Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Back to Normal

Well, now. I hope all y’all had a safe and pleasant Memorial Day weekend and you’re getting a little rest, now that you’ve got your collective noses back on the grindstone and are pulling in the traces… to mix a couple of metaphors. I’m only half-jesting. Not infrequently did I heave a sigh of relief to be back at work, back in the day. Yeah… time off was good, much anticipated, and thoroughly enjoyed. But. Fun can be exhausting, especially if one tries to see, do, or be too much during the brief time allotted for fun. Somehow, work was much more structured and just as, if not more so, rewarding. Yeah, I’m weird. Or perhaps I’m being just a bit nostalgic for the ol’ nine-to-five.

My weekend? Quiet, in a word, and you can equate that with “good.” I did get to speak with all three sons over the course of the weekend, and that was good. And there was hockey, of course, where I’ve been totally remiss at keeping you updated on things you don’t care a whit about. Edmonton closed out Anaheim, in Anaheim. The Oilers deserved to win that series; they dominated the Ducks, pure and simple. The Oilers will now take an earned and well-deserved rest as they await the winner of the Sabres-Hurricanes series. The Hurricanes took a 3-2 lead over Buffalo Sunday evening; Game Five is tonight, in Carolina. This series is turning out to be one of the best of the play-offs so far; each and every game has been close…well, except for Game Two when Carolina just creamed the Sabres. Other than that, it’s been close. I’m looking forward to tonight’s game. There’s your update.

“I Was Hoping They'd Give It a Rest But They Just COULDN’T” Dept: The Loony-Left post I was hoping I wouldn’t see on Memorial Day. Dr. Sanity says it’s sheer denial personified. But the title says it all: “Memorial Day Truth: There Is No ‘War on Terror.’” And therein lies the problem. It takes national will to win a war, and when a large percentage of the population rejects the very idea that we are at war…well, it makes it a Helluva lot harder to persevere, let alone win. No, The Person Known Only as Pachacutec (I just love these oh-so-creative Lefty nom de plumes) sees the issue as criminal acts perpetrated by a nasty few, not as a war. TPKOaP does, however, make its case that ChimpyMcBushitler and His Pals have declared war on the constitution. It’s all about fear, paranoia, greed, oil, power, money, ad nauseam. But, I digress.

Like The Good Doctor, I agree the war has been poorly named. Terror is a tactic, not an adversary. We are at war with radical Islam, if not with Islam as a whole. I’ve read powerful arguments in favor of the latter proposition, but, as noted in the past, I’m not ready to go there yet. I’m more than ready for the Left to acknowledge this war and support its aims and objectives. Yes, you can criticize the methods and tactics used to prosecute this war, but support the objectives, dammit! Kinda like what this Major is saying. Which, in my eyes, makes a lot more sense than denying we’re in a war at all. The major’s timing couldn’t have been better, either. I wonder if TPKOaP read the major’s editorial. Nah, I doubt it. And even if s/he did, my gut tells me the major’s thoughts would be dismissed as just so much propaganda from a Chimp apologist. There appear to be many who agree with TPKOaP. God Help Us.


  1. Hello, friend Buck,

    Thanks for posting this sensible letter from the major. I wish there were more like this in the media. If so, some of us “slightly left of center” folks would feel more in synch with what the military is up against because it squares with our own views that have not been expressed by the administration (until recently, perhaps). I think the major’s right on the mark. With the exception of one thing –

    I would disagree with his choice of using Lincoln’s statement for his introduction. You see, many of us on the left DID worry that this very thing would happen – that we were in for a VERY bumpy ride. When Condi or Rumsfeld stated (and still do) that, “No one could have known…” we clench our teeth and say, “We could have told you, you idiots!” We remember what Colin Powell said, “You break it, you own it.” He knew, too. What stuns us is that the right did not have enough imagination to see it. Did the administration really not see it, or did they think we were stupid? (Is it hindsight if you were worried sick about this before it happened? My family discussed it endlessly in the early days of the war.)
    Either way, it hasn’t given us much confidence in this leadership, if you get my meaning. We tried to trust that Bush’s folks knew what they were doing, but what did we get…? “Mission Accomplished,” purple fingers, and the ever increasing chaos and deterioration of what little security the Iraqis had before Saddam was toppled. How will these leaders (thought of as puppets by many Iraqis) ever govern without being assassinated? How can the middle class (formed during Saddam’s 20 plus years, scum that he is) hold out against the thugs and street rabble being whipped up by the Islamic fascists and infiltrated by Iran’s Hezbollah?

    Thanks. Just needed to get some of that off my chest. I won’t write the other five pages that I could pile on here.

    The part that our side has not able to answer is the BIG question – would we have been better off if we had not toppled Saddam? Maybe that is something only history can judge. We are still puzzled, though, at why the rush?
    “The 2004 Senate Report on Pre-War Intelligence reviewed intelligence investigating Saddam's attitude towards Islamic extremism and reported that analysts had found ‘that he generally viewed Islamic extremism, including the school of Islam known as Wahhabism, as a threat to his regime, noting that he had executed extremists from both the Sunni and Shi’a sects to disrupt their organizations. ...The CIA also provided a HUMINT report that indicated the regime sought to prevent Iraqi youth from joining al-Qaida.’ The official position of the U.S. Intelligence Community is that the known contacts between Saddam's government and al-Qaeda did not constitute "formal cooperation."
    I think that is why we continue to harp on the WMD issue. Was it the sole reason to rush in there without the coalition support we needed to secure the peace, or not?

    And the other BIG question – what kind of a war is this? And what is the best way to fight it? Afghanistan seems to falling apart, too. Karzai has been holding on to Kabul for the last 5 years (only with our help) but the natives are again circling the fortress.

    The “way to fight it” is what is crucial to our success. We look to our leaders for the answers to this. We want to believe in them. Never before have we needed to more. We don’t care about whether they are conservative or liberal or center – only if they are wise. Are they?

    I think you can tell I'm writing this, not because of "contempt" for the right, but from genuine worry. Sorry it's so lengthy. I'd love your insights, if you feel so inclined.

    Oh! It's Sam.

  2. If I may put in a few cents here... I think you may have missed the point of the article. To me what the writer is saying is that the lack of support in the country for the mission, and the "disconnect" between those who are serving and mainstream America, is exactly what is making it more perilous for them.

    Sam said: "You see, many of us on the left DID worry that this very thing would happen – that we were in for a VERY bumpy ride." I don't remember getting the impression that this was all going to be a breeze and quickly or easily done. Certainly when I hear global war on terror, and knowing there are pockets of it all over the world, we certainly will not accomplish that entirely through military force, and not very quickly either. Although I definitely believe that if America would stop nitpicking and present a united front to the world, it might get done sooner. But I think anyone is silly to think we would all be in and out just like that. Anybody who believes that has forgotten we still have people in Bosnia.

    The length of the battle he is speaking of is the battle over the division in our country.

    p.s. - I'm glad to see you posting here again. Buck's is a good place to hang out.

  3. I forgot what I was originally going to comment on, Buck. Yes, you are definitely weird to like to get back to the grind stone. Well, after having been off from Wednesday afternoon until today... And today being Tuesday (scheduling) but just like a Monday.... Ewww, it was just chaotic. And I keep getting more work, and I have this seminar deadline looming over my head. I just hate the month of June.

  4. Sam here,

    Hi Laurie. Thanks for the welcome back! Nice to have a moment to hang out here. I work at home now so I now longer have that "regular grind" to contend with, but it seems like just yesterday! Now I have to re-adjust my priorities depending on what work floods in on the website I work on. (I edit stories from students from the US and around the world) Just had a ton of last-month-of-school essays recently, which is why I had to discipline myself away from posting here.

    Anyway, thanks for your thoughts, Laurie. I certainly do register and understand the major's (and your) concerns for presenting a united front. I probably got off on a tangent because of his introduction. I felt like he was "preaching to the choir" when he seemed to be telling us we should have known this would be a long war. I was expressing my dismay in my previous post over the way the news media (based on comments from the administration, I do believe) presented the war in the first couple of years. Here's an example I just now dredged up. Let me know if you think I'm out of line.


    My memory on this subject, is that we were all sort of told that everything would turn out grand in fairly short order. I think the American public would have appreciated more honesty up front (unless the administration really thought it would be a "cakewalk," in which case I would question their wisdom!)

    Do you and Buck (and others) think my memory is faulty in this? Was this attitude coming just from the media on the right? Or was it from the administration, too? So much has happened since, it's easy to forget how this started. I know that you guys would understand this more than anyone since you have an historical military view of things. That's why I keep coming back here because I really want to understand.


  5. Hi Sam, I couldn't get the Washington Post page you reference. It sort of is too wide for the comments template so maybe I'm missing the ending part of the URL.

    You said: "Do you and Buck (and others) think my memory is faulty in this? Was this attitude coming just from the media on the right? Or was it from the administration, too?"

    Personally, I think that people hear the "spin" from wherever they are getting the news. There are not very many places that just report what was said without editorializing and analyzing it and trying to read in 'what is really being said'. We get our news in sound bytes. Then people rehash it over and over so that the original context and meaning is lost. I would just like to go back and read transcripts, so there is no distraction of watching all the reactions on the left and the right, and without so and so's commentary. I think many times our beliefs are influenced by those things.

    You can go on the White House website and read what the President said. Here is an example from April 15, 2003:

    "Our victory in Iraq is certain, but it is not complete. Centralized power of the dictator has ended -- yet, in parts of Iraq, desperate and dangerous elements remain. Forces of our coalition will engage these enemies until they surrender or until they're destroyed. (Applause.) We have waged this war with determination and with clarity of purpose. And we will see it through until the job is done."

    He *never* gave a date of when he thought it would be over, he just made very clear the resolve to see it through. It was all the crazy circus politics that pressured and pressured and pressured for timelines, and that is still going on today. The timeline became when the Iraqi people can stand on their own, and the naysayers were right there saying but that will be *years* from now. Who promised them a picnic? I don't know where that perception came from. But I do know that the Iraqi military has been trained and are stepping up in much bigger numbers and much more quickly than anybody expected. That is a testament to their resolve for freedom. When I went to the Milblog Conference in DC in April, there were a couple of Iraqi bloggers there. I can't remember exactly what they said, but one of them spoke very passionately about their desires and hope for their nation.

    You said: "I know that you guys would understand this more than anyone since you have an historical military view of things."

    I don't have a military view of things, I've never been in the military. I do talk to some military type people. I do try to keep up with the news somewhat, I read news stories and I sit there and wonder where they came up with this or that, because that is certainly not what I heard or understood about whatever issue. I read the milblogs. For certain the media is not telling the same stories that our military people are telling, and the only place you'll hear that is on blogs.

    Well, I've rambled quite long enough. It's funny, my own blog I don't comment too much on politics, which might lead some to believe I'm not opinionated.... little do they know... LOL!

  6. Hey Sam and Laurie! Wow, I go away for a bit and find you have had a “meaningful exchange!”

    I agree with everything Laurie has said above, particularly about the perceptions we form based on the input we receive. I also whole-heartedly endorse and like to practice her habit of reading transcripts to find out what really happened, who said what, and when. Given my situation in life (read that: retired as of 12/15/2002, time on my hands), which stretches back to the run-up to the war, I also spend more time than a sane person should watching Senate and House committee hearings and “important” speeches (i.e., by policy makers and policy critics) broadcast by C-SPAN. (Thank God for C-SPAN!) And then there are the blogs and to a much lesser extent, major media such as Fox and the WSJ. Given the state of journalism today, even the newspapers are beginning to get it and at times provide links to source material…not often enough, but sometimes. If the major papers and magazines don’t provide links to source material, the blogs do. The key caveat here, as with everything in life: consider the source.

    All that said just to make one point: I believe the run-up to the war was conducted in a highly methodical way, over an extended period of time, with full consultation with the UN Security Council, and with our ultimate partners, the “Coalition of the Willing.” That’s what I saw unfold with my own eyes, during said committee hearings, speeches, and blog reading. I also recall there was a lot of angst on the Far-Left (not so much in the Congress) and there were pundits left and right screeching “Viet Nam!” and “Quagmire!” before we ever went in. Below is part of a WSJ Opinion Journal piece I’m going to quote extensively. The whole thing is available here. There are other points in the essay as well, but I think this is a good response to at least one of your issues. The whole essay is worth a read.

    The president misled Americans to convince them to go to war. "There is no question [the Bush administration] misled the nation and led us into a quagmire in Iraq," according to Ted Kennedy. Jimmy Carter charged that on Iraq, "President Bush has not been honest with the American people." And Al Gore has said that an "abuse of the truth" characterized the administration's "march to war." These charges are themselves misleading, which explains why no independent body has found them credible. Most of the world was operating from essentially the same set of assumptions regarding Iraq's WMD capabilities. Important assumptions turned out wrong; but mistakenly relying on faulty intelligence is a world apart from lying about it.

    Let's review what we know. The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) is the intelligence community's authoritative written judgment on specific national-security issues. The 2002 NIE provided a key judgment: "Iraq has continued its [WMD] programs in defiance of U.N. resolutions and restrictions. Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons as well as missiles with ranges in excess of U.N. restrictions; if left unchecked, it probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade."

    Thanks to the bipartisan Silberman-Robb Commission, which investigated the causes of intelligence failures in the run-up to the war, we now know that the President's Daily Brief (PDB) and the Senior Executive Intelligence Brief "were, if anything, more alarmist and less nuanced than the NIE" (my emphasis). We also know that the intelligence in the PDB was not "markedly different" from that given to Congress. This helps explains why John Kerry, in voting to give the president the authority to use force, said, "I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a threat, and a grave threat, to our security." It's why Sen. Kennedy said, "We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction." And it's why Hillary Clinton said in 2002, "In the four years since the inspectors, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability and his nuclear program."

    This is getting way too long for a comment, eh?

    Finally… I know you read the blogs, Sam, and I know you participate in the comment-fests over at Maha’s place. When one gets beyond the “me-too” comments and asks questions to stimulate dialog, one tends to find answers, or at least forces someone, anyone, to defend the position they’re advancing. I also sense you want both sides of the story in order to arrive at the truth, as you will determine it to be, based on facts, rationales, and supporting documents. It’s good to see you back!

    And Laurie: Good stuff for a non-opinionated sort of gal! :-)

  7. My memory is sometimes faulty. right now I can't remember if I put the cat out last night. I do remember the press being concerned every time weapons inspectors were turned away or given a difficult time in doing their job. I do remember our President giving Saddam an ultimatum or time-line to comply or be invaded. I do know that our Air Force planes flying the No-Fly zones around Iraq had been shot at frequently years before the war started(which to me is an act of war). And I do remember that our government leaders, both Right and Left, agreed for the need to go to war.

    But I don't remember anyone giving a definite timeline on the war. Personaly,I thought the battle to overthrow Saddam and his army would take much longer. When that went as quickly as it did, maybe some people thought the whole business would go as quickly. But I don't remember any promises. I do agree with Laurie that things would go much better if we would stop nitpicking and present a united front. From reading military blogs, I see real progress in Iraq, but I do not see our media reporting the good news much. That is probably why some people have such a negative view of things. If you do not get the whole story, how can you judge correctly.

    Yes, Laurie, I like the " United front" thing.

  8. Sam here.

    Topic: United Front

    Thanks for your insights. I, too, want us to present a united front. It’s necessary to win the hearts and minds of US citizens as well as the Iraqis! I've sensed that Bush and Rumsfeld have been trying harder lately to set out honestly (and, to my ears, in a slightly more humble tone) what they see happening in Iraq. In my case, this helps a great deal.
    To tell you the truth, when we first went into Iraq and it all went so quickly, I was relieved but not terribly surprised. I had confidence in our military and I did not expect Saddam to put up a huge fight. (He didn't during the first war, either.)
    I was more concerned with the aftermath. It was this part that seemed to be handled badly, particularly when the looting started (Iraq museum, arsenals, city-wide). Rumsfeld’s comment that “Stuff happens” seemed cavalier at the time. As I look back now, and read more about this episode, I’m beginning to get a clearer picture of what was probably going on (as I’m sure the military could have told us). Critics said that we should have had more troops on the ground and it seemed that the public's confidence began to erode from this point on. I admit that the news media did not help in the understanding, but the administration didn’t either. This is where our United Front began to erode. It had nothing to do with the fantastic job the military is doing. This despite some of the missteps, such as Abu Ghraib and now this latest one in Haditha. War is like stirring up an ant’s nest. It’s a sad fact. Covering up the incident, as some have alleged was done, is human nature and also understandable because of how the enemy will use it in retaliation. I understand all that. I also believe we’ll show our true mettle by dealing with it honorably, if it proves to be true.

    Winning the peace in any part of the world is never easy - the US has never trusted the commitment of nation building, maybe because we feel dismay over being considered "Imperialists." Our own outrage during our Revolutionary War is still fresh in our minds. Apart from what we did after WWII, it seems to be the case that when Democrats commit to this (Haiti, Bosnia), the Republicans are skeptical. And the reverse is true. Only this is a much bigger scale, since it involves the whole Middle East and so much is at stake. Democrats have not felt that this is “their” president – for various reasons. Democrats in Congress have been shut out, for one thing, and I think “trust” is at the heart of it. But I think there is fault to go around on both sides.

    I think our mission needs to be clear and competent in order to keep the hearts and minds of our citizens in this critical venture. I say this as a somewhat lefty centrist who tries to keep an open mind. I understand “my side” quite well and know that many are highly moral people. They want the U.S. to do what is best for the Iraqi people. The disagreement is over methods and motives. The name calling that goes on between our two sides is self-defeating. As Buck can tell you, it’s almost funny when you read the blogs from both sides because they are full of identical insults. Righties are so dumb, Lefties are so stupid – ad nauseum. Passionate self-indulgence gets in the way of common sense and understanding. It comes from frustration, I know. (I’ve been working my way out of it myself.) But patience, resolve, understanding and maturity are what are required in this dangerous world and the sooner we can all get on board and complete this mission honorably, the better.

    Good article -


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