Saturday, 23 February 2008

GENERAL PETRAEUS' ANSWER TO "GENERAL KINSLEY"

Ken Berwitz

Yesterday I blogged about, and ridiculed. Michael Kinsley regarding his whining complaint that the troop surge was a failure because we were not removing US troops fast enough for him.  To the "General" his cut and run timetable somehow trumped a dramatic lessening of attacks on both US troops and Iraqis, the streaming of refugees back to Iraq, etc. etc. etc.

Today (yes, I love the timing) we have this from General Petraeus, via the Times of London.  The bold print is mine:

General David Petraeus reveals plans to scale back Iraq troops

(EPA/STEFAN ZAKLIN)

General Petraeus will put his plans to further reduce US troop numbers in Iraq before Congress in April

General David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq, is drawing up plans to pull more troops out of the country after July on the back of a sharp drop in attacks and long-awaited progress on the political front.

The suggestions, which will depend upon conditions on the ground, are due to be presented as part of a new report on Iraq to George Bush, the US President, towards the end of next month, which will be put before Congress by early April.

We have been tasked to provide input to the Central Command, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the [Defence] Secretary and the President on the way ahead, obviously on recommendations with respect to further draw-downs beyond those that will be complete by July, General Petraeus told The Times.

He was referring to a withdrawal of more than 20,000 troops (over one quarter of Americas combat forces in Iraq) that was announced following a previous report to Washington last September. They were deployed as part of a military surge to tackle escalating sectarian killings and other attacks in and around Baghdad.

Asked whether troop levels by the end of 2008 would be less than the force of some 130,000 that will be left following the current reduction, General Petraeus said: Yes, emphasising, however, that security conditions at the time would dictate the size and rate of the pullout to prevent gains from being compromised.

We have a range, but that is not something I would be prepared to share with you at this point in time. We have a range based on various situations.

He also dodged any question on the potential impact of the US Presidential elections on future plans. Democratic contenders Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton support an early withdrawal unlike Republican frontrunner John McCain.

General Petraeus, who has won international recognition for his counter-insurgency tactics, said in the wide-ranging interview this week that al-Qaeda remained his biggest concern in Iraq.

He is also keeping a close eye on Iranian links to Shia militias, revealing that he was puzzled by a decision by Tehran to postpone four-times a meeting in Baghdad between US and Iranian officials to discuss security in Iraq.

As for Britains role in the south, General Petraeus said that he supported the timing of the handover of security in Basra to the Iraqi authorities last December despite ongoing violence in the city, and applauded an initiative by Gordon Brown to focus on development in the oil-rich province.

Sitting in his modest office inside a former palace of Saddam Hussein, which currently houses the American Embassy in the Green Zone, the 55-year-old Iraq veteran has transformed the face of the war since taking charge of US forces a year ago.

The surge from last February of extra US and Iraqi soldiers into hotspot areas, coupled with a decision by disenchanted Sunni Arab tribes to turn against groups such as al-Qaeda has helped produce a drop of more than 60 percent in attacks.

Such achievements, which General Petraeus, ever cautious, still describes as fragile and tenuous, came at a price.

There were days that were about the hardest that I have ever experienced, he recalled. There is a discussion of the loneliness of command and it is the most lonely when the going is the most difficult.

Perseverance appears to being paying off, with the ongoing decline in violence being joined last Wednesday by a rare breakthrough on the political front.

After weeks of heated debate, Iraqs Parliament finally approved the 2008 budget, an amnesty law, which could see the release of thousands of prisoners, and a provincial powers law that will lead to provincial elections on October 1.

Do I expect an apology, a retraction or any contrition whatsoever from "General Kinsley"?  Nope. Being a doctrinaire left winger means never having to say you're sorry, or even that you're wrong when it is crystal clear that you are.  

But things are as they are, even if Kinsley wishes otherwise.  The troops will come home contingent on conditions in Iraq.  Not on a prescribed timetable that ignores those conditions.

What's wrong with Petraeus anyway?  He's running this like he thinks it's a damn war.


RUMORS OF HILLARY'S DEATH

Ken Berwitz

"The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated":  Mark Twain

This is just a quick little blog to tell you that, based on the latest polling data (the ABC News/Washington Post poll), Hillary Clinton leads Barack Obama 48%-47% in Texas and 50%-43% in Ohio.

Does it mean Hillary Clinton will win both states?  Of course not.

But does it mean she's destined to lose either of them?  Of course not again. 

If Ms. Clinton can win Ohio and Texas, she is right back in the ball game.  Not because Obama will fall behind Clnton in delegates (he'll remain ahead).  But because they will be close, the superdelegates will have reason to stand firm with Ms. Clinton and - most importantly - she will have regained the momentum.

Yogi was right.  It ain't over 'til it's over


OBAMA ON SUPPLYING THE TROOPS

Ken Berwitz

During the debate in Texas earlier this week, Barack Obama made a couple of extremely damning comments about the state of our military, specifically relating to how inadequately our troops have been supplied.

I'll let Michael Goldfarb, editor of The Weekly Standard's blog, lower the boom on this Obamanation:

Obama Heard Wrong

There is a lot about Obama's story that makes no sense. Let us start with the opening line:

"You know, I've heard from an Army captain who was the head of a rifle platoon--supposed to have 39 men in a rifle platoon. Ended up being sent to Afghanistan with 24 because 15 of those soldiers had been sent to Iraq."

Well, captains command companies, not rifle platoons. A rifle platoon is normally commanded by a 2nd lieutenant, sometimes (if short handed) by a senior sergeant. So for starters, Obama betrays a woeful ignorance of military organization and the chain of command. Then he remarks that the platoon was under-strength because 15 of its men had been "sent to Iraq." Sorry, the Army doesn't work that way. Platoons are organic units, consisting of three rifle squads, a heavy weapons squad, and a headquarters section. You can't break it up. It is the smallest building block in the infantry that can conduct fire-and-movement tactics.

So, no matter what, if the Army needed to shift men from Afghanistan to Iraq, it would have done so either by detaching the whole platoon, or, more likely, an entire company from its parent battalion, because a company is an administrative as well as a tactical unit, and believe me, the Army would sooner fight with one hand tied behind its back than create administrative hassles for itself. Maybe the captain was commanding something other than a rifle platoon--perhaps a company headquarters unit, or an intelligence or communications unit, or some other small specialist unit, but in that case, the loss of troops is not nearly as critical as Obama's story implies. "High-Demand/Low-Density" specialists are always being moved around because there just aren't enough of them to go around. Period. It's a chronic problem not just in the military, but in civilian life as well. Obama went on:

And as a consequence, they didn't have enough ammunition, they didn't have enough Humvees. They were actually capturing Taliban weapons, because it was easier to get Taliban weapons than it was for them to get properly equipped by our current commander in chief.

The idea that our guys were scrounging weapons and ammo because they were short is ludicrous. How much ammo you carry is done on a "per man" basis in the infantry--each solder carries a "basic load," which is backed up by reserve supplies at company, battalion, and above. It is possible to run out of ammunition, temporarily, in the midst of an intense firefight. Weapons like the M4 Carbine, the M16A3 rifle, and especially the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) can burn through ammo like fire through dry tinder. Since each man carries perhaps 200 rounds into a firefight (about six or seven magazines), he can easily expend it all in a matter of minutes (which is the reason the Army teaches fire discipline). If you can't get a runner back to the company supply train, then things might get dicey, and if you're out, and there's a Taliban guy lying dead at your feet with an AK-74 and a full bandoleer of ammo, what are you going to do?

Moreover, U.S. soldiers have always scrounged, and have always admired the other guy's weapons. In World War II, our guys picked up German MP-41 submachine guns and MG-42 machine guns, which were demonstrably better than their U.S. counterparts. In Vietnam, GIs seemed to prefer the rugged and reliable AK-47 to the high-tech M16 (while, perversely, the Viet Cong preferred the M16 because it was lighter and had less recoil). It would not surprise me if some U.S. troops "acquired" some ex-Taliban AKs--though they run the risk, especially at night, of being mistaken for the enemy because different types of guns have distinctive sounds.

To the best of my knowledge, no U.S. forces in either Afghanistan or Iraq ever ran out of ammunition for more than a few hours at most. When you consider that we were operating in Afghanistan at the tenuous end of a 8,000 mile supply line, that's pretty impressive.

As for not having enough HMMWVs, that's understandable, when you consider what it takes to get a HMMWV to Afghanistan and then to keep it up and running. Fact is, no unit ever has enough HMMWVs (in its own mind, at least), just as in World War II, no unit had enough Jeeps. Again, that we have managed to sustain our forces in Afghanistan so well is cause for congratulations not criticism.

Overall, I think Obama would be better sticking to his "message of hope"--hope that nobody will ever ask him to make any substantive statements on military affairs, ever again.

Why didn't this come out when Mr. Obama said it at the debate?  Why were his comments unchallenged?

Well, we're talking about the debate in Austin Texas to a sea of Democrats, which was aired by CNN, with CNN hand-picking the questioners and with his one opponent being Hillary Clinton.

If you're still asking, I don't know how to answer you. Because I don't know how to say it more plainly.

Oh, by the way, did I forget to mention that Senator Obama has voted again and again AGAINST funding the military?  Let's not leave that out, shall we?


OF MICE AND MICE

Ken Berwitz

How sweet it must be for a New York tabloid to be able to write this about the oh-so-superior New York Times:

New York Times editor blames readers for dustup over John McCain article

Saturday, February 23rd 2008, 4:00 AM

WASHINGTON - The embattled executive editor of the New York Times defended its John McCain story Friday with a novel explanation for the flood of critical e-mails the newspaper received: slow-witted readers.

"Personally, I was surprised by the volume of the reaction," Bill Keller wrote in a Times Web site Q&A forum. Readers posted 2,000 comments and sent in 3,700 questions.

"I was surprised by how lopsided the opinion was against our decision, with readers who described themselves as independents and Democrats joining Republicans in defending Mr. McCain from what they saw as a cheap shot," Keller added.

The problem, Keller went on, is that readers didn't get it.

"Frankly, I was a little surprised by how few readers saw what was, to us, the larger point of the story."

That point, he said, was that McCain, "this man who prizes his honor above all things and who appreciates the importance of appearances, also has a history of being sometimes careless about the appearance of impropriety, about his reputation."

While some press watchers defended the Times, others said the problem wasn't dense readers.

"I don't want to fault the journalists," said Columbia University journalism Prof. Todd Gitlin. "But the article as it ran was a mess and not the highest point of journalism."

Gitlin said the story, which ran on Thursday, fell short of establishing that McCain and lobbyist Vicki Iseman had an improper relationship, or that she won special favors for clients. He suspected the Times actually pulled its punches on the ethics issues for fear of being accused of liberal bias.

Times Managing Editor Jill Abramson defended the part of the article that caused the biggest uproar - the concerns of two unnamed former McCain advisers that the senator was having a romantic relationship with Iseman.

"We believed it was vital for the story to accurately reflect the range of concerns shared by our sources," and to not succumb to "possible qualms over 'sexual innuendo,'" Abramson wrote.

Is it a case of the mouse that roared?  Or a case of the mouse that was able to squeak at a former lion which degenerated into a mouse?

Your call.


THE GREY LADY TODAY

Ken Berwitz

This is from political cartoonist Michael Ramirez.  No commentary necessary (click on picture to enlarge).

 

 

 

 


TRINITY UNITED CHURCH OF CHANGE

Ken Berwitz

Barack Obama loves to talk about change.  He is going to bring change to Washington.  What change?  He isn't saying much about that.  But "change" nevertheless.

And I believe him completely.  This is because I have looked at the web site of the church he has been a member of for the past 20 years, and he has managed to change it dramatically - just by running for President.

I have blogged about Trinity United Church of Christ (TUCC) several times over the past months.  It is a Black racist, Black separatist church.  Its pastor, Jeremiah Wright, is a racist and Black separatist who also espouses a love affair with palestinian Arabs in Gaza and the west bank along with sneering contempt for Israel in the bargain.  It celebrates the racist, anti-semitic louis farrakhan at its 2007 "Man of the Year".

But because of Barack Obama - because this would damage him severely in a general election that is - the church's website, ergo its presentation to you and me as non-members, suddenly is trying to become significantly less vile.

Let me give you two examples:

-If you log on to the church's web site (www.tucc.org), you will find a video of a nice, unthreatening looking and sounding White lady named Jane Fisler Hoffman telling you what a wonderful place of worship it is.  Ms Hoffman, as it turns out, is a minister of the United Church of Christ (not specifically Trinity United).  In fact, she is a "conference minister" and works with 287 different churches throughout northern Illinois, not just TUCC.  She goes on to say, in near-reverential terms,  how much she loves attending services there.

I am touched by Ms. Fisler's love of Trinity United Church of Christ, really I am.  But I can't help wondering why this video, with its implicit message that, yeah, White people go there too, was not a part of the web site until just recently. 

I'd be a bit more impressed if the Pastor Wright would open his records and show us how many White members Trinity United actually has.  I don't mean conference ministers who cheerlead for each of the hundreds of churches to go to, but just plain White members of the flock.  I'm betting there aren't many - maybe there aren't any at all.

-Another example is how the church has started changing its self-description.  TUCC has a ten-point mission statement in it's "about us" link.  Here is what point #3 was until just a couple of weeks ago:

A congregation with a non-negotiable ALLEGIANCE TO AFRICA******

But if you go to the website now?  You will find that point # 3 is:

A congregation with a non-negotiable COMMITMENT TO AFRICA.

Hmmmm.  The church's allegiance was to Africa.  But now that a congregant is within striking distance of the White House?  Suddenly it's a commitment (just like you could be commited to a hundred different things).

Truth be told, "commitment" is not that different from allegiance.  How about a commitment to the United States (TUCC is in Chicago)?  Sorry, no dice.  The USA isn't even mentioned, only the African commmitment.  If that isn't separatist, what is?

If this continues, by October you'll have a hard time distinguishing "Trinity United Church of Christ" from "Trinity United Church of Everybody Black And White We Really Do Love You White Folks Honest (Wink, Wink)".

Do I blame this church for the snow job it is in the process of perpetrating on the general public?  No and Yes.  No, because I don't blame the church for trying to hide what a racist, separatist entity it is.  I'd be embarrassed by it too.  Yes, because this instant we-love-everyone-just-as-much routine is a fraud.

But the people I blame most are in mainstream media.  They could have reported the real face of Trinity United Church of Christ for months.  And it would have enabled voters to (accurately) inform their opinion of Mr. Obama, taking into account that he has proactively been one of its congregants for 20 years and calls its pastor his spiritual mentor. 

Instead, media have withheld the truth about TUCC all this time.  And because they did, voters can no longer see the truth with their own eyes as plainly as they could have then.  How lucky for Barack Obama!!

Are media in this country biased beyond belief?  Naaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh

--------------------------------------------------------------

**** My reference for this change is an article in The American Thinker.  I cannot say I'm 100% certain the word "commitment" wasn't always there.  If anyone has other sources for referencing this "change" or proving it didn't occur, let me know.


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