Friday, March 23, 2007

Give me Liberty!

Em, aka Frazzledsister, seems to be a young lady with a lot of responsibility and maturity beyond her years. Through her blog she mentions that 23 March 1775 is the date that Patrick Henry made his famous, "give me liberty or give me death" speech. His conclusion is just as relevant today.

Gentlemen may cry, "Peace! Peace!" -- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Who is Ryan Mauro?

While surfing the web, a difficult task with my limited bandwidth, I stumbled upon this child prodigy who, at age 18, had already published a book, Death to America – the Unreported Battle of Iraq, and appears to have pieced together some open source intelligence that the media has been actively ignoring. He has researched a subject that I have been talking about for the duration of the Iraq war; Saddam had WMDs and now Syria has WMDs.

Let me first state that it is logically impossible, unless one was omnipotent, to prove that Saddam did not have WMD's but the burden of proof remains on us to show that he had them. Here is a quick summary of the evidence.

The evidence that Sec. of State Colin Powell took to the UN before the invasion of Iraq was the administration's most likely probability based on the available intelligence. We can now review much of the intelligence that the administration had available and there are conflicting reports and opinions. There are always conflicting reports and opinions and it is the responsibility of the analyst to weigh the sources and the responsibility of our leaders to act, or not act, on the available information. Our current administration decided to act on very probable intelligence instead of the previous administrations decision to sit on their thumbs until we had irrefutable intelligence; something that almost never occurs. One important detail was that the reported WMD labs were mobile.

My next piece of the puzzle comes from a fellow soldier who told me he watched reconnaissance footage of trucks leaving suspected WMD facilities and driving into Syria at the onset of the invasion. I also remember news reports of U.S. forces recovering one of these mobile labs. It may have been a gun but it wasn't smoking since no traces of WMDs were found in the lab.

Now, Ryan Mauro provides another piece with his interview with a former Iraqi general and friend of Saddam, Ali Ibrahim Al-Tikriti. In the interview, Al-Tikriti states:

I know Saddam's weapons are in Syria due to certain military deals that were made going as far back as the late 1980's that dealt with the event that either capitols were threatened with being overrun by an enemy nation. Not to mention I have discussed this in-depth with various contacts of mine who have confirmed what I already knew… After Saddam denied he had such weapons why would he use them or leave them readily available to be found? That would only legitimize President Bush, who he has a personal grudge against. What we are witnessing now is many who opposed the war to begin with are rallying around Saddam saying we overthrew a sovereign leader based on a lie about WMD. This is exactly what Saddam wanted and predicted.

We did find WMDs in Iraq after the invasion just not in enough quantities to satisfy the liberal media moguls who like spoon feeding us their opinions. The reports I have heard from my fellow soldiers already had me convinced but this young man's research helps to solidify the reports. I'll have to pick up a copy of this book to see the details of his arguments to see if they really do stand up to criticism, but meanwhile, is it too late to extend to him an invitation as a panelist at the MilBlog Conference?


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Balikatan Concluded

The road is now completed and the travel time between Jolo and Bato Bato has been cut in half and is possible without a 4 wheel drive vehicle. We turned a couple of fuel barrels into barbeques, found a nice beach, and began the party. Most quickly stripped to PT shorts and hit the water which was the perfect temperature for a hot day. Some clouds came in and it sprinkled a bit but not enough to ruin our picnic. We ate a mixture of hotdogs, hamburgers and Filipino food then back to the water for more play. Several Filipino boys were present and the Marines and Seabees didn't let a language barrier come between them when they welcomed them in their game of competitive catch. Certificates of appreciation were exchanged and friendships were strengthened.

The following day was reserved for packing all the equipment needed by a Marine Engineer company and Navy Seabee detachment to build a road and a school. It started well, and then the rain came. This wasn't a little rain; it was heavy storm which dumped several inches over a couple of hours. The soft dust turned to mud as slick as ice and heavy vehicles were sliding all over our camp. Packing stopped, we hoped for better weather the next morning, and consoled ourselves by watching a movie projected on a bed sheet.

The next morning I was enjoying breakfast at a local roadside vendor and shooting the breeze with the Marine EOD team when it began to sprinkle again. Within moments of the first raindrops the stereo began playing, Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head. We quickly, and jokingly, asked our host to find a new song but the damage had already been done; it poured again. When we returned to camp the Engineers were busy laying gravel and making a road through camp that would afford enough traction to finish loading their gear. They succeeded but still had to face the problem of getting some very heavy trucks down a couple of very steep declines before reaching their new road. We were fortunate that they build military vehicles and equipment much sturdier than their civilian counterparts because a couple of trucks slammed their sides into a coconut tree but only scraped the tree and knocked loose several coconuts while leaving the trucks undamaged.

We said our farewells and escorted the Marines and Seabees to the port along their new road. On the way out the Marine commander mentioned that he was dissatisfied with how his new road fared with the heavy rain. I don't share his opinion and I doubt the locals do either. They turned a narrow and rutted trail into an improved dirt road with adequate drainage that could be traveled on in wet conditions; something inconceivable just a month earlier.

With our guests departed, it was time for us to pack and return to our team home. The last of our packing was performed in another downpour but we didn't mind, we were returning to internet access and warm showers. On our way out we noticed a neatly hand painted banner which read, "Take care! God bless! Thank you very much! From the people of Bato-Bato."


Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

Let me send my hearty greetings on this St. Patty’s day. I do have a trace of Irish blood in my veins as evidenced by the copper hair of my youth and I married into a more direct line and, I am told, my wife will be taking my son and some of his cousins to a parade back home. As for me, I started the night before by watching Boondock Saints with a bunch of Marines and Seabees then this morning I looked deep into my wardrobe to find some green to wear; I ended up settling for the same thing I wore the day before.

My day is finished before most of yours begins so; my St. Patrick’s Day is done. It was a long and tiring day – make that a few days – which I will tell you about in much more detail. But first, some sleep, some cleaning, a shower, and dry clothes.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Dog & Pony Shows

Any old piece of colorful cloth can be attached to a piece of bamboo to make it a banner and these lined the streets making a clear contrast with the trash and filth of the beach covered by bamboo huts on stilts. This scene was enhanced by young children on the side of the road in their white and green school uniforms waving handmade U.S. and Filipino flags and practicing their English greetings. The atmosphere seemed charged with excitement as the final touches were added to the preparations for several high level visitors.

Cool mornings are uncommon treats on tropical islands; one such made our chaotic morning bearable, but just as assuredly as the sun rises, this day baked too. It was under this oppressive sun that several dozen vehicles traveled over a recently smoothed but extremely dusty road to the town of Bato Bato. This town was the focal point of several civil projects which constituted most of Balikatan 2007 and was chosen as the site to celebrate the official closing to an exercise which would continue for a couple more weeks. Dignitaries ranging from local government officials to U.S. and Filipino Generals to the U.S. Ambassador all flocked to this humble town.

My job was to remain behind the scenes at a remote location and maintain reliable communications, relay messages if needed, and establish a command and control center in the event of an emergency. My job was easy; the festivities were well planned and rehearsed and events progressed accordingly leaving little to do except monitor them while they advanced from one stage to the next.

The media was present and the story has been carried by AP and Reuters. I have been told that members of our B Team (company command element) were on the front cover of Stars and Stripes. In typical fashion, they came out of their air-conditioned operations center for the glory shots. To be fair to them, they are getting tired of all the VIP visits that have been here recently; there have been jokes about putting up “Do not feed the animals” signs.

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