Monday, January 31, 2005

To the Iraqi People...

Breathe the free air. Welcome to democracy. Some said you couldn't handle it. Some said you didn't want it. Some tried to kill you to prevent your taking it. You proved them all wrong. Remember this election, this day, this time in history. There will be hard times ahead, but if you keep your course steady, you will weather all storms. Godspeed.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Personal Matters

There are many different types of blogs out there. Probably the most common type is the "personal" blog, where individuals post about what goes on in their day-to-day life. When I created this blog, I never wanted it to become a "personal" blog. As befits my position as Director of Section 31, I am a very private individual. I rarely air personal problems even to close friends, much less to anonymous readers on the internet. However, I do feel some obligation to those who read this site regularly, to let them know why they haven't seen much new material recently.

The short version is that I feel emotionally and mentally drained right now. I've been feeling this way for the past three months or so. I have some pre-existing high blood pressure issues that may be affecting this, in conjunction with some of the medicine I take to control it. There may be some other physiological factors involved as well, and I am following up with my cardiologist to find out. These physical issues are interacting with my very high-stress job, leaving me drained at the end of every day.

The result has been that I haven't been capable of posting anything that would meet my personal standards. I've had some ideas about posts I would like to make, but I haven't had the will or concentration to make them. I don't like this situation, and I want it to change, but for now, it is what it is. This is why I look with amazement at someone like Patrick, who makes so many very detailed and thoughtful posts every day, and wonder how he does it when I can't even muster enough creative juice for more than a couple of posts a week.

So this post is for those of you who stop by regularly and wonder when exactly you are going to read something new or interesting from me. At this point, I really don't know. If the mood strikes me, I'll post. But I wanted you to know why the mood hasn't struck me in quite some time. Hopefully, there will be changes in the next month or so that improve the situation. I am optimistic that the doctor will help me with the physical issues, and there are some potential changes on the job front that could improve things as well. Until then, I still plan to visit and comment on other websites regularly. I hope that most of you will still be around when I find my voice again. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Patrick Graduates

Congratulations to Patrick of Clarity and Resolve, whose hard work and constant posting on events in the Islamofascist world have earned him a promotion from New Asset to full-fledged Field Operative. This man has so many detailed reports on enemy movements on his blog that I suspect he is either, a) a highly advanced android, b) from a pocket dimension that has 32 hours in a day, c) in big trouble at work for excessive internet use, or d) all of the above. Go ye, therefore, to read and be informed.

Four More Years

The left can commence with its collective heart attack, right about... now.

Monday, January 17, 2005

A New Noodle

A warm welcome to Noodles' better half, the Macaroni Penguin. Since she is looking for new topics to blog about, I humbly propose that she address the burning question going on over at Ruth's place: Why are nice guys unlucky at love? Given her relationship to the aforementioned Noodles, perhaps she can put the lie to that myth once and for all. Good luck to you on your new venture!

Thursday, January 13, 2005

The next battle in WW IV

Norman Podhoretz wrote what I consider to be the seminal explanation of the current conflict between America and the forces of Islamic fundamentalism, calling it World War IV. He has now written a followup essay on the next phase in the war. Take an hour or so out of your day and read the whole thing. Podhoretz argues that the primary enemy in this phase of the war is not the Islamists, but their intellectual and elitist allies here in America:
But the most important thing the insurgents and their backers in the neighboring despotisms know is that the battle for Iraq will not be won or lost in Iraq; it will be won or lost in the United States of America. On this they agree entirely with General John Abizaid, the commander of the U.S. Central Command, who recently told reporters touring Iraq: "It is all about staying the course. No military effort that anyone can make against us is going to be able to throw us out of this region." Is it any wonder, then, that the insurgents were praying for the victory of John F. Kerry—which they all assumed would mean an American withdrawal—or that the reelection of Bush—which they were not fooled by any exit polls into interpreting as anything other than a ratification of the Bush Doctrine—came as such a great blow to them?

But too much is at stake in Iraq for them to give up now, especially as they are confident that they still have an excellent shot at getting the American public to conclude that the game is not worth the candle. General Abizaid again: "We have nothing to fear from this enemy except its ability to create panic . . . and gain a media victory." To achieve this species of victory—and perhaps inspired by the strategy that worked so well for the North Vietnamese—they are counting on the forces opposing the Bush Doctrine at home. These forces comprise just as motley a coalition as the one fighting in Iraq, and they are, after their own fashion, just as desperate. For they too understand how much they for their own part stand to lose if the Bush Doctrine is ever generally judged to have passed the great test to which it has been put in Iraq.

Our ability to win this coming phase of the war will depend on the will and perseverence of the American people. Are we resolved to win this war, no matter the cost? Podhoretz looks at the 61 million votes cast for Bush in the election, and opines in the affirmative:

Before we entered World War II, serious doubts were raised as to whether we were a match for such disciplined and fanatical enemies as Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. And in World War III, leading anti-Communists like Whittaker Chambers and James Burnham were sure that we lacked the stomach, the heart, the will, and the wit to stand effectively against the Soviet Union and its allies and sympathizers: to Chambers we were "the losing side," and to Burnham we were veritably suicidal in our weakness and folly. They turned out to be wrong because, as Charles Horner of the Hudson Institute once put it in speaking of Chambers, they, and not they alone, failed "to anticipate the resiliency of the American citizenry and its leadership." Today similar doubts and fears are once again all over the place, with even some of my fellow supporters of the Bush Doctrine murmuring that we have all grown too soft, too self-indulgent, and too self-absorbed to meet yet another daunting challenge.

Except for an occasional twinge brought on by paying too much attention to the antiwar forces, and to certain aspects of our culture, both low and high, I did not share these doubts and fears before the verdict of November 2, and they have been quite banished by what I am persuaded the American people were saying when they voted to keep George W. Bush in the White House for another four years.

I tend to agree. Bush is waiting for the Iraqi elections on January 30. I predict within 30-45 days of the elections there will be an aggressive new policy stated regarding either Syria or Iran, more likely Syria. Watch for implementation of the so-called "Salvador Plan" of targeted assassinations of terrorist leaders in Syria. For those who think Bush is going to go soft in his second term, I suspect you will have a rude surprise in store for you.

UPDATE: Noodles pulls off a hat trick by referencing this post, giving a salient example of how the STrib is performing exactly as Podhoretz predicted, and giving me a chance to test my trackbacks, all at the same time. What a guy!

Monday, January 10, 2005

The Rathergate Report

Months, not days or weeks after the scandal broke, the "Independent Review Panel" report on Rathergate has been issued. The full text of the document may be found in PDF form here. Four CBS execs have lost their jobs as a result of the report. These four are sacrificial lambs. There are only two things you need to take away from the 224 page report. First, as to the authenticity of the forged documents (from page 18 of the report):
F. Authenticity of the Killian Documents

The Panel was not able to reach a definitive conclusion as to the authenticity of the Killian documents. However, Mapes made oral and written presentations to the Panel during its investigation in an effort to demonstrate that the content of the Killian documents was in fact authentic. These presentations were done primarily by comparing the Killian documents with official Bush records to show how well she believed that the Killian documents “meshed” with the official Bush records.

The Panel finds that the meshing analysis submitted by Mapes does not withstand scrutiny for two reasons. First, in many instances, the content of the Killian documents does not mesh well substantively with the official Bush records. Second, the Killian documents vary in significant ways from the standard format and jargon of documents issued by the 147 th Fighter Interceptor Group in the early 1970s. Thus, the Panel believes that there remain substantial questions regarding the authenticity of the Killian documents. The Panel believes that careful reporting prior to airing the Segment should have identified these questions and, at a minimum, should have delayed the broadcast so that more reporting could be conducted.
Translation: The documents are fake but accurate. Mapes should have spent more time making sure that the forgeries wouldn't be detected.

Second, on CBS's political agenda (from page 28 of the report):
H. Political Agenda

The Panel is aware that some have ascribed political motivations to 60 Minutes Wednesday’s decision to air the September 8 Segment just two months before the presidential election, while others further found political bias in the program itself. The Panel reviewed this issue and found certain actions that could support such charges. However, the Panel cannot conclude that a political agenda at 60 Minutes Wednesday drove either the timing of the airing of the Segment or its content.

Given that the Panel does not believe that political motivations drove the September 8 Segment, questions likely will be raised as to why these massive breakdowns occurred on this story at an organization like CBS News with its heritage and stated commitment to the highest standards of journalism. The Panel heard from many that the Rather/Mapes team was a formidable force at 60 Minutes Wednesday. Great trust was placed in Mapes, a highly respected producer who had just produced a widely acclaimed segment on the Abu Ghraib prison abuses, and vast deference was given to Rather, the “face” of CBS News. These factors, along with the “crash” of the production, contributed greatly to the failures of the September 8 Segment and the Aftermath.
Translation: Everyone we talked to at CBS assured us they didn't have a political agenda, and that's good enough for us.

This result is unsurprising, but still disappointing. Glenn Reynolds says "Indeed" to Soxblog's comment that "The Report lays out the facts and those alone are damning enough." Sure, the facts are plenty damning, but we already HAD the facts. Based on my admittedly Mapes-like review of the Report (I've only skimmed it at this point), there's nothing in these 224 pages that we haven't already heard from the Powerline boys or RatherBiased. So what good IS the report if it tells us nothing new and refuses to say what everyone already knows?

Answer: Not much. CBS has made its token firings, Dan Rather continues to vouch for the documents, the Panel tells CBS to "be more careful next time." Business as usual.

In my opinion, the biggest impact of the Report will be to only increase the derision that has already been rightfully heaped upon that moribund organization. What the American people needed was an acknowledgment of what they already knew was wrong. What they got was 224 additional pages of denial. Just one more bad move in a whole litany of bad moves.

Increased Traffic Strategy

Ruth over at Freudian Slippers seems to get a never-ending stream of traffic all based on the lovely picture at the top of her site. Newsflash: that's actress Vivien Leigh, who's been dead since 1967. However, since Ruth seems to get a goodly amount of traffic because of that picture, I'm making the following post:

Cary Grant

I'm not claiming this is my picture, and I can't confirm it's actually actor Cary Grant, but then again, neither will I deny those claims. Let the traffic hits commence!

Friday, January 07, 2005

Killing Terrorism from 1,000 Yards

Now this is some very nice shooting (hat tip to The Corner).

How Tied Are Our Hands?

This article by Heather MacDonald is a must read on the torture debate. In light of the media and liberal blather regarding our supposedly inhumane treatment of terrorist prisoners, you will be surprised at how restrained our interrogators actually are:
Around the first anniversary of 9/11, urgency to get information on al-Qaida grew. Finally, army officials at Guantánamo prepared a legal analysis of their interrogation options and requested permission from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to use various stress techniques on Kahtani. Their memo, sent up the bureaucratic chain on October 11, 2002, triggered a fierce six-month struggle in Washington among military lawyers, administration officials, and Pentagon chiefs about interrogation in the war on terror.

To read the techniques requested is to understand how restrained the military has been in its approach to terror detainees—and how utterly false the torture narrative has been. Here’s what the interrogators assumed they could not do without clearance from the secretary of defense: yell at detainees (though never in their ears), use deception (such as posing as Saudi intelligence agents), and put detainees on MREs (meals ready to eat—vacuum-sealed food pouches eaten by millions of soldiers, as well as vacationing backpackers) instead of hot rations. The interrogators promised that this dangerous dietary measure would be used only in extremis, pending local approval and special training.

The most controversial technique approved was “mild, non-injurious physical contact such as grabbing, poking in the chest with the finger, and light pushing,” to be reserved only for a “very small percentage of the most uncooperative detainees” believed to possess critical intelligence. A detainee could be poked only after review by Gitmo’s commanding general of intelligence and the commander of the U.S. Southern Command in Miami, and only pursuant to “careful coordination” and monitoring.

Read the entire article. This situation is ridiculous and untenable. We do not retain the moral high ground when we allow murdering butchers to laugh in our faces while American lives are at stake. In fact, we cede the moral high ground when we refuse to effectively respond to the actions of our enemies.

If we want to get serious about obtaining critical intelligence from terrorist prisoners, we have got to give our interrogators the ability to make these people talk. If the terrorists know that our interrogators have no credible threat of coercion, then our ability to collect actionable intelligence is completely hamstrung.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

The Ends and the Means

The Senate confirmation hearings on Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales have brought to the forefront the question of what the American position on interrogation and even torture of terrorist detainees should be. I would paint the question even more broadly: what means are justified by the end, namely, decisively defeating Islamic terrorism? Can the United States achieve this end using the limited means we have imposed on ourselves since Vietnam?

Wretchard has a very insightful post on the nature of the debate. He concludes with this observation:
We ought to be manly enough to authorize the use of a certain amount force on terrorist suspects, but only to the degree consistent with our deepest national values. To strike a balance between the need to maintain certain principles without paying too much for it in terms of military advantage; remembering what cost in blood must be paid for keeping the national conscience clean. It is a cup that will not pass away. We will be called to account not only for our management of captives but also for whether we allowed them to kill the innocent while they grinned insolently before us. Both the tortured prisoner and the child blown to pieces by a terrorist bomb will accuse us on the Last Day. About the only thing we can do is our best. But there is no weaseling out, no escape from choice.
So what means can we use against terrorists while at the same time keeping our national conscience clean? What if the means required for victory cannot keep our national conscience clean? Can our country live with a guilty national conscience?

Deep Space Nine is by far my favorite of the Star Trek franchises. The stories were bigger, with more meaning than the average TOS or TNG episode (TOS = The Original Series, TNG = The Next Generation). The characters were more real, responding to serious situations more like actual people and not cardboard cutouts. And in retrospect, DS9 had many episodes within its classic Dominion War storyline that appear startlingly prescient today during the war against the Islamists.

For your consideration: the season 6 episode In the Pale Moonlight. I highly recommend reading this review of the episode by Jamahl Epsicokhan to appreciate the context of the discussion. In brief, Captain Benjamin Sisko is faced with an untenable situation. The Federation is losing the war against the Dominion. As one character tells Sisko,
Time is definitely not on your side. The Dominion shipyards are operating at one hundred percent capacity. Yours are still being rebuilt. The Dominion is breeding legions of Jem'Hadar soldiers every day. You are experiencing manpower shortage. But most important, the Dominion is resolved, to win the war at any cost. You and I both know the Federation has already put out peace feelers.
Sisko proceeds to resolve himself and set in motion a chain of events that brings the Romulan Empire into the war against the Dominion, turning the tide of imminent defeat. But along the way, he makes choices and takes actions that he finds morally unacceptable. He lies, cheats, bribes men to cover the crimes of other men, and is even an accessory to murder. When he confronts the Cardassian tailor/spy Garak about these events, Garak puts things in perspective:
Well, it worked. And you'll get what you want, a war between the Romulans and the Dominion. And if your conscience is bothering you, you should soothe it with the knowledge that you may have just saved the entire Alpha Quadrant, and all it cost was the life of one Romulan senator, one criminal, and the self-respect of one Starfleet officer. I don't know about you, but I'd call that a bargain.
The very harsh and unpleasant fact is that in this world of ours we are occasionally faced with the choice between the lesser of two evils. The question is whether we are resolved to make the choice that results in the lesser evil, even if we don't like that choice.

For my part, I do not believe we are at the juncture where we must choose the lesser of two evils. You may hear much from the media and the talking heads about how torture and interrogation are anathema to the American national character. This is absolutely not true. America does not torture or abuse its enemies in war, unless our enemies do so first. This is one of the essential elements of the Jacksonian heritage of our country. We fight by the rules when our opponents do, and we treat them with dignity so long as they do the same to us. However, when the rules of battle are violated, the gloves come off. One of the rules of battle which is central to the American idea of honorable combat is the targeting and brutal treatment and murder of civilians. The last group I can think of who purposely attacked and brutalized American civilians were the American Indian tribes. In response, their entire civilization was just short of exterminated.

I am not arguing here that we should exterminate Arab or Islamic culture. But it is important to recognize the true nature of American character and its historical response when faced with enemies who do not "play by the rules." In this context, torture and extreme interrogation methods are not inconsistent with the American character. If anything, our extremely measured response to the savagery exhibited by the Islamists has been out of character for America. And, I submit, as long as America continues to act out of its character, the behavior of the enemy will continue, and grow even more savage.

So it's time for the Director to go on record: what do I think is acceptable conduct towards terrorist prisoners? Assuming the terrorists are not American citizens, here is what I think:

1. Terrorists are not entitled to the protections of the U.S. Constitution.
2. Terrorists are not entitled to the protections of the Geneva Convention.
3. The goal of interrogation should be obtaining useful intelligence, and any means of interrogation should be used with this in mind.
4. Sexual assault or abuse of terrorists should not be permitted.
4. Subject to 3 and 4, any form of indirect non-physical coercion may be used (eg, loud music).
5. Subject to 3 and 4, any form of indirect physical coercion may be used (eg, standing for long periods of time).
6. Subject to 3 and 4, direct physical coercion may be used so long as permanent injury is not inflicted.

Given our enemy's conduct up to this point in WWIV, I believe that they have earned this response, at the very least. As Wretchard pointed out, "torture is the act of substituting the torment of one person for another; the suffering of a suspect to prevent the suffering of the presumed victim." If loud music, small spaces, humiliation, and a beating or two can save the life of an American soldier or civilian, I believe the American national conscience can live with that.

More importantly, I believe the American national conscience should live with that. I'd call it a bargain.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Return to Active Duty

The logic board is replaced, and the G5 Command Center is back up and running. Thanks to all who dropped by in the interim. I hope a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year was had by all. It's nice to be back online again, here in 2005!