Letters from the Editorhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/default.aspxen-USCommunityServer 2.0 (Debug Build: 60217.2664)Liberals, Conservatives, and Others...http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/archive/2007/12/18/12111.aspxTue, 18 Dec 2007 19:54:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:12111ON Point7http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/comments/12111.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/commentrss.aspx?PostID=12111<P><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/12107/500x319.aspx" border=0></P> <P><FONT size=4>Andrew Lubin</FONT></P> <P><FONT size=4>So I was on a radio show one night last week, for an hour of what was to be a discussion of my book and my experiences as an embed in Iraq and Afghanistan – my understanding we’d talk about the troops, what they’re doing currently, and I’d say all sorts of good things about them...</FONT></P> <P><FONT size=4>How wrong I was.</FONT></P> <P><FONT size=4>Instead I was inundated with questions about “why do the Defeatocrats support Al-Jazieera...” and when I introduced the concept of national service (civilian and military, your choice), I was told “it’s a volunteer military – my son would be wasted in the military...” And national service? “That’s just another big government program where money would be squandered.”</FONT></P> <P><FONT size=4>That’s disheartening to hear. </FONT></P> <P><FONT size=4>I’ll be the first to agree that the military is not for everyone, but what’s wrong with giving your country a year or so of national service? Work in the Forest Service, teach in some area that needs good teachers, pick up litter on the highway, join the Peace Corps...but do something. If his kid is “too good” for the military ( and why is he? ), then let boy genius spend a year or so in a rural area teaching before he goes off to Wall Street and rapes the country with some sort of bogus mortgage scheme.</FONT></P> <P><FONT size=4>While there is a major difference between the Teddy Kennedy Democrats on the left, and the Pat Robertson Republicans on the right, the majority of Americans fall in between, and are predominantly moderates. Joe Lieberman just endorsed John McCain...Rudy Giuliani is pro-choice...Obama would send troops into Pakistan...pick the issue and very often you get common-sense answers instead of press-releases, and not surprisingly, those candidates are relatively popular.</FONT></P> <P><FONT size=4>But there is a mindset that is increasingly popular; one that is anti-government, and unfortunately&nbsp;it’s becoming more and more popular. Often called Libertarians, they espouse a smaller government, yet don’t want to give up the services that a government provides. Their kids don’t need to serve, yet they call for a robust defense&nbsp;(manned by your kid, not theirs!) They rail against taxes, yet are the first to complain when the roads are shoddy, the bridges collapse, or when the schools suck because teachers salaries are low. Oh, and Immigration? Build that fence (ignoring that border security is a role of the government) – and then guess who has illegals working in their yard?</FONT></P> <P><FONT size=4>As late as the mid-‘80’s&nbsp;under Ronald Reagan, he and Tip O’Neal could *** at each other all day long, but then in the evening they’d meet, have a drink, and hammer out a compromise that was in the best interests of the United States, as well as acceptable to both parties.</FONT></P> <P><FONT size=4>But we don’t seem to have this spirit today – there seems to be mean-spiritedness and polarization in politics today that goes beyond the huge sums of money involved. Sen McCain’s bi-partisan “Group of 17” attracted more criticism from Karl Rove than from Howard Dean - and that’s a shame.</FONT></P> <P><FONT size=4>So back to the radio show...after hearing that his kid was too good for the military...that anyone caught without “proper papers” (such a Nazi-like term!) should be deported (what about the companies who hire them?)...and that any government bigger than that of 1775 was “illegal”... we rarely got a chance to talk about the troops - which was a shame, because without their efforts, such a radio show would not be possible.</FONT></P> <P><FONT size=4>Well, maybe it wasn’t radio’s best hour, but it made for a better editorial – and I’m looking forward to reading your feedback and thoughts on the matter.</FONT></P><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=12111" width="1" height="1">Is the War in Iraq Finished?http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/archive/2007/12/11/11134.aspxTue, 11 Dec 2007 18:01:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:11134ON Point0http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/comments/11134.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/commentrss.aspx?PostID=11134<P><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/11133/500x285.aspx" border=0></P> <P>Andrew Lubin</P> <P>From listening to the candidates for president speaking, one would not know we’re at war in Iraq. Both sides – Republican and Democrat – seem to go out of their way to avoid recognizing that we still have 165,000 troops in the battlefield.</P> <P>My disappointment is that they don’t even use the troops to beat up on each other any longer – in the recent debates both parties are using funding issues to stick it to each other, while the names, faces, and units of the individual Marines and Soldiers continue to be purposely avoided.</P> <P>While it’s obvious that neither side is going to pull the plug on military funding, it’s also equally obvious that the troops overseas are being used as pawns in a game where these lightweights continue to rage over which candidate cheats on his wife, which is the most (or least) religious, and who opposes immigration with the harshest measures? To paraphrase Rodney King…"can’t we all get along – and do what’s best for our country?"</P> <UL> <LI>The Constitution calls for the separation of church and state, so why is it important whether Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee found Jesus first? <LI>Can Rudy govern in a non 9/11 environment ? He was awesome on 9/11, but an absolutely despised mayor on 9/10. What can he do as president? <LI>Hilary…can she out-macho the boys? Should she? <LI>And John Edwards…do we really need a trial lawyer as president? Maybe we do; he can shake-down the Chinese for&nbsp;the&nbsp;money we need to run the government every day.</LI></UL> <P>It’s such a relief to hear candidates like Sen McCain and Sen Biden talk about American foreign policy; articulate and knowledgeable, both have ideas on how to deal with such important topics as Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the national debt (which&nbsp;so far has skyrocketed from 4 –&nbsp;9 TRILLION dollars under President Bush)…too bad both of them are long shots in the primaries.</P> <P>Other than knowledge and competency, they also have something else in common, another trait that none of the other candidates share: both of them have a son&nbsp;overseas…McCain’s son is Marine, and Biden’s son is Army.</P> <P>In an era where Mitt told an audience that his son sacrifices because he drives his dad to campaign rallies, and Dennis Kucinich rattles on about UFO’s, it’s a relief to have a few candidates who understand the war from a personal level, as opposed to a sound-bite level.</P> <P>It’s too bad that in this day and age of lightweight candidates and disinterested citizens they’re both considered long shots.</P> <P>And lets not forget our troops overseas – do any of these FDR wanna-bee candidates have a plan as to what we need to do now in Iraq??</P><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=11134" width="1" height="1">Military Alone Can't Defend U.S. Interestshttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/archive/2007/12/05/10792.aspxWed, 05 Dec 2007 18:29:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:10792ON Point0http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/comments/10792.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/commentrss.aspx?PostID=10792<P><EM><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/10785/500x335.aspx" border=0></EM></P> <P><EM>Today’s editorial is slightly different. While normally I use this space as an opportunity to voice my opinions, the below editorial from the <STRONG>Miami Herald</STRONG> seems to compliment our Feature very nicely. Most of our <STRONG>OnPoint</STRONG> family of readers has a personal interest in the continued success and excellence of our military, and so I thought I’d share this well-written piece with you.</EM></P> <P><EM>I’ll be interested in reading your usual articulate and passionate thoughts!</EM></P> <P>Miami Herald<BR>December 3, 2007</P> <P><STRONG>Our Opinion: Two wars increase need for use of 'soft power'</STRONG></P> <P>That was a remarkable speech delivered last week by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, urging the government to spend more money for diplomacy and declaring that the military alone cannot defend America's interests overseas. This is a welcome display of thinking outside the box and deserves wide circulation among decision-makers in the nation's capital.</P> <P><STRONG>Recruitment difficult</STRONG></P> <P>But what Mr. Gates left unsaid -- that the Pentagon is experiencing a manpower meltdown -- also must be taken into account in order to understand the potential crisis the nation faces. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have made recruitment for the all-volunteer army vastly more difficult and require an adjustment in U.S. defense capabilities.</P> <P>Repeated tours of duty in combat zones, prolonged tours with the increased risk of injury or death, shortened periods of stateside service -- all of this has reduced re-enlistment rates, made it harder to attract recruits, and increased the monetary inducements necessary to maintain a viable and stable fighting force.</P> <P>But with no end in sight to the conflicts, the manpower crunch is getting worse. According to an Associated Press report, the number of Army recruits needing waivers for bad behavior -- trying drugs, stealing, carrying weapons on school grounds -- rose from 15 percent in 2006 to 18 percent this year.</P> <P>This reflects the reduced appeal of a military career among young people and consequent reliance on recruits needing health, criminal and other waivers to increase the ranks. About three in 10 recruits need a waiver, according to the AP report, about two-thirds of those for criminal behavior.</P> <P>At the same time, Mr. Gates has approved a plan to ease the strain of two wars on the men and women in uniform by increasing the size of the active-duty Army from the level of 512,000 last year to 547,000 by 2010. And he barred the Army from reaching that goal by lowering recruiting standards or resorting to the so-called ''stop loss'' program imposed by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld that prohibited soldiers from retiring. These are good decisions, but they will cost money -- about $2.6 billion over the next five years, the Pentagon estimates.</P> <P><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/10786/450x316.aspx" border=0></P> <P><STRONG>Money well spent</STRONG></P> <P>This is one time Congress should not balk at approving more funding for the Pentagon, though. It will be money well spent. And while lawmakers are at it, they should heed Mr. Gates' call to ''focus our energies beyond the guns and steel of the military'' and concentrate instead on diplomacy, economic assistance and communications -- elements of so-called ''soft power.'' This, too, will require a dramatic increase in spending, but it will pay off in improved security.</P><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=10792" width="1" height="1">Now that the War in Iraq is over...http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/archive/2007/11/27/10121.aspxTue, 27 Nov 2007 17:12:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:10121ON Point11http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/comments/10121.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/commentrss.aspx?PostID=10121<P><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/10120/500x302.aspx" border=0></P> <P>Andrew Lubin</P> <P>...what can the military do better in Afghanistan?</P> <P>OK, we’ve not exactly won, but Gen Petraeus is sending a BCT home from Diyala Province and not replacing it. The “Concerned Citizens” Groups south of Baghdad, the Sunni “Anbar Awakening” are standing up in numbers and professionalism that was unimagined even 18 months ago. Do the Iraqi’s like us? Hard to say, but so long as they’re not killing us, let’s be thankful for these small victories and let's pray that the trend continues.</P> <P>Now, can we do the same in Afghanistan? We’ve got the same impressive military, AND some reasonable support from NATO. Plus we’ve been at it since 2001…so why aren’t we rocking thru Afghanistan?</P> <P>Because our message sucks.</P> <P>This is a war for the hearts and minds of dozens of millions of Muslims, and until and unless they want to be friendly to us, we can never win militarily. The truth behind&nbsp;the stunning improvement in Iraq is that it happened becuase the local Iraqi population is finally cooperating with&nbsp;our Marines and Soldiers. Much fhe current unrest and military problems in Afghanistan come in a large part due to the local citizenry still not being convinced that we’re there to help them.</P> <P>Is this simply my opionion? Hardly. Let me quote Sect Defense Robert Gates, from his presentation yesterday at Kansas State University “We are miserable at communicating to the rest of the world what we are about as a society and a culture…it is just plain embarrassing that Al-Qaeda is better at communicating its message on the internet than America.”</P> <P>While Mr. Gates then expressed his regret and anger at the decisions to cut US A.I.D. funding, and abolishing the United States Information Agency, it’s equally important to reach the people on the ground and make them believers in our mission. So let me make the following suggestions to Sect. Gates, in the insane&nbsp;thought that he reads my OpEd's in his spare time:</P> <P>1 - Make the troops read more, especially the officer corps. Many Public Affairs Officers, SNCO’s, and young Officers don’t seem to have a sufficiently broad education to deal with the locals. Their MOS is infantry, artillery, armor, etc, and many&nbsp;don’t have the liberal arts (history – language – literature – political science – economics ) background to deal with situations that are far more nuanced than body counts and numbers of AK-47’s seized. They need to read more than TBS tac briefs.</P> <P>Therefore:&nbsp;Every deploying PAO, SNCO, and Officer should know some basic Arabic or Pushtu. have read TX Hammes “Sling &amp; Stone”, T.E. Lawrence’s “Revolt in the Desert”, and Steve Pressfield's "The Afghan Campaign." And they need&nbsp;a good knowledge of currency exchange rates, knowledge of the country, perhaps knowledge of the&nbsp;area to where he’s assigned -&nbsp; a rudimentary knowledge of Islam would be a good idea also.</P> <P>This type of&nbsp;expertise is especially important for the Civil Affairs Officers, who are as important in Phase 4 operations as the rifleman and artilleryman was in Phase 1. What no one other than TX Hammes and a few others realized back in June 2003 is that 4th Gen Warfare means EVERY Marine and Soldier is now&nbsp;engaged in&nbsp;Civil Affairs.</P> <P>2 – Work closely with the Media. We’re not your enemy. If a reporter visiting your unit doesn’t have the expertise you do, then take a few moments to&nbsp;help him. Forget those mind-numbing statistics; in a country with 100 million tons of buried and hidden weapons, most numbers lost their relevance 50,000 tons and 3,500 American KIA's ago.</P> <P>You’re a military officer; he's not. But he has interested readers; you don't.&nbsp;&nbsp;So learn to work together so he can write an article that will both emphasize your points and keeps his readers wanting more news about your unit and it's mission.</P> <P>3- Cultivate the local leaders and their media; the local readers and TV viewers trust their own folks, so learn how to be charming, polite, and how to speak in a non-military fashion. Pretend you’re explaining an event to your mom - even though she likes you,&nbsp;she's bored by your explanation...just imagine your effect on a local Imam or sheik who is listening to your excrutiatingly detailed explanation through a translator. Forget the 72 virgins - he'll beg for death just to escape your military acronyms !</P> <P>Is this going to turn the tide? It's more important than you think; this is the “Information Age”, and one good or bad story has far more reach these days than one could ever imagine – just ask an American or an Iraqi about his thoughts on Abu Ghraib and compare notes.</P> <P>In’sh Allah, America&nbsp;has the most&nbsp;awesome message - now&nbsp;help me&nbsp;get the Word out about America.</P><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=10121" width="1" height="1">The Coming Monthshttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/archive/2007/11/13/8945.aspxTue, 13 Nov 2007 16:31:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:8945ON Point0http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/comments/8945.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/commentrss.aspx?PostID=8945<P><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/8944/500x304.aspx" border=0></P> <P>Andrew Lubin</P> <P>An Army Brigade, part of The Surge, is being withdrawn from Iraq in the next few weeks. The Advance Party is in the United States, and the Cav BCT is withdrawing from Diyala – they did their job well: driving the insurgents (or Iranians, or whomever) and various bad guys out of the Province, they gave the local Iraqis the time and the courage to do the rest themselves.</P> <P>And as a result of this co-operation is that the Iraqis run their villages, towns, and cities with an increasing confidence and professionalism – and the Americans can begin to come home.</P> <P>As I’ve written in the past two-plus months, this scene is being increasingly repeated throughout the country. It’s substantially quieter and peaceful in the “southern belts” below Baghdad, as well as in the Wasit area to the east, on the Iranian border. And with the Marines winning in Anbar, that sums up most of the country.</P> <P>Some hotspots remain, but are hotspots primarily due to Shia vs. Shia rivalry. Basra’s a problem, as is much Baghdad, but that’s the problem of Maleki and his government. Marines and Soldiers will continue to be killed, but now it’s sporadic, as opposed to the street fights of a year ago.</P> <P>In short, “The Surge” worked; we FINALLY had the necessary troop strength on the ground, and the Iraqis FINALLY stood up and did their share.</P> <P>So what’s next?</P> <P><STRONG>Afghanistan – Pakistan – Horn of Africa</STRONG></P> <P>In the past few weeks I’ve written more on Pakistan; you can expect more of that. You’ll see far more news from Afghanistan, because as Pakistan continues to implode, the Taliban will continue to increase their efforts to destabilize Afghanistan.</P> <P>Somalia and that whole ugly part of the world is heating up again, and as problems in Somalia create refugees, instability, and retaliation, I’ll be writing on HOA as appropriate.</P> <P>And who knows what might happen with Iran?</P> <P>We’ll continue to cover Iraq; no one’s going to forget our Marines and Soldiers, at least as long as I’m writing <STRONG>OnPoint</STRONG>.</P> <P>But that’s the direction we’ll be taking in the upcoming months – let me know what you think, and if you have any ideas, suggestions, or comments – sing out!</P><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=8945" width="1" height="1">Pakistan Unravelshttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/archive/2007/11/06/8397.aspxTue, 06 Nov 2007 15:47:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:8397ON Point4http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/comments/8397.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/commentrss.aspx?PostID=8397<P><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/8396/500x296.aspx" border=0></P> <P>Andrew Lubin</P> <P>While most Americans spent the weekend watching football games, Pakistan took a severe turn for the worse as Gen Pervez Musharraf declared a “State of Emergency” on our Saturday morning, and suspended their constitution, and began jailing thousands of judges, lawyers, and others who he deemed to be opposed to him.</P> <P>Not surprisingly, he couched his actions in terms of needing additional power in order to meet the Islamic fundamentalist threat that is threatening Pakistan’s stability.</P> <P>Unfortunately, the truth was that the Supreme Court was about to rule against his bogus election of last month, and this was just his last-gasp efforts to maintain the power he seized in 1999 in his own military coup.</P> <P>Where does this leave the United States?</P> <P>Not in good terms, and President Bush and Sect. Rice seem to have already dropped the ball in their response. The president’s response has been to suggest that Musharraf should not postpone their January election; Musharraf retorted that it may be delayed an additional 3 years.&nbsp; Sect. Rice declared that she was “shocked” by Musharraf’s actions, but since Pakistan was such a strong ally in our war on terror, that our aid would not be cut. So much for using our one leverage – the dollars that keep him in power.</P> <P>But why not cut it? Since 9/11 the United States has given Pakistan some $ 12 billion, plus covert funds. In return Musharraf cut a deal with AQ and Taliban leaders that gave them Waziristan, and in every confrontation, the insurgents defeat the Pakistani Army – who too often surrender without firing a shot in their own defense.</P> <P>So after 6 years and $ 12+ billion, what has our policy achieved?</P> <P>•&nbsp;The Pakistani population views America as supporting a corrupt and unpopular dictator, and is turning from their historic pro-American views to one of anti-Americanism.</P> <P>•&nbsp;The Taliban and Al-Quada are attacking Pakistani government building, army units, and other targets in the entire northern part of the country.&nbsp; Yes, they are trying to overthrow the country as they did in Afghanistan.</P> <P>•&nbsp;The Pakistani ISI still supports the rebels instead of Musharraf in an effort to undermine his illegitimate government.</P> <P>And in the midst of all this, Pakistan is a nuclear power that has between 20 – 30 workable nuclear weapons AND rocketry that is capable of firing them into India or Afghanistan.</P> <P>It appears that we may be days or weeks from seeing the world’s first Islamic fundamentalist&nbsp; government that has nuclear capacity – it would appear that the greatest threat to the United States and the West is not Iran, but rather Pakistan – and it’s about time that President Bush and Sect. Rice address the situation on the ground accordingly.</P><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=8397" width="1" height="1">Shame on the State Departmenthttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/archive/2007/10/30/7928.aspxTue, 30 Oct 2007 18:38:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:7928ON Point13http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/comments/7928.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/commentrss.aspx?PostID=7928<P><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/5818/500x340.aspx" border=0></P> <P>Andrew Lubin</P> <P>Yesterday’s announcement that the State Dept gave immunity to the Blackwater contractors accused in the Sept 16 killings came as a shock. With CENTCOM already on record as reporting that their investigation found “no enemy activity involved”, and both the Republican and Democrats awaiting the results of the FBI investigation, for the State Department to grant immunity was a thumb in the eye of both the American justice system, as well as the Iraqi Government Sect. Rice claims she is trying to assist.</P> <P>As is usual in this Administration, there is no accountability. No one from State will be quoted “on the record.” No one knows who granted the immunity, or whose idea it was to extend it. Sect. Rice, as usual, had “no comment” on the matter, although it should be noted that Richard Griffith, the head of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, resigned suddenly, and without comment, last week. It is rumored that the immunity came from him, or his office.</P> <P>The result of the gift of immunity has been to stymie the FBI investigation, and the agents involved are now returning to the United States. With much of the available evidence being declared off-limits, and most of the Blackwater employees refusing to talk to them, the FBI is reduced, “Law &amp; Order-style,” to finding alternate and round-about ways of discovering the truth.</P> <P>To date no State Department official has been allowed to be quoted by name, much to the fury of both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Iraqi Government. Neither will State even cleanly confirm or deny whether immunity has been offered or not; there are contradictory statements being presented by various anonymous State Department officials.</P> <P>The only decisive response has been that of the Iraqi Parliament, who voted Tuesday to overturn L. Paul Bremer’s Decree # 17, which gave Coalition private contractors in Iraq immunity from Iraqi law. According to Dr. Ali al-Dabbagh, the Iraqi Government spokesman, the new law, when adopted, holds that “all security companies will be subjected to the Iraqi civil and penal law and must obey all the country’s legal regulations such as registration, customs, residency, taxes, visa, etc.”</P> <P>This type of news could not come at a worse time in the scheme of American - Iraqi relations. With “The Surge” proving successful in most parts of Iraq on a daily basis, for the Administration and the State Department to jeopardize the efforts of the troops on the ground in this callous display of disdain and ineptitude goes beyond stupid. It is time for Sect. Rice to take control of her department and demand the same degree of accountability and professionalism from them as America receives daily from her Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, and Air Force.</P><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=7928" width="1" height="1">The Military &amp; The Media – 2http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/archive/2007/10/16/6892.aspxTue, 16 Oct 2007 19:28:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:6892ON Point0http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/comments/6892.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/commentrss.aspx?PostID=6892<P><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/6890/200x250.aspx" border=0></P> <P>Andrew Lubin</P> <P><STRONG><EM>“…The duty of the journalist is to further these ends (public enlightenment) by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist’s credibility.”</EM></STRONG> <EM>-- Society of Professional Journalists</EM></P> <P>Last week Gen Ricardo Sanchez (US Army, ret) quoted these words as he spoke in Washington at the Military Reporters and Editors Annual Meeting. Warning us a week ahead of time that he had “something controversial to say”, he castigated the Administration for doing a bad job in planning and executing the war plan in Iraq, as well as the media for doing an equally bad job in reporting it.</P> <P>Other than President Bush and Vice President Cheney, very few people today think that the war was planned properly; even Gen Petraeus recently said that “we almost lost it in 2006.”&nbsp; This is old news. So for Gen Sanchez to castigate the State Department, the Administration, and the National Security Agency is just a cheap shot – where was his voice in June 2003 when he took over as the military commander in Iraq? From complaining about the ‘armchair generals’ he has become one.</P> <P>But it’s his “media” comments that I want to discuss here; specifically his charge that the media only reported on issues that would reflect poorly on the Administration and the Military:</P> <P>1 – Why did the mainstream media mostly report only on his criticism of Bush’s handling of the war, and ignored his scathing attack on the media?</P> <P>2 – How correct is he in that “the Media’s parent corporations” have political agendas?</P> <P>3 – Is the Media perpetuating “corrosive partisan politics that are destroying our country”? Why isn’t he blaming the politicians themselves?</P> <P><STRONG>My thoughts on his speech:</STRONG></P> <P>1 – Sanchez is the most senior general officer to criticize the war, along with being the military ground commander in 2003 – 2005 when the war turned sour, which makes his comments very newsworthy.</P> <P>Should the media have commented more on his criticism of them? Yes, but the tone of his speech was that he was upset at them for “destroying the individual reputations and careers of those involved.” If he’s blaming the media for it’s coverage of Abu Ghraib costing him his career then he should say so; and since it happened when he was the ground commander responsible, then perhaps he needs to at least mention that small fact. Fault on both sides here.</P> <P>2 – Maybe. They all need to earn a profit, and tailor therefore their news – but hopefully not the reporting – to their target market:</P> <P>TV: FOX is proudly conservative, ABC and NBC are middle of the road, and CBS will say anything that might attract a viewer. Newspapers: Wall Street Journal (now FOX ) is conservative, the New York Times has a liberal editorial policy, but excellent news, USA Today is liberal, using AP News, and the Washington Post is liberal editorial – liberal news. The Washington Times is conservative with mediocre news. Radio: From Air America on the left to Rush Limbaugh on the right, the airways have something for everyone. If you don’t like Katie Couric’s news – change the channel!</P> <P>3 – The media is only reporting the speeches and comments of the politicians and pundits. We cover what they say. Last week, Ann Coulter said that she wished that there were fewer Jews in America; if I cover it, am I promoting this rather extreme point of view? But if I don’t cover it, am I censoring her? As a “media guy”, either side can find fault with me.&nbsp; Sanchez is very wrong here.</P> <P>Looking at Sanchez’s points, it seems that there has to be a medium view; one where common sense takes hold. I’ll be happy to report the news, but then the military has to give me the straight scoop the first time – otherwise I reserve the right to snoop around for a non-BS story.</P> <P>But the media can’t make the American people read or watch what they don’t want to read and watch – if in fact President Bush thinks that 9/11 was “our equivalent of Pearl Harbor”, then it’s up to him to mobilize the country for war…but if the public is told that going shopping is their contribution to the war effort, then he’s trivialized the efforts of our Marines and Soldiers, and I’m going to have a problem interesting readers in Gen Sanchez’s story, or anyone else’s story – and then as Americans we’re all diminished by the loss of intelligent reporting for intelligent readers.</P> <P>What do you think of the media coverage of the war? Write and tell us!</P><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=6892" width="1" height="1">The Media, the Military, and Covering the Warhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/archive/2007/10/09/6492.aspxTue, 09 Oct 2007 12:31:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:6492ON Point2http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/comments/6492.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/commentrss.aspx?PostID=6492<P><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/6490/500x319.aspx" border=0></P> <P>Andrew Lubin</P> <P>As in any war, the media gets either all the credit or all the complaints.</P> <P>Back in 2003…NBC’s late David Bloom rode a M-88 tank retriever christened "the Bloom-mobile". Embedded reporters walked and drove with the Marines and Soldiers, and their stories and videos were eagerly snapped up by an adoring public and trumpeted by an equally grateful Administration.</P> <P>But today it’s different. We’re a long way from 9/11 and the March 2003 invasion, and with Saddam deposed, no WMD’s and rising casualties, both the American public and most politicians from both sides of the aisle have tired of it.</P> <P>Equally important, since the Administration never made a legitimate case for the war - as opposed to 9/11 and Afghanistan, or what constitutes victory -&nbsp;it makes it a difficult war on which to report. We’ve been reporting on school re-openings for 3 ½ years, and smiling Iraqi kids with soccer balls are boring news. And it'd be boring news at home, wouldn't it ?</P> <P>There are two issues in covering the war today :&nbsp;1 - &nbsp;Excitement, 2 - Accuracy</P> <P>The "excitment" part of it is what makes me a good or bad writer, and that's reflected by our readership numbers. We're good-to-go here.</P> <P>But&nbsp;"Accuracy" is still of utmost importance to us, as well as trying hard not to take either a "Liberal" or "Conservative" .stance on things. I try to report on events "As Is", but perhaps the pre-conceptions and opinions of the writer are less important than the pre-conceptions and opinions of the reader...</P> <P><STRONG>Last week I received an email in response to my Blackwater editorial, which is reprinted below. Serious and well-written, the author raises some interesting questions:</STRONG></P> <P>Mr Lubin…I hope the incidents and how you presented them are factual. With the amount of effort it would take you to make such determinations, no stone was left unturned in reporting the reckless and ruthless conduct of the security personnel employed by Blackwater. If what you have reported is indeed fact, training and deployment of Blackwater's security forces must change, and individual violators be held accountable for their actions. However, since you are but one man with one mission, I believe you must rely on the words and reports of others…I believe much of the information you count on is gathered and formatted by members of the media.</P> <P>They're selling stories, sir, and bad news sells. Most of what the US Armed Services have been a part of since the end of Saddam's government is a massive civil mission to completely construct a democratic nation and give the Iraqi people a chance at something they've never had- freedom. With the military stretched doing non-military things, all the attention is on the fire-fights and IEDs and the results thereof. Armed security provided by contract personnel is absolutely necessary, and will remain so whether the US Military mission changes or not.</P> <P>With that said, you mentioned 99.9% of security personnel are honorable. How about an article on them? Talking about working in arid hostile lands 6000 miles from home for a client you can't converse with, and could catch a round for any second isn't covered by the media. Riding shotgun on a supply convoy to a remote camp of journalists (irony!) along a route not cleared or patrolled by the military, with no intel-reports, is too much risk for CNN. Accompany an oil executive's child to a soccer match and have no idea who or what could harm him, won't be on the 11 o'clock news (unless dozens are hurt or killed by a bomb). Good things are happening because good people are doing them. Why isn't that selling, sir? </P> <P><STRONG>And here’s my answer:<BR></STRONG>1 - The incidents are factual. All were presented and documented in the House Report - and note that Erik Prince denied NONE of them. I saw them throw frozen water bottles, and I've seen them side-swipe cars.&nbsp; Yes I'm one person, but I verify or document what I write.</P> <P>Blackwater has a rep for being aggressive that goes back to 2004 - they started firefights and had to get bailed out by Marines in Fallujah; they helped an Army unit by bringing up a .50-cal and laying down cover fire. Why does a private security group keep a .50-cal stashed in their SUV??? You'll notice I left this stuff out of the article.</P> <P>2 - Yes, I'd agree with you that they need some serious retraining. No reports like this have surfaced against Triple Canopy or Dyn, so I tend to view this as a problem with BW, and not private contractors in general - and wrote my article as such.</P> <P>3 - Yes, bad news sells. But that expression hold true for civilian news as well as Afghanistan – Iraq&nbsp; news. What do you see in your paper? Rapes and car crashes on Page One; Boy Scouts making Eagle, or school sports stuff is buried deep inside</P> <P>3A- Bad news sells – on EVERY channel. When I was in Fallujah I had a Marine-Sunni news scoop, and called back to FOX Philadelphia (where I've appeared regularly ). They refused it - no kinetics, therefore it was of no interest. The news scoop? The Marine-Sunni co-operation agreement - the same one you've been reading about the past few months.</P> <P>So I called FOX NY - they refused it because "we have our own people in Baghdad." Yes they do, but the FOX team refused to go to Fallujah "too dangerous." Hey, I went there last year when it was kinetic; god knows where FOX was hiding out!</P> <P><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/6491/450x288.aspx" border=0></P> <P>4 - Why don't I do articles on convoys for <STRONG>OnPoint</STRONG>? Because no one will read them. We track the stories I write; my articles from Ramadi and Afghanistan get enormous ratings; my articles on PRT's and "good stuff" do well, but not as well as other stuff.</P> <P><STRONG>And another writer sent me an email:</STRONG><BR>Amazing to me ANYONE uses the NY times for anything but wrapping fish. They have a proven track record of less than trustworthy journalism; its documented fact that at least two of their writers have manufactured facts in writing stories in the past 10 years and the editorial policy is far left of center and is reflected in the advertisements they accept for printing (Move-on.Org's Add on General Petreaus being the latest example).</P> <P>This blog is the last place I would have expected to find the New York Times articles being used as credible journalism.</P> <P><STRONG>My answer:</STRONG><BR>I use many sources; in any given day I'm using the NYTimes, the Washington Times, the Washington Post, FOX.com,...Wall Street Journal...Christian Science Monitor...</P> <P>While you might not like the NYTimes editorial policy, their news is still first rate: CJ Chiver (former Marine) wrote a series on the Marines of 2/8 in Karmah that made the front page and 2 full pages inside...when Haditha broke, John Burns wrote about the ONLY op-ed supporting them "before you condemn these young Marines, let me tell you about the environment in which they live and fight...."</P> <P>They make the same mistakes as the WSJ, Wash Times and others. Go thru any newspaper, radio, or TV program, and you'll see a litany of errors - some deliberate, some lazy, some by accident.</P> <P>Are they liberal? On the editorial basis, yes - but so what - check the WSJ or Wash Times on any given day and you'll see basically the same coverage on the NEWS. You'll be amazed at how similar the coverage is between the 'liberal' and 'conservative' news articles.</P> <P><STRONG>These are excellent questions:&nbsp; Why DOESN’T good news sell?&nbsp; What’s the difference between the New York Times and FOX – same news, different slant? Does OnPoint have a "slant" on the news, or do we present an impartial story ?&nbsp;And should we as concerned citizens find news sources that will confirm&nbsp;our existing opinion – and if we do, is it news or is it opinion?</STRONG></P> <P><STRONG>How about writing and telling us what YOU think!</STRONG></P><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=6492" width="1" height="1">Death by Private Contractorhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/archive/2007/10/02/6202.aspxTue, 02 Oct 2007 18:20:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:6202ON Point5http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/comments/6202.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/commentrss.aspx?PostID=6202<P><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/5818/500x340.aspx" border=0></P> <P>Andrew Lubin</P> <P>They used to call them mercenaries. Retired soldiers, wanna-be’s, and those who want to walk around looking like Dog “The Bounty Hunter” Chapman. They used to work in Rhodesia; now they wear mirror sunglasses, carry M-4’s, and work in Iraq for exorbitant salaries.</P> <P>Not surprisingly, there are no records available of how many private contractors are currently working in Iraq, and even today, the Administration cannot provide a list of how many companies they’ve hired. Various DoD estimates are “around 160,000, with 50,000 engaged in private security.” The cost is equally vague – except for the cost to the United States in reputation and credibility.</P> <P>Most of the contractors work in the chow halls or build housing or drive the honey wagons to pump the heads, or some such job that frees up our military for more important assignments. That was the initial intent of hiring contractors, and it could have been a good one. Be it catering, logistics, or sanitation, these companies have their own areas of expertise, and it allowed the Marines and Army to put more troops in the field. A few companies hired former military and provided armed private security. Companies like Blackwater, DynCorp, and Triple Canopy provide armed security for everyone from Ambassador Crocker to the huge food convoys running north from Kuwait to reporters needing bodyguards.</P> <P>But like too many other incidents with this Administration, there is no oversight and no accountability. Under J. Paul Bremer, the CPA issued a rule that gave any Coalition contractor immunity from anything they did while in Iraq, as well as immunity under American law. The American military is subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice; the contractors are subject to nothing; It was private contractors who gave the orders to those poor Army schooks at Abu Ghraib; the contractors went home; the enlisted men (and Lyndie Englund ) went to jail. It might be fair to say that the private security contractors are uncontrolled.</P> <P>While 99.9 % of the contractors are honorable men and women who work hard for a reasonable salary; Blackwater USA seems to operate in their own shadowy world. Prior to last weeks’ incident where they killed 17 civilians, Blackwater has had to fire 122 people over the past three years for problems ranging from misusing weapons, alcohol and drug violations, inappropriate conduct, sexual situations, and violent behavior, according to a report released today by a congressional committee. According to the report, Blackwater has had more shooting incidents than DynCorp and Triple Canopy combined.</P> <P>Blackwater has fired one-seventh of their Iraqi workforce, a ratio that should raise questions about the quality of the people they hire.</P> <P>The report, prepared by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, also says:</P> <P>• Blackwater has been involved in 195 shooting incidents since 2005, or roughly 1.4 per week.</P> <P>• In more than 80 percent of the shooting incidents, called "escalation of force," Blackwater's guards fired the first shots even though the company's contract with the State Department calls for it to use defensive force only.</P> <P>• In the vast majority of instances in which Blackwater fired shots, Blackwater fired from a moving vehicle and did not remain at the scene to determine if the shots resulted in casualties.</P> <P>• Blackwater was paid to ‘up-armor’ their vehicles, but instead pocketed the money and sent their employees out in soft-skin vehicles.</P> <P>When you fire almost 15% of your workforce within 2 years, the problem is not a few rogue employees; it’s hard to not conclude that the issue is most likely a rogue company.</P> <P>Since the Sept. 16 shooting in Baghdad’s Nasoor Square, Blackwater officials continue to insist that their guards were responding to fire from “armed enemies.” Yet an extensive file including documents, maps, sworn witness statements and a police video, put together by the Iraqi National Police, appears to contradict Blackwater’s version of events. The Iraqi National Police (not known for either objectivity or professionalism) have provided a report to American military, State Department, and civilian officials which concluded that the Blackwater vehicles “opened fire crazily and randomly, without any reason.”&nbsp; (For an edited clip of the video, click here.) </P> <P>The incident has strained American – Iraqi relations to the point that a special FBI team was dispatched yesterday to handle the forensic and investigative parts of the incident. This will not be swept under the rug in a similar fashion to when the drunken Blackwater employee shot and killed an Iraqi Government security guard inside the Green Zone&nbsp;last Christmas Eve (the employee was hustled to the American embassy and flown home the next day; no charges were ever&nbsp;filed against him).</P> <P>Iraqi officials have long chafed at what they perceive to be arrogance on the part of American contractors, and the fact that they are not technically subject to any local laws. Blackwater’s convoy tactics include hurling bottle of frozen water at car windshields or side-swiping private Iraqi cars as a method of “traffic control.” It’s hard to win the hearts and minds of the local Iraqi with such tactics.</P> <P>The Marines and Soldiers in the field work too hard and too long with the local Iraqis for these sort of tactics to be allowed to continue. Blackwater claims that they recruit only SNCO’s and higher, along with only Marine Recon, Navy Seals, and Delta Force operatives. Such claims dishonor these groups, whose skills include specialized training in local relations.</P> <P>Erik Prince, the owner of Blackwater, will be testifying today before Congress. His is a private company whose revenue – prior to the GWOT – was less than $ 1 million, but with massive political contributions, has grown to larger than $ 1 billion. This could be an interesting hearing, especially if it remains bi-partisan. One thing worth keeping in mind, however, is the wish that his corporate culture was as professional and competent as the Spec Ops warriors they claim to recruit.</P><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=6202" width="1" height="1">Free Speech vs. Good Tastehttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/archive/2007/09/25/6029.aspxTue, 25 Sep 2007 16:24:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:6029ON Point22http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/comments/6029.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/commentrss.aspx?PostID=6029<P><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/6075/500x180.aspx" border=0></P> <P>Andrew Lubin</P> <P>I took the opportunity to go to Columbia University and listen to Iranian President Ahmadinijad yesterday. The mainstream media was there in force (along with the NYC police and Secret Service), and so your <STRONG>OnPoint</STRONG> Senior Editor was shunted off to the ‘media overflow room.” But I wanted to listen to the debate, as well as get a feel for the reactions to the students to all this.</P> <P>Since the visit has been well covered, I won’t go into the details. In short, he again denied that the Holocaust occurred, said there were no homosexuals in Iran, denied any military involvement in Iraq, and chastised the West for developing nuclear weapons – so he had nothing new or interesting to say.</P> <P>What I found interesting was that after receiving severe criticism for (again) inviting Ahmadinijad to speak, Columbia’s president Lee Bollinger ambushed him with a personal attack during his introduction. Not that there is anything wrong with mocking Ahmadinijad, but why make him look sympathetic?</P> <P>And that’s what was wrong with inviting him to speak. Sure we practice free speech in this country – but it’s a right for American citizens, and only an offer we make to others.&nbsp; The police estimated that there were 2,000+ students outside watching the debate on the large outdoor screens, with perhaps 70% opposing Ahmadinijad – what Bollinger and the students did was make this Ahmadinijad – who is deeply unpopular in his own country – a figure who is now admired and respected for his confronting America and arguing his position on ‘the enemy’s’ turf.</P> <P>Yesterday was such a great opportunity to turn this circus into something positive.<BR>International law and diplomatic rules give him the right to freely travel within a 25 mile radius. Fine, let him travel, but like Pat Buchanan said,&nbsp; barring him from Ground Zero was a mistake. One of the first public displays of support for America after 9/11 came in the Tehran soccer stadium that Saturday, when the crowd waved American flags and sang the Star Spangled Banner – most Iranians would prefer better relation with the United States. Let him visit, but don’t give him a forum in which to espouse his twisted views.</P> <P>And then if Columbia University persists in its odd methods of gaining notoriety (academic excellence no longer counts?), then use America’s adherence to free speech and the right to a peaceful protest to good use : the students should have boycotted the speech, and simply continued protesting outside. Can you imagine the powerful message to the world if Ahmadinijad was shown speaking to an empty conference hall, while the thousands of students demonstrated peacefully outside? </P> <P>Of course that could never happen; some idiotic student will always take the opposite side of common sense and good taste. Actually, most of the protesters seemed to use Ahmadinijad as an excuse for other causes: pro or anti Israel, pro or con gay rights, getting involved in something interesting, or maybe just going outside on a beautiful day and meeting some women.&nbsp; After all, just because mom and dad can afford to Columbia’s tuition doesn’t necessarily make one smart.</P> <P><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/6028/250x163.aspx" border=0></P> <P>But a boycott would pass a message of irrelevance and disdain that would not be lost on the Iranian people or other third-world morons like Hugo Chavez and Robert Mugabe. The civilized world has no need to kill you; you’re simply beneath contempt and will be dealt with accordingly.</P> <P>PS – and mainstream media like Scott Pelley / 60 Minutes who rushed to Tehran last week in order to interview Ahmadinijad&nbsp; ? You’re beneath contempt also.</P><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=6029" width="1" height="1">The Middle East gets worsehttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/archive/2007/09/18/5856.aspxTue, 18 Sep 2007 17:23:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:5856ON Point3http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/comments/5856.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/commentrss.aspx?PostID=5856<P class=MsoNormal align=center><SPAN><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/5858/445x375.aspx" border=0></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal align=center><SPAN>The Middle East Crisis Widens – Beyond Iraq</SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal dir=ltr align=center><SPAN></SPAN><SPAN><FONT size=4>Andrew Lubin<o:p></o:p></FONT></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal><SPAN>September 18, 2007<o:p></o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal><SPAN>Hanging over the Middle East is the increasing possibility of an armed confrontation between the United States and Iran. While this test of wills is being increasingly played out in Iraq, the Sept 6 bombing in Syria by Israeli jets of either a nuclear or chemical weapons plant has re-opened the old conflicts between Israel, Syria, Iran, Hezbollah, and the Kurds.<o:p></o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal><SPAN>Overlooked in the Petraeus-Crocker show last week was&nbsp;the fact that Gen Petraeus's efforts in Iraq are supposed to be part of the Centcom strategy in the Middle East and Central Asia.&nbsp;There have been stories and comments&nbsp;that Centcom, run under the very able&nbsp;command of Adm William Fallon, is starved of the resources necessary to deal with actual threats to American security such as Afghanistan, Iran, and a nuclear-Islamic fundamentalist Pakistan.<o:p></o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal><SPAN>There are now dangers of wider war and also some new opportunities for creative diplomacy – but these issues need to be addressed in order for a negotiated peace to be resolved.<BR><BR>1 - U.S.-Iranian tensions. This proxy war has the Middle East so entangled that a Syrian-Israeli problem this summer brought forth an unexpected response: when Israeli intelligence detected signs that Syria was mobilizing its military, the Israelis put their own forces on heightened alert. They also contacted Damascus indirectly to suggest that the Syrians stand-down. <o:p></o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal><SPAN>An immediate return message from Damascus surprised the Israeli’s. The Syrians were afraid that America was about to attack Iran, and the Syrians expected that Iran would retaliate by ordering its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, to attack Israel. Since Syria provides Hezbollah both military and political support, they expected that the Israeli’s would then attack Syria. The Syrian scenario had the Israelis attacking Syria. Upon this clarification, both countries stood down.<BR><BR><o:p></o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal><SPAN>But the Syrian-Israeli relationship remains fragile as seen by Israel’s Sept 6 bombing of a Syrian facility. Neither country will comment in detail, which leads to suspicion that the Israeli’s knocked out either a chemical weapons or emerging nuclear facility ( reportedly <SPAN>&nbsp;</SPAN>built with North Korean nuclear materials )<BR><BR>2 – Iraq is now a proxy regional conflict. Too many military forces are engaged: America's openly, Iran's increasingly openly, Kurdish Peshmerga staging attacks into Iran, Iranian artillery responding, plus Saudi, Chechen and other fighters drifting in from Syria, in a proxy battle for control of the Middle East and the massive Iraqi oil fields. <SPAN>&nbsp;</SPAN>Internally, the American shift to pro-Sunni regional government in Anbar only serves to both marginalize and infuriate Prime Minister Maleki’s Shia government while other Shia warlords fight for control of southern Iraq and Basra. Be it a soft partition or an outright declaration of statehood, the chances increase daily of “Sunni-stan” joining Kurdistan as a semi-independent state.<o:p></o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal><SPAN>3 – Pakistan. An Islamic state in turmoil that possesses nuclear weapons and a delivery system. While the fundamentalist Islamic parties only attract some 8-10 % of votes in the last several elections, there is a bigger chance that they would attract a protest vote against President Mushareff ( similar to the Iranians electing Ahmadinijad after President Bush asked them to vote against him ). The Taliban and al-Quada operate with impunity from the North-West Territories and Waziristan, and recently captured some 300 Pakistani army soldiers. The Taliban is attacking northern Pakistani cities and troops as frequently as they attack into Afghanistan. A destabilized nuclear Islamic enemy is exactly the GWOT enemy President Bush says he is trying to prevent. Who would have thought he’d find it in Pakistan?<o:p></o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal><SPAN>4 – Afghanistan. Supplier of 96 % of the world’s opium, the proceeds of which are used to fund the Taliban.With tepid support from the United States and 60 other countries, Prime Minister Karzai finds himself the leader of Kabul and selected cities, as the Taliban grows stronger and bolder in the countryside. For the Coalition to lose control here, it re-creates the state-sponsored sanctuary Al-Quada is seeking to re-attack America and the West.<o:p></o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal><SPAN>5 – The Palestinian issue. In addition to the Israeli-Palestinian fight, the Palestinians need to resolve their own leadership issues. Sect of State Rice needs to seriously concentrate on helping formalize a true Palestinian state. This will enable the Israeli’s to concentrate on Hezbollah to their north, as a viable Palestinian state reduces Iran’s influence and ability to interfere by a huge amount.<o:p></o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal><SPAN>6 – Lebanon. With Iran’s influence waning, it makes it easier for the Lebanese to end the stand-off between the U.S. –supported Prime Minister Siniora and Sheik Nasrullah’s Hezbollah. If both the US and Iran could mutually back down, then a compromise candidate could become prime minister of Lebanon-the-country instead of Lebanon-the-proxy state.<o:p></o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal><SPAN>Woven into this potent mix are crude oil prices, American presidential politics, and Osama Bin Laden. While General Petraeus can tell Sen John Warner that he has ‘no idea’ if his Surge in Iraq is helping American national security, these are the real-world problems – and opportunities – faced by President Bush, Adm Fallon, Sect. Rice, and Centcom today.<BR><BR></SPAN><SPAN><o:p></o:p></SPAN></P><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=5856" width="1" height="1">9/11 plus 6 yearshttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/archive/2007/09/10/5614.aspxMon, 10 Sep 2007 19:14:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:5614ON Point19http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/comments/5614.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/commentrss.aspx?PostID=5614<P class=MsoNormal align=center><SPAN><FONT size=6><A href="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/picture5636.aspx" target=_blank><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/5636/original.aspx" border=0></A></FONT></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal align=center><SPAN><FONT size=6>6 Years and counting…<o:p></o:p></FONT></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal><SPAN>September 11, 2007<o:p></o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal><SPAN>The weekend news came from Fran Townsend, the Administration spokesman for homeland security. Osama Bin Laden is “impotent and living in a cave” she declared, and unable to again attack America.<SPAN>&nbsp; </SPAN>Earlier in the week she derided his beard, as she joked about him perhaps having colored it. Such was the depth and sophistication of the Administration’s response to Osama’s first video release in three years.<o:p></o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal><SPAN>Perhaps I look at things too simplistically, but instead of wondering about the coloring in his beard, it seems to me that the major question the American people should be asking President Bush is “Why is Osama Bin Laden still alive?”<o:p></o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal><SPAN>Six years after the terror attack on the United States, Mr. Bush’s “Global War on Terror” has ground to a halt. We spend $ 10 Billion MONTHLY to referee a Shia – Sunni – Shia civil war in Iraq; Afghanistan sets records annually in exporting opium to the West – which the Taliban uses to pay for their war; grandmothers struggle to remove their shoes in our airports in the name of “Homeland Security”, Iran is shelling northern Iraqi villages with impunity; nuclear Pakistan is set to implode in political and Islamic chaos - is there a coherent mission for our Marines, Navy, and Soldiers behind this madness ?<o:p></o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal><SPAN>The Administration will argue that killing Bin Laden is no longer necessary for us to defeat “terror,” but I disagree. He is the father-figure of the Islamic war against Western civilization, and therefore his death needs to be as symbolic as his life. The value of killing Osama is that until America does so, every day he remains alive, every video he releases, gives the disaffected and angry masses in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier or Saudi Madrassis’s proof that their twisted faith is stronger than that of the United States. <o:p></o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal><SPAN>Successfully hunting and killing Bin Laden will force the Administration to re-focus on the true war on terror: renew the emphasis on Afghanistan and defeating the Taliban coming over from the North-West Frontier – or focus on a nuclear and Islamic Pakistan. Iran is an urgent problem; nuclear or not, their oil-funded influence has already de-stabilized southern Iraq and will soon affect the remainder of the Middle East. Adm William Fallon, Centcom’s commander, has been arguing that with so much of our military and other resources tied up in Iraq, the United States is dangerously unprepared for these potential confrontations.<o:p></o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal><SPAN>Will killing Osama solve these issues, or halt the plotting of other Islamic terrorists? No, but it will give them cause to think that if they do try to pull another 9/11, that the United States has a mighty and terrible sword that will cost them their lives for their efforts to harm us.<o:p></o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal><SPAN>Upon hearing the results of his attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese Adm Yamamoto mused that he ‘feared that he had awakened a sleeping giant, and filled him with a terrible resolve”…would that Osama Bin Laden have the same fear of President Bush.<o:p></o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal><SPAN><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></SPAN></P><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=5614" width="1" height="1">Labor Day in Iraqhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/archive/2007/09/04/5513.aspxTue, 04 Sep 2007 14:48:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:5513ON Point3http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/comments/5513.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/commentrss.aspx?PostID=5513<P class=MsoNormal><SPAN><FONT size=5><A href="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/picture5530.aspx" target=_blank><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/5530/original.aspx" border=0></A></FONT></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal><SPAN><FONT size=5>Sept 4, 2007<o:p></o:p></FONT></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal><SPAN>With both Gen David Petraeus and Amb Ryan Crocker arriving in Washington this weekend in order to brief the President on the situation in Iraq, Republicans and Democrats of all leanings are already trying to pre-spin the reports. Gen Petraeus will report on the military situation, and Amb Crocker the political – from listening to several of the Provisional Reconstruction Team leaders last week,<SPAN>&nbsp; </SPAN>it is obvious that “The Surge’s” military success has not led to any semblance of political, economic, or reconstruction success. The next week or so will be most interesting, which<SPAN>&nbsp; </SPAN>leads us to two other items :<o:p></o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal><SPAN>1 – Advertising Weekly is running a contest to determine the best and most recognized advertising slogan. Naturally, one of the leading contenders is the Marine Corps “The Few; The Proud; the Marines” Here is the link to the contest, which closes 28 August…vote early – vote often !<SPAN>&nbsp; </SPAN></SPAN><SPAN><A href="http://advertising.yahoo.com/advertisingweek_07/slogan_poll.html" target=_BLANK����><FONT face=Calibri>http://advertising.yahoo.com/advertisingweek_07/slogan_poll.html</FONT></A><FONT face=Calibri>.<o:p></o:p></FONT></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal><SPAN>2 – With all the posturing from the politicians ( and it’s worth noting that most of the hawks – except Sen McCain have never spent a day in uniform ); let’s not take our focus from the Marines and soldiers on the ground in Iraq. While President Bush is increasingly concerned with his upcoming presidential library and his legacy 20 and 30 years from now, here’s an article about the young men who are concerned only with accomplishing today’s mission. You’re an impressive group, Marines. Well done and Semper Fi.<o:p></o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal><SPAN><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal align=center><SPAN>Young Man’s Work<BR>A Snapshot of Marine life.<BR><BR></SPAN><SPAN>By W. Thomas Smith Jr.</SPAN><SPAN><BR><A href="/controlpanel/blogs/www.nationalreview.com">National Review Online</A></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal><SPAN>Tired, dirty, footsore, slightly dehydrated, hungry, and with an aching back and shoulders, I limped toward the battalion headquarters building from where a clean, fit, and slightly younger Lt. Col. Jason Bohm — task force commander of 1st Battalion, 4th Marines — emerged. I had just returned to Forward Operating Base Al Qaim after several days operating out of one of Bohm’s battle positions up on Iraq’s Syrian border. Bohm was getting ready to head back out to be with his men.<BR><BR>“Colonel, this is young man’s work,” I said. He smiled and responded, “That it is.”<o:p></o:p></SPAN></P><SPAN>Notice, I did not say young person’s work. Nor did I say simply, man’s work. Though I’ve unconsciously understood infantry work to be “young man’s work” ever since I participated in my first, fast, route-stepping distance-march with heavy equipment under a searing Camp Pendleton, California sun some 25 years ago, the conscious reality of it surfaced for the first time during my recent, second trip to Iraq. <BR><BR>Granted, “once a Marine, always a Marine.” But at 48-years-old, and a civilian for most of my adult life, I won’t pretend that I am as capable today of fighting, surviving, and contributing to an infantry unit in action, as I was when I was in my early 20’s. By most standards for my age, I’m still strong and quick and I certainly know how to fight. But I also know my limitations, and in spite of my willingness, my body simply cannot endure the extreme heat and cold as easily as it once did. It cannot bear the same loads that it once did, nor can it run the necessary distances at the necessary speeds, negotiate the physical obstacles, or function, as it once managed to, when deprived of food and sleep. Neither can it perform the myriad other tasks required of young infantrymen in modern war.<BR><BR>The fact is, beyond my ability to shoot and think, I would be a burden on any infantry force in a desperate situation in which everyone needs to pull his own load and assist others with theirs. I think this is true for most war correspondents, though many would never admit it.<BR><BR>Infantry campaigning is difficult, and it has been ever since man first picked up a few stones, shouldered a club, and moved against a neighboring tribe. And despite modern weapon-systems and many of the new modes of delivery — helicopter, various ground conveyances — that difficulty has not changed. <BR><BR>Of course, we all remember former Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder’s attempt to dismiss the physical severity of modern combat with her now-famous <A href="http://www.nationalreview.com/owens/owens200412090818.asp"><FONT color=#0000ff>line:</FONT></A> “A woman can push a button just as easily as a man.” Perhaps, if combat were limited to waiting on the unthinkable in an air-conditioned missile silo in the American West, but that’s not how war actually works.<BR><BR> <P class=MsoNormal><B><SPAN>MORE THAN FIGHTING</SPAN></B><SPAN><BR>Ground combat — including fighting, campaigning, and surviving in the wild — is a young man’s work. It means bearing heavy loads (In the modern world, much of a unit’s gear can be carried in vehicles. But because soldiers today have so much gear, a lot of it — particularly personal equipment — simply has to be borne on one’s back, shoulders, and hips.), surviving in remote environs and severe weather conditions, and maintaining a level of proper hygiene for good health: None of which are easy in an environment where men are hunting one another.<BR><BR>One example worth noting: During the 1st Marine Division’s epic fighting-withdrawal from Korea’s Chosin Reservoir in 1950, Marines in one of the most remote regions on earth found themselves up against some of the worst weather imaginable; Snow, ice, and mercilessly cold temperatures, which often plummeted to 30-40 degrees below zero, were among the climate elements endured. Long, black nights and lashing winds of up to 40 and 50 miles an hour sometimes dropped the temperatures even further. Everything froze: Motor oil, medicines, blood plasma, even hands and feet. Marines touching the steel of their weapons often lost skin. Everyone was bundled up as best as possible, but it was never enough. Worse, the heavy clothes caused the exerting Marines to sweat. If they stood still for any length of time, the sweat turned to ice. The severe frostbite and other cold-related injuries were staggering. <BR><BR>As the Marines pulled back along the narrow reservoir road, the enemy attacked again-and-again, often at close quarters with the bayonet. So the withdrawing Marines had to stay alert, healthy, and ready to respond with brute force in an instant. They also had to keep their wits about them and remain in formation.</SPAN></P><SPAN> <P class=MsoNormal><BR><B><A href="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/picture5529.aspx" target=_blank><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/5529/original.aspx" border=0></A><BR></B></P> <P class=MsoNormal><B>WAR AIN</B>’<B>T PRETTY</B><BR>When the Marines at Chosin needed to relieve themselves, they did so on the road. To stray from the column meant death by ambush or getting lost and freezing. They urinated on the march, and relieved themselves otherwise by stopping and squatting in the middle of the road while other troops simply passed by. It was simply a reality of the animal-like existence for infantry troops on the move in combat. It hasn’t changed in over 50 years, or a thousand.<BR><BR>Iraq for the infantry — particularly those in the forward-most patrol bases and battle positions — is no different in that sense.<BR><BR>For obvious health reasons infantrymen try to stay as clean as possible. Teeth are brushed daily. Everyone tries to wash his face and shave daily or every other day. But men in the field often go days without showering, because there simply is no showering equipment available.<BR><BR>At some of the less-spartan battle positions I visited in Iraq, there were makeshift open-air shower boxes. At others, a shower consisted of one man soaping himself while other men poured plastic bottles of water over him. If a clean body of water was found — river, stream, lake — half of the infantry unit might strip and bathe, while the other half secured the area. When the first men were clean, they would stand watch while the other half washed. Sometimes men simply stripped and wiped down with wet cloths or baby wipes: more so for the refreshing physical comfort than the actual hygiene (though both were accomplished). Modesty over nakedness was never an issue. In the infantry, it cannot be.<BR><BR>As far as body odor was concerned: no one cared. Everybody stinks in an infantry environment, and stinks bad.<B><BR><BR>WHAT YOU WEAR<BR></B>Then there was — and is — the issue of the weather: Iraq is the extreme opposite of what was experienced at Chosin. Over the past several weeks In Iraq, the ground temps have climbed to between 127-130 degrees. The body armor, helmet, ammunition, and all other gear the infantry Marines and soldiers have to wear — more than 70 additional pounds — sent those temperatures up another ten degrees. The weight and heat is only one part of the equation; it must be combined with the fact that any given foot patrol for the Marines generally lasts about two-and-a-half hours, and in some cases three to four hours. <BR><BR>On patrol, if a Marine or soldier makes contact with the enemy, he has to dive for cover or run — depending on the situation. If he is on the chase or a hot-search, it means that he will be hustling with all of his gear — and his weapon at the ready — down streets and alleyways, going over walls, kicking in doors, sometimes going through windows, climbing up on roofs of houses and making his way up long ladders into towers.<BR><BR>And remember, there is no break for the Marine or soldier when he gets to his objective, because that’s where the fight is. The fight is, moreover, usually against a full-grown, heavily armed man of comparable size and weight, who has <I>not</I> just expended much of his burst-energy on getting <I>to</I> the fight and is less encumbered with heavy gear.<BR><BR>This brings us to the actual weight of the combat load for American infantrymen: between 70 and 100 pounds. <BR><BR>So, a 5’11’’ Marine weighing 175-180 lbs., weighs about 250-280 lbs. in full battle kit. Yet with this added weight, he must remain strong, fast, agile, able to withstand long road marches in extreme temperatures and capable of fighting another man of equal size and weight in the often-close quarters of an urban environment. <BR><BR>The point is, we’ve all seen the one-dimensional images and film clips of Marines and soldiers running or cautiously moving down dusty streets in Iraq. We’ve seen them kicking in doors, and rolling over the tops of walls. If the camera is close enough, we sometimes see a stream of sweat between the helmet and the chinstrap. It’s been said that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” But no image will ever be able to adequately convey how little an infantryman has had to eat over the past 24 hours, the scant sleep he has had over the previous two days, how pushed to the limit his strong back is, how close he is to dehydration, a sniper’s bullet, or sheer emotional collapse; nor will a picture ever be adequate to display why infantry combat continues to be “young man’s work.”<BR><BR><I><SPAN>A former U.S. Marine infantry leader, W. Thomas Smith Jr. writes about military issues and has covered the Balkans, the West Bank, and Iraq. Smith is the author of six books and his articles appear in a variety of publications.</SPAN><U><SPAN><o:p></o:p></SPAN></U></I></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal><SPAN><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal><o:p><FONT face=Calibri>&nbsp;</FONT></o:p></P> <P><BR></SPAN>&nbsp;</P> <P>&nbsp;</P><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=5513" width="1" height="1">Freedom from Each Otherhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/archive/2007/08/28/5426.aspxTue, 28 Aug 2007 12:39:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:5426ON Point0http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/comments/5426.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/editorletters/commentrss.aspx?PostID=5426<P>August 27, 2007 -- Let’s call them Shia-stan, Sunni-stan, and Kurdistan.</P> <P>Kurdistan is already a separate country. They have their own flag, their own excellent army (the Peshmerga), their own money. You can book a flight on a real airline and fly from Newark or JFK into Erbil. Short of a seat in the United Nations, Kurdistan is independent.</P> <P>Now, the rest of Iraq is a problem. Since the Shia and Sunni detest each other, have long detested each other (the basis of the split between them goes back to approx 750 AD), and will continue to detest each other…and with the Shia outnumbering the Sunni’s 3 -1, we really shouldn’t expect to see the Shia give their hated enemies much of a say in their government (and neither of them really like the Kurds, who in return mistrust each of them).</P> <P>Let’s address the problem. “Iraq” as a country was an invention of Winston Churchill; prior to the English, this area of the world was governed loosely by the Ottoman Empire. After years of a weak and corrupt king, it was Saddam who put together a relatively modern Iraq, but through his campaign of violence and terror (think of Stalin and Tito as his role models). But without his strong-arm tactics, the Shia, Sunni’s and Kurds would have gone their own ineffective way years ago.</P> <P>And this is what is happening today. The Kurds have quietly gone off on their own and are actively trying to develop their oil industry in order to be an economically viable country. The Sunni’s are racing against time to develop light and medium industry, build a defense force, and are beginning to sort themselves out politically. At least in a tribal society, there is a pecking order, and the Sunni’s are using this as their starting point.</P> <P>The Shia? Under the elections Mr. Bush promised them, they won control of the government. But then we changed the rules, and made them give the Sunnis and Kurds more voice than the elections warranted, interfered with their extermination of the Sunnis outside of Anbar, and generally wanted them to act like the leaders of responsible nation-state.</P> <P>That’s not going to happen; at least not in this generation. Too many Shia want to ‘get even’ for the abuses they suffered under Sunni Saddam, too many Shia are religious fanatics who want to push their theocracy on others (the basis for being a Shia), too many Shia have discovered that being a criminal is very profitable, and that a Shia government leads to corruption opportunities that they simply can’t ignore. </P> <P>Now we have a Shia-led and influenced Iraqi central government that winks at Iranian activities within Iraq, which puts them at odds against the Kurds and Sunnis – who are beginning to receive backing from the remainder of the Arab world – who are all Sunni.</P> <P>So what is the harm if the country fragments ? None that I can see. The Kurds are already independent, the Sunni (who are also the educated and entrepreneurial class) will soon have the confidence and military muscle to go off on their own, and if the Shia want to continue slaughtering each other, then all the American troops we send can’t stop them. It’s also worth noting that the Shia in the south who control the oil are already fragmenting off from the Shia in Baghdad; perhaps money does trump religion?</P> <P>What a shame that we seem to want a viable government in Iraq more than they do. Tom Friedman, one of the few the pro-invasion Op-Ed writers for the New York Times said it best about a year ago “yeah, they want freedom all right – they want freedom from each other.”</P><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=5426" width="1" height="1">