Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Christian Carnival #85 is Up!

Christian Carnival #85 is now ready for your pleasure and inspection, up at Crossroads: Where Faith and Inquiry Meet.

I recommend you stop by the Carnival, where I enjoyed the following:
A Penitent Blogger reflects on the fragility of life and the security of Christ in I thought it was safe.

Donna-Jean at LibertyandLily has some thoughts on forgiveness - and unforgiveness - and how vital it is that we get it all right. This topic is a hard one for me so I really appreciated this post:
Something to Think About.
Lots more, but that's all I have time for tonight, I am overdue for bed!


A New Birth of Freedom

Captain Ed at Captain's Quarters posts on the historic 25th Anniversary of the successful conclusion of the Gdansk Shipyard strikes in Poland. Poland’s trade unions spent the month of August 1980 launching a wave of strikes throughout Poland, at the forefront of which was Lech Walesa and Solidarity.

August 31, 1980, twenty-five years ago, was the day Lech Walesa declared victory over Poland’s Communist Masters, in announcing, "We have free, independent trade unions." Unlike the bitterly disappointing Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia, this spontaneous rising of the people represented the first large crack in the Iron Curtain, and would foretell the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, and ultimately doom the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) itself.

As Captain Ed recounts:
Walesa showed the world that the Soviet hegemony could be challenged, a particularly poignant demonstration given the track record not only of earlier attempts such as Prague Spring in 1968 but the track record of the United States in recent years prior to Walesa's challenge. Jimmy Carter's kiss still remained fresh on Leonid Brezhnev's cheek when Walesa stood up to the Polish Communists, bolstered by Pope John Paul the Great and a sense that justice eventually prevails against tyranny.

Walesa touched off a series of events that took time to for their momentum to build into a movement. Americans rejected the defeatism of Carter and instead looked to Ronald Reagan for the same moral clarity in the war against Communist oppression that the Gdansk dock workers showed. His success and avoidance of imprisonment emboldened others to dissent. Within a decade, the superpower status of the Soviet state had crumbled into dust, and communism as a political philosophy got consigned to the ash heap of history -- in other words, limited to Western academia.

If you have an opportunity today to take a look at a map of Europe, draw a line through Germany and then look between that line to the edge of Russia. One man led a small movement at a Polish dock that eventually freed all of that territory without a shot being fired -- one of the truly remarkable events in human history, and an anniversary well worth celebrating.
I share Captain Ed’s belief that this was an event of tremendous significance to the world, to the quest for freedom, for inspiration for “we happy few” who have the privilege to serve on the front lines of freedom.

It is unfortunate, but no less true, that Western academia remains a mausoleum, holding out more stubbornly than the Tomb of Lenin, and enshrining the hopelessly utopian mirage of “might have been,” in the face of decades and decades of bitterness and death. The shrines of Socialism are still tended, and its acolytes have mustered in defense of they know and care not what, as long as the battle forms against the old enemy of the West.

I don’t hear it remarked on enough, but there are many parallels between the Cold War fight against Communism, and our current struggle against radical Islamic Terrorism. We must fight our elites, and political opposition, as fiercely in rhetoric and debate, as we likewise fight our Al Qaeda opponents and other forces of tyranny. War makes strange bedfellows, and Ideology is the lust that passes between them. The philosophical and spiritual underpinnings of the current lust for the greater Caliphate are the same old, tired and empty Marxist and anti-Capitalist slogans that motivated Wobblies, fellow travelers, and, in later generations, the eco-terrorists, pan-globalists and neo-isolationists (like I said, strange bedfellows), and of course, the anti-establishment press.

Europe, most all of Europe, now breathes free. Thanks in large part to Ronald Reagan, the Republican Party, some pro-Defense Democrats, Pope John Paul, internal contradictions and economic fault lines of the Eastern Bloc itself, and Solidarity in Poland.

I was part of our Intelligence effort against the USSR and Warsaw Pact in the mid ‘80s. I remember the sense, often bitterly described, of the brinksmanship we played with the failing Soviet Masters. I remember the intense importance of medium range nuclear weapons in Europe and the Near East. I remember the raging debates about whether a tough approach, or détente was best suited to keeping the world from total destruction yet containing Soviet aggression. I remember thinking Reagan a wild man, a puppet of hidden masters, and the great likelihood of needing to have an escape plan to Switzerland. (Not seriously, but the thought of it.)

The longer I studied the threat, the more immersed I grew with the subject of our scrutiny, the less certain I was in my own preconceptions. Yes, the USSR was greatly weakened economically, and even military (that was clear to anyone watching well), but the threat was still great, and the evil was real and largely underappreciated.

I remember the nervous years between 1980 and 1989, not knowing how the winds would blow, how the edifice might crumble, and how fiercely they would fight if collapse was to come. It was perhaps too much to hope that all of Eastern Europe would be free, that the USSR itself would fragment into near constituencies.

I remember August 1980 well, a time of truly remarkable events.

Links: Mudville Gazette (Backup Site), Outside the Beltway, Basil's Blog

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


OPSEC and Pandora's Box

Greyhawk at Mudville Gazette weighs in on the Schoomaker OPSEC memo, and his reference to blogs. Greyhawk notes a UPI Story out today, as it appeared in The Washington Times.

Greyhawk makes some corrections of misstatements in the UPI report, and offers the following assessment:
Just putting things in perspective here - the "Army declares war on blogs" theme is perhaps interesting fodder for bloggers (and apparently UPI reporters) - but it doesn't approach the reality of the situation, and from reading the actual memo "the Army" knows it. The problem is most likely too large for any but two possible solutions. One: deny internet access to deployed troops (major morale blast there) or two: train, educate and insist on strict adherence to security standards. Looks like which option is implemented is in the hands of lower level commanders. As noted here before, their responses may vary.
I would certainly agree with Greyhawk's assessment. My freedom to blog is constrained by my Commander's assessment of how well I practice OPSEC. So far, so good. (And writing nice things about him has nothing to do with it.) My intent is indicated in my initial post on this issue. Each local Commander will have wide discretion in monitoring, censoring, or even shutting down blogs of Soldiers under their command. And some will no doubt be overcautious, timid, or reluctant to take any heat for a would-be journalist "embedded" in their unit.

Furthermore, I take to heart Blackfive's observation that many things about our war in Iraq are experimental. The US Army is trying out a lot of new doctrine, new techniques, new warfighting capabilities, and new services important to Soldier care.

The amount of connectedness in this battlespace is unparalleled in history, any Army, any war. It brings immediate and spectacular advantages. And it likewise delivers results home so rapidly that innocents are being harmed by premature revelations, or mistaken identities resulting from a too rapid, non-validated rumor-mongering, or even an unsympathetic press that uses real-time snippets of news as lure to prey upon vulnerable family members.

Things may very well change in the future. Soldiers may not have unlimited internet access. Mail access. The freedom to blog. Perhaps the Army will try to control information too tightly. Perhaps they'll implement a kind of military-sponsored "syndicate," where unit members can sign on to "self-embed" with their units. Such a process might grant freedom to blog with self-censorship, provided the Soldier blogger agree to various rules or policies. Like a online journalistic code of ethics, a Hippocratic Oath of blogging.

As Blackfive also suggested, if there is to be some solution found that preserves the critical value of the MILBLOG, yet maintains meaningful OPSEC, the solution will have to come from within the community of military bloggers.

Links: Basil's Blog, Dawn Patrol at Mudville Gazette

Monday, August 29, 2005


A Visit with the Iraqi Army

We rolled on to the compound, and initially started to go through the normal stand down procedures for coming onto one of our FOBs. We were interrupted before we could complete these procedures, as our training team came out to meet our vehicles, and told us that we could and should stay in a “red” status. Gunners went to Amber, and remained with the vehicles along with most of the crews.

Our Officer in Charge (OIC) started our visit with a Commander’s slide presentation of his training of the IA unit. Following the slide presentation, we were joined by Deputy Commanding General (DCG), along with an IA LTC, who acted as an personal Interpreter for the DCG, in addition to a US Contractor, who attended our entire visit and otherwise translated for other IA officers as required.

The DCG spoke generally of the training needs of the IA. (We were to discover and explain to the DCG later in our visit that we were not, in fact, US Army trainers who would be working for him, as he thought, but rather guests of our team, simply visiting the facilities.)

The DCG explained that the IA was most in need of trust and discipline, and that this applied at all levels of society. He described that the IA were learning from the Americans a kind of openness and a form of equality, but that these new “freedoms” needed to be offset or balanced by a high amount of discipline, trust and self-less service. Under Saddam, the Army was politicized, and sections and people in positions of power looked for what they could gain, personally. Corruption and selfishness was still a big problem.

The DCG specifically mentioned his G2 element, Intelligence and Security. (This was to be a recurring theme with the Deputy Commander, who quite explicitly said he needed our trainers’ help in making the Intelligence Department “get with the program,” like the G1, G3, G4 sections.

Under Saddam, The DCG explained, the Intelligence components of IA were a part of the security and (secret) police apparatus. They were how power was consolidated, held, and expanded. Now, under the new model, the G2 was a necessary component of the Command, but it was still acting independently, interfering with the other G elements, and not sharing (intelligence) information with the Commanders. The DCG explained that he needed Intelligence to “work straightly” (honestly and without subterfuge). They need to serve the people, and be the guide, the Commander’s eyes. They need to embrace ideas of equality and democracy, and not look for ways to benefit themselves. He described his mission as looking after Soldiers, making sure they were paid, but encourage them to focus on their work.

The DCG said, their work is “right.” He implored we Americans to give the Iraqi a chance, to treat them kindly and attract them to us. He said not to believe reports about breaking into houses to take Iraqis. (I believe he was saying, he does not believe that we are doing this.) Arab peoples have different traditions, we need to respect them. When the Americans first came, The DCG described, we taught them how to obey(?); now, we need to treat our Soldiers how to respect and treat people well, not harm or hurt them. He gave an example of crushing a vehicle in our way, a vehicle that turns out to be the only means of support for a family. (I believe at this point the General was describing points of possible friction and misunderstanding between IA and US forces.)

The DCG explained that his family was from Baghdad, and as much as they suffered during the years of Saddam, they didn’t really know what was going one elsewhere in the country.

He spoke of his hope of making Iraqis “one team,” that we teach Iraq what democracy can be, not discord and chaos, but can include discipline. Iraq, he said, had not been Islamic only, there were other principles, there were the “actions of Islam,” but not in a religious way. (I think he was speaking here of a kind of surface Islamism, either referring to Saddam’s transparent posturing, or perhaps of a societal “culture” not matched by religious fervor.)

Most Iraqis, The DCG explained, don’t have Islamic backgrounds, and many do not know their own history. The DCG identified his own family intermixing of Kurds and Sunni and Shia, that this is very common. Saddam created and sustained and left as a legacy distrust, but reading and learning can dispel that distrust. Uneducated people shed blood, they don’t know any better.

We then were treated to Chai (tea), soda, and water, in the large banquet room.

At the end of our initial meeting with The DCG, he escorted us around the facilities, taking great pains to show us all of the renovations they had completed in just one week’s time. (He frequently commented on what terrible shape the buildings had been left in. He showed us a big white board at the entrance to the HQ, which listed in detail all pay and allowances for the different ranks of IA Soldiers, and identified what withholdings came out for taxes, etc. The DCG explained that this was to ensure that all Soldiers knew what they were supposed to and would receive, and prevent any of the paymasters or leaders from stealing some of their pay due. (This had been a problem.)

Likewise, The DCG identified large placards in the parking lot that were to hold unit status and readiness information, number of Soldiers, number on leave, etc. He explained that they were all serving 3 weeks on, 1 week off, that many Soldiers were from quite some distance away, and were given the extra time to be able to commute to their families when off duty.

He also pointed out equipment that they had salvaged that had been discarded by departing American forces. The DCG made heavy use of inventories, vehicle and equipment counts featured prominently throughout the HQ.

The DCG also introduced us to the HHC CPT, a young man who explained a normal duty day, beginning with PT at 0630, training after, a quick breakfast at around 1000, lunch around 1300, and then training in the afternoon. They train 5 days a week, with Fridays and Saturdays off, during which time the Soldiers could clean, do laundry. Play sports, and relax.

We then were introduced to the Commanding General (CG). The CG likewise gave a very general talk about the IA and treated all of us with great courtesy and respect, as had the DCG. (Both Generals wear the red stripe on their shoulder boards, signifying Officers trained at War College.)

The CG introduced his talk with us by stating that the IA “would not be here” without the help of the Americans. He spoke poetically of two hands, the American unit and IA unit, that both hands are needed to clap. And when we will clap, he said, “the world will hear us.”

The CG spoke proudly and eloquently of the dramatic change in the mission of the new Iraqi Army. He spoke of a history, beginning in 1921, when the British Army first helped them organize, and upon whom they modeled their forces, units, and organization. He pointed to a stack of manuals, and said the IA had learned how to fight from the British, that they had a long and proud history, but that these manuals and knowledge had fallen into disuse and forgotten, during the long years under Saddam, when Officers advanced due to politics and tribe connections.

The CG explained that he had had a comfortable life with the Peshmurga in the North, but had accepted his current command because they needed his help and he wanted to help the Iraqi Army rediscover its proud history. He spoke several times of needing to prepare his unit for their next Commander.

The CG described an IA whose morale Saddam had destroyed. He also mentioned the role of Intelligence, how they needed to “go look for the enemy.” Saddam used Intelligence to use fight each against the other. Intelligence forces were “brainwashed,” trained full of suspicion and distrust. The General’s G2 element wouldn’t move into the HQ, they resisted cooperating, they were not focused on their mission, they were busy worrying about the work of the other G elements. They were used to power, being involved in everything, involved in patronage. The CG asked our OIC if he was related to any of us. He compared that to the IA, where the G2 is staffed by a group of people of shared tribal connections. These are the only people they feel they can trust.

The CG interrupted his remarks to escort us to a luncheon. He and his staff officers (CPT and above) sat around a very long banquet table, and our party joined them in no particular seating order, although the two Generals appeared to gesture for our female officers to sit near them. Our CSM sat between two LTCs, with whom he discussed the role of the NCO Corps, especially the roles of CSM and 1SG in assisting Company and Battalion Commanders. While our enlisted Soldiers were invited to the table and not refused, no IA enlisted Soldiers shared our meal, and IA Lieutenants were seated at tables below us on a lower portion of the room.

The meal was described as pretty typical for the Officers. Roasted chicken, a soup of roasted lamb shank in some type of beet soup, savory rice with some seasoned carrots on top, various fresh vegetables, peppers and cucumbers, a relish mix of some kind, and nan-type bread in a very long jumbo cigar shape. We were also served Chai after our meal. When the CG was done, he rose, and we all at that point got up with him, and followed him back to his office, where our audience with him resumed.

The CG suggested it will take 10-15-20 years to change attitudes. It was always a Regional Army, based on tribal associations. If the IA stays that way, it will drain energy needed elsewhere.He notes a big gap between civilizations, between the Americans and the Iraqis. They learn from us the ways in which we treat each other. He described how Iraqis would eat with their hands; they watch us with silverware, now they are learning too. He mentioned enlisted Soldiers, how they were from lower classes, not educated, while Officers were more educated. How the enlisted needed to be checked, how their hygiene and sanitation was poor, now they are better, the officers don’t need to “check their feet.” The IA has no experience with either the concept nor practical application of a Non-commissioned Officer (NCO) as the primary trainer and leader of Soldiers.

The CG said they were learning mutual respect as well. When the Americans first came, Officers and superiors, if someone stepped in the room, might yell at them harshly. They see the American Officers and Enlisted treat each other without yelling, or rudeness. The CG identified this change as an example of learning democracy. The General said he still can’t accept that he should consider a Command Sergeant Major the equal of Officers, and our CSM assured him that whoever told him he needed to was not telling him the truth. (Some of us weren’t so sure how he meant that.)

The CG concluded his remarks with an observation. He said that Iraq had been in captivity, imprisoned in a Dictatorship. Now, they were free, suddenly out in the open, and Iraqis don’t know what to do exactly with their freedom.

Our visit with the General concluded with him giving our group a box of confections, crushed cocoanut wrapped in log shapes around pistachios, which our Senior Officer accepted for our group.

The DCG escorted us back to his office, spoke for a short time, then presented us each, one by one, with a pair of Nike sneakers and a pair of socks, shook our hands, and thanked us for the honor of our visit. We pledged to return the generosity of his gift with some soccer equipment for his Soldiers.

Links: Basil's Blog, Major K, Mudville Gazette, Good News from Iraq (Winds of Change), Blogotional


Song's An Oldie Follow-up

Kirk at Recovery Vehicle was kind enough to post a very gracious (and to use his words, thoughtful) reply to my post. I had reacted to his response to the excellent post at The Makaha Surf Report, and promptly fisked his post. I had made mention of Caelestis's fine post just a short while earlier.

Kirk demonstrates qualities noticeably absent from the vast majority of discussion (both lefrt and right, pro-war and anti-war). He is able to acknowledge other points of view without rancor, he accepts disagreement as inevitable and not the result of ignorance, and he maintains a polite and civil discourse despite disagreement.

As such, I want to thank him for the time, thought, and effort that has prompted him to both seek other points of view and engage in debate.

My long time readers know that I appreciate civil debate, and have tried to promote this very ideal at Debate Space, the now dormant debate blog I have shared with the Liberal Avenger.

Kirk, if you wish to stop by and post a question, I'd like to invite you to a continued discussion, on this or any other topic you'd like to suggest.

Links: Mudville Gazette

Sunday, August 28, 2005


Profiles: The LT

“Top, if I hadn’t been here, your head would have fallen off a long time ago!”

We have a Lieutenant (LT) who serves as our Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC) Executive Officer (XO) – don’t you just love the way we military types make everything an acronym? And our LT is a character.

He jokes all the time. He especially likes to point out to others that he’s had to “dummy cord” my head to my shoulders, so in case it does fall off, we don’t lose track of it. Dummy cord is what the old time Army NCOs will use sometimes to help junior soldiers not lose important things, such as their weapon. We use a lot of a strong but light and slender cord, known as 550, and we use it to tie down items to our gear, or, as suggested, to keep a certain First Sergeant’s head from rolling off his shoulders in a fit of “Command” anger.

And where does that come from? From the many boneheaded, foolish and even outrageous things soldiers sometimes do, getting in hot water with Top. I sure have a temper, and those who have seen it tend not to want to see it again. With the initial stresses of mobilization training and deployment, I had a harder time controlling my anger, and the required command and control environment for Active Duty units, especially one such as ours, deploying into a combat zone, tends to favor more directive forms of leadership, and yes, a certain harshness. If Soldiers can’t handle anger and very sudden orders in the train-up environment, how on earth would they handle similar treatment under combat conditions?

Still, it’s a delicate balance sometimes between the hardness sometime required, and that which can stray into abuse. Early on, I needed to come to grips with the fact that my anger was sometimes getting the better of my judgment.

I remember the first day I met LT. I had only recently been promoted First Sergeant for HHC, following many years working strictly as an Intelligence Analyst or an Army Instructor of various Intelligence courses. They introduced me to this Staff Sergeant, and mentioned he was an Electronic Warfare (EW) Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) Analyst, Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) 98C. We don’t come across too many of those in the New York Army National Guard, so I took a special interest. At the time, I was running a SIGINT team on a Contributory Intelligence mission for a customer Agency, and immediately I thought, “I can use this guy.” At least I did at first, until he told me he was leaving shortly for Officer Candidate School (OCS). Drat.

And then I didn’t see him again, except as phantom, whose name would drift across our manning rosters. One of the many Soldiers attached to other units or away at schools. Besides, if we ever saw him again – and that was a less than 50% probability, the way people go away and then find new units – he’d come back an officer, and that would have meant he might still be useful to someone, but not to me. Little did I know.

The next time I saw LT was after we had mobilized and gone through all of our required training and were in a seemingly endless holding pattern at the Mobilization Site. A newly minted Second Lieutenant (2LT), the LT was assigned to the lair of he who would become his nemesis, the S3 shop (Plans and Training) of the Battalion.

Now I would be willing to bet that LT remembers our next encounter of significance, rather than the first I recounted above. I don’t even remember what it was about, but something the Battalion had initiated or ordered, instigated by the S3, was threatening to impact my Soldiers in various unpleasant ways for what I perceived as no good reason. This is uncommon neither for S3 shops, nor by reaction for First Sergeants who go to battle against them on behalf of those Soldiers. And it must have been, either that the LT was the minion charged with whatever plan it was, or just happened to be the only staff in the immediate vicinity when I let loose. (I think I’m beginning to see where this whole, “Your head’s gonna fall off” stuff started.)

I wasn’t happy about it at the time, but unusually for one of our staff officers, the LT went toe-to-toe with me and didn’t budge, didn’t flinch, didn’t back down. (He had to have still been wrong, but not remembering what the issue was, I can’t confirm particulars.) He is one stubborn Soldier when he thinks it’s important enough. And if it has to do with readiness, preparations, training or accountability, it will be important enough. Except when there’s a joke or gag involved, then that’s always important, too.

I think the command elements found him useful, intelligent, and highly capable, especially for a junior officer. That reflected his NCO experience. I think they also enjoyed his very boisterous sense of humor, at least they did until it took a critical turn. He’s quite a mimic, picks up the most telling mannerisms, and combines that with a tracker’s eye for the pathways of the foolish. In short, they may not have liked the way his sense of humor "turned inward." They found it too often disrespectful. Or too accurate. Both.

Somewhere along the line, the LT pushed an envelop a little farther than the seams allowed, and he ended up as our Company XO.

Our previous XO was quite remarkable in his own right, so much so that he was yanked away to do a mission in Baghdad, and we only see him now and again for visits. Also remarkably, he is an Orthodox Jew, who manages to maintain his faith traditions and Sabbath Ordinances while in a combat zone. He also manages to survive on Kosher meals-ready-to-eat (MREs), which I think would have killed any of the rest of us. Or at least caused us to go hungry, or violate the Ordinances. Anyway, I couldn’t have done it.

Right away, the LT seemed to take particular delight in poking fun at my “extremes” of behavior or character. He still tells the story of the day I was particularly frustrated with a certain obstinate (however skilled) Motor Sergeant. Mac was objecting to one of any number of Staff or Company requests that tried his patience, and gave me a Mac lecture (a rant in itself) about how they have the “best motor pool in Iraq,” and “they don’t realize what we have here,” and “where are you going to find a motor pool like this? Nowhere, that’s where!”

That’s the point at which I threw up my hands, stormed back into the HHC in a rant, “How many times do we have to tell them, they’re the best d**ned motor pool in all of Iraq!” I should note that, prior to the LT, whenever I would lose my temper like that, the CO, really pretty much everyone, would just raise their eyebrows and murmur, “What was all that about?”

This quickly became applied to anyone and anything I would get angry at. The S6 would fix one of our computers, but only halfway or forget a final, necessary step (Don’t get me started.) “How many times do we have to tell the S6, they’re the best d**ned S6 in all of Iraq?!” Or when the S3 (yet again) did something that “inconvenienced” the Companies, “How many times do we have to tell them, they’re the best d**ned S3 in all of Iraq?!”

It reached the point of absurdity when I started hearing, “How many times do I have to tell that coffee maker, that it’s the best d**ned coffee maker in all of Iraq?!” But it always makes me smile, now.

LT’s sarcasm is legendary. Perhaps you know the type, the guy who can make the simplest silliness seem the height of moronity. “What makes you think that?” Always with the most deadpan of expressions. And I’m gullible, I tend to (at first) believe pretty much anything anyone tells me. And he’s got me going so many times, I should always expect a joke or gag, but somehow I don’t.

We have a young woman helping us out as a clerk. She’s a fantastic clerk, very organized, a hard worker, raised on Long Island, a city girl. She’s rather small, and we in the HHC at first took a fairly protective stance, making sure she doesn’t run afoul of any of our more “obnoxious” characters. We needn’t have worried. She interacts easily with the Motor Pool mechanics. Her S1 colleagues ask her, “Aren’t you afraid of Mac?” “No way,” she says,” He’d do anything for you. He’s just like my father, always walking around cursing.”

The LT got her good one day. She was having trouble with her camera, she asked the LT if he could fix it, and while he was looking at it, she looked away while working on something else. At that moment, the LT licks up a hole punch and slams it really hard on the desk, saying “Hmmm, I wonder what’s wrong?” Our clerk whipped her head around like she was going to start screaming, only then realizing her camera was safe in his other hand.

Recently, I asked one of our guys to pick up some wings for me for dinner. I kept working, was hungry, and looking forward to the wings. A lot of our guys don’t go to the dining facility (DFAC), and for a time I had difficulty finding anyone to drive with me for dinner. The LT, famously, eats oatmeal (watery gruel he calls it), it seems like three times a day.

When the food was brought in, it was set over by the Charge of Quarters (CQ) desk. I couldn’t see it, my back was to the desk as I worked, and I could hear the LT, “Hmmmm, what have we here? Wings!”

I turn and see him eyeing a plate over by the side of our office, and I say, “Hands off, Lieutenant, that’s my dinner!” I see him reach down and pick up a wing, saying “You’re not going to want these.” As I jump up out of my chair, the LT starts to lick one wing after another, going through the entire plate as I get to him. “You SOB! I can’t believe you did that!” And then I look over to the CQ desk, and there’s another plate. My plate. He’s licked a plate full of wings alright, but they’re his. "The last XO wouldn't done that to you," he observes, "heck, he wouldn't have been able to touch them, let alone lick them!"

Now in case, as you’re reading this, you may think the good LT isn’t serious about anything, you’d be mistaken. He’s serious about a hundred things. Anything to do with NCOs, and how they should be, but often aren’t. He’s our Movement Officer, our Battalion Motor Officer, a Platoon Leader for Maintenance Platoon, a stand-in for the CO or HHC staff on dozens of different missions. He is a Convoy Commander, with as many Combat Logistic Patrols (CLP) as just about anybody. And he cares about his family, his wife and kids. He hates liars, dishonesty, immorality. He has a strong work ethic, and he makes sure the Soldiers come first.

Sure, he can be a little extreme sometimes. Like when he refers to his niece as a leading character in Revelations (not Jesus or God). Like when he explains that he had his three year old son hauling tree cuttings. “He needed to get to work.” Like when he takes on one of our most challenged NCOs as a personal project, and hounds him until he sees a step towards improvement in caring for Soldiers or completing a job to standard.

But he is 100% for his friends, for his Soldiers, for the unit, for our mission. He’s courageous, and forthright, honest and dedicated. He cares about all of our Soldiers, even the knuckleheads. (They’re his knuckleheads after all.) He admires and respects people most that really most deserve that respect. And he has more patience than you might guess, for either the knuckleheads, or for a certain First Sergeant who started out this deployment not knowing an air filter from a manifold, nor even the most rudimentary knowledge of anything related to electricity, mechanics, or construction.

I don’t know how I’ll manage without him, after this. That dummy cord better be strong, I have a feeling I’m gonna need it without him.


When I published this piece, he and the CO were very eager to read it. The LT pointed out two technical errors, said that was 5 points a piece, and wrote an "A" on the top of the printout, along with "Good but not your best work."

What were the errors? The LT points out that 550 cord (not 5/50 as I had originally rendered it. The 550 refers to the test of the cord, which is held to be able to sustain 550 pounds of pressure. The LT tells me that you should be able to rappelle with this cord, it's that strong.

The other error was rendering Soldier's instead of Soldiers when pluralizing the noun. (We have an NCO that uses 's every time he means more than one of anything, it drives the LT nuts.)

Leave it to the LT to have the last word.

Other Profiles in the Series:
The Motor Sergeant
The CO

Links: Basil's Blog, Outside the Beltway, Mudville Gazette, Dawn Patrol


This Song's An Oldie

Kirk at Songs from the Emperor’s Tailor puts out some tired refrains in response to Caelestis's fine post, which I linked to here after seeing it posted prominently at Mudville Gazette.

(That's a bit link-rich, but fully attributed.)

Why remark on the staleness of Kirk's rhetoric? I guess because of how rudely he responded to a very poetic post of a fine MILBLOGGER, the fact that he linked it back to Mudville, and well, because I'm tired of hearing the same old tripe. So here we go, a-fiskin':

Tired old tune number one:
But - he isn't in the military. He is a mercenary. Oops, I mean a contractor. So he's making, what? 20 or 30 times as much as a GI? Oh, and he can leave whenever he wants.
Kirk, in the 30 some years since Vietnam, pay and benefits for Soldiers have improved considerably. Base pay is very much higher, housing allowances usually exceed total cost of housing (except in the most expensive Metropolitan areas, and who can afford to live in Manhattan, anyway?). For Soldiers in Iraq, they also earn additional combat, hazardous duty pays, and all income is tax free.

From what I am able to discern about Caelestis, he may indeed be one of the better compensated contractors here -- he has an area of expertise highly technical and involving a security clearance, so he may make as much as two to three times what a Soldier of equivalent experience makes. Of course, he's prior service, so he left the military, and decided to pursue a military related career as a civilian. Many Soldiers do, many will, and the compensation reflects that not many people choose to put themselves in harm's way, if not compelled by a service obligation.
America is in Iraq because of the oil and for revenge following a plan based on faulty intelligence, myopic analysis and planning by yes-men who have never been to war.
For supposedly well-educated Americans, this creaky old melody is just plain dumb. We deposed Saddam Hussein, we are helping to create Democracy in Iraq, we have no control over oil, American oil companies have no great advantage in seeking oil contracts, the profits remain with the Iraqis, and there is no cost benefit analysis that can demonstrate that this financially benefits our government or American Corporations.

The benefits of toppling a brutal, terrorist supporting and sponsoring hater of America are almost entirely related to National Security in the face of global terror networks seeking ever greater levels of destruction and death.

The faulty intelligence so frequently cited was acknowledged and accepted by an overwhelming majority of western governments, the UN Security Council, and our own Congressmen and women. Links between Saddam and Al Qaeda are numerous and substantial. Saddam has weapons of mass destruction, and has either hid them, sold them, moved them, or perhaps even destroyed them in the months we allowed him while we patiently worked through the lethargic (and we now know, also corrupt) UN sanction and monitoring processes.
Think about that - none of those guys has actually been to war. Except for Colin Powell. The man who had been to war, the person on the Bush team who actually wore a uniform in the field, was marginalized and ignored while spin doctors and autocrats assured us of what would and wouldn't happen. And those guys were wrong. I mean, up and down wrong. Not a little wrong. They fucking blew it.
Colin Powell served the military with distinction. And he is widely regarded in military circles as overly cautious, a very reluctant warrior, a General who promoted the idea that you should never engage unless you were virtually certain of overwhelming victory. By such standards, we would have sued for peace or walked away from every major war we have fought in our history, save perhaps the actions in Panama or Grenada. Measured use of force, and all that.

We have had astounding victories in the field. We took out the Taliban and Saddam Hussein in time frames and with so few losses and collateral damage as to be unparalleled in history, by any Army in the world. It is true that building a democracy in a basket case such as Iraq has not been easy, there have been setbacks, but no one who watched history unfold on 30 January of this year could think that this effort has been anything but an outstanding achievement. The Soldiers who are fighting this war are re-enlisted in record numbers, and helping the military exceed re-enlistment quotas. Does this sound like the poor, misguided minions who have so spectacularly failed in their objectives, in Kirk’s view?
George Bush needs to leave. His administration needs to leave. Because they have failed miserably. They have failed the Nation and they were unacceptably slow to support the troops when they needed it.
You will not find a significant number of Soldiers on the ground who will agree with this assessment. Something close to 75% of Soldiers supported President Bush in the last election. They may not all agree with the war, or how we're fighting it.

(Many want us to be tougher, meaner, and less careful about civilian casualties, I might add. America has always had a "Nuke the Bastards" attitude about our enemies, and Soldiers reflect these views no less than their civilian counterparts in the heartland.)

But there is one thing a huge majority of Soldiers know in their hearts. This President is proud of them, cares for them, fights for them, and tremendously respects their service, and sacrifice. Those that hate him will never see it, for their own antipathy blinds them.
Were Bush capable of actual leadership a meeting between him and Cindy Sheehan early on at Crawford could, could have been a moment for actual healing and unifying much of the divide in the country.
This is really offensive, completely false, and based on the ignorance that Sheehanoia and the Moveon.Org manipulators are spreading. President Bush did meet with Cindy, and the people behind her efforts now want nothing less than complete surrender. They have not had any interest in a serious discussion of National Security, nor any kind of realistic discussion about preventing or protecting ourselves against 9/11 style terrorism, or even worse, Nuclear terrorism (that comes next).

Those of us who support our efforts in Iraq would love to come together for healing. The problem is, the only condition these people will accept is total surrender, pulling out, removing our President, and admitting that 9/11 and anything bad that ever happens to us is our own fault, not the fault of the terrorists.

Links: Right Face!

Saturday, August 27, 2005


Makaha Surf Report

(Via Mudville Gazette)

You must read this post from the Makaha Surf Report. One, it describes the heat here better than I've ever heard expressed. And two, he describes the American Soldier in terms every American should hear. An excerpt:
They go out everyday and face mortal peril, they go out and have to confront the evil of our time, they go out and see friends killed or maimed for life. They do that and still they smile much more than they scowl, they show love and compassion to the Iraqi people instead of fear and hatred. They still believe in the mission even after nearly 1900 of them have been cut down in the sands of Mesopotamia. Being here with them reinforces my beliefs in humanity and my idealism, with brave and selfless men and women such as these, anything is possible. The fires of human passions are often at their hottest in war, the fires of evil seek to scorch and destroy all that is good, in our men and women I see the fires of righteousness in action.
Go. Read. Now.

Links: Mudville Gazette, Blogotional


My First Anniversary

I'll be flap doodled.

I was searching for an old post I remember from early on, and it turns out yesterday was the One Year Anniversary of my very first post on my blog.

I feel like I just graduated from blogfancy to blogolescence.

(And it coincides with a move this week from Marauding Marsupial to Large Mammal on the The Truth Laid Bare ecosystem. So I'm feeling decidedly all teenage bear cub frisky.)

Blogger shows me with 298 posts on Dadmanly; my companion site Gladmanly shows 64 posts, and Debate Space, the now dormant debate blog I share with the Liberal Avenger, shows 18 posts. So I have an average output for this past year of about 1 post per day, with an average of about 100 hits per day for the year. (Thanks Mom, but you can stop now.)

I have just over 35,000 visits, and over 50,000 page views in the portion of that year I had Site Meter installed.

As to my objectives, I'd say I met them, and then some. I've "met" some great MILBLOGGERS, such as Greyhawk (and Mrs. Greyhawk) and Mudville Gazette, Blackfive and Mustang 23, some fellow Christian Bloggers such as John at Blogotional and Ella's Dad at Ragged Edges, and even some new friends who have encouraged, such as Arthur Chrenkoff, Bill Roggio at Fourth Rail and Joe Katzman at Winds of Change. I'v even had some great, regular commenters such as Retread, RT, Kat, Papa Ray, and many others.

I'm sure as I think about it, I'll think of more, so friends, please don't feel left out.

I've written just about as much as I did as an Analyst and Reporter during my three years Active Duty in Germany, and this time, it's all unclassified. A lot more fun to write. And (hopefully), more enjoyable to read.

Here's how I introduced myself a year ago:
As if there aren't enough voices out here in the wilderness, I thought I'd try this whole blogging thing out. I don't have anything to say just now -- nor a lot of time to spend coming up with anything clever.

My intent is to weigh in from time to time on various matters military and politic, and invite response from any interested party who can abide by these simple rules:
1. Interpersonal public communication is best conducted with intelligence, rationality, and humor. (Although any one of these qualities goes a long way.)
2. Juvenile name calling and insults are immediate grounds for ignoring you altogether.
3. It's my blog, if you don't like it start your own.
4. Technology is a terrific thing, but good literature (and great writing) is eternal, regardless of the media. Try to contribute (positively).
5. I can't think of anything else. Let me know if you think of anything.

Dadmanly, New Blogger
Thanks so much to all my readers, long standing and newly arrived. I have very much enjoyed the dialogs -- even the aggravating ones -- and been very much humbled by all the terrific support and encouragement.

Links: Basil's Blog, Indepundit, Mudville Gazette, Dawn Patrol, Northern 'burbs blog

Friday, August 26, 2005


Week's Best Rant #2

Matthew Heidt at Froggy Ruminations has a fine rant, The V-Word, focused on Chuck Hagel and his shameless posturing on how Iraq is “the same as Vietnam.”

Matthew captures the essence of the Rant, and makes the best first choice of any good Rant: he picks a subject that really deserves one.
In the immortal words of Tony Montana in Scarface, Hagel is “a pig that don’t fly straight.” But a pig that should know better.

The implication in making the Vietnam analogy is that the United States should somehow follow a similar path that failed completely in Southeast Asia… pull our troops out now. Not only did we shamefully and unnecessarily lose a war, we subjected millions to torture, re-education camps, and genocide. But hey, so what, right?
A really good Rant includes a very strong comparison – sometimes overdone but always compelling. For weaker arguments, this is where one inserts the infamous Strawman. (A strawman, favored device of lightweights like Paul Krugman or Juan Cole, is where you create a false representation of your target’s point of view, made weak and frail enough for your to pummel into oblivion.) In better cases, such as here, the comparison fully exposes the basic fallacies of the object of your scorn.

Matthew concludes this Week’s Best Rant with the best of all best rants: a zinger ending:
By the way Chuck, if the Kos Kidz successfully enact the Final Solution to the moderate Democrat problem, then there are only going to be two places to find votes. The Republican party or the seething pool of cowardice that remains after the moonbats are done. I don’t think they’ll like you anyway.
UPDATE:Froggy alerts me to another one of his Rants, a really fine one. If I had seen this one, Froggy's post on the protest outside Walter Reed would have been a runaway. (Ed. went to the right blog, in any case.)

Honorable mentions:

Mark A.R. Kleiman writes a Note to Juan Cole. An excerpt:
10. If the case had involved a male Nigerian anthropologist studying the culture of the Mississippi Delta and a white female Mississipian acting as his guide and informant, would you similarly blame the Nigerian if her relatives, or the remnants of the local Klan, had decided to string him up? Would he, too, have been culpably "naive," "foolish," and "ignorant"? If not, what makes the morally significant difference between the two cases?

It seems to me, Professor Cole, that you have allowed your contempt for someone infringing on your scholarly turf without appropriate credentials to combine with your hatred of those who support current Administration policies in Iraq in a way that has blinded you to the ordinary human decencies. And it seems to me that you owe Ms. Ramaci-Vincent an apology, and your readers a more accurate statement of the facts.
However enjoyable, this piece of comeuppance pie for Professor Juan Cole is not a rant, and therefore, can’t be the week’s best. Way too constrained, polite, measured, sober, and was updated with a potential near-apology. Not at all unhinged. Disqualified on that basis.

Via MurdocOnline, this piece of first-person comeuppance is better. Digs into Professor Cole with alacrity, with the added significance of being penned by Steven Vincent’s widow, Lisa Ramaci-Vincent.

Well-deserved, well written, and withering critically, this falls short of the typical rant by being an entirely justified piece of self-defense for a man no longer able to defend himself. Worthy of mention and appreciation, but not really wild or mean enough tpo qualify as “rant.”

Linked to by one of my posts, this piece by Jason Van Steenwyk has a lot of the ingredients of classic rant.

Strong and emotional compare and contrast. Reference to Hitler. Trivialization of the views of one’s opponent. Graphic evidence in opposition to the subject of the rant. A tone of moral superiority. Excellent train of argument. Best concluding line:
And any veneer of occidentalism with regard to the status of women in Iraqi society is nothing more than a ring in the snout of a pig.
Vodkapundit, the source of many good rants, starts out with a real contender.

Good premise, “Pat Robertson is an idiot.” Better, point out obvious hypocrisy:
As if you didn't already know, Pat Robertson is an idiot. Not only that, but he's a hypocritical idiot. If we were so hot for toppling dictators, he really ought to stop making millions of dollars off them.
Links point to numerous stories of shady businesses seemingly designed to take maximum advantage of financial exploitation possible through African dictatorship. (Colonialism, anyone?)

Insult is always a key component of a type of rant, generally compelling. Good dose of sarcasm, “Now, if Chávez were sitting on a pile of war diamonds rather than oil, that might be a different story.”

James Lileks wins an honorable mention for providing what amounts to, “How not to write a rant” when sending email. My suggestion, think about breaking one or more of these rules, and you're on your way to Rantsville. An example:
The term “wingnut” is not as harsh and cutting as you might expect. Personally, I don’t like any of these terms – moonbats, repugs, democraps, etc. (Except for “idiotarian.” I like it because it’s ecumenical.) They’re usually shorthand for broad concepts held by people whose views on other matters may be divergent. Not very helpful. In any case, have you tried to use a wingnut? They’re quite handy if you want to tighten something and you don’t have a wrench. I assume it’s short for “right wing nut,” but if you look at a wingnut, it has two wings. Left and right. You could say it understands both wings, even though it prefers to turn in a clockwise direction.
Violate some or most or even all of Lilek’s rules here, and you’ll have one really fine rant. Consider those guidelines for next week.

Links: Basil's Blog, Mudville Gazette, Outside the Beltway, Indepundit, Wizbang



Mustang 23 over at Assumption of Command was recently contacted by the U.S. Army Central Command (CENTCOM). They asked him to get some of the stories out that are happening in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Horn of Africa, which are in the CENTCOM area of responsibility.

Poked around the site a bit, and it looks like a great resource for news, images, and official Army information.

Just a few days ago, we were visited by CENTCOM's equivalent of the Command Sergeant Major of all of CENTCOM, Air Force Command Chief Master Sergeant Brownhill. As Acting Command Sergeant Major at the time, I had a chance to sit in on a briefing given to CMS Brownhill, and a follow-up visit with several of my soldiers at our Battalion Headquarters.

CMS Brownhill is a very intelligent, clued in, and attentive (very) Senior NCO, and it was readily apparent to all that he is very knowledgeable about our Theater of Operation, the capabilities of the forces within his command, and the superior capabilities of CENTCOM'S outstanding Soldiers and Airmen, Sailors and Marines.

CMS Brownhill stressed that other Nations in the region had long viewed Saddam and Iraq as a major problem in the region, and silently relieved when we took out Saddam. We have opened up a new world of possibilities in the Middle East and the wider Arab world, countries that are anxiously watching events unfold and starting to speak out in their own countries and press for change (in the direction of real democracy).

He suggested that we, those National Guard and Reserve Soldiers serving in our Task Force and our Area of Operations (AO), have brought unique qualities and characteristics to the fight from our civilian jobs back home. These have proven their worth time and again in the new and unique challenges posed by Nation building.

Check out the CENTCOM site, and if you find a story to write about, post a link back with Mustang 23. I know he'll be glad to hear from you!

Links: Blogotional


Blogging and OPSEC

Operations Security (OPSEC) is a critical concept in warfare, and vital in our efforts against a well organized, patient, and secret enemy that can take maximum advantage of our transparency and press freedoms while easily denying us an equivalent advantage against them.

I have just received through multiple official channels a warning from the highest military officials, which should have received the widest dissemination possible. I would be virtually certain that any active duty, reserve or guard military member in a leadership position has received it as well.

This communication essentially reminds the Chain of Command of their OPSEC responsibilities, alerts them to the very active enemy exploitation of our open sources, and informs leaders that many soldiers are violating OPSEC via their blogs. The official reaction to these OPSEC concerns will include a rewrite to applicable Army Regulations (AR).

(UPDATE: For more information on the communication, see Blackfive's post.)

It wasn’t the primary point of the post, but in one of my recent profiles I warned:
They were on such a mission recently when Insurgents carried out a deadly complex attack against U.S. forces. I can’t share details about this attack, because to do so would:

• Aid an enemy making a Battle Damage Assessment (BDA) of the success of their attack;
• Spread knowledge of the tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) to other cells that otherwise might not learn of new methods;
• Jeopardize operations security (OPSEC) for the Scouts, Quick Reaction Force (QRF) and other first responders to Jihadist attacks; and
• Open up specific unit and leader decision-making to inappropriate public scrutiny. This can create situations where information necessarily incomplete due to immediacy, preservation of individual Soldier rights, and classification, would otherwise distort how the overall information might be received and interpreted.

These are not trivial concerns. I cast no aspersions against my fellow MILBLOGGERS, in no way should this be interpreted as criticism of those whose very graphic and exciting stories provide vivid detail to an information starved public.
In an even earlier post, I explained why I thought this issue was so important:
OPSEC is an important concept in modern military operations, one easily misunderstood and often underestimated. All reconnaissance efforts, if successful, exploit weak or failed OPSEC of the other side. Good OPSEC means denying your enemies an opportunity to gather all the small bits of information that eventually leads to a partial but highly suggestive picture of overall plans and operations.

In Iraq, that might mean force disposition, capabilities, weaknesses and targets of opportunity. We greatly underestimate our enemy's capabilities to exploit essential elements of friendly information (EEFI).

Americans as a rule are terrible at keeping secrets, we love to talk, we like to connect with those around us, and we love to tell stories. When soldiers are entirely segregated from civilian populations (loved ones, family or otherwise), they are clearly unhappy, but they are unable to violate OPSEC with as much ease or regularity.

The greatest difference in lifestyle and living conditions between today's soldier in Iraq and any in previous conflicts, is also one of our greatest vulnerabilities in terms of OPSEC. Soldiers have ready and immediate access to the Internet and cheap telephone service to their friends and families back home. When anything happens on the Forward Operating Base (FOB), chances are, linked in families back home hear all the details within hours, if not minutes. (Local commanders in many cases wisely invoke Internet and telephone blackouts for short periods in the event of significant injuries or deaths.)

Frankly, much of the most popular ("live action") combat reporting on the web makes me nervous. Many of these young men (and women) are not at all careful or discrete about their identities, unit compositions, and even very minute operational details. All of us understand how popular such accounts are, people back home and even fellow soldiers are really hungry for knowledgeable front line reporting. But this same accuracy and realism may be providing our enemies -- who gain some advantage they wouldn't otherwise have if we ignore their collection or reconnaissance capabilities -- with useful information for planning more effective attacks (and by the way, allowing them at least some useful battle damage assessment (BDA) information).
I would hate to think that good OPSEC might interfere with what is some of the best reporting available on our great efforts in Iraq. But I likewise think that MILBLOGGERS need to carefully (and prayerfully) consider if, in the interest of feeding a hungry audience, we likewise satisfy an avaricious enemy. This is an enemy who knows how and where to get information vital to making his efforts against us more deadly and effective, and knows how and where and to whom to get this information into the hands of those who would harm us.

If we ignore this responsibility, aren’t we doing the same as the big media we so frequently criticize? In the interest of “hits” and traffic (equivalent after all to ratings or circulation), we go for the gritty detail, and disregard real and significant concerns about whether this in some way increases the danger to our soldiers?

Sure, most of the more biased media pander to an anti-war agenda, and that’s destructive too, but any reporter or editor will tell you, “If it bleeds it leads.” There is a very strong profit motive to everything they do. If we broaden the meaning of profit to include that which benefits us or end results that we desire, if we seek that at the exclusion of any threat or risk considerations, we have put our own benefit above the soldiers we would claim to support.

Among the many freedoms we give our lives to defend are the freedoms of speech and the press. There will be no point to our sacrifices if we must deny these freedoms.

But I for one know how critically important it is for us to win this war. As a result, I remain committed to taking every step necessary that nothing I write will damage troop morale, nor provide our enemies even the slightest advantage they would not have had otherwise. I can do no other, and that is the least I can do.

Links: Blackfive, Castle Argghhh!, Chromed Curses, Dawn Patrol at Mudville Gazette, Assumption of Command

Thursday, August 25, 2005


Christian Carnival is Up!

(A belated announcement)

Christian Carnival is up over at Wallo World. A few highlights:
Northern ‘burbs blog presents A Modern Babel, which “discusses similarities between our pride in our scientific achievements in matters of life & death and the Tower of Babel story in Gen. 11.”

Another Man’s Meat presents Pickin’ a Fight, in which the author says “a trip to the mall is all it takes to have your eyes opened to the realities of contemporary American culture.”

Ella's Dad at Ragged Edges presents Where’s The Meat? Ella's Dad writes, “As my Wife and I begin searching for a new church home here in our new locale, we’ve started noticing the messages on church marquee signs more and more.”

There's also a link to Part Two of my Eulogy For Lincoln.

Take a ride at the Carnival and be blessed!


No, Really, a Template!

(Via Dawn Patrol)

Blue at DSS Hubris discovers a journalistic non-sequiter in a news article by Reuters. I've highlighted the non-sequiter in bold below:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has approved full-rate production of a new Hellfire missile variant, touted by President George W. Bush for its ability to kill guerrillas in urban settings, the missile's manufacturer said on Wednesday. U.S. commanders in Iraq have asked for more of the rounds, said Lt. Col. Kevin Curry, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon, who added that early versions had already been used there in 'limited numbers.' More than 1,870 Americans have been killed in Iraq since the war began in March 2003. The 'thermobaric' Hellfire AGM-114N warhead creates an intense, sustained pressure wave that can strike around corners in 'caves, bunkers and hardened multi-room complexes,' the manufacturer, Lockheed Martin Corp., said.
I write a lot of documents, I reuse a lot of older files, and having a "template" handy is a real time saver.

For those of you who don't use them or don't mass produce documents regularly, a template is a form or outline or an example document you can open, modify as needed, and then complete, submit, send, etc.

In our Headquarters, we have templates for all of our standard reports, memoranda, forms, and so forth.

Now, we may all think that these editors sit around, sending their reporters off to go get the "bad news of the day," and every article on Iraq they make sure they slip in the obligatory "X,XXX troops have been killed since the U.S. invaded Iraq in March 2003." And maybe that's a lot of the time how it happens.

But for about 18 months, say from about May 2003 and November 2004, there was another stock sentence in all the stories. Do you remember?
"X,XXX soldiers have been killed since President Bush declared an end of major combat in Iraq."
Funny, that editorial constant pretty much vanished with the failed candidacy of John Kerry. (Is there a correlation there?)

I suggest another explanation, both for the election-era "since Bush declared major combat over" snippet and the "X,XXX troops have been killed" snippet.

Anti-war media aren't just using a "figurative" template for their negative war reporting, they're using an actual one! Here's what the file looks like.

DATELINE: (Insert place and time)
(Insert news item here) More than (insert number) Americans have been killed in Iraq since the war began in March 2003. (Insert editorial comment, especially any conceivable reference to Vietnam, quagmire, increasing difficulty, failures, etc. If space permits)

Normally, this template is a real time saver for the news editor, and he can even throw the Iraq update to his most junior reporters, and they'll get it right. Of course, every now and then, an oddball story with a lot of technical jargon or really hard to understand military mumbo-jumbo comes around, and it's hard to know how to add the facts in and around the stock sentence in the middle. God knows they can't do without their statement of the context for the war news.

In this case, it looks like the snippet was the "odd meme out," and hung around until the final edit. That's when (I'd guess) the copy editor was supposed to either finesse it to fit, or cut it altogether. "The Bush Lied People Died" side of him probably just wouldn't let him delete it.

You know, like those slip ups when something like "UGH" or "Insert negative quote here" gets left in the final copy.

Link: Mudville Gazette, Basil's Blog, Outside the Beltway, Dawn Patrol at Mudville Gazette


More Media Spin

Were you dismayed by a recent report in the NY Times that the military was upgrading Body Armor, still working at this late date to replace current body armor that leaves soldiers vulnerable?

It turns out, not to worry. This was a classic example of either willful deceit or blind ignorance on the part of a NY Times Reporter. (Imagine that.)

Jack Kelly, writing at Jewish World Review, took the novel step of following up with a Times source, in this case Colonel Thomas Spoehr, director of materiel for the Army staff. COL Spoehr explained to Times reporter Michael Moss that the Army was proactively improving body armor to protect against potential threats of advanced ammunition that are not (yet anyway) in use in Iraq. As COL Spoehr explained to Kelly:
There are some special types of ammunition that can penetrate the boronic carbide plates. Last year Army leaders became aware of improvements that could be made to the SAPI plates that would protect against most (though not all) of these special types of ammunition.

There is little evidence insurgents in Iraq are using the special types of ammunition that can defeat the "Interceptor." But the Army wanted to be proactive, to defeat a potential threat before it emerged.

"We're taking what we think is a prudent step to guard against a step (the insurgents) could take, but that's a step that really hasn't developed yet," Spoehr said.
Now that's quite a story to tell, isn't it? After all the negative press about the lack of Up Armored Humvees early on in the war, reports of troops being inadequately prepared or protected, the Army goes out of its way to anticipate a potential threat, and take steps to mediate risks ahead of time.

You'd think that would be man bites dog news, no?

For the NY Times, that would be no, actually no, not part of the "all the news fit to print," which I believe can be rephrased, "all the news that fits our prejudices."

As Kelly states, "[COL Spoehr] had a good news story to tell Moss, which Moss converted into a bad news story."

COL Spoehr, the actual source for NY Times Reporter Michael Moss, says the reader is left with the impression that soldiers were at risk, which in fact they were not. And he told Moss everything he told Kelly, yet Moss used not a single positive quote, and spun the story like an "expose."

Kelly concludes:
Americans are becoming increasingly pessimistic about the war in Iraq, because all news about Iraq is presented as bad news, even when it isn't.
(Hat tip: Instapundit)

Links: Mudville Gazette, Basil's Blog, Mudville's Dawn Patrol

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


Prescription for Vietnam Syndrome

"Good for what ails ya."

Max Borders writing at Tech Central Station has an excellent post about the distortions in media reporting in Iraq that have again led to widespread outbreaks of the Vietnam Syndrome, even among "former supporters of the war."

For the uninformed -- or any of you Rip Van Winkles -- the Vietnam Syndrome can mean that an enemy can lose overwhelmingly on the battlefield, yet defeat us by waiting for our own impatience, lack of information, or manipulation by enemy "newsmakers" to bring on the onset of the syndrome. Borders presents this thesis:
American foreign policy still suffers from what some have called the "Vietnam Syndrome." First, US "public opinion" can be myopic, especially if an Administration panders to it. Second, when public opinion (or concerns about public opinion) has guided our military efforts, they have either petered out or failed. Third, it is critical that our long-term strategic objectives are protected against the fickleness of popular opinion -- especially when such works against our national interests.

My worry is that the objectives of Iraq -- as well as our strategy for the larger Middle East -- may not fall within a time horizon that can outlast the inflammation of public outcry due to Vietnam Syndrome. Tremendous political pressures reinforced by negative perceptions are building against the Administration. We should wonder whether these are the symptoms of a US public that receives a steady diet of colored information and news of dead soldiers; but gets less information about military and political gains. For example, the fruits of democratization are routinely downplayed. Good news is attenuated, or buried on page 15.
Not to worry, America. There's a cure for the Vietnam Syndrome. That's the good news.

The bad news is, according to Borders, there are three groups of people that are essential to battling the illness. I will present his prescription for each, then explain what steps are to be taken:
First, the Administration needs constantly to remind Americans of the vision, not just the discreet goals. The war is no longer just about quelling the insurgency, if it ever was. The war has always been about transforming Iraq into an example of peace, prosperity and successful liberal institutions in a dangerous part of the world. No one believes Iraq can be an oasis. It is enough that the Iraqi people have a hand in their own destiny and that they are prepared to accept the transformative power of the rule of law. Such transformations may have short-term costs. But in the longer term, Iraq can be a catalyst for change that makes us all more secure.
This starts with the President. He needs to keep stating the vision and objectives of our War against terror. More speeches like his Second Inaugural, reminding us of the stakes. Forget the Press Conferences unless he has something important to press. And then he needs to be supported 100% by the Secretaries of Defense and State and the departments they manage. They need to back up what the President says with policy and execution. If the can’t, won’t, or are more interested in fighting turf battles via anonymous press leaks, fire them, kick their butts back to the think tanks or corporate board rooms or party offices. Somewhere where their disloyalty and skullduggery won’t get the rest of us killed due to their inattention. We are at war, and our cabinet departments of the Executive need to start acting like it, even if we can’t get a large number of our congressmen and women to do so.
Second, we the people need to think longer term. Our obsession with quick victories and homeward-bound troops should be tempered by the knowledge of what is at stake. Our all-volunteer forces are professional fighters who understand that they have been called to serve in real conflict. If we accept the neoconservative vision of the United States' role in the world, we should be prepared for the possibility of other, future engagements as we project our power globally for the sake of a comprehensive liberal order. Minimally, we are in a strategic position in the Middle East. With troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US is geographically poised to deal with Iran as an emerging nuclear threat. For that reason alone, we should not be so eager to pull out.
Okay folks, this one’s for us. The little people, the Silent Majority, Mom and Dad and Sis and Bud back home. We need to find some resolve, and some patience. We can’t let small setbacks and dedicated enemy propaganda – parroted by major news outlets or not – dictate how long we will stay resolved to fight the evils we confront. Our enemies are not likely to surrender, they will keep killing, finding softer and softer civilian targets in a desperate attempt to cause us to lose heart. So unless we somehow can kill every single nut case who thinks this is the way to immortality. We will suffer more violence at their hands. But the more we press the fight to them, the less they are able to plot and plan and build international networks of nut cases to come after us at home.

I recommend the following entertainments: John Wayne, anything World War Two, Band of Brothers, Saving Private Ryan, Civil War, a dash of Frank Capra for Idealism. Books, again anything World War Two, the Holocaust, Soviet Union and the horrific brutality of the Gulags, Founders, Jefferson, the Declaration of Independence, Lincoln. Stay away from the jaded elite. It’s not a time to rediscover anything from the sixties or seventies, drugs, hippiedom, sensitivity to foreign cultures (who want to kill Americans), etc. That’s a start.
Finally, the media will have to understand that, while they can never be "objective," they have a responsibility fairly to address many facets of an event. Criticism, debate and even dissent are healthy elements of a free society. But the media should be aware of its responsibility to provide the broadest range of relevant facts and perspectives so readers can shape more informed opinions. That means, when it comes to Iraq we need the bad news and the good. Instead of journalistic integrity we get a competition among spin doctors who selectively include or omit at will. We get Cindy Sheehan ad nauseum. We get Abu Ghraib and daily death tolls. And we get those who use their editorial powers to further their own agendas. To treat Vietnam Syndrome, this will have to change.
Members of the Fourth Estate, listen up. You have a responsibility to the societies in which you make your living, earn your keep, enjoy your press and personal freedoms, and pursue life, liberty, and happiness (or grouchiness, that’s your choice). You are not citizens of the world. If you were, you would probably run afoul of the World Police, and need government controlled press credentials, and your works would be screened for suitability, and many of you would be in jail, dead, or in flight.

You cannot retreat to some Ivory Bunker, and wait for all the shooting to stop and then come up for air. When the terrorists go nuclear, which they almost certainly will, many many many of your fellow reporters and editors will be incinerated in an instant. The rest will be in shock. No small number will immediately write angry editorials about that da**ed George W. Bush, about how he made the whole world hate us.

But they’ll be wrong, because this is where these madmen, these psychopaths have always wanted to go. If we are all willing to surrender to the Global Caliphate, well fine, but I don’t think we’d like their version of “multiculturalism.” (Monoculturalism for them, we become their slaves or guest workers, but we have no rights, we are Kafir.)

We are at war. It isn’t going to go away. Our enemies believe they can get us to quit by making it too hard for us, because we are soft. We are weak. We lack moral fiber. I few give in to them, if we turn away, they will be right.

Pacifism isn’t a viable option, it’s surrender, and it won’t be pretty. We can negotiate, but pretty much only about the details and fittings we’ll be allowed to keep in captivity.

Links: Mudville Gazette, Outside the Beltway, Blogotional, NYGirl


Western Style Equality

For any of those moonbats who think that any form of Islamic Republic in Iraq (or even one just friendly to Islam) means Iraqi women end up "worse off than under Saddam, follow the link to Jason Van Steenwyk's Iraq Now (Countercolumn) blog.

Read the whole thing; its horrifying, but important in reminding us just how brutal this regime was, and how fortunate the Iraqi people (minus the mugs thugs and wackos) are to be rid of him and his sons.

As Jason follows up in a subsequent post:
It is not neccessary for me to advance anything more than the fact that Saddam was a brutal, sadistic, murderous, totalitarian dictator, in order to falsify the ridiculous notion that Iraqi women had enjoyed anything like western style equality under Saddam. Really, this argument reminds me of the old saws about Hitler not being so bad -- at least he made the trains run on time.

Don't tell me that in a world in which a woman would be targeted for gang rape for the actions of a relative, or that in a world where a woman could be beheaded on the whim of a Ba'athist with no due process that this idea of the rights and the affirmation of the dignity of Iraqi women have any meaning whatsoever.

Don't you dare.
Was Iraq the worst possible, most brutal regime on the face of the earth in 2003, when we invaded to topple him? Arguably, yes.

Could we have weighed all the reasons he was a threat, and in consideration of risks or self-interest, said, "Not now. It's not worth it"?

Sure, we could have. Would that have been more moral than acting militarily? Only if you would be willing to have many thousands more dead, many thousands more raped, many thousands more tortured, many thousands more ethnically cleansed, and quite possibly many many more thousands of innocent civilians killed in terrorist attacks by the PLO, Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, and God knows how many other shadowy terrorist groups Saddam was supporting, training, paying, and with whom he was plotting.

Please, if you want to answer, "none of that was proven," or there's no evidence of that, you need to slap yourself silly. Really.

Links: Outside the Beltway, Wizbang


Anger and the Love Book

Note: Mrs. Dadmanly sent this letter to some close friends and family who would know how to best support and encourage her. I asked if she would be willing to share it with our readers, and she agreed if I thought other military families would appreciate the message. I do, and here is is.

This is a prayer request and a sharing of sorts. I was going to just "keep it to myself," but as I sit here, I felt it was a good time to reach out. There is a part of me that feels I should be so happy and excited that we are on the other side of this deployment, that we are more then half over, that it could be less then a few months till Dadmanly comes home.

It’s harder, the truth is, it’s heart is heavy and to others it may seem that I should be rejoicing.

I guess it really hit me this a.m., when my son began to sob, not cry, sob. My heart broke for this little guy, who keeps waiting to see his Dad again and spend time with him. He laid on the bed and kept sobbing, "Mom, I miss my Dad." "Mom, it’s sooo much harder since Dad visited," and "Why did my Dad have to go?"

It was then that I was able to be totally honest with myself. Part of me has been keeping it in, because I think thoughts that are ridiculous, "He’s almost home, you can't be whining and crying, people are going to think you’re nuts. Be grateful, you got to see your husband." "Be strong, trust in the Lord," or even, "Suck it up!"

It took my child to bring me back to reality. I'm in pain. I can go through each day and push through, and rely on the Lord, and be grateful that so many months have passed. But that does not take away the longing, the hoping, and still "the worry." Not a constant worry or an overwhelming worry, but a moment at a time worry.

"What if something happens now to Dadmanly after we have been through all this?” “What will I do, what will life be like when he comes back?" "We have all changed, will it be for the better?"

And...the anger. I cannot tell you a thing I'm angry about, I'm just angry. It’s so hard to explain in words but my heart feels heavier now then when he first left. I spoke to another soldier’s wife the other night for well over an hour, and we shared all the same things.

I mentioned to a few others at a picnic on Saturday, and they feel the same. It’s almost like we are this separate group of people, that we are walking around acting normal (so-to-speak, lol), and no one truly knows what any of us are dealing with in our hearts.

I remember this feeling clearly when my sister died, it felt the same. Life goes on, no one knows how you feel at that moment in time, yet it has been almost six years and I can still feel that loss. Through all this I know God loves me, I know He is in charge/control, I know He will take care of us. No matter what, I've read it, I know it, I believe it, but as Little Manly cried and we just hugged each other, I was able to let go of my wall, the strength "I" was possessing and just cried with my son. Me, Little Manly, and God…

I'm not sure where all of this is going, it’s just on my heart. It was like a breakthrough this a.m., because Little Manly and I had this moment in time, like we both let go.

As I was talking to my son the other day, I was explaining about God’s word, the Bible, and explaining to him that God has plans for each of us. We need to follow His word, everything He tells us is for our good. To allow us to have what He has for us, we need to do as He tells us, and the Bible has great instructions for that.

Little Manly interrupted me and said, “You’re right, Mom. It is a LOVE book, not about rules, but Love...”

WOW! That blew me away, I have not been reading the love book lately or resting in the Lord, or as my good friend pointed out, to dance with Jesus is so intimate and comforting, I have not danced either. God wants me to be connected to Him, through His word, prayer, fellowship, being honest.

I've done the fellowship part but I have been lacking in all other areas, and even with the fellowship part, I have been "being tough" and "standing strong."

I know this time will pass. I know my husband will be home again. Part of me is afraid that when Dadmanly comes home the anger will be greater, resentment will set in. I keep hearing over and over from the Army meetings, where we are being forewarned what to expect when our soldiers come home, life will be different, does that mean better? Does that mean harder? Is it positive, is it negative, more work to do? Too much to think about.

I know many have prayed, I've been asked what I need... I really need prayer for me, Dadmanly, Little Manly, Spud, and Jilly Beans for this next phase, to get Dad home. To work through and reconnect and be able to build our marriage and our ministries together, not to let the enemy get a foothold in any area. For now, to be able to Let Go AGAIN and truly Let God work in my life, get back to prayer, the Bible, trust...

My church is starting a study on Experiencing God. (Course online.) I did the study with Dadmanly 11 years ago in Atlanta and it changed my life. I'm looking forward to starting this in a few short weeks, and looking forward to what God is waiting to reveal to me this time. His timing is perfect. Thanks for reading...there is nothing to fix, take away, or do for me.

Just please, if you fell led to do so, say a prayer for us.

Links: Mudville Gazette

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


A Eulogy for Lincoln (Part Two)

When last I wrote, in my mind I was standing on the edge of a moment in history, sharing in the grief of mournful passing of the Lincoln sepulcher upon its rail-borne hearse. Thinking, rolling over in my mind the shock of the Great Man, taken so quickly, only days from a sudden sigh of peace.

I remember a few days after September 11th, several of our employees chose to gather for an observance, and in search of meaning, and the struggle to understand what we had lost, I reached for a an old Readings from Lincoln, by Alfred A. Wright of the Hartford Public High School, first published in 1927.

May I pause for a moment to reflect on this? My guess is, Mr. Wright was an amateur Historian, in the sense of not giving up his day job as a teacher, and his intent was to create a study for students at his school, and others like it. Can you imagine such an act of scholarship in a public school today? I know we still have required readings, but is it even remotely possible that a serious study of Lincoln would make the list? Jefferson, or the Federalist Papers? Not to take anything away from writers such as Maya Angelou or Joseph Heller or Philip Roth, but once upon a time we had an American Canon of works every good and serious student of history, nay, every diligent citizen was encouraged to learn. Lincoln, formerly, found preeminence in such a Canon.

In the days after 9/11, many of us would read the Gettysburg Address with a new appreciation, being some of us freshly acquainted with a punishing grief. For Lincoln, at Gettysburg, charges us, in generations to come, with a perpetual obligation:
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
When Lincoln finally arrived in Springfield, Illinois, and his final rest, as had taken place at many of his earlier stops, mourners read his Second Inaugural Address aloud.

I have a close affection for Lincoln’s Second Inaugural.

When employees gathered for a remembrance of September 11th in 2002, I was led to reach for Lincoln again. In the quickening of the storm clouds of war, and rumors of war, I sought solace in Lincoln’s Second Inaugural. Back to 2002, I felt the certainty that the struggles we faced were only the beginning of a long and difficult clash of civilizations. The struggle may not be against Slavery, but it serves in the name of Freedom against forces of oppression.

Lincoln in his Second Inaugural Address acknowledges that there is One whose judgments are true and righteous, and that further bloodshed and violence might yet be required. We have played a part in turning away from the kinds of tyranny and religious oppression that germinate, grow weed-like, and then choke entire civilizations as if sprung up fully-formed only in the latest spree of carnage. Lincoln knew, that as we share the common failings of mankind, self-interest and self-absorption, so we must be prepared to pay the price when payment for our negligence comes due:
Fondly do we hope--fervently do we pray--that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether"
And yet, Lincoln offer hope as well, and places a specific charge that we might read today as “support our troops,” and the families who sacrifice so much in giving up their sons and daughter, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers for this war.
With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.
As a people, we need to dwell for a time, and time again, upon the brutal milestones that are these phantom towers. Along the canals, along the railroads, mile markers were the reassurance of progress made in the days of sedate and time-abiding travel. These stones still stand, although the travellers of old have moved on to other modes of transport. They still stand, and they still measure true.

Mile markers along our journey as a Democracy. Gettysburg. The end of the Civil War. The Assassination of Lincoln. Normandy and D Day. VE Day and VJ Day. And all those hallowed white markers at Arlington.

In our long march of war – and war it is, whether we see it so or not – are many mile markers, most prominent are the two towers that once stood as One and Two World Trade Center.

Bishop Matthew Simpson spoke an oration as Lincoln was finally upon his final rest in Springfield:
“There are moments which involve in themselves eternities. There are instants which seem to contain germs which shall develop and bloom forever. Such a moment came in the tide of time to our land when a question must be settled, affecting all the powers of the earth. The contest was for human freedom. Not for this republic merely, not for the Union simply, but to decide whether the people, as a people, in their entire majesty, were destined to be the Governments, or whether they were to be subject to tyrants or aristocrats, or to class rule of any kind. This is the great question for which we have been fighting, and its decision is at hand, and the result of this contest will affect the ages to come. If successful, republics will spread in spite of monarchs all over this earth”
And Sandburg utters a final epitaph:
Evergreen carpeted the stone floor of the vault. On the coffin set in a receptacle of black walnut they arranged flowers carefully and precisely, they poured flowers as symbols, they lavished heaps of fresh flowers as though there could never be enough to tell either their hearts or his.
And the night came with great quiet.
And there was rest.
The prairie years, the war years, were over.
We here in our humble condition cannot hope to know even a sliver of the full purpose of God. Have we lived our lives for nothing? Have we thrived in the heart of liberty for our own comfort and security merely?

How, in the petty events of man as they unfold, can we fail to see the Hand of Providence in giving us such men as these?

Sometimes when I stood on the towpath, I have cried. There is so much that has been lost. When I finished Sandberg's Lincoln, and stood outside that tomb, I cried. Not for myself, but for all of God's creation.

He lavishes His love upon us with such abandon, with such Mercy and Generosity of His eternal Spirit. And how, so often, do we respond? With many a cry, not in humble gratitude, or with grumbles, whining, an inconsolable desire for more?

He lived for a time among us, and we knew him not.

A Eulogy for Lincoln (Part One)

Links: Mudville Gazette, Outside the Beltway, Basil's Blog

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