Friday, December 31, 2004

Need a laugh?

Then check out "You might be a liberal if. . ." over at My View.

A few choice bits:

You think that if someone is getting richer, someone, somewhere, must be getting poorer.

You think that protestors outside nuclear power plants are dedicated activists, but protestors outside abortion clinics are dangerous zealots interfering with a legal activity.

You believe that there was never, ever a problem with biased news coverage until Fox News went on the air.

You think that the phrase “separation of church and state” is in the Constitution.

You deplore prejudice and bigotry in all its forms, but think that everyone in the “red states” is an idiot.

You uphold a woman’s right to choose, unless a woman chooses adoption, chooses to be a stay-at-home mom, chooses to homeschool, or chooses to start a business.

You believe that nativity scenes should be banned from public view, but that anyone objecting to pornography “only has to look the other way.”

You are worried about how the French view Americans.


Update: I failed to point out that Toni links to the original version by Ed Lynch.

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Tolerant no longer

The New Yorker article "Letter from Amsterdam" takes an in-depth look at the tensions between the Dutch and Muslim immigrants. It first goes into detail on Mohammed Bouyeri, van Gogh, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali (who worked with van Gogh).

For van Gogh, the worst crime was to look away. One of his bugbears was the long-standing refusal (since abandoned) of the Dutch press to identify the ethnic origin of criminals, so as not to inflame prejudice. He saw this as a sign of abject cowardice. To show respect for Islam without mentioning the Islamic oppression of women and homosexuals was an act of disgusting hypocrisy. In a free society, he believed, everything should be said openly, and not just said but shouted, as loudly and offensively as possible, until people got the point.

[of Ayaan Hirsi Ali] Hers is a politics of rage. Pim Fortuyn was right, she said, to call Islam a “backward religion.” Muslim schools should be abolished, and men who beat their wives and daughters should be punished by law. There is no doubt about the seriousness of her aims, and there is no doubt about the seriousness of the Muslims who regard her as an apostate and have called for her death.

The article goes on to discuss and draw conclusions on the current political situation:

Without shared norms about the rule of law, we cannot productively have differences of opinion. . . . The self-declared impotence of our government to guarantee public order is the biggest threat to tolerance.” To be sure, Scheffer had been saying this kind of thing for some time, but when old lefties cry out for law and order you know something has shifted in the political climate; it is now a common perception that the integration of Muslims in Holland has failed.

The situation in the Netherlands is far from resolved, and the rest of the world would do well to take notice and decide upon necessary policy to avoid a hostile takeover in the name of 'tolerance.'

(hat tip RealClearPolitics)

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Fetus update

Neither Coulson not Taranto make further comments on the fetus discussion, but Taranto links to BlameBush! whose response includes this:

Yes, I know the fetus has cute little "baby hands" with cute little "baby fingers" and makes cute little "baby noises", but that doesn't make it any more human than a baby-shaped intestinal parasite. Furthermore, I don't recall this fetus being "born", nor have I read anything remotely hinting that the host organism wanted it to be. She could have been on her way to the abortion clinic for all we know. So lacking a physical birth or any sort of written documentation certifying an intent to carry the pregnancy to term, we must protect a Woman's Right to Choose and err on the side of inhumanity. It's a FETUS, and will remain one until the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals says otherwise.

That probably gives you the gist of it, but read the whole thing (unless you have blood pressure problems.)

Update: To avoid confusion, let me point out that BlameBush! and the above excerpt are satirical.

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Engineering feat

NPR has photos of Taipei 101, new owner of the title world's tallest building, and of its huge tuned mass damper. The photos I've seen of the building haven't impressed me with its aesthetic qualities, but maybe it's just the lack of a skyline perspective.

Apparently the Freedom Tower, on the World Trade Center Site in New York, will surpass Taipei 101 upon its completion in 2009.

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Thursday, December 30, 2004

"When is your fetus due?"

A few days ago, I posted on the illogic of insisting on a fundamental difference between 'fetus' and 'baby.' Others are discussing the topic too, and an interesting discussion is taking place between James Taranto and Andrew Coulson. It started here and here's the latest installment.

Coulson makes a couple of statements to which I believe Taranto's responses are insufficient:

The difference between a fetus and an infant is that a fetus is a part of a pregnant woman's body whereas an infant is not.

Any rights of a fetus are secondary because its existence is secondary to (and until late in the pregnancy, entirely dependent on) the woman in whose womb it is located.

You can check Taranto's responses, but here's what I think.

Coulson argues that a fetus is entirely dependent on the mother until late in the pregnancy, when the fetus is actually dependent on the mother for far longer. I'm not a parent, but my guess is that a fetus is dependent until at least 4 or 5 years after it (one should not refer to fetuses as he or she) is born.

The moment of birth does not change the fetus' level of dependency at all.

Furthermore, being dependent upon someone does not make your rights secondary to theirs. I don't think this point requires explanation; I'm pretty surprised that anyone would make such a ludicrous argument.

Aside from the dependency argument, science is rapidly pushing viability earlier and earlier (even now fetuses survive outside the womb from early in the pregnancy), and the day will probably arrive when a fetus can grow from conception to birth in an artificial womb.

The inescapable fact is that the fetus is an individual person from the very earliest stages of development, and dependency upon another person cannot change that.

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Roth Report?

I've been a regular reader of the Drudge Report for some time now, but I think he may be getting some competition. Wes Roth just started up a site that is very similar, and in some ways better than Drudge.

He's got some interesting articles (including this one on Muslim clerics in Somalia), good links (though not to me), and his site is cleaner than Drudge, which I think is a bit cluttered. He links not only to news sources, but also to blogs, and even back to his competition (as he reminds us, imitation is the most sincere form of flattery).

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Culture of Life

At Clarity&Resolve Patrick posted some dramatic photos of US Marines in action, saving the lives of two terrorists who had just attacked them.

The post is aptly titled "We love life." Americans celebrate and protect life better than most, yet with over a million abortions a year and swirling talk of euthanasia, cloning, and stem cell harvesting, we still have a long way to go.

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Wonders of a free market

Today's NYTimes has an article on Iraqi banks, and, surprisingly, their outlook borders on optimism:

Despite the continuing war and political uncertainty, Iraq's long-suffering financial industry has begun creaking to life.

The revival is being led by some private Iraqi banks that have begun using new economic rules, harnessing the surge of reconstruction money and, in some cases, forging foreign partnerships.

The article gives some insight into what it's like to conduct business in Baghdad, and while it doesn't paint a pretty picture of the current situation, it doesn't forecast a bleak future either.

But some analysts said that Iraqi banks, at least the private-sector ones, will soon be more agile, modern and profitable. Mr. Kubba said Commercial Bank had already begun taking steps toward introducing Swift codes, bank machines and even credit cards. And most of the banks have invested in computer training, either in Iraq or abroad.

"Many more changes in the money market, capital market and the banking business are envisaged, and it is now only a matter of time - short rather than long," Mowafaq H. Mahmood, managing director of the Bank of Baghdad, one of Iraq's largest private banks, wrote in a report published by the Arab Bankers Association of North America.

Even if you have no vested interest (time or money) in Iraq, the article provides perspective on how things we in America have come to rely upon, such as ATMs, Internet banking, and the lack of weapon check points outside our banks, are unheard of here.

For anyone who is interested in investing in Iraq, I'd say you could safely call this the ground floor!

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Wednesday, December 29, 2004

al Qaeda's tsunami aid efforts called "stingy"

I haven't heard anyone take al Qaeda to task for its lack of effort to help tsunami victims, and I'd like to know why.

The organization has millions (probably billions) of dollars at its disposal, and many of the affected people are Muslims, so why isn't al Qaeda sending help? Why isn't the UN blasting bin Laden and al Zarqawi for their lack of action and why aren't they labeled as "insensitive" for not releasing a video expressing their deep concern for the victims?

I don't think I'll see anyone criticizing al Qaeda on this one, but Linda Chavez touches on the topic and presents the great contrast between the US and Islamofacism in her article "Good vs. Evil."

Teaser:

Bin Laden claims that he and Zarqawi are fighting "for God's sake." But what kind of god would ask his followers to slit the throats of those who have come to a country to build roads and sanitation systems.
Islamofascism is the personification of evil. It cannot be appeased; it cannot be reasoned with; it cannot be contained. The only possible way to deal with it is to defeat it, just as we defeated Nazism some 60 years ago.

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More takes on the bin Laden tape

In the NYPost, Ralph Peters emphasizes the importance of keeping the elections on schedule and takes aim at the nature of Islamic radicals:

Anyone who dismisses the importance of the upcoming Iraqi elections need only listen to Monsieur bin Laden's urgent plea for a boycott. Osama praised the atrocities of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a hands-on executioner, and welcomed his collaboration in efforts to block the balloting.

Islamic terrorists distrust the common people. They dread the strength of those who might think for themselves.

Iraqis are just as capable of thinking for themselves as anyone else, and I think that the turnout at the elections will prove that they are intent on doing just that.

He too thinks the tape marks an increasing desperation on the part of the terrorists:

Despite the cries of the experts-for-rent for whom imperfect results always mean failure, we should take heart from Osama's latest message: If any confirmation were needed of the importance of holding elections in Iraq, we just got it. If the terrorists thought they had a chance at the polls, they'd be campaigning instead of killing.

However, with the (typical) article "Iraq Govt. Mission: Luring Voters to Polls," the AP is betting against me:

It seems like mission impossible: How will Iraq's interim government lure people to vote in the January election amid a deadly insurgency targeting polling stations?

Many had assumed that after years of oppression under Saddam Hussein Iraqis would rush to cast their ballots. But with minority Sunnis calling for boycott and militants waging an armed campaign against the election, odds seem high that many voters will not dare turn out.

I don't have a specific example, but I'm thinking they probably said the same thing a month before the Afghan elections. Only time will tell.

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Rather, Jennings, and a US Marine

Just in case you didn't see this joke at Instapundit...

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MSM Filters

Two excellent posts over at Bookworm yesterday. First, she makes a good point that media filters have a very real effect:

The main difference between the military and everyone else, is that the military is actually in Iraq, seeing what's taking place -- that is, they see whether they are actually effective, they see whether the average Iraqi is appreciative of their efforts, and they see the incredible evil that is the insurgents. In America, we receive our news carefully filtered through the mainstream media, and it is clearly a filter that alters the reality on the ground. Easy to identify the problem -- impossible to identify a solution. The only hope is that the MSM will become more and more marginal in a blogosphere age.

Then, she points out Joe Scarborough's "The real news out of Iraq."

Teaser:

Did you know that the most powerful Shiite leaders in Iraq are telling their followers that participating in the American-led elections is a religious duty on par with fasting?

Did you know that the overwhelming majority of troops in Iraq believe this war is a noble cause?

You don't know any of these facts if you get your information from the mainstream press. For whatever reason, these powerful media outlets spend a disproportionate amount of time reporting on the treachery of terrorists instead of the work of those building the first democratic Arab state in Middle East history.

Former U.S. House Speaker Sam Rayburn once said that any jackass can kick down a barn. It takes a carpenter to build one.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2004

More support for Rummy

Powerline points out a must read by Jed Babbin in the American Spectator in support of Rumsfeld.

Teaser:

The harpies of the left -- and the opportunists of the right -- realize that because the path to victory or defeat in any war is strewn with setbacks and mistakes, Rumsfeld is much more exposed to their flak than newly reelected President Bush. Rumsfeld stands for everything they despise about President Bush: decisiveness, directness and -- most unforgivably -- impatience with those who most richly deserve it.

I didn't know this:

In the planning for the Iraq campaign, Mr. Rumsfeld proposed a plan in which a provisional government would have been formed before the invasion, and would have taken over immediately, reducing the need for American presence, and making our presence that of one ally helping another. A competing plan, advanced by Colin Powell and George Tenet, chose an extended occupation with Iraq ruled by a MacArthur-like consul, and gradual turnover of Iraq to an interim government chosen by the major representatives of the Iraqi population. The President chose the latter, the wrong plan, and then stuck Rumsfeld with the job of implementing a plan Rumsfeld knew was not likely to succeed.

And if you need more convincing to go read it, it contains this line:

"Going to war without France is like going deer hunting without an accordion. You just leave a lot of noisy, useless baggage behind."

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Another tape

The AP runs some details of the latest bin Laden tape under the headline "Bin Laden, Al - Zarqawi Benefit in Alliance."

I'm not sure that this new alliance really makes any difference, but what caught my eye in this piece was the closer - a quotation from Peter Bergen, a fellow at the New American Foundation:

With the release of still another bin Laden tape, Bergen said, "The tapes are coming thick and fast, which means they (the terrorists) are feeling secure.''

It seems to me that tapes coming "thick and fast" is more a sign of terrorists getting desperate than terrorists feeling secure.

Elsewhere in the article are these bits on bin Laden's shift in strategy:

Roger Cressey, who was the deputy to former White House counter-terrorism chief Richard Clarke, said the boycott message indicates bin Laden has been trying to broaden his audience.

Cressey said bin Laden is trying to reach "the part of the Muslim world that is sympathetic to the message, but is not willing to endorse him. These are fence sitters, people who have serious problems with the U.S. policy but have not become activists against us yet.''

An effort to "broaden your audience" seems to indicate that your original audience wasn't as effective as previously thought, or that other factors (ie US response) are not favorable to your cause.

Either way, I don't think bin Laden or al Zarqawi is feeling secure right now.

Update: Reuters has a chronology of al Qaeda tapes.

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Invest (or gamble) on the Iraqi Dinar

Surely I make no claims as a financial advisor, but people have asked me about buying Iraqi dinar, and I thought I'd share what I've found out.

As with any investment, sites trying to sell you dinar make a pretty convincing pitch. Here's the bottom line from Bet on Iraq:

If things go well in Iraq's future, they will also go well for anyone who bought Iraqi currency at today's prices.

That statement is hard to argue. To get a more in-depth understanding, check out this CNN piece, but also consider the source:

My view is that if you want to spend a few bucks to acquire Iraqi dinar as a novelty item or you want to gamble with money you can well afford to lose, that's fine. Enjoy yourself. But you shouldn't even think of making something this iffy a part of your investment portfolio.

Also this FAQ.

The main thing you'll want to know is if your exchange rate is fair. Check the Central Bank of Iraq site, but keep in mind that any company will have to charge more to cover their expenses.

I've invested some, and dealt with a man who currently charges $800 USD for 1M Iraqi dinar. He buys them for about $700 USD, and I think his mark up is fair, considering his risks.

For those of you without the advantage of being in Baghdad, you'll probably have to make a deal on the internet, and you'll probably have to put up the money a few days before actually getting your dinar, but the exchange rate is roughly the same.

We'll see how it plays out, but I'm thinking that getting in before the election could be a smart move. Who knows . . .

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They shall know the truth

Mudville Gazette has a great post on how bloggers (especially milbloggers) are changing wartime news coverage. Greyhawk links to several first-hand accounts of the Mosul attack, and even excerpts from my post on meeting the Secretary of Defense.

The entire post is excellent, and he ties it together with this:

Keep shooting boys, keep shooting. And this is a battle that folks on the homefront can fight too. My thanks to so many of you who have over the past year. I think we're starting to see the tide turn, and that the Secretary is well aware of what forces are turning it. Look for increasing questions on the credibility of blogs (or false fears about the security of MilBlogs) from the mainstream media as evidence I'm right.

The truth will always be a massive force - either of attraction or repulsion. The MSM's stranglehold on mass communication has long allowed them to control what information is available to the public, thus manipulating many people's perception of the truth.

The more information to which people have access, the better they are able to judge the truth for themselves. Thus, powerbrokers (including the MSM) are opposed to proliferation of information, and will make every attempt to discredit those who seek to find the truth for themselves and especially those who enable others to find it.

They will not succeed.

Update: Fortune has an interesting take on blogging. (ht Instapundit)

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Monday, December 27, 2004

Define 'burnout'

In yesterday's San Diego Union Tribune, Robert Caldwell makes his case for keeping Rumsfeld. He doesn't really bring up anything that the blogs haven't already covered, but he includes this paragraph, which I found interesting:

Arguably, Rumsfeld's concomitant failure was his refusal to expand the American military, a force reduced by 40 percent during the 1990s, after 9/11. The shrunken, 10-division U.S. Army in particular is too small. It cannot fight simultaneously in Iraq and Afghanistan and sustain all its other global commitments without running its soldiers, their families and the force structure into the ground. Experts say the Army's burnout point is about a year away.

I'd like to read these experts' reports to see just how they determined the Army's burnout point. Also, what does burnout mean? Will the Army just cease to function? Unqualified, ambiguous statements like that one are bothersome, and make no contribution to meaningful discussion.

Our force is definitely strained, and more divisions would make for more time between rotations, but I have trouble believing that the Army is a year from disaster.

I'm all for increasing the size of the Army, but the redesign underway now should make deployment forces more efficient and thus reduce the number of troops needed. That's a step in the right direction, and its effect will help determine just how large our post 9/11 Army needs to be.

(another ht to RealClearPolitics)

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Logical?

I just found Rich Lowry's column in Friday's Washington Times, and he brings up a point that has been frustrating me for years: the sudden transformation from 'fetus' to 'baby' at the moment of birth.

His catalyst is news coverage of the recent baby-snatching murder case:

During the coverage of the crime, the status of the Bobbie Jo Stinnett's unborn girl steadily changed. All at once on AOL News during the weekend, there were headlines tracking events in the case: "Woman Slain, Fetus Stolen"; "Woman Arrested, Baby Returned in Bizarre Murder"; "Infant in Good Health."

Note how a "fetus" — something for which American law and culture has very little respect — was somehow instantly transformed into a "baby" and "infant" — for which we have the highest respect. By what strange alchemy does that happen?

He goes on to identify the political cause:

Pro-choicers realize that recognizing the legal status of a fetus in any way undermines a crucial philosophical support of the pro-choice position — that a baby in the womb has no rights that we are bound to respect.

And to point out the illogic of the abortion advocates' position:

[T]here is a continuity between the "fetus" and "baby."
Otherwise, why do we rejoice over ultrasound images of the unborn? Why do we give them names? Why do we pray for their health and happiness? Why are we so quick to go from calling them fetuses to babies?

Changing minds is tough when it comes to abortion, but recognizing that an unborn baby is just as human as you or me or Teri Schiavo is one thing that can make people rethink their position.

Killing is easy when it's a fetus. Not so much when it's a baby.

(hat tip RealClearPolitics)

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Perspective

We live in an age of unprecedented global interaction. Though we have instantaneous access to news from around the world, and global travel is relatively easy and inexpensive we still have an innate tendency to lose perspective on global events (if we ever had an accurate perspective at all).

Tunnel vision affects some people (and nations) more than others, and it's been my experience that it tends to grow increasingly narrow until something happens to shatter the delusion, whereupon more realistic perspective is restored for a time.

The length of this time directly correlates to the scale of the event that caused it, and as time passes, distractions appear, lessons are forgotten, and we lose our perspective again.

The earthquake that hit southern Asia, killing untold thousands and causing widespread destruction, helped me shake my tunnel vision.

I first heard about the tragedy in the mess hall last night, where I saw a group of contract workers standing in front of a TV with anxious faces glued to the screen. Many of the workers are from Sri Lanka, and I had just spoken with several of them as I gave out a few small Christmas gifts.

I don't know how many of them have family affected by the disaster, nor do I know if they have effective means of communicating with their families.

I do know that the death toll will likely be at least 10 times what the coalition has suffered here in Iraq.

My prayers are with all the people reeling from this shock, and especially with our contract workers, many of whom are far from their families on 2 year tours.

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Saturday, December 25, 2004

Unto us a Child is born...

Today is a rainy and rather dreary day in Baghdad, but those of us who remember the summer months don't mind the chilly weather at all!

Thank you all for your encouraging comments and emails, and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.

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Friday, December 24, 2004

Secretary Rumsfeld at Camp Victory

As part of his surprise (to the press at least) visit to Iraq, the Secretary of Defense stopped by Camp Victory, Baghdad this evening.

I just happened to be in the dining facility, in line for dinner when he showed up. I was nearing the front of the line and watching him make his way through the crowd of Soldiers when I noticed an NCO handing him a hat and apron.

Sure enough, as I got to the serving line Secretary Rumsfeld took his place behind the counter and served me a plate of fried shrimp with a big smile. He continued serving Soldiers for about 20 minutes until all the Soldiers had their food.

While we ate, he spoke to us and expressed his pride in what we are accomplishing and the importance of our mission. At the end of his remarks, he spoke about the sacrifice so many have made, and he showed sincere emotion as he mentioned the Soldiers and families he has spoken with at Walter Reed.

He finished by saying that he was "in no rush" (to the chagrin of his staff) and that he would stay for handshakes and photos. As he left the podium, he quipped "Maybe I'll take some questions . . . or maybe we could just sing Jingle Bells or something!"

When he was here this spring I wasn't able to meet him, so I made sure to get in line this time. I was surprisingly nervous as I got to the front, but I told him that I appreciated his work and I thought he was doing a good job. He thanked me, and as I was turning to walk away he shook my hand a second time and said, "That really means a lot to me."

Now having seen Rumsfeld here in Baghdad twice, I know the man genuinely cares for Soldiers and families, no matter how he signs his letters.

Also, today's stops in Fallujah, Mosul, and Baghdad prove that he's willing to go where the troops are; mortars, rockets, and suicide bombers be damned.

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Operation Uplink

I just received a small Christmas package from the folks at Operation Uplink, containing some stationary, blank greeting cards, and a 120 minute phone card (a real score!).

I had not heard of this project before, but it's sponsored by Walmart, Sam's Club, FedEx, and the VFW. The enclosed letter said that they sent a phone card to every overseas service member - an impressive and appreciated effort.

Update: Captain Sterbo comments on another worthy site to check if you're looking to send Soldiers some goodies. Also, I have names and addresses of some Soldiers who have requested mail, so drop me an email if you're interested. (beefalwayswins@gmail.com)

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Santa Tracking

Over at BlueDogTroop, my esteemed roommate has a couple good Christmas posts. Dan points out that NORAD will be tracking Santa as he makes his deliveries tonight, and the site even has declassified Santa files from the last 50 years.

He also posts some excellent Christmas quotations, such as this from Dickens:

"It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its Mighty Founder was a child Himself."

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He's with Rummy too.

I've seen several links to this Victor Davis Hanson article on why getting rid of Rumsfeld would be foolish, but if you haven't seen it already I recommend checking it out. His bottom line:

The blame with this war falls not with Donald Rumsfeld. We are more often the problem — our mercurial mood swings and demands for instant perfection devoid of historical perspective about the tragic nature of god-awful war. Our military has waged two brilliant campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. There has been an even more inspired postwar success in Afghanistan where elections were held in a country deemed a hopeless Dark-Age relic. A thousand brave Americans gave their lives in combat to ensure that the most wicked nation in the Middle East might soon be the best, and the odds are that those remarkable dead, not the columnists in New York, will be proven right — no thanks to post-facto harping from thousands of American academics and insiders in chorus with that continent of appeasement Europe.

(hat tip to flownover)

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Thursday, December 23, 2004

Countdown to the election

RealClearPolitics links to two excellent articles on the importance of the upcoming Iraqi election.

Ayad Allawi writes in the Wall Street Journal:

Turning to the conduct of the elections next month, and despite all the pessimism by the skeptics, we see encouraging signs as Iraqis enthusiastically register to vote, and thousands of candidates from across the political spectrum put themselves forward for election. The cowardly targeting of voter registration centers by terrorists demonstrates their fear of the coming fulfillment of Iraq's aspirations for democracy and freedom.

The elections next month will be transparent and competitive, supervised across the country by the thousands of brave workers of the Independent Electoral Commission for Iraq, and by international organizations including the U.N. Iraqis will have over 250 different parties and political entities from which to choose--a far cry from the farcical referendum with Saddam as the single candidate who received 100% of the vote. They will be conducted in the open and under public scrutiny, and though these elections and the ones the year after will not by themselves create a democracy, they will be a major landmark event of huge significance.

He outlines some lofty goals, and the optimism in his message of unity and resolve is very clear.

Thomas Sowell's "A huge election in Iraq" emphasizes the global importance of the election, and he includes a powerful rebuke to war critics:

The Bush administration has poured American blood and treasure into Iraq in hopes of an outcome that will spare future generations of Americans another tragedy like 9/11. Just the fact of taking this long view contrasts sharply with the Clinton administration's focus on short run issues of political damage control, which amounted to sweeping international problems under the rug and leaving them for future administrations to deal with.

The only way to avoid making mistakes is to avoid making decisions -- which can be the most catastrophic mistake of all.

Sowell's message is tempered with several tough questions, which will all be answered in due time.

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Saddam's Legacy

The Jordan Times runs a story on yet another of Saddam's mass graves discovered recently:

Dogs digging for bones on a barren patch of earth in northern Iraq have alerted villagers to a mass grave that may contain as many as 50 bodies, a local official said on Tuesday.

“We found some bones,” said Abdullah Mohammad, who heads a unit dealing with displaced people in the city of Kirkuk. “After that, we began excavating and we discovered that it's a mass grave,” he told Reuters.

I'll be looking for this report to show up in the American MSM . . . anyone? Bueller?

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Force Protection

The AP headlines: "Iraq Bombing Represents Security Breach," and ledes with this:

The suspected suicide attack inside an Army mess hall in Iraq represents a breach of the most basic principles of military security and points to significant weaknesses in the screening of Iraqis who are allowed onto the base, experts say.

"This is an incredible occurrence, that someone could have come in undetected with some kind of bomb,'' said Mitch Mitchell, a retired Army officer who helps design security training for the military. "It blows my mind that force protection on the base is that poor.''

More from Mitchell later in the article:

Mitchell and other experts said it was obvious the military was not taking basic protective actions for U.S. troops in Iraq. On most bases, troops have their meals in large dining hall tents like the one attacked Tuesday, for example, instead of in small, scattered groups. That presents a tempting target for insurgents, Mitchell said.

This emerging theme of knocking the Army's force protection measures is not surprising, but as anyone who has ever spent an extended period of time wearing a full chemical protective suit will tell you, correct defensive posture is a tricky thing.

Commanders have to determine the proper level of protection, knowing that unnecessary precautions are a hindrance to efficient operations and make life much harder on the troops.

I discussed the latest on the Mosul attack with my roommate over lunch in our "large dining hall tent," and while I am surprised and saddened by this attack, it hardly "blows my mind."

The attack certainly points out vulnerability, and defending against suicide bombers is a real challenge. The volume of traffic coming on and off our larger bases is massive, and many local contractors and Iraqi Security Forces are included in that number.

A scenario in which a terrorist infiltrates an ISF unit and gains legitimate access to a base only to blow himself up is definitely feasible, and we must continue to work to thwart such efforts. However, I do not see this attack as damning to the Army's force protection efforts.

Claiming that areas where troops gather are vulnerable is a no-brainer; the question is what to do to mitigate that risk.

To follow Mitchell's advice and have Soldiers eat in "small, scattered groups," is simply not realistic. This attack in a crowded dining tent produced about 100 casualties. Therefore, we must limit the number of people allowed to eat together to less than 100. The number killed was between 20-25, so we should make our "small, scattered groups" less than that number as well in order to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.

To serve a large base, with a workforce of about 5000 (or even a small base of 1000 people), three meals a day and have them eat in groups of less than 20 verges on the impossible.

I believe that this attack will cause us all to be more cautious and observant, thus making future attacks of the same kind much more difficult, similar to the lack of hijackings post 9/11.

We should also be proactive in seeking new ways of preventing suicide attacks, possibly by using new search techniques or explosives detection technology (a subject on which I am completely ignorant) at the gates.

However, to eliminate the threat, the only lasting solution is to eradicate the root cause. To that end, our current plan of empowering the Iraqi people to be responsible for their own security and pursuing the goal of a freely elected government is, I believe, the best path.

Update: Bookworm comments on a NYPost article that points out the increasing desperation of the insurgents.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Reality of the autopen

I'm not a particularly emotional or sensitive guy, so I try not to pass quick judgment on emotionally charged issues like the Rumsfeld autopen.

I don't think it's asking too much for the SECDEF to personally sign every letter, but since they are all just form letters anyway, I don't think it makes that much difference, and I know that autopens are very prevalent at much lower levels of government.

Powerline posts a letter from a Marine's father, who closes with this:

Bottom line, we support Sec Rumsfeld. The people who are making a big deal about this have their heads up their collective a****. They need to have a serious priority check on what people in positions of responsibility should be doing with their time.

And, to add some levity, this from Scott Ott:

Forensic DNA testing has revealed that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld did not personally lick postage stamps on letters to families of troops killed in Iraq.

This new evidence of Mr. Rumsfeld's psychological detachment from the war in Iraq follows his admission that letters he wrote to families of soldiers and Marines included a facsimile of his signature, rather than a unique one done with his own hand each time.


Update: Tony Blankley offers his support for Secretary Rumsfeld.

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And what of the supernatural?

In a previous post, in response to a charge that educated people are more likely to be liberal, I opined that academia leans so far to the left because it is a natural home for idealists, which most liberalists tend to be.

One category of very educated people, who by the nature of their work must be grounded in realism, is doctors. I don't have any data on whether doctors tend to be politically liberal or conservative, but this article points out the fascinating results of a recent survey: most doctors believe in miracles.

A miracle is "an event that appears inexplicable by the laws of nature and so is held to be supernatural in origin or an act of God." Surely most academics would frown on such an idea, but doctors don’t.

74% of doctors believe that miracles have occurred in the past and 73% believe that can occur today.

"The picture that emerges is one where doctors, although presumably more highly educated than their average patient, are not necessarily more secular or radically different in religious outlook than the public, stated Dr. Alan Mittleman, Director of The Finkelstein Institute.

Perhaps the most surprising result of the survey is that a majority of doctors (55%) said that they have seen treatment results in their patients that they would consider miraculous (45% do not).

I'd be interested to see the percentage of other highly educated people who profess a belief in the supernatural.

Doctors are highly educated, but they also work in the real world with a comprehensive cross section of society. That 74% of them believe in miracles and 55% claim to have actually witnessed one (or more) makes me feel less like some kind of zealot for agreeing with them.

Update: Maybe the docs have seen stories like this one that GW points out...8.6 ounce baby girl, who survived.

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News poll

Drudge points out some interesting statistics from a recent Gallup poll on how Americans get their news.

Americans are more likely to get their news from local TV and newspapers than national sources, according to a Gallup Poll released today. But of all sources, only news on the Internet is gaining in popularity. . . .from 15% going there every day two years ago to 20% doing so today.

Contrary to many assessments, young people do not consult Internet news more often than other sources, Gallup found. For those 18 to 29, only 21% said they looked at Web news daily, not much different than the 19% of those 50 to 64 who do so.

20% is a sizable number, and the increasing competition should result in a better product and better informed populace, both of which are good things.

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First hand account

If you haven't yet read Chaplain Brad Lewis' account of praying with Soldiers and assisting the wounded after yesterday's attack in Mosul, you should.

(hat tip to Hugh Hewitt)

Update: LTG Metz, Commanding General MNC-I, just gave live interviews to several morning shows. He expressed his condolences to the families of those killed and injured yesterday; he said that the attitude today is one of resolve, and that Soldiers of the coalition refuse to be intimidated by thugs and terrorists.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Wiser, or just older?

In his post Left Behind, Callimachus of Done with Mirrors waxes eloquent on his political views and how he no longer identifies himself with 'the left.'

His piece is well written and he touches on several good topics, among them one of my favorite themes, that people aren't so bad if you get to know them:

I spent much of the '80s and '90s in active, public disputation with "the right." When I thought of "them" I pictured zealous, pious, ignorant, self-assured demagogues of crusading ideologies, inflexible mean men clad in expensive suits and cheap ethics.Yet, as a small-town newspaper editor, the people I dealt with on the "right," with three or four odious exceptions, were fine and decent.

On the whole, my old adversaries never forgot that their opponents were human beings. And thus they never stopped being human themselves. I wish I could say the same of the humanists around me today.

On gun control:

I came of age associating firearms with Christian enthusiasm, flag-waving patriotism, fondness for the military, and other irrational fixations of the right-wing loonies in this country.

I was of the "why would you need an AK-47 to hunt a deer" school of gun control.

My commitment to freedom of speech was solid; anything this side of "shouting fire in a crowded theater," I endorsed. So, I set myself the task of devising an argument against the Second Amendment that wouldn't also involve, and constrict, the First.I couldn't do it, of course. They are of a piece. Would you say that the framers of the Bill of Rights never imagined the destructive power of modern weaponry? Then neither did they imagine the reach and scope of the modern media -- visual as well as printed, and all the more powerful for its pretense of unbias.

You don't need an AK-47 to shoot a white-tail deer, but neither do you need to dunk a crucifix in a piss-pot to make art. Guns kill people -- when people use them for that purpose. So do words. Or were we never serious about that bit about the pen being mightier than the sword?

He also speaks of introspection, 9/11, gay marriage, Kurds, and the Cold War.

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Immigration in Italy

The second installment of the Washington Times' three part series focuses on Italy's immigrant situation and highlights an interview with one radical politician:

Matteo Bragantini, the Northern League's provincial secretary, said that it is his party's dream for the region to secede from Italy and create its own nation, Padania, free, independent and hostile to outsiders.

"They are demanding that crucifixes be removed from our schools and demanding that pork be taken off school lunch menus, not just for Muslims, but for Christian children as well.


"Christmas holidays can no longer be called Christmas. They are winter festivities," he said in disgust, laying out newspaper clippings on each outrage.

"It is natural for Muslims to beat their wives. For us, it is unthinkable and illegal. The mosques are not mosques. They are political centers. Imams are inciting the young to hate Christians," Mr. Bragantini said. "There is a minaret in Rome that is higher than St. Peter's. You could not build a church like that in Saudi Arabia."

America is a nation of immigrants, and that tradition has helped make our country strong. I would not support someone of Mr. Bragantini's views in our country, but I do find it scary to read Mr. Bragantini's words about his country's tolerance and realize how closely they reflect the ongoing pursuit of anti-culturalism in America.

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President Bush on the ISF

During yesterday's press conference the President had this to say in response to a question of whether Iraqi troops are (in the reporter's words) "lacking in the willpower and commitment after they receive military training":

The ultimate success in Iraq is for the Iraqis to secure their country.

Now, I would call the results mixed, in terms of standing up Iraqi units who are willing to fight. There have been some cases where when the heat got on, they left the battlefield. That's unacceptable. Iraq will never secure itself if they have troops that when the heat gets on, they leave the battlefield. I fully understand that. On the other hand, there were some really fine units in Fallujah, for example, in Najaf, that did their duty. And so the -- our military trainers, our military leaders have analyzed what worked and what didn't work

Here's what -- first of all, recruiting is strong. The place where the generals [GEN Abizaid and GEN Casey] told me that we need to do better is to make sure that there is a command structure that connects the soldier to the strategy in a better way, I guess is the best way to describe it. In other words, they've got some generals in place and they've got foot soldiers in place, but the whole command structure necessary to have a viable military is not in place. And so they're going to spend a lot of time and effort on achieving that objective.

First of all, the reporter's question is very condescending towards the Iraqi people. It's one thing to question training, equipment, or leadership, but it's different to infer that Iraqi troops (who represent the Iraqi people as a whole) lack willpower and commitment.

The NYTimes, as well as others I'm sure, are framing the President's response as a no confidence vote:

With the first elections in Iraq six weeks away, Mr. Bush's public criticism of how the Iraqis had performed reflected mounting concern, voiced from the White House, the Pentagon and Capitol Hill, that the strategy for training 125,000 Iraqi forces to secure the country is failing.

I think the President's response is a fair assessment, and nothing at which to be disheartened. The "command structure" he's referring to is the platoon leaders and company and battalion commanders - middle management. In the US Army, a young officer's first assignment may be platoon leader, but he relies on his platoon sergeant (an experienced NCO) to keep him straight. A company commander normally has 5-7 years experience, and a battalion commander about 15 years.

Bottom line is that leading Soldiers effectively takes experience, and that requires time. Iraqi troops are gaining experience, but it's hardly realistic to expect them to be fully effective right now. For the most part they performed quite well in Fallujah, and as the President said, the recruiting is strong.

Experience and effectiveness will come with time, and as long as Iraqis are volunteering to fight the thugs trying to destroy their country, the victory will come.

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Monday, December 20, 2004

Normal kids

Kids are the same all over the world...these photos were all taken by troops here in Iraq; I recommend taking a look at them after each news story you read. It's tough to put a negative spin on beautiful eyes and smiles like these:







Update: Chrenkoff has the latest in the Good news from Iraq series.

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I'm still with Rummy II

Secretary Rumsfeld has been dominating headlines and op-eds for a while now. Instead of reading the same quotations, allegations, and second guesses, I recommend checking out what Deacon and Hindrocket have to say in "Should He Stay or Should He Go?"

As per usual, their points are insightful and cut to the real issues (with links of course).

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More from Amsterdam

Today's Washington Times runs the first of a three-part series on Holland's struggle to come to terms with their growing Muslim population. The piece begins with some straight talk on non-assimilating immigrants:

Parliamentarian Geert Wilders sees himself as the legendary Dutch boy, finger in the dike, holding back a rising tide of immigrants that threatens to swamp the Netherlands and all of Europe. "Immigration is the biggest problem that Dutch society is facing today," said Mr. Wilders, in his office in The Hague. "We have been so tolerant of others' culture and religion, we are losing our own. ... Europe is losing itself. ... One day we will wake up, and it will be too late. [Immigration] will have killed our country and our democracy."

The intense politician spoke under the watchful eye of bodyguards, as his picture has been posted on Muslim Web sites calling for his beheading.

Mr. Wilders is not afraid to speak out, and he's not messing around with immigration policy:

Mr. Wilders demands, and many support, a five-year moratorium on all non-Western immigration, even to unite a legally working husband with his family. He wants illegal immigrants and failed asylum seekers deported, and all immigrants to have a working knowledge of the Dutch language before they arrive.

To remain in the Netherlands, a newcomer should pass a basic civics exam, one that few Dutch could pass.

Mr. Wilders calls mosques "houses of terror and recruitment" for jihad. He describes Islam as "dangerous" and "fascist," articulating the fears of many.

Here are some interesting stats:

Dutch intelligence says that an estimated 50,000 Muslims are devout and may be sympathetic to extremist goals and perhaps 150 might actually engage in criminal or terrorist acts.

Not sure how they came up with those numbers, but I'll bet they didn't include aiding and abetting in that 150.

Some response to Mr. Wilders from the head of the Netherlands' Arab-European League:

"[Muslims] have nothing to be ashamed of. We can be proud of our religion, our culture, our traditions. We do not have to assimilate or integrate. ... We do have to act like responsible citizens, obey the laws and get involved in the political process," Mr. Marmouch said.

Like other Muslim organizations, he condemned the killing of Mr. van Gogh, but dismissed Mr. Wilders' bodyguards as a "fashion statement" designed to create fear of Muslims and draw attention to his anti-immigration politics.

No mention by Mr. Marmouch of the calls for the be-heading of Mr. Wilders.

The piece ends with a telling quotation:

"Time solves a lot of things," said Mr. Rath, of the University of Amsterdam. "It is a process of the Netherlands, of Germany, of France redefining who and what we are. Right now, we don't know who we want to be. All we know is that we don't want it to be Muslim."

I'll be interested to see the rest of the series.

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Eye on Iraq

I just sent out the latest 'Eye on Iraq' newsletter. If you want to get the distro, just shoot me an email. As always, you can access the newsletter and lots of other info from Iraq here.

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Tech troubles

You may (or may not) have noticed some issues I've been having with the server, but I think it's worked out now. I'm a 'fix it myself' kinda guy, and it sometimes gets me into trouble! Sorry about that.

One new addition to the site is trackback, so hopefully it'll get some use...

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Saturday, December 18, 2004

Gmail

In my search for an email server to use for this blog (instead of my army email account) I found Gmail4Troops, where people have donated Gmail invitations so that Soldiers can get an account. I sure appreciate it, and so far Gmail seems to work really well.

My new addy is beefalwayswins@gmail.com (I couldn't believe it wasn't taken already!)

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Reading up on the ACLU

Over at Shadydowns Soapbox, David links to a couple of eye-opening sites. I knew to be wary of the ACLU, but I didn't know that Roger Baldwin, founder of the ACLU, was a communist. Nor had I seen this site, dedicated to thwarting the ACLU.

Update: Glenn Reynolds has more.

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Weighing my options

Mark Alexander writes an analysis comparing two proposals to revamp the current OOC tax code. Here are some excellent quotations he includes:

Of the "General Welfare," Benjamin Franklin observed:

"I am for doing good to the poor, but...I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. I observed...that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer."

As for the effect of excessive taxation on the economy, Alexander Hamilton wrote:

"If duties are too high, they lessen the consumption; the collection is eluded; and the product to the treasury is not so great as when they are confined within proper and moderate bounds."

Apparently Hamilton, et al., understood supply-side economics.

He also links to a side-by-side comparison of Flat Tax, FairTax, and the current system, which is very helpful.

I was originally in favor of the Flat Tax, but I'm increasingly leaning toward the FairTax. I'll be interested to see what you economists and tax lawyers have to say.

Update: From the Johnny Russell Lexicon, OOC (pronounced 'doubleO-C') means 'out of control'

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Voices of Iraq

Jeff Jacoby provides a refreshing perspective in his column on the documentary "Voices of Iraq":

If a phrase like "the liberation of Iraq" strikes you as ironic, chances are most of what you know about the situation there comes from the mainstream press. After all, a tidal wave of journalism has been portraying Iraq as a chaotic mess more or less from the moment US troops entered the country. Story after story dwells on the inadequacy of the postwar planning and the drumbeat of bad news is inescapable: looting, insurgency, terrorists, kidnappings. And, always, the grimly mounting toll of Iraqi and US casualties. This is liberation?

Yes, it is. But liberations are often dangerous and turbulent, less clear-cut while they are happening than they later become in retrospect. There was chaos during the US occupation of Germany after World War II, and journalists were certain then too that military victory was being squandered through postwar blunders. In 1946, leading publications concentrated bad news in articles with headlines like "How We Botched the German Occupation" (Saturday Evening Post), "US seen 'fumbling' its job in Germany" (New York Times), and "Americans Are Losing the Victory in Europe" (Life).

He goes on to describe the documentary (which I have not yet seen) and concludes with a point that bears repeating:

For all they have been through, Iraqis come across as incredibly optimistic, hopeful, and enthusiastic. Above all, perhaps, *normal.* In "Voices of Iraq" they film themselves flying on rides in an amusement park, dancing the night away at a graduation party, taking their kids to a playground, shopping for cell phones. A police officer mugs for the camera. Shoppers throng the streets of Suleimaniyah. A scrawny kid pumps iron with a makeshift barbell -- and makes a request of Arnold Schwarzenegger. ("I like your movies. You're a good actor. Can you please send me some real weights?")

Iraqis haven't had much experience with democracy, but we see the delight they take in the new opportunities Saddam's defeat is making possible. Two women celebrate the freedom to get a passport. An artist talks proudly about work for which he went to prison. A young woman says her dream is to be a lawyer. And one rough-looking fellow says simply, "I wish for a government elected by the Iraqi people."

Iraqis are normal. Just like Americans, some are good, and some are bad.

Yes, it's a liberation. And the men and women we liberated, it turns out, are people just like us. The headlines dwell on the bad news, and the bad news is certainly real. But things are looking up in Iraq, as the Iraqis themselves will be happy to tell you. All someone had to do was ask.

"Voices of Iraq" sounds pretty good, and I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has seen it. Meanwhile, there are plenty of Iraqi blogs where you can read an Iraqi perspective.

Update: Hugh Hewitt points out how today's MSM would have reported the Battle of the Bulge.

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Friday, December 17, 2004

Wow.

Blackfive posts this email from a Marine:

Just wanted to write to you and tell you another story about an experience we had over here.
As you know, I asked for toys for the Iraqi children over here and several people (Americans that support us) sent them over by the box. On each patrol we take through the city, we take as many toys as will fit in our pockets and hand them out as we can. The kids take the toys and run to show them off as if they were worth a million bucks. We are as friendly as we can be to everyone we see, but especially so with the kids. Most of them don't have any idea what is going on and are completely innocent in all of this.
On one such patrol, our lead security vehicle stopped in the middle of the street. This is not normal and is very unsafe, so the following vehicles began to inquire over the radio. The lead vehicle reported a little girl sitting in the road and said she just would not budge. The command vehicle told the lead to simply go around her and to be kind as they did. The street was wide enough to allow this maneuver and so they waved to her as they drove around.
As the vehicles went around her, I soon saw her sitting there and in her arms she was clutching a little bear that we had handed her a few patrols back. Feeling an immediate connection to the girl, I radioed that we were going to stop. The rest of the convoy paused and I got out the make sure she was OK. The little girl looked scared and concerned, but there was a warmth in her eyes toward me. As I knelt down to talk to her, she moved over and pointed to a mine in the road.
Immediately a cordon was set as the Marine convoy assumed a defensive posture around the site. The mine was destroyed in place.
It was the heart of an American that sent that toy. It was the heart of an American that gave that toy to that little girl. It was the heart of an American that protected that convoy from that mine. Sure, she was a little Iraqi girl and she had no knowledge of purple mountain's majesty or fruited plains. It was a heart of acceptance, of tolerance, of peace and grace, even through the inconveniences of conflict that saved that convoy from hitting that mine. Those attributes are what keep Americans hearts beating. She may have no affiliation at all with the United States, but she knows what it is to be brave and if we can continue to support her and her new government, she will know what it is to be free. Isn't that what Americans are, the free and the brave?
If you sent over a toy or a Marine (US Service member) you took part in this. You are a reason that Iraq has to believe in a better future. Thank you so much for supporting us and for supporting our cause over here.
Semper Fi,
Mark
GySgt / USMC


(hat tip to LGF)

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What purpose does the UN serve again?

Roger Simon links to a November report by a USMA law instructor on more ridiculousness at the UN. Here are some excerpts:

The worst kind of hypocrisy is the sort that pretends to stand on principle. The latest example is the failure of the United Nations, America's European allies and nongovernmental groups to support Iraqi efforts to bring Saddam Hussein and his henchmen to justice.

Last month I spent a week in London working with the group of judges and prosecutors who form the core of the special tribunal. They are a distinguished group of patriots who know more than any outsider how critical the rule of law will be for the future of their country. Yes, just like other inexperienced judges on previous tribunals elsewhere in the developing world, they have much to learn about conducting complex trials in accordance with the most modern nuances of international law. But they are dedicated to doing so. As one Iraqi told me, "My job is to judge, not to murder."

Unfortunately, their pleas for assistance are going unanswered. For example, some of the most experienced practitioners from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia had initially agreed to participate in the London sessions. At the last minute, however, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan lamely insisted that these experts were all too busy in The Hague to help the Iraqis, and he ordered them to stay home.

Human Rights Watch has even taken issue with the statute's ban on former Baath Party members sitting in judgment of the accused. Would the group have wanted Nazis passing judgment at Nuremberg?

For your own safety, if you have any heart problems please don't read the whole thing.

Update: Captain Ed has another report on the UN.

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Lest we forget

Over at BlueDogTroop, Dan has linked to a good collection of patriotic slide shows, with photos from GWOT, 9-11, Vietnam, and Korea set to music.

If you scroll down a couple posts, he has some Christmas photos from here at Camp Victory too.

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Need any more reasons?

The Washington Times reports on a recent TV study:

Network television's depictions of religion are "overwhelmingly" negative, despite 90 percent of the American public professing a belief in God, according to a study released yesterday by the Parents Television Council.
NBC leads the pack as the most anti-religious network, followed in order by Fox, the WB, ABC, UPN and CBS, says the study of 2,385 hours of prime-time programming during a 12-month period beginning September 2003.

"Hollywood is an industry that maintains that it reflects reality," said Brent Bozell, president of the council, "but people see their most fundamental beliefs being attacked as punch lines in drama series."

First, I don't know that Hollywood "maintains that it reflects reality," but that isn't the problem. Consciously or not, I believe that watching TV and movies, reading Cosmo or Maxim type magazines, and otherwise engaging in most pop culture will affect a person's concept of reality.

I don't believe that everyone should kill their TVs (though I am happily TV-free for 9 years now), or ban fashion magazines, but I do believe that people don't realize just how much such activities affect them.

Pop culture constantly cheapens sex and marriage and lampoons traditional American values, so this study's results are hardly surprising. (notice too, that the beloved-by-the-right FOX is one of the worst offenders) However, instead of just getting upset about it, I recommend doing something about.

After about a month, I bet you won't even miss watching TV, and after a couple months you'll wonder how you ever found time for it at all.

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A word from the man in charge

GEN Casey, Commander MNF-I, gave a press conference yesterday in Washington. I read through a transcript, and pulled out some key points:

I can tell you that I feel that we're broadly on track in helping the Iraqi people complete their transition to a constitutionally elected government at the end of next year. We also believe that this objective is both realistic and achievable.

Now let me just make a couple of points with you. First of all, the insurgency that we're fighting is not 10 feet tall. They're a tough, aggressive enemy, but they're not 10 feet tall. They're the same people who have oppressed the Iraqi people for the last 30 years. They're the reason that over a million Iraqis are missing and why probably several hundred thousand of those missing Iraqis are likely in mass graves around Iraq. They're focused on their return to dominance, so that they can continue to plunder the great natural resources of Iraq. They offer no alternative vision. They offer only intimidation and subjugation.

So they're attacking our will and the will of the Iraqi people, and I personally do not believe that they will defeat the indomitable spirit of 25 million free people who want to build a better life for themselves and for their families.

We need to remember that most Iraqis are like us in that they just want a decent life for themselves and their families. They are not dumb - they can assess their options, and most of them choose to side with us.

Second point: The Iraqi security forces are getting stronger every day. By February there will be 70 trained and equipped battalions in the Iraqi army.

Progress has also been made in the police and special police forces. By February there will be six public order battalions, a special police regiment, four police commando battalions and some nine regional SWAT teams -- special weapons and tactics teams -- all of them contributing to the fight against the insurgents and the terrorists on a day-to-day basis.

Building a military and police force isn't like hiring a kid to cut your grass. Training and unit cohesion take time, and both are required for success.

Third point: Reconstruction momentum is building. In June there were only around 230 projects actually what we call turning dirt, actually started, on the ground. By the end of November there were over 1,000, with a value of over $3 billion. All of this in spite of insurgents' efforts to disrupt the reconstruction process.

Reconstruction is key, mainly since it provides jobs for locals. An idle mind, after all, is the devil's workshop.

Fourth point: The interim government and their security forces are broadly accepted by the Iraqi people. Some poll ratings for the government are as high as 70 percent approval rating. The Iraqi people express a generally favorable opinion about their new army and about their police, and more than 60 percent of Iraqis believe that the country is headed in the right direction and they are optimistic about their future.

We're also broadly on track for the elections. Fourteen of the 18 provinces have less than -- four or less incidents of violence a day, and the registration process in most of the country was executed.

I want to be clear: The insurgents and the terrorists will continue to attack and attempt to disrupt the election process. And we see that daily. They won't succeed. And the elections in January will then be but another step forward in our relentless progress toward a new Iraq.

Progress towards a constitutionally elected government will not be easy. Nothing worthwhile ever is. But the challenge of helping the people of Iraq build a better future is one that the Iraqi people in the armed forces of 30 freedom-loving countries can take on.


On the bad idea of extending the timeline for elections (as the Hindrocket says, the only people who want the elections postponed are the ones who want them never to take place):

I do not think the extended election period is still on the table.

I think there will be sufficient Sunni participation in this for people to accept the fact that it is a reasonably free and fair election.

You gotta love the tone of this question, but the response is spot-on.

Q: General, you talk about the progress in security across Iraq. It seems that that airport road is a symbol of what many people say is a growing insurgency. What is the story with that road? And why can't U.S. and Iraqi forces patrol it effectively to stop the attacks that are happening on it?

Casey: I wouldn't necessarily see it as a symbol of a growing insurgency. I would see it as a symbol of the growing use of car bombs in the insurgency. And that really is the question of the airport road. It's a tactic that's been adopted by the insurgents. They don't have to do much. A car bomb a day in Baghdad or on the airport road sends a symbol that the insurgency is very powerful, when in actuality I don't believe that they are.

Constant bombing headlines and TV reports with plumes of smoke in the background indeed make the terrorists appear more powerful than they are.

Here's another classic question:

Q: General Casey, if you -- if indeed, as you say, the terrorists and insurgents have lost the ability to operate with impunity, they've lost their safe havens, then how do you explain the fact that they continue to take such a toll, to be so effective against the Multinational Forces?

Casey: They are not necessarily operating effectively against coalition forces. In fact, when we look back, the numbers of attacks don't necessarily produce a very high volume of casualties. In fact, a lot of the attacks are in fact ineffective against coalition forces.

The reporter apparently defines "so effective" as losing somewhere between 20-100 of your men to every 1 enemy killed. I'm glad I don't work for him.

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Thursday, December 16, 2004

Great Ideas from the Left Coast

If you haven't checked out the Bookwormroom, you should. BW is quite prolific, and one of today's interesting posts is on a gun ban proposed in San Francisco.

She links to an article published this summer that has some interesting stats on the effectiveness of gun control laws (not very), number of police agencies (16,500 in the US), and percentage of urban murders attributed to gangs (60 percent in the US).

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60 years later

An op-ed in the Washington Times today blasts the UN for having trouble passing an initiative to hold a special session of the U.N. General Assembly to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust. Apparently, some Arab member nations have objections to the initiative.

Unfortunate as it is, the "international arena" is full of anti-Semitic despots, whose views on Hitler's "final solution" are anything but condemnatory.

Sixty years after the furnaces of Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Treblinka and Dachau were extinguished, anti-Semitism is back on the rise, and not just among Arabs. The world should be reminded just how far certain hatred can go if not stopped dead in its tracks.

Islamic radicals have goals very similar to Hitler's, and no less horrifying. Americans need to recognize this uncomfortable fact and get serious about rectifying the situation. It'll be easier to deal with now than after another 20 years of inaction.

As Thomas Paine said, “If there must be trouble let it be in my day, that my child may have peace.”

Update: The Bookworm has an enlightening post on the UN's recent seminar on "Islamophobia."

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Get married, be happy

The Washington times reports on a study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics:

Married adults are more likely to be healthier — physically and mentally — than divorced, widowed, cohabiting or never-married adults, a new federal report says.

Of course I'm happy to hear this news since I've been married for two and a half years or so . . . I thought I was feeling healthy and happy.

Researchers don't look at whether the data included same-sex couples, Mrs. Schoenborn added. However, the surveys clearly categorize adults who are "living with a partner," and the data shows that those who cohabit are not nearly as healthy as married adults.

I would also like to know if they studied the in-the-army-and-don't-live-together-much category.

It seems to me that marriage, with its commitment, discipline, and self-sacrifice naturally leads to a healthier, happier life, and it's nice to see that statistics agree, even if pop culture, with its incessant degradation of marriage on TV, in movies, and in ridiculous celebrity marriages doesn't.

I would argue, though, that a single person who demonstrates the qualities of commitment, discipline, and self-sacrifice will probably be healthy and happy too.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Too true

This from Scrappleface:

A California jury today sentenced Scott Peterson to death for the double murder of his wife and unborn son. The sentence sparked outrage from the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL).

"We decry the inhumanity of the death penalty for a man who simply exercised his choice to end a pregnancy and to end the woman who was harboring an unwanted fetus," said an unnamed NARAL spokesman. "This emotional jury decision shows no respect for Mr. Peterson's reproductive rights. It's a sad day for America and may have a chilling effect on the hundreds of physicians nationwide engaged in similar work."

In related news, CNN, Fox News and MSNBC announced they would "go on indefinite hiatus due to a lack of meaningful news stories now that the Peterson trial has ended."

More on Peterson later. I'm still mulling it over.

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This'll keep you busy for awhile

Townhall has several pieces worth checking out today. Kathleen Parker writes about how the guys over at Iraq the Model are using their newly acquired free speech to better their country. Paul Greenberg compares today's Iraq nay-sayers to 2001's Afghanistan nay-sayers. Jonah Goldberg theorizes that Europe's goal should be simple survival. Walter Williams weighs in on our little education debate, and Thomas Sowell laments the hollywoodification of our justice system.

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Good Idea Fairy

GovExec reports:

House Armed Services ranking member Ike Skelton, D-Mo., has asked the Pentagon to consider using existing M-113 armored personnel carriers to protect forces in Iraq while troops await the delivery of armored Humvees.

In a Monday letter to Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers, Skelton said that while light weight Humvees in Iraq struggle under the weight of add-on armor, the M-113 chassis easily can accommodate such a burden without causing significant maintenance problems. Skelton asked Myers to consider using the 700 M-113s the Army is speculated to have in Kuwait.

Skelton acknowledged that the M-113 has its drawbacks -- without additional armor, a new M-113 could prove useless against improvised explosive devices like those used by insurgents in Iraq. But an armored M-113 could "certainly provide better protection than soft-skinned vehicles" like light-weight Humvees, Skelton wrote, adding that they "provide no protection at all."

I'm an aviator, so I don't claim to know much about ground vehicles, but I think this is ridiculous for a few reasons:

1) The source. The request is from a congressman, not from commanders on the ground in Iraq (I don't know much about Congressman Skelton, but his bio indicates that his career is law and politics - no military experience, which makes me wonder why he's the ranking Democratic member of the HASC).

2) Logistics. 113s are old, and they break down. You can't just give a unit a bunch of vehicles without giving them spare parts and mechanics who know how to work on them.

3) Visibility. The driver's visibility is very limited in a 113, the TC can see when he's out the hatch behind the gun, but everyone else is inside and blind to the world.

4) Speed. A 113 can't keep up with wheeled vehicles in a convoy.

5) As the Secretary Rumsfeld pointed out at the beginning of this fiasco, THEY WILL STILL BLOW UP.

If anyone can set me straight on why this is a great idea, please do so. Otherwise, I maintain that the professional politicians should leave the good ideas to commanders.

Update: Captain Sterbo sheds the light of experience on the subject and corrects some of my errors:
The 113 has 2 inches of aluminum armor on the sides, on top of tracks. Rich, there's a 3 foot by 4 foot hatch in back (in addition to the driver's and gunner/commander's personal hatches), so the people inside can stand up and look out.
I think that an IED would make one fly to pieces - not based upon any scientific knowledge, just on my own impression of riding around in one for too many days. Even a basic RPG would probably rip one up.
Top speed is probably 25 mph.

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Another hospital under construction

The Gulf Daily News reports:

Labourers digging on a construction site in northern Iraq uncovered human skulls and bones yesterday which interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said were part of a mass grave believed to contain more than 500 bodies.

Allawi told Iraq's National Council in Baghdad that the grave was found near the city of Sulaimaniya in the autonomous Kurdish region in the northeast of the country, where Saddam Hussein's forces carried out atrocities in the late 1980s.

Allawi gave no further details but residents living nearby said workers found the remains while preparing the ground for a new hospital near a highway in Debashan, north of Sulaimaniya.

Reuters adds:

Evidence gathered from mass graves is expected to form a central part of the trials of the former president and his top deputies, accused of war crimes and other crimes against humanity during their decades in power.

It'll be a long time before we have a real idea of the extent of Saddam's brutality. By the way, how was the grave discovered? While workers were building a hospital? Ironic.

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Arab press

Al Jazeera isn't the only Arab news source. In the Jordan Times, Rami Khouri writes on a peaceful demonstration against President Hosni Mubarak's campaign for a fifth presidential term and a statement from the UAE minister of defense:

The second fascinating political development in the expanding Arab reform industry this week was the blunt statement by UAE defence minister and Dubai crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed Ben Rashid Al Maktoum, who hosts a three-day gathering in Dubai called the Arab Strategy Forum. In his comments, opening the meeting Monday, he spoke directly to his “fellow Arab leaders” and warned them that if they did not change, they would be changed. He said: “If you do not initiate radical reforms that restore respect for public duty and uphold principles of transparency, justice and accountability, then your people will resent you and history will judge you harshly.”

The very explicit warning was that lousy leaders would be changed, presumably by their own people, but, in view of recent American military moves in Afghanistan and Iraq, perhaps also by well armed, interventionist foreign powers.

He concludes:

It is a good sign that the Dubai leadership here would now speak out in such forceful and explicitly political terms about the lack of accountability among Arab leaders, at the same time that some Egyptians are saying the same things through peaceful street demonstrations. It is not clear where these twin dynamics may lead, but they are certainly worth watching in the months ahead.

The overall tone of his piece is hopeful, and that in itself is encouraging. I'd much rather the Arab people get rid of their "lousy leaders" than us having to do it for them again.

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