Video games as a simulator for preparedness

I must admit that I always thought of video games as nothing but a waste of time reserved for immature boys and men to live out hero fantasies. The I ran across this article that listed several benefits including helping surgeons become better at their work.

Now at first I was skeptical figuring it was just a feel good article for gamers. That’s until I ran into this scholarly article showing a study backing that claim. Well I’ll be damned. It turns out that hours of video games aren’t a complete waste after all. However you also need to have the intelligence to acquire the other 99.9% of the skills needed to become a surgeon of course.

It turns out playing video games improves hand-eye coordination reflexes of the brain. So since gamer surgeons exercise this aspect a lot as they play, they get to kick ass during surgery. Makes a lot of sense since the human body works on the principle of ‘use it or lose it’. We see it in atrophication of muscles in patients who spend years or even months in a coma. They then need a period of physiotherapy after waking up and recovery to be able to ‘get their strength back’.

This got me thinking, maybe we could use the same thinking to exercise skills which we seem to be using less and less everyday. The human race evolved as hunters and gatherers. It’s no secret that we are no match physically to the hunter animals that would seek to prey on us. So we used our intellect to outwit predators and become the most successful mammal. Even after organizing ourselves into societies, the most successful hunters and warriors were able to thrive as opposed to their more docile counterparts.

However, the human animal is now more civilized and the growth of cities and role specialization means that a majority of people don’t have to kill even a chicken. This in theory is a good thing, since all things considered, we’re living in the most peaceful period of human existence. It, however, poses a problem if ever that existence is threatened.

I am a survival enthusiast. I constantly push myself on the boundaries of what I can achieve in the wilderness on my own. How many people can last a day if dropped in the middle of nowhere with absolutely nothing and having to fight off predators? Can you fight off invaders if handed a gun and nothing else?

This is where I believe video and computer games come in. It’s so easy to put together a cheap gaming PC and indulge in the latest survival game. Which is exactly what I did. With a surround sound speaker system or headphones you can practice your environmental and situational awareness. You can develop your reflexes and problem solving skills. Oh yeah and turns out it’s a lot of fun.

Now of course you’re not gonna become a master survivalist from playing computer games. Just like you don’t become a master surgeon just by playing video games. It is only one set of skills that you get to exercise. It’s upon you to acquire all the other skills that may be needed in the wild or in a combat zone. However you get to practice skills that are falling into disuse in modern society.


But monkeys…

I can overlook your politics but…

Yes, that’s true, But . . . .!

How many times have you heard those words? It is a common form of rebuttal. The rebutter acknowledges the opposition point of view and simply disregards it. It’s a disingenious way to duck the requirement of a direct answer. The tactic has value only with the weak minded or those who are not really interested in an thorough examination of the issues.

Laura Ingraham, host of the Laura Ingraham Radio Show has termed the people who use this technique, “But Monkeys“. A more apt description is hard to find. I would expect the “But Monkey” tactic from local politicians, rabble rousers, political hacks, and malcontents. I would never expect a presidential candidate to use it. However, John Kerry has promoted the Ya But dodge to an aggressive form of attack in an article he authored in the “Washington Post” titled, A Realistic Path in Iraq. In it he uses the ‘But Monkey’ dodge at least five times. More depending on how you count buts. The opening topic sentences of his presentation sets the tone:

Like most Americans, I want to believe that this past week's events -- the transfer of sovereignty and the appearance of Saddam Hussein before an Iraqi court -- will place us on the road to success. But, there is still no sign of a strategy that will get us there.

Senator Kerry’s response to events makes no sense whatsoever. In fact, one can make an argument that his response is self contradictory. Is the success to date in Iraq an accident? Was the establishment of a sovereign authority in Iraq not part of the plan?

Farther into Senator Kerry’s article he says:

Our military performed brilliantly in the war's first mission: ending the regime of Saddam Hussein. And all Americans share President Bush's desire for Iraqis to live with the blessings of democracy and security. But we are a practical people, and we know that all the rhetoric we've heard hasn't been accompanied by a realistic plan to win the peace and bring our troops home.

While it is refreshing to hear Senator Kerry speak with 20/20 hindsight, his view of the future is still as fraught with pessimism as ever. Before the military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, the liberal cry was woe and doom. Liberals warned of all kinds of catastrophic scenarios. Here are just a few:

  • Thousands would come home in body bags.
  • Humanitarian disaster of epic proportions.
  • Another eco-disaster if Sadam sabotaged the oil fields again.
  • Vietnam style quagmire.

Yes, we are a practical people. We put a man on the moon and eradicated small pox. So the first question I would ask the Senator is to define what he means by winning the peace. Is the goal to establish regional security and promote America’s future security or is it to bring our troops home as soon as possible? And once the Senator defines his goals, maybe he could give us ‘his‘ plan to accomplish them.

Senator Kerry has more good examples of the “But Monkey” tactic. Regretfully, space does not allow me to examine them in detail. Instead, I will jump to Kerry’s conclusion. It’s a doozy!

Success in Iraq must be separated from our politics. It is too important to our troops who are serving there and to the security of our nation. I hope President Bush will fashion policies that will succeed. But today we are not pursuing the most effective path. It is only by pursuing a realistic path to democracy in Iraq that we can connect our ideals with American common sense.

If I were part of the Kerry campaign staff, I would be embarrassed. Maybe the Senator “has” been inhaling! Can you imagine being the Secretary of State and getting a Presidential directive stating he/she wants you to formulate a foreign policy that lays out a a realistic path to democracy that connects our ideals with American common sense? If you can, I’d love to hear your reply. Maybe that sort of thinking is the product of Swiss finishing schools and a Yale degree in politics. I’m not sure. I am sure, however, that Senator Kerry has a history of interjecting himself into foreign policy when it suits his purpose. He learned early, while guiding the “Vietnam Veterans Against the War”, that opposing the president was an easy way to get free media attention. In addition to marching in protest, Senator Kerry traveled to Paris to negotiate a separate peace agreement with the representatives of the Viet Cong. He referenced that trip in his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Later, as a Senator, he traveled to Nicaragua to support Daniel Noriega in opposition to President Reagan.

Senator Kerry’s presidential campaign strategy is obvious. When running against an incumbent, one must either have a very good alternative or persuade the public that the incumbent’s policies are so bad that anything would be better. In 1980 Ronald Reagan had both. Today, Senator Kerry has neither. Therefore we can expect much, much more of the same empty rhetoric Senator Kerry displays in his Washington Post article. We can expect the Kerry campaign to dodge any question that demands substance. We can expect him to disregard the facts of any successes of the Bush Administration and Ya but his way to some negative prophecy of gloomy pessimism.

But, But, But!!

The Public View


Was he wearing his own decorations?

Are these really Kerry’s medals?

I looked at the picture of John Kerry, posted above, testifying before Senate Foreign Relations Committee. What struck me was that a naval officer would appear in working fatigues and looking so dowdy. It also upset me that he wore his service ribbons with fatigues. I’m not surprised that he was marked down on his fitness reports for military bearing.

After looking at his ribbons, it struck me that they didn’t match his time in Vietnam. He also had an inordinate number of personal ribbons based on just four months of service in a war zone. I decided to check them out. I found the two links below that give the names and pictures of service ribbons awarded by the US military:

Military service medals link
Order of precedence link

The military does not give away awards easily, so there aren’t that many to have to review. From those two lists and comparing it to the photo above, I was able to build the following replica of what John Kerry was wearing at the time. Due to the quality of the photo, I could not determine two of the ribbons shown.

From photo of Senator Kerry while testifying before Congress, 1971


Starting at the top and proceeding left to right, these ribbons are:


  • The Silver Star
  • The Bonze Star with combat ‘V’


  • Unidentified
  • Combat Action Ribbon
  • Presidential Unit Citation


  • Unidentified
  • National Defense Ribbon
  • Republic of Vietnam Campaign Service Medal

Fourth Row

  • Rifle Expert Ribbon
  • Pistol Expert Ribbon
  • Republic of Vietnam Campaign Ribbon

According to information available online, Senator Kerry’s service timeline is as follow:

Military service, 1966-1970

  • Feb 1966; Enlisted in US Navy.
  • June 1966 (approx);Graduated from Yale.
  • Dec 1967; assigned to the guided-missile frigate USS Gridley.
  • May 1968 (approx); Assigned to swift boat training, San Diego, Ca.
  • Jun 1968; Promoted to Ltjg (0-2).
  • 17 November 1968; Kerry arrived in Vietnam and assumed command of Patrol Boat Fast ‘Swift Boat’ #44.
  • 2 December 1968; wounded (first Purple Heart).
  • 20 February 1969; Wounded (Second Purple Heart)
  • 28 February 1969; Kerry earned his Silver Star.
  • 13 March 1969; wounded (3rd Purple Heart) also earned Bronze Star.
  • 17 March 1969; requested relief under a rule, which allowed recipients of three Purple Hearts to be reassigned to a non-combat duty.
  • April 1969; reassigned as a personal aide and flag lieutenant to Rear Admiral Walter F. Schlech, Jr, Brookly, NY.
  • 3 January 1970; Honorably dischargedPartial list of references:
    The Atlantic Monthly | December 2003
    Snopes Urban Legends
    John Kerry’s Service Record

If I have correctly identified the ribbons he wore while in front of the Senate, and if the information regarding his military service is also correct, I can safely say he is wearing at least two decorations he did not earn. But the most glaring inconsistency is the absence of his purple heart with two stars. The two stars would indicate his second and third award of that ribbon. The ribbon is shown below (without stars):

You can clearly see it in the photo above on the right. It is dark with two stars. Here is a cut out image of that image:

The next inconsistency is the Presidential Unit Citation (PUC). The PUC is given to a unit and not an individual. To wear it, the individual must have been part of the unit when the citation was earned. Task force 117 was awarded the PUC for action against the enemy from 25 Jan 1969 to 5 Jul 1969. See:

PUC for Task Force 117

This action occurred while Senator Kerry was stationed in Vietnam, but there is no evidence he was assigned to that unit or those operations. Anyone who has access to the military records of that time can see which units were involved and designated in the citation. It will be easy to cross check those units with Senator Kerry’s service record.

The third inconsistency is the Republic of Vietnam Service Medal. In the photo, Senator Kerry is showing this ribbon with two stars. Having served in Vietnam, he is entitled to the ribbon, but it is impossible for him to have earned two stars in such a short time (Dec 68 – Mar 69). A star is earned for each of the 17 designated campaigns specified by the military. One has to be in Vietnam and involved in those campaigns. Please see: RVN service medal, or Army Pers Command, awards. He would have had to serve in Vietnam for more than a year to earn multiple awards for this medal.

Wearing of ribbons; order of precedence. Ribbons have a designated seniority, with the Medal of Honor being the most senior and the expert pistol the least. The most senior medal an individual earns is placed closest to center line of the uniform. The next senior medal is placed next to it moving away from the center line. So, looking at Senator Kerry’s placement, the seniority flows from the top left to bottom right. By the way, the entire bottom row is reversed. The RVN Campaign Medal should be on the left side (nearest the center line) with the rifle expert and pistol expert ribbons following.

What can be determined about the unidentified ribbons: The first unidentified medal, according to the position in Senator Kerry’s display, falls between the bronze star and combat action ribbon. If you look at the Order of Precedence, US Navy, the following ribbons, according to their seniority, fall into that category:

  • Purple Heart
  • Defense Meritorious Service Medal
  • Meritorious Service Medal
  • Air Medal
  • Joint Service Commendation Medal
  • Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal
  • Joint Service Achievement Medal
  • Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal

The Purple Heart would be the logical choice since he earned it. But the ribbon displayed is multi-colored where the PH is a solid purple with only two white band on each end.

Using that same logic for the second unidentified ribbon, none of the potential ribbons fits. It is a solid colored ribbon and looks very much like the Purple Heart. But that would be out of order. The next most similar ribbon is the “Good Conduct Ribbon”. But that award is for enlisted members only.

Based on the above discussion, I feel confident that at least two awards (multiple awards for the RVN Service Medal and the first unidentified ribbon) are not his. It is highly probable that the PUC and the second unidentified ribbon are not his either. Further, it is incredible that a junior officer with no prior combat experience could accumulate that many awards in approximately 120 days. It places him in the company of such earlier warriors as Alvin York and Audy Murphy. Regardless, even if those ribbons turn out to be his own, his sloppy appearance and the flaunting of his awards in such a slipshod manner is conduct unbecoming a Naval Officer. He proved himself a discredit to his service and is an embarrassment to those of us who served. We refused to surrender to political pressure or sell our service for political gain. No matter how “honorably” he might have served in the Navy, he neutralized that honor, or more, with his smear of veterans before the Senate.

The Public View

How I hate thee! Let me count the ways

Why the current style and tone of liberal rhetoric is counterproductive to the political process

The  political season is fast upon us.
Some look forward to it. Others will try to avoid it as long as possible, sometimes right up until the time they step into the voting booth. With so much negative campaigning, misinformation and political acrimony, who can really blame them? And therein lies the sad irony of our democracy. The very serious issues that need public airing the most are the least discussed because a candidate is afraid how the opposition will distort his/her position. In place of serious political discourse, we now have elaborate anti-Bush smear productions. Instead of solutions, campaigners outline how much they oppose their rivals, even rivals within their own party. It has gone so far that now candidates and pundits never really outline an issue. They just explain how much they dislike the opposition. In the 2004 campaign, this has evolved into the constituency of “Bush haters”. Here is how pollster Geoff Garin puts it: “There seems to be quite a few of us Bush haters. I have friends who have a viscerally hostile reaction to the sound of his voice or describe his existence as a constant oppressive force in their daily psyche.” He goes on to say the anti-Bush emotion “as strong as anything I’ve experienced in 25 years now of polling.”

Pure  hatred by rank-and-file Democrats.
Conservative columnist Robert Novak wrote in an article for Townhall, “Dean’s campaign is a remorseless assault on George W. Bush, far exceeding his opponents’. Humorless and unsmiling, the country doctor with upper-class roots pummels the incumbent president. He has tapped into pure hatred by rank-and-file Democrats of the reigning Republican that I have never seen in 44 years of campaign watching. Not Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan or even Bill Clinton generated such animosity. The other politicians have taken notice and are trying to take full advantage of the political momentum. They accuse the current Administration of unspeakable incompetence, the worst of intentions, and even criminal behavior. Senator Ted Kennedy, knowing his seat is safe, has pulled no punches. In a recent interview Senator Kennedy accused President Bush of planning the war in Iraq for political gain. And he went on to say he was bribing world leaders for their support.

Kennedy labels Iraq war a ‘fraud’, “The Washington Times

“There was no imminent threat. This was made up in Texas, announced in January to the Republican leadership that war was going to take place and was going to be good politically. This whole thing was a fraud,” Mr. Kennedy said. The senator said a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office showed that only about $2.5 billion of the $4 billion being spent monthly on the war can be accounted for by the Bush administration. “My belief is this money is being shuffled all around to these political leaders in all parts of the world, bribing them to send in troops,” he said.

The case for Bush hatred, “The New Republic, Online

“The New Republic Online” featured a piece by Jonathan Chait that said nothing more than how and why he hated President Bush:

I hate President George W. Bush. There, I said it. I think his policies rank him among the worst presidents in U.S. history. And, while I'm tempted to leave it at that, the truth is that I hate him for less substantive reasons, too. I hate the inequitable way he has come to his economic and political achievements and his utter lack of humility (disguised behind transparently false modesty) at having done so. His favorite answer to the question of nepotism--"I inherited half my father's friends and all his enemies"--conveys the laughable implication that his birth bestowed more disadvantage than advantage. He reminds me of a certain type I knew in high school--the kid who was given a fancy sports car for his sixteenth birthday and believed that he had somehow earned it. I hate the way he walks--shoulders flexed, elbows splayed out from his sides like a teenage boy feigning machismo. I hate the way he talks--blustery self-assurance masked by a pseudo-populist twang. I even hate the things that everybody seems to like about him. I hate his lame nickname-bestowing-- a way to establish one's social superiority beneath a veneer of chumminess (does anybody give their boss a nickname without his consent?). And, while most people who meet Bush claim to like him, I suspect that, if I got to know him personally, I would hate him even more.

Governor Howard Dean, the man to beat.

Governor Dean is the man to beat so far in the Democratic primaries. One has to wonder how he became the front runner when a few weeks ago he popped off on NPR’s “The Diane Rehm Show” that “the most interesting theory [about 9/11] that I’ve heard so far is that [Bush] was warned ahead of time by the Saudis.” When Fox News’ Chris Wallace later asked him why he made that remark, Dean replied, “Because there are people who believe that.” That’s not much of a standard. Dean asserted that he personally did not believe it – and then added, “But we don’t know and it would be a nice thing to know.”

miserable failure.
Candidate Gephardt has been one of President Bush’s worst critics. Everyone should recognize his famous campaing slogan, “This president is a miserable failure on foreign policy and on the economy and he’s got to be replaced.” A Miserable Failure is even the name of his campaign web site.

The Democrats don’t limit themselves to campaigning negatively against the Republican Party. Gephardt also took on Howard Dean. He recently aired a campaign ad whose theme is: Don’t trust Howard Dean with your life. The TV ad, aired repeatedly in those crucial primary states, was hardly subtle. With Osama bin Laden’s face filling the screen, a narrator intoned that Americans “want a president who can face the dangers ahead… . But Howard Dean has no military or foreign policy experience. And Howard Dean just cannot compete with George Bush on foreign policy.

When does opposition turn into disloyalty? Recently, Congress passed and President Bush signed into law the, “Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003”. In it, the Congress voiced its sense with the following:

SEC. 3. SENSE OF CONGRESS. (partial list)

  • the Government of Syria should immediately and unconditionally halt support for terrorism, permanently and openly declare its total renunciation of all forms of terrorism, and close all terrorist offices and facilities in Syria, including the offices of Hamas, Hizballah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine--General Command;
  • the Government of Syria should halt the development and deployment of medium- and long-range surface-to-surface missiles and cease the development and production of biological and chemical weapons;

In light of these strong statements about Syria and its support of terrorism, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), visited Europe and spoke to Syria’s President, Bashar Assad. According to reports in the Houston Chonicle, she was ‘impressed’ with the president and invited him to speak in Texas. “He’s a 39-year-old president who even gave us a picture of him and his children . . .” “Let’s see what he can do. He’s not his father,” a reference to Hafez Assad, who ruled Syria with an iron grip for 30 years before his death in 2000.” It’s hard to understand the representative’s thinking by making nice with Syria. It directly opposes the sense of the Congress and undermines foreign policy.

As rousing as these tactics may be, they do nothing to shed light on the pressing issues of the day. In fact, they obscure the real problems allowing our politicians to pretend to stand for something when in truth they stand for nothing. I don’t know how others feel, but nothing so far garners my respect for the candidates or their positions. I will feel much better when I hear their thinking on such things as:

  • furthering the war on terror;
  • illegal immigration
  • taxes and the economy
  • combating narco-trafficking
  • the impending social security crisis.



Images you won’t see in the evening news

Sometimes in our everyday lives
we tend to forget what’s going on
elsewhere in the world and that the brave
men and women of the service are
just like you and I. They have family
and friends back home who love them
very much and are praying
for their safe return.

Many thanks to Robert F. for sending us these pictures.

[This article reprinted from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

Media’s dark cloud a danger

Falsely bleak reports reduce our chances of success in Iraq
On Sept. 14, I flew from Baghdad to Kuwait with Sgt. Trevor A. Blumberg from Dearborn, Mich. He was in a body bag. He’d been ambushed and killed that afternoon. Sitting in the cargo bay of a C 130E, I found myself wondering whether the news media were somehow complicit in his death.

News media reports about our progress in Iraq have been bleak since shortly after the president’s premature declaration of victory. These reports contrast sharply with reports of hope and progress presented to Congress by Department of Defense representatives — a real disconnect, Vietnam déja vu. So I went to Iraq with six other members of Congress to see for myself.

The Iraq war has predictably evolved into a guerrilla conflict similar to Vietnam. Our currently stated objectives are to establish reasonable security and foster the creation of a secular, representative government with a stable market economy that provides broad opportunity throughout Iraqi society. Attaining these objectives in Iraq would inevitably transform the Arab world and immeasurably increase our future national security.

These are goals worthy of a fight, of sacrifice, of more lives lost now to save thousands, perhaps tens or hundreds of thousands in the future. In Mosul last Monday, a colonel in the 101st Airborne put it to me quite simply: “Sir, this is worth doing.” No one I spoke with said anything different. And I spoke with all ranks.

But there will be more Blumbergs killed in action, many more. So it is worth doing only if we have a reasonable chance of success. And we do, but I’m afraid the news media are hurting our chances. They are dwelling upon the mistakes, the ambushes, the soldiers killed, the wounded, the Blumbergs. Fair enough. But it is not balancing this bad news with “the rest of the story,” the progress made daily, the good news. The falsely bleak picture weakens our national resolve, discourages Iraqi cooperation and emboldens our enemy.

During the conventional part of this conflict, embedded journalists reported the good, the bad and the ugly. Where are the embeds now that we are in the difficult part of the war, now that fair and balanced reporting is critically important to our chances of success? At the height of the conventional conflict, Fox News alone had 27 journalists embedded with U.S. troops (out of a total of 774 from all Western media). Today there are only 27 embedded journalists from all media combined.

Throughout Iraq, American soldiers with their typical “can do” attitude and ingenuity are engaging in thousands upon thousands of small reconstruction projects, working with Iraqi contractors and citizens. Through decentralized decision-making by unit commanders, the 101st Airborne Division alone has spent nearly $23 million in just the past few months. This sum goes a very long way in Iraq. Hundreds upon hundreds of schools are being renovated, repainted, replumbed and reroofed. Imagine the effect that has on children and their parents.

Zogby International recently released the results of an August poll showing hope and progress. My own unscientific surveys told me the same thing. With virtually no exceptions, hundreds of Iraqis enthusiastically waved back at me as I sat in the open door of a helicopter traveling between Babylon and Baghdad. And I received a similar reception as I worked my way alone, shaking hands through a large crowd of refinery workers just to see their reaction.

We may need a few credible Baghdad Bobs to undo the harm done by our media. I’m afraid it is killing our troops.

-- U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall (D-Ga.) of Macon, a Vietnam combat veteran, is a member of the House Armed Services Committee.


Jumping to conclusions: Did President Bush lie?

Fred Kaplan wrote a piece in Slate Magazine titled, “Was Bush Lying About WMD?” He seems reasonable enough at the outset, given that he doesn’t infer President Bush is a greedy, insensitive, rich, frat-boy, bent on WW III, who has no right to the Oval Office. (At least, not in this article.) But he does jump to some extreme conclusions that are just as baseless.

For the record, I do not think President Bush lied about WMD or anything else for that matter. To believe that, one would have to also believe that President Bush was clever enough to fool Tony Blair, the US Congress, and many others who had access to their own sources of intelligence. One would have to believe that all the President’s advisors, (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell, The JCS, etc) were part of the plot also.

But, back to Kaplan’s piece:

The intro: We may never know if Saddam Hussein really had weapons of mass destruction during the final months or years before his ouster . . .

The premise: the Bush administration claimed he [Saddam Hussein] did [have WMD] with a degree of certainty far exceeding that of U.S. intelligence reports.


1) . . .Pentagon officials who made these claims so fiercely probably weren’t lying. Clearly, they had formed their conclusions first, then went scrounging for the evidence.
2) Clearly, they [the Pentagon officials] stretched the evidence they found right up to, and in some cases beyond, the logical limits.
3) They [Rumsfeld, et al] probably also believed that the analysts in the CIA and DIA, who were uncertain or skeptical about the matter, just didn’t, or didn’t want to, look hard enough.

The remainder of Kaplan’s article is a discussion between the parallels of the ‘cold war missile gap’ debate of the 1950’s and Iraq’s WMD.

Kaplan’s account of the missile gap debate may be correct or not. I’m not enough of an historian to say. But for the sake of this argument, let’s assume everything he says about it is true. Mr. Kaplan’s accusation is: “Clearly, Pentagon officials formed their conclusion first“, and, “Clearly, they stretched the evidence . . .” . He has no evidence that is so, whatsoever. His only logic (if you wish to call it that) is the similarity of the current WMD debate to the missile gap debate of 40 years ago. That would be like Marsha Clark claiming OJ guilty of murder because his case was so similar to the Sam Shephard or Lizy Borden cases.

Why did Kaplan stop there? I can see parallels between the current situation and the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor in 1898, which lead to the Spanish-American War. There is evidence now that the explosion onboard the ship was an accident and not an act of sabotage. Did President McKinley and Sec. of the Navy, Roosevelt mislead America and the Congress in order to steal the rightful possessions of Spain? Did big sugar lust after Cuba’s sugar cane production? Could be! But we can’t draw that conclusion.

Mr. Kaplan references another article in Slate Magazine he authored last October, titled, The Rumsfeld Intelligence Agency. In it, he says Rumsfeld, et al, maliciously made a connection between Iraq and Al-Qaeda terrorists as a case for war. His reference for that article was yet another piece written in the New York Times. Now, in his latest article, he says the same covert ‘intelligence agency’ was actually looking for evidence of WMD because WMD are an easier sell. Mr. Kaplan should make it clear. Did Rumsfeld mislead us about WMD or a terrorist connection? Was Mr. Kaplan wrong then, or is he wrong now?

As I said at the beginning of this article, I don’t know if President Bush lied or not, but I don’t think so. I do feel strongly, however, that if you call or infer someone a liar (especially the President) you better have some very strong evidence. In Mr. Kaplan’s case, it isn’t there, strong or otherwise. He states his own conclusion and goes back forty years to draw parallels to the missile gap debate of the 1950’s. Using words like “clearly” is no substitute for fact.

The Bush Administration made its case at the United Nations when Sec. Powell laid out the Administration’s evidence. Dr. Condoleezza Rice followed with her own analysis. Were Secretary Powell and Dr. Rice lying too, or did ‘Dumya’ fool them, as he supposedly fooled Senators Kerry, Byrd, and Clinton? That’s pretty impressive for someone who can’t even speak proper English, can’t think for himself, and has the lowest IQ of all modern presidents.

If one wants to prove the Bush Administration lied, one needs to start with the statements of evidence as presented. Have you seen anyone dissect that evidence to prove how it was falsified or fabricated? Did anyone track down any of the Iraqis who were recorded discussing WMD and show them to be misquoted? Has anyone gone to the sites shown in the satellite imagery to see if they were associated with WMD?

Bush detractors will not focus on the Administration’s evidence because it is credible, although not final. US intelligence did connect the dots. It made the case that there were programs of WMD ongoing or easily resurrected, even if we cannot find the end products now. Further, the anti-war left fails to make any counter argument that Saddam Hussein did not have WMD nor a terrorist connection. Their entire argument is WMD cannot be found; ergo . . . they never existed. Saddam knew that WMD were the reason for allied military action. It makes no sense whatsoever that he would leave a smoking gun for us stumble across. It does makes sense that he would either ship them to a safe haven or destroy them to cover his crimes and lies.

From the evidence presented and the arguments produced so far, Fred Kaplan and the liberal left at Slate Magazine are ‘clearly‘ jumping to unsubstantiated conclusions.



Presidential politics: Was President Bush’s carrier visit just an expensive photo op?


President Bush flies out to an aircraft carrier to address the sailors aboard and his opponents are in shock and awe. Senator Byrd, despite his busy schedule, took time to chastise the President from the floor of the Senate.

Calling the President “desk-bound”, Senator Byrd questioned his motives for flying out to the carrier:

I am loath to think of an aircraft carrier being used as an advertising backdrop for a presidential political slogan, and yet that is what I sawI do not begrudge his salute to America’s warriors aboard the carrier Lincoln, for they have performed bravely, … but I do question the motives of a desk-bound president who assumes the garb of a warrior for the purposes of a speech

To me, it is an affront to the Americans killed or injured in Iraq for the president to exploit the trappings of war for the momentary spectacle of a speech . . .Senator Robert Byrd (D-WVa)

Joining Democratic Senator Byrd is Democratic Congressman Waxman (D-CA). He has asked the General Accounting Office for a full accounting of the cost for President Bush to fly out to the ship rather than wait for it to dock. While the GAO is at it, maybe they can add up the cost of filubustering the nomination of Judge Estrada. My own guess is it will cost more to figure the cost. At least we got a moral boost from the President’s trip. After Byrd and Waxman, we all could use a Prozac on the rocks.

FLASH BULLETIN: This is for our Democrat friends. Everything an elected official does is a potential photo opportunity. This is not new. What is new is the Democratic Party’s feigning of incredulity. As the commander-in-chief, the president has every right to interact with the armed forces in any way he sees fit. He is sworn to defend us, and his most potent weapon is the military.

Of course, not all photo ops go according to plan. Who could forget President Clinton being photographed peering into the Korean DMZ? The only problem was, he forgot to take the lens caps off his binoculars. This lesson was not forgotten by the public relations staff of President Bush.


The anti-war view. What is it?

Protestors have an absolute right to speak their mind. So let’s listen to what they say.

The First Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees us the right to assemble peacefully.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Over this past Presidents’ Day Holiday the anti-war movement made their opinions known. To their credit, most demonstrators conducted themselves peacefully. Violence was the exception rather than the rule. Therefore, let’s not dismiss their position out of hand, but rather listen to their points. Surfing around the Internet, one find various anti-war pages. Here’s what some of them say:

  • Isn’t Hussein Crazy?
    Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is certainly no sweetheart. He has used chemical weapons against his own people. He started and fought a long, brutal war with Iran, before invading Kuwait and prompting the U.S.-led Persian Gulf War of 1991. But Hussein’s actions are on par with those of other violent world leaders. Iraqi Crisis AntiWar Homepage
  • What Else is Going On?
    Saddam Hussein is not the only world leader with weapons of mass destruction. There are plenty of countries with even more lethal nuclear weapons including the U.S., Russian, the Ukraine, China, France, Britain, South Africa, India, and Pakistan. Most notably, Israel has also undertaken a nuclear program and they certainly have a small arsenal with missiles capable of reaching Iraq. Iraqi Crisis AntiWar Homepage
  • Unjust, Immoral, and Illegitimate
    We believe that people of conscience must take responsibility for what their own governments do — we must first of all oppose the injustice that is done in our own name. Thus we call on all Americans to RESIST the war and repression that has been loosed on the world by the Bush administration. It is unjust, immoral, and illegitimate. Not In Our Name
  • The Human Cost
    Contrary to the growing perception around the world that Americans do not care about the lives and limbs of the Iraqi innocents, they do. It is Iraqis who will bear the greatest casualties in a US bombardment from the skies over Iraqi cities. The Real Cost of War
  • Poor Use of Scarce Funds
    We believe that it is unconscionable to send young people in the U.S. armed forces into combat in an illegal war that serves only the interests of Big Oil. Instead of spending $200 billion of taxpayers’ money on another war in the Middle East, the funds should be used to create jobs and finance education, housing, heathcare and other vital human needs. Vote No War

That is not a complete list, but it is fairly representative of the current anti-war position. Essentially, we can sum up their opinion by with the following: Why shouldn’t Iraq have Weapons of Mass Destruction?; The war is a poor use of our scarce funds; The human cost is too high; And war is always immoral, unjust, and illegitimate.

OK, let’s talk.

Why shouldn’t Iraq have weapons of mass destruction? The United States recognizes that some people are dangerous. We have laws that deny convicted felons the right to possess a firearm. We even deny felons the right to vote.

Saddam Hussein is certainly in the same category as a dangerous felon. Not only is he dangerous, he has been found guilty of aggressive warfare by the United Nations. The ‘then’ majority leader, Tom Daschle, made that exact case on the Senate floor while debating the resolution for use of force last October. That is why the UN voted to require Saddam to disarm as part of the negotiated cease fire after he illegally invaded Kuwait.

Yes, there are other countries who are dangerous and have weapons of mass destruction, too. And when the UN votes to disarm them, we should also consider the use of force if the don’t comply. If the United Nations has changed its opinion regarding Iraq, and now feels that disarmament is not the right approach, they should meet and craft a new resolution to say so. But the one thing to not do is demand disarmament and then not enforce it.

Why risk the human cost? Use of force is always the most unpleasant, least desirable option. No one wants to see others hurt or killed. But it takes two hands to clap. Iraq is a member of the United Nations. It is also a signatory of various nonproliferation treaties regarding WMD. If it has a case to make for reconsideration of its previous agreements, it should voice them in the UN. Until then, Iraq can stop the violence by honoring its commitments under these agreements and voluntarily disarm.

And the financial cost? That argument follows closely with the human cost. Everyone would prefer to spend that money on almost anything other than a military intervention in Iraq. If we have no intention of enforcing the UN resolutions, then maybe we shouldn’t vote for them in the first place. For that matter, if the UN has no enforcement maybe the United States should not spend any money there at all. Currently, the United States funds roughly $4 billion (25 percent) of the UN budget. What do we get for that investment if we can’t trust the member nations to honor their own commitments? Four-billion dollars would buy a lot of health care and prescription insurance for our seniors.

Those are all counter-arguments to the anti-war position. But it is not enough to just be against war. To have credibility, you have to offer a viable alternative. This is the weakest part of the anti-war stance. It is what they do not say that is the most damning. How do we really ensure Iraq will stop developing WMD? Inspections? Not likely! In dealing with Iraq, inspections have proven completely ineffective for two reasons. Saddam Hussein avoids inspection in too many ways. Some we know (ie mobile labs) and some we don’t (Syria?). And as they progress, he constantly negotiates the inspectors into a position of less and less effectiveness. First they negotiate all of Hussein’s palaces are exempt. Then he negotiates the same exemptions for mosques, cemeteries, schools, and others.

The protestors’ demands were all one sided. There is no demand that Iraq cooperate. Protestors want the United States and the United Nations commit to not using force. If they do, it puts Iraq in a no-lose situation and rewards further cheating. If they can continue development they are not punished. They can only be caught and stopped. But there is no risk to try again, and again, and again until they are successful.

In all the demonstrations I saw, I did not see one demand (or even request) for Saddam to cooperate. No one asked the question why Iraq needs WMD. Is Iraq threatened by Al-Qaeda or maybe Iran? What is the human and financial cost to Iraqi citizens to maintain these WMD programs? It is completely unreasonable to demand the US and UN relent to maintain peace. As I said earlier, it takes two hands to clap.



Let’s Examine the European Opinions on War with Iraq

If ignorance is bliss, then the Europeans must live in nirvana. I’m speaking of their outspoken criticism of US foreign policy toward Iraq. Both Germany and France have forgotten the bitter lessons of appeasement of the 1930’s. But before they were forced to appease a brutal dictator, they allowed him to grow fangs by not enforcing the disarmament imposed under the Treaty of Versailles. Germany, in a secret pact with Stalin, operated weapons research facilities in Russia. The agreement was to share the fruits of their labors with Russia in return for his silence. Hitler also violated the treaty by illegally expanding his army, navy, air force, and weapons arsenal. Only after it was too late did Europe finally come to its senses.

The outcome, of course, was WWII. When Hitler invaded Poland, the British finally had had enough. They fired Neville Chamberlan, voted in Winston Churchill, and began begging the United States for any assistance. The United States wasn’t completely without sin, though. Japan was running rampant in China and the strongest US response was to apply economic sanctions and position the US Pacific fleet in Hawaii from San Diego.

History shows clearly that many of our current international problems stem directly from the failed policies of European colonialism. Prior to and just after World War II, France and Great Britain administered the colonial governments of that the Middle East. It was their policies that lead to the domestic unrest and insurrection in such places as Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Rhodesia, Kenya, and South Africa. It was French colonial rule in Viet Nam that antagonized the Vietnamese and spurred the growth of communist rebellion. When Egyptian President, Gamal Abdul Nassar, nationalized the Suez Canal in 1956, France and Great Britain jointly invaded Egypt to try and retake it. Only after very strong international pressure did they finally withdraw.

The difference today is that America has taken note of those lessons while Europe has not. The criticism against American policy seems to hinge on the notion that America is pursuing war for self serving purposes, namely oil. This is no more valid than the accusation that America went to Afghanistan in order to build an oil pipeline. A quick bit of research will show that Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan are keen to have American or European companies build such a pipeline but no one is interested (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sign Pipeline Deal).

Europe wants to travel the high road of peace at any price. The most pertinent reason for the Europe’s criticism, however, lies in their decline relative to America’s ascendance. The world currency is either gold or US dollars, not Francs or Pounds. Computer commands are in English not French. International air traffic controllers and airline pilots must be fluent in English not German. The United States sets the standard for human rights, scientific development, medical research, democracy, fair elections, personal freedoms, and global charity just to name a few. At the same time the French set the standard for arrogance, labor strikes, vacations, and anti-American demonstrations.

The European military is woefully inadequate to pose any serious deterrent to rogue nations. Europe could not prevent the ethnic cleansing of the Balkans by Slobodan Milosevic. It took the commitment of the United States. The last I heard, Milosevic was still on trial at the Hague. Who knows if they will ever get around to convicting him. When Argentina invaded the Faulklands, Great Britain (remember, they used to rule the waves) did not have the ability to respond. They had to ask President Reagan to refuel their ships at see on the way to the fight.

My own sense is that we can take most of the European criticism with a grain of salt. It is noble to have a sense of compassion for potential innocent civilian casualties should we go to war. But they are suspiciously devoid of an equivalent outrage at actual American casualties on 9/11. And, might I say, those were not accidental casualties. They were targeted and executed by plan and specific purpose. The same can be said for the deaths in Bali, Kenya, Tanzania, Kobart Towers, the USS Cole, as well as others. It is a shame that hard feelings can cloud one’s judgment. But it is my conclusion, based on the above, that this is indeed the case with Europe. We should always consult with our allies. We must consider their situation before we act. But when the path is clear, we can’t be allowed to be swayed from the proper course of action. Saddam Hussein is an aggressive dictator with malintent for America. We must enforce his disarmament or be prepared to face the consequencies.



A history of hypocrisy over Iraq

The U.S. Congress has a history of tough talk on Iraq but…

In 1991, the United States Senate voted (53-47) to allow the president to use military force to eject Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Upon completion of that goal, the United Nations voted (UN Resolution 687) that as a condition of cessation of hostilities, Iraq must unconditionally:

  • declare fully its weapons of mass destruction programs.
  • accept the destruction, removal or rendering harmless “under international supervision” of all “chemical and biological weapons and all stocks of agents”.
  • agree not to acquire or develop nuclear weapons or nuclear-weapons-usable material” or any research, development or manufacturing facilities.
  • accept the destruction, removal or rendering harmless “under international supervision” of all “ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 KM and related major parts and repair and production facilities.”
  • agree to not “use, develop, construct or acquire” any weapons of mass destruction.
  • not commit or support terrorism, or allow terrorist organizations to operate in Iraq.

The history of Iraqi cooperation has been frustrating to the United Nations ever since. After Iraq ejected the UN inspectors, claiming they were spying, the Untied States Congress became concerned and passed two important pieces of legislation. The first, Public Law 105-238, (Finding the Government of Iraq in unacceptable and material breach of its international obligations) was passed and then signed by President Clinton on August 14, 1998. It declares:

that the Government of Iraq is in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations. Urges the President to take appropriate action under U.S. law to bring Iraq into compliance with such obligations.

Further, seeing Saddam Hussein as an ongoing threat, the Senate passed the “Iraq Liberation Act of 1998,” encouraging President Clinton to adopt a policy of “regime change” in Iraq.

Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 – Declares that it should be the policy of the United States to seek to remove the Saddam Hussein regime from power in Iraq and to replace it with a democratic government.

After the attacks of Sept 11, Congress went further. Just one week after the event, Congress authorized President Bush to use, “all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001“. This became public law 107-40.

One year later, President Bush, sensing the possibility of the need for use of force, asked Congress to use the US military if needed. As a result Congress passed and the President signed public law 107-243. This became law on October 16, 2002 and says in part:

Authorizes the President to use the U.S. armed forces to: (1) defend U.S. national security against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and (2) enforce all relevant Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.

And finally, The United Nations Security Council followed suit soon thereafter by unanimously approving “UN Resolution 1441”, by a vote of 15-0. Although resolution 1441 did not specifically sanction the use of military force, it did find that Iraq was and remains in material breach of its obligations under relevant resolutions, including resolution 687 (1991).

Today, the tone has changed dramatically. Despite previous legislation, Congressional Democrats, as well as some Republicans, have voiced concern over military action against Iraq. Last September, three Democrats traveled to Iraq to help prevent war between the United States and Iraq. Reps. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., David Bonior, D-Mich., and James McDermott, D-Wash., described their mission as mainly humanitarian. In a letter to Bush Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) and Sen. Richard G. Lugar ( R-Ind.) wrote: “There is not consensus on many critical questions” about the use of force in Iraq.

Here are some more quotes about the evils of pursuing military action:


  • Al Gore“After Sept. 11, we had enormous sympathy, good will and support around the world,” Gore said in San Francisco. “We’ve squandered that, and in one year we’ve replaced that with fear, anxiety and uncertainty, not at what the terrorists are going to do but at what we are going to do.”
  • Ted Kennedy“I have come here today to express my view that America should not go to war against Iraq unless and until other reasonable alternatives are exhausted.” “I continue to be convinced that this is the wrong war at the wrong time. The threat from Iraq is not imminent, and it will distract America from the two more immediate threats to our security; the clear and present danger of terrorism and the crisis with North Korea.”
  • John KerryRegrettably the current Administration failed to take the opportunity to bring this issue to the United Nations two years ago or immediately after September 11th, when we had such unity of spirit with our allies. Indeed, for a time, the Administration’s unilateralism, in effect, elevated Saddam in the eyes of his neighbors to a level he never would have achieved on his own, undermining America’s standing with most of the coalition partners which had joined us in repelling the invasion of Kuwait a decade ago.
  • Nancy Pelosi“I know of no information that the threat is so imminent from Iraq that Congress cannot wait until January to vote on a resolution. “I did not hear anything today that was different about [Hussein’s] capabilities, save a few ’embellishments’.”

Before 2000, we had a Congress that voted like hawks but a president who acted like a dove. After 2000, we have a Congress that debates like a flock of doves while the president acts like the hawk. What changed? The make-up of the Congress hasn’t changed dramatically. It is the Presidency that has changed hands. And with it, Congress’ will has completely reversed. It is almost as if Congress knew President Clinton wouldn’t use the military and therefore were free to be as bellicose as wanted. What a difference a presidential election can make!


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