Peace Like A River


It was a wide river, mistakable for a lake or even an ocean unless you'd been wading and knew its current. Somehow I'd crossed it... Now I saw the stream regrouped below, flowing on through what might've been vineyards, pastures, orhards... It flowed between and alongside the rivers of people; from here it was no more than a silver wire winding toward the city. - Leif Enger, Peace Like A River

Monday, October 31, 2005

The wild west

Coalition forces continue to put pressure on the terrorists in the Euphrates river towns near the Syrian border in western Iraq.

CentCom issued this press release today:

A Saudi-born member of al Qaeda involved in smuggling foreign fighters into Iraq was killed Oct. 29 as he attempted to flee Coalition Forces.

Multiple intelligence sources and tips from concerned citizens led Coalition Forces to a location near Ubaydi where a senior Saudi al Qaeda foreign fighter facilitator known as Sa置d (aka Abu Sa置d) would be located. Upon arrival at the location, Coalition Forces attempted to secure the vehicle containing Sa置d and other terrorists when the driver tried to escape. Coalition Forces shot at the vehicle, killing Abu Sa置d and three unknown terrorists.

Abu Sa置d, a Saudi extremist, was a senior al Qaeda terrorist who funneled foreign fighters and suicide bombers into Iraq. Intelligence sources believe that Sa置d recently arrived from Saudi Arabia to shore up the leadership of al Qaeda in Iraq foreign fighter and terrorists cells whose previous leaders have been captured or killed in recent months.

Coalition Forces were informed that an alleged meeting was being arranged in the coming days in which Sa置d was to take control of foreign fighter facilitation in the al Qaim and Husaybah region. It was also believed that Sa置d would take on a more active role in the planning and execution of operations against Coalition Forces.


(Security Watchtower has a map showing the location of these western towns. See also Bill Roggio's map here.)

Note that Sa'ud is believed to have "recently arrived". No doubt because the supply of terrorists to manage the terrorist underground railroad has been rapidly dwindling of late, and reinforcements are being called in.

By my count, this is at least the fourth senior foreign fighter facilitator killed in the region in a month, the third in three days.


FacilitatorKilled inDate killed
Abu NasirUshshSept 26
Abu DuaUshshOct 26
Abu MahmudHusaybahOct 28
Abu Sa'udUbaydiOct 29


The US military, particularly the Marines of the II MEF, have been conducting operations in the area since last spring, operations intended to interdict the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq. There was Operation Matador in May, Operation Spear in June, operations in July, operations in August, and Operation Hunter in September and into October.

The difference is, and an important reason why such rapid successes are coming now, is that since Operation Iron Fist, which began October 1, the Coalition Forces are establishing a permanent presence in these western river towns. As the press releases above indicate, locals are providing intelligence, and the simple fact is they now have someone to go to with their tips. Iraqi forces are also present along the Euphrates now. They will eventually provide permanent security.

There have been other successful operations in this western area recently. See my posts Reading between the lines and More intelligence successes in Iraq.

Today the AP is reporting that two safe houses were attacked in an air strike in Obeidi. (I believe Obeidi and Ubaydi are the same place.) The houses were being used by a senior Al Qaeda in Iraq cell leader, thought there was no word on whether the cell leader was in the house at the time of the attack.

Coalition Forces continue to generate useful intelligence leads, and have achieved significant results in attacking the pipeline bringing in fighters from Syria.

The fact that intelligence is so good that the good guys can catch up with someone like Sa'ud so soon after his arrival is encouraging.

Syria is feeling enormous pressure on a number of fronts. The UN Report on the Hariri assassination in Lebanon reached into the highest levels of the Syrian government, and international pressure is mounting.

In a post entitled Dominos, I speculated that as result of the important capture of Abu Khalil, a high-level terrorist finance operative, Syria may have been pressured behind the scenes to turn over Yasir Sabhawi Ibrahim, another top financier of the terrorist organization.

If that is true, it is possible Syria is among the "multiple intellgence sources" mentioned above, as part of an effort to give up enough to stave off US military action. Again, I am speculating here, but momentum is building in these western river towns, and Assad and his gang have to be wondering if the US forces run out of things to do in these western towns, if these troops will turn their full attention to Syria, where the foreign fighters are coming from in the first place.

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Bill Roggio points out the US is already conducting cross-border raids.

Monday Winds of War Briefing

Welcome! Our goal at Winds of Change.NET is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from the global War on Terror that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday & Thursday. Monday's Winds of War briefings are given by Security Watchtower and Peace Like a River.

Top Topics

* Iran slammed the UN Security Council condemnation of its president's anti-Israeli remarks, which caused international outrage, but insisted there was no intention to attack the Jewish state. On Friday, Iranian President Ahmadinejad stood by his remarks. Regime Change Iran highlights an interesting angle to this story.

* At least 50 people were killed Saturday in several blasts at crowded shopping areas throughout New Delhi. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh blamed terrorist elements, as suspicion fell on militant groups opposed to the peace process between India and Muslim neighbour Pakistan. Lashkar-e-Taiba, a primary suspect in the blasts, has close links with Al Qaeda. Messages of condemnation and condolences are coming in from around the world.

* Following the United Nations report into the death of Rafik Hariri, Syria vigorously denied responsibility and denounced the report. Now the Assad government is launching their own investigation, as the Security Council remains divided.

Other topics today include: Israeli counterterrorism in Gaza; Rafah to open; Syria's terrorist friendly border; U.S. intelligence strategy; B-2 spy; UN invited to Gitmo; Counterterror offensives in Columbia; Maoists in Nepal; Fighting in Afghanistan; Musharraf interview; Battle for central Asia; North Korean counterfeit activities; Beheadings in Sulawesi; Restationing troops in Japan; Abu Sayyaf leader killed; Denmark makes terror arrests; Shoulder-launched missile threat in France; Warlord airports closed in Somalia; Training in Djibouti goes on; Attacks in Algeria; al Qaeda popularity drops; Russian arms trader; and more.

Iran & the Middle East

* Israel killed an Islamic Jihad leader and six other Palestinians in an air strike in Gaza Thursday, hours after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon vowed a broad offensive against Palestinian terrorists in response to Wednesday's suicide bombing. At least one of the other Palestinians killed also was an Islamic Jihad member. Ten persons, among them bystanders, were wounded.

* Israeli aircraft fired two missiles at a car in the Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun on Friday, killing a Palestinian terrorist, in what was the fourth Israeli airstrike in several hours. The Israeli military said its aircraft targeted a white Subaru carrying terrorists on a mission to fire rockets at the southern Israeli town of Sderot.

* Israel and the Palestinians agreed on Sunday to halt their latest round of violence after Islamic Jihad pledged to end a wave of rocket attacks against southern Israel, Palestinian officials said.

* Lebanese troops have surrounded PFLP-GC bases in the mountains along the Syrian border, intent on cutting off the supply of weapons and reinforcements coming across the border from Syria. Authorities have ruled out storming the Palestinian camps.

* Syria is doing next to nothing to stop foreign jihadists from entering Iraq.

* Israel and Egypt have reached a deal that will reopen the Rafah crossing point along the border of Egypt and the Gaza strip.

America Domestic Security & the America's

* NID John Negroponte unveiled "The National Intelligence Strategy of the United States". Key objectives include defeating terrorists at home and abroad by disarming their operational capabilities, while seizing the initiative by promoting the growth of freedom and democracy, preventing and countering the spread of weapons of mass destruction, feveloping methods to infiltrate and analyze tough intelligence targets, and anticipating threats and identifying opportunities and vulnerabilities for decision makers. (Full Report - PDF)

* An engineer who worked on the development of the U.S. B-2 bomber has been arrested in Hawaii for allegedly passing secret technology related to the radar-evading plane to three foreign governments, the FBI said Friday. Noshir Gowadia was accused of "willfully communicating national defense information to a person not entitled to receive it," the FBI said in a statement.

* The New York Port Authority was found guilty of negligence by a jury in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. According to report, the Port Authority failed to act on the dangers of a terror attack in the basement garage. The jury found the Port Authority 68 percent responsible for the attack and the terrorists 32 percent responsible.

* Intense fighting between a paramilitary group and rebels in western Colombia left some 30 paramilitaries dead on Friday, a regional police chief said. It was the second consecutive day of reported heavy fighting in that area. On Thursday, government sources said similar battles took place and killed 75. Both groups have reportedly become heavily involved in drug trafficking.

* Iran is counting Venezuela as a friend and ally, an Iranian government official said on Friday, amid a diplomatic storm set off by comments from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad this week that Israel should be 'wiped off the map.' Venezuela痴 open support for Tehran in its clash with the United States and Europe over its nuclear programme has left Washington wondering about the motives behind Chavez痴 quest for atomic energy.

* The Pentagon has invited United Nations officials to visit Guantanamo Bay, to observe operations at the detention facility and question military personnel.

* A year after being listed as one of three Muslim organisations in Trinidad and Tobago under "constant surveillance" by the army, the Masjid Al Murabiteen is now a mainstream Islamic group in the country, according to its Imam. Last November the army had said that the Masjid was being scrutinised by the security forces and had called it a "fundamentalist organisation". The Imam dismissed as "conjecture" and "wild allegations" the army's statement.

* The Colombian army sank four motor boats filled with Marxist insurgents, killing at least 11 on a river in the southeastern part of the country. "The guerrillas that died were many more than that," General Rocha said. The FARC insurgents were on their way to attack jungle communities in the region, he said.

* Columbian security forces have captured John Eidelber Cano, a leader of the violent Norte del Valle drug cartel. Cano, wanted by U.S. authorities, had a $ 5 million reward on his head.

Russia & South/Central Asia

* Maoist insurgents in Nepal continue to observe their unilaterally declared ceasefire. The ceasefire began in early September, and was to last three months. However, the Maoists kidnapping and extortion spree continues, and the security forces fear that the Maoists are exploiting the so-called ceasefire to make a safe move to Kathmandu.

* Two Maoist terrorists have been killed and 13 others arrested in Nepal in the course of search operations carried out by the joint security forces in various parts of the Eastern Development Region during the last week. The forces also confiscated explosives and logistic materials.

* The International Crisis Group has an extensive report (see links to report in PDF and Doc form) on Nepal's Maoists. The report is entitled Nepal's Maoists: Their Aims, Structure and Strategy. The New York Times Magazine has a long article as well on the Maoists.

* The latest issue of Chechnya Weekly, from The Jamestown Foundation, focuses on the North Caucasus. Kabardino-Balkaria cracks down on Muslims; Observers question why Nalchik happened; Four servicepersons were killed in Ingushetia; Three gunmen were killed in Dagestan; and several other stories from the region.

* A US and a British soldier were killed in Afghanistan on Saturday in a deadly series of attacks that claimed 23 lives, including those of 14 suspected Taliban insurgents, officials said. The terrorists were killed by the US-led coalition and Afghan troops, supported by attack helicopters and aircraft, in battles on Thursday and Friday in which an Afghan soldier also died, the coalition said.

* Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf gave Arab News an exclusive interview and defended Pakistan's dialogue with Israel and called for an end to "terrorism, extremism and militancy."

* RFERL has a five part series titled "Battle for Central Asia" that discusses some of the dynamics at play in the former Soviet republics, including terrorism.

Far East & Southeast Asia

* North Korea is financing illicit activities by printing up bogus U.S. $100 bills and passing them abroad, according to a senior US Treasury official. North Korea denies the claim. On Oct. 7, authorities in Belfast, Northern Ireland, arrested an Irish nationalist, Sean Garland, after a U.S. indictment said that he and six others helped North Korea move more than $1 million in fake American currency through a number of European countries.

* North Korea refuses to unilaterally declare its nuclear programs for verification because it remains "technically" at war with the United States amid deep mutual distrust, a senior North Korean diplomat said Thursday. The remarks precede resumption of six-party talks expected early next month in which South and North Korea, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan will discuss follow-up measures to their Sept. 19 agreement.

* Men in black clothes and masks beheaded three teenage Christian girls on Saturday in eastern Indonesia as they walked to school near the Muslim town of Poso, in Indonesia. Poso, 1,500 km (900 miles) northeast of the capital Jakarta, is in an area where Muslim-Christian clashes killed 2,000 people until a peace deal was agreed in 2001.

* New People痴 Army rebels are planning to bomb four power plants in Southern Tagalog, prompting the Philippine National Police to raise its alert level. A police officer assigned to the PNP Intelligence Group said the communist rebels plot to bomb the power plants was discovered after three NPA rebels were arrested in a checkpoint in Taytay, Rizal, late Thursday afternoon.

* U.S. and Japanese officials remain engaged in high level talks about the future location of U.S. troops deployed in Japan. According to some reports, half of the 14,000 U.S. Marines in Okinawa may be restationed to Guam.

* A Manila court has sentenced three Islamic terrorists to death for the February 2005 bombing of a bus in the Philippines that killed three.

* Islamic insurgents have torched a Buddist temple in southern Thailand, the second such type attack this month in the Muslim majority province of Pattani.

* Japan has dropped its long standing opposition to the presence of a U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, opening the door for one of the Nimitz-class carriers to replace the USS Kitty Hawk in 2008.

* In the village of Asturius on Jolo, a Filipino police officer shot and killed Lalong Parad, notorious criminal and brother of Abu Sayyaf leader Albader Parad, wanted in the killing of two U.S. citizens. Officials described it as a "big blow" to Abu Sayyaf.

* Indonesia's Justice Minister Hamid Awaluddin has indicated that Islamic terrorists in prison, including Abu Bakar Bashir, are eligible for reduced sentences to celebrate the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr (3 Nov). There's no word if the 20-year prison sentence of Schapelle Corby will be reduced on Bob Marley's birthday.

Europe

* Four people were arrested in Denmark on terrorism charges. The suspects, who had grown up in Denmark but who are reportedly of Middle Eastern origin, may have been planning a suicide operation. The charges are related to arrests made in Bosnia October 20th.

* Two more people suspected of belonging to a terrorist network planning a suicide attack in Europe were arrested in Denmark, police said Saturday. The man and woman, who were not identified, are suspected of assisting four young Muslims who were arrested Thursday in Copenhagen on charges of planning an "imminent" terror attack.

* A French official said Friday that a Jordanian associate of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi claimed French Islamic extremists had planned to attack passenger airliners in France with shoulder-launched missiles. A French newspaper said the associate was Zarqawi's representative in the Caucasus. Captain's Quarters has some additional background information.

* The Prince of Wales leaves tomorrow for Washington DC, where he will attempt to convince President Bush that the United States has been too confrontational and intolerant of the Islamic religion since 9/11.

* The Counterterrorism Blog reports a month-long private cyberterrorism investigation has led to the arrest of two North Africans in connection with the fraudulent use of a University of Geneva computer lab in disseminating jihad propaganda videos and "inciting racial hatred." Evan Kohlmann writes this case should serve as an example of how silently gathering information on cyberterrorists who choose to "camp out" in "Western cyberspace" and using that information to track and detain human operators can often be a more efficient approach than merely shutting down their prolific websites.

* British authorities plan to introduce airport-style security measures at some British railstations, that will include body scanners and x-ray machines. The first trial is set for Paddington station in London.

Africa

* Somalia's government ordered two warlord-owned airports closed on Friday in an effort to boost its tax revenues, prompting an ally of the airstrips' owners to threaten to shoot down any plane diverting to obey the order. "We are closing these airstrips for security reasons, and some other airstrips in southern Somalia will follow as soon as possible," Information Minister Mohamed Abdi Hayr quoted the statement as saying.

* U.S. soldiers with Joint Task Force Horn of Africa continue to train Djiboutian soldiers in effective combat skills, and also intangibles like leadership, responsibility and teamwork.

* The detained leader of the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force, (NDPVF), Alhaji Mujaheed Dokubo-Asari, has dissociated himself from the crash of the Bellview Airline, which claimed 117 lives last weekend, saying he had no hand in the tragedy. A group, which called itself COMA, had claimed responsibility for the Bellview plane crash and attributed its action to the continued incarceration of Dokubo-Asari.

* Algerian Islamic terrorists with suspected links to al Qaeda have killed four people, including one soldier, in the latest attacks during the holy month of Ramadan, newspapers reported on Saturday. Two civilians were killed two hours later when their car drove over a bomb planted by the same group, who apparently targeted a military convoy, newspapers said.

* The Sudanese government in Khartoum has not disarmed the Arab Janjaweed militia's, despite a pledge to eliminate the groups responsible for thousands of attacks in Darfur. In some cases, the Sudanese military has launched coordinated attacks with the militias.

The Global War

* Death threats to the Egyptian-born actor Omar Sharif have appeared in Islamist forums on the Internet, after Sharif's appearance as a Christian, Saint Peter, in an Italian biblical epic for television. At least one of the forums is used by jihadi groups linked to al-Qaeda.

* Russian arms trader Rosoboronexport has collected a portfolio of orders that is estimated to be worth $12 billion though 2007-2008. Russia has recently signed contracts with Venezuela on the supply of helicopters and fourth-generation Kalashnikov assault rifles, and there is demand for patrol boats on the markets of the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Latin America. There are aircraft contracts with Jordan, China and Malaysia.

* The former al Qaeda training camp known as Tarnak Farms, today resembles a ghost town. First moving into the facility outside of Kandahar in 1994, al Qaeda turned the camp into a highly secure base for operations in the coming years.

* The Bush administration has missed dozens of deadlines set by Congress after the Sept. 11 attacks for developing ways to protect airplanes, ships and railways from terrorists. Those deadlines, sometimes for minor projects, distract the department from putting in place the most important security measures, experts say.

* A recent poll suggests al Qaeda's popularity in the Muslim world is dropping, a direct result of the backlash over their terrorist campaign in Iraq. Jordan was the lone nation that saw a rise in support.

* The Intelligence Summit blog reports the US and its allies have disrupted 10 Al-Qaeda terrorist plots since the 11 September 2001 attacks, as President George W Bush said on October 6. The White House released a list of the plots and five 'casings and infiltrations' to back up the president's claims, which were made in a speech to the National Endowment for Democracy.

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Sunday, October 30, 2005

We don't measure time by the dead. We can't.

This week past was a somber reminder of the cost of freedom, as the number of American deaths in Iraq has topped 2,000.

(Of that total, a little over 400 are non-combat related deaths. Also, something that isn't talked about nearly enough, over 15,000 have been wounded in Iraq, over 7,000 were wounded and did not return to duty within 72 hours.)

As this article points out, though, it is an artifical milestone, one easy for those not paying attention to remember, since they can evenly count it out on their fingers and toes.

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, director of the force's combined press center, wrote in an e-mail to reporters, "I ask that when you report on the events, take a moment to think about the effects on the families and those serving in Iraq. The 2,000 service members killed in Iraq supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom is not a milestone. It is an artificial mark on the wall set by individuals or groups with specific agendas and ulterior motives."


And, as Michelle Malkin pointed out in a column, each one of these is one too many. Each one is too much to give to the murderers who seek only to sow destruction in Iraq.

I should say here, however, I've never been comfortable with the phrase "he gave his life in the service of his country". These soldiers didn't give their lives, they weren't suicidal, their lives were ripped from them.

There are accounts of Germans in Stalingrad, at the end of their strength in those terrible conditions, opting to take an easier way out, where they would crawl out and stand on top of a trench or something, and let a Russian sniper end their life. But this is not what is happening in Iraq.

No, these Americans who have lost their lives in Iraq did not willingly give them up. What they did was willingly put themselves in a position where they could lose their lives, and that willingness is what we honor.

It is a cruel irony that the number of dead so closely approximates now the number by which we measure our years. Of course, 2005 is the Year of Our Lord, not the year we lost the 2,005th soldier in Iraq.

But to the far Left, it could just as well be the basis for our calendar, so eager are they to pin this number on anything they can find in hopes of promoting an agenda, as Lt. Col. Boylan said.

Zombietime has photos of an event in San Francisco on October 26, "commemorating" the 2,000 death. If you can stand to look through them all, ask yourself, why are they all so smiley? What is there to be cheerful about at that kind of event? If these Lefties were truly there to honor those who have fallen, wouldn't be there some solemnity in evidence? Zombietime links to this Houston event, and it's much the same thing.

Michelle Malkin has the story of something just as galling.

The New York Times had a 4,625 word story on the 2,000th death, and in it they profiled a Marine who was killed April 30. The NYTimes published part of a letter the Marine, Cpl. Jeffrey Starr, had left behind. The NYTimes article said:

Sifting through Corporal Starr's laptop computer after his death, his father found a letter to be delivered to the marine's girlfriend. "I kind of predicted this," Corporal Starr wrote of his own death. "A third time just seemed like I'm pushing my chances."


From that context, you'd think a reluctant Cpl. Starr was against the war in Iraq, that he was angry at a lying President Bush who had fibbed so he could put men like Starr in harm's way just to steal Iraq's oil.

Malkin as more on the letter, but here is the paragraph from which the NYTimes took their excerpt.

"Obviously if you are reading this then I have died in Iraq. I kind of predicted this, that is why I'm writing this in November. A third time just seemed like I'm pushing my chances. I don't regret going, everybody dies but few get to do it for something as important as freedom. It may seem confusing why we are in Iraq, it's not to me. I'm here helping these people, so that they can live the way we live. Not have to worry about tyrants or vicious dictators. To do what they want with their lives. To me that is why I died. Others have died for my freedom, now this is my mark."


For the "newspaper of record" to so egregiously twist the meaning of the words written by a Marine as he contemplated the sacrifice he might make is beyond belief. The anti-war Left is so far gone they don't hesitate to use the deaths of American soldiers as cynical means to serve an end.

The end they seek is an end to the war in Iraq, but it is wrong to count the remaining days of the war by the number of the dead, as painful as each casualty is. We all desire peace in Iraq, we all want our troops to return home to their families, but the job they are doing there is necessary. Evil does keep score by the number of dead, that is why we must fight it in Iraq.

This is the year 2005. Last night we turned back our clocks. Across this country there are about 2,005 families who are grieving, families who wish they could turn back the clock and once again hug beloved fathers, sons, daughters, loved ones.

There have been at least nine American fatalities in Iraq just since Thursday.

Let us not dishonor the fallen by counting each death as one more towards the total that will finally make us weary of Iraq and leave. Let us honor the fallen by counting each death as one that bought us another day of freedom.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Reading between the lines

CentCom has released news of raids in the western Iraqi town of Husaybah.

Acting on tips from concerned citizens, Coalition Forces conducted a series of raids on suspected terrorist and foreign fighter safe houses in the town of Husaybah Oct. 29, killing an estimated 10 terrorists.

The houses were used as launch points to conduct attacks against local Iraqi citizens, Iraqi security and Coalition forces.

During the raids, which occurred simultaneously in two separate neighborhoods of Husaybah, Coalition forces were engaged by numerous terrorists. Firefights developed at both locations, during which Coalition forces called in close air support and destroyed both of the terrorist strongholds.

While Coalition Forces were leaving the area, they were alerted to another suspected terrorist house with fortified fighting positions. After further investigation, Coalition Forces called in an air strike, destroying the terrorist stronghold with precision guided munitions.


Another CentCom release tells us a senior terrorist was the target of a precision air strike in Husaybah.

Coalition Forces, using precision air strike capabilities, targeted a senior al Qaeda in Iraq foreign fighter who was believed to be holding a meeting with other senior members of the terror organization in Husaybah Oct. 28.

Sources indicated Abu Mahmud and the other leaders were meeting to discuss an attack on Iraqi security or Coalition forces in the coming days.

Abu Mahmud, believed to be a Saudi, was the commander of several foreign fighter and terrorist cells in Husaybah, and was linked to several al Qaeda in Iraq and foreign fighter facilitators in the al Qaim, Karabilah, and Husaybah areas. Mahmud directed, planned and executed a large amount of the foreign fighter attacks on Iraqi security and Coalition forces, to include most SVBIED and IED attacks. He was also personally active in direct attacks against Iraqi and Coalition forces.


The matter-of-fact language of these press release masks the gritty life and death encounters in these western Iraqi towns close to the Syrian border that have been the focus lately of intense operations intended to squeeze the supply of foreign fighters coming into Iraq from Syria.

Note how in conducting raids against foreign fighter safe houses, soliders were "engaged by numerous terrorists", and firefights developed at both locations. Hidden in the whitespace of these words are heartpounding, gutty fights.

Who but those who have been there can begin to imagine the swirl of emotions. In an instant, mortal danger screams at you in the crack of passing bullets. Your basest human instincts say to find cover, but your combat training tells you to swallow your fear and practice the fire and maneuver drilled into you over and over. Seconds can last an eternity. You immediately try to calculate the locations of the enemy, their numbers, their movement, you try to locate your fellow soldiers. Fear urges you to fire wildy and blindly, but discipline steels your nerves, and you put round after round on target, for you know one well-placed round is more effective than the spray-and-pray firing of less able troops, and nobody does it better than American soldiers.

And when the firefight has ended, there is no time to rest and refit. There is no immediate march to the rear to catch your breath and contemplate the valley of death you just walked through. There is no complaining you met your quota of deadly situations for the week. No, immediately there is another report of another terrorist location, and you go do your job one more time. You saddle up and consciously and willfully move towards the murderous terrorists you know would kill you in a second if they could.

This is what happens every day in Iraq. Behind the unadorned words of military press releases are brave men in the midst of enemy fire prevailing because they are the best, and there will never be any better.

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Bill Roggio comments on the raids, and has a map showing the close proximity of these Western river towns.

Pakistan relief efforts continue

USS Clevelad Provides 280 Tons Of International Relief Supplies

A U.S. Navy warship makes a port call with relief supplies for the third time in two weeks.

The amphibious transport dock USS Cleveland (LPD-7) offloaded 280 tons of emergency earthquake relief supplies here October 27-28 to assist the victims of the devastating earthquake in Kashmir.

Cleveland痴 cargo included 37 pieces of heavy machinery provided by Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3, which is forward deployed to Bahrain. The construction supplies included light trucks, accessory trailers, light plants and generators. In addition to the heavy equipment, the Cleveland delivered food supplies from the French Navy, and tents, cots and blankets from Egypt.


III MEF Marines And Sailors Prepared To Deploy To Pakistan For Relief Efforts


Marines and Sailors from 3rd Marine Logistics Group are prepared to deploy and offer humanitarian assistance near Muzaffarabad, Pakistan in the wake of a 7.6 magnitude earthquake that left more than 2.2 million homeless.

The deploying units are task organized for this mission and include the 3rd Medical Battalion's Bravo Surgical Company. Assets include an emergency room tent, an operating room suite, mobile laboratory, X-ray services, pharmacy and 60 cots for patients. Once we're set up in Pakistan the surgical company will be able to begin seeing patients in six hours, said Navy Capt. David R. Davis, commanding officer for 3rd Medical Battalion.


U.S. Central Command Air Forces Support Pakistan Aid

The Air Force is also heavily involved in the relief effort, flying in tons of supplies.

Friday three U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemasters, one U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules and a contracted AN-124 Condor flew in more than 346,440 pounds of clothing, aircraft parts, cargo vehicles, and various supplies in response to requests from Pakistan痴 government.

To date, the U.S. Air Force has airlifted more than four million pounds of relief supplies to Pakistan.

Today two U.S. Air Force C-130s airdropped more than 30,000 pounds of food and supplies near the Pakistani villages of Laij Copei and Batagram, bringing the total amount of airdropped supplies to 70,000 pounds.


More troops, supplies arrive in Pakistan




U.S. Army Sgt. Kornelia Rachwal gives a young Pakistani girl a drink of water as they are airlifted from Muzaffarabad to Islamabad, Pakistan, aboard a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter on Oct. 19.
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Mike Buytas



The Army is also conducting significant relief operations.

Additional U.S. Army medical, aviation and engineer units from Europe, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Kansas and Texas are now helping with relief efforts in Pakistan.

Coalition Forces Land Component Command sent a shipment of heavy construction equipment from Kuwait Oct. 27. The shipment included cranes, fuel tankers, road graders, dump trucks and other heavy equipment from theater sustainment stocks available for use in Pakistan.

CFLCC also shipped four containers of medical supplies. The new equipment is in addition to the 200 pallets flown to Pakistan from Kuwait City International Airport.


The most recent photos at Joint Combat Camera Center are dated October 27.

USAID reports the US government has pledged $100 million dollars for humanitarian assistance.

USAID also has the following updates:

* From October 10 to 27, USAID completed six airlifts of emergency relief commodities to Pakistan. The airlifts delivered a total of 15,000 blankets, 1,570 winterized tents, 1,150 rolls of plastic sheeting, 15,000 water containers, 8 water bladders, 2 water purification units, 10 WHO emergency health kits, and 20 concrete cutting saws.

* The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) approved the movement of 21 Chinook 47 helicopters from the U.S. to Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. The helicopters will provide essential transport support for ongoing emergency operations.


Here is a CentCom photo of a helicopter ferrying a bulldozer.

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US military relief efforts in Pakistan - Oct 13
More on the Pakistan relief efforts - Oct 14
Pakistan relief efforts continue - Oct 18
Making the Pakistan relief effort happen - Oct 20
More on directing the Pakistan relief efforts - Oct 23
Update on Pakistan relief efforts - Oct 27


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linked to Stop the ACLU trackback party
linked to My Vast Right Wing Conspiracy's open post
linked to Wizbang's Carnival of the Trackbacks

Friday, October 28, 2005

The new Kremlin alliance

Synoeca reports on the relationships Russia is forging with China, Pakistan and Iran in a play to form a counterweight to US-led NATO.

This alignment is specifically geared toward confronting the US in a hotly contested market for geopolitical status in the middle east and to dictate economic trends concerning natural resources in the region.


Russia continues to provide support for Iran's developing nuclear program, and in return, there is no barking Persian dog in the Caucasus.

In Putin's defense, Russia has a much more important variable besides economics: left out in most discussions is that Tehran provides no support for Islamist insurgents in Russia's troubled Northern Caucasus. This is a result directly because of nuclear technology contracts between the two nations. The Kremlin however, may have to reassess its relationship with the Islamic republic should Tehran ever vary its strategy towards Islamic separatist movements on Russian territory. In addition, if Tehran were to achieve a nuclear weapons capability, Iran would represent a potential security threat on Russia's southern border. For this reason alone, Russia has made it a demand that all nuclear fuel would be sent back to Russia as a preventative measure.


In 2003, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf made a notable visit to the Kremlin to meet with Putin, and the two countries have been building bridges ever since. Just this week, the Russian PM and Pakistani PM met, as this report highlights:

Russia will continue to provide all the necessary aid to Pakistan to tackle the effects of the earthquake, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov stated at a meeting with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz. Fradkov expressed his condolences in view of the disaster, which killed tens of thousands of residents. Fradkov pointed out that the two countries have a high potential to develop bilateral relations in various spheres. "We are satisfied with the revitalization of Russian-Pakistani political consultations, including those on a higher level," Fradkov stressed.


As indicated, and not surprisingly, Russia is participating in earthquake relief efforts in Pakistan.

With China, Russia shares the common goal of pushing against American power. Russia and China participated in joint military exercises just last August.

Russia delivers weaponry and nuclear technology to its axis partners while China possesses a large market for products offered by the Russian military and a need for energy resources Iran provides. Iran in the meantime, gives Russia and China more valuable trump cards: impact of the global market in oil and vast influence in the middle east. Something all three agree on as the number one element in combating the US's vast economy and regional dominance in the middle east.


I would add Russia also has had dealings for a long time with India. Russia will continue to develop that relationship, as the huge democracy that is India is itself a counterweight against Pakistan and China.

Last week Russia and India completed a joint military exercise, with new weapons systems, called Indra-2005.

According to RIA Novosti:

The Indra-2005 exercise that runs through October 19 also involves 1,600 Russian troops and five warships of the country's Pacific Fleet.


Also, from this report:

The exercises, with an anti-terror theme, will involve naval ships and airborne troops. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said late last month that a nuclear submarine and a group of Pacific Fleet ships had left for the Indian Ocean.


-----
linked to Mudville Gazette's Open Post

Friday wrap-up

Saturday is school day this week, so will be on radio silence most of the day. I have got to get leaves done this weekend, too, so I'm thinking I'll be outside for much of Sunday doing that fun chore.

Libby was indicted today. The charges didn't seem to have anything to do with the original impetus for the investigation, whether or not the White House deliberately blew the cover of CIA officer Valerie Plame.

Whatever the case, you just cannot lie under oath, and if that's what Libby did, then we conservatives shouldn't make excuses. On the other hand, if this is a case of a prosecutor seeking to make a splash, then that's another matter.

Security Watchtower and I have started in on Monday's Winds of War Briefing. (Here is Thursday's Briefing.)

And, because I'm a glutton for punishment, I am once again impaling myself on the Crosley Solo Blog of the Week. And for the third straight week, I'm up against a fellow MOBster. This week it's Good Guy Psycmeistr, who has a clever Miers parody of the Marx Brothers. Y'all should know the routine by now. You're tired of losing, I'm tired of losing, let's get this thing done, so we can go back to tearing the GOP apart.

Go here to register your vote

Dueling Freds

In a post yesterday, I pointed out how conservative pundit Fred Barnes seemed comfortable on both sides of the Miers nomination issue, at the same time accepting the premise of the serious reservations skeptics had, and raking those skeptics with verbal machine gun fire.

I hadn't intended to make an issue of this, but last night on Special Report with Brit Hume, on FOX News, Barnes was at it again. I'm beginning to worry an alien pod invasion might be underway, and there are several Fred Barnes running around. Have you ever seen more than one Fred Barnes in one place at the same time? No. Pretty solid evidence there might be more than one Fred Barnes about.

Here are some of things Barnes said during the panel segment. (Any errors in transcription are mine, as I am not the Radioblogger.)

Every Senator I talked to was disappointed in her....They didn't really think she was much.
...
She wrote in her first questionnaire that she became a judicial conservative back in the 70s when she clerked for a judge in Texas. Then in a speech 20 years later she sounds like a judicial liberal, not a judicial conservative. So you needed a consistent narrative.
...
On the other hand, Brit, [a big fight] is exactly what the President needs...You know what a President needs more than anything else? He needs his political base intact so he can govern effectively...He needs a fight with conservatives on his side.
...
Last time he tried to avoid a fight. The reason he didn't nominate [Priscilla Owen] last time was because he feared a fight. Now, he needs a fight.
...
When people say the extreme right or the right or so on, that's the Republican party, the conservative party in America. So that's he obviously going to nominate a conservative...An unequivocably conservative jurist would be perfect.
...
President Bush ran on the issue of moving the balance on Court to the right, he said he would pick judges like Scalia and Clarence Thomas, that these were his models, and that's what he should do. He needs to do that...He said he was going nominate judges who were conservative, who would interpret the law, who wouldn't expand the Court, and wouldn't be activists, that's what he said, and if he follows that, why shouldn't he.


Also, there is this from the Weekly Standard, October 27:

Chances are the successor to O'Conner will now be the real thing, a justice with unequivocally conservative leanings who tilts the ideological balance of the court to the right.


Now, is all this any different than what we skeptics were saying all along about the Miers nomination? He wants the real thing, he wants a fight! Brother Barnes is one of us!

Well, one of the Pod Barnes is, anyway. There is another Barnes who has said the following things.

In a radio interview with Hugh Hewitt

I mean, there are two groups here, the conservative intellectual priesthood, and they've thrown a tantrum...


In a separate radio interview with Hugh Hewitt

Well, it certainly should freeze until the hearings, and if is has, if the fighting has ceased, it just started today, because it was certainly going on all week. And my point was, in the piece I wrote, that it never should have started in the first place.


In the Weekly Standard, October 20:

Why have so many conservatives suddenly revolted against President Bush, nearly five years into his presidency? I think their split with Bush is ill advised, counterproductive, and in some ways childish.


In the Weekly Standard, October 12:

My conclusion is: Bush supporters who were angry over Miers should have waited. That's the bottom line. Rather than bellow that Miers isn't qualified and won't turn the Court to the right, they should have given her a chance to prove her conservatism at the hearings. They owed Bush at least that much.


I'm confused. If anybody knows Fred Barnes, the next time you see him, check and see if there is any kind of tentacle protruding from the back of his neck.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Iraqi children hold first pinewood derby

From the current issue of This Week In Iraq (pg 4)...

A co-ed International Scouting group formed this summer in Hasar held its first-ever pinewood derby Oct. 6 thanks to leaders efforts and cars donated by families of 116th Brigade Combat Team Soldiers.

This local scouting group, known as Kashafa in Iraq, began July 7 when soldiers of the 116th BCT痴 Task Force 1/148 Field Artillery and leaders from the community of Hasar celebrated a ribbon cutting and inauguration of the program.




The Hasar Kashafa consists of three co-ed scouting groups: Tigers, comprises boys and girls 8 to 11 year olds, Lightning, made up of 12 to 14 year-old boys and girls and Eagles, children 15 to 18 years old.

The groups meet weekly and between them have over 100 regular participants.


Fred, call your office, your forked tongue is in

Fred Barnes has a piece up at the Weekly Standard commenting on Harriet Miers and her withdrawal of her nomination.

Some snippets:

The withdrawal of Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers is the first step on the road to political recovery for President Bush.
...
Battling for a highly qualified nominee, this time with conservatives on his side, would hasten the consolidation of his base.
...
The president got into trouble with conservatives by not being bold in picking a replacement for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Bush wanted a woman and chose one--Miers--whom he figured wouldn't provoke a major confirmation struggle in the Senate. He sought to avoid a fight, an unusual tack for him, by not selecting a certifiable conservative such as Priscilla Owen, who is a U.S. appeals court judge.
...
But a bigger problem was the possibility of embarrassment at the hearings for both Miers and Bush, followed by Senate rejection. Even sympathetic senators who met with Miers worried she might not be able to discuss constitutional law and specific cases with confidence and credibility.
...
Chances are the successor to O'Conner will now be the real thing, a justice with unequivocally conservative leanings who tilts the ideological balance of the court to the right.


Wise words. Barnes speaks of the need to recognize the importance of a good pick to the conservative base, he speaks of now nominating a "highly qualified nominee", the "real thing".

You'd think Barnes has been a skeptic of the Miers nomination, and that he viewed as legitimate any concerns that Miers nomination was a mistake.

Well, you would be wrong.

As I wrote about here and here, Barnes referred to the skeptics and dissenters this way:

I mean, there are two groups here, the conservative intellectual priesthood, and they've thrown a tantrum...
...
And my point was, in the piece I wrote, that [the fighting] never should have started in the first place...
...
Instead, many jumped the gun, and I'm glad to hear they're finally quieting down...


Goodness. Am I speaking to the real Fred now? He does have chutzpah writing as the wise political sage, seemingly forgetting he was among those carrying pitchforks and torches ready to drive those Frankenstein's conservatives back into the darkness from whence they came.

Also standing in that agitated mob is the Hedgehog blog who asks this question:

If President Bush nominates someone to the Supreme Court who is exactly what the conservative Miers opponents want (i.e., someone on their approved list), is he unwisely rewarding them for their inappropriate conduct in opposing Miers?


A provocative question, indeed. And just the sort of bitterness that does not make for wise political decisions. If there is any such thought in President Bush's mind not to appoint a clear originalist conservative just to stick it to those in his base who disagreed with the Miers pick, he ought to go for a long walk in the cool fall air till he settles down. I hope folks like Mr. Brown are not advising President Bush to even consider such a thing with this next nomination.

The Radioblogger also has registered some thoughts on the morning's events:

I also hope the right gets over their three week snit and gets real serious, real quick, and helps force a speedy confirmation process.


Well, needless to say, I wouldn't characterize a debate over our most closely held principles a "snit". This argument over the Miers nomination arose precisely because we were real serious.

There is too much at stake to nurse grudges. The Radioblogger also mentions the Democrats are already baying about the next nominee. Why do you think that is so? It's because the Dems know they dodged a bullet in Miers, and now they worry they'll face the kind of nominee they envisioned in their whiskey-ulcer induced nightmares.

The first mistake in picking Miers was in worrying about what the Democrats and the backbone-challenged Republicans would say. They are not our friends. It is not the purpose of nominations like this to make our enemies happy. Let's hope President Bush makes the correct pick here, and we can fight together for it, instead of with each other over it.

-----
Bogus Gold has a good round-up of reactions. Doug also has some good thoughts here.

Chief at Freedom Dogs says Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition!

Watchman's Words is on Sour Grapes Patrol.

Psycmeistr says onward and upward.

linked to Stop the ACLU open trackback post.

Captain Ed does a post-mortem.

Update on Pakistan relief efforts

Pearl Harbor Makes Second Relief Delivery to Pakistan

You may recall from my October 14 post that the USS Pearl Harbor was bringing heavy equipment to Pakistan. The USS Pearl Harbor has now made a second port call with supplies.

Karachi welcomed the return of USS Pearl Harbor (LSD-52) Oct. 24 as it pulled into the port city for the second time this week, carrying 140 tons of relief supplies destined for the earthquake-devastated region of northern Pakistan.

The cargo of food, blankets, mattresses and other essentials, enough to fill the flight deck of the San Diego-based ship, was donated by Pakistanis living in United Arab Emirates and will go immediately to those most affected by the disaster.


More helicopters on the way to Pakistan

Six additional U.S. Army CH-47 Chinooks will be added over the next three days to the 12 U.S. military helicopters already in the region supporting Pakistani led relief efforts. The additional helicopters join five U.S. Army Chinooks, three U.S. Army UH-60 Blackhawks, two U.S. Navy MH-53 Sea Stallions, and two U.S. Navy MH-60 Knighthawks that have been supporting relief operations here since Oct. 11.


Pakistan Relief Effort to Top 1,000 U.S. Troops

More than 1,000 U.S. servicemembers will soon be assisting earthquake relief efforts in Pakistan, a senior U.S. officer told Pentagon reporters here today.

Navy Rear Adm. Michael A. LeFever, commander of the U.S. relief effort in Pakistan, said the number of American troops now providing humanitarian relief in Pakistan - about 560 - will be augmented in coming days by more medical personnel, helicopter aircrews, engineers and other personnel.


CentCom has a page devoted to the Pakistan relief efforts. It keeps statistics on the supplies brought in, and has links to news updates.

Joint Combat Camera Center has numerous photos of the relief efforts.

Here is another photo essay about bringing aid into Pakistan.

USAID has an update today on the situation in Pakistan.

According to the Government of Pakistan (GOP), 53,000 people are confirmed dead and more than 75,000 are injured. According to the Government of India (GOI), 1,308 people are confirmed dead and more than 6,600 injured.

On October 24, the GOP痴 Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) announced that the condition of water in the earthquake-affected areas of Abbottabad and Mansehra in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) was satisfactory; however, the condition of the drinking water in Pakistani-administered Kashmir had deterioriated to unsatisfactory levels.


Fire Forward is the blog authored by a US soldier involved on the ground in the relief efforts. A post from yesterday is entitled Behind the Scenes of the Relief Effort. (HT: Mudville Gazette's terrific Dawn Patrol)

-----
US military relief efforts in Pakistan - Oct 13
More on the Pakistan relief efforts - Oct 14
Pakistan relief efforts continue - Oct 18
Making the Pakistan relief effort happen - Oct 20
More on directing the Pakistan relief efforts - Oct 23

Vox Populi

The people have spoken, and they have been heard.

Harriet Miers has withdrawn as a nominee to the Supreme Court, and President Bush has accepted her letter of withdrawal.

What comes next? In contrast to the White Sox celebrating on the Astros home field last night after their World Series win, this is not a time to cavort and sing and gleefully dance on the heads of our fellow Republicans who vigorously disagreed with us skeptics. This is a time to say what's done is what had to be done. This nomination was a colossal mistake. Wiser heads prevailed, the nomination was withdrawn, and now we can rectify that mistake.

President Bush has a choice to make. He can react out of anger and bitterness, and nominate someone, like Gonzalez, truly designed to be a slap in the face of the same conservatives who thought Miers was a mistake. Or, he can nominate the person we've all been waiting for.

At the Hedgehog blog, an ardent pro-Miers site, Mr. Brown writes:

* Will so-called "movement conservatives" re-join the fold and work with the White House, or will they demand even greater fealty from President Bush?

* Are they interested in healing the rift that has occurred, or will they simply charge ahead?

* The keys to success in that effort are held primarily by those who so ardently (and foolishly, I believe) mounted this unprecedented campaign to stop Miers before she could even have hearings.


I, and skeptics like me, never left the fold. Any rift that existed did not arise out of a desire to harm the GOP, but out of a desire to strengthen it.

We will be just as adamant in our support as we were in our dissent if President Bush joins with us to fight for the kind of conservative judicial philosophy we elected him to champion.

This morning Hugh Hewitt has a short note up, though surely he will have more to say. He writes:

I think Ms. Miers has been unfairly treated by many who have for years urged fair treatment of judicial nominees.

She deserves great thanks for her significant service to the country. She and the president deserved much better from his allies.


It would be instructive if Mr. Hewitt would lay out what criticism of Miers he thinks would have been fair. Criticism in and of itself does not automatically equal "unfair". The Miers nomination was a mistake, and those of us in the conservative base deeply interested in returning the Court to its Constitutional roots were not about to keep quiet just to avoid an uncomfortable public debate. Miers was treated very fairly, and I'm not sure why she and the president deserved better from us, if not out of an attitude that "the king is always right and because he said so".

The next nomination will be just as telling as the Miers pick was. I believe F. Scott Fitzgerald is credited with saying "There are no second acts in American lives." President Bush has been given a second chance. For the sake of the country, I hope he gets this one right.

----
Here are all of my previous Miers posts. Here's hoping a similar body of dissent is not required for the next nominee.

Fraters Libertas wisely counsels against wasteful recriminations.

Shot in the Dark says to President Bush, "Come back with your shield, or on it".

Bogus Gold mentions the "Krauthammer Option" may have been the out here.

EckerNet recognizes the next pick can go a long way to repairing the rift.

Life As I See It says the process works.

La Shawn Barber is not optimistic about the next nomination.

Watchman's Words says victory is not complete until the best nominee is named.

linked to California Conservative open post.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

More intelligence successes in Iraq

Mosul Terrorist Cell Leader Killed (from CentCom)

Nashwan Mijhim Muslet (aka Abu Tayir or Abu Zaid), a senior operational al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorist cell leader, was killed during a Coalition raid of a suspected safe house in Mosul Oct. 22. He personally assisted in at least three videotaped beheadings.

His cell was known as the primary beheading cell for Abu Talha, the al-Qaeda in Iraq Emir of Mosul who was captured in June, 2005, and Abu Zubayr, second in command to Talha and later Emir of Mosul after Talha was detained. Zubayr was killed in August, 2005.

The beheadings were filmed to intimidate the local population of Mosul as well as Iraqi citizens throughout Iraq. Intelligence reports indicate that Nashwan personally helped Zubayr behead three Mosul citizens during one of the videotaped gatherings.

As a senior operational cell leader, Nashwan was chiefly responsible for attacking Iraqi Security and Coalition forces.

His cell was also responsible for intimidating Mosul citizens through criminal activities. Nashwan痴 cell conducted roadblocks, stopping local citizens to extort money from them or to kidnap family members of businessmen or prominent families to ransom them for money.

Nahi Achmed Obeid Sultan (aka Abu Hassan), assistant to Nashwan, was killed during the raid. He was responsible for providing personal security for Nashwan and running the day-to-day operations of the terrorist cell.


Al Qaeda Facilitator Likely Dead in Coalition Air Strike (from DefenseLink)

A senior al Qaeda member who assisted foreign fighters in Iraq was probably killed in an air raid in Ushsh, Iraq. (Ushsh is in western Iraq along the Euphrates, not far from the Syrian border. See this map from Bill Roggio.)

Intelligence sources indicate that Abu Dua, who helped Syrians and Saudis enter Iraq to intimidate and kill Iraqi citizens, was in the house at the time of the strike. Dua was linked to other al Qaeda terrorists and facilitators in the Qaim, Karabilah and Husaybah areas. He also was a known close associate of Ghassan Amin, an al Qaeda member known as the "emir of Rawah." Amin was captured in May.


Just yesterday, October 25, coalition forces raided three suspected terrorist safe houses, detained six terrorists, and killed several others in the town of al Ushsh.

These operations are indications of the stepped-up efforts to prevent foreign terrorists from entering Iraq through Syria.

Ushsh has been a busy place. A similar air raid in Ushsh on September 26 killed Abu Nasir, another senior al Qaeda in Iraq foreign fighter facilitator and the alleged new al Qaeda in Iraq Emir of Karabilah at the time.

Suspected architect of roadside bomb campaign captured (from Stars&Stripes, HT: Bill Roggio)

Ayub Ali, believed responsible for many roadside bombings and other attacks, was captured by Iraqi police.

On the U.S. side, soldiers celebrated the detention of a notorious insurgent captured last week amid nighttime fighting at a polling site. Iraqi police arrested and turned over Ayub Ali, who is believed to be responsible for a two-year campaign of roadside bombs, political assassination and other attacks in the areas surrounding Muqdadiyah and nearby Baqouba.

"He痴 not so much a Islamic extremist as he is a gun貿or防ire type of criminal," said Capt. Alexander Marrone, head of intelligence for Task Force 130 here at Forward Operating Base Normandy.

After his arrest, Ali "sang like a bird," Marrone said. U.S. forces hope information from Ali will lead to further arrests.

No wonder learning English can be so hard

Word of the Day for Wednesday October 26, 2005

virago \vuh-RAH-go; vuh-RAY-go\, noun:
1. A woman of extraordinary stature, strength, and courage.
2. A woman regarded as loud, scolding, ill-tempered,
quarrelsome, or overbearing.

Veeeewy Intewesting

In my post yesterday about the Stephen Hayes article regarding the Wilson/Plame/Rove/Libby/Cheney/and cast of thousands affair, I quoted Hayes on the following:

On March 3, 2003, the IAEA shared with the U.S. government its assessment that the October 2002 documents on an Iraq-Niger deal for uranium were forgeries. The following day, the French government announced that the assessment it had previously given the United States--that an Iraq-Niger deal had taken place--was based on the same forged documents. (Some current and former Bush administration officials remain convinced that the French role in this matter was no accident. They speculate that French intelligence, seeking to embarrass the U.S. government, may have been the original source of the bad documents. An FBI investigation into the matter continues.)


Today, in the Telegraph, comes this news (HT: JunkYardBlog):

The Italian businessman at the centre of a furious row between France and Italy over whose intelligence service was to blame for bogus documents suggesting Saddam Hussein was seeking to buy material for nuclear bombs has admitted that he was in the pay of France.
...
His admission to investigating magistrates in Rome on Friday apparently confirms suggestions that - by commissioning "Giacomo" to procure and circulate documents - France was responsible for some of the information later used by Britain and the United States to promote the case for war with Iraq.

Italian diplomats have claimed that, by disseminating bogus documents stating that Iraq was trying to buy low-grade "yellowcake" uranium from Niger, France was trying to "set up" Britain and America in the hope that when the mistake was revealed it would undermine the case for war, which it wanted to prevent.


It would be quite a surprise if our dear friends and allies, the French, were scheming to undermine US policy in Iraq. I'm shocked, shocked!

Iran bares its fangs

According to this New York Times report:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday Israel should be "wiped off the map," the official IRNA news agency reported, dampening hopes Iran could temper its hostility toward the Jewish state.

Support for the Palestinian cause is a central pillar of the Islamic Republic which officially refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist.

"Israel must be wiped off the map," Ahmadinejad told a conference called "The World without Zionism," attended by some 3,000 conservative students who chanted "Death to Israel" and "Death to America."


Is it not a little unsettling when heads of state say things like this?

Ahmadinejad, who took office in August, said Israel would be destroyed by a new wave of Palestinian attacks.

"Surely the new wave of (attacks) in Palestine ... will erase this stigma from the Islamic world," he said.

Tehran denies accusations it trains and arms Palestinian militant groups, saying it only offers moral support.


I'll wait till you stop laughing after that last statement.

In the Monday Winds of War Briefing, I linked to a paper published by the Institute for National Strategic Studies entitled Reassessing the Implications of a Nuclear-Armed Iran.

Part of that paper dealt with Israel, and the threat it perceives from Iran. Here are some excerpts from that paper concerning Israel and Iran.

From the Israeli perspective, the current Iranian regime is highly dangerous; its frequent emotion-filled declarations of intent to "wipe Israel off the map" are matched by actions. Armed with nuclear weapons, the radical Islamic leadership could trigger confrontations and crises that would quickly escalate out of control, particularly given its very limited knowledge of and contact with Israel, and its close links with terror groups such as Hizballah and Hamas.
...
Israeli leaders during the 1990s sought to avoid an armed confrontation that would create hostility and bitterness among the Iranian public, which is seen as far less obsessed with Israel than is the radical Islamic leadership. Thus, Israeli officials consistently refer to Iran as a military threat, but not an enemy (in contrast to Syria or Iraq under Saddam).
...
While Iran is not a confrontation state bordering Israel, and there is no history of direct military clashes, its extreme Islamic ideology, declarations of extreme hostility, rejection of the very concept of Jewish sovereignty, and support for terrorist groups such as Hizballah and Hamas are seen as posing an existential threat to Israel. Indeed, while threat levels posed by Syria, Egypt, Jordan, and Iraq have declined, and after Palestinian terror attacks have shown a major decrease, Iran has emerged as the major strategic threat to Israel. In the terminology of international relations theory, Iran is a revisionist state, uninterested in preserving the status quo, but rather seeking to expand and use its capabilities to alter the international and regional political framework.
...
Missiles on parade in tehran are decorated with slogans such as "Wipe Israel off the map," and Israel is referred to as "the Zionist entity," reminiscent of the rejectionist slogans of the arab governments and Palestine liberation organization leadership in earlier decades. Iran痴 direct role in Hizballah and Hamas terror attacks is an ongoing reflection of these objectives.


It's hard to imagine what more the regime in Iran could do to signal its dangerous intentions. And while Europe and the US try to woo the mullahs over tea and crumpets, Iran's nuclear program continues apace. Israel is watching. Are we?

Tick tick tick...

-----
Captain Ed comments on Ahmadinejad's statements.

Day One

My first day of jury duty in service to the State and County has passed into the annals of history. Though, of course, history will little note, nor long remember, what we did there.

Gathering such a cross section of society is a little like examining deep core soil samples. An amalgam of bits and flecks and rocks and shiny things and mud, but it all tells a story.

In the jury room (comfy chairs, but no wireless internet access, the Philistines) there were the obligatory couple of souls who felt the need to let all the rest of us in on their cell phone conversations. And naturally, there is a Law of the Universe that says people so inclined to share cell phone calls will have the biggest, boomingest voices in the human race. I'm thrilled that Bob is going to meet a big black guy at the loading dock, but that kind of information is between Bob, God, and the big black guy. Let the rest of us work out our own salvation in fear and trembling.

There was the chatty retired guy, who let on he liked a bit of the grape now and then. Or the fermented potato, as it turned out. He naturally gravitated to a couple of other more working class folks who shared an affinity for the grape, or, again as it turned out, the hop.

One school custodian was engaged in a conversation about unions and picketing and contracts, and unknowingly ran down the list of everything that bothers me about unions.

We watched a short video about the jury system. It was the standard product that chipper 20-something marketing types put together. They round up struggling actors, dash off lines designed to get across The Big Message, score it with early 80s soap opera music and film it in a manner that would make Leni Riefenstahl nod approvingly. In this case, The Big Message was "I'm glad I had a chance to serve jury duty." (Don't misunderstand, I do appreciate this chance to serve.) Then, the TV screens were filled with the image of a pale, bald figure, camera focused tight on his face, looking at us, eyes methodically searching, hunting. (Ok, I made up that part.)

You wouldn't think doing nothing would be so exhausting. I did nothing but get familiar with the basic rules of Battlefleet Gothic in the morning. (Trying to read such material without letting your fellow citizens know you're a geek felt a little like reading comic books behind your social studies textbook while stern Miss Havisham casts questioning glances your way.)

One chunk of the jury pool was taken away in the morning by a Government Official and shot. I mean, they were taken for a civil case. The ones who were not selected for that jury were sent home.

We were told to be back at 1pm from lunch, so all of us sheeple were back at 1pm. And sat around till 2pm till we were taken up to a courtroom for a trial. I was selected by the Hand of Fate to be in the initial pool of 22 jurors. Eight were weeded out of that to get down to the 12 member jury plus 2 alternates.

I was one of the eight tossed out. I have my guess why I was tossed, but I won't record that here and leave a record that can come back to haunt me. I've expressed to a few of you in private why I think I won't be getting on a jury.

The defense attorney did ask if anyone had bumper stickers on their vehicles. One guy said he had a Snowmobilers for Bush bumper sticker. He was also one of the eight rejects. Make of that what you will.

I'll have to call in tonight, and see if I am to go do my civic duty again tomorrow. Though I think there is great value in having a jury of citizens, I can't believe this is the most efficient way to run the system, with so much sitting around. But, you can't fight City Hall. Or County Hall. Or State Hall.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Light up the sky like a plame, Plame!

Stephen Hayes is a model of what a journalist should be. He has done tremendous work at the Weekly Standard documenting the relationships between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Al Qaeda. (Yes, those who read only the MSM will be stunned to learn there were relationships between the two.)

Lately Hayes has been following the Plame case, which will come to some kind of resolution this week as Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald wraps up his grand jury.

In the October 24th issue of the Weekly Standard, Hayes laid out a detailed timeline of what occurred when in this strange case, and showed that once again, the MSM has missed the point by focusing on Rove and Libby.

I can't reproduce it all in detail here, read the article for yourself. But I'll summarize it as best I can.

**********
The chain of events that gave rise to a grand jury investigation

October 15, 2001 - The CIA received a report from a foreign government service that the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein had struck a deal with the government of Niger to purchase several tons of partially processed uranium

October 18, 2001 - The CIA published a Senior Executive Intelligence Bulletin that discussed the finding. The report noted the sourcing: "There is no corroboration from other sources that such an agreement was reached or that uranium was transferred."

February 5, 2002 - A second report came from "a foreign government service." It contained more details of the alleged transaction. An official from the CIA's directorate of operations said that the new information came from "a very credible source"

February 12, 2002 - Analysts at the Defense Intelligence Agency wrote a report using the new information and included in the daily intelligence briefing prepared for Vice President Dick Cheney. Cheney asked his CIA briefer for more information, including the CIA's analysis of the report

February 12, 2002 - Officials at the agency's Counterproliferation Division discussed how they might investigate further. An employee of the division, Valerie Wilson, suggested the agency send her husband, Joseph Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador to Gabon with experience in Niger, to Africa to make inquiries

February 18, 2002 - The U.S. embassy in Niger sent a cable describing a new account of the alleged deal. cable further warned against dismissing the allegations prematurely.

February 19, 2002 - Back at Langley, representatives of several U.S. intelligence agencies met with Ambassador Wilson to discuss the trip

Hayes writes at this point:

Here is how Wilson would later recall his investigation in his now-famous New York Times op-ed.

"In late February 2002, I arrived in Niger's capital, Niamey, where I had been a diplomat in the mid-70s and visited as a National Security Council official in the late 90s. The city was much as I remembered it. Seasonal winds had clogged the air with dust and sand. Through the haze, I could see camel caravans crossing the Niger River (over the John F. Kennedy bridge), the setting sun behind them. Most people had wrapped scarves around their faces to protect against the grit, leaving only their eyes visible."

Wilson met with U.S. Ambassador to Niger Barbara Owens-Kirkpatrick, who, like the State Department's intelligence bureau, thought the alleged sale unlikely. Wilson continued:

"I spent the next eight days drinking sweet mint tea and meeting with dozens of people: current government officials, former government officials, people associated with the country's uranium business. It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place."


March 5, 2002 - Wilson was debriefed by two CIA officials at his home. He never filed a written report. The resulting CIA report was published and disseminated in the regular intelligence stream three days later

Hayes writes:

Reactions to the report differed. The INR analyst believed Wilson's report supported his assessment that deals between Iraq and Niger were unlikely. Analysts at the CIA thought the Wilson report added little to the overall knowledge of the Iraq-Niger allegations but noted with particular interest the visit of the Iraqi delegation in 1999. That report may have seemed noteworthy because of the timing of the Iraqi visit. The CIA had several previous reports of Iraq seeking uranium in Africa in 1999, specifically from Congo and Somalia.

On balance, then, Wilson's trip seemed to several analysts to make the original claims of an Iraq-Niger deal more plausible.


September 2002 - A DIA paper was titled Iraq's Reemerging Nuclear Program. It declared: "Iraq has been vigorously trying to procure uranium ore and yellowcake."

September 11, 2002 - Language was cleared by the CIA that contained several references to the Iraq-Niger intelligence--some more direct than others--for use in speeches written for President Bush

September 24, 2002 - First public mention of the intelligence reporting on Iraq and Niger came in a white paper produced by the British government

September 24, 2002 - Staffers at the National Security Council (NSC) asked the CIA to clear additional language on Iraq and Niger. "We also have intelligence that Iraq has sought large amounts of uranium and uranium oxide, known as yellowcake, from Africa. Yellowcake is an essential ingredient in the process to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons." The CIA once again approved the language, but once again the president did not use it.

October 1, 2002 - CIA had published the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraqi WMD, Iraq's Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction. This classified document--the U.S. government's official position on Iraqi WMD programs--lifted almost verbatim the aggressive language used in the aforementioned DIA study, Iraq's Reemerging Nuclear Program, published just two weeks earlier

October 2, 2002 - Senate Select Intelligence Committee met and questioned senior U.S. intelligence officials in closed session about the threat from Iraq. Here, for the first time, a senior CIA official raised doubts about the reporting on Iraq and Niger

October 7, 2002 - Bush gives a speech in Cincinnati. On draft six of the speech, the CIA objected to this sentence: "The [Iraqi] regime has been caught attempting to purchase up to 500 metric tons of uranium oxide from Africa--an essential ingredient in the enrichment process." The two officials responsible for coordinating the translation of intelligence into public rhetoric were unaware that any substantive objections had been raised to the Niger intelligence.

October 9, 2002 - An Italian journalist walked into the U.S. embassy in Rome and delivered a set of documents purportedly showing that Iraq had indeed purchased uranium from Niger. The embassy provided the documents to the State Department and the CIA. At State, an INR analyst almost instantly suspected the documents might be forgeries.

December 7, 2002 - Iraq submitted to the United Nations an 11,000-page document on its weapons programs, as required by U.N. Resolution 1441. Among the scores of objections to the document was the fact that Iraq had failed to account for its attempts to acquire uranium from Africa.

January 28, 2003 - Bush gives State of the Union address. Among his many claims that night was this one: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

March 3, 2003 - The IAEA shared with the U.S. government its assessment that the October 2002 documents on an Iraq-Niger deal for uranium were forgeries. The following day, the French government announced that the assessment it had previously given the United States--that an Iraq-Niger deal had taken place--was based on the same forged documents. (Some current and former Bush administration officials remain convinced that the French role in this matter was no accident. They speculate that French intelligence, seeking to embarrass the U.S. government, may have been the original source of the bad documents. An FBI investigation into the matter continues.)

May 6, 2003 - New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof examined prewar U.S. claims of WMD in Iraq. His article included this curious passage:

I'm told by a person involved in the Niger caper that more than a year ago the vice president's office asked for an investigation of the uranium deal, so a former U.S. ambassador to Africa was dispatched to Niger. In February 2002, according to someone present at the meetings, that envoy reported to the C.I.A. and State Department that the information was unequivocally wrong and that the documents had been forged.

The envoy reported, for example, that a Niger minister whose signature was on one of the documents had in fact been out of office for more than a decade. In addition, the Niger mining program was structured so that the uranium diversion had been impossible. The envoy's debunking of the forgery was passed around the administration and seemed to be accepted--except that President Bush and the State Department kept citing it anyway.


It was the first of many times Joseph Wilson would tell his story to a reporter and the first of many times he would overstate his role and invent his supposed findings

June 12, 2003 - Walter Pincus of the Washington Post writes the following:

During his trip, the CIA's envoy spoke with the president of Niger and other Niger officials mentioned as being involved in the Iraqi effort, some of whose signatures purportedly appeared on the documents.

After returning to the United States, the envoy reported to the CIA that the uranium-purchase story was false, the sources said. Among the envoy's conclusions was that the documents may have been forged because the "dates were wrong and the names were wrong," the former U.S. government official said.


June 14, 2003 - Joseph Wilson speaks at a forum. He says (speaking about himself, obviously):

I just want to assure you that that American ambassador who has been cited in reports in the New York Times and in the Washington Post, and now in the Guardian over in London, who actually went over to Niger on behalf of the government--not of the CIA but of the government--and came back in February of 2002 and told the government that there was nothing to this story


The website for EPIC includes a biography of Wilson under the June 14, 2003, event that concludes with this sentence: "He is married to the former Valerie Plame and has four children".

Hayes write at this point:

It should be clear by now that the only one telling flat-out lies was Joseph Wilson. Again, Wilson's trip to Niger took place in February 2002, some eight months before the U.S. government received the phony Iraq-Niger documents in October 2002. So it is not possible, as he told the Washington Post, that he advised the CIA that "the dates were wrong and the names were wrong." And it is not possible, as Wilson claimed to the New York Times, that he debunked the documents as forgeries.


July 6, 2003 - New York Times published Wilson's now-famous op-ed. That account differs in important ways from the story Wilson had anonymously provided the Times, the Washington Post and the New Republic. Wilson acknowledged for the first time that he had not seen any forged document.

July 14, 2003 - Robert Novak wrote a column in which he named Joseph Wilson's wife, "CIA operative" Valerie Plame. Novak sourced this information to "two senior administration officials."

December 30, 2003 - The CIA concluded that the reference had compromised Plame's undercover status and asked the Justice Department to investigate. U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is named special prosecutor

July 23, 2005 - New York Times published a lengthy, front-page article detailing the work of two senior Bush administration officials, Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, on the Niger-uranium story.

But there is one curious omission: July 7, 2004. On that date, the bipartisan Senate Select Intelligence Committee released a 511-page report on the intelligence that served as the foundation for the Bush administration's case for war in Iraq. The Senate report includes a 48-page section on Wilson that demonstrates, in painstaking detail, that virtually everything Joseph Wilson said publicly about his trip, from its origins to his conclusions, was false.
**********

There is more in the article. But factor all this in as you read claims that the Bush administration lied to get us into Iraq, and that an evil Bush administration smeared the two noble Americans, Wilson and his wife.

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Stephen Spruiell at the Media Blog issues an open letter to the press asking them to tell the truth about Uncle Joe Wilson.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Should we save us from ourselves?

Today a post-vacation Hugh Hewitt posted a long, and characteristically thoughtful, rumination on the current status of the Miers nomination, and what might happen if it is ultimately defeated.

Though I view Hugh's position on the Miers nomination from across a great divide, I do admire his civility. Others in the anti-anti-Miers camp aren't as merciful. One example is the Hedgehog Blog, authored by Lowell Brown. I like this blog, for it, too, is a place where you can find clear thought. However, Mr. Brown has recently used phrases like these to describe those who do not support the Miers nomination: "merciless ferocity", "blindly vicious", "caterwauling", "intellectually thuggish tendencies".

Of George Will's recent much-discussed column, he said this:

What I found was a suprisingly intemperate screed against Ms. Miers and anyone who dares support her. It is so emotional, so full of sneers and condescension and internal inconsistency that I did not know where to begin in responding.


With Mr. Hewitt, I know I can disagree with him without having spinning scythes flying back at my throat.

In his long post, Hugh says this:

I fully understand the risks of a new SCOTUS justice who reaches the wrong decisions, or even the right decisions by the wrong path expressed in opinions that live on to influence and/or bind future judges...So it is obvious why so many have reacted so strongly. The stakes are only higher on issues of national security.


Yes, it is precisely because the stakes are high that many in the conservative camp are risking a potentially damaging confrontation with their President. It is so vital we not make another mistake on the Supreme Court, a mistake for which there is virtually no remedy. But, if you think Hugh is about to say just that, here's what comes next:

Given these stakes, though, I was surprised, and remained surprised, at how quickly the assault on the nominee began, and how it escalated in intensity and rhetorical excess as the weeks have passed.


I am a little puzzled why Hugh is surprised, when he just voiced the very reason for the intensity. He's tripped over the answer.

Hugh then asks a valid question:

Does anyone among the conservatives really not believe that President Bush has a different concern?


Again, it is not a matter of believing President Bush is really cackling with glee in his private closets, thinking he is putting another Souter on the Court. Rather, what this pick said to conservatives was that President Bush wasn't willing to fight for someone who clearly would nudge the Court back to its Constitutional roots. This pick said President Bush was willing to take a chance on this nomination, as I said, given the stakes, we skeptics are not willing to take that same chance.

One reason Hugh is so insistent about supporting President Bush on this is that he believes we skeptics are going to damage the President and the party.

In fact, it is nothing short of astonishing, that Robert Bork would lead a campaign to Bork a different GOP nominee, or that George Will would denounce anti-anti-Miers people as degraded partisans incapable of understanding conservatism. This would be funny if it were not political tragedy, and not for the president, Miers, and her defenders, but for the vast and lasting damage being done to Will, Bork, and the GOP's new majorities and its new media in the process.


In fact, Hugh envisions a scenario where the GOP loses its majorities.

But the results of their success will not be limited to the damage done to Bush. They have to consider the damage done to the GWOT by the loss of GOP majorities in either house of Congress, or of the presidency in 2008. It is simply not credible to reject as unlikely the reality of the consequences of weakening Bush at this moment. There is this pie-in-the-sky idea that, Miers defeated or withdrawn, the prident will nominate a Luttig or a McConnell, and a great battle will be waged and successfully so, and the GOP will go from victory to victory. Perhaps. I mean, it is possible. Really.

But it is much, much more likely that a defeat of the president, combined with the defeat on social security and the DeLay woes and the MSM's incessant anti-Bush campaign will in fact birth a 2006 like 1986. It wasn't pretty then. It isn't inevitable now.


To this I have two replies. First, if we work to build up these GOP majorities, and we don't use it to put someone like Luttig or McConnell on the Court, then what is the point of having these majorities? The Bush Administration has been profligate, and its come-on-in-igration policy would have uniformed hostesses waiting at the borders asking illegals "How may we help you?" If the promise of a solid originalist jurist is just a chimera the GOP keeps unveiling in hopes of getting my vote, they will soon discover skeptics like me might just wash our hands of the GOP.

Second, let the Democrats make the argument to the voters that they would be a better party than a damaged GOP. Let them explain why the country would be more secure in their hands, in a time of war. If the electorate thinks the GOP is damaged and wants new management, let them live with the consequences.

I am not as willing as Mr. Hewitt to try and save the electorate from themselves. With the privilege of free elections come responsibility. Let the voters learn the lesson, yet again, what it means to put scoundrels in the seats of power when enemies are prowling at the door, if they so choose.

Did the Clinton Administration not teach us anything? Did we not learn what damage is done to our national security when we elect a President who is more interested in diddling interns in the Oval Office than responding to acts of war committed against us, such as the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Khobar Towers, the USS Cole?

To return to Lowell Brown's bete noire, George Will once said of Clinton, "Some people want public office in order to do something; others in order to be something. Clinton was the latter sort."

If something like a strenuous argument over our most closely held principles is enough to cause damage in the eyes of an immature electorate, then let the voters live with any decision they make.

Again, to Hugh I say, those who think skeptics like me are damaging the GOP need to convince me why these majorities are worth keeping.

Doing my duty

I have been called to jury duty in Anoka County, and I've been told to report to the courthouse tomorrow, Tuesday, for my first day, and orientation.

So, I expect I'll be blogless till Tuesday evening.

I'll bring plenty of reading material.

From time to time I'll just stand up in the juror room, and at the top of my lungs shout "Zoltar is coming! Prepare the sacrifices!" I expect I'll be home by lunch.

How did Blog of the Week go this week?

0 - 4!!!

BOTW

(Fellow MOBster Hammerswing75 takes home the hardware. Well done, Uncle Ben!)

test

Monday Winds of War Briefing

Today marks the first collaboration between Security Watchtower and myself on the Monday Winds of War Briefing. The final product is here, over at Winds of Change.

I'll also include it here each week in its own post.

Welcome! Our goal at Winds of Change.NET is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from the global War on Terror that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday & Thursday. Monday's Winds of War briefings are given by Security Watchtower and Peace Like a River.

Top Topics

* A United Nations commission headed by German magistrate Detlev Mehlis has concluded that Syrian and Lebanese intelligence agencies more than likely had a role in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, but edited out allegations against specific individuals in the report prior to the Security Council recieving it. For their part, Syria rejected the report, declaring it politically motivated. Lebanon has arrested one man, a member of a pro-Syrian Islamic group.

* The U.S. Senate unanimously approved of an amendment that would name Hezbollah's global satellite channel, al-Manar, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) entity.

* Al Qaeda's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahri, has urged Muslims to provide assistance to the earthquake victims in Pakistan, "even though its government was an agent of the United States". Zawahri appeared in a video broadcast, and said "We all know the United States is against the activities of Islamic charities".

* Allegations that U.S. soldiers have burned the bodies of dead Taliban fighters have been met by strong condemnation from U.S. authorities and an immediate investigation. Euphoric Reality has a good collection of links and California Conservative offers some good perspective.

Other topics today include: Shootouts in the West Bank; al Qaeda arrests in Saudi Arabia; Demonstrations in Egypt; Jordanian court trial; Report criticizes FBI; al Qaeda and the Caribbean; Police Chief killed in Kandahar; Gunfights errupt in Afghanistan; Indonesian authorities seize explosives; Abu Sayyaf marijuana plantation; Thai-Malaysian border security; Terror arrests in UK; Anarchy in Somalia; Autonomy in southern Sudan; and more.

Iran & the Middle East

* Israeli forces killed a terrorist in the West Bank town of Anabta after their patrol came under fire from two gunmen belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. A seperate raid in the West Bank city of Tulkarm resulted in the death of another terrorist. Several other shootouts in the West Bank took place as well.

* UPI Editor Martin Walker reviewed John Bradley's book Saudi Arabia Exposed this past week, calling it the most "revealing and important book on the real Saudi Arabia to have been published in years."

* Saudi security forces have arrested 13 terror suspects in a residential area of Riyadh. The men are believed to be members of the Al-Qaeda terror network. In related news, Prince Muqrin bin Abdul-Aziz has been named the new Saudi intelligence chief, ending the nine month vacancy.

* The Institute for National Strategic Studies has published a lengthy paper (PDF) entitled Reassessing the Implications of a Nuclear-Armed Iran. The paper deals with two larger questions: the European Union's diplomatic efforts to curtail Iran's nuclear program, and Israel's perception of an Iranian nuclear threat and its options in dealing with what it describes as the greatest danger to its security today.

* According to reports, Israel is dropping the campaign to have Hamas excluded from parliamentary elections in January, but remain opposed to the terrorist groups participation. The move comes after the recent Bush-Abbas meeting in which the U.S. President failed to reiterate the opposition of Hamas participation.

* An anti-Christian demonstration in Alexandria, Egypt, a week ago has been turned into anti-Christian video-propaganda by jihadist groups. Video film of Wednesday's protest appeared on Friday on a forum much used by al-Qaeda aligned groups. Gateway Pundit has a report on more riots in Alexandria just this past Saturday.

* A witness in a Jordanian court testified that seven defendents on trial had links to al Qaeda, and were trying to recruit terrorists to send to Iraq.

America Domestic Security & the America's

* Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced plans to station his own representatives in New York City in an effort to improve communications and formulate a unified response.

* Former Canadian ambassador to Yugoslavia James Bissett writes that "the most serious threat to North American security comes from Canada痴 lax asylum system". Bissett says the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a dangerous terrorist group, have not been placed on Canada's terrorist list. Canada's Muslim population has more than doubled since 1990.

* The Colombian army destroyed 135 kg of explosives belonging to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The explosives were in 27 footballs. FARC numbers close to 20,000, and is considered a terrorist group by the US. Eight FARC members were killed in armed clashes last week.

* A report released Thursday is critical of the FBI and other intelligence agencies, saying they have made little progress in key areas they must reform, putting the nation at greater risk of a successful terrorist attack. The report is especially critical of the FBI and its slow pace of change. (The report is available here in PDF).

* Writing for the Jamestown Foundation, Chris Zambelis warns of the "potential threat of al-Qaeda using the Caribbean Basin as a base of operations". Al Qaeda may be recruiting from among local Muslim extremist groups.

Russia & South/Central Asia

* A Russian Interior Ministry official said "no more than 200 militants" attacked Nalchik on October 13-14. Thirty-five security and police personnel were killed in that attack. According to Russian officials, 91 of the attackers were killed and 36 captured in counter operations, which continued into Friday.

* A deputy provincial police chief and one of his bodyguards were killed in Kandahar, Afghanistan, by a car bomb. Elements of the Taliban were blamed. An aid worker was killed in another attack.

* A two hour gun battle in Afghanistan late Friday left eight police and four terrorists dead. The government sent 200 police reinforcements into the area to hunt down the attackers.

* With most of the election results in, at least half of Afghanistan's lower house of Parliament will be made up of religious figures or former fighters, including four former Taliban commanders. Political analysts predict a deeply divided and confrontational body.

* A Russian military observer was detained on suspicion of terrorism in the Georgian city of Gori on October 21. The Russian Foreign Ministry lodged a protest with the Georgian ambassador. On Sunday a Russian official said the man had been released.

* India Daily reports from Bangladesh that "Islamist militants are...regrouping in the remote hills of the Tangail district, about 62 miles northwest of the capital, Dhaka". Hundreds have been arrested following the numerous August 17 bomb blasts. There are indications a major Al-Qaeda figure is leading the Jihadists.

* Tuttehida Majlis-e-Amal, an alliance of six pro-Taliban religious parties, is calling for children orphaned in the recent earthquake be sent to them rather than "Christian missionaries and the Aga Khan Development Network."

* Operation Pil is a seven day, battalion-reinforced operation aimed at disrupting enemy activities and sanctuaries in Afghanistan痴 volatile Kunar province. U.S. troops from four military branches joined together for the operation, which has seen about 12 engagements.

Far East & Southeast Asia

* Authorities in Indonesia have arrested four suspects and seized a large shipment of explosives being smuggled from Malaysia. According to the report, 175 kg of explosives had already been made into bombs and were ready for use.

* On Saturday a special US envoy said that the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist group in the southern Philippines posed a serious threat to that entire region. The group possesses technical skills such as bomb-making, and has been blamed for the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings. Henry Crumpton also said a peace deal in the works with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front may put pressure on the Jemaah Islamiyah group.

* South Korea and the United States agreed yesterday to "appropriately accelerate" discussions on Seoul's efforts to gain greater control of its national defense, including operational command of its forces in wartime. In their joint news briefing, Yoon and Rumsfeld noted that North Korea's continued development of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles along with other dangers were the root of serious security concerns in the region.

* Filipino troops tracking Abu Sayyaf terrorists on Jolo Island came across a large marijana plantation, numbering 3,000 fully grown plants, that authorities believe belonged to Abu Sayyaf.

* Thailand is tightening security along the border with Malaysia after reports indicated terrorists were planning to smuggle weapons across ahead of a new wave of planned attacks.

* The shoot-to-kill order has generated controversy in Australia, and it now appears that Prime Minister John Howard is considering a compromise on the counterterrorism legislation.

Europe

* Italian authorities say that Al Qaeda operatives are making their way from North Africa to Northern Europe through safe houses operated by a Naples-based organized crime network. Italian investigative sources say Al Qaeda operatives disembark almost daily from ships connecting Italy to the Arab countries of North Africa.

* Three men suspected of international terrorism have been arrested after raids on addresses in London and Kent. The Metropolitan Police said the arrests were not connected to bomb attacks on London in July.

* Police in England have arrested a 27-year old man in connection with the July 7 London bombings. The man was arrested Saturday in the Dewsbury area of West Yorkshire "on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism".

* French judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere has declared Iraq "is quite a black hole sucking up all the elements located in Europe, and pushing them to leave Europe and go to Iraq," and then warned of those returning to Europe with jihadist skills.

Africa

* Anarchy in Somalia is overwhelming the new government of that country. At least one Al Qaeda cell is present in Somalia, and homegrown Islamist militias move about freely. Famine is exacerbating the problem.

* A Maltese-registered ship was attacked by pirates last Wednesday off the coast of Somalia. The pirates are demanding $700,000 in ransom for the ship and crew. International maritime officials say Somali waters are some of the world's most dangerous.

* South Sudan has formed an autonomous government as part of a January peace deal that ended more than two decades of civil war in Africa's largest country, a senior official said on Sunday. The former southern rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) signed the deal with the Islamist northern government.

* Sixty Algerian terrorists are preparing to surrender as part of a government reconciliation program implemented last month, aimed at ending the lengthy and violent insurgency that has engulfed Algeria for more than a decade.

The Global War

* According to some reports, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has expanded his network of contacts to 24 terrorist groups spread throughout 40 nations.

* Hastings College (in Hastings, Nebraska) is holding a symposium on terrorism through Wednesday. However, judging from some of the speakers, this may be something Cindy Sheehan would not be entirely uncomfortable attending.

* British Home Secretary Charles Clarke gave a lecture titled Contesting the Threat of Terrorism, in which he makes the case that the best way to contest terrorism "is by building and strengthening the democracy of our society, by isolating extremism in its various manifestations, by strengthening the legal framework within which we contest terrorism, and by developing more effective means to protect our democracy."

* Izmir is the location of a small US air base on the Aegean coast of Turkey. Since shortly after 9/11, with a few exceptions, dependents have not been allowed along on a one-year tour. There is a desire to once again make it an accompanied tour.

Thanks for reading! If you found something here you want to blog about yourself (and we hope you do), all we ask is that you do as we do and offer a Hat Tip hyperlink to today's "Winds of War". If you think we missed something important, use the Comments section to let us know. For ongoing tips, email "MondayWindsOfWar", over here @windsofchange.net.

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linked to La Shawn Barber

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Dispatch from the Front X

In this dispatch, my correspondent has some additional thoughts on the role popular support, or implied support from various parties, plays in driving jihadis.

A lot of these tribal societies, being so much more tight knit family wise, give any bad guys pause when doing evil since they know it will often be known to all involved. That's one reason so many areas with a strong insurgent presence do so well. The whole is in on it and if they approve, the young men go for it.

Once enough social pressure is brought to bear either with sheiks, muktars, mullahs, family patriarchs, etc activity can wane. Some of these jihadis or even suicider wackos keep their intent secret because they know the family won't approve. Unlike a lot of palestinian communities where the whole jihadi martyr ethos is venerated there isn't a lot of sense of that in Iraqi society.

One thing I was glad to see with the Britain attacks was the overwhelming groundswell of condemnation against such murderous perversions of islam. Something sorely lacking so often in other areas of weighty influence, like say, Saudi.

That, mullah support and blessing of "jihad", so many experts indicate, is one of the single largest contributors towards violent militarism. We see it all the time, x village has got a mullah who preaches and urges on the muj.


Dispatch from the Front I
Dispatch from the Front II
Dispatch from the Front III
Dispatch from the Front IV
Dispatch from the Front V
Dispatch from the Front VI
Dispatch from the Front VII
Dispatch from the Front VIII
Dispatch from the Front IX

More on directing the Pakistan relief efforts

I've had a few posts on the Pakistan relief efforts, and what it takes to make it happen. My previous post had a little bit of information on what is involved in getting the supplies out to the areas where they are needed.

Yesterday I got an email from my brother-in-law, Air Force Lt. Col. Bill Pearson. He works under Headquarters Air Mobility Command. He has been involved to some extent in parts of the relief operations, and his email explained what he's been doing.

I am working today (Saturday, 22 Oct) on a 12 hour shift in support of relief operations. In one of your previous e-mails you were wondering where I work and what exactly do I do. I will try to explain that below.

I am currently the Tanker Allocation Division Chief for the Mobility Management Directorate for the Tanker Airlift Control Center (TACC) for 18th Air Force, for Headquarters Air Mobility Command. Hope you can follow this narrative that is in lieu of a wiring diagram.

HQ Air Mobility Command is the Air Force component for United States Transportation Command (TRANSCOM). There is a surface and sealift component as well. TRANSCOM is one of the 9 combatant commands whose commander reports directly to the SecDef. This link can give you all the information you need to know about all the combatant commands if you are interested.

http://www.defenselink.mil/specials/unifiedcommand/

There is a relationship between each called Supported Command and Supporting Command. In most cases TRANSCOM is always the supporting command to CENTCOM or NORTHCOM or PACOM as supported command. Basically when a supported command asks for resources the supporting command does all that it can to support that request.

What happens is a user, (other military services such as US Army or Navy, other government agencies, etc) has a request to move passengers or cargo form Point A to Point B and they submit that request to TRANSCOM. TRANSCOM will validate the request, give it a priority code, and send it to either be moved by Air, Land, or Sea. If it is air then AMC will be the one who plans, and executes the move.

There are 3 different planning directorates within TACC (Channel- sustainment, Contingency, Current Ops- includes Special Airlift and Air Refueling) and depending on type of mission, one of these will receive the requirement. The planners will figure out the aircraft requirements and at that point they will come to my directorate requesting aircraft. We are given a pool of aircraft and crews from all active duty bases from which to work and we assign an airlift or air refueling wing to fulfill the planners' requirement based on priority. If none are available in the required time, the planners are told when they would be able to have an aircraft to complete the mission.

The people in my division get refueling requirements from the other planners and based on availability and priority will assign the tasking to one of the wings. We (both airlift and air refueling) may non-support and delay some of these actions based on priority.

DLA (Defense Logistics Agency) is involved in the process but I'm not sure exactly how. Since I'm primarily responsible for tanker aircraft I do not get totally involved in assigning aircraft to move pallets. However, the KC-10s that I have control over are also used as airlifters, but primarily for sustainment cargo.

What I'm doing today is keeping oversight of the airlift aircraft that are taking equipment and supplies for supporting earthquake relief and providing that info to my superiors.

This is a very simplified description of what goes on, but hopefully that will give you an idea.


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US military relief efforts in Pakistan - Oct 13
More on the Pakistan relief efforts - Oct 14
Pakistan relief efforts continue - Oct 18
Making the Pakistan relief effort happen - Oct 20

Friday, October 21, 2005

Friday

Today is a school day, so light blogging. This weekend I also have school tomorrow as well, so not a lot of posts tomorrow either.

There are a few posts down below though, to dig into. The Bard takes on Miers, some more thoughts on the intelligence successes in Iraq, a little bit of information on how the Pakistan relief efforts are managed, and a review of the movie Serenity.

I'm writing this on lunch break, and my laptop battery is rapidly draining, so better run.

by the way, who do I sue?

Me, in this blog, Oct 14

"This pick seems to be a political blunder of the first order"

OpinionJournal.com editorial, today

"this selection has become a political blunder of the first order."

UPDATE: Hey, that windmill isn't so big! I can take it! Let's take another tilt at it.

Yes, once again, I'm one of the final five at the Crosley Solo Blog of the Week, over at the terrific Radioblogger site. This week, fellow MOB blogger Hammerswing75 is also one of the five.

Go here to register your vote

Thursday, October 20, 2005

You can't shake a spear at this nomination

Before he left for a Florence vacation, Hugh Hewitt spoke last Friday with the Beltway Boys about a number of topics, chief among them the Harriet Miers nomination.

Fred Barnes has been a vocal critic of the vocal critics of the Miers nomination. (See my post from last week.)

He once again defended her in the interview. (Transcript at Radioblogger)

Well, it certainly should freeze until the hearings, and if is has, if the fighting has ceased, it just started today, because it was certainly going on all week. And my point was, in the piece I wrote, that it never should have started in the first place. I mean, look. The president owes his followers that he will fulfill on his word and nominate a judicial conservative to the Supreme Court. But they in turn are obligated to give him a hearing. And that hearing will happen before the Senate Judiciary Committee in a couple of weeks. Instead, many jumped the gun, and I'm glad to hear they're finally quieting down, and are waiting to hear what Harriet Miers has to say for herself.


This week, Miers did speak for herself. Answers (available here, PDF) to questions from the Judiciary Committee were released this week, and the response to those answers was less than overwhelming.

However, this blog has made up, I mean, obtained, secret Miers writings that were not included in the answers provided to the Judiciary Committee. I present them here.

What's she that wishes so?
An originalist? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark'd to be nominated, we are now
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men on the Court, the greater share of honour.
God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for Louis Vuitton handbags,
Nor care I who doth pick through my meager writings;
It yearns me not if men the black robes wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet a seat on the Court,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from New England.
Souter did damage enough.
God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have of ever getting on the Court.
O, do not wish one more man!
Rather proclaim it, Dubya, through the media,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that elitist man's company
Who fears to support us.
This day is call'd the Hearings.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
And rouse him at the name of Harriet.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
might get a plum political appointment, and
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'I remember the Hearings.'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say 'These wounds I had from those whiny conservatives.'
Old men forget; especially Stevens, yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages,
What he put up with that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Dubya the King, Rove and Card,
Fred Barnes and Hugh Hewitt, Specter and TeddyK-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.
(And let me tell you, TeddyK likes his flowing cups)
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And future nominations shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of sisters;
For she to-day that supports me
Shall be my sister; be she ne'er so vile,
(I've read what you said about me, K-Lo.)
This day shall gentle those sanctimonius purist conservatives' condition;
And gentlemen in Virginia now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not nominated,
(yeah, Luttig, I mean you! Neener neener)
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us for this nomination.

Serenity

A Review

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!!! SPOILERS AHEAD!!!
(I couldn't review with this movie in any meaningful away without discussing some of the main plot points, so don't read any further if you haven't seen the movie and you wish to preserve the surprises.)
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!!! SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

First, let me take a long wind-up.

I don't recall being aware of the Firefly TV series when it first aired, but then again, FOX barely gave it enough time to catch on. I give FOX credit for trying different material like this, but why bother if a network isn't going to give fans the time to warm up to it. Too many people have been dulled into thinking mindless drivel like Friends is the highest form of entertainment humankind can achieve, and so anything that deviates from that kind of insipid formula must be avoided.

FOX took the same tact with another wonderful show, The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. At least that show ran a season before FOX sent it to the Great Orb in the Sky. Firefly only lasted 11 episodes, and even those were aired out of order. Three episodes were never aired.

On the recommendation of a friend, I watched Firefly when it began to air this summer on the SciFi Channel. It only took one episode to get me hooked.

The show's creator, Joss Whedon, was also the creative force behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, two shows that never grabbed my fancy. Though those shows had a well-developed universe and a mythos ripe for story-telling, for me they were too much a blend of camp and Beverly Hills 9021-Evil.

I approached Firefly with a little trepidation, then, wondering if it would contain the same flaws. To my delight, I quickly discovered it was one of the best science fiction shows on television. No aliens, no kids, no robots, just finely drawn characters and a universe full of stories.

There was no winking at the camera. The characters took their plights seriously, and behaved as if the situations they found themselves in were very real.

Mal, the captain, has an aw-shucks wit, but a steel will. Jayne, the brute, has a devil-may-care-but-I-don't engaging air about him, but he is ruthless and ultimately only concerned with himself. Wash is a talented Hawaiian shirt wearing goof of a pilot. His wife, Zoe, goes back a long ways with Mal and her loyalty to Mal knows no bounds. Kaylee is a country girl mechanical whiz, who is also somewhat of a farmer's daughter if you know what I mean. Inara is the gorgeous space harlot. When she and Mal are together, they throw off the requisite sparks, both good and bad.

If he stopped there, Whedon still would have a great crew to form a show around. But, the demands of TV drama require something to hang several seasons worth of episodes on, so there are three more characters. Shepherd Book is the classic "character with a mysterious past". His calm manner is a welcome contrast to the others, but the show ended far too quickly for us to discover why Book is so familiar with Alliance ways.

The remaining two characters, however, Simon and River, are the flaw in Firefly. They are my least two favorite characters, I have no desire to spend time with them, and yet a fair amount of the TV series is devoted to them, and the movie revolves around them.

Simon is a doctor, and is rather a wilting flower sort of guy, sort of like the David character in Star Trek: Wrath of Khan. True, Simon did break River out of a heavily guarded Alliance facility, and protects her fiercely, but you get the impression Simon's idea of a fight to the death consists of lightly *patsch* *patsching* someone on the face with a leather glove.

River is a very troubled person, given to fits of crying, anguish. Not a happy sort. She has a haunted quality to her, like a cross between Sissy Spacek and Children of the Corn. She is the classic "Character With A Dark Secret". The Alliance has altered her mind in unpleasant ways.

Whew. All that is prelude to my thoughts on the movie. Now the pitch.

Simon and River took refuge on Serenity, Mal's ship, and several tv episodes dealt with the trouble that brung (to use Firefly-speak), as the Alliance is intent on finding River. She harbors knowledge that could harm the Alliance. But, given their unpleasant personalities, I didn't care to spend so much of the movie in their company at the expense of the other characters.

Secrets were revealed about River. The TV series always hinted that River has created as some sort of weapon. In the movie, we discover she is a martial arts machine.

A cold-blooded assassin is after River in the movie, and this villain was a disappointment. His genteel manner was a distraction. Yes, the most frightening evil is that controlled and unleashed by cool reason, but this villain seemed too worried about enunciating.

The ending was also a big cheat considering how the villain was built up. He is ruthless, kills without mercy. He acknowledges that he is evil, and does what is necessary. Yet, at the end, the villain lets the crew go. Why? If he believed everything he said about himself, why the sudden change?

The movie reunited us with all the elements that make Firefly so addicting: the Chinese influences, the wild West, offbeat snappy banter where words like Shiny became an exclamation instead of an adjective and people say "I conjure" instead of "I think", a loveable old beat-up ship, the monstrous Reavers, etc... (Though, newcomers might have completely missed that Wash and Zoe are married, since this little fact was hardly highlighted in the movie.)

The big secret of the movie was my biggest disappointment. A planet named Miranda was the site of a terraforming/settlement experiment gone wrong. The settlers were exposed to some substance designed to calm them, but instead made them so passive they died. (I couldn't figure out why, if people were passive to the point of death, they still went to work where they died.)

In a related disappointment, this same substance turned some of the people into the horrific Reavers, a band of murderous mutilated freaks who roam around pillaging and raping and cannibalizing. The Reavers were more frightening as engimas. The revalation that these were once mere settlers demystified them, took away some of their power. They are really victims, not evil unleashed from the lowest levels of hell.

River knows of Miranda, somewhere in her brain anyway. Something to do with Miranda, in fact, triggers the Bruce Lee in River.

My biggest question then is this? Why does the Alliance want River back? Simply because she was aware of the existence of Miranda? What is it about Miranda that the Alliance wants covered up? Was the government using the settlers as guinea pigs, to see how this substance worked. This was never made clear.

If it was just an accident, why build it up as this Horrible Secret at the heart of the show? The tv series seemed to imply that River's telepathic powers were designed as a weapon, that they wanted to keep this secret, that and the fact they were doing these awful things to human beings like River.

(A side note. In the tv series, River was pursued by two deadly agents who wore blue gloves. They didn't appear in the movie.)

It makes River seem a whole lot less dangerous if she simply knew about a faraway accident. How and why River knew this was also never made clear. I can accept that her telepathic abilities allowed her to glean this from people she came in contact with, but this wasn't explained.

At the end, why was River seemingly better? Did her psychotic tendencies simply go away?

Another smaller question. In the final fight, if they were just going to close the blast doors, and seal them so they couldn't be opened, why didn't the Firefly crew retreat behind them to begin with? Why the initial attempt to fight and hold off the Reavers?

It is a movie worth seeing, don't get me wrong. I was just surprised to see these kinds of questions in a show that has such a strong creative mind behind it. I wouldn't expect that having experienced brilliant scripts in some of the tv episodes.

We bade farewell to a couple of favorite characters. That was shocking. However, Zoe's reaction to the death of Wash seemed far too underwhelming.

Get the tv episodes on dvd. You will see tv storytelling at its best. The movie is fine, but you may prefer to remember the characters as they were in the tv series.

Dominos

According to this FOX News article (HT: Power Line), a chief terrorist financier has been captured in Iraq.

Iraqi police on Wednesday arrested Saddam Hussein's (search) nephew in Baghdad, charging that he served as the top financier of Iraq's (search) rampant insurgency, senior Iraqi security officials said.

Yasir Sabhawi Ibrahim (search), son of Saddam's half brother Sabhawi Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti, was arrested in a Baghdad apartment, several days after Syrian authorities forced him to return to Iraq, the officials told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Cairo. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to deal with the media.


On Monday I wrote about the capture of Abu Khalil, Abu Azzam's banker. I speculated that Khalil probably gave up the location of Azzam, and the fact we heard about this capture three weeks after the fact indicated other operations probably took place as a result of any intelligence Khalil divulged.

This is pure speculation on my part here, but I would not be surprised if the capture of Ibrahim is also related to the capture of Khalil. It is likely that Khalil, a person involved with the higher levels of finance in the terrorist operations, would know and interact with Ibrahim.

My speculation is that Khalil knew Ibrahim was in Syria, and said so, providing direct confirmation of what has been suspected.

Since Khalil's capture, I speculate the US has put serious pressure on Syria to return Ibrahim, pressure made all the more real by the fact the US could produce direct proof of the knowledge Ibrahim was in Syria. I speculate Syria returned Ibrahim, and the Iraqi authorites were allowed to take credit for the capture as a way of bolstering their capabilities in the eyes of the Iraqi people.

Last Saturday, Belmont Club linked to an article that reported the following:

A series of clashes in the past year between U.S. and Syrian troops, including a prolonged firefight this summer that killed several Syrians, has raised the prospect that cross-border military operations may become a new front in the Iraq war, according to current and former military and government officials.

The firefight, between Army Rangers and Syrian troops along the border with Iraq, was the most serious of the conflicts with President Bashar al-Assad's forces, according to U.S. and Syrian officials.

It illustrated the dangers facing U.S. troops as Washington tries to apply more political and military pressure on a country that President Bush last week labeled one of the "allies of convenience" with extremists.


There has been more talk recently about US pressure on Syria. The fact the US can credibly apply pressure is a direct benefit of the improved capability of the Iraqi security forces. It's not quite so simple as one trained Iraqi soldier means one US soldier is available for use elsewhere. But, as Iraqi forces are increasingly able to provide their own security, US forces will become available for any possible operations against Syria. Certainly such threats become much more credible. These kinds of operations have been highly unlikely in the past because US forces have been spread so thin in Iraq to begin with.

Again I speculate here, but the US might have waved this newfound stick at Syria, and politely requested they could return Ibrahim as a sign of their willingness to cease support of cross-border terrorist operations.

As the Iraqi forces continue their development, look for more talk about Syria.

(CentCom and MNF-Iraq do not yet have press releases on the capture of Ibrahim.)

-----
Security Watchtower has an excellent post on the capture, with some good background and links.

Making the Pakistan relief effort happen

One reason I'm interested in keeping track of the Pakistan relief efforts, and also why I first started this with Hurricane Rita, is I'm amazed how efficient this kind of operation seems to be.

I mean, a disaster occurs, and within days huge aircraft and tons upon tons of cargo are moving into remote areas. Personnel are on the move, medical technology is deployed.

If we civilians attempted this we'd still be gathering little boxes of clothes and canned goods, and would be wondering how we were going to get all this stuff halfway around the planet.

Yet the military seems to make this look routine. So, I emailed Marcia Klein of the Defense Logistics Agency with some questions about how these kinds of operations are done. She was kind enough to take the time to answer me. Here's what she said.

Q: Where do the supplies come from? Did they all begin their journey in the States? Did they come from sites closer to Pakistan, or were supplies prepositioned somewhere in case of emergencies?

A: We can't answer for all of the supplies, but we can tell you that in cases where DLA sent supplies or assisted in the shipment, the supplies were from pre-positioned stocks, already there as provisions for deployed troops. I should also note that although we shipped from those forward stocking points that will not be to the detriment of the troops over there -- we ensured that we have sufficient supplies on the ground, and on the way (in the 都upply pipeline), to meet their continuing needs.


Q: How do the supplies get from their initial warehouses to the choppers and cargo planes that will bring them to the final destination?

A: That is a coordination between DLA, which runs the depots and warehouses, and U.S. Transportation Command, which is responsible for DOD's distribution efforts (air and surface), as well as the military commanders and their troops in the area who provide some of the manpower and equipment to help move the supplies. The storage areas are deliberately positioned near transportation shipping points for that very reason.


Q: Does the DLA work at all with USAID? I believe USAID is under the State Dept, while DLA is under the DoD, correct? Does USAID conduct its own independent relief efforts?

A: USAID is an independent federal government agency that receives overall foreign policy guidance from the Secretary of State. DLA does fall under DoD. DLA only supports non-DoD organizations when directed by the Joint Staff (DOD). DLA has not been directed to provide support to USAID, or any other non-DoD organizations for the current earthquake relief effort. Questions regarding USAID relief efforts are best answered by the USAID PAO.


Q: Rear Admiral Michael LeFever has been named Coordinator, Disaster Assistance Center, Pakistan. Does Adm. LeFever command all the various service branches in this relief effort, and does he coordinate closely with the DLA?

A: Questions regarding command relationships between the Disaster Assistance Center and the Service component forces in theater are best answered by the Joint Staff or CENTCOM PAOs. DLA is providing support to forces tasked to support the relief effort by filling requisitions for material. The agency has a DLA Contingency Support Team located in Afghanistan and a Regional Command co-located with the Central Command Headquarters. We are prepared to deploy personnel forward to provide direct support to the Disaster Assistance Center if required.


Q: After something like this earthquake occurs, who is the first person or command to take charge, and start coordinating the relief efforts? Who authorizes the effort that Adm. LeFever is coordinating, and who tells the DLA to start performing its tasks?

A: The U.S. Ambassador in the affected country has initial responsibility for coordination of U.S. relief efforts in a disaster situation. Questions regarding authorization for DoD participation in relief efforts is another question best answered by the Joint Staff or DoD PAOs. DLA provides support at the direction of the Joint Staff.


If any readers have additional information on how operations like this are put together and managed and directed, please feel free to share with the rest of us.

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US military relief efforts in Pakistan - Oct 13
More on the Pakistan relief efforts - Oct 14
Pakistan relief efforts continue - Oct 18

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The winds of war, the winds of blogging

Some news to share with you, gals and gents.

Mixed Humor of The Security Watchtower has graciously invited me to work with him in putting together the Monday Winds of War Briefings at Winds of Change.

Here is the most recent Monday Winds of War Briefing.

The Briefings are a round-up of links related to the Global War on Terror. (There is also a Briefing on Thursday.)

So, like Mixed Humor, I will become a Human Spider and will be trawling the web for articles of interest to those with a desire to keep abreast of this war on terrorism. Look for the next Briefing this coming Monday.

Could you imagine this news five years ago?

From the Breitbart story:

Saddam Hussein went on trial Wednesday for alleged crimes against fellow Iraqis, appearing in a tightly secured courtroom in the former headquarters of his Baath Party nearly two years after his capture and facing charges in a 1982 massacre of nearly 150 Shiites that could carry the death penalty if he is convicted.

The 68-year-old ousted Iraqi leader and his seven co-defendants _ all top officials from his regime _ sat in two rows, with Saddam in the front, directly facing the panel of five judges that will both hear the the case and render a verdict in what could be the first of several trials of Saddam for atrocities carried out during his 23- year-rule.


As was the referendum this past Saturday, this very day is one of the reasons the United States has spent so much blood and treasure in Iraq. This is about so much more than the US removing from power someone who had been a thorn in our side for years. This day is a live fire exercise in freedom. This day is about throwing a spear in the sand and saying there will be a moral reckoning. As American people, as Iraqi people, we will not cower forever, we will do the hard work of prying a nation out of the sharp talons of a murderous regime and freeing a people. This day is a banner rippling high above the entire Middle East proclaiming that freedom means self-determination.

What must the other thugocracys throughout the Middle East think today as they watch this former absolute ruler standing before a judge? I'm sure they're thinking "There but for the grace of Allah, and the strength of my goons, go I."

How many on the Left, and even on the Right, were resigned to simply dealing with Hussein, to living with his regime in Iraq, with no thought given to the possibility of change? Here is the vision of the leadership President Bush has shown since 9/11. Things aren't perfect, the aftermath in Iraq may not have been planned correctly, but on this big question, Bush was right.

The Iraqi people are learning what it means to be a free nation with ideals. Though many would like to, the Iraqis aren't simply throwing Hussein to be ripped apart by a pack of wild dogs. They are using the restrained procedures of a trial. This is what civilized people do. They allow their behavior to be constrained by abstract ideals, like justice and the rule of law.

Even if the Cindy Sheehans of the world have the luxury to forget this lesson, it's there for all to see, and you can believe there are millions across the Middle East, particularly in Iran, who are praying in darkened rooms in their homes that freedom will come their way, and that some day they can put their own dictators in the dock.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The routine of war

Though our troops are halfway around the planet, in a war zone, it is customary for soldiers to settle in and make a home out of wherever they are. Familiar activities can be a comfort, a reminder of home and family far away. I thought I'd list a few of the familiar things that routinely take place in Iraq in military environs.

From the Oct 14 issue of Eagle and Crescent:

Fallujah Church Service Schedule

PROTESTANT WORSHIP SERVICES
Sunday:
Protestant Worship 9 a.m. CLB-8 theater
Protestant Communion 9:15 a.m. Base Chapel
Contemporary Worship 10:30 a.m. Base Chapel
Gospel Service 1 p.m. Base Chapel
Latter Day Saints (Mormon) 8:30 a.m. Camp Workhorse
Latter Day Saints (Mormon) 6:30 p.m. Camp Workhorse

CATHOLIC MASS / CONFESSIONS
Catholic Confession Sun. 7:15 a.m. Base Chapel
Catholic Mass Sun. 8 a.m Base Chapel
Catholic Mass Mon. 6 p.m. Base Chapel
Catholic Mass Tues. 6 p.m. Base Chapel
Catholic Mass Wed. 6 p.m. Base Chapel
Catholic Mass Thurs. 6 p.m. Base Chapel
Catholic Mass Fri. 6 p.m. Base Chapel
Catholic Confession Sat. 5:15 p.m. Base Chapel

From the Oct 4 issue of the Camp Victory newspaper:

Victory MWR Events October 4 - 10

Today: Spades at 8 p.m. at Bldg. 124; Ping Pong at 8 p.m. at Bldg. 51; At the Gym: Tae-Kwon-Do from 6 - 7 p.m.; Fencing from 7:30 - 9 p.m.; Flag Football Coaches Meeting at Bldg. 51 at 12:30 p.m.

Wednesday: Dominoes at 8 p.m. at Bldg. 124; Spades at 8 p.m. at Bldg. 51; At the Gym: Aerobics from 6:30 - 7:30 p.m.; Boxing from 8 - 9 p.m.;

Thursday: Country Night at 7 p.m. at Bldg. 124; Nine ball at 8 p.m. at Bldg. 51; At the Gym: Tae-Kwon-Do from 6 - 7 p.m. Ping pong tournament at 6 p.m.; Volleyball coaches meeting at 12:30 p.m. in Bldg. 51.

Friday: Jeepers Creepers Movie Marathon at 5 p.m. at Bldg. 124; Slasa Lessons at 8 p.m., Latin Night at 9 p.m. at Bldg. 51; At the Gym: Aerobics from 6:30 - 7:30 p.m.; Fencing from 7:30 - 9 p.m.; Flag football tournament.

Saturday: Hip Hop Night 8:30 p.m. at Bldg. 124; College football at 8 p.m. at Bldg. 51; At the Gym: Tae-Kwon-Do from 6 - 7 p.m.; Boxing from 8 - 9 p.m.; Flag football tournament.

Sunday: NFL football at 9 p.m. at Bldg. 124; NFL football at 9 p.m. at Bldg. 51; At the Gym: Fencing from 7:30 - 9 p.m.; Flag football/Volleyball tournament.

Monday: Chess at 8 p.m. at Bldg. 124; Dominoes at 8 p.m. at Bldg. 51; At the Gym: Aerobics from 6:30 - 7:30 p.m. Boxing from 8 - 9 p.m.

From the Oct 16 Anaconda Times:

Sustainer Reel Time Theater
(schedule is subject to change)

October 16
3 p.m. Deuce Bigalow: European
6 p.m. Into the Blue
9 p.m. The Great Raid

October 17
3 p.m. Into the Blue
6 p.m. Deuce Bigalow: European
9 p.m. Dukes of Hazard
October 18

3 p.m. The Great Raid
6 p.m. Must Love Dogs
9 p.m. Into the Blue

October 19
3 p.m. Dukes of Hazard
6 p.m. Into the Blue
9 p.m. Deuce Bigalow: European

From the Oct 15 Taji Times:

Weightlifting competition

More than 40 contestants entered the Camp Taji Ironman and Ironwoman Bench Press Competition Oct. 2, held at Moral, Welfare and Recreation痴 Base Warrior痴 Gym, here.

This was the last weight lifting event hosted by the 87th Corps Support Battalion during this deployment, said Command Sgt. Maj. Jim Pegues, the command sergeant major for the 87th CSB, Division Support Brigade.

Pakistan relief efforts continue

CFC-A Continues Pakistan Earthquake Relief Efforts - Oct 17

Initially eight helicopters, five CH-47 Chinooks and three UH-60 Blackhawks, were sent to Islamabad to assist with relief and rescue efforts there.

Since their arrival, the aircraft have flown more than 73 missions accumulating more than 78 hours of flight time and lifting more than 966 multi-national rescue personnel to various areas affected by the quake. The helicopters have delivered approximately 250,000 pounds of materiel and have carried nearly a thousand injured Pakistanis.

"This is truly a joint effort," said Lt. Col. Andy Rohling, Chief of Aviation Operations. "Soldiers from all services and from all Coalition nations are here at Bagram voluntarily working to prepare these supplies for Pakistan. They are working 24 hours a day; seven days a week to make sure these items are ready to be airlifted. Relief effort is something we have a lot of experience with. We致e been doing these kinds of missions here in Afghanistan for a very long time."

Rescue personnel, including five U.S. Army medics and one physician痴 assistant, arrived in Pakistan shortly after the 7.6 earthquake. The medics accompanied the helicopters carrying supplies to inaccessible areas and treated wounded people who were brought to civilian hospitals on the return flight.

In addition to the six medical personnel, a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital is being moved to Pakistan to assist Pakistan medical facilities with the treatment of the wounded. The hospital has a staff of more than 190 medical personnel and can treat more than 30 inpatients at a time.


U.S. Central Command Air Forces Support Pakistan Aid - Oct 18

Airmen here airlifted supplies Monday in support of Pakistan-led earthquake recovery operations for the ninth straight day since the U.S. began transporting aid into the devastated region.

Two U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemasters transported more than 96,000 pounds loaded on 18 pallets, consisting of sleeping bags, clothing, and food rations. Additional cargo included generators, vehicles, temporary basing and maintenance equipment.


off loading equipment

(The caption for this photo, courtesy of the DoD, read: U.S. Air Force airmen from the 818th Contingency Response Group, McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., off load equipment from a C-17 Globemaster III from Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., at Chaklala Air Base, Pakistan, in support of earthquake relief efforts Oct. 17, 2005. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt Jeromy K. Cross)

USAREUR痴 relief headed toward Pakistan - Oct 18

The spearhead element of Task Force 212, U. S. Army Europe痴 medical response to the Oct. 8 earthquake in Pakistan, left Germany Oct. 17 aboard a Russian cargo plane.

The sunset takeoff of the Antonov AN-124 Condor was the beginning of an expected mission for 12 of an expected 200 USAREUR Soldiers and 34,000 pounds of equipment heading to Pakistan to assist allies with needed medical care.


USAID, which is under the State Department, has an update on the current situation. Here are a few items:

-According to OCHA, one week after the earthquake, relief operations remain in the life-saving stage in Pakistan due to the combination of logistical challenges (including airport congestion), rapidly deteriorating weather conditions, and the number of injured. Lack of access to remote areas continues to be a major constraint. Continuous rains over the weekend slowed down relief operations, temporarily grounding helicopters.

-According to the U.N. World Health Organization (WHO), over the past week, approximately 4,000 injured people have been evacuated by helicopters from the Muzaffarabad area to Islamabad and other cities. The main health risks are lack of clean drinking water, diarrhoeal illnesses, pulmonary diseases, and non-treatment of injuries.


Here is a photo essay on medical airlift efforts.

US military relief efforts in Pakistan - Oct 13
More on the Pakistan relief efforts - Oct 14

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linked to Mudville Gazette's Open Post

Monday, October 17, 2005

Another Blog of the Week implosion

I have been in the final five of Blog of the Week at Radioblogger the past three weeks in a row.

I am now 0-3. Sigh.

I barely registered a blip this latest one. My theory is the description given, comparing Fred Barnes to Peter Jennings. I suspect that didn't sound too interesting to people so they skipped it, as they were more interested in the Miers posts, not realizing mine was a Miers post. I oppose the Miers nomination. There were a lot of votes cast, and nowhere near that number of visitors came to my site from that link, so they weren't reading my post and deciding against it. They didn't read it in the first place. Or, they just thought the blog reeks.

Oh well. This pretty much sums up my destiny at Blog of the Week.

BOTW

Where do we go from here?

In response to my post that Power Line linked to, Common Sense Political Thought crafted a response, which can be found here.

In turn, I'd like to reply to some of the thoughts expressed there.

Well, that痴 just it: we do know that Miss Miers is a conservative. However, the evidence of that is not from a long paper trail of previous judicial decisions, and that does have conservatives riled up. The evidence is from personal testimony (by other people), and from the judgement of President Bush...


As a skeptic, I don't know which testimony to accept, and which to discount. For example...

This New York Times article:

"You know, she's a very gracious and funny person," said Joshua B. Bolten, the director of the Office of Management and Budget whom Ms. Miers succeeded as deputy White House chief of staff in 2003. "I was racking my brain trying to think of something specific."

In the next breath, Mr. Bolten recalled relaxing with her at Camp David. "She is a very good bowler," he said. "For someone her size, she actually gets a lot of action out of the pins."


That's the best Mr. Bolten could come up with? She's a good bowler?

From the same article:

"It wasn't that she didn't do the job right," said David Frum, who was a White House speechwriter when Ms. Miers was staff secretary and has been one of her sharpest critics, "but the way she did the job rules her out of being a person you would think of as capable of handling this enormous responsibility."


Frum says this in his diary at NRO:

If you pierce the (uncharacteristic) sarcasm, you will notice I think that Scully has just confirmed everything that the critics of Miers have said.

He concedes that she never has taken those risks I spoke of, never demonstrated that backbone and courage.

He concedes that she was never much of an intellectual force, and that the case for her rests entirely on her pleasantness of manner.


David Brooks, in a recent column, highlighted some of her writing, and it wasn't exactly star quality.

Of all the words written about Harriet Miers, none are more disturbing than the ones she wrote herself. In the early '90s, while she was president of the Texas Bar Association, Miers wrote a column called "President's Opinion" for the Texas Bar Journal. It is the largest body of public writing we have from her and, sad to say, the quality of thought and writing doesn't even rise to the level of pedestrian.

Of course, we have to make allowances for the fact that the first job of any association president is to not offend her members. Still, nothing excuses sentences like this:

"More and more, the intractable problems in our society have one answer: broad-based intolerance of unacceptable conditions and a commitment by many to fix problems."

Or this: "We must end collective acceptance of inappropriate conduct and increase education in professionalism."

Or this: "When consensus of diverse leadership can be achieved on issues of importance, the greatest impact can be achieved."

Or passages like this: "An organization must also implement programs to fulfill strategies established through its goals and mission. Methods for evaluation of these strategies are a necessity. With the framework of mission, goals, strategies, programs, and methods for evaluation in place, a meaningful budgeting process can begin."

Or, finally, this: "We have to understand and appreciate that achieving justice for all is in jeopardy before a call to arms to assist in obtaining support for the justice system will be effective. Achieving the necessary understanding and appreciation of why the challenge is so important, we can then turn to the task of providing the much needed support."

I don't know if by mere quotation I can fully convey the relentless march of vapid abstractions that mark Miers' prose.


We skeptics are looking for reassurance that when Miers is on the Court, she is firm enough in her convictions, and certain enough of her judicial philosophy, that she won't be swayed by the inevitable pressure to drift leftward. So far, I haven't seen strong evidence of that kind of strength and conviction.

From Common Sense Political Thought again:

I suspect, especially after reading the long complaints on Patterico痴 Pontifications, that the word "betrayal" stems more from a deep-seated conservative mindset that they must be ever vigilant for betrayal, because everyone in a position of power is out there, just looking for the opportunity to betray them.


No, not at all. I am looking for the President I supported as a candidate to show clear signs he understands the importance of returning the Court to its Constitutional roots. This picks seems like a retreat, an effort to avoid a fight about principle.

Some have claimed we skeptics should remain silent because it's the President's right to make this pick. No one is claiming it isn't, but the power to make this pick isn't the President's personal plaything. He has that power because the Constitution gives the President that power, and Bush is President because we, the people, elected him. It's avoiding the issue to say the President has no obligation to the people who elected him.

Perhaps Mr. Kouba referred solely to [John Roberts] not facing strong Democratic opposition (although half of the Democratic senators voted against him), because he did not face a serious filibuster threat.


I was. It is true, Roberts didn't engender wild, enthusiastic conservative support. However, compared with Miers, Roberts came with a solid conservative background, and a history of thinking important legal issues. The Roberts pick did slide by without much fanfare because everyone, conservatives included, understood that the Miers pick was the one that would change the balance of the Court.

I知 sorry, but that痴 valuing the fight more than the outcome. Is it our goal to put a conservative on the Supreme Court, or is it more important for us to have a fight with the Democrats? Mr. Kouba wrote, as noted in his comment on our old blog, that, for him, "it's not so much the person of Miers, it's the person we're not getting." Yet his article is all about the fight he痴 not getting, not the person he痴 not getting!


In a recent New York Times article, Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review outlined several reasons why conservatives are divided. He closes with this:

In the past, conservatives had overlooked disappointments and disagreements for the sake of getting solid appointments to the Supreme Court. The president's judicial appointments will be among his most lasting legacies. But then Mr. Bush nominated Ms. Miers. Conservatives are not sure she's a legal conservative at all, and they are still less sure that she will be a forceful advocate for originalism. Not even her strongest defenders outside the administration say she would have been their top choice.

Those defenders say that we should nevertheless trust Mr. Bush's judgment. At the very moment that conservatives have begun to conclude that their bets on Mr. Bush are no longer paying off, Mr. Bush has asked them to double down. That request has even pro-Miers conservatives feeling disillusioned, and other conservatives feeling betrayed. That's what's dividing conservatives - and it's why they're thinking more and more about life after President Bush.


Hugh Hewitt responds to this Ponnuru colomn:

In fact, it is elitist to refuse to acknowledge the deep seated convictions among Republicans, which are trending very heavily towards supporting the president. The debate is fierce at every level of the conservative movement and the GOP. But it ialso being won by the anti-anti-Miers people.
...
At this point, it may be that anti-Miers elites like Ramesh would like to keep the debate among elites because they are not winning it among GOP voters.


I am obviously only one small fish in a big ocean, but the kind of arguments Ponnuru and the others at NRO have been making have resonated with me, and indeed, are arguments I've formulated on my own.

I am not looking for a fight for its own sake. As Ponnuru writes, President Bush has given me several reasons to distrust him when it comes to conservative politics, and now President Bush is asking him to trust him on something even more important. I was hoping this pick would reassure me. It didn't.

I don稚 want to make this seem like a personal attack on Jeff Kouba. His original article was cited on Powerline, one of the most widely read conservative websites, and that was what got my attention. (Heck, I壇 like to get a reference from Powerline; that痴 a big readership booster!) Mr. Kouba has simply expressed sentiments very similar to a lot of the conservative opposition to Miss Miers, and his specific use of the word "betrayal" made a good starting point.

Intellectual debate between people who respect each other is always a good thing; we can disagree without being disagreeable, and respect each otherafter the debate as well as before. So, while I used Mr. Kouba痴 article as a starting point, I want to go ahead and express my respect for his opinions and for him; I simply happen to think that he痴 wrong on this issue.


Well said, and I am in no way offended. I think it's important to have discussions on these important issues, and I appreciate the opportunity to have a little back and forth on the Miers pick.

Where do we go from here, then? I don't know. Hope? Cross fingers?

-----
Michelle Malkin gives a glimpse at the next attempt the White House might make to convice skeptics like me.

Captain Ed also comments on this next "phase".

Watchman's Words thinks of the sins of the fathers.

The Supremes and Miers

No, not the black-robed Supremes, *the* Supremes...

Like Nostradamus, they had Miers, and Bush, pegged long ago, hidden within their lyrics...

-----
"Ask Any Girl"

Ask any girl
Who receives no loving affection
And she'll feel as I feel
It's heartaches by the number
Many nights without slumber
Ask any girl
Ooh, and then you'll know why
I sit and cry
I sit and cry

-----
"Ain't No Mountain High Enough"

I know you must follow the sun
wherever it leads
But remember
if you should fall short of your desires
remember life holds for you one guarantee
you'll always have me

-----
"I'm The Exception To The Rule"

I know you think I'm just acting the part
Of the girl with the cold, cold heart
And it won't take long
For you to capture me
With your innocent but meaningful plea

But you won't capture me
I'm the exception to the rule

-----
"My Guy, My Girl"

Nothing you could say
Could tear me away from my guy (My guy)
Nothing you could do
'Cause I'm stuck like glue to my guy
I'm sticking to my guy like a stamp to a letter
Like birds of a feather
We stick together
I'm telling you from the start
I can't be torn apart from my guy

-----
"Too Much A Little Too Soon"

All my friends tried to tell me
I should hesitate
But I was blind and couldn't see
Why I should have to wait

-----
"Stubborn Kind Of Fellow"

And oh I've got news for you
Baby, now I'll make place for two
I guess you're just a stubborn kind of fellow

-----
"Remove This Doubt"

It's hurting me, it's hurting me
This doubt is hurting me.

So remove this doubt
From my heart, little boy
And let me live my life
Knowing you care.

-----
"I'm Giving You Your Freedom"

You're doing me wrong
Leading me on
I can see there's no need for me
So I'm gonna have to set you free

I'm giving you your freedom
To find somebody new
There's no sense in both of us
Making each other blue

The log keeps rolling

Yesterday, MNF-Iraq issued this press release:

Coalition forces captured Al Qaeda in Iraq痴 propaganda cell leader during a raid last month.

Coalition forces raided a suspected terrorist safe house in Karabilah, capturing Yasir Khudr Muhammad Jasim al-Karbali (aka Abu Dijana) Sept. 25. Dijana was the senior Al Qaeda in Iraq propaganda cell leader for Karabilah, Al Qaim and Husaybah.


As I pointed out yesterday, Abu Azzam, a senior leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, was killed on Sept 25. Now, we hear of a lower-ranking cell leader captured the same day.

These two events occurred the day after two terrorists were captured, one of them an executive assistant to Abu Azzam.

"The Barber痴" duties included altering senior al Qaeda in Iraq member痴 appearances by dying hair color, altering hairstyles and changing facial hair in their efforts to evade capture.

Abu Khalil, a close associate of Abu Azzam, served as an executive assistant for the terrorist emir. He also acted as a banker for Azzam and stored the terrorist organizations funds so they would not be confiscated should Abu Azzam be killed or captured.


Note how Abu Khalil is described as a "close associate of Abu Azzam".

Now, note this passage from the press release announcing the death of Azzam (emphasis mine):

Multiple intelligence sources and corroborating information from a close associate of Abu Azzam led Coalition and Iraqi security forces to the terrorist safe house where the al Qaeda in Iraq leader was hiding. A combined operation was conducted with the intent of capturing the wanted terrorist; however, Abu Azzam fired on the forces, and their return fire killed the al Qaeda in Iraq leader.


It is reasonable to assume that Abu Khalil is the "close associate" who gave up Abu Azzam. It is also reasonable to assume Abu Khalil was strongly encouraged to speak openly and honestly about the location of other terrorists.

It was a significant success to capture Abu Khalil, because as the keeper of the purse, he would know the locations of other key terrorists, as they would come to him for money. As in any significant operation, if you follow the money, you have a solid idea of how an organization works.

This captured propaganda cell leader may have interacted with Abu Khalil, requesting the funds necessary to buy equipment needed to support the propaganda efforts, such as video equipment, etc... Abu Khalil may have given the information that led to this cell leader's capture a day later.

Again, the fact we are hearing of these successes now suggests Abu Khalil had a lot to say, and presumably his knowledge led to other raids in the past three weeks.

There have been success stories like this, where the capture of one terrorist yields intelligence that leads to the capture of others. These others have intelligence that leads to the capture of still more, and so on. This log-rolling has had great momentum in the past few months.

Intelligence people are loathe to publicly disclose details about their successes, and you can bet there are stories we know nothing about. That the Coalition would release even this much information suggests they've gleaned whatever information they'll think they'll get out of these terrorists. Besides, surely by now their associates will know they were taken, and will have taken steps to find other safe locations.

There is a definite sense that a corner has been turned in Iraq. The Iraqi people themselves are giving tips that lead to intelligence successes, the Iraqi security forces, who know their home terrain better than anyone, are developing their own intelligence successes. Key figures are being captured or killed. Let us enjoy the good news this really is.

-----
linked to Mudville Gazette's Open Post

Dispatch from the Front IX

In this dispatch, my correspondent reflects on the referendum this past Saturday, and what it took to get Iraq to that point.

Today a vote is taking place in Iraq for which the various US government agencies have been working to establish and as you well know the US military has been doing to the hard work to actually implement it. Odd to think these folk have had to be prodded to this end, by force of bigger and more guns than the bad guys trying like demons to stop it, something we tend all too easily to take for granted when we have elections in the safety and comfort of good old USA.

I have been voting since I turned 18, proud of it, too. But I have never in my life in any election ever had to be concerned about getting blown up or killed while going to the polls (except for perhaps last years absentee balloting, but thats a technicality). Something one should well remember next election cycle. If you ever needed a dose of real life courage in action, go watch your news today. Men and woman with their families of children, going to vote. Knowing full the threats and risks in some areas. I can't imagine the monster who would try to kill the little old lady shakily walking to cast her vote but there are those here.

And despite their threats, the Bad Guys don't control all the ground and towns and they can't kill everyone so this vote will go off well. Especially in Kurdistan, where near 100% turnout is expected. That does and should rightfully shame us, my fellow Americans. Good men and woman struggled and sometimes died over the years to give you and I the ability to vote and we should not carelessly or lazily cast that right aside. In case you weren't aware, American voter turnout lately is around 40 to 60%. Disgraceful.

Well, the wheels of social evolution have turned much more slowly in the Middle East and for various reasons they have not reached the same level of social and political development as the more developed nations. And those in our national leadership have determined the way to secure our long term security and energy supplies is to help jumpstart the process of developing representative government in this, the arab MidEast, starting with Iraq.

Now, as you may have read in these long diatribes before, I don't usually discuss so much the whys and wherefores of how we got to this point. It's moot for a military man anyway, we must follow orders. We swore a sacred oath to follow orders and do our duty. We cannot simply quit the job if we don't like it.

I also want to remind you of the price paid for this mission. Had some more buddies killed and more wounded in the past few days that I know of, since we are in related units. They, like us all here, were doing their small part to help bring about this election. Trying to get us here to this point, so the Iraqis could vote in relavent security. That's not just a tough day at the office. They gave everything they could ever truly have in this world. Their life. Believe it. If not, go ask their families. Their widows. Or children, perhaps when they are older.

Any fellow countryman's casuality is cause for bereavement but as we all know, personal contacts are all the more striking. I don't recall the exact number of those my wife and I have known who have been killed or wounded in the past few years but I suppose it numbers towards a score or more?

Regardless, in this chosen profession, now that we have had open war raging the past few years, it is a weight that bears on my conscience knowing full well the grim reality of this duty. I don't know how past generations held up since many wars of the past had such huge casuality figures. Ours are relatively low. Of course, since this all started I have been part of an organization that has taken blunt casualities of which we are all aware. I doubt many of you have to deal with such events. One might go their whole career of vocation without having to deal with death or injuries at work. Well, we do. All the time. Thousands upon thousands.

In conclusion, I insist you remember these and others efforts over the course of history, especially when elections take place, when you consider not voting for whatever reasons you might contrive. By circumstance and happenstance, good folk will most likely die today trying have what you have that most of you were given by right of birth. Good Americans have paid hard trying to give Iraqis those 'Blessings of Liberty..." as well. Do not squander our good life. Participate in our country's government and community.


Dispatch from the Front I
Dispatch from the Front II
Dispatch from the Front III
Dispatch from the Front IV
Dispatch from the Front V
Dispatch from the Front VI
Dispatch from the Front VII
Dispatch from the Front VIII

-----
linked to Mudvile Gazette's Open Post

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Happy Adoption Day, John!!!

It was four years ago, we stood in a judge's office in Astrakhan, Russia, and the judge decreed that this little guy was now our very special boy. What a blessing he has been.

John, at 16 mos.

(The actual day is Monday, but it was easier to celebrate today.)

John chose to have his favorite, white cake, and we just got back from the park. John might pick out a favorite show later.

John was talking about Cinderella, and he mentioned the "Fiery Godmother". Ha. "CINDERELLA, GET YOUR SORRY BUTT TO THE BALL! NOW!"

An account of our first trip to see John is here. (The editor here changed a few of my words, and that wasn't my title.)

Here's what I wrote for a Christmas letter that year, only two months after we got home with John.

*****
It is such a joy to have John home with us for this holiday. For some years we waited and wondered who would become a part of our home, and at long last we know! And, as Ephesians 3:20 says, he is exceedingly beyond what we could imagine! I am so relieved that we are done with our trips to Russia. As interesting and enjoyable as the trips were, I'm glad to have that over with.

Yet, as I reflect back over that process, I am struck by a couple of things as I think about what Christmas means. In Romans 8, Paul writes of us being adopted as children of God. Sure, the parallel is obvious. But some aspects about our experience seemed especially relevant to what Paul was talking about.

Think for a moment. John was far away. Though the orphanage workers loved him and cared for him, the prospects for his future were perhaps bleak. Without intervention, he didn't have a lot of hope. John didn't ask for his circumstances, but there probably wasn't much he could personally do to change them.

Along we came, filled with love and willing to do whatever we could to make him part of our home and family. John didn't have to earn our love, we just had to look at him and our hearts melted. We weren't taking him on a trial basis, we wanted him no matter what his condition.

We traveled a great distance to a foreign land. We didn't speak the language, it wasn't our home. We were strangers. We endured things John wasn't the least bit aware of.

When we finally carried him through the door into his new home, it felt like at long last, something that was incomplete had been made whole again. As I watch him sleeping, one arm thrown over his forehead, the other arm hanging out the crib, I feel like there's nothing I won't do to make sure John has all the love and opportunity we can possibly give him.

And as I think about baby Jesus sleeping in his crib, it hit me that what God did for us is very similar to our situation.

Here we are, God's creation, in our sinful state, living in a far away place, separated from God. In our condition, we don't have a lot of hope. A future away from God is bleak and terrible. And there isn't anything we can do about it on our own.

So, God in His infinite love, looked at us in our pitiful condition and provided a way to adopt us as His children.

Jesus left his home, and traveled to a distant land, a strange land. What he endured, for God to become a man, we'll probably never understand. We had been separated from God's family, but through the cross, God came and got us, and now, we're on our way home to a wonderful life we never thought possible.

Someday we'll go through the front door of God's house, and we'll be a family again. What came before won't matter, and we can just look forward to what is to come.

Some people in this world might think of God as far away, an angry god who doesn't care about what happens here. But God is a father, and I think of the love He must feel when He looks at His adopted children, and how wonderful it is that God wants the best for all of us.
*****

Saturday, October 15, 2005

An historic day

The polls are now closed across Iraq. The Constitutional Referendum has taken place, with lower than expected levels of violence across the country. The intense operations conduction by US and Iraqi forces in the last couple weeks had the intended effect, and the terrorists once again exhibited their weakness and were a nonfactor today.

The Washington Post reports:

Millions of voters in Iraq ignored the threat of attack and cast ballots Saturday in a constitutional referendum that was remarkably calm, with isolated insurgent attacks on polling stations and sporadic clashes with U.S. Marines west of Baghdad, but no major bombings or mass killings.
...
Insurgents also attacked five of Baghdad's 1,200 polling stations with shootings and bombs, wounding seven voters, the Associated Press reported, and six Iraqi soldiers were killed in a bomb blast north of Baghdad and a mortar attack south of the capital, according to Reuters news service.

But the vote was surprising quiet compared to legislative elections in January, when at least 44 people were killed in nine separate attacks on polling centers.

This time, with a few exceptions, insurgent threats to kill voters did not materialize, allowing scores of people to vote on a proposed constitution that would increase the role of Islam in the government and formalize Iraq's democracy. Turnout was described as exceptionally high in Sunni Arab regions that had largely boycotted January's election.


Various photos and press releases at the Multi-National Force site. A couple of the press releases mention a couple of potential terrorist attacks on polling places were averted.

A Task Force Baghdad unit on patrol in south Baghdad Oct. 13 immediately responded to a terrorist mortar attack on a polling site by returning fire to drive the terrorists away.

The Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 108th Armor Regiment also provided medical care to two Iraqi civilians, including one child, who sustained minor injuries when the terrorist rounds detonated.
...
Task Force Baghdad Soldiers detained 11 suspected terrorists at a checkpoint in Yusufiyah in the early afternoon of Oct. 15, heading off a potential attack on voters.


Here are some more photos from CentCom. Isn't it great to see those purple fingers again?

By Monday morning I'll have up the next Dispatch, this one will have my correspondent's thoughts on the meaning of this day, thoughts that were written this morning.

As a sidenote, as an example of the continuing success Coalition forces are having in Iraq, today CentCom issued this press release:

Acting on reliable intelligence and information provided by concerned citizens, Multi-National Forces captured two senior al Qaeda in Iraq terrorists during raids in Baghdad Sept. 24.

Captured were Walid Muhammad Farhan Juwar al Zubaydi (aka Firas), (aka Abu Ziyad), (aka 典he Barber); and Ibrahim Muhammad Subhi Khayri al Rihawi (aka Abu Khalil).

典he Barber痴 duties included altering senior al Qaeda in Iraq member痴 appearances by dying hair color, altering hairstyles and changing facial hair in their efforts to evade capture.

Abu Khalil, a close associate of Abu Azzam, served as an executive assistant for the terrorist emir. He also acted as a banker for Azzam and stored the terrorist organizations funds so they would not be confiscated should Abu Azzam be killed or captured.


If you recall, Abu Azzam was killed early Sept. 25. The news, just released today, says Abu Azzam's close associates were captured the day before.

It's quite possible these associates were vigorously encouraged to talk, and they disclosed the location of Abu Azzam.

In any case, this news was not made public till now, some three weeks later, presumably because Coalition forces wanted to preserve the intelligence value of whatever these two terrorists knew. The fact the news is being released today suggests other action might have been taken place since Sept 24 as a result of the capture of these two terrorists.

Progress is being made. Today is a historic day. A people who were once under the heel of a murderous dictator are now free. There are no more rape rooms. Iraqis are no longer fed into woodchippers. They are no longer beaten or tortured. There are no more mass graves. There are no more attacks with chemical weapons. Today the Iraqi people are freely choosing their own government.

Would Hussein have left power if we simply asked politely? Would the terrorists have simply let this vote proceed peacefully if we had just asked politely. No, this day was paid for life by life, limb by limb. Evil devours, and it is the hallmark of this fallen world that it often costs dearly to stand in the way of evil. But that's just what our military has done these past two and a half years, and without them this day would never have taken place. The Iraqi people certainly know what gift the United States has given them, and they will never forget. They may eventually forget to express their gratitude, like France and Germany have done, but in their hearts, they will be eternally grateful.

Friday, October 14, 2005

The path of freedom

The polls are scheduled to open in Iraq in about ten minutes. The people of Iraq will vote on whether or not to ratify their Constitution. If it passes, a new, permanent government will be elected on December 15.

There has been so much hard work to get Iraq to this point. So many lives lost. But there will be a vote today.

I've written just a little bit about the progress the Iraqis themselves have made in building their own security forces.

I've shared some of the thoughts of my correspondent, one of the many there working to give freedom a chance to take root.

We will look on with interest, and watch a people decide for themselves what government they will have.

Dueling Miers

On Thursday, Hugh Hewitt posted a conversation he had with Karl Rove, a conversation in which Rove was "adamant and even vehement" in support of the Miers nomination.

She has been a member of the White House's judicial selection committee for three years, not the one I had thought, as the Deputy Chief of Staff sits on the committee, along with the White House Counsel and a handful of other senior aides, including Karl Rove. Every judicial nomination the president has made for the past three years has come through this committee. Prior to the discussion in the committee, every nominee's work is assembled and analyzed, and interviews are conducted by the committee members. The briefing books are prepared by the junior staff which is made up of all the sort of lawyers you'd expect, with all the right law schools and clerkships. The committee pores over the binders and then meets and debates the candidates, and a recommendation is made to the president.


Hugh's point is that given this lengthy involvement with the selection committee, those working closely with Miers on this task would surely know, and trust, her judicial philosophy.

However, on Friday in NRO's Bench Memos, Ed Whelan had this to say about Miers' participation on that selection committee.

My post on Hugh Hewitt痴 account elicited this e-mail from someone I know and trust:

"Hewitt says that Miers was a member of the White House Judicial Selection Committee for the last three years, i.e., from October 2002 to the present. I attended virtually every meeting of the White House Judicial Selection Committee from the start of that period (October 2002) into the summer of 2003. Neither Harriet Miers nor any of her staff attended a single meeting during that period."


These can't both be true, can they? What is a skeptic like me supposed to make of all this?

At the Hedgehog blog, the blog of Lowell Brown, an attorney who is on Hugh's radio show from time to time, Lowell asked for a calm rebuttal of Hugh's post about Karl Rove.

I didn't leave a rebuttal there, per se, but I'd like to expand on some comments I left there.

If the White House is interested in convincing skeptics like me, why is this the first time we're hearing Rove's defense, ten days after Miers was first nominated?

Rove's political skills are well known. After allowing stories to float around that the Miers nomination is Andy Card's baby, is Rove's defense an attempt to put a unified face forward again? Is it Rove's attempt to say he was also involved with the nomination?

Also, why would Rove, the master of message, allow the White House to bumble around, from thinking evangelicals would simply accept her church membership and be happy, to allowing the First Lady anywhere near the charges of sexism, to having so few people that have worked with her out there defending her (Hecht, and who else?)

Rove has been integrally involved with the major political decisions of this administration. There has been some eyebrows raised wondering where Rove was in this nomination. This pick seems to be a political blunder of the first order. Folks wonder if Rove's hand slipped off the tiller. Perhaps this was Rove's way of saying he was very much involved, that he wasn't shunted aside in making this nomination.

The biggest question among the skeptics is Miers' judicial philosophy, and how firmly she holds it. Why did it take ten days for the WH to have this firm an answer to that question? Is Rove's defense just another element of this overall unprepared defense of Miers.

Also in Bench Memos, Gerard Bradley has this to say about the administration's flatfooted defense:

Ed Whelan expresses (as is his wont) in a measured, careful, and objective manner some grounds to be concerned about the "quality and reliability" of information offered in defense on Harriet Miers's nomination.

I am not Ed. And so here is how I express my great regret at, and continuing suspicion of, practically the whole Miers' defense case: It has been an erratic mix of insults ("you guys are sexist"), irrelevancies ("she is such a good lady"), and invitations to shut up, sit back, and be governed ("trust us"). Spin and evasion so far. Are downright lies up next?

Maybe those in charge are not yet prepared to stanch the bleeding by withdrawing Miers's nomination. But they surely could and should now quit making matters even worse by treating conservatives puzzled (to put it as Ed might) over this nominee as if, well, we were Democrats.


Amen to that.

Hugh has been a noble, loyal soldier in defending this nomination. One wonders, though, if generals like Rove have sent him out to defend the Alamo.

It's civil war in the MOB!

It's Friday, must be another opportunity to get rejected by the blogosphere again. Time for another Crosley Solo Blog of the Week at the terrific Radioblogger site. (Again, Generalissimo Duane puts up transcipts of segments of the Hugh Hewitt radio show, and he also has posts of his own.)

I'm one of the five again this week, but a twist this week is fellow MOB blog Kiihnworld is also one of the five! It's a struggle for supremacy within the MOB. Stay indoors, hide the children.

So, read all five, etc... You know the routine by now.

Go here to register your vote

The yaks are waiting for their new home.

More on the Pakistan relief efforts

U.S. Military Efforts Continue in Pakistan Earthquake Relief - Oct 13

U.S. Army Europe officials reported that the 212th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, 30th Medical Brigade, based in Miesau, Germany, will establish and run a 36-bed medical facility in the stricken region.

The 123rd Main Support Battalion, 1st Armored Division, based in Dexheim, Germany, is providing a water purification detachment, which can take water from almost any source and make it potable using the reverse osmosis water purification unit. And the 66th Military Intelligence Group, based in Darmstadt, Germany, will provide translators to support the relief effort.

Officials at Fort McPherson, Ga., report the U.S. Army Reserve has been called to send helicopters to Pakistan. Today, about 200 Army Reservists and 12 CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters from Company B, 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, received orders to deploy. The company, with headquarters in Olathe, Kan., recently was mobilized and had reported to Fort Sill, Okla., as part of a rotation in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Today's order alters their mission, officials said.


Quake relief effort foments goodwill - Oct 13

In a move that could boost America痴 battered profile in the Islamic world, the U.S. military has diverted eight heavy-lifting choppers from the war on terrorism in neighboring Afghanistan to help victims of the monster earthquake. It痴 due to send another two dozen helicopters from further afield in the days ahead.

"I don稚 have a bad feeling about America," said Wali ur-Rehman, a bereaved father of four lost children who carried his surviving 2-year old son Kalil on board in his arms. "It痴 a long, long way away and they are helping us."


Military in Pakistan as wanted - Oct 14

"My view is that we will be here as long as Pakistan wants us, to demonstrate our friendship," Navy Rear Admiral Michael Lefever told The Associated Press.

Lefever said America now has 13 helicopters ferrying rescue workers and supplies to the quake zone including eight Chinooks, three Blackhawks and two heavy-lifting MH-53s and has begun dropping relief supplies by air from C-130s.

He said one C-130 took off Friday from Bagram Airbase, the main U.S. base in neighboring Afghanistan, and dropped three large palettes of tents, medicine and blankets in Muzaffarabad, the capital of the quake-devastated portion of Kashmir that Pakistan controls.


USS Pearl Harbor, Seabees To Take Relief Equipment To Aid Earthquake Victims In Pakistan - Oct 14

USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) made a brief port stop in Bahrain, Oct. 14 where Sailors loaded 13 pieces of heavy equipment bound for Pakistan. The machinery will be used to assist the victims of the worst earthquake in that country痴 history.

Pearl Harbor, a dock landing ship, usually transports Marines and their combat equipment to areas worldwide. The crew of approximately 425 is on a regularly scheduled deployment to the North Arabian Gulf as part of maritime security operations, or MSO, and it received orders to change course in order to load dump trucks, front-end loaders, backhoes, cargo trucks, a road grader, a forklift and a generator.


What if this were my son?

Injured Pakistani boy

(The caption for this photo, courtesy of the DoD, read: An injured Pakistani boy is carried by his father to a U.S. Navy MH-53E Sea Stallion helicopter in Muzafarabad, Pakistan, Oct. 14, 2005. He will be transported to the city of Chaklala, Pakistan for medical treatment. Two helicopters from Helicopter Mine Countermeasure Squadron 15's Bahrain detachment made the three-day flight to northern Pakistan to assist in the relief efforts. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Timothy Smith)

Here are quite a few more photos on the relief efforts.

All over this planet, where ever you go, there will be Americans helping those in need. And leading the way will be the US military.

US military relief efforts in Pakistan - Oct 13

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linked to Mudville Gazette's Open Post

Nalchik, the day after

According to this Washington Post report:

Early Friday, Russian special forces stormed a police station in southern Russia where eight militants were holding five hostages. The hostages, including police officers, were freed and all eight militants were killed as they tried to flee in a van, Russian officials said.

Around 8:30 a.m. local time Friday, another three gunmen were killed in a downtown Nalchik souvenir store where they had barricaded themselves with two hostages Thursday. The Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported that two hostages were freed. Russian officials said the militants in the store refused to talk to the security forces that had surrounded them.

The exact death toll from fighting over the last couple of days remains unclear, but may top 100 dead. Corpses were left lying in the streets Friday, the Associated Press reported, and police kicked at the bodies, some of which were clad in tracksuits and running shoes.

A spokesman for the local Interior Ministry said Friday morning that 68 militants had been killed. RIA Novosti reported that 24 security officers and police had died, and there were other reports that between 12 and 24 civilians had died.


It also seems unlikely that terrorist leader Shamil Basayev was killed. From The Moscow Times:

[The deuputy interior minister] said the Interior Ministry could not confirm reports that Chechnya's notorious warlord Shamil Basayev had been behind the raid


MOSNews says the report of Basayev's death has been retracted.

The Chechen Society newspaper that carried news of Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev痴 death in Nalchik earlier on Thursday evening, citing an FSB source, later retracted the announcement, calling it 努ishful thinking on the part of the Russian authorities.


Gateway Pundit has another excellent report.

(Here is my report on Nalchik from yesterday.)

I received word from the people I know in Nalchik. They are fine. Some of the fighting was too close for comfort to their residence. They reported continuing sporadic gunfire and explosions in pockets of the city. They stayed indoors, and will do so again today.

I should be punished for this one

SC qualifications?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

US military relief efforts in Pakistan

I've had several posts detailing the relief work done by the military after Hurricane Rita. The US military is also performing relief work in Pakistan after the devastating earthquake, and I wanted to highlight these efforts as well. (Not bad, huh, the US helping out those Muslim people. Think it will buy us any goodwill among the terrorists? Naaaaaaaah.)

DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE STATEMENT ON SOUTH ASIAN EARTHQUAKE RELIEF EFFORTS - Oct 11

The Department of Defense today announced that Navy Rear Admiral Michael Lefever has been designated to establish a Humanitarian Coordination Center in Islamabad, Pakistan. RDML Lefever will coordinate Defense Department support to the State Department, other U.S. government agencies, and the Pakistan government in response to the earthquake that struck South Asia on Saturday.
...
The immediate Defense Department assistance has flowed into Pakistan from throughout the region, including 12 pallets of food and medicine from U.S. supplies in Qatar and Kuwait, and heavy lift and supply helicopters from Bahrain and Afghanistan. Additional C-17s with more support and equipment are scheduled to arrive October 11.


U.S. SUPPORTS PAKISTAN LED EARTHQUAKE RECOVERY - Oct 11

On Tuesday, the eight U.S. helicopters ferried 228 passengers and more than 32,000 pounds of much-needed supplies to forward supply centers where the Pakistan military further pushed the aid to their people in need.

Four Afghanistan MI-17 helicopters arrived in Pakistan Tuesday to join the recovery efforts. Both the Afghan and U.S. helicopters are diverted from missions in the Combined Forces Command-Afghanistan area of Afghanistan. However, military officials said the support to the earthquake recovery would have no impact on current combat operations.


LEFEVER NAMED DISASTER ASSISTANCE CENTER COORDINATOR - Oct 12

Four Navy helicopters from U.S. Navy Central Command are en route to provide additional heavy lift support. The four helicopters include two Navy MH-53E Sea Dragons, which are en route and expected to arrive Oct. 12, and two MH-60 SeaHawks, which are in the process of being moved. Elements of ESG-1, amphibious assault ship USS Tarawa (LHA-1), amphibious transport dock USS Cleveland (LPD-7), and guided missile frigate USS Ingraham (FFG-61) are heading towards the Pakistani coast to be in a better position to provide additional support, if requested.

"We will do everything within our power to bring aid to the people of Pakistan," said Rear Adm. LeFever. "We stand ready to provide food, water, medicine and medical personnel into the areas that need it most. We also will work as an enabler with the non-governmental relief organizations, getting where they need to go to support the Pakistani people back on the road to recovery."

ESG-1 also boasts a robust medical capability. Fleet Surgical Team Three (FST-3) is embarked, along with medical personnel from the three ships, and the 13th MEU(SOC). All told, more than 100 trained medical personnel can be employed, with the range of capabilities covering everything from first aid to anesthesia and surgical support.


CJTF-76 HELICOPTERS ASSIST THOUSANDS IN PAKISTAN - Oct 13

More than 65 sorties have been flown in support of earthquake relief efforts in Islamabad, Pakistan since the arrival of five CH-47 Chinook and three UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters from the Combined Joint Task Force-76 Monday.

The sorties carried more than 1,300 personnel and more than 155,000 pounds of relief supplies.

The missions have ferried relief and rescue workers to remote areas near Islamabad. They have also airlifted personnel injured and displaced by the quake to medical facilities or to safer areas where shelter, food, and medical care are available.
The bulk of the 155,000 pounds of relief supplies has consisted of food, water, medical supplies and life support items such as blankets, stoves and tools.


U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND AIR FORCES SUPPORT PAKISTAN AID
- Oct 13

Four U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemasters and two C-130 Hercules aircraft transported more than 408,000 pounds, including more than 60 pallets loaded with supplies like tents, cots and meals-ready-to-eat. Additional cargo included vehicles, temporary basing supplies, and command and control equipment to aid in coordination efforts as the United States continues to airlift aid in response to requests from Pakistan痴 government.


AFGHANISTAN ENGINEER DISTRICT TEAM HEADS FOR PAKISTAN - Oct 13

The team, composed of engineering specialists in structural engineering, public works and emergency response, received alert notification Wednesday and immediately began preparations for the deployment to include safety briefings and what to expect once in Pakistan . The AED team will assess needs from an engineering perspective and recommend if reach back support from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is required.


Here is a series of photos highlighting the Pakistan relief effort.

Here is a photo essay about Pakistan relief efforts.

Once again, a sincere thank you to our great military for the amazing work they do.

Let me remind you of a couple of quotes from Harold Pinter, this year's Nobel Prize winner in Literature.

The United States is "the most dangerous power the world has ever known."
...
The United States is a monster out of control... The country is run by a bunch of criminal lunatics...


Ya wanna rethink that, Harold? No, I didn't think you would.

A kid's world

Last night while I was helping John get his jammies on, he asked "Do people live on Jupiter?" I said no. He asked "Because they would get red?" (He meant they would get burned.) I said there was no air. John asked "If we put people there, would they get tickled?" (translation: ???)

Tonight as I was helping Hanna get ready for bed, she said "When I woke up I saw a monster. It was blue, with polka dots." Oh. Then she pointed out there was a monster in this corner, and another monster in the closet, so we had to be quiet.

These conversations always put things in perspective for me.

Trouble in the Caucasus

Thursday morning, local time, terrorists launched attacks in Nalchik, capital of the Caucasus Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria.

As the Washington Post reports:

Dozens of people were killed in street fighting in the southern Russian city of Nalchik Thursday morning after scores of gunmen launched a wave of attacks on government buildings, telecommunications facilities and the airport.

Pitched battles across the city subsided by the early afternoon, but police continued to hunt for suspected gunmen, officials said. Two of the attackers continued to hold an unknown number of hostages in a downtown building Thursday evening, officials said. Seven fighters continued to hold out in an Interior Ministry building, according to Vladimir Kolesnikov, a deputy state prosecutor.
...
Local officials and Russian news agencies said 20 of the attackers were killed as well as 12 members of the security forces. At least 12 civilians also died, Russian news agencies reported. Another 88 people were wounded, according to local hospitals. Police said they had captured 12 insurgents.

Estimates of the number of attackers ranged from 60 to 300, the uncertainty a measure of the mayhem that descended on the city shortly after 9 a.m.


Nalchik has been a center of terrorist activity. It is not far from Chechnya, and Nalchik is only 60 miles or so from Beslan, the site of that awful terrorist attack on a school full of children which killed over 300 people.

Russian authorities have had a difficult time getting a handle on the violence in the Caucasus region. After Beslan, the population despaired that their government was strong enough to defeat the terrorists, and attacks like this only add to the despair.

This Heritage Foundation paper explains the roots of the violence in the Caucasus republics.

In 1850, the czar again ordered his Caucasus Viceroy, Prince Michael Vorontsov, to 吐irmly folュlow my system of destruction of dwellings and food supply, and bothering them with incurュsions.納3] The Chechen reaction to the devastation of their settlements and the death of their women, children, and elderly was hardly surprising. According to Tolstoy, who described a village destroyed by the Russian army:

Nobody even discussed hatred toward the Russians. The feeling that all Chechens experienced, from a child to a grown up, was stronger than hatred. It was not hate, but the lack of recognition of these Russian dogs as human beings. It was such a revulsion, disgust and non-comprehension, facing the irrational cruelty of these creatures, that the desire to exterminate them was a natural feeling, as natural as the instinct of self-preservation. [This] was like the desire to exterminate vermin, poisonous spiders and wolves.[4]

The czarist government exiled over 500,000 Chechens, Circassians, and other Muslims to the Ottoman Empire, and they are now found throughュout the Middle East, from Turkey to Israel and Jorュdan. During the Bolshevik regime, Chechens were first exploited in fighting the anti-communist Cosュsacks, then strafed by airplanes and poisoned with gas in the 1920s.

A full-fledged revolt erupted in the North Caucaュsus in the late 1930s, only to be brutally put down. In 1944, Stalin, Soviet Foreign Minister V. M. Moloュtov, and NKVD chief Lavrenti Beria presided over the forcible deportation of the Chechens, Ingush, Crimean Tatars, and others to Siberia and Central Asia, leading to an ethnic cleansing of millions. Chechens and others were allowed to return to their lands only in 1956 after Stalin痴 death.


Today, there is a strong Wahhabi influence behind the Muslim terrorists.

Wahhabi fighters, with their global networks of financial support and training, would like nothing better than to have Basaev and Abu Havs as supreme military commanders of the North Caucaュsus謡ithout Maskhadov痴 meddling. Basaev already trains and equips terrorist units, which grew out of Wahhabi madrassa (religious school) networks in Daghestan, Ingushetia, and Kabarュdino烹alkaria. Heavy-handed Russian tactics do not seem to be effective in stemming the spread of radical Islamic ideology.


Here are a few past incidents in Nalchik:

Russian forces surround alleged militants - Feb 20, 2005
Security Forces And Militans Shoot It Out In Nalchik - January 28, 2005
Caucasus gunmen kill four in raid - December 14, 2004

This article from the Jamestown Foundation talks about Yarmuk, an insurgent group in Kabardino-Balkaria, a group behind some of the lingering violence in Nalchik and the region:

The ethnic Russian community is worried more than others. A Russian from Kabardino-Balkaria explained to Jamestown that there are two opinions about Yarmuk among Russians in the republic. Some believe that Yarmuk is just a myth, while others think that "Wahhabis" could really take power in the region. There are rumors circulating in the republic that the Yarmuk group consists of 200 fighters. Some people suggest that 200 insurgents would be more than sufficient to attack Nalchik or other strategic points in Kabardino-Balkaria.

Yarmuk's actual strength is unknown. Last year the group struck several times in the republic but without notable success. In December the rebels ambushed a car carrying the warden of the local prison camp. He was seriously wounded, but managed to survive. In October 2004, Yarmuk fighters tried to assassinate the head of the local police organized crime department. On August 20, a group of ten insurgents were lying in wait in a cornfield ready to ambush the motorcade of the local minister of internal affairs until they were discovered by a police patrol. The operation failed, but the group managed to elude the 200 policemen and Federal Security Service (FSB) spetsnaz troops that had surrounded them.


Security Watchtower has a good post on this latest attack, and one of the links there says Chechen rebels claim responsibility for the attack. The group claiming responsibility includes this Yarmuk group.

If there is good news here, it is from an article that Power Line links to. This article reports:

Russia痴 most-wanted Chechen terrorist Shamil Basayev was killed by Russian forces in Thursday痴 firefight in the Kabardino-Balkarian capital Nalchik, a source in the local branch of the FSB (the Federal Security Service) told the Chechen Society newspaper. Officials are remaining silent until a full identification procedure has been completed.


Basayev is believed to have been behind the attack in Beslan, and is a very bad man. It would be quite a good thing if his sorry carcass is now rotting.

I have a special interest in this because I know a couple of dear people in Nalchik. I hope and pray they are all right. In the past after attacks we get an email from them saying they are fine. I am looking for such an email again.

-----
Michelle Malkin wonders if anyone will notice this was done by Islamic terrorists.
Gateway Pundit has an excellent roundup. (via Michelle Malkin)
Captain Ed also highlights the Muslim nature of the attackers.

A Nobel Sighs

Again? This year's Nobel Prize in Literature goes to Harold Pinter, playwright.

Or, playleft as the case may be.

Last Saturday I posted about this year's winner for Peace, ElBaradei.

I also linked to my comments last year about the 2004 winners of these prizes. They were some real gems as well.

Michelle Malkin runs down some of Pinter's background. (Warning: profanity) Michelle links to some other sites detailing the worthiness of this winner.

Pinter hates America, hates what we stand for. He is a far-Lefty.

In one of his columns, Daniel Pipes includes a 2001 quote from Pinter:

Harold Pinter, British playwright (2001): The United States is "the most dangerous power the world has ever known."


Or, from this Belfast Telegraph article:

In the past few years, Pinter has been seen more frequently on the podium than the stage, firing off speeches on everything from Iraq ("an act of premeditated mass murder") to the Milosevic trial ("Nato is itself a war criminal... as much as Milosevic is") and the bombing of Afghanistan. At the 2003 anti-war march in London, he rallied marchers with a rousing criticism of Tony Blair and George Bush ("The United States is a monster out of control... The country is run by a bunch of criminal lunatics, with Blair as their hired Christian thug") and his poem "The Bombs": "There are no more words to be said/ All we have left are the bombs/ Which burst out of our head."


Don't miss Roger Kimball's comments:

That's good, as far as it goes, but it is important to note that with Pinter the "sequitur" is always trailing in one direction: leftward. Consider Pinter's acceptance speech on the occasion of being given an honorary degree from the University of Turin a couple of years ago. Referring to the terrorist attacks of Septmber 11, Pinter had this to say:

"The atrocity in New York was predictable and inevitable. It was an act of retaliation against constant and systematic manifestations of state terrorism on the part of the United States over many years, in all parts of the world."

The Nobel Prize committee long ago demonstrated that its prizes for the arts were exercises in politically correct sermonizing. By choosing Harold Pinter, they have demonstrated that their sermons are ridiculous as well as repellent.


Read Michelle and follow her links. Then, bang your head on the wall till you feel better, and go read some decent literature.

The Nobel Prizes in Peace and Literature long ago fell into the hands of hateful Leftys. Don't pay any attention to them.

-----
Bogus Gold focuses on the quality of the writing.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Building up the Iraqi Forces

Yesterday MNSTC-I ("min-sticky") announced that the Iraqi Forces had crossed a milestone. Iraqi security forces are now 200,000 strong. From a press release here:

Currently the Iraqi Ministry of Interior has 106,112 personnel serving as part of security forces. The Ministry of Defense has 93,959 service members in the military.

Reaching this landmark is especially significant given that Iraq痴 military and police forces will be taking the lead in providing security for the Oct. 15 referendum, officials said. There are now more than 60,000 additional Iraqi security forces available than there were for the highly-successful January election held earlier this year.


(Security Watchtower has a nice graph of the progress.)

In the current issue of This Week In Iraq (Oct 12 issue, in PDF), there is more information on the progress of the Iraqi forces.

On page 2, General Casey, Commanding General MNF - Iraq, says this:

Every measure possible is being taken by the Iraqi government and the Multi-National Force - Iraq to ensure a safe referendum. As of this week there are 200,000 Iraqi Security Force (ISF) and 115 ISF combat battalions in the fight across Iraq. This translates into a 50 percent increase in the ISF available for security compared to last January痴 election. As a matter of fact, the 6th Iraqi Army recently assumed battle space and the lead for tactical operations in Baghdad.


Page 3 has more information on the 6th Iraqi Army.

The Iraqi Army reached another historic milestone when the 6th Iraqi Army Division took over authority of the Kharkh, Rusafa, Thawra and Adhamiyah districts of Baghdad from Task Force Baghdad during a ceremony at the Muthana Airfield Oct. 3.


Iraqi Forces are taking responsibility for more and more areas. From page 7:

Coalition Forces in Iraq are turning over forward operating bases (FOBs) across the country to Iraqi authorities, empowering the people to fight terrorism and help the Iraqi security forces to become self-sustaining. So far 27 bases have successfully been turned over. Fifteen of those bases are under ISF control, and 12 are under the control of the Ministries of the Interior or Finance and private land owners.
...
Before the Coalition forces turn over a FOB three key factors are taken into consideration, said Maj. Michael Davidson, plans officer, XVIII Airborne Corps, Fort Bragg, N.C. These factors are ISF痴 ability to hold battle space, the overall stability of the area and the funding approved for base consolidation in support of the MNF-I campaign plan. Once those factors are cleared there is a 100-day process that takes place.


Click the thumbnail to see the forward operating bases turned over to Iraqi forces. (Also from page 7.)

Iraqi FOBs

You'll see very few have been turned over in the troubled Sunni areas west of Baghdad. The bulk of the bases are in Kurdish areas in the north, or Shia areas in the south, areas that are relatively quiet. It is a good sign that a number of areas of Baghdad are being given over to Iraqi control.

There is, of course, still work to be done. As this Washington Post article details, 30 people were killed by a suicide bomber in Tal Afar on Wednesday.

Tal Afar was the scene of a recent operation where for the first time in a major operation Iraqi forces outnumbered US forces. This suicide bombing is likely an attempt by the terrorists to send a message, that they can still operate even in areas that were the target of security operations.

Still, there is reason for hope in Iraq.

The Constitutional Referendum is this Saturday, and with the deal agreed to by the Sunnis, there is hope the Constitution will pass, and the terrorists will be marginalized even further.

These are hard days for our military, as they continue to conduct operations this week to disrupt the terrorists and prevent the terrorists from creating havoc ahead of the referendum. Since October 3, the Pentagon has released notices of 30 US fatalities in Iraq. (With at least 4 in Afghanistan.)

Recent operations involving Iraqi forces - Oct 5
Progress in Iraq - Oct 2
Additional information on the death of Azzam - Sept 30
Another one bites the dust - Sept 27
Update on Iraqi Armed Forces - Sept 22
Success in Iraq - Sept 20

-----
Bill Roggio also looks at the current state of the Iraqi forces.
Bill Roggio breaks down the This Week in Iraq report as well.
Captain Ed has another example of how the MSM spins good news like this.

The damage done?

In the Corner this morning, John Podhoretz responds to Hugh Hewitt's comments that "suggesting that Evangelicals are guilty of hypocrisy in this instance is exactly the perfect approach to pushing some of a crucial demographic towards the sidelines", and hence the GOP's chances in 2006 will be harmed.

First Hugh Hewitt, then JPod...

Some posters at ConfirmThem and other places are outraged by this observation, which seems to be to be completely beyond debate. The effect will happen. It is not a response to say it shouldn't occur, or that these Evangelicals are wrong or that they should know better. It will happen, and it will harm the GOP's position going into 2006.


The presumption, therefore, that the defeat or withdrawal of her nomination will cause millions upon millions of Evangelicals to stay home more than a year from now in a snit over the loss of their "identity politics" candidate -- as opposed to participating in the political process, as good citizens of this country do -- strikes me as tantamount to saying that a large number of Evangelical voters are looking for ways to cut off their noses to spite their face.


By my reading, I think JPod misunderstands what Hewitt is saying. I think Hewitt is referring to remarks such as those made by John Miller, which insinuated that Evangelicals were hypocritical for not reacting more strenuously to the news Miers had once headed the Texas Lottery Commission.

I think Hewitt is saying that whether evangelicals are right or wrong in opposing Miers, it is a mistake for the GOP to attack evangelicals for that dissent. Evangelicals will assume they are being abandoned (yet again) by their natural allies, and will not vigorously support the GOP in the future.

Indeed, this is a danger I see, too, and one reason I think the Miers nomination is a mistake. As David Frum wrote this morning, this pick might make Bush harden his position against the dissenters, and in doing so he will only cause the rift to widen.

I see an additional danger, though. By not making a strong conservative pick, Bush has broken faith with his evangelical base. Whether or not Miers turns out to be a good judge, evangelicals saw the best chance in 20 years to influence the Court go by the boards.

How are we going to trust the GOP again? What happens to the next person who comes along running for the Republican nomination to be President? Is he/she going to say "Vote for me, I'll nominate good conservative judges to the bench"? Who is going to believe them? Evangelicals are going to scoff, and say fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. Who is going to pound the pavement telling their neighbors to support the GOP because of their commitment to an originalist Judiciary?

There is a danger in the GOP pushing away its most ardent supporters. But I argue that has already been done.

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Watchman's Words invokes the name of Chamberlain.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

My Harriet Miers Round-Up

For my own reference, if anything, I thought I'd group all my Harriet Miers posts in one place.
------

The next justice - Oct 3

The enemy of my enemy is my Supreme Court Justice - Oct 6

A 1s2 2s2p6 3s2p6d10 4s2p6d10 5s2p2 Ear - Oct 6 (linked to by Psycmeistr)

A Sign of Strength - Oct 7 (linked to by Psycmeistr and Kiihnworld)

We've been hurt by a friend - Oct 8 (linked to by Power Line and Common Sense Political Thought)

Is it betrayal? - Oct 9 (linked to by Blogotional)

What do we critics want? - Oct 9 (linked to by Michelle Malkin and The Cassandra Page)

An itchy trigger finger - Oct 9 (linked to by Strata-Sphere, Bogus Gold and Psycmeistr)

Below the Beltway - Oct 10 (linked at Radioblogger's Blog of the Week contest)

Talk about a faith-based initiative - Oct 10 (linked to by EckerNet)

Friendly Fire - Oct 11

The damage done? - Oct 12

Dueling Miers - Oct 14

Where do we go from here? - Oct 17

You can't shake a spear at this nomination - Oct 20

Should we save us from ourselves? - Oct 24

Military operations three weeks after Rita

Texas National Guard relief mission begins drawing down

With power coming on throughout the area, Texas National Guardsmen with Task Force-Seguin transferred food and water distribution duties to other task forces and local authorities Oct. 4.


Fleet Survey Team Locating Shipping Hazards from Hurricane

The Navy痴 Fleet Survey Team (FST) at the Stennis Space Center (SSC) has conducted its second recent set of emergency maritime surveys in Louisiana waters, to determine the safety of reopening critical shipping lanes following Hurricane Rita.


Army Engineers Focus on Helping South Recover from Hurricanes

Strock said that 40 million to 70 million cubic yards of debris needs to be cleared. Exactly how much depends on whether the corps is charged with clearing private individuals' debris in addition to that from public areas. They will take private citizens' debris if they it is moved to a public area.

"If you can all remember Hurricane Andrew, (there were) about 18 million (cubic) yards of debris then," Strock said. "It took about nine months to clean up. So it's a huge effort on this."

In 30 days, about 8 million cubic yards of debris has been moved in the areas affected by the hurricanes. This was achieved by putting large contracts in place. Strock said that getting people access back into their homes and towns is a way to set conditions for recovery.


Total force proves beneficial to hurricane recovery

More than 6,900 active-duty, Guard and Reserve Airmen supported Hurricanes Katrina and Rita relief operations, proving that the total-force concept works, said the Air Force chief of staff here recently.


Hospital Ship Leaves New Orleans

The U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) departed New Orleans Oct. 8 to return to her homport in Baltimore after providing several weeks of disaster relief to the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita.


The military's humanitarian mission - Sept 24
Military operations continue in the wake of Rita - Sept 27
Navy operations in the wake of Rita - Sept 30
Marine operations in the wake of Rita - Oct 5

Russia's natural resources

An interesting article today in the Orlando Sentinel (via RealClearPolitics) highlights Europe's growing dependence on Russian oil and gas.

A confluence of circumstance and geography is making Europe dangerously dependent on Russian oil and natural gas for its survival.

Already, 50 percent of the oil burned in Europe and 30 percent of the natural gas comes from Russia. The natural gas percentage is likely to rise dramatically with the new northern pipeline, under the Baltic Sea, extending all the way to Britain. Some countries, such as Germany, are likely to become entirely dependent on Russia for gas. They will also be dependent on Russia for some of their electricity because most new electric generation that has been installed relies on gas turbines.

The effect of Russia's energy dominance of Europe is a massive geopolitical change, binding Europe to Russia at the expense of its old alliances.

The Russian penetration of the European markets has been coming for years and has raised alarms in foreign policy circles, but has failed to change the course of Europe's tilt toward Russia. Those European countries that were once under Soviet domination are particularly alarmed at the new Russian hegemony, and some have fought against it.


Ironic that Russia might achieve the strategic geopolitical prominence the Soviets sought not through the nuclear missiles planted in her soil, but through her natural resources buried in it.

There is a race going on here, though. Will Russia's worsening economic and demographic problems overwhelm any benefits derived from her control of valuable energy resources? Or will these resources allow Russia to reverse some of these troubling trends? Time will tell.

-----
Jim Hoagland of the WaPo looks at Putin's approach to Russia's challenges.

Friendly Fire

One argument that supporters of the Miers nomination make is that by criticizing the pick, we are damaging President Bush politically.

Some say President Bush made this nomination to avoid a fight with the liberal wing of the Republican Party, such as the Northeastern RINO Senators who might have enough votes to scuttle a confirmation.

To that I say by nominating Miers, President Bush called this artillery barrage from an upset base on his own head.

Rather than avoiding a principled battle for a clearly conservative nominee, President Bush could've enlisted our support for a nomination battle, and we would've turned our guns on the opposition. We would've done just what we did when Senator "Scottish Law" Specter was in line to become Judiciary Chairman. At the time, Hill staffers were hiding under their desks because of the angry thunderclaps from energized conservatives echoing through the hallways. In the end, Specter did become Chairman, but our message was heard loud and clear.

Let us do the same here. Let us put pressure on those opposed to a true conservative legal scholar.

Hugh Hewitt has yet another thoughtful post today where he again calls for restraint.

One of the many interesting aspects of the debate is the depth to which the center-right grassroots appear to have embraced the idea of incremental progress towards their goal --a not surprising reflection of the same ethic which works well in investing, business-building, relationships, and many other fields. Of course there are the "right nows!" who are spoiling for a show down, but the grass-roots dismay with the Miers-bashers is not that Miers is so clearly a good choice, but that given that the president's record is very good on judges, that the direction he has taken the courts is good, that the allies in the Senate are wobbly, and that 2006 looms, there wasn't any restraint in the reaction, and by and large still isn't.


I have immense respect for Hugh, and the way he has blended law, blogging, faith, and radio into a unique voice. But, I have differed with Hugh on this nomination. Hugh acknowledges there are wobbly allies in the Senate. Again I say, then let us, the conservative base, put a little backbone in them. Use us. That's what a base is for.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Talk about a faith-based initiative

No matter where I look, the only defense I can find in support of Harriet Miers boils down to a plea to just trust President Bush.

On his radio program today, Hugh Hewitt interviewed Professor Lino Gralia. Hugh posted the transcript, part of which reads as follows:

HH: I should have asked this at the beginning. Do you know Harriet Miers?

LG: I do not, no.

HH: Do you know Nathan Hecht?

LG: I know Nathan Hecht.

HH: Do you trust him?

LG: Nathan Hecht is very trustworthy. Nathan Hecht is probably the most conservative judge on the Texas Supreme Court, very trustworthy. He speaks very highly of Miers, who he knows, and that is a large part of my basis of belief that she'll be all right.


Do we trust Hecht? Do we trust Bush?

In the face of contradictory, anecdotal evidence about Miers, no one seems to be able to say with any certainty how she would conduct herself as a Justice. Yet, the same folks saying we just don't know, say we should go ahead and support the nomination, and we'll see how it goes.

*pause*

May I remind these good folks that there is no recourse for a mistake on the Supreme Court if things don't "go" well? That's why it is important to make the right choice in the first place.

So, when President Bush starts saying things like "I picked the best person I could find", I start tightening my belt, because that can't possibly be true, and someone is trying to blow smoke where I don't want it.

When Bush campaigned on faith-based initiatives, I had no idea he was talking about future Supreme Court nominees.

-----
Bogus Gold posts about trust and the base.

EckerNet doesn't see any way to prevent confirmation of Miers.

Psycmeistr doesn't think state party chairs are a good measure of grassroots support.

Watchman's Words has a reminder that the opposition to Miers is broadbased.

Professor Bainbridge alludes to a leap of faith in making the pick in the first place. He also comments on Hugh Hewitt's argument about Hecht.

Cap'n Ed points out we need a little more than a surly "trust me".

Below the Beltway

OK conservatives, put down your clubs and machetes for a moment, withdraw the Claymore from your fellow Republican's intestines, and take a little pop quiz.

Who made the following statements?

Mystery Person A - "The voters had a temper tantrum last week...."

Mystery Person B - "I mean, there are two groups here, the conservative intellectual priesthood, and they've thrown a tantrum...."

I'll give you a hint. One is (or was) a well-known liberal, the other person is a well-known conservative.

Time's up, put down your pencils.

Person A is Peter Jennings, and the Person B is Fred Barnes.

Et tu, Fred?

Barnes made his disappointing remark during a segment of the Hugh Hewitt radio show last Friday. (Transcript courtesy of the Generalissimo.)

The Beltway Boys were talking with Hugh about the Miers nomination, a storm that is still winding up over decidedly unpacific waters.

That Barnes would use such a pejorative term is aggravating, as it is part of the Lindsey Graham Defense, a.k.a. the Shut Up Defense.

Barnes was trying to argue that President Bush's record on appointing judges is "really extraordinary", and that Bush deserves the benefit of the doubt. To that I would say two things.

First, before July 19 of this year, Bush had appointed precisely 0 Supreme Court Justices. Zero. It's hard to establish a trend with zero data points.

Yes, yes, I know Barnes was talking about all the lower court judges Bush has appointed. But, a Supreme Court Justice is more important. A SC Justice holds more power, and there is no remedy to an activist Supreme Court. No easy one, anyway.

In Roberts, though he came with a good conservative background, Bush appointed a nominee slathered in teflon, and Roberts slid through confirmation hearings on the Admit Nothing defense.

With Miers, we know even less about her. Are we as a Republican party so weak that we can brook no dissent, dissent that stems from a sincere desire to see the best possible Justice on the Court?

Second, I would like to see a convincing argument about when we might be allowed to question the qualifications and fitness of a Supreme Court nominee. If President Bush had nominated, say, Pamela Anderson, would we skeptical conservatives be throwing a tantrum if we questioned the soundness of that pick? Would we be elitists, fanatics, pouters, sanctimonious purists, or Dowdists? I doubt it.

Somewhere between Miers and Pammy there must be a line that we wild-eyed dissenters crossed. Where is it? What, precisely, are the general criteria for when we can and cannot criticize a President's nomination?

Are we supposed to support the Miers pick because we know she would make a fine Justice? I really would like to know how we know that. As I wrote about here, the consensus argument seems to be that we don't know enough about Miers one way or the other to criticize the pick.

So, my question is this. Is it wise to risk a nomination to something as important as the Supreme Court on someone who is an enigma? Am I throwing a tantrum for asking that question?

Ok, conservatives, you may now resume your maiming and mauling.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

An itchy trigger finger

Paul Mirengoff, contributor to Power Line, has an excellent bit of analysis up at the Weekly Standard, but one with a bit of an O. Henry twist.

Mirengoff runs down a series of clear, unassailable points:

They argue that Bush is in the best position to know what kind of Justice Miers will be, so that if he assures us that Miers is a judicial conservative, we have no reason to doubt his word.

This argument fails to instill great confidence. A president usually deals with his White Counsel at a very high level. It's not likely that Bush (a non-lawyer) and Miers have had in-depth discussions about constitutional law. Thus, while Bush might be in a position to know very generally that Miers is a conservative as opposed to a liberal or a centrist, he's not likely to know whether she has a solid conservative judicial philosophy of constitutional adjudication, much less what she thinks about specific constitutional issues. It's also disconcerting that Bush has defended Alberto Gonzales, Miers' predecessor as White House counsel, from conservative critics, apparently including him among those who "will strictly interpret the Constitution and not use the bench to legislate from"--essentially the same endorsement he now has given Miers. Given Gonzales's record, few conservatives regard him as a reliable vote over the long haul.


Yes, bravo. Have we forgotten Bush's coy "Will I nominate Gonzales or won't I?" games? Is there anyone among Miers' supporters who would have been equally happy with Gonzales?

And as for how well Bush knows Miers and what kind of Justice she would make, what are we to make of this exchange from an Oct 4 White House press conference?

THE PRESIDENT: In my interviews with any judge, I never ask their personal opinion on the subject of abortion.

Q In your friendship with her, you've never discussed abortion?

THE PRESIDENT: Not to my recollection have I ever sat down with her -- what I have done is understand the type of person she is and the type of judge she will be.


How sure are we of Bush's knowledge of what kind of Justice Miers would be?

Mirengoff continues:

In any case, conservatives justifiably feel disappointed that they should have to rely solely on the president's legal and psychological acumen as they try to become comfortable with his nominee. There were at least two dozen candidates, including women, African-Americans, and Hispanics, whose conservative bona fides would have been apparent to the naked eye. Bush's rejection of these candidates in favor of Miers feels like cronyism or political weakness.


Yes, why isn't Bush nominating someone like Luttig? Bush's conservative base would rally behind him like never before. Bush would act from a position of strength. As it is, this pick leaves him weak. The Democrats know Bush's conservative base is up in arms. What cards does Bush have in this hand?

Two questions control the confirmation issue: Is Miers qualified and should she be rejected on ideological grounds? At this juncture, neither question strikes me as very close. Miers has achieved just about everything a lawyer can accomplish--head of a substantial law firm, head of the state bar association, and top legal adviser to the president. She also has a background in local politics. Only by insisting that a Supreme Court nominee possess either judicial experience or a portfolio of scholarly writings can one pronounce Miers unqualified. But this has never been the standard, and it's not clear why (ideological considerations aside) Republicans should invent a new standard with which to deal a blow to a Republican president.


I'll differ with Mirengoff on this one. As I've said elsewhere in recent posts, with me it's not so much the person of Miers and her qualifications, it's the person we're not getting. Miers may very well have all these bullet points on her resume. But, what do the two dozen candidates Mirengoff acknowledges have on their resumes? Rather than creating a new standard, many conservatives are simply asking we hire the best candidate, not the boss's friend.

For the past four years, conservatives have argued that ideology does not constitute a proper basis for voting against a president's qualified nominees. We have deplored Democrats who voted against qualified mainstream conservatives. We would have become apoplectic had Sen. Arlen Specter not supported a conservative nominated by his party's president. On what principled basis, then, can conservatives now vote down a nominee who is either a moderate or, more likely, some sort of a conservative? Miers plainly is not "outside the mainstream."


I'll differ with Mirengoff here as well. I agree that conservatives do flirt with a double standard without realizing it, but in this case conservatives are not primarily concerned with Miers' political ideology. Conservatives are concerned with her judicial philosophy, and that was, is, and will remain a valid basis for questioning a nominee's qualifications.

Mirengoff does touch on this point, but it is at this point where Mirengoff cuts off his hair to buy a watch chain for supporters of the Miers pick. He writes:

But avoiding a political phraseology is not the same thing as avoiding politics. And the politics of the confirmation process tell us that a standard under which conservative senators vote against nominees in, say, the Sandra Day O'Connor mold, is a standard that might well lead non-conservative senators (that is to say a majority) to vote against the next Antonin Scalia.

In the case of Harriet Miers, though, we are not even talking about someone in the O'Connor mold--we are talking about someone who might be another O'Connor but is just as likely to vote with Scalia in the vast majority of big cases. In this situation, it seems imprudent to blow up the confirmation process---and possibly the Bush presidency and the Republican party--to block her nomination. Thus, conservative senators should be prepared, barring new and damning information, to vote in favor of Miers. The rest of us should be prepared to hold our breath until we start seeing what she writes.


It strikes me as incomprehensible that the best reason for withholding our fire and letting the confirmation of Miers go forward without any further condemnation is that we don't really know how Miers will vote, so let it go ahead anyway!?! This is the best we can do? Why do we have to settle for this? Why can we not ask for a candidate about whose judicial philosophy we are much more knowledgeable?

I am willing to be persuaded that I should support President Bush and his nominee, but it hard for me to hold my fire when this is the only argument I seem to be hearing.

-----
Michelle Malkin has a must-see post documenting shifting attitudes among conservatives. (Attitudes seem to be shifting towards where *ahem* I've been all along.)

Among those shifting views are John Fund and Polipundit.

JunkYardBlog calls the nomination a debacle.

Professor Bainbridge reminds us the correct analogy isn't Souter, it's O'Connor.

Strata-Sphere views this as an unnecessary fight.

Bogus Gold has had a series of clear, spot-on posts about the Miers nomination.

What do we critics want?

Hugh Hewitt has a lengthy, and thoughtful, post today in answer to the question he poses: What Do The Critics of the Miers Nomination Want?

In the first part of the post, Hugh argues that opposing Miers on her intellectual skills is not a valid reason.

The idea that Miers cannot go toe to toe with the giant brains on the Supreme Court is a very odd argument, on a number of fronts. It assumes that the business of judging is very difficult and that only scholars and intellectuals are suited to the task, when in fact scholars and intellectuals have brought us to the point where the SCOTUS has become such a political problem. Read these excerpts:
...
All of these quotes are from Robert Bork's impressive introduction to "A Country I Do Not Recognize: The Legal Assault of American Values," a collection of essays published by Hoover Press months ago, and edited by Bork.

Bork's on target critique of SCOTUS is not that is not powered by enough intellect, but that intellectuals or would-be intellectuals have run it over the cultural cliff. It is odd indeed that some denouncing Miers, including now Judge Bork, seem to anchor their fiercest arguments in the fact that she's not smart enough for the job, when the implication of Judge Bork's argumnent is that the last thing the SCOTUS needs is another would be legal titan.


For me anyway, I am not primarily concerned with Miers' intellectual prowess. I sometimes get the heebie jeebies from the phrase "world class legal mind". It conjures up a person who is exceptionally good at finding emanations in penumbras, and constructing arguments around the idea that it "depends on what the meaning of 'is' is".

No, conservatives are not looking for such a mind. We are looking for a person with a firm judicial philosophy, one so firmly held in their gut they will not be swayed by fancy arguments designed primarily to win encomiums at the next Georgetown wine and brie party.

To Hugh's point about judicial practice, again, it's not primarily a question of experience on the bench, the question is where is the evidence that Miers holds that kind of conviction I mentioned? Is Bush the only one on the planet who knows?

For asking just this very thing, for reassurance that Miers is indeed a person of conviction, conservatives are pilloried by those who don't seem to view the Judiciary as a runaway branch.

One example is this post from Strata-Sphere.

My position on the Miers debacle is clear: the anti-Miers ideologues, driven by their irrational fears and wild fantasy scenarios, have become so fanatical they are killing the conservative movement dead in its tracks.
...
But because these people are obsessed with making abortion illegal, they do not care about anything else - including the war on terror.
...
I do not trust fair weather allies who give up everything when they do not get their way. I said before, here, that the fanatical right had to be careful and not go so far out on the fringe or they would lose the normal conservatives. I should have known better. Obsession blocks out everything else - especially logic.

I am not a moderate. I have no use for McCain痴 brand of policies. They stink. I am for low taxes and smaller government and I am not 僧oderate in these positions. I am pro life and I am not 僧oderate in that position. And I am for defending this country and winning in Iraq, and I so not take that stand from a positoin of 僧oderation.

But I am not so fanatically obsessed that I would throw all this away because Miers is not Janice Rogers Brown. Too many can and have. I have lost all faith in the fanatical right. I cannot support them or trust them anymore.


I already wrote here about the puzzlement conservatives feel over being attacked for standing up for principles we thought we all shared. So, I won't rehash that here.

But I chose this passage because it exemplifies my confusion. I am against abortion, I do want to see this practice ended. At the very least, I'd like to see this issue taken out of a Court that simply makes up its own laws. AJ says he is not a moderate, that he is pro-life and not moderate on that position. So far so good I say. Yet, suddenly, I'm a fanatic. Why? If abortion is the violent ending of a human life, is that not an issue worth fighting about?

So, in answer to Hugh's question, I say this. I want a fight. I want a debate about why activism is dangerous, about what we've given away as a people. I don't want to see these large issues swept under the rug and be told to just hope things work out for the best.

If this isn't worth fighting over, what is? What is?

-----
Michelle Malkin has a good roundup, and voices what I have been feebly trying to express here, that President Bush and his advisors vastly underestimated the effect this nomination would have on supporters like me.

Is it betrayal?

Some have questioned my use of the word "betrayal" in yesterday's post. Does President Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers constitute a betrayal, at least as perceived by conservatives?

I used that word speaking as an evangelical Christian who supported Bush during his 2000 campaign for President for a number of reasons, but certainly in the top two or three reasons was the influence Bush would have on the Judiciary. In those days before 9/11, what other battle was there more important to those like me than the battle against judicial activism?

Bush said during that campaign he would appoint judges in the mold of Scalia or Thomas, and that was about all I needed to hear. And why did that question come up? Because it was something very important to conservatives, and how Bush answered that was going to have an effect on his candidacy.

Now, after a somewhat stealthy nominee in Roberts, who faced less resistance than anticipated because he was just replacing another conservative, Bush had a second nomination to make, one that would at last make good on that promise in 2000 to put a clear stake in conservative soil.

Conservatives are, and will always be, four-square behind President Bush on the War on Terror. However, we've been disappointed by his tendency to go on walkabout when it comes to other conservative principles. From steel tariffs, to soaring budgets, to signing McCain-Feingold, to his come-on-in-igration policy, to a massive transportation bill, to an energy bill that only energized lobbyists, President Bush has the Right scratching its collective head.

But, we always knew where the rubber met the road, President Bush had a clear understanding of the need to restrain the Judiciary and its Invent-As-We-Go activism. Or so we thought.

What are some of the reasons given in support of Miers? One common one is that President Bush knows Miers very well, and that since we don't know much about her, we shouldn't criticize the pick. Doesn't that strike you as a problem? We don't know much about a nominee to the Supreme Court? And how will we ever find out anything about Miers? The confirmation hearings? The strategy with Roberts was Admit Nothing. (I wrote here that nominees should answer questions.) The military has a saying: Hope is not a course of action. What sense does it make to put someone on the Supreme Court about whom we know little, and simply hope they come around in the end?

Another reason given is that Miers can be confirmed, that the liberal Republican Senators such as those from the Northeast can support Miers. Doesn't that strike you as a problem? That the President and his party could be held hostage by less than 10 Senators, ostensibly in his own party? Is the solution to fall down before them in abject obeisance? Are they the ones who get to appoint the nominee?

What I, and I think many on the Right, want is for this President to do what he said he would do. If someone like Luttig isn't going to get on the Court, than nominate him anyway and make these liberal Republicans go on the record as opposing the President, and let them explain that opposition. Let the Democrats filibuster an eminently qualified candidate like Luttig. Let's have that debate, let's not flee the field before the battle begins.

Conservatives supported President Bush with the full expectation he would champion our causes. In this very important case, he didn't do what he said he would do. You tell me, Is that betrayal?

Dispatch from the Front VIII

Over time, my correspondent has had a lot to say about the quantity and quality of armored vehicles in Iraq. I'll give you a small taste of it in this dispatch.

The uparmor/(aka come from the factory armored Humvee) is only marginally better than the various add on versions that showed up. Thankfully, at least something was done since of course it was better than zero or the junkyard scrap slapped on.

Tanks of old used to be bolted together and then it was found by actual impact every bolt and seam was a weak spot where the splits from the blast would occur and allow in overpressure and plasma. then tank hulls and turrets were cast in a huge solid mass. The m1 abrahms and similar designs are able to get away with a little bit different design because of the type of manufacturing techniques and the armor used.

The uparmor has a million seems and bolts so you can imagine what can happen under the right circumstances. However, it has saved a lot of lives. But then hundreds have been killed and thousands upon thousands injured because of our less than stellar equipment... Where is the country that built a tank every 5 minutes? Why didn't a massive push for a new class of armor get started in fall or even winter of 03/04. Now, it seems all proposals will have next gen armor coming in some nebulous far off future date.

Some of the major complaints, the Humvee is way under powered now that it carries tons of armor with follow on problems in suspension, transmission and handling/balance, overheating.

Electrical system way way way off base since we stick hundreds of watts powers of equipment on it now and it can only handle less.

Incredibly cramped and stupid design for visibility, egress/ingress, room to shoot and move etc. I could beat the designers of it. Just try and get in out or shoot quickly with nothing on... Then do it with 60 pounds of battle gear and body armor that extends your chest circumference, the steering bumps into you after all that. I wear elbow pads now (should anyway) because of the awkward steering moves one must make now. insanity.

There is None/zero/nada engine heat shielding in the vehicle. Insane. If the troop is beat down just from the ride they are much less effective once on the ground(soviet tanks have this problem of small heated cramped spaces and their combat effectiveness of crew is reduced. if you are fresh and
alert...) We have had temps of over 240 degrees inside the vehicles. Let's just say I would love to take the designers of that fiasco for a ride in the combat of Iraq's pleasant weather.

(To be fair, ac has been installed on many vehicles in response, when it works, but its capacity is like 50 joules and with outside temps combined with engine heat (i am just making these numbers up) say 75 joules you can see which wins. Once the summer heat ebbs we will usually do much better.

(The engine is constantly needing to be serviced but it has delicate parts you shouldn't step on so there is lots of signs "no step" well then where to step einstein??!!) The turret gunners have little protection (none before the installation of shields and they took large casualties/kia) there is ZERO bottom and most upward side angle blast protection. Guess where the fuel tank is?

Cargo? Duh, was that an afterthought or simply no thought? You need ammo, more ammo and food and water and gear and people and more gear and ammo...

Bottom line. Look at how the israelis have configured their vehicles and armor for urban combat. Their turrets, armor and gun ports are extremely effective. We have in typical GI fashion made cargo racks, smasher bumpers, armor additions etc to make up for these shortcomings but you can only go so far. All the new proposals have intact bucket hulls with shaped or vhull to deflect blast.

The Brads and Strykers are all aluminum armor with both having rapidly been added reactive armor(brad) and slat and ceramic plates(stryker) after heavy urban combat quickly disabused all involved as their effectiveness against rpgs. What burns me up is: the rpg has been around since the 1950s, it IS THE principle weapon we face. Its ordance has continually been upgraded.

When we field a new proposal why don't they take one out and just shoot the 4 sides with an rpg as a minimum starting point? (weight is the principle limiting factor i know but...) The Stryker was fielded HERE and after less than a month of getting pierced they scrambled like madmen to put the slat "armor" on which is not really armor but a predetonator, thankfully its fairly effective.

Now it's way too wide. who cares, they smash through it anyway just like we do. Enough rant for now. later


By this time next week, the Iraqi Constitutional referendum will have taken place. (Inshallah, as they say in Iraq.) I'll have some more of my correspondent's thoughts on Sunni-Shia-Kurd relations.

Dispatch from the Front I
Dispatch from the Front II
Dispatch from the Front III
Dispatch from the Front IV
Dispatch from the Front V
Dispatch from the Front VI
Dispatch from the Front VII

Saturday, October 08, 2005

We've been hurt by a friend

Lost in all the fireworks over the Miers nomination is another question appearing at Hugh Hewitt's new blog effort, One True God Blog.

This question reads: When injured by a friend or colleague, what ought a Christian to do?

Perhaps Hugh just "happened" to put up this question in response to some of the invective thrown his way this past week.

"Shill," "toady," "kool-aid drinker," and --yes-- W's "Joe Conason" --the unkindest cut of all-- have all been attributed to me by colleagues on the center-right. Actually, there are even worse descriptions, but I maintain a PG blog. Fine, all around. Let fly, friends, you owe me nothing except your candid opinions. But you might owe the president more.


There is one reply to the question, from Mark Roberts. It is a soothing reply, and I hope Hugh finds solace in it.

On the flip side, those of us who are seething over this bizarre nomination could read the reply with a very cynical mind. I know it is very unfair to Mark Roberts's thoughtful reply, but some of the post could be read as if talking about President Bush, from the viewpoint of us wounded followers, wondering why we've been betrayed.

The Psalms are full of complaints about enemies, but the bitterest pain of all comes from the betrayal of a friend: "Even my best friend, the one I trusted completely, the one who shared my food, has turned against me" (Psalm 41:9)
...
Why does this matter? Because when we've been hurt by somebody close to us, it makes all the difference in the world to know that God understands and cares. Without a doubt, the deepest pain I've felt in over twenty years of ministry has come from the actions of friends, or people I've considered to be friends.
...
Not that the pain disappears. That takes a long time, usually. But God has used my experiences of the betrayal of friends to draw me closer to Him, and for this I am truly grateful.
...
Thus, ironically and mercifully, God has used injury from a friend to deepen my faith and strengthen my relationship with Him.
...
I haven't even begun to talk about things like forgiveness.


It will be a long time before the sting of this missed opportunity fades. With so much at stake, it's difficult to think of forgiveness. But, for us Christians, we may need to let go of our anger, and once again focus on what is eternal.

You're kidding me

From Power Line:

Mohamed ElBaradei and his International Atomic Energy Agency have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. ElBaradei's fecklessness in dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat surely was a big point in his favor. But I suspect that his opposition to the removal of the terrorist-sponsoring butcher Saddam Hussein put him over the top. That plus the fact that Carter recently won the award and Arafat is dead.

ElBaradei interpreted the award as a message to "keep doing what you're doing." What he's doing is providing the very faint illusion of a response to Iran's development of nuclear weapons.


You can bet Regime Change Iran has some thoughts on this:

The United States, which has severely criticized him in the past, reacted relatively warmly on Friday to the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Mohamed ElBaradei and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
...
Only last December, the White House sought to limit El Baradei to a two-year term, but relented in June for a lack of an alternative candidate. "You work with what you've got," a State Department official said at that time.


I've said before, the Nobel Prizes in Peace and Literature are not serious awards. They're simply part of the bag of goodies the far Left likes to use to rewards its own for opposing more conservative principles.

-----
Michelle Malkin calls it what it is.

Psycmeistr speaks plainly about this one.

Friday, October 07, 2005

A Sign of Strength

Some well-known conservative pundits have put themselves on the record calling for the withdrawal of the Harriet Miers nomination.

George Will

Senators beginning what ought to be a protracted and exacting scrutiny of Harriet Miers should be guided by three rules. First, it is not important that she be confirmed. Second, it might be very important that she not be. Third, the presumption -- perhaps rebuttable but certainly in need of rebutting -- should be that her nomination is not a defensible exercise of presidential discretion to which senatorial deference is due.


Charles Krauthammer

If Harriet Miers were not a crony of the president of the United States, her nomination to the Supreme Court would be a joke, as it would have occurred to no one else to nominate her.
...
To nominate someone whose adult life reveals no record of even participation in debates about constitutional interpretation is an insult to the institution and to that vision of the institution.


Bill Kristol

Gregory: "You have suggested she should and even might even step aside. Why?"

Kristol: "I think she should consider it. I think her nomination is a mistake. She doesn't have the intellectual distinction or the track record to really justify putting her on the Supreme Court. I think she should consider withdrawing her name, going to the President and saying 'thank you for the honor but I can serve you as WH counsel and there are plenty of other qualified people to go to the Supreme Court.'"


and here as well:

So what now? Bush has made this unfortunate nomination. What is to be done? The best alternative would be for Miers to withdraw. Is such an idea out of the question? It should not be.
...
President Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers was an out-of-the-blue act of loyalty to a longtime staffer. Is it too much to hope that she might reciprocate by withdrawing, thereby sparing her boss the chance of lasting damage to his legacy that her appointment to the Supreme Court may well represent?


Ann Coulter

To be sure, if we were looking for philosopher-kings, an SMU law grad would probably be preferable to a graduate from an elite law school. But if we're looking for lawyers with giant brains to memorize obscure legal cases and to compose clearly reasoned opinions about ERISA pre-emption, the doctrine of equivalents in patent law, limitation of liability in admiralty, and supplemental jurisdiction under Section 1367 I think we want the nerd from an elite law school. Bush may as well appoint his chauffeur head of NASA as put Miers on the Supreme Court.
...
However nice, helpful, prompt and tidy she is, Harriet Miers isn't qualified to play a Supreme Court justice on "The West Wing," let alone to be a real one. Both Republicans and Democrats should be alarmed that Bush seems to believe his power to appoint judges is absolute. This is what "advice and consent" means.


David Frum

My answer is: Don't trust me. Trust your own eyes. The woman is 60 years old, a lawyer for more than three decades. Can you see any instance in this long life and career where Miers ever took a risk on behalf of conservative principle? Can you see any indication of intellectual excellence? Did she ever do anything brave, anything that took backbone? Did anyone before this week ever describe her as oustanding in any way at all?

If the answers to these questions is No, as it is, then you have to ask yourself: Why is a Republican president bypassing so many dozens of superb legal conservatives to choose Harriet Miers for the highest court in the land?


How about former nominee Robert Bork himself?

[Bork] says it's, "a disaster on every level" because she has "no experience with constitutional law whatever". The nomination is a "slap in the face" to conservatives.


Hugh Hewitt has been catching a lot of javelins in this debate, but one point on which I disagree with him is the worry a fight over the nomination might cause serious damage to the GOP. In this post, Hugh writes:

There are many persuasive reasons beyond "Party" to support Harriet Miers, but "Party" ought to have at least tempered some of the most strident critics of the nominee. Nothing lasting will be accomplished with SCOTUS unless the GOP remains in power beyond 2008 and 2012. If the current seven veterans linger, and the GOP is crippled because of intra-party quarrels, how will President Hillary's and Vice President Obama's justices rule?

There is a great deal to be said for "Party," including the willingness to accept that the good must not be the enemy of the perfect, and that at least 25% of the time you are going to be disappointed with the Party's decision.


It is a sign of strength when a party can have a heated debate over something as serious as a nomination to the Supreme Court. Why? Because only a party confident that its message resonates throughout the electorate, confident that it is on the right side of important social, moral and economic issues, confident that it offers hope and freedom to this country and the world, only that kind of party can knock the dust off the rafters and still be secure in the knowledge the voters will remain loyal in the end, because in the end the voters will still hold the same values we do.

And the strength of our convictions and values will be all the more evident because some in the party stood up and said no, this is not who we are.

Our hold on voters is not such a frail house of cards that we must fear bumping the table lest our tenuous support come crashing down. That is the Democratic Party. The Democrats must abide the most fractured of crackpots in their party because they cannot afford to lose slivers of their support.

Fraters Libertas shares an email from a typical conservative, a fellow is now seething over this nomination. The post ends with this:

One of the arguments put forward by supporters of Miers is that her nomination is practical politics. They claim to be looking at the larger political picture and long term alignment of power. They talk of "incremental gains" and "moving the ball forward."

Which sounds all well and good. But who are the foot soldiers who are going to hold the political ground that conservatives have gained so far, to say nothing of expanding it further? Who is going to provide the money, time, and passion required to win the critical races in 2006, 2008, and beyond?

Don't look for Nathan, he's already gone.


Damage to the party? There is the damage to the party.

And I guarantee you, if Miers turns out to be as squishy as Justice O'Connor was on some issues, there will be a mass exodus from the GOP, and I'll be leading the way. I am as conservative as they come, I'm as evangelical as they come. I would love to see an evangelical on the court, but it is more important to have a Justice with a razor-sharp legal intellect who can make the case for an originalist philosophy. (Of course, such a person's votes would usually align with an evangelical's anyway.)

The way out of this is not to wring our hands and worry if the neighbors will hear us fighting. The way out is to be the party we say we are.

Withdraw or defeat this nomination, admit the mistake, and nominate the kind of person who should have been nominated in the first place. We'll survive, and be the stronger for it.

-----
(linked to Stop the ACLU and Mudville Gazette's Open Post)

Captain Ed correctly points out it would be a mistake to make Miers' evangelicalism the top selling point of her nomination.

Professor Bainbridge also questions using the faith card.

As part of his close focus on this issue, Professor Bainbridge argues this is a fight worth fighting.

Austin Bay is utterly underwhelmed, but, Mrs. Bay is whelmed.

Patterico looks at what Miers's friends are saying.

EckerNet wonders why we should simply trust President Bush.

Freedom Dogs points out the weaknesses in Miers' qualifications.

Psycmeistr is another example of the damage this nomination can do.

Kiihnworld has some good words on trust.

The Night Writer is underwhelmed.

Blog of the Week Part Deux

I'm up for the Crosley Solo Blog of the Week again over at the Radioblogger site. (This site has transcripts of the Hugh Hewitt radio show, and is well worth reading.)

Read all five. (My entry is here.)

Go here to register your vote.

You know the drill. Just ask yourself, how comfortable am I living with yaks?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Thursday wrap-up

Friday is a school day for me. (Got an architecture exam, and have to do a little 7 minute talk on a research paper on performance analysis.)

Tonight at bible story time I asked the kids "What does God give us?" I'm thinking things like a warm house on these chilly nights, food to eat, etc...

Hanna says, "Ropes and Batman". Out of the mouths of babes.

G'night. Will be back with the usual lighter weekend fare.

Update on western Iraq

I have analysis envy. Bill Roggio has a brilliant post up, summarizing the goals of the various operations in western Iraq.

(Bill also has an update on Iron Fist and River Gate.)

Click on Roggio's map to get a good sense of where forces are deployed.

As Bill says:

There are also two bridges in Habbaniyah and two in Fallujah. A look at the map will show the Coalition maintains a strong presence at each and every crossing point. This is no accident. The Coalition has chosen to segment the Euphrates River at cities and towns that possess bridges across the river, and will be on hand to control the crossing points when the time comes to reopen the bridges.

We know the three bridges in and around Haditha have been severed, as well as the bridges out west in Ubaydi. The likelihood is the crossings at Khan al Baghdadi and Hit have been disabled as well, leaving a crossing open in Rawah to the west and Ramadi to the East (note that a goal of Operation Mountaineers was securing a railroad bridge in the south of the city). The Coalition now effectively controls traffic across the Euphrates River. Insurgents and terrorists wishing to transverse the river must now run the river gates established Rawah and Ramadi.


(In his post, Bill mentions that the goal of Operation Hiba was to secure control of a railroad bridge in the south of the city. I am thinking that would be this bridge.)

The Belmont Club also has two good posts (here and here) giving an overview of the terrain involved. His posts explain why the open desert is not conducive to terrorist operations. Hence, the terrorists wish to follow the rivers. These operations are all about denying the terrorists the ability to move, group in, and control the major river towns and crossings.

An examination (speculation alert) of Iraqi topography helps us understand the river and border campaigns better. Global Security has a trafficability map. Rawa is not so coincidentally on the northern limit of riverine Iraq along the Euphrates. It lies between what the US Naval Institutes in its article Military Geography of Iraq calls "Type I" terrain -- desert and steppe -- and "Type II" riverine Iraq. If the Syrian frontier is the "outer border" the "inner border" is the boundary between the Type I and Type II; between the desert and the sown. Riverine Iraq, the area which contains most the nation's population, cities and wealth is the prize; and only by traversing the Type I steppe and desert can the insurgents move from the Syrian border to attack Iraq's heartland. The area northwestward from Rawa to the Syrian border, south to the Jordanian frontier and north across the Euphrates to Mosul are all Type I and it is here where the battle for the borders is being fought. It has two characteristics which make it relatively ideal for as a line of communication for the insurgency. One is trafficability. According to the US Naval Institute article:

"Roads that traverse region I to and from Iraq are few, but that deficiency inhibits military movement much less than elsewhere because the hard, flat surface simplifies cross-country trafficability for wheeled as well as tracked vehicles. The author, for example, long ago journeyed from Damascus to Baghdad by bus, with rare glimpses of any formal route."


One thing I'll add, you'll see from the map that the eastern anchor of this line of operations is Fallujah. It was the scene of a landmark urban battle last November. It is the eastern anchor today because the II MEF is now there in force, in significant numbers. Any terrorists trying to run the gauntlet of river towns along the western Euphrates will run up against the well-armed US military sitting at the key junction where the fertile river valley starts to widen out.

A good blog that comes out of Camp Fallujah is Live In Iraq. The person writing it gives good details on activities in that area.

When I get this year of grad school behind me, I'll have more time to sit and piece some of this together myself. Till then, hats off to Bill for his great work.

Battle for Mosul IV

Michael Yon has another nonpareil post up, this one entitled Battle for Mosul IV.

It is a lengthy piece, and if you pay attention, you will see cause for hope in Iraq. And as always, you will see reason to admire and respect our tremendous military.

Yon spends a great deal of his post talking about something I've been talking about here as well, the increasing capability of the Iraqi security forces. Yon begins by comparing the chaos in Mosul some months ago to the initial chaos in New Orleans after the hurricane.

Mosul痴 white chickens were in for an abrupt shift in theirs. The city became a headquarters for kidnappers and beheading squads whose video calling cards became a gruesome striptease on the nightly news. The growing influence of the increasingly brash insurgents and foreign fighters wasn稚 lost on the locals, who paid a high price for resistance. More than two hundred Mosulite bodies洋any headless謡ere tossed out in the streets.

When the storm hit Mosul, the destruction was catastrophic. Katrina痴 winds and water may have destroyed the property of New Orleans, but not the idea of New Orleans. By contrast, while the real estate in Mosul remained relatively untouched, the very fabric of the society had been ripped open.


As I wrote about here, it takes professional skill to deal with this kind of situation. Yon acknowledges this:

Our soldiers faced a complex, rugged and courageous adversary, and one which could be exquisitely brutal, at a time when enemy morale was extremely high. Propaganda wouldn稚 be enough. Being tougher, smarter and more adaptable was our only chance of winning the battle for Mosul without simultaneously flattening the city.


It was tough slogging to get this situation under control:

Month after month, the attacks continued, in combat that consumed tons of enemy ammunition and cost hundreds of enemy casualties. Stryker vehicles limped back to base, engines smoking, dragging tattered metal armor; mechanics worked twenty-four-hour days to keep Deuce Four in the fight. But the casualties extended beyond combatants and their damaged equipment. The local population, which had been friendly before, would no longer talk with the Americans, apparently fearful the enemy might either win or just outlast the Coalition. Both prospects terrified citizens into silence, and the Coalition痴 best source of information fell mute. As it was for those storm-shocked people in New Orleans waiting on rooftops to be rescued, patience seemed a lot to ask from anyone in Mosul while bombs were exploding day and night.


And yet, the tide began to turn. As I've written about (see here, here, here, here, and here) too, Yon takes care to point out the much improved capability of the Iraqi forces. Here are some excerpts:

But that day, something was very different. I was actually witnessing Iraqi commanders aggressively deploying their own men, isolating the enemy.
...
The policemen were not using the machine guns as tools to retreat, but were pushing out into blocking positions while their buddies cleared forward, and other Iraqi elements were isolating the shooters. It couldn稚 be any clearer: a new sheriff was in town.
...
Amazingly, these Iraqis continue to load up in those little trucks and go to work, knowing the odds are that they will, sooner or later, get shot or blown up. In a previous dispatch I stated that the only true martyrs I've seen in Iraq are these men, ordinary in most respects, who step forward and put everything on the line, for the idea of Iraq. But they also have a powerful example to follow now: one that gives them the courage to face these odds. In West Mosul every one of their leaders has been wounded in combat, some more than once, but they get right back into the fight葉aking up positions in front.
...
Despite losing members of their ranks to violent attacks practically every day, Iraqi police fought back, only getting stronger in the process. Following the lead of the American soldiers who re-captured the police stations, Iraqi cops were again living in their own stations.
...
The police were also developing their own intelligence and acting on it, even becoming adept at 鍍he cascading raid, as I began to call it.
...
But the new cops were cut from stronger cloth, and similar to how those American troops who see a lot of combat in Iraq seem to have the highest morale, the increased targeting of the Iraqi Police fostered greater unity among them and elevated their status. The increasing competence of the police department in Mosul was pinching the insurgents.
...
[Iraqi Colonel] Noradeen痴 current office was safe from giant bombs, but he wanted to move his office to Yarmook traffic circle謡here shootouts and car bombs are guaranteed. Designing the outpost to withstand multiple simultaneous car bombs or giant truck bombs would require some thinking. When one of the American officers had asked Colonel Noradeen, "Why do you want an office at Yarmook Traffic Circle?" he answered simply, "If I build it there, they will come to me."


There's so much more there. Don't miss the section about the brutality to children, and the success at killing or capturing terrorists.

(linked to Mudville Gazette's Open Post)
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Others linking to Yon's post are Sister Toldjah, Blackfive, Lone Star Times, Stryker Brigade News, Swanky Conservative, SoCalPundit, 44 South Street, Dean's World

A 1s2 2s2p6 3s2p6d10 4s2p6d10 5s2p2 Ear

(That's Tin, for those of you who were too busy in high school duct taping skinny kids to flagpoles to study chemistry and physics)

There is a brush fire starting on the Right. At the moment it is smoldering, smoking. President Bush and his advisors have clearly caught a whiff of it. It remains to be seen how they choose to fight this fire, but I'm quite convinced pouring gasoline on it won't help.

This Washington Post article describes some of the anger behind the scenes, but look at this reaction from Ed Gillespie:

White House adviser Ed Gillespie suggested that some of the unease about Miers "has a whiff of sexism and a whiff of elitism." Irate participants erupted and demanded that he take it back. Gillespie later said he did not mean to accuse anyone in the room but "was talking more broadly" about criticism of Miers.


It is troubling that the White House cannot acknowledge the deep dissatisfaction among conservatives stems not from elitism, but from a colossal disappointment the White House punted on this rare opportunity to put a bona fide conservative legal scholar on the Court. The defeat of the Bork nomination still stings today as much as it did then. Here was the chance to make up for that loss, but instead, we're given a mediocre candidate and told to deal with it.

As the Washington Post reports here, at a news conference Bush insisted that in nominating Miers, he "picked the best person I could find". By what possible standard can that be true? Does President Bush not realize the damage he does to his support among conservatives when he tells us to eat a mud sandwich and claims it's really chocolate?

The political bumbling in all this is perhaps what surprises me the most. Usually the White House has good political sense. One wonders how Karl Rove, Super Evil Genius, calculated the fallout, and if the White House simply misjudged.

More evidence of a tin ear can be seen in the way supporters of the pick belittle those who question the pick. They use pejorative terms like "carping" and "whining". As an example, here is Betsy Newmark's take:

What does irritate me is those conservatives who basically want to take their marbles and go home since they're disappointed in Bush's nomination. Fine, stay home next election. I hope your sanctimonious conservative purity is warm comfort through the years of Hillary's presidency. Remember that our choice is rarely between the perfect candidate and some other person. Mostly, we have to deal with two imperfect candidates and figure out which one would be less bad for the country. If you're lucky, there might even be a candidate you can like. My experience is that such politicians are rare.


Sanctimonious conservative purity? Betsy talks about simply dealing with bad candidates, but the fallacy here is President Bush has absolute control over the candidate he picks! The candidate doesn't fall from the sky at random. The President gets to decide who that candidate is.

Reining in the Judiciary, and its runaway activism, is at the very core of conservative motivations. When a President is given the historic opportunity to reform the Court, and fails to do so, do conservatives deserve snarky, belittling putdowns for their profound disappointment?

Lileks is one of my favorite writers out there. I'd give five years of your life for his wit. But like many wits, he seems to enjoy riling people up more than constructing serious arguments. This is Lileks today on the pick:

The wailing! The gnashing! The rending of garments! If the conservative reaction to Harriet Miers is any indication, Bush has no chance of winning a third term. The decision to appoint a relative unknown or, given her proximity to the Bush inner circle, an unknown relative has caused many on the right to open a vein and the let the despair flow out into the warm bath of misery, disappointment, and overextended metaphors. Why didn稚 Bush clone Scalia in a dish and appoint him? Here, use some stem cells if you have to. Anyone but another Souter!


By contrast, Peggy Noonan, an eloquent voice for conservative principles, has a wonderful column at OpinionJournal today.

That having been said, the Miers pick was another administration misstep. The president misread the field, the players, their mood and attitude. He called the play, they looked up from the huddle and balked. And debated. And dissed. Momentum was lost. The quarterback looked foolish.

The president would have been politically better served by what Pat Buchanan called a bench-clearing brawl. A fractious and sparring base would have come together arm in arm to fight for something all believe in: the beginning of the end of command-and-control liberalism on the U.S. Supreme Court.


Yes. If President Bush had nominated someone clearly intended to grab the Court by the throat and drag it back to its Constitutional roots, conservatives would have walked through fire for Bush. We would've carried him on our shoulders through the streets.

Instead, we're wondering why we are being attacked by our own for standing up for the principles we thought we all shared.

It pains me to say so, but I hope the Senate rejects the nomination. President Bush needs to understand he represents us. We are not simply supposed to "trust him". We sent him to the White House to be our champion. Instead, he's speared us in the back. The Senate still has a chance to call a do-over.

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Captain Ed believes this is not the time for a big battle, but I disagree. If this isn't worth fighting over, nothing is.

(I just noticed Captain Ed also used the gasoline metaphor. I came up with it independently! No plagiarism here!)

JunkYardBlog comments on the trust-me moment.

Hugh Hewitt argues we look at the whole political picture. I agree to a point, but again, if we don't fight on this, we never will, and in the future, conservatives will not waste their energy fighting political battles they know will end in retreat.

Conservative Outpost finds some reasons to be supportive.

Austin Bay writes about a supporter of Miers.

The Evangelical Outpost wonders if this is a broken promise.

Jeremy at the Parableman blog argues we know too little about Miers to condemn the pick.

Some of my fellow MOBsters are sitting around the watchfires in my camp. See Bogus Gold, EckerNet, Psycmeistr.

The MAWB Squad is content if Miers votes with the conservatives.

The enemy of my enemy is my Supreme Court Justice

Well, no, I'm not sure I can even say that. Harry Reid has made cooing noises over President Bush's nominee to the Supreme Court, Harriet Miers.

On his radio program this week, Hugh Hewitt has been conducting numerous interviews with both supporters and detractors of the pick. Hugh has been one of the most vocal supporters of this pick, and while his disagreement with some may not reach the level of donnybrook as conservative internecine battles go, it's at least a donnystreamlet. (See transcripts courtesy of Radioblogger.)

Hugh acknowledged the lack of a barking dog in an interview with Jay Sekulow:

Jay, let me ask you about the idea, though, that Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid didn't have strokes. A lot of conservatives are reading in this reason for alarm. I'm reading in it reasons for Democrats to wonder about their leadership again.


Jay's answer was essentially that the Democrats can't knock around a nice, mainstream conservative lady.

My problem with this pick, though, is why are we running from a fight at all? Why not nominate someone who will leave an indelible stamp on the Court's jurisprudence, not just someone we suspect/hope will vote with the conservative bloc?

In an interview with Ramesh Ponnuru, Hugh walked down a list of credentials, and asked if they would be important qualifications for a Supreme Court Justice. It was a fascinating interview, but in the end, Hugh was describing someone who would make a terrific director of a lobbying campaign for a publicly funded sports stadium, not a Supreme Court Justice.

Before the Roberts and Miers nominations, it had been 11 years since the last Justice was seated. What decisions has the Court made since Breyer took his seat in 1994? Just to name a few:

Stenberg v. Carhart (2000) - Partial-birth abortion is spiffy, leave it alone.
McConnell v. F.E.C (2003) - campaign contributions are not free political speech
Ashcroft v. ACLU (2004) - We love child porn!
Van Orden v. Perry (2005) - Ten Commandments can be displayed
McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky (2005) - Ten Commandments cannot be displayed
Kelo v. New London (2005) - Government can take your property. Sorry.

(Those with genetically enhanced brains will immediately recognize these are all 5-4 decisions.)

We can't afford to wait eleven years to fix mistakes. Too much damage can be done in the meantime. Miers may turn out to be a good conservative justice, but why allow even an inch of room for doubts, when someone like Luttig is available? Luttig is the kind of candidate that would make Democrats apoplectic, which would be the surest sign we were on the right track.

(Hello, fellow Radiobloggertonanianites. For your perusal, if you so wish, I have a related post here, with some additional thoughts on the Miers nomination. Here as well.)

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Recent operations involving Iraqi forces

Iraqi security forces continue to perform roles in operations in Iraq. It may not be in leaps and bounds, but Iraqi forces are improving. The point is not whether they can stand on their own today, the point is whether Iraqi forces are on a trajectory to handle security in their country on their own. I think the answer to that is yes.

From the latest Weekly Iraq Progress report (PDF):

In Tikrit, Task Force Liberty Coalition soldiers are moving into the observer role as Iraqi Army soldiers in their area of responsibility begin conducting missions without US support. Iraqi soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade, 4th Iraqi Army Division recently completed a successful independent mission that led to the detainment of high-value insurgent targets.
...
In Baqubah, soldiers with the 5th Iraqi Army Division and Coalition forces conducted raids after receiving a tip regarding the location of two terrorist cell leaders. The soldiers captured one individual identified as a cell leader responsible for numerous kidnappings and beheadings, including the recent assassination of three Iraqi Police officers. The Iraqi forces also apprehended a suspected terrorist cell leader responsible for training insurgent forces.
...
The Secretary General of NATO, Mr. Jaapde Hoop Scheffer, paid a visit to Iraq to open the NATO-run Joint Staff Center-Training Academy on September 22. "This is an important day both for Iraq and NATO. We are openingthe NATO Training and Education Center here at Ar-Rustamiyah."


From this CentCom press release:

Iraqi and Coalition forces captured 78 suspected terrorists and seized eight weapons caches while carrying out a combined total of 12 raids and 66 search operations throughout the city from Sept. 28 through Sept. 30. Iraqi Security forces and Task Force Baghdad Soldiers also conducted nearly 1,600 combat patrols, and continued to receive tips from Iraqi citizens fed up with terrorist violence in their neighborhoods.


From this MNSTC-I (known as "min-sticky") press release:

Iraqi Army troops and Coalition forces detained 10 suspected AIF in joint operations conducted Oct. 2 near Baqubah.

The raids were intended to kill or capture insurgents and disrupt AIF cell activities.


The Oct 4 press release found here describes Iraqi troops repulsing an attack:

Iraqi Army troops and Coalition forces netted two weapons caches and two detainees after a night-long operation Oct. 3 near Ghalibiyah.

Iraqi Army troops repulsed a night-time attack by two terrorists resulting in a car chase that led to a house near Ghalibiyah. Both terrorists were wounded in the exchange but eluded capture. Troops cordoned off the house and found a stash of weaponry inside that included a suicide vest and an Al Qa段da flag.

Acting on information found at the house, Iraqi and Coalition forces converged on two farmhouses at another location where they immediately found two VBIEDs and another weapons cache.

Sometime around 5:20 a.m. Iraqi Army soldiers nabbed the two insurgents as they attempted to get treatment at a local hospital for wounds received in their failed attack.


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For additional information, see Bill Roggio's latest post.

Bring out your dead

The New York Times has an article today about a debate that's been going on in Russia for some time, a debate about what to do with Lenin's body, which currently rests in, you guessed it, Lenin's Tomb in Red Square, just outside the Kremlin walls.

[A] senior aide to President Vladimir V. Putin raised the matter last week, saying it was time to bury the man.

"Our country has been shaken by strife, but only a few people were held accountable for that in our lifetime," said the aide, Georgi Poltavchenko. "I do not think it is fair that those who initiated the strife remain in the center of our state near the Kremlin."

In the unending debate about what exactly the new Russia is, the subject of Lenin resembles a Rorschach inkblot test. People project their views of their state onto him and see what they wish. And so as Mr. Poltavchenko's suggestion has ignited fresh public sparring over Lenin's place, both in history and in the grave, the dispute has been implicitly bizarre and a window into the state of civil society here.
...
Depending on who is speaking about him now, he is either a hero or a beast, a gifted revolutionary or a syphilitic mass murderer. (By some accounts he died not of strokes, the official cause of death, but of an advanced case of sexually transmitted disease.)

Some still see in him the architect of a grand and daring social experiment. Others describe an opportunist who ushered vicious cronies to power, resulting in a totalitarian police state. "It is time to get rid of this horrible mummy," said Valeriya Novodvorskaya, head of the Democratic Union, a small reform party. "One cannot talk about any kind of democracy or civilization in Russia when Lenin is still in the country's main square."


That is the debate in a nutshell. Should Russia continue to revere, in such a place of honor, a man helped found a nation that made the world tremble, as Ramius said in the movie The Hunt for Red October? Or, is it wrong to give such honor to a man who helped found a brutal state that killed millions?

How a Russian answers that question depends on where he or she thinks the country is going.

When Rhonda and I were stuck in Moscow after 9/11, we had time on our hands and visited Red Square a number of times. On one of those occasions we went inside Lenin's Tomb.

The public is allowed (or was then, anyway) to visit the tomb on Thursday mornings, and during that time all of Red Square is blocked off. Only people visiting the tomb can enter the Square. This is part of that honor I mentioned.

When you go in, it is very quiet and still, and you turn left and go down some rather dark stairs. Russia is not terribly worried about lawsuits, apparently. There are guards at intervals. We were told to keep our hands in view.

Lenin is at the bottom of the stairs, on a glass-enclosed bier. He is wearing a dark suit, his face and hands are the only visible flesh. (If those are indeed his hands.)

Right outside the tomb are buried several Soviet leaders, as the Times says:

Yuri V. Andropov, Leonid I. Brezhnev and Konstantin U. Chernenko, as well as those of Stalin and Feliks Dzerzhinsky, founder of the Soviet secret police


Our tour guide said that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, leaders would no longer be buried there in Red Square.

Also, various heroes and important figures are buried in the Kremlin walls just behind the tomb. (An American, John Reed, is also buried there.)

So, the Russians struggle with the question of whether they should sever these ties to the past. For outsiders like us, we ask what it means that some people want to hang on to that past.

Marine operations in the wake of Rita

In my post yesterday, I talked about the operations the II Marine Expeditionary Force (II MEF) is conducting in Iraq.

The sun never sets on the II MEF, though, as elements have been working hard in the Gulf Coast region conducting relief operations.

A specially tailored Marine task force ordered to the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina is headed home after wrapping up its work in some of the region's most devastated communities.

More than 1,200 active-duty Marines will return to their home base at Camp Lejeune, N.C., in the coming week and resume preparations for a scheduled deployment in the spring.

The departing Marines, part of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, were among thousands of troops summoned by the president to bolster relief efforts in the desperate days following Katrina's impact.
...
In the first two weeks following the Aug. 29 storm, the Marines searched more than 5,000 homes; rescued 610 stranded residents; transported nearly 1,500 other displaced citizens; delivered two million pounds of supplies; and cleared debris from more than 1,000 homes, schools, and municipal buildings.

Their efforts began just hours after the levees burst, as Marines from the 4th Assault Amphibian Battalion and the Corps' Anti-Terrorism Battalion rushed to the scene from their bases in the stricken area.

On Aug. 30, Marine helicopters and amphibious vehicles began pulling survivors to safety.

Most of those rescues were carried out by the task force's air component, composed of Marines of the Reserve 4th Marine Air Wing and their active-duty counterparts from the 2nd Marine Air Wing, who flew in on Sept. 1 to help.

During three days of nearly continuous daylight sorties, four UH-1N Huey utility helicopters -- working in tandem with a mix of heavy-lift CH-53Es and medium-lift CH-46Es -- plucked 446 people from rooftops, highway overpasses, and other hard-to-reach high ground where residents had taken refuge.

As the helicopters began their three-day run, an advance team from the headquarters element of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit arrived at the air station here to pave the way for additional forces.

At the same time, nearly 300 Marines from MEU Service Support Group 24 -- constituting the bulk of the task force's logistics component -- were making their way down the Atlantic coast on two naval vessels launched from Norfolk, Va. They brought with them an array of engineering equipment well suited to disaster relief and humanitarian assistance, including forklifts, large trucks, Humvees and water-purification devices.
...
As the Marines return to North Carolina this week, they will immediately pick up where they left off, readying themselves for an intensive pre-deployment training program due to begin in December.


There's more, as you read the rest of the article.

The military's humanitarian mission - Sept 24
Military operations continue in the wake of Rita - Sept 27
Navy operations in the wake of Rita - Sept 30

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linked to Open Trackbacks at Stop the ACLU

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Operations in western Iraq

As mentioned previously, Operation Sayaid (Hunter) commenced in western Iraq about two weeks ago.

U.S. and Iraqi commanders have begun bolstering forces in western Iraq's Euphrates River valley, hoping to choke the flow of foreign fighters along what intelligence officers say has become the primary infiltration route from Syria toward Baghdad.

The buildup, called Operation Sayaid, is aimed at securing the border area around the restive town of Qaim and suppressing other insurgent activity in the villages that hug the winding banks of the Euphrates west of Baghdad.


(For a map and a good overall view, see this post at the Belmont Club. Bill Roggio also has a good map here.)

As part of that larger operation, two operations have recently begun. Operation Iron Fist began Oct 1 in the town of Sadah, and spread to Karabilah.

Iron Fist involves about a thousand troops.

The second day of Operation Kabda Bil Hadid, or "Iron Fist," resulted in successful engagements against terrorists in and around Sadah, about 12 kilometers east of the Syrian border, Multinational Force Iraq officials reported Oct. 2.

The effort continues with a force of about 1,000 Marines, soldiers and sailors from Regimental Combat Team 2. That force engaged seven terrorists west of Sadah with Marine aircraft at about 11:45 a.m., officials said.


(See Bill Roggio's excellent updates here, here, here, here, here and here.)

Operation River Gate began today, and is going after the cities of Haditha, Haqlaniyah and Barwana.

River Gate involves about 2,500 troops.

Approximately 2,500 Marines, Soldiers and Sailors from Regimental Combat Team 2 and Iraqi Security force soldiers are participating in the operation, making it the largest operation in the al Anbar province this year.

The operation痴 goal is to deny al Qaeda in Iraq the ability to operate in the three Euphrates River Valley cities and to free the local citizens from the terrorists campaign of murder and intimidation of innocent women, children and men.

Haditha is an important crossroads for al Qaeda in Iraq痴 smuggling activities from the Syrian border. Once in Haditha, smugglers can go north to Mosul or continue on to ar Ramadi, Fallujah or Baghdad. The city is home to approximately 75,000 Iraqis, a vital hydro-electric power plant, and 28 schools.


This area is where 20 Marines were killed in August.

(Bill Roggio's update is here.)

A slightly smaller operation, Operation Hiba, began today.

The purpose of Operation Hiba (Mountaineers), which consists of 400 ISF soldiers and 500 U.S. service members, is to disrupt insurgents in southern Ramadi who are transporting weapons and munitions into the city. Additionally, ISF and Coalition Forces will establish an Entry Control Point at the Railroad Bridge in order to restrict the insurgents freedom of movement.


Security Watchtower reports the following:

U.S. planes and helicopter gunships conducted airstrikes in Haqlaniyah, Barwanah and Hadithah, knocking out power in some sections of Haqlaniyah and destroying several bridges insurgents were using to move back and forth across the Euphrates.

Dozens of roadside bombs were encountered on the main arteries into the towns as U.S. troops moved in, Marine commanders said.


We have seen this before, where bridges are destroyed to funnel terrorists into areas where they can be more easily managed. It does also point out the scarcity of troops in western Iraq, that Coalition forces can't simply hold the ground on the other side of the river.

(Bill Roggio's update is here.)

You may recall I had mentioned the fighting in Ramadi a few days ago. It is evident the fighting will continue there for at least the immediate future, as Coalition forces work to suppress terrorist acivity there.

You may also recall that the important crossroads city of Haditha is where a senior terrorist was killed on Sept 18.

The Marines 2nd Division, II MEF, is responsible for a lot of the fighting in these operations. The reports above mention the 2nd Regimental Combat team, attached to the 2nd Division, as taking part in the action.

Also among the units involved are the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, who arrived in Iraq not too long ago. (This is unit is attached to the 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Division.)

(This unit, as do many US military units, has a proud history. Its nickname, Teufelhunden, which means Devil Dogs in German, came from the unit's determined fighting at Belleau Wood in WWI. The unit was on Guadalcanal, and also participated in the battle of Tarawa in WWII, a bloody fight for the Marines. Later actions include Beirut, Panama and Desert Storm.)

While this fighting is going on, some elements of the 2nd Division have rotated home. Yesterday, Vice President Dick Cheney was on hand at Camp Lejeune to welcome them home.

A couple years ago, I drove by Camp Lejeune. The fences along the main road going by the Camp were lined with bedsheets and other homemade signs welcoming home some other units at the time. I'm sure there is a similar scene today, where loved ones welcome home their soldiers. Sadly, the Marines have seen heavy fighting in western Iraq, and not all the Marines came home.

In the Sept 30 issue of the Eagle and Crescent (available here in PDF) the commanding general of the II MEF, Major General S.T. Johnson, wrote this:

Noted historian and former librarian of Congress, Daniel J Boorstin, once wrote: "In our world of big names, curiously, our true heroes tend to be anonymous. In this life of illusion and quasi-illusion, the person of solid virtues who can be admired for something more substantial than his well-knownness often proves to be the unsung hero: the teacher, the nurse, the mother, the honest cop, the hard worker at lonely, underpaid, unglamorous, unpublicized jobs.

Boorstin痴 words apply here twenty-four hours a day and no more so than in two weeks when the people of Iraq vote to ratify their new constitution. On the October 15th constitutional referendum, many people in Iraq will vote for the first time in their lives. While Iraqis exercise their right to vote, they face intimidation and murder and they are the "unsung heroes."


Let's make sure our soldier heroes don't go unremembered in anonymity, and don't forget the struggle of the Iraqi people, as they work to build a free country, a freedom that would not be possible without the help of the United States.

Russia's declining competitiveness

Last Wednesday, the World Economic Forum released a report on Global Competitiveness.

The entire report must be purchased, but an executive summary, in PDF form, can be read here.

The report has more unsettling news for Russia's future.

(Readers may recall some of my past posts on Russia's problems, for instance here and a post linked to here.)

The Growth Competitiveness Index (GCI) involves "three pillars":

the quality of the macroeconomic environment, the state of the country痴 public institutions, and, given the importance of technology and innovation, the level of its technological readiness.


Russia's overall GCI rank in this report was 75, down five slots from last year. It ranked 73 in the Technology Index, 58 in the Macroeconomic Environment Index, but ranked only 91 in the Public Institutions Index. Clearly, the report was troubled by such factors that can include:

such concepts as judicial independence, the prevalence of institutionalized corruption, or the extent of inefficient government intervention in an economy


In the Business Competitiveness Index, which focuses on microeconomic factors, Russia ranked 74.

The summary addresses reasons for Russia's decline in competitiveness rank.

In "Russia: Competitiveness, Growth, and the Next Stage of Development," Augusto Lopez-Claros examines the factors that are likely to play a key role in enhancing the productivity of the Russian economy, and improving its levels of competitiveness. He argues that there is no intrinsic reason why the Russian economy could not enter a period of high, sustained growth in coming years, and points to a number of structural features which create the conditions for rapid growth: gains in efficiency from the continued elimination of distortions, the country痴 impressive natural resource endowment (likely to spur the continued interest of foreign investors), and its human capital stock, which謡eaknesses in the public sector notwithstanding幼an be considered a competitive advantage. While the brain drain has dealt a severe blow to Russia痴 ability to return to the outer limits of the technology frontier, her impressive tradition of world-class research in the basic sciences, especially mathematics and physics, provide the foundation for a comeback.

Tight conditions in the global oil markets suggest that the external environment is likely to remain favorable to Russia, creating an ideal opportunity to push ahead with structural and institutional reforms. Particular attention will have to be paid to reforms to improve Russia痴 woefully inadequate public institutions, to improve the judicial and legal climate, to safeguard property rights, and reduce the prevalence of corruption and crime. He notes that Russian policymakers will have their hands full in the period ahead, dealing with large inflows from record high energy prices, which, indeed, create opportunities, but which also pose important challenges. Liquidity management has now moved to the centre of macroeconomic policy.A loosening of fiscal policy, particularly one aimed at boosting public sector wages and pensions, not investments in education, public health, and infrastructure, all of which would boost productivity, will need to be avoided. But beyond these issues, it is incumbent on the authorities to broaden their focus, and deal with a broad range of emerging stresses. Foremost among these are how to arrest the disturbing demographic trends, how to better utilize surplus public resources to enhance the economy痴 capacity for innovation, and how to put the country back on a path of world-class scientific and technological achievement, so that Russia may join the ranks of the most competitive economies in the world.


(If you can read Russian, the Russian chapter (PDF) is here.)

The Russian people have a unique character, one of the odd contrasts about Russia. Some immensely gifted people, but also great poverty, and practices and customs that seem to make it very difficult for that country to get itself out of the deep hole it is in.

When Rhonda and I were in Kostroma, a lady who turned out to teach music at the orphanage invited all of us to hear her sing at this event commemorating when the Romanovs came to power.

When we got there, the mayor of Kostroma was giving some kind of lecture in a smallish room, so we waited outside, The lady, who was in nice clothes and makeup and looked quite different than when we saw her earlier, told us (through our translator) about some of the history of the Romanovs, especially about a famous icon found in a church there, and legend said saved people from several disasters or invasions. Another smiling lady there gave us a little booklet, but it is in Russian, so am not sure what it is about exactly. They were proud of their heritage, though.

Once the lecture ended, we quickly tramped into this room, must have looked funny to those already sitting in there, and the lady sang a piece from an opera by Glinka about a local hero. My oh my could she sing. Just beautiful, very Russian music. Her voice was powerful in that small room. We were glad to have the chance to have heard that.

Russia excels in the arts, literature, science, sports, yet they are constrained by corruption and a judicial system that does not protect property rights, and a law enforcement sector that does not always have a blind eye when it comes to justice.

A great deal of business in Russia is done on the bribery system. If you want something done, you need to give me something, or I either won't do it, or it will take much much longer.

Contrast that with our society, where people do their jobs because it's their job. As bad a reputation as Motor Vehicle departments have sometimes, can you imagine going in and having to slip someone some cash to get your issues dealt with.

Part of this is because of the poverty. People have little means, so they use their positions to get items they might not otherwise be able to get. All of this, though, contributes to a poor economy and the rankings the report discussed above mentions.

Things are probably going to get worse in Russia before they get better. With a declining population, declining life expectancy, particularly among men in part because of alcohol, with the government restricting freedoms, it's hard to imagine a rosy scenario.

It is Russia's nuclear weapons that keep that country's status as a player on the global scene. Russia's economy, in terms of GDP, is about equal to that of the Netherlands. So why is Russia in the G8? Because of its nukes.

(As a concluding note, don't think that fact has been lost on nations such as Iran. These nations see the attention given a faltering nation like Russia, and they seek to gain some of that respect and attention themselves.)

(linked to Mudville Gazette's Open Post)
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The Washington Post has an article on Russia's Fading Freedom.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Dis-Strib-Ute

The Strib is planning some big changes, or so said a column in Sunday's Op Ed pages. The changes appear to be mostly related to look, and organization.

For example:

The changes will include a number of new sections and features, such as a twice-a-week World news section, a new Sunday style section called Signature, a revamped weekend section called Scene, a new weather page, more health reporting, expanded people news and more personal finance coverage.

Both the paper and website will come with new designs, drawing on the best thinking from our staff, our readers, universities and newspapers from around the country.

You will also find a long list of innovations meant to serve an array of readers, such as a daily guide to the Internet, a new level of how-to information, and a summary of the entire paper boiled down to a single column, to mention a few.


However, I read through this a couple of times, and there's not one word about throttling back on the paper's far-Left editorial bent, a move which really would catch the eyes of potential conservative readers. Strib, do ya think maybe you're just rearranging deck chairs on ye olde Titanic?

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Rambix, who keeps a pretty close eye on the Strib, tells of another example of the Strib's editorial bent, in this post.

Odds and Ends

Books I finished reading in the last week

On Writing by Stephen King - Part memoir, part how-to-write tome. King has a bit of a potty mouth, which is a put-off. King even says in the book profanity is lame and ignorant, but uses it anyway. Go figure. You might guess, from his battle with alcohol and drugs, and that his family background is kinda screwy. Still, the writing advice is good, though perhaps not anything I haven't read before.

An End to Evil by David Frum/Richard Perle - This book takes a look at American's vulnerabilities and weak spots in the War On Terror, and gives remedies. The book is especially hard on the FBI, and how it dropped the ball in several ways in not vigorously pursuing leads that might have uncovered the 9/11 plot. The CIA comes in for its share of criticism too. And the State Dept gets a sound drubbing.

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown - Thought I'd read it and see what all the fuss was about. The writing is hackneyed. He uses a number of writing cliches, such as characters looking in mirrors so the reader can see what they look like, characters getting "odd" expressions on their face to clue the reader they should pay attention, using the same word perhaps too often (in one spot the word "slowly" is used twice in about 10 lines), and some others.

One howler was a favorite of mine. On the third page of the prologue, there's this phrase, "staggering to his feet...". Then, only 7 lines down, there's this, "he pulled himself to his feet". Huh?

The book gets a number of things wrong about Christianity, and others have found other errors in the plot about other things. I don't know if Brown got his homework wrong, or if he just made things fit for his story.

All that said, it is a very entertaining read. It never drags, almost every chapter ends in such a way to keep you reading. It is full of puzzles and hidden meanings and interesting historical details (Again, some of which may not be true.) It is worth reading for a quick pulpy reading snack.

The kids

The other night I took the kids to a nearby park (Palmer Park, near the golf course designed by Arnie Palmer.) We were playing Big Bad Wolf. Or, as Hanna pronounces it, "Bee Baa Wolf". They were the pigs, I'd chase them around the playground, and say "Open the door and let me in". John responded properly, "Not by the hair of our chinny-chin-chin". Hanna, though, was more matter-of-fact. She'd say "We can't, it's not open right now." Oh. Well, that momentarily threw the Wolf off his game.

Last night at bible story time, I said the kids should pick short stories, as it was getting late. John said no, he wanted to pick "tall" stories.

The next justice

This morning, President Bush announced Harriet Miers to be his nominee to the Supremet Court. This choice is a puzzling one, and has provoked reactions on the right ranging from praise to head-scratching to yelps and groans.

Miers is currently White House Counsel, and has not served on the bench. That doesn't worry me. What does worry me is that it cannot possibly be argued that Miers is the most qualified candidate. (What about Luttig and McConnell?)

This is the first time a woman is retiring from the Supreme Court, and it troubles me that Bush seems to be setting a precedent, that a woman must be replaced by a woman. Again, why not appoint the best candidate possible? If you must appoint a woman, why not Jones or Brown?

In her remarks this morning, Miers deliberately attempt to assuage concerns on the rights. She talked of strictly interpreting the Constitution, and she talked about being true to the Founders. I do count this as an encouraging sign, let it be said.

Here are some of David Frum's reactions:

"You can always count on George W. Bush to get the big ones right." That line or something like it has consoled conservatives during their periodic bursts of unhappiness with this administration. And by and large it has been true. Oh, there were major mistakes, no doubt about that - prescription drugs, steel quotas, and so on - but it was always possible to rationalize those as forced on the president by grim necessity or some prior campaign promise.

The Miers nomination, though, is an unforced error. Unlike the Roberts' nomination, which confirmed the previous balance on the court, the O'Connor resignation offered an opportunity to change the balance. This is the moment for which the conservative legal movement has been waiting for two decades - two decades in which a generation of conservative legal intellects of the highest ability have moved to the most distinguished heights in the legal profession.
...
I am not saying that she is not a legal conservative. I am not saying that she is not steely. I am saying only that there is no good reason to believe either of these things. Not even her closest associates on the job have no good reason to believe either of these things. In other words, we are being asked by this president to take this appointment purely on trust, without any independent reason to support it. And that is not a request conservatives can safely grant.

There have just been too many instances of seeming conservatives being sent to the high court, only to succumb to the prevailing vapors up there: O'Connor, Kennedy, Souter. Given that record, it is simply reckless for any conservative president, especially one backed by a 55-seat Senate majority, to take a hazard on anything other than a known quantity.


Power Line also said it well:

But the bottom line is that he had a number of great candidates to choose from, and instead of picking one of them--Luttig, McConnell, Brown, or a number of others--he nominated someone whose only obvious qualification is her relationship with him.


So, we conservatives have to wait and see if another seat on the Court comes open in Bush's administration. Perhaps Stevens is the next most likely candidate, but these judges seem to linger on well past the age of clarity, till their aides have to help them with their briefs, and I'm not talking about legal papers.

Here's Mark Levin's reaction:

The president said he would pick a candidate like Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas, and he did not. We all know of outstanding individuals who fit that bill, and they were once again passed over. Even David Souter had a more compelling resume that Miers.

The president and his advisors missed a truly historic opportunity to communicate with the American people about their government, the role of all three branches of the federal system, and the proper function of the judiciary. More importantly, they have failed to help the nation return to the equipoise of our constitutional system. And the current justices whose arrogance knows no bounds will be emboldened by this selection. They will see it as affirmation of their "extra-constitutionalism." The president flinched. Some have compared have compared profligate spending to Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. But no one will accuse him of FDR's boldness when it comes to the Supreme Court.

If people are disappointed, they have every reason to be.


It is a sign of how out of control the Judiciary is, that we need to be so worried about this. The Judiciary is not meant to have such power, we are meant to have our voices heard through our elected legislatures. We are not meant to have our voices ignored by unaccountable judges.

But given what is at stake, why not appoint someone whose philosophy is known? Conservatives have not had great luck with stealth candidates. (Souter Souter Souter) Instead of giving us hope, Bush has ensured that hope is all conservatives can do.

-----
Michelle Malkin has a good roundup of reactions.
Betsy Newmark is, at minimum, disappointed.
Hugh Hewitt calls it a B+ pick.
Captain Ed sees a political ploy.
JunkYardBlog is disappointed.
Professor Bainbridge is appalled.
La Shawn Barber has a wide range of reactions.
Color Bogus Gold disappointed.
Anti-Strib sees a huge battle coming.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

A Vikings die-ku

The Vikings stink of
maggots stewed in vinegar
and garbage juices

Dispatch from the Front VII

In my look at Michael Yon's Gates of Fire post, I had mentioned the lack of stopping power in the M4s and M16s is a common complaint in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

In this dispatch, my correspondent talks about the rounds in question.

The m4/5.56x45 controversy rages. It's a long and sometimes macabre debate involving stopping power and incapacitation but the facts have been tallied.

At times it works quite well, others it has had its shortcomings. The army might not switch since we have billions of parts and ammo and whatnot dedicated to the system but now that we are very close to finally adopting a new basic rifle - it appears an hk g36 version which I think is a great rifle, I like hk and have fired them, finally (at least that, thankfully) this would be a perfect opportunity to make a clean break and start with a new round.

Full circle irony, most of the major military powers at turn of century/1900 all used the remington 6.8mm spc. Furthermore, the brits actually had a great idea. They started with a .276 caliber round in the 20s and tried to get nato to adopt it after WW2 but us arrogant dimwits in usa steamrolled them into adopting an updated version of the 1906 7.62mm cartridge and then were infuriated when we turned right around just decade later and forced the 5.56 on everyone - knowing it did not measure up to a 6 or 7 mm cartridge.

There are some other very serious problems with the M4, mostly overheating and fouling. It has the most assinine gas system in the world (for a major power and techno society we can do better, it's like using a horse and buggy to accel the space shuttle, so totally stupid it defies logic, but then engineers rarely get to say what should be used) but there are other ergonomic issues. It's become a great weapon otherwise but it could be vastly improved.

The pistol issue is another boondoggle. Long story there about politics in the 1980s, but the 9x19nato cartridge is notorious for lack of stopping power. I also would argue the beretta is junk with all its foibles but that's another huge issue for another day. It wasn't until the urgency of a real shooting war brought the issue back to prominence.

More ironic history, the .45 acp was an updated version of the 1873 .45lc and it was brought back because of the failure of another 9, this case a .38 special, at the turn of the century/1900 spanish/filipino wars. And then, I don't know where they found them, we got some old ww2 1911 model 45s out of mothball (mine last year was marked 1943, wow!) as a kind of fill in, although they are totally adequate. (movie flashback. Ronin: sean bean - you favor the 45? de niro - yeah, it served my country well for many years) We might get a version of the hk usp which oddly I favor very very much.

Bizarre we are using a gun and round invented in the days before airplanes and radio?! If it works and ain't broke, use it and don't fix. More irony. The army was embarressed by its (slanted) study in 1980s that was to prove the 1911 a dinosaur but it actually did just as well against the wondernines.

More irony. The fbi in 1986 embarked on a very long costly (over 10 million at least from taxpayer) search for a nine replacement after a "failure of the 9". Long story, but in that specific case it was merely a bad guy who had super will to live. They aha! developed the 10mm (based on a bren that sonny used in miami vice cool) great round (its better than 45 even and thats hard to top, i would use it) but it was found 'too' powerful and after more $$ from taxpayer a .40 smith and wesson cartridge was developed......and guess what? It's external/internal ballistics and specs mirrored near identical with the...you guess it, the ancient over century old design, the .45 acp. (don't get wrong, the .40 is great, most cop agencies use it now after the failures of the 9 in the 80s) So, we spent years and millions reinventing the wheel just to find all that. Brilliant.

The area is like any where else. it can/could be more vulnerable but arabs are lazy, the vc would run roughshod all over us now before we implement more security. but, we take risks and for the most part I dont worry too much, most cant shoot past 5 feet anyway. I would like them to come out where they can be seen and dealt with.


In the next dispatch, we'll have a glimpse at the Humvee and its armor.

Dispatch from the Front I
Dispatch from the Front II
Dispatch from the Front III
Dispatch from the Front IV
Dispatch from the Front V
Dispatch from the Front VI

Progress in Iraq

On Sept, 30, Gen. Casey, commander of the Multinational Forces in Iraq, appeared with Secretary Rumsfeld at a Pentagon briefing.

Rumsfeld began by looking at the war from the terrorists perspective:

For example, they might be asked why they failed to stop millions of Afghans and Iraqis from voting in free and relatively orderly elections. Or how is it that the Iraqi Sunnis, who are supposedly the natural allies of the insurgents, have chosen, albeit belatedly, to energetically embrace the political process, registering in large numbers. Or why the terrorists failed to prevent nearly 200,000 and some 75,000 Afghans -- 200,000 Iraqis and some 75,000 Afghanis -- I think it's technically 194,000 Iraqis -- from joining the Afghan and Iraqi security forces, despite their very best efforts at intimidation to prevent them from joining those forces. Or why the vast majority of Afghans and Iraqis have rejected the terrorists' twisted ideology and, instead, are supporting efforts to build new societies. Or how terrorists expect to succeed militarily when they cannot rely on sanctuaries in places like Fallujah or Najaf or Tall Afar to plan operations and to train recruits.

These would be awkward questions for them to answer, indeed, because by every one of those measurements, the enemy is losing. Though the transition of Afghan [sic] and Iraq from tyranny to democracy has been and remains violent, we know the importance of seeing this effort through, and we're seeing the progress that has come with patience, the patience, the adaptability, the resilience and the grit of our armed forces.

Consider four years ago these two countries were among a handful of regimes in the world that were labeled as terrorist sponsors, regimes that had the viciousness and the capability to support terrorism and inflict damage on our country. And today these two countries are joining a growing list of free nations that are fighting terrorism. And millions of their neighbors have taken notice of the reforms that are under way in these rising and predominantly Muslim democracies. These are important achievements.


Gen. Casey continued, looking at encouraging signs in Iraq.

On the military side, coalition forces and Iraqi security forces continue to pressure terrorists and insurgents across Iraq. And Iraqi security forces are progressing and continuing to take a more prominent role in defending their country.

Let me give you an example of what I'm talking about. In May, Iraqi security forces conducted about 160 combined or independent operations at the company level and above, so about 100 people as company level, and about 160 operations. In September, that was over 1,300, and then our transition teams that we have put with the Iraqi security forces have greatly enhanced their development and their ability to operate with us. We are at the point now where 80 percent of all of the company-level and higher operations that are done are combined operations with the Iraqi or Iraqi independent operations -- big step forward.

Additionally, we expect to have 60[000] to 70,000 more Iraqi security forces available for referendum security than we had in January, and by the time of the elections, we expect to have about 100,000 more Iraqi security forces available to protect those elections than we had in January. So as a result, for example, I only had to ask for an additional 2,000 coalition troops to protect the referendum and election process this year vice 12,000 in January.

Another example, in the recent success in Tall Afar, Iraqi security forces outnumbered coalition forces for the first time in a major operation. A year ago that division didn't exist. We've also had good success militarily against the al Qaeda network killing and capturing over 20 of their key leaders since July and including the recent death of a key Zarqawi lieutenant, Abu Azzam.


A reporter asked about a recent report that the number of Iraqi battalions capable of operating with US help fell from 3 to 1. Casey answered:

Charlie, think about what you're saying; two battalions out of a hundred. One thing. Second, let me explain here the different levels and why we set them up like we did.

First of all, we purposely set a very high standard for the first level, because as we looked at our strategy, we said that whatever happens with the Iraqi security forces, when we leave them, we have to leave them at a level where they can sustain the counterinsurgency effort with progressively less support from us. So that first one is a very, very high standard. We set that standard knowing full well that it was going to be a long time before all Iraqi units got in that category. And so the fact that there's only one or three units, that is not necessarily important to me right now. Next year at this time, I'll be much more concerned about it. Right now I'm not.

Second thing, level two. And this is -- this, for us right now is the most important level, because we purposely adopted a level that would allow us to measure their capability to take the lead in conducting counterinsurgency operations, with our support, with our transition teams and enablers. And again, while these numbers are classified, the numbers of units in level two have doubled since May. So that's where we should be focusing our attention at this point.

Level three are those units that are not quite at level two, but they are also in the fight with us. And I think you've heard that said; over 75 percent of these Iraqi units are out there with us in the fight every day. They're just -- some are leading; some are operating with us. Okay?

So, you asked me, is it a setback, and I say no, it's not a setback. I mean, unit readiness is going to fluctuate. And it is such a small number, and at this stage I'm not concerned about small numbers in level one.


Translation: Right now, Iraqi units are not capable of operating without US help. Part of that, I imagine, would involve logistics and supplies, and Iraqi units probably can't supply themselves yet.

But, Casey says real progress is being made in getting Iraqi units to level 2. And indeed, as I've talked about here, Iraqi forces have made significant progress in their ability to conduct security operations alongside the US.

Rumsfeld added this:

We could keep doing this. What's important is -- the central fact is that the one and three are irrelevant. What's important is that every day the number of Iraqi security forces are getting bigger, and they're getting better, and they're getting more experienced. And General Casey can tell you they are doing more. They are literally out there -- I don't know if the number's still right, but at one point we thought that they were doing about -- that U.S. was doing about 80 percent of the patrols and the activity, and the Iraqi security forces about 20 [percent]. And today it's probably roughly reversed, that the Iraqi -- independent and Iraqi combined are probably 80 percent, and maybe 20 percent are U.S.-coalition only.


Bottom line, Iraqi forces are improving, let's acknowledge the improvement that has been made. The trends are in the right direction.

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Major K. has an excellent explanation of what is meant by combat readiness.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Behe and Intelligent Design

Last night Dr. Michael Behe came to give a lecture here on the campus of the University of Minnesota. A friend of mine and I went. It was in one of the large lecture halls in the physics building, and was standing room only.

For those of you not familiar with him, Behe is one of the most well-known proponents of the intelligent design framework. His book, Darwin's Black Box, is one of the standard texts in the field of intelligent design.

(Behe said he will be providing testimony at some point in the ID trial underway in Pennsylvania.)

Behe only spoke for a little over an hour (with about 20 minutes for questions), so he gave a quick overview of his case for ID. But what he did have to say was quite interesting.

One point he made is that everyone, even Darwinists, would say many, if not most, things in biology look designed. Of course Darwinists would say the design came through random mutations and natural selection, but nevertheless, biological structures looked like their parts were aggregated for a purpose.

He gave the example of a flagellum in bacteria, a small strand a bacteria uses to propel itself. (My background is in physics, not biology, so forgive any errors here.) The mechanism by which this flagellum works functions basically like an outboard motor.

Behe is particulary known for his argument for design from irreducible complexity. This means, in many biological structures, if you took away one component, the whole structure would cease to function. The argument, then, is how could something have evolved in stages, if all of the components need to be there for a biological function to work at all.

One example from his book is the blood clotting cascade. The biochemical steps the body goes through to form a clot, from the moment you cut yourself, say, to when the clot forms, are amazing.

A clot is formed by fibrin, but that can't exist in your bloodstream all the time, or the blood in your veins would clot up. So, there's an inert form in your bloodstream called fibrinogen. Something needs to tell fibrinogen to change into fibrin, and that something is called thrombin. But, similarly, that can't always exist in your bloodstream, or your fibrinogen would turn into fibrin. So, there's an inert form in your bloodstream called prothrombin. And, similarly, something needs to act to turn prothrombin into thrombin when a clot is need, and so on. There are several such steps involved.

Behe's argument is that you take one of these steps away, and you can't form blood clots, and you bleed to death. How did something like that evolve, if you need all these factors and their inert forms and ways to signal them to act in your blood all at once?

Behe spent a little time talking about reaction to this argument, and his response to the reaction. I won't summarize all that here. You can read about, for instance see here.

I've not read a great deal on ID, but I was thinking along such lines before I had ever heard of ID. I mean, so many things look like they were designed with a purpose in mind. To me, the Designer is the Creator.

It goes without saying that many scientists who believe in evolution react to ID as if you suggested the world was created by little Keebler elves. They do not believe ID is scientific.

Behe made the point though last night that Darwinists cannot explain exactly how the pathways by which biological structures like the flagellum, or processes like blood clotting, evolved. Sure, there are many explanations and attempts at explanations, but when it comes down to it, these explanations boil down to "well, this might have..."

Behe is really just trying to have a scientific argument, asking the question, if these processes really are irreducibly complex, how is it possible that something evolved? Can anyone explain how such a structure could have evolved? Behe is really not trying to have a theological or philosophical argument.

Abednego at the Parableman blog has a current example of the Darwinist reaction to the ID community. He tells of a petition going around. Read the post and see what they're objecting to.

A couple times during the lecture last night, someone would hiss, or murmur, and after one person asked a question that seemed to really get Behe (zing! we gotcha!) some people clapped and cheered.

But just what are they cheering? What victory do they think they won? The people in the ID field are just trying to have a debate on the merits. That is what science is supposed to be about, after all. But as I wrote about here, there is more involved with these matters than just pure science.