From the Agonist: On Friedman Units. Isn't stuff like this a pretty good argument for blogs? Why trust Friedman again? (Now the bad news. The other night Gore, out of nowhere, started talking about how terrific Friedman was and how much he relied on his analysis. When you combine Tommy with Marty, it's almost enough, well ...)
From The AP: Terrorist attacks worldwide shot up by 25 percent between 2005 and last year, killing 40 percent more people as extremists used increasingly lethal means to carry out high-casualty hits, the State Department says. In its annual global survey of terrorism to be released later Monday, the department says about 14,000 attacks took place in 2006, mainly in Iraq and Afghanistan, claiming more than 20,000 lives. That is 3,000 more attacks than in 2005 and 5,800 more deaths, it says.
In addition, the number of injuries from terrorist attacks rose by 54 percent between 2005 and 2006 with a doubling in the number wounded in Iraq over the period, according to the department's Country Reports on Terrorism 2006. The numbers were compiled by the National Counterterrorism Center and refer to deaths and injuries sustained by "noncombatants." ... The report says 6,600, or 45 percent, of the attacks took place in Iraq, killing about 13,000 people, or 65 percent of the worldwide total of terrorist-related deaths in 2006. ... Afghanistan had 749 strikes in 2006, a 50-percent rise from 2005 when 491 attacks were tallied, according to the report, here.
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In his April 27 nationally syndicated column, headlined "Straight Talking Again," Washington Post columnist David Broder wrote that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is "risking the ire of Bush fans" by "running as the anti-Bush" and concluded that, for McCain, "there must be at least some relief now in being able to speak his own mind -- whatever the consequences. Candor, even belatedly, becomes him." But elsewhere in the column, Broder acknowledged to some extent the seemingly contradictory fact that McCain has backed off certain issues because his prior positions were unpopular with the Republican base. Indeed, Broder noted that McCain "gives no emphasis to the campaign finance reforms that were central to his 2000 message, knowing that they are not popular with Republican power brokers." Broder further wrote that during McCain's official announcement that he is running for president, McCain "was notably silent on immigration reform, another issue on which he has found himself at odds with many of his fellow Republicans."
A Washington Post editorial praised Sen. John McCain's "foresight and consistency about how the [Iraq] war should have been waged"; however, in the days immediately before and after the invasion, McCain echoed Bush administration statements that U.S. forces would be greeted as "liberators." Since then, McCain has made apparently contradictory statements on the administration's management of the Iraq war.
On the April 30 edition of XM Radio's The Bob Edwards Show, Washington Post columnist David Broder asserted that it was "really doubtful" President Bush would be able "to salvage something that would look like a victory in Iraq." Broder made this statement four days after he attacked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) for what he called Reid's "ineptitude," because of, as he wrote in his April 26 Post column, Reid's assertion that the Iraq war "is lost." As Media Matters for America noted, in that column, Broder pointed to Reid's "war is lost" remark to compare him to embattled Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and accuse him of engaging in "inept discussion[s] of the alternatives in Iraq" and of not being "a man who misses many opportunities to put his foot in his mouth." Further, after discussing Democratic strategist Paul Begala's recent column on The Huffington Post, in which he wrote that "Broder, of course, is a gasbag," host Bob Edwards noted, "[W]e're in the world of the blogs and this stuff spreads so fast." Broder responded: "I am not a fan of the blogs, and the blogs are not fans of mine."
The National Public Radio studios in Washington are on Massachusetts Avenue, just a few blocks from Union Station and the Capitol, but closer still to DC's tiny Chinatown. It takes about 12 minutes to get there from the Pentagon on the subway. I was there last week to be interviewed for the program On The Media.
Because of the strange way that our capital city was laid out by French engineer Pierre L'Enfant, wedge-shaped buildings are not only common here, they are almost the norm. NPR's headquarters is typical of the breed, a moderately ugly building, perhaps seven stories tall and bearing all the grace of 1970s architecture. For some reason, almost the whole outside is surrounded with a chain-link fence, though there is no visible construction work going on. Indeed, it seems that similar barriers have been in place for quite some time around the building, though I never actually see any work going on. In a city which is the seat of our nation's government, with all the inefficiencies and delays that go with it, this is perhaps appropriate. In any event, it does not affect what goes on inside the NPR building. At least, it doesn't affect the only part that I've seen, which are the "Master Control" studios up on the sixth floor. That is where you go if you are going to link-up with another NPR studio somewhere else in the country.
You see, while NPR does produce many of their own shows right there in the Washington studios, it seems that the majority of programs that we all associate with public radio are produced by "member stations." On The Media, for example, is produced by WYNC in New York City. Accordingly, they are used to doing telephone interviews. But since the national studios are so close, I offered to head in for the taping. The sound quality is better, and besides, this was an important topic. They wanted me to speak, as a historian, on the recent Tillman and Lynch stories, as well as about the general history of the creation of heroes.
Now, one thing that most people don't realize when they listen to a show is how much material is usually recorded to go into a particular segment. I have done several different NPR and PBS programs, and not a few documentaries for the likes of the History Channel, and even so, I am usually still surprised myself. In this case, for example, while stand-in host Arun Rath and I talked for 47 minutes over a studio-to-studio link, the segment that eventually aired (here) was only a little more than seven minutes long, and in some ways it doesn't quite capture what I tried to convey. But then these things never do.
Disclaimer: I don't think that OTM did a bad job editing, and I freely admit that I have never tried to edit an audio story. I am just noting that what came out did not seem, to me, to be the most important information on this topic. That being said, here are the key points I would have made about the Tillman-Lynch hearings held last week, had I been editing the piece.
On the Jessica Lynch story, Congress is barking up the completely wrong tree. Seriously. I thought this in 2003, and before I went to the taping, I double-checked with some journalist friends of mine here in the Pentagon. One, an internationally known television reporter for a major station, and the other a well known wire service reporter, both agreed. The story of Jessica Lynch being a hero was not made up by the Army, indeed from the very first, the day after The Washington Post used a single anonymous source as the foundation for their dramatic front-page (3 April 2003) story, the Army denied that it had happened as the Post described it. In all the hoopla, people forget that, but it's true. One of those Pentagon reporters specifically mentioned that on that morning, when they asked the Army Public Affairs Office about what happened, the PAO shrugged and said words to the effect of, "We have no idea where this story comes from, and we have no information about anything like what the Post is reporting." But in the frenzy of media reporting, that denial did not matter, and the echo-chamber went into effect despite what the Army said. It is, therefore, ironic that the Army is now being blamed for trying to manipulate public opinion on this one.
On the Tillman/fratricide side of the house, however, the Army is 100 percent to blame. Army officers at the battalion level at least, the brigade level for sure, and apparently some general officers, all did their bits to stupidly try and "protect" the reputation ... but not the reputation of the Army or the Administration -- that would be giving these officers too much intellectual credit. I know that the developing thesis, and apparently the belief of the Tillman family and some on Capitol Hill is that this was a conspiracy to bring good news to the fore at the time Abu Ghraib was breaking, but really, that gives the Army way too much credit for intellect. No, what these naïve officers were trying to do (and here we are into my personal opinion) was to protect the reputation of the 75th Ranger Regiment.
Understanding why -- or, more accurately, explaining why -- each of these men would attempt such a lame-brained thing would take me about 50 pages of text. Suffice it to say that the 75th Ranger Regiment is our most elite infantry unit. The three battalions of the Regiment are our crème-de-la-crème, the perfect examples of soldierly skill, and only the best are accepted into this Airborne Infantry elite. As has happened time and again, in "elite" groups as disparate as the Peace Corps (whose members covered up a murder of one volunteer by another, in Tonga, for decades), and various fraternal organizations, when "insiders" have news that they believe might "hurt" the group, they try and suppress it and spin it, and because of the personality type that is both attracted to the Regiment, and which the Regiment creates, they were one and all, hopelessly naïve about the media and the process of journalism.
In other words, it wasn't the "Big A" Army that was trying to spin this situation, it was a couple of majors, a couple lieutenant colonels and colonels, and a couple of generals, all of whom did a small part, all of whom were desperately hoping that the whole thing would blow over and not be a big deal, and all of whom thought that the good of their showcase particular unit outweighed the truth.
In other news, this story (here and here) is an example about the real difficulty we are facing in Iraq. Buying generators, and other high-tech things, in Iraq is apparently just stupid. It is frustrating in the extreme, and is only worsened when you give money directly to the Iraqis to build something themselves. I have watched Iraqi construction efforts, dozens of them, and they are not pretty, or even sound. The problem is that after 30 years of Saddam and the Ba'ath Party, the educational system in Iraq was a fraud. Literacy, in 2003, was 50 percent. What the Iraqis would (and do) call a "university trained engineer" is 95 percent of the time the rough equivalent of an American high school graduate who specialized in mechanics and shop classes, at best. Adding to that is a broader culture which not only disdains labor in common maintenance (and here I speak of a culture which stretches from North Africa, across the Levant, and throughout the Saudi Peninsula and Mesopotamia), but one which actively seeks to avoid such work. The result: Millions of wasted dollars.
Finally, I am proud to call Lieutenant Colonel Paul Yingling my friend.
Capitol Hill Within Earshot:
Washington DC lost a landmark. One block from my house stands the Eastern Market, the last of the city's 19th century markets. At 0335 Monday morning I woke up to sirens. The building had been on fire for two hours. It is a gutted ruin now.
You can write to LTC Bob at R_Bateman_LTC@hotmail.com.
I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon by Crystal Zevon
HOWARD BURKE: Warren wanted to do a video project. This was before MTV, and we went in to talk to the executive at Asylum who handled promotion and videos. They didn't want to pay for it, typical. But, Warren and I went into the office and I'm wearing my typical blue jeans, cowboy boots and shades and I introduced Warren to this fellow and told the guy we needed $25,000 to do this video.
We had it lined up with camera people, a studio and we'd do it while we were in New York doing these other shows. They guy's very reluctant. So, I said, "Warren, why don't you talk to him." I sat down, took out my pocket knife and began cleaning my nails and never said another word. Warren was wearing a three piece suit and he walked over to the guy's desk and gave him that look where you couldn't tell what he was fixing to do... Is that a gun in his pocket? I don't know...
He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a plastic frog that had a little fish dangling out of the corner of its mouth. It was one of those toys where you pull the fish and the frog hops across the desk and eats the fish. So, he sets it on the guy's desk and says, "I want you to meet God." The frog leaps across the desk, eats the fish, the guy looks up at him and Warren's still giving him that look. The guy looks over at me and I just shrugged, and he said, "How much did you say?" I said, "Twenty-five grand." He had a check ready before we left the office.
Janet Maslin reviews it here.
ALICE COLTRANE ASCENSION CEREMONY
To Be Held In NYC at St. John The Divine, on Ascension Day, May 17, at 7:30 p.m.
Among those paying tribute include Geri Allen, Rashied Ali, Ravi Coltrane, Jack DeJohnette, Charlie Haden, Roy Haynes, and Reggie Workman.
Name: John B
Hometown: Des Moines, IA
It's become increasingly clear that the Bush government has different goals in Iraq than does the Maliki government; more evidence here. Since Maliki is simply waiting us out until he can deal with the Sunni minority in his own way while making sure his Shiite militia backers aren't weakened, the existing civil war will inevitably deepen. As has happened nearly every time we have intervened militarily in the past to prop up or invent a friendly government, we will leave behind a deeper hatred of the US and diplomatic problems that will last for many years. Yet another example of the Bush administration's criminal incompetence.
This article in Armed Forces Journal has been getting a lot of attention lately. I saw the link on Juan Cole's blog as well as Will Femia's on MSNBC, but not a peep in the MSM of course. (Why does the military hate America?)
I've always said from the beginning that I believe the Iraq War was a failure in leadership by the general officers of the military, or a failure of imagination to foresee what was obvious to those of us outside of their bubble in the pentagon. LTC Yingling does a great job explaining how the general officers have failed to anticipate what the next war would be like and instead prepared for a conventional conflict, even though we should have been preparing for low-intensity conflicts like we had in Vietnam and we now have in Iraq.
In my experience in the Army, it was always the officers below the rank of General that had the creativity and insight to solve problems in the field. We see that in Iraq with the stories of officers crafting their own solutions to the problems that we face there. But the general officers are more concerned with pleasing their civilian masters than finding solutions for the problems that the military faces. We spend billions of dollars on planes and weapon systems designed to fight an enemy that doesn't exist, but our soldiers in Iraq go without body armor and armored Humvees. That is a serious failure in priorities that the general officers are responsible for.
It would be interesting to hear LTC Bateman's views about the article and the military leadership of the Army, but I understand that regulations limit what he can say.
Name: Brian Donohue
Charles Pierce was right to take Victor Davis Hanson to task over Hanson's comparison of WWII to Iraq. However, the problem with Hanson's comparison is even worse than Mr. Pierce says.
Pierce takes Hanson to task -- rightly -- for getting his dates wrong. Obviously, WWII was long over before December 1945.
But, even if we write off Hanson's mistake as a "brain fart" and assume that he meant Dec. 1944, and assume that he meant to refer to "The Battle of the Bulge," Germany's last-ditch thrust against the rapidly encroaching Allied forces, Hanson is still wrong, tragically so, if he's comparing that moment to the current situation in Iraq.
Yes, things were, briefly, very bad for the Allies in the Ardennes. Germany inflicted terrible losses, and the Allied push was held up, even reversed briefly, in spots. But Germany was a unified nation, with a uniformed army, fighting a more-or-less straightforward war, not a guerilla insurgency fuelled by religious fanaticism (most of the Germans fighting WWII were not fanatical Nazis eager for a glorious suicide, no matter how much they loved the Fatherland.)
There are other ways in which Hanson's comparison breaks down, but I'm sure you get my point.
So, to compare the final days of WWII with the current disastrous quagmire in Iraq is laughable, and not worth a high school term paper, much less serious discussion of a life-or-death matter. (Victor Davis Hanson, "Great Military Historian" -- HA !!!)
Hanson, and other Bush-partisan Iraq War die-hards, would rather throw more American (never mind Iraqi) lives into oblivion than admit the horror-show that their policies and actions have taken us into.
Eric, I recall reading a few years back that Cheney is a huge fan of Hanson's -- to the extent that he gave one of the writer's books to numerous members of his staff (with Cheney, am I being unfair to imagine that would amount to a "must-read"?).
I do not know which title, but the article claimed that the book's gist is warfare is the natural state of mankind. In reviewing the titles of Hanson's other books, it seems reasonable that he'd write such a work.
The very idea that representative government can succeed would seem to me to require a level of optimism about human nature ill-suited to a gloomy conviction that armed conflict is normal. On the other hand, if one was looking for a "moral" rationalization to start a war for profit, it could only be easier if one figures "it's only natural."
Personally, I think anyone who makes a comparison between Iraq today and our struggle for independence in 1776 makes a strong argument only for the revocation of tenure!
Regardless of the ins and outs of the Wolfowitz World Bank brouhaha, doesn't it seem wrong that an institution dedicated to fighting global poverty would lay out phenomenal amounts of cash to "hundreds of people" to keep them motivated in their philanthropic mission? From MSNBC, Wofowitz, defending his girlfriend's (Riza) substantive salary increase:
"Wolfowitz said the initial $180,000 she received 'was in line with salaries paid to bank employees' holding similar H level positions. He said the salary 'seemed reasonable to me' and noted that 'many World Bank employees are, comparatively speaking, generously paid, and hundreds of them earn more than the U.S. secretary of state.' "
* "My Ride's Here."