Category Archive 'War on Terror'
07 Sep 2017

What It Would Take to Win

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Lorenzo Barteloni, statue of Niccolò Macchiavelli, Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

What a shame it is that US presidents from George W. Bush on did not read, and deal with Islamic terrorism on the basis of the wisdom contained in, Angelo M. Codevilla’s 2001 essay.

Common sense does not mistake the difference between victory and defeat: the losers weep and cower, while the winners strut and rejoice. The losers have to change their ways, the winners feel more secure than ever in theirs. On September 12, retiring Texas Senator Phil Gramm encapsulated this common sense: “I don’t want to change the way I live. I want to change the way they live.” Common sense says that victory means living without worry that some foreigners might kill us on behalf of their causes, but also without having to bow to domestic bureaucrats and cops, especially useless ones. It means not changing the tradition by which the government of the United States treats citizens as its masters rather than as potential enemies. Victory requires killing our enemies, or making them live in debilitating fear.

A must-read.

06 Mar 2017

Via Viral Email

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Described as a “Letter to a Solder Written by an 8-Year-Old.” I don’t know that I believe that it’s authentic, but I figured I had to put it up because Gerard van der Leun would like it.

From Henry Bernatonis.

10 Apr 2014

“Waterboard Him Some More”

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Abu Zubaydah

Left-wing sissies (HuffPo, SullyDish) have their panties in a twist over a John McCain revelation from the Senate Intelligence Committee’s (partisan) report on interrogation techniques leaked to the National Journal:

McCain… elaborated on an event that was reported Monday by The Post, noting that officials waterboarding a terror suspect reported to CIA headquarters that they had “gotten everything we can out of the guy.”

“The message came back, ‘Waterboard him some more.’ That is unconscionable,” McCain said.

Poor Abu Zubaydah, after all, merely, as Wikipedia notes:

Quickly rose from very low level mujahedin to third or fourth man in al Qaeda.

Served as Osama Bin Laden’s senior lieutenant.

Managed a network of training camps.

Was instrumental in the training of operatives for al Qaeda, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and other terrorist elements inside Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Acted as the Deputy Camp Commander for al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, personally approving entry and graduation of all trainees during 1999–2000.

Approved all individuals going in and out of Afghanistan to the training camps from 1996–1999.

No one went in and out of Peshawar, Pakistan without his knowledge and approval.

Acted as al Qaeda’s coordinator of external contacts and foreign communications.

Acted as al Qaeda’s counter-intelligence officer and had been trusted to find spies within the organization.

Was involved in every major terrorist operation carried out by al Qaeda.

Was a planner for the Millennium plot to attack U.S. and Israeli targets during the Millennium celebrations in Jordan.

Served as a planner for the Paris Embassy plot in 2001.

Was one of the planners of 9/11.

Engaged in planning future terrorist attacks against U.S. interests.

Wrote al Qaeda’s manual on resistance techniques

Abu Zubaydah was one of the principal planners of the 9/11 attacks which killed more than 3000 innocent non-combatants. If I’d been in charge at the CIA and the interrogators at the scene phoned home to report that “they had gotten everything they can out of the guy,” and asked me what to do next. I would have said exactly the same thing. And that demonstrates precisely why decisions about how to deal with terrorists and illegal combatants should be made by “rough men”* and not by wimps and sissies.


*”People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

–attributed to George Orwell.

08 Feb 2014

“These Guys Are Huns”

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An anonymous recon marine writes:

It’s freezing here. I’m sitting on hard cold dirt between rocks and shrubs at the base of the Hindu Kush Mountains, along the Dar’yoi Pomir River, watching a hole that leads to a tunnel that leads to a cave.

Stake out, my friend, and no pizza delivery for thousands of miles.

I also glance at the area around my ass every ten to fifteen seconds to avoid another scorpion sting. I’ve actually given up battling the chiggers and sand fleas, but the scorpions give a jolt like a cattle prod. Hurts like a bastard. The antidote tastes like transmission fluid, but God bless the Marine Corps for the five vials of it in my pack.

The one truth the Taliban cannot escape is that, believe it or not, they are human beings, which means they have to eat food and drink water. That requires couriers and that’s where an old bounty hunter like me comes in handy.

I track the couriers, locate the tunnel entrances and storage facilities, type the info into the handheld, and shoot the coordinates up to the satellite link that tells the air commanders where to drop the hardware. …

I’ve been living with these Tajiks and Uzbeks, and Turkmen and even a couple of Pushtuns, for over a month-and-a-half now, and this much I can say for sure:

These guys, all of ’em, are Huns . . . actual, living Huns . . . they LIVE to fight. It’s what they do. It’s ALL they do.

They have no respect for anything, not for their families, nor for each other, nor for themselves. They claw at one another as a way of life.

They play polo with dead calves and force their five-year-old sons into human cockfights to defend the family honor.

Huns, roaming packs of savage, heartless beasts who feed on each other’s barbarism. Cavemen with AK-47’s.

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip to Vanderleun.

04 Apr 2013

Michael Kelly, 1957-2003

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Michael Kelly (1957-2003)

Bret Stephens remembers Michael Kelly, the American journalist killed ten years ago south of Baghdad Airport, traveling embedded with the US Army’s Third Division. His jeep came under enemy fire, and the driver lost control while trying to evade and went into a canal. Kelly drowned along with his driver, becoming the first American journalist to lose his life during the war.

Wouldn’t you know that it would be a reporter like Kelly who got killed, not one of the usual verminous breed?

Kelly treated a column as a sword, the obvious and most worthy purpose of which was to stab, slice, decapitate and—once he really got going—utterly disembowel the objects of his contempt.

Which objects? The pompous, the dishonest, the phony, the self-satisfied, the morally safe and smug, the debauched, the downright evil. To speak more precisely: Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Frank Sinatra, Mr. Gore again, the news media in general, Ted Kennedy, Yasser Arafat. And, of course, Hollywood, which pretty much exemplified all the above-mentioned qualities.

Kelly didn’t just deride these people and institutions. Before he could skewer them, he had to capture them. Writing about Oscar night, he catches Jack Nicholson “leering and sprawling paunchily in his ringside chair like an especially dissolute pasha waiting for his next lap dance.” From an early profile of Bill Clinton: “When he spoke, perception was not only reality. It was a reality that changed, quicksilver quick, from eye to eye and ear to ear.” Of one of Mr. Gore’s debate performances against George W. Bush: “It was much like the most infuriating of all husbandly marital-argument tactics. You know the one—where you play the part of the patient but pained party in the obvious right, too much a gentleman to say that your wife is spewing pure rubbish, but communicating utter contempt through creative breathing.”

Reading Kelly, I used to wonder: Did his power of observation explain his moral judgments, or was it the other way around? Usually (though few of us columnists will admit it), we make our judgments and then find our evidence. I don’t think this was true of Kelly: He was like a man born with a preternatural sense of smell. He couldn’t help smelling it. And he could smell it from a mile away.

Take his view of Frank Sinatra. Everyone loved Old Blue Eyes and mourned him when he died in 1998. Everyone except Michael Kelly.

Kelly hated Frank because Frank had invented Cool, and Cool had replaced Smart. What was Smart? It was Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca: “He possesses an outward cynicism, but at his core he is a square. . . . He is willing to die for his beliefs, and his beliefs are, although he takes pains to hide it, old-fashioned. He believes in truth, justice, the American way, and love. . . . When there is a war, he goes to it. . . . He may be world weary, but he is not ironic.”

Cool was something else. “Cool said the old values were for suckers. . . . Cool didn’t go to war; Saps went to war, and anyway, cool had no beliefs he was willing to die for. Cool never, ever, got in a fight it might lose; cool had friends who could take care of that sort of thing.”

It never, ever would have occurred to me to make the distinction until I read Kelly’s column. And then I understood Sinatra. And then I understood Kelly, too.

Kelly, who was killed 10 years ago as an embedded journalist just outside of Baghdad, was Smart. When the war came, he, too, went to it. Few columnists in America had argued as passionately, and none as cogently, for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

“To march against the war is not to give peace a chance,” he wrote six weeks before his death. “It is to give tyranny a chance.”

Read the whole thing.

24 Jan 2013

No Place For the Ladies

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U.S. Marines rest in an amphibious assault vehicle.

Ryan Smith, who served in Iraq as a Marine, explains some of the issues combat soldiers might have about serving directly beside females.

Most people seem to believe that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have merely involved driving out of a forward operating base, patrolling the streets, maybe getting in a quick firefight, and then returning to the forward operating base and its separate shower facilities and chow hall. The reality of modern infantry combat, at least the portion I saw, bore little resemblance to this sanitized view.

I served in the 2003 invasion of Iraq as a Marine infantry squad leader. We rode into war crammed in the back of amphibious assault vehicles. They are designed to hold roughly 15 Marines snugly; due to maintenance issues, by the end of the invasion we had as many as 25 men stuffed into the back. Marines were forced to sit, in full gear, on each other’s laps and in contorted positions for hours on end. That was the least of our problems.

The invasion was a blitzkrieg. The goal was to move as fast to Baghdad as possible. The column would not stop for a lance corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, or even a company commander to go to the restroom. Sometimes we spent over 48 hours on the move without exiting the vehicles. We were forced to urinate in empty water bottles inches from our comrades.

Many Marines developed dysentery from the complete lack of sanitary conditions. When an uncontrollable urge hit a Marine, he would be forced to stand, as best he could, hold an MRE bag up to his rear, and defecate inches from his seated comrade’s face.

During the invasion, we wore chemical protective suits because of the fear of chemical or biological weapon attack. These are equivalent to a ski jumpsuit and hold in the heat. We also had to wear black rubber boots over our desert boots. On the occasions the column did stop, we would quickly peel off our rubber boots, desert boots and socks to let our feet air out.

Due to the heat and sweat, layers of our skin would peel off our feet. However, we rarely had time to remove our suits or perform even the most basic hygiene. We quickly developed sores on our bodies.

When we did reach Baghdad, we were in shambles. We had not showered in well over a month and our chemical protective suits were covered in a mixture of filth and dried blood. We were told to strip and place our suits in pits to be burned immediately. My unit stood there in a walled-in compound in Baghdad, naked, sores dotted all over our bodies, feet peeling, watching our suits burn. Later, they lined us up naked and washed us off with pressure washers.

Yes, a woman is as capable as a man of pulling a trigger. But the goal of our nation’s military is to fight and win wars. Before taking the drastic step of allowing women to serve in combat units, has the government considered whether introducing women into the above-described situation would have made my unit more or less combat effective?

Read the whole thing.

08 May 2012

Tools of War Applied to Art

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This is the deathbed portrait of an unknown man with the hairstyle of the 1640s, commonly described as being the portrait of James, Duke of Monmouth, executed in 1685.

The Telegraph informs us that art historians are proposing to employ facial recognition software developed for Counter-Terrorism to identify the unknown subjects in some well-known works of art.

Software developed to recognise terrorist faces is being adapted to solve the mystery of portraits of unidentified people. …

A feasibility study is being conducted by two art historians and an electronic engineer at the University of California. They describe FACES (Faces, Art and Computerised Evaluation Systems) as a “new tool for art historians”. The project has received a $25,000 government grant.

Conrad Rudolph, professor of art history at the university, said: “Before the advent of photography, portraits were, almost by definition, depictions of people who were important in their own worlds. But, as a walk through almost any major museum will show, a large number of these unidentified portraits from before the 19th century have lost the identities of their subjects.”

14 Jan 2012

VDH: A Good Word For Obama

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Over lunch with Peter Robinson, Victor Davis Hanson remarked reflectively:

When you think about it, Obama has kept the detention camp at Guantanamo. He’s going ahead with military tribunals. And where Bush only waterboarded three terrorists, Obama has used drones to execute about 2,600.

Obama’s sort of growing on me.

23 Dec 2011

Running a Bar in Baghdad

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The video is a teaser for an inexpensive ebook.

16 Oct 2011

Memorial Planned For US Mounted Special Forces

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A memorial to mounted US troops who accompanied Northern Alliance forces in the conquest of Afghanistan, providing direction and support to fighters allied with the US in avenging the 9/11 attacks, will be installed in the vicinity of Ground Zero on Veteran’s Day.

Afghanistan demonstrated that the world features plenty of terrain impracticable for motorized transportation, proving that the age of horse-mounted military operations will never really be over. The closing of the US Army Cavalry School at Fort Riley in 1947 was proven in 2001 to have been premature.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

31 May 2011

This Memorial Day and the War in Iraq

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Walter Russell Mead thinks the American intellectual establishment ought to have taken the occasion of this year’s Memorial Day to face the truth and applaud the victory delivered by American servicemen in the face of their own betrayal.

The story of Iraq has yet to be told. It is too politically sensitive for the intelligentsia to handle just yet; passions need to cool before the professors and the pundits who worked themselves into paroxysms of hatred and disdain for the Bush administration can come to grips with how wrongheaded they’ve been. It took decades for the intelligentsia to face the possibility that the cretinous Reagan-monster might have, um, helped win the Cold War, and even now they haven’t asked themselves any tough questions about the Left’s blind hatred of the man who did more than any other human being to save the world from nuclear war.

It may take that long for the truth about the war in Iraq to dawn, but dawn it will. America’s victory in Iraq broke the back of Al-Qaeda and left Osama bin Laden’s dream in ruins. He died a defeated fanatic in his Abbotabad hideaway; his dream was crushed in the Mesopotamian flatlands where he swore it would win.

Osama’s goal was to launch the Clash of Civilizations against the West. He would be Captain Islam, fighting against the Crusader-in-Chief George W. Bush. By his purity, wisdom, daring and above all by his special knowledge of the hidden ways of God, Captain Islam would crush and humiliate the evil Bush-fiend and unite the Muslim world behind the Truth. Osama would complete at a spiritual level the mission his father undertook on the physical plane. His father’s construction company rebuilt and modernized the ancient holy city of Mecca; Osama would rebuild and restore the entire Muslim world.

The 9/11 attacks propelled Osama to the historical height he sought: in the minds of many he had become a caliph-in-waiting, the fierce servant of God whose claims to leadership were vindicated by the dramatic success of his plans. Angry young people across the Islamic world, frustrated by a host of frustrations and privations, wondered if this was the charismatic, God-aided figure who would overturn the world order and lead Islam to its old place on the commanding heights of the world.

9/11 was the trumpet, Iraq was the test. The US invaded an Arab country, overthrew its government, and found itself condemned to the hardest task in international politics: nation building under hostile fire. More, the US had taken a country run by its Sunni minority and put power into the hands of an inexperienced and fractious Shi’a majority. Then the US occupation began to fail: the government institutions fell apart, there was no security in country or in town, the economy went into free fall, and basic services like electricity and health failed across the land. The provocations were serious and real; the Americans were clumsy and awkward. US checkpoints and raids were humiliating and degrading; the scalding Abu Ghraib scandal was a propagandist’s dream come true. The ham-handed diplomacy and tongue-tied defense of American policy from Washington created a sense of rising, unstoppable global opposition to Bush’s War. …

For roughly three years America writhed in the toils of our predicament in Iraq. The Democratic establishment had supported the war. Some leading Democrats did so out of conviction, some out of a political calculation that no other stand was viable in the post 9/11 atmosphere. Now the grand panjandrums of the Democratic Party, one after another, made their pilgrimage to Canossa. Some came to believe and perhaps more came to say that the war was lost and that their original backing for it had been a mistake.

Well do I remember the many impassioned statements in those dark years by leading politicians and pundits that the war was lost, lost, irretrievably lost. It was over now, they wailed on television and in print. The Iraqi government was a farce and could never take hold. These clowns made Diem look like Charles de Gaulle. We had no option but to get out as quickly as possible. On and on rolled the great choir of doom, smarter than the rest of us, deeper thinkers, capable of holding more complex thoughts behind their furrowed brows.

Now they have glibly moved on to other subjects; the mostly complicit media is helping us all to forget just how wrong — and how intolerant and moralistic — so many people were about the ‘lost’ war.

While the politicians washed their hands and hung up white flags, and while the press lords gibbered and foamed, the brass kept their heads and the troops stood tall. And gradually, a miracle happened. America started winning the war.

The French scholar Gilles Kepel, no friend of the war in Iraq and no admirer of George Bush, makes the core point. Osama’s dream was to shift history into the realm of myth. He passionately believed that the ordinary course of mundane history wasn’t what really mattered: there was a divine and a miraculous history just behind the veil. Osama aimed to pierce the veil, to bring hundreds of millions of Muslims into his reality, transfixed and transported by the vision of a climactic fight of good against evil, of God against America and its local allies.

That dream died in Iraq.

But on this Memorial Day it is not enough to remember, and give thanks, that Osama’s dream died before he did and that the terror movement has been gravely wounded at its heart.

Because the dream didn’t just die.

It was killed. ..

All wars are tragic; some are also victorious. The tragedies of Iraq are real and well known. The victory is equally real — but the politically fastidious don’t want to look. The minimum we owe our lost and wounded warriors is to tell the story of what they so gloriously achieved.

On ths Memorial Day, a truth needs to be told.

We have not yet done justice to our dead.

Read the whole thing.

05 Dec 2010

The New Moral and Humane Approach: No Prisoners

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David Ignatius observes that, in the new, morally-improved age of Obama, sleep deprivation, face slaps, and body shakes are out, but sudden death by high explosive is thriving as never before.

Liberal scruples about interrogation and unlimited detention and the significant percentage of released detainees returning to the jihad have very obviously modified the American approach to war. If you can’t gain any information from captured insurgents and you are going to wind up in the end playing catch-and-release, the likelihood that you are going to take any prisoners at all declines dramatically.

Most amusingly, the consciences of the intelligentsia have been found to be surprisingly comfortable with the more recent remote-killing campaign.

Every war brings its own deformations, but consider this disturbing fact about America’s war against al-Qaeda: It has become easier, politically and legally, for the United States to kill suspected terrorists than to capture and interrogate them.

Predator and Reaper drones, armed with Hellfire missiles, have become the weapons of choice against al-Qaeda operatives in the tribal areas of Pakistan. They have also been used in Yemen, and the demand for these efficient tools of war, which target enemies from 10,000 feet, is likely to grow.

The pace of drone attacks on the tribal areas has increased sharply during the Obama presidency, with more assaults in September and October of this year than in all of 2008. At the same time, efforts to capture al-Qaeda suspects have virtually stopped. Indeed, if CIA operatives were to snatch a terrorist tomorrow, the agency wouldn’t be sure where it could detain him for interrogation.

Michael Hayden, a former director of the CIA, frames the puzzle this way: “Have we made detention and interrogation so legally difficult and politically risky that our default option is to kill our adversaries rather than capture and interrogate them?”

It’s curious why the American public seems so comfortable with a tactic that arguably is a form of long-range assassination, after the furor about the CIA’s use of nonlethal methods known as “enhanced interrogation.” When Israel adopted an approach of “targeted killing” against Hamas and other terrorist adversaries, it provoked an extensive debate there and abroad.

“For reasons that defy logic, people are more comfortable with drone attacks” than with killings at close range, says Robert Grenier, a former top CIA counterterrorism officer who now is a consultant with ERG Partners. “It’s something that seems so clean and antiseptic, but the moral issues are the same.”

14 Sep 2010

US Military Raises the Roof

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Date and location unknown. Good airstrike video. One commenter says it wasn’t the roof sailing through the air but the floor slab.

23 Aug 2010

“Spending $572B inTwo Years Stimulates an Economy, But Spending $554B Over Six Years Ruins One?”

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On the occasion of the notional end of the War in Iraq, Randall Hoven examines the popular liberal talking point that it was the Bush deficits incurred because of the Iraq War that wrecked the economy.

It was under Mr Bush that the deficit spiralled out of control as we fought an unnecessary and endless $3,000bn war in Iraq…”
– James Carville, the Financial Times.

“The Iraq adventure has seriously weakened the U.S. economy, whose woes now go far beyond loose mortgage lending. You can’t spend $3 trillion — yes, $3 trillion — on a failed war abroad and not feel the pain at home.”
– Linda J. Bilmes and Joseph E. Stiglitz, The Washington Post.

The correct [figure], according to the Congressional Budget Office, is $709 billion. The Iraq War cost $709 billion. Why Carville, Bilmes, and Nobel-winning economist Stiglitz thought the answer was $3 trillion is anybody’s guess. But what’s a 323% error among friends?

The CBO breaks that cost down over the eight calendar years of 2003-2010. [Above] is a picture of federal deficits over those years with and without Iraq War spending. …

No one will say that $709 billion is not a lot of money. But first, that was spread over eight years. Secondly, let’s put that in some perspective. Below are some figures for those eight years, 2003 through 2010.

* Total federal outlays: $22,296 billion.
* Cumulative deficit: $4,731 billion.
* Medicare spending: $2,932 billion.
* Iraq War spending: $709 billion.
* The Obama stimulus: $572 billion.

There is an important note to go along with that Obama stimulus number: the stimulus did not even start until 2009. By 2019, the CBO estimates the stimulus will have cost $814 billion.

If we look only at the Iraq War years in which Bush was President (2003-2008), spending on the war was $554B. Federal spending on education over that same time period was $574B.

So the following are facts, based on the government’s own figures.

* Obama’s stimulus, passed in his first month in office, will cost more than the entire Iraq War — more than $100 billion
(15%) more.

* Just the first two years of Obama’s stimulus cost more than the entire cost of the Iraq War under President Bush, or six years of that war.

* Iraq War spending accounted for just 3.2% of all federal spending while it lasted.

* Iraq War spending was not even one quarter of what we spent on Medicare in the same time frame.

* Iraq War spending was not even 15% of the total deficit spending in that time frame. The cumulative deficit, 2003-2010, would have been four-point-something trillion dollars with or without the Iraq War.

* The Iraq War accounts for less than 8% of the federal debt held by the public at the end of 2010 ($9.031 trillion).

* During Bush’s Iraq years, 2003-2008, the federal government spent more on education that it did on the Iraq War. (State
and local governments spent about ten times more.)

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