On Point - The United States Army in Operation Iraqi Freedom


There has been a rash of stories suggesting that an Army report criticized the toppling of Saddam's statue. This has been followed by posts by some in the blogosphere who have believed that the involvement of a PSYOP unit meant that the emotion of the Iraqis was faked, perhaps to manipulate the US public's opinion.

You can read the report online. It says absolutely nothing of the sort.

We woke up that morning [of 9 April] in the Iraqi Special Forces training compound on the outskirts of southern Baghdad. Attached to 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment (of I MEF), who were conducting a clearing operation on the southern approach to Baghdad, [we were] moving with their TAC at the time. We were kept in a centralized location while moving so that we could be flexed to where we might be needed. We were not sure what we were going to hit, but we were expecting a lot of resistance. The infantry unit was to be clearing door to door, while we would be broadcasting civilian noninterference messages and occasional surrender appeals when pockets of enemy forces were located. The infantry unit started its operation but was encountering no resistance at all. After a few hours of going door to door, kicking doors and entering, looking for enemy concentrations and weapons caches but finding none, they modified their plan and formed up into a column and started a general movement toward Al-Firdos (paradise) Square in [eastern] Baghdad, where the Palestine Hotel and statue [of Saddam Hussein] were located. The entire movement went a lot faster than anyone had anticipated....
Crowds of Iraqi citizens started coming out and cheering the American convoy. We started to do some PSYOP broadcasts about bringing about a free Iraq, but knowing that we were to continue some clearing operations; we were telling them to stay away from our military vehicles for their own safety. We eventually dismounted from our vehicle and continued to inform the civilians to stay back from the military vehicles. The Iraqi civilians were very receptive to us, and [we] continued to engage them with our interpreter.

As we approached the street leading into the Al-Firdos Square, we could tell that there was a very large crowd of civilians starting to form up. It looked like the infantry unit up there could use some support, so we moved our [tactical PSYOP team] TPT vehicle forward and started to run around seeing what they needed us to do to facilitate their mission.... There was a large media circus at this location (I guess the Palestine Hotel was a media center at the time), almost as many reporters as there were Iraqis, as the hotel was right adjacent to the Al-Firdos Square.

The Marine Corps colonel in the area saw the Saddam statue as a target of opportunity and decided that the statue must come down. Since we were right there, we chimed in with some loudspeaker support to let the Iraqis know what it was we were attempting to do. The reporters were completely surrounding the vehicle, and we started having to ask the reporters to move out of the way, but they would not move. We were getting frustrated, but we were also laughing about it. We dismounted the vehicle again and just started pushing the people out of the way. They were starting to really inhibit our ability to conduct our mission. The tanks . . . formed up into a perimeter around the square, with the statue in the middle.

An M88 recovery vehicle approached the statue and continued to drive up the steps right next to the statue in an attempt to bring it down. The people had already tied a noose around the neck of the statue with some rope. They were trying to just tug on it and bring it down and were hitting it with sledgehammers; it was clearly getting crazy in the square. We were no longer in crowd control, as there was just no controlling this crowd at this time. We decided to just ride along with the crowd, and we started just kind of celebrating with the Iraqi people. We actually had to have our interpreter record an ad-hoc broadcast message, informing the Iraqi people that if they did not stand back from the statue, American forces would not bring the statue down. We were afraid that some civilians would get hurt if they were too close or in the wrong spot.

All of this activity was going on within just a few blocks of where other marines were battling with snipers in a building across from the Palestine Hotel. The local Iraqi people just did not care for their well being at this point; they just wanted to see the statue come down...We looked over and now there was an American flag draped over the face of the statue. God bless them, but we were thinking from PSYOP school that this was just bad news. We didn't want to look like an occupation force, and some of the Iraqis were saying, `No, we want an Iraqi flag!' So I said `No problem, somebody get me an Iraqi flag.' I am not sure where it came from, but one of the Iraqis brought us the old Iraqi flag without the writing on it (added by Saddam). We got that as fast as we could and started running that up to the statue. At this time, the marines had put a chain from the boom of the recovery vehicle around the neck of the statue, and they just ran the [Iraqi] flag up the statue. It was real quick thinking on Staff Sergeant

Plesich's part to get that Iraqi flag up there quick. But by the time the Iraqi flag got put on the statue, there had already been a lot of photos taken with the marine covering the statue with the American flag.

Somehow along the way, somebody had gotten the idea to put a bunch of Iraqi kids onto the wrecker that was to pull the statue down. While the wrecker was pulling the statue down, there were Iraqi children crawling all over it. Finally they brought the statue down, but we expected this big statue to come crashing down, to shatter or whatever, but it just slowly bent over and slid off the mounting pipes. Once the statue was on the ground, it was attacked by Iraqis with the sledgehammers and broken apart. The head of the statue was dragged through the streets, with people hitting the face with their shoes and spitting on it. After the statue was down, we started to receive a lot of intelligence on where Ba'ath Party personnel were staying and just generally got a lot of real good intelligence for use in later direct-action missions. All this information was developed with and through the human exploitation teams, which had assigned interpreters.
If the American people are being PSYOP'd, it's the press and not the Army doing it. Everything goes through a negative lens. How anyone could read this report and not feel the joy and excitement of liberation is beyond me; but some can, and have.
What though they come with scroll and pen,
And grave as a shaven clerk,
By this sign you shall know them,
That they ruin and make dark.
Beware the old foe.

PARAMETERS, US Army War College Quarterly - Summer 2004

In Praise of Attrition:

A piece from the journal of the Army War College argues that the US military has gone too far to avoid killing people. It's getting in the way of victory, the author suggests...

It's essential to purge our minds of the cliched images the term "war of attrition" evokes. Certainly, we do not and will not seek wars in which vast casualties are equally distributed between our own forces and the enemy's. But a one-sided war of attrition, enabled by our broad range of superior capabilities, is a strong model for a 21st-century American way of war....

Precision weapons unquestionably have value, but they are expensive and do not cause adequate destruction to impress a hardened enemy. The first time a guided bomb hits the deputy's desk, it will get his chief's attention, but if precision weaponry fails both to annihilate the enemy's leadership and to somehow convince the army and population it has been defeated, it leaves the job to the soldier once again. Those who live in the technological clouds simply do not grasp the importance of graphic, extensive destruction in convincing an opponent of his defeat.

Focus on killing the enemy. With fires. With maneuver. With sticks and stones and polyunsaturated fats. In a disciplined military, aggressive leaders and troops can always be restrained. But it's difficult to persuade leaders schooled in caution that their mission is not to keep an entire corps' tanks on line, but to rip the enemy's heart out.
The explanation of why and how this works begins with the condottiere and passes through Napoleon, the Fraco-Prussian war, both declared world wars, the Cold War and Desert Storm. It then examines the new war at length. Just one quote of many worth considering:
[W]e shall hear that killing terrorists only creates more terrorists. This is sophomoric nonsense. The surest way to swell the ranks of terror is to follow the approach we did in the decade before 9/11 and do nothing of substance. Success breeds success. Everybody loves a winner. The cliches exist because they're true. Al Qaeda and related terrorist groups metastasized because they were viewed in the Muslim world as standing up to the West successfully and handing the Great Satan America embarrassing defeats with impunity.
It's not exactly nonsense--particularly in tribal societies, there is a duty to vengence that does create new enemies. Still, if you find yourself in a war with such a culture, there is no way out except victory. The creation of certain numbers of terrorists is a price you have to accept, because you really must destroy the ones who exist already. You just also have to destroy those of their cousins who feel they must have revenge upon you.

I think the author is on to something, although I depart from him on other points as well. It's an argument worth considering, and I'm glad to see that the Army War College is able to voice these sorts of opinions and debate them.

Teens like Bush less than Saddam, Osama

The Madness of No Consequences:

Hungarian schoolchildren, in a poll that has for some reason become international news, report liking Bush less than Osama bin Laden, Saddam, or Joseph Stalin. Bush did manage to narrowly avoid being worse than Hitler in the poll (25 versus 23 percent). Oddly enough, Bush seems to have also been the most-liked foreigner (eight percent). One supposes there must have been two categories--most liked, and most disliked.

High School popularity contests are always a bad way to decide anything more important than the Prom Queen--even the Senior Class Presidency is really too important for it, as you need someone for the office who will develop into the responsible citizen that arranges reunions every five years forever.

Still, one expects that this says something about Hungary: that the parents of these kids spend a lot of time complaining about Bush, and not very much talking about Osama or Stalin. This, combined with the lack of historic context that attends youth, surely explains the results.

The results also reinforce the principle of crunchiness--that the further you get from decisions having practical consequences, the more obviously mad are your results. There is no consequence to a 16 year old in Hungary to saying that Bush is worse than Stalin, or Saddam; nothing depends on it. There is no reason he shouldn't say it, or even believe it. There is certainly no reason he should examine the sentiment closely or investigate its context. It changes nothing in his world; it is not worth his time.

But why, then, should we ask him what he thinks? Why should we print this high school survey from Hungary in newspapers as far away as India?

EU Business - France could defend EU in case of attack: minister

French Nukes May Guard Europe:

Hat tip LGF. Leave aside the French bashing for a moment--I normally enjoy it myself, but just for a moment--and consider what is being proposed by the French:

She said that rogue states "could one day point their missiles toward France and its neighbours. We could say to those countries: 'Watch out, if you try to carry out your threats we will destroy you before you know what's hit you.'

"If Germany asked us for help, it is probable that European solidarity would come into play," she told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper, and added: "For us, nuclear weapons are the ultimate protection against a threat from abroad."

It is probable? Let's say, for the sake of argument, that a nuclear DPRK with improved ballistic capability, or indeed any other rogue state, were indeed to threaten Germany. How protected would you feel by an alliance with a state that will "probably" defend you? How effective is that in deterring attack?

Let's say you're the head of a rogue state. What does the calculation look like from your side? "France says it will probably retaliate if we hit Germany," you think. "On the other hand, they know that if they do so they will become a target themselves. If they don't, Paris doesn't get turned into ash. So how 'probable' is 'probable'?"

Not very, I suspect.

Sharp Knife

On Saving the North Church:

A poem from Sharp Knife. It was composed on the occasion of someone complaining about spending taxpayer dollars to save the church where Paul Revere's lanterns were hung, saying it was a breech in the 'wall between church and state':

Listen, tax-payers and you will hear
of the Midnight ride of Paul Revere.
Where are you going at this hour, Paul?
Playing some Midnight basketball?
Or, are you a war-monger,
spreading intolerance and hate,
and breeching the wall between church & the state?

I can't help but notice you carry a musket;
Paul, they're illegal from here to Pawtuket.
You wear a tri-corner and their coats are red;
Is that any reason to fight 'til one's dead?
To our modern eyes, these are indicia;
'My God! I think he's in a militia!'
You see, Paul, some things have changed since your day;
If we saw you now, we'd lock you away.

That horse that you're riding out in the yard;
He too, has rights, and you ride him too hard!
And the lanterns your friend carried up to the tower
relied upon whale oil for their shining power!
And that shop in town where you were a smithy;
must comply with our rules; there's a million & fifty!
Talk back not, and cast no aspersions,
Or we'll drop by to see if you've hired enough Persians.

On April 15th and each day of the year,
we pay and we pay on what we have earned dear.
We've got money for Egypt, money for zoos,
plenty of money for removing tattoos.
Money to study love-lives of emus,
and money for mohair where no hair ever grew.
Money for 'artists' wearing nothing but chocolate,
Money for bombs that make awe and make shocklets.
But here is a thing that you would find odd;
No money for North Church... Someone said 'God'!

I know what you're thinking as you shake your head;
You think that you're safe, Paul; but we tax the dead.
You're saying to us: 'Why on earth did I bother?...
Have my children forgotten the Flags of their Fathers?
And whence all this anger at all your traditions?
How did you come into this strange condition?"

"Some worship money, some worship science,
some merely shake their fists in defiance.
Some worship power, some worship Nature,
some worship the Devil, and worse: Legislatures!
Your fathers were brave, ringing Liberty's Bell,
and Acknowledged their Father who blessed them so well.
But ponder this thought as you seek your solution:
Without that church tower...

...There'd be no Constitution.

Marine Corps News> New radar system brings the fight back to terrorists


This is a pretty nifty idea: a device that tracks incoming mortar rounds by laser, and calculates their launch coordinates for counterbattery fire. The Marines are enthusiastic:

It's good to know we have this piece of equipment here,' Fomin explained. 'It's good to know we don't have to wait so long to fire back and when we do, it'll be a lot more accurate. And that's the whole goal, to find out where they're shooting from and kill the bastards.'
Sounds like a fellow with the right attitude.

Yahoo! Mail - grimbeornr@yahoo.com

Family Stories:

I've asked my father to drop by the weblog and look over the family stories I've been posting. Some of them I've not heard since I was a boy, and some of them I've heard only from my Great Uncle Ralph, just deceased this year. It may be that my father can correct some details if I've misremembered. I'll post more as time goes along and events remind me of them.


Fourth of July Parade:

Grim and family took part in the local Fourth of July Parade. It was conducted down main street, to a profusion of red, white and blue ribbons and the sounds of a fife and drum band. The parade was a parade of children and pets, with adults walking alongside just to keep order. Bicycles with pinwheels and kids on sliders went by like tornados. Here's a short photo essay of the event.

My son Beowulf waves the colors...

Grim and wife march down mainstreet...

Beowulf rides to the sound of drums...

The family assembles to hear the Marine Corps Hymn...

I hope your Independence Day was also well-celebrated. Take care.


Israelis in Iraq:

This is a pure bleg. Yesterday Gen. Karpinski stated that she had encountered Israelis in Abu Ghraib. This has been a persistent rumor, but one I had thought we'd pinned as originating from Turkey. As you know, the Turks have an interest in derailing a "Kurdistan" in Northern Iraq. You probably remember that we've caught their special ops teams in Iraq on two occasions. They've also been running an IO campaign, and so far the "Israelis in Iraq" claims have been tracking back to them. It appears that they've been planting these stories and then, when the stories are reported in the Arab press, using them as a pretext for a host of measures. I've run a few of these rumors to ground myself, and I'd thought we had done with this story line.

But now we've got a US officer saying it, so I'm curious. If anybody's heard anything about Israelis operating in Iraq--rumors, personal experience, or otherwise--would you send it my way? I'm trying to sort this business out in my head, and Karpinski's statements have muddied the picture a lot. I'll write something on it for Grim's Hall when I've got a better sense of what's up, but for now I don't know just what to say.

I'll respect anyone's confidentiality if they ask.

History of the Marine Corps Hymn

The Hymn:

While you're celebrating Independence Day, you might read this history of the Marine Corps Hymn. I like the verse from Iceland:

Every campaign the Marines have taken part in gives birth to an unofficial verse. For example, the following from Iceland:

"Again in nineteen forty-one
We sailed a north'ard course
And found beneath the midnight sun,
The Viking and the Norse.
The Iceland girls were slim and fair,
And fair the Iceland scenes,
And the Army found in landing there,
The United States Marines."

Mudville Gazette

Independence Day:

Happy Independence Day. The Mudville Gazette has some suggestions for you on how to celebrate. Most of them revolve around giving money to some charity or other.

Funny thing about that. I've got one too. I gave to Second Harvest this year. It's not really a MilBlog thing. It's a charity for civilians. But it's a pretty good one. It feeds a lot of people every year--including the rural elderly, who are not the sort of folks that go to soup kitchens. They claim to have distributed more than thirty-eight million pounds of food in Georgia alone in 2002.

Of course, everyone has their favorite charity. I won't try to make a case that this one is better than any other. It's just the one I picked. Greyhawk's are good too.

lgf: Don't Go Shooting With John F. Kerry

J. F. Kerry Loves Guns:

Little Green Footballs is pretty much right on this occasion: this is a violation of almost every rule of safe-handling a firearm. Well, depending on who you ask. As they were taught to me:

1) Treat every weapon as if it is loaded at all times. The only exception is while cleaning a weapon, after you have yourself, right now, checked to be certain it is unloaded.

2) Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire.

3) Always be sure where your weapon is pointed, knowing both your target and what is behind it.

The National Rifle Association teaches them differently:
1) Always keep the Gun pointed in a Safe Direction.

2) Always Keep your Finger Off the Trigger Until Ready to Shoot.

3) Always Keep the Gun Unloaded Until Ready to Use.

Curiously, he's breaking all three of my rules, and just one of the NRA's. :) The weapon isn't loaded, because he's just shot the load--the caption says it was after missing a shot, and the weapon is a single shot break action shotgun, which you can see clearly in some of the other photographs. Under the NRA's rules, that weapon could be called unloaded; and as it's pointed downrange, you could argue that it was pointed in a "safe direction."

The rules I learned are better. They don't excuse clowning around (as LGF calls it) with a weapon just because it is unloaded, and they don't permit you to point the weapon in a direction you're not looking (with your finger on the trigger!) just because you've shot your load.

Still, under the right circumstances, all it takes is one broken rule to kill somebody. This reminds me of one of my father's stories of being a Drill Sergeant.

Where he was stationed, they had a lot of inductees from Puerto Rico, which in those days had a lot of tough neighborhoods. This being the days of the draft, a lot of these kids were pretty sour about being in the Army. They tended to be tough, accustomed to violence, and disrespectful of authority. The Drill Sergeants had their hands full with them.

It happened that, as was occasionally the case, a Marine D.I. got tasked to go train Army recruits for a while. He wasn't with my father's unit, but their units happened to be firing at the same range one day.

After the range was supposed to be clear--but wait, let me explain. I know some of my readers aren't familiar with firearms. Declaring a range clear and safe is a big deal. For one thing, lives depend on it, as people may go downrange once the range is called clear. For another thing, it's a matter of unit discipline. This is one of those occasions when the safety of the military unit depends on people obeying orders. That is, in turn, one of the key disciplines of military life. If you don't obey orders on this occasion, and the range gets called clear when it isn't clear, you have broken faith with your unit and betrayed the discipline you're sworn to obey.

So anyway, the range was called clear, which means that everyone's weapons should have been unloaded, breaches locked open. This one kid from Puerto Rico had held back some ammo, though--I'm not sure why, as it's been years since I heard the story. Most likely he was planning to keep it as a souvenir. In any event, he didn't obey the rule about keeping your finger clear of the trigger either (*ahem*, Mr. Kerry), and ended up discharging his weapon.

He also wasn't looking where it was pointed. The round hit a rock, and richochet'd (a ricochet is every bit as dangerous as a direct-fire attack). The round went wizzing through the Marine D.I.'s area.

My father happened to be standing off while one of the junior Drill Instructors chewed the kid out. It wasn't having much of an effect on this tough island kid, though, who knew he was headed to 'Nam no matter what anyone said or did.

My father said, "And then I saw the Marine headed his way. He came jumping over barricades, stalking straight up to the kid. The Drill Sergeant stepped aside without being asked, just feeling the Marine coming. And the Marine took a breath, and started to yell.

"At first the kid didn't change expression. He just stood there. But a moment passed, and another, and another, and the Marine was still yelling. He never took another breath. And long before he was done, tears were running down this kid's face. After that, he was never a moment's trouble to anybody."

Ooh-rah. Out.

Yahoo! News - Iraq May Give Amnesty to Insurgents


By now, you've probably read about the new Iraqi government's propsed offer of amnesty to insurgents. If you haven't, the details are here:

A spokesman for Iyad Allawi went as far as to suggest attacks on U.S. troops over the past year were legitimate acts of resistance--a sign of the new government's desire to distance itself from the 14-month U.S.-led occupation of Iraq.

"If he (a guerrilla) was in opposition against the Americans, that will be justified because it was an occupation force," the spokesman, Georges Sada, said Saturday. "We will give them freedom."

Choking the brutal 14-month insurgency is the No. 1 priority of Allawi's government, and the prime minister is expected to make a number of security-related policy announcements in coming days. Besides the amnesty plan, those include the resurrection of Iraq's death penalty and an emergency law that sets curfews in Iraq's trouble spots, Sada said.

The amnesty plan is still in the works. A full pardon for insurgents who killed Americans is not a certainty, Sada told The Associated Press. Allawi's main goal is to "start everything from new" by giving a second chance to rebel fighters who hand in their weapons and throw their weight behind the new government.

This seems entirely reasonable to me. The government must demonstrate that it is not an American puppet, and that can only be done by taking positions that are counter to US desires. Further, an amnesty drives a wedge between foreign terrorists and the communities in which they run. Exactly to the degree that those communities perceive the new government as independent, they may wish to lay down arms.

Such amnesties are common in the history of civil wars. They do not always succeed. The British attempted one in New York during the Revolutionary War, but only a few thousand "rebels" took advantage of it. After the American Civil War the amnesty was offered to most Confederate soldiers (but not necessarily their officers -- Robert E. Lee, though one of the foremost in the efforts to reunite the nation, asked for but never received amnesty). There remained a violent insurgency in the South for several years, until the "Redemption" movement swept away most of the constitutional changes forced on Southern states by martial law. It was only at that point that the insurgents ceased fighting.

On the other hand, these programs do work sometimes. Iraq seems like a good candidate. The several discrete groups that have been fighting the Coalition have broken apart--al Sadr's army, defeated on the battlefield, may be in a mood to declare victory and cease fighting. If you make them outlaws, they have no option but to carry on the war. Let them go home, and most of them very well may.

There is one final factor that has been completely forgotten by the American press. It is this: Iraqis have not known peace for twenty years. Their sons were impressed to fight in the longest conventional war of the 20th century: the Iraq-Iran conflict. Those who survived were forced to fight the Allies of the Gulf War. Those who survived that saw the suppression of the Shi'ite uprising and the Kurdish uprising. There was, suffusing all of this, the terror of the Mukhabarat. Then, their sons were once again impressed into duty against the Coalition; and after that, guerrilla war and wild-eyed terrorists roaming their cities.

There is every reason to believe that a populace so wearied will take any chance at peace, if they can only be made to believe in it. It's not a bad idea to start by forgiving past offenses -- Saddam and a few of his high-level cronies excepted. That is a promise to the Iraqi people that they will not see their sons turned against their neighbors. From now on the only foe is those who would destroy the new and, genuinely, the common order.

CTV.ca | CTV News, Shows and Sports - Canadian Television

A Day in the Life of Colin Powell:

The Scottish King of Arms, Lord Lyon, has gone out of his way to matriculate a coat of arms for Colin Powell. Apparently Powell's father, Luther, was born in Jamaica and therefore a subject of the Crown of the United Kingdom. While the British nobility would never have considered giving Luther arms on his own account, now that he has a famous son they are bestowing a coat of arms on him psthumously. This, of course, means that the arms descend to General Powell. They are "Azure, two swords in saltire points downwards between four stars argent, on a chief of the second a lion passant gules." That is, two crossed swords (points down, hilts up) on a blue field, with four silver stars just beside each of the intersections of the swords. Above that is a red lion walking past on a silver field. The motto is "Devoted to Public Service."

And what service it has been lately. Still, of all the European meddling in American politics, this part is the least bothersome. It's most akin to the way in which Jimmy Carter was granted a Nobel prize to spite Bush, except that Lord Lyon is too much a gentleman to actually say, "The fact that we are going to such lengths to honor Powell is of course a rebuke to Donald Rumsfeld." Whatever--the General was once a great warrior, even if he hasn't been a great Secretary. Surely he deserves a coat of arms if anyone does.

NEJM -- Semper Fi

Life In the Land That Time Forgot:

This is a dispatch from Parris Island. I don't know what to say about it, except that it is right. It captures everything about the misery, the hate and the heat, the suffering of training and the sorrow that comes in its aftermath. It's a bad world, as my old Aussie friend often says.

The doctor who writes closes it well, following the anguish of a mother who lost her only son with a song drifting over the swamp:

When I go outside, I can hear the shouts floating across the water, the young recruits out there sounding off in unison as they go out for their morning run, flat-out gung-ho at 6 a.m. The shouting sounds as if it is coming not just across the marshes but across the decades, and I swear sometimes that I can hear what they are shouting — all that Marine tough-guy talk:

Lock and load!

Ready on the left!

Ready on the right!

Ready on the firing line!

Failure is not an option!

Good to go.

Thank God for that chorus, but what a price to join it! What bitter thanks are offered to its singers: death, and separation from love, and the attentions of a divided citizenry and a divided Congress.

Yet they are owed thanks, and kinder attentions. On the behalf of the keepers of the flame--an Order of which they are chiefer members than I myself--I thank them, and pledge them my friendship and trust. Semper Fidelis, as the lady says.

BLACKFIVE: Senators and Congressmen Against The Troops

Y'all Back Home Read This:

I hope you'll all reflect on this post from BlackFive. However, those of you back in the great state of Georgia will please notice that Majette, who wants your vote for the US Senate, voted against this bill. That's not to be forgotten in November. I can't vote against her, being temporarily a Virginia citizen, though a Georgian by heart. Y'all can, and ought to do.

Thanks to Doc Russia for the link to B-5. Sorry you're having such a rough week, Doc.

IOL: South Africa

Guns and Families:

"How will we protect our families now? Criminals prefer unarmed victims... and so does the African National Congress."

Thus begins an article on the new "Firearms Control Act" in South Africa. It quotes one Charl van Wyk, chairman of Victims Against Crime, who said: "A law that made it impossible to defend one's family was an illegitimate law." Indeed it is.

On which topic, I purchased a revolver today. It's a new Smith & Wesson M66, which is a K-Frame chambered for .357 Magnum. Come autumn, I would like to augment it with a carbine in the same caliber, although I may buy a rifle for the deer-hunting season instead as I gave my last longarm to my father to defend his home. He'd made do too long with my grandfather's single-shot break action 20-gauge shotgun, a fine weapon against squirrels and rabid dogs, but of little use in running off determined bandits. I passed over to him my Mossberg 500, which will make the job much easier.

I reflect that my father is highly unusual among my clan in that he has not concerned himself with owning or carrying firearms. My great-great-grandfather, Tom Clanton, was one of the most famous gunfighters in post-Civil War Tennessee. He used a lever-action rifle to kill seven men in one night. Interesting fellow--he'd held a whiskey-making license for the Union Army (my father's family were Union men, having abandoned the Quaker faith in favor of warfighting for human liberty; my mother's family were Confederates, having no use for foreign interlopers telling them what to do. I come by both positions honestly). After the war he ended up in conflict with the proto-KKK "night riders," in a series of conflicts that ended very badly for them and left him to grow old and feared. He was acquitted of eight killings, those seven plus one other fellow who turned in his still to the authorities. That last was deemed justifiable homicide by the jury.

His son, my great grandfather, was involved in his first gunfight in the Tennessee hills as a teenager. The occasion was a girl, of course--if I were starting this family history earlier, you'd see that motif has been regular one. His enemies ambushed him, and he would have been killed but that one of the local elders--a black man, as it happens, who remembered his father with kindness--took him aside, warned him, and pressed a revolver into his hand. He survived, and grew quite old in turn. Along the way, he managed to earn enough money as a farmer to send seven sons to trade school.

My grandfather was one of these. He became a welder, and the first tradesman of the family. He was three times rejected by the US Army during WWII: in spite of his repeated attempts to enlist, when they realized that he was a welder they rejected him and sent him back to work at the shipyards. He eventually worked at Oak Ridge, where the first atomic bombs were constructed. After the war, he ran a body shop and service station for long-haul truckers on the new interstates. He carried a handgun everywhere, as did his wife and eldest son, my uncle. In spite of their longstanding friendships with the black community, the service station was not spared in the violence of the Civil Rights movement. They had to defend it, although I understand it was without fatality on any side.

My grandfather did what his father had done, and saved so that his sons could do better than he had. Both of them went to college. My father, who was a drill sergeant in the US Army, took a white-collar position. For whatever reason, he didn't carry on the family habit of going about armed, although his father continued it nearly until he died at the age of eighty. He did carry on the tradition of educating his children, although I was able to help out with scholarships and work. I hold three degrees in history and philosophy.

I myself have enough concealed-carry licenses that, with reciprocity, I can carry from Key West to Vermont as long as I avoid a few of the less civilized states. Looking back over the roll of years, I can't see any good reason not to do so. The family holds itself together in spite of, not because of, the movements of nations. That mine exists, and has survived and prospered, is not due to the Civil War or WWII or the Civil Rights Movement. It is due to family love, courage, hard work, savings, and a good revolver close to hand. That is the recipie I suggest to you all, for whatever trials Fate may have in store.

Right Thinking Girl: Love In A Time Of Danger

"The War on Terror is Not a Real War"

Someone I know said just those words to me earlier this week. I couldn't help but remember them when I read this moving account by a young woman trying to help a 9/11 survivor sort things out. If it's not a war, I don't know what word we can use for it.