Ain't no sunshine when she's gone ...


Hello Altercators, Lieutenant Colonel Bob Bateman here, standing in for Eric today. As per the ethics of my profession, there will no politics from me. Sorry, but you just do not want the guys with the guns getting all political, n'est pas? Just some observations. As for the lyric (in keeping with Eric's theme), think of your mother and read on.

I was raised in a family which took great joy in children. Irish Catholics from New York City, generations of my mother's side, the Kellehers, were cops in the metropolis. My great uncle, James Kelleher, was effectively my grandfather, as my real grandfathers had both died either before I was born or before I was really old enough to know them. Uncle Jim was a classic. When I was small, we would often visit for the holidays. Every year he would lift me up, and placing me on top of the refrigerator, pretend that he had lost me (leaving me atop the six-foot-tall appliance yelling, "Hey! Hey! I'm up here!") while everyone else in the overcrowded holiday-dinner-making kitchen played along. Alternatively, he would pull a quarter from my nose, or a banana from my ear. Of such things are the happy memories of childhood made. I like to think that I am a little bit like my uncle. I hope that he would agree. He died while I was in Iraq, and because he was "only" my great-uncle, I could not return to his deathbed, or his funeral. It was with him in some part of my heart that I worked, with you, to try and bring happiness and supplies to those schools in Baghdad in late 2005 and early 2006.

A large part of that effort was also helped by my friend, and translator, Mayada Salahi. You may recall that I reported that she was beaten down (after her ammo ran out), abducted, and slaughtered last year. My failure of May will remain with me. Forever.

But I did not just fail May. I failed her son and her daughter as well. I failed to get them to a safe place. This too will remain with me.

I cannot reveal May's son and daughter's names. They are good kids. As Uncle Jim had done for me, I taught her son how to play "slaps," and "rock/paper/scissors." As Uncle Jim had played games with me, I played a video game with May's son. I helped her daughter with her English homework and looked at her artwork. I set them up with pen pals, ate a few meals with them, and learned some Arabic from them. These are good kids. (I cannot say how old they were either, again for their safety, but will note that her son was only just above my waist, and her daughter came up to about my ribs.) If I could have gotten them out of Iraq, gotten them to my own hometown of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, or anywhere really, they would be laughing on green fields with friends today.

And May would be alive.

And her children would have a mother.

And I might not wake up, way, way too early some days.

Back in mid-February, the Bush administration announced that we, as a nation, would allow some 7,000 Iraqis in to our country this year. I did not know what the numbers had been when I announced this. An Altercation reader who deals with the issue gave me the facts. My response was effectively one-word long, expressing my anger, sense of betrayal, and frustration. His response, reprinted almost completely, is below.

"Sometimes "motherf***er" is the only appropriate response. Or at least the only thing that comes close. It seems I was actually a little too optimistic about this year's admissions. As of mid-May it [the number admitted in 2007] was under 70. It was 202 last year, 66 in 2004 and 298 in 2003. Out of the more than 2 million who've fled the country so far. I don't know of anyone who even has a guess as to how many former US employees there are in that total.

The State Dept has the main responsibility for the resettlement program, and they have been doing a lot of finger pointing as to where the delays are coming from. First at UNHCR (the UN High Commissioner for Refugees) for not referring the refugees to them, and then at DHS for not getting out there to do the security screenings. And I don't even want to think what will happen once they start doing the screenings -- the current state of the law would deny entry to the into the country to people who paid ransom to kidnappers to try to free their family members. That would qualify as material support to a terrorist organization.

I definitely don't want to let UNHCR off the hook in all this either. From what I heard from one former translator, the employees giving him his asylum interview were more interested in finding out if he had witnessed any atrocities by US troops (he hadn't) then whether he was in danger in Iraq.

So that's the state of things when it comes to Iraqi refugees at the moment. There are a couple of potential bills floating around congress to try to speed things up, but I don't really see them having much impact in the short term. By the way, in case you were wondering, the top qualification for the highest refugee official in the state department was running Maryland's lottery (and Bush's campaign there)."

And now we learn that we will not likely even meet that pathetically modest goal of 7,000 allowed in.

I serve my country, and have done so with body and soul on the line for 18 years. I love my country in such a pathetic, corny way that it verges on the humorous. But sometimes ... I am ashamed of my country.

This is one of those times.

Department of the clueless:

In other news, this guy does not get it. Commenting in the moderately influential media site of Broadcasting & Cable, J. Max Robins (I thought first initials went out with the Nixon crowd), says this about the idea of showing more of the blood and horror that is war: "I know the arguments against going all the way on this one. The coverage costs millions already. It's too painful and depressing to watch. Viewers will turn away in droves. That's what you'll hear in candid moments from network news executives."

You can find that here.

The problem, which I noted five years ago when I made the same point on NPR's show Justice Talking, is one of privacy. Let me be clear. I do not, and I will never, support the idea of instantaneous broadcast of the visual images of one of the men I serve with, bleeding to death. Until broadcast media can get that through their thick damned skulls, I will fight them intellectual tooth and nail. I do not oppose showing the images on delay, be that three days or 10, after you have talked to the families (and many, I assure you, want to see what happened themselves ... even at the cost of broadcasting). But the news media refuse to accept the idea of a limitation.

After almost six freakin' years of war, what would be the difference, huh? Do you, the public, need to see our bodies displayed in real time? Would not a few days, or a week or so, be the same overall?

Scoop culture has gone too far.

Hollywood, the war, and Phil Carter, Esq.

Phil Carter is my personal exception to the Shakespearean dictate about lawyers (Henry VI, Act IV, Scene II). If you want a steady diet of intelligent commentary about, well, damn, everything, see his site. Today he takes up the cudgel about Hollywood and the war, here.

By the way, did I mention that he was an MP, served in Baquba, and is one of the braver men that I know?

Top Cover:

The Green Zone has never, actually, been the "little paradise" described by some. At least, not since 2004 it has not been. Mostly that stayed out of the news. It is only a "little paradise" when compared with some other places. Before you get snarky, here at home, about the State Department folks working there (and contractors, and military), consider.


A suicide attack on a NATO patrol is not actually that newsworthy nowadays. Is that not sad? But a suicide attack that deliberately kills (because there are no accidental suicide attacks) masses of children, is both an abomination and sadly more typical. These are the people we are fighting. This is not your imagination. This. Is. Reality.

Unfit to print:

Gen. George Casey was the commander in Iraq until Gen. Petraeus took over.

The administration made him the chief of staff of the United States Army.

This is some of what he said yesterday.

In reference to the Army tours of 15 months: "I can't guarantee that it won't go beyond 15 months, but I'll do everything in my power to ensure that we don't put them additionally at risk." (The USAF "tour" is four months; Marines do seven months per tour. So one Army tour is almost the same as four Air Force tours, and more than two USMC tours. Just so you know.)

"Sir, Yes Sir."

Since we missed our recruiting goal (in the Army alone) by somewhere around 1,000 or maybe 1,400, it seems that Basic Training is correspondingly a little different. I do not, on some levels, necessarily disagree with this change. There has been too much BS in the past. But still, I worry.

Capitol Hill within earshot:

It appears that I might have a book. I have an agent now (at William Morris, and believe me, that is a really strange thing for a boy from Ohio to say), who will try and get this thing off the ground next week. Basically, it is my Altercation column. Wish him luck as he tries to convince a publishing house that my writing is a little bit different from the flood of Iraq books that are already out there.

I have a tentative title, Home//Front, but if you have a better one, write me. (Not to the page, since this is Eric's site, but to me.) I will listen.

You can write to LTC Bob at

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Sam Bagenstos
Hometown: St. Louis, MO

Dr. A,

You, and the equally impressive Dr. M, are wrong to think that the commutation ensures that Libby can't be compelled to testify. If Libby is granted immunity for the testimony and any evidence subsequently derived from it, he can be compelled to testify. And unless one thinks that there was going to be a future prosecution of Libby for these events anyway, there's no harm to immunizing him. His current conviction would stand, because it wouldn't be tainted by testimony that might be compelled in the future. If he gets his current conviction reversed on his appeal, immunity might cause problems at a retrial -- but don't we all expect a pardon to come eventually anyway?

Name: Thomas Heiden
Hometown: Stratford, CT


Eric from Escondido very appropriately quoted George Mason, who was perhaps the most prominent Anti-Federalist. One of the Anti-Federalist's principal concerns with the Constitution was the magnitude of executive power it presented.

Curious folks might find it worthwhile to go back and read some of the Anti-Federalist arguments. They were not so much wrong, perhaps, as in a situation where they did not have a concrete alternative to the Articles of Confederation, and where they quickly lost momentum for a consensus on merely tweaking the Articles.

I think we'd all agree at this point (well, not you, O'Reilly) that this administration has been the best argument against the same enhanced executive power it seeks.

Name: Steve Engber
Hometown: Onalaska, WI

Eric: Thanks for your Jewish baseball riff. One of my formative memories along those lines was around age ten, walking down to the visitors dugout in Crosley Field (in Cincinnati) and getting this close to Sandy Koufax. He wasn't pitching that day -- just enjoying a Camel.

Name: Maureen Holland
Hometown: South Venice Beach FL

I was tickled to see you use "y'all", and to use it properly. No mean trick for a New Yorker. As a Floridian, born in NYC and transplanted from my CT home, it took a dozen years before I was able to use that terrific contraction without feeling self conscious. I now consider it an essential addition to my vocabulary and one that should spread among English speakers everywhere. It's really useful and once I began using it, I realized it filled a language need I hadn't previously recognized (like the way we lack some genderless pronouns).

Name: Brian Geving
Hometown: Minneapolis, MN

Dr Alterman,

Your comparison between being Jewish and being a baseball fan was brilliant, and while the Jews that I know have similar experiences with religion, I never considered how baseball or other sports could also be as all-consuming a passion. It also helps me understand tailgating parties's simply a worship service with brats!

Your comments about being labeled a 'self-hating Jew' also reminded me of those individuals and groups like the Dixie Chicks who were labeled as 'traitors' and 'unpatriotic' simply for reminding us of our country's high ideals and how George W Bush was violating them. As a country, I think most of us have learned our lesson, but what will it take for you and others who criticize Israel to be called 'heroes' instead of 'self-hating Jews'?

Name: Leonard Zimmerman
Hometown: Brooklyn but I live in New Haven

I think real friendship must include the ability to give and accept criticism. I do not think that is necessarily true with love. And the good book asks me to love G_d not my people or my country.

People who love their country say - My country right or wrong but right or wrong my country.

What a formula for disaster. Imagine if Adolf Hitler was president or even if George Bush or Cheney was president.

The founders of this country were wise men. They knew democracy would elect men who must be checked and be given honest criticism so they instituted a system of checks and balances.

Thanks for triggering this screed with your wonderful baseball analogy.

Name: Barbara Green
Hometown: Coral Gables, FL

Dr. Alterman:

Congratulations on your distinguished professorship. As a long-time reader of your website, I believe you have made great contributions to journalism, and I am so glad you are in a position to educate others.

Your poignant mention of Dr. Rorty's support for you while he was dying from pancreatic cancer caused me a pang. My father died of that awful disease last year. Like your friend and colleague, my dad was generous to the end.

I don't know anything about Prof. Rorty, but I hope you will consider using this opportunity to educate others about pancreatic cancer.

It's not a fashionable disease, like breast cancer or AIDS, but the need is great. Perhaps you might consider making pancreatic research one of the charities for which you occasionally solicit contributions. You can get more information at or at


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