Archive for August, 2007
27 Aug 2007

Hunting Bin Laden

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Newsweek‘s hunt for Bin Laden article has some interesting accounts attributing his success at escaping justice to excesses of official caution (Hey! the press might criticize them) and bureaucratic paralysis.

As recalled by Gary Berntsen, the CIA officer in charge of the covert team working with the Northern Alliance, code-named Jawbreaker, the military refused his pleas for 800 Army Rangers to cut off bin Laden’s escape. Maj. Gen. Dell Dailey, the Special Ops commander sent out by Central Command, told Berntsen he was doing an “excellent job,” but that putting in ground troops might offend America’s Afghan allies. “I don’t give a damn about offending our allies!” Berntsen yelled, according to his 2005 book, “Jawbreaker.” “I only care about eliminating Al Qaeda and delivering bin Laden’s head in a box!” (Dailey, now the State Department’s counterterror chief, told NEWSWEEK that he did not want to discuss the incident, except to say that Berntsen’s story is “unsubstantiated.”)

Berntsen went to Crumpton, his boss at the CIA, who described to NEWSWEEK his frantic efforts to appeal to higher authority. Crumpton called CENTCOM’s commander, Gen. Tommy Franks. It would take “weeks” to mobilize a force, Franks responded, and the harsh, snowy terrain was too difficult and the odds of getting bin Laden not worth the risk. Frustrated, Crumpton went to the White House and rolled out maps of the Pakistani-Afghan border on a small conference table. President Bush wanted to know if the Pakistanis could sweep up Al Qaeda on the other side. “No, sir,” Crumpton responded. (Vice President Dick Cheney did not say a word, Crumpton recalled.) The meeting was inconclusive. Franks, who declined to comment, has written in his memoirs that he decided, along with Rumsfeld, that to send troops into the mountains would risk repeating the mistake of the Soviets, who were trapped and routed by jihadist guerrilla fighters in the 1980…

Whenever (Special Forces Operations Sergeant Adam Rice) and his men moved within five kilometers of the safe house, he says, they had to file a request form known as a 5-W, spelling out the who, what, when, where and why of the mission. Permission from headquarters took hours, and if shooting might be involved, it was often denied. To go beyond five kilometers required a CONOP (for “concept of operations”) that was much more elaborate and required approval from two layers in the field, and finally the Joint Special Operations Task Force at Baghram air base near Kabul. To get into a fire fight, the permission of a three-star general was necessary. “That process could take days,” Rice recalled to NEWSWEEK. He often typed forms while sitting on a 55-gallon drum his men had cut in half to make a toilet seat. “We’d be typing in 130-degree heat while we’re crapping away with bacillary dysentery and sometimes the brass at Kandahar or Baghram would kick back and tell you the spelling was incorrect, that you weren’t using the tab to delimit the form correctly.”

But Rice made his request anyway. Days passed with no word. The window closed; the target—whether Mullah Omar or not—moved on. Rice blames risk aversion in career officers, whose promotions require spotless (“zero defect”) records—no mistakes, no bad luck, no “flaps.” The cautious mind-set changed for a time after 9/11, but quickly settled back in. High-tech communication serves to clog, rather than speed the process. With worldwide satellite communications, high-level commanders back at the base or in Washington can second-guess even minor decisions.

Read the whole thing.

27 Aug 2007

Miss South Carolina Answers a Question


0:48 video

With just a little bit of polish, this girl could have a successful career in politics.

26 Aug 2007

We Already Paid For It

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The Sunday Times reports:

Pennsylvania officials plan to build up to 10 toll areas along the 311-mile stretch of Interstate 80 in the next three years to help pay for road, bridge and mass transit projects and subsidies. …

Pennsylvania’s plan is to generate about $950 million a year through the sale of bonds backed by tollway revenue and other state sources over the first 10 years, with about $500 million going to road and bridge projects throughout the state, and the remaining $450 million going to subsidize mass transit in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and other cities.

State officials say that about 70 percent of the 21 million vehicles that travel I-80 annually are from out of state, and 40 percent are commercial trucks.

This is completely outrageous.

The owners of the cars and trucks driving on Pennsylvania’s portion of Route 80 already paid for its construction with their federal income taxes. And they continue to support its upkeep by paying federal fuel taxes.

There is no justification whatsoever for the greedy, grasping pols who infest Harrisburg to reach out for additional revenues for highway maintenance. Funds are already amply provided for just that purpose through both state and federal systems of taxation.

And the proposed transfer of wealth from far-from-affluent rural Pennsylvania to the Commonwealth’s two largest cities is absolutely unconscionable.

Making I-80 a toll road also violates the principle that at least one major route ought to be free of tolls, providing travellers some choice about paying toll charges. The only East-West alternative route across Pennsylvania, Route 76, is already a toll road.

When you read the Times article, too, you’ll find that Arlen Spector has declined to oppose this loathsome scheme. Whenever I read about the political genius of Karl Rove, I remember the craven refusal of George W. Bush and the National Party to support the conservative Pat Toomey against Spector in the 2004 Republican Primary. Spector defeated Toomey, even with George W. Bush’s support, only by 51-49 per cent. There might be a real Republican senator from Pennsylvania if Karl Rove was really so smart.

26 Aug 2007

Japanese Tetris Television Game

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4:25 video

Japan undoubtedly has the funniest game shows.

Hat tip to Dominique Poirier.

26 Aug 2007

How One Dutch Store Deals With Shoplifters

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Hema has a very amusing technique.

1:25 video

25 Aug 2007

A Neighbor


Sgt. Henry Wood (1841-1910) first served in the 14th Virgina Infantry; but was quickly transfered to the 18th Virginia Infantry, Pickett’s Brigade, in which he fought in the battles of First Manassas (1861), Williamsburg (1862), and Seven Pines (1862), where he was wounded in the leg. In 1864, he returned to service with the Fluvanna Light Artillery, fighting under Jubal Early in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864 in the Third Battle of Winchester, and in the battles of Fisher’s Hill, and Cedar Creek.

He acquired the pistol he wears in the photograph from a Yankee major he captured along with six privates at Cedar Creek, October 19, 1864.

25 Aug 2007

Air Force’s First Female Aerial Gunner


Airman First Class Vanessa Dobos

Her profile at Reasoned Audacity reads:

Vanessa Dobos is a gunner of a USAF AC-130 gunship. She has seen action in Iraq and Afghanistan. She likes long walks on the beach, men who are not afraid to cry and puppies.

Her dislikes include feed tray stoppages, tracer flareout of her NVGs and premature fixed-wing strikes scattering her high-value targets.

Via The News Junkie at Maggie’s Farm.

25 Aug 2007

Kyrgyzstan Hunting Festival

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Taigan chases wolf at festival

The event was near the village of Bokonbayevo, some 186 miles east of the capital Bishkek, August 24, 2007. More then 20 hunters with dogs and eagles took part. The slideshow illustrates exhibitions of hunting with Taigans and Golden Eagles using domesticated wolves as the quarry. The Salburun (hunting) festival has been held annually since 1997.

Hat tip to Dr. Milton Ong.

25 Aug 2007

“Brutus a Good Friend to Caesar?”

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At the end of last month, William Kristol, in the Weekly Standard, expressed editorial indignation at the publication by the Nation and the New Republic of accounts of alleged brutal and callous behavior by US troops, evidencing the traditional defeatist meme of the emotionally and morally debilitating effect upon American forces of, as The Nation puts it,

a dark and even depraved enterprise, one that bears a powerful resemblance to other misguided and brutal colonial wars of occupation.

This sort of thing is par for the course for the (traditionally-Stalinist) Nation, of course. But Kristol is appalled that the Neoliberal New Republic has been playing the same “demonizing US forces” game, publishing an account, titled Shock Troops by a currently serving soldier in Iraq who pseudononymously and

colorfully describes three sets of alleged misdeeds he and his buddies committed in Baghdad: They humiliate a woman in a military dining hall who has been disfigured in an IED explosion (the woman “wore an unrecognizable tan uniform, so I couldn’t really tell whether she was a soldier or a civilian contractor”); they discover human remains and one private spends a day and night playing around with a child’s skull (“which even had chunks of hair”), amusing his fellow soldiers; and one private routinely drives a Bradley Fighting Vehicle recklessly and uses the vehicle to kill stray dogs.

Kristol makes the obvious point that, despite all their protestations to the contrary, the anti-war left, including its representatives in the elite branches of the MSM, is doing the precise opposite of supporting the troops.

Having turned against a war that some of them supported, the left is now turning against the troops they claim still to support. They sense that history is progressing away from them–that these soldiers, fighting courageously in a just cause, could still win the war, that they are proud of their service, and that they will be future leaders of this country. They are not “Shock Troops.” They are our best and bravest, fighting for all of us against a brutal enemy in a difficult and frustrating war. They are the 9/11 generation. The left slanders them. We support them. More than that, we admire them.

Stung by Kristol’s criticism, Jonathan Chait, at New Republic, has the unmitigated chutzah to try to explain why publishing (what were subsequently established to be false) contemptible, and ultimately trivial, accusations dishonoring US troops was not treason or defeatism at all. Those slanderous and false accusations were published to serve no political agenda, Chait assures us (and his own morally debilitated conscience), but “merely for the edification of readers.”

There is more than one way to support the troops, Chair explains:

the way you support the troops is contingent upon your analysis of the war. If you think the war is succeeding, then supporting the war is a way of supporting the troops. If you think the war is doomed to failure, though, proposing that more troops die in vain is not a way of supporting them.

I am reminded of the scene late in Whit Stillman’s The Last Days of Disco (1998), in which Jimmy Steinway argues to Des McGrath that one could betray someone (motivated by other worthy considerations), and still be a good friend to him, the way Brutus was a good friend to Caesar. “You call Brutus stabbing Caesar in the back the act of a good friend?” Des explodes indignantly.

But Chait has the decisive last word: Watch out what you say, Kristol. We (the Washington Establishment) can ostracize you.

Kristol’s good standing in the Washington establishment depends on the wink-and-nod awareness that he’s too smart to believe his own agitprop. Perhaps so. But, in the end, a fake thug is not much better than the real thing.

25 Aug 2007

Al Qaeda Begins Counteroffensive in Iraq

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Bill Roggio reports, in the Weekly Standard, that Al Qaeda has begun a major effort to supply the headlines needed by its allies in the MSM to achieve the decisive demoralization of US public opinion required to give Congressional democrats a safe opportunity to defund US military operations in Iraq and compel withdrawal.

Al Qaeda in Iraq has ramped up its attacks against Iraqi civilians and Iraqi and U.S. security forces over the past 48 hours. The effort demonstrates that al Qaeda in Iraq still possesses the capacity to launch a counteroffensive to the ongoing U.S. and Iraqi operations and is seeking to influence the upcoming debate in the U.S. Al Qaeda in Iraq has launched its version of the Tet Offensive.

Over the past several days, al Qaeda in Iraq conducted five high-profile attacks against Iraqi and U.S. targets. Four out of five of the attacks occurred outside of Baghdad–two in Diyala province, two in Salahadin province. Three of the attacks were conducted with suicide bombers, the other two attacks were conducted as infantry-type assaults. …

U.S. generals have warned that violence is very likely to rise as al Qaeda in Iraq and other extremist groups attempt to sabotage General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker’s presentation on the state of progress in Iraq. Al Qaeda will attempt more spectacular attacks in an attempt to grab headlines and break the will of the American public and political elites.

The next several weeks will display both al Qaeda’s capacity for terror strikes as well as the short-term results of the counterinsurgency plan instituted just eight months ago. As the past few days show, al Qaeda can still pull off spectacular attacks. But it should be noted that only one of these five strikes occurred inside Baghdad, and two were retaliatory strikes for local Iraqis turning against al Qaeda. A failure by al Qaeda to maintain a sustained offensive would speak volumes about the terror group’s current abilities.

Al Qaeda’s attempts to ramp up the violence in the short term and affect the debate in the U.S. may very well be unsuccessful, if recent statements from U.S. Democratic Congressmen are any indication. And these brutal assaults are only serving to turn the population against al Qaeda in the long term. Al Qaeda conducted similar suicide and infantry attacks in Anbar province in the spring of this year, only to see that province, which was once the most violent in Iraq, turn on the terror group.

The Pentagon is predicting further headline-grabbing attacks. IOL:

A senior US general warned on Thursday of “sensational” attacks during the upcoming Ramadan period in Iraq directed at swaying perceptions of a key upcoming US report on progress in the war there.

Brigadier General Richard Sherlock, deputy director for operational planning for the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that insurgents are likely to attempt to make use of the coincident sixth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, the onset of Ramadan, and the much-awaited US progress report to accelerate attacks in Iraq.

24 Aug 2007

Left Outraged Over Bush’s Vietnam War Reference

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Victims’ skulls on display at the Cheoung Ek “Killing Fields” memorial on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

John Podhoretz, in the New York Post, comments on the remarkable effusion of indignation resulting from George W. Bush treading on a sensitive spot in the collective conscience of the leftwing Establishment.

And so the world of conventional wisdom is even now rearing in horror at the mere thought of President Bush daring to compare the war in Iraq to the war in Vietnam – or, rather, describing the consequences of losing the war in Iraq by discussing the consequences of our loss in Vietnam and asking the American people if they want to see that disastrous past repeated as our inglorious future.

You could almost feel the outrage rising like steam heat from the left side of the blogosphere: Why, doesn’t that evil moron know that Vietnam is our analogy?

Doesn’t he know no one should be permitted to mention Vietnam in any context other than the one we use – as an example of an immoral, pointless and stupid war, a quagmire from which the nation was saved not by heroes on the battlefield abroad but by political opposition at home?

Read the whole thing.

24 Aug 2007

The Cowardice of the Intelligentsia

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Dr. Stephen Rittenberg think the roots of our liberal punditocracy’s pacificism can be found in childhood.

In that freewheeling world of the schoolyard, the good little girls and physically timid boys who craved teacher’s praise were at a disadvantage. The schoolroom was their utopia, where physical aggression was banned and all problems had a verbal solution. Girls are usually more verbally adept in the early childhood years and gain surplus praise from teachers. In addition, such children, including boys who crave teacher’s approval, receive moral approbation for being “good” while aggression is, “bad”. Hence the future wordsmith intellectual grows up feeling smarter, morally superior, a caring idealist.

These self-flattering views carry over to adulthood, and shape the future wordsmith intellectuals’ political views. If words can resolve all conflicts, then wordsmiths are exceedingly important. If conflicts within and between human beings can be “resolved” with words, then who better to play the role of savior than the wordsmith intellectual?

One of the central features of utopian politics, explaining their appeal to intellectuals, is the promise that conflict can be abolished and human nature fundamentally changed. Whether Communism, Nazism or Islamism, the aim is a unified, submissive, happy mankind led by an elite in possession of the truth, just like Miss Murphy when she taught 6th grade. Aggression will then vanish when egalitarian paradise prevails.

Read the whole thing.

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