Tuesday, November 28, 2006

What Iran could do to help and what it really means by "help"

What Iran could do to help the situation in Iraq is to stop funneling supplies and money to Sadr's militias. The reason they most likely won't do this is because they don't want to lose the support of their most open backer in Iraq. What Iran most likely means by "help" can be seen by looking back at Syria's involvement in the Lebanese Civil War. Syria sent in their military to support their interests, and this is most likely Iran's plan as soon as they can get the USA to withdraw.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

What history will say

What history will see is 9/11 as being the catalyst for the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq as the USA faces the islamic radicalism it has been ignoring until 9/11. Realizing that past failed strategies of lobbing bombs from afar was only strengthening muslim popular support for the extremists and giving them the initiative to perform attacks like 9/11, the USA took the offensive to the middle east where their people became deeply entwined with the fate of the middle east unlike the past. As expected, there were significant setbacks as Iraq felt its way towards democracy and islamic extremists from neighboring countries did their best to defeat the USA. In the long run, the perseverence paid off and both Afghanistan and Iraq are shining examples of what is possible if the people are allowed to determine the fate of their country.

After the Thanksgiving bombings of Sadr City

High profile bombings like the one on Thursday, especially on Sadr City, are simplified as from "Sunni insurgents", but they are almost always from Al Quaida and its small group of Sunni allies of convenience. Their purpose is to incite the volatile militias of Sadr in taking out their frustration on Sunnis in general which, unfortuately they are happy to do. The bulk of the Sunni insurgents are defending their neighborhoods and wish to live to fight another day. Maliki is continuing to show to be a dancing monkey of Sadr, but the Iraqi people, even Shiites, are tired of his hypocrisy of talking tough against militias but doing the opposite when Sadr is involved. http://healingiraq.blogspot.com/ shows the general chatter of the militias on both sides, conveniently translated into english. Although there is foreboding, except for Sadr's militias, everybody else is pretty much taking defensive positions which means full scale civil war is still on hold. Another positive is that this is a sign that normal people are not turning their heads which was the prevalent sentiment not too long ago. It is up to the Iraqi people, but it is obvious that a prime minister that has no ties with Sadr is needed to reign in the Shiite militias doing the bulk of the killing. As for Al Quaida and its "Shura council" that continues to provoke the Shiites, that is going to be a long term fight that eventually the Iraqis will have to take over completely from the USA. They need a cleaner security force instead of one that currently has the appearance of being infiltrated by Sadr's gangs. All is not lost. Pessimism will seem to be the standard mood, but the atmosphere is ripe for changes for the positive. The bulk of the Iraqi people still don't believe in sectarianism. If those people can take charge and link together, the minority who are looking for a fight can be beaten back.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Worrying about terrorist recruitment


"Recruitment"Will an Iraq war make our al-Qaida problem worse? Not likely.

There is a parody of the old Uncle Sam "I Want YOU" recruiting poster in circulation. It shows Osama Bin Laden in the Uncle Sam finger-pointing pose, proclaiming that he wants us to invade Iraq and thus generate massive infusions of young and eager talent to his ranks. In different verbal and cartoon forms, this thought has become part of the standard repertoire of those who take the regime-preservation or regime-prolongation view of Iraq.

Before examining the argument—if it is an argument—one might observe that these are often the same people who scoff at any connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida, and who furthermore are the most critical of the war on al-Qaida and the Taliban. So, it might be noted that for this purpose at least, they take as a given what they otherwise doubt. Perhaps this is progress, even if unacknowledged. (When they say that Iraq is a "distraction," do please remember to ask them: "Distraction from what?" Then ask how keen they are on the battle against Bin Laden.)

It is certainly curious, also, to notice that whether or not Saddam has given succor to al-Qaida, the Bin Ladenist forces around the world have identified his cause with their own. In Kurdistan they fight, at least "objectively" on Saddam's side. In their propaganda, they speak absurdly of an intervention against Saddam as "an attack on a Muslim country," as if regime change could alter the confessional makeup of the country (which incidentally has many non-Muslims and Christians and used to have an immense Jewish population). But why should one suppose that Saddam's defeat would increase the appeal of al-Qaida and, even if we knew this to be true in advance, why should it make any difference?

Let me cite two of Bin Laden's recent pronouncements. After the slaughter of Australian holiday-makers in Bali a few months ago, a statement was issued by al-Qaida that justified the mass murder on the grounds that Australian troops had assisted in East Timor's transition to independence. Bin Laden had many times venomously criticized this Australian involvement before Sept. 11, so whether he is dead or alive the point is made: The Aussies brought this on themselves by helping a mainly Christian minority regain its independence from a mainly Muslim state. No doubt this same thought helped to swell the ranks of al-Qaida in Indonesia itself, where Islam sometimes makes a good fit with local chauvinism. The conclusion would appear to be this: The wise course would have been to leave the East Timorese to the tender mercies of the Indonesian oligarchy, since to involve oneself on their side was to risk Bin Laden's ire. Is this what the recruiting-poster peddlers really want us to conclude?

In a sermon to his troops before Sept. 11, and on many other occasions that we have on tape, Bin Laden told them that beating the Soviet Union in Afghanistan had been the hard part. The destruction of the other superpower, he asserted, would be easy. America was soft and corrupt and sunk in luxury, controlled by venal Jews. It was so weak and decadent that it had run away from Somalia. It would not risk its own forces and could not face the idea of taking casualties. If you care for the evidence then, you might note that Bin Laden recruits on the basis that the United States will not fight. (Admittedly he contradicts himself on this, sometimes referring to it as an unsleeping aggressor. But then, so do those who claim to interpret his wishes.) Still, if the administration were suddenly to decide that the risk of intervention in Iraq was too great, after all this preparation, then we could be sure that Bin Laden's recruiting sergeants would make this cowardice and weakness a central point in their propaganda appeal.

In the early stages of the fighting in Afghanistan after Sept. 11, I remember reading many peacenik arguments that the United States was playing into Bin Laden's hands and doing exactly what he wanted. (Noam Chomsky made a particular point of this; others added that to kill Bin Laden would cause thousands of new Bin Ladens to spring up in his stead.) I have never seen it argued since that al-Qaida got what it wanted out of the Afghan operation. It lost its only host government, it had to abandon its safe houses in Kabul and Kandahar, it took an enormous number of casualties and had to flee ignominiously, it saw hundreds more of its cadres taken to Guantanamo Bay, and it may very well have left its charismatic leader somewhere under a rock. If this was all part of God's design, then he may well not be on their side. Moreover, it strikes me that Osama Bin Laden himself is a one-of-a-kind sort of guy, unlikely to clone widely.

But what if he was able to reproduce himself in this way? Would this alchemy make him less of an enemy? Would it remove the obligation to defend civil society from theocratic nihilism? The proponents of the "recruitment" hypothesis are unclear on this point but then—they are unclear on the whole point to begin with.

It seems obvious that there are those in the Muslim world who dislike or suspect the United States for what it does or does not do, and those who hate it for its very existence. The task of statecraft is to make this distinction and also to work hard and intelligently to make it wider. But to argue that nothing can be done lest it incur the displeasure of the second group is to surrender without a fight, and then to get a fight anyway. American support for elections and for women's rights would infuriate the second group just as much as American action against Saddam. There is, to put it very mildly, no pleasing some people. Nor should there be. Self-respect as well as sound strategy demands that we make the enemy worry what we will do, and not waste away worrying what he may think of us.

Olson Scott Card


The Campaign of Hate and Fear
Some of my fellow Democrats are unpatriotic.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003 12:01 a.m. EST

In one of Patrick O'Brian's novels about the British navy during the Napoleonic wars, he dismisses a particularly foolish politician by saying that his political platform was "death to the Whigs." Watching the primary campaigns among this year's pathetic crop of Democratic candidates, I can't help but think that their campaigns would be vastly improved if they would only rise to the level of "Death to the Republicans."

Instead, their platforms range from Howard Dean's "Bush is the devil" to everybody else's "I'll make you rich, and Bush is quite similar to the devil." Since President Bush is quite plainly not the devil, one wonders why anyone in the Democratic Party thinks this ploy will play with the general public.

There are Democrats, like me, who think it will not play, and should not play, and who are waiting in the wings until after the coming electoral debacle in order to try to remake the party into something more resembling America.

But then I watch the steady campaign of the national news media to try to win this for the Democrats, and I wonder. Could this insane, self-destructive, extremist-dominated party actually win the presidency? It might--because the media are trying as hard as they can to pound home the message that the Bush presidency is a failure--even though by every rational measure it is not.

And the most vile part of this campaign against Mr. Bush is that the terrorist war is being used as a tool to try to defeat him--which means that if Mr. Bush does not win, we will certainly lose the war. Indeed, the anti-Bush campaign threatens to undermine our war effort, give encouragement to our enemies, and cost American lives during the long year of campaigning that lies ahead of us.

Osama bin Laden's military strategy is: If you make a war cost enough, Americans will give up and go home. Now, bin Laden isn't actually all that bright; his campaign to make us go home is in fact what brought us into Afghanistan and Iraq. But he's still telling his followers: Keep killing Americans and eventually, antigovernment factions within the United States will choose to give up the struggle.

It's what happened in Somalia, isn't it? And it's what happened in Vietnam, too.

Reuters recently ran a feature that trumpeted the "fact" that U.S. casualties in Iraq have now surpassed U.S. casualties in the first three years of the Vietnam War. Never mind that this is a specious distortion of the facts, which depends on the ignorance of American readers. The fact is that during the first three years of the war in Vietnam, dating from the official "beginning" of the war in 1961, American casualties were low because (a) we had fewer than 20,000 soldiers there, (b) most of them were advisers, deliberately trying to avoid a direct combat role, (c) our few combat troops were special forces, who generally get to pick and choose the time and place of their combat, and (d) because our presence was so much smaller, there were fewer American targets than in Iraq today.

Compare our casualties in Iraq with our casualties in Vietnam when we had a comparable number of troops, and by every rational measure--casualties per thousand troops, casualties per year, or absolute number of casualties--you'll find that the Iraq campaign is far, far less costly than Vietnam. But the media want Americans to think that Iraq is like Vietnam--or rather, that Iraq is like the story that the Left likes to tell about Vietnam.

Vietnam was a quagmire only because we fought it that way. If we had closed North Vietnam's ports and carried the war to the enemy, victory could have been relatively quick. However, the risk of Chinese involvement was too great. Memories of Korea were fresh in everyone's minds, and so Vietnam was fought in such a way as to avoid "another Korea." That's why Vietnam became, well, Vietnam.

But Iraq is not Vietnam. Nor is the Iraq campaign even the whole war. Of course there's still fighting going on. Our war is against terrorist-sponsoring states, and just because we toppled the governments of two of them doesn't mean that the others aren't still sponsoring terrorism. Also, there is a substantial region in Iraq where Saddam's forces are still finding support for a diehard guerrilla campaign.

In other words, the Iraq campaign isn't over--and President Bush has explicitly said so all along. So the continuation of combat and casualties isn't a "failure" or a "quagmire," it's a "war." And during a war, patriotic Americans don't blame the deaths on our government. We blame them on the enemy that persists in trying to kill our soldiers.

Am I saying that critics of the war aren't patriotic?

Not at all--I'm a critic of some aspects of the war. What I'm saying is that those who try to paint the bleakest, most anti-American, and most anti-Bush picture of the war, whose purpose is not criticism but deception in order to gain temporary political advantage, those people are indeed not patriotic. They have placed their own or their party's political gain ahead of the national struggle to destroy the power base of the terrorists who attacked Americans abroad and on American soil.

Patriots place their loyalty to their country in time of war ahead of their personal and party ambitions. And they can wrap themselves in the flag and say they "support our troops" all they like--but it doesn't change the fact that their program is to promote our defeat at the hands of our enemies for their temporary political advantage.

Think what it will mean if we elect a Democratic candidate who has committed himself to an antiwar posture in order to get his party's nomination.

Our enemies will be certain that they are winning the war on the battleground that matters--American public opinion. So they will continue to kill Americans wherever and whenever they can, because it works.

Our soldiers will lose heart, because they will know that their commander in chief is a man who is not committed to winning the war they have risked death in order to fight. When the commander in chief is willing to call victory defeat in order to win an election, his soldiers can only assume that their lives will be thrown away for nothing. That's when an army, filled with despair, becomes beatable even by inferior forces.

When did we lose the Vietnam War? Not in 1968, when we held an election that hinged on the war. None of the three candidates (Humphrey, Nixon, Wallace) were committed to unilateral withdrawal. Not during Nixon's "Vietnamization" program, in which more and more of the war effort was turned over to Vietnamese troops. In fact, Vietnamization, by all measures I know about, worked.

We lost the war when the Democrat-controlled Congress specifically banned all military aid to South Vietnam, and a beleaguered Republican president signed it into law. With Russia and China massively supplying North Vietnam, and Saigon forced to buy pathetic quantities of ammunition and spare parts on the open market because America had cut off all aid, the imbalance doomed them, and they knew it.

The South Vietnamese people were subjected to a murderous totalitarian government (and the Hmong people of the Vietnamese mountains were victims of near-genocide) because the U.S. Congress deliberately cut off military aid--even after almost all our soldiers were home and the Vietnamese were doing the fighting themselves.

That wasn't about "peace," that was about political posturing and an indecent lack of honor. Is that where we're headed again?

This time an enemy attacked civilian targets on our soil. The enemy--a conspiracy of terrorists sponsored by a dozen or so nations and unable to function without their aid--was hard to attack directly; so the only feasible strategy was to remove, by force if necessary, the governments that sheltered and sponsored terrorism.

I would not have chosen Afghanistan and Iraq to start with; Syria, Iran, Sudan and Libya were much more culpable and militarily more important to neutralize as sponsors of terror. (They say that Libya and Sudan have changed their tune lately, but I have my doubts.)

But once we chose Afghanistan and Iraq, once we began a serious campaign, we must continue the war until we achieve our objective, which is to remove all the governments that sponsor terror, or convince the remaining sponsors of terror to absolutely, thoroughly, and completely reverse their policy and actively seek out and destroy all terrorists that once had safe harbor within their borders. Anything less, and all our effort--all those American lives--were wasted.

And in the midst of this global struggle, when both parties should have united, disagreeing at times about methods and priorities, but never about the steadfast will of the American people to see the war through to a successful conclusion, we find that the candidates of the party out of power are attacking the president for fighting the war at all, and are calling the war itself a "failure" even though there is no rational measure by which it can be said to have failed--especially since we're still fighting it.

In a war, the enemy probes for weaknesses, and always finds some. When they find a weakness in your positions, they teach you where it is by attacking there; then you learn, and strengthen that point or avoid that mistake. Meanwhile, you constantly probe the enemy for weakness. The result is that even when you are overwhelmingly victorious, the enemy still finds ways to inflict damage along the way.

The goal of our troops in Iraq is not to protect themselves so completely that none of our soldiers die. The goal of our troops is to destroy the enemy, some of whom you do not find except when they emerge to attack our forces and, yes, sometimes inflict casualties.

Our national media are covering this war as if we were "losing the peace"--even though we are not at peace and we are not losing. Why are they doing this? Because they are desperate to spin the world situation in such a way as to bring down President Bush.

It's not just the war, of course. Notice that even though our recent recession began under President Clinton, the media invariably refer to it as if Mr. Bush had caused it; and even though by every measure, the recession is over, they still cover it as if the American economy were in desperate shape.

This is the same trick they played on the first President Bush, for his recession was also over before the election--but the media worked very hard to conceal it from the American public. They did it as they're doing it now, with yes-but coverage: Yes, the economy is growing again, but there aren't any new jobs. Yes, there are new jobs now, but they're not good jobs.

And that's how they're covering the war. Yes, the Taliban were toppled, but there are still guerrillas fighting against us in various regions of Afghanistan. (As if anyone ever expected anything else.) Yes, Saddam was driven out of power incredibly quickly and with scant loss of life on either side, but our forces were not adequately prepared to do all the nonmilitary jobs that devolved on them as an occupying army.

Ultimately, the outcome of this war is going to depend more on the American people than anything that happens on the battlefield. Are we going to be suckered again the way we were in 1992, when we allowed ourselves to be deceived about our own recent history and current events?

We are being lied to and "spun," and not in a trivial way. The kind of dishonest vitriolic hate campaign that in 2000 was conducted only before black audiences is now being played on the national stage; and the national media, instead of holding the liars' and haters' feet to the fire (as they do when the liars and haters are Republicans or conservatives), are cooperating in building up a false image of a failing economy and a lost war, when the truth is more nearly the exact opposite.

And in all the campaign rhetoric, I keep looking, as a Democrat, for a single candidate who is actually offering a significant improvement over the Republican policies that in fact don't work, while supporting or improving upon the American policies that will help make us and our children secure against terrorists.

We have enemies that have earned our hatred, and whom we should fear. They are fanatical terrorists who seek opportunities to kill American civilians here and Israeli civilians in Israel. But right now, our national media and the Democratic Party are trying to get us to believe that the people we should hate and fear are George W. Bush and the Republicans.

I can think of many, many reasons why the Republicans should not control both houses of Congress and the White House. But right now, if the alternative is the Democratic Party as led in Congress and as exemplified by the current candidates for the Democratic nomination, then I can't be the only Democrat who will, with great reluctance, vote not just for George W. Bush, but also for every other candidate of the only party that seems committed to fighting abroad to destroy the enemies that seek to kill us and our friends at home.

And if we elect a government that subverts or weakens or ends our war against terrorism, we can count on this: We will soon face enemies that will make 9/11 look like stubbing our toe, and they will attack us with the confidence and determination that come from knowing that we don't have the will to sustain a war all the way to the end.

Mr. Card is a science fiction writer. This article first appeared in the Rhinoceros Times of Greensboro, N.C.

The future of Iraq

Let me tell you about a country devastated by war, occupied by the USA, set up with a failed democracy, set up with a security force by the USA used to enforce the will of the failed democracy, and beset by insurgents fueled by a neighboring enemy country. That country was South Korea. The Korean War left the country devastated. Iraq is a the garden of Eden compared to what South Korea was after its war. The USA made huge mistakes during its occupation. Look up the bridge at No Gun-Ri for one of the most well known one. It's "democracy" was actually a dictatorship who used the security forces to enforce its will, kill protesters, and make people "disappear". North Korea was supporting insurgents who numbers approximately 35,000 in 1950. The price in lives they extracted was high including that of the US 24th Infantry Division. And yet through decades of trial and error, a real working democracy was formed by the South Korean people, and now South Korea is one of the world's biggest economic and political powers. This is on a piece of land starved of natural resources and less than 1/4 the size of Iraq. Iraq too has the real possibility of succeeding like South Korea. With its wealth of oil, it should be able to surpass South korea. However, those who expect anything close to it to happen in a few years are unrealistic, at the least. It will most likely take decades for the Iraqi people to form a viable democracy. All the USA can do is provide what support it can, but in the end, it is the Iraqi people, as it was the South Korean people, who will determine their fate.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

What our soldiers pray for


"However, back to my original point. Our chapel is (probably deliberately) the exact opposite of this. It’s a trailer placed apart from the Palace as a whole, hardened and blast-wall shielded. I suppose that if it were to announce its presence in all the typical “churchy” ways (steeple, stained glass, bells, etc.), it would just be ASKING to be a target . . .

So you go into this nondescript space, and everyone is crammed in at odd angles into uncomfortable folding chairs. Others have commented on how odd it is that everyone in there is carrying a weapon into church–I don’t even think about it, due to my rather odd tendency of forgetting that I’m wearing a weapon. I think of it as a nuisance addition to my uniform, because it perpetually swings down into my way and clunks into things. So having the nuisance addition to my uniform in church just means that it clunks into things when I’m kneeling and standing up, which is pretty much what it does as I move around in the office.

As the service proceeds, you can hear helicopters overhead, which is very odd. Sometimes they’re loud enough that everyone has to pause and wait for them to clear out of the area before proceeding. And you can hear the odd bang or boom from outside, though so far there hasn’t been anything too remarkable during my times in there.

What really struck me both times in the service, though, was that we took time in the petitions to pray for all the families and loved ones that we’ve left behind at home–that God will keep them safe and protect them. It just was an interesting thought, because back home, all those people are praying for the safety of the troops–and here we are praying for them. It’s like this overarching network of prayers for each other that embraces the globe . . . it’s cool! I saw that very clearly both times I was in there. Additionally, in our petitions we pray for our enemies here, that they’ll change their minds and want to work with us peacefully, and that their hearts will be changed to enable the furtherance of peace. Isn’t that a strange thing to think of–all these various warriors there praying that their job will become unnecessary? It struck me yesterday . . ."

Future of Iraq could be like that of South Korea

The trouble is that federal agencies, including the military, are bloated, bureaucratic and inefficient monsters. The immediate problem of security is a result of the government bureaucracy being unable to quickly and efficiently train Iraqi security forces. A phased withdrawal will encounter the same problems of bureaucracy and will be at least as much as a disaster because it will remove soldiers due solely to a schedule instead of actual circumstances which will open a greater vacuum for nefarious elements to fill. Anyone thinking there is a clean solution is only fooling themselves. In the end, the success of Iraq doesn't lie with the USA but with the Iraqi people. We can only persevere to build and refine the security forces while the Iraqi people get the kinks out of their government. Will this succeed? Yes, we have done this before. South Korea is an example where the USA set up a defective democracy and security forces that ended up being used to repress the people, kill demonstrators, and make opponents "disappear". Despite its numerous mistakes, the USA stayed and did what it could. Eventually the South Korean people made democracy a reality and is now one of the USA's most important partners economically, politically and militarily. If we give up on Iraq like Americans raised on action movies with a clean ending in less tha two hours, we will not have another success story like South Korea. We must have faith and realize that it won't be easy and it won't happen quickly.

The draft and citizenship

Rep. Charles Rangel is serious about having a draft to force mandatory military service on all Americans. I believe this point to an underlying question of what citizenship means in the USA. Should full citizenship be bestowed to those who are born Americans or naturalized simply because they are born or naturalized Americans? An interesting concept that you will see popping up is the idea that full citizenship should be earned instead of being bestowed automatically. In this concept, there could be two tiers of Americans. There are those who are born or naturalized Americans, and there are those who have earned full citizenship through military service. The key difference between the partial and full citizenship is the ability to vote. Any American could run for office, etc., but only Americans who have served in our military can vote because they have taken on the responsibility in defending our freedom so would best understand what is stake in voting and appreciate it more. This does create a divide, but it could be argued that a divide already exists between those who take our freedoms for granted and those who actually fight for it. I find it a more appealing alternative to Rangel's idea of compulsory military service because being forced to serve doesn't mean you accept the responsibilities of being a citizen.

Monday, November 20, 2006



Sunday, November 12, 2006



We can’t in all honesty blame the American public for being frustrated at the failure of their government to resolve our Iraqi issue. If that is case, you can imagine how we the Iraqi people are feeling; we who are burning in the fires of the crisis and are being crucified daily in the most horrific way.

Yet, it is no use blaming those whose most urgent wish is to see the right outcome of this situation. We can’t blame the American people, whose indignation is righteous and is caused by their impatience at not seeing positive progress towards stability, democracy, reconstruction, respite from the daily horrors that goes on in Baghdad and elsewhere in the country, and generally progress towards the goals that we all wish for. This is righteous indignation, noble sentiments for which we as Iraqis should be appreciative and even grateful. Indeed, after all these sacrifices, there should be some more positive results to show for them. Yes indeed, when a great power with powerful allies, engaged in an enterprise that is basically very noble and enjoys the support of the majority of the people, stakes its reputation and prestige, not to mention the blood of its sons and daughters and the treasure of its land; it is not permissible to arrive at such a state of affairs as we have now. The consequences of failure are unthinkable not only for us, the Iraqis, but also for all free people in the world with the American people foremost, whether they belong to this party or that. Never mind the chorus of America haters, and all the discordant din of international hypocrisy. This fight against terrorism is more just than the struggle against fascism and Nazism was. There can be no neutrals in this battle. The terrorists are worst than the fascists, these killers specializing in murdering and torturing the innocent are by far more heinous than any other kind of vermin. No decent human being can find any excuses for these zombies. Worst still, anybody who heaps invective against those confronting this inhuman evil, is almost as guilty as the beast himself. America was not always right, but this time by God, its fight is a just as the sun is bright in an Iraqi summer day. Anybody who cannot see this is as blind in heart as in sight.

The only thing that America is guilty of is that of underestimating the viciousness of the enemy, and not so much his military capability; because the enemy’s weapon is not so much military prowess, but evil and viciousness. He specializes in hitting below the belt. He has no rules and no scruples, and will stop at nothing. He is absolutely devoid of any kind of human feeling. To think that you can reason with him or somehow accommodate his wishes and desires is absolute folly and suicide. This was clearly illustrated lately in Iraq when all kinds of overtures and approaches were made in forlorn hopes of appeasing him. This only resulted in boosting his morale and appetite for murder and violence. America seems to have become confused and loosing sight of the fundamentals of the issue and even who the real enemy is. Of course this was aided by a massive propaganda assault aimed directly at the American public from abroad and from within. Yet this is absolutely not a partisan issue. It is tragic that this matter is used for partisan purposes and for electoral considerations. When the ship of state starts sinking, it will take down everybody with it. You ask us Iraqis about this. And this is war, my friends. You can’t have half wars. In war you just have to go all the way. You either win or lose, and if you lose you are lost. In no other situation is this more true than this our war.

Democrat or republican, America has no option but to find a way to win this war. All real Americans must be as sure of that as all real Iraqis.

For Bush, War Anguish Expressed Privately


"By Peter Baker

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 25, 2006; Page A01

FALMOUTH, Maine -- They sat on two frayed chairs in a teacher's lounge, the president and the widow, just the two of them so close that their knees were almost touching.

She was talking about her husband, the soldier who died in a far-off war zone. Tears rolled down her face as she mentioned two children left fatherless. His eyes welled up, too. He hugged her, held her face, kissed her cheek. "I am so sorry for your loss," he kept repeating.

She told him she considers him responsible for her husband's death and begged him to bring home the troops. "It's time to put our pride behind us and stop the bleeding, for all of us," she recalled saying. The president demurred, unwilling to debate a mourning woman. "We see things differently," he said.

But Hildi Halley, a self-described liberal antiwar activist who met with President Bush in Maine last month, said she believes he felt her grief. "It wasn't just a crocodile tear," she said in an interview at her home. "I felt like I moved him. I don't think he's going to wake up tomorrow and say, 'Oh my gosh, I've been wrong this whole time and I'm going to change all my policies because of my meeting with this woman.' I just hope that with each soldier, he remembers my pain."

He has a lot of pain to remember. Now more than five years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Bush has served as a wartime president longer than any occupant of the White House since Lyndon B. Johnson. He has presided over more U.S. military casualties than any since Richard M. Nixon. While he travels the country defending his policy and arguing to stay the course in Iraq, he also confronts the human burdens of wartime leadership.

The two sides of Bush as commander in chief can be hard to reconcile. His public persona gives little sense that he dwells on the costs of war. He does not seem to agonize as Johnson did, or even as his father, George H.W. Bush, did before the Persian Gulf War. While he pays tribute to those who have fallen, the president strives to show resolve and avoid displays that might be seen as weak or doubting. His refusal to attend military funerals, while taking long Texas vacations and extended bicycle rides, strikes some critics as callous indifference.

Yet the private Bush comes across differently in the accounts of aides, friends, relatives and military family members who have met with him, including some who do not support him, such as Halley. The first question Bush usually asks national security briefers in the Oval Office each morning is about overnight casualties, aides say, and those who show up for the next round of meetings often find him still stewing about bad news from Iraq.

Bush seems to separate these aspects of war in his mind, advisers say. He expresses no regret even in private for his decision to invade Iraq, they say, while taking seriously the continuing consequences of doing so. "Removing Saddam, he never revisits that in his mind or his heart," said one adviser, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because Bush does not want them to discuss his feelings. "Sending troops into harm's way, that's something that weighs on him."

If he does not show that publicly, it's in keeping with a White House practice of not drawing attention to the mounting costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which have killed more than 3,000 U.S. troops and tens of thousands of civilians. Advisers worry that sending the wrong signal would further sap public will and embolden the enemy and Bush's critics. Aides say that Bush does not attend military funerals because the presidential entourage would disrupt solemn events and that, out of respect, the media have been banned from photographing coffins arriving at Dover Air Force Base. But they also know it would focus a spotlight on the price of the president's policies.

Bush is less reticent about public displays of grief for victims of Sept. 11. During the recent events marking the fifth anniversary of the attacks, he teared up several times and at one point had to concentrate just to finish a speech. "Your heart breaks for somebody who suffered," he later told Charles Gibson of ABC News. "Tears can get contagious as far as I'm concerned."

For those who have suffered losses in the wars he initiated, Bush prefers to offer comfort in private. He writes letters to families of those killed, visits soldiers at military hospitals and meets with relatives of the dead. Altogether, according to the White House, Bush has met with 1,149 relatives of 336 dead service members. These sessions generate little attention because the White House bars journalists, but some relatives have described them.

"It's absolutely painful for him," said Beth Karlson, 63, a retired school food-service manager whose son died in Iraq and who met with Bush in Wisconsin last month. The president hugged her and held her hand. "He's a genuine person. He wants to reach out to the families and let them know how he feels."

Not everyone agrees. Cindy Sheehan, who would later launch antiwar protests near Bush's Texas ranch, met with him in 2004 and left alienated. She said he came across as overly casual and immune to her pain, referring to her as "Mom," yet uninterested in stories about her dead son, Casey, and calling him "your loved one" instead of by name. When she later sought another meeting, Bush refused.

Said Missy Beattie, a fellow member of Gold Star Families for Peace whose nephew died in Iraq: "He only meets with people who support him. I don't know what I'd say to him. I almost feel like he's not worthy of time and thought because I don't think he cares. I don't think he has any human qualities. I don't think he would listen to me or anyone who's lost someone and feel any empathy."

Many presidents confront the burden of ordering troops into danger. Johnson was tormented by the Vietnam War, padding down to his war room in slippers and robe at night to check on casualty numbers. Taped telephone calls, published by historian Michael Beschloss, reveal the depth of anguish. "I want to be called every time somebody dies," Johnson declared. He took to bed, depressed. Aides consulted psychiatrists. "He suffered," biographer Robert Dallek said. "It certainly took a toll on him. You could see it in his face at the end of his term. He was so old and careworn."

George H.W. Bush wrote an angst-ridden letter to his children before the Gulf War: "I guess what I want you to know as a father is this: Every Human life is precious. When the question is asked 'How many lives are you willing to sacrifice' -- it tears at my heart. The answer, of course, is none -- none at all." He did not sleep well before the bombing began and prayed that an Iraqi child shown on television would not be hit. "There's no way to describe the pressure," he said in a diary entry, later published in a volume of personal correspondence. "I've been plagued with the image of body bags."

Warren Finch, director of the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, said the former president's service as a pilot shot down over the Pacific shaped his outlook. "The fact that he had served in World War II and lost two crewmen meant he experienced it firsthand. That weighed heavily on him."

His son never served in combat and gives no public indication that he anguishes like his father. White House spokesman Tony Snow said the president, like his predecessors, "lies awake nights asking himself the question: How can I get this done and get our people home?" But Bush controls his feelings around associates. "He keeps a lot of that very, very locked up inside himself," said a longtime friend. "I don't raise it with him. I just don't feel comfortable doing that."

Bush is more open with confidants about his aggravation over events in Iraq. "He's unbelievably candid in person," said another person close to the president. "Of course it frustrates him. You can't not be frustrated by four car bombs a day and that sort of thing. But I think he's confident it's going to work out. I think he also thinks there's not much of an alternative." Does the president confide much in his father? "Nobody knows," the person said. "It's a steel wall."

Bush deals with stress through vigorous exercise, working out six days a week. When he goes for long bicycle rides, he often invites others to join him, but he asks them not to ride in front of him so he can have the illusion of solitude. "Riding helps clear my head, helps me deal with the stresses of the job," he told reporters last month after an 80-minute ride.

To those angry over the war, that can seem cavalier. "It's important for me to be thoughtful and sensitive to those who have got something to say," Bush said last year when Sheehan began her protest. "But it's also important for me to go on with my life, to keep a balanced life. . . . I'm mindful of what goes on around me. On the other hand, I'm also mindful that I've got a life to live and will do so."

Aides see the impact on Bush after meetings with "families of the fallen," as the White House calls them. Bush typically meets each family separately, joined by one aide, often Deputy Chief of Staff Joseph W. Hagin. He offers commemorative coins, poses for photos or signs autographs. "I do the best I can to cry with them or, you know, laugh with them if they wanna laugh, and hug them," Bush recently told Katie Couric of CBS News.

Karlson, whose son, Staff Sgt. Warren Hansen, died in a helicopter crash in Iraq in 2003, asked Bush for help in obtaining an investigative report. "I just felt I was being stonewalled, I wasn't getting anyplace," she recalled. "He said it will be taken care of. And it was. The next Wednesday, the report was hand-delivered." In the end, the report confirmed what she had been told about her son's death. "It has brought some peace," she said.

After such meetings, aides said, Bush often seems drained. During a trip to Fort Bragg, N.C., last year, he spent three hours with dozens of relatives of troops who were killed. One of them, Crystal Owen, asked him to wear a metal bracelet in honor of her dead husband. He put it on, then went to deliver a nationally televised address. With the widows still on his mind, Bush seemed flat as he began to speak, aides said, and at one point his eyes became watery.

Halley, 41, lost her husband, National Guard Capt. Patrick Damon, also 41, in June in Afghanistan to what officially was ruled a heart attack. When Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) called to offer condolences and asked if she could do anything, Halley requested a telephone call from the president. Instead, when he came to Maine to visit his parents in Kennebunkport, the White House invited her to meet him at a school.

When Bush walked in, Halley told him about Patrick, how they had met at American University, moved to Maine and had a family. "After I spoke about my husband for quite some time, I said, 'And now he's dead. For what? Why? I've lost my soul mate.' " She asked her children, Mikayla, 14, and Jan-Christian, 12, to leave the room, then wept as she told Bush how hard life had become for them. "He started crying. I said, 'These two children do not like you and they have good reason for that. And I hold you responsible for the death of my husband.' "

Bush seemed surprised that she opposes even the war in Afghanistan, and he cited the Taliban. "And I said, 'Who put them in power?' And he got a little defensive and said, 'I'm really not here to discuss public policy with you.' And I said, 'That's probably wise, and I'm not here to talk about public policy, either.' "

Bush said he hoped their meeting helped her healing. "You know what would help my healing?" she recalled responding. "If you change your policies in the Mideast." Bush smiled, she said, but did not reply.

Halley said the meeting did not change either of their minds. She would still vote against him. But she said she appreciated that he opened himself up to her. "I don't think he's a heartless man," she said. "I think he's pulled in a lot of different directions by very intelligent people. . . . I don't think it's going to change his policies, but I hope it does make him think about it. I hope I'm in his dreams.""

Soldiers Want to do Mission, Go Home


"Army News Service | Spc. Todd Selge | November 08, 2006 The following is a commentary by Spc. Todd Selge. His unit, the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, is currently deployed to Iraq.

WASHINGTON - When you hear news about the war in Iraq you usually hear it from a high-level Army spokesperson or you hear the media describe it as “another deadly day.” The view on the ground from the Soldier’s perspective is often overlooked.

We are the ones who live the conflict every day, who see the progress day-to-day. We are the ones who experience the sorrows, who interact with the people, and who see the enemy’s effort to undo every good thing the Iraqi people and coalition forces have done.

What every Soldier wants is to succeed in our mission and go home to our families. The things we do each day allow us the ability to do just that. My unit, 3rd Platoon, Company A, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry, has seen many successes.

The most important is getting the Iraqi security forces organized and capable of handling every problem that may arise in the future. Accomplishing this happens on all levels, from the commanders down to the average private.

We have a training program through which Iraqi Army soldiers learn the same basic tasks every U.S. Army Soldier knows. The American Soldiers develop friendships with the Iraqi soldiers and police. We joke, eat, talk about family and conduct missions together. Every day, Soldiers are working hand-in-hand with Iraqis, teaching them to succeed in their jobs.

Since we have been here, the Iraqi security forces have been the main effort – finding countless caches, killing or capturing anti-Iraqi personnel and thwarting attacks targeted at coalition forces. They continue to undermine the enemy and gain the confidence of their fellow countrymen.

We are also building important and long-lasting relationships with the residents of surrounding communities. We go to schools and neighborhoods giving the kids backpacks full of supplies, handing out candy and hearing the concerns of the people. We ask about their basic services, such as food, water, electricity and fuel. We hand out cards with hotline numbers to address any problems, and we share handshakes.

We see the smiles of a hopeful generation and we see the efforts of the anti-Iraqi forces to shatter these dreams. There has been a major effort by AIF to sell and hand out a wide variety of realistic-looking toy guns. The AIF’s hope is for the Iraqi army and coalition forces to engage the children, but with constant training and the help of the communities, we will yet again foil their plans to promote chaos and hatred.

Every day we interact and help Iraq grow, we are one more day closer to success and one day closer to seeing our families.

What does the average Soldier think every day?

He wants to accomplish the mission. He wants to see the smiles of the Iraqi people last. He is grateful for everything he has back home and he wishes the very same freedom he is fighting for upon the country of Iraq."

Kissinger Says Iraq Isn't Ripe for Democracy


Kissinger's hypothesis is based on the lack of an Iraqi national identity which unites them. The bulk of Iraqis actually have much in common which unites them as a nation of which the following is just one example:


What the Iraqis lack is a combination of lack of security and lack of will to take charge of their own personal destiny. Someone gets shot in the street, and the reaction is to avoid getting involved and expect the Americans to do all the hard work for them. This attitude was ingrained by long term rule by Saddam and his secret police. The continuation of this attitude is what the extremist minority takes advantage of to dominate the masses. What will work is the continued training and refinement of the Iraqi security forces. As expected, the quick build up of the security forces resulted in a less than ideal force which is expectedly Shiite heavy. The current government, led by Maliki, also reflects the Shiite influence especially of those of the extremists under Sadr. We will have to leave the government correction and refinement up to the Iraqi people. It won't be a quick process and may take decades to get right, but there are many examples of shaky imperfect democracies that eventually shake off their mistakes. All we can do is build up the Iraqi security forces and do the best we can to prevent those forces being used for the wrong reasons.

And yes, we've done this before. South Korea is a prime example for which I am personally familiar with. It was a country totally devastated by the Korean War. The "democracy" that was set up was severely flawed, and the South Korean security forces set up by the USA was just used to repress the people and make those unjustly accused to "disappear". There was even rampant insurgency supported by an enemy neighbor, North Korea. It took decades, but democracy became real in more than just name, and South Korea is now one of the USA's most important economic and political partners in the far east. This is possible for Iraq as well, but don't expect it to occur quickly or cleanly.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

It all went wrong in Iraq because Iraq fatally flawed

I'm not sure I totally agree with this article, but it is well thought out:


"Nov. 16, 2006, 10:18PM

It all went wrong in Iraq because Iraq fatally flawed


"A republic, if you can keep it."

— Benjamin Franklin, upon leaving the Constitutional Convention, in answer to "What have we got?"

WE have given the Iraqis a republic and they do not appear able to keep it.

Americans flatter themselves that they are the root of all planetary evil. Nukes in North Korea? Poverty in Bolivia? Sectarian violence in Iraq? Breasts are beaten and fingers pointed as we try to somehow locate the root cause in America.

Our discourse on Iraq has followed the same pattern. Where did we go wrong? Too few troops? Too arrogant an occupation? Or too soft? Take your pick.

I have my own theories. In retrospect, I think we made several serious mistakes — not shooting looters, not installing an Iraqi exile government right away, and not taking out Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army in its infancy in 2004 — that greatly compromised the occupation. Nonetheless, the root problem lies with Iraqis and their political culture.

Our objectives in Iraq were twofold and always simple: depose Saddam and replace his murderous regime with a self-sustaining, democratic government.

The first was relatively easy. But Iraq's first truly democratic government turned out to be hopelessly feeble and fractured, little more than a collection of ministries handed over to various parties, militias and strongmen.

The problem is not, as we endlessly argue about, the number of American troops. Or of Iraqi troops. The problem is the allegiance of the Iraqi troops. Some serve the abstraction called Iraq. But many swear fealty to political parties, religious sects or militia leaders.

Are the Arabs intrinsically incapable of democracy, as the "realists" imply? True, there are political, historical, even religious reasons why Arabs are less prepared for democracy than, say, East Asians and Latin Americans who successfully democratized over the last several decades. But the problem here is Iraq's particular political culture, raped and ruined by 30 years of Saddam's totalitarianism.

What was left in its wake was a social desert, a dearth of the trust and good will and sheer human capital required for democratic governance. All that was left for the individual Iraqi to attach himself to was the mosque or clan or militia. At this earliest stage of democratic development, Iraqi national consciousness is as yet too weak and the culture of compromise too undeveloped to produce an effective government enjoying broad allegiance.

Last month, American soldiers captured a Mahdi Army death squad leader in Baghdad — only to be forced to turn him loose on order of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Two weeks ago, we were ordered, again by Maliki, to take down the barricades we had established around Sadr City in search of another notorious death squad leader and a missing American soldier.

This is no way to conduct a war. The Maliki government is a failure. It is beholden to a coalition dominated by two Shiite religious parties, each armed and ambitious, at odds with each other and with the ultimate aim of a stable, modern, democratic regime.

Is this America's fault? No. It is a result of Iraq's first democratic election. The United States was not going to replace Saddam Hussein with another tyrant. We were trying to plant democracy in the heart of the Middle East as the one conceivable antidote to extremism and terror — and, in a country that is nearly two-thirds Shiite, that inevitably meant Shiite domination. It was never certain whether the long-oppressed Shiites would have enough sense of nation and sense of compromise to govern rather than rule. The answer is now clear: United in a dominating coalition, they do not.

Fortunately, however, the ruling Shiites do not have much internal cohesion. Just last month, two of the major Shiite religious parties that underpin the Maliki government engaged in savage combat against each other in Amara.

There is a glimmer of hope in this breakdown of the Shiite front. The unitary Shiite government having been proved such a failure, we should be encouraging the full breakup of the Shiite front in pursuit of a new coalition based on cross-sectarian alliances: the more moderate Shiite elements (secular and religious but excluding the poisonous Sadr), the Kurds, and those Sunnis who recognize their minority status but are willing to accept an important, generously offered place at the table.

Such a coalition was almost created after the latest Iraqi elections. It needs to be attempted again. One can tinker with American tactics or troop levels from today until doomsday. But unless the Iraqis can put together a government of unitary purpose and resolute action, the simple objective of this war — to leave behind a self-sustaining democratic government — is not attainable.

Krauthammer is a Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist based in Washington, D.C. (letters@charleskrauthammer.com)"

Saturday, November 18, 2006

South Korean president is a North Korean sympathizer

When the South Korean president, Roh Moo-hyun, won his election, he called it vindication for his wife's father who was a known North Korean supporter. His win was, unsurprisingly in restrospect, due to mianly to corruption in his opponents rather than their policies. His appeasement of North Korea has since increased the dissatisfaction of the Korean people, and his own inability to stand firm with the far left has even alienated his core support base. As a result, his party has lost most of the elections in the past few years. We can only hope he doesn't do any significant harm in the move to pressure North Korea before his term is up.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Marines vs. Camel Spiders

Our soldiers are performing missions that most of us on this forum wouldn't have the courage to even try, and most of them don't involve using a weapon. They want to be home, but they know they are needed to secure the safety of us at home and those Iraqis under their responsibility. They aren't perfect, but they are the best our country has to offer and they know far better than us the dangers they are facing. In a bit of mirth, see our soldiers' faces and be proud of them and have faith in them:


Colin Powell and Iraq course


'Stay the Course in Iraq

When asked what steps he would take in Iraq, Powell said, "I think there is little choice but to keep investing in the Iraqi armed forces, and to do everything we can to increase their size and their capability and their strength," he said.

Still, he questions some of the administration's post-invasion planning. "What we didn't do in the immediate aftermath of the war was to impose our will on the whole country, with enough troops of our own, with enough troops from coalition forces, or, by re-creating the Iraqi forces, armed forces, more quickly than we are doing now. And it may not have turned out to be such a mess if we had done some things differently. But it is now a difficult situation, but difficult situations are there to be worked on and solved, not walked away from, not cutting and running from."'

Zogby's poll of US soldiers in Iraq discredited

Here is just one example of several criticisms of Zogby's opaque poll of US soldiers in Iraq based on objective analysis of what was revealed about the polling and not based on political stance:


"Despite the wide range of opinions and loud voices about America's role in Iraq, there's a real hunger for authenticity that only the troops on the ground can provide. As a veteran, I have been hoping that a pollster would take the obvious step of asking our troops for their opinions, and I think Zogby International deserves credit for making the effort.

But as an economist, my appreciation eroded sharply when I took a closer look.

The survey contains 24 questions. It was given secretly during late January and early February to an unknown number of American troops serving in Iraq, although we are told that 944 respondents were included. If all the guidelines for random sampling were met (they weren't), the reported margin of error would be plus or minus 3.3 percent.

The unforgivable flaw in Zogby's survey is the biased phrasing of its questions and answers. Two of the most provocative results are based on questions with no middle ground. It's like a multiple-choice test with no right answers."

Here a liberal blogger interviewed Zogby directly about the poll of US soldiers in Iraq:


As you can see, when pressed about the lack of transparency in the methodology used, his response was:

'I asked Zogby what advice he would offer data consumers who find this all puzzling. In this case, he said, "you have to trust me."'

In addition, it turns out the sponsor for the poll was:

'In our conversation Zogby indicated that an "anti-war" sponsor paid for the survey but played no role in conducting interviews or gathering the data. I wrongly assumed he meant the Center for Peace and Global Security, whose faculty according to a story in yesterday's Syracuse Post Standard, did help "develop and word the poll's questions." In fact, the funder was "a wealthy war opponent who [Zogby] would not name."'

Soldiers in Iraq Say Pullout Would Have Devastating Results


'In Rushdi Mullah, a small farming village near Baghdad, Capt. Chris Vitale, 29, of Washington, Pa., said his unit's recent moves to the edge of this insurgent safe haven have made a major difference for residents. "If my unit left town, the insurgents would come back in and use it to stage attacks on Baghdad," he said. "I'm sure of it."

In the north, where Iraqi army and police units have made strides toward controlling their own territory, U.S. soldiers said they were at a critical point in helping the Iraqi forces develop.

Capt. Mike Lingenfelter, 32, of Panhandle, Tex., said that U.S. troops have earned the trust of residents in Tall Afar over the past couple of years and that leaving now would send the wrong message. His Comanche Troop of the 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment is working with Iraqi forces to give them control of the city.

"We'll pull their feet out from under them if we leave," Lingenfelter said.

"It's still fragile enough now that if the coalition were to leave, it would embolden the insurgents. A lot of people have put their trust and faith in us to see it to the end. It would be an extreme betrayal for us to leave."

Sgt. Jonathan Kirkendall, 23, of Falls City, Neb., said he fears that many Americans think that building the country to viability will be "quick and easy," when he believes it could take many years. Kirkendall, of the 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division in Baghdad, is on his third deployment to Iraq and celebrated his 21st and 23rd birthdays here.

"If they say leave in six months, we'll leave in six months. If they say six years, it's six years," said Kirkendall, who is awaiting the birth of his first daughter, due next week.

"I'm just an average soldier, and I'll do what they tell me to do. I'm proud to be a part of it, either way it goes, but I'd like to see it through."'

'We' are not in Iraq. Our soldiers are


"Less than 1% of our country wears a military uniform; fewer still have served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Instead of being seen as a duty that should be borne by all, military service has been transformed into an elective chosen by the few. Today, with America at war, the burden of service is heavy, but it is not wide. Small military communities such as Oceanside, Calif.; and Clarksville, Tenn., feel the human cost of this war, but they are unusual in America. And so we lavish praise on those who make this decision, regardless of whether their choice is owed to personal patriotism, ambition or a quest for opportunity.

Soldiers and civilians also share a different moral code, something highlighted by those different definitions of heroism. Soldiers exist for their team; they will do anything for love of their brothers and sisters in uniform. Civilians, by contrast, live for themselves. Americans have become the quintessential rational actors of economic lore — pursuing their self-interest above all else, seeking enrichment and gratification."


'But there is a definite edge in his voice, an undercurrent of bitterness, when he talks about the tiny percentage of the American population that is shouldering the burden of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "We're nowhere close to sharing the sacrifice," he said. "And it should be shared, because it's only in that sharing that society will truly care about what's going on over there.

"Right now it's such a small minority of families who have a stake in all of this. I hear people say things like, ‘We lost a lot of good people over there.' I sort of snap around and say, ‘We? You didn't lose anybody.' You know what I mean?"

While most Americans are free to go about their daily business, unaffected by the wars in any way, scores of thousands of troops have been sent off on repeat tours into the combat zones. According to the support group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, two-thirds of the 92,000 Army troops deployed since the beginning of this year are on at least their second deployment.

Many soldiers, like Sergeant Krause, have served three or four tours. There is no way for a nation as big and as rich and as healthy as the U.S. to justify the imposition of such a tragic and heavy load on the backs of so few.

Sergeant Krause showed me a photo of a soldier who he thought would become his brother-in-law, a 23-year-old West Point graduate named Dennis Zilinski. He was killed last November, along with four other American soldiers in a roadside bomb attack near Bayji, Iraq.

Sergeant Krause said that witnessing the profound grief of Lt. Zilinski's mother and fiancée "drove home" the real meaning of wartime sacrifice.

Sergeant Krause is proud of his service and still loves the military. "But we're a nation at war," he said, "and we should all be in this together."'

He is correct. We should all be in this together.

Silver lining

Headline news has repeatedly pointed out the negatives from the latest September poll of Iraqis:


Here are things headline news miss:

57% view the Iranian president unfavorably
95% view Bin Laden unfavorably
52% view Sadr unfavorably
94% view Al Quaida unfavorably
61% still say the hardships endured is worth the ousting of Saddam
For the first time, over half, 53%, believe the Iraqi security forces will be strong enough to deal with security on its own. However, almost half, 46%, still believe the Iraqi security forces still need help, and of those who believe they will need help, the largest chunk say it will be for 3 years or longer.
Even though they continue to dislike foreign soldiers, more of them believe that security will be worse if they left: 34% in this survey compared to 30% in previous survey.
Regardless, the largest chunk believe that the level of violence will be better in 6 months at 38% compared to 30% who think it will be worse.
65% believe the Iraqi government is legitimate.
72% view it likely that Iraq will still be a single state 5 years from now.

South Africa a foreshadow?

As expected, the quick attempt to build up Iraqi security forces has resulted in much less than ideal police and military units. With Saddam's support of Sunnis, the Shiite security forces are repeating history when the oppressed are freed by taking out past wrongs on the people who are identified with the overthrown leadership. Although less violent, South Africa's transition from a minority white rule to the majority black rule could be a foreshadow of the long term picture of Iraq. In South Africa, the white population is in a decline because of low reproduction and emigration. This may be the long term fate of the Sunnis as well as they are pressured to leave Iraq by the Shiites. Violently now, but through other forms of pressure as the security forces are cleaned up.

Being a private escort for an Iraqi convoy


"For Water Truck 103, a Perilous Path to the End
Ambush Greets Convoy At Site Near Baghdad

Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 16, 2006; Page A01

WITH CONVOY 77, Iraq -- A few miles west of Baghdad, a brand-new water truck backed gingerly off a flatbed truck and down a makeshift dirt ramp, completing its 7,000-mile journey from a factory in Texas to a government ministry in Iraq.

Considering the enormous effort the United States had made to get it to its destination, there was not much celebration among the small crowd of Iraqis who looked on as the truck was driven away. Nor was there any particular joy among the guards and drivers who had delivered the truck.

For them, it was just another job that had brought them up the highway from the Persian Gulf, through the austere desert of southern Iraq and the fertile farmlands between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Along the way, they had seen flocks of sheep and camels, escorted by ancient-looking men in red checked kaffiyahs and white dishdashas; barefoot children running up to the side of the road and waving for something to eat; crude mud houses that looked as timeless as the land itself. What they did not see were the men with fingers wrapped around the triggers of assault rifles."



After setting his gun trucks into defensive positions, Jones walked over to the manager's small office, dropped a bulky envelope on his desk and handed him the paperwork to sign for shipment No. 10,687.

"There are the keys for the trucks," Jones said.

Outside, Truck 103 was being unloaded. There was no ramp to back the trucks off the flatbeds, so an Iraqi bulldozer operator made one out of dirt. After several minutes of work, they had one that was sturdy enough for the truck to slowly back down to the ground. Mission accomplished. A little piece of America had been delivered to Iraq.

Jones walked back to his gun trucks, waiting for the rest of the cargo to be unloaded. It was slow work; more than an hour and a half passed. Iraqis from town came and went. The men of Team 7 relaxed and chatted.

It was at this moment that the men with guns chose to strike.

A rocket-propelled grenade streaked in from the north, exploding nearby with a deep crump. After a half-second of frozen inactivity, one of the guards screamed, "Get in the truck!" Seconds later, a group of seven to 15 men opened fire with assault rifles from buildings overlooking the compound about 100 yards away.

The usual order of things would have been to drive to the nearest American base, but the iron gate to the compound was closed, too thick to ram through, and the men were under fire. They had to stand and fight.

The trucks' machine guns returned fire, spraying the buildings with bullets, as Jones and two teammates took aimed shots from cover. The shooting from the other side died down.

Jones, waving his hands, shouted at his excited gunners to stop firing. He whipped out his phone and paced around behind his truck, calling for military support. All the Iraqi truck drivers from the convoy had vanished, as had the employees of the water directorate. An Iraqi guard who had been shooting at the attackers got into Hart's pickup truck, breathing heavily and shaking.

As he closed the door, gunfire broke out again -- first the pop, pop, pop of rifles, then the rapid thumping of the machine guns atop the pickup trucks. Once again, Jones and the men outside shot back.

"Jay, get in your wagon! Get in your wagon, Jay, we're moving!" Hart yelled at his teammate James Stevens, who then ran out to the gate to open it so the trucks could escape.

As the team laid down a few more shots, the pickup trucks raced out of the compound, turning right on the road and getting onto the main highway east, toward the U.S. base at Abu Ghraib. Across the road, the insurgents took a few parting shots at the convoy. A man with an RPG scrambled for cover as the gunners in the trucks fired at him.

The reports came in over the radio as they reached safety: They had killed two insurgents. The convoy had scattered to the winds; three or four of the Iraqi truck drivers were kidnapped before they could make it back to Umm Qasr. Everybody in the security team was alive, nobody hurt. And a water truck had made it to Baghdad."

Thursday, November 16, 2006


Woe to those who try to make major changes in major federal agencies like the military and intelligence agencies. Those who cut red tape will find the red tape just wraps itself around your neck. Every form, rule, process, procedure and document was put in place by experts, committees, lawmakers, special interests, etc. and is guarded like Cerberus by someone's empire within the bureaucracy. This is why Rumsfeld mainly acquired the expected backlash when he set out to change the military and intelligence agencies from the Soviet era model to the post-Soviet era model. Some generals and administrators bristled mostly because Rumfeld dared to tread upon their territory and question or supersede their authority. And when mistakes are made, which will always happen in government, they found reasons in the red tape to choke him with. It is true that Rumsfeld's style was abrasive, but those who try to work with the system and not step on anyone's toes won't make any significant progress in the Federal bureaucracy within their lifetime. Rumsfeld did the dirty work needed for change, and now Gates can come in to continue without the negative baggage Rumsfeld had to take on. I used to work for the Federal government, so I know personally the bureaucracy I talk of. This is why I bear no malice to Rumsfeld.


"He drove everybody crazy with his "snowflakes" -- brief memos on subjects as petty as whether a particular reporter had arrived late for a briefing and as monumental as "are we winning the war on terror." He was into everything. If ever there was civilian control of the Pentagon it has been during the past six years. But there is a fine line between civilian control and meddling, just as there is between self-confidence and arrogance. Many senior officers felt Rumsfeld was telling them how to do their jobs and that they had to expend inordinate amounts of time responding to his "snowflakes." One of them said just yesterday that with Rumsfeld gone "all the energy that's put into satisfying his thirst of details can be put into doing work."

Rumsfeld came into office determined to "transform" the military by which he meant changing it from the old Cold War behemoth equipped and trained to fight the Soviet Union into a smaller, more agile force able to respond to unexpected threats. That unexpected threat materialized with a vengeance on 9-11, long before the military had been transformed. Transforming the military and fighting a war at the same time is a double whammy -- like trying to overhaul a car going 60 miles an hour, according to the chief of staff of the Army. Rumsfeld didn't just want to win in Iraq, he also wanted to figure out why, with more than two million men and women on active duty and in the reserves, it is so hard to keep 140,000 troops in Iraq. Why is it, he wanted to know, that the Army is stretched so thin when a full 40 per cent of the soldiers in uniform have never been to Iraq?"

The problem with ethanol

The trouble is that you get far less energy in a gallon of ethanol than you do with a gallon of gas. You get 115,000 BTU/gallon of gas while you get 76,000 BTU/gallon of ethanol. In addition, current ethanol plants are not as efficient as tests done in small scale. This eliminates and even makes ethanol higher in cost per BTU. But let us assume that the cost to make a gallon of ethanol is about half to make gasoline. This would mean that we would have to overcome the cost to build an infrastructure that supports ethanol to replace the current one built around gasoline. This would mean building who knows how many ethanol plants and replacing all the gas powered vehicles we drive. It is too much of a hurdle to jump until the cost of gasoline rises dramatically higher.

There is also one crucial factor that ethanol proponents overlook. It takes a lot of land to produce enough corn to make enough ethanol for our country. It would require up to 97% of our land to grow enough corn to produce enough ethanol that our country requires. So what this means is that we would have to import corn from foreign countries, and then instead of the problems we have today relying on foreign oil, we'll have problems resulting from relying on foreign corn.

The greatest threat to the USA

The biggest danger to the country is the looming economic armageddon when the bulk of the baby boomers retire causing the parasitic programs called Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid to break our economy because they are mandatory budget line items. In order to save our country, we need fiscally conservative congresspeople who aren't under the heel of the largest lobbyist, the AARP, on capitol hill fueling the culture of corruption. The current congress is dominated by fiscal liberals. The overt fiscal liberals who call themselves Democrats and the fiscal liberals in social conservative clothing that are most Republicans will lead our country to doom. We need to elect congresspeople who are, at the minimum, willing to overturn the mandatory line item status of these programs, but what our country really needs are people who are willing to cut these programs instead of just differing on the rate of increase. These programs already take half our federal tax dollars dwarfing the Iraq war and Katrina spending. While those spending are transitory, Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid are the gorillas on our back that just get bigger and bigger every year.

For those short-sighted people whose first reaction is to cry that this is hurting people, they overlook that these programs take far more money than they should be returning. If we took the money that Social Security robs from us and put it in almost any other investment vehicle, we would get multiples of the pittance that Social Security spits at us, and we would be able to retire without needing to find extra sources of money. Medicare and Medicaid are abused beyond reason by both recipients and providers. Recipients hide their income to avoid paying their fair share, and providers inflate costs ridiculously. This has the additional effect on the rest of us by removing the economic pressure to keep medical prices down resulting in the dramatically rising cost of health care which has eaten away at our tax cuts and more these past couple years. Medicard/Medicaid need to be severely modified so that it only pays the people who need it the amount that they need. This isn't happening now.

If you care about the well being of this country, vote in fiscal conservatives.

Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA)

Pakistan is an interesting country. It effectively has an islamic version of our Republican party, the Pakistan Muslim League (Q) (PML-Q), which is the largest political party which Musharraf belongs to, an islamic version of our Democrats, the Pakistan People's Party Parliamentarians (PPPP), which is the second largest party and a third party, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), which I call an islamic version of our KKK in its heyday. It is this third party which controls the outer regions of Pakistan which is the source of our problems. Although the MMA is the third largest political party, it is still far too powerful for Musharraf to defeat militarily. When Musharraf signed a treaty with one of the provinces belonging to the MMA, it allowed the Taliban and Al Quaida to dedicate their resources in that province against Afghanistan and attacks multiplied against our forces in Afghanistan. What is needed is a comprehensive plan involving both Afghanistan, Pakistan and the USA to take care of the Taliban, Al Quaida and the MMA. The main roadblock to this happening is the battle of egos between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Each blame the other solely for the problem, and especially Pakistan is trying to resolve the issue all by themselves.

Why I support the invasion of Iraq

Saddam was a growing threat. He had bypassed much of the sanctions through the corrupt UN Oil-For-Food program and was ready to take his WMD reasearch out of mothballs as soon as his economic allies (France, Russia, China, etc.) eliminated the last of the sanctions. The now 20/20, after going into Iraq, CIA report on Iraq WMDs shows that Saddam could have had weaponized mustard gas in as little as 6 months as the nastier stuff not much longer after that. The reason why Saddam is the most dangerous with WMDs than the others in the Axis of Evil is because he has used them on enemies both foreign and domestic and shows no sign of stopping in the future. Saddam was actively seeking organizations to hurt the USA. From the overall war on terrorism, Iraq was ideal to attack because nobody liked Saddam and Iraq was located in the virtual backyard of the middle east where the terrorists hide in the civilian population of surrounding countries. Saudi Arabia or even Iran are unrealistic targets because they have far more support than Saddam did. By invading Iraq, terrorists were drawn from their safe havens behind civilians in surrounding countries to Iraq like moths to the flame. In Iraq, they had to concentrate, and a concentrated enemy is what our military is best against. Past failed strategies of bombing from afar only grew popular support for extremism and gave them all the time in the world to plan 9/11 and other attacks. Taking Iraq took the initiative away from the terrorists, and they were forced to react to us instead. Taking Iraq also removed a major supporter of Hamas as evidenced by the warehouse full of manufactured suicide vests found in Iraq during the invasion, not to mention all the Palestinian terrorist training camps. The successful overthrow of Saddam also caused two other dictators to change. Libya gave up its nuclear weapons program because of the invasion, and Syria removed its soldiers from Lebanon for the same reason. It was a good thing too because Libya was closer to nukes than anyone thought, and if Syria still had soldiers in Lebanon during the recent Israeli-Hezbollah conflict, the conflict would have spread to Syria and then to Iran and beyond.

By facing Al Quaida man-to-man, our soldiers have revealed Al Quaida's true savagery. It's popular support among muslims has evaporated similarly to how the KKK's support evaporated in the USA when it was revealed to be a worshipper of murder and savagery rather than a defender of the faith. And there is a rare person who misses Saddam.