Wednesday, September 13, 2006

No Way to Fight a War

This article from the New York Post will pop the blood pressure cuff right off your bicep:

WASHINGTON - Taliban terror leaders who had gathered for a funeral - and were secretly being watched by an eye-in-the-sky American drone - dodged assassination because U.S. rules of engagement bar attacks in cemeteries, according to a shocking report. U.S. intelligence officers in Afghanistan are still fuming about the recent lost opportunity for an easy kill of Taliban honchos packed in tight formation for the burial, NBC News reported.

The unmanned airplane, circling undetected high overhead, fed a continuous satellite feed of the juicy target to officers on the ground. "We were so excited. I came rushing in with the picture," one U.S. Army officer told NBC. But that excitement quickly turned to gut-wrenching frustration because the rules of engagement on the ground in Afghanistan blocked the U.S. from mounting a missile or bomb strike in a cemetery, according to the report.

Pentagon officials declined comment and referred The Post to Central Command officers in Afghanistan, who did not respond to a request for comment or explanation.

Agonizingly, Army officers could do nothing but watch the pictures being fed back from the drone as the Taliban splintered into tiny groups - too small to effectively target with the drone - and headed back to their mountainside hideouts.

Read the rest of the story at the link. Democrats introduced a motion today requesting that President Bush fire Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for incompetence. In light of this New York Post story even Republican congresspersons are going to find it hard not to vote for it. One wonders how many American kids are going to die because somebody thought it just wasn't proper in the midst of a war to kill terrorists in a cemetery, of all places. If these Taliban cutthroats had all been gathered in a soccer stadium surrounded by live civilians the military would have pulled the trigger and chalked the civilian casualties up to unfortunate collateral damage, but we dare not take them out if they're surrounded by dead people. That would be uncivilized.

Here's a picture of the Post's front page showing a picture taken from the Predator drone of the ranks and files of the Taliban leadership all lined up like ducks in a row. Looks like several hundred of them. Perhaps they're engaged in a prayer of thanksgiving to Allah that the American officer who has to decide whether to unleash a missile on them was busy spinning the propeller on his beanie.

Attriting the Taliban

Strategy Page wonders why the Taliban are employing suicidal tactics in Afghanistan against coalition forces. There doesn't seem to be any good answer to the question:

September 11, 2006: In Afghanistan, government officials, tribal leaders and NATO generals are trying to makes sense of the seemingly suicidal, and pointless, Taliban tactics. For the last six months, the Taliban has been conducting a lot of raids, ambushes, and suicide attacks. This is reasonable for an irregular force. But they've also been carrying out a lot of operations that involve larger forces (e.g., on platoon, company, and occasionally higher scale). Moreover, these troops don't "melt away" as soon as Coalition/Government troops turn on the heat, but fight back. They Taliban tend to lose these stand-up fights, and they don't inflict very many casualties. In fact, the Taliban have been losing 10-20 men for every NATO or Afghan soldiers they kill. Even by Afghan standards, this appears insane. So what are they up to?

It's possible that increased activity has allowed them to reestablish their influence in a lot of areas, particularly along the Pakistani frontier, since they can pitch even their defeats as victories to the largely illiterate tribesmen from whom they recruit.

It's also possible that they're trying to wage a war of attrition. Most analysts, right as well as left, civilian as well as military, believe the Taliban is trying to raise the Coalition casualty count to the point where Europeans, who are so sensitive about their soldiers getting killed, will decide on a withdrawal. But despite some reservations, the current rate of deaths doesn't seem likely to do that.

The Taliban may be hoping that, even though they incur seriously heavy casualties, if they can, in just one battle, inflict really heavy loses on Coalition troops (wipe out a platoon, perhaps), they might be able to trigger the withdrawal of some of the NATO contingents. But doing that might cost the Taliban hundreds of more dead followers.

Piling up the number of casualties may actually serve as a recruiting tool, since it may attract recruits seeking to avenge the deaths of kinsmen (a popular pass-time in the region) as well as many of the most ardent among the faithful who want to seek martyrdom themselves. But how long can they keep this up? Sooner or later the pool of volunteers is going to dry up. American and NATO intelligence officers are readying informer networks that will report on what the "chatter" is, over the Winter, in pro-Taliban areas. Considering the heavy losses the Taliban took this year, are their supporters eager for another round in 2007, or are they dismayed and discouraged? There may be enough chatter to analyze, by the end of the year, to form some conclusions.

It's not mentioned in the article but these suicide assaults are also degrading the Taliban strength in another way by attriting their trained warriors. The new recruits being thrown into the breach are presumably going to be less well trained and less effective. In other words, things are not going well for the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Both Barrels

Marty Peretz, publisher of the center left The New Republic, cuts loose with both barrels on the Patrick Fitzgerald investigation and all those lefties who pranced merrily along behind the special prosecutor carrying the kindling with which they fully expected to immolate Dick Cheney and Karl Rove over the Valerie Plame leak.

The last half of Peretz' barrage goes like this:

No one is interested in the case of the "outed spook" and her "outer" any longer. And that is because we now know who exposed the lady to Robert Novak, and he isn't and never was part of the Cheney White House. He was part of the anti-Cheney State Department, liberal heroes, sort of. That man is Richard Armitage, latterly deputy secretary of state and multi-lateralist par excellence. He has now expressed his soulful contrition for the leak. One thing everybody in Washington knows about Armitage is that he doesn't take another kind of a leak without asking Colin Powell first. So there is now added to this weird case the question of what were Armitage's--and Powell's--motives in this exposure. And they should also be asking about Lawrence B. Wilkerson, Powell's chief of staff at State, and his possible role in this affair.

None of these men were especially taken with the Bush administration's war in Iraq. So they are, so to speak, off the hook with the anti-war folk with regard to the leak. The fact is that neither Armitage nor his associates ever told the president who was responsible for the leak. If I were George W. Bush, I'd be ripshit. And, since Armitage two weeks ago unambiguously admitted to being the culprit, should he not now face charges?

Now, there is one person who has been indicted--not for violating the Intelligence Identification Protection Act, the law which Armitage has actually confessed to breaking--but for obstructing Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation.... The indicted man is Lewis "Scooter" Libby, and he has become MoveOn's designated scapegoat for the entire war. Folk who wouldn't have thought Alger Hiss or the Rosenbergs or Philip Agee guilty of treason have been calling him a traitor. This is laughable.

Let me concede: I am a friend of Scooter Libby. But I do not like his boss. And I do not like his boss's wife. I know this gets me no credit with the all-or-nothing crowd. Still, I like Scooter, who is quite brilliant, very honest, and brave. Also funny. I've contributed to The Libby Legal Defense Fund and have joined the fund's advisory committee, which is not large because in Washington old pals dessert when even their college roommate gets into trouble. In a time when self-styled civil libertarians are giving money to defend Muslim terrorists, I am happy to help defend an American patriot, some of whose politics I do not share and some of whose politics I do, from a cynical onslaught of the special prosecutor who put journalists into jail for not telling him what he already knew.

The campaign of wrath and virtue against Libby was mostly fueled by simulated outrage. Now that everybody knows who committed the offense, such as it was, the charges against Libby should go into the trash.

Peretz is right. The Libby prosecution and the hunt for the "outer" of Valerie Plame is a shameful episode in our contemporary politics perpetrated by the opponents of the current administration. It is, in fact, a case of abuse of power by the special prosecutor and lynch mob mentality on the part of the media. The whole business is a disgrace and those who joined and abetted the mob should be ashamed of themselves.

One Arab's Apology

If more Muslims wrote pieces like this and fewer sounded like apologists for the Islamists, Americans might have a different impression of Islam than many of them do:

September 12, 2006 -- WELL, here it is, five years late, but here just the same: an apology from an Arab-American for 9/11. No, I didn't help organize the killers or contribute in any way to their terrible cause. However, I was one of millions of Arab-Americans who did the unspeakable on 9/11: nothing.

The only time I raised my voice in protest against these men who killed thousands of innocents in the name of Allah was behind closed doors, among the safety of friends and family. I did at one point write a very vitriolic essay condemning their actions, but fear of becoming another Salman Rushdie kept me from ever trying to publish it.

Well, I'm sick of saying the truth only in private - that Arabs around the world, including Arab-Americans like myself, need to start holding our own culture accountable for the insane, violent actions that our extremists have perpetrated on the world at large.

Yes, our extremists and our culture.

Every single 9/11 hijacker was Arab and a Muslim. The apologists (including President Bush) tried to reassure us that 9/11 had nothing to do with Islam, but was a twisting of a great and noble religion. With all due respect, read the Koran, Mr. President. There's enough there for someone of extreme tendencies to find their way to a global jihad.

Read the whole column at the link. It closes with these words:

Five years after that awful day, it's time for all Arab-Americans, and Arabs around the world, to protest against Islamic fascism, to raise our voices - and, where necessary, our arms - against these tyrants until their plague of terror has been driven from the face of the earth forever.

Note that the writer doesn't shrink from calling the scourge we face "Islamic fascism", a term which triggers in Democrats an anxiety attack when the President uses it, but which is precisely accurate nonetheless.