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3/22/2006
CARNIVAL OF THE CLUELESS #37: THE “WHAT WOULD AN ARMY OF DAVIDS DO?” EDITION

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Technorati informs us that there are maybe 28 million blogs out there. Think about that number for a moment. That’s 28 million people dreaming of being just like Kos, or Duncan Black, or even Oliver Willis although in Odub’s case, allowances should be made for the lunatic lobby and their agitation to be mainstreamed.

But above all others, if you’re a blogger you want to be like Glenn Reynolds. Even many lefties would kill for the traffic Reynold’s gets at Instapundit. Conservative bloggers have adopted Reynold’s snappy, punchy writing style as well as many of his ubiquitous euphemisms. Is there a blogger out there who hasn’t at one time or another used “Indeed” or the wildly understated “Heh” to make a pithy comment about some eye-brow raising bit of cluelessness?

For myself, I don’t necessarily want to be like Reynolds, I want the brand name of the coffee he drinks in the morning. He does more in an hour than most of us do in a day. His time management skills must be something back-engineered from that crashed alien spacecraft in Roswell. How else do you explain his not only holding down a full time job but also finding time to write several columns a week, read a book every couple of days, keep up with what’s going on in the world, blog up a storm, and still find time to devote to his family.

Maybe I should stop watching re-runs of Jeopardy on GSN.

The fact that he probably reads more books in a month than I do in a year and writes more in a week than many of us will do in a month bespeaks a discipline that is both admirable and scary. With that kind of efficiency, just think what he could have accomplished throughout history:

* If they had put him in charge of the War Production Board during World War II, we would have kicked Hitler and Tojo’s ass in 6 weeks.

* Rome actually would have been built in a day.

* The “Three Minute Egg” would be known as the “Two Minute Twenty Five Second” Egg.

You get the picture.

Now Mr. Reynolds has written a book about this sort of efficiency entitled An Army of Davids which either refers to the biblical story of David versus Goliath or some kind of nightmare that involves a host of clones resembling the mutli-talented star of Baywatch and Knight Rider cavorting naked in my bedroom. I’ll admit the latter possibility is intriguing but hardly germane to the idea of a world revolution in efficiency and problem solving.

With that revolution in mind it struck me that the practical applications for such an “army” were endless. Just think of how much cluelessness could be avoided, curtailed, or even defeated if Mr. Reynold’s mythical army were loosed upon the unsuspecting world of dolts, nincompoops, blockheads, imbeciles, and cluebats. The effects would probably be so beneficial, it is likely that all the fondest dreams of mankind - world peace, the elimination of poverty and hunger, a World Series Championship for the Cubs - could be realized.

Regular Carnival goers will remember my recent “What Would Jack Bauer Do” edition in which I commented on each bit of cluelessness by positing the ultimate question of what Mr. Bauer would have done if faced with a similar situation as that faced by the cluebat in question.

Because nothing succeeds like success (and because I’m running out of original ideas of what to do) I would like to take a similar tack with Mr. Reynolds fictitious army: What would an Army of Davids Do or WWAODD. Following each Carnival entry, I’ll try and answer that question as briefly as possible. Who knows, maybe we’ll come up with some real solutions to these problems. Maybe we’ll really change something. Maybe this mythical army will acquire flesh and bone and roll like a tidal wave across the landscape moving mountains, changing the course of mighty rivers (without harming the snail darter), rebuild cities, reform political parties, and even bring peace to the galaxy.

Okay, well maybe not bring peace to the galaxy. But you get the idea.

We’ve got 35 entries this week from some of the best, the funniest writers on the web. So grab a brew, kick back and be entertained. Click till it hurts!

“Everybody pulls for David, nobody roots for Goliath.”
(Wilt Chamberlain, 7′2″ NBA Hall of Famer)

“Hey Stilt! David probably didn’t play ‘hide the salami’ with 20,000 women”.
(Me)

*****************************************************************

Alexandra at All Things Beautiful joins the Carnival this week by asking the question: Why has the Bush administration, which has labeled Iran one of the world’s most dangerous regimes and has called the hostages American heroes, fought their efforts to win damages for their ordeal from the Islamic republic? Alexandra’s answer is a jaw-dropper.

WWAODD: Using collective wisdom, they would have prevented the election of Jimmy Carter in the first place and never allowed the dirty necked galoots who run the Iranian theocracy to take power.

Our favorite conservative streetwalker, Feisty Republican Whore takes us to Australia where some media types are shocked, just shocked I tell you that the words “Muslim” and “terrorists” appear in the same context 89% of the time.

WWAODD: A re-examination of the record by the AOD’s would find that the actual percentage is closer to 100%.

Giacomo (whose coverage of Hoop Fever has been fantastic) offers an explanation as to why the clueless reporters at ESPN writing about the World Baseball Championship can’t figure out why the Cuban ballplayers seem to be living in another era - like the 1940’s and 50’s.

WWAODD: The Army would find a way to smuggle plans into Cuba to build thousands of Apple II computers made from sugar cane stalks, tin cans, and spare parts from a 1957 Chevy Bel Airs which would help unite the Cuban people and assist them in overthrowing Castro.

The best Finnish-Canadian blogger out there from Sixteen Volts takes us back to his childhood and the Marxist children’s book The Little Red Book of Schoolchildren which offered some rather interesting suggestions as to how kids could overthrow capitalist governments.

WWAODD: Laugh.

Tom Rants has a rant about the cluelessness of World Net Daily, one of the most inaccurate sources for news on the web.

WWAODD: The AOD gave up trying to fact check the cluebats long ago.

XYBA has the mandible depresser of the day about a child rapist given no jail time who immediately after being released raped again.

WWAODD: Find a way to build a trap door leading to hell so that people like this could be dealt with in a proper manner.

Dan Melson has written a superior post about the myth of the media being a “superior class” in American society.

WWAODD: The AOD belled that cat long ago.

Fausta has a smorgasbord of cluelessness from a variety of sources for your enjoyment.

WWAODD: Smorgasbords being the most efficient and profitable way to serve a large number of people, the AOD would approve (and help themselves to the kippers).

Tom Bowler updates us on the “Joe Wilson Magical Mystery Tour” of Democratic fundraisers where the most famous man in America whose wife isn’t a covert operative for the CIA has been speaking.

WWAODD: The AOD has written a program for the web that automatically debunks Wilson’s charges. The file has been corrupted by overuse.

HERE’S YOUR WEEKLY DOSE OF CARNIVAL SATIRE FROM OUR RELATIVELY STABLE STABLE OF WEB SATIRISTS:

Conservathink has an obit that is kinda, sorta, well…let’s face it. It’s disgusting. Funny? You be the judge.

Buckley F. Williams gives us the lowdown on Katie Couric’s interview with the Muslim cluebat who drove his vehicle into a crowd of people at UNC.

Mr. Right treats us to a learned academic study showing that George Bush is indeed Adolph Hitler.

MAKE SURE YOU CHECK BACK NEXT WEEK FOR SOME OF THE FUNNIEST SATIRE ON THE WEB.

The Yaks are back! Random Yak gives us a collective “Yak of the Week” for a bunch of clueless executives who refuse to use to internet. Their reasons may surprise you.

WWAODD: Disguising the internet as a set of golf clubs, the AOD tricks the executives into becoming more comfortable with going on line.

The smartest kitty on the internet, Ferdy informs us that although the Constitution does not specifically prohibit anyone from being a chucklehead, there may in fact be a foreign precedent that SCOTUS could use to prohibit Congressional idiocy.

WWAODD: The Army would work tirelessly and with eventual success in getting Ferdy elected President.

Cao has the tangled web a blogger has woven trying to hide their identity and the thread of lies she/he put out to throw people off the trail.

WWAODD: One would definitely need an army to unravel the story of this prevaricating poseur.

Carnival Pin-Up Girl Pamela enlightens us about Darfur and the demonstration in support of people who are being slaughtered as we speak.

WWOADD: The army would find a way to bring these outrages to the attention of the entire world as well as light a fire under the UN, the US government, and other western nations to get off their butts and do something.

Beth rants against the left and their argument about Iraq (and any other conflict involving the US) being about oil.

WWAODD: The AOD will eventually develop alternatives to oil anyway which will cause lefty’s heads to explode all over the world when they no longer can use their favorite anti-capitalist, anti-American argument.

Jay at Stop the ACLU wants to stop the ACLU from destroying American sovereignty in this blood-pressure raising article.

WWAODD: An army of bloggers works to expose the perfidy of the so-called civil liberties organization. Oh wait…Jay’s already doing that.

A Different River tells us about a “performance artist” who believes “If it’s not offensive, it’s not art.”

WWAODD: Art being an individualistic endeavor, The Army would normally have scant interest in such obscenity. However, since this kind of outrageousness demands action, AOD would see to it that the cluebat’s “art” never saw the light of day.

Jack Cluth bitterly bemoans the fact that Serbian mass murderer Slobadan Milosevic escaped justice.

WWAODD: Develop a life-prolonging drug that would have kept the dictator alive long enough to receive his just desserts.

Don Surber has the latest evidence of global warming; yellow snow in Korea. No, it’s not what you’re thinking.

WWAODD: Find a way to turn snow blue so that it won’t look so icky.

Mark Coffey has the Nutroots Manifesto that is not only, well, nutty but dishonest and unintentionally funny to boot.

WWAODD: Send Kos, Armstrong, and the whole bunch copies of An Army of Davids and hope they don’t only use the book as a coaster for their kool-aid.

Fred Fry gives us another fascinating post on the Maritime industry (in which he’s worked for many years) and more fallout from the Dubai port deal…AND -

The Maryhunter has more on the backlash caused by the port deal.

WWAODD: The collective intelligence of The AOD would have prevented the brouhaha from occurring in the first place.

The lovely Mensa Barbie has some information on the clueless Belarus dictator who is acting like elections are a game.

WWAODD: What they’re doing right now; sitting in the cold and snow in the middle of Minsk demonstrating for democracy.

Stephen Littau gives us some Fearless Philosophy about the cluebats in Hollywood.

WWAODD: The AOD would recognize that Hollywood is on its last legs and that in the near future, independent films will overtake the over-fed, over-hyped gluttons who pass for film artists today.

Jon Swift has an excellent rant against the Democrats trying to make political hay out of Claude Allen’s troubles.

WWAODD: Try and get to the bottom of the strangest political story this year.

Those parsing pachyderms at Elephants in Academia point out a typical bit of cluelessness from CNN.

WWAODD: CNN is beyond the assistance of the AOD and is about to be replaced by them anyway.

Dean Swift celebrates National Meat-Out day by also celebrating “The National Eat More Yummy Animals Day.”

WWAODD: Although The Army rarely takes sides in such disputes, they would immediately recognize the cluelessness of PETA and other groups as well as the unconscionable interference in other people’s lives.

Stingray has the salty story linked by Drudge about the flying cows that left two police cars on fire in Texas.

WWAODD: AOD would have developed a cow catcher so that the police cars could have saved both the animals and their vehicles.

Lecentre has a tidbit about the Canadians debating the country’s military commitments in Afghanistan.

WWAODD: The AOD would agree with the sentiment in a poll published that showed people questioning why Canadian Members of Parliament were making $100,000 per year.

By: Rick Moran at 9:38 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (9)

3/21/2006
THE COUNCIL HAS SPOKEN: THE “DOUBLE YOUR PLEASURE” EDITION

Did I use that title once already? I got a curious sense of deja vu when typing it out just now (cue Twilight Zone music).

That is the hazard of falling behind in posting the winners to the Watchers Vote every week. In order to rectify that situation, here are the winners from the week of March 10:

Council Winners

First Place: Gates of Vienna for “The Bloody Borders Project.”

Second Place: “From Way up Here” by The Glittering Eye.

Third Place: AJ Strata at the Stratosphere for “Are we Closing in on Al Qaeda?”

Non Council Winners

First Place: “Ex Taliban at Yale: Another Changed Mind?” by Neo-neocon.

Second Place: Varifrank and “Just a Passing Thought.”

Third Place: The Intel Dump and “Shop and Awe.”

Fourth Place: “Really Stupid Remarks about Terrorism” from The Anchoress.

Week Ending March 17.

Council Winners

First Place: “King Solomon and the Roe Men” by Gates of Vienna.

Second Place: The Glittering Eye for “Why the Iranians aren’t Deterred.”

Non Council:

First Place: NHS Blog Doctor with “The Crippen Diaries (Week 11).”

Second Place: “Why George Bush will be Important for Decades” by Middlebrow.

In other Council news, a spot has opened up on the Council and if you’d like to try for it, follow instructions here.

As always, if you would like to participate in the weekly Watchers Vote, go here and do as the man says.

By: Rick Moran at 3:50 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

OF TURF BUILDING AND CARVING OUT KINGDOMS
CATEGORY: "24"

The turf war shaping up between the bureaucrats at CTU and the Department of Homeland Security in the show may seem petty and even a little bizarre, what with 19 cannisters of nerve gas about to be released on an unsuspecting public. But the fact that such maneuvering takes place even in real life illustrates just one of the reasons the intelligence services of the United States are so dysfunctional.

The 9/11 Commission found numerous examples of jealous bureaucrats at the FBI and the CIA guarding their turf not against terrorists but against each other. Even within those organizations, there was friction between counter-terrorism and law enforcement (here and overseas) as the CIA lost track of several of the 9/11 terrorists and then failed to put them on a domestic watch list. FBI agents in Minneapolis and Phoenix pleaded with their superiors on numerous occasions to take note of terrorists at flight schools. Instead of paying heed, Washington had the local offices of the FBI agents in question try and stifle the investigations by making life difficult for the agents.

This behavior can be explained only in the context of “channels” that careerists at the nation’s intelligence agencies are slaves to. Only by following procedure and not “rocking the boat” can one advance. This attitude punishes originality, faults thinking outside the box, and penalizes independent action.

This is not to say that most employees at our intelligence agencies aren’t dedicated, patriotic, hard working public servants, many of whom place their lives on the line for our country. What it indicates is a sick culture, a working atmosphere that rewards playing it safe and rarely punishes mistakes no matter how large.

Former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet may have been the most spectacularly unsuccessful DCIA in history, missing as he did 9/11, Saddam’s lack of WMD, downplaying Iraqi ties to al Qaeda (which we are now finding out were much more extensive than the CIA said they were), and underestimating the Iranian nuclear program. Instead of being fired, President Bush allowed him to retire and then gave him a Congressional Gold Medal.

Is it any wonder our intel services need an overhaul?

As for as the CTU-DHS war, one need only look at what Congressional investigators have pointed out was the mistake of folding FEMA into DHS and the subsequent problems with Katrina assistance. A case can be made that FEMA should never have assumed the role of disaster nanny in the first place. But the fact that states had come to rely on the agency as a first responder (even though that was never its mission) only points up the consequences of DHS turf building.

The DHS representative has let on that she doesn’t plan on taking over CTU completely until the crisis is over. That won’t stop her or her assistant Miles from probably making a hash of CTU’s efforts to stop the terrorists. Muscling in on someone else’s turf is a time honored tradition in bureaucracies - even when the stakes are so high.

SUMMARY

We discover that the woman in the hotel room who promised Bierko the schematics is one Collette Stenger, described as an “International Intelligence Broker.” I’d love to see her business card: “Serving the terrorist community since 1999…” After one last leer at her mystery lover, she leaves the hotel to meet Bierko after informing lover boy that she will be at the airport in 45 minutes.

At the ranch, Vice President Strangelove asks Jellyfish if he has any second thoughts about declaring martial law. He does, especially after Martha works him over one last time trying to get him to change his mind. Too late - Logan appears before the cameras and announces a “curfew” for Los Angeles starting immediately. The press sees through the fiction and even Fox News is calling it martial law. The negative reaction has Jellyfish outraged as his political foes are “debating” whether or not the action is legal. I wonder which party the writers are talking about when we have some politicians trying to score political points with the nation under attack? Duh.

Whether you believe martial law was necessary is not the point. Debate later. Even impeach later. For the immediate crisis, swallow your doubts and keep your yap shut, especially when you don’t have the information that the President does. Of course, we can see that martial law is a ploy by Strangelove but the bitching politicians don’t know that. Best for the country if everyone holds their fire until the crisis is over, then go ballistic if you want to.

At CTU, Grandma Hayes shows up with her sleazeball assistant Miles (who played the gay guy that Bruce Willis used and then murdered in The Jackal). Miles immediately endears himself to all of us when he casually orders Chloe to set up a workstation for him where Fat Geek Edgar used to sit. The look Chloe gave him would have melted the CTU mainframe.

Agent Pierce (who finally has a decent role after 5 years of faithful service both to the executive branch of government and Fox television) gets a call from Wayne Palmer who asks to meet the agent clandestinely. Wayne has obviously uncovered some more information from his dead brothers computer files and needs to tell someone. Why Pierce? Evidently the writers needed some way to get Aaron involved in the plot and this seemed as good as an excuse as any.

Jellyfish is getting antsy about the political fallout from his rather draconian security measures but Strangelove assures him that “I’m in control of the situation.” Mike’s ears prick up at that announcement although one wonders why he should be surprised. It’s becoming pretty clear that President Jellyfish will soon be supplanted by the Vice President either through some kind of trickery or maybe even assassination.

Collette shows up at Bierko’s terrorist hideout and shows that she has dealt with many a murderous thug in the past by handing over the schematics only after getting her money. It appeared that Bierko was torn about whether or not to kill her. The fact that the email confirmation showed that she received $10 million for the information made it bad business to off the dark haired beauty.

We discover that the plans are for a “distribution center” with the target a residential area. There is only one possible explanation: The terrorists are going to flood the gas lines with nerve gas. And as Sue pointed out to me, the fact that martial law has been declared means that everybody will be at home, thus raising the body count dramatically.

Could such an attack succeed in real life? I’d be interested if someone could figure out how many parts per million would get into a household from 18 cannisters of nerve gas and whether it would be enough to kill 200,000 people. Remember, not everyone has a gas appliance so you would have to figure that the nerve toxin would have to hit something like 75,000 homes.

Meanwhile, CTU is on the trail of Collette thanks to some geek magic by Chloe who hacked Henderson’s hard drive to find her name. Jack and Curtis take a TAC team to the hotel only to find Collette’s lover Tio who, although appearing to be Italian (and with an Italian sounding name), actually works for German intelligence. Tio refuses to help Jack having spent 6 months undercover bedding down the gorgeous intelligence broker in order to uncover her networks. The fact that it was a two month job evidently has not crossed the minds of Tio’s clueless superiors.

Jack tries to tell the love struck spy what’s at stake:

JACK: If we don’t find Bierko, hundreds of thousands of people will die here today. That is more important than your “pre-emptive” operation.

TIO: It is not a question of importance. It’s a question of different agendas. Your job is to save American lives. Mine, German lives. You’re asking me to betray my duty to my country. Ask yourself what you would do in my position.

JACK: You better start asking yourself what you would do in mine. (Leading him away) Let’s go.

TIO: I’m here with the permission of your government! You can’t touch me!

JACK: Riiiiiiight.

After telling Curtis to take a hike, Jack gets down to business telling the German agent that he will give the NSA’s “wet list” of terrorists around the world if he helps CTU get Collette. Tio eagerly agrees (perhaps hoping that he will be sent on another plum assignment where he gets to screw some terrorist babe). After a little tomfoolery, Chloe gets her keycard back from Miles and hacks the NSA database through a backdoor and downloads the wet list to Jack’s PDA. Tio, Jack, and Curtis head to the airport to meet Collette.

Back at the ranch, Wayne is stopped at a checkpoint and is cleared through only after Strangelove and his assistant give the okay. The fact that Wayne is later run off the road by men intent on killing him reveals that either Strangelove himself or his assistant is working for the traitors at the Department of Defense. Wayne barely survives and runs off into the night with his would be assassins in hot pursuit.

After getting caught red handed by Miles, Chloe informs Bill and Grandma Hayes that she gave Jack one of the most classified secrets of the American government. Why? “Because Jack wanted it.” Bill goes ballistic and poor Chloe for once is rendered speechless. Grandma gives the okay to continue the operation reluctantly and only because Collette has arrived at the airport. Once identified, the woman is expertly captured by the TAC team and like all terrorist small fry, knows the drill perfectly; she asks for immunity from Jack who, given any other context, would be considered soft on crime so many times he has granted immunity to terrorists.

Tio tries to download the wet list into the German intelligence files but instead, hears a strange voice coming from the device: “This card will self-destruct in 5 seconds. Good luck, fool.” Jack is nice enough to call Tio immediately after the meltdown and assure him that he will help “rebuild his investigation.” Who wouldn’t given the fringe benefits.

In exchange for immunity, Collette can offer only the name of her contact who sold her the schematics. The person works at the Department of Defense. And we discover that it is not a “he” but a “she.”

Were you surprised she blurted out the name Audrey Raines? I must confess that I was indeed shocked, the first real slam-bang jolt of the season. The obvious question would be is it, in fact, true? Can Audrey really be the traitor?

The idea that she could be bought is nonsense. But working with Vice President Gardener and the other traitors thinking that she was doing the right thing? Not impossible. Improbable, yes. But don’t worry, Jack will beat it out of her I’m sure.

BODY COUNT

The Grim Reaper took the night off.

UPDATE Long time House reader Hector informs me that Grandma Hayes mentioned that 56 CTU employees bit the dust in the nerve gas attack. Since I only used the figure 55 (given by Bill) we will add one more to the show’s blood total.

JACK: 15

SHOW: 143

SPECULATION

Is Gardener the main man in the conspiracy or is there someone behind him? Is Gardener involved at all? Could it be Gardener’s assistant acting as a mole and the Vice President just an innocent boob?

If Audrey is involved, might not her father also be a player? And if Audrey is not involved, why set her up? Are the traitors trying to throw Jack off the scent? Collette must realize that if she’s lying about Audrey, her immunity deal is kaput. If that’s the case, then even Collette has been misdirected for purposes unclear at this point.

Or, Audrey is a terrorist loving, traitorous bitch. Which is it fans?

UPDATE

First, make sure you stop by Blogs4Bauer and catch up on all the news, speculation, and funnies from last night’s show.

Then come back here and let ‘er rip in the comments about whether or not you think Audrey is really a traitor.

And what’s with Michelle Malkin? I’m surprised to see Michelle have time for anything outside of taking care of her family and writing so the fact that she has now confessed an obsession with Prison Break comes as something of a shock. But the real shocker is her taunting of Jack Bauer. Has she no clue of the consequences of dissing Jack? Those two losers from Prison Break would make a fine midday snack for Jack who, if Michelle is unaware, is an equal opportunity torturer, administering pain in equally large doses to women and men.

Standing up to moonbats is one thing. Standing up to Jack…?

She’s braver than I thought.

By: Rick Moran at 8:20 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (27)

3/20/2006
IRAQ: AS I SEE IT
CATEGORY: General

Can you stand one more “Where we stand” post on Iraq?

Your humble host almost decided not to do such a post for several reasons. After all, it is the height of hubris to believe that lil’ ole me would have anything original or insightful to say about matters of war and peace. And why should my opinion be more perceptive or matter more than the any other internet pundit?

I am a reasonably intelligent human being who spends 8-10 hours a day on the internet reading for the most part everything I can on the situation in Iraq. My sources are left, right, government, anti-government, Middle East media, American MSM, former government officials, Iraqi bloggers, and dozens of other sites who have proved themselves if not non-partisan then at least honest in their assessment of the situation.

I believe that anyone who says that Iraq is a lost cause is dead wrong. I also believe that anyone who says things are going reasonably well is also incorrect. The situation in Iraq today is balanced on a knife’s edge. There are some signs that are encouraging. Many more are not. In the end, there is little more the US military can do combat wise to materially affect the outcome. From here on out, it’s up to the Iraqis.

The problems with the Iraqi security services are daunting. Not only are most units not ready to take over without American back-up, but there are signs that both the NCO’s and officers are not taking to their responsibilities in such a way as to inspire confidence of either the Americans or the Iraqi soldiers serving under them. The good news is that this is slowly changing for the better as unit cohesion improves and officers gain experience in leading their men in the field. It is impossible to say at this point when these units will be able to stand on their own. The best guess of our military is 2 years.

As for the police, it is an entirely different story. There are disheartening signs that the militias have infiltrated the police and are acting independently of their local commanders, answering instead to either their militia leaders or directly to the Interior Ministry which is controlled by an ex leader of the Badr Brigade Bayan Jabr. There is some anecdotal evidence that these police units that are dominated by one of the many Shia militias are helping in the massacre of Sunni civilians. This could be misinformation being put out by al Qaeda propaganda cadres as was the case in the immediate aftermath of the bombing of the Shrine in Samarra. But such reports are troubling nonetheless.

The good news is that the situation is redeemable. The political factions have just brokered an agreement to create a National Security Council to oversee the army and police. It will be Shia dominated but - and there are going to be a lot of “buts” when talking about Iraq - the Sunnis, the Kurds, and the secular parties will, if they band together, be able to outvote the Shiites.

Something similar is going on in Parliament. One of the reasons for the delay in convening the legislative body is that the Shiite choice for Prime Minister, current interim Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari, is unacceptable to all the non-Shiite factions and have promised to vote him down if his name is put forward. This is extraordinarily encouraging in that it shows that on the big questions facing the legislature, the Sunnis, Kurds, and secularists are capable of acting together to outvote the Shiites.

The Shiites themselves are fractured with nationalists like Sistani at odds with fundamentalists allied with Iran like Muqtada al-Sadr. But as the violence continues (egged on partly by al-Sadr’s Mehdi militia) Sistani’s influence wanes. The Americans have rightly given Sistani a wide berth trying not to make it appear that he is “our man” as much as we would like him to succeed. But the clock is ticking on Sistani who is old and tired and he may be losing the respect of the very people who Iraq needs to find a way through to peace.

The insurgency is alive but has never been very organized which makes it that much harder to stamp out. Much of the violence directed against Americans comes at the hands of small cells of rebels acting with only the loosest connection to any unified whole. Tribal based rather than ideological or sectarian, there is a chance that the new government could negotiate to bring them into the political process. We probably won’t like the amnesty program that will allow the killers of American soldiers a free ride but it will be one of the costs of a peaceful, stable Iraq.

The militias are the real sticking point. As it stands now, it is still possible to disband them and integrate their members into the army and police with a minimum of friction. But the longer the militias are patrolling the streets, manning checkpoints, carrying out revenge killings, and working to make things worse rather than better, the less likely the country can avoid a bloody civil war. Only time will tell the story here. And no one is looking at their watch.

Of course, all this boils down to improving the security situation. Which won’t happen until the army improves. Which won’t happen until the political situation improves. Which won’t happen until the militias are reigned in. Which won’t happen until the security situation improves.

If it sounds like all depends on improving the safety of people in Baghdad and the Sunni Triangle, you’re correct. That has always been the key. And all the reconstruction and school building and hospital stocking and neighborhood outreach put together will be meaningless unless that one disheartening problem can be dramatically changed.

By: Rick Moran at 9:02 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (7)

WHAT HAPPENS IF A BLOGGER GAVE A CARNIVAL AND NOBODY CAME?
CATEGORY: General, Moonbats

As host of the Carnival of the Clueless, I can tell you that putting on a Carnival is hard work. You have to put out a call for submissions. Then you have to read all the entries, come up with something interesting to say about each of them, and finally physically place the links on the blog post. For my little Carnival (about 30 links), I usually spend 3-4 hours painstakingly going through the process. The reward is a few links, a few laughs, and some eye opening glimpses into how human beings can be so screwed up.

As most readers of blogs are aware, there are literally dozens of carnivals out there. But until now, there was no carnival for the radical-progressives among us.

That’s because this cheeky fellow has, in the best traditions of American capitalism, seen a need and filled it. The very first “Carnival of the Radical-Progressives” is off and running, to a rather auspicious beginning. Carnival lover Glen Reynolds linked to this blockbuster which means the guy will get thousands of readers anxious to sample words of wisdom and outrage from the far left.

I hope they’re not too disappointed that there is a grand total of two - that’s right - 2 entries in the inaugural Carnival of Radical-Progressives.

And one of them is from the guy hosting it.

Perhaps his problem is in the way he defines a “Radical-Progressive:”

Welcome to the first Radical Progressive Carnival, a place where people who self-define as feminist,anti-racist,queer,or who dedicate themselves to progressive politics in any manner and who hold a sincere and firm respect for humanity in all its forms.

Pretty tame for a radical. No bomb throwers? Whatever happened to good, old fashioned, socialists? Or commies? Christ almighty, my Aunt Mildred would qualify as a “radical progressive” with this fellow!

And as far as holding a “sincere respect for humanity in all its forms,” this would probably let me out because as far as I know, there is still only one form of human life - at least on this planet. Do the radical-progressives know something I don’t? No doubt their expanded consciousness allows them insights that even just plain old vanilla progressives are not privy to.

I suppose it is mean and cruel of me to make fun of someone who is obviously sincere in his beliefs (misguided though they may be) and who seeks to use the internet to spread radical progressive thought far and wide. But somehow, when the stars align so perfectly and all the universal tumblers click into place, galactic justice demands that it be noted and commented on that the very first “Carnival of the Radical Progressives” drew exactly one entrant.

Now maybe if he changed the name to “Progressive-Radicals”…

By: Rick Moran at 12:55 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (4)

BEYOND SCANDALOUS: MIND BOGGLING CORRUPTION IN THE RECONSTRUCTION OF IRAQ

Although this story comes to us via the far left British rag The Guardian, much of the information about what happened to $12 billion dollars in Iraqi reconstruction funds is a matter of public record gleaned from court cases, pending criminal trials, and other more reliable sources.

The short answer to what happened to $12 billion in Iraq is that it was stolen. And for the most part, the US government knows it and refuses to prosecute the thieves.

At the start of the Iraq war, around $23bn-worth of Iraqi money was placed in the trusteeship of the US-led coalition by the UN. The money, known as the Development Fund for Iraq and consisting of the proceeds of oil sales, frozen Iraqi bank accounts and seized Iraqi assets, was to be used in a “transparent manner”, specified the UN, for “purposes benefiting the people of Iraq”.

For the past few months we have been working on a Guardian Films investigation into what happened to that money. What we discovered was that a great deal of it has been wasted, stolen or frittered away. For the coalition, it has been a catastrophe of its own making. For the Iraqi people, it has been a tragedy. But it is also a financial and political scandal that runs right to the heart of the nightmare that is engulfing Iraq today.

[...]

Because the Iraqi banking system was in tatters, the funds were placed in an account with the Federal Reserve in New York. From there, most of the money was flown in cash to Baghdad. Over the first 14 months of the occupation, 363 tonnes of new $100 bills were shipped in - $12bn, in cash. And that is where it all began to go wrong.

“Iraq was awash in cash - in dollar bills. Piles and piles of money,” says Frank Willis, a former senior official with the governing Coalition Provisional Authority. “We played football with some of the bricks of $100 bills before delivery. It was a wild-west crazy atmosphere, the likes of which none of us had ever experienced.”

First of all, a good question to ask would be what nincompoop authorized the shipping of 363 tons of cash to a place where there was absolutely no chance of keeping track of it? With no banking system, it is laughable to think someone actually believed that corruption and thievery wouldn’t be rampant with so much cash lying around.

In fact, they probably knew and didn’t care:

The environment created by the coalition positively encouraged corruption. “American law was suspended, Iraqi law was suspended, and Iraq basically became a free fraud zone,” says Alan Grayson, a Florida-based attorney who represents whistleblowers now trying to expose the corruption. “In a free fire zone you can shoot at anybody you want. In a free fraud zone you can steal anything you like. And that was what they did.”

A good example was the the Iraqi currency exchange programme (Ice). An early priority was to devote enormous resources to replacing every single Iraqi dinar showing Saddam’s face with new ones that didn’t. The contract to help distribute the new currency was won by Custer Battles, a small American security company set up by Scott Custer and former Republican Congressional candidate Mike Battles. Under the terms of the contract, they would invoice the coalition for their costs and charge 25% on top as profit. But Custer Battles also set up fake companies to produce inflated invoices, which were then passed on to the Americans. They might have got away with it, had they not left a copy of an internal spreadsheet behind after a meeting with coalition officials.

Not only brazen crooks but stupid ones as well. Sounds like the cat burglar who dropped his wallet inside the house he was robbing.

The spreadsheet showed the company’s actual costs in one column and their invoiced costs in another; it revealed, in one instance, that it had charged $176,000 to build a helipad that actually cost $96,000. In fact, there was no end to Custer Battles’ ingenuity. For example, when the firm found abandoned Iraqi Airways fork-lifts sitting in Baghdad airport, it resprayed them and rented them to the coalition for thousands of dollars. In total, in return for $3m of actual expenditure, Custer Battles invoiced for $10m. Perhaps more remarkable is that the US government, once it knew about the scam, took no legal action to recover the money.

This is just one company. And it’s not the worst of it either:

But this is just one story among many. From one US controlled vault in a former Saddam palace, $750,000 was stolen. In another, a safe was left open. In one case, two American agents left Iraq without accounting for nearly $1.5m.

Perhaps most puzzling of all is what happened as the day approached for the handover of power (and the remaining funds) to the incoming Iraqi interim government. Instead of carefully conserving the Iraqi money for the new government, the Coalition Provisional Authority went on an extraordinary spending spree. Some $5bn was committed or spent in the last month alone, very little of it adequately accounted for.

One CPA official was given nearly $7m and told to spend it in seven days. “He told our auditors that he felt that there was more emphasis on the speed of spending the money than on the accountability for that money,” says Ginger Cruz, the deputy inspector general for Iraqi reconstruction.

Certainly some corruption was bound to occur with all that money being thrown around. But it is depressing to see the hogs and vultures in a feeding frenzy at a time when a small fraction of what was stolen or lost or wasted might have made a difference in the lives of ordinary Iraqis and given them something to hope for following the fall of Saddam.

Instead, they got more of the same kind of corruption and thievery that sapped their confidence in the Coalition Authority and its ability to make their lives better.

Read the entire article. Along with the usual Guardian anti-war blather, there are some other eye-opening examples of malfeasance that should cause your blood to boil.

By: Rick Moran at 9:52 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (22)

A WAR OF SHADOWS AND MYTHS

When it was first announced that the Administration had ended its inexplicable opposition to the release of the Saddam documents, I believed that they would be of more value to historians than contemporary chroniclers of the Iraq War. That’s because even if the nearly 2 million documents and hundreds of hours of tapes confirmed everything the President had said about Saddam prior to the war, it would be too little and too late to counter the numerous myths, falsehoods, and outright lies spread by George Bush’s political foes.

Judging by what has been discovered already, I may have to alter that belief.

Simply put, there is political dynamite contained in these documents. The Iraqi government made no effort to obfuscate or hide their intentions, their connections to al Qaeda, their obsession with WMD, nor their desire to attack America using terrorists trained in Iraq as well as their own intelligence operatives. Saddam was a threat to the peace and security of the United States. And he stands convicted out of his own mouth.

Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard has been in the forefront of the effort to get these documents released:

Up to this point, those materials have been kept from the American public. Now the proverbial dam has broken. On March 16, the U.S. government posted on the web 9 documents captured in Iraq, as well as 28 al Qaeda documents that had been released in February. Earlier last week, Foreign Affairs magazine published a lengthy article based on a review of 700 Iraqi documents by analysts with the Institute for Defense Analysis and the Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia. Plans for the release of many more documents have been announced. And if the contents of the recently released materials and other documents obtained by The Weekly Standard are any indication, the discussion of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq is about to get more interesting.

Indeed. In Hayes’ article on Saddam’s connections with the Philippine offshoot of al Qaeda (started by Osama Bin Laden’s brother in law) we discover that the Iraqis were one of the terrorist group’s sponsors. And while there is no evidence of “operational cooperation” there is plenty of evidence that Saddam was funding a group that targeted Americans for death in the Philippines.

Other documents reveal an Iraqi state immersed in plans for sabotage, assassination, and terror. Several different departments of the Iranian intelligence agency Mukhabarat were concerned with exporting violence outside of Iraq and maintaining ties with terrorist organizations.

And this is from just a few dozen documents. Ray Robison, a former member of the Iraq Survey Group, has some fascinating analysis of other documents including some shocking information about Iraqi anthrax stocks and some tantalizing hints about Saddam’s nuclear program. (Keep scrolling and follow the links).

Will this evidence that retroactively justifies the American toppling of Saddam Hussein matter to the American people in the long run?

Much depends on whether or not Republicans wish to make debunking Democratic myths about the Iraq War a campaign issue. If they do, the press would be forced to cover the unearthing of the documents if only to explain to the American people what all the fuss is about. They may put their own spin on what the documents say (even though many that have been released so far have been very straightforward and unambiguous in laying out Saddam’s connection to terrorists). But just getting the document’s existence before the public will raise questions about the “Bush lied, people died” theme that has been a large part of the myth making Democrats have deliberately used to undermine support for the war.

At bottom, the documents could alter a political dynamic that has been trending against Republicans even before the 2004 Presidential election. There has been great unease in America, a nagging feeling that even if the President didn’t lie about Iraq, the threat from Saddam may have been exaggerated. And the Administration’s efforts to connect the Iraq War to the general War on Terror has suffered as a result. If there is one question these documents may finally answer it is that going after Saddam was indeed the next logical step in fighting and winning the larger conflict with al Qaeda and radical Islam.

If the documents accomplish this, it will not be because of anything the Bush Administration has done to explain and justify its policies in Iraq and elsewhere. The President has had his political head handed to him time and time again because he has allowed the war’s naysayers to have an open field with which to run wild with accusations about why we went to war in Iraq. For a while, it appeared that the President believed that by keeping a low profile on Iraq, the American people wouldn’t think about it as much. The period immediately following the 2004 election until November of 2005, the President spoke of the War infrequently and with no coherent strategy to counter the myth making of his opponents. When he did start to fight back on Veterans Day, support for the war began to climb.

But today, with public disenchantment for his War policies at an all time high, the President once again appears ready to make a campaign style effort to bolster support for our efforts in Iraq. He and the Vice President will be making several high profile speeches throughout the next two weeks talking up the progress made and the work that still needs to be done. It’s not enough. It’s never been enough. What’s needed is an effort much more sustained and risky.

The President must first get over his reluctance to face the press. Yes, they are a pack of jackals. But one thing the President apparently doesn’t realize is that at these press conferences, he has the last word on every question. And if the press misbehaves (as they almost certainly will), the President underestimates the anger it arouses in ordinary people when they see the White House press corps being arrogant and disrespectful. Many people may not agree with Bush. But attacking the President on live television only serves to generate sympathy for him. (For you doubters out there, I suggest you look at Reagan and Clinton press conferences after Iran-Contra and Monicagate came to light when their support shot up after the press pack misbehaved badly).

The second and equally important thing the President can do is not run away from the War when campaigning for Republican candidates during the upcoming mid-term elections. It would be patently ridiculous to ignore an issue the President has staked his Presidency and his legacy on. And Republicans who think that by not mentioning the war or downplaying its significance they will come out ahead will look equally foolish.

In the coming months, the President will have a fresh opportunity to rally public support for the war. With the release of the Saddam documents, he has been given a new lease on life to frame the war on terms that are politically advantageous to him and Republicans. Whether or not that translates into electoral success is an open question. But it’s a better alternative than trying to sweep the war under the rug and not talk about why we overthrew Saddam Hussein and what we hope to accomplish with the liberation of Iraq.

UPDATE

Read Dean Esmay’s fantastic post on the cycle of deception we are in from the press and the Democrats. Dean also has some links about what people were saying prior to the war and what they’re saying now.

By: Rick Moran at 8:11 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (5)

3/19/2006
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: CARNIVAL OF THE CLUELESS

The lastest edition of the Carnival of the Clueless proved to be a resounding success. With 22 entries from both the left and right side of the Shadow Media, the Carnival proved that there’s plenty of cluelessness to go around.

Here’s what we’re looking for:

Each week, I’ll be calling for posts that highlight the total stupidity of a public figure or organization – either left or right – that demonstrates that special kind of cluelessness that only someone’s mother could defend…and maybe not even their mothers!

Everyone knows what I’m talking about. Whether it’s the latest from Bill Maher or the Reverend Dobson, it doesn’t matter. I will post ALL ENTRIES REGARDLESS OF WHETHER I AGREE WITH THE SENTIMENTS EXPRESSED OR NOT.

C’Mon everyone! Join in the fun!

Entries are due Monday evening by Midnight central time. You can enter two ways:

1. You can send me an email with a link to your post to elvenstar522-at-AOL-dot-com.
2. Or, you can take advantage of the easy to fill out carnival submission form at Conservative Cat.

Here’s the orginal post on the Carnival with a more detailed explanation.

By: Rick Moran at 9:50 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

TORTURE ISSUE WILL NOT GO AWAY

So the Abu Ghraib poster boy turns out to be a ringer. And the New York Times in its eagerness to bash the war and the Bush Administration falls for the guy’s carny act hook, line, and sinker and then tries to blame the Administration anyway for not warning them off the story. Of course, that kind of whining brings to mind the efforts of Scooter Libby and Karl Rove in trying to warn the Times and other news organs off the Joe Wilson fantasy. We know how that turned out, don’t we?

But in the end, after giving the New York Times its just helping of crow, what do we have? Is the Abu Ghraib incident and dozens others like it going to disappear into the sort of “non-history” that the left has become famous for? Are we going to pretend they didn’t happen?

The US Army has investigated more than 400 torture allegations. As of today, 24 US military men and women have been convicted of abusing their captives with investigations on going that could up that number considerably. We’re not talking about ACLU fantasies here. These are cases discovered by the military and being investigated by the FBI and military police.

Andrew Sullivan, over the top and hysterical as always, nevertheless makes some salient points:

To recap: we have a president who for the first time decrees that torture and abuse is legal in the U.S. military if “military necessity” allows it; we have White House memos saying that anything short of death and major organ failure cannot be categorized as “torture”; we have “cruel, inhuman and degrading conduct” at Gitmo, conduct that is subsequently declared within military guidelines; we have the head of, in John Podhoretz’s phrase, the “excesses at Gitmo” assigned to Abu Ghraib to “Gitmoize” it; we have an outbreak across every theater of war of brutal torture and abuse practices; and we have what is a clear directive from Washington to get better intelligence on the insurgency - and fast. We now have much clearer evidence of an elite, secret unit setting up what can only be called a torture camp, and no one in authority seems able to put an end to it.

A couple of things about that rant that should be corrected for the record:

* The memos Sullivan refers to were exploratory in nature and most of the recommendations - including the definition what constituted torture - were not adapted.

* The “cruel, inhuman and degrading conduct” at Gitmo occurred after the Commander who set up the successful interrogation program at the camp was transferred to Abu Ghraib. In fact, General Geoffrey Miller set up what many consider the most professional interrogation regime in American military history at Guantanamo. It employed “stress techniques” that are recognized around the world as legitimate means to acquire information from military prisoners.

As for the rest, the fact is that there have been 21 cases classified as “homicides” at American detention centers - most of which are still under investigation - as well as the hundreds of reports of routine beatings and other out of bounds actions by interrogators shows that a culture was created where guards and interrogators believed they had leeway to mistreat prisoners.

Sully hits the nail on the head when he lays the blame for the torture directly at the feet of the civilian leadership. Once the insurgency got rolling in Iraq, pressure was applied by the Pentagon to elicit more and more information from prisoners. And with a limited supply of professional interrogators - men and women highly trained to use the stress techniques of physical discomfort in conjunction with psychological pressures - local commanders were forced to rely on less qualified personnel with predictable results; Abu Ghraib and numerous other examples of brutal treatment.

With word that the same unit in charge of interrogations at Abu Ghraib was simply moved down the road and allowed to set up camp elsewhere where they continued to abuse prisoners, we have at the very least the prospect that high ranking members of the military not only approved interrogation techniques totally at odds with the standards set forth in our own military code but also in violation of the Geneva Convention - a standard that President Bush said we should follow in our treatment of prisoners.

I am not one to believe every allegation of mistreatment spouted by lawyers for detainees nor am I inclined to hold military interrogators to standards that we don’t even hold our own police departments to as the ACLU would have it.

But we have to face up to this mess: Torture is being carried out as a matter of military routine and it must stop. This can only happen when we start prosecuting up the chain of command and hold responsible commanders who either look the other way or actually give orders allowing physical brutality.

It may be satisfying to pile on the New York Times for their cluelessness and partisan stupidity. But pointing out the Times’ foibles will not make the issue of prisoner mistreatment go way nor will it redeem our military. Only the application of sensible guidelines on prisoner interrogation and the swift punishment of transgressors can do that.

By: Rick Moran at 8:53 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (4)

3/18/2006
A TALE OF TWO FATHERS
CATEGORY: War on Terror

Blood and treasure. Sons and daughters. And the truth.

This is the price we pay when making war. And as the third anniversary of our invasion of Iraq approaches, it is perhaps fitting and proper that we remember most of all that the cost is being borne disproportionally by those whose loved ones sacrifice all to serve their country.

It says something wicked about our society that usually, the only chance we get to meet their sons and daughters is by reading about their death in the obituaries. It is here we find out that they were loving brothers or sisters, or parents, or grandkids who loved life and were determined to live each day with a zest that some of us are envious. But if you read enough of these sad devotionals, one is struck by the overwhelming numbers who volunteered for the armed forces because they wished to “serve.”

This gives the lie to criticisms that most soldiers join the military because they can’t do anything else in civilian life, or for the educational benefits, or out of sheer boredom. While I’m sure there are some who join for those reasons, the idea that the United States military is a “mercenary army” is absurd. The all-volunteer force is perhaps the most astonishing success story in American history. Born out of necessity, nurtured through its infancy by a cadre of dedicated professionals who inculcated a sense of esprit de corps and a pride of mission into those who chose to serve, the volunteer military today is the most lethal fighting force in the history of human civilization largely because most of its members recognize a higher calling than the rest of us.

It does little good to place a technologically sophisticated piece of equipment into the hands of someone with no motivation to use it as part of an integrated whole. And that motivation comes from a desire to step outside of oneself, one’s own little corner of the world, and serve a purpose larger than the personal. For so many to do so leaves me grateful and not a little awestruck.

But the toll of this war is paid not just in the blood of the fallen nor in the psychological stress and terror borne by their surviving comrades, but also in the emotional carnage endured by the parents, spouses, and children who are either left behind to grieve their loss or who wait and wonder about their ultimate fate in the war zone. It is here that purgatory on earth can turn to either the heavenly blessings of a safe return or the hellish nightmare of the knock at the door, the chaplain, and the knowledge before a word is said that a world of pain has descended and life will never be the same.

H. Barry Holt and Joe Johnson have never met and do not know each other. What they have in common is that they are the fathers of soldiers. Both served in Iraq. One is dead. One is now home. But the stories of both fathers speak to us through the pain and anguish of separation.

Joe’s son Justin had been in Iraq a month when the dreaded knock on the door shattered their Easter Sunday 2 years ago with the news of sudden death. Joe was not there to comfort his family. He was at Fort Lewis in Washington trying to qualify to serve in a National Guard unit that was headed for Iraq. For you see, Joe too wanted to serve. And he wanted to be close to his son.

With the death of Justin, Joe concentrated on being with his family. But then a year ago, he changed his mind:

But last April 11, a year and a day after his son was killed, Johnson told his Iraq-bound Georgia National Guard unit, the 48th Infantry Brigade, he was ready to join them. They ended up at this dustblown base in Iraq’s far west, pulling escort duty for fuel convoys on the bomb-pocked desert highways from Jordan.

Why did he do it? The wiry lean Georgian, an easy-talking man with a boyish, sunburned face, tried to answer the question that won’t go away.

“It’s a lot of things combined,” he said. “One, a sense of duty. I was pissed off at the terrorists for 9/11 and other atrocities. Second, I’d only trained. I wanted combat.” And then, he said, “there’s some revenge involved. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t.”

Mr. Johnson’s passion for duty and revenge places him in a unique position - that of a participant and victim. One may wish to judge Mr. Johnson harshly for his feelings about Muslims of which he says he “has no love” for. But walk a mile in his shoes before answering whether or not you think him not worthy of your understanding and even admiration:

Somewhere along the way, however, the righteous passion cooled, as the over-aged corporal, like tens of thousands of other American soldiers here, faced the reality of Iraq.

Was it last Christmas morning, when roadside bombs rocked his convoy one after another, and Johnson thought he was next? Or was it when speeding civilian cars passed the Americans’ Humvees and Johnson failed to level his gun and open fire, which “I think anyone else,” fearing car bombs, “would have done.”

“I really don’t want to kill innocent people,” he now says. “I don’t want to live with that the rest of my life.”

For Mr. Holt, there was only feelings of helplessness and anxiety as he saw his boy off the war:

Although his first deployment to Iraq may have been inevitable, my wife and I were terrified when he received his orders, less than a year after he had enlisted as an uncertain and directionless 18-year-old and less than six months after basic training. Uncertain information from the Army meant we couldn’t be there to see him board the plane to war. But we managed to be there the week before, full of parental stoicism and quiet terror demonstrated through hugs and tears.

I generally accepted the reasons we went to war and worried about terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. Like many Americans, I believed that America had a moral duty to protect the oppressed of Iraq. But with my son in that war, my interest became much more parochial. Policy meant less than facts.

It should not surprise us that Mr. Holt’s focus regarding the war’s justification narrowed considerably once his precious creation shouldered arms and went into harm’s way. What is remarkable to me is the way he approached his pain and anxiety at being separated from his son:

I filled time between infrequent e-mails scouring the Internet for local newspapers showing pictures of his unit’s equipment being shrink-wrapped and loaded on transport ships. Think-tank Web sites gave information about bases in western Iraq, where he was headed. I devoured bits of information he gave me through e-mail and telephone calls, and slowly his story unfolded. I shuddered when he described his terrifying 36-hour convoy race from Kuwait to Anbar province. His girlfriend told us (he tried to protect us from such news) about the attack on his convoy and his using his newly minted “expert” qualification on the SAW light machine gun to kill an attacking Iraqi soldier.

I anguished over his descriptions of random mortar attacks on his base, and I chastised him for volunteering for “shotgun” duty on missions conducted by the combat unit he supported. But hearing nothing for long periods was so much worse. I had persistent nightmares about improvised explosive devices, mortar rounds, snipers and accidents, knowing nothing but fearing the worst. Every report of an attack triggered frantic efforts to unearth the latest news, each time followed by guilty relief that my son was not hurt and by shame that I was relieved that someone else had died. But I cried every time I saw lists of casualties as I scoured the names for soldiers and Marines from his home base or our hometown. Now they were my children, too.

It is perhaps most admirable that Mr. Holt could have room in his anxious, troubled heart to feel for the parents of those not coming back from Iraq. It speaks of a largeness of spirit that seems to be shared by so many parents, and wives, and husbands, and brothers and sisters of those who march to sound of the guns in the name of service. It is something that those of us who do not have a loved one serving seem to forget whether we support the war or oppose it; after all the talk, all the debate about policy and timetables and force structure and “cut and run” and “chickenhawks” there is the father, and the son, and the fear of separation and loss.

For Joe Johnson, his trial is almost complete. And while his service may have fulfilled some atavistic need in his soul, it is clear that he has come to terms with his loss:

“She’s ready for me to come home,” Joe Johnson concludes.

He will. His battalion exits Iraq in early May, when Johnson’s own enlistment term, coincidentally, expires. “That’s it,” he said, no re-enlistment for him.

But what about revenge?

“If I go home and didn’t kill a terrorist, it’s not going to ruin my life,” he said. “Maybe I’d just as soon not. I don’t know what it would do to my head.”

Once back home among the northwest Georgia pines, he has one last ceremonial act in mind, removing the silver-toned bracelet he’s worn on his right wrist throughout his deployment, bearing Justin’s name and date of death. Joe Johnson’s mission will have been accomplished.

For Mr. Holt, anxiety is his constant companion as he awaits word on whether or not his son will be redeployed to the war zone:

My view of the war hasn’t changed. I am concerned about mistakes made and whether it will be worth all the bloodshed. I wonder how long the troops will remain — will my son have to go back? Even though our thoughts are full of visits with son, daughter-in-law and grandson, in the back of my mind the worry persists. Rumors are that his unit will return to Iraq next fall. Will he survive?

Anxiety resurrects itself each time I see casualty lists, and I still cry over each soldier’s death. I am one with all the parents who lie sleepless every night worrying over their soldier children. Their children are still my children, and that feeling will never end. We are U.S Army and Marine parents, proud of all our sons and daughters who protect this country. But they have seen far too much for people so young, and I don’t want any of them to die.

My son is home and alive. He has done his duty and I don’t want him to go back.

Two men. Two fathers. Two sons. One dead, one alive. And yet they seem connected to something larger than the sum of who they are and what they have sacrificed. It is the special love a father has for his son. Beside that, all the issues of the war and the role of the United States in the world pale in comparison.

Love enduring, never faltering, from now till the end of our time here on earth is what makes life worth living. It is a love a father can understand whether his son is alive or dead. It is a love born of service to something higher than life itself.

And that may be something worth fighting for.

By: Rick Moran at 8:50 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (12)