Monday, April 30, 2007

Absurdity of the week

The cultural gulf between those of us who believe in and defend Western values and those who espouse a strict Islamist code is quite large, and makes it very difficult to try to understand the mindset of our enemies. Sometimes their religious zeal borders on the isane, such as this recent report from Baqouba that

al-Qaida has warned street vendors not to place tomatoes beside cucumbers because the vegetables are different genders


Monday, April 23, 2007


Our media in the States is decidedly one-sided, and I don't mean Democratic. They are only interested in bad news and points of view that reinforce the idea the everything the US does is wrong or going badly.

For another take, you should check in on the excellent Iraq The Model (ITM) by Mohammed in Baghdad.

If we look at how the media handles the situation we'll find something like this almost everywhere;

Dozens killed, scores wounded in attacks suggest failure of security measures…

It's as if the speaker here wants to only emphasize the defect in security measures in a way that honestly angers and disgusts me.
When shall they realize, if ever, that we are dealing with brutal crimes against humanity, a genocide against the people of Iraq? Why don't people talk about the cruelty of the crimes and expose the obvious goals of the terrorists behind the crimes?

It is as if our media works for the killers and Al Qaeda in reinforcing the demoralization of the US public. Of course this is not a new issue for democracies to face a "5th column" clamouring for peace at any cost.

I am not interested in pacifism as a ‘moral phenomenon’. If Mr Savage and others imagine that one can somehow ‘overcome’ the German army by lying on one’s back, let them go on imagining it, but let them also wonder occasionally whether this is not an illusion due to security, too much money and a simple ignorance of the way in which things actually happen.
- Pacifism and the War, George Orwell, 1942

I can remember the likes of Kerry and Kennedy arguing that we should "live-and-let-live" with the Communist Bloc, essentially leaving all of Eastern Europe captive.

Senator Kerry has a long record as a defeatist and obstructionist. Back in 1971, he said, "we cannot fight communism all over the world" — adding in the same arrogant tone he uses today, "I think we should have learned that lesson by now."

It wasn't that bad they said, the people of those nations had just chosen a different system. The problem was they had a system forced on them, just as the Islamist are trying to do throughout the Muslim world, and unless there is a moral force in the world to stand up for freedom, they will win.

"The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."- Albert Einstein

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Arabic study

Enough commentary, time for an update.

I learned today that I have (finally) been promoted to Staff Sergeant. It's not worth going into, but I was told it should have been "no problem" to get my promotion thru by December of 2006. This after getting ... well I could go on forever about the odd way in which the National Guard handles its promotions. Enough to be grateful that something goes my way for a change.

I have spent the last two weeks in intensive Iraqi Arabic, and my brain hurts pretty bad. [;) We are in class 5 hours a day, 5 days a week, and the instruction is all in Iraqi Arabic. I was doing pretty good while we were just using what's call English transliteration (ex: Anee Aachee Inglezee), but on Wednesday we were having trouble making progress with several verb conjugations because the transliteration is inconsistent, so our instructor decide we have to learn the alphabet since it will be much clear when we use Arabic letters. Which in fact it is once you understand that Arabic verbs are all based on 3 letter roots.

At this point I can carry on a rudimentary conversation, but read letters painfully slow, recognizing each letter takes almost a second, not to recognize the word mind you, but each letter. Ughh. And several of the sounds are quite difficult to make. There is a voiced and unvoiced "H" - so ihnaa and iHnaa are different words. There is a trilled r and several guttural sounds that can only be made with a lot of phlegm (which I find odd for a language that developed in the desert.) Fortunately, I have the experience of studying Slavic languages to help, for others in the class they are struggling thru it. One other issue we have is that apparently written Arabic is all MSA (Modern Standard Arabic), but we are speaking Iraqi, so sometimes the words we learn to write are pronounced quite differently than they look.

But we are all quite lucky to have the chance to be here - this training was not set up by our unit, we arranged it ourselves. When we were on post for mobilization processing, S, T, and I had some time to kill so we went looking for some language resources and found that there were Iraqi classes available. If it were up to our unit we'd be sitting in the Armory painting the walls or doing maintenance on vehicles. So we talked to the SFC in charge here, and were able to work out 4 weeks of training on our own.

That's one of the great things about the SOC community - even though we are from different organizations, we always help each other out. In this case this is an Active Duty Group, and we are a National Guard Group mobilizing with yet a different AD Group, but they are helping us and providing training because we are going "down-range" and they are our brothers. I am not sure we would see that in Big Army.

As the plan stands now, I have two more weeks with our instructor "Hakim", hopefully we will master enough to be able to continue studying on our own. Hakim is tirelessly optimistic and is doing his best to teach us the critical words and phrases. We shall see, and I'll let you know if this turns out to be worthwhile. For now it is great to be away from the flagpole, and I do enjoy learning languages so I like going to class. Hopefully I'll get to use what I learn.

Inshallah. [;)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Letting the Troops have their say, II

I sure don't intend to post twice a day, but Senator Reids comments today bear a response. And what a response he is getting, the best of what I've seen is coming directly from service members at Michelle Malkin's blog.

Many of them Democrats seem to actually rejoice in the difficulties we are having, believing it is a Republican loss, a loss by the hated GW. But that is pure politics - if we lose in Iraq, which will only happen if we chose to quit, it will be a loss for American. Despite the fact that GW got us into this mess, we have to find a way to check our enemies in Iraq, and if we withdraw, do it on our terms in a way that allows us to defend our friends in Iraq. (Hint: they are in the North, but more on this in a latter post.)

And this all on the same day it comes out that the Dems were refusing to meet with GEN Petraeus because they were "too busy" How in Hell could they be too busy to get an update on the situation in Iraq and Baghdad in particular from the man in charge on the ground, when this is the biggest issue facing our country right now?!

Perhaps Harry Reid made his outrages statement to take attention away from the stupidity of the Dems "scheduling" challenges?

Strategic Green

Being concerned about energy consumption and global warming isn't just for hippies and Dems anymore, there is a growing sentiment among those focused on National Security that these are serious concerns that need to be urgently addressed:

Take Thomas Friedman's new piece The Power of Green

No wonder more Americans have concluded that conserving oil to put less money in the hands of hostile forces is now a geostrategic imperative. President Bush’s refusal to do anything meaningful after 9/11 to reduce our gasoline usage really amounts to a policy of “No Mullah Left Behind.” James Woolsey, the former C.I.A. director, minces no words: “We are funding the rope for the hanging of ourselves.”

(read the rest, or what the video for the synopsis)

Sure you could say that is just an example of the media just following popular sentiment, but it goes further than that - even former Generals are calling for action - Climate Change Worries Military Advisers.
But what can you do? You can't exactly stop driving your care to work unless you live in a city with great mass transit, and there are only a few of those. Here are a few pain free ways you can help reduce energy consumption, and you can find lots more by just doing a little research on the internet.

  • Stop junk mail coming to your house. Not only is it a pain, but it wastes tons (literally) of energy. Here is how you can do it yourself; or you can avoid the hassle and let GreenDimes do it for you.

  • Turn your online shopping into trees and carbon offsets by shopping thru buy4good

  • Replace your old light bulbs with fluorescent bulbs

Monday, April 16, 2007


This always cracks me up when I see it. I first saw this when I was in Bosnia, and we had coffee mugs made up to remind our analysts to keep their mouths shut. It seemed they always new about things that were supposed to be kept under wraps, and would have trouble keeping quiet, like little school kids.

Surreal debate on Darfur

After class on Wednesday of last week, I was listening to an NPR report on Darfur, and I couldn't believe my ears - the Democrats were lambasting the Administration for failing to act in Darfur, and the Administration was arguing that action was not possible unless more time was spent on diplomacy to keep our "allies" together. Some of the Dems even went so far as to suggest that diplomacy had failed and it was time ACT (meaning militarily, no-fly zones, etc.)

If you took a transcript of the proceeding and change the word "Darfur" to "Iraq", the two sides positions would be reversed. How bizarre. Could it be that the Dems don't care about Iraqi ethnic cleansing because 1) they can blame any bad outcome on G.W. and the Republicans and thus avoid any culpability in the slaughter of thousands and/or 2) Iraqi-Americans don't have the political clount that African-Americans do with the Democrats.

UPDATE: For the record, I do believe the U.S. should be putting more pressure on Sudan, and working to stop the genocide occuring in Darfur. There really is no reason to have allowed this to go on as long as it has. If you want to support efforts to end the murder and suffering there, check in to

Friday, April 13, 2007

Voices of Iraq

I spent this past week starting to learn the Iraqi dialect of Arabic. We have focused entirely on conversation skills which has allowed us to skip learning the alaphabet and jump right in. At some point I may go back to learn it, but given my needs this is perfect as long as I learn to read numbers.

In the same spirit of my previous post, we in the US don't get much from our media regarding how the Iraqis themselves think about the situation there, and I saw a film in class Friday called Voices of Iraq. Apparently, the film makers gave out 150 mini-cams in 2003 and asked Iraqis to record whatever they felt and then pass the camera on to someone else. The cameras and their footage criss-crossed the Iraqi landscape and society, with the resulting film showing some actual balance in the result. One clips shows a young girl wishing Sadam was still in power, and then Iraqis laughing at the US's consternation over Ahbu Gharib. "If having a female soldier play with my penis is the worst you can do, then arrest me now." And so it is like that, some pro-American, some anti, but mostly people deploring the security situation. Worth watching if you can get a copy.

Letting the Troops have their say

While the vapid debate continues in Washington about the future of our involvement in Iraq, one independent reporter has actual done what the politicians never do - asked the troops themselves.

Check out the videos here:

Their comments echo what I have heard from all of my friends that have been downrange - the media is reporting only half the story, yes things are very bad, but at the same time there is still reason for hope. If we leave now, all those who have sacrificed for the future of Iraq will have done so to no effect.

I am not saying the we should be uncritical of our current policy, but the fact is that the administration has made many radical changes in leadership and in tactics on the ground - that the average politician, let alone the average American doesn't full understand the difference in our counterinsurgency doctrine is not surprising. It is a complicated subject that professional Soldiers study for years. While I am certain not an expert, I have invested a significant amount of study in the topic, and while I am not able to see if policy is being well executed on the ground, I can say the doctrine (the policy) is very different from what the Army had been doing in Iraq. We need to at least give this a chance to work.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Happy Anniversary?

Our Kurdish Arabic instructor brought in treats today to celebrate the anniversary (yesterday) of the Fall of Bagdad. He's been trying to convince us that most Iraqis like Americans and are in fact better off than they were under Saddam. He makes many good points, and he has been back to Iraq recently, and I have not, so I'll have to suspend judgement until I get some hands on experience.

The Kurds may be our only hope in the region - perhaps we should just break the country up and pour support into to Kurdistan (Turks be damned) while the Sunnis and Iranian backed Shias slug it out. No Western Army will be able to fight and win against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard that is likey building up and controling the Shia forces, because our publics won't support the kind of fighting and tactics the Sunnis will engage them with. Maybe we should just step out -- divide and rule has worked before, and may be much less costly (for us) than a straight-up victory.

Stuck in Limbo

We have finally gotten put on Federal status - but it was much more painful than anyone expected. We were all bused off to our mobilization station before we actually had the orders in hand. When we got there, we found out that there was an issue of some sort between our State and the Federal government that prevented us from proceeding with our processing. So instead we sat in the barracks all day and variously slept, played video games, walked to and from the PX – total waste of time. The guys tried their best not to get bitter about it, since this is just the beginning of the process and their will be plenty more opportunities to be bitter about more consequential things.