Archive for the ‘Military’ Category

Petraeus? Petraeus Who?

Remember that guy running the show in Iraq? You know who I mean, P… P… Put… Pat… um Robertson? NoNoNoNoNo!Petraeus! **snap** Yeah! That’s him!

Yesterday at the press gaggle (and I really don’t what to know where that phrase originated), Dana Perino, Deputy White House spokeshottie, pointed out that it was never going to be Petraeus’s report in the first place,

Q Dana, there’s a report out today that the September Iraq report will be written by the White House, and not by Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus. Is that accurate?

MS. PERINO: Well, let me remind you of a couple of things. The Congress asked for these reports from the President; they asked for the President to report to the Congress. And so the July 15th report will be no different to the September 15th report, in terms of how that works. And the President has said that he’s going to take the recommendations from General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, and then he will consult further before deciding on any possible next course of action.

Funny. What was her boss, Tony Snow, saying just two weeks ago?

Q Tony, the administration has been continually saying to wait until September, and to wait until the testimony of General Petraeus and saying that his testimony will be the clearest sense of how well the surge militarily is working and what should happen going forward. General Petraeus has also made, in the past, assessments about the quality of the Iraqi security forces, in Mosul specifically, and in the country generally, that proved to be overly optimistic by a considerable margin. Given that come September he’s basically going to be asked to grade a plan that he, himself, crafted and has implemented, what confidence should the American people have that his assessment of his own work will be objective and honest?

MR. SNOW: You’re impugning General Petraeus’s ability to measure what’s going on?

Q I’m asking how he can give an objective assessment of his own work.

MR. SNOW: Well, I think the first thing you ought to do is take a look again at the report that was filed to Congress, the interim reported July 15th — no sugarcoating there. You take a look — and they try to use real metrics on it. General Petraeus is a serious guy who sees his mission not as a political mission, but, in fact, as somebody who reports facts.

Now, let us keep in mind that the full burden of this report does not fall on his shoulders. A lot of the key judgments, especially about politics, will fall on Ambassador Crocker. So this is — although I know a lot of people talk about “the Petraeus report,” in fact, you have a report that is a joint report by General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker. And so we trust him.

Oh. I see. The White House trusts Petraeus to tell the truth. I guess they just “can’t handle the truth.

But then again neither can the Congress nor the American public.

You see, after the LA Times was nice enough to let us know that the White House would be writing the Petraeus Iraq report, today we find out today that, for some reason, the White House would also prefer neither Petraeus nor Ambassador Crocker appear in public hearings.

From this morning’s Washington Post,

Senior congressional aides said yesterday that the White House has proposed limiting the much-anticipated appearance on Capitol Hill next month of Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker to a private congressional briefing, suggesting instead that the Bush administration’s progress report on the Iraq war should be delivered to Congress by the secretaries of state and defense.

White House officials did not deny making the proposal in informal talks with Congress, but they said yesterday that they will not shield the commanding general in Iraq and the senior U.S. diplomat there from public congressional testimony required by the war-funding legislation President Bush signed in May. “The administration plans to follow the requirements of the legislation,” National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in response to questions yesterday.
[…]
White House officials suggested to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week that Petraeus and Crocker would brief lawmakers in a closed session before the release of the report, congressional aides said. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates would provide the only public testimony.

Um. OK.

So why not have the people who actually write the report testify? They can’t testify because they would be under Dick Cheney’s bizarre mind control powers Presidential privilege since the report is being written in the White House?

Oh. OK.

Note: This charming information comes out on the same day as the devastating, terrorist attack in Iraq which has claimed up to 250 lives and destroyed the villages of Qataniyah and Adnaniyah north of Mosul.

This horrible attack will likely fit the Administration’s claims that al Qaeda is responsible for everything bad that happens in the world. (Are Republican children chastised with – “Be good or Bin Laden will get you?”) The attack also points out the extremely strange cancers growing within the body politic in Iraq. From Al Jazeera,

Hoda Abdel Hamid, Al Jazeera’s Iraq correspondent, that the areas where the attacks happened are considered “soft targets” because there is no large presence of Iraqi or US security forces.

“Over the past few months we have seen bolder attacks which are going further north … so it is also a message from the attackers saying ‘you might some success in one area but we can easily move to another area and there are many soft targets around the country’.”

The Yazidis, primarily a Kurdish sect, believe in God the creator and respect the Biblical and Quranic prophets, but the main focus of their worship is Malak Taus, the chief of the archangels.

In April, a Yazidi teenager was stoned to death after she reportedly fell in love with a Muslim and ran off with him. The incident appears to have sparked an increase in attacks on members of the sect.

Terrible attack. What do we learn?

The “Surge” has put out the worst fires in Baghdad but sectarian fires are cropping up around the country and there is little or no likelihood of near term Sunni-Shiite cooperation, therefore Petraeus is likely to recommend cutting back U.S. military presence anyway.

Um. Wait! Petraeus? Petraeus who?

Advertisements

Source: Agencies

While I read Al Jazeera every morning, I really don’t expect much in the way of new news. I get something far more important though: I find out how people in the Middle East might be interpreting US and international events.

I also see a lot of stories that would have passed under my radar.

Today, Al Jazeera posted a blurb about the two US marines cleared in the shooting deaths of 24 people in Haditha.

What actually struck me though, was neither the fact that this got a significant place on the premier Middle East news site nor the fact that neither McClatchy, the Chicago Tribune, the Christian Science Monitor nor even the International Herald Tribune chose to headline the piece.

The NYT does have both the AP and the Reuters articles up. Only the Washington Post gave it a small link on the front page but the story was fairly detailed. From the Reuters piece,

A U.S. Marine general dropped all charges on Thursday against two Marines in the shooting deaths of 24 civilians in Haditha, scene of what Iraqi witnesses said was a massacre by American troops.

The dismissal of charges means neither Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt nor Capt. Randy Stone will face a court-martial in connection with the events at Haditha, which have brought international condemnation of U.S. troops.

Five Marines still face charges in the November 19, 2005, shooting of two dozen unarmed men, women and children in Haditha, which prosecutors say came in retaliation for the death of a beloved comrade, Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas, who was cut in half by a roadside bomb.

Sharratt, 22, had been charged with three counts of premeditated murder and Stone, 35, with dereliction of duty for failing to properly report the civilian deaths.

Defense attorneys conceded civilians were killed at Haditha but said they died during chaotic fighting with insurgents after the roadside blast.

What only becomes clear from the WP piece is that Sharratt was involved in a shooting that happened several hours later,

The finding by Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis, commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, exonerates Justin L. Sharratt, 22, of Canonsburg, Pa. In a two-page document, Mattis not only cleared Sharratt of legal charges but also called him “innocent” in the general’s eyes. The dismissal came after an investigating officer found that Sharratt acted appropriately when he shot a group of armed men while searching a house in Haditha hours after other members of his unit killed numerous women and children in an alleged killing spree through two other houses. [my emphasis]

What I find far more interesting than the news of the soldiers, was the spin Al Jazeera put on story.

The fact that the attorney, who was new, inexperienced and probably more than a little gung ho, didn’t get court martialed for investigating is understandable if debatable. The fact that Sharratt didn’t get in trouble for a completely different shooting also makes sense. These two facts show why it was a non-story to western news agencies.

Ah. But Al Jazeera is different. They presented an edited version of the Reuters story missing the fourth paragraph talking about what the people were accused of and without any mention of a separate encounter (admittedly missing from the Reuters narrative). This gives the impression that both men took part in the civilian shootings.

Then again. Al Jazerra doesn’t even reference the source directly on the website. I have only seen them use the subscript “Source: Agencies” to identify where the information came from. Even if the story has been taken from a single article or “Agency”. It makes a nice trick to distance itself from the Western tainted news sources.

Again I think it is less important to understand the story and more important to understand how the story has been presented.

Spin is spin and every little bit creates more and more momentum towards building attitudes. If you don’t watch the spin, you don’t understand the motives.

Of course the same goes for the US sources. Which paragraphs got deleted in your newspaper?

He Said She Said

Chinese WhispersRebecca Watson, Skepchick and amazingly cool writer, has made to round three in NPR’s contest looking for a new radio talent. (hat tip: Phil Plait, congratulations and good luck Rebecca on the contest and a quick nudge to geeky web comic XKCD , the focus of Rebecca’s most recent interview.)

But a quote stuck in my mind after listening to her most recent entry. She is being interviewed by one of the local radio personalities. The first question is very appropriate.

David Bowery(?): Give me an example of something or someone you believe in.

Rebecca Watson: Wow. That’s an interesting question because I’m often accussed of not believing in anything. That’s just my thing. I’m always questioning.

I believe…I believe in science. I believe in logic and I believe in reality. I believe in – I believe in a certain point of view were you can look at the world for what it actually is as opposed to what you want it to be. And you can explore the world and see the beauty in it with that kind of perspective.

While I would love to agree with this, I am starting to doubt that people work that way. More and more books are being written about cognitive dissonance, two people seeing the same thing but interpreting the event or “reality” completely differently. As a matter of fact, that very idea is a central theme in Daniel Gilbert’s wonderful book Stumbling on Happiness.

I got yet another example of this while reading the right wing blog Capitan’s Quarters this morning.

Conservative blogs have been attacking a series of extremely negative reports in the New Republic, reportedly written by a soldier in Iraq. The issue got so far out of control that the previously anonymous blogger outted himself and his unit. The Army started investigating; conservative bloggers smelled blood.

This is how conservative blogger Ed Morrissey begins the entry describing the New York Times article.

Despite the oddly-worded non-denial denial from the New Republic yesterday, the Army did determine that allegations made in its magazine by Scott Beauchamp were false. The New York Times reports this morning that their investigation showed no substantiation for Beauchamp’s stories of petty mischief and ghoulish behavior on the part of his fellow soldiers.

An Army investigation into the Baghdad Diarist, a soldier in Iraq who wrote anonymous columns for The New Republic, has concluded that the sometimes shockingly cruel reports were false.

We are not going into the details of the investigation,” Maj. Steven F. Lamb, deputy public affairs officer in Baghdad, wrote in an e-mail message. “The allegations are false, his platoon and company were interviewed, and no one could substantiate the claims he made.” … [ellipsis in original post]

Yesterday, The New Republic posted another note on its Web site saying its editors had spoken to Major Lamb and asked whether Private Beauchamp had indeed signed a statement admitting to fabrications. “He told us, ‘I have no knowledge of that.’ He added, ‘If someone is speaking anonymously [to The Weekly Standard], they are on their own.’ When we pressed Lamb for details on the Army investigation, he told us, ‘We don’t go into the details of how we conduct our investigations.’

That the Army would deny the accusations doesn’t really surprise me much. The Army also gave a medal to Pat Tillman for bravery under enemy fire. They then denied any problem with the story, but piece by piece the truth emerged over the last months, morphing from enemy combatants, friendly fire to what might now be murder. (The last, a claim I doubt. But who can tell any more?)

Anyway. For Morrissey it is enough that the Army is denying everything and the NYT has backed him up. Right?

I don’t see that tone in the article. I give you the three paragraphs just after the ellipsis Morrissey so cleverly inserted for his readers.

The brief statement, however, left many questions unanswered. Just last week The New Republic published on its Web site the results of its own investigation, stating that five members of the same company as Pvt. Scott Thomas Beauchamp, who had written the anonymous pieces, “all corroborated Beauchamp’s anecdotes, which they witnessed or, in the case of one soldier, heard about contemporaneously. (All of the soldiers we interviewed who had first-hand knowledge of the episodes requested anonymity.)”

Private Beauchamp had revealed his identity after The Weekly Standard online and conservative bloggers expressed doubts about their veracity. As the Baghdad Diarist, he wrote that one soldier had jokingly worn the remnant of a child’s skull on his head. In another issue, he said he and a soldier had mocked a terribly disfigured woman sitting near them in the mess tent. Franklin Foer, editor of The New Republic said that after Private Beauchamp revealed his identity, the Army severely curtailed his telephone and e-mail privileges.

Private Beauchamp is married to a reporter-researcher at the magazine, Elspeth Reeve. [my emphasis]

Thus it seems to be my understanding of the English language posed against Ed Morrissey’s description of what was said in the Grey Lady. It’s a case of he said she said.

My problem is I think he did read the story as confirmation of his (and Michelle Malkin’s) ideas.

The Washington Post also has a much longer article describing the whole teacup tempest. They end their coverage with the following quote,

Mark Feldstein, a journalism professor at George Washington University, called the Army’s refusal to release its report “suspect,” adding: “There is a cloud over the New Republic, but there’s one hanging over the Army, as well. Each investigated this and cleared themselves, but they both have vested interests.”

As far as I can tell, the Army solved the problem by ordering the soldier to sit down and shut up. Whether he was describing reality wasn’t important. The conservative bloggers and the Weekly Standard chose to continue the attacks and say – see he’s not saying anything any more – thus Private Beauchamp was lying. It’s not like the Army might have busted him for violating OPSec regulations when he named his unit and then put him under extreme presure. The Army wouldn’t do that; would they?

That’s all in the eye’s of the beholder. Or if you don’t follow the links, he said, she said, they said, he said, they did…

Want to know what I say? Rebecca – there is no reality. *sigh*

‘Mericans Don’t Torture…

No. They murder.

From the AP Wire story that probably got dropped or buried in most American newspapers, (Fox News Version)

A Marine Corps squad leader was convicted Thursday of murdering an Iraqi man during a frustrated search for an insurgent.

Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III, 23, also was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, making a false official statement and larceny. He was acquitted of kidnapping, assault and housebreaking.

Hutchins, of Plymouth, Mass., could be sentenced to life in prison without parole. He had been charged with premeditated murder but the military jury struck the premeditation element from the verdict. Sentencing deliberations for Hutchins were set to begin Friday morning.

Hutchins stood rigidly and stared straight ahead in the silent courtroom as the verdict was read. A few minutes later he answered a procedural question with a loud and clear, “Yes, sir.”

His wife, sitting in the public area behind Hutchins, sobbed silently with her head bowed.

A second soldier was also found guilty, not of murder but of larceny and housebreaking. From the same source,

Cpl. Marshall Magincalda, 24, of Manteca, faced up to life in prison. He was also found guilty of larceny and housebreaking, and cleared of making a false official statement.

Magincalda was not accused of firing any shots, but was charged with murder for participating in the plot.

A military psychiatrist testified Magincalda developed post-traumatic stress disorder and severe depression as a result of combat.

“He was essentially a broken shell,” Dr. Jennifer Morse said. “This was a young man who was gone, who was clearly haunted by his memories.”

This is the legacy of the Bush administration.

I’m sure the administration will play this down as an isolated incident, a single squad that got out of control.

WHAM. Winning hearts and minds. That was the phrase used in Vietnam. These kinds of things also happened in Vietnam. Even today we know they were also isolated insidents; not indicative of the larger American/Vietnamese interaction but highly indicative of the moral of the American soldiers; the amount of frustration at not being able to win or even play the game.

WHAM. Winning hearts and minds. This was the number three story on Al Jazeera this morning. I doubt the same will be true in America. Somehow, I suspect the Arab world is listening. Is America listening? Whose hearts and minds got just a little more jaded today?

George W. Bush told a presidential scholar clearly and definitely that “Americans don’t torture.” I would argue that might be a debateable point.

But the fact is Mr. Bush; Americans do murder. Sleep well at night?

Why Do The Insurgents Need Iran?

OK. The Iran rhetoric as cooled off for a couple of days but like a case of herpes, I’m sure it will return.

The question is, why is the US government so sure that the Iraqi insurgents even need Iran to support them? The US is doing fine all by itself.

From a new GAO report,

Although the former MNSTC-I commander reported that about 185,000 AK-47 rifles, 170,000 pistols, 215,000 items of body armor, and 140,000 helmets were issued to Iraqi security forces as of September 2005,18 the MNSTC-I property books contain records for only about 75,000 AK-47 rifles, 90,000 pistols, 80,000 items of body armor, and 25,000 helmets.19 Thus, DOD [Department of Defense] and MNF-I [Multi-National Forces – Iraq] cannot fully account for about 110,000 AK-47 rifles, 80,000 pistols, 135,000 items of body armor, and 115,000 helmets reported as issued to Iraqi forces as of September 22, 2005. [my emphasis]

And then there were all those billions in cash that went – um – missing.

But hey! What’s 110,000 AK-47 rifles, 80,000 pistols, etc. among friends!? Really.

As David Oliver, the former Director of Management and Budget of the CPA put it. “Billions of dollars of their money disappeared, yes I understand, I’m saying what difference does it make?”

I mean, as the French say. C’est la vie guerre.

(Hat Tip: Noah Schachtmann/Danger Room)

Angry

Although Bush’s poll numbers seem to have stopped or at least slowed on the way to the pit of political desparation, the latest Washington-Post/ABC poll still won’t give him much joy.

The war has been the single biggest drag on the president’s approval ratings.

Thirty-one percent give him positive marks on handling the situation in Iraq, which is near his career low on the issue. The last time a majority approved of the president’s handling of the war was in January 2004.

Even among those Americans who said they had served or had a close friend or relative who served in Iraq, 38 percent approve of Bush’s handling of the conflict.

Read that last paragraph again.

Now I’ll quote from a Minnesota National Guardsman serving in Iraq, nearing the very end of his 22 month (yes, you read that right) deployment,

The word around the campfire is that our replacements were told to ‘give us a wide birth’ because we are ‘angry’. I don’t know if this rumor is true, but I know that at this point I don’t have the energy to be angry.

The new Marines are the same guys that were supposed to relieve us four months ago. I can think of several people that would be much better off if they had, but it was not up to our replacements. That decision was made by fat men in white suits.

George W. Bush claims to support the troops. William Kristol claims that George W. Bush supports the troops. The only people who still believe that mantra seem to be those who only vote Republican.

And the troops coming home. I guess they are “angry.” How do you spin anger?

Fighting Them There

In what can only be considered a mistimed release, an interim report on the progress of the surge will be coming out today. (I mean, couldn’t they wait until tomorrow afternoon? Rove seems to be losing his grip.)

The coverage in the various national papers is not encouraging. While the majority of the Benchmarks the administration set for the surge have stalled or failed, the While House will point to satisfactory progress in 8 of 18 points. Reference the handy, dandy chart provided by the New York Times.

This, and Bush’s collapsing popularity, will make it even more difficult for Republicans to continue to back any policy in Iraq except a precipitate withdrawal. I suspect the “fight them there, so we don’t fight them here” mantra will be droned across the right wing media and blogs this weekend.

As it has already been noted, in an effort to increase public support for the war, the President, the administration and the media have shifted from saying “insurgents” to using the term Al Quaeda to describe as the American opponents in Iraq. According a McClatchy article, Al Quaeda, the “insurgents”, the bad guys, the “them” also included a large number of civilians in 2006.

U.S. soldiers have killed or wounded 429 Iraqi civilians at checkpoints or near patrols and convoys during the past year, according to military statistics compiled in Iraq and obtained by McClatchy Newspapers.

he statistics are the first official accounting of civilian shootings since the war began, and while they seem small compared with the thousands who’ve died in Iraq’s violence, they show the difficulty that the U.S. has in fulfilling its vow to protect civilians.

The numbers cover what the military calls escalation-of-force incidents, in which American troops fire at civilians who’ve come too close or have approached checkpoints too quickly. In the months since U.S. commanders have dispatched more troops to the field — ostensibly to secure Iraqi communities — the number of Iraqis killed and injured in such incidents has spiked, the statistics show.

Pentagon officials have declined repeatedly to reveal the numbers of civilian deaths and injuries caused by American troops. The escalation-of-force statistics, however, were part of a recent briefing given to Army Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of coalition forces in Iraq. A person familiar with the briefing provided the statistics to McClatchy.

And Bush wonders why Americans are war weary? I somehow don’t think it has much to do with terminology. I wonder what the right wing would say if the American military killed 430 innocent American civilians?

Oh! Darn – I remember. That’s why we don’t fight them here.

Trickle Up Reality – A Difference of Opinion

Noah Shachtman, at Danger Room and my go-to guy for inside information about Pentagon shenanigans, has a post up praising an article in The Washington Monthly by Spencer Ackermann. Entitled The Bitter End and with the tagline “Democrats are right to push for an end to the Iraq war. But don’t expect the troops to be grateful,“ one can see where he is going.

Haunted by Vietnam, Democrats are determined to express support for the troops. This is admirable. The truth of the matter, however, is this: many troops in Iraq, perhaps even most of them, want to stay and fight. That doesn’t mean that we should stay in Iraq any longer. It does mean, however, that if Democrats want to bridge the divide between themselves and the military—an effort further complicated by their opposition to the war—they’re going to have to recognize that arguing in the name of the troops isn’t going to work.

If you spend as much time reading about Iraq as I do, you tend to get a very distorted image of reality (if there is such a thing).

At one level, there is the extreme devotion to duty, honor and team that is shown at the personal level. (This is very apparent if you read military blogs written by the people fighting every day. Read them now before they disappear. ) On another level, you see officers, military advisors and pundits pointing to the successes, incremental improvements across many ‘measurables.’

But you also get a sense of a football team in the last quarter, physically at the end of their chain but still willing to keep trying;. even if the game is obviously lost. (But then again the troops in the field didn’t even all know who Rumsfield is/was.)

Interestingly, most of the people quoted in Ackerman’s article are also officers. The only enlisted man seems more interested in being redeployed to Hawaii than staying in Iraq. (At least there are bikinis to go along with the sand.)

I’d contrast the view presented by Ackermann with two different viewpoints, also published in the last few days.

From a the international Herald Tribute story, With allies in enemy ranks, GIs in Iraq are no longer true believers,

But now on his third deployment in Iraq, he is no longer a believer in the mission. The pivotal moment came, he says, this past February when soldiers killed a man setting a roadside bomb. When they searched the bomber’s body, they found identification showing him to be a sergeant in the Iraqi Army.

“I thought, ‘What are we doing here? Why are we still here?’ ” said Safstrom, a member of Delta Company of the 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division. “We’re helping guys that are trying to kill us. We help them in the day. They turn around at night and try to kill us.”

His views are echoed by most of his fellow soldiers in Delta Company, renowned for its aggressiveness.

A small minority of Delta Company soldiers – the younger, more recent enlistees in particular – seem to still wholeheartedly support the war. Others are ambivalent, torn between fear of losing more friends in battle, longing for their families and a desire to complete their mission.

The focus of this story is on the erosion of ‘mission feeling’ when the mission is defined to be stand up until the Iraqi’s take over. Unfortunately, the lower level troops are increasingly discovering that the guys taking over are also the guys who shoot at Americans on their days off. They came with a sense of mission, but like a puddle under the Iraqi sun, that is slowly evaporating.

The other side of this is the cost on the home front. This comes from the front page feature at the Washington Post highlighting the plight of the families of the Minnesota National Guard troops attached to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th division.

Some 2,600 members of the Minnesota Guard are serving in Iraq, attached to the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 34th Infantry Division. Most of the Minnesotans from the rural northern part of the state around Crookston are in Bravo Company, whose 141 men range in age from 20 to 47 and represent a cross section of the small-town Midwest. One in seven has a college degree. One in three is married.

The citizen-soldiers of Bravo Company, 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry, had been home 18 months from a tour in Bosnia and Kosovo when they mustered for war in October 2005. Reinforcing an active-duty Army stretched taut by a war longer and more ferocious than the White House expected, the Guard members checked out of their roles as students, farmers and workers.

Once deployed, they supported active-duty troops, largely in violent Anbar province, where the unit lost three soldiers to enemy explosives. After being granted two weeks’ leave and plane tickets home last year, Bravo’s soldiers returned to Iraq with the end of their mission in sight.

But shortly after Christmas, as friends and families counted the days until the planned March 28 homecoming, word came that the tour would be extended four months to support the effort to fortify Baghdad, a strategy designed to tip the balance against the insurgency.

News of the extension, which the families first heard about on television, was a rough blow. One wife likened it to nearing the end of a marathon and learning she would have to run eight more miles uphill. Another forgot that she had set her cellphone to ring on March 28, a cheerful reminder that her husband was homeward bound. When the alarm sounded, she called a friend and cursed: “Damn alarms.”

This is especially interesting because the MNG will probably become the longest serving unit in Iraq, reserve or active.

And what do these guys say about the war?

Days turn into weeks, weeks melt into months, and the months turn into a year and I am still in Iraq.

I have not yet reached a true state of apathy, but as the days pass I come closer and closer. I do my duty every day without complaint but I don’t give a damn anymore. I no longer care about the mission and I no longer care about the people I am supposed to be here to help.

I no longer give a fuck.

The above quote comes from Sixty-Six.org a milblog from an infantry man on his second deployment who was, in another world, a graduate student in Psychology. “I will not allow myself to have an opinion on the war. I have a job to do, and that job is not to agree or disagree with the politics of war. My job is to fight the war and come back to tell the story. ”

Interestingly, Ackerman even quotes a journalist who had been embedded with the Minnesota National Guard, NPR’s John McChesney.

Of course, military opinion varies greatly, and the mindset of the 57th could be atypical. But other journalists have picked up similar sentiments. In early April, National Public Radio’s John McChesney visited National Guard troops in Arkansas and found that, “to a man, they were gung-ho for the mission.” One specialist told McChesney, “I am looking forward to it. It’s going to be a great opportunity for me.” And news accounts regularly carry reports of soldiers who are eager to go to Iraq, whether out of a sense of duty or a sense of adventure. (More grimly, many obituaries also mention such eagerness.)

This was something I could fact check. Was Ackermann cherry- picking? Let’s take a look the original story,

Under new policy, the 39th’s second deployment would be limited to 12 months, according to Maj. Gen. Bill Wofford, who is the adjutant general of the Arkansas Guard. That would include training time in the States, so it’s possible the soldiers could be in Iraq for less than a year.

But Wofford acknowledged that they could be extended, like what recently happened to the Minnesota National Guard. “That would be up to the Department of Defense and what’s going on in theater at that time,” he said.

Immediately following a news conference in Little Rock, Wofford jumped in a Blackhawk helicopter and flew north to Fayetteville. Wofford was going to say goodbye to some men who will be leaving soon for their first deployment to Iraq.

Command gathered a group of them to talk to NPR about the trip. To a man, they were gung ho for the mission.” I am looking forward to it,” said Spec. John Martell. “It’s going to be a great opportunity for me.” He expects to return to be a full-time student at the University of Arkansas. In the meantime, he says, “I’ve always wanted to serve in this way.” [my emphasis]

It would seem Ackermann quoting people who are gung-ho on war. But those are officers, those recently arrived or the one’s who hadn’t gone yet. This let’s me wonder who he listened to in Iraq. Especially off the record Majors commenting in the US Embassy. If I contrast that with the feelings I read about at Sixty-Six, in the WP and the story in the International Herald Tribune, I feel a real reality disconnect here.

So while some might still support the mission. I get the impression, even under the troops who are the last to lose faith, gung ho isn’t the phrase I’d use for those on repeated deployments.

It would seem to me, those in Iraq are no longer fighting an enemy. They are fighting to support each other. They follow orders because that is what orders are for; they do their job with pride: clear an IED, search a house or help in the reconstruction; not to help the Iraqi’s, not because someone in Washington wants them to – but because there are fellow Americans doing the same thing and they need help.

Ackerman points out that the Democrats do themselves a disservice by claiming to help the troops and wanting them to withdraw. His point is that the ‘troops’ don’t want to withdraw. I think the troops want to stay together. No-one wants to be the first to leave or the last to go. But I disagree that there is still a strong feeling of mission.

Returning to the Washington Post feature,

Last winter, with her husband due home in 100 days, Modeen and the kids put 100 M&Ms in a jar. Every day, they took one out; as the pile got smaller, Staff Sgt. Nathan Modeen was closer to coming home. Sam was growing excited. Then came news of the 125-day extension.

Jennifer Modeen could hardly stand it: “We just threw the M&Ms away.”

While Ackerman may be right and the soldiers still haven’t lost hope in the mission, I’d argue that they have lost their M&Ms.

Sniffex – Probably Just Had Hayfever (Updated)

Update: A commenter pointed me to the very useful Sniffexquestions blog. Not that you shouldn’t read my stuff. But any Sniffexquestions you might have, will be answered there. (S)he even has the report of the test shown below.

James Randi, of JREF, Sharon Weinberger, lover of government mind control stories and Imaginary Weapons (now in paperback!) and Bruce Schneier, crypto-guy have all pointed to the Sniffex modern munitions dowsing rod foolishness.

As Sharon put it over at Danger Room

Penny stock schemes are a dime a dozen, but you gotta love ones that involve far-fetched military technology. A few months ago, I received in the mail information on Sniffex, a company touting a dream technology in the age of terror: a hand-held explosive sniffer. The company’s claims about its uses — sniffing through concrete and at great distances, sounded a bit too wonderful. I tossed the brochure — labeled “hot stocks on the street”– in my pile of possibly stupid weapons, and promptly forgot about it.

Others didn’t. Famed magician and uber-Skeptic James Randi unearthed a Navy report evaluating Sniffex, and from the snippets he published online, it’s rather damning

Bruce Schnieder picked up the story. His intrepid commenters found the more interesting stuff. One reader describes a blind test of the Sniffex ‘product’ conducted at Bob Hope airport . “Tourism and Safety 2006”, a conference for law enforcement professionals held at the Anaheim Hilton Hotel in April of 2006 [Updated: See Comments – Thanks MY]. Now the videos of this blind test of ‘detection equipment’ are up at YouTube. The test is simple. Several envelopes, 9 filled with salt, 1 filled with gun powder – now use the Sniffex ‘device’ to find the dangerous one.

It starts off with a description of how Sniffex works (like the energy source – YOU!).

Then a simple test is proposed

And they huff, and they puff, and huff again. But they can’t find the explosive.

My favourite part? Perhaps the ever-present elevator music in the background. Like some surreal cross between Heidi and 24, frantically search for the nuke while “What A Wonderful World” plays as a soundtrack. Perfect.

Despite all the negative waves being sent their way, Sniffex is still being pushed on it’s European site with a “patented method based on detection of magnetic interference.” As a matter of fact, they even have a patent number: 6,344,818. See – down at the bottom

Oh!. Maybe they don’t have that patent any more.

Status: Patent Expired Due to NonPayment of
Maintenance Fees Under 37 CFR 1.362
Status Date: 03-08-2006

So not only do they have a device that doesn’t work, they can’t even keep their patent “working”.

Card tricks, Gorilla suits and 24

First a card trick, watch closely and tell ask yourself if you see the trick –

Get it?

Cognitive scientists have long known that people are fairly resistant to seeing things they don’t expect. This is an excellent example of how focusing attention in one thing often leads to poor cognitive realisation.

The James Gorman in the New York Times described what is perhaps the best example, not cards gorillas,

The woman in the gorilla suit is something else again.

I’m referring, of course, to the 1999 video known (to those in the know) as the “opaque gorilla video,” which is used in numerous studies of how people fail to see what is right in front of them. It is only 75 seconds long.

Six people, three in light clothes, three in dark, weave around and pass two basketballs, white clothes to white clothes and dark to dark.

In the middle of the video a woman (scientific reports have specified the gender of the hidden human) in a gorilla suit walks calmly through the group, stops briefly to pound her chest — although not in a very noticeable way — and then continues walking out of the video frame.
[…]
[Test subjects] consume what may or may not be alcohol. They are told what they are drinking, but sometimes they are told the truth and sometimes not. So really, nobody has a clue, except the bartender.
[…]
Afterward, they are asked if they saw the gorilla. Only 18 percent of the people drinking alcohol noticed the gorilla, which is the point of the paper by Dr. Clifasefi and colleagues. But what caught my eye was that only 46 percent of the sober people saw the gorilla.

Apparently this is a well-known phenomenon known as “inattentional blindness.” [My emphasis]

Think about ethics here. Issues abound.

The first is obvious and has been exploited by pickpockets and con-artists for centuries. When someone is distracted, you can do almost anything. Thus the person bumping into you on the subway or asking for directions on the street or simply stopping is an excellent way for people to steal you blind. Right before your eyes.

This has led cognitive scientists to warn about how memories can be incorrect. If you add the idea that you can subsequently change what people remember (cognitive scientists stop at nothing to confuse people), then testimony in almost any trial becomes less convincing. This leads to juries placing more and more faith in a CSI kind of investigation. This adds uncertainty to uncertainty. Better lawyers know how to exploit this in a system that focuses not on fact finding, but on proving guilt or generating a reasonable amount of uncertainty.

Finally, if you didn’t notice the colors changing for the card tricks, imagine how easy it is to move the intellectual goal posts on something you can’t even see. While America watched American Idol or 24, can you change something in the dialog; some moral compass heading?

Case in point. The majority – that’s right the majority – of American soldiers reject the idea that Iraqi civilians should be treated with dignity and respect. A third felt torture was acceptable. From the BBC,

The survey, by an army mental health advisory team, sampled more than 1,700 soldiers and Marines between August and October 2006.

It examined their views towards torture and the Iraqi civilian population.

A Pentagon official said the survey had looked under every rock and what was found was not always easy to look at.

The Pentagon survey found that less than half the troops in Iraq thought Iraqi civilians should be treated with dignity and respect.

More than a third believed that torture was acceptable if it helped save the life of a fellow soldier or if it helped get information about the insurgents. [my emphasis]

You might think this is just BBC propaganda. Leftist media spinning otherwise innocent comments. From the report itself (PDF, pg 35),

Soldiers and Marines are fairly similar in their attitudes toward the treatment of non-combatants and insurgents. Only 47% of Soldiers and only 38% of Marines agreed that non-combatants should be treated with dignity and respect. Well over a third of Soldiers and Marines reported torture should be allowed, whether to save the life of a fellow Soldier or Marine(41% and 44%, respectively) or to obtain important information about insurgents(36% and 39% respectively).

So while you were watching 24, the moral center of the American Military shifted. It changed to black. Did you notice the change?

Were you paying attention or were YOU distracted?

(Hat Tip: Phil Plait/Bad Astronomer for the cardtricks and Aryeh Harif/YouThinkLeft )

OPSEC Regs = PR Trainwreck

It’s as if the new OPSEC regulations I wrote about yesterday weren’t bad enough. Got all the bloggers mad.

Now the army needed to go out and piss off the media.

Why worry about the media? Because they are a threat! What, you don’t believe sweet, lil ‘ol’ me?

Below is an image from page 5 of a wonderful little Army presentation found by Steven Aftergood at the Federation of American Scientists. Steve describes the new regulations this way.

The terms of the Army regulation are so expansive as to create innumerable new opportunities for violations and infractions. Just this week, for example, the Army’s own 1st Information Operations Command ironically posted a briefing on “OPSEC in the Blogosphere” (pdf) marked For Official Use Only.

cas-categories-of-threat.jpg

See that pesky box lower, right? Under Non-Traditional Threat/Domestic…yeah, there under Drug Cartels?

Oh! This is so going to tank. Bloggers are one thing but get the media riled up. Snigger.

(Hat Tip: Noah Shachtman /Danger Room – who has so earned a bonus this month)

Deep Sixty-Sixed?

Deep Sixty-Sixed?

Occasionally (about once a month) I read military blogs to get a better idea of the morale and status of the US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of the blogs I especially enjoy is Sixty-Six.org written by a member of the Minnesota National Guard currently on active-duty in Iraq.

The only problem is that I don’t know how long I will be able to keep reading it. According to Noah Schachtmann at the Danger Room,

The U.S. Army has ordered soldiers to stop posting to blogs or sending personal e-mail messages, without first clearing the content with a superior officer, Wired News has learned. The directive, issued April 19, is the sharpest restriction on troops’ online activities since the start of the Iraq war. And it could mean the end of military blogs, observers say.

Military officials have been wrestling for years with how to handle troops who publish blogs. Officers have weighed the need for wartime discretion against the opportunities for the public to personally connect with some of the most effective advocates for the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq — the troops themselves. The secret-keepers have generally won the argument, and the once-permissive atmosphere has slowly grown more tightly regulated. Soldier-bloggers have dropped offline as a result.

Now the blogs I read are extremely careful not to put a time or a place on anything. Usually you simply get a feel for the emotional rollercoaster these service people are on. And perhaps that’s the problem.

Of course pizza is a bit of a threat as well. Pizza?! Yeah. Pizza.

“It’s true that from an OPSEC (operational security) perspective, almost anything — pizza orders, office lights lit at odd hours, full or empty parking lots — can potentially tip off an observer that something unusual is afoot,” he added. “But real OPSEC is highly discriminating. It does not mean cutting off the flow of information across the board. If on one day in 1991 an unusual number of pizza orders coincided with the start of Desert Storm, it doesn’t mean that information about pizza orders should now be restricted. That’s not OPSEC, that’s just stupidity.”

So sending an e-mail order to the local pizza parlor or telling your wife – “Honey I’ll be late for dinner” if you work at the Pentagon has now become a definite no,no. (Not that it was ever a yes, yes. But still.)

The issue here isn’t having a rule that can be enforced up front but something that can be used later, after the fact, for any ‘problem’ that might occur. It is a sword hanging over the head of anyone in the military. Even the Army doesn’t think these kinds of issues can be handled this way,

“The potential for an OPSEC violation has thus far outstripped the reality experienced by commanders in the field,” [Major Elizabeth Robbins] wrote [in a paper (pdf) for the Army’s Combined Arms Center].

And in some military circles, bloggers have gained forceful advocates. The Office of the Secretary of Defense, for example, now regularly arranges exclusive phone conferences between bloggers and senior commanders in Afghanistan and Iraq. Major Robbins, for one, has argued strongly for easing the restrictions on the soldier-journalists.

The theater goes even further, in a classic case of Catch 22, military contractors, family and friends are also effected by the new rules. The catch. They aren’t able to access them.

Active-duty troops aren’t the only ones affected by the new guidelines. Civilians working for the military, Army contractors — even soldiers’ families — are all subject to the directive as well.

But, while the regulations may apply to a broad swath of people, not everybody affected can actually read them. In a Kafka-esque turn, the guidelines are kept on the military’s restricted Army Knowledge Online intranet. Many Army contractors — and many family members — don’t have access to the site. Even those able to get in are finding their access is blocked to that particular file.

“Even though it is supposedly rewritten to include rules for contractors (i.e., me) I am not allowed to download it,” e-mails Perry Jeffries, an Iraq war veteran now working as a contractor to the Armed Services Blood Program.

For all those Minnesotans out there, you might keep your – um – ear on MPR tomorrow. Jon Gordon will be running a story on this at Future Tense.

I really hope my military blogs, including Sixty-Six.org don’t disappear. Deep sixed by the bureaucrats far from the families and the frontlines.

But maybe it’s just the American way. Opsec and Clusterf*ck.

Mr. President? God, Line One.

All those “Secular Humanists” have been complaining for years that President Bush thinks he has a direct line to God. Might I point out that if the people in the Pentagon think the same thing, that might not be such a bad thing?

In a recent book With God On Our Side, Michael L. Weinstein and Davin Seay illustrate the serious inroads made in the American military and specifically in the leadership of the Air Force Academy by evangelical Christians. Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, Air Force Academy graduate and father of two former cadets and one son currently attending the academy, is head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. The MRFF is lobbying to try to prevent further evangelical Christian proselytizing in the military. (The rather annoyingly loud homepage can be found here. You have been warned.)

An excellent summary of the history of how evangelical Christians have targeted the military and specifically chaplains and officers is given in an excerpt of the book.

The most effective wedge for the insertion of evangelicals into every rung of military life was the NAE [National Association of Evangelicals] and its influential chaplain-endorsing agency, the Commission on Chaplains, which worked tirelessly as a liaison for a wide array of fundamentalist denominations, from the Assemblies of God to the Southern Baptist Convention to the full index of offshoot and splinter congregations. Notwithstanding the military’s policy of allotting chaplaincies on a quota system designed to roughly reflect the religious affiliations of society as a whole, by the late ’60s evangelical denominations were regularly exceeding their allotments.

The phenomenon mirrored, in part, the explosive growth of fundamentalist Christianity in America and, in part, the assiduous efforts of the NAE and its Commission on Chaplains to fill posts left empty by the Catholics, Jews, Orthodox, and others who were regularly failing to meet their allocations. In what Loveland terms a “quota juggling act,” the NAE and others aggressively lobbied to fill chaplaincies left vacant by other denominations, resulting in a marked shift in the selection process weighted more and more to religious demographics within the military itself, where evangelical numbers continued to swell. This consolidation of power would result, by the late eighties, in the NAE Chaplains Commission’s acting as the endorsing agent not only for established denominations but for hundreds of non-aligned individual churches.

This proselytizing has been surprisingly effective and I have blogged about Mikey Weinstein before, but in light of John McCains ‘official’ presidential candidacy there are a couple of points I’d like to extend..

First. There was the mini-scandal of the Christian Embassy video that came out last December. You remember that?

The Christian Embassy is a Washington based organisation who “provide safe places and practical resources to help national and international leaders working in D.C., their spouses and staffs integrate their faith and their work. [Their text]”

One of the safe places they provide is in the Pentagon and until it got exposed, they had a promotional video on their website displaying nine senior Pentagon officers, in uniform, in the Pentagon, praising the work the ‘Embassy’ has been doing. Uncovered by the MRFF and leaked to the Washington Post. It made a minor kurfuffle in December,

In the video, much of which was filmed inside the Pentagon, four generals and three colonels praise the Christian Embassy, a group that evangelizes among military leaders, politicians and diplomats in Washington. Some of the officers describe their efforts to spread their faith within the military

“I found a wonderful opportunity as a director on the joint staff, as I meet the people that come into my directorate,” Air Force Maj. Gen. Jack J. Catton Jr. says in the video. “And I tell them right up front who Jack Catton is, and I start with the fact that I’m an old-fashioned American, and my first priority is my faith in God, then my family and then country. I share my faith because it describes who I am.” [my emphasis]

After the issue broke, the video was removed from the official CE website but not from those pesky little watchdog organisations. It is a good watch and well worth the ten minutes. (If you have the stomach)

The bit about God, family and country in the quote should worry you. It should be said that the official Oath of Enlistment sworn by all members of the US Armed Forces follows,

“I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

That last sentence is optional and is a plea for assistance and not a justification for ignoring the rest as Air Force Maj. Gen. Jack J. Catton Jr. seems to think.

As an aside, I’d also like to point out that the Christian Embassy does not only target the Pentagon but any powermaker in Washington; several congressmen are also featured in the video. One, John Carter, R-TX (who would have guessed), while discussing a ‘fact finding’ trip to Ethiopia is on tape saying “We’re congressmen going over to represent the Lord, and our message is very simple. ‘We are here to tell you about Jesus of Nazareth and what he teaches and we are not here to talk about religion. We’re here to talk about the love and demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ.’ And that’s it.”

This pretty much shows how these people tick. Talking about Jesus isn’t talking about religion. Religion means whether you are Baptist or Catholic; religion is not what you believe as long as there is this J-C guy involved. That’s why they aren’t establishing a religion. Get it?

Anyway. The leak led to a kurfuffle which led to an investigation, which, as far as I can tell, isn’t finished yet. I will keep you up to date if I find anything.The next thing came at the end of March when the Air Force back-pedalled on new guidelines limiting the amount of proselytizing by senior officers. From an editorial in the Washington Post,

Unfortunately, facing a barrage of complaints from evangelical Christian groups and pressure from members of Congress, the Air Force backed down. It has issued a revised set of rules that pose the potential for inappropriate religious pressure on cadets and service members. This pushes the balance in the wrong direction, especially in light of disturbing reports from the Air Force Academy about religious intolerance and inappropriate proselytizing.

One troubling issue in the revised guidelines concerns the ability of superior officers to proselytize or otherwise promote their faith. The original guidelines emphasized that “individuals need to be sensitive to the potential that personal expressions may appear to be official expressions,” adding, “the more senior the individual, the more likely that personal expressions may be perceived to be official statements.”

The new guidelines move away from this common-sense approach and emphasize superior officers’ rights over the dangers of coercion. For example, the guidelines say, “Nothing in this guidance should be understood to limit the substance of voluntary discussions of religion . . . where it is reasonably clear that the discussions are personal, not official, and they can be reasonably free of the potential for, or appearance of, coercion.” But reasonably clear to whom? What looks uncoercive to an officer can look awfully official to a cadet.

The final straw is John McCain’s absolute embrace of the TheoCon position which to some (Ted Haggard perhaps?) seems to involve McCain taking a strong grip on his ankles.

The visible McCain move to the dark side began last year when he agreed to give the much reported commencement address last year at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University.

Going from the frying pan into the fire (or perhaps the ejector seat into the cloud), McCain started meeting with the crème de la crème of the religious right including John Hagee. Who is John Hagee? From the BBC

John Hagee is the pastor of the 18,000-member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, and a long-time fervent supporter of Israel.
[…]
His latest book, Jerusalem Countdown: A Warning to the World, interprets the Bible to predict that Russian and Arab armies will invade Israel and be destroyed by God.

This will set up a confrontation over Israel between China and the West, led by the anti-Christ, who will be the head of the European Union, Pastor Hagee writes.

That final battle between East and West – at Armageddon, as the actual Israeli location of Meggido is known in English – will precipitate the second coming of Christ, he concludes.

Then McCain goes on Meet the Press and says things like this

MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to Iran. You said this to the Financial Times.

“‘Everyone knows we’re not going to have two wars (at once),’ [McCain] said…

“‘I do not think [using force against suspected Iranian nuclear facilities] would be successful. There is no guarantee we would get all those facilities. If you have a strike and leave them with nuclear capability, you have got a hell of a challenge on your hands.’”

SEN. McCAIN: I also said that there’s only one thing worse than using the option of military action, and that is the Iranians acquiring nuclear weapons. And we must, as the president has very correctly stated, not removed the military option from the table. We cannot remove that option.
[…]

MR. RUSSERT: But The Washington Post said it would unleash Iranian agents already here in the United States and bring on terrorist attacks here and worldwide.

SEN. McCAIN: The president of Iran went to the United Nations and announced his dedication to the extinction of the state of Israel. The—they are in clear violation of the NPT, which they were signatories to. This is one of the most dangerous challenges we’ve faced since the end of the Cold War. And put yourself in, in the position of the government of the state of Israel: a near neighbor who has announced his—their desire to put you out, into extinction, and they have the capability to do so. This is one—a very serious challenge. And for us to say under no circumstances will we use the military option would be the height of foolishness in my view. And again, I want to applaud the president’s handling of this issue, keeping our European allies with us.

MR. RUSSERT: So we could have two wars at once?

SEN. McCAIN: I think we could have Armageddon. [My emphasis. Note: further blathering snipped, he has set the context. Israel and Armageddon.]

Lastly there was the McCain “Bomb Iran” um bomb (bomb bomb).

For those not taking notes: we now have an overly evangelized military; an Air Force officially refusing to produce balanced guidelines; John McCain’s religious right pandering; his overtures to evangelicals including hard core Armageddon hopefuls like John Hagee; and finally McCain’s spouting of absolute idiocy on Meet the Press and his public singing engagements.

All this culminates in McCain’s appearance on the Daily Show last night in an attempt to relive past approval and his spinning the occupation of Iraq for what it’s worth. Because if you ‘lose’ Iraq, it gets difficult to start more wars in the Middle East thus Armageddon moves into the slightly more distant future it’s just really, really bad.

So. You choose.

You have an army of Christian soldiers overly evangelized military with people on the Joint Chiefs of Staff claiming allegiance to God first, country third and no mention of the constitution.

You have a candidate for the Republican Party who is also starting to get those pesky little ‘God Calls.’

And on the other hand, you have Clinton, Obama or Edwards.

Which would you prefer?

(Hat Tip: Bruce Wilson aka Troutfishing/dailykos )

For God And Country

Memo to all those ‚Islamo-fascists’ out there:

You kept claiming the American invasions in Iraq and Afghanistan were the start of a new Christian crusade? You were right.

According to an official PRESS RELEASE from the Combined Task Force 82 stationed in Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, they just finished their spring revival with the theme “Having faith that pleases God;” the idea apparently taken from Hebrews 11:6 – “… without faith, it is impossible to please God.”)

The PRESS RELEASE finishes with the following uplifting summary,

Today, many churches and religious groups host revival services at the changing of the seasons – spring and fall.

“I enjoyed the services and the message was comforting, especially being away from home under these circumstances,” said Sgt. 1st Class Terrance Williams, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade.

“It is time to take a stand. A stand for faithfulness, a stand for understanding, a stand for guidance, a stand for love, a stand for learning and doing God will,” Thompson said. “No longer is it our will, but allow His will to be done.”

* sigh * And “Islamo-fascists” are the bad guys trying to bring their religion to America?

(Hat Tip and obsequious grovel to Sharon Weinberger/DangerRoom)

The Wrong Recruit

This is priceless.

What happens when an Army recruiter sends an offer to a person who has posted his resume on CareerBuilder? Well sometimes Sergeant Marcia Ramode might get a nibble leading to a new, oh-so-needed Army recruit. Sometimes she gets a response like this

Awesome! Sounds great! The US Military has so many vacant positions and opportunities. I had no idea. I’m seriously considering contacting you. One thing, I’m not up [on] current politics but since it’s 2007, I would imagine also that I am now able to serve in the US military as an openly gay man, right?

Oh! Snap!

This would usually then plead a response to the now former recruitee to the effect that, no unfortunately the US Military has a ‘Don’t ask, Don’t tell’ policy and bla, bla, bla. It usually should not lead to the recruiting sergeant, responding with

WELL IFYOU ARE GAY WE DON’T TAKE YOU YOU ARE CONSIDERED UNQUALIFIED. [caps, spelling and punctuation in original, my emphasis]

Ping! That was a recruiting person losing it.

At this point, the resume poster, Corey Andrew, did what any red blooded American, liberal, gay or lesbian might do. He started pulling her chain. Hell, at this point I’d be pulling her chain. The exchange heats up with the former recruitee pushing button after button and the recruiter completely losing control of the caps lock, her language skills and any hint of decorum.

Insult begat insult with Ramode at one point admitting to being Native American to which Andrew ended his next response with “So take that to your next rain dance.” You can read the entire exchange here and the right wing response here (Hint: it’s all a homosexual plot to bait harmless recruiters into making fools of themselves. Oh! Right!)

Now the whole thing is under investigation and the recruiting sergeant will probably get a ruffle and a keyboard with the capslock disabled.

But the money quote. The thing that really conjured up an image that will give me nightmares for weeks. It didn’t come from the homophobic, etiquette challenged sergeant who managed

GO BACK TO AFRICA AND DO YOUR GAY VOODOO LIMBO TANGO AND WANGO DANCE AND JUMP AROUND AND PRANCE AND RUN ALL OVER THE PLACE HALF NAKED THERE.

No the money quote came from Mr. Andrew.

Most disturbingly, you have the nerve to suggest that you’d send all the gays off to Iraq to be killed first if you could? Well let me round up some of my gay boys and give it a shot. We could do no worse than President Bush’s whole administration of liars that put us there in the first place. In fact the gays would have had Osama by now; with his shirt off, nipples pierced, peace driven and dancing to Abba’s Greatest Hits! Whereas you dudes can’t even find him!

Osama? Pierced Nipples? Abba!

I won’t sleep for weeks.

(Hat Tip: Pam’s House Blend via Andrew Sullivan/Daily Dish)

A Jihadist Toy Story

UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles better known as drones are becoming pervasive on modern battlefields.

Until fairly recently, this kind of technology was only available to the military due to the high investment costs.

Chris Anderson doesn’t feel it should stay that way. His report, posted at Noah Shachtman’s blog Danger Room, points the way out of the military laboratories and into toy stores and children’s bedrooms. He presents his latest UAV construction with a remote controlled aircraft that flies using the computational intelligence supplied by a Lego Mindstorms NXT.

I took this first step this eve, throwing together the world’s first Lego autopilot.

HiTechnic is releasing a gyro sensor for the Lego Mindstorms NXT — which I haven’t received yet. So I’ve got a light sensor standing in for it in the picture, but the mechanicals are pretty much in place. Cool fact of the day: According to Google, this is the first time the phrase “Lego autopilot” has ever been used. I own this space!

This autopilot only controls the rudder, keeping the plane flying level when engaged and returning to the launch area. While the autopilot is disengaged, the servo arm controls the rudder under manual radio control as usual. But when you engage the autopilot (a third servo presses the “start” button on the NXT controller brick), the NXT servo drives the gear assembly above to move the entire R/C servo back and forth, while the R/C servo arm remains stationary. The effect is the same as if the R/C arm was moving, but the rudder is under Mindstorm control, not R/C control.

This is both really cool in a geeky way, it is also more then a little worrying.

How will the Bush administration react to this kind of news? Do we need to wonder and worry whether our teenage boys (and girls) are under FBI observation because they have ordered possible jihadist toys? Oh help me great God of conservative thought. WWDRD. What would Donald Rumsfeld Do?!

Great, Lego Drones. What’s next, armed robots in Israel? Oh, yeah. *sigh*

Pace Yourself

According to Steve Chapman from the Chicago Tribute editorial board, Gen. Peter Pace’s reaction on homosexuality reported on Sunday was a ‘gut reaction.’ And he hadn’t thought through his comments.

In the original article Pace is quoted with the following,

“I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts,” Pace said in a wide-ranging discussion with Tribune editors and reporters in Chicago. “I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way.

“As an individual, I would not want [acceptance of gay behavior] to be our policy, just like I would not want it to be our policy that if we were to find out that so-and-so was sleeping with somebody else’s wife, that we would just look the other way, which we do not. We prosecute that kind of immoral behavior,” Pace said.

Now TV, blogs and newspapers are full of commentaries, snark, attacks, and Coulter-attacks.

First, I’d like to say, although I think his beliefs are deluded, I do think he is being utterly honest. He truly believes that it is immoral to be homosexual. It is in his bible and it is in his blood.

I would however point out the sad fact that the American military has notably never included infidelity as a reason for not serving. That policy would have gotten not only Ms. Nowak fired, but the other two officers as well. Indeed, even with an official ‘Don’t ask, Don’t tell’ policy on infidelity in the American military, the pending shortage* in officers wouldn’t be – um – pending, it would be here.

Perhaps the military doesn’t “prosecute” that kind of immoral behaviour because it would decimate the current officer corps. General Pace is correct. The bible does think infidelity is bad. As a matter of fact homosexuality didn’t make even make the 10 commandments, bonking your neighbor’s wife did.

So General Pace, how about it – ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ on infidelity? Get caught with your pants down, skirt up or diapers on and you’re out. Immoral behavior right, sir?

But then again what kind of immoral behavior does the American military prosecute?

I was immediately reminded of the recent must read piece in Salon [Hat Tip: BlondSense] about the war women soldiers are fighting in Iraq. Not against the insurgents, against the ‘moral’ heterosexual men Peter Pace so supports.

As thousands of burned-out soldiers prepare to return to Iraq to fill President Bush’s unwelcome call for at least 20,000 more troops, I can’t help wondering what the women among those troops will have to face. And I don’t mean only the hardships of war, the killing of civilians, the bombs and mortars, the heat and sleeplessness and fear.
[…]
Spc. Mickiela Montoya, 21, who was in Iraq with the National Guard in 2005, took to carrying a knife with her at all times. “The knife wasn’t for the Iraqis,” she told me. “It was for the guys on my own side.”
[…]
Comprehensive statistics on the sexual assault of female soldiers in Iraq have not been collected, but early numbers revealed a problem so bad that former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld ordered a task force in 2004 to investigate. As a result, the Defense Department put up a Web site in 2005 designed to clarify that sexual assault is illegal and to help women report it. It also initiated required classes on sexual assault and harassment. The military’s definition of sexual assault includes “rape; nonconsensual sodomy; unwanted inappropriate sexual contact or fondling; or attempts to commit these acts.”
[…]
While commanders of some units are apparently less vigilant about policing rape, others engage in it themselves, a phenomenon known in the military as “command rape.” Because the military is hierarchical, and because soldiers are trained to obey and never question their superiors, men of rank can assault their juniors with impunity. In most cases, women soldiers are the juniors, 18 to 20 years old, and are new to the military and war, thus vulnerable to bullying and exploitation.

There is a “Don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy here as well. Keep the dirty secrets quiet. Especially when “[a] 2003 survey of female veterans from Vietnam through the first Gulf War found that 30 percent said they were raped in the military.”

Don’t ask. Don’t tell.

So. Perhaps Gen. Peter will start thinking about immorality in his soldiers. Not the homosexual ones. The other ones. We’ll even leave the ‘covet your neighbors wife’ people in the military. But perhaps we might crack down on the officers raping soldiers under their command.

On the other hand, I wonder how Condi’s lesbian translator corps is doing?

But changing these ideas takes time.

After all, it’s all about morality. You just have to pace yourself. Even if you are a general.

* What? You didn’t know that there is an expected shortage of mid-level officers? From the Indianapolis Star,

The Army, forced by five years of war to expand its ranks, faces a critical shortage in midlevel officers, interviews and military records show.

Those officers — majors and lieutenant colonels — manage troops at war. The Army expects to have an annual shortage of 3,000 such officers through 2013 as it increases its ranks by 40,000 soldiers.

Beyond the shortage of midlevel officers looms an impending shortage of entry-level officers — lieutenants — from the U.S. Military Academy and university Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs, records show. Last year, 846 cadets graduated from West Point; the goal was 900. There were 25,100 enrolled in ROTC out of a goal of 31,000, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

A Question of Perspective

The only thing I find really surprising about the current curfuffle about Walter Reed is why the Amerian public seems happy with the current investigation. I watch congress persons pulling out newspaper article after newspaper article and pointing to official reports about the issue while the admittedly bad managers from the army were being grilled.

This begs the question, don’t these congress people have e-mail? Isn’t that what staff is for? Don’t these people read Salon or newspapers or – um – official reports…

And while I am at it, why exactly did it take that long to ‘break’ the story if the problems are so endemic? Didn’t anyone think to look until now? Oh. Right. The administration has a great track record with that honesty thing.

But hey, better late than never, right?

But to assume that the Army even understands the issue? No. They don’t even see a problem.
The following exchange related in Dana Milbank’s Washington Post column on Tuesday highlights the issue.

After [the wife of one of the injured soldiers] Annette McLeod’s testimony, the couple sat in the first row of the audience, just three feet from Weightman and Kiley as the two generals testified. “The McLeods are right behind you,” pointed out Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va). “Do you have anything you want to say to them?”

“I feel terrible for them,” said Kiley, keeping his back to the McLeods. “We have got to double our efforts, redouble our efforts, to make these kind of cases disappear in the system.”

Weightman, by contrast, turned around to the McLeods and spoke warmly, addressing Annette directly. “I’d just like to apologize for not meeting their expectations, not only in the care provided, but also in having so many bureaucratic processes that just took your fortitude to be an advocate for your husband that you shouldn’t have to do,” Weightman said, as Kiley finally turned to face the McLeods. “I promise we will do better.”

Go back. Re-read the testimony from the new (and former) head at Walter Reed. He managed either a Bushism or a Freudian slip. He doesn’t want to solve the problems. He wants the cases to ‘disappear in the system.’ To bury the still living in paperwork while the dead are being interred at Arlington. And Kiley’s going to redouble his efforts to make it so. That is the problem.

At least the fall guy get’s the point. *sigh*

I guess it’s a question of perspective. You only see what’s wrong in hindsight.

Intercontinental Ballistic Pigeons?

Sharon Weinberger, author and self admitted Pentagon Budget fan, has uncovered the latest Great Red Threat – Pigeons.

Scientists with the Robot Engineering Technology Research Center of east China’s Shandong University of Science and Technology say they implanted micro electrodes in the brain of a pigeon so they can command it to fly right or left or up or down.

The implants stimulated different areas of the pigeon’s brain according to signals sent by the scientists via computer, and forced the bird to comply with their commands.

[Noah Shachtman also dug up some really gross pictures. (Ick, Ick, Ick!)]

Great.

Next thing you know, the Chinese will be developing intercontinental ballistic pigeons, capable of attacking any car city in America.

Then the technology will slip from the control of the Chinese into far more dangerous hands, Iran, North Korea and al-Quaeda. Imagine Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust Denial pigeons, Kim Jong- Il with squadrons of attack pigeons; Bin Laden with world wide cells of jihadist, terrorist winged rats!

America will be force to retaliate with a space-based, anti-pigeon counter measures. This will be neither technologically realistic nor fit into any Pentagon budget, but it will be necessary. These programs will probably get great names like the Pigeon Outer-space Offensive Protection or the Space Housed Intercontinental Terrorist Shield. The Congress will make sure POOP and SHIT-Shield projects are well funded. The Senate must be informed immediately!

Michael Crichton should drop his current plans for his next techno-thriller and address the real Pigeon Threat. Tom Clancy should start work on The Hunt for the Red-Billed Pigeon!

Oh. The. Terror!

We definitely need a new ICBP treaty

Fight’n Words

Yesterday, in the hour long news conference at the White House, President George W. Bush fought the idea that his administration might spin information. Especially since that information seems to be pushing the casus belli, against Iran.

From the Washington Post,

The president spent much of the hour-long televised session in the East Room addressing skepticism about his government’s assertions regarding Iran and fears of a widening regional conflict. “The idea that somehow we’re manufacturing the idea that the Iranians are providing [explosives] is preposterous,” Bush said. Repeating a reporter’s question, he added: “Does this mean you’re trying to have a pretext for war? No. It means I’m trying to protect our troops.”

That seems to be the key talking point now. “Protect the troops.” But the questions now are first, is the current information is being invented, and second, whether the argument will protect the troops.

For me, the question of whether Iran is supplying arms to militias isn’t all that interesting.

First, from the images I have seen and the backgrounders I’ve read, the issue could flop either way. Iran has more than enough reasons to keep America busy in Iraq. And, arguably, most of the evidence does point to an Iranian connection to weapons and explosives being used.

On the other hand, the material I have seen, especially the improved explosives (EFPs) might not be that impressive. Building a computer operated mill really isn’t rocket science. (Oh, the Iraqies even have rocket scientists? Oh.) That means making parts to a fairly high tolerance might not be out of the reach of garage based militias. They only need the initial plans and the idea can spread like a (computer) virus.

Probably more worrying is the downing of several helicopters in recent weeks. That might point to much more sophisticated weaponry.

But the second question is whether American troops will be safer?

My unequivocal answer is no. Not unless Bush is willing to go to war with Iran.

How exactly can increasing diplomatic pressure on Iran, increasing troop presence, adding a new carrier to the contingent in the gulf possibly ease the situation?

Especially when the American military is already stretched to the breaking point. Iranian leaders aren’t blind. They know the only way the Bush administration can stop them aiding Iraqi militias is by attacking. That would require the reinstatement of the draft. (And even then I would argue it would take up to a year to get American forces ready for another ground war. Where would the necessary hardware come from?)

But I’m afraid the spin will start to rotate out of control. The increasingly shrill tone taken by the administration, even if the administration doesn’t want to go to war, may achieve exactly that. What does Iran have to lose right now?

How exactly can Iran tell the difference between the build up to war with Iraq and the current “Protect the Troops” rhetoric? How can American citizens tell the difference if something happens on the border? What happens if something really ‘unexpected’ happens, perhaps a carrier gets sunk by a mine?

It seems I am not alone in worrying about this kind of issue. From the NYT

Mr. Bush has said that he has no intention of invading Iran and that any suggestion that he was trying to provoke Iran “is just a wrong way to characterize the commander in chief’s decision to do what is necessary to protect our soldiers in harm’s way.” But experts say that the ratcheting up of accusations could provoke a confrontation. Gary Sick, an expert on Iran at Columbia University, said there was a “danger of accidental war.” He said, “If anything goes wrong, if something happens, there’s an unexplained explosion and we kidnap an Iranian, and the Iranians respond to that somehow, this could get out of control.”

But I found a refreshing and intelligent reason for the verbal escalation. From the far left, liberal rag Marine Corps Times,

Judith Yaphe, a Middle East expert at the National Defense University, said the Bush administration is raising these charges now to shore up political support for its decision to send an additional 21,500 U.S. troops to Iraq.

“They need to shift the public debate from the issue of the surge and spread the blame” for the spreading chaos, she said.

The article continues with the predictable response from the military.

[Maj. Gen. William] Caldwell[, the U.S. command’s top spokesman,] defended the timing of the briefing. The armor-piercing roadside bombs, called explosively formed penetrators, first surfaced in Iraq in 2004, but he said the problem became acute recently.

Of course, the timing of these kinds of press releases is always political. Does anyone remember what happened when ill-timed information comes out of the DoD? Something that doesn’t fit the administrations current talking points? (General Eric Shinseki, anyone?)

But I think the current spin is perhaps pointed, not at Iran, but at the Republican party and the American public. This leads to the comforting thought that the Bush administration is not trying to start a war.

Perhaps there are realists in the administration who realise starting yet another war would be catastrophic. This would mean that the government is, however, so disengaged from foreign policy to think domestic issues can be solved by verbally attacking Iran. And that is really worrying.

And maybe that is the war America needs to start fighting. The war against rhetoric.

And that’s just fight’n words.

(Hat Tip: David Hambling/DefenseTech for many of the links and the background for this post)

Updated Addendum: Be sure to read Laura Rozen’s take on this.

Un-Fair Publicity

Remember my post about the Washington Post op-ed by Eric Fair?

I said it was powerful and moving.

Well it apparently the piece moved not just me but the right wing blogosphere as well; just in a slightly different direction. And a very weird one at that.

I also made a direct connection to the case of Khalid Al-Masri, the Lebanese born German citizen kidnapped and held by US/Afghan “authorities.” I first noticed this when looking at my referral logs and people looking for “Eric Fair warrant Germany.”

The backstory.

During the last week in January, Munich’s prosecuting attorney got arrest warrants for 13 people though to be associated with the, what in Germany is considered, kidnapping of Khalid al-Masari. One of the German television stations got the list and released (German) the names on the warrant,

According to research by the NDR, the arrest warrants were handed down for the following people.

Kirk James BIRD
James OHALE
James FAIRING
Michael GRADY
Jason FRANKLIN
Hector LORENZO
John DECKER
Lyle Edgard LUMDSEN
Walter Richard GREESBORE
Bryam CHARLES
Jane PAYNE
Patricia Riloy
Eric FAIR

Included in the warrants issued by the prosecuting attorney from Munich I are several spellings of each name. According to NDR research, these names are aliases. In addition according to research by “Panorama” [,a German television news magazine], several real names are also known to the investigators.

According to research from the ARD political magazine “Panorama,” the thirteen being sought under these warrants are CIA operatives. Most live in the US state of North Carolina. Three have already been confronted in September 2006 by “Panorama” about the charges; the accused refused any comment. [my translation, my emphasis]

In it’s coverage of the case, Speigel Online also underlines that the warrants are based on the al-Masari case and that the names are thought to be aliases.

Munich-based Bavarian senior state public prosecutor Christian Schmidt-Sommerfeld said in a statement Wednesday that the warrants had been issued in the last few days. He said the agents are being sought on suspicion of abducting and wrongfully imprisoning el-Masri as well as causing him grievous bodily harm. Thirteen suspected CIA agents are listed in the warrants, although the names given are thought to be aliases. [my emphasis]

But Eric Fair wasn’t in Afghanistan and thus doesn’t have anything to do with the al- Masri case. Thus, it is unlikely that the Eric Fair from the WP article is one of the defendants being mentioned in the German warrant. Eric Fair probably isn’t that person’s real name and that isn’t the right country anyway. al-Masri wasn’t in Abu Ghraib.

So far so good.

Ah but the twisted turns of the Intertubes.

There is an Eric Fair mentioned [Hat Tip: Kilabe for the PDF if not his sentiments] in the lawsuit Saleh, v. Titan filed in California in 2004 and moved recently to Virginia due a change in venue. From the Juli Schwartz’ article in the Rutgers Law Journal,

The plaintiffs in Saleh represent a class of Iraqi detainees who claim to be the victims of heinous human rights abuses at the hands of U.S. military personnel and civilian contractors under military command. The named plaintiff, Mr. Saleh (who since withdrew from the suit), is an Iraqi-born Swedish citizen who was imprisoned under Saddam Hussein’s regime for speaking out against the Baath Party. He escaped to Europe, but returned to Iraq in September 2003, where he was seized and detained at Abu Ghraib. According to Saleh, he and other prisoners were stripped, beaten, defiled, and raped throughout their detention. Their tormenters were identified as both uniform and plain-clothes personnel. Mr. Saleh was released in December 2003, and upon his release contacted a Michigan-based attorney who eventually joined forces with eight other plaintiffs. Together they filed suit in the Southern District of California against the two private contracting firms allegedly involved in the abuse, Titan Corporation and CACI International, and three employees in their individual capacities. The pleadings asserted federal question jurisdiction under the ATS and the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (“RICO”) Act.

In the original filing there is an Eric Fair named as one of the CACI employees.

That’s an interesting case if you’re a lawyer or a civil rights person. Probably drops below the level of news for everyone not directly involved.

Still, Fair’s excellent description of what his time in Iraq was like speaks volumes about the emotional damage being done to civilians on both sides of the conflict. Unless of course, you’re not bothered by things like that,

I feel bad that this guy is having nightmares, and I hope he is getting the PTSD counseling he needs. A lot of people can’t forget what they saw and did in Iraq. I could describe for you in detail the faces of the middle-aged Iraqi soldiers on whom I directed 50. cal fire, and exactly what they looked like when they died 30 feet away, as I directed the gunner’s fire from one to another until they were all dead. For a long time, I saw them every day. I examined their faces for clues about who they were, and to divine the exact moment and exact manner in which life exits the body. I also wept once, and asked forgiveness, because no matter what else they were, they were also human. I was a reporter. Some people didn’t think I was supposed to be doing what I did, and called me a murderer. Screw them. They were people who weren’t remotely familiar with the truth they were lecturing me about. Guess what: War is hell.

This person seems to miss the point. (If not missing while directing 50 cal. machine gun fire.)

Unfortunately, the people Eric Fair took part in torturing were not on the battlefield. They were defenseless prisoners. Killing people in battle, while debateable in a war of aggression (and really debatable if you are supposed to be an embedded journalist) probably wouldn’t be challenged by moderates. Torturing people to get information for questionable tactical and strategic use is something else entirely.

Thus, while I might not curse Mr Crittenden for his feelings about what happened on the battlefield, I find his feelings about the WP article extremely distasteful.

And extremely Un-Fair.

Fighting The Ghosts

There is an amazing op-ed in the Washington Post today.

If I have ever seen a more pointed reason for why America should not have invaded Iraq, why America should leave and why, if America chooses to stay, ultimately America will fail, it is in this statement.

A man with no face stares at me from the corner of a room. He pleads for help, but I’m afraid to move. He begins to cry. It is a pitiful sound, and it sickens me. He screams, but as I awaken, I realize the screams are mine.
[…]
The lead interrogator at the DIF had given me specific instructions: I was to deprive the detainee of sleep during my 12-hour shift by opening his cell every hour, forcing him to stand in a corner and stripping him of his clothes. Three years later the tables have turned. It is rare that I sleep through the night without a visit from this man. His memory harasses me as I once harassed him.
[…]
We have failed to properly address the abuse of Iraqi detainees. Men like me have refused to tell our stories, and our leaders have refused to own up to the myriad mistakes that have been made. But if we fail to address this problem, there can be no hope of success in Iraq. Regardless of how many young Americans we send to war, or how many militia members we kill, or how many Iraqis we train, or how much money we spend on reconstruction, we will not escape the damage we have done to the people of Iraq in our prisons.

I don’t think he wrote that piece for us. He wrote it for himself. Unfortunately many coming back from Iraq will see themselves in his words.

Go read it now. Blog it, e-mail it. Make sure people are aware of it. It is an important peace of prose.

While you’re at it, remind people of the movie Outlawed about the detention of Khaled El-Masri and Binyam Mohamed. (27 minutes, my original post here.) That is American policy and whether the conservatives say it is OK or not. This is how the world views America. This is the reality that the policies put in place by the Bush administration have created. Congragulations.

But back to Eric Fair.

Sir, you have done wrong. You are being punished for it. While I don’t condone what you have done, I salute you for what you are doing now.

I thank you for fighting your ghosts in public.

Line Item Veto

The banging you may have just heard was my head on my desk.

If I ever needed any evidence that I was masochistic, I just found it. I listened to Bush’s interview with Juan Williams on NPR. What an incredibly stupid thing to do! My blood pressure doubled and I will probably be grumpy for days. But what got me so mad?

One of those little talking points Bush snuck into the interview was the comment on a line item veto. I just thought I’d react in kind. So, Mr. President, my line item veto for some of the more outrageous comments you made. It probably won’t lower my blood pressure or de-flatten my forehead, but I might feel better.

PRESIDENT BUSH: In other words, they’ve got to make it clear to the 12 million people that made a conscious decision to vote and say, we want a unity government, to reach out to disparate elements. They’ve got to make sure that oil revenue, for example, is available to all of the people and not just a faction that may happen to be in power. […]

Let me just get this right. This is George W. Bush arguing for a public distribution of profits made selling oil in Iraq. Um. Sir. Is that really an idea you want the American public to think about? Do you really want to go there?

[…] They’ve got to make sure that those who were involved with the Saddam government in the past, so long as they weren’t killers or terrorists, have a chance, for example, to be reinstated as school teachers.

Oh. So having J. Paul Bremer fire all the school teachers as one of his first actions wasn’t such a good idea? But Rumsfeld said the idea came from the White House and Cheney usually doesn’t talk, he grunts or shoots. Wouldn’t the reverse situation have been marginally more appropriate? You could have kept them as teachers, then you would have known how to find them, you would have known where they worked, remember? But that was a bad idea, an example needed to be made early; a marker needed to be set, like a lion marking it’s territory. Like America urinating on Iraq.

But through the cacophony of voices, ideas and plans President Bush manages to keep his laser sharp decision making skills.

In other words, there’s a lot of things politically that can happen, Juan, and – you know, I made a decision that – and, listen, I listen to a lot of folks here in Washington. I listen to the military people, I listen to people who are critical of the policy, I listen to Republicans, I listen to Democrats, and I listen carefully for which strategy would yield – would most likely yield success, and the one I picked is the one I believe will.

This I almost buy. I do believe that Bush listens. He has an amazing ability to hear but not process information. That is sooo cool. I wish I could spend as little time reflecting on what I hear as Mr Bush; deciding what’s right and not choosing an appropriate course The problem is I suspect the voice Bush really listens to wasn’t mentioned in the above passage. It’s the little red guy with horns white-robed guy with a halo sitting on his shoulder.

I won’t even go into the whole joined-at-the-hip Cheney/Bush lovefest thing. Cheney sees the world through the sights – um – eyes of a soon-to-be-grandfather of a child born of love in a lesbian relationship. A child, like many children, loved by Dick, hated by the religious right.

In response to Juan Williams’ plea that President Bush give some reason the public might find to support his policies in Iraq, Bush dumped a bag of dominos in his lap.

See, the difference, Juan, between other conflicts in the past and this one is that failure would endanger the homeland. In other words, the enemy isn’t going to be just contained in the Middle East if they succeed in driving us out or succeed in wrecking the Iraqi democracy. The enemy would be likely to follow us here. And that’s why I tried in my State of the Union speech, why I reminded people that September the – the lessons of September the 11th need to be remembered. It is a – and look, September the 11th changed my attitude about a lot of things. It really did. And I recognize that the world we live in is one where America cannot be isolated from the ills in other parts of the world. As a matter of fact, those ills can come home to haunt us.

As a response here, I’ll just present another presidential interview, a few years ago, back on April 7, 1954 with Eisenhower.

Q. Robert Richards, Copley Press:

Mr. President, would you mind commenting on the strategic importance of Indochina to the free world? I think there has been, across the country, some lack of understanding on just what it means to us.

The President.

You have, of course, both the specific and the general when you talk about such things.

First of all, you have the specific value of a locality in its production of materials that the world needs.

Then you have the possibility that many human beings pass under a dictatorship that is inimical to the free world.

Finally, you have broader considerations that might follow what you would call the “falling domino” principle. You have a row of dominoes set up, you knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty that it will go over very quickly. So you could have a beginning of a disintegration that would have the most profound influences.
[…]
So, the possible consequences of the loss are just incalculable to the free world.

Oh, well, that strategy worked out just fine. I’m glad we haven’t learned anything about foreign policy since 1954. Thumbs up Mr. President. But remember he’s understands (sharp, focused),

[…] It is a – I’m optimistic, I’m realistic, I understand how tough the fight is, but I also understand the stakes, and it’s very important for our citizens to understand that a Middle East could evolve in which rival forms of extremists compete with each other, you know, nuclear weapons become developed, safe havens are in place, oil would be used as an economic weapon against the West. […]

Let’s see. Where to start. How about stakes, sacrifice; like the answer during the Tom Lehrer Interview on PBS? “Well, you know, I think a lot of people are in this fight. I mean, they sacrifice peace of mind when they see the terrible images of violence on TV every night.” While it is unclear whether the nuclear ambitions being followed in Iran could have or can be controlled using diplomatic measures, the nuclear weapon produced in North Korea was built on your watch Mr. President, your diplomatic fallout – um – failure. And the fact that just about every Islamic religious faction is pissed off at the US just happens to be the maraschino for Sunday.

In response to one solder’s question, Bush felt the need to do the obligatory obsequious grovel to those actually doing the work, people like National Guard Specialist Ryan Schmidt (sp) from Forest Lake, Minnesota.

And let me also say to Ryan, thanks for serving. I mean, one of the amazing things about our country is that we have people who volunteer to go. And one of the things I look for is whether or not we’re able to recruit and retain, and we are. And it’s a remarkable country, Juan, where people are saying I want to serve. And I appreciate that soldier, and I hope this message gets to him that not only do I appreciate him, but a lot of Americans appreciate him.

Now I have a feeling he is probably with 1/34th BCT. Perhaps Mr Bush would like to spend some time reading about how they feel about spending more time in Iraq? Or about becoming the longest serving military unit in Iraq? Bla, back-up plans are like badges and we don’ need no stinkin’ badges!

Then the sabre rattling got under way. Yesterday the Iranian Ambassador gave an interview with the NYT. Bush retaliates in kind.

If Iran escalates its military action in Iraq to the detriment of our troops and/or innocent Iraqi people, we will respond firmly. We – it makes common sense for the commander-in-chief to say to our troops and the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government that we will help you defend yourself from people that want to sow discord and harm. And so we will do what it takes to protect our troops.

One of the things that is very important in discussing Iran is not to mix issues. Our relationship with Iran is based upon a lot of different issues. One is what is happening in Iraq. Another is their ambitions to have a nuclear weapon. And we’re dealing with this issue diplomatically, and I think this can be solved diplomatically. And the message that we are working to send to the Iranian regime and the Iranian people is that you will become increasingly isolated if you continue to pursue a nuclear weapon.

Go back and read that again. The part about helping Iraq but we will do what it take to protect our troops. But President Bush goes on, one sentence later to tell us that we can’t mix issues. Has he been hitting the bottle again? I mean let’s at least remain on talking point for at least two paragraphs! I’m still trying to figure out where he is going to get the troops to fight Iran.

Asked about the minor oversight in the SOTU address, President Bush moved on into his alternate reality.

If there’s bureaucratic slowdowns in Washington, we’ve got a man named Don Powell who is working to address them. But no, our response to the Katrina recovery has been very robust. And I appreciate the taxpayers of the United States helping the folks down there in Mississippi and Louisiana.

This robust response is why Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco has been blasting Washington in her campaign. Why the democrats are promising to ‘fix disaster recovery’ and why one can find quotes like this in yesterday’s Times-Picayune.

Fed up with waiting for federal help, a coalition of neighborhood groups is pushing to establish a new taxing district that could generate millions of dollars to improve drainage in flood-prone sections of Old Metairie and Old Jefferson.

Remaining in alternate realities, why don’t we just move over to parallel dimensions. After fighting the fact that global warming was an issue or even a reality, President Bush has finally caved in to the science monkeys only to drift off into what can only be a science fiction space opera.

And what kind of technologies? Well, if you’re really interested in global warming and climate change, then it seems like to me that we ought to promote technologies to advance the development of safe nuclear power. It’s a renewable source of energy, and at the same time has no emissions to it. But also, we’re advancing clean-coal technologies. The goal is to have a zero-emission coal-fired plant. And then, in the State of the Union, I talked about another aspect of economic security and environmental quality, and that is changing the habits – or changing how we power our cars. [my emphasis]

Just a couple of questions sir. What exactly is renewable on nuclear energy? Uranium and plutonium just grows on trees? Oh – stars. Just have to figure out how to harvest it with out getting our buns burned? Got it. And emission free? What do you call that pesky radioactive waste. Grapefruit? We could declare it to be the Iraqi national currency, make coins out of it and ship it overseas. Solve two problems at one fell swoop! Give a whole new meaning to the abbriveation COIN.

But at least we got a Bushism!

I am surprised, frankly, at the amount of distrust that exists in this town. And I’m sorry it’s the case, and I’ll work hard to try to elevate it

But it’s not his legacy Bush is worried about, it’s his mirror image .

And so, the other thing is, is that, I think it’s very important for people – for a president to make decisions based upon principles. You know, you can be popular, but you may be wrong. And I would rather, when it’s all said and done, get back home and look in the mirror and say, I didn’t compromise the principles that are etched into my soul in order to be a popular guy. What I want to do is solve problems for the American people and yield the peace that we all want.

I’m reminded of the Star Trek episode Mirror/Mirror. The only problem I have is figuring out which Bush we are talking to. Of course with faux klingons vulcans in the White House, what should I expect?

In a way, Bush has done something for the American people. Remember all the problems facing America in the year 2000. Yeah Neither do I. Nice job George.

This is your unprincipled flat-foreheaded surrender monkey signing off.

Rules of Engagement

Rule 1: Stay alive

Rule 2: Keep the enemy from doing whatever he was planning

Rule 3: Capture or kill the enemy in order  to avoid a continuous repeat of Rule 2.

Rule 4: Capture or destroy enemies weapons and supply depots in order to avoid a continuous repeat of Rule 3.

Rule 5: Sometimes, to accomplish Rules 2, 3 and 4, Rule 1 must be ignored.

Rule 6: Sometimes you’re just shit out of luck anyway.

Rule 7: War sucks.

Cobwebs of thought (Updated)

I’ve been spending a lot of time recently, reading not about the present situation in Iraq, but how the American government, the media and the American public came to think that an invasion might be a good idea.

Hopefully, I will be able to pull all that information into a couple of posts giving the perspective of someone outside the loop (or the beltway for that matter).

But that isn’t what’s bothering me today. The number of comments and discussions on Iran in the political/military/media blogs I read have skyrocketed in recent months. It should be noted, that although I don’t read the hardcore right-wing American-hegemony/empire-building-is-a-good-thing blogs, I do try to keep up on what realistic threats there are.

That’s why the recent spike in Iran chatter is starting to worry me.

I think one of the reasons for invading Iraq was a ‘heads-up forward-looking smack them before they smack us groupthink.

Largely generated and supported by people who developed worldviews and thought processes during the surrogate conflicts during the cold war, the idea of an international anti-American movement not being directly supported by a nation was inconceivable. Some country must be behind the attacks and after the fall of Afghanistan the only countries actively providing anti-American rhetoric were Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Thus, an example must be made, fear sown in the hearts of those who would hurt us.

The choice to attack Iraq was bolstered by the thought that we had been there and done that and that Iraq was widely perceived to be a disruptive influence in the area and, of course, Iraq was the weakest target. But I think perhaps the most important feeling being acted upon was one of pre-emptive protection.

Today, my morning blog reading presented me with the following stories,

Iran’s “Sat Launch” No Sure Thing
Iran and IAEA Cooperation
Two Can Play at This Game
What the Iranians detained in Hakim’s compound last month were doing

These are all fairly ‘liberal’ if realistically militaristic sources.

I wonder where the extra 250,000 thousand troops for the invasion of Iran will come from? This is starting to look like major sabre rattling on both sides of the border. Iran feels America isn’t strong enough to stop Iranian expansion and is pushing. The American government is starting to push back. But as we know the current American government isn’t really reality good at appropriately applying pressure, too much (Iraq) or not at all (North Korea).

It doesn’t matter whether the threat is real or whether the proposed solution has a realistic chance of success, a solution must be found and implemented. Once implemented, the soulution was, is, and will be correct. Period (or Full Stop). But don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Iran isn’t pushing, I think Iran might becoming a threat to regional and international stablitiy; it is simply unclear what the world can realistically do about it. What can be done without making the situation worse and not better.

I also think we need to keep an eye on the hawks in the Democratic party. What kind of anti-Iranian information will start to appear through those channels?

This was a fairly rambling post. I’m not even sure I believe what I am writing and perhaps I am only putting these words to keyboard to clear the ideas from my mind.

Like cobwebs, these thoughts are annoying – but there. I just wanted to clear them out for a couple of days.

Update:

I’d just like to point out that I wrote this without having read this morning’s NYT headline.

Iranian Reveals Plan to Expand Role in Iraq

Iran’s ambassador to Baghdad outlined an ambitious plan on Sunday to greatly expand its economic and military ties with Iraq — including an Iranian national bank branch in the heart of the capital — just as the Bush administration has been warning the Iranians to stop meddling in Iraqi affairs.

Iran’s plan, as outlined by the ambassador, carries the potential to bring Iran into further conflict here with the United States, which has detained a number of Iranian operatives in recent weeks and says it has proof of Iranian complicity in attacks on American and Iraqi forces.

The ambassador, Hassan Kazemi Qumi, said Iran was prepared to offer Iraq government forces training, equipment and advisers for what he called “the security fight.” In the economic area, Mr. Qumi said, Iran was ready to assume major responsibility for Iraq reconstruction, an area of failure on the part of the United States since American-led forces overthrew Saddam Hussein nearly four years ago.

You rattle our cage, we’ll rattle back. *sigh*