March 30, 2006

Predator gets 3

Mar. 30 - The Predator silently watched while three wannabes planted a homemade bomb near Balad Air Base in Iraq and then let them have it:

The Predator monitored the three terrorists for about a half hour while they used a pick ax to dig a hole in the road, placed an explosive round in the hole, and strung wires from the hole to a ditch on the side of the road. When it was clear the individuals were placing a bomb, the Predator launched the 100-pound Hellfire missile, killing all three insurgents.
The article also notes the weapons piles that have been located by tips from civilians. I call them patriots.

This has been a growing trend and further evidence of the growing sense of responsibility Iraqis feel for what happens there, and I find it so thrilling to watch as Iraqis assume more and more control over their country. The base assumption of the war in Iraq was our belief that their capabilities would render our presence unnecessary once the clean-up was done, and the continued line-ups for both the police forces and the military -- despite the attacks on the aspirants -- argue that this willinginess to take responsibility for themselves is neither a figment of anyone's imagination nor political spin but a real manifestation of energy and optimism.

Three years in and there's a lot more to do, but it's worth it. Indeed it is.

Posted by Debbye at 11:45 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

And yet another attack

Mar. 30 - A joint Romanian-Canadian convey was attacked this morning and a Canadian soldier wounded in suicide attack in Kandahar as were six Afghan civilians.

Posted by Debbye at 11:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pte. Robert Costall, KIA

Mar. 30 - The opening sentence says it all:

[Pte. Robert Costall, 22, of Thunder Bay is] Canada's first soldier to die in combat in Afghanistan ...
One American soldier and eight Afghan soldiers were also killed. And some 32 of the enemy were killed.

Although there has been a Canadian presence in Afghanistan since 2002, the mission has been grossly underplayed by the government and the news media. It's been all "wave and smile" and tea-time, and there has been this general illusion that Canadian soldiers are peacekeepers who don't kill even when though they are killed. Sure, they return fire and try to find whoever is lobbing mortars at them, but they don't catch them so it's okay. That's the myth, anyway, and it is one that has been earnestly portrayed by far too many journalists who are also so naive as to reveal in which section of the camp the mortars landed. But it's all out in the open now: the Canadian Forces are truly an army, capable of taking and inflicting losses.

When we engage the enemy we take casualties. Every thinking person (who is not a member of the news media) knows that basic truth, and those of us who are honest want our soldiers to prevail. A soldier's death must be a meaningful one because he has made the ultimate sacrifice in our names.

March 29, 2006 Coalition forces killed 32 insurgents and destroyed two Taliban headquarters buildings in Afghanistan's Helmand province today, officials at Bagram Air Base said. The early-morning engagement continued into daylight hours as coalition forces defeated a large enemy element that was attempting to retreat into sanctuaries.

Coalition forces also discovered large caches of munitions as they overran the Taliban compound and the enemy fled. Coalition forces destroyed the munitions, which included weapons and bomb-making materials, causing multiple secondary explosions and destroying the compound and all enemy military equipment inside.

There has been an escalation in attacks on Canadian soldiers and on the base since they moved to Khandahar. Although the previous government had warned that it would be more dangerous they really didn't make it clear that there would be fighting, i.e., that Canadians would fight back.

I don't know how the Canadian public will react to all this but I suspect most soldiers would, given the chance, prefer to die fighting than from being sucker punched by IEDs or homicide bombers. Soldiers are not victims but fighters, and their willingness to fight is what allows us to natter and nit-pick and whine and opine without worrying about who might be taking names or a knock on the door in the middle of the night. (Joe Warmington has a good column on this and contrasts the homecomings of Pvt. Costall and James Loney.)

I don't know how the Canadian public will react to the fact that Canadian soldiers fought valiantly and inflicted casualties but I suspect that many -- if not most -- will be heartened if not downright joyful.

I shudder to think of how the political opportunists and media will manipulate this in days to come but this day Canadians can feel proud and grateful that this country still produces men and women made of that stern stuff from which heroes spring.

There can be no finer tribute:

More than 2,500 troops -- Canadian, American, British, Australian, Dutch and Romanian -- lined the tarmac for the solemn ramp ceremony. Eight soldiers carried the casket to the aircraft. The lament of a lone piper drifted across the desert.
Rest in peace, Private Costall. Your country -- and ours -- salute you.

Posted by Debbye at 09:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Too interesting at work!

Mar. 30 - Sorry for the silence; my attention has been focused on some extremely interesting developments at the workplace -- the one subject that this blog does not address -- and as I tend to write (at length) on my thoughts I've been unable to focus sufficiently to compose anything worthwhile until it's stale.

There was another factor as well, namely the Dubai port management fiasco which gave public expression to the one sentiment that I feared most after Sept. 11: that our identification of the enemy would irrationally grow to include those who are oppressed by our enemy.

Those of us who advocate war must remember that war is a means to peace -- but not the false peace that is achieved with cowardly appeasement -- and therefore we must pursue a strategy that solidifies allies and isolates those who support our enemies. We failed.

Furthermore, if it's really "all about the oil" the U.A.E. is out of the equation. Is that why Democrats and Republicans found them dispensable but aren't outraged over this? It's enough to make one drink (or eat chocolate!)

One of the catchwords of this post-Sept. 11 era is despair. I guess anyone who is interested in politics can rightly feel despair at the rank opportunism which dominates, at minimum, Canadian and American politics. But I'll never again use the expression "rock-bottom" again after opposition parties up here managed to set a new low by calling for a debate on Canada's role in Afghanistan -- as though they hadn't already had the opportunity to do so.

The twins turn 23 today. Good heavens, they're going to be adults soon ...

Posted by Debbye at 06:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 02, 2006

You are embarassing the angels

Mar. 2 - Very interesting column by Peggy Noonan in today's Opinion Journal.

We don't talk about such sensibilities much these days but maybe we should start.

Posted by Debbye at 07:00 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

March 01, 2006

Congo and Chad

Mar. 1 - Two news items with one striking similarity: U.N. troops in 'heavy fighting' with Congo militia and U.N.: Chadians flee to Sudan's Darfur.

The striking similarity can be dispensed with in a few words: colossal U.N. failure. The fighting in Congo ended nearly 3 years of inaction and was begun in preparation for June polls. That means they've given themselves 3 months to restore order in a section of the country that is most noted for its disorder and does nothing about the disorder in the rest of the country and, in short, it seems more like a public relations endeavour than a serious attempt to end the fighting permanently:

Thousands of Congo government soldiers and hundreds of U.N. peacekeepers battled ethnic militia fighters on Tuesday for control of an eastern town, killing some government troops, the United Nations said.

U.N. peacekeepers backed up by helicopter gunships and mortar fire fought alongside the national army to retake control of Tchei, 60 kilometers (37 miles) southwest of Bunia in Ituri district, where militia violence has killed 60,000 people since 1999.

[...]

Long accused of doing little to stop fighting in Congo despite peace deals that officially ended a five-year war in 2003, the U.N. has adopted a more robust approach in recent months, aiming to cut militia activity ahead of polls starting in June.

"There are quite a few Congolese soldiers wounded and a few have died," Reichen said, adding that one U.N. soldier had also been hurt though not by enemy fire.

[...]

Peacekeepers and Congolese government troops are trying to end chronic violence by a range of different local and foreign armed groups left behind after years of warfare that has killed an estimated 4 million people since 1998, mainly through war-related hunger and disease.

Ituri has seen some of the worst militia violence.

The militia involved in Tuesday's fighting was formed last year from the remnants of rival Hema and Lendu ethnic groups.

Experts say they have resisted disarmament and rejected any form of government or U.N. authority in Ituri to protect their economic interests, which include some mining activities as well as the ability to raise taxes from local civilian populations.

I'm crossing my fingers and assuming that it is the government that is trying to raise taxes and not the U.N., but that may be naive.

The fact that no U.N. peacekeepers were harmed in the fighting is not necessarily a wise thing in a conflict in which the combatants respect manly men. As we Americans have learned to our sorrow, discretion can be confused with appearing weak and no one respects an armed force that seems obsessively fearful of casualties; perceptions as those serve to embolden the enemy, which for some reason doesn't respect those who appear to run away because of or in order to avoid their own bloodshed. (It's not a far stretch to believe that the insurgency in Iraq sustains itself by drawing on the experience of past U.S. withdrawals once blood was shed. We -- or rather the members of our military and support personnel -- are paying for those past mistakes today.)

Furthermore, offering support while staying way behind the battle lines is bound to look cowardly as well as hypocritical. Real allies stand shoulder to shoulder literally as well as figuratively.

The second item is more alarming in that it is a new development of an already bad situation:

Fighting between soldiers and rebels in eastern Chad is sending civilians fleeing into Sudan's Darfur, site of one of the world's bloodiest conflicts over the past three years, the U.N. refugee agency said Tuesday.

Human rights groups have said Chadians are also targeted by cross-border attacks by Sudanese militia. The refugees fleeing the fighting in Chad is "further evidence of the spreading insecurity that now straddles this increasingly insecure region," UNHCR spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis said.

Most of the Chadians in Sudan are women and children.

Chad hosts about 300,000 refugees who fled the conflict between rebels and Sudanese government forces and militias in Darfur. Sudan has accused Chad of harboring Darfur rebels, who have tribal ties across the border, while Chad has said Sudan backs Chadian insurgents.

Read the whole thing. The complicated tribal associations defy geographical boundaries and maybe, if the international community had any real guts, they'd shred the old boundaries and encourage countries to form on the basis of shared heritages, languages and ethnicity. (Please note the maybe. It's just a thought but it may be more workable than trying to scold the combatants into nationalist sentiments.)

The article notes that the African Union passed over Sudan for rotating chair at their January meeting due to their "concerns over Darfur, Sudan's relations with Chad and its human rights record" which, as things stand, is probably the strongest measure initiated against Sudan by any group over these past few years.

In truth, I doubt the U.N. can resolve the problems of these two countries precisely because it lacks resolve (unless it comes to censuring Israel. Then they're all action.)

Posted by Debbye at 07:56 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Yay!

Mar. 1 - George and Laura Bush Makes Surprise Visit to Afghanistan.

(Do you suppose that, back in D.C., the White House press corp. sulked?)

Posted by Debbye at 07:15 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack