Sunday, April 30, 2006

Coming Attractions

Check back soon for posts on the following topics (or click on links for existing posts):

Click the "Read More" link for a preview of each of these posts. And feel free to give constructive advice and insight or destructive criticism on any and all of these subjects.

  • Serving the People of Iraq and Iran - Because the futures of the people of Iraq and Iran are becoming fatefully more intertwined, I am in the process of changing the name of my blog. The people of Iran are looking for the same freedoms that we are trying to bring to Iraq. Because of this, Mahmoud Acrazynejad is calling for a showdown with the United States.
  • A Glimpse of Iran: People vs Regime - The people of Iran who are older than about age 30 have a good memory of what it is like to be reasonably free under the regime of the Shah. They didn't like some of what he stood for, but they did not bargain for how much worse it could be. The current Iran Regime has created (and for 27 years developed) its own monstrous brand of Islamic Fundamentalism to hide its own shortcomings--and its own people are the guinea pigs.
  • The Guantanamo Irony - Time, Newsweek, and other media outlets have been very quick to report American abuses at Guantanamo Bay, even when in most cases the reported abuses didn't actually occur. But what about the actual, verifiable abuses by the Fidel Castro regime on the very same island? I guess they'll take a pass on that one.
  • Who is Ayatollah Sistani? - An Iraqi born in Iran, Sistani is a very quiet and somewhat enigmatic individual. Sistani's theology is diametrically opposed to the counterfeit Shia' Islam coming out of Iran. Is Sistani helping or hindering the march toward liberty in Iraq?
  • Liar's Lair: Hussein, Khomeini, Castro, Hitler, and Much , Much, More!!! - In this post I will demonstrate two traits that all modern dictators share--the penchant for lying to their people to gain popularity, and the vicious violence they use to maintain their power.
  • Mahmoud and Jesse are Crazy - Is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad crazy? Yes, and Jesse Jackson is crazy, too. Each of them lives to be noticed. Each one lives for the opportunity to create entertainment value. Each of them is a perfect example of a demagogue--an individual so full of himself that he cannot think rationally--and thus fits the definition of the term 'crazy'.
  • Halliburton, Halliburton! - Providing services to 150,000 American soldiers is no easy task. You need a large company to do it. And it's a war--the company stands to lose a lot of money. Halliburton has done a great job logistically from everything I've seen.
  • News From the Non-Conformist Media - An ongoing series (Ticker: NFNcM) devoted to sleuthing to discover those news media who can get it right about what's going on here in Iraq.
For more of my ideas, please check my other weblogs:

Thursday, April 27, 2006

NFNcM - Thank You America

Summary: In this installment of NFNcM (News from the Non-Conformist Media) I'll show you some examples that answer "Yes" to the question "Is the United States seen as a liberator in Iraq?"

There are several instances that show that many Iraqis appreciate the liberation that the United States is helping them achieve. Like usual, it takes a little weeding to get to the important stuff. Here are a couple of examples I have found from the non-conformist media (well, Fox News is fairly non-conformist).

In a recent Fox News story regarding the Iraqi elections, a woman by the name of Betty Dawisha was interviewed. Proudly displaying her purple voting finger, she stated "Anybody who doesn't appreciate what America had done, and President Bush, let them go to hell."

Yesterday, on one of my favorite internet news sites, WorldNetDaily, I read an opinion column by Larry Elder, entitled "Iraq: Were we greeted as 'liberators'?". Along with other examples of the gratefulness many Iraqis have expressed for the United States, Mr. Elder quotes from a card a soldier in Fallujah received from a young boy and his father:
"Thank you George Bush. Thank you American soldiers. Thank you Marines [sic] soldiers. To save us. We are so grateful. Your friend, Ali Ahmed. An Iraqi boy, 9 years old. 2003.4.15 Wedensday [sic]."
The last paragraph in the article is interesting:
According to a November 2005 American Research Group poll, 31 percent of Americans believe their household financial situations will improve over the next year. But, according to a December 2005 ABC News poll, 69 percent of Iraqis expect their lives to improve in the coming year.
For various reasons, which I'm not sure yet if I'm allowed to reveal, today has been a very good day in Iraq, at least for my brigade. Reading heartwarming stories such as the ones I've cataloged above only make my warm smile warmer.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

PT Test in a Combat Environment

Summary: With all the extracurricular activity going on in a combat environment, it's been about a year since we've taken a PT test. I'm sure 11-B's don't have to worry much about lagging physical fitness, but for a 13-D like me, it's good to know that I'm still in shape.

It's been about a year since the last PT test we took in Camp Shelby, Mississippi before we deployed to Iraq. Since then I've stood in a guard tower for four months, drove around in a patrol humvee for four months, and I'm now sitting in an artillery fire direction center. You might expect I was a little worried when it was announced that our firing battery would be taking a PT test while in country.

Whether it's boredom or stress that I've had to deal with, a little bit of physical activity goes a long way to keeping me mentally sane. But so has a spike in Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper consumption on many late nights doing such things as waiting to see whether that tanker filled with TNT actually will come for our Forward Operating Base (FOB).

Like cramming for a college test, the last couple of weeks I got a little bit more serious about getting ready for the test, because I am somewhat of a perfectionist, and would hate to do worse than I did last time. I think my score would have been about the same as last year,but since I'm 42 now, I moved up a bracket and my maximums dropped by about 6 pushups, 6 situps, and 30 seconds on the run. So I actually got a better score than a year ago. I did 1 more pushup than my new maximum, missed maxing the situps by 5, and missed maxing the run by 1 minute 14 seconds.

There are certain differences about running 2 miles in a combat environment. Our artillery got off a couple of counterfire rounds during my 2-mile test run--when my heart rate was already above my suggested age-max of 160 beats per minute, so that can't be good. And there are certain places on the FOB that you can't run because they are good avenues of fire for any snipers that might be lurking.

I've heard, but haven't seen it, that somewhere there is an exemption from doing the PT test while you're in a combat zone. I'm glad we did it, because I like to know where I stand. But there are a couple guys in my unit who made it very clear that they were extremely put out by not being granted the exemption, and they did a 'protest test' of sorts by doing only 1 pushup and 1 situp. I think one of the guys' protest was a weakly disguised attempt to hide miserable PT failure, because his boredom/stress reduction regimen has included (1) hitting the rack (laying in his bunk) and (2) eating snacks.

I guess it looks like my boredom/stress reduction visits to the gym have been paying off. There is another incentive, too: I'm in a contest with my wife to see who looks the most fit and trim when I get back to the States. My opinion is there's no question that she'll win, by the way. It's nice to think, though, that she has the same opinion about me.

Like after every of of the 40 or so PT tests I've done over the years, I again pledge that I will do more pushups, more situps, and run farther than any soldier has ever done or run before. Time will tell: we'll see whether I meet my objectives when the next PT test rolls around in 6 months.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

"Daddy, I Can See Your Face!"

Summary: The ability of Iraqis to work together to improve their situation increases nearly every day. Recently, an Iraqi Air Force transport plane took five children and their families to Turkey where doctors helped repair the children's eyesight.

The Pentagon Channel shows a television program each day that I enjoy watching when I get a chance, called Freedom Journal Iraq. I’ve learned such things as that an oil production site was recently completed in Um Kasr, that several large weapons stockpiles have been found, and that Iraqi policemen and soldiers are becoming better trained and more able to maintain order and promote growth and prosperity in their country.

But the most touching story I heard was about five children who were recently flown to Turkey for eye surgery. After receiving permission from the Iraqi Defense Minister, and Iraqi Air Force crew flew an Iraqi C-130 airplane to Turkey with the five eye patients and their families. The video taken of the families during the trip showed marked relief and happiness on their faces as their children underwent various successful surgeries.

All of the children showed a new inquisitiveness about life following their operations. One child walked about the airplane, looking at everything and touching nearly everything he saw, according to the report. One child, who had had a particularly bad problem with his eyesight prior to surgery, enjoyed simply sitting in his father’s lap, touching every part of his face and giving him an occasional hug. For the first time in his life, he was able to say “Daddy, I can see your face now!”

Iraq is improving all the time.

You know, that would have made a really good story for the America evening news. But I guess they had more important things to report about.

Revolution Then and Now

Summary: In 1776, America was involved in a great revolution. American freedom fighters were struggling against the world’s only superpower for their independence. Once again, America is involved in a great revolution, only this time America is the world’s great superpower. So that would make the Iraqi insurgency today’s freedom fighters, right? Nope. Not even close. And I’ll tell you why…

In 1776, the American Colonies were thriving. They were producing, communicating, and creating a strong nation. Religious debate was healthy and vigorous. Ideas as to how the world works and how society should behave were nearly as various in their intricate details as there were people. Debate brought out the best in people, as the various opinions gelled and molded each other, until appeared in nearly each a common thread of liberty. Some felt that life under the auspices of Great Britain was just fine, while others felt that true liberty could not be obtained in such a repressive environment. A war over ideas ensued.

Shift forward to 2003. Iraq was not thriving. They were not producing, they scarcely dared employ anything but the most basic communication for fear they might offend the Mukhabarat, and nearly everyone, except for the chosen of the upper Ba’ath crust, was decaying beneath the weight of bureaucratic inertia and religious intolerance. Almost no one dared speak their opinion as it might be construed as grounds for physical torture, imprisonment, or worse. But beneath it all was a boiling cauldron—of frustration, of confusion, of a sense that there is something more to life. Another war over ideas ensued. And that war continues. Interestingly, when examined closely, it seems that the same war has merely experienced a hiatus.

Is Operation Iraqi Freedom about oil? Of course, to a small extent. It is to an extent about the free flow of goods and services in the world economy—in this case oil, and anything else Iraq can produce and export. Is Operation Iraqi Freedom about Weapons of Mass Destruction? Of course, to a great extent. Evidence is too great both about what Saddam Hussein at various times possessed in his WMD arsenal and what he intended to do with it to refute this claim. But the overarching reason for the revolution we know as Operation Iraqi Freedom is that men were created with the innate yearning to be free. Operation Iraqi Freedom is about liberty. It is about the desire to support fledgling attempts at liberty in Iraq and all across the globe, as well as to stamp out the well-established intentions of tyrants whose ability to spill blood and wreak horror across the earth could at some point grow too large to keep in check. That is why Saddam Hussein is gone. That is why we must take Iran very seriously.

What was the result of the numerically inferior Americans winning the American War for Independence? The result is the greatest, most religious, most religiously diverse, most technologically advanced, most caring and giving nation in the history of the earth. America does not gloat in her greatness, but rather gives the credit to God, and moreover wishes to share her success secret with any other people willing to listen.

Muffled and squelched by the conglomerate insurgency, the predominant majority of Iraqis are listening to the message. The older generation, steeped in oppression and aching material and spiritual want, has a harder time imagining what the message entails—yet still they see vaguely and want what it promises. To the younger generation, however, having not experienced so much of torture, put-downs, and conformity, the message clearly resonates.

The goal of the conglomerate insurgency is to destroy this freedom and banish the message from the minds of men forever. In their minds, Allah is perfect and will brook no imperfections in his human creations. It is therefore their dim and impotent mission to ensure that everyone except themselves is brought to this state of perfection by force. In some way, being on the vanguard of this dark crusade is a penance for their personal deeds of imperfection.

So to compare the soldiers in the American War for Independence with the insurgency that has conglomerated in Iraq is worse than an injustice. It is a disgrace. The only similarity between the two groups is that they are fighting for a dream. But oh, how the dreams diverge. Americans fought (and are still fighting) for the ability of all men to independently enjoy individual liberties, while the insurgency salivates over its potential dominion over the minds of their fellow men. In the first scenario, each individual is free to become anything his or her heart desires, while in the second state of affairs no one is allowed the peace of knowing that God knows and loves each of us individually—rather, the meaningless masses are limited to become only what they are allowed by the vanguard to become.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Will Iraq Achieve Democracy?

Summary: As Iraq stumbles its way toward a new government, one of the words that’s thrown around a lot in the news is ‘democracy’. If we sincerely want Iraq to achieve liberty, democracy is actually not what we want Iraq to have. Democracy tends toward mob rule—and we’ve been seeing a lot of that lately.

It looks like Ibrahim Jaafari finally stepped down. Holy cow! How long is it going to take to get this government moving? This democracy thing is pretty rough, isn’t it? Why does it work so much better in the United States?

There are definitely other mitigating factors, but the main reason government works better in the US than in Iraq, is because we realize that what we have in America is a democratic republic, while so far, all they (think they) have in Iraq is a mob—in other words, an ever-changing democracy. Sure it has all the trappings of republican government, but they sure haven’t treated it that way. Democratic republics are generally made up of people who show respect to their fellow men, while democracies are made up of competing mobs that continually try to acquire and maintain the upper hand.

James Madison, in defending the importance of the concept of a democratic republic, wrote in The Federalist #10 that “democracies…have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.” There is a plethora of evidence that democracies end up this way. Iraq is the case in point on the world’s front burner.

Iraqis, trained to think that liberty equals democracy, seem to think that just because the elections didn’t turn out the way they want, it’s okay to obfuscate and postpone and delay seating the actual government. Even worse, some of them say they don’t even want to participate now. If massive election fraud had been shown, then these people might have a point—and a new election should be scheduled—but very little election fraud was shown in any of the elections or the referendum that took place in 2005. If Iraqis persist in their misunderstanding of what liberty entails, their democracy—which is already violent—will die a short death.

But of course, this is exactly what Islamic fundamentalists want—the death of liberty. At the top of the fundamentalist hierarchy are the Iranian mullahs. Liberty goes contrary to the wishes of these self-styled representatives of God, because liberty both allows and requires people to think for themselves.

Democracy sometimes allows, but in no way requires people to think for themselves, however. Sometimes it compels exactly the opposite. Democracy is whipped around by the latest winds of political doctrine until some majority gains the upper hand. Democracy stirs up the masses into orgiastic displays of grievance against such things as the Great Satan or Jerry Falwell, until people no longer think at all. Instead, their thinking is done for them by the effervescent and amorphous mob.

Iranians have democracy—but only sometimes. Iranians have democracy when the Iranian government leaders think they are about to lose control. Then, for a short time, they loosen the leash a little bit, and they let the people speak out a little bit, blog about it a little bit, and write newspaper articles about it a little bit, but as soon as anyone crosses that arbitrary red line, they are arrested, tortured, or killed. If they’re lucky, all that happens is that their lives are made into a living persecutory hell.

The beauty of American government is that each individual thinks for him- or herself, but he or she also realizes that every other person has that same right. So during election season we campaign, and we debate, and we go to the polls, but when the election results are in, we live with the results (we do our fair share of grumbling), with a firm commitment to campaign and debate harder next time if our candidate wasn’t successful this time. Meanwhile we go back to work being productive.

The concept is that simple. The reality may not be, but if Iraqis don’t understand and abide by the concept, the alternative reality will be much worse. Actually, they are living that alternative reality—right now.

Is this what Iraqis want—Democracy? I hope not. America has remained the greatest nation in the world and retained individual liberties precisely because we don’t have democracy—we have a democratic republic. So it would behoove Americans, when we talk about what we’re helping Iraq to achieve, to talk either in terms of a democratic republic or of liberty. It is important for Iraqis to realize that what they really need in order to achieve long-term stability is not democracy. Democratic republics are a far cry from democracies. Liberty is not democracy. And democracies only enjoy liberty sometimes.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

News from the Definitely Non-Conformist Media

Summary: Iranian news sources speaking out against Iran are the epitome of non-conformity. Take a look at one that I just came across!

In a previous post I introduced what I hope will become a series on this site: News from the Non-Comformist Media. In this installment I highlight a news source that is the epitome of non-conformity, Rooz online, published by Iranians about Iran. I don’t know where it’s located, but I suspect it’s not Iran, because most (if not all) Iranian internet sites in Iran are filtered, harassed, and punished to death.

What's interesting about many of these sites is that they need only to report what's going on to be considered anti-government.

Here are a few highlights from yesterday’s English translation of Rooz online.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Muqtada al Ahmadinejad

Summary: As I searched the news of Iraq before I became involved in Operation Iraqi Freedom, one oddity stuck out in my mind: What is Muqtada al Sadr’s beef with the US—after all he’s Shia’? It is now becoming more clear. Muqtada is a prostitute for the Iranian government.

About two and a half years ago I followed the news of Operation Iraqi Freedom from the safety of my computer programmer’s chair. I remember being perplexed at the time by one individual—Muqtada al Sadr. Why was he fighting the coalition forces? He is, after all, a Shia’ Muslim, the sect that makes up 60% of the Iraqi society. The sect that Saddam brutally butchered in the holy southern cities of Najaf, Kufa, and Karbala after Operation Desert storm. The sect that had been excluded from positions of power in Saddam’s army, and instead did all of the dirty work. The sect that only recently had become free once again to observe the Day of Ashurah after being banned by Saddam for twenty years or so.

What gives?

Since coming to Iraq, I’ve taken several opportunities to learn more about Iraqi and Islamic culture. And what I’ve found is that Iraqi culture is interwoven with Iranian culture, usually not in a good way. A tutor of mine taught me about the tataluaat, or the “deep secret operatives” as he translated it for me. The tataluaat are from Iran, have moved to Iraq (particularly in the south), have purchased homes there and assimilated with the population, have in many cases polished away the Iranian accent from their Arabic-as-a-second-language, and were influencing Iraqi politics in a very large way. Iran is more predominantly Shia’ than is Iraq, and is having a profoundly negative effect on the Iraqi Shia’. It is probably accurate to say that Iran is the biggest player in the attempt to erase liberty from the Middle East. A democratic republic in Iraq would severely cramp the Iranian mullahs’ lifestyle.

I recently read “My Year in Iraq” by L. Paul Bremer. Mr. Bremer was President Bush’s special envoy to Iraq, tasked with setting up a temporary governing authority, and scheduling elections (which occurred as planned in January, October, and December 2005). One of Mr. Bremer’s greatest regrets is that more was not done to reign in Muqtada al Sadr. Initially, the US ignored Muqtada as insignificant. Wrong. On one occasion, the Spanish contingent of the military coalition was given the responsibility of putting an end to Muqtada’s fledgeling army. It balked. At any rate, Muqtada’s army has gotten very large and is believed by many now to be a much more serious threat to Iraqi democratic stability than the Sunni-led insurgency.

As I’ve done more research on the subject, I have discovered that Muqtada himself has visited the mullahs in Iran many times. Muqtada and his Mahdi army have been trained in Iran on numerous occasions. Iran has been proven to be the source of a large percentage of the weapons used against coalition forces, Iraqi troops, Iraqi police, and Iraqi civilians.

So now it makes sense. Muqtada does not love Iraq. Muqtada loves power. Muqtada loves Muqtada. He can consolidate his power (at least while it suits them) by cavorting with the un-popularly elected Iranian government. So when you get right down to it, Muqtada al Sadr is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s little whore. Who is the infidel now?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The ‘Open the Gates’ Principle

Summary: If every country had gates, and if you periodically opened the gates of various countries, which way would the people go—in or out? The answer to this question should enlighten our ability on how to deal with Iran.

If you open the gates of a country, which way will the people go? I don’t remember who originally asked the question, but it is provocative. At one time this question was asked of the Soviet Union. It has become clear in retrospect that when given the choice prior to the demise of communism, Soviet subjects regularly chose to go out of the gates.

In America, on the other hand, the gates are always open. You may exit whenever you want, as long as you can find another country that will take you. When George W. Bush was running to become President of the United States, I recall several Hollywood types assuring us that if he actually were elected, they would move out of the country. The gates are still open, yet none of these people carried out their threats.

Now that you have the comparative background for the ‘Open the Gates’ theory, I announce a surprise one-question pop quiz. When applying this principle, which way would the people of Iran go?

If you need any help answering the question, I’ll let you take the quiz home and come back tomorrow. Here are some study helps for you:
There are many more references, but these should suffice. They will help you to determine as well whether Iranians like and trust their government. If they do, what does this tell us about their government? If they don’t, should we?

Never Negotiate With a Terrorist

Summary: If you negotiate with a terrorist, he will make promises, but whenever it is convenient, he will break them. Negotiation with a terrorist gives him undeserved legitimacy. Even a ‘rehabilitated’ terrorist cannot be trusted. Iran is a terrorist nation that supports the Iraq insurgency and that wants to annihilate Israel. This terrorist, like all terrorists, already has his mind made up. What, then, can the purpose of negotiation possibly be?

Iran’s un-popularly elected prime minister, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently claimed that Israel should be “wiped off the map”. He was not the first Iranian government leader to make this statement. Some people may think it’s funny, but I don’t see how. Some people probably think they’re not serious, but I think it is a serious risk not to think so. Some people may claim that Iran could never carry out such a threat. As of yesterday, they have one step to go before they can practice what they preach.

Israel showed remarkable restraint yesterday after Iran announced that it has produced low-grade enriched uranium, saying only that “diplomacy remained the best option…”. I'm not sure I agree. Deep down, I really don't think Israel does either. Admittedly low-grade enriched uranium cannot be used for nuclear weapons. It is, however, the final step before acquiring the ability to produce weapons-grade uranium. Is it clear that Iran has not yet reached its ultimate nuclear goal? I think so.

Iran is the main supporter of terrorists around the globe. It is currently developing relationships with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, who is becoming well-known for suppression of dissent in his own country. It financially supports Hamas in Israel. It financially supports Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon. Iran supports the Sunni insurgency in Iraq. Iran supports Muqtada al Sadr and his militias in Iraq. Iran provides the weaponry that is being used by these groups to kill Israelis, Lebanese, Syrians, Iraqis, and Americans. Iran is always looking for more efficient ways to accomplish this task. Nuclear weaponry is a more efficient killing method.

The only possible result of negotiation with such debauchery and full-fledged fraud would be to lend it legitimacy.

Iran abuses its own people. Iran arrests people who speak out against the government. Iran does not have free elections. Iran treats its women like second class citizens. Iran still implements public stonings for adultery and public hangings for crimes much less serious than that. Iranian jailers rape young women, especially if they are virgins, to insure that, under their interpretation of Islam, they would no longer be able to get into heaven because of adultery. Iran, in possession of nuclear weapons, would not be held back in the least by the fact that their nuclear launch would be met with a swift and more destructive response--the mullahs would be safe in their underground bunkers and would have a whole lot less people to repress anyway.

Any nation which repeatedly claims that another country should be wiped off the map is a terrorist nation. Even if an apology is made by that nation, it must be treated as a terrorist nation until legitimate regime change can be externally verified. A regime that even in passing wishes for another nation to be wiped off the map can never again be trusted.

Iran is a terrorist nation. Terrorists are long on rhetoric and short on honesty. Historically, terrorists have broken virtually every negotiated promise when it has suited their purposes.

Despite any controversy regarding any other facet of Islam, there can be no evidence given from the Koran or any of the teachings of Muhammad that it is okay for a government to repress, torture, and rape its own citizens. The mullahs are a fraud, and they know it. But they don’t care, because power is intoxicating.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

American Grace

Summary: Anecdotal evidence suggests that peoples the world over prefer dealing with American Troops as opposed to militaries from any other country. This is especially true in Iraq today, as the United States has made a generally very positive impression on Iraqis—especially the younger generation.

One of the things that makes America so great is American Grace. Peggy Noonan recently wrote:
“After World War II, half of Europe had been defeated by America, bombed by it. And yet America had the broad support and affection of Western Europe in the crucial quarter century after that war, in part because of efforts such as the Marshall Plan, but also because of exposure, both prewar and postwar, to American GIs. Europeans came to know who Americans were. American leaders and diplomats did plenty to help America's standing, but in the end the glory went, I think, to the GI Joes, and some Janes too, who won and occupied with American grace. We will find, down the road, that many in Iraq will hold affection and respect for America because of the Americans they met and came to know in our armed forces in the first years of the 21st century."
Isolated incidents in any war zone sometimes do not paint a pretty picture, but the overall grace with which Americans have occupied and served in Iraq is something the populace will generally remember fondly for years to come. I have made several friends here who are genuinely grateful for our presence, despite the growing pains that they know they must endure for the short run.

The positive relationship of Iraqis with American soldiers is particularly true of the younger generation. As I have visited various villages, invariably the youngsters come from far and wide to see us. It was refreshing to know that they had no reason to be scared of us. Of course they want what toys, school supplies, or fruit that we bring, but often they like to talk about what they are learning in school. More particularly they like to show off their newly acquired skills in English. I noticed as well that nearly 100% of children would wave at us on patrol as we drove by, and adults waved much more often when they had their children with them.

A friend of mine in America tells the anecdote of a friend of his from former Yugoslavia. Forgive my ignorance of the details, but she tells of one particular area (of a city, I think) that was divided up into 4 separate zones: American, French, Russian, and German, if I recall correctly. The main point of the story is this—which zone was the most well kept according to her? The American zone. In which zone were the soldiers the most friendly? In the American zone. In which zone did the people feel most safe (from raping, beating, etc.)? You guessed it. People did everything they could to be in the American zone, because of American Grace. (Someone with a better knowledge of history may know of similar stories regarding the division of Berlin, if so please share them…)

It is important to be firm in any tenuous situation. America has, overall, done a good job at this in Iraq (especially as this has been mitigated by shoddy American media reporting that has resulted in Rules of Engagement (ROE) being restricted).

It is also important to show grace and respect whenever it is warranted. In most situations in Iraq, grace and respect are called for. For the most part, America has done a good job of that here as well. Based on general public opinion here, the current generation of American G.I Joes and Janes is projecting an image of America that will be fondly remembered and appreciated for generations to come. The polish with which most American military members perform their duties here is equal to the reputation created in—and expected based on—past conflicts.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Iraq: Another Vietnam?

Updated 11 Apr 06 0552 GMT

Almost from the outset of Operation Iraqi Freedom, anti-American protesters have claimed that the war in Iraq is just another Vietnam. In every way, the Vietnam experience is unlike Iraq—except for one. Click below to find out which one.

Probably even before the Thunder Run into Baghdad by the United States military in March-April of 2003, anti-American protesters were screaming that Iraq was just going to be another Vietnam. The word “quagmire”, which came into vogue during that time, is often used today by those same war protesters—only now they’re all grown up and have strong presence in the political and academic arenas.

Is Iraq like Vietnam? In every way except for one, it is a stretch of the imagination to say that Iraq and Vietnam are similar. The one area in which the similarities are striking is that the same group of people that hoped for failure in Vietnam is hoping that America loses again in Iraq.

A sampling of the differences:
  1. Media coverage has been much more positive during Operation Iraqi Freedom than it was during Vie…wait, what was I thinking? Sorry, skip that one.
  2. In Iraq casualty rates are lower. In the 8 (previously I said 10) or so years of the Vietnam war, about 59,000 soldiers (previously I said 50,000) were killed in action (KIA). In 3 years in Iraq, around 1,850 KIAs (previously I said 2,300) have occurred. (I had previously compared Vietnam KIAs with total OIF deaths -- My appreciation to Lt. Jarred A. Fishman for this clarification).
  3. Support from the local populace in Iraq is immensely stronger for Operation Iraqi Freedom than support ever was from the Vietnamese. Waves upon waves of North Vietnamese felt so strongly about their cause that they willingly gave up their lives in defense of their country and their ideals. In Iraq by contrast, millions see the light of hope and freedom for the first time in their lives, and they hope that America will stay the course until Iraqis are able to support themselves.
  4. Support for North Vietnam came from a superpower, while the main support for Iraq comes from the rogue regime of Iran. The Viet Cong had a steady supply of weapons and expert consulting from the Communists, while the level of support provided by Iran is not as significant.
  5. Because of significantly larger quantities of personnel (and because they felt more strongly about their cause than the Arab terrorists do) Viet Cong engaged American troops face to face on a much more regular basis than occurs in Iraq.
Ironically, the anti-war protest, against a sitting Democrat administration for the most part, and so strong up until 1971, virtually dried up when President Richard Nixon rescinded the military draft, indicating that the protest at that time was more about the fact that these young protesters might actually be required to serve in Vietnam. Now, many of those same individuals, ensconced in media, government, and academia, are still protesting the war. They can’t be drafted this time, so this time the protest is about something else. What is it? I have a good idea, but you tell me.

"The Americans are Too Nice"

Summary: A recent Iraqi acquaintance told me that Operation Iraqi Freedom has gone on for way too long. The main reason? According to him, the Americans are way too nice to the insurgency.

I recently had an interesting conversation with a young man (younger than me anyway) about the struggle for the soul of Iraq. He was born and lived for about 11 years in Iraq, but went with his family to the United States following Operation Desert Storm when Saddam and the Ba’ath party went on a Shia’-killing rampage. He has returned now as a contract worker with the United States military, interrogating detainees brought in by either the American or Iraqi military units.

“I don’t think we’re making much progress here,” he told me. “I mean it’s been three years, and we should have completed this in one year. The insurgents should have been destroyed by now.”

I asked him what the major reason is that he thinks the process is taking too long, to which he replied, “The Americans are too nice.” He blamed America’s niceness in great part on the subterfuge of the American media.

I agreed with him, and we talked about the staged incident in the last week or so where Iraqi soldiers came into contact with thugs from Muqtada al Sadr’s band of ruffians. Three of the Iraqi soldiers were kidnapped, tortured, and killed. The band holed up in a mosque with a large cache of weapons. The Iraqi soldiers, under direction from Americans, attacked the mosque, killed several of Muqtada’s ruffians, took several captive, and freed several hostages, as well as capturing the weapons cache. Meanwhile 2 miles down the road another mosque was staged with about 20 dead bodies (likely that the Sadr Militia themselves had killed). Muqtada’s people contacted the American press and told them that US soldiers had killed these 20 innocent people. When faced with conflicting accounts, just who do you think the American press believed? If you said Muqtada, go to the head of the class.

This and several other propaganda incidents, as well as the Abu Ghraib scandal, have made it difficult for American soldiers to operate effectively in Iraq. Our rules of engagement have become extremely limited, causing greater danger to American soldiers and Iraqi civilians as a result.

The interrogator that I talked to says he has seen many of the same insurgents over and over again in his detention facility, but because they know how to play the game, the Americans are forced to let them go, even when guilt is rather obvious. “I think they should turn detainee interrogation over to the Iraqi army,” he said. “They are not worried about public opinion. They would make sure that these insurgents don’t keep getting let off.”

A side effect of the perceived nicety of the Americans is this, according to my acquaintance. Iraqi judges, in fear for their lives, give only the most lenient of sentences to insurgents who make it far enough through the system to actually be convicted. If the American soldiers were allowed to fight and defend in a manner commensurate with the problem, this would give more courage to the justice system.

My conclusion is this: if an Iraqi American can see that the US media doesn’t tell the truth about Iraq, can you see it? The American media is complicit, by their misrepresentation of the facts, in the deaths of a plethora of American soldiers, as well as Iraqi soldiers, police, and civilians.

Friday, April 07, 2006

News From The Non-Conformist Media

Summary: Just after I wrote the recent tongue-in-cheek post "Thank Heavens the Media is Honest!" I went out to see if I could find some more reliable news being reported out there. It's out there, but it's not in the usual places. If some news organizations can get the real picture of what's going on in Iraq, why can't the rest?

(This post is developing...check back for updates...)

I thought it might be interesting, after I lambasted the American media in general for their failure to accurately report what's going on in Iraq (not to mention what's going on in the rest of the world), to check around to see what I could find that both reflects what I sense is going on here in Iraq and seems to be professional journalism rather than professional peddling of George-W-Bush hatred.

There are places where you can get news you can trust. (Of course this is my opinion, and your opinion may be that my opinion isn't worth a dime.) At any rate, here is a list of some articles you can look at that paint an accurate picture of what's going on here. You may call me biased, because all of the following links paint a much rosier picture than the American mainstream media, but if you did call me biased, I would say, you're right. I am biased in favor of the truth.

  • Michael Ledeen reports here how immediately following a very successful and warranted raid by Iraqi Forces on Muqtada al Sadr terrorists, people with ties to al Sadr fabricated 'evidence' that American forces had killed several innocents.
  • Ali al-Zahid describes here how noone outside of Iraq could have imagined just how much reconstruction would be necessary to bring Iraq to its feet, that there is now hope for millions of Iraqis, while there used to be none, and that the rising generation of Iraqis shows great promise.
  • Dan Darling shows us here how Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, stated in 2004 that his operatives were aware in 2001 of Saddam Hussein's desire to foist suicide attacks on the United States.
  • Oliver North, who has been embedded with combat troops in Iraq on multiple occasions, discusses the consensus among Iraqi government leaders and US troops that pulling out from Iraq would be a disaster, and that John Kerry is a flaming idiot.
  • More to come...
What I can't figure out is, if these people can get it right, why can't the Washington Post? Why can't the New York Times, except for Dexter Filkins every once in a while?

Do you, the reader, have any ideas? I am just being blindly biased? Let me know what you think. Feel free to post a comment.

Thank Heavens the Media is Honest!

Summary: Time magazine recently devoted a cover story to the assertion that evidence abounds that humans are causing global warming, without giving any evidence in the article to back up the assertion whatsoever. It’s a good thing that the media is otherwise completely honest; if not, reporting inaccuracies may have caused a multitude of problems in Iraq.

It was definitely an honest mistake. Time Magazine, in its April 3, 2006 cover story made the absolutely unbacked assertion that humanity is the cause of the bulk of global warming that is currently occurring on planet earth. Inside the article, no evidence was given that humanity is the cause of any global warming. Click here and click here for examples of actual evidence for historical global warming and cooling cycles, which I’m sure have since been brought to the attention of Time's editorial staff. I haven’t seen the retraction and apology yet from Time Inc, but I’m sure it will be quickly forthcoming. After all, Time and all other media outlets are, I’m certain, impeccable in their honesty and report only the truth to their subscribers.

It’s a good thing that the media is (except for this one, unusual case) honest in their reporting of what goes on in the world. I especially appreciated this when I and my brigade got to come home early from Iraq back in 2005; a major factor in all of the coalition forces coming home early, and Iraq being completely turned back to the Iraqis so quickly, was a result of the continually accurate reporting of the news media, which caused the insurgency to give up and either go back to their home countries or simply get on with their new, liberated, Iraqi lives.

The following are some of the facts that helped influence the insurgency to realize the hopelessness of their crusade:

  • The preponderant majority of Americans support American troops in Iraq
  • Humanitarian missions are conducted daily all over the country
  • Infrastructure is much better than it was before America arrived
  • Nearly all Iraqis are happy that Saddam has been deposed
  • The number of civilian Iraqi casualties caused by coalition fire is much lower than originally feared
  • Iraqis themselves are playing an increasing part as soldiers and police in the war on terror
  • The preponderant majority of Iraqis was grateful for American support in the liberation of their country
  • Each election or referendum in Iraq was an even greater resounding success than the previous one

It is to the media’s everlasting credit that they reported these facts consistently, despite the temptation that I’m sure sometimes occurred to report only the sensational, or to give a certain story a particular political slant. It would be particularly tempting to do this during an election year, if the media collectively believed that the wrong political party was in power.

In bygone times, the media might have only reported the truth when it was so obvious as to preclude any other option. Thank heavens for the honesty of today's American media.

A penchant for dishonesty would have been disastrous to the American cause in Iraq, and may have resulted in (a) far more insurgency-caused deaths and destruction of property, such as holy shrines, (b) a burgeoning United States debt, (c) a lack of trust and friendship between Sunni and Shia’ in Iraq, and (d) far more families--Iraqi and American--torn apart due to the violence and strain. The war and the insurgency may have even dragged on, perhaps clear into the year 2006. I am glad that the American media is always honest.

Serving in Iraq was an opportunity of a lifetime, and I made some lifelong friends. Someday I’d even like to bring my family back here to see where I served. Even though, it’s so good to be home again with my fam…

Boom! Boom! Counterfire!!! Counterfire!!! Target XYZ, grid…

Dammit! The explosions of war and the combat radio jar me back to reality from a very good daydream. I’m still here.

Is it too much, I think to myself as I finish my work shift, to imagine that one day my dream of media honesty can become a reality? That they can care enough to tell the news as it really is and not as theyfor whatever reasonwould like it to be? Then maybe I really could come back here someday to the free country of Iraq, as a tourist—with my family. And maybe I’d even be able look up some of those old friends.