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July 2007

Iraqi Parliament takes a break

Cue the wailing and gnashing of teeth since the Iraqi lawmakers have decided to chill for the month of August. This is not particularly helpful given the political situation back here, but we shouldn't expect them to live by our schedule. Our own Parliament of Whores does pretty much the same thing for the same reason, when it's stupid hot nobody makes good decisions or deals. Would it have been better if they had made an oil deal or some reconciliation work? Of course, but they weren't going to make any huge progress in this one month, and now we can pressure them to deal with things in their home districts.

Spare me the reminder that our troops are handling the same conditions outside in full battle rattle. I know, and I also know that I am sitting in an air-conditioned room wearing shorts and a t-shirt as I write this. But that is not relevant, if the troops want to take August off they can join the Iraqi Parliament or our Congress. I believe that falls under embracing the suck.

What they can do is continue to show the Iraqis that we can secure areas and they can live in relative peace. We can also meet with those same Iraq lawmakers as we have been doing with tribal leaders all over the country. We can drink tea and plan reconstruction projects and restore or implement the elements of a civil society. We can also make sure they know what our expectations are once they reconvene.

Vff_week_4 In the meantime there are some folks doing yeoman's work back here in the fight against those who would rather hang a victory on W than allow our troops the chance to win. Pete Hegseth and the Vets for Freedom have been hard at it in a ten week plan to keep the pressure on Congress. Now they are in week 4, which calls for folks to sign up to be in DC on 17 & 18 Sept. to tell Congress that pulling the plug as we are seeing progress would be shameful.

The Resurgence of The Surge

The anti-war left has gone pretty much all out in their surge against the surge and thus far all Harry Reid and company have managed is to fail to do anything at all. Sadly, given our Congress, that is the best that could be hoped for. Reid went so far as to call the surge doomed prior to the last troops even leaving the US. I try to give opponents of the war the benefit of the doubt , but the problem is their lack of concern over the effects of a sudden withdrawal make that difficult. Jonah Goldberg has a recent quote that points out one aspect of this.

  "Liberals used to be the ones who argued that
    sending U.S. troops abroad was a small price
    to pay to stop genocide; now they argue that
    genocide is a small price to pay to bring U.S.
    troops home."

A genocide, or several, in Iraq is the first of many bad things that our running away will cause. Next comes an Al Qaeda in Iraq resurgence and likely naming of Baghdad as capital of a resurgent Caliphate. Throw in Iran's certain dominance of most of Shia Iraq and it's own expansionist plans and you have the Sunni-Shia perfect storm, I mean it would be everything Ahmadinejad and the 12th Imam-ers could hope for. Add in a turbocharged Iranian nuke program and FFS I'm ready to check on my go to hell plans.

I can understand frustration with the lack of success in Iraq and have said I hold Rumsfeld responsible for holding on to his Iraqification policy long after it was obvious we were fighting against an insurgency. Now that we have implemented actual Counter-Insurgency doctrine (COIN) we are seeing the difference that the proper strategy supplies. The problem is that our political system has already intruded on this and will continue to do so. Add to that the media's negative noise machine and too many Americans just want it to stop. That is what we have to overcome to win our troops a chance to win this war.

Unfortunately for the would be losers  the tide is against them and they are increasingly faced with voices they should not deny telling everyone things are improving demonstrably. One is the NY Times Baghdad Chief John Burns, who should hear no questioning of his credibility from any side, and he gave Hugh Hewitt an interview in which he says that things have definitely changed for the better and the prospects for peace are higher than they have ever been. The nwe have the piece by the Brookings scholars who just returned from Iraq saying that for the first time we appear to have things on track and we should continue to support efforts at actual victory.

Attempts to discredit any voice with positive news about Iraq have already begun with particularly over-rated Matthew Yglesias weighing in on Petraeus and already finding he and his prospective report wanting. While reminiscent of a bed louse lecturing Leonidas it is emblematic of the tone on the left currently. They are mad as hell and they are not gonna take any of this good news BS.

Somehow I don't think calling heroic US leaders reporting on our path toward victory liars is a great plan, but hey Dems good luck with that.

Audio of my bit this morning on 97.1 St. Louis with Jamie Allman

Marine Sergeant DJ Emery - Update 7 - DJ's Riders

Many of you have asked for an update of Marine Sergeant DJ Emery.  You ask, we provide.  If you are not familiar with DJ, at least read the first and last links:

So, there was a recent announcement that a charity motorcycle run is being held in DJ's honor in central Pennsylvania:

Motorcycle run benefiting Sergeant DJ Emery
Sunday, September 2, 1:00 p.m., rain or shine

Taking DJ’s favorite 120 mile run
Have your tank filled, ready to leave at 12:50
Leaving from Milesburg Community Park, taking DJ’s
favorite 120 mile run through Centre and Clinton Counties

Registration starts at 11 a.m.
    Have your tank filled, ready to roll at 12:50
Raffle, 50/50 drawing and picnic at end of the run

If you can't participate in the run, donations can be mailed - Checks or money orders can be made out to the "Nittany Leathernecks Detachment" and sent to:

    Nittany Leathernecks
    Attn: Cpl. Emery Fund
    P.O. Box 956, Lemont PA  16851-0956

Donations can also be made at any Nittany Bank branch.

You can send DJ a card at:         

    Sgt. David Emery
    Mologne House
    6900 Georgia Ave.
    NW Building 20
    RM 246
    Washington, D.C.  2030-5001

CJR/McLeary Responds

Via both Baldilocks and CDR. Salamander, comes what appears to be a sincere -- if profoundly troubling -- mea culpa in regards this.

I have to admit, I had wondered how this came to be. As Blackfive noted in an e-mail yesterday, this is the same Paul McLeary who had interviewed him for Blog of War. At the same time, however, not much surprises me in terms of old media bias, arrogance, or ignorance about the military, intelligence, or other "esoteric" beats.

Mr. McLeary, you have indeed stepped in it. We all have done so, and probably all have (as noted by others) put out something that did not mean what we said. At the same time, I find myself in agreement with others on continuing problems.

First up, the use of the term "chickenhawk." Baldilocks has written about the idiocy of using the term before, as have others. It's use is intended to stiffle debate and discussion, and it serves no good purpose whatsoever outside of that. It's use is usually a mark of moral and intellectual cowardice (and general lack in those areas), in my opinion. PLEASE SEE UPDATE BELOW.

Second, the good commander has it right when noting that you still appear to remain focused on the messenger, rather than the message. The messenger has nothing to do with the fact that in this case the private was lying and TNR did a bad job of journalism and journalistic integrity. Your rant doesn't help the latter at all, either.

Third, he is also on the mark when you appear to somehow equate Hugh Hewitt and others as springing from the same source as milblogs. As someone who has covered them as extensively as you note, you should know a lot better.

Fourth, while I can't speak for Hewitt, Baldilocks notes that some of your blog targets have left the comfort of their air conditioned offices and made a trip to gather facts. I would add in Confederate Yankee and others to that list.

While your mea culpa is a step in the right direction, the profound problems that underly your original piece remain. I would still fail both missives in a JM 101 course, and I say that as someone who believes in real journalism (not the media) and who is proud to have the words Kappa Tau Alpha associated with his name.

Since there are some profound and troubling issues that remain, let me make an offer. This fat ol' crip is willing to take a leave of absence, or quit my day job if necessary, to take a trip to embed with the troops. As part of that journey, let's you and I go visit the unit in question, and let the people there tell you the problem with the message. Let's visit a few other milbloggers while we are at it, maybe a few other bloggers period, and see if they can help. I'm willing to put it all on the line right now, especially if the money could be raised to cover the process via PMI, and to ensure I still had a lair to which to return. How about it, are you and CJR willing to put your money where your mouth is? I'm willing to put my body and what meager funds I have on the line for this. How about you?


UPDATE AND CORRECTION: I have just had a cordial and positive e-mail exchange with Paul McLeary. There is discussion and dialog underway. That said, I do need to note an error on my part. It is important to note that he did not use the word "chickenhawk" in his original article. I read it in by inference, but he did not use it. The error is mine, and I apologize for it. LW

Army Col. Stephen Twitty at the Blogger's Roundtable

We talked to the commander of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cav, Multinational Division-North.  The transcript is here.  There are several important exchanges on IO, measures of effectiveness for the counterinsurgency strategy and how it is tracking (short version:  according to current MoE, very well), and more in the extended entry.

By the way, if you're reading along, there's an exchange at the start where the Colonel is correcting how his name is pronounced.  It's Colonel 'ste-FAHN' Twitty, which the transcript doesn't make clear.  Since it was important enough to him to correct it, I figured you'd like to know.

Continue reading "Army Col. Stephen Twitty at the Blogger's Roundtable" »

What happens to the Democrats if they bet on the wrong horse?

Last night, I was working on a Corporate Finance final exam and watched the Democrat YouTube debate on CNN.  I wondered why the question, "What if we have progress in Iraq, would you still advocate a withdrawal?" was never asked.

To be fair, all of them advocate the withdrawal idea;  HOWEVER, only Hilary Clinton was a realist about how long it would take to do so safely and orderly.  She mentioned that there wasn't a plan for withdrawal.  BS.  I'll bet there's about ten different plans for withdrawal sitting on the shelves of the Pentagon right now.  There is no plan in effect for withdrawal because, well, right now we are not withdrawing.  Actually, Senator, we are surging which, may I point out, is quite the opposite of withdrawing.

Anyway, most of the videos about the war were "model citizens" asking about when would you withdraw from Iraq.  Pretty lame.  There were some awful attempts at humor too (the Tennessee guys were terrible).

I guess the Democrats cannot or will not even try to devise their own plan to succeed...which means that they think that we cannot succeed.

If I could talk to them, I'd look them in the eye and ask them what they would do if we were actually succeeding when they took office.  I believe that some would do the right thing (Richardson, Clinton), and some would do the politically expedient thing (Biden).  The others owe too much (financially) to the whack jobs trying to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  Some interesting questions would be:

    What will happen to the Democrat candidates if success continues?

    And what will Harry Reid and other Democrat leaders do to mitigate that success in order to win the Presidential election?

Personally, I think Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi would throw the Iraqis and our soldiers under the bus for a Presidential victory.

Will they even attend the September assessment presented by General David H. Petreaus and Ambassador Crocker?

The New York Times today has this piece from two men who were for the invasion of Iraq, then against the continuation of our presence in Iraq, and now...:

A War We Just Might Win

The New York Times

VIEWED from Iraq, where we just spent eight days meeting with American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel, the political debate in Washington is surreal. The Bush administration has over four years lost essentially all credibility. Yet now the administration’s critics, in part as a result, seem unaware of the significant changes taking place.

Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.

After the furnace-like heat, the first thing you notice when you land in Baghdad is the morale of our troops. In previous trips to Iraq we often found American troops angry and frustrated — many sensed they had the wrong strategy, were using the wrong tactics and were risking their lives in pursuit of an approach that could not work...

For more, including the soccer victory of Iraq over Saudi Arabia, see Jimbo's post below.

And I'll put the recent Congressional testimony of former Assistant Secretary of Defense (and Marine and Vietnam Vet) Bing West after the Jump. His last four points should be posted across the blogosphere and you would do well to read them:

Continue reading "What happens to the Democrats if they bet on the wrong horse?" »

Good News from Iraq in the NYT?

LT Fishman delivers the SurgeWrap and while he leads with a great story, the soccer victory, I have to add in the piece in today's NY Times. It is written by two Brookings Institute scholars who just returned from Iraq. They have been critics of administration policies and strategy in Iraq and noted poor conditions on previous visits. Keep in mind that Brookings is a traditional liberal think tank when you read "A war we just might win"

The additional American military formations brought in as part of the surge, General Petraeus’s determination to hold areas until they are truly secure before redeploying units, and the increasing competence of the Iraqis has had another critical effect: no more whack-a-mole, with insurgents popping back up after the Americans leave.

In war, sometimes it’s important to pick the right adversary, and in Iraq we seem to have done so. A major factor in the sudden change in American fortunes has been the outpouring of popular animus against Al Qaeda and other Salafist groups, as well as (to a lesser extent) against Moktada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army.

These groups have tried to impose Shariah law, brutalized average Iraqis to keep them in line, killed important local leaders and seized young women to marry off to their loyalists. The result has been that in the last six months Iraqis have begun to turn on the extremists and turn to the Americans for security and help. The most important and best-known example of this is in Anbar Province, which in less than six months has gone from the worst part of Iraq to the best (outside the Kurdish areas). Today the Sunni sheiks there are close to crippling Al Qaeda and its Salafist allies. Just a few months ago, American marines were fighting for every yard of Ramadi; last week we strolled down its streets without body armor.

Now the victory of the Iraqi soccer team is a tasty dessert after that nice piece of red meat. It is hard for most Americans to understand just how important soccer is to almost every other country in the world. It is the simplest game and anywhere you go, regardless how poor they are, the kids will be kicking some kind of ball around. We always brought soccer balls with us on deployments; it is a tremendous way to make some friends quickly. For a country that hasn't had much to cheer about in a while beating the Saudis is a huge prize. It takes national pride to overcome sectarian differences and if it's soccer that bridges the gap, so be it.

Calls for Unity in Iraq After Soccer Win

Jul 30, 5:33 AM (ET) By STEVEN R. HURST  BAGHDAD (AP) - Hundreds of pages have been ripped from the calendar since Iraqis last showed the unity and happiness that flowed across the land on Sunday. And it would have been foolhardy to predict a soccer team - the determined Lions of the Two Rivers - would unleash a flood of joy held back for decades by the dam of Saddam Hussein's tyranny and four-plus years of war since America toppled him. But after the team's victory in the prestigious 2007 Asian Cup, the Iraqi people seemed far ahead of their leaders in letting sectarian bygones be bygones and allowing ethnic atrocities to fade. Despite a security crackdown, curfews banning vehicles, and decrees forbidding the penchant in this part of the world to grab an AK-47 and rip off celebratory rounds, people rejoiced in the streets - and gunfire roared.
It roared across Baghdad at the second-half goal against Saudi Arabia. It was deafening when the underdog Lions sealed the 1-0 victory in Jakarta, Indonesia. The Iraq team's win dripped with symbolism, not least in the makeup of its front-line strikers: one Kurd, one Shiite, one Sunni.

My bold to point out that reconciliation means exactly this.

Continue reading "Good News from Iraq in the NYT?" »

Just Wanted to Say Hi to My Buddies in the AWRAC

Good friend and Blackfive reader, Uncle Ben, was recently traveling across the country and spotted a soldier sitting alone at an airport restaurant.  Ben walks over, introduces himself, and buys the soldier lunch.

Ben asks soldier, "What do you do for the Army?"

Soldier, "I'm in the Army's Web Risk Assessment Cell."

Ben, "What's that?"

Soldier, "We evaluate military blogs, web sites, My Space pages and the like for information that shouldn't be made public."

Ben, "You ever hear of Blackfive?"

Soldier laughs, "Yeah, we know him.  You?"

Ben, seeing an opportunity to gather intel kept him talking.  The rest of the conversation was interesting, but I don't want to embarrass or inadvertently get the MI soldier in trouble.  After all, I got the lobotomy and entered the MI Corps in the mid 90s.

Just wanted to send out "Hiyah, MI guys!"

Disclaimer:  While I find it somewhat funny to be monitored, I support the fact that the Army needs to evaluate soldier communications for OPSEC violations.  What I disagree with (from the beginning) is the manner in which the evaluation is conducted and communicated...I think the AWRAC is a good idea, no matter how much the Army blew the chance to get blogs done right via the regs.

More later...

Mike Yon in Baqubah

Mike Yon's latest dispatch, Bird's Eye View, discusses some of the changes in Iraq and the US Army since 2005.  But one thing doesn't seem to change - the commanders are still war-fighters that don diplomatic demeanors:

...While the battle goes on just nearby, battalion commanders like LTC Mo Goins (who had lost a soldier days earlier) keep popping out of combat to attend civil meetings to keep nudging and whipping forward the momentum for getting things working again. There’s something odd about the way these commanders come in sweating and dirty, and grindlessly switch gears to talk diplomatically — and sometimes not-so diplomatically – about water distribution....

Reuters Gets on Marine Sergeant's Bad Side

Our old friend, a Marine Sergeant, emailed to mention a recent Reuters article from his AO.  It begins:

Three U.S. soldiers were killed during combat operations on Thursday in western Anbar province, an al Qaeda stronghold in Iraq, the U.S. military said on Monday.

Now, that suggests that "the U.S. military said" that Anbar was "an al Qaeda stronghold in Iraq." the Marine Sergeant notes:

Anbar is an AQ stronghold in Iraq? *Really*? That's funny because Reuters, AP, NYT, WSJ and WaPo have all done reporting that Al Qaeda is shattered in Anbar via the "tribal awakening." They certainly haven't made their "stronghold" in the entire fricking province.

This is just bad reporting all around. It's an al Qaeda stronghold? Who says? Certainly not the duty expert: the military. And since there's no attribution we don't know if anyone whose opinion or assessment of such things actually said this. No, it's one reporter and his editorial chain not giving a [deleted] and preferring to advance an OpEd lede.

This isn't the first example of a news service writing its lede to suggest that the United States endorsed a proposition that really belongs to the writer.  My favorite example was this one:

A US navy carrier battlegroup is to launch a 'show of force' in the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea off west Africa as part of an unprecedented global operation to demonstrate America's command of the high seas, a US diplomatic source told AFP on Friday.

I'm sure that's just what our diplomat said:  "A US navy carrier battlegroup will be holding an exercise in the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea."

Apparently the news wires need to revise their stylebooks a little bit.  It matters whether the US military or the State Department was the source for these claims.  By constructing their ledes in this way, they're conveying a false impression of the facts to their readers.