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Michael Ubaldi, October 27, 2003.

Last week's magnificently successful donor conference in Madrid is far from the only actions of postwar support from countries across the globe. William Leon has a comprehensive list (Hat tip to Winds of Change). If this multinational cooperation is fraudulent, Senator Kerry, bona fide has to be seen to be believed.

Michael Ubaldi, October 27, 2003.

Today's attacks in Baghdad are why I believe terrorists, while extremely dangerous, have absolutely no grand strategy. They're murderers who delight in death for its own sake - this is not a religious or national socialist calling, this is a deranged pastime.

They're stupidly indiscriminate. Today's attacks were on the International Red Cross (they stuffed an ambulance with explosives) and [four] police stations. What will the Iraqis see? Their former oppressors and foreign cowards hiding in shadows, seeking to destroy the nascent and growing sources of Iraqi protection and stability. Continuing attacks are supposed to endear Iraqis to their murderers? These difficult early days, far from crushing the Iraqi spirit or souring their relationship with the Allies, will only set them more strongly against terrorism. Al Qaeda and its company are unlikely to find safe haven in the country if the Iraqis can help it.

CAN THIS FORCE A POLICY HAND?: Even though foreign sources of many terrorist attacks in Iraq have been exposed through the identification of captured and killed assailants, the Bush and Blair administrations, no doubt aware of the implications of acknowledging direct meddling by Syria and Iran, have kept their statements and actions polite. Retired General Tom McInerney, interviewed by Fox's Brit Hume this evening, believes today's car bombings were the work of Ansar al Islam, al Qaeda's presence in Iraq. The United States military, however, is suspicious of foreigners in general - the White House's "al Qaeda-types." If, for one, Damascus' contribution to mayhem in Iraq becomes obvious to even the casual news observer, how long until Bush must apply his doctrine beyond Iraq's borders?

MORE ON ISLAMISTS, THE NEW ENEMIES OF IRAQ: Armed Liberal takes a look at Baghdad, Syria and death-taxis over on Winds of Change.

Michael Ubaldi, October 23, 2003.

This will go down as a bad day for Ba'athists and other troublemakers in Iraq. Two out of four bombings foiled, and a spectacular find by American forces:

Military officials are still tallying the cache but have retrieved at least 317 4-foot rockets and 220 anti-tank mines. Fox News had exclusive access to the military during the operation about 45 miles south of Baghdad.

...An Iraqi citizen told the 1st Armored Division about a homemade bomb attack that was supposed to take place Thursday. After questioning the would-be attackers, American troops got information that led them to the weapons.

...[W]hen they blew up the initial find, they discovered the larger supply hidden about 5 to 10 feet underground in tunnels and holes. The weapons were all kept next to a mosque.

That last sentence opens a particular window into the enemy's psyche. Secular and religious terrorists captured by our forces don't deserve a shred of protection under the Geneva Convention, seeing as how they operate completely independent of it.

Michael Ubaldi, October 14, 2003.

It turns out that the form letters sent here from soldiers in Iraq were indeed part of a spontaneous, battalion-level drive to deliver a clear, accurate and positive account of post-war Iraq. From Lieutenant Colonel Dominic Caraccilo of the 503rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion:

Caraccilo said he circulated the form letter to his soldiers to give them "an opportunity to let their respective hometowns know what they are accomplishing here in Kirkuk. As you might expect, they are working at an extremely fast pace and getting the good news back home is not always easy. We thought it would be a good idea to encapsulate what we as a battalion have accomplished since arriving Iraq and share that pride with people back home."

Caraccilo wrote that his staff drafted the letter, he edited it and reviewed it and then offered it to the soldiers. "Every soldier who signed that letter did so after a careful read," he said. "Some, who could find the time, decided to send their own versions, while others chose not to take part in the initiative."

Caraccilo was unapologetic, saying that the letter "perfectly reflects what each of these brave soldiers has and continues to accomplish on the ground."

To their credit, ABC concurs with the reconstruction success in Kirkuk. That bright spot in the article is then balanced by a totally unsurprising grouse from an editor at the Boston Globe, insofar as the letters weren't "originals." Oh, the humanity. To comply with the sterling submission standards at the Globe, maybe the 503rd can alter its daily schedule and substitute Creative Writing Hour for a patrol or two?

Michael Ubaldi, October 13, 2003.

Fox News Sunday hosted Democratic West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller yesterday morning. Blaster and Andrew Sullivan have covered the senator's attempt to repeat the "imminent" lie and subsequent flimsy play with Bush's own words when faced with them. Later in the interview, Rockefeller went on to casually dismiss the idea of Arabs capable of peacefully governing themselves. Blinkered doesn't even begin to describe this. Bigoted argumentum ad antiquitatem is a little more accurate:

There has never really been an Arab democratic state. The British tried after World War I in Iraq and failed. The British tried after World War II in Iraq and failed.

So far we have failed. We're making an effort. Yes, we have a council. Yes, we have a few elected representatives.

But, as he implies, Arabs just aren't cut out for the job? The $87 billion is a wasted investment? The Senator is oblivious to the cultural aspect of this war - that terrorism is not some phantom aberration in those "eighty countries" of al Qaeda operation he references, but a direct, cancerous outgrowth of repression. He speaks as if every single one of the major host countries weren't either an unstable democracy or an out-and-out dictatorship.

So let's set that aside for a moment. Rockefeller's antecedent for the eye-popping quotation is that Americans would "resent" money being channeled to rebuild a nation where its people have literally had no opportunities and will have none until individual freedoms can be protected by an elected government. Carp about misfortune and opportunity in America all you like; our borders wouldn't be fenced if people weren't desperately trying to get in by the city block. And they understand the difference between circumstantial poorness and tyrannical oppression more acutely than anyone. A diversion of domestic spending, by no means miserly under Bush, is no argument, either. So who would resent this money - used to reach beyond ourselves and help others while protecting national security interests - other than the usual host who have always thought natural rights to be a Western phenomenon? A prejudiced and isolationist doctrine better in the hands of Joseph Kennedy or Pat Buchanan, this describes the dead end road where much of the left has hunkered down. Rockefeller is on the losing end of this issue, but his remarks aren't any less outrageous.

AND ANOTHER THING: In light of Rockefeller's more memorable statements during his Sunday interview, I'd forgotten about his reinterpretation of Congress' resolution authorizing military force against Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Unbelievable. As Porphyrogenitus suggests, the Senator is either incompetent or dishonest.

Michael Ubaldi, October 13, 2003.

Today's lead editorial in the Wall Street Journal is primarily concerned with Kofi Annan's preference for internationalism over the liberal sovereignty, but an interesting perspective on the recent Turkish occupation agreement is truly worth noting:

[T]he Europeans were never going to help much anyway, and Turkey's parliament has already voted overwhelmingly to send a force. What's more, Turkey wants to help out in the dangerous Sunni triangle, where it's really needed. A (largely Sunni) Muslim democracy with a sterling peacekeeping record and real military strength, Turkey was far and away the most important ally the U.S. could have hoped for.

We're disappointed that Turkey's decision has been met with threats from some Kurds and cries of "sell-out" from some of their American supporters. Turkey was an indispensable protector of the Northern Iraqi Kurdish safe haven for more than a decade, providing it with a vital trade link to the outside world and with the air bases to support Operation Northern Watch.

Some of the ideas being mooted to soothe Kurdish sensibilities - such as moving Turkish troops by air or sea - would justifiably be considered an affront by the Turks, who are putting themselves very much in harm's way. If Washington is going to turn the Turkish parliamentary vote into an actual deployment, it is going to have to talk bluntly with Kurdish leaders Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani.

Is successful diplomacy often dependent on a certain sensitivity to culture and mores? Of course. But tiptoeing around every strategic matter insofar as every decision made is a timid one - whatever Baby Boomer, "Don't offend anybody or else they'll hate us forever and ever" guiding principle prevailing in the political class today - will not serve the world's interests in the long run.

While this is anecdotal (and linkless), I'd read somewhere that the Marines and Army differed in both their approach to postwar security and effectiveness thereof. The Army, it seems, adopted a low profile and patrolled with relatively non-confrontational postures. The Marines, in contrast, would not move about without weapons or the obvious show of tactical power; they were civil, but extremely no nonsense. According to the article, Iraqis and troublemakers learned quickly - in both instances. The Army was less successful in maintaining order and morale was lower than the Marines, who were far more successful in keeping the streets safe.

Every national population feels a combination of resentment and humiliation to acknowledge their inability to build a free society alone; major occupations in the past like Japan and Germany constantly met indigenous resistance to and haggling with directives and reconstruction undertakings. The key was to balance conciliation with dictation; never to show a weakness of resolve.

I'm generally in disagreement with the call for more troops in Iraq (which, thankfully, has died down with revelations of a reconstruction far more successful than reported). The problem lies at the source of foreign fighters complicating the battle with Ba'ath loyalists, which, if to be solved by military deployments, would take place in those countries, and not Iraq. Eschewing help from a powerfully secular democracy like Turkey, then, should be on strategic grounds - not for the sake of Kurdish self-esteem.

Michael Ubaldi, October 11, 2003.

Glenn's header speaks of bogus letters from soldiers in Iraq, but how is a letter "bogus" when it's been signed by most of them? After my first read, I thought that this might be something I'd hoped wouldn't happen - blatantly miscredited letters to diminish the value and authenticity of real anecdotes sent home from soldiers in Iraq.

But it's not. All of the soldiers reached by the reporter agree with the depiction of Iraq in the form letter; five of six willingly signed their names to it. Read further, and the only other soldiers who didn't know about the effort are spokesmen - press liaisons, not grunts. What does that tell us about the situation other than that it was carried out on lower levels without the knowledge of brass?

The reporter then overplays his hand by inserting a sliver of an anti-war editorial - let's face it, to describe six months of occupation as a "prolonged involvement" in Iraq, as if the military planned to depart after a weekend or two, is a dead giveaway. Or else it's certainly not objective. In the Olympian publishing, the story ends with a dreary quote from one of the soldiers' mother. The impression readers are left with is one of fake letters sent without soldiers' knowledge to bolster flagging support for an invasion.

Which is silly, and the more I look into this article, the more I see a non-story cut to deliver a distinctly sour message. One of the eleven involved soldiers is Myron Tuttle of Tulare, California, whose local paper ran a slightly different publication of the report. His mother's reaction is quite different from the endnote in the Olympian:

Karen Tuttle, Myron's mother, said she agrees that there ought to be more publicity about what soldiers are accomplishing.

"Our guys need support," she said. "Myron believes they're doing [good] things there."

This is very simple. It appears that soldiers in Iraq were frustrated with imbalanced reporting at home; a letter was written and colleagues were asked if they wished to sign onto it. Somebody sent all the letters abroad. If everyone's authorization had been confirmed and no one's letter had been sent to the wrong place - according to his anti-war stepmother, at that - we would be left with news about an encouraging sign of hope and determination from our forces overseas, practically in the form of a petition.

GLENN RESPONDS: And another guy chimes in with direct knowledge - his nephew is in the unit. Well, like I said, when I first read it, I came away with a possible mockup. Instead, it looks like a minor mixup...turned into a little slam on the occupation. I do note that I'd sent the e-mail off identifying Tulare as a city in Florida. No idea why. They sound distantly similar? Damn, I hate it when that happens. The substance is correct. I'll take that. [Okay, he fixed it.] Exit, right.

Michael Ubaldi, October 10, 2003.

Paul Bremer spoke yesterday, and Andrew Sullivan has posted a bulleted list of accomplishments in Iraq that have made the quality of life begin to exceed that which was under Saddam's Stalinist terror - life that will only get better each day.

Sullivan remarks "It's simply beyond me how anyone can describe this war as about 'oil' or about 'imperialism' or about 'greed' or 'militarism.'"

It's simply beyond me how opponents of this action can sigh that we should have waited for U.N. action that would never have come, for a passing grade for Saddam from Hans Blix, a political assault shortly afterwards from France et al to end inspections and lift sanctions - spelling the end to the first war between Saddam and the free world, with Saddam as victor. And I don't understand how so-called humanitarians could wait and allow torture chambers and a horrific police state to continue indefinitely. Mass graves may not be on timetables; does that matter? And the silly counter that many more odious regimes exist in the world - and therefore our singling out of Iraq smacks of hypocrisy - falls flat on the challenge of how the United States and her allies choose to act in that regard: do we free them all, one by one, as our forces are able - or do we sit back and do nothing in the name of consistency? Those who would choose the latter are, thankfully, losing the argument as the truth of Iraq before and after the fall of Saddam is told.

FOR MUCH MORE: Visit the Coalition Provisional Authority website.

Michael Ubaldi, October 9, 2003.

An interesting twist to this morning's news: Fox's Molly Henneberg was on camera in Baghdad, reporting the police station blast and assassination of a Spanish military agent. Which of course, left me with a momentarily heavy heart; the loss for Iraqi families and Iraqi civil security, the persistence of forces who would see the country's liberty become a short footnote in its ugly history.

But before signing off, Henneberg qualified her less than celebratory report. "This news is sad, yes," she cautioned (I paraphrase), "but that doesn't reflect the day over here at all. People are going to work, people are going to school, markets are open. It's a normal day in Baghdad, even though these acts occurred."

That was important to include. It's far too easy - and for some media outlets, advantageous - to leave an audience with a bombing in a city that, for most minds, is condensed into a tiny dot on a foldout map. But as Henneberg reminded us, progress towards peace and stability marches on in Iraq.

Michael Ubaldi, October 7, 2003.

The face of Iraq is changing, even on its paper money:

Iraq has unveiled new banknotes with pictures of an ancient Babylonian ruler and a 10th-century Iraqi mathematician in place of the smiling face of Saddam Hussein.

The Babylonian ruler Hammurabi, credited with creating the first written code of laws in human history, graces the pink 25,000 dinar note.

The other side shows a smiling Kurdish farm worker - reflecting Iraq's disparate communities - holding a sheaf of wheat.

Astronomer and mathematician Abu Ali al-Hasan ibn al-Haytham, born in Basra in 965 and known as Alhazen to medieval scholars in the West, is on one side of the 10,000 dinar note, the only other human figure on the new notes.

The Hussein nightmare is being swept away elsewhere. Though the Iraqi people have done a thorough cleaning themselves, the Coalition Provisional Authority is seeing to the removal of Saddam from every street corner, billboard, public building, textbook or anywhere else the deposed dictator's ugly mug might remain.

Both achievements should be kept in mind while the Allies continue to struggle with remnants of the regime and their sympathizers.