Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

This blog is devoted to a variety of topics including politics, current events, legal issues, and we even take the time to have some occasional fun. After all, blogging is about having a little fun, right?

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

John Bolton on NorKs and mistakes made

It's not often that we address two Opinion Journal pieces in the same day. Peggy Noonan's column deserved the well-rounded rebuke (Sorry, Peggy but you can't play nice with the rabid dogs that bite and snap no matter what you do). But John Bolton makes up for her bemoaning with a must-read piece on how diplomacy has failed to bring Kim Jong-Il to heel:

HT: The Corner's Jay Nordlinger

The Six-Party talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program have now descended into a miasma of "working groups," one of which, on U.S.-North Korea bilateral issues, will meet this weekend in Geneva. It is worth paying attention to the outcome of this gathering.

North Korea wants to be taken off the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism and, as soon as possible, to enjoy full diplomatic relations with Washington. Pyongyang may well succeed, as many in the U.S. State Department seem more eager to grant full recognition to the Pyongyang dictatorship in North Korea than to the democracy in Taiwan. This would be a profound mistake on our part.

Nearly 200 days have passed since Feb. 13, when the Six-Party Talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program produced an "agreement" to eliminate that program. Despite encomiums about the virtues of diplomacy, little real progress has been made in eliminating Pyongyang's program. Negotiations in July ended without agreement on a timetable, despite repeated State Department assurances since February that the North would be held to strict deadlines.

The Yongbyon reactor is shuttered, but that reactor was not frequently operational in the recent past, and may well be at the end of, or even beyond, its useful life. The return of International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to Yongbyon provides North Korea with a new patina of respectability, despite the near certainty that significant nuclear activity is happening anywhere but Yongbyon.

In fact, the key change is that economic assistance is once again subsidizing and reinforcing Kim Jong Il's hold on power. Heavy fuel oil, food and other "humanitarian" assistance from South Korea, and substantial unpublicized aid from China are all flowing North. Cheeky Pyongyang is once again demanding that the outside world supply it with light-water nuclear reactors. The second North-South Summit in Pyongyang, postponed until October--closer to South Korea's presidential elections-- will provide renewed legitimacy to the North Korean dictatorship, and may bolster the political chances of South Korean advocates of appeasement, in turn providing Kim Jong Il even more breathing room.

And this is just the beginning. His indictment of the diplomatic path taken by the six-nation talks is rightly deserved criticism. But the money quote he has comes near the end of the piece in the second-to-last paragraph:

Finally, we need to learn the details of North Korean nuclear cooperation with other countries. We know that both Iran and Syria have long cooperated with North Korea on ballistic missile programs, and the prospect of cooperation on nuclear matters is not far-fetched. Whether and to what extent Iran, Syria or others might be "safe havens" for North Korea's nuclear weapons development, or may have already participated with or benefited from it, must be made clear.

The proliferation of nuclear weapons in recent years arose when the AQ Khan network was revealed in Pakistan. His efforts to provide research and technology to nations like North Korea, Iran, and Iraq were appalling when discovered. See, those nations weren't just hostile to us, but to the world, in general. They aren't fond of the West, nor of the West's Eastern allies in Japan, the Philippines, or even Australia and New Zealand.

This is a surprising development in watching North Korea's nuclear weapons situation. First, it's not clear if they have shut down their program (Mr. Bolton notes that the primary facility in question has been shut down, but that other facilities are around the country, and they might still be working on more bombs), and secondly, we're not sure who they have shared technology with. It is likely they may have shared technology and know-how with nations like Iran. If that's the case, then it throws the whole predicted timeline of nuclear development out the window.

Why? Because we have no idea what, if any, knowledge was shared, and if it was, we have no clue to the extent of it. We have no clue if the predicted timeline of Iran gaining a nuclear weapon still falls within the two year-to-five year window, or if they will achieve their goal of a nuclear weapon in much less time. Furthermore, without the proper monitoring in place, we have no idea if they are continuing this practice.

We were against negotiating with North Korea in the first place. We considered the prospect risky, at best, and never believed that North Korea would hold up their end of the bargain. As it was in 1994 when Madeline Albright held her negotiations with Kim Jong-Il and company, so it seems now that once again, we put far too much faith in a nation that has no desire to meet the demands made of it. And, once again, they're being fed plenty of carrots in exchange for a nod, a wink, and a bit of lip service.

I stated when the negotiations started back up that Reagan's "Law" should have been abided by: "Trust, but verify." We should have also executed his methods for bringing down the Soviets; North Korea would have been much easier to deal with had we brought them to their knees. Kim Jong-Il barely escaped two previous coups by his military when they were hungry and dealing with food shortages. Had we not rushed into to keep the little dictator propped up, the threatened, possible coup from last year (one in which even China said they'd assist in) might have removed him once and for all. The problem, as I noted then, and now is that the last thing we want is China taking over North Korea. It's a dangerous prospect and such a move could make North Korea a very dangerous proxy for China.

Given this report from Mr. Bolton there seems to be no other way to say this than to simply spit it out. The administration needs to pay closer attention to North Korea, possibly even initiating sanctions against them again. They also need to ratchet up pressure on Iran. If these two nations continue to exchange technology, the West is sure to get bitten by the mad dog mullahs in Tehran, or the sawed off little runt in North Korea.

Publius II

Another departure from the White House

Unlike Rove's and Gonzales' departures, we knew Tony Snow was leaving back on 15 August when Hugh asked him about during an interview. His reason for leaving? Money. The questions about his cancer have been put to the side. He said his decision had nothing to do with the cancer, and more to do with the fact that he doesn't make a whole heck of a lot of money doing the press secretary gig.

Some believe that he got sick of "spinning Bush's crap." That could be an unstated reason for leaving, though Tony Snow hasn't said an unpleasant thing about being the White House's press secretary (aside from the money angle), and he's said he enjoys sparring with the press corps. Over at Ace of Spades, DrewM is hip to his replacement. And honestly, can you blame him? Come on, I'm only three months older than Dana Perino. She's smart, talented, experienced, and not to mention that she's easy on the eyes. (I'm betting that a lot more guys will tune into her press briefings for the looks alone, though I'd like to see if she can spar as well as Ari Fleischer and Tony Snow did.)

His resignation is effective as of 14 September. That means he'll be holding the line against the rabidly partisan dogs in the press corps after General Petreus gives his report. Mark my words, those will be press briefings well worth watching. If nothing else, Tony will go out with a bang.

Aside from Rove leaving, the departure of Tony Snow is one we were not happy to hear about. We had hoped he's stay for the long haul. All we can say, now that it's official, is good luck and God speed in whatever endeavor he chooses to go into next.

Publius II

GAO report and Democrat games

General Petreus is set to give the first progress report on the surge on or about 11 September. While many Democrats are recognizing that his military surge campaign is working, some seem to be a tad, shall we say, worried about what his report might include. According to Bill Kristol, the GAO report that was leaked was a dog-and-pony show:

The Washington Post, working hand-in-glove with Democrats in Congress, has gotten out front in preparing the domestic battlefield for September's fight over the war in Iraq. The Post led today's paper with an account of a leaked draft report from the Congressionally-controlled Government Accountability Office (the GAO's final report is due next Tuesday). The headline: "Report Finds Little Progress on Iraq Goals; GAO Draft at Odds with White House." Here's the good news: If this is the best war opponents have to offer, the administration is in amazingly good shape going into September.

The Post reporters--both strongly anti-Iraq war--characterize the GAO judgments as "strikingly negative." But there's nothing striking about them. The Democratic Congress ensured that the report would deliver negative "grades" for the Iraqi government by asking the GAO to evaluate whether or not the benchmarks have been met now--just two months after the major combat operations of the surge began. For the report from the White House, Congress asked the administration to detail if the Iraqis are making "sufficient progress." But Congress asked the GAO, by contrast, to report if the Iraqis had "completed" the benchmarks. This ridiculous standard was a Congressional trap that forced the GAO to waste time and taxpayer money to come out with a pre-ordained and meaningless judgment, since no one ever promised or expected that the Iraqis would have met the benchmarks by now. And the GAO report doesn't really shed light on the key question: Are the Iraqis making progress?

what are the benchmarks that Congress set up? Do they include criteria that matter? No. Grassroots political progress? Not in the GAO report. The turn of the Sunnis against the insurgency? Not in the GAO report. The stabilization of Anbar province? Not in the GAO report. And progress against al Qaeda--the single most vital and direct American national interest in Iraq? Not in the GAO report.

The benchmarks they do use are often absurd. To take one example:

"Increasing the number of Iraqi security forces units capable of operating independently." This is particularly silly. No one expected that Iraqi military units would surpass the capabilities of our NATO allies, most of which are also unable to operate fully "independently" of the American military. The question, again, is whether the Iraqi Security Forces are improving. Here the GAO's portrayal of Iraqi forces as having made no progress, at least as reported in the Post, is contradicted by mounds of evidence from knowledgeable observers.

Judging by the Post's account, it sounds as if the GAO did a bad job in carrying out a pointless exercise.

When I first heard about the GAO report, I knew something smelled fishy. First, it comes out BEFORE Petreus has offered up any sort of report to the Congress, the president, or the people. He is the person on the ground ultimately responsible for the surge's success. But he has nothing to do with the political benchmarks made. He's a soldier. His job is to secure the hotspots, and give the politicians the time and room to maneuver. He isn't the one applying pressure to the politicians. That's Crocker's job.

Mr. Kristol is right. This report was intentionally cooked up to counter anything that Petreus offers. As Mr. Kristol points out above, the GAO doesn't address the grass-roots efforts in Iraq, the success in Anbar, the Sunnis working with al-Maliki, or whether or not al Qaeda is really as strong as it was prior to the surge's commencement. They focused completely on the political benchmarks which the Democrats knew nothing would occur this month for the sheer fact that the Parliament is in recess. Granted, Parliament members are talking to one another while in recess, but nothing can be acted on until they return.

As I have said repeatedly now for two weeks, General Petreus will return with a report that shows significant progress and success on the military side, and limited political progression, mostly on the local levels. That isn't what the Democrats want to hear. They're going to deny anything he says, and they'll give him as little credit as they can muster. Expect to hear this from any number of Democrats in Congress:

"Yes, the military operations have shown promise, and yes the Iraqis are working with us, but (fill in appropo talking point here)."

They will try to spin this, and the GAO report is evidence of them already trying to run damage control on a report that's yet to be given. This shows the desperation of the Democrats right now. They know if they don't do something to tarnish or spin his report, they're going to have egg all over their faces, and a nation that's none too happy with their political shenanigans.

HT: Bryan Preston

Publius II

ADDENDUM: Over at PowerLine, both Paul Mirengoff and John Hinderacker weigh in on the GAO report with pointed questions and interesting observations.

Publius II

BREAKING NEWS! Warner announces he will retire

This has been rumored for a little while that Senator John Warner might retire. Today, he made it official:

Virginia Sen. John Warner (R) said Friday that he will not seek reelection.

Warner, 80, long a power in the Senate as a result of his post as chairman of the Armed Services committee, said of his five terms: "I have done my best" and closed with a quote from Thomas Jefferson on the historic campus of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He said he'd made the decision in the "last day or two" and had wanted to first make one final trip to Iraq.

Warner said his age had been a factor in his decision. "You got to face that I"m now 80," Warner said. "I would be near 88 when I finish (a sixth term) . . . I want to be fair to this wonderful state."

Warner's decision creates a crucial battleground in next year's struggle for control of the Senate. Traditionally a Republican stronghold, Virginia has shown signs of trending Democratic in recent years, including last fall's victory by Democrat James Webb over incumbent Republican Sen. George Allen.

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) and former governor Jim Gilmore are expected to seek the GOP nomination, while former governor Mark Warner is viewed as a potential Democratic contender.

Warner said he had made no decision about who to back as a potential successor.

We have twenty-one reelection efforts in the Senate in 2008. The Democrats have twelve. With Warner leaving, Craig likely not to win reelection (if he stays), Allard already announcing his retirement, and the possibility of both Stevens and Hagel retiring, these would be five seats that a new challenger would have to defend. Time to start digging for good conservatives to hold onto these seats. The last thing we need is to take even further steps backwards in the next election.

The White House is the key to 2008, but the Congressional elections are no less important. The Democrats are vulnerable as they have frittered away their good graces with the voting public. A paltry 18% approval rating for Congress is nothing to crow about, and the Democrats don't seem to be fazed by it. (That's why they keep digging deeper.) As they continue to dig, we should be looking to move up. But the only seat right now amongst those five that is a toss-up is Allard's. the rest are likely to stay in our column according to election prognosticators, but that doesn't make them any less competitive. Nor does it make it any easier when it comes to choosing a successor.

For Warner's soon-to-be-vacant seat, Jim Gilmore would be the likeliest candidate. He was a popular governor in Virginia, and he governed by conservative principles. His presidential campaign died due to lack of funds, lack of recognition, and below average-to-average debate performances. But he is well-known in Virginia, and could likely defeat any Democrat challengers.

Publius II

Noonan: the president needs to admit the antiwar crowd was right

Allahpundit's got it,/li> because so many people have been clamoring for opinions regarding Ms. Noonan's newest piece for Opinion Journal. From her column today:

All sides in the Iraq debate need to step up, in a new way, to the characterological plate.

From the pro-war forces, the surge supporters and those who supported the Iraq invasion from the beginning, what is needed is a new modesty of approach, a willingness to admit it hasn't quite gone according to plan. A moral humility. Not meekness--great powers aren't helped by meekness--but maturity, a shown respect for the convictions of others.

What we often see instead, lately, is the last refuge of the adolescent: defiance. An attitude of Oh yeah? We're Lincoln, you're McClellan. We care about the troops and you don't. We care about the good Iraqis who cast their lot with us. You'd just as soon they hang from the skids of the last helicopter off the embassy roof. They have been called thuggish. Is this wholly unfair?

The antiwar forces, the surge opponents, the "I was against it from the beginning" people are, some of them, indulging in grim, and mindless, triumphalism. They show a smirk of pleasure at bad news that has been brought by the other team. Some have a terrible quaking fear that something good might happen in Iraq, that the situation might be redeemed. Their great interest is that Bushism be laid low and the president humiliated. They make lists of those who supported Iraq and who must be read out of polite society. Might these attitudes be called thuggish also?

I'm hardly the sort to tackle one of conservatism's best and brightest, but it seems to me that Ms. Noonan isn't catching something here. That is there are many that were and still are in favor of action in Iraq that have admitted there were problems once Saddam was toppled. If there is a conservative out there that says there weren't any problems, they're a lying sack or an obtuse dunce. When she refers to our side as "thuggish," I'm sure she's referring to the fever-swamp on our side. (Folks, the Left has theirs, we have ours, and that's never going to change.)

I'll admit I've run into a few of the starboard side fever-swampers that get offended when we argue that there have been problems and those problems only multiplied as the administration allowed them to fester. Case in point? Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi militia. this guy should have been killed right from the start despite the Iraqis telling us to leave him alone. His continued presence in the theater, and the Mahdi's consistent attacks against us and the civilian population only fomented more insurgencies. We were seen as feckless in dealing with him which helped embolden the enemy over there. Say this to those on the fringe Right, and expect a spittle-laden tirade about how you're a liberal and you're not supporting the troops.

Au contraire. We do and we have from the word "go." But any general will tell you that the best laid plans in war are nice, but things rarely go as they are planned. More from Ms. Noonan:

His foes feel a tight-jawed bitterness. They believe it was his job not to put America in a position in which its security is imperiled; they resent his invitation to share responsibility for outcomes of decisions they opposed. And they resent it especially because he grants them nothing–no previous wisdom, no good intent–beyond a few stray words here and there…

Would it help if the president were graceful, humble, and asked for help? Why, yes. Would it help if he credited those who opposed him with not only good motives but actual wisdom? Yes. And if he tried it, it would make news. It would really, as his press aides say, break through the clutter.

Should the president admit that the antiwar crowd was right? Should he admit that they were right about the insurgency, the militias, the sectarian violence, the lack of WMDs located in Iraq? (Yes, Virginia, we we did find some, just not in the quantities that many expected.) Should he? Maybe he should acknowledge that they were right. In the meantime, he can also agree that a few of his former generals and the intel analysts were also right.

the problem is that the solution is already being carried out. The surge is working, and things are getting better. If given time to run it's course, this could work, and the president could begin a draw down of troops around August or September of next year. The surge troops would be pulled out no earlier than next April. By then the Iraqis should have had plenty of time to deal with the national government problems and there should be plenty of troops trained to hand over the majority of security operations to them. That would leave a small but significant amount of US and coalition forces in Iraq to supervise things, and make sure all is going well.

With the recent agreements made between al-Maliki, Sunni and Shia leaders, Sunni and Shia clerics, and the insurgencies (like the one led by Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri) I sincerely think we're turning a corner here. It's just a matter of time before more things start to show more success. If the Iraqis want to show they are able to move forward, the first thing the Parliament must do when they return is to address some of the political benchmarks that have been argued over, but not yet achieved solutions.

The president will ultimately make the final decision on what we do. That's his job as Commander-in-Chief. It's not the antiwar fever-swamp's job. It's not the media's job. It's not the pundit's job. Nor is it Congress's. It's his and his alone, and when it comes time for that decision, he'll make it. I think it's just a little premature (and a tad immature) to state the president has to admit the antiwar crowd was right when he can just as easily point to commanders that told him similar things when we first went into Iraq. The antiwar crowd has become unhinged in recent years and blinded by partisan hatred. While I recognize their complaints, I'd hardly give them credit.

Publius II

Craig to resign

Captain Ed picked up the story from CNN that Craig will resign; possibly as soon as today:

Several well-placed GOP sources in Washington and Idaho have told CNN that embattled Republican Sen. Larry Craig is likely to resign soon, possibly as early as Friday.

GOP sources with knowledge of the situation told CNN's Dana Bash that the Republican National Committee was poised to take the extraordinary step of calling on Craig to resign but held off.

The RNC put the move on hold, the sources said, because top party leaders have received indications that Craig himself is preparing to step down.

Sources have confirmed that high-level meetings on the matter were being conducted in Idaho on Thursday.

Craig has been under pressure to quit since news surfaced this week that he was arrested in June at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and later pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge.

The arrest was made by an officer investigating reports of sexual behavior in an airport restroom.

In a post-arrest police recording released Thursday, Craig denied that he was trying to engage in lewd behavior in the airport bathroom and suggested he was entrapped by the arresting officer.

OK, so this is finally coming to a close. But I would like to address an issue that has popped up, and one that Capt. Ed brought up. What makes Larry Craig different from David Vitter? Both men committed crimes. Craig was charged, and plead to a lesser charge. David Vitter, while he did break the law, was never charged. So what makes Vitter's case different from the Craig case?

Vitter came forward with the news that he had been a client of the DC Madam after Hustler obtained his phone number from the brothel's records. His liaisons with the DC Madam and her consorts began in 1999 and ended in 2001. He openly admitted to it in a press conference, and stated that he and his wife were working through this. He can't legally be charged with a crime because of the statute of limitations. The question remains whether or not he can retain his seat in the 2010 elections. More than likely he will unless his opponent makes a lot of hay out of this, or stumbles on any other sort of illicit liaisons that he might have had since then.

Larry Craig was arrested for lewd behavior. He plead the charge down to disorderly conduct, and accepted the punishment of the court. But he did this all in secret. He didn't tell his wife, his family, his friends. Hell, he didn't even seek out counsel from a lawyer. (That one still gets me.) He kept it as quiet as he could until the media got a hold of it. Sure, they play gotcha politics with the GOP, and Craig should have seen that coming. Instead of admitting that he was charged with a crime and that he plead guilty to it, he hid it.

And there is the difference between the two. While Vitter did commit a crime, he was never caught for, nor was he charged wit solicitation. Craig was arrested. He was charged, and he plead guilty. There is the underlying difference between the two. Personally speaking, if I were a voter in Louisiana, I'd never cast a vote for Vitter. I've got a moralistic view of the world, and the first thing on the top of my list is you don't cheat on your wife.

When it comes to DC, I want representatives in office that have the integrity and character that matches the post they were elected to. I want someone with the courage of their convictions. I don't want criminals there, and I sure as heck don't want people there that think they can glide under the radar so the voters don't see what they're doing. If Larry Craig resigns today, then all the better. If not, then the beatings will continue though I think he's taking a lot more punches from the media than the voters right now.

Publius II

UPDATE: A Craig staff member has told ABC News that Craig isn't resigning:

ABC News' Ronna Waldman reports: Despite reports today quoting anonymous 'GOP sources" that embattled Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho., will resign Friday, his aide says the Senator will return to Washington, D.C. next week to continue his work as best he can, Craig's Idaho press secretary tells ABC News.

If that plan changes, the media will be notified, the aide said.

Pressure has mounted on Craig to resign after news broke of his arrest in an undercover sting operation in an airport men's room. Craig pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct on Aug. 1 but has maintained that he did nothing wrong.

Republican leaders have launched investigations into the matter and Republican senators have publicly called on Craig to step down.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called Craig's conduct "unforgivable," the AP reported Friday. The GOP Senate Leader acknowledged many caucus-members are pushing for Craig to step down.

"We have acted promptly to begin the process of dealing with this conduct," McConnell told the AP. "We will see what happens in the coming days."

If this is true then Craig is rolling the dice and taking his chances at an ethics probe. If he's cleared, then he's going to stay. If they find out that he did breach ehtics as a US senator, they're going to call, formally, for his ouster.

Publius II

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

More on Craig

Everyone knows that we -- Marcie, Sabrina, and I -- all believe that he should resign. But we're not the ones catching newsprint here. Another of his colleagues has basically said that, and he's within the leadership:

A member of the Senate Republican leadership suggested Thursday that Sen. Larry Craig resign in the wake of his guilty plea in a men's room undercover police operation.

"I think the pressure will continue to build," said Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, who chairs the party's senatorial campaign committee.

Ensign told The Associated Press in his home state that Craig "admitted guilt, he plead guilty. It's a little different situation than just being accused of something."

Ensign stopped short of calling on Craig to resign his seat, but strongly suggested he do so.

"I wouldn't put myself hopefully in that kind of position, but if I was in a position like that, that's what I would do," he said. "He's going to have to answer that for himself."

Several other Republicans have called on Craig to step down, and Ensign's comments, coming from a member of the leadership, sent an unmistakable public signal that support for the Idaho Republican has eroded significantly.

I've said that his excuse doesn't float. I've also said that this has nothing to do with his excuse. This goes to the fact that he was initially charged with a literal sex crime. He plead it down to disorderly conduct. Regardless of what the charge was though, he covered up the arrest. He covered up the charge. He didn't tell his wife. He didn't tell his family. This goes directly to his integrity, his honesty, and his character. If he doesn't step down, his presence int he party is going to hurt us as the Democrats will be allowed to use the same tactics that they used in 2006 after the Mark Foley incident.

We are trying to show the nation that we're better. If he won't leave, and we can't persuade him to leave, the Democrats will have one more piece of firepower to use against candidates. This isn't acceptable. Forget the the nuances of the case, and focus on the fact that his character is gone, and as long as he stays in, he's a millstone around the party's neck.

Publius II

Murtha to be sued for libel

Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, could it?

If Marine Col. Jeffrey Chessani is exonerated of the charges against him he may haul Pennsylvania Democratic Congressman John Murtha, into court, suing him for libel, one of his lawyers told NewsMax.com.

Brian Rooney, one of the attorneys at Michigan's Thomas More Law Center representing Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani and a former Marine captain himself told NewsMax.com that his client, who is alleged to have failed to fully investigate the killing of 24 Iraqis in Haditha November, 2005 and not reporting an alleged Law of War violation, may follow the example of another Haditha Marine, SSgt. Frank Wuterich who is suing Murtha for libel.

Murtha set off a media firestorm last year when even before the matter had been fully investigated he charged members of Kilo Company, 3rd Bn, 1st Marine Regiment had gone on a rampage and slaughtered 24 Iraqi civilians in cold blood to avenge the killing of a member of their unit in an IED explosion. He also said that the incident occurred in the absence of any firefight, although it occurred as part of a day-long battle with insurgent ambushers that wounded 11 Marines.

The speech wasn't given on the floor of the House, and therefore it's not protected under the Speech and Debate clause of the Constitution. (Unlike the New York Times,/li> and a few moonbats, we do KNOW what's in the Constitution.) If he had called them murderers or accused them of murder on the floor of the House, he couldn't be touched. But he didn't say it there. He said it on Hardball with Chris Matthews, and Bryan Preston has the video up at Hot Air as a reminder to those denying the public slander he committed. He said it in public. He directed the accusation at the four Marines accused but not yet proven of murder.

Three of those Marines have been cleared of the capitol charges. There are others still charged, but it's for the aftermath of the incident not connected to combat. Their guilt is yet to be determined, and their crime, if proven, warrants administrative punishment, and nothing more. If and when Colonel Jeff Chessani is cleared of the charges, John Murtha's going to see just home much his Marine "brothers" really love him.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Hugh interviews General James Simmons

Continuing to bust the myths about Iraq and the surge, Hugh Hewitt interviewed General James Simmons, deputy commanding general for MNF-I today, and to say the least the interview was as enlightening as the one he conducted with General David Petreus just a couple short weeks ago. Among things that are important to understand from the general is that things aren't as bleak as the MSM continues to paint them.

For example, when it comes to Basra:

HH: Now there were reports out of Basra a couple of weeks ago that after the Brits have withdrawn that the radicals had taken control of the city. Are those reports accurate?

JS: They are not accurate, and that is a fabrication at best. This was a planned turnover of the Palace and the PJCC to Iraqi control, to the Iraqi legitimate government forces. It was done to standard with, and to well-trained, well-equipped Iraqi Security Forces. There were some peaceful demonstrations that were celebratory in nature, but at no time was any Coalition forces threatened, and the local Iraqi officials under General Mohan, kept a good handle on the situation in Basra.

HH: So what is the situation then in Basra, because that Washington Post story made it sound like the Wild West without the saloons.

JS: It was a demonstration of OMS, or Shia people there that were celebrating, to the best of my knowledge, the return of an Iraqi landmark to the Iraqi government.

This was a key point int he interview because General Simmons is directly refuting the spin conducted by the media (mostly the British press who was hostile to Brits still being in Iraq). Basra isn't the "wild west." The handover was scheduled, as we knew when the surge began. Are there still some hot spots in Basra? Um, DUH! There are still areas of Iraq that are hot that US and ISF soldiers are working to quell. They'll get the job done provided they're given the chance.

On Iranian involvement in Iraq:

HH: General Simmons, how about their re-supply from Syria or Iran? Has that been interdicted? Do they continue to get the reinforcements that they appeal for?

JS: Well, on the extreme rogue Shia side, the Shia rogue elements that are operating outside of the political process, we believe that most of their financing, most of their training and most of their weapons systems to include the EFP’s, mortar and rocket rounds and RPG’s, are coming from Iran. We have had some success in locating and destroying some fairly significant caches that were clearly Iranian munitions that had been supplied to rogue Shia elements. The al Qaeda, we have seen more and more of a shift to using homemade explosives, which would give us some indication that we have interdicted their capability to be re-supplied with munitions from external to the country.

And ...

HH: Let’s turn back, General, to the Iranian interference here. General Keane said on this program last week that the Coalition had captured and is holding more than 70 Iranians. Are they your responsibility, General, given your duties as deputy commanding general?

JS: I do have some oversight of the corps’ piece of detainee operations, but Major General Doug Stone is the commander of Task Force 134. He is one of General Petraeus’ subordinate commanders, and he is responsible for detainee operations.

HH: All right, I’ll follow up with him. But then let me ask you generally, do you think Iranian-backed attacks are increasing or decreasing right now?

JS: I believe that the Iranians have supplied, they have surged supplies, training and munitions into Iraq to counter our surge operations that we are conducting.

HH: And what level does that rise to? Are they doubling, tripling their effort?

JS: I would hate to put a number on it, but what we saw was in July, we had the highest number of EFP’s that we have had in theater. Those EFP’s come from Iran. We have still seen a significant uptick in EFP’s, although the numbers are probably going to be lower in August than they were in July. The number of rocket attacks and indirect fire attacks into our FOB’s and our camps has been elevated, and the fires have come predominantly from Shia-dominated areas, and those are Iranian made munitions that are being fired in that. And then we have some very clear evidence that there has been training that has been sponsored by folks that use the techniques that Iranians use to train people.

HH: Can you expand on that a little bit, General, as to what kind of evidentiary markers you find that would lead one to believe the Quds forces are involved, or Hezbollah?

JS: It’s the techniques that they use for in placing the weapons systems, particular the indirect fire systems that they’re using, which require some form of military training to be able to execute that.

HH: Have we captured actual Iranians in operational settings, General, as opposed to simply doing espionage, meaning that they’re commanding and controlling attacks on Americans?

JS: I really don’t think I’m in a position to be qualified to answer that one.

It's about time that this is starting to make headway. We've known for quite some time that Iran has been fueling much of the insurgency, and even some AQI elements. (Yes, Virginia, Sunnis and Shias will work together if they have a common goal.) But this needs to make it out into the mainstream more, not less. The people have to understand that Iran's not there to give Iraq a helping hand. They're there to sow chaos, and hopefully topple the government. Remember, Iran wants a caliphate ruled from Tehran, not to live in peace with a neighbor.

On our military:

HH: Now that’s very good news. General, in our last ten minutes here, and you’ve been very generous with your time, I appreciate it very much, let’s talk a little bit about the American Army. A lot of pundits here, who, many of whom like me have never been to Iraq, are speculating that our Army, the American Army, is breaking under the strain. What are your thoughts on that, General?

JS: Well, a fifteen month combat tour here in Iraq is a very long time to be separated from your family, and it’s a stressful environment, and it is a tough fight. And we have some absolutely remarkable young people over here who just amaze me every day with their courage and their ability to go outside the wire and carry out their missions, whether it’s combat logistics, or whether it is combat operations, or whether it is flying one of the 502 helicopters, 532 helicopters that we have over here, or whatever it is that they’re doing. They go about doing it very, very well. I will tell you, though, that we have already met our reenlistment goals here in Iraq for the year, and we’ve got two months to go. So the morale of the troops that’s on the ground is relatively high. What I would tell you, though, is that as we continue in the fight, you have to have an opportunity to have a break from it, and we have many young leaders over here that are on their third combat tour. And the stress on their families back home is tough, and they feel that, and they want to be with their families as much as anyone else does. And they’re making a huge sacrifice on behalf of the nation. And so far, our nation has been very gracious and generous with our soldiers, and have supported them very, very well. I think you see more of a challenge once you redeploy out of theater, and then you start seeing the results of the stress and the wear and tear on the individuals, and on the equipment, and everything else. So we are, in my personal opinion, we are certainly not at a breaking point, but we are at a point where I think senior leaders should be concerned about the long term condition of our armed forces, and their ability to continue to sustain the fight.

HH: That’s a good word. What about the military collectively, and its evolution in terms of absorbing the information from the different circumstances and enemies there, and changing tactics and evolving its response? Has the American military been moving faster than you’ve ever seen it in a long and distinguished career? Or is it just doing what it’s always done well?

JS: Well, first of all, I think we are more adaptable than the Army has ever been, the armed forces has ever been. We have the smartest, most dedicated, most talented group of young people that I have ever seen assembled in the almost 34 years that I’ve been a soldier. And so when presented with dilemmas on the battlefield, or dilemmas with logistics, or dilemmas with communications, or intelligence, they very rapidly adapt, figure out a way to get inside the enemy’s decision cycle and to get us back on the offensive whenever the enemy changes their tactics, techniques or procedures. So I think that we have been probably the most adaptive armed force that has been in conflict in our nation’s history. That’s just my personal opinion as I have watched our young people deal with the insurgency operations here in Iraq.

Um, all you moonbats can thank Donald Rumsfeld for that vision of making the military more like a quick-response force. No longer are they tied down under the burden of following the letter of the handbooks. They can adapt at a moment's notice, and quickly turn the tide of combat back in their favor should they lose the offensive.

On the Iraqi Army:

HH: General, what about the Iraqi Security Forces? I know you must deal with them a lot on a daily basis. From the beginning of this year to the present, how’s their rebuilding going?

JS: The Iraqi Army gets better every day. The Iraqi Army, the 5th Iraqi Army Division soliders that fought alongside 3-2 Stryker in Baqubah, Colonel Townsend, the Brigade commander, said they were as good as any troops that he had ever fought with, and they did a magnificent job. We see the troops that are operating in Baghdad, and some of those troops are from Basra, some of them are from up north in Mosul, and some of them are from out in al Anbar, and by units that are usually stationed out there that have been brought into Baghdad for the Baghdad operations plan. We see them getting better as they work with our forces and conduct independent operations on their own in the districts here in Baghdad and throughout the area. The 8th Iraqi Army Division, which is down just south of Baghdad down here is a very proficient organization, and does very good work, as is the 2nd Division that’s up in Mosul.

HH: And within those divisions, and more broadly, the Iraqi Security Forces, General, are Shia willing to serve Sunni, and Sunni willing to serve and salute Shia, and operate jointly? Or is it two armies joined at the head?

JS: No, we see that inside the Iraqi Army, they’re Iraqis first, and that there is very little evidence of sectarianism in those formations. There is some challenges, of course, whenever you take a formation and you bring it here, and they’re separated from family and everything else. So sometimes, you have some morale problems from guys being away from their families and everything for extended periods of time. But what we have seen is inside most of the Iraqi Army formations, that Sunnis work for Shias, and Shias work for Sunnis, and it’s an organization that is working for the best for Iraq.

This is extremely believable given the recent inroads that Nouri al-Maliki has made between Sunnis and Shias in recent weeks. Add the recent fatwa against violence that Robert McFarlane collaborated with, and you have a picture where the sectarian differences are being set aside for the greater good of Iraq.

Finally, on the quality of life in Iraq:

HH: The quality of life, General, electricity in Baghdad and surrounding areas, is it getting better? Or are we going to be stuck with an old infrastructure, watching an old infrastructure fail regularly for the next couple of years?

JS: Well, they do have some old infrastructure here whenever it comes to electrical power generation, but that has continued to improve. And right now, as of this morning, they were generating about 5,200 kilowatts of power across Iraq, which is significantly higher than what they were generating prior to the war, and it continues to improve. It goes up and down as you work through the different problems from the generating plants being able to get oil, et cetera, and being able to generate power. But generally speaking, it’s pretty much stabilized here over the last several weeks between about 4,800 and 5,200 kilowatts a day of power across Iraq.

HH: Oh, that’s news. What about oil production, General?

JS: Oil production is…the oil is flowing out of the southern port of Basra. They generally have two ships docked there every day that are going out, and I believe the 46 inch pipeline going out through Turkey was reopened yesterday as well, so oil is flowing out of both of the two export areas right now, at the rate that we pretty much, well, the Iraqi government predicted that it would be flowing out at the beginning of the year. So that piece of it is working. We still have problems with getting some internal transportation of oil to the refineries that are here in Iraq, but that’s mostly because of, as you mentioned earlier, some aging infrastructure that runs out of the northern oil fields into the Baiji refinery.

HH: What’s the upside, what’s the upside, after having spent two tours there, and you’re still there, of the Iraqi oil industry and their electrical capacity. Do you see them able to flourish? Or are they where they’re going to be for the next decade?

JS: Well, I think kind of key to that, Hugh, is the Iraqi government getting around to passing legislation, Article 140, that has to do with the regulation and the investment of external sources into the Iraqi oil infrastructure. And I think once that legislation gets passed, and they are able to get external investment into their oil businesses, then I think that the infrastructure will be significantly enhanced, and I think the oil production has the potential for going up.

HH: Do you think the international business community that’s interested in oil is willing to invest in Iraq? Is the security situation stable enough that that capital will come in, General?

JS: I think that the security situation will continue to improve, and as it continues to improve, and the legislation gets passed, I do believe that the international community will invest in the oil capabilities here in Iraq.

In short the situation is improving. It has improved significantly since the surge began, and as it continues, it will give the people the time to fix the remaining problems. The general, just like General Petreus, didn't BS about this interview. He was upfront and forthright, and it was important that he say the things he did say. This wasn't "Orwellian political speak." This was a sincere, informal report that was given about the situation on the ground, and how the surge was progressing. I insist that if readers missed this interview, you can either read it here, or or listen to it hear when it's posted.

Publius II

UPDATE: Welcome Hugh Hewitt readers. Please feel free to poke around if leave a comment if you'd like!

Publius II

Stick a fork in Huckabee

Not that Mike Huckabee had much of a chance, but his recent stance on a nation-wide smoking ban in public places isn't going to please a lot of people, be they smokers, tobacco employees, or business owners.

I don't smoke anymore. I gave up that habit for my wife and her peace of mind. It wasn't easy, but just because I don't light up anymore means I'm going to jump on the anti-smoking-Nazi bandwagon. To each their own. If people choose to light up, they take all the risks into their hands, so to speak.

Furthermore, in Arizona, we've seen the fallout from such city bans. Mesa (where we live) instituted it, and restaurant owners are screaming. A few years ago, Mesa did a public ban, but was later forced to include an exemption for bars and restaurants that spent the money to separate both areas. But last year, the ban was expanded, and no exemptions were offered. The bar and restaurant owners that spent the money initially to bring back their customers got the shaft. Similar things are happening in Tempe (where vice cops are reassigned to go into bars and make sure no one is smoking), and in Flagstaff (where the enviro-friendly people don't want smoke by their trees, which dissipates after a couple feet anyway).

Smoking bans may work for the right community, but not in a nationwide ban.

HT: Mary Katherine Ham

Publius II

Couric going to Iraq and Syria

Lord knows why this is news, but it is. (And I might add that's one of the most flattering pictures of Katie on Breitbart's page.)

Katie Couric plans to leave Wednesday for an ambitious reporting trip to Iraq and Syria—the CBS anchor's first time in the war zone—in anticipation of a crucial military report on progress of the American effort.

Couric will anchor the "
CBS Evening News" from Baghdad next Tuesday and Wednesday, then from Damascus on Thursday and Friday.

Couric will travel throughout Iraq to talk to military and civilian leaders, soldiers and average Iraqis, spending most of her time outside of Baghdad.
CBS News would not reveal many specifics of her plans in advance because of competitive and safety concerns. The trip, in the works for six weeks, anticipates the surge progress report by Gen. David Petraeus that is expected the second week of September.

"You can't help but get a very detached perspective when you're not there and you're not witnessing things firsthand," Couric told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "I'm curious about very basic questions regarding living conditions, about how much fear there is in the street, about how the soldiers really are doing."

Couric and her traveling partner, evening news executive producer Rick Kaplan, were fitted with 30-pound body armor vests in Kaplan's office on Tuesday. Both needed to send theirs back to add extra protection to the sides.

To break the tension as Couric's armor was pulled tightly around her, Kaplan smacked her on the shoulder.

Safety is a sobering concern for all reporters in Iraq. The
Committee to Protect Journalists said 112 journalists have been killed in Iraq since March 2003. An additional 41 media workers have been killed, the latest being CBS News Iraqi translator Anwar Abbas Lafta, whose body was found over the weekend in Sadr City.

If you were coming here to see me bag on her, I'm not going to do it. I ask why this is newsworthy when those that have gone before her didn't get a peep, really? Sure, other network people have gone to Iraq, but has any MSM outlet utilized Michael Yon or Bill Roggio for their reporting? Did any speak with Michelle Malkin or Bryan Preston when they went over to Iraq. Nope. not a peep.

I hope Ms. Couric is as safe and secure over there as embed bloggers have been . But I also hope she takes the opportunity to go out with the troops, on patrol, and that she sees the same thing that so many others have in venturing there. The surge is working and things are getting better.

Publius II

Larry Craig -- urged to resign by colleagues

The day this hit the newswires, we were among many bloggers that called for him to resign. We're not the only ones, though. Many people being asked in Idaho about his actions say that it's "disgraceful." Setting aside the shenanigans in the bathroom itself, he plead guilty to a crime. No matter how grievous the crime is or isn't doesn't matter. This wasn't a traffic ticket. It wasn't a parking ticket. Misdemeanor it may be, but it's not a crime that most people overlook. The AP reports that the calls are now coming from his colleagues in Congress:

Two Senate Republican colleagues, including John McCain, called Wednesday for Sen. Larry Craig to resign. The White House, too, expressed disappointment in the case of the Idaho Republican caught in a men's room undercover police operation.

Arizona Sen. McCain and
Norm Coleman of Minnesota, the state where Craig was arrested, became the first senators to join Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., urging Craig's resignation.

McCain told CNN the decision was Craig's to make, "but my opinion is that when you plead guilty to a crime, you shouldn't serve. That's not a moral stand. That's not a holier-than-thou. It's just a factual situation."

"I think he should resign," McCain said.

Coleman said in a statement, "Senator Craig pled guilty to a crime involving conduct unbecoming a senator."

Hoekstra said Craig "represents the Republican party" and that "his conduct throughout this matter has been inappropriate for a U.S. senator."

Craig pleaded guilty in August to a charge of disorderly conduct following his arrest in a men's room at the Minneapolis airport. He said Tuesday he had done nothing wrong and was sorry he pleaded guilty.

Senate Republican leaders have called on the ethics committee to review Craig's case, and White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said he hoped the panel could do its work quickly.

Stanzel made no expression of support for Craig. "We are disappointed in the matter. It has been referred to the Senate Ethics Committee, so they will have to deal with it," he said.

There were other signs of difficulty for Craig.

Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, issued a statement calling on the senator to consider stepping down. The organization is a self- described conservative government watchdog group.

"Senator Craig admittedly engaged in illegal activity that brings serious disrepute to the public office he holds," Fitton said.

Fitton's suggestion that the senator leave office suggested tenuous support among conservatives who make up his core political supporters. ...

... Ignoring that plea, some social and religious conservatives and right- wing radio talk show hosts called for Craig's resignation. And political analysts said Craig will have trouble convincing Gem State voters that his 27-year political career is worth sparing.

In Idaho, with its 1.4 million people, politicians know many supporters by name. The state also likes its Republicans. The GOP controls the statehouse and Congress, and
President Bush carried the state in 2004 with 68 percent of the vote.

More than 166,000 residents are Roman Catholic and more than 385,000 Mormon.

Republican leaders in the Senate called for an Ethics Committee review of the case.

"This is a serious matter," they said in a written statement issued in Washington over the names of Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the party leader, and several others.

Two Republicans seeking the party's presidential nomination didn't mince words.
Mitt Romney, in whose campaign Craig was playing a prominent role until he quit amid the scandal, told CNBC, "He's disappointed the American people." McCain called for the resignation.

This problem for him will end in only one way -- with his resignation. Some experts are saying that he should pull a "Clinton." Get out in front of it, bluff his way through it, and hope that he can make it to the end of his term. That's not good enough. Not only did he plead guilty to a lesser charge, mind you which means that the initial charge was much harsher, but then he kept it quiet from everyone. He didn't tell his wife or his family. He didn't inform anyone in the Senate to allow them to decide if it warranted an ethics probe. He covered this up.

Constituents don't like this sort of behavior, and while we may not be able to vote for the man (we live in Arizona, not Idaho), he still represents us in the US Senate. He represents EVERYONE in America in the Senate. We rarely agree with John McCain, but he's right. So is Norm Coleman and Max Baucus. This sort of behavior is conduct unbecoming a man in his position. He has no political future now, and it would be smart to simply announce that he's stepping down. He can claim he "found Jesus," or that he and his family need to work this out, or whatever. But he can't stay in the Senate. He's an embarrassment to the body and to his party.

Publius II

Soros-backed group fined

People are making more out of this than really should be, but it's nice to see that the FEC is still pursuing complaints from 2004. From Ken Vogel at the Politico:

The Federal Election Commission has fined one of the last cycle’s biggest liberal political action committees $775,000 for using unregulated soft money to boost John Kerry and other Democratic candidates during the 2004 elections.

America Coming Together (ACT) raised $137 million for its get-out-the-vote effort in 2004, but the FEC found most of that cash came through contributions that violated federal limits. The group’s big donors included George Soros, Progressive Corp. chairman Peter Lewis and the Service Employees International Union.

The settlement, which the FEC approved unanimously, is the third largest enforcement penalty in the commission’s 33-year history. ACT, which ceased operations in 2005, was formed in late 2003 and rapidly deployed an enormous organization to do the retail-level grunt work of politics.

It opened more than 90 offices in 17 states from which it mobilized an army of more than 25,000 paid canvassers and volunteers to knock on doors, stuff envelopes and make phone calls urging voters to defeat President Bush and support Democratic or “progressive” candidates including Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate.

The FEC dismissed allegations that that Kerry’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee violated campaign laws by coordinating with ACT or accepting excessive contributions from the group.

ACT was among a new breed of political committee, known as 527 groups, that stretched campaign finance rules on their way to shaping the 2004 elections. Operatives used the 527s, named for the section of the IRS code under which they were registered, to spend money on politics outside the FEC’s purview.

But the groups have largely faded from the political landscape as the FEC has sought to rein them in. Late last year, commissioners handed down a total of $630,000 in penalties to three top 527s: Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, MoveOn.org and the League of Conservation Voters, and there are more complaints pending.

But the heads of two of the non-profit campaign finance reform groups behind many of the complaints, including the one that led to the ACT penalty, say it’s all too little, too late. “This action comes more than three years after our FEC complaints were filed and nearly three years after the 2004 presidential election was held,” read a statement from Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, and Gerry Hebert, executive director of the Campaign Legal Center.

Plus, they argued, the fine “represents only a tiny fraction” of the amount ACT spent illegally on the 2004 elections.

Wertheimer also is involved in a lawsuit to compel the FEC to pass a set of comprehensive rules regulating 527s, without which he said the groups are likely to reemerge in the 2008 campaign.

They get fined over $600, 000 for illegally spending over $137 million. WTF? This is a slap on the wrist, and an insult to the voters, in general. Of course had it not been for John McCain and Russ Feingold screwing around with the campaign finance laws in the first place, the 527s never would have been created in the first place.

Elections are one of the most natural exercises in free speech that the world has ever seen, and we're amongst the best in executing them. Contributing to candidates, buying ad time during the election cycle, and pounding the pavement for a candidate all fall within freedom of speech. The very idea of the right lay within the confines of political speech -- the ability to disagree with a candidate, or the government itself without fear of reprisal.

We agree that the FEC needs to have a set of regulations or guidelines for campaign finance. After all, the last thing we need is a creep like Soros basically buying whatever candidate he wants, and backing them up with the gobs of money the man has. But the finance laws need to be revised -- this time better than the half-assed attempt by Feingold and McCain -- and their review and investigation process must be streamlined. This story will gain no traction at all for two reasons:

The inherently biased MSM won't go after it because it draws attention to a man they consider an ally with beliefs that closely reflect their own, in addition to going after groups they probably agreed with in 2004.

Secondly, this all happened in 2004. The chances anyone will make a ruckus over this, or even remember it (I'm talking about the average guy or girl, not us nutty political junkies) is highly unlikely.

Furthermore, it's not going to hit Soros at all. So who really cares about this? We do. We do because maybe, just maybe, someone will take note of this in the government, and correct the mistakes that occurred at the hands of a few "mavericks."

Publius II

Air Force to deploy the "Reapers"

I'm an airplane buff. I dig going to air shows. I love going to the various museums around the country to see some of the most sophisticated firepower, for their time, that has ever been created. Now, the Air Force is about to deploy the nastiest little plane that has no pilot on board. It's the MQ-9 "Reaper." It's a hunter-killer drone that is just dag-nasty to our enemy. Bryan at Hot Air picks up the story from Air Force Times:

The Air Force next month will deploy a new generation of pilotless airplane with the bombing power of an F-16 to help stop the stubborn Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.

The Reaper is an upgraded version of the Predator, which has become one of the military’s most sought-after planes since it first appeared in Afghanistan in 2001. The Reaper can fly three times as fast as a Predator and carry eight times more weaponry, such as Hellfire missiles, the Air Force said.

The Reaper’s greater range and speed make it better suited than the Predator to Afghanistan’s vast, rugged terrain. The Reaper will also be deployed to Iraq. Its speed and arms will let it track and kill moving targets able to elude a Predator, said Brig. Gen. James Poss, director of intelligence for Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base, Va.

Air Force officials cite the June 2006 killing of al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was tracked by a Predator but ultimately killed by bombs dropped by an F-16. The Reaper “is ideal for that type of target,” said Lt. Col. Gregory Christ, director of staff at Creech.

Despite the Predator’s success, field commanders wanted a faster, more lethal alternative, said Col. Charles Bartlett, leader of the Air Force’s unmanned aircraft task force.

Such demand has prompted the Air Force to rush to train operators and crews. In 2003, the Air Force trained fewer than 40 Predator operators. In 2008, that will soar to 160. It has trained 10 Reaper operators this year, and expects to train 19 more in 2008.

The Reaper squadron will start small and has only four aircraft, said Maj. David Small, an Air Force spokesman. It ultimately will have 20 planes, he said.

Most Reapers, like Predators, are flown from bases in the U.S., such as Creech.

The Reaper carries about the same payload as the F-16 but can stay aloft as much as eight times longer than the F-16, which must refuel about every two hours.

“You’ve got a lot of ammo circling overhead on call for short-notice strikes,” said John Pike, director of the military think tank, Globalsecurity. “It seems like a good idea.”

Given that the Taliban isn't doing so hot against our forces in Afghanistan the Reaper is going to rock their world. When this thing is deployed next month, I'm wondering if the Taliban will have problems recruiting people, or deploying their own forces out of fear of death from above.

Publius II

Al Qaeda and insurgents are losing support

No, I'm not kidding on the title above for the sheer fact that if anyone's paid attention to the news they have seen that some people are changing their tune. Or is it, as Deroy Murdock notes on NRO today, a matter of "moving the goal posts?" Regardless, AQ and insurgents in Iraq are losing the support of those that were (and might still be) invested in our defeat in Iraq, namely Democrats. And not just the average, run-of-the-mill, no-name Democrats, but some fairly prominent ones, at that:

Reviled by most Democrats, President Bush’s 20,000-troop surge is working. Indeed, news of this policy’s success is emerging from an unlikely source: Democrats.

Despite other misgivings on Iraq, Senator Hillary Clinton (D., N.Y.) admitted to the Veterans of Foreign Wars last week: “We’ve begun to change tactics in Iraq and in some areas, particularly in Al Anbar province, it’s working.”

“The surge has resulted in a reduction of violence in many parts of Iraq,” Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D., Ill.) told journalists. “More American troops have brought more peace to more parts of Iraq.”

“The military aspects of President Bush’s new strategy in Iraq…appear to have produced some credible and positive results,” Senate Armed Forces chairman Carl Levin (D., Mich.) said in a joint statement after visiting Iraq with his committee’s ranking Republican, Virginia’s John Warner.

Senator Jack Reed (D., R.I.) told Charlie Rose: “My sense is that the tactical momentum is there with the troops, and we’ve had some success in terms of blocking insurgents moving into Baghdad.”

“The troops have met every assignment,” said Senator Bob Casey (D., Pennsylvania). “They’ve beaten the odds time and again. They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to.”

Iraq war foe, Rep. Brian Baird (D., Wash.), recently returned from there a changed man. “We are making real and tangible progress on the ground, for one, and if we withdraw, it could have a potentially catastrophic effect on the region,” he’s said. Baird now opposes military-retreat timetables.

After visiting Iraq last month, Rep. Jerry McNerney (D., Calif.) favors more operational flexibility for U.S. commanders. “I’m more willing to work to find a way forward to accommodate what the generals are saying,” he said.

Rep. Tim Mahoney (D., Fla.) believes the surge “has really made a difference and really has gotten al Qaeda on their heels.”

“We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms,” Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack of the Left-leaning Brookings Institution wrote July 30. After eight days in Iraq, they concluded, “We were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily ‘victory’ but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with…There is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008.”

These improvements include a halving of “truck bombs and other large al-Qaeda-style attacks” since the surge began in February, USA Today reports. Early August saw 74 security incidents in Anbar, down from 450-500 weekly last fall. In Ramadi, such episodes have plummeted from 120-180 weekly last summer to three the week of August 6. Pentagon officials say Iraqis are volunteering 23,000 monthly tips, quadruple August 2006’s figure.

Many of these Democrats correctly argue that the surge showcases how much American GIs have accomplished and highlights how little Iraqi politicians have achieved, especially while vacationing as their new republic endures existential challenges. As their odds of being detonated diminish, however, Iraq’s sovereign, democratically elected representatives may return to parliament tanned, rested, and ready to enact an oil law, for starters.

Although the Democrats’ critique of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government is justified, it also represents a convenient shifting of the goal posts used to score the entire surge operation. The military surge, doomed by most Democrats at its outset, now enjoys growing Democratic praise, as its success becomes indisputable. Yet somehow, many Democrats paradoxically argue, the surge also has failed since Iraq’s civilian leadership is mired in gridlock. Indeed, the Washington Post revealed a glimpse at the new Democratic sheet music. As Jonathan Weisman and Anne E. Kornblut reported Wednesday, Democrats are pursuing a “campaign to praise military progress while excoriating Iraqi leaders for their unwillingness to reach political accommodations that could end the sectarian warfare.”

Of course, there is only so much the American armed forces can do. While they are pacifying the streets, they hardly can be held responsible for Iraqi quorum calls, committee meetings, and legislative compromise. If the Defense Department could make legislatures run smoothly, President Bush might consider a Pentagon surge on Capitol Hill.

Meanwhile, as U.S. troops make Iraqis more secure, al Qaeda keeps bludgeoning Iraqi hearts and minds. In Anbar, for example, predominantly foreign Islamic extremists behaved like a Taliban on the Euphrates. Last October, they declared Ramadi, Anbar’s chief city, capitol of a new Islamic state.

Iraqis there and in Diyala province soured on al Qaeda’s reforms — among them: a new “war tax,” 4 P.M. curfews, kidnapping women for arranged marriages, and conscripting forced labor to harvest dates and oranges. Violators of a new smoking ban had their fingers or hands chopped off. al Qaeda in Iraq set one seven-year-old ablaze, sources told CNN, and otherwise murdered women and children.

“The al Qaeda organization has dominated and humiliated Sunnis, Shiites, and jihadis,” the United Jihad Council declared. “It has forced people from their homes. They can’t get enough blood. They killed many honest scholars, preachers, and loyal mujahedeen.” As 15 UJC insurgents chanted in Tahrir last June: “Death to al Qaeda!”

“If you talk against them [al Qaeda in Iraq], they let you go at first, then come back and behead you later,” explained villager Abu Miriam. If caught being interviewed, Miriam predicted: “I will be killed. In fact, slaughtered, slaughtered with a knife.”

While al Qaeda in Iraq extends civilians such 7th-century hospitality, America recently spent $6 million to repair the water grid in Baghdad’s impoverished Sadr City. The “U.S out of Iraq” crowd should acknowledge the fundamental contrast between what we provide Iraqis and what our enemies offer them. Iraq War critics should heed Democrats who admit that, for all its faults, President Bush’s surge advances the forces of running water and hobbles those who burn seven-year-olds alive.

What we don't see is comments from the hardliners like John Murtha, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Ted Kennedy or Chuck Schumer. But we are seeing it out of other Democrats, and quite a few Blue Dogs that the fever-swamp, nutroots moonbats have declared war on because they believe that those Democrats have "betrayed" their liberal roots. (Ahem, the blue dogs ran on a moderate/conservative platform. the "liberal" Blue Dog Democrats that ran didn't win in 2006. This should be a message that resonates to the nutroots that America doesn't like the extreme liberal viewpoint.)

This also sets the Democrats up. They've started to shift on the military successes, and admit that there are significant changes that are occurring in Iraq. Now, as Mr. Murdock points out, they're hyping the lack of political success. This is a serious misstep on their part because the politics at the local level are ramping up efforts, and al-Maliki has made progress on bringing Sunnis and Shi'ites back to the government, and has even opened the door for former Ba'athists to join the government unimpeded provided they behave.

I have said it repeatedly for two weeks now that when General Petreus returns to give his report on 11 and 12 September that he will be bringing back not only the military success, but also cogent, compelling, and serious political inroads. His report will deny the Democrats much of the talking points they're preparing now in the run-up to his report. When he delivers this report, quite a few Democrats are going to have egg all over their faces. And given that Congress's approval numbers under the Democrats aren't all that great, they may hit toilet level if they make a mistake, and hype problems that are virtually non-existent.

Publius II

A lesson in stupidity, or WHY the Taliban is still losing

The Telegraph has the scoop on an ambush the Taliban probably would like to take back. After all, it was all well and good until US forces called in airstrikes:

More than 100 Taliban insurgents and allies have been killed in a major battle with US-led troops in southern Afghanistan, according to the US military.

The fighting erupted after a convoy of Afghan and US coalition forces came under attack in Shah Wali Kot district in Kandahar province and called in air support.

There were no civilian casualties reported but one Afghan security force member was killed and three foreign troops and three Afghan soldiers were wounded.
The Taliban didn't immediately confirm the account of the battle.

The past 19 months have seen the
bloodiest period of fighting in Afghanistan since US-led troops overthrew the Taliban government in 2001.

Nine Western soldiers, most of them American, have been killed in Taliban attacks in recent days in several parts of Afghanistan.

Around 50,000 foreign troops under the command of NATO and the US military are in the country hunting Taliban and al-Qa'eda allies.

They are backed by more than 100,000 Afghan soldiers, police and security agents.

Whoops. Someone forgot to tell the Taliban's "First Camel Cavalry Brigade" that wars aren't won on the backs of their steeds, but they are won by those with superior firepower. This was a serious miscalculation on their part. Maybe they thought we couldn't call in air support, or maybe they thought we wouldn't. Whatever the reason, they're the ones that made the fatal mistake.

Truth be told, the thinking of the Taliban is incredibly short-sighted, and wildly obtuse. They had the element of surprise, the tactical numbers, the best ground, and they still got their butts handed to them 100-1. With NATO forces reinforcing the Afghan government and US forces on the ground, the Taliban fighters continue to show how inept they are in actual combat. Bombings and suicide attacks are designed to intimidate the people. The problem is that when they are cornered by actual combat troops, they lose, and badly.

If we were in Mullah Omar's shoes, we'd throw in the towel. He's facing equally reciprocity by Musharraf's forces in Pakistan (where Musharraf is sick of having to deal with his own mistake, and is actively trying to correct it), and they have less than a snowball's chance in Hell in Afghanistan. Gnawing on the barrel of a pistol might be a better alternative for him at this point.

Publius II