Friday, September 28, 2007


Speech Not Yet Free

Michael Rubin, writing at The Corner, remarks on collegial relations afforded Ahmadinejad by academies of higher learning, and suggests several more worthy candidates for speaking invitations, if the university interest truly is freedom of speech:

The issue we see with Columbia is deeper than freedom of speech but rather the inconsistency with which university faculties choose to support it. If men like Richard Bulliet and Lee Bollinger, and women like Lisa Marie Anderson cared about freedom of speech, they might want to enable those who don't have it, rather than celebrate the men who have taken it away.

That indictment stands against many in the Academy, the media, politics, and western intelligentsia as a whole.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007


United in Defeat

In commentary published in the Christian Science Monitor, former three-star vice admiral and now Congressman, Rep. Joe Sestak (D) of Pennsylvania declares that ending the war in Iraq is necessary, as it has “degraded our security” and pushed the Army “to the breaking point.”

I actually have to confess that I retain admiration for the Monitor, despite its soft progressivism and reflexively anti-war prejudices. I am quite sure they know the differences between armed services, and equally certain they recognize partisan flag bearers. I suppose with all the pro-Petraeus press reports of late, war opponents feel the need to trot out the reliably pro-Dem military.

Rep. Sestak’s not the only pro-Dem military figure who’s spoken out against our efforts in Iraq, but he surely constitutes the most clearly partisan and political.

Sure, he was once upon a time a three star admiral. Then he worked as a national security advisor in the Clinton White House. He ran for Congress demanding a pull-out from Iraq, and won, against a rather weak and stumbling 20 year incumbent Curt Weldon. (Reports have indicated Rep. Sestak has also been the beneficiary of campaign donations from democratic fundraiser Norman Hsu.)

Here’s a small sample of what he’s been saying since hitting the campaign trail for his current seat in congress, this from October 2006:

"We must redeploy out of Iraq with a certain date," he told a crowd of roughly 20. "It’s not just the $8 billion, it’s the loss of life. But it is also the less secure America.

"We went in there. We never found those (weapons of mass destruction). There were none to be found," Sestak said.
Sestak said America is less safe today, because sectarian violence broke out in Iraq and a "breeding ground" for terrorists now exists. He said the remedy is not military, but political.
After the event, Sestak said when troops withdraw, the U.S. should instead provide military support from outside Iraq. He added that some special forces may go into Iraq for short periods of time, if necessary.

None of which takes away the legitimacy of his voicing his opinion, no doubt informed by his military experience. But do take note how remarkably unchanged his characterization of the situation in Iraq from 2006 to now (post-surge); how his solution then is his solution now; and how his idea of a bipartisan solution is to have the other party entirely adopt his point of view:

I have consistently argued that a planned end to our military engagement in Iraq is necessary, and that such a "date certain" deadline will force Iraqi leaders to assume responsibility, providing Iran and Syria the incentive to prevent violence otherwise caused by our departure.

Our troops could either return home or deploy to areas (such as Afghanistan) where terrorists pose a threat to our security, while others remain at our existing bases in Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and on aircraft carrier and amphibious groups, to ensure our interests in the region (as we did prior to invading Iraq).

Because our Army must either start a lengthy redeployment or risk unraveling, we have the catalysts for a bipartisan agreement to end this war with a stable Iraq, if we also work with Iran and Syria to meet this goal. However, this opportunity for a bipartisan congressional approach – to convince the president to use diplomacy to bring about a stable accommodation in Iraq once our troops redeploy – will undoubtedly require an initial redeployment deadline that is a "goal" instead of a "date certain."

Indeed, Rep. Sestak has a strange conception of bipartisanship. I suppose it would be a bipartisan approach for Democrats and Republicans to agree that the war was a tragic mistake, that President Bush lied us into war, and that Democratic plans for an immediate withdrawal should be implemented. “Agree with me, and we’ll have consensus!” I wonder were the Admiral picked up that bit of political wisdom?

No surprise, he holds equally bizarre ideas of what “ahead” and “progress” look like in terms of National Security. Does Rep. Sestak really believe that Iran and Syria would be reliable guarantors of US National Security?

In no way would I dismiss Rep. Sestak’s 31 year Navy career, but some of us in sister services find his characterization of having “led an aircraft carrier battle group in combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq” as a tad, well, embellished. I know Navy pilots must be flying sorties in Iraq, but is there really that much Naval-related combat?

And even if individual pilots or squadrons did, would you call the Navy Commander of the Carrier Group a participant in the combat? Oh I’m sure for service ribbons and commendations and the like, but to highlight that as combat duty, and to use as the military basis for what is a much different area of operations (ground combat)?

I’m sure my MILBLOGGER friends will correct any misimpression on my part on that score.

Even if one grants Sestak military cred for his Naval service, what expertise does he have on the health of the Army, or the pros and cons of ground operations?

Rep. Sestak also highlights his stint as Director of the Navy's anti-terrorism unit after 9/11, and declares that “an inconclusive, open-ended involvement in Iraq is not in our security interests.” You know what? I’d agree with him. Only, our involvement in Iraq is hardly inconclusive nor open-ended. This is confirmed, not only by remarkable progress in surge and counter-intelligence operations, but in continued lack of patience in Washington over our commitment in Iraq. Open-ended, not hardly.

I can’t argue that Rep. Sestak has not thought carefully about what’s involved in withdrawal, even if he blithely ignores the consequences and significance of that withdrawal:

Moving 160,000 troops and 50,000 civilian contractors and closing bases are logistically challenging, especially in conflict. To ensure our troops' safety, it will take at least a year – probably 15 to 24 months.

The "long pole in the tent" is the closure or turnover of 65 Forward Operating Bases (FOBs). Conservatively, it takes 100 days to close one FOB. It will be important to balance how many to close at one time with calculations about surrounding strife. Kuwait's receiving facilities to clean and package vehicles for customs and shipment back to the United States can handle only 2 to 2½ brigade combat teams (BCTs) at a time, and that there are currently 40 BCT-equivalents in Iraq.

Redeployment is the most vulnerable of military operations, particularly because this one will be down a single road, leading from Iraq to Kuwait – "Road Tampa." Such vulnerability is why, in 1993, after "Blackhawk Down" in Somalia, it took six months to extract our 6,300 troops safely, and only then after inserting another 19,000 to protect their redeployment.

Why do I get the feeling that one of Admiral Sestak’s areas of expertise was logistics? He’s absolutely correct in noting the complexities and heavy lifting involved in fully withdrawing from Iraq. But he reminds me of those no doubt well-intended organ harvesters in terminal care situations, hovering, pleading, persuading the grief-stricken family to give up hope, and let them have their corpse? Based on General Petraeus’s report on progress since Rep. Sestak made up his mind on Iraq in 2006, I’d call for a hearty cry of, “I’m not dead yet!” to echo Monty Python.

Sestak concludes with his plea for bipartisanship: not because we should work together to advance US national interests, but because withdrawal will continue into a Democratic Presidential Administration:

Because a redeployment of troops will take a long time, we can have a bipartisan approach to Iraq's security. To do this, the Democratic leadership must turn from pure opposition to this war and an immediate withdrawal, and begin to help author a comprehensive regional security plan that accepts the necessity of a deliberate redeployment. In turn, the Republican leadership must accept that the US government must also work diplomatically with Iran and Syria during this deliberate redeployment. While these two countries are currently involved destructively in this war, according to our intelligence community, these nations want stability in Iraq after our departure and, therefore, can play a constructive role.

Which only serves to underscore how pathetically out of touch senior military officers can be, when asked to render judgments out of their area of expertise.

The only constructive role Syria and Iran want to play in Iran is that of victor over an American defeat. Which will no doubt be accompanied by celebratory gunfire, crowds chanting “Death to America,” and Iraqi despair.

(Via Mudville Gazette's Dawn Patrol)

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Monday, September 24, 2007


Al Qaeda Lost

Independent war correspondent Michael Totten interviewed 3rd Infantry Division Lieutenant Colonel Mike Silverman from Midway, Georgia. Based on Totten’s account, LTC Silverman must be one heck of an officer and leader.

Here’s his takeaway assessment on how we’re doing in Iraq:

“What’s the most important thing Americans need to know about Iraq that they don’t currently know?” I said.

“That we’re fighting Al Qaeda,” he said without hesitation. “[Abu Musab al] Zarqawi invented Al Qaeda in Iraq. The top leadership outside Iraq squawked and thought it was a bad idea. Then he blew up the Samarra mosque, triggered a civil war, and got the whole world’s attention. Then the Al Qaeda leadership outside dumped huge amounts of money and people and arms into Anbar Province. They poured everything they had into this place. The battle against Americans in Anbar became their most important fight in the world. And they lost.”

Read the whole thing. Courtesy of Winds of Change.

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Friday, September 21, 2007


News from the Axis

Charles Krauthammer speculates in the Washington Post on a recent Israeli air strike in Northern Syria, and suggests that North Korea was providing means, material, or expert assistance in helping Syria acquire nuclear capability. If they did, their actions would make an absolute mockery of international efforts to verify North Korea’s professed willingness to abandon their nuclear ambitions and surrender any nuclear capabilities.

Krauthammer offers some intriguing circumstantial evidence for North Korea’s perfidy:

Circumstantial evidence points to this being an attack on some nuclear facility provided by North Korea.

Three days earlier, a freighter flying the North Korean flag docked in the Syrian port city of Tartus with a shipment of "cement." Long way to go for cement. Within days, a top State Department official warned that "there may have been contact between Syria and some secret suppliers for nuclear equipment." Three days later, the six-party meeting on dismantling North Korea's nuclear facilities scheduled for Sept. 19 was suddenly postponed, officially by China, almost certainly at the behest of North Korea.

Apart from the usual suspects -- Syria, Iran, Libya and Russia -- only two countries registered strong protests to the Israeli strike: Turkey and North Korea. Turkey we can understand. Its military may have permitted Israel an overflight corridor without ever having told the Islamist civilian government. But North Korea? What business is this of North Korea's? Unless it was a North Korean facility being hit.

Krauthammer also notes a widely underreported account of the misadventures of a joint Syrian and Iranian chemical weapon program:

Second, there are ominous implications for the Middle East. Syria has long had chemical weapons -- on Monday, Jane's Defence Weekly reported on an accident that killed dozens of Syrians and Iranians loading a nerve-gas warhead onto a Syrian missile -- but Israel will not tolerate a nuclear Syria.

It would certainly remain possible that such evidence might convince the harshest critics to drop their objections that President Bush ever formulated his ‘Axis of Evil’ locution, or their sharp rebuttals against including the Dear Leader and his slave state in the axis. It should, but it won’t.

Those who oppose Bush foreign policy, after all, do so less on the basis of fact than on the basis of myth. Myths are essential to the world view that imagines that George Bush created anti-American animus where formerly there was none, that the aggressiveness of Bush foreign policy has created terror where there would be none, and that Nations in acting in their own perceived self-interest can never be interpreted to have committed crimes against humanity, or conducted acts of war against the US, our allies, or our vital national interests.

Central to all such myth-making is the moral irrelevancy of the behavior of any Nation State, save our own, which retains full culpability for all errors real or perceived, while other nations can only be our victims.

(Via Memeorandum)

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Liberal Helpings

Two commentaries today starkly highlight the truth of the old proverb, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” As long as you can give the benefit of the doubt as to the quality of the intentions of the Left, that is.

W. Thomas Smith Jr., writing at The Tank, takes note of Victor Davis Hanson’s taking note of how many veteran Jihadists have made their way to Iraq only to end up dead, and further observes:

War is all about finding, fixing, and destroying the enemy; and that often means maneuvering around him, thrusting, feinting, luring, forcing him to turn, withdraw, or perhaps move to a position that he believes is the best ground from which to engage us. When in fact, we have — by virtue of our own positioning — forced the enemy to that ground he wrongly believes is best-suited for him. That is exactly what we have accomplished (among other things) by invading Iraq.
The Left says we are in a quagmire in Iraq. For Heaven's sake, Al Qaeda is in a quagmire. AQ is suffering huge losses in that country, and it is having an enormous impact on their ability to wage war against us elsewhere in the world.

Smith likewise acknowledges what so many on the Left cannot, that Al Qaeda can’t afford to lose in Iraq, that the humiliation, ideological and moral bankruptcy revealed to the world with that defeat would be a disaster.

Which logically leads Smith, as it leads me and so many of my Veteran colleagues, beyond political disagreement to anger at an Opposition that is anything but loyal: not our country or the sacrifices of our armed services, and not even loyal to their erstwhile political allies:

No thanks to the gutless, propagandizing Left in this country, who I've now grown beyond the stages of simple intellectual disagreement. I'm now truly angry at them because they've hurt the American military effort in Iraq. They've constantly condemned it: Said it was a "failure," a "disaster," and "lost," even as Anbar was turning around (and we now see the success of Anbar is spreading to other provinces). They've mercilessly ridiculed the commander-in-chief. Accused the senior commander on the ground in Iraq of "betrayal." And attempted to publicly convict the rank-and-file riflemen — of whom Jack Murtha said killed innocent civilians in "cold blood" — prior to any charges being leveled against those riflemen in a case that is still being argued.

If it were the case that our enemies and our domestic opposition “merely” shared a common animus or political doctrines or isolated beliefs, that might be one thing. I suppose. But the fact of the matter is, the behavior, rhetoric, and misplaced anger of the war’s opponents has a far more tangible impact on how the war goes. Smith explains:

In that sense, the Left has stiffened the backbone of the enemy. Made him fight harder than he should have. Made him believe there is hope for his own success at driving us out of Iraq, when the enemy should ALWAYS be made to feel there is no hope of defeating the United States anywhere on earth.

I cannot understand how an American, no matter his politics, thinks it morally correct and justified to actively seek to cause demoralization and lack of will in the hearts and minds of America’s military in a time of war, whatever their personal view of that war. But for opposition demagoguery to embolden and encourage our enemies, isn’t that the very definition of treachery?

Grudgingly I accept that Progressives can be against the war on principle. No doubt, an enemy with guile will use anything at his disposal to win the PR war, and especially the otherwise legitimate criticisms and complaints of US internal politics. That Bin Laden and Ahmadinejad echo the rhetoric of domestic opponents of US Foreign Policy doesn’t make those opponents disloyal.

But there are times, surely, when the full expressions of logical thought and discourse from both our enemies and Progressives parallel what must be shared assumptions.

I’m not just talking about the obvious shared assumptions: the US is an imperial power, George Bush and Dick Cheney are fascist oppressors, and the US and our Zionist ally Israel want to wage genocidal war against all Muslims. Beyond those points of agreement, Progressives and Islamofascists share many of the same attachments to methods, goals, and beliefs.

Jeff Goldstein, writing at Protein Wisdom, makes a provocative case for the commonality of beliefs:

Who is the source of the following quote: “This is why I tell you: as you liberated yourselves before from the slavery of monks, kings and feudalism, you should liberate yourselves from the deception, shackles and attrition of the capitalist system.” Karl Marx? Hugo Chavez? Noam Chomsky? In fact, the words are Osama bin Laden’s, spoken on a video that appeared shortly before the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. The al Qaeda chief went on to denounce in great detail the excesses of unbridled capitalism and “global warming” before inviting all Americans to convert to Islam. Bin Laden offers some kind of “counter-globalization”: The security the Muslim Umma promises, the global village of all believers.

American progressivism — because we can’t see its “enlightened (though not “Enlightenment”) end point — does a better job of hiding its inexorable political denouement than does the bald and explicit totalitarianism of theocratic Islamism. But make no mistake: the kernel assumptions and sub-structural imperatives of the current “progressive” movement — the privileging of a given interpretive community in defining “truth” and “meaning”; a consensus, group-driven conception of “reason” and “authenticity”; a repudiation of individualism; a willingness to invert the concept of “free speech” until it becomes state-sanctioned speech; the re-framing of “tolerance” as punitive rather than accommodating — provide the preconditions for the kind of soft totalitarianism that western, transnational progressivism aims to erect as a governing paradigm.


None of which is to say that progressives believe themselves actively in cahoots with al Qaeda, of course. Nor are they, for the most part — though in practical effect, their political maneuvers have demonstrably aided the jihadists, enough so that bin Laden was willing to scold them for not following through on their political promises.

Rather, it is simply to point out that, philosophically, at least, there is a vast area of intellectual overlap between the foundational principles informing most every totalitarian movement — and that, to many Muslims, bin Ladenism is a form of “progressivism,” though when placed in the paradigm of Islamic thinking, that “progressivism” leads backward rather than forward (and so to western eyes appears reactionary rather than radical — one of the reasons, one can argue, that it is frequently tied to social conservatism). Still, it is a kind of reform movement aimed at the excesses of capitalism and western liberalism — a way to control the natural diversity of outcome brought about when freedom is allowed to govern in fact (instead of being worn like a friendly facade) — and in its core foundational assumptions finds common cause with other material manifestations of those same principles. (Via Instapundit)

I find this one thought persuasive, and intellectually disturbing: that radical Islamic “jihadism” (alt. bin Ladenism, Islamofascism) and “progressivism” as currently understood and practiced seek “a way to control the natural diversity of outcome brought about when freedom is allowed to govern in fact.”

Jihadist revolutionaries abhor Western culture and its libidinous and other social excesses, and thus want to squelch the freedom of society to sin against believers. They seek the purification of society through enforced religious observance.

Progressive activists abhor Western market forces and capitalist excesses, and thus want to deprive society of the liberty that allows these forces to sin against believers. They seek the purification of society through enforced secular observance.



What Kind of Learning?

It’s nice to know that people, even politicians, can learn from their mistakes.

Senator Hillary Clinton, her friends and supporters tell us, learned a lot from her previous brush with Universal Health Care. Her new plan, such as its been defined and communicated, certainly reflects Sen. Clinton’s wizening on how to persuade Americans that we want socialized medicine, if not what such a plan should specifically define or how the plan’s features are publicized.

The devil is in the details, as they say, which may explain why Sen. Clinton has conspicuously left any such demons out of public descriptions of her new plan.

Taking her queue from misguided conservatives of yesteryear, Sen. Clinton insists her plan is all about individual choice. Those with medical plans and coverage will be able to keep such coverage, and only those currently without medical coverage would be required t o sign up for either private or public plans. The Government will not create any additional bureaucracies, merely issue new regulations and prescribe corrective actions against misbehaving Medical insurance providers.

Choice. Coverage for the uninsured. No bureaucracy. The dawning of a new and glorious age in Government services. A relatively modest 100+ billion dollar price tag, a mere pittance compared to the costs of current entitlement projections. Who wouldn’t want that? If only the premises for such a panacea held any basis in reality.

First, there’s the price tag. Critics, such as those at CATO and Heritage, quickly object to both the total dollar cost, which is widely expected to be many magnitudes greater (say maybe 10 times or more), or the projected “medical cost savings” that the mere existence of Universal Health will generate. (That’s one of those unusual laws of the political universe, versus the physical one, that when you move monies between entities public and private, the net amounts get to change because you want them to.)

One of the snappy comparisons Sen. Clinton made in announcing the outlines of her new plan was to observe that, “We require owners of motor vehicles to take out car insurance. Why not require people to have medical insurance?”

That’s only one of the more specious selling points in the current debate, but one easily refuted.

States require car owners and motorists to have car insurance, not so that their financial interests are protected in the event of an accident, but that the financial interests of innocent others are protected.

This is obvious to anyone who’s ever been in an accident with an uninsured motorist. The rationale behind mandatory auto insurance is that otherwise, an uninsured motorist with reckless disregard could cause damage to the property of others, and cause physical harm to other motorists or pedestrians. In many cases, people who don’t opt for car insurance when voluntary don’t have financial means to cover the costs of others when they are at fault.

To continue the false analogy to car insurance, what does the Government do when someone can’t afford car insurance? Do they subsidize or pay outright so that the person can get insurance, and get his vehicle registered to drive?

Take the further example of a reckless driver with multiple accidents and a bad driving record. For these poor souls, they may find car insurance cost prohibitive, or not offered at all by insurance carriers. Should the Government provide them coverage too, or underwrite the cost of their policies, or force the insurance carrier to do so?

(Well, yes, in some states to some degree, they do, but I’ll bet most people outside of Insurance Actuaries and their progeny don’t know that, and would find it illogical.)

Needless to say, political-minded “economist” and Bush-bashing sycophant Paul Krugman opines that “the economics of universal health care are sound.” This from perhaps the world’s last economist who still thinks the US economy has been in the toilet since 2000, without regard to historically low unemployment, non-existent inflation, a booming stock market, and one of the longest periods of economic expansion in our history. (“Krugman says its economically sound? Time to bail out!”)

I’m starting to hear local talk radio in my area pick up on HillaryCare, enthusiastically agreeing with her observation about car insurance. Talk radio hosts aren’t always particularly well-informed or logical. They also make observations like, “Don’t you hate how often you have to fill out forms, co-pays, referrals? That’d be all eliminated with Government provided coverage.” That’s right, Government is always more efficient than private industry, and everybody knows how much Government bureaucracies just hate paperwork!

There’s no doubt Sen. Clinton has learned a great deal indeed about a better way to sell America socialized medicine.

Too bad Sen. Clinton accomplished the same amount of “learning” about the dangers or disadvantages of socialized medicine. Alas, HillaryCare 2.0 would prove just as disastrous to the US, our healthcare, and our economy, as its ill-fated predecessor.


Monday, September 17, 2007


A Letter to Congress

I was invited to write an OP Ed in response to General Petraeus’ testimony this past week and my thoughts on our efforts in Iraq. The OP Ed was published this past Sunday in the New York Daily News.

Here’s an excerpt:

Wars take time. They require steady will and determination. They compel commitment.

If fighting Saddam Hussein, and later Al Qaeda, in Iraq was important when earlier in this mission, they should still be important today. Al Qaeda is badly wounded there and elsewhere, but they aren’t dead yet. Iraq is making gains as a democratic nation, but they still need help. They still need time.

Dear Senators and Representatives, you criticize President Bush relentlessly — picking apart the speech he gave last week with withering words, looking for any and every chance to bring him down.

But at least he maintains steady attention to this war. At least he seems to grasp the stakes of losing and the danger of giving up. Not so Congress.

Leaders influence the morale of their people, for good or bad. I wish you wanted to lead your constituents towards victory rather than defeat.

The Op Ed has been linked by Wake Up Americans and Right Voices.

Good timing, with Vets for Freedom on Capitol Hill Monday and Tuesday, September 17-18th. More information here.

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Friday, September 14, 2007


An Eye on Military Support

Jonah Goldberg, posting at the The Corner, a couple days ago linked to a report from Capital Eye, a non-profit advocacy group. The somewhat sensational report makes the headline claim that “the Republican commander-in-chief and his party are losing the troops’ support.”

Goldberg didn’t take time when posting to analyze the report or its underlying data, but a cursory investigation of its underlying data suggests there is less than meets the “eye.”

First off, a perfunctory review of the non-profit group responsible for the report strongly suggests the sponsors, agents and sympathizers of the group would be highly supportive of having a negative hit piece run coincident with General Petraeus’ report and congressional testimony. The group, closely associated with (if not one and the same as) Center for Responsive Politics. Both groups are funded by prominent Democratic and Liberal/Progressive charitable groups and trusts like Pew, Ford, Carnegie, Sunlight, and so forth.

This is the game Democrats play to create highly sympathetic groups who can channel money for largely anti-Republican issue advocacy.

That of course doesn’t mean that what they report may not be accurate, but should prompt skepticism as to bias, cherry picking of data, and “spin” in the report’s handling of data.

It also strongly suggests that the timing of this report is no accident, but rather carefully timed support for Democrats as one means to discredit the war in Iraq, and create an impression that the military is turning against the President and Republicans over the war.

It’s like they were putting this report out to help the Democrats, or something.

The problem is, as Capital Eye and the Democrats well know, military folks show a strong proclivity towards the GOP, especially on issues like terror, the war in Iraq, and national defense. And this report doesn’t actually refute that or suggest any “weakening” in that support at this time.

For one thing, the report is of Federal Election Commission data for contributions greater than $200. With the rather miniscule dollar amounts that form the basis of this report, the differences between contributions don’t exceed any reasonable margin of error.

That’s just for starters. Despite its headline and lede, note this from further down in the report:

In the 2000 and 2002 election cycles, uniformed service members gave about three-quarters of their federal contributions to Republicans. The percentage dropped to 59 percent in the 2004 cycle and has remained there since. This shift toward Democrats is most visible among members of the Army, who gave 71 percent of their money to Republicans before the war began. So far this year, members of the Army have given a mere 51 percent to the GOP, spreading their contributions nearly evenly between the two major parties.

The drop in contributions to Republicans—which began nearly the second the war in Iraq did in early 2003—seems to suggest that there is a passionate group of people in the armed services who are looking for ways to express their opinion, said John Samples, director of the Center for Representative Government at the Cato Institute. "This [data] suggests that among the military, the people who feel most intensely about the Bush administration and the war in Iraq are negative about it," Samples said. "It's a general discontentment over the way the administration has handled the war—or even that we're in a war."

Catch that? In 2004, there was a drop from 71% to 59% of the specific data measured by this report, and “has remained there since.” So this surge in “dramatically” reduced support started the moment the war in Iraq started, yet military members still voted for President Bush in the same 70-75% percentile in 2004? And yet the report is timed and written as if it’s just happening now?

They also use a very selective slice of data to report that members of the Army have given almost equal amounts to Democrats and GOP “so far this year.” You might think it entirely reasonable that giving might be down in an off year, and perhaps think of reasons that would affect those who donate to the GOP more than angry democrats.

Capital Eye trots out one outraged Army Lieutenant Colonel for all of their (negative) military quotes. I’m surprised they couldn’t track down Colonel Karpinski of Abu Ghraib fame, I’m sure she’s made a few contributions.

Embedded in the Capital Eye report are some notable reflections on Department of Defense (DoD) bureaucratic politicking:

Civil Servants Take a Stand

Civil servants in defense-related positions are also increasing their donations to Democrats. Contributions from employees of the Department of Defense seem to follow the incumbent party in the White House, favoring Democrats in 2000, while Bill Clinton was still president, and heavily favoring Republicans since George W. Bush took office. But in the 2008 election cycle, only 62 percent of the defense department's contributions have gone to the GOP, compared to 79 percent just before the war began.

I am not at all surprised that career bureaucrats let their politics (and their political donations) follow the incumbent party. Again, note the drop in support for the GOP from 79 to 62 percent. Maybe some of these more politically minded bureaucrats are betting on the Dem candidate? And again, based on the small numbers involved, is this statistically significant? No actual dollar amounts are mentioned, but there are several gratuitous statements of outrage over eavesdropping, torture, and the “disregard of constitutional rights.”

After posing the question at The Corner, Goldberg received this intelligent and helpful response, which further questions the basis for the Capital Eye report:

Alendalux writes:


Variations on this theme have been kicking around for a while – especially the one about Paul’s alleged groundswell of support.  It has also been based on lazy research.  They go to this page at FEC ( which has links to contributions by employer.  But there’s no set way of listing your employer.  Many people put “retired” under employer and then put USN, USMC or USAF next to their name in the name field – the “contributions by employer” does not take this into account.  It also doesn’t take into account the number of donors, just the amount of money.  So what you need to do is go to this FEC page ( – and choose either Republican or Democrat – which will eventually link you to a page for each candidate where you can get a listing of every individual contribution made to a given candidate.   

When the Paul story came out in July, I wrote about this.  I went through the pages for Paul and McCain, two individuals who have served in the military with completely opposite views on Iraq.  Paul had $23,000 in donations while McCain had $15,000.  Just looking at those numbers you know this is hardly going to be a statistically significant study.  But since so many people want to pretend it is, let’s go along with it.  Doing searches for Navy, Army, Air Force, Marine, USAF, USN, USA, USMC, DOD, Defense, Veteran, Soldier and Military (and, of course making sure anyone that came up on these searches were actually connected to the military – “USA” brought up “Susan” as often as it did someone in the Army), it turns out Paul’s money comes from a total of 23 people, most giving in the $1,000+ range.  McCain had more than twice the number of individual contributors – 55.  They just gave less money.  Why this is the case is up for debate – it could just be because Paul supporters are more activist in general.  

But the point is, in terms of numbers, if you can take anything from these findings, it’s that McCain has more support than Paul among those connected with the military who have given money – much more support.  After reading Orr’s post, I went back through both Paul and McCain’s contributions again today.  McCain still has more than twice the number of contributors as Paul, and he’s actually gained more individual contributors than Paul in the intervening two months.  McCain now has 64 to Paul’s 30.  So make of that what you will.  I think it is pretty statistically insignificant, but if you want to play their game, it means the military is still overwhelmingly on the side of the policies supported by McCain.  I haven’t gone through Obama’s contributors yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the people putting this study together took the similar route of taking the conveniently supplied “Contribution by Employer” numbers that showed Paul with some huge groundswell of support. 

More commentary from the Michael Goldfarb at the Weekly Standard:

I can't believe people are taking seriously this report showing a shift in the political contributions of active duty personnel away from the Republican party. The report says that contributions to Democrats have jumped to 40 percent this year from just 23 percent in 2004. That would be surprising--even though 60 percent support for Republicans would be considered an enormous landslide in any other subset of Americans--if this was actually an election year. Because it isn't, the numbers are minuscule compared to the contributions of 2004: just $330,000 so far, compared to $1.8 million for 2004.

Anytime you get a sample size that small, you are bound to have some weird things happen--like the fact that Ron Paul has raised more money so far among the military than any other Republican. Ron Paul also won the 'text your vote' portion of the last Republican presidential debate on Fox with some 35 percent support, and yet his support here on planet earth hovers around 1 percent last I heard. What does that mean? That Ron Paul's supporters are passionate. While the rest of the military is unlikely to even pay attention to the presidential contest until some time next year, a couple hundred Ron Paul supporters are sending in contributions--and furiously texting their votes to Fox.

A similar explanation can be applied to why it is that Democrats have closed the fund raising gap a bit among active duty personnel. The soldiers, sailors, Marines, etc. who are frustrated with this administration's policies are paying close attention, and sending money to candidates who they hope will offer a change of course.

The drop in contributions to Republicans—which began nearly the second the war in Iraq did in early 2003—seems to suggest that there is a passionate group of people in the armed services who are looking for ways to express their opinion, said John Samples, director of the Center for Representative Government at the Cato Institute. "This [data] suggests that among the military, the people who feel most intensely about the Bush administration and the war in Iraq are negative about it," Samples said.

I don't doubt that there might be a slight shift, but it is way too soon to tell. $27,000 to Obama--and he's in the lead? Even if you assume that no one mailed in more than $20, that's only 1,350 people, out of an Armed Forces numbering more than 2 million. I'm no statistician, but I would think that any serious analysis would conclude that Mr. Samples's sample size is too small to draw any meaningful conclusions about overall trends.

There are no reliable polls of the active duty military to check this against. Military Times surveys its readership, but those results are skewed by the fact that their participants are disproportionately drawn from the officer corps. And still, their survey found a margin of 72 to 17 in favor of Bush in the last presidential election. Any survey that shows Ron Paul to be a major force isn't worth the paper it's printed on.

Goldfarb must not have noted the little postscript on the article, noting that the data is of contributions greater than $200, which means that $27,000 donated to Senator Obama is from as few as 135 people, not 1,350.

There are two sides fighting, here at home, one wants the military to succeed, the other wants to end the war as quickly as possible, without regard to the outcome. And to do that, they have to convince the American people that:

  1. It’s lost already;
  2. There’s no hope for success;
  3. The troops who say we’re winning are lying; and
  4. The military is against the war

Sad to say, the Opposition had been making good progress with the American people on 1 and 2, and starting to make inroads on 3 and 4, until MILBLOGGERS stood up against TNR’s fabulist, the surge started working, and General Petraeus strode into the arena.

Now, they’re losing on 1 and 2 as well.

Continue the mission, as Papa Ray likes to say.



Upcoming Media

I have am told that an Op Ed I wrote this week will be published in Monday’s New York Daily News. I believe it will appear in the dead tree addition. My small contribution in the struggle against disinformation, discouragement, and defeat.

For more on what you can do, check out Vets for Freedom.

And thanks for the contact are due to Matt from Blackfive, who must have been too busy getting prepared for a certain special event this week…

As reported by John Donovan:

Today, the Armorer and a group of milbloggers participated in a tiny bit of history.

We got to meet the President of the United States. And talk with him for an hour.

With two of us linking in courtesy of the 3rd Infantry Division in Baghdad, we sat down a little before 10AM in the Roosevelt Room of the White House and literally had a chat with the President.

President Bush observed, that as far as he knows, this was the first time that a sitting President had hosted a group of bloggers for a chat at the White House. If that's in fact true - then we got to make a little history today. If it's not true, I'm sure the Peasants with Pitchforks will quickly disabuse us of the notion!

Present from the White House were:

President Bush
General Lute
Kevin Sullivan
Mark Pfeifler
Dana Perino
Tony Snow.

The milbloggers present were:

The Armorer of Argghhh!
Matt Burden of Blackfive
Mrs. Greyhawk of Mudville Gazette, standing in for the deployed Greyhawk
NZ Bear of the TTLB and the Victory Caucus
Steve Schippert of Threats Watch
Ward Carroll of Military.Com
A Soldier's Perspective
Mohammed of Iraq the Model

Linking in from Iraq were:

Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal
Bill Ardolino of INDC Journal.

Terrific work, gentlemen and Mrs. G! (That sounds like it ought to be a band or something.)

Thursday, September 13, 2007


More Media on Surge

As mentioned yesterday, the local Fox affiliate sat me down for an interview yesterday. Today they led off their Daybreak morning news cast with a report that included some of my commentary.

They packaged portions of the interview with stock footage and mention of both General Petraeus’s testimony and the President’s expected press conference today.

I’m pleased with the result, although this time my mention of Vets for Freedom didn’t make it on-air. Things are definitely heating up in Congress, and there’s lots of work left to make sure our efforts don’t prove in vain – in Washington, or in Iraq.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Media Appearance

The local Fox affiliate asked me to come on this morning to answer questions about Congressional testimony this week by General David Petraeus. Video here.

The manner in which they contacted me confirms that I really am the only guy in their rolodex listed under “pro-war.” The producer I normally deal with is on vacation this week, and her stand-in found my name in her files.

No matter, good on them for seeking some military commentary from someone with some background and experience. I hardly think I’m a “military expert,” but I see many with national exposure with less, and I am very well informed on Iraq. I think it speaks volumes about the state of politics and military affairs in New York, that local media have such a difficult time finding viewpoints which contrast with the views of, say, our Congressional delegation. Would that NY had some diversity in representation, but that’s another set of problems altogether.

This time on-air I got to squeeze in mention of Veterans for Freedom, which anchor Mark Baker specifically asked me about.

They also asked me to stick around a tape an interview with one of their reporters that they want to package up and use in coverage tomorrow. They anticipate using the segment as local tie-in, in conjunction with coverage of President Bush’s press briefing and his expected announcement of surge troop withdrawals.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Thoughts on 9/11

I first thought about the anniversary this morning as I shaved. I thought, I wonder if any terrorist slime bag has managed to pull off some anniversary carnage, and because I'm in the bathroom away from the TV, I just haven't heard about it yet.

I got into the office, made a quick check of the headlines, no word of any attack. As the day went on, lots of tributes and remembrances, but no terrorist attacks, save in Iraq.

I suppose it's not too late yet for some malefactor to initiate some strike or bomb sequence, and pay homage to 9/11, but we're getting close to the failsafe limit for evening news broadcasts, and still no terror observance of the anniversary. As in previous years, Al Qaeda and Bin Laden pay lip service to their distorted idea of Jihad, but can't accomplish their promised reprisal against the West, against America.

Some lunatic takes an ax to a civilian in the Netherlands because he can't find a soldier. In Europe, that's surely symbolic for something. Some twisted, terrorist take on the saying, you may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you. The downside risks of juvenile thinking: what happens when you let other countries take care of your physical security, and other populations perform your menial labor.

I think the desperation and lunacy of the ax killing is symbolic of the dramatic failures of Al Qaeda since 2003 as well.

When the only people you can motivate your cause might just as well pull off some mass killing at a McDonalds as bury an ax into military substitutes, well, you're not much of a motivator for mayhem. There just aren't that many lunatics, and they get easily distracted and may murder off message.

You can view the significance of 9/11 any number of ways. A tragic attack that awakened us to a decades long war already waged against us. The grandest of a series of attacks meant to pacify or terrorize us into submission. The precursor to ever more dangerous and devious methods to exploit the soft underbelly of western democracies. I know some want to view it as a one-off aberration, unlikely to be repeated, but I think that's naïve, to put it charitably. Terror loses its power if it starts falling below a threshold of anticipated or "we've seen this before" mediocrity (in terror terms). Bin Laden and others of his ilk would always want to top their previous exploits.

Me, I remain anxious about how Al Qaeda, their admirers, or their state and non-state miscreants who adopt their methods, find a successor to 9/11 worthy of their grandiose visions of complete world domination. (Or domination of a significant proportion thereof.)

What happens when they deploy a nuke or dirty bomb? What happens if they co-opt and perfect weaponization of biological agents?

I'd like to think that we're seeing the last throes of a discredited threat, unable to win over converts, on the run, denied one safe haven after another, even former allies turning against them in cold calculation of what's in it for them.

But I think that may be naïve, as well.

There remain a great many people and disgruntled movements in the world who continue to resent the West, America, capitalism, markets, democracy, various forms of manufacturing, even modern entertainment industries and other cultural pollutants.

And for them, 9/11 will always be the World Series or Super Bowl of using violence to get attention.

How many terrorist wannabes are out there, hoping against hope and probability that they'll be able to give the world a new, more terrible substitute to 9/11 in collective dread?

Eventually, that wacko may have more at his disposal than an IED or an ax.




The far left political advocacy group placed a full page ad in the Sunday New York Times, attacking General David Petraeus. The ad’s headline included an offensive play on Petraus’ name, asking if the General would “betray us,” and in the text of the ad discounting both his testimony and his character.

Pundits and politicos alike have been falling all over themselves, in outrage, in calls for Democrats and other anti-war opponents to disavow the ad, and war opponents themselves have made several expressions of regret or “frustration.”

Michael Yon, independent journalist and first person chronicler of war, offers this assessment of General Petraeus and the Times acceptance of the ad, posting at The Tank:

General David Petraeus's first day of testimony was completely accurate, and consistent with my recent experiences around Iraq. Everything he said during the public hearing on Monday was measured, cogent, and demonstrably accurate. That his reputation was attacked in an entirely inaccurate full-page advertisement in the New York Times is a smear on the reputation of the New York Times. That the advertisement was placed by a political organization of poor reputation is beside the point. To the point is that numerous parts of the text were wholly inaccurate to the point that a candid person might call them lies. A more generous person might call the authors ignorant. But again, the authors are from an organization with a naked political agenda and their methods are at times even juvenile. The responsible parties are those at the New York Times who accepted money and prostituted their pages to print tabloid-level rants.

Link courtesy of Glenn Reynolds, who also links to Bob Owens of Confederate Yankee, who notes a reported price for the ad of $65,000, whereas the NY Times full sticker price is published as $167,157. As Owens observes:

If Tapper's numbers are correct, paid just 38.89% of a full-cost, nationwide ad, or a 61.11% discount off of a full-rate ad. While I'm fairly certain that nobody pays "sticker" prices, 61% off seems a rather sweet deal.

In a semantic (and sublime) twist of irony, National Public Radio’s Morning Edition chose as their Word for the Wise today, “mumblety-peg.” An entry at Wikipedia barely glances at the etymology of the unusual word:

The term "Mumbletypeg" came from the practice of putting a peg of about 2 or 3 inches into the ground. The loser of the game had to take it out with his teeth.

As WFTW (no transcript found) explained, “mumble” serves as an example of onomatopoeia, the linguistic phenomenon of a word resembling the sound it describes. In this case, a participant would “mumble” the peg whilst attempting to pull it out of the ground.

There are not a few partisans making public utterances resembling that of a bunch of mumblety-peg losers. How they manage to pull General Petraeus’ peg out of the ground with their teeth will be entertaining to hear.

For some heavily invested in US withdrawal from Iraq, and the continued discrediting of the Bush Administration and the US military, you can hear the mumbling in the form of “you’re a fine man but your facts are wrong” and “our military is doing a fantastic job, but they’re being badly directed in a lost cause.”

For others, the mumbling will take the form of – I’ve already heard it this morning from a producer of a local news program – “General Petraeus is calling for an immediate withdrawal of Marines.” The implication being, of course, that the General affirms the view of some that we need to get our troops out now.

As if that’s all he said. As if they heard only that which they wanted to hear, “mmmmbbblll mmmbbbllll mmmbbllll withdrawl mmmmbblll mmmbbbll mmmbbllll…” and mumbled away the rest.

No matter the mumbling. Facts are growing plainer by the day, and the American people have confidence in our military as they have of no other entity in Government. They sorely want to win, and will readily acknowledge and accept the pegs that General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker have stuck in the ground.

Time for the losers to grab those pegs with their teeth. Listen for the mumbling, that way you’ll know who really lost.

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Thursday, September 06, 2007


ACLU Depictions

(Coming soon to a theater near you. No doubt.)

Dan Riehl referenced a pending lawsuit to be filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) by way of making a cautionary rejoinder to Bob Owens recent defense of our troops. Riehl also linked to a report on the ACLU lawsuit published by Time Magazine, as well as the ACLU press release, and full text excerpts of military prosecutions and investigations of soldiers who were alleged to have committed criminal acts while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. More on the ACLU’s press release and documentary “evidence” below.

Why the note of caution from Riehl? He warns Owens and his readers that, “unfortunately, it isn’t all made up.” Riehl refers to Owens implication that negative stories about the US military attack “the integrity of those who serve.”

Owens points to numerous signs of progress in Iraq, admits that partisans on both sides (himself included) will “spin the data and the findings to support our political viewpoints.” Along the way, Owens highlights Hollywood propagandists, along with ubiquitous media doom-speak, and similar critical descriptions of Administration spin and “illusions.”

Owens notes the ease and frequency with which war critics suggest that GEN Petraeus and other military leaders will lie or misrepresent progress and “facts on the ground” for political ends. In this context, Owens mentions the “brutal fantasies” of Scott Beauchamp, and the dishonesty of TNR and its editor’s reactions to claims of serial untruthfulness in Beauchamp’s “diary” entries.

I suppose that’s the basis for Riehl’s cautionary disclaimer that “it isn’t all made up,” it being any comments or presentation of purported facts about military misbehavior. Doubtlessly Riehl is correct, but the object of his misgivings (the ACLU report) itself warrants scrutiny and skepticism.

The ACLU’s actual press release avoids making much of any generalizations about military misbehavior, summarizing their document release in neutral terms:

The Army has provided thousands of pages of documents chronicling civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Those documents include new evidence of coalition forces’ involvement in civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A critic of our military and efforts in Iraq or Afghanistan might interpret the phrase “evidence of coalition forces’ involvement in civilian casualties” as damning, but a careful study of many of the documents themselves suggest otherwise.

The ACLU excerpts of 10 Courts Martial Proceedings show convictions and other punishments for 9 out of the 10 cases, and they clearly show military wrong-doing. But the ACLU pad their cache of documents a great number that indicate exoneration, lack of negligence, outright innocence, and in only a few cases, possible criminal behavior.

The ACLU does manage to squeeze in those very few cherry picked examples of excess and extreme behavior that proves the rare exception, even within these documents that the ACLU apparently finds so conclusive. And in doing so, they even manage to misrepresent one of their most valued examples of wrongful deaths:

Yet another file describes an investigation of a riot at a U.S. interment facility at Camp Bucca, Iraq, evidently related to claims that U.S. personnel had defaced the Qur’an.  At least four Iraqi prisoners were shot and killed by Coalition Forces during the disturbance.

I read that file. Here are the details that the ACLU left out:

Investigation determined [redacted] were justified in their use of lethal force during the riot. After approximately 2 hours of rioting, with the riot escalating and non-lethal ammunition almost expended, [redacted] fire a total of eight lethal rounds at detainees engaged in the riot because of fear for their own lives and the lives of other US security personnel. The use of deadly force was consistent with applicable regulations and policies. [ed., and common sense]

The cause of death for Detainees ABID, MOUSA, HAMED, and TAWFEEEK was gunshot wounds. The manner of their deaths was homicide. The manner of death is a medical classification that should not be confused with criminal statutes. No personnel involved in controlling the riot, including [redacted] violated criminal statutes.

TIME, of course, exaggerates what the ACLU press release actually says:

New documents released Tuesday regarding crimes committed by U.S. soldiers against civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan detail a troubling pattern of troops failing to understand and follow the rules that govern interrogations and deadly actions.


The documents, released by the American Civil Liberties Union ahead of a lawsuit, total nearly 10,000 pages of courts-martial summaries, transcripts and military investigative reports about 22 incidents. They show repeated examples of soldiers believing they were within the law when they killed local citizens.

Other than the Courts Martial proceedings -- note to non-military, those document prosecutions, which mean the military sought to punish wrongdoing) -- these documents hardly detail anything of substance, and surely not a “pattern.” Twenty two incidents barely rise beyond any reasonable margin of error (and at that, really only 9 show confirmed criminal activity), and the “repeated examples of soldiers believing they were within the law” are matched in many cases by an administrative, investigation, or judicial determination that, in fact, they were within the law.

You won’t read that within the TIME report, nor see it mentioned by the ACLU, but you might well conclude it by reviewing a fair sample of the documents the ACLU tossed out by way of “evidence.” I read both IG reports, all 12 Criminal Investigation Command (CID) files, and sampled the Courts Martial records.

Again, other than the Courts Martial, one or two suggested possible wrong doing, but the great majority read like unsupported or even false allegations that fall apart during investigation. Most are routine confirmation of unfortunate deaths due to traffic accidents, collateral casualties during attacks, or even deaths resulting from the “victims” engaging US forces in active combat. There’s even a report of death due to a surgical complication.

There are a handful of serious examples of apparent misconduct or criminal behavior, as selectively quoted by the ACLU. They are far from the norm, even within the cases the ACLU highlights with great suspicion.

It might also be useful to point out that the ACLU is gathering all of its current data from files of Army investigations and criminal prosecutions. In other words, cases where the military very energetically investigating, and when warranted, prosecuting wrong-doing in the ranks.

If this is the best the ACLU could come up with, despite excessive zeal and deep motivation to damn and discredit our military, our troops are doing one heck of a job. And ACLU donors ought to be asking themselves if there’s a better use for their money.

(Links courtesy of Instapundit.)

Mrs. Greyhawk at MILBLOGS links to Stop the ACLU, which echoes Riehl’s cautionary note. Stop the ACLU includes some feedback from some who have read through the ACLU allegations, and found them predictable, consistent with anti-war propaganda, and often mischaracterized. Credibility and validity indicators, both “D” val.

Chapomatic, also at MILBLOGS, notes a related Glenn Reynolds post and suggests that the intent of allegations and accusations aren’t necessarily to achieve punishment, and surely not justice:

Oh by the way that series of accusations, of which you have heard? Nothing was proved. No wrongdoing was indicated. The accused were free to go, after their careers and reputations were ruined.

That's more effective than shooting someone in wartime--not only is one guy off the field, but so are many more comrades, and the chilling effect will kill more and render others unable to shoot the right person at the right time.

A “troubling pattern” of behavior by the ACLU, I’d say.

(Cross-posted at MILBLOGS)

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