Monday, March 31, 2008
Iranian general played key role in brokering Iraq cease-fire
By Leila Fadel McClatchy Newspapers
BAGHDAD — Iraqi lawmakers traveled to the Iranian holy city of Qom over the weekend to win the support of the commander of Iran's Qods brigades in persuading Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr to order his followers to stop military operations, members of the Iraqi parliament said.
Sadr ordered the halt on Sunday, and his Mahdi Army militia heeded the order in Baghdad, where the Iraqi government announced it would lift a 24-hour curfew starting early Monday in most parts of the capital.
A bit of commentary on this article...
Maliki And The Iranians
By Kevin Drum
Mar 31, 2008
Another earlier analysis, before things apparently started quieting down....
RPT-ANALYSIS-Maliki's Basra crackdown poses risk for U.S.
Sun Mar 30, 2008 4:57am EDT
I found the questioning of Maliki's political intentions with this action particularly interesting. Truth at this point is I have no clue what motivations were in play. I have enough trouble figuring out intentions of folks I work with.
On the bright side, the Iraqi leadership was acting on its own- sovereignty, even if we didn't necessarily agree with how they exercised it. Makes things a bit difficult for the U.S. leadership which likes to be more prepared than they were on this Basra event, and it will take some time to figure out the implications of what has happened there and in Baghdad, and how it impacts future events here.
And where is all the breathless reporting of things calming down a bit after a week of trumpeting instability?
Sunday, March 30, 2008
I went through and tried to catalogue all the places things have gone wrong, and could go wrong, and here is only a partial list:
Intake pipes at Tigris
Pumps at Tigris River- including filters
Pipelines to ANMTB
Holding tanks and treatment areas at ANMTB water station
Pumps at ANMTB water station
Pipelines and valves to pods
Generators for pumps
Fuel for generators
Contracted and IA operators
Saboteurs along the pipeline
Thieves of fuel
And then I tried to understand the rules of the game, to more fully understand how the system worked. They go a little something like this:
•Rules of the game
–Never provide more than 1/3 of a day of water pumping
–Failures must be present at one or more points within the entire system at all times
–If everything is working fine, people MUST intervene to ensure failures, ie just forget to turn on generators and pumps, even if there is enough fuel and everything works
–All failures are to be blamed on CPATT and the National Police
Now, as I look at the end of my tour, I can look back with admiration that the base has continued to function with absolutely no real improvement in the water situation. CPATT and the NPs have decided to pay a nominal fee to keep this marvelous system working for the forseeable future, just as it is. Why pay for real service when inadequate service will do?
Saturday, March 29, 2008
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. forces bombed Basra on Saturday as about 40 Iraqi police commandos based in Baghdad deserted to join the Mehdi Army.
Friday, March 28, 2008
I receive care packages of all kinds (but just a few of them really- just lots of variety in them), and in one of them, I got a Popular Mechanics issue from July '07 which presented a piece on the "Milan" platform from Microsoft- a "new" computer.
I was intrigued because it just seemed plain interesting to me as I thought about ways it could be used. But I was also a bit dubious about the claims of where it was in terms of being useful and practical, given how much trouble I've had with my Zune, an incredibly simple computer by comparison. The devil for me in this case seems to be in the software. But I digress.
Milan is apparently now going by the moniker "Surface." Looks like it could be really cool, anyway.
There's my plug, my Microsoftie friends! I now expect to see some blog entries from all of you in the future about some cool tools you were able to buy at Lowe's.
(winning hearts and minds by contributing to the local economy- or is it "funding terrorism through money laundering rackets?)
We joke about going "to the land of the big PX" at the end of mission, but this one has about everything I have needed during my tour. Actually, not really, but thankfully, I haven't really needed much.
Storekeeper, Iraq Army customer, and civilian Iraqi customer- all overjoyed at being photographed by the infidel
And I've started the second of my 4 day passes- this time, because of the difficulties of travel and the handoff to my replacement, I'm doing it in place here at the Numaniyah Resort Hotel and Conference Center. Ok, that may exaggerate the luxury I'm living in. Our big mystery of today was what was causing the foul sewage stench around the inside of the entrance to our building.
So I've been spending some time reading through and clearing out personal e-mails, catching up on friends' blogs, etc.
And I came across a little silliness on Jason's page. I don't actually advocate doing this- I love my 5 year old.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Not called the Run to the Sun for nothing- ah, the beautiful clouds of Hawaii!
More recently he won the Run to the Sun on Maui. It started at sea level (the Maui Mall in Kahului) and finished 36.4 miles later at the top of Haleakala crater, 10,023 feet above sea level.
It was his first "ultra marathon," so he was a bit nervous as to how he'd do. He'd also never been to Maui before, and hadn't seen 10,000 feet since he lived in Colorado many years ago. He won the race, finishing in 5 hours 28 minutes and 38 seconds, which was the best finishing time in 13 years. He beat the second-place finisher by 40 minutes.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
The Berkeley events (a few weeks ago?) were an example of taking things a bit too far. But those were clearly not isolated incidents.
Targeting military recruiters
By Michelle Malkin
March 14, 2008
Law breaking should be punished, and law breakers should be treated like criminals, not heros. In some case, I think you could even argue some of these actions border on terrorism- bombing a recruiting center, for example.
And I don't buy the argument that soldiers following lawful orders including rules of engagement are criminals.
My 2 cents. Of course, that doesn't go as far in the international community given the devaluation of the dollar lately, does it?
By Ann Hornaday
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
That one addresses the question of whether Saddam was in cahoots with Al Qaeda. He wasn't. Did he support terrorism? Yes, against "his own" people. He fits the bully profile, and didn't want to take on the U.S. And he didn't want anyone operating in his country that might threaten his power, which would be a threat from letting an Al Qaeda type organization loose in his own country.
Chuck Norris, U.S. military cult hero
This article got a knowing giggle out of me. Where I am, Chuck does not enjoy the rock star status he enjoys at larger U.S. facilities. We don't get Stars and Stripes, we don't ever meet anyone that works for KBR, etc. But the few times I've passed through larger U.S. facilities in Iraq and Kuwait, I've learned just how important Chuck is to our troops. In the porta-johns, actually. Those who apparently lack focus on the task at hand take the time to render various homages to the man, the myth, the legend. Some of them are really quite funny (and yes, some of us who lack focus on the task at hand take the time to read some of them). And they are all better than the many profane, vulgar, racist, sexist, anti-Iraqi, anti-Arabic or other comments that seem to also find their way onto the porta-john walls.
Here's a brief sampling, thanks to the Chuck Norris Facts page:
1. If you have five dollars and Chuck Norris has five dollars, Chuck Norris has more money than you.
2. There is no 'ctrl' button on Chuck Norris's computer. Chuck Norris is always in control.
3. Apple pays Chuck Norris 99 cents every time he listens to a song.
4. Chuck Norris can sneeze with his eyes open.
5. Chuck Norris can eat just one Lay's potato chip.
6. Chuck Norris is suing Myspace for taking the name of what he calls everything around you.
7. Chuck Norris destroyed the periodic table, because he only recognizes the element of surprise. 8. Chuck Norris can kill two stones with one bird.
Iraq's Surging Violence(Washington Post)...Eugene Robinson
I was disturbed by this one. Really appeared to me to be cherry-picking data to support an extreme left-wing argument. I thought it was exaggerated and counterproductive to rational arguments about what should or should not be done here. "Growing less peaceful and tranquil by the day"? He's clearly experiencing a different part of Iraq than most of the people here are. Yes, it is still very dangerous in many parts, but the "trend" he's identifying ignores the larger sets of data- he's clinging to the spectacular attacks that occur from time to time.
Keeping Iraq In The Dark (New York Times)...Glenn Zorpette
This one highlights a problem that can be very frustrating, not just for the citizens not getting the electricity they want, but also for the U.S. side, trying to lead, cajole, even beg their counterparts on the Iraqi side to make good decisions about how to use their expanding financial resources. They ignore positive ROI projects and make decisions seemingly to spite each other. You'd think they'd make the choices that would lead to increases in services to their people, but often their choices suggest that the welfare of their people rates a low priority. I've seen so much of people treating each other poorly here. And the Catch-22 for many of us Americans is trying to help without interfering- sometimes respecting their sovereignty leads to extreme dismay as you watch them screw their citizens. This is a good example.
Reality and the Iraq war (USA Today) By Michael O'Hanlon
I think Michael did a much better than Eugene (above) of sounding rational and coherent. If the democrats lose this next presidential election, it is because they go so far left with their opinions and pledges about the war that they lose the middle.
The democrats are amusing me more than the republicans lately. I am almost ecstatic at the prospects of seeing the party have their nominee decided by superdelegates after all of the screeching about disenfranchisement over the years following the Bush-Gore Florida Funfest. Wouldn't that just be delicious?
Monday, March 10, 2008
Another good article, looking forward to the rest of the series.
Sunday, March 09, 2008
After 5 Years, Iraq War Has Changed Little For Some, Everything For Others, Kimberly Hefling, AP
Maria Duran’s Endless Wait, Emily Brady, NY Times
Alternate leadership technique....
Thursday, March 06, 2008
What kinds of adjustments will I need to make?
I had this strange feeling today of "how cool is this?" or "not many U.S. folks get to experience things like this" as I spent a good deal of time working with my National Police counterparts today. We weren't doing anything extraordinary, just something I'd never dreamed I'd be doing (nor have I ever aspired to it- but the Army made me quartermaster for quite a few years regardless). We're doing inventory, checking keys, and I'm essentially giving them the training center. So there I am, with my interpreter, and General Sabar's logistics guys. I was as comfortable as I could be- just a bit of sweat as it is now getting into the 80's, and we were moving around quite a bit. Surrounded by people who's language I don't really speak. We work well together, though. We definitely have different approaches to things, but I think they trust me to know that I have their best interest at heart, and they aren't just nice to me because I'm giving them a lot of stuff. Not only did I not mind being the only American at the training center, I rather enjoyed it.
I was genuinely pleased as my counterpart general showed great enthusiasm as he showed me how they were working to put everything in order in the billets that had been left in regrettable disorder at the end of the last training cycle. They really have done a good job of taking stewardship of the training center over the past month. I have been willing to profess mistakes I have made, and they have readily forgiven me for those shortcomings.
I haven't "gone native" even though I do more work now with Iraqis than I do with U.S. personnel. I enjoy good Iraqi meals, but I avoid their standard "army fare" which is not too appetizing to me. While I work mostly with Iraqis, my down time is mostly with U.S. folks or by myself. I like quiet time. I guess I can kiss the quiet time goodbye upon my return to my family, but that's ok. I can hug my family members and read them stories without the use of an interpreter. The close physical contact of family is something I miss sorely out here.
It was a good day, and I've been blessed to have many of them here in southern Iraq. I was safe. I worked hard. I laughed. I felt the work I did contributed to the efforts to bring peace and stability to this country. I won't miss the uniform, the smells, the various inconveniences of life in my current situation. But I'll miss many of my "brown brothers", with their various mannerisms and practices, just as I already miss many from BLP, the company that ran the training center previously.
About 1.5 to 2 months left. That's about right. And I'll soon be passing the torch to Steve. I will wish him well as he joins a fraternity of "contracting officer representatives" that have haunted the halls of the hallowed Numaniyah National Police Training Center. His experience will undoubtedly be different than mine- he's opening a new chapter here. But I hope it is a chapter of progress in this country which has suffered so much for so long.
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
I also got a humorous campaign plea from a candidate in the BYU MBA student association elections today. Some of these are kind of inside or topical, but some of them will translate for general consumption:
7) "Do I want to be feared or loved? Um... easy, both. I want people to be afraid of how much they love me." -Michael Scott, the Office (Simultaneous fear and love is an admirable goal)
6) "I like the color red because it's a fire. And I see myself as always being on fire." -Arnold Schwarzenegger (Like Arnold, I too consider myself to be "on fire")
5) "My relationship to power and authority is that I'm all for it. People need somebody to watch over them. Ninety-five percent of the people in the world need to be told what to do and how to behave." -Arnold Schwarzenegger (Amen to that)
4) "You bet we might have." --Sen. John Kerry, asked if he would have gone to war against Saddam Hussein if he refused to disarm (I say "you bet we might have" the new building done by the time we come back in the fall).
3) "We're going to have the best-educated American people in the world." -Dan Quayle (under my leadership, we're going to have the best educated MBA students in the Marriott School)
2) "It's not pollution that is hurting the environment, it's the impurities in our air and water that are doing it." --Dan Quayle (and it's not the students playing foosball that make the lounge so loud, it's the little plastic guys on the field)
1) "I think we agree, the past is over." -George W. Bush (I had hoped this was true with accounting after the first semester, but now it's back)
I enjoyed those, and reminisced with fondness of my own campaign a couple of years ago for Academic Affairs VP. I successfully ran on the incredibly sophisticated platform of "If you vote for me, I'll give you candy." I used very powerful visual images of my younger son wearing his shark head swim goggles and a droopy diaper warning the voters that the shark would get them if they didn't vote for me.
Yes, that is a child begging for attention from a father watching a football game.....
It was clearly all about the stick and the carrot being used to manipulate the masses. I even used Top Ten lists (yes, multiple times- so maybe a top twenty or more). But then the U.S. Army impeached me and sent me to the sandbox to play.
I get to watch my third MBA student association campaign because I failed to graduate last year. I'm the eternal student on quite a few levels. I'll graduate this year, but will miss walking across the stage- I'm more likely to be walking onto or off of the back end of a C-130 on my way out of the middle East on graduation day. Which is fine. I haven't gone to any of my own graduations since high school. It always seemed so pointless to me.
And how about that war cost ticker?! Just went over $500 billion. Is that a lot of money?
I can't wait to get home and start paying taxes on it- we avoid debt in our family as much as possible. It leaves us better prepared to do our part to reduce the debts incurred by our government. Like a war put on a credit card.