"Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid" - Ronald Reagan

New York

Unarmed Grooms Death Sparks Protest

The AP at Yahoo has a story entitled "Calls for justice at NYC vigil for groom". Yahoo entitled the story, "Unarmed Grooms Death Sparks Protest".

I usually do not comment on stories until more of the facts are out, but I cannot contain myself here.

First, the groom, Sean Bell, was not unarmed. He struck an undercover police officer and their minivan with his car. He then backed up, crashed into a building's gate, drove forward, and struck the minivan again.

Second, Sean Bell was involved in a verbal altercation outside the club and one of his friends mentioned a gun. An undercover officer in the vicinity followed the group to their car obviously wondering if they were going to brandish a gun.

Third, undercover officers were at this club because the managers of the club had in the past been convicted of prostitution and drug trafficing.

Fourth, this event occurred at 4:00 in the morning.

Now, on the night before and the morning of his wedding, Sean Bell was at a club known to practice in prostitution and drug trafficing. He stayed at the club until 4:00am. Upon exiting the club, he had a verbal altercation with an individual and his friend apparently mentioned a gun. Now, Sean Bell gets into his car, runs over an undercover police officer, strikes their minivan, backs up, strikes a gate, and then drives forward striking the van again.

The police officer who opened fire first had been on the force five years. Another officer who fired 31 rounds had been on the force 12 years. None of the officers involved had ever been involved in a shooting.

Now, while this death is tragic, it is anything but a race crime.

It has everything to do with a groom, while allowed to have fun prior to his wedding night, was probably engaged in illicit behavior inside this club until 4:00 in the morning, not to mention most likely intoxicated. So much for fidelity in marriage. If intoxicated, his senses were impaired which directly resulted in him/his friend mentioning having a gun and then driving over a pedestrian, who happened to be an undercover police officer, smashing into a van, backing up, smashing into a gate, and then smashing back into the van.

If not intoxicated, his friend still mentioned a gun. Sean Bell still ran over an undercover police officer, smashed into their van, smashed into a gate, and then smashed into the van again.

Being a military officer and having been involved in moving under life or death situations, I can only say one thing, why did not all officers empty their weapons?

The groom's friends are anything but friends if they took him to this club known for prostitution and drug trafficing and kept him out until 4:00 am on the day of his wedding. His friends are anything but friends if any of them mentioned a gun. His friends were anything but friends if they let him engage in illicit sexual behavior on the night prior to his wedding.

My mother always used to tell me, "It is hard to soar with the eagles when all you hang out with is turkeys."

These gentlemen were turkeys.

Potential for Three Middle East Civil Wars

According to Haaretz, King Abdullah II of Jordon stated this weekend,

"We're juggling with the strong potential of three civil wars in the region, whether it's the Palestinians, that of Lebanon or of Iraq."

He went on to state,

"I keep saying Palestine is the core. It is linked to the extent of what's going on in Iraq. It is linked to what's going on in Lebanon. It is linked to the issues that we find ourselves with the Syrians. So, if you want to do comprehensive - comprehensive means bringing all the parties of the region together."

Ok, I will go with what he says for the moment.

Israel was beginning a unilateral withdraw from the Gaza Strip and West Bank after the PLO refused to accept a return to the 1967 boundaries when then President Clinton failed to get Arafat to sign on to the peace deal. Israel had already returned the Gaza Strip and was considering the release of several prisoners when Hamas kidnapped an Israeli Soldier, Cpl Shalit, in an effort to shore up its strength against Fatah, beginning this round of conflict. Also, this kidnapping has stopped any withdraw from the West Bank and stopped the prisoner release.

Lebanon is at the verge of a civil war because an illegally armed Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli Soldiers in an effort to shore up its representation in the Lebanese government. This started the summer Lebanon-Israeli war. Now, with many in Lebanon questioning whether Hezbollah should be disarmed, they are seeking to topple the democratic government of Lebanon since the government will not grant them a disapportionately large share of ministers.

Iraq is on the verge of a civil war because Sunni Salafists keep blowing up civilians for the past three years. In turn, Sadr's is gaining favor, with the help of Iran, and his militias are indiscriminately killing Sunnis as a reprisal.

So, we need to negotiate with Palestinians who just signed a cease fire but broke it within minutes by firing Qassam rockets. We need to negotiate with Hezbollah who started a war to gain more than their representative power. Finally, we need to negotiate with Salafist terrorists who are killing civilians indescriminately.

If this is where we are and if we believe this will bring us peace, then we have already lost the war.

The Anbar Salvation Council fights Al Qaeda in Iraq

The 25 tribes of the Anbar Salvation Council, formed in Sep 06, have engaged in battle with Al Qaeda in Iraq and have killed 55 Al Qaeda foreign fighters in Sofia in the Anbar Province of Iraq. US warplanes provided assistance to the Council in its clashes. The Council suffered 9 casualties.

What is unique about this is this council was formed when 25 of the 31 Anbar tribe banded together to fight Al Qaeda in Iraq. Since Sep 06, tribal leaders have pledge support for the Maliki government, have told their sons to sign up for the police and Army, and have been policing in their province.

This is the way the insurgency will be won. Namely, when Iraqis begin to stand up for freedom and democracy and fight against terrorists, then a turning point in Iraq will be reached. The Albu Soda tribe of the Anbar Salvation Council has now engaged Al Qaeda. Lets see if the other 24 tribes follow suit.

As part of Maliki's national reconcilliation plan, over 100 tribes committed to this plan, 25 of which were in the Anbar Province. This victory for Albu Soda tribe against Al Qaeda may very well have far reaching ramifications.

Many of the tribesmen are currently in Basic Training and will return shortly to begin working for the local Police and Army.

For a full story, check out Reuters and The Fourth Rail.

An Iraqi Solution, Vietnam Style

Mark Moyar has an interesting op ed in The New York Times about pulling American forces back and letting Prime Minister Maliki quell the insurgency. In it he states,

Iraq's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, is now saying that he wants the United States to stand back and let him use Iraqi forces to restore order. Within six months, he asserts, the bloodletting will cease. The United States must give this proposal very serious consideration. Critics of America’s current Iraq policy, particularly among the Congressional Democrats, have tended to concentrate on international diplomatic remedies. Experience, however, suggest that only the Iraqis themselves can end the chaos and violence.

He points to Diem's success in this tactic in Vietnam in 1955, against the advice of the US.

In South Vietnam, as in other historically authoritarian countries, if the government failed to maintain a monopoly on power, it would lose prestige among its supporters and enemies. Only a strong national government could prevent the sects and other factions from tearing the country apart.... Through political acumen and force of personality, Diem gained the full cooperation of the National Army and used it to subdue the sects. Simultaneously, he seized control of the police by replacing its leaders with nationalists loyal to him. In a culture that respected the strong man for vanquishing his enemies, Diem’s suppression of the militias gained him many new followers.

Finally, he sums up with:

If we pull back our troops temporarily and let Mr. Maliki deal with Iraq’s problems using Iraqi forces, we will be able to determine more quickly whether he can save his country as Diem saved his in 1955. We will see whether he has the political skills to cut deals with local leaders, the support of enough security forces to suppress those who won’t cut deals, and the determination to prevent the obliteration of the Sunnis. If he does not have these attributes, it is to be hoped that the Iraqi Parliament, the Council of Representatives, will exercise its constitutional right to remove the prime minister by a vote of no confidence. Perhaps there is a better prime minister out there.

For the entire article, go here.

GWOT - Where should we go from here?

On 06 November 2001, President Bush stated, "You're either with us or against us in the fight against terror." This fiery attitude, subsequent direct US action or internal politics brought democracy to Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, Ukraine, and Georgia. It also resulted in democratic elections in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Egypt to one extent or another.

However, currently it seems that these countries are either not progressing towards further towards democracy, are too unstable to progress further towards democracy, or are on the verge of turning back to darker times. In many respects it seems that Islamists are also gaining an advantage now, especially given the recent truce with the Taliban in Pakistan, Islamists gains in Somalia, and Iranian defiance and continued development of nuclear weapons.

What has happened between November 2001 and November 2006, five years later? Why did this push for democracy stall? Has it stalled?

Given the swift and overwhelming victories first in Afghanistan and then Iraq by US forces in overthrowing evil regimes, most people in the US, if not the world, believed in early 2003, that democracy would rise in the world, peace would come to the Middle East, and evil government would be overthrown in other countries. However, a few years later, we are seeing insurgency and terrorism on the rise and not subsiding. Why?

For the sake of brevity, I will focus on Iraq during this article. In addition, Iraq has become the central front for the war on terror for both the Islamists and America. As Iraq goes, so goes the rest of the Global War on Terror.

First and foremost, the US rested on its sweeping conventional victory believing that all people wanted freedom if only given the chance. The US gave Iraqi's the chance but it was not prepared for actions by other players in the regions.

Sunni Salafists, like Bin Laden, wanted American influence out of the Middle East, namely Saudi Arabia. This is why Bin Laden ordered the 9/11 attacks. He believed a decisive blow to America would turn them inward and reduce their influence in the Middle East. What he got however, was the destruction of his safe haven, Afghanistan, and Americans occupying Iraq in force. Far from persuading Americans to leave the Middle East, he now had almost 200,000 Americans stationed in the Middle East. To counteract this rise in American forces, he sent Sunni Salafists into Iraq to start an insurgency. America, for its part, has done well in countering this insurgency. However, Bin Laden has also done well at keeping it alive. Right now, we are in essentially a stalemate with no end in sight. At times the insurgency is able to strike dynamic blows to American objectives. At other times it appears on its last leg. One major success that Bin Laden has been able to secure is in tying up US forces in Iraq to prevent further attacks elsewhere.

Iran, for its part, did not have an issue with staying out of the fight in Afghanistan in 2001 as the Taliban were a force allong its eastern border it wanted to rid itself of anyway. Similarly, it had no issue with staying out of the fight in early 2003. Iran's Khomeinist regime was counter-balanced by Saddam's secular Sunni government for several years. With Saddam gone, Iraq would become another Shi'ite state. After the fall of Saddam and the establishment of a Shi'ite regime, Iran could diplomatically increase its influence over Iraq. As the US became tied up in an Sunni insurgency, action against Iran (as an Axis of Evil) decreased since US troops were tied up in Iraq. Iran felt it could freely develop nuclear weapons and increase its control over the Middle East.

However, with European nations seeking sanctions against Iran for its nuclear work, the loss of Lebanon after the Cedar Revolution in 2005, and a secular anti-Khomeinist Shi'ite government developing in Iraq, Iran saw its cresent waning and the Sunni Salafists movement strengthening. Iran had to react and react it did.

Between December 2005 and January 2006, Iran strengthened its alliance with Syria, the Islamic Jihad, Hamas' Meshaal, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Sadr. More than anything, it began a chain of events in the Middle East to bring about the rise of the Shi'ite crescent. In this time, Hezbollah withstood a withering attack by Israel after the kidnapping of two of its Soldiers along the Lebanon border. Syria has overtly shunned its other Arab neighbors. Sadr has been able to move the Iraqi government from a secular regime to a more religious one through his political influence and militia. In turn, Sunni Salafist are ramping up their attacks.

During 2006, the unlikely similar objectives of Sunni Salafists and Khomeinist Shi'ites has resulted in the US fighting two insurgencies now instead of just one. As a result, the Shi'ite crescent has risen in the heart of the Middle East and Sunni Salafists power has increase in Pakistan and Afghanistan. And US forces are still tied up battling an insurgency, unable to reposition assets to other areas to prevent this rise.

So, where do we go from here?

2007 will see a continual rise in both Salafist and Khomeinist power as long as their goals are complimentary and as long as the safe havens for both of these groups are not threatened. We cannot change their goals and therefore cannot indirectly impact this area. However, we can threaten their safehavens.

Iran is helping Sadr and the Shi'ite part of the insurgency. While we do not have the ground forces to mount an offensive into Iran, a military strike against Iranian nuclear targets by air forces and a naval blockcade in the Strait of Hormuz with a stern message to Khamenei and Ahmadinejad could significantly quell Iranian involvement in Iraq. By naval blockcage, I am not talking about not allowing shipping into/our of the area, but instead controlling Iranian off shore platforms and prevention of gasoline imports to Iran. A similar air strike in Syria along the Lebanon border to prevent the rearmanent of Hezbollah with a stern message will also prevent this neighbor from supporting the Salafist insurgency in Iraq and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Similarly, both strikes will show US resolve in the region, would limit Khomeinists from influencing the insurgency in Iraq, and ensure Lebanon stays a democratically elected power without Syrian influence.

These strikes would also remind Pakistan not to play too nice with the Taliban in its own country.

Finally, we should aid Ethiopia in an offensive against Somalia Islamists. This will give Bin Laden many fronts he would have to fight for to save.

What do we need to do to win the Global War on Terror?

First and foremost, we need to think globally. Bin Laden is, so is Iran.

Secondly, we need to fight this war where it is being influenced at, namely, Iran and Syria.

Thirdly, we need to fight it with resolve. If we are not showing resolve, it is hard for our allies too.

Bias in News Reporting on Iraq. Say it isn't so.

An article from the Times Online states, "Ferocity of Iraq attacks leaves US troops helpless". Interesting when you read down the article find out that,

US and Iraqi troops also killed 22 insurgents and an Iraqi civilian, and destroyed a factory being used to make roadside bombs, during raids north of Baghdad yesterday.

In another article by the AFP at Yahoo entitled, "US, Iraqi forces kill more than 50 insurgents", one gets the sense that US, Iraqi forces are not helpless.

In fact, it appears coalition forces are killing a significant amount of insurgents, destroying their IED factories, and not suffering any (or few) freindly casualties in the process. Both of these articles point to 77 insurgents who went to Allah this weekend.

Now, don't get me wrong. A lot of blood is being spilled in Iraq (specifically in Baghdad where reporters are housed) and civilians are suffering the brunt of the violence. However, I would never say that US or Iraqi forces are "helpless". On the contrary, I would say that they are extremely effective against terrorists and when engaged directly by them, they overwhelmingly are victorious.

At the tactical level, both American and Iraqi troops are able to win consistently over insurgents and terrorists. At the strategic level, US forces need to quell other countries from aiding the terrorists.

Far from illiciting help from Iran or Syria as one of these articles highlights, we should engage them militarily (air or naval) until they stop supporting this insurgency. While US and Iraqi forces have done a good job at limiting their base of support inside Iraq, strategically, we have not done a good job of limiting their base of support from outside Iraq.

Unless the Bush adminstration takes the fight to the enemy, namely Iran and Syria, all we can hope for is a status quo of more violence and instability in the region and a continuation of our forces being tied up in Iraq.

Lebanese government backs U.N. tribunal

The Associated Press by Yahoo has a story about the Lebanese government voting for a UN tribunal with regards to the Hariri assasination.

A couple things are intriging about this article. The first is the beginning sentence of the article.

The U.S.-backed government on Saturday approved an international tribunal for suspects in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, overriding the objections of Hezbollah amid a political crisis that threatens to spin Lebanon into violence.

I'm sorry, I thought it was the democratically elected government of Lebanon. "U.S.-backed" makes it sound like it is being propped up by America and is not supported by the majority of the people. Of course the US recognizes the freely elected government. That is what we are about.

The second issue I have is this sentence.

Lebanon's Syria-allied president denounced the vote as did Hezbollah officials, who warned that the Shiite Muslim militant group would go ahead with threatened mass street protests seeking to force the government from power.

Well of course they did, since Syria is being looked at as the perpetrator of the murder. This also sounds like the Democrats to me. If a party is out of power and somebody votes for something that they disagree with, they stage a protest, often violent.

Finally, the article states.

"The government represents part of the Lebanese people, not all of them. Its decisions are void," Ezzeddine told Al-Arabiya television.

Hello, this is called a democracy. As a parlimentary democracy, it does represent all the people as all parties in the government are represented based on the proportion of votes received by their party. Now, a minority may not get what it wants, but typically the majority does. Again, this is called a democracy.

I guess that if the minority Shi'ite Hezbollah movement had more than its duly elected representatives in the government or if Hezbollah controlled the government then that government would represent all the people.

On the bright side, Hezbollah and Syrian allied forces only have to assassinate two more representatives to dissolve this duly elected government.