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Monthly Archives: April 2008

General Kelly, USMC

April 14th, 2008 - 11:12 am

This speech was given last September to the San Diego Military Advisory Council at breakfast, by Major General John Kelly (USMC). He’s now the Commander, Multinational Force-West, in Iraq. At the time, he was the deputy to Lt. General James Mattis, a legend among our warrior class, and a great phrasemaker. General Kelly turns out to be every bit as eloquent as his boss, for whom he was substituting that morning in San Diego.

I read it every now and then, good for the spirit.

…we are winning, we are really winning. No one told me to say that, I saw it for myself. The higher command in Baghdad told us four years ago when we first took responsibility for the Al Anbar not to worry about victory, as no one–military or civilian–thought it possible. That thirty years from now when the rest of Iraq was a functioning democracy, Al Anbar would still be a festering cancer within.

…by relentless pursuit by a bunch of 19 years olds with guns who never flinched or gave an inch, while at the same time holding out the carrot of economic development (the sheikhs in Anbar) have seen the light and know AQ can’t win against such men. By staying in the fight, and remaining true to our word, and our honor, AQ today can’t spend more than a few hours in…al Anbar…without being IDed by the locals and killed by the increasingly competent Iraqi Army, or by Marines. That’s the way it is today in this war, but it is also the way it has been since the birth of our nation…

…a few years ago…we were just south of Iraq along the Iraqi-Kuwait border, and poised to launch an attack that would take us over the next three weeks 650 miles into the guts of Iraq, far beyond Baghdad and indeed to Saddam’s hometown palace in Tikrit. When the artillery fires commenced just as the sun went down, and the evening sky above us was one endless formation of Marine, Navy and Air Force fighter aircraft speeding north to smash targets deep in Saddam’s vitals, I was sitting taking it all in with my driver Cpl Dave Hardin from Dallas, and with a reporter from the Los Angeles Times. The reporter asked me a question that I’d never considered in my entire 36 years in the Marine Corps as both enlisted man and officer before the asking, but one I took up in my mind when he did. He pointed out the size and capability of the Iraqi forces in front of us that was many, many times bigger than we were in men, tanks, and artillery. He emphasized much to my discomfort the massive supplies of chemical weapons Saddam was thought to have, and the multiple means he had to rain their terrible kind of death upon us. He asked if I’d ever contemplated defeat. If it was even possible? My thoughts immediately took me back to trips I’d made to Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, Inchon Korea, and Vietnam, and the conversations I’d had with veterans of those battles, mostly old men now. They tell of friends who made it, and many who didn’t. About the good times, and the bad, but mostly about the good as is typical of our veterans. My response to the reporter was something like: “hell these are Marines. Men like them held Guadalcanal and took Iwo Jima, Baghdad ain’t shit.”

That last line is on a bogus Marine poster that runs around the net every now and then, along with another one that shows half a dozen really mean looking Marines, and a quotation from General Mattis to Iraqi sheikhs, which I can paraphrase: “I come in peace. I did not bring artillery. But I say to you, with tears in my eyes: If you (mess) with me, we’ll kill you all.”

That Kelly could see clearly last September that we were winning in Anbar is significant, it seems to me. He recognized the great, oft ignored fact of this war: that once the Iraqis realized that the Americans couldn’t be beaten, and weren’t going to leave, the whole balance of power shifted. I’ve said that before, but it can’t be repeated often enough. And as the balance of power shifts in Iraq, there is a ripple effect throughout the whole region.

Just ask Khamenei, who is scrambling to buy time, regroup, and find some way to end the humiliation of his failing jihad.

Exciting times indeed.

Great New Book by Andy McCarthy

April 13th, 2008 - 11:56 am

Andy McCarthy’s wonderful book, Willful Blindness, comes out (officially) tomorrow, but you can order it from Amazon right now. You should. Because, while lots of us have analyzed the intellectual, political, bureaucratic and operational failures of the American Government in our ongoing war against Islamic terrorists and their lefty and righty pals, Andy’s story is a rarity. It’s a first-hand account from a trench warrior, going hand to hand against the Blind Sheikh who guided the first assault against the World Trade Center back in the last century. Then, rooted in his detailed knowledge of jihad within the United States, he takes the story forward to today, and tells us what we should be doing. But aren’t.

Even someone as obsessively immersed in this story as I, did not know the half of it, and Andy tells it beautifully. He has the most important gift of a fine writer: you hear his voice as you read the words, and it’s a feisty, entertaining, patriotic and tough-minded voice. He’s not interested in scoring political points, or in making himself out to have been smarter than those around him (in fact he often praises his colleagues and laughs at himself). He just wants to win. And while he won his battle, he’s worried about the outcome of the broader war, about which he’s got a lot of important things to say. The phrase “must read” is thrown around far too often these days, but it should be stamped in big red letters on the cover of Willful Blindness.

The NY Times Reads the Iran/Iraq Tea Leaves

April 12th, 2008 - 4:38 pm

Today, the New York Times treats us to Helen Cooper’s analysis of Iran’s activities inside Iraq, and decides that Bush is getting tough on Iran, and trying to convince a reluctant Iraqi Government that Iran is really really doing some bad things.

First, the claim that this is something new:

WASHINGTON — Iran is engaging in a proxy war with the United States in Iraq, adopting tactics similar to those it has used to back fighters in Lebanon, the United States ambassador to Iraq said Friday.

The remarks by the ambassador, Ryan C. Crocker, reflected the sharper criticism of Iran by President Bush and his top deputies over the past week, as administration officials have sought to trace many of their troubles in Iraq to Iran.

But the “sharper criticism” is not new at all. Indeed, it is precisely what Ambassador Crocker, General Petraeus and other spokesmen on the ground in Iraq have been saying for the past several months. And as for that little dig about “”many of (the Americans’) troubles in Iraq,” well, that’s the party line, even after a couple of weeks during which the Iranians and their proxies in Iraq have been so humiliated that they were forced to sue for peace, beg for permission to keep their weapons, and renew their phony calls for negotiations with the Great Satan.

Crocker pointed out that the Quds Force–which Cooper slightly misidentifies as “the paramilitary branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps” (it’s the IRGC’s foreign army, as distinct from the domestic forces that are used for political repression and as an alternate army to the unreliable regular forces) “was continuing to direct attacks by Shiite militias against American and Iraqi targets, although he offered no direct evidence.”

I guess the Times’ crack analysts can’t be bothered to report the direct evidence provided by Petraeus, when he told the world that the rockets recently launched on the Green Zone in Baghdad were of Iranian manufacture, that the groups who used them were trained by Iranians, and sometimes in Iran itself. And in his testimony Petraeus noted that this evidence came both from the weapons used and from captured Iranian military officials in our hands.

Then comes the deep thinking. “The Bush administration,” Cooper tells us, “is trying to exploit any crack it can find between the largely Shiite, pro-Iranian government of the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, and Iran’s Shiite government.” And she quotes Secretary of Defense Gates: “I would say one of the salutary effects of what Prime Minister Maliki did in Basra is that I think the Iraqi government now has a clearer view of the malign impact of Iran’s activities inside Iraq.”

I wonder where Gates hears this nonsense, and why Cooper gives him a pass on it. To call the Iraqi Government “pro-Iranian” is like saying that the guys running the numbers racket for the Corleone family is “pro-Mafia.” They don’t have much of a choice, until and unless they come to believe that there’s a bigger guy in town who will give them better protection; meanwhile they’re gonna go on paying protection to the Don.

The issue for Iraqis, at all levels of the society, is not whether the mullahs are killing them. They know that, and they have known it all along. The Iranian creation, Iraq Hezbollah, goes back at least ten years. I recently spoke with an Iranian defector, now living in Europe, who worked in the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad, and he told me how Iran smuggled supplies, money and materiel to the local Hezbollah even before 9/11. At that time its activities were aimed against Saddam. When we came, the Coalition became its target, along with the usual innocents of the streets and markets of Iraq. The same defector recounted Iranian support for Sunni terrorists as well, from al Qaeda to less famous groups.

Iraqi ministers have been talking about Iranian terrorism for years. When I was at a closed meeting of leading Iraqis in Copenhagen two months ago, I heard many stories, complaints and warnings about Iran’s murderous activities. It is laughable to write, as Ms. Cooper does, “administration officials are trying to convince the Iraqi government that Iran may not be the ally it thought, and is behind attacks against Iraqi government forces.” If anything, it’s the other way round; the Iraqis have long known it, have never considered Iran an ally, but never saw signs that the United States was prepared to take on Iran. And doesn’t everyone agree that the fighting in Basra was initiated by the Iraqis, and the Americans were not enthusiastic about it?

The issue is not “sensitizing” the Iraqi leaders to Iranian crimes. The issue is–was, rather–getting to the point where the Iraqis feel confident enough to go after the Iranians and their proxies.

That is the big change: Iraq is defeating Iran. Iran’s proxies have been defeated in most of Iraq. The remaining areas–primarily the zones in and around Mosul, and in and around Basra–are under siege from Iraqi and Coalition forces, including, at long last, the Brits (who were supposed to have pacified Basra long since). And the Iranians are losing, bigtime. A couple of weeks ago I wrote here that the Iranians were increasingly desperate, and that it looked like Khamenei was going to try a desperate throw of the dice. He did. And lost, losing to mostly Iraqi forces.

It’s not amazing that the Times should misanalyze this story. Its editors and some of its journalists want us to lose in Iraq, and the very idea that a free Iraqi army is defeating proxy forces from tyrannical Iran, is too tough for them to digest.

I think it’s delicious.

UPDATE: Compare with the far better discussion by the WaPo’s Karen DeYoung here.

UPDATE 2: And Sunday’s WaPo follows through with quite a good editorial here.

Why Do They Love Us?

April 11th, 2008 - 1:33 pm

We’re at the 5th anniversary of the Iraq war, and still it is very hard for most people to get anything approaching an accurate picture of life in Iraq. It’s understandable enough; that picture would be a mosaic, you’d have to get a lot of little shards and pieces to fit together somehow, always running the risk that you’d mistaken a piece for the whole. If you talk to returning vets, they will invariably tell you that they can’t talk about Iraq as a whole, only about what they saw and what they did. If you hear a soldier much below the rank of lt. col. talking as if he had a big picture, just ignore it. He’s faking.

With that in mind, here are some very moving excerpts from a communication from and Australian soldier in Baghdad to his dad back home. It shows that our military guys are appreciated–loved, even–by at least some of their peers. There’s so much snarling out there, I thought you’d appreciate this bit of moral uplift, which I think accurately describes most of our guys in uniform:

Before I came over here I thought we (the Australian Army) were pretty…hot….. was I ever wrong!….The Yanks (I hope you don’t mind me using that word) are so professional from the top to the bottom that it is almost embarrassing to be in their company, and to call yourself a soldier….don’t get me wrong, we are good at what we do but the Yanks are so much better…..they are complete at what they do, how they do it and their attitude is awesome….they don’t complain they just get on with the job and they do it right…..I carry a Minimi (SAW) so I am not real worried about a confrontation but I tell you I feel safer just knowing that the US Army is close by….If we got into trouble I know that our boys would come running and we could deal with it but they would probably be passed by a load of Hummers. No questions asked, no glory sought, the Americans would just fight with us and for us because that is their nature, to protect those in need of protection…..We use the American Mess so you could say that we are fed by the Americans…..they have every right to be pissed at that but they don’t bitch about that they just make us feel as welcome as possible….what gets to me is that the Yanks don’t walk around with a “we are better than you attitude” and they could because they are, they treat us as equals and as brothers in arms. If nothing else, coming here has taught me that the Americans are a truly great Nation and a truly great bunch of people…..Let’s face it they don’t HAVE to be here, they could stay in America and beat the shit out of anyone who threatened them, BUT THEY ARE HERE because they believe they should be here, and the Iraqis would be screwed if they weren’t here…..When I come home, you and I we are going to the US, we will buy some bikes and we are going riding….

The Continuing Iran-American War

April 5th, 2008 - 1:32 pm

Those many pundits and politicians who have insisted on talking about “civil war” in Iraq imagined a sectarian clash, Sunni against Shi’ite, not the recent sort of conflict of radical Shi’ite militias against government troops and police. Meanwhile, on the other side of the sectarian divide, Sunni tribesmen banded together to defeat Sunni terrorists from al Qaeda in Anbar Province, again a seemingly counter-intuitive event. Sunnis and Shi’ites are fighting enemies of their own sects, not one another. What is one to make of it?

A big clue to understanding this apparent mystery came a couple of weeks ago, when rockets were lobbed into the “Green Zone” in Baghdad, where many diplomats, intelligence officers and military leaders (including ours) live and work, along with key Iraqi Government personnel. General Petraeus quickly and explicitly blamed Iran for the attacks. “The rockets that were launched at the Green Zone… were Iranian-provided, Iranian-made rockets…All of this in complete violation of promises made by President Ahmadinejad and the other most senior Iranian leaders to their Iraqi counterparts.”

Similar remarks about the nefarious Iranian role in Iraq came from Petraeus’ former deputy, General Raymond Odierno, just two weeks ago in Washington. He wryly observed that Iranian President Ahmadinejad felt secure in Baghdad because the attacks there were under Iranian guidance and control.

The Shi’ite militias and al Qaeda in are also closely tied to Iran. Many of the news reports wrongly suggest that the Shi’ite insurgents are under the leadership of Moqtadah al Sadr, the son of a murdered leading cleric and for several years the chieftain of the private Mahdi Army, named after the Shi’ite Messiah. He and his troops were famously armed, paid and trained by Iran, and were as feared as al Qaeda, whose late leader, Abu Musab Zarqawi, long operated out of Tehran and worked closely with Hezbollah’s late chief terrorist, Imad Mughniyah.

All this attention to Moqtadah is at odds with his actual behavior: he long since abandoned the battlefield. Missing from Iraq for many months, he recently resurfaced with the surprising announcement that he had gone to Iran to devote himself to religious. The Iranians had fired him, and they restructured the Mahdi Army into smaller, more autonomous groups. The recent violence came from the new units, headed by Iranian officers, agents, and recruits who, Tehran hoped, are not well known to Coalition and Iraqi military intelligence.

Iran, then, is the common denominator of recent events in Iraq: the mullahs organized the rocket attacks in Baghdad, they have supported al Qaeda in Iraq from the beginning, and they have a major role in the activities of the Shi’ite militias. It is going to be very difficult, indeed virtually impossible, to achieve durable security in Iraq without forcing an end to Iran’s many murderous activities there. That is the bottom line of the events of the past two weeks, and it is very good news that the Iranians were soundly defeated in several cities, from Basra to Baghdad. It is also good news to see that, once it was clear that their proxies were being decimated, they quickly cut and ran. That was evident from Moqtadah’s constant flip-flops in his propaganda on behalf of the mullahs. One day, he was proclaiming an extention of the cease-fire. A few days later, he was calling for armed “resistance.” Barely twenty-four hours afterwards, he was suing for peace. It was also evident from the Iranian regime’s urgent talks with the Iraqi government; Khamenei wanted to pose as a peacemaker, in his usual mafia method of first attacking, then offering security.

The current “peace agreement” is worthless; it will last only until the next time the mullahs feel strong enough to launch another assault. General Petraeus knows that, and he dramatically underlined his conviction that the mullahs will violate any agreement that would prevent new terrorist attacks. He is surely right; the survival of the Tehran regime is threatened by progress in Iraq towards greater tranquility and government accountability to its electorate. The mullahs know that the Iranian people want a free choice, and, if permitted to make that choice, would throw out the current regime in favor of a more tolerant government that would end its support for terrorism throughout the region. No offers from Secretary of State Rice, and no negotiations from this or any future president, can change those realities, and the mullahs are unlikely to honor any agreement that would constitute an admission of defeat in Iraq and threaten their hegemony in Iran.

I think General Petraeus is trying to force the Bush Administration to recognize these hard facts and act accordingly. He is saying that we cannot accomplish our objectives in Iraq without challenging the regime in Tehran. This does not necessarily entail an expansion of the war. I know of no high-ranking military officer or civilian official who favors a military assault on Iran (or on its strategic ally, Syria), and there are many things we can do to make the mullahs and their friends pay a steep price for attacking our people in Iraq and in Afghanistan as well. These range from operations against the terrorist training facilities and assembly plants for rockets and mines in Iran and Syria (acts of legitimate self defense) to active support for the broad-based Iranian democratic movement, which is supported by a big majority of the citizens.

This administration has said many things critical of Iran, but it has never said it wants, and will support, peaceful democratic change. It would be welcome, above all to the Iranian people, if the president and the secretary of state now recognized that the facts on the ground have proven that the Islamic Republic has continued its nearly thirty-year war against us. We should defend ourselves by depriving the terrorists in Iraq of safe havens in Iran and Syria, and we should challenge the mullahs just as we successfully challenged the Soviet commissars: by supporting their own restive people. Playing defense along the borders and inside Iraq, as the excellent Kim Kagan proposes in the Wall Street Journal isn’t good enough; it leaves initiative in the hands of the Iranians, it will cost American and Iraqi lives, and it only prolongs the inevitable. We have to go after the Tehran regime, now more vulnerable than ever, at the same time it draws ever closer to having its atomic weapons.

But there is still no sign that any government in the West is inclined to support the Iranian people. Do they not also see that failure to embrace Iranian dissidents will surely lead to a larger military conflict? They know “diplomacy” has failed. They see that China and Russia will not permit tough sanctions, which in any event would be unlikely to stop either the terror war against us or the atomic project. Can anyone doubt that a nuclear Iran would be even more aggressive? That would leave us to choose, in Sarkozy’s words, between two dreadful alternatives: either accept Iran-with-the-bomb or attack Iran.

Those who argue against support of revolution in Iran think they are favoring peace, but it’s just the opposite. They are making the next chapter of Iran’s thirty years’ war against us, more likely. That chapter will be more violent than anything that has gone before. It may still be avoidable.

Faster, Please.

UPDATE: Just in case you wanted more proof that recent events have to be seen in the context of Iranian strategy, here’s the latest from al-AP, in which the Iranians “take credit” for their humiliating defeat by appealing to “Shi’ite Unity.” Heh. This from the regime that has slaughtered more Shi’ites than anyone this side of Saddam Hussein…

Here’s the bulletin:

Officials Confirm Iran’s Role in Truce

By ALI AKBAR DAREINI

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Officials in Iran confirmed for the first time Saturday that the country played an important role in brokering a recent truce between the Iraqi government and anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Iran’s Shiite government helped end the clashes between Iraqi government troops and al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia for the sake of Shiite unity, said a senior Iranian official who deals with Iraq.

“It is in Iran’s best interests to see unity among Shiite factions,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

UPDATE II: Welcome Powerliners, and thanks to Scott for sending you this way. He advances the argument, gives Jack Kelly credit for a great line about who sues for peace and why, and notes that the Washington Post, trying to keep its record as close to perfect as possible…gets it wrong once again by only telling half the story.

The Death of Zimbabwe II

April 3rd, 2008 - 4:47 pm

Well, it looked promising there for a day or two, but reality (like most African leaders, Mugabe thinks he’s President For Life) is setting in. He has no intention of leaving power. Last news I say online said that the hotel with most foreign correspondents had been surrounded by “security forces.” Here’s an update from Ground Zero, as usual anonymous for obvious reasons:

Last night, optimism boiled over, at least for a moment. When my friend D
walked into a home where a group of us had gathered to say farewell to an
84-year-old woman about to decamp to South Africa, he high-fived everyone in
the room.

“The New Zimbabwe!” he proclaimed, unable to stop smiling.

Over dinner, his 15-year-old son offered him a bribe if he’d only give up
his last roast potato. “Not in the New Zimbabwe!” he declared. “We are now
living in a free and fair democracy without corruption.”

The table buzzed with excitement, with anticipation, with sheer relief.

I wanted to join in, to share that moment of joy with friends who have lived
through the murders of old classmates, the destruction of their businesses,
the death of their communities, the shattering of the only world they¹d ever
known.

But I couldn’t; I’ve gained too much respect for the stamina and will of Robert Mugabe & Co.

Driving home, I worried that I’d become infected with the peculiarly
Zimbabwean malady, the belief in the invincibility of Robert Mugabe. After
all, his ZANU-PF party had lost control over the House of Assembly for the
first time in 27 years. Every Western newspaper on the planet seemed poised
to write the story of the passing of the Old Man from power. They were so
confident that foreign reporters were crowding into Harare with little
regard for the fact that they were breaking the law.

I tried to buck up my spirits, but I couldn¹t quell the gnawing feeling in
my stomach that the opposition’s victory in the House elections would serve
to legitimize the entire process, providing the government with cover for
theft of the senatorial and presidential elections.

This morning, the gnawing turned to dread when the electoral commission,
which had promised to begin announcing the results of the senatorial
election, failed to appear on television, even to explain the delay.
Throughout the day, it became increasingly clear that Mugabe wasn¹t looking
for an honorable way to leave office or negotiating with the opposition. He
was preparing to win a run-off election for the presidency although the
results have yet to be announced.

Just after dinner, the head of the election observation team from the
African Union appeared on television as he departed for Ethiopia. Without
even waiting for the results, he congratulated Zimbabweans on the high
quality and professionalism of their election. Zimbabwe leads the world, he
said. Not even the United States dares hold a complex election for so many
offices at once.

Shortly thereafter, police raided the campaign headquarters of the MDC, the
leading opposition party, at the fanciest hotel in Harare. Simultaneously,
security forces stormed into a hotel filled with foreign journalists, whose
presence here violates the law because they are operating without licenses,
and took several of them away.

I am not gloating at my prescience. I’m weeping with the rest of Zimbabwe.

UPDATE: NY Times star reporter arrested.