Sunday, January 28, 2007

Mrs. Johnson goes to Washington

January 27, 2007 was a day slated for protests against the war across the country. News reports stated there were "tens of thousands" of protestors in DC.

What they missed was that many of those "tens of thousands" at the Capitol and on the national mall were folks just like us. We were not protesting the war, but chance brought us here on this day.

We shared a hotel with an organization called "Military Families Speak Out," a group of families who have gained their share of media attention as they protest the war in Iraq. On Saturday morning, the Metro carried old and young people carrying hand lettered signs and sign making kits. It also carried at least one military family who simply came to see the sights of Washington DC.

Our first stop was a tour of the Capitol, lunch at Tortilla Coast, and then a walk over to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. As the rest of the family explored the museum, I slipped out the back door onto the national mall and walked into the protest. Susan Sarandon was speaking. A man with a sign was standing next to me, and I asked him if he knew any soldiers. He didn't. I told him my son is a soldier. There was no reply. We kept talking and the man's wife joined us, I asked them what they thought would happen if we pulled out of Iraq, and they shrugged. I asked if they supposed many Iraqi's would die, and they said they suppose they would. Then came the surprising part of the conversation...I asked if they thought it would be like Vietnam and the woman said she thought it would. So, I asked what happened in Vietnam after we left. She said: "They became all one country, and they were happy." I said: "Interesting." After a bit more talk, they simply walked away.

I also spoke with a man who was holding an "Out of Iraq" signed that was produced by (These were the most prevelant signs at the protest.) I asked the man what he was doing here and he said he was a professor at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He brought a group of students out to DC for a tax policy contest and they had won the competition. I congratulated him, and then asked: "but why are you here today?" The response was that he wanted to see the protest (as he held a protest sign.)

All the reports I've seen state that there were "tens of thousands" at the protest at the national mall. Ten thousand - probably. Twenty thousand - maybe. Thirty thousand - definitey not. Here's a photo taken at 1:41 p.m., at the height of the protest, just before a march was supposed to start.

My family then joined me as we walked through the protestors and made our way to Washington Memorial, the World War II Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Vietnam Memorial. Then we headed for the White House and what turned out to be the highlight of the day.

As we approached the front gate of the White House, a small group of people had been stopped on the sidewalk. No one was allowed to cross in front of the gate. In a few moments a guard dressed in black and carrying a serious looking machine gun came out to the corner by the gate where we were standing. A group of about thirty people were now stopped, and there were no protestors. They were all on the other side of the White House and on the mall. The crowd was talking in hushed tones as we waited to see what this was all about.

Suddenly, through the front gate appeared former President George H.W. Bush along with what appeared to be family members. People clapped. No one shouted protests. The former President and his companions slowly walked across the street in front of us. No one approached him until he got to the other side when a woman went up and shook his hand. It was very, very cool.

It is, indeed, an amazing in which protesters are free to gather and call for the President's impeachment on one side of the White House, while on the other the President's father and predecessor walks calmly through an applauding crowd.

Friday, January 26, 2007

You say you "Support the Troops"

The blogosphere is loaded with articulate men who understand the threat of terrorism and can then succinctly convey clear thoughts on the war. I'm not sure why, but there are not a lot of women who write with a military sense of the war.

However, Lorie Byrd at Wizbang! is one of them. Lorie "get's it." Her column this morning at is significant and I hope it gets a lot of traction in the 'sphere. Here's an excerpt from "Many Democrats Won't Stand For Victory In Iraq":

"Hugh Hewitt addressed what it means to “encourage the enemy” saying it “means to increase their will to fight on, and their courage to do so even in the face of the arrival of reinforcements. It also means to increase –substantially—the likelihood of redoubled and retripled efforts on their part to kill American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.”

Hewitt went on to say “Democrats are willing to encourage the enemy if it means hurting George W. Bush. They are willing to disregard the advice of the general they have just sent to do a mission if it serves their political purposes.” That is a pretty bold accusation to make and not one I am eager to embrace, but everything I have seen over the past three years tells me that Hewitt is right and that the behavior did not begin with the current resolution.

In Tuesday’s State of the Union address, the President’s calls for victory in Iraq were met from the Democrat side of the aisle with intentional silence.
Most Democrats would not applaud, much less stand, for victory in Iraq. Over the past months and years, those on the left have gone to great effort to paint the mission in Iraq as “failed,” “doomed” and a “disaster.” They have failed to acknowledge the accomplishments of the U.S. military in Iraq, but have been quick to talk about those in our armed forces as child victims of a failed policy or (worse) as bloodthirsty thugs engaging in torture and terror.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I love the sight of SUCCESS in the morning (paper)

Here's a surprising headline on the front page of the Washington Post:

General May See Early Success in Iraq

I'm out in DC for a few weeks. Here's hoping that as I pick up the Washington Post and listen to 1500 AM WTWP Washington Post Radio, we'll be hearing more of that word.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


Following a link from Bill Ardolino's site, to Michelle Malkin, a reader will come across this profound piece of writing at MySpace by a twenty-three year old soldier.

May he be dancing with angels.

Here is the full text of a post from late last year. Read it all:


Current mood: optimistic

Why I Joined:

This question has been asked of me so many times in so many different contexts that I thought it would be best if I wrote my reasons for joining the Army on my page for all to see. First, the more accurate question is why I volunteered to go to Iraq. After all, I joined the Army a week after we declared war on Saddam's government with the intention of going to Iraq. Now, after years of training and preparation, I am finally here.

Much has changed in the last three years. The criminal Ba'ath regime has been replaced by an insurgency fueled by Iraq's neighbors who hope to partition Iraq for their own ends. This is coupled with the ever present transnational militant Islamist movement which has seized upon Iraq as the greatest way to kill Americans, along with anyone else they happen to be standing near. What was once a paralyzed state of fear is now the staging ground for one of the largest transformations of power and ideology the Middle East has experienced since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Thanks to Iran, Syria, and other enlightened local actors, this transformation will be plagued by interregional hatred and genocide. And I am now in the center of this.

Is this why I joined?

Yes. Much has been said about America's intentions in overthrowing Saddam Hussein and seeking to establish a new state based upon political representation and individual rights. Many have framed the paradigm through which they view the conflict around one-word explanations such as "oil" or "terrorism," favoring the one which best serves their political persuasion. I did the same thing, and anyone who knew me before I joined knows that I am quite aware and at times sympathetic to the arguments against the war in Iraq. If you think the only way a person could bring themselves to volunteer for this war is through sheer desperation or blind obedience then consider me the exception (though there are countless like me).

I joined the fight because it occurred to me that many modern day "humanists" who claim to possess a genuine concern for human beings throughout the world are in fact quite content to allow their fellow "global citizens" to suffer under the most hideous state apparatuses and conditions. Their excuses used to be my excuses. When asked why we shouldn't confront the Ba'ath party, the Taliban or the various other tyrannies throughout this world, my answers would allude to vague notions of cultural tolerance (forcing women to wear a veil and stay indoors is such a quaint cultural tradition), the sanctity of national sovereignty (how eager we internationalists are to throw up borders to defend dictatorships!) or even a creeping suspicion of America's intentions. When all else failed, I would retreat to my fragile moral ecosystem that years of living in peace and liberty had provided me. I would write off war because civilian casualties were guaranteed, or temporary alliances with illiberal forces would be made, or tank fuel was toxic for the environment. My fellow "humanists" and I would relish contently in our self righteous declaration of opposition against all military campaigns against dictatorships, congratulating one another for refusing to taint that aforementioned fragile moral ecosystem that many still cradle with all the revolutionary tenacity of the members of Rage Against the Machine and Greenday. Others would point to America's historical support of Saddam Hussein, sighting it as hypocritical that we would now vilify him as a thug and a tyrant. Upon explaining that we did so to ward off the fiercely Islamist Iran, which was correctly identified as the greater threat at the time, eyes are rolled and hypocrisy is declared. Forgetting that America sided with Stalin to defeat Hitler, who was promptly confronted once the Nazis were destroyed, America's initial engagement with Saddam and other regional actors is identified as the ultimate argument against America's moral crusade.

And maybe it is. Maybe the reality of politics makes all political action inherently crude and immoral. Or maybe it is these adventures in philosophical masturbation that prevent people from ever taking any kind of effective action against men like Saddam Hussein. One thing is for certain, as disagreeable or as confusing as my decision to enter the fray may be, consider what peace vigils against genocide have accomplished lately. Consider that there are 19 year old soldiers from the Midwest who have never touched a college campus or a protest who have done more to uphold the universal legitimacy of representative government and individual rights by placing themselves between Iraqi voting lines and homicidal religious fanatics. Often times it is less about how clean your actions are and more about how pure your intentions are.

So that is why I joined. In the time it took for you to read this explanation, innocent people your age have suffered under the crushing misery of tyranny. Every tool of philosophical advancement and communication that we use to develop our opinions about this war are denied to countless human beings on this planet, many of whom live under the regimes that have, in my opinion, been legitimately targeted for destruction. Some have allowed their resentment of the President to stir silent applause for setbacks in Iraq. Others have ironically decried the war because it has tied up our forces and prevented them from confronting criminal regimes in Sudan, Uganda, and elsewhere.

I simply decided that the time for candid discussions of the oppressed was over, and I joined.

In digesting this posting, please remember that America's commitment to overthrow Saddam Hussein and his sons existed before the current administration and would exist into our future children's lives had we not acted. Please remember that the problems that plague Iraq today were set in motion centuries ago and were up until now held back by the most cruel of cages. Don't forget that human beings have a responsibility to one another and that Americans will always have a responsibility to the oppressed. Don't overlook the obvious reasons to disagree with the war but don't cheapen the moral aspects either. Assisting a formerly oppressed population in converting their torn society into a plural, democratic one is dangerous and difficult business, especially when being attacked and sabotaged from literally every direction. So if you have anything to say to me at the end of this reading, let it at least include "Good Luck"

Mark Daily

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

This is not good

Just as I'm goin' to Disney World tomorrow, I read this at Counterterrorism Blog:

"The Saudi daily Al Watan just reported that there have been a number of thefts of airport vehicles in US airports in the past few days including an United Air car on Chicago O'hare's airport.

also attempts were made in the Buffalo airport to stael authorized vehicles and supposedly airport authorities around the country have noticed strange people watching restricted areas in airports."

In a week that there were two incidents at the Port of Miami (was just there last month), news like this hits kind of close to home.

Monday, January 08, 2007

An amazing soldier (and an amazing reporter)

Michael Yon is back in Iraq and says he'll: "spend the entirety of 2007 with our troops at war, until sickness, wounds or worse send me home, or the military tires of my presence and catapults me over the wire."

His first dispatch details his flight back into the country and then later on in the lengthy post, Yon describes Command Sergeant Major Jeffrey Mellinger, the senior enlisted soldier in Iraq. Here's just part of what Yon has to say:

"With nearly 35 years of continuous military service, Mellinger is the senior most active duty draftee; yet he cruises Iraq like an Infantryman...

...One young sergeant, a team member on CSM Mellinger’s crew, told me the CSM’s team has been hit 26 times so far, and when I asked the CSM, he shrugged and said, “Sounds about right.” Five of his Humvees have been destroyed by IEDs, two that he was riding in at the time. Astonishingly, nobody in his crew has even been seriously wounded. He goes into combat, but you’d have to see how he rolls to understand why nobody has been killed so far. Experience multiplied by luck."

I wish that we heard more about these amazing soldiers. From time to time, stories of heroism will be told in the Washington Post or other national papers about soldiers who have been killed or wounded. Very few articles are written, however, about the 140,000 living and honorable troops that are serving in Iraq.

If you're the praying kind, offer a little prayer of gratitude for men like CSM Mellinger, and one for safety for Michael Yon.


I have noticed, more and more, lately that I don't recognize faces of "celebrities." Now, faces like the man at the left, I've pretty much got and can even spell his name from memory - Abizaid.

And the women, below, are pretty familiar to me.

But, I have to be honest, when I Googled the word "celebrities" and clicked on the "Images" tab, I hadn't a clue who most of these people were.

I wonder if this means I'm living "in a bubble?"

Oy vey!

While checking in at The Belmont Club this morning, I expanded Wretchard's post: Whispers in the Execution Chamber. It starts out: "John Burns of the NYT, who really is one of the best journalists to cover Iraq writes about the American-Iraqi struggle over the execution of Saddam Hussein. He describes how conflicting cultures, political objectives and styles confronted each other over the issue of when and how to hang Saddam Hussein."

Indeed, the article gives great insights into the challenges that our military faces in dealing with the culture that exists in Iraq today. Despite the cluck-clucking over Hussein's execution last week, it appears that the Americans wanted to slow things down. Of course, the distinction between "it's Bush's fault" and the taste for blood developed by an oppressed people is not so throroughly developed in the stories that I've seen and heard over the last week. Burns and his co-writers take five pages to tell the story.

Take some time to read In Days Before Hanging, a Push for Revenge and a Push Back From the U.S.. No matter where you stand on the war, you'll learn a lot about the situation on the ground in Iraq.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Heh, it's not MY war, buddy.

A few days ago, Jim Geraghty at TKS posted about an exchange between Charlie Gibson and Rep. Nancy Boyda, D-Kansas. In it, Boyda vows to not get in the way of the Commander-in-chief's handling of the war.

When I first read the quotes, I was puzzled - in a good way. I didn't understand why Democrats wouldn't fight the President on the troop surge, but I was grateful for this attitude of cooperation. (Even if I don't particularly support a "surge".) Geraghty was much more skeptical and apparently with good reason.

This morning, I read an article by Howard Fineman titled: "Sidestepping 'The Surge'". It goes into great detail about the Democrats' placid response to President Bush's latest controversial moves in the war in Iraq. Here's one clip:

"Sen. Joe Biden, whose Foreign Relations Committee will launch hearings on the war this week, said that Congress's role is simply too limited to be effective. 'It's all about the separation of powers,' he said. Last month he told Bush: 'This is your war, Mr. President, and there's nothing we can do to stop you.'"

Fineman ends with this chilling paragraph: "In the meantime, Democrats know a classic 'wedge issue' when they see one. With 21 Republicans up for re-election, Democrats would be happy to witness full-scale GOP infighting, which could catch the Republicans' '08 front runner, Sen. John McCain, in the crossfire. Democratic strategists say it would be politically foolish to help Bush by crafting a bipartisan war policy. 'Why should we try to come up with a compromise policy with him?' asks Mike Ward, a former congressman who was back at the Capitol for opening-day festivities. 'If we do that, we take ownership of the war. Why would we want to do that?' Only one reason I could think of: to end the war faster so that the troops could come home.

This all falls into the "let the chips fall where they may" line of thinking. There are many in the country who are willing to walk away from the war and let the chips fall where they may, because, heh, it's not their war. Even though both houses of Congress voted for it overwhelmingly in October 2002. Or that we reelected the Commander-in-chief in the middle of it. Or that millions of folks still bravely stick a yellow "Support the troops" magnet on their car.

Geraghty was right on when he said: "I don't like the overall tone of Boyda's comments - that she and the legislative branch can’t be held accountable for what happens from here on out regarding foreign policy. If she thinks a troop surge is a bad idea, she ought to oppose it. If she thinks it’s a good idea, she ought to support it. There’s something unseemly about privately believing a policy to be a bad idea, but voting in favor of it anyway because 'it’s what the commander in chief wants to do.' The Democrats won control of Congress last year, and with that power comes responsibility, as Spider-Man’s Uncle told us."

The Democrats were elected, partially, to provide balance in the conduct of the war on terror. Walking away from that responsibility is simply playing politics upon the lives of over a million U.S. servicemen and 26 million Iraqi's.

Citizens fighting the war on terror

One of the blogs that are listed on my "blogroll" is Counterterrorism Blog. This week, that blog celebrated its second anniversary. If you're not reading Counterterrorism Blog regularly, you're missing a great source of information about the war on terrorism...not just in Iraq but all over the world.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Who wudda thunk it?

For those who don't live here in Minnesota, their view of the state is probably shaped by the movie "Fargo" as much as anything else. It's the Land of 10,000 (frozen) Lakes and 2,000,000 Johnson's, Anderson's and Peterson's.

Lately, though, it seems like Minnesota is Ground Zero in the Islamic/Western Civilization culture war. However, you wouldn't know it by reading the local paper - the StarTribune.

While the "Flying Imans" gained national attention on CNN, Fox News, and throughout the blogosphere, the Strib wrote three "straight" news stories about the removal of six imans from a United Airways flight last November:

6 men removed from flight, questioned (11/21/06), Uproar follows imams' detention (11/22/06), Imam incident rests on a raw nerve (11/23/06)

Then, the resident conservative columnist, Katherine Kersten, singlehandedly had do to the heavy lifting of providing additional facts:

Ordering imams off flight was a reasonable act (12/6/06), Suspicion about imams grows as terror links pile up (12/11/06), The real purpose behind the imam publicity blitz (12/14/06)

As far as I can tell by a look through the Strib's search engine these are all the articles that cover the nationally known incident.

Some other big international and national news stories lately have included: the controversy over cabbies refusing to transport passengers who are accompanied by seeing eye dogs or who are carrying liquor; Keith Ellison and his use of the Qur'an at his swearing in as the first Muslim representative to the U.S. Congress; and a gathering this week of 1,500 in support of the Shari'ah regime in Somalia.

These have been barely mentioned by the StarTribune or the local news broadcasts. It's as if this is just a part of normal life here in Minnesota...not even worth a mention as "news".

A while back, I was walking with a friend in Greenwich Village and I realized that there were definitely differences there between New Yorkers and Minnesotans. Finally, I asked my friend "Where are the burqas?"

You see, it is rare to walk down the street in Minneapolis and not see a woman in a burqa. In New York? Not so much.

I wonder if the Republican National Committee knew that when they committed to holding their national convention here in 2008?

Friday, January 05, 2007

Cindy and me

Cindy Sheehan has been in the news again. This time, she managed to co-opt the Democratic platform upon which Rahm Emanuel was giving a press conference.

I've written to a lot of folks in the last few years...and once to Cindy Sheehan. Last year, I noticed she was wearing a Tau cross - a symbol that is worn by Secular Franciscans. Since I know a little something about the Franciscans, the Prayer of St. Francis popped into my mind. So, I sent it to Cindy and gently reminded her of the need to seek real peace. She never responded.

Cindy and I share something else beyond our familiarity with St. Francis. Both of our worlds were rocked in April 2004. Cindy's son, Casey, of course, was tragically killed in that month. It's also the month that the Abu Ghraib scandal hit. In a different way, our family also went through Hell then and in the following months. For our son, it was because of knee-jerk decisions that were made by a chain of command under attack by politicians and media who salivated at the chance to unseat the commander-in-chief. For us, it was because of the vitriol that was slung at the military in front page stories accompanied by photos of the "man on the box."

So, to some extent, I feel close to Cindy's pain.

I do hope that the Peace Mom comes across this prayer again someday:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Winning for Dummies

Victor Davis Hanson is one of the smartest commenters about the war on terror around. He is a military historian and knows that despite advances in technology war doesn't change much throughout the millennia. It's all about tactics. This morning VDH has a piece at RealClearPolitics called: "A war of endurance." Here's what he has to say:

"Americans have two stark choices in the war against terrorists.

One, we can withdraw ground troops and return to punitive and conventional bombing - tit-for-tat retaliation for each attack in the future. That way, the United States stays distant and smacks the jihadists on their home bases below. Few Americans die; terrorists sometimes do. The bored media stay more concentrated on the terrorists' provocations, not on our standoff response from 30,000 feet in the clouds.

Or American forces, at great danger, can continue to change the political and economic structure of the Middle East in hopes of fostering constitutional governments that might curb terrorism for generations. This current engagement demands our soldiers fight jihadists on their vicious turf, but by our humanitarian rules. For this, we must pay the ensuing human and materiel price - all broadcast live on the evening news."

You've probably already guessed that his choice would be the latter:

"Presidents Reagan, Bush senior and Clinton, who respectively skedaddled out of Beirut, skipped Baghdad and fled from Mogadishu, didn't risk, lose or solve much against the terrorists.

In contrast, George W. Bush wagered everything by going into Afghanistan and Iraq. And he will either make things much worse or much better for millions - depending on how successfully the United States can endure the messy type of war that jihadists welcome and the American military usually seeks to avoid.

Military success on the ground now demands that we expand the rules of engagement to allow our troops to shoot more of the jihadists, disarm the militias, train even more Iraqis troops to take over security more quickly, and seal the Syrian and Iranian borders.
This solution, of course, is easier said than done. The military must use more force against those who are destroying Iraqi democracy at precisely the time the American public has become exasperated with both the length and human cost of the war.

Imagine this war as a sort of grotesque race. The jihadists and sectarians win if they can kill enough Americans to demoralize us enough that we flee before Iraqis and Afghans stabilize their newfound freedom. They lose if they can't. Prosperity, security and liberty are the death knell to radical Islam. It's that elemental."

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Michelle Malkin on a mission

Michelle Malkin is heading over to Iraq to report on a number of subjects including the story of "Capt. Jamil Hussein" whom the AP has used as a source in about 60 stories. Hussein's indentity has not been authenticated by any other news source and has been called into question by bloggers.

May Michelle meet with success in her reporting and return safely home when her mission is accomplished.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Remembering Steven Vincent

In the January 2007 issue of marie claire, you'll find an article about journalist Steven Vincent, his travels to Iraq and then his death near Basrah in August 2005. The article is named: "A different kind of love story" and includes a view of the relationship between Steven and his wife, Lisa Ramaci, as well as the bond between him and his translator, Noor, who was also shot (but survived) when Steven was killed. Most of all, it is a story about one man who decided he needed to join the war on terror, and paid the ultimate price.

From DC to Iraq

Bill Ardolino has changed the header on his blog from IN DC to IN IRAQ. Ardolino has a lengthy post titled: Chipping Away at the Sectarian Story: An Interview with Quais Abdul Raazzaq. It gives good insight into a Sunni journalist and his thoughts on the execution of Saddam Hussein. At the bottom of the post is an invitation to financially support citizen journalism. With Bill currently reporting from Iraq, there's no better time than now to help.

A terrorism primer

Bill Roggio presents a succinct primer on al Qaeda and and its allies in his post titled: The State of Jihad. Go read it, and then challenge the new chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Sylvestre Reyes, to a quiz about the war in which we are engaged.