Proj V-IT on Esquire cover

Project VALOUR-IT soldier on the cover of Esquire:

Fuzzybear Lioness has the story, along with a retrospective of the case. Bryan Anderson's story is an important one to read, to see how the project has helped one fighting man begin the road to recovery. His family described the laptop as "the first step," because "it proved that he was going to be able to do all the things he did before."

All of you who have helped, or donated: thank you.


Good Work:

The Virginia Citizens' Defense League is proudly reporting that a member stopped a bank robbery the other day. The criminal, encountering an armed citizen, fled at once without a shot being fired or the citizen even needing to draw his weapon. SunTrust banks in the area have been robbed recently, but not this one.

The story underlines a basic fact about an armed citizenry: its successes aren't always visible. The criminal, who wore a ski mask and immediately fled from the area, was not apprehended; indeed, the bank didn't even try to call the police, since they had no way to identify who it was. There is therefore no police report, no media report, nothing that would show up on a statistical study of crime. The citizen's gun was never drawn, only observed.

We all share a citizen's duty to uphold the common peace and lawful order. As this story shows, sometimes all it takes is being devoted to that duty, and keeping the necessary tools to hand.



While in Indiana, I had occasion on Christmas Day for a long talk with my mother-in-law. She was raised in Alaska. A wise piece of advice for any man who wants to marry: look long at the mother of your considered bride.

So here's a story about my wife's mother. See if you can spot the family resemblance.

Some years ago, she lost a kidney. It was a hard time for her, as she was terribly ill for months due to the poisons coming from the dying tissue. She refused to go to a doctor for a long time, however, so she didn't know what was wrong.

When she finally did go in, the doctor determined that one of her kidneys was dying. "I wonder what has caused this," he said. "Have you suffered any sharp blows to the area lately?"

"No," she said.

"Hm," the doctor said. "Well, any serious injury to the area ever?"

"Not that I can recall," she said.

"You never had a hard blow to the region?" he tried one more time.

She fixed her mouth in thought, and finally said, "Well, there was the time the grizzly bear threw me into the tree. I forgot about that."

"Slipped your mind?" he asked.

"Yes," she answered. "I was cleaning a deer, and he just wanted the carcass. So, he slapped me into a tree. I was so mad, I went back for my rifle, but my mother made me go to the doctor. I didn't want to go to the doctor, I wanted to go get that bear."

"Was the injury serious?" the doctor patiently continued.

"I didn't think so until now," she said. "But my mother insisted. The claws tore through the parka, and the shirt I was wearing, and my undershirt, and the underwear... but they didn't touch me! I figured I was fine."

Apparently not, she discovered decades later... well, such things happen.

Iraqi force spirit

Iraqi Forces:

I've always been opposed to those "team building" exercises that try to artificially create the unity of spirit that only really occurs from genuine experience.

On the other hand, this one may cross the line into genuine experience. Ben of Mesopotamia, deployed MilBlogger, reports on an Iraqi forces' parade in Najaf:

One of the units stops in front of the reviewing stand and executes a right face so they face the dignitaries. They are wearing dark green camouflage tee shirts that look as if they had just visited a surplus store somewhere, and black pants. Their faces are also painted black. The commander issues an order in Arabic, the men chant something in response...
OK, so far standard enough in spite of the weird uniforms...
...and then each soldier produces a live frog from his right pocket. They then proceeded to BITE THE HEAD OFF THE FROG and throw its STILL KICKING torso onto the track. The Commander of the unit then produces a live rabbit and holds it by its hind legs in front of him. He pulls out an eight-inch hunting knife, and guts it from its belly to its neck. He grabs the incision on each side, and rips its chest and stomach open. He proceeded to STICK HIS MOUTH INTO THE CARCASS, AND COMES OUT WITH THE STILL BEATING HEART IN HIS TEETH!!! He passes the rabbit to each soldier, who takes a turn BITING INTO THE BLOODY INTESTINES!!!
Hmm. Perhaps these guys are up to whipping the insurgents.

There was a lot more to the parade, including a formal loyalty pledge by tribal shieks. Overall, Ben was encouraged:
There have been a lot of bad days in Iraq since I arrived last Spring. I start every day with the daily intelligence report, which leads off with how many people were killed over the previous 24 hours. Even on days where the violence is relatively light, it is still too many innocent families being torn apart by the nihilism of evil men. And while I am still fully convinced that our cause here is just, it is frustrating at times to realize that best intentions are not enough, and that the sacrifices our soldiers are making in the field every day (sometimes making the ultimate sacrifice) for a peaceful Iraq and a secure U.S does not seem to be improving the situation here.

But today, the spirit of the Iraqi Security Forces was palpable, and you could see the pride on the soldiers' and policemen's faces as they marched, honored to be assuming responsiblity for maintaining Iraq’s security. Their clear devotion to Iraq as a nation renewed my hope that there is still a chance we can overcome the terrorists and extremists trying to destroy everything the Iraqi people want to build.
Parades are meant to rally your spirits and manipulate them toward the ends of the parade-master. Nevertheless, I think that his take is right. The hope has always been that the enemy's ability to create chaos would eventually work against him -- that the people would come to be willing to create peace and order themselves, through any means necessary.

The Coalition is not going to deploy the sort of force necessary to quell the insurgency, because you don't fight a successful counterinsurgency that way. You raise local forces that will do it, and make clear over time that stability and peace can only come through those forces and no others. Victory comes when your allies are seen by enough of the people as being 'their team,' so that the countryside fights for them and refuses to shelter the enemy.

The other necessary condition is that the people have to believe that your side will be able to provide stability. As Bill Roggio reported from Anbar province, one of the chief problems we face in the Sunni areas of Iraq is that potential allies don't believe we'll stick it out. They cannot, therefore, commit to us -- they have to hedge their bets. That lack of commitment is a structural flaw in American foreign policy, one that cannot change, and it is therefore why insurgency is such a difficult thing for us to combat compared to more brutal, less free and democratic nations. The insurgents can hope to move our political will, in a way that they cannot hope to move (say) China's.

That is why we must make a public recommitment to fighitng through the difficulties in Iraq, and seeing it through. There can be no end but victory on the table.

This week's news from Somalia is being cast in some places as good news in the fight against Islamist movements; in others as bad news for stability. The truth is that the Islamists have never been able to hold ground when opposed by local forces backed with US power -- or by Western forces. What we are seeing there is what we should expect to see. It's important nevertheless, because a key element in the GWOT has to be ensuring that Islamist movements do not hold territory in their own name. It is one thing if the people of a state choose to institute some level of Islamic law in their public lives, as they do in Malaysia and parts of Indonesia; it is another to have an Islamist state, as the Taliban was in Afghanistan.

Nevertheless, the hard part comes later in Somalia. It's always possible to break the Islamist hold on an area. It's defeating their insurgency, with its design of targeting the weak and the innocent, that is the challenge of the age. We must learn to do this; we must show that we can do it, not only once but reliably.

Ethiopia will commit as we cannot, and indeed should not, and so we serve as advisors to them. The Iraqi fighting forces we are raising will likewise be brutal in a way we cannot, and cannot be forced to "go home" because they are home.

Winning the tribes should have been the first, and must be the last, phase of the war. The Shi'ite tribes are increasingly in the right column -- that of the Iraqi government -- but the Sunni tribes have, if anything, relapsed. This is due to the fact that they cannot trust us to keep presence in Iraq, and pressure on the government to support their rights; they therefore fear the government of Iraq, rather than looking toward it as a means of ensuring their own stability. We must convince them both of our own resolve, and that the government of Iraq will not annihilate them. Otherwise, the government of Iraq will have to do so, as it is the only alternative to end the war. Surely, none of us wants that ending.

The biggest news of the last week was the capture of the ranking Iranians in the region. Unfortunately, ther is not enough information in the clear to make judgments about. I suspect that is what Bush is really doing this week -- not 'rethinking the course' in a general way, but deciding what to do about Iran's involvement. Negotiation is widely suggested, but can only work to our advantage if we can find a way to negotiate from strength -- if we put a large enough stick on the table, that is, to go with the soft and diplomatic talk. If we have the courage to deploy such a stick, then I favor the negotiations; if we do not, then they are worse than pointless. Negotiation and diplomacy of that type is actively harmful.


Post-Holiday Confusion:

Wait, what? We're on the air? Oh, hello.

Whew. Yesterday's five-hundred mile drive over several sets of mountains has left me unusually cff-balance, due to the cold I haven't quite shaken. The pressure changes in the ear suffered at Monteagle still haven't gone away due to the head being stopped-up in a fashion unbroken by Robotussin. It finally sparked vertigo by the time we were passing Cloudland Canyon, leading to this conversation:

Grim: "Are we sideways now?"

Wife: "No."

Grim: "Crap."

I did manage to find my way to the computer today. This has not improved the situation.

For one thing, I find that my favorite blawg has closed. Alas for Southern Appeal! We shall not see its like again.

I've several things I'd like to talk with you about soon. Give me a day or two, and a supply of good beer, and I don't doubt I shall be at your service.


If this is St. Steven's Day, I'm in... Where?

Farmland outside of Indianapolis, Indiana, childhood home of the little wife (whom I met in Knoxville on her way to Savannah -- long story). Today, I'm going to the Eiteljorg Museum, and then will have a last dinner with the in-laws. Tomorrow, I'll begin the long trip back to my beloved South.

I've been sick over the holiday, but thanks to my mother-in-law's application of dark Jamaican rum and coffee, I feel much better today. JarHeadDad can tell you that there's nothing like rum to make you feel better (eh, old son?). Hope all of you are well.