American Elephants


This is a strange, strange moment in time. by The Elephant's Child

There are times when it seems as if we have slipped into an alternate universe.  The President of the United States, after an appearance on a late night comedy show,  has gone campaigning.  His campaign organization, Organizing for America, is  collecting signatures on pledges to support Obama’s budget.  Is there something a little strange about ginning-up support for a budget by accosting clueless people on the street or in malls?

The Two-Minute Hate Program managed to rouse numerous people across America to deliver death threats to employees of the AIG financial group.  Never mind that the employees who did the dirty deeds are long gone, and the remaining folk have agreed to stay on to help wind things down only because they were offered a contractual retention bonus to help out.  They were demonized by members of the House of Representatives who devised a special (unconstitutional) retroactive 90% tax on their perfectly legal retention bonuses totaling $165 million, while ignoring the $5 billion in bailout money that the company has already received — that the Democrats hoped no one would notice.  And if that wasn’t enough, ACORN organized bus tours to “look at” the homes of AIG executives.

Since the last CBO budget review in January, Democrats have passed laws that increase spending by $134 billion in the last six months of this fiscal year alone, and $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years — before we have seen the President’s 2010 budget proposals — the ones the volunteers are collecting signature support for.

The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a plan to set up a new “volunteer corpsand consider whether a “workable, fair, and reasonable mandatory service requirement for all able young people” should be developed.  The legislation refers to “uniforms” that would be worn by the “volunteers” and the “need” for a “public service academy, a 4-year institution” to “focus on training” future “public sector leaders” The training would occur at “campuses.” (h/t protein wisdom) There is just something special about “mandatory volunteerism.” Last year Obama spoke of his “National Civilian Security Force” in which he supported creating an organization  as big and as well-funded as the military.

Liberals believe in their good intentions.  Conservatives care about the consequences.  Who is going to do the volunteering that has formed the backbone of America when you have a paid “mandatory volunteer” uniformed army?

“The Obama administration will call for increased oversight of executive pay at all banks, Wall Street firms and possibly other companies as part of a sweeping plan to overhaul financial regulation,” according to the New York Times. The administration could seek to put the changes into effect through regulations rather than through legislation. ( Such a bore, having to vote on things).  Is there the slightest evidence, anywhere, that anyone in Washington has even the slightest clue about what is in the financial interest of a business enterprise, or what causes positive corporate performance?

Democrats are trying to abolish the rights of workers to secret ballots in unionization elections.  The secret ballot is workers’ protection to insure that they are not intimidated into voting for a union that they might otherwise not choose. Last year, Mexico’s highest court unanimously affirmed for Mexicans the right that Democrats want to take from Americans.  Banning the secret ballot in America!

The U.S. Constitution says that treaties, like NAFTA, are the “supreme law of the land.”  With the approval of a president who supposedly taught Constitutional Law, Congress has shredded the North American Free Trade Agreement.  They used the omnibus spending bill to abolish a program that would comply with our obligation to allow Mexican long-haul trucks on U.S. roads.

Mexico, in retaliation, has resorted to tariffs on many U.S. goods, which should send a Smoot-Hawley chill down American backs.

The Democrat Congress is voting to ignore the Constitution’s stipulation that the House shall be composed of members chosen “by the people of the several states,” and is pretending that the District of Columbia is a state.

China has suggested that the dollar should no longer be the world’s reserve currency.  Two long-range Russian bombers buzzed the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis at 500 feet when it was in international waters.   Russia spun the notion that they might base their bombers in Cuba, last week.  The Chinese started harassing an unarmed US Navy exploration vessel, requiring the US to send armed escorts into the international waters of the South China Sea.  North Korea is about to launch an ICBM with a range that reportedly could easily include American territory.

And to finish up the week, Obama appeared on 60 Minutes.  Among other questions in the interview Kroft brought up Dick Cheney’s criticism of closing Guantanamo Bay. Obama said:

After all these years, how many convictions came out of Guantanamo?  How many terrorists have actually been brought to justice under the philosophy that is being promoted by Vice President Cheney?  It hasn’t made us safer.

As John Hawkins said “If Obama believes that the purpose of Gitmo is to get “convictions” of terrorists, you have to question whether he has even the most basic understanding of the war on terror he ‘s currently in charge of fighting.”

Guantanamo is there to hold captured terrorists, to keep them from killing more Americans, and for interrogations that are designed to gain information to keep them from killing more Americans.  Obama seems to think they should be tried in a criminal court.  And released in the US, as the administration may do with some terrorists who cannot be returned to their native country.

We have indeed slipped the bounds of Earth and entered some strange alternate world.  We must have.



There is More Good News from Iraq. by The Elephant's Child

U.S. combat deaths in Iraq are at a 6 year low. Three Marines have been killed in combat since last August.  The Navy has not lost a member to combat since February of 2008.  The Air Force hasn’t had a combat death since last April.  In some weeks the number of non-combat deaths for U.S. troops has topped those killed in fighting.

Iraqis’ faith in government institutions has vastly improved.  84 percent of Iraqis feel good about their security, 78% feel positive about crime protection, and 74 percent are positive about their freedom of movement.  These figures come from an ABC News/BBC poll that documents the improvements in Iraq.

64 percent of Iraqis prefer Democracy as the political system for Iraq.  Only 14 percent prefer a strong leader and only slightly more, 16 percent would prefer an Islamic state.  George Bush was right.

A poll finding that was particularly interesting was that 53 percent of Iraqis say they “never” attend mosque, while another 11 percent attend “several times a year”.  This is certainly not what we have been led to believe

The people have confidence in the Iraqi Police and the Iraqi Army at 74 percent and 73 percent respectively. 61 percent have confidence in the National Government.  And Iraqis are optimistic about their future.  That is very, very nice to hear, and we wish them well.



Administration allows media coverage of war coffins. by The Elephant's Child
February 26, 2009, 9:15 pm
Filed under: Liberalism, Media Bias, Military | Tags: ,

The Pentagon will lift its ban on media coverage of flag-draped coffins of military dead returned from war zones to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.  The ban was put in place in 1991.

More than 64% of military families believe that the ban should not be overturned.  Families were apparently not consulted nor their wishes honored when the decision was made.

This has always been not only an odd, but a rather smarmy debate. Grieving  families understandably want their privacy uninterrupted by media lights, cameras and noisy intrusion.

The only possible  reason for the presence of the media is the propaganda value to anti-war activists.  Photographs of large numbers of coffins might enhance their anti-military cause.  Families, quite naturally, don’t care to have their loved ones used.

The Obama administration seems childishly insistent on overturning any policy that was associated with the Bush administration, whatever its value.  Secretary of Defense Robert Gates reviewed the policy at the request of President Obama, and came up with the compromise of leaving the presence of media up to the families involved.

The Defense Department statement is here. CNN’s take is here.

I’m with the families.  There is class, and there is classless.  If you were not able to see the HBO special “Taking Chance”, take a few moments to read the story on which the movie was based which was posted by Blackfive in 2004.  It is a beautiful story.



A visit to Walter Reed… by The Elephant's Child
July 30, 2008, 6:07 pm
Filed under: Iraq, Military, News, Terrorism | Tags: , , , , ,

Barack Obama couldn’t find time to visit the troops at Landstuhl Hospital, which he blames on his desire not to use the troops as a campaign prop; and the military suggests that Obama lost interest when he found out he couldn’t take his campaign aides, advisers and camera crew. I report, you decide.

The wounded veterans at Walter Reed had a visit from Iraq’s interior minister Jawad Karim al-Bolani yesterday. He went to the hosptal’s Military Advanced Training Center and thanked U.S. troops for freeing Iraq from Saddam Hussein.

We have come..to express our gratitude and appreciation for the sacrifices made by these great warriors, soldiers, in freeing the Iraqi people and in helping us in Iraq recover from tyranny and dictatorship. We also want to express our gratitude to the families of all these great men and women and express how important their sacrifices are for our nation.

Nicely done, sir.



Tacky tricks and Democrat disinformation… by The Elephant's Child

Oh dear. The Democrat Disinformation Department had another meeting, and apparently sent out a memo. A specific word has been injected into the campaign chatter.

Jim Geraghty at the Campaign Spot at National Review Online spotted an interesting pattern:

Barack Obama, appearing on Larry King Live : “Where Senator McCain I think is confused is the difference between tactics and strategy.”

Joe Biden, the same day on a campaign conference call” “As a consequence of their profound confusion [Bush and McCain] make profound mistakes.”

The liberal blog The Carpetbagger Report uses the word “confused” in almost every post about McCain.

Think Progress does exactly the same.

AmericaBlog uses the words “McCain and confused” together 108 times.

Obama surrogate John Kerry, on a conference call on June 11; “McCain confuses who Iran is training, he confuses what the makeup of al Qaeda is, he confuses the history going back to 68 of what has happened to Sunni and Shia”, Kerry said.

On the same call, Obama adviser Susan Rice cited a “pattern of confusing the basic facts and reality that pertain to Iraq.”

If you remember, Wesley Clark embarrassed everyone by sneering at John McCain’s military service. W.Va. Senator John D. Rockefeller IV said that McCain was a fighter pilot who fired missiles and didn’t care where they landed or who they hit. Obama surrogate Rand Beers said that since McCain was in prison camp he didn’t really know anything about the Vietnam War, Ed Schultz called McCain a “warmonger”. Tom Harkin claimed that McCain’s coming from a military culture was dangerous, and that McCain had a hard time thinking beyond that. After public response, they had to drop that avenue of attack.

This all seems to belong to the “throw it up against the wall and see what sticks” method of campaigning. Try anything, and if it doesn’t work drop it down the memory hole.

The “confused” theme seems a particularly tacky approach. Obama has neither the character nor the experience to be attacking his opponent on that basis.

John McCain’s own story of what it was like to be a POW in North Vietnam, published in U.S. News in 1973 is available here in 9 parts, and is well worth reading in this election year.

John McCain has never claimed that his military service alone qualified him to run for the presidency. It does, however, give great credence to his character. But as John Hawkins of Right Wing News said:”If the willingness to fight for your country, put your life on the line and suffer the brutality that John McCain suffered as a POW doesn’t make the cut as far as qualifications go, how far below that does a “community organizer” show up on the list of non-qualifications?”



Not exactly a foreign policy you can believe in… by The Elephant's Child

There’s a perennially popular genre of literature which might be called “Kids Say the Darnedest Things”. Small children, in all innocence, give charming answers to questions because they know so little.

Another version is based on the answers that college students write on exam questions. These are more often hilarious in their utter stupidity. The entire genre is based on the fact that we, as educated adults, know the subject well, and they, groping for an answer to a question on which they are poorly informed, make silly mistakes. It is usually enough to remind any adult that a simple “I don’t know” is a wise answer.

There are degrees of knowing about any subject ranging from superficial to mastery, and those who reach true mastery recognize that there is always more to learn. But as the old saying goes: “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”.

Which brings me to Barack Obama’s op-ed in the New York Times.

The call by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki for a timetable for the removal of American troops from Iraq presents an enormous opportunity. We should seize this moment to begin the phased redeployment of combat troops that I have long advocated, and that is needed for long-term success in Iraq and the security interests of the United States.

Must have seemed like a gift when some news reports claimed that Maliki had called for a timetable for removal of American troops. Obama’s insistence on removing troops was becoming increasingly untenable. He’d just removed all his previous statements on the surge from his website, assuming that voters were unfamiliar with Google.

Unfortunately, that’s not what Maliki said.

The BBC reports that in an audio recording of his speech he did not use the word “withdrawal”. Elections are coming, and Maliki’s speech was directed to that audience. Some Iraqis are anxious for us to leave: Some are fearful that we will not be patient enough with them to allow them enough time to learn how to be a democracy. A US official close to the talks with the Iraqi government said “the troops will leave when the Iraqis are ready to take over. …It is politics — how you package it, how you sell it to your people. They want our support, but they also want to show that there’s progress towards sovereignty.” Obama goes on:

Only by redeploying our troops can we press the Iraqis to reach comprehensive political accommodation and achieve a successful transition to Iraqis’ taking responsibility for the security and stability of their country. Instead of seizing the moment and encouraging Iraqis to step up, the Bush administration and Senator McCain are refusing to embrace this transition — despite their previous commitments to respect the will of Iraq’s sovereign government. They call any timetable for the removal of American troops “surrender,” even though we would be turning Iraq over to a sovereign Iraqi government.

But this is not a strategy for success — it is a strategy for staying that runs contrary to the will of the Iraqi people, the American people and the security interests of the United States. That is why, on my first day in office.I would give the military a new mission; ending this war.

Sigh. If Obama had been paying attention and keeping informed, he would be aware of the recommended force reductions and mission shift broadcast by General Petraeus during his testimony to Congress in September of 2007. And he might be aware that all of the important benchmarks have been met.

In San Diego, Obama argued that “just because Sen. John McCain had made multiple visits to Iraq, that does not mean that he has the correct perspective on the region”. Well, at least McCain is well informed.

Obama also remarked earlier that he knew more about foreign policy than Senator McCain or George W. Bush because he had lived in Indonesia (from age 6 to age 10).

Obama is still trying to validate his big moment when he opposed the Iraq War while he was still in the Illinois legislature, which endears him to the anti-war crowd. He didn’t understand the reasons for going into Iraq. He didn’t understand the reasons for the surge. He doesn’t grasp the nature of Islamic jihad. And he has apparently never studied a map of the region. Along with announcing how many brigades he’s going to move around, he’s now attempting to push the tired old Democrat spin that the real war is only in Afghanistan in pursuit of bin Laden.

I find this endlessly fascinating. How do the Democrats do it? Do they all get together in a meeting and someone says — “I know, let’s say that the war isn’t in Iraq, that we’re really supposed to be chasing Osama in Afghanistan. I’ll bet we can get away with that.” Or perhaps they get a memo from MoveOn.org with the talking points, which they circulate, because they all say the same thing in the same words. Do they have rehearsals?

And how do they all manage to forget the same things at the same time?

Obama is going to great lengths to appear “presidential”. There are the sets designed to look like a presidential press conference, the array of flags in photographs, and of course, his “presidential seal” (quickly disposed of when it evoked more humor than awe). There’s the decision to deliver his acceptance speech at Invesco Field in Denver rather than at the convention site. Obama says he wants to give the common folk more “access” to the process. Uh huh. Visions of Leni Riefenstahl.  Do you think there will be torches?

And then a demand to give a speech at the Brandenburg Gate like Presidents Kennedy and Reagan (he might wait until he’s actually a president, and it is usual for those things to be arranged quietly behind the scenes). German officials were not too keen on allowing their historic spot to be used as a prop for a candidate. It puts the German government in the awkward position of appearing to favor one candidate.

Obama’s now backed off on that, but seems unaware of the foreign policy gaffes he is making, or the problems he is creating. The rewriting of NAFTA created big problems with Mexico and Canada, opposing a free trade agreement with Columbia, invading Pakistan, the embarrassing Jerusalem gaffe all presented foreign policy problems that had to be soothed. And his pronouncements on getting out of Iraq aren’t going down too well in Europe.

On his upcoming trip abroad, he is making it clear that he isn’t going to Iraq or Afghanistan to learn, but to enhance his image. It’s (as usual) all about him. With a crew of star liberal TV anchors along to interview him at significant sites (looking presidential) he expects to raise his foreign policy qualifications. Oh, so that’s how it’s done.

Let me be clear. People may differ on the war. People may be opposed to the war, but if they are going to make pronouncements about the war, then they need to know what they are talking about. For Obama, this is a problem, and it is a problem for America. He does say the darnedest things, but it’s not funny.



Is The Iraq War Over? by The Elephant's Child

From Michael Yon, outstanding correspondent:

The war continues to abate in Iraq. Violence is still present, but, of course, Iraq was a relatively violent place long before Coalition forces moved in. I would go so far as to say that barring any major and unexpected developments (like an Israeli air strike on Iran and the retaliations that would follow), a fair-minded person could say with reasonable certainty that the war has ended. A new and better nation is growing legs. What’s left is messy politics that likely will be punctuated by low-level violence and the occasional spectacular attack. Yet the will of the Iraqi people has changed, and the Iraqi military has dramatically improved, so those spectacular attacks are diminishing along with the regular violence. Now it’s time to rebuild the country, and create a pluralistic, stable and peaceful Iraq. That will be long, hard work. But by my estimation, the Iraq War is over.

From Abe Greenwald, at Commentary’s blog, Contentions:

The corkscrew landing is a rite of passage for travelers to Iraq, who feel the pull of gravity as their airplane make a rapid, spiraling descent to avoid ground fire.

So it was a surprise to one periodic visitor last week when the Royal Jordanian Airlines aircraft from Amman descended into Baghdad International Airport with the same lack of drama as any commuter flight anywhere. No sudden plunge, no tight rotation, no straightening out the flight path just before the runway.

It didn’t feel like flying into a war zone anymore.

And another example:

Alcohol is openly for sale once more in Baghdad. All over the Iraqi capital, drink stores, which closed their doors in early 2006 when sectarian strife was raging, have slowly begin to reopen. Two years ago, al-Qa’ida militants were burning down liquor stores and shooting their owners. Now around Saadoun Street, in the centre of the city, at least 50 stores are advertising that they have alcohol for sale.

The fear of being seen drinking in public is also subsiding.,. Young men openly drink beer in some, if not all, streets. A favourite spot where drinkers traditionally gathered is al-Jadriya bridge, which has fine views up and down the Tigris river. Two years ago even serious drunks decided that boozing on the bridge was too dangerous. But in the past three months they have returned, a sign that militant gunmen no longer decide what people in Baghdad do at night.

An excerpt from a correspondent on active duty in Iraq on David Frum’s Diary at NRO:

Best experience of my life, even for the days when I was praying pretty hard.

Have a lot of folks over here that, believe me, will, I think, remember the US the way that (the immediate) post-war Germans and French remembered us.

Hope so, anyway. They’re good people. Been through quite a bit (understatement of the last three decades). Still, trying to work things out and I think (hope) they can and will.

Anecdotal, but indicative.




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