Saturday, June 24, 2006

Media coverage of the War on Terror, shades of Vietnam.

Those of us who don't rely on the legacy, or main stream media (MSM in web parlance), for all our news - complete with spin - notice the difference between the impression readers are left with from the MSM, and the stories we get from the blogosphere, particularly the MilBlogs.

In the MSM (and it must be said, often in blogs too), spin is applied, and it seems to me that raw material is often first filtered through ideology, and weighted with political leanings. Quite often the MSM editorial policy is left of mainstream opinion, and regards the WoT, or War on Terror, very anti war and pro disengagement. It is almost as if, disagreeing with the US and coalition involvement, many in the MSM wish the allies would lose, and then they could say 'told you so'.

Shades of Vietnam, particularly the coverage of the Tet offensive. Wikipedia describes the outcome as;
"...Decisive ARVN, American and allied forces military victory, but an equally disastrous political and psychological setback for the United States...".
But US (and Australian) public opinion turned against the war in the months following Tet, due largely to the spin put on the reporting by the print and especially the electronic media of the time.

This article discusses the coverage, and quotes some interesting sources;

"...The turning point in Vietnam was the Tet Offensive of February, 1968. It was a crushing defeat for the Viet Cong.

"Our losses were staggering and a complete surprise," said North Vietnamese Army Col. Bui Tin in a 1995 interview. "Our forces in the South were nearly wiped out. It took until 1971 to re-establish our presence."...".


"..."The Tet Offensive proved catastrophic to our plans," said Truong Nhu Tang, minister of justice in the Viet Cong's provisional government, in a 1982 interview. "Our losses were so immense we were unable to replace them with new recruits."...".
So the coverage of the event by 'our' media portrayed at decisive tactical - if not strategic victory, into a propaganda win for the enemy.

For example, at Long Tan, an entire REGIMENT of Vietcong ambushed a single company of Aussies (that's odds of something like to 25:1 BTW), and got their arses comprehensively kicked for their efforts. Artillery support and helicopter resupply being decisive advantages. But that battle, and other battles like Khe Sanh for the Americans, went hugely under reported. (Interesting Khe Sanh vets site here).

US, Australian, ARVN and allied troops won every major battle, and campaign in Vietnam, but lost the overall campaign (I would argue that the overall strategic goal - that of stopping or slowing communist influence in SE Asia was achieved however). The greatest single factor aiding that outcome I would argue was western media coverage.

Now I see the same slanted reporting applied to the War on Terror, particularly in Iraq. Victories go under reported, or not at all. Insurgent attacks are given more prominence than deserved, and the overall impression formed by the reader is that we are doing badly, when in fact our guys are doing very well.

One difference then to now is that the sheer number and variety of points of view of the blogs must give a more multi faceted view of any subject explored. ie More balance overall.

I suggest Milblogs are good additional reading to the legacy media, if you want a better picture of what is actually going on!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Discussion on 'Direct democracy'.

Just had an interesting reply to my March post on 'Direct Democracy'.

Thank you for the post and links Stephen ( he has a website, and a blog on the subject).

I'll study both sites. Some of you may have thoughts on the subject, and on how hard you should go on the issue.

Seems to me that, just as a Constitution can and should limit arbitrary governance by the rulers, there should also be some pre-considered guides for Direct Democracy (considered by the people, not a limit used by the rulers).

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The 'blitz' truck, and Bush Fire Brigade memories.

I have written a little before of bushfires, and some personal recollections. They are one of Australias greatest hazards. The uninitiated simply cannot believe how fiercely a eucalyptus forest will burn, how quickly a crown fire moves, how intense the radiated heat is, how much damage they do so quickly. The bushfire has become folkloric (the Bushfire moon - "for flood and fire and famine..."). They can wipe out a farm (and a family), even a town or suburb.

I'm a country boy. When I was about 14, my mate Glen and I joined the local volunteer bushfire brigade. I suppose in a way it marked the time when both we and our little community judged us able bodied and competent enough to help look after our community (as opposed to being kids parents and community did the looking after thereof).

Our brigade was a volunteer, local community funded effort. These days it is the RFS, there is government and insurance company funding, and the equipment is so much better and more plentiful. Not so back then (more than 30 years ago). Funding was by raffles and dances, equipment was scrounged and built and maintained by the brigade members themselves. Our 'tanker' was an old 'Blitz' WW2 truck (more accurately a Canadian Military Pattern - or CMP - truck). These where built in large numbers in WW2, and afterwards formed the low cost end of the Australian transport industry into the 1960's - somewhat like the Liberty ships did for the world maritime transport industry.

So when you go to my links in the RH column, THAT is why I have a connection to the old, venerable 'blitz'. (Although it is just as much an important part of our history as well.).

Thursday, June 15, 2006

"A terrible resolve".

Since 9/11, there has been Bali, and attacks in the UK and Spain. Each the work of Islamic terrorists.

Those same groups look for 'the big one'. Another 9/11 scale attack. They seek to hurt those they hate.

I wonder if they have really looked at history. 20th century history, or even that of the last 20 years. For example, in 1980-88, Iraq and Iran battered each other to a stalemate, and a horrendous death toll. Arguably, that meant the armed forces of the 2 were reasonable similar in capability, it is telling that the Iraqi army lasted but 100 hours against the Americans and their allies in Desert Storm.

Likewise, Afghanistan tested the British in the 19th century, bested the Soviets in the 1980s. The Taliban lasted 3 months against 'the coalition'.

Iran is doing a lot of posturing lately, it's leaders have much to say about The West, and the USA in particular. They have a particular view of westerners, Iran obviously thinks it's dealing with softies. They would be wrong.

9/11 precipitated the 'War on Terror'. But it is a relatively low level conflict (so far), a background war, the West has made nothing like the level of commitment of WW2, or even of Vietnam.

So, if Al Quaeda, and others are looking for a 'big hit', one like or stronger than 9/11, they should perhaps look at history and think on things a little. Perhaps a quote will put some things in context, and on the table, so to speak;
"I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve."
Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Germany and Japan were allowed, encouraged even, to rebuild after WW2 by benevolent victors. It could be noted that each country was totally devastated by that war, and that the wartime leaders of those countries did not fare so well. Moreover, the culture and society of each was remade in a quite different image to those that originally made war on the allies.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Remember the Danish cartoons, and a boycott?

Raised at Tim Blair's blog;

Remember the Mohammed cartoons, and the boycott to 'punish' the Danes for their blasphemy?

"...Danish exports to the United States have increased by 17 percent and that, overall, the Danish economy has more than compensated for the results of the unjustified Muslim boycott..."
Looks like their boycott backfired. I just looooove irony and poetic justice!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

BlackFive; " We ALL got that SOB."

Via Blackfive;
"This message from Richard, a DoD contractor, via Seamus is important to understand how Zarqawi met his fate:"

We ALL got that SOB.

Some grandmother somewhere in America works in a factory soldering wires to a harness that will connect to a little square box containing a little projection camera for an F-16 Heads Up Display.

A young man or woman a year removed from high school pulled pins from 500lb bombs on a hot desert tarmac.

Another kid in America works in a foundry pouring hot aluminum alloys which will eventually find its way to the compressor stage of the F-100 engine that will power an F-16 from a runway.

Someone in America sang in a church choir on Sunday, and on Monday was holding a rivet gun, helping build another warplane, which will help keep us free.

Some group of brave men in the darkness, shined a little laser beam against a building.

Some geeky American, known for his/her math skills wrote a little program that turns numbers into coordinates.

Some young American decided to become a pilot after watching the Thunderbirds or Blue Angels put on a show.

Some American you or I will never meet, had an idea, which became GPS.

Some kid who last year was dancing at a Prom pulled the chocks.

Some kid wiped the canopy that a year ago was wiping car windshields in their summer job at the local car wash back home.

Someone working in a rubber factory had no idea that his or her work product was tucking itself into its bay as the pilot brought up the gear 20 ft off the deck.

Some little American girl who years ago was all about MTV and CDs gave a vector, cleared hot.

Some pilots did their job.

SHACK, baby.

AMERICA got that son of a bitch.

Every damn one of us.

All I can say is that before he died, I hope it hurt like hell.

This one's for Nick Berg.

The sad passing of Common Sense

Thanks to Doug from over at AFDF (post #22378).

The sad passing of Common Sense

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years.

No one knows for sure how old he was since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape.

He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as knowing when to come in out of the rain, why the early bird gets the worm, life isn't always fair, and maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you earn) and reliable parenting strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place.

Reports of a six-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch;
and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job they themselves failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.

It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer Panadol, sun lotion or a sticky plaster to a student but could not inform the parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the Ten Commandments became contraband; churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar can sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust; by his wife, Discretion; by his daughter, Responsibility; and by his son, Reason.

He is survived by three stepbrothers:

I Know My Rights,
Someone Else is to Blame,
I'm A Victim.

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.

If you still remember him, pass this on.

If not join the majority and do nothing.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

My Country.

I suppose it's true that most everyone 'loves their country' though many may not like it's government, or how it's governed (hence we have emigration, and oppositions - sometimes violent opposition - in the world today).

Americans are probably the most overtly patriotic people I've met. Europeans less so. This Aussie loves his country, and his family, and I'm very proud of the achievements of both over the last couple of hundred years. Both my wife and I come from what is called 'good pioneering stock', and our forefathers (and mothers) were amongst the early settlers to this land.

It was a hard land to settle in the 18th and 19th centuries. But in a little more than 200 years, our predecessors created a quite free, prosperous, first world society which became the only country which has a whole continent to itself (albeit the smallest, driest, most inhospitable of them save for Antarctica). IMHO, a monument to what the human spirit can achieve.

I'l share with you a poem, written during the times when that process was still maturing;

My Country

The love of field and coppice,
Of green and shaded lanes,
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins.
Strong love of grey-blue distance
Brown streams and soft, dim skies -
I know but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.
I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror -
The wide brown land for me!
The stark white ring-barked forests,
All tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon.
Green tangle of the brushes,
Where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree tops
And ferns the warm dark soil.
Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When sick at heart, around us,
We see the cattle die -
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady, soaking rain.
Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the Rainbow Gold,
For flood and fire and famine,
She pays us back three-fold.
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze ...
An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land -
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand -
Though earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly
by Dorothea Mackellar

It can still be a harsh land. I can remember quite a few droughts. My childhood was spent largely in the central west of NSW, and I can not recall it raining until I was about 6, obviously it did, but a most vivid memory is of council water trucks dispensing water, many houses having their rainwater tanks quite dry due to the drought, of a huge dust storm rolling in, and of people quite literally dancing in the rain when the drought broke sometime later.
More recently (2001), when we had bushfires in our area (our house is bordered by bushland, the water catchment area for Sydney's main dam - Warragamba). I remember bulldozers working at 2AM near our house extending the fire trails, bushfires being nearby. A few days later, our little family was sitting on our veranda having a drink whilst watching the helicopters water bombing the approaching fire, bushfire brigade tankers thick in the street, and our cars packed for a quick evacuation if required. Yes, she is a 'wilful, lavish land'. A country, a history, and a struggle to be proud of.

Poets capture the spirit so much better than we mere mortals can. This one is by Henry Lawson;

How the Land Was Won

The future was dark and the past was dead
As they gazed on the sea once more –
But a nation was born when the immigrants said
"Good-bye!" as they stepped ashore!
In their loneliness they were parted thus
Because of the work to do,
A wild wide land to be won for us
By hearts and hands so few.

The darkest land 'neath a blue sky's dome,
And the widest waste on earth;
The strangest scenes and the least like home
In the lands of our fathers' birth;
The loneliest land in the wide world then,
And away on the furthest seas,
A land most barren of life for men –
And they won it by twos and threes!

With God, or a dog, to watch, they slept
By the camp-fires' ghastly glow,
Where the scrubs were dark as the blacks that crept
With "nulla" and spear held low;
Death was hidden amongst the trees,
And bare on the glaring sand
They fought and perished by twos and threes –
And that's how they won the land!

It was two that failed by the dry creek bed,
While one reeled on alone –
The dust of Australia's greatest dead
With the dust of the desert blown!
Gaunt cheek-bones cracking the parchment skin
That scorched in the blazing sun,
Black lips that broke in a ghastly grin –
And that's how the land was won!

Starvation and toil on the tracks they went,
And death by the lonely way;
The childbirth under the tilt or tent,
The childbirth under the dray!
The childbirth out in the desolate hut
With a half-wild gin for nurse –
That's how the first were born to bear
The brunt of the first man's curse!

They toiled and they fought through the shame of it –
Through wilderness, flood, and drought;
They worked, in the struggles of early days,
Their sons' salvation out.
The white girl-wife in the hut alone,
The men on the boundless run,
The miseries suffered, unvoiced, unknown –
And that's how the land was won.

No armchair rest for the old folk then –
But, ruined by blight and drought,
They blazed the tracks to the camps again
In the big scrubs further out.
The worn haft, wet with a father's sweat,
Gripped hard by the eldest son,
The boy's back formed to the hump of toil –
And that's how the land was won!

And beyond Up Country, beyond Out Back,
And the rainless belt, they ride,
The currency lad and the ne'er-do-well
And the black sheep, side by side;
In wheeling horizons of endless haze
That disk through the Great North-west,
They ride for ever by twos and by threes –
And that's how they win the rest.
Henry Lawson, 1899
That last also captures a little of the relationships in our society. Australian families tend to be very 'nuclear', meaning that the parents and children form a very independent unit. Not overly connected to the extended family (unlike the model many of our recent immigrants are used to, be they from Asia, Italy, Greece etc). No, we tend to be more self contained and independent. Your spouse and your friends (mates) tend to be your support network.
I think that probably dates back to our pioneering past. They got married (young) and since most were farmers or graziers, the way of it was to travel, select a new area, build a hut, clear the land, struggle, and raise a family. Usually, it was just the 2 of you against the world, with maybe some help from your neighbours in the worst bits. Quite different too, to the Islamic model. Our wives are truly our partners, in society, and in the challenges we need to overcome to thrive in this world
'Mate' is an Aussie term that has become a cliche. It usually is a term used towards a friend or aquaintance, however, I'm not the only Aussie bloke who would consider my wife to be 'my best mate' (of almost 20 years so far!).

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Another one down.

Sadly, there have been, and are some individuals in this world which humanity would have done better, and been happier, without. Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot are examples. Another being Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Al Qaeda's leader in Iraq. According to the New York Times, Zarqawi and 7 associates were killed by a US airstrike yesterday.
"...BAGHDAD, Iraq, June 8 - Al Qaeda's leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed in an American airstrike on an isolated safe house north of Baghdad at 6.15 p.m. local time on Wednesday..."
"...Gen. Casey said an American air strike had targeted "a single dwelling in a wooded area surrounded by very dense palm forest" five miles, north of the city of Baquba, and that "precision munitions" had been used, a phrase that usually refers to laser-guided bombs or missiles..."
The perception created in the 'main stream media' is that the US and allies are bogged down in Iraq. Milblogs (ie the people on the ground) say different. It won't be over soon, but they are clearly making progress 'over there'.
This has removed at least one of the beast's heads. The world is a little better off today than it was yesterday.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

East Timor... Needs some help.

It may not be high on the list of priorities for the US and Europe, but East Timor is having problems. I believe it to be in Australia's best interests to help East Timor. We should help because they are a courageous people who have suffered much (history of ET here), and deserve a better chance than they have gotten so far, but also, if for no other reason, that of making sure we don't have yet another unstable state to our north - the so-called 'arc of instability'.

During WW2, Japan invaded East Timor. Australian independent companies conducted guerilla war on the Japanese, with some success(and with the assistance of Timorese), and tied up Japanese troops that would probably have been used in PNG or other places.

The East Timorese suffered greatly, at the hands of the Japanese in WW2, and at the hands of the Indonesians from 1975 to 1999. They deserve better, they deserve help.
What sort of help? In the short term, they are currently getting help in the form of peacekeeping military forces from Australia, Portugal, Malaysia, NZ. What they need after that is not to be forgotten again. Perhaps we could provide exchange police and military as advisers, government admistrative assistance, loan guarantees, whatever they need. It IS in our interests, and 'the right thing to do' to help a neighbour who needs it.

The attached image is of a pamphlet, dropped to the Timorese during WW2, saying " Your Friends Do Not Forget You". We shouldn't forget them now either.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Bottom line.

Many regimes throughout the world. Many people (especially on the political left) question the war in Iraq, and the War on Terror generally. But also, there are many of us who view the War on Terror, Iraq and Afghanistan as better than the alternatives. Those alternatives being a regime like the Taliban still in place and aiding world terrorism, and a nasty dictator in place in Iraq. There are worse things than war. As the world saw in 1939, failing to draw a line can make the final reckoning worse, and make the suffering of people worse. Would not the world have been a much better place if we had collectively stood up to Nazi Germany and fascist Italy earlier - say 1933 or so? If we had clearly told Japan that it had gone too far in China and Manchuria in 1933? Perhaps war, and the tens of millions of deaths that followed, perhaps even the Holocaust, could have been avoided?

Assertive diplomacy, backed by military strength can be a force for good. Early and decisive action sooner rather than later, can correct a tendency to slip towards darkness. There are alternatives worse than war.

In Afghanistan, a repressive regime was toppled and Afghanis got a chance many of us take for granted. A vote.

Afghan men waiting to vote in nation's first election

And in Iraq, after the ousting of Saddam, they also got a chance at self determination;

The bottom line, I think history will say that the better of the available choices was made.