Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Once again, Moore is a confirmed liar

As if the bundled lies in his first waste of good video storage, Bowling for Columbine wasn't enough, Michael Moore has once again produced a film purporting to be a documentary called Fahrenheit 9/11. And again, he's lying through his teeth. Not that this is stopping the "I hate Bush" crowd from lauding his work and producing 20-minute standing ovations for him at Cannes. Well, it isn't the 1st time Moore's been caught in a lie.

Space HereA FEW YEARS AGO Michael Moore, who's now promoting an anti-President Bush movie entitled Fahrenheit 9/11, announced he'd gotten the goods on me, indeed hung me out to dry on my own words. It was in his first bestselling book, Stupid White Men. Moore wrote he'd once been "forced" to listen to my comments on a TV chat show, The McLaughlin Group. I had whined "on and on about the sorry state of American education," Moore said, and wound up by bellowing: "These kids don't even know what The Iliad and The Odyssey are!"

Moore's interest was piqued, so the next day he said he called me. "Fred," he quoted himself as saying, "tell me what The Iliad and The Odyssey are." I started "hemming and hawing," Moore wrote. And then I said, according to Moore: "Well, they're . . . uh . . . you know . . . uh . . . okay, fine, you got me--I don't know what they're about. Happy now?" He'd smoked me out as a fraud, or maybe worse.

The only problem is none of this is true. It never happened. Moore is a liar. He made it up. It's a fabrication on two levels. One, I've never met Moore or even talked to him on the phone. And, two, I read both The Iliad and The Odyssey in my first year at the University of Virginia. Just for the record, I'd learned what they were about even before college.
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Fred Barnes isn't calling Moore a liar because he heard something that someone else heard, etc., etc., etc. He is the man Moore is talking about. Add to that the known lies, fabricated visuals, and deceptive editing in the aforementioned Bowling film and you get a man who can't be trusted to tell you the time of day when he's looking right at the Atomic Clock. Yet this is the man the Left hails as a genius. He's only making them look bad.

More Vigilance?

I'm all for keeping alert and I really do appreciate that the government is trying to let us know when they really think someone's going to blow up a building. A warning is only as good as the details it contains, however, and telling us that somewhere, somehow, at any time over the summer, some terror group might decide to attack something doesn't do much for us. I am holding out final judgement on this one until after the press conference with Atty. General Ashcroft and Director Mueller.

Update to follow.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Bill Whittle hits the nail

Bill Whittle over at Eject! Eject! Eject! has written up a number of excellent essays and his latest, titled "Strength" is possibly the finest. (It's a 2-part essay. You can read it as a whole at his main blog page or hit part 1 and part 2 separately by following these links.) I consider myself to be fairly articulate, but this one has captured precisely something I've felt for over 2 years now and have been unable to find the words to say. He hits the nail squarely on the head and drives it all the way through the board on a single strike. Bravo!

Friday, May 21, 2004

Welcome to the weekend

Left the office a little early this afternoon in the vain attempt to miss some of the traffic. I arrived home to find the painters still here painting 4 rooms of our house as we prep it to go on the market. We've lived here 10 years. One of the 1st things we did was to paint over the antique white decor in the living room, giving it some color and really making the (also antique white) fireplace mantle stand out. As I walked back in today, I see it again as it was when we moved in. I'd forgotten...

This is the 1st house we ever owned. We've come a long way since we were living in the 1 bedroom apartment in the basement of that building over in town. She and I were making, together, less than half what she makes alone today. Feels like a long time ago, but like last week, also. Being married this long feels that way, I hear, and I'm glad for it. It was 16 years ago, today, that we say "We do" up there in front of the priest. Here's to lots more....

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

It's Official: It was Sarin

Tests on the artillery shell suspected of containing sarin nerve agent have been completed and confirm that it did, in fact, hold the chemical. The coalition also confirms the report that a shell containing mustard gas was found on May 2. Both shells were tested by the Iraqi Survey Group.

As expected, the presence of these chemical weapons has resulted in quite a bit of spin from the folks who have been loudly proclaiming that no such weapons exist. Now, it's not that they never existed (it is established fact that they did, and now confirmed fact that they do), it's just that there's not enough of them to count. I'm already hearing from people that this doesn't indicate a real threat or that it was just a stray and was to be expected.

Excuse me? Tell you what: I'll take any group of folks who feel that way and have them gather in the largest banquet room at the local Sheraton or Hilton, place a container with the same 3-4 liters of sarin within in the middle of that room and then pop it off. They can then tell me if it doesn't qualify as a WMD. Obviously, I'm kidding. By definition, sarin gas shells are WMD, as are mustard gas munitions. I would also point out that if we found a shell with mustard gas mixed in with some Mark-82 bombs in, say, Norfolk, nobody would be dismissing it as an inevitable foul-up.

It remains very much to be seen if this is the start of a trend or simply dumb luck on the part of some terror squad who thought they were going to get a big explosion instead of a gas cloud. Vigilance, as ever, required.

Sasser author has gained some idiot groupies

Seems the kid who wrote the Sasser worm that blazed across the Internet, chewing up bandwidth and rendering infected desktops unusable, has gathered a following who are trying to raise money for the kid's legal defense. In one of the most solid examples of level-headed reasoning yet, the group's spokeman said:

Space Here"The entire world is angry with him, so we think he could use some friends,"Space Here

Oooo, good reason, folks. The team claims to think the German youth, Sven Jaschan, had a good idea in that he was only trying to point out the horrid state of Microsoft's products' security stature.

Space Here"Sasser was intended as a harmless wake-up call to the world," said the e-mail. "Sven did the right thing by making this alarm call."

It continued: "When will people realise that microsofts (sic) base products are not fit to be subjected to the hostile environment that the internet is these days?"
Space Here

OK, Mr. & Mrs. Brickhead, the damage Sasser caused was far from harmless. From statistics collected, about 30% of the desktops infected by the worm's worm could not be used, not even to recover themselves. Those systems required intervention from highly-trained IT professionals, not some mindless patch installs from Windows Update. And while those systems were down awaiting repair from people who know more about the system than how to click on the left mouse button, the people depending on those systems were sitting on their butts. Not that you care, since your next comment displays your complete idiocy and disconnection with the reality of the Net these days:

Space Here"We also like sticking it to the man."Space Here


"The Man?" (What are you, stuck in the 60's?) I'm sure you'd like to think that it was all just the tight-assed $600-dollar-suit crowd, but it wasn't. Those systems are protected by a few 10-thousand dollar's-worth of hardware firewalls administered by 3 shifts of paid professionals. Their systems get patched daily because they've got an army of geeks who make damn sure they're patched. No, no... it's the Mom in Cincinnati, the Granddad in Kansas, the single mother in Colorado that felt the pain of your little "harmless wake-up call." Those were the folks who tried to get onto a web site to renew a prescription medication but couldn't because the drugstore's WAN link was flooded off the wire from so many Sasser attacks. They couldn't pay a bill on-line and, so, had to hump it to the post office on public transportation and hope the mail runs on time. The tried to see pictures of their newborn granddaughter who lives 2000 miles away but couldn't get on-line because their system kept crashing.

Getting the point, yet?

And before you start up the tripe about Microsoft, would you still be feeling OK about this kind of action if it had been a loophole in the Linux kernel he'd managed to find? Or a security flaw in Mac OSX? Too much of a stretch? Here's one I'm sure even you intellect-deficients can grasp: If it'd been old Sven there picking the lock on your front door and disabling your home's heat, a/c, light, sewage, and water supply for 10 hours, would you be patting him on the back for sending a "wake-up call to the world" that multi-pin door locks "are not fit to be subjected to the hostile environment" that is the world today?

You're a bunch of elitist jackasses looking for a moment of fame. Congrats, you've found it. Now crawl back into the hole your brains have fallen into.
Follow-up on hold

Yesterday's note about the sarin-filled shell rigged as a roadside bomb mentioned that I'd follow up. Well, I willfollow up, but I'm just going to be a bit patient about concluding much regarding the shell. Read that carefully, because you'll note that I'm neither dismissing the report as insignificant nor trumpeting it as a major find. Let's see the analysis and get back to it then. All the stories on it yesterday, by the way, also refer to the discovery of mustard gas there in Iraq in the last 2 weeks, too, and that report seems quite firm.

Monday, May 17, 2004

WMD device located in Iraq

CNN and Fox News are reporting that a roadside bomb located by a Coalition Convoy contained sarin nerve gas. No details yet as this story is just breaking. More to come as I get it.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Astute Thought


Space Here"Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws."
- Plato (427-347 B.C.)
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And the prize for "most unsuspected comedian goes to:

Space Here"If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?"
- Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
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Saturday, May 15, 2004

Reaching for the point

President Bush was in Lebanon, OH on Friday. Lebanon is just north of Cincinnati and sits in a county that voted in favor of electing Bush by 70%. The President's stop in Lebanon was well received there as evidenced by a crowd of what appeared to be between 100 and 200 supporters who came to listen to him speak. The report on MSNBC showed footage of the President speaking and there were cheers and applause and signs of support all over the square set up for the event. So how did MSNBC choose to cover the event? By giving almost 2.5 minutes of the 3 minute story over to the 1 - yes, even by the admission of the MSNBC reporter narrating the story there was only 1 - opponent in the crowd.

The woman took her oath of citizenship a year ago and disapproves of Mr. Bush's policies and performance. She points to the Iraq war and to the prisoner abuse as sure signs that he's not to be trusted. MSNBC made sure she got her say on national television and played the story up as evidence that the President is in huge trouble with the electorate. Not once in the whole story did the reporter even try to solicit opinions of people who were there to show support. Not a single sound bite, not even a quote, of anyone who was standing right there not even 10 feet from the reporter and his crew was shown or aired. But this woman who has things to say against the President was given a platform to speak from the likes of which most of us will never get close to sharing.

There's plenty of people saying there's no bias in the media. Episodes like this show it as clear as can be made - that reporter, his editor, and the management of the "news" outlet they belong to decided up front that they were going to come away from that event with a message that showed the President isn't doing well, and they had to reach right past dozens of supporters to get it. But get it they did, and they made damn sure to pump it up as high as they could.

As another point, the woman in the story was an Iraqi who came here to the US back when Saddam was still in power. Now why would she have done that, if he was such a nice guy to live with? Her points about the prison abuse ring so hollow when compared to the abuse prisoners could expect there 2 years ago. And you can rest assured that the abusing guards would have been getting bonuses and medals, not courts martial and jail time. We're doing something about it, and it's not patting the jerks who abused those prisoners on the back. Perhaps if she'd been this outspoken about demanding political change when she was back in Iraq, we might not have had to go in there in the first place. But she's found her voice now, and our media is all too happy to grant her the spotlight while deliberately denying supporters of the President the same coverage. Real bias, right there.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Golden Dome in Najaf hit by gunfire

The Golden Dome of the Shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf has apparently been hit by gunfire, leaving holes in the structure. While this would normally be a "ya think?" situation that a building in a city seeing combat between 2 military outfits might sustain fire, this shrine is apparently one of the most holy sites for Shiite Muslims. This would be akin to the Cathedral of St. Peter in the Vatican taking a slug to the stained glass. Not a good thing, but it does highlight something in reverse. The fact that this event is seeing news coverage shows just how careful the US military has been to this point in avoiding attacking holy sites in Iraq. They are clearly exercising quite a bit of control over their fire in making sure whole mosques aren't being blown away by incidental fire. That level of control in the face of fire from people who aren't being so considerate is exemplary.

One item in the story I found to be.... well, ludicrous is the part where an Al-Sadr spokeman brings "proof" that the shells came from American guns.

Space HereAl-Sadr's spokesman, Qays al-Khazali, told The Associated Press that the Americans were responsible. He carried the casing of a bullet that he wrapped up in a paper tissue.

"I picked this up from the shrine. Only Americans have such bullets," he said outside al-Sadr's office near the shrine.
Space Here

Nice touch. Unless one remembers that the shell that makes the impact doesn't carry the casing along with it when it flies. That's ejected from the firing weapon at the point from which the round was fired, not the point of impact. And given how many American rounds have been fired in Najaf lately, it's not too big a job to find a spare casing laying around town. Does that prove the rounds that did the damage weren't US rounds? No, not hardly. But you need to find the bullets, not the casings to make that determination.

Space HereShawqi Mushtaq al-Khafajji, an al-Sadr aide, told Al Arabiya television that the dome was struck by U.S. gun fire and "confrontations still ongoing. We have three martyrs (dead) and five injured."

"More is expected from the occupation forces," he added.
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Well, here's a suggestion, Shawqi: stop shooting at the American soldiers. You'll find they don't fire back when they're not fired upon.

A Brit Journalist's view of our media's goals

Toby Harnden of the Telegraph is in Baghdad and writes of his conversation with an American Journalist there.

Space HereThe other day, while taking a break by the Al-Hamra Hotel pool, fringed with the usual cast of tattooed defence contractors, I was accosted by an American magazine journalist of serious accomplishment and impeccable liberal credentials.

She had been disturbed by my argument that Iraqis were better off than they had been under Saddam and I was now — there was no choice about this — going to have to justify my bizarre and dangerous views. I’ll spare you most of the details because you know the script — no WMD, no ‘imminent threat’ (though the point was to deal with Saddam before such a threat could emerge), a diversion from the hunt for bin Laden, enraging the Arab world. Etcetera.

But then she came to the point. Not only had she ‘known’ the Iraq war would fail but she considered it essential that it did so because this would ensure that the ‘evil’ George W. Bush would no longer be running her country. Her editors back on the East Coast were giggling, she said, over what a disaster Iraq had turned out to be. ‘Lots of us talk about how awful it would be if this worked out.’ Startled by her candour, I asked whether thousands more dead Iraqis would be a good thing.

She nodded and mumbled something about Bush needing to go. By this logic, I ventured, another September 11 on, say, September 11 would be perfect for pushing up John Kerry’s poll numbers. ‘Well, that’s different — that would be Americans,’ she said, haltingly. ‘I guess I’m a bit of an isolationist.’ That’s one way of putting it.
Space Here

Mr. Harnden explains something basic, too, that your local paper and TV network would like to ignore. That being that the reporters are saying all kinds of things, but are actually seeing and investigating far less than they say.

Space HereIraq is so dangerous now that hardly any television journalists venture out of the Al-Hamra or the Palestine Hotel, where lager and post-barbecue spliffs help relieve the tension of being in a war zone. There are insurance problems and the brooding, ex-SAS bodyguards forbid any excursions. The dirty little secret is that the endless ‘stand-ups’ you see on your screens are based on no reporting at all. Those of us who work for newspapers grow our Shia beards or, in the case of the women and the occasional John Simpson wannabe, wear hijabs and trust in fate, our relative anonymity and the skill and bravery of Abu Salah and his kind to get us to Najaf and Fallujah without being summarily executed. But what we can accomplish is limited.

Into this journalistic vacuum it is all too easy for the prejudices of the press corps — tourists looking through telescopes — to flow more freely than ever and the resulting reports to be distorted and incomplete. After the horrifying videotape slaughter of Nick Berg, there will be even greater reluctance among Westerners to leave their fortified hotels and compounds.

Whatever we thought about the war before it was launched, it is imperative that the forces of Arab nationalism and Islamism that now threaten to destroy Iraq are defeated. If America fails in Iraq it will be all of us in the West, not just Bush, who will suffer. But those who would be most in peril, of course, would be the Iraqis, who deserve better than to have their country treated as an electoral playground by the American Left or Right. To wish otherwise is as sick as the grins on the faces of the Abu Ghraib torturers.
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I agree with him 100%, the Iraqis deserve much better. Their security situation is still bad, and I've the feeling it's going to get worse before it gets better. I believe the military is responding as they should, if a bit more slowly and less aggressively than I would. That's probably a good thing. I also believe the average Iraqi is better off today than he was 18 months ago and that's something our American media would love to keep under a hat. Thankfully, there's access to reporters of other nations.

Update: - I do wish they had published the name and affiliation of the woman reporter Toby mentions. I've tried to find out more about the episode but I can't locate a single thing. Should I find more, I'll refresh this post and let you know.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

A Soldier's Letter from Iraq

I just saw this over on Smash's website. It's a letter from Army Spc. Joe Roche with regard to the situation in Iraq and the combat against Sadr and his forces. The letter was posted over on Amy Ridenour's site but I wanted to re-post it in its entirety here. It needs reading. You won't find any of this on the media outlets, I assure you. Without further ado:

Space HereAmy, I wrote this super fast, and I have no idea if you can or would want to use it. I have little time on the 'net, so from notes I've made while on missions talking to the guys, I rammed this out. Don't feel committed to using it, but just in case... I wanted to write to the American people about why our fight w/ Sadr is going so well and why they should not be seduced by the media/press image that this is somehow a disaster.

Take Care.

-Joe

------------------------

The fighting we are engaged in against the uprising of Muqtada Al-Sadr is one that is extremely sensitive and risks catastrophe. Had we entered this previously, it would not have been possible for us to win. Over the months, we have been involved in preparations and much planning. Thus, today we are scoring amazing successes against this would-be tyrant.

I ask that the American people be brave. Don't fall for the spin by the weak and timid amongst you that are portraying this battle as a disaster. Such people are always looking for our failure to justify and rescue their constant pessimism. They are raising false flags of defeat in the press and media. It just isn't true.

Last year in April while the main war was still going on to defeat Saddam Hussein's military, I myself gave a class to my company of the 16th Engineers about the threat posed by Sadr and the prospects for conflict with his militias. Though my fellow soldiers didn't appreciate having to attend a class at 8am on one of our last days before deploying to Baghdad, they can tell you that what is happening now is no surprise. I used open and general information that my superiors were already aware of.

The basis of our evaluation over a year ago was that Sadr presented a formidable and possibly impossible threat. Last summer, as my unit covered Sadr City -- the sprawling part of Baghdad that Sadr controlled then -- his militias challenged us by making a show of force in defiance of the effort to open up Iraq society to the new freedoms. Sadr clearly demonstrated that he would deny Iraqis democracy and freedom in his quest for power. By the fall, he had most of Iraq's Shia leaders and the community at large intimidated and kowtowing to his bully tactics. In January through March, his arrogance and thuggery led him to pursue two further attacks upon the hopes for Iraqi freedom.

He vigorously pursued courting and forming alliances with Iranian hard-liners. Upon returning to Iraq, he then welcomed many foreign fighters to train and assist his militia in terrorist tactics and guerrilla warfare.

In fact, we almost went into full conflict with him back then, months ago!

So our leaders, Paul Bremmer, Gen. Abizaid, and countless other US and Coalition leaders all over the land, acted w/ caution and care to secure for the US ever stronger cards against Sadr while simultaneously working to achieve four main goals.

Now we today are in a climactic battle against him and his militia. When the remnants of Saddam's regime were in full uprising in Fallujah, Sadr thought his time had come to make his bid for total power and to oust the US from Baghdad. He was very wrong.

It has been subtle and very well done by our leaders. You should be proud. It would have seemed impossible to have achieved our four main goals against Sadr even just a few months ago. Now today, despite the message of the pessimists who are misleading you into despair, we are have scored all the victories needed to bring this battle to a close. First goal was to isolate Sadr. Second was to exile him from his power-base in Baghdad. Third was to contain his uprising from spreading beyond his militias. And the last goal was to get both his hard-line supporters to abandon him, and to do encourage moderates to break from him. This has been done brilliantly, and now we are on the march in a way that just months ago seemed impossible to do. Sadr is losing everything.

Goal one: His so-called Mahdi Army militia is fighting alone. We are out defeating them day and night, and all the time we find them exposed and vulnerable. The people of Baghdad, Karbala and Najaf are not supporting him. His forces are isolated.

Goal two: His one-time powerbase, Sadr City in Baghdad, has been lost. Sadr has been exiled from there, and we have him on the run. He is trying to cloak his presence and activities in Najaf and Kut as planned, but that is damage control on his part. Yes we confront pockets of his followers. Just a couple days ago, I had to maneuver around such a crowd of 300 in Sadr City. The point is, though, we operate in Sadr City, and his followers are merely trying to raise the lost cause of his. It is perhaps better to understand why he is able to mobilize groups like this by seeing him as a mafia leader who is just sacrificing his own people in a mad last plunge to grab onto power. He is no different from any other thug in the world who manipulates and betrays his followers for his own lost cause. The critical thing to see, however, is that in Baghdad, Sadr is gone. He has been effectively exiled and we are destroying his one-time properties of power and abuse there.

Goal three: Other Shia leaders are breaking from him now in large numbers. The overall Shia leader of Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, has left Sadr's call for jihad and uprising to flounder on deaf ears. Bremmer and Gen. Abizaid stunned the overall Shia community by negotiating a calm in Fallujah. That has tail-spinned Sadr and his efforts to intimidate Iraq's Shia leaders. They see the US hand is strong, and that therefore they are making a mistake in kowtowing to Sadr's terror and violence.

Sadr is now running scared in Najaf. This is great. The Iraqi people of Najaf are offended by this Baghdad thug coming to their city and trying to hijack them into conflict with us. His militias have moved into Karbala too, and the same sentiment is being expressed by the people there. Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia are occupiers of those cities, and are insulting the most sacred sites of Shia Islam daily in their actions. Sadr's forces have stockpiled weapons in mosques and schools, and he continuously is going into the Imam Ali Mosque to call for jihad against us. This is offending Iraq's Shia leaders very much, and the Shia people are not following.

Our units, in fact, are operating w/in 500 meters of the most sacred Shia religious sites in these cities, and you should notice that the local people are not resisting. This is what the pessimists amongst you are preventing you from understanding. Something like this would have been impossible before Sadr and his militia thugs went into there to hijack Iraqi Shia Islam. The people of Najaf and Karbala know we are not there to conquer and occupying the religious sites; we are there to liberate them from this would-be tyrant who is trying to hijack them. His uprising has been contained, despite Sadr's desperate efforts to expand.

Goal four: Now Sadr's patrons and mentor in Iran are breaking from him. Grand Ayatollah Hossain Kazzam Haeri in Qom, Iran, is no longer backing him and has instead made it clear that Sadr's uprising is not sanctioned. Haeri is his mentor, and was a close intimate to Sadr's respectable father. The Teheran Times has run stories that are largely exaggerated, but still are making clear that Sadr's uprising is counter to Iranian interests and does not have the support of even one of Iran's grand statesman, Hashemi Rafsanjani.

In lieu of this, Sadr has exploded increasingly desperate and offensive. On Friday, he offended perhaps the whole Muslim world when he issued a fatwa (a religious edict) that if his forces in Basra capture a female British soldier, they can keep her as a slave. And as I pointed out already, his militia thugs in Najaf and Karbala are keeping weapons in mosques and schools.

In this, quite frankly, Sadr has done it to himself. He has compelled his would-be supporters amongst Iran's hard-liners to break from him and to put distance between Iran's interests and Sadr's uprising. Along with this, Shiites all over Iraq are breaking from Sadr and ignoring his frantic calls for jihad and slave-taking. Sadr has been abandoned.

I'm not writing you blind to the casualties this is causing us. My battalion, the 16th Armored Engineers, should be home reunited w/ family and friends after serving a full year here. Instead, we are still here where the temp is reaching 115-125 degrees. And some of my fellow soldiers have fallen. Units of my battalion are right in the front of the fighting. Your prayers are needed. [A soldier] lost his eyes and a hand last week. The surgeons are trying to salvage his hand now by re-attaching it. This tragedy is a real nightmare. Another suffered shrapnel wounds in his abdomen. Others have been cut badly. Miracle of miracles, however, Sgt. Morales on Friday was shot in the CVC (helmet) -- the bullet ricocheted around his head and fired into the back of his seat, never cutting his skin!!!

I'm telling you this because you need to know that your soldiers are working their hardest. My unit is just one of many in this fight. What you need to do is be strong and persistent in your faith with us. Sadr's militia is in panic and desperate, so they are dangerous, but you need to keep this all in perspective. The pessimists would have you believe this is a disaster. Don't listen to them. I think some of them feel that their reputations require our failure because they have been so negative all along, so they are jumping at every opportunity to sensationalize what is happening here as a disaster. Eliminating Sadr's threat is part of the overall mission and we are further ensuring the liberation of the Iraqi people. This has to be done, and we are doing it.

Don't be seduced by those who would rather that we sit back and just enjoy the freedoms past generations of Americans have sacrificed to gain for us. This is our time to earn it. I remember President Bush saying after the September 11th attacks: "The commitment of our Fathers is now the calling of our time."
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Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Thank God it wasn't Sumatra...

My work schedule required me to do something this morning that I go to great lengths to avoid like the plague, country music, and John Kerry: drive on the Capitol Beltway in DC during morning rush hour. For those of you uninitiated, DC has the 2nd worst traffic in the nation. Aside from Los Angeles, you can't go anywhere in the borders of the United States and find worse traffic, period. I've made it something of a mandatory thing to avoid working anywhere that makes me drive during rush hour here. This morning's foray couldn't be helped or avoided. Well, fine. Just fine. (grumble, grumble - cuss, cuss.)

As I left my house this morning, I decided that if I was going to be stuck doing 25 on roads with 55-65 speed limits, I wasn't going to do it without coffee, so I pulled into the drive thru of the local McDonalds and grabbed 1 regulation-type medium coffee. Taking a brief moment to stir in the cream (or reasonable facsimile), I then got things in gear and headed into battle. While I pride myself on being a good driver and a fairly decisive one, I hold no candles to the maniacs, lunatics, and other road-rage candidates out there. While making sure to avoid getting stuck in the high-speed lane in front of them, I settled into one of the middle lanes and got myself stabilized. That complete, I decided to have a sip of my coffee before it got really cold.

In case you're ignoring that sense of impending doom: don't. It's about to pay off...

I carefully removed the little "drink here" cap and brought the cup up, never removing my eyes from the road. I was surprised the coffee was still as hot as it was and had to blow into it a little bit to cool it some. It was at that very moment that the cranially-challenged operator to my immediate forward-left made a sudden pull to the right, obviously intending to get into the lane I was currently using. My eyes snapped over and acquired him while I instantly began making the 100+ little calculations one makes in this kind of traffic. How fast is he going? Are we closing? If he continues, will he actually hit me, or miss? By how far? Where can I go from here in case he can't avoid hitting me? What are the road conditions? Etc, etc, etc. Turns out he realized almost immediately that he wasn't clear to complete his lane change and he stayed over there with a quick correction to his course. The last I saw of him, he was accelerating away from me, still in his lane.

What I had not seen was the pothole. Not a huge one, but rather deep. And positioned just so it'll give your tire a thump hard enough to actually bounce the whole car. Including you. Or rather, me. And, of course, anything I was holding at the time, e.g. a cup of fresh, steaming hot, ohmygoddon'tspillthatoritsgonnahurt coffee.

So, you spilled coffee in your lap?

Oooooohhhh, no, no, no, my friend. That'd be too easy. You see, when the car bounced, I bounced. When I bounced, the cup bounced. When the cup bounced, the liquid within tried to bounce, but was held in place by the lid I had so carefully made sure was attached. So when the car, I, and the cup lifted off and peaked, the coffee smacked into the top of the lid. When we 3 returned to our previous altitude, the liquid within the cup was still in transit back down. Ever see what happens to a liquid surface when that occurs? The weight wants to spread out from the center and climb the sides of the container. Again, no problem because there's that lid in place. Except, of course, where I'm trying to drink from it. Water follows the path of least resistance and coffee, apparently, thinks that's a pretty neat idea. There's a lot less resistance passing out through a hole in the lid.

Even if there's a set of nostrils located about one-half inch above that hole. Ever burn the roof of your mouth with hot coffee? You ain't seen nuthin' yet... The dollop of coffee that escaped the cup apparently morphed into something that must have resembled a coffee-colored 10-penny nail centered directly in the opening of my left nostil. I would say that it felt like a 10-penny nail, too, except that would be wildly inaccurate. It felt like a red hot 10-penny nail.

As you might imagine, my auto-systems took over and implemented their best-practice procedures for just this kind of emergency: they panicked. My eyes, which had only just returned to a forward-looking posture, attempted to evacuate from my skull, in opposite directions. As they attempted to flee along a vector consistent with the side of my head they had, up to then, been happy tenants of, the pain-avoidance department sent an urgent memo to motor control to lift my nose as far away from the coffee as possible. The vastly overwhelmed Common Sense division caught the alarm on the "Things That Aren't a Good Idea" panel and scrambled to override the previous memo which was being acted upon with all due haste. My eyes, having recognized that they weren't going to get very far anyway, relaxed back to their normal positions and reported that the fabric on the interior roof of my car seemed a little worn. (Thanks, boys, but I'm a little busy right now.) Common Sense escalated the issue to Motor Control's Manager who immediately implemented a countermand on the previous move, ordering the head back to normal alignment with all speed. The 1 brain cell still working on the "Good Foresight" project scatched its little synapses together and tried to remember whether it had actually sent the message requesting the arm move the cup out of the way, or had just written it and not put it in the mail.

Three guesses which one....

My head came snapping back down and I managed to just clip the edge of the cup with my chin. The cup was tilting dangerously toward pouring the coffee down my front and my arm and hand were going to have none of that. Lacking any orders to the contrary, they re-asserted the full upright position of the cup immediately - throwing the coffee within back toward the hole in the lid. The aforementioned "10-penny coffee nail" rose again from the depths and sailed back up the same damn nostril! (Ed. note: the term is pronounced: YYYYYYYYYYAAAAAAGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

My eyes had concluded that they weren't going to simply launch out of my eye sockets on their own, but bugging out was just fine. In fact, they obviously decided to get together and discuss the matter and made a highly credible attempt to meet over the bridge of my nose. Old Common Sense once again lost control and my nose headed for the ceiling to escape the molten lava java erupting from my cup. Again came the realization that this was an improper driving posture, but this time we'd bring the head down and pointing a bit left. This had the serendipitous effect of actually allowing my left eye to see right down the road in front of me, even though it had to look past the right eye to do so. At this point, Nasal Central finally got an open line to the switchboard and started screaming about getting "that hot shit outta here", and I realized that I now had 2 - count 'em, 2 - 10-penny nails' worth of hot coffee cooking my sinuses. Nasal Central had the answer for that and hit the Emergency Blow control while ignoring the Common Sense Manager's madly waving arms. I dimly recall the horrified look on the face of the commuter in the car to my immediate left as what must have appeared to be the Mother of All Boogers hit the inside of my driver's side window. (In a fine shade of mocha, no less.) It lacked finesse, but it did the job.

Meanwhile, the Fine Motor Control Division was finally making their tiny voice heard in reminding me that they had been continuing the piloting effort of my 1800-pound vehicle careening along at 60 or so in heavy traffic with almost no positioning data from my eyes, which (by the way) were giving the wide-eyed stare back at the horrified commuter while noting the slow drain the of the coffee-booger down the window. Dimly I became aware of that voice, curiously in a highland accent.

Cap'n! She canna take much muir, sair!!

Thankfully, I was then able to get my eyes back to the road and confirm that I was not only still in my lane but well outside any dangerous distance to the other traffic. Aside from the commuter to my left, who curiously seemed to be gagging over there, no one else had appeared to notice. After setting the coffee cup down as fast as I could, I assessed how long I'd been having an internal political struggle. Best guess: 3 seconds.

Longest part of my commute, bar none.

Video of execution of American in Iraq put up on terrorist web site.

This one's getting a lot of press. I don't buy the claim from these weasels that the killing was a retaliation for the prisoner abuse. They were ready to trade him for some of the prisoners, so they clearly didn't care about the treatment of the prisoners as a whole. When their offer was declined, suddenly they took up the cause. Nope. They're just looking to make some political hay off the issue. This was a murder, plain and simple. It should be dealt with as simply: find them. Prosecute them under the law.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

What's the resolution for the Iraqi prison abuses?

I think we all agree that what's happened with the abuse of Iraqi prisoners falls squarely in the "bad thing" category. Regardless of how our solidiers have been treated at the hands of Iraqi prison guards, having members of our military act in the same fashion is not acceptable, not by any means. Clearly, some things need to change and, just as clearly, some folks need to be held accountable. The question is: what changes and who's accountable?

I absolutely do not buy the argument that the soldiers who performed the actual abuses are blameless kids. "Kids." I keep hearing that, usually in the context of "what happened to these kids to make them do that." These aren't kids. They're legal adult citizens and soldiers of the United States of America and they should know better. "I was only following orders" hasn't been accepted as an excuse for abusing prisoners since Nuremberg and it should not be given credence here. How many of us needed to be told at that age that it wasn't proper behavior to wire people up to electical circuits and take pictures of them naked under duress? They knew it wasn't right, wasn't in keeping with the expected behavior of members of our military, and they did it anyway. That decision should cost them.

However, I also do not buy that they did this in a vaccuum. Somebody in the chain of command knew this was happening and may have even encouraged it. I want to know who those somebodies are. I want to know a) if they knew about it and why they thought it was acceptable or b) if they didn't know, then where the hell were they? The Red Cross seemed to know this was going on and even reported it. To whom? Why didn't the report move up from there, or better yet why were orders not immediately given to cease that shit? From the myriad of stories out about this matter, you hear that there was knowledge of the photos at some point back as far as February and that an investigation was in progress. Who was doing this investigation and why did the person in charge of that not see fit to report that it was in progress? At the very least the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs should have been advised. Better still would have been a report all the way up to the President. Why didn't that happen? Both the President and the Defense Secretary seemed to find out about this the same time we did: when the story was broken on CBS. They're both madder than hell and I don't blame them.

(Side note: may I ask what Einstein thought it was a good idea to take these kinds of pictures, anyway?)

No question about it: this has hurt. So, what do we do about it? Reading opinions from around the blogosphere and stories in the news media, I believe a 2-tiered approach should be made. First, reform how were dealing with the prisons. Make 110% sure the soldiers doing this duty are aware of what is and is not acceptable behavior. If the CIA and their assigns are discovered to have contributed to this whole matter, make damn sure they understand that they aren't calling the shots in prisoner treatment any more. Everyone in these prisons should be assessed - quickly - and if they're not reasonably sure these people are terrorists, they should be let go. Those that are reasonably assessed as being a threat or possessing better-than-average intel on a threat can be detained further. Allow Red Cross observers to view the prison conditions. (Make sure they understand the definition of "observer", however.) Lastly, this particular prison should be leveled. Completely. Build a soccer field on it, or whatever, but this building should be destroyed. Leave no brick standing on another.

Secondly, the unit involved in this scandal should be publicly dissolved. The members of the unit scattered to the 4 winds, the emblems and pennants removed from the Army's roster, the entire unit simply eliminated. Publicly.

I feel these 2 measures would send a clear message that America does not approve of, and will not tolerate, this kind of behavior.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Transition in Fallujah: Wrong message?

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I was concerned about the message being sent by pulling our forces away from Fallujah. So long as it was done in a fashion that made it clear that we were allowing the Iraqi Military to take over because we felt it was in everyone's - most especially the citizens of Iraq - best interest, that was fine. The last thing I wanted was to give the impression we were admitting a defeat of any kind. That would allow the insurgents in Fallujah to convince others that the US lacked the stomach to follow through.

Seems that's exactly the message that got across, however. The folks who have been shooting at our troops are running around saying "We won" and are also not abiding by the requirements of this transition arrangement. According to the Washington Post story, checkpoints and other security locations that were to have been handled by Iraqis are going unmanned.

Space Here As the militiamen drove through Fallujah in trucks and congregated on deserted street corners, residents flashed V-for-victory signs and mosques broadcast celebratory messages proclaiming triumph over the Americans.

Although the militiamen were scheduled to take over checkpoints and patrol duties from Marine units Friday, many of those tasks appeared to go unfulfilled Saturday. Several of the militiamen, clad in street clothes and toting battered AK-47 rifles, said they were still waiting for orders from their commanders. But as they waited, many said their first priority was to rejoice.

"We won," said one of the militiamen, a former soldier who gave his name only as Abu Abdullah, meaning the father of Abdullah. "We didn't want the Americans to enter the city and we succeeded."
Space Here

Marine commanders are supposedly unworried by the reaction but I'm less sure. I will defer to the commanders' opinion, however, since they're on the ground there and I'm not. I'm also less than enthused that the Iraqi Army folks who showed up came dressed in their Republican Guard uniforms and carried the old Saddam-era flag in front of them. That's picking nits, I realize, and I understand that from a practical perspective it's more important that they establish order than that they show up in a new uniform. I'd make it something of a priority to get that fixed, however. It may be the American knee-jerk response that appearances aren't the important thing, but that's not how they play the game in the Mid-East. Appearances are important there, and are perhaps the important thing. We'd do well to remember that.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Make them pay...

I've been involved in a new contract at work and that's been diverting a huge amount of my attention from the daily news. That's why I got suprised by the IM sent to me by my brother pointing me to an article on the photos from the Iraqi prison. You know the ones - the ones where supposedly honorable US Soldiers did Uday and Qusay proud with their treatment of prisoners they were supposed to be guarding. These disgusting piles of dung busily smearing shit all over the US military uniform and flag need to be held to account in a very, very public fashion. Their actions have severely damaged the reputation of the US Military, the US Government, and the American people. This is not acceptable by our standards. In fact, this is way, way past not acceptable.

I'm torn between wanting their sorry asses brought back to the US in prison orange jumpsuits and leg irons and then marched from Andrews Air Force Base to the brig at Quantico surrounded by family members of the men they mistreated. Family members armed with rattan canes. Hey, it's only 39 miles. That or stand them up right there in Baghdad and have them shot.

Either way, the President rightly proclaimed he was disgusted over the event. Now follow through, sir. Make this a priority and get those idiots out of uniform as fast as the military code of justice allows.