But this question isn't about geographical degrees of latitude so much as psychological ones. Here's the real reason Lt. Kerry wasn't spending Dec. 24, 1968, on a secret mission in Cambodia: On the previous day, Dec. 23, the U.S. government finally secured the release, after a five-month diplomatic stand-off, of 11 Americans whose U.S. Army utility landing craft had made a navigational error and strayed into Cambodian waters. Prince Sihanouk had rejected U.S. apologies and threatened to try the men under Cambodian law. It's unlikely, 24 hours after their release, anyone in Washington was thinking, ''Hey, we need to send that hotshot Kerry in there.''
So what are we to make of Sen. Kerry's self-seared 30-year-old false memory of Christmas in Cambodia with its vast accumulation of precise details? Of being shot at by the Khmer Rouge (unlikely in 1968) and of South Vietnamese troops drunkenly celebrating Christmas (as only devout Buddhists know how)?
It's not about dates and places. For Kerry, his Yuletide mission was an epiphany: the moment when he realized his government was lying to the people about what was going on. This is the turning point, the moment that set the young Kerry on the path from brave young war volunteer to fierce anti-war activist.
And it turns out it's total bunk....
Captain's Quarters has, as most of you will have seen, newly disproven another of Kerry's claims about his service in Vietnam. This is starting to become alarming. As I said in the comments to the last post on this topic, I'm willing to insist on a strict standard of evidence for all of these charges -- but that applies to Kerry, too. When he makes claims that can be proven false, he deserves what he gets.
Glad I'm not in HangZhou today. This is our old neighborhood, from when we lived in China. Looks like so far, 115 dead, about 2,000 injured, and 42,000 houses destroyed. Whee.
The Mudville Gazette has an interview with a (strongly pro-Bush) Air Force F-16 pilot who has been supporting operations in Najaf. Greyhawk has a question:
The terrorists and other anti-coalition elements "really are not winning," our pilot correspondent says. "Not even a little."Anyone need that translated?
Sovay, whose site I've been reading faithfully lately, carries on the tradition of some lefty blogger whose name escapes me of "Friday Catblogging." It happens that one of her cats used to live with me, before I found a suck... er, a kind hearted Sovay to take her in.
As she reminds me today, this cat, Arganti, appeared to me in the wreck following Hurricane Floyd. The wife and I were down Savannah way at the time, living on the inauspiciously named "Waters Avenue" (little did we know that meant 11-inch flash floods in our living room during the storm season). I was out 'walking one morning for pleasure,' when I saw a little white kitten stalking through the storm damage. As soon as she saw me, her tail shot up into a point, and she started running in my direction. She followed me all the way home -- I never touched her or offered her food or even encouragement -- and right through the door into my house. I named her and sent her to Maryland to live with Sovay, who flew down to pick her up.
So yeah, she's been through fire and high water. Tough cat, that one.
If you're in the military, that is. BlackFive reminds us that the deadline for military absentee voters to register is August 15! Don't forget.
If you need help, the Marines have put up a good site for the military voter abroad. Get the word out, register, and vote on time! We don't want any military ballots discarded this time.
I hadn't heard about it until today, but apparently Kerry claims to have flown with the Israeli Air Force into Egypt, in addition to his Cambodia claims. He made this claim in remarks to the Anti-Defamation League, this very year. The Command Post concludes that... well, they don't want to call it an outright lie, although his claims are surely stretchers at least.
Good gracious. By the way, if you drop over to read the post, be sure to scroll down to the comments section. There's some well informed discussion about the nature of swift boats.
The Marine Corps Times describes the MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain) training that the 11th MEU is using in Najaf. It has certainly been impressive, even to old hands like Wretchard at the Belmont Club.
In today's mainstream press, everyone is repeating the commonly understood pieties. Al-Reuters has a piece citing a fellow from the Royal Institute of International Affairs who says, "The problem is the foe they are trying to defeat is in many ways indestructible." Since we cannot win, the only hope is to try not to make these people mad at us. By that standard, fighting in Najaf -- indeed, in Iraq, in the Middle East at all -- is madness. This seems to be the position of the whole Fouth Estate, as well as the non-military NGOs.
It is interesting to read the reflections of those who have some knowledge of military science. They begin from the point of view that regardless of strength, all enemies can be defeated, as can we ourselves. The question is sorting out how, so that you may pursue the course most likely to result in the enemy's defeat, and least likely to result in your own.
Wretchard's writings on the topic are interesting, not only because his is one of the finest minds operating in the blogosphere, but also in that he has apparently had a change of opinion since Fallujah. Both he and I were initially on the side of restraint where sacred ground was concerned. At the time of the Fallujah incursion, I had revised my opinion, but Wretchard remained on the other side. I see today that he has come to a new conclusion:
Yet something has changed for the Iraqi government to authorize a near-fatal assault on Sadr and countenance the Marines approach to within rock-throwing distance of the Imam Ali Shrine. Whether it has changed enough is the question.To this I have nothing to add, having said my piece before. I agree.
It now seems clear that Sadr overestimated the degree of protection which the necropolis and its proximity to the shrine afforded him. Yet the shrine itself cannot be so lightly trespassed. It is protected by a boundary civilized men hesitate to cross. In an irony that Sam Harris would appreciate, sanctity, though it be of the Christian Church of the Nativity, has become an object that can always be pressed into service to shield Islamic fundamentalists though it provides none for those they would slay. That becomes the danger itself; for the shameless abuses of Sadr and similar thugs inevitably cheapen and corrode the very restraints upon which civilization depends; that distinguish the civilian from the combatant; the church from the battlefield. When like the Najaf necropolis, sacred objects finally lose their power to restrain, it more than brick that is destroyed. The real metaphor for the terrorist war on civilization is not wide-bodied aircraft crashing into the twin towers. It is mortars firing from the courtyard of the Imam Ali Shrine by men who don't even sandbag their positions, secure in the knowledge that they can slay men too decent to fire back.
In the end, Sadr's walk-away position is to dare Rubaie to assault the Shrine: dare him to be a barbarian. In the face of that challenge, Rubaie must convince Sadr that he is prepared to cross that line, to pull down his temple if it means saving his soul.
A weird story from the Olympics.
If any of you wonder what Grim sounds like when you catch him completely off guard, and start asking him pointed questions while he's been thinking about something else entirely, you can drop by NRANews.com today. About twenty-five percent of the way through the program, I'm the fellow in the John B. Stetson hat being interviewed on the relative qualifications of Bush and Kerry.
I hope I sound a bit better when I've taken the time to prepare a response. For what it's worth, I thought they guy who stopped me was just asking for directions. I get asked for directions no matter where I go -- I guess I just look like I know where I'm going, so people assume I might know where they're going too. It always shocks me in D.C., though. Anyone paying half a moment's attention would notice that mine is the only cowboy hat in view. Why they'd think I'm a local baffles me.
Anyway, I was down on the Mall and this fellow asked if he could ask a question, and I said, "Yeah, sure." So he whipped a mic out from behind his back, and suddenly his accomplice turned up with a television camera, and they started asking about the election. I didn't find out they were with NRANews until after the brief interview (which they seem to have run without any editing). I don't think they store back-issues of the show online, so if you don't see it between now and tomorrow at 2 PM, you've probably missed it. No great loss if you do; I was hardly at my best, in a bit of a hurry, and preoccupied with certain questions relating to China and Korea that have been on my plate this week.
I got out to the range today, in advance of the tropical storm rolling in. I went last week, but due to an unexpected traffic problem I missed the last ceasefire and couldn't shoot that day as a result. Today, however, everything went fine, and I got to the range at about two o'clock.
I had a pretty good day. After warming up, I put down a pretty good group:
That nice little group in the black is four rounds, not three as it may look at first. Here's a closeup:
That's a pretty good improvement over last time, and fair shooting for a .357 magnum.
I also tried a couple of new things today. In addition to a box of .357 Magnum, I bought a box of .38 Special to try. Everyone tells you that you can shoot it out of a .357, and you can, although it mucks up the throat with soot because the brass is short. Still, I can see why it's popular. It cuts the recoil in half at least, and is four bucks cheaper a box to boot. For target practice, that's probably fine, though I share the USMC motto: "Train as you fight, fight as you train."
Finally, for my fellow Knights of St. John Moses, I should mention that I fired a Colt 1911A1 that the shootist in the next stall had brought out. I wish I could show you that target. I was just on my way out, having recovered my targets and picked up my brass, when he invited me to have a go with the thing. As a consequence, I don't have the target to photograph for you. But man, what a sweet shooting piece.
Sweet, that is, when it worked. It was loaded with Winchester hardball, but for some reason it still didn't feed right twice in six rounds: the first time it choked clearing the spent brass, and the second time it fed the new round into the throat but didn't drop to battery. I can't say why, although my guess is she wasn't properly cleaned by her shooter. Still, when she shot, she shot true.
Taiwan is staging a war game today to see if it could withstand a Chinese assault. They have just finished another, computerized simulation. Things do not look good:
The drill came as Defense Minister Lee Jye confirmed a report that in a recent computer-simulated exercise, Taiwanese troops were wiped out 130 hours after the People's Liberation Army (PLA) started invading.China itself staged war games last month on Dongshan Island. The exercise...
The Apple Daily said the blitz was simulated as happening in 2006, the year when Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian is scheduled to push for a new constitution, which Beijing has warned against.
After the first day of the Chinese "attacks", Taiwan's airports, bunkers, harbours and key government buildings were destroyed by extensive bombings featuring 700 ballistic missiles.
The simulated battles ended when the PLA captured the capital Taipei in the sixth day of the attacks.
which began last week, resembles what Chinese analysts say a military strike on Taiwan would look like: commando raids and elements of a so-called "decapitation strike" on Taipei, including night bombing runs - something the People's Liberation Army (PLA) has not practiced before in a coastal exercise....In case you didn't catch that, the PRC state media is directing our attention to its thermonuclear forces. The 31 in particular is a mobile ICBM carrying a MRV warhead. Each one is capable of destroying as many as three US cities, and these are estimated to be only a small part of China's nuclear capability. Under a threat of nuclear retaliation, support for Taiwan's defense would have to be highly delicate. Unfortunately, Congressional cuts to the Virginia-class submarine program have greatly weakened our ability to fight in the Taiwan strait, and doubly weakened our ability to do so in a deniable fashion.
State media are at volume levels not heard since 2000, the last time Chen, who desires a separate identity for Taiwan, was elected. Newspapers show Chinese frigates shooting rockets. They list Chinese weapons that "Americans are afraid of" - including the mobile-launched long range Dongfeng-31 and Dongfeng-4 rockets. Party newspaper People's Daily issued an angry broadside Tuesday on a July 15 resolution in Congress supporting the Taiwan Relations Act. The law allows US weapons sales to Taiwan for defensive purposes so long as the island is threatened. People's Daily argued that Congress "fabricated a Chinese military threat in order to justify arms sales to Taiwan - a blatant intervention into China's internal affairs."
There is one last point to be made about the Chinese nuclear threat. Those of you who like to hold grudges will note this paragraph from the Federation of American Scientist's report: "The DF-31 is equipped with many technologies stolen or bought from America during Clinton's term. The DF-31 success was so spectacular that the the PLA 2nd Artillery will deploy 24 missiles by the end of 2004." We've been wondering what the price of that negligence would be. Now we know the probable cost of the down payment: Taiwan, and with her the loss to China's R&D team of all the advanced US military technology we've sold Taiwan over the years.
Options for avoiding this scenario are few. We can encourage Taiwan to negotiate a peaceful return to the PRC, removing as part of the negotiations what we can of our previously-sold technologies; or we can encourage Taiwan herself to go nuclear, and arm her to the teeth. The latter position creates another nuclear power finally outside of our control, and could cause an escalation into the very war we'd like to avoid. There are no happy choices here.
My old friend Sovay has been worrying about the Shrine of Ali. The US military has been given permission by the Iraqi government to enter the shrine, if necessary to arrest al-Sadr. Since the US military often issues arrest warrants attached to TOW missiles (e.g., the Hussein brothers), I suppose there is some reason to be concerned.
However, I think we've passed the point at which we ought to refrain from returning fire, or chasing fugitives, just because they enter into an Islamic holy building. I have heard, and I have understood, the objection that damaging these holy buildings will create new terrorists and raise the level of hatred for the US in the Muslim world. I have heard, and understood, that this particular building is especially sacred. I'm simply no longer convinced that we should consider these objections to be a primary concern.
What I suspect is the greater producer of terrorists is the sense among radicals that the West is afraid of Islam. What we have been pursuing as an act of decency has been taken as a sign of weakness. Weakness is even more provocative than wrath.
Bin Laden himself wrote that when people see a strong and a weak horse, they naturally like the strong horse. During the war and the initial stages of the occupation, the US military shied from any confrontation that would involve a mosque of any sort. We searched them only with apologies, bombed them only by accident. The result was not a recognition by our enemies that we were fundamentally decent: it was a further endangerment of the innocents in Iraq, as the insurgents integrated their operations into these areas where people lived and prayed. By leaving these holy sites untouched, we left them lawless. By leaving them lawless, we left the people who use them in peril.
The Shrine of Ali has been the scene, since the lawlessness began, of knife-murders, assassinations of high clerics, and bombings -- sometimes all at once. Blood has darkened its stones regularly, and the honest people of Najaf are in danger every time they go there because of the Medhi army and the international villians who are disguised in their uniform.
The Marines took out the tower of a Mosque in Fallujah that was being used as a sniper tower, and rightly so. The eruption of anger was short, and quickly forgotten.
It would be worse, louder and longer, in the event of damage to the Shrine. But it would also pass. In the time beyond, people could return there in safety, under no threat from followers of braying clerics promising to shed their last drops of blood upon its stones.
We have heard that this would be worse for Shias even than the shelling of the Vatican for Catholics. Perhaps. But what if the Vatican had already seen the Pope assassinated in the street before St. Peter's? What if it were now occupied by those same criminals, now armed and defying the world to try and bring justice to them? Sanity demands a cleansing of such places: first by fire, though holy water may follow if it will.
Better, I agree, if Iraqis would do it. Better, I agree, if Sadr would come out and give a stand-up fight. Better to damage it than to destroy it; better grenades than missiles; better knives than grenades. Yes, yes.
But worst, worst by far, to leave such a place in the hands of the wicked.
The Mudville Gazette is conducting interviews with the Swift Vets. I have some thoughts on the matter which I haven't had time to put down, and I don't really have time to put them down now. As a sketch:
1) It's interesting that the Swift Vets who oppose Kerry are not his boatmates, but (a) those from the boats teamed with his, and (b) his chain of command (which was pretty long, since he was a Lt. Junior Grade). His surviving boatmates seem to be supporting him.
2) I wonder if this has something to do with perspective. Consider the much-discussed case of the ambush in which Kerry's boat rescued an overboard Special Forces Lt. Early on in the fight, Kerry's boat speeded out of the kill zone. From the point of view of a draftee in the boat, that's quick thinking that saved your butt. From the point of view of every other boat (and his commanders), that's breaking formation, and skitting away with the backup you yourself are depending upon. Different opinions of whether or not it was the right thing to do are only natural.
Similarly, people under fire see and hear different things, and combat does strange things to the memory (as do other high-stress events like violent crime: ask any cop how many different stories he will usually get from eyewitnesses to the same crime). A number of these differences in accounts are to be expected -- indeed, speaking as a historian, they would be conspicuous by their absence.
3) That kind of thing can clear up only some of the disputes, however. I see little joy for Kerry in the "Christmas in Cambodia" business. His office has let this one go for days now without a response (except to say that he was misquoted, which doesn't wash because the quote is in the Congressional Record), and I'm starting to wonder if it's because there isn't one.
4) Then there are the real charges of war crimes, in particular indiscriminate shooting at civilians. Frankly, this one seems highly likely to be true. I say that because it isn't a disagreement: both parties have attested to it. Kerry himself stated that he did it: "I took part in shootings in free fire zones. I conducted harassment and interdiction fire. I used 50 calibre machine guns, which we were granted and ordered to use, which were our only weapon against people. I took part in search and destroy missions, in the burning of villages." The Swift Vets' claims only echo what Kerry himself has said. The odds, if you like to calculate odds, are highly in favor of Kerry being guilty of some of these war crimes.
5) There remain other claims that will take time to evaluate. Foremost among these is the charge that Kerry was sent out of Vietnam by a chain of command that didn't trust him -- that is a devastating charge, but one that needs full examination. Second is the charge that he faked or manipulated his medals. That one I have considered disproven thanks to Snopes; we'll see if there is new evidence or not.
6) The brutality of the political response to these charges has not encouraged me to believe that Kerry is the victim. Neither has the refusal to release his records. But the worst thing of all has been that he hasn't answered the charges. He's got a lot to answer for, particularly on the Cambodia and war crimes questions, where his own recorded statements are evidence against him. These are not small matters, but accusations Kerry made that great crimes were committed under his eyes and under his command. It is past time that he answered to the charges he has himself raised.
I occasionally get asked (even, some of you may be surprised to know, by Sovay) for ways to help support the troops. There are a number of good options available. BlackFive has a partial listing today, which includes a number of good ones, some I've mentioned to you before and some I haven't. (Those of you who read several MilBlogs regularly, however, will be familiar with all or most of them.)
Thanks to B-5 for putting the list together. It's a good one, to which I'll refer people who ask in the future.
...is nigh for Kim Jong-Il.
UPDATE: You can see pictures of the exercise here, at the website of the RENK NGO. If you read Japanese, you can read their eyewitness account of it.
UPDATE II: For you Information Operations warriors: back in January, China issued a bald territorial claim to much of Korea. It did this through claiming an ancient kingdom called "Goguryeo," also romanized as "Koguryo." This is a pre-Korean kingdom, in the sense that the language we have recovered from it is not Korean, but older. China has claimed it as a part of 'Greater Historic China,' which is incidentally exactly the reason they claim the right to own Tibet.
In late June, China managed to get the World Heritage Committee to recognize its claim. It did this through an expensive presentation that really "wowed" the WHC. This is not normally a political body -- but it means that China can now claim "international recognition" for its territorial ambitions.
Now that you know that, have a gander at today's Google News on the topic. Lot of ink for an ancient kingdom, eh?
On a day when Iranian diplomats were being taken hostage by Iraqis who want Iran to stay out of their business, Iran's state radio has carried a charming statement by Ayatollah Khamanei. He says that America, in Iraq, is "like a trapped wolf."
It is oddly reflective of Jefferson:
We have the wolf by the ears, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self preservation in the other.Khamanei is righter than he knows. Iran has caught the wolf by the ears. Their activities in support of the insurgency, Hezbollah, and Qaeda elements is the last wrench of their strength to hold on. But the wolf will come free. When it does, it will not be gentler with them than it was with us:
Yet, if God wills that... every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said 'the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.'So surely they would say in Iran, thinking of a different god. Indeed, the attention they have demanded from us is such that we can almost hear the words, that we know many of them: "Inshallah... sayyaf... Allah... halal."
Now they have the wolf by the ears. Let them see where he carries them.
SteynOnline is hosting a discussion of whether shotguns can be used for deer hunting. The occasion is the John Kerry quote about 'crawling about on his belly' with his trusty 12-gauge. Mark's British readers are highly suspicious of the concept.
Well, never mind what posture he adopts to shoot: check out his choice of firearm. He refers to "my trusty 12-gauge". This would be what we in England call a 12-bore shotgun. Now, I don't know about Massachusetts, but in England and Scotland deer are stalked and shot with a rifle fitted with a telescopic site, and I can't believe it is any different in the U.S....Uh-huh. Look, it's obvious that Kerry hasn't done any deer hunting -- that business about crawling about on his belly gives him away. But come on -- Ya'll ever heard of a little invention called "buckshot"? What kind of "buck" did you think they meant?
I just have two questions:
(1) Can (or should) you take deer with a 12-gauge shotgun?...
Good God, Mark, you missed a big one! You must not be a hunter either, or surely you would have said something about the larger faux pas.
No, you don't crawl around on your blinkin' stomach to hunt deer... but you also NEVER use a shotgun, because 1) it's illegal everywhere, and 2) it doesn't work worth a damn. If you did manage to hit one with your 12ga, most likely it would only wound the animal and you'd never catch up with it....
Almost nobody hunts deer any more with a shotgun, certainly not by choice....
Let's hope John-boy isn't out hunting deer with a 12 gauge, even if on his stomach. It is illegal to do so in every place I've heard of; you use a shotgun for birds, not large game....
Only a complete moron would hunt deer with a shotgun WITHOUT USING A SLUG. Nobody on the face of the planet (that I have ever heard of) does that....
Fortunately a couple of his readers finally set him straight, rather late in the Saturnalia.
The Scotsman today has a story of a policemen, just released from prison after serving four years for rape. He was the first man convicted in Scotland on DNA evidence; the prosecution told the jury that the odds were 1 in 100,000 that he was the wrong man.
But he was the wrong man.
The overturn of his conviction is a step forward. However, there is a particularly sad note to this tale. In a nation in which violent felons are regularly paroled within the smallest fraction of their sentence, Mr. Kelly served four years of the six to which he was sentenced. The reason he was not paroled sooner? "[H]is release on parole was delayed because he continued to deny his guilt."
Another life lesson, like those in the Havamal:
A snapping bow, a burning flame,Neither trust the state, when it bases its claims on some innovation in science. Not that, nor the word of prosecutors, who are only another sort of politician. When called to jury, be wary of such things. Put your trust in hard facts, and the testimony of men you deem honorable.
A grinning wolf, a grunting boar,
A raucous crow, a rootless tree,
A breaking wave, a boiling kettle,
A flying arrow, an ebbing tide,
A coiled adder, the ice of a night,
A bride's bed talk, a broad sword,
A bear's play, a prince' s children,
A witch' s welcome, the wit of a servant,
A sick calf, a corpse still fresh,
A brother's killer encountered upon
The highway, a house half-burned,
A racing stallion who has wrenched a leg,
Are never safe: let no man trust them.
If victory is in sight, yet some dangers still remain. Al Qaeda's footprint in the US is of unknown size, as the Christian Science Monitor reports, and it is possible that they may succeed in carrying out spectacular assaults even in their death throes.
US officials have closed down several major fundraising operations believed to have terrorist ties. They've also worked successfully with intelligence agencies overseas in attacking Al Qaeda at its core. "We've had some major successes [overseas with Al Qaeda.] We've slain the dragon, but now we're dealing with room full of snakes," says Frank Cilluffo of George Washington University and a former security adviser to President Bush. "What you've seen now is the franchising of Al Qaeda. They're in England, Jordan, Spain, and there've been a number of arrests recently that bode well."
But the question remains, how many snakes are there in the US ... and can they be caught before they strike again.
Are we winning? Doc Russia joins the chorus, which already includes me and the Belmont Club. That last voice looks at the trends not just for Iraq, al Qaeda and Islamism, but for the intifada as well.
The intifada has vented its suicidal wrath on Israelis, but in recent weeks criticism of the Palestinian Authority has ensconced itself in common parlance. "Not only was the intifada a failure, but we are a total failure. We achieved nothing in 50 years of struggle; we've achieved only our survival."The handover in Iraq has been everything we hoped it would be. When, in April, we found our soldiers and Marines fighting al-Sadr's men, they faced outrage from the press and the protests here at home. When they fought them this week, there has been near silence about it. The only article on CNN's weekend edition focuses on Allawi's peace overtures, not on the slaughter of these hardened fighters by the far more deadly US Marines. We kept our promises. We put Iraq on the road to freedom, and we're helping to keep her there. Iraqis see it, know it, and even the press can't ignore it any more.
And as terrorist warfare slows to a gasping halt, Zubeidi sees the violence turning inward.
(An aside: CNN could use a better editor. That article includes this line:
Iraq has temporarily reinstated a limited version of its death penalty, the interim minister of state announced Sunday.A limited version of the death penalty. Well, now, that is progress.)
This is what victory looks like. It's not over, and we continue to lose brave men to ambush and murder. We continue to see outrages in the press. But we are winning. It's a straight road to victory. We just need to carry on.
Via the Mudville Gazette, this story about a riotous event in Iraq. Somehow, unlike long-ago riots, this one didn't get any press coverage except for one local paper. Greyhawk wonders if the casualty count was just too low to draw press interest. Still, he says, if this mob has anything to say about it, some GIs may never go home from Iraq.
It certainly seems like a story worthy of some interest.