31 October 2006

Stupid Quote of the Day

“You know, education, if you make the most of it, if you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, uh, you, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.” -- John Kerry, 2006.10.30

I wish some Vietnamese bastard had better aim--at least he wouldn't have had to give himself Purple Hearts for his papercuts.

It's been a full day.

1) I instituted comment moderation. Comments will be moderated entirely at my whim. Deal with it. I will use rules. I do not feel the urge to share them. Be polite and you probably won't notice anything more than a delay in your comment posting. Sorry, but it was either that, or get cranky. I refuse to let me self-indulgent little writing hobby stress me out.

2) I shot a GAU. I forget the model number, we just call them "the GAUs" from the "DSU" which I forget what that means too. Anyway, the Marines who drive the little boats here invited me (and I wrangled an extention to the invite for my company commander) to go out to the range with them and shoot the 7.62mm 6-barrel minigun their boats carry. Oh. My. God.

It's like the world's angriest hornet is buzzing at the center of the world, you feel it in the soles of your feet and it shakes the entire boat. And the target piece of plywood disappears in a dust cloud, and at the end of your burst you can see daylight through the wood at 300 meters.

It's more fun than hunting feral dogs with a Mk-19.

3) I saw the medics over at Charlie Med getting ready for the costume party. Calm down, folks, it's next door to the chow hall, I wasn't there for a bad reason.

I was doing good watching the costumes, until the medic shows up dressed as Death.

Ummmm. . .

Can we not let him work triage?

4) According to the poll numbers one network was trumpeting, about 1/4 of the American population could give a shit less about the election.

Or more accurately, when asked which party would do a better job in Iraq, 11% were "undecided", but adding the Republican, Democrat, and Undecided numbers up, it totalled about 85%.

This seems to be more significant news than the 5-point spread between the Democrat and Republican answers, but no one said anything about it.

29 October 2006

Clarifications, assorted:

1) Lest anyone be confused, when I say that war is normal, I am not in any way saying that this is a good thing. Seriously, it freakin' sucks. And it sucks a lot worse for those of us who fight it. But it's necessary.

Let me argue by analogy.

Changing diapers is an utterly necessary part of parenthood. That doesn't make 'em smell like rosebushes. If you don't, however, the whole house ends up smelling like crap, the kid gets a henious rash on his butt, and the environment is created for a lot of crazy parasitic infections and/or diseases. That doesn't mean changing diapers is the end-all and be-all of parenthood, however.

If you want kids (or end up with them in spite of your wishes), you deal with diapers. If you want to live on Planet Earth with a couple billion greedy assholes, you deal with the reality of violence.

2) As a further development of this point, war creates nothing good. Nothing positive comes from killing folks. Stuff gets blown up, people get hurt and die, and that's as much a definition of 'war' as exchanging carbon dioxide for oxygen is a definition of breathing.

What war does is prevent people from either stealing or destroying things of value that your society has. It creates nothing good, but secures the liberty to create everything of value.

3) Korea was not a loss. It was our most misunderstood war.

Korea was not a declared war because of the new understanding of war created by the idealistic bullshit spun around WWI. Back in 1898 we fought a couple wars like Korea, but backwards. We didn't like what someone was doing with their colonial empire, so we took part of it away. Korea was a case of an imperial power (Soviet Union) using a proxy state to try to take away one of our proxy states. The great game of states, as it has been played for millenia. We stopped them cold, then tried to take away the Soviet Union's proxy state. Another imperial power decided they liked having DPRK as a buffer zone against our proxy state, and committed troops to restore the situation. So all parties settled for status quo ante bellum, more or less.

Here's where the disconnect is. Americans don't like/understand wars fought for reasons of policy. WWI was supposed to be the war to end all wars, instituting an era of international peace and brotherhood where we would all be reasonable and sing kumbaya while holding hands around the damned campfire. Because to tell the truth--that the United States was fighting to preserve French and British colonial empires from a competitor that was not substantially different in any way, in a war that the French and Russians provoked deliberately with British cheerleading--would not have played in Peoria.

So 20 years later, when the Germans finally decide that the irrational and punitive "peace" conditions are not something they are interested in tolerating any longer and restart the war, FDR and Winnie Churchill, in order to bring a reluctant US population in to preserve the British Empire AGAIN, sell WWII as a great moral crusade. After the war it turns out that sure enough the Germans and Japanese were genocidal lunatics this time around. Hooray, the "moral crusade" propaganda and the reality actually line up. It's shocking, I know. First time in history since the baby-sacrificing Carthaginians went out of business.

Along comes Korea. Classic limited war for limited goals, not a grand crusade against evil to crush it once and for all, blahblahblah.

But America doesn't want to hear that. They don't want to hear that it has more to do with power politics as they are played in the Real World than grand ideas. So Truman soft-pedals the war. This scheme is taken to an even more irrational extreme in Vietnam, which is why the American public did finally abandon that war when we were not losing by any rational definition of the word.

4) The above is not intended as a slam on the actual goals of American foreign policy. On a whole, they are far more decent than they are given credit for--and if decency is good business then it is good business. American foreign policy is driven by the fact that people who aren't killing each other make far better customers for McDonalds and Hollywood movies than people who are worried about the savage the next bush over knocking them in the head with a machete. Might be a selfish motivation, but the end result is that we keep trying to keep savages from knocking each other in the head with machetes. Contrast with European colonial empires which tended to pick one particular group of savages, make sure they had all the machetes, and put them in charge of knocking the other groups of savages over the head if they didn't behave.

This is why Iraq's small Sunni minority has run the damn place for decades. They were the British's favorite savages.

28 October 2006

One thing I will say about Mr. Hajji

He may be a murderous psychopathic terrorist who blows up little kids because he hasn't got the stones to take us on head-on, but. . .

There are days when I think I have more in common with him than I do with some civilians back home. At least he knows what he stands for, what he stands against, and what he will kill or die for.

Your average American wouldn't sacrifice anything for anything but the Almighty Dollar, and would gleefully ignore his God, his family, and his country in pursuit of the same.

There's a reason the surreality of Iraq seems more rational and real than the pure artificiality of the States.

What is war?

War is an act of force intended to compell the enemy to do our will. War is the utimate argument of states, and the means to settle international disputes when other means are inadequate or exhausted. War is as normal a state of international affairs as is peace, and based on the frequency of states of war historically is actually more normative than peace. The normalcy and necessity of war are rooted in human nature and are universal across all societial organizations and among all cultures.

What is the American view of war?

War is an abberation caused when a small cabal of evil men takes charge of a foreign nation and only as a "last resort". War is always directed against this handful of leaders and those evil men who support them. War is a moral crusade of good against evil, and when a war is concluded, it is to be concluded by the imposition of a permenant peace based on the installation of leaders who are "democratic" and "peaceful".


Because Americans believe that war is an abberant state of affairs, Americans refuse to believe in the reality and inevitablity of war. Americans will avoid preparing for war, thinking of war, or planning for war. Due to the inability of Americans to accept the consequences of their behaviors, when the war comes the inevitable shortcomings will be blamed on the politicians in office at the start of the war, regardless of circumstances.

Because Americans believe that all people are inherent peaceful unless misled by evil leaders, they do not recognize that conflicts of interest between societies exist which cannot be resolved by negotiation.

Americans confuse the terms "democratic" or "peaceful" with "good". Conversely, "belligerant" or "undemocratic" is always identified with "evil". The confusion this creates is obvious.

Because Americans believe that war is an abberation caused by evil and met with a great crusade like that of the Allied Powers against Germany, they do not recognize nor understand other forms of warfare.

Corrollary to the last statement: Because Americans do not understand guerilla, asymetric, or terrorist method of warfare, they mythologize them in a variety of ways. Hence the various arguments that terrorism is a purely law enforcement matter, or that asymetric warfare is inherently unanswerable.

Because Americans concieve of warfare as a crusade directed against a cabal of "madmen" in charge of a territory, they are often confused when defeating an army, occupying a territory, and arresting the popularly identified "madmen" does not end a conflict. Conversely, they are confused when a campaign does not end in the arrest and trial of the designated "madmen" because they hide in a cave in Pakistan.

Because warfare is identified as a clash of moral opposites, stupidities associated with the phrase "if they are not for us, they are against us" and its opposite abound. Pakistan is an ally of convenience which permitted the United States to use its territory under threat. Saudi Arabia is a morass of conflicting interests of different elements of the incredibly corrupt and undemocratic Royal family, a significant portion of which is actually part of "the enemy" and other parts of which merely pander to the enemy.

Further thoughts along these lines to follow.

25 October 2006

Vanity of Vanities, all is Vanity.

Thus spake the Prophet in the reign of King Uzziah.

What are they teaching in Basic these days?

Ummm. . .

So we are rolling out the gate, and my truck crew is a scratch crew as is usual for HHC. I'm driving because my "driver" can't actually drive. So we get to our security position for the construction crew (moving T-walls around with an M-88) and what does this young Soldier do?

Whip out a John Grisham novel and start reading.

Now, normally I'm the last person to criticize someone for reading, but we are out the wire in Indian Country and we are supposed to be pulling security. Granted it's a female cook who is totally cherry, but what the hell?

22 October 2006

Two interesting and related topics.

The Lancet study isn't even flying among leftist liberal sources.

Ariania Huffington's pet blog is ripping it to pieces.

"Is that assumption safe? Is death in war a phenomenon like measles? Neil Johnson, a physicist at Oxford who studies patterns in violent conflicts, believes that the answer is no. In an epidemic, he told me, it is safe to assume that all people have an equal chance of catching the disease. But in war and its violent aftermath, this assumption can't possibly be correct. Differences among Shiites and Sunni, politically engaged and remote, rich and poor, region and region -- all of these seem likely to have an impact. So if epidemiological methods produce a number out of line with other methods, it is at least worth asking if the problem is with the epidemiologists. "

"Johnson and his collaborator Michael Spagat, an economist at the University of London, Royal Holloway, believe they have found just such a fatal flaw -- an error that stems from mistakenly assuming that war deaths work like deaths from illness. It seems all the households surveyed by the Lancet authors were on main roads or at intersections of smaller streets with major arteries. It does not take a detailed knowledge of warfare to imagine how households in those locations would be more likely to report car bombings, market-place explosions, and attacks on vehicles."

For historical perspective, consider:

At any given moment, a million images were available to the camera's lens in Saigon alone—and hundreds of million throughout Indochina. But TV crews naturally preferred the most dramatic. That, after all, was their business—show business. It was not news to film farmers peacefully tilling their rice fields, though it might have been argued that nothing happening was news when the American public had been led to believe that almost every Vietnamese farmer was regularly threatened by the Viet Cong, constantly imperiled by battle, and rarely safe from indiscriminate U.S. bombing.

A few hard, documented instances. A burning village was news, even though it was a deserted village used in a Marine training exercise—even though the television correspondent had handed his Zippo lighter to a non-commissioned officer with the suggestion that he set fire to an abandoned house. American soldiers cutting ears off a Viet Cong corpse was news—even if the cameraman had offered the soldiers his knife and "dared" them to take those grisly souvenirs. (Since the antics of the media were definitely not news, the network refrained from apologizing for the contrived "event" when a special investigation called the facts to its attention.) Cargo-nets full of dead South Vietnamese soldiers being lowered by helicopters were news—even if that image implicitly contradicted the prevailing conviction that the South Vietnamese never fought but invariably threw away their weapons and ran.

The competition in beastliness among the networks was even more intense than the similar competition among the representatives of the print media. Only rarely did television depict peaceful fields in which water buffaloes pulled ploughs for diligent farmers—undisturbed by air-bursts, rockets, infantrymen, or guerrillas. One special report was, however, devoted largely to depicting bucolic scenes and untraveled roads when Prince Norodom Sihanouk invited a television correspondent to tour the border areas of Cambodia to prove that his country was not being used by the North Vietnamese as a base for operations against South Viet Nam. A few years later, Sihanouk of course acknowledged that the North Vietnamese had at the time been—and had remained—intensely active in precisely those areas. But television could "prove" either a negative or a positive proposition—depending on where the camera pointed and upon the correspondent's inclination.

One tale involving the aerial jeep of Viet Nam was so magnified that it lost any connection with actual events. That was the story of unwounded Vietnamese soldiers bandaging themselves in order to swarm on to helicopters for evacuation from their raid into Laos in 1971.

That raid on the North Vietnamese installations and supply routes that were called the "Ho Chi Minh Trails" was no great success. But, as I found after two weeks of my own intensive investigation, it was hardly the debacle described by most of the press. South Vietnamese planning for their command's first major independent military operation was faulty; some units deported themselves badly; but others fought well. Nonetheless, descriptions of a "South Vietnamese rout" were made graphic by repeated reports of soldiers bandaging imaginary wounds.

On close questioning, one Western journalist (a wire-service man), who was shaking with indignation at South Vietnamese pusillanimity, admitted that: (1) he had seen no soldier bandaging unbroken skin; but (2) he had seen soldiers bandaging "mere scratches." He finally conceded that: (1) he had seen no soldier bandage a scratch and then "swarm aboard a helicopter"; and (2) having never marched through a jungle, he did not know how rapidly untreated "scratches" could become severe infections in that malignant environment. However, his stories of South Vietnamese cowardice had already been widely published, and he, quite naturally, did not wish to provoke his home office by filing a correction. If he had, the correction might have been filed to the wire-service's world-wide clients. If it had been "moved on the wire," it might not have been printed widely or conspicuously. What had not happened was simply not news . . . even if it had already been reported as having happened.

One of the most persistent "horror stories" was retailed by the Western newspapers and magazines because television could not, obviously, take pictures of torture. Did interrogators ever push an uncommunicative prisoner out of a helicopter to encourage his fellows to talk? No such atrocity has ever been confirmed, despite the swarms of investigative reporters and the many eager informants among officers and diplomats, whose indignation against stupid and inefficient policies was transmuted by the press into indignant protest against the war itself.

One such "incident," staged with a corpse, was turned up by the meticulous research of Günter Lewy for his book America in Vietnam,8 which should be required reading for all war correspondents. A U.S. soldier acquired a photograph of that grisly incident, and went on to invent an account of how a prisoner was killed by being hurled from a helicopter. The imagined event was given wide coverage.

Interrogation by macabre example did make a great story, though it probably never happened and, certainly, has never been proved.

An American correspondent who was later to write a highly praised book on Viet Nam was chuckling over a telegram in the terrace cafe of the Hotel Continental, known to habitués as "the Continental Shelf." His editors had asked him to confirm that it would be neither libelous nor vexatious to quote the U.S. general who had in the correspondent's last dispatch been highly critical of the entire American effort—on the Continental Shelf (which generals, by the way, did not frequent).

"Of course," he told his questioner, "I cabled them to go ahead and not worry. Why should they? After all, I made that general up." The imaginary general in the dispatch made a repeat performance in the correspondent's book.

Sgt. John Ashe (brother of the world-famous tennis player) was a Marine assigned to public relations duties. He delivered a biting indictment of the young wire-service correspondents and the "war freaks" who frequented Da Nang (which was a remote outpost to the media, though not to the military). They would, he recalled, rarely go into the field and never spend the night when they did; would deport themselves as if they had never heard a shot fired with intent to kill before that moment—to their own and the Marines' peril; and then file stories that "bore little or no relation" to what he—and they—had seen. They didn't want to know, Ashe added, what was really happening in the First Corps Area, where the Marines had winkled out the Viet Cong by stationing squads in villages.

Equally lamentable was the failure of the Western press to cover with any thoroughness the Army of the Republic of South Viet Nam, which over the long run was doing most of the fighting. Correspondents were reluctant to commit their safety to units whose resolution they distrusted—sometimes for good reason, more often because of a kind of racist contempt—in order to get stories that interested their editors so little. Coverage of Vietnamese politics, as well as social and economic developments, was sporadic—except for military coups and political crises, and those were often misreported.

Examples of misdirected or distorted reporting could be amassed almost indefinitely. The war, after all, lasted some twenty years. A former Washington Post and New York Times correspondent, Peter Braestrup, has published a two-volume study of the coverage of the Tet Offensive of 1968. Quite significantly, it attracted little interest compared to, say, William Shawcross's Sideshow or Michael Herr's Dispatches.

The obvious explanation is not as ingenuous as it may appear: the majority of Western correspondents and commentators adopted their idiosyncratic approach to the Indochina War precisely because other journalists had already adopted that approach. To put it more directly, it was fashionable (this was, after all, the age of Radical Chic) to be "a critic of the American war."
Decisive in the case of the Americans, who set the tone, was the normally healthy adversary relationship between the U.S. press and the U.S. government. American newspapermen have often felt, with some justification, that if an administration affirmed a controversial fact, that fact—if not prima facie false—was at the least suspect. As the lies of successive administrations regarding Indochina escalated, that conviction became the credo of the press. The psychological process that began with the unfounded optimism of President John F. Kennedy's ebullient "New Frontiersmen," who were by and large believed, ended with the disastrous last stand of Richard Nixon's dour palace guard, who were believed by no one.
The reaction against official mendacity was initially healthy but later became distorted, self-serving, and self-perpetuating. A faulty syllogism was unconsciously accepted: Washington was lying consistently; Hanoi contradicted Washington; therefore Hanoi was telling the truth.

The initial inclination to look upon Hanoi as a fount of pure truth was intelligently fostered by the Communists, who selectively rewarded "critics of the American war" with visas to North Viet Nam. A number of influential journalists and public figures (ranging from former cabinet officers to film actresses) were feted in North Viet Nam. They were flattered not only by the attention and the presumed inside information proffered by the North Vietnamese but by their access to a land closed to most Americans. The favored few—and the aspiring many—helped establish a climate in which it was not only fashionable but, somehow, an act of courage to follow the critical crowd in Saigon and Washington while praising Hanoi. The skeptical correspondent risked ostracism by his peers and conflicts with his editors if he did not run with "the herd of independent minds," if he did not support the consensus.

The larger reason for the tenacity of the consensus went much deeper. It welled from a new view of this war, which was quite different from the press's view of other wars—and from a new messianic approach to the role of the press in wartime. The alteration occurred in three stages, beginning with World War II, proceeding through the Korean War, and culminating in Viet Nam.

20 October 2006

Another discussion of the Lancet Survey, entirely gakked

There are various claims in the survey; such as, 7% of the men in Iraq have died since the invasion, and since the population of Iraq is approximately 27,000,000, that means that 7% of half of that number have died; that is, 945,000 MEN.

Yet the figures are based on 'cluster samples', and two thirds of the deaths are said to have resulted from taking one 'cluster sample' in Fallujah. That is, that the surveyors asked people in Fallujah how many people had died in their family, and they then incorporated that with all the other data and extrapolated to calculate a figure for the whole of Iraq.

Any realistic researcher, on finding that their figures relied almost entirely on one cluster sample out of many, (but not nearly enough for accurate figures, which is another issue), would have asked themselves, can this be a real figure? But they obviously didn't do so, because here's how you can tell immediately that this is NOT a real figure.

Suppose for a moment that two thirds of the deaths in Iraq happened in Fallujah, which is what this seems to be saying. That would mean that 945,000 x 2/3 = 630,000 people died there. Isn't that a catastrophe? No, it's a falsification, because the pre war population of Fallujah was 375,000.

--- but if we try to work out how it is that so many men have died (and in the central region it's said to be 10%, not 7%) then we note that there are only 375,000 x 1/2 = 187,500 MEN in Fallujah, and for enough to have died to support the figure given for MEN in Iraq, then 187,500 people have died 630,000 times; that's 3.36 deaths for each man in Fallujah.

Now at this point, isn't it appropriate to ask, how it was that these 'statistics' were gathered?

By asking Arabs in Fallujah (of whom by their own report there are none left) how many of their relatives died. Well, they are bound to be truthful, aren't they? They've got a massive grievance. No one disputes that Fallujah was the centre of a lot of the resistance to the occupation. Is it really so hard to believe that they would inflate the death figures out of a desire to harm the reputation of the invader? Or did each of their men really die 3.36 times?

This survey bears no relation to reality, and the merest attempt to investigate it shows that this is so. What it also shows, is that the Lancet team didn't think to check their figures in this trivial manner; they just accepted them without further thought. I submit that this is a level of incompetence that is willful. Because it took me less than five minutes to work it out. They knew that the deaths quoted in their survey nearly all came from Fallujah. They should have investigated further. They obviously didn't, because the above is such a simple way to check. They asked people who bore a grudge, they didn't think to check the honesty of their account, and they didn't think to check their own arithmetic. Then they put this survey out to the world as if it meant anything.

Since 1.3% of the population of Iraq lived in Fallujah at the start of the war, then if we discount the figures from Fallujah and suppose that all the others are accurate (which we have no reason to suppose they might be, given what happened in Fallujah), then the rest of the data from this survey shows that the death figures for 98.7% of Iraq are three times lower, 315,000 men. Rounding up for Fallujah, that makes 319,148. That would be a tragedy, of course. But seriously, what reason have we to suppose that lies only emanate from Fallujah? The whole survey is shown to be based on accepting the word of those who have a grievance, never checking it, and imagining the impossible as a result.

It is said that 10% of men in the central region have died. Well let's suppose that these are mainly from the fighting age group, about one third of the male population. That means that about 30% of the fighting men are dead. Now let's ask, if that is the case, how many are injured? Army veterans can advise what figures would be realistic for injuries given the level of fatalities. Shall we say three times as many? In that case, we would find that 30% of men of fighting age were killed, and 90% were injured, a casualty rate of 120%. Well that ought to stop the fighting! Does anyone find that remotely credible? Instead, we have to ask why it is that hundreds of thousands of deaths have gone unrecorded in Iraq, unreported by the media, unknown to the authorities, why hundreds of thousands of people who have been injured have never turned up at hospital, and why the media have not previously picked up on this problem.

There's a simple reason for it. Because the problem does not, on this scale, exist. It's a fantasy woven by the Lancet out of the lies of the aggrieved - and it could only be accepted by them on the basis of wishful thinking and a blatant disregard for the need to check their arithmetic, let alone the need to check the truthfulness of their sources.

So on the basis of the above arithmetic, this survey proves certain things:
- That people in Fallujah lied to the researchers
- That the researchers made no attempt to check the truthfulness of their sources
- That the researchers didn't make arithmetic checks on the viability of what was said to them
- That people in Fallujah have a bigger grievance than those elsewhere in Iraq
- That there is no reason to suppose that the figures reported anywhere in Iraq are accurate.

So the world is being fed statistics that do not face the most trivial of investigation, by people with an agenda to do 'research' that has no validity, and can trivially be shown to be untrue; and the media are either incapable of unpicking such trivial inaccuracies, or have no interest in trying to do so.

19th October 2006.

19 October 2006

Because you knew I would eventually write on the subject.

The Lancet, bunch of communist pro-Saddam, pro-Osama bin Laden bastards that they are, have jettisioned what was left of their scientific credibility by publishing a paper that is, even to my high-school-educated self, so seriously flawed that it is obviously a political exercise intended to influence the US congressional elections.

The paper in question, couched in meaningless jargon and blather, argues that over 600,000 Iraqis were killed by the US invasion of Iraq and the subsequent fighting.

How they get this from 47 clusters of a bit more than 1400 households, I do not understand.

This is their justification.

Here's an introduction to Cluster Sampling.

I draw your attention to an article on the subject with some interesting methodological implications.

"However, the key to the validity of cluster sampling is to use enough cluster points. In their 2006 report, "Mortality after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: a cross-sectional sample survey," the Johns Hopkins team says it used 47 cluster points for their sample of 1,849 interviews. This is astonishing: I wouldn't survey a junior high school, no less an entire country, using only 47 cluster points.
"Neither would anyone else. For its 2004 survey of Iraq, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) used 2,200 cluster points of 10 interviews each for a total sample of 21,688. True, interviews are expensive and not everyone has the U.N.'s bank account. However, even for a similarly sized sample, that is an extraordinarily small number of cluster points. A 2005 survey conducted by ABC News, Time magazine, the BBC, NHK and Der Spiegel used 135 cluster points with a sample size of 1,711--almost three times that of the Johns Hopkins team for 93% of the sample size."

"Appendix A of the Johns Hopkins survey, for example, cites several other studies of mortality in war zones, and uses the citations to validate the group's use of cluster sampling. One study is by the International Rescue Committee in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which used 750 cluster points. Harvard's School of Public Health, in a 1992 survey of Iraq, used 271 cluster points. Another study in Kosovo cites the use of 50 cluster points, but this was for a population of just 1.6 million, compared to Iraq's 27 million.
"When I pointed out these numbers to Dr. Roberts, he said that the appendices were written by a student and should be ignored. Which led me to wonder what other sections of the survey should be ignored.
"With so few cluster points, it is highly unlikely the Johns Hopkins survey is representative of the population in Iraq. However, there is a definitive method of establishing if it is. Recording the gender, age, education and other demographic characteristics of the respondents allows a researcher to compare his survey results to a known demographic instrument, such as a census.
Dr. Roberts said that his team's surveyors did not ask demographic questions. I was so surprised to hear this that I emailed him later in the day to ask a second time if his team asked demographic questions and compared the results to the 1997 Iraqi census. Dr. Roberts replied that he had not even looked at the Iraqi census.
"And so, while the gender and the age of the deceased were recorded in the 2006 Johns Hopkins study, nobody, according to Dr. Roberts, recorded demographic information for the living survey respondents. This would be the first survey I have looked at in my 15 years of looking that did not ask demographic questions of its respondents. But don't take my word for it--try using Google to find a survey that does not ask demographic questions."

According to Iraqi Body Count (hardly a pro-Coalition source), if these mortality figures are true,

*On average a thousand Iraqis have been violently killed every day in the first half of 2006, with "less than a tenth being noticed by any public surveillance mechanism."
*Of 800,000 wounded people in the past two years, "less than a tenth received any kind of hospital treatment."
*Over 7% of the male population has been killed; 10% in central region.
*Half a million death certificates were issued to families but not officially recorded.
*The Coalition has killed far more people in the last year than in the invasion and Falluja type-operations of earlier years.

Their conclusion?

"In the light of such extreme and improbable implications, a rational alternative conclusion to be considered is that the authors have drawn conclusions from unrepresentative data. In addition, totals of the magnitude generated by this study are unnecessary to brand the invasion and occupation of Iraq a human and strategic tragedy."

Iraqi Body Count, by the way, puts civilian casualties in this war at 44,000 to 49,000.

The Investor's Business Daily has some things to say on the subject as well. My favorite is the observation that:

"One wonders how he knows that since Hussein, Uday and Qusay did not invite researchers to observe their burying of people alive or stuffing them feet first into tree shredders. Those who disappeared, disappeared. Those who talked about it also disappeared."

Now, would the Lancet, a highly respected professional publication just make up numbers? That would be irresponsible. Almost like inventing cancer patients and doing studies on them in your imagination.

Don't take my word for it. Listen to the editor and ask yourself if you believe in his integrity on this subject.

But while we are throwing polls around, check this one out.

Yeah, what he said.

I don’t know what ‘the west’ wants, but Americans are simple: we want the rest of the world to go away and stop bothering us.

Understand I’m not speaking for myself — I’d be on a plane somewhere 365 days a year if I could manage it. But Americans generally don’t like being forced to confront the outside world. We have quite a large country of our own and if we find it cramped there’s always Canada (America Lite.)

Americans want to spend their days working. We like working. We like coming up with crazy plans and turning them into billion dollar businesses. If we’re not working we want to hang out with family. We don’t like thinking about politics, we’re not the French. We don’t like having to learn the differences between Shia and Sunni because, quite frankly, we don’t give a damn. We just want to work and hang out.

From time to time Americans are forced to recognize the existence of some other piece of the world: Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq. We resent being forced to do so. We didn’t really know these places existed, didn’t care, and don’t wish to be irritated by them because we have work to do.

So we fall back on simple, direct solutions to ease the irritation: nuke ‘em all. Nuke ‘em all, and then get back to work. It’s not that we harbor particular malice toward one country or another, one religion or another. What we harbor is indifference. If you threaten our indifference by forcing us to pay attention to you and your intractable foreign problems we may have to blow something up just so you’ll go away. There is, after all, money to be made, and work to be done, and family to be hung out with.

We’re busy: don’t make us kill you.

I grant that in some cases it’s our own government’s actions that force us into the position of having to learn where Fallujah is (answer: who cares?) but that doesn’t alter our underlying sense that the whole world should just stop bothering us and let us get back to work.

Said by

M. Takhallus

Here, comment number six.

18 October 2006

I can't think of a title.

Nothing much going on with me these days. Built some signs for the FOB entrance yesterday and today. Fun thing about being a Combat Engineer is that the folks 'higher' don't really know the difference between Engineers and figure that any outfit with the word "engineer" in the unit title can do more or less anything. So any wierd tasking comes to us, especially if it requires building something.

After all, you wouldn't trust an infantryman with power tools, would you?

Watching the news is really pissing me off. I watched this stupid report about the "Civil War in Iraq" complete with cheezy graphics which divide Iraq into three parts, each clearly labelled "Sunni", "Shia" and "Kurd" and the reporter was talking about them like each faction had their own territory.

Ummm. . . Ten minutes in Iraq would disabuse you of that notion. Shia and Sunni are not like Black and White, or even English and Scots. They are religious identifiers like Huegenot and Catholic. Each sect is scattered across Iraq and are (with the exception of specifically religious observation) more or less culturally identical. Kurds are an ethnic group, but there is no region inhabited by Kurds and only Kurds. There are Kurdish tribes which dominate particular areas, but there may be Turkoman or Arabic tribes within that region as well. If there were neat, clean little lines which could serve as boundaries along which you could deliniate into "Shia" and "Sunni" this would be a little easier. What you have instead is "Predominately Shia" and "Predominately Sunni". That's part of the complication. If you let the Shia run Shiastan then what do you do with the Sunni living there? Disenfranchise them? "Ethnically Cleanse" the area by running them out on a rail?

What about the real minorities: Assyrians, Chaldeans, Yezidis, Turkomans, Circassians, etc?

Frickin' stupid simplistic reporters. If the damned Iraqis can't manage themselves in the past 60 years, and the British couldn't manage them in 30 years, and the Ottomans couldn't figure out how to make those vilayets profitable in 500 years, then you aren't going to make it all make sense in a five minute spiel with cute graphics.

I hate the verdammt media with a passion. CNN is the worst, but all of them are basically vile charlatans who attempt to pass off a glib, superficial, and usually misleading summary accompanied some well-chosen stock footage as real war reporting.

15 October 2006

Wierd stuff in the mail

I read an article in the Stars and Stripes about care packages lately, and they had some anecdotes about wierd stuff people have gotten, like the female Soldier who recieved 50 boxes of 1,000 toothbrushes each. What on Earth the company (for it was indeed a toothbrush manufacturer who sent them) thought she would do with 50,000 toothbrushes, I cannot imagine. Toothbrushes are a common component of "any Soldier" care packages. I don't go through a toothbrush a week, and I don't know anyone who does. YMMV.

My mother, of course, manages to top all the stories in the paper by sending 3 pumpkins for Halloween. Packed in straw (both padding and seasonal decoration) and sealed in Ziploc 1-gallon bags, all three managed to survive the hazards of the Military Postal system.

So I have pumpkins in my arms room. And a bag of candy to hand out to anyone who comes in the Arms Room on the 31st.

On a somewhat more practical note, I also now have a couple month's supply of coffee, between my wife and my parents. This makes my mornings much better than they have been.

14 October 2006

The Rainy Season has begun

Yesterday, it stormed. Dumped buckets of rain in a brief time, and then rained off and on the rest of the day. It rained a bit overnight, and it basically looks like the rain is here to stay.

For those who havn't experienced a Middle Eastern rainy season, it's hard to imagine. But remember that this area was the cradle of agriculture and is referred to as the "Fertile Crescent". It is extremely hot and extremely dry during the summer. But when it rains, it doesn't play around.

The little area of offices where I work basically shut down for an hour or so yesterday as everyone came out to watch the rain. We havn't seen it since May. We were also laughing about how those Gators a lot of Senior NCOs are in love with are going to be a little less popular in the pouring rain.

Iraqi mud smells different. I don't know why, probably the different plant life or something. It's not bad, it's just different. I remember last night walking around enjoying the coolness and the dampness and the smell.

I know I'm going to hate the damned mud here in a few weeks. But for now, I take what I can when I can.

12 October 2006


So I'm checking my email, and I find two emails that made my day.

The first email is from an old buddy of mine, a guy I've been friends with since my first tour in Germany. We lost track of each other after my last Iraq tour, and I havn't really heard from him in a dog's age. The internet is an amazing place. Turns out he found this blog. . .

The other was an email from another reader, a guy I didn't realize read my stuff. Most of it ain't for publication, but he said something that got me started thinking.

I've been reading lately in a couple places that the military is pretty much the only part of the Federal Government that many people trust. Confidence in the military's ability to do pretty much any task is high. Some people have even given up on raising their children and want the military to do that also (hence the call among some social conservatives for a return to conscription). We are lauded to the heavens in unrealistic terms as "heros" and the terminology used to describe us is hagiographic to an extent that would make a saint's vita sound positively pedestrian.

That's both insulting and dangerous to the Republic, in my mind.

It's insulting because it denies us individuality and personhood. We become a symbol, an expression of a set of values, even an ideal in a way that deprives us of our very humanity. We aren't noble paladins out to right wrongs, we're just doing our best with the cards we have. Most of our privates are 18-20 year old kids who aren't that much different from kids back in the States. In better shape, on an average smarter, more disciplined (if their NCOs are on them), whatever. But just kids.

The idealization allows us to be a little ideological football that politicians can kick around. Both parties--whenever a politician talks about supporting the troops he means one of two things. Either he's pushing for a piece of equipment made in his district, or he's using us as a stick to beat his opponents. In the latter case he doesn't WANT our situation remedied because then he'd be deprived of that stick. This is why the Democrats don't really DO anything to fix the "problems" they complain of. If they were serious, they'd write bills, send them into committee, and issue press releases about how the Republicans don't "support the troops" if the bills die. What would the Republicans do? They'd be shamed into whatever action the Dems wanted. Basic politics. Not a damn one of those fools cares about us as people. Nor do the folks who argue that they support this or that course of action in Iraq because they "care" about us. Who cares about us? Our wives, our parents, our family and close friends. Does Ms RichBitch in Hollywood? Yeah, right. How many of your millions are going to support the ARC, MWR, USO, and other people who really support the troops? Screw that noise.

Or there's what really pisses me off. The folks who go to the other extreme and portray us as murderers, or losers so hopelessly inept in the civilian world that we had no choice but to enlist.

There are some. A lot fewer than you'll find in most lines of work, IMHO. Basic Training weeds out a lot of losers, and we chapter even more out from the units. But that portrayal as a whole? Unrealistic and never espoused by anyone with regular contact with Soldiers that I've ever met.

Anyway, here's where I worry about the future of the Republic.

That idealized "heroic" portrayal of the military combined with a lack of regard for other governmental bodies has led to the military taking a larger role in things that aren't our job. Drug interdiction, border patrol, disaster relief, no matter what the problem, the military gets tasked because we are known to be able to get things done. Everyone from the Mayor to the President got covered in crap over Katrina, except one organization. The military came out looking like saviors, complete with angelic wings and a halo.

Ummm. . . twitch, twitch.

The only thing standing between the military and the seat of power is the professionalism of our officer and NCO corps. Now, we've got retired generals (guess what--you still get a paycheck, you still fall under UCMJ) sharpshooting the elected officials. We've got military officers taking their disputes over policy to the media instead of following the chain of command. The military is becoming more and more politicized as the politicians have been more and more open about displaying contempt and lack of understanding. It used to be that most professionals didn't even vote. Now it's about 70/30 one particular political party because that party is the best about keeping us equipped. But even that party is futzing around with veteran's benefits.

Twitch, twitch.

After the Marian reforms, the Roman armies were enlisted with a promise that after 25 years of service each soldier would recieve a plot of land sufficient to serve as a family farm. This promise was repeatedly betrayed by the Senate. Soon the Armies began not serving the Republic, but following the standard of whichever general could force the Senate to honor their commitments to veterans.

Twitch, twitch.

Lucius Cornelius Sulla. Marcus Licinius Crassus. Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus. Gaius Julius Caesar. Marcus Antonius. Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus.

I'm not saying we are ripe for a military coup. I'm just saying that if one were to happen 20 years down the road, historians 200 years down the road will say the foundations were laid here.

10 October 2006

British Multiculturalism Running Amok. First it was Jews not being entitled to police protection, now it's Muslim cab drivers refusing service to folks using guide dogs. The response if this happened in the US would be interesting, as those quickest to yell about ADA are also usually big fans of multiculturalism. Personally, I side with the blind folks and the guide dog. You don't want to carry a guide dog, don't become a taxi driver. Just like any other job, you want the paycheck, you agree to do the job.

Captain's Quarters provides another perspective on the "nuclear" test. I can't get to the Times articles because it requires registration, but assuming he's quoting it correctly, and assuming the Washington Times isn't fabricating it (unlikely) it is an interesting take.

Of course, if you want the Semi-Official DPRK Stance it's a little different. But this is evidence of a pattern which has been evident in DPRK's diplomatic maneuvering for years. Decades? Anyway, they continue to throw temper tantrum after tantrum, and all the emphatic condemnations from the UN encourage them. Like any other spoiled child, they confuse patience with weakness. If they do something and you simply issue another threat, you don't have their attention. After the tenth or twentieth time? Nothing. Not sure precisely how we should attempt to get the DPRK's attention, though. If they have pissed off the Chinese (and they have--made them lose face dramatically) enough to get their only ally and trading partner in on this sanctions thing, then the Kim regime cannot survive that. They end up starving their entire population. I'm not talking "oh, things will be tight". Things are already tight. I'm talking, "Oh, there is no food left in the villages at all."

The NIE Key Judgements is something I've been meaning to blog about for a while. You see, wha the NIE says, and what the Media says the NIE says are two totally different things. I'm expected to believe that educated, allegedly intelligent people with college degrees in journalism (the art of clearly communicating in an effective manner the key facts on a subject) are incapable of reading a simple paragraph in the English language.

"We assess that the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives; percieved jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere.
"The Iraq conflict has become the 'cause celebre' for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the jihadist movement. Should jihadists leaving Iraq percieve themselves, and be percieved, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight."

Now, what the media claims these two paragraphs (elaborated at greater length in the actual NIE, which neither myself nor the media have seen, and I couldn't discuss if I had seen it) mean is that the United States should withdraw from Iraq because our involvement in Iraq is making the terrorists stronger.

What it actually says is that Iraq is now the central battlefield in the war on terror, a battlefield that we chose, and a battlefield on which we are winning (or at least inflicting great casualties). If, in spite of their losses, the jihadists can claim to have thrown the US out of Iraq, there will be no stopping them. If they put forth their maximum effort and fail, the average Muslim will not love the US, but they will not lift their hands against us. And really, who in HELL thinks the average Muslim is ever going to the love the United States? Or cares? As long as they aren't putting in roadside bombs or flying planes into buildings, they can laugh at us all day long.

Something I hadn't noticed before is something Greyhawk put together over at the Mudville Gazette. A timeline of the Iraq War, in multiple parts. Really interesting reading, and it is fascinating how a lot of Democrats were singing one tune back when shooting cruise missiles at Iraq was a convenient way to distract media attention from a certain stained dress, and now it is something else entirely. http://www.mudvillegazette.com/archives/003840.html

09 October 2006

I guess I need to consider learning Hangul

OK, so the North Koreans claim they have the bomb.


Now, given that the Russian observers claim it's freakin' huge, and supposed to yield about 20kT, and given that depending on whose numbers you like it actually yielded between 550 tons and 2 tons, and given that no one has detected any radiation at all (freakish unusual for even underground tests), I'm guessing that either it did not work as advertised, or it's a hoax.

It's also not suitable to mount on a missile or "sneak" into the United States like some commentators have suggested.

Best use--throw it on the back of a truck. Execute a conventional attack into South Korea, and if they take Seoul, park the truck in downtown Seoul, then negotiate.

More likely--keep containing North Korea, and eventually their population will eithe revolt, or starve to death. Either way, it doesn't matter.

What should be done immediately: Tell the North Koreans that any nuclear attack anywhere in the world that is not provably the work of another government will be assumed to be their bomb, and we'll turn South Korea into an island 20 minutes later. Mention to the Iranians that if they hold a test, the same rule applies to them. Yes, that means if one terrorist sets off a bomb anywhere in the world, we'll wipe out two societies.

Did you see that? No? That was me giving a rat's ass.

08 October 2006


The Anchoress Outs Herself

Masturgayte is getting to the point where it is a parody of itself anyway, but I guess we can parody it a little further.

More Outage

Funny, but the comments are funnier

Best line so far: "I'm so gay Andrew Sullivan supports an anti-me marriage constitutional amendment."

And Siggie takes a step back to sobriety but we forgive him for one line:
"Much as so many people would like to believe the world revolves around their crotch, it just isn’t so."

Yeah, I'll buy that one for a dollar.

For Jen: Jesus Christ and Johnny Cash

Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?"
"What did Moses command you?" he replied.
They said, "Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away."
"It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law," Jesus replied. "But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female.' 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."

We're the best partners this world's ever seen,
Together as close as can be.
Sometimes it's hard to find time in between,
To tell you what you are to me.

You are the rose of my heart,
You are the love of my life.
A flower not fading nor falling apart,
If you're tired, rest your head on my arm.
Rose of my heart.

When sorrow holds you in her arms of clay,
It's rain drops that fall from your eyes.
Your smile's like the sun come to earth for a day,
You brighten my blackest of skies.

You are the rose of my heart,
You are the love of my life.
A flower not fading nor falling apart,
If you're cold, let my love make you warm.
Rose of my heart.

So hard times or easy times, what do I care,
There's nothing I'd change if I could.
The tears and the laughter are things that we share,
Your hand in mine makes all times good.

You are the rose of my heart,
You are the love of my life.
A flower not fading nor falling apart,
You're my harbor in life's restless storm.
Rose of my heart.
Rose of my heart

07 October 2006

Goats, Llamas, and Ostriches.

So, we've arrived at a compromise on this land issue. We buy the land, and we sit on it. Until we can afford to build a house, we stick a barn on it.

It's more civilized than camping, and will be our little 'get away' spot.

Plus plenty of exposed joists. . .

Never mind.

Anyway, Jen's checking out this website with barn plans, and there's this little blurb about how they can reconfigure the plans to suit ostriches or llamas or what ever you want.

We decided that we aren't going to buy llamas, ever, and that while I might be amused by owning an ostrich, it wasn't a good idea. So Jen sends me this link to this site about a "fainting" goat breed. . . While I'm frantically googling to find info about Byzantine barns.

She's wierd, but I wouldn't have her any other way.

06 October 2006

Mossbergs, Children, and the Israeli Embassy

Got a range this morning, and it's an excuse to take out the shotguns and play with them a little.

We've got a number of Mossberg 500 12 ga shotguns, and OO rounds for them in limited numbers. Given that I am considering purchasing a shotgun when I get back to the States, I'm certaintly interested in seeing how they shoot.

Today's quote:

"When you are not married, you have rights and obligations. When you get married, you have fewer rights and more obligations. When you have children, you have no rights, but only obligations."-- Elder Epiphanos of Athens (1989+)

Hehe. . . I still want kids anyway.

The Metropolitan Police have made the decision that cops only have to do their job if they feel like it, and that Jews are no longer entitled to equal protection under the law. This has upset some folks.

PC Nadeem Malik, an executive committee member of the Association of Muslim Police, said: "There are around 300 Muslim staff working in the Met and a number of Muslim police working in the diplomatic protection group who do not have problem covering the Israeli Embassy.
"These officers are Londoners, and Met police officers first and foremost."

Ex-Met Flying Squad commander John O'Connor, said: "This is the beginning of the end for British policing.
"If they can allow this, surely they'll have to accept a Jewish officer not wanting to work at an Islamic national embassy? Will Catholic cops be let off working at Protestant churches? Where will it end? This decision is going to allow officers to act in a discriminating and racist way.
"When you join the police, you do so to provide a service to the public. If you cannot perform those duties, you leave.
"The Metropolitan Police are setting a precedent they will come to bitterly regret. Top brass granted his wish as they were probably frightened of being accused of racism. But what they've done is an insult to the Jewish community."

The case is currently under review.

Thomas Barnett has an interesting view of the causes and nature of the Long War, worth reading. I might disagree in detail, but overall his premise is sound.

In need of Moral Guidance, but not interested in Christianity or oppressive Western Culture? Ask Iranian Supreme Leader Sayyid Ali Khameini!! He has a website. (NB Link is to an article about the website, not the website itself. Shia radical assholes get no linkage from me)

My Grandmother is in the hospital. I'm not going to blog about it (other than to ask for prayer) because, well, I don't have her permission. I am going to share Lawdog's experiences and point out that my Grandmother is much the same way.

05 October 2006


The September/October issue of Foreign Affairs has an excellent article on American Protestantism as it relates to foreign policy. I'd suggest any non-Christian who is confused by the misinformation in the media check it out.

Montieth pretty much summed up my feelings on the Amish school shooting and the other craziness going on the States. B anning something doesn't prevent it. It attempts to discourage behavior by providing punishments for that behavior. Prevention is achieved by putting obstacles in the path of successful fulfillment of the intention to engage in a behavior. For instance, it would prevent a great deal of school violence if teachers were permitted to get a CHL and carry in school. If creepy-guy had been wasted by the teacher, then all those little girls who are having funeral would require post-traumatic stress counselling, but that's a breeze compared to getting shot by a nutjob.

My brother's thoughts on childrearing:

Every day children are exposed to horrific threats. Tobacco, alcohol, drugs, violence, automobile accidents, pollution, unhealthy diets, and sexuality all conspire to kill our children or, even worse, expose them to the female breast. The worst of it is, no one can be trusted with our children. You only have to watch Oprah or read the reaction to the latest congressional scandals to know that anyone above the age of 18 that shows an interest in children is automatically suspect. Even other children can’t be trusted with children. Just look at school shootings or cases where elementary school peers were both charged with felonies for mutual exploration.

Something must be done. I propose the following:

Because mothers can’t be trusted to stay healthy while pregnant, babies must be conceived and grown under artificial conditions. Children should then be raised in complete automated isolation until the age of 18. Each child should have his or her own room, completely isolated, with a carefully filtered environment to keep out germs, pollutants and allergens. The room should be designed to present no hard surfaces, sharp edges, or any other physical threats. Food and drink should be carefully designed for maximum nutritional value and pre-mashed to reduce choking threats. The child’s mental development will be carefully screened to prevent all exposure to uncomfortable ideologies or four letter words. All interaction will be with computer software programs designed to educate the child through the exclusive use of multiple choice tests. Tests will be carefully designed so that children know what a committee of consisting exclusively of politicians with law degrees consider important. For example, under this system, no child can fail to grow up without learning that the only crop Virginia ever produced was peanuts or that Galileo proved that sun is the center of the universe. Certain topics, however, such as health and human anatomy, will not be permitted until adulthood because of the risk that they may inspire sexual thoughts. Driving skills will not be taught, as we all know that teenage drivers and dangerous and the only way to fix that problem is to reduce opportunities for practice. Entertainment will not be introduced, as it distracts from learning multiple choice test taking skills and all known forms of entertainment can be considered offensive or dangerous in one way or another.

At the age of 18, they will be released upon the world, confident that the protection their childhood has afforded them will prepare them for adulthood.


Yeah, sounds about like what your average liberal or populist wants.

Splitting hairs, the argument is that Mark Foley probably did not commit any crimes, depending on the age of consent in various states.

I find it fascinating that the political party which stood by Gerry Studds (censured in 1983 for a sexual relationship with a Congressional Page) and characterized his behavior as a consensual homosexual relationship while he remained in Congress is the one calling for the witchhunt now.

It is apparently, in the Democratic playbook, perfectly fine to actually engage in anal sex with a 17 year old, but NOT to send them dirty e-mails. The mind boggles.

Personally, given the reality of the age of consent in most states, I'm less interesting in getting uptight about the age difference or the homosexuality issue than with the power difference. To me, it is unethical and immoral to pursue a sexual relationship with your subordinates. It has at the least an appearance of impropriety and implied coercion that makes it impossible to determine whether or not the relationship is truly consensual.

But that's as far as it goes. If you are going to be passionately committed to "Gay Rights", then they ought to apply to Republican congressmen too.

I will say that the fact that there is no real "age of majority" in this country is a contributing factor to the confusion. Instead, adult civil rights are slowly apportioned over a 5 year period (16 to 21) in a totally illogical and inconsistent fashion which varies from state to state. Why should sex be legal at 16, cigarettes at 18, and alcohol only legal at age 21? Why should driving be permitted at 16 and handguns at 21? How does an 18 year old get to vote and join the Army, but not rent a car? It is legal for a person to have sex with a 16 year old male, but not to electronically solicit sex from the exact same male across state lines? What the hell kind of legal system makes THAT determination?

03 October 2006

Islamic Fascism, definition of

Victor Davis Hanson has a bit up on Islamic Fascism. Hard to quote and condense accurately, so I'll post the whole thing and put my commentary at the end, clearly deliniated.

Make no apologies for the use of “Islamic fascism.” It is the perfect nomenclature for the agenda of radical Islam, for a variety of historical and scholarly reasons. That such usage also causes extreme embarrassment to both the Islamists themselves and their leftist “anti-fascist” appeasers in the West is just too bad.

First, the general idea of “fascism” — the creation of a centralized authoritarian state to enforce blanket obedience to a reactionary, all-encompassing ideology — fits well the aims of contemporary Islamism that openly demands implementation of sharia law and the return to a Pan-Islamic and theocratic caliphate.

In addition, Islamists, as is true of all fascists, privilege their own particular creed of true believers by harkening back to a lost, pristine past, in which the devout were once uncorrupted by modernism.

True, bin Laden’s mythical Volk doesn’t bath in the clear icy waters of the Rhine untouched by the filth of the Tiber; but rather they ride horses and slice the wind with their scimitars in service of a soon to be reborn majestic world of caliphs and mullahs. Osama bin Laden sashaying in his flowing robes is not all that different from the obese Herman Goering in reindeer horns plodding around his Karinhall castle with suspenders and alpine shorts.

Because fascism is born out of insecurity and the sense of failure, hatred for Jews is de rigueur. To read al Qaeda’s texts is to reenter the world of Mein Kampf (naturally now known as jihadi in the Arab world). The crackpot minister of its ideology, Dr. Zawahiri, is simply a Dr. Alfred Rosenberg come alive — a similar quarter-educated buffoon, who has just enough of a vocabulary to dress up fascist venom in a potpourri of historical misreadings and pseudo-learning.

Envy and false grievance, as in the past with Italian, German, or Japanese whining, are always imprinted deeply within the fascist mind. After all, it can never quite figure out why the morally pure, the politically zealous, the ever more obedient are losing out to corrupt and decadent democracies — where “mixing,” either in the racial or religious sense, should instead have enervated the people.

The “will” of the German people, like the “Banzai” spirit of the Japanese, should always trump the cowardly and debased material superiority of decadent Western democracies. So al Qaeda boasts that in Somalia and Afghanistan the unshakeable creed of Islam overcame the richer and better equipped Americans and Russians. To read bin Laden’s communiqués is to be reminded of old Admiral Yamamato assuring his creepy peers that his years in the United States in the 1920s taught him that Roaring Twenties America, despite its fancy cars and skyscrapers, simply could not match the courage of the chosen Japanese.

Second, fascism thrives best in a once proud, recently humbled, but now ascendant, people. They are ripe to be deluded into thinking contemporary setbacks were caused by others and are soon to be erased through ever more zealotry. What Versailles and reparations were to Hitler’s new Germany, what Western colonialism and patronizing in the Pacific were to the rising sun of the Japanese, what the embarrassing image of the perennial sick man of Europe was to Mussolini’s new Rome, so too Israel, modernism, and America’s ubiquitous pop culture are to the Islamists, confident of a renaissance via vast petro-weatlh.

Such reactionary fascism is complex because it marries the present’s unhappiness with moping about a regal past — with glimpses of an even more regal future. Fascism is not quite the narcotic of the hopeless, but rather the opiate of the recently failed now on the supposed rebound who welcome the cheap fix of blaming others and bragging about their own iron will.

Third, while there is generic fascism, its variants naturally weave preexisting threads familiar to a culture at large. Hitler’s brand cribbed together notions of German will, Aryanism, and the cult of the Ubermensch from Hegel, Nietzsche, and Spengler, with ample Nordic folk romance found from Wagner to Tacitus’s Germania. Japanese militarism’s racist creed, fanaticism, and sense of historical destiny were a motley synthesis of Bushido, Zen and Shinto Buddhism, emperor worship, and past samurai legends. Mussolini’s fasces, and the idea of an indomitable Caesarian Duce (or Roman Dux), were a pathetic attempt to resurrect imperial Rome. So too Islamic fascism draws on the Koran, the career of Saladin, and the tracts of Nasserites, Baathists, and Muslim Brotherhood pamphleteers.

Fourth, just as it was idle in the middle of World War II to speculate how many Germans, Japanese, or Italians really accepted the silly hatred of Hitler, Mussolini, or Tojo, so too it is a vain enterprise to worry over how many Muslims follow or support al Qaeda, or, in contrast, how many in the Middle East actively resist Islamists.

Most people have no ideology, but simply accommodate themselves to the prevailing sense of an agenda’s success or failure. Just as there weren’t more than a dozen vocal critics of Hitler after the Wehrmacht finished off France in six weeks in June of 1940, so too there wasn’t a Nazi to be found in June 1945 when Berlin lay in rubble.

It doesn’t matter whether Middle Easterners actually accept the tenets of bin Laden’s worldview — not if they think he is on the ascendancy, can bring them a sense of restored pride, and humiliate the Jews and the West on the cheap. Bin Laden is no more eccentric or impotent than Hitler was in the late 1920s.Yet if he can claim that his martyrs forced the United States out of Afghanistan and Iraq, toppled a petrol sheikdom or two, and acquired its wealth and influence — or if he got his hands on nuclear weapons and lorded it over appeasing Westerners — then he too, like the Fuhrer in the 1930s, will become untouchable. The same is true of Iran’s president Ahmadinejad.

Fifth, fascism springs from untruth and embraces lying. Hitler had contempt for those who believed him after Czechoslovakia. He broke every agreement from Munich to the Soviet non-aggression pact. So did the Japanese, who were sending their fleet to Pearl Harbor even as they talked of a new diplomatic breakthrough.Al-Zawahiri in his writings spends an inordinate amount of effort excusing al Qaeda’s lies by referring to the Koranic notions of tactical dissimulation. We remember Arafat saying one thing in English and another in Arabic, and bin Laden denying responsibility for September 11 and then later boasting of it. Nothing a fascist says can be trusted, since all means are relegated to the ends of seeing their ideology reified. So too Islamic fascists, by any means necessary, will fib, and hedge for the cause of Islamism. Keep that in mind when considering Iran’s protestations about its “peaceful” nuclear aims.

We can argue whether the present-day Islamic fascists have the military means comparable to what was had in the past by Nazis, Fascists, and militarists — I think a dirty bomb is worth the entire Luftwaffe, one nuclear missile all the striking power of the Japanese imperial Navy — but there should be no argument over who they are and what they want. They are fascists of an Islamic sort, pure and simple.

And the least we can do is to call them that: after all, they earned it.


OK, I'm going to take issue with exactally one point of this article. The assertation that it is irrelevant how many Muslims "really" support al-Qaeda's ideology. In one sense it is true that should al-Qaeda attain some major successes (booting the US out of Iraq, toppling a "corrupt" Arabic state) it will attract a horde of adherants who will be more interested in following a successful leader than details of ideology. And the reasons for their adhesion will be utterly irrelevant.

However, as al-Qaeda is not associated with any significant pieces of territory which serve as a center of gravity (in the sense that Berlin did for the German fascists or Rome did for the Italian fascists) does deprive the analogy of some of its strength. We are involved in a war of ideologies wherein the motivations of populations is essential unless one is simply planning to 'nuke it from orbit' which has its attractions (and will be the only method worth considering for a nuclear-armed Iran) but is not the only option at this point.

We do need to undercut the ideology of al-Qaeda by supporting those within the Islamic world with an alternate agenda and strategy, because the other option is the Japanese one---wait until it is firmly entrenched across a quarter of the globe and then deal with it in a conventional military manner punctuated by nuclear strikes. Secularists are thin on the ground, as are democrats or liberals of any stripe in the Islamic world. I'm using 'liberals' here in its classical meaning, not the modern partisan political one. I'm a liberal by 18th century standards. Modern liberals are really socialists without the balls to declare their socialism openly. But I digress.

To make matters worse, the democrats are not always secularist liberals. Often they are using "Democracy" in the same sense that the Bolsheviks redefined it. "Democracy" to them means using a referendum to install Sharia and a fanatic version of Sharia at that, and then the abolition of any more voting. One man, one vote, once. On the other hand, there is evidence that the only way to secularize an Islamic society is a dictatorship--which does not mean that the secularization will not come without the price of pogrom and genocide as per the Turkish model.

And neither the dictatorial secularists nor the "democratic" religious loons are what I would consider "liberal". The idea that one should tolerate opposing viewpoints is something that no one seems to be open to. And yet that toleration is at the heart of constructing a functional civil society. I may passionately dislike cMad's theological opinions, but I'd no more kill or imprison him over them than I would chop off my own arm.

Part of that seems to be that the Arab male is generally utterly insecure about his masculinity (perhaps a result of the charming Arabic custom permitting sodomy of persons inferior in status?) and interprets any questioning as an affront, an attack on his honor and manhood and family and tribe and religion. For which he must, as a good Arab male, kill you. And the leading edge of Islamic conquest brought with it Arab cultural attitudes which made this insecurity a deeply ingrained element in many Muslims.

I'm tempted to sterilize the Middle East (barring Israel) and give it to anyone who will develop it into something decent, for which the potential exists.

Today I've got more questions than answers.

LIttle Fuzzy Sheeps

The Lawdog is having an interesting discussion with some commentators who are butt-ignorant of all things combat- and crime-related and devoid of common sense.

He starts by quoting LTC(ret) Cooper here. The good Colonel is calling for self-reliance and everyone to have the ability to defend himself or herself, by pointing out that even if you have bodyguards, they aren't going to be guarding your body all the time.

Here, Lawdog amplifies and clarifies what he meant.

Again, Lawdog makes the same point with new illustrations.

I can't say it much better than Lawdog. Cops and other 'professionals' only make up a certain percentage of the population and can only be in so many places as once. Have the capability to prevent the Socially Disadvantaged Youth to take advantage of you, or it will eventually happen.
This leads to amplification and clarification on precisely what it takes to defend yourself. Even if you don't wish to own a gun, a Combat Mindset and a masterlock beats someone who has a gun and expects to wave it like a magic wand and the problem will be solved.

With a combat-oriented mindset, you step away from being a sheep and towards being a sheep dog. And the name of the game is making it much more dangerous to be a wolf--extra dogs on duty help.

01 October 2006

Second-hand Sleaze

So, I'm sitting here in the chow hall, watching the news. Of course, The Story is all-Mark-Foley, all-the-time. I'm discussing the situation with a couple people at the table (consensus: The difference is, he got caught. He probably ain't the first politician to decide cute little boys in ties were his fetish.) when a Marine corporal who looks too young to shave mentions that he used to be a page and got a screwball explicit message from ex-Congresscritter Foley.

Apparently, according to this guy, Foley was a nice guy, friendly but nothing inappropriate, as long as you were in Washington. It's only after you leave (and apparently this happened to a number of his friends) that you get emails and IMs asking you your penis size.

Well, Foley has resigned and will face whatever legal music there is for communicating sexual messages to minors electronically. That's the right answer, in my book.

Now the pirahnas are circling asking who knew what when. It's all speculation at this point.

But is there anything else happening in this world? Couldn't prove it from the evening news.


I've been running arround with our Support Platoon lately. Support Platoon is kind of an odd jobs platoon, and includes the medics, cooks, fuelers, and a distro section with trucks. The last section gets all sorts of screwball missions, including running the barrier yard (jersey, california, texas, t-wall) and FOB construction missions. Lately, they've been borrowing bodies to work on improving a gate, and I of course volunteered before I could get chosen.

Anyway, it's a lot of fun, but I've been getting worn down. Add to that a bit of frustration over my new SIPR account not wanting to behave, and my personal laptop being infested with a virus.

Anyway, I called up my Beloved and had a meltdown in her general direction, not improved by the fact that it took me a while to get ahold of her. To her great credit, she was understanding and supportive and then when it became obvious how crummy I was really feeling, rather insistent that I should go pray and then go sleep.

Funny how a little prayer and a good night's sleep improves one's perspective.