Friday, 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:

Chilcote's brigade had 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.

Chilcote 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.

Chilcote 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.

Chilcote 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 elements.

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.

Second, in 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.

Our troops, 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.

The additional 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 am

Thursday, March 27 2003
MONTHS, NOT WEEKS: Again we have Tom Ricks in the Washington Post reporting 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 the country is coming to grips with the idea of a campaign lasting months, not weeks.

Despite the 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.

GOD SAVE 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.

Throughout 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.

DPM: One of the most likable and thoughtful Senators of his generation. May he rest in peace. - T. Bevan 7:43 am

Wednesday, 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 deserve.'

Rightly or 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?

There may 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.

WAR AMERICAN STYLE: Tony Blankley's very good column today touches on this exact point and ends with a warning to President Bush:

Americans 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.

Well said. I do not think this is a worry with this President.

MUCH TOUGHER THAN ANTICIPATED?: Professor Daryl Press opines in The NY Times that "the war has not gone as smoothly as the Bush administration had hoped." Michael Kelly in today's Washington Post quotes Maj. Benjamin Matthews of the 3rd Infantry's 1st Brigade: "This is much tougher than anticipated."

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

Tuesday, March 25, 2003
TWO PERSPECTIVES ON THE WAR: From Nicholas Kristof's guide to the war in today's NY Times:

Will the 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 occupation.

This from David Warren courtesy of Andrew Sullivan:

You wouldn't 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.

Two obviously 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.

IRAQI 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.

NOT ENOUGH SHOCK AND AWE?: Some military criticism from the political right:
Shock, Awe and Overconfidence - Ralph Peters
Shock 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.


"By 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."

So there you have it straight from The NY 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' of Nazis.   J. McIntyre 7:53 am

Monday, 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.

Approximately 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, and sisters.

Still, while 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 headlines today:

U.S. Forces Take Heavy Casualties - Susan Glasser, Washington Post
Doubts Raised on Strategy - Thomas Ricks, Washington Post
Marines Meet Potent Enemy in Deadly Fight - Michael Wilson, NY Times
Bush Moves to Prepare Public for a Harder War - R.W. Apple, Jr. NY Times
Baghdad's Spirits Rise - John Daniszewski, Los Angeles Times
Risky Fight for Baghdad Nears - Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times

The Washington 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 it right.)

Even worse, 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?

MR. AKBAR: 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.

When the 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 every report.

I realize 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.

This morning, only the LA Times gives the story any play on its main page. The article includes this telling quote in paragraph three:

Outside 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."

The New York Times, by contrast, puts the story on its "National" page and does the most blatant PC whitewash imaginable. Here is the lede:

The 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."

After learning in paragraph four that the lead motive in the attack is "retribution," the Times serves up this quote from Akbar's stepfather:

"I remember 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."

Finally, about halfway through the article, we get this:

Military officials had described Sergeant Akbar as a Muslim convert.

Mr. 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."

Only the 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 racist.

We'll have 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 beyond reason.

MR. MOORE: 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.

I wasn't 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:

"We live in a time with fictitious election results that elect fictitious presidents."

Unfortunately, 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

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