31 January 2008

You Can Launch a Nuke, but You Can't Drink a Beer

In my time in the Navy, I have met people under 21 who have been entrusted by the US Government to distinguish friend from crazed insurgent in Iraq, to fire on said insurgent, to maintain a nuclear reactor from turning into a big gooey mess, and to push the button that launches the ICBM nukes. However, the minute these people step into a bar after that long deployment for a cold one, the federal government says the barkeep has to toss them out in the street with the rest of the trash. This logic in the mindset of our policy makers has always confused me. Fortunately, a lone statesman from SC is making a stand to allow military members under 21 drink responsibly (H/T to OYE):

A state lawmaker wants to give members of the armed forces younger than 21 the right to buy alcohol even though it’s in stark contrast to the military’s efforts to diminish underage drinking and related accidents. “I really don’t think it should create a problem for the military. It might even enhance their morale,” Rep. Fletcher Smith said Wednesday.

Kudos to you Mr. Smith! It's about time the administration saw through the muddled rationale that was preventing our younger troops from the right to enjoy a beer now and then. Of course, Mr. Smith will most likely be met with opposition from a barrage of the values police, aka the Morale Suppression Squadron: The nice ladies over at MADD, the tolerant folks over at the Values Advocacy Council, and the modern women over at the Women's Christian Temperance Union. They'll most likely unleash a PR campaign that will equate the good folks at Budweiser to Satan himself. Well for whatever it's worth, this blog supports your position Mr. Smith. A true friend to the military!

Central Bank of Iraq is Up in Smoke

With the drop in violence in Baghdad, a lot of folks, both Iraqis and Americans, are starting to wonder when the hell the economy is going to pick up in Iraq. With oil, land for agriculture, and a large skilled labor pool, you'd think the place would sell itself. Idle hands are the devil's play thing, and unless Iraqis start getting employed with legit gigs, young males are going to continue gravitating towards Uncle Sadr to earn a quick buck. This whole central bank of Iraq catching on fire thing sure ain't helping matters. Iraq needs foreign investment from its neighboring richie-rich countries to rebuild the crappy infrastructure that was Saddam's legacy. None of these sheikhs in places like Qatar, Dubai, and Jordan are going to want to invest if they can't even count on records of their transactions holding up to the elements.

What's more cause for concern is that rumors are running around the Iraqi media that the whole thing was a conspiracy purported by the central government to cover up fraud. From Azzaman:

“The fires have turned into ash important documents condemning officials for corruption,” the statement said. Both fires caused no casualties and officials said Central Bank’s possessions of god (sic) and hard cash were safe. The statement demanded the formation of an independent investigation commission to “determine those causing such calamities.” Despite reports of massive corruption in which senior officials are said to be involved, the government has brought no one to justice so far.

This story has started to stir up rumors similar to the Basrah badger story that was running around the regional news this summer. For those not familiar, the Basrah badger was purportedly a nasty little creature released by the British stormtroopers to terrorize the unfortunate locals down south. The UK embassy actually had to issue a press release to deny it. So whether or not Maliki's government actually torched the bank is irrelevant, it's already a rumor circulating the region, which is like a slap in the face to sound finance in Iraq. Until that money starts flowing in, a lot of it will be on Uncle Sucker's dime (that's you, Mr. and Mrs. US taxpayer) to fix up this country. Just a big bunch of suck all around.

Just like when I torched my unprofitable comic book store

29 January 2008


I understand that most people my age and younger may not have the time or energy to read these lengthy posts that run around the blogosphere. Why read what some nut in Iraq has to say when you could be suckin' down shooters with the Tau Omega guys down at O' Malley's Pub & Grill. In an effort of shameless self-promotion, I have come up with an answer to your woes. Behold, LT Nixon's first suckass attempt at video editing (check my Youtube profile as well):

Flashback to late 2007: Iranian proxies were making trouble in Iraq, Petraeus was about to give his testimony, violence was still too damn high. The video is pretty much a collection of TV clips from various media sources set to the rockin' soundtrack of Megadeth's "Holy Wars" that addresses the Iraq war. Don't tell Dave Mustaine I used his song in an unauthorized fashion, I hear that dude's an ass.

Here's one where Montel takes Fox News to task for talking about Heath Ledger, but not a peep about the people killed over here. H/T goes to One Wife's Perspective:

And finally here's Regina and McGruff telling you why you shouldn't use drugs. Hey, it worked on me when I was a kid in the 80s:

...damn embedding is disabled on this one, but check it out here.

Here's another one that is one of my faves. These unfortunate chaps were spotted launching mortars at the Belad Air Base a few months back. They were picked up by aerial reconnaissance and turned into mush.

There's also some new de-motivators up if you check on the sidebar or here. They're all pretty inappropriate and stupid, but check 'em out!

Tuesdaze Bloggin' Roundup of Iraq (29 Jan)

Well it's my sorta day off, so I'm sitting in my trailer bored senseless, which is actually a nice change of pace. Check out what these other rockin' blogs are saying about Iraq:

  • Milblogging.com references some fancy intellectual-type blog that gives it's synopsis of milbloggin'
  • SGT Grumpy talks about the ubiquitous Call to Prayer
  • A Soldier's Perspective talks about singing the National Anthem correctly for all the Roseanna Barr's out there
  • OYE offers advice on customizing your own pixelated chickenhawk
  • Adam Kokesh of IVAW talks about how great a place Iraq is for the US military (well, not really)
  • Army of Dude, who's got the skills of a modern-day Vonnegut, talks about boredom in war
  • Iraq The Purgatorium laments on how society is terrible
  • Michael Totten's new post on Fallujah is up, a good read
  • Vox Veterana's TF Boggs is getting out of the service, lucky bastard (just kiddin' Boggs!)
  • Iraq Pundit talks about the economy of Iraq
  • Michael Yon talks about the strain on our military personnel (no surprises here!)


28 January 2008

LT Nixon the "Faggot"

It appears not everyone in the wacky world of the blogosphere is a friendly face. Francois Tremblay comments with such highly intellectual discourse on his blog such as:

Said opportunities apparently including killing brown people for plutocratic profit. And I really can’t believe that even a thick-headed soldier doesn’t realize who he’s serving (definitely not the “country” or the population at large.

Well call in Media Matters, because Francois has officially dubbed me a "faggot". This reminds me of enduring taunts while walking down the hall where the football team hung out during my high school days. I'm glad to see that disagreements in the blogosphere are best resolved with childish insults. O' Francois, while my own sexual preferences are strictly enforced by a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, I find your language a little silly. My policy is to not delete comments so I have left it for all to read, and I apologize to anyone who takes offense to the potty-mouth tactics of my colleague. I'll be offering sensitivity training at one my CPAC-IRAQ 2008: Get Your War On workshops, which I'm sure you are eager to attend, friend.

27 January 2008

CPAC-Iraq 2008: Get Your War On!

CPAC 2008 is just around the corner from Feb. 7-9th, promising to celebrate all things conservative in the Washington D.C. area. The Young Republicans of Virginia call it "WITHOUT QUESTION, THE SINGLE GREATEST MOMENT IN HISTORY" (notice how it's in all caps emphasizing the sheer importance!). Personally, I'm totally stoked that such a meeting of the minds will take place, but I must admit, I feel a little left out since I'm "Stuck in Iraq" as the old adage goes. So I got to thinking, why not host my own CPAC out here to get a meeting of the minds from back on the homefront together in the Green Zone, located in beautiful Baghdad. It's called CPAC-Iraq 2008: Get Your War On!

I did the photoshopping myself!

  • Reasons for CPAC-Iraq: With a country seemingly losing interest in the long war to focus on more important issues like changing the constitution to define "marriage", Hillary Clinton's latest fundraising hoopla, and government handouts so people can go shopping at Walmart, I felt a strong desire to educate the youth of our country. Looking at the student agenda for that other CPAC wasn't helping quell my dispositions that our nation's youth were in trouble. I first became concerned with my generation while viewing Max Blumenthal's video "Generation Chickenhawk", which highlighted that youngsters thought they could stand by on the sidelines and watch worldwide terrorism go unchecked. Youngsters need to learn that slapping a ribbon on their car isn't helping any. Even though the young lass at ~1:05 in the video is a total babe, I assure you, General Order #1 ensures those in uniform have the highest moral standards and this is not a big scam to meet chicks. I'll also make sure the finest refreshments trucked in from Kuwait are provided.
No shortages of cold bottled water at this CPAC!

  • Gettin' Smart: Now I understand your "commie" professors don't like to talk about the war on terrorism, some of them probably say it's all a big Bush/Cheney conspiracy, so I'll help you get educated on that subject so you can fight back. Iraq is chocked full of terrorists such as Al-Masri, ringleader of Al-Qaeda Iraq, who likes to use kids even younger than you as suicide bombers. There's also these guys called Special Groups who are into some nasty things that are like "way uncool!". Plus, as an added bonus, I'll walk you around the Green Zone and you can see all the ridiculous crap Saddam built himself while his people languished in poverty. Now, I've got to work during that weekend, but I'll have a 103-page Powerpoint slide for you (in true staff weenie fashion) to show off in the evening. To keep y'all occupied during the daytime, I have a most excellent bootleg DVD collection in my hooch.

Battlefield Earth is really good the 6th time you watch it

The Iraqis starved to death for decades and all they got was this lousy Saddam head

  • Better Public Speaking: When you use words like "Islamofascist" or "Culture War" you might send some of the more moderate members in our alliance against extremists running to the hills! Hell, even David Horowitz, one of the keynote speakers at the other CPAC, called presidential candidate Ron Paul an Islamofascist, what's that supposed to mean? Take it from a Marine, Major General Gaskin, who's wrapping up a very successful tour in Anbar Province: "They respect and trust us, and we respect and trust them."

Not every Muslim is an "Islamofascist", learn from those that know

  • No Ethical Conundrums like CPAC 2007: Now, I heard about all the lies the leftistas were trying to spread last year about the Marine, Matt Sanchez, being a former gay-porn star by the swingin' handle of Rod Majors. He was embellished with praise at CPAC '07, even though respected neo-con, Ann Coulter, used the word "faggoty" during a speech. Not to worry! LT Nixon's no homophobe, and everyone's sexual orientation is really none of my business. I even respect Matt Sanchez as a milblogger and understand sometimes you gotta make ends meet.

No conflict of interests this year!

So all you folks partying it up out in college, take off those togas and strap on your body armor w/kevlar and fly on out to Baghdad. This will be the sweetest CPAC yet!

Disclaimer: Once in a while people in the military like jokin' around, if you think this is for real, you truly have no soul.

26 January 2008

With Apologies to the Blogosphere and More Hilarity

Kraant from PFF dropped me a comment to swing by the site and explain myself since I had some disagreements with a poster there over a month ago. Kraant seemed like good people, so perhaps I should probably avoid getting into fisticuffs with anyone since I don't want to come off like some gestapo thug. PFF is truly great though, as pretty much nothing is sacred there. So my apologies to the big wide blogosphere if I've ever come off like a jackass. I understand that I am a public servant, and I will conduct myself more accordingly, maybe. On the same note, I do like looking for controversy out around the blogosphere and I do welcome anyone to attack me on this blog (I will respectfully respond, promise).

On the same token of looking for the action, seems that the guys over at The Sniper have started a hilarious blog war with a guy named Kent, a self-applied "hooligan" Libertarian who's also a write-in for the President of the Grand Ole USA. Kent doesn't like the military much, and neither do many of the other guys posting comments on his blog (here's one self-applied Athiest Libertarian who has a mustang for his blog picture for some strange reason). I checked out Kent's Myspace page and he cited his interests as: Liberty, Primitive wilderness survival skills, karaoke, cryptozoology, UFOs. What CryptoZoology is, I have no clue. I'm sure Kent's a swell guy though, I just don't know what his beef is with us military types. The Sniper awarded one of the commenters the "Douchebag of the Day", and apparently, he wasn't too keen on that.

Fair enough. I may very well be a douchebag, but I’m entitled to it. I don’t kill or help kill people for a living. Do I feel superior to the militarists, even arrogantly so? You bet your ass. If that makes me a douchebag then I’m proud of it.

Well, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Always nice to have a cure for the workin' on the weekend blues. Even though I shouldn't be taking part in the shenanigans.

God Bless the Weird World of the Internet

25 January 2008

Mosul: "A Decisive Battle" says Maliki

If you managed to filter out the important stuff from the crap while watching the news yesterday, you might've heard about Mosul, the third-biggest city in Iraq. While most American outlets were covering the fact that Heath Ledger's masseuse made a phone-call to one of the Full House twins or some such tripe, international media was talking about the Provincial Police Chief of Ninewa province that tragically got assassinated. The previous day, a huge explosion went off in Mosul that killed many citizens and leveled a city block. While the provincial police chief was visiting the carnage the following day, a suicide bomber killed him.
I realize that the Prime Minister of Iraq has said some sheisty things in the past, but Maliki's not taking any shit this time around. He has publicly stated that Iraqi Security Forces are on their way to flush out the Al-Qaeda rats from the city. Bill Roggio gives more clarity on Long War Journal here. Just a tip from myself to the Iraqi Security Forces, if you catch any Al-Qaeda thugs hang 'em, don't fry 'em, they'll stink too bad.

CNN-International had some gruesome footage

Levity: Al-Arabiya Needs to Work on their Marketing

Al-Arabiya is a Saudi-owned sattelite TV station operating out of Dubai. It's in Arabic, but some of their reports they release in English for us displaced Westerners. It's pretty moderate compared to Al-Jazeera and has a lot of stories about the Sahwa members in Iraq putting the boot up Qaeda's ass, so that's always good. But this new promo they are running is downright bizarre. I couldn't watch the thing since our bandwidth has been in the shits, but the Fox News website had a quick blurb on their website talking about how a guy who gets chicken in a cafe relates to the polar ice caps melting relates to refugees on an island relates to terrorism. It's like playing 6-degrees of Kevin Bacon combining the proverbial "Butterfly flapping it's wings in Taiwan" analogy, uh I guess. Independent Arabic TV is relatively new and still developing marketing techniques, so we'll have to be patient and provide a little helpful feedback in the meantime.

If only the man hadn't ordered chicken, car bombs would never happen!

24 January 2008

Mr. Ahmadinejad Visits Baghdad

Mr. Ahmadinejad is coming to my neck of the woods in Iraq (h/t McClatchy Watch). I'm all about diplomacy as opposed to war, but it's hard for the Iraqis to have dialogue with a guy who denies the holocaust and thinks there is no homosexuals in the country. It sort of puts him in the nutjob category. You can peruse the softer side of a theocracy on Mr. Ahmadinejad's blog, but I remain skeptical. Keep an eye on this one and standby to throw up the BS flag.

Pronounce it right, you Western infidels!

Malaise and Links to Better Things

Not sure what the subject of this post will be, since there's a lot of stuff is swimming around my mind. I try to write some more "intellectual" commentary on VetVoice, but it usually degenerates into various rants. The second-half of any deployment is marked by a zombie-like state associated with your very existence. I feel bad since we have a new Major in the office, a good dude, but most of us are so "put out to pasture" that it's difficult to put on a happy face. But I'm not concerned, since I've got access to the internet and whole lot of learning and ranting to do (much different than the last two deployments out to sea). While I get my head on straight, here's some goodies to sink your fangs into:

  • Kaboom has a got a great article on the Sahwa movement in Iraq, which you can chase down with the NYT article to get some perspective on what might be the greatest hope for Iraq.
  • Last of Iraqis talks about brutality in the midst of conflict, not for the feint of heart
  • Captain's Journal talks about electricity and counter-insurgency, can't understand the logic, go check it out.
  • Those clowns at Westboro Baptist Church are planning a protest of Heath Ledger's funeral (h/t to Sniper). There was some punditbabes like Ham and Banderas talking about this very issue on Fox's Red Eye. Just as an aside, I find Fox News using very deceptive tactics to convince desperate guys like me to buy into their spiel by using babes like Malkin, Banderas, and Ham to run a campaign of misinformation. Ham has said some very idiotic things in the past (see "The Power of Jonah Goldberg's Book" to get a flavor), and BillO seems to have a creepy obsession with her reminescent of a dirty old man at a Montreal strip joint. I don't even want to get into Malkin. But Banderas slammed the Westboro Church, so good for her!
  • One of my favorite sites, OYE, has got something new up. I haven't watched the video yet, but I gotta have something to look forward to after work.
  • New milblogger in Iraq, Ms. Jackie over at Defiant Compliance, has got a groovy video of rolling on a convoy through the Shi'ite heartland. Cool stuff. None of that "Soldiers of Heaven" deathcult from Basra in the video, but we're all glad it was safe travels for her.

Red Eye talks about that stupid f'n church and a shot of some punditbabe's legs

23 January 2008

Nasty Commenteristas Slam Petraeus!

I was thumbing through the blogosphere today and I came across this post on the progressive site Think Progress. As a bit of a disclaimer, I got no beef with the left, hell, sometimes I even subscribe to some of their ideas, and I even enjoy perusing the site for insight. In a democracy, it's important to keep tabs on the top brass, since they are the ones enacting American defense policy out in foreign lands at taxpayer expense. The post highlights the anger felt by many Americans that the Iraq war has dragged on for too long and is costing too much money, since the General said "We’re certainly not dancing in the end zone or anything like that." No arguments here. The Iraq war has been a long, lousy slog and the General is just shooting it to the American public straight, without any propaganda you might see from our civilian leadership. But upon closer inspection of the comments left by many users, it becomes apparent that they take the tone of an no-holds barred smear job on a 4-star general like he's Malkin-incarnate!

The GOP’s Westmoreland. Shameless kiss ass. -QUALAR

Petreus wants another 6 months for the war profiteers to fill their coffers! Hah! He reminds me of the toddler at the amusement park whose parents spent all of their money and the little snit keeps hollaring for “one more ride”! -Veritas

Love the Betrayus Zone concept because this guy’s clearly from another planet. He lives in the “bubble zone” with Herr Bush. -Veritas (again)

And the worst of em:

I’d like the General Petreaus Action Figure please. Oh, you said bottom shelf. In that case I’ll take the “William the Bloody” Kristol coffee mug. -Ralph

After that, I felt a little miffed that the General would get compared to a neo-con wag like Kristol who has never served a day in the military and decided to vent my frustrations via the blogosphere. That and I felt I personally owed it to the guy, since his strategy employed by all the hard-working coalition forces and Iraqis on the ground has helped quell violence in Iraq, preventing marauding extremists from climbing the walls of the Green Zone and me ending up on Al-Jazeera. The drop in violence in Iraq from last year before Petraues showed up is unmistakable. I'm not even going to link anywhere since it's conventional wisdom. Sure there are those on the left who would like to see Iraq turn into the set from the Road Warrior, hoping our guys out in the field and the Iraqis get butchered. They (I ain't namin' names) can use that for political gain to say Bush was an idiot, all at the expense of our lives. It's against policy for the military to get involved in such political matters, but I'm speaking as some pissed-off dude who's only got a year left in the service, so I don't give a shit (what are you gonna do, send me to Iraq). You think those comments were appropriate or want to say how Petraeus is some neo-con stooge, not just a guy following orders, feel free to drop me a line.

General Petraeus, doing more for the world than this chucklehead

22 January 2008

Oh FOX News, Have You No Shame?

As a disclaimer, I do think Brit Hume is a pretty stand-up guy, but FOX News is just stroking it's own ego as evidenced by this capture:

The Sacred Heart University bills itself as "The second-largest Catholic university in New England, SHU provides men and women with a comprehensive, hands-on education rooted in the liberal arts and Catholic intellectual tradition" making it an excellent cross-section of American public opinion. However, if this is true representation of American sentiment can that explain why interest in the Iraq war is so low? Below is a recent press conference ridiculed by funny man Jay Leno:
Just a thought. Thanks to Z-man for sending these to me.

Winter Soldier '08: For Better or For Worse

Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) is putting on a "Winter Soldier" symposium on March 13-16 where Iraq vets are going to discuss atrocities committed during the time on the ground in Iraq and why the US needs to get out. I'm a little skeptical on this one because it seems like it's going to play into the propaganda imagery employed by the extreme liberal and even moderately liberal blogosphere. You go to any one of these sites and I guarantee you'll see more Abu Ghraib and Gitmo imagery than any of Al-Qaeda's daily worldwide atrocities. I've wrote about vets being exploited for political purposes before, and I fear that's what may happen this time around (it's deja vu all over again). I've been in-country for 7 months, and while I'm not on the ground, the only thing which could be construed as a "war-crime" in my time here was that whole Blackwater fiasco.

To not repeat another Jesse Macbeth debacle, IVAW has invited any milblogger to attend the event in case the bullshit flag needs to be raised. Army SGT over at Active Duty Patriot will fill you in on all the details. I've spoken with him and he is good people (yes, it's okay to befriend people who have different political views in my book). Here's a link to a post regarding attendance of the event (bring a DD 214). I wanted to go, but I'm a little busy at the moment. I admit that I did go to the Democratic National Convention protest in LA in the summer of 2000. I didn't agree with most of the protesters, and I just wanted to go to go. A fun time was had by all, except when I got teargassed. I'm sure this event will be no less interesting, even if I don't agree with its principles.

The new winter soldiers better not have a smarmy fancy-lad accent

21 January 2008

Al-Qaeda in Iraq: A look back on '07

Admiral Smith had a pretty solid news conference yesterday that highlighted all the brutality and twisted logic of Al-Qaeda in Iraq for 2007. Unless you are one of the 20 people that subscribes to the Pentagon Channel, you probably didn't catch it, but the transcript and graphs are up on the MNF-I website for your perusal and analysis. The Admiral talked extensively about Al-Qaeda in Iraq, while the group is mostly Iraqis, it is led by foreigners and the suicide attacks are conducted by primarily foreigners (mostly Saudis BTW). While us Americans have been fortunate to not have a serious Al-Qaeda attack on American soil since 9/11, the Iraqis haven't been:

These bombings were just two of the more than 4,500 attacks by al-Qaeda Iraq in 2007 that targeted civilians. Al-Qaeda murdered 3,870 Iraqis, injuring nearly 18,000 additional innocent civilians. The violence peaked in March and April and as the surge of operations pressed through the summer, the number of high profile explosions slowly began to decrease, however the numbers still remain alarmingly high.

Just so you don't think I'm some public relations schill masquerading as a LT with a lousy attitude, I will say that the Al-Qaeda in Iraq wasn't really around before the 2003 invasion, and connections with Saddam are a little far-fetched. But now that they are here conducting this campaign of brutality (read the story about the teenaged suicide bomber in Fallujah), we pretty much owe it to the world to exterminate them. Methods of accomplishing that can be debated extensively.

The Sinjar truck bombings in August '07 killed 100s of minority Yazidis, but got little American media attention

20 January 2008

NYT Headline: Crazy Vets on the Loose, Part Deux!

The NY Times has published it's second article talking about the very small percentage of OIF/OEF vets who have come back and committed homicide. If the IAVA had released the story, I wouldn't be so skeptical and taking this with a grain of salt. But with the anti-war stance of the NY Times coupled with the hubris that everyone outside of Manhattan is a moron, I can't help but see some weird agenda to play up the "crazy vet" stereotype. This wide-sweeping assessment keeps vets from getting jobs and re-assimilating back to normal society. While PTSD and its related ills (homelessness, drug abuse) are no joke, I think the NY Times is pushing the envelope of absurdity.

"One day, I went out skeet shooting with a buddy, and I realized I felt so much better having a shotgun in my hand and watching something explode,” he said. He bought three guns of his own.

The former Marine in question is, gasp, a Mormon from the red fly-over state of Utah! I know the thought of Utah may just disgust the educated hipsters dwelling in NYC and working for the NYT, but I've worked with a lot of nice folks from the state, and I didn't think they were any more crazy than anyone else. Iowahawk had a funny satire on media vets that employs the same statistical rigor of using the wrongdoings of a couple people to make sweeping assertions about anyone else in the community. I think you'll find that veterans opinions and lifestyles are as complex as society itself, and that's just one dude's opinion.

Mothers lock up your daughters... The crazy vets are on the loose!

Ideological Groups That Really Suck

One thing that I've learned from being in Iraq is that sometimes you have to adopt a pragmatic approach that compromises various conflicting ideas to reach some sort of practical solution. I think this may be known as the Hegelian dialectic, but I'm certainly no braniac. I just think the reason that I'm such a moderate on political matters is because ideological groups suck ass. Here's some examples:

Code Pink (link)

These yahoos storm into the Petraeus/Crocker September testimony with stupid signs and funny looking hats to insult a 4-star general in the name of "supporting the troops". Geez, Code Pink, I think the guy might know a thing or two about "the troops" having been in the Army since you were smoking pot and getting it on at swingers parties during the 70s. These hippies are just looking for any cause to stir up trouble and, conveniently for them, there's a war going on, so that they can leave their mark before they zip off into the cosmos or whatever aging hippie douches do once they croak. (SGT Freedom eloquently explains)

Lyndon Larouche Democrats (link)

These guys seriously freak me out. When I was in college, they used to always have a leaflet table set up with very poorly patched-together signs that made absolutely no sense about how we were headed for an economic depression and that the only thing that could save us was Roosevelt-style socialism and building choo-choo trains through Africa. My friend was brainwashed by them and invited me to their "compound" out in LA once to get some "education". They verbally assaulted me for supporting Thomas Jefferson-style democracy and claimed I was some sort of British agent or maybe even a "speculator". What these insults meant still haunt me to this day. Good thing they didn't get my name. Some other groups many years ago weren't so lucky, since the Larouchers attacked them with nunchucks during something known as Operation Mop-Up. Creepy.

9/11 Truthers (link)

You ever wonder why the world is run by old white dudes in masonic hoods who control the world's banks and engineer wars and famines to stuff their coffers with gold. Well, after being on this planet for 27 years, I have realized that no one is that smart to pull off a ruse on that magnitude. Good god, some of our leaders can barely tie their shoes let alone manufacture 9/11 to start a global conquest under the pretense of fighting terrorism. Think about it.

Westboro Baptist Church (link)

And you wonder why I'm a tad vigilant against religious fundamentalism creeping into politics. These crazies think it's a good idea to spread the righteous word that "God Hates Fags" by protesting the funerals of our fallen brothers and sisters. Apparently, since the US accepts homosexuality, God is punishing our military by killing us with IEDs. The logic is absurd and that old bag in charge of the operation, Betty Phelps, needs a boot in her face.

Maybe you can now see where I'm coming from. Feel free to add your own as I'm gonna pop in a movie right now and have a chilled out Saturday night. Viva the Moderate Revolution!

19 January 2008

Crazy Doomsday Cult Runs Amok in Southern Iraq

The interesting news never stops in this place. A group known as the "Soldiers of Heaven" is battling it out with Iraqi Security Forces in the southern provinces of Nasiriyah and Basrah. I remember hearing about them last year, something about attacking Shi'ite religious leaders in the hopes of attaining salvation for the coming apocalypse. All very creepy stuff. This blog whole-heartedly supports the Iraqi Security Forces (now responsible for Basra province) in bringing these crazies to justice by any means necessary and to sustain a peaceful Ashura for all the not-so-crazy Shi'ite pilgrims. It's strange to see how Iraq is becoming similar to America in bringing out all the yahoos: Scientologists, Heaven's Children, Lyndon Larouchers, ahh... the joys of democracy.

Update: Things have settled down as of now. Talisman Gate has some keen insight into how the clashes were quelled, and Juan Cole praises the violence with "the sectarians seem to have put up an impressive fight in Nasiriya, where they killed and wounded officers of the Iraqi security forces", Juan, what a swell guy!

I wonder if the "Soldiers of Heaven" were wearing the same Heaven's Gate style Nikes

18 January 2008

Bloggin Roundup of Iraq 18 Jan

Work has been kicking my ass lately for some reason, maybe I should stop drinking so much damn coffee. I'm going to try to get a post up on Vetvoice about the strange and weird world of how the Navy IA process works, so watch for that. In the mean time, check out these other groovy bits of insight on Iraq:


Update: Finally finished that post about Navy IAs, check it out here.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq Getting Whooped

AQI, Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the Islamic State of Iraq, whatever you want to call the psychotic madmen that subscribe to the belief that the Middle East should be restored to it's 8th century glory, who employ tactics of torture, suicide attacks, intimidation, and thuggery against the Iraqi people, are losing, bad (sorry for the run-on sentence). The Iraqi government might have problems, infrastructure is still in the shits, and the length of coalition presence and function remains unclear; but at least these Qaeda dickheads are either being killed, captured, or flying the coop. Check out these schnazzy graphs Lieutenant General Odierno dished out a press conference yesterday which compares AQI presence in '06 to '07:

Good stuff! Long War Journal discusses in more detail.

17 January 2008

Welcome to the New Era of Malaise

The Onion recently ran an article entitled "Failure Now an Option" depicting sullen looking soldiers in their ACUs as the graphic. I don't think it's The Onion ragging on our troopers, since the gist of the humor piece is that Americans in general are starting to feel a lack of confidence and general malaise. The Iraq war is still going on, and despite some slow, steady progress, the bossman reminds us that we may need to be here awhile. I don't think Petraeus is a partisan conservative as Openleft proclaimed yesterday, because he's just being honest about what kind of commitment is required for the administration's stated purpose of ensuring a stable, functioning Iraq (as costly and depressing as it may be). The economy is in the stinkhole, the environment isn't doing so well, and this crop of presidential candidates is pretty lousy (let's just be honest here). Meanwhile, people distract themselves with the culture of self-absorption surrounding our latest trends of text messaging, facebook, and endless consumer products we don't need. Perhaps we are embarking on a new era filled with self-doubt similar to what followed the sex n' drugs revolution of the 60s. The only thing is we certainly haven't been privy to a whole lot of free love going on in the last 8 years of this decade (at least not on my end!). Sorry about the somber tone, but I'm just trying to tell it like it is.

On the plus side: Music is generally better in times of economic depression! The late 70s may have had unemployment and runaway inflation, but it was host to the birth of punk rock (The Ramones, Sex Pistols, Black Flag, etc.). When the economy was good in the late 90s all you had was a bunch of wussy folk-rock like Hootie and the Blowfish and Dave Matthews Band. So at least I've got some good tunes to look forward to as I sit on the street unemployed.

Jimmy Carter's mug reminds us of our everlasting Malaise

16 January 2008

The Surge and the Media

There's some good reading on the right-wing site HumanEvents entitled "The Surge: Still Working". It's written by a retired SpecOps LTC by the name of the Roger D. Carstens. I'm gonna try and respectfully critique his article in the hopes that I don't piss off the green berets and end up getting covertly punched in the face in the middle of the night. The crux of the article suggests that yes the surge is working, but the media isn't covering it, so it's not helping win the information war.

The bottom line here is that the surge is succeeding. Yet for the most part, these stories of success are going unreported in the media. Why this lack of reporting is so important is that war is a test of will between two sides, in which each side is trying to break the other's will to continue the struggle.

While I agree with most of the article, I believe Mr. Carstens is thinking about the media from too much of an American point of view. It is definitely true that American media coverage of the Iraq war has tanked and the current anti-war meme is that there is no political progress associated with the surge. The Iraq war is a highly contentious political issue and this type of discourse should be expected back stateside. But with our stated goal in Iraq being to enable the Iraqis to step up to the plate, I think it's more important to take a look at the media in the Middle East to see what kind of news they are getting. The training I got from the Army on Arabic didn't go much beyond "Hello", "Thanks", and "Halt", so fortunately there's some english-translated Arabic media. For example, here's Voices of Iraq talking about libraries in Karbala, and here's Gulf News talking about Rice swinging by Baghdad to praise the passing of the Accountability and Justice Law. The tone has definitely shifted since my time following Arabic media and that's a good thing, because a war isn't just about body counts. It's important that the Iraqis start believing that they can provide security and prosper in their own country, so that us Western types can get the hell out of here.

Iraqi Army in action on Al-Arabiya TV

15 January 2008

All Things Military-related

Check out this USA Today article about the Army Rangers whoopin' ass up in Mosul during an xmas morning raid. Awesome stuff!

I got invited to be a regular contributor to Vetvoice which is part of Votevets.org. I'll be writing alongside Alex from widely-acclaimed ArmyofDude and Richard Smith in Afghanistan. I understand that I probably shouldn't be talking politics as an active-duty guy. But first and foremost I'm an American, and America is in trouble. When you have people saying grossly inaccurate things like this, I'm reminded why I need to offer my two-bit commentary:

The Iraqi government, they watch us, they listen to us. I know very well that they follow everything that I say. And my commitment to begin withdrawing our troops in January of 2009 is a big factor, as it is with Senator Obama, Senator Edwards, those of us on the Democratic side. It is a big factor in pushing the Iraqi government to finally do what they should have been doing all along.

No this wasn't joe schmoe on a blog somewhere, it was Hillary! Vetvoice is an open forum that has intelligent discussions on foreign policy, politics, and veteran issues. It is also free of shenanigans and attack commentary which is prevalent in most other blog forums. I have no political allegiance, but I am open to new ideas, which is why I frequent the site in my off-time. Collectively speaking, Vetvoice has the potential to make an impact on society to wake people up from their slumber. If someone or any of the higher-ups has a problem with me talking politics as a member of the military, please note the disclaimer on the sidebar and understand I'm anonymous like a ghost in the machine. Cheers!

NYT Calls us Desk Jockeys Aloof Imbeciles

There's an editorial in the NY Times today entitled "In Search of Answers" which discusses the downside of the new Accountability and Justice Law passed by the Iraqi Parliament. It makes some good points about why De-Baathification enacted by Paul Bremer and the CPA destroyed the inner-workings of the Iraqi bureaucracy plunging the country into chaos. It also makes some good points about how the law may provide reconciliation with the Sunni and Shiite but with some caveats and loopholes that may be less than advantageous. What I didn't agree with was with this statement:

As Mr. Bush praised the new law, spokesmen for the American Embassy and for the American commander were unfamiliar with it.

Apparently, the ninja-style powerpoint skills of staff pogues and diplomats throughout Iraq ain't impressing the NY Times as they think we're asleep at the switch. As a person who's entire existence is funded by the US taxpayer, I feel obligated to retort, so that you nice people in the States don't think we're horsing around over here bullshittin'. The Accountability and Justice Law is one of many laws that are important to ensuring a stable democratic future for Iraq's fledgling central government. As our mission is to provide stability and security in Iraq, I can assure laws like this are taken very seriously from the bossman and everyone else in-country. You can check out the MNF-I press release here and McClatchy Watch here that praises the Iraqis for finally getting this damn thing through parliament. I understand the word public servant has become synonymous with incompetence, but hey, we're trying our darndest. I'm accustomed to getting rightfully dissed from infantrymen and guys out at sea as being a staff weenie (which I'm not arguing with since they're doing the hard time), but not from a bunch of latte-swilling, volvo-driving bozos on the NYT editorial board!

Contrary to NYT opinion, I only sleep at the office on Sundays

14 January 2008

Marine Infantry Officer talks about Counter-Insurgency

There is an excellent commentary article that got stuffed in the back pages of the Wall Street Journal today entitled "The Lessons of Iraq". It concisely summarizes what has worked and what hasn't worked in Iraq. Erik Swabb, former Marine officer, talks about what has worked:

...the Marines took a patient approach to win the support of the population and eject the extremists hiding among them. They partnered with Iraqi police, established a pervasive security presence throughout the city, and worked with local leaders to improve basic services, governance and the economy.

Obviously, the concept of enmpowering the Iraqis to develop their own solutions instead of the westernized-CPA-democratization envisoned by the neo-cons has been successful. My first experience with the Marines was getting screamed at and dropped to the deck by drill instructors, so it's difficult in my mind to envision Marines courting the sheikhs of Anbar province to have their people reconstruct instead of plant IEDs. However, the Marines have certainly done an excellent job as evidenced by the recent announcement that Anbar province, once a hotbed of sunni-insurgency, will be turned over to the Iraqis for security responsibility in the coming months. So kudos all around to them and their tough work. My only beef with the WSJ commentary is that it is a little TOO heavy on counter-insurgency for the military as a whole. I still think that a well-funded Navy and Air Force is key to deterring nations with dubious intentions (e.g. Iran, Syria, China) to catching the US with our pants around our ankles.

Marine doin' the safety dance with the locals in Anbar province
X-post at Vetvoice here

Recommended Music to Rock Out to

Iraq: The Purgatorium has a post up about the obligations as an infantryman to listen to metal. I find this heartening, since I recently heard a marine say that "Guns N' Roses sucked" and "Emo was pretty cool!". I was a little concerned about this blasphemy regarding musical tastes, so it's nice to see that there are still some youngsters out there who know how to rock out. Good on you TheUsualSuspect. Unfortunately, I took a look at the playlist he had on Iraq: The Purgatorium and realized that I didn't know any of these new bands. I must be getting old as evidenced by my travels in and out of Kuwait with people who were probably in middle school when I joined the Navy. So here's a list of tunes for your various situations or needs that may be considered relics in this day and age, but I still find myself listening to on a regular basis.

  • On Submarine Duty - Alice in Chains "Down in a Hole"
  • On anything to do with Aviation - Iron Maiden "Aces High"
  • On artillery usage - Slayer "Raining Blood"
  • To get offended - GG Allin "I'm infected with AIDS"
  • When you get orders for your 4th deployment to Iraq - Black Flag "Nervous Breakdown"
  • For the late-night convoys - Iron Maiden "2 Minutes to Midnight"
  • On traveling to the Middle East - Mercyful Fate "Egypt"
  • On Al-Qaeda - Megadeth "Holy Wars"
  • For countries on the State Dept. "no-go" list - Dead Kennedys "Holiday in Cambodia"
  • For those serving life without parole - Skid Row "18 and Life"
  • For vehicle maintenance - Megadeth "The Mechanix"
  • On PTSD - Metallica "One" or Alice in Chains "The Rooster"
  • For those considering military service - Metallica "Master of Puppets"
  • On partying post-deployment - Guns N' Roses "Nighttrain"
  • If you find yourself in Michigan for some reason - Kiss "Detroit Rock City"
  • For feeling down at church - Black Sabbath "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath"
  • When your girlfriend won't return your emails - Anthrax "Black Lodge"
  • On not killing yourself on staff duty - Merle Haggard "If we make it through December" (I know Merle isn't metal or punk, but he rules!)

Eddie doesn't tolerate whiny hipsters!

Al-Zawraa Slapped w/Sanctions and I'm Back in Iraq

Home Sweet Home
I realize I'm a little behind the power curve since this story broke three days ago, but the US Treasury has designated Al-Zawraa TV to not receive any money from donors based on this piece of legislation. I'm no "law-talking guy" as Lionel Hutz once said, but I think it's kind of like sanctions er something or other. The TV station was a concoction of anti-iraq government propaganda, muj attacks on coalition convoys replete with jihad flags superimposed in the corner, and openly advocating violence against Iraqi Shiites. It got tossed out of Egypt earlier in the year and was operating out of Syria. It's been off the air since July 2007 and hopefully it stays that way. Iraqi media has evolved immensely from a couple of stations showing Saddam's smiley face to the complex web of satellite TV, radio, and newspapers that exists today. I've heard Iraqi media being criticized on Al-Jazeera English for being too sectarian, but the westernized media need only to look in the mirror at their own corporate biases to realize the hypocrisy in saying this. Iraqi media is certainly interesting, since it has a tendency to run stories with a variety of sources to get a pluralistic approach to what's going on. The CNNs and Fox News' seem to try to scare people into submission or brainwash them into thinking what goes on with the Spears family is important. Westernized media has the motivation in zombifying people to consume endlessly, but Iraqi media still hasn't figured out how to effectively advertise. That's why I'm sticking with hearing what the Iraqis have to say. But Al-Zawraa was nothing like the other outlets catering to the Iraqi population. In general, Iraqi media loves soccer, hates Al-Qaeda and the needless violence, and wants to see their politicians held accountable. Al-Zawraa seemed reminiscent of the early insurgency days when violence was solely conducted by pissed-off Baathists. The times have certainly changed and Al-Zawraa will only be a distant memory of hate and oppression.

Oh yeah, I'm back in the IZ (aka the Green Zone) to finish out my time after some R&R. I found it a little disturbing that I felt at home when I got back the other night as I saw the T-walls and concertina wire. It's an odd feeling of comfort, I suppose. There's a good piece in the NY times today about PTSD with some combat vets, which vetvoice has the link here. It talks about how some vets come back to the states and find the tranquil life dull and oppressive. While I'm certainly no combat vet, I can certainly empathize to some degree. While my thoughts on our purpose in Iraq remain muddled, I am reminded that I'm forever a changed person for being here during these strange, strange times.

On the bright side of life, George Romero has a new flick coming out called "Diary of the Dead" (h/t to Hot Air). Did I mention that the original Dawn of the Dead was the most culturally significant masterpiece in the history of civilization? Not like I'm biased or anything.

09 January 2008

So...I'm Outta Here and Michael Yon's Got This Book Comin' Out

I've been following Michael Yon for awhile now and he's got a book coming out in April called "The Moment of Truth". Despite the fact that there's not a shred of cynicism or anecdotal humor in his body, I have to respect his thought-provoking style of journalism. He definitely has my respect as a combat journalist. I admire his gumption, since covering something like the 2008 election probably has better food, beds, and a much higher probability of meeting hot babes like Mary Katharine Ham. Guys like Michael Ware are okay, but cater too much to sound bites and trying to stir up the pot (like making trouble with Iran on CNN). I guess that's what you have to do to maintain viewership in the world of corporate media, but Michael Yon is different. He delves into all the complexities of the conflict in Iraq from a boots-on-ground narrative. I'll probably pick up a copy of the book, and who knows, maybe he'll swing by the IZ and I can ask him to sign it.

Oh yeah, I'm heading back to Iraq shortly. R&R has been fun, but it's time to go get the second leg of this deployment done. Thanks to all the friends and family that stopped to talk and put up with me along the way.

LT Nixon Rolls Out

Hajj Wraps Up Successfully for Iraqis

The Hajj

Despite the fact that I am a devout agnostic, I find it good news that the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, the Hajj, was completed without incident for the Iraqis. 2008 has brought some bad news from the conflict in Iraq such as the recent assassination of the Adhamiya Awakening leader, COL Samarri, and the 11 killed at a celebration for Iraqi Army day. So it was heartening to see that this religious pilgrimage went off without a hitch. From a joint embassy/MNF-I statement:

The United States Embassy and Multi-National Force-Iraq congratulate the Iraqi people and the Government of Iraq on the safe completion of this year’s Hajj pilgrimage. More than 30,000 Iraqis traveled to and from Saudi Arabia and the holy sites without a single security incident noted...The successful Hajj marks yet another successful milestone for the Government of Iraq and the citizens it serves. In the New Year, we look forward to building on the progress we have made together in 2007.

I understand the cynic in you can ask why this is such a big f'in deal? Well, religious events in Iraq have traditionally resulted in a catalyst for violence for one reason or another. The Birth of the 12th Imam pilgrimage in Karbala in August 2007 was marked by Shiite militants firing on Iraqi Security Forces and civilians leaving dozens killed, which later resulted in the Sadr ceasefire. In 2005, a pilgrimage in Baghdad turned into a panic due to fear of a suicide bombing, and as a result nearly 1000 people were trampled or crushed to death. These events caused tragic loss of life and undermined the confidence in the Iraqi Security Forces to protect the population (us coalition types try to stay behind the curtain during religious festivities for cultural sensitivity reasons). So kudos to the Iraqi forces for being able to pull this off in a safe and timely manner. Now hopefully the Iraqi parliament will get back in session and get some stuff passed, so that coalition forces can start downsizing. After all, I'm not real ecstatic about Sen. McCain's 100-year plan.

08 January 2008

Get your Paranoia on!

A friend of mine who recently got out of the Navy sent a link to this movie entitled "Zeitgeist". It's got so much conspiracy theory that even Oliver Stone would freak out. The Bilderbergs, Rockefellers, 9/11 Truthers, the Illuminati, Rothschilds, central banking empires, and much more. I usually don't agree with the stuff, but I find it an interesting way to look at history. I try to steer clear of the blatantly anti-semitic nonsense. So grab your tinfoil hat and check it out! H/T to Nate.

Veterans: Beware of Political Exploitation

Brothers & Sisters: Watch out for political opportunists

I read an interesting article in 2Dinar entitled "Pimping Troops; Pimping Themselves" which advises veterans to beware of using their societal status to incur free goodies from large corporations. I strongly agree with this sentiment. Primarily, since it cheapens the uniform collectively, and also it encourages a paradigm for the citizens of America to surrender their private property (note: that's why the third amendment is still in effect). But what about in the realm of political discourse? I strongly believe that veterans have an interesting perspective to bring to the discussion on foreign policy, since they have experienced many of the realities of it first-hand. But when a far-left organizations like ANSWER, who is the kind of organization that would be quick to demonize US troops as mongrels for the sake of political maneuvering, begins working with the anti-war veterans organization IVAW, I immediately grow concerned. You can see video of a march/die-in in the capitol here in which both organizations took part. It's a concern since these far-left organizations are exploiting a group of veterans just because it gives them some credence, since they have guys in make-shift uniforms on their side. While I respect IVAW opinions, I do not agree with their methodology as evidenced by their "Befriend a Recruiter" campaign, which seeks to gum up the works in recruiting districts so that military recruiters can't meet quotas. Then, I see this Lewrockwell post which highlights an active duty sailor who is anti-war and supports no one other than Ron Paul. I used to read Lew Rockwell back in the day, but his 10/day posts about the glories of Ron Paul have turned me quite cynical in recent months. Does Lew Rockwell really care about what veterans have to say, or is he just using Petty Officer Hutto for political exploitation? I find it troublesome that people carry on with this political opportunism. I'm just suggesting that everyone watch their backs so that your words aren't twisted around on you, and veterans can be a strong voice of reason and logic, regardless of their political dispositions. We don't need any more Jesse Macbeth fiascoes, so that bloated gasbag Rush Limbaugh can't start on a tirade about "phony soldiers".

07 January 2008

Lengthy Sunday Discussion of Iraq with my Friend A-Ro

(x-post at VetVoice here)

I got an email from an old friend, let's call him "A-Ro", since I'm not sure he wants his full name used. One thing that blogging has provided is the reunification with old friends and colleagues through curiosity of current foreign and defense policy. I suppose it's more interesting than Facebook entries celebrating me passing out drunk in various places. He had a lot of questions and his own thoughts, so I figure I would post them:

I would really appreciate learning your views on a few things. (If you've already addressed a lot of this in past blog posts, just point me toward those posts.) I basically want to take advantage of knowing someone who actually knows something about what's going on, who is a straight-shooter, and who is on the fair-minded right ( i.e. accepts that it is possible to ask questions about the war without actually wanting us to lose).

First, let me tell you briefly where I'm coming from. I am a, center-left kind of guy. I think a lot about and have clear views on domestic policy and some of the "at home" parts of the war on terror, but am still foggy on some of the foreign policy stuff--I basically have read Joseph Nye's book about soft power (and thought it is reasonable) and agree with Fareed Zakaria a lot. Other than that, I'm not sure about much to do with our military, our spies, and our diplomats. At the time I could not make up my mind about whether or not we should invade Iraq. Now I think we shouldn't have, but am not comfortable with the Richardson/Edwards "screw it, let's get out of here now" plan. I am glad that we're making progress on the ground now that we have Petraeus in charge.

Fareed Zakaria is one of my favorite editorialists. I've been following his stuff in Newsweek for years. As a guy in Iraq, I am quite glad that Petraeus and Odierno are in charge as well, since they know what they are doing and are honest about when things are going poorly. Security has gotten better due to a variety of factors, but the long-term security of Iraq will be dependent on the Iraqis themselves, not a lengthy US presence.

Okay, after that long preamble, here are my questions:

1) What are we trying to do?

I have read many justifications for our continued involvement in Iraq. I'm trying to understand the relative importance of these various goals. How important are the ones I list below, on their own and compared to each other? Have I left any off? Have I expressed some of them in a particularly unhelpful way? I think these are goals I've heard real people express, but I haven't taken the time to find citations for each. I will try to do so if you call bullshit on any of them.

A-Ro, I'll try to categorize the goals you highlighted as best I can. The short answer is that the current Operation Iraqi Freedom strategy is to provide security for the Iraqi population from enemies foreign and domestic and to assist them in developing their democratic institutions and infrastructure.

a) This is a nation building thing. We are working toward an Iraq that is stable enough that we can leave without it collapsing. We can't just leave and let a million people get killed or displaced by a positive feedback loop of ethnic violence. (implication: we're in it for 10+ years and we know it).

Yes, nation-building is going on. We are assisting Iraqis develop their civil and military institutions so that the place doesn't become Iran part II or an Al-Qaeda caliphate. The State Dept. and various NGOs are working on improving the Iraqi ministries to carry out effective central government with Rule of Law, while simultaneously employing the Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Baghdad and the outlying provinces to assist in getting local government and infrastructure working properly.

The reason we have to do all this is that the infrastructure sucked when we got here in 2003, and Paul Bremer and the CPA back in 2003/2004 enacted the policy of de-baathification. This pretty much turned anyone who had any competence in running a centralized government into an exile or insurgent. A terrible, terrible mistake with vast unintended consequences.

b) This is a GWOT thing. We are fighting the enemy there so we won't have to do it at home, distracting Al Qaida and causing them to divert resources, etc. (implication: we stay until AQI/AQM is defeated, even if Iraq sets up a stable state in the mean time.)

Defeating AQI is priority #1. Most of their leadership is foreigners and they are being eliminated in Iraq. They are a small group of religious fanatics, but their campaign of violence (primarily against other Iraqis in the form of car bombs, suicide vests, etc.) can accelerate lethal sectarian violence in the unstable country of Iraq. This was evident by the rapid increase in ethno-sectarian violence following the Samarra Mosque bombing in February 2006.

Defeating Shiite "Special Groups" or rogue militias is priority #2. These guys are engaged in various criminal enterprises that you would see in other unstable countries like Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia which involve smuggling, kidnapping, political assassinations, and targeting coalition forces. There was some serious problems with training and weapons coming from Iran the past year, but it appears that has ceased, which is a tremendous diplomatic victory for Iraq and the US. Speaking as a guy out of uniform (as I always do), I'm a little disappointed with the neo-cons since they have not done much to acknowledge this. Why would anyone want a war with Iran? There must be something going on behind the curtain that I don't know about...

c) This is a symbolism thing. Now that we're there, we have to stay (doing as much good as we can in the mean time) until we can find a way to get out without appearing to have been defeated by Al Qaida. (implication: it's better to "win" by keeping 100k+ troops there for 20 years (I don't know what the actual numbers would be) than to "lose" by cutting our losses and focusing on redeploying to Afghanistan and rebuilding our military.)

I guess it's symbolic. But the entire "War on Terror" has been so muddled by the Bush administration that I'm confused what strategic message we are trying to send. The only thing I can say for sure is that it has been tremendously costly in both American lives and taxpayer dollars. I really hope that people get elected that will have a strong message on how to defeat terrorism, but as a military guy, I simply follow orders.

d) This is a visionary thing. We are helping democracy take root in the Arab world. (implication: Iraq just happened to be our first opportunity to do this because of Hussein's defiance of the UN WMD inspections regime. We will be there until Iraq looks like post-war Germany or Japan, possibly 100k+ troops for 20 years)

The whole democracy thing was way too idealistic and way too short-sighted. Winston Churchill once said "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all other forms that have been tried from time to time." I'm inclined to agree with him. The Bush Administration used the promise of democracy as a selling point to justify invasion of Iraq in 2003. I'm more in favor of the more modest and practical goals that are currently in place of defeating extremists and getting the lights on in Iraq.

e) This is a cognitive dissonance thing. (Warning--this one is possibly stupid or insulting or something--I ask it because I fear it is a factor for some people. I do not believe it's any one's sole motivation, and I know no one has said this is their view) We stay because people have trouble accepting that our soldiers are risking and losing their lives for something that isn't worth it, so we pretend it's worth it to make everyone feel better. (implication: the civilian leadership is buying time until it can blame our "defeat" by pull-out (see (c)) on the new Democratic president. Meanwhile, the military makes the best of the mission it's been given, doing the most good it can while it is asked to be in Iraq.)

Hmm, an interesting point A-Ro. But my whole beef with conspiracy theory and the 9/11 truth movement, and everything else you see in the wild n' weird blogosphere is that no one in politics is that smart or intelligent to pull off this kind of ruse. I think everyone is too worried about covering their own ass and getting re-elected.

f) This is a blood for oil thing. Just kidding. If all we wanted was oil, all we had to do was lift the sanctions and let Hussein sell it to us!

Yeah, if this was about making profits, I'd say this was the worst business idea since the Edsel. But I have my own personal bias on this, since I think that the folks who raised their right hand, and fought and died in Iraq did not do so to help some other rich plutocrats make a buck. The thought of it is very depressing, but you can see an angry veteran talk about it here. I don't think that's the only thing going on in Iraq, but I do concede that it was on people's mind or buried in their subconscious (not everyone, but some people in positions of power).

2) Even if these are worthy goals, there are lots of countries we could occupy to further these goals. Why Iraq, and why now?

I will illustrate what I mean by a posing a hypothetical: If Hussein had died or was deposed a year before we invaded, and the Baathists vs. the Shia majority civil war started happening, would (or should) we have invaded? If we wouldn't have invaded in that situation, why are we there now? Is it because of the idea Powell expressed when he said "we broke it, we own it?" It can't be because Al Qaida is there--Al Qaida wasn't there when we first invaded if I'm not mistaken. Or would we still have invaded after all, and if so, does that mean we would occupy Pakistan and Saudi Arabia if their regimes collapsed without our causing it?

At this point in time, it is pretty tough to justify the reasons we invaded Iraq. The way I see it is that we are where we are and we can't let Iraq turn into a place of total unrest. From a military perspective, you just put your head down and keep on chugging away. Hopefully things'll get better and we can start some serious withdrawals of military forces this year and next. Yes, I agree with that simple Powell doctrine "You Break it, You own it". There was some evidence that now deceased Al-Qaeda thug Zarqawi was in Iraq in 2002, but I think the terrorist hotbeds in the middle east pre-OIF were Afghanistan, Pakistan, and our bizarre ally, Saudi Arabia. IMHO I think occupation of a country is a crummy and inefficient way to fight the War on Terror since it depletes massive resources and results in unnecessary loss of life. Afghanistan was an exception to this rule (since it was being run by terrorists pre-OEF), but I think we should consider a different approach that focuses on diplomacy, humanitarian aide, strategic messaging, and military assistance to moderate nations that are having trouble squashing terrorists in their own countries.

3) Is it worth it?

We're paying a high price for being in Iraq in terms of soldiers' lives, military readiness for other potential challenges, money, and soft power (in terms of the support of allies, and long-term Muslim world distrust). On the other hand, we're pursuing certain goals (addressed above), "showing strength" to countries thinking about messing with us, and gaining experience for a new generation of officers. From a cost-benefit analysis perspective, how confident can we be that Iraq will ever improve enough (or that we will reach other goals) to justify our sacrifice? More concretely, what is changing there that will make leaving later better than leaving sooner? Is it possible that the situation is screwed no matter what, so we may as well pull out now?

Iraq can get better and they have shown improvement in the capabilities of their security forces and local institutions. But their central government is still in the stink hole. Hopefully, this year the improved security situation will allow for the government to pass the much needed Hydro Carbon legislation. This will allow for foreign investment to come into Iraq, which will provide more money for reconstruction and job creation, which will in turn negate the appeal for Iraqis to commit acts of insurgency (I talked about it in this post here). We can understand that phenomenon by looking at our own country, when unemployment goes up, crime goes up too. But I agree with you that we can't be here forever. General Petraeus will be doing a March Assessment which will hopefully address the plan to leave Iraq militarily speaking, while leaving it in some sort of stable condition. I don't think it's a good idea to pull out hastily right now, since it will take a long time to do so (I've heard between 1-2 years), a phased withdrawal is the best exit strategy in my opinion. Is it all worth it? I throw that on the mercy of history's judgment. I have no clue anymore, and I just work here.

Thanks A-Ro, hope that answers your questions. Happy New Years!