Saturday, July 30, 2005


The Big Picture and Scrambled Eggs

There are weeks, when there is so much written of importance, before I can gather my thoughts for commentary, there’s much more to read. If I did this for a living, I’d get really stressed out. Given that my day job is now serving in a Guard unit in Iraq, I think I can let myself off the hook. (But that still doesn’t make it any less frustrating!) (Sigh.)

The two most powerful writers on the war on terror were both directly on point this past week. Michael Ledeen incisively describes the Coalition of Evil, up at National Review Online, while previously, Victor Davis Hanson warns about the too often misunderstood ideological basis for the hate arrayed against us in And Then They Came After Us, also in National Review Online. Hanson also had a commentary appearing in the Washington Times.

But there’s more. I came across Fouad Ajami’s fine essay in the May/June Foreign Policy, The Autumn of the Autocrats, which followed close on the heels of a very revealing piece from The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Fighting Terrorism: Recommendations of Arab Reformists, by A. Dankowitz, with excerpts from Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, (London), July 25, 2005.

Man, oh man. Information (and Intelligence) is highly perishable, and the stuff’s been in the fridge for over a week. With all the eggshells breaking open back here at Blog Central, I thought it was time for some scrambled eggs, so here goes. (You’ll have to judge for yourself how edible it ends up.)

Who the Enemy Is

Michael Ledeen has been tracking the enemy at the gates for some time now, and I think he’s entitled to say that he was there pretty much at the inception (Cold War illusions intended). It’s too bad our Department of State couldn’t let his foot ride on the diplomatic accelerator pedal, then maybe we might start moving fast enough. (“Faster, Please” has been his signature line since 9/11.)

Ledeen knows who the enemy is, and is a steady voice reminding us the realities that remain unspoken in the diplo-speak that rules Foreign Policy and beguiles a reluctant press:
The centrality of Iran in the terror network is the dirty secret that most everyone knows, but will not pronounce. Our military people in both Iraq and Afghanistan have copious evidence of the Iranian role in the terror war against us and our allies. Every now and then Rumsfeld makes a passing reference to it. But we have known about Iranian assassination teams in Afghanistan ever since the fall of the Taliban, and we know that Iranians continue to fund, arm, and guide the forces of such terrorists as Gulbadin Hekmatyar. We know that Zarqawi operated out of Tehran for several years, and that one of his early successes — the creation of Ansar al Islam in northern Iraq, well before the arrival of Coalition forces — had Iranian approval and support. We also know that Zarqawi created a European terror network, again while in Tehran, and therefore the “news” that he has been recycled into the European theater is not news at all. It is testimony to his, and the Iranians, central role in the terrorist enterprise. And we know — from documents and photographs captured in Iraq during military operations against the terrorists — that the jihad in Iraq is powerfully supported by Damascus, Tehran, and Riyadh. (Ledeen)
Opponents of the current American administration wield the “who will we attack next” stick like there’s no reason to get out there swinging. In a more perfect world – and in one more self aware -- it might be more surprising that the U.S. shows such impressive restraint against those who have so clearly demonstrated they mean us harm.

And as Ledeen points out, it’s not just Iran, but Syria and Saudi Arabia, too. These are governments arrayed against us. Certainly there is a non-state component within our most dangerous enemies. But the non-state actors would be starved of capital, human resources, safe havens, and political legitimacy were we to hold their state sponsors accountable for their intrigues.

The Character of the Enemy

Too often, otherwise intelligent, insightful observers misread the true character of this enemy, we fail to properly press the fight, and we run the risk of losing. While there is a great cost to the war we fight, there is a far greater opportunity cost of failure.

Victor Davis Hanson brings the eye of the historian to bear on the threats we face. Our political leaders – and our opposition in the media – need to be strapped down Clockwork Orange style and force-fed a dose of the history Hanson has to share. How can anyone fail to see the connections running from the earliest evidence of Islamic Fundamentalism, through the evolution of the terror and cults of death its adherents have adopted? There is a willful ignorance in trying to cry “Hold!” to our efforts in response to not just threat but acts of savage violence. How can anyone view our responses as aggressive, yet those of our foes as self-defensive and worthy of pardon?

For those who can view things so contrary to what we can suppose is self- and nation-interest, we in the U.S. caused 9/11 and everything that has happened since. It's the OJ Trial scenario transposed onto the International Court of elitist opinion. “If they don’t fit, you must acquit.” All manner of evidence of guilt, of offense, of outright evil must be swept off the evidence table because the otherwise guilty parties have valid grievances. And if not in any one specific actual case of murder and mayhem, certainly we in the West have been guilty enough in the distant past of something or other – though those that follow this line of “thinking” are usually too undereducated in history to make much of a go at when and how exactly -- we were guilty of some transgression or other that justifies us giving the actual perpetrators of terror a pass now.

Hanson makes it clear for those whose glasses are too rose-colored (or fogged-up with moral drivel):
"The killers always allege particular gripes -- Australian troops in Iraq, Christian proselytizing, Hindu intolerance, occupation of the West Bank, theft of Arab petroleum, the Jews, attacks on the Taliban, the 15th-century reconquest of Spain, and, of course, the Crusades. But in most cases -- from Mohamed Atta, who crashed into the World Trade Center, to Ahmed Sheik, the former London School of Economics student who planned the beheading of Daniel Pearl, to Magdy Mahmoud Mustafa el-Nashar, the suspected American-educated bomb-maker in London -- the common bond is not poverty, a lack of education or legitimate grievance. Instead it is blind hatred instilled by militant Islam.” (Hanson)
Hatred. Of the West. Of America. Of Freedom not safely encased in the cocoons of burka or Sharia law. Yet even loosely defining our enemy as an Ideology or a set of beliefs carries hidden dangers. Some argue that al Qaeda is more of an idea or movement with little or no centralized control. Terrorism becomes individual (criminal) acts, not instruments of committed policy of hidden actors and governments. Hence the default to law enforcement as the solution. The problem with that approach reveals itself most apparently in its ineffectiveness, according to Ledeen:
The insistence that “al Qaeda” — defined as the main enemy — is highly decentralized has a lethal effect on designing an effective antiterrorist policy, for it reinforces the strategic paralysis that currently afflicts this administration. If we conceive the war against the terrorists as a long series of discrete engagements against separate groups in many countries, we will likely fail, beginning with Iraq. (Ledeen)
And if we allow those who cannot properly perceive the real threat against us, we shall surely fail, utterly and outright. Just this week, U.S. Senator and one-time Presidential Candidate John Kerry made a public statement that, to him, the “war” on Terror was not really a war at all, but first and foremost an issue of law enforcement. (“That’s right John, you go arrest those al Qaeda terrorists right now!”) On reflection, we can be thankful for so many things ...

Hanson points out that many other targets of Islamic terrorism had little understandable connection to alleged “grievances”:
So it is was becoming clear that butchery by radical Muslims in Bali, Darfur, Iraq, the Philippines Thailand, Turkey, Tunisia, and Iraq was not so tied to particular and “understandable” Islamic grievances.
The article by from MEMRI offers very useful advice on better understanding the threat, those individuals and forces that are part of the threat, and those individuals and perspectives that are harmful to effectively taking on the threat:
[Mamoun] Fandy also discussed the West's naiveté towards those it perceives as 'moderate Islamists': "I have met with and talked to a large number of Muslims, especially in the West, who denounce violence in public but say in private conversations that 'the West deserves [to suffer from terrorism].' In addition, they say in public that this is vengeance for what is happening in Palestine and Iraq. In their private conversations, all I have heard is blind hatred spurred by a sense of nihilistic destruction, which is a virus that has begun to take over many Muslims, particularly those living in the West.

"Many condemn bin Laden, but unfortunately many others have not condemned him in any way. Most of [the latter] live in Europe and the U.S. They are not sleeper cells, as the naïve in the West call them; they are cells that are wide awake, ready to strike at any moment. (Fandy via MEMRI)
Recent events in London underscore this assessment. (Note: For more thoughts on Britain and their current National Debate over the dangers of unfettered Multiculturalism, look for an upcoming post here at Dadmanly.)

Wrong Roads Wrongly Taken

There have been real -- and regrettable – consequences for wrongful response to the emergence of terrorism.

Hanson recounts some 40 years of terrorist violence against Israel. Efforts to understand the sources of violence, to justify and appease them, led to repetitive efforts to meliorate or compensate these “aggrieved victims” to a negotiated peace. Annually, billions of dollars of U.S. aid were shoveled by the boatful upon the Arab states at war with Israel. Terror continued apace, and failing to alter Israeli or U.S. Foreign Policy, began to target the United States. From Hanson:
Then the Islamists declared war on the United States. A quarter century of mass murdering of Americans followed in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, East Africa, the first effort to topple the World Trade Center, and the attack on the USS Cole. (Hanson)
And how did the U.S. respond?
We gave billions to Jordan, the Palestinians, and the Egyptians. Afghanistan was saved from the Soviets through U.S. aid. Kuwait was restored after Saddam’s annexation, and the holocaust of Bosnians and Kosovars halted by the American Air Force. Americans welcomed thousands of Arabs to our shores and allowed hundreds of madrassas and mosques to preach zealotry, anti-Semitism, and jihad without much scrutiny. (Hanson)
“Jaw, jaw, jaw is better than war, war, war,” is not only the motto of the appeasers, but naïve and nonsensical when dealing with religious fanatics.

“Can’t we talk over our differences?”

“Yes of course. You are the children of Satan and we are chosen of God. You must submit, or all will be killed, thus purifying the world for the beautiful rule to come.”

Any effort to understand the root causes of threats against us may seem the path towards peaceful resolutions, but the stated reasons and causes for violence bear little resemblance to reality. Again, Hanson:
Perhaps the jihadist killing was not over the West Bank or U.S. hegemony after all, but rather symptoms of a global pathology of young male Islamic radicals blaming all others for their own self-inflicted miseries, convinced that attacks on the infidel would win political concessions, restore pride, and prove to Israelis, Europeans, Americans — and about everybody else on the globe — that Middle Eastern warriors were full of confidence and pride after all. (Hanson)
The Weapons We Have
(And How We Can Win)

How it must start is correct appreciation and assessment of the enemy. No illusions, no modifications based on political correctness. It is as essential for policy makers to speak frankly to the public, as it is for commanders in the field to give plain, unambiguous, and decisive instructions in the battle space. Fandy declares:
"Only two things can stop terrorism:...issuing fatwa s removing bin Laden and his supporters from the fold of Islam, and the West ceasing to be naïve about 'moderate Islamists.' There is no such thing as 'moderate Islamists.' There are ordinary Muslims who lead ordinary lives, and there are terrorists and people who are likely to become terrorists in the future." (Fandy via MEMRI)
These disputes over the character of our enemy yet rage within another set of camps at war. How can we not see what so much of the rest of the world sees, at times so much more clearly than our educated western elites? Properly and broadly understood, Afghanistan and Iraq were merely initial steps to confront an enemy long known but equally long underestimated. And as great as our military prowess, and the excellence of our armed forces, military might is not the most powerful weapon in our arsenal. Ledeen gravely reflects:
We have killed thousands of terrorists there, and arrested many more, and yet we clearly have not dominated them. I quite believe that we are gaining support and cooperation from the Iraqi people, and I am in awe of the bravery and skills of our military men and women. But we are fighting a sucker’s war in Iraq, because the terrorists get a great deal of their support from the Syrians, Saudis, and Iranians, all of whom are rolling in oil money, all of whom are maneuvering desperately for survival, because they fear our most potent weapon: the democratic revolution that is simmering throughout the region, most recently in a series of street battles in Iranian cities. (Ledeen)
Fouad Ajami makes an impressive case for the power and appeal of the revolutionary character of the Arab Spring:
But suddenly it seems like the autumn of the dictators. Something different has been injected into this fight. The United States -- a great foreign power that once upheld the Arab autocrats, fearing what mass politics would bring -- now braves the storm. It has signaled its willingness to gamble on the young, the new, and the unknown. Autocracy was once deemed tolerable, but terrorists, nurtured in the shadow of such rule, attacked the United States on September 11, 2001. Now the Arabs, grasping for a new world, and the Americans, who have helped usher in this unprecedented moment, together ride this storm wave of freedom. (Ajami)
We can only hope that the intellectual and emotional strength that the concepts –and lived realities – of Democracy and Freedom will carry the day. They certainly energized our Nation and its society, and created out of this Great Experiment a “light” unto all the peoples of the earth, and yet draw the oppressed and the vanquished (in circumstance if not in spirit).

Ledeen is on a mission. And it isn’t just America he wants to rouse to battle, but the whole of the Western world. We need to know the intended targets of our enemies:
We can’t win this thing unless we recognize the real dimensions of the enemy forces, and the global aspirations they harbor. The battle for Iraq is today’s fight, but they intend to expand the war throughout the Western world. Indeed, that was their plan from the very beginning. From 9/11. (Ledeen)
There are many enemies we have not yet begun to fight with the full weight and measure of our mettle, against the whole of the enemy combatants (lawful or otherwise) arrayed against us:
President Bush’s original instincts were right: We are at war with a series of terrorist groups, supported by a group of nations, and it makes no sense to distinguish between them. We’re fighting fiercely against the terror groups, and we’re killing and defeating lots of them. But we’re not nearly as vigorous as we should be in speeding up the fall of the mullahs, the Assads, and a Saudi royal family that has played the leading role in spreading the doctrines that inspire the terrorists. (Ledeen)
And for Hanson, ever the historian, there are the lessons we learned only recently, but too many of us relegate them to ancient arguments of the past. He knows the promise of the Spring, remembering Prague, and sees a Cold War analogy relevant for today’s dangers:
It is time to relearn the lessons from the Cold War, when we saw millions of noble Poles, Romanians, Hungarians, and Czechs as enslaved under autocracy and a hateful ideology, and in need of democracy before they could confront the Communist terror in their midst.
There is no time to waste, we’ve expended far too much energy already, with little to show for it. I would echo Ledeen: “Can we move a bit faster, please?”

(Featured as a Covered Dish at Basil's Blog. Stop by today for Brunch!)

Friday, July 29, 2005


In Honor or Dishonor

(Via Instapundit)

Citizen Smash, along with Greyhawk and Blackfive rightfully take Sanford’s David Kennedy to task for his ignorant comments labeling today’s military men and women “Hessian” mercenaries due to the many financial benefits that the U.S. uses to try to better support and compensate their many sacrifices.

Smash suggests that Mr. Kennedy get out and get to know some of our military, which would quickly dispel many of the prejudices and biased stereotypes upon which he clearly makes many of his judgments.

I too have a suggestion for those on the left and our "intellectual" elites who still cling to the artifacts of ignorance about the military reflected in Kennedy’s remarks.

Rather than rely parasitically on those patriots who serve so that you won't need to, how about viewing a stint in the military as a civic obligation?

As Greyhawk proudly announces as a banner over at Mudville Gazette, "Good people sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."

It is the height of hypocrisy -- and perhaps reflective of an inner cowardice -- to assume that one can live in total liberty and freedom without ever making any sacrifice towards its preservation.

How sad that political orientation against the current administration, and the animosity that breeds, condemn the left to take such a blind opposition against any reasonable effort against the worldwide scourge of Islamic terrorism.

As Lincoln said during what had been the gravest crisis in our history:
"Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation."
In later years, many of those arrayed against us will come to regret that they did not have heart nor courage to support us, let alone join us in our struggle.

From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

St. Crispen's Day Speech, Shakespeare's HENRY V, C. 1599


John at Blogotional kindly links to my post, and pays me a very flattering (and somewhat exaggerated) compliment. He asks a fine question though:
What have you done to preserve your liberty and freedom today?
(Served Southern Style as a Covered Dish over at Basil's Blog. Swing by and check out the eats!)

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


Christian Carnival LXXX is Up!

The latest edition of the Christian Carnival has been posted at Daddypundit.

A quick stroll through the Carnival yielded the following treats.

There is a lot in our labels -- but we are not labels -- we are people, and we are people who are at our best when we find ourselves in a proper relation with the triune God--according to John at Blogotional.

Wayne's World 2005 looks into the human side of peacekeeping and reconstruction in Iraq through the eyes and handsome smile of Sgt. Wayne West and his family.

Lance at Ragged Edges also adds his two cents to the discussion in a post entitled There's Something About Harry.

And of course, I might suggest my own post, A Matter of Consequence, where I reflect on Abraham Lincoln, who led our country with deep conviction during a time of great tragedy and sacrifice. His words pointed back towards Truth and the Eternal he saw as directly guiding our Nation's destiny – if it would but survive.

Stop by, take a stroll, and do your part to encourage Christian blogging!


We Have the Poor With Us Always

Matthew Stokes at Stones Cry Out (I love their blog name) has an excellent post commenting on the ONE Campaign and world poverty. His thesis:
It seems more and more Christians are developing an open, demonstrable concern for third-world poverty. This is a good thing. I share these sentiments and I'm heartened to see others make overtures towards caring for the suffering overseas. My faith in Christ compels me to care for the fatherless and the widow. Yet I am also called to do everything to the glory of God, a phrase that the Church has long understood to mean a call to excellence. Christ has not called us to mediocrity, whether in the arts or the sciences or our daily work. And when we're talking about alleviating the suffering of millions of people and accomplishing that task with billions of other people's dollars, then the burden to do the right thing is that much greater. The issue of poverty in the third-world goes beyond wanting to help. That's a prerequisite to "doing the right thing." To do the right thing, we must move beyond the idea that our concern even matters. If our concern is misdirected, or we feel that doing something, anything, is better than doing nothing, then we've deluded ourselves and harmed the people we sought to help.
Matt has it exactly right. Watching the recent reporting on Live 8 and similar efforts, I immediately conclude that these efforts are counterproductive if they enable corrupt, malignant, and incompetent regimes to further enslave or impverish their own people. Overwhlemingly, poverty in nations of the Third World is greatly exascerbated (if not caused outright) by the thievery and venality of their despotic rulers. Violence and brutal mayhem, theft and genocide often accompany these miseries.

Yet we are called as Christians, to do everything for the glory of God, quite correctly understood as a call to excellence as Matt points out. Finding one's course in this regard requires great discernment, a proper quantity of which is all too frequently lacking on the part of well-intended but misguided celebrities.

Matt emphasizes that a change of heart is a necessary and critical component of any real change to the structures and causes of poverty and related depravations. As Christians, we must acknowledge that peace and truth that lasts comes only through Christ. He concludes:
As much as I pray that Africa and other poverty-stricken regions of the world can find relief, I must acknolwedge that true relief is found only in Christ. I must also acknowledge that my intentions mean nothing if my plans don't work. A fisherman can want with all his heart to catch a fish, but if he is not fishing correctly, his longing is in vain. Likewise we must acknowledge that Christ's command to care for the less fortunate must mean more than tossing money at the problem and thinking that true change can come from the government and not from the heart. To pretend otherwise is extremely dangerous.
We so often try to put troubles and problems out of sight and mind with mere money, don't we? That's perhaps our greatest temptation in this age of material over-abundance. Dollars to this, dollars to that, assuage our conscience and make the hurt seem so much further away from us and our creature comforts.

Jesus said, "For you have the poor with you always, but me you do not havce always." This was not intended as a perpetual acceptance of the misery of the poor, but rather a sad statement of the vagaries of this life, and the inevitability of those who will fall and stumble and lack through no fault of their own but by mere inheritance of poverty. When he said this, Jesus was warning His followers of that time that He would be taken away from them in sacrifice for their very sins and the sins of the whole world.

And yet, He knew that in the ripening of time and His Father's plan for salvation, that He must be taken and die and lie buried and rise again on the third day. And in this, His ressurection, atone for all the sins of man that make the everpresent poor and foresaken as foresaken as they are. And in that act of mercy, Jesus pointed a way towards the call to excellence, all for the glory of God. How mislead we would be, if we turned from His example and focused solely on the hurt we would vainly seek to soothe.


A Big Non-Problem

Greyhawk at Mudville Gazette notes some blatant misreporting in the London Daily Telegraph (scroll down). Greyhawk reports the Telegraph headline:
Stressed US Troops In Iraq 'Turning To Drugs'
Two years into the occupation of Iraq the menace of drug abuse appears to be afflicting American troops.
This kind of sloppy reporting really bothers me, beyond the obvious phony analogy to Vietnam era problems, symptomatic of poor morale and discipline from demoralized soldiers in an unpopular war. No, what bothers me is that any simpleton could contrast the rates of occurrence against (any) population and realize drug and alcohol abuse by soldiers is actually dramatically lower than for non-military populations.

As Greyhawk notes, in the US population as a whole:
An estimated 17.6 million American adults (8.5 percent) meet standard diagnostic criteria for an alcohol use disorder and approximately 4.2 million (2 percent) meet criteria for a drug use disorder. Overall, about one-tenth (9.4 percent) of American adults, or 19.4 million persons, meet clinical criteria for a substance use disorder -- either an alcohol or drug use disorder or both -- according to results from the 2001-2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) reported in the current Archives of General Psychiatry [Volume 61, August 2004: 807-816].

Note that the figures are estimates of numbers of people with use disorder, not one time, casual users. We'd expect that number to be higher.
And despite that the Telegraph in its own reporting notes that "out of the 4,000 men of the 256th Brigade Combat Team, only 53 faced alcohol-related charges and 48 were charged with drug offences" (according to US army figures). And without reporting statistics at multiple points in time, how does the Telegraph justify the scare headline that soldiers are "turning to drugs," which certainly implies an increase even if technically it doesn't necessarily say that.

Why are they so careless with their conclusions? Because they want the story first, then pounce on even the smallest amount of data points to "back it up."

Greyhawk, based on the actual data presented by the Telegraph, reaches the proper conclusion:
Still one thing seems certain - drug and alcohol problems aren't rampant among troops in Iraq.
As a First Sergeant for a National Guard Unit in Iraq, I deal first hand with any such infractions that may occur. Thus far, 7 months in, 200 soldiers, not a single incident, neither drug nor alcohol use, both expressly prohibited by General Orders.

Many of my soldiers know how to make beer, wine and other forms of alcohol; stateside they used to joke about setting up stills, faced with a complete prohibition on alcohol within Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). That's the kind of jokes soldiers make when they know, in the end, they'll follow orders or do some serious jail time or rank & pay reductions. Not once have I smelled alcohol, we do health & welfare inspections monthly, leaders live among their troops, there is just no way this is going on in our unit. And some of these guys knew how.

At Debate Space, the now dormant joint debate blog I started with The Liberal Avenger, I explained to LA the reasons we don't have these problems:
The security threat is high, thereby screening procedures include canine units, open container searches, and other technology based procedures.

Given what my soldiers have seen as the consequences for drug use, I think they would be pretty reluctant to get caught. (And anyone who knew or found out would talk about it, and eventually someone not your friend would find out.)
I also pointed out that we conduct regular, unit level random urinalysis in such a way that the soldiers never know if their turn is due until right before they are screened.

As I said then, I'll say again, we have not had anyone piss hot since prior to mobilization. Not here. Not now. Maybe it's because it could really get you killed here.

(Linked as Covered Dish at Basil's Blog)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


Profiles: The CO

This is the start of a series profiling the people I work with here at the Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Iraq. Today's profile: The Company Commander (CO).

Many MILBLOG readers will no doubt have a good handle on the role of the CO and his or her importance to the Army, and my regular readers probably have a good sense of it, too. As a First Sergeant, I work directly for the Company Commander, and represent his primary means of implementing any decision he makes. The CO directs, the 1SG makes it happen.

I have known my CO for the better part of 8 years now. I remember him as a Second Lieutenant, when we both worked for a very demanding Intel officer. (Others will still have more pointed descriptions, but I'm trying to remain respectful for those still within the range of his animus.) I was always struck by how much responsibility was loaded on him, how little appreciated he seemed to be to his superiors, yet how personable and positive he remained.

I watched him struggle against extreme personality conflicts, ignorance, no doubt some discrimination, and many dramatic changes in the Intel field and the National Guard over the years leading up to the post-9/11 era. He never avoided a difficult task, or shied away from a necessary confrontation. He learned his trade. Always on point, always aware, quicker to think than to talk.

He worked hard, he never gave up, and he did well. But he always lagged some of his more political-minded peers, always the last to make rank, with each promotion (and opportunity) a grudging one.

On the civilian side, he excelled, and I think that helped salve or avoid any grudges he might have otherwise have grown. He proved extremely adept at protocol and escort duties. His work in law enforcement brought him into regular contact with the movers and shakers, and he won admirers who no doubt appreciated this honest man who never seemed to harbor a personal agenda or seek unwarranted gain.

I have a favorite story about the CO from prior to our working together at Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC). To appreciate it, you have to know that the National Guard has had a practice of conducting staff and command exercises for major commands (Brigades, Divisions, and Corps), called a "Warfighter." Division staff could expect to undergo their own (evaluated) Warfighter exercise every 4 years, and be called in to support or augment subordinate or superior commands in the off years. Up until 9/11, Warfighter exercises were the closest any Guard unit would usually come to a real wartime environment, with the exception perhaps of UN Peacekeeping Missions in Bosnia or Kosovo.

For Intel weenies -- no disrespect intended to any old crows out there -- Warfighters meant two weeks out at Leavenworth where the really big issue was whether you got put up in the Hilton or if your Hotel had a bar or a pool (in that order of importance). Annual Training (AT)? That was per diem all the way, baby! The training itself consisted of command and staff exercise play, usually excluding the classified intel systems, but allowing the command elements to work through the intel and order processes. Not troop leading procedures by any means, no actual boots, wheels, or tracks on the ground, that sort of thing was done at joint readiness training centers (JRTC). So long hours, but no real hardship, and plenty of avenues for stress reduction. (Ahem.)

I remember one particular WarFighter, rumors were thick that our Division would be deactivated if we didn't do well. My CO was in charge of Collection Management at the time, and I believe had just received his 1LT. Collection Management & Dissemination (CM&D) is the most wonkish of the Intel processes for Division Intel, and required a thorough knowledge of collection assets and capabilities of which most of our supposed Intel officers were oblivious. (No really, they were like I am when someone starts talking about the insides of an engine, going all glassy eyed with talk of differentials and transmission components or fuel injectors and the like. What part of Intel weenie don't you understand? But I digress.)

Well my CO took on CM&D like he takes on anything. (It's not worth doing if you can't do it right.) And he struggled. Not because of his limitations, but because of the limitations of those around him, below him, above him. Like pushing the big rock up the clay hillside. In the rain. Big rock. Did I mention it was raining? You keep pushing, we have a 1500 tee time. We'll meet up at the bar later tonight, we'll check your slides out then. Keep up the good work.

He grew familiar with his trade, its components and capabilities. In one of those (I believe) divinely inspired coincidences, he ended up working with many of the very men and women with whom he would many years later go to war. The CO learned well how to read people, their strengths and especially their weaknesses. Often he jumped in and made up the difference.

I watched him get saddled with every difficulty during this exercise, every task that should have been tasked to more senior officers, but considered too difficult or "risky." No one wanted to fail, to look bad or be publicly humiliated by the difficult taskmaster we labored under, who had a microscopic view of deficiency (in his eyes), and no view at all of sharing credit when things went well.

I watched months of abuse leading up to an intense two weeks of abuse during the exercise that he endured. My CO kept his composure, kept coming back for more, and shamed many of his peers and superiors by his grace in the face of their disrespect.

When it was all over, as an Intel NCOIC within the Analysis and Control Element (ACE), I put him in for an Army Achievement Medal. I knew no one else would even think of it, and I wanted someone to say, good job." My CO spent a few years as a General's aide after that, only returning to our unit to take command, already behind the curve of his erstwhile peers and overqualified for the command if that was possible. But officers need their command time to advance, and my CO didn't want to take any shortcuts.

I had turned down a previous opportunity to be a First Sergeant for our HHC, feeling that my civilian career and family life would prevent me from giving the job the time it demanded and the soldiers deserved. Later on, when I heard that my current CO was to take the job, when asked I was eager to take on the challenge. When it became clear our "Peacekeeping" mission was to be Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) instead, I was relieved that he and I would lead the soldiers of our Battalion together.

(One short aside, at the time of mobilization, our "Battalion" consisted of an HHC, one small Company of radar guys, and a "plan" for several more companies. For half our mobilization training, we led the combined mass of both companies, as our C Company had about a dozen soldiers while we were at ten times that. So in a very real sense, the CO and I led our Battalion for much of our command time. Here in country, our C is still only 40 all told, we're 160 or so, and invariably pick up tasking for both companies.)

The CO was a driven man during mobilization training, and I think his many years of patiently working with the men and women of this command paid off. He knew well the challenges we would face. He knew it wouldn't be easy to overcome many of the Guard attitudes and mindset. He knew that anything less than complete preparedness might cost us lives. None of us knew exactly what we'd be called upon to do; we knew we'd be in harm's way, there were dangers, but not a lot of particulars in advance. The CO early on committed us (and himself) to training for worse case.

We exceeded expectations, and outperformed all of our adjacent commands during mobilization training. We arrived in country fully prepared, with a world class motor pool, an ACE as good or better than any active duty equivalent, all with soldiers that were still prepared to go toe to toe on combat patrols, running detention facilities, or conducting military operations in urban terrain (MOUT).

For a bunch part time soldiers and Guard technicians -- and especially us Intel weenies -- that was no small accomplishment.

He puts up with Battalion Staff, serves yet another demanding boss, has to make some pretty tough decisions, and he needs to hear my head fly off every week or so, usually about the Network or some Battalion escapade. He insists on taking the lead in taking on combat patrols, preferring that if any of his soldiers are in harm's way, he is too. I've never seen him put himself first, there has been no one he thinks not worth his time to work with to improve. At their worst, he sees the better of intents or some good to uncover where no one else would.

He is long overdue for Major. In response to superiors suggesting that "they can make it happen" (usually tied to some kind of favor or pressure they want to bring to bear), he answers "I'll get it. But I am going to finish what I started." By that he means, he led us to War, he will be the one to bring us home. God willing, that will include each and every one we brought.

And if we are so fortunate, it will be in no small measure due to his dedication, perseverance, loyalty, and strength.

(Linked as Covered Dish for Supper at Basil's Blog.)


Iraq and Ansar al Islam

Stephen F. Hayes makes note of some disturbing developments in a recent article, Another Link in the Chain, up at the Weekly Standard.

Hayes has been on constant watch over the as yet still not fully explained background plotting to the September 11th attack. In this, his latest exploration of facts ignored by U.S. mainstream media, he reminds us of initial reporting on Ansar al Islam, the shadowy Iraqi adjunct of al Qaeda:
AS THE WAR with Saddam's Iraq approached, a small group of terrorists in Kurdish-controlled Iraq garnered a significant amount of news coverage. Senior-level Bush administration officials had claimed that this group, Ansar al Islam, represented a key link between Saddam's regime and al Qaeda. There was evidence, after all, that Saddam's intelligence operatives funded and supplied the al Qaeda terrorists who joined this group's ranks in the wake of the invasion of Afghanistan. That evidence was hotly contested for months until the story of Ansar al Islam gradually receded from the headlines. Today, the group is hardly even mentioned--if at all--in above-the-fold stories by the U.S. press.
Yet, surprisingly, European press focuses quite extensively on Ansar al Islam, as noted by Hayes:
In France, according to one press account, authorities "launched a preventive operation . . . targeting highly radical individuals who have visited Syria and Iraq on several occasions." This group was reportedly "in contact with the Ansar al Islam." According to the German press, Ansar al Islam is the "target of Germany-wide police action" and more than several individuals have been arrested for alleged ties to the group. The CIA is accused of abducting the influential Islamist imam, Abu Umar, in Italy and the press there says he is "thought to be a member of the terrorist network known as Ansar al-Islam." According to one account in the Spanish press, authorities there recently "disbanded a terror ring linked to the Ansar al-Islam."
Hayes rightly question how what is dismissively described by U.S. media as a “small, motley collection of jihadists” can at the same time seem to control a sweeping international network. Hayes proceeds to ask two important questions: how did a “regional terrorist group” morph into a terrorist superpower, and what role did Saddam’s Iraq play in the group’s evolution? Hayes admonishes those who maintain that Iraq and al Qaeda had no connection of significance prior to toppling Saddam Hussein’s terror network -- was it not, against Shia, Kurds, Marsh Arabs, dissidents, Israel? – to accept what others equally opposed to the war in Iraq have concluded:
The evidence, of course, suggests that this analysis is wrong. Even as naysayers in the States continue to deny any connection, such staunchly anti-Iraq War publications as Le Monde have long since conceded the point. One day before the Time article, on July 9, the French daily published a news story that declared Ansar al Islam "was founded in 2001 with the joint help of Saddam Hussein--who intended to use it against moderate Kurds--and al Qaeda, which hoped to find in Kurdistan a new location that would receive its members."
This is the great untold story of the War on Terror (and hence the War in Iraq, truth be told). And outside of Hayes and a few conservative commentators, there isn’t an investigative reporter of any stature within a 1,000 miles of this scoop. We must encourage Hayes in his efforts to flag this story. Others need to get busy digging in.

Hayes mentions in his piece that compelling evidence suggests that Ansar al Islam was established a few weeks prior to the attacks of September 11, 2001. Might this not be relevant? Since Al Qaeda members fled Afghanistan to “safe haven” with Ansar al Islam in Iraq (with Hussein’s tacit permission), is it possible that was one of the primary purposes of setting up the group at its inception?

Wouldn’t this suggest that Hussein was a knowing collaborator and accomplice of 9/11, or at least an “in the know” sympathizer?

Friday, July 22, 2005


Hamas in Gaza

Is it too late to stop this train?

Barbara Lerner, writing in National Review Online, posts an urgent warning on the implications of an Israeli pullout from Gaza. In the excerpt below, I highlight Lerner's descriptions of what our enemies know in contradiction to what some of us think we know (Italics and emphasis mine):
We think Gaza is all about Israel and the Palestinians; our enemies know it's mainly about us. We think we are encouraging Israel to hand Gaza over to Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party, local Palestinians with purely local ambitions — ambitions that encompass the whole of Israel, perhaps, but nothing beyond it — ambitions that have nothing to do with us. Our enemies know that behind a Fatah fig leaf, we are handing Gaza over to Hamas, an international terrorist organization of global reach and ambition that is one of America's deadliest enemies. We think Hamas only attacks Jews. They know that Hamas is a main recruiting agent for Arab jihadists, not just from among the 2.4 million Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank and from the much larger numbers of Palestinians scattered in strategic enclaves throughout the region and the world, but for other Arabs too. We think Hamas sends all these jihadists only to Israel. They know Hamas sends a never-ending stream of them to Afghanistan, Chechnya, the Balkans, Kashmir, Lebanon and, most critically for us right now, to Iraq. And when our press insistently refers to Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the master terrorist who directs the foreign jihadists in Iraq, as "a Jordanian," our enemies laugh. They know Zarqawi has always called himself a Palestinian, and is recognized as such, in Jordan and throughout the Middle East.
It is so long past time that we emphasize that one of Saddam Hussein's primary lines of attack against the U.S. was his very active support of Palestinian terrorism and terrorists. From $25,000 death gratuities for Palestinian homicide bombers, to terrorist training camps, to safe haven, to Iraqi efforts to gain WMD that could be used against Israel in supposed sympathy to the Palestinian cause -- Saddam Hussein viewed the Palestinians as useful stooges in his ongoing vendetta against America and his competition with Iran as the pre-eminent Middle Eastern power.

As Lerner notes, "This is the reality we face: The "Palestinian democracy" we rattle on about is a mirage no desert-dweller is seduced by." We ignore the continued threat of the Palestine terror groups at our peril.

Is it too late to stop this train from leaving the Gaza station?

(Courtesy of Powerline)

(We're what's for dinner at Basil's Blog tonight. Check out the other offerings, if you're hungry.)


Iraqis on the Front Lines

John Hinderaker at Powerline posts on a translation of a report in Kululiraq, an Iraqi newspaper, sent by Haider Ajina:
Iraqis stood for three minutes of silence yesterday in commemoration of the lives lost in the two attacks in Baghdad Aljadedah and Almusaiyab, which claimed 105 martyrs, 32 of whom were children, and 128 wounded of whom 31 were children.
Hinderaker's report from Haider also includes this startling quote from the Iraqi Prime Minister Dr. Ibrahiem Aljaafary:
“We will not sway from our path and we will not kneel to those who commit these crimes.” He added, ”We are confident that all nations of this world stand beside us, because to day terrorism does not only affect us Iraqis but the whole world. We Iraqis have the honor of being in the front line in the fight against terrorism."
Hinderaker passes on Haider's disappointment that this protest and the Prime Minister's commentswent unreported in the Western Press. Haider observes:
The news reported the small anti America demonstration by Alsadar and some Baathists in April but some how missed the whole Iraqi nation standing still in defiance of terrorism.
As Hinderaker rightly observes:
The terrorists know that Iraq is the front line in the battle against terrorism; the Iraqis agree. Now if only we could convince the Democrats.
Those predisposed to view the war in Iraq as a distraction from the War on Terror -- a war such critics consistently underestimate, minimize, and mischaracterize in their attempt to be "objective" -- neglect and ignore any fact or event that refutes their prejudices. A very large majority of Mainstream Media practioners unfortunately, are willfully blind as they whistle past the graveyards.

And to those who want to suggest that our efforts in Iraq have fomented all this hatred, history and actual events forcefully refute this foolish assessment. The Rasputins behind Militant Islam declared war on the west, the U.S. pre-eiminently, long before we set foot in Iraq. They waged war against us long before 9/11. And in their blood-washed eyes, this war even preceeded the Modern Era, and even came before the Crusades, which they viewed as the West's last vain counter-attack against the Greater Caliphate.

The courageous now free citizens of Iraq share common cause with the Coalition for the time preserving their emergent Democracy. And they now share the risk of standing prominently against the terrorists, which of course makes them a target.

That's what happens when you're on the front lines.

(We're what's for dinner at Basil's Blog tonight. Check out the other offerings, if you're hungry.)

Thursday, July 21, 2005


A Matter of Consequence

Gladmanly has a new post up, covering a lot of ground in Paul's Letter to the Church in Rome, as well as Lincoln's 1862 Message to Congress. Here's a sample:
Abraham Lincoln, I believe, grew far greater in stature than his mere physical stature above others of his time. He led our country with deep conviction, during a time of great tragedy and sacrifice. Yet at the same time, he and his nation were barely beginning one of the great periods of advancement in technology, innovation, and human creative achievement. Yet his words ever pointed back towards Truth and the Eternal he saw as directly guiding our Nation’s destiny – if it would but survive.

I believe he knew Paul’s letter to the Romans intimately. His later reflections make clear that while he would at all costs preserve the Union, he was convinced (and convicted) that the terrible carnage and staggering human cost of the war on both sides was God’s wrath upon the sins of both sides in condoning, tolerating and abetting slavery for so long after our founding.
To read more, follow the link.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


Finally and Fully Back!

Am I glad that's over!

No, not my time away, that could have gone on forever with Mrs. Dadmanly, Jilly Bean, Spud, and Little Manly. I'm glad the Odyssey of my return has finally ended.

It is a pleasant idea that the process of the Army sending Soldiers home on R&R (Leave) reflects an admirable expediency. Policies, processes, and the core mechanics of the task favor the departing Soldier and gaining him or her maximum advantage in reaching final destination (home, vacation spot, whatever). Less pleasant is that the gathering back in of returnees is anything but. Some of it is probably due to physics. (Not like aerodynamics, although there may be some quantum components in play, but I digress).

Think of the difference between a fan (or central air?) and a vacuum. Going on leave is central air, coming back is a vacuum. (I'm beginning to enjoy this exercise, because of course, it goes without saying that going on leave is a blast, while coming back sucks.)

Sorry, back to our metaphorical construct. Soldiers going on leave (from Iraq) are immediately aggregated to a single colection point. The responsibility for moving these Soldiers is each individual command and base location, funneling to the collection point (that's like the air intake to the air conditioning system.) Again, the Soldier's aren't "drawn," they're "pushed" in this sense.

Once at the consolidation point, a huge air and ticketing operation kicks in, with the tremendous desire to get the Soldiers out of theater and on to their rest the "coolant." (Army, Air, military contractors, USO, various non-profits all contributing "freon" to the mix.) The output of this massive airlift operation blasts the departing Soldier to the 4 corners of the globe, home or some desired recreational venue.

And the U.S. Military and everyone involved does a terrific job. Most of our Soldiers made it home within 3 or 4 days, which with the distances and numbers involved seems pretty remarkable.

The return was remarkable, but not at all in the same way.

The return flights were all prebooked; as we hit our major stateside hub we were handed a return ticket that brought us all back at the appointed end of our leave period. Which of course efficiently returned each of us to the hub, which runs continuous operations back to the in-Theater end of the consolidation.

And this is when the vacuum gets turned on and the physics kick in.

Huge masses of Soldiers (and airmen and sailors and Marines in fact) need to now get back to their respective places of duty, and each trip may involve different varieties of fixed wing, rotary wing, and ground transportation (read, convoys) to get each Soldier "home." (Mrs. Dadmanly gets upset at how naturally I refer to my hootch here on the FOB as home, but it is my home away from home, and a rather nice one at that, despite how poorly it compares with ours stateside!)

Scheduling of all this transportation from the central site -- and all the required staging of Soldiers for billeting, dining, and personal hygiene -- becomes a logistical and management nightmare. Any casual reader of the Stars and Stripes (the unofficial, independent, but ubiquitous military-partnered media) would eventual stumble across the grumble fest of complaints about the R&R processing site in Kuwait.

Most of us can well tolerate the waiting, but conditions at the site can be deplorable, and the longer one sits there, the less tolerable they become. I myself spent 5 days on hold at the site, and through a combination of careless record-keeping, inefficient processing, and major problems with contracting operations, what might have been just tedious was often odious as well.

From the first day, we were all held in huge transient open bays (hanger-style warehouses actually). These remained lit 24 hours a day, subject to continual flow of personnel coming and going, and subject to regular, full-throated announcements every hour or so. (In our bay, this was most often, "Female on the Floor!" as all but one of the R&R schedulers was female, and the shortest route between her offices and half of the dozen or so bays involved went right through our section.)

Sometimes, this was to announce new or scheduled roll calls for flights, sometimes just to wake us up to police up the bays, sometimes to announce flight infomation formations. I would use the term "accountability" formations, but at no time was there an explicit check of names of individuals awaiting transport for specific destinations. The only time individuals were explicitly identified was when a manifest for a specific flight needed to be generated, and only those named to fit the allotted seats were recorded, with others identified as "hold-overs."

Once a flight got off the ground (and didn't somehow get turned around), any hold-overs went back into the pool of those awaiting flights, and there was no guarantee that those waiting longest would get first priority on any subsequent flight, though that was the stated and hoped for intent. But As my fellow management professionals would say, preferred outcomes don't just happen, they're managed.

Making an original flight manifest meant you had a 25% chance of actually leaving. Getting boarded on a bus for the airstrip for your manifested flight meant you had a 50% chance of making your destination. We watched some individuals make 6 or 7 attempts to get on a flight before one actually left, and actually made it to their destination.

Now, in fairness, summer months mean not only peak volume, but some of the worst weather for Kuwait and Iraq due to duststorms (as I've discussed previously, more accurately silt storms), high winds, reduced visibility, and reduced human resources due to -- you guessed it, those away on leave.

As if all of that doesn't make for a grandly aggravating return, pending changes to the R&R process and site locations are causing one-time disruptions to all manner of services and capabilities at the R&R collection and staging points. Base closures and relocations (in Theater and in interim locations) are causing limitations on services. Contracts are ending, repairs are forestalled, services are slow or halt altogether for who knows what reasons.

Recreation and personal care facilities, already very limited due to the necessities of being on a perpetual "stand-by" for any "pop-up" (unscheduled) flights, are further reduced by closures and breakdowns. Sanition facilities are taxed beyond their capacities. Contract personnel in some basic services are not being held to contract standards, and with contract ends looming, neither incentives nor disincentives have much hold.

Was it worth all the aggravation and unpleasantness? You bet. Precious time away with our families and friends in the midst of a prolonged separation and the hardships of deployment, priceless.

But with the week I had after I said goodbye to Mrs. Dadmanly and Little Manly, I was very relieved and grateful to get all the way back. Step foot into my hootch, drop my stuff, clean nearly 4 weeks of silt from every exposed surface in my room, take a shower, get some sleep, and catch up with my fellow soldiers.

Oh, and get back to work.

(Linked at Basil's Blog as Covered Dish for Lunch.)

Saturday, July 16, 2005


Summer Leave and Lincoln

The actual process of going on leave can be quite time-consuming, so while I am, in point of fact on my way, I am nevertheless in one of several possible holding patterns. I have enough certain time on my hands to safely interrupt my up and down again sleeping pattern to post a few thoughts.

(UPDATE: As a I finish this draft of a post I started at the beginning of leave, I am now in yet another multi-day holding pattern as I attempt top return, somewhere short of Iraq. More perhaps in a subsequent post.)

I took Sandberg's Lincoln with me for the rather extended travel phase of my leave, and he does not disappoint, and I have unbroken opportunity to not disappoint my own entertainment in his prose. Sandberg is of old schools, both of history and biography, and I suppose his own strong sense of poetry more than affects his work with Lincoln.

He sticks closely to his subject. He "embeds" himself in Lincoln's daily political life in working for the causes of the Whigs, a party shortly to fade into history, and forming the ideological and emotional center of the new cause to emerge as the Republican Party. There are fine details of city and statehouse politics, of picuine and tiny matters of jurisprudence of subtstance only yo those in litigation or under charges. There are many fine moments of the definition of the man that history would come to know as Lincoln, but first as "Old" or "Honest" or "Old Honest Abe."

And through this narrative the poetry of Lincoln's own narrative is what springs from the page, not Sandberg's verse. This is Lincoln's legacy, and Sandberg's virtue. Only the occasional flourish as he end's one chapter and presages the next, does Sandberg's own poetic voice murmur an occasional "thus it was."

Sandberg, in this perhaps his greatest effort, reminds me of my Great Grandfather, Carl S. Gray. My memories are as much family lore as first hand experience, as he passed away in my early youth. But what a legacy he left for his surviving family. He was born in the 1880's as I recall the story, and was as fascinating figure as my family had to offer. He wrote and prepared bound copies of poetry, contributing verse to collections with names such as Poets on the Prairie, but to make a living served in government, did a stint as Justice of the Peace, sold insurance, and spent years on a translation of Friederich Schindler's Willem Tell from the German. He spent his last years correcting errors he sought and found in the many crossword puzzles in regional publications.

I met Great Grandpa Gray on at least two occasions that I recall. Tall (at least to me) and thin, with a rather high pitched and raspy voice. My memories of Grandpa Gray reflect a last, stubborn strand of connection my family's Midwest legacy, a legacy that has sadly ben all but forgotten. In Sandberg's Lincoln, page upon page of the thought and life patterns of Lincoln's world capture vivid if fading glimpses of the near American Frontier as it passed into history.

These glimpses of life as it was are what strum so strongly on the chords of my sympathies.

Near the beginning of Lincoln, Sandberg describes the early Lincoln:
In the small clique of Springfield Whigs who had come to wield party controls, the opposition dubbed Lincoln the "Goliath of the Junto" (River). On streets, in crowds or gatherings, Lincoln's tall frame stood out. He was noticed, pointed out, questions asked about him. He couldn't slide into any group of standing people without all eyes finding out he was there. His head surmounting a group was gaunt and strange, onlookers remembering the high cheekbones, deep eye sockets, the coarse black hair bushy and tangled, the nose large and well shaped, the wide full-lipped mouth of many subtle changes from straight face to wide beaming smile. He was loose-jointed and comic with appeals in street-corner slang and dialect from the public square hitching-posts; yet at moments he was as strange and far-off as the last dark sands of a red sunset, solemn as naked facts of death and hunger. He was a seeker. Among others and deep in his own self, he was a seeker.
Perhaps there are some family resemblances, perhaps I am just overly nostalgic for an America that once was, but I think My Great Grandpa was a seeker, too.

And in learning more about Sandberg's Lincoln and his prairie roots, I learn something about my own past that has slid away from the memory of spoken word.

NEXT: Thoughts on the building threat to the Union and Lincoln's initial steps towards immortality.

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