Year End Loose Ends: Somalia

Somalia seems to confirm that Iraq is the model for warfare of the future.

I’ve been watching events in Somalia through the year. Previously, we saw that the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) had taken over much of the country and surrounded the internationally recognized Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Baidoa, and there was a long seige. Neighboring Ethiopia, no fan of Islamists, donated troops to provide protection for the TFG.

In the last couple of weeks, Ethiopia launched an attack and pushed the ICU into full retreat; they’ve abandoned Mogadishu. At first glance, you might think it’s cause for celebration that the TFG-supported Ethiopian army is routing the al Qaeda-supported ICU militia on the battlefield. Unfortunately, I think it’s just the beginning of a(nother) long period of violence and instability in Somalia.

Clearly, the ICU never intended to fight a traditional war for control of Somalia. If they did, they must be the worst tacticians in military history to have failed so badly in two weeks’ time. They must have planned all along to dissolve into the population and fight a guerilla insurgency, just like events have unfolded in Iraq and Afghanistan. From an objective standpoint, their leaders probably knew it was the only way they could have any hope of defeating Ethiopia’s superior military. (The word “defeat” being used very loosely here, of course.)

Unfortunately, just like in Iraq and Afghanistan, it will take the ICU years and years, perhaps even generations and generations, to “win” a guerilla war. And it all but guarantees that the innocent civilian population of Somalia will not live in any kind of peace for the forseeable future. Way to go, Islamic militants. Way to stick up for the little guy again.

Here’s something I don’t understand about the citizens of Mogadishu: Apparently they have a tendancy to turn into violent looting pyromaniacs whenever someone isn’t there to watch over them. Maybe it’s all that khaf they chew. The outgoing ICU says they left the city in “chaos,” and the incoming Ethiopians say they “won’t let Mogadishu burn.” If that’s the type of people who live in that city, maybe a long period of instability is what they actually want. Perhaps the government should just put a big wall around the city and call it a jail, sort of like Escape From New York.

Thomas Krehbiel writes The Krehbiel Strikes Back, a generally centrist commentary on news, media, politics, and culture.

Year End Loose Ends: Haditha

I’ve been meaning to write about this for some time, since it was a story I was following with some interest throughout the year. I read recently that four Marines involved in the alleged killing of 24 civilians at Haditha are now being charged with murder.

I’ve waffled a lot on this one. Initially I thought they were guilty, then I thought they weren’t. Now it appears there’s at least enough evidence to try them.

But unlike that other case of Marines planning and raping and burning that 14-year-old Iraqi girl, who I have no doubt are guilty and I enthusiastically support publicly executing them with rusty fish hooks, the case of the Haditha Marines leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Mainly because the news reports have not yet convinced me of their clear-cut guilt. I haven’t seen any “smoking guns” (they haven’t even exhumed the victims’ bodies), which suggests this is probably a borderline case that barely crept over into the area of criminality. They may have killed people they knew were unarmed civilians, but I suspect the circumstances were such that it can’t be lumped into the categories of “revenge killing” or “cold-blooded murder.” I’m sure bullets were flying all over the place, one of their buddies had just been blown up, and they were probably confused as hell about who the good guys were and who the bad guys were. Maybe it was just a simple matter of survival instincts taking over and they erred on the side of caution. Who wouldn’t? I guess I’m saying I’m still giving them the benefit of the doubt; unless something else comes to light, I think they did the best they could in a bad, bad situation.

I’m not saying they shouldn’t be punished. In fact, punishment might be in America’s best political interests, to help smooth over any bad blood between us and the people of Haditha. But I don’t feel like these particular Marines are inherently bad people.

Thomas Krehbiel writes The Krehbiel Strikes Back, a generally centrist commentary on news, media, politics, and culture.

On Riverbend

Alice and Mrs. Krehbiel both took me to task for criticizing Iraqi blogger Riverbend, so I went and read over some of her blog today. I have to somewhat shamefully admit that I haven’t read her work in a while.

My conclusion is that Riverbend is a skilled, articulate, and evocative writer. I don’t dispute that at all. And I don’t dispute that she lives in a bad area of the world under a huge amount of stress. But I stand by my earlier statement. Surely anyone can see, even from a cursory review of her blog, that her stories would generally appeal more to leftward-leaning bloggers. For example:

In The Lancet Study, she writes, “Who to believe….? American politicians… or highly reputable scientists using a reliable scientific survey technique?” Highly reputable? That study was even critized by Iraq Body Count, of all people. She goes on to write, “And what about American military deaths? When will someone do a study on the actual number of those?” Implying a Bush administration cover-up is definitely a leftward-leaning staple.

In When All Else Fails, she writes, “There was a brief interlude when, with the first judge, it was thought that it [Saddam’s trial] might actually be a coherent trial where Iraqis could hear explanations and see what happened. That was soon over with the prosecution’s first false witness.” False witness? She thinks Saddam was framed? Innocent perhaps? She also writes, “The timing [of Saddam’s sentencing] is ridiculous- immediately before the congressional elections? How very convenient for Bush.” How many Democratic bloggers wrote that very same observation?

Her latest, End of Another Year, includes this quote: “The Americans have done a fine job of working to break it [Iraq] apart. This last year has nearly everyone convinced that that was the plan right from the start.” She doesn’t give any credibility to that claim by speculating on what America could possibly gain from a broken Iraq. In fact, she somewhat contradicts herself later by writing, “What was the point of breaking Iraq so that it was beyond repair? Iran seems to be the only gainer.”

I don’t think she’s writing fiction, mind you. They’re real opinions, but I think they’re more artistic than journalistic. And there’s nothing wrong with that, either. But I don’t see her as an independent news source. (She is not alone in that, either: Many other news sources from Iraq are not terribly independent, either.)

Thomas Krehbiel writes The Krehbiel Strikes Back, a generally centrist commentary on news, media, politics, and culture.

Crooks and Liars and Elves and Unicorns

The occasion of Saddam’s largely meaningless demise gives us at least one colorful example of extreme partisan blogging from the left: The Farce Goes On.

In a nutshell, Crooks and Liars writer Barbara O’Brien took this opportunity to go on the attack against wingnut bloggers for “celebrating” Saddam’s death. The chief target, naturally, was wingnut point-woman Michelle Malkin. Now I’m no fan of Malkin, but her breathless post giving up-to-the-second live blogging details and reactions about Saddam’s execution is hardly the “celebration” Barbara makes it out to be.

But I can excuse that part. After all, popular bloggers need to sustain fights with other popular bloggers in order to keep their readers’ attention and keep the ad revenue flowing. I can even agree with Barbara completely when she writes of Saddam, “he’d been stripped of his power and has been pretty much irrelevant for some time, and … it’s unlikely his death will change a damn thing.”

But then she veers abruptly into the world of elves and unicorns with the paragraph that begins, “The very inauthenticity of the whole farce amounts to Bush Administration fingerprints.”

Yes, that’s right, even though the November elections are far behind us and mudslinging at the Republicans serves no political purpose, Barbara wants us to believe that Saddam’s capture, trial, and execution was orchestrated soley at the personal whim of George W. Bush.

Barbara goes on to quote extensively from Riverbend, one of the more famous Iraqi bloggers who also happens to spoon-feed liberal bloggers with exactly what they want to hear about Iraq. (Which is generally that America is actively seeking to provoke a civil war in Iraq.)

Um, okay. Note to self: Move Crooks and Liars’ intellectual credibility down closer to zero.

P.S. On the way home yesterday, I was listening to what would have been the Mac Watson Show but instead was run by guest hosts The Lee Brothers. On the topic of the impending hanging of Saddam, some woman called in and said she just wished the families of the 9/11 victims could be there to see the hanging. The Lee Brothers, of course, expressed their support for that sentiment, without ever noting the woman’s error. Why the hell are these people allowed to vote?

Thomas Krehbiel writes The Krehbiel Strikes Back, a moderate commentary on news, media, politics, and culture.

To Ignore Or Not To Ignore

Wow, this is fun. I haven’t written this much in a while.

I started out today intending to refer to a SpankThatDonkey post I saw at home this morning about conservatives sticking together, but I can’t get to it from here. Others have already discussed it anyway.

Side note to future bloggers: If you want to be seen from behind an aggressive firewall, you probably shouldn’t put the word “spank” in your domain name. :)

So instead I’ve landed on SWAC Girl’s Strategies For Republicans.

I’m really sort of fascinated by SWAC Girl’s blog. Maybe I don’t get out enough, but it’s the only blog I can think of that has the fantastical, almost delusional tone of a raving moonbat liberal, yet it’s actually coming from a (presumably) serious wingnut conservative. Wingnut types usually try to influence people with intellectual gymnastics and authoritarian pronouncements, masking their core logical fallacies behind a bloviating web of smoke and mirrors.

Not so with SWAC Girl. I feel a bit sorry for her. It’s as if she truly believes there are evil, mind-controlling media slugs out there, a la The Puppet Masters, taking over the country and turning people into zombified “liberals,” and she and her slug-free cohorts in Staunton are the only ones who can stop them.

Unfortunately they can’t really tell who’s infected and who isn’t, so they end up walling themselves inside a compound and shooting anyone they don’t recognize just to be sure.

It presents a dilemma. This reminds me of a time I tried to debate with a hardcore Evangelical who had similarly illogical (to me) core beliefs. It didn’t work too well. It was like we were speaking different languages. Whenever I made what I thought was a reasonable and valid point, all this person heard was something like, “I am the devil and I’m going to eat your soul!” Eventually I gave up, and the whole experience left me bewildered and somewhat less enthusiastic about the human capacity to evolve and learn new things.

So it’s tempting to simply ignore SWAC Girl, and I probably will by next week, but there’s still a nagging voice in the back of my mind that wonders whether someone like that could actually gain power if left unchallenged. I can think of a lot of people I’ve seen in my life who’ve had much higher levels of authority and influence than they should have.

Instead, I’ll take a chance and address a couple of specific issues in SWAC Girl’s post.

She began by mentioning the “liberal lefty mainstream media.” The media interests me, too. But from my own observations, I would contend that the media is not so much liberal or conservative, but more sensationalist. I could concede that it may sometimes appear liberal because of their shameless efforts to inject more and more entertainment into the stories, which invariably involves more and more artistic license, and artistry is generally viewed distastefully by most conservatives.

In any case, I certainly agree that the mainstream media should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism. Like almost anything in the hands of a human being, it can be a tool for good or evil. And there’s no doubt it’s used by people with agendas all the time. But I don’t think it’s very wise to conclude that the media itself is the enemy. (Well, not all the time, at least.)

I can’t really follow SWAC Girl’s logic in the rest of the post. First she says politicians “have to play nice with both sides of the aisle,” then she declares, “This is politics. We can’t ‘all get along.'” I can only guess she’s trying to say that in order to “win” next time, conservative candidates should try to deceive the voters by pretending to be more moderate and friendly on the campaign trail, and then turn back into cold-blooded liberal-hating conservatives once they’re elected.

I hope I’m wrong about that. I already have some antipathy toward the modern political system, but implications like that from a self-professed Republican “grassroots” worker are downright depressing. At least have the decency to keep the attempted voter fraud in the smoky back rooms where it belongs.

Thomas Krehbiel writes The Krehbiel Strikes Back, a moderate commentary on news, media, politics, and culture.

A Dream Fulfilled

My dreams of getting a mention on The Daily Whackjob have finally come true! (Just for the record, I know I was being redundant, but Mrs. Krehbiel relies on me to summarize the entire content of the blogosphere for her. :)

And in the spirit of getting back to the important debate over Islamic extremism, here’s another fine Cory Chandler post: Virgil Goode is a girlie man*.

Thanks to all the fine commenters who stopped by. Good points, all!

Thomas Krehbiel writes The Krehbiel Strikes Back, a moderate commentary on news, media, politics, and culture.

Playing Catchup On The Debate

I’ll admit I’m playing catch-up on this Virgil Goode story. Sorry, I haven’t really been paying attention to the blogosphere much, well, most of this month. :)

So I started going back to the roots of the argument, and I read I’m Not Emeril’s initial comments on it. There, I was able to review an original copy of Goode’s letter. It’s worth looking at if you’re tuning into the scandal late, because you can always count on the media and bloggers to mis-characterize a Congressman’s words. Mr. Not Emeril actually makes some good points in his post, and it’s hard to refute them.

So let me take a step back. Before I got to I’m Not Emeril, I read The Red Stater’s thoughts on Virgil Goode. By the time of this post, Waldo had shut down General Grevious’ Dog, and Mr. Not Emeril (and many others) implied that anyone supporting that move was collectively trying to “avoid debate” on the subject of Islamic extremism. Burying their heads in the sand, as it were.

Well, let’s debate.

Mr. Not Emeril was not alone in mentioning that jihadists took credit for Democrats winning in Novemeber. Perhaps the silence you heard from non-conservatives was because: Who cares? Are jihadists now trustworthy? Are jihadists now reliable news sources? Are jihadists now controlling political discourse in this country? Are jihadists worthy of “responses?” I guess conservative bloggers think they are.

I see the real problem here, though. Conservatives have succumbed to that pesky logical fallacy, “if not A, then B.” In this case, “if message not Denounced, then message must be Supported.” So if it will really make conservatives feel better, let me state for the record that no jihadist influenced my vote, and I believe jihadists should not take credit for the Democratic wins. There. I accept your apology for questioning my loyalty.

On the issue of whether or not Islamic extremists want to kill us: Freakin’ duh. I don’t need to see terrorist propaganda to know that. In truth, Islamic extremists are not very specific about who they want to kill. They actually just like killing — regardless of citizenship, race, gender, or ethnicity. It’s what lawless thugs and murderers do, last I checked. They’ll even kill themselves. Now what has that got to do with Keith Ellison and Virgil Goode? Do conservatives seriously think Keith Ellison is an Islamic extremist trying to infiltrate Congress?

The underlying issue with Virgil Goode and Keith Ellison is whether or not Muslims should have a voice in American politics, and according to the framers of the Constitution the overwhelmingly correct answer is Yes. (Even Virgil Goode himself didn’t appear to dispute that in his letter.) Whether or not the answer is still Yes in today’s partisan America is an entirely different matter. I personally think America has been evolving slowly away from its roots since the Civil War, so I can easily imagine the voting public being persuaded to adopt Christianity as a national religion.

For myself, I would still answer Yes, because I don’t feel the slightest bit threatened by a single Muslim in Congress, or by the Muslim faith in general. Even if Rep. Ellison turned out to be Osama Bin Laden’s long-lost cousin, he couldn’t possibly do any more damage to American society than a single season of Deal Or No Deal.

Besides, to reject Keith Ellison as the elected representative of Minnesota’s 5th District is to reject the Minnesota people’s right to elect their representative, and that seems like a bad road to start down. I’d rather deal with an occasional terrorist attack. I’ve said this many times before, but terrorism is hardly the biggest threat to the average American’s everyday well-being.

Thomas Krehbiel writes The Krehbiel Strikes Back, a moderate commentary on news, media, politics, and culture.

On Virgil Goode

In an effort to get back “on topic,” I offer my 2 cents on Rep. Virgil Goode: I think he’s entitled to his opinion, and I don’t think his opposition to Rep. Keith Ellison swearing on a Koran is grounds for censure. I just think it makes him (Goode) stubborn and wrong. But he’s not my representative so it doesn’t really matter to me. (I’ve got enough problems with Eric Cantor to worry about Virgil Goode, too!)

Given that Goode is supposed to represent the people of the 5th District of Virginia, and that district looks to be largely populated with rural Baptists who probably also oppose swearing on the Koran, it probably makes him as good of a representative as anyone else. Islamaphobia doesn’t necessarily make him wrong for the job. It just makes him look like a fool, like so many Congressmen have done before him.

I wouldn’t send him on any diplomatic missions to the Middle East anytime soon, though. :)

(Edited to correct some bad grammar.)

Thomas Krehbiel writes The Krehbiel Strikes Back, a moderate commentary on news, media, politics, and culture.

Scandal Body Count Rises

I’m finding this “Waldo scandal” and its aftermath really entertaining. I must be incredibly bored this week. Anyway, I apologize for talking about this again, but it’s like watching a train wreck. :)

I don’t read too many blog comments so I’ve probably missed half the story, but here’s the body count from what I can gather.:

  • There was a big fight in the Virginia blogosphere over Sen. Goode’s Islamaphobia.
  • Waldo booted Staunton blogger General Grevious’ Dog from the Virginia Political Blogs for posting terrorist propaganda.
  • Smart conservative bloggers denounced the move while respecting his right to do so; other conservative bloggers, mainly from Staunton, complained about free speech violations and intellectual property rights.
  • Waldo changed the “Virginia Political Blogs” aggregator to “Waldo’s Virginia Political Blogroll.”
  • JC Wilmore “outed” alleged lawyer John Maxfield of The Journal of the Common Man, a Dog supporter and fellow Staunton blogger, as just another kid with a pseudonym.
  • Waldo booted The Journal of the Common Man from his blogroll. I don’t know why, but probably because it wasn’t a very good blog and Waldo thankfully has high standards.
  • General Grevious’ Dog shut down, because of a “direct threat.”
  • Even as I’m typing this, John Maxfield’s “Journal of the Common Man” has somehow morphed into John Maxfield’s “General Grevious’ Dog.” Weird, but not entirely unexpected.
  • The Old Dominion Blog Alliance has a somewhat diminished reputation, seeing as how they took in SWAC Girl, In-Politically Correct, RightsideVA, General Grevious’ Dog, and Journal of the Common Man, all supposedly Staunton-area conservative blogs.
  • Everyone is looking at SWAC Girl to see what her response will be. We’re waiting… (Ha! Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
  • Long-time Virginia bloggers are waxing nostalgic about the past, present, and future of the Virginia blogosphere.
  • The respected Virginia bloggers are still respected, and the bottom feeders are still trying to capitalize on others’ success.
  • Oh, and despite all the distractions, Sen. Goode is still Islamaphobic. He should get some help for that.

P.S. The greatest quote by far comes from Cory Chandler, in an eloquently written piece entitled The World Turned Upside Down: “No blogger is forced to be included in [Waldo’s] aggregator; anyone may decline. Perhaps Mr. Maxfield will do so. If Mr. Maxfield thinks he does me a favor by inflicting his content on me through the aggregator–by “sharing [his] intellectual property with [me]” (and the term “intellectual property” seems very broad if it applies to Mr. Maxfield’s drivel)–I hope that he does decline and urge him to do so with utmost speed.”

(Updated slightly with more links and some italics.)

Thomas Krehbiel writes The Krehbiel Strikes Back, a moderate commentary on news, media, politics, and culture.

Virginia Blogosphere Sample, Part Two: The Smackdown

Update: Waldo has taken down the Virginia Political Blogs aggregator. Sort of. He just renamed it Waldo’s Virginia Political Blogroll: “A totally biased and unreasonable list of blogs that I think you might enjoy reading.” He promises, “The number of blogs in my blogroll will drop substantially before too long.” Pretty hilarious. No more free ride, you ungrateful blogging noob suckuhs! Time to ruck up and earn your readership the old fashioned way. Unless you want to cry about how unfair it is, of course. :)

(Just in case it’s not clear, I completely support Waldo on this particular issue, not that my opinion matters much.)

Thomas Krehbiel writes The Krehbiel Strikes Back, a moderate commentary on news, media, politics, and culture.