Schadenfreude

Two Felte/on's....Felten And Felton. Viewpoints and Discussion From Two Old War Horses

Monday, January 31, 2005

Why are you still here??

OK, kids, it's official. If you're looking for Schadenfreude, time to update the bookmarks...or blogroll, if you're a really nice person.

The New Schadenfreude

Hope to see you there!

Felten and Felton

Friday, January 28, 2005

Senator Kennedy Calls Forth Satan, Spins Head And Spews Split Pea Soup

Well, not quite. But he doesn't care too much for my brothers and sisters in uniform, coming just short of blaming us for the insurgency in Iraq.

TK.jpg

[...]

Speaking at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies in the District, Mr. Kennedy said that U.S. troops and officials are seen by Iraqis as an occupational force, rather than a means to peace, and they are the reason violence is escalating.

"The men and women of our armed services are serving honorably and with great courage under extreme conditions, but their indefinite presence is fanning the flames of conflict," he said.
(emphasis mine)

[...]

Thanks, Ted!! You're my favorite drunk!

So let me guess...we're to withdraw our forces from an extremely unstable Iraq, cross our fingers, wish happy thoughts, and believe that the fledgling democracy will NOT fall into civil war and become an Islamic theocracy?

I gotta get some of what you're drinking, Senator. I'll bet it's really, really good.

Beware of Felten

I guess I know why my nickname is "The Reaper"....


How evil are you?

No News Like Good News

In keeping with my resolution to report only good news about Iraq, I give you this and this.

As for the latter story, it would seem that at least as far as the Shiites are concerned, the hope of a free Iraq is tangible:

[...]

The U.S. ambassador in Baghdad, John Negroponte, insisted some Sunnis will turn out to vote. "Sunnis don't only live in some of these beleagered provinces, they live here in Baghdad, they live in other parts of the country," Negroponte said on CBS's "The Early Show." "I think you're going to see participation across the board."

Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority is eager to vote, expecting the election to establish their domination of the country after decades of repression. Sunni Arabs, however, may follow calls by some leaders to boycott the vote — or may be intimidated by the violence that has been at its worst in mainly Sunni regions north and west of Baghdad.

Expatriate Iraqis began casting ballots amid tight security in early voting in 14 countries from Australia to Sweden to the United States.

"This is a long dream that now comes true," said 56-year-old Karim Jari before casting his vote in Sydney, Australia, where young children mingled in line with elderly Kurdish women in head-to-toe black robes and men in colorful traditional costumes. "We hope this is a new beginning."


[...]

I am a little envious of excitement regarding elections in Iraq. I wish Americans could still feel they're making a difference in the direction of their country.

Iraq Expatriate Votes in Texas.jpg
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

Then again, at least we don't have bombings and beheading surrounding our elections. We just have this.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

New Website!

The new site is up and running. If you get a chance, head on out to the all-new Schadenfreude. Don't forget to update your bookmarks!

We will be posting on this site and the new one simultaneously for the next week or two. Just getting all the bugs worked out.

If you know of any nice Movable Type templates, please let me know. I'm using the basic template right now, and it's a little....boring.

Thanks for all the support you've shown Felton and I. We are looking forward to seeing you out on the new site!

Thursday Diversion


Babe, originally uploaded by schadenfreude.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Fire Hare strikes fear


firemenandhare
Originally uploaded by hareborneranger.
To paraphrase the mother of Mr Howard Hughes; You are not safe, irrespective of what Mr Orwell said.

The Year of the Fire Hare

A little known non-truth about the Chinese calendar; every 12 years the animal totems take their turn in the box, just like Army units in the Global War On Terror. Here's what you didn't know: Every so many cycles, the little beasties are breveted with the 'fire' identifier. You know, "Fire Horse", "Fire Rat", etcetera. I was born in the year of the Fire Rabbit. I wouldn't have mentioned this, except when I went to check out Nehring The Edge, I peeked at his profile. He lists his Chinese zodiacal affinity. So, there's that. He's a Rooster and I am a Fire Rabbit. You need to go to his site, by the way. He's a clear thinking member of the 4th estate, and he's therefore funny.

Some one stole -en's "Support the Troops" magnet off of his car. I was once accused of stealing a lead rope from a college climbing instructor. Let me tell you why thieving should be avoided. (and every climber knows this) Stolen gear will absolutely wait until you need it, before it fails. The guy that stole the magnet took it from a soldier who has been the willing guarentor of his most essential liberties for 16 years. He has a magnet because he still cares for the soldiers that deploy. He himself has done the 2 Iraq wars plus a ugly little piece in Somalia. He also did his bit as a Sheriff's deputy.

Here's what I hope: Their liberty will fail them when they take it most for granted. They will find themselves in a tight spot, and someone like Dan won't be there. They will grouse about how unfair their life is and wonder "Why is this happening to me?" It will be happening to them because they earned it. They are a criminal, and the enemy of civilization.

Fie on them.

A Little Note

To the person who stole the "Support Our Troops" magnet off of the back of my car.

It is my fervent hope that there is a very hot place reserved for you when you expire, shake off this mortal coil, run up the curtain, and join the Choir Invisible.

You jerk.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Sympathy For The Devil

Apparently (if you believe our liberal media), the upcoming elections in Iraq are doomed to failure. What I find truly amazing is the sheer amount of bad press one writer can cram into one story. Let's recap what we just read, kids. Ready??

1. The Hostages. Mr. Roy Hallums (American) and Mr. Robert Tarongoy, a Filipino OSW, were taken captive by insurgent forces in Iraq. The all-important video was broadcasted world-wide (well, Al-Jazeera wide). In the short film, Mr. Hallums is shown with a rifle pointing at his head, pleading with the world-renown humanitarian Moammar Ghadafi to save him. Special praise is heaped upon President Bush, to wit:

[...]

"I'm not asking for any help from President Bush because I know of his selfishness and unconcern for those who've been pushed into this hellhole."

[...]

Of course, we can probably speculate that this was entirely scripted. The fact that the Philippine Government folded like a house of cards when pressure was applied by the insurgents last year is well known. This fact has not stopped individual Pinoys from moving to the region to work. Life is hard in the Philippines, and meaningful employment is difficult to come by. A Filipino understands that sometimes sacrifices must be made. He (or she) travels to the Middle East to do the jobs no one else wants to, and is paid handsomely for it. This affords the OSW the ability to provide for his family in a way that staying home cannot. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's attempt to stem the "brain drain" from the Philippines is utterly futile. It simply cannot be stopped due to the fact that the island nation is suffering from crippling inflation and a corrupt government. As far as the American is concerned, well...what can you say? He knew the risks. He was chasing a buck and rolled the dice. I don't mean to sound callous, but speaking as someone who's been there a couple of times, it isn't a place I'd voluntarily live/work/die. It is a hellhole, as Mr. Hallums so eloquently put it. People, we are talking about a civilization that peaked 6,000 years ago. Period. It's 20 billion degrees in the shade in August. And that's at 6:00 a.m., my friend.

2. A PSYOP campaign is underway by the insurgents. They are working on a leaflet dissemination, with the target audience being Sunni Arabs who dare display the temerity to show up at the polls:

[...]

"Many Sunni Arabs are expected to boycott the elections, either to express opposition to the process or for fear of reprisals.

On Tuesday, militants handed out flyers in Baghdad promising that rebels would wash the streets with the blood of voters and shower polling stations with bombs, mortar fire and rockets.


The leaflets, which didn't bear the name of any militant group, warned that "those who dare to stand in the lines of death to participate in the elections will be responsible for the consequences that will be heavy."

"He will not be able to imagine what will happen to him and his family for taking part in this crusaders' conspiracy to occupy the land of Islam," the flyers said."

[...]

I love the verbiage. "Many Sunni Arabs are expected to boycott the elections...". You absolutely have to respect the AP. I don't like it, but they sure know how to plant a Jedi Mind Trick.

OK, here's the deal. If the Iraqi's want a future, they have to be active participants. Sorry, but you don't get to sit this one out. It's your childrens' future. How do you want them to live? Like you? You get American, European, heck, Arab television stations. You see how we live. There are nations out there which actively work to better the lives of their citizens. Here's your chance. I'm sick of hearing "Well, they only know hardship, suffering, torture, et.al". So? It's their problem, they need to fix it. We've done the work of getting rid of the dictator. What path they take is up to them. I don't hold much hope. I'm guessing 6-12 months after the elections, civil war quickly followed by an Islamic Republic.

3. Human rights abuses. Duh. There's a no-brainer. Do you think it might be possible that some of the Iraqi police officers were abused under the Saddam regime? Perhaps they are thinking a little payback's in order? Way to go, "Human Rights Watch". When you're done in Iraq, stop over here, the good 'ol USA. Apparently there's a Senator who desperately needs your attention. The U.N. didn't quite make it out here to monitor the election, so you've got some catch-up to do.

4. Attacks, attacks, attacks. The insurgents are really ramping up the attacks in preparation for the elections. We all know the reason for this. Once (we hope) the elections are conducted and the new representatives and government are sworn in, the Al Sadr's of Iraq will not have an audience. Their brand of terrorism is derived from the ability to drive a wedge between the Iraqi people and the Coalition forces. This will evaporate in the face of a representative government. It is VITAL to the future of Iraq that these elections are held and supported world-wide.

Now, what is going on with the AP and other news agencies? I know the theory regarding bad news and headlines. The opening of a new school or the construction of a new hospital will never make the front page. Good news has no legs. I think I'm going to start looking for the good things happening in Iraq and report them here. I'll leave the death and destruction for the "established press".

Monday, January 24, 2005

Ah, Crap.

I knew I was a geek, but this is bad.


I am nerdier than 81% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!




So Long...


johnnycarson, originally uploaded by schadenfreude.

to the last class act in Hollywood. You'll be missed, sir.

Friday, January 21, 2005

The Fourth Estate

An old friend of Felton and myself sent this article. I apologise in advance for the length of the piece, but it's worth it.

Get yourself a cup of coffee and settle in.

- Felten

Below an essay by Lieutenant Colonel Tim Ryan - a Task Force (Battalion +) Commander in Iraq - who has some words about the Fourth Estate:

Aiding and Abetting the Enemy: the Media in Iraq
By LTC Tim Ryan, CO, 2/12 Cav, 1st Cav Div

What if domestic news outlets continually fed American readers headlines like: "Bloody Week on U.S. Highways: Some 700 Killed," or "More Than 900 Americans Die Weekly from Obesity-Related Diseases"? Both of these headlines might be true statistically, but do they really represent accurate pictures of the situations? What if you combined all of the negatives to be found in the state of Texas and used them as an indicator of the quality of life for all Texans? Imagine the headlines: "Anti-law Enforcement Elements Spread Robbery, Rape and Murder through Texas Cities." For all intents and purposes, this statement is true for any day of any year in any state. True -- yes, accurate -- yes, but in context with the greater good taking place -- no! After a year or two of headlines like these, more than a few folks back in Texas and the rest of the U.S. probably would be ready to jump off of a building and end it all. So, imagine being an American in Iraq right now.

I just read yet another distorted and grossly exaggerated story from a major news organization about the "failures" in the war in Iraq. Print and video journalists are covering only a small fraction of the events in Iraq and more often than not, the events they cover are only the bad ones. Many of the journalists making public assessments about the progress of the war in Iraq are unqualified to do so, given their training and experience. The inaccurate picture they paint has distorted the world view of the daily realities in Iraq. The result is a further erosion of international public support for the United States' efforts there, and a strengthening of the insurgents' resolve and recruiting efforts while weakening our own. Through their incomplete, uninformed and unbalanced reporting, many members of the media covering the war in Iraq are aiding and abetting the enemy.

The fact is the Coalition is making steady progress in Iraq, but not without ups and downs. War is a terrible thing and terrible things happen during wars, even when you are winning. In war, as in any contest of wills with capable opponents, things do not always go as planned; the guys with the white hats don't always come out on top in each engagement. That doesn't mean you are losing. Sure, there are some high profile and very spectacular enemy attacks taking place in Iraq these days, but the great majority of what is happening in Iraq is positive. So why is it that no matter what events unfold, good or bad, the media highlight mostly the negative aspects of the event? The journalistic adage, "If it bleeds, it leads," still applies in Iraq, but why only when it's American blood?

As a recent example, the operation in Fallujah delivered an absolutely devastating blow to the insurgency. Though much smaller in scope, clearing Fallujah of insurgents arguably could equate to the Allies' breakout from the hedgerows in France during World War II. In both cases, our troops overcame a well-prepared and solidly entrenched enemy and began what could be the latter's last stand. In Fallujah, the enemy death toll has already exceeded 1,500 and still is climbing. Put one in the win column for the good guys, right? Wrong. As soon as there was nothing negative to report about Fallujah, the media shifted its focus to other parts of the country. Just yesterday, a major news agency's website lead read: "Suicide Bomber Kills Six in Baghdad" and "Seven Marines Die in Iraq Clashes." True, yes. Comprehensive, no. Did the author of this article bother to mention that Coalition troops killed 50 or so terrorists while incurring those seven losses? Of course not. Nor was there any mention about the substantial progress these offensive operations continue to achieve in defeating the insurgents.

Unfortunately, this sort of incomplete reporting has become the norm for the media, whose poor job of presenting a complete picture of what is going on in Iraq borders on being criminal.
Much of the problem is about perspective, putting things in scale and balance. From where I sit in my command post at Camp Fallujah, Iraq, things are not all bad right now. In fact, they are going quite well. We are not under attack by the enemy; on the contrary, we are taking the fight to him daily and have him on the ropes. In the distance, I can hear the repeated impacts of heavy artillery and five hundred-pound bombs hitting their targets in the city. The occasional tank main gun report and the staccato rhythm of a Marine Corps LAV or Army Bradley Fighting Vehicle's 25-millimeter cannon provide the bass line for a symphony of destruction. Right now, as elements from all four services complete the absolute annihilation of the insurgent forces remaining in Fallujah, the area around the former stronghold is more peaceful than it has been for more than a year. The number of attacks in the greater Al Anbar Province is down by at least 70-80% from late October -- before Operation Al Fajar began. The enemy in this area is completely defeated, but not completely gone. Final eradication of the pockets of insurgents will take some time, as it always does, but the fact remains that the central geographic stronghold of the insurgents is now under friendly control. That sounds a lot like success to me. Given all of this, why don't the papers lead with "Coalition Crushes Remaining Pockets of Insurgents" or "Enemy Forces Resort to Suicide Bombings of Civilians"? This would paint a far more accurate picture of the enemy's predicament over here. Instead, headlines focus almost exclusively on our hardships.

What about the media's portrayal of the enemy? Why do these ruthless murderers, kidnappers and thieves get a pass when it comes to their actions? What did the media not show or tell us about Margaret Hassoon, the director of C.A.R.E. in Iraq and an Iraqi citizen, who was kidnapped, brutally tortured and left disemboweled in streets of Fallujah? Did anyone in the press show these images over and over to emphasize the moral failings of the enemy as they did with the soldiers at Abu Ghuraib? Did anyone show the world how this enemy had huge stockpiles of weapons in schools and mosques, or how he used these protected places as sanctuaries for planning and fighting in Fallujah and the rest of Iraq? Are people of the world getting the complete story? The answer again is no! What the world got instead were repeated images of a battle-weary Marine who made a quick decision to use lethal force and who now is being tried in the world press. Is this one act really illustrative of the overall action in Fallujah? No, but the Marine video clip was shown an average of four times each hour on just about every major TV news channel for a week. This is how the world views our efforts over here and stories like this without a counter continually serve as propaganda victories for the enemy. Al Jazeera isn't showing the film of the CARE worker, but is showing the clip of the Marine. Earlier this year, the Iraqi government banned Al Jazeera from the country for its inaccurate reporting. Wonder where they get their information now? Well, if you go to the Internet, you'll find a web link from the Al Jazeera home page to CNN's home page. Very interesting.

The operation in Fallujah is only one of the recent examples of incomplete coverage of the events in Iraq. The battle in Najaf last August provides another. Television and newspapers spilled a continuous stream of images and stories about the destruction done to the sacred city, and of all the human suffering allegedly brought about by the hands of the big, bad Americans. These stories and the lack of anything to counter them gave more fuel to the fire of anti-Americanism that burns in this part of the world. Those on the outside saw the Coalition portrayed as invaders or oppressors, killing hapless Iraqis who, one was given to believe, simply were trying to defend their homes and their Muslim way of life.

Reality couldn't have been farther from the truth. What noticeably was missing were accounts of the atrocities committed by the Mehdi Militia -- Muqtada Al Sadr's band of henchmen. While the media was busy bashing the Coalition, Muqtada's boys were kidnapping policemen, city council members and anyone else accused of supporting the Coalition or the new government, trying them in a kangaroo court based on Islamic Shari'a law, then brutally torturing and executing them for their "crimes." What the media didn't show or write about were the two hundred-plus headless bodies found in the main mosque there, or the body that was put into a bread oven and baked. Nor did they show the world the hundreds of thousands of mortar, artillery and small arms rounds found within the "sacred" walls of the mosque. Also missing from the coverage was the huge cache of weapons found in Muqtada's "political" headquarters nearby. No, none of this made it to the screen or to print. All anyone showed were the few chipped tiles on the dome of the mosque and discussion centered on how we, the Coalition, had somehow done wrong. Score another one for the enemy's propaganda machine.
Now, compare the Najaf example to the coverage and debate ad nauseam of the Abu Ghuraib Prison affair. There certainly is no justification for what a dozen or so soldiers did there, but unbalanced reporting led the world to believe that the actions of the dozen were representative of the entire military. This has had an incredibly negative effect on Middle Easterners' already sagging opinion of the U.S. and its military. Did anyone show the world images of the 200 who were beheaded and mutilated in Muqtada's Shari'a Law court, or spend the next six months talking about how horrible all of that was? No, of course not. Most people don't know that these atrocities happened. It's little wonder that many people here want us out and would vote someone like Muqtada Al Sadr into office given the chance -- they never see the whole truth. Strange, when the enemy is the instigator the media does not flash images across the screens of televisions in the Middle East as they did with Abu Ghuraib. Is it because the beheaded bodies might offend someone? If so, then why do we continue see photos of the naked human pyramid over and over?

So, why doesn't the military get more involved in showing the media the other side of the story? The answer is they do. Although some outfits are better than others, the Army and other military organizations today understand the importance of getting out the story -- the whole story -- and trains leaders to talk to the press. There is a saying about media and the military that goes: "The only way the media is going to tell a good story is if you give them one to tell." This doesn't always work as planned. Recently, when a Coalition spokesman tried to let TV networks in on opening moves in the Fallujah operation, they misconstrued the events for something they were not and then blamed the military for their gullibility. CNN recently aired a "special report" in which the cable network accused the military of lying to it and others about the beginning of the Fallujah operation. The incident referred to took place in October when a Marine public affairs officer called media representatives and told them that an operation was about to begin. Reporters rushed to the outskirts of Fallujah to see what they assumed was going to be the beginning of the main attack on the city. As it turned out, what they saw were tactical "feints" designed to confuse the enemy about the timing of the main attack, then planned to take place weeks later.

Once the network realized that major combat operations wouldn't start for several more weeks, CNN alleged that the Marines had used them as a tool for their deception operation. Now, they say they want answers from the military and the administration on the matter. The reality appears to be that in their zeal to scoop their competition, CNN and others took the information they were given and turned it into what they wanted it to be. Did the military lie to the media: no. It is specifically against regulations to provide misinformation to the press. However, did the military planners anticipate that reporters would take the ball and run with it, adding to the overall deception plan? Possibly. Is that unprecedented or illegal? Of course not.

CNN and others say they were duped by the military in this and other cases. Yet, they never seem to be upset by the undeniable fact that the enemy manipulates them with a cunning that is almost worthy of envy. You can bet that terrorist leader Abu Musab Al Zarqarwi has his own version of a public affairs officer and it is evident that he uses him to great effect. Each time Zarquari's group executes a terrorist act such as a beheading or a car bomb, they have a prepared statement ready to post on their website and feed to the press. Over-eager reporters take the bait, hook, line and sinker, and report it just as they got it.

Did it ever occur to the media that this type of notoriety is just what the terrorists want and need? Every headline they grab is a victory for them. Those who have read the ancient Chinese military theorist and army general Sun Tsu will recall the philosophy of "Kill one, scare ten thousand" as the basic theory behind the strategy of terrorism. Through fear, the terrorist can then manipulate the behavior of the masses. The media allows the terrorist to use relatively small but spectacular events that directly affect very few, and spread them around the world to scare millions. What about the thousands of things that go right every day and are never reported? Complete a multi-million-dollar sewer project and no one wants to cover it, but let one car bomb go off and it makes headlines. With each headline, the enemy scores another point and the good-guys lose one. This method of scoring slowly is eroding domestic and international support while fueling the enemy's cause.

I believe one of the reasons for this shallow and subjective reporting is that many reporters never actually cover the events they report on. This is a point of growing concern within the Coalition. It appears many members of the media are hesitant to venture beyond the relative safety of the so-called "International Zone" in downtown Baghdad, or similar "safe havens" in other large cities. Because terrorists and other thugs wisely target western media members and others for kidnappings or attacks, the westerners stay close to their quarters. This has the effect of holding the media captive in cities and keeps them away from the broader truth that lies outside their view. With the press thus cornered, the terrorists easily feed their unwitting captives a thin gruel of anarchy, one spoonful each day. A car bomb at the entry point to the International Zone one day, a few mortars the next, maybe a kidnapping or two thrown in. All delivered to the doorsteps of those who will gladly accept it without having to leave their hotel rooms -- how convenient.

The scene is repeated all too often: an attack takes place in Baghdad and the morning sounds are punctuated by a large explosion and a rising cloud of smoke. Sirens wail in the distance and photographers dash to the scene a few miles away. Within the hour, stern-faced reporters confidently stare into the camera while standing on the balcony of their tenth-floor Baghdad hotel room, their back to the city and a distant smoke plume rising behind them. More mayhem in Gotham City they intone, and just in time for the morning news. There is a transparent reason why the majority of car bombings and other major events take place before noon Baghdad-time; any later and the event would miss the start of the morning news cycle on the U.S. east coast. These terrorists aren't stupid; they know just what to do to scare the masses and when to do it. An important key to their plan is manipulation of the news media. But, at least the reporters in Iraq are gathering information and filing their stories, regardless of whether or the stories are in perspective. Much worse are the "talking heads" who sit in studios or offices back home and pontificate about how badly things are going when they never have been to Iraq and only occasionally leave Manhattan.

Almost on a daily basis, newspapers, periodicals and airwaves give us negative views about the premises for this war and its progress. It seems that everyone from politicians to pop stars are voicing their unqualified opinions on how things are going. Recently, I saw a Rolling Stone magazine and in bold print on the cover was, "Iraq on Fire; Dispatches from the Lost War." Now, will someone please tell me who at Rolling Stone or just about any other "news" outlet is qualified to make a determination as to when all is lost and it's time to throw in the towel? In reality, such flawed reporting serves only to misshape world opinion and bolster the enemy's position. Each enemy success splashed across the front pages and TV screens of the world not only emboldens them, but increases their ability to recruit more money and followers.So what are the credentials of these self proclaimed "experts"? The fact is that most of those on whom we rely for complete and factual accounts have little or no experience or education in counter-insurgency operations or in nation-building to support their assessments. How would they really know if things are going well or not? War is an ugly thing with many unexpected twists and turns. Who among them is qualified to say if this one is worse than any other at this point? What would they have said in early 1942 about our chances of winning World War II? Was it a lost cause too? How much have these "experts" studied warfare and counter-insurgencies in particular? Have they ever read Roger Trinquier's treatise Modern Warfare: A French View on Counter-insurgency (1956)? He is one of the few French military guys who got it right. The Algerian insurgency of the 1950s and the Iraq insurgency have many similarities. What about Napoleon's campaigns in Sardinia in 1805-07? Again, there are a lot of similarities to this campaign. Have they studied that and contrasted the strategies? Or, have they even read Mao Zedung's theories on insurgencies, or Nygen Giap's, or maybe Che' Gueverra's? Have they seen any of Sun Zsu's work lately? Who are these guys? It's time to start studying, folks. If a journalist doesn't recognize the names on this list, he or she probably isn't qualified to assess the state of this or any other campaign's progress.

Worse yet, why in the world would they seek opinion from someone who probably knows even less than they do about the state of affairs in Iraq? It sells commercials, I suppose. But, I find it amazing that some people are more apt to listen to a movie star's or rock singer's view on how we should prosecute world affairs than to someone whose profession it is to know how these things should go. I play the guitar, but Bruce Springsteen doesn't listen to me play. Why should I be subjected to his views on the validity of the war? By profession, he's a guitar player. Someone remind me what it is that makes Sean Penn an expert on anything. It seems that anyone who has a dissenting view is first to get in front of the camera. I'm all for freedom of speech, but let's talk about things we know. Otherwise, television news soon could have about as much credibility as "The Batchelor" has for showing us truly loving couples.

Also bothersome are references by "experts" on how "long" this war is taking. I've read that in the world of manufacturing, you can have only two of the following three qualities when developing a product -- cheap, fast or good. You can produce something cheap and fast, but it won't be good; good and fast, but it won't be cheap; good and cheap, but it won't be fast. In this case, we want the result to be good and we want it at the lowest cost in human lives. Given this set of conditions, one can expect this war is to take a while, and rightfully so. Creating a democracy in Iraq not only will require a change in the political system, but the economic system as well. Study of examples of similar socio-economic changes that took place in countries like Chile, Bulgaria, Serbia, Russia and other countries with oppressive Socialist dictatorships shows that it took seven to ten years to move those countries to where they are now. There are many lessons to be learned from these transformations, the most important of which is that change doesn't come easily, even without an insurgency going on. Maybe the experts should take a look at all of the work that has gone into stabilizing Bosnia-Herzegovina over the last 10 years. We are just at the eighteen-month mark in Iraq, a place far more oppressive than Bosnia ever was. If previous examples are any comparison, there will be no quick solutions here, but that should be no surprise to an analyst who has done his or her homework.

This war is not without its tragedies; none ever are. The key to the enemy's success is use of his limited assets to gain the greatest influence over the masses. The media serves as the glass through which a relatively small event can be magnified to international proportions, and the enemy is exploiting this with incredible ease. There is no good news to counteract the bad, so the enemy scores a victory almost every day. In its zeal to get to the hot spots and report the latest bombing, the media is missing the reality of a greater good going on in Iraq. We seldom are seen doing anything right or positive in the news. People believe what they see, and what people of the world see almost on a daily basis is negative. How could they see it any other way? These images and stories, out of scale and context to the greater good going on over here, are just the sort of thing the terrorists are looking for. This focus on the enemy's successes strengthens his resolve and aids and abets his cause. It's the American image abroad that suffers in the end.
Ironically, the press freedom that we have brought to this part of the world is providing support for the enemy we fight. I obviously think it's a disgrace when many on whom the world relies for news paint such an incomplete picture of what actually has happened. Much too much is ignored or omitted. I am confident that history will prove our cause right in this war, but by the time that happens, the world might be so steeped in the gloom of ignorance we won't recognize victory when we achieve it.

[Thanks to Amy K. - whose husband is a Marine Officer in Iraq - for sending the essay by LTC Ryan]