Tuesday, October 31, 2006


AP Flacks for Kerry

Here I said “last word,” and then I read the dishonest AP attempt to back up Kerry’s absurd explanation for his slur against the troops:

Kerry opened his speech at Pasadena City College with several one-liners, saying at one point that Bush had lived in Texas but now "lives in a state of denial."

He then said: "You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."

The AP wants its readers to think that offensive remark immediately followed his joke about President Bush. In actuality, the remark came much later, not in the midst of jest, but smack in the middle of Kerry making serious observations about the importance of education, and the dangers of not taking it seriously enough.

The AP then goes on to regurgitate Kerry’s unapologetic rant about Republican dirty tricks almost in its entirety, while slipping a sentence or two about Press Spokesman Tony Snow or Republicans “sensing opportunity for their side.”

Otherwise? They slander the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and underscore how Kerry’s little tantrum was to show that “he’s not going to be pushed around this time.”

What a whiney, dishonest affair. The AP, Kerry, take your pick.


The Last Word on Kerry

Kerry, yet again, revealed himself as an idiot.

I reacted with indignation, as did many others.

Michael Ledeen wrote this, which I pass on in its entirety:

It's always interesting to see psychological projection at work. Kerry and his allies—obviously the Dems are defending him, aren't they?—are blaming the troops for the Dems' own ignorance and stupidity. I mean, it's hard to imagine anyone stupider than Kerry. Only a total buffoon would attack the troops at a key moment in the campaign. It makes it possible to say that the Dems really are the party of Kerry, Murtha, and the other appeasers. Must be Rove hypnosis at work.

Secondly, it underlines the near-total alienation of the American intellectual elite. I dare say that the leading news and editorial rooms, like the offices of the major universities, are full of people who quite agree with the notion that our troops are stupid and underprivileged. Each time one of our children ships out to the Middle East, we get condolence calls from friends and relatives. They simply cannot fathom it, it is so totally removed from their own experience and from their own narcissistic lives. They do not know uniformed people, they have only a totally misleading stereotype.

Third, I believe that the percentage of veterans in Congress is under fifteen percent. That makes it difficult for them, as a group, to understand military virtue or war. Obviously military service is not a panacea, as Kerry and Murtha have demonstrated. But I do think that in times of war it would help to have more veterans in the legislatures.

Finally, we know lots of military people, from bestarred generals to lance corporals. We've spent plenty of time with them, especially those who have been shot up and blown up. It would help the elite to spend some time in military hospitals, they'd be quite surprised at the intelligence, thoughtfulness, and good character of most of the men and women in uniform nowadays.

Quite aside from the politics of Kerry's buffoonery, this is a serious matter. The war is almost surely going to get worse, and we need leaders with a grasp of what it's about.

What more can anyone say?

Unless Kerry apologizes abjectly and without condition or excuse – “its that damn Johnson” – this ought to be the final word on this sad affair.

Linked by Blogotional


Upcoming Reads!

Some of the unexpected benefits of MILBLOGGING are occasional invitations to review books pre-publication, or early in a book’s release.

I just received what look like two great reads in the mail, courtesy of Simon and Schuster:

Sea of Thunder: Four Commanders and the Last Great Naval Campaign, 1941-1945, by Evan Thomas, publication date November 7, 2006.

Masters of the Air: America’s Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany, by Donald L. Miller, publication date October 10, 2006.

I’m looking forward to both of these, and I know a WWII Pacific Theater Vet (Elder Manly) and a certain young wargamer (Little Manly) who will be very happy to take their turn after me!

Seems like Simon and Schuster is quickly becoming my favorite publishers. Might have something to do with The Blog of War, but I’ll let others be the judge.



Andi of Andi’s World and MILBLOGS made her way back from SpouseBuzz Live, the military spouse blog-event in Killeen, Texas, this past Saturday October 28th. Killeen is otherwise known as the home for Fort Hood.

Here’s Andi’s initial after action report (AAR):

Since I began blogging, there have been three experiences that were so large, and so important, that it was impossible to capture the sentiment through a keyboard. The first large experience was my first trip to Walter Reed. The second experience was the MilBlog Conference and the third experience took place this past weekend in Killeen, Texas when SpouseBUZZ went live. Click here to read the Killeen Daily Herald story about SpouseBUZZ LIVE.

I’m an Army wife, I know this community. I’ve held the hands of wives at Walter Reed. I’ve let them cry on my shoulder and I’ve watched them face incredibly difficult obstacles with grace and dignity. I’ve received plenty of email from military spouses telling me of their fears and their challenges. SpouseBUZZ has been open long enough for me to know that military spouses are hungry for more avenues that provide support, love and laughter, which is why SpouseBUZZ exists in the first place. I thought I knew what there was to know, but I was wrong. What I didn’t know, until Saturday, was the degree to which military spouses are longing to hear the experiences of other spouses, and to discuss their own lives.

There were about 100 attendees at SpouseBUZZ LIVE, and I have no doubt that each one of them would tell you that what happened in that room on Saturday was one of the best and most important experiences they have had as a military spouse. I know it was for me. The military has support systems, and they are great, and they have their place, but the military doesn’t have anything that can come close to achieving what we achieved with SpouseBUZZ LIVE.

I truly wasn’t prepared for the emotion. Not prepared at all. Yes, I realized there would be emotion, but watching the faces of 100 spouses crying at the same time, nodding their heads in agreement at the same time and laughing at the same time, was a memory I will cherish forever.

It’s always bothered me when someone says, “You knew what you signed up for,” but it never bothered me to the extent that it does now. Now, after having a very young wife tell me that her husband is on his second OIF tour and has a baby coming soon. She prays for his safety. Now, after seeing the worry in the young face of one wife who told me that her husband deployed with a cast on his foot, and she is hoping he won't be sent out to the battlefield before he heals properly. Now, after listening to a wife take the microphone and tell us how she felt when she was speaking to her husband from theater while his FOB was being mortared. Now, after talking to a wife who finds herself in a new area, with new people and without a husband because he just deployed. Now, after hugging the necks of spouses who are simultaneously strong and frightened, brave and lonely. So no, we did not know what we “signed up for.” Nobody can prepare you for life as a military spouse during a time of war. If ever there were a “job” where on-the-job training is necessary, this is it. And if ever there were a job where someone deserves a medal for their sacrifices and endurance, this is it.

I often say that I wish every American could spend one hour at Walter Reed because it’s a life-altering experience. Similarly, I wish every military spouse could have attended SpouseBUZZ LIVE. It was that important and we made a difference in the lives of those who attended. Conversely, the audience members made a difference in the lives of the SpouseBUZZ authors. The camaraderie and sisterhood that was formed there will always exist.

It would be foolish to underestimate the impact that gathering military spouses together for a day of sharing can have. I’ve been to many events and briefings and functions and meetings. SpouseBUZZ LIVE was by far the most powerful event I have ever attended, and I’m motivated to do it again and again and again. I thought I was focused before, now I am more focused, with many new ideas and plans. Stay tuned....

How blessed and honored I am to be able to *work* with military spouses. There is no place I would rather be, especially now.

As those who operate SpouseBuzz bless those they serve, they will be blessed in return, and in abundance.

Here are some great summaries of the discussion, sharing, and relationship building that went on:

Conference Start-up, Panel One

Intro to Panel Two

Panel Two

Panel Three

SpouseBUZZ is the latest of Andi’s excellent adventures in the blogosphere, and already proving itself every day as an outstanding resource for military dependents and their families. When she says “stay tuned,” brothers and sisters, we’d better stay tuned. Something greater this way comes!

Many of my regular readers may remember that Mrs. Manly was scheduled to sit on one of the panels, and I was planning on live-blogging the event. Sadly, the Manly’s were hit last week with a family medical emergency. We had to withdraw from the conference, and it greatly pained us to do so. We prayed for the conference, and are very gratified that it was as meaningful as it was to attendees and participants alike.

The vague and uncertain cloud of dread that hung around us all week, has now condensed into our worst fears coming true. We now enter a season with which that Mrs. Manly and I, unfortunately, are well familiar. Those that can, please keep us in your prayers.


PR Campaigns

The week before critical US midterm elections, and the architects of a couple of high visibility public relations (PR) campaigns must be pretty satisfied.

Yes, Al Qaeda and the Democrats have every reason to be pleased.

Let’s talk declared enemies first. That’s right, Al Qaeda and their Media War.

These guys know what they’re doing, it’s pretty hard to argue with their success. They have an avowed PR Campaign, and captured documents reveal a complex and multi-faceted information operations (IO) effort, aimed at the instruments of Western media and their willing (if unwitting) practitioners.

What a result they’ve achieved.

All the news outlets are trumpeting “highest in a year” US Soldier deaths in Iraq, the very month before midterm elections. They did better than they hoped, no doubt, not just beating the year’s best, but moving ahead of the psychologically significant 100 per month figure. And coverage has been wall-to-wall, almost universal across all major media outlets, print, radio, TV, and cable.

Greyhawk of Mudville Gazette highlights a highly successful “Astroturfing” campaign, in which activist groups with a political agenda simulate a “grassroots” effort by “disillusioned” active duty soldiers against the war. Except, this grassroots effort was orchestrated by others that then “recruited” the military front-men required, as reported by the NY Sun (almost exclusively). Hence the term, “Astroturfing.” As described by Wikipedia:

In politics and advertising, the term astroturfing describes formal public relations (PR) campaigns which seek to create the impression of being a spontaneous, grassroots behavior. Hence the reference to the "AstroTurf" (artificial grass) is a metaphor to indicate "fake grassroots" support.

The goal of such campaign is to disguise the agenda of a political client as an independent public reaction to some political entity —a politician, political group, product, service, event. Astroturfers attempt to orchestrate the actions of apparently diverse and geographically distributed individuals, by both overt ("outreach," "awareness," etc.) and covert (disinformation) means. Astroturfing may be undertaken by anything from an individual pushing their own personal agenda through to highly organized professional groups with financial backing from large corporations.

Furthermore, as reported by Greyhawk and Blackfive, major media and responsive columnists have willingly transmitted Al Qaeda propaganda, without contrast or rebuttal, and without any acknowledgement of sources or evaluation of credibility. One suspects, since the source was not the Pentagon, no reason to suspect press manipulation, right?

Al Qaeda has every reason to be pleased with their PR campaign to turn the US electorate against the war and change the political equation in Washington.

As for the Democrats, let’s review their PR campaign.

Wait. No. That’s AQ. One minute please. Nope, that’s the Astroturfing we were talking about. Not that, more Media War.

I guess they didn’t need one this year, since AQ pretty much did it for them.

What do you call a political party that wants to take advantage of an avowed enemy and every step they take against the US? What would you say of a party that can take such advantage, because these enemies think the same things, say the same things, and want the same things?

When a political party can so closely align themselves with declared enemies of the US, they really ought to ask themselves how that can be. And we ought to be asking the same thing.

Monday, October 30, 2006


2006 Project Valour-IT-Army

Blackfive kicks of the 2006 Project Valour-IT fund raising campaign:

Want to be part of something big?

Project Valour-IT, in memory of SFC William V. Ziegenfuss (Captain Chuck Ziegenfuss' father), provides voice-controlled software and laptop computers to wounded Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines recovering from hand and arm injuries or amputations at major military medical centers. Operating laptops by speaking into a microphone, our wounded heroes are able to send and receive messages from friends and loved ones, surf the 'Net, and communicate with buddies still in the field without having to press a key or move a mouse.

Valour-IT's online fundraising competition begins today! Let's see who can raise the most money to help reconnect our wounded warriors with the world!

WHAT: Friendly fundraising competition for Valour-IT.
WHEN: October 30th through Veterans Day, November 10th .
WHERE: Based in the blogosphere, spreading everywhere else.
WHY: Because giving wounded warriors with hand and arm injuries access to a computer supports their healing and puts them back in touch with the world.
HOW: Blogger teams will be divided along military branches, with civilians "up for grabs."

The lines are drawn by service rivalry:

Jarheads (Marines) will be led by Villainous Company
Zoomies (Air Force) will be led by Op-For
Squids (Navy) will be led by Chaotic Synaptic Activity.
Doggies (Army) led by Matt and Jim of Blackfive

Non-military bloggers should choose the Army to support. Now, normally, I don't take part in the gentle inter-service rivalry, especially during war. But this is for a very important charity. So, civilian bloggers, choose your branch. Choose wisely...

Sign up for the Army team by enlisting at the Project Valour-IT site and click (under Army) "Join". We'll generate links, buzz, and get these heroes some Commo support!

What Valour-IT Needs From You:

Blog and email regularly about Valour-IT and the competition

Tell your friends, family and neighbors about Valour-IT

Put up these flyers around your community (I put one up at my local Starbucks).

So all you bloggers sign up with your choice of service and get the word out. Donate NOW!!!

It's a tax-deductible donation and eligible for matching funds from companies who do that sort of thing (see: http://soldiersangels.org/valour/irsinfo.html for proof for the cautious).

The snail mail address for those who'd rather donate that way (be sure to put ARMY in big letters on the check):

Soldiers' Angels

1150 N Loop 1604 W, Suite 108-493
San Antonio, TX 78248

Let's be a part of something big.

The Army Team:
From My Position...On the Way!

Badgers Forward
Tammi's World
Armchair Generalist
Patiently Waiting
Andrew Olmsted
Wild Tangents
My Side of the Puddle
G.R.I.T.S a/k/a Keep My Soldier Safe
The Thunder Run

…and now, Dadmanly as well.

Saturday, October 28, 2006



Andi, the creator of Andi’s World and primary architect of SpouseBUZZ, is about to kick off the SpouseBUZZ Live! Event.

For those who haven't been following, this is a terrific venture, sponsored by the Military.com folks. Here's Andi's explanation of the event:

We've been advertising this event over at SpouseBUZZ, but I wanted to let my readers know that the SpouseBUZZ crew will be live in Killeen, Texas on October 28. Military.com is sponsoring SpouseBUZZ LIVE, a one-day expo aimed at bringing military spouses together to discuss topics unique and important to us.

It's going to be a great event and if you can make it, download your free ticket here.

Panels for SpouseBUZZ LIVE are as follows:

THE MILSPOUSE EXPERIENCE: A warm-up discussion about the joys and challenges facing milspouses. This panel will feature a diverse group of spouses including active-duty, National Guard and a male spouse.

Moderated by Ward Carroll

Panelists: AWTM, Guard Wife, Sarah and Mike

DEPLOYMENT A-Z: A "potluck" discussion on a wide range of issues surrounding deployment.

Moderated by Vince Patton

Panelists: RedLegMeg, Airforcewife, Molly Pitcher, Love My Tanker

OVERCOMING LIFE CHALLENGES: How do you deal with the often-difficult reintegration period? What about PTSD? What happens if your spouse is wounded?

Moderated by Andi Hurley

Panelists: Joan D'Arc, GBear, Ft. Hood Family Advocacy Representative

There may be live web-streaming of SpouseBUZZ LIVE. If so, I'll be sure to pass the link on and, like the MilBlog conference, you'll be able to attend in the "virtual" sense.

I'm really looking forward to getting back to Ft. Hood and bonding with 500 other military spouses.

Mrs. Manly was scheduled to participate, but a family medical emergency will keep us tied to home for a while. We hate to miss this, but know many folks and families will be blessed!

Friday, October 27, 2006


Another TBOW Review

Marc Danziger (aka Armed Liberal) wrote a review of The Blog of War in The Examiner.

Here’s just a taste:

While it is an obvious thing to do to honor our dead soldiers, the joy of a book like this — and of the milblogs it gives a snapshot of — is to introduce you to very real words of our living ones. They are a very real manifestation of Whitman:

“I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear. …”

Fewer and fewer Americans know soldiers as the tradition of military service slips into history. Buy the book, meet some, and listen to them.

What a great review. AL, posting at Winds of Change, also encourages buyers of the book to follow up by sending a little note to some interested parties:

And when you buy the book, take a moment to send an email or letter to both the White House and the Secretary of Defense, asking why it is that midlevel Pentagon bureaucrats are choking off the ability of our troops to blog and of our bloggers (see this from Michael Yon) to cover the troops:

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED

Mr. Yon;

I do not recognize your website as a media organization that we will use as a source to credential journalists covering MNF-I operations.

LTC Barry Johnson
Director, CPIC

Some things speak for themselves. The war doesn't, and we need the voices of Blackfive and his band of bloggers, and of Michael Yon, and of all the men and women serving to try and comprehend what's going on over there.

Thanks, Marc. We’re pleased and proud to have you on the team. Wish we had more like you.


Today's Journalism

Writer and Blogger Cathy Seipp has a wonderfully breezy, near-insider’s reflection up at

National Review Online, discussing the efforts of The Los Angeles Times to remain relevant in a changing media environment.

Seipp claims responsibility for coining Spring Street to describe the LA Times, similar to how Grey Lady describes their New York City counterpart. Seipp demonstrates long familiarity – no doubt breeding considerable contempt – for the Times, and passes along several common criticisms for the LA paper. A couple in particular caught my attention:

Many of the complaints about the Times’ new front-page redesign dwell on how the page looks too similar to USA Today. I stand behind no man when it comes to my distaste for USA Today — when I stay at hotels offering complimentary issues of the traveling salesman’s broadsheet, I always ring up the front desk to demand, “Take it away, take it away, take it away!” — but cynics take a different view.
A TV writer and former magazine editor I know, for instance, once told me he cancelled his L.A. Times subscription to get USA Today instead, which really seems pretty crazy. He added that he just wants the following three questions answered when he reads his morning paper: 1) How are the Dodgers doing? 2) Rain today? 3) What’s on TV?
“Those are the only three answers I want from American journalism,” he noted. “USA Today is perfect.”

In light of all the recent discussion about journalism, embedded or otherwise, and MILBLOGS, I would draw a similar conclusion about mainstream media (MSM) in general.

From opening day till sometime (or late) in August, I want to know how the Red Sox are doing. Sure, I want to know the latest controversies or stupidities, but I get briefed on those (pretty much real time) online.

USA Today? Sure, whatever. Where are the Red Sox these days?

Thursday, October 26, 2006


Quick Updates

Two quick follow-up from an earlier item.

I want to highlight that the Military Reporters & Editors Convention starts today (10/26) in Evanston, IL. Looks like Blackfive, Michael Yon, and Bill Roggio will attend. Keynote addresses include Rajiv Chandrasekaran of the Washington Post and Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, U.S. Army Combined Arms Center, Fort Leavenworth, KS.

There might be some great insights, observations and even controversies that might come out from the Convention; we’ll have to stay tuned.

In going to my blogroll to get the link for Roggio, I noticed that Bill has some great background (and plenty foreground) reporting on the raid on Al Sadr to which Iraqi Prime Minister claimed to have not approved (but apparently did).

Check out The Fourth Rail for more information.


Soldier Voices Part Two

(A continuation from Soldier Voices Part One, also excerpted at Milblogs.)

In Soldier Voices Part One, I reported that I have been mulling over diverse viewpoints of both supporters and opponents of our efforts in Iraq. I am concerns over feedback from boots really on the ground, lower ranking enlisted soldiers and officers. In the midst of these reflections, I came across another kind of viewpoint, that of an embedded journalist.

Blackfive links, as I did, to Michael Yon’s piece on censorship and Michael Fumento’s piece on embedding. His links prompted journalist and veteran Carl Prine, to dismiss Fumento’s reporting as ill-informed, contrasting Fumento with Yon, who’s inability to get embedded Prine views as a shame (as do we all).

Prine was a Veteran Marine, then an investigative reporter, who after 9/11, re-enlisted as an Infantryman (MOS 11B). Those facts alone must make Prine almost unique within his profession. He’s a prize winner to be sure, no doubt tenacious, and quite skilled as a reporter.

Why do I dwell on these details? Not anything particular to his comments, he’s been previously critical of Yon, dismissing his work as poorly written and edited, in much the same way he criticizes Fumento.

Full disclaimer: I have criticized the work of Yon in the past for similar faults, but I greatly admire his dedication and commitment, and figure we should cut all kinds of slack to anybody who is trying to get Iraq reported honestly, first person. I also give anybody with that much enthusiasm and motivation the benefit of the doubt that they will learn, and improve. According to Prine, that’s how he now feels about Yon, “now cresting as a reporter.”

Prine didn’t stop with there, but adds that he views Yon’s recent reporting from Afghanistan has been “gloomy”but prescient:

Yon's piece is far more persuasive. He's grown into his job and has become a very impressive critic of both the press and the military. His writing from Afghanistan was some of the best that conflict has produced and let's mark it as prescient because his gloomy forecasts likely will come true.

Other commenters on the threat remark that Prine’s opinion of Yon surely improves to the degree that Yon is critical of the military. The threat degenerates for a time into a sparring session between Prine and host Blackfive.

One gets the impression these two have some prior history. Interestingly, in the course of their back and forth – won on volume perhaps by Prine, but without much response to Blackfive’s rebuttals on Fumento – they reveal that the Military Reporters & Editors Convention starts today (10/26) in Evanston, IL. Looks like Blackfive and Prine will attend, and Prine reports that Yon is speaking on Saturday, October 28th, along with Bill Roggio. Keynote addresses include Rajiv Chandrasekaran of the Washington Post and Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, U.S. Army Combined Arms Center, Fort Leavenworth, KS.

I tend to do searches on people of controversy these days – call me paranoid, suspicious of people’s motives, or just plain under-self-utilized – and found out Prine has a history of run-ins with other MILBLOGGERS, whom I believe Prine has less respect for than he would formal mainstream media (MSM) journalists.

Apparently, his prior criticisms of Yon raised some objection from fellow MILBLOGGER Chapomatic, who likewise engaged Prine in extended debate (and sparring). I’ve found Prine injecting his criticisms elsewhere in the blogosphere. Prine’s willingness to opine, and his tendency to elevate with praise MSM practitioners over the less than professional MILBLOGGERS, no doubt irritates many MILBLOGGERS.

Prine doesn’t dwell at all on his own perceptions of the situation in Iraq, although his reference to Yon and Yon’s discouragement over Afghanistan yield some clues as to Prine’s opinion.

Chapomatic quoted Prine’s summary objection to Yon’s work:

It’s good for what it is, but he’s not the best writer and his writing suffers from what every junior on the circuit experiences — the “soda straw” effect. That’s no rap on him, just a fact. He’s good for an entertaining look at a slice of life, but not a fuller picture.

Which closely parallels my own reservations about most MSM reporting on Iraq, and even the assessments of many of our own Intel Analysts. (See, again, my previous Patterns of Analysis for more in-depth discussion.)

The soda-straw effect. Of course, I don’t quite see what steps practitioners within the MSM take to avoid or prevent reporting through that soda-straw. Seems to me, that’s exactly the point Fumento was making in his piece, however unskillfully.

Perhaps Prine considers all that “environmental” and subjective commentary the MSM is so good (the Associated Press in particular) one great big gulp and swallow, in contrast. You recognize the standard TemplateTM it when you read it:

Amid worsening violence in Iraq and widespread calls for withdrawal from all sides politically, President Bush stubbornly insisted today that we will “stay the course,” regardless of how hopeless the situation grows.

Call it your standard Anti-war lead paragraph. (Or anti-Bush, depending on the context.)

Chapomatic has a more fundamental objection to Prine’s stance on “amateur reporters”:

The most important thing I see Prine misunderstanding is that this is an information war*. Prine talks about “illuminating his (the soldier’s) experience” and “preserving his moment in history”–but also important is “maintaining the national will to win”. The other side is using our open society to attack and kill us. They are using media to get what they want, change minds, recruit. They understand how to manipulate public opinion, and why the VC’s Giap was so successful in attacking our “national will” center of gravity. Our press has guys like Seymour Hersh trolling for any bad story he can find–no matter how untruthful or damaging–and a culture that often despises the military’s belief system and modus operandi. (Strong word? You should hear what I hear at the J-schools, from the midshipmen, from the journalists.) This is a fight to the death against an ideological foe, and the battlefields include public opinion. “Objectivity”, a fake sense of moral superiority, and facile “blood and circuses” misdirection on what matters in the long term most emphatically does not cut it.

I can’t find disagreement here with Chap. This is the heart of the Media War, and I wish we had more brave and aggressive guys like Prine willing “to enlist.” And I’d hope too, that Prine would at times consider, at least more consciously than I think he does, that his ability to report as he does, where he does, in the manner he does, is in large measure because of the freedoms he himself has fought to protect, and that those freedoms are in real jeopardy from enemies who will use every report, and every reporter, in its arsenal against us. They have found the Democratic equivalent to Lenin’s prognosis for Capitalism:

"The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them."

Only in this case, the radical Islamic terrorists use the critical and anti-government voices of the “free press” to implement their aims against the forces of democracy.

Having said all of that, let me conclude, again with Chap:

Prine, however, is putting his money where his mouth is. He took a pay cut and enlisted. I don’t know why he thought it was the best approach, but he is doing the hard thing. I only wish I felt that more of his comrades in the press were as willing to serve alongside us, either reporting, or fighting.

Ahem to that.


Soldier Voices (Part One)

I have spent considerable time lately mulling over diverse viewpoints of both supporters and opponents of our efforts in Iraq, and their implications for what I acknowledge as the Global War on Terror (GWOT), whatever terms are used to describe it. I am especially troubled by several, increasingly discordant strains of feedback coming from soldiers.

No, not the feedback packaged by General Officers enticed by fulfilling media, publishing, or partisan expectations, but feedback from boots really on the ground, lower ranking enlisted soldiers and officers.

Before I review some of these discordant voices, a disclaimer of sorts, to ground my opinion.

I believe we’re trying to do the right thing in an increasingly dangerous world. I further believe our President to be an honorable and religious man, true to his faith and to the American people, guided by his own discernment and spiritual practice, and supported in his decisions by military leaders who believe in their missions and possess the knowledge, skills, and leadership qualities to implement decisions as effectively as humanly possible. Mistakes have and will be made. However, I conclude that “sins of omission,” in a state of extreme threats to national security, have long been worse in practice than whatever our sins of commission, now that we act.

My regular readers know I am a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) III, mobilized and deployed to Iraq for most of 2005 with the New York Army National Guard’s 42nd Infantry (Rainbow) Division (ID). I was a Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC) First Sergeant (1SG) for the 642 Military Intelligence (MI) Battalion (BN). I have served as an Electronic Warfare (EW) and Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) Analyst (military occupational specialty or MOS 98C) and an All Source Analyst (MOS 96B).

I didn’t work the Intel mission in Iraq, as a 1SG, but I received regular updates on the situation in the local area (we were in Tikrit), as well as periodic reviews of situations elsewhere in Iraq.

My deployment experiences are mine, I deployed along with 200 others, and each of our experiences were different. We were all more or less “Fobbits,” so called from the Army nomenclature for Forward Operating Bases or FOBs. A dozen or so – a special group fp soldiers as I’ve written -- were attached to Scout units at remote locations. Many never left the FOB, except for a pass or R&R home, or when we left for good. A good number went on convoys regularly, with trips lasting anywhere from one to several hours. I went on about a dozen, more when I was filling in for our BN Command Sergeant Major (CSM).

My perceptions of Iraq, my time there and the military situation, is only one particular slice of experience out of the hundreds of thousands of soldiers who have deployed to Iraq. I have greatly augmented my own personal knowledge by talking to many other Vets, soldiers in my unit and others, reading widely among the MILBLOGS, and other media and reporting.

All by way of preface for a reflection on differing viewpoints.

Here’s one viewpoint that gave me pause, reported by James Taranto, in today’s Best of the Web at Opinion Journal (via Instapundit). Taranto passed along a letter from a Sergeant (SGT) involved in Human Intelligence (HUMINT) collection within the 4th ID, with apparently extensive contacts among other HUMINT analysts within the 4th ID area of operations, repeated here in its entirety:

There's been a lot of discussion back home about the course of the war, the righteousness of our involvement, the clarity of our execution, and what to do about the predicament in which we currently find ourselves. I just wanted to send you my firsthand account of what's happening here.

First, a little bit about me: I'm stationed slightly northwest of Baghdad in a mixed Sunni/Shia area. I'm a sergeant in the U.S. Army on a human intelligence collection team. I interact with Iraqis on a daily basis and I help put together the intel picture for our area of operations. I have contacts with friends, who are also in my job, in every area of operations in the Fourth Infantry Division footprint, and through our crosstalk I'd say I have a pretty damn good idea of what's going on in and around Baghdad on a micro and intermediary level.

I wrote heavily in favor of this war before I enlisted myself, and I still maintain that going into Iraq was not only the necessary thing to do, but the right thing to do as well.

There have been distinct failures of policy in Iraq. The vast majority of them fall under the category "failure to adapt." Basically U.S. policies have been several steps behind the changing conditions ever since we came into the country. I believe this is (in part) due to our plainly obvious desire to extricate ourselves from Iraq. I know President Bush is preaching "stay the course," but we came over here with a goal of handing over our battlespace to the Iraqis by the end of our tour here.

This breakneck pace with which we're trying to push the responsibility for governing and securing Iraq is irresponsible and suicidal. It's like throwing a brick on a house of cards and hoping it holds up. The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF)--a joint term referring to Iraqi army and Iraqi police--are so rife with corruption, insurgent sympathies and Shia militia members that they have zero effectiveness. Two Iraqi police brigades in Baghdad have been disbanded recently, and the general sentiment in our field is "Why stop there?" I can't tell you how many roadside bombs have been detonated against American forces within sight of ISF checkpoints. Faith in the Iraqi army is only slightly more justified than faith in the police--but even there, the problems of tribal loyalties, desertion, insufficient training, low morale and a failure to properly indoctrinate their soldiers results in a substandard, ineffective military. A lot of the problems are directly related to Arab culture, which traditionally doesn't see nepotism and graft as serious sins. Changing that is going to require a lot more than "benchmarks."

In Shia areas, the militias hold the real control of the city. They have infiltrated, co-opted or intimidated into submission the local police. They are expanding their territories, restricting freedom of movement for Sunnis, forcing mass migrations, spiking ethnic tensions, not to mention the murderous checkpoints, all while U.S. forces do . . . nothing.

For the first six months I was in country, sectarian violence was classified as an "Iraqi on Iraqi" crime. Division didn't want to hear about it. And, in a sense I can understand why. Because division realized that which the Iraqi people have come to realize: The American forces cannot protect them. We are too few in number and our mission is "stability and support." The problem is that there's nothing to give stability and support to. We hollowed out the Baathist regime, and we hastily set up this provisional government, thrusting political responsibility on a host of unknowns, each with his own political agenda, most funded by Iran, and we're seeing the results.

In Germany after World War II, we controlled our sector with approximately 500,000 troops, directly administering the area for 10 years while we rebuilt the country and rebuilt the social and political infrastructure needed to run it. In Iraq, we've got one-third that number of troops dealing with three times the population on a much faster timetable, and we're attempting to unify three distinct ethnic groups with no national interest and at least three outside influences (Saudi Arabian Wahhabists, Iranian mullahs and Syrian Baathists) each eagerly funding various groups in an attempt to see us fail. And we are.

If we continue on as is in Iraq, we will leave here (sooner or later) with a fractured state, a Rwanda-waiting-to-happen. "Stay the course" and refusing to admit that we're screwing things up is already killing a lot of people needlessly. Following through with such inane nonstrategy is going to be the death knell for hundreds of thousands of Sunnis.

We need to backtrack. We need to publicly admit we're backtracking. This is the opening battle of the ideological struggle of the 21st century. We cannot afford to lose it because of political inconveniences. Reassert direct administration, put 400,000 to 500,000 American troops on the ground, disband most of the current Iraqi police and retrain and reindoctrinate the Iraqi army until it becomes a military that's fighting for a nation, not simply some sect or faction. Reassure the Iraqi people that we're going to provide them security and then follow through. Disarm the nation: Sunnis, Shias, militia groups, everyone. Issue national ID cards to everyone and control the movement of the population.

If these three things are done, you can actually start the Iraqi economy again. Once people have a sense of security, they'll be able to leave their houses to go to work. Tell your American commanders that it's OK to pass up bad news--because part of the problem is that these issues are not reaching above the battalion or brigade level due to the can-do, make-it-happen culture indoctrinated into our U.S. officers. While the attitude is admirable, it also creates barriers to recognizing and dealing with on-the-ground realities.

James, there's a lot more to this than I've written here. The short of it is, the situation is salvageable, but not with "stay the course" and certainly not with cut and run. However, the commitment required to save it is something I doubt the American public is willing to swallow. I just don't see the current administration with the political capital remaining in order to properly motivate and convince the American public (or the West in general) of the necessity of these actions.

At the same time, failure in Iraq would be worse than a dozen Somalias, and would render us as impotent and emasculated as we were in the days after Vietnam. There is a global cultural-ideological struggle being waged, and abdication from Iraq is tantamount to concession.

This SGT sounds a lot like many of the young SGTs who worked the Intel mission for us. Their experiences are real, “ground truth,” and their perspective is important. It’s a slice, and an important one.

I wouldn’t even try to argue the good SGTs point about adapting late, or being a few steps behind our enemies in Iraq. Based on past experience, if we adapt at all while we’re in country and engaged, that’s a step ahead of where we usually are in any series of engagements, when we fight the last war with the tactics of the one before that. The Army is a big, cumbersome bureaucracy. If you were to ask me, I’d say that the kind of changes we need are far more in line with the dramatic changes attempted by Rumsfeld, rather than the old school thinking that drives many of the armchair Generals. Amazing that their answers are always more troops, more money, more certainty, and greater caution. And I think our good SGT is influenced by that kind of thinking.

Others have commented better than I can about the necessity of breaking Iraqi dependence upon US forces. More US troops offer more targets, especially if US forces were to take back on security duties already turned over or in the process of transition to Iraqi Security Forces. In many ways, viewing Iraqi security as inadequate, and requiring the resumption of US responsibilities defeats the purpose and maintains a dependency. The Iraqi Army and Iraqi police continue to learn “on the job,” they improve and strengthen.

As T. E. Lawrence is often quoted:

"Do not try to do too much with your own hands. Better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly. It is their war, and you are to help them, not to win it for them." (Full text of Lawrence’s Seven Pillars can be found online.)

I think there are fundamental differences between the challenge of reconstructing a savagely war torn and battered Germany and the debris of Nazism and the challenge of creating a democracy in the aftermath of the brutal Baathist regime. Germans had a history of democracy that could be reawakened. There were war criminals to prosecute and Nazi institutions to dissolve and rearchitect, but the people themselves were largely exhausted by their defeat and the destruction of the Nazi war machine.

Iraq has no such history, not with democracy nor with widespread societal destruction. Possibly ambivalent to their liberators, the Iraqi people would nevertheless more likely to resent and misinterpret a larger and more widespread US presence in Iraq. That was the logic as we implemented our plans. Some argue in hindsight that a greater presence would have prevented violence or defeated entirely the insurgency, but this is hindsight analysis impossible to verify. There are good reasons to predict that neither the Iraqi nor American publics would tolerate a greatly enhanced US presence at this later date.

As to 4th ID officers feeling pressured by superiors, or applying pressure to their subordinates, I can’t assess, other than to suggest that officers need to look to their own consciences. I don’t doubt such impulses exist, but I wonder how widespread, Priority Intelligence Requirements (PIR) are PIR, defined by Commanders. In our AO, I saw every confirmation that violence and hostilities or any kind, Iraqi on Coalition or Iraqi on Iraqi, got reported. These predominated in our Significant Acts (SIGACTS) reporting.

I’ve had conversations with many of our Intel SGTs who felt as this soldier does, and they can be troubling. I’ve written in the past about patterns of analysis, and how analysts sometimes lose perspective in broader patterns, trends and implications, given their almost exclusive focus on the pinprick data points of violence. If anything, the Intel picture focused on such data points, and could not offer any real insight or information about what wasn’t happening where it wasn’t happening – the “white space” between data points.

I also remind myself is what I remind myself: as an Intel soldier, I’ve been immersed in thinking Red. It took me a long time to learn even the rudiments of thinking Blue.

For the uninitiated, what I’m explaining is that Intel soldiers are taught extensively about threats: their doctrine, operations, and tactics, as well as warnings and indicators that reveal patterns that can explain enemy situation. That’s referred to as thinking Red, like the enemy. Not Red as in Communist, but the color of enemy symbology when depicted on overlays or maps.

I served as an Analyst for three years in Germany during the Cold War, and reported on hundreds of events and activities involving our former Cold War opponents, and never got a very good handle on US military doctrine or operations. That would have meant learning how to think Blue – the color of US and friendly forces. If I had been a Commissioned Officer, I might have learned more, as I did much later in my career as I filled staff positions and as a 1SG.

More voices and commentary to follow in Part Two.

Links: Gulf Coast Pundit, SeaSpook

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Media Warriors

Michael Fumento has got himself back into Iraq, and posts this report about reportage.

If you aren’t familiar with the man, here’s a blurb and link from his website:

Michael Fumento is a veteran of the 27th Engineer Brigade (Combat) (Airborne) and has been embedded three times in the western Iraqi region of Al Anbar. Read Michael Fumento's additional writing on the military, on Iraq, and on the media, and view his Spring 2006 Iraq photos from both the Fallujah area and Ramadi. View his 2005 Iraq photos.

So he’s an experienced embed, a veteran, and intimately familiar with the situation in Iraq generally, what goes on with our military, and how an embedded journalist can get the difficult job of reporting from Iraq.

Another independent journalist, Michael Yon, as well as leading MILBLOGGERS Greyhawk and Blackfive have recently strongly criticized the US Department of Defense (DoD) officials and military officers, for worrisome signs that key leaders in our war against Global terrorism and its practitioners, just don’t get the Media War or new media operations. All valid concerns, all rightful criticisms.

And yet, the journalists, their editors and publishers, and even the reading and viewing public share some responsibility in the poor state of journalism dealing with and in Iraq. Fumento offers some revealing insights, about the reporters “Hiding Out in Baghdad”:

It’s not fair to say the hotel-dwellers never leave their safe and comfy confines. “Despite the danger, Nancy [Youssef, Knight Ridder bureau chief] and her colleagues do venture out and do find inventive ways to talk with ordinary Iraqis,” then–Knight Ridder D.C. bureau chief Clark Hoyt wrote in a column. He explained that Nancy says, “When I go grocery shopping, I listen to people’s conversations. What are they talking about?” So this is what passes for “war correspondence” of the Baghdad Brigade.

Even journalists sympathetic to the Baghdad press corps admit they essentially just hide out. Here’s how The New York Review of Books put it last April: “The bitter truth is that doing any kind of work outside these American fortified zones has become so dangerous for foreigners as to be virtually suicidal. More and more journalists find themselves hunkered down inside whatever bubbles of refuge they have managed to create in order to insulate themselves from the lawlessness outside.” Unless you accept “insulation” as a synonym for “reporting,” this doesn’t speak well of the hotel denizens.

Other reporters have been less generous. The London Independent’s Robert Fisk has written of “hotel journalism,” while former Washington Post Bureau Chief Rajiv Chandrasekaran has called it “journalism by remote control.” More damningly, Maggie O’Kane of the British newspaper The Guardian said: “We no longer know what is going on, but we are pretending we do.” Ultimately, they can’t even cover Baghdad yet they pretend they can cover Ramadi.

Perhaps somewhat less so than in America, but I seriously question the value of any tidbits of information one picks up at the local farmers mart or bazaar in Baghdad.

Fumento contrasts the hiding out of some, with the risk-taking and arguably more dedicated and serious reporting done by others:

What leads the embeds into the most dangerous parts of Iraq is the glaring gap between the reality of the war and the virtuality emanating from the hotels of the IZ. One of them made this point quite forcefully in a recent column. Jerry Newberry, communications director for the Veterans of Foreign Wars and a Vietnam Army vet, wrote in a September column just before heading off for Afghanistan and then Iraq: “For the most part, the wars being fought by our people in Afghanistan and Iraq — their successes, heroism, and valor — [are] reported by some overpaid, makeup-wearing talking heads, sitting on their fat rear-ends in an air-conditioned hotel. They rely on Iraqi stringers to bring the stuff to them and then call it reporting.”

Newberry’s bravery and dedication are to be saluted, but as a combat vet he has advantages. So did I, as a veteran paratrooper (on my first trip) and a combat veteran (by the end of my second). Michael Yon, famed for his blog and award-winning photos of his nine-month embed with the infantry in Iraq is a former Green Beret. Writer and historian Andrew Lubin, a Fallujah-bound embed I met while getting credentialed on this trip, is a former Marine who goes to the rifle range twice monthly.

But Patrick Dollard, with no military training, left a cushy job as Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh’s agent to bunk down with Marines in Ramadi for seven months to film a documentary series (still being edited) that he hopes will show the real war and the real warriors.

In February, a Humvee he was traveling in hit a massive IED, which shredded the vehicle and killed two of the three Marines aboard. Dollard was injured and hospitalized. But he had a mission, and was quickly back on the job. The next month, another IED blast injured him, less seriously. Then . . . right back to work. Dollard’s experiences alone put the Baghdad press corps to shame. But he insisted to me that exchanging Hollywood for a hellhole wasn’t as hard as you’d imagine. “I had to feel the moral imperative to go, and clearly I did feel it,” he said.

The sad truth is that the mainstream media have no interest in covering the Iraq War for what it is, observes Dollard. He says they are interested in Iraq only so far as it is useful as a weapon against their self-imagined mortal political enemy, George W. Bush. The embeds, however, want the real picture — and we want to tell the truth about it to the world.

These soldiers possess and skillfully deploy the eyes, ears, minds, intellects, passions, and word processors that are the force multipliers in the Media War.

It is perhaps not surprising that mainstream media (MSM) mistrusts, dismisses, or resents these new media operatives encroaching on their turf.

It is unfathomable why DoD would view them the same way.

(Via Memeorandum)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006



Just one quick comment on the mid-term elections, upcoming in two weeks, and a little thought experiment.

Option 1. Imagine that the Democrats take both houses of Congress. What will the spontaneous and immediate reaction of Jihadists, Al Qaeda, mullahs in Tehran, Palestinians, Assad in Syria, Taliban, and other radical Jihadis?

Option 2. Now imagine that Republicans, contrary to all the political, media, and cultural forces aligned against them, retain both house of Congress. What’s the reaction of our enemies then?

Option 3. If it’s a split decision, houses split, Democrat and Republican, look for a qualified response that awaits whether the Democrats pursue investigations and impeachment probes. Then, see reaction for option #1.

Not that we should make our decisions based on what our enemies think, but it should be a sobering exercise. If you care about our Nation, that is.

Monday, October 23, 2006


Hindsight and Foresight

Victor Davis Hanson at National Review Online assesses the many reassessments coming in from all quarters on the wisdom, rightness or chance for success of our efforts in Iraq.

As his starting point, Hanson dismisses the great majority of negative commentary about Iraq that dwells on issues that are now entirely moot, and irrelevant. Most of the arguments, how many troops, how much to de-Baathify, what to do with the Iraqi Army, have been done and settled, and even the attempt to harp on these constitutes an implicit missing of the point that reflects ignorance, foolishness, or self or other deception.

He rightly characterizes many of these ruminations as not “second thoughts,” but third ones, as the practitioners of this form of politically opportunistic hindsight surely want to minimize any previous support. In reassessing, they dissemble and revision their history. They attempt to stir things up amid the current complexities of Iraq, and thereby dilute any possibility of their own responsibility for things as we see them now:

As we head for the November elections, most politicians have renounced their paternity of the now-orphaned American effort in Iraq. And pundits of summer 2003 have not just had second thoughts about Iraq in the autumn of our discontent in 2006 — but very public third thoughts about whether they ever really had their enthusiastic first ones.

Hanson correctly observes that the current strategy will be played out, more or less, faster or slower, as an inevitability that turns Iraqi security more and more over to the Iraqis. If the Democrats gain sufficient political control in midterm elections to influence policy in Iraq, they will more than likely be compelled and motivated to allow US military planners and leadership carry on, and continue to adapt as events and outcomes dictate. Any alternative – that will pull out precipitously (that ol’ cut and run) – would almost certainly suggest a far higher political price for their change in direction, than they have shown inclination to pay:

For all the Democrats loud criticism, if they do regain Congress, they would probably rely on the present expertise of a Khalizad, Abizaid, or Petraeus, and not the often quoted wisdom of three years past of a Gen. Shinseki or Zinni. I doubt they will bring back Gen. Wesley Clark to fix the “mess.” They will either have to cut off funds, ensure a pull out before the end of the year, and then watch real blood sport as reformers are butchered; or they will have to trust that our present military and civilian leadership has learned the hard lessons of three years in Iraq, and can find a way to stabilize the nascent democracy.

Hanson, from the solid rock of history, military affairs, and rational logic, sees much good where others see woe and chaos:

The odd thing is that, for all the gloom and furor, and real blunders, nevertheless, by the historical standards of most wars, we have done well enough to win in Iraq, and still have a good shot of doing the impossible in seeing this government survive. More importantly still, worldwide we are beating the Islamic fundamentalists and their autocratic supporters. Iranian-style theocracy has not spread. For all the talk of losing Afghanistan, the Taliban are still dispersed or in hiding — so is al Qaeda. Europe is galvanizing against Islamism in a way unimaginable just three years ago. The world is finally focusing on Iran. Hezbollah did not win the last war, but lost both prestige and billions of dollars in infrastructure, despite a lackluster effort by Israel. Elections have embarrassed a Hamas that, the global community sees, destroys most of what it touches and now must publicly confess that it will never recognize Israel. Countries like Libya are turning, and Syria is more isolated. If we keep the pressure up in Iraq and Afghanistan and work with our allies, Islamism and its facilitators will be proven bankrupt.

And on the verge of substantial accomplishment, if not outright victory, there are those who would try to win the Media War, by convincing us we’ve already lost.

(Via Real Clear Politics)

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