yes, it could be a bloody - it could be a very difficult August," he said.

He said he wants to see American troops "in a different configuration at some point in time in Iraq." He said that meant moving from mostly combat to training, border security and special forces anti-terror operations.

"However," Bush said, "it's going to require taking control" of Baghdad.

I wonder how many Democrats (or even Republicans) will remember in August that back in May, Bush warned it would be bloody, violent, and would probably kill a lot of American heroes. Not many, I would guess; they'll claim that Bush said it would be a "cakewalk" (which he never said, nor did anyone in command authority in the administration), and they'll call it another "Bush lie."

But take Baghdad we must, by any means necessary. That's the game on a nutshell; and now that the Democrats caved, we have a real chance of achieving exactly that.

I wonder how the nutroots are taking the collapse of "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party?" Even less certain, I wonder how the nutroots will react if we actually manage to secure victory in Iraq? Will they demand we return the "stolen property" -- the Iraqi population -- to the Baathists?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 24, 2007, at the time of 4:06 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

May 22, 2007

Dems Agree to Allow Possibility of Victory In Iraq

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Staving off the feverish Democratic attempt to force defeat on America, President George W. Bush held firm, threatened vetos, and backed up the threats by actually vetoing a troop-funding bill that included a timetable for surrender.

And today, the Democrats finally blinked, as we knew they eventually must:

Flinching in the face of a veto threat, Democratic congressional leaders neared agreement with the Bush administration Tuesday on legislation to pay for the Iraq war without setting a timeline for troop withdrawal.

Several officials said the emerging compromise bill would cost about $120 billion, including as much as $8 billion for Democratic domestic priorities - originally resisted by the White House - such as disaster relief for Hurricane Katrina victims and farmers hurt by drought.

I cannot see how this can be spun, without inducing laughter, as anything but victory for Bush and the mainstream of the GOP and defeat for the defeatists in Congress. But that doesn't stop Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%) from trying:

Despite the concession, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters that the legislation would be the first war-funding bill sent to Bush since the U.S. invasion of Iraq "where he won't get a blank check."

Reid and other Democrats pointed to a provision that would set standards for the Iraqi government in developing a more democratic society. U.S. reconstruction aid would be conditioned on progress toward meeting the goals, but Bush would have authority to order the money to be spent regardless of how the government in Baghdad performed.

If Democrats want to claim "victory" for forcing the president to decide whether to condition reconstruction funds on political progress -- which he already has authority to do -- let them, so long as they cease trying to force a U.S. surrender in Iraq. But look at it this way: Sen. Reid has now agreed to continue funding, and sending men and women to die in, a war that Reid said we have already "lost."

This should tell us just how much Reid actually believed what he said when he said it.

And for what have the Democrats sold out the nutroots, thrown in the towel, and agreed to allow the war to continue? Why, for a great and noble purpose that certainly transcends the trivial matters of war and peace:

Several officials said the emerging compromise bill would cost about $120 billion, including as much as $8 billion for Democratic domestic priorities - originally resisted by the White House - such as disaster relief for Hurricane Katrina victims and farmers hurt by drought....

[So] Republicans paid a price, too, in terms of billions of dollars in domestic spending that Democrats wrung from them and the administration....

The bill would also include the first increase in the federal minimum wage in more than a decade.

Well! I can see how such a momentous victory as increasing the minimum wage and adding $8 billion to the previous many billions of dollars for the whiny Hurricane Katrina victims would certainly justify the dreadful step of allowing American victory in Iraq -- as horrible a prospect as that might be.

However, in the House (but not the Senate), Democrats even have a solution for that angst-ridden requirement, for those Democrat representatives whose souls would be pained by having to break faith with their constituents... to whom the Democrats promised a horrific American defeat. Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) appears to have decided to split the authorizing legislation in the House (not Senate) into two pieces: one funding bill for all the urgent domestic spending and the minimum-wage increase, the other for the troops.

The House (not Senate) Democrats would enthusiastically vote for the first. But for the second bill, all but the most conservative Blue-Dog Democrats (in the H., not S.) would vote against funding the troops... which would still allow it to pass, albeit by a narrow margin, with the expected, near-unanimous Republican support. Thus in the House of Representatives at least -- if not in the Senate -- "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party," as the late Sen. Paul Wellstone used to say, needn't taint its dainty fingers by being on the same side as America.

Then both bills would be merged when they arrive at the Senate, leaving Harry Reid without succor for his bruised conscience; but by great good fortune, his scruples have harder calluses than hers.

The really interesting question is whether the Republicans who have been pushing defeat for so many months will vote for this bill... or whether they will turn out to be more liberal (and un-American) than even the Democratic Party leadership. Only time...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 22, 2007, at the time of 4:13 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 16, 2007

Pressure Mounts for Clinton, Obama, Feingold, Biden, Reid to Resign From Senate

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Today's humiliating vote on the bill by Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100%) to set a hard date for American withdrawal from Iraq -- the bill needed 60 votes to break the Republican filibuster; it got 29 votes, a scant 31 votes short -- puts more pressure on the 28 Democrats who voted for it, including all Democratic presidential candidates still in the Senate, to resign from that august body in disgrace.

The proposal lost 29-67 on a procedural vote, falling 31 votes short of the necessary votes to advance. Of the 67 senators who opposed Feingold's proposal, there were 19 Democrats, 47 Republicans and Connecticut Independent Joseph Lieberman. Of the 29 supporting, 28 were Democrats and Vermont Independent Bernard Sanders.

(Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, 100%, is undisgraceable, so is excused from the calls for mass resignation.)

Everyone knew that the bill wouldn't be able to clear the 60-vote hurdle; but Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%) was stunned by how little support he actually had within his own Democratic conference: The bill passed among Democrats by only 60% - 40%. In contrast, Republicans were solidly united against it; not even Sens. John Warner (R-VA, 64%), Olympia Snowe (R-ME, 36%), Susan Collins (R-ME, 48%), Charles Grassley (R-, 88%), or Chuck Hagel (R-, 75%) voted in favor. Sources within the Senate who do not wish to be identified say this signals an impossible task for the pro-surrender wing of Congress.

In a clear sign of a dangerous divorce from reality, Majority Leader Reid announced that a 60-40 split is an example of party unity:

"We stand united.... in our belief that troops are enmeshed in an intractable civil war," said Reid, D-Nev.

A number of independent observers have long raised concerns about Sen. Reid's mental stablity. This worry adds to many others in a rising tide of anti-Reid sentiment that threatens to force his resignation from the Senate, from politics, and perhaps from the world, were he to retire to a life of religious study and monkdom.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 95%), who once harbored dreams of being elected president (or at least nominated), joined a number of other rats swimming towards the sinking ship:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a Democratic presidential front-runner, previously opposed setting a deadline on the war. But she said she agreed to back the measure "because we, as a united party, must work together with clarity of purpose and mission to begin bringing our troops home and end this war."

As it became clear that Democrats are only united in their disunity, she found herself twisting slowly, slowly in the wind -- which, to be fair, is generally her preferred residence; she's not called "the weathercock of the Senate" for nothing. As pressure mounts for her to end her presidential run and leave public life, she may eventually find such a course more palatable than the increasingly untenable alternative.

Presidential formerly hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL, 95%) cast his lonely vote for the bill in order to send a message:

Sen. Barack Obama, another leading 2008 prospect, said he would prefer a plan that offers more flexibility but wanted "to send a strong statement to the Iraqi government, the president and my Republican colleagues that it's long past time to change course."

Instead of a message, he should have sent a sausage: It would have been more easily consumed. But he is right; it is time for Obama and his fellow Democratic candidates and the Democratic majority in Congress to "change course" -- perhaps to supporting American victory, rather than agitating for American defeat.

Even perennial defeatist Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI, 100%), a veteran of such campaigns against victory, appears to have scented the shift in the prevailing winds; he voted against the Feingold bill, ironically remarking:

'We don't want to send the message to the troops' that Congress does not support them, said Levin, D-Mich. 'We're going to support those troops.'

Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE, 100%), proudly and enthusiastically supported the failed effort on the Senate floor; however, this blog was unable to find a single source, even anonymous, who cared. Many believe that Biden intends his current presidential campaign to be a "swan song" to his overly long political career.

As the ripples spread from the crushing Democratic defeat, Sen. Warner's own surrender bill -- setting benchmarks with troop-withdrawals attached -- also failed. Sen. Levin, seeing the handwriting on the wall and reluctant to join the Democratic exodus out the door, withdrew his demand for defeat without allowing it to come to a vote.

Seeing nothing but "miserable failure" on all his anti-victory bills, Majority Leader Reid has evidently given up; he is now likely to admit the Democrats cannot pass any of the troop-abandonment bills that relentlessly burble up from the chamber on the other side of the Capitol Dome:

The Senate must take the next step by passing its own measure. Given the political forces at work, that legislation will be a placeholder, its only purpose to trigger three-way negotiations involving the House, Senate and Bush administration on a final compromise.

As a result, officials said Tuesday that Reid and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell had discussed jointly advancing a bill so barebones that it would contain no funds and do little more than express congressional support for the troops.

This non-bill bill, intended to be written entirely in the joint conference, has led to the suggestion from a number of voices that the majority leader should change his nickname (for however long he can withstand calls for him to step down) from Harry "Pinky" Reid to Harry "Fill In the Blank" Reid.

Even the majority leader himself appears to recognize the drubbing his party just took:

Negotiations on the final compromise are expected to take days.

Wednesday's votes on Feingold and other proposals "will provide strong guidance to our conferees and help shape the conference negotiations we have ahead of us," said Reid.

Let us hope so.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 16, 2007, at the time of 2:00 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

"Surge" - Yet to Begin - Produces Mere 15% Drop So Far

Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

A fascinating glimpse into the defeatism mindset: The so-called "surge" (that is, the counterinsurgency strategy), which has not actually started yet (they're still prepping the ground and waiting for the final brigade to take its place), has already produced a 15% drop in attacks... and AP dismisses that as "little effect":

A U.S. government report released Tuesday showed that the recent U.S. troop increase and security crackdown has had little effect on the high number of attacks in the country.

The average number of attacks rose from 71 a day in January 2006 to a high of 176 per day in October, according to the report from the Government Accountability Office. In February, when the troop increase began to take effect, daily attacks dropped slightly to 164. Daily attacks averaged 157 in March and 149 in April, the report said.

Pulling out my rusty calculator, Iraq attacks have dropped by 27 per day... which is more than 15% of what they were. In other words, before the counterinsurgency operation has even begun, attacks -- we're talking attacks from al-Qaeda here -- have already dropped by 15%. And we likewise know that sectarian violence has plummeted.

So you'd expect that civilian deaths would have dropped as well, right? Well, AP wasn't sure; the one report they looked at didn't tell them; so they decided not to bother trying to find out:

The report, which cited the U.S.-led forces in Iraq for the figures, did not measure the numbers killed and wounded in the attacks.

Military officials have said that since the security crackdown in the Baghdad region began more than 12 weeks ago, Sunni insurgents have hit back with powerful, and extremely deadly, car bombs that often cause more casualties than the types of attacks used previously.

Often? But are more or fewer people being killed now than back in 2006? To this question, the author, Thomas Wagner -- or perhaps the author, Hamid Ahmed, and the white guy who takes credit, Thomas Wagner (we'll never know!) -- shrugs his shoulders in journalistic helplessness. What can he do?

He could trundle all the way over to Iraq Coalition Casualty Count to see what could be seen... as Big Lizards did. They're not the best source; but they do thoroughly count every slain Iraqi civilian reported by the elite media (along with many other statistics); so let's give it a shot:

  • In the last half of 2006, an average of 1,978 "civilian deaths" per month were reported;
  • In January 2007, before the counterinsurgency buildup began, there were 1,711;
  • In February, just as the operation was announced, there were 2,864 (more than in any month in 2006 except September);
  • In March, this dropped to 2,762;
  • In April, it was 1,521;
  • In May through the 15th, it's 729, for a projected 1,507 civilian deaths.

Or to put it into percentages, from the local peak in February, civilian deaths have dropped by 1,357 per month, or 47%.

But perhaps that's not really fair; we shouldn't count from a "surge" of al-Qaeda attacks right before we began inserting the brigades into Baghdad and Anbar provinces. All right, let's count instead from the average of the latter half of 2006.

In that case, civilian deaths have dropped by only 471 per month... which is a drop in civilian killings of a "scant" 24%. What was it AP said again?

Sunni insurgents have hit back with powerful, and extremely deadly, car bombs that often cause more casualties than the types of attacks used previously.

Evidently not that often.

So let's tote up the statistics: The counterinsurgency has so far produced a drop in the monthly number of attacks in Iraq of about 15%, and a drop in the monthly toll of civilian killings of about 24%... and the actual operation hasn't even begun yet.

If that is what AP calls "little effect," I wonder what the heck they'll say when the full counterinsurgency actually gets rolling, and the drops are even steeper than that. Perhaps, after some sleepless nights pondering their diction, they'll upgrade the rhetoric... and declare that the reduction in dead Iraqis has gone from "little" to "modest effect."

I modestly submit that, were we talking about homicide-rate reductions in any American city with a Democratic mayor, the elites would be cheering and cutting capers in the streets.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 16, 2007, at the time of 6:02 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

May 13, 2007

The War: Plus Ça Change, Plus Ce N'est Pas la Même Chose

Afghan Astonishments , Future of Warfare , Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

Much ado is made of a point -- a cliche, in fact -- that I thought should be fairly obvious: