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Monday, August 31, 2009
Still Blaming Neocons For Iraq? Get Real

Whilst reading the provocative and convention challenging Advice to War Presidents: A Remedial Course in Statecraft by Angelo Codevilla, I came across this passage (which is the book's first endnote from the preface) which definitely goes against the grain of standard thinking:

There is no truth to the commonly held opinion that Neoconservatisim and Neoconservatives were primarily or even substantially responsible for the G.W. Bush Administration's foreign policy, especially its venture in Iraq. The occupation of Iraq was urged by Secretary of State Colin Powell using arguments both Realist (the Saudis demand it) and Liberal Internationalist (since we've broke it we've got to fix it). The occupation's political policy was set by Robert Blackwill, a Realist from the Council on Foreign Relations, and military policy by Walter Slocombe, a Liberal Internationalist from the Carter and Clinton Administrations. The intellectual architect of the Administration's 2007-2008 political military strategy was Stephen Biddle, another Realist from the Council. National Security Advisor and (later) Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice--the person closest to the President--either enabled whatever tendency in the Administration was strongest at any given time or just amalgamated the factions' contrasting recipes into "bridging documents." Yet she herself had risen through the Realist ranks under the patronage of former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft. As we will see, Iraq was no different from other twentieth-century U.S. foreign policy ventures in that it was a vessel in which the several tendencies of contemporary American statecraft mixed like oil and water.

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Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Replacing Bases With Businesses

Daniel Rice and John Nagl (a man who knows a thing or two about counterinsurgency) have a piece in today's WSJ calling for a surge in investment in Iraq's private sector:

Private capital is already at work in Iraq, demonstrating the validity of this model both for economic development and for increasing employment. For example, Iraq currently imports over $100 million of tomato paste from its neighbors every year, despite the fact that it has enormous agricultural potential in the irrigated farmland between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Until recently, Iraqi farmers had no incentive to grow tomatoes on a commercial scale because there were no tomato-paste processing plants within reasonable transportation distances. In 2008, a private-equity fund invested in the Harir Tomato Paste and Juice processing facility, which had been defunct since the invasion in 2003. With only one Western employee and 200 direct Iraqi employees, the Harir plant is now profitable and has given thousands of Iraqi farmers a market for their produce.

This model could be replicated in factories throughout Iraq in multiple industries if an enterprise fund is approved by Congress. We suggest a $250 million Iraq enterprise fund. While this would only account for one-third of 1% of annual U.S. spending in Iraq, it would have an important amount of financial leverage; the sum could open 10 $25 million enterprises strategically located throughout the country. Instead of spending billions of taxpayer dollars for short-term programs, the enterprise funds could create long-term growth and employment in Iraq while giving U.S. taxpayers a return on their investment in the form of a share of profits going back to the USAID -- while appreciably diminishing support for the insurgency.

As we withdraw from Iraq's cities we must seek to replace our bases with businesses. An enterprise fund for Iraq is a good way to start the process of achieving victory through economic development.

Short-term spending programs were necessary to help stabilize the situation in Iraq and build upon the security improvements. Now, it's time to look at ways we can help the Iraqis build a foundation for long-term economic growth. Enterprise funds seems like a good place to start.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Hat Trick Part Two

Three good pieces on post-surge Iraq:

1. Surging and Awakening--TNR by Dexter Filkens:

President Obama's pronouncements on the war must therefore be read carefully. He has never said that America will leave Iraq by 2010. He has said only that American combat troops will leave. What is a combat troop? Well, you can bet it is not a military adviser, or a trainer, or a police mentor, or a special forces soldier, or a CIA paramilitary. Even under the best of circumstances, the Iraqi state will need many years to cohere again. Until that day, it seems unlikely that American soldiers will not be there by the tens of thousands, whoever the American president is. For this reason, the president may be a little divided against himself. His rhetoric of winding-down may be politically welcome, but may not be the best way to ready the American people for what will likely be a very long commitment.

2. The Future of Iraq, Part I by Michael J. Totten:

"The insurgency now is more criminal than anything else," Colonel Hort said. ?The Al Qaeda threat isn't down to that point yet, but Shia insurgents are becoming more and more criminal than anything else. We're working closely now with Iraqi judges, as well as Iraqi Security Forces, to ensure that when we identify a guy we're getting a warrant and arresting the guy that way. It's a significant change for us that we now need a warrant to make an arrest like we do in the States."

Some American officers I met are worried that more terrorists and insurgents will remain at large now that warrants are needed for their arrest, but others are convinced this is wonderful news. It is, at least for the time being, just barely possible to wage a counterinsurgency using law enforcement methods instead of war-fighting methods. There is such a thing as an acceptable level of violence, and Iraq is nearer to that point than it has been in years. Baghdad is no longer the war zone it was.

3. Toll Rises as Iraq Slows

The U.S. military has passed off the responsibility for Awakening forces, which have numbered more than 100,000 fighters across Iraq, but Baghdad hasn't paid them in full. Since the government took over Mr. Karim's group in January, it has provided just one month's pay.

Iraq's government says it has addressed bureaucratic snags in the program's transition and that the fighters will be paid. Even so, the budget for Awakening salaries runs out at year's end.

U.S. commanders worry that if Baghdad doesn't foot the bill, group members could become a threat again. The U.S. military believes that recent car bombings in Baghdad were hatched somewhere in this belt of rugged farming villages.

After all the sacrifice in blood and treasure that the US has made in Iraq, it would shameful if we were to let it all slip away because the Iraqi government can't afford to continue to support the successful tactics of the surge. If we're going to commit foreign aid to any effort, this is it.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Return to Normalcy?

Rick e-mails to hep us to a story about the comeback of beer in Baghdad:

BAGHDAD--Every evening at dusk, men gather on the Jadriyah Bridge spanning the Tigris River and turn it into an impromptu bar.

It's a sign of the improving times, the revival of an old habit that dates to the rule of Saddam Hussein, before the militias and extremists blew up the liquor stores and shuttered the bars as part of their effort to impose new forms of Islamic law on this once resolutely secular society.

Young men prop up the railings holding cans of beer and chat and smoke as if they were in a real bar. Old men pull up carts selling lablabi, a chick pea snack served in bars, back when there were bars. Sometimes there is dancing to the rhythmic sounds of Arabic music played on someone's car stereo, as the last of the evening's commuters whiz past and the sun sets over the green river swirling below.


Friday, October 19, 2007
Only Fools Rush In

The Wall Street Journal editorializes on the real shame of Haditha (free for all!):

At Haditha, did the Marines act reasonably and appropriately based on their training? They were in a hostile combat situation where deadly force was authorized against suspected triggermen for the IED, and were ordered to assault a suspected insurgent hideout. In retrospect, the men in the car had no weapons or explosives; in retrospect, the people in the house were not insurgents. No one knew at the time.

Innocents were killed at Haditha, as they inevitably are in all wars--though that does not excuse or justify wrongdoing. Yet neither was Haditha the atrocity or "massacre" that many assumed--though errors in judgment may well have been committed. And while some violent crimes have been visited on civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, overall the highly disciplined U.S. military has conducted itself in an exemplary fashion. When there have been aberrations, the services have typically held themselves accountable.

The same cannot be said of the political and media classes. Many, including Members of Congress, were looking for another moral bonfire to discredit the cause in Iraq, and they found a pretext in Haditha. The critics rushed to judgment; facts and evidence were discarded to fit the antiwar template.

Most despicably, they created and stoked a political atmosphere that exposes American soldiers in the line of duty, risking and often losing their lives, to criminal liability for the chaos of war. This is the deepest shame of Haditha, and the one for which apologies ought to be made.

Apologies which we will no doubt wait in vain for.


Monday, October 15, 2007
By The Book?

The poll results show that most of you are not thrilled with the idea of equipping the Iraqi military with M-16 assault rifles. It's interesting to note that's exactly the sort of thing that the military's official counterinsurgency manual recommends against as well (page 193):

A-43. By mid-tour, U.S. forces should be working closely with local forces, training or supporting them and building an indigenous security capability. The natural tendency is to create forces in a U.S. image. This is a mistake. Instead, local HN [host nation] forces need to mirror the enemy's capabilities and seek to supplant the insurgent's role. This does not mean they should be irregular in the sense of being brutal or outside proper control. Rather, they should move, equip, and organize like insurgents but have access to U.S. support and
be under the firm control of their parent societies. Combined with a mobilized populace and trusted networks, these characteristics allow HN forces to separate the insurgents from the population.


Thursday, September 27, 2007
Now Hear This

Last Saturday, we once again had the pleasure of interviewing Lt. Col. John A. Nagl. He's the author of Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam and played a major role in putting together the The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual.

He's also an articulate, thoughtful, and extremely intelligent man who exemplifies the best that the US military (and our country) has to offer. Like General Petraeus, he's very well-educated, having received a doctorate from Oxford. Throughout the interview he mentions other military officers with similar educational backgrounds.

My colleague John Hinderaker noted other rare qualities that these men seem to share. Besides the intellectual horsepower, there's an abundance of courage and a thirst for action. In this brief snippet (nine seconds) from the interview, Lt. Col. Nagl talks about how driving tanks around Iraq and Afghanistan is fun. How many other holders of an Oxford doctorate would say that?

The other common thread is a dedication to physical fitness. Lt. Col. Nagl is probably in better shape than 99% of Americans, but in this clip (thirty seconds) he talks about how General Petraeus--who's taken a bullet in a lung and broken a hip sky-diving--can run him into the ground despite being twenty years older than him. And impressive and select group of men indeed.

The entire interview is about forty minutes long and you can listen to it commercial free here. If you're interested in learning about counterinsurgency strategy and how it's being applied in Iraq from one of the true experts in the field, you'll want to hear this.


Monday, September 10, 2007
A Matter Of Trust

Vets For Freedom responds to

Tomorrow - as General David Petraeus provides his Iraq assessment to Congress - the anti-war group,, is running a full - page advertisement in the New York Times with the headline: "General Petraeus or General Betray us? Cooking the books for the White House."

Let's be clear: is suggesting that General Petraeus has 'betrayed' his country. This is disgusting. To attack as a traitor an American general commanding forces in war, because his "on the ground" experience does not align with's political objectives, is utterly shameful. It shows contempt for America's military leadership, as well as for the troops who have confidence in him, as our fellow soldiers in Iraq certainly do.

General Petraeus has served this country for over 35 years with honor, distinction, and integrity. And this is not just about General Petraeus. After all, if General Petraeus is "cooking the books," then the entire military chain of command in Baghdad, and all the staff, military and civilian, who have been working with General Petraeus are complicit, since Petraeus did not write his report in isolation. They are all, apparently, 'betray[ing] us.' has been working closely with the Democratic congressional leadership - as an article in today's Sunday New York Times Magazine makes clear. And consider this comment by a Democratic senator from Friday's Politico: "'No one wants to call [Petraeus] a liar on national TV,' noted one Democratic senator, who spoke on the condition on anonymity. "The expectation is that the outside groups will do this for us."

So, veterans who served in Iraq ask the Democratic leaders in Congress: Does speak for you? Do you agree with Or do you repudiate this despicable charge? has helped frame the core choice: Whom do we trust to run this war - and its allies in Congress, or Gen. David Petraeus and his colleagues?

Not exactly a tough call.


Friday, June 29, 2007
Old Dogs Not Learning New Tricks

Front page article in today's Wall Street Journal on the divisions within the leadership ranks of the Army--often following generational lines--over strategies and tactics in Iraq (sub req):

Last December, Lt. Col. Paul Yingling attended a Purple Heart ceremony for soldiers injured in Iraq. As he watched the wounded troops collect their medals, the 41-year-old officer reflected on his two combat tours in Iraq.

He was frustrated at how slowly the Army had adjusted to the demands of guerrilla war, and ashamed he hadn't done more to push for change. By the end of the ceremony, he says, he could barely look the wounded troops in the eyes. Col. Yingling just had been chosen to lead a 540-soldier battalion. "I can't command like this," he recalls thinking.

He poured his thoughts into a blistering critique of the Army brass, A Failure In Generalship, published last month in Armed Forces Journal, a nongovernment publication. "America's generals have been checked by a form of war that they did not prepare for and do not understand," his piece argued.

The essay rocketed around the Army via email. The director of the Army's elite school for war planners scrapped his lesson plan for a day to discuss it. The commanding general at Fort Hood assembled about 200 captains in the chapel of that Texas base and delivered a speech intended to rebut it.

"I think [Col. Yingling] was speaking some truths that most of us talk about over beers," says Col. Matthew Moten, a history professor at West Point who also served in Iraq. "Very few of us have the courage or foolhardiness to put them in print."

We linked to Col. Yingling's piece when it appeared and I find it heartening to hear that it incited such a response among his fellow soldiers.

The controversy over Col. Yingling's essay is part of a broader debate within the military over why the Army has struggled in Iraq, what it should look like going forward, and how it should be led. It's a fight being hashed out in the form of what one Pentagon official calls "failure narratives." Some of these explanations for the military's struggles in Iraq come through official channels. Others, like Col. Yingling's, are unofficial and show up in military journals and books.

The conflicting theories on Iraq reflect growing divisions within the military along generational lines, pitting young officers, exhausted by multiple Iraq tours and eager for change, against more conservative generals. Army and Air Force officers are also developing their own divergent explanations for Iraq. The Air Force narratives typically suggest the military should in the future avoid manpower-intensive guerrilla wars. Army officers counter that such fights are inevitable.

Unfortunately, you don't always get to choose the type of war that you fight. Part of the reason that the Army has struggled in Iraq is that their leaders decided that the lesson of Vietnam was not to get involved in wars like it again rather than learning how to fight and win a counterinsurgency struggle.

The generational divide is fueling a fight over how the Army should use the extra troops it is getting. The Army wants to build five more brigades, which consist of 5,000 to 7,000 soldiers each. But some young officers, such as Lt. Col. John Nagl, an Iraq veteran who helped write the new counterinsurgency doctrine, want more radical change. He contends the extra troops should be used to build a new, 20,000-man advisory corps focused on training foreign forces.

"The most important military component of the Long War [on terrorism] will not be the fighting we do ourselves, but how well we enable and empower our allies to fight with us," he wrote in an essay published by the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think tank.

Although senior Army officials don't like Col. Nagl's idea, it has some support among Pentagon civilians in Defense Secretary Robert Gates's office. "A big question right now in the Pentagon is: How do you get the Army to begin this debate about itself and what it should look like after Iraq?" says Andrew Hoehn, a former Pentagon strategist and senior analyst at the Rand Corp., a government-funded think tank. Frustration among junior officers could drive bottom-up change, he says.

We've had Lt. Col Nagl come on as a guest on the Northern Alliance Radio Network a couple of times. He's one of the new generation of Army leaders who are trying to get the military to adapt to the reality of the type of war that we are currently facing in Iraq (and will likely face elsewhere in the future). The success or failure of their efforts at reforming the military from within will have a lot to say about America's prospects for success in the Long War.


Thursday, June 28, 2007
No Place To Swim

On Tuesday, Instapundit (and a variety of other sites) linked to a great post by David Kilcullen on how to understand the current operations in Iraq at Small Wars Journal:

On June 15th we kicked off a major series of division-sized operations in Baghdad and the surrounding provinces. As General Odierno said, we have finished the build-up phase and are now beginning the actual "surge of operations". I have often said that we need to give this time. That is still true. But this is the end of the beginning: we are now starting to put things onto a viable long-term footing.

These operations are qualitatively different from what we have done before. Our concept is to knock over several insurgent safe havens simultaneously, in order to prevent terrorists relocating their infrastructure from one to another, and to create an operational synergy between what we're doing in Baghdad and what's happening outside. Unlike on previous occasions, we don't plan to leave these areas once they're secured. These ops will run over months, and the key activity is to stand up viable local security forces in partnership with Iraqi Army and Police, as well as political and economic programs, to permanently secure them. The really decisive activity will be police work, registration of the population and counterintelligence in these areas, to comb out the insurgent sleeper cells and political cells that have "gone quiet" as we moved in, but which will try to survive through the op and emerge later. This will take operational patience, and it will be intelligence-led, and Iraqi government-led. It will probably not make the news (the really important stuff rarely does) but it will be the truly decisive action.

Not that you would learn any of this if your primary resource for information from Iraq is the mainstream media. Most of the reports that I've read, seen, or heard about recent operations concentrate on "rising US casualities" or write off the efforts as futile because those wily Al Qaeda chaps have "slipped away once again." Kilcullen provides a much needed corrective:

When we speak of "clearing" an enemy safe haven, we are not talking about destroying the enemy in it; we are talking about rescuing the population in it from enemy intimidation. If we don't get every enemy cell in the initial operation, that's OK. The point of the operations is to lift the pall of fear from population groups that have been intimidated and exploited by terrorists to date, then win them over and work with them in partnership to clean out the cells that remain--as has happened in Al Anbar Province and can happen elsewhere in Iraq as well.

The "terrain" we are clearing is human terrain, not physical terrain. It is about marginalizing al Qa'ida, Shi'a extremist militias, and the other terrorist groups from the population they prey on. This is why claims that "80% of AQ leadership have fled" don't overly disturb us: the aim is not to kill every last AQ leader, but rather to drive them off the population and keep them off, so that we can work with the community to prevent their return.

Almost sounds like classic counterinsurgency, don't it?

Is there a strategic risk involved in this series of operations? Absolutely. Nothing in war is risk-free. We have chosen to accept and manage this risk, primarily because a low-risk option simply will not get us the operational effects that the strategic situation demands. We have to play the hand we have been dealt as intelligently as possible, so we're doing what has to be done. It still might not work, but "it is what it is" at this point.

So much for theory. The practice, as always, has been mixed. Personally, I think we are doing reasonably well and casualties have been lower so far than I feared. Every single loss is a tragedy. But so far, thank God, the loss rate has not been too terrible: casualties are up in absolute terms, but down as a proportion of troops deployed (in the fourth quarter of 2006 we had about 100,000 troops in country and casualties averaged 90 deaths a month; now we have almost 160,000 troops in country but deaths are under 120 per month, much less than a proportionate increase, which would have been around 150 a month). And last year we patrolled rarely, mainly in vehicles, and got hit almost every time we went out. Now we patrol all the time, on foot, by day and night with Iraqi units normally present as partners, and the chances of getting hit are much lower on each patrol. We are finally coming out of the "defensive crouch" with which we used to approach the environment, and it is starting to pay off.

It will be a long, hard summer, with much pain and loss to come, and things could still go either way. But the population-centric approach is the beginning of a process that aims to put the overall campaign onto a sustainable long-term footing. The politics of the matter then can be decisive, provided the Iraqis use the time we have bought for them to reach the essential accommodation. The Embassy and MNF-I continue to work on these issues at the highest levels but fundamentally, this is something that only Iraqis can resolve: our role is to provide an environment in which it becomes possible

This last point is a rebuke to the critics who harp "A military solution isn't possible." Of course, there isn't a purely military solution for Iraq. Military leaders, from General Petraeus on down, have acknowldged this over and over. But any potential political solution must have a military component--namely security--to have any chance at all.


Thursday, June 21, 2007
The Vietnamization Of Iraq

One thing that most reasonable folk can agree on when it comes to Iraq is that it would be desirable to reduce the number of US troops in Iraq, but such a reduction could very well lead to a power vacuum which could plunge the entire region into a much wider conflict. In order to avoid such a prospect a number of alternatives have been proposed from sending UN troops (heh, heh--why not ask the Pope for a couple of divisions while you're at it?) to having local Arab countries provide a security force.

Thomas P.M. Barnett has previously suggested that China and India should both pony up troops to help secure Iraq since both countries have a vested interest in stability in the region (read: keeping the oil flowing). However, the idea of opening the door for the Chicoms to come marching in is a an unsettling one and India has its own Muslim issues to deal with. India is also a democracy, which makes sending and keeping troops in Iraq for any length of time extremely complicated and unlikely.

So where to turn? How about a country with the 10th largest active military (2nd largest if you include reserves and paramilitary), a desire to be more accepted into the world community, and none of that pesky democracy nonsense to deal with? Throw in that fact that they understand the concept of the long war, know what an insurgency is all about, and have a history that proves their resiliency in military affairs and the answer is obvious: Vietnam.

I hatched this wild-arsed notion last night while reading an excellent book on the air war over Vietnam:

It's a loaner from JB and is a small step forward in reducing his book trade deficit with me.

Some of the stories of what the Vietnamese were willing and able to do to keep the Ho Chi Minh Trail open despite a concentrated American effort to shut it down (at least from the air) made me realize that if they had the ingenuity, guts, and willpower to outlast the United States, then dealing with the insurgency in Iraq should be child's play. And no worries about the domestic front in Hanoi either. Consider it the next frontier in outsourcing.

They provide 100,000 troops or so. We take care of any supply, equipment, or transportation issues they may have. And foot the bill. We also sign a far-reaching free preferred nation trade agreement with Vietnam (much better than any we have now), give American companies tax breaks to invest there (better Vietnam than China), dramatically increase our aid efforts, work out energy agreements, provide them security guarantees, and do whatever else the Vietnamese feel they need to be warmly welcomed and better integrated into the international economic community. They essentially become one of our key allies in the world.

Some may balk because the Vietnamese government is still a Communist run tyranny. But we're talking big-picture, geo-strategic realpolitik here. If getting us out of Iraq without plunging the Mideast into complete chaos means playing a little footsie with the Politburo in Hanoi, I think most Americans would say lets start the flirting.

Of course it's a crazy and completely unrealistic proposition. But you gotta admit its got a certain wacky logic and appeal.

SP ADDS: This is the best idea I've heard since Vox Day suggested solving our country's two biggest problems by colonizing Iraq with 12 million illegal immigrants from Mexico.


Monday, May 28, 2007
Vets For Freedom

A Memorial Day message from Pete Hegseth, executive director of Vets For Freedom:

This Memorial Day weekend, Americans across this great country will join together in remembering those soldiers who gave their lives in defense of freedom. From the blood-soaked beaches of France to the bombed-out back-alleys of Fallujah, the American G.I. has fought - and died - opposing that which is evil and oppressive, and defending all things decent and free.

Memorial Day is not about partisan politics or divergent ideologies; it's about remembering the fallen on the battlefield and passing their collective story to the next generation. These stories, and the men that bear them, are the backbone of this American experiment and must never be forgotten. The minute, excuse me - the second - we believe our freedoms "inevitable and immutable," we have ceased to live in history, and have soured the soldier's sacrifice. He died in the mud, so we could enjoy this holiday. Today, and every day, only a deep appreciation for our freedom - purchased on the battlefield - will suffice.

It is with abiding reverence for America's fallen heroes - and belief in our mission ahead - that I assume the position of Executive Director of Vets for Freedom. We hope to honor the fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan by redoubling our efforts in pursuit of the mission they died for. Led by Al Qaeda, radical Islamists - waging a global insurgency - have declared war on America and now seem poised to declare victory in Iraq. We cannot allow this to happen! Thankfully, we have a new General in Baghdad, with more troops and a new strategy, and reports are promising. But General Petraeus and our soldiers must be given the time necessary to implement the new strategy. That is where Vets for Freedom comes in.

Under the excellent leadership of Wade Zirkle, Vets for Freedom has been a strong and consistent voice for veterans who believe in the need for success in Iraq and Afghanistan. With Wade still on board, I hope to build on this foundation and amplify the Vets for Freedom message. To this end, we have adopted a succinct mission statement: mobilizing veterans to communicate America's strategic objectives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The "is the surge working?" debate is coming in September, and Vets for Freedom intends to ensure the pro-mission, pro-surge message is included. Through television, radio, print, and a major yet-to-be-announced event, Vets for Freedom will ensure the voice of the vast "silent majority" of pro-mission troops is heard. However, one thing stands in our way: money. Running an organization takes substantial resources, and Vets for Freedom needs your help. Please, before you head out for the weekend, consider a generous donation. We need it!

I'm eager to get started and look forward to the challenges ahead. But more importantly, today - and every day - I'm proud to have known men that we remember this weekend. Men who, without their sacrifice at the altar of freedom, would have shared this day with us, but instead, live forever as heroes.

God bless this great country,

You can make a donation here.


Friday, May 04, 2007
Steven Vincent Remembered

We were honored to interview journalist/author Steven Vincent a couple of times on the NARN before he was kidnapped and killed in Iraq. Tonight, the PBS program "NOW" will feature Vincent's story in an episode called Casualties of War:

American Reporter Steven Vincent and his translator Nour Al Khal were putting their lives on the line each day in Iraq to uncover the truth about sectarian violence. In August 2005 they were kidnapped by the very people they had been reporting on. Vincent was shot dead, becoming the first U.S. journalist murdered in Iraq.

This week, NOW's Maria Hinojosa travels to the Middle East to talk to Nour, an extraordinary woman who, despite being shot three times, survived. Like two million of her compatriots, Nour has fled Iraq and still fears for her life as a refugee in a neighboring country.

Now Vincent's widow, Lisa Ramaci, is doing everything she can to bring Nour to safety in the U.S. "We share Steven. She was his friend. He was my husband. But we both loved him in different ways," Ramaci tells NOW.

If you get a chance, tune in to watch. The show airs at 8:30pm tonight locally. To find out when it's on a PBS station near you, go here.


Friday, April 27, 2007
General Failures

Lt. Col. Paul Yingling writes on failure in generalship in Vietnam and Iraq in the May 2007 Armed Forces Journal (via Mr. Day):

Having spent a decade preparing to fight the wrong war, America's generals then miscalculated both the means and ways necessary to succeed in Iraq. The most fundamental military miscalculation in Iraq has been the failure to commit sufficient forces to provide security to Iraq's population. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) estimated in its 1998 war plan that 380,000 troops would be necessary for an invasion of Iraq. Using operations in Bosnia and Kosovo as a model for predicting troop requirements, one Army study estimated a need for 470,000 troops. Alone among America's generals, Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki publicly stated that "several hundred thousand soldiers" would be necessary to stabilize post-Saddam Iraq. Prior to the war, President Bush promised to give field commanders everything necessary for victory. Privately, many senior general officers both active and retired expressed serious misgivings about the insufficiency of forces for Iraq. These leaders would later express their concerns in tell-all books such as "Fiasco" and "Cobra II." However, when the U.S. went to war in Iraq with less than half the strength required to win, these leaders did not make their objections public.

Given the lack of troop strength, not even the most brilliant general could have devised the ways necessary to stabilize post-Saddam Iraq. However, inept planning for postwar Iraq took the crisis caused by a lack of troops and quickly transformed it into a debacle. In 1997, the U.S. Central Command exercise "Desert Crossing" demonstrated that many postwar stabilization tasks would fall to the military. The other branches of the U.S. government lacked sufficient capability to do such work on the scale required in Iraq. Despite these results, CENTCOM accepted the assumption that the State Department would administer postwar Iraq. The military never explained to the president the magnitude of the challenges inherent in stabilizing postwar Iraq.

After failing to visualize the conditions of combat in Iraq, America's generals failed to adapt to the demands of counterinsurgency. Counterinsurgency theory prescribes providing continuous security to the population. However, for most of the war American forces in Iraq have been concentrated on large forward-operating bases, isolated from the Iraqi people and focused on capturing or killing insurgents. Counterinsurgency theory requires strengthening the capability of host-nation institutions to provide security and other essential services to the population. America's generals treated efforts to create transition teams to develop local security forces and provincial reconstruction teams to improve essential services as afterthoughts, never providing the quantity or quality of personnel necessary for success.

Sobering stuff. Yingling also describes the qualities that good generals possess and, from everything that we've heard so far, it seems that General Petraeus has them in spades. His new approach to counterinsurgency in Iraq also seems to be the one with the best chance for success. The questions of course is whether it's now too late in the game.

I'm also not optimistic about Yingling's call for Congress to take the lead in turning the tide:

To reward moral courage in our general officers, Congress must ask hard questions about the means and ways for war as part of its oversight responsibility. Some of the answers will be shocking, which is perhaps why Congress has not asked and the generals have not told. Congress must ask for a candid assessment of the money and manpower required over the next generation to prevail in the Long War. The money required to prevail may place fiscal constraints on popular domestic priorities. The quantity and quality of manpower required may call into question the viability of the all-volunteer military. Congress must re-examine the allocation of existing resources, and demand that procurement priorities reflect the most likely threats we will face. Congress must be equally rigorous in ensuring that the ways of war contribute to conflict termination consistent with the aims of national policy. If our operations produce more enemies than they defeat, no amount of force is sufficient to prevail. Current oversight efforts have proved inadequate, allowing the executive branch, the services and lobbyists to present information that is sometimes incomplete, inaccurate or self-serving. Exercising adequate oversight will require members of Congress to develop the expertise necessary to ask the right questions and display the courage to follow the truth wherever it leads them.

Expertise on military matters and courage are not qualities that one finds in abundance in Congress these days.


Thursday, April 05, 2007
Hierarchy Of Trust

One of the interesting dynamics of the war in Iraq is where people get the news that forms their views on the conflict. The diffusion of sources and outlets for war news has never been as broad as it today and there's no such thing as "the story" on the war in Iraq. There are many different stories, often contradictory, competing for an audience. And who you trust to give you the news from Iraq probably says a lot about how you feel about the war.

Here's what I call my "Hierarchy of Trust" for reliable, accurate information about what is really going in Iraq:

At the top: Troops on the ground.
Even though they can only report on the sector they're in, sometimes not being able to see the larger picture, they still provide the most honest assessment of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

One level down: Reporters who have been in Iraq for extended periods of time, have a deep understanding of the military and history, and spend most of their time in the field. Michael Yon is an obvious example and I would also put John Burns from the The New York Times in this all too small group.

Next level down: US military commanders and spokespeople in Iraq. Overall, a pretty good record of not sugar-coating things.

Next level down: The balcony brigade of reporters who spend most of their time in their hotels in Baghdad as well as reporters who may get out where the action is, but are not trustworthy because of their obvious anti-American and anti-military biases.

At the bottom: Politicians from either party who spend one of two days in Iraq and then come back to tell us how things are going. Please. It's like visiting the Mall of America and then making pronouncements about crime in Minneapolis. Don't misunderstand, I applaud those politicians who travel to Iraq and believe there are good reasons for doing so. However, their views of Iraq are by necessity very narrow and limited in scope and scale.

Here's a graphical representation:


Monday, April 02, 2007
Gorillas In The Mist?

A forwarded e-mail warns us to expect ferocious chest-beating, loud scowling vocalizations, and pungent odors in Saint Paul tomorrow afternoon.

Please join us tomorrow to say no to the war on Iraq. We appreciate your support!

Stop the War on Iraq: Demand that Senator Coleman Represent MN in Congress!

Tuesday, April 3
Senator Coleman's office, 2550 University Ave. W, St. Paul

For eight Tuesdays local activists have sat in Coleman's office demanding that he vote against the surge & funding for the war. But Coleman refuses to represent the majority of Minnesotans. Demonstrate at one of the busiest intersections in the Twin Cities (280 & University) to bring attention to Coleman's voting record. There will be speeches, bannering, & "guerrilla theater".

Organized by the Anti-War Committee & the Twin Cities Peace Campaign. Endorsed by the Anti-War Organizing League.

Since when did "bannering" become a word anyway? You're going to be holding banners, okay? We're happy for you.


Friday, November 24, 2006
Geopolitical Redemption

Ross Douthat points to a lengthy piece on Iraq by Mark Danner in The New York Review of Books. It's well-worth reading, especially since Danner has good insights on what compelled the Bush administration to go to war.

According to Woodward, this report had "a strong impact on President Bush, causing him to focus on the 'malignancy' of the Middle East"--and the need to act to excise it, beginning with an attack on Iraq that would not only serve, in its devastating rapidity and effectiveness, as a "demonstration model" to deter anyone thinking to threaten the United States but would begin a process of "democratic transformation" that would quickly spread throughout the region. The geopolitical thinking animating this "democratic domino theory" could be plainly discerned before the war, as I wrote five months before US Army tanks crossed the border into Iraq:

Behind the notion that an American intervention will make of Iraq "the first Arab democracy," as Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz put it, lies a project of great ambition. It envisions a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq--secular, middle-class, urbanized, rich with oil--that will replace the autocracy of Saudi Arabia as the key American ally in the Persian Gulf, allowing the withdrawal of United States troops from the kingdom. The presence of a victorious American Army in Iraq would then serve as a powerful boost to moderate elements in neighboring Iran, hastening that critical country's evolution away from the mullahs and toward a more moderate course. Such an evolution in Tehran would lead to a withdrawal of Iranian support for Hezbollah and other radical groups, thereby isolating Syria and reducing pressure on Israel. This undercutting of radicals on Israel's northern borders and within the West Bank and Gaza would spell the definitive end of Yasir Arafat and lead eventually to a favorable solution of the Arab-Israeli problem.

This is a vision of great sweep and imagination: comprehensive, prophetic, evangelical. In its ambitions, it is wholly foreign to the modesty of containment, the ideology of a status-quo power that lay at the heart of American strategy for half a century. It means to remake the world, to offer to a political threat a political answer. It represents a great step on the road toward President Bush's ultimate vision of "freedom's triumph over all its age-old foes."

It represented as well a breathtaking gamble, for if the victory in Iraq was to achieve what was expected--which is to say, "humiliate" the forces of radical Islam and reestablish American prestige and credibility; serve as a "demonstration model" to ward off attacks from any rogue state that might threaten the United States, either directly or by supplying weapons of mass destruction to terrorists; and transform the Middle East by sending a "democratic tsunami" cascading from Tehran to Gaza--if the Iraq war was to achieve this, victory must be rapid, decisive, overwhelming.

Only Donald Rumsfeld's transformed military--a light, quick, lean force dependent on overwhelming firepower directed precisely by high technology and with very few "boots on the ground"--could make this happen, or so he and his planners thought. Victory would be quick and awe-inspiring; in a few months the Americans, all but a handful of them, would be gone: only the effect of the "demonstration model," and the cascading consequences in the neighboring states, would remain. The use of devastating military power would begin the process but once begun the transformation would roll forward, carried out by forces of the same thrilling "democratic revolution" that had erupted on the streets of Prague and Budapest and East Berlin more than a decade before, and indeed on the streets of Kabul the previous year. Here was an evangelical vision of geopolitical redemption.

Was it folly to believe that such a vision could be realized? Wishful thinking? Perhaps. But opponents of the war should at least acknowledge what the true aims and goals were and direct their criticism accordingly, rather than attacking imaginary cabals, oil-greedy warmongers, and imperialistic cowboys.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Hand In Glove

Bing West and Hans Binnendijk suggest the U.S. adopt one of the key lessons from Vietnam and embed more troops with Iraqi units (WSJ-sub req):

But any diplomatic package will fail unless Iraq's security forces restore order. The only way to rapidly do that is to shift platoons from American battalions into 140 Iraqi army battalions and critical police stations. Currently the U.S. has about a dozen military advisers working in each Iraqi battalion. These advisers spend their time as managers. They are too few to give combat advice and moral reassurance out on the streets during daily operations.

As a result, Iraqi platoons, lacking self-confidence, restrict their patrolling in the dangerous areas where they are most needed. To infuse combat confidence in each Iraqi battalion, we propose embedding about 60 advisers -- by transferring a reinforced platoon from every U.S. infantry battalion in Iraq. Each American soldier and Marine so deployed would be a force multiplier, greatly increasing the effectiveness of the Iraqi soldiers. The total number of advisers would expand to 20,000, plus additional support. Air and artillery strikes would be on call. Additional U.S. battalions would be needed to provide Quick Reaction Forces should the embedded forces need them. Special Forces commandos would still seek out al Qaeda operatives anywhere. U.S. units would maintain security in parts of Baghdad and 10 other key cities.

The huge increase in advisers would be offset by a drawdown of American conventional battalions and base support units. American-only patrols are becoming counterproductive, with fewer direct enemy engagements, more sniper and IED attacks, and more alienated Iraqis. In return for the embedding, the U.S. would insist that Iraqi officers accused of malfeasance by their advisory teams be relieved of duty.

By shifting missions from American-only patrolling to embedded combat advisers, the overall U.S. troop requirement might be cut nearly in half during the coming year. But the effectiveness of the mission should increase, based on past experience. In Vietnam, the Marine Combined Action Platoon (CAP) program deployed over 100 squads to live in hamlets with Popular Force units. Large areas were patrolled at low cost and 60% of the Marines involved extended at the end of their tours. Last year in northwest Iraq, the American commander in al Qaim replicated the CAP experience by integrating his battalion into local police and army forces and driving al Qaeda out of the city.

Such an integrated approach, with advisors living, training, and fighting alongside native troops to provide needed backbone, has proven successful in past counterinsurgencies. It usually results in better intelligence gathering and helps minimize the overt presence of the foreign "occupier." Why it hasn't been widely adopted in Iraq up to this point is a bit puzzling. Let's hope that the advice offered by West and Binnendijk become part of the much talked about "go long" approach the military is considering.


Monday, March 20, 2006
Heeding Santayana

Listening to people like Richard Belzer opine on the situation in Iraq, why it's a quagmire, another Vietnam, etc. you get the idea that their condescending, smarter than thou attitude extends toward all levels of the military. They view the generals running the war as incompetent, blood-thirsty Neanderthals, too stupid and ignorant to learn obvious lessons from the past. One can imagine Belzer reading one of the twenty papers he allegedly consumes a day, dismissively shaking his head and muttering, "Fools. Can't they see they're making the same mistakes in Iraq that they did in Vietnam?"

Fortunately, the top commanders conducting the war are far more intelligent than the Belzers of the world imagine (and far more intelligent than the Belzers of the world for that matter). Today's WSJ features an article on how the Army is Re-Examining the Lessons of Vietnam (subscription required):

The last time Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld visited Baghdad, back in December, the top U.S. military commander there gave him an unusual gift.

Gen. George Casey passed him a copy of Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife : Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam, written by Lt. Col. John Nagl. Initially published in 2002, the book is brutal in its criticism of the Vietnam-era Army as an organization that failed to learn from its mistakes and tried vainly to fight guerrilla insurgents the same way it fought World War II.

In the book, Col. Nagl, who served a year in Iraq, contrasts the U.S. Army's failure with the British experience in Malaya in the 1950s. The difference: The British, who eventually prevailed, quickly saw the folly of using massive force to annihilate a shadowy communist enemy.

"The British Army was a learning institution, and the U.S. Army was not," Col. Nagl writes.

Thankfully, that unwillingness to learn and adapt doesn't seem to be quite as much of a problem for the Army anymore:

The newer analyses of Vietnam are now supplanting that theory -- and changing the way the Army fights. The argument that the military must exercise restraint is a central point of the Army's new counterinsurgency doctrine. The doctrine, which runs about 120 pages and is still in draft form, is a handbook on how to wage guerrilla wars.

It offers Army and Marine Corps officers advice on everything from strategy development to intelligence gathering. Col. Nagl is among the four primary authors of the doctrine. Conrad Crane, a historian at the U.S. Army War College, is overseeing the effort.

One of the doctrine's primary goals is to shatter the conventional wisdom that defined the post-Vietnam Army. "We are at a turning point in the Army's institutional history," Col. Nagl and his co-authors write in a forthcoming essay in "Military Review," an Army journal.

Drawing on its frustrating struggle to prop up a corrupt government in Saigon, the Army in its new blueprint counsels soldiers that anti-guerrilla operations must be focused on building a government that is seen as legitimate in the eyes of the locals. "Military actions conducted without analysis of their political effectiveness will be at best ineffective and at worst help the enemy," the draft doctrine states.

Not exactly "Bomb 'em back into the Stone Age" is it?

The first Gulf War seemed to vindicate the Army's big-war approach. The Army had finally been allowed to fight the conventional, firepower-intensive war it wanted to mount in Vietnam. It prevailed quickly and with few casualties. "By God, we've kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all," the President George H.W. Bush gushed in 1991.

To Col. Nagl, the Army's quick, low-casualty win wasn't necessarily a good news story. "The lesson of the Gulf War was: Don't fight the U.S. conventionally," Col. Nagl says. "The way to defeat the U.S. Army is to use guerrilla warfare and exhaust the will of the U.S. At least you have a chance to win."

Col. Nagl reread Mr. Krepinevich's account of the Army in Vietnam, which he says had a big influence on his doctoral thesis. "I stole from it shamelessly," he says today, although he fully credited the work in his own. He also immersed himself in the papers of Sir Gerald Templer, who led British counterinsurgency efforts in Malaya in the 1950s. "I wanted to figure out why the British Army was able to learn how to defeat an insurgency after starting out badly and why the American Army was not able to learn as well in Vietnam," Col. Nagl says.

He concluded that the Army did learn in Vietnam, but far too slowly. By 1969 the military had shifted away from large-scale search-and-destroy missions and was putting a far greater emphasis on building indigenous security forces, safeguarding villagers and developing the local economy. However, "at that point the American people had already lost their faith," he says.

Colonel Nagl's ideas quickly found favor with the brass:

While Col. Nagl was in Iraq, Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army's top officer, picked up his book and was taken by its argument that the Army's big-war culture in Vietnam often overpowered innovative ideas from inside the service and out.

The general ordered his fellow four-star generals to read it. Before he went to Iraq to take over as the top commander, Gen. Casey read Col. Nagl's book as well. "The thesis that the U.S. military was too prone to [big offensive strikes] to be good at counterinsurgency was something I noted to watch for when I got here," says Gen. Casey in an email from Baghdad.

The tome has already had an influence on the ground in Iraq. Last winter, Gen. Casey opened a school for U.S. commanders in Iraq to help officers adjust to the demands of a guerrilla-style conflict in which the enemy hides among the people and tries to provoke an overreaction. The idea for the training center, says Gen. Casey, came in part from Col. Nagl's book, which chronicles how the British in Malaya used a similar school to educate British officers coming into the country.

"Pretty much everyone on Gen. Casey's staff had read Nagl's book," says Lt. Col. Nathan Freier, who spent a year in Iraq as a strategist. A British brigadier general says that "Gen. Casey carried the book with him everywhere." Both Col. Nagl's and Mr. Krepinevich's books are included on a recommended counterinsurgency reading list included in the draft doctrine.

How many members of the media covering the war in Iraq have read the book? How many have even heard of it?

Other Vietnam histories have also drawn the interest of senior Army officers. Lt. Gen. John Vines, who was until recently the No. 2 commander in Iraq, recommended his staff read Col. McMaster's "Dereliction of Duty." The book portrays the military's senior Vietnam-era generals as a feckless lot, unwilling to confront President Lyndon Johnson over what they believed to be a bankrupt strategy. Its message: Military commanders must always speak the truth to their civilian bosses.

What? You mean they're not a cabal of mindless automatons willing to go along with the neocon Cowboy In Chief on any reckless military adventure as long it serves to advance their careers?

Let's hope that one of the twenty papers that Belzer claims to read daily is the Wall Street Journal. Somehow, I doubt it.


Sunday, January 29, 2006
Tomorrow Today Yesterday on the Northern Alliance Radio Network

It was a terrific experience interviewing the great Victor Davis Hanson yesterday and he was typically insightful and provocative in analyzing our enemies of today through the lens of history. For those who missed it, you have one more chance to hear it on the Northern Alliance Radio Network Replay - tonight starting at 9 PM (central) on AM1280 the Patriot and on the station's web stream.

It is interesting to note that VDH is currently a Senior Fellow at Stanford University. The same institution of higher learning responsible for producing VH1 smirk meister and LA Times columnist Joel Stein.

As you may recall, Stein was responsible for producing the now infamous column where he attempted to bring VH1 level sarcastic petulance to the subject of whether or not the people on the home front should support our soldiers in fighting in Iraq. With hilarious intended consequences:

I DON'T SUPPORT our troops. This is a particularly difficult opinion to have, especially if you are the kind of person who likes to put bumper stickers on his car. Supporting the troops is a position that even Calvin is unwilling to urinate on.

The truth is that people who pull triggers are ultimately responsible, whether they're following orders or not. An army of people making individual moral choices may be inefficient, but an army of people ignoring their morality is horrifying.

I'm not advocating that we spit on returning veterans like they did after the Vietnam War, but we shouldn't be celebrating people for doing something we don't think was a good idea. All I'm asking is that we give our returning soldiers what they need: hospitals, pensions, mental health and a safe, immediate return. But, please, no parades. Seriously, the traffic is insufferable.

Ha! The sarcastic, above-it-all tone of this column makes me wonder if Stein was using it to audition for a new VH1 series, I Love the Liberals. You could get Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, and for laughs, throw in that that guy who looks like Martin Zellar (or maybe Martin Zellar himself). It could be a big hit, at least in certain sniffing sectors of the urban core.

It is bittersweet to speculate on how it might have all worked out differently, if only Joel Stein as a pimply, pompous undergrad could have taken a class taught by Professor Victor Davis Hanson. For then he might have learned something about war and sacrifice and the honor earned by the men who serve and fight for us, whether we approve of them or not.

But, luckily for Stein (and for us products of public schools), it's never to late to learn. And VDH's new book is a good place to start. Relevant excerpts on supporting the troops from A War Like No Other:

For a writer who is supposedly interested in power rather than tragedy, Thucydides misses no occasion to note how heartbreaking the losses of particular armies were. What seems to capture the historian's attention is not, as is so often claimed, the role of force in interstate relations but the misery of war that is unleashed upon thousands, the subject of this book, who must fight it.

Thucydides sometimes opines that a particular campaign was wise or foolish, but he nearly always adds enough detail and editorializing to convey to us that the soldiers who believed in the cause for which they were dying deserved commemoration in term that matched their sacrifice.

Whereas historians search for messages about the "lessons" of Thucydides embedded within his text, the general reader has no problem in sensing immediately what his history is about precisely from those memorable passages that will never go away, reminding us of the passions and furor that are unleashed on otherwise normal men when they go to war.

Such recognition is not necessarily cause for pacifism, rather, to Thucydides it calls for acceptance that thousands will end up rotten in little know places ...

But between emotion and logic resides the fate of thousands of mostly unknown ... who will surely then and now be asked to settle through violence what words alone cannot. Remember them, for the Peloponnesian War was theirs alone.

And, of course, the same can be said for America's experience in the Iraq war.

A little less time with VH1 and little more with VDH might help Joel Stein and the rest of the non-troop supporting Left understand this.


Friday, September 16, 2005
Debate Club

It sounds like I missed a great debate Wednesday, between Christopher Hitchens and George Galloway, regarding the Iraq war. Not that I generally consider two old leftists shouting at each other to be high entertainment (which is why I stopped attending St. Paul mayoral debates). But in the past few years Hitchens has become one of the most articulate defenders of Western values and of the American led efforts against the Islamic-fascist movement. And his opponent, former British MP George Galloway, is so corrupt and outlandish in his mouthing of anti-war banalities (while remaining a hero to the Left), this sounds like a match up that would reinforce all of my pre-existing notions of why I am right and why they are wrong. As Vince McMahon would surely attest, that, my friends is entertainment.

Check out some of the trash talk before the match. I can envision Gene Okerlund with a microphone vainly trying to restore order here.

When Mr Hitchens dared to question Mr Galloway on his record of support for unsavoury Arab regimes, the MP called him "a drink-soaked former Trotskyite popinjay", and turned away.

Zing - I think. I know what drink-soaked and Trotskyite mean, but popinjay? For that definition, let's go to the Internet:

Popinjay: A vain or conceited person, one given to pretentious displays.

This deeply insulting word is now rather dated or literary. A good example can be found in Joseph Conrad's short story The End of the Tether of 1902: "When he looked around in the club he saw only a lot of conceited popinjays too selfish to think of making a good woman happy."

Dictionaries say a popinjay was also at one time the usual name for a parrot, and in that lies the origin of the derogatory term. What could be more gaudily and squawkingly in your face than a parrot? What more perfect term for an empty chatterer, fop or coxcomb? Who's a pretty boy, then?

I get the sense that would actually be an insult to an Englishman (that is to say a fop or coxcomb).

More pre-debate smack down from Galloway:

if Mr Hitchens chose to get "down and dirty" he would find "my street-fighting style more than a match for his effete public school performance." He added: "If he turns up drunk he'll be a pushover. If he turns up sober he?ll be shaking like a leaf."

Attacking his masculinity and calling him a drunk. Now these are some insults we can all get behind. Surprisingly, I can find no response to these brickbats from the pugnacious Hitchens. Maybe he was taking the high road. But when the debate began Wednesday night, he did do some substantive mudslinging:

I believe it is a disgrace that a member of the British House of Commons should go before the United States Senate Subcommittee, and not testify, but decline to testify, and to insult all those who try to ask him questions with the most vile and cheap gutter snipe abuse, I think that's a disgrace.

Not bad. Calling someone a "gutter snipe" sounds impressive. But upon further review, the term is less than scalding:

a child from a poor area of a town who is dirty and dressed badly

Now that the greater New Orleans area is full of gutter snipes, this actually may backfire on Hitchens. Or perhaps he was using the other definition of gutter snipe:

One or more stamps to which is attached the full gutter from between panes, plus any amount of an adjoining stamp or stamps. This term is typically used in reference to US stamps. Gutter snipes are freaks caused by miss registration of the cutting device or paper fold over.

Take that Galloway - as any philatelist will immediately understand, you're a freak!

As is his style, Galloway takes a more direct approach to analysis by insult:

What you are ... what you have witnessed since is something unique in natural history, the first ever metamorphosis from a butterfly back into a slug. And I mention slug purposely, because the one thing a slug does leave behind it is a trail of slime.

When it comes to verbal slurs, if you pull a knife on Galloway, he pulls a gun. Another of Hitchens verbal thursts during the debate also went awry:

In an apparent Freudian slip, Mr Hitchens confused the Dundee-born politician at one point with Libyan leader "Mr Gaddafi".

Freudian slip or a Tanqueray and tonic slip? I suppose the difference is negligible.

From these reports it doesn't sound like our man Christopher acquitted himself very well. But maybe these are distortions from a gaggle of reporters eager to have their champion Galloway win the day. Fellow cable TV subscribers I have good news, we can decide for ourselves. CSPAN will rebroadcast the debate this Saturday night at 8 PM Central, in what should be must see TV.

As long as we're on the topic of compelling Saturday media options, a reminder to listen to the Northern Alliance Radio Network this week. In addition to the normal blend of brilliant political analysis and inspired lunacy, we'll be interviewing cartoonist extraordinaire, Chris Muir of Day by Day fame. The show is noon to three Saturday afternoon on AM1280 the Patriot. Streaming available here. Don't you dare miss it!


Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Talk About Disconnected From Reality

Despite the fact that John McCain is running away from the pack in our Senatorial Survivor poll, I continue to insist that Chuck Hagel (smartly labeled by National Review as Republican-France) is the one most deserving of getting the boot.

Now, my good buds at are providing more evidence to support my position:

Last night President Bush tried to rescue his failed Iraq policy in a nationally televised address by connecting the Iraq war to the war on terror. He is trying to change the subject from Iraq to terrorism and September 11 -- implying that Iraq attacked us in 2001.

To keep Bush from changing the subject, we've started running a new TV ad about Iraq. But, to keep the advertising on the air we need to raise $250,000 today. Just $50 from 5,000 of us will make a big difference.

What's the name of the latest MoveOn ad blitz? From a e-mail on the subject we discover:

The ad, titled "Hagel," draws a sharp contrast between President Bush's claim that we're making progress in Iraq and the words of Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, who said, "The White House is completely disconnected from reality... It's like they're just making it up as they go along."1 Then, the ad calls for an exit strategy, saying, "It's time to come home. We went in the wrong way, let's come home the right way." An exit strategy with a timeline is supported by nearly 84% of MoveOn members according to the recent vote.

They're naming the freakin' ad after him? Senator Chuck Hagel, poster boy for The good people of Nebraska must be oh so proud.


Tuesday, June 14, 2005
The Real Thing

Steven Vincent is the author of the book "In The Red Zone" as well as the blog of the same name. He has appeared as a guest twice on the Northern Alliance Radio Network with us, and his accounts of traveling around Iraq are riveting. He's back in the country once again and shares the story of an Iraqi stringer in this piece at NRO:

Months went by, and the government refused to say what happened to Samir. With his family growing increasingly distraught, Ali took the hazardous step of visiting the party's Basra headquarters to ask about his brother's whereabouts. In response to his query, the Baathists arrested Ali, accusing him of belong to the Shia opposition group, Dawa Islamiyya -- as had, so they claimed, Samir. (Accusing someone of membership in Dawa was an all-purpose charge the regime used to "disappear" its citizens.) "I was sent to prison for trying to find out if my brother was alive or dead," Ali says.

At one point in his imprisonment, the Baathists took Ali to a "special" interrogation room, and ordered him to strip off his clothing. The interrogator then offered Ali a choice -- either he allowed torturers to shove a large bottle up his rectum, or hammer a nail into his back. "I chose the nail," Ali recounts in a flat tone. Twisting in his chair, he lifts up his t-shirt to exhibit a quarter-sized lump in his shoulder blade. "Believe me, sir, you have not felt such pain."

At least they didn't drop his Koran on the floor, disturb his sleep, or put underwear around his neck. 'Cause you know, THAT would have been torture.


Friday, September 24, 2004
Parroting the Puppet Propaganda

The Iraqi Resistance Report for events of Sunday, 8 August 2004 through Wednesday, 11 August 2004:

Iyyad 'Allawi, the US-appointed puppet "prime minister" visited an-Najaf on Sunday and demanded that the Jaysh al-Mahdi withdraw from their city to allow the US aggressors full control.


Joe Lockhart, a senior Kerry adviser yesterday:

"The last thing you want to be seen as is a puppet of the United States, and you can almost see the hand underneath the shirt today moving the lips."

Can you imagine if a senior advisor to Thomas Dewey had appropriated labels employed by Joseph Goebbels and used them to describe one of our allies in 1944? Is this how the Kerry campaign demonstrates how "I want victory, I want to win [in Iraq]"?

The longer this campaign season drags on, the more disgusted I become with the Kerry camp's willingness to do anything to win the election, regardless of how it might affect the outcome of the war.

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Another endorsement for John Kerry from foreign leaders:

Think about it if Bush were to go the americans will have a way to exist from Iraq. If Bush were to win, the first thing he will do, he will hammer AlFaluja and AlRumade, Alsader city, Samara and Diala. This is what McCain, the republican senator was revealing when talking about the military plans, which is now on hault because of the election.

Just register with fictitious name and e-mail if you want and write, write to their media websites. Even if it does not get published do not worry, I have sent more than 1500 emails and letters during the last few years.

As far the american soldiers in Iraq, is people were to write leaflets with big words on them like; VOTE KERRY AND GO HOME, VOTE KERRY AND HELP YOURSELF TO GO HOME, STOP FIGHTING BUSH'S WAR VOTE KERRY, THE NEO CONS ARE FREE MASONS AND JEWS AND SO ONE. Just write to them in a language they understand.

And I'm sure that Michael Moore will be pleased to know that those "Minutemen", the Iraqi insurgents have reciprocal feelings of admiration:

Michael Moore, your films have done a lot of good towards humanity. But can you send e-mails/letters to your troops even in those occupying Iraq, explaining the advantages of voting for Kerry, if for noting it will be just as a reminder.

Who are you voting for again?


Wednesday, September 08, 2004
Numbers In Perspective

Now that we've reached the one thousandth US military death in Iraq, we can expect to hear and see constant emphasis on this sad statistic all week. We mourn for every one of our soldiers, sailors, and marines who have lost their lives in the conflict. But it is important to consider this number in the historical context of past wars that we have fought as well.

Here is a listing of military deaths through American history. The first number is combat deaths, the second is non-combat deaths during the conflict. (Sources: America's Wars Fact Sheet and Americans Killed in Action, Numbers, American War Library)

American Revolution:

War of 1812:
2260 (total)

Mexican War:

Indian Wars:
1000 (estimated total)

Civil War:

Spanish American War:

Philippines War:
4273 (total)

World War I:

Various Interventions 1900-1932 (Boxer Rebellion, Moro Campaigns, Dominican Republic(2X), Mexico, Nicaragua(2X), Haiti, Russia):
1055 (total)

World War II:



Gulf War:

In addition there have been single days in American military history with significant loss of life. (Source: Twentieth Century Atlas - Casualty Statistics)

Battle of Antietam 1862:
4300 (estimated)

Pearl Harbor 1941:

Battle of Chancellorsville 1863:
2358 (estimated)

Gettysburg 1863:
2353 (estimated average per day July 1-3)

D-Day 1944:

Grieve for the men and women who have died in Iraq. Support and console their families through this most difficult time. But don't forget that this is a war. And all wars come with a heavy price.

Remember another number that probably will not get as much play this week as the one thousandth military death in Iraq.

2738 American citizens killed in the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks.

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Monday, August 23, 2004
Doin' It For Themselves

W. Thomas Smith Jr. looks at the fighting in Najaf and what it says about the future of Sadr in a piece at NRO:

"It appears to me that in April and May we killed the best and brightest [of the Mahdi army]," 1st Lt. Brian Suits of the Army's 1st Cavalry Division in Najaf, said during a radio interview with talk-radio host Kirby Wilbur on Seattle's KVI radio, last Thursday. "What al Sadr is doing now is sending in the guys who are left behind to make a statement. He's running out of guys. The guys he has are frankly running out of motivation. There are ill-prepared and ill-trained. They are beginning to question their authority. I think they're saying "wait a minute, you told us that God was going to guide our bullets, but we haven't killed one American soldier in our area and we are dying left and right here."

There is also good news on the combat performance of at least some of the Iraqi units fighting there:

Asked if Iraqi national military forces and police are measuring up to their U.S. and British allies on the battlefield, Suits said, "I've been in combat with these guys over the last couple of days, and I was as wary as anyone else. I saw their performance in the first Gulf War, but they have since coalesced into an effective force. I'm not lying. I'm not propagandizing. I'm not delivering a message someone else said. I have confidence in them being on my left or my right. They will go forward. They will close with the enemy. They will fix him. And they will kill him. They do not retreat. They do not cower. They support each other. They drag their wounded out of the line of fire. And I have confidence that these guys will be able to defend their country because they are doing it now."

Last week Hugh Hewitt linked to a letter at The Green Side on the situation in Fallujah. And while it was not a very rosy assessment, it did offer some hope on the capabilities of the Iraqi government forces:

We also have an entire battalion of Iraqi Special Forces soldiers who have stepped forward. We have trained these guys and they are a different breed of cat altogether. Many are veterans of the Iran Iraq war and are hardened. They don't necessarily love us but they now have a bond with the Marines and operate jointly with them everyday. They shake their head at the hesitancy to resolve Fallujah and are willing to fight inside the city. It will be a very tough fight but in the end I just don't see how we can move forward as a coalition, or Iraq as a fledgling country, while this festering sore remains open.

Clearing out Fallujah and mopping up Sadr's rabble are critical steps for the future stability of the Iraqi government. Having the Iraqis do it themselves (or at least play a key role in the operations alongside US forces) will go a long way towards speeding the day when they truly will be able to control their own country.


Thursday, August 12, 2004
Passing The Torch

John Manley at The Torch analyzes the fighting in Najaf and how it is linked to the June 28th transfer of sovereignty:

The recent revival of Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's violent insurgency has been framed by some as evidence of a worsening situation in Iraq, but it is no such thing. The fighting that rages in Najaf offers the opportunity to finally close a hole in Iraq's security that has festered for months. If and when this is done, though the burden of the fighting will have been carried largely by coalition forces, the victory will be in part the product and reflection of the strategic shift brought about by the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi government.


Monday, July 26, 2004
A Poem From Prison

It has been reported that Saddam is whiling away his time in solitary confinement writing poetry and gardening.  It seems that one of his completed works of poesy refers to his arch-enemy, George W. Bush.

By virtue of some unprecedented cooperation between the deposed dictator's jailors, the U.S. intelligence community, the American military and an Iraqi prostitute (thanks Fatma, you're the best!)  a copy of that poem, actually a Haiku, has been delivered to Fraters Libertas world headquarters.

So, without further ado, I give you...Saddam's first Haiku:

I used to fight with Bushes
Now, I must trim them

Why so many bushes...why?

Very moving words, indeed.


Wednesday, July 21, 2004
More Than A River In Egypt

If you relied solely on the Star Tribune for your news, you probably would have been surprised to pick up today's paper and read an editorial by Joe Wilson, in which he weakly attempts to defend himself. Because you would likely have missed the recent revelations that have pretty much discredited Wilson in the eyes of most reasonable people (including the Washington Post). Stories on the Senate Intelligence Committee and Butler reports that called Wilson's veracity, and even his competence, into serious question rarely appeared in the paper; if they did they were buried deep inside it.

Now that Wilson has been exposed and the building blocks of the left's "Bush Lied!" facade are crumbling all around them, the Star Tribune editorialistas are stomping their feet, holding their breath, and pouting like spoiled four year olds.

Today's editorial, ridiculously titled Iraq, Niger/There was no uranium link is their latest temper tantrum. It offers nothing new to refute the most recent information that has emerged linking Iraq and uranium from Niger, nor does it bolster Wilson's case in any way. Instead they rehash old arguments, whine about Republicans spinning the SIC and Butler reports, seek to narrow the justification for war, and reach conclusions that are in no way borne out by the facts. They are in serious need of a time out.

Mitch has more on this at Shot In The Dark.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2004
And You Still Don't Believe They're Evil?

It's getting too hot to sell a cold one in Iraq:

BAGHDAD -- It's becoming harder to buy a beer here.

At least five stores selling liquor in the Ghadeer district alone were blown up by Islamic militants in the last week, prompting other store owners to close or to stop selling liquor.

Wake up people! They're going after beer. BEER! Tell me again about how we're not at war.

I don't know about you, but when I get home tonight I'm gonna crack open a cold un'. Otherwise the terrorists will have won.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2004
Dead Wrong

Rule number one when writing a letter to Mark Steyn, get your facts straight. Some poor, misinformed Irishman didn't bother to do so, emailed in to Steyn supporting the Joseph Wilson denials about Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Niger, and gets properly eviscerated. It's all in this week's Mark's Mail Box.

Read below for a great primer on the facts of the case and next time you find yourself in a hot tub with some liberal honeys and they sneeringly bring up some half understood talking point they heard from Dan Rather, you can eviscerate their arguments too. And this time without swearing.


You are dead wrong about the Niger/Iraq link. I only hope you have the integrity and honesty to face up to it when the full story emerges.

The US, French and Italian agencies are all referring to the same original fake document whose origin may yet be revealed. You'll recall that the SSCI chose not to investigate the source of this faked document.

Why would Iraq need uranium oxide when its nuclear programme was inactive and it already had ore stocks? Also, one of the two mines cited by the source as the location of the uranium oxide is flooded. The other mine cited by the source is under the control of the French authorities. The Iraqis already have a large stock of uranium oxide in their inventory.

Mark Webb


MARK REPLIES: Sorry, man, but you're the one who needs to have the integrity and honesty to face up to your mistake. The idea that this all rests on one "faked document" is utterly discredited in both the Butler and Senate reports. By "faked document", you're referring to the papers delivered to the US Embassy in Rome by an Italian con man and which were rumoured by some to have been written by my National Review colleague Michael Ledeen. The idea that the intelligence communities of virtually every major western power fell for a single "faked document" is a red herring put about by the crapped-out hack Joe Wilson and eagerly swallowed by supposedly savvy "investigative journalists" like Sy Hersh.

First, the "faked document" is really, as Christopher Hitchens puts it, more of a "forgery"--that's to say, "it was a fabricated version of a true bill". (A bogus four-dollar bill is a fake, a bogus five-dollar bill is a forgery.) The information in it was broadly correct. However, it's utterly irrelevant. The documents delivered in Rome are not those upon which the French, the British or any of the other European intelligence services made their conclusions.

Second, as the Senate report explains in some detail, when the narcissistic Wilson declared those documents to be false because the names and dates were wrong, he had NEVER SEEN THEM. The CIA did not get them until eight months after his trip to Niger. Wilson was in no position to state whether the names and dates were wrong and none of his media groupies stopped giving him the full Monica long enough to ask him for any examples of names and dates. He now says feebly that he may have "misspoken".

Third, as the Senate report also explains, Niger's government officials informed Wilson about an Iraqi delegation visiting their country in 1999 on a trade mission, and the Prime Minister of Niger told Wilson that he believed they were interested in purchasing uranium. Why else would a high-level Iraqi trade mission go to Niger? Niger's principal exports are: Uranium ore, goats, cowpeas and onions. You reckon Saddam suddenly had a yen for goat en croute in an onion glaze with a side order of black-eyed peas? As the Senate report confirms, Wilson's New York Times column deliberately misrepresents "what he found in Africa".

Fourth, Iraq's nuclear programme was officially "inactive" but its inactivity was being monitored by the IAEA so its existing uranium stocks could not be used. If it had a little project in mind requiring uranium - say, involving certain groups with a certain animus against certain countries - it needed some uranium that would be off-the-books.

Fifth, Niger's uranium mines are under a very loose French regulatory supervision, not "control". As I said in my column, it's exactly the sort of joint western intelligence agencies should be keeping an eye on.

So you're the one who's dead wrong. Which is better than being dead and wrong. Which is where a lot of westerners in denial are going to be if they don't confront the reality of nuclear proliferation.


Monday, July 12, 2004
Hope Is Waiting For Us

Elie Wiesel's July 4th essay on America (from Parade Magazine), is now available online. It's a beautiful piece, relaying his personal testimony of what America means, both to him and the world.

The true nature of America was revealed to Wiesel almost 60 years ago:

Even now, as America is in the midst of puzzling uncertainty and understandable introspection because of tragic events in Iraq, these words reflect my personal belief. For I cannot forget another day that remains alive in my memory: April 11, 1945.

That day I encountered the first American soldiers in the Buchenwald concentration camp. I remember them well. Bewildered, disbelieving, they walked around the place, hell on earth, where our destiny had been played out. They looked at us, just liberated, and did not know what to do or say. Survivors snatched from the dark throes of death, we were empty of all hope - too weak, too emaciated to hug them or even speak to them. Like lost children, the American soldiers wept and wept with rage and sadness. And we received their tears as if they were heartrending offerings from a wounded and generous humanity.

Ever since that encounter, I cannot repress my emotion before the flag and the uniform, anything that represents American heroism in battle. That is especially true on July Fourth. I reread the Declaration of Independence, a document sanctified by the passion of a nation's thirst for justice and sovereignty, forever admiring both its moral content and majestic intonation. Opposition to oppression in all its forms, defense of all human liberties, celebration of what is right in social intercourse: All this and much more is in that text, which today has special meaning.

And that same American character remains consistent and on display today:

In extreme left-wing political and intellectual circles, suspicion and distrust toward America is the order of the day. They deride America's motives for its military interventions, particularly in Iraq. They say: It's just money. As if America went to war only to please the oil-rich capitalists.

They are wrong. America went to war to liberate a population too long subjected to terror and death.

We see in newspapers and magazines and on television screens the mass graves and torture chambers imposed by Saddam Hussein and his accomplices. One cannot but feel grateful to the young Americans who leave their families, some to lose their lives, in order to bring to Iraq the first rays of hope, without which no people can imagine the happiness of welcoming freedom.

Hope is a key word in the vocabulary of men and women like myself and so many others who discovered in America the strength to overcome cynicism and despair. Remember the legendary Pandora's box? It is filled with implacable, terrifying curses. But underneath, at the very bottom, there is hope. Now as before, now more than ever, it is waiting for us.

A holocaust survivor, talking about hope and the strength to overcome cynicism and despair, and endorsing the policies of George W. Bush. Take that Michael Moore.

Hope, a wonderful concept to base a campaign on. I hope the Bush campaign is listening, because that word has great resonance with the American people. And it's a word not in the vocabulary of the "extreme left-wing political and intellectual circles" as Wiesel called them. Of course, those folks are more commonly known as the Democratic party.

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Thursday, July 08, 2004
You Already May Be A Loser!

And if your name is Roz Kohls, Gary Skidmore, or Joel Watson you are in fact a loser. A loser in the Fraters Saddam Dead Pool that is. The dates that these folks chose for Saddam to shuffle off this mortal coil have come and gone.

Next up on the clock: Chris Stone with July 13th. Best of luck to you Chris.


Thursday, June 24, 2004
A Red Rider For Osama?


A career CIA officer claims in a new book that America is losing the war on terror, in part because of the invasion of Iraq, which, he says, distracted the United States from the war against terrorism and further fueled al-Qaida's struggle against the United States. The author, who writes as "Anonymous", is a 22-year veteran of the CIA and still works for the intelligence agency, which allowed him to publish the book after reviewing it for classified information.

Not unexpectedly, the media is playing up this authors opinion that the war with Iraq is a distraction in the fight against Al-Qaida. And, although I still support the decision to invade Iraq, this argument is by far the strongest case against it.

What is not receiving as much attention is the CIA officer's contentions that we are not taking the threat from Al-Qaida seriously enough, that we refuse to acknowledge the true nature of the war, and that we have not pursued it aggressively or violently enough. From an interview (same link as above) with NBC's Andrea Mitchell:

Anonymous: ...I think we are, for various reasons, loath to talk about the role of religion in this war. And it's not to criticize one religion or another, but bin Laden is motivated and his followers and his associates are motivated by what they believe their religion requires them to do. And until we accept that fact and stop identifying them as gangsters or terrorists or criminals, we're very much behind the curve.

On what needs to be done militarily:

Mitchell: "You call for some very tough actions here. You talk about escalating our war against them, and you say in your book that killing in large numbers is not enough to defeat our Muslim foes. This killing must be a Sherman-like razing of infrastructure. You talk about civilian deaths. You talk about landmines. Is that really what we have come to in this war on terror?"

Anonymous: "I think we've come to the place where the military is about our only option. We have not really discussed the idea of why we're at war with what I think is an increasing number of Muslims. Which -- it's very hard in this country to debate policy regarding Israel or to debate actions or policies that might result in more expensive energy. I don't think it's something that we wanted to do, but I think it's where we've arrived. We've arrived at the point where the only option is military. And quite frankly, in Iraq and in Afghanistan we've applied that military force with a certain daintiness that has not served our interests well.

Fallujah anyone?

Advice to Bush:

Mitchell: "What would you like to tell the president?"

Anonymous: "I would like to tell the president, I think, and, and it's presumptuous of me, but I genuinely think that we have underestimated the scope of the enemy, the dedication of the enemy and the threat that it poses to the United States. I think someone should have gone to the president when the, when the discussion of going to Iraq was broached and have said, Mr. President, this is something that can only help Osama bin Laden. Whatever the danger posed by Saddam, whatever weapons he had, is almost irrelevant in that the boost it would give to al-Qaida was easily seen. And if that message wasn't delivered, then I think there was a mistake made. I also think that Mr. Lincoln's view that one war at a time is plenty is probably a good piece of guidance."

More stick less carrot:

Mitchell: "And what are you going to say to those who say that this is anti-American and that this is a really prejudiced approach? What do you say to those who say that your call for a war against Muslim people, is really only going to make the situation worse?"

Anonymous: "I wonder how much worse the situation can be, in the first instance. We continue to believe that somehow public diplomacy or words will affect the anger and hatred of Muslims. And I'm not advocating war as my choice. What I'm advocating is, in order to protect the United States, it is our only option. As long as we pursue the current policies we have, until we have a debate about those policies, there's not a lot we can do. We won't talk them out of their anger, we won't convince them we're an honest broker between the Israel and the Palestinians. We won't convince that we're not supporting tyrannies in the Arab world from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean.

"It's the only option. It's not a good option; it's the only option. And I'm not saying we attack people who aren't attacking us. But in areas where we realize our enemies are, perhaps we have to be more aggressive."

On weighing the costs of inaction:

Mitchell: "Even if it means civilian casualties?"

Anonymous: "That's the way war is. I've never really understood the idea that any American government, any American elected official is responsible for protecting civilians who are not Americans. My experience working against bin Laden was there was multiple occasions when we did not take advantage of an opportunity to solve the problem because we were afraid of killing a civilian, we were afraid of hitting a mosque with shrapnel, we were afraid of disrupting sales of arms overseas. Very seldom in my career have I ever heard anyone ask what happens if we don't do this.

My own opinion is we should err on the side of protecting Americans first. And if we make a mistake in that kind of action, I think the American people will accept that..."

Even though I've excerpted quite a bit of the interview, I still urge you to read the whole thing. You may not agree with all his assertions, but, unlike the silliness that is Fahrenheit 911, at least they are worth debating. Plus anyone who provides a reference like this deserves a chance to be heard:

Anonymous: "If you're familiar with that wonderful Christmas movie, 'A Christmas Story', at the end of the day, Ralphie getting his air rifle even though his mother was worried his eye would get shot out. It's a terrific gift."

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