Thursday, September 30, 2004

Iraqi Divides

Ferid, the Iraqi blogger who commented on my defense of the Iraqi invasion posts his and other Iraqi reactions to the day Saddam's statue fell.


You know... I'm not sure how I would react if another country invaded the United States.

Even if it were to remove a brutal regime, I think it would be a difficult thing to swallow. Relief, fear, resentment, embarrassment, are a few emotions that come to mind. Yeah... I'd appreciate what they did, but I sure as hell wouldn't want them sticking around for very long.

Iraq for Iraqis!

Bring the troops home when "the job" is done. Not a minute sooner, not a minute later.

Stories That Need to be Heard

(via Instapundit)

Iraq missions that work out are missing from mainstream media

''Samarra is a beaming success story over here,'' writes Lt. Col Jim Rose, a Tennessee Marine whose parents live in Old Hickory. ''We were getting ready for a take-down there right after Najaf. We told the locals, 'Hey, see what happened in Najaf? Is that what you want? Cause we're coming.' It took the locals about two days to get the bad guys out.''

Rose is based in the Sunni Triangle. That's where most U.S. casualties occur, where the Sunnis are supportive of terrorists coming in. Fallujah is there, along with Samarra and Najaf, where Marines drove terrorists out of one of Islam's holiest shrines.

Rose verified a message I received from another Marine officer in Iraq. He provided perspective missing in the media: ''Those achievements, more than anything else … account for the surge in violence in recent days — especially the violence directed at Iraqis by the insurgents. Both in Najaf and Samarra, ordinary people stepped out and took sides with the Iraqi government against the insurgents, and the bad guys are hopping mad. They are trying to instill fear once again.''

***


''The Najaf shrine — HUNDREDS of dead women and children were brought out after Sadr left,'' Rose wrote. ''They (Sadr's supporters) rounded them up during the battle and brought them in to be executed. Why? Because they anticipated the Americans would eventually enter the shrine and walk into a media ambush. We never went in. The people of Najaf love us right now because of that. They hate Sadr and want him dead.

UPDATE: Jason from COUNTERCOLUMN offers perspective regarding the subsequent battle in Samarra.

UPDATE: The Belmont Club offers an analysis of the battle for Samarra.

UPDATE: "J" from Iraq Calling (possibly the Marine quoted above) clarifies the optimistic view of Samarra prior to the recent battle.

I said that Samarra was a symbol of progress because we had been expecting for months that the place would be another Fallujah-like stronghold. The insurgents had free reign from May until September because our focus was elsewhere and they were relatively contained. The fact is that we were pleasantly surprised when it became apparent that large numbers of the insurgents, including foreign fighters were drummed out of town or at least laid very low because the residents were fed up.

Read the whole thing.


A doc's memories of Iraq, good and bad

Good and Bad

I found this article quite moving. Too often it is way too easy to sanitize talk about "war" and not realize what that really means.

Lest we forget...


Lt. Cmdr. Heidi Kraft, a Navy doctor and a former flight surgeon, now a psychologist, just finished a seven-month deployment to Iraq with a surgical company treating wounded Marines. Last week she returned to her family and friends near Jacksonville, Fla. She came home to the 2-year-old twins she left with her husband while she fulfilled her duty.

Before she left Iraq, Kraft wrote an e-mail home summing up the good and the bad of that tour of duty.

THINGS THAT WERE GOOD

"Sunset over the desert, almost always orange. Sunrise over the desert, almost always red.

The childlike excitement of having fresh fruit at dinner after going weeks without it.

Being allowed to be the kind of clinician I know I can be, and want to be, with no limits placed and no doubts expressed.

"But most of all, the United States Marines, our patients.

"Walking, every day, and having literally every single person who passes by say "Oo-Rah, Ma'am..." Having them tell us, one after the other, through blinding pain or morphine-induced euphoria: 'When can I get out of here? I just want to get back to my unit ...'

"Meeting a young sergeant, who had lost an eye in an explosion ... he asked his surgeon if he could open the other one ... when he did, he sat up and looked at the young Marines from his fire team who were being treated for superficial shrapnel wounds in the next room ...

"He smiled, laid back down, and said, 'I only have one good eye, Doc, but I can see that my Marines are OK.'

"And of course, meeting the one who threw himself on a grenade to save the men at his side ... who will likely be the first Medal of Honor recipient in over 11 years ...

"My friends ... some of them will be life-long in a way that is indescribable.

"My patients ... some of them had courage unlike anything I've ever experienced before.

"My comrades, Alpha Surgical Company ... some of the things witnessed will traumatize them forever, but still they provided outstanding care to these Marines, day in and day out, sometimes for days at a time with no break, for seven endless months.

"And last, but not least ...

"Holding the hand of that dying Marine.


THINGS THAT WERE NOT GOOD

"Terrifying camel spiders, poisonous scorpions, flapping bats in the darkness, howling, territorial wild dogs, flies that insisted on landing on our faces, giant, looming mosquitoes, invisible sand flies that carry leishmaniasis.

"132 degrees.

"Wearing long sleeves, full pants and combat boots in 132 degrees. Random and totally predictable power outages that led to sweating throughout the night. Sweating in places I didn't know I could sweat, like wrists, and ears.

"The roar of helicopters overhead. The resounding thud of exploding artillery in the distance.

"The popping of gunfire ...

"Not knowing if any of the above sounds is a good thing, or bad thing. The siren, and the inevitable 'big voice' yelling at us to take cover. Not knowing if that siren was on someone's DVD or if the big voice would soon follow. The cracking sound of giant artillery rounds splitting open against rock and dirt. The rumble of the ground. The shattering of the windows ...

"Hiding under flak jackets and Kevlar helmets, away from the broken windows, waiting to be told we can come to the hospital ... to treat the ones who were not so lucky.

"Watching the helicopter with the big Red Cross on the side landing at our pad. Worse, watching Marine helicopters filled with patients landing at our pad ... because we usually did not realize they were coming.

"Ushering a sobbing Marine colonel away from the trauma bay while several of his Marines bled and cried out in pain inside. Meeting that 21-year-old Marine with three Purple Hearts, and listening to him weep because he felt ashamed of being afraid to go back.

"Telling a room full of stunned Marines in blood-soaked uniforms that their comrade, who they had tried to save, had just died of his wounds. Trying, as if in total futility, to do anything I could to ease the trauma of group after group that suffered loss after loss, grief after inconsolable grief.

"Washing blood off the boots of one of our young nurses while she told me about the one who bled out in the trauma bay, and then the one who she had to tell, when he pleaded for the truth, that his best friend didn't make it.

"Listening to another of our nurses tell of the Marine who came in talking, telling her his name, about how she pleaded with him not to give up, told him that she was there for him, about how she could see his eyes go dull when he couldn't fight any longer.

"And last, but not least ...

"Holding the hand of that dying Marine."



Wednesday, September 29, 2004

The Real Struggle for Iraq

An article by Amir Taheri, found here in the New York Post. (emphasis mine)


So the "insurgency" in Iraq is going nowhere fast. It will be as roundly defeated as were its predecessors in so many other countries. The danger for Iraq's future lies elsewhere.

It comes, in part, from Americans who want Iraq to fail because they want President Bush to fail. Some 81 books paint the president as the devil incarnate; Bush-bashing is also the theme of three "documentaries" plus half a dozen Hollywood feature films. Never before in any mature democracy has a political leader aroused so much hatred from his domestic opponents.

Others want Iraq to fail because they want America to fail, with or without Bush. The bitter tone of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan when he declared the liberation of Iraq "illegal" shows that it is not the future of Iraq but the vilification of the United States that interests him.

Add to this the recent bizarre phrase from French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin. The head of the Figaro press group went to see him about the kidnapping of two French journalists in Iraq; Raffarin assured him they would soon be freed, reportedly saying, "The Iraqi insurgents are our best allies."

***

Immediately after Saddam's fall, some of us had urged the Bush administration to transfer power to an interim Iraqi government and organize elections as quickly as possible. Sistani endorsed that view as early as August 2003, calling for a transfer of power to the Iraqis and the holding of elections.

His position has not changed. Sistani wants elections, and wants them as soon as possible. All he asks is that the international community, including the United Nations, play a role in organizing and supervising the series of elections planned for next year. His hope is that Iraq would not only have a new constitution, to be approved in a popular referendum, but also an elected parliament and a government with a clear electoral mandate before the end of 2006. That, he knows, is the fastest way for the Coalition forces to leave Iraq in peace and with dignity.

Sistani insists on international participation, beyond the U.S.-led Coalition, for two reasons. First, he knows that divisions among the big powers over Iraq are harmful for all concerned. He wants them to unite in helping the people of Iraq make their true feelings known through free elections. Second, he knows that the elections will enjoy greater legitimacy if the international community unanimously endorses the results.

Iraq...have a new constitution, to be approved in a popular referendum, but also an elected parliament and a government with a clear electoral mandate before the end of 2006.

That is our exit strategy!

Monday, September 27, 2004

The blogs of War

(via Spoons)

The Volokh Conspiracy wants to know...

First, assuming that you were in favor of the invasion of Iraq at the time of the invasion, do you believe today that the invasion of Iraq was a good idea? Why/why not?

Yes.

After the end of the Cold War, we all celebrated because we thought that the world had finally become a safer place. Obviously, the threat of a major conflict between the superpowers became significantly less. Beyond that, we no longer had the prospect of fighting proxy wars, no more need to prop up dictators to maintain "spheres of influence".

Unfortunately, one of the saddest legacies of the Cold War is the number of Dictatorships that both sides used/cooperated with/supported in order to maintain the balance of power. In an era of nuclear pragmatism we (the United States) looked the other way when "our guy" abused his people, trampled rights, jailed opposition. Definitely not something to be proud of, but the alternative at the time was to allow the enemy gain advantage. It was war. Cold or not.

Totalitarian regimes work only if the powers in charge ensure that the economy works. As long as people have food in their stomach and a reasonable expectation of living their lives, seeing their children grow up, most really don't care who runs the government. BUT, if the ruling class screws up the economy, then people are going to start to care. People will want change, people will want a voice. The problem with totalitarian regimes is that there is no outlet for expression. Dissent is quashed. People are disenfranchised.

Extreme conditions create extreme people.

I for one, don't believe that terrorists hate freedom. In fact, I believe that terrorists in their own convoluted way want freedom. That is, freedom to do what they want to do. It's only when conditions are terrible that those who express radical ideas gain foothold and support. It's only then that the "freedom" they want looks so repulsive to us.

The catch phrase of the cold war was "containment". All we had to do was sit behind our two oceans and manipulate/assist other nations in our quest to contain communism. We could afford to be isolationists. But, then came 9/11.

The events of 9/11 showed us that our oceans no longer protect us. It showed us that a handful of people willing to die for their cause could hand us the largest loss of life perpetrated by an enemy in a single attack in our history. And that was with just a few planes.

What if next time it's a nuclear bomb? Chemical weapons? Biological attacks? We now live in an age when the actions of a few can destroy the lives of multitudes.

How do you "contain" that?

We face a new kind of war. Not against terrorists. They are only the symptom of the problem. We are at war against the injustices that create the conditions from which terrorism spring.

Then why invade Iraq?

Obviously, none of the hijackers were from Iraq. How many Iraqis are terrorists? From everything that I've read, very few.

Then why invade Iraq?

Because...

Saddam Hussein was a despot who indisputably made and used chemical weapons.

Because...

He [possibly] involved a terrorist who specialized in chemical weapons into his chemical weapons program.

Because...

The vested economic interest of our European Allies in Iraq gave them incentive to fall back to the Cold War pragmatic mentality of looking the other way while he held his people under his boot. Incentive to erode the sanctions and allow him to resume production of weapons of mass destruction. Allowing him the opportunity to give terrorists the means to 'bloody the nose' of the nation that checked his dreams of becoming Caliphate.

Because...

IF, (and that's a big if) we can succeed in assisting the Iraqis develop a democracy, there is no greater threat to the Mullahs in Iran. Iranians are already chafing under the Islamofacism in their country. How much faster would that foment if when they visit the Holy Shrines in Iraq, they view (and tell their countrymen) the benefits that democracy brings.

Because...

When the people of the Middle East see Iraq grow and prosper under democracy, how can they honestly believe that Israel is the source of all their problems. They will have to honestly evaluate the "benefits" of terrorism verses the benefits of democracy.

Because...

The lives lost now will only be a fraction compared to the lives to be lost in a world where terrorism has the seedbed to grow and thrive.


Second, what reaction do you have to the not-very-upbeat news coming of Iraq these days, such as the stories I link to above?

disappointment.

Blood sells. Good news is... well... boring.

Do I think there is a leftist slant in most reports from the front? Maybe, maybe not. Probably more than not. The real question is, are these stories accurate. Do they tell us the real picture? I think the recent Rathergate scandal illustrates that the Main Steam Media doesn't always get the story right. But that's ok. Bloggers have shown that they are more than capable of picking up the slack. It is now incumbent of bloggers to ensure that the information from Iraq shows the true picture. Good or bad.


Third, what specific criteria do you recommend that we should use over the coming months and years to measure whether the Iraq invasion has been a success? the Hawks still Hawkish?

I think the establishment of a popularly elected government is the first measure. Secondly, will be when the Iraqis are capable of defending themselves from their enemies, without and within. Third, the establishment of the rule of law. And finally, a flourishing middle class.

Yep... still a Hawk.

UPDATE: Orin Kerr has posted the first initial responses to the questions he posed. Here are a few I think put forward some good arguments.

Chicago Boyz
Thinking as a Hobby
The Shadow of the Olive Tree
Sebastian Holsclaw
Casualty of Capitalism
Dr. B's Finest
The Debate Link

UPDATE: Added qualifier 'possibly' to the link between Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Saddam Hussein's Chemical program. There are reports of his ties to Ansar al-Islam and their ties to Saddam, but these reports are disputed. Also added supporting links.

Current Iraqi News from Winds of Change

Winds of Change offers a round up of different news related to the war in Iraq.

Weddings & Guns

Khalid Jarrar describes what Iraqi weddings are like and his experience of trying to obtain a gun.

so, last Thursday I went to two weddings, the first, my cousin, who is not a religious person, and in that case, the wedding is a big party for men and women together, where its the best place for any girl to demonstrate her beauty, since the society -the not-very-religious part of it- allows women to wear almost whatever they want in the weddings, with full make up and the best hair cuts...So single girls take the chance to attract the attention of single men, and of course their mothers too:)so its basically a beauty contest that men LOVE to attend.

and...

I knew that there is a place that sells guns there, its a falafel restaurant actually, I went there and talked to the guy directly, I need a gun (I tolf him what I need exactly) he looked at me and said: well I don't have that kind of guns now, but if you want I can give you my gun, you can do your "thing" and get it back to me whenever you want!!!!!people don't get me wrong, its the first time I do such a thing, and I don't know these people, and I don't deal with guns, but I needed a gun cause they are kidnapping people from inside their houses for GOD's sake!!

Contractors, Office Rats, & Heros

Mustang offers an interesting view of the contractors in Iraq, their salaries, and his observations of the Army.

Countercolumn vs. Knight-Ridder

Jason of Countercolumn points out some "peculiarities" in a recent Knight-Ridder article.

I don't mean to denigrate the story, because I think the reporter did a pretty good job. But a couple of things strike me as, well, cute:

Frustration of The Iraqi Person

Fayrouz of Live from Dallas translates an article that analyzes the so called "insurgency" from an Arab perspective. (emphasis mine)

They struck at schools, recruitment centers, embassies and popular suburbs. Typical kidnappings of foreigners have risen for all citizenships and professions. Also, more university professors were kidnapped and killed. It’s a war against Iraq and Iraqis because those targeted were not officials in the government or American and British troops. Rather, they were ordinary citizens or foreigners in development and important sectors to the ordinary people. This war means only one thing: it’s not resistance, but a deliberate destroyable operation that wants to turn Iraq into ruins.

We must ask who has an interest in committing this crime. It can’t be an Iraqi resistance -- even if it wanted to overthrow the regime or to cause harm to the foreign troops. If this was the goal, it wasn’t going to explode cars at the ordinary people’s bodies. Further, it wouldn’t kidnap and kill university professors in an organized way. Also, it’s impossible to be a local resistance while it targets students only because they are Shia.

What Happened to the WMD's?

Were they smuggled?

Excerpts:

The WMD smuggling operation didn't require large vehicles, the ex-general explained.

"In order to transport their biological weapons, they could take their entire experimental weapons system in one or two suitcases - pretty easy to hide," he told Malzberg.

As for Saddam's chemical weapons cache, his deputies could have fit them into "a van - probably one van or two vans and either bury it or drive it across one of the borders," the former No. 2 CENTCOM chief said.

Human intelligence, said DeLong, indicated that Saddam's deputies also "took billions of dollars with them when they went into Syria."

Iraqi Reaction to Allawi's speach

Riverbend of the Baghdad Burning blog, accuses Allawi of lying during his speach to the joint session of congress.

Ali, from Iraq the Model, on the other hand questions who it is that is really lying.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Why the 9/11 fund was a mistake.

After the 9/11 attacks there were pleas for donations for the victims' families, but I just didn't trust that the money was going to go where it was supposed to go.

That, and I'm a cold hearted cheap bastard.

(via Spoons)

Just when you've thought you've seen it all...

Just doing some random surfing when I should be sleeping and ran across this blog!

Christian porn?

At first I thought it was a joke, but now I'm not so sure...

Either way, I still think it's kinda funny...

Iraq "turning around"?

While most reporters in Iraq are reporting from secure areas because of the obvious dangers, there are others who venture into the "war zone".

What does one soldier have to say?

UPDATE: In a Washington Post article, Lt. General David H. Petraeus offers "reasons for optimism".

MORE UPDATE: We also get word from an Illinoisian in Iraq.

The Iraqis that we work with are very happy that we are here. It is a strange feeling, but they idolize us. We have heard many times that they are glad we are here to share our experience and training as we are the best in the world. I can't quite say it the way they do.

They are a very friendly people. They are not what everyone back home sees on TV. We have become great friends with many of them. It will be a sad day when we have to leave them. Many of us have told them that they are welcome to visit us if they are ever in the United States. One of my sergeants has invited a Kurdish major to go fishing with him back in Wisconsin. They talk of it often. I hope it happens some day.

If you could tell the folks at home one thing, what would it be? I guess I would just say to give these people a chance. They are good, smart people. They are very caring and strong people. They look forward to the future of Iraq, and with our help, they think they will one day be a world leader in technology, thinkers, produce, etc. They have hopes just as we do in America, and now that Saddam is gone, they believe they will some day see them come true.

MORE MORE UPDATE: Chrenkoff posts an exhaustive update of the good news from Iraq.

UPDATE 4: Sgt. Elizabeth offers her perspective of the war.

Heck are we winning or losing? Over all, I would say winning. Not all of Iraq is a bad place, not all Iraqi's are insurgents. Those are a minority, a very small minority although I know it does not seem as such. I have heard time and time again from the Iraqi people I do come into contact with that they are glad we are here, that things are getting better. Things just take time and patience.

Is it as rosy and Bush paints it? No, this place isn't rosy, but it certainly isn't a blistering firepit of hell either.

Is it as nasty as I think it it? No, not at all.

Do the Iraqis see the US as Occupier's or Liberators? Most, Liberators.


Elections amid Violence

Conventional Wisdom seems to say that the thought of holding elections in Iraq in January is highly doubtful. The UN has expressed doubts about the upcoming elections.

Can elections be held in times of war?

It worked in 1864.

UPDATE: BeldarBlog makes a similar case with a quote from old honest Abe himself.

We can not have free government without elections; and if the rebellion could force us to forego, or postpone a national election it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us. The strife of the election is but human-nature practically applied to the facts of the case. What has occurred in this case, must ever recur in similar cases. Human-nature will not change. In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak, and as strong; as silly and as wise; as bad and good. Let us, therefore, study the incidents of this, as philosophy to learn wisdom from, and none of them as wrongs to be revenged.


But the election, along with its incidental, and undesirable strife, has done good too. It has demonstrated that a people's government can sustain a national election, in the midst of a great civil war. Until now it has not been known to the world that this was a possibility....


Putin the new Lincoln?

This week I happened across a blog from Central Asia via the Carnival of the Vanities that has an alternate view of Putin's recent "power grab".

Now, I would be lying if I said that I knew much more about Russia other than the fact that it produces some good vodka, but I do know a little more about good old honest Abe.

The American Civil War had very much to do about the consolidation of power to the federal government at the expense of power attributed to the states. It would be very easy to say that Lincoln was involved in a little power grab of his own during the war.

Are we worse off for it in the US? Some could argue so, but without the strong federal government, I believe we wouldn't have become the world super power we are today.

Maybe we should give Putin the benefit of the doubt.

Who knows, perhaps he could be the new Lincoln.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Baghdad Bars

When I was looking around for Iraqi Blogs, I came across Baghdad Update, which is run by a young woman working for a media company in Baghdad.

The post at the top of the blog caught my attention. She talks about a bar in the "Green Zone", set in a bunker with all kinds of weapons used as "props". She says this about it...


I found a new hangout in the i-zone, the Bunker bar. You know you're in a war zone when the local bar has an RPG mounted on the wall as well as mines and other types of weapons. You know you are in Iraq when the bar stools at the local bar are made out of rockets and missiles. Of course, the entire place is an actual bunker - talk about safe partying.


And she even provides a couple pictures of the place...



The stools are made from old rocket or bomb casings.

Too wild...

New Look/New Flavor

I have neglected this poor blog of mine.

Well, we'll just see about that...

Actually, I've been caught up, following "Rathergate" unfold in the blogosphere. Fascinating stuff. I've been inspired.

I have a brother in Iraq and frankly, I'm not sure how much I trust the Main Stream Media (MSM) reporting the issue. I've seen different offerings of information, but I haven't quite been satisfied with what I've seen. So, I've decided that I'm going to do some investigating of my own.

So, hopefully on a semi-regular basis I hope to provide a round-up of news from Iraq. This interspersed with other observations and pontifications will make up the main "thrust" of my blog.

So... on with the show...

Friday, September 03, 2004

PB Captains for Truth

I found also found this political website while surfing.

If word gets out, I think it could mean serious trouble for President Bush!


UPDATE: Looks like Kerry could be in trouble too...

Revenge really is sweet, study shows

Revenge feels sweet, and Swiss researchers said on Thursday they have the brain
scans to prove it.



"We scanned the subjects' brains while they learned about the defector's abuse
of trust and determined the punishment," the researchers wrote.

The PET
scans showed a clear pattern of activity in the brain's dorsal striatum,
involved in experiencing satisfaction, when one player penalized the other for
selfishness.



He likened the feeling to a driver refusing to let another he considers a
cheater squeeze in front of him in traffic.

"After squeezing back the
intruder, you can't help but notice a smile creep onto your face," Knutson wrote
in a commentary.

I find this so fascinating. Administering "justice" or punishment provides feelings of pleasure. Hardwired into the brain.

I mean, if you look at it from an evolutionary standpoint, humanity survives because of an inherent sense of "right and wrong". Just as much as it survives because high energy food tastes sweet, or good.

Just me being a geek again...

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Political Junkie

Eh... maybe not a junkie, but I am interested...

Ran across a site that tracks the polls and translates them into electoral votes. Even give you a nice poll tracker to put on websites.




EV




For what it's worth...