Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all who come this way.

To any soldiers and military families who stop by to get an update on the 2-16...this is one time where we truly can say that "no news is good news." There have been no news reports of deaths in the 2-16 since September. Continue to pray for Duncan Crookston and Joseph Mixson. The men of the 2-16 are critical to the success of "the surge" and even if they cannot see it where they are, they are providing for a peaceful future for Iraq and for us.

As for me, I just finished up the green Jell-o salad that is our family tradition, I'll be wrapping little weinies next and then some presents. This has been a most blessed year for our family and I almost dare not whisper it because it seems like it all might be taken away.

May 2008 bring us peace in the Middle East, in America, and throughout the world.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Ultimate Sacrifice

In August of 2005, journalist Steven Vincent was killed in Basrah three days after he had a story published in the New York Times about the worsening situation in that Southern Iraq city. His translator, Nour Khal was shot but survived.

Today, in the Los Angeles Times, there is a vivid story of Nour's journey to America and her relationship with Steven's widow, Lisa Ramaci.

Read the story and be grateful for men and women who put their lives at risk to bring you the news of the world.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Returning Heroes Home

Yesterday, I ran across a story in the New York Post that was written by Ralph Peters and has information about the Center for the Intrepid at Brooke Army Medical Center. This center at Ft. Sam Houston near San Antonio is where soldiers and marines with amputations and other very serious injuries are treated. It is where Pfc's Duncan Crookston and Joseph Mixson of the 2-16 will face months of surgery and recovery.

Mr. Peters is writing a week-long series of articles to raise awareness (and money) for The Warrior and Family Support Center there. This support center is a privately funded refuge for wounded soldiers and their families where they can get reacquainted or where the soldiers can just get out of their rooms and relax with other soldiers.

Click the link to read Monday's story from Mr. Peters that covers an inspiring account of Pfc Adrian Garcia. Here is today's story about Army Staff Sgt. William Corp's work out with a boogie-board on the wave-rider in the rehab center.

Finally, you can donate to the Warrior and Family Support Center project via credit card by phone at 1-888- 343-HERO or at

To give by mail, send your donations to:
Returning Heroes Home
P.O. Box 202194
Dallas, TX 75320-2194

Checks should be made out to Returning Heroes Home, Inc. This is a nonprofit 501c3 endeavor; all donations are tax-deductible.

In this time of preparation for Christmas, take a few moments for thoughts of gratitude for our soldiers and prayers for the recovery of Crookston, Mixson, and all the soldiers and marines at Brooke Army Medical Center.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Pfc Duncan Crookston

I know there are a lot of people who are very concerned about Duncan Crookston who was severly injured in Iraq. This morning, I found a page on a military forum that includes updates from his mother-in-law. The latest update was in November, but things looked encouraging at the time.

A trust fund has been set up. You can donate by stopping at any Chase Bank and directing your donation to: Duncan Crookston Trust, Chase Bank, Acct. # 1635716796, Routing #102001017. Also, you can make a check payable to Duncan Crookston Trust. Mail it to: Meaghun Crookston c/o Powless Guest House, 3298 George C. Beach Rd, Ft. Sam Houston, TX 78234.

May God bless Duncan and this entire family, and may angels guide all the caregivers as Duncan struggles to heal.

Update: If you are reading this post, you probably sadly know that Duncan passed away on January 25. For information about his funeral, go to this post.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Scott Thomas Beauchamp

A story that I've been following since this summer was that of a 24 year old soldier who was able to publish a series of reports from the theatre in Iraq. The series was presented in The New Republic magazine.

The author is Scott Thomas Beauchamp and the last entry contained three examples of how war had dehumanized him and his buddies. He wrote about:
  • Soldiers mocking a woman (either a fellow soldier or a contractor - the author wasn't sure) who had been disfigured by an IED
  • A soldier wearing the skull bone of a child as a yarmulke underneath his helmet
  • A Bradley Fighting Vehicle driver who intentionally ran over dogs with his equipment

Some in the conservative side of the blogosphere started poking holes in the story and after four and a half months, the editor of the magazine, Franklin Foer, said at the end of a fourteen page post that the magazine could no longer stand by the author's stories.

What I find quite amazing in this all is the support that people have for the American soldier in general. Attached to Foer's retraction, which takes thirteen pages to justify his magazine's shoddy reporting and fact-checking and to blame the Army for stonewalling, there are 419 comments. While I did not read every comment, of those I saw not one was supportive of the magazine. It is clear that readers took this series as a swipe at American soldiers in general and were not happy that the magazine sensationalized events in order to make the soldiers look bad.

Here are a few tips to the media:

Iraq is not Vietnam.

Our soldiers are not known for having "personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Ghengis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun."

Iraq will not be remembered as a Fiasco.

The American people love their soldiers and do not take kindly to their being slandered.

And one last thing: grow up!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Pfc's Duncan Crookston and Joseph Mixson

On this Veterans Day, there are two soldiers who can especially use our quiet prayers. They are Duncan Crookston and Joseph Mixson. These soldiers were gravely wounded on September 4 in an EFP attack that also claimed three lives of soldiers in the 2-16.
The photo on the left is of Duncan Crookston who according to this story in Stars and Stripes: "was badly burned and sustained significant injuries. Both of his legs were amputated, along with his right arm and left hand, and 75 percent of his body was left severely burned." God bless you and your family, Pfc Crookston. May angels surround you and give you strength.

In the photo on the right, Joseph Mixson (on the left) is pictured with Spc. David Lane and Pfc. Kurtiss Baumgartner having a laugh before going on patrol in east Baghdad. Spc. Lane was killed in the attack of September 4. Pfc Mixson lost both legs at the knees. God bless you and your family, Pfc Mixson. May you receive excellent care at the hands of skillful surgeons.

A grateful nation pauses today and gives thanks for your service.

According to the Stars and Stripes article, "all of the men were with the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, based in Fort Riley, Kan.

The brigade did not exist before the U.S. troop 'surge,' and was, in fact, created specifically out of the order to push 30,000 more troops into Iraq earlier this year."

The "surge" is working, by all accounts. These men have sacrificed so much in contribution to the mission. May their brothers in arms who are still in Iraq now proceed to victory.

Happy Veterans Day!

To all the heroes who have served
our country here and "over there"


A letter to Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post

I have been on the road lately, and very much unable to devote any time to this blog. The GOOD NEWS is that I haven't received any news search results for the 2-16. No news is definitely good news. On Friday, I read a column of Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post. The column's gist was to explain how President Bush has pushed reasonable people beyond reason with rage. I rarely write to columnists anymore, but did take a few minutes to send this one off:

Dear Mr. Robinson, I just finished reading your column: "Rage of Reason". Thank you very much for providing an example of the syndrome with which you open your article - Bush Derangement Syndrome. I do have a few quibbles, though.

Foremost is that the Iraq war is " Bush's War." You may forget that in October 2002, both houses of Congress passed resolutions to authorize military force in Iraq. I'm sure you're much more aware that there have been hundreds of thousands of coalition forces who have cycled in and out of Iraq to carry out the mission. Additionally, there was a Gallup Poll in January 2002 when 77% of the population was "willing to see U.S. military operations expanded to other countries -- to include Iraq, Iran, Somalia and the Philippines". So, even if you personally have never been a supporter of this war, as a country, we are all in this together.

I do find it amazing how quickly you've come to blame President Bush for the tear-gassing of lawyers and students in Pakistan. You certainly give that man a lot of credit for being all-powerful, of course only in a malevolent sense. Hey, Eugene, I stubbed my toe yesterday, and I'm sure "it's Bush's fault."

Yes, this will all be over in fourteen and a half months. Thank, God. President Bush will be off the scene and there will be some other poor soul who must swat at the angry Chihuahuas of the press who are nipping at his or her ankles while issues of terrorism, the economy, national infrastructure, and a host of others must be carefully weighed and decided.

Oh, one more thing. I just went to the Gallup Poll to see the American public's opinion toward the media. Guess what? In response to the 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? " 52% of Gallup Poll respondents replied "Not very much" or "None at all". Hmmm, that sounds worse than President Bush's disapproval rating of 50%.

God bless you anyway.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week

Did you know that this week is Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week? Have you seen the video that shows in graphic detail the horrors women face under shari'a law?

Do you know about the honor killings of victims of sexual abuse?

Have you seen the remains of a beheaded seven-year-old girl?

Did you know that in imitation of Islam's founder, grown men in Iran may marry nine-year-old girls?

Have you ever seen photos of female circumcision?

Or a woman being stoned to death?

Oh, you hadn't heard about these things? That's probably because the mainstream media were feeding you a steady stream of the horrors that Ellen DeGeneres has been experiencing recently.

Or maybe you agree with the BBC that violence against women in South Asian and Middle Eastern countries is not tied to any religion.

Don't look away. Watch the video.

A Horrific Day for Army Battalion 2-16

In looking for individual stories about the three members of the 2-16 that were killed in late September, I came across a story in Stars and Stripes that gives a detailed description of the day when three soldiers died and two suffered double leg amputations, other amputations and severe burns.

Here is the lede, but take the time to read it all:

"At around 10:30 a.m. on a Tuesday morning, five men in a Humvee led a five-truck patrol through the traffic of Route Predator, known as one of the deadliest roads in the New Baghdad district of Iraq’s capital.

In the vehicle were Sgt. Joel Murray, 26, the truck commander, riding in the front passenger seat; Spc. David Lane, 20, the driver; Pvt. Randy Shelton, 22, the turret gunner; and in the back, Pfcs. Joseph Mixson, 22, and Duncan Crookston, 20.

The patrol was on its way to a gas station, where the men of Company C’s 2nd Platoon were taking an engineer to do some assessment work of concrete barriers protecting the location.
As the soldiers neared the station at about 10:45, an explosion went off, said Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Smith, 31, who was the acting platoon leader that morning and riding in the fourth vehicle of the convoy.

Three of the men — Murray, Lane and Shelton — were killed when an explosively formed penetrator, a weapon favored by Shiite militias, ripped through their Humvee.

Two others in the truck suffered multiple amputations and severe burns, altering their lives forever."

May Murray, Lane and Shelton rest in peace and may God grant strength to their families and friends. May Joseph Mixson and Duncan Crookston receive skillful care in their recoveries and their suffering be alleviated to the extent possible.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Do you remember when Nancy Pelosi wanted to legislate a date for withdrawal of troops from Iraq? And failing that, she wanted to legislate how long troops had to spend at home between deployments, remember?

Now, it seems she wants to end the war by cutting off the military's supply lines through Turkey.

Well, it seems that Nancy may even have a little trouble with her own on this one. John Murtha - yes, JOHN MURTHA - is urging the speaker not to bring the resolution to the floor.

Monday, October 15, 2007

"If your son is so smart, why is he in the Army?"

This, friends, is the verbatim question that was stated to me in the sacristy yesterday before Mass.

Now, the woman who said it was simply thinking out loud what she wanted to say to her sister. It was in the context of her telling me about her trip to Washington DC last week and in which we discovered that we happened to be at Arlington cemetary at the same time last Sunday. I immediately and gently said: "I have a son in the Army."

One would think that something like that would give the speaker some pause - perhaps: "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to offend." In times like these, I suppose, there is no room for middle ground. So, she continued without missing a beat complaining about how much is spent on the war and how little is spent on education. I wish I would have had statistics ready about the percentage of budget spent on national defense as opposed to education. Or would have thought to say that it is not the constitutional duty of the national government to educate, but it is to provide for the national defense.

Maybe I should have explained that my (now part-time) soldier son is working on his Masters degree in Computer Science or that he is programming computers in a vault in order to keep her CNN satellite feed running smoothly.

But, no. I just listened. And then warmly shook her hand and wished her peace at the sign of peace.

God bless her and her nephew.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Until they're all home

I was thinking the other night how my tracking of the news of the soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division out of Fort Riley, Kansas has come to be a metaphor for the war in general. I started out with good intentions of posting good news about the battalion. Instead, almost all I have seen are stories of the deaths of its soldiers. There have been no human interest stories, that I've found, about heroic acts or surprise home leaves. Additionally, in my becoming more busy at work - and more distracted - I sadly admit that I have not even kept up with posting the death notices. Like the nation, it seems I've just been too busy to think much about and honor these men who've given the ultimate sacrifice. I truly regret that.

So, with the sadness that this nation feels over the deaths of someone else's sons, I bring you the news of the following loss:

Sgt. 1st Class James D. Doster, 37, died in Baghdad, Iraq Sept. 29 when insurgents attacked his unit using an Improvised Explosive Devise and small arms fire.

Doster was an infantryman assigned to 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. His home of record is Pine Bluff, Ark.

He entered the Army in May 1990 and began serving with the 1st Inf. Div. in February 2006. This was his first deployment in support of the Global War on Terrorism.

May SGT Doster rest in peace in the loving arms of his Creator, and may God grant strength to his family and friends.

I will continue posting on the battalion until they they're all home. I pray it will be one heck of a party.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

It's going to be all right

I haven't been posting much lately. While I admire the folks that can write succinct opinions on current events or will sometimes debunk liberal "conventional wisdom" that is printed as news, I haven't found this mode of communication to be satisfying for me. I much prefer to listen than to talk.

In February, I started monitoring news of the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division out of Fort Riley, KS. I was hoping to post good news about their progress and successes. Sadly, my Google News search has brought mostly tragic news of soldiers' deaths. This week, three more soldiers were killed. The families of Sgt. Joel Lee Murray, 26, Ogden, KS Spc. David J. Lane, 20, Emporia, KS; and Pvt. Randol S. Shelton, 22, Schiller Park, IL are in mourning.

Early this morning, I received a news alert on the battalion's commander Ralph Kauzlarich. It is unexpectedly optimistic and is written by the Sunday Times. Here's just one section:

"The 2nd Battalion soldiers who moved in were the first to base themselves in the area since 2003, the year of the invasion. They set themselves up in Base Rustamiyah, an old Iraqi army school, and implanted small companies of men in the worst neighbourhoods.

By June they were engulfed in all-out war. Mortars and rockets pounded the base and its small outposts relentlessly. Soldiers were killed and wounded by snipers and roadside bombs.

'It was more war than I ever want to see again,' said Major Brent Cummings, the second-in-command. Then the rain of mortars relented and during the past two weeks the roadside bombs, their enemy's most potent weapon, have almost disappeared."

I have been watching the attacks this week on General Petraeus. I've also watched the sometimes hyper rhetoric that is being thrown back by the right. Through it all, Petraeus just keeps stating the facts as he sees them. The American public is likely not impressed by either side - the right or the left. They trust, and I might say - almost adore - the military.

When insinuates that General Petraeus is betraying the United States, it drives people away from them and the Democratic Party. The folks on the right might benefit from simply being quiet and letting the light shine upon the true nature of those who would find political gain in America's defeat in Iraq.

There is indeed a shift in the events in Iraq. You can hear it from Bill Ardolino, Michael Yon, and Michael Totten. Americans will hear it from soldiers and marines as they slowly start coming home.

In the meantime, babies will be born, entrepenuers will start new businesses, and college graduates will embark on new careers - in America and Iraq. Life always springs anew even after horrific wars. We mourn the dead, we lick our wounds, we carry on.

It's going to be all right.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The "tired" Republican Congress members

Deb at "You Betcha I'm a Proud Army Mom" (aka Yankee Mom) reacts to an AP story on the effort by GOP senators to influence war strategy that includes the following sentence: "But many Republicans, most of whom will face voters next year, say they are tired of the war, which is in its fifth year and has killed more than 3,600 troops."

The title of Deb's post, appropriately enough, is "WTF!!!" Her response is:

"They’re tired of the war??? TIRED???!!!

Tell that to the 20 year old packing 80 lbs of gear in 130 degree heat, walking miles patrolling the streets to keep them safe from the murderous, head sawing off while still alive, blow ‘em up, hate America, wastes of oxygen infesting the Middle East."

Deb continues with more illustrations.

Unfortunately, one of my senators - Norm Coleman - seems to be one of the Republicans who is most tired of the war. Here is the letter I wrote to him on Friday:

"Dear Senator Coleman,

I just read your boilerplate response to my recent email message to you in which I asked you to not 'go wobbly' in the war in Iraq. To my dismay, and in contradiction to your letter in which you state: 'I do not believe politicians should set troop levels,' yesterday you voted to do exactly that.

There will be a vote coming soon in the Senate in which the Democrats will try to set a deadline for troop withdrawal. This, of course, is not within the responsibilities of the Congress. Should you decide to vote for this legislation and it somehow comes to pass, you, sir, will be remembered through history as one of those most responsible for the deaths of perhaps millions. You have heard the warnings of Ryan Crocker and others. I do not need to go into further detail.

You will not remember me, Senator Coleman, but in October 2004 I spoke to you and thanked you for your support of the military. I explained that my son was in Iraq, and you gave me a hug and said: 'God bless your son.'

May God bless you and guide you in this extremely important time in our country's history."

At this critical time for our country, we cannot give in to weariness - nor allow the discouragement of politicians over the sacrifice of someone else's sons and daughters to snatch defeat from the reach of victory. The time between now and the September report by General Petraeus is "crunch time." It's all hands on deck...

Friday, July 13, 2007

Victor Davis Hanson

One of the most clear writers on the war in Iraq is Victor Davis Hanson, a farmer, classicist, and professor of history. I've often wanted to print out his articles and post them on my cubicle wall - sort of like Martin Luther and his 95 theses that were nailed to the wall.

This is the point from Hanson's article: "The New York Times surrenders" yesterday that should be memorized and then repeated when someone claims this is "Bush's war":

"Supporters of the war included 70 percent of the American public in April 2003; the majority of NATO members; a coalition with more participants than the United Nations alliance had in the Korean War; and a host of politicians and pundits as diverse as Joe Biden, William F. Buckley, Wesley Clark, Hillary Clinton, Francis Fukuyama, Kenneth Pollack, Harry Reid, Andrew Sullivan, Thomas Friedman, and George Will."

As they say, read it all.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A journey through Hell

I've been monitoring news of the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division since they left from Fort Riley, Kansas in February. So far, five have died, nineteen have been wounded - including such serious injuries as a lost hand, a lost arm, a lost eye, and one soldier has been shot in the face.

David Finkel, a Washington Post reporter, accompanied the unit on an excruciating four mile journey to the memorial service of Sgt. William Crow Jr. Here is the report filed by Finkel in yesterday's Washington Post.

As the American public and our politicians forget that we are involved in a war with a brutal enemy the men of the 2nd Battalion fight for their lives and the lives of the Iraqis they are trying to save. May God protect them and bring comfort to their families. And may God protect one brave reporter, too.

Update: It appears that something happened to the ability to add a title in Blogger right now. Will do that when able.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Still more sad news from Fort Riley

Sgt. William W. Crow Jr., 28, of Grandview Plaza, Kan., died when the vehicle he was in struck a improvised explosive device on June 28. Crow was an infantryman with the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. This was his third deployment.

May he rest in peace in the loving arms of his Creator.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Their sacrifice is not in vain

Sadly, there are two more deaths to report in the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kansas.

Army Pfc. Cameron K. Payne, 22, of Corona, Calif., died June 11 in Balad, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Baghdad. (No photo is available.)

Pfc. Andre Craig Jr., 24, died of wounds sustained from an improvised explosive device June 25 in Baghdad, Iraq. He entered the Army in October, 2005 and began serving with the 1st Inf. Div. in March, 2006. This was his first deployment in support of the Global War on Terrorism.

Please say a prayer of thanksgiving for their service and one for comfort for their families.

Tired of the war?

Are you getting a little cranky about having to hear about the loss of someone else's sons and daughters in the war in Iraq? Do you think that the threat of al Qaeda is overblown and that if we leave Iraq, al Qaeda's grievances against us will be over? Do you think that the U.S. should just "let 'em fight it out" in Iraq?

Are you just plain tired of the war?

Well, tough.

Read this.

Michael Yon is in Iraq, reporting from the field. Here is an excerpt:

"I told the Iraqi commander, Captain Baker, that it was important that Americans see this; he took me around the graves and showed more than I wanted to see. He said the people had been murdered by al Qaeda. I made video of him speaking, and of the horrible scene. The heat and stench were crushingly oppressive and broken only by the sounds of shovels as Iraqi soldiers kept digging."

It gets worse. This caption is below one of the photos in Yon's post:

"Soldiers from 5th IA said al Qaeda had cut the heads off the children. Had al Qaeda murdered the children in front of their parents? Maybe it had been the other way around: maybe they had murdered the parents in front of the children. Maybe they had forced the father to dig the graves of his children."

There are currently 108 links to Michael Yon's post. You will probably not read about such things in the New York Times or the Washington Post. However, as Yon writes in the first excerpt, it's important that Americans see this.

And after they understand the evil that the Iraqi people face, how could they ever suggest that we just walk away?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Immigrants - Legal and otherwise

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

If you've visited the Statue of Liberty, you may have seen these words which are the last two sentences of the poem "The New Colossus" on a plaque on the inner wall of the pedestal.

Many of my fellow conservatives are high-fiving each other today, happy that they have killed immigration "reform". They are thrilled that there will be no amnesty for 12 (or 20) million illegal aliens who have crossed deserts and oceans to arrive in America. They understand that no further legislation for immigration reform is likely to occur before 2009. By this time, there will still be 12 (or 20 or 40) million illegal aliens who will be working outside the protection of labor laws...because we know that very few of these people will be deported. Even the conservatives admit that we cannot (and do not want to) send back the folks who serve our meals, pick our vegetables, clean our hotel rooms, and landscape our homes and businesses. We have simply kicked the issue down the road for another administration to handle.

I have heard no proposed solutions for what to do with the wretched refuse that has washed up on our shores. Instead, I've heard and read gleeful celebration of "Victory!" and vindication for hurt feelings in a sensitive debate. I have even read one usually moderate conservative voice suggest to the President of the United States that he "had better ask nicely and have a long list of persuasive arguments" when he needs help in the future.

So, immigration "reform" is dead until President Clinton or possibly President Obama is in office. President Bush has been humbled like Gulliver in the land of Lilliput. All the while the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses continue to dream of gaining a place in this land that is their last best hope.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Contrast and compare

There is a video of Rosie O'Donnell's daughter that is posted on Rosie's website. The video apparently tries to make a statement about the lost innocence of her daughter and her transformation from Princess to Soldier.

Well, I have a little soldier picture, too. Look at his bright eyes, his relaxed smile. Will he grow up to be a soldier like his daddy? I hope it's not necessary. But I'll be proud of him if he does. Or if he doesn't.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Better than

Before there were blogs, there was the great website: It provided cynical counterpoint to those sappy motivating calendars that executives would order and give to employees in the hopes of teaching them success. This morning, I ran across a website called "Military Motivator." It's a hoot. (h/t Yankee Mom)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Why I am optimistic

For a few years, I was very active in reading and reacting to news via the "Mainstream Media," conservative blogs and other media outlets. I was fortunate enough to exchange correspondence with some well-known journalists and more than a few times the thoughts that I had expressed would appear in articles in various national newspapers, magazines, or blogs.

Life is much different now. I hardly exchange correspondence with journalists anymore - my days as a quiet activist military mom are quickly coming to a close.

Now, my source of "opinion" is usually sitting next to me on an airplane or in the boarding area of an airport. A few weeks ago, I sat next to a young man whose parents came from Croatia. I don't know how we got onto the subject but we started talking about the Palestinian situation. He was extremely well informed and as we were finishing up our conversation, I asked him if he thought that he was unusual in his knowledge of world events. He said he was, and I told him that I disagreed. Actually, I have had several such conversations on planes.

I have watched the small segment of the population who are now young men and women in their mid twenties to lower thirties. I chaperoned my sons' classes and activities through junior high and senior high. My fellow parents often complained about the bad behavior of this particular group of students. I would venture to say, even then, that we were seeing the greatest generation. The other parents would look at me as if I had two heads.

The nation now watches in amazement as these young men and women willingly and nobly fight Islamic terrorism wherever our national policy allows. Young writers provide a voice of reason with poise and grace at places like National Review and in blogs where there is no barrier to entry for reaching a potentially huge audience.

In private conversations with regular folks, I hear recurring themes: gratitude for the military, disgust at the media, distrust of both political parties.

While men like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declare the "war is lost" and the national newspapers highlight every coalition setback, our young men and women quietly fight our wars, absorb news of the world, and refer to facts that are neither found on the front page of the New York Times nor in network newcasts. They are the thinkers and the doers that their parents were not.

The future is in good hands with "Generation Y" whose coming of age corresponded with the attacks of September 11, 2001. While Baby Boomers and Generation Xers have become bored with the fight and weary at the loss of someone else's sons and daughters in the war on terror, these young men and women will soldier on.

God bless 'em.

I LOVE this man

Christopher Hitchens has been one of my favorite writers ever since the Spring of 2004 when my son was serving in Iraq and I joined the ranks of news/opinion junkies.

Today, one of his best columns appeared in Slate. Titled: "Look Forward to Anger," Hitchens points out how the media are manipulated to amplify the anger of professional Muslim protestors. He writes: "I have actually seen some of these demonstrations, most recently in Islamabad, and all I would do if I were a news editor is ask my camera team to take several steps back from the shot. We could then see a few dozen gesticulating men (very few women for some reason), their mustaches writhing as they scatter lighter fluid on a book or a flag or a hastily made effigy. Around them, a two-deep encirclement of camera crews. When the lights are turned off, the little gang disperses. And you may have noticed that the camera is always steady and in close-up on the flames, which it wouldn't be if there was a big, surging mob involved."

He finishes with this perfect paragraph: "We may have to put up with the Rage Boys of the world, but we ought not to do their work for them, and we must not cry before we have been hurt. In front of me is a copy of this week's Economist, which states that Rushdie's 1989 death warrant was "punishment for the book's unflattering depiction of the Prophet Muhammad." There is no direct depiction of the prophet in this work of fiction, and the reverie about his many wives occurs in the dream of a madman. Nobody in Ayatollah Khomeini's circle could possibly have read the book for him before he issued a fatwah, which made it dangerous to possess. Yet on that occasion, the bookstore chains of America pulled The Satanic Verses from their shelves, just as Borders shamefully pulled Free Inquiry (a magazine for which I write) after it reproduced the Danish cartoons. Rage Boy keenly looks forward to anger, while we worriedly anticipate trouble, and fret about etiquette, and prepare the next retreat. If taken to its logical conclusion, this would mean living at the pleasure of Rage Boy, and that I am not prepared to do."

Mr. Hitchens, nor will our family live at the pleasure of Rage Boy.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

News you can use

...but don't expect to find it on the front page of the New York Times.

From the latest Gallup poll on Americans' confidence in various institutions:

"Americans have relatively low levels of confidence in the Fourth Estate. Just 23% of Americans have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in television news, and only 22% express the same sentiment for newspapers. Neither of these two entities has done exceedingly well in Gallup's history, but both are particularly low this year. "


Those numbers are even lower than President Bush's in the same poll. Confidence in the presidency is rated at 25%.

Congress' rating? 14%

I think it's safe to say that the self-absorbed press (in general) is becoming less and less relevant by the passing week. Folks are turning off the news because they don't believe what they are being told anymore. One day - perhaps very soon - we will wake up and find out that all is not lost in Iraq. You just won't read about it on the front page of the New York Times..

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Pray for them

As you read this post from Michael Yon, you will become informed of the scope of the military offensive that the coalition forces are making in Iraq. At this moment, our young men are engaged in the depths of Hell.

Please pray for them.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Is the war in Iraq lost?

Senator Josepth Lieberman doesn't seem to think so.

From the Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal today:

"I recently returned from Iraq and four other countries in the Middle East, my first trip to the region since December. In the intervening five months, almost everything about the American war effort in Baghdad has changed, with a new coalition military commander, Gen. David Petraeus; a new U.S. ambassador, Ryan Crocker; the introduction, at last, of new troops; and most important of all, a bold, new counterinsurgency strategy.

The question of course is--is it working? Here in Washington, advocates of retreat insist with absolute certainty that it is not, seizing upon every suicide bombing and American casualty as proof positive that the U.S. has failed in Iraq, and that it is time to get out.

In Baghdad, however, discussions with the talented Americans responsible for leading this fight are more balanced, more hopeful and, above all, more strategic in their focus--fixated not just on the headline or loss of the day, but on the larger stakes in this struggle, beginning with who our enemies are in Iraq. The officials I met in Baghdad said that 90% of suicide bombings in Iraq today are the work of non-Iraqi, al Qaeda terrorists. In fact, al Qaeda's leaders have repeatedly said that Iraq is the central front of their global war against us. That is why it is nonsensical for anyone to claim that the war in Iraq can be separated from the war against al Qaeda--and why a U.S. pullout, under fire, would represent an epic victory for al Qaeda, as significant as their attacks on 9/11."

There's more. Go read it all.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

More sad news

I have not been blogging much lately. Life has been a whirlwind of plane trips and road trips and cruises. I'm home for three weeks and perhaps I will be able to post a few thoughts.

In February, I started following the news of 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division out of Fort Riley, Kansas.

Today, I found the sad news that another of its soldiers has been killed in Iraq. He was Pfc. Shawn D. Gajdos, 25, of Grand Rapids, Michigan. May he rest in peace, and may God grant comfort to his family.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Home at last!

Tonight, I've arrived home from a series of about two months of weekly road trips. Next week, I'm home all week. Yahoo! Now, I can catch up on store visit reports and other projects.

Last weekend, I was able to take my mom on a short cruise for Mother's Day. It was great fun for both of us.

Here we are at dinner on formal night:

Friday, April 27, 2007

An interview with Steven Vincent's interpreter

Nour al-Khal is the interpreter who was kidnapped and shot with journalist Steven Vincent in Basrah in August 2005. Here is an interview that was posted on American Public Media. The interview runs about 40 minutes.

It contains a first person account of the evil our soliders are fighting. Lisa Ramaci, Steven's widow also is included in the interview. Nour and Lisa talk at length about Nour's struggle to obtain refugee status in the United States.

A day in the life

In February, I posted about the deployment of the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. Then, I set up a Google News search to follow their story. Sadly, one of the soldiers was killed in action.

A few days ago, David Finkel filed this story with the Washington Post. The headline and sub-headline are: A Grisly Problem, Grateful Iraqis and a Grim Outlook; Unit Planning Outpost Confronts an Obstacle Known as 'Bob'.

It is an interesting, if a bit macabre, story of the obstacles that were encountered when the U.S. Army wanted to set up operations in an abandoned spaghetti factory. This is the kind of writing that the Washington Post is very good at. There's no gottcha, just the sad facts of a day in the life in a war zone.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

What I learned at Police Reserve training

One of the best things about being a police reserve is the training that we get. Yesterday, we were shown the usual gory first aid films that implore us to stay calm as blood and tissue flow out of wounds of various types.

For comic relief, we were treated to this film. I thought it was quite funny.

Update: Video clip removed because the incessant and unexpected playing of a boozing song was irritating my faithful reader. (Thanks, Bro.)

Find this and other videos at


Friday, April 13, 2007

Waiting for an American Soldier

H/T Yankeemom

A reminder to wear your seat belt

I'm in the Garden State this week. While most newscasters around the nation are still rolling around in their new-found freedom of being able to say "Nappy headed ho" on the air, the lead story in New Jersey is that the governor is in critical condition after his SUV crashed on the Garden State parkway. In hearing and reading some news reports, I was shocked to learn that the governor does not usually wear his seat belt.

I've seen the pictures of the governor's crashed SUV and I've responded to many accidents as a police reserve. Sad to say, I've seen much worse crashes where people have come out without a scratch.

If you love the people around you and want to improve the chances of not ending up dead or in an ICU from a survivable accident, buckle up.

Here's hoping for a speedy recovery for Governor Corzine.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Military moms speak up

Via here is a YouTube video of a meeting between some military moms and other relatives, and Congressman Paul Hodes of New Hampshire. It is a nine minute video, and starts out with what might be seen as typical talking points. But as the mother of a soldier who was slain in Afghanistan starts to speak, talking points are dropped and the truth of both sides in the exchange are revealed. Watch, particularly, the reaction of the Congressman's wife.

Sad news

In late February, I posted about an Army battalion whose deployment was featured in a front-page Washington Post story. I set up a Google News alert search for the commander, Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich, and the battalion. I was planning to post updates here, preferably from local news sources that tend to print good news stories about their hometown boys.

I have received many Google alerts on Lt. Col Kauzlarich, but they have all been related to the Pat Tillman friendly fire death investigation. Kauzlarich was involved in the original investigation.

This morning I found the following sad news for my alert on the "2nd Battalion" "16th Infantry Regiment" "4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team" "1st Infantry Division":

"Army Pfc. Jay S. Cajimat, 20, Lahaina, Hawaii, died Friday in Baghdad of wounds suffered when a vehicle-borne explosive detonated near his unit; assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan."

May he rest in peace in the loving arms of his creator.

Update: Here is a picture of PFC Jay Cajimat

Saturday, April 07, 2007

America's Broken-Down Media

Via RealClearPolitics, Ray Robison deconstructs an article in Time magazine that attempts to paint a mortally wounded soldier as a victim of poor training instead of the well-trained professional that he was.

I've been intensely interested in media coverage of soldiers since my son was deployed in early 2004. In the three years hence, despite tanker-loads of ink spread across NEWSWEEK, The New York Times, et al, reporters - in general - are no closer to understanding or supporting the men and women who fight and die for their freedom than they were when the press became engaged in the orgy of coverage of that twelve hour shift at Abu Ghraib.

God bless the soldiers and the families who will exchange Easter greetings via cell phone this year. May they keep on fighting the good fight until victory over radical Islamic terrorism is acheived.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Our Hillary

The caption for this AP photo says: "Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York reacts to seeing and old friend during a campaign stop at the National Education Association New Hampshire, in Concord, N.H., Friday, March 30, 2007. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)"

There's a phrase that goes: "With friends like this...."

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Minnesota (not so) nice

In this week's Jihad Watch video at Hot Air, Robert Spencer imagines what the news from Lake Wobegon might be like if Garrison Keillor took notice of the Sharia campaign in Minnesota.


The good news is that Minnesotans aren't yet ready to let anyone stand between us and our bacon. There was sufficient uproar about the Muslim cashiers' refusing to scan pepperoni pizza and other pork products that Target has reassigned cashiers who will not fully serve the public.

You may recall a blog-swarm a few years ago, in which Hugh Hewitt tried to get Target to change its mind about not allowing Salvation Army bell-ringers at its entrances. Target did not budge on that one, but must have found the reaction by its customers on this pork story to not be consistent with "Minnesota nice."

Also: See this previous post from January.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

What We Call The News

You may remember the very funny political short animation film "This Land" that was made by Jibjab Media, Inc. in 2004. They've come up with another one that will make you laugh, for sure. It's called: "What We Call The News," and it takes a poke at TV news. Great stuff.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

These are a few of my favorite things...

Let's see:

  • Soldiers...check!

  • Pigs...check!

  • A gentle poke at Democrats who claim to "support the troops"...double check!!

This has all the elements of a great cartoon.

From US News & World Report, via

Friday, March 16, 2007

BBDS (Before Bush Derangement Syndrome)

This morning, I happened across this story from BBC News. It is dated October 11, 2002 and describes - via unnamed senior administration officials - the Bush administration's plan to occupy Iraq. The writer is skeptical that an occupation will really happen.

Here is the lede:

"It has been reported that the Bush administration is developing a detailed plan to occupy Iraq and install an American-led military government in Baghdad if the US topples Saddam Hussein.

The New York Times newspaper and the Associated Press news agency have been briefed on the plan by unnamed senior administration officials.

However, the Associated Press says the two officials it spoke to consider that of all the plans being studied in Washington, this is among the least likely to be approved.

One prominent Iraqi opposition figure told the BBC the Americans would be naive to attempt to occupy the country."

You may notice a definite lack of anti-Bush hysteria in this piece. That may be because it had been written only a year after 3,000 innocent Americans were killed on that sunny Tuesday morning in NYC, DC, and PA. It was a few short months since Daniel Pearl, journalist, was beheaded in Pakistan. In October 2002, al-Qaeda and anyone else who supported terrorism, was viewed as more of an enemy than President Bush.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Whither the poor pig farmer?

I recently met a pig farmer from Canada on a Caribbean cruise. The man was very nice, had a lovely wife - both physically and in personality, and I think they had five children. It seems that they worked very hard on the pig farm and made a comfortable living. As I spent the week with them, I did have one underlying worry - how long would it be before pork was banned and they would have no livelihood?

Overreaction, you say? Been reading a few too many right-wing opinion columnists?

Well, it looks like the pork jihad has come to Minneapolis. Here is a story from the Minneapolis Star Tribune's web site detailing an incident of a cashier at Target refusing to scan a pepperoni pizza. The post is by Chris Serres, a Star Tribune staff writer.

As an isolated incident, I'd say ignore this. But, as you read the many comments to the post, you find that this is not an isolated incident at all.

How long will it be before businesses decide to drop pork products because it is simply too difficult to deal with the multi-cultural issues surrounding it? How long will the pig farmer survive?

Monday, March 05, 2007

Some more thoughts on Walter Reed

I've been pretty quiet lately - busy at work, and now on the road again. I've been thinking a lot about this Walter Reed issue, and it still sticks in my craw. But not for the reasons that most Americans are getting riled about it.

You see, it seems to me that this story didn't get legs because of concern for the soldiers by the media. There is no doubt in my mind that members of the media have received reports of this type of treatment for years...and so have politicians. It is the nature of government bureaucracy and of war for horrific cracks to develop in the system. We have no perfect bureaucracies and no perfect wars. We do have bureaucracies that have benefitted the greater good and unfortunately we have needed wars to deal with real evils such as terrorism, Hilter's nazi regime and communism.

The fallout from the Walter Reed scandal is not going to create a perfect VA medical system. There will always be human failings. However, it has claimed a Secretary of the Army and a two-star general has been relieved of his command.

A follow-up story in the Washington Post says this: "Several forces converged to create this intense reaction. A new Democratic majority in Congress is willing to criticize the administration. Senior retired officers pounded the Pentagon with sharp questions about what was going on. Up to 40 percent of the troops fighting in Iraq are National Guard members and reservists -- 'our neighbors,' said Ron Glasser, a physician and author of a book about the wounded. 'It all adds up and reaches a kind of tipping point,' he said. On top of all that, America had believed the government's assurances that the wounded were being taken care of. 'The country is embarrassed' to know otherwise, Glasser said."

Yes, you, the American public, are being told that up until now men like Senators Kennedy and Durbin and Kerry or Congressmen like Murtha and Pelosi had no national voice; that it took a cold-call to Dana Priest for anyone at all to realize that there was a problem.

Now, the military and administration are being painted as entirely uncaring of its vets. This is the perfect political tool for a nation that adores its troops.

What is forgotten in all of this is that soldiers sent to Iraq overwhelmingly re-up, that the vast majority do not have post-traumatic stress syndrome, and that Tri-care provides great coverage. And in this description, I'm not talking simply of the hundreds of thousands of unknown troops who have gone through Iraq. I'm relating the story of one soldier that I know very well - my son, who was wounded in Iraq, re-upped in the week he was coming back, and whose wife is likely alive today because of expensive medicines provided by Tri-care after the birth of my grandson. I, for one, am very grateful not just for the the Armed Forces' efforts to fight terrorism but for them returning my son home alive. An attitude such at this, however, does not garner much media attention.

If the media were terribly interested in the welfare of the soldiers you would hear more about the progress that is being made and less about fired generals. However, there are Pulitzer Prizes to be won and scalps to be had. Stories of success simply get in the way.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Meme alert

Readers (OK, the one reader, thanks Bro) of this blog may have noticed that I've sensed a strong new meme developing on the left side of the aisle. It goes something like this: "We really, really support the troops. We said it in our resolution. You (the administration) obviously hate them as you treat them like crap. We just want our beloved soldiers to come home."

This morning, McClatchy Newspapers' Margaret Talev says basically the same:

Support the troops.

Few phrases in American politics sound so innocuous but sting so much.

Republican backers of the Iraq war have revived a tactic from the Vietnam era, trying to put Democrats on the defensive by accusing critics of President Bush's decision to send thousands more troops to Iraq of failing to "support the troops" there.

This line of attack could explode this week, when Congress returns from a short recess. The Democratic majority will shift tactics from seeking nonbinding antiwar resolutions to trying to limit troop deployments and curb funding for the Iraq war.

Historians, political strategists and linguists say that questioning Democrats' loyalty to the troops is probably the best leverage supporters of the unpopular war have left.

"What that reflects is the aftermath of Vietnam and what happened to the Democrats," said Stephen Hess, a George Washington University professor and Brookings Institution scholar who worked in the Eisenhower and Nixon administrations. Although polls show that solid public majorities oppose the war, Democrats still can be portrayed as undermining the troops.

The Bush administration and its congressional allies, however, are open to countercharges that they have overworked the Army and Marine Corps, failed to provide troops with adequate armor, and neglected serious problems in how the military and the Veterans Administration are caring for wounded warriors.

Democrats also can argue that the best way to support the troops is to bring them home, said Frank Luntz, the pollster and language consultant who shaped the Republicans' 1994 "Contract With America."

Army Battalion 2-16

The front page of today's Washington Post includes a 4500 word description of the days leading up to the departure of the Army's 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment of the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. The central figure of the story is its commander, Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich.

This is how the story begins:

FORT RILEY, Kan. -- Their camouflage on, their wives carrying infants, their older children carrying flags, the soldiers of George W. Bush's surge crowded into a gymnasium for their brigade deployment ceremony, a last public viewing before they disappeared into Iraq.

Baghdad, long an abstraction, was now imminent. Of the 21,500 additional troops President Bush decided to send to
Iraq in the coming months, about 3,500 were coming from here. "Are you frightened?" a TV reporter called out. "I'm confident," one of those soldiers replied. An enormous American flag hung on the back wall. A military band lined up in formation. "Ready to go," another soldier said.

Outside, snow was coming toward this isolated place. Inside, as the bleachers filled and the doors swung closed against the cold, a 41-year-old soldier near the middle of the floor began clapping his hands in anticipation.

And now waved at his wife and children.

And now took his position in front of the soldiers he would soon be leading into combat.

While America obsesses about Anna Nicole, and Britney, and a catfight between Hillary and Obama, 800 soldiers are right now putting their lives on the line in hopes of securing a better Iraq for its and our future generations. The Washington Post will probably never run another story on Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich or his battalion. Even so, I have set up a Google news search for the battalion and for Lt. Col. Kauzlarich. I'm going to try to follow their story for the next year and I'll post here of their acheivements and heartaches along the way.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Pride and Joy of the Washington Post

As Dana Priest collects bouquets for her selfless reporting on the outpatient treatment at Walter Reed, Howards Kurtz reveals a little too much about Ms. Priest's motivation.

Kurtz' Media Notes column starts out:

"To the Army's public affairs chief, it was simply an effort to 'get the facts out from our perspective.'

To Dana Priest, who covers national security for The Washington Post, it was a case of Army officials 'shooting themselves in the foot, because reporters are not going to trust them.'"

Ummm, because, you know, the reporters have always blindly trusted them before.

"The Post last week gave the Army six days to respond to the paper's investigation into decaying, cockroach-infested facilities and an overwhelmed patient-care bureaucracy at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Northwest Washington. The Army's public affairs office used the time to summon journalists from other news organizations to a briefing at which Walter Reed's commander responded to the findings -- in an article that had not yet been published." ...snip...

"When journalists seek a response from a government agency on a pending story, there is generally an understanding that the information will not be shared with rival news outlets before publication. Such unspoken agreements, however, are hardly iron-clad. Treasury Department officials last year gave the Wall Street Journal declassified information about a secret program to track the banking records of terror suspects after failing to persuade the New York Times to kill a planned story on the subject." ...snip...

I see. It's not really about the troops. It's about scooping the competition.

Priest, who reported the two-part series with Anne Hull, says she told an Army public affairs officer this week: "How do you think this is going to affect our relationship? Do you think I'm going to be willing next time to give you that much time to respond, if you're going to turn around and tell my competitors?" ...snip...

Not to mention that Priest sat on the story for four months and allowed untold numbers of soldiers to suffer untold misery. She and Hull kept this secret from not only her competitors, but also Congress, and anyone within the military system who could have addressed the situation. She and the WaPo chose to cause the most embarassment possible by plunking this on page A1 right during the most sensitive debates we've had yet in Congress and in the streets of America over the war.

"As for Weightman's complaint that the paper should have notified the Army of its conclusions earlier in the process, Priest called that 'ridiculous,' saying: 'You find wrongdoing and you don't report it to the public first? You report it to them first? That's not our role.'"

That's right, Dana. I guess in your world, it's your role to scoop the competition. Let someone else worry about the troops.

Good on ya, Secretary Gates

This is the way to effectively handle a media crisis.

From an A1 story in the Washington Post today:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates named an independent review panel yesterday to investigate what he called an "unacceptable" situation in outpatient care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and he said that some soldiers "most directly involved" in the problems have been removed from their positions.

Speaking to reporters during a visit to the Army hospital in Northwest Washington, Gates also warned that senior military leaders could be disciplined based on the findings of the review group.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Oh, brother

The major papers must have thought that Presidents' Day weekend means there's one extra day for dumping on the military. Here's the New York Times' contribution:

Jailed 2 Years, Iraqi Tells of Abuse by Americans

...After his release from the American-run jail, Camp Bucca, Mr. Ani and other former detainees described the sprawling complex of barracks in the southern desert near Kuwait as a bleak place where guards casually used their stun guns and exposed prisoners to long periods of extreme heat and cold; where prisoners fought among themselves and extremist elements tried to radicalize others; and where detainees often responded to the harsh conditions with hunger strikes and, at times, violent protests...

...Mr. Ani said the electric prods were first used on him on the way to Camp Bucca. “I was talking to someone next to me and they used it,” he said, describing the device as black plastic with a yellow tip and two iron prongs. He said the prods were commonly used on him and other detainees as punishment.

“The whole body starts to shake and hurt,” he said. “And you lose consciousness for a couple of seconds. One time they used it on my tongue. One guard held me from the left and another on my back and another used it against my tongue and for four or five days I couldn’t eat.” ...

Hmmm, guess what? I know someone who was at Camp Bucca at the same time that Mr. Ani claimed the abuse took place in 2004 and 2005. I've heard the other side of the story of detainee/guard relations at Camp Bucca. Of course, any chance for another perspective is given only a few sentences in the Times' lengthy story.

And a few things about those tasers that are mentioned in the quote above. You don't lose consciousness and I can't imagine how it would be used on someone's tongue. This story has all the credibility of the Qur'an being flushed down the toilet fable.

Were some detainees mistreated at Camp Bucca? Definitely, yes. And the offenders were punished. For the New York Times to drag out this "newsflash" of treatment that happened two years ago makes one wonder what public good is being served.

Hey, New York Times - don't you know the "Soldiers are torturers" line is soooo yesterday? Today's meme is "We really, really support the troops. Let's just bring them home."

Beyond the Green Zone

An e-friend, Steven Vincent, wrote a book called "In the Red Zone." The title came from the part of Iraq that was beyond the relatively safe borders of the Green Zone in Baghdad. It is from the isolated Green Zone that politicians and journalists tend to work and provide their view of Iraq. "In the Red Zone" was a brilliant book that revealed a glimpse into the soul of Iraqis. Unfortunately, it did not garner much attention until Steven was killed in Basrah in August 2005.

Now, JD Johannes has directed a movie called "Outside the Wire." Here's a short description of the movie:

"This is the Iraq War you won't see on the evening news.

Former Marine and television news producer JD Johannes traveled to Iraq with his old Marine Corps unit to produce syndicated TV news reports for local stations.

From those reports comes a view of the war that only the grunts who operate outside the wire experience.

From a dust-up with Al Qaida outside Abu Ghriab, to a night raid on the home of an insurgent leader, you will see what the Marines saw and hear the story in their own words of why they joined, volunteered for the deployment, why they fight and what it is like to go outside the wire and into combat."

You can buy the movie here. Then, go to the blog which gives this bright advice in developing a caucus' message: "I propose something simple, that can fit on a bumper sticker, and is unequivocal in meaning: Support the Troops: LET THEM WIN"

I think this is my new favorite blog, and it's going on my blog roll.

It's like deja vue all over again

In doing a Google search for folks who "really, really support the troops", I ran across this interesting post by Tim Grieve of the War Room at Here's what Tim had to say in June of 2006:

"They really, really support the troops

Republican congressmen like Walter Jones and Ron Paul hoped that the House of Representatives might have a serious debate about the future of a war that has claimed 2,500 American lives. Dennis Hastert, John Boehner and others in the Republican leadership thought it was more important to jam Democrats and other war critics with an all-or-nothing vote on a support-the-troops-or-else resolution.

Guess which side prevailed?

Soldiers in the field and patriots everywhere can rest easy this afternoon, knowing that the House of Representatives has got their backs. By a vote of 256-153, the House today approved a resolution that rejects any 'arbitrary' timeline for withdrawing U.S. troops and declares that the United States 'will prevail in the Global War on Terror.' The Republican leadership refused to allow any amendments to the resolution, leaving opponents with a choice that wasn't much choice at all: Vote in favor of the resolution, or be prepared to stand accused of supporting an 'arbitrary' timeline for troop withdrawal and predicting U.S. defeat at the hands of terrorists. Oh, and this, too: To vote against the measure, you also had to vote against the part that said that the House 'honors all those Americans who have taken an active part in the Global War on Terror, whether as first responders protecting the homeland, as servicemembers overseas, as diplomats and intelligence officers, or in other roles.'"

Imagine that, politicians using heavy-handed tactics to play to the public over who really supports the troops.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Page A1 News in the Sunday edition of the Washington Post

Tomorrow, Washington Post readers will be offered a stinging rebuke of the military's treatment of wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Hospital. The story was written by Dana Priest and Anne Hull who gathered information without the knowledge or permission of Walter Reed officials.

The story is long and includes the inevitable: "Life in Building 18 is the bleakest homecoming for men and women whose government promised them good care in return for their sacrifices."

Well, I have a few thoughts on the subject:

When our son was deployed, our biggest fear was not that he would be killed, but that he would be gravely wounded. We had heard, going into 2004, that National Guard troops were not treated, medically, as well as regular Army. We were certainly not aware that "the government promised [him] good care in return for [his] sacrifices." We expected the worst. By the grace of God, despite being wounded in the face with grenade shrapnel and serving a year as a prison guard, he came back physically and emotionally healthy.

I feel badly for the soldiers and their families who are described in the Post's story. The Army, being an organization run by humans, is far from perfect. And I hope that progress is being made in the conditions that were described. One of the reported incidents dates back to when Paul Wolfowitz was Deputy Secretary of Defense.

But here is what really gets to me: the Post comes through with another holier-than-thou story about the treatment of soldiers by the military. Yet, the treatment of one of its own war reporters has been less than stellar. Who holds the Post accountable when one of its reporters is damaged while working for them and then apparently casts her off? Where is the compassion and concern? Where is the expose'?

In the end, all these people - the soldiers and reporters - deserve the best treatment possible by their employers. War is Hell and mistakes are made. The Washington Post is able to use page A1 to showcase the mistakes of the military. Unfortunately, there is no such showcase to illuminate the mistakes of the Post. The military is under constant pressure to improve - although we know that progress can be painfully slow. I wonder if anything will ever cause the Washington Post to look within and see that it can be guilty of the same types of abuses of which it accuses others.

Update: Knowing that this major piece was coming in the Washington Post, Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, commanding general of Walter Reed Army Medical Center responds. BTW, the Post's story is getting major play across America this morning.

I wouldn't be surprised if this is the new meme:

"We really, really support the troops. We said it in our resolution. You (the administration) obviously hate them as you treat them like crap. We just want our beloved soldiers to come home."

Not just another statistic

Over the years, I've exchanged emails with several people who have worked or lived in Iraq. Last summer, one young man from Iraq sent me a picture of his niece who stills lives, I assume, in Baghdad. She is about the same age as my grandson.

I think of this young girl a lot and wonder if she is safe, and I wonder what will happen if we leave Iraq too soon. John Burns of the New York Times recently gave his opinion on that.

Here is one face of the future of Iraq. I hope she is able to grow into a beautiful young woman.

Update: By coincidence, I just ran across a blog entry that as of Monday, the child was safe and talking to her uncle on the telephone. In the interest of protecting the identity of the child, I won't link to the post. It makes me glad to read that she is OK.

"Believe me when I say I really, really do support the troops"

A few weeks ago, the Washington Post ran a piece by Eric Fair in which he details abusive treatment of detainees at a detention facility in Fallujah. The writer describes the nightmares he experiences as a lingering effect of his failure to stand up to what he called meritless orders to torture the detainees. According to the short bio at the end of the article Mr. Fair: "served in the Army from 1995 to 2000 as an Arabic linguist and worked in Iraq as a contract interrogator in early 2004." The abuse he engaged in occurred in the summer of 2004 - just at the height of the Abu Ghraib coverage.

Mere months ago, a detailed story of reported torture and mayhem by U.S. troops would have been front page news. But in reading the reaction to's Bill Arkin calling our troops pampered mercenaries, and in watching senators who had formerly compared our troops to Nazi's and uneducated ne'er-do-wells now knocking themselves out in declaring their "support for the troops," it's become apparent that demonizing the troops is a losing political and journalistitc strategy. Eric Fair's story gained no traction at all in the major newspapers or on the cable news channels.

If there was one lesson learned from Vietnam, it's that turning against the troops does nothing to help a party win elections. Let's hope those same politicians - so attuned to consequences of missteps in times of war - remember the other important lesson from Vietnam, that precipitous retreat in a military struggle will likely leave millions dead.

Why I read the Washington Post

Because there are plenty of grown-ups there who are not sticken by BDS (Bush Derangement Syndrome.)

So, when Rep. John Murtha, chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Committee, makes threats to stop the surge and force a redeployment of troops from Iraq while avoiding the responsibility that comes with such action, well, the Washington Post editorial board calls him out.

God bless 'em.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

NCO of the Year!

For the whole state of New Hampshire!

Here's an American Soldier to be proud of - great dad, loving husband, wonderful son...and now he's been chosen as the NCO of the year for the New Hampshire Army National Guard.

The next level is a regional competition for the Northeast states. Now, the contest becomes intense: More interviews, a navigation test, PT to the max.

Way to go, Al! Best of luck in the next round!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Understanding what happened in Iraq

John Burns is a reporter from the New York Times and has been cited favorably in the right-leaning blogosphere on his reporting on Iraq. Via the Anchoress yesterday, here's an exchange that Burns had with Tim Russert last weekend:

"Russert: John, was it possible for our policy makers to truly understand the way Iraqis would have reacted? The judgments made here were that when we went in we would be greeted as quote, 'liberators,' to quote Dick, Vice President’s Cheney’s phrase, that they were prepared, in effect, to take governing into their own hands, that they were so upset and had been so downtrodden by Saddam Hussein that they would embrace democracy and rise up, almost immediately.

Burns: Well first of all, I think, again, to be fair, the American troops were greeted as liberators. We saw it. It lasted very briefly, it was exhausted quickly by the looting and the astonishment and puzzlement and finally anger of Iraqis that nothing, or very little was done to stop that. I think that to be fair to the United States, when I speak as a citizen of the United Kingdom, I think that the instincts that led to much that went wrong were good American instincts: the desire not to have too heavy of a footprint, the desire to empower Iraqis.But, and I think that the policy makers in Washington, and to be on honest with you the journalists also, to speak for myself, completely miscalculated the impact of 30 years of violent, brutal repression on the Iraqi people and their willingness, in President Bush’s phrase, 'to stand up' for themselves, to take authority, to take risks. Why did we who, people like Rajiv [Chandrasekaran of the Washington Post] and myself who were there under Saddam, why did we not fully understand that? I think it’s because we were extremely limited by the Saddam regime as to where we could go and who we could go and speak to and what we wrote about mostly — certainly I can speak for myself — was what was most palpable and accessible to us which was the terror, it was real.

To that extent, I suppose you’d have to say people like myself enabled what happened, the decisions made here to go into Iraq and I’m not going to apologize for that. I’ve been to, I think many of the world’s nastiest places in a 30 year career as a foreign correspondent for the New York Times and Iraq was, by a long way saving only North Korea, the nastiest place I’ve ever been. It was a truly terrible place and what I think we were transfixed by was the notion that if you could remove this of carapace of terror and you could liberate the Iraqi people, many good things would happen.

We just didn’t understand, and perhaps didn’t work hard enough to understand, what lay beneath this carapace which is a deeply fractured society that had always been held together, since the British constructed it, by drawing geometric lines on the map — Winston Churchill and Lawrence of Arabia in the 1920s — a country that had really always been held together by force and varying degrees repression. The King, King Faisal, is remembered, the King who was assassinated in 1958, as a kind of golden era, but even that is really, was not really a parliamentary democracy. It was still basically an autocratic state and I think we needed to understand better the forces that we were going to liberate.

And my guess is that history will say that the forces that we liberated by invading Iraq were so powerful and so uncontrollable that virtually nothing the United States might have done, except to impose its own repressive state with half a million troops, which might have had to last ten years or more, nothing we could have done would have effectively prevented this disintegration that is now occurring."

Unfortunately, I haven't followed John Burns' reporting in the New York Times as closely as I have of reporters from the Washington Post. I wish I'd been reading him all along because clearly this man can put forth a non-partisan view of what has happened in Iraq.