Monday, January 30, 2006

Exclusive: Direct Talks�U.S. Officials and Iraqi Insurgents - Newsweek Politics -

While I'm in the middle of writing something that may get a fatwa on me (inspired by "It's in the Koran"), I have suggested reading as a continuation of the information from Iraq the Model and the Newsweek article that continues to see the Sunni insurgency in Iraq being delicately sliced away from the foreign jihadists:

Feb. 6, 2006 issue - American officials in Iraq are in face-to-face talks with high-level Iraqi Sunni insurgents, NEWSWEEK has learned. Americans are sitting down with "senior members of the leadership" of the Iraqi insurgency, according to Americans and Iraqis with knowledge of the talks (who did not want to be identified when discussing a sensitive and ongoing matter). The talks are taking place at U.S. military bases in Anbar province, as well as in Jordan and Syria. "Now we have won over the Sunni political leadership," says U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. "The next step is to win over the insurgents."

Exclusive: Direct Talks�U.S. Officials and Iraqi Insurgents - Newsweek Politics -

In the mean time, the people getting hit the most are the Iraqi police and Army with a few sectarian attacks continuing.

The current attacks are going against Christians who have not suffered as often, but have suffered much compared to the size of their community in Iraq. Fayrouz has talked about it often and has had several fund raising drives trying to assist the Christian community in Iraq.

It's likely that the Christians are now the new targets because this is the group that both the native and foreign born insurgency can agree on as enemies of Islam as opposed to picking out the Shia or other "collaborationist" Sunni, who are Muslim. I would agree with the speculation in the article that it is likely Al Qaida because they are in a bind with the rest of the insurgency who are talking with the Americans and the Iraqi government. If they start killing more of the people they want to keep on their side, then they will have even more people after them.

The Christian community is sadly a soft, non-Muslim, safe victim. The sad thing is, besides getting more assistance from outside Christian churches to help feed, clothe and protect their community, they've pretty much stayed out of the lime light and out of the way of the warring parties. But, in the ME, that doesn't buy your protection no matter what your race, creed or religion.

Other things of interest, via Fayrouz:

Al Jazeera's Editorial Policy on Airing Terrorist and Kidnapping videos.

In the case of the bin Laden message broadcast Thursday, the station played only a few minutes of the 10-minute tape, based on what it considered important, he said. The entire tape was transcribed and posted on Al-Jazeera's Web site.

Tapes of kidnap victims are the most problematic. When they arrive, the station gets in touch with the hostage's embassy and asks a representative to view the tape and contact the family. Only when the family is notified does Al-Jazeera air any footage, al-Sheikh said.

I think that it is interesting that they have recently changed their policies which means that they are considering the effect of news, the difference between reporting information and fulfilling a role in the Islamist propaganda machine. I still don't care for their content on most occasions, though, I suppose if I lived and came from there, the guests would sound about on par as some of the idiots we get on CNN, MSNBC and even Fox talking crazy stuff.

Still, as often as I have bashed Al Jazeera, I thought it was only fair to bring to light what appears to be a maturation of journalistic skills.

Although, Fayrouz had this to say about Al Jazeera:

Why bother asking Al-Jazeera who deliver these tapes. We all know they magically fall from the sky into the studios of Al-Jazeera.

No further comment is necessary.

In the meantime, the news organizations keep reporting the release of Iraqi women along with 419 other male detainees as if it was part of a bargain for Jill Caroll's release even though the US keeps denying it, even though it's probable that several women are released every month along with the other detainees as a normal part of business. Not that it will keep them from trying to tie it in anymore than some blogs supposition that the Hamas character was released for Osterhoff (whom, I think was more likely ransomed with a straight up cash transaction, but you never know). Let's not let reality get in the way of good reporting.

On another note, there are several journalists still missing including Jill Caroll and Bob Woodruff and his cameraman were severely injured when the Iraqi police unit they were riding with came under attack.

I have harsh words for the coverage sometimes, but you've got to give it up for the ones that get in the nitty gritty and come up in a bad position even when trying to stay safe with armed forces. I'll say a prayer for them, jus the same.

It may surprise some folks, but journalists are people, too.

Stand by for the first installment of, "A Middle East Story" or "Jihad Johnny on Broadway".

That is all.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Jihad on Broadway:

It's in the Koran

The theme song for the new, upcoming Broadway hit: Jihad Johnny, has hit the air ways and Jihadis are singing it all over the world.

Michael Moore gives it two thumbs up, "Osama and the Minutemen do it again!"

Cindy Sheehan: "Freedom Fighters will be dancing from Waziristan to Ramadi!"

Alminejahd: "I saw an aura around the singers' heads!"

You'll be clapping your hands and singing along, too. Turn up the volume and get ready to dance in your desk chair:

It's In the Koran


Saturday, January 28, 2006

Challenger: 20 years later

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Twenty years ago, space shuttle Challenger blew apart into jets of fire and plumes of smoke, a terrifying sight witnessed by the families of the seven astronauts and onlookers who came to watch the historic launch of the first teacher in space.

Do you remember where you were? I watched it live on TV in my High School American History class. The teacher thought it would be cool to see an historical event on live television. We had talked all week about the possibility of space travel for the common citizen.

Then, lift off and it seemed like everything was going well. You could get the sense that everyone was holding their breath a little. Shuttle lift offs weren't that common back then.

All of a sudden, we saw something on the TV screen that nobody could make out what it was. I know the commentators kept saying something had happened, but most of us watching the TV couldn't totall figure out what it was not being space science geeks and only first seeing what looked like the tanks being ejected.

Then it hit us. We had just watched somebody die live on television in a national historic event. I remember the teacher had left the room for a moment and came back in, looked at the TV, heard everyone whispering amongst themselves, turned off the TV and then we sat and talked about it a few minutes.

No psychiatrists or counselors were called. Just a bunch of students and their teacher talking about history and death.

I'll never forget it because I still recall what Christa McAuliffe looked like during the interviews and walking to board the flight. I remember thinking that this was proof that we could do anything. Women can fly the space shuttle. Teachers can go to space. The US could put a space craft into the sky and bring it back without parachute landings.

It was a bit of a shock to find out that it didn't always work that way.

If you read the rest of the story, you will see a long discussion about "management hubris" which caused people to take risks they normally wouldn't, pushed people to certify status when they had questions, etc, etc, etc. But, there was something I took away from this more than the tragedy of losing seven astronauts in a clear blue sky.

I realized that doing something big takes big risks. That, if you let people keep telling you that you're not going to fly, you will never try and you will die on the ground. Sometimes, you just have to take a run a the cliff and make a leap of faith.

Ronald Reagan on the Challenger:

We've grown used to wonders in this century. It's hard to dazzle us. But for twenty-five years the United States space program has been doing just that. We've grown used to the idea of space, and, perhaps we forget that we've only just begun. We're still pioneers. They, the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers.

And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle's take-off. I know it's hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It's all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It's all part of taking a chance and expanding man's horizons. The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we'll continue to follow them.[snip]

The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and "slipped the surly bonds of earth" to "touch the face of God."

Everyone always quotes the last part of Reagan's speech, but I preferred an earlier phrase:

"the future doesn't belong to the faint of heart".

Challenger 20 years later

Mexican Soldiers and Drug Runners

FYI, this is happening in Arizona, too.

EL PASO – The men dressed in Mexican military-style uniforms who were involved in an armed confrontation between suspected drug runners and Texas lawmen were using a Mexican military-issue Humvee and weapons, the Hudspeth County sheriff said Friday.

"It was military," said Sheriff Arvin West, whose officers were involved in the standoff. "Due to the pending congressional hearings, I can't comment further."

Sheriff West said the U.S. government confirmed that the equipment was military, but he declined to elaborate.

The Mexican government has denied involvement in the clash, which occurred Monday at Neely's Crossing, about 50 miles east of El Paso. Mexican officials have said the equipment could have been stolen.

A U.S. Army spokesman said he could not confirm the analysis reported by the sheriff.

U.S. Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar, in El Paso on Friday, said he couldn't rule out Mexican soldiers' involvement in the confrontation in a remote spot along the Rio Grande. [snip]

Homeland Security officials had documented more than 200 incursions into the United States by the Mexican military since 1996.

Although, I'm not sure that last has a significance if the incursions generally occured during chases of criminals or other issues since I am certain that we probably have "incurred" on the Mexican side a few times. The important part was that soldiers acted as guards to protect these men who were driving very nice vehicles by the picture with the story. These guys were big time and they can pay for it.

Department of Public Safety troopers chased to the Rio Grande three SUVs thought to be carrying drugs. There they encountered heavily armed men dressed in army uniforms driving a military-style Humvee equipped with an M4 carbine machine gun.

The "soldiers" helped the suspects unload marijuana – they abandoned more than a half-ton – and torch one of the SUVs before they all fled into Mexico, out of Texas law enforcement's reach. [snip]

The chief said Mexican officials have pledged to investigate.

The standoff, during which guns were drawn but no shots fired, has increased tensions between Mexico and the United States.

In otherwords, the police were out gunned and had to stand there and watch them do whatever they wanted to do and the Mexican soldiers decided they would get less heat if they didn't kill the American law enforcement guys. No kill the LEOs, the Mexican government says they'll "investigate", but they likely won't find anyone. Kill the American LEO, there would be hell to pay.

These aren't small time fish we're dealing with. They know their way around diplomatic issues and have connections somewhere in the government that will protect them.

In the meantime...

On Thursday, the Mexican government asked U.S. Ambassador Tony Garza to stop making public comments about immigration and border security. Also Thursday, Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez suggested that the men in Monday's incident were really American soldiers or criminals trying to look like Mexican soldiers.

Mr. Aguilar said he wouldn't respond directly to Mr. Derbez's comments but they "didn't make sense."

I feel like I'm watching Abbot and Costello: Who's on first. Who? That's what I said, "Who". Well, Who's on first? Who. Who? Who.

Or, doesn't that moron claiming American soldiers dressed as Mexicans sound like one of those third world ME conspiracy theorists? Like the Iranians claiming it was the British who bombed the banks the other day and completely denying they have an armed resistance somewhere in their country?

They're all alike.

Calling Black Jack. Your country needs to you.

Read the rest (free registration required)
Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Latest News

Friday, January 27, 2006

COOL TECH THIS WEEK: Armor, Predictions, and Hyperspace

This article jokes about the project, but I think it has interesting connotations:

Navy Wants Insurgent-Predicting Program

Recent work has applied and extended discrete choice models originally developed for use in econometrics to predicting the spatial probability of criminal activity. These point-pattern based density models have also been applied to the military domain for prediction of terrorist strikes and IEDs. The result is that the geographical patterns established by past events can be used to build threat maps showing where future strikes are most likely to take place, with accuracies notably better than hot-spotting techniques. The same basic strategy seems likely to be applicable to prediction of the timing of such activities as well as their location.

The person that noted the article went on to say:

I'd like to be able to pick the terrorist out. I'd like a detector 'tricorder' for intent or evil. I'd like to know ahead of time that this person is planning to hurt other people with the use of IEDs," Office of Naval Research chief scientist Starnes Walker told the magazine.

This project won't do that, of course. But getting it right "will not only contribute to defensive operations, saving lives of civilians and U.S. servicemen, but will also contribute to quick and effective counterstrikes to weaken and eliminate enemy forces," the Navy notes. "The same techniques can be applied to civilian law enforcement to counter gangs, organized crime, and other groups with the capacity to adapt their patterns of behavior through experience."

Maybe it could even predict politicians' behavior, too.

Okay, he laughed, but now I will tell you something very serious. Old fashioned detective work used to put pins in a map to locate similar crimes and come up with "hotspots" in the civilian world and the military picked up on it. Several years ago, a group of people including officers of the law and profilers, actually came up with a program similar to what the Navy is looking for in which specific parameters of similar crimes were in put. In particular, serial rape. By noting common characteristics of rapists behavior based on the crime such as, did the rapist take his time, did he enter and leave the home easily, did he seem to disappear easily from the immediate vicinity, etc, etc, etc, all of these things indicated a familiarity with the area, the streets, the homes, etc. The rapists was comfortable and that usually means that he lives within the community.

They were able to solve several high profile serial rape cases with this program. Using this technique and behavioral patterns gleaned from thousands of interviews with other criminals, the program has been rather successful in the civilian world.

For sometime I have been thinking that the military needed a similar program that was easily accessible, portable and could be used from any FOB or at Centcom. We already know somethings like how close a person would have to be to detonate an IED with a remote control, even the phone variety (particularly since phone service in Iraq is not 100% guaranteed in every area plus those detonations require some sort of line of sight ability to know when to set it off); we know that a guy putting IEDs in a water drain running underneath the road indicates a familiarity with the area beyond simply driving by and dropping a package.

Of course, the FBI is already giving us a hand with investigative techniques identifying bombers by their bomb blue prints.

This is not an unusual tool to have and may help speed up the process in the same way that other programs have allowed the military to triangulate on groups of terrorists, leaders, financiers, etc by building on intelligence, interviews, etc that relate these people to one another.

This is not a joke and may be extremely handy in the future.

Thus, this gentleman may laugh, but in the future of fourth generation continuous warfare, it might be the best idea they've had yet.

COOL TECH THIS WEEK: Armor, Predictions, and Hyperspace

CSI: Army

Move over NCIS...the real guys are on the job:

Forensic biologist Debbie Glidewell insists the work at the new U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory at Fort Gillem lacks the high emotion, suspense and pathos that people expect from television shows like "CSI."

But sometimes reality tops television.[snip]

The lab has a special department to examine documents, such as a threatening letter a rape victim received from her unknown attacker.

Must-Have Gear

Keep your credentials, credit cards and cash dry and safe in the Wingnut Gear Wallet. The quick-drying ripstop closes with heavy-duty Velcro.

Angry that the woman had reported the crime to police, the man created a letter by cutting letters of the alphabet from newspapers, said documents expert Marvin Reid. The letters were pasted onto a lined sheet of paper to form a crudely worded threat: "Don't tell or you'll die."

Document examiners tested the paper and recovered the impression of an earlier letter written on the same note pad. That impression included a major clue: the rapist's signed name.[snip]

The lab's firearms expert, Don Mikko, told a story that proved nobody can predict how a case will end.

A recent investigation started with an AK-47 assault rifle shell pulled from the abdomen of an American soldier serving in Baghdad, Iraq.

The lab's firearms experts examined the shell and found no rifling marks, which meant the shell had not been fired from any weapon. How was the solider wounded?

"Turns out the soldier went into the field, made an incision in his abdomen and inserted the shell to make it look as though he'd been wounded," Mikko said.

"He wanted a Purple Heart."

Not very flattering on the soldier, but damn good detective work. Of course, I think some soldiers I know would be happy to have this schmuck join them on their patrols where the chances of purple hear winning will go up considerably.

Any how, an interesting article on the future of military forensic capabilities. Frankly, I said last year that the military was going to have to start acting like a police outfit in some countries with detective work and smashing small time criminals if they want to dry up terrorist facilitators, money and transport of people.

I think this would be a good start. They need to get those little tin cans put together for forensic teams in the field if they don't have any yet.

Read on, Mcduff.
CSI: Army

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Things To Read While I Rejoin the Work World

I'm busy right now trying to get acclimated to the new job. I'm torn right now between complaining about the crappy pay (comparatively speaking to my last 8 years of employment)and enjoying the view from the 26th floor of a high rise down town; being only responsible for me, myself and I; only working 8:00 to 5:00 and actually meeting regular folks. I think I might even enjoy working "downtown" because it is different than working in a low rise industrial building with 40 other schmucks that are the only people you see or know. You don't get that "family" feeling that's for sure, but interestingly, I think I like that, too. That way, when I do find the job that I really want, I won't be bogged down by feelings of loyalty to the people around me. I'll just go.

It is a strangely liberating feeling.

On that note, I haven't had time to form many thoughts on the latest and greatest geo-political issues. Or, I should say, I haven't had time to write as much about them as I would.

Iran and Nukes: All I got to say is that I hope the Chinese and the Russians get on board and that the Euro-weenies don't get all sentimental over ol' Persia that they don't stick to their guns. Or, worse, because they fear the US "imperialism", they cut their noses off to spite their faces. Personally, I'd love to see the revolution of democracy and freedom in Iran, but I'm not holding my breath. From all I've seen and heard, it's completely underground with little acts of defiance that the government routinely tolerates and cracks down on in rotating efforts to keep the population from getting too antsy, give them a little butter, then steal their bread so they keep the illusion that they are making progress while the nut jobs take over the hen house.

And, we made deals with these morons for commercial and infrastructure support in Iraq and Afghanistan, arguably the two hotspots of the area with direct conflict. I hate to give away the game plan, but everybody knows we aren't going to war with these punks though I wouldn't mind giving some money (lots of it) to the anti-regime groups, including any of the separatist organizations who are not peaceful. I am even prepared to take the bus in the impending oil/gas price explosion. Anything as along as CooCoo for Cocoa Puffs don't their hands on nukes.

Joel Stein's "I don't support the troops" piece: Well, at least he's honest, if not completely clueless in terms of real geo-politics, the purpose of militaries and the fact that you cannot be an internationalist without protecting your ability to be an internationalist. Folks who talk about "imperialist America" have really no clue about how the international world works. They are completely myopic and pretend that it is better to be the country with piddily forces at home and continuously struggling economically while fearing for our safety and making pacts with bigger, most likely uglier countries who are willing to put their military out there and do what others think we should morally feel as repugnant. Apparently, people like Joel would rather be the victims and moan about it then be able to do something when it is necessary.

Frankly, as I look around my home and see the items that come from many countries or are made from materials from many countries, knowing that even in the homes of people like Joel these same items abound (like, today, I will be wearing a shirt made in India that I know is only here because we are financially AND militarily capable of protecting trade routes) to be moral hypocrites. So, while he is desperately trying to prove he is not a hypocrite by pronouncing his lack of support for the troops at war in Iraq, he is still a hypocrit since he'd never put two and two together, suddenly throw out all of his conveniences, give up his home and go live in a cave for his convictions.

Must be nice to be able to pretend anyway.

I think that Hugh Hewitt drives the point home the best in his interview with Joel.

On a funny note, I thought this was one of the best personal views from Iraq in awhile:

My loyal but spasmodic SAW gunner, SPC Gunderson, recently penned a blistering love letter via email to his dearly beloved back home.
“It was juicy,” he says. “Real juicy.”
“So what exactly's the problem, Gundy?”
“Well, you know that quick address box on Hotmail, right? The one that just lets you just click on the recipient’s email without actually typing it in?”
“Well, they should really space out those names more. Cause as soon as I sent it off I got a confirmation page saying I’d emailed this racy love letter to some friends of my parents!”
“Hahahaha.! So what’d you do?”
“What could I do? I immediately called my folks, that’s what I did. I told them to tell their friends that they were not--under any circumstances--NOT to open any emails with my name on them.”
“And… they said they didn’t read it.”
“And you believe this?”
“No. Of course they read it. I would have."
He got up to leave. “But the next time my folks have them over for dinner, it sure is gonna be awkward."

Go read the rest.

And, I hope that most of you are regular readers of Mudville Gazette so you didn't miss this piece about some real troopers of love. Makes me feel like a selfish wimp in comparison.

Or this great piece from Christopher Hitchens on Osama's truce offering which I didn't have time to comment on with funerals and work and other personal crisis clouding the horizon. My response to Osama is still: Nutz!

However, Hitchens nails it on the head what I and many others have been saying about the "second front" of the GWOT in Iraq:

Given the utter discredit and isolation of its forces in Iraq, who would still say that the fighting there is a "distraction" from the hunt for al-Qaida? They have taken tremendous casualties, obviously in the hope that their atrocious tactics would swiftly dissipate coalition morale and coerce Iraqi support. And it seems as if they haven't learned from their mistake.

The fratricide within the insurgency offers a perfect opportunity, which one hopes is being fully exploited, for infiltration, for the spread of damaging rumors about secret negotiations with one faction, for sabotage and for provocations that will increase the misery and distrust now infecting the ranks. It also offers an occasion to reverse the questions that we have been so anxiously asking ourselves. It is for the murderers and video-beheaders to ask themselves: How long can we sustain this effort? How many casualties is too many? Was our postwar planning adequate to the task? Are we winning hearts and minds? Are we endangered by sectarian strife within our own camp? And they have to pursue these discussions in secrecy, with superstitious reference to dreams and omens and prophecies, whereas at last we can pursue our argument in the open.

Someday, if you don't get it yet, I'll explain to you why blogging on certain subjects is an important part of the information war long and far away from getting our voices heard in the American public square. Think about how google works and the interconnectivity of the internet then get back to me if you have further questions.

Someone I haven't linked to in awhile, Sandmonkey directs us to an article about Egyptian and Israeli commerce. Something about hypocrits again. Sandmonkey will explain it all as our interpeid reporter from the APU (Arab Parallel Universe if you've forgotten). Just remember whatever you think you know about the ME is probably not even a tenth of what you'd need to know about the complications of relations there particularly when it comes to finance in order to make really good decisions about who, what, when and where one might need to apply sticks and carrots.

Last, don't forget to pray for Jill Carroll. I might have some things to say about the media and it's reporting, but Jill's work was good, concise and not full of too much ideological bull. She was kidnapped several weeks ago, the captors gave America 72 hours to release "all female prisoners in Iraq", of course we won't comply, though there is speculation about six individuals that we did release at the request of the Iraqis who may have negotiated on their own behalf, but it is unknown but for speculation. No word yet from her captors. In any case, her reporting was good, her family is very worried for her (so much that the sister took down her website) and many friends in Iraq and the US are praying as well.

That is all.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Conservative Party Wins in Canada Election - Yahoo! News

Conservative Party Wins in Canada Election - Yahoo! News

Minority government. Could be quickly sticky if Harper doesn't put forth for immediate attention some programs that he promised that does not require parliamentary approval.

Always go direct to the masses. Then the "opposition" will be a little more leary of outright sabotage since it would be a "nose-cut-spite-face" situation with their constituency and possibly engender voting for the conservatives in previously center or liberal areas if the liberals try to cause the government to shut down and call for early elections.

However, the blame anyone but the candidate and the message project is well underway. You'd think these guys would have learned from the Democrats in the US after 2004 what happens when you look and sound like a bunch of whiney babies. It leaves a bad taste in the center voters' mouths and you're left with pandering to your radical base to keep the momentum up.

MONTREAL (CP) - With Paul Martin announcing his resignation as Liberal leader, and party recriminations well underway, his closest advisers were indignant at suggestions they might be responsible for a campaign gone wrong.

They've long blamed the Jean Chretien administration for the sponsorship scandal that dragged them down throughout their 25 months in office. Now, the news media and the RCMP are the latest additions to their black list.[snip]

Liberal election strategy was knocked off kilter by the RCMP's stunning - and very public - announcement of a criminal probe into alleged insider trading at the Finance Department.

And advisers accuse the media of an obvious bias in favour of Stephen Harper's Conservatives.

They say Liberal promises - such as a $4-billion plan to reduce tuition - went virtually unreported while the Conservatives scored a daily hit with their announcements.

"How many Canadians have even heard about our tuition plan?" one senior Liberal lamented.

But many within Liberal ranks feel no sympathy for those complaints, saying Martin's campaign was dysfunctional from the start.

He hammered away on the Kyoto accord without putting forward a plan to meet its clean-air targets. He talked about national unity but offered no new ideas for bringing the country together.

He used same-sex marriage and abortion to paint the Tories as rabid right-wingers - while conveniently ignoring the dozens of his own MPs who sided against his policy.

The media spent eight weeks pointing out those glaring inconsistencies while ignoring many of Martin's attacks - or worse, dismissing them as fear-mongering.

One Liberal MP said his leader should have projected a more positive and prime ministerial message by focusing on his economic platform.

Liberals are also wondering why they delayed so many of their policy announcements until the second half of the campaign.

The strategy was supposed to unfold like this: draw attention to Harper's weaknesses before Christmas, and kill any momentum he might have had by unrolling Liberal promises in January.

It didn't quite work out that way.

"We began our campaign after Christmas and, by then, it was over," said one well-connected Liberal. "We were constantly on the defensive, constantly reacting to Harper's announcements."

But of all the things that grated on Liberal nerves, one thing reigned supreme.

Many of the Chretien-era Liberals who helped the party win three majority governments say they were essentially forced to the sidelines.

"I have never been so disconnected from party headquarters in any campaign in my life. And it's the same story across the country," said the Quebec operative.

"They pushed aside our most experienced organizers and replaced them with young guns who didn't know their butts from their elbows."

Wow. Sounds like somebody we all know. Wrong message at the wrong time. Kicking seasoned, winning strategists to the curb in favor of morons. And, in case you're wondering, I believe I will be correct on the liberal party swinging even more left after this campaign:

One of the country's best-known Liberals used more diplomatic language to express the same grievance. He said the party must now reach out to the hundreds of grassroots organizers who were sidelined during - and after - Martin's leadership run.

"In this campaign we had 60 per cent of our people sitting on their hands," he said.

"We need to reunite the big Liberal family."

Next campaign I see the liberals accusing Harper of spending the 8 consecutive year surplus that the liberal party swears they had before the conservatives came in even after the economy picks up, the military gets some needed equipment and tax cuts put money back in the pockets of the people. I imagine it will be an even uglier fight.

Howard Dean, the Canadian Liberals need you.

A little polarization might be good for the complacent Canadian soul. Put some fire in their bellies and a little pep in their step.

The Charge of the Geek Brigade

January 18, 2006: American troops appear to have a considerable advantage because most of them grew up playing video games and using PCs. More and more military equipment uses computers, or are basically electronic gadgets. American troops require a lot less time to learn how to use this stuff, and tend to be very good with it. This extends from fire control systems in armored vehicles, to new radios, electronic rifle sights and training systems (which are very similar to those video games.) Many other countries have to spend a lot more time training their troops to use this stuff, and the proficiency of the troops is never particularly good. This effect is often seen when this high tech American equipment is provided to foreign troops who didn’t have such an electronic childhood.

Military Training: Geek Advantage

And this from Glenn Reynolds:

But the move against violent videogames strikes me as a bad idea for other reasons. Not only does it represent an unconstitutional infringement on free speech -- as the Wired News story notes, "None of the measures that passed have survived legal challenge" -- but it may actually make America weaker.

American troops are already using videogames in training. Some are fancy custom jobs, like the combat simulators described in this article by Jim Dunnigan at StrategyPage:

    The new ambush simulators were done in less than six months. Using existing simulator technology, two different ambush simulator designs were created. Lockheed-Martin is delivering eight simulators based on large video screens, that surround the trainees and replicate the sights and sounds of an attack. Weapons equipped with special sensors allow the troops to shoot back from mockups of vehicles, and they also receive feedback if they are hit. . . .

This is the future. It doesn't mean that ground pounders and General Pattons aren't necessary or should not exist in the future military. The perfect military will indeed be able to integrate both the fantastic geekish gadgetry and the John Wayne "get some" soldier. Ground pounders often speak of the timely intervention of CAS (close air support) or supporting artillary and, while today the men and women in the rear using joysticks are still somewhat of a joke to the bad asses kicking in doors, I think there will be a future where real respect and admiration for the geek in glasses who spent hours in his momma's basement playing video games will be seen, just like the days of Huey and A-10 pilots.

Most UAV missions with a geek in a tin can back at base are intelligence gathering or surveillance post attack that sometimes leads the military to the bad guys. Some have included hellfire missile attacks on known targets. I believe the future is near at hand where the geek in a tin can will be providing CAS to ground units with a relatively inexpensive vehicles and some weaponry that gamers can only dream about handling in their Spec Op games and simulators.

Many reports are indicating that Unmanned fighters on near to rolling off the test line.

It doesn't mean ground pounders go away. You can't win a war decisively unless you have the ability to hold the land and physically depose the political structure of a country. Destroying even a large part of their military does not constitute an end to a regime as we saw after Desert Storm.

While many worry about the psychological effects of videos on children and adults, I believe the real concern that the military must constantly balance against is the tendency to rely too much on electronic devices. It is all good and well that a GPS can give you correct location, but it doesn't help any when the batteries go dead and you're stuck behind enemy lines or on covert mission and can't get a new supply. Even with the military working on better batteries, the loss of basic skills would be disasterous in many situations.

I know that the military trains our men and women to use compass skills (for instance), but I wonder, in the post basic training world, how often units work to keep these skills up? While simulators are great for honing reflexes for battle, I am hoping that commanders in the field or at least their NCOs think that the reasons for those skills are important and should be continuously trained on (I am mentioning compass skills as a basic example, but other simple survival skills should not be lost; war cannot be predicated on the flow of electricity).

That being said, I wonder if the military will relax any of its physical requirements for the geek brigades? If not, they'll be some of the most physically fit couch potatoes on the planet. I don't think it will be too far off when being designated a member of the geek brigade will be a serious badge of honor. What sort of medals will they get if they don't risk life and limb in the midst of combat, but save a squadron from annhilation and bring home the million dollar electronic baby without a scratch?

Or, will that simply become "just another day at the office"? I think the military will have to consider this as well as the technological age comes along. Certainly, you don't have to give them the same awards as a ground pounder, but successful electronic missions are going to become more and more the norm with more brain power than brawn involved. How is the military going to keep the geek brigade if it does not start recognizing their contributions and provide as much or as quick promotional opportunities as a battle hardened commander who's actually traded physical blows with the enemy face to face? Or a guy that has led infantry or tanks on the ground?

What is the military going to offer the geek brigade to get them to join? Or, is the allure of playing with the real thing going to be enough to drive future recruits?

Somewhere in the bowels of the Pentagon or in civilian contracting facilities around the United States, a robotics and computer geek brigade is imagining the day when they drop computerized tanks into a war zone driven by guys 9000 miles away, whose technology will be advanced enough that is excellent while being relatively cheap, like the advent of personal computers, where the vehicle can be very fast, require limited, but excellent armor and whose destruction would cost less than an Abrams and it's tank crew in terms of operational disfunction, real monetary costs and political costs. Something that could be easily manufactured and quickly replaced on the battle field. Instead of repairing the tanks, they'd be discoarded like used bic lighters or Hyundai's after 100k miles.

You wouldn't need to worry about sleep, rest or food, just a renewable energy supply, scheduling shifts of other geeks in camouflage and supplying replacement tanks on the go with remote controlled air drops. Imagine the pace of battle, performed 24/7 under those conditions. If the enemy did not have the same capabilities, the idea of getting inside a the enemies decision cycle would be moot. It practically wouldn't exist.

Or imagine fleets of armed UAVs over Tora Bora with the ability to fly high altitudes, with infra red and other radar or sensory abilities (like the infamous Vietnam era people sniffers, but better) or the ground penetrating radar system that could make out a cave as well as its inhabitants, constantly on station. There would have been no escape from Tora Bora. Or, if they did "escape" we would know where they went. Even if ground pounders had to go, these fleets could hold the enemy in place, attrit his forces or provide the ability to track, locate, evaluate defenses and direct forces to those sites for immediate reaction as well as maintain CAS for incoming forces.

Again, there would be very little decision cycle and a lot of confusion on the part of even small, non-technologically advanced enemies.

Yet, as I imagine this future, there are two things that concern me from a mostly philosophical point:

1) Cheap and easy war may lead to a cheapening of life and consequences. I remember an episode of the original Star Trek where they came to a planet where both sides had advanced so far technologically that whole populations were simply annhilated. Instead of coming to a political compromise and resolving the war, for a century, both sides would simply have a lottery of its citizens and they would send them through a supposedly painless particle evaporater, ten thousand every month as per the agreement between warring parties. It was cheaper, less bloody and less politically volatile. In the mean time, they had nearly managed to make their people extinct anyway but they couldn't figure out how to stop it.

That's the war I worry about.

2) History says that the further advanced a society is in law and technology, the more likely it is to be defeated by a completely "barbarian" stone age enemy using low-tech or no tech means. I think it's dangerous to imagine a time when technology makes us so comfortable that we forget the mightiest civilizations were destroyed by the barbarians at the gate.

In the meantime, somewhere deep inside all this philosophical meanderings and futuristic dreaming, I feel a deep vindication for the time I've spent gaming with my brothers as well as a little "up yours" to all those smarmy folks who think they are culturally advantaged because their children don't spend as much time playing computer games or watching TV.

There's a future coming and it says that the geeky couch potatoe will be a force to reckon with.

Maybe then food companies and nutritionists will make a bigger and better effort to develop couch potatoe food with less calories, helps burn fat instead of creating it, lowers cholesterol, less sugar content, more energy creating and doesn't taste like crap. Very likely that the military will invest more in this research instead of just trying to develop high energy compact meals for the guys on the go on the ground. They will have a lot of interest in insuring that their geek brigades don't kill over from heart attacks to early with all the money invested in their training.

Hoo-ah for the geek brigades.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Warm 'n Fuzzy Conserva-Puppies: Code Pink Sounds the Retreat!

Last night [ed...Friday]outside the main entrance to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington DC, the anti-war leftists of Code Pink were forced into an ignominious retreat! They were obliged to abandon their protest corners and seek refuge a block away, where they licked their wounds. For at least one evening, the wounded troopers in the hospital, some of whom can see the entrance where all this takes place from their windows, did not have to see the Pinkos who mock them with their fake vigils.

The battle was not won with bombs or bullets, or even with force of numbers. We simply outmaneuvered them...

Read the rest (with photos)
Warm 'n Fuzzy Conserva-Puppies: Code Pink Sounds the Retreat!

This was Tom the Redhunter. He and I have conversed several times and I have posting privileges at the Conserva-puppies though I've been very dilinquent in posting (for months actually).

I will not give away all of our conversations, but on a recent email Tom was telling me about a conversation he had with a vet from the Vietnam era about the current episodes of protesting and anti-war activity. He said he remembered a comment I made at his site about the difference between then and now and he paraphrased it to the vet.

The difference is that, this time, we are not abandoning the public square to only those who voice dissent.

I was very humbled by Tom's email and that he remembered that long ago comment.

I wanted to thank Tom publically for all his efforts and all of those (freepers) that go every Friday to Walter Reed to show support for our men and women in uniform.

I think it's interesting that whenever I read an editorial or some other report regarding the "freepers" of Free Republic, they are often referred to as "fringe", "right-wing" or "radical" even.

Interestingly, you never see those same kind of words used for groups like Code Pink or the "anti-war" protests that are often headed up by "ANSWER", which is a radical socialist "workers" group, and includes such interesting folks as Anarchists and Communists, Anti-Semitics, Pro-Palestinians, etc, etc, etc. Those same groups will carry around signs about "baby killers", "no blood for oil", "9/11 was an inside job", urging soldiers to shoot their officers, calling the terrorists "Freedom Fighters" or legitimate resistance and carrying around flag draped caskets representing our soldiers killed in action while carrying offensive signs.

Worse yet, the Code Pink crowd stood outside of Walter Reed with signs that read "maimed for a lie" (Tom and the freepers have photos of the signs in earlier posts). Or maybe the worst was when they sent $600,000 in supplies to the insurgents in Fallujah. This is the group that Murtha met with and then assisted in getting them inside Walter Reed to see some of the troops and hand out "baskets" of items in order show their "support".

Maybe Murtha and some other folks are fooled by this endeavor, but the troops aren't and neither are we.

We no longer cede the public square. That is why I blog and why many others do.

Yet, to some so called "journalists" and opinion makers, it is people like Tom and the freepers who are the radical or right "wing" implying somebody who does not represent any majority.

I know what these folks really are: patriots. They are the "silent majority" who have sworn not to cede the public square and, in this case, they actually took it back completely.

I just wanted to say, "Thank you."

PS...Don't miss Gunn Nutts' report and even more pictures. It simply warms the cockles of your heart.

"It was a soul-stirring moment when the WR bus came back from dinner. The driver swung into the entrance and stopped for quite a long time, turning on the inside light so we could cheer our beloved heroes and see their smiling faces. Chants of 'USA! USA! USA!' swelled as we exchanged hearty waves and thumbs-up with them. On the opposite side of the light a smaller WR transport van was also honking wildly, joining in for a heroes welcome."

Don't forget that part of this war is at home.

Sisku Hanne: How many of our heroes came to WR as a result of the $600,000 Code Pink sent to the insurgents? How many of our heroes have been maimed or killed because Gael Murphy and Cindy Sheehan publicly proclaimed the 'right' of the insurgents to shoot at our troops? Commie-worshipping Pinkos give aid and comfort to the enemy, we will NEVER give them an unopposed moment. We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail!"

We will not cede the public square.

Sunday, January 22, 2006 A Rebel Crack-Up? -- Jan. 30, 2006 -- Page 1

Even by the standards of al-Qaeda in Iraq, the suicide bombing in Ramadi on Jan. 5 was stunning for its audacity. The bomber had blended into the ranks of Iraqi police recruits outside the Ramadi Glass and Ceramics Works before blowing up his explosive vest, loaded with ball bearings for maximum devastation. The blast killed two U.S. service members and more than 70 Iraqi police recruits--but it also turned out to be a deadly miscalculation by the jihadis and their leader, Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi. Most of the victims were local Sunnis, and they were joining the police force under the protection of tribal chieftains who, with the U.S. military's approval, are trying to impose order over their violent swath of Iraq. After the Jan. 5 blast, according to insurgents, tribal chiefs in Ramadi notified al-Qaeda that they were withdrawing protection in the city for the group's fighters. The jihadis responded by gunning down several prominent Sunni clerics and tribal leaders. Now al-Qaeda fighters who once swaggered through Ramadi are marked men. "It's war," says an Iraqi intelligence officer with contacts among the insurgents.[snip]

"We're starting to see a little bit more every day," says Army Lieut. General Ray Odierno, assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In places like Ramadi and Fallujah, Odierno says, "we've had some Iraqi insurgents' groups actually put up defenses to protect their people against al-Qaeda forces."[snip]

Sunni politicians managed to convince some key rebel groups that unless the Sunni minority voted, the elections would enhance the power of Kurdish and religious Shi'ite parties, some of which have ties to Iran. (Election results released last week showed that Sunni Arab parties will hold 55 seats in the new parliament, up from 17 in the previous one.) Abu Noor al-Iraqi, a leader of the Unified Leadership of Mujahedin, a new amalgam of four nationalist guerrilla outfits, tells TIME that "when al-Zarqawi's group threatened to attack the polling centers, we stood against them."

Since then, the fissures between the nationalists and al-Zarqawi have widened. U.S. political and military officers persuaded some Sunni tribal chiefs to send their youths into the security forces to ensure that Sunnisnot Shi'ite outsiders--would command their cities' police. But in recent meetings with various insurgent groups, says a nationalist field commander near Ramadi, al-Zarqawi's lieutenants made it clear that any Iraqi who joined the security forces was considered the enemy, thus drawing a battle line between the jihadis and their former comrades.[snip]

Read the rest. A Rebel Crack-Up? -- Jan. 30, 2006 -- Page 1

Of particular note also were these reports:

After the backlash in Ramadi, al-Zarqawi's men supposedly retreated into the rocky western deserts but have continued to target local leaders. A senior security officer says jihadist fighters followed a Ramadi chieftain from the powerful Dulaimi tribe into Baghdad on Wednesday; handcuffed him, a nephew and a senior security officer for the western provinces; and executed each of them with a bullet through the head. In Samarra members of the Alboubaz tribe killed four foreign fighters and drove out 11 others after the assassination of a local police chief. After the tribesmen urged Sunni youths to join the local police, al-Zarqawi got his revenge. The instructors weren't going to make the same mistake they had made in Ramadi by allowing recruits to become an easy target for a suicide bomber, so they had them sign up in Baghdad. But al-Zarqawi's men were tipped off. Al-Qaeda ambushed the Sunnis' bus on the road and kidnapped the recruits. Their bodies have yet to be found.

Actually, as of Sunday, they did find their bodies:

The bodies of the 23 men were found partially buried near Dujail, about 50 miles north of Baghdad, said Interior Ministry police Lt. Thair Mahmoud. They had been abducted Wednesday while traveling from Baghdad to their homes in Samarra after failing to be accepted at a police recruit center.

While the "Crack Up" report ends on a pessimistic note, it is more a matter of "managing expectations" than a true barometer of the situation. In fact, one of the key comments was concerning the attack on a Dulaimi tribal chief by Zarqawi. The Dulaimi tribe is one of the largest tribes in Iraq in the Al Anbar and Baghdad area. If there was one thing that Zarqawi should have avoided, it was a p*ssing match with this group. Withdrawal of protection from this tribe means denial of a vast territory for operations.

Which is why this report about Zarqawi and his "suicide belt" is so interesting:

IRAQ’S most wanted man, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, goes to sleep every night wearing a suicide belt packed with explosives, according to a leading insurgent who met him two weeks ago.
“He never takes it off,” said Sheikh Abu Omar al-Ansari, leader of a Sunni resistance group called Jeish al-Taiifa al-Mansoura (Army of the Victorious Sect).

“He told me: ‘I would rather blow myself up and die as a martyr — and kill a few Americans along the way — than be arrested and humiliated by them’.”

It would be nice if we could come up with the frequency for the detonator. But that is not the most fascinating part of the story:

“He is known by America and the world as the prince of beheadings, the murdering sheikh of innocents, the blood spiller,” said Ansari.

By contrast, he said, Zarqawi seemed a “simple” man and put on a show of humility at a two-day meeting to secure the co-operation of the Army of the Victorious Sect and other groups with Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

According to the sheikh, Zarqawi sat cross-legged on a rug to eat with his guests and some of his 12 bodyguards, most of whom also wore suicide belts and carried American and Russian automatic rifles.[snip]

The sheikh also claimed one of the most widely circulated pieces of supposed western intelligence about Zarqawi — that he sought treatment in Iraq after losing a leg in a US missile strike on Al-Qaeda militants — is false.

Ansari confirmed that he has both his legs and “walks with confidence and balance”.

He appeared to have recovered from chest and shoulder injuries he suffered in a separate US airstrike last year. [snip]

The meeting with Zarqawi had been arranged to help insurgent groups co-ordinate their attacks on coalition forces. [snip]

Al-Qaeda members said the insurgent groups attending the meeting were discussing possible co-ordination of their attacks and plans to create an Islamic state.

The next morning, the leaders of four other Sunni groups joined the gathering. [snip]

The meeting led to the subsequent announcement about an umbrella body called the Mujaheddin Council, which posted a statement on the internet two weeks ago. The council claims to be representing Al-Qaeda in Iraq, the Army of the Victorious Sect and the four lesser-known Sunni groups. Other leading Sunni groups were conspicuously absent.

The development suggested to some Middle East watchers that despite his reputation, Zarqawi may be struggling to consolidate his grip on the resistance. Many Iraqis have tired of violence and politicians were beginning negotiations this weekend to form a coalition government after election results announced on Friday.

“Zarqawi is not in the position he used to be before — he seems to have lost the hospitality that he enjoyed in the past in Iraq,” said Dr Nimrod Raphaeli, a specialist at the Middle East Media Research Institute in Washington. “He is trying to find a new base and new links with other groups.”

Raphaeli is probably correct in his assessment. It also ties in with the letter from Zawahiri last year urging Zarqawi not to make Shi'ite killings so prominent and spectacular as well as to tone down the religious discussions. He also seemed to have been telling Zarqawi that he needed to find some people participating in the election to be their political wing. Almost all things that Zarqawi rejected.

He seems quite willing to cut his nose off to spite his face. Bad for him, good for us and the Iraqis althoug it's clear that it is not the Shia killing the Sunni leadership:

Elsewhere, the bodies of prominent Sunni Arab tribal leader, Sayid Ibrahim Ali, 75, and his 28-year-old son, Ayad, were found in a field near Hawija, 150 miles north of Baghdad, police said. They were shot as they left a funeral Saturday.

Don't mistake the situation. Zarqawi can't do anything to us militarily. It is completely political. However, militarily and politically we can damage him. He wears that suicide belt for more reasons than to avoid capture. The underlying point is that Zarqawi cannot trust the people that he meets not to turn him in. He cannot trust but a few body guards. Even his allies may decide that he is too troublesome to keep around. Bin Laden's recent statement that Zarqawi is a "prince of Al Qaida" can be analyzed, as well, that bin Laden is trying to extend his protection over him. It is not praise. He is telling these others that betraying Zarqawi is betraying Al Qaida.

However, it is unlikely that it will have effect on some of the insurgent groups if Zarqawi continues to take out their leadership.

One other interesting point that was not lost on me and should have some interesting connotations for westerners: at the meeting discussed, Zarqawi came with 12 "body guards" with suicide vests; before prayers, according to the interviewed "sheikh", water was scarce so Zarqawi fetched a bucket of water and helped the attendees to wash prior to prayers (something that includes the hands and the feet, is typically left to "junior" members or servants); sat around talking religion and dining on a meal of rice and chicken.

The picture would have been complete if he announced that he knew somebody would betray him and he knew who that person was. Of course, that might have been the point of the suicide vests.

Update from Iraq the Model via Threats Watch and Winds of Change:

(ITM)Meanwhile, Mowaffac al-Rubai’i warned today from the allegedly continuous negotiations between the Americans and Iraqi militants and he strongly condemned these negotiations which he described as a threat to national security.

While the American embassy today resumed its talks with the Sunni leading politicians, 6 Iraqi militant groups announced that they will unite their forces and join the rest of resident of Anbar and Salahiddin in fighting al-Qeda. The new militant groups included the Islamic army, the Anbar martyr’s brigades and the 1920 revolution brigades.

This change sounds positive and encouraging. Although I always preferred that the government deals with such issues instead of militias because if those militias succeed in their new mission, they will have demands and they will gain leverage in later bargains when they will be asked to drop their arms (that’s if they have a plan to do so in the future).

However, the facts on the ground are not the same and the theory of excluding militias can be overlooked for a while because the government already has no enough power in the areas in question while those militias know their targets and they can reach those targets; they know the battlefield very well and they have the sufficient intelligence for this kind of battle.

Bill Roggio at Threats Watch goes on to say:

The defection of insurgent groups and Sunni support is a continuing trend which must give Zarqawi and al-Qaeda’s high command pause. The refocus of al-Qaeda efforts towards Afghanistan becomes understandable as more information on the fractionalization of Iraqi’s insurgency is released.

I happen to agree with him. There are two factors at play:

1) Al Qaida succeeded in collapsing their own support network through arrogance and short sightedness in Iraq;

2) AQ rightly surmises that the Europeans are much weaker than Americans in Afghanistan and is looking for quick, short term victories to bolster their flagging "wasta" in the region. They figure they can get such groups as the Danish to talk about not going into "dangerous areas" and, voila, they succeed in routing the westerners.

However, I believe they have overplayed their hand in Afghanistan already. This will not be a situation like the post Russian conflict where so many groups go at each other in civil war where AQ can pretend to be allies with a particular group to support them in war and use it to drive fund raising back home in the magical kingdom. The problem is, as much as any might say Afghanistan was a "puppet" regime, it's backed by an international coalition including the big European countries and the Afghanis have elected people several times to represent them so an insurgency or civil war the likes that was suffered in the late 80's and early 90's will not get as much sympathy back home. Even better, now that the would be fund raisers have gotten a taste of murder and mayhem in their back yard, large scale terrorist attacts used as a war tactic, instead of a political tactic, where the civilian casualties among fellow Muslims reaches hundreds if not thousands during multiple back to back attacks on one day, will do the same that it did in Iraq, if it hasn't already begun to have such an impact.

If they can't hide and rely on the usual tribal and Muslim tradition of hospitality as a major part of their security, what can they do?

Apparently offer a truce while they try to sort out exactly where they can go next.

Maybe back to Chechnya or Sudan or Somalia.

Iraqi Cleric: Militia Would Defend Iran - Yahoo! News

Muqtada al-Sadr, speaking on the sidelines of a meeting with the top Iranian nuclear negotiator, said his Mahdi Army was formed to defend Islam.

"If neighboring Islamic countries, including Iran, become the target of attacks, we will support them," al-Sadr was quoted as saying. "The Mahdi Army is beyond the Iraqi army. It was established to defend Islam."

The comments could be seen as a message that Tehran has allies who could make things difficult for U.S. forces in the region if Iran's nuclear facilities are attacked.

No kidding. I have serious regrets about letting Sadr get off after Najaf. Sistani did not do the Shi'ites any favors trying to hold them together as one big group, pretend they actually had some things in common and trying to protect Sadr so that Sistani and other clerics could keep the idea circulating that clerics were untouchable by the law. The major failing of most of the ME nations with more than their fair share of Islamist nutballs.

Read the rest.

Iraqi Cleric: Militia Would Defend Iran - Yahoo! News

This is the part where King Henry says, " 'Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?'"

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Remembering: FSB Ripcord

We were looking at some pictures and paperwork tonight trying to put together a CD for my cousins about the life of their dad, Lewis Henry. It's interesting what you can remember when you look at pictures of your family from all different periods. I was helping my brother, pointing to photographs and reading names on the back, identifying this or that person:

Oh, that's Babe Howard and Sidney, grandma's cousins, they were in the Army in WWII. Grandma said that Babe was never the same. Drank alot. Shot up the town a few times. The sheriff would bring him back home or call them to pick him up.

Oh my God, that is great grandpa and his brothers running a moonshine still. See, he's missing a finger where a gun blew up in his hand. He always said the revenuers shot it off in a gun fight. (laugh)

Now, that lady with the seeing eye dog is Lynnie May. She was grandpa's mother. She died in 1964 I think. Aunt Lorene was driving and they had an accident down on K-32. I think they all lived in Muncie.

I think that is Dad, Uncle Lewis and Aunt Cynthia around 1963. Dad's about thirteen in that picture. That's the house grandma and grandpa built off of 55th I think.

On and on. It was interesting.

Then we came across Uncle Lewis's service pictures. Some of them were a little messed up with time and water damage. One of the photos was our cousin Max Brewer who was also in Vietnam. Then there was a photo of my Uncle in Thailand on leave with his arm around some Thai girl drinking beer. He's in the yellow shirt I mentioned before where the old man had put a python around his neck. We couldn't find that photo though. We'll have to ask Aunt Jeanie. What was funny was my brother agonizing about whether to put that in. Maybe it would bug Aunt Jeanie? I told him that it was long before he met her and it was part of his story, so why not?

Anyway, as we were looking at some info I noted one of his medals was an Air Medal with V device. I couldn't remember them all the other night when I was writing his story. It had a little tag beneath it that said, "Ripcord". I remember reading that name on the Black Widows' website and vaguely recalled it from a History Channel story so I decided to look it up.

Wow. I mean, "WOW!" You know, he told me stories, but he didn't tell me everything. I was reading the story of FSB Ripcord and I realized why he didn't speak on it. It's the type of thing that movies are made of. It's the kind of thing that may be hard for people to understand or believe if they weren't there, if it wasn't written in history. It's the stuff that heroes are made from.

A few excerpts:

Rescue From FSB Ripcord by Tom Marshall

For the helicopter pilots, the rules were simple. If Americans were in trouble, the pilots would come to their aid no matter what.

Fire Support Base Ripcord, one of a string of firebases along the eastern perimeter of the A Shau Valley, came under heavy enemy fire in the early summer of 1970, while American troops were using the base as a jumping-off point for operations in the valley. Their mission was to block NVA divisions positioned to move on the coastal city of Hue.

Ripcord had been carved out near the top of a 2,800-foot-high mountain. First used by the U.S. Marines in 1967 and 1968, the firebase had again been operated by the 101st Airborne Division in 1969 and closed when monsoons prevented its resupply. It was reopened once more in April 1970. On April 1, B Company of the 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry (2/506), 101st Airborne Division was inserted in the firebase.

Soon after the infantrymen arrived, the level of NVA activity increased around the Khe Sahn plain and the A Shau Valley. The intensity of the fighting in the area around Ripcord soon overshadowed ongoing enemy harassment of nearby ARVN Firebases O'Reilly and Barnett.[snip]

On July 20, Captain Chuck Hawkins, commander of A Company, 2/506, which had reinforced the original B Company defenders at the firebase, reported that a tap had been made on a land line between an NVA division headquarters and an artillery regiment on the valley floor below Ripcord. The Americans had learned that surrounding the firebase were four NVA regiments with up to 12, 000 men. Their immediate objective was the destruction of Ripcord.

On hearing that new and disturbing intelligence, Maj. Gen. Sidney Berry, commander of the 101st Airborne Division, took action. Early on the morning of July 21, Berry called Colonel Harrison and told him, "We're closing Ripcord." [snip]

At first light on July 23, 14 Chinooks-each large enough to carry more than 30 men per trip-headed toward Ripcord to begin lifting out the B Company 2/506 troops. Everything went smoothly until 7:40 a.m., when anti-aircraft fire again knocked out a Chinook. the chopper crashed in flames on the firebase's large lower landing pad, preventing the other Chinooks from lifting out the rest of the men, artillery and heavy equipment. The infantrymen would have to be evacuated by Bell UH-1 Hueys, which could carry only six men at a time. All available Hueys in the 101st Airborne were detailed to head for the beleaguered firebase. They would dart in and out one at a time, dodging continuous anti-aircraft and artillery fire.

Looking at the information from my uncle's things, I realized that he was with the Black Widows in '70-71 which by then had been redesignated from the 188th Assault Helicopter Company to the 101st Aviation Battalion (AHB) Charlie Co. A patch he had said "CE 562" on the body of a Black Widow spider. You can see the years he was in on the roster and, if you read the history of the Black Widows you can see that they were redesignated as 101st AHB in 1968. They were at LZ Sally, but were eventually moved to Phu Bai which is on my uncle's paperwork.

And then there was this "calling card":

Reading that, I realized where he'd been exposed to Agent Orange. It says, "People Sniffing & Defoliating" which of course is reference to spraying Agent Orange. I had been reading information about the actual rate of exposure and was trying to figure out why a guy in a helicopter would be exposed to Agent Orange when it would be sprayed on the ground. That's when I realized that it was the helicopters doing the spraying.

Returning to our story:

The Hueys were refueled and assembled for one of the largest hot extractions of U.S. forces in South Vietnam. Sixty Hueys from the companies of the 158th Aviation Battalion and the "Redskins" from Camp Evans and 60 Hueys from the 101st Aviation Battalion and the "Hawks" at Camp Eagle - both groups flying Bell AH-1G Cobra gunships-plus the 4/77 "Griffins" in rocket-equipped gunships, joined the lift birds and the other Cobras from Camp Eagle in the mission to subdue the NVA around Ripcord.

Aboard one of the Hueys was Captain Randy House, platoon leader from C Company, 158th Aviation Battalion, who was serving as leader of the extraction flight-call sign Phoenix-that day. Approaching the area, he could clearly see that it was time to get on with the mission, but as yet his flight had had no contact with the command-and-control ship flying high above. It turned out that the NVA and some of their Communist Chinese advisers had managed to deny the Americans use of the radio frequencies.[snip]

House observed that the firebase's upper landing pad, located near it 155mm howitzers, was taking much less mortar fire than the lower pad, which was under continuous shelling-and at any rate was partially blocked by the burning Chinook wreckage. House made contact with a pathfinder (a combat controller) at Ripcord and told him he was ready to continue the extraction. House ordered the 101st Airborne Division's Hueys to approach the firebase along a riverbed, turn above a waterfall on the mountain and continue to Ripcord. Others from the the 158th and 101st Aviation battalions would follow.

House directed the choppers to the available landing areas. As the extraction continued, the pathfinders instructed some birds to land on different pads, but the NVA were clearly listening in on their communications. If a Huey was directed to a particular pad, mortars were fired on that landing area. Undaunted, the pathfinders working the extraction from Ripcord developed their own strategy to foil the enemy's efforts. When they heard the mortar shells fires, the pathfinders would divert each Huey to another pad at the last second. Five soldiers would scramble aboard and the Hueys would lift off, just before the next round of mortars arrived.

One by one, the Hueys touched down. Some of the landing pads were big enough for only one Huey to land at a time, pick up five or six passengers and depart-all under .51-caliber (12.7mm) anti-aircraft fire, joined by fire from hundreds of AK-47s. One of the upper pads was not targeted as often, receiving only intermittent 88mm mortar and 75mm recoilless rifle fire.[snip]

Captain House, still circling above Ripcord, continued the extraction with the other lift companies. They were circling in sight of Ripcord, keeping an eye on the deadly landing zones marked by mortar explosions. House continued to fill the position of command and control. He had just seen his Hueys getting shot to hell while getting the job done. Painfully aware that there were troops still waiting for extraction on the firebase, House understood his importance in the role of impromptu air mission commander. He figured the sooner they finished, the better.

House called to the leader of the Ghostrider flight, "Rider one-six, Phoenix one-six." Ghostrider one-six responded, "Go!"

"This is Phoenix Lead. The other briefers are not up," said House. "Its pretty strong (anti-aircraft fire) west of Ripcord. I hate to be the one to keep this damn thing going, but give me your poz (position)."

"Between Phon Dien, blueline by Jack (southwest of Camp Evans combat base over the river)" came the reply. House then gave the pilots instructions on the best approach direction. Ghostrider Lead briefed the other birds in his flight, but he knew all of the pilots in the area could see the continuous bombardment underway. Ghostrider Lead continued, "I'm not gonna order you into that stuff, but if you think you can get onto the pad, do it!"

The Hueys would come as long as there were Americans on the ground. The pilots and crews saw what they would have to go through and made their approaches one by one. The airwaves became clogged with incessant reports: "Pretty white stuff on top," called a Ghostrider as he approached the upper LZ in a flurry of mortar shells.

"It's CS," another pilot calmly remarked-tear gas.

Another asked, "Are we using CS?"

"No," responded the first pilot. "They are."

Not only would the Huey pilots fly through walls of .51 caliber anti-aircraft tracers to land amid exploding clouds of tear gas, which might temporarily blind them.[snip]

Another Ghostrider, also touching down at Ripcord, called, "Go in top pad, one more hit just right beside me!"

A pathfinder at Ripcord asked, "Did a slic (UH-1D) just get shot down?"

Commanchero one-one, from A Company, 101st Aviation Battalion, replied, "No, a mortar hit him sitting on the ground."

Ghostrider Chalk-Seven broke in with: "Taking small arms fire 100 meters out. They're leading it onto the pad."

Ghostrider Lead called, "Abort, Chalk-Seven!"

Chalk-Seven responded: "No, I've aborted three times already, I'll just continue in!"

Ghostrider Lead said: "I'll leave it up to you. Go in if you can!"

Another pilot called out, "POL (the fuel dump) just went up-took a mortar, right beside me."

The lift companies - Ghostriders, Lancers, Comancheros, Black Widows and Kingsmen-continued the procession. Many of the choppers were taking hits. The smoke, the streams of green and gold enemy tracers, the jets swooping low, laying napalm while Cobra gunships attacked lines of enemy troops-all of it nearly overwhelmed the senses of the chopper crews.

But the Hueys kept coming. When one chopper was shot down, another landed to retrieve its crew. By noon, only 18 fighting men remained at Ripcord from an original force of nearly 400. Driven from their secure positions by exploding 155mm ammunition that had been ignited by the fires, those remaining soldiers ran to one end of the firebase and attempted to form a security perimeter. They could see NVA swarming up the mountainside toward them like ants, breaching the lower perimeter wires less than 100 yards away.

Most of the GIs were carrying M-60 machine guns, firing from the hip as they moved from one position to another. They simply wanted to get off that Godforsaken mountain alive. Private first class Daniel Biggs watched as a Huey approached the pad and landed in the exact spot where two mortar shells had hit seconds earlier. Biggs later told a Stars and Stripes correspondent, "He came right in, didn't turn away or nothin'."[snip]

A short while alter, the last Huey to lift off from the firebase sustained major damage and heavy casualties to its passengers. The last men off the mountain were members of B Company, 2/506. They had also been the first ones to arrive in April. The troop withdrawals from the valley floor below would not end for another two hours.[snip]

Operations in the area around Firebase Ripcord had proved to be a costly undertaking. Between April 1 and July 31, 1970, 135 UH-1H Hueys were seriously damaged and rendered unflyable. They vast majority of the division pilots and crew members survived despite combat damage to their aircraft. Ten Cobras and three Hughes OH-6a Loaches also sustained serious hits. Only two of the six Huey lift companies involved in operations in that area did not lose a crew killed in action. All the pilots who participated in the evacuation earned Distinguished Flying Crosses. The crew chiefs and door gunners received Air Medals with a "V" for valor.

Helicopters, including gunships and lift ships, were crucial to the evacuation of Ripcord. The withdrawal could not have succeeded without the courage and daring of Huey pilots and crewmen who repeatedly braved direct mortar fire, recoilless rifle fire and walls of neon-green .51-caliber anti-aircraft tracers to save the lives of their countrymen.

Read the rest here. There is a lot more to the story of Ripcord.

Here's a newspaper clipping about the retreat and rescue:

Somethings never change.

Sometimes, that's good. Our current men and women continue on the proud tradition:

On December 19, 1989 under permanent orders 179-1, the 6th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment was redesignated as the 9th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment.

The “Black Widows” of Alpha Company, 9th Battalion (Eagle Strike), 101st Aviation Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), returned home in February 2004, after a one year tour of duty as proud combat veterans from the unforgiving deserts of Iraq during Operation “Iraqi Freedom.” Black Widow black hawk helicopters were the first to cross the Iraqi border in March 2003, when the war began. Their motto: MATE AND KILL.

After their return to Fort Campbell Alpha Company was re-flagged as Alpha Company, 4th Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. Commander, Captain Jason Blevins, chose to continue the Black Widow legacy by choosing “SPIDERS” as their new logo and call sign. The legacy of the 188th Assault Helicopter’s gun platoon will live on with A/4/3. The new A/4/3 pocket patch will include reference to the establishment of the 188th Assault Helicopter Company in 1966.

And this update seems to indicate that they returned for a second tour of duty:

2. Alpha Company flew one Air Assault mission with Task Force 2-7 CAV of the 1 st Cavalry Division on 16 February [2005]. The ground tactical plan included IED sweeps along MSR routes west of Taji. The Task Force discovered IEDs along MSR routes, validating the success of the Air Assault. [snip]

3. Alpha Company also planned and briefed a pending Air Assault into Zone 66 with Task Force 3-325 Airborne Infantry (82 nd Airborne Division). The Air Assault was planned in order to destroy counter insurgents firing rockets and mortars into Zone One, targeting the newly formed Iraqi National Assembly.

Just another fascinating piece of history.

Winchester Rifles to Be Discontinued - Yahoo! News

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The traditional Winchester rifles carried by pioneers, movie stars and Wild West lawmen will be discontinued in March, a Belgian manufacturer said Wednesday, confirming the end of an American icon that became known as "The Gun that Won the West."

Is it me, or is there something wrong with this?

Once the U.S. Repeating Arms plant closes March 31, the only new rifles carrying the famous Winchester name will be the modern, high-end models produced in Belgium, Japan and Portugal. The older models, including the famous Winchester Model 94, will be scrapped.

"The name will continue, but not with those traditional products," said Robert Sauvage, a spokesman for the Herstal Group, the Belgian company that owns U.S. Repeating Arms and the right to the Winchester name.

Herstal announced Tuesday that the U.S. Repeating Arms factory in New Haven would soon close, capping 140 years of Winchester manufacturing in the city.

But then I read this and felt much better:

Missouri-based Olin Corp. owns the Winchester brand name. In the late 1970s, after a massive strike by its machinists, Olin sold the plant to U.S. Repeating Arms along with the right to use the Winchester name until next year.

Sauvage said the Herstal Group wants to extend that right past 2007 but Olin has not decided whether to allow it. Spokeswoman Ann Pipkin said Olin is disappointed with Herstal's decision to close the plant and may sell the Winchester naming rights to someone else.

"The legendary Winchester name, we want it to be on a great-quality firearm," she said.

In other words, it seems that Herstal group has ticked folks off for screwing with their heritage.

Read the rest.

Winchester Rifles to Be Discontinued - Yahoo! News

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Dying is an Expensive Undertaking

As some may be aware, my uncle passed away over the weekend. I wrote a tribute to him here. It was barely sufficient to show my respect and love. You know, he wasn't perfect. He could be quick to anger and he could ferret out your "buttons" and push them quite regularly. He was always tough and ready to kick somebody's butt. But, the truth was, he was that guy everybody always talks about: tough on the outside, soft and marshmallowy inside.

He'd sneak candy to his grandkids whenever they came over. He kept a giant candy jar full just within arm's reach behind his reclining chair. He had taken courses to repair motorcycles and, if you had a problem, he could tell what it was and how to fix it in a few minutes. He had connections with local repair shops. He helped me get my bike fixed for $246 (when the real cost should have been about $500) by hooking me up with a repair shop where he'd made friends with the owner (he swore it was because my t-shirt was too tight, conveniently forgetting that I had my cousin and brother with me who the repair guy thought were my body guards or boyfriends).

He was never a joiner. He said he always wanted to go his own way. Probably doing that now, as a matter of fact.

His obituary was in the Kansas City Star. His guest book is here.

As noted, his family is having a hard time paying for the funeral. Some great folks like Chief Bill and a few others have pitched in to help us figure out how to contact agencies or work with the VA to see if there is something else that can be done. Some other folks have been nice enough to ask how to send donations and I wanted to say thank you and God Bless everyone of you who have gone out of your way to help us out.

Some may not yet have experienced personally the death of a close relative where they are responsible for making the arrangements and figuring out how to pay for it. You'd be surprised (or not) what a no frills funeral costs. There are so many line items that you never realize, until you do it, how much it costs or that it was even necessary.

Things like preparing the body includes more than embalming. There's a charge for putting their clothes on. A charge for putting on make up or fixing little flaws related to their illness or cause of death. There's a charge for fixing their hair. It's like an ultimat spa for the dead and they charge you because you can't get away from it, particularly if you want to do a visitation. Visitation can cost you between $100 and $300 an hour depending on what you ask for. A plot of land can cost over $600 and the opening and closing is over $500 (a vet could get this part for free if they opt for burial in a national cemetary; if their last wish is someplace else, you or your insurance is paying for it). Don't forget the casket and the vault. You cannot have a burial without a vault. If you're lucky and your relative was a vet, the VA will supply a headstone. If not, it can be between $600 and $2000 (particularly if you need to get a double for an already deceased or future deceased spouse; we're opting for government headstone to hold the position until a much future date). There's transportation from the hospital to the undertaker, from the funeral home to the grave. (The VA is going to pay for that for us, but don't think you're going to ride in a limo; the transportation is for the body and hearse).

All in all, an inexpensive funeral can cost about $4000 (if you simply put them in the casket and then the ground) and can go as high as $10,000 or more.

Non-Service Connect death benefit $300.00
Medicare death benefit: $255.00

Paying for your loved ones funeral: Eternity

Don't forget the flowers.

New York Times: You've Been Propagandized


John at the Castle believes he's located the type and maker of the round. It ain't ours.

Another commenter, Donal, notes that this photo appears to show the same kinds of rounds being policed up by the paramilitary after raids near the Paki-Afghan border. See the caption for details. Oh, and it is taken by the same gentleman that took the questionable photo below: Thir Khan

You may have missed this yesterday, but since this blog is associated with the Castle, arguably the home of the military ordnance and equipment experts, I thought I would bring it to your attention and get a little more perspective on it as well as make my own observations.

The caption of this photo originally read:

Pakistani men with the remains of a missile fired at a house in the Bajur tribal zone near the Afghan border.

A number of people noticed that this was not a missile, but, in fact, an artillery shell, starting with American Thinker, then LGF and, another excellent website, Winds of Change who drills down the farthest to the identification of the shell:

However, this object is not a missile nor a missile's remains.

What is it, and in light of these facts, why did the New York Times decide to run it with such an inflammatory and false caption?

As a retired artillery officer, it's easy for me to see that the blue object in the photo is an artillery projectile. Do you see the golden-colored stripe running horizontally around it near the bottom? That is called a rotating band. The rotating band is what seals an artillery projectile tightly inside the cannon tube. When fired, the band does two things: it seals the propellant gases behind the projectile so that they don't blow by the projectile as it travels down the barrel, and it expands into the grooves of the rifling of the cannon tube to start the projectile spinning, like a rifle bullet does, vastly increasing the accuracy of the firing.

Winds and another commenter go on to say:

There seems to be a consensus among artillerists who have commented that the projectile pictured is either a 152mm (that is, Russian manufacture) or 155mm (used by US, NATO and other countries). Retired artilleryman William Krulac says

    the round has been fired, and was probably a training round that does not explode, a base-ejection round (base ejection is used to deliver illumination flares or sub-munitions over a target) or, a dud. U.S. artillery training rounds are blue, but do not have a yellow band. The evidence that the round was fired is the grooves in the rotating band near the bottom of the round.

Read the rest. He comments about the size and the fact that the "rifling" on the copper band looks like its clockwise so not a Russian round. Yet, another commenter noted that maybe the photo was flipped because of the buttons. A primer is here and the yellow band could indicate one of several possibilities including HE:

Table F-3:

8) Yellow band put on when the ammunition contains explosives used to fracture the projectile.
9) Yellow band put on to indicate HE burster.

NYT did take the picture off their front page of their website with this note:

Correction: A picture caption on Saturday with an article about a U.S. airstrike on a village in Pakistan misidentified an unexploded ordinance. It was not the remains of a missile fired at a house.

But, I think it's worse than that. I am not an expert by any means, but this looks photo shopped. (Click on picture for larger image)

1) Look at the edges. While this shell has some white chalky marks on it, the edges show obvious straight white lines, particularly between the yellow stripe and the copper band. The most telling are on the left, the area where the off colored patch on the wall in the background meets the shell and lower where the shell meets the gray of the boy's jacket. You can see similar straight white lines on the right edge. Even on the top right hand side you can see where the shell has a little "crooked" flaw that is obviously digital and not a matter of damage to a fired shell.

2) Look at the size. While Winds makes a note that the size seems a little off, but he's not sure, I'm more than positive that the size is all wrong for the photo, particularly since we can look at actual artillery shells with men (and here, here, here, and here)in the photos and know that I have never seen an artillery shell as tall as a man in modern warfare (maybe "super guns" of the past WW but I don't know of modern artillery shells that are that big; maybe an artillery guy would know better). Second, below the copper band, the shell is tapering. That usually signifies the bottom of the shell is coming up quick. So, either this shell is sitting on something behind the wall, or it's been added. Third, looking at the copper bands on similar artillery shells, they seem to only be about an inch and a half, maybe two inches tops. In this photo it appears to be about four inches or more. Whoever did this not only didn't know the difference between a missile and a shell, but they have no experience with shell size or they wouldn't have made such noticable errors in size context.

3) Look at the people in the picture. They are all looking at the cameraman, not the big "ordnance/missile" that is directly in the line of site of several of the boys. Everybody seems like they don't even notice this big thing in the middle of the picture.

Other issues of "staged" photo seem pretty evident as well. I would even question if this house was the house that was allegedly hit by "American" fire power.

1) Man on the left. Look at his hands. His hands are "city" hands. They don't show any roughness or indications of manual labor. On top of that, he either has a nice white shirt sleeve that goes into a brown suit (his shaw and hat seem like token observations of local fashion) or that's a big silver watch on his wrist. If this guy belonged to a "village" he was the richest man in the neighborhood.

2) The wall in the rear of the picture. Look at the top edge of the wall. Except for the small imperfection in the middle and the little patch in the middle, the wall appears to be undamaged. Worse, based on that top edge, it doesn't even appear that a roof was attached to it. It's possible that the wall is some sort of outer wall, but it seems odd in context to the "destroyed" wall and door in the front.

3) Where's the rubble? If the house is as big as the back wall seems to indicate and it was struck by a missile, there would have been huge amounts of debris lying around inside and out. Look at the boys and the men standing there. Does it look like they are standing on a lot of debris? Wouldn't they be much higher in the photo or even standing differently? Particularly the old man behind the broken wall in comparison to the door he seems the right height. Where's the debris?

4) The door. It doesn't look like it suffered any damage from an explosion. The wall next to it is "destroyed", there is no roof, yet the door attached to what appears to be two by twos is barely leaning out, still in it's frame, the frame not warped or broken. The door itself is not warped or showing damage from a high explosive or fire, assuming that it was closed at the time of the alleged bombing. The bolt lock is not damaged (look at the left hand side of the door, right in the middle). The door is still on its hinges. An explosion destroyed this house enough to take the roof off and the door is still standing?

5) The shell. If it is not photo shopped (which I believe it is), we would not have used it or the artillery necessary to lob it, to take out a house in Pakistan. We would have used a hellfire missile on a UAV which looks nothing like it or a tomahawk missile from a sea born ship. An air asset because that would have had the correct accuracy for a one shot explosion at a house. Artillery can be very accurate, but is typically more than one shot to insure the target is hit at the right coordinates and would have required an observer to direct fire. On top of that, looking at the top, as one person noted, this thing looks like it's missing its top screw on fuse and there certainly would not have been that much of the shell left to identify it.

In short, the photo and the story stink, not only should the NYT put it out front and apologize for running this bad piece of propaganda (not just a correction about "ordnance" v. "missile"), but the AFP should as well since it is fake and their "stringer" is probably in the pay of the AQ. These groups should both advise the public that they have been victims of propaganda because it isn't the first time it's happened (Ramadi photoe of "insurgents" supposedly taking over the city anyone?). They are so busy looking for to appear "objective" that they are printing any BS propaganda from the "others" and not using their supposedly superior editorial skills to evaluate it.

I think that the media would be better served by putting this out front themselves and not let it become and underground issue since either way they are going to be discredited. The question will be whether they are the witting or unwitting dupes of propaganda (something they are so afraid of that they won't report anything that even vaguely appears optimistic about Iraq, particularly if it comes from the military, without making any sort of "yeah, but" comment and here they let themselves be had by the enemy). The American people should know that such photos may be the work of sympathizers or propaganda machines of AQ and its fellow travellers.

The media should tell people how difficult it is to evaluate all the images and stories coming from the places where they cannot go and warn them that they cannot verify the information or the relationship of the source. They should also try to get some experts on military matters on board because they keep screwing it up. Or, at least be as sceptical about information from places they do not have their own known people at. Maybe, amazingly, use that cool internet tool to look up and evaluate things before they print it.

As for "Thir Khan", I'd be taking anymore of his photos with an entire lick of salt, forget the "grain".

Last, I believe the Pakistani government needs to get real and investigate this thing before they start demanding "apologies" because somebody is full of $#*%. Not that I don't suppose we wouldn't take out an AQ operative even in Pakistan, particularly if it was Zawahiri, but the story has changed from "maybe Zawahiri was there" to "Zawahiri was supposed to be there but sent deputies instead" (as if he had some sort of sixth sense omnipotent capability to smell out danger and avoid it; sounds like the enhancing of a myth) to "look at this missile used" to "oops, it's an unexploded "ord[i]nance" (their spelling not mine) and now to the probability that this photo is photoshopped.

News flash NYT, AFP, Americans and news consumers around the globe: You've been propagandized.

How's that feel?