May 31, 2004
Debt of Honor
Blackfive has a great post about the seven Iraqi merchants whose hands were chopped off by Saddam Hussein. You may remember that they recently received prosthetic hands due to American intervention. On May 27th, the seven merchants laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery in honor of U.S. service members killed in Iraq.
This is especially nice for me because my father-in-law, a Vietnam vet, is buried at Arlington, as is his father. Both were Navy men. I wish I could write about them, but they share the same name as The Unit and that would invade his privacy, which I don't wish to do. My father-in-law served two tours in Vietnam working with intel and the brownwater Navy. He had a wife and three children at the time. This is part of why I am so critical of John Kerry for leaving after 4 short months in country. As a single man of 27, he had far less to lose than did my father-in-law.
Anyway, go over to Blackfive and see what these seven Iraqis had to say. Despite what the cynics say, the Iraqis are not unmindful of the sacrifices being made on their behalf:
"Life is the most precious thing for a human being, and these people have made the ultimate sacrifice," said Agar, a resident of Baghdad. "They came to Iraq and died for Iraq and for all humanity. We will never forget the contributions these heroes have made."
The Real Story of Fallujah
From the WSJ OpinionJournal:
When Bravo Company of the 1st Battalion of the 5th Marine Regiment led U.S. forces into the heart of Fallujah in the pre-dawn hours of April 6, I was the only journalist present. It had been Bravo Company of the "1st of the 5th" that had been first inside the citadel of Hue in Vietnam in February 1968. Hue City, the sight of one of the most glorious chapters in Marine history -- in which the Marines killed 5,113 enemy troops while suffering 147 dead and 857 wounded -- was foremost in the minds of the Marine commanders at Fallujah.
The Marines never got proper credit for Hue, for it was ultimately overshadowed by My Lai, in which an Army platoon killed 347 civilians a month later in 1968. This was despite the fact that the Marines' liberation of Hue led to the uncovering of thousands of mass graves there: the victims of an indiscriminate communist slaughter. Thus, Hue became a metaphor for the military's frustration with the media: a frustration revisited in Fallujah.
Whenever the Marines with whom I was attached crossed the path of a mosque, we were fired upon. Mosques in Fallujah were used by snipers and other gunmen, and to store weapons and explosives. Time and again the insurgents forfeited the protective status granted these religious structures as stipulated by Geneva Conventions. Snipers were a particular concern. In early April in nearby Ramadi, an enemy sniper wiped out a squad of Marines using a Soviet-designed Draganov rifle: "12 shots, 12 kills," a Marine officer told me. The marksmanship indicated either imported jihadist talent or a member of the old regime's military elite.
By the standards of most wars, some mosques in Fallujah deserved to be leveled. But only after repeated aggressions was any mosque targeted, and then sometimes for hits so small in scope that they often had little effect. The news photos of holes in mosque domes did not indicate the callousness of the American military; rather the reverse.
Keep reading... (note: this was previously a subscription-only article)
These Colors Don't Run
If you see an American flag today, you might reflect on this story, hat tip to CKC. There are many versions of this on the web. It is condensed from a speech Leo Thorsness gave.
I chose a slightly longer version to put up today. Colonel Thorsness was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism, but was unaware he had received the medal as he was a POW from 1967 to 1973. Here is his story:
Only once have I exercised my personal privilege in the Senate chambers to relate as incident from my confinement as a POW in North Vietnam at the Hoa Lo prison camp. The treatment has been frequently brutal at the "Hanoi Hilton" as it became known. but after six years the beatings and torture that were once routine became less and less frequent.
During the last year, we were allowed outside most days for a couple of minutes to bathe. We showered by drawing water from a concrete tank with a homemade rubber bucket. One day as we all stood stripped of our clothes by the tank, Mike, a younger naval aviator, found the remnants of an old handkerchief in a gutter that ran under the prison wall.
Mike managed to sneak the grimy rag into our cell and began fashioning it into a flag. Over times we all leant him a little soap and he spent days cleaning it. Although it was just a grey and tattered piece of cloth, we all stole bits and pieces of anything red and blue. At night, under his mosquito net, Mike worked on the flag.
With thread from his one blanket and a homemade bamboo needle, he sewed on stars. He made red and blue from ground up roof tiles, medicine; anything we could scrounge or steal. With watery rice glue, he painted them onto the cloth.
Early in the morning a few days later --- when the guards were not alert --- he whispered loudly from the back of his cell. "Hey gang, look here." He proudly held up this tattered piece of cloth waving it as if in a breeze. If you used a lot of imagination, you could kind of tell it was supposed to be an American Flag. When he held up that grimy rag, we automatically saluted as our chests puffed out and more than a few eyes had tears.
About once a week the guards would strip our clothes, run us outside and go through our clothing. During one of these shakedowns they found Mike's flag. We all knew what would happen. That night they came for Mike. Night interrogations were always the worst. they opened the cell door, and pulled him out. We could hear the beginning of the torture before they even had him into the torture cell. They "bent" him most of the night. About daylight they pushed what was left of him back through the cell door. He was badly broken, even his voice was gone.
Within two weeks, Mike had scrounged another piece of cloth and began making another flag --- you see, Mike was that kind of American. I related this story on the floor of the Senate to illustrate the power of a symbol, the power of the U.S. Flag.
Some people believe we must be able to destroy our flag to prove we are free. Mike believed we must protect our flag to prove we are free.
Happy Memorial Day
I don't know how much I'll be posting today. I'm a little under the weather, but there are plenty of great Memorial Day offerings out there.
John of Argghhh! has the story of 2nd Lt. Leonard Cowherd, his wife Sarah, and their families. This one hit close to home for me, as it has a moving letter from Sarah's father in which he tells how a family deals with the death of a soldier. It is also interesting in that it gives a brief glimpse into the way the military supports their own.
My husband is an active duty officer assigned to a Reserve battalion. One of their duties is to provide Marines for area funerals for military personnel. They also serve as CACO's (casualty assistance officers) for both command personnel and Iraq casualties in the area. They provide the death notification and handle funeral arrangements, coordinate death benefits, finances, SGLI, and other financial and legal arrangements. In general, their role is to smooth the way for grieving families and support them during a very difficult time. As it can take months for these affairs to settle out, the role of a CACO is often physically and emotionally exhausting, coming as it does on top of a Marine, soldier, or sailor's normal duties. It is the least the military can do to support families and repay the military member for their service, but it takes a toll on those who serve. I would like to thank all those who have served as casualty assistance officers for their dedication and selflessness.
And to the families who have lost a loved one, your grace and strength never cease to amaze me. I have been awed this year by what I have seen in the wives and loved ones of our fighting men. Truly, courage is not found just on the battlefield.
Greyhawk at the Mudville Gazette also has a great roundup of Memorial Day posts from all the Milblogs. Check it out.
And please take a moment out of your day to remember. Visit a cemetery and leave some flowers, fly Old Glory, light a candle, say a prayer, or just observe a moment of silence. Just don't let it be all about burgers and beer.
May 30, 2004
I was working in the garden yesterday, and I had a glass of champagne at the end of the day which I only half finished. But it was so pleasant sitting out in the sunshine. This is a picture of part of the garden last spring. It looks completely different now - where the giant New Zealand flax is on the right there is a trellis and a fuschia bouganvillia that winds up and over my office window. I put in lavender in front of it and bright golden coreopsis and pink and yellow flowers - it's a riot of color. And there are Siberian iris on the other side of the frog pond. The Weiner Beast still comes over to sip tadpoles at the end of the day. Some things never change.
I got a new CD a few weeks ago and the quirky lyrics just fit my mood perfectly:
Beauty Queen from Mobile Alabama
Busted for murder at a K-Mart store
She shot the conductor of a twenty piece orchestra for cheating on her
Let out the dogs of war.
Took in two dogs and a Scientologist
Hoping to land a Hollywood score
Enlarged her breasts after several turned down part requests
Sold sunglasses on the Venice sea shore...
She said, "Love is just a passionate crime
Where only the guilty survive
And the innocent, they fly away."
Why do I get the feeling this is going to be my life in 10 or 15 years? Too funny.
Now They're... Applauding The President...
I love the spin here. The Republic is Doomed! God forbid we should be allowed to have an opinion. Or even, heaven forfend... vote. Perhaps the military should just keep their mouths shut and just fight and die so civilians can exercise their rights to have opinions and vote.
I am really getting tired of the paranoia from the media about military. We already have fewer civil rights than the general citizenry. If we live on military bases, we and our families are subject to search and seizure regulations that ordinary civilians would never tolerate. If one of our children is found with marijuana (not an uncommon thing for a teen) the entire family can be kicked out of housing. We can actually be prosecuted for adultery or fornication. We don't really mind being held to a higher standard most of the time. But there is nothing wrong, or sinister, about military officers attending a speech given by the President. Or applauding said speech. Military people did not give up our right to listen to speeches or to applaud them when they donned the uniform. Nor did their families. Give us a break.
Tilting Towards Democracy
I don't often agree with Thomas Friedman, but I have to say that this makes sense:
Democracy-building is always a work in progress — two steps forward, one step back. No one should have expected a utopian transformation of Iraq. Iraq is like every other tribalized Arab state, where democracy is everyone's third choice. Their first choice is always: "My tribe wins and my rivals lose." Second choice is: "My tribe loses, so yours must lose too." Third choice is: "My tribe wins and so do my rivals."
Our hope should be that Iraqis back into democracy, back into that third choice — not as a result of reading our Bill of Rights but by reading their own situation and deciding that a pragmatic, power-sharing compromise among themselves is better than endless violence. Democracy will take root in Iraq through realism, not idealism. We did not and cannot liberate Iraqis. They have to liberate themselves. That is what the Japanese and Germans did. All we can hope to do is help them tilt their country in a positive direction so the next generation grows up in an environment where progressive forces and win-win politics are not stymied by a predatory state tilted against them.
"I think this is a good time for sober realism, which means focusing on what is possible in Iraq, and what is the minimum we want from Iraq, not on what we would ideally like in Iraq," notes Michael Mandelbaum, the Johns Hopkins foreign policy expert, whose delightful new book, just out this week, entitled "The Meaning of Sports," contains many parallels between what makes for successful teams and successful countries. "The minimum we want is an Iraq that is reasonably stable, and doesn't harbor terrorists or threaten its neighbors."
I think P J O'Rourke has come up with the definitive solution to America's foreign policy problems: we'll just recuse ourselves... The man is a genius.
The WaPo offers a schizophrenic analysis of John Kerry's security plan. I suppose I should be happy it wasn't the usual acid-laced screed thinly disguised as objective analysis. It starts with three Kerry-esque non-sequiturs: firstly, Kerry's "if an attack on the United States with unconventional weapons "appears imminent . . . I will do whatever is necessary to stop it". The idiocy of this statement is almost palpable. As Bush pointed out in his first State of the Union address, the very thing that makes terrorism so different from conventional warfare (and what justified his doctrine of preemption) was that terrorists don't send polite warnings.
"Oh Mr. Bush, please be advised that we're planning on flying 3 planes into various public buildings the morning of September 11th, 2001. So you may want to clear them of innocent civilians. Your cooperation in this matter is greatly appreciated.
Your Friend, Osama Bin Laden"
Am I the only one who wonders how Kerry can say these things with a straight face?
The second was this: Kerry will "never cede our security to anyone". How this squares with his often-cited determination to deploy US troops only under UN command is a mystery to me. He has held this position since his undergrad days at Harvard University: it is probably the only known issue on which he has never wavered.
The third is equally laughable: in going into Iraq, the Bush administration "bullied when they should have persuaded. They have gone it alone when they should have assembled a team." So the coalition is not a team? Almost 40 nations are not a team? And just what does Kerry think he would have done differently? Even the Post admits that none of the holdout nations would have behaved any differently for him - their interests did not coincide with ours. Frankly I was surprised to see the Post admit this, but it is so obviously true that perhaps even they choked on the lie. One could almost wish to see Kerry elected, just so he could deal with the leaders of the coalition that he constantly dismisses as inconsequential. Why the Post doesn't question the obvious flaws in Kerry's reasoning is beyond me... well, OK it's not. They're the Post.
Update: the NY Post does a pretty good job of fisking Kerry's "policy" flip-flop. And they quote the size of the coalition at about 30 nations vs. my "almost 40" - I'm not sure if the discrepancy is because I'm including nations that contributing only money or whether I'm just flat-out wrong. I'll have to check. Could be my coffee just didn't kick in yet.
Media Covering Up Truth About Fallujah?
"I have never been anywhere else in the world where the people were so happy to see an American," said Todd (last name withheld), an airman stationed in Nasiriyah, in an e-mail. "The media never tells that side of the story."
"Almost everybody loves [the Americans]," Maj. Bob Broody, an Army reservist who spent a year in Iraq, told his hometown Rotary Club in the Philadelphia suburb of Coatesville. "The news media doesn't want to tell us about the good side."
What is he talking about? Ask Jack Kelly. To hear him tell it, the media has grossly distorted what happened in Fallujah.
Far from being driven from Fallujah, the Marines were boxing in the insurgents against the Euphrates river at the western edge of the city when the cease fire was announced, Kaplan said.
"As disappointing as the cease fire was, the Marines managed to wrest positive consequences from it," he said. "As soon as the Marines left Fallujah they headed for al Karmah, a town about half the size of Fallujah strategically located between Fallujah and Baghdad. They moved inside, patrolling regularly, talking to people, collecting intelligence and going a long way toward reclaiming that city."
If al Karmah is reclaimed and Fallujah remains calm, "the decision not to launch an all-out assault on Fallujah could look like the right one," Kaplan said.
But, he added, "none of the above matters if it is not competently explained to the American public. The public was never made to feel just how much a military threat the mosques in Fallujah represented, how far the Marines went to avoid damage to them and to civilians, and just how much those same Marine battalions accomplished after departing Fallujah."
Kelly asks some very pointed questions about why we're losing the propaganda war with our own media. A more important question is why they're so determined to portray our Marines in the worst possible light. When I read something like this, it makes me so mad I can't see straight. Whose side are they on?
May 29, 2004
Mixing It Up
I love it... terrorists didn't kill Nick Berg. FreeRepublic.com did. And here I thought it was Dumbya.
Steven Hayes has a must-read article on the connections between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda in the Weekly Standard. I'm not going to comment - just go up and read it, bookmark it, or better yet save it to your machine for the next time you get in an argument with someone who still maintains there is no connection. It's nice to have a few facts at your fingertips. I was watching the news last night with the Unit and the anchors were patting themselves on the back for finally proving there was no connection. I had to leave the room.
Jen Martinez has a good post on the capture and execution of Sgt. Walters. The Jews have an old saying: "Never to forgive: never to forget."
Deb over at MarineCorpsMoms has some great posts for your perusal. Spirit of America with the 1/5, LtCol Stan Coerr, USMCR, asks, "Why don't they ask the guys that were there?, and my new personal motto (since this is what I'm taunted with by the &*!#$@ Marines at the gym): Pain is weakness leaving the body. But that's OK, how often do you get to torture the wussy Colonel's wife?