Saturday, April 21, 2007

Dual Book Review on the American Army's Experience in Vietnam (by me)

Back to the Drawing Board

Revisiting Counterinsurgency and the Vietnam War

The study of low-intensity warfare is back in vogue, partly because of the protracted American-led counter-insurgency efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. It would therefore be prudent to undertake a serious analysis of the American effort in Vietnam. The lessons from Vietnam are unfortunately often contentious, and the resultant policy prescriptions vary significantly depending on the analyst.

Controversy is not new to American military history; the Korean conflict, for example, has undergone numerous revisions. Viewed through the prism of historical overwhelming American military success, it was generally first considered a defeat. Subsequent reconsiderations, and the experience of Vietnam, contributed to a common reevaluation and many historians now see it as a successful limited war.

The historical debate over Vietnam has also been polemical. If defeat is an orphan, then the Vietnam War, in which a third world peasant society defeated a technologically savvy and physically imposing superpower, is a truly lonely child. Many interpretations of Vietnam reflected the individual and institutional temptation to pass the buck. Blame for the defeat has been placed on various sources, including the military, McNamara’s Whiz Kids, civilian politicians, hippies, the media, the South Vietnamese Army, or even sheer inevitability.

This difference in analysis was apparent when reading concurrently Andrew F. Krepinevich Jr.’s The Army and Vietnam and Harry G. Summers, Jr.’s On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War. Both books undertook to explain why America lost in Vietnam, and suggest diametrically different veins of policy proposal.

Krepinevich primarily addressed the Army’s failure to prepare for, or execute proper counterinsurgency [COIN] methods. Summers discussed what he labeled the environment in which that war was waged. Where Summers addressed military strategy, he lamented the harmful effects of civilian-pushed counterinsurgency dogma and geographical limitations imposed by the politicians. Summers made compelling arguments, but he ultimately missed the mark. The Army’s adoption of his line of thought prevented a more useful examination of its COIN approach in Vietnam.

Summer’s On Strategy used Karl von Clausewitz’s seminal work On War to portray an intricate web of mostly political and civilian failures that crippled an otherwise successful military effort into an ineffective strategy. The strategy was then executed by a piqued, but irresponsibly compliant military leadership. The upshot was a string of tactical and operational successes on the battlefield that floundered for lack of strategic exploitation.

Firstly, the Johnson Administration and limited war theorists, neglected to mobilize the American people, fearing that it would upset domestic reformation, and unleash uncontrollable national passions. The military failed to correct its civilian leadership with judgment, derived through its own experiences in Korea, that war could not be fought without the passion and full commitment of the American people.

Summers contended that a formal declaration of war should have been attained from Congress, as representative of the people. This would have “both insured public support at the outset, and created legal sanctions against dealing with the enemy, thereby creating impediments to public dissent” (Summers 14). Instead, the declaration was seen as a useless piece of paper, rather than the result of historical experience. This failure created a strategic vulnerability between the American people and the war effort, one that the North Vietnamese successfully exploited.

Furthermore, during the Kennedy administration civilian strategists had permeated the military establishment with a disastrous propagation of counter-insurgency doctrine. “Counter-insurgency became not so much the Army’s doctrine as the Army’s dogma, and stultified military strategic thinking for the next decade” (Summers 67).

Engrossed in this dogma, the Army wasted its resources fighting against southern guerrillas - the enemy’s secondary effort, and nation building exercises for which it was not prepared. Moreover, in a display of moral and political arrogance, the US intervened in the South Vietnamese political process to force reforms for which the country was not ready. Instead, Summers argued the US should have allowed the Republic of Vietnam [RVN] to handle its own internal affairs, allowing the Army to focus its efforts against the North’s conventional forces, which were the true threat to the RVN’s independence.

Fundamentally, Summers affirmed, Vietnam was not a failure of conventional methods, for “these conventional tactics were militarily successful in destroying guerrilla forces” (Summers 83). Owing to a misplaced faith in COIN doctrine and harmful geographical political constraints, however, the US lost track of its strategic objectives, and therefore forfeited its victories on the battlefield.

In The Army and Vietnam, Krepinevich attacked Summers’ assertion that the Army’s focus on counter-insurgency prevented a viable strategy. He argued convincingly that the Army’s commitment to counterinsurgency was in fact mostly cosmetic and did not alter its basic approach to the Vietnam War. Krepinevich said Kennedy’s attempt to push counterinsurgency doctrine could be described as a “revolution that failed,” for “the Army could not be forced to adopt his concern for counterinsurgency” (Summers 31). The Army’s rejection stemmed from its investment in what Krepinevich called the Army “Concept.”

The Concept described the Army’s perception of how its wars ought to be waged, and was derived from an organizational history that focused primarily on the Army’s big war experiences. It focused on conventional war, and the use of unlimited firepower to minimize casualties. According to the Army’s thinking, “there was scant difference between limited war and insurgency,” and attempts to make a distinction risked detracting from readiness for limited or general war (Summers 43). Most important was a potential war against the Soviets in Europe.

This led to an approach to Vietnam that was in many ways the antithesis of a successful counterinsurgency effort based upon “a primary support system anchored on the population” (Krepinevich 9). For instance, instead of designing a South Vietnamese army with a light force structure for internal defense, the Military Assistance Advisory group [MAAG] created a Korea-style force that looked, thought, and acted like the US Army. This handicapped the Army of the Republic of Vietnam [ARVN] throughout the war. Moreover, after the arrival of the first American divisions, the war was increasingly assumed by American forces, to the growing dependency of the ARVN. It also put a low-emphasis on the South’s Regional Force and Provincial Force militias, localized units most suited to protecting the people and pacifying the populated areas.

A mid-intensity war of attrition, supported by the lavish use of firepower killed many of the enemy, but guaranteed the replenishment of its ranks by alienating the rural South Vietnamese citizens. Moreover, large scale operations diverted substantial friendly troops away from providing security to the population. This “was exactly what the insurgents wanted.”

Summers’ claim that an obsession with a secondary guerilla effort doomed the South was therefore incorrect, because our strategy emphasized precisely the opposite. By blaming North Vietnam for the guerillas’ successes the Army failed to address the internal causes for the insurgency, in particular the decrepit state of the South Vietnamese government. According to Krepinevich, the Viet Cong was self-sufficient and not dependent on North Vietnamese assistance.

Contrary to Summer’s contentions that civilians dictated military strategy, Army leaders crafted attritional search and destroy tactics, and thereafter insisted they were working. The Army was given a free hand to escalate violence within the RVN. In doing so, it swept aside the doubts of its civilian leadership, Marines, British advisors, and many of its own lower-level officers and advisors, who saw firsthand the debilitating effects of the American tactics.

The rare attempts to operationalize COIN doctrine, such as the ill-fated Strategic Hamlets program, were usually badly implemented. Those attempts that worked, such as the Civilian Irregular Defense Groups [CIDG], were often the product of organizations such as the CIA, institutions not hostage to the Army’s “Concept.” Consequentially, they were seen as threats to the Army’s strategic monopoly, and hastily brought under its control wherever possible, usually to the detriment of the operations in question.

According to Krepinevich, Vietnam was essentially a failure of army strategy on the battlefield. Krepinevich considered Summers’ tactical and operational “successes” in killing the enemy, as counterproductive. He asserted that the army focused on destroying the enemy units, without alleviating the conditions that allowed their recruitment, the vulnerability and political grievances of the South Vietnamese citizenry. Summers was primarily concerned with the parameters within which the Army went to war, namely the lack of political mobilization and the geographical limitations. Krepinevich instead blamed the Army’s failure to apply COIN tactics and ultimately, his was a more constructive approach.

Summers elucidated many of the causes for the gradual loss of American support for the war effort in Vietnam. He failed, however, to explain why the Army did not make more effective use of the amount of time it was given, both to advise the South Vietnamese and fight its own war.

Nonetheless, his contention that civilian leadership erred by attempting to prosecute the Vietnam War “on the cheap,” is most likely correct. It is also, in this author’s opinion, a mistake that our leadership continues to do today in Iraq and the wider “war on Terror.” Defense spending today is still relatively modest in relation to GDP, and the Army is roughly as large as it was on September 10th, 2001.

On the other hand, in spite of the potential benefits of a declaration of war, it is unclear that it was truly necessary. As Max Boot has noted, historically, “declarations of war have been the exception, not the norm, when the U.S. committed its armed forces to combat overseas” (Boot 291). Summers treated dissent as an aberration. To an extent, however, the unanimity of World War II was the aberration. In the American system, dissent is generally a factor, and in our politically contentious times, it will remain prominent.

Also prominent will be problems with the press. In 1944 the military could appeal to press patriotism and the national interest to prevent leaks and critical coverage. The rise of multinational press corps and the 24 hour news cycle significantly diminishes the strength of these appeals. News organizations such as Al Jazeera are arguably more supportive of the enemy than US policy, and such cannot be counted on cooperating at all.

Amidst such trends, Summers’ advice not to sugarcoat warfare is perhaps perceptive (Summers 37). With news access directly to the battlefield, and all its tragedies, there will be no more “splendid little wars.” Civilian casualties, refugees, and enemy agents are no longer merely distant statistics and empty suits; they can be on the average American’s TV at a moment’s notice. How to square these images with the historic American view of war as idealistic crusades for peace and justice is unclear, for these idealistic goals often run crosscurrent with the extraordinarily messy realities of war.

A reduced emphasis on firepower during counterinsurgency could be helpful. Additionally, Americans will probably never fight as brutally as their enemies. Nonetheless, there is a limit below which wars cannot be sanitized, lest they be prolonged and result in failure. This suggests that the propaganda war should be more focused on the ends of American policy, rather than its means. How we fight is ultimately less important than what we are fighting for. Here, an emphasis on the fact that we fought World War II brutally when circumstances required it, yet did not lose our national soul, might be effective.

The military should also prepare itself for wars fought without public mobilization, for its current professional nature tends to lend itself to disconnectedness between a mobilized Army and a demobilized people. Arguably it is in part this ability to wage war in such a manner which provides much of a professional army’s attractiveness to politicians in the first place.

As an analysis, The Army in Vietnam’s best quality is its ability to set aside the reasons for the bottoming out of support for the war after the Tet Offensive It asked why the Army failed to make better use of its long involvement prior. Vietnam did not begin as an unpopular war. It only became unpopular after the Army’s strategy seemed bankrupt both to the public and its civilian leadership. The Tet Offensive caused the complete fallout of civilian backing for the Army’s attritional strategy. This finally brought leadership to the top who truly believed in integrating the war on the battlefield with the “other war” for the political support of rural South Vietnam.

Nevertheless, in spite of General Creighton Abrams reformist views, Krepinevich asserted that the long term Army commitment to the “Concept” proved too well entrenched. It should be pointed out, however, that there is revisionist scholarship, particularly Lewis Sorley’s A Better War, that suggests that Vietnamization, though late and rushed, could have succeeded and Abrams was more effective than Krepinevich suggested. Furthermore, Krepinevich omitted the major changes that occurred in South Vietnam’s position after Tet.

Certainly, the corrupt and vapid South Vietnamese government was a difficult tool with which to mobilize support. Political reformation could have nipped the insurgency in the bud in the 1950s or early 1960s. Nonetheless, by the end of American involvement immediate political reformation might not have been so critical.

The corruptness and brutality of Sygman Rhee’s government in Korea surpassed the RVN, and yet the South Korean government still won a conventional war in 1950, defeated a limited insurgency in 1968, and survived continued disgruntlement towards autocratic rule until its democratization in the late 1980s. The lesson here is that people will rally behind even a decrepit regime given an awful enough alternative.

There is evidence to suggest that the well-publicized [in Vietnam] massacres in Hue, and the increasing predominance of the North over the effort in South Vietnam, prompted a similar rallying of non-Communists to the South Vietnamese government’s colors. To quote Lewis Sorley, an ARVN with over a million men under arms and “four million members of the People's Self-Defense Force, armed with some 600,000 weapons, represented no threat to the government that had armed them; instead they constituted an overt commitment to that government in opposition to the enemy” (Sorley 217). Moreover, these numbers do not include the families of the men, nor the civilian participation in the government itself. They suggest a population with a stake in its government.

Summers cited evidence that in 1970, 80% of what was known as the VC actually consisted of NVA cadres (Summers 82). Although this exact statistic may be disputed, it is widely accepted that the effort increasingly took the image of a low-intensity Northern invasion, rather than an indigenous insurgency. This culminated in two conventional invasions that grew almost entirely out of the NVA in North Vietnam.

Krepinevich correctly noted note that by 1964, a largely indigenous VC was beating the ARVN without significant northern assistance. This was not true after Tet, however, when the Viet Cong was no longer a force independent of North Vietnam’s effort. Years of undercover infrastructure work and grooming of Southern Vietnamese cadres were thrown away, and replaced increasingly by northern infiltrators. Whether this was mere coincidence or actually intended by the North Vietnamese leadership is immaterial, but after Tet the insurgency in the South was probably dependent on North Vietnamese assistance, and the threat had changed from an internal to an external origin.

No matter the origin of the insurgency, COIN was still the proper strategy to enable the population to defend and police itself from what could now be portrayed as northern imperialism. However, Krepinevich’s description of the VC as self-sufficient was no longer correct. Within this context, Summers’ suggestions become more helpful, even if they would not replace COIN as the primary effort. In the face of external sanctuaries, it was likely that a proper COIN effort would require efforts towards both the interior and exterior.

Direct invasion of North Vietnam was always risky. We now know from post-Cold War evidence that Mao probably would have intervened in such an event, at least until the Nixonian Sino-American rapprochement. The Laotian and Cambodian sanctuaries were another story, and it is probably correct to call them a “self-inflicted wound,” as Summers does (Summers 95).

The Johnson Administration mistakenly allowed the North Vietnamese presence in these countries to be normalized in international and domestic opinion, a severe political defeat. The belated result was a half-hearted Cambodian Incursion that was prematurely terminated due to an emotive political backlash. This is something to consider today, when we are facing insurgents that sometime infiltrate into Iraq and Afghanistan from neighboring countries.

The bombing halts and geographical constraints were also probably self-defeating, and resulted from the Johnson Administration’s increasing conviction that since the war seemed un-winnable, a negotiated settlement preserving the South was necessary. Setting aside the question of whether the war was winnable, we failed to understand our enemy. Negotiation points were essentially worthless against an enemy who would accept nothing less than total victory.

General strategic thought and methods, such as gradual escalation, were misapplied to a local situation which we did not fully understand. From the very beginning, we thought that we could bring the enemy to accept something less than total victory. Our efforts took the form of carrots such as economic aid, or sticks such as the restricted Rolling Thunder bomber raids. All were feckless owing to the nature of our enemy. Here, the lesson for today is that American strategy and forces must be tailored specifically for the contingency in question, and to turn a quote, generals cannot be mere generalists.

According to John Nagl, On Strategy “quickly became the U.S. Army’s approved version of why it lost the Vietnam War.” He noted Summers’ argument that it neglected conventional strategy for counterinsurgency “was just the message the Army wanted to hear as it refocused attention on European style conventional war fighting in the 1970s and 1980s” (Nagl 206). As a result, it did not absorb the lessons of the failed counterinsurgency effort in Vietnam. Even many who did see the need for proper COIN tactics decided that for all the Army’s assets and skills, it just was not built for such operations, and therefore should not even try.

The apotheosis of these sentiments was the Powell/Weinberger Doctrine which implied that if the Army could not and did not want to fight such a war, it would declare so ahead of time. The result was a declaration that the Army should never be placed into the harmful environment that Summers said plagued its efforts in Vietnam. The unfortunate result was that the Army did not learn its lesson after Vietnam.

Instead of truly taking to heart the lesson that it needed to learn how to fight outside of its box, it reacted by further strengthening the limits of the box. The Weinberger/Powell doctrine is a nice wish list, but it spite of American power it is never certain that the United States will decide the conditions under which it goes to war. How this mentality can harm American efforts is evident in the following example.

It is well known that post-Vietnam Army reforms followed the spirit of Summers’ writings by placing vital war-making capabilities within the reserves. This was based on the theory that mobilizing the reserves would require the political mobilization of the American people in cases of wartime. Although this seems a reasonable desire, the Army truly should not dictate the circumstances under which it would be called to fight, even indirectly. This is the prerogative of its civilian leadership, even if it can and does sometimes act unwisely.

The result of this force restructuring was that during the 1990s the reserves were rotated in and out of odd places throughout the world, forced to take part in what were really, minor efforts in places such as Somalia, Haiti, and Bosnia. This caused burn out in some vital reserve components even before they were needed for the war on terror. This was the result of an institution prepared to fight the wars that it wanted to fight, rather than the wars it might have to fight.

The Army may have to fight without international support, without the total commitment of the American people, and without an obvious exit strategy. It may lack any number of the presupposed conditions of the Powell/Weinberger Doctrine. Yet it may still be a necessary war, and it is the Army’s duty to fight that war to best of its ability. Today we are relearning the COIN lessons of Vietnam, because after three decades of pretending otherwise, we have again realized, to quote Leon Trotsky, that while we might not be interested in counterinsurgency warfare, our superiority on the conventional battlefield guarantees that counterinsurgency warfare is interested in us. We had better be ready for it.

Books Reviewed

1. Krepinevich Jr., Andrew F. The Army and Vietnam. (The Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore, 1986).

2. Summers Jr., Harry G. On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War. (Presidio Press: Novato, 1982).

Additional Bibliography

3. Boot, Max. The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power. (Basic Books: New York, 2003).

4. Nagl, John A. Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam. (The University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 2005).

5. Sorley, Lewis. A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America’s Last Years in Vietnam (Harcourt, Inc.: 2000).

Friday, December 16, 2005

Hamas Wins, Everyone Else Loses

HAMAS is on its way to control of the disputed territories:

"Hamas supporters on Friday celebrated a landslide election victory in major West Bank towns, the strongest sign yet of the Islamic militant group's growing political appeal ahead of Jan. 25 parliamentary elections.

Israel responded with concern, saying a Palestinian government dominated by Hamas — which calls for Israel's destruction and has killed hundreds of Israelis in attacks — would not be a partner for peace.

The results stunned officials from Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas'
Fatah Party, whose internal disarray developed into a split this week when a group of young-guard leaders broke away.

Thousands of Hamas supporters joined victory marches after Friday prayers. In Jenin, where Hamas won a majority of local council seats, marchers chanted, "To Jerusalem we march, martyrs by the millions!" and held up copies of the Quran.

Hamas' welfare programs — coupled with its fierce resistance to Israel's occupation — have won it grass-roots support among Palestinians fed up with Fatah's corruption and inability to rein in lawlessness."

As I wrote 2 months ago:

"The Palestinian Authority as a monolithic organization is quite possibly doomed in unoccupied Gaza. Arafat had charismatic authority that noone else is going to be able to replace. As a whole, the organization was propped up by the Israelis themselves, under the pressure of the world, as the representative of the Palestinian people. The Israelis gave them 15,000 M-16s due to Oslo [which were later used against them], treated them as the only negotiating power, thereby giving them credibility, and scared off even more radical rivals such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

In reality, the PA was merely a mafia that had little internal legitimacy besides being the world sponsored monopoly. They could be propped up when Gaza was under outside [Israeli] control, but now the UN and its affiliates aren't as effective so long as the Israelis are gone - they were the normalizing and deterring force.

So the PA has lost much of its international subsidation, and is forced to survive on its own credibility - a decades long legacy of corruption and violence. Only, if you want violence, and I believe the Palestinians do, there's more efficient killers than the PA. Furthermore, Gaza, as opposed to the West Bank, has traditionally been Hamas' stronghold. For these reasons, it is my opinion that Hamas or a derivative will likely be in control of Gaza before it is all over, absent external intervention."

At the time I was unsure at how much staying power Fatah had retained in the West Bank, traditionally an area of strength. Unfortunately, even there, Fatah is a mess. Without Arafat as a figurehead, it is likely to continue to fragment. Palestinian-Israeli peace is farther away than ever.

The blood that will flow lies not only on the hands of Hamas, but on the hands of the blind and unrealistic Israelis, Europeans, Americans, and UN members who turned a blind eye to the Palestinian Authority's failings, allowing Arafat to turn it into a personal mafia that was doomed upon his death. It lies on the hands of those who pretended not to see the corruption, and the continued incitement to violence, that carried on throughout Oslo. They had 8 years to address this, and they didn't - because it was politically difficult to do so. And they prepared the way for a more Islamic, but less corrupt alternative to fill the vacuum. It is symbollic, and directly correlates the rise of Islamic movements throughout the Middle East.

Unfortunately, there is little sign that anyone besides American and Israeli leadership is at all prepared to deal with the reality that there will be no deal between the Israelis and Palestinians so long as the latter is treated as a child that is beyond reproach for irresponsibility and bloodlust.

HT: Captain's Quarters.

Posted at Outside the Beltway.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Indonesia set to cut radical cleric Bashir's sentence:

"Indonesia will ignore Australian protests and slash the prison sentences of 27 Bali bombers as well as their alleged spiritual leader, radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir.

Remissions for thousands of inmates are being handed down to mark the end of Islam's Ramadan fasting month.

Bashir is expected to get one month sliced off his sentence, meaning he could be free by next April.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer travelled to Jakarta last month to persuade President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to block reductions for those convicted of terror offences.

But Indonesia's Justice Minister Hamid Awaluddin says they'll go ahead according to existing regulations.

"The Republic of Indonesia, as a sovereign state, must not be dictated by the wishes of other countries," Awaluddin said this week. "... all prisoners will be given a sentence cut in line with their rights under prevailing laws and regulations."

Australian officials have been working with their Indonesian counterparts to re-draft laws and exclude terrorists from automatic remissions on major religious and national holidays.

But Indonesian justice ministry officials say the revisions will not be completed in time for Thursday's Eid al-Fitr Muslim holiday, known as Lebaran.

Bashir is serving what originally was a 30-month jail term for conspiracy in the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, among them 88 Australians.

He also got a four-month cut as part of independence day celebrations in August.

Government officials say the jail terms of 27 of the 2002 Bali bombers will be cut on Thursday by around six weeks each."

This is what treating the War on Terrorism as a law enforcement matter really means. The bottom line is that if governments can't guarentee these people [responsible for the murder of 202 people!] will be locked up for good, we should kill them right off the streets, complications be damned.

At the same, [Australian] Clerics still preaching hatred of West:

"Muslim clerics in Sydney and Melbourne - led by radicals Sheik Mohammed Omran and Sheik Abdul Salam Mohammed Zoud - are still preaching hatred against the West, urging followers in Arabic to resist peace and support insurgents waging war against Australian soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In open defiance of John Howard's proposed new terror laws and the Prime Minister's demand that Muslim leaders desist from inflammatory rhetoric, Lakemba cleric Sheik Zoud has used his Friday prayer meetings over the past month to praise Muslim fighters. "Allah yinsur el-mujaheddin fe-Iraq (God grant victory to the mujaheddin in Iraq)," he repeatedly screamed during a 35-minute Arabic sermon at Lakemba's Haldon Street prayer hall in Sydney's southwest last week.

In further contempt of Mr Howard, Sheik Zoud's high-profile counterpart in Melbourne, Sheik Omran, also declared last month: "No victory (for Islam's brothers and sisters) can be stopped by George Bush or Tony Blair or John Howard."

Under expanded sedition provisions, people face up to seven years' jail for promoting feelings of ill will or hostility between different groups so as to threaten the peace, order and government of the commonwealth. This would include urging another person to engage in conduct that supports an organisation or country at war with Australia.

A third cleric - Harun Abu Talha, editor of contentious newspaper Mecca News - has also used Friday prayers at Sheik Omran's Brunswick mosque in Melbourne to attack "the criminal government of Israel that has been hurting our brothers and sisters in Palestine for so many years".

And during a prayer meeting last month, Abu Talha said: "We should not compromise our dean (religion) for the sake of peace." He concluded his sermon: "May Allah help the mujaheddin in Iraq."

The message the fundamentalist clerics are delivering to their supporters - mostly in Arabic - is in dramatic contrast to their public statements.

Last month, Sheik Zoud told about 400 followers in Arabic: "God grant victory to the mujaheddin in Kashmir and Chechnya, and Palestine and Afghanistan."

Sheik Zoud, head of the Sydney arm of the Melbourne-based organisation Ahlus Sunnah Wal-Jamaah declared: "Inshallah (God willing), dark days will descend upon America soon."

But during a newspaper interview last year, Sheik Zoud said: "I'm against all terrorism over the world. I'm against all terrorists who kill civilian people.

"Let the Australian people relax. Why everyone make the Australian people scared from the Muslims?

"We left our countries because of all of the problems there, and we move to this safe country to live the rest of our life."

After Mr Howard singled out Sheik Omran earlier this year for not doing enough to denounce terrorism, the cleric wrote to The Australian: "We consider ourselves Australians working for the betterment of Australia. Those of us who came from other countries appreciate how the people of this country have accepted us with open arms.

"Islam teaches us to appreciate kindness, and we wouldn't do anything to betray this gesture."
Rather warns students of 'new' media.

"Longtime CBS Evening News anchorman Dan Rather on Tuesday called for a return to independent journalism, telling viewers to be critical of the plethora of "new" media outlets that feign objectivity while working to advance their own - or another's - agenda.


Cohen, a former U.S. senator from Maine and secretary of Defense in the Clinton administration, echoed Rather's renewed call for a free and independent press, one whose members do not have to risk access to information if they ask tough questions.

"That is not the tradition of this country," Cohen said. "That is something all people should be fearful of."

As opposed to blogs. For some reason I'm getting this uncontrollable urge to shout... FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH, WAR IS PEACE!

Whoops - almost lost it there.

I'm generally a pretty forgiving guy and I could feel some sympathy for someone whose entire career is ended by one misstep.

But Mapes and Rather deserved to be publically tarred and feathered, that this sort of people controlled the public agenda for so long is positively scary. Good riddance to these self-important hacks, who's next?
Greyhawk of the Mudville Gazette goes after the New York Times for selectively quoting American military members:

"I've been to Iraq. And I characterized the Times disgraceful use of the words of an American hero as intellectually vacant moral cowardice. I was being generous.

Because I've seen numerous examples of such behavior on the part of the New York Times over the past several months. All involve selective quoting, misquoting, or simply claiming a GI said something without actually quoting them at all. Most range in repugnance from mildly annoying to grossly reprehensible - but in what I believe is the worst case they appear to attempt to frame a soldier for murder."
Facing draft, Alito joined Army Reserve.

""Sam looked like he was sure to be drafted. He said, 'If I'm going into the Army, I might as well be an officer.'"


Don't Forget "Death to America" Day

See here.

The Collossus:

"Here, in the land of the Great Satan, we have all kinds of deep, philosophical discussions over whether one may even pledge one's allegiance to America, especially if said pledge contains the odious words "under God." In Iran, there's no such lack of focus. You chant "Death to America" or else. I don't imagine students who opt to sit out the group chant there will be feted by the press there -- or here, for that matter -- as courageous heroes. I'm also thinking that the principal in an Iranian school isn't above the occasional caning of miscreants. Call it a hunch.

Well, I have a message for you little Iranian b*stards.

You want a piece of me? You think you're big and bad enough to tangle with the likes of me? I guarantee you -- you may think you're all big and bad when you're in a group of your friends, sitting there under your little Iranian flag, under a beaming portrait of Ayatollah Khomeini, protected by the teacher, but if you want to mix it up with me, then walk on over to my playground. Anytime, kids.

These people have no idea what we are capable of when we feel truly threatened. Quran defacement? Torture? Hah! If Joe-sixpack and the Jacksonians kick our effeminate and self-apologetic elites to the curb, their eyes are going to open wide. It is a pity, but our State Department would probably serve us better by disseminating volumes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki than peace videos that they spit back at us.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Prince Charles to lecture Americans on tolerance towards Muslims:

"The Prince of Wales will try to persuade George W Bush and Americans of the merits of Islam this week because he thinks the United States has been too intolerant of the religion since September 11.

The Prince, who leaves on Tuesday for an eight-day tour of the US, has voiced private concerns over America's "confrontational" approach to Muslim countries and its failure to appreciate Islam's strengths.


The Prince raised his concerns when he met senior Muslims in London in November 2001. The gathering took place just two months after the attacks on New York and Washington. "I find the language and rhetoric coming from America too confrontational," the Prince said, according to one leader at the meeting.


Mr Mahmood and other Muslims present stressed that Prince Charles did not go so far as to criticise the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001. More recently, he has been careful not to express his views on Iraq.

The Prince also spoke of his sympathy for America after the terrorist attacks that claimed the lives of almost 3,000 people. He said he wanted to promote better relations between the different religions of the world."

From an International Pew Poll released in July:

Note that this poll was taken before the attacks in London, it would be interesting to see the new UK numbers.

Regardless, perhaps the Prince should take his act eastward, and lecture other people.

HT: Samizdata.
"We have lost a lot of people":

"The Iraqi soldier wears a green mask over his face to work. He reveals only his brown eyes as he mans his checkpoint.

Dozens of Iraqis see Mahmud Abdul Karim when they cross the bridge he guards each day. He dons the mask because he doesn’t want them to recognize him when he goes on leave to his home in Nasiriyah south of here.

Insurgents have killed scores of other Iraqi soldiers for cooperating with the U.S. military. Karim said he knows of at least 70 fellow soldiers who have been killed while on leave.

“We have lost a lot of people,” said Karim, 24, who has served in the Iraqi Army for 15 months. “They stay in the street and wait for us.”

Suldog-O-Rama: How NOT To Write A Cover Letter

Suldog-O-Rama: How NOT To Write A Cover Letter:

"I assumed that, since this was a creative type of business I was trying to get into, a creative cover letter would be appreciated. I failed to take into account the fact that, while the end of the business I was attempting to get into called for imagination, your average programming director has the imagination of a sea slug. And I might be doing a disservice to sea slugs by saying that...

"Person In Whose Hands I Am Placing My Life
Same Address As On The Envelope

Dear Form Letter Recipient:

Please allow me to introduce myself. I'm the idiot who thinks that he can forego writing a personal letter, yet still believes he will receive a personal reply. My name is Jim Sullivan. I will more than likely commit suicide unless you offer me a job immediately.

Whew! That's quite a first paragraph, wouldn't you say? I'm willing to bet that this is the first cover letter you've ever received where the person applying for work states right up front that he is both mentally deficient and suicidal (not to mention egotistical enough to think that you'd care, even though he didn't take the time to find out your name.) Well, that's just the kind of guy I am!..."

As someone applying for Graduate Schools (offers accepted via e-mail), I can relate. The temptation to go for originality and admit my insanity is quite tempting, but I'll keep the results of this experience in mind - I won't dare mention I'm a Republican.

Suldog-O-Rama: A Halloween Story

A worthwhile and entertaining Halloween story.

I would tell a story of my own, but it involves a sorority girl and a cat suit - and this is a family oriented blog (at least when I'm not quoting Kossacks).

"The Buck stops here."

Man kills deer with bare hands:

"For 40 exhausting minutes, Wayne Goldsberry battled a buck with his bare hands in his daughter’s bedroom in Arkansas, USA.

Goldsberry finally subdued the five-point whitetail deer that crashed through a bedroom window at his daughter’s home.

When it was over, blood splattered the walls and the deer lay dead on the bedroom floor, its neck broken.

Goldsberry was at his daughter’s home when he heard glass breaking. He went back to check on the noise and found the deer.

“I was peeking around the corner when the deer came out of the bedroom,” said Goldsberry. The deer ran down the hall and into the master bedroom - “jumping back and forth across the bed.”

Goldsberry entered the bedroom to confront the deer and, after a brief struggle, emerged to tell his wife to call police.

After returning to the bedroom, the fight continued. Goldsberry finally was able to grip the animal and twist its neck, killing it.

Goldsberry, sore from the struggle, dragged the dead animal out of the house.

“He got kicked several times. He was walking bowlegged for a while,” Deputy Doug Gay said."

-No comment necessary.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

An Iraqi city becomes turnaround story:

"Last January, Baquba was symbol of everything going wrong in Iraq - and its neighborhood of Buhritz was a symbol for everything going wrong in Baquba.

This city just 50 miles north of Baghdad was crawling with Sunni Arab mortar teams, snipers, and bombmakers. They had made parts of the city their own, killing police when they found them and driving the rest into hiding. Their grip was so strong that only 60 percent of the region's polling places opened for Iraq's first post-Saddam election. In Buhritz, not a vote was cast; some polling sites were torched.

But today, US commanders are pointing to Baquba as a symbol of what might go right. Every polling place stayed open all day for the Oct. 15 referendum that approved Iraq's new constitution earlier this month. Violence was light, while voter turnout was high."

Of course, how they voted, and how committed the voters are to a political process that will not return them [Sunnis] to sole authority, is a different story, still...

"Asked why, Lt. Col. Rob Risberg, commander of the 1st Battalion of the Army's 10th Field Artillery Regiment, scratches his head, then says it hasn't been rocket science. "The Iraqi Army and the Iraqi police have really come along - they can handle most of what comes their way now,'' says Colonel Risberg, from DeLeon Springs, Fla. "We're here to back them up, but I think we're seeing the benefits of getting cops on almost every street corner."

There have also been heavy doses of force. In June, Buhritz - a tough neighborhood where kids swim in a murky, trash-strewn irrigation canal fed from the nearby Diyala River - was almost a no-go zone for Risberg's men. They didn't come down except in force, and even then were almost certain to be shot at.

Then on June 17, Lt. Noah Harris of Dawsonville, Ga., and Cpl. William Long of Lillburn, Ga., were killed when their humvee was hit by a roadside bomb in the area, and Risberg decided he'd had enough. "That was the straw that broke the camel's back," he says, pointing to the crater left by that earlier bomb as he rolled through Buhritz with just a three-humvee convoy.

The Army shut down the area for six weeks - basically letting no one in and no one out - and began major sweeps through the area. Risberg said the operation had a twofold objective: To capture fighters in the area and to persuade residents not to support them.

Risberg was helped by Capt. Bobby Ray Toon, from Grannies Neck, Texas, who was directly responsible for Buhritz. In the Army as an enlisted man for 18 years, he recently attended officer candidate school and was put in charge of a company of about 150 men. His experience made it easier for him to make the right calls in dealing with local civilians, problems that take as much political as military savvy.

Each time an attack originated in the area, Risberg would have a nearby palm grove shelled, sometimes as often as every 15 minutes the whole night. He'd also further restrict residents' movement. "We were trying to show them that you're going to help us clean up this area or you're going to pay the price,'' he explains. "I didn't care which."

When local families complained that the shelling frightened their kids, he'd tell them to help hand over insurgents - only then would the shelling stop. They also replaced the local mayor and the town council, who seemed sympathetic to the insurgency. Eventually, he and others in his battalion say, the approach got results."

Unfortunately, our idealistic goals make traditional counter-insurgency difficult. We can force them to keep their heads down so long as we make their lives miserable, but we cannot force them to willingly participate in a political process even after we have left. Iraq remains a country where political power originates out of a gun and the threat of force or reprisals, rather than voluntary participation. We can destroy the active insurgency, but still fail due to recalcitrant Sunni attitudes towards the political process. Ultimately, the biggest weakness of the neo-Conservative enterprise is that our goals can only be achieved willingly by other actors.
Small units lure Taliban into losing battles:

"Much is made about the high-tech gear that US soldiers carry: body armor, rapid-firing machine guns, night vision goggles. But the chief advantage of the US military - especially in a low-intensity conflict, pitted against a crudely trained force like the Taliban - is training and air power.

Taliban fighters, meanwhile, appear to gain courage from numbers, the ability to swarm a smaller enemy unit. A sense of safety in numbers, however, is often the Taliban's undoing if a US platoon can fix an enemy's position long enough for aircraft or other infantry units to arrive. This is the backbone of US military strategy in Zabul, and one reason why the Taliban have lost so many fighters this year.

"We've had a lot of success with textbook tactics, getting the smallest element engaged, and then using other assets to just pile on," says O'Neal. "The Taliban are more willing to engage with us when we have smaller numbers."


"As night falls, American AC-130 Specter gunships arrive to engage Taliban fighters who have also decided to make a run for it. By the end of the day, 76 Taliban bodies are counted, and another nine Taliban fighters are captured.

To this day, the men of the 2nd Platoon, Chosen Company, can't figure out what the Taliban were thinking. Were they suicidal? Why did they gather so many Taliban in one place? Did they really think they had enough men to defeat the Americans?

"They called the BBC to tell them they had taken the district headquarters," says O'Neal. "They knew we were going to come."
"There is no reason why the west should set its face against the vision of a reunited Islamic world [Caliphate]", so says a spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain in the Guardian.

Well, except for the fact that most of its proponents are insane and want to bury us. He also puts in a nice plug for Sharia.

See here for its less glamorous side.
A Kossack explodes:

"And I will be God Damn Fucking Dead And In a Hole In The Fucking Ground before I let you claim "Italian American" OR Roman Catholic as a fucking code phrase for batshit conservative reactionaries whose dismissal of womens' rights, civil rights, worker rights, and pretty much everything else that has made America great make it clear they think all those things are akin to something they would normally scrape off their shoes.

There's nothing fucking "Italian American" about being an ultra-far-right conservative jackass. You will not drag my heritage into this like you shoved Alito's well-groomed hand up Rosa Parks' corpse, or I will bury you, you loathsome little egg-humping fucker. And unlike most of the victims of your only-like-a-minority-when-they're-dead corpse huggings, I'm still very much alive."

With blood pressure like that, he won't be for long.

HT: Protein Wisdom
Translated [somewhat roughly] on Free Republic, originally from the South Korean Conservative newspaper Chosun Ilbo:

S. Korean Lawmaker: "N. Korea demanded Hyundai Asan blueprints of a submarine (and an Aegis ship) in return for business deals."

Lawmaker Lee Ban-ho from (opposition) Hannara Party asserted on Oct. 25, "The reason why N. Korea declared the total scrapping of Hyundai Asan's N. Korean business venture is because N. Korea demanded to have blueprints for a submarine and an Aegis ship under construction at Hyundai Shipyard, but Hyundai Asan refused." Assemblyman Lee made such an assertion, saying, "The source close to Hyundai Asan passed this intelligence," during the questioning session on unification, foreign policy, and national security issues of government, and also during his conversation with Yonhap News.

However, he did not produce any evidence to back it up. Asked who passed such information along, he just said, "To protect the source, I cannot provide any detail on him."

During his questioning, he said, "Last July when Hyun Jong-eun, the President of Hyundai Asan, met Kim Jong-il, N. Koreans made such a proposition. However, President Hyun refused, saying, 'We could give you anything else you want, but my conscience cannot possibly allow me to agree to such a demand."

He continued, "Moreover, it is my understanding that American CIA already knows this, too. The submarine and the Aegis ship under construction by Hyundai Shipbuilding are for our navy to operate."

Unification Minister responded to this, saying, "(it is) a baseless allegation." When Assemblyman Lee pressed on, saying, "You can personally get confirmation from President Hyun. This outrageous fact....," he dismissed it again, saying, "This is no more than an unfounded rumor."

Depending on the veracity of his claim, this could touch off serious controversy.

If proven true, this could have grave impact on entire inter-Korean relationship, because N. Korea demanded military secrets which can shake the core of (S. Korean) national security, using N. Korean venture as 'a bait.' On the other hand, if proven false, Assemblyman Lee cannot escape the condemnation of practicing 'irresponsible bombshell announcement.'"

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Fantastic collection of Coalition military images.
Wife arrested [for racism] after calling her husband 'lazy'.:

"Belgium’s history of linguistic bickering between Flemings and Walloons entered a new phase this week when police arrested a Flemish woman for calling her Walloon husband lazy, Belgian media said on Thursday.

The 48-year-old husband filed a complaint for racism against his spouse for scratching him and calling him “a lazy Walloon, a slave and an inferior creature,” De Standaard daily said.

The 47-year-old woman will appear before a magistrate later on Thursday to face charges of racism, the newspaper said."

Those goofy Europeans.

HT: Dean Esmay.
4th Infantry better trained for Iraq return:

"The massive deployment of the "Ironhorse" division, with 71,000 pieces of equipment that include tanks, helicopters and artillery, was marked in a solemn ceremony Friday in which unit flags were rolled up and stored for shipment back to the theater of war. Tanks and other vehicles will be placed on railcars next week, and troops will leave in a string of flights into December.

The division served more than a year in Iraq before returning in April 2004, and 80 of its soldiers were killed in action during the early days of the insurgency. Only about one-third of the total 20,700 troops in this deployment have previous experience in Iraq because of extensive reorganization of the 4th Infantry, officials said.


The division will be based in Baghdad when it replaces the 3rd Infantry Division from Fort Stewart, Ga. Also serving under him will be three divisions of Iraqi forces, bringing the total number of troops under his command to about 50,000.

"This is the largest heavy combat formation that our Army has and it is the most modern one that our nation has built," Thurman said, adding that, "I expect a lot out of the Iraqi forces."

He said the division has trained since January to fight a "tough insurgency" by using "full-spectrum combat operations."

Rather than prepare for a mellow peacekeeping role, soldiers were prepared for "a mid- to high-intensity land campaign," Thurman said.

Further, Thurman said, the Sept. 11, 2003 [sic], attacks "should never be forgotten ... That's what's at stake here, and prosecuting this global war on terrorism."

If I remember correctly, the 4th ID is also the most technologically advanced unit in the Army, featuring M1A2 SEP tanks.
PETA officials collide with deer:

"There's plenty of laughter and a little sadness in the hunting community over an incident involving a deer that collided with an automobile driven by two animal rights campaigners who belong to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The folks who worship at the altar of animals now want to sue a New Jersey game department over the incident, claiming it's the state's fault that it happened."

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Multiculturalism and the Repeal of Universal Human Rights

Via Jeff Goldstein, in Australia:

"Police are being advised to treat Muslim domestic violence cases differently out of respect for Islamic traditions and habits.

Officers are also being urged to work with Muslim leaders, who will try to keep the families together.

Women’s groups are concerned the politically correct policing could give comfort to wife bashers and keep their victims in a cycle of violence.

The instructions come in a religious diversity handbook given to Victorian police officers that also recommends special treatment for suspects of Aboriginal, Hindu and Buddhist background.

Some police officers have claimed the directives hinder enforcing the law equally.

Police are told: “In incidents such as domestic violence, police need to have an understanding of the traditions, ways of life and habits of Muslims."

Says Goldstein:

"Sad to say, but this is the predictable result of a culture in which the kind of identity politics that follow from the institutionalization of multiculturalism as the foundation for a political system essentially forces lawmakers into treating each “Other” on its own delineated terms.

In such circumstances, there is no coherent method of governing that can appeal to a uniform equality under the law—other than the structural “equality” that comes from the premise that it is the right of each identity group to negotiate its compliance with the host country’s pre-existing laws."

In cases such as these, it is clear that for many, the notion of multiculturalism has effectively caused a rejection of the notion of universal human rights that came out of the Enlightenment. No longer do these people see natural rights of liberty, given by God, ones that cannot be taken away from you. Instead, natural rights are defined by the culture in which you developed. Indeed, even natural development is sometimes impeded by individuals who want specific group members more strictly adhere to their stereotype (i.e., Condoleeza and Powell are really black people "acting white", rather than a more intellectual black culture).

The irony is that by doing away with inalienable and natural rights elsewhere, these people undermine their own positions and liberty. If Middle Eastern women can be oppressed, why are our own immune? If there is nothing fundamentally and universally wrong with oppression of any sort, due to what notion of natural justice were woman or African Americans owed equality? Woman's liberation and the end of segregation no longer become a matter of justice, but war spoils, to be overturned when the opposition is stronger. Nothing relating to justice or morality stops Western culture from digressing ["progressing," since we're avoiding moral judgments].

In short, there's no longer any bedrock of universal rights that guarantee our own freedom - if the morality of other countries is not accountable to universal liberty and justice as understood by the Rights of Man or the Declaration of Independence, neither is our own.

Thanks to Outside the Beltway, Basil's Blog, Mudville Gazette.
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