Thursday, April 29, 2004

According to CBS News, a US Army soldier accused of abusing Iraqi prisoners is blaming his chain of command for the abuse. The alleged abuse includes:
-striking prisoners
-ordering detainees to strike each other
-having dogs attack prisoners
-stacking naked prisoners in a pyramid
-photographing US personnel posing with naked prisoners
-making one Iraqi detainee stand on a box with his head covered and wires attached to his hands and telling him that if he fell off the box, he would be electrocuted
-attaching wires to a detainees genitals

According to Army Reserve Staff Sergeant Chip Frederick, one of the six accused soldiers, the abuse was caused by a lack of proper support by his chain of command. “We had no support, no training whatsoever. And I kept asking my chain of command for certain rules and regulations,” says Frederick. “And it just wasn't happening."

There is no doubt in my mind that the chain of command failed miserably here. Leaders always bear some degree of responsibility when their subordinates engage in illegal activity. In this case, the activity was apparently so blatant (the perpetrators were taking pictures, for crying out loud!), that it's obvious that the people in charge either tacitly approved of the behavior, or they were asleep at the wheel. The leadership screwed up and they should pay the price.

Staff Sergeant Frederick's excuse, however, is nothing more than an attempt to pass the buck and weasel out of paying the price for his actions. Lacking proper guidance on the handling of prisoners is no excuse for abuse. While there is often a fine line between justifiable force and excessive force, the line between humane treatment of detainees and attaching wires to them and threatening them with electrocution is a mile wide. Behavior like this smears all of us who wear the uniform. Claiming "I didn't know any better because no one told me" is just a pathetic excuse. Any soldier in the US Army should know what the maximum effective range for an excuse is: 0.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

As of late, we have seen the inevitable comparisons between the war in Iraq and the war in Vietnam (the yardstick by which liberals measure all wars). While I'm disinclined to call these wars similar, there is one important parallel: the use of the American media and left wing anti-war movement as propaganda weapons by our enemies. Consider this response by Bui Tin, a former colonel in the North Vietnamese army when asked about the purpose of the 1968 Tet offensive:

"To relieve the pressure Gen. Westmoreland was putting on us in late 1966 and 1967 and to weaken American resolve during a presidential election year."

This interview with Bui Tin is very enlightening as to the role of the American anti-war movement in the North Vietnamese victory. It's also very relevant to our current war in Iraq.

Monday, April 26, 2004

I was tipped off by Bloodspite over at Techography about this post over at the Portland Independent Media Center website entitled "Dumb Jock Killed In Afghanistan". The story, which was about the death of Pat Tillman, was taken from the Washington Post. The "wonderful" people at the Portland Indymedia site added the "catchy" headline. Needless to say, my blood is boiling over this. If that wasn't enough, many of the comments left by readers were even more spiteful than that ridiculous headline. I know that the war in Iraq is a controversial issue, but it never ceases to amaze me how much unadulterated hatred there is by many on the left for those who disagree with them. Is this kind of mean spirited rhetoric a producted of their frustration over not getting their way, or is it just arrogance? Many of them seem to believe that anyone who could disagree with them is either pure evil or grotesquely stupid. Whatever the reason, the way these people are treating the news of Pat Tillman's death is just plain mean, and as it says on a popular bumper sticker: "Mean People S**k".

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Former NFL star-turned soldier Pat Tillman died in Afghanistan Thursday. Tillman, who played for the Arizona Cardinals, turned down a $3.6 million 3 year contract with the Cardinals to join the US Army after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon. His goal was to become a Ranger and to serve in the war on terrorism. Tillman, who was assigned to the 2nd Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment, was killed in a battle with terrorists in southeastern Afghanistan along the border with Pakistan.

Not being a football fan, I had never heard of Pat Tillman prior to the news coverage surrounding his enlistment in the Army. Like many Americans, I was impressed with anyone who would sacrifice such a life of fame and wealth to serve his country. Tillman's enlistment received considerable attention from the media, as well it should have. His death will undoubtedly receive considerable media attention, and deservedly so. Unfortunately, the media is missing many other stories like Tillman's. While he may be the best known example of someone who would leave a comfortable life to serve his country, Pat Tillman is hardly alone in this regard.

Since I have been deployed to Qatar, I have met a number of reservists who have voluntarily returned to active duty. Most of them took leave from better paying jobs to do so, like the middle aged gentleman I met last night who walked away from a high tech (and high paying) job to wear the uniform (and collect the pay) of a junior officer in the armed forces. Many are married and have children, like my roommate (another reservist), who went to Iraq last week. All were willing to endure separations from their families and financial loss in order to serve their country. Some of them will be sent to dangerous places in the process. All of them are patriots, just like Pat Tillman.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Bloodspite over at Techography informed me that there is a group of bloggers raising money to help the Marines establish a television/radio station in Iraq. Click on this link to find out how you can help.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

I'm finally into a routine here. I knew I had achieved the establishment of a routine when each day seems pretty much like the last. It's somewhat reminiscent of the Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day. Work, eat, exercise, sleep, and an occasional haircut pretty much cover my daily (weekly, monthly, etc.) itinerary. I'll be happy when one of my coworkers gets back from leave. Once that happens, I may get a day off. At the very least, it'll lighten my workload some. I don't hold his absence against him though. He's been here over 10 months. He earned every day of that leave.

Things up in Iraq are still complicated, to say the least. The folks we have up there are still getting the job done in spite of the pressure they are under. I see a lot of them come through here on R & R. They all look so young. Then again, everyone I see around here looks young, with the exception of the more senior ranking folks. Maybe it's just that I'm starting to feel old. At any rate, these young troops appear to be still up to the job of fighting this war, in spite of what the news media says.

My roommate went to Iraq the other day. It looks like he'll be there for a few months. He tried to fly up three previous times. He got bumped each time and had to return with all of his gear. After his third unsuccessful attempt to go, I hung the nickname "Boomerang" on him; we kept throwing him and he kept coming back. Fourth time was the charm though, he finally made it. Like me, he is a reservist who wanted a chance to use the military skills he has learned in a place where it can make a difference. He's a decent guy and a good soldier. Hopefully his tour there isn't too eventful.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Bob Woodowrd's new book, Plan of Attack has been released. As expected, and as Woodword probably hoped, it is stirring a great deal of controversy. I haven't seen the book yet, and I probably won't until I get home as it's not likely to be available here for a long time (Here's a hint for you: if you're looking for something to send to service members deployed overseas, books are a great idea. Reading is a great way to keep the down time from dragging too much). I have seen some coverage of the book on television and the internet. Much of the controversy seems to center on when planning for the invasion of Iraq began. The book asserts that President Bush decided to go to war in January of 2003, while negotiations and diplomatic options were still being pursued. It also contends that Secretary of State Powell was left out of the decision-making process. Condoleeza Rice denies this. According to Rice, the President decided to pursue the military option in March of 2003. Rice is a political appointee, so her motivation can always be called into question. Woodward, on the other hand, is the darling of the mainstream media. He is also, however the author of a book that was supposedly based on "interviews" that he conducted with former CIA Director William Casey while Casey lay comatose on his deathbed. For me, Woodward is not above reproach.

The truth of the matter is that the onset of planning is irrelevant. Anyone who has served in the military in any capacity that involves operational planning will tell you that planning begins well in advance of the decision to move. Often times, planning takes place before a specific need for a military operation is identified. This is called contingency planning. Any senior military staff worth its salt will have a plan at the ready long before the commander calls for one. Bob Woodward, who served as an officer in the US Navy, must know this, but controversy sells books.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

With the release of that now-infamous White House memo, the stuff has apparently hit the fan. The memo dated August 6, 2001, five weeks prior to the September 11 attacks, informed the President that Al Qaida intended to strike the U.S. on our home turf. Critics have argued that the President was derelict in his duty in not preventing the attack. As usual, the criticism from the left is long on emotion and short on logical analysis. Based on the information available, what could President Bush have done to prevent the September 11th attacks? Let’s examine the facts and apply some logic to the situation.

The “warning” that the president received was nonspecific. What steps could he have taken to prevent the attacks? Prior to 9/11, AQ’s M.O. was using improvised explosive devices (IED’s) mounted on vehicles. Hijacking airplanes is a possibility with any terrorist group, but AQ did not have a history of such operations. Prior hijacking incidents involved using the passengers as hostages, not using the aircraft as weapons. According to the PDB memo, AQ may have been planning a hijacking to gain the release of “‘Blind Shaykh’ 'Umar' Abd aI-Rahman and other US-held extremists.” This falls in line with previous hijackings committed by other terrorist groups.

While improvements in airline security were needed before 9/11, previous administrations made no significant progress in this area either. President Bush is no more at fault in this area than Presidents Clinton, Bush (41), Reagan, and Carter were. With only 9 months in office, he had considerably less time to make the necessary improvements than his predecessors. Even if he had ordered improvements be made the day he received the memo, five weeks is hardly time enough to affect major systemic changes.

With nothing more than a generic threat to go on, the administration could have tried targeting Islamic extremist groups in general. Had they done this, it may have prevented, or at least delayed, the attacks. The problem with this approach is that the same civil libertarians screaming about the Patriot Act today would have had an even bigger bone to pick with this type of approach in a pre-9/11 world.

Prior to the actual hijackings, Atta and company had not committed any crimes, save for minor immigration offenses (not a high priority at the time for people on either side of the political aisle) and criminal conspiracy (hard to prove prior to the actual act that the conspirators are planning, unless one of them “flips” and rats out his confederates). Even carrying box cutters onto commercial aircraft was not illegal at the time. With only five weeks notice, nothing short of a wholesale roundup of Arabs in the United States would have guaranteed the arrest of the hijackers. The ACLU would have (rightfully) thrown a fit.

Another option open to the President was a preemptive strike on AQ and Afghanistan. The folks who have their underwear in a bunch over our invasion of Iraq would have had a field day with that. A memo about vague threats by a terrorist organization that most Americans had never heard of prior to 9/11 would never have convinced the current crop of naysayers. It wouldn’t have convinced the U.N either. While we’re on the subject, you can forget about support from the French, too.

America was not ready to face the terrorist threat on 9/11. Improvements in our law enforcement and intelligence systems have been made. There is still more work to be done. The only positive purpose that the 9/11 commission can serve is as a guide to how to do things better.

Unfortunately, it looks like the commission only serves a political agenda. Rather than deliberating out of public view, like the commissions that investigated the Kennedy assassination and the Pearl Harbor attack did, the members of the 9/11 commission have been holding news conferences, writing op-ed pieces for newspapers, and appearing on Larry King Live. I guess that’s what happens when you entrust such an important task to politicians.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

I hear it from politicians and celebrities on television and the radio. I read it in editorials and op-eds in the newspapers. It is almost a mantra at anti-war protests. People who oppose the war in Iraq, many of them calling the president a liar or making reference to war crimes committed by US military personnel always end their speeches with the same qualifier: "...but I support the troops." Really? Exactly how do you do that? Do you purchase items for them and send them overseas through organizations like the USO? Do you contribute money to organizations like Army Emergency Relief that provide assistance to service members? Or does your "support" just amount to a pledge not to spit on them like some cretins did during the Vietnam War.

While I'm sure that some of these people really mean what they are saying, their pledges of support often come off as lame attempts to avoid challenges to their patriotism, or in the case of entertainers and politicians, to avoid a backlash by servicemembers, their families, friends, and others who are genuinely pro-military (although I'm really curious about why those anti-war people alleging war crimes support the supposed perpetrators of said crimes).

Many of the anti-war crowd consider themselves patriots. While this may be so in some cases, they need to understand the consequences of their actions. Whenever there is an anti-war protest, or a prominent American denounces the war and/or the president, the media in the Arab world gives it extensive coverage. Al Jazeera loves stories about politicians calling on our withdrawal from Iraq or pointing out morale problems in our military. The insurgents see this, and it encourages them to keep up their attacks and to use more brutal methods. The mutilation of the bodies of four contractors killed by insurgents and the recent kidnapping of coalition nation citizens is evidence that the enemy understands the power of the media. Such stories don't help raise the morale of our troops either.

Protestors are unwittingly waging a psychological operations campaign against the very troops they claim to support. They are encouraging the enemy to continue attacking US forces. The anti-war crowd may not want to hear this, but it is the reality of the situation. Then again, many of these folks have a history of not letting reality get in the way of a good argument.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Happy Easter
Well, it's Easter Sunday. I called home today and spoke with my wife, my kids, my mom, and my brother. It sounds like they're having a good holiday. My holiday is about the same as any other day here: work, sleep, etc. There was a table full of candy in the dining facility at lunch. It was nice that the Easter Bunny saw fit to pay us a visit. I scammed a bag of peanut M&M's from the table. I don't really need the extra calories, but sometimes you just have to live a little. I'm working another night shift tonight. Starting tomorrow, they're adjusting our hours. I'll still be working later than banker's hours, but at least I won't feel like a vampire.

There has been a lot of controversy back home surrounding the 9/11 commission. There are a lot of really off-target conclusions being drawn by people who don't have a clue, or people who have a clue but hope the public doesn't know better. I'll have more to say on the subject at a later date, but I need more time to digest the info being put out by the news media. Unfortunately, I need to get back to work. Duty calls.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Still very busy. I was hoping for a lull on the weekend, which there usually is. No luck this time. Maybe tomorrow will be slower, but I won't hold my breath. It actually rained last night, first time since I've been here. Thunder, lightning, and all. Naturally, it started just as I was walking back to my quarters. Still, getting rained on is a helluva lot better than mortar rounds falling on you.

It's tough not being able to follow the news like I usually do back home. There's a lot going on on the political front. If things slow down, I hope to catch up through some of my favorite news sources on the web. With all of this activity in Iraq, I have no doubt that there are a whole slew of politicos trying to drum up antiwar/anti-Bush sentiment.

Tomorrow is Easter. My wife and kids will be at my mom's house. I'll have to give them a call and see if the bunny brought them any sugarry swag. It's tough missing holidays, but it's all part of the bargain when you sign on the bottom line and take the oath. This isn't the first one I've missed. I have a feeling it won't be the last.

Friday, April 09, 2004

It's been a busy week for me here. I haven't had a chance to post in a while. All of the activity in theater has made things a little more hectic for me. That, combined with having one of my coworkers on leave for the next 2 weeks, has kept me plenty busy. Busy is a good thing. When I'm busy the time goes faster. I just read on LT Smash's blog (link is to the right) that a number of 1st Armored troops were ready to return home and were given the word that they were being extended for 120 days due to the upswing in insurgent activity. Last night one of the Marines I work here with told me that there were troops actually packed and ready to get on a plane when they were told. That just sucks. There's no other way to put it. Unfortunately, they're going to be needed for a little while longer.

Things will level off there eventually. These terrorists are throwing everything they can at us. At first glance, the insurgency looks unstoppable. The attacks seem to come from every direction and there appears to be no end in sight. Upon closer examination, their strategy smacks of desperation. These attacks are reminiscent of the Kamikaze attacks used by the Japanese in WW II. Let's not forget where suicide warfare got them. The key here is to maintain our resolve. The military can't win this war alone (we're good, but we have our limitations). We are depending on our country to maintain it's resolve. With the entire USA (and our allies, of course) behind the war effort, we can't lose.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

I saw the news stories and the accompanying pictures about the Americans killed in Iraq yesterday. My blood pressure has been a bit on the high side today. One young soldier that I am working with here suggested that we should, in response to this incident, pull our troops out and "nuke the whole place". It was not what I would call a reasoned response, but one I was hard pressed to disagree with today.

One thing that has become evident about these terrorists that we are at war with; they understand something about war that most Americans do not: this war can't be won by our military alone. The American people must get behind, and stay behind the war effort. When the terrorists hear the vioces of protest that are featured so prominantly by our (and Europe's) media, it emboldens them. They saw what happened in Vietnam. Our military won all the battles, yet we still couldn't win the war. This example was repeated in Beirut in 1983 when we failed to pursue those responsible when 241 service members (mostly Marines) were killed by terrorists. The example was repeated yet again in 1993 when we pulled out of Somalia after 18 soldiers were killed by Somali militia members. If we don't hold our course in the war on terror, you can count on more 9/11's. These people can't be bargained with, they can't be reasoned with, and they can't be bought off. They can be beaten, but it will take our whole country to do it. If we don't have the will to win, we won't.

Twitter Updates

    follow me on Twitter