Tuesday, February 27, 2007
It seems like there’s an awful lot of analysis out there – note I didn’t say a lot of awful analysis – that warrants a lot of serious, statistical or logical challenge.
I have been tracking an ongoing conversation that springs from new reporting from Mother Jones, of all places, journalism-wise. As part of a series “Iraq 101,” Mother Jones hosts a piece written by Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank, entitled The Iraq Effect - The War in Iraq and Its Impact on the War on Terrorism.
Bergen is as reliable an anti-war critic as can be found, but he strenuously attempts to do so with evidence and data he marshals to achieve that end. He serves his purpose well, to the adoring and enduring gratitude of audiences for media such as The New York Times and Mother Jones. Preaches to the choir, he does, and thus his analysis predictably follows the liberal hymnal.
But don’t let me prejudice my readers’ opinions, here’s the raw data Bergen uses as cud for his chew, bottom line up front:
The Data:The Iraq War and Jihadist Terrorism
Period 1:September 12, 2001, to March 20, 2003 (invasion of Iraq): 18.25 months
Period 2: March 21, 2003, to September 30, 2006: 41.33 months
Let me don a statistical cap for a moment. Bergen qualifies his data selection, because indeed, the data shown above is an extraction of a fuller set of data that may or may not bear out the same arguments that Bergen makes on the basis of his custom set of data:
In order to zero in on The Iraq Effect, we focused on the rate of terrorist attacks in two time periods: September 12, 2001, to March 20, 2003 (the day of the Iraq invasion), and March 21, 2003, to September 30, 2006. Extending the data set before 9/11 would risk distorting the results, because the rate of attacks by jihadist groups jumped considerably after 9/11 as jihadist terrorists took inspiration from the events of that terrible day.First statistical objection. Would Bergen be willing to further detail the factual basis for his claim that the “rate of attacks by jihadist groups jumped considerably after 9/11 as jihadist terrorists took inspiration from the events of that terrible day”? Only between September 12, 2001 and March 20, 2003? Couldn’t it be quite possible that would be Jihadists continued to take inspiration from 9/11 after March 2003, indeed, still do so to this day? The Jihadi triumph of 9/11 still played a central theme within the ideological (and pathological) rantings by some of the same Jihadis Bergen quotes elsewhere.
We first determined which terrorist organizations should be classified as jihadist. We included in this group Sunni extremist groups affiliated with or sympathetic to the ideology of Al Qaeda. We decided to exclude terrorist attacks by Palestinian groups, as they depend largely on factors particular to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Our study draws its data from the MIPT-RAND Terrorism database (available at terrorismknowledgebase.org), which is widely considered to be the best publicly available database on terrorism incidents. RAND defines a terrorist attack as an attack on a civilian entity designed to promote fear or alarm and further a particular political agenda. In our study we only included attacks that caused at least one fatality and were attributed by RAND to a known jihadist group. In some terrorist attacks, and this is especially the case in Iraq, RAND has not been able to attribute a particular attack to a known jihadist group. Therefore our study likely understates the extent of jihadist terrorism in Iraq and around the world.
Forgive my cynicism, but I can’t help but feel there may be another factor at work in cropping the data the way Bergen does. It’s all about data selection and the specific objects for comparison, and Bergen, being an advocate for a particular position should be held to close scrutiny for his analytic assumptions. I would in fact suggest another possible reason for his decision, related to a second methodological objection, related to Bergen’s odd exclusion of Palestinian terrorist activity. This likewise explains Bergen’s careful choice of Jihadist as the definitional core of the terrorist activity he seeks to analyze, versus a more generic definition of terrorism.
This isn’t just some sop to Palestinian sympathizers, but an a priori (pre-existing) assumption that coincides with a particular geopolitical world view. Terrorist attacks by the PLO and related groups, aided and abetted by the same terror sponsors who sponsor Al Qaeda, are data inconvenient for Bergen’s argument and might cloud the conclusion. I don’t see mention of Hezbollah, but I would wonder if their terrorist activities couldn’t (and perhaps haven’t) been excluded by the same rationale.
By excluding considerations of prior eras and examples of modern terrorism, Bergen gets the result he wants, our efforts in Iraq make things worse. (Although, oddly, worse overwhelmingly limited in effect to the ongoing fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Funny how the Germans and Japanese actually killed more allies after we started fighting them.)
Just one objection more. If the data presented here were treated as a statistical sample, analytic results would be highly suspect because of the very small numbers involved. That, added to the known and documented strategy of media manipulation by Al Qaeda, Hezbollah and other like minded groups, in which attacks are carried out more for appearance than for effect, then forgive me if I draw one big, “So What?” conclusion.
Just for contrast, I’ve seen an analysis that suggests that when attacks against the West in the years 1998-2002 are compared to attacks in 2003-2007, you can actually calculate a dramatic decrease in Western deaths at all attributable to Jihadi terrorism (excluding Iraq and Afghanistan, as Bergen does). And that I guess should be the paramount objection to statistical cherry picking of this kind. You can come up with all kinds of justifications for why you include some and exclude other data occurrences, but when doing so yields the conclusion you seek, the analysis is dishonest, and the results unhelpful.
Granted, 9/11 is the great big anomaly in the data. It’s the great big motivator of Jihadis as well. The War in Iraq, much like the justification some of our enemies use from time to time about the plight of the Palestinians – a plight they decidedly ignore when given opportunity to offer tangible assistance – is just another brickbat to throw at the Americans.
I’ve heard a much more plausible explanation for why Jihadis are so energized against us. Not that our efforts in Iraq particularly enrage radical Muslims, but rather that apocalyptic calls for war against the US, the “Christian” West, and the “Zionist Enemies” get such incredible amounts of airtime and media play.
Linked by Mudville's Dawn Patrol.
He starts his critique with an anecdote of questionable import, describing how American troops “mistakenly” detained, searched and “jerked around” Amar al-Hakim, the son of the leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), presumed to be a cooperative Shia partner to the US and Coalition efforts in Iraq.
Peters relates that he reacted first with annoyance, then with indulgence, about what he perceives as an apparent lapse in tracking such an important personage. Why annoyance?
SCIRI certainly has some dark connections with Iran. The party's a dubious ally, at best. But jerking the boss' kid around was, in diplo-speak, "unhelpful." Even if Hakim Jr. was smuggling money, or worse.I think Peters would be right on target here, presuming of course that US Intel assets weren’t tracking the SCIRI lad, and US forces weren’t in fact tipped off to his travel. Offset, of course, by the high probability, suggested by Peters himself, that Hakim Jr. was conducting business at the least at cross-purposes to US interests, and quite possibly anti-US and Coalition.
I'd be shocked if he wasn't. It's the Middle East, folks. We're just betting we can handle the least poisonous local snakes.
As a former Military Intelligence officer, my first reaction to teaching Little Hakim the perp walk was: "Who's responsible for tracking this guy?"
A sound intel effort would monitor all of the male family members of Iraq's key leaders 24/7. How did Hakim Jr. slip off the reservation?
But Peters relents from his initial stance, and what follows is an exaggerated and unhelpful indictment of a specific piece of Intelligence processing software.
Peters sets up a straw man in his essay, the better to knock it down with the bat he will introduce. The problem is, he oversimplifies in building the straw man, and mischaracterizes the size and importance of his bat.
Peters makes the claim that those pushing an emphasis on Human Intelligence (HUMINT) were ignored, in favor of high priced technical intel solutions:
While a minority of us had argued since the mid-1980s that the human factor would be paramount in our future conflicts and that technology couldn't replace the human mind, the MI establishment just went on buying platinum-plated junk that never delivered a tenth of what the contractors and apostles of hi-tech promised.This calls to mind several Intelligence technologies and capabilities that proved dramatically successful, at least until the NY Times and Washington Post disclosed classified intelligence and tipped our enemies off. I also can’t help but recall any number of dramatic capabilities that have emerged and matured during my over two decades in Military Intelligence. This sounds a lot like, “Yeah, but what have you done for me lately?” We don’t get credit for wins, only blame for losses, and frankly, we don’t want a lot of publicity anyway. But Peters stance here strikes me as the kind of insiders lament that any of the INTS always indulge, at least when speaking of rival Intelligence sources. (HUMINT against IMINT, COMINT against ELINT, SIGINT against everybody. Look ‘em up, it will be good for you.)
Appropriate technologies can help us - but no database or collection system is a substitute for seasoned human judgment. The key task in intelligence is understanding the enemy. Machines do many things, but they still don't register flesh-and-blood relationships, self-sacrifice or fanaticism.
Forgetting that tech is supposed to support people, we wasted talented people supporting worthless technologies.
Peters then hefts to his shoulder his preferred bat against this straw man, a bat in the form of what Peters mischaracterizes as a “Rube Goldberg contraption”:
The cardinal example of this corrosive mentality was the purchase of a multibillion-dollar, Rube Goldberg contraption called the All Source Analysis System (ASAS). Under development for more than two decades, ASAS never worked. But a generation of senior MI leaders made rank pitching the system as the answer to every intelligence need.I can certainly understand the overall perspective, and perhaps Peters is right that ASAS was grossly over-hyped and over-sold, but I think he unhelpfully conflates ASAS with a lot of other intelligence technology components. Peters makes the ASAS sound like some ludicrously complex piece of hardware, but it’s actually a suite of intelligence analysis software. As such, the ASAS is the software tool at the user end of a very long and multi-threaded string of intelligence collection and processing capabilities. It’s actually one of the lesser expenses within the overall system that I believe would more accurately be the target of Peters’ ire. We’ve been training with it for over a decade, with admittedly poor results. But focusing on ASAS as the loci of one’s righteous indignation is kind of like beating on the ATM when the bank somehow misplaces the monies in your account.
ASAS was going to fuse the data from every classified intel source and give the commander instant, perfect answers. Early on - in 1984 - a self-assured technocrat in uniform told me that, within 10 years, human analysts would be irrelevant.
What ASAS hoped to replace was an analytic toolset of acetate, grease pencil, Sharpie pen, cabinets full of paper files records, and great multitudes of redundant situation maps and overlays, with data out of date before the ink was dry. ASAS was intended as a toolset that made it (theoretically) possible to filter all the disparate volumes of raw intelligence data into an electronic data store, supported by automation, which created a unified picture of battle spaces. Peters is 100% right that all of this software solution could only be in support of the most crucial element of any intelligence process or system: the analysts who sorted through the data and made analytic judgments and predictions. But that doesn’t make the ASAS software unnecessary, nor the effort unwarranted.
At every Warfighter I ever attended, ASAS was always part of the analytic toolset. And always, the ASAS naysayers outnumbered the proponents. We surely never gave the system a real chance, nor properly invested in the training commitment that would have been necessary to create a Fusion process truly supported by automation. It should be no surprise that MI reacted the same way in Iraq, when the stakes were higher and the frustration greater.
That being said, I do think it obvious from many years working Intel with and without ASAS (often with, but not used properly and thus ineffectively), that the underlying problem ASAS exposes is not a flaw in this or any other processing system, but the extreme magnitude of data, and the essential problems of how to find and extract the needles of interest, and once extracted, how to build anything resembling sensible understanding of what you're looking at.
Calling the MI bureaucracy bloated, stupid, and corrupt has a place, and I won't mind joining in on a chorus or two, but after we've had our fun with the Bronx cheers, where does that leave us?
If Peters knows how all these battle-wised "Dueces" [Division G2, and Brigade and Battalion S2, staff officers responsible for Intelligence and Security] are answering the root problems, he doesn't give a glimpse of what the answers are. Here’s what he does proclaim:
MI's combat veterans understand what intelligence must do, and they realize that satellites can't pierce the human soul. There's a powerful reform effort underway, from Iraq and Afghanistan back to the Army Intelligence Center and School.ASAS training, and it’s prominence at the schoolhouse, would have been more noticeable on the enlisted side of the house, as enlisted MI soldiers are the ones who are trained to do all the heavy ASAS lifting, not the MI officer consumers of product who receive its results. But I won’t challenge Peters premise that once, attendees of the MI Advanced course spent considerable time and effort on ASAS. I know they did in the MI MOS and NCOES courses on the enlisted side, so I’ll accept that MI practitioners spent a lot of effort learning ASAS, with little practicable result.
Today's Military Intelligence personnel are a damned sight better than my inept, physically slovenly and intellectually lazy generation was.
On a recent visit to the Intel School at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., I found that the last ASAS nonsense had been swept away. Captains returning from Iraq and Afghanistan for the Advanced Course - a training staple - had no patience with yesteryear's bureaucratic approach to intel. They know that commanders need results, not just data dumps. The lives of our soldiers depend upon the quality of our intel.
There still isn't nearly enough money for language training (Congress would rather pay contractors, as usual), and there isn't sufficient classroom time to make up fully for the lost years. But it was reassuring to see commanders, students and faculty discarding the old faith in technology's divine powers and coming to grips with the rigors of real intel work.
I am curious about all that good, combat-based training now that yields so much helpful insight into the Jihadi soul. (Sorry.) I also think efforts to introduce greater automation as a means of sifting through mountains of data can’t be rightly described as intellectual laziness, either. But, in focusing on the results commanders need versus dumps of raw data, Peters and I are in complete agreement.
Frankly, as to Peters aside about the need for more translators, I'm skeptical that having thousands more translators gives us anything more than a lot more raw data we can't patch into coherent understanding. That, and we're sure to gain a lot greater understanding of all manner of partisan, tribal, and old fashioned political machinations, and likely start paying too much attention to what the players say, rather than what they do. (Which in my opinion has been the kind of errant attention that bedeviled US Middle East foreign policy for over three decades.)
Linked at Mudville Gazette's Dawn Patrol.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
RE: Death and Politics
Many reader reactions to my earlier pieces this week on military death rates, and the political propaganda purposes to which such data are put, raised several objections and counter-arguments.
I appreciated the discussions and feedback, both positive and negative, and even those who found fault, did so respectfully and with information to back up their arguments. A rare circumstance, unfortunately, in my experience, and I wanted to draw attention to and return the compliment of civil disagreement and debate.
Blame this son of an Insurance Actuary – do other Insurance Industry progeny have this same obsession with statistics? – but I think it vitally important to address the statistical problems and issues that were raised in these discussions, as well as political or agenda-based concerns. Statistical means and methods first.
Several people made the same mistake I did at first, which was to mistake and misunderstand the data presented. Others, including myself and the author of the NY Sun piece, mixed two different cuts of data between the two examples, any selection of pre-Iraqi war military death rate data and what was in fact exclusively raw data on total military deaths in
The table that was presented was of military death rates from 1980-2004, not total deaths. Why is this important? Because unless you use death rates, you’re comparing raw number of deaths between years in which there were differences in the number of military. The tables showed the raw number of deaths in various categories per 100,000 individuals. That way, the rates in the various categories can be compared across periods in which the numbers in service fluctuated.
To pluck any segments of raw data out and use for comparison, without considering the basis and assumptions for those numbers, and finding a way to reconcile and/or extrapolate, means you’re comparing apples and oranges. Working through the available data, and selecting just those portions for comparison that exaggerate the predetermined effect you are seeking, intentionally introduces selection bias. If you pick only the data that supports your intent, and ignore data that refutes it, you get what you pay for. Call it the MSM Approach to Reporting on
Several commenters pointed out that death rates attributed to accident were steadily decreasing throughout the period in question, and that higher combat death rates are therefore masked in the composite, and this is no doubt true. I’ve served in the military, as a senior non-commissioned officer (NCO), and virtually my entire career involved in training. Two factors (no doubt, among others) contribute to this long-term trend of decreasing accidents.
Commanders and other Officers pay close attention to preventable accidents, and work procedures and training methods are under constant scrutiny and adaptation to prevent training and other accidents, on duty and off. That’s one factor, one closely associated with an overall workplace safety ethic, likewise reflected in OSHA and other type safety initiatives. The military, no less than other occupations, has been burdened by an increasing intolerance to any residual risk.
With the same effect but a different motivation, the military has also been constrained by the second factor I’ve seen at work: an almost total reluctance to ever risk military lives unless the risks have been severely mitigated, the benefits are enormous, and the potential cost in lives is infinitesimal. Call it the Powell Doctrine run amok, but it’s been at work in the American Military even before Gulf War One. (In fact, the first Gulf War,
Which gets me to the other objections to even having these discussions, that of playing on the turf of the war’s opponents, or somehow giving them a gotcha moment. Look, they pull the data and ignore the facts in giant orders of magnitude more than those who support the war and sometimes get the facts wrong. Our failings won’t give them any more ammunition they wouldn’t find on their own, manufacture, dream up, or distort through their kaleidoscopes of hate.
Any of us in the military know that what we’re really talking about is National Security and the preservation of our way of life. That we fight against multiple enemies, those within and without, who hate America, or reject our ideals, or despise what we represent, or resent our material success, or loath our cultures, or through misguided altruism or idealism, seek to control what God and our founding fathers meant to be free and at Liberty.
Every loss of life in the military piece of that fight represents great sacrifice of treasure, of course felt most deeply by the friends, family, and comrades in arms of those who fall.
But we can’t abandon any battleground in this war against our war. I consider arguing details against those who manipulate and misrepresent, who want to exploit the sacrifices of our military, is a part of a necessary struggle. I don’t think doing so demeans or belittles the military sacrifices. It’s not the only fight. It may not even be a very important one. But it’s a fight MILBLOGS are well suited to wage.
More to come.
Quagmire for Congress
The war against the war in
So Jules Crittenden describes the worsening political dilemma in which the war’s Congressional opponents find themselves, writing at Pajamas Media. (You have to check out Jules piece, if only to see the World War Two era poster graphic above the caption, “We were — neck deep in the Big Muddy, and the big fool said to push on.”)
Signs abound that the domestic political situation is better (or worse, depending on your politics) than might have been presumed, at least on the part of the mainstream media (MSM), ascendant Democrats, and weak-kneed Republicans.
Polls consistently affirm that Americans don’t want to lose or surrender in
Immediate positive results from the Iraqi surge campaign – Moqtada fleeing Baghdad for his puppet masters in Iran, decreased sectarian violence, several major battle wins, and major terrorist apprehensions – can’t have helped the Democrats in their covert actions against the war.
Jules’ take is right on target, however much his tongue rests in his cheek:
The situation is increasingly desperate. Americans, who had seen in the Democratic Congress a chance to extricate themselves from an unpopular conflict, appear to be coming to the conclusion that Bush’s war is a more attractive choice than the Democratic peace. Here are some of the ugly facts on the ground:
Ø Public Opinion Strategies found that 67 percent of voters think the country is going in the wrong direction and 60 percent think
Ø Hillary Clinton, trying out out-Obama Obama, is playing to the hard left in classic pre-primary strategy. That would be the 17% who favor immediate withdrawal.
Ø A majority, 56 percent of likely voters, say “Even if they have concerns about his war policies, Americans should stand behind the President in
Ø Other recent polls have found support for Bush’s troop surge surging, and while opposition to the war is high, so is opposition to (a) surrender, (b) losing, (c) defeat and (d) compelling the troops to do any of the same.
Hoisted by their own petard, goes the old saying, or be careful what you wish for. I have heard it identified as an old Chinese curse, “may you receive what you wish for.”
So that leaves much of Congress in a jar of their own pickling. (In the curds from their own cheese-making? In the butter of their own churning? In the mash from their own beer-making? I like the images, but none of them come out right in words.)
Here’s how Jules’ concluded:
Congress is unwilling to shed blood in defense of its own beliefs. The great, principled Democratic Congress lacks the strength of its own convictions, and all the rhetoric in the world can’t save it now. It is in a quagmire of its own.
However it’s described, the mess is what it is, and it’s surely more of a mess for those with no principles to guide them, no higher purpose to motivate them, and no recourse left to sympathy. They had none for the Administration, nor the military who serves all of our interests, until it suited theirs. Like the faithless servant in the New Testament parable, who, forgiven a great debt by his master, turns to extract a debt owed by another, with harshness and without mercy. That servant is then retaken for his debt, and thrown into utter darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
RE: More on Death and Politics
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Rep. Murtha, who cannot seem to help himself any more in matters of subtle politics, than he can keep himself or his friends from slurping loudly at the public till, let slip his ulterior motives in a webcast for MoveCongress.org. His Grand Plan involves making a phony show of support for the troops, pretending to continue to let the military fight, but by every means possible to strip away any capability for the military to actually conduct the fight.
As Lowry describes:
Murtha repeatedly says in the webcast that his proposals are meant to “protect” the troops. But he is frank about the not-so-ulterior motive of keeping more troops from heading to Iraq, explaining that “they won’t be able to do the work.” Because his provisions can be sold as guaranteeing the readiness and quality-of-life of the troops, Murtha believes that they “will be very hard to find fault with.”Here’s why Murtha and his cohorts have crafted their war strategy this particular way:
Just as disturbing is Murtha’s cynical reliance on failure in Iraq as a political strategy. The plan aptly has been described by Politico.com as a “slow-bleed” antiwar strategy. The surge is the best chance of turning the war around. By hampering it, Democrats will ensure that the war continues to fail, and thus that domestic political support for it plummets to the point where Democrats feel safe in defunding it. The subconscious logic of their position on the war has thus taken a subtle turn. It used to be that the war had to end because it was a failure; now it must fail so that it can end.Murtha believes – or wants us to believe – that there’s “no military solution in Iraq,” because there’s no real terrorist threat in Iraq. If we leave, Al Qaeda disappears. This would sound pretty astonishing, coming from a government representative, but from the same man who thought we could base a Middle East “quick reaction force” in Okinawa, it’s all of a stripe. He defines “beclowning.”
Democrats don’t see this distinction, since they simply believe the war is irretrievably lost.
“It must fail so that it can end.” So the Democrats believe. So that they can “win,” though America must lose. It’s a sacrifice they’re prepared to have us all make on their behalf.
National Review pointed out some other Congressional anti-war idiocy, Senator Carl Levin’s attempts to reauthorize force with so many constraints and obstacles as to make the authorization a de-authorization in disguise:
From last night’s Special Report with Brit Hume:Making the war unwinnable. That’s the Democrat intent.
—On the Democrats and the War—
KRAUTHAMMER: [Sen. Carl Levin] wants to reauthorize the use of force with a new resolution, but it would exclude combat missions. Think about that. Use of force, but it doesn't allow combat. It's an oxymoron; it's intended to make it impossible to conduct the war. Imagine, you'd have to have lawyers around General Petraeus in Baghdad every time he sends out a troop on patrol to decide if it's in a legal support function or if it's an illegal combat mission.
Look, some Democrats think the war is lost. If you think that, the honorable answer is to end the war and Congress has the power to cut off the funds tomorrow. What the Democrats are doing instead is to make the war unwinnable.
Levin would do it with a ridiculous amendment which would authorize force but not combat, and Murtha, in the House, would do it by, as he said, making it impossible for Petraeus to have the troop reinforcements and the command authority to win. So, if you want to end the war, end it, but don't make it unwinnable, which is what various Democratic amendments and propositions are all about.
Support the troops. Let them win.
We lose no more soldiers in Iraq than we would lose, on average, through training accidents, other accidents, and other causes. In other words, soldiers are no less safe (or no more in danger) in Iraq than they are anywhere else.
Sound incredible? It shouldn’t.
Because our soldiers are in Iraq, they are a target for terrorist attack, just as they are virtually anywhere in the world, and have been for two to three decades. Just as are diplomats, business people, and journalists.
The original impetus for Jonah’s post is what he describes as “a powerful op-ed,” written by Alicia Colon in the NY Sun. More on that article later. Jonah updates his original post, passing on feedback from a reader, providing detail to back up the assertion that more soldiers died from 1993-1996 than have died during the equivalent period from 2003 to present.
Here’s the reader’s contribution:
You asked for more information on military deaths. Here is a table of all military deaths, broken down by cause, over the 25 year period 1980-2004. This includes all active duty and reservists.The gist is that soldiers are more likely to die from accidents than hostile action (combat and terrorist actions combined). The death count from accidents has been lower than the death count from hostile action. The fall in accidental deaths is greater than the increase in deaths by hostile action.Note that there were far more military deaths in 1980, the last year of Carter's presidency, than any year of the current administration. The death rate was, also, higher. This was because of lower standards and less care in training.The bottom line is that we're fighting this war with lower casualties than that expected from normal training accidents in a peacetime army. You should be embarassed that you didn't know this. It's a testiment to the near universal innumeracy and incompetence of the journalism profession that most journalists haven't even seriously considered looking at basic statistics and putting things in context 5 1/2 years after 9/11.I can’t say that I’ve seen this data previously, or any such like it, but I have often remarked that I didn’t think we were losing soldiers at much more than the background rate we would, had those same soldiers been training or in a garrison environment.
And here's a DOD pdf on death rates.
Partly, this may be due to my prejudice towards always assuming the American Media will always pay attention to the wrong thing, and encourage the public to draw conclusions to those wrong things exactly 180 degrees from what should really be concluded. (Airbags and the scare involving the handfuls of deaths versus the many thousands they prevent is the usual subject for my rantings along these lines.)
But it is helpful to have data to backup what many of us know without seeing the data. We are accomplishing much at very little expense, comparatively, however much we grieve at the loss of many fine Americans who have volunteered to serve and paid the ultimate price.
Which brings me back to Alicia Colon’s fine essay in the NY Sun, Heroes and Cowards.
Here’s how she starts, which ought to shake some political timbers in Washington:
Corporal Thomas Saba was buried in the Moravian Cemetery on Staten Island last Friday. One of seven Marines killed when their helicopter was shot down in Iraq on February 7, Saba, 30, enlisted in the spring of 2002 in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001. He extended his five-year tour by five months so that he could go with his squadron to Iraq.Cowardly politicians. Ones on both sides of the aisle, who calculate first the political opportunity or risk to their personal ambitions, before any (if any) consideration of more moral equations.
It is absolutely amazing how America can continue to produce heroes such as Saba while electing cowardly politicians who mock their sacrifices.
But in the interest of factual clarity, and in rebuke of the lies Democrats and their craven Republican cohorts in Congress are spreading about Iraq, here’s some data from Colon’s essay (backed up by the data referenced by The Corner and mentioned previously):
The total military dead in the Iraq war between 2003 and this month stands at about 3,133. This is tragic, as are all deaths due to war, and we are facing a cowardly enemy unlike any other in our past that hides behind innocent citizens. Each death is blazoned in the headlines of newspapers and Internet sites. What is never compared is the number of military deaths during the Clinton administration: 1,245 in 1993; 1,109 in 1994; 1,055 in 1995; 1,008 in 1996. That's 4,417 deaths in peacetime but, of course, who's counting?I am outraged at the blatant lies, misrepresentations, and misreporting that leaves such perspective conspicuously absent in any major reporting about our efforts in Iraq. That all this media malfeasance is prompted by obvious intent to support narrow political agenda and objectives, is beyond outrage. It is as near to treasonous as we will likely ever see in our lifetimes. That Congressmen and women aid, abet, sponsor, and direct these fifth-column-acting-like-fourth-column elements is beyond belief, and completely indescribable.
They will have their Vietnam, Senators Kennedy and Schumer, Speaker Pelosi and her stooge Congressman Murtha, no matter what it takes in betrayal, disloyalty, breaks of faith, dishonor, discredit, or infamy. They are that remnant from the Vietnam era, selfish and self-centered while pretending a giant lie of altruism, who are trying to relive their glory days in a different, 12 September world. As Colon observes:
It is so pathetic now (while we have this valiant volunteer military) to watch these hoary relics of the 1960s trying to recapture the relevance of that period.Pathetic, and a disgrace to those who serve with honor.
Support the troops. Let them win.
(Cross posted at MILBLOGS)
Linked by Mudville Gazette's Dawn Patrol, and Jules Crittenden also comments on the NY Sun article.
UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit Readers! Check out the links on the upper left hand side for some Dadmanly background. And if you don't know about MILBLOGS, check us out for lots more discussion and insightly analysis.
Saturday, February 10, 2007
As Glenn says, it’s the Mother of All Corrections:
Correction to This ArticleThe essence of the correction is that Walter Pincus and R. Jeffrey Smith falsely attributed quotes and conclusions to the IG Report, which were actually made by Sen Levin some two and a half years ago. But note in bold italics the extent of “false, but accurate” justification offered by the Post in annotating their correction. (Take out the portions the Post misreported in their original piece and I’m not sure there’s even a story, there.)
A Feb. 9 front-page article about the Pentagon inspector general's report regarding the office of former undersecretary of defense Douglas J. Feith incorrectly attributed quotations to that report. References to Feith's office producing "reporting of dubious quality or reliability" and that the office "was predisposed to finding a significant relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda" were from a report issued by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) in Oct. 2004. Similarly, the quotes stating that Feith's office drew on "both reliable and unreliable reporting" to produce a link between al-Qaeda and Iraq "that was much stronger than that assessed by the IC [Intelligence Community] and more in accord with the policy views of senior officials in the Administration" were also from Levin's report. The article also stated that the intelligence provided by Feith's office supported the political views of senior administration officials, a conclusion that the inspector general's report did not draw. The two reports employ similar language to characterize the activities of Feith's office: Levin's report refers to an "alternative intelligence assessment process" developed in that office, while the inspector general's report states that the office "developed, produced, and then disseminated alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq and al Qaida relationship, which included some conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus of the Intelligence Community, to senior decision-makers." The inspector general's report further states that Feith's briefing to the White House in 2002 "undercuts the Intelligence Community" and "did draw conclusions that were not fully supported by the available intelligence." (Emphasis dadmanly]
An innocent mistake? That strains credibility. How about the alternate and more realistic explanation that Sen. Levin seeded this story to Pincus and Smith, in planned concert with his Senate Hearings?
That’s how the leak and plant game is played, in the Nation’s Capital. Letf wing bias on the part of the media? Hardly. Much more accurate to call it intentional collusion.
Friday, February 09, 2007
McCarthy notes reports in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the International Herald Tribune. At least one version of an Associated Press (AP) version, the one showing up on Yahoo, carries the inflammatory and exaggerated headline “Report says Pentagon manipulated intel.”
I’ve long grown accustomed to AP, Yahoo, and other news service headlines that hype only one side (guess which one) of controversies, but the AP story, as the others mentioned by McCarthy, all carry some amount of DoD or participant rebuttal to either the IG Report, or the extremely slanted characterization of the Report’s conclusions by Senator Carl Levin. No surprise the headlines match the left (Levin) side of the controversy.
And always, the media’s preferred take on controversy leads, with rebuttals or contrasting positions way down in the report. With frequent references to how “long awaited” this report has been, not having been expedited by the previous Congress. As McCarthy remarks, “Long awaited by Democratic Senators Carl Levin and Jay Rockefeller, anyway.”
Sens. Levin and Rockefeller must indeed be salivating over reviving all the Intelligence, National Security, and other Defense related debates they lost when out of power. It’s like one big do-over. Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Majority.
Of course, even the Times can’t hide a hint to a more balanced assessment in it’s lead paragraph:
A Pentagon investigation into the handling of prewar intelligence has criticized civilian Pentagon officials for conducting their own intelligence analysis to find links between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, but said the officials did not violate any laws or mislead Congress, according to Congressional officials who have read the report. [Emphasis mine.]Contrary to the distorted reporting in media, and the over the top caricature by Sens. Levin and Rockefeller, the IG Report makes the tepid claim that the more detailed reassessment of Intelligence, undertaken by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy in the wake of serious Intelligence failings prior to 9/11, was “inappropriate.” And that’s about all it claims. The bureaucratic equivalent of a hissy fit.
Further on, the Times notes a specific criticism in the IG Report:
The inspector general’s report criticizes a July 25, 2002, memo, written by an intelligence analyst detailed to Mr. Feith’s office, titled, “Iraq and al-Qaida: Making the Case.”How inappropriate for Under Secretary Feith to highlight reported ties between bin Laden and Iraq, back when those ties were murky and not well understood, in contrast to what was discovered post invasion! You’d think being right might hold some weight for the IG – and for the Democrats in Congress – but then that would require them to surrender their “Bush Lied!” mythology.
The memo said that, while “some analysts have argued” that Osama bin Laden would not cooperate with secular Arab entities like Iraq, “reporting indicates otherwise.”
Here’s how McCarthy characterizes the Report’s findings:
The IG’s report concludes that a Pentagon unit which scrubbed existing intelligence about Iraq’s terror ties under the leadership of Doug Feith, then-Undersecretary for Policy, did not mislead Congress. It further finds that neither Feith nor any other Defense officials engaged in wrong-doing. Nevertheless, acting Inspector General Thomas F. Gimble huffs and puffs and contends that Feith’s unit still behaved “inappropriately.”McCarthy likewise derides the Report characterizing Intelligence assessment as “inappropriate,” without much justification other than it went against the consensus of the Intelligence Community at the time. The same consensus which was proved stunningly oblivious to terrorist capabilities prior to 9/11, ignorant of North Korea’s nuclear accomplishments, or getting down to specifics, refuted by finds in Iraq after our invasion that document that Iraq did in fact cooperate with terrorists and directly support and sponsor acts of terror.
Why? Because it dared to question that which we now know for a fact was wrong: the Intelligence Community’s assessments about Iraq, and, in particular, the conventional wisdom that secular Saddam and his Baathists would never collude with Islamic fundamentalists.
Let’s leave aside the innumerable known connections between Saddam and Islamic terror—the harbored jihadists; the meetings between top al Qaeda and Iraqi intelligence officials; the $300,000 cash pay-off to Ayman Zawahiri in 1998; the Iraqi intelligence operative who accompanied a jihadist to Pakistan in 1998 to explore the possibility of bombing American and British targets; the Clinton administration’s 1998 bombing of a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory believed to be a WMD venture involving Iraq and al Qaeda; the Clinton administration’s conviction that Iraq offered bin Laden safe-harbor; the presence of an Iraqi intelligence operative at a 2000 Kuala Lampur meeting of terrorists later involved in the U.S.S. Cole and 9/11 attacks, etc., etc., etc.
Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that some or all of these things, and more, never really happened. How many more years does the Sunni resistance in Iraq—Baathists in confederation with jihadists—have to go on before Senator Levin & Co. give up that tired no-connection ghost?
It seems to me, that the most glaringly wrong assessment about Pre-War Intelligence lingers in the minds of Congressional Democrats. And oh how much we will be subjected to their continued ignorance!
McCarthy laments that we haven’t really fixed what’s broken in the Intelligence Community, which resists adopting a more “adversarial ethic,” which would allow alternate interpretations and viewpoints to compete with an institutional consensus that has been so stunningly wrong, and often:
The Intelligence Community has never assimilated this healthy adversarial ethic. Thus, we are constantly burned by the unpredicted. Yet the IC’s apologists want it immunized from criticism (especially when it is thoroughly politicized and reliably leaks to undermine a Republican administration) no matter how poorly it performs and no matter how much it gets wrong.Other commentators weigh in: Powerline, Macsmind, Flopping Aces, Dean's World.
Captain Ed draws a conclusion similar to mine, that this is all “political payback” now that the Dems are in charge.
UPDATE: Looks like I will cross over the 100,000 visits with this post today. I'm flattered that so many have visited. Thanks to all of my readers for their time and attention.
UPDATED UPDATE: Jules Crittenden links and posts on the Pentagon IG Report. He concentrates on the hyperbole of Sen. Levin, focusing on his exaggerated claim that the Report was a "devastating commentary." Thanks for the link, Jules!
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Living in Tyranny
The Citizens of New York live under Dictatorship, and have for quite some time.
Oh, it’s quite benevolent, as Dictatorships go, with an organizational structure which conceals the tyranny. But it’s a Dictatorship, all the same.
New York is ruled by a triumvirate of Potentates, with varying powers, but with every power of the State divvied up between the three. Only the most naïve of New Yorkers believes that when they go through the charade of electing State Senators and Assemblypersons, they are actually gaining representation.
Sure, they do get to vote for the Governor and several Statewide positions. But as we’ve witnessed with the outrageous appointment by Assembly Leader Sheldon Silver of a wholly unqualified candidate for State Comptroller, that doesn’t translate into power. As the former Governor quite ably demonstrated, the position of Governor of New York is a lesser Power than his fellow Dictators of the Triumvirate. Besides, the Governor will likely spend his days in office filling his troth, luxuriating his political benefactors, and most seriously of all, grandstanding every opportunity to position himself for a shot at National Recognition and position.
And really, do New York citizens really get to choose their Governor, or do the State Democrats and GOP work the deals out in advance, after some kingmaker like Alphonse D’Amato decides who the candidates should be? I mean, who really wanted George Pataki for 12 years? But was there any other serious alternative, other than self-funded independents? One should note that Governor Spitzer waited until Pataki stepped down to run, and his election race was likewise a cake walk against no serious opposition. It seems the two Parties like their Dictatorship just fine the way it is, only now, it’s the Democrats who get to pretend they run the State through elected officials, rather than lifetime incumbency appointment.
Senate Leader Senator Joseph Bruno is currently under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), details not disclosed, but even nominally clued in columnists can catalog a fair list of conflicts of interest, patronage and nepotism abuses.
Between the Governor, Bruno, and Silver, all State matters are decided. Bruno and Silver brook no contest or defiance to their absolute authority, and any rebellions, such as was attempted in 2000, are severely punished. To get anything accomplished, the Governor must kowtow to the all powerful Leaders of the State Houses. That doesn’t mean we the people, in any way, shape, form or manner. We might as well elect dogs and cats to sit in chambers, since only Bruno and Silver get to decide on anything. They’d make less of a mess, no doubt, and we wouldn’t have to worry about them getting arrested or driving drunk.
I suppose if you are a resident of the County of Rensselaer, or reside within the 64th Assembly District in lower Manhattan, the effects of living under tyranny don’t seem harmful or unpleasant. Live anywhere else in the aptly named Empire State, and you don’t have any representation in State Government.
For those who would accuse me of regional bias, it’s true, I live upstate, some miles west of the Hudson, which means I don’t benefit from the largesse of The Royal Joe, who stands out as premier among the latest trend for self-serving politicos to create giant Monuments to themselves while still serving in office. Used to be, you had to at least be retired, if not dead, but how can you bask in the self-adulating glow of that?
Newly elected Governor Eliot Spitzer is widely praised for his honesty and ethics, and all commentators loudly utter sighs of relief or plaintiff calls for salvation from this anticipated White Knight, who will clean up corruption and abuse of power. So the fable goes.
Silly people. Look no further than the selection of the new Comptroller by Emperor Silver, or the status quo budget proposed by the Governor, to see how likely any meaningful change will be.
If you say, “If you hate it so much, why don’t you move?” The answer is, if I didn’t have a child firmly established within the best Public School system in the State, I would. I should note that everything great about this school system, would be great without any state assistance whatsoever. Parents and community make this system what it is. So don’t tell me I’m benefiting from what I deplore, or biting the Royal Hand that feeds me, because it just isn’t so.
We have the highest taxes in the Nation, a continually growing state budget and Mommy State bureaucracy, and a population fully lulled into oblivious slumber. My fellow citizens are far more enraged about phantom, mythical usurpations of terrorist civil liberties, than the highly visible, very real abrogation of citizen rights within their own communities. They are taxed without representation, and every new power vested in Government adds ever more to the balance due. But it’s all about Iraq and that evil George Bush.
I’m with local radio host Paul Vandenberg, who may get a little unhinged sometimes. But not today, when he stated, that for the costs we’ve invested in Iraq, if we succeed, we will gain tremendously more benefit than what the Democrats propose. Years of living with the unintended consequences of the Welfare State should have fully demonstrated to New Yorkers, that in the end, we will never gain by yielding to all those pent up Democrat demands for ever more control, ever more services, ever more protection from any possible vicissitude of life.
And, I suppose, part of me thinks the State might be worth saving from Tyranny. But it would be nice to see somebody other than Tories, speaking up.
I direct your attention to an outstanding essay, covering much the same ground I have here, but with more facts and less emotion. (What can I say, I blog.)
The essay pleads, Help Us, Governor Spitzer!, and was written by Nicole Gelinas in the latest City Journal. I’ll try to follow up with another post on it, it’s an excellent survey of the sorrowful state of the State. Though I don’t retain any hope that the new Governor will be any more helpful than the last.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
(That’s hardly news, is it?)
The Associated Press continues to misreport recent events in the Senate.
In their report contrasting Democrat political maneuvering in the House, with their less successful partisan efforts in the Senate, the AP claims:
Under House rules, Democratic leaders have the authority to advance a measure to the floor for three days of debate and a vote.
That stands in contrast to the Senate, where Republicans have so far blocked an attempt by Democrats to hold a full-fledged debate on a war that has claimed the lives of more than 3,000
Weasels and their media zookeepers.
What the “Republicans blocked,” was a Senate Democrat attempt to move a single the Senate Resolution to cloture, as in, to end debate. What Sebate Repulicans and Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut objected to, was ham-fisted Democrat attempts to stifle any meaningful debate or offering of alternative legislation or amendments, to get their prize: a meaningless, posturing, repudiation of the Commander in Chief in a time of war.
As courageous Joe Lieberman pointed out yesterday, this was both unprecedented and an encouragement to our enemies. (You know, the real ones President Bush is supposedly distracted from dispatching, not the partisan ones.)
Friday, February 02, 2007
Call this an update from yesterday’s post on Iran.
Michael Ledeen laments the complete lack of leadership in
In contrast to the foolish Editors at the Times, and the spineless majorities in Congress, Ledeen holds this Administration and its heavy laden and latent Foreign Policymakers accountable: for too little action, too little show of strength, too little resolve, and no amount of clue at all, in dealing with
Never has a country strained so hard to avoid a conflict as the
So perhaps it’s finally come to a reckoning, long overdue.
I had a chat today with my former OIF Company Commander. We spoke of the bug-swarm of Presidential wannabes, and then turned to the subject of
“You don’t hear a lot about all the helicopters being shot down, all of a sudden. [Military officials] aren’t saying anything about why.”
“Shoulder fired missiles from
“Of course, where else would they be coming from?”
The CO mentioned that his wife asked him about those downed helicopters, mentioned in recent news reports. He said he got to thinking, and we both did, how for the first 2 years of OIF, air travel just wasn’t any concern for us. He flew rotary and fixed wing, in and around
There is nothing secret about Iranian offensive operations against us, directly or by proxy. I reveal nothing from classified Intel briefings in declaring that Iran and Syria have had a direct and heavy hand in everything the fledging Iraqi Government and the Coalition forces have faced in the nearly 4 years since we toppled Saddam Hussein. However much we have deceived ourselves, the attention of our enemies has never wavered, has never weakened.
Ledeen notes a flurry of press reports about this or that evidence of Iranian perfidy, as if we needed any more “smoking guns,” and declares it self-deception:
This is the pattern that led us straight to 9/11. For that matter, it got us to Pearl Harbor and to
We are not alone in this suicidal self-deception. Our friends across the water, those tough-minded Englishmen who have recently decided to abolish the Royal Navy for all intents and purposes, have been frenetically seducing us into one diplomat failure after another with regard to Iran for many years now. It is no surprise, then, that the
I can well imagine the debates now raging inside the Bush administration over what is apparently a substantial trove of devastating information about Iranian activities in
We come to the end of a very long road indeed, and the meter has greatly accumulated since we started our meandering journey. No matter what means or manner of payment, none of us will be happy about the fare. That won’t save us from paying every penny due.
This was never about happiness, or ideal solutions, or the smug complacency of all those strutting about today with eagle-eye hindsight and Chicken Little courage. Yesterday, I heard some clueless commentator lament that, although we’re all sure
The affairs of state, of National Security, aren’t the purview of some twisted OJ Simpson celebrity trial, where “if the glove don’t fit, you must acquit!” That kind of misguided devotion to certainty surely led Neville Chamberlain to believe Hitler would stop with Czechoslovakia, or convinced a spiteful and callous Congress that the citizens of South East Asia would be better off working out their own problems, under Communism if need be, but without further US support.
This kind of logic will destroy us, come the day of the first terrorist nuclear detonation, if we allow it to survive, whereby the handwringers and the morally crippled will say, “We don’t know Iran [or North Korea or Venezuela, or any of a dozen other nation states who plot and plan our destruction] had anything to do with it!”
Ledeen has gotten far more right than wrong, these years since 9/11, and more right than proponents and surely critics of the Bush Administration’s policies. He’s right now, though I doubt it causes him much comfort. Vindication will come, but much will be lost and the cost will be severe, the longer it takes us to wake from present slumber.
UPDATE: It looks like I attracted some hate comments and even hate rebuttal, both deleted. I apologize if anyone was offended by the crude and offesnive language, which will not be tolerated here.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
The New York Times says that President Bush is “bullying”
They claim that what they’re waiting for is diplomacy with
Think through the logic of this wholly dishonest Times Editorial:
We have no doubt about
On the one hand, the editors concede “Iran’s malign intent,” and since the don’t dispute the particular actions by which “Iran’s malign intent” is confirmed to the Paper of Record, let’s presume they know what the rest of us know: that Iran is at war with us, and actively sponsoring, supporting, directing, and conducting acts of war against us in Iraq and elsewhere. What in any generation of leadership prior to say, Jimmy Carter anyway, would have spit out their morning coffee over, and declared war. But for the modern ear, passes for subtleties of Inter-global diplomacy.
Which I suppose is the point. If, as the Times Editors, you believe that every ill in the Middle East was caused by or made infinitely worse by one gunslinger President from Texas, why then of course any step he takes to advance (or even defend) US interests give those poor, put upon Mullahs have no choice but threaten the annihilation of Israel or the subjection of Europe under Sharia law.
Same old same old from the Times. God forbid we act at all aggressively in the face of attack or acts of war. Heaven help us, no tough talk or implied threats or even demonstrations of resolve. Nope, just give total control back to the Democrats in
And of course, if it all turns to hell after George is gone, we can still blame him for everything.
Jules Crittenden, Mr. Bush, Stop Bullying Iran!
Marc Schulman, The New York Times on Iran
Dean Barnett, The Grey Lady Speaks
Billy Hollis, BUSH'S "BULLYING"
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