Sunday, October 31, 2004

A Good Day in Sports

From my perspective at least.

-First, my alma mater, Michigan, rallies from a 17 point 4th quarter deficit to defeat in-state rival Michigan State, 45-37 in triple overtime. True freshman Mike Hart had his third straight 200 yard rushing game, while quarterback Chad Henne was brilliant down the stretch. Their hopes of a Big Ten title and BCS berth still alive, the Wolverines have a week off before hosting Northwestern, and then taking on Ohio State. Had Michigan lost this one, even living in North Carolina I would never have heard the end of it.

-Much less stressful was DC United's thoroughly professional 2-0 dismissal of the Metrostars. With the win, United advances to the MLS East Final with a 4-0 aggregate victory in the two-leg total goals series. United will either have to travel to Columbus or get to host New England.

Final Election Thoughts

As we come to the end of this seemingly endless campaign, just a few personal reflections. Based on the overall trend of the polls, I think Bush has a slight edge. I'm no political or polling expert, so that's all the analysis you'll get from me.

As those of you who read me regularly have probably deduced by now, I'm a single issue voter, and that issue is the War on Islamist Terror. I believe that George W. Bush, has done a good job of waging that war, and should be reelected. That's not to say that he hasn't made mistakes. It would be unique in the annals of history had he not made mistakes in waging this war. Overall, though, Bush understands the necessity of prosecuting this conflict and what it will take to win it. I will amplify these points in a much longer post today or Monday.

I believe that John Kerry is a decent, patriotic American who will do his best to act in what he sees as America's best interests. Unfortunately, I also believe that his instincts, temperament, and beliefs will prevent him from conducting the War on Islamist Terror with the necessary vigor and determination, at least not until it's too late. Once again, I will amplify these points in an upcoming post.

At this point, I find myself completely sick of this election campaign and simply want it to end. As messy and annoying as the process is, however, it is infinitely preferable to the alternative of not having elections.

I obviously want President Bush to be reelected. Regardless of who wins, though, I hope that the issue is decided Tuesday night, without lengthy court battles and endless controversy. Also, whether Bush or Kerry is in the White House for the next four years, I pray that we can begin to put the bitter partisanship of the last few years behind us. If John Kerry is elected, I will do my best to support him when he does the right thing, and to be fair and responsible when I do criticize him.

Obviously I have my point of view, and this blog is my vehicle for expressing those views to whomever cares to read them. I have tried to be thoughtful and responsible in how I express my beliefs. I fear that I have not always succeeded. Particularly, I might have been a little bit snarky in tone over the last couple weeks, especially in a couple responses to comments. I very much regret this and apologize to anyone I may have offended.

Thanks to all of you who have taken the time to read what I have to say. I hope that what I have written has been in some way interesting and informative. Please remember to vote on Tuesday for the candidate of your choice.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

The Bin Laden Tape

The Osama bin Laden videotape released yesterday proves two things:

1. Bin Laden is alive.

2. He's hired Michael Moore as his speechwriter.

Let's check the transcript and compare talking points:

-Bush is a liar:

I am amazed at you. Although almost four years have passed since the [11 September] incidents, Bush is still practising distortion and confusion.

-Bush is the "fortunate son" of a "dynastic house":

We did not find it difficult to deal with Bush and his administration, because it is similar to regimes in our countries, half of which are governed by the military and the other half of which are governed by the sons of kings and presidents; and we have a long experience with them.

In both categories, you find many who are characterised by hubris, arrogance, greed, and unlawful acquisition of money. This similarity transpired since Bush Senior's visit to the region.

-Bush is taking our liberties:

Accordingly, he transferred dictatorship and the repression of freedoms to his son by introducing the Patriot Act under the pretext of fighting terrorism.

-Bush stole the election:

Bush Senior deemed it appropriate to assign his sons to states. He also did not forget to convey the [election] rigging experience from the leaders of the [Arab] region to Florida to benefit from it at critical times...

-Yes, even "My Pet Goat":

It never occurred to us that the supreme commander of the US armed forces would leave 50,000 of his citizens in the two towers to face those great horrors alone, at a time when they needed him badly.

This is because it seemed to him that being preoccupied with the little child's talk about her goat and its butting was more important than being preoccupied with the planes and their ramming into the skyscrapers.

All in all, a striking contrast from Osama's usual fare. Instead of "death to the infidels", we get a ad. He did everything but say Bush looks like a chimp. My first reaction is the same as Jim Geraghty's:

No, this tape should cause many on the left to stare into the mirror for a long time and ask, “What have I turned into? How did I become so reflexively partisan, so blinded by rage, so intemperate in my rhetoric that my own arguments are being echoed by a man who planned and enjoyed the mass murder of Americans?”

“How the hell did I reach the point where I agree with Osama bin Laden on Bush?”

The tape also makes clear bin Laden's desperate situation. No boasting or taunting, just a pathetic "anyone but Bush" plea. As Wretchard of Belmont Club notes in one of his usual trenchant analyses:

It is important to notice what he has stopped saying in this speech. He has stopped talking about the restoration of the Global Caliphate. There is no more mention of the return of Andalusia. There is no more anticipation that Islam will sweep the world. He is no longer boasting that Americans run at the slightest wounds; that they are more cowardly than the Russians. He is not talking about future operations to swathe the world in fire but dwelling on past glories. He is basically saying if you leave us alone we will leave you alone. Though it is couched in his customary orbicular phraseology he is basically asking for time out.

Asking for "time out"? Clearly, bin Laden hasn't gotten the memo about how swimmingly things are going for him and al-Qaeda as a result of George W. Bush's heavy handed unilateralism. Bin Laden's rant is that of a hunted fugitive whose organization is being taken apart, and whose last hope lies in the propaganda of Michael Moore and the rest of the Bush-hating left. The face of Islamist terror has spoken, and he wants a breather. If only we get rid of that evil Bush, and leave the jihadists to slaughter the polytheists, Jews, and apostates undisturbed, we can have peace. At least for a few years. I hope and pray that the American people will reject his nauseating offer.

Clarification: Please note that I am not saying that criticism of George Bush is unpatriotic or illegitimate, that supporting John Kerry is UnAmerican, or that if you like Michael Moore you must like Osama. Serious, credible debate about how well Bush has waged the War on Terror and whether or not John Kerry can do a better job is healthy and proper. My point is that bin Laden has indeed adopted the rhetoric of Fahrenheit 9/11, and clearly expressed the desire that Bush not be reelected. I regard both of these developments as significant.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Final Thoughts on al-Qaqaa

Simon X in commenting on this post refers to this ABC News report from Thursday night:

Barrels inside the Al-Qaqaa facility appear on videotape shot by ABC television affiliate KSTP of St. Paul, Minn., which had a crew embedded with the 101st Airborne Division when it passed through Al-Qaqaa on April 18, 2003 — nine days after Baghdad fell.

Experts who have studied the images say the barrels on the tape contain the high explosive HMX, and the U.N. markings on the barrels are clear.

Bush critics have seized on this report as "smoking gun" evidence that the missing explosives were taken after US forces arrived on the scene, and thus prove the case that the Bush Administration is horribly incompetent. Unfortunately, matters aren't quite so simple. Before I move on from the aptly-named al-Qaqaa "controversy", here's a final roundup.

-Paul at Wizbang is less than impressed with the KSTP video. Jim Geraghty at the Kerry Spot has questions as well.

-According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), there were 194 tons of HMX at al-Qaqaa. Even if you assume that it is HMX in the video, the amount shown is merely a fraction of what has been alleged to have been there originally.

-The IAEA has also stated that there are 377 total tons of missing explosives from al-Qaqaa. Yet in January 2003, the agency reported that there were only 221 tons of explosive materials at the site. The IAEA claims that the other 150 tons were stored at a satellite location. So even the IAEA isn't completely sure of how many explosives there were, and where they were located.

-Fox News reported today that the Pentagon has satellite photos from March and early April 2003 showing large trucks near the bunkers where the explosives were stored. This raises the possibility that the material was removed before or during the war.

-The bunkers containing the explosives were sealed by the IAEA. Yet the IAEA admitted in a January 2003 report that the seals were rather less than secure:

Of note was that the sealing on the bunkers was only partially effective because each bunker had ventilation shafts on the sides of the buildings. These shafts were not sealed, and could provide removal routes for the HMX while leaving the front door locked.

In other words, the Iraqis could have removed material from the bunkers while leaving the seals intact. Some safeguard.

-Power Line links to this Associated Press interview with Colonel David Perkins, commander of the brigade that first seized al-Qaqaa:

The infantry commander whose troops first captured the Iraqi weapons depot where 377 tons of explosives disappeared said Wednesday it is "very highly improbable" that someone could have trucked out so much material once U.S. forces arrived in the area.

Two major roads that pass near the Al-Qaqaa installation were filled with U.S. military traffic in the weeks after April 3, 2003, when U.S. troops first reached the area, said Col. David Perkins. He commanded the 2nd Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division, the division that led the charge into Baghdad.

Perkins and others in the military acknowledged that some looting at the site had taken place. But he said a large-scale operation to remove the explosives using trucks almost certainly would have been detected.

-The Pentagon revealed today that a team from the 3rd Infantry Division removed and destroyed 250 tons of explosives and munitions from al-Qaqaa, starting on April 13. Some of the material may have been RDX, which is part of the alleged 377 tons.

-As Jim Geraghty has noted, "none of this explosive has to date shown up in any Iraqi insurgent attack."

-For the sake of argument, however, assume that all 377 tons of explosives were at al-Qaqaa, and were taken after we overthrew Saddam. These explosives are a drop in the bucket compared to the estimated 650,000 tons of munitions and explosives that Saddam had dispersed throughout Iraq. So far, we have secured 400,000 tons of this material. BTW, please spare me the ridiculous "we didn't have enough troops" argument. We could have sent the entire Army and Marine Corps to Iraq, and it wouldn't have been enough to find and secure all of these munitions. If we had stopped to gather and secure all this material as our first priority, Saddam and his forces would still be in Baghdad awaiting our eventual arrival.

-Finally, if the HMX and RDX held at al-Qaqaa was so much more dangerous than "ordinary explosives", then why was Saddam allowed to retain them? The New York Sun reported on Wednesday that then-UN weapons inspector Charles Duelfer urged the IAEA in 1995 to remove the al-Qaqaa explosives, but the agency refused.

In short, even if the KSTP video has been accurately reported, it is not the definitive evidence that has been claimed. There are substantial questions as to just how much material was at al-Qaqaa, and how much of it was still there when our troops arrived. By the testimony of a senior officer who was in the area, it is "highly improbable" that the explosives could have been taken after our forces captured the complex, at least in any large quantity. We don't know exactly what happened to the material, as Kerry's own foreign policy advisor, Richard Holbrooke, has admitted. To use this issue as the Kerry campaign has done is highly disingenuous.

Update: Simon X has posted some interesting additional information about al-Qaqaa in the comments section.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Deranged Democrat Watch

A Florida man has been charged with attempting to run over controversial Republican congresswoman Katherine Harris with his Cadillac. According to the below Sarasota Police Department report, Barry Seltzer, 46, told cops that he was simply exercising his "political expression" when he drove his car at Harris and several supporters, who were campaigning last night at a Sarasota intersection. Seltzer--pictured at right in a booking photo--allegedly drove up on a sidewalk and headed directly for Harris before swerving "at the last minute." Harris told officers that "she was afraid for her life and could not move as the vehicle approached her," according to the report. For his part, Seltzer--who's a registered Democrat--told cops, "I intimidated them with the car. They were standing in the street." He added, "I did not run them down, I scared them a little!" That explanation did not stop investigators from arresting Seltzer for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a felony. Harris, Florida's former secretary of state, is best known for her role in the aftermath of the state's disastrous 2000 presidential election.

Source: The Smoking Gun

Link courtesy of Power Line

Threatening vehicular homicide as "political expression", something I never thought I'd see in this country. This election year has produced idiocy beyond belief, especially, though not exclusively, on the left side of the political spectrum.

Possible "Bombshell" on the Missing Explosives

Thursday's Washington Times has a potentially huge story on the missing Iraqi explosives from the al-Qaqaa facility:

Russian special forces troops moved many of Saddam Hussein's weapons and related goods out of Iraq and into Syria in the weeks before the March 2003 U.S. military operation, The Washington Times has learned.

John A. Shaw, the deputy undersecretary of defense for international technology security, said in an interview that he believes the Russian troops, working with Iraqi intelligence, "almost certainly" removed the high-explosive material that went missing from the Al-Qaqaa facility, south of Baghdad.

The article also explains why it is unlikely that this material was taken after US forces arrived at the complex:

The Pentagon disclosed yesterday that the Al-Qaqaa facility was defended by Fedayeen Saddam, Special Republican Guard and other Iraqi military units during the conflict. U.S. forces defeated the defenders around April 3 and found the gates to the facility open, the Pentagon said in a statement yesterday.

A military unit in charge of searching for weapons, the Army's 75th Exploitation Task Force, then inspected Al-Qaqaa on May 8, May 11 and May 27, 2003, and found no high explosives that had been monitored in the past by the IAEA.

The Pentagon said there was no evidence of large-scale movement of explosives from the facility after April 6.

"The movement of 377 tons of heavy ordnance would have required dozens of heavy trucks and equipment moving along the same roadways as U.S. combat divisions occupied continually for weeks prior to and subsequent to the 3rd Infantry Division's arrival at the facility," the statement said.

The article concludes with this tantalizing bit:

Officials believe the Russians also can explain what happened to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs.

Read the article for yourself here:

Russia tied to Iraq's missing arms

If this story pans out, the implications are massive. The Russians must be held to account for actively participating in Saddam's violation of UN sanctions. Even if the Russian angle can't be verified, it is becoming increasingly clear that the effort to spring the al-Qaqaa story as an anti-Bush "October Surprise" has failed badly. The Kerry campaign's continuing efforts to push al-Qaqaa as an example of administration "incompetence" fly in the face of the strong evidence that the explosives were gone before our forces arrived, and are grossly irresponsible.

Update: Tom Maguire at Just One Minute has some additional background and analysis.

Further Update: ABC News is reporting that not only might the quantity of missing explosives be vastly overstated, but that in some cases, it could have been removed without breaking the seals placed by UN weapons inspectors.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

One Way to Pass the Global Test

In an October 22 column for the Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer noted one way that a Kerry Administration would seek to make America "more respected in the world":

John Kerry says he wants to "rejoin the community of nations." There is no issue on which the United States more consistently fails the global test of international consensus than Israel. In July, the U.N. General Assembly declared Israel's defensive fence illegal by a vote of 150 to 6. In defending Israel, America stood almost alone.

You want to appease the "international community"? Sacrifice Israel. Gradually, of course, and always under the guise of "peace." Apply relentless pressure on Israel to make concessions to a Palestinian leadership that has proved (at Camp David in 2000) it will never make peace.

The allies will appreciate that. Then turn around and say to them: We're doing our part (against Israel), now you do yours (in Iraq). If Kerry is elected, the pressure on Israel will begin on day one.

Lest you think Mr. Krauthammer is merely being paranoid, last Friday night senior Kerry foreign policy advisor Richard Holbrooke said the following;

"He [Kerry] has said already he would start intense talks with the allies . . . and he would reach out to the moderate Arab states. He'd put more pressure on Israel, Syria, Saudi Arabia above all."

So Kerry will pressure democratic pro-American Israel, just like he'll pressure state sponsor of anti-American terror Syria and troublesome pseudo-ally Saudi Arabia. How encouraging that a Kerry Administration would put Israel in such distinguished company. What better way to make us more respected than to betray a loyal American ally while kowtowing to European and Arab anti-Semitism? The Kerry approach to world affairs won't make us more popular, let alone safer. It will only earn the contempt of our enemies.

An "Explosive" Scoop Turns out to be a Dud

As we enter the last full week before the election, the elite media are desperate to serve up as many anti-Bush hit pieces as possible. The New York Times got the ball rolling with a lengthy article Monday morning on a stockpile of missing explosives in Iraq:

The Iraqi interim government has warned the United States and international nuclear inspectors that nearly 380 tons of powerful conventional explosives - used to demolish buildings, make missile warheads and detonate nuclear weapons - are missing from one of Iraq's most sensitive former military installations.

The huge facility, called Al Qaqaa, was supposed to be under American military control but is now a no man's land, still picked over by looters as recently as Sunday. United Nations weapons inspectors had monitored the explosives for many years, but White House and Pentagon officials acknowledge that the explosives vanished sometime after the American-led invasion last year.

The article clearly implies that the Bush Administration through gross incompetence left this stockpile unsecured and allowed its contents to be looted. Naturally, the Kerry campaign immediately seized on this story.

Unfortunately for the Times, NBC News reported the following in its Monday night newscast:

"NBC News: Miklaszewski: “April 10, 2003, only three weeks into the war, NBC News was embedded with troops from the Army's 101st Airborne as they temporarily take over the Al Qakaa weapons installation south of Baghdad. But these troops never found the nearly 380 tons of some of the most powerful conventional explosives, called HMX and RDX, which is now missing. The U.S. troops did find large stockpiles of more conventional weapons, but no HMX or RDX, so powerful less than a pound brought down Pan Am 103 in 1988, and can be used to trigger a nuclear weapon. In a letter this month, the Iraqi interim government told the International Atomic Energy Agency the high explosives were lost to theft and looting due to lack of security. Critics claim there were simply not enough U.S. troops to guard hundreds of weapons stockpiles, weapons now being used by insurgents and terrorists to wage a guerrilla war in Iraq.” (NBC’s “Nightly News,” 10/25/04)"

In other words, the explosives in question were already gone when our troops arrived on the scene, only one day after the fall of Baghdad. So much for this expose.

Monday, October 25, 2004

A Tale of Two Countries

There are two Iraqs.

The one we more often see and read about is a dangerous place, full of exploding cars, kidnapped foreigners and deadly ambushes. There, reconstruction is proceeding at a snail's pace, frustration boils over, and tensions--political, ethnic, religious--crackle in the air like static electricity before a storm.

The other Iraq is a once prosperous and promising country of 24 million, slowly recovering from the physical and moral devastation of totalitarianism. It's a country whose people are slowly beginning to stand on their own feet, grasp the opportunities undreamed of only two years ago, and dream of catching up on three decades of lost time.

So begins this week's Iraq update from Arthur Chrenkoff. The media tells us all about the first Iraq. Thankfully, Mr. Chrenkoff has taken the responsibility of keeping us informed about the second one:

Two Nations in One

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Halfway Home

I must admit that my prediction of a 0-0 draw in the first leg of the DC United Metrostars series was incorrect. Instead, United performed a textbook example of an away "smash and grab", beating the Metros 2-0. Barring catastrophic circumstances, DC should easily wrap things up in the second leg this Saturday at RFK.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Previewing the First Round of the MLS Playoffs

This weekend the Major League Soccer playoffs begin. Here are my less than expert predictions:

The East: (two game total goal series)

DC United (2nd, 4th overall) v. Metrostars (3rd, 6th overall)

For only the second time, these two bitter rivals meet in the playoffs. The first meeting in 1996, won by United in three games, was one of the greatest series in MLS's brief history and did more than anything else to fuel the DC-Metros rivalry. As a United fan I'm obviously biased, but I see DC winning this one handily. They ended the year in terrific form, winning their last three and five of their last six. The late season acquisition of Argentinean Christian Gomez helped spark the offense. Gomez tallied four goals, while a revitalized Jaime Moreno had an MVP caliber season. Alecko Eskandarian led the team with 11 goals.

Unlike DC, the Metrostars struggled down the stretch, going 2-6-2 in their last 10 games. While the Metros have a number of good players, as a DC fan the only ones who actually worry me are Honduran Amado Guevara and Eddie Gaven. Jonny Walker is an excellent goalkeeper, and US international Eddie Pope is a steadying influence in the back. Still, for all their talent, the team as a whole is less than the sum of its parts.

Prediction: DC dominated the regular season matchups, winning three of four. Look for that to continue. United wins the series 3-1 (First Leg: 0-0; Second Leg 3-1).

Columbus Crew (1st, 1st overall) v. New England Revolution (4th, 9th overall)

This series is the biggest mismatch of the first round. Columbus won the Supporters' Shield as Regular Season Champions, going undefeated in their last 18 matches. The Crew are not a great team, even by past MLS standards, but they have quality and depth at every position, and play a system that lets them get the most out of their abilities. Edson Buddle and Jeff Cunningham are the main scoring threats, while Kyle Martino adds the creative spark. New Zealand international Simon Elliott is dangerous on set pieces. Veteran sweeper Robin Fraser has done a superb job of marshalling the Crew defense, while Jon Busch is both undersized and underrated in goal.

The Revolution staggered into the playoffs, not qualifying until the last game of the season. The Revs do have some talent, especially up front with Taylor Twellman and Pat Noonan, but have rarely put everything together. Don't expect them to do so now.

Prediction: Crew 5-2 (First Leg: 2-0; Second 3-2)

The West: (two game total goal series)

Kansas City Wizards (1st, 2nd overall) v. San Jose Earthquakes (4th, 7th overall

This series pits an overachieving team against an underachieving one. The Wizards have overcome key injuries to have an excellent season. They won the West and tied for the overall lead with Columbus, losing the Supporters' Shield on the "goals for" tiebreaker. Perhaps more importantly, Kansas City captured their first-ever US Open Cup. The Wizards, like Columbus, are a solid if unspectacular team that gets the most out of its abilities. Josh Wolff and Davy Arnaud have formed a quality strike tandem. Journeyman goalkeeper Bo Oshoniyi has been brilliant while filling in for the injured Tony Meola. Nick Garcia and Jimmy Conrad have anchored MLS's stingiest defense, giving up only 30 goals. The pride of Plymouth Michigan, Kerry Zavagnin has been solid in the midfield, even playing his way onto the US national team.

The Earthquakes, reigning MLS Cup champions, have been one of this year's biggest disappointments. Injuries, national team callups, bad breaks, and poor form have all resulted in a substandard campaign for the league's most talented team. Still, if the Earthquakes can pull things together, there's no reason they can't repeat. Brian Ching led the way with 11 goals. Canadian international Pat Onstad is solid in goal, with veteran Jeff Agoos the leader on the backline. The key to the Earthquakes, of course, is Landon Donovan. Last year, he finally showed the ability to take his team to the next level. He will need to do it again.

Prediction: Kansas City 2-2 (First Leg: 1-1; Second 1-1, KC wins on penalty kicks)

Los Angeles Galaxy (2nd, 3rd overall) v. Colorado Rapids (3rd, 5th overall)

The Galaxy got off to a great start, then faltered a bit. Still, LA has the talent to make it to MLS Cup, with the added incentive that it will be on their home field at the Home Depot Center. Guatemalan Carlos Ruiz needs to emerge from his funk and start finding the back of the net. Fortunately for the Galaxy, Kevin Hartman can be counted on to keep them in almost any game.

I will mince few words regarding the Colorado Rapids: They are the most boring team in league history. The Rapids scored a pathetic 29 goals, and became the first team in MLS to ever average less than one goal per game. If not for the magnificent goalkeeping of Joe Cannon, Colorado would deservedly be at the bottom of the table.

Prediction: Colorado won the first leg at home last night, 1-0. Look for LA to bounce back and win the series at home, 2-0.

For more on the MLS playoffs, visit the official league Web site.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Tora Bora Revisited

In a recent post, I addressed John Kerry's ridiculous claim that we "outsourced" the job of defeating al-Qaeda at Tora Bora in December 2001. In the October 19th New York Times, someone far more qualified to discuss this issue dealt with Senator Kerry's remarks. General Tommy Franks, the man in charge of Operation Enduring Freedom, made the following points:

First, take Mr. Kerry's contention that we "had an opportunity to capture or kill Osama bin Laden" and that "we had him surrounded." We don't know to this day whether Mr. bin Laden was at Tora Bora in December 2001. Some intelligence sources said he was; others indicated he was in Pakistan at the time; still others suggested he was in Kashmir. Tora Bora was teeming with Taliban and Qaeda operatives, many of whom were killed or captured, but Mr. bin Laden was never within our grasp.

Second, we did not "outsource" military action. We did rely heavily on Afghans because they knew Tora Bora, a mountainous, geographically difficult region on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is where Afghan mujahedeen holed up for years, keeping alive their resistance to the Soviet Union. Killing and capturing Taliban and Qaeda fighters was best done by the Afghan fighters who already knew the caves and tunnels.

Third, the Afghans weren't left to do the job alone. Special forces from the United States and several other countries were there, providing tactical leadership and calling in air strikes. Pakistani troops also provided significant help - as many as 100,000 sealed the border and rounded up hundreds of Qaeda and Taliban fighters.

It seems to me that General Franks would have just a little bit more knowledge of the operational situation at Tora Bora than would Senator Kerry. As I stated in my previous post on this topic, it is clear that "Senator Kerry's statement on Tora Bora drastically oversimplifies a complicated operational situation, and represents the worst sort of second guessing." BTW, Tom Maguire points out that Kerry had a different take on events while the battle of Tora Bora was actually underway:

KERRY: Well, I think it depends on where you are tactically. They may well be doing that at some point in time. But for the moment, what we are doing, I think, is having its impact and it is the best way to protect our troops and sort of minimalize the proximity, if you will. I think we have been doing this pretty effectively and we should continue to do it that way.

John Kerry on Larry King Live, December 14, 2001

On the issue of whether Osama bin Laden escaped Tora Bora, read this terrific post by Greg Djerejian at Belgravia Dispatch. He provides an excellent analysis of all the alleged bin Laden audio and video tapes released since Tora Bora, and finds them less than convincing. Djerejian's conclusion:

I think Osama bin Laden is dead. And, if so, you might as well chalk that up, of course, on the positive side of the ledger vis-a-vis Bush's prosecution of the war on terror during his first term. Oh, be sure to think about that the next time you hear hysterical chiming-ons about all those myriad missed opportunities at Tora Bora and such.

To be fair, Lt. General David Barno, commander of US forces in Afghanistan, was reported on October 19 as saying "that bin Laden's death would be difficult to conceal from intelligence services, even if he died in a secret place, because his associates would talk about it."

Still, even if bin Laden is alive, he is barely able to elude capture, let alone effectively run a global terrorist jihad. Frankly, bin Laden is now primarily a symbol more than anything.

Progress in Afghanistan

On Saturday October 9, a major victory was scored in the War on Islamist Terror. Unlike many of the earlier successes in this struggle, nary a shot was fired. This was the day the people of Afghanistan, both men and women, defied the barbarous threats of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and went to the polls by the millions to seek a better future for their country. In so doing, they dealt a major blow to the forces of jihadist terrorism.

The Afghan election was an unprecedented event in that troubled nation's history. The people of one of the Islamic world's poorest, most backwards countries made clear their overwhelming desire for democracy and a free, prosperous society. No, the election was not perfect, but under the circumstances it was a remarkable success, and clearly represented a massive rejection of the Taliban, exposing them as the hated fringe that they are.

This October 15 article from the Christian Science Monitor analyzes the scope of the Taliban's defeat:

The election was a psychological defeat for the terrorists," says Zalmai Rassoul, chairman of the Afghan National Security Council and a senior adviser to President Hamid Karzai. "[Osama bin Laden's deputy] Ayman al-Zawahiri said that half of Afghanistan is under the control of the Taliban, but if that was true then how could we hold the election in Zabul, in Kandahar, in Helmand, in Khost, in all the regions where the Taliban are active? This was a big defeat."

History may mark Oct. 9 as the death knell of the Taliban as a military force. Or maybe not. This is Afghanistan, after all, where violent guerrilla movements have a way of surging and receding with the changing seasons. But while most Afghans agree that the Taliban are increasingly unpopular, and clearly unable to deliver on their threats, some intelligence officers and former Taliban themselves say that it is too early to declare victory. Finishing off this three-year insurgency may require equal measures of amnesty, negotiation, and occasional shows of military might - and more important, a stable government in Kabul free of corruption.

The Taliban have laughably tried to explain away their inability to interfere with the election as due to their reluctance to harm fellow Muslims. Like that's ever stopped them before. If you believe that one, e-mail me, and I'll put you in touch in with some people in Nigeria who can help you make some quick money.

As the New York Times noted in an October 19 analysis, there were several factors involved in the success of the Afghan elections:

The success of the Oct. 9 election, experts and officials said, stemmed from three things: an aggressive American-led security and reconstruction effort in Afghanistan in 2004, pressure on neighboring Pakistan to rein in Taliban remnants, and most important, a passionate desire among average Afghans to choose the country's leader through a peaceful, democratic election.


Afghan security officials and Western diplomats said the single most important factor in the success of the election may have been average Afghans. Exhausted by decades of war and buoyed by a sense that the country is finally heading in the right direction, they tipped off the authorities about possible attacks and generally embraced the concept of using elections to resolve political disputes peacefully.

A sea change in Bush administration policy in Afghanistan was also credited with aiding the election. After being heavily criticized for paying too little attention to Afghanistan in 2002 and 2003, the administration pumped $1.76 billion in reconstruction funds into the country in fiscal 2004. After blocking the expansion of an international peacekeeping force in 2002, Washington now advocates it. After initial leeriness toward nation building, the United States is deeply engaged in it.

In 2004, the Pentagon nearly doubled its forces in Afghanistan to 20,000 from 11,000, deploying small military reconstruction units across the country and marines to scour unstable southern areas. American-financed initiatives also trained thousands of Afghan soldiers, police officers and civil servants.

As the Times article makes clear, the Taliban have become a fringe movement, wards of the global jihadist movement with little support in their own country:

A senior Afghan intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, and Mr. Pashtun, the Kandahar governor, said the leaders of the rump Taliban resided in the Pakistani city of Quetta, and were receiving a steady flow of cash from outside Pakistan, namely the Middle East.

"The Taliban are a tool, or means, being used by Al Qaeda," Mr. Pashtun said. "Al Qaeda is the brain, and this is just the hand of it, the muscles."

The organization is still capable of opportunistic attacks to scare away aid agencies and prevent reconstruction, particularly in the country's still struggling rural south, United States military and government officials caution. And while the movement has funds, a potential safe haven in Pakistan and the ability to move across the long and porous border, it can continue to produce a troublesome, low-level insurgency for years to come, they say.

The defeatism in some quarters regarding Afghanistan has been almost as pronounced as in regards to Iraq. Shortly before the elections, the left of center Carnegie Endowment for International Peace breathlessly proclaimed that "We Are Losing the War in Afghanistan":

It has been called the forgotten war. What seemed two years ago to be a shining example of American military power and international leadership is now a growing morass. The Taliban is back, Al Qaeda roams the countryside and Osama bin Ladin mocks America from his mountain redoubt. Assassins in the last week barely missed killing both the president and the vice-president in separate attacks on this fledgling democracy’s government.

Yes, there are problems in Afghanistan, and the election will not change things overnight. The Taliban are still a threat in some areas, the warlords are a problem, and the opium trade is definite cause for concern. Still, the Carnegie analysis smacks of baseless negativity and a distressing lack of perspective.

For example, they state that "the rate of attacks on international military forces, humanitarian aid workers, and Afghan civilians is increasing. 2004 has been the deadliest year thus far for American troops." Increased casualty rates, while tragic and regrettable, are hardly a suitable yardstick for measuring progress in war. In World War II, the rate of casualties among US troops in Europe actually increased from March to April 1945, yet no one would argue that we weren't winning the war. The reason we have had more casualties in Afghanistan this year is because, as noted above, we now have more troops in that country, who have aggressively hunted down and rooted out the Taliban. The late August elimination of a top Taliban commander is just one success among many. The damp squib that was the Taliban's anti-election offensive shows that these efforts have been very effective. The notion put forth in the Carnegie analysis that the "Taliban is back" and "Al Qaeda roams the countryside" has been exposed as nonsense by the failure to disrupt the election.

As far as the other problems in Afghanistan, it is ridiculous to expect a society that endured a decade long genocidal war of subjugation by the USSR, followed by over a decade of brutal civil war and dictatorship to turn into Switzerland overnight. There will be difficulties, and progress will come slowly. Noticeable improvements, though, are occurring. As journalist and frequent Bush administration critic Peter Bergen wrote on September 23:

According to a poll taken in July by the Asia Foundation, President Hamid Karzai is drawing substantial support around the country. He has emerged not only as a popular leader, but also as a shrewd player of the kind of hardball politics that would have warmed the heart of Lyndon Johnson. This summer he dropped his running mate, Mohammad Fahim, a power-hungry general who had pompously awarded himself the title of field marshal after the fall of the Taliban. And this month Mr. Karzai forced Ismail Khan, the governor of the western province of Herat, to resign. These moves not only neutralized two powerful rivals, men who could field their own private armies, but also increased the stability of the central government.

What we are seeing in Afghanistan is far from perfect, but it's better than so-so. Disputes that would once have been settled with the barrel of a gun are now increasingly being dealt with politically. The remnants of the Taliban are doing what they can to disrupt the coming election, but their attacks, aimed at election officials, American forces and international aid workers, are sporadic and strategically ineffective.

A day later, Oxblog posted this analysis from a contact in Afghanistan:

But the political skill demonstrated by Karzai since July, and the popularity he clearly possesses, are reason for optimism. Afghans themselves are optimistic. The country has passed its major political challenges reasonably well since the fall of the Taliban in 2001 – forming a transitional cabinet, drafting and approving a constitution, maintaining a steady civilian government in Kabul. The next milestone, Afghanistan’s first free presidential election in over a decade, also looks to be a qualified success. For now, that’s quite an achievement.

Finally, just this Monday, Arthur Chrenkoff posted yet another of his detailed roundups of positive developments in Afghanistan:

'The People Win'

In short, for all the problems and difficulties involved, we are indeed winning in Afghanistan. As long as we persevere, there is no reason that we cannot finish the job and score a huge blow against the radical Islamists.

Monday, October 18, 2004

A Glorious Day at RFK

Yesterday, I had the pleasure to be at the DC United-Metrostars match at RFK Stadium. It was an intense, hard-fought, thoroughly entertaining affair, with United beating the scum 3-2 on Mike Petke's 64th minute header off a Freddy Adu corner kick. Despite the scoreline, DC looked the better team for most of the match, and when Metroscum Craig Ziadie was sent off for a thuggish assault on Adu, the game was effectively decided.

With the win, United finished the regular season in 2nd place in the MLS East, and 4th overall, with 11 wins, 10 losses, and 9 ties for a total of 42 points. This was United's first winning season since 1999, the last of the MLS Cup glory years. Ironically, this was only the first of three straight meetings between us and the Metroscum as we will meet them in the first round of the playoffs starting Saturday. By finishing second in the East, United will host the second leg of the two game aggregate goals series at RFK on October 30. DC took three of four from the Metroscum during the regular season, and go in as solid favorites. If we can come away from the Meadowlands with at least a draw, we should be able to wrap things up at home.

DC United's brief history has been a tale of feast or famine. The club won the inaugural MLS Cup in 1996, in epic fashion. Trailing Los Angeles 2-0 with less than 20 minutes remaining, United rallied to tie and force overtime, where Eddie Pope's thunderous golden goal header provided the victory. DC then won 2 of the next 3 cups, and was the losing finalist the other year (1998). Starting in 2000, the bottom fell out. The club suffered 4 straight losing seasons, missing the playoffs in 3 of them. With former Polish international Peter Nowak coaching the club to a winning season in his first year in charge, the lean times appear to be at an end.

Can United bring home the Cup this year? Stranger things have happened. This season has been eerily similar to 1996. Both years, United struggled for form and consistency before coming on late in the season. Both years, a late season acquisition helped jumpstart United's attack (Jaime Moreno in '96, Christian Gomez this year). Both years, United was stuck below the 500% mark until a late winning streak to end the season. Finally, just as in '96, United finished 2nd in the East and will meet the Metrostars in the 1st round of the playoffs. Can history repeat itself? Check back later this week for an answer.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

The Therapeutic View of Terrorism

In his Friday column for National Review Online, historian Victor Davis Hanson brilliantly lays into what he calls the "therapeutic view" of terrorism:

Mr. Kerry believes that we must return to the pre-9/11 days when terrorism was but a "nuisance." In his mind, that was a nostalgic sort of time when the terrorist mosquito lazily buzzed about a snoring America. And we in somnolent response merely swatted it away with a cruise missile or a few GPS bombs when embassies and barracks were blown up. Keep the tribute of dead Americans low, and the chronic problem was properly analogous to law-enforcement's perpetual policing of gambling and prostitution. Many of us had previously written off just such naïveté, but we never dreamed that our suspicions would be confirmed so explicitly by Kerry himself.

In the now-lost age of unperturbed windsailing and skiing, things were not all that bad before al Qaeda overdid it by knocking down skyscrapers and a corner of the Pentagon — followed by George Bush's commensurate overreaction in Afghanistan and Iraq that brought on all the present messy and really bothersome cargo of IEDs, beheadings, and promises of dirty bombs to come. The Taliban and Saddam were, of course, bad sports. But really, going all the way over there to topple them, implant democracy, and change the status quo of the Middle East? Tsk, tsk, tsk — well, that was a bit much, was it not?

Terrorist killing, like the first World Trade Center bombing or the USS Cole, certainly was not seen as the logical precursor to 9/11 — the expected wages of a quarter century of appeasement that started with the weak Carter response to the Iranian hostages and was followed by dead soldiers, diplomats, and tourists about every other year. No, these were "incidents" like 9/11 itself — "law-enforcement" issues that called for the DA, writs, and stern prison sentences, the sort of stuff that barristers like Kerry, Edwards, Kennedy, and McAuliffe handle so well.

This attitude is part of the therapeutic view of the present struggle that continually suggests that something we did — not the mass murdering out of the Dark Age — brought on our present bother that is now "the focus of our lives." We see this irritation with the inconvenience and sacrifice once more reemerging in the Atlantic Monthly, Harpers, and the New York Times: We, not fascists and Islamist psychopaths, are blamed for the mess in Iraq, the mess in Afghanistan, the mess on the West Bank, and the mess here at home, but never credited with the first election in 5,000 years in Afghanistan or consensual government replacing autocracy in the heart of the ancient caliphate.

This is the key issue in our election, the main difference between George W. Bush and John Kerry. When the American people vote on November 2nd, it will be a referendum between two distinct views of the War on Terror. The first set of beliefs is that the radical Islamist terror movement is an existential threat that must be forcefully confronted and defeated, for in an era of WMD the long term risks of inaction far outweigh the short term costs of whatever is necessary to achieve victory. The second view is that the jihadists are merely another transnational threat to be managed and contained, such as organized crime and drug lords. Or as Senator Kerry told the New York Times Magazine:

''We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance,'' Kerry said. ''As a former law-enforcement person, I know we're never going to end prostitution. We're never going to end illegal gambling. But we're going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn't on the rise. It isn't threatening people's lives every day, and fundamentally, it's something that you continue to fight, but it's not threatening the fabric of your life.''

According to this interpretation, "(t)he war on terrorism is primarily an intelligence-gathering and law enforcement operation". Since the terrorists cannot be truly defeated, we should simply focus on mitigating and reducing the threat. Large scale uses of military power that risk inflaming Muslim passions and making America more unpopular in the short term are counterproductive and should be avoided at all costs.

Supporters of President Bush overwhelmingly subscribe to the first viewpoint. The majority of Kerry backers believe in the second theory. The relative handful who regularly read this blog will know that I share the Bush view, hence my strong support for his reelection. As to why, I'll leave it to Dr. Hanson to explain:

To all you of the therapeutic mindset, listen up. We can no more reason with the Islamic fascists than we could sympathize with the Nazis' demands over supposedly exploited Germans in Czechoslovakia or the problem of Tojo's Japan's not getting its timely scrap-metal shipments from Roosevelt's America. Their pouts and gripes are not intended to be adjudicated as much as to weaken the resolve of many in the United States who find the entire "war against terror" too big, or the wrong kind, of a nuisance.

Instead, read the fatwas. You hear not just of America's injustice in Palestine or Chechnya — not to mention nothing about saving Kuwait, Bosnia, Kosovo or Afghanistan of the 1980s — but also of what we did in Spain in the 15th century and in Tyre, Gaza, and Jerusalem in the 12th. The mystery of September 11, 2001, is not that it happened, but that it did not quite happen when first tried in 1993 during Bill Clinton's madcap efforts to move a smiling Arafat into the Lincoln Bedroom and keep our hands off bin Laden. Only an American with a JD or PhD would cling to the idea that there was not a connection between Group A Middle Eastern terrorists who attacked the WTC in 1993 and Group B who finished the job in 2001.

Please read the whole article:

The Therapeutic Choice

Portraits of the "Bribed"

In a terrific post, Beldar shows the human face of some of our coalition allies in Iraq. Or, as John Kerry calls them, the "coalition of the bribed, the coerced, the bought, and the extorted." Take a look for yourself, and see if you think Senator Kerry's comments do these men justice:

Bribed, bought, coerced, or extorted?

Friday, October 15, 2004

One Step Closer to Germany

Time for some long-overdue soccer blogging.

The US secured advancement to the final round of World Cup qualifying with a 6-0 thrashing of Panama Wednesday night at RFK Stadium. Landon Donovan had two goals, while FC Dallas (nee Dallas Burn) striker Eddie Johnson tallied a hat trick in only his second national team appearance.

The win extended the USA's 2004 unbeaten run to an unprecedented 12 games, with 8 wins and four ties. On the year, the USA is 8-1-5, with the only defeat away to the Netherlands. As a long suffering fan of American soccer, I never thought I would see a year where we only lost 1 game out of 14.

Ironically, the national team has often struggled for form this year. The US had to come from behind late in 4 of the 5 draws, including World Cup qualifiers at Jamaica and Panama. Yet the team has still found a way to get the result. In Cup qualifying, our record is now 3-0-2, with one match remaining, versus Jamaica in Columbus, Ohio on Wednesday, November 17. With 11 points, the US has guaranteed that it will advance from the group regardless of what happens in the Jamaica match. Hopefully though, the US can win that one and continue our momentum.

A lot remains to be done. The US will be part of a six team group for next year's final qualifying round. Having to play each team home and away will make for a grueling 10 match run, including trips to Mexico and probably Costa Rica. We will need to finish at least 3rd in the group to clinch our trip to Germany for World Cup 2006. It will be difficult, and we will certainly have to deal with injuries and/or loss of form at some point. Still, in terms of both quality and quantity of players, this is the best US national team we have ever fielded. Barring some near-disastrous circumstances, we will be going to Germany.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Taking the Global Test

Yes, you too can take John Kerry's Global Test, just by clicking on the link below. I've taken it myself, and passed. At the risk of violating academic integrity, here's a hint: think "colonies":

Global Test

On a serious note, Tom Maguire at Just One Minute had two excellent posts analyzing what Kerry meant when he uttered the now infamous phrase:

I Didn't See This Question On Kerry's Global Test

We Can't Get Enough Of The Global Test!

Tom's second post is particularly telling. If Kerry's "global test" comment can be as easily explained away as many Kerry supporters claim, then why can't they even agree on a standard interpretation? Personally, I think a relaxed, confident Kerry simply said what he believes. As Maguire points out, the statement makes perfect sense in light of Kerry's public record through the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The "global test" is a perfect illustration of John Kerry's instinctive aversion to the use of American power under anything but the most extreme circumstances. Unfortunately, Kerry doesn't seem to realize that using American power sooner might prevent such circumstances from arising.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

The Truth About Aragorn

Michael Moore's latest blockbuster blows the lid off the jingoistic hackwork of J.R.R. Tolkien and Peter Jackson to reveal the true history of the so-called "War of the Ring". It's all here, from Gandalf, Elrond and the rest of the rapacious corporate interests behind the dimwitted puppet Aragorn, to the brutal imperialist war of aggression against the sovereign nation of Mordor. Watch it now, if you think you can handle the truth:

Fellowship 9/11

Iraq: Positive Developments

I struggled to find some good news.

The picture painted by the news stories was bleak: another suicide attack, a shootout with armed militants, soldiers dying in an ambush, a man accused of collaborating with the hated occupiers executed by parties unknown, property destruction causing resentment among the locals, hostile noises from the neighbors, another condemnation from international community, and at home political instability and accusations of corruption at the highest level. There was hardly anything about economy and enterprise, nothing about culture and civil society, barely a glimpse of any positive development or an indication that something, somewhere, might be going right.

After about 10 minutes I gave up trying to find some good news from Israel.

That's the all too apt analogy that Arthur Chrenkoff uses to begin his latest roundup of positive developments from Iraq. Once again, I encourage you to read it. Even in the midst of the terrorist carnage displayed so prominently in the media, progress continues towards building a new Iraq. In the long run, it is precisely this progress that will spell the doom of the Baathists and jihadists:

Must It Bleed to Lead?

In the meantime, of course, the terrorist insurgency in Iraq must be dealt with militarily. Building up capable Iraqi security forces is essential to this task. Fortunately, National Review's W. Thomas Smith Jr. notes that the new Iraqi forces are indeed starting to prove themselves:

The enthusiasm of U.S. Marine captains Thomas "Tad" Douglas and David Nevers can hardly be contained. Their voices, alternately crackling over a weak satellite-phone connection, are heartening as they describe the successes they are witnessing in Iraq. The insurgency is losing ground. Iraqi civilians, feeling less afraid than in previous months, are increasingly coming forward with solid information about the bad guys. And a new Iraqi special-operations force is taking the lead in wiping out guerilla strongholds, south of Baghdad.

From their operating base in Kalsu (so-named for Bob Kalsu, a Buffalo Bills lineman and Army lieutenant who was killed during the Vietnam War), Douglas tells National Review Online, "The Iraqis are performing well-above my expectations. Their strengths are their aggressiveness and mobility, and we are enhancing those strengths."

(emphasis added-DD)

In Their Own Hands

Those who doubt whether success is possible in Iraq need only look at recent events in Afghanistan. Less than three years after the liberation of that country from the barbarism of the Taliban, Afghanistan held its first ever free election. By most accounts, the popular response was overwhelming, and made a mockery of the Taliban's thuggery. Initial claims of vote fraud have been all but refuted. If such things are possible in Afghanistan, why not in Iraq as well? In Monday's Washington Post, Sebastian Mallaby makes this very point:

Consider Afghanistan. In many ways, nation-building there has been mishandled. The early peacekeeping effort was restricted to the capital; the resulting power vacuum allowed regional warlords to dig in; the opium trade has boomed, bolstering criminals who work against the state and corrupting government officials. Despite these errors, however, Afghanistan is at least partly a success. Three years ago, the country featured medieval zealots and large terrorist bases. Today it features an enlightened constitution, 3 million exiles who have felt confident enough to return home and an election that attracted a remarkable turnout, whatever the flaws in administering it.

The same is likely to be true in Iraq, if America shows enough determination. Again, there has been no shortage of errors: too few troops, too much delay in empowering Iraqi leaders, the disaster of Abu Ghraib, the hesitation in rooting out insurgent bases in the Sunni heartland. But most of these errors are being addressed. If the United States remains committed to defeating Iraq's insurgents, the country is likely to progress, Afghan-style, toward some kind of imperfect democracy. And that will represent a clear advance -- both for Iraq and for U.S. security.

A Reason to Back the President?
(go to if you need a Post username and password)

In the same issue of the Post, Jackson Diehl notes that our efforts in Iraq, and the Bush Administration's broader campaign for Middle East democracy, are indeed starting to foster reform in the region:

A voice is beginning to emerge that wasn't there before," says Carl Gershman, the president of the National Endowment for Democracy, who attended a meeting of Western and Middle Eastern civil society groups alongside the recent foreign ministers' gathering. "Most of these people are unknown, they are faceless, but there are a surprising number of them, and the number is growing. They see that they have an opening, and they want to take advantage of it."


Such empowering grass-roots rhetoric has never before been heard in the Arab Middle East. If the United States fails in Iraq, it may well be snuffed out. But for now, for those who are listening, it offers reason for hope.

An Opening For Arab Democrats

Success in Iraq is not just possible but likely, provided we show the courage and perseverance necessary to stay the course and defeat the terrorists. We cannot be defeated in Iraq, except by our own loss of will. As long as we avoid this, we can be successful there and make America and the world safer.

(most links courtesy of Watch)

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

The Kerry Plan for Iraq

So the choice for America is, you can have a plan that I've laid out in four points, each of which I can tell you more about or you can go to and see more of it; or you have the president's plan, which is four words: more of the same.

Senator John Kerry, "First Bush-Kerry Presidential Debate", September 30, 2004

As I promised last weekend, it's time to take Senator Kerry up on his offer. The Kerry Plan for Iraq is contained in a 3 page PDF document available at the official Kerry Web site:

Winning The Peace In Iraq

All Kerry quotes are taken directly from that document.

The Kerry plan for Iraq has four main components, I will address each one of them in turn.

After insulting allies and shredding alliances, this President does not have the trust and confidence to bring others to our side in Iraq. But we must rebuild and lead strong alliances so that others will share the burden with us in Iraq and elsewhere.

There are two main problems with this part of the "Kerry Plan":

1.Despite what Senator Kerry says, we're not going it alone in Iraq.

-30 countries with over 25,000 troops are there with us.

-NATO is now involved in training Iraqi security forces.

-The UN is also playing a role.

2. There's no evidence to suggest that a Kerry Administration would be able to get any additional countries involved in Iraq.

-The French and Germans have stated unequivocally that they have no intention of sending forces to Iraq. Even Kerry has now admitted this.

-Not only will they not send troops, but our French "allies" in whom Kerry puts so much stock have said they will participate in a proposed meeting on Iraq only if the withdrawal of US forces is on the agenda, and the Iraqi "insurgents" are invited to attend. This should make abundantly clear that France's only agenda in Iraq is securing an American defeat.

-Kerry's rhetorical defeatism regarding Iraq is hardly likely to encourage additional nations to participate. After all, who wants to sign up for a "quagmire"?

-Finally, Kerry has labeled those allies who have stood with us in Iraq as a "coalition of the bribed, the coerced, the bought, and the extorted." In particular, Kerry has insulted interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, and offended our loyal ally Poland. This is the "nuanced diplomacy" that will make America "more respected in the world"? How could a President Kerry expect to win over additional allies when he insults the ones we already have.

In short, we already have international support in Iraq, and it is very unlikely that a Kerry Administration would be able to add to the current level.

Moving on to part two of the Kerry plan:

Last February, Secretary Rumsfeld claimed that more than 210,000 Iraqis were in uniform. Two weeks ago, he admitted that claim was off by more than 50 percent. Iraq, he said, now has 95,000 trained security forces. Neither number bears any relationship to the facts. By the administration’s own minimal standards, just 5,000 soldiers have been fully trained. And of the 32,000 police now in uniform, not one has completed a 24-week field-training program..

Increasing the training of Iraqi security forces is an excellent suggestion. So good, in fact, it is already being implemented. As Lt. General David H. Petraeus, who is in charge of training and equipping Iraqi forces, wrote in the September 26 Washington Post:

Helping organize, train and equip nearly a quarter-million of Iraq's security forces is a daunting task. Doing so in the middle of a tough insurgency increases the challenge enormously, making the mission akin to repairing an aircraft while in flight -- and while being shot at. Now, however, 18 months after entering Iraq, I see tangible progress. Iraqi security elements are being rebuilt from the ground up.


In recent months, I have observed thousands of Iraqis in training and then watched as they have conducted numerous operations. Although there have been reverses -- not to mention horrific terrorist attacks -- there has been progress in the effort to enable Iraqis to shoulder more of the load for their own security, something they are keen to do. The future undoubtedly will be full of difficulties, especially in places such as Fallujah. We must expect setbacks and recognize that not every soldier or policeman we help train will be equal to the challenges ahead.

Nonetheless, there are reasons for optimism. Today approximately 164,000 Iraqi police and soldiers (of which about 100,000 are trained and equipped) and an additional 74,000 facility protection forces are performing a wide variety of security missions. Equipment is being delivered. Training is on track and increasing in capacity. Infrastructure is being repaired. Command and control structures and institutions are being reestablished.

Most important, Iraqi security forces are in the fight -- so much so that they are suffering substantial casualties as they take on more and more of the burdens to achieve security in their country. Since Jan. 1 more than 700 Iraqi security force members have been killed, and hundreds of Iraqis seeking to volunteer for the police and military have been killed as well.


There will be more tough times, frustration and disappointment along the way. It is likely that insurgent attacks will escalate as Iraq's elections approach. Iraq's security forces are, however, developing steadily and they are in the fight. Momentum has gathered in recent months. With strong Iraqi leaders out front and with continued coalition -- and now NATO -- support, this trend will continue. It will not be easy, but few worthwhile things are.

The full piece provides some valuable details, as does this October 7 assessment from the Council on Foreign Relations:

The Iraqi army has 12,699 soldiers on duty. Of those, 4,789, or 38 percent, were trained. The army is slated to have a total of 27,000 fully trained soldiers by April 1, 2005, according to Pentagon targets.

The Iraqi National Guard, which works alongside U.S. forces on counterinsurgency and other operations, has 40,351 men on duty. Of those, almost all—38,338—are classified as trained. The Pentagon aims to have 62,000 trained guard troops by April 1, 2005.
The army also has two new counterinsurgency units: the Iraqi Prevention Force, with 1,928 trained soldiers, and an Iraqi special operations force, with 581 trained soldiers.

The Iraqi police has 84,950 police on duty. Forty-two percent, or 35,295, are classified as trained, but only about 10 percent of them have gone through a formal, eight-week course at a police academy. The Iraqi Police Service is scheduled to have 135,000 members by June 1, 2005.

There are 16,798 border guards on duty, 14,313 of whom are classified as trained. The Department of Border Enforcement aims to have 32,000 personnel trained by November 2004; it is likely to miss that target.

There’s also a fledgling air force with 143 trained personnel, and a coastal defense force with 282 trained troops. These services are targeted to have only 900 total troops.

Not only is the number of trained Iraqi units growing, they are beginning to prove themselves in the field, as this October 8 article from the Associated Press shows:

When Iraq's 202nd National Guard Battalion faced insurgents six months ago, it simply, in the words of one American general, "evaporated." Now, the same outfit, tested in recent combat, is being touted as a vital building block of the force the United States says will increasingly replace its own troops on the front lines.

Storming into the insurgent stronghold of Samarra with the Americans, the 202nd and other Iraqi units seized two holy sites and a large industrial complex, conducting house-to-house searches and raids on militant hideouts, according to U.S. military accounts.

"The good news is that the Iraqi forces are on their feet and getting better every day," said Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who commanded the operation. "Our work to train and equip Iraqi security forces is beginning to pay off in spades."

Certainly mistakes have been made and problems have occurred during the process of creating new Iraqi security forces. Such setbacks are inevitable, as General Petraeus's comments show. Still, substantial progress has been made, and the Kerry plan offers no details on how a Kerry Administration would do any better.

The Bush administration admitted that its plan was a failure when it asked Congress for permission to radically revise spending priorities in Iraq. It took 17 months for them to understand that security is a priority; 17 months to figure out that boosting oil production is critical; 17 months to conclude that an Iraqi with a job is less likely to shoot at our soldiers. One year ago, the administration asked for and received $18 billion to help the Iraqis and relieve the conditions that contribute to the insurgency. Today, just 5 percent of those funds have actually been spent.

The Kerry/Edwards campaign has a fair point here. There have been inexcusable bureaucratic delays in the flow of reconstruction dollars to Iraq. The Bush Administration also seems to have underestimated the extent to which Saddam had allowed his country's infrastructure to deteriorate. Still, the fact that both Kerry and Edwards voted against even providing the $18 billion for Iraqi reconstruction (it was part of the famous $87 billion) undercuts the credibility of their criticism.

In spite of the difficulties and delays, there has been substantial progress made in rebuilding Iraq. The USAID Iraq Web site has the details. Among the accomplishments:

-Nearly 6,000 Megawatts of electricity is being generated per day, as opposed to 4,400 before the liberation.

-"A major wastewater treatment plant in Baghdad began operating in June of 2004; this is the first major plant in the country to operate in over 12 years."

-Over 2,400 schools nationwide have been rehabilitated.

-110 primary health care centers have been renovated.

-According to the Department of Defense's Iraq Weekly Status Report, oil production is now consistently at the average pre-war level of 2.5 million barrels per day.

In a July 1 assessment, the Council on Foreign Relations, stated that reconstruction in Iraq is "advancing slowly". Despite the difficulties caused by terrorist violence and bureaucratic delays, improvements are being made. The Kerry plan neither recognizes this reality nor offers any reason to believe that a Kerry Administration would handle affairs any better.

Credible elections are key to producing an Iraqi government that has the support of the Iraqi people and an assembly to write a Constitution that yields a viable power sharing arrangement. Because Iraqis have no experience holding free and fair elections, the President agreed six months ago that the U.N. must play a central role. Yet today, just four months before Iraqis are supposed to go to the polls, the U.N. Secretary General and administration officials themselves say the elections are in grave doubt because the security situation is so bad. Not a single country has offered troops to protect the U.N. elections mission, and the U.N. has less than 25 percent of the staff it needs in Iraq to get the job done.

Once again, the Kerry plan advocates a course of action that is already being implemented. The Bush Administration is already seeking to persuade other countries to help with security for UN election officials. The administration is also implementing a broader military and political strategy designed to stabilize the situation in time for January's elections:

"You've seen examples of the strategy in action," the official said. "You saw it in Najaf, you've seen it in Samarra and you see it in offensive military actions that are taking place now in parts of the so-called Sunni triangle," the official said, referring to U.S. military offensives.

Once you actually look at the Kerry plan, it becomes clear that it is essentially "more of the same". The plan's four points are mostly things that the Bush Administration has already done or is in the process of doing. The one partial exception to this is point one: "Internationalizing" the Iraq situation. The idea that John Kerry would be able to bring additional countries into a war he has described as a "colossal failure" and a mistake is wishful thinking at best.

The real difference in this campaign is not between the Bush and Kerry plans for Iraq: It is between the Kerry plan and the Kerry rhetoric on Iraq. When Kerry and Edwards speak of the situation there, they describe it in almost apocalyptic terms; a "mistake", a "colossal failure", a quagmire. The Bush Administration's handling of Iraq is described on the Kerry Web site as a "series of disastrous mistakes with disastrous consequences". Yet the actual Kerry plan for Iraq is little more than steps that the Bush Administration is already implementing, along with vague, unsubstantiated promises that a Kerry Administration would somehow do them better. If Iraq is really as disastrous as John Kerry says it is, then shouldn't he be offering a genuine alternative instead of "more of the same"? Either Kerry's rhetoric is disingenuous, or his "plan" is.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Great News from Down Under

After a Saturday spent away from politics and the Internet, I was very happy to find out that John Howard's Liberal Party has won Australia's election. This is terrific news, as Prime Minister Howard has been steadfast in his support for the War on Islamist Terror, especially the Iraq campaign. His opponent, Labor Party leader Mark Latham, had promised to pull all Australian forces from Iraq by the end of the year if elected. Australian bloggers Arthur Chrenkoff and Tim Blair have much more on the election and what it means.

I extend my congratulations to Prime Minister Howard for his victory, and my deepest thanks to him and the Australian people for their steadfast and brave support of America. The Australian electorate has wisely chosen courage and perseverance over defeatism and appeasement. I only hope the American electorate makes the same choice.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Sanity (or lack thereof) Watch

After two years of attacking the Bush Administration in the most overwrought Moorewellian (no, I didn't coin that) terms, some of the Bush-haters are starting to act out their rhetoric:

An unknown gunman fired several shots into the Bearden, Tenn., Bush-Cheney campaign office Tuesday, WBIR-TV in Knoxville reported.

This is just one of a number of recent incidents. Jim Geraghty of National Review's indispensable Kerry Spot has a full roundup:


Sadly, it is quite conceivable that should Bush be reelected, as I believe he will, we will see the rise of a domestic left-wing terrorist group ala the Weather Underground.

Halliburton Revisited

In light of John Edwards' pathetic attempt to use the Halliburton smear during last night's debate, I wanted to point out this post from last Saturday. It includes a link to the devastating piece that Vice-President Cheney cited:

The Cheney-Halliburton Myth

If you haven't done so already, please check it out.

Fahrenheit 9/11: The Definitive Debunking

The Ethics and Public Policy Center has compiled the definitive, scene by scene refutation of Michael Moore's propaganda "masterpiece". You can download it for free from the EPPC site, by clicking on the link below:

War, Lies, and Videotape: A Viewer’s Guide to Fahrenheit 9/11

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Tora Bora and the Myth of a Short War on Terror

(Slightly edited for grammar,10-5-04: DD)

Saddam Hussein didn't attack us. Osama bin Laden attacked us. Al Qaida attacked us. And when we had Osama bin Laden cornered in the mountains of Tora Bora, 1,000 of his cohorts with him in those mountains. With the American military forces nearby and in the field, we didn't use the best trained troops in the world to go kill the world's number one criminal and terrorist.

They outsourced the job to Afghan warlords, who only a week earlier had been on the other side fighting against us, neither of whom trusted each other.

That's the enemy that attacked us. That's the enemy that was allowed to walk out of those mountains. That's the enemy that is now in 60 countries, with stronger recruits.

Senator John Kerry, "First Bush-Kerry Presidential Debate", September 30, 2004

In December 2001, local Afghan forces supported by US special forces and airpower laid siege to the mountainous al-Qaeda stronghold of Tora Bora, in northeastern Afghanistan just a few miles from the Pakistani border. At the time, it was widely believed that Osama bin Laden himself, and many of his top deputies, were at Tora Bora. Eyewitness accounts and other information have since confirmed his presence in the area. For a week, Americans waited in eager anticipation for news of bin Laden's death or capture. Yet, when the battle finally ended, bin Laden was nowhere to be found. In the words of journalist and author Peter Bergen, "so was lost the last, best chance to capture al-Qaeda's leader, at a time when he was confined to an area of several dozen square miles."

The criticism voiced above by Senator Kerry echoes a widely-held sentiment. If only we had deployed American ground forces at Tora Bora, the argument goes, we could have caught bin Laden and decisively defeated al-Qaeda. To quote Bergen:

With only a small number of American "boots on the ground," the U.S. military chose to rely on the services of local Afghan proxies of uncertain loyalty and competence?a blunder that allowed many members of al-Qaeda, including Osama bin Laden himself, to slip away. The blunder meant that, as a senior U.S. military official told me, "we don't know for sure when bin Laden disappeared."

Source: Peter Bergen, "The Long Hunt for Osama", Atlantic Monthly, October 2004

Is there merit to the criticism made by Kerry, Bergen and others? Did the Bush Administration blunder by not committing regular American ground forces at Tora Bora? Even if we had caught Osama, would it have had the decisive impact implied by Kerry?

A close reading of the available source material reveals that the issue of deploying American infantry to Tora Bora isn't nearly as simple as Senator Kerry makes it out to be.

1. The idea that we could have used American troops instead of Afghans flies in the face of the available facts. Contrary to Senator Kerry's assertion, the only "American military forces nearby and in the field" was a 700 man battalion of the 10th Mountain Division, available in Uzbekistan as a rapid reaction force. The al-Qaeda force at Tora Bora numbered 1,600-2,000 by Smucker's estimate, plus however many Afghan tribesmen would have joined them in fighting the infidel Americans. (Philip Smucker, Al Qaeda's Great Escape, p.72) The terrain they were defending is described by retired Lt. General Michael DeLong, former CentCom deputy commander, as "some of the roughest terrain in the world, at an elevation of around thirteen thousand feet, covered in snow and ice." (DeLong, Inside CentCom, p.55) To expect 700 American troops, as superbly trained and capable as they are, to launch a successful attack against a determined enemy force several times their number, in such impossible terrain, defies the imagination. Even with the overwhelming airpower at our disposal, the battalion from the 10th Mountain was simply not sufficient for the job. Therefore, a major part of the battle would have had to be "outsourced" to the Afghans regardless, which made winning the trust and cooperation of the local warlords a priority.

(I should point out that Smucker's account is bitterly critical of the Bush Administration and the Pentagon over the handling of Tora Bora in particular, and the Afghan campaign in general. Much of his evidence, however, directly contradicts his conclusions.)

2. Hence the decision to rely on the special forces approach. This decision was made not by the Pentagon, but rather by General Tommy Franks and CentCom, on the recommendation of the Special Forces commander in the field. (Smucker, p.60) As General DeLong explains:

Sen. Kerry didn’t know what happened. He’s no more better informed than the armchair generals who went after us (on TV.) And what was going on at the time, where bin Laden was in the Tora Bora caves, there was a tribal area that was full of civilians. You couldn’t go up there with soldiers of any force – especially us –because we would have been fighting them to get to bin Laden. Whether we would have gotten to him remains to be seen. This was a tribe on the border, and the only people who were accepted up there was the Pakistani army. You know how tough guarding a border is – with Texas and New Mexico and Arizona for example.

We didn’t kill any civilians unnecessarily up there. We know for a fact from our multiple intelligence sources that we wounded bin Laden. But yes, he did get away. If we had killed a number of civilians, our chances of getting elections in Afghanistan would have never happened. It was a diplomatic, not a political call. It was a call to get this country back together again. We knew the death or capture of bin Laden was important. But getting rid of al Qaeda and getting the country feeling good, feeling nationalistic, was important.

Source: The Command Post, "Interview With Gen. Michael DeLong", September 24, 2004

In other words, not only would using American ground forces not necessarily have worked, it might have backfired badly. Working with the Afghans, however disreputable they were, was not a choice; it was a necessity.

3. It is often argued that we could have proceeded with the special forces/Afghan approach, but simply used the battalion from the 10th Mountain as a blocking force to prevent the escape of bin Laden and the rest of the jihadists. According to Bergen in his Atlantic Monthly piece, there were three main escape routes from Tora Bora:

The young and the energetic took the difficult, snow-covered passes south toward Parachinar. Others took the road to the southeastern Afghan city of Gardez. Older fighters headed east into Pakistan.

In addition, DeLong notes that the caves at Tora Bora "have hundreds, if not thousands, of possible concealed exits, and we had no way of finding and closing all of them". (DeLong, p.56) Bin Laden and his followers knew the area well and had spread plenty of largesse around the local villages. Even had the 10th Mountain been used to block the three main exit routes, it seems highly unlikely that its 700 men could have prevented the al-Qaeda exodus.

4. Had the battalion from the 10th Mountain been deployed, it would have been difficult if not impossible to resupply or reinforce it. General DeLong points out that the high elevation of Tora Bora made it hard enough to resupply the several dozen Special Forces troops already there. (DeLong, p.55) Imagine how much more difficult it would have been to resupply 700 regular infantry scattered across likely al-Qaeda escape routes. Had one of the battalion's units gotten into trouble against a numerically superior jihadist force, as might well have happened, bringing in supplies and reinforcements could have proved impossible.

5. Even though many of the jihadists escaped Tora Bora, the battle still inflicted a grievous human toll on al-Qaeda. Survivors quoted by Smucker describe seeing trees filled with limbs as a result of the ferocious aerial bombardment. (Smucker, p.75, 118) As pointed out by General DeLong, bin Laden himself was wounded there.

6. Even if we had deployed the available American troops to block the main escape routes from Tora Bora, it wouldn't have mattered as far as catching bin Laden. He had already fled Tora Bora by early December, before the ground offensive got underway. To quote Peter Bergen:

Mashal told me, based on information he gleaned from radio intercepts, that "the Sheikh," as bin Laden is called by his supporters, departed Tora Bora in the first week of the American bombing campaign in that region, at the beginning of December 2001. According to Mashal, this information has been confirmed by Abu Jaffar, a Saudi financier who traveled to Afghanistan shortly before 9/11 with $3 million in charitable donations for al-Qaeda. Abu Jaffar, a fat middle-aged man with an amputated leg who described himself as an old friend of bin Laden's, told Mashal that once bin Laden had reached Jalalabad, he arranged for safe passage out of Afghanistan with the help of local tribal leaders.

The sources are unanimous that Osama bin Laden had prepared his escape route from Tora Bora weeks in advance, and had no desire to stick around and enjoy the fruits of martyrdom. He knew the area and had good relations with the local tribes. By the time the battalion from the 10th Mountain could realistically have been deployed, bin Laden was already in Pakistan.

In short, Senator Kerry's statement on Tora Bora drastically oversimplifies a complicated operational situation, and represents the worst sort of second guessing. For the sake of argument, though, let's assume that Osama bin Laden and every single jihadist present at Tora Bora had been killed or captured. Would that mean, as Kerry's debate comments so clearly imply, that the War on Terror would essentially have been won?

Absolutely not. According to Senator Kerry, the jihadists are "now in 60 countries", because they were allowed to "walk out of" Tora Bora. This is nonsense. The enemy was already in those 60 countries well before 9/11. Al-Qaeda is merely a small though important part of a worldwide Islamist terror movement committed to our defeat. As the 9/11 Commission report pointed out, up to 20,000 jihadists trained in bin Laden's Afghan camps between 1996 and 9/11. The number of those trainees who actually swore bayat (allegiance) to bin Laden and joined al-Qaeda was "no more than a few hundred". (Chapter 2, p.67) The infamous Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, our main terrorist adversary in Iraq, has never sworn allegiance to bin Laden. The jihadist movement is a loosely-knit network spanning the Islamic world and, as noted historian Bernard Lewis has pointed out, its origins go back for decades if not centuries.

As to whether killing bin Laden is enough to defeat this movement, the following passage from the 9/11 report is particularly telling:

Early in 2001, DCI Tenet and Deputy Director for Operations James Pavitt gave an intelligence briefing to President-elect Bush, Vice President–elect Cheney, and Rice; it included the topic of al Qaeda. Pavitt recalled conveying that Bin Ladin was one of the gravest threats to the country.

Bush asked whether killing Bin Ladin would end the problem. Pavitt said he and the DCI had answered that killing Bin Ladin would have an impact, but would not stop the threat. The CIA later provided more formal assessments to the White House reiterating that conclusion. It added that in the long term, the only way to deal with the threat was to end al Qaeda’s ability to use Afghanistan as a sanctuary for its operations.

(emphasis added-DD)

Source: The 9/11 Commission Report, p.348

Ending al-Qaeda's sanctuary in Afghanistan is exactly what the Afghan campaign accomplished. If killing bin Laden wouldn't have been enough to defeat al-Qaeda before 9/11, it would hardly have sufficed afterwards. Even if we had eliminated every foreign jihadist in Afghanistan, a ludicrously improbable prospect, it would not have meant victory in the War on Terror. Contrary to what Senator Kerry implied at the debate, the current struggle is not a criminal manhunt for those who committed 9/11. We are at war with an ideologically driven global terrorist movement, decades in the making, determined to pursue our destruction. Defeating this enemy will likewise take years if not decades. The idea that a two month campaign in Afghanistan could possibly have been enough to win this conflict is the definition of wishful thinking.

The Afghanistan campaign was a necessary first step in the War on Islamist Terror. It was far from perfect, and mistakes were undoubtedly made. The criticisms voiced by Senator Kerry, however, are either highly disingenuous or incredibly uninformed. They betray a profound lack of understanding both of the battle of Tora Bora and of the broader war with Islamist terrorism.