Thursday, August 21, 2008

U.S. announces agreement with Iraq featuring troop withdraws

According to an AP report posted on the St. Petersburg Times Web site, the U.S. and Iraq announced that they have reached a security agreement and U.S. combat troops will move out of Iraqi cities by next June.

The Times of London reported last week that the agreement was imminent, and I commented on the ramifications at that time.

The mainstream media, exemplified by the AP story, continues to portray the agreement as a huge reversal by President Bush.

The negotiations over a withdrawal timetable follow long insistence by President Bush that setting any schedule for U.S. troops to leave would be dangerous. The draft agreement with Iraq would link troop reductions to achievement of certain security milestones, although the details have not been made public.

At the time Bush was insisting that he would not accept a timetable for withdraw, the situation was not stable. Prior to the surge, the Democrats continually called for an immediate troop withdraw and Bush insisted he would not pull troops out until the situation warranted a withdraw.

But as this blog has documented, the security situation has improved drastically over the last six months. The Iraqi army and police have successfully taken over more and more of their own security.

What the AP and other mainstream media fail to understand, or simply refuse to report, is that the situation in Iraq has evolved to the point that a U.S. withdraw is possible and prudent.

The fact that security milestones will also dictate the pace and implementation of the U.S. withdraw makes this agreement vastly different than the "pull out now" proposals by the Democrats that Bush opposed.

This agreement represents a major milestone in the war. It reflects the success of the surge and the overall U.S. strategy in Iraq. It represents a major victory for Bush and more importantly, for the United States.

Condoleezza Rice's comments indicate she understands the true significance of the agreement.

"We're not sitting here talking about an agreement to try to get out of a bad situation," Rice said, asserting that the draft "builds on the success we have had in the last year. This agreement is based on success."

But instead of focusing on U.S. success, the mainstream media insists on sticking to its bash Bush political template. They would rather paint Bush as a loser, forced to back down from his "uncompromising" position than report what this agreement truly represents - a win for the good guys.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Kurdish forces return home

Iraqi army forces took over security responsibilities in the Qurat Teba district in Khaneqeen district in Diala Iraq, after the 34th force battalion of the Peshmerga forces returned to Kurdistan, according to a report in Aswat Aliraq, an independent Iraqi news agency.

The withdraw was part of an agreement between Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and a delegation from the Kurdistan’s government in Baghdad, according to an Iraqi security source.

The Diala Province extends northeast from Baghdad to the Iranian border.

The Iraqi army recently launched a large scale campaign in Diala called Bashaer al-Kheir in attempt to hunt down members of Al-Qaeda trying to establish a stronghold in the area since forces drove them out of western Iraq.

Kurds use the term Peshmerga to describe armed Kurdish fighters. The word literally means those, "who face death."

Iraqi Kurdistan stands as the only Kurdish area recognized internationally as an independent federal area.

Saddam Hussein was particularly brutal towards the Kurds in northern Iraq. Hussein launched an attack against the Kurds utilizing poison gas in March, 1988.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

U.S. military continues to meet or exceed recruiting goals

All branches of the U.S. military met or exceeded recruiting goals last month, according to the July recruiting and retention numbers released by the Department of Defense earlier this week.

The Marine Corps led the way, signing up 4,783 recruits, 117 percent of their 4,094 goal.

The Army reported 10,141 new soldier recruits, 141 over their July goal.

All six reserve components exceeded their recruiting goals as well.

The DoD report also says that Army, Navy and Marine Corps met or exceeded their cumulative retention goals for fiscal 2008 through July.

The recruiting success continues despite higher expectations for 2008. All branches increased their recruiting goals this year.

The Army signed up 9,972 new soldiers in July 2007, which was 222 over last year's goal of 9,750.

Young men and women continue to sign up for military service despite knowing they will likely face combat. While American's sign up for a myriad of reasons, the success of military recruiters indicates that despite relentless reporting from the media about the unpopularity of the war, many young American's view serving their country as worthwhile.

We should commend each young man and woman who signs up to defend the freedom's we all enjoy.


clipped from www.defenselink.mil
July 2008

Accessions

Goal

Percent


10,141

10,000

101

Navy

4,200

4,200

100

Marine Corps

4,783

4,094

117

Air Force

2,555

2,541

101


blog it

Friday, August 15, 2008

Troops supporting Obama with their wallets?

An entry on the St. Petersburg Times military blog touted as breaking news on the Times' homepage reports that troops deployed overseas have contributed six times more money to Sen. Barak Obama's presidential campaign than to Sen. John McCain's.

The story appears designed to imply that military service members do not support their own mission and have thrown their support behind Obama, who has opposed U.S. involvement in Iraq from the beginning.

But the blog entry omits some important information.

A chart on the OpenSecrets Web site shows the total number of donations to each candidate.
There were 135 donations for Obama and 26 for McCain. With over 170,000 military personnel deployed in Iraq alone, the total percentage donating to Obama stands at a wopping .00008 percent.

That doesn't even take into account the fact that the donations represent all troops deployed over seas, which include personnel stationed in non-war zones.

Statisticians call small numbers like that insignificant.

The real story here is that over 99 percent of all military personnel deployed overseas have made no campaign contributions to a presidential candidate.

Of course, that doesn't make for a very interesting story - and doesn't make a political point.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Aid to Georgia continues

Pentagon officials said the humanitarian aid to Georgia will move into longer range help in the future at a news conference today.

A second C-17 Globemaster III transport plane flew into the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. More flights will follow, but none are scheduled just yet, according to the Pentagon.

The Bush administration's decision to send military aircraft with medical supplies and other aid into Georgia also sends a subtle message to the Russians. Flying in aid allows the U.S. military to project force in the region without appearing provocative.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates also had strong words for the Russian's, saying they took advantage of an opportunity to send a message to other former Soviet republics.

He said the Russian military action was directed against Georgia, but Kremlin leaders wanted nations in all parts of the former Soviet Union to understand the dangers of integrating with the West.

“I think that they had an opportunity to make some very broad points [to these nations] and, I think, [the Russians] seized that opportunity,” Gates said.

Gates holds a doctorate in Russian and Soviet history from Georgetown University.

Georgia, a small nation of about 5 million people has strong ties to the west and has also supported the U.S. in the war on terror. Until recently, Georgia had troops in Iraq. They were recalled when hostilities broke out with the Russians.

London paper says U.S. combat troops to withdraw from Iraq within three years

The Times of London reported today that the U.S. military will pull out of Iraq within the next three years under a draft agreement between the two countries, provided the violence levels remain low.

The Times cites Hoshyar Zebari, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, as saying the U.S. will pull out of Iraqi cities next summer, and that U.S. troops would no longer have the authority to unilaterally mount attacks within the country beginning next year.

The Pentagon declined to comment, according to the report.

“Our negotiators and the Americans have almost brought it [the accord] to a close. It is not a closed deal but it is very close," Zebari said in an interview with the British paper.

The agreement would next need approval from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, President Jalal Talabani and other Iraqi leaders, which could occur this month. The Iraqi parliament would then need to give its approval. The body will reconvene in September.

The Times story goes on to say:

The “time horizon” for the exit of US troops would depend upon the ability of the Iraqi police and army to maintain security gains in Iraq after a surge of US forces in 2007 helped to push violence to its lowest levels in 4½ years.

Therein lies the difference between the Bush administration plan and the withdraw plans forwarded by Democrats and liberals over the last two years. The plan recognizes the fluidity of the situation and the need to evaluate conditions on the ground.

Nobody imagined the possibility of troop pullouts a year ago. These negotiations highlight the success of the surge strategy and vindicate Pres. Bush's determination to stand up in the face of political pressure.

In an ironic twist, the liberals may soon get exactly what they wanted, but instead of pulling out of a "hopeless situation", the U.S. will leave Iraq relatively stable, and will have shown Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists that America does possess the will and determination to see things through to victory.

If things continue to progress, the U.S. will leave a winner, not a disgraced failure, and Al Qaeda will come out the loser in place they chose to make the focal point of their strategy.

Many will view this as a political defeat for the left, and while I can't help but have a tad bit of glee about that, the real victory belongs to the Iraqi people and the men and women of the armed forces who persevered when things looked bleak and never waivered in their commitment to the mission.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

300 new police officers in Afghanistan

More than 300 new Afghan Uniformed Police officers from Farah and Helmand provinces will soon begin service in Afghanistan after completing an eight week training program led by members of Task Force 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.

The rigorous training program conforms to international and U.S. State Department standards and emphasizes counter-terrorism operations, according to a Marine report.

A Marine spokesman said the training is helping to build AUP capabilities, transform the police loyalties, establish the "Rule of Law," develop a "prosecutor-driven justice system," strengthen AUP linkages to higher headquarters, improve Afghanistan Interior Ministry capabilities, and enable GIRoA and MoI to more effectively serve the people of Afghanistan.

The U.S. has had success with similar programs in Iraq, where local police have taken on increasing security responsibilities.

Information likely extracted by waterboarding leads to Al Qaeda operative's capture

Check out Bryan's post at Sublime Bloviations.

He makes an excellent point about waterboarding "torture".

U.S. military sends humanitarian aid to Georgia

U.S. military transport aircraft began ferrying humanitarian aid into war torn Georgia today.

A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft flew into the city of Tbilisi carrying medical supplies, shelters, bedding and other supplies, according to the Department of Defense.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said other flights will follow as the U.S. assesses the needs in Georgia and what type of assistance they can provide.

“That will be the first flight in; there are plans for another flight tomorrow as we continue to assess the wide range of humanitarian assistance options that we might be able to provide both in the immediate and long-term humanitarian capabilities," he said in a DoD press release.

A twelve person military assessment team will arrive in Georgia within the next few days and serve as a liaison between
the U.S. Embassy in Georgia, the Georgian government, and U.S. European Command and other U.S. agencies.

Whitman said the aid shows the commitment to Georgia by the U.S.

“We’ve had a strong relationship with Georgia for many years now,” he said.

Georgia provided troops to the coalition forces in Iraq and have been a strong supporter of the war on terrorism.

Russia sent troops into Georgia earlier this week when Georgia sent their own forces into the breakaway province of
South Ossetia. The Russians claim they sent troops to protect Russian citizens in the province.



Monday, August 11, 2008

Iraqi refugees return home

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's presidential aircraft landed in Baghdad today, carrying the first group of Iraqi refugees returning home from Egypt, according to a report in Aswat Aliraq, an independent Iraqi news agency.

"This flight will be followed by other weekly flights with the aim of facilitating the process for displaced Iraqis to return to their land," Maj. General Qassem Atta said.

Maliki issued an order earlier this month giving occupants of homes owned by refugees one month to vacate them.

About 4.4 million refugees fled their homes after the U.S. led invasion, according to the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees, with around 2.2 million fleeing to neighboring countries, primarily Jordan, Syria and Egypt.

The return of Iraqi's home further illustrates the improving situation in Iraq and the steady march toward normalcy.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Liberal arrogance

The Lexington Herald-Leader reported that Rep. Ben Chandler D-Ky. called for immediate troop withdraws from Iraq after a weekend trip.

Chandler said the pullout should begin right away to force the Iraqi government to stand on its own, according to the story.

"I think we need to leave them with as stable a situation as we can but we need to lift off from the country as soon as possible," the Democratic congressman told the Lexington Herald-Leader in an interview. "I think it's time to start withdrawing," he said.

Leaving immediately will certainly not leave Iraq in a stable situation.

The Iraqi government has made great strides over the last year and have shown themselves increasingly able to take over their own security. But they have not reached the point where they can handle it on their own.

A parent does not expect a child to swim until they have developed the ability to do so. Would any parent throw their child into the pool to force them to swim? Would any parent risk their child's life in such a reckless manner?

As Bush and other leaders have repeatedly said, the U.S. cannot and should not pull out the troops until the situation on the ground warrants a reduction in forces.

Chandler exhibits an arrogance typical of many politicians. He spent less than 24 hours in Iraq. Now wants to use this experience to establish credibility in order to bolster the same wrongheaded policy that the left has advocated for over a year, as if his whirlwind trip makes him better able to determine military strategy than the generals who have spent the last several years fighting the war.

Ironically, if conditions in Iraq continue to improve, the "pull out now" strategy will soon become the right strategy, and I'm sure the liberals will claim they were right it all along.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Why do they attack us?

Michael Medved wrote an interesting column outlining the history of the Barbary Wars, the first foreign conflict involving the United States.

Rulers from the Barbary states in Africa (Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli—today’s Libya) relied on piracy as a way to enrich themselves. European nations paid local leaders in these countries "tributes" to protect their shipping interests. Until America's independence, British money protected American shipping, but afterward, several U.S. vessels were attacked, their crews enslaved.

President Jefferson sent ships from the navy across that Atlantic to deal with the pirates.

Medved draws a number of excellent parallels between the Barbary Wars and todays war on terror. Most notably, the fact that the pirates justified their actions based on their interpretation of their Islamic faith.

Medved writes:

Islamic enmity toward the US is rooted in the Muslim religion, not recent American policy. In 1786, America’s Ambassador to France, Thomas Jefferson, joined our Ambassador in London, John Adams, to negotiate with the Ambassador from Tripoli, Sidi Haji Abdrahaman. The Americans asked their counterpart why the North African nations made war against the United States, a power “who had done them no injury", and according the report filed by Jefferson and Adams the Tripolitan diplomat replied: “It was written in their Koran, that all nations which had not acknowledged the Prophet were sinners, whom it was the right and duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave; and that every mussulman who was slain in this warfare was sure to go to paradise.”

The rest of the column notes other similarities between that conflict and todays battle against Islamic extremists.

It's well worth a read.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Bush praises military and families

President Bush praised the military and their families yesterday during a visit to Eielson Air Base in Alaska, calling the U.S. military the finest in the world.

Bush thanked the families of U.S. servicemen and women and credited them with helping to make the U.S. military the best.

"I can't thank you enough for all the sacrifices you have given. There is no question we have the finest military in the world, and one reason why is because we've got the finest military families in the world. These have been tough times on our families and I want to thank you for staying in the fight," he said.

Bush also extended thanks to the soldiers of Fort Wainwright, commenting on their toughness for training in temperatures of 50 below and fighting in 120 above.

A Stryker Brigade from Wainwright will soon deploy to Iraq.

Bush praised their sacrifice while placing their efforts within the greater context of the war on terror.

"Deployments are difficult, but they are necessary," he said. "We are a nation at war. Oh, some in America say, this is a simple law enforcement matter -- dealing with these extremists who would do us harm is law enforcement. Well, if it's a law enforcement matter, that means you react after the crime. I think it's important, and I know most of you here think it's important, to stop the crime from happening in the first place."

Bush said the Stryker Brigade heading into Iraq faces a situation much different than the previous Stryker Brigade, due to the successes over the last year.

"About a year ago people thought Iraq was lost and hopeless. People were saying, let's get out of there; it doesn't matter to our national security. Iraq has changed -- a lot -- thanks to the bravery of people in this hangar and the bravery of troops all across our country. The terrorists on the run. The terrorists will be denied a safe haven, and freedom is on the march. And as a result, our children are more likely to grow up in a peaceful world. And I thank you for your service and I thank you for your sacrifice," he said.

Bush said freedom flows from the Almighty and urged American's to remember the power of liberty.

"It is important for the United States of America never to forget the transformative power of liberty. I believe there's an Almighty, and I believe a gift of that Almighty to every man, woman, and child on the face of the Earth is freedom. And I know free societies yield the peace we all want. It's in our national interest to keep the pressure on the terrorists, to give them no safe haven, no place to hide, to keep them on the run."

Task Force 49 Stryker Brigade from Fort Wainwright was one of the first units to spend 15 months in Iraq.

Bush announced Sunday that Army will reduce the length of deployments to 12 months.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Army shortens tours in Iraq

The Army will return to 12 month deployments in Iraq beginning today.

The DoD said the continued decrease in violence in Iraq drove the decision to shorten the tours from 15 months to 12.

President Bush announced the change yesterday, noting that July marked the third straight month of decreased violence.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the shortened tours will have a positive impact on both the mission and the soldier's families.

“It’s a significant step, because 15-month deployments took an extraordinary toll,” Mullen said. “So to bring that back to 12 months for every active duty Army unit, I think, is a huge step in the right direction.”

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A must read

Frank Turek wrote an excellent column outlining Sen. Barak Obama's lack of experience in foreign policy and his consistently wrongheaded positions on the war in Iraq.

Turek Wrote:

How can a serious candidate for President of the United States have a long-standing goal to end the war rather than win it? Great presidents don’t end wars—they win them. The only way the American military can be defeated is when American leaders forfeit the fight for them. And that’s exactly what Obama has wanted to do for years.

By forfeiting this war we will embolden Islamic radicals who will be free to turn Iraq into a new oil-rich haven where they will finance and launch a fresh round of terror attacks. We are fighting a suicidal enemy who will stop at nothing to end your freedom and mine. They will not be reasoned with, placated or appeased. They can only be defeated.

Obama seems oblivious to these facts. He has long been more concerned with placating head-in-the-sand liberals than defeating our enemy and protecting our freedom. Government’s most fundamental duty is to protect its citizens from harm, and Obama fails to meet the most basic requirement for the job.


Well said! Great presidents don't end wars, they win them.

Bush has remained committed to winning and thanks to his steadfastness, progress continues.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Iraqi interior minister visits troops

Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad al-Bulani visited wounded U.S. soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center today, thanking the troops for their sacrifice on behalf of his country.

Through and interpreter, Bulani expressed his "gratitude and appreciation for the sacrifices made by these great warrior-soldiers, in the freeing of the Iraqi people and in helping us in Iraq to recover from tyranny and dictatorship,” according to a DoD report.

Bulani also thanked the families of U.S. service member's for their sacrifice on behalf of his country.

When asked about a time frame for withdraw of U.S. troops, Bulani said that would depend on all kinds of considerations that could come into play.

Bulani seems to understand what so many U.S. politicians and citizens fail to grasp. Circumstances on the ground must dictate the withdraw of troops, not timetables based on wishful thinking or political expedience.

279 new Iraqi police officers

On Tuesday, 279 new Iraqi police officers graduated from a 45 day training program in Wassit, a province in eastern Iraq, according to Aswat al-Iraq, an independent Iraqi news source.

Othman al-Rubaei, a media source for the Wassit Police Department, said the officers graduated from the border forces training center in Kut.

“The new cops received during 45 days of theoretical lessons on ways to use different weapons, drills on security raids, investigations, dealings with suspects and human rights,” he said.

The new officers represent the continued efforts of the Iraqi government in taking on more security responsibility in the country.

A profundity

"How many in the media have expressed half as much outrage about the beheading of innocent people by terrorists in Iraq as they have about the captured terrorists held at Guantanamo not being treated as nicely as they think they should be?"
-Thomas Sowell

I can't add a thing.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

U.S. winning war in Iraq!!!

The Lexington Herald-Leader said so on their front page this morning.

The story was actually written by AP writers Robert Burns and Robert H. Reid.

Nice of the main stream media to catch up.

Burns and Reid still couldn't help getting a dig in at Pres. Bush when they wrote:


That does not mean that the war has ended or that U.S. troops have no role in Iraq. It means the combat phase finally is ending, years past the time when President Bush optimistically declared it had.

While Bush did announce and end to "major combat operations" in 2003 speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln, he did not say the battle was over. He explained that the offensive phase had ended (which it had), and a new phase, that of securing the country and establishing democracy, was only beginning.

In the years since the press has never given the military credit for what they accomplished in the spring of 2003. They crushed the 4th largest military in the world in a matter of weeks.

Bush was recognizing that accomplishment on the USS Abraham Lincoln.

Unfortunately, the images of the banner proclaiming "Mission Accomplished", which was actually directed toward the ships crew who were heading back to port, has haunted the administration.

Still, nobody recognized at the time the difficulty and bloodshed that was still to come. I think both the military and politicians underestimate the work ahead. Uncertainty and fluidity come with warfare.

But on the other hand, Bush never claimed an easy path to ultimate victory. In fact, part of his speech proved somewhat prophetic.

"We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We are bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous. We are pursuing and finding leaders of the old regime, who will be held to account for their crimes. We have begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons, and already know of hundreds of sites that will be investigated. We are helping to rebuild Iraq, where the dictator built palaces for himself, instead of hospitals and schools. And we will stand with the new leaders of Iraq as they establish a government of, by, and for the Iraqi people. The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort. Our coalition will stay until our work is done. And then we will leave — and we will leave behind a free Iraq," he said. (emphasis mine)

One can fault Bush for many things, but history will record that he refused to back down and stood his ground in Iraq. He has prosecuted the war without regard to the polls or his own popularity and his determination has turned things around in that country.

That type of steadfastness defines leadership and I for one am thankful that we've had a true leader in office through this time.

Friday, July 25, 2008

DoD on Afghanistan

U.S. military officials called the situation in Afghanistan a mixed bags and cautioned the media not to take a "sky is falling" perspective in their reporting.

Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, said in a news briefing on Tuesday that commanders in Afghanistan were asking for more troops, and acknowledged that Taliban activity has increased in some areas, particularly along the border with Pakistan, but also pointed out progress in other areas.

"I think we're all getting a little bit -- overwriting, perhaps, some of this stuff, which is that the sky is falling Afghanistan. I don't think that the secretary believes that is the case. It is a mixed picture in Afghanistan; we are seeing some areas clearly where there has been an increase of violence -- most notably in RC East, where we have seen, because of a lack of pressure on the Pakistan side of the border, an increase in the flow of foreign fighters from Pakistan into Afghanistan, and that is causing real problems for our troops there," he said. "But I think you can point to other areas in Afghanistan where there has clearly been progress. The Marines have made real headway against the Taliban in RC South.

"Additionally, we've seen consistent progression in the size and the capability of the Afghan national security forces. So -- additionally, and I think this may be the key component, is the secretary has heard from commanders on the ground who tell him that the enemy actions that we are seeing in various parts of Afghanistan are disconnected from one another, so there is no sort of cohesive enemy offensive that is threatening the Afghan government. But there clearly are pockets of problems, real problems that need to be dealt with, and more forces are necessary to do that."

I have not seen one main stream media report pointing out the enemy activity lacks cohesiveness.

Lack of respect

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barak Obama canceled a planned visit to a U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany when the Pentagon advised him that he could only visit as a member of the Senate, not as a political candidate accompanied by his media entourage and campaign staff.

The Obama campaign said they were afraid the visit would appear inappropriate.

A New York Times story reported that Scott Gration, a retired two-star Air Force general who advises the campaign and is traveling on the Obama trip, said Obama intended to visit, but didn't want it perceived as a political event.

“Senator Obama had hoped to and had every intention of visiting our troops to express his appreciation and gratitude for their service to our country,” he said. “Senator Obama did not want to have a trip to see our wounded warriors perceived as a campaign event when his visit was to show his appreciation for our troops and decided instead not to go.”

Some left leaning blogs imply the Pentagon scrapped the visit, and others even contend Sen. John McCain sabotaged the visit.

The Pentagon denies discouraging Obama from visiting, emphasizing Obama was welcome to visit, but simply had to abide by the military's policy that forbids political campaigning at military hospitals.

“Senator Obama, in his official capacity, is always welcome to visit Landstuhl or any other military hospital. But it is not permitted to bring with him campaign staff. His team was notified of that, and they made a decision not to visit the hospital. But we were ready and willing to host him there. In fact, we had made arrangements for his campaign plane to land at Ramstein, and to take care of the campaign staff and press in a passenger terminal there, while the senator and senate staff, if he liked, went on to visit wounded warriors. They made a decision based on their own calculations not to visit. Senator Obama, like any other member of the senate, is always welcome to visit our wounded warriors or our military hospitals around the world. But they do so in their official capacity, and not as a candidate. He can come in and bring enate staffers as well, if he likes, but campaign staffers and press are not permitted to accompany him. That would be a violation of DoD directives.”

According to an AFP report, Obama could have visited, but he was only allowed one Senate staffer and appropriate security personnel.

McCain criticized Obama's statements, saying it is never inappropriate to visit troops.

Sean Hannity reported that Obama utilized the void in his schedule to work out.

Reading between the lines, it appears Obama canceled the visit when it became obvious it would provide no photo opportunities, no nightly news story, and no potential bump in the polls.

Why not make the visit out of respect for the men and women who have literally shed blood for this country?

I think Obama's refusal to visit says a lot about the man who could potentially become commander in chief. He has shown a total lack of respect, communicating that wounded soldiers have value only insofar as they provide a prop for his political campaign.

While Obama contends he did not want the visit to have the appearance of a campaign event, the fact that he was welcome to visit without all of the hype that has surrounded the rest of his trip to the middle east and Europe, shows that a campaign event was exactly what he was looking for.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Iraqi Police defuse bomb

Iraqi Police arrested two men and defused a roadside bomb near the city of Kut, capital of Wassit province, according to a report in Aswat Aliraq, an independent Iraqi news agency.

"An ordinance explosive team defused a 20-kg sophisticated roadside bomb planted in al-Gardhiya district, 4 km south of Kut, which houses the biggest fuel reservoirs in the south," a Wassit security source, who requested anonymity, told the news agency.

The story said that the police were tipped off by a local resident.

The Iraqi Police Force have become more and more independent and effective over the last several months, paving the way for possible U.S. force reductions in the near future.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Paul Greenberg wrote an excellent column about the main stream media's lack of coverage on the military success against Al Qaeda in Iraq. He also writes about Sen. Barak Obama's assertions that the surge was doomed to failure.

Greenberg writes:

For news of victory, Americans may have to look to the foreign press. For example, The Times of London, which carried a piece by Marie Colvin the other day. She reported that "American and Iraqi forces are driving al-Qaida in Iraq out of its last redoubt in the north of the country in the culmination of one of the most spectacular victories of the war on terror."

New airport opens in Iraq

On July 20, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was a passenger on the first plane to land at a new airport at Najaf International Airport in southern Iraq.

Officials hope the new airport will increase tourism and boost business activities in the region. It will also employ hundreds of people in positions ranging from customer service to security.

Maliki said the airport represents a victory over those who would tear Iraq apart.

"The Najaf airport is a starting point for competition among provinces and local governments to make extraordinary progress toward reconstruction. We were determined to face the terrorism that was about to destroy Iraq,” he said. “The strong will of the federal government has fought and defeated it in all of its forms.”

The investment firm Al-Aqeelah, based in Kuwait, funded the airport, which makes up part of a multi-billion dollar project also including homes and hotels in the city. The firm committed $80 million to the airport.

This represents yet another sign of the increasing stability in Iraq.



Monday, July 21, 2008

Journalistic frames

The institution of American media continues to cling tenaciously to the idea of objectivity, and while many reporters do strive for balance in their work, many unwittingly, or intentionally, fail miserably to live up to the ideal.

All people view the world through a lens of beliefs, experiences, biases and ideas. Journalists also see the world through these lenses and it colors their work. I believe much of what conservatives call media bias stems from the fact that most reporters possess a liberal world view. Much of what a conservative calls bias, a journalist calls the truth.

This explains how a journalism professor can bemoan the "unprofessional slant" of Fox News and honestly believe CNN meets the criteria of an unbiased arbiter of the truth.

When a reporter writes a story, or an editor chooses what to run or what to cut, they tend to work from a template. Academics call these templates frames. Frames represent the inherent assumptions within a story.

Frames become a problem when the writer fails to realize he has worked out of an assumption that he believes true, yet really only represents his particular world view.

Frames tend to propagate within the media world, and readers will often notice a particular frame repeated in multiple media sources.

One such frame often seen in reporting on the military casts the soldier as a victim.

Many stories fit this frame. The military recruit as poor and uneducated, and the high suicide rate of soldiers are two examples.

Herein lies the problem with frames. They often prove untrue. The suicide rate for soldiers trend close to those of the same demographic group in the general population. Most people serving in the military are not poor or uneducated.

The Lexington Herald Leader ran an AP story yesterday that fits this same "soldiers as victims" frame.

The story chronicles the stress of multiple deployments on military families and particularly emphasizes the high divorce rate and domestic violence.

But the reporter, David Crary, has no statistics, or any solid evidence to back up his claims. The entire piece relies on anecdotal information. In fact, he buried the result of the only study on out there on military divorce at the end of the story because it found that there was no significant increase in divorce for soldiers serving in Afghanistan or Iraq.

He conveniently explains away the study with the following:

Despite the stresses, a study published in April by Rand Corp. concluded that divorce rate among military families between 2001 and 2005 was no higher than during peacetime a decade earlier. But the study doesn't reflect the third and fourth war zone deployments that have strained many military marriages over the past three years.

In truth, we don't know if the third and fourth deployments will create a significant increase in the divorce rate. We could just as easily conclude the divorce rate won't rise.

But that does not fit Crary's frame.

Crary cites one other study.

In Iraq, the latest survey by Army mental health experts showed that more than 15 percent of married soldiers deployed there were planning a divorce, with the rates for soldiers at the late stages of deployment triple those of recent arrivals.

But he fails to provide any context for this number. I was unable to find a similar statistic for the population at large. With U.S. divorce rates averaging high in general, this number actually seems quite low.

In fact, statistics for the general population do show that 64.2 percent of women and 50.5 percent of men who get divorced do so before the age of 24, according to divorcerate.org.

This simply demonstrates that one would expect the age demographic of those serving in the military would experience higher divorce rates in general.

Having experience my own divorce, I know any stress can break an unhealthy marriage, which may well explain the fact that those later in deployment report they are considering divorce.

In reality, we don't know. We can only assume. The whole story revolves around the reporters assumptions based on his frame.

He fails to address what the military does to aid those having difficulty. He does not mention how many soldiers return and reconcile their marriages.

I don't want to minimize the stress, difficulties and sacrifices of our military families. Certainly serving in war zones takes a great toll, both on soldiers and families.

But painting an unsubstantiated picture without actual date because it fits the template does not constitute good journalism.

The above story ran in the Herald right next to the story of the military funeral for Spec. William McMillan III.

McMillan always made good on his promises, said Brad McMillan, his brother.

“He joined the Army with his eyes wide open,” he said.

“He had no regrets. He had no unfinished business left behind.”

It seems as if the editors of the Herald Leader couldn't simply let the story of a soldier who believed in his mission stand by itself. That does not fit their frame. So they included a story that did.

I understand frames. I am sure I write within my own.

The difference is that I admit my bias.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Bush willing to consider troop "general time horizon" for troop withdraw

President Bush has agreed to make discussions on a general time table for troop withdraws from Iraq part of the negotiations with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on a comprehensive security agreement between the two nations.

Bush's willingness to consider a "general time horizon" for drawing down U.S. forces has renewed hope that U.S. and Iraq will complete the security agreement by the July 31 deadline.

The White House said Maliki and Bush agreed that the improved security situation should allow for the negotiations to include a general time horizon for meeting aspirational goals, such as the resumption of Iraqi security control in their cities and provinces and the further reduction of U.S. combat forces from Iraq.

U.S. media calls this a "dramatic reversal."

AP White House correspondent Terrence Hunt wrote that Bush's willingness to consider a withdraw time line was, "a dramatic shift from the administration's once-ironclad unwillingness to talk about any kind of deadline or timetable."

Democratic leaders, including presumptive presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama, hail it as a "belated recognition of the need to hasten the end of the Iraq war," according to an AP story.

Once again, the media and the Democrats got it wrong.

This does not represent a dramatic reversal of position. Bush and U.S. officials have long held that they would consider force reductions based on military and political progress in Iraq, but not on a rigid time line.

Anyone paying attention understands that the situation on the ground has improved dramatically due to the troop surge. (which Obama opposed, saying it would fail) The Iraqi Army and police forces have taken on more and more responsibility for security and the government continues to become more stable.

These improvements make troop withdraws possible and prudent.

The Democratic proposals Bush refused to consider called for absolute withdraw dates, regardless of what the situation on the ground dictated. They were calling for this cut and run approach, saying the war was a lost cause, at the same time the administration was planning the surge.

Obama's plan called for all combat forces to pull out within 16 months.

Anyone willing to look at facts will understand which side held the correct strategy.

There exists a clear difference between Bush's willingness to consider a future plan to draw down forces and the Democratic "strategy" to leave. Bush has adjusted to the success the coalition forces have enjoyed. He recognizes that the fledgling Iraqi government continues its slow movement to self sufficiency.

As White House spokesman Gordon Johnroe said, "There's a right way and wrong way to withdraw troops from Iraq."

This plan does not jeopardize the mission or U.S. national security. It recognizes impending victory and hinges on actual conditions on the ground.

The Democratic plan considers only their political expedience, or perhaps their lack of a spine to push on toward victory.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Lebanese politician says the success of democracy crucial

Saad al-Hariri, the leader of the largest parliamentary coalition in Lebanon called for strengthening the institutionalized state in Iraq, and called upon Lebanese firms to increase investment in the country as a way of building on security gains, according to Aswat Aliraq, an independent Iraqi news service.

Hariri said democracy must succeed in both countries.

Aswat Aliraq reported:

"Iraq and Lebanon are similar in the struggles they face. We are in the same situation. I believe Iraq is a democratic country and this democracy must succeed in Iraq, as it must succeed in Lebanon," Iraq president office statement cited Hariri as saying during a meeting with Iraq president Jalal Talabani and senior Iraqi officials.

He noted “stable democracy in Iraq and Lebanon formed upsetting example to neighboring governance patterns”, adding “the attack on the two countries(Iraq and Lebanon) aimed at eliminating the prospect of a democratic institutionalized state.”

The Bush administration has not done the best job explaining the broader strategy in the war on terror.

Early on, the U.S. hoped establishing democratic governments in Iraq and Afghanistan would put Iran in a pincher. With a population generally unsympathetic to radical Islamic governance, the thought was that democracy taking root to the north and west would embolden Iranians to push for democratic changes, and thus neutralize an enemy without military intervention.

Hariri's comments, particularly relating to stable democracy "upsetting neighboring governance patterns" lends credence to this strategy.

The words of one who's been there

I was listening to Sean Hannity's radio show this afternoon when an active duty member of the military recuperating from wounds sustained in Iraq called.

He talked about the ridiculousness of Barack Obama's upcoming visit to Iraq in light of his position on the war.

The caller, who identified himself as Mike, went on to express his disgust at those who would pull U.S. troops out of Iraq before completion of the mission.

He made an interesting point.

He said that we should count the liberation of Iraq as a win in and of itself, accurately pointing out that the coalition took out the fourth largest military in the world. He went on to say that the current mission consists of stabilizing the country and to leave now undoes what we've already accomplished.

His final statement really caught my attention, not only his words, but the passion with which he spoke them.

"I have over 40 stitches in my body and I'm not willing to accept defeat. We want to win!"

This statement comes from a man put his life on the line, a man who's lost two friends on the battlefield, a man who has literally spilled his blood for the cause.

His courage and commitment stands in sharp contrast to the spineless wonders who strut around in self importance, endlessly repeating their little slogans for their own political gain.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Apparently CNN got it right

I can admit when I'm wrong.

The Department of Defense today said the commanders in Afghanistan have asked for more mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles the military calls “MRAPs.”

CNN reported that commanders in Afghanistan requested the MARPs after
nine NATO International Security Assistance Force soldiers died in an attack on a base in Afghanistan’s Kunar province on July 14.

The Defense Department initially denied the report and I took CNN to task on this blog.

Apparently CNN was at least partially correct, although their initial report said commanders had asked for 1,000 additional MRAPs. They actually requested about 200 more.

There are roughly 800 MRAPs in Afghanistan, according to the Defense Department.

"It’s safe to say that commanders are interested in more of the vehicles", Geoff Morrel, the Pentagon press secretary told reporters.

Commanders in Afghanistan want the RG-31 version because its size makes it more appropriate for the countries mountainous terrain.

Morrel said the Pentagon encourages commanders in the field to ask for what they need.

“The chairman has made it very clear that commanders should not be bashful about speaking up if they need more forces than they currently have,” he said. “ Commanders should not worry about the overall stress on the force and be mindful of what their needs are in their areas of responsiblity. DoD leaders will determine if it is possible to meet their needs.

“‘Speak up if you need them, and we’ll see what we can do’ is the way it works,” Morrell said.

Congress should take not an ensure the military receives the funding necessary to properly equip our troops for their mission. Democrats have attempted to use was funding as a political tool. While we should always encourage political debate, using the military as a political pawn during a time of war is totally inappropriate.

Still a long way to go

A car-bomb exploded in a residential area in Talafar district, Ninewa on Wednesday, killing 15 people and injuring 94 more.

It was the third bomb attack of the day in Ninewa.

An earlier attack targeted a U.S. patrol in Mosul, injuring 6 civilians.

Aswat al-Iraq- Voices of Iraq- (VOI). reported that violence has become a daily occurrence in the province, despite successes claimed by Iraqi military officials since the beginning of a security operation in May.

While coalition forces have enjoyed great success of late, today's attacks underscore the reality that the enemy remains determined and the coalition cannot rest in its success.

This should serve as a warning to those who wish for an early withdraw of U.S. forces.

The consequences could prove disastrous. Iraq would likely spiral into chaos. Iran would rush in to fill the vacuum, increasing the power and influence of a maniac seeking nuclear weapons determined to destroy both Israel and the U.S.Worse still, Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations would view our exit as a victory, emboldening them to continue their jihad.

Winning a war requires dedication, fortitude, sacrifice and determination, things many in this country seem to lack.

Costs certainly exist, both in money and blood.

But the cost of losing could prove far greater.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A little known fact

A United Nations mandate governs the the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq.

The U.N. renews the mandate at the request of the Iraqi government.

U.S. troop deaths continue downward trend

Bryan at the Sublime Bloviations blog has done some in depth analysis of U.S. casualties in Iraq.

In short, the trend seems to underscore the success of the surge.

A helping hand

Each day the men and women of the U.S. armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan not only fight the enemy, but they also put their sweat and energy into projects to improve the lives of Iraqi and Afghan citizens.

In Anbar Province, Marines of the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 5 have partnered with Dr. Dhea Mijwal Shami Maadahidi, an Iraqi surgeon and manager of Rutbah General Hospital, to provide medical assistants to residents of the outlying cities of Nukayb and Akashat.

“It’s a great feeling to be able to go to these towns and provide health assistance that is hard to come by for those people,” said Dhea. “I always like to do good things for people and increase their hope in my work.”

The Marines will provide logistical support and security.

This little story represent just one of the thousands of ways the U.S. continues to make a difference in the lives of Iraqi and Afghan people.

Granted, much work remains. Many areas in both countries still lack basic infrastructure.

This is why we must not quit before the we complete the mission.

We cannot win the war on terror simply by killing bad guys. The bigger picture consists of creating stable governments in these countries.

The popular position on the left right now consists of pulling out of Iraq and sending more troops to Afghanistan. In reality, some draw down of forces in Iraq probably makes sense, and we clearly need more troops in Afghanistan.

But I have little doubt that this is simply political posturing. Within months, the Dems will start crying to pull American troops out of Afghanistan as well.

The sad truth is that many American lack the fortitude win this war.

Politicians who would simply walk away from what they call a "failed policy" seem to have no regard to the damage that it would do, not only to American security, but the people of Iraq as well.

Monday, July 14, 2008

CNN gets it wrong

A recent CNN story reported that U.S. officials in Afghanistan requested 1,000 more mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles.

The CNN report said:

Many of the attacks against NATO-led and Afghan troops in southern and eastern Afghanistan are roadside bombs, and to confront that threat, U.S. military commanders have asked the Pentagon to send hundreds of MRAP armored vehicles, designed to withstand strong explosives, as quickly as possible to U.S. troops battling the Taliban.

Defense sources said the request could include between 600 and 1,000 MRAPs -- Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, many originally destined for Iraq but not needed there as much now because of the dramatic drop in violence there.

The defense department said there was no such request.

"Contrary to media reports, U.S. officials in Afghanistan have not asked for 1,000 more mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said in a press release. "About 800 MRAPs are in Afghanistan, and more than 6,000 are in Iraq. The terrain in much of Afghanistan is not conducive to MRAP operations," he said.

U.S. defense officials say Pakistanis need to take tougher stance

In the wake of the death of nine NATO International Security Assistance Force soldiers in Afghanistan’s Kunar province yesterday, U.S. officials called on Pakistan to take a tougher stand against extremists, and expressed a desire for greater cooperation between NATO forces and the Pakistani army.

NATO officials have long considered the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan a thorn in its side, calling the situation "dysfunctional".

Taliban extremists have used the federally administered tribal area on the Pakistani side of the border as a staging area to launch attacks on NATO and Afghan National Army bases. They have also utilized their sanctuaries to launch missile and mortars at targets on the Afghan side of the border.

The ability of Taliban forces to operate within Pakistan has become problematic in light of Pakistan's refusal to allow NATO forces to operate within its territory.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said U.S. and NATO officials continue to work with the Pakistani Army and government to address the situation.

“There have been a number of discussions in recent weeks, and I suspect those will continue as we try to address the border region in a comprehensive way,” he said. “It has many facets to it, and we are looking to address it on all of those levels that we can.”

U.S. military officials have said they need about 10,000 more troops on the ground in Afghanistan, and they are considering redeploying troops from Iraq in light of the recent security gains in that country, and the increasing effectiveness of Iraqi security forces.

France and Britain have volunteered additional troops to the NATO effort.

“We continue to work with NATO to fulfill some of those capabilities that are needed and will enhance the ability of the forces there,” Whitman said. “The U.S. commitment is clear. We said we are committed to providing more capability there in 2009.”

***

I wonder how many people even realize that the war in Afghanistan is a NATO effort? We continually hear democrats bemoaning the U.S. "go-it-alone" policies.

Heck, we even got the French involved.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Militant attack in Afghanistan kills nine U.S. soldiers

An attack on a U.S. base in Afghanistan killed 9 U.S. soldiers and wounded at least 15 more on Sunday. The attack was the deadliest in Afghanistan in three years, according to an AP story in the St. Petersburg Times.

While violence has decreased and the security situation in Iraq has drastically improved, the situation has deteriorated in Afghanistan in recent months.

The U.S. military is considering boosting its numbers in Afghanistan. U.S. officials say they need about 10,000 more troops in Afghanistan.

Many analysts contend the Pakistani government's inability or unwillingness to gain control of its mountainous border area has given Qaeda and Taliban forces a safe haven, contributing to their increased strength and organization.

* * *

The AP story that I based this post on ran on the front page of the St. Petersburg Times Web page on Sunday night. I don't argue with the newsworthiness of the story, or their decision to give the story such play, but it underscores a bias in main stream media reporting on the war on terror.

I've not seen one story on the Times' home page highlighting any of the progress in Iraq. Just one week of blogging has proven to me it's not for the lack of such stories.

Therein lies the disservice of the main stream media to the American people. The press serves and integral role in a democratic society. People need information to self govern. But our press seems intent on only reporting part of the information. How can a citizen truly inform themselves when half of the story never gets told, or remains buried?

When a citizen reads a major newspaper or watches broadcast news, they can't help but come away with the impression that our efforts in the war on terror are falling short. This impression leads to a widespread lack of support of American efforts as we confront a dangerous enemy intent on destroying our way of life.

I'm not calling for the media to downplay or ignore the bad news. I'm not criticizing the Times for highlighting this story. I'm criticizing the Times for ignoring the hundreds of other stories that hold equal importance.

I am calling for the press to do its job - Its whole job of informing the American people. Not simply bolstering their political agenda.

Iraqi voter registration drive

Aswat Aliraq, an independent Iraqi news service, reports that the High Independence Election Commission conducted a "large-scale propaganda campaign" to register voters for key provincial elections scheduled for October.

The U.S. considers successful provincial elections, along with a reduction in violence as key benchmarks in evaluating the the progress of the Iraqi government.

While the term "propaganda" will likely put off many Americans, especially my fellow journalists, the campaign really amounts to a good old voter registration drive. We see them all the time in the U.S. and they are a mark of democracy.

There in lies the remarkable aspect of this story. Democratic processes have begun to take root in a country that for years languished under the dictatorial mandate of Saddam Hussein.

This story represents yet another small sign of progress in Iraq.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Determination

In a great column by Michael Barone drawing parallels between President Truman's decision making in the face of near unanimous opposition during the Berlin airlift and President Bush's determination to go forward with the troop surge in Iraq.

Barone writes:

But Bush, echoing Truman, said, at least in effect, we're not leaving Iraq. He embraced the proposals for the surge, which had been worked up by retired Gen. Jack Keane and American Enterprise Institute scholar Frederick Kagan. He found a commander, Gen. David Petraeus, who had rewritten the Army's manual on counterinsurgency and who had the character and skill to put the surge into effect.

As was the case with Tunner, the men and women serving under him showed unexpected ingenuity and the ability to adapt to unpredicted turns of events, like the Anbar awakening, which enabled them to convert Iraq's deadliest province into a friendly, peaceful territory. And, I am sure we will find out sooner or later, those troops also performed acts of generosity, which made their task easier and will produce goodwill that will last, as the candy bombings did, for decades to come.

The lessons are clear. Stand fast. Put the right men in charge. And never doubt the capacity of the men and women of the American military, when given the right orders, to perform far better than the experts predict.

Far too many people in America lack the fortitude to stand behind what they believe. We have evolved into a poll driven society, putting popularity before principal. Politicians follow instead of lead and the public agonizes over what Europeans think of us instead of standing firm in their convictions.

For his faults, President Bush has shown an amazing ability to lead out of his core beliefs. I'm glad he's willing to stand against evil and not back down.

True hero

American's love their heroes.

But more often than not, the people we exalt as heroes don't really qualify in the true sense of the word. We worship athletes, musicians and movie stars as heroes. In recent years, society has even elevate people to lofty status for inane things like appearing on a reality TV program - the odd phenomenon of being famous for being famous.

Don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with respecting the abilities of a star athlete, or honoring the craft of an excellent actor or actress.

But let's not call them heroes. Talent and ability do not a hero make.

One of the Webster definitions of a hero reads, "one that shows great courage."

A hero makes a conscious decision to walk into danger. A hero exhibits a willingness to sacrifice him or her self for something greater. A hero recognizes that they don't represent the center of the universe.

The U.S. Army honored a true hero yesterday.

Chief Warrant Officer 5 David F. Cooper of the A 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) received the Distinguished Service Cross at a Ceremony at Ft. Campbell, Ky.

Cooper, 48, from outside Cincinnati, Ohio, earned the honor for heroism exhibited during an engagement with the enemy in central Iraq in 2006.

When an AH-6 Little Bird helicopter was shot down and Special Operations soldiers defending the crippled bird came under fire, Cooper flew his own chopper over the enemy at low level, drawing fire away from soldiers on the ground.

He acted with complete disregard for his own safety as he single handedly took aerial action against an armed and numerically superior enemy, according to a military press release.

Military officials recommending him for the medal wrote, "His aggressive actions, complete disregard for his personal safety and extreme courage under fire resulted in him single-handedly repelling the enemy attack. ... His actions assured the survival of the men on this mission and were in keeping with the finest traditions of the special-operations community."

Cooper initially landed his helicopter when the first AH-6 went down. After about 40 minutes, enemy trucks appeared and open fire on the downed helicopter and the Special Operations soldiers who had set up a perimeter. The American's returned fire, but the enemy stayed out of effective range.

It was at that point Cooper made the decision to engage the enemy.

"I knew then I had to get my aircraft back into the air to defend our ground troops. I guess out of sheer instinct, I along with my co-pilot headed toward the enemy forces and returned fire," Cooper said in a telephone interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer. "I didn't do all of this single-handedly because I had a ground crew working with me.

"I'm glad that we were able to uphold the moniker of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, which is, 'Night Stalkers never quit.'"

The Distinguished Service Cross is the Army's second highest medal for combat valor. The Army has honored 13 other soldiers with the medal during the war on terror.

I believe Cooper became a hero long before he won the medal. He volunteered to serve in the Army in 1985, and chose to continue in defense of his country through the war. He's lived his life serving something higher then his own life.

That exemplifies heroism.

In fact, every young man and woman who commits to serve the country, knowing he or she could lose their life, demonstrates heroism in its truest sense.

I understand the need for the media to report things like Abu Ghraib and those rare cases where U.S. military personnel engage in dishonorable actions. The media serves an important role in informing the American people. The information helps citizens to self govern.

What I don't understand is why the media refuses to highlight the stories of bravery and sacrifice exemplified by Cooper and countless other soldiers, sailors, airmen Marines and Guardsmen? Where are the documentaries? Where are the special reports and wall to wall coverage? After one story, if that, the media moves on and we forget these heroes.

In my mind, Chief Warrant Officer 5 David F. Cooper should maintain a place in the American psyche. He, and others like him, should represent what American citizens think of when they think of their nation. A noble group of people who generally seek to do right.

I for one will not forget the courage, sacrifice and heroism of the men and women who defend not only this nation, but the principles of freedom and liberty around the world.



Read Cooper's Bio

Friday, July 11, 2008

Iraqi security forces find success

Iraqi security forces arrested two wanted men, diffused a bomb and seized explosives in Mosul today, according to a story in Aswat Aliraq, an independent Iraqi news agency.

Aswat Aliraq also reported that Iraqi military units have moved into Diala province to participate in an operation to hunt down gunmen.

"Scores of military vehicles carrying Iraqi troops with armored vehicles, arrived today in al-Moradiya area in Baaquba on the road linking Diala to Baghdad," the source told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI) on condition of anonymity.

"The reinforcements came to participate in the imminent military operations in Diala," he said.

These news briefs, while relatively mundane, underscore a bigger story. The Iraqi military increasingly operates independently. Slowly but surely, Iraqi security forces continue to take on more responsibility, and become more effective.

Many people I talk to labor under the misinformed notion that the U.S. fights alone in Iraq. They have no idea that the U.S. works in conjunction with the Iraqi military and police. While the Iraqis still need U.S. support, and lack the strength to engage in large scale missions on their own, the situation improves daily.

The U.S. fights in support of the democratically elected government. Contrary to what some think, we are not fighting Iraq. It astounds me how many people actually believe that. Our goal, contrary to what the leftists claim, does not involve occupation. We continue to work toward an independent Iraq, friendly towards the U.S.

It will take time and we will likely suffer setbacks. As they say, Rome wasn't built in a day. But things continue to progress due to the determination and persistence of our military men and women.

More hints of progess in Iraq

Evidence that the Iraqi government continues to make progress in their country mounts daily.

My friend Bryan over at the Sublime Bloviations blog dug up this nugget from the Kuwait Times.

KUWAIT: Kuwait announced on Thursday that it will soon name its first ambassador to Iraq since Saddam Hussein's troops invaded the country in 1990, a major step in healing the two countries' painful past. Memories of Iraq's brutal seven-month occupation of its smaller, oil-rich neighbor still remain fresh here and some Kuwaitis feel the step is coming too soon. Others fear that the embassy will be a magnet for attacks, despite improvements in Iraq's security.

Kuwait will join the United Arab Emirates and Jordan in opening up diplomatically to Baghdad. As security improves, Iraq's government has turned its attention to gaining the support of Arab nations and pushing them to send diplomats back to Baghdad. Khaled al-Jarrallah, a Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry undersecretary, said Kuwait's decision was "natural" after "positive security developments in Iraq," the official Kuwait News Agency reported.

While many in the U.S. seem slow to grasp our success in Iraq, the rest of the world has taken notice and even the main stream media has started to reluctantly report the progress.

In addition to the opening of diplomatic channels, foreign investment has also increased dramatically over the last year.

Foreign investors pumped over $500 million into Iraq through the first half of 2008, and the figure will likely top $1 billion by year end, according to a recent USA Today report.

Interestingly, U.S. companies have failed to take advantage of the opportunities and the bulk of the investment has flowed from countries such as Russia, China and Turkey.

"It's starting to turn … and the people who are getting in on the ground floor are not American," Paul Brinkley, the Pentagon official who is leading U.S. efforts to help Iraq rebuild its economy told USA Today. "It's ironic."

Ironic indeed.

I am purely speculating, but one has to wonder if the constant negative drum beat from the U.S. media has dampened the enthusiasm of American investors?

At any rate, the flow of investment money into Iraq indicates a general belief that the situation there will remain stable over the long haul. Investors simply don't risk hard earned money without a reasonable expectation that they will make a profit, and businesses need a secure environment and political stability to operate.

This represents some of the best evidence that our efforts have begun to pay off.

Give them some credit

Fox News is reporting some good news from Iraq. (courtesy of the AP)

CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq — U.S. forces have captured a man who may help unravel an elite, highly skilled insurgent group whose rocket-propelled bombs have emerged as the biggest threat to U.S. troops, the top commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad said Friday in an Associated Press interview.

At the time of this post, it hadn't seem to have made its way on to CNN or MSNBC.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

U.S. military continues to meet recruiting goals

The Department of Defense released June recruiting and retention statistics today and announced all branches of the armed services met or exceeded their recruiting goals. Military officials said this marks the thirteenth consecutive month of recruiting success.

The Army signed up 9,365 new soldiers in June, exceeding their goal by 115. That compares with 7,031 new recruits in June 2007.

The Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force also met or exceeded their goals.

Reserve recruiting was strong as well, with only the Army Reserve missing their goal by 1 percent.

Bill Carr, deputy undersecretary of defense for military personnel and policy said the recruiting success underscores the strength of the United States' all volunteer force, even in the midst of protracted conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“There were concerns about how today’s fight would affect retention, and yet, retention has been as strong as any period in our history,” he said on the all-volunteer force’s 35th anniversary. “Volunteers want to serve; their performance is strong, their behaviors are strong, and their discipline is high.”

Their choice to become members of the armed forces speaks volumes for the dedication and loyalty of our nation and its volunteers,” Carr said.


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Soldier's Tribute

This is from a blog written by a soldier serving in Iraq. I think his description of the enemy is poignant.
It is another trying time for the soldiers of our company as another one of our brothers made the ultimate sacrafice, trying to bring peace and freedom to a nation that has not seen such a thing. His platoon was attacked by a faceless, cowardly enemy who will do anything to prevent such a bright future for their country.

Iraqi Air Force gets new aircraft

The Iraqi military continues to make strides towards self sufficiency.

The U.S. transfered ownership of eight Cessna 172s and three Cessna Caravan 208s to the Iraqi Air Force in a ceremony at New Al Muthana Air Base in Iraq today.

The Iraqis will use the aircraft, v
alued over $9 million, to train pilots.

The Iraqi training program will mirror U.S. methods, utilizing the smaller 172s for initial training. The pilots will then graduate to the more advanced 208.

The new aircraft will allow the Iraqis to train 130 new pilots a year, according to military sources.

U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Brooks L. Bash praised the fledgling Iraqi Air Force. He called them "an important part of the declining attack levels in those areas and throughout the country."

The Iraqi Air Force recently successfully participated in
coalition operations in Basra and Mosul and in Baghdad’s Sadr City district.

King
Air intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft and King Air light transport aircraft were also unveiled during the ceremony. The Iraqi Defense Ministry purchased the aircraft, making them the first country in the world to possess this technology.

Bash said the new aircraft signifies the strong partnership between Iraq and the United States.

"
It also represents the strength and growth of Iraqi forces as they continue to fight terrorism and provide security and new capabilities to their country,” he said.

Saddam's link to terror

One of the mantras trumpeted ad nauseam by the political left goes something like this.

"Bush lied to get us into the war in Iraq. There were no WMD and Iraq never had any links to Al Qaeda."

While mere repetition has caused this statement to morph into a fact in many people's minds, in truth, there exists ample evidence linking Saddam's regime to terror groups in general, and Al Qaeda in particular. (We'll save WMD's for another day)

Just last month, the Middle East Media Research Institiute (MEMRI) translated a story from a Kurdish newspaper that it claims proves there was cooperation between Saddam and Al Qaeda.

"The letter, which appeared on the paper's front page, was published by the intelligence apparatus of the Iraqi presidency and discussed an intention to meet with Ayman Al-Zawahiri in order to examine a plan drawn up by the Iraqi presidency to carry out a "revenge operation" in Saudi Arabia," according to a post on MEMRI blog.

Links between Saddam's regime in Iraq and Al Qaeda were known long before the U.S. led invasion.

The 9-11 Comission wrote in its report:

In March 1998, after Bin Ladin's public fatwa against the United States, two Al Qaeda members reportedly went to Iraq to meet with Iraqi intelligence. In July, an Iraqi delegation traveled to Afghanistan to meet first with the Taliban and then with Bin Ladin. Sources report that one or perhaps both of these meetings was apparently arranged through Bin Ladin's Egyption deputy Zawahiri, who had ties of his own to the Iraqis.

The commission goes on to reference reports that Iraqi officials offered Bin Ladin safe haven in Iraq in 1999.

While there was no evidence that Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussien engaged in any joint operations, there were clearly links between the two.

Beyond Iraq's apparent cooperation with Al Qaeda, troops liberating Iraq found several terrorist training camps.

Repetition does not the truth make. While, "Bush lied and people died," makes for a nifty chant, it simply isn't true.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

More on the Islamist agenda

Frank Gaffney Jr. wrote an excellent column addressing the radical Islamist's efforts to push their agenda through cultural and social means.

Using political correctness and multiculturalism, those wising to impose their version of Islam onto the world make it increasingly difficult to even criticize them.

Gaffney wrote:

At the moment, another totalitarian ideology characterized by techniques and global ambitions strikingly similar to those of yesteryear’s communists is on the march. It goes by varying names: “Islamofascism,” “Islamism,” “jihadism” or “radical,” “extremist” or “political Islam.” Unlike the communists, however, adherents to this ideology are making extraordinary strides in Western societies toward criminalizing those who dare oppose the Islamist end-state – the imposition of brutal Shariah Law on Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

I encourage you to read his entire article to better understand the tactics our enemy uses.

Women forced to become suicide bombers

A fascinating story from an Iraqi news source that claims 97 percent of the female suicide bombers were forced to become martyrs for the cause, and were usually under the influence of drugs.

Senior judge in England says Sharia Law should be used

Lord Chief Justice Lord Phillips, the most senior judge in England, said last week that Muslims could use Islamic Sharia law to resolve family and marital disputes.

"Those entering into a contractual agreement can agree that the agreement shall be governed by a law other than English law," he said.

Phillips signaled approval for the numerous informal Sharia courts in mosques throughout England as long as the rulings and punishments comply with English law.

On the surface, this sounds like a simple matter of tolerance. It allows for a religious groups to dictate family matters in a way consistent with their beliefs.

But many worry that the principles of Sharia will lead to a loss of rights for women. For example, under Sharia law, a man can divorce a woman by repudiating her and incurs no obligation to support her or her family financially.

It remains unclear how English and Sharia law will coexist.

As Cal Thomas points out in a recent column , Sharia Law is not compatible with English law, it is a law unto itself.

Could English law eventually become subordinate to Sharia? While many will scoff at the notion, radical Islamists have stated their goal to subject the world to Sharia law. This constitutes one of the driving forces behind radical Islam.

There are some who argue that the terrorists strike at us because they resent our wealth or they harbor anger over our policies. They believe a change of foreign policy, more foreign aid, or negotiations will solve the problem.

But while it's extremely politically incorrect to point this out, their driving force is religious.

Sunni terror leaders, including Osama bin Laden, have openly stated their goal of establishing a new Caliphate governed by Sharia law bound by Casablanca in the east and Bali in the west. Then after a period of peace, the proclaim Islam will spread throughout the world, with the destruction of "infidel" cultures and religions.

In order to understand our battle against radical Islam, we must understand their true motives and goals. When we understand why they fight and die, it becomes evident that we must fight them or eventually submit to their advances.

The war plays out not only on the battlefield. Our enemies also wage a cultural battle.

They appear to have won one in England.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Fighting only half the battle

Guns and bombs make up only part of the war on terror.

While combat units fight to establish security and root out insurgents, civil affairs units work to rebuild infrastructure and aid residents in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan, the Army's 451st Civil Affairs Battalion works with the Afghan government and international humanitarian organizations in the five southern Konar districts to rebuild infrastructure and restore stability in the area.

Capt. Roman Skaskiw said Joint civil-military efforts make up key components in winning the hearts and minds of Afghans, buttressing the authority of the government in Kabul, and providing a central effort in the U.S.-led counterinsurgency campaign.

"The overall security situation is becoming more stable,” Skaskiw said. “The reason for the fighting is local animosities influenced by people who feel they are not getting their share of the redevelopment. However, development dampens the insurgency, as evidenced in the improving police, the roads connecting the people to the government, and the burgeoning health care system."

All over Afghanistan and Iraq, U.S. military personnel labor to make life better for the citizens. While many on the left portray U.S. forces as unwelcome invaders, in reality, the presence of American troops serves to improve the everyday lives of countless Iraqi and Afghan people.

Joint Cheif's Chairman visits Sadr City

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen visited Baghdad's Sadr City district, and praised members of the 4th Infantry Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team for their efforts in making one of Iraq's most dangerous areas safer in recent months.

“We didn’t know where Sadr City was going to go,” the chairman told the soldiers. “Thanks to you, the area is much better and safer; you’ve really made an impact.”

Mullen said that two months ago the streets of Jamilla Market weren't even safe to walk, but U.S., along with Iraqi patrols, have produced significant improvements in security.

Senior officers of the 4th Infantry Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team told Mullen that they were gaining confidence in their Iraqi counterparts.

"Iraqi security forces are better equipped and better prepared than they’ve been in many months," said Army Col. John Hort, the brigade’s commander.

Attacks have fallen to the lowest level in four years throughout Iraq, with a 90 percent decrease in the last year, according to military sources.

While there have been security improvements in Sadr City, the area still remains dangerous and Mullen said much work remains.

“I don’t see an end state right now in Sadr City, because it’s got a long way to go,” he said. “It was a place that not too many months ago was a big question for all of us, but continued progress will create a more complete answer down the road. You have to remember that success is a marathon, not a sprint.”

Over 1,200 military personnel in Iraq re-enlist

On Friday, 1,215 U.S. service members from all branches marked the 232nd birthday of the United States by re-enlisting at a ceremony in the Al Faw Palace rotunda on Camp Victory in Iraq.

These men and women already serving in in Iraq committed to over 5,000 years of additional service to their country, according to a Department of Defense press release.

“Volunteering to continue to serve our nation, while deployed – is both noble and inspiring,” said Gen. David Petraeus, commanding general, Multi-National Force – Iraq.

“It is, as award citations often state, in keeping with the finest traditions of our military services.”

While many in the states push for a military pullout from what they call, "an un-winnable war," men and women on the ground commit to fight on.

The fact these that soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and Guardsmen voluntarily signed up to continue fighting provides a clear indication that they perceive the mission worth while and winnable.