Thursday, December 28, 2006

Sauce for the Goose?

From the NYT:
House Republicans blocked consideration of the bill that passed the Senate this year, saying it amounted to an amnesty for lawbreakers and voicing confidence that a tough stance would touch off a groundswell of support in the Congressional elections. The strategy largely failed.

Hispanic voters, a swing constituency that Republicans covet, abandoned the party in large numbers. Several Republican hardliners, including Representatives John Hostettler of Indiana and J. D. Hayworth of Arizona, lost their seats. After the dismal showing, House Republicans denied F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin, the departing chairman of the Judiciary Committee and an architect of the House immigration approach, a senior position on any major committee in the new Congress.
OK, but then further on
The prospects for a bill that contains such a proposal remain particularly uncertain in the House, where many prominent Democrats want to ensure broad bipartisan backing as part of their efforts to maintain their majority in 2008, Congressional aides said.

The House Democrats are concerned about protecting newly elected moderate and conservative Democrats, some of whom had campaigned against legalizing illegal immigrants.
Immigration Enforcement: the political kiss of Death that built a majority...

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Chicken or the Egg?

Headlines on Drudge today...

Simon Cowell becomes highestpaid British TV star of all time...

and

POLL: Most Britons believe religion does more harm than good...

From that last story btw:
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said Christians faced being chased out of the Middle East because of the hostility created by the Iraq war, leading their countrymen to see them as "supporters of the crusading West."

Williams wrote in The Times that the "short-sighted" and "ignorant" policy on Iraq of Britain and its allies had endangered the lives and futures of thousands of Christians in the region.
As if they had blue skies and fair sailing before Chimpler! This makes about as much sense as blaming Armenian peasants for pissing off the Turks.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Raging RINOs

I say it, though, as a conservative, I may well be the RINO.

Hugh Hewitt today, explaining why Mitt Romney's views on abortion are irrelevant:
The simple fact is that the first post-9/11 contested primary season on the GOP side will be dominated by national security, not social issues, and understanding of the war against jihadism, whether from Sunni or Shia extremists, will be the key to capturing the Republican nomination.

Generals have often been accused of fighting the last war. Journalists these days seem intent on fighting the last campaign. The serious party is looking for serious debate on the war and the country's defenses...A handful of extreme pro-life activists allied with an even smaller number of radical bloggers aren't going to define the terms of the campaign of 2008 for the GOP. Not only are they immunizing Romney on the old issues, they are underscoring just how tone-deaf the MSM has become about the GOP grassroots.
Seems to me we just ran an election where the GOP snubbed the pro-life movement, declared everything but National Security was a waste of thought, and then offered mainly negative arguments on that topic.

I guess we know how well that worked for the center-right.

Browsing Drudgereport.com today I came across these comments by former Secretary of State Colin Powell:
The former secretary of state Colin Powell said Sunday that badly overstretched U.S. forces in Iraq were losing the war there and that a temporary U.S. troop surge probably would not help...Powell was deeply skeptical about increasing troop levels, an idea that appears to be gaining ground as President George W. Bush weighs U.S. strategy options.

"There really are no additional troops" to send, Powell said, adding that he agreed with those who say that the U.S. Army is "about broken."

...Powell endorsed another study group idea: opening talks with Syria and Iran.

...A troop increase, he said Sunday, "cannot be sustained." The thousands of additional U.S. soldiers sent into Baghdad since the summer had been unable to stabilize the city and more probably could not tip the balance, Powell said. The deployment of further troops would, moreover, impose long-term costs on a badly stretched military.
(BTW: I seem to recall, before the Clinton Administration, that a former Cabinet official was identified by the Presidential Administration in which they served. The media seems to have dropped that convention, I suspect because nobody seemed eager to accept Carter and Clinton appointees as Experts. Is it just my faulty memory?)

Back in the Cold War era, an assessment like Powell's would have been part of a crusade to expand the size of the American military. Not anymore; it is now part of a crusade to limit the scope of American foriegn policy. (I believe Powell has emerged to remind everybody, and the next Administration, that he's still out there ready to sit at the tables of Power.)

I don't think anybody can argue our position in the Middle East would be strengthened if we reversed two decades of cutbacks and closures, and took our military back to what it was in 1989. But that's not on anybody's agenda right now.

We have more wealth, more population, and better technology than at any point in our history, yet I would say we're weaker than any time since the immediate post-Vietnam era. And nobody who matters, gives a damn.

So long as that's the case, spare me the horse manure about being the "serious" party on national security.

And without that prop, what's holding up the "Permanent Majority"?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Brits End "War On Terror"

'It's about time,' said Garry Hindle, terrorism expert at the Royal United Services Institute in London. 'Military terminology is completely counter-productive, merely contributing to isolating communities. This is a very positive move.'
It's a second-best choice, we know. But calling for a passionate, nonviolent, political movement against terrorism based on idealistic altruism--an Antiterrorist Crusade--would be no PR improvement at all.

A Foreign Office spokesman said the government wanted to 'avoid reinforcing and giving succour to the terrorists' narrative by using language that, taken out of context, could be counter-productive'. The same message has been sent to British diplomats and official spokespeople around the world.
Outstanding. Here's some other terms to avoid as they could be taken out of context counter-productively:

God Save The Queen. Alienates everybody who doesn't share your God, your Queen, or your opinion that God and Queen are working on the same side.

I love the Lakes District. A bit suggestive.

Yes. Could be taken to mean No.

Oh wait-- there isn't any language that would remain productive when taken out of context!

'We tend to emphasise upholding shared values as a means to counter terrorists,' he added.
...
Apart from general agreement the Duchess of York should wear a burqa...what is there?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Not. Good.

Robert Gates thinks we are not winning in Iraq.

President Bush disagrees. And I'd have thought that was an appreciable difference of opinion, that might shape whether either of them works as Sec of Defense for the other.

Guess I'm a political noob.

Gates apparently played the Senate and will direct the war he doesn't think we're winning. I hope he can stop focusing on broad foriegn policy and develop enthusiasm for that duty.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Casino Royale

I've been mulling it over...Third.

Third best Bond flick.

Goldfingerhas to reign for style, Thunderball for a realistic plot and action, but Casino Royale trumps all the others.

Stop here if you haven't seen it. Go see it.

Back?

The great weakness in the Ian Fleming novels was the unchanging Voice of the Villain declaiming unto the captive Bond. Dr. No, Mr. Big, Goldfinger, Blofeld, they all sounded fairly alike. Goldfinger used some verbatim exposition as a sign of Auric's obvious insanity, it was that wierd ("Man has climbed Everest..."). But they dropped the torture-room banter for immortal lines like "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!"

Ian Fleming also had Le Chiffre speak with the Voice. But in the film writers Paul Haggis and Neal Purvis and Robert Wade do something really extraordinary. They keep the torture of the Seatless Chair, but they almost totally drop the Voice. Instead, Le Chiffre and Bond have an awesome conversation together.

Bond has the password Le Chiffre needs to get his money back and buy his way out from between the CIA and his depositors. The description of the ball-busting torture is straight Fleming. Beyond that is something totally new.

Le Chiffre hurts Bond, not gentle like before, but baaaaad. And Bond laughs at him. And Le Chiffre laughs back. Give me the password, I'll even spare the girl, he offers. And Bond laughs. And Le Chiffre chuckles. Yeah, that was pretty lame, wasn't it? Bond threatens the undying Wrath of the Service, and it's Le Chiffre's turn to mock. He's got the info, and he'll be cosseted so long as he's useful, no matter whose blood is on his hands. And it's Bond's turn to laugh ruefully. They're both on the same wavelength.

Because they're both in the same situation: trapped, kept alive just so long as they retain some useful information, and doomed if they ever give it. And they're both going to destroy themselves rather than cooperate, out of sheer stubborn pride. Bond just gets lucky.

It's that sort of enhancement of the characters beyond their 'assigned' roles in a "Bond film", into real humans, that makes Casino Royale so outstanding. And so often it's nonverbal, just great actors given the space to interact.

With this kind of writing and acting, I'd even forgive an invisible car in the sequel. Just to see Craig handle being given one.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Sniff

The lousy thing about colds is I look worst as I recover. The wheeze, the octave drop in my voice, the rumbling cough, those are the signs I'm just about over the thing. It was three days ago, when I just seemed a little flushed, that I was reeling on my feet and unable to count. They didn't want to believe that I needed to call off work and lie down a few days. Now that I feel the need to come back, I get an argument about further rest and relief.

Oh well.

Nancy Pelosi doesn't think Al-Qaeda has anything to do with Iraq. Wonder what her excuse is.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Taking a break from the day to day, to wish everybody a happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy the family and the free time together!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Hurling Ourselves Over the Railing

An excerpt of what I posted at powerlinenews forum:

It won’t take any press blurbs to remind black America who Trent Lott was. They already know. And not just the militants who have a US flag upside down on the wall next to the poster of the Fist Salute at the 1968 Olympics.

Trent Lott is not a racist. Trent Lott is not a segregationist. Trent Lott is, as you point out, a fellow who loves the proper procedure. I believe he abhors all the raw emotion and absolutism of House debates. He is not a crusader, he is a clubbable legalist who values an amiable process as much as the legislation that results. In a word, a Senator. And what I think he meant, when he said that his friend Strom Thurmond’s election ‘would have avoided all the troubles we’ve had over the years’, was that the process of awarding civil rights to all Americans regardless of color could have been achieved with a lot more consideration, a lot more propriety, and a lot more comradely good fellowship.

I’m capable of giving him the benefit of the doubt, and assuming he just forgot Thurmond, at the time of his Presidential bid, was on the side of unblinking Evil. Or that black America, to its very core, is damn proud they forced the issue of their full freedom without waiting for the likes of Trent Lott or Strom Thurmond, or John Kennedy or Lyndon Johnson, to gift it after properly measured debate. They don’t regret the ‘troubles’ one bit.

I’m capable of believing in his good faith. I already knew two years ago that the average American is not. When I’ve got to try and explain why a chief in my Party wished a segregationist had won the White House, and the best I can do is ‘he forgot who he was talking to and what about’, it’s time for a change. Now we have the even greater task explaining of why our Party doesn’t take that very seriously.

Even if he were the ‘wizard’ who brought Brett Kavanaugh to a vote and broke the Gang of 14--and he didn’t, he was nowhere to be seen on those tangles-- I’d still say he needed to stick to the shady side of the stage.


Images of Martin Luther King Jr. on the Mall in Washington is a lot more politically significant to many (if not most) African-Americans than Ronald Reagan at the Berlin Wall. I don't think Sen. Lott appreciates that, and I really question whether his supporters among our ranks do, either.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Blink?

Well the sick feeling of dread, from watching our side triangulate the tough ones, is back...

The problem with dwelling in the blogosphere is getting whacked every three hours with the same news, in slightly updated forms. The bulk of America probably wouldn't recognize the name "Iraq Survey Group", while I'm fidgeting waiting for Bush to announce how much of a retreat we'll pull. Or not.

Heck with it. I have schoolwork needs doing. Meanwhile, if you're uptight like me, relax with a good ten minutes of browsing babyanimalz.com.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

And Now For Something Completely Different

I feel good.

Many challenges ahead. Many hard fights, tough arguments. We have much work to do to persuade the American people that the Republican Party actually represents the improvement of America.

We may lose a few of these fights on straight party-line votes, and possibly even a few of the veto challenges. Yet right now, I am free of the sick dread I have felt more than once over the past two years.

Am I crazy? Do I actually think we're better off losing the majority?

Yes. Yes I do. We're better off being the party that starts at the sight of bad law, fights bad law, kicks bad law in the teeth, never lets a bad law live but that it fights for its life, than being the party that brings bad law home as a pet rather than appear too fierce and uncompromising.

I am fierce and uncompromising!

I mentioned sick dread...I had that sick dread watching my party "leadership" triangulate its way towards the Opposition, on the grounds that my vote was nailed down, and they were making inroads among the valued 'center'. And really, what could I do about it? Vote Democrat?

Some inroads.

By 2008 the Conventional Wisdom shall be: Pelosi blew it. They were assured victory in 2006 but neglected, through incompetence, to secure the sort of mandate that would dynamite the GOP out of its trenches.

They haven't got the White House, they haven't got the votes to override vetoes, and they haven't got the popular policy progam to shatter our ranks in Congress.

Now is the time for a role we know how to do--without reference to any War Room of "experts" as to what floats. It's again time for the Thin Red Line of Heroes, defiant, insistent, unyielding, confident of the wrongness of the opposing cause and the sense of our own. And that's a role our guys know. We know how to be the fighting minority without seeking bad professional advice or throwing in with Ted Kennedy for the sake of appearances.

Yes, we'll be arguing with a lot of idiot chairmen. Thing is, for once, those idiot chairmen will not be Republicans.

And I'm not the only one who sees the death of blind loyalty to the Party. Check out Hugh Hewitt(!!!)


I feel good.

PS A thought: It won't be us holding the bag when everybody in America has to buy a new HDTV in 2008, because Congress said so nearly ten years ago. Yay!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Vinsent Barragan R.I.P.

My old friend Vinsent (known here as the Laird) died October 23rd. His pickup hit the back of a big-rig on the way to Vegas and he died on impact. He was 32.

I knew Vinse since we were juniors at Notre Dame high school in 1990. I don't really remember meeting Vinse, because at the time I started hanging around the gaming nerds I didn't realize we'd be tight for another 16 years. Looking back it doesn't seem that he changed all that much; he was a very mature guy at 17.

Vinse was a bold guy. As a security guard he had cause to shoot out the engine block of a pickup with a pistol--from the front. He would run field-work programs with 60 violent juvenile offenders single-handed--and The Bear did not get any trouble. He loved telling "war stories" about how he compelled obedience in the Hall and we were a willing audience.

Looking back I am glad I could help Vinse learn to live on his own, which is one of the very few things in life I did before Barragan. He lived with his mother and sister providing in-home care until he was 29. He was very devoted to both of his parents even after we moved out into our own suite, and later, his own condo. He was very proud to actually own a home, although learning to live with mortgage payments wore him out.

Now the condo looks like a furniture warehouse. I'm bagging and boxing my things and coordinating the move back to my folks over the next couple of weeks. And it hits me, that although I spent most of my time under that roof without Vinse actually there, it is near unbearable now that he's permanently gone. He won't come through the door and ask me to come with him as he shops. I never got that, being invited to go buy Dickies, but I understand now. When you commit as we both did, to being responsible for dozens of people as they sleep, you just don't get to go to the afternoon barbecue or watch the game at the bar. You have to pass on the weekend trip, because your day off comes midweek. Vinse could bitch to me about that, because I was in the same boat. Now all my close friends are in the 9-5 and I'm out of the loop.

I've been stoic around his mother and his girlfriend and the Notre Dame mafia coming in from all over the state. It's now that I'm back in the daily rut that it starts to really hurt.

We'll bury Vinse this Tuesday. Afterwards it's on us to keep in touch, keep meeting each other, plan the jaunt to Dodger Stadium, haul ourselves around the Inland Empire. After 16 years, the coordinator has stopped making pickup.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Pentagon Admits Defeat in Baghdad--Not

Here’s the whole of Maj. Gen Caldwell’s “admission”. I am excerpting a paragraph you will not read in any paper talking about an “admission of failure in Baghdad”. The entire transcript follows.

We did know during the month of Ramadan we would see an increase in extremist elements, insurgent activity targeted against coalition and Iraqi security forces, and in fact that's occurred. We talked about the fact that just in the three weeks before Ramadan and the three weeks into Ramadan, at least a 20 percent increase in the number of attacks that have occurred within the area there, Baghdad area. So we know that's happening.

We also know that coalition forces are out much more active in the city right now today than they were a month ago as we're continuing to try to clamp down on the sectarian violence that's occurring out there. We also realize that there is a midterm election that's taking place in the United States and that the extremist elements understand the power of the media; that if they can in fact produce additional casualties, that in fact is recognized and discussed in the press because everybody would like not to see anybody get killed in these operations, but that does occur.


Notice nobody present at the briefing thought to challenge Caldwell about his "admission of failure".
That decision was made by the editors back home, searching for a sound bite of bad news to trumpet.

On the first raid against Schweinfurt there was bad weather in England, and then-two-star general Curtis LeMay ordered his half the bomb force grounded til the weather cleared. The result was that our attack flew over Germany in two groups almost an hour apart. The first half did fairly well but the 2nd group caught hell from the alerted and reloaded Germans, and about 1/3 of the crews were casualties.

Army Air Corps decided we couldn't keep taking those losses--so to maintain the strategic goal of bombing German industry, the tactics were changed.

Thereafter throughout the war no air commander had authority to scrub a mission because of bad weather over his field. Planes left England in zero visibility rain and sleet. Planes collided or crashed, men died, but never in the sort of bloodbath that occurred over Schweinfurt.

That is the difference between rethinking operations and "staying the course"; and "admitting defeat". The Pentagon has not admitted defeat, and honest journalists would say as much. Honest journalism is an endangered species that dare not run in broad daylight, it seems.

Press Briefing, Oct. 19
Thursday, 19 October 2006
Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV
Spokesman, Multi-National Force - Iraq

IRAQ OPERATIONAL UPDATE BRIEFING BRIEFER: MAJOR GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL, USA, SPOKESMAN, MULTINATIONAL FORCE-IRAQ LOCATION: COMBINED PRESS INFORMATION CENTER, BAGHDAD, IRAQ TIME: 8:00 A.M. EDT DATE: THURSDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2006

GEN. CALDWELL: Good afternoon. "As-salaam aleikum." One year ago this past Sunday, Iraqis made a stirring display for democracy. Nearly 10 million people, more than 63 percent of the registered voters, cast their ballots in a referendum to approve the Iraqi constitution. This led the way to elections last December in which an overwhelming majority of the registered voters, or 11 million people, went to the polls to elect the members of the Council of Representatives.
Iraqis showed their desire for a government that would represent their interests and provide for their basic needs. Now that government is facing tough challenges. Quelling the violence is a top concern and one that the Iraqi government is striving persistently to address. Recently, Prime Minister Maliki announced the formation of a special committee to address the issue of militias, and he announced, as well, a ministerial committee to oversee reform of the security ministries. On Monday, the minister of Interior announced the reassignment of a number of its leaders within the national police. The decision to make changes was made solely by the Ministry of Interior. And we continue to applaud the difficult and challenging decisions they are making. Although the leadership at the division level has changed, the national police continue to prove itself as a capable and viable civil force. In fact, within 24 hours of the Ministry of Interior announcing the reassignment of a unit from the national police, it was deployed on very short notice to Balad to reinforce the local police in that area. The national police was received well by the town's leadership and is currently conducting operations and assisting the community there. The deployment is a solid display of the national police's ability to deploy nationwide to provide support and reinforcement to the local Iraqi police.

Violence and progress do coexist here in Iraq. The violence continues against security forces and innocent Iraqis during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Traditionally this is a time of great celebration; it has, instead, been a period of increased violence, not just this year, but during the past two years as well. The violence is indeed disheartening.

In Baghdad alone, we've seen a 22 percent increase in attacks during the first three weeks of Ramadan, as compared to the three weeks preceding Ramadan.

In Baghdad, Operation Together Forward has made a difference in the focus areas but has not met our overall expectations of sustaining a reduction in the levels of violence. We are working very closely with the government of Iraq to determine how to best to refocus our efforts.

In regards to this spike in violence during Ramadan, it's no coincidence that the surge in attacks against coalition forces and subsequent increase in U.S. casualty -- casualties coincide with our increased presence on the streets in Baghdad and the run-up to the American midterm elections. The enemy knows that killing innocent people and Americans will garner headlines and create a sense of frustration.

However, the coalition will not be deterred from establishing an Iraq that can provide for its own security and govern itself. That goal is achievable with a combination of both tough security measures by coalition and Iraqi security forces and a political process that recognizes that 11 or 12 million Iraqis voted for a unity government.

Towards that goal, the coalition continues to support and train an increasingly capable and determined Iraqi security force. This past weekend, Iraqi security forces independently successfully provided security for hundreds of thousands of Shi'a pilgrims who thronged the Iraqi city of Najaf in a peaceful commemoration of the death of the first imam. The event was carefully organized, with city services responding to the massive influx of pilgrims from all across Iraq and neighboring Iran.

Iraqi security forces set up and operated checkpoints and patrols throughout the Najaf province, ensuring the safe passage of these pilgrims. Their ceremony went off as planned, without any incidences, according to the Najaf provincial government officials.

This is the third holy pilgrimage in as many months that involved Iraqi security forces on their own planning and executing security for the movement of millions of worshipers here in this country.

Slide, please. This slide here, taken on October 9th, shows another example of a capable Iraqi security force. Local police in Tikrit, supported by the Iraqi army, conducted near-simultaneous raids against multiple business locations allegedly used as a major conduit for insurgents in the Tikrit area to transfer money from Syria to Iraq and to transfer profits from Tikrit area businesses to accounts in Syria. These funds, estimated to be in the millions of dollars per week, were used to finance insurgent operations, to include attacks against Iraqi civilians, as well as Iraqi and coalition security forces.

Tips from local Iraqi citizens and other intelligence sources led to this raid.




Slide and chart, please


The operation involved near-simultaneous raids on six separate locations in Tikrit, as depicted on this map.

Shown over here you can see up in the far north -- (technical difficulties due to microphone feedback) -- down here and to the south of the city. Five of the target sites were various businesses. One of the sites was a home of a business owner. These raids resulted in 16 individuals being detained. There were no injuries sustained by any civilians or coalition or security forces during these operations.

This operation did demonstrate the increased capabilities of the Iraqi security forces to target and combat insurgent activity. The fact that the local Iraqi citizens provided valuable intelligence information for this operation shows the resolve of the citizens to stop the illegal and violent activity that brings harm to their communities.

Last week, we talked about 30 caches being found in the Shakariyah or Al-Tariq (ph) area southwest of Baghdad.

If you could, next slide, please.

Operations there are still ongoing as part of a focused effort to deny this area as a safe haven to al Qaeda. Efforts have now at this point uncovered nearly 80 sizeable weapons and armament caches, and these blue dots represent the areas in which we have found up to now 80 different caches in that location, down in that low place. And again, it all started really with this truck, as we discussed last week, with a better picture of the blow-up bottom, the false bottom in the truck, once the gravel had been removed that you can see, that then led on to what is now still an ongoing operation that's been being conducted for almost 14 days.

Slide and chart, please.

Again, these are more pictures of the weapon systems that have been found so far. Of significance is an operation resulting in the discovery of 17 rigged and ready-to-use improvised explosive devices and various bomb-making materials, as you can see down here -- and it may be a little hard for you in this case -- down here in the ID material down in the bottom left corner of the pictures here. But as you can see, it's everything from sniper scopes to anti-aircraft machine guns, to mortars, to 500-pound bombs. It's a wide variety of equipment, armament, that in fact now has been removed.

Weapons and ordnance caches are continually being discovered throughout Iraq. Iraqi security forces along with Marines out in the Al Anbar Province, recently detained more than 35 suspected insurgents and discovered more than seven weapons and ordnance caches from October 7th through the 13th, which yielded just over 11,300 pieces of weapons and ordnance, to include a significant amount of material that could potentially have been used in making improvised explosive devices.

Slide, please.

This photo depicts one of the ongoing operations that were conducted out there. This car in fact had been stripped down and was in the process of being converted into a vehicle-borne improved explosive device. The vehicle was discovered on October 12th just west of Ramadi. Four individuals were detained during that operation.

The discovery of weapons and ordnance caches in Iraq has increased at a steady rate over the past three months, particularly due to Operation Together Forward within the Baghdad area. If current trends continue, October will show a significant increase in caches discovered. From July through September, there were approximately 170, then 190, then 220 caches found, respectively. And that's between the period of July through September. Already this month 144 caches have been found.

A good number of weapons and caches are discovered by Iraqi security forces, and we attribute that to the fact they're normally knowledgeable in the area in which they're operating in, and their ever-improving professionalism and the skills which we see them displaying each and every day. Iraqi security forces continue to grow in numbers and capabilities and in their independence.

Currently, just over 312,000 Iraqi security forces have been trained and equipped by coalition forces. The actual number of forces available for duty is, of course, less than that due to the fact that Iraqi security forces have suffered a number of casualties and attrition over the past several years. As such, coalition forces are working with the government of Iraq to continue recruiting and training soldiers to address these attrition rates.

Slide, please.

And Al Anbar province is one of the most troublesome areas we have here in Iraq and also in al Qaeda's stronghold. A strong Iraqi security force is essential to control the insurgency and dislodge al Qaeda in Iraq from that location. In Habbaniya earlier this week, more than 700 Iraqi army recruits began a five-week basic military training course. The perspective soldiers began their first day of training by marching onto the Camp Habbaniya soccer field to hear from the commanding general of the 1st Iraqi Army Division, General Tariq, as pictured here in the display. Upon their completion of training, these new soldiers, many of whom are from outside Al Anbar province, will serve under General Tariq as part of the 1st Iraqi Army Division. These recruits are part of the national recruiting effort aimed at bringing in over 30,000 soldiers to the Al Anbar province by May of next year.

In addition, more than 600 Iraqi police recruits are scheduled to graduate this week, and several hundred more are due to begin training in the Al Anbar province. In February of this year, there were 14 active police stations in three of the nine districts throughout the Al Anbar province. These stations were manned by fewer than 3,800 policemen. Today there are 33 stations operating in eight districts throughout Al Anbar province with more than 8,000 trained Iraqi policemen.

From Anbar to Balad, to Kirkuk to Baghdad, Iraq's leadership is juggling an array of complicated issues, and the young Iraqi government is persevering to offer unique Iraqi solutions. The U.S. and coalition leadership commends this perseverance, while the Multinational Force-Iraq continues to assess and revise our strategy and tactics to support this government in an ever-changing and dynamic security environment.

And with that, I'll take whatever questions you all may have.

Yes, ma'am?

Q Hi. Louise Roug, LA Times. I was hoping you could shed a little bit more light on what was going on in Balad and your response, beginning by explaining, you know, how long it took between the fighting broke out and you guys responded.

GEN. CALDWELL: Sure.

(To staff) If you could, could you give me the back-up slide of Balad, please?

Generally, the timeline of events as they occurred in Balad was such that what we think probably precipitated this was the fact that on the 12th, an Iraqi army force did in fact engage and kill an al Qaeda in Iraq leader element -- person out there, which we think then precipitated, late on the evening of the 12th, early the morning of the 13th, the murder of what now appears to be 14 Shi'a that were killed or murdered out in that location. We do know that in retribution to that, we saw 23 -- or 26 Sunni killed the following day. And again, these numbers correspond to the locations on the map where approximately these events occurred. So the killing of the Shi'a members were up in this area here, and the Sunni down here.

As you know, the city is predominantly Shi'a and the surrounding area predominantly Sunni.

We do know on the 15th that all the leadership came together and convened a meeting -- the very first one that they did, that they did on their own, to start addressing the very issues which brought on that sectarian violence.

We know the following day there was some indirect fire that came into the town, which did kill one more Iraqi local national. And then there was a very large, significant meeting of just -- I want to say anywhere -- I've heard the number's anywhere from 600 to a thousand people that attended on the 18th, in which they continued to further address and talk about the issues that were confronting them out in that location.

When the incident occurred back here on the 13th, when it became known to us -- we, of course, are in support of the Iraqi security fores out there. As you know, the 4th Iraqi Army is operating independently, directly under the control of the Iraqi ground forces command. It does not take their command and control anymore from the coalition forces.

We stand ready to assist as requested. We in fact did hear about the incident that did occur on the 13th there. We did dispatch, based on the reports that occurred, a quick reaction force into the city to link up with and assist the local Iraqi security forces that were present at that time and offer whatever additional assets we could, which include at that time both overhead assets and some other intelligence-collecting assets. And we stayed ready to assist them and continue to help them. We continued patrolling actively from that point on with them and assisting them as they requested from us.

Q (Off mike.)

GEN. CALDWELL: Yes.

Q (Off mike.)

GEN. CALDWELL: The QRF responded -- and the first QRF force went into the city on the 13th. And again, this was not at the request of the Iraq security forces.

At that point, they still did not make a former request for any additional forces or assistance. We did provide aerial overhead assets to give them some better vision about what was going on throughout the city and the surrounding area. But otherwise, they were handling the situation themselves at that point.

Q I'm a little bit confused about that, actually, because you're just saying that the forces there are autonomous and need to -- you know, need to make -- they need to make a formal request for your assistance.

GEN. CALDWELL: That's correct.

Q And yet you said that you dispatched the QRF to --

GEN. CALDWELL: Yes, we heard that -- we had heard that there was -- we had heard through some different sources that something happened in the city, and so we went into the city to find the Iraqi security forces to see if there was any assistance we could provide. We had received some reports of some Iraqis having been murdered, so we went into the city with our QRF, which stands ready to assist, to see if they needed any help or assistance.

Q And how big was the QRF?

GEN. CALDWELL: I have to get back you the exact size. As I understand, not more than a platoon size, but I'll have to verify that for you.

Yeah, Ellen.

Q Ellen Knickmeyer with The Washington Post. When the QRF went in and talked to the Iraqi security forces and asked if they needed help, what did they say? Did they ask for help then? When did the American forces actually start doing something, if they did get involved, to try to stop the violence. And also when did -- you said this far the dispatch of national police from Baghdad, when did that start coming in and how did they do as far -- in containing the violence, because local people say that the national police actually helped Shi'a militias in driving out the Sunni families.

GEN. CALDWELL: Ellen, I have not drilled down into the individual unit tactics up there. We would be glad to get that information for you. We can in fact get that from the unit up there. I don't have it quite down to that detail. I was more focused on, one, did they ever in fact request our assistance? No, they did not. Two, did we go into the city anyway after we heard reports that there was some killings going on? We did, and we are there in offering any assistance we could have to them, which they only wanted was some better understanding what was out in the city, which we used by using our aerial assets overhead to provide them some information.

I'd have to get the details exactly what numbers remained in the city, but it was just the QRF that was responding to provide assistance at that point.

Q So the QRF never actually did anything to kind of get physically involved in stopping whatever killing was going on already and tracking down Sunni families?

GEN. CALDWELL: I'll have to go back and ask. I did not talk specifically to the QRF commander. I talked to the battalion commander just a little while ago. But I'd have to go back and ask some more particulars. But we'll be glad to get that for you -- those specifics.

Q Okay.

GEN. CALDWELL: But again, I think that one thing to understand, this was an Iraqi-led effort. I think what's probably most notable, and I think people shouldn't overlook the fact is the fact that you've got the leadership up there in (Salahuddin ?) and in Balad coming together on the 15th, realizing that they wanted to take control and regain, you know, leadership inside their city and outside their city, and that's in fact what they did.

They brought all kinds of different elements together, both Sunni and Shi'a. They brought in the -- from the provincial governor to the deputy governor down to the city council members, they brought in some sheikhs from the local area. I mean it was a fairly good crowd there that got together on the 15th somewhere -- I don't know the exact number, but I know there was at least 30 or 40 people that immediately came together, which said we're going to stop the sectarian violence, we're not going to allow this cycle to start up up here in this area. And they, in fact, have been able to that very thing, which I think is extremely commendable on the part of watching the leadership in the local area take control of the situation, which is exactly what you would hope and want to see happen up there. And then they had a much larger conference just here on the 18th, which involved hundreds of people coming together and pledging their commitment that they will not allow sectarian violence to start up in that area, and that they're going to work together and they're going to form committees and they're going to have a dialogue to preclude this from happening again.

Yes, ma'am?

Q Nancy Youssef from McClatchy Newspapers. Is this experience in Balad, the fact that the Quick Reaction Force had to come out not because they were requested, but because they saw what was happening, and the subsequent events, is that all a further sign that perhaps the Iraqi forces can't stop sectarian violence that could quickly fuel what some are calling an emergence of war? That is, are communities being handed over to the Iraqi forces too quickly?

GEN. CALDWELL: No, I would not say that at all. In fact, the Quick Reaction Force was not aware of anything specifically, it only received anecdotal reporting. And so in an effort to go ahead and immediately see if we can provide any assistance, went into the city to see if there was something in fact going on that they could provide assistance with. Again, this was an Iraqi-led operation. They're the ones who ultimately brought the situation under control. They're the ones who helped facilitate all these meetings between all the various groups, from very senior people from the governor all the way down to sheikhs in the area, to the city council and everybody else. It was not done by coalition forces. This was totally an Iraqi-led and executed operation.

You are going to have incidents of violence occur. The question is, how does somebody respond to it, and how quickly can they quell it and bring it back under control. And in fact, here they proved that they had the ability, even though we had a tit-for-tat all occur in about a 36-hour period, to start bringing the situation back under control.

And we have not seen that cycle repeat itself at this point.

Q (Off mike.)

GEN. CALDWELL: Yes.

Q But to sort of continue on Ellen's point, residents there on both sides would argue that had it not been for the presence of the coalition forces, it could have escalated even further. (Off mike.)

GEN. CALDWELL: I'd have to go back and ask the ground force commander himself if he really feels that was the case. I have not asked him. But that was not the impression I got.

We went in just to help provide assistance. We weren't the ones in any kind of large preponderance of force that taking charge of the situation. It was the Iraqis -- it was the Iraqi police, with the national police and the Iraqi army, that in fact take charge of the situation up there.

Yes, sir?

Q Paul Schemm, AFP. Slightly off-topic, there was a Shi'ite leader, a member of Muqtada Sadr's movement, that was arrested a few days ago. I think his name was Sheikh Mazen al-Saedi or something to that extent. He was apparently involved in death squad activity that killed hundreds of Sunnis, as the U.S. had figured out, according to their intelligence, and so he was arrested. Then there was a bit of a furor about it, and then Maliki ordered him to be released, which he was, subsequently released, though privately members of the U.S. military have said this is one of these people driving this sectarian conflict we're seeing.

And my question to you is, obviously we understand that the prime minister doesn't want the U.S. military going into Sadr City to address the militia thing there, and you do have -- but you do have your targeted operations. How can you try to stop these -- this sectarian killing if the prime minister does not allow you to arrest the people involved with them? Thanks.

GEN. CALDWELL: Well, in fact the prime minister actually has given us tremendous leeway in being able to conduct operations in support of specific targets. But we recognize the fact that we're here at the request of a sovereign nation, and anything we do in this nation, we do need to clear with the prime minister, I mean, and the government officials. I mean, we're not an autonomous operation here. We're here at their request. We're operating as guests in this country. Any kind of left and right limits that the prime minister wants to impose upon us, we need to abide by. I mean, this is his nation, after all. It's not ours.

And so what you heard was exactly correct. On October 17th, in the early morning hours, there was a raid conducted. There were several people detained, of which -- the sheikh was one of them.

And he was released the next day at the request of the prime minister, and so that did happen.

Q But my question is: Would these --

STAFF: (Off mike.)

Q Is this making your job more difficult? And do you think you can actually succeed in your stated objectives if the prime minister doesn't let you arrest people?

GEN. CALDWELL: Well, I think what you have to realize, the prime minister is working at a much higher level. He's working at a national level dealing with strategic issues. He's engaged in a lot of dialogues that are going on at this point, and for us to second guess him and to try to ascertain why he did or did not make a particular decision, we have to respect the right of, one, he is the elected official, he is the prime minister of this nation, and that if he makes that decision, he has a lot of other information which we probably are not privy to in making that determination.

So the sheikh just before he was released did acknowledge the fact that he understood why he had been detained, because of involvement in suspicious activity, and that he signed a conditional release promising to support the government of Iraq and disavow future acts of violence as he was released.

Yes, sir.

Q Kirk Semple from The New York Times. Can you shed any light on the discussions that led to the sheikh's release or the conditions for his release?

GEN. CALDWELL: I think to get anything further I'd probably just refer you back to the government of Iraq because they're the ones we were responding to the prime minister's request, he was released. The sheikh did sign a conditional waiver as he was released, and probably beyond that, I should just let the government of Iraq take and answer those questions.

Yes, ma'am.

Q Yes. I'm from Slovenia TV. So if I go on with that question, just if coalition forces always react on request of the government, which is Shi'a-led government, doesn't that mean that actually coalition forces have already taken the side in that sectarian fight? I mean, how is it then possible to protect Sunni civilians if you always react on the government's request, which is Shi'a and is to some extent obviously protecting the Shi'a militias, which are killing Sunni civilians?

GEN. CALDWELL: Well, first of all, what I'd tell you is the coalition forces here are operating independently of any particular sect. If somebody is operating outside of the law conducting illegal activities, then they're targeted by the coalition forces


Q (Off mike) --

GEN. CALDWELL: Pardon?

Q And then released by the government.

GEN. CALDWELL: If somebody is released like in this case by the government, that's a decision by the prime minister, and we have to respect that decision. And I'd have to refer you back to the government of Iraq as to why that decision was made specifically


Q (Off mike.)

GEN. CALDWELL: That's something I'll have to refer you back to the government of Iraq. I mean, they're an independent, sovereign nation. They made the decision to release him. That's a decision really I just -- I need to let you take up with them and talk to them about it, if I could.

Yes, ma'am.

Q If I could take one more stab at it, after U.S. soldiers risked their lives and went in an did this operation, what reasons did the prime minister give the coalition forces as to why this man should be released?

GEN. CALDWELL: I was not involved in the discussions with the prime minister.

I'm not privy to what was said at that point in time. I really would have to refer you back to the government of Iraq and let you ask that question to them as to why they wanted him released. But the request was made by the prime minister, and we acknowledged that and did as he requested.

Yes, sir?

Q Bruno Roeber from ABC News. Following up on that, I just wonder what your intelligence was that gave rise to him being detained in the first place. I also have a follow-up question about Operation Together Forward.

GEN. CALDWELL: We conducted those operations based on suspicious activity that he was conducting, illegal activities, and involved in and perhaps in charge of some illegal activities. And so that's why that operation was conducted.

Q I'm sorry, I missed the beginning of your briefing, so this may have been covered. I just wondered if you'd give us a sort of status report on Operation Together Forward and perhaps talk about the quite heavy casualties that have been taken and why this might be the case, and if you could identify whether there's a difference of threat by insurgents that might account for this as well.

GEN. CALDWELL: Well, we do know that -- we did talk briefly about in the opening statement that we have, in fact, taken more casualties the month -- as you know, at this point we've had 73 coalition forces soldiers killed during this month as of this morning, which is higher -- on a much higher glide path than we normally experience.

We did know during the month of Ramadan we would see an increase in extremist elements, insurgent activity targeted against coalition and Iraqi security forces, and in fact that's occurred. We talked about the fact that just in the three weeks before Ramadan and the three weeks into Ramadan, at least a 20 percent increase in the number of attacks that have occurred within the area there, Baghdad area. So we know that's happening.

We also know that coalition forces are out much more active in the city right now today than they were a month ago as we're continuing to try to clamp down on the sectarian violence that's occurring out there. We also realize that there is a midterm election that's taking place in the United States and that the extremist elements understand the power of the media; that if they can in fact produce additional casualties, that in fact is recognized and discussed in the press because everybody would like not to see anybody get killed in these operations, but that does occur.

And so there's a combination of those factors out there that are occurring right now.

Q In respect to that, sir, are there any particular threats that you're facing now, I mean difference of tactics by insurgents and militia that account for the high number of casualties, or is it simply that you're out there and therefore you're more of a target?

GEN. CALDWELL: Well, there's no question we're out there and we're much more of a target, but we also know that there has been a much more considered effort to specifically target coalition and Iraqi security forces. We do normally track number of attacks per day and where those attacks are focused against versus civilian -- civilian- type targets or security-force targets, and there has been a steady increase in the number of attacks specifically against security forces and away from civilian targets. Now, it doesn't necessarily mean the effectiveness has increased proportionally, but there has been an increase in the overall numbers of casualties, obviously, as we're seeing, because of that.

Q Do you see this as a Tet offensive? I mean, as per President Bush's comments yesterday.

GEN. CALDWELL: I think we're getting far beyond my realm to start making analogies back to Vietnam War. But I would tell you that we're obviously very concerned about what we're seeing in the city. We're taking a lot of time to go back and look at the whole Baghdad security plan. We're asking ourselves if the conditions under which it was first devised and planned still exist today or have the conditions changed and therefore a modification to that plan needs to be made.

We are never going to -- everything stays very dynamic in this type of environment, and it's clear that the conditions under which we started are probably not the same today. And so it does require some modifications of the plan. And there is an intense amount of ongoing discussion and briefings that are being held at both the government of Iraq level and at our level, to specifically address these facets.

Yes, sir?

Q (Through interpreter.) From Samariyah (sp), tens of Iraqis are killed by insurgents and the militias which operate in the streets in Baghdad and in the Iraqi cities. And the Iraqi government cannot stop these attacks. What's the attitude of the multinational force towards these attacks?

GEN. CALDWELL: Your question, if I have it correct, is, what's our attitude towards the number of attacks that are occurring against civilians within the city of Baghdad? Is that correct?

Q (Through interpreter.) Yes, this is my question.

GEN. CALDWELL: Oh, okay.

All right. Thank you.

Well, obviously we're extremely concerned about the civilian casualties, the Iraqi civilian casualties that are occurring inside the city of Baghdad. I mean, the whole Baghdad security plan was initially focused specifically in those areas where the highest number of sectarian violence was occurring within the city. That's why those areas were picked by the prime minister. And the Iraqi security forces and the coalition forces have focused in those areas in order to bring down the violence, because those did have the highest number of murders and executions that were occurring within the city. And as it has spread to other parts of the city, we do stay very concerned.

And therefore that's the reason you see us stating that the original conditions under which we formulated this plan may not be the same as they are today, and therefore any adjustments that may need to be made are in fact ongoing in discussions and deliberations, and we'll make the adjustments accordingly here, because we are concerned. I mean, the loss of any innocent life is just terrible. You never want to see any innocent Iraqi civilian lose their life because some extremist element or insurgent element, in order to do something sensational, takes a vehicle IED or something specifically targeting civilians. And so we are very concerned about and remain concerned about that.

Yes, ma'am?

Q In terms of the attacks against U.S. forces, who is doing the killing?

I mean, in the past, when we've seen spikes, it was very clear that it was sort of -- in the past, it was a Sunni-led insurgency. Now, when you talk to U.S. officers, they say, well, the majority of the attacks are committed by the Mahdi Army. What's your assessment? Who's killing the U.S. troops?

GEN. CALDWELL: Obviously, we're looking at that one very, very closely, and we're going through the whole targeting analysis of where our coalition forces have been both killed and wounded, what activities are going on and what's the predominant sect that exists within that area and could the source of that be. That's something we're looking at very carefully. We're not ready -- I wouldn't be ready to comment on that today, but we've had ongoing discussion.

We've seen a tremendous pushback by some Sunni extremist elements, some al Qaeda elements recently in some of the areas we're operating, where we've probably taken more of our casualties than in other areas. But we're in fact mapping that out and looking at very closely. But if I had to give you an initial indication, I'd say it's mostly in the Sunni areas where we've found the extremists operating and al Qaeda elements operating.

Yes, sir.

Q So we've seen a steady increase in the number of attacks against military targets. What sort of trends have you noticed in attacks against civilian targets over the same time period, say, the last two months, three months?

GEN. CALDWELL: Over the last three months, it's been extremely different. I would say over the last month, there's almost been a steady number of attacks staying fairly consistent that we see against civilian targets, maybe a slight decline. But it's been very steadily increasing against the security forces.

Before that, it was different. We found a much higher number of attacks against civilian targets. About a month -- I'd say back in the August time frame, the majority of attacks were focused against civilian targets. And, of course, the challenge you have is when an attack gets focused against a civilian target, they're not protected like security forces are. You know, they're not behind barriers. They're not wearing the military kit that we all wear, from helmets to body armor and everything else. So if they specifically target a civilian target, you're normally going to find a higher number of casualties that result as a -- from that incident than you would against security forces.

So we continue to look at it, but the numbers are about steady over the last month in terms of going after civilian targets but steadily increasing against security forces.

Q But what about from August to September, for instance? Was there a drop-off in the number of attacks against civilian targets?

GEN. CALDWELL: I would have to go back and look. I don't recall there being a drop-off from the August-September time frame.

I'd say in August through early September is about the same. Then after early September is when we started seeing a drop. But I'd have -- we'd have to go back and look, and we can give you that trending analysis.

Yes, sir.

Q Christian Karl (sp), Newsweek. General, I was just wondering, could you give us a formulation of coalition policy towards the Mahdi Army? What precisely is the policy? Can it be formulated concisely?

Thank you.

GEN. CALDWELL: What I would tell you is that, you know, if you listen -- again, I think we talked about it a little last week -- as General Thurman said, there's probably 23 different militias that exist in some shape or form within the city of Baghdad and the Baghdad province.

And our philosophy is, and the policy that we follow is, if in fact we find persons or groups of persons operating outside of the law, then in fact they're targeted by coalition forces. I mean, it's a pretty straightforward policy. Irrespective of who they may or may not attribute some sort of membership to, it doesn't matter to us.

Yes?

Q General, I've got some numbers questions. Let's see, how many attacks are taking -- well, from mid-summer, a couple of weeks ago -- or last week you said there had been a 43 percent increase. And then there's another 22 percent increase. Does that mean there's been a 65 percent increase on U.S. attacks -- I mean on U.S. forces, coalition forces, since mid-summer?

And I've got a couple of more numbers questions. The other one is, exactly what are the daily number of attacks on U.S. forces, if you could compare that to the last quarter.

And the other one is, there's 135 (thousand) trained Iraqi security forces now, but you said there's a significant number gone because of attrition and casualties. Could you give us an idea of how many are actually capable right now, how many the Iraqi government has at its disposal today?

GEN. CALDWELL: I'd have to go back and get you the exact number of attacks. I did not look at it again just before I came out and what it was looking like in the months of August/September. But I'll be glad to give you the trending and tell you exactly from July through this part of October what it looks like in terms of numbers, whether we're -- we are seeing an increase in the number of overall attacks, but how much percentage, I'll come back to you with and tell you, picking a start point of June or July and tell you where it's gone over the last couple of months. We'll provide that to you.

Number of attacks -- again -- last quarter, I'll have to go back and see what the trending data shows again on that one too. I'm not sure offhand. I don't have that right here with me.

And in terms of the number of forces, like we said, the number of Iraqi security forces that we've trained and equipped, you know, if you listened, again, to the briefings by General Peterson just before he left, you know, he talked about the fact that they had about 4,000 casualties killed in action in the police forces, another 8,000 wounded, probably unable to continue service. You're going to find some comparable kind of statistics, obviously, in the army forces too. So there's probably about, right now, 25,000 that we had trained and equipped that today are no longer currently serving in the Iraqi security forces.

Therefore, you find in beginning of October, the individual replacement system that started up with 10,000 soldiers going into that, which will go over training and be available for the force here sometime in the late November timeframe. It's a five-week training program, with the week beforehand with their in-processing, all the administrative stuff, and then a week at the end. So it's about a seven-week time period. And the first group of 10,000 began the 2nd of October and will be complete sometime in late November with that training. So that will be the first 10,000 replacement.

There's already 20,000 more that have signed up. We'll put the next group through December and January, and then the next group through in February and March.

Yes, sir?

Q Yeah, this morning in Mosul there were reports of about 10 incidents over a three-hour period -- indirect fire, small-arms fire, including three to four suicide car bombs, and several targeted coalition forces. I was curious if you had figures on coalition casualties from that, and also maybe an analysis of it, what's going on there? And any further information about that.

GEN. CALDWELL: What I do know from -- and again, I stress this is first reports. I've stood up here before with first reports and they've been quite different a day later.

But the first report coming in is that, so far, there's been six suicide vehicle IEDs, three targeted at Iraqi police stations, and two were targeted at coalition force patrols, against Stryker patrols, two different Stryker patrols that were operating in the city. We know that at this point there are some local national and Iraqi security force casualties from these. We don't have exact good figures at this point. We do know that four to six indirect fire strikes also occurred against Iraqi police targets in the vicinity of those police stations. We know the governor of Nineveh has declared the city under curfew at this point, and has directed the Iraqi police to close all checkpoints and bridges into and out of the city.

And that's just the first report I was given just prior to coming out here. But that's about all I know right now at the moment.

Q You know nothing about vehicles, U.S. -- (off mike) -- vehicles or anything?

GEN. CALDWELL: It does not give me any specifics here on that. It does not mention any coalition force casualties at this point, but I just don't know. All it says is some local national and Iraqi security force casualties. But we're still getting good figures at this point.

Q Is this part of this national attempt to target coalition forces? Sorry, I was just wondering if we could -- if there's an analysis on what's happened so far. GEN. CALDWELL: Yeah. Well, obviously, having just occurred, I don't know of any analysis that's been done on it right yet. But I mean, clearly, this is a very deliberate attempt to go after security forces. I mean, when you target three Iraqi police stations and two coalition force patrols that are operating in the city, you're clearly targeting security forces and not civilians. So -- but I don't have any further analysis to give you right at the moment. It's just a first spot report coming in.

Okay, anything -- yes, sir?

Q Ivan Bellivatiya (ph) from Reuters. Can you shed any light on what happened in Ramadi yesterday?

We have some correspondents in the city telling us that dozens of gunmen who said they were from the Shura Mujahideen Council sort of marched in downtown Ramadi under the nose of the Iraqi security forces. And I was wondering if you have any -- know any information as to what's the situation in Ramadi.

GEN. CALDWELL: I do not. I have not heard those reports, am not aware of that. But we'll go back and check. It very well could have come in; I just didn't -- it may not have been significant in terms of coming up on the significant actions board, but it could have been, in fact, a report that was received. And we'll go back and look at it and get back to you


STAFF: Sir, we have time for one more question.

GEN. CALDWELL: Okay. Anything else? Yes, sir?

Q I just wondered, back to Operation Together Forward again, is there a change in the pattern of attacks against civilian targets in areas that you have, as it were, cleared? Any change? I mean, is it that in Sunni areas that they are now more vulnerable to attacks by Shi'a militia after you've moved through those areas?

GEN. CALDWELL: There is no question in the focus areas where we in fact conducted operations, we have seen an increase occurring in the number of sectarian violence in those areas. We find the insurgent elements, the extremists, are in fact punching back hard. They're trying to get back into those areas. We're constantly going back in and doing clearing operations again. We've just recently done it in Dura one more time because of the fact that we saw a rise occurring again in the sectarian violence there.

So you are correct, they are punching back hard. We do see incidents occurring just outside the focus areas, clearly an attempt to get into them. It's something we continue to watch and work real closely.

Okay.

Q Can I just ask a quick follow-up? When did you return to Dura?

GEN. CALDWELL: I would have to get the exact days. It was just very recently, though.

Q In the last week or the last --

GEN. CALDWELL: Yeah, I was going to say, it's within the last week. But I'd have to go back and -- we could get you the exact days we just went back in there for you on that one.

Okay.

Q (Off mike) -- follow-up, why do you think in those areas there is an increase in sectarian violence? Is it because households have been disarmed or --

GEN. CALDWELL: Well, no. In fact, Ellen, every household's authorized to have a weapon in their home with some magazines of ammunition. So I mean, there's no disarming going on across the city like that unless they have excess weapons in the homes and they take the excess out.

But we see as a deliberate attempt -- this has been a government of Iraq's initiative. The prime minister has said that this is the model in which he's trying to take to clear the city of the violence, the extremism that's occurred. And so if you want to in fact discredit the government and show that they have an inability to bring security and safety to the city, you would in fact go target the focus areas, and we think that's exactly why it's occurring.

We realize that every time we stand up here and brief and talk about it, it's just as much announcing to somebody, here's the area where we're operating. If you want to go back and try to discredit this government, go strike those areas. So that's why we think there's a lot of that occurring.

Okay. Thank you very much.

END.


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Saturday, October 14, 2006

Strange

Blogger seems to have dropped a post or two this month.

It's been really sporadic blogging for me, since I'm supposed to be studying for the paralegal courses.

Republicans seem dispirited heading into November. Amazing to me how many smart and experienced people thought ordinary Republicans would not give a damn how well government worked. Running to win a majority of both chambers of Congress on purely negative arguments was supposed to motivate the American people? I warned about this two years ago. If we could be suckered into complacency, we'd have become Clinton Democrats long ago.

The truly sad thing for America is that I believe the Republicans will pull it off, and then we'll have to limp towards the real beating in 2008, when we can lose the Triple Crown of House, Senate, and White House.

That's not what I want. What I want is for my party to develop a real commitment towards effectively governing the United States...without immediately promoting a phony sense of angst about the metaphysical uncertainty of Truth. Try reading your campaign literature from 2000 and 2002 and 2004, and use that as a guide.

Iraq continues to roil and boil. The defeatists in the press continue to ignore the fact that our guys are bringing the fight to the enemy, or that Ramadan is usually a time of greater violence. Instead they are shocked, shocked that US casualties are up. It must mean we've lost the war!

Dear Sweet Jesus, deliver us from ourselves.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Woodward: War In Iraq a White House Secret

Smarter folks than me noted years ago the amazing coincidence between a new Simon & Schuster book release, and a 60 Minutes interview. Both companies being owned by Viacom.

Now it's Bob Woodward's turn. And get this: Did you know there's a war in Iraq?

Of course not--because Bush kept it secret!
According to Woodward, insurgent attacks against coalition troops occur, on average, every 15 minutes, a shocking fact the administration has kept secret. "It’s getting to the point now where there are eight-, nine-hundred attacks a week. That's more than 100 a day. That is four an hour attacking our forces," says Woodward.

The situation is getting much worse, says Woodward, despite what the White House and the Pentagon are saying in public. "The truth is that the assessment by intelligence experts is that next year, 2007, is going to get worse and, in public, you have the president and you have the Pentagon [saying], 'Oh, no, things are going to get better,'" he tells Wallace. "Now there’s public, and then there’s private. But what did they do with the private? They stamp it secret. No one is supposed to know," says Woodward.

"The insurgents know what they are doing. They know the level of violence and how effective they are. Who doesn't know? The American public," Woodward tells Wallace.
I know a fine guy named Raymond. Sergeant in the 8th Army Air Force. Radio operator on a Liberator. Flew 50 missions, four battle stars, DFC and lesser honors.

Every time he got over Germany, he got shot at. Guaranteed. Every time.

But--it wasn't a factor in the operation of the war, so long as enough of them came back.

That's where Woodward and Wallace, and really all CBSNews, goes off the rails. Bush has never withheld casualty figures--he has never disguised how effective enemy attacks are.

The news that there is a lot more ineffective fire towards our troops than commonly supposed is some sort of shock? Most Americans, one expects, understand that war involves getting shot at.

Not CBSNews, which persists in seeing the act of violence itself as some sort of evidence we can't win the war. Apparently confusing the still of the armistice with victorious warfighting, they imagine that as long as anybody is shooting, we're losing.

"Shocking" indeed.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Al-Qaeda Escapee Killed by British

Appointment Almost At Samarra.

I guess the press is right, the fight in Iraq has created a haven for Al-Qaeda.

But since we are fighting, it is not a safe haven.

Should we quit fishing when the bastards are dumb enough to swim into the net?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Journalocracy

The U.S. military in Iraq has imprisoned an Associated Press photographer for five months, accusing him of being a security threat but never filing charges or permitting a public hearing.

Military officials said Bilal Hussein, an Iraqi citizen, was being held for "imperative reasons of security" under United Nations resolutions.
Boo. Frickin'. Hoo.

Powerline beat me to the punch, and with images. Do go look.
Look at their photos, and understand what the AP means by this:
AP executives said the news cooperative's review of Hussein's work did not find anything to indicate inappropriate contact with insurgents, and any evidence against him should be brought to the Iraqi criminal justice system.
Oh really?
That Hussein was captured at the same time as insurgents doesn't make him one of them, said Kathleen Carroll, AP's executive editor.

"Journalists have always had relationships with people that others might find unsavory," she said. "We're not in this to choose sides, we're to report what's going on from all sides."...The military in Iraq has frequently detained journalists who arrive quickly at scenes of violence, accusing them of getting advance notice from insurgents, Lyon said. But "that's just good journalism. Getting to the event quickly is something that characterizes good journalism anywhere in the world. It does not indicate prior knowledge," he said.

Even if that were true--and the photos Powerline has up make me wonder--it does indicate knowledge after the fact.

Out of Hussein's body of work, only 37 photos show insurgents or people who could be insurgents, Lyon said. "The vast majority of the 420 images show the aftermath or the results of the conflict — blown up houses, wounded people, dead people, street scenes," he said.
Oh well, he only makes propaganda photographs part of the time?

..."How can you know what a conflict is like if you're only with one side of the combatants?" she said. "Journalism doesn't work if we don't report and photograph all sides."
We certainly couldn’t have journalism not work, could we?

Back in 2001 the President got up and said that people could either be with us, or with the terrorists. AP has chosen to be with the terrorists, among the terrorists, to document what the terrorists do as they do it. AP is the on-call public relations house for terrorism.

Back in 1978 J. Ross Baugham became an international disgrace for traveling with Rhodesian soldiers and blithely filming torture, rape, arson. I saw Baugham on a PBS series on journalist ethics in which he vowed to do so again if the situation arose. “My respect for the story would compel me to refrain from participating in it” he said.

Go look at the photo Hussein took of a blindfolded Italian being murdered by terrorists. That’s the price of the Story. The Story was more important to Hussein, and the New York office, than this guy’s life. And the next Story, which Hussein would get for keeping his mouth shut, was more important than picking up a phone and helping shut down this terrorist gang.

Journalism has decided its operations are above laws regarding classified information and privacy, and now they’re above the War on Terror itself.

Our government, and the government in Iraq, have decided that the “other side” of this conflict is a gang of thugs to be shot on sight or captured when convenient. The Associated Press insists it has a veto power over this decision—that if, in the opinion of the executive review panel in New York, continually providing terrorists a confidential pipeline to the world media is fair, then the United States government cannot object.

The United States government can either punish such a conspiracy, or surrender its authority.

Having said that, I agree with the AP that Hussein needs to be sent into the criminal justice system. Life without parole sounds like a fair sentence.

And—I’m serious—ten to twenty for the fellow conspirators in New York. They are giving aid and comfort to the battlefield enemies of the United States. They are with the terrorists.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Caligula Had Something There

So Lincoln Chaffee will "represent" my party for another six years?

It got me thinking about Emperor Caligula and the racehorse he had made Senator.

Incitatus was wealthy, well-liked, well-groomed, well-spoken. He knew how to win a close one. He understood enemies are best struck down from behind and kicked while down, rather than outshouted.

Sounds like perfect Senate workhorse. Probably not what you'd want for top leadership, but a good fellow to have in harness on the tough committees.

Now we Americans, with our greater wisdom, would never put a horse in the Senate.

Well, not the whole horse anyhow.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

More Defeatism

Headline news in the LA Times!

Zbigniew Brzynski says Iraq is 'unwinnable'.

Well. Guess that settles that.

Charitably, it is not now generally remembered that before Sixth Army rolled into France, the Allied High Commands were plotting how to invade the Soviet Union through the Black Sea. This surreally stupid episode is now known only to arcane scholars of WW2 lore.

I suppose Mr. B and the rest of the original anti-Iraq-war crew can only hope they too will be forgotten. It is not so much that they distrusted our ability to build an Iraqi democracy--but they deny it exists at all. "The Bush administration's aim of creating 'a secular, stable, democratic Iraq' is 'simply unreal,' the LA Times quotes Mr. B.

This story is an example of what I call 'Iraq stew'--everything on Iraq is dumped into one article, and overdone. The basic premise is, that if dozens of Iraqis are being murdered, we can't be winning the war.

There has never been a war in American history where we can compel the enemy to renounce senseless slaughter. Galveston, TX, fought Union forces for two months after Lee surrendered his army at Appamattox. Kamikazes took off to sink the American flotilla heading for the surrender ceremony in Tokyo Harbor. We can't stop that; we can only render it pointless to the final outcome.

Further, the President hasn't committed us to remain until it stops, but until the Iraqis take over the job of quelling it.

So the "argument" that America cannot win this war, so long as 100 Iraqis are shot by death squads, is right off the mark. The political momentum is with the Baghdad regime sponsored by the United States-and I will believe it is doomed only if I see established authorities defying it and the general public abandoning it, as seen in Southeast Asia, France in 1940, and the Soviet Union in 1991. Isn't happening in Iraq. Quite the reverse, in fact.

So far from being "unwinnable" it would take direct action by the United States to wreck Iraqi victory. The Democrats seem willing to rise to the challenge.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Standing Apart

I can't get the 9/11 "mood".

I can't understand there ought be a 9/11 "mood".

On November 11 I take a break from my usual life and think about "those who came before" and spent themselves breaking our country's enemies. Their struggle is past and has to be recalled.

Our struggle is ongoing. We have been fighting Al-Qaeda for five years. April 4, 2003 was about smashing Al-Qaeda. So was June 23, 2003. November 12, 2005. Any day over the last five years.

Every day over the last five years.

I am confused what people took out of the closet today, and contemplated, and will put away on a shelf tomorrow. Our commitment to fight Al-Qaeda? Our respect for the victims of terrorism?

What about 9/10 got interrupted for today, and will be resumed 9/12?

I don't have the rancor or anxiety I had on 9/11/01. On 9/11/01 I heard that the Sears Tower in Chicago got hit at 8 a.m. Central time, and I believed it, and I was worried for my folks on the West Coast for several hours. What was going to blow on 8 a.m. Pacific? Those hours are gone, the literally gut-wrenching rage that anyone dared strike my country, is gone. In its place is resolve--or what the center-right bloggers I email call "fanaticism". (Probably true; on some topics I don't mind being a fanatic so much as I mind losing: the litmus test of fanaticism.)

Should I indulge in raw emotion again?

I think recalling St. Crispin's Day can wait for the day to end.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A New Depth of Dumb

I'm astounded at the Democrats in the Senate, threatening ABC's broadcaster's license over a docudrama.

Not only is it unAmerican, it's impossible. The minority party can do nothing to ABC. In fact, it's impossible to imagine the Senate moving against ABC even if the Dems get 7 seats this November.

SEMPER FUBAR, indeed.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Contra Apostasy

I see a lot of blog activity regarding the recent release of FOX news reporters Centenni and Wiig, who were set free after forcibly converting to Islam. Most of the commentary is disapproving--yet usually along the lines of "I'd have done the same thing, only I'd feel worse about afterwards than they do."

I'd hope, if it were me, that I wouldn't go apostate. I dunno if Centenni and Wiig have any Christian faith; I do, and I was raised to appreciate the glory of martyrdom.

I've heard Catholicism accused of morbidity, and with some reason: the omnipresence of death and the promise of Eternal Life through Christ is a winning sales pitch around the world. Death, to Catholics, marks not the end of awareness, but the end of our ability to improve ourselves in Christ, a dormancy ended by the Day of Judgement. The living might pray for merciful intercession on behalf of the dead, but the dead themselves cannot perform good works or undertake repentance. Apart from those devout and grace-endowed few who are granted immediate colloquoy with God--the saints--for most, death is a time of uncertainty which we can approach with hope but without certainty of salvation. (For a thorough secular examination of the Catholic view, see Patrick N. Geary's "The Cult of the Dead").

Not so the martyrs.

We have the direct assurance of Christ that "blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" Matthew 5:10. Which elsewhere was demonstrated at the martyrdom of Stephen, who said "Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!" Acts 7:56. And there is the second crucified thief at Golgotha, who dying, acknowledged Christ as the king of heaven and was assured salvation: "Truly, this day you shall be with me in Paradise" Luke 23:40-43. And also there are the thousands of documented intercessions by martyred saints through the millenia.

To die affirming Christ takes strong faith and humility--the submergence of the ego into a concentration on spiritual matters--but its reward is purity of spirit and the only true Eternal Life.

I don't have to condemn Centenni and Wiig to affirm the Truth that a martyr is always a successful Christian.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Duh Duh DAAAAAAA!!!

Top of fold headline in today's NYT: "Weary Iraqis Face New Foe: Higher Prices"

NOOOOOOOOOO!!!

I was really upset when I saw the noise about "The Battle For Baghdad" which would decide the war! I was upset because when--not if--we shut down the sectarian violence in Baghdad, we would not be told we'd won the war--instead we'd be hit with a different flavor of bad news.

Here it is: inflation.

One of the many problems with the NYT is it is aware of its low circulation and prestige, and it doesn't bother trying to rise above preaching to the choir. Only somebody dead set against spending another fifteen minutes in Iraq--the kind of guy who thinks Rep. Murtha is a reactionary--loses the critical thinking reflex that kicks in with "Hey, last week Iraq was a terrible place because umpteen dozen kids got blown up; now they're supposedly sweating inflation?" But that sort of person isn't the Times' target audience; now they're just giving another talking point to the Illuminati. "Y'know what else Bush didn't plan for? Inflation!"

Why a paper, printed in New York City, and sold at Starbucks, thinks rising prices are both newsworthy and traumatic, I can't really figure out.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Explaining Reagan

On the job I prefer surfing forums to blogging, because I can drop it much quicker when a customer walks in.

On one of the foriegn games forums I was explaining why Ronald Reagan is so well-regarded in the United States. In part:

America was not just a random place we happened to be born on, it was a great achievement of the human race in which we were called to take part. It was a deliberate attempt to make the best government on earth. If we held true to that vision then nothing could stop us. None of our real problems were tough enough to defeat a country built on the greatest freedoms and attracting the best strivers on the planet. And we must not be embarrassed to say so, or stand off those who seek to destroy it. Our pledge to improve ourselves would be rewarding in itself, and rewarded by others. And Reagan made it work.
It's sad, but where do you hear that kind of patriotic zeal today? I doubt anybody on the short list for the GOP nomination would repeat it, because it hasn't been something they've articulated prior to getting on the short list. Reagan was proclaiming the unique mission of America to the world when he was just after-dinner entertainment for executives.

It's sad.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Back to the Blog

Finally get some down time in which to roam the blogosphere and catch up on some news. Right now I'm enjoying a natural mellow drowsiness which I hesitate to interrupt with coffee, as I've got errands to run tomorrow.

Every now and then I realize how cooped up I become, working graveyard. If the heat and humidity aren't too bad, I will spend tomorrow enjoying the area. And the day after that, too.

I will find time to blog a bit too, if the equipment permits.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Israel's Fudge

I've been a vehement supporter of Israel's right to attack Hezbollah in Lebanon. I'm not so sure I can support how they're exercising that right.

Israel seems to be fighting for a tie: they will bomb southern Lebanon into stateless anarchy, at which point somebody else, preferrably European, will send in the troops to govern the place and fight Hezbollah.

Shouldn't this have been done as a formal war against Lebanon? But that would compel Israeli participation in a postwar settlement, occupation, handover.

Israel's reliance on the Western powers to win this war for Israel is not only a cheap violation of the obligations of a combatant power, but stupid and self-defeating. Lebanon does not want to fight Hezbollah. France and Pakistan do not want to fight Hezbollah. The United States might not mind fighting Hezbollah, but we have use for our troops in Iraq unless we have to send them elsewhere, and with Israel barely mobilized we don't have to.

From what I can see, if Israel were given everything it calls for today, it would be right back where it started within a year. That is no way to run a "war"--whether you make it a formal war, or just bomb cities and roll back a national government as a "police action".

Wartime Priorities

AP headline as I turn on my computer today:
"Increased Security Causes Delays, Long Lines"
I think we forget what sort of disruption comes from decreased security, and sore feet is the tip of the iceberg.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Finals Week

So I will be even busier.

Perhaps by then I will see something coherent come from Israel as to their war aims. If all they're doing is shoving Hezbollah back for now so that an international coalition can do counter-terrorist ops in Southern Lebanon for forty years so the IDF doesn't have to, then this is the biggest goof since Suez.

If the USA signs onto that, we're even dumber.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Ho Hum

Powerline has some pessimistic musings on November.

Yawn.

Powerline's electoral pessimism is legendary. They continue to look towards professional polling that deliberately weighs Democrats more than Republicans and seem shocked, shocked that the results are bad for Republicans.

Yet, I don't much care. As an ideologue more than a partisan, the quest for Majority has lost its luster, as the leadership has decided that Agenda is a dirty word.

How often have we heard the "experts" say that if the election is nationalized, Democrats will win, and if kept local, Republicans will win? This is astounding to me, that the majority party is desperate to keep the focus off the use of power for the next two years.

The current rumblings of despair are probably due to that deliberate abandonment of purpose. Sadly, our guys seem insistent to avoid learning their lesson.

Anybody can lose anything, but I predict the GOP wins a shrunken majority. Unfortunately, the Conventional Wisdom will be held to reflect a drift towards liberalism (aka The Center) and the GOP will try to face 2008 with even feebler planks in the platform. This will prep them for the final, total disaster: a pro-choice nominee.

I'd like to think it won't happen, but after the great Sell-Out of 2005, don't expect the grassroots to supply the enthusiasm, and where's the conservative icon to reverse the aenemia?

Yawn.

Monday, July 24, 2006

McLaughlin Brays Out

Powerlineblog.com has a good bit on recent policy statements by a former CIA bigwig, John McLaughlin. The crowning idiocy:
Lesson No. 4 is that even superpowers have to talk to bad guys. The absence of a diplomatic relationship with Iran and the deterioration of the one with Syria -- two countries that bear enormous responsibility for the current crisis -- leave the United States with fewer options and levers than might otherwise have been the case. Distasteful as it might have been to have or to maintain open and normal relations with such states, the absence of such relations ensures that we will have more blind spots than we can afford and that we will have to deal through surrogates on issues of vital importance to the United States. We will have to get over the notion that talking to bad guys somehow rewards them or is a sign of weakness. As a superpower, we ought to be able to communicate in a way that signals our strength and self-confidence.
A high school dropout should understand why we do not have "open and normal relations" with Iran--including an embassy in Teheran. Apparently it escapes twenty-year men in Washington.

This is circular gobbledegook. We do not have "open and normal relations" with the "two countries that bear enormous responsibility for the current crisis" precisely because we consider the current situation a "crisis" for which we assign "responsibility". We can normalize relations tomorrow, by declaring that financing, training, and arming terrorists that have killed Americans and are killing Americans in Iraq, is not an issue "of vital importance to the United States." I don't know what "options and levers" are made available to us by declaring that what Iran and Syria are up to is just dandy; it still seems to me that just gives "the bad guys" the option of playing the table-shape gambit which they don't currently have.

When the Federal government brought Lucky Luciano into WW2 as a labor consultant, it did nothing but strengthen the Mafia. They didn't concede labor racketeering was a bad thing to be deplored--apart from the loot, it was the only reason for the government to approach them atall. It was the Federal government that did the conceding. Having the US government acknowledge, accept, and accommodate your operations is a prize that can only be gifted. Teheran and Damascus can't make us turn a blind eye to anti-American violence.

And the fact that Mr. McLaughlin sees thirty years of such violence, and the lethal interference in Iraq, as mere quibbles blocking what really matters--Dialogue--should bar him from further employment on behalf of the United States.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Pacifism Kills

So much of the criticism of Israel comes from nations and organizations that will never use violence againstany evil, as a matter of principle.

That the Vatican is among these groups, is probably for the best. Keeps plenary indulgences off the battlefield.

That some of the voices raised in outcry of "disproportionate response" are our allies, is more worrisome.

I wonder if the "disproportionate response" crowd really wants a "proportionate response"--if Israel undertook the random kidnapping and random shelling of cities, would that have Europe smiling and nodding?

This war highlights the gaping flaw of pacifism--that violence can compel an enemy to abandon violence, but pacifism can only persuade through concession. And if the last concession doesn't melt hearts, that signals the need for further concession. And when all reasonable concessions have been exhausted, it's time to think outside the box and make some unreasonable concessions.

Which is why the global Left is talking about "correcting" Israel right off the map.

We can all pray for peace. We can invoke Almighty God to intervene in human affairs and make possible what we cannot achieve on our own: the nonviolent destruction of oppression and destruction. The moment when the murderer and torturer grows sick at heart and cannot strike the innocent anymore.

It happened in Poland, didn't it?

But short of that miracle, the duty of the community is to prepare in concert to protect the helpless individual. It's as morally necessary as a sandbag line in a flood, or a bucket brigade in a fire.

As I get older, I appreciate the utility of reducing problems to the lowest number of factors. Israel is aiming to take Hezbollah out of the equation. Here's hoping.