The Political Strategy for Iraq:

Iraq's new leader, Nouri al-Maliki, has written a piece for the Washington Post. He explains to Americans, and anyone else who cares to read it, the agenda for his new government. I wish him the best of luck with it.


Memento Mori:

Successes in counterinsurgency are hard to come by. It took months and months to capture Saddam, who for so long seemed invisible to our best intelligence and finest troops. Then, one day, he was dragged out of a septic tank, rank and ragged.

Today is another such day. Follow the link, and read CENTCOM's official announcement.

First, congratulations, CENTCOM.

Second, notice that it was the Iraqi Police who were first in on the ground here. Even in such a sensitive operation, CENTCOM trusted them to secure the area. That says a lot about how far they've come. General Casey said, "Iraqi forces, supported by the Coalition, will continue to hunt terrorists that threaten the Iraqi people until terrorism is eradicated in Iraq." That is not just rhetoric. The Iraqi forces were the first in.

Also read this, from Greyhawk. Even al Anbar province is coming under Iraqi government control.

Third, there are some important comments by Rumsfeld and Hayden on the subject.

It's days like this when it becomes easier than ever to visualize what victory will look like. Everything is coming together, even though there are foes who continue to fight against us. The wicked cannot hide forever. The brave men of Iraq are standing up and taking increasing control of their domain. We shall win.

UPDATE: MilBlogs has a whole lot more, including posts on "roll up" operations being conducted in rapid succession this morning, the finalization of Iraq's ministries, and more.


A Creed:

JarHeadDad, in the comments to a post a Milblogs, pointed to the difficulties of the war for the families and the fighters. He then said something I thought you should probably all read.

It all boils down to belief I guess.

I believe the mission is golden.
I believe the American military is the finest fighting force the planet has ever seen.
I believe the level of honor and integrity of our warfighters has never been seen in history.
I believe Gen Mattis should be seen in history standing shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Chesty Puller.
I believe Gen Hagee is one hellova' Marine.
I believe politics have invaded every nuance of warfighting.
I believe half this country is made up of spoiled self-righteous pantywaists.
I believe the squad leaders on the ground hold the key to beating an insurgency.
I believe the current ROE were made up by people afraid of votes.
I believe each and every young man and woman in this military is the finest America has to offer.
I believe each and every warfighter deserves the benefit of the doubt.
I believe we are asking of our young men and women something that has never been asked of them before. For better or worse.
I believe in our abilty but not our will.
I believe in our honor regardless of the actions we are required to make.
I believe we are fighting a war on evil with one hand tied behind our backs.
I believe you cannot support the troops without supporting the mission.
I believe we better ALL figure out what side we are on or it will be too late.
I believe our government has run amuck in all directions.
I believe it is time to vote each and every member of Congress out on their collective butts.
I believe it is time for a third party.
I think I agree with almost every word of that.


The Zeppelin Returns:

So says The Scotsman. I've been expecting this for some years -- I think there's a market for "cruise ship" style Zeppelins that would "sail" across country, either in the US or Europe. That's not what they're using them for in Africa, though.

H/t Eric's "FARK" page.



Blackfive is running an excellent roundup on D-Day memorials. Today is the anniversary.

A few for the blog roll:

I've been meaning to ask Grim to add these.

Memorandum: Find out what everybody in the blogosphere is talking about. I check this everyday now. It is very, very curious to see who is commenting on what.

Protein Wisdom: Jeff Goldstein is a smart ass. But he's an entertaining and thoughtful smart ass. The comments are often "Internet Performance Art".

Flares into Darkness: An intriguing group blog. Always worth a look.

Mystery Pollster: This guy is smart.

FARK: News of the wierd, mostly. Florida has its own category. Sarcastic commentary galore. Sometimes it's even deserved.
Priorities matter.

Confederate Yankee pretty much sums it up:
"Mr. President, if you really think I care about gay marriage right now, you’re out of your ever-lovin’ mind."

What the hell is he thinking?


Back Out of the Saddle:

We made it to Georgia. I can report that the boy loves to camp. No surprises there.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a long road and a slow, but it's well-worth it if you find yourself with a few days. We camped in the George Washington Forest the first night, the Pisgah Forest the second night, and traveled the full length of the Shenandoah National Park as well. We've now driven on every inch of the Blue Ridge Parkway except a few feet near Roanoke, and a few miles right at the end -- we turned off and went down into the Cherokee Border Lands instead of heading into the GSM National Park.

The military did, in fact, get its act together and get the contract paperwork sorted out while I was camping. Well, for the twenty-day extension. Not for the "real" contract, which is still in the no-word-about-it department.

So, all is well. Hope you've had a pleasant few days.

The Worm Turns

Does this mean we now need affirmative action for men?

Women now earn the majority of diplomas in fields men used to dominate -- from biology to business -- and have caught up in pursuit of law, medicine and other advanced degrees.

Federal statistics released Thursday show that in many ways, the gender gap among college students is widening. The story is largely one of progress for women, stagnation for men.

"Women have been making educational progress, and the men are stuck," he said. "They haven't just fallen behind women. They have fallen behind changes in the job market.".

Does It Hurt To Be This Stupid?

Who was it who once said it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt?

Top ten signs you should not be allowed to wade into the gene pool:

1. You passed your 40th birthday without acquiring enough common sense to realize that birth control only works if you use it all the time:

I am a 42-year-old happily married mother of two elementary-schoolers. My husband and I both work, and like many couples, we're starved for time together. One Thursday evening this past March, we managed to snag some rare couple time and, in a sudden rush of passion, I failed to insert my diaphragm.

...and your husband failed to use a condom. And you both failed the impulse-control test. Big time.

2. You compound your initial error in judgment with further acts of blithering stupidity:

The next morning, after getting my kids off to school, I called my ob/gyn to get a prescription for Plan B, the emergency contraceptive pill that can prevent a pregnancy -- but only if taken within 72 hours of intercourse. As we're both in our forties, my husband and I had considered our family complete, and we weren't planning to have another child, which is why, as a rule, we use contraception. I wanted to make sure that our momentary lapse didn't result in a pregnancy.

In other words, you wanted to preserve the delicious thrill that comes from taking risks, while absolving yourself of the messy consequences that so often result. Doubtless this explains why, though you were sure you wanted no more children, you didn't have a tubal ligation as I did at 23 when it became obvious my husband wanted no more children. I'm sure this must also be why your husband didn't have a vasectomy.

3. Last time I checked, hope was not an effective family planning strategy:

The receptionist, however, informed me that my doctor did not prescribe Plan B. No reason given. Neither did my internist. The midwifery practice I had used could prescribe it, but not over the phone, and there were no more open appointments for the day. The weekend -- and the end of the 72-hour window -- was approaching.

But I needed to meet my kids' school bus and, as I was pretty much out of options -- short of soliciting random Virginia doctors out of the phone book -- I figured I'd take my chances and hope for the best.

Hmmm... have an unwanted abortion, or miss the kids' school bus one day? It's the choices in life that kill you. And after that, the rest of the day was completely shot. Letting your fingers do the walking is so time-consuming.

4. And they say denial is a river in Egypt:

Weeks later, the two drugstore pregnancy tests I took told a different story. Positive. I couldn't believe it.

5. I've always heard it said the best defense is a good offense. Don't get mad. Just blame someone else:

I knew that Plan B, which could have prevented it, was supposed to have been available over the counter by now. But I also remembered hearing that conservative politics have held up its approval.

Perhaps if you find the idea of having an abortion so upsetting, you should have thought ahead. This is what adults do:

In most states, the morning-after pill is available only by prescription. Also, it is important to note that some pharmacies may not stock the medication. Because the pill works best when taken quickly after unprotected intercourse, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists encourages women to get an advance prescription — to have on hand, just in case.

6. And once again, a self-absorbed woman who can't be relied upon to take responsibility for her own reproductive destiny is pissed because the law wants to protect underaged girls... such as, perhaps one day, her own daughter:

My anger propelled me to get to the bottom of the story. It turns out that in December 2003, an FDA advisory committee, whose suggestions the agency usually follows, recommended that the drug be made available over the counter, or without a prescription. Nonetheless, in May 2004, the FDA top brass overruled the advisory panel and gave the thumbs-down to over-the-counter sales of Plan B, requesting more data on how girls younger than 16 could use it safely without a doctor's supervision.

Apparently, one of the concerns is that ready availability of Plan B could lead teenage girls to have premarital sex. Yet this concern -- valid or not -- wound up penalizing an over-the-hill married woman for having sex with her husband. Talk about the law of unintended consequences.

The truth of the matter is that the FDA was concerned about the medical effects of unsupervised, repeated use of Plan B by young girls who might misuse the drug. They were also worried because there have been no clinical trials on adolescents:

Advocates argue that women know better than to use the morning-after pill often, so there is no risk of over-use of this high-dose drug. Yet, in the label comprehension study submitted by Barr Labs to the FDA, a full one-third of adult women who read the instructions for Plan B did not understand that the morning-after pill is not to be used as a regular form of birth control. The number increased among those with low literacy and less than high school education. Over one-third did not understand the need to take the second pill at 12 hours after the first.6 The chairman of the FDA Advisory Committee that reviewed the comprehension study called it an “overall failure.”7 The maximum safe dose for levornorgestrel (the active ingredient in Plan B) has not been determined by scientific study, or the effects of overdose.8 It is unknown whether there is a maximum safe daily dose, monthly dose or yearly dose. The health risks for those who may use Plan B repeatedly (ranging in age from menarche—as young as 9—to women in their 50s) at one time or over years are unknown.

While advocates brush away concern over repeated use, stating that women will use it only in “emergencies,” experience shows that, when easily available, the morning-after pill is relied upon often. In fact, promoters of the morning-after pill describe “emergencies” as suspected contraceptive failure or “any time unprotected sexual intercourse occurs.”9 Repeat use is only discouraged based on its insufficient efficacy as a birth control method, not due to safety concerns.10 Dr. Ben-Maimon of Barr testified at an FDA Advisory Committee hearing: “Well, I think that there is no question that the data suggests that women who have emergency contraception use it more frequently.”11

I suppose it is understandable that a 42 year-old mother of two who hasn't figured out how to prevent conception, get an advance prescription, or use the Yellow Pages in a time-sensitive situation might not possess the critical thinking skills to see how children might fail to exercise good judgment if OTC morning after pills were available. Birth control pills are not dispensed except by prescription and under a doctor's supervision, yet a high-dose birth control pill is supposed to be available OTC to anyone - even children - who wants to buy it.

No problem - you have needs too. The hell with worrying about what a frightened or irresponsible child or a marginally literate woman might do to her own health. It's more important to protect affluent adults from the inconvenience of having to deal with their own irresponsibility.

To this day, I don't know why my doctors wouldn't prescribe Plan B -- whether it was because of moral opposition to contraception or out of fear of political protesters or just because they preferred not to go there.

In any event, they were also partly responsible for why I was stuck that Friday, and why I was ultimately forced to confront the decision to terminate my third pregnancy.

To this day, apparently you still have not figured out that it was a combination of your own cluelessness beforehand and laziness afterwards that caused your predicament.

Calling doctors, I felt like a pariah when I asked whether they provided termination services. Finally, I decided to check the Planned Parenthood Web site to see whether its clinics performed abortions. They did, but I learned that if I had the abortion in Virginia, the procedure would take two days because of a mandatory 24-hour waiting period, which requires that you go in first for a day of counseling and then wait a day to think things over before returning to have the abortion. Because of work and the children, I couldn't afford two days off, so I opted to have the procedure done on a Saturday in downtown D.C. while my husband took the kids to the Smithsonian.

Ending a human life can be so inconvenient. Embarrassing too. Interesting how "the procedure" became "termination services" when you were shopping for doctors (something you didn't have time to do on Friday when it mattered) and "abortion" when you called Planned Parenthood.

9. ...and worst of all, they treated me just like some clueless teenager who'd been knocked up by her baby-daddy:

I arrived shortly before 10 a.m. in a bleak downpour, trusting that someone had recorded my appointment. I shuffled to the front door through a phalanx of umbrellaed protesters, who chanted loudly about Jesus and chided me not to go into that house of abortion.

All the while, I was thinking that if religion hadn't been allowed to seep into American politics the way it has, I wouldn't even be there. This all could have been stopped way before this baby was conceived if they had just let me have that damn pill.

After passing through the metal detector inside the building, I entered the Planned Parenthood waiting room; it was like the waiting room for a budget airline -- crammed full of people, of all races, and getting busier by the moment. I was by far the oldest person there (other than one girl's mom). The wait seemed endless. No one looked happy.

10. But every cloud has a silver lining. If all else fails, simply blame the BushReich:

The procedure itself took about five minutes. I finally walked out of the building at 4:30, 6 1/2 hours after I had arrived.

It was a decision I am sorry I had to make. It was awful, painful, sickening. But I feel that this administration gave me practically no choice but to have an unwanted abortion because the way it has politicized religion made it well-nigh impossible for me to get emergency contraception that would have prevented the pregnancy in the first place.

They prevented you from getting an advance prescription as recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists?

The White House prevented you from discussing this in advance with your doctor?

The President's religion prevented you using birth control in the first place, or from having your own "Plan B" in case it failed? Perhaps it broke your dial-y finger so you couldn't contact another doctor that Friday? Oh yeah. The school bus was coming.

If only it had been the Clue Bus.

cross-posted at VC