Tobacco Road Fogey

'puters, politics, and occasional prattle.

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Friday, April 25, 2003
 

A new reader...

Thanks to the magic of the people at Technorati, I discovered a new reader of this blog:
The Right Wing blogger at Tobacco Road Fogey is still ducking the issue, as I would expect.

[quote from my article snipped]

He claims, after looking at a few maps of Baghdad, that U.S. forces must not have been able to get to the National Museum and protect it, or perhaps it was low priority. Right. Fogey ignores the looting of other buildings.

"Right Wing"? Ms. Diva, you're never going to make the A-list at blogs like Atrios, Hesiod, and Kos if you don't get the terminology straight. It should have been "The Right Wingnut blogger at Tobacco Road Fogey..." Those guys are real sticklers for accurate usage of epithets.
  

Thursday, April 24, 2003
 

Calling Paul Harvey...

N. Z. Bear has the following to say about the looting of the Iraq National Museum:
Now, however, we have a clear example of something that U.S. forces did, indeed, screw up. It happens; the failure was not deliberate (to the best of my knowledge), and it's importance should not be overstated. But it should be acknowledged for what it was: an error.

Thus far, the pro-war side of the Blogosphere isn't faring too well on this test.

Although the media, here and in Baghdad, have been quick and vociferous in assigning blame to the U.S. forces for allowing the looting to occur, I'm not convinced we have gotten "the rest of the story" in this instance. I decided to take a look around for appropriate maps of Baghdad that might show the Iraqi National Museum, along with other parts of Baghdad that might prove to be relevant to develop some informed speculation about how the military situation might have developed in the area around the museum.

Here's an interactive map of Baghdad (Flash required). If you click on the + sign in the lower right corner four or five times, you'll see a marker for the Iraqi National Museum appear. Please note its location and its position in relationship to what is marked on the map as Central Railway and the Radio, T.V. and Telecommunications Center and verify it against the location cited in the fourth paragraph of this article, which dates from before the beginning of the war.

Now, take a look at this map,which was produced and released earlier this year by the National Imaging and Mapping Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense. If you center the horizontal and vertical sliders on your browser window, you should see the tigress River snaking from the upper left corner of the browser window toward the center before it bends around to exit the browser window at the lower left.

Over on the left side of this window, you should see a large white-colored area extending from the Tigris in the lower left part of the screen, all the way up the left side of the screen. About midway up the screen, you should see some purple lettering that says "Baghdad Central Railway Station". Diagonally up to the right from the Railway Station label, you'll see another purple label that says "Iraqi Dates Commission". Just on the other side of the north-south street beside the Iraqi Dates Commission label, there is a small beige or light brown icon which has no label. This, I believe, is the site of the Iraqi National Museum, especially since it is about half a mile due west of the icon labelled "S.O. Radio and T.V.", as is the Iraqi National Museum marker on the ABCNews map.

Take a look at some of the other features and structures near the museum on the NIMA map. The white area starting at the label "Mathaf Sq." and extending northwest for about two miles is a huge railway yard adjacent to the Central Railway station. A few rough calculations indicates that this area covers about one to one and a half square miles. And, if it's like every other large railway yard I've ever seen, it was probably full of train cars and all sorts of other places for a defending force to hide.

Remember that U.S. forces were approaching this area from the former Saddam International Airport, which is to the southwest of this area. Since this railyard is the main rail center for Baghdad, I feel confident that it was probably a high priority target for the U.S. forces and, given the fact that it is so large, I would think that it took a sizeable force and a significant amount of time to bring it under control.

Please note some of the other buildings labelled on the map. The Saddam Grand Mosque is about half a mile west of the railway station and about a mile west of the museum. There is another unlabelled mosque about half a mile south of the museum. Given the fact that the Fedayeen Saddam and other irregular forces had been using mosques as points of defense throughout the campaign, I'm sure that more troops and time were needed to bring these buildings under coalition control.

There is also a hospital about half a mile northwest of the museum site, which probably was also an objective for the U.S. troops, along with the T.V. and Radio Center about two-thirds of a mile to the west.

If fighting broke out at any of the locations that I mentioned, it would be easily heard in the area around the museum and might have served to alert anyone prone to loot the museum that time was getting short and the opportunity to loot might soon pass.

In short, until we get more details about how the U.S. forces moved into this area of Baghdad and the amount of time taken and resistance met during this phase of the campaign, I think it is premature to lay blame at the feet of the U.S. troops for failing to control the museum. All of the other buildings and areas that I have mentioned would appear, to me at least, to be of equal or higher priority as objectives for the advancing forces, based on the criteria I heard recounted in the media.

It probably was a situation of not enough soldiers to do too many things at one point in time. And I'm inclined to give our troops the benefit of the doubt in this kind of situation.

This is, of course, purely speculation on my part. Any information that supports or opposes this speculation would be gladly received.

I wish the media were also so inclined. Or at least honest enough to give us enough of the full story to make a more informed judgement.

UPDATE: Found a link to this article over at Too Much To Dream, with this information:

Mr George is clearly angry, claiming that the Americans left the museum unguarded for days. He is not the only one. Repeating an Iraqi conspiracy theory so universal that it is now received wisdom, Mohammed Sabri, a prehistoric specialist, said bitterly: "They were late. They should have been here from the first day. The Ministry of Oil was protected the first day, why not the museum. Why? Ask the Americans."

The Americans have a ready answer. "We were fighting the whole time," Captain Jason Conroy said, wiping his brow as he guarded the museum gate. "For four days we were taking machinegun-fire and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) from these buildings around here. They had a bunker around the back of the museum with a cache of RPGs. Guys were running out of that alley, firing Kalashnikovs at us.

When we shot them, they threw out hooks, dragged the bodies and guns back and came at us again."

After four days of intense street battles with Saddam's Fedayin and Special Republican Guards, Captain Conroy said, his company of Abrams tanks and armoured vehicles was ordered north on April 15 to destroy an anti-aircraft gun.

"When we got back the next day, everything was already on fire here and the press were here asking us: 'How come you weren't in the museum three days ago?' I said: 'If you guys had been here three days ago, you would know why.'"

More to follow, I'm sure.
  

Monday, April 21, 2003
 

More about the draft

Since this blog and I first came to the attention of the blogosphere because of this article I wrote earlier in the year, I've tried to keep an eye out for articles about reviving the military draft. Lo and behold, I found this (link is perishable) in my hometown newspaper this morning. The lead article is here, and related articles are here, here, here, and here.

Please note the title and subtitle of the main article:

Whose children should fight our wars?
A campaign to reinstate the draft -- adding women to the mix -- revives questions about fairness and who should defend us.
A rather breathtaking display of the Rangel-Hollings agenda in pushing for the reinstatement of the military draft, don't you think?

And this paragraph from the main article:

Hollings and Rangel say that the burden should be carried by all segments of society and that a universal draft is the best way to guarantee it. They contend that an all-volunteer military relies too much on minorities and poor people who lack the career options of the better-educated and more well-to-do. Moreover, they suggest, the nation's leaders would be far less eager to send troops off to war if their own children had to go.
The way I see it, this proposal has nothing to do with military preparedness or improving the quality of our existing military, which has been amply demonstrated in the past few weeks. This proposal has everything to do with further domestically politicizing questions of war and peace in an attempt to poison the well against any decision by this president and his successors to take offensive military action against any future foes of this country.

The scare tactics are obvious. Make a demogogic populist allegation that the "better-educated and more well-to-do" citizens of this country, along with the nation's leaders, are not carrying their fair share of the national defense burden for this country (even though the more well-to-do are paying a disproportionate share of the federal taxes that go to purchase all of the wonder weapons and to pay the salaries and benefits of the people who serve in the military). Stir in a hint that not just the sons of those better-educated, more well-to-do, and leaders of the country should face this obligation, but their daughters ought to be considered for such service as well.

Given the fact that the current leadership in the Defense Department is openly opposed to the reinstatement of the draft and that our current campaign in Iraq has demonstrated the strength and vitality of the current volunteer force, why push this proposal now, if not for some twisted partisan political reason?

It's obvious to me that Senator Hollings and Congressman Rangel have an axe to grind with something or someone beyond the ranks of our fighting men and women. They appear to have dipped into the old class-warfare page of the Democratic political playbook, when they should be saluting and supporting the brave men and women who make our current volunteer military the best in the world.

It took the better part of a decade to fix the American military after Vietnam, and the success of the all-volunteer military we currently have is undeniable. Don't let these two egotistical pettifogging buffoons break what doesn't need fixing. If you really support our troops, leave them alone and let them continue to do what they do best -- defend this country like no other military force in history has been able to do.
  





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