Friday, August 31, 2007


Nothing More Than Feelings

Senator Harry Reid, doubtlessly frustrated in his desire to concede to somebody on Iraq, decided to surrender to Republicans. (Remark courtesy of commenter Dave M at Strata-sphere.)

But here’s what struck me in the WaPo piece, the tale of how pro-war Reid became Johnny-come-lately, Johnny-give-up-your-guns:

Few Democrats have come as full circle on the war as Reid himself. On Oct. 10, 2002, as Senate minority whip, Reid became the most senior Democrat to endorse the war resolution. "They gave us the information, and I accepted what they told us," he explains.

It took a while to let go. "I did not wake up some morning and say, 'I oppose the war.' It built very slowly," Reid said.

One glimmer came when Frederick E. Pokorney Jr., a 31-year-old Marine from Tonopah, died on March 23, 2003; he was the first Nevada resident to be killed in Iraq. Reid called Wade Lieseke, the man Pokorney considered his father, to offer condolences. When Lieseke told him, "This war is worthless," he was taken aback. "I'm not sure that's right," he thought to himself. But with every new call, Reid later said, "I reflected back on that."

Reid also recalled his first visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. "I say to this young man -- he's missing part of one leg and the other one's up in a sling, and I try to be nice -- 'I know we need to go get you more armor.' " The young man responded: "We don't need more armor. We need to get out of there." That comment lingered, too.

This March, the senator returned to Walter Reed, where he met a young Ohio man recovering from a bomb attack that had "vaporized" his friend. A 22-year Army veteran told Reid she had lost her memory because she'd been knocked unconscious so many times. Reid left the hospital and headed to the Senate floor, where he delivered a passionate speech in favor of Webb's bid for troop-deployment limits.

"That did it for me," Reid said of the Walter Reed visit. "I never looked back. I'm not really proud of the fact that it's taken me so long to realize how bad it's been, but I'm there."

One can imagine that Senator Reid has come into contact or received messages from many, many war veterans. My guess is, he’s gotten pro and anti-war feedback in proportions roughly equivalent to the attitudes prevalent in the military (overwhelmingly pro-mission and pro-victory).

Yet, all it takes is the first Nevada casualty to make Sen. Reid begin to second guess his decision. A couple more tragic outcomes or despair from individual soldiers, to turn against our efforts completely. The war surely “is lost” with leaders like Reid.

This is the fatal flaw in anti-war “feelings” in Congress and the American people. Feelings are a terrible basis for decision-making. You shouldn’t base foreign policy or war decision-making on feelings, any more than you should make other judgments of ethics or morality on emotions. Emotions can inform as to costs and impacts in human terms, but they fail miserably in matters of right and wrong.

Leaders, in Congress and elsewhere, need to be thinking and reasoning, not responding on the basis of pure emotion.

Thursday, August 30, 2007


Media Malpractice

Karl of Protein Wisdom has compiled a staggering indictment of media malpractice in reporting on our efforts in Iraq. Karl’s post, wide ranging and voluminously documented with links, covers everything from negative bias, media removal from the source of news, use of terrorist propagandists as stringers, hypocrisy over Vietnam analogies, data distortions, and outright fabrication.


Better documented and authoritative than 4 year’s worth of mainstream media reporting. (That’s the point of the criticism, now isn’t it?)


Karl posted his excellent catalog of media malfeasance in response to charges that war supporters targeted TNR fabulist Beauchamp as a “weak link”:


In the midst of the still-lingering controversy over the truthiness of The New Republic’s “Baghdad Diarist,” more than a few people suggested that war supporters, unable to discredit the real bad news coming from Iraq, targeted the Scott Thomas Beauchamp stories as a weak link.  I cannot speak for everyone who supports the mission in Iraq, but I would submit that Beauchamp’s apparent fables and embellishments are not a “weak link” to be attacked, but simply an egregious example of the establishment media’s flawed coverage of the conflict.   Accordingly, what follows is an over view of the establishment media coverage of the conflict in Iraq.


Ironic, I’d say media opponents of our efforts in Iraq achieve high art in finding the weakest possible link in any story about Iraq. Thanks to Subsunk at Blackfive bringing Karl’s indictment to light.



Thursday, August 23, 2007


Not So Widely Remembered

President Bush delivered a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) National Convention yesterday, following in the footsteps of several presidential candidates for 2008.

Bush, like Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, praised the US Military and Veterans, and noted recent remarkable successes of so-called “surge” operations in Iraq. Bush, like Obama and Clinton, warned against a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq. All suggested that more work lays ahead, work that our military can successfully accomplish, as well as companion efforts by US and Iraqi Governments.

Whereas would-be Presidents Obama and Clinton then took the opportunity to slam the nascent Democratic institutions in Iraq, and the beleaguered Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki, President Bush suggested comparison and contrast with our recent national experiences in World War II, Korea, the Gulf War, and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).

The President started with an explicit comparison between the tragic events of 9/11 and the attack which provoked US entry into full combat in WWII. The President specifically evoked the character and intent of our enemy then, in terms unmistakably shared by enemies today:

I want to open today's speech with a story that begins on a sunny morning, when thousands of Americans were murdered in a surprise attack -- and our nation was propelled into a conflict that would take us to every corner of the globe.

The enemy who attacked us despises freedom, and harbors resentment at the slights he believes America and Western nations have inflicted on his people. He fights to establish his rule over an entire region. And over time, he turns to a strategy of suicide attacks destined to create so much carnage that the American people will tire of the violence and give up the fight.

If this story sounds familiar, it is -- except for one thing. The enemy I have just described is not al Qaeda, and the attack is not 9/11, and the empire is not the radical caliphate envisioned by Osama bin Laden. Instead, what I've described is the war machine of Imperial Japan in the 1940s, its surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, and its attempt to impose its empire throughout East Asia.

The President noted the success of Japanese Democracy after the war, and drew yet another parallel between then and now (emphasis mine):

The lesson from Asia's development is that the heart's desire for liberty will not be denied. Once people even get a small taste of liberty, they're not going to rest until they're free. Today's dynamic and hopeful Asia -- a region that brings us countless benefits -- would not have been possible without America's presence and perseverance. It would not have been possible without the veterans in this hall today. And I thank you for your service. (Applause.)

There are many differences between the wars we fought in the Far East and the war on terror we're fighting today. But one important similarity is at their core they're ideological struggles. The militarists of Japan and the communists in Korea and Vietnam were driven by a merciless vision for the proper ordering of humanity. They killed Americans because we stood in the way of their attempt to force their ideology on others. Today, the names and places have changed, but the fundamental character of the struggle has not changed. Like our enemies in the past, the terrorists who wage war in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places seek to spread a political vision of their own -- a harsh plan for life that crushes freedom, tolerance, and dissent.

Like our enemies in the past, they kill Americans because we stand in their way of imposing this ideology across a vital region of the world. This enemy is dangerous; this enemy is determined; and this enemy will be defeated. (Applause.)

President Bush touched on the history of Korea as illustrative of his larger point, and noted that many, Republicans included, felt our efforts in Korea were wasted. And yet, in hindsight, the benefits and accomplishments are clear:

Today, we see the result of a sacrifice of people in this room in the stark contrast of life on the Korean Peninsula. Without Americans' intervention during the war and our willingness to stick with the South Koreans after the war, millions of South Koreans would now be living under a brutal and repressive regime. The Soviets and Chinese communists would have learned the lesson that aggression pays. The world would be facing a more dangerous situation. The world would be less peaceful.

Instead, South Korea is a strong, democratic ally of the United States of America. South Korean troops are serving side-by-side with American forces in Afghanistan and in Iraq. And America can count on the free people of South Korea to be lasting partners in the ideological struggle we're facing in the beginning of the 21st century. (Applause.)

For those of you who served in Korea, thank you for your sacrifice, and thank you for your service. (Applause.)

It would seem entirely unnecessary to note the comparison in fates between Northern and Southern populations following the United Nations (UN) sponsored “police action” in Korea. But if the President hadn’t extended his historical comparison to Vietnam, I’d guess his critics would have reacted sharply even to his suggestion that US sacrifices in Korea saved South Korea from the horrors inflicted upon the North.

No, most didn’t even note the mention of Korea, seeing a far greater object of their rage when the President invoked Vietnam. Here’s the President’s heresy against anti-war orthodoxy:

In 1972, one antiwar senator put it this way: "What earthly difference does it make to nomadic tribes or uneducated subsistence farmers in Vietnam or Cambodia or Laos, whether they have a military dictator, a royal prince or a socialist commissar in some distant capital that they've never seen and may never heard of?" A columnist for The New York Times wrote in a similar vein in 1975, just as Cambodia and Vietnam were falling to the communists: "It's difficult to imagine," he said, "how their lives could be anything but better with the Americans gone." A headline on that story, date Phnom Penh, summed up the argument: "Indochina without Americans: For Most a Better Life."

The world would learn just how costly these misimpressions would be. In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge began a murderous rule in which hundreds of thousands of Cambodians died by starvation and torture and execution. In Vietnam, former allies of the United States and government workers and intellectuals and businessmen were sent off to prison camps, where tens of thousands perished. Hundreds of thousands more fled the country on rickety boats, many of them going to their graves in the South China Sea.

Three decades later, there is a legitimate debate about how we got into the Vietnam War and how we left. There's no debate in my mind that the veterans from Vietnam deserve the high praise of the United States of America. (Applause.) Whatever your position is on that debate, one unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like "boat people," "re-education camps," and "killing fields."

This is bloody, red meat to many who oppose our efforts in Iraq. Many of the President’s fiercest and most unyielding critics, in fact, are precisely the cohort who learned very simplistic lessons from Vietnam, and count their successful “rebellion against authority” in forcing withdrawal in Vietnam among the great triumphs of their professional and personal lives.

Not so President Bush, like many among the military and conservatives who rebel against the ostrich-like assumptions of Vietnam War critics. A different strain in military and political history, considered heresy by the aforementioned critics, considers Vietnam a moral and political failure, and less a military defeat. We routed the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong at Tet, yet Walter Cronkite and other media voices called it a great failure.

We brought North Vietnam to its knees, and many years after the war, military and political leaders admit that the surprising US public turning against the war gave them hope when they had little. As US forces were drawn down in Vietnam, our enemies (and their Cold War sponsors) were emboldened. When US Congress cravenly cut off all funding for South Vietnam, we left an ally stranded and vulnerable, with lasting consequences, in Asia and elsewhere. North Vietnam “established order” in very short order indeed -- to the detriment of hundreds of thousands if not millions of Southeast Asians.

President Bush, like Senators Obama and Clinton, see the outstanding accomplishments of our troops in Iraq. But he also knows the question that burns in most of us: will Washington let our military complete the mission in Iraq, or will politics yet again carry us away from victory, to surrender and defeat?

In Iraq, our troops are taking the fight to the extremists and radicals and murderers all throughout the country. Our troops have killed or captured an average of more than 1,500 al Qaeda terrorists and other extremists every month since January of this year. (Applause.) We're in the fight. Today our troops are carrying out a surge that is helping bring former Sunni insurgents into the fight against the extremists and radicals, into the fight against al Qaeda, into the fight against the enemy that would do us harm. They're clearing out the terrorists out of population centers, they're giving families in liberated Iraqi cities a look at a decent and hopeful life.

Our troops are seeing this progress that is being made on the ground. And as they take the initiative from the enemy, they have a question: Will their elected leaders in Washington pull the rug out from under them just as they're gaining momentum and changing the dynamic on the ground in Iraq? Here's my answer is clear: We'll support our troops, we'll support our commanders, and we will give them everything they need to succeed. (Applause.)

Our fights in the 20th Century provide powerful lessons and clear direction for what lays ahead in the 21st. Our enemies today remind us of old enemies. The promise of our victories then are the promise that remains unfulfilled for others today:

Today the violent Islamic extremists who fight us in Iraq are as certain of their cause as the Nazis, or the Imperial Japanese, or the Soviet communists were of theirs. They are destined for the same fate. (Applause.)

The greatest weapon in the arsenal of democracy is the desire for liberty written into the human heart by our Creator. So long as we remain true to our ideals, we will defeat the extremists in Iraq and Afghanistan. We will help those countries' peoples stand up functioning democracies in the heart of the broader Middle East. And when that hard work is done and the critics of today recede from memory, the cause of freedom will be stronger, a vital region will be brighter, and the American people will be safer.

The audience at the VFW was understandably supportive of the President’s thesis. But if not hell, some rhetorically heated near-equivalent broke out over the President’s invocation of Vietnam in the context of his argument.

The NY Times stressed the President’s departure from Orthodoxy:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 22 — The American withdrawal from Vietnam is widely remembered as an ignominious end to a misguided war — but one with few negative repercussions for the United States and its allies.

Now, in urging Americans to stay the course in Iraq, President Bush is challenging that historical memory.

In reminding Americans that the pullout in 1975 was followed by years of bloody upheaval in Southeast Asia, Mr. Bush argued in a speech on Wednesday that Vietnam’s lessons provide a reason for persevering in Iraq, rather than for leaving any time soon. Mr. Bush in essence accused his war critics of amnesia over the exodus of Vietnamese “boat people” refugees and the mass killings in Cambodia that upended the lives of millions of people.

President Bush is right on the factual record, according to historians. But many of them also quarreled with his drawing analogies from the causes of that turmoil to predict what might happen in Iraq should the United States withdraw.

Right on facts, apparently, but wrong on interpretation, according to the Times and their expert. Note the way in which reporter Thom Shanker separates himself (and the NYT) via the careful locution, “widely remembered,” without a clear indication whether Shanker intends the statement “but one with few negative repercussions for the United States and its allies,” as part of what is widely remembered (but perhaps incorrectly), or as a statement of fact. I’m guessing I know which side of the rhetorical blade the Times falls on.

The Times goes on to cite a Professor Hendrickson, who admits “catastrophic consequences,” particularly for Cambodia. But Hendrickson immediately discounts the President’s view of causality, echoing modern assertions about how US presence and actions in the Middle East “created Al Qaeda,” in asserting that the earlier US activities in Southeast Asia created the “circumstances of the war” that in turn, led to the Khmer Rouge coming to power.

As to facts, the Times agrees on the scale of horror that occurred:

The record of death and dislocation after the American withdrawal from Vietnam ranks high among the tragedies of the last century, with an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians, about one-fifth of the population, dying under the rule of Pol Pot, and an estimated 1.5 million Vietnamese and other Indochinese becoming refugees. Estimates of the number of Vietnamese who were sent to prison camps after the war have ranged widely, from 50,000 to more than 400,000, and some accounts have said that tens of thousands perished, a figure that Mr. Bush cited in his speech, to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Mr. Bush did not offer a judgment on what, if anything, might have brought victory in Vietnam or whether the war itself was a mistake. Instead, he sought to underscore the dangers of a hasty withdrawal from Iraq.

In contrast, one might add, to what many partisans opposed to our efforts in Iraq were asserting prior to the last couple of weeks: that now was the time to begin withdrawal with little consequence to the US or our interests.

The Times also acknowledges Tet as a military defeat for the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong, but adds a little twist, asserting that this “defeat” also “illustrated the vulnerability of the United States and its South Vietnamese allies.”

Yes, we did have a major vulnerability that became very clearly visible to our enemies then: that of public relations. Soviet propagandists planted false stories, media added more and launched a dedicated assault against the war, Hollywood celebrities consorted with our enemies and fueled enemy propaganda efforts, Academic elites fostered protests and even violent acts of provocation against the Government. We were vulnerable, for sure, but more from within than without.

The Times made one other rather startling assertion:

Vietnam today is a unified and stable nation whose Communist government poses little threat to its neighbors and is developing healthy ties with the United States.

Other critics have suggested that the North Vietnamese imposed “order.” Unified, by force. Ordered by force. Gulags and re-education camps are orderly, no doubt. I’ll leave stronger criticism for others.

The Times concludes with some military insight:

Senior American military officers speaking privately also say that the essential elements that brought victory in World War II — a total commitment by the American people and the government, and a staggering economic commitment to rebuild defeated adversaries — do not exist for the Iraq war. The wars in Korea and Vietnam also involved considerable national sacrifice, including tax increases and conscription.

This is at best a misleading argument, based on a fair amount of misrepresentation and revisionist history. Many in the military, Government, and civilian populations – thought a minority -- in WWII wanted us to stay out of Europe, and fight Japan exclusively after Pearl Harbor. The commitment was far from total or uniform. Yes, rebuilding Japan and Germany required a massive economic commitment, but that was more the result of massive bombing and destruction of civilian and government infrastructure, in great contrast to the virtual absence of same in Iraq.

The same critics of our efforts in Iraq, decrying the sacrifice of blood and treasure we’ve made in Iraq, might object to the NY Times inferring that we have not made a “considerable national sacrifice” in Iraq. Seems to me, prior NY Times editorializing would refute that inference as well.

Kathryn Jean Lopez offers a transcription of commentary by Bill Bennett, posted at The Corner, in its entirety, it’s too good to excerpt:

A little from Bennett this morning on the president’s speech yesterday – I'm indenting the bulk of the monologue but I caution that I paraphrase here and there ... didn’t get every word down:
Quoting the president: “Here at home, some can argue our withdrawal from Vietnam carried no price to American credibility — but the terrorists see it differently.”
To Bennett (who was dipping into his Last Best Hope):

here’s the important, the philosophical and moral, launching point for our discussion today folks, based on President Bush’s speech yesterday, and as we do this just remember the Democrats’ main mantra: the President’s policies have isolated us in the world and made America less popular...
a) I think President Bush’s Vietnam analogy lily needed more gilding....
—First, do not put your most important point in the mouth of the terrorists, the enemy.
—Second, don’t make this an arugment, there is no argument.
—There is NO argument that our withdrawal from Vietnam carried no price, it carried almost all the price in the world. In December 1974, the Democratic Congress ended military aid to South Vietnam. In April 1975, Saigon fell. Hanoi’s communist regime imprisoned a million Vietnamese without charge in “re-education” camps, where an estimated 165,000 died.
Laos and Cambodia also fell to communists in 1975. Over 40,000 Laotians had been imprisoned in re-education camps.
—Then, Cambodia: 2 million people killed.
—Now, b) or our credibility and our enemies’:
Sirik Matak, our ally in Cambodia, was offered transport out of cambodia in 1975 by our State Department. Here’s what he wrote, one month before he was killed:
“Dear Excellency and Friend, I thank you very sincerely for your letter and your offer to transport me towards freedom. I cannot, alas, leave in such a cowardly fashion. As for you, and in particular for your great country, I never believed for a moment that you would have this sentiment of abandoning a people, which has chosen liberty. You have refused us your protection, and we can do nothing about it. You leave, and my wish is that you and your country will find happiness under this sky. But, mark it well, that if I shall die here on the spot and in my country that I love, it is too bad, because we are all born and must die one day. I have committed this mistake of believing in you, the Americans. Please accept, Excellency, my dear friend, my faithful and friendly sentiments.”
—Here’s what the South Vietnam envoy in DC said: “it is safer to be an ally of the Communists, and it looks like it is fatal to be an ally of the United States.”
—That’s what happened to our allies. Now, c) Here’s how our enemies saw our withdrawal:
—Hafez Assad of Syria told Henry Kissinger in 1975: “You’ve betrayed Vietnam, someday you will sell out Taiwan and we’ll be around when you get tired Israel.” A month later, he invaded Lebanon. Don’t tell me we still aren’t paying that price!
And finally, d) What was the aftermath of U.S. weakness, lack of resolve, and placing of doubt in our allies and conviction in our enemies? I give you Jeane Kirkpatrick: “a dramatic Soviet military buildup, matched by the stagnation of American armed forces, and a dramatic extension of Soviet influence in the Horn of Africa, Afghanistan, Southern Africa, and the Caribbean, matched by a declining American position in all these areas. The U.S. has never tried so hard and failed so utterly to make and keep friends.”

Also at The Corner, Jonah Goldberg thinks the Democrats remain under a “long term curse” due to their fecklessness on Vietnam:

This is a point the Democrats fail to grasp: being on the side of surrender in a war is popular enough during the war, but if you succeed lots of Americans will later get buyer's remorse and feel like it was a mistake and the next generation will see things very differently than their anti-war activist parents. Karl Rove made this point in his exit-interview with Gigot, I think, and he's right. Pulling out of Vietnam was an enormous short term victory for the Democrats and a long term curse.

For the historically challenged, Weekly Standard plucks some instructional materials from their archives:

No More Vietnams
This time, let's finish the job.
by David Gelernter
From the May 8, 2006 issue
04/29/2006 12:00:00 AM

Another Vietnam?
What is the "lesson of Vietnam"?
by David Gelernter, for the Editors
From the October 11, 2004 issue
10/02/2004 8:00:00 PM

A Winnable War
The argument against the orthodox history of Vietnam.
by Mackubin Thomas Owens
From the January 15, 2007 issue
01/06/2007 12:00:00 AM

So much for the “widely remembered.”

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Twists and Turns

Political pundits argue over left or right bias in mainstream media (MSM) outlets, tongue in cheek or otherwise, mostly for effect. Fact is, many of us appreciate the fact that one MSM outlet can be counted on for insider CIA leaks, another for unauthorized but very organizationally sponsored State Department disclosures, others for hardball gossip, campaign dirt, and so on.

We really don’t mind knowing in advance that the Editorial Board of the NY Times, for example, will find a way to totally confound the facts of their own news reporting, or that outlets like The Nation or The New Republic will be susceptible to distorted, agenda-driven, (or fabulist) war diarists. It’s helpful to know what side everybody’s on.

As a sometime exception to this phenomena, The Washington Post stands as the premier (hometown) Capitol Daily. Perhaps in deference to their exalted position with American political journalism, they can’t always be counted on to tack in parallel with their otherwise left- and Dem-leaning compatriots. There are political winds for outsiders, and there are the winds in DC. They don’t always channel in the same jet stream.

What else to make of the Washington Post’s political analysis today, making the claim that Democrats Refocus Message on Iraq After Military Gains?

The Post captures recent political re-posturing in its proper context:

Democratic leaders in Congress had planned to use August recess to raise the heat on Republicans to break with President Bush on the Iraq war. Instead, Democrats have been forced to recalibrate their own message in the face of recent positive signs on the security front, increasingly focusing their criticisms on what those military gains have not achieved: reconciliation among Iraq's diverse political factions.

And now the Democrats, along with wavering Republicans, will face an advertising blitz from Bush supporters determined to remain on offense. A new pressure group, Freedom's Watch, will unveil a month-long, $15 million television, radio and grass-roots campaign today designed to shore up support for Bush's policies before the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, lays out a White House assessment of the war's progress. [Ed., remember too, the Vets for Freedom 10 Weeks to Testimony Campaign.] The first installment of Petraeus's testimony is scheduled to be delivered before the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees on the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a fact both the administration and congressional Democrats say is simply a scheduling coincidence.

The leading Democratic candidates for the White House have fallen into line with the campaign to praise military progress while excoriating Iraqi leaders for their unwillingness to reach political accommodations that could end the sectarian warfare.

So it’s not a failure of our military effort, but rather a failure in civilian political leadership? What does that sound like? Democrats in Congress, perhaps? How we won the war militarily in Vietnam, only to abandon our allies and hand our defeated enemies an unearned victory? [Ed., Who else is talking that way about Vietnam today?]

The Post explains what the political repositioning is meant to achieve (or avoid) for the Democrats:

For Democratic congressional leaders, the dog days of August are looking anything but quiet. Having failed twice to crack GOP opposition and force a major change in war policy, Democrats risk further alienating their restive supporters if the September showdown again ends in stalemate. House Democratic leaders held an early morning conference call yesterday with House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), honing a new message: Of course an influx of U.S. troops has improved security in Iraq, but without any progress on political reconciliation, the sweat and blood of American forces has been for naught.

This has all been about message and political advantage. Yet we are to believe the Democrats are more seriously interested in National Security and our National Interests than their naked political ambitions. The Post goes on to paint a clear picture a very aggressive, one might say, desperate effort underway:

The burst of effort has been striking, if only because Democrats left for their August recess confident that Republicans would be on the defensive by now. Instead, the GOP has gone on the attack. The new privately funded ad campaign, to run in 20 states, features a gut-level appeal from Iraq war veterans and the families of fallen soldiers, pleading: "It's no time to quit. It's no time for politics."

"For people who believe in peace through strength, the cavalry is coming," said Ari Fleischer, a former Bush White House press secretary who is helping to head Freedom's Watch.

GOP leaders have latched on to positive comments from Democrats -- often out of context -- to portray the congressional majority as splintering. Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher (D-Calif.), an Armed Services Committee member who is close to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said many of her colleagues learned a hard lesson from the Republican campaign.

"I don't know of anybody who isn't desperately supportive of the military," she said. "People want to say positive things. But it's difficult to say positive things in this environment and not have some snarky apologist for the White House turn it into some clipped phraseology that looks like support for the president's policies."

Dan Riehl analyzes use of the phrase “desperately supportive of the military,” in the quote above. Everyone agrees about the desperation involved, merely arguing over which political position is the more hopeless.

Ralph Peters, writing in the NY Post, describes the Reliberation of Iraq that GEN Petraeus has orchestrated:

Long the deadly base of al Qaeda in Iraq, Anbar province has gone from hundreds of daily attempted attacks on our troops to four earlier this week. Iraqis assume ever more responsibility for their own security. And former enemies are rallying to fight beside us, instead of against us.

How did the general and the troops under his command achieve such rapid progress? He lays out a model: "The Re-Liberation of Iraq," this time from a new wave of oppressors, the terrorists, insurgents and militias.

Petraeus acknowledges the errors made in the early occupation years, stressing, above all, the failure to provide security for the population. We cleaned out the violent actors from one city after another, but failed to stay and set the conditions for political and economic progress. When we left, the bad guys came back - and killed anybody who had cooperated with us.

Now, through the efficient use of American troops and a greatly increased employment of Iraqi forces, we're taking an approach that allows for fighting fiercely when necessary, but which looks beyond the gunfights.


What will be the test of a worthy Iraqi government to Gen. Petraeus? "A government representative of and responsive to the people . . . at all levels."

Can Iraq get there, after all its recent travails and struggling under the weight of history? Petraeus insists that "we're realistic." He believes that Iraq has a fighting chance. But he refuses to predict miracles.

That said, the general himself looks like the miracle Iraq needed. If that country ultimately fails - if Iraqis fail themselves - it won't be the fault of David Petraeus and our men and women in uniform.

Memeorandum links to a veritable Greek Chorus in this insider’s would be drama, quickly sampled in the refrains below:

Brian Faughnan, writing in the Weekly Standard Blog, Rahm Emanuel: Democrats are Immune to Facts in Iraq:

If Democratic leaders now declare that the surge was never going to be given a chance to succeed, the American people would be right to ask why they agreed to commit American blood and treasure to it in the first place. Can Americans have any faith in the leadership of a party that would consent to a plan such as Operation Phantom Thunder, then attempt to pull the rug out just as it was seeming to work? What does the Democratic party have to offer in the war on terror if they refuse to take advantage of a chance for victory on a battlefield that Osama bin Laden regards as the central front in the war against the West?

Gaius at Blue Crab Boulevard, Democrats On The Defensive The Washington Post reports …

I have maintained all along that the Democratic leadership in Congress badly misread the results of the 2006 elections. They were not given a mandate to lose a war. But they chose to read it that way. It should be fairly obvious that members of Congress are hearing - loud and clear - from their constituencies that they do not want the war lost. Otherwise you would not see this kind of backpedaling. And no matter how they try to dress it up, they are backpedaling furiously.

One thing that is incredibly ironic about the whole situation is the sudden shift toward criticizing Iraqi politicians for doing nothing. Given the fact that our Congress under Democratic leadership is pretty well doing nothing, I don't think that is a really great tactic for the Democrats.

Sister Toldjah, Thanks to Iraq successes, Democrats having to "refocus" their Iraq message

Petraeus’ report next month will probably be the most anticipated report since David Kay’s WMD report. Rest assured that the anti-war contingent already have their arguments against a continued prescence in Iraq ready, regardless of what Petraeus reports. As we know all too well, their main goal from the get go has been failure in Iraq, to ‘prove’ that they were right about the President’s ‘wrongness/lies,’ and they’ve done so in hopes that a loss in Iraq would/can do maximum damage not just to him, but Republicans and “traitor” Democrats who supported the Iraq war.

It’s going to be interesting in the coming weeks and months to see how Democrats try to balance showing ’support for the troops and their successes’ with the anti-war ‘we must come home now’ speeches they’ve got to give in order to maintain support with their base.

Say Anything, Democrats Forced To Change Their Tune On Iraq

What is perhaps even more interesting, however, is crumbling Democrat support for Pelosi and Reid’s withdraw-at-any-cost mantra. Especially among Democrats who have, you know, actually gone to Iraq (Wall Street Journal subscription link):

The Kansas City Star‘s “The Buzz,” for example, reports Democratic Rep. Brian Baird “saw enough progress on the ground that he will no longer vote for binding withdrawal timelines.” Rep. Jerry McNerney “suggested that his trip to Iraq made him more flexible in his search for a bipartisan accord on the war.” Also changing his tune is Rep. Tim Mahoney of Florida, who says the troop increase ‘has really made a difference and really has gotten al-Qaida on their heels.

There are Democrats interested in the truth in Iraq, and interested in completing our mission. It’s just too bad those Democrats aren’t in charge of the party right now.

The irrepressible Jules Crittenden, Advance to Rear — Having lost militarily, the Democrats fall …

But back to the Dem fingerpointing at Iraq’s struggling nascent democracy woes. If political failure is reason for abandonment, what are the Dems still doing on Capitol Hill? Withdraw!

Even great choruses contain their occasional discordant voices, although in some of these cases, they sound more harmonious than one might expect:

Michael van der Galien of the The Moderate Voice, Democrats Change Position on Iraq... Kind Of.

Now, I am a critic of the surge - I supported the war for a long time until I believed that Bush et al. messed it up beyond repair. I criticized the surge because, to me, it seemed as if it was too little and especially too late. However, now I see that there might be something good happening in Iraq I - and other critics - have to be so honest to acknowledge the progress made. This does not mean that we should suddenly embrace the surge, but it does mean that we should try to keep an open mind about it. As I said, basically, when the surge started: I hope Bush proves me wrong.

He just might.

Of course, political reconciliation is a big part of it as well. Without true political progress, all miltary progress is useless. However, the surge was not meant to solve the political issues - it was only meant to oppress the sectarian violence and, by doing so, Bush and those who support the surge hoped that it would give al-Maliki et al. time (and the will) to take the necessary political steps. In this regard, one could very well argue that al-Maliki is not exactly proving himself to be a good leader, but there is still time. The Iraqi Parliament could replace him (who knows); instead of reconciling from the top down, it seems to be going from the bottom up, so progress is made, at least to a degree.

Again, this does not mean that all will be well. I remain a critic, because I think that it is incredibly difficult to overcome the sectarian strife so soon. The different sects and tribes have hated each other for centuries, and this hatred has only increased under Saddam’s rule and, again later, once the US got rid of the brutal dictator from Tikrit. However, the way the Democrats deal with this does not exactly satisfy me either. Instead of looking at how the damage can be controled, and how as many people as possible can be helped, the Democrats give me the impression that they want the surge to fail because, if it fails, it will help them politically.

This goes not just for the Democratic leadership, but also for quite some people who vote for the Democrats. How else can their constant “all is lost, who cares about progress, all is lost, we will lose really we will” attitude be explained? The passion is not rational.

Then he does the unthinkable. He links to a piece by Democrats Miscalculate On Iraq

Ed Morrissey, stating:

Morrissey’s post on this is, by the way, a must read. I greatly encourage you all to read it in full (not that I agree with everything he writes, but he has a strong case)

I guess that really makes him The Moderate Voice (at least for today).

Here’s what Captain Ed concluded:

Even those who still insist on firm timetables question the Democratic leadership's strategy. Jerry McNerney (D-CA) says that the inflexible and confrontational approach taken by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid has made it impossible to work with Republicans in Congress and the White House. Rather than asking the generals what they need, Congress has tried to dictate limits -- and lost. "I don't know what they're thinking," McNerney said to the Post about the leadership.

That's not true at all. Everyone knows what they're thinking. If they get outmanuevered again, the Democrats will catch hell from the activist base of their party and likely wind up losing the House to the Republicans in 2008. They can't afford to work cooperatively with the people Pelosi and Reid have successfully demonized with their voters, or they will look like complete hypocrites. That's the wages of demagoguery, and payday's coming in September.

And what amounts to thoughtful criticism from the Left (really):

Taylor Marsh, The Surge and The Spin — Nothing is causing more consternation …

I think everyone is missing the real problem with Clinton's statement.
"... .. We can’t be fighting the last war; we have to be preparing to fight the new war." - Hillary Clinton

This is rhetorical hawkery at its worst. It's also political pandering at its most egregious. As someone adamantly opposed to the "global war on terror" talking point, I automatically bristle at this kind of language. It's either sloppy or a window into Clinton's true feelings on national security. Unfortunately, whatever it is it's opened up the one vein Clinton had closed off after much work. Republicans might love this type of rhetoric, but Democratics do not and Clinton needs lots of them to win in the primaries.

We don't have to prepare to "fight the new war." We need to change our foreign policy so that muscular diplomacy replaces the knee jerk reaction to go to war at all unless there is a clear and present danger. But it's what happens when a candidate gets in front of a military group and thinks she has to saber rattle to illustrate her strengths. It's a horrendous overreach by Clinton and an intemperate statement that leaves her wide open to people who do not trust her rhetoric on Iraq from the moment she refused to apologize for her Iraq vote. It also threatens to unravel all of the work she's done to make people trust her.

Here's a lesson. Petreaus's tactics are having a positive effect in some areas, while their is no political gains on the ground at all. Get it? You don't use words like "working," because they're not only wrong, but hand your opponent an actionable word that means the whole ballgame.

However, that's not even the rub right now. With all this undisciplined, rambling "the surge is working" talk and a Republican ad blitz coming around the corner to bolster Bush's White House Report, it's clear the Democrats have strayed so dangerously off message as to threaten what we've worked for all this time. Bush got his surge, with an escalation on top. The political movement in Iraq is non-existent, but yet the Democrats are about to be pressured that "the surge is working" through a political ad blitz right before Petreaus delivers the White House Report on -- wait for it -- 9/11/07, while wingnuts use quotes coming out of the mouths of Democrats to make Bush's case. How in the hell did this happen?

This underscores how truly desperate the Democrats may grow in coming days, amid new reports of continued political progress in Iraq.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007


A Little Exaggeration?

Sarah at Trying to Grok links to a Newsweek/MSNBC article on a soldier’s homecoming. Sarah picks up on a highly suspect factual statement (Fabulism ala Beauchamp) hidden in the reunion piece. But I found something else that seemed a bit exaggerated, too.

Allison Samuels writes of her 24 year old cousin returning from a tour in Iraq, her family’s anxieties in her absence, and relief with her safe return home. Here’s how she introduces us to her ordeal – not her cousin’s, but Samuels:

For our family, the months of living on edge began in June 2006, when Alexia Cain was given orders to ship to Iraq. She’d enlisted in the Army months before, frustrated by the lagging job market after graduating from college. For the three years prior to that, images of fresh-faced soldiers heading off to war had been a constant on my bedroom television set. Many of the faces that flashed on the screen somehow seemed familiar in that “I-know-I’ve-seen-you-somewhere-before” way, and I prayed that those I may have known—-or didn’t—would have a safe journey there and a safe return home in mind, body and spirit.

Far be it from me to challenge the objects and particulars of a military family member’s anxieties about their loved one in combat. But as a National Guard soldier rather advanced in years myself, who deployed to Iraq with the NY Army National Guard, I know from first hand experience that many of our soldiers in Iraq are not “fresh-faced” by any means. Our average age was about 38, and while anti-war agitators and other partisans like to talk about “our boys and girls” serving in Iraq, that’s a caricature that’s not very accurate.

Be that as it may, I watched a lot of television footage on Iraq –less while I was actually mobilized and deployed – but still a fair amount. I saw many more of the “less than stereotypic” soldiers in many of these reports. I got to think that reporters often went out of their way to get footage of the overweight, and over-aged. Again, I don’t want to throw down a gauntlet or anything, but I think Samuels created that imagery for the purposes of her article.

Note too the implication that Samuels cousin joined the Army because she couldn’t get a (safer) job in the “lagging job market.” I’m kind of curious about the existence of such a job market, especially for a college graduate in a big city metropolitan area. In this article, Samuels plays correspondent on in what has the flavor of a diary entry or essay, rather than a news feature, so perhaps no need to fact check. I wonder if Samuels cousin would explain her choice to serve as out of “frustration” with her employment prospects. Just curious.

Samuels goes on to explain how difficult her cousin’s service was the family, and what happened when grim reality fell upon them:

As a family, we all knew Alexia could be sent to the war-torn region at any time, but we also prayed that some miracle would happen to change her fate and that of so many others. It just had to. But it didn’t. Our family had never sent anyone to war before, and so the ordeal of the next several months was completely alien. Some mornings I would eagerly turn on CNN as soon as I opened my eyes, to watch the latest news on the war. Other mornings I couldn’t bring myself to listen to one more word. Though NEWSWEEK regularly features articles on the war, I bypassed them in search of lighter fare. It was as if by not seeing the images, I could hold fast to my fantasy that all was right in the world and Alexia was safe and sound at her home in Atlanta, still dreaming her adolescent dreams of marrying Kobe Bryant.

Reality was, of course, much more grim. There were images of soldiers with lost limbs learning to walk again on prosthetics. I’d read reports of some female soldiers allegedly being raped by Iraqi insurgents—some 50 to 75 rapes, according to The New York Times. Alexia assured us that several male soldiers had volunteered to walk her home after she stood post at night. But that reassurance still couldn’t erase the images of assaults, bombs and corpses.

Sarah questioned this very remarkable assertion that some 50-75 female soldiers in Iraq have been raped by Iraqi insurgents. If such a report has actually appeared in print, it would be far from remarkable that it would have appeared in the NY Times. On Page One. In screaming, Pearl Harbor sized headlines.

That would be if any such report actually appeared. To my knowledge, none has.

She may have been thinking of this much publicized article, which explored female Iraqi veterans with PTSD, or who were victims of sexual harassment, rape, or assault. This is the Times piece on “The Women’s War,” which featured an account of a woman who claimed to be victimized while in Iraq, when in fact she never served there. Not that that diminishes the horror of what otherwise remains a very disturbing piece of reporting.

But that’s rather different from what’s conveyed by Samuels here, that she recalls a NY Times article that reported “female soldiers allegedly being raped by Iraqi insurgents – some 50 to 75 rapes.” It seems a gratuitous reference, or simply an error. Female soldiers do need to be especially vigilant to the threat of assault, but from host nation and third party nationals on base, as well as their fellow soldiers, and less from insurgents off the FOB.

In our unit, soldiers of both sexes were instructed to NEVER travel alone, day or night, but of course we were at our most insistent with our female personnel. Rape and sexual assault is a serious problem, in the military as in civilian life, and the military trains, maintains and tries to enforce a zero tolerance policy. In the final days of mobilization training, we were asked to spend valuable training time training on sexual assault prevention: the risks, ways to prevent or avoid, reporting, and command responsibilities. Bottom line, we needed to do everything we could to make sure our fellow soldiers wouldn’t be victims. We would lay down our lives for each other in combat, why would we tolerate harassment or a sexual assault that harmed a fellow soldier?

(H/T Andi at MILBLOGS)

(Cross-posted at MILBLOGS

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