On this thirtieth of May, the United States is nearly halfway through an election year pursued while in the midst of a great war. Support for the president has reached an all-time low. He has been compared to a baboon, and called a "syphilitic drunkard." His military experience before gaining the presidency consisted of a short term in the state militia, where he displayed little prowess, and he's now responsible for a war that shows every sign of being bogged down into a bloody stalemate, with little to show besides increasing casualty lists.
As one observer has said "The Republicans harp on cowardice, defeatism, lack of patriotism, disloyalty, and even treason among the Democrats. The also hold up [the challenger]'s record military record to ridicule. For their part, the Democrats emphasize the 'ignorance, incompetence, and corruption of [the current] administration' and counted on war-weariness to get them votes. [The president] has been subjected to almost unprecedented abuse in the opposition press ever since becoming president. During his campaign for re-election, however, [the] vituperation reached new heights."
We are speaking, of course, about President Abraham Lincoln, a man who is dedicated to reversing a major Supreme Court decision (Dred Scott vs. Sanford), and has impinged on citizens basic civil rights by suspending the Writ of Habeas Corpus. His proclamation of September, 1862 'gave full power to close down "hostile, anti war newspapers," and to arrest individuals for protesting the war.' According to Chief Justice Taney, such action violates the Constitutional separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches.
Additionally, he has yet -despite repeated requests- to provide a plan to bring the South back into the Union. In fact, the president (in typical simplistic fashion) calls such a plan "a merely pernicious abstraction."
President Lincoln served less than three months in the Illinois militia, thirty years ago. In fact, not only did he never face combat, he mustered out early from his last enlistment. In contrast to this we have the Democratic candidate, former general George McClellan, who graduated second in his class from West Point in 1846, and won three brevets for gallant conduct during the Mexican War. McClellan further distinguished himself as an observer of the Crimean War.
The Democratic Party platform is understandably critical of Lincoln's reliance on military measures, and states in part "that after four years of failure to restore the Union by the experiment of war .. immediate efforts be made for the cessation of hostilities ... and peace be restored on the basis of a Federal Union of the states." In other words, to seek a diplomatic solution that addresses the root causes of the current conflict.
Former Ohio congressman Clement Vallandigham, banished from the United States by Lincoln and currently living in Canada, had this to say about his persecutor: "You have not conquered the South; you never will. Money you have expended without limit, blood poured out like water ... Defeat, death, taxation, and sepulchres ... these are your only trophies."
President Lincoln also faces criticism with his conduct of the war, once thought to be one of his strongest issues with voters. The euphoria induced by the great victories at Vicksburg and Gettysburg nearly a year ago has dissipated into a more-realistic realization that the Army has made little progress since then.
General Sherman's attempt to bring Confederate General Johnston to battle have been nearly fruitless, until last week's attack at New Hope Church. This battle lasted three days, until Sherman -in a de facto admission of failure- decided to try to avoid Johnston by maneuvering around his right flank, instead of defeating the rebel in battle.
General Grant has met similar obstacles in the East. Despite the high hopes created by his promotion to Lieutenant General two months ago, Grant is currently mired in a part of Virginia appropriately called the Wilderness. The Union General in chief has spent the last three weeks doggedly attacking Robert E. Lee with little to show for it except increased casualties. In fact, in only three battles (Wilderness, 5/5-5/7; Spotsylvania, 5/10-5/12; Drewry's Bluff, 5/12-5/16) Federal forces have suffered over thirty-two thousand casualties in less than two weeks.
If events continue in this manner, Mr. Lincoln can expect to be soundly defeated this fall, as a rebuke for his terrible conduct of the war.
Hat tip to Dean's World
I feel short of my goals for the day. I DID get the hedge trimmed and attached and caulked the moldings that line the back porch. They need to dry before Karol can paint them. I did not get either car washed. Instead, I spent the rest of the day installing an irrigation system for the rest of Karol’s flowers. I now have a soaker hose around both Rhododendrons, where Karol planted Vincas this year. I also have a soaker hose under the Maple tree where Karol planted Vincas and Impatiens. If they do well this summer, I’ll post some pictures.
NICHOLAS KRISTOF WRITES:
I doff my hat, briefly, to President Bush.
Sudanese peasants will be naming their sons "George Bush" because he scored a humanitarian victory this week that could be a momentous event around the globe — although almost nobody noticed. It was Bush administration diplomacy that led to an accord to end a 20-year civil war between Sudan's north and south after two million deaths.
If the peace holds, hundreds of thousands of lives will be saved, millions of refugees will return home, and a region of Africa may be revived.
But there's a larger lesson here as well: messy African wars are not insoluble, and Western pressure can help save the day. So it's all the more shameful that the world is failing to exert pressure on Sudan to halt genocide in its Darfur region. Darfur is unaffected by the new peace accords.
Hat tip to Glenn Reynolds
It is a cool today. The current temperature is only 59° and breezy. The sun is shining. I cut the grass last night. Today I want to trim the hedge. It doesn’t really need it, but it’s a lot easier if I keep ahead of it. I also want to edge the lawn, put the molding and railings on the back porch and wash both cars. We’ll see how far I get.
I’m still looking at Slide Show Software. I found two that I like, but both have items I don’t like. One doesn’t allow me to change the sequence of my pictures except to show them either alphabetically or randomly. But I can annotate my pictures.
The other is blindingly easy to assemble a slide show in the sequence I desire. They have a magnificently easy drag-and-drop that is very nice. But their picture annotation leaves a lot to be desired. I sent an email to the first one to complain about not having more control over the picture sequence.
They emailed me back to say they were working on that feature and would like have it up and running in two weeks or less.
The market was pretty much a wash for me today. Some buy orders kicked in and some trades were stopped out. All the trades that were stopped out, I still like the charts, so I put buy orders back on them to give them another try. My best trade so far is one position, URBN. It’s up a little over 10% since I bought it yesterday. Most of the rest of my trades are averaging about a 1% gain. There’s not big action yet, but neither has the market turned against me. I moved all my stop loss orders a little higher tonight.
Although I'm only about 40% invested at this point, I have every penny committed to trades. Some just haven't reached their trigger points yet, if they ever do.
Last night, when I was placing orders, I ran out of money. Boy do I wish I could use margin. Perhaps I should just reduce my position size.
Meet Brian Chontosh.
Churchville-Chili Central School class of 1991. Proud graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology. Husband and about-to-be father. First lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps.
And a genuine hero.
The secretary of the Navy said so yesterday.
At 29 Palms in California Brian Chontosh was presented with the Navy Cross, the second highest award for combat bravery the United States can bestow.
It was a year ago on the march into Baghdad. Brian Chontosh was a platoon leader rolling up Highway 1 in a humvee.
When all hell broke loose.
The young Marines were being cut to ribbons. Mortars, machine guns, rocket propelled grenades. And the kid out of Churchville was in charge. It was do or die and it was up to him.
So he moved to the side of his column, looking for a way to lead his men to safety. As he tried to poke a hole through the Iraqi line his humvee came under direct enemy machine gun fire.
It was fish in a barrel and the Marines were the fish.
And Brian Chontosh gave the order to attack. He told his driver to floor the humvee directly at the machine gun emplacement that was firing at them. And he had the guy on top with the .50 cal unload on them.
Within moments there were Iraqis slumped across the machine gun and Chontosh was still advancing, ordering his driver now to take the humvee directly into the Iraqi trench that was attacking his Marines. Over into the battlement the humvee went and out the door Brian Chontosh bailed, carrying an M16 and a Beretta and 228 years of Marine Corps pride.
And he ran down the trench.
With its mortars and riflemen, machineguns and grenadiers.
And he killed them all.
He fought with the M16 until he was out of ammo. Then he fought with the Beretta until it was out of ammo. Then he picked up a dead man's AK47 and fought with that until it was out of ammo. Then he picked up another dead man's AK47 and fought with that until it was out of ammo.
At one point he even fired a discarded Iraqi RPG into an enemy cluster, sending attackers flying with its grenade explosion.
When he was done Brian Chontosh had cleared 200 yards of entrenched Iraqis from his platoon's flank. He had killed more than 20 and wounded at least as many more.
But that's probably not how he would tell it.
He would probably merely say that his Marines were in trouble, and he got them out of trouble. Hoo-ah, and drive on.
"By his outstanding display of decisive leadership, unlimited courage in the face of heavy enemy fire, and utmost devotion to duty, 1st Lt. Chontosh reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service."
The Marines are incredible people. This is from Bob Lonsberry.
Eleven of my trades kicked in today. Surprisingly, enough stayed above water that my 11 trades finished the day up a little over one percent. I now need to put in tight stop loss orders tonight to protect the downside.
Did you see Al Gore’s speech? The man has become unhinged. He desperately needs counseling, or medication, or both. It is scary to think that this man was once a heartbeat away from being president. Yikes. We can ALL thank our lucky stars the Supreme Court decided in Bush's favor and not Gore's. Can you imagine this maniac as president?
I recommend you John Podhoretz’s column in the NYP this morning. Podhoretz says, “A man who was very, very nearly president of the United States has been reduced to sounding like one of those people in Times Square with a megaphone screaming about God's justice. It is almost impossible to believe that this man was once vice president of the United States.”
Read all of Podhoretz’s column.
I took IBD’s advice and placed buy orders on 22 stocks tonight. Those orders have yet to be trigger. So, for now, I am suspended in midair.
Here are my buy orders.
I attended a New Jersey Technology Council (NJTC) tonight. It was encouraging. I’ve finally met other businesses that seemed best matched to my own. It may prove an organization that could help me grow my business as well as pass out leads to others.
I don't know how people do this.
MILLETT, LEWIS L.
Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Army, Company E, 27th Infantry Regiment. Place and date: Vicinity of Soam-Ni, Korea, 7 February 1951. Entered service at: Mechanic Falls, Maine. Born: 15 December 1920, Mechanic Falls, Maine. G.O. No.: 69, 2 August 1951.
Capt. Millett, Company E, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action. While personally leading his company in an attack against a strongly held position he noted that the 1st Platoon was pinned down by small-arms, automatic, and antitank fire. Capt. Millett ordered the 3d Platoon forward, placed himself at the head of the 2 platoons, and, with fixed bayonet, led the assault up the fire-swept hill. In the fierce charge Capt. Millett bayoneted 2 enemy soldiers and boldly continued on, throwing grenades, clubbing and bayoneting the enemy, while urging his men forward by shouting encouragement. Despite vicious opposing fire, the whirlwind hand-to-hand assault carried to the crest of the hill. His dauntless leadership and personal courage so inspired his men that they stormed into the hostile position and used their bayonets with such lethal effect that the enemy fled in wild disorder. During this fierce onslaught Capt. Millett was wounded by grenade fragments but refused evacuation until the objective was taken and firmly secured. The superb leadership, conspicuous courage, and consummate devotion to duty demonstrated by Capt. Millett were directly responsible for the successful accomplishment of a hazardous mission and reflect the highest credit on himself and the heroic traditions of the military service.
This from Blackfive:
...Cpl. Jason Dunham, USMC who, by his actions saved the lives of at least two of his comrades. Basically he jumped on a grenade, covering it with his Kevlar helmet. He has been recommended for the Medal of Honor by his Battalion CO, Lt Col. Matthew Lopez. Unfortunately, Cpl. Dunham died on April 22nd. What's important to note is that he extended his enlistment, which was due to end in July, so that he could stay on with his squad throughout its tour in Iraq. When asked why he planned to extend his enlistment and stay in Iraq for the battalion's entire tour, he responded "I want to make sure that everyone makes it home alive......." Personal sacrifices such as this need to be known about by the public, and these individuals should be remembered and honored.
On the way into the office this morning I heard that some people are, claiming Bush hopes there is a terrorist attack this summer so he can suspend the constitution and stay in office. I remember hearing something almost exactly like that during Clinton’s last year.
All I can say is “Beam me up Scotty. There’s no intelligent life here.”
According to my IBD, the market has just flashed a buy signal. That means I’ll be putting some buy orders in. I’ll be moving from 100% cash to some part invested.
The train may be leaving the station and it may be time to climb aboard.
I seem to have gotten the jClicker program to work well. But I’m still not ecstatic. It’s rather a pain to set up from my end. No drag and drop capability. And I’d like to have the software do a transition between slides.
I’ve downloaded and am testing something called Digital Photo Slide Show. But I’m out of time tonight, so I’ll have to do more testing later in the week. If it looks good, I’ll put up another slide show and let you have a look.
I have been a little frustrated that I couldn’t better view my pictures over the net. I found some Java Script someone wrote. They call it jClicker. It’s for doing slide show. Can you please look at it here and tell me what you think. How does it work in your browser?
Thank you for your help.
"You should be able to strip a man naked and throw him out with nothing on him. By the end of the day, the man should be clothed and fed. By the end of the week, he should own a horse. And by the end of a year he should own a business and have money in the bank."
To find out who the heck Rick Rescorla was, please follow this link. He was a truly remarkable man.
Someone sent me this and I thought I'd pass it on.
A lot of folks can't understand why America has an oil shortage.
Well, there's a simple answer.....Nobody bothered to check the oil. We just didn't know we were getting low. The reason is purely geographical.
Our oil is in Alaska, Texas, California, and Oklahoma.
Our dipsticks are in Washington DC
The more I see and especially hear John Kerry the more obtuse the man becomes. The man is a dunder-headed arrogant a**. There is just no other way to describe him. He thinks he’s so smart. I’ve met his type before. They think they’re so smart and they have no reservation about telling everyone just how smart they are.
A man wiser than me once said, “A truly smart person, hires people smarter than himself.” I can’t see Kerry doing that. I think his ego would get in the way.
The military has a rule, three purple hearts and you can request to be transferred out of a war zone. Kerry got his three in what, four months? Then he requested and was transferred out.
He was a commanding officer. Yet, when the first opportunity came along, he bugged out, leaving his men behind. I feel that’s rather bad form for a CO.
I also wonder, just how badly he was wounded. The official rules for a purple heart are, the skin must be broken.
Did you see what Nancy Pelosi said the other day? Here are some quotes.
"Bush is an incompetent leader. In fact, he's not a leader,'' Pelosi said. "He's a person who has no judgment, no experience and no knowledge of the subjects that he has to decide upon.'' . . .
"He has on his shoulders the deaths of many more troops, because he would not heed the advice of his own State Department of what to expect after May 1 when he . . . declared that major combat is over,'' Pelosi charged. "The shallowness that he has brought to the office has not changed since he got there.'' . . .
"Not to get personal about it, but the president's capacity to lead has never been there. In order to lead, you have to have judgment. In order to have judgment, you have to have knowledge and experience. He has none,'' Pelosi said. . . .
"This president has demonstrated very clearly that he does not have the capacity to present a plan to transition,'' she said.
"The only way we can get more troops from other countries is to have a president who respects the other countries. It's hopeless for George Bush. He has made it hopeless.'' . . .
"He's gone,'' Pelosi said of Bush. "He's so gone.''
I love it! She should stop mincing words and say what she really thinks.
In a more serious vein, you have to wonder why she said this. I mean, what did she hope her words would accomplish? Did she think she would convert more people to her side?
I think the truth is, she didn’t think. Her hatred for Bush has overtaken her and she can no longer think rationally. All she has is her hatred and vitriol. America will see her for what she is and her words will actually help Bush.
Keep up the good work, Nancy.
A marine serving in Iraq penned the following letter. I continue to be blown away by our soldiers in general and the marines in particular. They don't complain, they don't whine. They just do. They are people with class. We are very lucky to have such people.
This is my third deployment with the 1st Marine Division to the Middle East.
This is the third time I've heard the quavering cries of the talking heads predicting failure and calling for withdrawal.
This is the third time I find myself shaking my head in disbelief.
Setbacks and tragedy are part and parcel of war and must be accepted on the battlefield. We can and will achieve our goals in Iraq.
Waiting for war in the Saudi Arabian desert as a young corporal in 1991, I recall reading news clippings portending massive tank battles, fiery death from Saddam Hussein's "flame trenches" and bitter defeat at the hands of the fourth-largest army in the world. My platoon was told to expect 75% casualties. Being Marines and, therefore, naturally cocky, we still felt pretty good about our abilities.
The panicky predictions failed to come true. The flame trenches sputtered. Nobody from my platoon died. Strength, ingenuity and willpower won the day. Crushing the fourth-largest army in the world in four days seemed to crush the doubts back home.
Twelve years passed, during which time America was faced with frustrating actions in Somalia and the Balkans. Doubt had begun to creep back into public debate.
In the spring of last year, I was a Marine captain, back with the division for Operation Iraqi Freedom. As I waited for war in the desert, just 100 miles to the north from our stepping-off point in 1991, I was again subjected to the panicky analyses of talking heads. There weren't enough troops to do the job, the oil fields would be destroyed, we couldn't fight in urban terrain, our offensive would grind to a halt, and we should expect more than 10,000 casualties.
Remembering my experience in Desert Storm, I took these assessments with a grain of salt. As a staff officer in the division command post, I was able to follow the larger battle as we moved forward. I knew that our tempo was keeping the enemy on his heels and that our plan would lead us to victory.
But war is never clean and simple. Mourning our losses quietly, the Marines drove to Baghdad, then to Tikrit, liberating the Iraqi people while losing fewer men than were lost in Desert Storm.
In May of last year, I was sitting with some fellow officers back in Diwaniyah, Iraq, the offensive successful and the country liberated from Saddam. I received a copy of a March 30 U.S. newspaper on Iraq in an old package that had finally made its way to the front. The stories: horror in Nasariyah, faltering supply lines and demonstrations in Cairo. The mood of the paper was impenetrably gloomy, and predictions of disaster abounded. The offensive was stalled; everyone was running out of supplies; we would be forced to withdraw.
The Arab world was about to ignite into a fireball of rage, and the Middle East was on the verge of collapse. If I had read those stories on March 30, I would have had a tough time either restraining my laughter or, conversely, falling into a funk. I was concerned about the bizarre kaleidoscope image of Iraq presented to the American people by writers viewing the world through a soda straw.
Returning to Iraq this past February, I knew that the Marines had a tremendous opportunity to follow through on our promises to the Iraqi people.
Believing in the mission, many Marines volunteered to return. I again found myself in the division headquarters.
Just weeks ago, I read that the supply lines were cut, ammunition and food were dwindling, the "Sunni Triangle" was exploding, cleric Muqtada al-Sadr was leading a widespread Shiite revolt, and the country was nearing civil war.
As I write this, the supply lines are open, there's plenty of ammunition and food, the Sunni Triangle is back to status quo, and Sadr is marginalized in Najaf. Once again, dire predictions of failure and disaster have been dismissed by American willpower and military professionalism.
War is inherently ugly and dramatic. I don't blame reporters for focusing on the burning vehicles, the mutilated bodies or the personal tragedies. The editors have little choice but to print the photos from the Abu Ghraib prison and the tales of the insurgency in Fallujah. These things sell news and remind us of the sober reality of our commitment to the Iraqi people. The actions of our armed forces are rightfully subject to scrutiny.
I am not ignorant of the political issues, either. But as a professional, I have the luxury of putting politics aside and focusing on the task at hand. Protecting people from terrorists and criminals while building schools and lasting friendships is a good mission, no matter what brush it's tarred with.
Nothing any talking head will say can deter me or my fellow Marines from caring about the people of Iraq, or take away from the sacrifices of our comrades. Fear in the face of adversity is human nature, and many people who take the counsel of their fears speak today. We are not deaf to their cries; neither do we take heed. All we ask is that Americans stand by us by supporting not just the troops, but also the mission.
We'll take care of the rest.
Maj. Ben Connable is serving as a foreign-area officer and intelligence officer with the 1st Marine Division.
It’s Thursday morning and I feel somewhat tired. I often find that Thursday’s seem the most tired. I find Fridays not so lethargic. I have a theory about that. On weekends, I don’t get up until 0730. But starting on Monday, I go back to getting up at 0500. I think it just takes four days to get my body back on schedule. Probably if I ALWAYS got up at 0500, all days would be the same.
Why doesn’t Kerry resign from the Senate? He is screwing his constituents in Massachusetts. They are getting no representation while he campaigns for president. When Bob Dole ran for president, he first resigned from the Senate. Doesn’t Kerry have as much honor as Bob Dole? Apparently not.
0500 came this morning and I felt not nearly as bad as yesterday. I'm off to my BNI meeting this morning.
Tonight I have Toastmasters. If you haven't joined Toastmasters, well, what can I say. You're missing a great opportunity to improve yourself.
Here’s a link with news about Iraq.
WARNING: This link contains only the GOOD things that are going on in Iraq. If you’re against the war, you probably will want to avoid this like the plaque.
I mean, if you're against the war, the LAST thing you want to read is good news about it. You don’t want to get your cognitive dissonance level too high.
At times, if I allow myself, I almost become distraught over some people’s reaction and faint heartedness on the war in Iraq. It is clean the most of the new media has decided against the war and will only report the bad new without any mind to the successes. Witness how easily the Boston Globe was faked out with some bogus photos. They were just too eager to publish them without doing their due diligence.
This is a war we CANNOT afford to lose.
0500 on Tuesday morning is always tough. I didn’t really feel like jogging this morning, but I did anyway. Now all I need now is strong cup of coffee.
The market is doing poorly. I continue to sit on the sidelines in wonderful liquid 100% cash. This is a good time to keep your powder dry and wait for better times – at least that’s my no so humble opinion.
I have a client that is an investment firm. They have gone from $12 billion under management to $8 billion under management. That’s a nasty hit.
Here's some good news you won't see on the evening news, the NYT, or the Washington post. These news organizations are too busy trying to lose the war to report the bad AND the good.
FALLUJAH, Iraq - A former Saddam Hussein-era general appointed by the Americans to lead an Iraqi security force in the rebellious Sunni stronghold of Fallujah urged tribal elders and sheiks Sunday to support U.S. efforts to stabilize Iraq. . . .
The venue offered a rare insight into Latif's interactions and influence over Fallujah elders. As he spoke, many sheiks nodded in approval and listened with reverence to his words. Later, they clasped his hands and patted Latif on the back.
Latif, speaking in Arabic to the sheiks, defended the Marines and the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
"They were brought here by the acts of one coward who was hunted out of a rathole — Saddam — who disgraced us all," Latif said. "Let us tell our children that these men (U.S. troops) came here to protect us.
"As President Bush said, they did not come here to occupy our land but to get rid of Saddam. We can help them leave by helping them do their job, or we can make them stay ten years and more by keeping fighting."
Lt. Col. Brennan Byrne, the Marine battalion commander, said, "No truer words have been spoken here today than those by General Latif."
I cut the hedge today. Then Karol had me trim back the Rhododendrons, our Burning Bushes, and the Azaleas. As long as I had the power cord strung across the yard, it seems a good time to use what I consider the most dangerous power tool in my house – my chain saw.
Chains saws are dangerous for several reasons. They cannot be guarded. Since they are primarily used to trim or cut trees, you are usually on a ladder in an awkward position. This only adds to the lethality. I had a friend fall 20 feet out of a tree he was trimming a few years ago. Although he survived his close encounter with the earth, he suffered multiple fractures and went through a lot a pain.
But I suffered no accidents and all the limbs feel where I wanted them. After that I cleaned up the yard, wound my power cord back up, took a bath and Karol and I made our first trip to the shore of the year.
The temperature while we were working got up to about 87°. When we got to Ocean City, it felt like it was in the low 70’s with a stiff breeze blowing. Anyway, here’s a picture of Karol with her back to the ocean.
I took a short video of the ocean. If you have a high-speed connection, click here. If you're only on dial-up, then click here.
I recorded the video with my Canon A60 camera and then used Windows Movie Maker to give it to you in two versions. The Windows Movie Maker is a free download from Microsoft. I just need to learn how to hold the camera steadier.
I predict that if John Kerry becomes president, Iraq will turn INTO Vietnam. Kerry believes that Vietnam was a mistake and he seems to believe that Iraq is a mistake – although you can never be COMPLETELY sure WHAT Kerry believes.
Since Kerry has only Vietnam as a model, I would expect him to make the same mistakes made in Vietnam.
Bush appears to be a delegator and he appears to push decisions down to the lowest level. That came right out of the Harvard School of Management.
I would expect Kerry to be one of those micromanagers – like Jimmy Carter. Kerry has no management training or experience. Further, I would expect him to vacillate and be a poor decision maker. He wants too much to have it both ways. Either way I would expect him to be a weak leader and US foreign policy would meander.
We would be well liked in the world and without respect.
Fortunately, I expect Bush to win.
Is Iraq like Vietnam? I still hear people echoing that theme, but what evidence do they produce? Do you think Iraq is like Vietnam? Please give me the similarities as you see them.
Today is Armed Forces Day. Put out your flag and give to the veterans that are asking for donations.
The war in Iraq seems to be on the mend. Fallujah is quieting down without the Marines killing the whole population. It may yet flare up again, but I continue to be impressed with the wisdom of the commanders on the ground.
Down in Najaf US forces are slowly decimating Sadr’s force. US forces in injunction with Iraqi commandos kill 50 to 100 of Sadr’s military a day.
There are signs of good news, but don’t expect to see it on the TV news. They’re too busy with the chant, “We can’t win. We can’t win. We can’t win.”
Karol and I were discussing recently that we need to find some friends that are a little more active. Don’t get me wrong, we love our friends.
It’s just that if you want to do anything that involves walking more than 100 yards, they drop like flies. Their favorite activities usually involve sitting and eating.
It not that we’re looking to run marathons; I don’t have the time to train for that anymore. But we both like to walk and chat. So far, however, we haven’t found many who want to do the same thing.
Here's a good reminder of why NOT to put your picture on the internet. Somebody's really clever with PhotoShop.
I wrote the following letter to the editor fo The Press of Atlantic City.
The hideous brutal murder of Nick Berg is a reminder of the kind of people we are fighting. While he screamed in agony, they used a knife to saw slowly through his neck until they severed his head from this body. All the while they recited, "God is good." When finished, they held his head before the camera and smiled.
Let us never forget. This is enemy. This is what they want to do to ALL Americans.
This letter came from Tony Harden. He's a correspondent for the Daily Telegraph. Is this sick or what?
The other day, while taking a break by the Al-Hamra Hotel pool, fringed with the usual cast of tattooed defence contractors, I was accosted by an American magazine journalist of serious accomplishment and impeccable liberal credentials.
She had been disturbed by my argument that Iraqis were better off than they had been under Saddam and I was now — there was no choice about this — going to have to justify my bizarre and dangerous views. I’ll spare you most of the details because you know the script — no WMD, no ‘imminent threat’ (though the point was to deal with Saddam before such a threat could emerge), a diversion from the hunt for bin Laden, enraging the Arab world. Etcetera.
But then she came to the point. Not only had she ‘known’ the Iraq war would fail but she considered it essential that it did so because this would ensure that the ‘evil’ George W. Bush would no longer be running her country. Her editors back on the East Coast were giggling, she said, over what a disaster Iraq had turned out to be. ‘Lots of us talk about how awful it would be if this worked out.’ Startled by her candour, I asked whether thousands more dead Iraqis would be a good thing.
She nodded and mumbled something about Bush needing to go. By this logic, I ventured, another September 11 on, say, September 11 would be perfect for pushing up John Kerry’s poll numbers. ‘Well, that’s different — that would be Americans,’ she said, haltingly. ‘I guess I’m a bit of an isolationist.’ That’s one way of putting it.
The moral degeneracy of these sentiments didn’t really hit me until later when I dined at the home of Abu Salah, a father of six who took over as the Daily Telegraph’s chief driver in Baghdad when his predecessor was killed a year ago.
Here’s an article that highlights some of the work performed in Iraq by American civilian volunteers. I highly recommend you read it.
The Senate voted 59 to 40 yesterday to extend unemployment benefits for 13 weeks. The proposal needed 60 votes to overcome objections and pass. One Senator did not vote - John Kerry. Here is a man that claims to want to help the unemployed. But he can’t even make it back to the Senate to do something. He’s too busy campaigning. It’s time for Kerry to resign so the people of Massachusetts can have full representation. Senator Dole resigned from the Senate when he ran for president. It would seem that Kerry does not hold himself to the same standard.
A Marine in Fallujah wrote the following letter to his father.
We are approaching a very significant phase in Falluja. Very soon, we will execute the first "joint patrol" into the city. The concept is that Marines and elements of the new Iraqi force will enter the town together. To suggest that the cessation of hostilities is fragile is an understatement. The environment is very fluid and one day things look better but the next we gather intelligence that suggests we are making a mistake. The leadership has gone way out on a limb here making a tremendous gamble that the course of action decided on will bring some degree of stability to this area.
Of course, in order to allow the Fallujans a chance to stabilize themselves, we must eat a little crow. We know that people are running around the city proclaiming that the Marines were defeated and the insurgents stopped us. To our dismay, this has even been picked up by our own media. Again, I can barely stand to read it. However, we fully realize that the only way the Iraqis will take control of their own destiny is to regain some of their long lost self image/national pride. They were crushed by Sadaam brutally for 35 years, the last 12 of which, the US also had its way with them. They saw us cut right through the worlds 4th largest military in 1991 and then enforce no fly zones along with limited offensive actions against them with impunity for the next 12 years. Finally, we destroyed a regime and occupied their country in less than 3 weeks last year.
Regardless of whether or not the Iraqis hated Sadaam, all of these elements above resulted in a tremendous amount of shame in this culture. Later, when we captured Sadaam and put pictures and stories in the media of him surrendering like a lamb and sticking his tongue out for doctors, that was further humiliation. Until they start to feel some pride in themselves as a nation, we cannot expect them to want to vest themselves in its future. If that means we have to stand by and let them strut, that is what we will do. It is very hard to swallow as there is not a Marine here who does not know in his heart that we could have taken the entire city down if we were allowed. The whole environment requires discipline and confidence.
The more I am exposed to Iraq, the more I am convinced of the damage done buy the brutal regime that ruled it for so long. A special forces officer and I were talking this morning and he made the analogy that Iraq is like an abused child. If you abuse a child and raise it in a closet, you cannot expect it to be well adjusted and socialized when you let it out 20 years later. It may take decades to excise all of the damage. It is a rough analogy but it certainly applies here. The depth of ignorance is astounding. Because the people were so isolated and lived in such fear of the special police and sundry other henchmen, they are very susceptible to rumor and disinformation. Many people here hate us as they do throughout the world because they see us as grossly wealthy and our opportunities and "blessings" make the absence of their own all the more angersome. Envy breeds resentment which breeds distance which breeds ignorance.... You get the picture.
I cannot tell you how many crazy ideas that the people here actually come to believe are true about us. In the mosques, they preach that we are only here for the oil and that we want to colonize Iraq. Worse, they preach that the Marines are going to rape the women in order to crush their race and expand our own. It goes on and on. As a western educated person, your first inclination is to reach out and reason with people. However, the ignorance fear and hatred are so profound in some pockets that reason is almost impossible. Soon someone shoots at us and then we respond. You can only imagine what happens after that. Finally, there are leaders here trying their best but who cannot gravitate away from western values and logic. These values and approach are often perceived as weakness. Weakness is seen as opportunity for the terrorists.
The lingering problem are the many different factions who are completely mercenary in their interests. Hard to believe but the insurgents care very little for the innocent people and easily justify their deaths so long as their individual agendas are furthered. This is pervasive here, particularly with Islamic extremists. They are merciless on the citizens. I have no ideas how many summary executions these people have committed on the citizens of Iraq who they perceive as cooperating with the coalition but it is in the thousands. We have seen it happen. We found one body in Falluja as the Marines advanced that was clearly tortured (feet cut off, head bludgeoned in...) before being killed. There are more stories than I can recount. The criteria for a death sentence here? - Refusing to fight for the terrorists or maybe taking a job emptying portajohns on a US base. If you are thought of being a spy, your entire family is at risk.
I realize that little of this probably makes the news. Perhaps history will explain our journalistic failings because I simply cannot.
As for the Abu Garayb atrocities, that is exactly what they are. I have been inside this prison several times. I never saw anything like what is now on the news but we did see a general lack of discipline among the service members in there when we arrived. We are horribly ashamed that fellow service members would do such a thing. It does not matter that it was Army or National Guard. Most Marines and Sailors in the Regiment have had their hands on detainees. It is a very emotional and taxing situation especially if the guy was just shooting at you. However, these prison guards didn't go out on patrol and capture the Iraqis, nor did they conduct a raid and grab them in a very dangerous operation. They simply failed at every level to maintain even the most basic standards not only of US servicemembers but as human beings. They traded the Nations moral high ground and fueled the extremists message of hate as a result of their weakness.
Unfortunately they did it not just to themselves but every where a Marine or Soldier patrols tonight across the globe and even for every American citizen who travels abroad and naturally represents the United States.
What do we do? I can only imagine this is what people must be asking. I can only share what the Marines here believe. We stand and fight. We honestly and absolutely accept responsibility and do our best through out actions to convince the world that those acts were conducted by criminals and are not indicative of our values or intentions. We continue to go on patrol and do our best to kill the terrorists and protect the people. We stay tolerant one second longer. We adjust to a very fluid environment and stay faithful to our values. We live up to what the American people expect of United States Marines and we maintain high expectations of the American people. We share our courage with both the Iraqi people and even our neighbors, fight like hell when the situation dictates and maintain our humanity through it all.
It may sound very glossy to many people but there is the luxury of focus here. No angst sitting in a Starbucks listening to some idiot opine about something which he knows very little or having to suffer through campaign ads that try to make hay out of America's stumbles.
People need to have faith that the young man throwing grenades two weeks ago and who was ordered to stop has not lost faith and still believes what he is doing is right. Whenever I am blessed enough to take a second and recognize "that guy" it shores up my personal weakness and makes my situation seem trivial.
For what it is worth, even though the Marines constantly ask the media guys here if "the American people still support us...?" Like anyone else, he wants to be reassured but he clearly expects the answer to be "yes." My take is that it is easy to support service members but it takes conviction to support the continued liberation of the Iraqi people and the pursuit of terrorists around the world - especially on the dark days.
Sorry it has taken me so long to write."
I only wish our leaders could be as wise as this Marine.
This is the text of a letter, written by a young woman in the National Guard and currently stationed in Afgahnistan. She got in the National Guard as a way to pay for college to become a doctor. Now she's a lab/medical technician in the Army. Her parents and friends are very proud of her.
Lately I have been receiving some questions from people on military presence etc. I would like to show you those questions along with my answers. I know that by no means am I the most articulate person, nor do I have extensive political, religious, or military knowledge. All I can take my answers from is my heart and what I do see and do know.
A. How about the accusations that our troops are abusing, in whatever form, the enemy captured? We are supposed to set an example for the entire world. If our soldiers are resorting to Husseinesque techniques to handle prisoners, it can only lead to a poor conclusion.
Can we say that Germans are bad because of the Nazi’s, or that Afghanistan’s people are bad because of the Al Queda? No. Are all Catholics bad because of the choices of a few bad men? You can’t ever judge an entire group, belief, or race off of a smaller group or individual’s actions. What I believe this statement is referenced too, is a particular event or group of interrogators. I’m sure there are people who have used their power in the military as MP’s or Intelligence in the wrong way, but the ignorance in this statement nauseates me. We do not sodomize, rape, pillage, spit on, drag around, murder, molest, demean, and torture our prisoners by any means "Husseinesque". Every prisoner I have ever seen, and I see them everyday, has shelter, cloths, three square meals, interpreters, they’re even being taught about Jesus. Sure they are interrogated, handcuffed, and I’m sure yelled at, called names and hit; but there is no way our "techniques" can or should ever be compared to Sadam Hussein.
B. Do you truly believe that America is doing the right thing by being over there?
I don’t know what the long term political, economical, social, etc effects will be on this country. What I do know is that I can’t look into the eyes of these children everyday who have 80% of their bodies burned because they were being disciplined, Talk to 14 and 15 year old boys who have never seen the town 8 miles down the road from them, who don’t know any education outside of which landmines are which, Watch these old men cry their eyes out and beg us to help for the sake of future generations and not think for a second that we’re not doing the right thing by being here. We can only try our best to help. These people (the uneducated ones) no nothing more than how to smoke their dope, grow their opium, and buy more weapons. Should we not want to help them?
Above all this, I don’t believe what so ever that I’m here because the military sent me here. That’s such a narrow-minded view. I’m here because this is where God sent me. I’m here because this is where I’m supposed to be at this point in my life. I obviously have a reason for being here out side of luck of the draw. Maybe even multiple reasons for being here. People constantly question my excitement in being here. I’ve had people write me asking me if I’m lying about wanting to be here and if I’m depressed and miss home etc. Of course I miss home and of course this sucks and its not all peachy 24/7. But this is one year of my life. Knowing the women in my family I’ll probly live to 100. So one year, is it really that much of a sacrifice? A lot of people live 100 times worse than how I'm living this year only they live it their entire lives. I believe it’s selfish to moan and complain and wish I were back home. I’ve been given a wonderful opportunity to grow and to learn and to make a difference. Hopefully I’ll do the best job that I can.
Hat tip to StrategyPage.com
MARINE CPT BRIAN CHONTOSH was awarded the Navy Cross last Thursday, in a ceremony at Marine Corps Training Center, Twenty-Nine Palms, California.
The citation reads, “for Extraordinary Heroism.”
While leading his platoon north on Highway 1 toward Ad Diwaniyah, Chontosh's platoon moved into a coordinated ambush of mortars, rocket propelled grenades and automatic weapons fire. With coalitions tanks blocking the road ahead, he realized his platoon was caught in a kill zone.
He had his driver move the vehicle through a breach along his flank, where he was immediately taken under fire from an entrenched machine gun. Without hesitation, Chontosh ordered the driver to advanced directly at the enemy position enabling his .50 caliber machine gunner to silence the enemy.
He then directed his driver into the enemy trench, where he exited his vehicle and began to clear the trench with an M16A2 service rifle and 9 millimeter pistol. His ammunition depleted, Chontosh, with complete disregard for his safety, twice picked up discarded enemy rifles and continued his ferocious attack.
When a Marine following him found an enemy rocket propelled grenade launcher, Chontosh used it to destroy yet another group of enemy soldiers.
When his audacious attack ended, he had cleared over 200 meters of the enemy trench, killing more than 20 enemy soldiers and wounding several others.
What does Chontosh have to say about all this?
I was just doing my job, I did the same thing every other Marine would have done…
Friday night Karol had Dasher-2 fueled and packed by time I got home. We had dinner, then fired the main engines and launched for Virginia. We went out Route 40 across the Delaware Memorial Bridge.
There we picked up I95 and headed south. We went through the tunnel under Baltimore and then picked up the 496 Beltway around DC. From there we picked up Route 66 until reaching 29 and then to our host’s house – Cheryl and Owen Green. We arrived about 2100 hours.
I was ready to take Route 66 all the way to California. But since we weren’t driving a Corvette, it wouldn’t have been right. A Honda Accord doesn’t have quite the same panache as a Chevrolet Corvette.
The next day we toured the Manassas Battlefield. Two battles were fought there. They had a movie about the battles in the visitor’s center. My only complaint was, they didn’t interrupt the movie with a map of the action. It was confusing and hard to follow. What one does come away with is the cost in lives. I was also truck by the eloquence and dedication in the letters written by the soldiers. It’s a commodity hard to find in today’s cynical “looking out for number one” world.
Sunday morning we attended church services with our hosts at St. Timothy’s Catholic Church. It is a very nice church. I was a little disappointed by the homily. It seemed ad-libbed. Ad least there weren’t a lot of uh’s and um’s.
After lunch, we visited the Air and Space Museum. Upon entering, we were given a guide. I quickly developed an attack plan and we went through the museum in about 75 minutes.
Then we returned to base camp and fired the main engines for the return trip. Dasher-2 glided into the home strip about 1700 hours.
I will say this, Cheryl is an excellent cook.
You can view photos of our trip by clicking here.
Today we returned from our weekend trip to Virginia. I’ll have an after-action report up here soon and a new photo-album with pictures of things we say.
Blogging will be light to non-existent this weekend. Karol and I will be visiting friends in Virginia.
I know, I know. You're surprised I have any friends. So am I. These are more Karol's friends than mine. Karol went to high scholl with her.
Take a look at this article about Bush. If you're a Bush hater, it'll probably make you up-chuck.
I was watching the Discovery channel last week at my hotel. They did a very interesting experiment. They took one set of identical twins. They were girls about 10-years old.
One twin was put in a room wired up to a polygraph machine. The other twin was several rooms and floors away. They synchronized the clocks in both rooms as well as cameras. In fact, they had three cameras synced up: One on the wired twin, one camera on the un-wired twin, and a third camera on the polygraph readout.
Then they blindfolded the unwired twin and put her hand in a bowl of ice water, within a few seconds the heart rate of the twin wired to the polygraph machine increased dramatically.
Then they removed the blindfold and flashed a light at the un-wired twin. As before, the heart rate of the wired twin increased dramatically.
Lastly, they popped a balloon behind the back of the unwired twin. In that case, the heart rate of the wired twin actually skipped a beat.
It appeared that one twin reacted physically to stimuli from the other twin, even though neither had any physical contact with the other.
I went to check into the hotel last week only to be told that I had already checked in. I looked at the girl behind the counter rather incredulously.
“I just drove up,” I said. I then whipped out my Palm Pilot, into which I had previously recorded my reservation number. I gave her the number.
She responded, “Yes. I show you have already checked in under that reservation.”
It turns out another "Ted Armstrong" had already checked into the hotel ahead of me. I still got a room, but it was a rather strange experience.
I really love the way the yard looks in the spring. The grass is such a lush green color and looks like a green carpet right after being cut. I snapped the above right after a fresh cutting. I use a freshly sharpened mower blade every time I cut the grass and it makes a difference.
All the dogwoods and azaleas are currently in bloom. Vineland is a pretty city in the spring.
I cut the hedge two weeks ago and it needs another cutting. However, Karol and I are going to Virginia to visit friends this weekend. The hedge will have to wait until next weekend.
"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions ! of bette r men than himself."
John Stewart Mill
"When you are in office, it is not enough to have the right intentions, although that helps. It is not enough to seek the best advice, although that is important. In the end, you have to believe in what you are doing and be able to carry the nation with you."
Here's a letter from a soldier serving in Iraq.
...I met yesterday outside Najaf with a 1st Lieutenant from the Iron Dukes of 2-37 Armor who as tank company executive officer was leading a convoy of two platoons of tanks on heavy equipment transports from Al Kut in the east to Najaf in the west, a distance of about 175KM. As they passed through the town of Diwaniyah, they were ambushed by a group of insurgents--undoubtedly former regime soldiers with some military training--with RPGs, heavy machine guns, and AK-47s. The Task Force Scouts had passed through only 30 minutes earlier without contact, so this was a well-planned ambush of probably 50 or so organized in two and three man teams.
The convoy suffered three soldiers killed in action in the initial moments of the ambush--one Iron Duke, one 2ACR cavalry trooper, and one transportation officer. The convoy immediately returned fire. They had several HUMMWVs in escort, and the tanks on the back of the Heavy equipment transports were manned with loaders and Tank commanders on crew served weapons.
Within minutes of the ambush, one of the Heavy equipment transports was disabled, and the Lieutenant realized he would have to stand and fight to ensure he had everyone. The Iron Dukes "broke chains" as they described it, by essentially driving off the back of the Heavy equipment transports under fire to engage the enemy. In the course of the next hour, they fought their way out of Diwaniyah employing every weapon available to them including main gun. They got everyone and everything out with the exception of one Heavy equipment transport.
Enemy battle damage assessment was 30 killed and an unknown number wounded.
A day after this fight, I received an email from Captain Thomas Moore, of the 1175th Transportation, who was the convoy commander. He wrote: "Were it not for the courage and actions under fire of the ACR and 2-37 soldiers that day, he is certain all his men would have been killed." He asked me if he and his soldiers engaged in that fight with us could wear the 1st Armoured Division combat patch. I told him I'd be honored.
There are many such stories of courage under fire and just as many stories of incredible compassion to the innocent...
Continuing mission, sir.
John O'Neill has an Oped piece in today's WSJ about John Kerry and Vietnam. O'Neill served in the same way as Kerry except O'Neill served a full year instead of the four months that Kerry served. O'Neill has this to say.
Vietnam was a long time ago. Why does it matter today? Since the days of the Roman Empire, the concept of military loyalty up and down the chain of command has been indispensable. The commander's loyalty to the troops is the price a commander pays for the loyalty of the troops in return. How can a man be commander in chief who for over 30 years has accused his "Band of Brothers," as well as himself, of being war criminals? On a practical basis, John Kerry's breach of loyalty is a prescription of disaster for our armed forces.
I would urge you to read the whole thing. It's not that long.
I’m torn about what to do about Iraq in general and Fallujah in particular. This hour-by-hour news reporting is tough on the psyche. I can only rely on Bush’s record of choosing good people and then delegating the decisions to them.
Bush as shown himself the Harvard MBA he is. He lets his people run their business. If they aren’t effective, he fires them and gets someone that WILL do the job. Witness his hiring and then firing Paul O’Neill. O’Neill couldn’t do the job so Bush replaced him with someone that could.
I can only hope that he doesn’t change his behavior now. He has a lot more data about the situation than I do. All I have is the reports from the news media that would love to see us defeated in Iraq.
Here's a damning take on the UN from The Australian.
NO other organisation is regarded with such respect as the United Nations. This is perhaps natural, for the UN embodies some of humanity's noblest dreams.
But, as the current scandal surrounding the UN's administration of the Iraq oil-for-food program demonstrates, and as the world remembers the Rwanda genocide that began 10 years ago, respect for the UN should be viewed as something of a superstition, with Secretary-General Kofi Annan as its false prophet...
Annan had at his disposal all the instruments of power and opinion Wallenberg lacked. Yet, when thousands or hundreds of thousands of people were exposed to mortal threats he had the authority and duty to avert, alleviate, or at least announce, he failed.
Now, despite revelations about bribery in the UN's oil-for-food program for Iraq, the world is clamouring to entrust Annan with the future of more than 20 million Iraqis who survived Saddam Hussein dictatorship. That is because of who Annan is and what the UN has become: an institution in which no shortcoming, it seems, goes unrewarded.
Dasher-1 glided into home base just before 1800. The return trip was uneventful and I made very good time. I would judge the mission a success. The client was pleased, I collected quite a few billable hours, and I have an invitation for another mission.