Friday, June 11, 2004

Bosnian massacres admitted 


An official Bosnian Serb investigation into the Srebrenica events of July 1995 has found that several thousand Muslims were murdered by local Serb forces.

It is the first time the Bosnian Serb authorities have admitted the killings which The Hague war crimes tribunal has declared an act of genocide.

The Bosnian Serb commission reported "grave" violations of human rights and an attempt to conceal evidence.
Just a few hours ago, I finished reading The Key to My Neighbor's House: Seeking Justice in Bosnia and Rwanda, by Elizabeth Neuffer. Justice and true reconciliation are still yet to be realized in Bosnia, and it's difficult to say whether they will ever happen. Admissions like today's will help, however. What is really needed, I believe, is a truth and reconciliation process by which the truth, in all its ugliness, can come out. It just might be the only way for the victims of Bosnian ethnic hatred, and the perpetrators as well, to find some kind of catharsis. If everything is out in the open, perhaps then the trust can begin to return.

Today's report is a step in that direction.
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Thursday, June 10, 2004

UN Corruption 

Financial Times:

United Nations staff are dissatisfied with procedures to deal with corruption within the organisation and fear reprisals if they report offences, an internal UN report has found...

"According to the survey, staff generally perceive that breaches of integrity and ethical conduct are insufficiently and inequitably addressed by the disciplinary system," Mr Annan wrote. "At the same time, they voice concern about the consequences of "whistle-blowing" or reporting on misconduct, and uncertainty about the mechanisms for such reporting."

Another strong perception among staff, Mr Annan said, was that "integrity and ethical behaviour are not taken sufficiently into account in selection, promotion and assessment processes".
Gee, you don't say...

(Thanks to U.N. Wire)
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Undead advertising 

Whoa. I have been visited by the ghost of popups past. After clicking on a link to the Boston Herald website, I got a popup ad for none other than X10. I thought they had disappeared into popup oblivion, but I guess not. Their ad even got past my popup blocker--the first to do so in a long time. I hope they're not back on the cutting edge of popups. I got pretty sick of the "Amazing X10 Camera" the first time around.
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Military honors 

While discussing all of the solemn ceremony surrounding Ronald Reagan's passing, such as his flag-draped casket lying at his Presidential Library, and then being transported to Washington, where it now lies in state at the Capitol building, a friend asked me a question.

"How do they decide who in each branch of the military gets to participate in that whole process?"

I gave some vague answer about ceremonial units, composed of tall, fit, disciplined men and women whose sole job is to look sharp and perform crisply when called upon.

Then I found a better, more complete answer to my friend's question. The Washington Post has an article written by a man who used to be one of those ceremonial soldiers. It's a fascinating look into what it's like for those men in uniform you see standing at attention around Reagan's casket.

On a personal note, now that I've read this piece, I wish to retract every complaint I ever made about dress parades and uniform inspections at Annapolis, or about having to stand in one place for an hour last weekend at a retirement ceremony. I've had it easy.
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Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Not another Rwanda 

I've been meaning to comment on a post by Roger Simon for a couple of days, but I don't really have anything to add. So, "what he said." We can't let hundreds of thousands of people die when it could be relatively easy to change the course of things in Darfur.

The tragedy is that aggressive diplomatic pressure would have a good chance of working. In the past, Sudan's government has been pushed into expelling Osama bin Laden, negotiating with the southern rebels and signing a paper cease-fire in Darfur. The United States and its allies should press for a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding full and immediate humanitarian access. They should encourage Kofi Annan, the U.N. secretary general, to force the world's attention onto the crisis; a letter by Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) calling upon Mr. Annan to visit Darfur has attracted 45 signatures in Congress. And they should authorize the use of military escorts for emergency aid.

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Religion and politics 

Josh Marshall posted an excerpt from a Washington Post article about a Republican-sponsored provision "that would give religious leaders more freedom to engage in partisan politics without endangering the tax-exempt status of their churches."

Marshall doesn't explicitly state his position on this, but if I know him (and I've been reading him for quite a while), I will assume that he is against this provision.

Knowing only what the article says, I have to agree with him. Tax-exempt organizations should not be able to engage in partisan politics.

For that reason, I expect a harsh criticism of labor unions from Josh any day now...
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Shocking Abu Ghraib revelation 

NEWS FLASH: White House officials wanted Abu Ghraib intelligence!

The head of the interrogation center at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq told an Army investigator in February that he understood some of the information being collected from prisoners there had been requested by "White House staff," according to an account of his statement obtained by The Washington Post.
This is truly shocking stuff. What use could the White House possibly have for intelligence collected from Iraqi prisoners? Why would they want to know what militants and terrorists have to say? The mind boggles. Obviously, since they wanted the information, the White House officials are to blame for the abuses at Abu Ghraib. If they didn't want to know anything, then the abuses never would have happened.

Sarcasm off.

Seriously, why is this a story? It would be a much bigger deal if the head of the interrogation center "understood that the information being collected from prisoners was of no interest to anyone in the administration." Wouldn't it?
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I support two teams 

The United States and these plucky competitors who beat Taiwan 6-1 today.

Iraq has already qualified for the Summer Olympics in Athens, and the team stands a chance of going to the 2006 World Cup. They're near the top of their group and currently ranked #45 by FIFA.

The Iraqi people are proud of their team, and they should be! Go Iraq!
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Military journalism 

Joe Katzman at Winds of Change discusses "military blindness in the media," using a Chris Bray piece from Reason online as a jumping-off point.

Lack of basic military knowledge in the media has bugged me for a while. I have written about it before, but I can't remember if it was a blog post or a comment somewhere else, and I'm not going to dig around for it now. But suffice it to say that the amount of ignorance of basic military knowledge in the journalism field is staggering to someone in the military like myself.

From the journalist who is awed by the fact that Army Rangers carry machine guns and grenade launchers, to the Wall St. Journal colleague who asked if the Marines fought in WW2, Bray's article is worthy for its anecdotes alone.
It's sad that such things don't surprise me. Even Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough, who write almost exclusively on military matters, can be wrong, as they were about one day aboard USS NIMITZ that I experienced firsthand:

While Navy pilots are scoring bull's-eyes over Afghanistan, what was supposed to be a routine diplomatic and redeployment cruise for the carrier USS Nimitz turned into a day of mishaps on Oct. 10.

That morning, the huge ship barely missed a fishing boat. As the boat came out of the fog, the crew executed a quick turn that rattled everyone below deck. Later, while fixing a propeller, the carrier backed into a swell.

Then the carrier's C-2 COD (carrier onboard delivery) aircraft landed too far left, caught the restraining wire at a bad angle and stopped. Part of the COD hung over the flight deck. The passengers: 18 VIPs, among them Uruguay's defense minister, navy chief and congressional leader.
Some of the details in that story are wrong. In fairness, I witnessed none of these events firsthand. I was asleep when we missed the fishing boat and when we backed into the wave. I was in my office when the COD almost went overboard. As a member of the bridge watchstanding team, however, I had a couple of friends who were on the bridge when we missed the fishing boat and when we backed into the wave, and I talked to a number of people who witnessed the crash, including the Flight Deck Officer and a few guys who were in Pri-Fly (i.e. the tower).

I'll start with the fishing boat: It didn't come out of the fog. There was no fog. It was simply a small fishing boat many miles offshore at night with no lights. And with the relatively rough sea state, it blended in with the waves both visually and on radar. An eagle-eyed lookout probably saved some lives when he somehow spotted the boat in the dark sea. Okay, so this isn't a basic misunderstanding of the military, it's just a little detail.

The part about backing into a swell "while fixing a propeller" is a different matter. Each of the NIMITZ's four propellers is 21 feet in diameter and weighs 33 tons. Being propellers, they are underwater. You don't fix them at sea, you fix them in a drydock. Even if you could fix them at sea, you wouldn't do it in the middle of a dark, rough night. That Gertz and Scarborough assume that propellers can be fixed at sea indicates a severe lack of understanding of what exactly an aircraft carrier is all about. What happened is that we were running power plant and propulsion drills, and full astern propulsion + following sea + open door on the stern = angry people, when a wave ends up in their spaces.

Then there's the COD mishap. Gertz and Scarborough say the plane "landed too far left, caught the restraining wire at a bad angle and stopped."

Yes, it caught the wire at a bad angle. But it caught it way over to the right side of the landing area. (One guy I knew, manning a firefighting vehicle on the right side of the deck, ducked behind the vehicle just as the plane touched down.) When that happened, the wire, unspooling equally at both ends, snapped the plane to the left, where it came to rest. This isn't a lack of military knowledge either, it's just a bad grasp of physics. (And notice that the India Tribune called it an Air Force plane.)

Oh, and all three of those things did not happen in the same day--they spanned two days.

But regardless of what kind of errors were made in this one story, it taught me a valuable lesson: That the media (even generally pro-military guys like Gertz and Scarborough) get a lot of things wrong about the military.

I would say that more exposure to the everyday military is the solution to the media getting the story wrong, but Rowan Scarborough is a former Navy man himself.

But something certainly needs to be done. I see far too many news stories in which basic details are gotten wrong--details which could be fixed if the reporter took two minutes to check. They'll misidentify a rank on a uniform (or occasionally invent one that doesn't exist), or call an aircraft or vehicle by the wrong name, or try to look savvy by using militart teminology, and using it the wrong way.

More importantly, many just do not understand the basics of military life, of military discipline, of command structures, or of military capabilities and the strategies and tactics that guide the deployment of those capabilities.

I honestly don't know the cause, and I don't know the solution either. I just know there's a problem and that the American public is ill-served by journalists who don't understand what they're covering. The public doesn't know any more than the journalists do, so they take the stories at face value. And that's where the real problem begins.

QandO has more.
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Tuesday, June 08, 2004

The other allies 

It is very easy to look at the Iraq war and subsequent occupation as primarily American and British endeavors. Which they are, of course. But there are other countries in the coalition, and while the contingents might be smaller in number, their soldiers in Iraq face the same dangers and make the same sacrifices for the future of the country.

We in the United States must not forget those sacrifices.

Six soldiers have been killed while clearing mines in Iraq, a spokesman for the Polish army has said.

Three Slovaks, two Poles and one Latvian died, and several other soldiers were hurt.
These six Eastern European soldiers died while making Iraq a safer place for the Iraqi people.

The size of the Iraq coalition is rarely brought up in the public sphere. The only time the news media mentions the coalition is when a member nation such as Spain departs. When the administration talks about the size of the coalition, it is derided by the left as a coalition of the bribed. As a result, we don't hear nearly enough about the troops from over thirty countries whose sweat and blood are helping to rebuild Iraq--troops like the six who died today. To deride them as part of a coalition of the bribed is to dishonor their service and to devalue their sacrifice.
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