Michael Yon’s Online Magazine

I do not often promote another site, especially a journalist. But this is an exception. Here are some excerpts from his site:

I was in the Army some years ago and maintained close contact with many friends who made a career of military service. Naturally, I had an interest in what was happening in Iraq–I had friends in harm’s way.

But what spurred me to drop what I was doing, get on a plane and fly halfway around the world, to a war zone, was a growing sense that what I was seeing reported on television, as well as in newspapers and magazines, was inconsistent with the reality my friends were describing. I wanted to see the truth, first hand, for myself.

I saw American and Coalition soldiers putting everything on the line to accomplish their mission.

So that Iraqi children can have the chance to grow up in freedom and fulfill their potential.

I saw resolve steel the jaw of a military leader.

I saw hope light the eyes of a young girl.

I saw a parent’s anguish

I saw a village elder’s wisdom

I saw a soldier’s compassion.

And what I saw changed how I thought about this war. The “truth” of this experience is too complex to capture in a body count or a thirty-second sound byte. It’s chaotic, dynamic and evolving. It’s unwieldy, wasteful and we have made mistakes. It’s a struggle of epic proportions that ultimately relies on the strength of a people about whom most Americans seem to know very little.

The longer I stayed, the better I understood things. And I began to realize that Americans need to see these things in order to understand what is happening here and come to a more informed judgment of whether this struggle is “worth” the cost, in money and lives. No one can make that determination without a balanced set of facts.

To me, one look in the face of any of the children tips the scales one way.

But I don’t do this work to espouse a point of view, or rally people to the right or left. Some people might find that statement disingenuous. I’ve been criticized for using terms like terrorist and enemy in my dispatches. Most critics are a safe distance from the battleground. Up close, its more than a matter of taking sides. There’s no value in using imprecise language in a futile attempt to appear objective. There is a difference between Coalition soldiers and Iraqi police officers and the terrorists and criminals they confront. Whether you call them insurgents or resistance fighters or terrorists, the people who wake up in the morning plotting how to drive explosives-laden cars into crowds of children have to be confronted.

Combat is just one form of confrontation. I chose another way. By getting close enough to the truth, for long enough to recognize when reality reveals it, I confront the distortions in how this struggle is portrayed. I do it because we need to see this clearly: what happens in and to Iraq is a defining moment for our nation, and the world. This enemy is smart and they are deadly, but they are also losing. Iraq can become a strong and free nation. But it will take the constant application of pressure over time to stem the flow of blood. If we back off too soon, they will rebound. If we cut our losses and run, they will follow us home. Peace can prevail here, if we can use our strength to maintain our progress.

I have just started reading his posts from Iraq, and have found in them a side that our main stream media’s “30-second sound bytes” just do not report. There is a human element in them – truth, sadness, happiness, and everything in between. Therefore, here is a link to Michael Yon’s Online Magazine below and in the sidebar.

A View from Iraq Via CNN Europe

CNN here in Europe is fascinating.  The viewpoints they portray are not what you would get in the United States.  The following story blew me away.

CNN interviewed Iraqi soldiers, and were asking them who would they vote for in the United States elections if they could.  Without exception, they were picking the Democratic candidates.  The reasons they gave were bizarre, at least in my opinion.

One of the statements set me off.  The soldier stated that he wanted to vote Democratic because the Iraqi people needed help with their government.  The Republican government was not helping the Iraqi government establish a democracy, and he believed that the Democrats would help Iraq in this regard.  He further stated that the Republican government of the United States has not helped Iraq at all.

Considering that this soldier would not have been able to speak his mind under the former government should speak volumes to the idiocy of his last statement.  He would never have been allowed to express any opinion what so ever, and if he did, he would have found himself buried in a sand dune.

He also showed his ignorance in what the Democrats are stating they want to do if elected – pull all troops out of Iraq.  Exactly how is that going to help stabilize Iraq?  The short answer is – it won’t.

Life is hard in Iraq – there is no getting around that fact.  The country is being rebuilt through many obsticles, of which terrorists, religion, and tribal differences are all mixed up in a volatile political situation.  A unique situation in which to build a country with democratic principles.  A difficult task indeed.

I am not the biggest fan of the invasion of Iraq which has resulted in our current situation in that country.  Yes, the United States deposed a ruthless dictator who stated repeatedly of his desire to help the enemies of this country through the use of WMDs.  The information, gathered from many sources besides our own, led to the decision to invade.  That I do not have a problem with – decisions can only be made with the information that is available at the time.  The problem comes is that it is painfully obvious that there was not a complete & detailed plan of restoration after Saddam was deposed.  In short, we’re winging it.

Our troops are in harm’s way and some have given up their lives so that this moron can state that the current US government has not helped Iraq.  Perhaps he would rather have Saddam back…

At Least One Democrat Gets It…

Senator Joe Lieberman gets it.  Although he is technically an Independent, he is still an old-school Democrat.  And he knows what is important.

In a speech at the Center for Politics and Foreign Relations/Financial Times breakfast at The Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, he addressed the Democratic Party and the threat that Iran presents.  The following are excerpts from that speech:

We could rightly criticize the Bush administration when it failed to live up to its own rhetoric, or when it bungled the execution of its policies. But I felt that we should not minimize the seriousness of the threat from Islamist extremism, or the fundamental rightness of the muscular, internationalist, and morally self-confident response that President Bush had chosen in response to it.

But that was not the choice most Democrats made. Instead, they flip-flopped.

It did not happen all at once. In the weeks and months after September 11, Democrats and Republicans put aside our partisan divisions and stood united as Americans. As late as October 2002, a Democratic-controlled Senate voted by a wide bipartisan margin to authorize President Bush to use military force against Saddam Hussein.

As the Iraq war became bogged down in a long and costly insurgency, however, and as President Bush’s approval ratings slipped, Democrats moved in a very different direction—first in the presidential campaign of 2004, where antiwar forces played a decisive role in the Democratic primaries. As you may recall, they also prevailed in Connecticut’s Democratic U.S. Senate primary last year.

Since retaking Congress in November 2006, the top foreign policy priority of the Democratic Party has not been to expand the size of our military for the war on terror or to strengthen our democracy promotion efforts in the Middle East or to prevail in Afghanistan. It has been to pull our troops out of Iraq, to abandon the democratically-elected government there, and to hand a defeat to President Bush.

Iraq has become the singular litmus test for Democratic candidates. No Democratic presidential primary candidate today speaks of America’s moral or strategic responsibility to stand with the Iraqi people against the totalitarian forces of radical Islam, or of the consequences of handing a victory in Iraq to al Qaeda and Iran. And if they did, their campaign would be as unsuccessful as mine was in 2006. Even as evidence has mounted that General Petraeus’ new counterinsurgency strategy is succeeding, Democrats have remained emotionally invested in a narrative of defeat and retreat in Iraq, reluctant to acknowledge the progress we are now achieving, or even that that progress has enabled us to begin drawing down our troops there.

But another reason for the Democratic flip-flop on foreign policy over the past few years is less substantive. For many Democrats, the guiding conviction in foreign policy isn’t pacifism or isolationism—it is distrust and disdain of Republicans in general, and President Bush in particular.

I offered an amendment earlier this fall, together with Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, urging the Bush administration to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization and impose economic sanctions on them.

The reason for our amendment was clear. In September, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker testified before Congress about the proxy war that Iran—and in particular, the IRGC and its Quds Force subsidiary—has been waging against our troops in Iraq. Specifically, General Petraeus told us that the IRGC Quds Force has been training, funding, equipping, arming, and in some cases directing Shiite extremists who are responsible for the murder of hundreds of American soldiers.

This charge had been corroborated by other sources, including the most recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, the independent assessment of the Iraqi Security Forces led by General Jim Jones, as well as the on-the-ground reports of our division commanders in Iraq.

It was also consistent with nearly three decades of experience with the IRGC, which has been implicated in a range of terrorist attacks against the United States and our allies—long before the invasion of Iraq.

In light of this evidence, Senator Kyl and I thought that calling for the designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organization was a no brainer. Rather than punishing Iranians indiscriminately, it would apply a set of targeted economic sanctions against the part of the Iranian regime that was responsible for the murder of our troops in Iraq.

One big reason Kyl and I thought that calling for the designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organization would be politically uncontroversial was because a bipartisan group of 68 senators, including several of the Democratic presidential candidates, had already signed onto a piece of legislation introduced earlier in the year that asked for the IRGC’s designation along exactly the same lines as our amendment. Whatever the differences or disagreements on foreign policy or even on Iran, I assumed that tougher, targeted economic sanctions against the IRGC were something that we could all agree on.

I was wrong.

What happened instead is a case study in the distrust and partisan polarization that now poisons our body politic on even the most sensitive issues of national security.

First, several left-wing blogs seized upon the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, offering wild conspiracy theories about how it could be used to authorize the use of military force against Iran.

These were absurd arguments. The text of our amendment contained nothing—nothing—that could be construed as a green light for an attack on Iran. To claim that it did was an act of delusion or deception.

On the contrary, by calling for tougher sanctions on Iran, the intention of our amendment was to offer an alternative to war.

Nonetheless, the conspiracy theories started to spread. Although the Senate passed our amendment, 76-22, several Democrats, including some of the Democratic presidential candidates, soon began attacking it—and Senator Clinton, who voted for the amendment. In fact, some of the very same Democrats who had cosponsored the legislation in the spring, urging the designation of the IRGC, began denouncing our amendment for doing the exact same thing.

The problem with the Kyl-Lieberman amendment of course had little to do with its substance, and a lot to do with politics.

I asked some of my Senate colleagues who voted against our amendment: “Do you believe the evidence the military has given us about the IRGC sponsoring these attacks on our troops?” Yes, they invariably said.

“Don’t you support tougher economic sanctions against Iran?” I asked. Again, yes—no question.

So what’s the problem, I asked.

“It’s simple,” they said. “We don’t trust Bush. He’ll use this resolution as an excuse for war against Iran.”

I understand that President Bush is a divisive figure. I recognize the distrust that many Americans feel toward his administration. I recognize the anger and outrage that exists out there about the war in Iraq.

But there is something profoundly wrong—something that should trouble all of us—when we have elected Democratic officials who seem more worried about how the Bush administration might respond to Iran’s murder of our troops, than about the fact that Iran is murdering our troops. 

There is likewise something profoundly wrong when we see candidates who are willing to pander to this politically paranoid, hyper-partisan sentiment in the Democratic base—even if it sends a message of weakness and division to the Iranian regime.

The Senator is extremely blunt in his assessment of the current political climate in Washington.  Unfortunately, it is spot on, and probably what caused the Democratic Party to kick the Senator out.

The phrase “…Democrats have remained emotionally invested in a narrative of defeat and retreat in Iraq, reluctant to acknowledge the progress…” is just as disturbing as “…we have elected Democratic officials who seem more worried about how the Bush administration might respond to Iran’s murder of our troops, than about the fact that Iran is murdering our troops.”  So politics is more important than the lives of our soldiers.  What is almost as disturbing is that the safety of the American people is not as important as the politicians would have us believe.  No, Bush-bashing is now the focus of the Democratic Party, and damned be the rest of us.

And if we think that the rest of the world ignores this, think again.  Middle-Eastern culture values strength and abhors weakness.  And they definitely view the United States Government as being divided and weak.  This puts the United States at risk worldwide.

Where I have problems is that there are not enough politicians of character in Washington willing to put their political careers on the line to do the right thing, which is to put the safety of the American people (and soldiers!) first and politics second.  No, many of them are beholden to the wild-eyed politicos that helped them into office.  Why am I not surprised?

Quite frankly, I do not see anything changing even after the elections a year off.  Sure, the political rhetoric will intensify, but the fact of the matter is that political sniping and character assassination will be the standard operating procedure of the politicians leading up to the election.  After the election, all bets are off except for more talk and less action.

So in this next few months, I will be looking at the Presidential, House, and Senatorial candidates with a close eye on their positions and character, and party affiliation be damned.  And that’s the way it should be.  Unfortunately, I think the pickings are pretty poor this year.  But that’s for a different post for a different time.

But you know, if Joe Lieberman was to run for President, he might actually get my vote simply because he gets what is important for the United States.

Before I Go…

Mrs. Common Sense and I are taking a long and well-deserved vacation.  We haven’t taken a vacation for a long time, and this one will be special.  We will be celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary next Wednesday.

But before we go to a place without Internet access or cars(!), there are a few comments about the past week’s events:

Fred Thompson finally announced his candidacy for the Presidency.  It will be interesting to see if his bid is as well timed as he hopes it will be.

Osama bin Laden released a tape a week before the 6th anniversary of 9/11.  It looks like he is just as vain as the civilization he wants to destroy – he dyed his beard and eyebrows!!

Cerberus has stolen or hired away a top gun at Toyota to run the sales and marketing for Chrysler.  Then the next day they hired GM’s man in China to help with globalization efforts.  Does make you stop and pause and think about the future of Chrysler.

Volkswagen announced this week that they were moving their North American headquarters from Michigan to the suburbs of Washington DC.  Another blow to Michigan…

The Michigan Legislature wants to raise taxes on anything from telephones (cell, land-line, & Internet) to health clubs.  Just what a state in trouble needs – more taxes…

Another sex scandal in Washington.  This time, a Senator plays footsie in an airport stall.  Where are the politicians that actually stand for something besides themselves and their party?  Is there no one with integrity?

The financial meltdown in the mortgage industry continues.  Countrywide Financial, a major lender, is cutting 12,000 jobs from it’s payroll in response to the flurry of bad loans, defaults, and the collapse of the housing market in general.  Who knows where this will end?

Luciano Pavarotti died this past week from cancer.  While not a fan of opera, his voice was one that would send chills down your spine with it’s power and tone. 

Finally, the Surge appears to be working, but we’ll see what General Patraeus has to say next week with his report.

Later…

Patton Speech on Today’s War on Terror & Iraq

I normally don’t post YouTube videos (actually, this is the first), but I heard this on Bill Bennet’s Morning in America show on either Thursday or Friday (can’t remember – too tired). 

Warning – In the traditional Patton style, there is profanity, but the message is excellent.