Jason Van Steenwyk has a great firsthand report from a different time or location.
Just Another Soldier had a recent email report that I put under the “more” tag.
Jason Van Steenwyk has a great firsthand report from a different time or location.
Just Another Soldier had a recent email report that I put under the “more” tag.
LCDR Smash comments on the reports of atrocities in Iraq done by American soldiers. This hurts to discuss, but it is necessary to squash. Civilized people do not torture. Warriors in our society have limits that need maintained, and it is hard to do.
This is the difference between this “small war” and the “small war” that gave us the popular description of Balangiga. The difference here is that the truth will out, and it will be correctly addressed as long as we keep focusing on it. (Iraq Now points to a Drudge report that an American blew the whistle.)
I still remember some law of war training I went through that discussed how to avoid My Lai situations, which is different but underscores the importance of top down leadership in maintaining standards. Jason van Steenwyk also showed how he upheld such standards, in the midst of contrary tendencies.
We are dealing with unpleasant people who violate civilized rules and want to kill us. The natural response is to hate and to depersonalize Others. However, this urge can be suppressed with effective leadership, if not always eliminated.
I still want to hear the outcome of Zeyad’s story, though. Last I heard there was disciplinary action, but I have no more data and don’t know if Zeyad has gotten a sufficient answer.
Per Max Boot, these wars only get nastier and nastier. Expect more pressure on the ground to act like the enemy. This will be tough.
This article from the inestimable Mark Bowden is long but discusses some pressures different from the ones I describe with the same effect.
Professor Richard Shultz of Tufts has several things available that touch on this:
Like I said, this is only tangential to the atrocities as far as I can tell–this isn’t a question about intelligence gathering so much as a failing of ethical standards by jailers, if I read the charges correctly.
Ten days ago, American and coalition forces engaged Iraqi â€œinsurgents,â€ as the national press politely calls them. Sane Americans know them as the enemy, gunmen of an Islamic religious leader. An American brigadier general gave a televised briefing on the battle for several cities. As he explained the fight for Fallujah and how we had taken three bridges at Kut, suddenly across the bottom of the screen appeared a Fox News Alert: EXPLOSION HEARD IN BAGHDAD!!!!!
Fox immediately switched to a camera shot of a Baghdad skyline. The voice of a reporter came on, urgently speculating about an explosion, perhaps caused by a car bomb or a mortar or an RPG (rocket propelled grenade, to the unwashed) or whatever else the reporter could think of. Then the camera zeroed in on a hole in some concrete, perhaps a parking lot or sidewalk. The hole appeared to be about the size of a wheelbarrow, the evident location of the EXPLOSION HEARD IN BAGHDAD!!!!!
They got an expert on the phone. The TV guys keep a herd of experts handy for just such an event. The reporter asked the expert what could have happened.
He said to her, and I paraphrase, â€œIâ€™ll tell you what happened. This is a war of information. You were showing the generalâ€™s briefing, and they wanted you off it, so they set off a bomb in Baghdad.â€
The reporter stammered, â€œUh, oh . . .â€ and commenced to get the guy off the phone. He had more expertise than she expected.
The article has more good things to say–it’s well worth reading.
I saw that the service was discussed on morning TV, and decided it would be best to not go to the service today.
Future Work has the information on how to help the Coast Guardman’s family. The CO’s wife got the word and responded to him quickly.
We submariners annually have a scholarship fund for submariners, started because about a fifth of the WWII patrols didn’t come back. I hope this will not be needed here in the future.
MIO for short.
Firebolt was performing MIO when the target blew up. Today I attended a much bigger version of the same type of effort: a takedown of a merchant.
We went to the local Ghost Fleet of retired ships stricken from the rolls–buckets of rust and debris that used to be ships but now lust look like them, waiting for reactivation or the breakers. I trashed my staff weenie shoes in a RHIB traveling to the target ship at a jaunty clip, then weaved up to the pilothouse in the dark. Several flights of finding your way around in darkness and debris later, we were on the bridge wing, looking at two guys from our MIO commander’s ship putting white brassards on using cloth tape.
Said one officer, “Why are you trying to look French?” The answer was “Simunitions hurt, sir.” The guys were tagging themselves as observers so they wouldn’t get smacked by paintballs. You could see the paintball splats on the windows from yesterday’s practice.
We went behind the Maginot Line (a spot roped off with the white tape) and watched the fun begin. This was a vertical assault. Helos doing all sorts of interesting things, and very close to the sponsons. One guy got stuck as he tried to fast rope his way down. It was only twenty seconds or so, but from this eagle’s vantage point you could see how vulnerable he and the helo were as they figured out how to get him down safely without causing him to drop an unsafe distance.
One bad guy was caught on the weatherdeck and flexcuffed. We were perhaps fifty feet above him on the bridge wing, and the bad guy was left alone on the deck after being roped up. Looking at him wriggle down there with his hands cuffed behind his back, he looked pitiful. I knew he was a training expert who knew he was going to get snagged, and that he was doing this to teach the others, but a little videotape looking like this on TV would cause all sorts of hate and discontent if this was for real. Viewpoint is everything.
Marines and sailors together were working this takedown. There were both flavors of guys, well integrated. This is the right way to do things, not stovepiped, using the right assets for the right job. This is novel to us but more like what we did two hundred years ago.
Afterward, we reembarked the RHIB and got together to talk through some of the permutations of the work we would need to do in order to get all of these resources in one spot and still continue other missions. This is the part you never see on TV–it’s a long drawn out game of chess played in your head, while all the players work through the what ifs.
We got back from the Army base and found out our schedule is changing again. Par for the course; Semper Gumby.
First this happened (note the dateline).
Since the ship arrived on station in February, 2003, it has completed three crew swaps with other Norfolk-based patrol coastal ships.
Petty Officer 1st Class Michael J. Pernaselli, a 27-year-old originally from Rochester, N.Y., and Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher E. Watts, a 28-year old from Knoxville, Tenn., were part of a seven-person team attempting to inspect a dhow, a small commerce ship, that was nearing an oil terminal in the northern Arabian Gulf.
Also killed was the first Coast Guardsman in this kind of action since Vietnam.
This kind of work is not easy. (This may be true or not–I didn’t hear about it–but if true, it reinforces the truth that the sea is a mighty enemy.) Think about how these guys feel–23 enlisted on the ship, and seven have just gotten killed or injured–and how their community of fellow PC folks must feel. I have served with several of the CO’s, and I know they must be feeling badly tonight.
I will try to go to the memorial service if I can. I’m not part of the PC community, so I do not wish to be in the way during their time.
By the way. The article at the beginning says:
The Navy forbids boats to get within two miles of the terminals and standard security procedures require the team to investigate any vessel that nears them, officials said.
The team, riding on a 24-foot rigid-hull inflatable boat, was sent from the Virginia Beach-based USS Firebolt, a 170-foot coastal patrol boat.
The dhow exploded as the team drew close, flipping the inflatable boat and sending the crew into the water.
Roughly half an hour after the deadly explosion, two more small boats neared the oil terminals and exploded. Combined, the three attacks disabled Iraq’s largest oil terminal for more than 24 hours.
Think about that for a minute.
And please have a kind thought for the families of those who died, and for those who were gravely injured, and for those who grieve because they survived instead.
Update: Bill Powell has a great remembrance of earlier danger for small warships and a link.
So here I was on travel. Among the things I saw on TV waiting for jet lag to let me sleep was:
Anyway, the reason I bring TV up was that I got reminded about a really terrible TV ad running on CNN/BBC. Some clowns wanted me to Rediscover Lebanon, using the TV ad (long version) here. At least they mention the war once, at the end, when everyone tunes out anyway.
All I know about Lebanon is that my friend H. goes there because the internet in Beirut doesn’t block as much as it does in her native Syria. That and two hundred and some trees on the highway in Cherry Point I passed by back in 1986.
Lebanon might be a nice tourist destination. After Syria gets its hands off of it.
…was at Zagreb, in Croatia. Due to my own ineptness (I listened to someone and didn’t make the travel plans myself), I wound up with an extra bit of time in Europe, so I visited my friend in Zagreb, Croatia.
Originally I wanted to see this exhibition, but it supposedly expired in March–but it was so popular it was extended just for me. (It continues until mid-May.) You could see how Croatian artists were interacting with Monet and Pisarro and Mucha and Frank Lloyd Wright–it was as if the artists they picked were the missing link between all of the art happening at that time. At the same time, there wasn’t much that really set me on fire there. Maybe it was the reaction rather than the action.
The architecture was very interesting, though. Many blueprints and building sketches were on display, including the architect who built the flat my friend Igor was living in. Igor was quite happy to see it.
Igor also had an interesting thing to say. He said that he thought Croatian interaction with the United States was good despite their not providing troops to Iraq. I think the reason, and what I told my friend, was that Croatia came to a decision and honestly conveyed it.
I wish I could tell you more about the conversation, but I’m a tease. Sorry.
Croatia is the home of the necktie. I had no idea. It’s too darn bad I didn’t find a decent tie in the time I was there that I could afford (my ties tend to be from the Golden Age Of Cool Three Dollar D.C. Neckwear, sorry), but this page seems to sell them.
Helicopters in the Warsaw Pact countries, that is to say, Soviet birds, had “H” names. Helix is a name submariners remember. Hips are a little different.
This one landed to pick us up in the middle of a jogging track.
While the joggers kept jogging.
Man these guys are hardcore.
Anyhow, Hips are nice. They’re roomy, and because they don’t have as much hydraulic system stuff as our Sea Kings, there was lots less dripping hydraulic oil to drip all over you and trash your uniform like always happened when I rode with the admiral on those ancient US helos. Anyone got a cheap Hip for sale? I could use a second car…
Wretchard over at the Belmont Club would like this article from another former professor of mine, Richard Shultz. Shultz’s point is that until 9/11, the US didn’t accept the risk of actually being so bold as to use the Special Operations Forces that we paid to have. Oh, sure, we’d work them up, plan missions, get ready to do something, but at the last minute someone made the decision that it was Much Too Risky and put the kibosh on the whole operation. It’s well worth reading.
It’s also true, by my experience working with SOF on submarines in the late nineties.
Every year the U.S. government puts out a report on voting records in the U.N., counting the different ways countries vote. Supposedly it’s on the State website, but all I could find quickly is this from a conservative think tank via Google.
The above link is of interest when you read the next email I got from my friend working the UN Human Rights
farce Commission (the Professor Lee he mentions is the same one the Oxbloggers heard speak earlier this month):
it’s so nice to hear from you though i am struggling with this frech keyboard. i am transiting in paris for my flight back to nyc tomorrow.
please feel free to use my comments, and it appears that i am now notorious for my honest work. in fact The Economist published my letter to editor this week again–perhaps i might have good karma with this magazine or it needs someone to say what it is afraid of saying on its own–in this case the latter seems to be true.
some folks here reminded me that muslim groups are now well placed in centers of major cities all over europe as well as in the u.s.
Interestingly enough, communist states are natural allies of them if you just check on their voting records at the u.n. i just hope that there will not be a jihad waged by them together against civil socity. unfortunately, many folks in the west don’t realize that they are feeding China to become a superpower without taming it into a civil society–they might have to pay for it in the future. remember Hitler?
here in europe we could be keenly sensitive to how they see us in America. now i remember one textbook from prof. lee that says there is no permanent friends but there is permanent interest. yet i also detect some jealousy from older, decaying civilizations toward younger, vibrant ones.
have a good visit to I(…) and he is a good man. give my regards to him and his wife.
erping from paris
Erping’s letter, posted here, says:
SIR – Despite rosy figures from the Chinese government and huge development in big coastal cities, three critical issues remain disheartening. First, widespread corruption among party officials is causing capital flight and public discontent. Between 1997 and 1999 capital flight hit $53 billion by some estimates—60% of foreign direct investment in that period. The Central Communist Party Disciplinary Committee admits that it reviewed 134,692 big corruption cases by November 2003.
Second, the widening income gap between coastal urban dwellers and inland rural farmers is alarming. Some 900m of China’s 1.3 billion people are farmers who are now driven to poverty by uneven economic development. Most economists agree that China’s GDP growth owes much to foreign direct investment, but foreign companies need fewer skilled workers because of advanced production technology, while large state enterprises simply cannot compete. Hence, claims that China is suffering jobless economic growth.
Third, the Communist Party has failed to carry out its policy of material growth with spiritual and moral civilisation. Most of the social ills, some argue, come from moral deterioration in a country where virtue was once revered. Some sensitive social issues such as the student democracy movement in 1989, the crackdown on Falun Gong, suppression of Christians and cyber dissidents, and revisions to the constitution were raised by delegates at a recent People’s Congress conference. One positive trend arising from China’s effort to integrate into the world economy, however, is that the public have become more open in expressing themselves and protecting their rights.
My friend Erping was in Paris while I was in Europe. (His organization, the Institute for Asian Research, is here but I have not looked at the site yet.) He reports from the field:
Greetings from Paris! I just came from Geneva for the 60th UN Human Rights Commission where I gave two briefings. I wish you were here to hear the nasty comments from ambassadors of Sudan, Cuba, and China in defense of China’s human rights as the ‘historical best year’. As usual, China managed to get its allies from Africa and Middle East to beat US and other democracies. The vote was 28 against 16 with 10 absentions. China’s ambassador even said in the General Assembly that it has 4 times of US population so that it could have 4 times of abuses and suggested US to buy a mirror on its own because China is poor and cannot afford it. Later, a Cuban diplomat threw a Cuban rights activist based in Miami to the ground after US resolution narrowly got passed (22 to 21 votes). A US diplomat told me on the spot that it wouldn’t be hard to imagine what could happen in Cuba if such things can happen inside the UN. This HRC is essentially powerless in the face of such rogue states. I honestly don’t see its need to exist any more, unless civility and rule of law take over. I could imagine your raging face if you were here. Ha…ha…
The good thing about the trip is I got to visit F(…) for the weekend and met N(….) for lunch in Paris. Well, I learn to be more cool-headed in this harsh reality now and sometimes just laugh about it. Thank you for the advice you gave me in DC when we had that lunch, and I am learning to be not emotional about such things. It is better to just rationally cope with irrationality. Have fun in (redacted) and come home safely!
My advice to him was heartfelt, but I’m not sure how the Law of Unintended Consequences comes into play on this. My friend is fighting an important fight. (What I recommended was that some activists, later in life, get ignored because they become shrill and a one note orchestra. He has the power to avoid that some and get more of an ability to effect the change he wants.) How much power and influence to get the good thing done can you really get, and how do you maximize the change in a society? Maybe you suffer mightily for it. Maybe it’s worth it. But how do you maximize that change?
It’s interesting to see that the Cuban sucker punch is still out there. If I wasn’t pumping this out quickly to take the Instalanche into account, I’d rant a little about the U.N. –but how to fix it or to build something else?
…and the first post gets linked. Thanks!
The funny thing is, I started the trip with a flight next to a nice grandma from Switzerland, who spent the winters in Florida as a sort of jet age snowbird. She spent the rest of the flight proving that her winters in the US had done nothing to improve her understanding of Americans, and it clear that discussing politics was not going to be nice at all. I recommended Kagan’s Of Paradise And Power as a start, thinking that perhaps she wasn’t going to be ready for Ralph Peters for a few weeks.
I promised a discussion of several things on the previous post. I went to Unidentified Former Communist Country ™ to prepare for our deployment. I learned that this country was going in the same direction as us as far as the exercise goes, and I look forward to giving you details after the fact. More later on that when I upload pix.
I saw this post from the Pooping Parisian, and bought the book recommended by “W”. Since I was trapped on the plane, I had some time to dig through the French. Here’s a quick translation (bad, just like my French) of the back cover blurb in the box below.
This fellow Alain Hertoghe is a reporter who covered the 1991 Iraq war and the 2000 US election, and was the edotir-in-chief for the website connected with the French Catholic daily La Croix. Until he wrote this book, which got him fired.
Recall the spring of 2003. The U.S. and Great Britain are invading Iraq to drive Saddam Hussein from power. The French daily papers are predicting a quagmire, a savage resistance by the Republican Guard, an unprecedented humanitarian disaster. American deaths were to be counted in the thousands, Iraqis in dozens of thousands.
When, contrary to these somber prognostications, the American army appeared at the gates of Baghdad in less than 15 days, the French daily press with one voice announced the beginning of a new Stalingrad…which, as everbody knows, didn’t happen.
This much is clear: The unanimity of the newspapers was equal to their blindness. Consciously or unconsciously, aligning with the Élysée and Quai d’Orsay’s antiwar positions, their judgement obscured by Schadenfreude (the pleasure one secretly feels at seeing someone else’s disaster), they forgot the most elementary rules of journalism.
Alain Hertoghe has deciphered the way that five French dailies (Le Monde, Libération, Le Figaro, Le Croix and Ouest-France) covered the Iraq war. He lists their contradictions and their outrageous hype, and recounts from the inside how the press’ role is not to choose a side or play kingmaker, but simply to describe and explain reality.
(I have no idea what jouer les pythies means, but “kingmaker” sounds right.)
So, anyway. The book is a recounting of the three weeks of the war, and shows what each paper published in the headlines, articles, and editorial pages. It’s pretty damning, actually.
The book is in French, and there isn’t a translation available as far as I know. So here’s your world exclusive.
Update: The guy who most influenced me to start writing has seen fit to link. Thank you, professor! Visitors, please have a look around…I buried a lot of interesting stuff at the beginning of the blog.
Additional tidbit: You can always get into the most interesting of discussions with people who look too trim to be bikers, have a ponytail that only comes from twenty years of wearing it short, and Marine style desert boots…
I sat next to a Blackwater contractor today on the plane ride home. (His outfit included the guys who got killed in the Falluja lynching.) His view matched some of what I have been hearing. He said, among other things:
This one needs a violent response.
I thanked the guy for his service. It’s kind of funny–people thank us military folks every once in a while, but here I am thanking this guy because he’s taking the big risks doing something important. Well done, shipmate.
I seem to have jumped into a very nice place. After a few weeks of rain, it`s a beautiful day here, and it`s my birthday, so it is time to go outside and call my betrothed. I will post once I get home in about three days.
While I work, a glimpse of what`s to come.
Okay. Enough for now. More later…
..to do what, exactly?
It’ll take about a week. If I get connectivity, I’ll post. Otherwise, all four of you are stuck…
Jim Hake’s organizational insight is to deploy the best practices of the modern U.S. economy–efficiency and speed–around the margins of the Iraqi war effort. The Amazons, Best Buys, FedExes and DHLs can get anything anywhere–fast. Why not use the same all-American skill at procurement efficiency and quick distribution to get the soldiers in Iraq (and Afghanistan) the stuff that government red tape will never provide in time?
— — — —
Spirit of America is all-volunteer. The accounting for its projects, down to the penny, is listed on the Web site.
We did this type of thing in the 1950’s, you know. It’s time to do it again.
I do enjoy embarking aboard USS Clueless every once in a while. The good captain Den Beste has insanely long posts, and occasionally outstanding analysis. He’s an engineer by trade, and the worldview this experience affords him is useful in taking apart many situations.
However, he’s grumpy today, and perhaps it’s a fundamental disagreement with, or misunderstanding of, how people operate.
If you read the post you’ll see that he’s groaning under the heavy load of readership; and is annoyed when eighteen people write him to correct some pedantic speling eror or other some such. He really gets tweaked. He’s already compared it to water torture (although the “water cure” might be a better analogy).
As for me, I get one email a week about this website, usually because I’ve commented somewhere else in the blogosphere, not because of the writing. So I don’t have that problem. However, perhaps I could offer a solution.
Moving parts in rubbing contact require lubrication to avoid excessive wear. Honorifics and formal politeness provide lubrication where people rub together. Often the very young, the untraveled, the naive, the unsophisticated deplore these formalities as “empty,” “meaningless,” or “dishonest,” and scorn to use them. No matter how “pure” their motive, they thereby throw sand into machinery that does not work too well at best.
Den Beste sees no moving parts because he just writes and allows people to see what he did. Heinlein saw that the lonely writing process is still a form of social intercourse. What to do when he got so popular that he got letters nonstop, in a pre-form letter age? He could answer the letters, but would not get any writing done otherwise!
Heinlein settled on an elegant solution. He and his wife printed index cards regretting his inability to individually respond, but thanking the writer for the time. Sometimes he’d respond more directly if the writer was more interesting.
The result? A large number of people who to this day remember their interaction with the Master fondly and with warmth.
So here’s the point that Den Beste, to my thinking, misses. One reason a person writes is to have influence on how others think or act. By ensuring that enemies were not made unnecessarily, Heinlein improved and deepened his influence by maintaining some semblance of politeness in a difficult situation. (A rule I try to live by: Make your enemies only on purpose. You’ll get enough of them as it is.) Den Beste could have a piece of form email stationery on his computer, a bin different from the Bozo Bin to put pedants and helpfulx1000 emails, and then send all his correction squad a nice note that acknowledges the other’s existence with negligible effort on Den Beste’s part. The emailer isn’t turned off (and never to read again and learn something) due to Den Beste’s insistence on playing exclusively by his own rules. Den Beste doesn’t get the return email and thus gets less annoyance.
Perhaps I should email Den Beste, pointing out this potential solution!
So I had to go look at Wretchard’s site to put a silly link on the previous post.
I don’t want to dig through this for the same reason I don’t want to study Bosnia/Kosovo–I’ve stayed focused on Pacific matters, and the subject is so depressing.
There definitely is something more to the story, and we need to figure it out. I do not believe that those who would normally “figure it out” will do so, since they’re implicated (see Oil for Food scandals, ignoring, pp. 23-630). So who does?
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