Saturday, March 20, 2004


On Friday I wrote that smart people are so interesting. Today, being Saturday, I've spent some of the day blindly following links and discovering Smart Creative People. Like the folks at unearthen who give us this photograph,

and a tune called Scary Kerry (to the Theme from the Munsters).

In all fairness, I stumbled across these guys linked from Am I Right, the largest collection of hysterical song parodies I've ever seen, including my favorite (for the moment) parody of Bill Withers "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone" called, "Ain't no Lunch Left When He's Done"

Existence of Invisible Government Agents Revealed!

Sun Valley, Idaho. Apparantly at a loss to explain his being covered in snow after a snowboarding spill, Massachusettes Senator John "" Kerry declared himself immune to the force of gravity and put the blame on a secret service agent protecting him while on the slopes.

"I don't fall down," the "son of a bitch knocked me over." Kerry told a reporter seemingly without pondering the wisdom of hurling epithets in the direction of a man whose job it is to stop a bullet for him.

The revelation that Kerry is immune to the law of gravity comes only a week after Kerry revealed he is also immune to the norms of presidential campaign transparancy.

Speaking at a town meeting in Bethlehem PA, Kerry implied to the audience that he could call or fly all around the world and speak to world leaders and undermine the current president of the United States. "That is none of your business", said the Senator.

On Friday, Kerry, his snowboard strapped to his back, hiked past 9,000 feet on Durrance Peak, then snowboarded down the mountain, taking repeated tumbles. Reporters counted six falls, although Kerry was out of sight for part of the descent.

Later, at the lodge reporters asked Kerry about those six falls.

"I already told you...I don't fall down! It's these new stealth secret service agents - the invisible ones they gave me. Those sons of bitches knocked me down. I was going to give them a piece of my mind but it is none of their business," Kerry said, as the gathering throngs were amazed to see him reach bare handed into the lodge's fireplace to remove a glowing ember with which he lit an après ski cigar. The flames apparently had no ill effect on the Senators bare skin, causing others to wonder aloud "what other rules do not apply to him?"

The senator had only a cryptic reply to reporters who questioned him about his possibly going swimming while at the luxury resort.

"I may venture into the water, but I don't get wet." the senator replied, a strange and wonderful countenance radiating about his face.

(with Inspirational Credit due to Scrappleface)

Day 314.

Friday, March 19, 2004


The RNC's video: John Kerry...International Man of Mystery.

You MUST go see it .

Perusing through my links...ran across this at The Patriette 's site.
I'm not going to call the Spaniards stupid, though... after all, Kerry is leading in the U.S. polls...

A great story here, sent in by Beth (thanks!), about a 16 year old who is "Iraq's fastest distance runner".

Go read his story...and then keep an eye on him during the Olympics this summer.
Congressional investigators said Thursday that Saddam Hussein's government reaped $10.1 billion in illegal revenues related to the U.N. oil-for-food program -- much more than previous estimates.

The General Accounting Office has concluded that Saddam received $5.7 billion from oil smuggled out of Iraq and $4.4 billion in illicit surcharges on oil sales and purchases of commodities, according to testimony prepared for the House Financial Services oversight and investigations subcommittee.

He mentions an Army favorite Soldiers.
(A)nd in our military, they're seeing the good heart of America.

They see people like PFC Amanda Thompson Cummings, who volunteered to serve in Iraq. She's an Army cook who also works on security patrol.

She said this to a reporter: "They know I can shoot. I'm one of the best in my battalion. But, hey, I'm a redneck, what do you expect?" (Laughter and applause.)

Those are her words, not mine. (Laughter.)

This soldier also describes how the children of Iraq look at her, especially the young girls. As Amanda puts it, "When those girls look at a female soldier, they think, maybe I can be something, too."

PFC Cummings says, "We made a difference in their lives. And their faces, when they look at us, that made it all worthwhile right there."

Yesterday, at Fort Campbell, before the Screaming Eagles and the 5th Special Forces
September the 11th, 2001 taught a lesson I will never forget. America must confront threats before they fully materialize.

In Iraq, my administration looked at the intelligence information, and we saw a threat.

Members of Congress looked at the intelligence, and they saw a threat.

The United Nations Security Council looked at the intelligence, and it saw a threat.

I had a choice to make, either take the word of a madman, or take such threats seriously and defend America. Faced with that choice, I will defend America every time.
Yes, Sir, Mr. President. And God bless you for it.

Once we cherished human least most of us did.

Once we had boundaries of least most of us did.
A senior Taiwanese official says Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian and Vice President Annette Lu were both shot and wounded Friday while campaigning on the last day before the presidential election.

"They did not suffer life-threatening injuries. They urge the public to cool down," said Chiou I-jen, secretary-general in the Presidential Office, at a news conference held after about an hour of rumors sweeping through Taiwan on what had happened.

Chiou said the president was shot in the stomach, and the vice president was hit in the right knee as their motorcade made its way through the streets of the southern city of Tainan.

I've just discovered the team blog over at Carpetbloggers. I've linked them to the blogroll...go check them out.

Smart is good.

This is day 313 of CPT Patti's deployment.

The one year mark of the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

There is a glut of summaries and evaluations of Iraq, one year after out there. I surmise those are for the consumption of the general public who stopped paying attention sometime late last April or in May.

If you've been reading along with us here, you already know the state of things in Iraq.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

The notion that Spain can separate itself from Al Qaeda's onslaught on Western civilization by pulling its troops from Iraq is a fantasy.

Bin Laden has said that Spain was once Muslim and he wants it restored that way.

As a friend in Cairo e-mailed me, a Spanish pullout from Iraq would only bring to mind Churchill's remark after Chamberlain returned from signing the Munich pact with Hitler: "You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor and you will have war."

Meanwhile, in a statement that is surely the Chamberlainesque "peace in our time" of our generation, European Commission President Romano Prodi declared: "It is clear that using force is not the answer to resolving the conflict with terrorists."

Prodi's evidence is the increased terrorism since the Iraq war.

By this logic, shooting bears is not the best way to kill them, since a wounded animal is the most dangerous kind.

Except on this one, you don't have to watch too closely...this one will track you down and slap you in the face.
"I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it."

- John F. Kerry, March 16, 2004. defending (I guess!) his votes against the Iraq supplemental funding bill, a bill to ensure the Soldiers had the tools they need to do the job we gave them.
Do you detect a resemblence to "That depends on what the meaning of "is" is"?

America doesn't need this. And America's Soldier's can do without the duplicity of this sort of "veteran".

Barbara Comstock has more insight on Kerry's political opportunism at NRO
The bill also provided extra money for body armor for soldiers. Even the Washington Post editorialized in favor of the bill.

So how did the Democratic presidential candidates vote? Lieberman and Gephardt supported the troops along with liberal-Democratic colleagues such as Tom Daschle, Dianne Feinstein, Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer, and even Hillary Clinton. In the Senate, the vote was 87 to 12.

Only eleven Democrats and independent Senator Jim Jeffords voted against the $87 billion.

So, what did Senator Kerry do? He did what he has done for two decades in his Senate career: He stuck his finger in the wind. Then he voted in the way he thought would best help his chance for the Democratic nomination...

John Kerry was more interested in sending the "right signal" to the extremists in his party, whom he was trying to peel away from the soon-to-be unhinged Howard Dean.

Or perhaps he was trying to send the "right signal" to all of those "foreign leaders" (or "more leaders") around the world who, he claims, want to see him as president.

But what John Kerry really did with that vote was to send the "right signal" to the American people that he is not prepared for the tough and principled decisions that a commander-in-chief must make when a nation is at war.
Finally, here is the clearest explanation of just what this vote meant:
Kerry's...stance is that he voted for an amendment that would have approved the $87 billion if the tax cuts were rolled back. Without that in the bill he voted against it...

Kerry valued raising taxes more than he valued giving our troops the support they needed.

Appearing directly on the the Army's home page...CPT Patti gets published!

And as an aside note...Hey Mom! These guys are the ones wearing the baseball caps you collected for us!

Christian missionaries killed in Iraq.
Gunmen in Iraq killed my Shelby High School friend Jean Dover Elliott on Monday.

Jean's relatives had begged her to stay out of Iraq. But three weeks ago, she and her husband, Larry, pulled into Baghdad after a 10-hour cab ride from Amman, Jordan. They realized the danger of working on water-purification projects for the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, but they were at peace with it.

Even in one of the world's most dangerous places, she and Larry sent home e-mails beginning: "Today has been another good day in Baghdad."

Excellent piece...worth reading the entire thing.
What really grieves us missionaries working for Asia is to witness that what sparks debate over Iraq comes not from love for the Iraqi people, but arises simply from political interests which use the issue as a means to outvote their adversaries.

We find the same thing throughout the rest of the world, where anti-Americanism belittles all parties supporting what Bush, the United States and the marines do.

We weren’t in favor of war, but not due to blind pacifism. During the onslaught of peace protests (in reality anti-Bush and anti-Berlusconi demonstrations), we were worried about the Iraqi people.

And yet today, for the very same reason...we acknowledge that the war and Coalition forces have done good things for the country. According to a BBC survey conducted in least 70% of Iraqis think that things are changing for the better in their country and 56% of citizens say Iraq is better now than before the war...

A schoolteacher now earns 50 dollars a month, instead of 3 dollars prior to the war. Doctors now take home 300 dollars a month, instead of their old 4-dollar salaries.

The Church is also freer to express itself, move about, criticize and demand its rights. The return of private education –in both Christian and Muslim schools – has signified the end of tight dictatorial rule...

That fact that women and Christians entered the debate over the constitution to protect their rights and values is already a sign that the rights of both men and women will be respected, in addition to those of religion in a Muslim world.

Certainly terrorism still abounds, as soldiers and especially citizens are killed in the streets. Whoever (would) label “the resistance” those who command ranks of terrorist militants should tell their opinion to Dr. Raied Jewad, a scholar at the University of Cambridge who had his relatives murdered in a restaurant upon reentering his country after 23 years of exile.

“This isn’t resistance,” he says in a report. “To call it so is an insult to the Iraqi people. How can a populace ‘resist’ occupational forces by taking the lives of very own people and exploding bombs in streets near Mosques while killing UN and Red Cross workers?

A true form of Iraqi resistance would not have been conducted in such a pathetic and cowardly manner.”

This report makes Baghdad Bob look positively sane when compared with Saddam, his generals and his allies.
According to newly uncovered secret documents, the former Iraqi regime never contemplated its imminent defeat and continued to function normally under Saddam's direct control, even as American tanks were closing in on Baghdad.

While much has been made about intelligence failures in the West, it seems that Saddam's own senior officials, diplomats and spies offered him such a warped vision of the outside world that warnings went unheeded and the power of France and Russia to prevent the conflict took on mythical proportions...

On instructions from Saddam, Lt. Gen. Abed Hamid Hamoud, the head of the presidential office, ordered Naji Sabri, the foreign minister, to contact the French and Russian governments and tell them that Iraq would accept only an "unconditional withdrawal" of U.S. forces.

"Tell them that Iraq is now winning and that the U.S. has sunk in the mud of defeat," said the letter, written on March 30 - 10 days into the war and less than two weeks before U.S. tanks entered the capital.

The letter was in response to a message the day before from Sabri, who had met the Russian ambassador to Baghdad and reported that Moscow believed "U.S. aggression has no future."

Followers of Muhammed...with an infinite capacity for hate, a total absence of conscience and a seemingly voracious appetite for human extermination.

Oh, how proud their mothers must be.
A huge car bomb destroyed the five-story Mount Lebanon hotel in central Baghdad on Wednesday evening. The explosion reduced an apartment block across the road to a tangle of steel, masonry and shattered furniture, and left an inferno of blazing cars and buildings that lit the night sky for hours. At least 27 people were killed and 41 wounded...

At least some of the casualties appeared to be foreigners, most from neighboring Arab countries.

The bombing was among the worst atrocities to be carried out in Iraq during the U.S. occupation...

With no statement claiming responsibility for the blast, the terrorists' motives were unknown.
Notice something please. It remains unclear why this hotel was selected as a target. And if one can't identify the tactical, operational or strategic advantage of a target, but attacks it anyway, then one wages war for the sake of killing...with no meaningful goal. Just killing for killing's sake.

More and more this seems to be the public face of Islam. I say that for though I scour news and opinion stories around the world daily I find there to be almost no Muslim condemnation of these acts committed in the name of Allah.

However, there is the rare exception. In my mind, if Islam wishes to salvage its name and reputation, we must see more, much more of more can this be an "unusual stance":
Taking an unusual stance, a columnist for the Saudi English-language Arab News criticized Arabs for blaming the U.S. for recent terror attacks in Iraq.

Muhammad Al-Rasheed chastised Shia clerics in a column last Wednesday for blaming the U.S. for the recent attacks against Shia in Karbala and Baghdad, reported the Middle East Media Research Institute.

Arabs tend to "blame others and shun the facts," he said, pointing out prominent clerics, including some in Lebanon, have pinned responsibility on the U.S.

"Mind you, this America is the [same one] the Shia are now talking to so they can finally govern themselves for the first time in 1,400 years," al-Rasheed said.

"If I were a Shia and from Iraq, I'd pray to the Almighty that America remained in Iraq until the country was stable and on its feet again," he continued. "Otherwise, the Karbala massacre will be just a trailer for the full version of an unbelievable horror show." ...

Al-Rasheed challenged the clerics to "name names and point fingers in the right direction."

"We are sick and tired of this kind of behavior," he said. "We honestly have had enough of it and cannot blame the world for looking at us and wondering if we retain any shred of humanity. The creed that sanctions blowing up worshipers in mosques (or any other religious venue for that matter, including office buildings since Islam says that work is worship) should be declared the public enemy of humanity. The U.N. should vote on that publicly and let us count the votes and identify those who vote against the motion."

Al-Rasheed called the terrorists who carried out the attacks more barbarous than ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

"The perpetrators have an agenda more vicious than anything Saddam could have dreamed up," al-Rasheed said. "Saddam killed and maimed to maintain his rule by brute force. These people kill and maim to turn people against each other and to satisfy a bloodlust based on elitism in theological terms. In other words, they want to win in this world and go to heaven in the next. I don't think Saddam was that optimistic; otherwise, the Americans would not have found him alive in a hole."

Al-Rasheed said, "Just when we seem to have moved a step forward, something happens to make us take 10 steps back," said. "Sacrificial blood in Karbala and Baghdad is nothing new but the latest atrocity on the most sacred day for the Shia was a criminal act of monstrous proportions. The carnage and the spectacle were on a scale not seen since the last sacking of Karbala over a century ago."


1st Infantry Division has taken casualties early on.
Capt. John “Hans” Kurth, 31, of Columbus, Wis., and his driver, Spc. Jason Ford, 21, of Bowie, Md., died early Saturday when their Humvee — part of a three-vehicle Company B convoy patrolling near the 1st Infantry Division’s new headquarters in Tikrit — was struck by a makeshift roadside bomb.

Two days later, the men of their unit gathered to mourn them at Forward Operating Base Omaha, Task Force 1-18’s headquarters in Tikrit. Their war had lasted barely a week.

“These two men fell in a split second, on the dark streets of this city,” said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Sinclair, the battalion commander. “Separated by rank, lifestyles, and a decade of time, they were joined by the common bond of serving our nation.”

If your soldier paid for R&R travel from Baltimore, Michigan...this bill intends to reimburse that expense.
Two U.S. senators from Minnesota have introduced a bill to reimburse troops for their Rest and Recuperation travel expenses from September through December...

At first, the military flew troops only as far as Frankfurt, Germany, or Baltimore-Washington International Airport in Maryland. Later, airports in Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth and Los Angeles were added.

In October, Congress recommended the Army move $55 million between accounts to pay for troops’ domestic travel costs in order to get them all the way home.


4th ID hands over the reins to 1st ID.
The U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division took control of Iraq’s deadly Sunni Triangle on Tuesday when the 4th Infantry Division transferred its authority to the incoming division.

Soldiers from the divisions assembled at Forward Operating Base Danger in Tikrit for the change of command from the 4th ID’s Task Force Ironhorse to 1st ID’s Task Force Danger...

1st ID takes responsibility for security in north-central Iraq, an area which includes cities such as Tikrit, Samarra, Baquobah and Kirkuk, all hotbeds of anti-coalition activity.

Day 312.

I talked to CPT Patti yesterday. Since the reestablishment of cell phone service in Iraq, the Iraqi system is compatible with some of the personal cell phones (aka Handies, in Germany) that our soldiers took with them. She tells me that the phones must be "D2 Compatible". Readers in Germany will know what that means.

(Sarah...I'm hoping your idea bin just hit a big KA-CHING! as to the next item you buy and mail to your husband.)

Anyway, CPT Patti borrowed a friends D2 phone and purchased a calling card and was able to call me. We talked for nearly half an hour.

And gee whiz she sounded so good! Sounds as if she is right about where she should be two weeks after leaving command...the decompression has begun...the silliness has returned.

And though we weren't able to spend our anniversary together...we did share a remarkable phone call.

Thanks to all who wrote in sending your congratulations. That means a lot.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004


An abomination in Toronto:
The crudely sprayed swastika left Maria Leib speechless.

And it cruelly carried her back to the Jewish ghetto in the Ukraine where Nazis confined her during World War II.

"That was a bitter time," Leib said yesterday as York Region police continued their probe of anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on 13 homes and vehicles in a predominantly Jewish neighbourhood in Vaughan early Monday.

"I feel at home in Canada," Leib said haltingly. "But for the first time I felt afraid."

Ichil Leib said he immediately sensed something was wrong when his mother opened the front door of their townhouse Monday morning.

The words JEWZ SUK had been scrawled above the Nazi symbol.

"This isn't the first time such hateful things have happened and it won't be the last," the 57-year-old man said.

"My mother wants to remove it, but I want to leave it so people can see that it's a crime."

Residents along Beverley Glen Blvd. and nearby streets in the Steeles Ave. W. and Dufferin St. neighbourhood awoke to find swastikas and other hateful symbols. All homes are owned by Jews and easily identified by a sacred scroll attached to the doorframe.
And out of sheer habit I read the article waiting for the reporter to attempt to link this story with The Passion of the Christ. ASTONISHINGLY they didn't!

I'm assuming they didn't because they have no evidence of such a connection.

But buddy boy, you better believe if this had happened in an American city - evidence or not - what passes for journalists in this country would have Gibson's movie mentioned by the fifth paragraph.

My hat is off to the Canadian reporters and editors for this example of reporting the facts.

Day 311.

And Saint Patricks Day...may the luck o' the Irish be yours.

As it is mine.

Because today is our wedding anniversary. I may have to lift a wee pint in our honor. real life is intruding on my on-line life today...I'll do better later.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004


I wrote earlier today that Prime Minister Zapatero is no statesman and is a political rookie. Rantingprofs has some astute comments to back that up as she links to this story.

Many here contend Aznar has adopted a servile stance toward the United States. In contrast, Socialist party leader Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero stressed his independence and willingness to criticize Washington. Many approvingly cited an incident during last October's Columbus Day military parade when Zapatero sat down as the American flag passed by. "It's not my flag," he reportedly said later.
And you won't believe how offended someone can get over a necktie selection. Go read both links.


Question: Why doesn't this headline say "Those who have lost loved ones choose not to join in dissent"?

Both "states of being" exist for families of the fallen. And yet this headline presents only half (or less) of the story.

Oh...yeah...before my buddy Defense Contractor Guy has to write in again...the headline writers job is to sell papers, not report the facts.
Several European allies of the United States affirmed on Monday their determination to keep forces in Iraq despite last week's terror bombings in Madrid and Sunday's surprise election of a Spanish government bent on pulling out its own troops.

The declarations were made in response to the victory of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party, which unseated a government that was a staunch ally of Washington. Prime Minister-elect Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has pledged to withdraw Spain's 1,300 troops from Iraq by the end of June if the United Nations does not take over peacekeeping.

Spain is set to join France and Germany, once dismissed by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld as "old Europe," in opposing military involvement in Iraq. "Old Europe has been fortified. It is a lesson for the United States. The coalition is not permanent," said Stefano Silvestrini, an analyst for the International Affairs Institute here.

Nonetheless, Spain's defection does not seem to be causing a rush to the exits. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who has been at odds with opposition groups about the military involvement in Iraq, pledged to keep the country's 2,300 soldiers there.

In Britain, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw disputed any suggestion that countries allied with the United States were more likely to be attacked by terrorists than countries without troops in Iraq. ...

Polish officials said they would keep the country's 2,400 peacekeeping troops in Iraq. "Revising our position on Iraq after terrorist attacks would be to admit that terrorists are stronger and they are right," Prime Minister Leszek Miller said at a news conference in the Polish town of Tarnow, according to news services.

Poland currently commands 10,000 multinational troops in south-central Iraq. Spain was due to take over the command in July, but that schedule is now in doubt. "If it is necessary, we will continue leading the multinational division. We are prepared to do that even if Spain is not able to fulfill its promise," Poland's ambassador to NATO, Jerzy Nowak, said in Brussels.

In the Netherlands, the government said that its small contingent would remain.
There is an astonishing amount of discussion on the internet over Spain's election and subsequent announcement of its intent to withdraw the their troops from Iraq.

And I disagree with Citizen Smash's assertion that
Reactions to this news from outside of Spain have been varied. Some have claimed that it demonstrates how vulnerable Blair and even Bush may be to voter backlash over Iraq. Others have accused the Spanish of knuckling under to terrorists.

These latter reactions are wholly inappropriate. Spain is not America, but it is an ally, and a representative democracy. It is not our place to criticize whom our allies select to be their leaders, so long as the elections are free and fair, and democracy is not undermined. The people of Spain have spoken, and the rest of us must respect their decision.
Let me make it clear up front that I respect Citizen Smash for his service and for his well thought-out positions. But in this case I believe he is wrong.

Representative democracies are established precisely on the premise that elected leaders are given license to make decisions that are "best" or, if you will "right". If we want it to be otherwise, in the days of instant communications, we could experiment with Direct Democracies.

It is among the roles of leadership in a Representative Democracy to make decisions of vision, to be smarter on the big picture than the average voter himself. In short, the elected leaders must take on the role of the grown-up. A role of the elected leader is to see that freedom loving nations "eat their vegetables".

I respect the right of Spain's people to elect whom they will. But there is no expectation of universal support of the actual decision they have made, as Citizen Smash insists there is.

In my view the Spanish population followed the lead of the German population, who, you recall, in a stunning turnaround, reelected the "unre-electable" Schroeder on the basis of his anti-war stance.

Yes...war is an awful thing in its conduct. But it is an instrument of foreign policy for which there is no substitute. Few among us...including most wearing military uniforms...would choose to go to war. That is why leader's must make the hard decisions, when such decisions are necessary.

President Bush made the decision it was necessary based upon the information available at the time. Some 49 countries signed on to agree with him. That is leadership. Leadership sometime means taking people where they do not wish to go. Leadership is not required to persuade people to do what makes them feel good. That they will do anyway.

CPT Patti's father, a minister by trade, speaks of the Christian concept of "loving the sinner but hating the sin". Similarly we must support democracy without supporting poor decision making under the framework of democracy. The Spanish have made a poor decision.

As I've argued before, the war on terror represents a universal threat that can not be evaluated strictly upon the basis of a country's "national interests". The threat of terror transcends any given state...and its response must also.

The upset victory in the Spanish elections, coming mere days after the bombing for which Al Qaeda has taken credit cannot help but create a cause/effect impression on the terrorists. Hence, we can expect to see this same tactic used in future elections of coalition partners, perhaps even US Elections themselves. Thus, Spanish actions have elevated the risk level to other countries. Their response has implications beyond Spain's national interests.

Thus, while respecting their right to elect their own leader, I believe they have made a collosal mistake, sending the message to terrorists that they, the population at large, can be cowed. Statesmen like to say "we do not negotiate with terrorists". In this case the terrorists decided to see if they could "negotiate" with the electorate, and found out they could.

And that does not bode well for the rest of the world.

Finally, while not wishing to send this discussion on a tangent...let me say this. The new Spanish PM proved within 24 hours that as a statesman he is a rookie. He won the election. He did not need to shore up his position at that point. But, instead of working behind the scenes with Spains allies to find a way to elegantly pull out of Iraq without damaging the coalition and its efforts, he rushed to the microphone to announce the intent to withdraw.

Statesmen do not do that to allies. put this in perspective...Spain has 1300 soldiers in Iraq. We have nearly one-hundred times that many. My point: Spain's contribution, while important, is more symbolic than it is militarily significant. The military effect of Spain's withdrawal can be compensated for and ameliorated between now and the time it happens. The withdrawal of Spain's symbolic contribution has already happened...and is a victory for the terrorists.

The Spanish have let the world down.

Pardon me if I don't hold my breath and quit eating...
"But they do not know how much has been spent, or on what. Incredibly, the oil-for-food program has never been audited. Yes: one madman, 10 agencies, 15 independently self-interested Security Council members, more than 50 billion smackers, zero audits," she added.

It now develops that instead of providing help for innocent Iraqi’s, the Oil for Food program became a gigantic multi-billion slush fund which Saddam Hussein, Durkin’s "madman" used to reward his supporters abroad, including, it is now alleged, the program’s top U.N. executive.

It is now clear that Saddam Hussein bribed his way around the world, buying the support of presidents, ministers, legislators, political parties and Christian churches, documents published in Iraq show.
A majority of Iraqis believe life is better now than it was under Saddam Hussein, according to a poll by broadcasting organizations released to coincide with the first anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion...

Some 57 percent of respondents said life was better now than under Saddam, against 19 percent who said it was worse and 23 percent who said it was about the same.
American soldiers in Iraq have been asked to make constant adjustments. Add the issues of living quarters, harassment by Iraqi men and desire for equal treatment, and female soldiers here have found challenges all their own.

Case in point: When the 389th Engineers Battalion from Dubuque set up tents in the sweltering Iraqi heat last summer, males and females shared tents based in part on their jobs.

They did so after most attempts at privacy were abandoned when the battalion slept in an open-bay warehouse in Kuwait and then outdoors when they arrived at Baghdad International Airport last summer. The one nod to privacy was a camp shower put up behind ponchos.

But they soon were segregated into separate tents, over the objections of some women who felt they would miss out on critical camp information. Other women, however, did not want to live with the men.

``Our lieutenant fought to keep us with the guys, but they made the females move out,'' and to smaller quarters, said Spc. Rachel L. Wenzl, 22, a medic from Clinton, Iowa. ``We were happy, there was nothing going on and it was working fine.''

Sgt. Holly E. Follmer, 26, of Topeka, Kan., didn't like the change either. ``The problem I had with being segregated was the females get the shaft, smaller tents and out of the communications loop'' she said, adding that her fears about the information flows weren't borne out.
Pepsi is rebuilding its bottling plant. Mitsubishi is planning a dealership. A Kuwaiti firm envisions a $500-million hotel and shopping complex in the heart of Baghdad.

Nearly a year after bombs and looters wrought devastation on Iraq's already awful economy, the country is teeming with commerce, real and anticipated. Stores are filled with new products, foreign investors are circling, and unemployment -- while painfully high -- has fallen by more than half.

"It may not be palpable, but Iraq is booming," said Maria Khoury, chief of research for Atlas Investment Group, a Jordanian investment bank. "We're seeing a big increase in consumer goods flowing into the country."

Though still very low, Iraqi living standards are higher than at any time since the 1991 Persian Gulf War, economists say, despite the ongoing bombings and killings. Oil revenues, which fund the government and its social safety net, are near prewar levels.
Ahmed Abdel Razzaq went to Iraq to fight the Americans and die a martyr. He ended up in a U.S. prison camp after the Iraqis he went to defend captured and sold him for $100.

"I went to be a martyr in God's name," said Razzaq, from poor north Lebanon, where Sunni Muslim militancy runs deep.

"I went to jihad (holy war) for the Iraqis but they are all traitors; the people, the army, the Kurds. They say Saddam was bad, but the Iraqis deserve 10 Saddams."
Hey genius...the message from the Iraqi's is "do not export your violence to our country."

Oh, wait a minute...excuse me. I should know better. I'm trying to argue rationally with a jihadist.

Ever notice how these jihadists can't wait to die for their cause? Our Soldiers, on the other hand...are prepared to...but will fight like hell to avoid it.

And that has made all the difference.
One of my greatest rewards is watching young boys right out of high school turn into great men, without hesitation stepping into harm's way to help someone they don"t know - even more, to help out a fellow soldier. I am in the greatest profession in the world.
Can you name for me another profession that elicits this kind of pride from its members?

I know not all soldiers feel this way...but what is remarkable is how many do. And I understand that some folks, athletes perhaps, feel lucky to be paid so well for doing what they love.

But there is something special about a profession in which so many love what they do in spite of mediocre pay, awful hours, and yearlong deployments.

It makes me there anyone in Hollywood who could be this happy earning $31,000 per year?
An assailant stabbed and badly wounded an American army officer inside the Baghdad compound of Iraq's U.S.-led administration, a U.S. spokesman said Monday.

Dan Senor, chief spokesman of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), said the officer had been stabbed Saturday evening while walking in the "Green Zone," a sprawling, heavily guarded area on the west bank of the Tigris River.

"To my knowledge this was the first attack of its kind inside the Green Zone. We do not know at this point whether or not the attacker was Iraqi or an American," Senor said.

"The victim suffered serious stab wounds to his torso, head and neck," Senor said, adding that the officer, unconscious immediately after the attack, had been flown Sunday to a U.S. medical facility in Germany, where he was in stable condition.
However, I've learned that there doesn't seem to be a universal definition of "the Green Zone". For some it seems to mean that area where Mr. Bremer has his headquarters. For others the use of the term indicates a larger and more inclusive area. No way to tell from this story which they mean.

If it is in the former, the potential for a politically significant strike against Mr. Bremer certainly exists.

This is day 310.

And I just learned that occasionally there might be some of the Gunners checking in to read every now and again.

Hey guys...get home soon and safely. And say hi to my wife if you see her around the Providers' FOB

Monday, March 15, 2004


"Democrats finally found someone who is Al Gore without the flash and the sizzle." - Craig Kilborn
''I'm pretty tough on Castro, because I think he's running one of the last vestiges of a Stalinist secret police government in the world,'' Kerry told WPLG-ABC 10 reporter Michael Putney in an interview to be aired at 11:30 this morning.

Then, reaching back eight years to one of the more significant efforts to toughen sanctions on the communist island, Kerry volunteered: ``And I voted for the Helms-Burton legislation to be tough on companies that deal with him.''

It seemed the correct answer in a year in which Democratic strategists think they can make a play for at least a portion of the important Cuban-American vote -- as they did in 1996 when more than three in 10 backed President Clinton's reelection after he signed the sanctions measure written by Sen. Jesse Helms and Rep. Dan Burton.

There is only one problem: Kerry voted against it.

Asked Friday to explain the discrepancy, Kerry aides said the senator cast one of the 22 nays that day in 1996 because he disagreed with some of the final technical aspects. But, said spokesman David Wade, Kerry supported the legislation in its purer form -- and voted for it months earlier.

The confusion illustrates a persistent problem for Kerry as Republicans exploit his 19-year voting history to paint the Massachusetts senator as a waffler on major foreign-affairs questions such as the Iraq war, Israel's security barrier and intelligence funding.
(via Instapundit)

The town meeting was contentious at times, with 52-year-old Cedric Brown repeatedly pressing the candidate to name the foreign leaders whom Kerry has said are backing his campaign.

"I'm not going to betray a private conversation with anybody," Kerry said. As the crowd of several hundred people began to mutter and boo, Kerry said, "That's none of your business."
(via Instapundit)

We all have dreams of what it will be like...but the classes I've attended - called "reunion training" says things like this may be common.

An excellent piece...go read it all.
Some of the changes in her husband trouble her. On a drive to Denver, he became unglued by the snarled traffic on Interstate 25.

"He told me, in Iraq, if people got in your way, you just drove over them. He has zero patience."

And lately, he is defined by a hyper-patriotism that borders on defiance.

"He used to be all about family," she says. "Now it's all about the Army."

Breck Howard says her marriage, now in its eighth year, has weathered difficult times before.

"We knew this would happen. I know we'll get through this. It's just a question of how long it will take."

For most of the past year, it seemed almost certain Howard would not re-enlist when his tour of duty was up in 2005. But in January, just weeks before his return, he signed on for six more years.

He says he did it for the $10,000 bonus he'll receive. The money will go toward the day-care business his wife wants to open.

Little Taylor cried when she found out. "I don't want him to go away again."

But Howard says he made the right choice for himself and his family. "I don't think I'll ever find a job that is more satisfying or makes me more proud."

Somewhere out there is a war. Or whatever it is now.

Iraq has entered the gray courtyard of the national consciousness. Still too dangerous and too bloody and too unsettled to be forgotten. But too familiar now to always hold attention. Where there is shooting and dying but not always enough of it to lead the evening news.

That is what a year can do. With no conclusion, no happy ending, no exit line, no sunset to walk off into, the public is easily distracted. Gay couples are getting married at the courthouse, Haiti is a hot spot, Barry Bonds is being asked steroid questions. Events in Iraq must sometimes now fight for airtime.

Occasionally a plot twist from Baghdad comes out of the television screen. What'd they do now, attack a police station?

We stop, pause, take a closer look, and then get back to Martha Stewart.

Unless, of course, there is a son or husband or father or wife or daughter in Iraq. Then there is no gray area. And not a minute, worried day or wakeful night, when this is not a war.

There must be times they feel alone now. The loved ones at home, for whom Iraq is still the only story.
He's right. It is the only story. And although the number of days remaining in my own little hell is nearly down to the number of digits on my hands and feet, there is no comfort.

And there won't be until she is in my arms.
“I guess you really don’t understand how lucky you are to live in a democracy until you get asked what it means to have a society function with a set of concrete laws instead of the whim of a psychopathic tyrant,” he said.

Tim Robbins isn't worthy to shine this man's shoes.
Part of a day´s work for an Idaho Falls man includes developing a postal zip code system for the people of Iraq.

Steven Lucks, 53, is a Vietnam veteran and U.S. Naval Reserve retiree. He left his wife and two daughters in November to volunteer to help rebuild Iraq.

His wife, Dee Ann, said her husband went to officer candidate school and worked his way up to the rank of captain.

Lucks now works for the Department of Defense. His official titles are senior technical liaison representative for the Ministry of Communications and deputy postmaster general for Postal/Savings Systems.

Over a cell phone connection and a 10-hour time difference, Lucks told the Idaho Falls Post Register there was nowhere he´d rather be. He said the Iraqi people are eager to learn. “Everyone I meet is pretty upbeat, and I meet a lot of people,” he said.

Lucks and his colleagues have developed a zip code system and an international service center for Iraqi Air, which allows parcels to enter Iraq with much less trouble than before.


Tim Robbins is not only wrong...he's also unfunny.
It’s difficult to imagine just who the audience is for this show.

Neoconservatives, of course, will dislike Robbins’ creation for its mega-ton Bush-bashing. Ultraliberals will wonder why, if the president and his policies are the targets, the show isn’t sharper and funnier.

But then, finding genuine wit in "Embedded" is as difficult as finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
And here is another review. Geez...this play must just rot from the inside out.
The average GI is sympathetically portrayed, though the officers and those above them are either sinister or ludicrous.

The piece de resistance consists of six White House bigwigs (with names like RumRum) in red or white masks chatting about the motives and meaning of the war. They are also, it is hinted, responsible for 9/11.

Unfortunately, Robbins is not a naturally comic writer, and entire scenes just lie there. He tries to exculpate the average American GI, but the logic of his position betrays him.

"Embedded" is neither bitingly satirical nor passionately angry. Whether you agree with it is irrelevant. It's just a bore.
(Emphasis added)

Oh...and Mr. wife is an Army Officer...and she is neither sinister nor ludicrous. In fact she is a noble, caring leader much beloved by her soldiers.

But that doesn't fit your liberal misconception of the military, now does it? Geez...if you can't be funny, perhaps you'd bother to try to be correct.

Read the story now making the rounds in the Arab press.
U.S. Unloading WMD in Iraq

And not worthy to wear the stripes of a Non-Commissioned Officer
In Iraq last April, freshly promoted Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejia led squads of Florida National Guard soldiers in the fight against insurgents in the deadly Sunni Triangle.

But Mejia became increasingly pained by his war experiences and decided not to come back from leave last fall. The staff sergeant, one of about 600 soldiers counted as AWOL by the Army during home leaves from Iraq, was labeled a deserter.

Now, after five months in hiding, Mejia plans to surrender in Boston today on the eve of the war's first anniversary, and he aims to become the first Iraq war veteran to publicly challenge the morality and conduct of the conflict. He intends to seek conscientious-objector status to avoid a court-martial.

In an interview, Mejia, 28, said he found the war and many of his combat orders morally questionable and ultimately unacceptable. He has been living in New York and other Eastern cities, traveling by bus instead of by plane or car to escape the attention of the police and military. He has avoided using his credit cards and cellphone.

Mejia accuses commanders of using GIs as "bait" to lure out Iraqi fighters so that US soldiers could win combat decorations. He also says operations were conducted in ways that sometimes risked injuring civilians. He has accused his battalion and company commanders of incompetence and has reiterated past guardsmen's complaints about being poorly equipped.

Those commanders defended their conduct. His immediate commander described Mejia as a poorly performing soldier who "lost his nerve" as bloodshed intensified in one of Iraq's more violent cities, Ramadi. what you just read of his actions to the standards that non-commissioned officers have held themselves to for over 200 years. The Non-Commissioned Officers' Creed.
No one is more professional than I. I am a Non-commissioned Officer, a leader of soldiers. As a Noncommissioned Officer, I realize that I am a member of a time honored corps, which is known as "The Backbone of the Army."

I am proud of the Corps of Noncommissioned Officers and will at all times conduct myself so as to bring credit upon the Corps, the Military Service and my country regardless of the situation in which I find myself...

Competence is my watch-word. My two basic responsibilities will always be uppermost in my mind-accomplishment of my mission and the welfare of my soldiers. I will strive to remain tactically and technically proficient. I am aware of my role as a Noncommissioned Officer. I will fulfill my responsibilities inherent in that role. All soldiers are entitled to outstanding leadership; I will provide that leadership. I know my soldiers and I will always place their needs above my own...

Officers of my unit will have maximum time to accomplish their duties; they will not have to accomplish mine. I will earn their respect and confidence as well as that of my soldiers. I will be loyal to those with whom I serve; seniors, peers and subordinates alike.

As one who wore the uniform for over two decades...I can say I respect their right to do this...but I would feel such participation of any family members of mine to be backstabbing.
Some military families who oppose the U-S operation in Iraq are planning a protest today in the nation's capital.

This comes as Washington officials prepare for various events to mark the first anniversary of the war at the end of the week.

The protesters first gather at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, the first stop for most of the casualties from Iraq. Then, they'll march to the White House.

The event is organized by a group called "Military Families Speak Out," which represents about a thousand military families who want U-S troops to withdraw from Iraq.

And it looks like he's in an awful hurry to tell Al Qaeda they win.
Spain's general election winner Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero says he intends to withdraw Madrid's 1,300 troops from Iraq, news agencies reported.

Zapatero told a Spanish radio station that no decision would be taken until he was in power and without wide political consultation, Reuters reported.

"But the Spanish troops in Iraq will come home," he added in his first post-election interview with Cadena SER radio.
Sadly, the results of the Spanish election and the apparent immediate capitulation on Spain's part seem to ensure further terror attacks in days leading up to elections in the free world.

UPDATE: And Jonah nails it about Kerry's remarks.
2nd Lt. Peter Balke's patrol had three objectives besides keeping an eye out for militants: stop by the Jordanian Embassy to check security, count the squatters in an old government building and investigate complaints that a new brothel had opened.

"Everybody got their money with them?" one of the soldiers shouted.

Balke smiled, then continued his briefing.

Balke, 22, is part of the new wave of troops replacing the one that stormed Iraq a year ago. He's a field artillery officer, freshly retrained in infantry tactics, and the eight-man squad he leads on nightly patrols through downtown Baghdad consists of cooks, mechanics and drivers.

When it comes to policing Iraq, he says, "Artillery, infantry -- whatever you are -- you can't expect to always get the mission of your branch."

Balke is assigned to Headquarters Battery, 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, part of the Fort Hood, Texas-based 1st Cavalry Division which will take over control of all of Baghdad from the 1st Armored Division in the next few weeks.

Its commanders have had more time than any other unit to prepare for their yearlong stint with Operation Iraqi Freedom 2.

Balke's patrol has three new armored Humvees. Almost every leader above the rank of sergeant has had cultural awareness training. All his men have brushed up on their infantry skills, which is critical since the battalion's 500 men are responsible for a neighborhood of more than 800,000 people.

Col. John Formica, Balke's brigade commander, said the 1st Cavalry is well-prepared to achieve the U.S. military's mission of establishing a stable, democratic government in Iraq...

U.S. officers still do what ordinarily would be a civilian government's job: approve public works projects, settle property disputes, make sure the police do their duty. But Formica has ordered his officers to make the Iraqi neighborhood councils and other leaders reach decisions on their own.

"The cultural authority rests in the sheiks. You have the Islamic law that rests with the imams, and then you have what we're trying to work -- the democratic law," Formica said.

"You reach back to your 11th and 12th years of education, where you studied problems of democracies and civics lessons ... It is exciting, and at times it is also bewildering -- the responsibility that you have and the influence you have on people -- but it is absolutely rewarding."..

Asked which is harder, fighting insurgents or teaching democracy, Formica laughed.

"I've trained for 22 years to do one," he said. "The other one just seems to come natural. Because we're Americans, we grew up with it."

The Ides of March.

And day 309.