Thursday, December 30, 2004

Required Reading

Here. Via Lucianne's.

Will elections in Iraq change the region into a Little League/Rotarian/Saturday Night Boulevard Cruise paradise? No. Will they be painless, or even near perfect? No. Will the election generate an Iraqi George Washington, supported by men of vision and high wisdom, a giant who will shape the events of history and forge freedom for millions with his bare bands?

Probably not.

The Iraqis don't need a Washington right now. They don't even need a Lincoln; the issues facing the Iraqi population of Sunni, Shiite, and Kurds are old, old news to the groups involved. What they do need are maybe two hundred local men and women willing to leave the tribal past for a free future and are willing to bet their lives, honor, and fortunes on the effort to make it happen by serving true as elected officials.

I don't doubt that Zarqawi and his remaining allies are going to try to disrupt the elections. The Taliban made the same threats against the Afghani electorate that the terrorists in Iraq are making, even to equating the act of voting with apostasy. The Sunnis have been coerced into apparently declaring political suicide by non-participation; that's not going to happen. In the absence of ANY electoral participation on the part of the Tikrit/Mosul/Fallujah thugs they will find themselves bereft of any action beyond brigandage in the country that will arise after January. I don't think the tribal shieks of an entire region are willing to place their futures in the hands of foreign jihadis who are equal parts of psychopathic and suicidal. When the last foreign Islamokazi blows himself up there will still be tens of thousands of Sunnis who will have to deal with the central government. It's better to have a small part of a deal than none at all...and even if one has just a corner of the table today, who can tell what the next year will bring?

I think that with six month's time in hand, a new Iraqi security/army organization might just be ready to end that particular threat to stability and more importantly have the numbers and equipment to make it stick. Pretty? No. Perfect? No. Again, it will be just good enough.

Y'all have a good night. There's a mort of heavy lifting to be done in the next few months. I hope we are up to it.

The World Turns III

Oh no.

In World Turns II I asked if the islands were still there. Apparently not.

If you haven't given yet, please find a suitable charity and give now.


I just received an email from Sam, an expat Texan living and working in Shenzhen, China. Y'all check him out - he's in the running in the Asian Blog Awards.

The Purser's List gains another name. Welcome aboard, sir.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

I should have expected it...

... but since I was at home and between chores, I fired up the TV for the first time in literally weeks and witnessed CNN's "Crossfire" in all its (lack of) glory.

Paul Begala is still counting the seconds until CNN realizes they could get better ratings and save a lot of money by stacking a hundred seventy pounds of manure in his chair. According to him, President Bush should have been out there shedding tears for the camera instead of organizing the federal response now underway.

I'm glad we've got a president and not the endless candidate. Glad, and grateful.

Mr. Begala, a big single- finger salute would be in order if you were worth the effort.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.) is an embarassment. In her world, the U.S. is obligated to transfer wealth to the Third World because we CAN. She temporized her original ejaculation after Novak called her on it, but the honest answer was her first one. Just embarassing. I can't say anything more than that about her.

Robert Novak's expression as he talks with these goombas reminds me of all the times I explained the science of water flowing downhill to a client who just didn't have a clue. Less frequently I had similar conversations with contractors or clients who knew exactly what the score was and were just trying to set the stage for a fraudulent back charge to cover their own mistakes.

Always watch the eyes. They are indeed windows into the soul. Professional bass- like fish eyes like Begala semaphore dishonesty just as much as the wide- eyed earnestness of Ms. Norton.

Small people in very big times.

How long will it take the Democrats to rejoin our political process? If Crossfire is any indication, they are no closer to providing alternatives or constructive criticism now than they were before the election...

... which was the last time I paid any attention to what they were saying. I understand they are pissed off. I GET it, o.k.?

Is it too much to ask for them to articulate viable options? I guess so.

Update: 4:48PM - Added link to CNN transcript. If you go, get in and get out. I try not to give MSM any traffic if I can possibly help it.

Ding Ding Liberal Iraqi Arriving

Mr. Totten is a plank owner here at Three Rounds Brisk, and has been similarly honored by Ali of liberal Iraq.

Many contemporary political labels fail to accurately describe what they once did; what passes for "liberal" in the contemporary Western political lexicon seldom rises above hack populism at best or camouflaged socialism at worst.

I consider myself a quasi- Burkean (I'm weak on preordainment) and after reading Ali's explanation of his political goals-

Back to Iraq and the main topic of this post, I and many freedom-loving Iraqis see traditions whether Islamic or tribal in origin as the main obstacle towards our march for a free democratic Iraq. You can count Arab nationalism as another obstacle in this field. We, those who call ourselves liberal Iraqis, are totally against such traditions and rotten ideologies. We see ourselves as part of humanity and that's all. Some people in Iraq accuse us of being too liberal to the degree where we lack a real identity. This is not true, as we have one and it's called humanity.
So there's no sophisticated ideology that I endorse, I just support freedom of press, freedom of expression, women's freedom, separation of "Church from the state", freedom of religion and limited control by the government over economy. I do, however support strongly international aggressive interference in countries' internal policies to save others from oppression and humiliation.

- I see in Ali a kindred spirit.

I believe that freedom is a common dream of all men. I look forward to following Ali's commentary as the future unfolds for all of us. I encourage anyone who stops by to follow, and link to, his story.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The World Turns II

Whatever form our assistance takes, we need to ensure that this waste of resources is not included. (Via Drudge). I want the U.S. out of the U.N., and the U.N. off our soil. Their hypocrisy of mission is overshadowed only by their incompetence in execution. Enough is enough.

As this tragedy began to unfold I told my wife that if the casualty count came in under 50K I would be surprised. I fear the ultimate cost may be double my first guess. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of communities from village to moderate- city size in the area affected by the earthquake and the subsequent tsunami. You cannot begin to understand what "population density" really means unless you've been to South Asia. Many of these communities are on islands that rise no more than a few feet above the high tide line. Many of them haven't even been checked out because of the scope of the disaster.

Are they still there?

We haven't heard much from Bangladesh. They have the widest flood plain coastline in the world. A bad (heavy) monsoon year routinely inundates thousands of square miles of land and the already desperately impoverished villages that carpet the area. Bangledesh seems to be where the heel of the iron boot of fate always lands.

I'll be contributing to our local charities like the Red Cross and the LDS Relief Society but I'm always open to suggestions. Mercy Corps has a pretty good rep. Command Post is serving as a clearing house for charity/relief information as well as linking area blogs and communication links for people searching for relatives and friends in the area.

Monday, December 27, 2004

The World Turns

We are in the middle of shuttling our departing guests to the airport. Our Christmas this year was a special joy.

Now it's time to figure out how best to help our neighbors get through this.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas to all...

We had Christmas dinner early. My brother- in- law has to fly back east early tomorrow afternoon. I have just returned from the annual Santa's Christmas Eve Road Service Trip. The tradition began when I was stationed at Camp Pendleton back in 1984. Late Christmas Eve I stopped to help a lady with a flat tire on the state highway running through Spring Valley, California. In the twenty years since I've pulled cars out of ditches, changed tires, replaced belts and/or hoses, and once I even carried a family of four all the way to grandma's house. My oldest daughter and my two nieces came along for the ride this time. No breakdowns; the weather is fine, if cold, here tonight. We hit the truckstops from Point of the Mountain at the Salt Lake/Utah County line down south to Nephi, Utah, handing out candy canes to kids and the counter people. Saw a lady who remembered us from last year.

When I first put on the hat in 1984, I never saw myself growing the belly and a fair part of the white beard to go with it. Time fills, I guess.

The dining room WILL support eleven people and remain on the ground floor. Turkey, all the trimmings, sweet potato bake, bohnen, mashed taters, homemade apple sauce and cranberry sauce, biscuits and cookies and FOUR kinds of pie. And the cookies.

We are all as healthy as we can hope to be. We all have roofs over our heads. We are together and happy to be that way even after four days of elbow rubbing and sharing one and a half bathrooms. We've got a full- issue political rainbow , too, and I am here to tell you that there's a pot of gold at both ends.

We are a family come together from the ends of our great nation during this most special season and grateful that our blessings outnumber our trials. I hope and pray, dear reader, that your world is like ours is today. At least just this one day.

I have to go and wrap my last present, and then to bed. If you are reading this in the few hours left before Christmas dawn, you should hit the rack, too.

Merry Christmas, and may your New Year bring happiness in modest amounts and all the success you can bear.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. St. Luke 2:14.

I don't often quote scripture. Sometimes, however, the words just can't be said any better.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

They're Here!

My sisters- and brother-in-law are here, along with two nieces and a nephew.

As expected, within four hours of their arrival every flat surface in the kitchen was covered with foil-covered plates of cookies. They regard that as a warmup for the real baking that will begin today.

We have one more guest inbound right now. Seems that former Marine spouses run in the family. Dean enlisted about the same time as I did, but went on to get a degree and ended up retiring as a LtCol (commanded a comm battalion based at Qauntico) two years back. He now works one of those evil Military Industrial Complex jobs that he can't talk about.

He also has a collector's license for firearms. I think he is putting more than one of SARCO's employees kids through college.

This is the last day of school for my goddesses. The visitors will be baking (of course) and doing last minute shopping. Slow cooked roast pork loin for supper tonight - one done Hawaii style, the other rubbed down with mesquite seasoning and lemon pepper. We trim the tree tonight and tomorrow will probably be sledding or skiing, capped off by a trip to the range for those that are willing.

Holy crap - we haven't picked out a turkey yet!

Merry Christmas, y'all. I'm off to the store.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

The Heartless Military/Industrial Complex

Via Instapundit comes this from Powerline:

The first point is that you'll recollect that one of the questions was the status of the 278 ACR; in other words, the date that we had the visit by the secretary of Defense, we had a question about their up-armoring status. When the question was asked, 20 vehicles remained to be up-armored at that point. We completed those 20 vehicles in the next day. And so over 800 vehicles from the 278 ACR were up-armored, and they are a part now of their total force that is operating up in Iraq.

This story is a week old. The furor over the supposed ill-preparedness of the 278th RCT plus the selective reporting of Secretary Rumsfeld response has been fodder for an avalanche of negative press and occasioned several negative remarks from even Republican lawmakers.

Now it turns out that the real situation was that only twenty vehicles remained to be uparmored at the time the planted question was dropped on Rumsfeld. And those twenty vehicles were uparmored, per the pre-existing schedule, within twenty four hours of the news conference.

Where's the courageous journalist/agent provocateur Mr. Pitts now? Since he's embedded with the 278th, and in light of his high moral dudgeon over the seriousness of the situation, why hasn't he reported on this?

Fuck him. And the national media that glommed onto his sabotage.

Look, my traffic is modest, but there are indeed people who stop by. I will gladly continue to draw my pictures on the wall in the depths of the cave all by my lonesome with nary a comment on whether or not I can draw a water buffalo but I do ask that if you have a blog or email list, please pass the Powerline link above on to your friends.

This war will be ultimately won by ideas . We are swimming with anvils if we allow the media to continue to sabotage the war effort in their quest to bring down this administration.

Call them on their bullshit. Pass the word.

SPEED. Sort of.

UTA answered my email:

Dear Mr. Jones:

Thank you for taking the time to commend our operator for her attention to safety on Friday. She obviously does take safety seriously, and I am happy you were able to avoid an accident. Your email is the best written and most heartfelt letter of commendation I have ever seen for an operator. I am touched by your gratitude.

I have recognized her with a letter of commendation and a gift as a token of my appreciation. You will be happy to know it made coming to work early this morning just a little easier for us both. Thanks again and have a merry Christmas.

(name omitted)
Operations Supervisor
Timpanogos Division

Come Tuesday, our house will be filled with family from across the country. My wife and her two sisters are compelled by mighty forces to continuously cook when they are under the same roof. We'll be delivering a few platters of Mexican Wedding, chocolate chip, and peanut blossom cookies down to the bus barn on Geneva Road before Christmas eve.

God bless us, each and every one! Merry Christmas, everybody.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Mass Transit Saves My Life...

...or at least keeps me out of the hospital. The following is an email I sent to the Utah Transit Authority Customer Relations folks:


Quick action on the part of one of your drivers saved me from what would have been a serious accident this morning. I would appreciate your assistance in passing my thanks to the driver if at all possible.

I was returning home from dropping off my daughters and one of their friends at (name omitted) Junior High in south Orem. The time must have been a few minutes after seven a.m. (the kids wanted to go in early to watch the Jazz band rehearse) as I approached the intersection of Main and University Parkway, heading south on Main. Traffic on University was busy - typical for the morning rush. Your driver was first in the left turn lane waiting to turn east on University as I approached the intersection. There were no cars in my lane, the through lane across University, and the light/arrow changed to green when I was about two bus lengths behind your driver. I was probably doing around thirty miles per hour when I drew even with the bus which had just begun rolling across the stop bar into its turn when he tapped his brakes several times and I believe hit his horn. The turn lane on eastbound University had several large vehicles waiting and I saw nothing unusual in a glance that way.

Your driver came to full stop and honked again as I crossed the stop bar, still at speed. I immediately locked up my own brakes and the Mighty '87 Suburban caught enough road oil and gravel to slip into a mild right drift. I still saw no reason for your driver's action. Turning a little bit into the drift, I glanced in my rearview mirror at the cars that had been coming up behind me and saw that they were stopping safely clear. Still sliding I scanned from the right to fix how close I might come to the traffic waiting to turn (looked like it might be close but the skid was now straight enough to put me across in front of the rank) and left to see if the problem was over there.


I came to a full stop with my front bumper online with the hood ornament of the lifted Dodge pickup waiting in the eastbound University turn lane. Immediately, even before my truck had rocked back after the stop, a light-colored Jeep Cherokee-style vehicle flashed past in front of me in the eastbound number one lane of University at something between forty and fifty miles per hour. I was too close to see below the bottom of the Jeep's windows. The driver was a stocky, dark complected guy like me, and about my size. His attention was directly over the steering wheel. He raced through the red light without looking left or right.

I watched him go, then turned back to make eye contact with the two guys in the Dodge. I imagine I had the same slackjaw, pop-eyed expression they did. The passenger appeared to be using a cell phone. I hope he was sending a license plate number in. I waited a second to make sure there wasn't another vehicle (maybe a policeman in pursuit - the Jeep had been moving that fast) coming, then cleared the intersection and continued home.

We have spent the last month preparing our home to host uncles, aunts and cousins from the east coast who are coming to spend the Christmas holidays with us. With remodelling, rearranging, and frantic cleaning we have yet to even put up a tree. Tempers have sometimes grown short. There have been moments when the joy of the season has been lacking.

No more. I have driven the same route to and from Lakeridge for the past two years. This morning I was even wearing bedroom slippers and wasn't nearly as alert as I should have been. Without your driver's attention to safety and quick action I wouldn't be writing this letter. I would likely be in the hospital or worse. Probably worse.

The events I have just described happened between 0705 and 0710, Friday 17 December. Please locate this driver and transmit my heartfelt thanks for keeping our Christmas a time to celebrate with family and friends, and also a time to be thankful for the blessings we receive from good people we don't even know.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. I saw him just today. He was driving a bus.

Y'all have a Merry Christmas, and many, many blessings,

A.R. Jones
Orem, Utah

Update: Corrected the spelling of "Claus".
Update: Edited to omit personal information.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

If the Bastille was stormed and CNN didn't cover it...

...would it have made the history books?

Col. Austin Bay has posted "The Coming Arab Revolt" over on the Strategy Page. It's important; read his bio on the first link, then read his essay.

A major component of the fog of this war has been selective media coverage. We get literally days of punditry on any unsourced criticism of the administration, video and photo avalanches whenever the horrors of war happen, and a total absence of substantive establishment media commentary framed in terms of the published threats and actions of Islamofascists.

America's reaction to 9-11 -- specifically, its strategic offensive reaction -- is taking the gun out of hands of tyrants and terrorists. Removing Saddam Hussein began the reconfiguration of the politically dysfunctional Arab Muslim Middle East -- a dangerous, expensive process, but one that gives Middle Eastern moderates the chance to build states where the consent of the governed creates legitimacy and where terrorists are prosecuted, not promoted.

America's Liberal/Leftist demographic has chosen sides. No, they don't look forward to a golden age of sharia rule and the end of Western civilization. They don't look that far down the road. What is left of the Democrat party and their kindred spirits in media, academia, and pop intelligentsia have instead judged the world on their "how things should be" scale and decided that the global Islamofascist threat doesn't impact them nearly as immediately as does George W. Bush's presidency and the looming potential of the ownership society to drive a stake through what is left of contemporary elitist liberalism.

You can't have plantations without slaves.

Col. Bay cites several critical events that have occurred over the course of campaign against Islamist terror. He goes on to predict a coming wave of popular rejection of despotism across the Muslim world. When was the last time any high-profile correspondent laid down in a list what has been accomplished in this war?

Was there a first time?

The explosion of debate, critique, and commentary by individuals via the web has had an undeniable influence on the ability of MSM to define issues, yet institutional media still enjoys a wide cachet of credibility and more importantly remains the sole source of information for a substantial, if dwindling, client base.

We are fighting a world war. The stakes are every bit as high as in the three we had a hand in winning the last century. The nature of the battlefield has changed the moments of decision by which victory can be measured from climactic battles or territorial gains instead to a much more subtle standard. Today we must remove the cancers of the middle eastern body politic and then wait for the patient to recover and become a functional member of society.

Americans hate to wait for anything. See the problem, fix the problem, move on. Conservatives are especially susceptible to the reflex; liberals had half a century to deliver on their agendas and ended being rejected because they never got around to solving the problems they embraced in their platforms. Our predilection for demanding elegant solutions is a serious asset for our enemy. Media living inside its news cycles and politicians who mark epochs from one election to the next also recognise opportunities for themselves, too, arising from this reality. The job to be done is before us, but it will take time to change the inertia of literally thousands of years of tribalism, despotism, and hatred.

Blacks were lynched in our own south for a century following the Civil War. We still have troops stationed in Germany. We wrote Japan's constitution. Kosovo has been a U.N. protectorate for coming on eight years with no hope of local elections in sight...yet the liberation of Afghanistan and Iraq, the surrender of Libya's WMD programs, the absence of any reprise of 9/11 on our shores, and the recent elections in Afghanistan and the coming elections in Iraq are never reported as victories in their own rights but as mere timestamps in a presumptively failed strategy.

I believe that when we win this war it will come as a surprise to a huge number of people. Victories have occurred - victories every bit as momentous as Midway or the race across France - and the enemy is brutally aware of where the initiative lies. We will not win this war by killing the last terrorist with our last bullet. This war will be won when the freed populations of middle eastern nations are strong enough to pursue their own futures. Islamofascists were enraged by our influences on their barbaric regimes from a hemisphere away. Think of the effect of successful, free Muslim nations next door and their brutal tactics of suicide bombings and beheadings fail to surprise.

Those that limit themselves to what corporate media tells them or by their own blinkered political prejudices are incapable of understanding the changes our world is undergoing. They are opting out of participating in solutions and are instead embracing an almost clinical state of insularity that cannot help but make them more angry, depressed, and paranoid than they already are.

Update: h/t to Instapundit, LGF, Protein Wisdom, and Wichita Boy.

Update: Fixed the link to Col. Bay's article. *sigh*

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

It's Nice To Be Appreciated

Here is a Foreign Service guy who gets it.

h/t Kim Dutoit.

FRAG Order

I've been a pretty unproductive member of the blogosphere lately; oh, wait - there's no clock to punch, is there?

Still, I do apologize to anyone who's stopped by and seen nothing in the window. We are preparing to receive uncles, aunts, nephews, and nieces and things are definitely all ahoo on the decks. The downstairs remodel went o.k. except that our choice of flooring makes finding a reasonable area rug a quest that makes the Holy Grail look like something you pick up at WalMart. I organized so well I managed to ship off my wife's heirloom Gund teddy bear to a local thrift store.

She still loves me. I am the luckiest guy in the world.

Anyway, sometime in the middle of January we may help a friend move his family to Florida by caravaning one of his cars to West Palm Beach. This is all tentative for now but I'm not employed and the wife has two weeks of vacation saved up, so why the hell not, anyway? I've driven the country North to South twice and West to East once. We only have to pay for one ticket back if we go.

It'd be kind of nice to boogieboard Ft. Lauderdale in January. It would sure beat shovelling snow in Happy Valley, ya think?

The preliminary map scout favors a southerly run. Moab, Santa Fe, Amarillo, Dallas, Jackson, Baton Rouge, Tallahassee, Jacksonville, then south to WPB. Yahoo's original suggested route was a great circle course across the great plains. No thanks - not in January. 2594 miles, and we only pick up a hundred miles going the southerly route. And what's a hundred miles when you cross a continent, when you get right down to it?

Now I have to find out what the concealed carry laws are for all those states.

I wonder how they'd feel about a ring mount on a Geo Metro?

Thursday, December 09, 2004

No Whining - Why to Bitch is An Honorable Thing.

I have a story about uncomfortable questions.

Way back when there was only one landmass on the planet (about 1981, as a I recall) I attempted to shoot my first Fleet rifle qual since leaving Marine Corps boot camp.

I had left Edson Range the year before wearing a Marksman shooting medal, which denotes the lowest level of qualification. It is known as the "Toilet Bowl" among Marines. I have been a shooter since I was six years old, and actually competed in junior rifle matches with good success as a teenager. I was on fire to correct my mistake and pick up that Expert medal.

My M16A1 issue rifle on Okinawa was produced by Colt in 1971. Whether or not it ever saw service in Vietnam is unknowable. What I do know is that it had been used by Marines for ten years. That means it fired possibly thousands of rounds, blank or ball, each year, and was cleaned with the vigor that only Marines bring to weapons maintenance. It had been dropped, bumped, immersed in water, mud, snow, or salt water countless times. It was dirty when it was issued to me (pretty unusual, actually, in my later experience) and I spent a good two hours getting the worst of the crud knocked out of it. The bore cleaned up amazingly well in spite of all the gunk elsewhere. Shiny, even for being chrome lined.

Range qual has three phases: snapping in, range days, then pre-qual and the qualification day. Snapping in is a rehash of basic marksmanship that covers safety, technique, positions, wind doping, etc. You head out bright and early on the following Monday to shoot half the day and run targets the other half. On Thursday you shoot prequal, which is scored in case qual day, Friday, is weathered out.

I hit the range at Camp Hansen on Monday relaxed and confident. I had zeroed my rifle the Friday before. The ideal for a good combat zero is to end up with a three shot group you can cover with a dime that centers exactly one and a half inches above the aiming point on the target, which you fire at from a prone position, using the sling for support. The range is twentyfive yards. I ended up with a nickel group centered on the bull itself, so the PMI (primary marksmanship instructor) had me crank DOWN the front sight post six clicks. A click equals 1" @ 100 yards - so six clicks at 25 yards should raise the point of impact an inch and a half - easy, right? This should give you effective dope (sight settings) to hit about six inches above an aiming point 200 yards away, in this case, the center of the round bullseye.

Monday was cool and breezy, with a low overcast. I fired my slow fire strings (sitting, kneeling, offhand (standing), and did alright. My calls, that is the record notes I made in my book where I "called" where I was aiming the moment the trigger broke and the rifle went off, were uniformly at the six o'clock edge of the round bullseye...but my actual scores were scattered in a swarm all around that point. Some bulls, more fours, and I even had a three. Normally, a vertical spread of shots indicates poor breathing control. A fog of shots scattered randomly around a purported good "call" point usually means the shooter isn't holding well - and hey, PFC Utah was just a Marksman, right?

I shot the rapid fire string at two hundred yards - two magazines, five rounds each, from the sitting position. Tragedy! Ten rounds on the paper...some bulls, but the group was sloppy big and some rounds almost fell off the bottom of the target. My coach chided me for rushing.

The longer Monday dragged on the worse things got. The breeze even went away but my calls more and more bore little relation to the marked scores on the target. Rapid fire at three hundred was flat horrible - I put a couple of rounds into the berm in front of the target and showered the scorers working the frames (the area is called the "butts") below it. Not a good thing to do - it pisses them off and cuts up the target. At five hundred yards I had to put the front sight post down so far (to raise the bullet impact to reflect the range) I was looking at the very nubbin top of the post between the protective wings on the front sight assembly. There should have been about an eighth of an inch showing - at least that's what was up on my fellow shooters' rifles. And I still put at least one more round into the butts. Left....right...and always freaking LOW.

The weather deteriorated as the week dragged on. I did well enough on Monday and Tuesday to have qualified, but barely Marksman. Wednesday was just shit from the first round to the last round. I asked for an armory inspection on my rifle but with the horizontal sheeting rain and all the armorer just tested the trigger, visually inspected the bore (after three days of shooting - and us standing in the rain), and declared it good. Desperate, I had by now started holding my aimpoint at the top of the target frame at five hundred yards just to get on the paper. I failed qualification on Thursday - with many others, the weather was horrible - and Friday was declared a washout.

From Toilet Bowl to Non-Shooting Fuck, all in four days. You cannot be considered for promotion in the FMF if you aren't rifle qualified. You get points plus for being a sharpshooter or expert, too.

A short month later I stood a personnel inspection (Alpha uniform and rifle)for the Commanding General's Inspection with my battery. The inspecting officer, a major from 3d Force Service Support Group (maintenance/logistics guys) was really sharp. He noted the absence of even a toilet bowl over my left breast pocket right off the bat. You don't offer up your troubles to an inspector - I just reported that I was indeed an unqualified shooter (nonshooting spastic fuck unfit for social contact)SIR...

...and then a wonderful thing happened. He was doing the rifle inspection routine and came to a full stop at the front sight assembly. "Why is the front sight post turned so far down on your rifle, Marine?" "Sir, because the only way I could hit the paper was to hold on the top of the target frame with my sight set there, SIR" says I.

He had his assistant make a note, and continued on down the line. After my platoon was dismissed, I was accompanied back to our armory by the Major's Sergeant, who was an armorer. He cracked my rifle open and put the upper part (with the barrel) on the bench and ran an inspection rod down the bore. It's a simple tool - it is cast to mimic the profile of the lands and grooves. It should rotate as it slides down the tube riding the spiral of the rifling.

It bounced to the bottom of my rifle like a coat hanger inside a pipe. Vindication!

But I still couldn't get a simple do-over. The Rules state that mechanical issues must be raised before qualifying. I was screwed for the year. Even after I shot a 235 out of 250 with my newly-barreled weapon a few months later but had to wear the hated bowl until the next time around. I shot expert the remaining years I was a Marine, too, rain or shine.

And what's the point? Between my CG inspection experience and requalifying I attended an enlisted all-hands presentation given by the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. I believe his name was Crawford. All the sergeants-and-below ranks attended at the base theater on Camp Foster. After his talk he opened the floor for questions. The first Marine asked about improving barracks conditions (we lived in open squad bays while the Air Force guys down the road were hosting Lives of the Rich and Famous episodes) and the second Marine asked if a phone center might be built closer to his unit.

Then I stood up and asked when the Marine Corps was going to be equipped with rifles that worked, and in a real rifle caliber that could like, you know, kill people?

About half a heartbeat after the last part of "?" passed my lips my brain froze. I do remember the SergeantMajorMC remarking that the "Butt behind the buttplate has more to do with how a rifle works..." but it gets hazy after that. That's o.k.. My platoon sergeant, battery gunny, first sergeant, and, later that evening, battalion sergeant major ALL made sure I understood the foolishness of my ways.

I didn't have the heart to tell them that I'd asked the same question of President Reagan in a Christmas card just a few weeks before. When I got a letter from an Undersecretary of the Navy a little while later, it was hand delivered by my first sergeant. In it, the undersecretary informed me that the A2 model was in the pipeline and an improved round (same poodle-shooter caliber) along with it. Also that the Marines were going to get new artillery (the M198) and enough trucks and jeeps to move it.

And he wished me a happy new year, too. The first shirt advised me to restrict military matters to chain-of-command channels and let me go.

The issue of troops asking questions of leadership is important. Of all the SecDefs of my lifetime, I believe that Rumsfeld is probably the best. That troop, even if the question he asked was planted, is going in harm's way and deserved an answer to his question. Rumsfeld gave him a good one that reflects the reality of the situation we live in. Good for the troop, and good for Rumsfeld.

And gee, the newsies get to spin for a few days. They, of all people, shouldn't complain about this at all.

There's The Opposition....

...then there's just the enemy. The following e-mail was sent by Edward Lee Pitts, an embedded reporter attached to the 278th RCT. Drudge reports that Mr. Pitts planted the question about the armor kit scarcity situation that was asked of Secretary Rumsfeld yesterday:

(note: unedited)

From: EDWARD LEE PITTS, Chattanooga Times Free Press military reporter
Sent: Wednesday, December 8, 2004 4:44 PM
To: Staffers

Subject: RE: Way to go

I just had one of my best days as a journalist today. As luck would have it, our journey North was delayed just long enough see I could attend a visit today here by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. I was told yesterday that only soldiers could ask questions so I brought two of them along with me as my escorts. Before hand we worked on questions to ask Rumsfeld about the appalling lack of armor their vehicles going into combat have. While waiting for the VIP, I went and found the Sgt. in charge of the microphone for the question and answer session and made sure he knew to get my guys out of the crowd.

So during the Q&A session, one of my guys was the second person called on. When he asked Rumsfeld why after two years here soldiers are still having to dig through trash bins to find rusted scrap metal and cracked ballistic windows for their Humvees, the place erupted in cheers so loud that Rumsfeld had to ask the guy to repeat his question. Then Rumsfeld answered something about it being "not a lack of desire or money but a logistics/physics problem." He said he recently saw about 8 of the special up-armored Humvees guarding Washington, DC, and he promised that they would no longer be used for that and that he would send them over here. Then he asked a three star general standing behind him, the commander of all ground forces here, to also answer the question. The general said it was a problem he is working on.

The great part was that after the event was over the throng of national media following Rumsfeld- The New York Times, AP, all the major networks -- swarmed to the two soldiers I brought from the unit I am embedded with. Out of the 1,000 or so troops at the event there were only a handful of guys from my unit b/c the rest were too busy prepping for our trip north. The national media asked if they were the guys with the armor problem and then stuck cameras in their faces. The NY Times reporter asked me to email him the stories I had already done on it, but I said he could search for them himself on the Internet and he better not steal any of my lines. I have been trying to get this story out for weeks- as soon as I foud out I would be on an unarmored truck- and my paper published two stories on it. But it felt good to hand it off to the national press. I believe lives are at stake with so many soldiers going across the border riding with scrap metal as protection. It may be to late for the unit I am with, but hopefully not for those who come after.

The press officer in charge of my regiment, the 278th, came up to me afterwords and asked if my story would be positive. I replied that I would write the truth. Then I pointed at the horde of national media pointing cameras and mics at the 278th guys and said he had bigger problems on his hands than the Chattanooga Times Free Press. This is what this job is all about - people need to know. The solider who asked the question said he felt good b/c he took his complaints to the top. When he got back to his unit most of the guys patted him on the back but a few of the officers were upset b/c they thought it would make them look bad. From what I understand this is all over the news back home.



Please read the stories linked within the Drudge story - and note that Rumsfeld's answer to the Army Specialist included the statement "You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might wish or want to have". This has always been a truism of heading into harm's way; the enemy is going to do his best to kill you whether you show up in a loincloth or in a powered flying cybernetic armored suit complete with nuclear weapons.

I cannot attribute the quote, but many years ago I read that ..."in the race between armor and warhead, the warhead wins in the end".

Now we've had a two-day feeding frenzy over a non-story willfully created by a journalist who has crafted a media event to conform to his agenda of how the world ought to be, instead of covering it as it is.

There were probably thousands of GI's killed by shrapnel, mines, or small arms fire driving jeeps across Europe in WW2...but the GI's still loved the vehicle. Eisenhower rejected selecting the M26 Pershing tank over the M4 Sherman because he feared the delay in retooling the factories would leave him without adequate armor for D-Day and the invasion to follow.

When that decision was made, it was common knowledge that the Sherman had NO business on a battlefield where even the lightest German tanks - the MkIV's with the 75mm high velocity gun - might be encountered. The Sherman was underarmored, had a crappy suspension setup for anything but roads and hard ground, and the vast majority of them were armed with a low velocity 75mm gun that couldn't penetrate German frontal armor at all, and flank and rear armor only at pointblank range. The Sherman also looms on a battlefield; its silhouette is almost four feet higher than any other tank found on WW2 battlefields.

Eisenhower justified his decision on several assumptions. The spearhead assault units were envisioned as making contact with the enemy, then sliding left or right around them using the American advantage in mechanized mobility and leave the Germans to be pounded by artillery and air as they were encircled. The assault element would race on, sowing confusion and destruction in the rear. He also pointed out that the support echelons had become masterful at maintaining the M4 and would have to be completely reequipped with spares, specialty tools, and undergo retraining for the new tank. I read a fascinating book on this subject called Death Traps. I highly recommend it.

Eisenhower had the mission to carry the fight to the continent of Europe. He made a command decision that even he admitted cost more than he thought it would...but in the end we still won.

In combat you must accept that there is never going to be a bloodless battle, and that time is the greatest ally your enemy has in defense. The unit mentioned in the story did receive some uparmor production Hummvees - they were assigned based on the mission of the crews that would be operating them. Every unit I ever served with trained to prepare to make use of field expedients like bolt-on kits, sandbags, or plain boilerplate skirts...just like the units are doing right now in Iraq.

We can't put enough armor on any vehicle to make it totally safe as long as there is no upper limit on how big a bomb the enemy can plant alongside a road. There are even some Marine units stripping down their uparmor Hummvees in order to have enough top speed to run down enemy sport utes/pickups configured as weapons carriers. You make the best use of what you have to accomplish the mission before you.

Mr. Pitts should apply at CBS. I hear they are looking for people just like him for 60 Minutes.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Of Pearl Harbor and Current Events

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was a punctuation mark in the historical narrative of America's journey to war against the Axis. The rhetoric of the Imperial militarists in Tokyo had long telegraphed their intent to turn the Far East and the Pacific Basin into a Japanese lake. Their campaigns in China gave ample evidence of their willingness to commit any brutality to further their aims, and provided justification for the 'yellow peril' faction above and beyond mere xenophobic/racist sentiments of the time. At a time when U.S. military line training aids depicted the Japanese soldiers as nearsighted,bucktoothed monkey men the halls of the almost-completed Pentagon were filled with Captains, Generals, and Admirals anxiously pondering the lessons of Tsushima and trying to envision just where airpower would fit in the order of battle that would obviously be dominated by battleships.

Years before the first Val tipped into its dive over above Battleship Row, we had already exchanged gunfire with German U-Boats and seen U.S. flagged ships sunk by enemy action in the Atlantic. We had embargoed deliveries of U.S. steel and petroleum to Japan over their atrocities in China. Our government had formulated sweeping plans to harness industry and manpower in spite of a prevailing isolationist sentiment across much of a depression-battered nation.

I have a lot of problems with FDR's social and economic legacy, but one thing I never fault him for is his leadership in preparing the country to fight and win a war we didn't want and didn't ask for.

The part of Texas I grew up in is dotted with old airfields. I knew old men who were shotgun-shack sheepherders living on canned beans and rabbit fritters on December 6th 1941 who became draft-protected Essential War Material Suppliers within a week of the attack - in one case one of those old boys tells the story that he didn't even know we were at war until a War Department man pulled up to his shack in a Packard to let him know that government engineers were coming to develop the oil resources under his range. America knew we had been attacked, knew we had to get into the fight...but without the foresight of FDR's diplomats and planners we'd have been restricted to drilling with wooden rifles and sending out convoys to Britain until 1943 or 44 - if we were allowed the grace to survive that long. We were in horrible shape, as continental powers go, in 1941 - make no mistake about it - but the military and industrial preparations made beginning around 1939 did make it possible for us to go on the offensive soon enough to win the fight.

John Podhoretz has a column in today's New York Post about the latest iteration of the Democratic effort to label President Bush. Today's effort is Evil Doofus. It's an excellent read, shifting from what the Democrats want to believe to what Bush is actually accomplishing and the personnel moves he's making to make it happen.

More Americans died on September 11th than at Pearl Harbor. We had three decades of storm warnings on the part of fundamentalist Islamic terrorists vice the one the Nazi/Italy/Japan axis gave us prior to attacking us on our own soil. A majority of Americans decided to fight.

Unlike in 1941, the minority political party has declined to participate this time around. I believe we can, and will, win without them. We must. Just like a billion dollars in one pile, very few people can comprehend the power we actually have at our disposal. All those carriers, airplanes, and troops we've paid for over the course of our lives represent the manifestation of adult appreciation of the world we live in...and the fact that we didn't entirely disarm after we won WW3 means that a slim majority of all our elected leaders knew deep down that we could not afford to not pay the price to maintain them.

The surreal, actually outrageous, reality about our strategy to eventually defeat the threat is that it pivots on the creation of democracies... And who howls loudest that we are wrong? Who equates beheading jihadis with Minutemen? That we are doomed to defeat? The same people who pride themselves on being caring, broad minded, progressives. The people that can find a victim to champion faster than a blogger can hit the enter key. What will they tell their kids when they ask "What did you do in the war?" while on the way to the airport to visit the ruins of Ur or visit Palestine and Israel for shopping? In their post-election flailing, they appear to seek oblivion over making any attempt to join in the battle to defeat the greatest threat to Western democracy since the Sov's were defeated.

I expect the next calendar year to see the face of the world changed in ways unimaginable. Bush is collecting a new cabinet of operators and staffing critical agencies and benches with street cops, successful businessmen, and constitutional jurists.

Afghanistan swore in a president yesterday. Iraq will elect their first in January.

I believe that the Iranians will do the same within eighteen months, and Syria not long after.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Hump Day

Wheeeeeeeeee. It's been a busy few days here at the Team.

The downstairs remodel is at that stage where what was on the paint chip becomes a slightly different color on the wall.

My goodness. That base coat - it's a bit more ...purple... than we thought it would be. Not "Trading Spaces" purple, but not quite the subtle pastel shade Wife of TM was shooting for, or so she says. I like it. I'll think that after sponging on the contrasting darker shade the effect will be stunning, especially against the dark trim we are using for baseboards and to demark the shelf that runs around the exterior walls of the room. The ceiling texture rolled on nicely and we painted it the next day. The recessed lighting shells (six fifty watt halogens on a dimmer) are semigloss white and contrast nicely with the subtle dusty yellow semi-gloss we chose.

I think I'm going to have to break down and post some photos.

The remaining work is finish carpentry to frame in the two basement windows, paint and install casing and baseboards, and plan and execute a closet insert. Then the wife can hang curtains and determine where the furniture lives. Whoot!

We have accumulated a modest suite of home entertainment components over the years. Last spring we stumbled on a going-out-of business sale at a local Oak Warehouse and replaced our apartment grade couch/loveseat and living room shelf system with a sectional sleeper sofa and monstrous oak entertainment center. Yesterday marked the first time that the DVD/VCR/TV/Digital Cable/home theater system was ever cabled properly. That took about two hours and a hundred dollars worth of cables. I finally figured out that the confusion in wiring the mess stemmed from the different technologies spread between a five year old VCR, two year old amp, state of the art DVD, and the Cable Box that was documented with manuals written in french.

Gone are the days when somebody had to wield a remote in each hand to check the weather channel. The cats no longer bolt from the living room when they hear the loud 'snap' that means the system is powering up with the home theater volume set to 'stun'. And the video and sound quality has gone warp since I replaced the seventyfive ohm hookup cables (Sansui - 1980) with Monster coax and fiberoptic cables (where they belong).

I'm off. Big day of clearing the decks in the rest of the basement ahead, then back to the finish work tomorrow.

Have a fine day, all.