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August 2007

Navy F18 Tests Countermeasures


An F/A-18C Hornet, assigned to the 'Knighthawks' of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 136, tests its flare countermeasures system prior to heading into Iraq on a Close Air Support (CAS) mission in support of U.S. and coalition ground forces on Aug. 17. VFA-136 is part of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1 embarked aboard nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65). Enterprise Carrier Strike Group is on a scheduled deployment in support of maritime security operations and the Global War on Terrorism. (U.S. Navy photo)

The Sheikh & The Editor's Podcast

The Editor's podcast is up at Military.com. Ward is shmoozing way above his pay grade with Maxim radio's Diana Falzone. Too bad for him it was by phone. I pipe up after with a look at Haditha since the last Marine facing charges SSgt Wuterich has his Art. 32 hearing Thursday Aug. 30.

Reader and poet Paul Z sends this very cool bit.

by TSgt (Ret) Paul Zimmerli, August 2007

The muezzin's cry that splits the dawn...
       Reminds you it's time for bed...
You've done your work in darkness...
       Now, let others count the dead...

Your men are cheered and happy...
       Their bombs have slain a score...
In the city's marketplace...
       Such a pity, it wasn't more...

They were, of course, your countrymen...
       But all must chance that fate...
It's Allah's will they're targets...
       For the weapons of your hate...

So housewives seeking vegetables...
       And men out doing their work...
Are blasted into bloody pieces...
       By faith that's gone berserk...

Continue reading "The Sheikh & The Editor's Podcast" »

Protein Wisdom Hits The Bullseye

I had to post on this one. Karl at Protein Wisdom has a methodical and thorough post regarding the failures of news organizations to accurately print stories on the War in Iraq since 2003. I can remember no more thorough and well documented post on why we should not believe our own media when they claim Defeat, and subvert Victory in the War on Terror.

Excerpts below:

The Big Picture(s) [Karl]

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

Though public opinion polls consistently show that Americans consider Iraq to be the most important issue facing the country, establishment media has slashed the resources and time devoted to Iraq. The number of embedded reporters plunged from somewhere between 570 and 750 when the invasion began in March 2003 to as few as nine by October 2006. The result was the rise of what journalists themselves call “hotel journalism” and “journalism by remote control.” Janet Reitman, reporting for Rolling Stone, described the state of the media in early 2004:

When I arrive in Baghdad in April, most American journalists are holed up in their rooms, reporting the war by remote: scanning the wires, working their cell phones, watching broadcasts of Al Jazeera. In many cases, they’ve been reduced to relying on sources available to anyone with an Internet connection… While Arabic and European media such as The Guardian and Le Monde manage to cover the war on the ground, American reporters seldom interview actual Iraqis. Instead, they talk to U.S. officials who are every bit as isolated as they are, or rely on local stringers and fixers, several of whom have been killed while working for Americans. “We live in a bubble,” grumbles one AP reporter. “If we know one percent of what’s going on in Iraq, we’re lucky.”

There are exceptions of course, though the number of establishment embeds shows they are literally exceptions. I do not discount the very real danger to Western journos in Iraq, though independent bloggers like Michael Yon, Bill Roggio, Bill Ardolino, and Michael J. Totten seem to have been able to embed outside Baghdad with nothing like the institutional support available to journalists from the establishment media… and that the number of such bloggers is growing. Moreover, I cannot ignore the consequences of “journalism by remote control.”

I don't think I can ever again believe the vast majority of news stories I read about a number of subjects, especially regarding War, Politics, the US Military, and Terrorism as a subject. If reporters AND their editors would just do their jobs professionally and accurately with an eye towards improvement and non partisan behavior and attitudes, as the US military does, we'd all be better off. And the world would truly be a better place.

For you military folks who read this blog, please remember your duty. Do your job as you've been trained to do it. Don't let your actions bring dishonor on you, your family, your service, or your country. The whole World watches you, and expects you to be better than anyone else in the World. It is because the standard is so high, and so many of us have met that standard in the past that they expect perfection from you. We know how hard it is. But we know you can do it, because we see how wonderfully proficient at doing your duty you all are every day, in every way.

Do your duty, for it is the noblest word in the English language. Press on, to Victory.


Mike Yon's - The Ghosts of Anbar (Part 2)

Michael Yon's second part of his series of dispatches on his month-long embed in Anbar Province with US Marines is now posted - The Ghosts of Anbar Part 2.

Mike quotes from the new Counter-insurgency Manual (COIN) and demonstrates that the success being made on the ground is not due to a surge in numbers of soldiers, but to a complete change in strategy and tactics.

The Marines have really taken the lead on adapting to the new strategy (and shown in Anbar):

...Arrowhead Ripper was merely the latest experience that underlines the Army’s rapidly growing expertise. Yet the Marines have adapted faster and seem poised to win the war in their battle space. In fact, it’s been Army officers who have told me repeatedly over the past several years that nobody is successfully morphing to meet this war faster than the Marines. Of course, Army officers who compliment Marines always say, 'But that didn’t come from me.'...

Mike embeds with the Marines and Iraqi Police:

...The entrances to the culvert were easy for the enemy to reach unobserved, and mines, bombs or other boobytraps could have been easily planted. SSG Lee could have ordered one of the Iraqis to clear the culvert, and I’m sure that an Iraqi would have done so. Many are very courageous. But SSG Lee was mentoring these men, and without hesitation, he entered the culvert himself to check it out. This was my introduction to MiTT 8.

People at home want to know what our Soldiers and Marines are doing in Iraq, and the only way to tell their story is to follow them.  So deep inside the culvert, crawling on all fours, using my camera as a walking chalk (it’s pretty tough), I crawled behind SSG Lee who was using his rifle as a walking chalk.  The day was hot.  The body armor made it hotter.

I said, “I only met you for the first time like 20 minutes ago.  What’s your name Staff Sergeant?”

“Staff Sergeant Lee, Sir,” he answered while crawling forward.

“United States Marine Corps,” I said.

“Semper Fi,” he answered, and kept clearing the tunnel.

Check it out and please don't forget to support Mike's dispatches by making a donation.

Reconciliation: Praising Juan Cole

I often praise the work of David Kilcullen, so the last post from me is probably no surprise to anyone.  On the other hand, I don't think I've ever befored praised the work of Juan Cole -- but I shall do so today.  His defense of Prime Minister Maliki in Salon today is the best thing I have ever seen from him.

Maliki has been unafraid to mount his own defense against his American critics. On Sunday, he slammed Sens. Carl Levin and Hillary Clinton for calling for the Iraqi parliament to oust him. He accused the senators of acting as if Iraq were "the feudal estate of this person or that," a metaphor that went over the head of most American observers. Modern Iraqi political parties such as the Islamic Call were formed in part as a reaction against the landlord class that dominated Iraq under the British-installed monarchy. Maliki was saying the senators were bringing back colonialism and disregarding the Iraqi political process. "They are Democrats," he quipped of Clinton and Levin, "so they should respect democracy and its results."

There are things in the piece to disagree with, but there is also quite a bit there that is valuable and insightful.  The general idea is correct:  the Iraqi government is far from perfect, but is operating under tremendous strains and difficult conditions.  It is important to build Iraqi trust in the process by respecting it, and being seen to respect it:  attempting to play puppeteer undermines what we seek to accomplish in the long term.

Meanwhile, the reconciliation package that Maliki is pushing offers some genuine reasons for hope -- if he can actually enact it at the parliament, which is far from certain.  Cole offers a good explanation both of what the package contains and why it is important, as well as why it may still face difficulties in coming about.

Reconciliation is difficult, for the Iraqis and for us.  Perhaps for us, it can start with recognizing good work from people we've disagreed with vehemently in the past.  This is a piece of good work of that kind:  though we may disagree with parts of it, it makes for informative reading. 

Mookie, Mookie, Mookie!

BAGHDAD - Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has ordered a six-month suspension of activities by his Mahdi Army militia in order to reorganize the force, and it will no longer attack U.S. and coalition troops, aides said Wednesday....

Asked if Mahdi militiamen would defend themselves against provocations, he replied: "We will deal with it when it happens."

Well you better work out a policy there because Sadr City is on the list and your clowns better figure out which team they are gonna play on. Mookie has pulled this, what three times now? Whenever he sees a little red dot on his chest, he declares a cease fire, or more properly a hudna, meaning his troops rest and refit and wait for more advantageous times.

Well that ain't  gonna fly this time. In or out Mookie, no sitting in the stands heckling. Now we have been making deals with quite a few Sunni Sheikhs, with pretty unpalatable backgrounds, so I'm not saying we can't cut a deal with him. But any deal needs to be on our terms and involve some shows of loyalty to the central government. Second biggest mistake of the occupation after disbanding the Army, not martyring Mookie the first time he poked his head up.

COIN: Dr. Kilcullen on SWJ

Lt. Col. David Kilcullen has a new piece on operations in Iraq at Small Wars Journal.  As always, you should take time to read his thoughts.

UPDATE:  Kilcullen's description of the cause of the "flip" in Anbar are familiar to readers of MilBlogs.  The causes he describes were predictable in 2004, when I wrote Clausewitz & The Triangle (which, due to apparent problems at the Mudville Gazette, is available currently only as a Wayback cache):

[T]he Sunni Triangle, as mentioned, is largely tribal in culture. People who grew up there are strongly attached to the tribal system, which to them seems as natural and morally right as the sun rising in the east and the moon waxing and waning. The enemy of the tribe is your enemy -- and it is not our side that is wrecking the tribal strength....  It is the guerrillas in Iraq who are undoing the tribal structure, scorning the traditional authority, and bringing chaotic change to the Sunni Triangle.... We overthrew a national government that enjoyed some broad support in the Sunni triangle, but we did not try to overthrow the tribes.

Confer with the actual cause as Kilcullen describes it:

Marrying women to strangers, let alone foreigners, is just not done. AQ, with their hyper-reductionist version of “Islam” stripped of cultural content, discounted the tribes’ view as ignorant, stupid and sinful.

This led to violence, as these things do: AQI killed a sheikh over his refusal to give daughters of his tribe to them in marriage, which created a revenge obligation (tha’r) on his people, who attacked AQI. The terrorists retaliated with immense brutality, killing the children of a prominent sheikh in a particularly gruesome manner, witnesses told us. This was the last straw, they said, and the tribes rose up. Neighboring clans joined the fight, which escalated as AQI (who had generally worn out their welcome through high-handedness) tried to crush the revolt through more atrocities. Soon the uprising took off, spreading along kinship lines through Anbar and into neighboring provinces.

Read the whole thing, and get a sense of what has been, and what is yet possible.  "Of course," he says, "this is motivated primarily by self-interest."

Again, this is utterly standard behavior for tribal leaders pretty much anywhere in the Arab world: you can trust a tribal leader 100% – to follow his tribe’s and his own interests. And that’s OK. Call me cynical, but I tend to trust self-interest, group identity and revenge as reliable motivations – more so than protestations of aspirational democracy, anyway.

Quite right.  That's another thing milbloggers have been saying for a long time -- since 2003, in fact. 

Non-Mastermind of Col Nick Rowe's killing scarfed up

Nickrowe I always hate when they call criminals or terrorists masterminds; it is a grotesquely inflated title for someone who would more properly be called a treacherous bastard. If you want to see some master minding, turn a couple of our Spec Ops types loose with the same rules the terrorists play by and $50 seed money. You would watch selected parts of the Middle East spontaneously discombobulate all the while receiving hourly updates from poolside at an undisclosed, 5 star location. It is criminally easy to be a criminal.

So they caught the murderous thug responsible for ordering the assassination of Col. Nick Rowe (pic from Vietnam), and others as Wretchard notes. Col Rowe is an icon in the Special Forces community, first for his actions detailed in Five Years to Freedom, likely the most compelling of many stories of horrifying torture and finally escape from North Vietnamese prisons, then later as a very successful liaison to the Filipino government. So much so that the New People's Army, a communist terror group, had him killed on his way to work.

I was in the PI the day he was killed April 21, 1989.

Nick Rowe was a tremendous example of a Spec Ops warrior and I met him about two weeks before he was killed as we began our work with the Filipino Army on my first SF deployment. Here is what happened:

We had a lot of coordination to do prior to heading for the sticks to train the Filipino Army. He showed up to make sure all went smooth and we had several chances to enjoy BBQ style festivities with him. Later during that trip, the New People's Army (NPA) assassinated Col. Nick Rowe, the US Army Special Ops liaison to the Philippines.

His death set every one off at our camp. There was no way we were going to let them get away with that shite. Shortly after the incident a Filipino Special Forces officer, that members of my team had a long and good relationship with, came by and told us they had located an element of the NPA and were leaving that evening to go get them. We were invited because they knew we wanted to go even though it violated the Filipino Constitution and every letter of our orders to have us involved in combat operations. Neither they nor we really cared much about that restriction at that point. We said we definitely wanted to go and began getting our gear together. We packed and loaded up in a deuce and a half and were heading out of our compound when SGM P came barreling toward us and stopped the vehicle. He screamed, "Where in the expletive deleted do you idiots think you're going?" Since it was kind of hard to say we were going bowling with all our guns and ammo we were stone busted. He confiscated everything but our side arms and sent us back to our hooch. The Filipino SF faced no such restriction and we eventually saw the photos from that mission where 21 NPA terrorists were killed. Man I love dead tangos.

Blue Skies to Col. Nick Rowe and all victims of terror around the world.