Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"No one can hide in Iraq forever from the American military"

Michael Totten - On the Hunt in Baghdad:

"I have to protect the Army's operational security, so I cannot tell you how the suspect was spotted. But I can tell you that if I were a terrorist or insurgent in Iraq, and if I knew what kind of sophisticated high-tech surveillance equipment the Americans used as a matter of course, it would scare the living daylights out of me. No one can hide in Iraq forever from the American military."

Sunday, December 14, 2008

4 Stars

This picture was taken by a friend at the Army-Navy football game in Annapolis. Seen here are the epaulets and rank insignia of General James T. Conway, Commandant of the Marine Corps.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The enemy in Afghanistan

Michael Yon:

"These enemies have no wish to reconcile with their fellow countrymen, or compromise in any way that would diminish their control of the lives of the ordinary Afghans who don’t share their feral vision of life. They throw acid in the faces of little girls whose only crime is that they go to school. So we must continue to send our toughest men to confront them eye to eye, while performing the difficult balancing act of not alienating those who intend us no harm. This is particularly difficult in Afghanistan, a proud nation with a deep tradition of antipathy toward outsiders — even those who are here to help, though I am finding many Afghans clearly do not want us to leave."

Good news. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates may be sending more Marines to Afghanistan:
The top Marine officer, Gen. James Conway, told The Associated Press this week that he believes there is a growing consensus that Marines could be used to fill part of the need in Afghanistan. If approved, he said, some could go there in early spring.

"It's clear that the Marines want to be in the fight, that's what you'd expect," said Gates, adding that it's clear that the security situation has greatly improved in Iraq's Anbar province, where the bulk of the Marines are. "I don't have a problem with Gen. Conway's desire to have a bigger part of the mission in Afghanistan for the Marine Corps."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Marines make insurgents pay the price

"During the battle, the designated marksman single handedly thwarted a company-sized enemy RPG and machinegun ambush by reportedly killing 20 enemy fighters with his devastatingly accurate precision fire. He selflessly exposed himself time and again to intense enemy fire during a critical point in the eight-hour battle for Shewan in order to kill any enemy combatants who attempted to engage or maneuver on the Marines in the kill zone. What made his actions even more impressive was the fact that he didn’t miss any shots, despite the enemies’ rounds impacting within a foot of his fighting position.


“I didn’t realize how many bad guys there were until we had broken through the enemies’ lines and forced them to retreat. It was roughly 250 insurgents against 30 of us,” the corporal said. “It was a good day for the Marine Corps. We killed a lot of bad guys, and none of our guys were seriously injured.”

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"The war is over and we won"

Michael Yon:

"THE WAR IS OVER AND WE WON. There's nothing going on. I'm with the 10th Mountain Division, and about half of the guys I'm with haven't fired their weapons on this tour and they've been here eight months. And the place we're at, South Baghdad, used to be one of the worst places in Iraq. And now there's nothing going on. I've been walking my feet off and haven't seen anything. I've been asking Iraqis, 'do you think the violence will kick up again,' but even the Iraqi journalists are sounding optimistic now and they're usually dour."

Friday, October 31, 2008

Communications: Us and Them

Michael Yon writes:

"We’ve been at war in Afghanistan since 2001, and the enemy has figured out some things over that time. Tracking cell phones is no more difficult than tracking strobe lights. Anything that radiates can be tracked. Osama bin Laden, for instance, realized that having any electronics around him could be a death sentence. He reportedly used an intentional deception plan using his own phone, by sending it off with a decoy while he escaped in another direction."

As many journalists, writers and military leaders have pointed out, this is not a war that will be won by firepower alone.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Al Qaeda Offline

The Washington Post:

"There had been this aura of invincibility" about al-Qaeda's media operations, said Gregory D. Johnsen, a U.S.-based expert on violent Sunni groups in Yemen. "Now this has really been taken away from them."

Sunday, September 14, 2008

"What happens when the bluff no longer works?"

Dexter Filkins, writing for the New York Times:

"Pakistan’s double game has rested on two premises: that the country’s leaders could keep the militants under control and that they could keep the United States sufficiently placated to keep the money and weapons flowing. But what happens when the game spins out of control? What happens when the militants you have been encouraging grow too strong and set their sights on Pakistan itself? What happens when the bluff no longer works?"

The best reporting by the New York Times in a long, long time.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Monday, September 08, 2008

'Experience in a gun fight"

Outside the Wire - An Un-intended Advantage:

"...the United States military is one of the most combat-experienced militaries in history. Virtually every officer of the line has led Soldiers and Marines on daily combat missions.Sergeants and Junior Staff NCOs have come up through the ranks not in garrison or on training exercises but in combat. Virtually every U.S. Rifle Platoon has something the Russian and Chinese military do not--experience in a gun fight. While many may not believe that the U.S. has started winning in Iraq, the General Staff's of the authoritarian regimes know what is happening and surely must be wondering how their untested conscripts would fare against the battle hardened 1st Marine Division or 82nd Airborne."

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

"When things go wrong, you persevere"

Corporal Michael Pinckney:

"I'm twenty-three. My generation sucks. They're all soft. They don't care about their identity as Americans. We live in some bad-ass country, and they're not even proud of it. My family flies the flag, but other families don't. Nobody knows what it means to be American anymore, to be tough. I like being home and yet I don't. People at home are not proud of us being in Iraq, because they've lost the meaning of sacrifice. They expect things to be perfect and easy. They don't know that when things go wrong you persevere; you don't second-guess. During OIF-I, we all slept in the rain and got dysentery in Ad-Diwaniyah. But back home, everyone is going to shrinks and suing each other. That's why I like the Marine Corps. If you fuck up, your sergeant makes you suck it up. I don't want to be anywhere else but Iraq. OIF-I and OIF-II, this is what manhood is all about. And I don't mean macho shit either. I mean moral character."

From Robert Kaplan's "Imperial Grunts," page 323.

Secret War: SAS and Delta

More than 3,500 insurgents have been "taken off the streets of Baghdad" by the elite British force in a series of audacious "Black Ops" over the past two years.

It is understood that while the majority of the terrorists were captured, several hundred, who were mainly members of the organisation known as "al-Qa'eda in Iraq" have been killed by the SAS.

The SAS is part of a highly secretive unit called "Task Force Black" which also includes Delta Force, the US equivalent of the SAS.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"there are finite numbers of skilled combatants"

Victor Davis Hanson:

"between 2003-7 American forces took an enormous toll on jihadists. We have heard mostly how many Americans have been lost, rarely how many of the enemy they have killed or wounded—but the aggregate number is in the tens of thousands. Even in postmodern wars, there are finite numbers of skilled combatants—and many of them simply did not survive their encounter with American troops."

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Give Credit When Credit Is Due

Many have downplayed the role of US troops regarding the Anbar Awakening. I wonder how they explain this?

"This drawing by an Iraqi child depicts the American-Iraqi alliance against Al Qaeda. Notice the sword is Iraqi and the muscle is American."

Complacency Kills

It's great that security is much better now in Iraq, but remember...

"Most of the victims are fellow Muslims"

War Updates at the Strategy Page:

Worldwide, violence continues to decline, as it has for the last few years. Violence has also greatly diminished, or disappeared completely, in places like Iraq,
Nepal, Chechnya, Congo, Indonesia and Burundi. Even Afghanistan, touted as the new war zone, is seeing less violence this year than last.

And as for Islamic terrorism, the real losers are Muslim civilians:
The War on Terror has morphed into the War Against Islamic Radicalism. This religious radicalism has always been around, for Islam was born as an aggressive movement, that used violence and terror to expand. Past periods of conquest are regarded fondly by Moslems. The current enthusiasm for violence in the name of God has been building for over half a century. Historically, periods of Islamic radicalism have flared up periodically in response to corrupt governments, as a vain attempt to impose a religious solution on some social or political problem. The current violence is international because of the availability of planet wide mass media (which needs a constant supply of headlines), and the fact that the Islamic world is awash in tyranny and economic backwardness. Islamic radicalism itself is incapable of mustering much military power, and the movement largely relies on terrorism to gain attention. Most of the victims are fellow Moslems, which is why the radicals eventually become so unpopular among their own people that they run out of new recruits and fade away. This is what is happening now. The American invasion of Iraq was a clever exploitation of this, forcing the Islamic radicals to fight in Iraq, where they killed many Moslems, especially women and children, thus causing the Islamic radicals to lose their popularity among Moslems.

Meanwhile, many more are dying from non-terrorist related conflicts:
While Islamic terrorism grabs most of the headlines, it is not the cause of many casualties, at least not compared to more traditional wars. The vast majority of the military related violence and deaths in the world comes from many little wars that get little media attention outside their region. Actually some of them are not so little. While causalities from terrorism are relatively few (usually 5,000-10,000 dead a year worldwide), the dead and wounded from all the other wars actually comprise about 95 percent of all the casualties.

Much more at the link above.

Monday, July 14, 2008

"Al Qaeda in Iraq has been subjected to a battlefield defeat at our hands"

Christopher Hitchens:

If it is true, as yesterday's three-decker front-page headline in the New York Times had it, that "U.S. Considering Stepping Up Pace of Iraq Pullout/ Fall in Violence Cited/ More Troops Could Be Freed for Operations in Afghanistan," then this can only be because al-Qaida in Iraq has been subjected to a battlefield defeat at our hands—a military defeat accompanied by a political humiliation in which its fanatics have been angrily repudiated by the very people they falsely claimed to be fighting for. If we had left Iraq according to the timetable of the anti-war movement, the situation would be the precise reverse: The Iraqi people would now be excruciatingly tyrannized by the gloating sadists of al-Qaida, who could further boast of having inflicted a battlefield defeat on the United States. I dare say the word of that would have spread to Afghanistan fast enough and, indeed, to other places where the enemy operates. Bear this in mind next time you hear any easy talk about "the hunt for the real enemy" or any loose babble that suggests that we can only confront our foes in one place at a time.

This is not the least of what he says. Note his three points with regard to those who argue Iraq as a "war of choice," versus Afghanistan as a "war of necessity."

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Al Qaeda's Vietnam

The New York Post:

June 17, 2008 -- LATELY, the Iraq War has looked more and more like another Vietnam - not for us, but for al Qaeda.

CIA Director Michael Hayden says the terror group has suffered "near-strategic defeat" in Iraq. It has been routed from Anbar, Diyala and Baghdad provinces, and now is getting a beating in its last stronghold of Mosul, in the north. It is reviled by the Iraqi populace, and its downward trajectory began with indigenous uprisings at its expense.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

How to risk your Freedom

According to Bill Whittle:

"When I was a starving college student, I was all in favor of massive income redistribution through taxes and benefits. I personally had no income to be redistributed, so it was a good deal for me. Now that I actually have to pay taxes and give up things, I find the entire idea a little more problematic. The sales tax checks I write go to the California State Board of Equalization, not the California Department of Coerced Larceny – but the effect is precisely the same. The people my money is going to did nothing to earn the money that is being taken from me. And if I don’t give it to them, I lose my freedom."

Similar to a realization I once had as an idealist.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Enemy's Bid For Success

"We are in a battle, and more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media... We are in a media battle for the hearts and minds of our umma."

-Ayman al-Zawahiri, July 2005

Monday, June 02, 2008

Taliban Decapitated

...says the Telegraph:

Missions by special forces and air strikes by unmanned drones have "decapitated" the Taliban and brought the war in Afghanistan to a "tipping point", the commander of British forces has said.

In the past two years an estimated 7,000 Taliban have been killed, the majority in southern and eastern Afghanistan. But it is the "very effective targeted decapitation operations" that have removed "several echelons of commanders".

First reports that al Qaeda in Iraq is on the run, maybe even disintegrating, and now the Taliban in Afghanistan. It's getting increasingly difficult for the media to spin the news negatively. The answer must be to just stop reporting any news on the war on terror. Or at the very least, don't give the US military any credit, as Victor Davis Hanson writes:
"But surely the US military contributed a great deal to the humiliation of al-Qaedists and the bankruptcy of their cause, since it has (1) killed thousands of generic jihadists, and to such a degree that the former Middle East romance of going to Iraq to fight the weak crusaders is now synonymous with a death sentence and defeat; (2) provided the window of security necessary for the growing confidence of the Maliki government whose success is absolutely destroying the Islamist canard that the U.S. backs only dictatorships."

Whether or not it's getting reported, the number of terrorists facing American and coalition troops is rapidly shrinking.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Fewest Deaths Since The Start Of The War

U.S. military deaths plunged in May to the lowest monthly level in more than four years and civilian casualties were down sharply, too, as Iraqi forces assumed the lead in offensives in three cities and a truce with Shiite extremists took hold.

And the AP headline?: Deaths in Iraq plunge, but will it last?

I think it will. Military and civilian deaths, along with attacks, are at record lows. I see a trend. Even the Washington Post jumps in.

Maybe the war isn't lost after all.

Zawahiri's favorite wife

"I say to you ... (I have) tasted the bitterness of American brutality: my favorite wife's chest was crushed by a concrete ceiling."

So said al Qaeda number two Ayman Al-Zawahiri in an internet response to female would-be suicide bombers. Alas, Zawahiri decreed, their place is not to martyr themselves with TNT, but to stay home and feed the kids.

Better for the west that female extremists aren't added to the militant ranks of the fanatical terror group. Yet, al Qaeda's stance is creating a controversy which would almost seem laughable if not for its dark implications.

How ironic that radical Muslim women are fighting for exactly the freedom and equality that the movement's ideology directly opposes.

The plight of al Qaeda continues to spiral downward, as this controversy pales in comparison to a major rift within radical Islamic circles. As Lawrence Wright explains,

"Al-Qaida is at war. And not just against the West, but with itself...

"It's very profound in the radical edge of it," says Wright, who explores the ideological rift for an article in next week's New Yorker magazine. "Before, moderate Muslims have spoken out against violence in the name of Islam, but now radicals are doing the same thing. And what's fascinating is that they're attacking on two grounds: One is that [violence is] not practical because it hasn't achieved their purposes. And secondly, it's sinful. It is placing the souls of the people who commit this violence in great jeopardy."

Wright tells NPR's Guy Raz that the two players behind the rift are Ayman Al-Zawahiri, al-Qaida's No. 2 man, and Sayyed Imam Al-Sharif, also known as Dr. Fadl. Sharif, who wrote al-Qaida's manual for jihad training, recently released a manifesto refuting those principles. The fact that al-Qaida's architect has changed his mind, Wright says, makes violence "harder to justify using that kind of thinking."

The cool air wafting into Zawahiri's cave must seem that much more bone-chilling these days; having to placate Islam's faithfully violent women on the one hand, and refute one of the movement's founding fathers with the other.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

"On the margins of their consciousness"

Wretchard of The Belmont Club writes:

I suspect that in the minds of many, the question will be begged. A large percentage of public policy debates are determined not by winning intellectual arguments but by forming attitudes. A friend of mine wrote in a private email that many people in his San Francisco office don't even think about the War on Terror or the fact that America hasn't been attacked by 9/11. All that is a hum on a distant planet; something on the margins of their consciousness. Arguments invoking the numbers of Iraqi Government divisions, the Anbar Awakening, etc might as well be a recitation of track lengths in a obscure railroad. A certain percentage of people have made their minds up. 'America has lost. The TV says so. And besides, so what?'

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Taliban meet USMC

"We've been waiting a while to get this going"

- Corporal Matt Gregorio
Marines from the 24th MEU

The first US Marines of a new expeditionary force were deployed in Afghanistan’s troubled Helmand province yesterday, promising new and more aggressive tactics in an implicit criticism of the British operation there.

And from Fox News:

"The feeling in general is optimistic, excited," said Moder, 34, of North Kingstown, Rhode Island. "They've been training for this deployment the last nine months. We've got veteran leaders."

Moder said that experience would affect how his men fight in Afghanistan. "These guys saw a lot of progress in Ramadi, so they understand it's not just kinetic (fighting) but it's reconstruction and economic development."

One Marine in Charlie Company, Cpl. Matt Gregorio, 26, from Boston, alluded to the fact the Marines had been in Afghanistan for six weeks without carrying
out any missions. He said the mood was "anxious, excited."

"We've been waiting a while to get this going," he said.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Reconsidering Bilal Hussein

Michael Totten on why the AP should reconsider its vigorous unquestioned support of accused terrorist conspirator Bilal Hussein:

I’m sure media companies are careful about who they hire, but it’s hard to make the right call every time in a bewildering and inscrutable place like Iraq. Terrorists and insurgents are and have been supported by a substantial percentage of the local population. It’s nearly impossible to build a firewall thick enough to keep them all out.

Even the U.S. military can’t do it. I spent a week with the 82nd Airborne at a small forward operating base in Baghdad where three thoroughly vetted translators were caught working for the enemy. If such people can infiltrate the Army, how much easier must it be to infiltrate the likes of the Associated Press and Reuters? The military is more motivated and more able to screen its employees than a multinational corporation. Media companies don't have the same caliber of intelligence assets, nor do newspapers and wire agencies depend on reporters, photographers, and stringers for their own security.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Killers, not resistance fighters

"Al Qa'eda came here saying they would give freedom," said Mr Abbas. "But they killed the innocent people and made problems between the Sunni and Shia. They are liars and terrorists, not resistance fighters."

Mr. Abbas, a leader of the Sunni Muslim "Awakening."

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Free Tibet, America?

"Free Tibet, I mean, actually, I mention this in America Alone. It’s not really what the book’s about, but I just happened to mention it in passing. Free Tibet is the classic liberal cause. It’s the all-time great bumper sticker. You go to any college in America, they’ve got a Free Tibet society. Everyone’s got the bumper stickers. The left, God bless them, got the bumper sticker in 1957, they put it on the Ford Edsel, and every time they buy a new car, they peel the Free Tibet bumper sticker off and put it on the new car. It’s the quintessential liberal cause in that nothing has happened. Nothing is done. It’s a bumper sticker, and that’s where it ends, and Tibet is less free than it ever was, and in fact, has been comprehensively wrecked and undermined by the Chinese. Butthey don’t mind as long as they get their little bit of posturing out of it."

The above is Mark Steyn on Hugh Hewitt's radio show. We've been tryin got "free tibet" for how long?

I write this as a former card-carrying member of "Students for a free Tibet" back in high school.

Columnist to the world Mark Steyn, the Pulitzers, Petraeus, Iran

"...occasionally, people have talked about putting me in for a Pulitzer for this, that and the other, and it turns out an undocumented American can do almost anything in this country. He can get a fake driver's license and all the rest of it. But apparently, the Pulitzers still maintain, it's like an old-time country club. It's very hard to get into."

Mark Steyn on Hugh Hewitt, discussing his book, America Alone.

Here is Hugh later on in the show, making an excellent point about the Petraeus testimony:
"I’m struck by the fact that when he [Petraeus] goes about methodically telling people on the Hill that Iran is killing Americans, and it doesn’t seem to register, I mean, Joe Lieberman was on the program yesterday, and it registered with him, and it registered with some of the Republicans. But the fact that Iran is killing Americans doesn’t seem, Mark, to make an impression on Democrats."

Steyn responds:
"I think essentially, Iran is at war with us, and we’re pretending not to notice."

The first full-leg amputee ever to return to work in a war zone

Marine Gunnery Sergeant William Spanky Gibson returns to work in Iraq after losing a leg in combat.

That's one tough Marine.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Positive revisionism

VDH - Nothing Succeeds Like Success:

Such positive revisionism can take years to develop. Assessments from the battlefield must be digested, partisan distortions rectified, and volatile news cycles balanced by the more measured perspective that comes only with time.

John McCain's youngest son

...gets a New York Times bio:

By enlisting in the Marines, Jimmy seemed to be giving up his birthright. The Navy is, by reputation, the most aristocratic of the armed forces, the McCains among its most storied families. Now he would hold the lowest rank in a branch known for its grittiness. “The first time I heard he was going to be in the company, I couldn’t believe it,” said First Lt. Sam Bowlby, one of Lance Corporal McCain’s officers in Iraq.

The article also notes Senator McCain's reluctance to discuss his son's military career:
Mr. McCain did not speak publicly about whatever anxiety he may have felt about his son’s deployment

And Lance Corporal McCain's humility
Just before Jimmy’s departure, Mrs. McCain decided she had to see him one final time, according to Lieutenant Bowlby. With a few well-placed phone calls, she won permission to visit the Air Force base from which his unit would depart. When Lance Corporal McCain found out, he protested. No special favors, he said. Mrs. McCain stayed away.

You have to admire Lance Corporal McCain's willingness to serve his country, particularly in the toughest branch of service, especially given his family's background. Likewise, John McCain's reluctance to exploit his son's military career for political gain is equally deserving of respect and admiration.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Al Qaeda Under Fire

Strategy Page:

The Sunni Arab and al Qaeda terror networks in northern Iraq have been under a lot of pressure these the past few months. These new desperation tactics, apparently to try and increase the number of attacks dramatically, failed. And the main reason was that you can't hustle around carrying guns, day or night, while the AH-64s are up there.

This, coupled with the hundreds of Mahdi fighters killed, captured and wounded in the south makes it a bad month already to be an extremist in Iraq.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Why did Sadr fold?

Maybe because...

Some 210 gunmen were killed, 600 others wounded and 155 captured since the beginning of Operation Saulat al-Forsan (Knights’ Assault) in the province of Basra last week, the Iraqi interior ministry said on Monday.

As Ed Morrissey wrote, Sadr was quick to sue for peace:

"Did our media give anyone this context? No. They reported it as some kind of spontaneous eruption of rebellion without noting at all that a nation can hardly be considered sovereign while its own security forces cannot enter a large swath of its own territory. And in the usual defeatist tone, they reported that our mission in Iraq had failed without waiting to see what the outcome of the battle would be. "

Sadr now wants to disavow anyone with a gun. The Mahdis, which found themselves on the short end of the stick, have just watched their Fearless Leader surrender — again — and this time leaving them twisting in the wind. That isn’t the action of a victor. Perhaps our media would like to explain that in the context of their clueless reporting so far."

Along the same lines, General Petraeus has also challenged the British Press for its many inaccuracies:
...he said that reports that the Iraqi government is refusing to employ Sunnis are incorrect.”The National Reconciliation Committee just approved a list of over 3,500 names of Diyala Sons of Iraq for the Iraqi Police,” wrote General Petraeus in his email, a sign that more jobs integrating the Sunnis within the government’s security forces were forthcoming.

Petraeus also responded to a GuardianFilms video report for Britain’s Channel 4 on March 20 charged that Sunni militias in Iraq were not being paid by U.S. forces and were on the verge of staging a national strike because they were not getting jobs within the Iraq government.

More details on how Iraq was won

Rather, how US Navy Seals contributed to the turning of the Anbar tribes. Not the main focus of this Men's Health article, but still worth a read. An excerpt:

"These Bedouin tribes -- their loyalties shift with the sands," he says. "This is where we stood when we arrived a couple of years ago." The screen fills with "hostile" circles. "This is where we are now." Most of them morph into "friendly" circles. "Of the 101 tribes out here, 31 are major. They're the ones we've targeted to bring over to our side against al-Qaeda in Iraq. Bigs come. Smalls follow. They're not stupid. They're clever. So how do we do this? We volunteer to, er, solve problems they may be having with insurgents."

That work consists basically of bartering, says 32-year-old Lieutenant Chris W., whose unit, SEAL Team 4, recently returned from Anbar. "When we arrived in Ramadi, we weren't engaging these tribes in any consistent way." Army and marine units were transferring in and out so rapidly that American outreach ebbed and flowed -- and potential allies were lost.

But in November 2006, Chris W.'s SEAL team, sensing an opening, used an al-Qaeda attack on a local Iraqi sheikh as its first wedge. Working with U.S. Army units stationed in the area, SEAL Team 4 wiped out about 30 of the sheikh's enemies, set up sniper positions overlooking his home and village, and began a brisk lend-lease program of supplies, such as generators, water pumps, and ovens. In return, the sheikh encouraged his followers to become Iraqi police and army recruits. That was the start of the now famous, if controversial, Anbar awakening.

Of course, the full story is more complicated, but adds more evidence to contradict the contention of some politicians that US troops cannot take the credit for the Sheiks turning on al Qaeda.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Quietly Saving Lives

"Perhaps hundreds of lives were saved, including Americans, in one of those missions that practically nobody who was not directly involved will ever hear about."

Read the rest of Michael Yon's dispatch, 'Stake Through Their Hearts'

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Biased Juxtaposition

What do the 9/11 attacks and US military funerals have to do with one another?

Little Green Footballs asks the same question of the Associated Press.

The "spillover effect from what happened in Iraq"

According to Mark Steyn on The Hugh Hewitt Show:

"I think in the months before the invasion of Iraq, the Middle East is a tough nut to crack. But if you're going to find the point at which to try and crack it, Iraq was the one that made sense. And we saw certainly in the early days, the impact it had destroying the Baathist regime, in, for example, Jordan, where at one point, the Baathists were a minor electoral player in Jordanian politics. And in fact, even in a moderate Arab nation like Jordan, the spillover effect from what happened in Iraq, and from the possibilities in Iraq, actually improved the quality of Jordanian democracy. You know, the fact is that a superpower is not a superpower if it cannot influence events in the world. The Middle East exported its pathologies across the planet. That's really what happened on September 11th. And so the only way you can reverse that is by fixing the problem at source, which was the point of going somewhere like Iraq. "

And we should also recall Libya's agreement to dismantle all its WMD's just months after the US swept through Iraq in 2003.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

"When the facts change, I change my opinion"

"...what do you do, sir?"

The quote comes from David Mamet, paraphrasing John Maynard Keynes, in a recent New York Post article describing Mamet's conversion from a "brain-dead liberal" to the right:

"I began reading not only the economics of Thomas Sowell (our greatest contemporary philosopher) but Milton Friedman, Paul Johnson and Shelby Steele . . . and found that I agreed with them: A free-market understanding of the world meshes more perfectly with my experience than that idealistic vision I called liberalism."

Reading of Mamet's conversion, while I cannot speak of his theatrical work, reminded me of the philosophical political conversion I underwent during the fall of 2006, just after the mid-term elections. I was pretty solidly a Kerry guy in 2004, although I wasn't entirely sure why, other than he wasn't Bush. Yet, I realized soon after that I had done little in the way of research on Kerry the candidate. But what really triggered my political conversion was the war in Iraq. The valiant efforts by the soldiers and Marines on the ground, coupled with the determination of many Iraqis to rid themselves of the entrenched insurgency prevented me from seeing the deliberate Democratic ignorance and opposition as anything but disgraceful. Once the surge was put in place and real gains were evident by mid-summer 2007, I felt personally vindicated and resolved that my beliefs and intuition were true.

Political posturing is one thing, but woeful ignorance, fraud, and the tacit hope that your own country will lose in combat overseas pushed me to ever new heights in my distaste of the shameful sophism and baseless prognostications among the left. They seemed to hope for a Pyrrhic victory, a position that is simply unacceptable.

I tell friends that I am largely a single-issue voter, and that is true. "Partisanship must end at the water's edge" said Harry Truman. That is one maxim that should never be broken.

Once I reached an opinion regarding the American-led effort in Iraq, my analysis of the situation led to further inquiry in the realm of foreign policy - North Korea, Iran, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, China. And if one can accept that the United States does not act solely for its own benefit, that Americans have and continue to die in order to support the birth of infant democracies across the globe, and that our government is not inherently evil, solely determined to gobble up the world for shareholders - then we have a place to begin a debate.

Unfortunately, because of the combination of military success overseas, and the political impotence of its leaders at home, the American left has largely resorted to incendiary ad hominem attacks against all that is honorable about our military, to the most baseless of US motives in the middle east, to the conviction that America deserves each terrorist attack perpetrated against it.

Social security, Medicare, highway spending, and taxes will sort itself out here domestically. These problems are daunting but secondary to security and the world energy supply located in the least stable region of the world.

A series of poor choices, political rhetoric, and desperation have lead the American left toward its current political positions, costing it pragmatic centrists like myself, patriotic realists who can no longer stomach the anti-American sentiment coming from home, nor the obvious weakness manifest in its own inability to pass legislation while holding the majority.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Remembering the world's fastest jet

There was a great deal in here I never knew about the SR-71, despite the fact that I'd seen the jet many times while visiting the USS Interpid Sea, Air & Space Museum. An excerpt from "I loved that jet" posted on Maggie's Farm:

I was piloting the SR-71 spy plane, the world's fastest jet, accompanied by Maj Walter Watson, the aircraft's reconnaissance systems officer (RSO). We had crossed into Libya and were approaching our final turn over the bleak desert landscape when Walter informed me that he was receiving missile launch signals. I quickly increased our speed, calculating the time it would take for the weapons-most likely SA-2 and SA-4 surface-to-air missiles capable of Mach 5 - to reach our altitude. I estimated that we could beat the rocket-powered missiles to the turn and stayed our course, betting our lives on the plane's performance.

After several agonizingly long seconds, we made the turn and blasted toward the Mediterranean. 'You might want to pull it back,' Walter suggested. It was then that I noticed I still had the throttles full forward. The plane was flying a mile every 1.6 seconds, well above our Mach 3.2 limit. It was the fastest we would ever fly. I pulled the throttles to idle just south of Sicily, but we still overran the refueling tanker awaiting us over Gibraltar.

Facts from Iraq the media fails to publish

As redundant as it may seem to state the obvious failure of the media with respect to depicting the full picture in Iraq, the following list (which I received in an email forward) is still an eye-opener:

-Did you know that 47 countries have reestablished their embassies in Iraq ?
-Did you know that the Iraqi government currently employs 1.2 million Iraqi people?
-Did you know that 3100 schools have been renovated, 364 schools are under rehabilitation, 263 new schools are now under construction;and 38 new schools have been completed in Iraq ?
-Did you know that Iraq 's higher educational structure consists of 20Universities, 46 Institutes or colleges and 4research centers, all currently operating?
-Did you know that 25 Iraq students departed for the United States in January2005 for the re-established Fulbright program?
-Did you know that the Iraqi Navy is operational? They have 5 - 100-foot patrol craft, 34 smaller vessels and a naval infantry regiment.
-Did you know that Iraq ' s Air Force consists of three operational squadrons, which includes 9 reconnaissance and 3 US C-130 transport aircraft(under Iraqi operational control) which operate day and night, and will soon add 16 UH-1 helicopters and 4 Bell Jet Rangers?
-Did you know that Iraq has a counter-terrorist unit and a Commando Battalion?
-Did you know that the Iraqi Police Service has over 55,000 fully trained and equipped police officers?
-Did you know that there are 5 Police Academies in Iraq that produce over3500 new officers every 8 weeks?
-Did you know there are more than 1100 building projects going on in Iraq?
They include 364 schools, 67 public clinics, 15 hospitals, 83 railroad stations, 22 oil facilities, 93 water facilities and 69 electrical facilities.
-Did you know that 96% of Iraqi children under the age of 5 have received the first 2 series of polio vaccinations?
-Did you know that 4.3 million Iraqi children were enrolled in primary school by mid October?
-Did you know that there are 1,192,000 cell phone subscribers in Iraq and phone use has gone up 158%?
-Did you know that Iraq has an independent media that consists of 75 radio stations, 180 newspapers and 10 television stations?
-Did you know that the Baghdad Stock Exchange opened in June of 2004?
-Did you know that 2 candidates in the Iraqi presidential election had a televised debate recently?


Ironically, far left anti-war blogs like DailyKos continue to take the position that the media operates as "a wide-open spigot for the propaganda of the Bush-Cheney administration." In reality, the significant reduction in violence has simply dampened the media's appetite for more in depth coverage. In reality, terrorist organizations, such as al Qaeda in Iraq, have found their area of operations significantly reduced. This is a product of the surge. Unfortunately, that has not lead news agencies to instead focus on progress, as listed above.

Progress that you don't see

Sometimes no news is good news. With regard to the number of terrorist plots foiled since 9/11, the long list should reassure Americans that their government is doing something right:

• December 2001, Richard Reid: British citizen attempted to ignite shoe bomb on flight from Paris to Miami.
• May 2002, Jose Padilla: American citizen accused of seeking “dirty bomb,” convicted of conspiracy.
• September 2002, Lackawanna Six: American citizens of Yemeni origin convicted of supporting Al Qaeda. Five of six were from Lackawanna, N.Y.
• May 2003, Iyman Faris: American citizen charged with trying to topple the Brooklyn Bridge.
• June 2003, Virginia Jihad Network: Eleven men from Alexandria, Va., trained for jihad against American soldiers, convicted of violating the Neutrality Act, conspiracy.
• August 2004, Dhiren Barot: Indian-born leader of terror cell plotted bombings on financial centers (see additional images).
• August 2004, James Elshafay and Shahawar Matin Siraj: Sought to plant bomb at New York’s Penn Station during the Republican National Convention.
• August 2004, Yassin Aref and Mohammed Hossain: Plotted to assassinate a Pakistani diplomat on American soil.
• June 2005, Father and son Umer Hayat and Hamid Hayat: Son convicted of attending terrorist training camp in Pakistan; father convicted of customs violation.
• August 2005, Kevin James, Levar Haley Washington, Gregory Vernon Patterson and Hammad Riaz Samana: Los Angeles homegrown terrorists who plotted to attack National Guard, LAX, two synagogues and Israeli consulate.
• December 2005, Michael Reynolds: Plotted to blow up refinery in Wyoming, convicted of providing material support to terrorists.
• February 2006, Mohammad Zaki Amawi, Marwan Othman El-Hindi and Zand Wassim Mazloum: Accused of providing material support to terrorists, making bombs for use in Iraq.
• April 2006, Syed Haris Ahmed and Ehsanul Islam Sadequee: Cased and videotaped the Capitol and World Bank for a terrorist organization.
• June 2006, Narseal Batiste, Patrick Abraham, Stanley Grant Phanor, Naudimar Herrera, Burson Augustin, Lyglenson Lemorin, and Rotschild Augstine: Accused of plotting to blow up the Sears Tower.
• July 2006, Assem Hammoud: Accused of plotting to hit New York City train tunnels.
• August 2006, Liquid Explosives Plot: Thwarted plot to explode ten airliners over the United States.
• May 2007, Fort Dix Plot: Six men accused of plotting to attack Fort Dix Army base in New Jersey.
• June 2007, JFK Plot: Four men accused of plotting to blow up fuel arteries underneath JFK Airport in New York.
• March 2007, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed: Mastermind of Sept. 11 and author of numerous plots confessed in court in March 2007 to planning to destroy skyscrapers in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Recent news of an al Qaeda plot to attack a US embassy in Yemen only highlight the need for continued vigilance.

"An elegant dance under a burning roof"

A number of the Iraq war's detractors decry the great number of troops used on the ground, especially given the degree of US technology. This recent entry by Michael Yon may serve to placate the critics. The story reveals far more sophisticated tactics and proficiency among our soldiers on the ground - and in they sky. Far more than just "air-raiding villages," as some politicians are quick to dismiss. Here we see 4 Kiowa helicopter pilots and one predator drone take twelve minutes to take out five terrorists planting a bomb. An excerpt from Michael Yon:

"The bombers were being watched. Invisible to them, prowling far overhead, was a Predator.

"The Predator is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) whose eye sees through the darkness. The night sky is the jungle where it hides. The Predator strikes with more suddenness and force than any tiger. I often watch the live feed streaming down into the Tactical Operations Centers (TOC) around Iraq, while crosshairs track the enemy, and the screen lists data such as altitude, azimuth, ground speed, and the precise grid coordinates of the target. The Predator carries a deadly Hellfire missile, but also has other weapons, like the crosshairs on its eye, which links down to soldiers watching the video and data feed. The soldiers have radios to other soldiers with massive arrays of weapons. With that combination, every weapon in the US arsenal can be brought into action. Unarmed spy planes, like the Shadow, often allow enemies to escape—the difference between success and failure is often measured in seconds. The Predator can launch an attack with its Hellfire, but the most devastating attacks are usually the result of closely-coordinated teamwork between soldiers on the ground and in the air, using information provided by the Predator above. Combat at this level is an elegant dance under a burning roof."

And my favorite part:
"Meanwhile, the Marines, realizing the pilot was hit, asked if the helicopter could continue the mission. It’s hard not to respect the Marines. After all, a pilot is shot and they ask the helicopter to stay on station. That’s why they win."

Read the rest.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Daily Show: Marines in Berkeley

"If only there was an organization sworn to defend that free speech."


Courtesy Neal Boortz.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Recognizing the Patton of Iraq

Fred and Kimberly Kagan had this to say of Petraeus' right-hand man in Iraq:

For all the sophistication of this integrated political-military and kinetic/non-kinetic approach to the conflict, Odierno is likely to be remembered in military history as the man who redefined the operational art of counterinsurgency with a series of offensives in 2007 and 2008.

This is one reason for the praise:
Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno took command of Multi-National Corps-Iraq (MNC-I) on December 14, 2006. Iraq was in flames. Insurgents and death squads were killing 3,000 civilians a month. Coalition forces were sustaining more than 1,200 attacks per week. Operation Together Forward II, the 2006 campaign to clear Baghdad's most violent neighborhoods and hold them with Iraqi Security Forces, had been suspended because violence elsewhere in the capital was rising steeply. Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) owned safe havens within and around Baghdad, throughout Anbar, and in Diyala, Salah-ad-Din, and Ninewa provinces. The Iraqi government was completely paralyzed.

When General Odierno relinquished command of MNC-I on February 14, 2008, the civil war was over. Civilian casualties were down 60 percent, as were weekly attacks. AQI had been driven from its safe havens in and around Baghdad and throughout Anbar and Diyala and was attempting to reconstitute for a "last stand" in Mosul--with Coalition and Iraqi forces in pursuit. The Council of Representatives passed laws addressing de-Baathification, amnesty, provincial powers, and setting a date for provincial elections. The situation in Iraq had been utterly transformed.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


From Baghdad's New Normal, by Alex Kingsbury:

"Violence has fallen by two important measures: attacks against American forces and sectarian murders of Iraqi civilians. In Baghdad's West Rasheed area, for example, murders fell from 553 in January 2007 to 20 in January 2008; attacks using improvised explosive devices (IEDs) fell from 178 in February 2007 to five last month. "Now it's time to win this, not just make it more stable," said Lt. Col. Pat Frank, commander of the 1-28 Infantry, moments after hearing the news of the al-Sadr cease-fire.

"One element that has changed in the past year is that many officers as junior as lieutenants and captains now have developed extensive networks of Iraqi informants, who provide tips about ieds and kidnappings. Capt. Brian Ducote of the 1-28 Infantry, whose combat outpost sits on a Shiite-Sunni fault line in the Dora neighborhood, has more than 400 Iraqi contacts in his cellphone (it rings frequently) and can converse in passable Arabic with his sources."

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Reading Carnage and Culture

Maybe the est takeaway from the first one hundred pages of Victor Davis Hanson's Carnage and Culture, which I just got around to reading:

"The idea of decisive battle continues in the West. The classical notion that pitched, shock confrontation is the only way to resolve wars in part explains why Americans consider it honorable and effective to bomb the Libyans when they have committed a terrorist act in Europe; or to rain down enormous battleship projectiles upon Palestinian villages openly an d"fairly" from offshore when a few of their residents are alleged to have bombed in a "cowardly" fashion American Marines asleep in their barracks. As long as Westerners engaged the enemy in an open contest of firepower, the ensuing carnage was seen as relatively immaterial: terrorists who shamelessly killed a few women and children, or states that surprised us on Sunday morning in a bombing attack on our fleet, usually found mechanized murderous armies of retaliation on their soil and daylight fleets of bombers over their skies."

~p 97