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Michael Ubaldi, August 1, 2003.
Let's put this on the shelf next to "Mother of all Battles" and "The forces of evil will carry their coffins on their backs to die in disgraceful failure."
Michael Ubaldi, July 30, 2003.
It's the most effective form of military preventive dentistry:
Four truckloads of weapons and munitions have been seized in raids by Afghan forces targeting suspected Taliban hideouts in eastern Afghanistan.
Also, Saddam's seven-inch singles are stiffing on the charts:
There is a reluctance among Muslims to replicate in Iraq the jihad fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan.
[A]rab governments may think twice about supporting Al-Qaeda, for fear of US punishment.
Michael Ubaldi, July 30, 2003.
Two of the most overused sound bites are "Troop moral is low" and "The Iraqis don't appreciate us." Andrew Sullivan presents letters from troops - one culled from a fascinating weblog - that, while anecdotal, don't seem to be the kind of sentiments one might expect from disgruntled troops in a hostile, postwar country.
Michael Ubaldi, July 30, 2003.
The question in Aujah now is how the family is going to get the bodies [of Uday and Qusay] back "to bury them properly". Someone in Baghdad later told me that proper burial for these two is to dig a hole somewhere in the desert and have the family look for them for years. How can they expect a proper burial for people who have denied it for hundreds of thousands?
Michael Ubaldi, July 28, 2003.
I had the television on for overexcited ambience the other night and Greta van Susteren of Fox News' On the Record was talking with embedded Fox journalist Greg Kelly, a former Marine himself and witness to the Allied trouncing of Saddam Hussein's war machine. Perhaps he'd been hanging around the wrong neighborhoods; maybe the doldrums seeping into the skin of some Third Infantry grunts and officers had begun to affect him. For goodness' sake, he could have coughed up for a flask or four at a Baghdad liquor store fifteen minutes before, and just so happens to be one of those "irritable" drunks.
Whatever haunted him, one aspect of his report was unmistakable: it was absolute, sincere and assured pessimism. His face was putting the proverbial 45-muscle-frown into double overtime; his listless drone and glassy stare like that of an eight-year-old burying his first dog, trowel still in hand. After watching his measured, slightly optimistic coverage in March and April, this only a bit less than completely out of character.
No, he informed Greta when she inquired, the deaths of Uday and Qusay hadn't dispelled the anger (anger!) that remained prevalent among Iraqis everywhere, of all ages. "Anger?" Greta asked. Anger, repeated Kelly, who went on to complete a picture of an ungrateful, bitter, dispossessed, misunderstanding Iraq where one would expect to see children attacking Allied troops in swarms and deformed, bruised men organizing violent protests to be allowed back into Qusay's finest secret police headquarters, strapping the private-part-electrodes back on themselves.
Well, not quite. But the man was emphatic; he had clearly been disillusioned. And, I fear, powerfully.
My first reaction, however, was to view his fallen spirits as isolated and incorrect. He seemed to be unaware of the typical nature of 20th-Century, American postwar occupation - myriad tiny mistakes and oversights, occasionally poor communication from occupier and the occupied, shifting tactics based on rapid changes in any given situation and other challenges that succeed in daily challenging the foundation of even the most self-confident occupation authority. Kelley was also missing all the triumphs of an otherwise steady stabilization, even in spite of continuing resistance from an honorless enemy.
The Wall Street Journal's Paul Gigot was in Iraq, too. His article on the trip, balanced by reasoned criticism of the Bush administration and considerations of adversity, is nevertheless a vastly different and nearly totally opposite impression:
[The] chairs [of the Shiite-composed, Najaf city council] are arrayed in a circle to hear from Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, who invites questions. The first man to speak wants to know two things: There's a U.S. election next year, and if President Bush loses will the Americans go home? And second, are you secretly holding Saddam Hussein in custody as a way to intimidate us with the fear that he might return? Mr. Wolfowitz replies no to both points, with more conviction on the second than the first. But the question reveals the complicated anxiety of the post-Saddam Iraqi mind.
The inhumane reversal of Saddam's domestic priorities goes much further:
The degradation of this oil-rich country is astonishing to behold. Like the Soviets, the dictator put more than a third of his GDP into his military--and his own palaces. "The scale of military infrastructure here is staggering," says Maj. Gen. David Petraeus of the 101st Airborne. His troops found one new Iraqi base that is large enough to hold his entire 18,500-man division.
Iraq's mental scars are even deeper. Nearly every Iraqi can tell a story about some Baath Party depredation. The dean of the new police academy in Baghdad spent a year in jail because his best friend turned him in when he'd said privately that "Saddam is no good." A "torture tree" behind that same academy contains the eerie indentations from rope marks where victims were tied. The new governor of Basra, a judge, was jailed for refusing to ignore corruption. Basra's white-and-blue secret police headquarters is called "the white lion," because Iraqis say it ate everyone who went inside.
The U.S. media have focused on grumbling troops who want to go home, especially the Third Infantry Division near Baghdad. And having been in the region for some 260 days, the Third ID deserves a break. But among the troops I saw, morale remains remarkably high. To a soldier, they say the Iraqis want us here. They also explain their mission in a way that the American pundit class could stand to hear.
Michael Ubaldi, July 28, 2003.
Glenn Reynolds posted a reader's fiskette on an MSNBC story about Uday (yes, after deliberation, I've decided to stick with a "y" at the end) Hussein's home video collection. As only could be expected with a member of one of the most horrific dynasties from the last century, Uday's exploits are at once totally unsurprising and yet utterly and discomfitingly mad:
One of the most memorable tapes [probably a difficult task for the judges' panel, -ed.] is of a birthday celebration. When the drunken Uday becomes bored with sullen dancing girls, he pulls out a machine gun and starts shooting in the air in time with the beat from the band. When that palls, he fires at champagne bottles with his pistol and orders one of his flunkies to throw beer bottles in the air for him to shoot at with an assault rifle. For fun, he aims a few rounds over the heads of his guests, some of whom throw themselves on the ground in terror, only to arise laughing and clapping at the prank, and, no doubt, in relief at still being alive. Uday then finishes off the party by shooting directly over the heads of the band members, who amazingly, keep playing. The keyboard player crouches behind his instrument, still pounding the keys, as Uday shoots up the HAPPY BIRTHDAY sign hung at head level across the stage. When he runs out of bullets, Uday shakes hands with the frightened singer, and just to show he’s a good sport, tells the keyboard player: “See all those holes? All those bullets could be in your belly.” Then he laughs.
Michael Ubaldi, July 27, 2003.
When you have a man like Mark Steyn on your side, you know immediately that your detractors lack wit, insight and common sense:
[A]nti-Americanism is the New Universal Theory: It explains everything; it's the prism through which every event is viewed. But it's an unlikely strategy for American electioneering. One anti-Bush Democrat at a protest the other day carried a sign reading ''FRANCE WAS RIGHT!'' That's not a winning slogan, even in Vermont.
It's telling of the Democrats' choice for appeal to the American public to deify a dictator whose complete deposition - from free will of life as well as seat of power - is only a matter of time.
Michael Ubaldi, July 26, 2003.
Another complaint with American facilitation of the Hussein brother's death and presentation has emerged: "Naked bodies of Uday and Qusay should never have been shown by the U.S. It gives them a bad reputation in the Islamic world." If I may, self-righteous Islamic world: spare me. Please, spare me. The bundle of nations still identifying themselves as Muslim, with all remaining due respect, have a fantastically terrible reputation all by themselves - one of failed kingdoms, misguided angry young men, tumult, joblessness, cultural backwardness, mindless Jew-hatred, and chief exports of despot's oil and madman's terror. To put it bluntly: if the Islamic world's claim on moral and ethical authority were a service-wait note on a slow day at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, they'd be number 875,351.
I don't believe I've ever heard such condemnation directed at Palestinians, who routinely parade bullet-ridden, dead bodies on main streets with flailing histrionics. That is, when they're not faking a funeral procession.
And it seems certain to me that if American command did not present the bodies in an indiscriminate, diffuse fashion, the Islamic world would instead accuse our leaders of fearing the confutation of counterfeit bodies - or else accusing the "puppet" governing council of repeating the lies of their "American masters."
As before: only two days have passed since the rupture of Hussein's line of ascension and American public display of the dead. Even so, the Near East still has quite a need for maturation.
UPDATE: Charles Johnson took this report and mashed it like a clay bowl before whipping it into a blast furnace.
Michael Ubaldi, July 25, 2003.
As to the testimony of Udai's bodyguard - perhaps more evidence supporting Saddam's survival, especially if it can be corroborated? If we capture the devil, I'd be more than happy to have been incorrect in my theorizing - all the more reason to consider Hussein a terrible military leader.
UPDATE: Allied forces just captured what they believe to be Saddam's personal security detail. We may be staring at the truth of the matter within days or hours.
Michael Ubaldi, July 25, 2003.
Should I have been surprised that television news media - liberal or conservative - would begin this morning crooning a sonnet to impatience, decrying the fact that between sixteen and twenty hours seems to not have been enough time to catheterize from every last Iraqi his shock, doubt or ingrained fear of Qusai and Udai, whose father's historical insuperability won him the nickname of "The Vampire"? Amazingly, some commentators' complaints practically share the same sentence as reports identifying major Iraqi newspapers as without time to even carry the image in yesterday's editions - let alone the fact that some portions of the country may not even have received word.
"Nearsighted" is too complimentarily academic for this; "silly" and "foolish" are more apt. In addition to the unrealistic expectation of countrywide, societal events to complete themselves on a single daily news cycle, a variety of illogical cynics' counterpoints have popped up within a short time in an attempt to grapple with the painfully obvious.
The brothers had reconstructive surgery. The Cossack beards weren't enough? This seems far more like urban myth irresponsibly repeated by news personalities. Minor cosmetic surgery requires less than a month to heal - but by whom under a shattered Ba'athist rule, and if so, to what end as far as witnesses are concerned? The faces of the bodies look like men as if they'd received, by the disfigurement of injury and the bloat of death, a grim cosmetic alteration from the Allies themselves. Still, the likeness is there. At my amateur's glance, Qusai's profile and Udai's characteristically stubbly hairline are both matches. A forensic expert, if called upon, could easily correlate more features, accounting for pathological disformation.
The United States is hypocritical to broadcast photos of the dead when it chastised al Jazeera for airing tapes of American dead in March. I'm a legal layman, but one only needs to spend a few minutes sorting out the facts separating the two circumstances. Laymen need not be careless or, by vocally accusing the administration of a double-standard, idiotic. Al Jazeera, as some media voices have conveniently forgotten, accepted Iraqi footage of soldiers after being taken as prisoners of war, while under interrogation, and then, presumably, after subsequent (and illegal) execution - clear violations of the Geneva Convention, which is what the United States objected to. Udai and Qusai, as Eugene Volokh has deftly examined, are quite arguably understood between common rules of war and American executive order as enemy combatants. These enemy combatants, of course, resisted capture and fought against uniformed soldiers until death - they were never POWs. The public display of killed enemy combatants, to the best of my knowledge, does in no way violate any international treaty. Shorthand? Two completely different situations. Furthermore, the justification for Allied release of post-mortem photography is quite substantial: with presumably hundreds of bodies of Iraqi fighters accumulated in the weeks of fighting, only Udai and Qusai's bodies have been publicized (whereas the Ba'athists trumpeted every last killing they could), the evidence of the death of these two men vital to completing societal restoration in Iraq.
Udai and Qusai would have been of more use to the Allies alive than dead: This is purely speculative and not worth much in factual argumentation, introducing a bit of wishful thinking into the reality of how helpful any hardened Ba'athist would be to authorities, let alone the second and third most powerful. Nothing we have learned from the Pentagon or the military over the past three months indicates any pattern of capitulatory success with high-ranking regime officials. But this sidesteps what actually happened: the 101st was attacked by the brothers, who left no option but combative defeat. Only time-travel and daydream second-guessing can manage any further pursuit of alternative outcomes. This a line of reasoning makes for contrarian politics and little else.
Like any man who hopes to remain both patient and sane, I'll wait for the Husseins' elimination to settle. Weeks will be necessary to observe any noticeable change in behavior from Ba'athist holdouts and acceptance from law-abiding Iraqis. In the meantime, use this and other reasoned cautionaries you find among blogs to ward off emotional panic instigated by the media.
And stay away from daytime cable television news. Lord, to what lengths they must go to fill the hours.
UPDATE: No, the Hussein boys weren't coming out alive. Jonathan Foreman elucidates us on both the situation and its expert handling by American troops:
Whether the deaths of Uday and Qusay Hussein were self-inflicted or not, the military operation to capture them was immaculate. There were no American deaths, 10 minutes of warnings were given over loudspeakers, and it was the Iraqis who opened fire. So sensitive was the American approach, they even rang the bell of the house before entering.
Read the article - it's tonic to a good soul peturbed by relentless, faithless attacks on American integrity and intentions (From Instapundit).