Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A Super Bowl Match-Up I'd LIke to See

Colts versus Giants. Manning versus Manning. And Eli as the winning QB and game MVP.


Over the next couple of months, there will be extended discussions of COPE INDIA, the annual exercise between the U.S Air Force and its Indian counterpart.

COPE INDIA began in 2004, with mock dogfights between USAF F-15 EAGLES and Indian Air Force SU-27 FLANKERs. The results of COPE INDIA were surprising, not because the FLANKERs and their air-to-air missiles provded to be technically advanced (we already knew that), but because the Indian pilots proved to be more tactically advanced than we had originally assessed. Indian FLANKER pilots effectively employed their aircraft against the F-15s, proving more than a match for their American counterparts.

I haven't seen any official reports on the latest COPE INDIA exercise, which pitted Indian FLANKERs against U.S. F-16CJs from Misawa AB, Japan. According to a recent article in the Christian Science Monitor, some Indian sources are claiming they gained the upper hand, while others are making more guarded assessments.

The Monitor article is disappointing in a couple of respects. First, it bases much of its assessment on comments from military chatrooms and bulletin boards, which may (or may not) be accurate. Secondly, some of article's observations should be placed in a more accurate context. For example, Monitor reporter Scott Baldauf notes that U.S. fighter prowress is slipping, based on the results of COPE INDIA, and the introduction of newer Russian and French aircraft, with technical capabilities similar to our F-15s and F-16s.

It's worth noting that the American fighters now being "matched" by other countries were first introduced in the 1970s, and the versions that flew in COPE INDIA are almost 20 years old. In other words, foreign designers are just now matching U.S. technology that appeared decades ago. Additionally, Mr. Baldauf fails to note that the U.S. has significantly raised the bar for fighter technology, with the introduction of the F/A-22 Raptor. The F/A-22 has never appeared at COPE INDIA and likely never will, given the advanced (and sensitive) technology associated with that airframe. With its advanced stealth capabilities, the Raptor can acquire, engage and destroy other aircraft without being detected. That's a tremendous capability, one that no other Air Force can match.

It is also dangerous to translate the Indian example to other nations that operate the SU-27. The Indian Air Force is one of only a handful of third-world air forces that can fully exploit the capabilities of an advanced fighter. China may have 400 FLANKERs, but its tactics are well behind those of the U.S., most NATO air forces, Japan, South Korea, India, and Singapore, just to name a few. Flying a SU-27 like an older MiG-23 FLOGGER or MiG-21 FISHBED makes no tactical sense, but the tactics of many FLANKER operators are antiquated, to say the least.

The Indians deserve credit for developing the tactics and training programs required to fully employ their advanced aircraft. But describing COPE INDIA as an Indian Air Force rout is premature at best, and a likely exaggeration of what actually transpired. The exercise provided valuable training for both sides, and for U.S. pilots , exposure to aircraft and missiles they may see in combat in the near future. Flying against those threats--in the hands of skilled IAF pilots--makes COPE INDIA a valuable exercise, indeed.

Unfinished Business

The Beltway Set spent most of 2005 fixated on the Valerie Plame affair, and the question of whether White House aides broke the law by divulging her status as a CIA operative.

While Vice Presidential Chief of Staff Scooter Libby was indicted for perjury and lying to federal investigators, there were no charges on the original complaint, that Libby had willingly disclosed the name of an undercover intelligence operative.

While the Plame affair apparently didn't meet the test for an actual "leak" of classified information, there are dozens of referrals still in the criminal justice system, based on the reported disclosure of classified information. As Betsy Newmark reminds us, three Democratic members of the Senate Intelligence Committee--Senators Jay Rockefeller, Dick Durbin and Ron Wyden--are under investigation for their comments about a reported covert spy satellite system. The inquiry began more than a year ago, but there have been no public statements on the status of the investigation. And, as Betsy notes, why are these men still sitting on the committee, with unfettered access to the nation's most sensitive intelligence secrets. Jed Babbin expressed similar concerns almost a year ago.

Readers of this blog know that we've been on the Wyden case for some time. Remarkably, the continued his public comments on the purported spy satellite system in mid-February 2005, after the matter had been referred for criminal investigation.

Wyden's hubris suggests he has little fear that the referral will result in an indictment. His confidence is hardly mis-placed. To date, no U.S. lawmaker has even been indicted for deliberately leaking classified information. Even Vermont's notorious Patrick "Leaky" Leahy received only a slap on the wrist for repeatedly divulging classified data during his tenure on the intelligence committee in the 1980s. As punishment, Leahy was forced to resign from the committee. Had Leahy been a military member or civilian intelligence specialist, his crime would have resulted in a prison sentence.

And, BTW, the list of Congressional leakers isn't limited to Democrats. Another investigation was launched several years ago into Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), after he disclosed that U.S. intelligence could monitor Osama bin Laden's cell phone. Shelby's comments eliminated a valuable source of intelligence information that could have been used in preventing future terrorist attacks. But like the Wyden/Durbin/Rockefeller inquiry, the Shelby referral remains in legal limbo.

At Alberto Gonzalzes's next press conference, an enterprising reporter ought to ask the attorney general about the status of these referrrals, and the apparent lack of progress. If we're serious about protecting our intelligence secrets, we should demand the same standards of protection and accountability from everyone with access to that information. But sadly, that won't happen. The same lawmakers who pass intel secrets to their friends in the press are the same Congressmen and Senators who vote for military and intelligence appropriations bills. Indicting a few Senators might make it tough to secure future budget increases, so the leaks will continue, and the Justice Department will pay only lip service to the notion of accountability.

Finding a Dark Lining in a Silver Cloud

You've got to love The New York Times, and their eternal search for dark lining in every silver cloud when a Republican is in the White House.

Consider today's front-page article on state of the U.S. econonmy. The Times admits (reluctantly) that the economy is booming, despite the impact of two devastating hurricanes and a late-summer spike in energy prices. Times reporter Vikas Bajaj notes that gasoline prices are now lower than when Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast three months ago. October figures for new home sales were very strong, and consumer confidence is up as well. Hard to argue against those indicators, unless (of course) you're The New York Times.

Bajaj and his editors begin raising their eyebrows in paragraph three, observing that, when it comes to the U.S. economy, "it's not quite that simple." Over the rest of the story, they caution that the overall economic picture remains far from robust, fretting about additional interest rate hikes from the fed, a possible housing slowdown, and potentially sluggish job growth. They're also concerned about a possible alien invasion from Mars.

Sorry, I made that last one up. But if there were the slightest possibility of exterresterial attack, I'm sure the Times would include that in their list of potential economic spoilers. Downplaying the remarkable resilience of the U.S. economy, the Times sees potential doom and gloom on the horizon, forecasting a potential slowdown in the latter half of 2006. Can the Democratic TV ads, touting "the worst economy in 50 years," be far behind?

Monday, November 28, 2005

A Tarnished Legacy

California Representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham resigned from Congress this afternoon, after pleading guity to accepting more than $2 million in bribes from a defense contractor and other conspirators.

An eight-term Republican who represented a suburban San Diego district, Cunningham is also a retired Navy Commander and a legend in military aviation circles. On 10 May 1972, then-Lieutenant Cunningham and his Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) Lieutenant (jg) Willie Driscoll, shot down three North Vietnames MiGs in a single day, giving them five kills and making them the first American aces of the Vietnam War.

Flying from the USS Constellation, Cunningham and Driscoll were part of a flight of four Navy F-4 Phantoms, flying a flak suppression mission over North Vietnam. After dropping their bombs on a warehouse complex, the Phantoms were engaged by a score of enemy MiG-17 Frescoes. Though smaller than the F-4, the MiG-17 was more maneuverable, especially at slow speeds, an advantage North Vietnamese pilots often used in dogfights against U.S. Phantoms.

After quickly destroying two MiG-17s, Cunningham and Driscoll found themselves in a classic engagement against a highly proficient North Vietnamese pilot. While many dogfights were over in seconds, Cunningham's third engagement of the day dragged on for several minutes, as the opponents gained and lost tactical advantage.

Finally, the MiG-17 pilot made a fatal mistake, and Cunningham and Driscoll dispatched him with an AIM-7 SPARROW air-to-air missile. Ironically, the two men almost didn't survive the mission; enroute back to the Constellation, they were shot down by a North Vietnamese SAM and forced to eject. They were pulled from the waterby a rescue helicopter just moments before enemy PT boats arrived on the scene.

Duke Cunningham retired from the Navy in 1987, was elected to Congress in 1990, and easily re-elected for seven additional terms. As a navy hero in a Navy town, he could have been Congressman for life, and (possibly) a candidate for statewide office in California. But somewhere along the way, Cunningham apparently succumbed to greed, selling his home to a defense contractor for an over-inflated price, and accepting other bribes as well. He is now facing time in a federal prison, and (with a felony conviction), the likely loss of his Navy pension as well.

The fall of Duke Cunningham represents a sad end and a tarnished legacy for a man who served his country so courageously. It is also a reminder that no man is above the law, even one who once soared so valiantly in the skies over North Vietnam.

The Most Ridiculous Items of the Day

From California, there's word that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has agreed to hear the clemency appeal of convicted murderer (and Crips gang founder) Stanley, "Tookie" Williams. Entertaining Williams's appeal is bad enough; to my knowledge, the gang leader has never formally apologized for the murders who landed him on death row, and his organization remains a viable (and vicious) criminal enterprise. Making matters worse, Schwarzenegger reportedly based his decision (in part) on the lobbying efforts of rapper Snoop Dogg.

Not to be outdone, fellow rapper 50 Cent has conveyed high praise for President Bush, saying that the Commander-in-Chief is "incredible....a gangsta." 50 Cent also expressed an interest in meeting Mr. Bush to tell him "how much of me I see in him." The rap star also said he would have voted for Bush in the 2004, but his past convictions on felony charges prevented that.

Is the GOP making inroads with the hip-hop/gangsta rap set? I definitely see Karl Rove's hand in all of this, as a way of ensuring a Republican majority for decades to come. As the GOP tries to widen its hip-hop appeal, look for President Bush to affect a "doo rag" on his next long-distance bike ride, and the appearance of spinner rims on the Presidential limo. Word!

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

The "Summer of Cindy" is apparently morphing into a Winter of Discontent for the nation's most famous anti-war activist. Fresh from her recent appearance at the National Press Club (where less tha a dozen journalists showed up), Ms. Sheehan launched her book tour in Crawford, Texas over the weekend. Once again, the response was underwhelming.

There is something satisifying--and utterly predictable--about the image of Ms. Sheehan, sitting at that table, waiting for adoring fans and fellow moonbats who never showed up. As we predicted in this blog a few months back, the liberal left would toss Ms. Sheehan over side once they found another icon or issue that seemed to resonate better with the moonbat brigade.

Check your watch, Cindy. Your 15 minutes of fame ended about eight weeks ago. Her celebrity waning, Ms. Sheehan is now left to mourn her son outside the media spotlight she so craves, and without the support of her family, which renounced her actions long ago.

The X-Files, Part II

When a flashing "X" appeared over Vice-President Cheney's face on CNN last week, the network quickly dismissed it as a technical error. Like many in the blogosphere, I had my doubts and encouraged CNN to conduct an outside inquiry.

At the risk of patting myself on the back, that suggestion now looks like sage advice. Matt Drudge is now reporting that a CNN switchboard operator in the network's Washington bureau was fired for defending the X as "free speech." The operator made the comments in a conversation with a viewer, who called to complain about the X.

CNN has apologized publicly (again), and is attempting to reach the caller to convey their regrets. But this episode still smells fishy, for a couple of reasons. First of all, switchboard operators and receptionists don't sit anywhere near the control room, and (ordinarily) have no knowledge of what's going on in there, other than what they see on the monitor in the lobby. How would the receptionist have known that the technical director (who punches up the images that appear on the air) was exercising "free speech," unless someone from the control room tipped her off that "something would happen" during the Cheney speech.

The other puzzling aspect is CNN's decision to let an operator offer his/her opinion on a controversial development. While switchboard operators handle hundreds of calls a day, most organizations--including TV networks--have protocols in place for handling controversial subjects. Operators are (typically) instructed to listen patiently, express empathy and never argue with an irate caller. In other cases, calls will be referred to the public relations department, for handling by a media professional.

Admittedly, being a switchboard operator is sometimes a tough job, and being polite to all callers is sometimes easier said than done. But judging from CNN's official statement, it's sclear the operator deviated from official policies, and seemed to have an unusual awareness of why the X appeared on the screen. Based on this latest development, we still haven't heard the last from CNN's "X-Files" and the network would be well-served to launch an outside probe, to prove that the X was, in fact, a computer glitch, and determine why their operator seemed aware of a budding free speech movement in the control room.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Hell on Earth

As the U.S. tries to finalize an agreement on North Korea's nuclear program, there is a grim reminder that we need to engage the DPRK on other matters as well.

A former North Korean political prisoner--his identity disguised to protect relatives still living in the DPRK--held a press conference on Tuesday, describing his horrific stay in Kim Jong-Il's infamous Yodok Prison Camp. He said that prisoners in the camp received a starvation ration of 21 ounces of food a day, and that many died of disease and malnutrition. The former prisoner said the deaths of their fellow inmates went unmourned, because their passing meant more rations for the survivors. He also recalled that a former defector was beaten to death at Yodok for contacting Christian representatives during a brief stay in China.

According to State Department estimates, as many as 200,000 prisoners languish in the North Korean gulag. But there is comparatively little outcry from human rights organizations. Go to the Amnesty International webpage, and you'll see a headline touting their recent conference for former detainees in the War on Terror. By comparison, their page on North Korea is little more than a recitation of past diplomatic and media reporting on human rights abuses in the DPRK.

While the abuse of prisoners should never be condoned, comparisons between the War on Terror to Kim Jong-Il's prison camps are instructive. By most estimates, about 100 detainees have died in captivity during the War on Terror (out of 85,000 taken prisoner), while thousands have perished in the North Korean gulag. But Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are (apparently) far more concerned about alleged torture of suspected terrorists than the systematic extermination of North Korean prisoners. Do a Google search for "human rights abuses in North Korea" and you'll get about 4,920,000 matches. But do a search on Abu Ghraib, and you'll get 6,200,000 matches.

But the indifference doesn't end there. The Clinton Administration went to war against Serbia for (among other reasons) the abuse of Muslims, Croats and other minorities by Belgrade's military forces. A recent report indicates that as many as 100,000 people died in ethnic fighting in the Balkans between 1992-95, providing a catalyst for the eventual air war against Serbia. While that death toll seems staggering, it represents only a fraction of those who have perished in North Korean prison camps. World outrage compelled military action against Belgrade, but there have been no calls for a campaign to liberate North Korea, and end human suffering. Pyongyang's nuclear arsenal--and the threat of another Korean War--limit our "official" response to diplomatic notes and sharply-worded statements.

Still, such indifference to human suffering Kim's gulags isn't surprising. For years, Soviet propagandists and their allies in the west downplayed the murderous impact of Stalin's pogroms, which resulted in the murder of millions of Ukranians, Kulaks and others. The gulag network--and its atrocities--continued after Stalin's death, but western demands for human rights reform never galvanized until the publication of Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago in the early 1970s.

Someday, perhaps, a Korean Solzhenitsyn will emerge from Kim Jong-Ils gulags and give voice to the thousands who have suffered and died in a literal hell on earth. Their plight reminds us that there can never be lasting peace in Northeast Asia until Kim and his brutal regime have been eradicated, once and for all.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

How to Shoot Down an F-117

Jim Dunnigan at Strategy Page has an interesting item on the Serb air defense commander who shot down a U.S. F-117 during Operation Allied Force. As he notes, the initiative of an individual commander, coupled with the right tactics, came sometimes overcome an opponent's technological superiority.

Fortunately, we uncovered many of the Serb tactics in the military's post-mortem on Allied Force, and we've developed counter-measures to deal with them. In hindsight, Serb air defense commanders enjoyed tactical success by simply taking advantage of U.S./NATO arrogance and predictability. Many of our strike packages bound for Serbia took off at the same time each night and followed similar routes into the target areas. That made it easy for the Serbs to establish non-traditional warning networks (such as spotters with cell phones), who monitored traffic from our bases in Italy, and relayed that information back to Belgrade.

Armed with that information, surface-to-air missile (SAM) commanders (including Colonel Zoltan) could determine when NATO aircraft would arrive overhead, and even predict their navigational headings. That allowed Serb air defense crews to set up effective ambush points along expected NATO flight routes, while minimizing their exposure to coalition air defense suppression efforts, including anti-radiation missiles that targeted SAM radars.

From an airpower perspective, a lot of this is old news, but it does offer a reminder. In the hands of a determined commander, even older SAM systems like the SA-3 pose a potential threat to U.S. air operations. Luckily for us, most SAM operators aren't as dedicated (or tactically proficient) as Colonel Zoltan.

CSI: Mosul

While some U.S. officials are downplaying the possibility that terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed over the weekend, that possibility hasn't been ruled out. It appears that Army forensic experts have been busy scraping body fragments from that house in Mosul (where sevreal terrorists blew themselves up), collecting DNA for comparison with Zarqawi family members in Jordan. You may recall that the Zarqawi family officially "disowned" their most infamous member after ther recent homicide bombings in Jordan. If Zarqawi is, in fact, among the dead, I'm guessing that there won't be much sorrow among his relatives.

It will probably take several weeks to complete DNA testing, but confirmation of Zarqawi's demise would be a nice Christmas present in the War on Terror. BTW, you can expect the release of at least one audio tape in the coming days, proclaiming that Zarqawi is alive and well. That would cast doubts over any coalition claim that Zarqawi had died, and inspire his followers to fight on.

The X Files

CNN has reportedly launched an internal inquiry into how a flashing "X" appeared over Vice President Cheney's face during a televised speech at the American Enterprise Institute on Monday. The X appeared only on CNN, and clearly originated in the network's control room

Drudge has been on this story from the start. According to his latest dispatch, CNN is blaming the problem on a computer bug that the network has been unable to replicate.

Was it a technical glitch? Michelle Malkin has a lengthy e-mail from a TV director in Los Angeles who seems convinced that it was unintentional. Others have their doubts.

Years ago, The Former Spook was a media type, and I've spent a little time in front of a switcher, the device that allows a TV station or network to decide what goes out over the air, and a character generator, which inserts graphics and text onto the screen. But the character generators and switchers I worked on are crude by today's computerized models. Based on my own, limited experiences, I can't say whether the "X" was a glitch, or deliberate.

However, there is another way to get to the bottom of this. Someone needs to ask CNN what type of switcher and character generators were in use at the time of the incident, then ask the engineers at those firms to replicate the "X" (if possible). I'm sure the technical experts at Chyron (the leading producer of character generators), and Grass Valley, the industry leader in switching technology, would be happy to conduct the experiment. And, while CNN sorts through this problem, perhaps they'd like to hear a sales pitch for this Grass Valley system, which is designed to reduce technical errors.

If I were a Grass Valley sales rep, I'd give Jon Klein a call.


During CNN"s 11:00 am EST hour, the network offered a more detailed explanation of the glitch, with anchor Daryn Kagan quizzing a CNN technical manager in the network's Atlanta control room. He likened the problem to a computer lock-up that could be resolved only through rebooting the system. He said that CNN will reboot the switcher periodically, to prevent the glitch from happening again.

I would still prefer an independent analysis and explanation from the switcher manufacturer. While CNN's explanation is plausible, it should also be noted that today's broadcast switchers are extremely reliable, and I'm not aware of similar problems at other networks or stations using the same equipment. Given that reality--and the obvious hostility of the MSM towards the Bush Administration--CNN would be well-served to seek an outside opinion.

More Time for Diplomacy

From Vienna comes the disturbing news that the U.S. and its European allies have decided against referring Iran (and its nuclear development program) to the U.N. Security Council, at least for now.

According to the Associated Press, the decision is intended to give Russia more time for diplomatic efforts, aimed at getting Tehran to abandon its efforts to build nuclear weapons. Under the a Moscow-backed proposal, Iran's uranium enrichment program would be moved to Russia, theoretically denying Tehran the opportunity to develop weapons-grade nuclear material.

There are obvious problems with this concept. First, there's no guarantee that uranium enriched in Russia couldn't find its way back to Iran, and into a weapons program. Secondly, the proposal has no mechanism for dealing with a covert Iranian enrichment program that could be easily concealed, while the "official" enrichment efforts are staged in Russia. And finally, there appears to be nothing to prevent Iran from pursuing other options for developing a bomb, namely the production of plutonium through its heavy-water facility near Khondab.

Why would the U.S. agree to such a proposal? At this point, we have little choice. With the on-going conflict in Iraq, military force isn't a viable option. Additionally, any referral to the Security Council would require the backing of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board, which has no enthusiasm for such action. That leaves the U.S. with no real alternative but to support Russian diplomacy (at least for now), while trying to build a consensus within the IAEA. Don't hold your breath.

Meanwhile, Iranian opposition leaders--who have provided accurate information on Tehran's nuclear activities in the past--are now reporting that Iran is expanding a network of underground tunnels, which may be used to hide medium-range missiles, or other weapons-related functions. According to one opposition source, some of the tunnels are located in the Parchin area, a region long associated with the Iranian missile program.

I've heard similar reports about suspicious tunnels, including one adjacent to the Iranian nuclear complex at Esfahan. The Iranians have claimed the Esfahan tunnel is designed for storage, but most experts--including the U.N.--have their doubts. Given its large size, the Esfahan complex could be used for missile or weapons storage, or provide concealment and protection for weapons production activities.

Iran's work on these tunnels suggests a country intent on producing nuclear weapons. That's why the Russian diplomatic effort is almost certain to fail, and a big reason that Iran's nuclear program will wind up in the security council in the not-too-distant future. Unfortunately, the odds of the U.N. dealing effectively with the problem are equally dim.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Idiot of the Day Returns

It's been a while, and an alert reader noticed that I haven't passed out any "Idiot of the Day" awards in some time. I certainly didn't forget about the awards, and there hasn't been a shortage of potential recipients. Between the MSM and Democratic politicians, there is a veritable cornucopia of possibly candidates. However, the blog has been focused on other matters, leaving the idiots to their own devices. Until now.

MSNBC talk show host Chris Matthews has managed to end the idiot award drought, thanks to his recent comments in Toronto. Speaking to political science students in that city, Matthews opined that most Americans have still not learned to know their enemies, instead of just hating them. "If we stop trying to figure out the other side, we've given up," he observed. "The person on the other side is not evil, they just have a different perspective."

Let me get this straight. Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaida killers really aren't terrorists, they just have a different point of view. And maybe if we try to understand their perspective, we can all live together in peace and harmony. Riiighttt......

Matthews also recited the tired Democratic talking point that President Bush squandered a chance to "bring the world together" in the fight against terrorism by invading Iraq. Never mid that 30+ countries joined the coalition anyway. Or, that many of the nations that opposed the war were either (a) vehemently anti-American (think Cuba or North Korea); (b) spineless and unwilling to face the task at hand (Germany), or (c) already in Saddam's pocket (hellooo France).

It is easy to dismiss Matthews's global "analysis" as the half-witted musings of a former Democratic party hack who acquired his world view at the knee of Tip O
Neil. But, regrettably, Mr. Matthews has a national stage for his views, in the form of his low-rated talk show. That's why his comments deserve the appropriate level of ridicule and derision, since they have no basis in fact.

One final thought: if the U.S. made no effort to "understand" its enemies, then we would use the same strategy pursued by the former Soviet Union in its invasion of Afghanistan. As you'll recall, the Soviets carpet-bombed large swaths of Afghan territory and tried to terrorize civilians, in an effort to defeat the mujahedin. The strategy was a complete failure.

Instead of using overwhelming firepower, the U.S. has deliberately placed soliders in harm's way, in order to minimize civilian casualties. We've also spent millions on nation-building programs, designed to create democratic institutions and bring millions of Afghans and Iraqis into the political process. Military and political leaders far brighter than Mr. Matthews understand that Islamofacists can't be defeated through "understanding." They must be defeated militarily, politically, economically and educationally, and that's why we're pursuing those options in Iraq and Afghanistan. By comparsion, the "accomodation" policies that Matthews seems to support are little more than a variation on the "peace through surrender" option now in vogue with the American left.

For his Chamberlainesqe approach to the War on Terror, Chris Matthews is our latest recipient of the Idiot of the Day Award.

How to Lose a War

Ralph Peters made his reputation as one of the most original thinkers in the U.S. Army. Predictably, some of his ideas aggravated the brass, so he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel. Today, Peters is an author and a military analyst for the New York Post. In a column published today,Peters looks at the Democrats "surrender" strategy and its deadly consequences.

Meanwhile, Professor Mac Owens of the Naval War College has a stinging rebuke to Congressman Jack Murtha's calls for an immediate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. Like Murtha, Owens is a former Marine infantry commander in Vietnam. However, when Professor Owens looks at Iraq, he sees progress being made, while Jack Murtha can only find quagmire. Read Owens's column and decide who's right.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

This Week's Whopper...

...And courtesy of the Washington Post, not Burger King. According to the WaPo, two former detainees claim that U.S. troops used wild beasts as part of a process of torture and degredation.

The Post bases its story on the accounts of two former Iraqi detainees, held by American forces for several months in 2003. As Austin Higgins at A Certain Slant of Light notes, the story contains all the required elements from Democratic talking points on the alleged mistreatment of detainees: torture, Abu Ghraib, and the ACLU, which has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the former detainees.

Two Iraqi men who were arrested in Iraq in 2003 but never charged with crimes say that U.S. troops put them in a cage with lions, pretended to execute them in a firing line and humiliated them during interrogations at multiple detention facilities.

Sherzad Khalid, 35, and Thahe Sabber, 37, say they were brutally beaten over several months at U.S. facilities such as Camp Bucca, Abu Ghraib prison and another detention facility at the Baghdad airport. They said the abuse occurred when they were unable to tell U.S. troops where Saddam Hussein was hiding and did not know about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

"That was a terrifying period for me," Khalid said through an interpreter yesterday, slowly recounting being shoved into a lion's cage at one of the presidential palaces in Baghdad three times before soldiers lined him up for a mock execution. "I was wondering if it could be real that the American army would act this way."

Higgins points out some obvious problems with these claims, but here's another one. According to at least one account, surviving wild animals from the Hussein family's personal collections were moved to the Baghdad Zoo in April 2003, shortly after the fall of Baghdad, and (presumably) before the capture and alleged torture of Khalid and Sabber.

You would think that the Post would have their Baghdad reporter check these claims against the arrival of wild animals from the palaces of Saddam and his sons. But why let the facts get in the way of a story that resurrects one of the MSM's favorite topics (Abu Ghraib), and tars the military in the process. BTW, ABC's Nightline is also planning a segment on these claims. I rather doubt they'll bother to compare the dates of Khalid and Sabber's internment with the evacuation of wild animals from Hussein's former palaces.

Eye in the Sky

According to the AP, Iran now has its first spy satellite. Officially, the Sina-1 satellite was supposedly designed for peaceful purposes. But only a month after it was launched--and weeks after Iran's president said Israel should be wiped off the map--the head of Tehran's space program said Sina-1 is capable of spying on the Jewish state.

As an intelligence platform, Sina-1's capabilities are modest at best. It has a resolution of about 50 yards, meaning it can't distinguish objects less than 150 feet in diameter. Given its poor resolution, Sina-1 would be of little use in spotting Israeli missile deployments, activity at nuclear facilities, or other key strategic indicators. But the launch confirms Tehran's desire to fully develop its WMD capabilities. As we've pointed out before, it takes more than just the weapons to develop a true WMD employment capability. You also need a suitable delivery platform (in this case, the Shahab-3 family of medium-range missiles, capable of hitting Israel), and access to geospatial information on potential targets, including satellite imagery. Iran already has access to some imagery from foreign platforms, but development of an indigenous system will provide a supplemental source of information, and offers a hedge against the potential loss of external sources.

With technical assistance from other countries (such as Russia, which launched Sina-1 into orbit), Iran should be able to achieve significant improvements in resolution in the coming years. Tehran is a long way from matching Israel's spy satellites (which boast excellent resolution and multi-spectral capabilities), but further upgrades will improve Iran's ability to effectively employ its missiles, tipped with chemical, biological--and eventually--nuclear warheads.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Debunking (Another) Liberal Myth

You've heard it countless times before, in newspaper editorials and on Sunday morning TV talk shows: the poor and uneducated are over- represented in the U.S. miltary, and have suffered most of the casualties in Iraq. You might have also noticed that liberal pundits never offer any data to back up those assertions.

And there's a very good reason for the lack of supporting data. In reality, the demographics of today's military completely debunk their claims. Tim Kane of the Heritage Foundation has concluded a long study of U.S. military demography both before and after 9-11. His findings? The average education level and family income of military recruits actually increased after 9-11. He also discovered--contrary to the claims of the Congressional Black Caucus--that Africa-Americans are not disproportionately represented in the Armed Forces. According to Kane, the 100 three-digit zip codes with the highest concentration of blacks provided 14.1% of the military's recruits in 2003. That's roughly equal to the percentage of African-Americans in the general population (13%). Kane's research also reveals that the fastest-growing segment of military recruits came from areas with the highest family income levels.

Of course, liberal myths and urban legends die hard, and I"m sure Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY) will keep circulating the myth that the poor and uneducated are overly-represented in our nation's military. But the facts speak for themselves. Our military is without peer in terms of its equipment, training, the quality of its personnel, and the diversity they represent.

Short Takes...

I'm on the road again this week, so my blogging opportunities are limited. Here are a few headlines that have caught my eye over the past couple of days.

Let's begin with those courageous Senate Republicans. If someone was recasting The Wizard of Oz, a number of GOP senators could fill the role of the Cowardly Lion, with their own signature song, "If I Only Had a Spine."

In their latest episode of political cowardice, Senate Republicans have offered a proposal which calls on Iraqi security forces to take the lead in securing their country, and for the Bush Administration to spell out its plan for ending the war.

If you listen to the spin from Majority Leader Bill Frist and other Republican senators, the GOP proposal is better than the Democratic alternative, which calls for the White House to establish a timetable for getting out of Iraq. Apparently stung by the President's declining poll numbers (and last week's election results), the Senate Republicans seem to believe that some sort of weasel-worded proposal, discussing an overall exit plan from Iraq, will somehow blunt Democratic attacks.

Here's a novel idea: how about standing on principle and proposing that we stay in Iraq until we defeat the terrorists. That's the only viable strategy. By committing to a withdrawal strategy (vaguely or directly) we only embolden our enemies, and make conditions more difficult for our troops. Unfortunately, taking such a stand requires political and moral courage, qualities that are clearly lacking among the majority party and its so-called leadership. The road to political hell (and electoral defeat) is paved with half-hearted compromises, like the one offered up by Senate Republicans.

It's old news in military circles, but the International Herald-Tribune is reporting that U.S. forces are using attack drones to protect convoys in Iraq. Are the UAV's having an effect? It's hard to say, but the number of effective enemy attacks has declined by at least 20% over the past two months. I'd say the drop is probably the result of several factors, including better intelligence, more aggressive patrolling along high-risk corridors (including the Baghdad airport road), and more effective high-tech tools, including the drones. As I've written before, there will never be a single, "magic bullet" solution to the problem of IEDs and VBIEDs, but a broad effort, encompassing technology, tactics and intelligence, can help mitigate the effects of those weapons.

From the "It's About Time" Department, President Bush is finally taking on critics of pre-war intelligence on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and his decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power. The President has delivered a pair of forceful speeches on that topic, the most recent at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska on Monday.

Still, I can't help wondering why the Administration waited so long to take on its critics--many of whom reviewed the same intelligence reports, and voted for the war. Perhaps its something in the Bush family DNA. In 1992, Bush #41 allowed Clinton's War Room operatives to define him, with characterizations and charges that were demonstrably false (remember "It's the Worst Economy in 40 years?). The elder Bush didn't start counter-punching effectively until the latter stages of the campaign, and he lost.

Thirteen years later, the Democrats are using the same tactic, tarring the President with charges that are easily disproved. Yet, the White House let the accusations linger--largely unanswered--for months. During that period, the President's approval ratings have declined, and a majority of Americans now question Mr. Bush's honesty and integrity. True, President Bush won't be on the ballot in 2008, but there are other issues at stake, namely our ability to sustain the war effort in Iraq. That's why the President needs to keep taking the wood to his critics, and tell those cowardly Senate Republicans to get on board--or else.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Today's Reading Assignment... Reuel Marc Gerecht, in the WSJ's Opinion Journal section. A former CIA case officer, Mr. Gerecht notes that the agency has always been dangerously sloppy in providing cover for its agents overseas. In fact, "The Company" is so bad that most agents are identified within weeks of their arrival, with sometimes deadly consequences for the locals they recruit as spies.

Judging from Gerecht's article, I'd say Valerie Plame's cover was blown long before Robert Novak's infamous column. Read the column, and you'll say that Porter Goss needs an even bigger shovel to muck out the stalls at Langley.

The Gang that Couldn't Leak Straight

Earlier this week, Congressional Republicans demanded an investigation into the recent leak of classified information about secret CIA terrorist jails around the world. Now, according to The Hill, the GOP's public call for an inquiry was almost derailed by a premature leak.

Meanwhile, some Senate Republicans are in no hurry to launch an investigation. According to Mississippi's Trent Lot, a GOP Senator may have been involved in a recent leak, and they're afraid that any inquiry would expose the guilty party.

Let's make this clear: any leak of classified information is a serious matter, and it demands a full and fair inquiry. This sudden hypocrisy by Senate Republicans is surpassed only by members of the MSM. Beyond the Valerie Plame affair, the press has little concerns about publishing or broadcasting sensitive information, regardless of the potential consequences. And, if we want these damaging leaks to stop, we need to indict a few offenders, whether they be reporters, or sitting members of Congress.

Britain has an Official Secrets Act, which prescribes severe penalties for the unauthorized release of classified data. Maybe it's time for an American version of that law.

Rathergate Revisited (Again)

Disgraced CBS News producer Mary Mapes is slithering around the country, trying to sell copies of her account of the Rathergate scandal. As we noted previously, Ms. Mapes still stands by her, reporting. In recent TV interviews she tries make the case that the memos on President Bush's ANG service "meshed" with other accounts of that period.

Unfortunately for Ms. Mapes' story (and her book sales), those nasty, unpleasant facts of Rathergate keep getting in the way. As Tigerhawk notes, Mapes has no meaningful answer for the authenticity issues raised by bloggers more than a year ago, and can't refute the findings of the Thornburgh panel, which investigated the matter for CBS News.

And, of course, Mary still has no response for this, Charles Johnson's flawless reproduction of the 1970s-era "memos" on his computer, using the default settings for Microsoft Word.

The Day After the Morning After

Michael Barone--for my money, the nation's best political pundit--has been analyzing results of Tuesday's elections around the country. He calls the Virginia and New Jersey governors races a wash, and I tend to agree. The victorious Democratic candidates in each state (Tim Kaine in Virginia, Jon Corzine in New Jersey) won about the same percentage of votes as their predecessors in 2001. However, Barone sees some troubling results in Northern Virginia and Richmond-area suburbs (once solidly Republican or leaning toward the GOP) that fell into the Kaine column on Tuesday.

As someone who spends much of his time in the Old Dominion, I followed the political races closely, and watched in disbelief as Republican Jerry Kilgore's campaign slid off the road over the last two months of the campaign. While Kilgore ran a series of questionable television ads criticizing Kaine's stance on the death penalty (he personally opposes it, but promises to enforce it as governor), I believe Kilgore's most serious problem was his plodding campaign style. He struck many voters as a latter-day Thomas Dewey, the well-cuffed and coifed "man on the wedding cake" who failed to connect with voters on a personal level. If you need proof of that, consider this: Kilgore carried the Virginia Beach area by less than two percentage points. With its huge active-duty and retired military population, Virginia Beach routinely delivers huge margins to Republicans running on a statewide ticket. Simply stated: if Kilgore couldn't connect with the conservatives of Virginia Beach, he was doomed.

There is some consolation for Republicans in Virginia; they won the lieutenant governor's race, and hold a narrow lead in the attorney general contest. If that lead holds, Virginia Beach State Senator Bob McDonnell will be the next attorney general and well-positioned for a run at the governorship in 2009. It's the same path Jerry Kilgore used, but McDonnell is a better politician and a far more effective campaigner. Lieutenant Governor-elect Bill Bolling is another possible contender, but he carries baggage from the well-publicized failure of a company where he served as a senior executive.

On the Democratic side, the machine of outgoing governor Mark Warner (as you probably know, Virginia limits its chief executives to a single, four-year term) will have to dig deeper into its bench to find a suitable candidate. It's also worth remembering that Tim Kaine presided over failing schools are more than a few scandals during his tenure as mayor of Richmond. If his tenure in the governor's mansion also proves rocky, the Democratic candidate in '09 may have some unwanted baggage as well.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

A Timid Response

After almost two weeks of rioting and unrest that has spread across his country, French President Jacques Chirac has hit upon a solution--curfews! According to the AP, Chirac has finally declared a national State of Emergency, paving the way for local officials to implement curfews in affected areas for the next 12 days.

Experience shows that curfews work only when the government is willing to enforce them, usually with an overwhelming show of force by police and/or troops, and zero tolerance for anyone caught violating the directive. Based on early indications, I'd say that the French curfews will likely fail. They go into effect at midnight tonight, and there are no signs of a massive police or paramilitary deployment to back up the curfews.

Yes, I know late start time is reflects the European tradition of a late supper and an evening on the town, but if you're trying to keep rioters off the street, you don't give them a chance to use late-night pedestrian traffic to cover their movements. Starting the curfew at 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. would be a much more effective deterent, but it appears that Chirac is afraid to take on his cafe and shop owners, let alone the rioters.

Additionally, the security response to the rioting and unrest has been equally unimpressive. So far, the French have activated an additional 1,500 police reservists to deal with a situation that is now affecting at least 300 cities and towns across France. That translates to five additional police officers for each affected municipality. Some show of force.

The French are also promising to increase social spending in affected areas. Joel Kotkin, writing in today's Opinion Journal, explains why that approach won't work--and why Muslim immigrants in American aren't rioting.

Timid responses only invite more rioting and unrest and that is what France will see in the coming days. As the violence spreads outside Muslim and North African neighborhoods, it will be interesting to see how long the French public will tolerate such half-hearted measures.

One final thought: would the unrest have lasted this long if French citizens were armed?

Monday, November 07, 2005

With Little Warning

It's always interesting to watch themes develop in media coverage of any breaking news event. Last night's deadly tornado that swept across Southwest Indiana is no exception. During the hours that followed the killer storm, most major media outlets (including our friends at Reuters) reported that the tornado was unexpected, and struck with very little warning.

In a severe weather event, such words carry a powerful connotation, suggesting that somehow the National Weather Service was asleep at the swtich, and failed to provide adequate warning to residents of the Ohio Valley. Was that the case Sunday morning, when the deadly storm ripped apart a race track near Henderson, Kentucky, then skipped across the Ohio River and slammed into nearby Evansville, Indiana?

I'm not a meterologist, but I have a long-time interest in severe weather, dating back to my childhood in the Midwest, where tornadoes were always a threat. Later, as a print and broadcast journalist, I covered the aftermath of deadly storms in several states, and delivered countless weather bulletins to my audience. Along the way, I developed an appreciation for the professionals at the Storm Prediction Center (who issue severe weather watches) and the local NWS offices, who issue warnings for affected areas. I also learned quickly that severe weather forecasting is an inexact science at best, despite such technological advances as Doppler Radar, which provide better detection of severe weather--and earlier warnings--than in the past.

In isolated cases, the Weather Service has failed to detect severe weather, most notably during a March, 1998 tornado in northern Georgia that killed 12 people, and prompted a lengthy internal investigation.

Thankfully, that was apparently not the case last night. Based on information from the NWS in Paducah, KY (which covers the affected area), a tornado warning for the Henderson storm was issued at 1:28 a.m., roughly 30 minutes before it crossed the river and slammed into Evansville. Twenty to thirty minutes of warning is considered acceptable by NWS standards, giving residents enough time to take shelter.

So why were so many people caught unprepared? Due to the late hour, many were already in bed, their radios and TVs turned off. By some accounts, local warning sirens sounded late (or not at all), suggesting that fire departments and other agencies that active the sirens may have been slow to react, or simply not expecting a tornado in early November. In some instances, the approaching storm cut power lines, leaving the sirens silent.

The loss of life in Indiana is tragic, and given the hour the storm struck, perhaps difficult to prevent. There will almost certainly be a review of disaster planning and preparedness in the wake of the storm, and it will likely on local responses, and not the warning provided by the NWS. Based on what we know right now, the NWS appears to have done its job, although the lack of a tornado watch at the time the storm struck is a bit puzzling.

Last night's tornado is also a remember that we, as individuals, have a responsibility to be prepared for a weather emergency. Something as simple as a battery-powered NOAA weather radio could have made a difference--and saved lives--last night.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Powerline Joins the Fray

The blogosphere can be best divided into the "big blogs" (those with a large audience), and "little blogs" (including this one), that are still carving out their niche. Powerline definitely falls into the former category; with its coverage of the Rathergate scandal (and designation of "Blog of the Year" by Time magazine), the efforts of John Hinderaker, Scott Johnson and Paul Mirengoff have made them superstars of the blogosphere.

As a fledgling blogger, it's nice to see the big guys pick up a story that we've been following for sometime. Today, Scott Johnson has a lengthy post on the MSM's absolute hypocrisy regarding the willfull disclosure of classified information, with a link to a recent NRO commentary by Bill Bennett. The same liberal press that is shocked by the "disclosure" of Valerie Plame's identity, has no problem printing information that is far more sensitive--and far more damaging to national security.

Case in point: the recent article on secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe, published this week by the Washington Post. In an on-line Q&A, the author of that article (Dan Priest seemed to gloat about the reprecussions of his article, noting that it was "boomeranging" around Europe). Meanwhile, the EU is promising an investigation, and as a result of the Post article, the CIA may lose its ability to house and interrogate captured Al Qaida leaders in clandestine locations. The Post believes that this process should be more transparent, but such "openess" could result in greater danger to CIA-run facilities, agency personnel, and unnecessary meddling by outside organizations, including the EU. Over the long haul, such "transparency" could actually impeded the extraction of information for Al Qaida operatives, increasing the risk we face.

If you're read this blog for any length of time, you know that security leaks are a frequent topic of discussion, and for good reason. There have been more than 600 inadvertent disclosures of classified information over the past decade (according to intelligence community statistics), yet there have been virtually no indictments, other than the recent charges filed against Scooter Libby. Collectively, these leaks have caused serious damage to intelligence sources and collection methods, resulting in less information on a wide range of potential threats. We've been following this story for more than six months, and you'll find numerous posts on the this subject in our archives.

Welcome, Powerline, and we hope you'll stay on the story. The MSM's absolute disregard for security in publishing and broadcasting classified information is a genuine scandal that deserves greater scrutiny.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The Day the Revolution Began

Lest we forget (and apparently, many of us have), today is the 25th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's victory over Jimmy Carter in the 1980 Presidential Election. Reagan's victory marked the start of the modern conservative revolution that triggered (among other things), the largest peace time economic expansion in our nation's history and the end of the Soviet Union.

Politically, the Reagan landslide eventually produced Republican majorities in the House and Senate, and control of most of the nation's governorships as well. There were seminal moments in the conservative movement before Reagan (the founding of National Review and Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential bid come to mind), but the '80 election marked the death knell of New Deal liberalism and the emergence of conservatism as a majority movement.

While liberal academics tried to dismiss Reagan as a lightweight and out-of-touch, the impact of his presidency became quickly apparent. Less than 20 years after leaving office (a fortnight by historical standards) Mr. Reagan is already hailed as one of the two most important Presidents of the 20th Century, a man whose policies and legacy liberated millions from the slavery of totalitarianism. While Mr. Reagan was too modest to claim glory for himself, he was always certain that his vision for America was correct and he would be vindicated by the judgment of history. Reviewing the accomplishments of his administration during his farewell address (December 1988), Reagan observed "not bad...not bad at all."

So amid the bustle of your daily life, stop for a moment and remember the great man to whom we all owe a debt. The words from his first inaugural address, printed on his son's website, still ring true today. And as you read them, remember: the revolution Reagan started is far from finished.

A Face in the Crowd

The White House has released the annual list of recipients for the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. This year's honorees will recieve their awards next Wednesday, in a ceremony at the White House. Among those being recognized for their achievements are Jack Nicklaus, Carol Burnett, Muhammad Ali, retired Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, radio newscaster Paul Harvey and Andy Griffith.

As a life-long fan of The Andy Griffith Show, I was pleased to see Mr. Griffith honored for his work as an actor and performer. The Andy Griffith Show is, arguably, the greatest sitcom of all-time; its gentle humor and memorable characters still hold up well today, 45 years after the series debuted on CBS. While many of the topical sitcoms that came after it (All in the Family, Maude) seem strident and dated, the Griffith show remains fresh and funny. It remains a staple on TV Land (where nightly reruns still arract a sizeable cable audience) and an influence on the more urbane (and supposedly hip) sitcoms of today. Watch a few episodes of Seinfeld and you'll find that TV's best sitcom of the 90s was actually a direct descendant of The Andy Griffith Show.

While his classic sitcom is enough to cement Mr. Griffith's place in the pantheon of popular culture, his 50-year career also includes the Broadway stage (he received Tony nominations for the comedy No Time for Sergeants and the musical Destry Rides Again), as well as stand-up comedy; his description of a hillbilly seeing his first football game (What it Was Was Football) remains one of the classic monolouges of all time.

But (arguably) Griffith's greatest performance came in the 1957 film A Face in the Crowd, directed by Elia Kazan. Griffith plays Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes, an Arkansas hobo who becomes an overnight television sensation until his cynicism and disdain for his audience are finally revealed. Liberals often describe the film as a study of the manipulation of the media (and the public) by greedy performers and corporate interests. But from a conservative perspective, Kazan's film is also a cautionary tale about the unholy alliance between between politics, the media and celebrities, decades before Hollywood became a subsidiary of the Democratic Party.

Whatever its intended message, the film ranks with the best of Kazan's work, and Griffith turns in a mesmerizing performance as the cold, calculating, yet cornpone Rhodes. Oddly, the film ingored by the Academy Awards and Griffith did not receive a nomination as Best Actor. Some have speculated that the politics of Kazan and screenwriter Budd Schulberg may have prompted the slight. Both Kazan and Schulberg cooperated with the House Un-American Activities Committee in exposing communists in Hollywood.

A Face in the Crowd airs occasionally on cable, and a DVD version was recently released. Almost a half-century after its original release, A Face in the Crowd has lost none of its original power and it's nice to see the film's star, Andy Griffith, receive recognition for his long career and many contributions to our culture. It takes rare talent to span the acting divide between Lonesome Rhodes and Andy Taylor, and Mr. Griffith managed that feat flawlessly--and impressively.

As Paris Burns

I doubt that Francis Fukuyama would describe himself as a prophet. However, he has few peers as an observer of the international scene, and the underlying political, social and economic factors that shape world events.

Consider Professor Fukuyama's recent WSJ essay on the legacy of Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh's murder by an Islamic radical one year ago this month. In his op-ed, Fukuyama traces the killing of Van Gogh to decades of European "tolerance" that have left Muslim immigrants socially isolated, impoverished and adrift, with few ties to the culture, economy or political system of their adopted country. While liberal European regimes have granted asylum to millions of Muslim immigrants (and provided extensive welfare benefits), they have made little effort to assimilate them into society as a whole. As Fukuyama notes, the Van Gogh murder and the recent London transit bombings were perpetrated by Muslims who had lived in the Netherlands and Britain for years, but found little success or satisfaction living in a European culture.

Fukuyama's essay was apparently written before the recent outbreak of Muslim rioting in the suburbs of Paris, which has lasted for more than a week. But many of the conditions he describes in Britain and Holland are present in France as well, where millions of Mulism and North African immigrants remain isolated in cultural and economic ghettos; their own glimpse of French society and culture comes from television programs.

In today's New York Post, Amir Taheri has an excellent analysis of the root causes of the riots in France, and the Chirac government's inability to recognize those problems and deal with them effectively. The New York Sun offers similar thoughts in a well-written editorial.

Could the same thing happen here? La Shawn Barber (whom I greatly respect), seems to think so. But I disagree, for a simple reason: economic opportunity. By and large, Muslim immigrants to this country have enjoyed the same access to the American dream as everyone else. Through education and hard work, Muslim emigres have been successful in assimilating themselves into American society, and not isolated in urban slums, like their counterparts in Western Europe. While there are large Muslim communities in many U.S. cities (such as Detroit), living standards in those areas are far higher than those of Islamic neighborhoods in Europe.

But I will add this cautionary note: America is not immune to Islamic fundamentalism, and as the 9-11 attacks demonstrated, it is sometimes easy for Muslim terrorists to blend into our society, and plan large-scale attacks. But one of the best antidotes to fundamentalism is individual freedom, religious liberty, economic opportunity--and the willingness to confront Islamic terrorism at its source. In that regard, the U.S. model is far superior to the benign multi-cultural and liberalism of Europe.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Is Karl Rove a Security Risk?

That's the question that Newsweek's Jonathan Alter asks breathlessly in his latest column.

Based on the evidence, I'd say Rove is a piker compared to these guys.

BTW, this blog was one of the few to highlight Senator Ron Wyden's deliberate disclosure of a secret spy satellite program last spring. Anyone care to speculate about the damage from that disclosure, compared to the impact of the Valerie Plame affair. The MSM seems to regard the Plame case as one of the most serious security breaches in the nation's history. Wyden's disclosure received scant coverage.

Scooter Libby was arraigned this morning--on charges that have no relation to the original leak referral in the Plame case. He's facing up to 30 years in prison, if convicted. Senator Wyden still has his security clearance. Go figure.

A Page From Dr.Goebbels' Playbook

It's always tempting (and a bit ironic), to refer to the radical left as Nazis. But if you examine their information management technqiues, you'll see that the Moonbat Brigade are skilled practitioners of the "Big Lie," the propaganda method perfected by Hitler's mouthpiece, Dr. Joseph Goebbels. According to the Big Lie theory, a falsehood repeated often enough is eventually accepted as the truth.

Of course, the left claims that the Bush Administration has used the "Big Lie" technique as well, specifically in the run-up to the Iraq War. The latest manifestation of this charge came earlier this week, when Minority Leader Harry Reid took the Senate into closed session over those charges. Reid claimed that the Bush White House used "doctored" intelligence to lead us into war, and that Senate Republicans have been dragging their feet on an investigation into that matter.

But the claims of Reid (and other Democrats) have more than a few holes. First of all, Senate Republicans had previously announced plans to release a report on the investigation next week, so that claim is clearly without merit. That brings us to the more serious issue of whether the administration used "sexed-up" intelligence to make the case for invading Iraq.

I hate to disappoint the Dems, but the facts refute that claim as well. Today's WSJ Editorial Page notes the findings of three separate panels (two American, one British) that found no evidence that intelligence was altered due to political pressure or coercion.

But Harry Reid and his pals never let the facts get in the way of a political theme or talking points. Keep repeating the charge that "Bush Lied," or "The White House Twisted Intelligence," and certain segments of the public will accept them as facts. Having these charges echoed in the MSM doesn't hurt, either. Daffydd ab Hugh had a brillant post yesterday, outlining how MSM coverage of the Iraq War and related intelligence issues seems to match Democratic position papers.

Taking a page from Dr. Goebbels' playbook, the Democrats seem to believe that repeating the big lies will carry them to victory in 2006 and beyond. While that theory remains untested, their charges have gained a measure of traction, as evidenced by declining public support for the Iraq War. The Republicans (and the White House) need a coherent strategy for defeating the Big Lies, but so far, that hasn't happened. Meanwhile, the left's distortion and twisting of the facts continues.

Al-Qaida's Claims

Bin Laden's operatives in Iraq are claiming credit for the recent downing of a Marine Corps Super Cobra attack helicopter in Ramadi, which killed the two-man crew.

The fact that Al-Qaida claimed responsibility isn't unusual. The terrorist group often takes credit for the latest car bombing or suicide attack, and those claims are usually correct.

What is unusual about this claim is the weapon Al-Qaida purportedly used to down the Super Cobra: an SA-7 "Strella," an early-model, Russian-built shoulder-fired surface to air missile. SA-7s are widely available in Iraq, and terrorists have fired them at coalition aircraft on numerous occasions, with poor results.

One reason for their lack of success is the self-protection equipment carried aboard most military aircraft, including attack helicopters. These defensive suites typically include missile detection systems, linked to either flare dispensers or infrared jammers. The flare dispensers decoy the missile away from the aircraft, by providing a "hotter" IR target, while the jammers are designed to fry the missile seeker.

Current self-protection suites offer excellent protection against the SA-7. However, no system is perfect, and there is a chance that the SA-7 somehow defeated the helicopter's onboard defenses. But there's also a chance that insurgents used another type of missile, and mistakenly referred to it as an SA-7, or made the claim as part of a deception effort.

There are a variety of shoulder-fired SAMs available to insurgents in Iraq. A forensic examination of missile fragments in the helicopter's wreckage will quickly reveal the type of missile used to shoot down the Cobra.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The War Continues

In some respects, the Valerie Plame affair is really just a skirmish in a long-running war between the Bush Administration and the CIA. Elements within the agency, long-opposed to White House policies in the War on Terror, have waged a guerilla campaign of anonmyous criticism and carefully designed leaks, all intended to embarass the administration, and cast doubts on our policies in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.

Thankfully, I don't work at Langley and can't say whether this is an organized conspiracy, or just the collective grumblings of a few current (and former) senior officials. But it is very interesting that the agency okayed Joe Wilson's fact-finding trip to Niger before the Iraq War, despite his lack of expertise in WMD matters, his past political leanings, and the fact that his wife, the world's most famous CIA employee, recommended him for the job. And, after his return, the agency never requested a formal report, and remained silent when Wilson went public with his op-ed in The New York Times, contradicting statements he'd made in his CIA debriefing.

When reporters began asking about the Wilsons, the White House (it could be argued) walked into a CIA trap. Discussions about Ms. Plame led to accusations that her cover as a "covert" operative had been blown, prompting the Fitzgerald investigation and the eventual indictment of Scooter Libby.

Two years after the Plame affair--and despite serious house-cleaning efforts by new CIA Director Porter Goss--the war between the Bush Administration and the agency is continuing, as evidenced by the "exclusive" in today's Washington Post. In a lengthy, front-page article, reporter Dana Milbank offers a rare look into the CIA's network of secret overseas prisons, used to house suspected terrorists. The article is largely based on observations from unnamed CIA officers, both on active service and retired.

Milbank suggests that agency officials are split over the secret prisons, but there are a number of quotes from CIA officers who express concern about the program, noting that some detainees are returned to Muslim countries (such as Egypt and Morocco) with a long history of abusing prisoners. There are also concerns that some prisoners don't meet the standards originally envisioned for the program (which was designed for high-ranking Al Qaida members), and the secrecy "burden" it places on the agency. One source suggests that the current level of secrecy associated with the program "isn't sustainable."

Well, duh...So, is that why CIA officials decided to unburden themselves to Mr. Milbank? I'll give the reporter props for his digging and legwork, but the sudden willingness of CIA officers to discuss this "black" program seems more than suspicious. The front-page story about the secret prison network will likely raise more questions about U.S. treatment of terrorist detainees and give more ammuniion to anti-war critics.

By disclosing details of the detention program, it could also be argued the the Post is endangering national security. While the paper did not publish the location of a detention facility in Eastern Europe, some of the revelations about facilities and Afghanistan and elsewhere could make it more difficult for the CIA to continue this sensitive mission. The same MSM outlet that expressed concern about security leaks in the Valerie Plame case has no problem reporting sensitive information that could ultimately harm detention and interrogation efforts, by "exposing" host countries, and raising new questions about U.S. detention and interrogation efforts.

Another example of media hypocrisy? You be the judge. Meanwhile, the MSM remains a convenient mouthpiece for CIA elements waging a covert war against the White House--a war with no end in sight.

Today's Reading Assignments...

...from the "Opinion Journal" section of today's WSJ:

First, Francis Fukuyama on the legacy of Theo van Gogh's murder (one year ago today), and the recent terrorist attacks in Western Europe. As Professor Fukuyama notes, Europe has yet to come to grips with its home-grown Islamofacist threat.

And, for good measure, Bret Stephen's review of the new book by "America's worst ex-president."

Liar, Liar

In today's Los Angeles Times, Max Boot does a workman-like job of highlighting the real liar in the Valerie Plame affair--and he doesn't work for the Bush White House. Unfortunately, Boot is an op-ed columnist for the paper; you'll never see the same sort of coverage of Joe Wilson--and his lies--in the news section of the Times, or any other MSM outlet.

And people wonder why the newspaper industry is in serious trouble.

To Serve Man

Veteran actor Lloyd Bochner died earlier this week at his home in California, after a battle with cancer. He was 81.

If the name doesn't ring a bell, you would probably recognize his face. Over an acting career that spanned almost six decades, Bochner was a familiar presence on TV and in films. Late in his career, Bochner starred as Cecil Colby in the prime-time soap opera Dynasty. He was typically cast as a handsome, suave, and wealthy villian.

But Bochner may be best remembered for a classic episode of The Twilight Zone, entitled "To Serve Man." Bochner played Michael Chambers, a U.N. cryptanalyst. Chambers, along with thousands of other earthlings, has signed up to travel to the home planet of the Kanamits, massive aliens who have recently arrived on earth. During their time on the planet, the Kanamits solve the world's most pressing problems, and appear to be completely benevolent and altruistic; the book they leave the U.N. ("To Serve Man") seems to confirm their benign nature.

As Chambers prepares for his trip with the Kanamits, his assistant, Pat (played by Susan Cummings) labors to translate the book. In the tradition of The Twilight Zone, series creator Rod Serling delivers an unforgettable twist at the end of the episode. Standing in line to board the spaceship, Chambers learns that his hosts aren't benevolent afterall. Pat tells him that the book is actually a cookbook. Chambers tries to flee, but a Kanamit forces him onto the spaceship. The episode ends with the ship's departure, with Chambers (and his fellow travelers) on their way to become dinner for the Kanamits.

TV Guide recently ranked "To Serve Man" as the 11th-greatest TV episode of all time, and I can't argue with that assessment. In a series filled with memorable episodes, "To Serve Man" is one of the best.

Incidentally, 2005 marks the 30th anniversary of Rod Serling's death. While the genius of Serling's work has long been recognized, I also marvel at his prodigious output as a writer. He wrote more half of the episodes of The Twilight Zone (which aired from 1959-1964) , and authored some of greatest original dramas from TV's "Golden Age" in the 1950s, including the original Requiem for a Heavyweight.

More than one critic has observed that the quality and originality of Serling's work elevated the work of his actors, and that was certainly true on "The Twilight Zone." But Serling also understood that the players--many of them character actors like Bochner--gave voice and life to his words, and in the process, helped create some of the most memorable moments in TV history.

RIP, Mr. Bochner, and thanks for an unforgettable episode in one of TV's finest series.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Just Go Away

At one time, disgraced journalists generally fell into one of two categories. Some, like Janet Cooke of the Washington Post, faded quickly into obscurity, and were effectively barred from the profession. At one point in the mid-1990s, Ms. Cooke was working as a minimum-wage sales clerk in a department store in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Some reporters viewed her meager existence as fitting punishment for a woman whose fabricated story of an 8-year-old heroin addict forced the Post the return a Pulitzer in 1981.

Others, like Jayson Blair of The New York Times and Stephen Glass of The New Republic have proven more persistent, lurking on the media fringes and always willing to plug their tell-all books. I found it slightly ironic that Glass became an attorney after his fraud at TNR was exposed; one might argue that an expert liar is a natural for the legal profession, although I certainly wouldn't want Mr. Glass representing me in court.

We may be forced to invent a third category of disgraced reporters for Mary Mapes, producer of Dan Rather's ficticious report on President Bush's Air National Guard service for the now-cancelled 6o Minutes II. Ms. Mapes falls into that most loathsome segment of journalistic frauds--disgraced reporters who simply won't fade away, and continue to insist that they were right all along.

Preparing for the release of her tell-all memoir (scheduled for next week), Ms. Mapes is making the media rounds, trying to salvage a bit of her reputation, and of course, sell a few books. An lengthy account of Rathergate, told largely from Mapes's perspective, will appear in the December issue of Vanity Fair. Previews of the article can be found here and here.

I don't plan to buy Ms. Mapes's book, and I've got mixed feelings about reading the Vanity Fair article. But in reviewing the preview pieces, I find it interesting (but hardly surprising) that Ms. Mapes spends much of her time attacking her critics (and CBS News), while casting herself as a crusading journalist who fell victim to a "well-organized" attack upon her work:

"If I was an idiot, it was for believing in a free press that is able to do its job without fear or favor. ...I didn't know that the attack on our story was going to be as effective as a brilliantly run national political campaign, because that is what it was: a political campaign."

Phul-eeze. Criticism of Rathergate is first (and forever) founded in Mapes's use of fabricated memos as the foundation for the 60 Minutes II report. The numerous errors and omissions in those memos has been well-documented in the blogosphere. Mapes attempts to make the case that charges of forged documents were never proven, recycling the canard that two "document experts" verified the supposed authenticity of the memos. However, she conveniently omits the fact that one of the network's hired guns lacked genuine expertise in typesetting and other critical areas. The other CBS "expert" had serious reservations about the authenticity of the documents--concerns that were blithely ignored by Mapes and the network. The result, of course, was a fraudulent report that was quickly exposed, thanks largely to the work of bloggers.

In some of her comments, Ms. Mapes seems to liken her work to that of CBS News icon Edward R. Murrow, and his "expose" of Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s. Once again, Ms. Mapes has it wrong. Using footage of McCarthy's speeches, Murrow highlighted the inconsistencies and distortions in McCarthy's claims. More than 50 years later, bloggers used the same techniques to expose the fabrications and falsehoods behind Rathergate, carefully examining the report, then detailing its fraudulent foundation, based on their knowledge of typesetting, word processing, military correspondence formats, and other relevant subjects. At one point, Mapes asks: "What in the world would Edward R. Murrow think of his network now?"

I'll take a shot at that one. One of the hallmarks of Murrow's career was fairness. In fact, the week after the McCarthy broadcast, Murrow and CBS gave the Senator the See It Now timeslot to rebut CBS's charges. McCarthy turned in a disastrous performance that brought wider scorn and derision. Compare Murrow's actions with those of Mapes and the CBS team that rushed the air national guard segment to air, with little concern for accuracy, balance or fairness. For airing the 60 Minutes II report, I'd say that Murrow would be ashamed of CBS, and those responsible for it.

But perhaps the best rebuttal of Ms. Mapes's version of events comes from her former employer, CBS News. In a statement released yesterday, the network observed:

"Mary Mapes' actions damaged CBS News as an organization and brought pain to many colleagues with whom she worked," the statement said. "As always, revisionist history must be tested against the facts." [CBS] pointed to the independent panel's 200-page report, adding: "We believe those facts speak for themselves."

Ms. Mapes could perform a valuable public service for everyone by slinking into that special purgatory reserved for disgraced journalists. But apparently, Mary has no plans to go quietly, at least until her book tanks.

"A Civic Duty"

Those are the words of Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff, in describing the responsibility Americans have to prepare themselves--and their families--for a natural disaster. Chertoff made the comment Monday, in an interview with the Associated Press.

Chertoff's assertion is encouraging, but (unfortunately) it runs counter to the new disaster paradigm, created in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, and more recently, Wilma's trek across southern Florida. The new paradigm suggests that it is the responsibility of the government (more specifically, the federal government) to meet your essential needs after a disaster. The Bush Administration was excoriated in the aftermath of Katrina for its supposedly "slow" response, and just last week, Florida governor Jeb Bush was criticized for its initial response to Wilma.

Bush, however, fired back at his critics, chiding Floridians for failing to prepare. State residents had more than a week to get ready for Wilma, but many failed to stockpile food and water for themselves--then complained when the state was slow to provide those staples.

Experts warn that it will take years to convince the public to develop personal disaster kits and plans. Rubbish. Here's a better idea: go back to the "old days" when the federal government provided only minimal aid to victims of natural disasters. Read accounts of genuine disasters from the nation's past (such as the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, or the Great Tri-State Tornado of 1925), and you'll see that the response effort was largely a state or local affair, with minimum assistance from Washington. And the amount of aid provided by state governments was also limited, meaning that individuals had to rely on themselves and their neighbors in recovering from a flood, earthquake, hurricane or tornado.

Too draconian, you say? How about this approach. Federal aid to a disaster area won't begin flowing to an area until 72-96 hours after the disaster, in keeping with FEMA's charter as a coordinating agency, not a first responder. During that period, the focus will be on rescue and assisting those who cannot help themselves. Healthy, able-bodied survivors will be on their own, except for MREs and bottled water that the National Guard can distrbute (at their discretion). Looting laws will be strictly enforced, so stealing is not a viable option.

Our forefathers survived calamities that were just as bad (if not worse) than the recent hurricanes, and they persevered with far fewer resources than we have today. Quite frankly, I think that my grandparents and great-grandparents would be embarassed by the whining in South Florida last week. Encouraging people to make their own disaster preparations is just common sense, but it will take more than "education campaigns" to make some people more dependent on themselves. As my late grandmother would say, folks like that need a "kick in the a--." Focusing the initial response on those who need it most might be just the nudge they need.