Friday, March 31, 2006

A Marine's homecoming

I found a powerful story about the final homecoming of a Marine second lieutenant killed last summer in Iraq, which I have posted on I miei cari amici. Read it by clicking here, and prepare to be deeply moved.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

30 years of Apple history

MacWorld has the story.
And C|Net has even more on Apple turning 30.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Molly Davis: Madison County, Idaho's Junior Miss

My niece, Molly Davis (daughter of my little sister whose husband was killed last summer) won her county's Junior Miss competition over the weekend. Now it's on to Pocatello and the state pageant. Then -- to Mobile, Alabama for America's Junior Miss? We shall see. So far, so proud of Molly. You go, girl!

Peggy Noonan on being "Truly American"

One of Reagan's former speechwriters reminds us.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Iraqi seized documents site

Here's the link to documents seized during Operation Iraqi Freedom and released by the government.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Vista delayed -- again

The promised Vista keeps receding into the distance -- just out of view. Microsoft's last OS update was 2003? Four years between versions? Better be good.

I'm an Apple addict, so I'm enjoying a little more schadenfreude at this latest delay. But it's a gloat mixed with some pity. Apple has an advantage: it only has to build drivers for its own hardware. Microsoft has to make its 800-lb-gorilla (monopoly?) operating system compatible with everyone's box.

Not so fast: the President at his best

He's been taking a thumping in the polls and in the media. Talking point: "We're teetering on the brink of civil war." Maybe so. But a President leads, and this President is leading. Pity the surrounding stand of toothpicks (his critics), emboldened by leaning on each other for support, who denounce him and have no program instead. Only "not Bush".

The strategy of establishing democracies as a long-term solution to terrorism is brilliant and simple to articulate. Of course, the devil's in the details and in making it happen, or creating the correct security environment so it can happen in Iraq (and elsewhere). His critics are making it tougher.

The President is on the road to make the case to the people. As one of his core constituency, I'm relieved. And I'm sold. If his base is listening, he'll get a bounce in the polls and we'll get through this.

I caught part of his Cleveland speech (link above) on C-SPAN last night. Bush is not a gifted public speaker (how's that for an understatement?). But he was at his best in Cleveland -- insightful, passionate, in command. I'm sure his political advisors (and the midterm GOP candidates who are going wobbly) encouraged this trip. But because he usually sounds so wooden, his speech was refreshing. Forthright, sincere, articulate, committed. Not canned. In short, real. As real as it gets. A President leads, and this President is leading. The President also did well to directly confront the loony Helen Thomas and the White House press today.

Over at Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds quotes a "reverse eat crow" email quoting a 2003 Reynolds posting about antiwar critics being wrong. The emailer now implies that the antiwar crowd has now been proved right about the war (talking point: "We're teetering on the brink of civil war") and it's time for supporters of the President to fess up and eat crow. Not so fast, says Reynolds. A swelling chorus of criticism singing the same old tune does not make the critics right. It just makes them critics. Still. Read the whole thing.

"Death to terrorists, democracy to Iraq, and safety to the forces for freedom in harm's way."

Iraqi PM's vision

WaPo piece:
Washington Post
March 20, 2006
Pg. 15

My Vision For Iraq

By Ibrahim al-Jafari

BAGHDAD -- The elections last December in Iraq were a monumental stage in my country's history and a testament to the courage of its people, who refuse to bow to any dictator or terrorist. As the wheels of democracy have begun to turn in Iraq, the people's wishes are becoming clearer and their representatives identified. To this end I am humbled and honored to be chosen by my coalition to lead Iraq's first democratically elected full-term government.

My government's first challenge will be to stifle the terrorism that has plagued our country and defiled the name of Islam. While we are making good progress in expanding and developing Iraq's security services, the war against the terrorists cannot be won by military means alone. It is paramount that all Iraqis work together to build a democratic, free Iraq.

Since I took office, I have sought to bring every community into the political process. I refused to marginalize the Sunni Arabs after the January 2005 election boycott, ensuring they made up over a fifth of the cabinet.

Sidelining Moqtada al-Sadr's group from the Governing Council was a mistake. Had it been integrated into the political process back then, long before the formation of the Mahdi Army, events would have turned out differently in the south. I corrected this policy and brought Sadr's group into the democratic process. This inclusive approach resulted in the huge nationwide turnout for the December elections and a parliament that truly reflects Iraq.

During my term as elected prime minister, Sadr's group has not attacked any coalition troops. Furthermore, Sadr and several Sunni leaders are now catalysts for maintaining the peace in Iraq, calling on their followers not to retaliate against terrorist provocations, which aim to ignite civil war.

Unfortunately, we have suffered setbacks during the past year. The most troubling was the discovery of prisoner torture in an Interior Ministry jail in November. As soon as I learned of these despicable acts I formed an investigative committee made up solely of Sunni leaders, and I await its findings.

The long-term solution to this problem will be multifaceted. We must ensure that all security forces receive proper training and that there is a chain of command that holds commanders and officers responsible for such abuses. In addition, the various militias that fought Saddam Hussein's regime honorably must be fully integrated into Iraq's security forces without concentrating any particular group into any one division. Finally, we need to strengthen the country's nascent judiciary, which suffered years of coercion and corruption under the former regime, to guarantee its independence and impartiality.

The other major challenge my government will face is reviving Iraq's economy. Iraq has been drowned by decades of Baathist socialist policies that have made millions reliant on government handouts. We must encourage entrepreneurship and enterprise, while establishing adequate safety nets for the less privileged.

Economic rehabilitation also requires some tough and unpopular changes, such as the reduction in government subsidies for gasoline that my administration began a few months ago. Such steps can be made only by a popular government that has the trust of the people. My administration has the political capital to be able to bring about these necessary changes.

Ultimately, I will work to secure the reality of a democratic, liberal, peaceful Iraq -- a beacon for freedom in the Middle East. This is not merely a wish but an article of faith. Having lived in London for the majority of my years in exile, I appreciate the importance of liberty for both guaranteeing democracy and ensuring human development.

I am hopeful that with Iraqi determination, and the support of the multinational force, we can defeat the terrorists and make Iraq the first democratic Arab country. I believe in working toward a peaceful, stable and nuclear-free Middle East, where Iraq is not the rogue state that it was under the previous regime.

The road ahead will be tough, but the Iraqi people have demonstrated their bravery, determination and resolve. The world should not falter at such a crucial stage in history.

The writer is prime minister of Iraq.

SECDEF on applying lessons of the Cold War

Another piece from the DoD EarlyBird news service (can you tell I'm on active duty?):
Philadelphia Inquirer
March 20, 2006

Applying Lessons Of The Cold War

By Donald H. Rumsfeld

I recently spoke at the library and birthplace of President Harry S. Truman to reflect on his leadership in the early days of the Cold War and to consider what lessons might apply to another - and in many ways very different - struggle that could occupy our country for a good many years ahead.

With the perspective of history, the many new institutions and programs of the Truman years - such as the doctrine of containment, the Marshall Plan, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization - can seem as part of a broadly supported strategy that led to what now almost seems like an inevitable victory in the Cold War.

But, of course, things didn't unfold that way. Our country was tired after the Second World War, and strong strains of isolationism still persisted. Many Americans were not in the mood for global involvement on the part of the United States, particularly against something as ill-defined as the communist menace at the time.

It was a time of heated disagreements. Yet together, leaders of both of our political parties tended to get the big things right. They understood that war had been declared on our country - on the free world - whether we liked it or not, that we had to steel ourselves against an expansionist enemy, the Soviet Union, that was determined to destroy our way of life.

That, I would submit, is our task today in the global war on terror, the struggle against violent extremists. The enemy today is not an empire or a nation, but a shadowy movement of terrorist cells with no territories to defend, no nations, no diplomats to sign agreements, and no hesitance to kill innocent men, women and children.

But these two eras also have something important - and instructive - by way of similarities:

Both required our nation to gird for a long, sustained struggle, punctuated by periods of military conflict.

Both required the use of all elements of national power to defeat the enemy.

Both required a transition from arrangements that were successful in the previous war to arrangements that were much better suited for this new and different era.

One similarity is the critical importance of being able to bolster the capacities of partner nations. This notion was the heart of the Marshall Plan, which cost more than $100 billion in today's dollars, but most certainly helped to save Western Europe from Soviet tyranny and led to the emergence of important democratic allies that, despite our occasional differences, remain indispensable to our success today.

It should be noted that few, if any, of those foreign-policy initiatives won universal acclaim here at home, or abroad for that matter. Indeed, a former diplomat in the closing days of World War II said that "democracy would never work" in Japan. A 1946 Life magazine article was titled "Americans Are Losing the Victory in Europe."

Another similarity that bears mentioning is that both were, and are, fundamentally ideological conflicts - the Cold War and today - challenging free people and free systems of government.

During the Cold War, the Soviets sought to undermine the West by cultivating divisions among our allies, among the countries in the developing world, and among even the American people. Much of the world compared and equated us with the Soviet Union, as though we were each part of the problem.

But leaders over a sustained period met that challenge with something our enemy could never match, and that was powerful demonstration of the attractiveness of free systems.

Just as millions who were trapped in Eastern Europe during the Cold War were given hope by messages that filtered in from the West, similarly, I believe, there are reformers in the Middle East who have been silenced and intimidated and who want their countries to be free. We must reach out to them.

In many ways, many critical battles in the war on terror will be fought in the newsrooms and the editorial board rooms. Unlike the Cold War, this is an era of far more rapid communications, with the Internet, bloggers, and chat rooms, 24-hour news channels and satellite radio.

Let there be no doubt, the United States did not win the Cold War by luck - and our victory was not inevitable. It took perseverance. It took a confidence in our course, despite the many uncertainties and critics both at home and abroad. The same is true in the long struggle our nation faces today and in the years ahead.

Donald H. Rumsfeld is U.S. secretary of defense.

Join or die in Afghanistan

From USA Today:
USA Today
March 20, 2006
Pg. 11

Afghan May Face Death For Alleged Conversion

A man in Afghanistan is being prosecuted in a Kabul court and could be sentenced to death after being charged with converting from Islam to Christianity, a crime under the country's Islamic sharia laws, a judge said Sunday.

The trial highlights a struggle between religious conservatives and reformists over what shape Islam will take here four years after the ouster of the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban regime.

The defendant, Abdul Rahman, 41, was arrested last month after his family accused him of becoming a Christian, according to Judge Ansarullah Mawlavezada. Rahman was charged with rejecting Islam. His trial started Thursday.

SECDEF on Iraq

Here's his piece in the WaPo:
Washington Post
March 19, 2006
Pg. B7

What We've Gained In 3 Years In Iraq

By Donald H. Rumsfeld

Some have described the situation in Iraq as a tightening noose, noting that "time is not on our side"and that "morale is down." Others have described a "very dangerous" turn of events and are "extremely concerned."

Who are they that have expressed these concerns? In fact, these are the exact words of terrorists discussing Iraq -- Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his associates -- who are describing their own situation and must be watching with fear the progress that Iraq has made over the past three years.

The terrorists seem to recognize that they are losing in Iraq. I believe that history will show that to be the case.

Fortunately, history is not made up of daily headlines, blogs on Web sites or the latest sensational attack. History is a bigger picture, and it takes some time and perspective to measure accurately.

Consider that in three years Iraq has gone from enduring a brutal dictatorship to electing a provisional government to ratifying a new constitution written by Iraqis to electing a permanent government last December. In each of these elections, the number of voters participating has increased significantly -- from 8.5 million in the January 2005 election to nearly 12 million in the December election -- in defiance of terrorists' threats and attacks.

One of the most important developments over the past year has been the increasing participation of Iraq's Sunni community in the political process. In the volatile Anbar province, where Sunnis are an overwhelming majority, voter turnout grew from 2 percent in January to 86 percent in December. Sunni sheiks and religious leaders who previously had been sympathetic to the insurgency are today meeting with coalition representatives, encouraging Iraqis to join the security forces and waging what violent extremists such as Abu al-Zarqawi and his al-Qaeda followers recognize as a "large-scale war" against them.

The terrorists are determined to stoke sectarian tension and are attempting to spark a civil war. But despite the many acts of violence and provocation, the vast majority of Iraqis have shown that they want their country to remain whole and free of ethnic conflict. We saw this last month after the attack on the Shiite shrine in Samarra, when leaders of Iraq's various political parties and religious groups condemned the violence and called for calm.

Another significant transformation has been in the size, capability and responsibility of Iraqi security forces. And this is vitally important, because it is Iraqis, after all, who must build and secure their own nation.

Today, some 100 Iraqi army battalions of several hundred troops each are in the fight, and 49 control their own battle space. About 75 percent of all military operations in the country include Iraqi security forces, and nearly half of those are independently Iraqi-planned, Iraqi-conducted and Iraqi-led. Iraqi security forces have a greater ability than coalition troops to detect a foreign terrorist's accent, identify local suspects and use force without increasing a feeling of occupation. It was these Iraqi forces -- not U.S. or coalition troops -- that enforced curfews and contained the violence after the attack on the Golden Dome Shrine in Samarra. To be sure, violence of various stripes continues to slow Iraq's progress. But the coalition is doing everything possible to see this effort succeed and is making adjustments as appropriate.

The rationale for a free and democratic Iraq is as compelling today as it was three years ago. A free and stable Iraq will not attack its neighbors, will not conspire with terrorists, will not pay rewards to the families of suicide bombers and will not seek to kill Americans.

Though there are those who will never be convinced that the cause in Iraq is worth the costs, anyone looking realistically at the world today -- at the terrorist threat we face -- can come to only one conclusion: Now is the time for resolve, not retreat.

Consider that if we retreat now, there is every reason to believe Saddamists and terrorists will fill the vacuum -- and the free world might not have the will to face them again. Turning our backs on postwar Iraq today would be the modern equivalent of handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis. It would be as great a disgrace as if we had asked the liberated nations of Eastern Europe to return to Soviet domination because it was too hard or too tough or we didn't have the patience to work with them as they built free countries.

What we need to understand is that the vast majority of the Iraqi people want the coalition to succeed. They want better futures for themselves and their families. They do not want the extremists to win. And they are risking their lives every day to secure their country.

That is well worth remembering on this anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The writer is secretary of defense.

Hillary wearing the pants now?

That's the story.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Home and away

I've been helping keep the world safe for democracy as an Air Force JAG reservist the past week, "flying a desk" and reviewing claims against the Government and analyzing privacy issues relating to release of drug abuse information.

Yesterday the base legal office had a luncheon to honor a paralegal who's going "green" (St. Patrick's Day was a good day to do it): he's leaving the Air Force for the Army to become a Green Beret. Although I've enjoyed serving in the Air Force, I'm grateful there are such men.

With the third anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq approaching, I've been thinking about justification for the war. The risk of Iraq providing terrorists with WMD was certainly one expressed reason for going to war. But the primary objective was embodied in the name "Operation Iraqi Freedom", i.e., creating a free Iraqi state.

Critics of the war are fixed on the past and the failure to find WMD. But they seem to ignore the broader mission. And with eyes to the rear they ignore our past.

It took 13 years to get from the Declaration to the Constitution. And a civil war nearly destroyed our union. I'm not a student of history, but I understand our revolutionary war was the very near thing. I can picture soldiers tattered and cold at Valley Forge, and Washington petitioning the Continental Congress for supplies.

The question then and now is whether it was worth it. Was it worth it for America to be free? Is it worth it for Iraq to be free?

Is freedom worth fighting and dying for?

It is a noble ideal, one of the noblest on earth.

Stable democracies do not support terrorists and do not pose a threat to their neighbors. Freedom is a threat to dictators and tyrants.

Whether we want to recognize it, we are at war. We didn't start it. It began before 9/11. It is at our doorsteps. When a dozen or so men can kill thousands in New York and Washington, D.C., there is no "over there" anymore. It is a world war, but it is a different war.

As a result of 9/11 and the recent cartoon protests, when someone says they want to kill us, we should take them seriously.

Currently Iraq is physically and symbolically the central front in the war. There is a lot at stake in Iraq. A free Iraq in the Middle East could change everything. Our enemies understand this and are willing to give their lives to prevent it.

Defeat is not an option. If we do not defeat the enemies of freedom in Iraq, where will we make our stand?

God bless and keep those men and women who understand this, who "more than selves their country love", and who are willing to fight and destroy the enemies of freedom in this world.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Home again

We flew to Denver last night for a missionary homecoming of my parents-in-law. They served in Houston, Texas -- in the inner city for the first year, and in rural Navasota (near College Station) for the past six months.

They had intended to serve for two years, but my father-in-law's cancer has returned. (They were incredibly hardworking and probably did more in 18 months than the average couple could do in 3 years). They touched lots of lives and served as an example for their family. When my oldest son and I took them to the airport to go on their mission, we watched them both limp away. But Robin had a fall, broke her wrist, severed her rotator cuff, had surgery, and endured PT. But they stayed.

At breakfast this morning they shared some of their experiences. Looking forward to their talks in church tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

MWC honors BYU coaches, players

First-year men's basketball coach Dave Rose was named Mountain West Conference coach of the year by fellow coaches and members of the media. BYU was 9-21 last year and picked to finish last in the conference this year. Under Rose, the Cougars were 20-7 and tied for second in the conference regular season.

BYU's Trent Plaisted was named freshman of the year, and was second-team all conference. Junior forward Keena Young was named third-team all conference, and guards Brock Reichner and Rashaun Broadus were honorable mention.

BYU women's basketball coach Jeff Judkins was named MWC coach of the year for the first place Lady Cougars, and senior forward Ambrosia Anderson was named MWC co-player of the year.

Friday, March 03, 2006

An Iran fantasy

Last night, on my home computer, I watched part of a DVD I had purchased a couple of weeks previously. It was the 3-hour Ken Burns documentary about Thomas Jefferson, produced in 1997 and aired on PBS that same year. I had recorded the program on VHS, but of course that format is now becoming obsolete, so I decided some time ago that I would purchase the DVD edition if and when it became available. Like all of his other work, the Jefferson documentary is visually compelling as well as intellectually stimulating, and I suppose Ken Burns could produce a series about the Manhattan telephone directory and somehow make even that appear interesting and thought-provoking.

As I watched it, I thought of how much I would love to share this documentary with my friend in Iran, who, openminded and respectful though she is, still has some obvious misconceptions about America that I would like to help correct. For instance, she once asked me if it was against the law for an American to own a copy of the Quran. I assured her that it was not, and that the freewheeling exchange of ideas was so deeply ingrained in our culture, laws, and institutions that we tend to take it for granted. I couldn't help chuckling over the question, although it was perfectly understandable why she would ask it in the first place. After all, she has lived her entire life under the rule of the ayatollahs, and freedom of speech and religion are perforce alien concepts to her.

I wondered if there was some way I could buy another copy of the Jefferson documentary and send it to her, but alas, there probably is not. It is not possible to send anything to Iran by UPS because of the trade embargo, and Iranian law prohibits shipment or receipt by mail of any "seditious" books, pamphlets, etc. I don't know exactly how the mullahs define that term, but I think it is a safe bet that it would encompass a DVD program about a man who, among other things, swore "eternal hostility against any form of tyranny over the mind of man," took pride in his authorship of the Virginia statute for religious freedom, advocated a revolution every 20 years or so, and, in one of the most memorable phrases ever penned by an American, proclaimed that "all men are created equal," and that their "inalienable rights," handed down to them by the Creator himself, included "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Moreover, I would be horrified and sickened almost beyond endurance if anything I ever said or did were to get her into trouble with the authorities. But still, this basic idea does make for one of the better, and nobler, fantasies I have had in recent years.

Thus I will continue to ponder and expand on this idea, even though I know I will probably never be able to implement it. I would like to acquaint her with the side of America about which she probably hears little -- the ideals upon which this nation was founded, for starters, along with some of the best of its literature and popular culture. (With regard to the latter, I would want to ensure that whatever I sent her would be clean, wholesome, and inoffensive to reasonable Muslim sensibilities -- a limitation which, unfortunately, would preclude much of what our popular culture has produced during the past 30-plus years or so.) Assuming that such items could be delivered to her, and that her possession and use of them would not get her into any trouble with the authorities, what else would I want to send her? The following is a partial list, which may be expanded as I come up with more ideas. (Further additions are solicited from my readers as well.)

1. To Kill a Mockingbird, in both its literary and cinematic forms. I would tell her that Atticus Finch is probably my favorite hero in fiction, and that when I practiced law, I wanted to be just like him. (I like to think that I succeeded, at least to some degree. Atticus represented a black man unjustly accused of rape during the Jim Crow era and put on trial in a rural court in the deep South; I, for my part, represented dozens of destitute and battered women who needed divorces or orders of protection, but had nowhere else to turn in order to get them.)

2. Two more Ken Burns series, the first of them being his Baseball documentary. I doubt that my friend has so much as heard about baseball, but I agree with whomever it was who said one could not understand America without understanding baseball. The second item would be his program about Mark Twain, along with which I would probably include copies of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn as well. Plus some of his humorous short stories, of course; "The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" and "Punch, Brothers, Punch!" readily come to mind. (I'm not sure how she would handle his use of dialect, however.)

3. Some westerns, probably including High Noon and perhaps a few Bonanza episodes. These would be included for two reasons: first, because the western is so uniquely American; and second, because the typical TV or movie western, up through the early 1960s, was essentially a morality play. It drew a clear distinction between good and evil, and in addition usually featured a reluctant but strong and principled hero, who was stern to his enemies but gentle and chivalrous with women, and who could always be counted on in the end to do the right thing, regardless of hazard or cost.

3. Episodes from some old TV sitcoms. The most likely candidates here would be The Andy Griffith Show and I Love Lucy, although Andy Griffith would probably be the better choice, because he personifies decency and fairness, and the show centers around the characters themselves rather than on slapstick routines and the like.

I could add more to this list, and probably will do so eventually. In the meantime, comments are invited and encouraged. What would you like to send my Iranian friend, so as to help refute what she hears about the Great Satan?

Radical alternative to U.N.: nothing

Mark Steyn examines the corrupt reality and makes a radical proposal.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Bush makes surprise visit to Afghanistan

Lorie Byrd at PoliPundit has the story (and some thoughts).