May 2005 Archives


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Dateline: Home Study

The Memorial Day service was today and turn was not too bad. I had hoped for a little better but the weather was not all that nice and it looked rain was about to fall at any minute. I was the Master of Ceremonies and had the privilege of introducing Major General Joseph Fant, US Army (Ret) as the key note speaker. We also had the mayor of Starkville and the President of the Board of Supervisors speak as well. The highlights were the introduction of the next of kin of those who died in war and the reading of the names of those who died. We then laid wreaths on the monument at the courthouse.

I also made all the news channels in the major metropolitan Starkville area. I, along with others, was interviewed before the event started and after the event ended and they used both interviews of me. I don’t think it was so much what I said as it was that I was dressed in whites.

My concluding remarks are below.

In closing today, I would like to acknowledge that we are still a nation at war, a nation at war against terrorism, fighting not just for freedom at home but for freedom of all people of the world. Many have already died for this cause, and many more will surely die before we prevail. Mississippi, the patriotic state she is, ranks fourth in the nation in the number who have paid the last full measure in this war and it is fitting that we learn from their sacrifice. To quote that great spokesman Abraham Lincoln, as he stood on the Battlefield at Gettysburg,
“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
I always like to remind people that we are still at war and it is not just in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Dateline: Home Study

Perhaps, just perhaps, the news media is starting to get it. Mr. Schaeffer is exactly correct in what he says; those of us who are connected to the military get messages from shipmates so we know that things are not as bad in Afghanistan and Iraq as the major news outlets would have us believe. There are still some issues that need to be resolved but overall a lot of progress is being made through the efforts of brave and dedicated men and women who wear the uniform. The Military You Don't See By Frank Schaeffer

Sunday, May 29, 2005; B07

I never served in the military, and before my son unexpectedly volunteered, I was too busy writing novels to give much thought to the men and women who guard us. To me the military was the "other." After my son joined the Marines, however, casualty reports from Afghanistan and Iraq were no longer mere news items but gut-churning family bulletins. And reports about prisoner abuse cut me to the quick. They also made me angry at the media. Sure, this was an emotional, don't-impugn-my-son's-honor reaction, but I wonder if there is also something fundamentally amiss with the way the media report on our military.

If most reporters, editors and publishers are like this writer before his son volunteered, they don't identify with members of our armed forces personally. Most members of our media are drawn from my privileged class. And we, the most privileged Americans, seem to believe that everyone but our children should serve. When members of the elite do volunteer -- as did the Harvard-graduate son of Richard and Doris Kearns Goodwin -- it's a news story in itself.

To be sure, if the children of our top reporters, editorial writers and columnists were proportionately represented in our military, we would still read the stories about prisoner abuse. But I think we might also read more stories like this one, forwarded to me by another Marine's father:

"February 19, 2004 Iraq Dear Mom & Dad, . . . . We were stopped in the desert outside of Fallujah. We had 3 detainees under our control that were captured in the act of [attacking our] Marines. Because we were in the open without any facilities around, the detainees were temporarily being held under the stars.

"Around 3:00 a.m., the wind started blowing hard and a sandstorm hit . . . . the sky opened and the flying sand was joined by a downpour of rain. . . . . In the back of a truck, 4 Marines were trying to stay dry and get some sleep. The lieutenant who was in charge of providing security for the detainees approached this truck and opened up the back hatch. He ordered the Marines out . . . . The Marines asked why and he explained to them that he had to put the detainees in the back of the truck to protect them from the rain and sandstorm.

"Word of this spread quickly and everyone was livid. We couldn't believe that our Marines were being kicked into the sandstorm/rainstorm so these detainees could stay dry. The next day I was still angry and everyone was still talking about what had happened that night. Later in the day, after having time to cool down and think about the situation, I switched from being angry to being proud. . . . I love you and miss you lots.

"Your son, Josh"
(Cpl. Joshua A. Mandel)

As a military parent, why do I read the most positive stories about our troops in a sort of military-family samizdat e-mail underground network and not on Page One? And how many times does the same type of editorial about the same handful of abused prisoners have to be repeated before an inaccurate impression of our military is given?

Maybe reporters and editorial writers think that reporting too often on the many selfless acts our troops undertake will reflect well on an undeserving president who likes to grandstand with our troops in photo ops. But is the truth about the character of our military being accurately, or should I say proportionately, reported? Does the public, which has woefully little personal contact with our military, know that most men and women in our services are not torturers but people like them trying to do the best they can with compassion and honor? Does the public know that acts of kindness are routine and acts of abuse are rare?

I treasure a photograph of my son cradling an Afghan child in his arms while standing outside a school he was protecting from fanatics who wanted to kill the teacher for the "crime" of teaching girls. That picture is far more typical of what my son and his fellow Marines did every day than are the pictures of mistreated prisoners.

My son humbled me. He taught me that our troops are not the "other." My son's brothers and sisters in uniform deserve better than to be mischaracterized if only by omission. Who they are and what they do should be accurately reported in a way that reflects the reality of what our selfless and extraordinary men and women do every day.

Frank Schaeffer is the author of "Faith of Our Sons -- A Father's Wartime Diary."

Hmmm. Wonder the chances aer seeing something like that in Newsweek? It is stories like this the Bush Administration was talking about when it asked Newsweek to help reapir the damage they caused. They don't need to make anything up or even slant the news, they just need to run the good news stories too. And this story is probably eve nverifiable!


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Dateline: Home Study

Today I went to the radio station for an interview about the Military affairs Committee but it turned to not be an interview at all. I was prepared to answer questions but I learned that the way it was going to work was for me to be introduced and I was to then talk for about a minute and fifty seconds. I managed to pull it off but more takes and it would have been better. The focus was on Memorial Day and inviting people to the ceremony we are planning.

Deateline: Home Study

Two articles in today’s Washington Post really makes me question the ability of the news media to think critically. Is it the purpose of news organizations to merely present facts, or should they attempt to interpret them, is an age old question but the problem I have with the media is that they selectively interpret news. On some items they want us to believe they are offering insightful commentary but on others they just report the facts.

• U.S. Officials Condemn Hussein Photos by Josh White and Ellen Knickmeyer
• New Swedish Documents Illuminate CIA Action by Craig Whitlock

Somehow photos of Saddam in prison in his underwear get published and we are all supposed to be outraged over inhumane treatment. Okay, the photos should not have been released and the person responsible for giving them to the press should be found and punished. But, if as the WashPost argues, Iraqis seeing their former dictator in his underwear is so offensive, why then does the Post publish a picture of the newspaper with the photo on the cover? Are they stupid, hypocritical, or both? They then go on to claim that seeing Saddam in his underwear may incite more violence in Iraq because the body is sacred to Muslims and should not be seen uncovered in public.

I’m not going to argue about Islam or Muslims. They have a right to their own beliefs and I respect that. If they are offended by half-clothed people then so be it. My gripe is with the WashPost again. The photos were published in the Sun, a London newspaper, not an Iraqi or even Arab newspaper, so where is the offense? The counter argument would be that the Sun is an international paper and is read by people in Iraq. True, I agree with that argument. But I would also argue that the WashPost is an international paper that it too is read in Iraq. So, publishing the photo in the WashPost makes them as responsible (irresponsible?) as the Sun for publishing the photo. And if you really want to offend someone, look at the advertisement for South Moon Under on page C4 of the Post. Those half clothed women would be enough to really get some red blood boiling.

The greater question is, should we all have one standard for publishing to avoid offending anyone else or should we accept that Western papers exhibit Western values and Arab papers exhibit Arab values? Is diversity of ideas, values, and culture not what we all want? Never mind, the evidence is clear that Al Qaeda does not want that. But really, should the Sun, the Washington Post, the New York Times, or the Backwater Weekly worry about offending the values of someone on the other side of the world. I think not.

And if the Iraqis are offended by the “Saddam in his underwear” picture, they should never again check their email. Some of the spam email I have received, in living color, would surely give them all heart attacks.

The press problems continue in the article about the CIA helping Swedish officials transport terrorist prisoners to another country. The Swedes wanted to deport these terrorists to their home country for interrogation and solicited the CIA’s help in getting them out of the country before their judges could block the transfer. Well now they are upset the CIA came in wearing masks, cut the clothes off the prisoners, strip searched them, dressed them again, and then restrained them in the Gulfstream V aircraft for transport.

Where’s the problem here? Even the Swedes admit they were amazed at how quickly the CIA personnel removed the prisoners’ clothes, searched them, and had them dressed again. If the objective were to humiliate or degrade the prisoners then why would all of this be done so quickly? The Swedes had already told the CIA personnel that no one was at the airport and that their masks were unnecessary so, if humiliation were the name of the game, why not blindfold the prisoners and march them naked to the airplane? No one would see but it would certainly be humiliating. The Swedes also said the search was unnecessary because the prisoners had already been searched and were handcuffed.

We can believe, as the WashPost seems to want, that the CIA personnel were animals who were out to humiliate and trample as many human rights as possible, or we can believe a more plausible and reasonable explanation—the CIA was concerned about safety and security! Three months prior to this event, terrorists had passed through American, not Swedish, airport security and inspections then boarded large planes with hundreds of passengers. Once airborn the terrorists took control of the planes and flew them into buildings. Perhaps the CIA was concerned that their terrorists had explosives secreted on them somewhere and might attempt to blow up a plane. What’s that? Surely the Swedes would have found any explosives? Right. And you have faith in TSA as well, don’t you? After all, making those 75 year old ladies take off their shoes has those terrorists trembling with fear.

I am worried that we are becoming a nation in which we believe that flying planes into buildings and killing people is something we deserved because we try to help the world and that having a picture of someone in their underwear is a violation of human rights. I wonder, how many pictures of naked women do you think Saddam and his sons had in their rape palaces? And we are to be concerned that pictures published in a Western paper are offensive to Arab values? No, perhaps the problem is not with the pictures but it is with the radical, militant terrorists. After all, how else can you explain the fact that Muslims living in the West have not picked up arms in protest over the photo?


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Dateline: Home Study

There may well be a move in our future, but I'm not sure. Apartments are being being built across the road from us, the owenr of the land next to us is interested in our property, and I suspect the university is also interested in it given what they already own around us. I don't really want to move, I like where we live for the most part--it is very convenient to work and football games--but it can be a little loud at times. I like students, but I also don't want to live too close to them because I've already lived the life they are living now and I know there is something better after college.

I am also working myself into the idea that our days in this town are limited as well. The more I visit other places the more realize how much I miss by not being in a larger area. So, I see five to seven years here as being perhaps as long as we want to stay, depending on how things go at work.

So, if our days are limited, then what will it take to get us to move? A new house will need to be able to be sold easily. We will need to be able to make a little money on it to make it worth the move. And, perhaps most importantly, we will have to get enough for what we have to make it worth our while--and I really hate moving so it will take a fair amount. I'm also confident that our property value will only go up so time is on our side.


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Dateline: Home Study

Ann Coulter nails Newsweek and their highly sourced Koran abuse story. My, my, Newsweek biased? Never!

Still waiting for the cowardly editors to resign...

Dateline: Home Study

Ran across this on Blogs of War. Looks like some soldiers in Iraq are making the best of things and enjoying themselves during some downtime.

Dateline: Home Study

The Newsweek story continues and Whitaker continues to hide. In today’s Washington Post there was another story about other reports of Koran abuse from detainees. Come on guys, the detainees have every reason in the world to make up stuff. Why do we not take the word of every criminal who claims innocence as seriously as we do radical militants in Gitmo?

Whitaker claims he was out of town so he is apparently not responsible. From the WashPost:

In the case of the Koran item, Whitaker said, he saw a draft version on April 29, Friday, and raised no questions. The next day, which is the magazine’s deadline, the final draft would have been approved by Periscope editor Nancy Cooper. Whitaker said he did not see the final version because he was traveling on personal business. Managing Editor Jon Meacham was out of town for an interview and for the White House Correspondents Association dinner. Washington bureau chief Dan Klaidman said he was also involved in the editing.

What a lame-assed excuse! “But sir, I wasn’t actually at the Concentration Camp where the Jews were killed so I can’t be held responsible.” I think we’ve been down that road and found that “not being there” is “not an excuse”. Whitaker needs to step up and resign, but he won’t.

Dateline: Home Study

Yesterday US Army Reserve Specialist Sabrina D. Harman was sentenced to six months in prison for her role in photographing prisoners at Abu Ghraib. What she did was wrong, no doubt, it was not in keeping with the standards of the military and fell outside a warrior’s ethic. She is also being given a “bad conduct” discharge according to the Washington Post.

Spec Harman could have received a much heavier sentence, five and a half years, and may well have deserved more than the six months she received. Her actions damaged the image and credibility of the United States and the US military in general. Her actions however resulted in far fewer consequences than did those of Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker. Of course Whitaker, whose irresponsibility resulted in the death of sixteen people, gets off scot free. And he and his staff have the audacity to question the integrity of the military. Show me a reporter in jail for screwing up and I’ll give them some respect. Until then they can just lay off and get their own act together.

Dateline: Home Study

Newsweek today retracted last week's story about the military flushing a Koran down the toilet in Gitmo. Too little, too late. The media is so biased against the military that they were all too happy to belive this story so they ran with it. Now it looks like they didn't have their facts straight and didn't really bother to check too much. This is Dan Rather all over again.

The news media is all too quick to call for resignations an firings from the military perhaps Whitaker will step up to the plate, fire these reporters and then resign himself. The fact is he was in charge when the article was published and the protests which resulted from his magazine's artilce resulted in deaths. There is no excuse for such shoody work and an apology and retraction are not enough.

I, however, will not hold my breath for this happen. Look how long it took Rather to resign after his snafu. Of course Dan still says the article was true.

Some will say I am quick to judge Newsweek as being biased. Perhaps so but let's ask this question. Assume the allegations were true, what did Newsweek hope to gain from reporting the alleged incident? Riots and deaths? Or was it to merely try to shame the military? And, again assuming this incident had happened, what would Newsweek have reported had the soldier had long hair and the toilet was on a street in New York instead of at Gitmo? Why it would have been an expression of free speech then and possibly eligible for funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

No, Whitaker and all responsible for this incident must go. It'll never happen.

For another take, which I agree with, check out Captain's Quarters.


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Dateline: On the front porch swing, listening to the thunder, waiting the rain

The BRAC recommendations came out yesterday and people in this area were a little relieved. Columbus Air Force Base will actually gain some people, which appears to be a good thing. There was much consternation about the list and whether CAFB would survive. The concern is always that if a military base is lost, the local economy goes to hell in a hand basket at supersonic speeds. Not long ago I held that belief as well but then chose to write a research paper on the topic and my opinion changed.

My research on BRAC showed that, if the local leadership is proactive and works with the state, good things can result from losing a base. It takes planning, it takes cooperation, it takes effort, and most of all it take strategic vision, but BRAC can be good for a community. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad CAFB was not listed for closing. I like having a military base nearby and think there is some non-monetary value in that. I also know all too well that leaders in Mississippi are not capable of planning, cooperating, concerted effort, and we all know they lack strategic vision. So, for Columbus, losing the base would have been catastrophic.

It does look my old Reserve Center in Mobile, Alabama will be gone. I thought that was coming given the number of Sailors who remain there. So many of the units have moved to other center and the rest are drilling off-site at their supported commands now. It is difficult to argue that it should remain but it is an asset to the community, The good will and military support that comes about as a result of the efforts of the full-time support staff there is incredible, and Mobile is a Navy town.

It also looks like NAS Meridian will remain, although with some realignment. Naval Station Pascagoula will go, which again is not a surprise. It is one of the few remaining “home ports’ remaining and many of her ships will be decommissioned in the years ahead.


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Dateline: On the front porch swing, waiting for the rain to come

I received this email yesterday which I found interesting. Nice to see the Times do some good news for a change.

New York Times May 13, 2005

By Arthur Chrenkoff, Helene Silverman, and Norman Hathaway

As the old newsroom saying goes, "If it bleeds, it leads." And while it is understandable that newspapers like to report stories about violence, crime, conflict and mayhem, it means that good news is often relegated to the back pages, if reported at all. This happens the world over, be it in Boston, Berlin -- or Baghdad. People who live in Boston or Berlin know, of course, that the bad news is never the whole story. Baghdad, on the other hand, is far away, and Westerners have no choice but to rely on reporters to tell us everything that is happening there. And while there's no denying that there is much bad news -- and the recent spate of audacious attacks by the insurgents is a prime example -- the international press has been so focused on the setbacks that few readers are likely to know about the daily parade of small triumphs that mark slow but steady progress. Consider a month's worth of such stories.

1 April -- Iraqs Kurds, divided for decades by their loyalty to two rival local governments, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, announce the merger of the two administrations.

2 April -- Ministry of Planning and Development Cooperation announces it is now supervising 121 major reconstruction projects that will cost $1.8 billion.

3 April -- Iraq and Kuwait move to end the longstanding border dispute that led to the Persian Gulf war, establishing a joint commission to decide on best way to administer the Rumaila oil field.

4 Apri1 -- Seventeen insurgents die in clashes in eastern Diyala Province; one Iraqi soldier is killed.

5 April -- Iraqi government and International Monetary Fund announce they expect to have an economic adjustment package in place by fall.

6 April --More than 900 companies from 44 countries participate in an Iraqi reconstruction exposition in Amman, Jordan.

7 April -- Ibrahim al-Jaafari named prime minister, becoming the first Shiite leader of Iraq in centuries, one day after a Kurd, Jalal Talabani, was named president.

8 April -- Three suspected insurgents arrested in Mosul following tips from local residents.

9 April -- Government announces it will begin 24 water projects, costing $15 million, in the restive Sunni areas of Latifiya, Yousifiya and Al Rasheed.

10 Apri1 -- Iraqi security forces announce the capture of Ibrahim Sabawi, a nephew of Saddam Hussein, suspected of playing a major part in financing the insurgency.

11 April -- Sixty-five suspected insurgents arrested in Baghdad in the bggest joint American-Iraqi raids to date.

12 April -- Oil output in the south of Iraq reaches 1.1 million barrels per day, close to prewar levels.

13 April -- Ministry of Health allocates $6.1 million for the reconstruction of Falluja Hospital and three other health centers.

14 April -- Four senior insurgency commanders surrender in Mosul.

15 April -- Drilling begins on four of the 110 planned new wells (74 already underway) that will give clean and reliable water to 550,000 Iraqis in remote parts of the country.

16 April -- Ministry of Health announces completed construction of two hospitals in the poorest areas of Baghdad.

17 April -- Reforestation program begins in forest areas near Erbil that were razed by Saddam Hussein in the 1990's and overharvested for fuel by local residents.

18 April -- Coalition forces arrest the alleged leader of an insurgent cell in Kirkuk responsible for sabotaging oil pipelines.

19 April -- Educational television channel begins broadcasting again for millions of Iraqi students. The channel had been closed down in 1993 after Uday Hussein confiscated its equipment for his private TV channel.

20 April -- American officials announce rehabilitation of Mosul's water treatment and sewer systems is complete.

21 April -- Government announces that the inflation rate fell by 6 percent in March, in large part because of a 48 percent drop in fuel costs.

22 April -- Following tips from local residents just north of Baghdad, 10 suspects arrested in the shooting down of a civilian helicopter.

23 April -- Two major Sunni political parties that had boycotted January's election, the Iraqi Sunni Accord and the Iraqi Islamic Party, announce they will take part in future votes.

24 April -- Opening ceremony held at a primary school in Falluja, one of the five in the city renovated by the United States Army.

25 April -- First troops of the news 450-strong Australian contingent arrive in Muthanna Province to train Iraqi troops and provide security for Japanese forces engaged in the reconstruction effort.

26 April -- America-Iraq School Partners Program pilot begins; initially involving 13 American and 17 Iraqi schools, it aims to build ties between students and educators in the two countries.

27 April -- Government signs contracts with two companies to buld two 200-megawatt power stations in the north.

28 April -- Prime Minister Jaafari's cabinet of 36 members is approved by the National Aseembly (on Saddam Hussein's birthday).

29 April -- Education Department announces it has finished renovating 49 schools and building 22 others in Baghdad's Sadr City slum.

30 April -- Nine residential neighborhoods in Diyala receive new electricity supply through an energy-cooperation project with Iran.

Arthur Chrenkoff, a journalist in Bribane, Australia, writes the Web log Helene Silverman and Norman Hathaway are graphic designers.

I am always amazed at how much people expect. There is the cry that there are more terrorist attacks after we invaded Iraq than before. Well, duh! What did they expect, that once the coalition forces entered Iraq the terrorists would just give up? Such shallow thinking!


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Dateline: On the front porch swing

Absence of blog entries does not indicate a lack of writing. I finished three graduate courses in Public Policy and Administration in the last few weeks, all of which required final papers. So, in a matter of only a few days I wrote somewhere around 60 to 70 pages. And while some find it hard to believe, I enjoyed it!

The semester is over, students have left for summer break, and I’ve graded papers in the Engineering and Public Policy class we offered this spring on an experimental basis. I think the class went well so we may try to continue it next year, resources permitting. I’m still sorting through the evaluations the students did of the class itself. Some comments were very helpful, others were not. There is always the case where one student writes that they love something and another writes that they hate the same thing. What to do? Some comments were expected; others were not but are very helpful in showing us what was beneficial and what was not. There are also those comments that come zinging in from somewhere and make little sense. You wonder if the student and you were in the same class.

Summer is here now, not that we ever really have Spring in Starkville, so I get a little break. I am taking some dissertation research hours and hope I can refine my dissertation topic a little bit and get serious about working on it. I have many, many books to read so I may be able to catch up on those, and I also plan to start a more formal leadership program in the Fall so I need to work on that. As always, there is never enough time.

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