Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Years

I was saying at the castle, this year is the year of freedom. 2005 was definitely "interesting times". Fred said that he wouldn't mind a little boredom. Sometimes I agree and other times I think I wouldn't mind the march of freedom going on and on.

In the last four years, the world has shook, tyrants have trembled and men have walked free.

Chains were broken, both the invisible chains of tyranny and the chains that bound men to earth.

At the same time, this year has been heavy with loss. Over 841 mean and women have paid the price in uniform, with more injured. Thousands have died in tragic natural and man made catastrophes. Thousands more are still homeless and looking for their family members who they may never see again. Terrorism is still a threat.

Personally, this year has been one of loss and the year has not ended yet, still I am waiting to hear from my friend in Afghanistan and, today I wait as my 56 year old uncle (dad's brother, Vietnam Vet) who is once again in the hospital having suffered a massive stroke. I can't say his condition yet, but is critical. So, here I am again, waiting.

I was reading at Lex about his daughter and his record collection and the song I think struck a chord with me for this year:

"Carry On Wayward Son"

(Kerry Livgren)


Once I rose above the noise and confusion
Just to get a glimpse beyond the illusion
I was soaring ever higher, but I flew too high
Though my eyes could see I still was a blind man
Though my mind could think I still was a mad man
I hear the voices when I'm dreamin',
I can hear them say

Carry on my wayward son,
For there'll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Now don't you cry no more

Masquerading as a man with a reason
My charade is the event of the season
And if I claim to be a wise man, it surely
means that I don't know
On a stormy sea of moving emotion
Tossed about I'm like a ship on the ocean
I set a course for winds of fortune, but
I hear the voices say

Carry on, you will always remember
Carry on, nothing equals the splendor
Now your life's no longer empty
Surely heaven waits for you

Carry on my wayward son,
For there'll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Now don't you cry no more

I think I could use some boringness, too.

The Revolution Will Be Blogged

I admit, I stole that line from Protein Wisdom who stole it from somebody else, but the reality is, the last two years at least have seen the major revolutions for freedom being blogged in real time. The next revolution has been stirring and it is so low key it's just catching the eye of the MSM:

The Iranian State has done its utmost to smother the nascent Iranian blogosphere. In 2003 the Government began to take direct action against bloggers — more than 20 have been arrested, on charges ranging from “morality violations” to insulting leaders of the Islamic Republic. One blogger was sentenced to 14 years in prison for “spying and aiding foreign counter-revolutionaries”; in October, Omid Sheikhan was sentenced to a year’s jail and 124 lashes for a weblog featuring satirical political cartoons.

The regime has also reportedly brought in powerful software programs to filter the net and block access to provocative blogs. But the Government remains profoundly alarmed by a tool it cannot control. Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi, the head of the Iranian judiciary, recently described the internet as a “Trojan Horse carrying enemy soldiers in its belly”. Many of Iran’s religious leaders recall how an earlier revolution was fuelled by new technology, when cassette tapes and videotapes of sermons by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini were smuggled into the country, undermining the Shah and hastening his downfall.

Decentralised, informal and versatile, blogs offer a potential for secrecy, anonymity and evasion unthinkable in a hierarchical, paper-based information system. A blogger may be arrested, but once his words are out there and replicable, they are effectively immortal and invulnerable. The bloggers have proved so wily and hard to censor that the Government has even considered removing Iran from the internet entirely, by creating a national intranet that would seal off Iranians from the contaminating freedom of the world wide web.

If the Iranian Government succeeds in crushing the blogs, other intolerant regimes will take heart; but if the Iranian blogosphere continues to expand, nascent networks of free thought will follow elsewhere. Already US policymakers are exploring ways of nurturing home-grown Arabic language blogs in the Middle East to spread democratic ideals and increase pressure for change.

It is less the political content of the blogs that terrifies Iran’s Government than the mere existence of this space outside its control, where Iranians are free to say whatever they wish to one another. Here in Weblogistan they can tell jokes, flirt, mock their leaders and share music files, unencumbered by mullahs’ fiats or state decrees.

For a reader from the West, the blogs offer a vision of Iran, far from the chanting crowds, hidden women and ranting mullahs of popular imagery. As much as President Ahmadinejad may seek to turn back the clock and battle “Westoxification”, at the blog level this is a modern country. “My blog is a blank page,” writes one young Iranian blogger. “Sometimes I stretch out on this page in the nude . . . now and again I hide behind it. Occasionally I dance on it.” That may not sound like a call to arms, but in a country where the music is dying it may be the harbinger of revolution.

Read the rest Opinion - Ben Macintyre Times Online

Not long ago I opined that being a blogger right now meant that I could express, for what seemed like the first time, even in my free world, my own opinions, thoughts and ideas without having to belong to a group and with the ability to reach many, exchange ideas and grow. I believe that I have been part of history. I know I learned things about people and places I never imagined before.

We are seeing another revolution. It's quiet. It's insidious. It's sometimes seditious. But, most of all, it's grand.

This revolution will be blogged.

H/T:Security Watchtower

Rantings of a Sandmonkey: Our National Shame

Rantings of a Sandmonkey: Our National Shame

Sandmonkey covers the official story:

In a showdown played out during the first five hours of Friday, the protesters dismantled their plastic sheeting and cardboard, but most refused to leave on buses brought in to take them to camps elsewhere in Cairo.

Shortly before dawn, thousands of riot police encircled the camp, set up near the refugee agency to draw attention to the refugees' demands. Police fired water cannons at the protesters, then invaded the park when the Sudanese refused to leave.

20 are dead and many wounded. But Sandmonkey goes one better and points us to a first hand, eyewitness report with pictures from a vid phone (all hail citizen journalism):

I arrived campus at 11:00 pm to find State Security Trucks and plain cloth police filling and closing the roads of Batal Ahmed Abdel Aziz, Ahmed Orabi, and Gameet el Dewal streets.

Public white busses lined up all the way from Donuts House till Mustafa Mahmud square with a few number of state security soldiers sitting inside them. I was able to take down some of the public busses wagon numbers as I walked 4129, 3696, 4107, 4136, 4335, 3416, 3534, and 3416.[snip]

At 1:00 am, and it was really cold, security forced started flushing the Refugees with three water cannons from three different sides.[snip]

Refugees met the water floods with cheer and dance. We won’t go was their message.[snip]

The few civilians who gathered to observe the scene from far were mostly quiet amused. I painfully heard comments such “let them take a shower to become clean”, “Egypt has been more than patient with them”, “security forces should’ve got rid of them from day one. They (Sudanese) are disgusting”. Laughs interrupted such comments as the refugees were sprayed with water. Few stood silent with eyes wide open at the scene, while only one objected and explained that Sudanese have demands and rights to be met by UNHCR.[snip]

I was able to step to the second security circle surrounding them. A public bus waiting in the area had five Refugees at the back seat while a sixth one was being brutally beaten by 5 state security soldiers. From my position next to the bus I could see and hear him screaming as they beat him on his head and back with hands and batons, kicked him, and twisted his arm and wrist behind his back as his screams went louder and louder. An officer standing next to us explained that he is trying to break the window and escape because he is drunk. At this point a man from the back seat opened the window holding a few months old baby girl as he cried “we are not drunk, I am not drunk, he is not drunk, and this baby is not drunk. Her mother died here in this park”. They beat him to silence as well and continued with the sixth guy. A young man videod the scene on his cell phone and later Bluetoothed it to me.

Go read the rest

Friday, December 30, 2005

N. Korea cuts off U.N. food, ignites famine fears - Asia-Pacific -

N. Korea cuts off U.N. food, ignites famine fears - Asia-Pacific -

Why? Way down in the article, the truth is spoken:

"If you give the food through the WFP, it is more likely to reach vulnerable people," said Noland. "If you give the food to the North Korean government, it will distribute according to its own preferences, which are basically political."

Since the regime's priority appears to be its own survival, experts say, it will naturally favor loyal military and political elite, rather than the most needy.

Kim Jong asshole feels his power weakening. He needs to:

a) Make sure the people are starving with no outlet for relief but himself. The minute they feel a little strength, they might get uppity and think they can replace him.

b) Because he feels the power wavering around him, he needs to shore it up with perks and payments to the military and political leaders around him and the only way that is happening in the crappy world they live in is if he grabs the grain at the central level, distributes it to his political friends who will then give it to their people to keep them loyal or who will sell it on the underground market or throught third or fourth party entities to get cash.

Criminy, even China is better than this pig.

Dear Lord, out of all the leaders in this world that seem to keep on ticking, why can't you, all Mighty and Powerful, manage to drop a plane on this guy's head?

Military threatens to move in on Fiji's seat of government - World -

I was only joking about over throwing the Fiji government.

Military threatens to move in on Fiji's seat of government - World -

The Forgotten War - Afghanistan's New Day: A Promising Step for Afghan Women

Four years after the U.S.-led coalition and Afghan resistance overthrew the Taliban, Afghanistan is still stumbling on the path to peace and stability.

However, there are glimmers of hope everywhere.

The country is nowhere near as violent as it was before, although in the past few months there has been an increase in insurgent attacks. It has a new constitution that enables the establishment of civil institutions like an independent judiciary and human rights commission, and foreign investment is trickling in. The brightest developments have been the inauguration of the new Afghan Parliament on Dec. 19 after more than a 30-year absence from the political scene and the political involvement of Afghan women in the rebuilding of their country.[snip]

Afghan women are finding their voices in many sectors of society, including politics. They have started to become actively involved in the political arena of their country, demanding increased representation in government and legislatures. Out of the 5,800 registered candidates who participated in the historic parliamentary elections on Sept. 18, 565 were women.

The new constitution of Afghanistan, instituted in January 2004, mandates that at least a quarter of the elected posts be reserved for women—putting the country ahead of Australia, Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. in terms of female representation in government. This means that women are guaranteed 68 of the 249 parliamentary seats, and 26 of the 102 seats reserved for the senate, or upper house.

Read the rest: - Views - Afghanistan's New Day: A Promising Step for Afghan Women

The Story You Won't Hear On Iraq Part I:

Casualties Are Way Down

I was reading this article:

The two new deaths of U.S. military personnel were announced Friday by the American military. A bomb killed one soldier when it struck his vehicle in Baghdad on Friday, while the second soldier was shot and killed in the western city of Fallujah.

Their deaths brought the number of U.S. military members killed so far in 2005 to 841, of whom 64 died in December. A total of 846 troops died in 2004 and 485 in 2003. The worst month in 2005 was January with 106 fatalities, followed by November with 96 and August with 85.

I thought, "Is this the story?"

It's true after all. 841 died. Not much of a decrease over last year. But looking at the numbers as a whole without any information about increased operations or any other activities always seems sterile. I'm sure, had our men and women stayed behind their barricades or simply held certain areas we'd have extremely limited casualties. But since November 2004, the important part of the story is that we have seen a year of continuous operations, one after the other. Compared to 2003-2004 when we were holding specific areas and being continuously attacked with only a few major operations over the same period, the highest being November 2004 when we stormed Fallujah. If you look at the month summaries, it's almost all IEDs which means that we are still working out how to overcome these dangerous munitions.

We are going to have to improve this, no matter what, because it's likely we are going to be confronting these kinds of operations wherever we go in the future.

Before I continue on that subject though, another story is missing. This from Gateway Pundit

These are civilian casualties. That spike in September is from the day that over 900 Iraqi Shi'ites were trampled or drowned on the bridge when a mortar group fired on a religious procession and then rumors of a suicide bomber caused the group to panic more. Without that day, every day has been a safer day in Iraq for the civilians, though I'm sure it's still scary. But, our men and women have traded their lives for the lives of civilians by taking the fight to the enemy. That makes them true heroes, doing what we expect of them, not gung ho, trigger happy idiots trading their lives for nothing.

I'm reminded of Jeffrey Starr's words:

"Obviously if you are reading this then I have died in Iraq. I kind of predicted this, that is why I'm writing this in November. A third time just seemed like I'm pushing my chances. I don't regret going, everybody dies but few get to do it for something as important as freedom. It may seem confusing why we are in Iraq, it's not to me. I'm here helping these people, so that they can live the way we live. Not have to worry about tyrants or vicious dictators. To do what they want with their lives. To me that is why I died. Others have died for my freedom, now this is my mark."

It wasn't for nothing.

It was for this:

And, for this:

That's the story of Iraq 2005.

Iran: The Younger Generation's 'Tehran Blues' - RADIO FREE EUROPE / RADIO LIBERTY

Iran: The Younger Generation's 'Tehran Blues' - RADIO FREE EUROPE / RADIO LIBERTY

The Hejab Wars

Although the hejab wars have been a constant feature of the past two decades, not all youth are openly defiant to the Islamic codes of appearance. There are still many young girls, particularly in smaller towns and cities, that choose to wear the chador in public; many boys who dress in the bland, traditionally religious uniform of plain shirts and trousers. However, as it becomes more and more difficult to forestall youngsters' exposure to what is happening beyond Iran's borders, this is undergoing a rapid change, even among strict traditional religious families. Parissa, a 16-year-old high-school student whose parents have brought her up wearing the chador since the age of nine, told me how every day in her life was a constant show.

"On my way to school, as soon as I get far enough from home, I turn into a back alley. I carefully fold my black chador and stuff it in my schoolbag. I daub my cheeks with some rouge that I have stashed away in my bag, and then I walk towards the school. At a safe distance from the school, I wipe off the rouge and put on the chador again."

Being a relative of mine, she confided in me that she sometimes saw a young boy and that they walked together a short distance hold hands.

"Do you call up each other?" I asked.

"Why, of course not. My parents have their eyes and ears glued to the telephone!"

"So how do you communicate?"

"Why, of course, through the web. Whenever I'm allowed to log on to the web for some research work, he comes into the same chat-room as I do."

Just because the president is crazy, doesn't mean everyone else is.

Air Force Sisters Take Names and Kick Butt

U.S. Air Force Senior Airmen Levina Sumang and Levana Raum volunteered to deploy here together to provide security for the base. The twins are with the 379th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron and deployed from the Hawaii Air National Guard's 154th Wing. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cassandra Locke.

SOUTHWEST ASIA, Dec. 28, 2005 — U.S. Air Force Senior Airmen Levana Raum and Levina Sumang have been brought closer together by sharing their deployment experiences at a forward-deployed location.

The twin sisters volunteered to deploy together so they could get an opportunity to catch up on quality time after once going their separate ways.

“It’s been nice to spend some quality time with my sister without the distractions you would get at home,” said Sumang, who is the older twin by one hour and 14 minutes.

Airmen Raum and Sumang enlisted in the Air Force through the buddy system. They went through basic training and technical school together.

Marine Searches for IEDs in Haqliniyah

HAQLANIYAH, Iraq, Dec. 29, 2005 — In the town of Haqlaniyah, the “Raiders” of Company I, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, continue to patrol the streets every day, keeping the area safe from the ongoing insurgency.

Lance Cpl. Darin J. Wittnebel, a native of Oconomowoc, Wis., goes on many of these patrols. He has a very important duty that helps him keep the “Raider Nation” safe from improvised explosive devices and find abandoned weapons caches. He carries the PSS-12 metal detector on every patrol.“The detector can pick up lots of stuff underneath the ground or under piles of garbage,” said the 20-year-old rifleman for the company. “We bring it with us because you never know when you will find a weapons cache or IED.”

Recently, Wittnebel and other Marines in his squad were out on a routine patrol providing security and talking with local people in the area. On their way back to the base, Wittnebel was sweeping the curbs when a loud beep came from the detector signaling the presence of a large metal object.

“I wasn’t sure what it was picking up, but I found out when I moved some trash away from the area and there was a bunch of wires attached to a battery assembly,” he said as he smiled. “As soon as I saw that I didn’t waste any time getting away from there. I just couldn’t believe that I found an IED just like that, and it was right outside the base.”

82nd Airborne Returning From al Anbar

After the task force's convoy to Iraq from Kuwait, "we almost immediately started combat operations," Swift said. The "Wild West," as some paratroopers called it, was a hotbed of the insurgency. The task force used intelligence to target insurgent leaders, deny terrorists safe havens and protect the people of the region from the insurgents. The task force operated in Haqlaniyah, Habbaniyah and Ramadi. [snip]

Once the action was over, the paratroopers were able to relate to the Iraqis in the area. A D Company medic, Pfc. Dustin Lehmann, said he was surprised and pleased that when the unit moved into an area, people started bringing their sick children and other family members in to see him. "They rely on you and trust you to take care of them," Lehmann said. "And knowing you can help was an amazing feeling. We treated lot of small children with malaria, a lot of burn injuries and bullet wounds." [snip]

All in the unit were surprised at the level of insurgent intimidation. "In one town, this man wouldn't cooperate with them, so they kidnapped his son and left his headless body on the street in front of his house," Swift said. "In another, they kidnapped this woman's husband and raped her son right in front of her. [snip]

"(The insurgents) have nothing to offer," he said.

The paratroopers noticed quickly what effect they were having in these cities, towns and villages. "The first few days, no one would come out," said Army Sgt. Abel Peterson, a fire team leader with A Company. "But then you would see folks start coming out into the street. They felt safe seeing us around."

In one instance, his company cleared a street and one woman came out and hugged his platoon sergeant. "She had lost her husband to Saddam's thugs; her sons had been run out of town by the insurgents," he said. "But that night she knew she was safe. It sticks in my mind."

Read the rest

An Interesting Series from the NYT:

Happiness, Acceptance, Pride and Loss

I caught this series while reviewing news on the Iraq election and wanted to share it as I was so surprised that it was not laced with "bad Bush war" rhetoric, but were follow ups to previous stories.

Hapiness, Acceptance, Pride and Loss

Juliet Macur of the Times follows up on six soldiers from past articles in the series about the role sports play in the lives of American soldiers deployed to Iraq and of their families.

Dawn Hafker: Staying busy with work, new love

In June 2004, First Lt. Dawn Halfaker, who had played basketball at West Point, was riding in an armored Humvee in Baquba when a rocket-propelled grenade tore through the vehicle. It burst through her upper right arm, shattered her shoulder blade and broke five ribs that bruised her lung. Doctors amputated her right arm.

Danielle Green: From Grand Marshall to Coveted Sports Job

Specialist Danielle Green, a former basketball player at Notre Dame, was sitting atop a police station in Baghdad in May 2004 when a rocket-propelled grenade tore off her left arm below the elbow. For months afterward, she was angry and self-conscious about losing her dominant hand, and she was still struggling to cope last spring. But she said she had come to terms with the injury

Phil Sorenson: Football Not the Same

Phil Sorenson and his best friend, Cody Wentz, joined the North Dakota Army National Guard for college money. In February 2004, they were shipped to Iraq. On Nov. 4, 2004, the two were arguing inside a Humvee about their favorite football teams - the Detroit Lions and the Minnesota Vikings - when a roadside bomb exploded. It killed Mr. Wentz, and tore off Mr. Sorenson's lower left leg.

Partnership Brings Trained Soldiers and Optimism

American and Iraqi soldiers lived together at Camp Normandy, 60 miles northeast of Baghdad, and the two battalions competed in sports to strengthen their relationship. Now Lt. Col. Roger Cloutier's First Battalion, 30th Infantry of the Third Infantry Division is about to leave Iraq.

Mother Deals With Son's Death At Home

On Aug. 29, he returned home to Nashville for a 15-day break. He called his parents, Dorothy and Mozell, for directions to their new house but never showed up.

Late that night, Sergeant Rayner, still in his desert camouflage uniform, was stabbed to death in the apartment of his 19-year-old girlfriend. He was 37, and had a 10-year-old son from a previous marriage. William K. Gillum, who had been dating Sergeant Rayner's girlfriend, was charged with first-degree murder and is out on bail. His arraignment is set for Jan. 6.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Harsh Truth About Honor Killings

It's the Money, Stupid

The honor killing noted by Michelle Malkin is interesting for several reasons, one of which is not in its barbarity nor that it was claimed as "honor", but in fact, the lengths to which it was carried.

Nazir Ahmed appears calm and unrepentant as he recounts how he slit the throats of his three young daughters and their 25-year old stepsister to salvage his family's "honor" — a crime that shocked Pakistan.

The 40-year old laborer, speaking to The Associated Press in police detention as he was being shifted to prison, confessed to just one regret — that he didn't murder the stepsister's alleged lover too.

He killed not only the original "sinner", but he killed her younger sisters as well, ostensibly to prevent them from committing the same "crime". However, the true motive is buried far down in the story and is more often than not the reason why such murders are carried out:

The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said that in more than half of such cases that make it to court, most end with cash settlements paid by relatives to the victims' families, although under a law passed last year, the minimum penalty is 10 years, the maximum death by hanging.[snip]

Despite Ahmed's contention that Muqadas had committed adultery — a claim made by her husband — the rights commission reported that according to local people, Muqadas had fled her husband because he had abused her and forced her to work in a brick-making factory.

Let me explain a few things that you might not be familiar with. When a girl marries, her husband must pay a bride price or dowry to the family who must also provide a small cash settlement, houshold goods and possibly some farm animals. Should the marriage go south, usually and largely blamed on the woman, then the bride's family must give back the bride price and will not receive back in return any of the goods that were provided. Further, the woman or girl will be wholely unmarriagable again, unless the family can convince some poor guy to accept her with an even larger dowry from them and a much smaller bride price from the groom (which no family in their right mind is going to allow their son to marry any such woman without this payment no matter how much the son may want to do so for purposes other than the money). Finally, lacking marital prospects, the woman now becomes a drain on the resources of the family.

However, if they charge her as an adultress and kill her, there is no return of the bride price, but possibly a small compensation to the other family (much cheaper) for the loss of a pair of hands and a baby maker in the family. The other compensation that the article speaks of is for the male "adulterer" whoever that is (if he exists at all) who may be killed and is worth quite a bit more money than the woman. so, despite the father's "lament" not having killed the "lover", he is most likely full of crap since it was cheaper to simply kill his daughter.

Now, the question why, if not honor, that he killed his other daughters. Since the sister has "brought shame" on the house, these daughters are going to be much more difficult to marry off and he certainly has no desire to have them around forever. To marry them off, he is going to have to provide additional incentives and possibly take less bride price for each of them. On top of that, he has a young son (less than a year old) who, when he is old enough, will choose a bride and will need to have money to pay for his bride and make an advantageous marriage when he grows up. By the time his son would have been old enough to marry, its very likely that the family would have been beggared or forced to borrow money from their relatives in order to provide him with a suitable bride.

Basically, this is not about pretty sentiments of "honor" or even women as things in extension to men's honor, but it is about women being things or commodities, much as fuedal Europe once saw a woman's virginity as a commodity to barter for wealth and power (it wasn't paticularly about honor back then either).

This man is worse than a serial killer because he has made a cold blooded financial choice knowing that he will spend little time in prison, will pay little in the way of a fine, will most likely have his herds or farm cared for by other family members while he spends what little time he has in prison and will come out, in all actuallity, in a far improved financial condition.

It's not about "honor", it's the money, stupid.

The Forgotten War:

Now I Find Myself Waiting

This morning I heard the news:

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – One U.S. service member and one Afghan local national employed by the Coalition were killed and another two U.S. service members were injured Wednesday when their vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device in eastern Afghanistan.

I have a friend who is an "Afghan local national" that works as an interpreter for our forces whom I met via chat through a mutual acquaintance there who I speak very little about on this website because I feared disclosing too much information that might lead to his identification and thus endanger him.

We speak of little things like how many magazines are now printed in Afghanistan. He told me that he could go to a news stand and count at least 50 in different languages including women's magazines on fashion, clothing and food, though he said 90% are political. He told me that the men he worked with (US soldiers) had given him dirty magazines to look at and taught him some inappropriate phrases, which I helpfully reminded him would not be appropriate to use in front of or to women, though I am sure he already knew that he should not speak so in front of his mother.

I was laughing later thinking that this is, after all, one of the things that does not change when we go to war. Wherever an American soldier goes, so you will find him sharing his culture in the way that soldiers know best how to do.

We spoke in general that he wants to come to the United States and open a business. He already had a supply line set up and waiting, but he had to save money and wait to get a visa which is not easy, even for a man working with the coalition. He thinks he will only be safe if he leaves there and it is probably true, though he also said that there are many like him who must stay so if he must he would find away to keep working with the government since it may be the only way he will ever be safe.

Several times he said to me that he was a marked man and that he did not go home regularly because he did not want people to know who his family was or where he lived since it made them marked, too. I suppose it is these conversations, though I knew little what to reply accept that he should be careful then and always vary the way he went home, which make me understand war from outside the position of an American or even a supporter of our troops reading blogs and news reports.

My friend despised the Taliban, but feared sometimes that his country beyond the progress of Kabul would be forever plagued by the affliction not because all of Afghanistan was ideologically radicalized or even "Islamic", but because, as in many places, these people were simple people trying to eek out a living, with little education and with little opportunity to go beyond their ancestoral lands so they would deal with whomever came in strength in order to survive. He said that there was little Afghan nationality nor national pride, that it had been beaten from them in 25 years of war.

I've thought that about Iraq as well and something we should always understand in all future wars with small, failed states, that national pride is not created simply by borders or government, but is created over years and requires the ability to simultaneously create a new way forward while accepting all things that have come in the past to create it. It's a very long process which I suppose means that if we are to deny territory to those ideological radicals it means that wherever we go, we must be prepared to stay a long time and support them for a long time lest we find ourselves returning again.

I believe our little conversations may have helped him improve his english beyond the phrases that the soldiers taught him. I found myself explaining slang terms to him that I never realized before were slang at all. Those little cliches that we sprinkle in our conversations which we in our every day lives pay little attention to are quite confusing to English as a second language speakers.

I suppose that I should tell the funny part of our conversation because our mutual friend was teasing him about finding him a girlfriend and he was worried when we first spoke that his friend was trying to set him up. Of course, I am 14 years his senior so I assured him that was not the case that our friend simply provided a person as a pen-pal since he knew that our Afghan friend was largely cut off from his friends and family due to his occupation. He then told me that in Afghanistan, the age of the woman and man did not matter and that many men his age had married older women. He said that the concern over such age differences was strictly a western occupation.

Of course, in a world of tribal relations and marriages for dowry and property, like the old European fuedal system, that would be correct. It is amazing the little things you learn that you take foregranted as common social behavior which has no bearing in a land far away.

Still, I was nervous and wanted to make sure that my friend understood I was only a friend. I was even more nervous when he asked several times if I had a boyfriend because he was sure that, if I had a boyfriend, I would not be allowed to write him. I was hard pressed how to explain firmly that we were simply friends while at the same time assuring him that a boyfriend on my part would not change my mind about writing to him. I think that is another cultural difference. Then again, maybe he understood relationships between men and women better than my own illusions of independence? In either case, we got that sorted out without trampling too much on each others feelings or destroying a fragile friendship.

He had no girlfriend (he explained that no matter how much western influence they imbibed, any such prospects were extremely limited in their culture and would likely result in him getting his butt kicked if not worse) and he had no girl which he wanted to court. He did not want to marry an Afghan girl I think because he felt that doing so meant that he had given up his dream of leaving there.

You see, contrary to popular belief, in many places, America is still the land of dreams.

I last heard from my friend on Christmas Eve when he wrote to wish me Merry Christmas and told me that he had received some small gifts from the men that he worked with. I wished him Merry Christmas and Happy New Years in return.

This morning I heard the news that an "Afghan local national" had been killed along with a Coalition soldier which I knew meant a US soldier and my heart skipped a beat. They never say the Afghan's name and I only hear from my friend every few weeks while he is out on patrols or operations.

Now I find myself waiting like many others must wait to hear from my friend again.

I do not write about Afghanistan often, but it is not a forgotten war here.

Pray For Peace, Prepare For War

I was reminded this morning of the schizophrenic nature of war. Its strange dual face that most do not recognize as existing and many feel that, to profess to one means that you cannot believe in or hope for the other just as fervently. It may be that this season brings it on more than any other time of the year. It may simply be the realization that we are heading into the fifth year and we must recognize that this low level war may indeed continue for years to come at a higher or lower pace, but war it will be whether we see it nightly on our news or simply hear a weekly update on activities beyond our borders or if it reverts to an occasional "special report" on the evening news.

We will eventually slip into that twilight where we hear and see little until the next flare up turns hot enough for full force intervention.

In the meantime, it is still hot enough to warrant the attention and the dual ideology that one can understand the necessity for war and the preparation, yet pray regularly and hope even more diligently for peace. While it is not millions of men and women serving in harms way nor tens of thousands wounded and dying in major battles, nor the whole sale destruction of civilian centers daily that was seen during my grandparents' days of WWII, the ability to see and read daily the reports of both progress and set backs, the daily casualty reminders and, even on Christmas Day, to note the deaths of the young, aspiring and inspiring soldiers or the casual note of "four civilians killed or wounded", has reminded me in a small way, what it must have been like to sit at home during those much darker days and wait.

While I have routinely prayed to God to give our men and women strength to carry on, to protect them in their endeavors, have mercy on those that are wounded and dying and to comfort those that have lost, strangely (or not), what I find myself praying for even more passionately is that God will move men to see reason, to stay the sword and desire peace above all other things.

I suppose, at heart, I am truly a pacifist. I can imagine, with all honesty, that around this country and around the world, there are more people who dream of peace whatever their nationality, race or religion, than who beat the drums of war. Yet, man is man, hardly perfect or pure in his wants and needs, thus war seems to be an equal and unending act of man. Man's duality, his natural state.

Having studied these last two years the conflicts around the globe, one can see that war, in one shape or another, has gone on unending for centuries. Sometimes I wonder if, in some strange way, the proclivity to war is natures way of culling an ever expanding population of men where the only predator capable enough of "herd control" is man himself? That is neither logical science nor comforting since we are raised up to believe that man, with his superior reasoning capabilities, is supposed to be able to overcome natural inclinations seen in the animal kingdoms.

I think that we are fooling ourselves in that regard because we do reflect the wild beasts in the jungles, on the mountains and on the plains. We struggle for territory and resources, to protect our own from outsiders, particularly from a different species. And, as our own grows, we continually come into contact with those that "do not belong" who feel equally threatened by our existence or expansion.

I suppose that one could blame modern globalization for this continual friction when in modern man we should have developed a more sensible approach to addressing differences and resolving problems with "dialogue". Maybe that is why many despise and loath modern globalization because they see in it the destruction of their individual cultures and ideas? Yet, for any true scholar of human expansion and achievement the modern globalization trend and its unceasing abuttment to many small wars, is nothing new nor is it a process which can be stopped since the first true "globalization" began the first time that a caveman went to the next cave over and traded his flint blades and the knowledge on how to capture and skin an animal for clothing for the berries, fruit and wheat the other tribe had collected. From that moment on, each caveman and his clan were changed irrevocably in diet, clothing, language and even culture.

At the same time, each cave clan had to know that now they had rivals for their resources and that they were in danger of extinction or forced to leave or join forces with the new clan should those resources be over used or the next clan over decide that they should have what the others have either through trade or violence. From that moment on, every interaction of man, every advancement, every movement, was leading to this moment and is unavoidable.

In which case, our society will be changed in many small ways while other cultures will be changed in extremely large and sometimes threatening ways. However one protects against it, it cannot be avoided which often makes such ideological wars as those proposed by the current rash of irrationalists (ie, the Islamists) seem futile and pointless.

I suppose I am also often surprised by people who say that we should "disengage" from one area or the other as if this would reduce the friction created by global expansion when one cannot stop a speeding train by placing a penny on the track anymore than one can stop the intermingling of cultures and people by pretending that an invisible wall exists through which no outside culture could penetrate through cable or air waves, much less global trade.

So, here we are. On the one hand desiring peace and prosperity and on the other understanding that man's continual expansion will always create friction and that, even as one culture may rise above another, soon will come another and another to change it yet again and create friction which lends to war.

A question that every generation must ask itself even as it sees the end of one great conflict which seems to signal a new and lasting peace, only to see arise a new conflict:

Are we forever to be praying for peace, but preparing for war?

Sunday, December 25, 2005

To My Friends and Web Pals

Merry Christmas!
Sorry I'm so late. Hope you all are enjoying the holidays with family and friends.
Joy to the world, peace on earth good will towards men.
Luke Chapter 2
25And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.
26And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ.
27And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,
28Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,
29Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
30For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
31Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
32A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
33And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.
34And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;
35(Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
May the thoughts in your hearts be only joy.

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Best Propaganda Ever - Truth:

Osama's Niece

Her uncle is the world's most wanted man and a byword for zealotry. Which makes these poses by Osama Bin Laden's niece either very brave or extremely foolish.

Wafah Dufour, 26, is seen sprawled on a bed in lingerie, a feather boa and high heels.

She stretches out her long limbs and throws back her hair in an attitude seemingly calculated to outrage Islamic traditionalists.

Does that make her an infidel or an apostate?

Click on title to read the rest.

H/T Blonde Sagacity

Patton's Prayer and Training Letter 5

In conjunction with Castle Argghhh!'s recounting of the Battle of the Bulge over Christmas, I bring you the story of General George S. Patton's "Prayer for Weather" and "Training Letter 5":

The incident of the now famous Patton Prayer commenced with a telephone call to the Third Army Chaplain on the morning of December 8, 1944, when the Third Army Headquarters were located in the Casene Molfir, in Nancy, France: "This is General Patton; do you have a good prayer for weather? We must do something about these rains if we are to win this war." My reply was that I knew where to look for such a prayer, that I would locate, and report within the hour.

As I hung up the telephone receiver, about eleven in the morning, I looked out on the steadily falling rain, "immoderate" I would call it - the same rain that had plagued General Patton's Army throughout the Moselle and Saar Campaigns from September until now, December 8. The few prayer books at hand contained no formal prayer on weather that might prove acceptable to the Army Commander. Keeping his immediate objective in mind, I typed an original and an improved copy on a 5" x 3" filling card:

Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle. Graciously harken to us as soldiers who call Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies, and establish Thy justice among men and nations. Amen.

[snip]If he intended it for circulation to chaplains or others, with Christmas not far removed, it might be proper to type the Army Commander's Christmas Greetings on the reverse side. This would please the recipient, and anything that pleased the men I knew would please him. "To each officer and soldier in the Third United States Army, I wish a Merry Christmas. I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle. We march in our might to complete victory. May God's blessings rest upon each of you on this Christmas Day. G.S. Patton, Jr., Lieutenant General, Commanding, Third United States Army."

This done, I donned my heavy trench coat, crossed the quadrangle of the old French military barracks, and reported to General Patton. He read the prayer copy, returned it to me with a very casual directive, "Have 250,000 copies printed and see to it every man in the Third Army gets one."[snip]

"Chaplain, how much praying is being done in the Third Army?" was his question. I parried: "Does the General mean by chaplains, or by the men?" "By everybody," he replied. To this I countered: "I am afraid to admit it, but I do not believe that much praying is going on. When there is fighting, everyone prays, but now with this constant rain - when things are quiet, dangerously quiet, men just sit and wait for things to happen..."

The General left the window, and again seated himself at his desk, leaned back in his swivel chair, toying with a long lead pencil between his index fingers.

Chaplain, I am a strong believer in prayer. There are three ways that men get what they want; by planning, by working, and by praying. And any great military operation takes careful planning, or thinking. Then you must have well-trained troops to carry it out: that's working. But between the plan and the operation there is always an unknown. That unknown spells defeat or victory, success or failure. It is the reaction of the actors to the ordeal when it actually comes. Some people call that getting the breaks; I call it God. God has His part, or margin in everything. That's where prayer comes in. Up to now, in the Third Army, God has been very good to us. We have never retreated; we have suffered no defeats, no famine, no epidemics. This is because a lot of people back home are praying for us. We were lucky in Africa, in Sicily, and in Italy, simply because people prayed. But we have to pray for ourselves, too. A good soldier is not made merely by making him think and work. There is something in the every soldier that goes deeper than thinking or working - it's his "guts." It is something that he has built in there: it is a world of truth and power that is higher than himself. Great living is not all output of thought and work. A man has to have intake as well. I don't know what you call it, but I call it Religion, Prayer, or God.

With that the General arose from his chair, a sign that the interview was ended. I returned to my field desk, typed Training Letter No. 5 while the "copy" was "hot," touching on some or all of General's reverie on Prayer, and after staff processing, presented it to General Patton on the next day. The General read it, and without change directed that it be circulated to the 486 chaplains, but to every organization commander down to and including the regimental level. Three thousand two hundred copies were distributed to every unit in the Third Army over my signature as Third Army Chaplain. Strictly speaking, it was the Army Commander's letter, not mine. Due to the fact tat the order came directly from General Patton, distribution was completed on December 11 and 12 in advance of its date line, December 13, 1944. Titled "Training Letter No. 5," with the salutary "Chaplains of the Third Army," the letter continued: "At this stage of the operations I would call upon the chaplains and the men of the Third United States Army to focus their attention on the importance of prayer.

"Our glorious march from the Normandy Beach across France to where we stand, before and beyond the Siegfried Line, with the wreckage of the German Army behind us, should convince the most skeptical soldier that God has ridden with our banner. Pestilence and famine have not touched us. We have had no quitters; and our leadership has been masterful. The Third Army has no roster of Retreats. None of Defeats. We have no memory of a lost battle to hand on to our children from this great campaign.

"But we are not stopping at the Siegfried Line. Tough days may be ahead of us before we eat our rations in the Chancellory of the Deutsches Reich.

"As chaplains it is our business to pray. We preach its importance. We urge its practice. But the time is now to intensify our faith in prayer, not alone with ourselves, but with every believing man, Protestant, Catholic, Jew, or Christian, in the ranks of the Third United States Army.[snip]

"Urge all of your men to pray, not alone in church, but everywhere. Pray when driving. Pray when fighting. Pray alone. Pray with others. Pray by night and pray by day. Pray for the cessation of immoderate rains, for good weather for Battle. Pray for the defeat of our wicked enemy whose banner is injustice and whose good is oppression. Pray for Victory, Pray for our Army, and Pray for Peace.

"We must march together, all out for God. The soldier who 'cracks' up does not need sympathy or comfort as much as he needs strength. We are not trying to make the best these days. It is our job to make the most of them. Now is not the time to follow God from 'afar off.' This Army needs the assurance and faith that God is with us. With prayer, we cannot fail.

"Be assured that this message on prayer has the approval, the encouragement, and the enthusiastic support of the Third United States Army Commander.

"With every good with to each of you for a very Happy Christmas, and my personal congratulations for your splendid and courageous work since landing on the beach, I am, " etc., etc., signed The Third Army Chaplain.

The timing of the prayer story is important: let us rearrange the dates; the "Prayer Conference" with General Patton was 8 December; the 664th Engineer Topographical Company, at the order of Colonel David H. Tulley, C.E., Assistant to the Third Army Engineer, working night and day reproduced 250,000 copies of the Prayer Card; the Adjutant General, Colonel Robert S. Cummings, supervised the distribution of both the Prayer Cards and Training Letter No. 5 to reach the troops by December 12-14. The breakthrough was on December 16 in the First Army Zone when the Germans crept out of the Schnee Eifel Forest in the midst of heavy rains, thick fogs, and swirling ground mists that muffled sound, blotted out the sun, and reduced visibility to a few yards. The few divisions on the Luxembourg frontier were surprised and brushed aside. They found it hard to fight an enemy they could neither see nor hear. For three days it looked to the jubilant Nazis as if their desperate gamble would succeed. They had achieved complete surprise. Their Sixth Panzer Army, rejuvenated in secret after its debacle in France, scared through the Ardennes like a hot knife through butter. The First Army's VIII Corps was holding this area with three infantry divisions (one of them new and in the line only a few days) thinly disposed over an 88-mile front and with one armored division far to the rear, in reserve. The VIII Corps had been in the sector for months. It was considered a semi-rest area and outside of a little patrolling was wholly an inactive position.

When the blow struck the VIII Corps fought with imperishable heroism. The Germans were slowed down but the Corps was too shattered to stop them with its remnants. Meanwhile, to the north, the Fifth Panzer Army was slugging through another powerful prong along the vulnerable boundary between the VIII and VI Corps. Had the bad weather continued there is no telling how far the Germans might have advanced. On the 19th of December, the Third Army turned from East to North to meet the attack. As General Patton rushed his divisions north from the Saar Valley to the relief of the beleaguered Bastogne, the prayer was answered. On December 20, to the consternation of the Germans and the delight of the American forecasters who were equally surprised at the turn-about - the rains and the fogs ceased. For the better part of a week came bright clear skies and perfect flying weather. Our planes came over by tens, hundreds, and thousands. They knocked out hundreds of tanks, killed thousands of enemy troops in the Bastogne salient, and harried the enemy as he valiantly tried to bring up reinforcements. The 101st Airborne, with the 4th, 9th and 10th Armored Divisions, which saved Bastogne, and other divisions which assisted so valiantly in driving the Germans home, will testify to the great support rendered by our air forces. General Patton prayed for fair weather for Battle. He got it.

It was late in January of 1945 when I saw the Army Commander again. This was in the city of Luxembourg. He stood directly in front of me, smiled: "Well, Padre, our prayers worked. I knew they would." Then he cracked me on the side of my steel helmet with his riding crop. That was his way of saying, "Well done."

Read the rest in the inner sanctum...

What Did the Three Kings Bring Jesus?

Test your knowledge.

What three gifts did the Magi bring to Jesus and what did they represent?

Music to prompt your memory

Answers in the expanded post

Matthew Chapter 2

1Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,

2Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

3When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

4And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.

5And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,

6And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

7Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.

8And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.

9When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

10When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

11And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.

12And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

We three kings of Orient are;
Bearing gifts we traverse afar,
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.


O star of wonder, star of light,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.

Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again,
King forever, ceasing never,
Over us all to reign.


Frankincense to offer have I;
Incense owns a Deity nigh;
Prayer and praising, voices raising,
Worshipping God on high.


Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom;
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in the stone cold tomb.


Glorious now behold Him arise;
King and God and sacrifice;
Alleluia, Alleluia,
Sounds through the earth and skies.


Written by John Hopkins Jr, 1857 Yes, that one.

Marine Corps News> Azerbaijanis watch over Haditha Dam

HADITHA DAM, Iraq (Dec. 21, 2005) -- Iraq’s infrastructure is a constant target for terrorist attacks throughout the country. This is no different at the Haditha Dam, which is the power source for many cities in Iraq.

Keeping the massive dam and more than 1,000 Marines operating here safe for the past five months is 150 Azerbaijani Army soldiers.

Located on the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan is the host country of the guardian soldiers who left their country in July to spend six months supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They worked alongside the Marines with 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment and 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines since arriving.

Catch the rest.
Marine Corps News: Azerbaijanis watch over Haditha Dam

Don't forget we have a ton of allies in this thing with us. The Azerbaijanis are there getting real time experience since they are pretty close to Dagestan and Chechnya where Islamists have taken over the rebel factions and occasionally bleed over into their country. This war is bigger than Iraq and Afganistan, just remember that.


BAGHDAD, Iraq ©¤ Three terrorists were captured as they were caught emplacing a hoax roadside bomb in east Baghdad Dec. 21.

At about 6 p.m., a patrol from 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry observed a civilian vehicle dropping cement blocks in the median of a major thoroughfare. The patrol intercepted the suspicious vehicle and detained three suspected terrorists.

Additional elements of 3-7 CAV secured the site surrounding the suspicious items and an explosive ordnance disposal team investigated the objects and found them to be hoax roadside bombs.

¡°These suspected terrorists were not placing cement blocks in the road for any other reason than to terrorize and intimidate the population. They are currently being detained at a military detention facility,¡± said Maj. Paul Reese, operations officer for 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division.

¡°Anyone found guilty of emplacing a hoax roadside bomb is a terrorist ¨C make no mistake about it; the good people of Iraq are disgusted by these types of games.¡±

Hoax roadside bombs are commonly used by terrorists to check how Iraqi Security and Coalition Forces will react.

The lull in violence is over:

Iraqi troops and civilians attacked.

One Soldier Killed by IED

Two soldiers killed, rocket factory discovered



BAGHDAD, Iraq – An Ansar al-Sunna of Mosul Media Emir and Administrator were captured by Coalition Forces during raids on suspected terrorist safe houses near Mosul.

Muhammad ‘Amir Husayn Mar’I al-Sufi, known as Abu Naba, was an Ansar al-Sunna media emir in Mosul and ‘Adnan ‘Abd-al-Wahab ‘Abdallah Mahmud al-Badrani, known as Abu Hudayfah, an Ansar al-Sunna administrator, were captured Nov. 23 and Dec. 5, 2005 respectively.

Abu Naba was responsible for disseminating propaganda - in this capacity, he produced propaganda fliers and compact disks focusing on military operations, anti-voting messages, Jihad messages and prayers.

He also facilitated videos of attacks on Iraqi and Coalition Forces to be posted to the Internet. He purchased cameras for terrorists to film violent acts including bombings, kidnappings and executions. Abu Naba helped produce the final video products and delivered the videos to other Ansar al-Sunna leaders for posting on the Internet.

Based on information Abu Naba and other detained terrorists provided to Coalition Forces, Abu Hudayfah, allegedly in charge of logistics and support for Ansar al-Sunna of Mosul was also identified and captured.

I imagine that there was no "torture" involved, just pleading for a life sentence instead of a death sentence at the hands of the infidel or apostate Iraqi government.


Thursday, December 22, 2005

Victor Davis Hanson Why Not Support Democracy?

Victor Davis Hanson on National Review Online

Why still no big-font, front-page headlines screaming, “Millions Vote in Historic Middle East Election!” or “Democracy Comes At Last To Iraq” or “America’s Push for Iraqi Democracy Working”?

I'd read the rest.

Also, not to jinx it or anything, but anybody else notice that it's awful quiet on the Iraq front? Last reported casualty was December 19. No giant bombs. No beheadings. What's that mean?

I think it means that the Sunni rejectionists are now waiting to see which way the wind blows on the elections. That means that they have control over the insurgents/terrorists much more than expected. It means, if things go right, this could mean a real peace.

But, as I've said this entire year starting on New Years day, Iraq is a done deal. It's free. It's democratic.

They win.

We win.

And, as I said way back when, you know we've won because Iraq and Afghanistan have slowly drifted off the news to a few minute clips on the daily activity.

No news here. Move along. Nothing to see.

However, don't think that doesn't mean the Moronic Muslim Trio (OBL, Zawahiri, Zarqawi) aren't planning anything big and nasty for the new year. It just means that they've lost in Iraq and Afghanistan and will be looking for a new place to sit down.

Rob Long on the Claus Break-Up on National Review Online

Rob Long on the Claus Break-Up on National Review Online

CALLER: “Hi, Larry. Hi, Mrs. Claus.”

LARRY KING: “What’s your question, caller?”

CALLER: “I just want to know if there’s been any reaction to the book so far from her ex-husband?”

LARRY KING: “Good question. So? Did Santa ring in?”

MRS. CLAUS: “His lawyers did, Larry. You know, after all those years I really felt that he’d at least want to talk to me directly. Instead, I got a very threatening letter from his attorneys basically saying that if I went through with the book they’d sue me and ruin me and all like that.”

Even jolly couples have their down times.

Castle Argghhh! Nuts!

I have been very remiss in not linking to John these last few days as he recounts the Battle of the Bulge in 1944.

Today is a special day in the story. It's the day that Brig. General Anthony McAuliffe sent back a one word message to the Germans upon their demand for US forces to surrender at the besieged town of Bastogne:

Our Polish Friends


The Prime Minister was welcomed by an honor guard and the commander of MND CS, MG Piotr Czerwinski. The Prime Minister and his delegation celebrated Christmas Eve with the Polish Soldiers by sharing a wafer.

Prime Minister Marcinkiewicz wished his troops safe service in Iraq and a happy return home. Marcinkiewicz emphasized that he is very proud of his Soldiers and the meeting with them made him much stronger. [snip]

Marcinkiewicz commemorated Polish soldiers who paid the highest price for Iraqi freedom by lighting two, white and red, candles in a military chapel.

They've paid a price, too.

Heroes of the Forgotten War

Rumsfeld Pins Medals at Bagram

“I wanted to tell each of you personally that the American people are proud of what you’re doing and grateful to you and your families,” he said.

Then, Rumsfeld pinned the Distinguished Flying Cross on three Army aviators for heroic actions during an April 11 battle with enemy forces in southeastern Afghanistan. Chief Warrant Officer Steven Burr, Sgt. John Irick and Sgt. Ryan Pummill were part of a UH-60 Black Hawk credited for fighting off an enemy attack with their aircraft, which helped a U.S. Special Forces team on the ground below.

The secretary awarded Capt. Jason Thompson, an A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot, the Air Medal for his actions during 20 combat missions this fall. Rumsfeld also oversaw the re-enlistment of two CJTF-76 Soldiers, Staff Sgt. Joseph Villar and Spc. Eric Betts.

Don't forget to send this along to your friends and others. Remind them there are heroes in this war.

Results - News Release Generator

Results - News Release Generator

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Afghan National Police and Coalition forces repelled an enemy attack near Ghazni on Dec. 22, and then discovered a cache of munitions.

“This attack by enemy forces, like many of their attacks, was a failure,” said Brig. Gen. James Champion, deputy commanding general of Combined Joint Task Force-76. “They initiated the attack, and in response, Afghan and Coalition forces responded with deadly and accurate firepower.”

Read the rest.

Don't forget the forgotten war.

Philadelphia Inquirer | 12/20/2005 | Blinq | In the blink of an eye, blogs became big

How big have blogs become?
Bigger than Jesus. Bigger than sex.
More than twice as big as sex, actually, the CEO of Blogpulse found when he typed the words blog and sex into the Google search engine. That big.[snip]

Corporate America also felt blogs' sting. When Jeff Jarvis, frustrated over the purchase of a laptop lemon, headlined a post "Dell Sucks," thousands of bloggers joined in the conversation, and the computer maker's slow response cost it a swarm of unwelcome attention.
Bloggers from the left and right united to appear before the Federal Election Commission to argue to get the same exemption from campaign-finance laws as print and broadcast media. The bloggers, represented by Philadelphia lawyer Adam C. Bonin, won.

While there was no national election, activism didn't sit out the year. Campaigns hired bloggers, such as that of Jon S. Corzine for New Jersey governor with Matt Stoller of MyDD. Conservative bloggers magnified the heat on ill-fated Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers. Millions of dollars were raised for victims of Katrina. A conservative budget-cutting effort called pork busters identified excessive federal spending.

As they say, read the rest. Philadelphia Inquirer | 12/20/2005 | Blinq | In the blink of an eye, blogs became big

Spain Seizes 15 Linked to Al Qaida in Iraq

Spain Seizes 15 Linked to Al Qaeda in Iraq - New York Times

MADRID, Dec. 19 - The Spanish police arrested 15 people on Monday on charges that they had formed a recruiting network linked to Al Qaeda that sent Islamic militants to Iraq, the Interior Ministry said.

The ministry said one man, a 25-year-old Iraqi identified as Abu Sufian, had close ties to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is the American forces' most-wanted man in Iraq.[snip]

He said there was no evidence the group was planning to carry out an attack in Spain. But he said the group had materials to make explosives and was clearly capable of an attack.

Is it me, or does this sound like a serious case of denial considering Spain pulled their troops out of Iraq after just such an attack hoping it would spare them future pain? Don't these folks get it yet? They are "Al-Andalus".

One of the men, a Belarussian identified as Sergei Malyschew, also known as Amin al-Ansari, is considered an expert in chemical weapons, the ministry said.

A 36-year-old Ghanaian identified as Muhammad G. appears to have helped Africans travel to the United States under false identities, but it is not clear if they had any ties to terrorist groups, ministry officials said.

Yeah, right.

This is why I am a) amazed at all the hoopla about the NSA "spying" on "American citizens" and b) that anyone thinks that people who discuss possible terrorism inside our borders is a "fear mongerer".

I also should mention Sergei Malyschew the chemical weapons expert. Obviously a Chechen related member of AQ and a reminder of how AQ operates. Since bomb makers and good operations planners are limited resources, these folks usually travel to a location, train the individuals and then disappear to their next location to set up a new cell. Secondly, the bomb and chemical weapons makers often hold "roving classes" since they no longer have a static location in Afghanistan in which to train.

My guess is that this is the "fly in, set up a group, train and fly out" situation for al-Ansari. Muhammad is a "facilitator". These men don't necessarily "recruit", but people who want to join the jihad, self-identify, ask around for directions to an appropriate person to ask, get vetted by outside members who only know Muhammad and then send the men on their way or recommend contact by Muhammad.

This is probably all occuring around a few specific mosques and it is highly likely that this is an "open secret" among the attendents. Which may be one of the reasons the Spanish are able to round these folks up, though it's just as likely that the tip came from captured jihadists in Iraq who gave up the information. Or, it could be that we have the "Africans" in the United States under surveillance and we tracked down a call from here to Spain (through that nasty NSA thing, invading our rights, etc), though I len towards the captured jihadist in Iraq.

It would be too much to hope that somebody has figured out how to infiltrate these groups.


Zarqawi Networks in Europe

A wave of arrests across Europe has thrown new light on a European terrorist network being developed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the most prominent insurgent in Iraq.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
A growing number of terrorism investigations in Britain, Germany, Bosnia, Denmark and most recently Spain and France are linked to the man who has masterminded countless suicide bombings in Iraq, personally beheaded hostages and bombed three hotels in his native Jordan.

Some of the suspected networks appear to be involved only in supporting his operations in Iraq. But counter-terrorism officials are worried that Zarqawi could be planning to use his base in Iraq to start attacking Europe.

Security officials are particularly worried by indications that he wants to recruit white extremists who will be more difficult to detect than Arabs or Asians.

"Zarqawi thinks he is bigger than Iraq," a British source said. "He is spreading his tentacles in Europe. There is a sense that attacks are inevitable.

"Even before the invasion of Iraq, Zarqawi had a network in Europe that provided funds and recruits. The same pipeline will sooner or later pump the other way, from Iraq to Europe."[snip]

Last month Germany's leading intelligence official, August Henning, said that extremists in Europe increasingly admired Zarqawi and were trying to make contact with his network.

"We are seeing increasing noises in Europe and that causes us great concern," he said.

It emerged this month that a white Belgian woman, Muriel Degauque, had been recruited by groups linked to Zarqawi and blew herself up in an attack on an American convoy in Iraq.

In an email discussion with Athena at Terrorism Unveiled last week, we discussed the probablilities of how and why Muriel Degauque became a suicide bomber. As a reminder, she had married a Morrocan and had been married for several years before this incident. Also, what seems to get lost is that her husband also died in Iraq on the same day. The truth is, this is probably less about who Zarqawi wants to recruit (in regards to women volunteers) as it is a matter of the dynamics of interpersonal relationships between two people from extremely different social, cultural and religious backgrounds.

In the case of Muriel, obviously, non-religious factors may have driven her to seek this type of commitment. First, the fact that she married outside her faith. Not to be discriminatory, but generally, this is an existent grouping that people tend to stay in unless of course they do not feel part of the group or they feel that the group has denigrated them in some way. We are all always looking for acceptance and we frequently go to places or do things we think will get it. Secondly, once she married some one who was Muslim, she must have felt that she could not fully achieve HIS acceptance and love because she could not fully participate in his life either through culture or religion. Since HIS acceptance was paramount in order to achieve her mystical idea of "love" and he belonged to this group, then she must become its embodiment.

The man, for his part, may not have actually planned it from the get go nor even implied or directed verbally at first. It may have simply been the nature of the relationship and his own cultural beliefs about women that excluded her through no original intent. However, the ego is a powerful thing and once she determined her path to acceptance he may have found it extremely gratifying to find such a willing follower when he himself has always seen himself as simply a follower. further, because the nature of the cult behavior which precludes living for today and always looking or doing something for tomorrow (ie, the Islamist ideology of planning always for paradise or the future caliphate which none are likely to see in their life time - if ever), he may have eventually indoctrinated her into the idea of this future and seen it as a way that they could both achieve their desires: she to be finally accepted and in a perfect relationship with him and he achieving paradise.

I originally explored the three concepts of how terrorism originates in three parts:

Part I: Terrorism By a Group As Part of a Rational Strategy and Tactic
PartII: Terrorism As Second Generation Evolution from Existing Movements
Part III: Terrorists Self Select

In part three I wrote in reduction of the book "Origins of Terrorism":

The originating group may have a political agenda that drives their terrorist acts, but subsequent members do not always start out at the same political view or even care about the political view except that some of its agenda coincides with their ideas or that it allows them an outlet even if they do not or did not believe 100% in the movement's agenda. As a matter of fact, it appears that the subsequent members may drive the terrorist organizations to commit even greater atrocities as the morality or lack there of of these subsequent members changes the organization over time. Further, and even more interesting, those that join later have often suggested or participated in even greater acts of terror in order to prove their devotion to the movement.

The Telegraph report goes on to discuss other individuals that have been arrested and their nationalities:

Last month Bosnian authorities arrested a Swedish national of Bosnian origin, Mirsad Bektasevic, and a Turkish man, Cesur Abdulkadir, in a Sarajevo flat where they allegedly found bomb-making materials, a suicide vest, weapons and extremist propaganda.

These gentlemen probably fall under both Part II and Part III as it is very likely that the Bosnian and Turk had both been part of other organizations prior to moving towards the Islamists.

Read the rest.

H/T: Captain's Quarters

The truth is, terrorism will never be gone from society because the motivations for terrorism are different among all the actors. Terrorism as an act continues to find those groups and people who are willing to act using whatever different ideology or claim of persecution or injustice to validate their actions. This is why the "War on Terror" identification of the current conflict is inappropriate since it does advocate, in light of the history of terrorism, an unending war. What we see now is that Islamist ideology is the most prevalent and largest draw for malcontents. Eco-terrorism coming in an extremely lame second, but still a path and idea that allows people to act out their discontent.

Islamist ideology being the most prevalent, it is, in fact, a war against Islamist terrorism. There is little that can be done to stop individuals from self selecting, but there is much that can be done about eliminating the avenues through which they can act. In this case, discrediting and dismantling Islamist ideology and leadership. Eventually, even as it spreads for a short time, as the most experienced and capable are captured or killed, the ability to actually undertake large scale or multiple attacks with a direct strategic or tactical purpose will be diminished.

At the same time, as the core leadership breaks down and the groups become more disseminated, less command and control means that groups will undertake activities outside of the original strategy or plan of the core group. Less command and control also means that the individual groups will most likely be motivated to act out in even more extreme, fantastic and murderous ways that will result in mass casualties. It will also have a catastrophic effect on the organization or ideology itself as such activities often serve to unite opposition groups as well as act as a catalyst to move society towards disclaiming, disowning and generally denigrating the ideology and any of its claims since such actions will seem counter to the idea that the group is fighting for "justice". That means that groups that nominally support or at least sympathize with the terrorists claims will most likely be affected (see Jordan bombings; also history of Bader-Meinhoff Group) and will most likely be the group that rejects the ideology even stronger than the original opponents and moves to irradicate by any means necessary.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

India Defends Nuclear Deal With US

India defends nuclear deal with US - Yahoo! News

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - India on Wednesday defended a controversial new civilian nuclear cooperation deal with the United States and rejected demands by American critics that New Delhi accept curbs on its atomic weapons program. [snip]

Saran, who later met Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said a fissile material cutoff halting India's production of bomb-grade nuclear fuel, and other changes suggested by nonproliferation advocates, would be "deal-breakers."

The agreement, which must be approved by the U.S. Congress, would give India access to nuclear technology, including fuel and reactors, that it has been denied for 25 years.

Experts fear that as the deal is now written, India would acquire nuclear fuel from the United States for civilian use, thus freeing up its own stocks for more weapons.

Carnegie experts say India has enough weapons-grade plutonium for 75 to 110 nuclear bombs.

For more than two decades, Washington led the fight to deny India access to nuclear technology because it rejected the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and developed nuclear weapons.

But President George W. Bush, aiming to build an alliance with the world's largest democracy, reversed that approach.

Read this in conjunction with my original piece on Russia-Iran Matrix.

This is us clearly understanding that Iran is going to go nuclear, that Russia is going to be the one that builds it and gives them the fuel (probably the technology for nukes as well) and that we need to have an ally and counter part in the area strong enough to offset both Pakistani and Iranian nuke power.

Did you really think the Cold War was over?

Teen Pleads Guilty After Blog Confession - Yahoo! News

Be very careful what you write in your blog...

TAVARES, Fla. - An 18-year-old passenger who caused a fatal crash by pulling on the steering wheel pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter after prosecutors discovered a confession on his online blog.

Blake Ranking wrote "I did it" on his journal three days after the October 2004 crash that caused a friend's death and left another seriously injured. He had previously told investigators he remembered nothing of the crash and little of its aftermath.[snip]

It was me who caused it. I turned the wheel. I turned the wheel that sent us off the road, into the concrete drain ..." Ranking wrote in the blog. "How can I be fine when everyone else is so messed up?"

Ranking later retracted his words, deleting them from the blog and penning an explanation.

"People say I 'contradict' myself since I 'already admitting pulling the wheel.' I didn't 'ADMIT' anything. I went on a guilt trip, and I posted the story that I WAS TOLD . . . Nicole told me I pulled the wheel, I believed her," he wrote.

Operation Christmas Basket: A bit of home for the holidays

Operation Christmas Basket: A bit of home for the holidays

By Ahmad Al-Khaled
KUWAIT: In 1994 Sheila and Lionel Gittens, residents of Kuwait, lost their son Donny to complications from a kidney ailment. Later that same year, large numbers of US servicemen and women were stationed in Kuwait to deal with the ongoing threat Iraq posed as Saddam Hussein continually challenged UN forces and was not cooperative with UN weapons inspectors. The Gittens were moved by the strength of heart and dedication to serve, they witnessed in the young service men and women who had come to Kuwait. They, along with the help of other local expatriates, organised a Thanksgiving dinner for 3000 service members in memory of their son Donny, and Operation Thanksgiving Kuwait was born.

The next year, Operation Thanksgiving became Operation Christmas Basket and 11 years later, an ever expanding tradition has evolved. Since its inception, Operation Christmas Basket has wrapped over half a million individual Christmas gifts and distributed almost 122,600 gift baskets to US military and Coalition Forces stationed in Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq.

US prosecutors to seek courtroom restrictions for Hamas funding caseWorld

Speaking of Hamas:

Federal prosecutors say they plan to call at least four Israeli officials, including two members of the Shin-Bet, at a hearing for a Palestinian man accused of laundering millions of dollars for terrorist activities.

Assistant US Attorney Joseph Ferguson wrote in a court filing late Friday that the witnesses' appearance at Muhammad Salah's hearing would require special courtroom restrictions.

The hearing scheduled to being in March is to determine whether statements made by Salah during a 1993 interrogation by police can be used at his trial.

Salah is charged with taking part in a 15-year racketeering conspiracy to provide money and weapons to Hamas. He and others are accused of using bank accounts in several states to launder money used for murders, kidnappings, assaults and passport fraud. Salah has said he has no connection with Hamas.

He claims police tortured him to coerce a 1993 confession. Prosecutors contend Salah's statements were voluntary and his stories about the interrogation have been inconsistent.

Al-Qaeda militant resurfaces in internet statement

Asharq al Awsat, London- One of four prisoners who escaped from Bagram airbase, north of the Afghan capital Kabul, in July, warned that militants would “sully the United State’s pride in the sand”, in a statement posted on the internet.

Yahya al Libbi, whose real name is Mohammad Hassan Qayid, indicated in a 20 minute videotape message entitled “The sermon of Eid al Fitr”, marking the end of Ramadan, which fell on 4 November this year, “We will humiliate the United States. Either we live proudly or our fate will be to enter paradise”.

“Signs of victory can be seen on the horizon, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and Chechnya. Victory is forthcoming in spite of the wishes of all enemies, infidels and aggressors,” he added.

Signs of victory? For who?

Saddam Says He's Been Beaten in Detention - Yahoo! News

Saddam Says He's Been Beaten in Detention - Yahoo! News

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Saddam Hussein launched into an extended outburst at his trial Wednesday, alleging he had been beaten and tortured by his Americans captors while in detention after a witness testified that his agents had tortured people by ripping off their skin.

Chief prosecutor Jaafar al-Mousawi said he would investigate and that if American-led multinational forces were abusing the former Iraqi leader, he would be transferred to the custody of Iraqi troops.

"I want to say here, yes, we have been beaten by the Americans and we have been tortured," Saddam said, before gesturing to his seven co-defendants around him, "one by one."

Aren't you sad for him?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A War Without Heroes?

A War Without Heroes?

DO YOU KNOW WHO PAUL Ray Smith is? If not, don't feel bad. Most Americans aren't familiar with Paul Ray Smith. He is the first and only soldier awarded the Medal of Honor for extraordinary courage in the war in Iraq. Five days before Baghdad fell in April 2003, Sergeant Smith and his men were building a makeshift jail for captured Iraqi troops.

Surprised by 100 of Saddam Hussein's Republican Guards, Smith and his men, some of them wounded, were pinned down and in danger of being overrun. Smith manned a 50-caliber machine gun atop a damaged armored vehicle. Exposed to enemy fire, he singlehandedly repelled the attack, allowing his men to scramble to safety. He killed as many as 50 of Saddam's elite soldiers and saved more than 100 American troops. Paul Ray Smith, 33, was killed by a shot to the head.

The war in Iraq is a war without heroes. There are no men--or women, for that matter--known to most Americans for their bravery in combat. There are no household names like Audie Murphy or Sgt. York or Arthur MacArthur or even Don Holleder, the West Point football star killed in Vietnam. When President Bush held a White House ceremony to award the Medal of Honor to Smith, posthumously, the TV networks and big newspapers reported the story. The coverage lasted one day. The story didn't have legs.[snip]

It gets worse. In a study of over 1,300 reports broadcast on network news programs from January to September of this year, Rich Noyes of the Media Research Center found only eight stories of heroism or valor by American troops and nine of soldiers helping the Iraqi people. But there were 79 stories, Noyes said, "focused on allegations of combat mistakes or outright misconduct on the part of U.S. military personnel."

Who is responsible for the lack of heroes?

Read the rest

I'm trying to do something about that in a small way. I hope everyone who has a blog or simply reads here and can email friends and family, will start talking about our heroes, passing the news around, sending the stories that are highlighted or ones you find yourselves.