Monday, July 11, 2005

"Live from Iraq"

If you're tired of the same old "bomb of the day" reporting from the mainstream media, and want something different, this post's for you.
From July 8th through July 16th, 10 radio talk show hosts, two filmmakers, and two journalists are traveling to CENTCOM HQ in Tampa, FL, Kuwait, and Baghdad to report directly to you what is actually going on. The good news exponentially outweighs what CNN, the New York Times, or the Washington Post would have us (you) believe. Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines will be asked to discuss their honor and commitment to our war on terror. You will hear them live from the front lines. They are the heroes next door. They are not Stalin's Soviets, Hitler's Nazi's or Pol Pot's murderers. They are proud and honored men and women from Everywhere, USA.
It's called the "Voices of Soldiers" tour, and the radio talks show hosts are going to interview soldiers, attend briefings, even accompany our brave troops as they patrol Baghdad and it's environs. The trip was jointly sponsored by Move America Forward and

You may be lucky enough to live in an area where one of their shows is broadcast. Check the website for a complete listing. I am fortunate enough to be able to listen to one of them, Michael Graham, on the radio each day. My job is such that I can listen to the radio at my desk while I work, and as you may guess my selection of choices is right-wing talk show A or right-wing talk show B (actually I'd listen to some music but the FM stations I like don't penetrate the walls of the building and I'm not really into buying CDs. But I digress).

Here is Friday's report by Michael Graham as posted on his website:
An absolutely amazing briefing this morning with, among others, Brigadier General John Custer, Director of Intelligence for Centcom. I feel more confident than ever about our approach to the War on Terror because (despite having the worst possible last name for any American general), Custer & Co. really get it. He repeatedly used the "I" word, and I don't mean "insurgent." He openly talked about the role Islam plays in inspiring the terrorists, particularly the obscure, extreme version of Islam practiced by Osama.

He also gave a very honest assessment of the Iraqi soldiers and police (their training has just begun); the enemy (mostly Sunni insurgents, not foreign fighters); and where we are (ahead of where we should be given the size of the job, but lots of work left to do.)

The other confidence-building moment was listening to the CentCom team talking about future problems we're likely to face in Yemen and the horn of Africa (Sudan, Ethiopia, etc). There is a demographic surge of 20-something-year-old men on its way in these countries, part of a population time bomb that will explode in the next 20 years--just about the time that Yemen will run out of oil and water. It's gonna get ugly, folks.

But we have a magnificent military that is much smarter than I would ever have believed, and they are looking ahead at the problems. That's very good news.

Some of Graham's show today, however, consisted of live interviews with various soldiers. It was all quite interesting. Another thing he mentioned that struck me was that he said that he had spoken with Polish and Latvian troops. He said that they were totally behind our efforts, and saw themselves too as being part of the global War on Terror. It was quite inspiring. So much for the propaganda that we're in it alone.

To get the whole thing you have to listen to their talk shows. But it's worth taking a look at their blogs, as they're posting plenty of information there too.

The Liberal Media Reacts

So how have the liberals in the press reacted? Predictably, that's how.

Let's just observe a sampling of their reaction:

"This is the most pathetic thing I've heard in a long time. They should be ashamed of themselves," Peter Beinart, editor of left-leaning The New Republic magazine, said.

"They have no idea what journalism is, and to pretend they are journalists is laughable," Beinart said. "You do not achieve victory by not facing reality. I think these are the kinds of people that will lead us to lose there."

"I think they are going to discover very quickly that Iraq is an extremely dangerous place," Joe Conason, editor for American Prospect magazine and author of "Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth," said. "The realities of the war zone are likely to intrude on whatever ideological disposition they have going in there."

one of them even pulled out the "Arstrong Williams" canard:

Steve Rendall, senior analyst for Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting and author of "The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error," said with an attitude like that, the trip will probably be useless in terms of real news-making.

Rendall noted it "bears comparison to the Armstrong Williams and the other instances" of government payment for good news, referring to conservative talk show host Williams, who was paid by the Department of Education to pump up school choice on his radio show in 2004.

(Just for the record, the talk-show hosts are paying their own way)

But we know the drill: "How dare these, these radio talk show hosts attempt to report on their own! Why, they didn't go to the right school! They don't have the right degrees! They didn't worship er, sit, at the feet of Bob Woodward!"

The parody is too easy. And I'll leave the humor to sites that are a lot better at it.

So much is wrong with what Beinart and Rendall say that it's hard to know where to start. I'll just point out what has become obvious, and that is to the liberals who make up most of the mainstream press, if you're not anti-Bush and against the war in Iraq you're not "objective"

And the reason for this is simple. People like Beinart and Rendall want to bring back the glory days of Vietnam.

Melanie Morgain, a talk-show host who is going on the trip, countered the liberal criticism:

Morgan, a former television reporter, said she and the others are tired of "hotel journalists" from "the mainstream media" who "sit around in a hotel bar" cribbing other writers' quotes and clips "so they don’t have to go out and cover the war."

"We are not going to engage in hotel journalism," she said.

Oh, and if you want the scoop on Beinart (and more info on the trip), Michelle Malkin has it all.

Whatever Would We Do...

In the days before the Internet revolution, we had to wonder whether we were getting the "straight scoop" from our media. This wasn't too much of a problem during WWII or Korea, when they were unequivocally on our side. All this ended with Vietnam. Too many reporters see themselves as glorious crusaders out to "prove" that whatever war we are in is the next Vietnam. To be sure, the government of LBJ did much to destroy the historical trust between government and media. But I'm tired of the miserable "analysis" that we've come to expect from much of the media (including Fox News TV), and "bomb of the day" reporting.

Whatever would we do withouth talk radio and the Internet?

Thursday Update

The past few days I've listened to inumerable interviews with soldiers. Michael Graham has spoken with officers and enlisted, male and female. Some are part-time National Guard and Reserve, some are full-time regular army.

Today he told about a patrol that he went out on with the the unit he had been assigned to, Delta company of the 3rd Infantry Division. They went down the road that has been dubbed the "highway of death" by the media, because of the number of attacks that have occured on it. This is, I believe, the road that leads to the airport. In any event, most patrols, of course, encounter no resistance.

Michael's patrol was largely uneventful as well, except for one incident. They encountered a vehicle that was siitting still in the middle of the road. The question that ran through everyones mind, of course, was whether it was a genuine stalled vehicle or a suicide bomber. I can't remember all of the details, and Michael said that he couldn't see everything from his vantage point, but suffice it to say that there were some tense moments while solders got out and inspected the vehicle. In the end it was determined that it was a stalled vehicle and not a bomber.

Here's a story that Michael posted on his website. It tells you all you need to know about how the rest of his three-hour show went:
Melanie Morgan of KSFO in San Francisco and I went on patrol this morning on Route Irish, aka "The Highway of Death" with Delta 3-7 of the 3rd ID. One of the soldiers we travelled with was a 20-year-old PFC who had recently received his SECOND Purple Heart. He told us the story of his two injuries to his legs and torso, both sustained in separate IED attacks on his HumVee.

Later in the conversation I was talking to some of his fellow members of Delta Company and asked them if the mission here in Iraq is "worth it." For a few moments some of the other soldiers groused and kidded around about how tough things are in Iraq and how goofy the Iraqi people can appear at times, then I heard one quiet voice, kind of low, say "It's worth it, definitely. I like my job.

"It was the kid with the two Purple Hearts.
That is why we're going to win, folks.

Michael and the rest of his group are going to Kuwait next, and so I think he said that tomorrow's show would be from there.

Stay tuned, I'll try and take some notes tomorrow and post an evening update.

Friday AM Update

This is not directly on-topic, but on the general subject of media bias we have this editorial by Mark Yost in the St Paul Pioneer Press (Hat tip Washington Times). Here's an excerpt:

I decided to become a journalist when I was a soldier. I was in the U.S. Navy in the early and mid-1980s — "the glory years," as I like to say, a reference to President Ronald Reagan. As part of my duties, I went to some of the world's hot spots.

While sailing in the South China Sea, my ship picked up some refugee boat people on a rickety raft that I wouldn't take out on Como Lake, much less try to float across the Pacific Ocean. One of the survivors, shortly after coming up the accommodation ladder dripping wet, grabbed me (the nearest sailor), hugged me as tightly as his strength would allow, and could only murmur "thank you" through sobs of joy.

I'd then come back to the U.S. and read accounts of places I'd just been — in papers like the New York Times and Washington Post —that bore no resemblance to what I'd seen. There was one exception: the Wall Street Journal editorial page. I began reading a column called "Thinking Things Over" by Vermont Connecticut Royster, one of the legends of that august page. He would later become a mentor — a God, really — and I eventually worked there.

I'm reminded of why I became a journalist by the horribly slanted reporting coming out of Iraq. Not much has changed since the mid-1980s. Substitute "insurgent" for "Sandinista," "Iraq" for "Soviet Union," "Bush" for "Reagan" and "war on terror" for "Cold War," and the stories need little editing. The U.S. is "bad," our enemies "understandable" if not downright "good."

I know the reporting's bad because I know people in Iraq. A Marine colonel buddy just finished a stint overseeing the power grid. When's the last time you read a story about the progress being made on the power grid? Or the new desalination plant that just came on-line, or the school that just opened, or the Iraqi policeman who died doing something heroic? No, to judge by the dispatches, all the Iraqis do is stand outside markets and government buildings waiting to be blown up.

You've got to read Arthur Chrenkoff to find out about the progress we're making.

A somewhat lengthy and annoying registration process is required at the Pioneer Press so if you want more my recommendation is to select the Times link.

Friday PM Update I

They can dish it out but they can't take it.

The major media, that is. It would appear that Mark Yost's column, excerpted above, has generateda firestorm of criticism in the media. Hop over the Stephen Spruiell's media blog at NRO for the full story.

Spruiell's take on the matter is that although Yost's column was clumsy, and his critics have raised some good points", he was essentially right, and major media figures have proven themselves "incredibly thin skinned."

Friday PM Update II

Today was the final day of the "Voices of Soldier's" tour. They spent the day in Kuwait, at at military base, interviewing as many soldiers as they could find. The base in Kuwait serves as the main "jump off" point for troops and supplies going in and out of Iraq.

Sometimes Michael (I'm not sure about the other radio talk-show hosts) was in a room with a bunch of soldiers, he would go around and interview some of them. Sometimes he would just grab anyone who was around and ask if they wanted to do an interview. One officer, I recall, said that Michael had approached him in the mess hall. The point is that the soldiers and sailors were selected at random, a point Michael made several times.

The troops he interviewed today were from a wide variety of military professions. He interviewed a chaplain, a truck driver, the general in charge of truck transportation to and from Iraq, a soldier who processed citations for valor, an attorney, a financial advisor (to both individual soldiers as well as internal army matters), and probably many more that I missed. Some were army, some navy, men and women. To a person they supported the mission, said that they were making progress, said that morale was high, and that they would eventually be successful. They understood the "big picture" too, as it was evident that these were fairly well educated people. We are indeed blessed to have such people serving in our armed forces.

A few details that I picked up; the general in charge of the trucks said that his drivers were actually driving more miles than the famous Red Ball Express of WWII. He also said that attacks had dropped off since the election, but were expected to pick back up before each of the next two "milestones"; the vote on the new constitution, and then the vote for new leaders following that. The enlisted driver talked about IEDs ("we can spot and avoid them. The insurgents are obvious much of the time" I paraphrase), and how he did the Michael Jackson "moomwalk" for a bunch of Iraqi kids, much to their delight. The financial and legal officers spoke about how they they spent time helping soldiers and sailors with problems back home. The sailor in charge of processing the citiations told of the story of some of the awards that had crossed her desk.

But, of course, as Michael pointed out, the naysayers in the MSM will claim that "you're biased because you're for the war." Huh? "So you're unbiased if you're against the war?" And don't try and claim that you're objective, because we know that's not the truth. They'll also try and claim that the interviews were staged, or that the troops had to make up lies because they were being watched, or some other such nonsense. And in a big organization you can always find a few people who are unhappy. But between this tour and everything else I've read, my conclusion the last thing we have to worry about is the morale of the troops in Iraq. I'm a lot more worried about the morale of our mercurial politicans in congress.

You can listen to his interview with General George Casey on the WMAL website here. More is at the Voices of Soldiers and websites.

BYY, the daily temps in Baghdad range from a "low" of 105 to 120+. While they don't get any of our wonderful Virginina humidity (which kills my relatives from Colorado Springs when they visit, Mark) 120 degrees is 120 degrees no matter how you slice it. Yet to a person, the troops were glad to be there.

We owe them so much.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Democracies usually have to lose to win

There's plenty of pessimism to go around these days, in the aftermath of the London attacks. London is supposed to be one of the most secure cities in the free world, but yet it was still the target of terrorist attacks. Unfortunately, this is the way democracies work. Democracies ignore repeated warnings of danger and then, after they are attacked, adapt to obvious realities. The terrorists made a mistake, to the advantage of the civilized world, by waking the sleeping democracies of America and Great Britain.

Jack Kelly believes that while Al-Qaida has scored a tactical success, it made a strategic mistake
Just two years ago, Kenneth Livingstone, the very left-wing mayor of London, called President Bush "the greatest threat to life on this planet."

But "Red Ken" sounded a lot like Dubya Thursday in his denunciation of those who placed bombs on three London subway cars and a double-decker bus.

Noting that people have come to London from the Middle East to find a better life, Livingstone said: "They flee you because you tell them how they should live. They don't want that and nothing you do, however many of us you kill, will stop that flight to our city where freedom is strong and where people can live in harmony with one another. Whatever you do, however many you kill, you will fail."
And Ralph Peters also sees the London attacks as a case of Pyrrhic Terror
London will return to business as usual. But Iraq and Afghanistan won't. We're not going to back down. Terrorists will draw blood for years to come, but they will never rule another state.

It's going to take time, but in the end their fellow Muslims will destroy the terrorists — if the casualty count in London were broken down by religion, dozens of Muslims would be on the roll of victims.

Islamist terror isn't a sign of a great religious revival. It's a cult in love with death, not with any god. In the end, it's terror for terror's sake. Since 9/11, more Muslims have been its victims than Christians or Jews.
So, now that we are all awake from those alarm clock London bombs, we need to consider the current regime in Iran, the world's most vigorous supporter of international terrorism and possessing an appetite for nuclear weapons.

My question is this: Does America really need an Iranian nuclear bomb to be detonated in Los Angeles or New York before it places all of its military and intelligence assets in the cause of toppling the current Iranian regime? Some say that the Iranian people are so opposed to the current regime that no overt American assistance is necessary. Perhaps the Bush administration has a secret plan to affect regime change without firing a shot.

The bottom line is this: If current regime in Iran obtains nuclear weapons and a nuclear bomb is subsequently detonated in North America or Europe, the war on terror will have been a failure, despite all of the lofty rhetoric about "killing and capturing high-ranking Al-Qaeda" and "bringing democracy to the Middle East."

UPDATE: Be sure to read this excellent column titled Economies and Islam and another titled Europe's Angry Muslims.