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Monthly Archives: March 2003

Check It Out

March 27th, 2003 - 1:06 am

Updated war map from StrategyPage.

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Unconditionally Wrong

March 27th, 2003 - 12:55 am

I respect Bill Safire, but I think he has this one dead wrong:

How should we counter Saddam’s strategy of using killers in civilian clothes to enforce resistance, and his tactic of horrifying television viewers in the U.S. by inviting and inflicting civilian deaths? How do we overcome the terrorized Iraqi population’s fear of an outcome in which Saddam again snatches survival and revival from the jaws of defeat?

The answer is to adopt the proposition set forth by Gen. U. S. Grant in our Civil War, and Roosevelt and Churchill in World War II: declaring irrevocably that the only acceptable end to hostilities is unconditional surrender.

In which case Safire mentions did the call for unconditional surrender bring the enemy public to our side? The Confederacy? No — some there still call the Civil War, “The War of Northern Aggression.” Calling for U.C. was the right goal, but publicly calling for it roused both sides to continued action.

Or perhaps he’s thinking of the duel popular uprisings in Germany and Japan that ended the war in 1943, weeks after FDR and Churchill called for the unconditional surrender of those two nations? Oh, wait — that’s the way things happened on Bizarro Earth.

In his book, The New Dealers’ War, historian Thomas Fleming makes a convincing case that by making an accomodation with Hitler’s generals impossible, the demand for unconditional surrender lengthened the war in Europe, not shortened it.

By all means, make unconditional surrender the goal in this campaign — it does more to keep the public focused and resilient than perhaps any other public statement. But don’t expect it to bring the Iraqi people to our side.

UPDATE: I hate to harp on the good people who read this site, but how many of you are reading what I wrote? “By all means, make unconditional surrender the goal in this campaign…” “Calling for U.C. was the right goal…” Where are some of you getting the idea I want a negotiated settlement?

U.C. is what we must have and will get. My point here, to state is as plainly as I can (again), is that calling for U.C. won’t “bring the Iraqi people to our side.”

I’ll try to be more clear next time, but I’m not sure how I possibly could have been more plain.

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March 27th, 2003 - 12:19 am

Ziad seems to be blogging from the sidelines — in Kuwait.

Check it out.

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March 27th, 2003 - 12:06 am

Reader Scott Helg reminds us of some of the finest words spoken by the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a man who spoke many of them:

Am I embarrassed to speak for less than perfect democracy? Not one bit. Find me a better one. Do I suppose there are societies which are free of sin? No, I don

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Our English Friends

March 27th, 2003 - 12:02 am

I posted a few words on this to The Command Post earlier, but it deserves greater attention as an object lesson in media bias and/or stupidity. (No need to pick just one.) Read this snippet from The Times (UK) Online:

More than 30,000 American reinforcements were ordered to the Gulf last night as fierce battles raged through southern Iraq and the Republican Guard went on the offensive.
A thousand paratroops were also dropped into northern Iraq, where they seized a key airfield in the first sign that America was opening up a northern front.

The deployments came as war planners were forced to change tactics and put the battle for Baghdad on hold; Pentagon chiefs conceded that they had underestimated the resistance they would face in other parts of the country.

The push towards the capital has been severely hampered by repeated attacks on armoured columns and supply convoys trying to bolster the American front line 50 miles south of Baghdad. These ambushes have fuelled criticism that the Pentagon went to war with too few troops.

This story doesn’t deserve a good, hard fisking, but it does warrant a little more attention than the typical newspaper reader is going to give it.

The claim that the Pentagon suddenly finds itself needing “30,000 more troops” is just plain silly. 4th Infantry Division was expected to be in the opening assault, moving in from Turkey. We know what happened — Ankara fiddled while our transport ships burned fuel going in circles. It will take another week to ten days to get 4ID in place in Kuwait or Umm Qasr, and that takes care of half the 30,000.

The other half the Pentagon didn’t know it needed until just now? Let’s see. Down at Ft. Hood, Texas, the men and women of the 1st Cavalry Division (basically an armored division with extra Apaches and transport choppers), got their “get ready to deploy” orders on March 2. Two days later, “Old Ironsides,” the 1st Armored Division, was told to get ready to move.

Those two divisions alone represent more than 30,000 troops. Add in 4ID, and you’re talking more than doubling our current land firepower. Odd, isn’t it, that the deployment orders went out to all three divisions, weeks before the “crisis.” With foreknowledge like that, it’s a wonder we didn’t take out Saddam on the first night.

I’m not saying the battle plan has gone without a hitch. Surely, the Times is right when it claims CENTCOM underestimated Iraqi resistance. Eisenhower’s observation that “no plan survives contact with the enemy” has become clich

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Caption Contest

March 26th, 2003 - 5:20 pm

James Joyner wants your caption to that Drudge Report picture of a duct taped Martin Sheen.

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Anyone Else Notice This?

March 26th, 2003 - 5:02 pm

The last few days, Norton is finding more and more virus-infected emails coming my way.

Is there some new nasty on the loose? Part of an Iraqi cyberwar campaign? Or am I just making lots of new friends?

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Department of Holy F*cking Shi’ite!

March 26th, 2003 - 3:46 pm

Caught this at The Command Post — the Second Marine Expeditionary Force may be staging in (and then out of) Jordan.

The Big Surprise in Gulf War I was VII Corps’ secret deployment to the western Saudi desert, well past Saddam’s trenches. That — and a lot of speed and fuel and guts — made possible the famous “left hook” which trapped most of the Iraqi Army in Kuwait.

Could this be the Big Surprise of Gulf War II? Stay tuned.

Also, I plan on wargaming this to see what effects it might have.

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In Passing

March 26th, 2003 - 3:42 pm

Former US Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan is dead. He was one of the great ones, folks.

Link to follow.

UPDATE: Here’s the story. Sad.

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Beginning of the End?

March 26th, 2003 - 3:33 pm

It looks like maybe Saddam wants to come out and play:

A huge column of elite Republican Guard units streamed out of Baghdad Wednesday evening heading toward U.S. forces massed near the southern Iraqi city of Najaf, CNN television reported.

“A major column including about 1,000 Iraqi mobile units that might include tanks, might include armored personnel carriers, trucks and other things are on their way down from Baghdad toward Najaf,” CNN said, quoting one of its reporters who is traveling with the U.S. 7th Cavalry.

CNN said the Republican Guard were moving under cover of a sandstorm which has buffeted Iraq for the past day. It said U.S. troops were preparing for a possible confrontation within hours.

This is the first strategic mistake we’ve seen Saddam make since this operation began. Let me explain.

To date, the Iraqis have played well with the few week cards they hold. With the exception of Saddam’s probably-canned TV appearances, their propaganda effort has been solid — aimed at the domestic audience, the “international community,” and frightened families here in the US. I won’t bother with the details, because you already know them and they disgust me. Leaving small bands behind the lines was also well-played, since they cause a rearward drag on our logistics, and on the Brits and Marines still mostly stuck in the south. And Saddam’s illegal methods of preventing desertions are probably almost as effective as they are brutal.

Saddam isn’t a guy I’d like to play poker with, even though my full house beats his pair of shit. After all, he’d shoot himself and me just as soon as he rans out of chips. But that could take a while, since he’s been betting small and slow, hoping we’ll decide to pass out before the game is over.

If today’s report is accurate, then Saddam is betting half his chips on one hand, when we still hold most of the aces.

Maybe he’s hoping the continuing sandstorm will nullify Coalition airpower enough to give his Republican Guards a fighting chance. Maybe he thinks that the 3rd Infantry Division is at the end of its logistical tether, and lacks the wherewithal for a set-piece battle. Or perhaps it’s just a bluff he hopes Tommy Franks won’t call.

He’s wrong on all three counts.

Is our airpower less effective in today’s nasty weather? You bet it is. But airpower didn’t win the war for us in ’91, and it won’t win the war now. Besides, the sand blinds his forces even more than it blinds ours (we have better goodies), and his air force is non-existent. Really then, the lack of visibility works in our favor, not his — although I wouldn’t try telling that to some poor 7th Cav tanker caught out in it.

Besides, artillery is the real killer in ground combat, and ours can strike from miles out and with chilling accuracy, even in bad weather.

The logistical problem is something else. 3ID has moved fast and far, and fought hard. They’ve shot off a lot of rounds, burned a lot of fuel, and spent a lot of sleepless nights. And they’re dozens and dozens of miles away from the nearest friendly port. Keeping them ready and supplied should be a concern, but don’t let it become a worry. The US Armed Forces are the world’s best when it comes to maintaining logistics — and continuing to fight even when supplies are low. Examples? Normandy. Bastogne. Chosen. VII Corps’ secret move west, in the two weeks before Desert Saber was launched.

Each example given is a case where American logistics performed the near-impossible, or where American soldiers acquitted themselves even without their usual, ample supplies. If Saddam thinks his Republican Guard can do better against 3ID than Hitler’s Wehrmacht could against the Battling Bastards of Bastogne, then I say — bring it on.

And “bring it on” must be exactly what Tommy Franks is hoping for. If Saddam thinks his bluff won’t be called, he’s dead (literally, eventually) wrong. Franks wants Saddam’s thugs to come out of the cities. Franks wants them, sandstorms or not, out in the open. It’s not only easier to kill them in the deserts than it is in the cities, but it’s safer for our troops, and for Iraqi civilians, too.

Come on out and play, Saddam. It may be your field, but it

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Final Fix & Last Chance

March 26th, 2003 - 2:50 pm

The repair guy for my broadband connection finally leaves, after replacing my rooftop transciever. Transciever? Yeah, I’ve used Sprint Fixed Wireless for over two years now.

Back in the Dark Ages (my dial-up access days), I swore to Whomever I would go with whoever brough me high speed first, so long as it wasn’t Those Bastards at US West (now known as Those Unprintables at Qwest). Cable modem speeds were good, but I was wary about going with Indicted. . . er, Adelphia Cable, just because, well, they’re a cable company. Anyway, Sprint got here first, so I signed up immediately.

The idea is great. Bypass the “last mile” to my home (owned by either TUQwest or Indicted Cable) by putting up an antenna farm on Cheyenne Mountain. Broadcast a wireless internet connection at 2.4ghz, a frequency almost entirely unaffected by weather. Put transcievers on peoples roofs, and a “modem” (really a tiny DHCP server) on their desktops. Instant broadband without the distance limitations of DSL, or the expensive upgrades the cable companies had to do on their infrastructure.

So I was a very happy surfer there for a few weeks. Until the Massively Recurring Packet Loss Problem first manifested itself. For reasons unknown, my connection gets worse and worse over time. Fifteen minutes with tech support usually does the trick, but sometimes they have to send over a real live technician to do whatever it is he does so frequently here. Then everything is fine again forever, or at least until the connection goes to hell every few weeks.

Last week my connection got spotty. By Monday, I was suffering packet loss of anywhere from 20-30%. So today they sent someone, and he got the problem down to 5%. For not quite four minutes by my watch.

Just after he left, I ran another ping to Sprint’s local server. 16% loss, and seek times I don’t want to talk about right now; it’s sad to see a grown man cry over his Coke.

I’m done. I’m finished. I’m on the outs with Sprint. I know all the by-the-book pros and cons between cable and DSL, but I’d like to hear from anyone in Colorado with real experience with Qwest or Adelphia.

Just click on the “Drinks” and let me know.

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Just Overheard

March 26th, 2003 - 10:45 am

Fox anchor: “The United Nations — remember them?”

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Battle Plan IV

March 26th, 2003 - 10:35 am

One reader asks, “Could you post a comparison between your wargaming scenarios and the actual progress of the war? (I’m just asking out of curiosity, not out of some desire to say ‘Ha Ha, you were WRONG!’”

Fair question, and a good one. I’ve been fiddling with this OpArt scenario, trying to get it to accurately model the Iraqi irregular forces who have been causing us grief in Basra, Nasiriya, and along our supply lines to 3ID south of Baghdad.

I’m not yet happy with the results, so I won’t yet post my updated version. But here’s how it breaks down in the game as opposed to reality.

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Follow Orders

March 26th, 2003 - 10:06 am

Juan Gato is back from his break. Go read him. Now. Git.

NOTE: Yeah, my internet connection is still iffy, but I’ve found if I write everything in Word, cut’n'paste over, and try posting it a time or six, I can get through. Pain in the ass? You bet. But at least I’ve found a way to blog without losing half of everything I write.

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Money Money Money

March 26th, 2003 - 9:55 am

Read Jane Galt to find out why I haven’t bothered writing anything about the war and the stock markets.

NOTE: The headline comes from an Econ 101 professor I had way back when at Mizzou. I pretty much stole my style from Professor Johnson, who liked to teach econ with lessons like “Why the Ticket Scalper Is Your Best Friend” and “Winston Cigarettes: the Unofficial Currency of Romania.”

Oh, and on the first day of class, the first words out of his mouth were “Money, money money. I LOVE IT!” Great teacher.

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Sore Loser Watch IV

March 26th, 2003 - 9:37 am

Yesterday, it finally happened. Eric Alterman is now in Full Spittle Spewing Mode, attacking everyone in the Defense Department, Colin Powell, the Budget Office, the White House, and praising Arthur Schlesinger when he says,

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Not Exactly Harper’s

March 26th, 2003 - 9:31 am

StrategyPage brings you the Top Ten Myths About the Iraq War. Here are two:

4-The United States armed Saddam. This one grew over time, but when Iraq was on it’s weapons spending spree from 1972 (when its oil revenue quadrupled) to 1990, the purchases were quite public and listed over $40 billion worth of arms sales. Russia was the largest supplier, with $25 billion. The US was the smallest, with $200,000. A similar myth, that the U.S. provided Iraq with chemical and biological weapons is equally off base. Iraq requested Anthrax samples from the US government, as do nations the world over, for the purpose of developing animal and human vaccines for local versions of Anthrax. Nerve gas doesn’t require technical help, it’s a variant of common insecticides. European nations sold Iraq the equipment to make poison gas.

5-The United States is doing it for oil, as in seizing Iraq’s oil and assuring cheap oil for the United States. When Gulf nations nationalized American oil companies operating in their territory over the last half century, the U.S. did nothing. Assuming that after the U.S. liberates Iraq it is going to turn around and steal all the oil is pure conspiracy theory, with no basis in fact or history whatsoever.

Memorize those; you’ll find them useful at cocktail parties. Now go read all ten.

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Please Excuse the Mess

March 26th, 2003 - 9:22 am

My internet connect is almost entirely gone now. The tech guy should be here soon, however.

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March 25th, 2003 - 10:56 pm

As I’m sure you’ve already noticed, blogging was light today. Sandstorms in the mideast, chores to be done here.

Catching up now. And from the look of it, so are the men and women of 3ID.

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A Pro Jumps In

March 25th, 2003 - 11:40 am

Jupiter Research has launched a blog looking at the effects of war on business. Investors, take note.

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War Briefing

March 25th, 2003 - 11:25 am

Joe Katzman continues to do invaluable work putting together a briefing of the day’s most important stories — along with context.

Check it out.

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Still Winning

March 25th, 2003 - 11:21 am

Jim Dunnigan on the war’s progress so far:

Speaking of mass media, there is an interesting gap developing between how the mass media sees the progress of the war and how the military (and anyone with a knowledge of military history sees it.) In five days, coalition forces have marched across the country to the outskirts of Baghdad with minimal resistance. At least two Iraqi divisions have melted away, several Republican Guard divisions have been chopped up from the air and all other Iraqi divisions have stayed away from coalition ground units. This is, by historical standards, a remarkable military operation. But in the mass media you get the impression that, because there has been some Iraqi resistance, the coalition effort has been a failure.


One reader asked me if the media’s misinterpretation of events was due to ignorance or malice. I’d have to guess mostly out of ignorance, and also because of two misconceptions which tend to feed off each other.

First, most journalists only experience with a big war was the ’91 Desert Storm/Desert Saber campaign. For reasons discussed elsewhere on this blog, there was just no way for this new war to be like the old war. But due to ignorance of military affairs, many journalists seemed to think that if we could beat them in 96 hours last time, surely we should have done it just as quickly this time.

The second problem is with the embedded journalists. Now, I’m all for this program. I think it’s a great idea, and one which will eventually lead to more-knoweldgeable reporters with less antipathy for warriors. But in their inexperience, every small exchange of gunfire or mortar rounds is a great battle, and each sign of resistence is a symptom of failure. That’s just not true, but try explaining it to someone with little training under fire for the first time.

It’s a catch-22 for the reporters and for the viewers back home. Only time and experience will sort things out. Meanwhile, a lot of us are getting whiplash over here.

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Map Reading

March 25th, 2003 - 10:47 am

Look at today’s war map from StrategyPage.

You’ll notice that since yesterday, the heliborne troops of the 101AB have moved far north of yesterday’s position, hopscotching in their helicopters from one base to the next. Why?

They could be moving to the north or east side of Baghdad, in order to help close the circle while 3ID moves in from the southwest.

Another possibility is they’re preparing to move into Tikrit, the home of Saddam’s tribe and his political power base. After pacifying that city, they could then move south towards Baghdad.

And, really, what’s the rush for Baghdad? 3ID won’t be in position for a while, what with sandstorms and two enemy divisions in the way. And it will take even longer for the 1MD or 1st (UK) Armoured Division to get there and help, since they’re still fighting around Basra and Nasiriya.

We have all kinds of options, and the Iraqis can’t do much to oppose any of them.

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Just Overheard

March 25th, 2003 - 10:17 am

Basra’s Shia-majority population, aided by British artillery, is in revolt against their governement.

Link when I find it.

UPDATE: The BBC has the story.

British troops are firing in support of what they believe is a civilian uprising in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, it is reported.
Artillery fire was being used to knock out loyalist Iraqi mortar positions which were attacking civilians, ITV news reported, quoting intelligence officers with the Scots Dragoon Guards.

The size of the insurrection is currently unknown, said ITV reporter Richard Gaisford. Loud explosions have been heard coming from the city.

There has been confusion over whether many civilians in Basra and the Shia south welcome the arrival of coalition forces, but still fear pro-Saddam troops and agents.

It appears that at least some of Basra’s people now believe we’ve come to finish the job we started in 1991, after twelve years of broken promises. They’re right. And they’re to be commended for taking less than a week to dispell a dozen years of disappointment, oppression, and death.

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March 25th, 2003 - 12:00 am

There’s a war to link to and opine on (and on and on) about, but my broadband connection is suffering anywhere from 20-30% packet loss.

If you don’t know what that means, it means lots of posts that fail to post, lots of pages you have to reload several times to get them loaded up the first time, emails that never quite seem to make it out, and what may be the beginnings of my very first ulcer.

The tech guy will be here Wednesday, hopefully to replace the faulty equipment with something more reliable, perhaps a modem made by narcoleptic alcoholics in a work-release prison program. In the meantime, I’ll keep blogging, but be understanding if I’m snippier than usual.

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Required Linking

March 24th, 2003 - 5:25 pm

There’s new Mark Steyn. I just thought you’d want to know.

Here’s a choice bit to entice you into reading the whole thing:

We don’t know for sure who was inside and who got out. But an awful lot of Baghdad’s A-list crazies seem to have cut back on their personal appearances since, oh, Thursday a.m. It could be that the marked lack of command-and-control coming from the Iraqi capital is due to technical problems. But, on the other hand, look at the depraved video al-Jazeera was airing all weekend of Iraqi captors flaunting their American prisoners — some alive, some dead and bearing marks of execution rather than war wounds. Saddam’s hardcore thugs were able to round up their POWs, get out the camcorder, murder them, defile their corpses and get the footage from a relatively remote part of the country to the studio while the blood was still warm on the dungeon floor. As with the Daniel Pearl execution tape vis-

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March 24th, 2003 - 4:27 pm

Another day, another mystery package from Amazon.

This time is was “The New Thought Police: Inside The Left’s Assault on Free Speech and Free Minds.” And it was a gift from reader Josh Silva, who I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting before. I don’t think we’d ever even exchanged emails.

Josh wrote some overly-kind words to me in the card, and I’d just like to take this chance to thank the hell out of him.

Thanks, Josh.

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Blogging Orgy

March 24th, 2003 - 4:10 pm

You’ll find my links and quips on breaking news over at The Command Post.

Comments you post there will still be forwarded to me here, so don’t be shy. Besides, with umpteen bloggers covering this thing, you’ll get the news fast there than almost anywhere else.

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The Dog That Didn’t Bark

March 24th, 2003 - 3:58 pm

We’ve talked before here about how important training is to achieving and maintaining the high quality of our troops.

Some of the best training for our armored, mechanized, and armored cav guys happens at the fabled National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California. For two weeks every few years, a battalion or brigade rotates through for the best training anywhere on the planet. They fight outnumbered against OpFor forces, picked from the very best the Army has to offer. Everything they do is tracked, and in the after action briefings, everyone can see what they did right, and what they did wrong.

And most of them “lose” their engagements, teaching them things there they’ll hopefully never have to learn on the battlefield.

But there’s one thing the officers can’t get real-world experience doing: Moving entire divsions. For all its size, Fort Irwin is still only large enough to allow a brigade (that’s 3,000-5,000 soldiers) to manuever. Mech and armor divisions have 15,000-plus men and women, and often have extra support units attached.

Now, imagine having to move 20,000 soldiers, up to 100 miles a day, through unfamiliar roads and terrain, carrying with them everything they need to eat, drink, sleep on, shoot with, and shoot. And that’s just when no one is shooting at them. Then try to keep in mind that the two-star commanding the division has no way to have any practical experience in getting it done.

Can you say traffic jam? Can you say mass confusion? It’s a wonder even a bridade can get from point A to point B without Los Angeles freeway-type snarls, accidents, and traffic deaths.

Since late last week, 3ID has moved from Kuwait to within 50 miles of Baghdad. And they haven’t been able to progress in a straight line, either. They’re bypassing urban areas, which means they have fewer roads to roll on and fewer direct routes to use.

There have been slowdowns. There have been traffic jams. There have been accidents. Yet 3ID has still progressed faster than almost any army in history.

Be proud of the men for keeping the confusion to a minimum. Be thankful that the officers were able to put their book smarts to good use in an ugly situation. They’ve all earned our respect, and a whole lot more.

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Useful Tools

March 24th, 2003 - 3:07 pm

Joe Katzman rounds up excellent information sources on the Iraq campaign, including quite a few I didn’t know about. Check it out.

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