Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Upsetting Liberals With a Way to Victory

We’ll soon see if liberals think as highly of retired Major General John Batiste as they did before.

Not so long ago the liberal members of the media had a field day with several former high-ranking military officers who had “broken ranks” and criticized the Iraq war effort, specifically Donald Rumsfeld’s involvement. Former General’s Batiste, Zinni, and others were put upon altars and worshipped for their willingness to criticize the Bush Administration. They passed from rightfully deserved hero status for their achievements as Generals into the realm of super-heroes as critics.

The mainstream press was more than happy to run lead and front page stories about this criticism. Although they missed the point and reasoning for the Generals’ criticism, they were more than willing to paint this as yet another reason to surrender, cut and run from Iraq.

Liberal politicians and their minions were thrilled to do the same. They more than welcomed news like this they felt would precipitate defeat. They eagerly accepted anyone that made the situation in Iraq and the Administration look worse; after all, the worse the situation in Iraq the better their chances in November. How many mornings and evenings were spent with the likes of Murtha, Levin, and Durbin pointing to these retired Generals as yet another reason to accept defeat?

But an op-ed column written by General Batiste may turn their view of them on its head. The column was based on a white paper “developed and reviewed by a wide range of retired senior military leaders” which “represents much of their thinking. None of them disagrees with its general themes.”

It begins with four questions that need to be asked about our alternatives in Iraq. Question four is “Do you think that the United States’ long-term goals are well-served by a strategy that doesn’t include a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq?” That is followed by directions to proceed if the reader answered “yes” to this and the previous questions.

When I read that I started smiling. As I read through the column I kept smiling, and then applauded the concepts and specific ideas when finished.

The white paper and the General’s comments were all geared toward leading us to victory in Iraq.

What a novel concept these days. Especially when so many are willing to embrace the defeatism of the Iraq Study Group simply because it’s “bipartisan” in nature, implying that it must therefore have some sort of magical power to be THE answer and have an unquestionable supreme truth affixed to it.

Personally, the Iraq Study Group lost me when they failed to detail a path to victory and included as one of their recommendations that we train Iraqi soldiers, as if we weren’t doing that already. As one Marine who’s there training Iraqi soldiers put it, “What the hell do they think I’ve been doing over here for the last year?” At that point, the level of credibility the group was to be afforded became miniscule.

But now we have at least one retired General, supported by a cast of others, publicly proposing a path toward victory instead of the path toward defeat the liberals have been pushing this country down. Whatever will they do?

Now that retired General Batiste is advocating a sound strategy for victory, will he still be treated as a super-hero or will the white paper and his column get skimmed over by editors and producers? Will the strategy be publicized or ignored? Will the press celebrate the genius? We’ll see.

Either way, the white paper does provide a solid strategy for victory in Iraq. Major General Batiste’s group should be commended for their efforts and ideas.

The white paper addresses the political, diplomatic, economic, military, and home fronts and does so in a manner that does not lose its impact with the “diplo-speak” of a group trying to be bipartisan rather than effective. The strategy obviously comes from those who are experienced at both devising and executing plans which can be implemented at all levels.

It calls for more troops in Iraq and gives specifics for their deployment. It proposes focusing our main effort on the continued training of Iraqi security forces, and then establishing security and taking the fight to the Sunni insurgency; all starting points from which specificity can be given to manpower assignments.

Two of the other recommendations on the military front are to also be applauded: first, to deal with Moqtada al Sadr and his Mahdi Army, and second, provide security along the Iranian and Syrian borders. Both badly needed to minimize or eliminate the instability each of those entities keeps forcing into the region.

Their proposals for the home front are also sound and necessary, especially for upsizing and funding of the military, fixing dysfunctional interagency processes, fully funding the VA, and energy independence.

Most important of all though may be putting this “nation and our government on a wartime footing.” At some point, there are huge segments of this country which need to realize and accept the kind of long term fight we’re in against Islamic extremists and that it requires some attention and sacrifice on their part, not just their criticism or opposition.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

U.N. Not the Solution to Radical Islam

Every where we turn, we find Islamic extremists feeding on the weaknesses of those around them. Which is more than just a little scary given the inherent, exhibited weakness of the U.N. and the willingness of so many around the world, including some here, to permit the U.N. to settle their foreign affairs and insure their security.

The U.N. has an uncanny way of diffusing and diluting any semblance of strength, efficiency, or effectiveness. Especially when dealing with any matter of substance or security. The presence of the U.N. is in and of itself a sign of weakness.

Somalia and Ethiopia have become poignant examples of both the fundamentalist Islamic feeding frenzy and the failures of the U.N. The U.N.’s handling of the situation in Somalia is just a repeat performance for them and a demonstrated weakness for Islamic extremists to attack and feed upon.

The Islamic Courts Movement (ICM), set on installing an Islamic theocracy, is slowly taking more and more of Somalia from the weak, U.N. backed, transitional government. The ICM has pushed through the country from Mogadishu to the areas around the capital of Baidou. It has direct ties to Al Qaeda and actually has members or cells from the international terror group in positions of leadership.

Somalia’s neighbor, Ethiopia, knowing the dangers of having an Islamic theocracy next door tried to assist Somalia’s transitional government by providing them military advisors.

Now the Islamic Courts Movement has declared a holy war against Ethiopia. No surprise. Is there any country that hasn’t had a holy war declared against it by a radical Muslim faction at this point?

The U.N. responded by trying to put Ethiopia at more risk and encouraging them to take a backseat position which would ultimately have them relinquish more of their security to the U.N. The vaunted U.N. Security Council, in trying to find a peaceful resolution, suggested the deployment of 8000 African Union troops to handle the situation instead. This would “withdraw Ethiopia from the equation” as the Washington Post reported on the 15th, and avoid the looming holy war.

Noble enough cause to pursue, but not likely to succeed. Hasn’t anyone figured out yet that when Islamic extremists put their mind to killing people, they do so until the bitter end? You either do things their way or they declare holy war and try to kill you. Beyond your conversion to their brand of Islam, there is no other way.

In this case, they’ve already declared holy war against Ethiopia. The game board is set. War has already begun. Ethiopia has been declared their next target. So it begins.

But the Islamic extremist appetite for feeding on weakness received the usual Pavlovian stimulus from the U.N., pushed by the tunnel vision experts from our State Department, when it passed the Security Council Resolution to take Ethiopia out of the equation.

The U.N. resolution in trying to moderate the situation had the opposite effect. It prompted the Islamic Courts Movement to push even harder toward Baidou, and according to analysts in the Washington Post article, will likely become a rallying point for the movement’s most radical factions.

Again, no surprise. Show the Islamic extremists weakness by diplomacy and they’re sure to respond with increased hostility.

The U.N. has become the world’s poster child for weakness and the international dinner bell for Islamic extremists. A U.N. Security Council resolution is to Islamic extremists what the cries of an injured rabbit are to hungry coyotes.

Ethiopia to its credit has not let itself be taken out of the equation, nor should they. Maybe they know that without serious military backing they would be doomed. As nice and congenial a neighbor as they might try to be, they know the Islamic extremists are coming for them. Any position of weakness will only be exploited and fed upon by the Islamists.

And such is the feeding frenzy the world over.

In Afghanistan it was the Taliban and Al Qaeda feeding on the aftermath of Soviet invasion. Today in Lebanon it’s Hezbollah feeding on the weakness of a young democracy. In Iraq it’s both Al Qaeda and the radical Shiite Muslim Iranian regime feeding on a newly born democracy. Hezbollah and Hamas are emboldened by a weak Israeli response to Hezbollah’s hostilities earlier this year. In Darfur it’s Islamic extremists killing thousands of helpless civilians. Our weak response to previous attacks was cause for Al Qaeda to attack on 9/11.

The threat from radical Islamic groups and governments is clear. Both history and current events show us their methods and intentions.

Diplomacy only goes so far in any situation. Sometimes it goes far enough to resolve problems. But with Islamic extremists it always goes nowhere. It is only a weakness to be exploited.

Because the United Nations knows no other way than to debate an issue into the ground and then, when the need for action becomes apparent, chooses to debate some more, reliance upon them to face this international threat is clearly not the answer. Only a country’s willingness to take positions of strength while allying themselves with other like-minded countries and then decisively confronting extremists will insure security and prosperity for all.

The Shortcomings of a Leftist Government

As a young Lieutenant in the early 90’s, my unit was given the opportunity to make a good will visit to Varna, Bulgaria shortly after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. During that visit I remember thinking what a financially poor country it was. Communism didn’t seem to have done that country any favors and certainly hadn’t done much for the living conditions of the average Bulgarian I met.

Our unit returned to Bulgaria about a year and a half later as part of a NATO contingent to conduct military exercises with the Bulgarians. After seeing their equipment, watching their military sputter without junior leadership, and observing the operations of a Soviet style army, I remember asking myself, “why were ever afraid of these guys?” Except for that whole thermonuclear thing, their military itself left much to be desired. Communism didn’t seem to have done it any favors either.

We spent a little more time in Bulgaria on that second trip and got to know some of the soldiers we’d trained with and what life was like for them and other Bulgarians. It was at that point, after seeing how the average Soviet citizen lived and the stories of what life was like under communism, I became convinced of it being a terrible system of government.

It was not the worker’s paradise leftists in this country had made it out to be.

Up to that point in life I hadn’t cared or even concerned myself much with the realm of politics. I knew the arguments made for and against democracy and capitalism. I knew the arguments made for and against communism.

But on those trips to Bulgaria it became clear that the arguments made by the conservative economists and social scientists had been right. After getting the inside view, it was obvious democracy and capitalism allowed all people to have a better life than a socialist and communist system could ever hope to achieve.

It was also clear that the leftist argument for communism, the theoretical workers utopia where everyone was housed, fed, and clothed was, at best, a fantasy. Pigs had a better chance of flying than communism had of providing prosperity for anyone other than the communist elite.

Things aren’t much better now in parts of the former Soviet Union than they were then.

I recently returned from two weeks in Russia where I had the pleasure of getting to know many people from a large city as well as a small village and learning about the challenges of their lives.

Vestiges of capitalism have taken root, creating some wealth, a small middle class, and allowing some to improve their position in life. But the average citizen still lives much poorer than the average American and I’d say the poor among us are still doing better than the average Russian. They also have limits on their individual rights none of us could ever imagine.

I was talking with a friend about what I’d seen in Russia and describing the chance at hope they have with democracy and capitalism. If capitalism and democracy were allowed to flourish, the quality of life would improve with the generated wealth, the middle class could grow, and they would demand political reforms including more individual rights. But there were limits on that hope because it appeared their government was moving back to the left.

I went on to tell him how the Russians had shared the ways the government was starting to crack down on them again. Those who’ve held so much power in the government aren’t very willing to give it up to those who’ve started creating positions of power for themselves through business or popularity among their fellow citizens.

He caught me off guard when he replied that it “sounds just like the Democrats here.” Hmmm……

I couldn’t totally disagree with him because it’s just like the liberals here, but not the Democrats in general. There are after all, moderate and conservative Democrats.

Our far left is still in love with socialism and communism. Many liberal policies and positions are socialist or steps toward socialism. As in Russia, our left has problems with powerful businesses and attacks them directly or through government policies and taxes which target them specifically (Wal-Mart and “big oil” come to mind). Their positions inhibit and retard the growth of free markets.

They would rather tell you what to think than let you figure it out for yourself, and are always working to find ways to infringe upon your freedoms, especially religion and the right to keep and bear arms. Their positions are based upon plays for political power instead of principles. When I looked at it the way my friend had, the list detailing the commonalities of leftists here and there became apparent and extensive, too extensive for the constraints of this column.

But we do have the right to free speech, something that seems to be frowned upon in Russia and which caused me some consternation in writing this column. After all, I wanted the opportunity to go back and didn’t want to be too harsh on their government. Nor did I want to dread my next trip to a sushi bar.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Our Under-Funded, Under-Manned Military

This year’s election cycle put the military right in the middle of the political debate. Since nothing seems to be off limits in the political realm anymore, that’s to be expected.

The line designating that which was off limits for political-military relationships has always been a little undefined, a little fuzzy. But it seems that at some undesignated point in the not so distant past, the line disappeared altogether.

I feel compelled, for the sake of fairness, to acknowledge I myself am not innocent with regard to making distinct differences between military and political debate. But then again, I am now out of the service and in a position to pass along my sentiments as they pertain to my sincere regard for so many still in harms way with whom I have shared so much.

In this year’s political cycle, the biggest use of the military was to claim that it’s “broken.” Specifically, the claim was that our military has been broken by that part of the war on terror we’re fighting in Iraq. So we need to pull out of Iraq for the good of the military.

I often wonder, probably because I don’t think much of the average politician, whether they say those things for political posturing or out of sincere concern for the military. Only God knows their true intentions. I’ll just say that I’m skeptical of them.

Claims of the military being broken, for those reasons, for those purposes, misses the big picture and the biggest concern for our national security.

The war in Iraq and the rest of the war on terror should serve as a wake-up call to our nation that our overall plan for the military is broken. The military is not broken because of Iraq. Iraq has simply made unmistakably clear the fact our military lacks the manpower and funding for sustained combat.

With over 2 million active and reserve military personnel, how is that we can’t sustain 140,000 including support troops, in combat on that one front?

This fact makes the possibility of large-scale fighting on two fronts completely impossible. It also shows that our nation is completely unprepared to fight any country or alliance of any military significance.

Right now the liberals reading this are cheering and spewing forth Bush bashes.

But the fact is, the down-sizing of the military started under George H. W. Bush and went full speed ahead under Bill Clinton, who obviously took the military down too far. No surprise knowing the Clintonian contempt for the military.

The events of 9/11 then committed the Pentagon to fighting the war on terror while neglecting the fact we had become incapable of performing sustained combat operations under the previous administration. Regardless of what Donald Rumsfeld might have claimed over the years about changes to our military capabilities, technologies, and restructuring, it’s obvious we simply don’t have the personnel or assets to sustain combat on one front, let alone two. He didn’t start with the assets to do so, but he didn’t fix the problem either.

I understand our commitments to the corners of the earth by all services and the impact it has on war fighting capabilities. The commitments for joint exercises with other nations, Marine Expeditionary Units, air alert contingency units, peace-keeping missions, etc, etc, etc. all take troops from what has become the major front in Iraq as well as continuing operations in Afghanistan. But those together are what, 160,000 personnel now?

Given all of those commitments, weren’t we still supposed to be able to fight wars on two major fronts, or at least one?

Iraq has shown us that sustained combat with just 140,000 of our 2 million troops has forced us to rob Peter to pay Paul while deploying the same units over and over to the point of exhaustion for the troops and their families.

This proves our military is under-manned, under-funded, and maybe even incorrectly structured. If it doesn’t prove this, do we then have to consider two other possibilities? That either the deployment plans and use of military funding is completely, grotesquely inept or that the military is not broken at all, but is being used at an unprecedented level for domestic political gamesmanship.

The commitments and mission capabilities required of each service does not seem to have also left enough Marines, soldiers, and in some cases airmen or sailors to fight wars. So I believe it’s a case of being under-manned and under-funded. Recent declarations by the heads of some services would support this. General Conway’s comments after assuming duties as Commandant of the Marine Corps come to mind as the most recent example.

But instead of using this predicament as political fodder, after all the elections are over now, those in Washington need to act to correct this situation on a long term basis. Immediate pull out of Iraq would not fix the problem. It would only put a political band-aid on it. The fact would remain, as Iraq has proven, that we are not able to sustain combat operations given the current size and composition of the military.

Rangel Revealed

My apologies to the readers. The blog's been giving me fits.

I’ve argued in previous columns there are those I simply haven’t believed when they’ve said, “I support the troops, but not the war.” I haven’t believed they supported either the troops or the war.

They’ve not shown the courage to say so because they knew the firestorm of criticism they would endure for stating their true thoughts. After all, to do so would put them into treacherous waters where they could be questioned for not supporting America’s sons and daughters who willingly risk so much. If it happened to be a left-leaning politician who held those beliefs, even they, with their accomplices couldn’t afford that kind of criticism with upcoming elections.

But the elections have passed and the tables have turned. The threat of being voted out of office is gone, at least for now, and the courage to say what’s been on some minds is being summoned forth. The intoxication of impending power has provided the courage and we’ve now seen two episodes from those on the left who’ve come forward with their denigration of our troops.

John Kerry was the first and let his slip prematurely. The political environment was such that it wasn’t quite okay for him to say what was on his mind exactly when he did, but he was close enough. But now we have Charlie Rangel’s comments on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace from November 26th to stand as the second episode.

His argument for the draft has now also disclosed his belief that those who serve in the military have no other options in life, so the military is where they end up. They’re not as well-off, they’re not as smart, they are not as capable, and are the down-trodden, so the doors of opportunity are not open to them. They have no other choices. If they had they would certainly have taken them, and were thus forced, by default, to join the military as their last resort in life.

The spirit and intent of his comments are exactly like John Kerry’s. The Congressman is a little more eloquent, but his comments were no less derisive of the military than the Senator’s.

Except for the conservative radio shows yesterday, Monday the 27th, there seems to be no outrage over his statements and belittling of our troops. But then again, the climate has changed.

I know it is hard for some liberals to fathom the thought of patriotism felt so deeply within a person that they choose to sacrifice everything else for their fellow citizens and country. And I know the thought of standing for your country as a patriotic concept can be difficult to grasp for those who often choose the definition of patriotism which pits them against their country, so I’ll cut them a little slack. But don’t belittle those who choose the former and not the latter.

Up to this point Rangel’s been making an argument for the draft because he believed the military was not representative of America at large (economic and racial discrimination inferred). He argued if the military were more representative of America with draftees, lawmakers would be less willing to start a war and send drafted troops into battle than they would an all volunteer force. Fair enough thought process if his assumptions about the composition of the military were correct.

But, a detailed Heritage Foundation study spurred by his comments debunked that argument some time ago with regard to all the demographic groups Mr. Rangel believed were being forced into the military. In fact, that study found the opposite of Mr. Rangel’s argument. It found the military to be more diverse than the population at large and that the average military member is better educated and comes from households with higher incomes than their peers.

I know from our battalion of reserve Marines in Iraq we had plenty who took a pay cut when they were mobilized. In fact, the discrepancy in pay was so great for some of our enlisted Marines it created hardships for their families. We had Marines with graduate degrees and high level management positions in Fortune 500 companies.

There were enlisted Marines I served alongside who put high salaried computer programming jobs or the pursuit of a law degree on hold. Our battalion surgeon volunteered for the Navy Reserve to join the war on terror. He is one of the very few pediatric heart surgeons in the United States; certainly not a man without choices in life.

The angry parents and spouses of service members flooded some of the radio talk shows Monday with the stories of why their husband, wife, son, or daughter gave up scholarships, high paying jobs, or other opportunities to go fight.

So, Congressman Rangel simply made an incorrect scientific hypothesis. Honest mistake, had it been left at that.

But, the truth about his view of the troops was laid bare on Sunday as he expanded his argument and continued to speak about the troops and their deficiencies with respect to the rest of society. The truth is he doesn’t think much of us. In the end, his position and comments weren’t what anyone could call “supportive.”

Friday, November 24, 2006

Good Riddance to God Save Us

God Save Us to Good Riddance

As the results of the recent election became clear, my first concern in the new political environment was for my brothers and sisters in arms, especially those still on the front lines. My concern for their welfare grew exponentially since they were now going to be subjected to the whims of many who have never expressed an understanding of the war on terror or ever saw the need to provide a plan for fighting it.

But those were my concerns. I wondered what theirs were. So, I solicited the thoughts of soldiers and Marines who have been there, are likely to go [back] to Iraq, or are on the ground there. I used an open-ended, generic question about the elections and Rumsfeld so they could tell me exactly what was on their minds.

The responses I received from this diverse group of patriotic warriors included everything from “good riddance” to “God help us all,” both ends of the spectrum sincere in their views, including the plea to the Almighty for protection.

On the one hand, there were multiple responses that the elections and removal of Rumsfeld is a victory for the insurgents. It was a repeated theme. After all, it has been the strategy of the terrorists and insurgents to defeat the will of the Americans because they can’t defeat the American military. The elections have now given them a strategic victory. As a result, they shared concerns this will give a huge boost to the aggressiveness of the terrorists who will now be more likely to attack Americans. If they attack and kill even more Americans, given the message we’ve just sent, that should serve to accelerate the “cut and run” mentality which already exists.

This will be further aggravated by the expectation the Democrats will decrease funding and troop strength, thus making our troops more vulnerable and subject to even more attacks. This sentiment is rooted in the well-known attitudes and comments of leading Democrats. Specifically noted were John Kerry’s comments on their intelligence and his continuing status in the party. How can they trust a party to do right by them with such a prominent figure who thinks so poorly of them? Nancy Pelosi’s view that Iraq is a situation to be resolved and not a war to be won won’t help the Democratic cause among those who know they are bleeding and dying in a war.

On the other hand, the “good riddance” crowd and others expressed relief Rumsfeld was gone and hope that a new SecDef will bring new ideas and connect what has been disconnected on the ground, but there was some dismay at the President’s new selection. Why do we keep recycling people? There was also a sentiment that the Republicans had their chance, blew it, and maybe it was time to give someone else a try.

About two-thirds of the respondents noted the need for more troops and had questions about Rumsfeld’s complicity in the number of troops that were allegedly needed. There are many questions and frustrations about the tactics being used in Iraq and a reliance on technology instead of troops. They shared the success stories of Iraqi and American foot patrols where enough troops existed in a given area to influence the battle space. But there was a lack of troops to repeat these successes on a consistent and thorough basis. They also relayed frustrations with vehicle-centric tactics which weren’t effective.

I can’t help but wonder where in the chain of command the “disconnect” must exist between what they need and what is provided and directed. If we still don’t have enough troops and the ones we have aren’t being led to employ the right tactics, at what point in the chain are we wrong? Although responsibility rests at the top, has it been the very top making wrong decisions or somewhere else down the chain? If we answer that, can we move quickly to victory?

All but one believed that leaving before the job was finished would be risky or a mistake. The holdout to the group wondered what victory was because no one’s ever given a clear, definable picture of victory. The others felt the commitment to finish the job was either now in jeopardy or our defeat was now a sealed fate. All but the lone holdout expressed that cutting and running would be detrimental to the safety of the troops, the U.S., or the world community.

The newly empowered Democrats should take note of that. Those who stand toe-to-toe with Islamic extremists every day, whether they agree with the new political environment or not, understand the enemy we face, how long we will have to fight them, and the consequences of surrendering the fight. Even today there are those, including some Republicans, who have been unwilling to admit, acknowledge, or comprehend this. Their attitude is that it’s only some sort of extremist “neocon” view of the world.

But those who took the time to answer my question are obviously not “neocons” and understand the consequences of this war. It all now hinges on how many politicians, Democrat and Republican alike, have the political will to accept that and whether or not they have the ability to define victory and the fortitude to fight for it.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Veterans Day Lesson on Names

Sterling is the name of the man who owns the hardware store where I live. But Sterling is much more than just the owner of a hardware store. He’s a veteran; a veteran of the Korean War. In fact, Sterling was awarded the Silver Star for heroism after fighting near Hagaru Ri and a Purple Heart later during that war. Anyone who knows anything about the Chosin Reservoir immediately recognizes the name Hagaru Ri and has an appreciation for the kind of fight Sterling must have had against the waves of Chinese attacking from the north.

I recently stopped at the hardware store to renew my American Legion membership. Sterling’s also an officer for our local American Legion Post. He asked if I was going to be attending our town’s Veterans Day program. I replied that I didn’t think I could attend because I was scheduled to give a speech at Fort McPherson National Cemetery.

Sterling then paused and he took off his glasses with one hand, looked at me and ran his other hand through his white hair. After a moment he said to me in a calm, but sincere voice, “there’s a good friend of mine buried there. He was hurt bad during the war, right near me. He died there in Korea. I’ll never forget him. I can still see his face.”

With the revelation of each fact, Sterling paused, as if weighing the gravity of individual memories now coming alive once again.

He continued, “I’ve visited his grave there at Fort McPherson. He’s buried near the flag pole. I’ve shed a lot of tears for him over the years. He was from Nebraska City. His name is Duane Hoyle.”

After my time in Iraq, I really don’t have many fears. But I suddenly realized at that moment I was afraid of something I’d never thought about. I was afraid, that unlike Sterling who hadn’t forgotten, I would forget the names of the Marines I served with in Iraq. Even though they were alive, I was afraid I would lose touch with them and eventually forget their names. Suddenly a name meant more to me than I could have ever imagined.

Standing there with Sterling, all of my friends’ call signs started running through my head, but their names were escaping me. I almost panicked. I could remember “Moe, Troll, Grumpy, Bronco and Dirt,” but their real names were briefly, inexplicably lost.

I quickly regained my thoughts and the names rushed back to me, but the fear of forgetting those names was now irreversibly imprinted in my mind. We finished the business at hand and I left the hardware store, enlightened by the experience, knowing that in a very small way, I now understood the fight at Hagaru Ri just a little better than I had before.

I was humbled by the shared memory. Not just by the willing openness, but in the fact that during one brief encounter a very personal, living history of the Korean War was opened right before my eyes and made available as a lesson that will remain with me for the rest of my life.

It also reaffirmed my perception, whether right or wrong, which causes me to believe that those who served in previous wars, the warriors of previous generations, should be held in higher esteem than we should ever hold ourselves. Even though we might have “been there and done that,” we sometimes still consider our predecessors as more deserving of the title “veteran.” The proof for this philosophy was endorsed yet again with that one trip to the hardware store.

I also knew this had been one of those lessons that can make us better people, if, in this case, for no other reason, than to make me a better “name” person because I’m not very good at remembering people’s names. I’ve resolved to be better at it now.

But most importantly, Sterling taught me a lesson that day about the power of a name. Obviously every name is personal, but it’s the experiences of and with the people who belong to each name that gives power to something as simple as a name.

For veterans and all citizens, remembering the names and service of those who fought our nation’s wars and then participating in the development of our nation’s future not only honors those who’ve fought, but most importantly it solidifies that for which they fought.

Personally, I’ll honor those I served with and what they believed by remembering their names and passing along their deeds from Iraq. I won’t forget Adam low-crawling up to potential IEDs. I won’t forget Matt calling in air support even while being shot at with RPG’s. I won’t forget Mark’s voice ripping through the night, motivating a lackadaisical convoy. I won’t forget the calm in Ric’s voice as he talked an ambushed unit through a fire fight over the radio. I simply won’t forget most every experience with Rod who’s back there now training Iraqi soldiers.

And I’ll honor both Sterling and his friend, Corporal Duane Hoyle, by visiting Duane’s grave when I give my speech at Fort McPherson and letting him know that Sterling sent me.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Fighting for Those Who Fight Against Us

I sometimes question the sanity of having fought for the rights of those who, by virtue of their every endeavor, seek to destroy the foundations of the country I fought for. In raising my hand and swearing to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States” I know that my oath required me to defend all Americans, everyone benefiting from the rights of the Constitution. But I sometimes have trouble getting my head around the idea of having defended anyone whose mission it is to attack those rights.

I ask that question with each mailing I get from the ACLU. No, I didn’t apply for membership to the ACLU. I guess, as some sort of sophomoric joke, someone signed me up; most likely one of the liberals who takes offense at my publicizing their positions. So I kept the membership. It’s like spying on the enemy. It reminds me of all the time I spent finding out what the bad guys were up to in Iraq.

The latest mailing from them was an attack on faith. It came as a solicitation for donations to fight anything and everything “faith-based.” It was four pages warning of attempts to transform “our country from a constitutional democracy to a thinly-veiled theocracy.”

The sales pitch by the ACLU is that they need my money for defending “religious liberty.”

But all of us who have watched the ACLU operate know their agenda is definitely not defending religious liberty. It is the denial of religious liberty. It is the denial of expression of religion by those who are religious. It is not the separation of church of state. It is elimination of the church from the United States.

I have heard the ACLU called “the most dangerous organization in the U.S.” I would agree. Their position on faith is a perfect example. They adamantly oppose faith in our country, but are the same group which has committed so many of its resources to defending the rights of religious terrorists. They have fund drives to fight against faith in the United States while at the same time fighting for the rights of those who, because of their faith, have declared holy war against the United States. Their mission is to tear apart the foundations of religion in this country while at the same time defending the terrorists who are intent upon the destruction of this country for religious purposes.

In the same mailing they also attack abstinence because it has, at least in part, support by religious groups who use their funding to promote abstinence. Abstinence itself is described as a “woeful excuse for health education” and puts “the health and well being of thousands of young people at risk by failing to give teenagers the facts they need to prevent disease and unwanted pregnancy.”

Last time I checked abstinence worked for preventing both pregnancy and disease every time it was tried. How irresponsible is it of any group to attack a 100% proven method for protecting our children, regardless of the base of support for that method? It shows the immorality of their ideology and the disregard they have for the consequences of their actions.

And then they move on to the defense of abortion, or as they refer to it, “reproductive rights.” If it weren’t so serious, that term itself would be laughable. Trying to disguise the destruction of life as the right to create life has got to be one of the most semantically clever yet grotesque uses of the English language ever.

Their atheistic comprehension of the argument prevents them from grasping why opposition to abortion and the wanton destruction of life is based primarily on religious precepts. Evidently, the ACLU doesn’t feel those who oppose destroying life are entitled to that opinion on those grounds. Sorry ACLU, those religious principles are the same ones that constitute the very fabric of this country, and pro-life groups are entitled the right to invoke those foundational principles in developing and stating their views, just as much as you rely on your impious ideology to oppose them.

As noted before, they seem convinced of an existing threat to transform our country into “a thinly-veiled theocracy.” Nice scare tactic, but maybe they need to study those places in the world where theocracies actually exist to see how far from a theocracy our country is. Evidently no one from the ACLU has been to a militant Islamic country where other religions aren’t even allowed and beheadings await those who don’t believe in Islam.

Maybe they need to visit Saudi Arabia or Iran. Those are theocracies. Our country isn’t even in the same game with them, nor is it anywhere near the ball-park, driving toward it, or even thinking about buying tickets to that game.

Our country’s biggest problem is exactly the opposite; the need to fight against those, like the ACLU, who want to deny all of us our religious freedoms, regardless of which religion we choose.

In fighting against them, I should also say “thanks” to the ACLU for the mailings. Even though I’m not proud of having fought for them, I’m glad I could be a drain on their resources and help illuminate their positions.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Histories Lessons on Intentions

I often marvel at the intellect of our forefathers.

The wisdom, foresight, and intelligence they displayed when writing our Constitution and the arguments they made to the people for acceptance never cease to capture my imagination and amaze me. They obviously had a vision for the endurance of that document and the applicability of those arguments, as both continue to guide our country and provide clarification to our nation’s direction.

In forging the future of our nation, they enumerated for us specific rights granted by what became known as The Bill of Rights.

But through The Federalist Papers, in arguing for a republic, for a federal government with individual state governments instead of individual sovereign state nations or small confederacies of states, they also provided some insight and caution which notes the existence of a line between individual rights and the needs of a nation.

In their time, the argument for individual sovereign states or small confederacies of states was being made, at least partially, on the grounds of the rights of individuals. It was proposed that a republic would deny the rights of individuals, and only through smaller entities would an individual’s rights be preserved. “Scare tactics” of the day were utilized to invoke fear that a republic would strip away the rights they’d just recently fought for.

In rebuttal, Alexander Hamilton pointed out where the true threat to their rights lay, “An over scrupulous jealousy of danger to the rights of the people…will be represented as mere pretence and artifice; the bait for popularity at the expense of public good.” And “…a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people, than under the forbidding appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government.”

He and John Jay went on to describe the “public good” and “firmness and efficiency of government” to include matters of national strength, or in today’s terms, national security.

In this light, their sentiments and observations are extremely applicable today, particularly as they relate to our current national security situation and the positions of the far left and their cohorts at the ACLU.

The radical left used an overly ambitious strategy based on “rights” when attacking the use of military tribunals for suspected terrorists caught on the field of battle and the methods used to obtain information from them. As a result, the courts demanded further legislation from Congress. The Administration then worked with Congress to develop and approve the legislation necessary to satisfy both the needs of the courts as well as the national security needs of the people. Yet Senators like Russ Feingold and his friends at the ACLU attacked this new legislation and poured out doom and gloom for the rights of all.

They continue to exploit the argument for civilian rights and trials of enemy combatants caught on the field of battle. They argue against the interrogation methods that have prevented attacks against us, accusing those who obtain the information and those who protect us of torturing prisoners. They try to make us imagine that our servicemen and public servants are physically harming prisoners, using the most heinous, harmful tactics our imaginations can summon. They argue that moral equivalency exists between stress positions and cutting, cold rooms and dismemberment, loud music and breaking of bones, water boarding and beheading. They do so to scare us into believing our individual liberties are at risk.

They also fought against The Patriot Act, even boasting when they thought they’d killed it. They fight against domestic phone surveillance of Al Qaeda. They argue against tracking the financial transactions of our known enemies. They do so all in the name of guarding our rights and freedoms.

All the while they fulfill the words of Alexander Hamilton. His words are nearly prophetic in this case.

They’ve made vicious attack after vicious attack, disguising these attacks as in the best interest of our rights. Yet their intent is very clear. It is their will to power which drives their position. It is the “dangerous ambition” spoken of so long ago which drives them. All the while they attempt to hide it behind the “mask of zeal for the rights of the people.” The argument is simply “the bait for popularity” in trying to regain power in Washington.

Normally, all of us would be appreciative of someone arguing on our behalf, for the rights we believe are endowed upon us by our Creator. But not so in this case, where the intentions are obviously twisted. If it were for our protection, I would accept the position of Feingold and the ACLU. But the warning delivered to us so long ago allows us to recognize their true intentions. Because they argue against the security of our nation, they actually argue against our individual best interests and the longevity of our freedom.

And where do their positions lead? Where did our forefathers warn us their motives would take us? They tell us that theirs “has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism…and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics the greatest number have begun their career by paying obsequious court to the people, commencing Demagogues and ending Tyrants.”

Acting for Self Interest

“But if we are to be told by a foreign Power... what we shall do, and what we shall not do, we have Independence yet to seek, and have contended hitherto for very little.” George Washington
Makes me wonder why in the world we put so much stock in the European Union and United Nations when it comes to the national security interests of our country.
When did we lose sight of those ideals which adamantly insistent upon our retention of independence and liberty above all else? When did we lose sight of what was in the best interest of our country and demand its submission to the whims of the international community?
The day politics and the will to power trumped national security in America, that’s when. Although not a uniquely American problem, it is a predicament which appears to have only become a problem in America.
Other countries don’t appear to have let politics trump their own national interests or national security the way we have.
Through the course of all the negotiations and diplomacy which have taken place at the United Nations and European Union concerning Iraq and Iran, and the six parties involved with the North Korea situation, other countries have acted in their own best interest.
Concerning Iraq, France worked vigorously against us. They had much to hide in the “U.N. Oil for Food Scandal” and much to preserve economically in regard to their trade with Iraq. I understand why they worked against us. They were acting in their own best interests.
But, when we acted in the interest of our national security, others abroad didn’t like it. Our actions were contrary to the future plans they had for their countries, they were looking out for themselves while demanding that we shouldn’t.
North Korea has acted in what it considers to be its own best interest, shielded at every turn by China who is doing the same. After voting for sanctions they are now considering not enforcing them. But why shouldn’t both these countries act as such and why is it a surprise that they have? Sure I think Kim Jong Il is an absolute mad-man with nothing to offer the world but instability and nuclear fallout. But, he’s acting in what he considers his own best interests. No U.S. administration, of either party, was going to stop him from doing what he was intent on doing. Clinton failed and so did Bush. Not because they were ineffective, but because Kim Jong Il was going to move forward with a nuclear program either way.
We also have a tough situation in Iran. They’ve repeatedly thumbed their nose at the entire international community. But why shouldn’t they? They’re acting in what they feel are their own best interests. I don’t like it or agree with it, but I get it.
Russia and China are assisting Iran, because they obviously feel it’s in their best interests to do so. So, why does it come as a surprise that the European Union and United Nations have been ineffective at dealing with Iran? After all, Iran is going to do what Iran thinks it needs to do, regardless of international carrots and sticks, American administration in place, or diplomacy intended to change their minds.
These may be seemingly insurmountable obstacles, but they don’t leave us in an untenable situation. That is until America is not also allowed to act in its best interest because at every turn liberals here put their own interests ahead of America’s, demand their right to hypocrisy and a resolute need for following the United Nations when politically expedient, and then throw tantrums demanding that all of us submit our security to their political interests.
Their politics and their will to power trump all else. They take positions opposite of what is right, simply for the sake of doing so. Their division of America for these reasons decreases the power America is capable of wielding in the world.
The liberals howled because we were “going it alone” in Iraq. And now they howl because we aren’t going it alone on Iran and are bellowing about failures because we didn’t go it alone with North Korea in pursuit of a Bill Clinton proven path to failure.
The actions of liberals here parallel the actions of those who work so aggressively against our country. Their own interests trump the national security of our country. Their will to political power comes ahead of all else as evidenced by their hypocritical, inconsistent positions on Iraq, Iran, and North Korea.
Sometimes our best interests intersect with the interests of other countries and it is right to pursue multi-lateral options and solutions. I understand that our interests are often the same as another countries and working toward common goals is a necessity. However, our words and deeds must remain focused and unified on our own security when pursuing such goals. None of us should be so willing to subject our security to politics and the will to power.
So until liberals lose their obsession with the United Nations, can honestly stand on a position of America first politics second, and place their own interests and will to power behind national security, America will remain divided and weakened with respect to its status on the world stage.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Shifting Mentality

A very good friend of mine is back in Iraq now. He’s leading a team of Marines who are training Iraqi soldiers. Not only am I happy for my friend because he’s doing what he loves to do, but I’m proud of his being part of the future of Iraq.

The future of Iraq is not just about standing up their army and rebuilding roads, schools, or hospitals. It’s about rebuilding the Iraqi people as a people. And that’s what my friend is doing, as much as helping to stand up their army.

In the documentary “My Country, Iraq” there is an interview with what appears to be a local Sheik whose words are rather insightful into his country’s situation. He speaks to the fact that the biggest casualty of Saddam Hussein’s era and the war which ended it was not the local cement factories or other infrastructure. He said the biggest casualty of Saddam Hussein was the mentality of the Iraqi people. It would take much longer to rebuild the mentality of the Iraqi people than it would any of the physical structures.

I agree. The biggest challenge we and the Iraqi people have faced is getting an entire generation (my generational counterparts in Iraq) to step to the plate, lead, administrate, and be free citizens in a new form of government which serves their best interest, but in which no one has any experience implementing or operating. After 30 years of Saddam Hussein’s oppression, there was a huge vacuum of refined leadership capability and a lack of the concepts for leadership.

Enter the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs). According to Multi-National Forces Iraq spokesman, Major General Caldwell, “the Provincial Reconstruction Teams teach, coach, mentor Iraqi civil leaders at all levels in the methods and means for developing governance capacity, promoting increased security, rule of law, political and economic development, and assisting provincial administrations to meet the basic needs or essential services of their populations.”

It was announced this week that 7 of the 10 planned PRTs are now in place to accomplish the tasks detailed by Major General Caldwell and move the Iraqi people forward; to help overcome that which has been the biggest obstacle to rebuilding Iraq.

The PRTs also represent a light at the end of the tunnel for our being able to leave a stable Iraq because “PRTs also transition the rebuilding efforts from us to the Iraqi’s…and leverage the Iraqi’s ability to build their future.” They are not only an essential step to rebuilding the mentality of the Iraqi people and providing the skills for self governance, but essential to empowering the Iraqi’s to rebuild their own country.

But of course security is critical to self-governance and that’s where my friend comes in again, training Iraqi soldiers. At this point, there are, according to Major General Caldwell, “a total of six Iraqi army division headquarters, 30 brigades, 89 battalions that are in the lead in their respective areas of operation.” Even though the Iraqi soldiers continue to be prime targets themselves, there has obviously been a shift in mentality of many Iraqi’s to forego the risk and join the army.

We also see a shift of attitude in the Al Anbar province. A report by the L.A. Times this week shows how the preference for action and initiative has taken hold and is growing. They reported that an agreement among tribal leaders there has held together. The tribal leaders had pledged to “clean out Al Qaeda insurgents” and were “as good as their word.” After the Iraqi’s had suffered “more than 8,000” casualties at the hands of the terrorists and facing “insurgents' demands for adherence to strict Islamic law,” they went after the Jihadists and have been capturing or in some cases killing them.

But, Baghdad is said by some to be the key for success in Iraq. Obviously it’s been an explosive place the last month or so. However, we’ve also focused much effort in Baghdad and comments by retired Major General Robert Scales in a Washington Times article this week show the degree of our success. He explained that the situation in some ways “in Baghdad is classic insurgency warfare…The enemy believes it is losing control of regions or neighborhoods and tries to reverse the trend with a spike in violence.” Obviously our efforts are working if the enemy is reacting as such.

But the real hope for Baghdad comes again with what appears to be a shift in mentality of the Iraqi’s for action. The leadership of the country has joined with local tribal, religious, military, and political leaders and formed a coalition to confront the problems there. An almost unheard of proposition and practice in a country which seems so fractured when viewed through our nightly news reports. There is hope in action such as this.

It is right that Condoleezza Rice flew to Iraq this week to push the process forward and assert a new sense of urgency into it. Combining this new sense of urgency with what is becoming a pattern of preference for action among the Iraqi’s are mindsets that can merge into a powerful new synergy for hope all of us can have for the future of Iraq.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Who Should Lead?

Newspaper Publish Date of 5 October 06

The rhetoric leading up to this year’s election clearly portrays a difference between the Republican and Democratic views of what it takes to defend this nation. It leads to the often asked “who is more capable of leading America during a time of war?”

When asked this “more capable” question my conservative attitudes made the answer obvious and easy for me. But I also pondered the question from a military view and wondered if military service were used as a barometer, an indicator of propensity for action and a willingness to fight an enemy, would it give any insight for answering the question. Specifically, did the beliefs of the Republican populace, not politicians in D.C., move them to “put up” more when it came time to actually fight, or did the Democratic populace “put up” more, or were they equal?

If we use the typical standard of red states (those who voted for President Bush in 2004) representing Republican America, while blue states represent Democratic America, the percentage of military recruits among equal numbers of youth from each state is illustrative of the difference in views about the defense of this nation.

Research from the National Priorities Project released in September indicates that of the top 24 states who gave the highest ratios of sons and daughters for military service in 2005 per 1000 of their youth ages 15-24, 8 of the top 10 and 21 of the top 24 were red states.

An analysis of Defense Department and Census Bureau data collected by the Heritage Foundation revealed that of the states who gave the highest percentages of sons and daughters for military service in 2003 per 1000 of their youth ages 18-24, 15 of the top 20 were red states. Of the 20 states which gave a disproportionately low number of their youth to the service in 2003, 13 were blue states. Their study also confirmed a “strong Southern military tradition” (red states) and “found an exceptional tendency for lower than average military participation in New England” (blue states).

But does that necessarily mean those states have sons and daughters who tend to have a red state mentality themselves? Although not completely scientific, but still the most comprehensive representation of military attitudes available, the most recent Military Times polling of military members showed 60% of respondents identified themselves as Republican and 13% identified themselves as Democrats. Additionally, pre-election Army Times polls in 2004 showed 73% of members planning to vote for President Bush and 18% planning to vote for Democratic challenger John Kerry.

The Heritage Foundation study did not discuss an unwillingness to serve under a Commander in Chief of a different political stripe, as it looked at data from 1999 and 2003.

The object of these observations is not to portray the political leanings of the military. Nor is it an attempt to segregate military members based on their backgrounds. I firmly believe my brothers and sisters in arms serve their country equally well and with the same spirit regardless of background or political persuasion.

But these observations do help us understand manifestations of the philosophies and ideologies about our national defense held by different groups. It’s the philosophies and ideologies of the places where military members come from we are interested in because they bring clarity to the differences between actions Democrats and Republicans are willing to take for the defense of this nation.

Many distinctions can be made about attitudes and beliefs throughout the country. One way to solicit the differences could be illustrated by the responses given when asked to choose between fighting for Constitutional protections for terrorists or fighting against the terrorists in defense of the country the Constitution represents. When confronted, do they choose to fight first for the rights of the terrorists or fight against the terrorists? Chances are New Englanders will tend to answer the question differently than Southerners. The military service decisions of our youth from different states or areas can then be used as a barometer for war time leadership preference because they are the manifestation, the reflection of the same values and beliefs which drive our answers to these types of questions.

There are differences in attitude toward service to the country and how much is willingly sacrificed to insure our safety. Again, I’m not talking about the military members themselves; all who join must be willing to make every sacrifice, even the ultimate sacrifice when called upon to do so. But the prevailing attitudes that exist in areas where military service is encouraged and supported indicate a heightened recognition of the need and willingness to defend our country. In order for youth to take action and be willing to make the sacrifices required of military service, the predominant atmosphere among the families, neighborhoods, and hometowns which urge and support their service must include recognition of the threats to our country and a penchant for action against them.

When given the choice between leadership derived from a philosophy which lacks understanding of the threats we face and is reluctant or even unwilling to take action when confronted by these threats or leadership that recognizes danger and willingly takes decisive action against these threats as needed, I’ll choose the latter.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Any Concern for Classified Material?

Well, it took a while, but I finally agree with something French President Jacques Chirac did last week. The leak of a classified document from within the French government concerning the possible death of Usama bin Laden brought the appropriate response. His immediate concern was the fact that a classified document had been leaked. His public statements addressed that issue first and foremost, exactly as they should have.

But, it doesn’t appear we seem to have the same concern in this country for handling classified material. The illegal release of at least part of the National Intelligence Estimate from April is yet another breach of what Americans should expect to be an airtight system for securing our country’s classified information.

Our administration’s first response to yet another illegal disclosure, as well as the public’s first response, should have been one of fury at the leak and the impact a porous intelligence community has on our national security. Concern for the political implications of the document should have been a distant second.

After the leaks concerning the NSA surveillance program, CIA prisons in other countries, financial tracking of terrorist activities, and other classified information and programs, a pattern has developed which is obviously not simple criminal carelessness at the highest levels. This is either extreme negligence or deliberate breaches of the law, both of which should be strenuously investigated and prosecuted.

My own experience with classified material makes all of these high-level illegal disclosures even more baffling. Both in terms of how anyone could be so careless or intentional in breaking the law and why there isn’t a dragnet and very public prosecution of the criminals involved.

Like all young Lieutenants, I was given a host of what we like to call “crummy little odd jobs” in addition to my usual duties. I drew the job of Classified Material Control Center Officer for the first two units I was with. I think I’d have rather been the Voting Officer or something else much less intimidating. As I endorsed the orders assigning me to this duty, the “pucker factor” increased exponentially. I was now responsible for handling and accounting for the battalion’s classified material. I could see the butter bars never turning silver if I screwed this one up. It was after all “Secret” stuff I was responsible for. To say I had a heightened sense of accountability and attention to detail when performing this duty is an understatement.

So, I really can’t understand how anyone could then be so reckless, or worse yet, intentional in their mishandling of our country’s high level intelligence. Nor can I comprehend the indifference we seem to have for the crimes committed.

The potential damage and consequences to our nation from what is becoming an increasingly transparent intelligence community are immeasurable. But they are not intangible. Predicting the worst case scenario because our nation’s secrets can’t be kept is suddenly not just something that has to be done as a matter of planning and war gaming preparation. It becomes a necessary exercise because the possibility of some one using our own information to harm us has gotten one step closer to reality.

A passionate concern for our nation’s top secrets should apply regardless of administration or political party in charge. America’s classified material needs to be kept classified and only published for public consumption under the laws and through the processes established for doing so. Acceptance or indifference of anything less than strict adherence to these laws sets a dangerous precedent all future administrations and generations will suffer from.

With regard to the litany of infractions over the course of the last year, those on the left have essentially taken the stand that “we need to know these things as part of our open society.” They’re wrong and I’m sure they’d be singing a different song if this were a Democratic administration. Arguments about an “open society” and “need to know” only go so far and should not include public access to top secret information as if it were the latest and greatest on Brad and Angelina.

Many on the right are discussing the timing of this latest leak in relation to the Democrat’s hearings on Iraq, pointing political fingers at political motivations. They’re wrong too. The only thing that should be happening right now is trying to find out why our intelligence community seems to have turned into a sieve.

Since we seem to have a group of people who no longer care about our laws for handling and securing the nation’s classified material, maybe we should just turn the entire process over to a bunch of Corporal’s and young Lieutenants. I know they’d be committed to getting the job done right. After all, if they mishandled classified information in a similar fashion they’d surely face the fire and brimstone, as well as the loss of the coveted eagle, globe, and anchor they’d just recently worked so hard to earn.

Or better yet, why don’t those responsible for handling our nation’s highest levels of intelligence simply do their job correctly and those responsible for investigating and prosecuting these infractions do theirs.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Agriculture Instead of Military

Although I commit much of my time to research and writing in support our troops, their mission, and our national security, my involvement with agriculture commands most of my time. That commitment to agriculture afforded me the opportunity to work with Pete Ricketts and his staff to develop Pete’s platform on ag related issues.

I am an agronomist, a Certified Crop Adviser who has the privilege of providing consulting services to over 30 Nebraska farmers, all with different farm sizes, needs, and challenges, both for the short term and long term. It’s a very personal job that often transitions from business into friendship. To me, it’s not just the success of my customers I care for, it’s the success and prosperity of my friends I care about.

That’s the approach I take when providing Pete with input as he develops his agricultural platform. Several Nebraska farmers and other ag professionals have also been working with Pete from the beginning of his campaign, giving him direct input and providing feedback from our communities. Pete also solicited input from Nebraska growers associations. I’ve seen Pete and his staff approach agriculture, and all other issues important to Nebraskans, with the appropriate personal care.

I have been and continue to be involved with the development of his ag policy positions. That’s why I know the radio commercial Ben Nelson released last week about Pete’s ag policy is absolute rubbish.

Ben weaves his lie this way “Pete Ricketts proposes to phase out farm subsidies. Ricketts supports a risky plan of farm savings accounts that ends farm support payments and jeopardizes our rural way of life. It’s a clever way to boost income for mega farms and their investors while short changing family farms and main street Nebraska.”

When I heard these accusations, I found them so absurd I went right past being angry to being openly amused.

For starters, Pete does not propose phasing out farm subsidies or ending farm support payments. I’ve never detected that position in any of his published material, during the many conversations I’ve had with Pete, from his debates, or listening to him answer questions from groups of voters.

Pete does not believe in dumping farm support payments. He does support farm savings accounts, but not as a means to end farm support payments as Ben is trying to scare everyone into believing. Pete has proposed farm savings accounts as a complement to farm support payments, but not to act in lieu of those payments.

What Pete supports are ag savings accounts that would allow farmers to save money tax-free as an additional risk management tool. Nelson supported this approach in 2001 and 2003 when he co-sponsored Senator Grassley's bills on this topic, but Pete's approach is better because it also calls for federal matching funds for money contributed to these accounts. But, he does not propose elimination of support payments and replacement with these ag savings accounts. Ben Nelson is not dealing with the truth by stating otherwise.

When giving Pete input for his ag platform, I felt I was representing my customers, my friends, and their future; they are not mega farmers or their investors. As such, I gave advice and input based on farm sizes from 400 to 4000 acres with potential for growth amongst all. Pete did not move forward with a plan to specifically benefit only mega farmers, their investors, or anyone on Wall Street. Ben Nelson’s accusations in this arena are also unfounded and invented.

Pete’s positions on agriculture are highlighted by ideas and philosophies for free and fair trade, opening up markets for our crops and livestock, bio-based fuels, as well as value added opportunities for agricultural products. Pete’s vision also provides insight into comprehensive rural development including benefits the Conservation Security Program can have for both producers and Nebraska communities. He details how increased funding for university research can find new uses and markets for commodities while sparking job creation and bringing people back to Nebraska.

Pete understands the importance of agriculture to our state and its significance to our rural communities. He understands the impact year to year variable income has on farmers and the communities in which they live. That’s why he’s proposed continuing support payments, ag savings accounts, and expansion of insurance programs to include revenue coverage for livestock. Pete also supports expanded crop insurance and increased disaster assistance in the next Farm Bill. All programs designed to take risk out of the process and decrease the impact year to year variability has on farm income.

As a businessman, Pete understands the impact all internal and external factors can have on the business of farming and is genuinely committed to making things better for Nebraska farmers and our rural communities, not putting them in jeopardy.

It takes someone with sound ideas and courage to lead. While Ben Nelson continues to focus on negative campaigning, Pete Ricketts is sharing the ideas and showing the courage we need to move our state and this nation forward. Agriculture is just another arena where the difference between the leadership abilities of each has become evident.

Monday, September 11, 2006

From the Islamists' Perspective

Although the life of jihad is a hard one, it is only momentary compared to the eternal rewards awaiting us in heaven. Meanwhile, we find many things to encourage us now during our fight against America.

We are thankful Allah has not allowed our enemy to throw the full weight of their nation against us. Had they done so, the overwhelming force may have prevented us from pursuing their slow, methodical demise. We are happy to hear their government talking of budget cuts for their military. We know from our experiences you can not do more with less, you can only do less. Otherwise we would be doing much more to defeat them.

It was a joyous time when their newspapers revealed the secret programs they were using against us. We were blessed by Allah. We were able to change our phone numbers, other means of communication, business transactions, and our infiltration plans. Some of their politicians made our joy complete when they argued those programs and their Patriot Act should be very limited, controlled in a public forum, or not exist at all. This will make the task ahead so much easier for us.

We read their newspapers and watch their news channels to see the hand of Allah at work. When they count the death of 500 of our Taliban brothers at the cost of 2 Americans as a loss for America, we know that god’s will is being done. When their leaders like Howard Dean come on television shows and publicly state the same thing, we are sure that victory is Allah’s will for us.

We are grateful to their politicians like Murtha and Hagel who argue for running away from us. That is the life blood of our cause – to break their will. And while breaking their will, it gives us the propaganda to recruit others, to show potential recruits America’s leaders won’t fight, we are winning. We use the words of their politicians to debate and attempt to demoralize their soldiers. We may lack the means to defeat them militarily, but we don’t need to defeat their military. When America’s leaders give their people reasons not to fight we are accomplishing our objectives and inching closer to the victory we wait patiently for Allah to deliver.

It is especially heartening to know so many Americans do not consider Iraq to be part of the war we wage against them. We have declared it so, but when Americans refuse to acknowledge Iraq as part of our fight against them, we know they will be too blind to see us until the sword of our cause is being held to their throat, god willing.

We do not fear capture by the Americans. Their laws prevent them from torturing us, we will suffer no pain. In fact, Allah has willed that we not even be allowed discomfort under their laws. We will have the rights of an American and protection of the Geneva Conventions even though we represent no country, only Allah. What is there to fear? We may live our lives in their prisons, but will die as martyrs, if Allah wills it.

We are not Al Qaeda, but we are thankful to Sheik Usama and our Al Qaeda brothers for their jihad and their endurance. We know there are many Americans who are solely focused on Usama bin Laden. Their words betray their belief that he is the only threat, defining success or failure by his capture or death. That ignorance allows all other warriors for Islam to operate without fear from America. If they think Usama and Al Qaeda are the only threat, then the rest of us are free to flourish under the blessings and protection of Allah, undisturbed, growing in strength and number. We are grateful for such foolish Americans who believe that Sheik Usama is our inspiration. We are not inspired by him we are inspired by Islam, Allah, and his prophet.

Although we are angered by America’s policies toward Israel, and they help us recruit others, it is still Allah who inspires us to fight, not those policies. The same holds true for the deaths of our Muslim brothers at the hands of America throughout the world. If American’s want to believe those things to be the root cause of our jihad, let them. That is yet another blind path upon which they will stumble until the day of their destruction. We wage holy war against them, not because of their policies, but because Islam mandates we destroy them. America and Israel are the Satan’s to be crushed, but all infidels throughout the whole world must bow before Allah or perish.

We watch the politics of America with much anticipation. We cheer those who say that George Bush is the cause of our hatred and without him America will be safe. We are thankful that Allah has given them short memories, that they’ve forgotten the history of our jihad and all the Americans we killed long before Bush. There is much rejoicing as the predictions show potential victory in their elections for those who want to run and hide from us. If they succeed we will face an even softer opponent, an America led by people who have so often argued against fighting us, and believe America’s policies are a bigger threat than we are. We pray to god their blindness will prevail so we can wage unchallenged jihad against them, disable their ability to operate in the world, and eventually slip right into their houses to destroy them.

We are happy that Americans have not turned to religion for the answer to their troubles. Our solid belief in Allah gives us the strength to persevere against an enemy much stronger than ourselves. Because so many Americans lack true religious faith they are unable to comprehend the depth of our faith or strength of our convictions, and are thus blind to the reasons for our fight and ignorant about how to fight us.

Our only fear is the momentary pain we will suffer if the American forces come knocking on our door. But we do not fear America. Why should we? It is a country divided by those who don’t want to fight us unless we’re on their doorstep. But that will be too late for them. And right now they are much louder than those who are willing to hunt and fight us wherever we may be. By god’s will, they are defeating America from within. So why should we fear?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Do We Still Have The Will to Win?

Do you feel an impending angst as 9/11 approaches, especially knowing we’ll relive that day through a deluge of 5th anniversary TV coverage? Or has it all passed you by and become just another calloused memory, no worse than any other you’d care not to revisit?

Will you relive that day and wonder why it happened and then wonder how we’ve come to this day? Or do the concrete realities and reasons for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan escape your daily concerns?

How much sorrow do you feel with each funeral notice for a serviceman or woman who stepped forward to fight the Global War On Terror? Does it barely register or does it affect you deeply, if even for only a moment? Do you pause and say a prayer for the family in mourning? Or do you shrug it off and carry on with your daily routine?

Do you wonder at the courage and commitment of that man or woman which ultimately led to their sacrifice? Or do you simply wonder how they still had the tenacity to fight so many years after the catalyzing events of 9/11.

Do you still feel the fire from that day? The fire, determination, and will to bring harm to those who exacted such a terrible toll upon us, and all who think exactly as they do. The same fire and will that spurred you to pledge publicly or personally, “Never again!” Or is the will gone? Or was it ever there?

Some lacked the spirit to take on Al Qaeda, even after 9/11. A few more lacked the strength to take on Iraq and the similar threat Saddam posed. Now, a growing number lack the resolve to win this war, to see it through to victory. This, in and of itself, is a chilling predicament, considering our enemy draws upon the pool of their fanatical religious beliefs for a seemingly infinite supply of will and resolve to defeat us.

And when stripped bare, it all comes down to that. Do we possess the will to defeat Islamic extremists whose stated, unequivocal goal is our conversion or destruction? Do we possess the strength of character, as individuals, and as a nation to defeat this clear and present danger?

We need to ask those questions because that’s who we continue to fight, and will continue to face into the foreseeable future, worldwide, including in Iraq.

As violence in Baghdad increased, the picture portrayed was one of civil strife only, of neighbor fighting neighbor, sect against sect. But, at the source, the pot was still being stirred by Al Qaeda and it was still they, as much as any others, our combined Iraqi and American forces were still successfully hunting.

Gradually, more and more of that country moves forward into what critics still call an impossible future. In the last month we’ve seen the infrastructure advancements, a military milestone with 5 of 10 Iraqi divisions being fully operational and one of them now completely independent of our forces, the establishment of the full Iraqi civilian and military chain of command, the destruction of many terror cells by our combined forces, and the capture of Al Qaeda’s number two man in Iraq.

Yet, the facts and success we enjoy against this enemy go unreported or are quickly overwhelmed by a tsunami of rhetoric from those who lack the will to fight or seem to pursue our surrender and defeat against them.

The recent airline terror plots by like-minded extremists were forgotten in a flash, quickly hushed by those who, for no more than political reasons, would like all of us to forget the danger they posed, and from where that danger came.

The defeat of Joe Lieberman, who possesses the intestinal fortitude to fight this enemy to the finish, simply because he has that strength of character, is growing evidence of Americans who lack the will to fight a tough enemy.

In simple, yet very realistic terms, this is a tough war, and sure to be a long war against a nondescript enemy we have to fight wherever they may be.

There are those who understand this and those who do not. There are those who understand the consequences of defeat in Iraq (or any other front in the war against Islamofascists) and those who do not, and there are those who choose not to. There are those who never had or no longer have the will to fight. And there are those who advocate positions which are tantamount to our defeat.

There are a growing number of people who now question the patriotism of those who advocate positions for our defeat and loss in Iraq. I’m not there, but I do have to question their motives and their will to win the war.

So then I have to ask, do we still feel the fire? The same fire, determination, and will to stop those whose violent ideology includes our destruction; the same fire and will that should have spurred our country to pledge “Never again!” Or is the will gone? Or was it ever really there?

Thursday, August 31, 2006

A Mistake or a Bigger Plan?

Before the French sent their rubber craft squad into Lebanon, I was asked during a lunch meeting if the French military was capable of leading and keeping the peace in Lebanon under the auspices of the U.N. ceasefire. At that time, the initial word on the cease-fire was just hitting the streets and the French were talking about sending 7500 soldiers to Lebanon.

I answered in the affirmative. In the recesses of my mind I remembered training with the French as a young Lieutenant on a deployment somewhere to the Mediterranean. I remembered capable soldiers, despite all the “cheese eating surrender monkey” sarcasm many of us have pummeled them with. The capability of a military can differ from the will of a nation, our own country included. I was giving them the benefit of that doubt.

In my mind, the answer was “yes, their military is capable of keeping the peace, but it’s likely that neither their country nor the U.N. possesses the will to execute the mission as needed.” But, I forayed into an atypical political answer and have just about had to eat my words along with the prime rib sandwich I had that day.

The French drug their feet until this last week, trying to find every reason to send as few troops as possible to Lebanon. They did so despite their relationship with Lebanon. They did so despite their juvenile tantrums insisting that others recognize them as a leader in world affairs. They did so despite their insistence upon a U.N. resolution, forcing themselves upon the international community. They did so despite their pledge to lead the way with troops as a peacekeeping force.

They did so until Italy anted up a large contingent of peacekeepers. This left France looking like the spoiled kid who threw a fit to get his way, but when he finally did, he reneged on his promises of good behavior. The French were then forced to commit more troops.

I hope that not only our country, but others remember how the French behaved through the whole process. Insisting upon leading, forcing themselves upon others, and making promises, but then trying to back out when the time came to “put up or shut up.”

The U.N. still looks like a dog chasing its tail, squabbling over rules of engagement, working to scrounge together a peace-keeping force, refusing to enable the disarmament of Hezbollah, and condemning the Israeli’s but not the terrorists. All signs point to the likelihood of this being another failed action of the U.N.

For our sake, I hope this wasn’t something bungled by Condoleezza Rice. If she took the French or the U.N. at their word, she was more trusting than she should have been. My hope is that her actions were part of a larger, long-term plan.
The French proved their intentions to not let other countries act in their own best interest during the run-up to the Iraq war.

The U.N. has proven itself, time and again, to be an ineffective organization, long on debate, short on action; a fruitless organization which possesses an ever growing track record of failure to act on matters of substance.

Surely the Secretary Rice was aware of these attributes of our “allies” before agreeing to the terms of the cease fire. How could she not be? Their records and the evidence are extensive and unmistakable.

If that’s the case, the option left is that of her actions being part of a bigger plan.

Are we going along with the U.N. (and the anti-American EU countries) in matters such as Lebanon to establish a better position when the time comes to act against Iran or North Korea? Most likely, we alone, or with a few allies, will have to act against those countries before they do real damage.

The U.N. will most likely exude ineffectiveness and incompetence dealing with them. The unwillingness of others to take action against such openly hostile regimes, but insistence upon talking the subject in circles is characteristic of the impotence we should expect from the U.N. with regards to Iran and North Korea.

As such, Condoleezza Rice may simply be playing along for now, so that when the time comes our nation can take the position of: “We’ve tried every diplomatic avenue, but now we have to act. We’ve tried working within the realm of the U.N. to resolve the matter. The U.N.’s record is replete with failing to act and of failed actions, so we must act with our handful of allies, both for our security and international stability.”

Some may argue that’s the position and path we took with regard to Iraq and look where that’s led us, that aspect of the Bush doctrine is a failure.

But in this case, her actions may very well be positioning and leverage, not just for this President, but for the next as well. The resolutions to the problems with Iran and North Korea are not likely to happen through the diplomatic channels in the near future, or ever, and her actions may yet prove to be invaluable; unless of course we are forced to act after it’s too late.

The High Plains Patriot Meets the VP

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

On Terrorism and Taxes

There is certainly no shortage of “surrender” Democrats running this year, including Ned Lamont in Connecticut, Jimmy Carter’s son in Nevada, and former Secretary of the Navy James Webb in Virginia. All of whom are running primarily on anti-war platforms. They have stands on the other issues, but it’s the noise they make about running and hiding from terrorists which drives their campaigns.

And it’s their stand against fighting terrorists which has garnered them the support of their party. I give you Ned Lamont over Joe Lieberman for example.

It’s safe to say that the isolationists and weak national security crowd are currently dominating their party, either by number or volume.

Each Democrat elected to Congress, whether they claim to be conservative, liberal, or none of the above, empowers this group which dominates their entire party; that loud contingent which simply won’t accept or can’t comprehend the threat we face from Islamic extremists.

By affiliation, Ben Nelson also empowers those who would have us cut, run, and hide from the very real threat of terrorism, whether he believes the same or not.

In an effort to retain his power while empowering that loud group of isolationist McGovernites he has clearly misrepresented at least one position of his opponent, Pete Ricketts.

Ben Nelson would have us believe that Pete Ricketts’ tax plan includes a 30% increase in the tax burden for 95% of us (including me). He is trying to establish the notion that Pete Ricketts wants to add a consumption tax to the federal income tax we already pay. This is absolutely not true.

Pete Ricketts, from day one, has run on a platform of lower taxes and less government. So, the characterization of Pete Ricketts as a tax increase guy is wrong from the start.

One of the problems we face today is our federal income tax system. Setting himself above the politicians who like to talk about things, but never come up with solutions, Pete suggested that all options with regard to fixing the tax situation be on the table and open for consideration and discussion. He knows, from experience, that if we have an open, honest discussion and debate all potential solutions to difficult problems, like the tax code, we stand a good chance of coming up with outstanding solutions to those problems.

One of the many options he simply listed for discussion only was getting rid of the federal income tax and replacing it with a consumption tax. This was only on the list of ideas up for discussion, not presented as his tax plan. He was not advocating the addition of a consumption tax on top of our already burdensome federal income tax. He was not advocating that we pay more for everything with the consumption tax (30% is the number Ben likes to use) and pay federal income tax as Senator Nelson would have us believe. It was only an option to consider and an “either/or” option, not an “and” option at that.

I know from personal experience, both in the military and civilian world that the best groups, when faced with difficult problems, have honest, open, sincere debates of integrity about those tough situations. They always start with a “brainstorming” type session to get all ideas on the table. The ideas aren’t debated; they’re simply put up for consideration. And then, after all ideas are on the table, each one is discussed. From that courteous, respectful debate on all the options, amazing solutions are delivered.

I’ve also served in units and worked for a company where the opposite was true. When the “brainstorming” started the attacks began. Each idea floated was immediately derided and shot down. In the end, the solution delivered was not the best one, it was simply the one submitted by the loudest man in the room. Each time it turned out to be a poor solution. Everyone suffered accordingly.

Ben Nelson’s approach to taxes, attacking and misrepresenting Pete Ricketts’ position which is a simple and honest assessment of all options for solving this tough problem is truly reminiscent of those poor experiences, unsuccessful units, and faltering company.

Not only is it unfortunate that Ben Nelson has clearly tried to misrepresent and mischaracterize his opponent’s position, but it also goes to the heart of how likely he is to solve the problems we face. Congress.org already has him listed as the 88th most effective Senator, meaning there are 87 who are more effective than he. This type of approach and attitude shows us why that may be.

If that’s the kind of problem solving we have in Ben Nelson, it’s time for a change to someone who is willing and able to look at all options to make our lives better, whether the subject be taxes, agriculture, or fighting terrorism.

Nebraska deserves better than 88th, someone willing to honestly assess all ideas, and who doesn’t empower those who won’t or can’t face the reality of terrorism.

Pete Ricketts provides us that option.

By slogan, Ben Nelson has tried to portray Pete Ricketts’ ideas as good for Pete, but bad for Nebraska. I’d say the best portrayal is “Pete Ricketts, good for Nebraska, bad for Ben Nelson.”

A Speech Validated

Since returning from Iraq, I have endeavored to speak publicly about my experiences and the war on terror every time I’ve been asked.

I made a commitment to myself (and my fellow Marines) that I would make sure their stories got told, that their good work would not go unnoticed, and that I would do my part in denying a repeat of history from Vietnam. I vowed that I would do all I could to prevent the loss of another war at the hands of those who lack the resolve necessary to win anything other than a match of cruise missile bingo.

I’ve kept that promise, except on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day when the requests were too numerous and I simply couldn’t be everywhere I was asked.

Each time I’ve prepared a speech, it seemed as if the events of the preceding week and days not only helped shape the content and character of the speech, but also reaffirmed the validity of my message.

Last week was no different.

I wrote a speech on the evening of Wednesday, August 9th to give at a local Rotary Club the next day. I spoke to the fact the threat from Islamic Jihadists was not only real, but was ongoing, and would continue into the future. I spoke to the idea that Al Qaeda and other Islamic terror groups were right in their assumptions about certain segments of the U.S. population putting politics and partisanship ahead of national security. That the terrorists were right in strategizing these Americans would obstruct the war effort against them. That the Jihadists could therefore count on these Americans to foment anti-war sentiment and try to persuade others to surrender from the fight, allowing Islamofascists both short and eventually long-term victories.

I woke the next morning; the day of the speech, the 10th, to the news of the thwarted plot by Islamic terrorist’s who had intended to blow up airliners on the way to the U.S. from the U.K.

Once again, the reality of the Islamic Jihadists’ intent to harm America and her citizens was reaffirmed. Once again, the events of the day confirmed the validity of the prepared message.

And they did so, not because I have some sort of crystal ball or am tapped into the intelligence community. The events of the day reaffirmed the message of the speech because of the simple fact the threat is truly ongoing and persistent. The odds of saying that Islamic extremists are intent on hurting us and having them take action accordingly are pretty good.

But that didn’t surprise me as much as the liberal politicians and constituents validating the primary position of my speech; that of the terrorists being able to count on them to put politics and partisanship ahead of national security.

Before I gave my speech at noon, the comments were already starting about why the plot in and of itself was President Bush’s fault. How he had pushed the suspected terrorists into taking extreme action. The fringe left was already underway with their assumptions that the whole thing was concocted by Bush and Blair to give them a political boost, no threat or plot actually existed.

The rhetoric has continued, trying desperately to connect this plot to their list of reasons why we should surrender in Iraq; this being done by the same people who insist that the war in Iraq is not part of the war on terror. I find it interesting how they can connect Iraq to the war on terror when it’s time to criticize the President, but then turn around and desperately attempt to disconnect Iraq from the rest of the war on terror when it suits their political posture.

Harry Reid’s comments were particularly humorous. I understand the old joke about “How many existentialists does it take to screw in a light bulb? Answer - Blue.” But the senator’s comments trying to justify the airline terror plot as grounds for surrender in Iraq were even too much of a stretch for use as an existential joke, let alone a valid argument.

Through the course of the last week, I’ve also been amused by the lack of credit given to the use of terrorist surveillance programs, phone call monitoring, financial transaction monitoring, and all of the other tools used to catch these terrorists. The same tools which liberals have assaulted and condemned. The Attorney General said these programs and certain provisions of the Patriot Act enabled the American side of the successful investigation. I can’t help but keep rerunning Harry Reid’s boasting through my mind about killing the Patriot Act and how those words verify the message of Al Qaeda being right to count on their removing obstacles to the jihad.

If the odds are good that we can count on the Jihadists to validate the notion they mean to persevere in their war against us, the odds are even better that we can count on liberals to validate the message of their willingness to trump national security with political partisanship.