31 July 2007

Links on Iraq, John Doe, The Most Disturbing Statement I've Seen all Week

OK, first there is the John Doe protection bill that died in committee.

Here's a rundown on it. I picked that rundown because it is favorable to the bill, yet not nearly as inflammatory as it some of the Conservative blogs out there.

For the record: In the Case of the Flying Imams, I do believe the passengers were justified in being nervous. I do believe that the airline acted reasonably. I do NOT believe that Middle Eastern Military-age Males praying in public, moving around an airplane and congregating together, and requesting seat belt extenders that look like ready-made weapons is a negligible threat.

On the other hand, whenever someone says, "Allahu Akbar," I reflexively duck, then go after the shouter with the intent to detain at a minimum.

On the other hand, there are obvious abuses which spring to mind. Let's say Joe and Jane Arab, or Persian, or Indonesian, are law-abiding homeowners in the suburbs. Let's say Joe Indonesian has a card game on Thursday nights with a couple of his buddies--who also happen to be Indonesians, or Pakistanis, or whatever. Maybe they all know each other from their mosque, where they go more or less out of family tradition and because they believe it is 'good for the kids'. Let's further suggest that Joe Indonesian has an ongoing dispute with his neighbor, Bob Sixpack. Maybe Bob's kids won't stay out of Mrs. Indonesian's flower garden. Maybe Bob's daughter turns her stereo up too loud and Joe complains about it. Whatever. Petty neighborhood disputes are as American as blatant xenophobia and ignorance of other languages.

So Bob Sixpack calls his local FBI office with an anonymous tip about the "cell" of "Arab" terrorists.

What then? Does FBI Agent ignore it and risk his career? Do Joe and Jane get a no-knock warrant executed on their front door on Thursday evening?

Even if you set aside malicious intent, there's the question of knowledge. I have a pretty good idea what to look for in a suicide bomber. Do you? Does Fred All-American know the difference between a Costa Rican who owns a construction business taking his family to Disney World, and Jamal abu Jihadi who is taking a one-way flight to the afterlife? Hell, no. Most American's can't peg the ethnic group of someone with a dark complexion more than half the time. Most Americans cannot pick the potential suicide bomber out of a crowd. Part of that is because they have not been educated--because of liability issues, who wants to take responsibility for saying that a Middle Eastern military-aged man with a freshly-shaved beard, smelling of flower water, who is either nervous or stoned, wearing unseasonably bulky clothing, is most likely to be someone you want to tackle now and ask questions of later?

I'm not sure that everyone needs the blanket legal protection implied in this act. I think it could have been better thought out.

Here's another thought-provoking article, which asks where the universal Leftist allegations of voter fraud we heard from the Left were utterly absent in 2006? The point is raised that, unlike the allegations of Bush's cheating, the questionable nature of the 2006 elections is underscored by instances of voter fraud in Seattle, Florida, New York, and other locations across the country. I guess it comes down to the question of whose ox is being gored?

Meanwhile, in the news on the actual war. . .

The New York Times admits there is great progress in much of Iraq.

I'm shocked that this saw publication.

"The political debate in Washington is surreal. The Bush administration has over four years lost essentially all credibility. Yet now the administration’s critics, in part as a result, seem unaware of the significant changes taking place.

"Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with."

Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack have left the reservation?

"American advisers told us that many of the corrupt and sectarian Iraqi commanders who once infested the force have been removed. The American high command assesses that more than three-quarters of the Iraqi Army battalion commanders in Baghdad are now reliable partners (at least for as long as American forces remain in Iraq)."

"In war, sometimes it’s important to pick the right adversary, and in Iraq we seem to have done so. A major factor in the sudden change in American fortunes has been the outpouring of popular animus against Al Qaeda and other Salafist groups, as well as (to a lesser extent) against Moktada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army."

"These groups have tried to impose Shariah law, brutalized average Iraqis to keep them in line, killed important local leaders and seized young women to marry off to their loyalists. The result has been that in the last six months Iraqis have begun to turn on the extremists and turn to the Americans for security and help. The most important and best-known example of this is in Anbar Province, which in less than six months has gone from the worst part of Iraq to the best (outside the Kurdish areas). Today the Sunni sheiks there are close to crippling Al Qaeda and its Salafist allies. Just a few months ago, American marines were fighting for every yard of Ramadi; last week we strolled down its streets without body armor."

What? The New York Times is saying what Conservative milbloggers have been saying for months now?

I guess that once in a while, journalism happens even the most corrupt places.

Tigerhawk points out an implication of the last paragraph that some of you might have missed, though I've been saying this for years.

"It has begun to dawn on even lefties with a couple of brain cells to rub together that we ain't fighting Iraq here. That war is over. We won. Saddam ain't the winner if we leave. He and the Baathists are dead. We are allied with "Iraq" in a fight against Salafist Al Qaeda. We had to figure out how to create our ally -- literally recreate Iraq -- and General Petraeus seems to have figured out how to do that. And furthermore, that ally has in turn figured out that in Petraeus and his strategy, Iraq has a capable friend in the US."

"The corollary is that if we leave, Al Qaeda wins. Not Iraq. Not Saddam. Al Qaeda. Got it?"

Blackfive ties this NYT piece, the above-mentioned question, and the congressional testimony of Francis J. West into a coherent whole.

Let me quote from Mr. West's testimony.

"It makes a vast difference to our self-esteem as a nation, to our reputation around the world and to the morale of our enemies whether we say we are withdrawing because the Iraqi forces have improved or because we have given up.

"That issue towers above any discussion of tactics, logistics diplomacy or even timing. The Iraqi Study Group and former Secretary of State Kissinger have suggested that negotiations might yield an honorable withdrawal - some sort of compromise that extracts American soldiers while not precipitating a collapse inside Iraq. But it's not clear what convergence of interests with Iran or Syria would persuade them to cease supporting insurgents. And inside Iraq, the Jesh al Mahdi extremists and al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) must be destroyed, not placated.

"Separate from AQI, though, there are a dozen other Iraqi insurgent groups. At the local level, there have been productive negotiations with the tribes, undoubtedly including some of these insurgents. These bottom-up understandings, focused against AQI, occurred because military action changed the calculus of the tribes about who was going to win. Successful negotiations flowed from battlefield success, not the other way around."

His final points are excellent.

"First, General Petraeus is our wartime leader. He has a smart, experienced staff. He will provide to you a fulsome, balanced assessment in September - far superior to anything you will hear in the interim."

"Second, how you, our elected leaders, depict our withdrawal will have profound consequences. To a very large extent, you will shape the narrative, determining how our great nation is perceived and how friends and enemies respond to us."

"Third, if the rationale for withdrawal is because Iraq seems hopeless, then leaving behind a residual force is fraught with peril. You cannot quit, and expect to manage what happens after you quit. Iraq, if it perceives it is being abandoned, could fly apart quickly."

"Fourth, the rationale for withdrawal drives everything that comes thereafter. Why are we withdrawing? Is it because we as a nation have given up, concluding that full-scale civil war is inevitable; or has our military succeeded, allowing Iraqi forces to maintain stability?"

The Belmont Club provides commentary from yet another angle, looking at a potential catastrophe in Iraq (for al-Qaeda, not us) as a possible death-knell for that organization and hopefully its ideology.

"My own guess is that by attacking al-Qaeda, the US took engaged not only the most fanatical force in Iraq but the one with the most powerful narrative. And by shrewdly matching kinetic warfare with political warfare, organizing the victims of al-Qaeda's depredations, it brought the myth down to earth. As long as al-Qaeda remained an "idea" it might be regarded as invincible, a mystical will o' the wisp. But once this mystical force was forced to materialize in Iraq, it became embodied in the likes of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his henchmen, who, viewed up close, turned out to be nothing more than brutal gangsters of the lowest and most sadistic type instead of latter day Companions of the Prophet. Even Zawahiri, despite his pretensions to refinement, could not avoid discrediting himself as he proved unable to resist threatening to gouge people's eyes out if they did not follow his bidding. It is said that no man is a hero to his own valet. Familiarity with the genuine article brought disillusionment, contempt and finally hatred for al-Qaeda."

Finally, at least for the Iraq Question, let me share two links to day-to-day looks at what this war is like:

Stars and Stripes tells the story of an anti-crime operation in an area formerly an insurgent stronghold.

Michael Totten shares his experiences on a raid.

The Most Disturbing Statement I've Seen all Week?

It comes from a Livejournal post. Most of it talks about economics, which frankly I'm not terribly interested in. Stock market collapses, I still have a job. Civilians worry about that stuff. I try and keep the barbarians from burning down Wall Street. It's a living.

The disturbing bit?

"Hard for me to even imagine an Army that isn't staunchly Republican, but before Viet Nam apparently is was about 1/3 Republican, 1/3 Independent, 1/3 Democrat."

Ummm. . . wow. I don't even know where to begin with that. I need clarification before I can decide HOW it creeps me out, but I know it does.

If he means he can't imagine a Democrat deciding to defend his, her, or its country, that says something about Democrats. Something that would have Harry Truman rolling over in his grave.

Then again, nowadays Harry Truman would be considered about the center of the Republican Party. I understand that Yuripup is younger than I am (I'm all of 29) and so he certainly doesn't remember a time when the Democratic Party and the politicians affiliated with the party had anything resembling respect for the Armed Forces. Which explains why we generally return the same contempt and disgusts in their direction. :)

Reinforces what I said before, here.

EDIT: Upon recieving further information, I stand corrected. Yuripup is a decade older than I did, but only began following politics closely enough to concern himself with the Armed Forces in 1985. Which makes sense.


Anonymous Bill McD said...

Just to make a minor point, as Glenn Greenwald demonstrates here, those two were never on any reservation. They've been pushing the Beltway Media Line the whole time.

10:29 AM  
Anonymous Bill McD said...

Also... (just cuz I just got to the later part...) Yuri's not younger than you are. I'm willing to bet he can remember (however vaguely) the Ford administration (I can, VERY vaguely, and he's 2 years older than I am... of course, I was at the Bicentennial Fleet Day ceremonies where Ford had one of his stumbles).

And I think what he's saying isn't that he can't imagine a Democrat deciding to defend his/her/its/their country, but rather that in his conscious awareness of it, the Army has consistently towed the conservative line. Probably a result of his awareness of the military (and especially the Army) being limited to the period after the reorganization following Vietnam, and the subsequent action/reaction events of the Carter and Reagan administrations. Most of us who came of age when the Gipper was in charge have only been exposed to a military that trends Republican consistently (in part, I think, due to the government's rejection of military options in the half-decade immediately following the end of our involvement in Vietnam, and the renewed investment in the capabilities of the military under Reagan. Truthfully, though, I think given the events of the time, no matter which party had been in power from 1980-1992 (which could just as conceivably have been the dems, had Carter found some way to win), the military would have found itself in the same 'build-up' position. If for no other reason than the increasing pressures for reform within the eastern bloc necessitated a strong western response capability in the event of violent internal strife. The USSR's break-up could have been a MUCH more vicious and bloody affair, especially considering the nuclear capabilities inherint in places like Ukraine.

10:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps in the 50s-70s you'd have found more union factory workers and miners and such, who would be Dems but would fit in well as enlisted and NCOs.

1:53 PM  
Blogger Just A Decurion said...

"Truthfully, though, I think given the events of the time, no matter which party had been in power from 1980-1992 (which could just as conceivably have been the dems, had Carter found some way to win), the military would have found itself in the same 'build-up' position."

That's questionable. Are you saying that had there been a Democratic president, the majority of Democrats would have changed their votes on major defense spending bills to favor them?

In other words, many Democrats were voting against defense spending out of spite even then?

2:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember the 1980's quite well..and the struggles Ronnie had to get the (Dem majority) congress to derectalize its collective craniums (cranea??). I remember the furor of the intermediate-range missles in Germany and how the Dems denounced these in no less certain terms than they denounce Iraq today. There was SALT, START, Iceland (I can spell Iceland, but not its capital city) and the Strategic Defense Initiative that was (and still is) decried as 'Star Wars'.

If you have ever seen the movie Red Dawn (first movies of Charlie Sheen, Patrick Swayze, Jenifer Gray), Milius fairly well captures the US Military and society circa 1980. The movie was just a fictionalized expansion of the very real Desert One fiasco.

Had Carter been re-elected in 80, the events depicted in the movie would be quite plausible--especicially had the Dems succeeded with the Mondale/Ferraro ticket in 1984. And could there possibly be a WORSE offering than Dukakis/Bentsen in '88? (well, okay McGovern/Shriver in '72 was worse...but not by much).

The biggest mistake of historians is to conclude that the way things did turn out was the only way they could have turned out. The fall of the Berlin Wall was ANYTHING but predictable even a week before it did. Desert Shield/Desert Storm was unpredictable even a week before it happened. Lots of history 'just happens' and is entirely dependant on the decisions that people make.

The 1980's was Americas decade of rebirth. But the rebirth happened DESPITE the best efforts of the Democrats, not because of them. The Dems opposed that rebirth with all their energy and skill. In fact, the best and brightest Dems of that decade were total losers. History was against the Democratic party then, and it appears that this is repeating itself in our decade.

7:30 PM  
Anonymous Bill McD said...

What I'm saying is that I'm not sure that a Democratic President, given the same information that Reagan had in the late 80s, would not have made the same choices. And I believe that the Congress would have acted as it did, regardless.

Congress and the Presidency have very different responsibilities. They are, in fact, supposed to be adversarial to a significant extent, providing the checks on one another's authority. Much of the difficulties of 'our decade' have stemmed from the Congress abdicating its role in forcing the President to justify his actions, and the American people abdicating ours in forcing all three branches to justify theirs.

Government works best when it is not trusted to work at all, when it is viewed as a necessary evil, but an evil nonetheless.

9:12 PM  
Blogger A Soldier's Girl said...

If we end up with a Dem in the WH, I pray to God we end up with Repub Congress.

I love the fact that we've got a Repub prez and a Dem Congress. Makes it harder for either one of them to shove anything down our collective throats.

1:47 AM  
Blogger dracphelan said...

1. I know a few Democrats who are veterans. But, they are also not the loony left that you typically see leading the party. Their typical response to people like Sheehan and Fienstein is "Get off of my side. You are making it look stupid."
Another Democrat who respects the military is Toby Keith. We just need more Democrats like them.
2. I don't think some people realize how weak of a position the USA was in post Vietnam. I have talked with intelligence people who debriefed Soviet defectors. There were two things stopping them from invading the USA: our nukes and all of the civilian guns. If they thought we wouldn't launch, they knew they wouldn't be able to hold the territory.
3. I am very afraid of the 2008 elections. I honestly believe that, depending on who gets elected (Republican or Democrat), we will see this country very divided. To be honest, both the Republican and Democratic front-runners records on individual rights scare me.

5:29 AM  
Anonymous Bill McD said...

Yeah... hmmm...

Kucinich/Gravel '08? Now that's scary.

6:44 AM  
Blogger Just A Decurion said...

"They are, in fact, supposed to be adversarial to a significant extent, providing the checks on one another's authority."

Yes, up to a point.

However, Congress isn't fulfilling that job description by reflexively fighting every initiative the White House comes out with, especially if it is an initiative that particular Congresscritter was loudly calling for on the floor of the House six months ago.

At that point--the point that much of the Democratic Congresscritters have reached--you're just a dishonest asshole who is trying to get air time cheaply.

7:34 AM  
Anonymous YuriPup said...

Actually I am 38 and will be 39 before the end of the year.

And my comment is much like the kids who were voting for the first time in '92 who hadn't ever known anything but a Republican president.

I couldn't tell you when I became aware of the political leanings of the armed forces--say sometime after 85--that means for the entire time I have been looking at the fact the Armed Forces have been heavily Republican.

And I think you better check up on Truman. He warned about corporate greed, advocated universal health insurance, worked for the repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act, and had an aggressive civil rights program, and integrated the Armed Forces (I am sure you knew that).

Classic, progressive, New Deal Democrat. If there is anyone running from their roots its the Republicans.

5:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill McD:
What I'm saying is that I'm not sure that a Democratic President, given the same information that Reagan had in the late 80s, would not have made the same choices.

I AM sure that a Dem president in the 1980's would have made different choices than Reagan did. Among other things: Reagan called the fUSSR "The Evil Empire" while the leadership of the Dems was meeting with the Soviet leadership and conspiring with them against the President.

Quoting from http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=ZGM2ZTE4Y2ExNDU3NGMyNmNhMWNkYjU3ZWNhYTk0NGQ=

"Now it happens again, with professor Paul Kengor quoting from a top-secret KGB report about their contacts with Kennedy, in his new book The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism. The document, first released in the Sunday Times by Tim Sebastian in 1992, reveals how Kennedy secretly offered the KGB to work together to undermine President Reagan. This proposal was conveyed to the Soviets by former senator John Tunney in 1983. "

Now, if you want to respond that the Kennedys did not represent the Democratic leadership (or at least a significant portion of it) you will have a lot of proving to do.

6:44 PM  
Blogger A Soldier's Girl said...


The misconception of age is my fault. I'm sorry about that. For some God-unknown reason, I thought you were in your late 20s.

6:56 PM  
Anonymous YuriPup said...

No harm done.

I have more than once assumed someone was just about my age or a bit younger and there isn't a lot of age specific stuff on my blog.

Makes me remember finding out that Doc, an internet friend was about 10 years younger than I was. At the same time another friend thought Doc was her age--and that woman is 20 years my senior.

Figuring age on the internet is a tricky thing.

And as I said on my blog, I can imagine Democrats enlisting and defending the country and that is a direction I have been drawn to myself--though I never took the plunge.

8:34 PM  
Blogger A Soldier's Girl said...


I wish more Dems would! It might help balance out the views it seems that the left and right have of each other. Honestly, a lot of folx don't get to know/talk to/nod at too many folx of the opposite political persuasion, simply because well...we tend to hang about with those like us.

Granted, I've sort of been on both ends of the spectrum. I've been the most liberal person in my unit (truck drivers) and one of the most conservative (public affairs) and while I'd say I've gotten more conservative as I've gotten older, there was really only a one year gap between those units.

9:36 PM  
Blogger Just A Decurion said...

Yeah, but Truman also managed to demobilize the Army slower than Congress would have liked, maintained large forces overseas as AoAs, and manned up and slapped the hell out of the NKPA when they came rolling across the 38th Parallel.

Modern Democrats would have perhaps sent Kim Il-Sung a stiffly worded note and held a candlelight vigil.

Well, excepting those Democrats who would have been holding demonstrations wrapped in North Korean flags. Oh, wait! ANSWER IS a front organization for a splinter faction of the WWP, which DOES support the DPRK. . . And has no difficulty getting Democrats to support their programs.

Remember, I primarily think foreign policy/defense policy.

9:55 PM  
Anonymous YuriPup said...


I appreciate the clarification.

12:37 AM  
Anonymous Dave said...

Listen, if the Bush/ Wolfowitz/ Cheney/ Rumseld cabal hadn't done such a catastrophic job (Osama escape, unguarded arms dumps, thinskinned HumVees, not enough troops) we wouldn't be in this mess. We can criticize the lefties, but let's remember that it was our glorious Commander in Chief who is at fault here.

8:45 PM  
Blogger Just A Decurion said...

You know, I've actually addressed every one of these points before, Dave.

Let me give you the executive summary:

Unguarded arms dumps: Hussein had literally hundreds of arms dumps scattered around the country. We were finding them 9 and 10 months after the invasion in the sector in which I was stationed after the initial invasion (Tikrit). Can hardly criticize folks for not guarding what they didn't know existed. Besides which, if the Prez is directing folks to guard specific ammo dumps, then he's micromanaging.

Not enough troops: Logistics is king. One port, limited road network, it would have been impossible to push another 100K troops down that avenue of approach in 2003. Read Franks' autobio.

Thinskinned HMMWVs (if you are going to attempt to use terminology, do it right). I've patrolled in them, and I preferred them to the abortions in use today. It isn't a serious issue, and never was. It's a spurious criticism. No one ever considered armoring every softskin in the logistics train before, and the idea that we might consider it was never discussed. We had a hard enough time getting funding for the weapons programs we did have in the 1990s. Many Congressional Democrats voted against procuring the IBA, remember? Kerry, for one. They weren't going to appropriate billions of dollars to put armor plate on trucks that were never intended as primary combat vehicles.

12:16 AM  

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