WANTED: AN INTELLIGENT DEBATE
Do you have it in you?
Sen. John Kerry on Friday accused President Bush of leaving Iraq in “disarray” and said that U.S. troops in the country have “no exit in sight.”...
Mr. Kerry...the President hasn't "left" Iraq anywhere. We are still there, fighting a war against terror, fighting a war for the future of an entire region that can then stem the tide of terror. Mr. Kerry, we are fighting a war that it would appear you don't have the stomach to fight because all you can focus on is "exiting"
“This president has no idea what's going on in the real world,” Edwards said.
Mr. Edwards...come back when you can say something meaningful. You are multi-millionaire...Mr. Edwards. What do you know about my world? I'll give you a small clue about the real world I live in Mr. Edwards. In the real world I live in an awful lot of folks admire the President. In the real world I live in Mr. Edwards, we believe folks who don't necessarily admire the man should at least respect the fact that he's President. Mr. Edwards, in the real world that I live in folks place lawyers such as yourself on the bottom of every annual list of folks they trust.
Can ya'll come back when you have something real to say?
MORE SIGNS OF PROGRESS
An oil tanker has started loading crude at Iraq's second Gulf oil export terminal, Khor al-Amaya, an official of the State Oil Marketing Organization said Friday...
Until the terminal was opened, Iraqi oil could only be exported through the Basra terminal a short distance from Khor al-Amaya.
GOOD NEWS..."IN PRINCIPAL"
Iraq has won in principle a 60 percent reduction in the $120 billion it owes international community, Iraq's planning minister said Saturday.
"In principal" is a caveat that nations don't always do what they have committed to do...as is evidenced in this story
Mehdi al-Hafedh told reporters on the sidelines of a donors meeting in Abu Dhabi to kick off aid commitments for Iraq's reconstruction that the amount of debt reduction had not been officially announced yet.
"In principle, we have a 60 percent reduction in our debts," Hafedh told reporters...
Iraq's debt burden had been the subject of a sustained lobbying effort by the United States, which sent special envoy James Baker to ask countries like France, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and Japan for a reduction.
Iraq's interim government has asked donors to release $4bn urgently for priority projects to rebuild the country, ravaged by war and sanctions.
"Our needs are enormous and urgent," Iraqi's planning minister, Mehdi al-Hafidh, told a conference in Abu Dhabi...
"It is high time the promises made in Madrid were honoured," Mr Hafidh was quoted as saying by the French news agency, AFP.
BEWARE THE NOW-CORRUPTED BUZZWORDS
"Pre-emption, unilateralism and multilateralism" no longer have the meaning they once had, says Victor Davis Hanson.
Please read it all so you can spot the flaws in the floggings our President is taking from the left.
’Preemption" is supposed to be the new slur. Its use now conjures up all sorts of Dr. Strangelove images to denigrate the present "trigger-happy" Bush administration. Partly the hysteria is due to the invasion of Iraq. Or perhaps the venom of the Left comes from recent disclosures that, in the post-9/11 era, the United States has publicly proclaimed it may strike terrorists and their sponsors — or indeed rogue nations who have the history, capability, and desire to obtain frightening weapons — before they strike us.
But instead of a rational discussion about the wisdom and feasibility of that logical policy, we have had two years now of national frenzy over a purported new "dangerous departure" in American foreign policy, one that "threatens" to "destabilize" the world order.
Rubbish. Preemption is a concept as old as the Greeks. It perhaps was first articulated in the fourth book of Thucydides's history. There the veteran Theban general Pagondas explained why his Boeotians should hit the Athenians at the border near Delium, even though they were already retreating and posed no immediate threat. The Boeotians did, and won — and were never attacked by the Athenians again...
In short, preemption is now a politicized, debased word. It is part of the anti-Bush lexicon and has lost any real meaning for the foreseeable future of its usage. The same may be true of "multilateralism" and "unilateralism."
The Left's problem is not our embrace of the concept of "unilateralism" per se — or it would have attacked Clinton's U.N.-be-damned use of force in Iraq, Kosovo, and Haiti. No, the rub is something altogether different. A Christian, southern-accented, conservative Republican president, coming off a disputed election, has chosen to preempt. And when you hit first in a therapeutic America, you are at least supposed to bite your lip and squeeze Hillary's hand on national television. You do not dare say, "Bring 'em on" and "Smoke 'em out" — much less fly a jet out to an aircraft carrier...
It is perhaps a rule of American politics that Democrats can preempt and intervene pretty much wherever they want and be called "sober" and "reluctant" — given their protestations of pacifism and lip-service to "multilateral frameworks." And to be fair, Republicans can raise deficits that would tar liberals as "tax-and-spend" and "big-government" naifs — and get away with it as purported advocates of "supply side" and "growth."
But whereas President Bush is receiving criticism from both left and right for his fiscal policies, he is not getting praise for his courageous attempt at ending the political and cultural climate that led to September 11. The present bastardization of our language proves it.
SIGNS OF PROGRESS
In their frustrating war with Iraqi enemies of the occupation, coalition troops are enjoying a run of success, killing a notorious bomb-maker and capturing a group suspected of two bloody suicide bombings.
At the same time, the shadowy forces battling the occupiers appear to have admitted they are now under severe pressure from the Americans and local security forces.
The latest coalition success is the death of Abu Mohammed Hamza, a bomb-making expert and lieutenant of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, whom America has identified as its No 1 enemy in Iraq.
Hamza was trapped by American civil affairs soldiers as he delivered leaflets door-to-door last week in the town of Habbaniya, west of Baghdad. Hamza opened fire and was shot dead. Several other suspects were arrested.
Soldiers discovered a cache of bomb-making equipment, pro-Saddam literature and pictures of al-Zarqawi...
The coalition is cautious about making too much of the current successes but the terrorists feel themselves to be on the defensive.
Their concerns are spelled out in a nine-page letter from al-Zarqawi to his comrades. It was found on a CD rom carried by an al-Qa'eda courier captured in January.
Al-Zarqawi is clearly alarmed by the growth of local Iraqi security forces, particularly in the Sunni areas west and north of Baghdad.
In Falluja, rebel leaflets admitted that the capture of local mujahideen fighters by Iraqi security forces had disrupted their plans.
LEST WE BELIEVE GIVING BIRTH TO A DEMOCRACY IS EASY...
Iraq's U.S.-appointed Governing Council is due to meet today in an effort to meet a midnight deadline for drafting a temporary law to govern the country until the adoption of a new constitution.
It remains unclear if all 25 members will attend the talks in Baghdad, after a council member said eight of 13 Shi'ite council members walked out of yesterday's meeting due to a decision not to make Islamic law the basis for issues like divorce and inheritance.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 28th.
JUST WHEN I NEEDED IT
I'll admit I'm growing weary.
I'm weary of posting stories on this website as a means of keeping up to date with the world my wife lives in at the moment...
I'm weary of poring over hundreds of internet news stories to find the dwindling handful that are balanced.
I'm weary of the words and phrases "quagmire", "Bush lied", "growing insurgency", "another blast in Baghdad", "two US soldiers killed", "anger at occupation mounts" etc.
I'm weary of politicians playing politics with this war while my wife is still in harm's way.
I'm weary of beginning every prayer I utter with a supplication to the Almighty to protect my wife and her soldiers...when I'd rather begin the prayer with exultations of His name over her safe return and our reunion.
I'm weary of browsing the list of blogs and finding that its often easy to spot those that lean to the left...as many have vulgarisms in the title.
I'm weary over the utter lack of civility demonstrated in our nation...be it on TV, Superbowl halftime shows, so-called reality TV shows where the intent is to isolate and humiliate, even in debates over a movie about Christ Jesus himself.
I'm weary of a society that supports a college sophomore suing the NFL when what he ought to be doing is trying to better his mind with the same effort he is trying to better his bank account. For that matter I'm weary of Judges and Mayors who decide the rules of fairplay that founded and grew this nation do not apply to them. I have to play by the rules...why don't they?
I'm weary of endless cable news channels prattling on 24 hours per day when they don't have but about 12 minutes of stuff to say.
I'm weary of the manufactured celebrity culture wherein someone in charge of television or radio program appears to believe that we are or should be interested in what actors/singers/NBA rookies have to say on every subject possible.
I'm weary of stepping into Burger King and being assaulted with movie of the week tie-in promotions. They didn't need that for Citizen Kane...for Casablanca...still the best two movies ever made.
And just as I'm thinking I've had enough...I open my mail to find that an e-friend (defined as one whom I know only via the internet) has sent something especially to me...and that it fits me to a tee.
My day is brighter because Sarah shared this with me. Perhaps your day will be brighter for having read it too.
Please read it all here.
I only wish that those Americans so anxious to use our soldiers as political pawns in election campaigns actually knew our troops. Not as an abstract concept, but as people.
Thank you, Sarah.
The American soldier is a historical anomaly - not a grasping conqueror, but a man or woman of courage and good heart who wishes only to do what must be done, and then go home. Our troops are inspiring in ways that no campaign speech or campus rally will ever rival. They live the virtues - courage, patriotism, love of freedom, self-sacrifice, honor - of which their critics are embarrassed to speak.
They have a wicked sense of humor. They're exuberantly politically incorrect. They're part of the most thoroughly integrated, representative American institution - our military. And when the American people and our leaders stand behind them, they can do any job on earth.
Defying countless predictions of disaster, our soldiers have accomplished more in Iraq than we had any right to expect. And they did it not because of some brilliant master plan - there was none - but because they took a look at the bloody mess they inherited, rolled up their sleeves and went to work to fix it.
They're the best we've got.
Oh...and if I may say so - don't be so hard on yourself. When allowed in moderation - tears on the phone emerge on the other end as "Your place here is permanently reserved". That can mean a lot in a sandy camp on the border of Hellville.
DUPLICITY IN THE FAMILY
It isn't just John Kerry that want's it both ways...so does his wife.
"Another thing that drives me crazy, and I hope I don't offend anyone here, is WAL-MART," Mrs. Kerry told a group of Democratic women activists at a luncheon in St. Paul last Tuesday. "They destroy communities."
Uh...Mrs. Kerry owns over $1 Million in Wal-Mart stock...
SUICIDE COMMENT FOLLOW-UP
You read my comments about the suicide rates here.
Seems someone else has been digging...and finds the US Army's suicide rate in Iraq is lower than that of the German Army's...in Germany
Among circa 250,000 active Bundeswehr soldiers that brings us to a rate of around 17 suicides per year per 100,000 soldiers.
Or to put it differently: Duty in the US Army in Iraq presents a lower suicide risk than service in the German Bundeswehr… Alright then Bundeswehr: Time to hurry on down to Iraq!
BTW: a suicide rate of 13,5 per annum per 100,000 is within the bottom third of the European countries! Very remarkable: France's average is 19,25...
A POSITIVE VIEW
Attacks on U.S., coalition and Iraqi security forces in Iraq will not stop the country's march toward self-governance and democracy, a senior U.S. military officer said today.
"Those who attempt to prevent a free and democratic state (in Iraq) will definitely fail," Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of Combined Joint Task Force 7, told reporters at a Baghdad press conference.
"We remain undaunted," he asserted, against attacks conducted by Saddam Hussein loyalists and terrorists. He pointed out that despite anti-coalition attacks designed to intimidate Iraqis, the numbers of those volunteering for security duty continue to grow.
Training facilities for Iraqi security police forces "are full and are continuing to expand," Sanchez said. And the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps is slated to add 13 battalions to its present 23 battalions by April.
"We expect no problems in being able to man and train those units," Sanchez said, noting that anti-terrorist operations across Iraq are increasingly being conducted by joint and independent Iraqi security forces.
THE SHIFTING ENEMY
The top U.S. commander in Iraq on Thursday outlined an essential evolution in the insurgency besetting American troops as homegrown guerrillas give way to an increasingly sophisticated opposition originating abroad.
An apparent relationship among groups such as Ansar al-Islam and al-Qaida and Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is "beginning to take precedence" as the source of violent attacks against Iraqi police, army and forces determined to work toward democracy, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez said in a news briefing Thursday.
The capture of Saddam Hussein in December produced intelligence that helped military analysts track Saddam loyalists and led troops into successful raids. Opportunistic attacks by former regime elements, such as roadside bombings and shootings, dropped in the last couple o months as those arrests mounted, Sanchez said. Nonetheless, such attacks persist at a rate of about one a day.
However, high-profile suicide bombings and coordinated attacks increased in pace and scale, particularly in February, indicating a more sophisticated enemy, Sanchez said. Such violence and the discovery of a memo thought by the military to be written by al-Zarqawi that calls for civil war has bolstered suspicions that Iraq is under siege by outside agitators, he said.
"I think the Zarqawi letter is fairly robust in laying out its strategy," Sanchez said about a 17-page memo believed to be written by the man who has been tied to Ansar al-Islam, a Kurdish militant group that the U.S. has linked to al-Qaida.
SO FAR SO GOOD
After weeks of deadlock over Iraq's political transition, the country's leading Shi'ite Muslim cleric said yesterday that he would accept a non-elected government installed by US officials on June 30, on condition that it had a narrow mandate and a short life span...
The cleric is almost never seen in public and has declined to meet the top US administrator for Iraq, L. Paul Bremer III. But Sistani's views hold immense sway over Iraq's estimated 15 million Shi'ites, with the power to mobilize huge numbers of people to support him.
SIGNS OF PROGRESS
Baghdad's residents will soon be able to make telephone calls from across the capital as work is completed on replacing 11 telephone exchanges destroyed by U.S. bombing during the invasion of Iraq last year.
Al-Mamoun, the last exchange to be replaced, was opened on Thursday and Iraqi technicians have begun hooking up tens of thousand of subscribers who have been without telephone services for almost a year.
"This has been a giant achievement considering the security situation. We expect all subscribers to be hooked back up by the end of March," Telecom Minister Haidar al-Ebadi said during a ceremony to open al-Mamoun...
The telephone service will be free until a new billing system is set up.
TAX ASSISTANCE IN A WAR ZONE
And it seems to be paying off...
As if being in a tax-free zone isn’t enough.
In little more than three weeks, 1st Armored Division volunteer tax preparers have gotten nearly $700,000 in refunds for soldiers. And counting.
“We’ll break $1 million in another week,” said Capt. Ty McDonald, officer in charge of the Baghdad Tax Center.
The tax center is the first of its kind in an active combat zone, said McDonald, a 1st AD judge advocate. Since Feb. 4, more than 500 soldiers’ tax returns have been filed at the center.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 27th.
She called last night, vary apologetic over her inability to send the daily updates via email.
We had a lousy, "wandering" sattelite phone connection. She was able to describe for me the party the soldiers threw for her last Saturday night. Sounds like her soldiers really love her.
She sounds great, although she admitted to a bit of depression over the pending change of command. However, they have put her in charge of planning the welcome home party for the battalion...so she has that project to work on for a while.
It was very good to hear from her.
IS IT SOMETHING IN THE WATER OVER THERE?
Turkmenistan borders Afghanistan and Iran to the north.
Turkmenistan President Saparmurat Niyazov has passed a decree forbidding young men in the country to wear long hair or beards.
The frightening thing is that this sort of lunacy somehow makes sense to these guys...
The president said the Education Ministry should be in charge of checking people's hair as the issue was most pressing among the young...
President Niyazov appeared on television saying that men can no longer grow their hair and that beards are not allowed, at least among the young.
He gave no reason - but that is not unusual in Turkmenistan.
In this part of the world, rulings on hair are generally connected to Islam in some way, but it seems likely that Mr Niyazov's decree is more broadly directed against individualism of any kind...
It is forbidden now to listen to car radios or to smoke in the street; opera and ballet performances have been banned on the grounds that they are unnecessary...
On Sunday he is to fire 15,000 nurses and other health workers and replace them with army conscripts.
Barring a miraculous comeback by Sen. John Edwards, Sen. John Kerry will win the Democratic presidential nomination—despite the fact that most Democratic voters know little about him and don't like him very much...
A few weeks before the Iowa caucuses, Kerry's campaign seemed dead, but then he unexpectedly won Iowa, then New Hampshire, and then primary after primary. How did this happen?
One answer may be found in a series of psychology experiments conducted at Princeton University in the 1950s...
Asch demonstrated a stunning effect: Faced with a decision that, in isolation, no one would ever get wrong, the unwitting subjects went against the evidence of their own eyes about one-third of the time...
Before any given primary, if all previous votes have resulted in an even split among candidates, then the prospect for independent thinking still exists. But as the sequence of primaries progresses, the likelihood of successive even splits rapidly diminishes, and one candidate inevitably starts to look like a winner. At that moment, the cascade starts, and all subsequent votes then become exercises in rubber stamping.
The reason why this year is so striking is that because Iowa and New Hampshire voted the same way, the onset of the cascade was immediate. And the result is that less than 1 percent of all voters effectively decided that Kerry was to be the Democratic nominee—the rest of us are just tagging along.
I LAUGHED UNTIL I CRIED
Go read this mock interview with John Kerry.
(Sarah, I owe you...)
I've mentioned before what I consider to be Senator Kerry's duplicitous history...that he seems to come down on every side of an issue. As an old boss of mine used to say, it seems Kerry "feels strongly both ways on that issue".
Well, it seems I'm not the only one to notice. See this bon mot taken from the President's recent speech to the Republican Governor's Association.
The other party's nomination battle is still playing out. The candidates are an interesting group, with diverse opinions: For tax cuts, and against them. For NAFTA, and against NAFTA.
For the Patriot Act, and against the Patriot Act. In favor of liberating Iraq, and opposed to it. And that's just one senator from Massachusetts.
BRIEF, ONCE AGAIN
Folks, the brevity of today's input is once again a reflection of a shift in the news coverage regarding this war. Reports from inside Iraq have been on a decline for months now. It is becoming more difficult to uncover those stories that reach beyond the mere "scorekeeping" of deaths and injuries in Iraq. It seems beyond those stories the next most populous category are those that disproportionately focus on the insurgency.
Of course, at least I have this much. I can't imagine how sparse the coverage is for those trying to follow their loved ones still in Afghanistan.
But...so long as CPT Patti is there, I'll keep digging for all of us.
"VOTING IS FOR OLD PEOPLE"
So says this T-shirt offered by Urban Outfitters.
And sophomoric as it is, I hope it catches on...because although I can't cite statistics it is my feeling that most folks who might be impressed by the shirt tend to vote to the left anyway.
JONAH SPEAKS ON THE ISRAELI SECURITY BARRIER
Comparisons to the Berlin Wall, he notes, are not even close...as the Berlin Wall was built to keep people in...
As is normal for Jonah, it is a good read. See it all here.
While it may be true that one man's terrorist is sometimes another man's freedom fighter, that doesn't mean the second man is necessarily right. Sometimes so-called terrorists are actually freedom fighters, but sometimes a terrorist is just a terrorist.
Saying that the definition of a terrorist is always dependent on perspective means that anybody who blows up innocent people can be noble just by saying so. Similarly, just because some people say that the new Israeli barrier is a Berlin Wall doesn't mean it's true.
Iraqi athletes will get an invitation to compete in the Athens Olympics even if they fail to qualify. The International Olympic Committee can invite athletes to some sports for the Olympics. And Pere Miro, director of Olympic Solidarity, said yesterday that Iraqis will be at the Games in August.
And here is my prediction. When you watch the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in Athens this summer, and they announce the Iraqi Olympic team, they will receive the largest roar and ovation of any team (possibly excepting the host country team, Greece).
Iraqi athletes will "be in the Games for sure. We'll find a way," Miro said.
"We are not expecting medals, but at least to have the adequate level to take part in the games," Miro added.
And when they do, that will be the world's unplanned vote of support for our liberation of Iraq. Folks who are anti-American, anti-Bush etc will cheer despite themselves that the Iraqi team is there, and they aren't worried about receiving torture from the Hussein boys for not showing well.
And in the end, all other rhetoric aside, that affirmation speaks for itself.
THE COMPLICATIONS OF DEPLOYMENT AND MARRIAGE
Very frank and interesting article on this subject. I recommend you read it all if you are married to one who is deployed, or know someone who is.
At a recent "chaplain's brief," where the military tries to prepare its soldiers for reintegration to the world, the officer in charge cited Army statistics that indicated 30 percent of the spouses believe deployment harms their marriages. The Army's Judge Advocate General Corps statistics put the divorce rate among soldiers as comparable to the civilian rate about 50 percent.
Being deployed, then, obviously doesn't help. Scott DeFlippo said four soldiers in his unit alone are going through divorces during the deployment.
"I have a friend [another soldier] who married a German girl," DeFlippo said. "He went to Afghanistan, then here. His parents sent him a letter and said his wife had taken their two boys and gone back to Germany."
HELLO NASA...CAN WE FIND THESE PEOPLE THEIR OWN PLANET?
Because, frankly, I'm tired of sharing this one with hate and death mongers.
Gunmen in a car opened fire on Mosul's deputy police chief Brigadier Hikmat Mohammed as he was headed to his office Wednesday morning, killing him, police Lt. Ziad Mahmoud said.
Hours earlier, a previously unknown militant group, the Mujahedeen Brigades in Iraq, distributed leaflets at police stations in the northern city of Kirkuk, threatening attacks on police and Kurdish militias for cooperating with Americans.
Police Col. Adel Ibrahim said he believed the group may have been behind the attack Monday in which a suicide bomber detonated his explosive-laden car outside Kirkuk's Rahimawa police station, killing himself and eight policemen and wounding more than 50 other people.
''Anyone who supports and cooperated with the infidels will be under threat of death,'' the group said. It threatened attacks on police checkpoints and warned, ''We know all these (security) forces' movements.''
''This is the last word for you, our Muslim brothers: Don't be a shield for the infidel Americans and sacrifice yourself for a handful of dollars,'' the leaflet said.
HELICOPTERS SEEM VULNERABLE IN THIS TYPE OF ENVIRONMENT
Whereas, on a traditional battlefield, where we command the momentum and apply pressure to the enemy, helicopters seem to to all right.
A U.S. military helicopter crashed into the Euphrates River on Wednesday, killing its two pilots. The craft was burning as it went down after an explosion, witnesses said, but the military said the cause of the crash was not known.
The U.S. military has lost 15 helicopters since the occupation began in May - mostly to hostile fire. Sixty-two Americans have died in the crashes.
The OH-58 Kiowa helicopter from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, based at Fort Carson, Colo., went down about 1:50 p.m. near Haditha, 120 miles northwest of the capital, and was lying on its side in the Euphrates, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said. He said it was not immediately known whether mechanical failure or enemy fire caused the crash.
UH, SIR, IT SEEMS WE HAVE A SECURITY PROBLEM...
Spc. Darrell Houzah was shocked last week to see an Iraqi worker walking toward him carrying an M-16.
The 13th Corps Support Command soldier, assigned to the 4th Corps Materiel Management Company, approached the man and asked him why he had a U.S. military weapon.
“He said, ‘I don’t understand,’” Houzah said. “I asked him to hand over the weapon, and he gave it to me. It happened so fast I didn’t have time to think about the danger.”
After getting the weapon — which belonged to a 512th Maintenance Battalion soldier — Houzah called the military police...
Another Iraqi base employee stole an 18-wheel refrigerated truck from a base contractor last week, Houzah said. The vehicle was recovered by the contractor off base, but the Iraqi man had disappeared.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 26th.
I've not heard from our girl in over a week.
THE BRITISH BARNEY FIFE?
A serving soldier reignited the row about equipment shortages during the Iraq war last night, claiming he and his men had been issued with just five bullets each for the entire conflict.
The unnamed soldier, who said he came under fire several times on the frontline in southern Iraq, told Channel 4 News: "We had five rounds each to defend ourselves. I actually crossed the border with five rounds.
"The magazine held 30 separate bullets but I was issued with five separate bullets to last the entire hostilities of the war. We came under fire in Um Qasr three or four times. Not fire, it was more like ricochets."
WHAT SOME FOLKS DO FOR FUN
Jumping out of a perfectly good airplane...
The jumpmasters opened the doors on the C-130s and the paratroopers started cheering. They were finally getting a chance to jump in Iraq.
About 240 paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division's headquarters and various battalions from its 1st and 3rd Brigades jumped near Al Asad Air Base in the western deserts of Iraq on Tuesday. Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack, the 82nd's commander, was one of the jumpers....
"This shows the enemies of our nation that even though we are engaged in the war on terrorism we can still reach out and touch them," Col. Patrick Donahue told the paratroopers. He is the commander of the 82nd's 1st Brigade....
The closer the paratroopers got to the flight line, the more animated they became. Spc. John White of the 82nd Signal Battalion was almost too excited to eat breakfast.
"I live for this," he said. "This is the best."
A NICE WELCOME HOME
University of West Florida honors its OIF veteran students and faculty.
Eddie Phillips, 76, a member of the UWF Board of Trustees and a veteran of two wars, told the crowd the soldiers left all they loved behind for the well-being of others.
And this elementary school welcomes home one of its teachers.
"This is the first war in the recent history of our country where citizen-soldiers' combat involvement equaled that of the regular forces," Phillips said. "They have had their lives interrupted and personal careers put on hold to serve their country."
But the soldiers asked others to remember the troops still in Iraq and to keep Staff Sgt. Dustin Tuller in their prayers.
Sgt. Dan Swartz said he wouldn't trade in his adventures with the Florida National Guard for the past year as he worked in Iraq. But by January, when he returned to Fort Stewart, Ga., he was ready to get back to his wife, his two children and his other "children."
As a teacher at Canopy Oaks Elementary School, Swartz, 52, instructs students in language arts, math and just about "everything," he said. He was gone for more than a year with the Headquarters Company of the 3rd Battalion of the 124th Infantry.
More than 100 teachers, parents and students came to a homecoming party held in his honor at the library and the cafeteria Tuesday night.
Swartz said he was surprised to drive by the school and see the news of his homecoming party on the school's marquee.
"When I went by and saw the board, I was honored and humbled," he said Tuesday. "I'm not worthy. I only did what I said I would."
MORE SIGNS OF PROGRESS
Dr. Maha Alattar, a neurologist, fled Iraq 22 years ago. She recently returned with a team of nearly 30 American doctors, who led a conference aimed at helping Iraqi medical specialists get back on track.
"There was a special smell in the air that just came back," she said. "The Iraqi physicians were really happy to see that for the first time in 13 years since the sanctions, they are now able to reconnect with the medical community and catch up."
Alattar said the Iraqi medical community has a lot of catching up to do.
"The equipment is 30 to 40 years old. It's unbelievable what these people have to go through. You walk down the ward and the beds are old and cranky," she said.
However, to Alattar's surprise, Baghdad itself is already catching up.
"There was a lot of commerce going on -- a lot of restaurants, nice restaurants. People were going out and having a good time," she said.
TRAINING THE IRAQI ARMY OFFICER CORPS
Can they learn to police themselves?
The cadre of officer candidates was selected, officials say, to represent Iraq's explosive mix of Arabs and Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites. Predictably, things have not always gone smoothly.
Two officers were sent home after a brawl that began when one, a member of the Sunni minority that rose to privilege under Mr. Hussein, sang an anthem glorifying the ousted dictator. A Kurdish officer hit him with a duffel bag.
"The Iraqi officers are forbidden to speak of the past," said Brig. Gen. Achmed D. Farajat, the Jordanian who is director of the training program here. "We tell them, `You are not a Sunni, a Shia or a Kurd. You must forget what happened to your father or your cousin in the past. You are leaders of a new Iraqi Army now.' "
SIGNS OF PROGRESS
Chris Exline, President of Home Essentials, the largest furniture leasing operation outside the US, announced today the opening of its office in Baghdad, Iraq. With this move, Home Essentials becomes the first foreign furniture leasing operation to have a direct presence in the country.
Home Essentials offers a comprehensive turnkey service to foreign business owners and expatriate workers to help them get situated quickly in Iraq. These services include short-term and long-term leasing arrangements of housing and office facilities, and provisions for transportation, communications, security, cleaning and other essential services.
"With our office in Baghdad, Home Essentials is now in an even better position to meet the increasing demand in post-conflict Iraq for temporary office facilities, housing, furnishings and other critical services," Exline commented.
The U.S. military has set aside land on its bases in Iraq for nongovernmental organizations, which will help rebuild essential services such as sewage, water, power, health, and education in the war-torn nation.
A U.N. Association representative in Iraq, Hali Jilani, said Saturday that the U.S. military would provide land for the groups at three bases — Logistics Support Area Anaconda, Baghdad International Airport and the Iraqi Oil Ministry in Baghdad.
It is hoped the security provided by the bases will encourage some organizations that fled Iraq last August following the bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad to return, she said.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 25th.
Ash Wednesday...and the day Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ opens in theaters. To a certain extent I've been following the buzz on this movie...and frankly, I just don't get why so many people seem to be so scared of it.
IN CASE YOU WERE RUNNING SHORT ON REASONS TO DESPISE CBS...
I link to Andy Rooney's report of his "conversation with God".
Quote that shows Rooney doesn't get it: According to Rooney, "God" says:
“Anyway, as I was saying, Mel is a real nut case. What in the world was I thinking when I created him? Listen, we all make mistakes."
We all make mistakes?
GOOD POINT OF THE DAY
Goes to radio hostess Laura Ingraham writing about The Passion of the Christ
SUDDENLY NEWSWEEK'S FILM CRITIC WORRIED ABOUT KIDS!
She links to the Newsweek piece so middle America can get a glimpse of how the elite and religion don't get along very well. Worth a visit.
In the new issue of Newsweek, film critic David Ansen describes The Passion as "an R-rated inspirational movie no child can, or should, see." Does anyone remember Ansen warning parents not to allow young people to see Kill Bill? Or Mystic River? Of course not.
RECRUITING IS STILL GOOD
So says this story, in spite of the ongoing action in Iraq. I can't lift an excerpt...so you'll have to use the link.
Appears to be the best decision she could make. And I hope the publicity from this means he can't get another date for the rest of his life...
A week after a Connecticut man announced that his soldier wife was killed in Iraq, Army Reserve Sgt. Betsy Valentin said she wants a divorce from him.
Edward Valentin, of Waterbury, is accused of concocting a story about his wife's death. Police said he was courting another woman, who didn't want to date a married man.
In an interview with The Sunday Republican of Waterbury, Betsy Valentin said the hoax was the last straw in a marriage that has been struggling for years. She said her husband has been emotionally and sometimes physically abusive.
And they get to learn from the best...
A large group of Army Reserve Soldiers from Fort Carson loaded a transport plane this morning bound for Iraq, but this is not a usual deployment.
This select group of officers and non commissioned officers will be the first group whose sole purpose is to help the Iraqis stand on their own two feet by building a secure military.
Right now in Iraq, local people get together to protect their village, so you have groups of untrained, but heavily armed militia roaming Iraq.
But the mission of the soliders from Fort Carson is to train a national army to protect the entire country and national interests.
The slimming down of the U.S.-led occupation in neighboring Iraq can be seen in this city's main port, where the four Army divisions being shifted out of Iraq are sending home far more heavy weapons and gear than the replacement troops are bringing in.
The Army's 4th Infantry Division, which currently occupies a swath of Iraq north of Baghdad, will require 19 of the Navy's massive "roll-on, roll-off" or Ro-Ro ships to carry away its vast collection of tanks, armored vehicles and heavy bridging equipment, Army Maj. Faris Williams, the Army's operations officer at the port of al-Shuaiba, said Monday.
The Army's 1st Armored Division, which has just begun pulling out of Baghdad, will need as many as 20 ships, Williams said.
By contrast, the Army's 1st Infantry Division, which will replace the Tikrit-based 4th Infantry in the coming weeks, is arriving in Kuwait on just five Ro-Ro ships, Williams said.
A GOOD DAY IN FALLUJAH
The top bomb-maker for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (search) has been killed in Fallujah, Fox News learned Monday.
The bomb-making lieutenant, whose name wasn’t released, died in a gun battle at a terrorist safe house late last week, military sources told Fox.
The military officer's death is significant because Al-Zarqawi is the man believed to have masterminded a number of recent attacks against the coalition in Iraq.
Civil affairs soldiers were passing out election pamphlets in Fallujah, just west of Baghdad, when someone began shooting from a nearby house, sources told Fox. That’s when Task Force 121 (search), part of U.S. Special Forces, was called in.
OH I HOPE I HOPE I HOPE...
I hope this is the same Police Academy where CPT Patti is living...and I hope she got to see Secretary Rumsfeld...Secretary Rumsfeld Remarks at the Baghdad Police Academy
LEADERSHIP AS AN ART FORM
I've mentioned here before the concept that leadership is an act of service to one's "subordinates".
Every soldier in that line would understand if the Secretary of Defense had to leave/eat/meet/be somewhere else right now. He's the Secretary of Defense, for crying out loud.
But he didn't. And those troops now have a photo they will cherish forever. And Secretary Rumsfeld has their loyalty forever as well.
The day was to have culminated with the secretary having dinner with troops at the Baghdad International Airport dining facility. But when he was inundated with requests from soldiers and airmen to allow a friend to take their picture with him, Rumsfeld spent most of the visit doing just that. Hundreds of troops lined up along the long wall of the building, patiently waiting their turn, and the secretary greeted the last as enthusiastically as the first.
Can you name any country we've been in conflict with in the last 100 years that you would expect to conduct such a probe of their soldiers?
Seventeen U.S. soldiers have been suspended pending the outcome of a probe into allegations of abuse of Iraqi prisoners, a U.S. officer said Monday. My guess is no. And yet they can expect if of us.
How's that for setting the standard higher than everyone else...
THIS IS A VERY COOL INITIATIVE ON OUR PART
The U.S. Army is helping Iraqis set up their nation’s first farm co-operative on “Saddam’s farm” near Balad.
Soldiers from the 308th Civil Affairs Brigade, based at LSA Anaconda, met Iraqi scientists and leaders from the Balad area, north of Baghdad, at the farm last week.
The Iraqi Ministry of Agriculture used to operate the farm but locals say its produce benefited only Saddam Hussein and his family.
Maj. Randy Fritz, public health chief at the 308th’s humanitarian assistance co-ordination center, said the goal is to create a collectively owned and managed farm so local farmers can get better prices for their produce.
“We all agreed we needed to do something to boost agriculture in country,” he said. “Co-ops were illegal under Iraqi law so this will be Iraq’s first farm co-op.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 24th.
I've got a boatload of stuff to do today...so I may be absent more than usual here...we'll just have to see.
WRONG WRONG WRONG
If you stumble across this headline
Virus closes US army bases in Germany at the Drudge Report, please note that it is in error.
Those are German Army posts...not US.
To most Americans, Iraq has turned into a slow, bloody war of attrition. Every time we glance at a newspaper there has been another bombing, more casualties, and little in the way of obvious progress. This has led many to doubt the benefit of leaving our troops in the region.
What we need to realize, though, is that we really are making headway. In his column last week, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman cited a number of Arab journalists who have begun to openly voice their objections to terrorist bombings in Iraq and praise the opportunity that American troops have given Iraqis to regain control of their country.
Every time an Arab journalist denounces the fanaticism that currently holds a death grip on the region, we win an important battle and come one step closer to achieving what should have been our goal in Iraq in the first place: freeing a captive people.
Iraqi citizens realize - more than the American public thinks - that U.S. troops are absorbing much of the retribution had been aimed at them, and that they really do have an opportunity to improve their lives in a way they never could have under Saddam Hussein's rule.
Which is exactly why we need to stick this fight out. It took the U.S. 13 years to go from independence to its current form, and the road to a democratic government in Iraq will likely be just as long. This is not to say our troops will be patrolling the streets of Baghdad for the next decade, but we should be hesitant to depart before we are certain of the outcome.
HOW PRECIOUS IS FREEDOM OF THE PRESS?
Take a look at what happens when it is restored after 30 years of state owned media.
Every Arab country has its state newspapers, where readers find the officially approved version of the news. In the new Iraq, the ''government'' newspaper in the eyes of many is the one backed by a Pentagon contract.
By the way...that freedom...courtesy of the USA and Great Britain.
Abu Muhammad al-Hassan pointed to the U.S.-funded Al-Sabah daily at his newsstand in downtown Baghdad. ''You could say that's the 'semiofficial' paper. It's certainly the best selling,'' he said. ''But there's so many now.''
Stacked across the sidewalk at al-Hassan's kiosk was a colorful variety of newspapers, reflecting the blossoming of the press since Saddam Hussein's fall in April. Suddenly, Iraq leaped from being terrorized into silence to becoming unique in the Arab world, a country with nearly no restrictions on the press.
Censorship is gone and no laws govern the media, so newspapers have become a free-for-all. In place of the five main strictly-controlled papers under Saddam now folded nearly 170 have sprouted up, according to one U.S. estimate.
The result is a newsstand that looks a lot like Iraq itself: Every ethnic and political stripe from political factions to Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds weighs in with its voice, others join in looking to make a profit, and the Americans stand above, influencing things where they can.
With the Americans due to hand over sovereignty on June 30, journalists are hoping that whatever Iraqi government comes to power doesn't put an end to the party.
THIS ISN'T GOOD
A Sunni Muslim cleric whose followers described him as a peaceful, quiet force in the community was shot dead during the weekend when gunmen knocked on the door of his home just after prayers, neighbors said.
Well, of course it is just my opinion, but from where I sit it appears to be the latest in oursiders efforts to ignite a full scale civil war between the religious factions in Iraq.
The assassination of Sheik Dhamir al-Dhari, a cleric for the past 20 years in Baghdad's western Khadra neighborhood, stunned people in the area, who said they could not fathom why he had been targeted and shot to death Saturday.
EVER WONDERED HOW WELL YOU COULD DO YOUR JOB CARRYING 100 POUNDS OF EQUIPMENT?
The burden actually includes body armor, helmets, canteens, weapons and other gear that soldiers strap on or tote long before they pick up their rucksacks. All told, the average weight carried by a soldier on a dismounted operation is about 100 pounds, including a 30- to 40-pound rucksack, Dean said in a Thursday telephone interview.
To anyone who’s been deployed, it’s obvious that a soldier’s gear needs to be lightened up.
And the Army is working on just that: “Future Force Warrior” will spell out what a soldier will wear and use come 2012.
The program includes “some very stringent weight-reduction goals” — shaving a soldier’s burden by 50 percent, Dean said.
ANOTHER PATCH FOR EVERY SET OF BDU'S AND DCU'S
Every soldier in the Army, not just those deployed, must now wear the U.S. flag insignia on his or her utility uniform, according to a new Army rule.
And in case you ever wondered why the flag seems to look "backward" the answer is written here.
By tradition, soldiers don’t sew the flag on the shoulder of their right uniform until they are deployed. As soon as they are back at their home station, the flag must come off.
But on Feb. 11, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker authorized the universal adoption of the insignia as a reminder to all soldiers that the Army is at war, according to Army spokesman Wayne Morse.
“We’re more of an expeditionary force now,” Morse said in a Friday telephone interview. “We’re at war, and we will be for the foreseeable future.”
But the short answer is this...Imagine your soldier wearing the patch...advancing with rapid speed. That rapid advance would cause a real flag, held by your soldier, to "point backwards" (that is, away from the enemy).
Well, depending upon if your soldier is authorized to wear the flag patch on the right or left shoulder, the flag is to appear as if it is being held aloft as the soldier moves forward at a rapid clip. (Of course that means the right shoulder flag patch is a mirror image of the left shoulder, or "normal looking" flag patch.)
Pretty cool, eh?:
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 23d.
Overnight my mother sent an email note to me that included a link.
I've just visited the link...and have had to wipe my eyes. It includes several photographs of the route from church to cemetary during the funeral of a soldier from somewhere in Texas.
You simply must go see this here.
THE LATEST EXAMPLE OF HOW KERRY WANTS IT BOTH WAYS.
An astonishing amount of chutzpah.
For my money there seems to be no end to the duplicity of the man who will accuse the White House of such things only weeks after Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McCauliffe dragged out the bogus charges of the President being AWOL from the National Guard in the early 70s. Charges, by the way, which have been thoroughly and completely debunked.
In a letter to Bush on Saturday, Kerry wrote: "As you well know, Vietnam was a very difficult and painful period in our nation's history, and the struggle for our veterans continues. So, it has been hard to believe that you would choose to reopen these wounds for your personal political gain. But, that is what you have chosen to do."
Kerry was reacting to criticism earlier in the day from a leading Georgia Republican who, speaking for Bush's re-election campaign, predicted trouble for Kerry in the state's primary.
Let us review. Kerry wants credit for his service record, but founded the Vietnam Vets against the War to condemn the war and the American soldiers' (presumably their own, as well) actions in it. You can't have it both ways.
Kerry was so strongly against the war he publicly, on camera "threw away" medals awarded to him in Vietnam, except he didn't throw his away. He says he still has his to this day. You can't have it both ways.
Kerry voted to authorize President Bush to do what we did in Iraq. Now he says he is against what we have done in Iraq. You can't have it both ways.
Kerry accuses the White House of sending out third parties to disparage Kerry's war record. Meanwhile, the chairman of the DNC (whose job it is to get the Democrat's candidate elected) raises the bogus charges about the President being AWOL from the Guard, and Kerry hasn't condemned those tactics.
YOU CAN'T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS!
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 22d.
I'm mostly taking the day off from blogging.