Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


My obit of Reagan is up at National Review Online.

Ronald Reagan, 1911- 2004

From an obit I have written on National Review Online:

Shortly after Ronald Reagan’s landslide election to the presidency in 1980, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company produced a study of the effect of the presidency on life expectancy, finding that being president shortens a person’s life expectancy nearly as much as cigarette smoking. On average, being president reduced life expectancy by 3.9 years (or 5.2 years among 20th century presidents). Reagan, Met Life projected, could expect to live another 11 years, to 1992. Typical of Reagan to become the longest-lived ex-president in American history; his entire political career consisted of transcending the expectations of the legions of people who underestimated him.

More to come. . .

Reagan at Normandy

It is being reported that "the time is getting close" for the 93 year old Ronald Reagan. We can wish him and his family well, and remember him and D-Day by re-reading one of his most memorable speeches. He spoke at the 40th anniversary of D-Day, at Pointe du Hoc.

More Pictures

There are a number of new pictures posted, so take a look if you have not done so recently. Pictures from the night traffic control point are here, more pictures from Memorial Day at FOB Bernstein are here, and pictures from Mansur are here.

Giuliani at CIA?

Even though it is being reported that the White House will not nominate anyone to be DCI before the election for fear that it will cause a rukus in the confirmation hearings, Rudi Giuliani’s name is starting to make a showing. Of course the White House should nominate someone before the elections (and I believe they will, despite what is being reported from unnamned White House sources) and if it is Giuliani nothing but good would come from it, either for the CIA or for Bush’s re-election. No one else would have as much moral authority, no one else would have the skills to have a great good effect on the Agency, no one else would be able to use the confirmation hearings for such good purpose. It’s an opportunity that should be taken.

3rd graders flunk

"As many as 10,000 third graders, twice as many as last year, are expected to be held back this year under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s tough new promotion policy, according to citywide test results announced yesterday.

"Despite a last-minute infusion of more than $8 million to prepare students for the tests, 11,700 of the city public school system’s 80,000 third graders scored in the lowest of four categories on their math or English tests, or on both, putting them below the cutoff for promotion and in danger of being held back. The proportion who scored in the lowest category was slightly lower than it was last year, but teachers and principals were given discretion then in deciding promotion and were able to consider several other factors, including class work. As a result, only 4,800 third graders were asked to repeat the grade."

The economy

U.S. employers added a larger-than-expected 248,000 jobs in May, according to a government report on Friday that confirmed a strengthening economy is likely to usher in higher interest rates. Also, unemployment rates declined in all four regions and in more than half
the states in April, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department
of Labor reported today. Over the year, unemployment rates declined in all
regions and in 47 states. Over the month, the national jobless rate was
essentially unchanged at 5.6 percent. Nonfarm payroll employment increased
in 45 states.

John Yoo

Related to Jeremy Rabkin’s piece on the Geneva Convention and those held at Gitmo, is this story coming from Bolt Hall law school:

"A group of students at the University of California’s Boalt Hall School of Law circulated a petition last week calling on law professor John Yoo to ’repudiate’ a 2002 memo he had written when he worked for the Bush Justice Department or ’resign’ his academic post. The memo advised that the Geneva conventions did not apply to al Qaeda and Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. Oddly, the petition writers claimed that their attempt to drive Yoo from academia did not ’constitute an attack on academic freedom.’"

Here is Yoo’s brief bio, and his homepage where you can access some of his law articles on the issue. He is, of course, a perfectly reasonable and decent guy, hence the witch-hunt. This is a piece by Yoo on why the lines between Abu Ghraib and Guantamo shouldn’t be blurred.

The New Humvees

A serious and recurrent problem in Iraq has been the scarcity of up-armored Humvees. Many units in Operation Iraqi Freedom 1 did not have the advantage of up-armored Humvees until close to the end of the year. When I embedded with 1AD in Baghdad, the Division was a few weeks from the scheduled end of their one-year rotation, and they had only recently received an incomplete compliment up-armored Humvees. Many of their vehicles were still unarmored, but had metal plates added, for example, to cover the slats in open back “cargo” model Humvees. As one of the medics explained to me (after requesting that I not use his name), the plates were really there just to give the soldiers some [false] sense of security. The plates were not sufficient to stop bullets, as the troop had learned when one of their own men accidentally shot through a plate with a round smaller than the 7.62 commonly used by anti-Coalition forces. The up-armored Humvees, by contrast, are real lifesavers. In the Adhamiyah region of Baghdad, an up-armored Humvee was hit with a 155 mm mortar round configured as an IED. The Humvee was wrecked, 7 Iraqis traveling on the street were killed by the blast, but every soldier in the Humvee walked away. Sgt. Yeb, who was in the Humvee at the time of the IED, told me that if the makers of the up-armored Humvee ever need a spokesman, he’s their man.

Yet up-armored Humvees were slow coming to the soldiers. When Echo 196 came into country, they were promised that they would not leave Kuwait until they had up-armored Humvees. Despite this promise, the company traveled all the way through Iraq in the back of unarmored 5-ton-trucks (essentially large cargo trucks with wood slats)—leaving the troops exposed to the elements and the enemy. When I met up with E 196 here at Bernstein, they finally had up-armored Humvees . . . but not enough. The scarcity meant that platoons were forced to share Humvees, which in turn meant that platoon missions had to be staggered to take into account the limited resources. It also meant that the crews did not have regular vehicles which they used on a consistent basis—a small detail except that the idiosyncrasies of a radio set or of the vehicle has a strange way of becoming important in combat situations. Humvees with mechanical problems that ordinarily would have merited taking the vehicle out of commission were used because the company simply could not afford to lose a Humvee, and when Humvees were sent for service, getting parts became a quest all its own.

A couple of weeks ago, Generals Morgan and Hickman came for a ceremony here in Tuz. They were to be transported in Humvees to the Joint Operation Center (JOC), where the ceremony was to take place. Both Humvees used by 3d platoon for the transport had scars in the bulletproof glass from, well, bullets. One of the vehicles blasted hot air on the passenger seat. The other Humvee shook violently until the vehicle reached around 35 MPH. The two rear doors would only stay closed if they were combat locked (a latch mechanism which makes the doors difficult to open from the outside), and for some reason this day the doors were not combat locked. So, the General was riding down the road in a vehicle shaking like it was about to come apart at any moment when out-of-the-blue, the rear doors flew open. And what do you know: one week later the company learned that it was getting the requisite number of new and refurbished Humvees. The shipment, which just arrived, means that every platoon has at least two Humvees with working air conditioning, and every platoon has their own up-armored Humvees—a major (or in this case General) improvement.

Marek Edelman

Note this interview on terrorism, Iraq, etc., on Polish TV with Marek Edelman, the last surviving military leader of the heroic Jewish Uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943.   

Good news from Iraq

Charles Krauthammer, using these reflections of John Keegan on how messy the ends of wars tend to be, reminds us that--despite the pessimistic tone of the elitre media--things are going rather well in Iraq. With the establishment of the new transitional government, the first critical steps have been taken. He finds it encouraging.

Iraq’s Foreign Minister is in New York at the U.N. He told the Security Council that Iraq has the right to decide how long U.S.-led troops stay in the country, but sided with Washington in rejecting a departure date and a veto over their actions. Iraq has named a seven member Electoral Commission that will prepare for the elections in January. A Report by the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights said the coalition’s invasion of Iraq "removed a government that preyed on the Iraqi people and committed shocking, systematic and criminal violations of human rights."

Cox on Tinanmen Square

H. Res 655, commemorating the 15th anniversary of the Massacre at Tiananmen Square, passed 400-1. This is Rep. Christopher Cox’s remarks prior to the vote. 

Gitmo and Geneva

Jeremy Rabkin, writing in The Australian, uses John Howard’s visit to the U.S. (and the two Australians held at Guantanamo) to reflect on the what the Geneva Conventions have to do with the prisoners held there. Short and clear.  

Dreary Kerry

John Kerry continues in the land of Nod. The Prowler writes this about a Kerry speech in Florida on Wednesday (via Powerline):

Perhaps even Sen. John Kerry is beginning to sense the total lack of enthusiasm for his candidacy. Kerry seemed alarmed by the complete absence of applause, or other audience interaction, he was receiving from a small crowd in Tampa, Florida, on Wednesday.

Kerry was there to accept the endorsement of a national union of emergency first responders, and to hold a "conversation" with local residents about his plans for protecting the nation from bio-terror attacks.

On several occasions, Kerry paused, seemingly expecting applause for his lines. For example, at one point he said, "I will do what I think is best for the country," then waited for applause that only developed after one of his advance staffers began leading a weak round of applause.

His lukewarm reception was so bad that Kerry lost his cool, telling his audience, "I know you don’t want to be here anymore."

"That line actually generated more real cheers," says a bemused Florida Democratic Party official. "If this is the kind of response our campaign is getting elsewhere, we’re dead. This was awful. He was awful."

The Good old C of E

The good old Church of England continues its slide toward irrelevancy with its never-ending quest to be relevant. According to a squib in today’s Wall Street Journal, a new edition of the prayer book is due out in the fall. Instead of the usual version of Psalm 23 ("Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil"), the new version will read: "Even if a full-scale violent confrontation breaks out I will not be afraid, Lord."


Kerry as Bush Sr.

In today’s Boston Globe, Jeff Jacoby points out the similarities, when it comes to foreign policy, between John Kerry and George H.W. Bush. Both, he claims, dismiss international idealism in favor of Realpolitik. He cites the words of Kerry foreign policy adviser Rand Beers, who has contended that the president’s call for democracy in Iraq is "too heroic." Jacoby continues:

But "realism" all too often results in a callous stance unworthy of the United States. It is what kept the first President Bush from publicly protesting when China’s Communist government massacred pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square 15 years ago this week. It is what led him to send 400,000 troops to rescue Kuwait from Saddam Hussein -- and then order those troops to sit on their hands while Saddam brutally crushed a popular uprising against his murderous regime.

All of this calls to mind one of Al Gore’s campaign speeches back in 1992. "If they’re such whizzes at foreign policy," he said then, "why is Saddam Hussein thumbing his nose at the rest of the world?"

Kerry’s running mate?

Now another Republican,Anthony Zinni (retired Marine general) is being floated for Kerry’s running mate. Now, I don’t think much of Zinni, but the point is this is another Republican being considered/pushed, etc., by Kerry supporters. Pathetic.

House Divided?

Here’s a piece from last week’s (take that for what it’s worth) detailing the rift between former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, and his successor, Tom DeLay. One is an idea-logue, the other a politico. You decide who you’d prefer running the show. 

More on Tenet

George Tenet’s resignation speech to the assembled at Langley, and Washington Post’s story, and Chalabi’s denounciation of Tenet.

Tenet’s replacement

Just a few minutes after I heard that Tenet will be out, I mentioned to Ben and Roger that Rudy Giuliani should replace him. I thought I had better get that on the record because someone just told me that FOX News has just brought the idea up. Good idea.

Bush at the Air Force Academy

President Bush’s speech at the Air Force Academy was pretty good, I thought. A sample:

"In the terrorists’ vision of the world, the Middle East must fall under the rule of radical governments, moderate Arab states must be overthrown, nonbelievers must be expelled from Muslim lands, and the harshest practice of extremist rule must be universally enforced. In this vision, books are burned, terrorists are sheltered, women are whipped, and children are schooled in hatred and murder and suicide.

Our vision is completely different. We believe that every person has a right to think and pray and live in obedience to God and conscience, not in frightened submission to despots. (Applause.) We believe that societies find their greatness by encouraging the creative gifts of their people, not in controlling their lives and feeding their resentments. And we have confidence that people share this vision of dignity and freedom in every culture because liberty is not the invention of Western culture, liberty is the deepest need and hope of all humanity. The vast majority of men and women in Muslim societies reject the domination of extremists like Osama bin Laden. They’re looking to the world’s free nations to support them in their struggle against the violent minority who want to impose a future of darkness across the Middle East. We will not abandon them to the designs of evil men. We will stand with the people of that region as they seek their future in freedom."

George Tenet is resigning

Drudge, CNN, et al, are announcing that President Bush is announcing that George Tenet is resigning for personal reasons. No details yet. This is the AP paragraph.

The Chalabi case

Here is Jane Mayer’s long article on Chalabi from the New Yorker; and the articles from yesterday’s New York Times, and today’s. Of course, there is no way for me to know whether or not Chalabi passed cryptographic evidence to the Iranians. Obviously, if he did, that is very serious. Also, if he did, one would think that his source (everyone assumes that it would have to be someone in the Defense Department, but that’s not necessarily true) has to be found and brought to justice. Will it be possible to find him? Not necessarily. The person will not have left a paper trail, I am betting. Besides, there are other possibilities here...It is true that all this gets Chalabi out of our hair (at least temporarily, while the transition is going on) in Iraq. It is useful, I am thinking, for our purposes that he has lost some credibility among the Iraqi leaders. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised that some of the now public new Iraqi leadership has been halpful to us in making this public. I once said to a fellow, an especially smart and interesting fellow, that I liked reading spy novels. He said he did not because they were always less interesting than real spy stories. I see what he means. This is complicated and intricate, Iraqi, sorry, Byzantine.

Golf in Afghanistan

The Kabul Golf Club is back! Clear some landmines, place some oil on the sand (so it won’t blow away) and your set to go. Touching and instrcutive story: "It was like this before, when I used to come here as a kid; just desert and we used to tee off with every shot because there wasn’t any grass," says Rashidzada, an Afghan now living in Dubai. "When I went to Peshawar and I saw a real course with grass, I thought they had made a mistake."

Howell Raines on Kerry

Howell Raines, the former editor of The New York Times arites a revealing article on the London Guardian. He beats up on Kerry, on Bush, on the free market system, and on America as a whole. Although it is amusing that he bashes Kerry, etc., the fact is that this guy is a real Left Winger. That he was editor of the paper of record is simply amazing.

Bradbury on Michael Moore

Ray Bradbury, author of "Fahrenheit 451," opines on Michael Moore and his take-off on that title in his Bush-bashing movie, "Fahrenheit 911." Brandbury: "He is a horrible human being. Horrible human!" I always liked Bradbury. (via Instapundit).

The Berg Video

Lt. Hunt, a Ranger here at Bernstein, told me yesterday that he has a copy of the Berg video, which he watched with one of the interpreters. He confirmed what I had previously heard: the blade was dull, and the beheading is therefore extraordinarly graphic. He claimed that it took about a minute for the masked man--who is believed to be Zarqawi--to completely sever the head, and that Berg was alive and screaming for about half of that time.

IED in Tuz

An IED exploded in the city of Tuz this morning, injuring one Iraqi bystander. There were no Coalition vehicles near the explosion, leading some to believe that the device was likely on a timer.

Kerry Campaigns for the "Onion" Vote

Regular readers of the online satire site The Onion can be forgiven for thinking that life imitated art in Kerry’s campaign today. He was appearing in Florida as a part of his 10-day national security tour, and today the platform had a banner across the front of the stage reading, "Making America Stronger." On either side of the stage were vertical banners; the one on the left read: "Strength," and the one on the right read: "Security."

Gee: Do you think Kerry’s campaign is worried that voters might think Kerry is soft on security issues? Now why would they have ever formed that idea in the first place?

Good News

The aforementioned stolen propane tanker trucks have been found near Laredo, Texas. No evidence yet of terrorist link.

Radical Islam

Shmuel Bar writes "The Religious Sources of Islamic Terrorism" in Policy Review. Serious, but quite readable. He argues that the religious-ideological factors which are deeply embedded in Islam ("Islam is, in essence, both religion and regime.") as a cause of terrorism have to be understood--even at the risk of being branded bigoted and Islamophobic--if we are to have an effective long-range strategy against terrorism.  

Of God and Government

Here is the President’s latest Executive Order aimed at reducing the government’s hostility toward faith-based organizations providing public services in conjunction with the government and its money.

The purpose . . . will be to coordinate agency efforts to eliminate regulatory, contracting, and other programmatic obstacles to the participa-tion of faith-based and other community organizations in the provision of social and community services.

Media Neutrality

To follow-up on Schramm’s take on the media, here’s a thoughtful piece from First Things on the media’s "neutral" coverage of things politic. From its opening paragraph:

While reporters usually recognize that there is some sort of problem about “values” and about “faith-based” principles, and that the Democrats and Republicans are often on opposite sides, writers and editors tend to publish news and analysis as if the situation were as follows: The Christian right, having infiltrated the Republican Party, is importing its divisive religious ideas into our public life, whereas the Democratic Party is the neutral camp of tolerant and pluralistic Americans.

Iraq and the media

I continue to be horrified by the media’s coverage (or, rather, non-coverage) of the news coming out of Iraq. It is shocking. Maybe all this can be attributed to to ignorance, rather than malice, as

John Keegan argues about the British media. Maybe. But look: There is a new Iraqi government, cleverly established by the Iraqis, and sanctioned by the UN and the US. But, let’s lead off with a car bombing, to show that everything can fall apart, and the center will not hold. Let’s ask everyone we interview whether or not the past contacts (and funding) for certain of the individuals (maybe all?) who are in the new Iraqi Cabinet by the US and the Brits will make these folks illegitimate in the eyes of the Iraqi street. Let’s have headlines like the one in the Washington Post, "Many Hurdles Ahead for U.S.," in which the writers (and this is a news story, not an op-ed) talk about the birth of the new Iraqi government and tells us that

"President Bush was almost giddily buoyant during a Rose Garden news conference about Iraq’s interim government." Amazing. And now, the story continues, we are enetering a much more complex phase on Iraq than the phase heretofore....And, by the way, the selection of this government was really "messy" the WaPo informs us. All this is quite over the top. John Leo is also not amused (and not surprised) by the liberal media.

This paragraph from yesterday by Andrew Sullivan nails it: "If someone had said in February 2003, that by June 2004, Saddam Hussein would have been removed from power and captured; that a diverse new government, including Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, would be installed; that elections would be scheduled for January 2005; and that the liberation of a devastated country of 25 million in which everyone owns an AK-47 had been accomplished with an army of around 140,000 with a total casualty rate (including accidents and friendly fire) of around 800; that no oil fields had been set aflame; no WMDs had been used; no mass refugee crises had emerged; and no civil war had broken out... well, I think you would come to the conclusion that the war had been an extraordinary success. And you’d be right. Yes, there are enormous challenges; and yes, so much more could have been achieved without incompetence, infighting and occasional inhumanity. But it’s worth acknowledging that, with a little perspective, our current gloom is over-blown. Stocks in Iraq have been way over-sold. I even regret some minor sells myself. Now watch the media do all it can to accentuate the negative."

Condom ambulance in Sweden

This is really too funny! There will be a condom ambulance in two cities in Sweden. Yup, you call a number and a specially painted van shows up. I have nothing to say. (via Drudge).

This is Concerning

Given what we learned yesterday about Mr. Padilla’s alleged plans to ignite hotels and apartment highrises using the natural gas lines, this story on two missing propane tanker trucks is alarming. Authorities are downplaying the terrorist possibility, but if you have other ideas on why someone would steal two tankers loaded with propane, I’m listening. Recall that another tanker went missing in Colorado shortly after 9/11, and a gasoline tanker disappeared in April in Pennsauken, New Jersey. (I admit, I don’t know if either truck was ever found.)

Accidental Childbirth

It is late here in Iraq, and while I was trying to send an email, I noted that Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued a permanent injunction against the federal partial birth abortion statute. The judge does much early in the opinion to suggest that partial birth abortion, also known as intact dialation and extraction ("intact D&E") is relatively commonly used. To support that conclusion, she points to expert testimony stating that when trying to perform an ordinary D&E (wherein the woman is partially dilated, following which the doctor grasps the fetus with forceps, and disarticulates or dismembers the fetus in the course of removing it in several passes), doctors sometimes dialate the woman to the point where intact D&E can occur. To quote the order:

Several physicians report that occasionally while performing a D&E, they encounter a situation where they believe it will be possible to remove the fetus intact or largely intact. This occurs when the woman’s cervix is dilated to such a degree that the fetus can be extracted up to the head, in either one or two "passes" with the forceps. . . . The number of times this occurs varied by doctor, but ranged between 5% to 33% of all D&Es performed, with most doctors reporting occurrences of around 5-15% of the time.

It is at this point that Judge Hamilton drops a pregnant footnote to support this statistic in spite of seemingly contradictory evidence:

Dr. Sheehan and Dr. Creinin reported that an intact D&E occurred less than 1% of the time, but they were reporting incidents where where the entire fetus, including the head, was removed intact.

(emphasis added). Given the late term procedures at issue, I believe that what the Judge is inartfully describing is induced childbirth. Because the Judge had already stated that these doctors generally do not administer lethal chemical agents such as digoxin prior to performing the D&E procedure, this "accident" may well be live induced childbirth. This testimony sounds remarkably similar to that of Dr. Cassing Hammond, who served as an expert to the abortion doctors challenging the Ohio partial birth abortion statute in Women’s Medical Professional Corp. v. Taft. Dr. Hammond testified that he would prefer, if possible, to “remove the fetus totally intact every time and bring about its demise after it had been delivered.”

While the district court’s permanent injunction is broad-- prohibiting the federal government from enforcing the statute against Planned Parenthood or essentially anyone who does business with Planned Parenthood--it obviously does not apply to state laws on the topic, particularly where, as in Ohio, the state’s partial birth abortion statute has been upheld by a federal court of appeals.

China, too many aged, too many males?

The Center for Strategic and International Studies, CSIS, (PDF file) explores the economic and social implications of the coming age wave in China: Thirty-five years ago, children in China outnumbered the elderly six to one. Thirty five years from, the ratio will be two to mone--the other way around. Add to that the problem--which even the Chinese are admitting--of so many more men than women, and you could have a real problem. A new book warns
"that the spread of sex selection is giving rise to a generation of restless young men who will not find mates. History, biology, and sociology all suggest that these ’surplus males’ will generate high levels of crime and social disorder, the authors say. Even worse, they continue, is the possibility that the governments of India and China will build up huge armies in order to provide a safety valve for the young men’s aggressive energies."

Good news from Iraq

As this Reuters story (quite short) makes clear the UN is not exactly happy with how the new Iraqi caretaker government has shaped up. On the other hand, they can’t exactly say they are unhappy, either. Kofi Annan insists--to my amusement--that the UN was not being used! Should I think myself odd that I trust the Iraqis more than I do the UN? We’ll find out soon enough. Brendan Miniter explains why the fact that there is no news coming out of Fallujah is good news. I am looking to CNN to report this as good news. No dice. This Washington Post story on the transition to the caretaker government has some interesting information in it. The Governing Council has now dissolved itself (another surprise!) and, according to the AP, the Coalition Authority will dissolve at the end of this month, as palnned. So, the Iraqis are one month ahead of the schedule that the media had been saying would not be able to be met.
Clever, these Iraqis, no? President Bush praises the new Iraqi cabinet. Gazi Yawer, the new president of Iraq, said his goal was to make Iraq one nation, "without murderers and criminals." He also said, according to the BBC, "he wanted a pluralistic, democratic and federal Iraq that would live in peace and co-operation with its neighbours."

BBC: "Mr Allawi for his part said that while he wanted the US occupation of Iraq to end as soon as possible, for now coalition forces would remain in place.

He expressed gratitude for what the coalition forces had done thus far in Iraq.

’We will need the participation of the multinational forces to help in defeating the enemies of Iraq,’ he said."

Factory sector driving economy

U.S. manufacturing chugged to a full year of expansion in May, pushing factory hiring to its highest in 31 years, a survey released Tuesday showed.

New Info on Padilla Released

The Justice Department has released new information on its detainment of enemy-combatant Jose Padilla. He is alleged to have targeted apartment buildings and hotels. According to Fox News:

"Padilla and the accomplice were to locate as many as three high-rise apartment buildings which had natural gas supplied to the floors," the government summary of interrogations revealed.

"They would rent two apartments in each building, seal all the openings, turn on the gas, and set timers to detonate the buildings simultaneously at a later time," the papers alleged.

Not quite the same as a mint on the pillow.

Memorial Day Speech

This is the Memorial Day speech I gave at the Ashland Cemetery yesterday. My speech aside, it was a heart-felt and stirring event. There were about thirty World War II vets sitting in the front and these silver haired men--some wearing the uniforms of their youth--were still full of spirit as the month of May. They sat and remembered the ones who paid a soldier’s debt, and the rest of us just talked. I am deeply honored to have been invited.

Picture of the Week

The muqtar of the village of Changalawa greets Lt. Naum with a kiss at the recent "neighborhood watch" meeting. On the first day they met, Captain Bumgardner explained that Lt. Naum would help the village with important projects, like finishing their well. The muqtar responded by calling Lt. Naum "my brother," and began his tradition of greeting him with a kiss. I have been to many villages in the Sunni Triangle, and I have been on patrols of suburbs of Baghdad. This kind of exuberant response by locals happy to see American soldiers is common; the decision to cover it is not.

The Memorial

Yesterday morning my family and I had the honor of touring the World War II Memorial on its inaugural Memorial Day. As we expected, the site was crowded and its stone already adorned with faded pictures and old letters, wreaths, ribbons, and spangled flags in memoriam. But most importantly, and arguably the best reason my wife gave for taking our two young sons out in the dampening rain on opening weekend, the Memorial was decorated with the living remnant of that conflict, giving us the opportunity to thank those men personally. Whatever we may think of the new Memorial itself, its architecture and its locus, nothing could detract from the privilege of walking among those heroes and shaking their aged hands.

I will forever remember yesterday morning as the day I tried, as best I could, to explain the sacrifice of war to my three-year-old son. I had told him that we were going to a serious place, a sad place, and that anything less than his best behavior would come with dire consequences. Upon arrival, we met a man with "D-Day, June 6 1944 Veteran" emblazoned across his baseball cap. I thanked him for his service and he graciously bent down to talk to my son. My son shook his hand and, at my prompting, said thank you to the elderly veteran. As the man walked away, I began a surreal kind of history lesson, explaining to my boy that the old man had been very brave and that many of his friends had died. "Why did his friends die?" he asked, prompting a short lesson in war-theory that I doubted he’d ever understand. But my answer to his question was considered and distilled all the way back to our room, and when I asked him in the elevator why he had said thank you to that old grandpa, he paused only slightly before saying, "Because his friends died and made us free."

An answer I will never let him forget, and
yet another blessing from the greatest generation to my own.

Memorial Day in Tuz, Iraq

Memorial Day in TuzYesterday, the men of Forward Operating Base Bernstein gathered in the hot mid-day sun to honor those Americans who had fought and died in uniform. They assembled near a sign commemorating the base’s namesake, 1LT David R. Bernstein, who was killed in action on October 18, 2003 in Taza, Iraq. Words were spoken about the historical origins of Memorial Day, about soldiers in the Civil War fighting to secure the liberties guaranteed in the Declaration of Independence, and about the bravery of their grandfathers, who stormed Normandy and freed a continent. Then Lt. Col. Stevens of the 120th Infantry said a few words. His voice cracked as he remembered one of his own who had fallen—Spc. Jocelyn Carrasquillo, killed by an IED near Baghdad on March 13, 2004. There was not a day that he did not think of the soldier, and of the cowardice of the soldier’s attacker.

For these men, today was not a day for barbeques with family and friends. There was work to be done. During the day, villages were visited, and plans were made to improve roads and to provide water. At night, a raid was conducted, in an effort to apprehend a man who was believed to be a source of IEDs, like the one used to kill Spc. Carrasquillo.

Here are some pictures from the service.

New Iraqi Transitonal Government Named

Lakhdar Brahimi just announced the composition of the hydra-headed caretaker/transitional Iraqi government:

Ayad Allawi, Prime Minister Designate; Sheikh Ghazi Al-Yawar, President; Dr. Ibrahim Jaafari, Deputy President; and Dr. Rowsch Shaways, Deputy President.

In a pregnant postscript to this list, Brahimi noted that "Dr. Adnan Pachachi, who enjoys wide respect and support in Iraq, was offered the Presidential position with the support of Sheikh Ghazi, but declined for personal reasons."

Rethinking Chalabi

A couple of recent articles question the conventional wisdom that Ahmad Chalabi was an Iranian spy or that he single-handedly duped the intelligence community. The first is by Christopher Hitchens, who addresses each of the recent accusations against Chalabi in turn. He does a sensible job, even if the article does indulge a bit in name dropping. The second piece is by Michael Ledeen, who spells out the entangling relationship between a number of Iraqis leaders and the Iranians. For those who wish to have a better sense of the middle-eastern chess board, it is worth reading in full.   

I’m Sure it was an Honest Mistake

A headline in this morning’s edition of the Mansfield News-Journal (sometimes referred to colloquially as the News-Urinal) reads, "Poll shows Kerry favored by Ohio voters." Technically it’s a true statement; according to the article, 41 percent of voters in this critical swing state say they will cast their ballot for John Kerry.

But here’s the first sentence of the story, provided by the Associated Press: "President Bush has a 6 percentage point lead over John Kerry in Ohio...." In 2000 Bush won the state by a 4.4 percent margin.

To the editors’ credit, they have apparently corrected the mistake in the on-line edition.

More Drivel on Strauss

The June issue of Harper’s (not available online), a one-proud magazine now lost to editor Lewis Lapham’s increasing dementia, contains perhaps the worst article yet on Leo Strauss. The article, "Ignoble Liars: Leo Strauss, George Bush, and the Philosophy of Mass Deception," by one Earl Shorris (who writes books on Mexico, so he is obviously well-suited to comment on Strauss) is so full of mis-statements and flat-out goofy assertions about Strauss and his followers that it is impossible to convey how bad it is with a few samples. To quote an old saying (that may come from Yogi Berra), You have to read it, not to believe it.

But here’s one small sample of its awfulness: "The only alternative to the last man is the will to power, which Nietzsche said is the will to life itself, the will to overcome, to control, to be master of all things. This is the will of the Bush Administration."

It is obvious that Shorris is channelling Shadia Drury (Shorris writes that he read several of Strauss’s books and "two books about Strauss"--gee, I wonder which two those were?).

Liberal Glee

Hat tip to Instapundit for bringing the following article from The Spectator (UK) [free registration required to access article] to my attention. In the column, Toby Harden relates an encounter he had with an American magazine journalist with impeccable credentials. Here is a key excerpt from their discussion:

Not only had she ‘known’ the Iraq war would fail but she considered it essential that it did so because this would ensure that the ‘evil’ George W. Bush would no longer be running her country. Her editors back on the East Coast were giggling, she said, over what a disaster Iraq had turned out to be. ‘Lots of us talk about how awful it would be if this worked out.’ Startled by her candour, I asked whether thousands more dead Iraqis would be a good thing.

She nodded and mumbled something about Bush needing to go. By this logic, I ventured, another September 11 on, say, September 11 would be perfect for pushing up John Kerry’s poll numbers. ‘Well, that’s different — that would be Americans,’ she said, haltingly. ‘I guess I’m a bit of an isolationist.’ That’s one way of putting it.

I would only add that liberal journalists wishing for increased instability in Iraq are inevitably (if unwittingly) wishing that more Americans would die--Americans in uniform, and American contractors. After all, the Iraqi effort cannot go poorly without casualties. I wish that the abhorent sentiments that Mr. Harden relates were isolated, but experience says they are not. Who can forget the comments on Howard Dean’s blog site after Saddam was caught: an expletive. Anyone who has spent but a few minutes in the press room in Baghdad knows the glee that the mere prospect of bad news elicits among too many in the press corp. As I said of Senator Kennedy’s preemptive declaration of quagmire, the Left is more than willing to declare defeat (and insodoing to suffer the deaths of U.S. soldiers and Iraqis) in their quest for a White House victory.

"Have you Seen the Horta, Mr. Rubin?"

Sgt. Stryker opines that Sci-Fi conventions are a lot more fun than political conventions.

In the hierarchy of coolness, politics sits at the absolute rock-bottom. I would rather be caught wearing a hooded brown robe and casting a 10th Level Spell of Enchantment against a chaotic good half-elven Ranger, than be standing in a sea of uptight dorks and declaring to the world, "Mr. Chairman, the Great State of Nebraska, home of the Cornhuskers and latent sexual frustration, nominates John Kerry to be the next President of the United States!"

Yup. By the way, I’ll be at Origins in Columbus June 26th. Like, can you believe, SEAN ASTIN is totally gonna be there!

Oh, and in case you missed the mega-geeky "Horta" reference, go here.

Memorial Day

Mark Steyn compares us to those who lived through 1863, and finds us wanting. Good, but hard, too hard. Our corrupted elites and their epigones may participate in this victim culture he describes, but our towns our full of citizens who do not see themselves as victims. I will be speaking tomorrow at our ceremonies in Ashland, and am working on the speech. I came across
something I wrote for Memorial Day in 1997, and another in 1998. Maybe I’ll just crib from these. Honor, duty, country are hard things to write about, especially when dozens of old warriors sit in the front, looking at an unworthy speaker trying to thank them. Here is President Bush at yesterday’s dedication of the World War II Memorial:

"On this Memorial Day weekend, the graves will be visited, and decorated with flowers and flags. Men whose step has slowed are thinking of boys they knew when they were boys together. And women who watched the train leave, and the years pass, can still see the handsome face of their young sweetheart. America will not forget them, either.

At this place, at this Memorial, we acknowledge a debt of long-standing to an entire generation of Americans: those who died; those who fought and worked and grieved and went on. They saved our country, and thereby saved the liberty of mankind. And now I ask every man and woman who saw and lived World War II -- every member of that generation -- to please rise as you are able, and receive the thanks of our great nation.

May God bless you."

My Michael Dukakis Moment

Last week, fourth platoon moved some M-113 Armored Personnel Carriers to a checkpoint in the southern part of their area of operations, and ran an IED sweep on the way. These tracked vehicles have a driver’s hatch in the front, a gunner’s hatch up top, and a personnel compartment in the rear with a large roof hatch that opens so that the men in that compartment can take up gunning positions on the sides of the vehicle. The platoon I am with is a cavalry platoon—more specifically armored (tank) cavalry. Their vehicle of choice is the Abrams tank, so the M-113s are a bit diminutive to them. This trip allowed me to try out my best Dukakis impression, albeit riding in the personnel compartment. As luck would have it, I was the one with the camera, so I avoided any Dukakis-like pictures. I do have some pictures of the professionals at work, which I will post as soon as the internet moves fast enough to load some more images.

Neighborhood Watch

The base recently hosted the muqtars (village political leaders) and sheiks (tribal leaders) in the area to the base to discuss concerns in the region. Sitting around one table were approximately 30 Arabs, Kurds, and Turkimen—an accomplishment in itself.

The primary concern for the leaders was getting a reliable source of water. There are still a few villages in the area that do not have a good well, and this was the top priority. The next big issue was access to electricity. It is interesting to note that among the villages in this region is Davac, a Sunni village which was a favorite of Saddam. While it is not in as bad of shape as some of the villages, it nonetheless shared many of the same problems as its neighboring village, demonstrating once again how run down much of the country had become.

The officers also view the meeting as something of a neighborhood watch” group. Lt. Col. Miller thanked the attendees for their help in making the region more secure by not tolerating insurgents in their villages. And the region is safer: since the major firefight just over a month ago, the base has not been subject to a mortar or rocket attack, and there have been fewer IEDs on the roads.

The meeting provided the opportunity for me to meet one of the Turkimen muqtars. As I understand it, the Turkimen are simply Turks who remained in Iraq after the borders were drawn by the British. If you ask them, they still claim to be Turkish. The muqtar from the Turkimen village was an old man, who spoke Arabic, Kurdish, and Turkish—and probably a little English, although he doesn’t let on to that. He has a quick wit, and a devilish grin. He was a clear minority in the room, but you would not have known it from how he handled himself.

There was one muqtar in attendance who was a Hajji. This is not a derogatory term (or a reference to the sidekick from Johnny Quest) but rather an honorific used by the locals to denote that he had completed a Hajj to Mecca. This particular Hajji had it in his mind that I was Iraqi (my beard is a great asset), and kept trying to talk to me in Arabic despite my responses in English.