Bill Roggio over at the 4th Rail and Josh at the Adventures of Chester have a great two-piece account of the Marines' battles against foreign terrorists near the Syrian border in Iraq, which has claimed the lives of 3 Marines and up to a 100 terrorists.
It is the largest fighting since Fallujah and is named Operation Matador.
Read Bill's piece first here and then Adventures of Chester's here. It is a great example of collaborative blog work by two very analytical men.
Bill Roggio at the Fourth Rail has an excellent post I missed a couple of days ago on the execution by Islamic terrorists of the sole survivor of a helicopter crash caused by the same terrorists.
I have been quite a student of Mr. Mark Bowden's Black Hawk Down account of the Battle of Mogadishu, October 3-4, 1993 in Somalia. Mr. Roggio ties in the training that Bin Laden and his thugs gave to Aidid's clansmen in Somalia to shoot down American helicopters to the training by the terrorists in Iraq.
The point-blank execution of the survivor was evil. How anyone can believe that this is God's will is amazing. This is not the God I believe in.
Thanks to ABC News for this uplifting story. Wisconsin National Guard Captain Scott Southworth, formerly of the 32nd Military Police Company, while on a 14-month tour in Iraq, volunteered at an orphanage for disabled children.
That is where Capt. Southworth met Ala'a (pronounced "Allah"), an eight-year-old boy who was abandoned at age 3 or 4, who cannot walk because he has cerebral palsy (for more info on CP). The Atlanta Constitution Journal (free registration required) has a very good account of the story that gives far more of the story than the ABC News piece:
"Southworth grew up in a military family, raised with love of God and country. He graduated from law school at the University of Wisconsin with honors and planned to run for Juneau County district attorney at the end of his deployment.
As for Ala'a (pronounced "Allah"), when he was 3 or 4, an Iraqi police officer found him alone on the streets of Baghdad. The officer brought him to the orphanage, run by the Catholic Missionaries of Charity of Mother Teresa.
By the time Southworth started visiting him there, Ala'a was about 10. The nuns who cared for him had taught him to pray and to speak English.
Face to face, Ala'a called Southworth by his first name, Scott. But the nuns told Southworth they saw a stronger bond beginning to form.
Ala'a was always concerned about what he would wear when Southworth came to visit. He was suddenly interested in learning to walk. At night when Ala'a lay down in his crib, he would pray not for himself but for Southworth, whom he felt was in danger.
And when he talked about his new friend from America, he called him "Baba," which means "Daddy" in his native Arabic.
'At first, it was just kind of cute, kind of nice,' said Southworth, 32, who felt more like Ala'a's big brother than his father.
Then he started to realize what a difference he was making in the boy's life. Sure, Ala'a had always been loved by the nuns, but they loved everyone. This little boy had likely been abandoned by his parents. He'd never had anyone to make him feel valuable as an individual. Now, he did.
'Everybody on the planet needs to feel special to somebody, and I could see that happening for him,' Southworth said."
What motivated Captain Southworth, as a single man, with a future in law as a District Attorney (he later won election to the position) to adopt little Ala'a? Ala'a was getting too old for the orphanage and would soon be sent to a state run institution that would have meant most likely a terrible future, if one at all, without the care and love the boy needed.
Captain Southworth was also convicted by his faith:
"Southworth had heard about the home. By all reports, it was horrible. The doctor confirmed his fears.
"If he goes there, his life is over," the doctor said, speaking more than figuratively.
"Then I'll adopt him," Southworth said. The words came out in a rush. Only after he'd spoken them did he begin to think things through.
Could he really adopt this boy? Southworth started to pray, trying to figure out the Lord's plan for him.
The first sign he received was a bootleg DVD of "The Passion of the Christ," sent to a fellow soldier in a care package from home. The film's quality was poor, but its message was clear.
"I thought, 'If He can do that for me, surely I can (adopt Ala'a)."'
Every time a friend or family member pointed out one of the challenges, Southworth thought about the distant future.
He imagined meeting Ala'a in heaven. In his vision, Ala'a came to him and asked, "Scott, why didn't you come back for me?"
Southworth went through all the answers. He pictured himself saying, "Well, I didn't have a lot of money." Or: "I'm a single guy, I don't know anything about taking care of a child with cerebral palsy." Or: "I have a very demanding career."
"Every time I thought of a reason (not to adopt him), it quickly turned into an excuse, and I was absolutely ashamed and embarrassed," Southworth said. "I thought, 'Well, I can sacrifice a little bit here and make some adjustments, or I can spend the rest of my life ashamed and embarrassed."'
However, Southworth's tour ended before he could overcome the obstacles of bringing the boy home with him to the United States. There was no legal way, it appeared, to adopt him, and being dedicated to the rule of law, he was not going to bribe a local judge to win custody in Iraq.
Read the whole AJC piece. It is an amazing story of courage, sacrifice, the love of a boy and faith in God. It is a story that brings hope out of chaos. It is possible that Ala'a may yet walk again.
There is a growing list of "Could Bush be Right?" articles from Europe, America and the Left in general. (Glenn Reynolds has been posting several of them and lists the The Independent's article). One must always give credit to the opposition when one is self critical.
Here is a list of "Could Bush be Right?" articles, though a couple are from pro-war papers which is noted:
The Guardian of London doesn't quite give credit to Bush with this blame America line ("As the old Arab order crumbles, a revolution gets under way" March 6, 2005):
"So the source of the movement that some detect sweeping the Middle East is varied and complex. Some ascribe it to President Bush's vigorous championing of democracy in the region. Others point to long standing social and political currents, even suggesting that America's strategic interests have themselves inhibited reform among its loyal yet autocratic Gulf allies."
There are more articles than these, but these are some of the more notable I found online. Please feel free to add more in the comments section below, and I will add to this list. For the Left's current spin see here for an article in the Washington Post.
New Sisyphus caught an important opinion article in the Washington Post entitled "Beirut's Berlin Wall" from David Ignatius that I overlooked and has a valuable post regarding it.
Mr. Ignatius met with a Lebanese leader, the Druze Muslim patriarch, Walid Jumblatt. Mr. Jumblatt is not pro-American and had been a supporter of Syrian occupation of Lebanon until about a year ago.
"It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq," explains Jumblatt. "I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world." Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. "The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."
By changing the regime in Iraq, changing an ideology of hate and repression in Afghanistan, supporting a democratically elected leader in Palestine, the internal dialog of religious leaders and opinion makers in the Middle East is loosening the power of the old autocratic regimes and proving Mr. Bush correct, that "freedom is embedded in everybody's soul."
There is good reason to be hopeful for change from the grass roots, from the people living in oppression in the Middle East. "Freedom is on the march," and the more we do to support it, the safer we will be.
Just a few observations from President Bush's speech in Brussels today after a NATO meeting. (The text of the speech is here, and a useful FAQ on NATO is here). Secretary General De Hoop Scheffer gave a warm introduction. He used the word "strong" 11 times in his introduction of the President. Given what I read earlier from columnist Mark Steyn, NATO may be in long-term trouble. I felt that Sec. Scheffer was trying to convince his audience that it is "strong", rather than stating what NATO truly is and will be.
First, let me start with interesting observations that President Bush made (President's comments in blue):
of NATO's 26 members (Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, and United States), 9 of them are of the former Cold War era "Warsaw Pact", all of which remember "a society that wasn't free".
Pres. Bush alludes to certain members who take NATO for granted by saying, "One thing is for certain. The newly admitted countries don't take NATO for granted. As a matter of fact, they add a vitality to the discussions that I find refreshing and hopeful."
Pres. Bush sat next to invited guest and non-NATO member Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko saying, Yushchenko "...had just led a revolution, a peaceful revolution, based upon the same values that we hold dear. And it was a remarkable moment, I thought."
Pres. Bush extended the circle of NATO membership to President Yushchenko if Ukraine follows through on democratic reform. "We welcomed President Yushchenko, and reminded him that NATO is a performance-based organization, and that the door is open, but it's up to President Yushchenko and his government and the people of Ukraine to adopt the institutions of a democratic state."
President Bush spoke with PM Blair and President Chirac about the EU plan to sell advanced military hardware to China and the US opposition, as outlined by Sec. Rice to the sale. It sounds like the governments are still debating what ultimately will be sold and how much "a transfer of weapons would be a transfer of technology to China, which would change the balance of relations between China and Taiwan."
He also thanked each member nation that had sacrificed one of their own in combat.
With respect to Iraq and the need to move forward, he is straightforward: "The major issue that irritated a lot of Europeans was Iraq. I understand that. I can figure it out. And the key now is to put that behind us and to focus on helping the new democracy succeed. It's in our interests. It's in your country's interests. It's in my country's interests that democracy take hold in the greater Middle East."
To a reporter, Mr. Bush smartly replied, while advancing his spreading democracy idea: "Millions of people of voted in Afghanistan. I doubt many of you here were writing articles about, 'Oh, gosh, the elections in Afghanistan are going to be incredibly successful.' It didn't seem like it was possible, did it? But, yet, there's something in everybody's soul, in my judgment, that desires to be free. And the people of Afghanistan showed that by the millions -- not by the handfuls, but by the millions -- when given a chance to vote. Same in Iraq. And there was an election in Ukraine -- two elections in Ukraine. And then there was the election in the Palestinian Territory. Freedom is on the march, is the way I like to put it. And the world is better off for it. And I look forward to continue to articulate how we can work together to keep freedom on the march."
NATO needs to become more political if it is to survive. The European nations of the EU spend only 39% as much on defense as the US does (a subject of a future post I am working on). The future of NATO does not lie in European contributions but rather expanding the membership to include formerly communist regimes, like the Ukraine, that can strengthen their new democracies by having a seat at the table of European security. By this means, Russia loses more power to its "near-abroad" of former Soviet states and hopefully will better embrace democratic reform as well.
While the right side of the blogosphere has been a vocal and powerful mainstream media critic, it is important to point out pieces of good journalism. The story of the much maligned Iraqi Army is a case in point.
Four US Army soldiers died when their Humvee (without lights for security) missed a turn and fell down a concrete embankment into frigid water. A US Air Force firefighter lost his life as well trying a rescue attempt to recover the bodies. The Washington Post story, by Steve Fainaru, gives a great detailed account of brave actions and growing respect between the US and Iraqi forces:
"What happened then, however, has transformed the relationship between the Iraqi soldiers and the skeptical Americans who train them. Using a tool they welded themselves that day at a cost of about $40, the Iraqis dredged the canal through the cold afternoon until the tan boot of Spec. Dakotah Gooding, 21, of Des Moines, appeared at the surface. The Iraqis then jumped into the water to pull him out, and went back again and again until they had recovered the last American. Then they stood atop the canal, shivering in the dark.
'When I saw those Iraqis in the water, fighting to save their American brothers, I saw a glimpse of the future of this country,' said Col. Mark McKnight, commander of the 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, which had overall responsibility for the unit in the accident, his eyes tearing."
The story is one of courage and honor about not leaving a fellow soldier behind. It shows the best of humanity. Abdul Mutalib, 34, one of the Iraqi Army soldiers who was in the first Gulf War, came with about 29 fellow soldiers to help after noticing US helicopters circling overhead. He stripped down from his uniform and went in the freezing water to help the Americans.
"Asked why he now felt so strongly about helping the Americans, Abdul Mutalib said through an interpreter: 'These people come 10,000 miles to help my country. They've left their families, their children. When we get hurt, they help treat us and take us to hospitals. If we can give them something back, just a little, we can show our thanks.'"
It is a long article in the Washington Post, but if you have the time, it is well worth it.
Now is the time for political maneuvering as the different parties work towards building a governing coalition, selecting government appointments and cabinet positions and writing a constitution.
The constitution will require two-thirds approval of the voters to be ratified, which will require all of the ethnic groups to strike a balanced compromise such that the elected officials will be able to convince their constituents of its importance.
It is an amazing time in Iraq. It will be very exciting to watch how they build their democracy and to what extent the major party will or will not bring Islam into the constitution and ultimately into the ruling government.
UPDATE: Several have commented by email or on the site, that the above description of the United Iraqi Alliance not having a majority seems odd, given that they have over 50% of the seats. However, the total vote as listed here includes parties that received votes but not enough to reach the threshold to retain a seat. When these parties and votes are tallied, the United Iraqi Alliance has 48.2% of the votes. This requires a coalition government to reach a 50% plus one vote threshold for naming a Prime Minister. Hopefully this helps clear up the confusion. I have added the actual percentages in red above.
UPDATE 2: Patrick Ruffini has a far superior map of the voter turnout that he prepared in excel compared to mine. I am impressed. Check out his analysis as well. (2.16.05)
While the State Department has not posted Secretary Rice's full comments in Berlin today, we will rely on the New York Times for an overview to explore where US foreign policy is moving, and the German response.
We do have a NYT summary of her comments regarding Iran (#2 on the Axis of Evil from President Bush's 2002 State of the Union speech):
"...she listed a series of grievances the United States has against Iran, including a poor record on human rights, its suspected nuclear arms program and accusations that it supports militant groups that carry out attacks on civilians and oppose the Israeli-Palestinian peace process."
Breaking these down, the US position on Iran is influenced by Iran's:
human rights abuses
nuclear arms program
support of terrorism
involvement with Iraqi insurgents
and opposition to any peace with Israel
All good and valid points of American concern. The troubling part of reading the NYT for coverage are quotes like this:
"President Bush's State of the Union message, which declared that the United States would support efforts by the Iranian people to bring about greater democracy in their country, stirred renewed anxiety in many countries that the Bush administration would seek a violent overthrow of the Tehran government.
Many European commentators, going further, have said that such bellicose talk would undercut the efforts by Britain, France and Germany to negotiate a dismantling of Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program.
Let me summarize the above shocking text: President Bush supports "greater democracy" through Iranian suffrage and self-determination. This is considered by "European commentators" (and also NYT reporters?) to be "bellicose talk" because it disrupts the nice teas planned by the French for the Iranian mullahs at the Quai d'Orsay. The Europeans have been working on their approach since mid 2003. A year and a half later the Iranians are vowing not to give up their nuclear program and appear to be buying more time, while the US has its hands full in Iraq.
Secretary Rice is stopping in all three countries that are a part of the European effort to get Iran to give up their nuclear program on her current trip. My guess is she is laying out the American position, that we will not allow a nuclear armed Iran, privately to the foreign ministries of the UK, Germany and France.
In his comments today, however, Chancellor Schröder dismissed the idea that talk of bringing about democracy in Iran was unhealthy or damaging to negotiations with Iran on nuclear matters. "Not at all," he said with a laugh, when the question was raised at his news conference. "No, no, absolutely not."
Mr. Schröder then said he had "listened to the president's address very eagerly" and "taken from it that his heart is very keenly with the democrats, irrespective of what country we're talking about."
"I couldn't agree more actually," he said. But Mr. Schröder added carefully that there should be a discussion about what "tools" would be used to achieve reform in Iran."
Chancellor Schroeder leaves behind a valuable clue. He said that Mr. Bush is "keenly with the democrats". He could have but did not say that Mr. Bush is for "democracy", but rather "democrats, irrespective of what country we're talking about." This sounds like Secretary Rice laid out Regime Change From Within as the diplomatic tool the US is speaking about with respect to Iran. Chancellor Schroeder is interested in removing "tools" at the West's disposal even after a year and a half of failed diplomacy with Iran. No wonder the Europeans are not getting anywhere with Iran.