March 28 2003
THE MORALITY GAP: Last night I caught a dispatch from Ryan
Chilcote, a CNN reporter embedded with the Army's 101st Airborne's
3rd Brigade, that illustrates some important truths about the
current conflict. Bear with me while I summarize his report:
been bogged down by sandstorms for some time and yesterday
morning (which was nighttime there in Iraq) just before the storms
broke a pickup truck full of Iraqis basically rolled right into
camp. The handful of men were thought to be couriers on the way
to deliver information to Republican Guard units in the area.
They got lost in the bad weather and ended up surrounded by US
troops and taken prisoner.
played a video clip showing the men blindfolded and on their knees
inside a makeshift prison of razor wire. Even with the camera's
nightvision, you could still see it was quite windy and cold.
Each prisoner had a blanket pulled around his shoulders and the
clip actually shows a US soldier reaching down and adjusting the
blanket of one of the prisoners to make sure it was pulled tight.
then cut to an interview of one of the 3rd Brigade soldiers tending
to the prisoners who summarized the POW perspective. He said that
US soldiers were now fighting harder because they didn't want
to be taken as POW's by the Iraqis and that the US strategy was
to make sure Iraqi soldiers knew they would receive ample food,
water, blankets, and medicine if they surrendered in the hopes
this might entice Iraqi forces to defect.
But the young
US soldier said something else as well - something telling. In
describing the US approach to POW's he fell back on a a simple,
rote phrase: "Do unto others as you would have others do
unto you." It also happens to be a Christian phrase from
the book of Matthew.
also reported that US Army medics attended to all of the men,
and administered medicine to one of the Iraqis who was suffering
from asthma. Read that again. Not gunshot wounds, asthma. Chilcote
finished his report by saying the 3rd Brigade soldiers had erected
a tent on the spot to further protect the prisoners from the harsh
I write all
of this for a couple of reasons. First, I simply cannot stand
those who have been attempting to morally equate our treatment
of POW's (whether in Iraq, Afghanistan or Guantanamo Bay) with
our enemy's treatment of US prisoners of war. Arguments of equivalency
are just simply lies.
a broader context it's important to recognize the vast morality
gap that exists between coalition forces and the enemy. This is
not a holier than thou tirade or an indictment of all of Islam.
It is, however, a recognition of the truth that our enemies -
Iraqi soldiers and terrorists of all stripes - are not bound by
any rules of war or by any code of moral conduct.
in contrast, are bound by every rule of war, every convention,
every treaty, and every international legal clause ever written.
And while our enemies get a pass, our troops' behavior is scrutinized
every single day in microscopic detail for even the slightest
breach of moral or ethical conduct.
moral burden our troops bear is expected - demanded even - by
the simple fact of who they are and where they come from: America.
This moral burden exists for every US soldier no matter whether
they are black or white, Muslim, Christian or Jewish. And the
moral burden our men and women carry makes their job much more
risky, and in some cases it leads to more deaths on our side then
we otherwise would have. Yet it's a moral burden they carry proudly.
- T. Bevan 7:41
March 27 2003
NOT WEEKS: Again we have Tom Ricks in the Washington Post
on the Administration's war plan, though today he does so
with considerably more objectivity and restraint. At this point
I think it's reasonable to say the war will take longer than we
thought and that the Pentagon is preparing for just such a scenario.
The President did
his best to lower expectations yesterday and it looks as if
country is coming to grips with the idea of a campaign lasting
months, not weeks.
prudent exercise of planning for a worst case scenario, however,
I don't think anyone has a clear understanding of how this thing
will play out. It could easily follow the pattern in Afghanistan,
where it looked on the surface as if little progress was being
made and then the whole thing cracked open in a matter of 48 to
72 hours. Saddam's forces are infinitely better equipped and better
trained than the ragtag Taliban, but they are still going to have
to confront a force unlike any they have ever seen before. A decisive
victory at Najaf or Karbala could start a chain reaction of defections,
popular uprisings, etc. that snowball quickly. We just don't know.
THE QUEEN: I wake up every day and marvel at the Brits. They
don't have to be doing
this, and I feel the same rage at
their suffering that I feel for our own troops.
the entire affair Tony Blair and Jack Straw have proven to be
first-rate statesmen and allies, navigating public opinion and
party opposition at home with resolve, reason, and courage. From
top to bottom, these guys are tough as nails and it we should
all be extraordinarily proud to have them on the battlefield with
us. Unlike the French, America does not forget these sort of things.
One of the most
likable and thoughtful Senators of his generation. May he
rest in peace. - T.
Bevan 7:43 am
March 26 2003
ONE ARM TIED BEHIND OUR BACK?: There seems to be a lot
of angst, primarily from the political right, over the concern
we are beginning to prosecute this conflict much like Vietnam
with one arm tied behind our back. I totally understand this concern,
it is very frustrating to hear stories that our troops our not
able to fully engage the enemy because of political concerns back
home at the Pentagon. However, much like the reflexive nature
on the part of the political left to immediately talk about a
"quagmire" at the first sign of trouble, I think it
is important for those concerned about the Vietnam syndrome of
fighting with one arm tied behind our back, to just relax and
take a look at the big picture.
I don't know
what program I was watching last night (they all seem to blur
these days, I think it was O'Reilly), but there was a comment
that the CIA now estimates that at least 25,000 Iraqi soldiers
have been killed. We have about 20 deaths at this point, half
of those non-combat. I said this yesterday and I'll repeat it
again today, 'Everyone, on all sides, needs to just have some
patience and give our military leaders the trust and support they
wrongly, I have full confidence in Secretary Rumsfeld and his
intended prosecution of this war. It bears repeating, the bigger
picture of this entire conflict needs to be kept in mind. The
primary objective of this war is to prevent the use of weapons
of mass destruction here in the United States. While pulverizing
Baghdad into oblivion and destroying on the spot any hospitals,
mosques, or schools that the enemy might be using may in the short
term decrease our casualties, would that comport with the longer
term strategic goal of Operation Iraqi Freedom?
come a time when we will have to pulverize Baghdad and if our
troops begin to take unreasonably high casualties from the enemy's
abuse of hospital and mosques we will need to start taking out
those hospitals and mosques. But the point here is we are still
not even ONE week into this war. Any objective reading of our
casualties to date shows no reason to panic or change the strategy.
This has not become a "quagmire" and we are not fighting
this war with one arm behind our back. Maybe I am being utterly
naive, but I trust the judgment of this Administration from the
President on down to weigh all the differing factors and make
the right decisions in regards to this matter. And I think the
American people have this confidence as well.
Blankley's very good column today touches on this exact point
and ends with a warning to President Bush:
are fair, and more than fair. We will even accept a few unnecessary
casualties to give the other side time to do the right thing.
We understand the need to have as many Iraqis as possible friendly
when the shooting stops. But even more importantly, we understand
that if Saddam and his gang are still on their feet when the
shooting stops, all the goodwill of the Iraqi people would be
worth nothing. And expending the lives of American soldiers
in order to save the lives of Iraqi civilians is not a transaction
Americans will look kindly on for long. Woe betide the American
president who is not prepared to be as murderously ruthless
as the American people when we are finished being easygoing,
sentimental and fair-minded.
I do not think this is a worry with this President.
THAN ANTICIPATED?: Professor
Daryl Press opines in The NY Times that "the war
has not gone as smoothly as the Bush administration had hoped."
Kelly in today's Washington Post quotes Maj. Benjamin
Matthews of the 3rd Infantry's 1st Brigade: "This is much tougher
It is easy
to dismiss a Professor from the Ivy League some 5,000 miles away,
less so someone as imminently sensible as Michael Kelly who is
actually with the troops in Iraq. While I have full confidence
in our military and its leadership, no one should be under any
illusions that significant risks still remain. J.
McIntyre 7:52 am
March 25, 2003
TWO PERSPECTIVES ON THE WAR: From Nicholas
Kristof's guide to the war in today's NY Times:
invasion get bogged down? ...."I think the Americans will need
a new strategy," warned a senior official in an allied Arab
government. That may be alarmist, because it's too soon to reach
judgments. But it's fair to ask questions, and a key indicator
will be whether we see more places like Umm Qasr. Will ordinary
Iraqis shower U.S. troops with flowers? If the White House vision
— that Iraqi citizens would cheer our invasion — was borne out,
that would go a long way to defuse antagonism toward us in Europe
and the Arab world. So far, though, the effusive welcome the
White House counted on has been largely absent.... A Reuters
correspondent, Rosalind Russell, saw a group of Iraqi youths
waving as a convoy of British tanks and trucks rolled by. But
once it had passed, their smiles turned to scowls. "We don't
want them here," said 17-year-old Fouad. He pulled out a photo
of Saddam from the waistband of his trousers and said defiantly:
"Saddam is our leader. Saddam is good."........"The plan
was for troops to secure Umm Qasr so they would have the port
to bring in wheat, and then make their way up to Basra with
camera crews in tow, all easy and bloodless, where everybody
would give them a big hug," an aid worker said. Instead, quite
predictably, we're now besieging Basra, where one million people
have been without electricity and clean water since Thursday
— a deprivation that's likely to make them more hostile to US
Warren courtesy of Andrew
know it from reading most of the papers, but the war in Iraq
is going fabulously well. After just five days the US Third
Infantry Division and supporting units are approaching Baghdad.
The immense steel column continues to drive reinforcements across
the Iraqi desert, while its leading edge rumbles through the
fields, villages, and waterways of Mesopotamia. To its rear,
the "sleeper cells" of Ba'athist and terrorist hitmen waiting
in ambush are being eliminated one by one. Special forces have
seized bridges, dams, airstrips, oil and gas fields, and weapons
sites all over the country. The US Air Force has devastated
leadership targets, military infrastructure, and the physical
symbols of the Saddam regime, across Baghdad and elsewhere.
Allied troops have Basra, Nasiriyah, now Karbala, and other
Iraqi cities surrounded, and are tightening each noose. Snipers
in the towns are being patiently deleted. The "Scud box" of
western Iraq is in allied hands, daily more secure, and allied
forces are building with endless air deployments to the northern
front. In all, the allies have taken only a few dozen killed,
and a couple hundred lesser casualties -- many of these from
small accidents within the most amazing and vast logistical
exercise since our troops landed in Normandy.
different tones when it comes to describing the progress of the
war to date. I think, and hope, the truth lies much closer to
the description from Mr. Warren.
TV?: Hindsight is always 20/20 and the last thing I want to
do is join the chorus of the naysayers (less than one week into
this conflict) suggesting our strategy "needs a rethink."
However I do find myself asking why have we left Iraqi TV on the
air. I understand the desire to leave as much infrastructure intact
as possible, but I don't see the rationale for leaving the regime's
communication apparatus alive. Maybe we are deliberately leaving
some high profile targets out there so if we need to escalate
the "shock and awe" we have some very visible targets
left. Perhaps there is a fear if we take out all the possible
targets in Baghdad right away and there is still no surrender
we would then be left with only civilian or nonmilitary targets.
By leaving many sites including Iraqi TV standing, we have some
simple high-profile targets left to pulverize in the next few
days if escalation is called for. Another possibility is that
maybe we feel there is a real chance of a coup or a situation
where Saddam's opposition will gain control of Iraqi TV. Just
a couple of thoughts, but on a personal level I would like to
see Iraqi TV blown off the air very soon. It won't take long to
rebuild it once Baghdad is liberated.
SHOCK AND AWE?: Some military criticism from the political
Awe and Overconfidence - Ralph Peters
and Worry - Christopher Ruddy
Like I said
above hindsight is always 20/20. Have mistakes been made? Sure.
There are always going to be mistakes. But less than a week into
this war the preponderance of evidence leads me to conclude that
this is a strategy that has been well thought out and is proceeding
along more or less according to plan. Everyone, on all sides,
needs to just have some patience and give our military leaders
the trust and support they deserve.
LOW FOR KRUGMAN:
and large, recent pro-war rallies haven't drawn nearly as many
people as antiwar rallies, but they have certainly been vehement.
One of the most striking took place after Natalie Maines, lead
singer for the Dixie Chicks, criticized President Bush: a crowd
gathered in Louisiana to watch a 33,000-pound tractor smash
a collection of Dixie Chicks CD's, tapes and other paraphernalia.
To those familiar with 20th-century European history it seemed
eerily reminiscent of. . . . But as Sinclair Lewis said, it
can't happen here."
you have it straight from The
Times editorial page, Americans who chose to destroy their
own private property to protest the disgraceful conduct of people
like the Dixie Chicks or Michael Moore are 'eerily reminiscent'
J. McIntyre 7:53 am
March 24, 2003
TAKE YOUR QUAGMIRE AND SHOVE IT: You really have to question
what goes on at the major media outlets in this country. They
are either so completely naive, so fixated on producing storylines
that sell, or have such unrealistic expectations for this war
that it's mind boggling.
fifteen marines died yesterday. This is fifteen more deaths than
I or anyone else in the country would like to have seen. These
were incredibly brave young men and women who died fighting for
a great and honorable cause. They were also sons, daughters, brothers,
we need to mourn and recognize these losses at a personal level,
we also need to put them in perspective of the overall campaign.
Did the media really expect no U.S. soldiers would die? That no
one would be taken prisoner? That there wouldn't be any civilian
casualties? That is exactly what you'd believe if you read the
Forces Take Heavy Casualties - Susan Glasser, Washington
Raised on Strategy - Thomas Ricks, Washington Post
Meet Potent Enemy in Deadly Fight - Michael Wilson, NY
Moves to Prepare Public for a Harder War - R.W. Apple, Jr.
Spirits Rise - John Daniszewski, Los Angeles Times
Fight for Baghdad Nears - Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times
Post's headlines are particularly appalling. It's less than
one week into the campaign and the U.S. has suffered casualties
representing less than .0075% of the total fighting force and
the Post suggests that the whole war strategy is now in
doubt. Does Tom Ricks really believe this or does he just have
to find something to put on the front page that will sell papers
for his bosses? (Say what you will about the NY Post, but
at least they lead with a story based in reality and get
on the index pages of the three largest online newspapers in the
country there is no
mention of the 100-acre chemical plant discovered by U.S.
troops yesterday. To most people this would seem like a pretty
significant development - after all, isn't discovering WMD facilities
one of the main objectives of the invasion?
And then there is the story of Asan Akbar, the Sergeant in
the 101st Airborne accused of attacking his fellow soldiers by
rolling grenades into their tents and shooting them as they fled,
ultimately killing a division captain and wounding fifteen others.
story initially broke on Saturday night it was widely reported
that the suspect was a "Muslim-American" soldier. By
Sunday morning that descriptor had been scrubbed from virtually
we're not supposed to rush to judgment or engage in stereotyping,
especially of Muslims. That's why we have CAIR
(which, incidentally, doesn't mention this story at all). And
it is a worthwhile exercise to remember that one thing doesn't
necessarily have anything to do with the other. However, in this
circumstance the man's religion is a potentially important factor
and is something that should be reported and scrutinized carefully.
only the LA Times gives
the story any play on its main page. The article includes
this telling quote in paragraph three:
the charred and blood-splattered tents Sunday, soldiers recalled
hearing the suspect say as he was being led away by armed soldiers:
"You guys are coming into our countries and you're going to
rape our women and kill our children."
York Times, by contrast, puts the story on its "National"
page and does the
most blatant PC whitewash imaginable. Here is the lede:
soldier suspected of killing a fellow soldier and wounding 15
others was identified today as Sgt. Asan Akbar, who, a military
official said, had "an attitude problem."
in paragraph four that the lead motive in the attack is "retribution,"
the Times serves up this quote from Akbar's stepfather:
last Christmas he was complaining about the double standards
in the military," Mr. Bilal said. "Hasan told me it was difficult
for a black man to get rank in the military, and he was having
a hard time."
about halfway through the article, we get this:
officials had described Sergeant Akbar as a Muslim convert.
Heath said today that Sergeant Akbar might have adopted his
name recently, but he could not provide an earlier name. He
said he did not know the man's religion, but added, "I heard
from a very reliable source that he may have converted to Islam."
New York Times could take the fact that a Muslim soldier
in the U.S. Army attacked his own comrades in an unprecedented
way and turn it into an indictment of the Army itself for being
to wait and see exactly what role Akbar's religious beliefs played
in the attack. But the Times' inability to even confront
the facts surrounding the attack simply strain its credibility
During the day yesterday, horrific images of executed U.S. soldiers
were broadcast around the world. Last night, hundreds of millions
of viewers from around the world tuned in to watch Michael
Moore get a standing ovation from the star-studded crowd as
he stepped up to accept his Oscar for best documentary.
surprised that Moore won or that he used the platform to speak
out. What did surprise me, however, and what I think is most telling,
is what he said. Moore's little diatribe wasn't primarily about
the war on Iraq, it was all about Election 2000:
live in a time with fictitious election results that elect fictitious
this is the case with many of the protesters who claim to be taking
a "principled" stand on the war. They certainly weren't
very "principled" just a few short years ago when Clinton
was bombing the bejesus out of half of the third world including
Iraq, Kosovo, Sudan and Afghanistan.
In the end
Michael Moore is a just a David Duke of the left, a pusher of
the worst kind of ideological hash: prepackaged and hateful stuff,
impervious to logic, reason or even common sense. Facts and circumstances
may change, but to Moore the line is always the same: Republicans
bad, Democrats good. War bad, peace good. Guns and gun owners
really bad, tearing the 2nd Amendment out of the Constitution
really, really good. - T.
Bevan 7:58 am