Monday, February 28, 2005


The Gates

Central Park's The Gates, which I found to be somewhat less-than-inspiring, will slowly begin to be dismantled today.
According to Campbell Robertson in THE NEW YORK TIMES:
"Art is long, and life is short, and city contracts are even shorter. The dismantling of the 7,500 gates was to start first thing today, and, [artist] Jeanne-Claude said, in keeping with her and [the other artist] Christo's agreement with the city, it all has to be gone by March 15. That schedule is fine with her. February was the only month the project would work, she said, when the trees are leafless and row upon row of color can be seen in every direction."
While strolling through Central Park, last week, I came upon a Gates-admiring 20-something-year-old woman, who in her best pretentious tone described the exhibit to her friend as "transitory."
A nearby New York cop then chuckled, "Yeah, it's transitory all right. They'll soon be transitioning those things right outta here."
And not too soon for my taste.
Don't get me wrong, I have a tremendous love of - and appreciation for - art. But at a distance, The Gates reminded me of orange construction-site markers. Up close, they reminded me of... well... great big orange construction-site markers made of fabric.
Maybe I just don't get it... or perhaps it's hard for a "Gamecock" to appreciate anything orange.
Oh well, I suppose I was fortunate to experience The Gates in the snow.
Meanwhile, another catastrophic insurgent attack has taken place in Iraq's notorious Triangle of Death, south of Baghdad. This time in the town of Al Hillah where a suicide car bomber blew himself up, killing at least 106 bystanders and wounding another 133 (the earliest numbers we have), most of whom were Iraqi police and national guard recruits.

Saturday, February 26, 2005


Back to work!

Just got back from New York where on Thursday I met with - among others - my agent Jimmy Vines, and lunched with Penguin Books editor Paul Dinas and Kensington editor Gary Goldstein at Do Wha, a wonderful little Korean restaurant in Greenwich Village near Paul's office. (Oh, and congrats to Gary who was to be inducted into the Friars Club, that evening).
Later... attended a marvelous, snowy evening soiree at the Manhattan home of Bill and Pat Buckley where there were lots of headlining NATIONAL REVIEW and NRO editors - including my boss, Kathryn Jean Lopez.
Also, stopped by to see my dear friend Brett Harvey and her lovely assistant, Zeleika Raboy, at the Times Square offices of the American Society of Journalists & Authors, toured The Gates in Central Park (which I could actually see from my 26th-floor tower room at The Wellington), and hit a few other art exhibits and many of the touristy destinations I hadn't managed to cover in previous visits to the City (e.g. The Carnegie Deli - on the recommendations of Columbians Erika Swerling and Temple Ligon - where the corned beef sandwiches are bigger than your head.). It was all great fun. Much more later.
In the meantime, it's back to work (and responding to five-zillion email messages)... so posting here may be limited.

Temple characteristically emails, "Officially,... I [Temple] am the 'distinguished food critic from central South Carolina.'"

Monday, February 21, 2005


"naming ships"

Just received another great e-letter and an anecdotal history lesson from my friend, Capt. Lou Colbus (U.S. Navy, retired). The letter is in response to a question I posed about procedures for the naming of ships in the wake (no pun intended) of the commissioning of USS JIMMY CARTER (SSN 23), the Navy's newest Seawolf-class attack submarine.
Lou's letter follows:

In my day, it was easy: Battleships were states; cruisers were cities; destroyers were heroes; carriers were battles; LSTs were counties; patrol craft were county seats; minesweepers were words indicating character traits; submarines were fish; etc.;etc.; etc. (Hymie Rickover is credited with changing subs names from fish to congressional leaders for his reasoning that fish don't vote.)
Today there is no such order.
There is a group/department/council in the Pentagon that accepts nominations for ships' names and obtains approval from the Secretary of the Navy.
I would have to imagine that living namesakes are consulted and it is such an honor that it is probably pro forma when President George H.W. Bush was well as Hymie Rickover...
My boss in the 1950s was RADM Edward Clarke Stephan who was our congressional liaison before we headed for Trinidad to inaugurate and commission COMSOLANT - Commander South Atlantic Force.
Admiral Stephan told me that as the Navy's Congressional Liaison Officer, it was his duty to escort "Uncle" Carl Vinson to the Navy's Fleet Review in 1957 - I was Admiral Stephan's Aide and Flag Lieutenant from '58 to '60 - which commemorated the Great White Fleet's sailing from Norfolk...
Both of these gentlemen were truly humble and low key. The admiral drove his Studebaker Golden Hawk from DC to Norfolk with "Uncle" Carl riding shotgun. It was in June, I believe, and the Studebaker was not air-conditioned; they left early in the morning, attended all the festivities, and drove back that evening.
As "Uncle" Carl got out of the Golden Hawk, he asked the admiral how often the Navy conducted these commemorations. Admiral Stephan answered that it occurred every 50 or 100 years.
"Uncle" Carl said that that seemed like an appropriate time-frame.
Now, why did I write all the above? Because I am thinking of USS CARL VINSON which was the first ship to be named for a living namesake - I believe.
Anyway, when I was in the shipbuilding programs in the late '60s and late '80s, I sat in meetings where names for new ships (DD-963s/FFG-7s/LHD-1s) were suggested by the Navy staffs/programs and submitted to the Secretary of the Navy.
I can give you actual departments and procedures if you need same.
By the way, clubs and interested, devoted groups may submit suggested names for ships to honor their hero/leader with the use of political clout and perseverance.
Take it on a slow bell,

MY NOTE: An interesting little piece on "naming ships" also can be found at


Hunter S. Thompson commits suicide

Author and "gonzo" journalist Hunter S. Thompson kills himself... just like Hemingway, with a gunshot to the head.
Tragic story here and here.

Sunday, February 20, 2005


U.S. intelligence czar not a new idea

Based on what I’m reading in the newspapers, hearing on radio call-in shows, and gleaning from the flood of email messages received over the past week; many Americans believe the naming of Ambassador John Negroponte to the post of Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden as deputy DNI is a brand new idea... or at least was conceived after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
As we all know, the DNI is responsible for overseeing the 15-member U.S. Intelligence Community. It’s a responsibility formerly held by the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (Director of Central Intelligence or DCI). But the idea of establishing the post of DNI - a so-called intelligence czar - is over three decades old.
So how about brief history lesson on the evolution of the intel czar idea?
An independent, non-CIA overseer for the intelligence community (IC) was first proposed in 1971 by then-Deputy Director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget James R. Schlesinger, who would become CIA director in 1973.
In December 1970, the idea began to germinate when President Nixon directed Schlesinger to examine how the organizational structure of the IC should be changed to bring about greater efficiency and effectiveness, short of legislation. The result was the 1971 “Schlesinger Report” (officially, A Review of the Intelligence Community), a 47-page critique of the IC, complete with recommendations for a basic reform of management that proposed the establishment of a DNI.
The report suggested that though there had been a marked increase in the size and expense of the IC over the years, there had also been an “apparent inability to achieve a commensurate improvement in the scope and overall quality of intelligence products.” Schlesinger noted that in many cases the IC was “unproductively” duplicating intelligence collection efforts, and that there was a failure at the planning level to coordinate the allocation of resources. He also cited the failure of policymakers to specify their needs to the producers of finished intelligence.
The report pointed to what Schlesinger saw as a lack of substantive, centralized leadership within the IC that could “consider the relationship between cost and output from a national perspective.” Schlesinger argued that this had resulted in a fragmented intelligence effort.
Schlesinger proposed the creation of a DNI position, thus freeing-up the DCI who would be responsible for reducing intelligence costs and increasing intelligence production and improving the quality of analysis.
Of course, the proposal was not successful.
In 1976, the post of a Director of General Intelligence (DGI) was proposed by former Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford. Slightly different than a DNI, Clifford’s DGI would have served both as the President's chief adviser on all intelligence matters and as a principal point of contact for the Congressional intelligence committees.
Then in 1985, CIA director Stansfield Turner proposed the creation of a DNI. According to Turner, “the two jobs, head of the CIA and head of the Intelligence Community, conflict. One person cannot do justice to both and fulfill the DCI's responsibilities to the President, the Congress, and the public as well.”
The idea was proposed again in 1992 as part of The Boren-McCurdy Initiative.
The initiative - launched by Senator David Boren, the chairman of The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Congressman Dave McCurdy, the chairman of The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence - consisted of two separate bills (proposed by both lawmakers) that differed slightly, but were similar in overall content. Had the initiative passed, the DNI would have had the authority to program and reprogram intelligence funds and direct their expenditure throughout the IC. The DNI would also have been responsible for tasking intelligence organizations and temporarily transferring personnel from one agency to another as new requirements dictated.
Of course, the idea of establishing a DNI post has been on the front burner in a variety of circles since September 11, 2001. And we now have a DNI and a deputy DNI.

" excellent reference source...engaging...practical...a useful addition to reference collections for all libraries."
--- American Reference Books Annual

"Smith's resource contains little known facts that will delight and entertain...tight, well-organized information presented in an easy-to-read format. Smith has compiled an exhaustive resource of CIA trivia that will answer some of the most obscure questions."
--- Florida Times-Union

"Engagingly written, the book is eminently readable and informative, not to mention fun to browse. It should draw the casual reader and researcher alike as a useful and convenient source of background information. As befitting a good reference title, little known facts will delight the curious...belongs in all libraries with strong current affairs collections."
--- Reference Reviews

Saturday, February 19, 2005


Bloody Iwo!

"throwing human flesh against reinforced concrete"

Sixty years ago today, U.S. Navy landing craft loaded with thousands of U.S. Marines began churning toward a tiny, eight-square-mile chunk of volcanic rock jutting out the Pacific Ocean. The island, Iwo Jima, was about to become the scene of a month long battle between U.S. forces and Iwo's Japanese defenders. It was a battle that some historians have since described as “throwing human flesh against reinforced concrete.” It would define the modern Marine Corps. President Franklin D. Roosevelt would gasp in horror upon learning of the American casualties (7,000 Americans were killed, another 26,000 wounded). And Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal would say to General Holland M. Smith, “The raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next 500 years.”
Following is an excerpt from the chapter on Iwo Jima in my book, Decisive 20th-Century American Battles:

... Hand-picked by Emperor Hirohito to command Japanese forces on Iwo Jima was Lt. General Tadamichi Kuribayashi, a 53-year-old Samurai warrior and a former Imperial Cavalry chief. Sworn to defend his island fortress to the death, Kuribayashi had posted his “Courageous Battle Vows” at every bunker and gun emplacement. The vows ordered each man to kill ten of the enemy before dying. “Each man should think of his defense position as his graveyard,” wrote Kuribayashi. “Fight until the last and inflict much damage to the enemy.”

Kuribayashi knew the invaders were coming and that the defenders would be outnumbered. But he wanted his men to be heartened by their sense of duty to their families, their homes, and their emperor. He appealed to his men to force their assailants to come to them and pay for every inch of ground with blood, regardless of their own imminent deaths. There was to be no surrender. The reasoning - though incomprehensible by Western standards - was simple: Iwo Jima was Japanese soil, and no foreign military force had stepped foot on Japanese soil in 5,000 years. That was about to change.

On February 16, the American Fifth Fleet under the command of Admiral Raymond Ames Spruance steamed into the area around the island. Many of the fleet’s ships were carrying members of the V Marine Amphibious Corps - consisting of the 4th and 5th Marine Divisions (with the 3rd Marine Division in reserve) - under the command of Major General Harry “the Dutchman” Schmidt, the senior shore commander. Schmidt’s division commanders - also major generals - were Keller E. “the Great Stone Face” Rockey of the 5th, Clifton Bledsoe Cates of the 4th, and Graves B. “the Big E” Erskine of the 3rd.

The overall “Expeditionary Troops” commander was Lt. General Holland M. “Howlin’ Mad” Smith, a hard-bitten Alabaman who had won the French Croix de Guerre for his actions at Belleau Wood during World War I. Smith was nick-named “Howlin’ Mad” because of his unforgiving approach to failure on the part of subordinates. He had, in fact, fired two subordinate U.S. Army Generals for lack of aggressiveness. Smith was also diabetic and, at 62, the oldest three-star in any of the services. But President Franklin Roosevelt arranged for Smith to be ranking Marine commander in the Pacific. Back home, the American newspapers were often critical of Smith, accusing the General of needlessly wasting lives. But Smith knew how to fight, his Marines adored him, and that was enough for FDR.

Prior to the landings, Iwo Jima was subjected to the longest sustained aerial bombardment of the Pacific war. It wasn’t as much as the Marines wanted or needed, but it was enough to turn the already eerie-looking atoll into something akin to a “lunar landscape.”

With the exception of it’s defending garrison, no one lived on Iwo Jima. Yet on the morning of February 19, it became one of the most densely populated places on Earth. It would also become the place with the lowest life expectancy.

Just before 2:00 a.m., Naval gunfire opened up on Iwo, pounding the island for one hour. The shelling stopped momentarily as over 100 bombers dove on the smoking atoll to deliver their preparatory payload. When the aircraft had finished their attack, the ships’ big guns again opened up. Surprisingly, neither the air bombardment nor the Naval gunfire had much of an effect on the island’s deeply burrowed underground fortresses or its 21,000 armed inhabitants. A fact that would prove costly to the leathernecks tasked with taking Iwo.

Offshore, Marines sweating it out in the holds of troop transport ships made final preparations: They checked their equipment, cleaned weapons, wrote required letters home, and nervously ate the traditional pre-invasion breakfast of steak and eggs.

At 8:30 a.m., the order was issued to begin ferrying the Marines ashore. Just after 9:00 a.m., the first waves were scrambling out of the landing craft and onto the island’s southeastern beaches. Initial opposition was minor. To the men hitting the beach, it seemed as if the preparatory fires had been effective. The immediate problem was terrain. Much of the ground was nothing more than rock, volcanic ash, and deep black sand: Difficult for infantry to move through - the Marines were sinking in up to their ankles - and often impassable for amphibious tractors, tanks, and other vehicles.

Deeply entrenched in a 16-mile labyrinth of tunnels and reinforced caves, Kuribayashi’s men waited. In previous battles, the Japanese had resorted to terrifying Banzai charges, suicidal attacks led by sword-wielding officers. But such “bamboo spear tactics” proved too costly. There were some suicidal Japanese counterattacks on Iwo Jima. But Kuribayashi's primary strategy was a defense-in-depth: Fortifying an area, then garrisoning each connected position point-to-point.

Once ashore, the Marines launched two attacks along a 4,000 yard front: The 5th moved against Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima’s dominant feature; and the 4th pressed toward the island’s largest air strip, located about a half mile inland.

The patient Japanese waited for the largest possible concentration of Marines to enter their previously sighted fields of fire. Then they opened up. According to one Marine, “you could've held up a cigarette and lit it on the stuff going by.”

Kuribayashi had predicted that the massive fires and subsequent high casualties would cause the Marines to lose heart. He misjudged his enemy.

Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone, already famous as the first Marine to win the Congressional Medal of Honor in World War II, single-handedly wiped out an enemy blockhouse then charged up the beach. Having recently returned from a stateside war bond tour where he was kissed by Hollywood starlets, he now found himself under fire and looking for a position where he could place a machine gun. Basilone turned to his men and urged them forward. At that instant, an enemy shell exploded killing Basilone and four other Marines.

“They waited until we got on the beach, then they unloaded on us,” said Corporal Robert W. Hughes, a Marine who landed in the second wave and was later carried off the island with two shattered legs. “The dead and wounded were everywhere. We were all scared, but we had a job to do and we did it.”

By early evening, Mt. Suribachi had been isolated from the rest of the island, and the Marines had reached the edge of the air strip which was quickly captured. But the price was high. The Americans suffered some 2,500 casualties on the first day.

Pilots and war correspondents flying above the battle reported “surprise” at what appeared to them to be thousands of Marines on one side of the island fighting against a solid wall of stone. It wasn’t an inaccurate description. Without cover, the Americans were exposed to constant fire and counterattack. Fighting yard by yard, were it not for the tenacity of the individual Marine, Iwo Jima might have proven to be impregnable.

The fighting was merciless: Marines were having to clear caves, tunnels, and blockhouses. Believing they had destroyed one position, the Marines would move to the next only to discover the previous position suddenly burst to life again behind them. In such close quarters, the combat was almost primal, often becoming hand-to-hand. Many Marines were hacked to death, one man losing both arms at the shoulder to a Samurai sword. ...

ORDER DECISIVE 20TH-CENTURY AMERICAN BATTLES TO READ THIS STORY IN ITS ENTIRETY. Also, for an account of one of the battle's most incredible warriors, read the story of Marine Lt. Jack Lummus - a 29-year-old New York Giants defensive lineman who was killed on Iwo - in Gridiron Heroes at NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE.

Semper Fi,

Thursday, February 17, 2005


British historian says, "God bless America"

An excellent piece in Forbes by renowned British historian Paul Johnson... The article, Why Millions Say, Softly, God Bless America, addresses the success of America's efforts in Iraq.
A portion of it reads:

"Just as the appalling 20th century was the age of the totalitarian state, the Gulag and Auschwitz, so the 21st may come to be seen as the age of government "of the people, by the people, for the people." If so, the U.S., by its courage and persistence, will be able to take primary credit. It has certainly led from the front, and it has shown that it knows how to use its position as the world's sole superpower with judgment, honor and unselfishness.

"I think Abraham Lincoln would be proud of what George W. Bush and the U.S. forces have done. After the freeing of the slaves, what more logical and benevolent step could there be than to free millions of Arabs from the slavery of terror? So I say, God Bless America. And I'm confident that countless millions throughout the world say so, too, even if they do not dare--yet--to say so aloud."

Best and "God bless America,"

Wednesday, February 16, 2005



by W. Thomas Smith Jr.

Their faces were an odd mix of happiness, sadness, and envy.
Happy for me, but sad and envious all the same.
They were losing a squad leader who had taken care of them as an older brother watches over his kid siblings. But these really were not kids. They and I were U.S. Marine infantrymen... “grunts,” as we often were called by our non-infantry counterparts in those days (“Grunt” being an affectionate term for Marine infantryman - a holdover term from the Vietnam War - ultimately hijacked by the ever-envious Army and applied to anyone who gets paid to slog through the mud with a rifle).
With only hours remaining in my four-year hitch as a grunt, I was packed and saying last “goodbyes” in the squad bay where we lived. Soon I would shoulder my seabag and cross one of many Camp Pendleton, California parade-decks toward a waiting taxi that would take me to the airport. There, I would board a plane for home and my new life as a civilian.
But not yet.
I was savoring my final moments as a rifle squad leader in one of the best platoons, of the best company, of the finest battalion in the most decorated regiment in the entire Marine Corps.
The members of my squad, on the other hand, were doing what Marines always do: packing gear, cleaning weapons, and bitching among themselves before shipping out once again. This time they would be “helicoptered-out” to the USS Belleau Wood, which was waiting somewhere off the California coast.
On this morning, I was a corporal. My charges - the so-called kids - were only lance corporals, privates-first-class, and privates; many of them so new their camouflaged utility uniforms had yet to take on that well-worn, faded, sun and seawater-bleached “salty” look mine had.
I was excited about going home, but I somehow felt guilty about leaving these young Marines to another corporal or sergeant... or worse, some boot lieutenant fresh from Quantico.
“I wish I was you today, Corporal Smith,” one of the tall, smiling, more-senior lance corporals said as he tightened the chin strap of his helmet, slipped his rifle-sling over his left shoulder and simultaneously shifted the heavy pack on his back. “But I’ll be there in another 22 months, five days and a wake-up.”
I approached him, reached around, and helped re-adjust his pack.
“I know, man, time’ll pass before you know it,” I said.
I had led these young Marines, trained them, ate, drank, slept, laughed, joked, played ball, ran, pumped iron, shared stories about girls, sweated in the heat, shivered in the cold, paddled in the surf until our backs ached, humped over mountains and through jungles, faced countless dangers, gone a-whoring with, and sailed with to the far ends of the earth.
They would forever be my little brothers.
But in the subsequent months and years when I would begin that gradual devolution back into what we called “a slimy civilian,” they themselves would grow up and become corporals. They would become big brothers to others who themselves would become corporals,
Those corporals would then lead other Marines who would become corporals,
who would lead others who would become corporals,
who would lead others who would become corporals,
who would lead others who would become corporals,
who would lead others who would become corporals,
who today are leading young Marines - who weren’t even born when I was a corporal - down dangerous streets and alleyways in places with names like Fallujah, Ramadi, and the Triangle of Death.
And I think about that every night before I close my eyes.

WTSjr as a Marine infantry leader

© 2005 W. Thomas Smith Jr.


Tuesday, February 15, 2005


Standing-up the new Iraqi Highway Patrol

Today's piece, The World's Deadliest Highways, in NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE addresses the development obstacles, the recent successes, and the future of the fledgling Iraqi Highway Patrol.


"Oh, my word!"

This piece in THE INDIANAPOLIS STAR addresses the disturbing (to me, personally) reality that "as reading declines, weird errors creep into written English."
See it here.

Monday, February 14, 2005


the promotion

Dr. James S. Robbins, a national security analyst and contributing editor for NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE, shares an anecdote from a weekend visit to wounded troops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
Robbins' words posted at NRO's THE CORNER:

"... One of the wounded Marines was in ICU, and was still feeling the effects of the anesthesia, having just come from surgery. A Lieutenant General stopped by to see how he was.
'How are you doing, Lance Corporal?' he said.
'Lance Corporal my a**,' the semi-conscious Marine said. 'I have enough time in to be a Corporal by now.' The 3-star nodded, went off and made a phone call. Within the hour the young Marine had his corporal's stripes."

Semper Fi,


Happy Valentine's Day

A brief history of Valentine's Day can be seen here.


working with writers

I've been invited to serve as a panelist during a regional conference - April 8-9, 2005 - of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) in Charleston, South Carolina. SPJ is a great organization, and I'm always looking for a reason to visit what we Carolinians refer to as "the Holy City."
Then there's Breaking into National Print, which I will teach during Maymester (May 9-27, 2005) at the University of South Carolina's School of Journalism and Mass Communications (currently serving on the adjunct faculty there).
And finally, I'll be teaching Nonfiction Writing during the Southeastern Writers Association Annual Conference at beautiful St. Simons Island, Georgia. That's slated for June 19-24, 2005.
Details on all, closer to the dates.

Saturday, February 12, 2005


"a few good men"

Click the link to see a cool photograph (pic, poster, whatever) of the Al Hillah SWAT (special weapons and tactics) Team, currently operating south of Baghdad in Iraq's notorious "triangle of death."
The team - an all Iraqi special operations unit that specializes in direct action ops and raids on guerrilla strongholds - was trained by a U.S. Marine Force Recon Platoon under the command of Capt. Thomas "Tad" Douglas. We've written a number of pieces about the team (e.g. In their own hands) for NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE, and we've chatted several times with Douglas, who was also a key player in the dramatic rescue of Army private Jessica Lynch back in 2003.
Anyway, Capt. David Nevers of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit sent me the pic (designed as a recruiting poster for young Iraqi men with dreams of living the life of a commando) months ago. I sent it to my buddy and fellow South Carolinian, Jeff Quinton, who posted it on his site and a few others.
As I understand it, we were the first in the states with the pic... and I'm sure we were the first to publish it.
It's now framed and hanging in my office... and I must say, makes quite a conversation piece.
Semper Fi,

Friday, February 11, 2005


"America's greatest living playwright"

Arthur Miller, best known for "Death of a Salesman" and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, has died.


educating our allies

The Canadian Forces College (formerly the Royal Canadian Armed Forces Staff College) posts our latest piece on Iraq on Wednesday's "International Commentary" list.
A few of our other pieces have in the past been included among the CFC's recommended reading for career Canadian military officers.


hat trick

The foreword writers to three of our four books have been quoted in three different publications regarding three different foreign policy issues, since Monday.
For the past several days, Dr. Ken Quinones – who wrote the foreword to my latest book, Alpha Bravo Delta Guide to the Korean Conflict – has been widely quoted in numerous national newspapers regarding North Korea's boasting of its alleged nuclear weapons possession. According to this morning's TUCSON CITIZEN, "Kenneth Quinones, a former State Department official and expert on North Korea, said the North Koreans are 'upping the ante' to show displeasure with recent statements by President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the news leak of a U.S. complaint about North Korea's reported sale of slightly processed uranium to Libya."
Then on Tuesday, Brigadier General David L. Grange – a CNN military analyst who wrote the foreword to my Alpha Bravo Delta Guide to Decisive 20th-Century American Battles – was referenced as follows at "The U.S. almost certainly has some plan to attack Iran, although it may be a last resort, retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. David Grange, a CNN analyst, told CNN's American Morning on Tuesday. 'There's always plans being produced on any type of threat that we perceive this nation to have,' Grange said. 'You can assume there's plans to attack Iran at different levels of intensity, such as airstrikes or missile attacks.' However, even if Iran's nuclear program is disabled, the country's knowledge and capability is ultimately the long-term threat, he said. Iran has said it will retaliate if attacked. That retaliation could take the form of ballistic missile attacks on U.S. allies such as Israel or terrorist activities, Grange said."
And of course, on Monday, Col. Jeff Bearor – who wrote the foreword to my Alpha Bravo Delta Guide to American Airborne Forces – was quoted extensively by moi in our latest piece on Iraq at NRO.
Thanks gents... Your public commentary continues to sell books.
Semper Fi,

Thursday, February 10, 2005


from the mean streets of Ramadi

This just in - published unedited, exactly as it was received - from 1st Marine Division (my old division) HQ near Fallujah, less than two minutes ago:

U.S. soldiers foil insurgent’s attempt
to force child into taking hand grenade

CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, Iraq - U.S. soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, foiled an attempt by an insurgent to coerce a child into accepting a hand grenade at approximately 1 p.m. in Ramadi today.
The soldiers, currently assigned to the 1st Marine Division of the I Marine Expeditionary Force, were conducting a patrol in the northeastern sector of the city when they observed a blue 4-door sedan with three military-aged males pull up near their position.
The driver exited the vehicle and approached a child, estimated to be 10-years-old. The two exchanged words and the adult gave the child a hand grenade. The child and the adult exchanged possession of the hand grenade several times.
The grenade was dropped after U.S. soldiers fired a warning shot in the direction of the insurgent. The child ran away as the adult returned fire with a handgun.
The adult then jumped into his vehicle and attempted to flee the scene. The patrol fired disabling shots into the vehicle to prevent the insurgents from escaping. A brief firefight ensued, which resulted in one insurgent being killed and two insurgents being wounded.
The patrol evacuated the two wounded insurgents to the medical facility at their forward operating base. The unit recovered the grenade from the scene, but was unable to locate the child.
There were no U.S. casualties.
'The incident demonstrates the ruthless disregard that the insurgency has for the citizens of Iraq,' said Marine Maj. Phill Bragg, information operations officer, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force.

MY NOTE: OK, so the terrorists and their masters criticize us and our culture, arguing that we are decadent, uncivilized, and lacking in all of the postives associated with chivalry, codes of honor, etc., because in our world women hold military titles, carry guns, drive backhoes, fly jets, and oversee multinational corporations.
But THEY (the bad guys) have no problem targeting women and children. They avoid pitched battles with armed men. And they coerce or manipulate children into doing their dirty work.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005


captain's comments

Captain Louis "Lou" Colbus (U.S. Navy, retired) emails me with comments he received from fellow Captain David Eugene "Gene" Mosman.
In Lou's words, Capt. Gene Mosman is "one of the most profound thinkers and thorough researchers I know. Very well read and most articulate, he has written some of the best articles on today's military. He is my shipmate and family friend who has taught me so much about ships, sailors, and today's programs and policies."
Capt. Mosman writes:

Great article by your friend.
Although not as eloquent as W. Thomas Smith Jr, his point below* was what I was addressing back on January 21 in a letter** to the editors of the RICHMOND TIMES DISPATCH in which I ridiculed [U.S. Senator Joseph R.] Biden's inane comments RE: [Defense Secretary Donald H.] Rumsfield and the Iraqi Army standup - comments Biden had expressed during [Secretary of State Condoleeza] Rice's confirmation hearings. I find myself in very good company on the point. And hope the new Iraqi Army, at least in one respect, will not find themselves like ourselves from time-to-time (see Petronius Arbiter*** below).

With great esteem,


* "This doesn't even begin to address the years of training and experience it takes to develop seasoned captains, majors, and lieutenant colonels, even more so, full-bird colonels and generals. Fact is, it would take years - perhaps decades - to build a ground combat force like the U.S. Army or Marines."
-- W. Thomas Smith, Jr. (NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE, February 7, 2005)

** Letter to the Editor of the RICHMOND TIMES DISPATCH, January 21, 2005
General Joe" Biden has spoken - highly critically so. 'The US Secretary of Defense is an idiot.' Why? Because a viable Iraqi fighting army has not been reconstituted as fast as General Joe thinks possible.
Let then a hypothetical problem be posed to General Joe so that the citizens may ascertain for themselves - by his answers - his fitness for greater responsibilities.
The problem: All U.S. Armed Forces commissioned officers and all senior non-commissioned officers simultaneously resign. It is now up to General Joe to rebuild a new U.S. Armed Force capable of defending the U.S. from 9/11-type terrorists and other traditional military threats.
The question: How much time will General Joe need to find, recruit, educate, and train (ready for combat) his new forces - paying close attention of course to his new military leaders, i.e., the new officer corp and senior non-commmissioned officers?
-- D.E. Mosman

*** "We trained hard, but it seemed that everytime we were beginning to form up into teams, we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralization." -- Petronius Arbiter (210 B.C.)

MY NOTE: Though I see where Capt. Mosman has commented on occasion in the WALL STREET JOURNAL, I'm not sure if his letter (above) was actually published in the RTD... Lets hope so. It's a good one. If not, well, it certainly got ink here :-)
Also, there is a centuries-old controversy about whether or not Petronius actually did say that (see above), but it is indeed applicable to much of what we are witnessing today.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Just learned that has again re-published our latest NRO piece. It's the fourth time they've done so... third time in less than two weeks.

Monday, February 07, 2005


Congrats to the Pats

Congratulations to the New England Patriots - Super Bowl XXXIX Champions.

Also, today's piece, Building the Iraq Army, in NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE refutes Senator Ted Kennedy's suggestion that it takes only 13 weeks to build an army.

Friday, February 04, 2005


Regarding General Mattis (see yesterday’s post)

My friend, author and nationally acclaimed poet Kay Day, emails me:

“Any person who thinks a Marine can survive without a preference for brawling has a reduced IQ. I'm glad he likes shooting those creeps. And I hope he got a lot of them. What do you suppose those ‘insurgents’ and ‘holy warriors’ say about killing us? I am so sick of the damned media second-guessing the troops that keep freedom intact so the damned media can whine about a Marine who's doing his job and being honest about it.”

Then a reader emails Jonah Goldberg, on NRO’s THE CORNER, and says,

“My son is a US Marine, 1st Marine Div. He is a LCpl and as such has no use for officers, or anybody in the Army, Navy or Air Force unless they are flying air cover for his guys. That said, he told me, since the Mattis remarks, they would happily ‘...follow that guy into hell.’ God bless Gen Mattis! We need more like him. (Got that Wes Clark?)”

My sentiments exactly.


Teddy K on Decatur

Senator Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy said, yesterday (and it’s posted on his website), “Stephen Decatur famously said, ‘My country, right our wrong.’ But others through the years have said it better - ‘our country right or wrong. When right, to be kept right. When wrong, to be set right.’”
For the record, Decatur said, in a toast to the nation, “Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but our country right or wrong.”
If there is a more noble utterance than that, I’ve yet to hear it.
I also find it somehow absurd that Decatur - one of my boyhood heroes, the best-known combat commander of the Barbary wars, and one-time captain of the USS INTREPID - could have his words improved upon by the captain of the USS OLDSMOBILE.

Thursday, February 03, 2005


flipping off Zarqawi

If you guys do NOTHING ELSE before lunchtime, today, read columnist Kathleen Parker's piece, Flipping the finger for freedom. It's eloquent, inspiring, and right on target (though I'm a day late reading the piece and posting the link).
According to Kathleen, "To the extent that Iraqis took control of their own lives for even a single day - inhaling freedom and giving hope to others still choked in the grip of tyranny - we have a right to grin."
Oh, and regarding Ms. Pelosi and other hopeful-defeatists who say that Iraq has become a "magnet" for terrorists from around the world, I am reminded of U.S. Marine Brigadier General John Kelly's words.
During the 2003 invasion when intelligence indicated that foreign troops were coming to the aid of Iraqi diehards, Kelly stated, "We want all Jihad fighters to come here. That way we can kill them all before they get bus tickets to New York City."
Quoted in my piece,
Return of the Marines, at NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE.


"Marine General counseled for comments"

Ya know, I'm really not sure how to take this, or how to respond when asked about it.
Fact is, I kinda have to laugh, because I heard it all - and soooooo much worse - when I was a young leatherneck 20-plus years ago, but let's face it, THIS guy is a high-profile three-star general and it is the 21st Century.
Still, Gen. Mattis is one of the finest division-level combat commanders in the world, today.
Let's just say his comments will - in some small way - add to the mystique of our Marine Corps.
Oh, I'm talking about the following AP wire story:

WASHINGTON [Feb. 3, 2005, Associated Press] - The commandant of the Marine Corps said Thursday he has counseled a senior subordinate for saying publicly, "It's fun to shoot some people."
Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis, an infantry officer who has commanded Marines in both Afghanistan and Iraq, made the comments Tuesday while speaking to a forum in San Diego about strategies for the war on terror. Mattis is the commanding general of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command in Quantico, Va.
According to an audio recording of Mattis' remarks, he said, "Actually, it's a lot of fun to fight. You know, it's a hell of a hoot. ... It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right upfront with you, I like brawling."
He added, "You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil," Mattis continued. "You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."
Thursday, Gen. Mike Hagee, commandant of the Marine Corps, issued a statement saying, "I have counseled him concerning his remarks and he agrees he should have chosen his words more carefully."
"While I understand that some people may take issue with the comments made by him, I also know he intended to reflect the unfortunate and harsh realities of war," Hagee said. "Lt. Gen. Mattis often speaks with a great deal of candor."
Hagee also praised Mattis, calling him "one of this country's bravest and most experienced military leaders."
He said the commitment of Marines "helps to provide us the fortitude to take the lives of those who oppress others or threaten this nation's security. This is not something we relish, yet we accept it as a reality in our profession of arms."
He said he was confident Mattis would continue to serve.
According to Mattis' biography, he commanded, as a lieutenant colonel, an assault battalion during the first war with Iraq. During the war in Afghanistan, he commanded the 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade; in the second war in Iraq, he commanded the 1st Marine Division during the invasion and early period after the war.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005


"Loose Canon"

Columnist Charlotte Hays quotes a portion of our latest NRO piece on the Iraqi elections in her beliefnet column, Loose Canon.
Here ' tis...
"'The Iraqi people did not just participate in national elections on Sunday. They humbled people the world over, and won for themselves both another step toward democracy and a newfound reputation as being among history's bravest of the brave,' writes former Marine [W.] Thomas Smith [Jr.] in National Review."
Yep, I did say that.
See Charlotte's entire piece here under "History's Brave Ones" (Once there, scroll down to Jan. 31). Also, check out some of her other pieces... I'm sure, like me, you'll quickly become a Loose Canon regular.


State of the Union

The President's State of the Union speech - Excellent coverage at C-SPAN, includes video of tonight's speech, video and transcripts of previous SOTU speeches, links to SOTU archives, and much more.


going purple

Author, columnist, talk-show host, and Jennifer Graham's husband; Michael Graham, beat me to the purple punch. [As an expression of our solidarity with the Iraqi people, whose purple-ink stained index fingers after voting in national elections became a badge of honor and a symbol of defiance, was published for several days in purple].

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Again, our latest NRO piece is re-published at
On another front, my sources in the Sunni Triangle are reporting that TWICE in the last few hours, civilians in Fallujah have come forward with leads about insurgent activity in the city.
In the first instance, Iraqi soldiers responded and captured four guerrillas, a bunch of hand grenades, some RPGs, and a suicide belt.
In the second instance, U.S. Marines responded and uncovered a bunch of artillery rounds and some det. cord.
I suppose it's too soon for this story to have hit the wires (or perhaps it won't)... but it's a perfect example of increasing cooperation between locals, Iraqi security, and U.S. forces in one of Iraq's most volatile Sunni areas.

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