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."