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2003 Archives

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April 3, 2003, 6:55 P.M.

Did I miss something? WWIV??? Former CIA Director James Woolsey said Wednesday the United States is engaged in World War IV, and that it could continue for years.

April 3, 2003, 7:55 A.M.

We received the following howler from Axle Pariah regarding our post about the progress of the war:

”It is…pitiable that the people who pronounce that the war is off plan, that the troops are not supplied, that munitions are running out and that vehicles are breaking down are know nothings. I doubt that anyone on the New York times editorial page knows how to check the oil in their SUV, let alone understand routine maintenance for a heavy tracked vehicle that has traveled 200 miles. The chattering class will not be happy unless they snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. This nation has been too long influenced by the opinions of people who know nothing. As I have said in the past just because someone has something to say does not means its worth listening to. If you wish to get useful information like whether the replacement of track on heavy equipment after 200 miles is the result of a breakdown or part of a scheduled maintenance program ask a heavy equipment guy, not the New York Times Editorial Board.”

What is pitiable, Axle, is that, faced with primary source data, there are those who can still block out reality and suggest that because someone does not agree with them, they are know-nothings.

Commanders and soldiers in the field have consistently reported on equipment problems. No one said that the equipment problems are anyone’s fault, and most problems relate to the difficulty of running high speed turbine or jet engines in a desert environment. The fact is, there have been breakdowns. Being someone who is personally familiar (as Axle knows) with heavy tracked equipment (albeit excavating equipment and not high speed tanks and APCs), I know that any attacking mechanized unit has a maintenance schedule built into its advance. That’s one of the reasons why mechanized divisions “leap frog” toward an objective. It is also the reason why tanks can often be seen moving on the back of tank-carrying vehicles operated by maintenance battalions – to save undercarriage wear.

Unlike Axle, I do not now, nor have I ever, owned a SUV, but I do know how to check my oil, and I understand how heavy tracked vehicles work.

The same is true of munitions. Ships only carry a certain amount of this stuff (another subject I know a little about) and no one from the Pentagon to the deckhand disputes that we are using up ordinance at a high rate. Likewise, no one, including commanders in the field who provide daily briefings, has understated the supply line difficulties presented by Iraqi troops in the rear of advancing troops. Again, not anyone’s fault, but clearly happening, evidenced by the capture and slaughter of a maintenance team going out to pick up a broken piece of equipment.

Our sources for this site are multiple, reliable and verifiable. Just because you disagree doesn’t mean we are wrong.

April 2, 2003, 9:20 A.M.

Take a look at this Gideon Rose piece in Slate this morning. It has a familiar ring to it. . .

March 31, 2003 3:30 P.M.

Here's an update of my previous post on Peter Arnett. The New York Times reports that Arnett has been fired by NBC for his comments on Iraqi television.

March 30, 2003 7:35 P.M.

Fox News has just reported (although no confirming link is available yet) that Peter Arnett has given an interview to Iraqi state television in which he states that "the war plan has failed" and then apparently went on to talk about how the increased resistance of the Iraqi fighters is encouraging the anti-war movement back home. (This story is from Command Post, a blog that appears to us to be very accurate and timely.) If this report is accurate, Arnett is an ass.

Whether or not the "war plan" has failed, it is apparent that the troops on the ground and their commanders are adapting. They are figuring things out and they are making progress. I have a lot of problems with, and a lot to say about the political aspects of this war, but I have no doubt that the people actually doing the fighting know what they are doing. Americans and Brits are remarkably resiliant, adaptive, innovative and determined people and our soldiers are some of the best of us. To undermine their efforts and give hope to an adversary that will be defeated is wrong. Shut up and sit down, Peter. More on this later.

March 30, 2003 11:45 A.M.

Axle Pariah and I have been having a running discussion regarding U.S. diplomacy and the future of international relations. Tom Friedman’s article in today’s New York Times is along the same lines as those discussions.

Until 9/11, international diplomacy still reflected the old power balance left over from the Cold War. This approach contemplates an east-west balance. With the change in the makeup of NATO, and the interest of former eastern bloc countries in aligning themselves with the U.S., the French and to a lesser extent the Germans are being marginalized on the world scene. Even Russia, no longer a great power, is looking to the U.S. as a stabilizing influence, hence their tentative agreement to support U.S. efforts in Afghanistan. For Russia to re-enter Afghanistan given its history there is a major development.

It is hard to tell where this will all lead, but if the U.N. is have a role, there will have to be a marked change in the structure and operation of that body. The new world order will not, and should not, make room for an organization that puts Libya in charge of a human rights commission.

The U.S. can’t go it alone. The quiet request of the Bush administration for an international effort in Afghanistan is a good sign. A realization that alliances and partnerships will be necessary to forge a workable new world order is a rare sign of pragmatism and insight from this administration. Diplomacy has to get back on track if the U.S. is to retain its pre-eminence on the world political and economic stage. If the President is paying attention, he will realize that unless he abandons his cowboy posture, this war could be lost, or worse, could turn into a massive regional quagmire or even the third world war.

To claim a war of liberation, there must be a population wanting to be liberated. Unfortunately, timing is a problem. If Saddam continues to hold off U.S. and British forces, his supporters inside and outside Iraq will be emboldened. This is especially dangerous where the most technologically advanced ground forces in our arsenal are on ships in the Mediterranean Sea because of our colossal screw-up with Turkey. The prolonged and difficult nature of this conflict compounds the effect of this gaffe.

Our supply lines are stretched thin and are constantly subject to effective harassment by the enemy. There is no northern front to take the pressure off of the southern advance and a significant portion of the force originally expected to be engaged by now is left in transit. But for air superiority, we would be in serious trouble. Unfortunately, the Navy is running low on precision munitions and cruise missiles, and the Army and Marines are experiencing serious maintenance problems with tanks, armored vehicles and other mechanical equipment. This only adds to the pressure.

Reuters reported yesterday that officials within the Bush administration are starting to back away from Donald Rumsfeld. Bush maintains “plausible deniability” with his declare-war-then-go-on-vacation management style, but this won’t last long.

The reports suggest that Rumsfeld has limited the number of troops on the ground because he doesn’t want a big “footprint.” He also overruled General Tommy Franks, who wanted to get troops who were supposed to go in through Turkey into place before stepping off the curb in Iraq. Now Rumsfeld is not looking so good and as our soldiers continue to die, he is only going to look worse.

March 30, 2003 11:35 A.M.

Several lawsuits, including class action claims, have been filed in federal court in Texas against Halliburton Company, Arthur Anderson and former Halliburton officers and directors, including Vice President Dick Cheney. These suits allege that Halliburton’s practice of treating unresolved construction claims as receivables for accounting purposes violates Accounting Standards Board Statement of Position 81-1, which says that if a change in accounting principles is made, that there is a duty to notify shareholders of the change.

Halliburton says that it did not change its accounting methods and that these methods are acceptable under authorization from the Accounting Standards Board. But let’s review what they did. They made claims outside of their contracts for extras on changes. These claims were not recognized or paid, but they were shown as contract revenue even before the jobs were finished, and they used that information in earnings reports. This practice has a positive effect on stock prices and earnings for Halliburton principals and shareholders, regardless of whether the revenue is determined to be real or not. Sounds like Enron to me.

March 30, 2003 11:30 A.M.

There have been reports in the Concord Monitor, New Hampshire Public Radio, and other news sources on the move of Governor Benson’s company, Enterasys, to Massachusetts. Yes, that’s right, a company whose largest shareholder is the Governor of New Hampshire, is moving its corporate headquarters to Andover, Massachusetts. The company’s chief executive officer, William O’Brien, says that the move is designed to place the company closer to “some of the best high tech talent and executive talent on the East Coast.” Apparently, the cost of moving a company’s headquarters close to that “talent” isn’t a factor because, says O’Brien, “the talent is the life blood of our business and if it costs you a few more dollars to do it, that’s well worth it.”

This is a big deal because candidate Benson, touting his business credentials as founder of Cabletron, the parent company of Enterasys, said that he was going to attract more high-tech business to New Hampshire. So far, Massachusetts Governor Mitt (what kind of name is that?) Romney is 2-0 against Benson. Bowstreet, a software company late of Portsmouth, NH is, as of February, located in Tewksbury, Massachusetts.

While the move of its corporate headquarters to Andover, where it already has 350 employees and will gain another 50, will not shut down NH operations, the focus of the company’s operations is nonetheless significant. Yesterday’s report in the Boston Globe suggests that this move will make Enterasys the largest telecom networking company in Massachusetts.

Apparently, this is a good move for the company, which is still recovering from its settlement of a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation over accounting irregularities. The company lost ground shortly after going public in 2001 when it announced a $4 million accounting problem with its Asia operations. Then there is that pesky class action lawsuit pending in U.S. District Court that further impacts stock prices. Given its losses over the last year and a half, it is obvious that the company is moving to improve its financial position and that it sees its future in Massachusetts. While this exodus is occurring, Governor Benson’s budget is still $60 million out of balance, according to the head of the House Finance Committee, Neal Kurk, and state agencies are facing draconian cuts. Fourteen state trooper’s jobs will go away (probably to Massachusetts), at the same time as Commissioner Richard Flynn’s office budget is increased. The Governor proposes to underfund indigent criminal defense services, which are required by the Constitution) by $4 -$5 million over the next two years.

The $60 million shortfall does not take into consideration the repayment of the $32 million that was taken from police, fire, and teacher retirement accounts to cover health care increases for retirees. Losing businesses to Massachusetts certainly is not going to help this cause.

Unlike a business, the state is required to provide certain services and to pay certain expenses either by the state or federal constitutions or by law. In other words, there is only so far that a budget can be cut. Unlike the federal government, our state government cannot carry a deficit. No degree of accounting magic can change a $90 million deficit into a balanced budget.

One solution that the Governor has borrowed from business is to offer incentives to state workers for making their agencies more efficient. In early February he asked the legislature to create an incentive program that encourages state workers to put forward ideas to save money or improve efficiency. Once state auditors determine how much money was saved by a particular idea, the responsible state employee gets $10,000 or 10% of the amount saved, whichever is less. This is actually not a bad idea, but no one knows how much savings will be realized, and there are certainly no implications for the current budget.

The much-touted “New Hampshire Advantage” is supposed to be a tax-free, business-friendly environment. If companies are moving out of New Hampshire, even companies owned by our Governor, we are correct in wondering where that New Hampshire advantage went and who will be next to go.

March 30, 2003 10:35 A.M.

Time appears to be on the side of the Iraqi regime. What is most troubling is that the longer this war lasts, the stronger anti-war, anti-U.S. and anti-Bush sentiment becomes. As these sentiments spread throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds, resistance to the war grows. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is now threatening Syria for sending weapons to Iraq (he has not yet threatened Russia, but who knows what he’ll do next). This is causing the White House to push for an invasion of Baghdad before the troops and their commanders are ready. I see this as a facet of the political war that I talked about in an earlier post. I think it has the potential for disastrous consequences.

Regardless of what the heads are saying about what they said before, it’s time for serious thinking about the prosecution of the war and just who is driving the bus.

March 30, 2003 10:10 A.M.

In response to questions like, “What’s wrong with you?” and “When are you going to get a real job?” I offer the following by way of explanation. In spite of what it might seem like, I do have a real job, I write for this site part-time, and, no, there’s nothing wrong with me. I don’t get paid for it (but have you noticed these cunning Support The Site buttons?), and I enjoy it. I like to refer readers to other sources to get them thinking about a topic that comes to my attention. One of the sources that I often refer to is Josh Marshall’s Talking Points Memo. Marshall has recently posted a series of notes about the war in Iraq and the apparent underestimation of Iraqi resistance. I found Marshall’s reporting on Joseph Gallway’s (co-author of We Were Soldiers Once. . .And Young”) observations on the conflict to be particularly hair-raising. Check it out. For absolutely up-to-the-minute war coverage, take a look at the Command Post warblog. You can find links to these sites and more on the list of website links in the left margin of this page.

March 30, 2003 9:05 A.M.

The New Hampshire House of Representatives voted to kill the so-called “Right to Work” bill this week by a vote of 262-103. Good for them, because this attempt at union-busting is a bill that keeps coming back like the proverbial bad penny.


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