May Day

May Day:

May and October are the finest of months.

One morning in May by chance I did rove,
I sat myself down by the side of a grove,
And there did I hear the sweet nightingale sing,
I never heard so sweet as the birds in the Spring.

All on the green grass I sat myself down
Where the voice of the nightingale echoed around;
Don't you hear how she quivers the notes? I declare
No music, no songster with her can compare.

Come all you young men, I'll have you draw near,
I pray you now heed me these words for to hear,
That when you're grown old you may have it to sing,
That you never heard so sweet as the birds in the Spring.

-Traditional English ballad
Robin Hood is said to have died on May Day. That is a tragedy considering how much all the old tales suggest he enjoyed the month.
But how many months be in the year?
There are thirteen, I say;
The midsummer moon is the merryest of all
Next to the merry month of May.

IN summer time, when leaves grow green,
And flowers are fresh and gay,
Robin Hood and his merry men
Were [all] disposed to play.

Then some would leap, and some would run,
And some use artillery:
'Which of you can a good bow draw,
A good archer to be?

'Which of you can kill a buck?
Or who can kill a doe?
Or who can kill a hart of grease,
Five hundred foot him fro?

In honor of the old greenwood, and the beginning of summer, let me encourage you all to follow a piece of advice. Get some good beer or some sweet wine. Get away to the forest as much as you can before the heat of summer.

The birds still sing for us, after all. Grim's Hall is devoted, in part, to the heroic life. It used to be that learning to understand the speech of birds was the mark of a hero. Sigurd gained the ability after tasting the blood of a dragon slain. Fionn Mac Cumhaill had the same ability from tasting a magic fish. Rigsthula tells us that the Norse god Heimdall fathered a son destined to give rise to the lords of the North, who had this ability from youth. J.R.R. Tolkien invoked these old legends in The Hobbit, where Bard the Bowman, unknowingly the son of kings, finds a thrush whispering in his ear.

Many believe that these old stories arise from a woods-lore that was taught among the Northmen, which allowed them to anticipate ambushes. It may also be related to the interpretation of bird-flight that plays so strong a role in the other Indo-European epics, especially the Odyssey.

In any event, it is a skill that is worth cultivating. It is no small thing, these days, to be able to identify a bird by her song. There is a great deal to learn, and we have in May a few fine days to spend. Such days are too rare, and such joys, too few.

Belmont Club

Belmont Club:

Once again, the Belmont Club has a strong analysis of the situation in Fallujah. (Hat tip: Black Five). Of particular importance is this CENTCOM statement on the new Fallujah brigades.

The creation of native forces, and their integration into operations, is characteristic of Marine counterinsurgency. I would like to believe that is what is happening here. However, as yet I am not certain where the orders for this "Fallujah brigade" arose. If it's a component part of Marine strategy, it will probably work out well. If it's an imposition from civilian authorities, it will almost certainly work out badly.

Still, there is reason to hope. The presence of a popular local commander can be a solvent to dissolve the existing opposition groups. They will then reform under him. If he is indeed allied to the Coalition, this could be just the trick. If he is not, however, you will have a unified enemy force with better leadership and popular legitimacy. When the time comes to break it, breaking it will be that much harder. For better or for worse, the general of this force is now a popular hero in Fallujah, and a man we'll be dealing with at high levels from now on.

NATO may not have enough troops for Iraq: Powell

Powell, CFR: NATO Doesn't Have the Troops

Also from Secretary of State Powell, we have a statement on NATO involvement in Iraq:

US Secretary of State Colin Powell called Thursday for increased NATO involvement in Iraq but said he doubted that the Atlantic alliance had many troops available to contribute.

"Some 16 of the 26 nations of NATO are in Iraq in some capacity and I'm not sure there is a great reservoir of troops left in NATO," Powell said during a visit to Denmark where he met with Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller.

Powell suggested however that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which currently has only a small logistical support operation in Iraq to back Polish-led multinational coalition forces, could contribute by increasing its logistical support.
The ones not in Iraq are, as mentioned below, involved in operations elsewhere. NATO is tapped out. This is not only my reading, but that of the Council on Foreign Relations:
Does NATO have enough resources to take on all these new missions [in Afghanistan]?

Not without difficulty, many experts say. Most NATO nations have small military budgets--and in many cases military spending is declining, says Michael Peters, an expert on NATO affairs and executive vice president of the Council on Foreign Relations. Only a handful of NATO nations--France, Germany, Britain, Turkey, and Poland--have the capacity to field significant numbers of troops, and cash-strapped Poland and Turkey require financial assistance to do so, Peters says. Ongoing Balkans deployments involving some 40,000 personnel already strain the capacity of some NATO members. NATO's focus for now is getting Afghanistan "absolutely right... because it's somewhere we cannot possibly fail before we start looking at other elements," Robertson said October 9.

There are the bald facts.

Asia Times - Asia's most trusted news source for the Middle East


This piece on PSYOPS by the man known only as "SPENGLER" was suggested to me. It's from the Asia Times. I'm not sure what I think of it yet, but it's an interesting argument.

U.S. Newswire - Remarks of Senator John Kerry at Westminster College

John Kerry: The Problem of Platitudes:

Today the Honorable Senator Kerry spoke at Westminster, giving a policy address on Iraq. It was rich in political platitudes, almost religious in its veneration for international institutions, but demonstrated a failure of understanding.

Earlier this month the Hall held discussions on the options in Iraq. Essentially, I suggested, there were three--"big war," "small war," or failure. Senator Kerry has three options as well:

One, we can continue to do this largely by ourselves and hope more of the same works; Two, we can conclude it's not doable, pull out and hope against hope that the worst doesn't happen in Iraq; Or three, we can get the Iraqi people and the world's major powers invested with us in building Iraq's future.
The Senator's preference is rhetorically obvious. He therefore suggests we proceed:
[W]e must do the hard work to get the world's major political powers to join in this mission. To do so, the President must lead. He must build a political coalition of key countries, including the UK, France, Russia and China, the other permanent members of the UN Security Council, to share the political and military responsibilities and burdens of Iraq with the United States.
Does he really mean that he wants to invite China to share the military responsibilities in Iraq? No, of course not. Neither China nor Russia will be invited to do any such thing. Both of them are involved in their own counterinsurgency fighting against Muslim guerrillas, Russia in Chechnya and China in Xinjiang province (also known as East Turkmenistan). Their counterinsurgency doctrines are brutal on an order that no Western government could support, nor would we.

They are also wasteful of lives. In the campaign for the city of Grozny, the Russians lost thousands of soldiers. This demonstrates a second problem with this line of thought: the degree to which "internationalizing" the military problems in Iraq is possible is limited by technology and training. Neither Russia nor China is capable of joint force operations with the United States. Their training is not compatible with ours; their technology is not either. None of the MOUT techniques that the US Marines use is available to them. Indeed, their communications systems are so incompatible with our own that we would have a serious technical problem communicating at all.

The Coalition has been dealing with lesser versions of this problem all along. The reason that the Latin American armies have been combined into a single unit under Spanish command is not that they all speak Spanish. It is that the units from Latin America are largely unequipped for joint operations. As such, they have been stationed to do peacekeeping in the most secure parts of Iraq. Even Polish forces, after a decade of American efforts to bring them up to NATO standards, have had to operate largely separate from the joint command. When al-Sadr's armies attacked in several cities at once, the Poles were caught by surprise because their communications infrastructure is still not able to be completely tied in to our own. They don't get the full benefits of American C4I (command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence) techniques. This makes them vunerable, and unsuitable to support US units directly.

Inviting the Security Council to "share the military burden" is not an option. France, alone on the security council, both could send useful forces and has not already done so.

Senator Kerry:

The coalition should endorse the Brahimi plan for an interim Iraqi government, it should propose an international High Commissioner to work with the Iraqi authorities on the political transition, and it should organize an expanded international security force, preferably with NATO, but clearly under US command.

Once these elements are in place, the coalition would then go to the UN for a resolution to ratify the agreement. The UN would provide the necessary legitimacy. The UN is not the total solution but it is a key that opens the door to participation by others.

In parallel, the President must also go to NATO members and others to contribute the additional military forces and to NATO to take on an organizing role. NATO is now a global security organization and Iraq must be one of its global missions.

To bring NATO members and others in, the President must immediately and personally reach out and convince them that Iraqi security and stability is a global interest that all must contribute to. He must also convince NATO as an organization that Iraq should be a NATO mission-a mission consistent with the principles of collective security that have formed the basis of the alliance's remarkable history in the pursuit of peace and security.
NATO is indeed a global security organization. The only problem with this suggestion is that NATO is stretched far thinner than US forces. NATO is already leading the International Security force in Kabul (ISAF), and devoting large numbers of forces--both land and naval--to the combined antiterror task forces operating around the Horn of Africa. The German government has taken the lead in both matters, but the French are also involved, particularly in Africa. It is not clear that NATO can devote units of the size necessary to take over combat operations in even a small part of Iraq without devolving their commitment elsewhere. That is to say, "internationalizing" Iraq by bringing in NATO means nationalizing efforts in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Of course, that could be worthwhile, if we need them more in Iraq. But again, almost all the countries in NATO have already sent forces to Iraq. You can compare NATO membership with Combined Joint Task Force 7, which handles joint operations in Iraq. You will quickly realize two things: first, Kerry is simply mistaken to assert that we are acting 'largely by ourselves,' or that NATO members aren't already involved. Second, the number of countries in NATO which haven't sent forces to Iraq is very small--and they have sent forces, instead, to Afghanistan and elsewhere.

I said earlier this month that Kerry seems to have no strategy for Iraq beyond "Call for Reinforcements!" That is, sadly, confirmed by today's policy address. There is a lot about the need for foreign troops (which, as I noted above, demonstrates a lack of understanding about the problems of using foreign troops). There is nothing at all about what would be done with those troops when they got to Iraq. Nothing. Would we adopt a policy of seeking terrorist havens abroad? Would we try to control the Iraqi cities, leaving the deserts to the enemy? Would we try to seal the borders? Kerry has nothing to say about it at all. He scorns the idea that we should trust in "more of the same," but he has no alternative.

This same failure of thought infects his speech on the topic of Iraqi forces:

We need a massive training effort to build Iraqi security forces that can actually provide security for the Iraqi people. We must accept that the effort to date has failed: it must be rethought and reformed. Training cannot be hurried. It must be done in the field and on the job as well as in the classroom. Units cannot be put on the street without backup from international security forces. They cannot be rushed into battle before they are ready.
"It must be rethought and reformed," he says. Well, sir, are you not the opposition candidate? What have you been doing these last nine months? We know, if I may be excused the jab, that you have not been taken up with your sworn duties in the Senate.

Does Kerry wish to adopt re-Ba'athification? Does he wish to turn the process of training over from the current trainers to someone else? If so, who? Other than taking his time--a commodity not readily available--and having "international security" to stand over their shoulders, what exactly would he do differently? He does not say.

He has many generous things to say about the United Nations, and although I see little reason to share his high opinion of the organization, I'll assume he believes it all. I will let the Senator pass on his jab at the lack of armed hummers without bothering to look up whether or not he voted against funding them. I will give him credit for having grown in his office, for he now asserts his strong preference for Democracy, when once he seemed rather unsure that it was preferable.

Even granting that, this speech was sad. One is left to assume that Kerry believes that Bush's arrogance is solely responsible for the share of the burden American forces carry. One is left to assume he knows nothing whatever about the challenges of joint operations with international forces. One must assume that he does not have an opinion on what strategy we ought to adopt, or what the relative benefits and hazards of each might be.

A man who thinks in platitudes does not think. If the Senator wishes to be taken seriously on these great questions, he must take the questions seriously. Now the sole voice of the opposition, he has the obligation to offer a fully formed alternative. He has not yet begun.


A New Iraqi National Intelligence Service:

The Coalition Provisional Authority has issued permission to the Iraqi Governing Council for the formation of a new intelligence service. If you are curious, the INIS charter is available online. Certain items of interest:

* The INIS is empowered to collect intelligence "and conduct related intelligence activities" in cases of "threats to the national security," terrorism, insurgency, WMD, narcotics, organized crime, or counterintelligence. That is a much broader scope of power than is granted US intelligence agencies.
* Curiously, the charter states that any dissemination of intelligence outside of the Iraqi government will be "strictly limited to what is essential to the national security of Iraq." I suppose that means that we will not be seeing any INIS data unless we can convince the future government that their national security requires ponying up.
* In theory, the INIS will be banned from acting against established political parties, and will be required to observe human rights.
* The INIS will be subject to oversight by the legislature. (Chp. 7, passim).
* INIS members cannot hold legislative or other political office in the new Iraq. (Chp. 11, Ar. 39)
* Chp. 3, Art. 13 states plainly that there will be no "wall" between intelligence and law enforcement, but instead requires immediate notification of probable criminal offenses to the law enforcement branches for prosecution.

Taken together, this looks like the foundation for a very powerful secret police and intelligence service. Such is doubtless required by the circumstances in Iraq, but it will bear watching.

Senator Zell Miller - Printer Friendly Document

Repeal the 17th?

Senator Zell Miller has introduced legislation to the Senate that would fundamentally alter the way Senators are elected. It would, that is, restore the fashion in which they were chosen under the original Constitution:

[N]o matter who you send to Washington -- for the most part smart and decent people -- it is not going to change much.

The individuals are not so much at fault as the rotten and decaying foundation of what is no longer a republic.

It is the system that stinks. And it's only going to get worse because that perfect balance our brilliant Founding Fathers put in place in 1787 no longer exists.

Perhaps then the answer is a return to the original thinking of those wisest of all men, and how they intended for this government to function.

Federalism, for all practical purposes, has become to this generation of leaders some vague philosophy of the past that is dead, dead, dead. It isn't even on life support. That line on the monitor went flat sometime ago.

You see, the reformers of the early 1900's killed it dead and cremated the body when they allowed for the direct election of U.S. senators.

Up until then, U.S. senators were chosen by state legislatures, as Madison and Hamilton had so carefully crafted.

Direct elections of senators, as good as that sounds, allowed Washington's special interests to call the shots, whether it's filling judicial vacancies or issuing regulations.

The state governments aided in their own collective suicide by going along with the popular fad of the time.... As designed by that brilliant and very practical group of Founding Fathers, the two governments would be in competition with each other and neither could abuse or threaten the other.

The election of U.S. senators by the state legislatures was the linchpin that guaranteed the interests of the states would be protected.

Today, state governments have to stand in line. They are just another one of many, many special interests that try to get senators to listen to them. And they are at an extreme disadvantage because they have no PAC.
Miller is under no illusions about this bill's chances:
So, having now jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge of political reality, before I hit the water and go 'splat,' I have introduced a bill that would repeal the 17th Amendment. I use the word 'would,' not 'will,' because I know it doesn't stand a chance of getting even a single co-sponsor, much less a single vote beyond my own.

Abraham Lincoln, as a young man, made a speech in Springfield, Illinois, in which he called our founding principles 'a fortress of strength,' but warned that they 'would grow more and more dim by the silent artillery of time.'

A wise man, that Lincoln, who understood and predicted all too well the fate of our republic and our form of government.
It is true, of course, that the bill will not even get a co-sponsor. It seems a bit odd, and a little sad, that there should be that little support for the founding principles of the Republic. You'd like to see at least a few Senators ready to stand up and fight for them, even if they're doomed to lose.

Maybe the plan even deserves to lose--this is the first time I've heard the suggestion, and would want time to consider it before choosing a side. Still, it's not a bad idea to formally reconsider the major changes to our Republic once in a while, and whether or not they've had effects baleful or healthful. There is no interest in doing so, not even in the Senate--that glorious debating society we learned about in school has no time for this debate, nor any similar one.

IRAQ NOW ...... Media Analysis With A Sense of Insurgency


Congratulations to everyone involved with the Spirit of America blog war! As you have probably seen elsewhere, the combined efforts of the blogs raised more than $50,000 for the Marines. Outstanding work, all.

Philadelphia Inquirer | 04/29/2004 | No guns for contractors in Iraq, Pentagon is proposing


Lest anyone think that I am an unmitigated defender of the Pentagon, allow me to point out that occasionally the brass suggests something really dumb. Today's entry: Contractors in Iraq Should be Unarmed.

As the insurgency in Iraq remains strong, the Department of Defense has proposed a new rule for most of the estimated 70,000 civilian contractors working in the region: They cannot carry guns.

Deidre Lee, the Pentagon's director of procurement and acquisition policy, whose office proposed the rule, said it was designed to settle one of the biggest questions facing contractors: "to arm or not to arm."

It is a life-or-death issue because "we don't have the military providing security for our contractors," Lee said.
This is the same logic at work in gun control proposals everywhere:

1) There is too much crime.
2) Guns cause crime.
3) Therefore, we should reduce the number of guns.

The problem, in Iraq as everywhere else, is that the only people whose guns the government can readily reduce are the people who respect the government's authority. This is true even in American cities, where there are not and can't be enough police to be everywhere and search every home; it is far more true in an unstable foreign nation, where a large number of persons are actively warring against the government. All that can be accomplished by this is to disarm the people on our side, leaving them prey to all our enemies.

Imagine trying to drive a supply convoy across a hostile foreign wilderness. You know that there are raiders who want to destroy your convoy, and kill you personally, in order to hurt the war effort that your convoy is supplying. Your employers say, "Oh, one more thing--you can't carry guns, and there will be no military security." What do you suppose you're apt to do?

[T]op department official acknowledged that the war effort was suffering a "brain drain" of civilian workers who were fleeing Iraq because they did not feel safe.

Truck convoys in Iraq are "more like a journey through the wild, wild west," Gen. Darryl A. Scott, director of the Defense Contract Management Agency, told a conference of government and corporate contracting officials in Orlando.

"That's a reality there," he said this week. "People leave every day... . It does make operating in that environment more difficult."
Really. Imagine that. What could they be thinking?
Many workers in the region are former military personnel and prefer to be armed, said Cathy Etheredge, a manager for BAE Systems, which provides information technology in Afghanistan.

The problem with the proposed rule is that it tells contractors that they are responsible for their security, but then says they cannot be armed, said Nick Sanders, who leads the contract finance committee for the National Defense Industrial Association, a trade group for traditional defense contractors.

"It doesn't appear to be a well-thought-out, coherent policy," Sanders said. "It appears to be a one-way door where contractors will have all the responsibility and cost."
There you go. Supporters of the plan offered three reasons in favor of banning weapons:
Armed contractors would be more likely to be shot at or kidnapped. Second, as civilians, they do not follow the same strict rules of force as the military. And by picking up weapons, contractors could lose any death- and accident-insurance coverage they may have.
The first suggestion is astonishing. Armed persons are more likely to be kidnapped? Armed convoys are more likely to be attacked? If there is any lesson that should have been learned in fighting the mufsidoon, it is that they prefer unarmed targets. They prefer them very much.

As to the second reason, it is wise to have clear guidelines, and to enforce them. If such guidelines don't exist, they should be created and enforced. Making the contractors into hostages to the goodwill of guerrillas and terrorists is not the answer.

The third reason is the kind of thing that ought to be addressed through legislation or contract bargaining. Here's a proposed negotiating point: an insurance company is much less likely to have to pay out a death benefit for these contractors if the contractors aren't asked to walk unarmed through a war zone filled with people who consider kidnapping and killing American citizens to be a prime tactic.

There is hope:
Lee said the proposed rule could change, depending on contractor reaction. The official comment period ends in late May, but there is no timetable for a final regulation. In the meantime, some contractors are carrying guns.
The rule can be read here. Comments may be directed via the DPAP website. The proposal in question is "Contractors Accompanying a Force Deployed." The rule does create an exception whereby combatant commanders may, on their personal authority, issue government-owned arms to contractors if they feel it is absolutely necessary. As with all such bureaucratic "exceptions," of course, the tendency will be not to make the exception--if you follow the rule you are protected by the institution if there is a tragedy, but anyone who breaks the rule is personally responsible. Bureaucracies (of which the military is certainly one) tend to be risk averse for that reason.

This risk aversion puts brave men at terrible risk, and will make it harder to find such contractors in the first place. Please do what you can to help protect these men, and the interests of the Republic.

UPDATE: IraqNow has a post up on this topic. He suggests some additional measures that might be mentioned in the public comments:
The measure is supported by Kellogg, Brown and Root officials, who argue that they'll lose insurance coverage on employees when they pick up weapons.... The insurance for the workers is a nonissue. They can be adopted into the same risk pool as American servicemen, and pay SGLI premiums--probably elevated premiums, to reflect the brief time of their service in Iraq (military personnel pay premiums during peacetime and wartime as well, spreading the risk out over many years), but that can be figured out by actuaries, and the cost passed on to the US government.

The liability factor for Halliburton is a slightly more difficult issue. If they allow their contractors to carry firearms, over the objections of retarded bean counters in air conditioned offices who have no conception what the risk tradeoffs are in Iraq, then they potentially expose themselves directly to bank-breaking lawsuits on the part of aggrieved families.

Hey--ever hear of purchasing a rider?

Ever heard of reinsurance?

And if the insurance industry gives them a hard time, Insurance regulators could weigh in and force the issue.

It wouldn't be that hard, since supporters of the bill are proposing that we create an additional layer of expense to hire private security firms to protect KBR convoys. And presumeably someone insures them.
Fusileer Pundit also has a post, as does A Collection of Thoughts.

Spirit of America

SOA Challenge:

Just to remind everyone, the Spirit of America challenge is winding up. We of the Fighting Fusileers have been ahead, but that's no reason to stop. Remember the Tortoise and the Hare! It's not over until it's over, &c., &c. Give today!

Grim's Hall

Tip for Bloggers:

A contact of mine suggests that the correct word for referring to Islamist terrorists is "mufsidoon." This is the Arabic for "evildoer," and can be prefixed by "Saddam's" or "Osama's" as appropriate.

The idea is that Mujahedeen and Mahdi Army (Army of the Messiah) cast the enemy as soldiers of God. That makes Coalition forces the opponents of God, soldiers of the devil. Mufsidoon more correctly identifies them, and therefore, our forces likewise.

Mehr News Agency English

Helping Out:

We can thank the Honorable Clinton for giving an interview to the Arab press--Asharq al-Awsat, out of London. One of the challenges in a counterinsurgency is convincing people that yours is the winning side. Senator Clinton was helpful indeed:

The democrat Senator stressed that the U.S. is trapped in the quagmire of Iraq. It can not free itself from the country.

Referring to the Bush Administration policies as arrogant and insolent, the wife of the former U.S. president further added that Bush is not willing to admit his mistakes in Iraq, the grave mistakes that have endangered the lives of both the Iraqi people and the U.S. servicemen alike.

The mistakes have also threatened peace and stability in the region, she further explained.

Clinton said the Bush Administration did not have a plan for Iraq and did not have a full understanding of the situation there.

She said the United States was in trouble because it could not abandon Iraq, nor provide enough manpower to run the country, nor gather world allies willing to provide the necessary assistance for the gigantic task.

Thanks, doll. It'll be a lot easier now.

North County Times - North San Diego and Southwest Riverside County columnists

Echo Company:

There's a good writeup on the battle in Fallujah by reporters with the North County Times, embedded with Echo Company, 2nd Bn, 1st Marine Regiment, I MEF.

[Navy Corpsman] Duty and [1st Sgt.] Skiles said the Marine killed and most of the wounded Monday were hit with shrapnel from grenades tossed by rebels into open windows. At least two of the Marines were also shot, said Duty, whose boots were black with the blood of his comrades as he recounted the fight.

Duty said he had to fire his pistol at gunmen just to get into the building where Marines lay bleeding, still fighting off insurgents, some of whom were only 10 yards away.

"I walk into a place like that -- everyone's down -- and you just don't know where to start," he said. "You just have to calm down and think, and then it all comes to you."

Skiles said Duty saved several of the Marines, and worked to save a fatally wounded Marine by continuing CPR in the back of a humvee as it sped through enemy fire over a jarring ride to a field hospital.

Marines cited the bravery of a lance corporal who was wounded in a rebel mortar attack nearly two weeks ago in which two other Echo Company Marines were killed, and was wounded again by shrapnel in Monday's fighting.

In both incidents, they said, he ignored his own wounds to help other wounded Marines. In Monday's battle, he fought off insurgents and ran back to the Marines' lines even while wounded in three places.

Happy Birthday Sgt. Hook!!!


Happy Birthday, Sgt. Hook. It appears I missed the big day while I was away, but now that I have returned, please accept the congratulations of the Hall.