Friday, December 29, 2006
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
In today's column titled: "Bush's New Look on Iraq: Weary," Ignatius writes about the stress that is becoming more apparent on President Bush's face and the surprising admission by Bush last week that "we're not winning."
Ignatius writes: "Bush is not a man for introspection. That's part of his flinty personality -- the tight, clipped answers and the forced jocularity of the nicknames he gives to reporters and White House aides.
Bush opened the emotional curtain at a news conference last week. A reporter noted that Lyndon Johnson hadn't been able to sleep well during the Vietnam War and asked Bush if this was a 'painful time' for him. He gave an unexpectedly personal answer: 'Most painful aspect of my presidency has been knowing that good men and women have died in combat. I read about it every night. And my heart breaks for a mother or father or husband or wife or son and daughter. It just does. And so when you ask about pain, that's pain.'"
Frankly, I have never sensed that President Bush has been emotionally detached from the responsibility that he has had in sending the nation's sons and daughters into war. I remember a very poignant photo from late 2004 in which the President was saying farewell to troops leaving from Bangor, ME. Every time the President meets with the families of slain soldiers, he is confronted with the reality of war.
In reading Ignatius' column, I do have to wonder...now that President Bush and Secretary of Defense Gates have uttered the words: "we're not winning" what are the chances that mainstream journalists will also report "we're not losing?"
This struggle that we're in is much too serious to be playing games of "gotcha" with the President. David Ignatius is one of very few writers that, while disagreeing with President Bush, gives the impression that the desire to win the war on terror is stronger than the desire to get one up on President Bush. However, I still don't sense him embracing the words "we're not losing."
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Six months later, I still receive news of Haditha in my email box every day. Usually, there's just a few stories. When the charges against the marines were formally brought this month, Haditha coverage spiked a bit, but it was nothing like the frenzy of coverage surrounding "Abu Ghraib!" in the Spring and Summer of 2004 or even the coverage about Haditha in June 2006.
This bothers Greg Mitchell at Editor and Publisher as he writes in: "When the Press Dropped the Ball on Haditha."
"(December 21, 2006) -- Haditha is back on the front pages, with the announcement on Thursday that four marines were being charge with murder in the alleged 2005 massacre of 24 villagers in Iraq, with four officers hit with serious dereliction of duty charges. Since this case has been simmering for many months now, with repeated press references (as other possible atrocities surfaced), it may seem as if the media has bird-dogged this episode from the start.In fact, the media dropped the ball at the start - helped by a military cover-up -- and it stayed off the radar for quite some time.
Following the killings in Haditha on November 19, 2005, it took months for an official investigation to begin.
An Associated Press story from Baghdad in June quoted Hassan Bazaz, a Baghdad University political scientist, complaining that strong interest belatedly being shown by Western news media in the alleged U.S. misconduct is only now catching up with common views in Iraq. 'There is nothing new or surprising for Iraqis,' said Bazaz. 'The problem is that the outside world has been isolated from what happens on the ground in Iraq. What the media says now is only a fraction of what happens every day.'"
The coverage of "Abu Ghraib!" and Haditha in their respective news cycles provided plenty of political ammunition for those who wanted to unseat the Commander-in-Chief in 2004 and then his "war party" in 2006.
Now that the elections are over, I have a feeling that Haditha will be covered as it should...a tragedy, among many, in the war in Iraq. What I hope happens is that justice is served. If our marines are guilty, as determined by a military investigation, then punishment will follow. The three rings of the media circus in the summer 2006 was not the appropriate place to judge the events of Haditha in 2005.
Monday, December 25, 2006
(St. Paul Cathedral photo credit: Mary Gibson)
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
When I started up this blog again, I wanted to avoid criticizing the media because, well, any right-of-center consumer of news seems to have a natural inclination to do that...but the following excerpt from Peter's article jumped off the page at me:
"A huge gap remaining in the doctrine is that, except for a few careful mentions, it ignores the role of the media. Generals have told me frankly that it was just too loaded an issue - any suggestion that the media are complicit in shaping outcomes excites punitive media outrage.
To be fair, the generals are right. Had the manual described the media's irresponsible, partisan and too-often-destructive roles, it would have ignited a firestorm. Yet, in an age when media lies and partisan spin can overturn the verdict of the battlefield, embolden our enemies and decide the outcome of an entire war, pretending the media aren't active participants in a conflict cripples any efforts that we make.
The media are now combatants - even if we're not allowed to shoot back. Our enemies are explicit in describing the importance of winning through the media. Without factoring in media effects, any counterinsurgency plan will go forward at a limp."
Peters is never shy about calling a spade a spade.
Monday, December 18, 2006
An excerpt: "Army generals worry that frantic politicos want to send more troops to Iraq as a p.r. stunt, to appear to be taking decisive action. Our uniformed leadership is rightly loath to have our troops used to give anyone's approval ratings a temporary boost. They'll do what they're ordered to do and do it well. They just want the mission to have a chance of success that justifies the human and strategic cost.
Could an increase of 20,000 to 40,000 troops make a difference?
Yes - but only if they're assigned a clear, achievable mission and our government stands behind them solidly as they carry it out. Sending more troops in the vague hope that it will magically improve the situation would be a travesty."
It is quite easy to call for more troops without understanding what those troops are going to do and where they are going to come from. It has been the problem all along. Furthermore, I recall not very long ago, our forces were stepped up in Baghdad with no positive result. Peters' lays out some very clear suggestions for using increased troops. If we go that way...increasing 20,000 to 40,000 men and women being put in harm's way...I sure hope those that call for sending them have a plan.
Saturday, December 16, 2006
And what did I hear but a heartwarming version of: "Shotguns Shells on a Christmas Tree." In this supposedly blue state. Without any counterpoint from the anti-gun lobby.
I love this state.
Until this morning. It's one of those things that can't be summed up in a few words, just go take a look for yourself. Maybe it's too early to make a judgment one way or the other, but here's one example:
In this unattributed post the title promises: "Rumsfeld: Iraq Not 'War on Terror'." The post then goes on to explain how in an interview with Cal Thomas this exchange occurred:
"CT: With what you know now, what might you have done differently in Iraq?
DR: I don't think I would have called it the war on terror. I don't mean to be critical of those who have. Certainly, I have used the phrase frequently. Why do I say that? Because the word 'war' conjures up World War II more than it does the Cold War. It creates a level of expectation of victory and an ending within 30 or 60 minutes of a soap opera. It isn't going to happen that way. Furthermore, it is not a 'war on terror.' Terror is a weapon of choice for extremists who are trying to destabilize regimes and (through) a small group of clerics, impose their dark vision on all the people they can control. So 'war on terror' is a problem for me."
To this day, when writing about the conflict in which we are involved, I'll often refer to it as: "the war on terror, or whatever you want to call it."
The point of Rumsfeld's remarks was that the title: "the war on terror" is too vague. He wasn't saying that Iraq is not central to the fight, although you wouldn't know it from the post's title.
Perceiving a victory when it is perceived by all is not the highest excellence.
Winning battles such that the whole world says "excellent" is not the highest excellence.
For lifting an autumn down is not considered great strength, seeing the sun and the moon is not considered a sign of sharp vision, hearing thunder is not considered a sign of sensitive hearing.
Remember Abraham Lincoln? Tony Blankley does.
From his article at RealClearPolitics yesterday: "Lincoln was alone in the self-same rooms now occupied by George Bush. All his cabinet and all his military advisors had counseled a path Lincoln thought would lead to disaster. He was only a month in office and judged by most of Washington -- including much of his cabinet -- to be a country bumpkin who was out of his league, an accidental president. Alone, and against all advice he made the right decision -- as he would do constantly until victory."
I have read this week in a few places that support of the President Bush's handling of the war is around 20 percent. Can anyone argue that Lincoln's acceptance by the public and the "wise men" of the time was any higher?
Friday, December 15, 2006
"Can the United States win? Yes, a thousand times, of course we can win. But our military leaders have to be told by the commander in chief that what he requires from them is victory and nothing less. No more theories. Time to act."
Thursday, December 14, 2006
You may remember that Eason Jordan was the CNN news division chief. Then, in January 2005 he said in a meeting at Davos, Switzerland, that the military was deliberately targeting journalists. A blog-swarm ensued, and Jordan resigned his post.
Now, he's heading up a one-stop-shopping clearinghouse for nonpartisan information about Iraq. It's called: "IraqSlogger." Here's a quote from the linked articled at Editor and Publisher: "The name of his new venture, he says, was inspired by a Donald Rumsfeld reference to this war being a 'long, hard slog.'"
You can expect that this site will be completely fair to the U.S. Military and give a "fair and balanced" view of the conflict in Iraq.
When pigs fly.
Update: Here's the link to IraqSlogger.
A protracted battle will blunt weapons and dampen ardor.
If troops lay siege to a walled city, their strength will be exhausted.
If the army is exposed to a prolonged campaign, the nation's resources will not suffice.
When weapons are blunted, and ardor dampened, strength exhausted, and resources depleted, the neighboring rulers will take advantage of these complications.
Then even the wisest of counsels would not be able to avert the consequences that must ensue.
Therefore, I have heard of military campaigns that were clumsy but swift, but I have never seen military campaigns that were skilled but protracted.
No nation has ever benefited from protracted warfare.
Therefore, if one is not fully cognizant of the dangers inherent in doing battle, one cannot fully know the benefits of doing battle.
Those skilled in doing battle do not raise troops twice, or transport provisions three times.
Toward the very end of the chapter, this passage appears that sums it all up:
The military values victory. It does not value prolonging.
We've had troops in Iraq for going on four years. Isn't it time to git 'er done?
No more backing away from cities like Fallujah in 2004. No more allowing Muqtada al Sadr to run around free.
If we don't do it now, when is it going to be any less difficult?
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Right next to the cooking magazines that accumulate on our coffee table sits a copy of "The Art of War." If we are to be serious about winning the war on terror, I'm thinking that a study of that book at this blog might be helpful. Stay tuned...
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
CPT Trav, as he called himself in the Power Point presentation, was killed last Wednesday in an IED attack that also killed Major Megan McClung and Spc. Vincent J. Pomante III.
May all three find eternal rest in the loving arms of their creator.
The piece is longer than most written by Jed, but every sentence is compelling. Here's an excerpt:
"Anticipating the president's response to Baker-Hamilton, our adversaries are trying to herd us in their direction. Saudi King Abdullah told the Gulf Cooperation Council that the Middle East, "[Is] like a barrel full of gunpowder that could explode any moment with a single spark...Our Arab region is surrounded by dangers." He said, "Our basic issue of Palestine is still in the hands of a vicious occupying enemy that does not fear anything and in the hands of an international community that looks at the gruesome tragedy as a bystander." What rubbish. Abdullah is playing to the right audience: Baker, Hamilton and their ilk worship at the altar of the Stability God: "He who believeth in Me and does not disturb my support of terrorism and war on Israel shall never lack for oil." Of the few things George W. Bush has right, it's that "stability" in the Middle East is what brought us 9-11. If the Arab world explodes, the nations that comprise it may be blown out of feudalism and Islamofascism."
I'm still figuring out what I want to do with this blog. The news that catches my attention most closely relates to the military and the war on terror, politics, and journalism.
In June, I temporarily posted here on a mission to help head off the Haditha incident from becoming the next "Abu Ghraib!".
I want our country to win the war on terror.
So, I'm going to try and not spend a lot of time on criticizing the media or fretting about clueless politicians. There are others who do that really well.
I am going to post on winning the war.
Monday, December 11, 2006
What is also clear is that the private doubts of top officials are closer to the media's dark portrait of the war than to the "absolutely, we're winning" rhetoric of President Bush. That is especially noteworthy in light of all the criticism that administration officials have heaped on correspondents in Iraq for focusing too heavily on violence and ignoring signs of progress."
Doesn't that make you feel better? Do you get the feeling that many in the media will not be happy until their "dark portrait" is framed and hung on a museum wall?
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Here's the first 'graf: "THE IRAQ Study Group's recommendations for shifting U.S. military tactics in the war are specific, focused and aimed at incremental improvement over the next few months; they are also close to what the Pentagon and Iraqi government already were hoping to achieve. By contrast, the group's diplomatic strategy is sweeping -- and untethered to reality. The Bush administration could and should adopt some version of the military plan, though it would be right to ignore the unrealistic timetable attached to it. But to embrace the group's proposed 'New Diplomatic Offensive' would be to suppose a Middle East very different from what's on the ground."
When the WaPo publishes an editorial that seems to endorse military policies that have been developing within the Administration and further points out the unreality of this week's "realists" in regard to Middle East diplomacy, you have to wonder - what's next? The NYT recommending that Donald Rumsfeld be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom? Probably not.
This Reuters story describes what happens when a group of Saddamist sympathizers allegedly bribed an Iraqi night watch commander and recently faciliated the escape of Saddam Hussein's nephew from a prison near Mosul.
The merits of de-Ba'athification can certainly be debated, but to keep obsessing over it now does nothing to help us move forward or win the war.
In fact, if you were to read the coverage of the Iraq Study Group, you would know that there is no more important fact to be known than: "It's Bush's fault!".
I'm a little surprised a story asserting that the U.S. bugged Princess Diana's phone hasn't been spun to link it to the failings of the future presidency of G.W. Bush. (And - if that was your first thought - that "it's Bush's fault!" - you really need to read this post twice.)
Well, I remember a joint resolution of Congress from October 2002 that lists 23 "whereas" conditions for military action in Iraq.
And I remember reading reports in the newspapers in the fall of 2002 about the threat that was posed by Saddam Hussein.
I even remember, in 1991, of having a very strong desire to go to Iraq with a steam roller and run over Saddam Hussein - kind of like the scene in the movie "A Fish Called Wanda" when Ken runs over Otto at the airport. Little did I know at the time what leaving Hussein standing upright then would lead to a decade later.
We all have blood on our hands for the mess that is in Iraq right now. Claiming that "it's Bush's fault!" over and over and over again until it relieves the guilt that we all carry is no way to win a war.
In this article from Times Online, the reporter offers details of secret meetings between U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, and rebel commanders. The discussions took place early in 2006 - from January through March, and were facilitated by former Iraq prime minister Ayad Allawi. It appears that all the information from the report was supplied by members of the insurgency.
Here's a shocker: "[The insurgents] called for a “timetable for withdrawal”, saying that it should be announced immediately although in practice it would be “linked to the timescale necessary to rebuild Iraq’s armed forces and security services”, according to one commander.
Other demands said to have been received sympathetically by Khalilzad, such as an amnesty for insurgents and a reversal of the 'de-Ba’athification' process that stripped so many Sunnis of their jobs, have now been urged by the Iraq Study Group."
And what would be the reward? "'I told Khalilzad that we had the know-how and the manpower to regain control of Baghdad and rid it of the pro-Iranian militias,' one of the insurgent commanders added.
'If he would just provide us with the weapons, we would clean up the city and regain control of Baghdad in 30 days.'"
Why am I reminded of the song from West Side Story song "Gee, Officer Krupke?"
After thinking about it a day, it seems rather unseemly.
While the purpose was not to reveal who I may correspond with, there was no way to post the letters without making that fairly simple to figure out. What I wanted to do was convey the thoughts within the letters - the desire to defeat Islamic fascism, reminders of the goodness of our American soldiers, and an appeal to raise the level of debate above "it's Bush's fault."
Through the years, I've written hundreds of such letters. I hope they've given pause to the receivers.
I think what I'm going to do here is simply record my thoughts contemporaneously. It might include links to news stories or blog sites. Perhaps sometimes I'll just muse.
Saturday, December 09, 2006
You see, Ms. Carroll takes exception to her organization being questioned. She starts her statement thus:
"In recent days, a handful of people have stridently criticized The Associated Press' coverage of a terrible attack on Iraqi citizens last month in Baghdad. Some of those critics question whether the incident happened at all and declare that they don't believe our reporting.
Indeed, a small number of them have whipped themselves into an indignant lather over the AP's reporting."
I feel her pain.
Later on, she says:
"The Iraqi journalists who work for the AP are smart, dedicated and incredibly courageous to go into the streets every day, talking to their countrymen and trying to capture a portrait of their home in a historic and tumultuous period.
The work is dangerous: two people who work for AP have been killed since this war began in 2003. Many others have been hurt, some badly.
Several of AP's Iraqi journalists were victimized by Saddam Hussein's regime and bear scars of his torture or the loss of relatives killed by his goons. Those journalists have no interest in furthering the chaos that makes daily life in Iraq so perilous. They want what any of us want: To be able to live and work without fear and raise their children in peace and safety.
Questioning their integrity and work ethic is simply offensive."
Yes, yes it is only acceptable to question the integrity of others if you happen to be the venerable Associated Press.
More importantly, it's not only the AP's Iraqi journalists who are: "smart, dedicated and incredibly courageous." That sounds a lot like mostly every American soldier I've known. You just wouldn't know it from the AP.
There is no doubt journalists who put their lives on the line to report are hard-working, but they are not infallible. Even the New York Times puts out a list every day of their errors. It would be nice if the Associated Press could be open to the possibility that they, too, can sometimes be mistaken without becoming indignant about being questioned on a story.
Update: One of my daily blog-stops is Blue Crab Boulevard. Here's some additional thoughts on Kathleen Carroll and her defense of the AP story.
Later, I wanted this blog to serve as a place of respectful debate on the war on terror. I have no idea where this is going to go. As it gets restarted, I'm just going to post examples of my attempts at adding to the conversation. Comments are welcome.
If you're reading this note, you're a blogger, a bloggee, or a mainstream journalist. The bloggers and the mainstream journalists are already vocal and have a voice in the debate. If you are a bloggee, well, what are you waiting for? Get involved. Start a blog, write a letter, gently engage the guy or girl at the bus stop in a discussion. Exercise your first amendment right to free speech.
As usual, I woke up early this morning and started reading both straight news accounts and opinion on the topic du jour. Today, it is the Baker-Hamilton Report. I read your column about half-way into my allotted time, and then I read the executive summary of the report itself. I'm now past my time allotment for the morning, but I'm going to try to get some semi-coherent thoughts to you anyway. And as I'm late for work, um, once again...I'll blame the traffic ;)
When I read your column the first time, I viewed it through my the-media-hate-Bush-and-would-rather-us-lose-the-war lens. I took particular exception to your last sentence that the purpose of the report is to: "enable the United States to begin to move its combat forces out of Iraq responsibly.''
Then, I read the report itself. Funny, at least from the executive report, that's not what I gathered. What jumped out at me was the authors' belief that pursuing different policies can "give Iraq an opportunity for a better future, combat terrorism, stabilize a critical region of the world, and protect America's credibility, interests, and values."
I can live with that.
David, the other thing that struck me about the executive summary was the real appeal for reconciliation and bipartisanship here in America in regard to the debate on the war in Iraq. Wouldn't that be nice? Finally, I noticed - at least in the executive summary - a real lack of finger pointing at President Bush. You wouldn't have picked that up in the coverage of the report, though, from yesterday and today.
It is time, David, to stop the one-sided "It's Bush's fault" approach to debating the war. It's time, as you pointed out, to acknowledge the hard facts of the current situation. But it is not yet time to list our only goal as enabling our combat forces to move out of Iraq. The report lists a few other worthy goals as well.
If my son can't get it done. Hopefully, my grandson will.
It's going to take a long time.
As I was reading more about the NIE report this morning, I came across Karen DeYoung's article and noticed that you contributed to it. I cannot express how disappointed I am in the cherry-picking of facts that are detrimental to the administration and the war against radical Islamists without acknowledgement or discussion of progress that is being made or the centrality of Iraq in the war on terrorism.
As a simple mom-of-a-soldier, I am not so eloquent or precise in my language. So, I will point you to a post that I read. It is supposedly from a former intelligence employee. http://formerspook.blogspot.com/2006/09/more-of-what-you-wont-read-in-nyt.html. While I cannot verify whether or not his former employment claims are true, he does make some good points about the stories that have been written about the NIE report. I'm wondering if, as a contributor to this controversy, you have a reply.
Tom, I'm out on the East coast again this week for work and spending some time, too, with my son and his family. Early yesterday morning, my son and his wife slipped out of the house, while we slept, to go and say good-bye to another unit of New Hampshire National Guardsmen as they left for Iraq. Some of these men are on their second deployment there. There is no whining, no constant harping on President Bush and the hopelessness of the fight we are in - even from a young man who has a rather different world-view than his right-of-center mom. He understands the seriousness of the fight and that wishing will not make it go away.
It would be interesting to read a report by the usual cadre of Washington Post reporters that presents a serious presentation of the threat of radical Islam and what the root causes are - other than "It's Bush's fault." Because we know, Tom, that it was not President Bush that killed Danny Pearl, my former co-worker Bob Jeck on PanAm flight 103, or the 3000 innocents who died on 9/11/2001.
The way that I've chosen to spend whatever time I could find over the last few years is by writing to journalists, politicians, and bloggers about the war on terror. Sometimes they'd write back. Sometimes my thoughts would end up in major newspapers or on a national cable news show. Twice, my emails were waiting in the morning mail box of reporters who later that day interviewed the President of the United States.
Over the years, I've saved the emails - both sent and received. A few days ago, I noticed that my emails were disappearing from my archives. It seems that my MSN software was corrupted and when it would crash and reset, emails were being lost. I actually saw one email disappear before my eyes. I've definitely lost about the last month of emails. So, I made a backup of what I had and put it on a disk - waiting for that inevitable time when my hard drive fails.
What I plan to do with this blog now is to post some of the letters I've sent. Readers can be assured that private correspondences will not be posted (or "leaked" as they relish in the trade.)
These are letters that express the opinion of one person - a mom whose son was a military prison guard in Iraq at the time the Abu Ghraib scandal broke. That experience has shaped my view of the military, politicians, and journalists.
Friday, June 16, 2006
As much as I like reading blogs, I don't want to be a blogger. I have one mission, that is to prevent "Haditha" from becoming the next "Abu Ghraib." Of course, I know one woman in flyover land sitting at a computer cannot accomplish this alone. I'm just one grunt in the Pajamahadeen many of whom are already well out in front of the issue.
Then, I started sending links to my e-friends - one by one. I didn't ask for links, but just asked them to stop by. I felt it was a more efficient method of communicating than writing up emails one by one.
Soon after, some leaders in the blogosphere started linking here - Cam Edwards, Lorie Byrd, Lucianne Goldberg, The Anchoress, Edward Morrissey, Jim Geraghty, and Michelle Malkin. Only half of these folks even received a little note from me. In the blogosphere it's all about links.
Thanks to everybody. Thanks to all who linked - including many smaller blogs. Thanks to everyone who sent me information in the first few days of the blog when we were trying to sort out the facts of the story. Thanks to my "regular readers" and everybody who sent me an "atta girl."
The website Sweetness & Light was the epicenter of the blogosphere's pushback on the Haditha story. Nice job.
And most of all - Thanks to our troops who answer the call of the American public; who through their elected representatives, and with a declaration of support from Congress in March 2003, were sent on a military mission to Iraq. Godspeed to you all.
Except for this:
When the Abu Ghraib photos hit the press in April 2004 and then the media went wild with coverage through May (and the months following) my son was early into his service as a prison guard at Camp Bucca in Iraq. Unless you are the parent of a soldier, I don't know if you can imagine what it was like to see those photos on the front pages of the newspapers day after day.
My first response was to write up an email that shone a light on the good things that the soldiers were doing. I then took that email and I forwarded it to everybody who was on the distribution lists of folks who would send me jokes or profound thoughts they had found on the internet. Basically, I just hit "reply to all" to the emails I received and then sent my own email to my friends and their friends. This is an excellent way to reduce the number of distribution lists on which you are included.
Since then, I've written to newspapers, and television networks. I've called ombudsmen and quietly spoken with reporters. And I've written emails - lots of them.
When the Haditha story started picking up steam, I started writing my e-friends one by one and asking them to keep their reporting and commenting in context of the hundreds of thousands of troops who quietly and honorably do their jobs.
One journalist with whom I exchange cordial emails wrote back to me saying that the chips would have to fall where they may. Here is an excerpt from my note back to him:
I thought a lot about your words, especially these: "this is one (like Abu Ghraib) where the chips have to fall where they may." I don't know how to say this gently, [name], but that rings somewhat cold with me. With Abu Ghraib, "the chips" not only fell on the soldiers who are pictured in those photos from November 8, 2003 at Abu Ghraib prison, General Karpinski, and to some extent others in the chain of command. "The chips" were slung at President Bush and SecDef Rumsfeld, and ended up hitting my son and countless other prison guards who were jerked around by a chain of command that overreacted to the politics and the media hyperventilation. "Abu Ghraib!" was one twelve hour shift carried out by seven stupid soldiers in an environment that was made worse by the missteps of Gen. Geoffery Miller. In the two years since "Abu Ghraib!" came to the nation's consciousness, it has received now an incalculable number of references - magnifying it to a factor of thousands beyond the seriousness of the acts on that night.
Haditha appears to have been bad. And as you know, bad things happen in war. We have sent human beings to war, not angels. We had a choice when facing the terrorists - fight an imperfect war or do nothing. It is still my belief that it was better to fight an imperfect war than to do nothing.
My connection to Haditha is simply not wanting any other soldiers and their families to have to go through the aftermath of media hyperventilation over an incident that is isolated and not even completely investigated.
My usual method of communication was inefficient.
So, I started a blog.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Here's a story from our local paper that details how my son interacted with the Iraqi people.
From the article:
"During his time in Camp Bucca, Johnson learned the Iraqi language by getting to know the interpreters, who acted as liaisons.
Although he learned the language without the knowledge of leadership, Johnson felt that it would help the mission and make communicating with detainees easier.
By learning the language, he was able to carry on conversations with the Iraqi police regarding weapon caches and area security without having an interpreter.
It also helped him develop working rapport with the people, said Johnson."
Not all military prison guards in Iraq abuse the detainees and not all (if any) Marines are ready to shoot women and babies. Most Americans know that. That the American press continue to obsess over Abu Ghraib simply serves to diminish their reputation with the public they hope to serve. Maybe the media's hasty retreat on the Haditha story signals that they are finally wising up. As to the newspaper industry's declining relevancy and profitability, it's not a minute too soon.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
This blog will end when the number of references to "Haditha" in a Google News search drops to below 200 for the previous day.
Call me a cock-eyed optimist, but I think that is going to happen very soon.
In the meantime, I'm going to blog my little heart out.
If you have eighteen minutes to spare, listen to Steven as he spoke with the folks at the Northern Alliance Radio Network just a few days before he left for Iraq. He was murdered two months later in Basrah on August 2, 2005.
Good for her.
The article is long, but here's how it starts out:
BAGHDAD — As the 1st Marine Division moved across the desert into Iraq on March 19, 2003, each of the 25,000 leathernecks got a letter from their commander.
Although Maj. Gen. James Mattis was known as a tough, blunt warrior — he'd later say at a panel dicussion in San Diego that "it's fun to shoot some people" — he told his troops to treat civilian non-combatants with "chivalry and soldierly compassion." "Engage your brain," he instructed, "before you engage your weapon."
If only it were that easy.
Three years later, the Marines face an allegation that, if proved, would constitute one of the worst scandals in their history: that members of a squad killed as many as two dozen civilians last year in the city of Haditha in retaliation for a roadside bombing that killed one Marine. The military is still investigating the Haditha case, as well as the possibility of a cover-up. There are two contrasting, if not contradictory, versions of what happened Nov. 19 in the city on the Euphrates River in rebellious Anbar province.
For proper context, you have to read the whole thing.
And it gets major points on one's hotel loyalty membership account.
Skimming through the headlines, it looks like as many stories are directed at pushing back on the story as are about the story itself. This Washington Times editorial: "Time's massacre" is just one example. Here's an excerpt:
"With Marines being accused of war crimes, the blogosphere is doing what it does best: scrutinizing the reporting. In this case, the site Sweetness & Light has been on Time magazine's case for what appears to be justifiable concerns over its reporting of the Nov. 19 Haditha incident, in which Marines are under investigation for killing two dozen innocent Iraqis."
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
The Marines need you. I don't know how to put this act into words. Go look for yourself.
Remember that it's said the pen is mightier than the sword. I think that goes for keyboards, too.
If you'd like to contact the Arizona Republic, you may use this form.
But now I have my own blog.
For a few days yet.
From my favorite article of the day:
Zarqawi's Death Goes Beyond Spinning, By David Warren
"Like Osama bin Laden, and other Islamist leaders, Zarqawi cultivated the mystique of a djinn, with superhuman abilities to avoid capture. As Osama, his secret was to take many precautions and few risks. Others were sent to die, while Zarqawi hid out. That was his limitation as a military leader: he was seldom in a position to communicate prompt orders. But it was his strength as a propaganda leader, commanding forces dependent on momentum and morale.
So much of the credit for his murderous successes, and those of other terrorists like him, must be given to the mainstream media -- both East and West. Journalists assiduously advance the terrorist cause, by reporting almost exclusively on allied setbacks and mistakes, and by their ceaseless improvisation of destructive criticism against "Bush" and other Western leaders and allies. Heroic, and largely successful reconstruction efforts in Iraq have been ignored; instead we have an endless spool of meticulously-reported terror hits. The Western media attention to, and celebration of, such unstable characters as Cindy Sheehan and Michael Berg, make their alliances obvious. The New York Times has been the bellwether for this. Almost every news item touching Iraq is spun to maximize its demoralizing effect on the allied war effort. And across America itself, editors look to the Times nightly front-page line-up for clues on how to slant their own coverage."
This blog will be discontinued when the number of references in a daily Google News search drops to below 200. The number for Monday, June 12 is 270.
Hopefully, we'll be done here in a few days.
Monday, June 12, 2006
"Note: This story originally appeared with a picture of slain Iraqis whose caption erroneously described the scene as being related to the alleged incidents in al-Haditha. The image was in fact from a separate incident in the area in which Iraqi insurgents are believed to have massacred local fishermen. We apologise for the mistake."
The Chicago Sun-Times then used the same photo as a basis for a cartoon. Here's an excerpt from their apology:
"A cartoon by Jack Higgins in Tuesday's Chicago Sun-Times incorporated inaccurate imagery to make a statement about the allegations that U.S. Marines killed Iraqi civilians in Haditha. Jack Higgins and the Sun-Times deeply regret the mistake and apologize to the U.S. servicemen, especially those in the Marine Corps, and to our readers who were understandably offended by the cartoon."
Well, Al Jazeera's article on Haditha today shows that same photo.
I suppose we won't be seeing an apology soon.
UPDATE: Al Jazeera pulled the article from the link above. It is replaced with this version. However Michelle Malkin captured an image of the original article.
Many bloggers have been putting countless hours over the last few days in trying to poke holes in the reporting of the Haditha incident. Some think the whole thing is a hoax. Personally, I don't think so. I also don't think it was a result of uncontrolled Marines gone wild in a rage over the loss of Lance Cpl. Terrazas. I think the truth is somewhere in between. In any event, the military is completing a thorough investigation and if it is found that Marines acted improperly, military justice will be served.
In the meantime, it appears the story is losing steam in the media rather than gaining it as "Abu Ghraib" did through May of 2004.
Sunday, June 11, 2006
"Salon: Between the capture of Zarqawi and the formation of an Iraqi government, Bush might be able to make an argument that 2006 has become a "period of transition" in Iraq.
Reid: I don't think he has any argument until we have a plan for bringing the troops home.
We're spending $2.5 billion a week; we have 2,500 dead Americans; we have 20,000 wounded; wherever you watched TV this week, you saw the terrible injuries we've got coming in from Iraq. We've got Haditha, we've got Abu Ghraib, and we've got Guantánamo. So I don't think the stage is subject to having cheerleaders out for him."
Umm, Harry, your party played Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo for all it was worth. Haditha? Not this time.
In the past two years, I've written back and forth with many reporters and columnists. I will never forget holding my breath as I linked to a headline on Drudge that announced an American reporter was killed in Basra[h]. Or watching a reporter who had become an online friend having to appear on TV to fight back the skepticism that arose after reporter Jill Carroll was released in Iraq. Or not being able to control my tears at church while thinking of an Iraqi journalist and singing an African spiritual song "O Healing River" with the following lyrics:
O healing river,
send down your waters,
And wash the blood
from off the sand.
The reporters have a tough job. They possess the same human frailties as we all do...and as the troops do.
Now, can't we all just get along?
This page was originally created in 2006 when I was in the middle of a campaign with other bloggers to fight back a story of an alleged massacre by U.S. marines in Haditha, Iraq. We were determined not to let the media and Rep. John Murtha turn this story into a lingering narrative of abuse by the U.S. military.
Somehow, it ended up being the number one site on Google when you type in words to the effect of "think before you say something stupid."
Stop a while at my home page, won't you? Please.
This post was originally written at 8:37 p.m. on June 9, 2006 with the following text:
As the Pajamahadeen find more and more holes in the reporting of the Haditha incident, may we say just one thing to the Mainstream Media?
It begins: "A sergeant who led a squad of Marines during the incident in Haditha, Iraq, that left as many as 24 civilians dead said his unit did not intentionally target any civilians, followed military rules of engagement and never tried to cover up the shootings, his attorney said.
Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich, 26, told his attorney that several civilians were killed Nov. 19 when his squad went after insurgents who were firing at them from inside a house. The Marine said there was no vengeful massacre, but he described a house-to-house hunt that went tragically awry in the middle of a chaotic battlefield."
SSgt Wuterich details the death of Lnc Cpl Terrazas, the killing of the young men in the taxi, the chaos surrounding the Marines entering the first two homes where men, women and children were killed, and then the killing of four men in the third house where one man was earlier reported to have had a gun. These details mesh with the stories that were reported in the Washington Post and New York Times and were based on interviews with Haditha residents.
This story has had a few runs at gaining momentum. It was first reported on November 20, 2005 by Reuters. Then, Time picked up the story in their March 19, edition. Representative John Murtha accused U.S. Marines of killing Iraqi civilians "in cold blood" and on May 17, this story started getting legs. It wasn't until May 25, on the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend that more than 200 references to "Haditha" appear in a Google News search. The feeding frenzy peaked on Friday, June 2, with 2,210 stories coming back with "Haditha" in them.
Over the last week, there have been countless opinions in the media with handwringing on both sides of the political spectrum about the potential damage to the Administration and the war effort over the fallout from this story. Some of the hand wringing was done with hidden glee - as you might see in a poorly acted movie and the villian is about to strike his prey. Some of the hand wringing was not really over concern for the Iraqi people or the troops, but for some politician's own career. Then there's the media, who seem to wring their hands over every little thing. (The last link is to a story that was the lead story on CBS News the night that Sandy Berger was discovered to have stuffed classified documents into his pants and socks during a visit to the National Archives. CBS' news director must have thought the other story was more important.)
I have a feeling that this Haditha story will hang on for a few days and then fall off dramatically. When the military investigation is completed, it will be quietly reported and then mostly forgotten in America except for by the families of the Marines who suffered because of the hysteria of this press coverage.
Saturday, June 10, 2006
Here's a story linked from a CNN Breaking News page with the headline "E-mail alleges Bush glad to dodge Katrina blame."
The news as breathlessly reported:
The September 2005 e-mail reads: "I did hear of one reference to you, at the Cabinet meeting yesterday. I wasn't there, but I heard someone commented that the press was sure beating up on Mike Brown, to which the president replied, 'I'd rather they beat up on him than me or Chertoff.' "
The sender adds, "Congratulations on doing a great job of diverting hostile fire away from the leader."
CNN has been unable to verify the authenticity of the e-mail, but the White House designation "eop.gov" is part of the sender's e-mail address, indicating it came from the Executive Office of the President.
Oh, and take a guess how many references there are to "Haditha" in a Google News search around noon EDT today?
The MSM may have indeed lost interest. No My Lai. No Abu Ghraib.
The difference comes down to the second house where an unnamed one year old baby in the WaPo story is replaced with an adult woman named Huda in the NYT story. This is not an insignificant detail.
Surely, if the American public is paying the Washington Post and the New York Times to report on the events of the world, they should be held accountable for getting their facts straight.
And if they don't know the facts, then maybe they shouldn't print them as such.
BTW - The U.S. military deemed there to be sufficient evidence to investigate this incident. We do not know what happened. The Washington Post does not know what happened. The New York Times does not know what happened. John Murtha does not know what happened. Lots of people have been sending me links; I'm very grateful. I'm reviewing them and then linking to them after I've had a time to distill what I've read. We have to keep in mind that it's possible that some of these links may take us on a wild goose chase, too.
The U.S. military will likely investigate this at least as well as a bunch of bloggers in pajamas. If there were crimes committed, military justice will be delivered.
One thing to keep in mind is that the news reports we are reading now are based on witness accounts gathered in late May, six months after the incident occurred. There are naturally going to be inconsistencies. If you've ever been the source for a newspaper story or have been closely tied to a story, you know what I mean - ages of persons mentioned in the story are slightly off, an address is incorrectly stated, etc...
A young girl, traumatized by war, is not going to be able to recall precisely the events of six months prior. Can we criticize the media for relying on the unchecked testimony of such a victim? Yes. Should we be calling the little girl a liar? No. The distinction needs to be made clear.
For instance, as Dan at Riehl World View pointed out on June 8:
From the AP today: "At about the same time, a man who stepped out of his nearby house to see what was happening at Ayed Ahmed's home was shot and wounded, according to al-Hadithi. Aws Fahmi, 43, was left to bleed on the street for about two hours before a female neighbor dragged him to safety, al-Hadithi told the AP. Fahmi's family was not able to take him to a hospital until two days later, al-Hadithi said."
Someone must have forgotten that Aws Fahmi was quoted ten times in this WaPo piece from May 27, as a witness. Not once did he claim to be involved, let alone shot. Are we to believe he forgot? Or that the WaPo wouldn't tell the story of a man shot and left to die in the street by our Marines?
"Aws Fahmi, a Haditha resident who said he watched and listened from his home as Marines went from house to house killing members of three families ... After the killings, Fahmi said, more Americans arrived at the scene. They shouted among themselves. The Marines cordoned off the block; then, and for at least the next day, Marines filed into the houses, looked around and came out."
I'm going to put up a section on the side bar that quickly summarizes the collection of dots.
Friday, June 09, 2006
Riehl World View (HT Papa Ray)
IAVA - Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
Both offer calm perspectives that are backed up by great research.
I am happy to get all the information that is coming in and to help in sorting through the details.
Please be patient with the lack of hat tips and links for now. I will post acknowledgements and links as soon as possible.
I would imagine that we all want to be the next Buckhead. Maybe it will happen, maybe it won't.
Let's take the time to make sure we get this right. If the story of Haditha has been horribly misreported, the truth will come out in good time.
The article starts: "Evidence accumulates of a hoax in Haditha. The weblog Sweetness & Light has done an estimable service gathering together the articles which cast substantial doubt on the charge of a massacre of civilians at Haditha . Because the blog is too busy gathering and fisking the news, I offered and the publisher accepted my offer to put what he has uncovered in a narrative form.
Having done so, I can tell you that the story has a whiff of yet another mediagenic scandal like the TANG memos or the Plame “outing.” While the Marines quite correctly will not comment on the case pending the outcome of their investigation, I am not bound by those rules, and I will sum up the story for you."
Based on interviews that are the basis for these New York Times and Washington Post articles, we can be pretty sure that up to 24 Iraqi's were killed on November 19, 2005. We are not certain who did the killing, but it is alleged that it was U.S. Marines. A military investigation is underway.
There was evidence enough for the military to check it out. Let us hope that the investigation will show the evidence points not to the U.S. Marines who are accused of this terrible crime but to the terrorists who populated this tragic city.
Lisa will be giving an opinion somewhat different than that of Michael Berg whom we've been seeing again since the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Please tune in to watch Lisa. And please remember both Lisa and Michael in your thoughts and prayers. They have both suffered loss in the Global War on Terror.
A place to find a great balance of writing from throughout the political spectrum is Real Clear Politics. This article, written by Jonathan Gurwitz, has some points to ponder:
"Something very bad happened in Haditha. And it is very possible that some or all of the allegations against the Marines regarding those 24 deaths will be borne out by impartial investigation.
But ask yourself if you have ever seen a leading news story, let alone a series of news stories, about the genocide in Sudan.
Ask yourself how the Islamic world can be so enraged about 24 deaths in Haditha and the indignities of Abu Ghraib, while there is no outcry about the death of 400,000 Muslims and the atrocities in Darfur.
Ask yourself why Lynndie England is the most recognizable name from the war in Iraq, while you may never have even heard the name of Paul Ray Smith."
As they say, go read it all.
Some results from the poll:
Some 76 percent of those questioned said they were following reports about allegations that U.S. troops killed unarmed Iraqi civilians. (Ed. note: not all the civilians were unarmed.)
Regardless of whether the allegations turn out to be true, 63 percent of those surveyed said they thought the killings of civilians were isolated incidents.
The former number seems a little high and the latter seems a little low to me.
In any case, when I read polls, I always keep this one in mind. It's a Gallup Poll with the following question:
In general, how much trust and confidence do you have in the mass media -- such as newspapers, T.V. and radio -- when it comes to reporting the news fully, accurately, and fairly -- a great deal, a fair amount, not very much, or none at all?
A great deal: 13%
Thursday, June 08, 2006
Charles includes these comments: "This article published on the ABC (Australia) News Online website, http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200511/s1510903.htm , attributed to Reuters and published contemporaneously with the alleged Haditha massacre, states the following:
'A cameraman working for Reuters in Haditha says bodies had been left lying in the street for hours after the attack. '
Any footage filmed by this cameraman may provide exculpatory evidence for the Marines accused in the civilian deaths. Particularly if one of the victims filmed outside was later found inside a house. "
As they say in sports - let's go to the tape.
If Reuters has tape of the incident, it will be surely be made available for the military investigation. Right?
UPDATE: In the comments section - "The credit for finding the article actully goes to poster "SBD1" at the Free Republic web site in this thread http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1645392/posts where you can find additional discussion."
Today, McQ wrote a post entitled "Keeping Haditha in Perspective." In it, McQ links to Michael Yon's blog entry called "Hijacking Haditha."
Here's what McQ says of Yon's blog post: "Read it. Remember it as the feeding frenzy concerning Haditha builds politically and in the press. Remember that no one is condoning murder if that's in fact what happened. Nor is anyone saying that punishment isn't appropriate if indeed that is what is proven in a court martial."
Let's hope that we can head that feeding frenzy off at the pass.
That said, I am extremely grateful to some veterans of the blogosphere who have linked to this site:
UPDATE The Anchoress
UPDATE Captain's Quarters
UPDATE Michelle Malkin
God bless you and all the other soldiers in this Global War on Terror.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
For instance, in regard to the arrest of 17 suspected terrorists in Canada, we can find the following number of references in a Google News search of "Canada 17 arrested."
Today (June 7, 2006) - 341 (Day 5)
June 6, 2006 - 645 (Day 4)
June 5, 2006 - 809 (Day 3)
June 4, 2006 - 512 (Day 2)
June 3, 2006 - 397 (Day 1)
June 2, 2006 - 5 (this was the day before the news of the arrests broke)
See what happened? By day five of this news story, the mainstream media is already bored.
I was counting on that same restlessness to bring down the references to "Haditha." Unfortunately, this AP story just was picked up by 73 news sources on Google, bringing today's count to 719 for the day. That's up from 584 from yesterday. Drat!
Hey MSM, I know where you can find a picture of Brangelina!
The following gives details of the Iraqis who are reported to have died in Haditha on November 19, 2005. When finished reading this, remember that children did indeed die tragically. War is Hell...for our troops and for the Iraqi people.
In reading news accounts of the Haditha incident, a few points are found over and over. These are the abbreviated talking points:
- U.S. Marines killed (or massacred)
- 24 Iraqi citizens (often including the words "innocent" or "unarmed", sometimes only mentioning women and children)
- in their homes
Really? According to this Washington Post article that gives details gathered from witness accounts to a Washington Post special correspondent and U.S. investigators:
- Abdul Hamid Hassan Ali, 76, and his wife - Khamisa Tuma Ali, 66, three middle-age males, and a child - Abdullah, 4, all died in the first house. The report alludes to an additional daughter-in-law that would have been in the house and did not survive. (Six or seven deaths)
- Younis Salim Khafif, 43, his wife - Aeda Yasin Ahmed, 41, a boy, 8 and girls aged 14, 10, 5, 3, and 1 were killed in the second home. (Eight deaths)
- Four brothers, Marwan, Qahtan, Chasib and Jamal Ahmed were killed in a third house. Marine officials said that one of the brothers had a gun. (Four deaths)
- The final deaths were of four male college students -- Khalid Ayada al-Zawi, Wajdi Ayada al-Zawi, Mohammed Battal Mahmoud and Akram Hamid Flayeh, and their taxi driver, Ahmed Khidher, who were all killed inside the taxi. (Five deaths)
Eighteen or nineteen deaths occurred in three homes. Five deaths happened in the taxi. Seven of the deaths were of children, two or possibly three were of women, fourteen were of men. One man is reported to have had a gun.
Now, in the New York Times' detailed account (already reserved as TimesSelect or available for purchase):
- Abdul Hamid Hassan Ali, aged 77 and his wife - Khumaysa Tuma Ali, 66, Rashid Abdul Hamid and his wife, Asma, two adult males - Jahid Abdul Hamid Hassan and Walid Hamid Hassan and 4 year old Abdullah Walid all died in one home. (Seven deaths)
- Younis Salim Nisaif and his wife, Aida, and Aida's sister, Huda, and five children, 3 to 14 years old were also killed in the second home. (Eight deaths)
- Four brothers between the ages of 20 and 38 were killed in the third home.
- Five men - four students and a taxi driver between the ages of 18 and 25 died in a taxi.
Six children were killed. Four women were killed. Fourteen men were killed. Nineteen were killed in homes. Five were killed in the taxi.
What seems to be known from the above reports is:
- Up to 24 Iraqi men, women and children were killed in an incident in Haditha. Fourteen of these were adult men.
- One man is reported to have had a gun.
- The killings occurred in three homes and a taxi.
- U.S. Marines allegedly carried out the killings.
- The military has not yet completed its investigation into the incident.
Journalists are paid to get the facts right. If you catch an error in a news report, point it out. Otherwise, details will expand (or contract) to fit the agenda as what happened here.