Why Another Blog?

I've decided to set up another blog, (my other one is called Writer's Musings), because there are some topics just too weighty for that blog.

So here it is. In this space I'll explore more serious issues in more detail. I do not expect visitors to agree with me in all cases.
In this forum feel free to take off the gloves, grab a handful of mud and fight for what you believe in.

Simple rules, rather like cage-fighting in the blogosphere:
No direct name calling. No excessive profanity. No whining when smacked in the face with mud.
Sling inuendo. Feel free to ask leading questions even if in a snide tone.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

More on the French Casualties

Let me start by saying that I have not been able to verify any details. It will be a while before any reports are published and made public. However, one hears bits and pieces because people talk. I won't discuss details, but will speak in generalities. So this is what I've heard about the ambush that killed ten French Soldiers on Monday, 18 August.

Like the attack last month that killed nine Americans, our complacency may have contributed significantly to the casualties. On the battlefield, complacency gets you killed. There is no redo when you screw up. The only time the Taliban try to take on a NATO unit head on, is when they believe they have an immediate advantage. The Taliban watch our patrols. If they determine that our patrols are being complacent, then they believe that they can achieve surprise and tactical advantage.

Apparently the French violated some fundamental tactical rules. One of those rules is, when going into "Injun country," be prepared to fight. The word floating around is that a number of the French soldiers had removed their body armor and had left their weapons in vehicles while they were on the ground. If true, this is a big screw up. They weren't prepared to fight. Again, I can't positively verify this, but I'm a believer of the "where there is smoke, there is fire" theory.

Almost all the casualties occurred in the first minute, not minutes, of the three-hour fight. (This seems to be a consistent retelling of when the casualties occurred.) If so, it would seem that the Taliban force did achieve complete tactical surprise. After that, the patrol salvaged the situation.
Taliban tactics are hardly worthy of praise. They lingered after the initial engagement long enough to get themselves beat up after having successfully inflicted serious casualties on a superior armed force. They should have broken contact within two minutes and headed for the hills before our air could start pounding them.

It is possible that French return fire pinned the Taliban so that they could not escape, but if that is true, then the Taliban commander screwed up in a different way. Covered and concealed escape routes should have already been selected so that his force could break contact. Whether by deliberate design or because of being pinned, the Taliban suffered far worse casualties than the French. Helicopter gunships and ground attack jets drove them all the way to and over the Pakistan border.

While the media portrays such an attack as demonstrating a "resurgent" or "brazen" Taliban, what it really shows is that they are poorly led. Their commanders are not competent if they wind up getting the ambushing force that badly mauled. A competent guerrilla commander would not have hung around to allow an opponent known to have superior fire-power, to use that fire-power.

In every engagement where our forces manage to avoid complacency and get the Taliban to fight us, we win big with minimal casualties. We can defeat them over time that way. Even when our guys have messed up, we still inflict disproportionate casualties on the Taliban.

The difference is that the Taliban do not have their own media crowing for the enemy. They can lose hundreds of fighters in a single engagement, but our media will say that they are "resurgent." Our media will paint the story as doom and gloom for the coalition.

Our troops have to pick up the paper and read that the media have determined that they are losing the war every time one Soldier is killed. God help us when we have a bad day and ten are killed. The folks at home hear the same thing over and over. Eventually they start to believe it, even though the facts on the ground say otherwise. That is what the media wrought in Iraq.

The enemy are very much in tune with Western media and how the Western public reacts to that media. They plan their actions specifically for how it will play in the Western media. The Western media plays right into their schemes, gleefully providing them with the propoganda edge they need.

The Taliban and Al Qaeda leadership are not stupid. They know they can't win on the battlefield, but they have a pretty good idea that they have a chance to win on your television. All they have to do is stick around long enough for the folks back home to tell the politicians to "pack it in."

Friday, August 22, 2008

Opinions vs News Reporting

There is a difference between reporting news and stating an opinion. Western media has gotten very bad at confusing the two. In their effort to “sell” a story, they package news in such a way that it is no longer news, but an opinion using selective bits of news to push an agenda. My opinion is that the Western media, owned by leftist-minded individuals, is pushing an agenda that advances their socialist ideals and seeks at every opportunity to discredit Western institutions.

Part of how they do this is most apparent in their “reporting” of events in the war-zone. To illustrate this, I’ll dissect the reporting of Alastair Leithead of the BBC on events that occurred on 18 August in Afghanistan. Leithead's text appears in italics.

Alastair Leithead of the BBC filed the following report on 19 August 2008:

Taleban Grow More Brazen

Kabul's early morning silence was broken last night first by the crunch of rockets exploding in the city, then by the emergency sirens at NATO headquarters warning the officers and generals to head for the shelters.

The rocket lead-in to the significant events of the day is disingenuous for a couple of reasons. First, rocket attacks are nothing new, they’ve been going on since around 2004 and for the most part, they are ineffective. These rockets may have exploded within the city limits, but in reality, they impacted at the edge of the city.

Second, he makes it sound like only officers and generals go to shelters when there are incoming rounds. The poor schmuck soldiers get to stay out and take it based on his wording. This is complete rubbish. In addition it overlooks the fact that about 99% of the city had no idea that there had been an attack until they saw the news the next day. I slept through it.

It was a vivid and eerie soundtrack of how close the insurgency is to the capital.

The second rocket attack in Kabul in less than a week will further feed the paranoia of Afghans and also the international community.

The first sentence is bad enough, but then he follow with his “…vivid and eerie soundtrack…” line. Is Alastair Leithead writing a novel, or is he reporting events? His third sentence about feeding the “paranoia” of Afghans (and idiot reporters) is laughable on the basis of how unremarkable the rocket attack was in the first place.

But that paranoia may not be misplaced - while the sirens were warning of incoming fire, French forces were fighting for their lives just 50km (31 miles) away.

They had been ambushed on Monday afternoon as they patrolled through Sarobi district in Kabul province, and despite sending in reinforcements, medical teams and attack aircraft they lost 10 soldiers - another 21 were injured.

He finally gets to one of the two truly significant events of the day, the attack on the French. But even his lead-in is not accurate in the facts. The French were ambushed in the afternoon in a fight that lasted until after dark. The fight lasted about three hours. The rockets actually came in long after the battle in Sarobi district was over, but that would have ruined his “fighting for their lives” line. Yep, generally in a firefight you are fighting for your life -- nothing new here either.

Then he says that despite reinforcements, air support, etc. 10 died and 21 were wounded. Of course this totally ignores the fact the almost all the casualties occurred in the first few minutes of the three hour long fight. Almost all the casualties occurred in the first minutes of the fight before all the extra stuff arrived to help out. After the initial surprise, the French were able to beat back the ambushers.

Word-choice and arrangement of chronological details in a way that “shaped” his story completely altered what should have been a straight-forward report on events, into an opinion article or non-fiction short-story.

Leithead continues:

It is one of the largest losses of life in NATO’s Afghan campaign and a huge blow to a French deployment which is already unpopular at home.

The first clause shows just how low-intensity things have been here the last several years. When 10 fatalities are among the largest losses of life in a seven year war, that’s saying a lot about how little has been happening.

There are reports of 100 insurgents attacking the convoy, of troops being captured and then killed.

If one is going to report on military events, it would seem that one would learn what one is talking about. It was not a convoy, it was a patrol. There is a huge difference.

What happened in that valley could have a significant impact on the French mission, so much so that President Nicolas Sarkozy is flying straight to Kabul to settle nerves and offer support.

One should know terrain terms when reporting on military events. “What happened in that valley” it wasn’t a valley, it was a mountain pass. The two terrain features are not synonyms and military implications are different.

The French soldiers may appreciate President Sarkozy’s show of support, but they didn’t need his “settling nerves.” While French politicians and the French populace may be spineless, their soldiers are not. Sarkozy’s visit was really for home consumption, not for any specific benefit for the troops.

And it wasn't the only major operation launched by the Taleban in one night.

An ambush of a patrol in an area that has not been patrolled much, isn’t a “major operation,” it is an ambush of a patrol. Nor was the ambush launched in the night. It was occurred in the afternoon.

In Khost, south eastern Afghanistan, up to 30 militants tried to storm the main American base in the town, just hours after a suicide car bomber had struck at the front gate killing 10 civilians working at Camp Salerno.

Finally, some straightforward reporting except that he phrases it such that you’d think the bad guys were “in the wire,” that they got close. Actually, they were engaged 1,000m away and never got close. Thirty dudes attacking a large US Army base is hardly a major operation. Three of the suicide bombers were shot before they could detonate and three others blew themselves up while running away.

Among those insurgents were at least half a dozen suicide bombers, trying to break into the camp and kill as many NATO soldiers as possible.

The second clause of this sentence is so redundant as to be silly. Like there is any chance that you thought the suicide bombers simply wanted to shop at the base store?

The attack was repelled and, as in Sarobi, many of the Taleban were killed or injured, but there appear to be plenty of others ready to pick up their guns, or strap on explosives vests, and take on a much better equipped and more highly trained army.

The first clause is relatively accurate, but the rest is pure supposition on his part. What constitutes “plenty” in the case of finding nuts crazy enough to blow themselves up? I have to believe that there are a finite number of people willing to do this. The fact is, every time the Taliban try to take on the “better-equipped and more highly trained army,” they get their heads handed to them. We want them to try to fight us like this. We want them to offer an open fight where they mass hundreds of guys. We have the advantage and they will lose every time.

The tactics are becoming more advanced and more brazen - it is as if the insurgents are gathering momentum of the growing insecurity and instability.

What is so advanced about a frontal assault on a fortified position where you are outgunned and outmanned? Brazen? Stupid is more like it. Again, it helps when writing about military matters to actually know what one is talking about. What Leithead completely overlooks when he talks about momentum, insecurity and instability is what was happening on the other side of the border at the same time.

The Pakistani Army is in the middle of a major operation (a real major operation involving thousands of troops) that has been going on for some sixteen days pounding the Taliban. The Taliban are not brazen, sophisticated or gathering momentum. They are fighting for their lives and they have nowhere to run.

Leithead concludes with:

On Monday, which was Afghanistan's Independence Day, much of Kabul was sealed off by thousands of extra police drafted in when the Taleban announced they were planning a major attack.

Leithead implies a cause and effect relationship here. There isn’t one. It is perfectly normal and prudent to increase security measures in advance of major public events. Kabul is a major city spread out over a large area with a population of almost 4 million. It takes lots of security forces to cover it. Afghanistan is a war zone. It would be idiotic not to increase security regardless of any specific threats. Do you want to bet that there will be more police present at the Democratic and Republican conventions? Think we are doing it because of some specific threat?

Guess what? There weren’t any security problems in Kabul on Afghanistan’s Independence Day. The day was quite peaceful in Kabul with the exception of the terrifying rocket attack that most of us slept through and didn’t find out about until much later the next day.

Stories like the one written by Leithead are designed to demoralize readers in the West. By doing so they hope, especially in an election year for the US, to influence public policy. Opinions ought to be left on the Editorial page where few voters venture. Front page news should be a presentation of what happened without all the colorful and slanted story-telling.

Friday, August 15, 2008

We Are Not Losing In Afghanistan

In his July 30, 2008 New York Times Op-ed piece titled, “Drilling in Afghanistan,” Thomas Friedman makes an astounding statement. “The main reason we are losing in Afghanistan is not because there are too few American soldiers, but because there are not enough Afghans ready to fight and die for the kind of government we want.” Of course he offers no evidence or proof of either clause in this sentence. About the only thread of reality in the sentence is that it is not a lack of American troops that is the “problem” in Afghanistan.

The piece overall has a good deal of truth, but the defeatist tone is disturbing. We are not losing in Afghanistan. Then again, this is the same Thomas Friedman who declared that we were losing in Iraq and that the surge would not work. He’s since changed his position on Iraq, but like all good liberals who can’t rest unless finding fault with the United States, he’s redirected his defeatism to Afghanistan.

Of course most of the pundits making such sweeping declarations are: a). not on the ground observing first-hand, b). not military professionals with any insight into what constitutes winning or losing, c). relying on armchair “experts” who fall into either category "a" or "b" or both, d). simply left-leaning anti-US media in the first place who have no intention of telling the truth.

If you will recall, when the Afghan affair started, pundits like Friedman uttered such absurdities as “no one has ever conquered Afghanistan” and “the Brits and the Soviets met disaster there.” These “truisms” have been trotted again now that Afghanistan has reentered public awareness. But are these truisms true? Are they relevant for the current operations?

No one has ever conquered Afghanistan. Well, if you mean the country Afghanistan, then that may be true since Afghanistan has only existed as such since 1747. But long before that, Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan succeeded in conquering Afghanistan. In fact the real story of Afghanistan is not one of being immune to conquest, but of successive waves of conquest throughout its history. A large part of that is due to its strategic position astride major trade routes.

The people who have lived in this land have indeed been fighting for centuries, but the people who live here now are a blend of all those peoples who have held sway here at one time or another. For example, the Hazara are thought to be descended from the Mongols who conquered “Afghanistan” in 1219. Many Nuristani have European features like red or blond hair and green or blue eyes and a lighter complexion. Some say this is a legacy of Alexander’s conquest, but it may actually be far older. So it isn’t correct to say that “the Afghans” have always successfully repelled the invader.

The Brits and Soviets met disaster here. That may be true, but it is also irrelevant to the current situation. The British tried to conquer and rule Afghanistan in the 19th century, part of the “Great Game” between Russia and Britain. However, the qualitative differences between the British Army in the 19th century and the “Russian aided” Afghans were not that significant. One could even argue that the British generals were not as competent as the Afghan generals. The British were defeated in stand-up army-to-army battles. While Pashtun tribes also employed guerrilla tactics against the British, it was defeat in main battles that spelled doom for the British.

The Soviet experience looks like it might be relevant since it is only twenty years in the past, but this view is also misleading. Again, the Soviets intended to conquer and rule. Their political goals significantly affected how they fought and the methodologies they employed. Pundits like to say that the Afghans humbled a mighty “modern” army, but this is only partly accurate.

As hindsight has shown us, the Soviet war-machine was already in serious technological decline when they invaded Afghanistan, but it was not their decaying military apparatus that doomed the Soviet experience to failure. Nor did Stinger missiles, the indomitable spirit of the mujahedeen, foreign fighters, foreign money, and sanctuaries in Pakistan win the war for the Afghans. They all played key roles, but the ingredient that made the war unwinnable for the Soviets was brought into the country within their own army. The inflexible Soviet system, that same system that doomed them in economic competition with the West, doomed their efforts in Afghanistan.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 began just like their successful invasions of East Germany in 1953, Hungary in 1956, and Czechoslovakia in 1968. Everything went with surgical precision and minimal casualties. For all intents and purposes, to outside observers it was another display of irresistible Soviet might. Western powers feared that the Soviets would extend the push through southern Pakistan to the Gulf, thereby effectively threatening the flow of oil from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. But in less than three months, the war took on a different complexion and the Soviets started experiencing military defeat at the hands of the mujahedeen.

The Soviets came into Afghanistan with a strategy better suited to European combat and with an organizational structure and doctrine so rigid, it never fully adapted to the requirements of fighting a guerrilla war against a determined opponent in inhospitable terrain. Guerrilla warfare requires decentralized decision-making and freedom of action for units down to squad size. It requires a coherent national strategy that places proper emphasis on aspects of soft power to win the “heart and minds” of the people and an understanding of this need on the parts of the soldiers who must carry the fight to the enemy. The Soviets were incapable, by the very essence of their system, of carrying this off.

This was not intended to be a major discussion of how the Soviets failed, but an illustration of how the Soviet experience is irrelevant to the discussion of our experience in Afghanistan. Before moving on, however, some key numbers should be considered. Soviet strength varied between 90,000 and 104,000 troops each of the ten years they occupied Afghanistan. 642,000 Soviet soldiers served in Afghanistan. Approximately 15, 000 were killed or missing. Far more telling was that the Soviets suffered 469,685 wounded in action and non-battle casualties due to illness, or 73 percent of the total force. 415,932 were disease non-battle casualties of which 115,308 were infectious hepatitis and 31,080 were from typhoid. (Statistics from: The Bear Went Over the Mountain: Soviet Combat Tactics in Afghanistan, Lester W. Grau, Foreign Military Studies Office, Fort Leavenworth, KS 10th Edition, 2005)

In other words, the Soviets suffered almost as many typhoid casualties as the United States has troops in Afghanistan right now. These kinds of non-battle casualties are unheard of in modern armies and they speak volumes on the hygiene and conditions under which the average Soviet soldier lived while in Afghanistan. The Soviets averaged 1,500 killed and missing, 5375 wounded and 41,593 disease non-battle casualties per year. This means they averaged about 50 percent total casualties per year.

Fast-forward to August 2008 and the US and NATO campaign in Afghanistan. To date about 921 coalition troops have been killed in Afghanistan (includes battle and non-battle fatalities). US, British and Canadian forces are doing most of the fighting and have suffered most of these casualties. In seven years, we are averaging about 132 killed (battle and non-battle fatalities) per year. We have had about 7,900 wounded and non-battle casualties, which translates to 1129 wounded and non-battle casualties per year. The Soviets exceeded our seven-year total in their first year in Afghanistan. Note that these casualties include all the NATO/ISAF countries. This is a different fight.

Lest someone say that Afghan casualties are not included in these numbers, keep in mind that during the Soviet occupation, 1.5 million Afghans died (150,000 per year) and a further 5 million were refugees in Iran and Pakistan. To date, fewer than 30,000 Afghans have died in this war (including combatants from both sides and civilians or 4286 per year). Almost 70 percent of the Afghan civilian fatalities, which are less than 30 percent of the total Afghan fatalities, have been caused by Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Somehow pundits like Friedman look at Afghanistan today, draw a quick connection to other nations’ experiences here and claim that we are losing. But there is no connection except that the war is being fought in the same place and some of the players are the same. We are not losing Afghanistan. As the numbers show, our experience is nothing like the Soviet experience and any attempt to make that correlation is a real stretch by an order of magnitude.

Is the fight simple? Is there any way it can be finished quickly? The answer to both questions is, no. The fight is complex and involves a great deal of soft power applied in un-sexy ways that the media does not deem fit for the evening news. A suicide bomber is far sexier than a news story about providing alternatives to poppy production or a new school. The insurgency can and will be defeated, but it will take time. Let’s just hope the media doesn’t succeed in sabotaging this mission like they almost succeeded in sabotaging the operation in Iraq.

As stated in an earlier post, war is won in the will. The numbers do not matter as much as the will to keep fighting. The Western media is working overtime to break the West’s will to win this fight and to hand the enemy a cheap victory.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Jay Leno on President Bush (Surprising)

Jay Leno wrote this; it's the Jay Leno we don't often see....

As most of you know I am not a President Bush fan, nor have I ever been, but this is not about Bush, it is about us, as Americans, and it seems to hit the mark. The other day I was reading Newsweek magazine and came across some Poll data I found rather hard to believe. It must be true given the source, right?

The Newsweek poll alleges that 67 percent of Americans are unhappy with the direction the country is headed and 69 percent of the country is unhappy with the performance of the President. In essence 2/3 of the citizenry just ain't happy and want a change. So being the knuckle dragger I am, I started thinking, "What are we so unhappy about?''

A.. Is it that we have electricity and running water 24 hours a day, 7 Days a week?

B.. Is our unhappiness the result of having air conditioning in the summer and heating in the winter?

C.. Could it be that 95.4 percent of these unhappy folks have a job?

D. Maybe it is the ability to walk into a grocery store at any time and see more food in moments than Darfur has seen in the last year?

E.. Maybe it is the ability to drive our cars and trucks from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean without having to present identification papers as we move through each state?

F.. Or possibly the hundreds of clean and safe motels we would find along the way that can provide temporary shelter?

G.. I guess having thousands of restaurants with varying cuisine from around the world is just not good enough either.

H. Or could it be that when we wreck our car, emergency workers show up and provide services to help all and even send a helicopter to take you to the hospital.

I.. Perhaps you are one of the 70 percent of Americans who own a home.

J.. You may be upset with knowing that in the unfortunate case of a fire, a group of trained firefighters will appear in moments and use top notch equipment to extinguish the flames, thus saving you, your family, and your belongings.

K.. Or if, while at home watching one of your many flat screen TVs, a burglar or prowler intrudes, an officer equipped with a gun and a bullet-proof vest will come to defend you and your family against attack or loss.

L.. This all in the backdrop of a neighborhood free of bombs or militias raping and pillaging the residents. Neighborhoods where 90% of teenagers own cell phones and computers.

M.. How about the complete religious, social and political freedoms we enjoy that are the envy of everyone in the world?

Maybe that is what has 67% of you folks unhappy.

Fact is, we are the largest group of ungrateful, spoiled brats the world has ever seen. No wonder the world loves the U.S., yet has a great disdain for its citizens. They see us for what we are. The most blessed people in the world who do nothing but complain about what we don't have, and what we hate about the country instead of thanking the good Lord we live here.

I know, I know. What about the president who took us into war and has no plan to get us out? The president who has a measly 31 percent approval rating? Is this the same president who guided the nation in the dark days after 9/11? The president that cut taxes to bring an economy out of recession? Could this be the same guy who has been called every name in the book for succeeding in keeping all the spoiled ungrateful brats safe from terrorist attacks? The commander in chief of an all-volunteer army that is out there defending you and me?

Did you hear how bad the President is on the news or talk show? Did this news affect you so much, make you so unhappy you couldn't take a look around for yourself and see all the good things and be glad? Think about it......are you upset at the President because he actually caused you personal pain OR is it because the 'Media' told you he was failing to kiss your sorry ungrateful behind every day. Make no mistake about it.

The troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have volunteered to serve, and in many cases may have died for your freedom. There is currently no draft in this country. They didn't have to go. They are able to refuse to go and end up with either a ''general'' discharge, an 'other than honorable'' discharge or, worst case scenario, a ''dishonorable'' discharge after a few days in the brig.

So why then the flat-out discontentment in the minds of 69 percent of Americans?

Say what you want but I blame it on the media. If it bleeds it leads and they specialize in bad news. Everybody will watch a car crash with blood and guts. How many will watch kids selling lemonade at the corner? The media knows this and media outlets are for-profit corporations. They offer what sells, and when criticized, try to defend their actions by 'justifying' them in one way or another. Just ask why they tried to allow a murderer like OJ. Simpson to write a book about how he didn't kill his wife, but if he did he would have done it this way......Insane!

Turn off the TV, burn Newsweek, and use the New York Times for the bottom of your bird cage. Then start being grateful for all we have as country. There is exponentially more good than bad. We are among the most blessed people on Earth and should thank God several times a day, or at least be thankful and appreciative. With hurricanes, tornados, fires out of control, mud slides, flooding, severe thunderstorms tearing up the country from one end to another, and with the threat of bird flu and terrorist attacks, 'Are we sure this is a good time to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance?'

Jay Leno

I'm not fond of most entertainers. They tend to have views too liberal for my tastes and seldom display any real intellect or depth. I've just become an admirer of Jay Leno. If only...

But this is not really Jay Leno. Visit: http://www.snopes.com/politics/soapbox/hitnail.asp

Still, the sentiments are pretty good.