Monday, January 31, 2005
Rush, once again!
Also, some interesting post-Iraqi-election analysis at MDV Outlook.
Sunday, January 30, 2005
a great day for Iraq and the world
Saturday, January 29, 2005
The AP reported, two minutes ago:
Less than 24 hours before polls open in Iraq
Meanwhile, in less than 15 hours, history will begin to be made in Iraq.
I know it's terribly messy - and in some corners, tragic - but when you consider the fact that Iraqis WANT TO VOTE and they are planning to risk their lives to do so. Of the 7,000-plus candidates on the national ballot every third candidate MUST be a woman. Our guys are on the streets trying to protect voters so they can exercise what so many of us here take for granted. At the same time, opponents of democracy in that country are executing - shooting, blowing-up, beheading - people in the street, ... good gracious, isn't it pretty clear who the good guys and the bad guys are?
Friday, January 28, 2005
two days from national elections in Iraq
NAVYSEALs.com re-publishes my latest piece, Countdown to democracy. It's at least the second time they've done so. Thanks much to U.S. Navy Commander Mark Divine ("first" in his SEAL Training class) and W. Scott Malone (four-time Emmy award-winning writer-editor-producer).
And about five minutes from now, I'll be discussing the Iraqi elections and security for the same on The Kirby Wilbur Show at 8:30 AM (EST) - 5:30 AM (Pacific Time). Kirby's show airs 5:00 - 9:00 AM (Pacific) on FOX NEWS affiliate 570 KVI in Seattle.
Thursday, January 27, 2005
three days from national elections in Iraq
Oh, and special thanks to talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh who again (for about the twentieth time since November 2003) includes my story in his daily stack of stuff.
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
four days from national elections in Iraq
To better appreciate who these young guys are - and what they do for us every day and night - scroll down and read yesterday's tribute to them - ABOUT THE MARINES.
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
five days from national elections in Iraq
It was composed in mid-December... now published in its un-edited, pure, simple grandeur:
About the Marines
by a U.S. State Department employee
Maybe it's the Christmas season. Maybe I'm just getting old. Maybe I've been working overseas in some pretty mean places just too long and would rather be driving a turbo-charged American muscle car across the Nevada desert (we all have different fantasies, right?) Maybe it's the constant news crawl on my TV set announcing another dead American in Iraq or Afghanistan.
I don't know, but for the last few days I can't stop thinking about how much we owe the young Marines who protect our Embassy and how angry I get every time I hear that a Marine has died in Iraq. And today was particularly bad as CNN reports that seven Marines died in clashes against terrorists.
I don't want to denigrate any of our other fine armed services, but at State we have had a long and special relationship with the USMC. Since 1948, some of the best Marines get seconded to us to protect our diplomatic missions abroad. In addition, of course, both before and since 1948, it's the Marines who come yank us out when it all goes to hell or, as in Somalia and Liberia, or to save the Embassy from a howling mob.
In our Embassy in this rather tough corner of the Far Abroad, we get daily threats of all types; almost daily demonstrations in front of the fort-like Chancery; we shuttle about in armored cars; and have weekly "duck-and-cover" drills. We've had some nasty and very lethal bombings; we know that the bad guys are out there; they have us under surveillance; and they have lots of time, explosives, and guns.
We also have a detachment of MSGs (Marine Security Guards), all of them very young (18-23) led by a quiet but tough "old" Staff Sergeant (I doubt he's 30) tasked with protecting the Chancery building and ensuring that we follow good security practices (Note: One of the most dreaded events in the Foreign Service is to walk into your office and find a "pink slip" on your desk left by an MSG who the previous night found a classified cable left in an outbox, a safe not properly spun shut, or some piece of classified gear left unsecured. Those "pink slips" are career killers; of course, in the old Soviet GRU, one of these "security violations" was literally a killer... it meant the death penalty.)
Most days, however, you're hardly aware that an MSG is there: Just a shadowy figure standing inside a glass box, buzzing you through the hard line. Normally you sweep past him (and increasingly her) absorbed in your own thoughts, blabbing away on your cell phone, adjusting your tie, fumbling with papers, or just plain too rude and self-important to say "Good morning."
When you have events at your house you rarely think of inviting the Marines. But despite all that, they remain cheerful, upbeat, and exceedingly polite, and exude a quiet confidence that comes from great training and dedication.
Among the MSGs at this post we have two fresh from combat in Iraq, and itching to go back. These youngsters, one 19, the other 21 (both younger than my kids!), seem genuinely puzzled when we civilians ask, "So what was it like?" They can't seem to believe that anybody would be interested in, much less amazed by hearing about coming under mortar attack or driving a truck at high speed down some "Hogan's Alley-type" street lined with crazed and armed Jihadists. They relate it in a shy, matter-of-fact manner, full of military jargon. And they want to go there, again.
Watching these guys as they pulled toys out of the big "Marines' Toys for Tots" box in the Embassy lobby and hearing their cheerful shouts of "Oh, cool! Check this one out!" I couldn't help but think, "They're kids. They're just kids. Probably not much older than the orphans to whom they'll give those toys." I kept thinking about my own kids, living safely in the States, and the fact that they're older than these kids, these Marines.
But then I went with the "kids" out to the gun range. Suddenly they became deadly serious. The "kids" disappear; no goofing around; strict discipline and concern for safety kicks in. They certainly know firearms, and treat them with respect and care. It was quite a sight to see the former "kids" deliberately, methodically pumping out rounds from their M-4s -- single shot, three-shot bursts, full auto -- punching out quarter-size groups in targets I can barely see. They don't look like kids anymore. They look like Hollywood's idea of Marines; like the actors John Wayne "led" in "Sands of Iwo Jima." Now my thinking shifts to, "I wouldn't want to go up against these guys." And for a brief, very brief moment, I almost feel pity for the poor stupid thugs in Falluja who had dared tangle with the Marines, "You jerks haven't got a chance. Just call Dr. Kevorkian and get it over with."
We all have had our days when we rant and rail against America's youth. I have heard my father's voice emanating from my own mouth: hopeless, hedonistic, rock addled, etc. I take it all back. I don't know what the Corps does to those orange-haired kids I see hanging out in the malls when I go home to the States, but whatever it is, keep doing it.
The Europeans and their imitators in Ottawa, New York, Boston, and Hollywood, paint their faces white and prance around in the "theater of the street" calling for peace; they wave their oh-so clever "Bushitler" posters; and over their lattes, they decry the primitive "Red State" Americans. I know it's way too much to ask such smart and sophisticated people, but maybe they should take a moment to remember that it's these kids, these Marines from small-town America who put their own lives on the line to make all that noise and color of freedom possible. These kids, these Marines are the wall holding back the fascists of this century, and keeping the rest of us free.
Life isn't fair; the odds are not even. But I don't think these Marines would have it any other way.
Thursday, January 20, 2005
Happy Inauguration Day!
I get the latest word from my sources... Then it's a quick note to my editor, Kathryn Jean Lopez, at NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE.
She posts on THE CORNER:
MEANWHILE IN IRAQ [KJL]
W. Thomas Smith Jr. e-mails:
Guerrillas launched a series of "indirect fire" attacks on civilian population centers in-and-around Ramadi a few hours ago. Several rounds struck inside residential neighborhoods.
Casualties not yet known.
... no doubt trying to discourage Iraqis from doing on January 30th what so many Americans take for granted here.
Also, Kudos to Kathryn for posting real-time updates of the D.C. festivities at THE CORNER.
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Happy Birthday, Mom!
See a copy of it here.
(Oh, and special thanks to my ever-so talented friend and webmaster, Donna Bunting, for dropping whatever it was she was doing to create a page for the pic.)
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
NRO, PACOM, and Rikusentai
Much goings on, which is why my posting is not as frequent as it should be:
Friday, my latest piece in NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE began making the rounds: The story, Angels with Rotary Wings (special thanks to my friend, U.S. Navy Captain Louis “Lou” Colbus), focused on the unmatched rescue and relief efforts of the Navy in the wake of the tsunami disaster in Indonesia.
Within a few hours, the piece was republished by the U.S. PACIFIC COMMAND... more on that later.
Also, I want to bring everyone's attention to an interesting interview with the editor of NRO, Kathryn Jean Lopez (K-Lo, as she's affectionately referred to by some).
COLUMBIA JOURNALISM REVIEW asked Kathryn questions about best-and-worst reporters in the country, “liberal bias” in the media, and other things. See it here.
And finally, my 82-year-old Uncle Mac, Lt. Col. Heath L. “Mac” McMeans (USMCR, ret.), sent me one of his wonderful sea stories from the end of World War II.
Here 'tis, in Mac's own words:
by Lt. Col. Heath L. “Mac” McMeans
WE ARRIVED IN SEABO, JAPAN, as I recall - on or about Sept 21, 1945 - and anchored in the harbor late in the afternoon aboard an LST and did not land until daylight the next day.
There was a large seaplane ramp on the northeastern side of the harbor where all of the LST’s landed. I was one of the first ones to land and we formed a convoy of six-bys loaded with radio gear and started over the mountain. There was no road straight into Seabo.
I was leading the convoy, and with very scanty maps, took the only road leading out of the seaplane base, started to try to find Seabo.
We got to the top of the mountain and came to a fork in the road and did not know which way to go. There was a village and I spotted an old papa san and stopped to ask him the way.
By this time, there were many people gathered around the convoy. As best I could, I asked him the way to Seabo, and he pointed the way.
He then asked, if we were the U.S. Army.
I replied that we were U.S. Marines. The old man let out a scream you could hear all over the village and hollered, “Rikusentai!”
In two minutes there was not a sole in sight, and everybody [in the distance] was heard screaming the same thing, “Rikusentai!”
Did not know the meaning of this until later, talking to an interpreter and he explained: The Japanese people had been told all through the war of what low-life men U.S. Marines were. We were criminals taken out of prison. We were rapists and murderers and all sorts of the lowest kind of humans.
They, the Japanese, were just running to safety away from us.