masthead-highres

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Infidels Are Cool Reprints Joe Roche Letter

Infidels Are Cool has reprinted Joe Roche's letter, with main points highlighted.

Joe's letter also appears to be getting some nice diggs over at Digg.com.

Thanks to those of you who have reprinted it, dugg it, or passed it along to friends.


E-mail any comments to [email protected].
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:10 PM

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Outrage of the Day: "Change Has Come. It's Very Demoralizing."

It's been a while since I've published a letter from Sgt. Joe Roche, my old friend whose letters from Iraq during 14 months in 2003-2004 garnered so much attention.

Since last year, Joe is once again overseas in active duty combat with the U.S. Army (no longer in Iraq). He continues to send letters. Unfortunately, he's gone months without giving me permission to publish any.

In stark contrast to his letters from Iraq, which were optimistic even when few others were optimistic about U.S. operations in that country, Joe's letters now are very alarming. Reading them, I have concluded that it would be a very good idea if all of us (bloggers, Congressmen, citizens -- all of us) paid a great deal more attention to such things as the number of troops deployed in Afghanistan (among other things).

Joe gave me permission to reprint the letter I received from him yesterday. He doesn't get into the very alarming things that are in his other letters; as depressing as it is, it's the least alarming one I've seen from him in months. Nevertheless, his reporting on how some politicians and commentators here are adversely affecting the morale of deployed soldiers should be read by anyone who wishes to see us prevail in the War on Terror.
Amy,

It is frustrating and demoralizing to see the spectacle going on in the press/media and in Washington, D.C. over the release of the CIA memos and the debate over the use of enhanced interrogation techniques or torture. My fellow soldiers are NOT impressed, and are actually quite disgusted by the moralizing going on, and the posturing of some leaders against what we, the United States, had to do in order to get control of the catastrophe that hit us on September 11th, 2001.

The root issue is not being addressed by anyone. This is that there was a massive intelligence failure and a failure of leadership during the decade leading up to 9/11. Our country had been attacked nearly every year since the first bombing of the World Trade Center in New York in 1993. The Khobar Towers bombing (1996), the massive bombing of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania (1998), the USS Cole bombing (2000), including foiled plots such as the Bojinka plot (1995) to hijack a dozen planes in a single day, as well as other attacks such as the massive bombings in Argentina (1994), the numerous bus bombings in Israel (1995-1996), and there were more. Osama Bin Laden had been very prominent throughout the 1990s in calling for war against American civilians, issuing his fatwa in 1998 that led to the 9/11 attacks.

I was involved in the fight against terrorism in the Middle East before 9/11 as you know, and there was a painfully disasterous ignorance and disregard of the threat of Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and terrorism in general before 9/11. I wrote about this threat in 1995 in my college newspaper and was ridiculed as a racist and bigot for suggesting such a thing. FBI agents working this issue were blocked in their investigations. The infamous political "wall" preventing agencies from working together in order to understand the threat was well detailed in the 9/11 Commission Report.

Our government and leadership failed us in the decade leading up to 9/11. Therefore, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 we had to quickly learn and clarify exactly what the threat was. There were concerns of nuclear bombs being brought to New York City, and other WMD warnings. We were blind. Our nation's intelligence was blind. The American people were in a panic, and in lieu of the anger over 9/11 the American people were demanding quick action to avert any repeat of the 9/11 disaster. Our intelligence had no clarity of the extent of the threat, so aggressive measures had to be used quickly just in order to repair the blindness of not only our intelligence agencies, but also that of our leaders and the American people overall. This is why such things happened. If those moralizing today want to point the finger of blame for things they don't like about what we had to do, they need to point to our leadership and the intelligence agencies during the decade before 9/11.

I've heard that one of our current leaders likes to say that he told President Bush one day in the Oval Office that if he looked behind, no one was there following him. True. We had dropped all of our personal affairs, left civilian jobs, said goodbye to loved ones, and joined the military and deployed to the front lines overseas to confront and reverse the consequences of the past decade of failure. That was where we were, in uniform, on the front lines, following the leadership of our Commander-in-Chief.

The one thing we knew before was that we had the backing of our leadership. Yes, change has come. It is very demoralizing.

Joe

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:06 AM

Saturday, January 31, 2009

It Has Not Been Easy for Iraqis to Reach This Day

By Joe Roche:
"We in this country are by destiny rather than by choice the watchmen on the walls of world freedom.” John F. Kennedy did not live to speak these words from his speech, prepared to give the day he was assassinated. Yet, today, his unspoken conviction is with us in Iraq.

It has not been easy for Iraqis to reach this day. Decades of tyranny, a culture traumatized by a long legacy of repression and war, but like the Germans and Japanese after 1945 who had similar legacies, the Iraqis chose democracy.

I feel a personal kinship to my Iraqi friends, and not only because of the sacrifice my fellow American soldiers endured for Iraq. I had some personal tragedies over the past few years in my private life. This does not need elaboration except to say that the Iraqi will to survive numerous tragedies and to emerge anew today is something I feel inspired by.

I faced times of despair, as did Iraqis in their struggle, but the human spirit persevered. Iraqis, a God-fearing people, have given us all a lesson to appreciate God's Will in our lives, which is for us to break away from bondage and move on from adversity through our free choice. In the face of threats, assassinations and other extreme dangers from terrorists, most of whom come from outside Iraq, they chose to move on with their lives today in self-determination.

Ronald Reagan said, "No arsenal or no weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women.” He knew this through the struggle of people all over the world against communist enslavement. Today I'm seeing this again in Iraq.

Set aside your political views this evening and behold this American moment in the world. From Illinois, the land of Abraham Lincoln, an African-American used Lincoln's Bible to take the oath of office as our leader freely elected in a land that once had slavery. The lesson of America's remarkable story to overcome adversity and throw away bondage is striking throughout the world.

There were advocates of slavery before the Civil War who said that Africans could not be educated, that they had a tribal culture and ethos that only was good for slavery, that their history and other physical and social attributes made them best suited to live in bondage. I've heard many of these same arguments from critics of Operation Iraqi Freedom who have said Arabs are incapable of democracy and self-determination. Yet, now, moving from Barack Obama's inauguration to Iraq's election, Reagan's conviction again proves the correctness of America's exceptional leadership and example.

I'm proud of the soldiers I'm with who have made so many amazing sacrifices to volunteer during this dangerous time and leave loved ones behind. I'm proud of Iraqis who have defied naysayers worldwide and chose to seize this day in freedom. I'm proud of the courage of Americans who stood strong against the pessimists, pushed the surge in 2007 in the face of a conventional wisdom that had declared the war lost, and our leaders who did like Lincoln and Reagan by remaining committed to an unpopular mission to defeat tyranny and reject legacies of despotism.

Yes, America is moving on, and through our national will we are largely looking away from even acknowledging our victory in Iraq. Whatever we are, we are not an arrogant people. We could celebrate this mission, but it is instead our generous sacrifice that stands as "the watchmen on the walls of world freedom.” We refrained from celebrating Reagan's victory over Soviet communism, and now we are doing the same over George W. Bush's victory over Al Qaeda and tyranny in the heart of the Arab world.

We have defeated Al Qaeda and the other enemies of Arab freedom, and joined with Iraqis to set up this birth of self-determination. We did this next to other tyrants in the heart of a region that has never known the dignity of individual liberty. In the face of the most fierce and cruel attacks thrown at Iraq, together we have prevailed.

This is noble, well done, courageous, and now we move on.

SGT Joe Roche
Operation Iraqi Freedom
This post was written by SGT Joe Roche, 100th BN, 442nd IN, Operation Iraqi Freedom. To send comments to the author, write him at [email protected].

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 4:05 PM

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Braking the Stimulus

An e-mail from Joe Roche, writing from Operation Iraqi Freedom:
Amy,

I'm reading John Steele Gordon's book on an economic history of the US. Great book, and fascinating reading. And it strikes me...

What is missing in countering all the massive "stimulus" spending and legislation is perspective. That is what the Obama campaign and the liberal press succeeded most in doing, the single most important impact of the past several months: the perspective of the American people on the economy has been completely distorted.

In doing this, "we" can be fooled into thinking this is the Great Depression and that it is "unprecedented" and all sorts of baloney like that, thus cornering the Republicans and empowering the Democrats.

Thus, it strikes me that restoring perspective is one tool that would be profoundly effective in putting on the brakes to all this "stimulus." There is no talk about what Reagan faced in 1980, or of how deep the recession was in the '80s. There is no prespective whatsoever of the economic shocks of the '70s. And there is complete historical amnesia about the depressions and economic collapses that happened about every 20 years in our nation's past.

It is very revealing and sobering to re-learn about the economic disasters that hit after Jefferson's presidency, in 1837, in 1857, in 1873, in 1896, the short depression of 1921, and about how all of these were sparked by gov't monopolies and bad monetary policies that all had their roots in liberal populist gov't "solutions." Also, pointing out that the four mega-packages of the New Deal did nothing to aleviate the Great Depression but instead prolonged it instead, is vital to re-teach. Go back to Charles Murray's book on the failure of the Great Society and the War On Poverty.

A short fact sheet accompanying a survey, well foot-noted, would be a great resource for all the nerds out there like me who will pick up on such a report to write about it in their college newspapers and argue on it.

Perspective! This is what is missing. Returning perspective to the American people, I think, is the achillees heal to all this liberal "stimulus" crap. Put it into perspective and then hit them w/ the question: will all this "stimulus" restore the economy? And, "what is really happening with all this stimulus?" Perspective perspective perspective. The GOP is completely inept at doing this. Conservative organizations should be jumping all over this.

Ok, I'll stop ranting.

SGT Joe Roche
BN TOC BTL NCO
More of Joe's e-mailed posts are indexed here.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:26 AM

Thursday, November 27, 2008

From Operation Iraqi Freedom: "We Have Done Something Really Good Here"

From Sgt. Joe Roche, writing from Operation Iraqi Freedom:
This is a special day to be an American soldier in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Ninety years ago, hopes for freedom and self-determination sprung up all over the Arab world. After centuries of despotic foreign rule by the Ottoman Empire, European powers angling for survival in World War One's vast killing fields made all sorts of false promises to manipulate Arabs as proxies. Betrayals became the norm.

Despite dreams of self-determination after that war, our world was instead brutalized by the most horrific tyrants and genocide ever witnessed. Fascism, Nazism, Imperialism and Communism not only killed tens of millions and enslaved much of Asia and Europe, but other regions such as the Arab Middle East were gravely traumatized. Much of the fascism witnessed in the Arab world and in Islamic fundamentalism from Egypt to Iraq are largely a consequence from the manipulations by and ferocious ideologies of Europe and Asia.

American idealism for liberty and self-determination was felt here after World War One. President Woodrow Wilson dispatched the King-Crane Commission, which was followed by several other American envoys over decades trying to find ways to achieve self-determination. But the Great Powers of that time had other ideas. Hitler courted a lot of Arabs, particularly Islamist leaders in Jerusalem, bringing Muslims to the front lines with German forces outside Stalingrad, and facilitated a pro-Nazi coup in Baghdad in 1941. Though Israel's creation was a moment of great inspiration and achievement, the Arab world naturally felt it was just another in a long series of betrayals and conspiracies against them.

Because of the Cold War, the Arab people were left to languish for almost six decades under a series of megalomaniac tyrants, as long as stability was ensured. The Soviet Union's efforts at destabilizing the most vulnerable regions coerced surrender and apathy on the part of those who had once dreamt of self-determination in the Arab Middle East. Iraq became tied to the Soviets and was the recipient of Moscow’s largest foreign military aid during the 1970s. The collapse of the Soviet Union did unleash the virtuous spread of American liberty and self-determination in most parts of the world, but the Arab region remained frozen until Operation Iraqi Freedom.

I was part of the initial push in 2003. I had lived in this region before, and Iraq's suffering under repression and tyranny coerced the entire region to be in a constant state of war, paranoia and extremism.

I knew this would take a long time, but I had hope. As an American sharing our country's experience with democracy to Iraqis, I often reflected on how the United States had to discard our first constitution of 11 years after Shay's Rebellion, and yet the resulting constitution still had the institution of slavery. Women couldn't vote for over a century. We had a huge civil war, the effects of which were still violently playing out in the South in the 1960s.

I got to know many Iraqis. They impressed me greatly. I had known some Iraqis in exile before 2003, and I understood they were a very vibrant and strong people. Surviving the terror of Saddam Hussein's regime in a land tortured by centuries of conflict and turmoil, I knew these people could withstand a lot.

My unit in 2004 trained hundreds of Iraqis who served their military forces. They are some of the bravest people I ever met. Their casualty rates in the face of a horrendous terrorist offensive were 20 times worse than anything we faced, yet they kept showing up.

Over the past several months, I've seen those Iraqis we trained take over command of their country as we pull back. For the first time, self-determination is being expressed. Ninety years of betrayal and false promises are finally being corrected.

This is the achievement of America. Yes, there were scenes of protest in opposition to the treaty, but overall this was the remarkable -- and once unimaginable -- process of Iraqis debating the future of their own country. While most news only reported the protests, there were other large demonstrations in support of the US-Iraqi agreement, such as the 5,000 in Hillah last week.

To behold this is amazing. Some might want to just see the negatives, but I'd point out that our own experience with democracy gives us no basis to expect more from the Iraqis less than six years after being liberated by us. There will be further challenges. Ours is the world’s greatest democracy, but we had a shooting, a clubbing and even a sword used in the US Congress. Even one of our great Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton, was killed in a duel. The birth of democracy is not a smooth process, but it is inspiring to participate in.

This is a proud moment. As an American soldier having been here at the beginning of this mission, and to be here now again at this moment of self-determination coming to fruition, is awesome. Lafayette came to us when we needed help. We’ve come here and finally reversed 90 years of betrayal. This is good, just and honorable. I’m very happy for Iraq and for our military mission. Out of the ashes of the September 11th, 2001, terrorist attacks, we have done something really good here.

-Joe
For more of Joe's writing from the front and elsewhere, please go here. A profile of his life and army service published by Stars and Stripes in 2004 can be found in this post.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:04 AM

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Writing from Operation Iraqi Freedom, A Soldier Comments on the Election

Many of our long-time blog readers will recall the 2004 blog entry "A Soldier Assures Us: Our Progress is Amazing," by my old friend Joe Roche, then on active duty with the U.S. Army's 1st Armored Division in Baghdad.

For those who don't recall or weren't readers back then, Joe's essay was published by over two dozen newspapers across the U.S., linked to by Matt Drudge, read aloud on the radio by Rush Limbaugh, Michael Reagan, Kirby Wilbur and many others, was linked to by at least 286 blogs, was quoted by President Bush in his acceptance speech at the 2004 Republican National Convention, and was quoted in a Smithsonian Institution exhibit. Among other things.

Joe spent 14 months in Iraq with the U.S. Army in 2003-2004; then was posted in Europe and the U.S. He left the army, only to recently return, and has once again been deployed abroad, to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Joe is again writing essays I believe will be of interest to this blog's readers. Watch for more of them here in coming days. The first of these I'll post comes from Joe writing from the Mideast the night Barack Obama was elected.

Joe's thoughts:
On the election:

The elegance of America is clear for me to see. I know that being home in the USA the election must appear jarring and messy sometimes. Being overseas, however, is a special way to experience our Republic's moment of decision.

The fascination w/ our election is overwhelming to see among all the other nations and peoples of the world. Over the past months we have heard the usual talk of how our impact on the world is waning and that we are isolated. If you look back, you will find that such notions are always said about our country, especially from foreign press that feels intimidated or jealous of us. We must not apologize for this because it is part of the burden of leadership. Those who seek to emulate the values of justice and progress will celebrate, but those who merely want to take from us that which we have been blessed with will always lament our decline.

I watched as European elites in the press proclaimed that the sub-prime mortgage crisis signaled the end of American economic influence. Yet, those same elites said nothing when the US Federal Reserve pumped hundreds of billions of US taxpayer dollars into the European Central Bank a few weeks ago to keep Europe afloat. Now Hungary, Iceland, Greece, Italy, the Baltics and others are all falling deeply into economic malaise because Europe has a banking, financial and export crisis on its hands that has been triggered because of the financial crisis that hit our country. Asia also is now squirming as the export and credit crises hit them as we slow down to re-tune our economy.

We have an annual $14 trillion dollar economy, with the second largest foreign economy being below $4.5 trillion, and the next five put together not adding up to ours. We are the only nation in the world with the expeditionary military capability to intervene to maintain not only our own country's direct interests, but also to protect our allies in every continent.

These are not things we took from others. Rather, this was imposed on us by the reckless destruction brought to the world by tyrants over the past century that laid waste to many of the world's great nations. Communism, fascism, tyranny of all forms has cruelly destroyed the well-being of millions. Into the void left after World War Two and then the Cold War, it was America that was left to spread her influence, alone.

The impact has been the most extraordinary growth of liberty, democracy and human rights that the world has ever seen. Nothing like the past decades of American exceptionalism on the world stage has ever been seen in history.

As a soldier, this election has been especially gripping because of the impact it has on our missions. However, our ideals and values and hopes for the rest of the world, and as regards America's unique and special role in the world, does not change. Instead, the elites who criticize us will learn again, as they always do in the months after an election in America, that it is the USA that stands as the best last hope for mankind on earth.

I have watched with my fellow soldiers, missing out on sleep because of the hour difference between home in the US and being in the Middle East, the election results. It is the commentary and fascination foreigners have that has most intrigued me.

The electoral college, an institution that we Americans often criticize, stands elegant again. Rather than having the malaise of coalition governments with small minority single-issue parties dictating the survival of government, as happens in parliaments all over the world, the electoral college ensures that the two-party system of our Republic is solid. I have heard those at home who want it to be otherwise, but as I see in foreign observance of our system, parliamentarism would be a disaster for America.

It may be fine for countries such as Italy, Switzerland, Israel, Germany or Japan to have constantly crippled coalition governments in which deals have to be made with small parties dedicated to one single issue. The problem is that our country's responsibilities simply wouldn't survive such malaise in our leadership. It is good and necessary that we have a system that keeps our country focused on two parties that therefore are dedicated to national interests. In an age of challenges such as we face since 1945, we must have strong leadership that is stable and can make unpopular decisions. The alternative would leave the world vulnerable to the re-emergence of the fury and destructiveness that so bludgeoned the world before. There is no substitute for American leadership.

The process of electing our leaders, without tanks firing at buildings and no assassinations and no militias taking up arms to over throw and terrorize various states may sound normal, but it isn't. Much of the rest of the world lives like that and has seen tanks, bombs and massacres when leadership is changed, overthrown, or otherwise challenged. Not in America. We may not all like what happens in our votes, but we don't resort to violence.

I had laugh when in Italy and France various journalists recently wrote that Vice President Cheney called up us soldiers so that we could fight in the streets of America to maintain power for President Bush after the election. Don't worry. Such ridiculous sentiments have always been expressed by those who have yet to learn from America.

I also feel such a sense of awe and respect from all the foreigners observing our election as they speak with fascination about Virginia, Florida, Ohio, and other places they have never seen. They are watching us, seeing the process, and there is great admiration.

Always remember that the easiest thing to do, and the lazily attractive way to sound intelligent, is to criticize. That is what the elites in foreign lands like to do when talking about us. But notice that after 1945, the world has transformed in ways that are simply remarkable and beyond any precedent in history. Even today as economic experts decry our recession as signaling the end of our influence, their economies are catching pneumonia from our cough, and their banks are being bailed out by American taxpayers.

If you ask why American exceptionalism exists and why it is that America is this great and powerful country, the answer is so simple that you might miss it because too many of us take it for granted. It is an answer that the rest of the world yearns for, and as long as we remain committed to our ideals and principles of our Constitution and our way of life, all humanity will benefit from. The answer is freedom. That is what it is all about, and that is what makes it all be this way.

It is our freedom, economic and political freedom, that is the engine of our growth. All of our prosperity comes from freedom. All of our influence and gravitas comes from freedom. Freedom is the one and central factor that dictates progress and strength.

Just look at some of the lands around where I am at, or in places like North Korea, Myanmar, Sudan, or other places where great human suffering is occurring. It is because of the lack of freedom.

The French Revolution gave inspiration to the Bolshevik Revolution because some took the cause of freedom to be something closer to anarchy and mob rule. In America, it is our Republic which has fostered and maintained freedom's greatest expression because as Americans, we also know that freedom brings with it responsibility. The basic understandings that the rule of law must be the foundation to freedom's maintenance, and that such law must have the lessons of Judeo-Christian values imbedded, are key to this.

This means we don't just go yell fire in a movie theater. That is not freedom. Freedom has to be protected, and that means even from the government. That is why our economic freedom is so important.

Again, I know that being at home in America our high taxes and large government makes it seem like economic freedom was lost long ago. But travel abroad and see how socialism in the form of communism, fascism, religious fundamentalism, and other forms of tyranny has put on straight jackets against prosperity and progress. Then you will realize that while we do have to maintain our vigilance against the tyranny of the state in our own home, we still are far more free than any other society on earth.

This past election season has exhausted many Americans. Nonetheless, it has also been one of the greatest events for the rest of the world to watch. I'm not saying that the election turned out the way I voted, but I am saying that the vibrancy and brilliance of America's elegant Republic has shown bright again to the world. Be proud no matter what, even if your candidate lost, because America's role in the world is far larger and far more lasting than any one election can undo.
-Joe
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If you would like to know more about Joe Roche, a profile of his life and army service published by Stars and Stripes can be found in this post from 2004.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:21 AM

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

TWA 847 Hijacking Mastermind Pays the Price

Turns out that Imad Mughniyeh isn't getting away with murder after all:
A senior Hezbollah military commander, one of the world's most wanted men for his alleged links to a string of bombings, hijackings and kidnappings during the 1980s and 1990s, has been killed, Hezbollah said Wednesday...

...U.S. officials assert that Mughniyeh was behind the bombings in Beirut in 1983. A car bomb at the U.S. Embassy in April that year killed 63 people, including 17 Americans, while a truck bomb in October at a Marine compound killed 241 American troops.

The United States have also asserted Mughniyeh was behind the torture and murder of William Buckley, the CIA station chief in Beirut, in 1984; the kidnapping and murder of Lieutenant Colonel William Richard Higgins of the Marines, who was on peacekeeping duty in Lebanon in 1988; and, through the Islamic Jihad Organization, the seizure of Western hostages in Beirut during the 1980s.

Mughniyeh is also wanted for the hijacking in June 1985 of a TWA flight. During the hijacking, an American was killed and 39 Americans were held hostage for 17 days. It is the only terrorist action for which he has been indicted in the United States...
Joe Roche, an adjunct fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research, wrote about Mughniyeh for us back in 2001, saying Mughniyeh at that time had been identified to U.S. authorities by Israel "as one of two who were setting up nearly 200 terrorists inside the U.S. for a major attack."

I wrote about the TWA 847 hijackers and murderers of sailor Robert Stethem getting away scot-free in 2005; it appears that they all haven't gotten away scot-free after all.

Ronald Reagan said in 1985 regarding Robert Stethem's murder and the TWA hijacking: "We will not rest until justice is done." It took 22 years to get Imad Mughniyeh, but Reagan called it right. Whomever got him wasn't resting.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:18 PM

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Positive View

In international relations, Joe Roche has listed some things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving eve.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 9:40 PM

Sunday, August 05, 2007

No Such Thing as Free Health Care

Joe Roche has a new column in the Lexington Herald-Leader, where he is a contributing columnist. In "'Sicko' a twisted view of health care system," he pretty much takes Michael Moore's movie apart.

My favorite part:
Canada is often touted as an example of successful national health care.

Not so -- 74 percent of Canadians are upset about long wait lists. Between 1993 and 2003, the median wait time between referral from a general practitioner to treatment increased 90 percent. Only 5 percent of Americans report elective surgery waits of more than four months, compared to 27 percent of Canadians. Heart attack victims are 17 percent more likely to die in Canada than in the United States. Many basic but needed surgeries, like orthopedic, have 16-month delays.

The result has been a push for increased market reforms allowing private insurance and some privately run facilities. These have seen huge successes. Rich Canadians also travel to Singapore, Thailand, India and the United States for treatment. Cleveland, for example, is the hip-replacement center for Canadians.

Liberals claim health care is free in Canada. That is true only if you are not Canadian. Otherwise, 22 percent of Canadians' taxes pay for health care, which is a lot for a service they can't be sure they'll get.
Joe also takes a hard look at the true state of Sweden's universal health care sysytem, possibly inspired a bit by this paper we released in May by David Hogberg.

Read the whole thing.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:10 AM

Thursday, February 08, 2007

"I Was Shocked at the Ignorance and Rudeness of the Members of Congress"

Joe Roche attended Rep. Henry Waxman's hearing on private military contractors on February 7. He wasn't very impressed -- with Rep. Waxman and his colleagues, that is.
Dear Amy,

The House Governmental Reform Committee hearings, led by Rep. Henry Waxman, are an absurd display of abuse, distortion and recklessness. I attended it today because there were some people testifying who deserve America's greatest thanks. Instead, they were treated horribly and made to look very bad.

It wasn't a hearing to actually learn of the work and value of the private military contractors (PMCs) who serve our country. Instead, it was a fiasco performance meant to demonize and humiliate them. I was shocked at the ignorance and rudeness of the members of Congress there.

PMCs, like Haliburton, perform an absolutely critical role for our nation and our military. They take care of things that we, the military, simply can't do for a number of reasons. Food, supplies, housing units, things like that they take care of thus allowing us soldiers to be the spear of the nation. I believe that what they save us financially because of the competitive marketing they go through, as opposed to sinking all this into a federal bureaucracy, is far more than any lost sums of money in waste and fraud.

The people who run and work the PMCs are frequently people of absolutely heroic character. I remember some in Iraq I worked with who had been soldiers in Vietnam. Now, after 30-plus years, they want to continue serving our country, so there they are in every war zone we are involved in today. They suffer and die just like the rest of us soldiers, and leave behind families for many months at a time.

The Members of Congress on the Committee were hiding behind the suffering of the families who lost loved ones in attacks on the PMCs in Iraq. That was disgusting! They made the PMCs look bad, insinuating all sorts of malicious things, all the while saying they're doing this for the families. Nonsense!

What Waxman, Dennis Kucinich and the other Congressmen are trying to do is bleed out every little shred of suspicion of scandal against the Bush Administration. They acted like vultures, ignoring the important service of the PMCs and instead just kept hammering away on all sorts of scandal-suggesting themes.

Waxman, with an elitism that was grotesque, acted all offended when for reasons of national security or Arab cultural practices, the PMC representatives couldn't answer some things. Waxman, Kucinich and the others know exactly what they are doing. It was all a performance meant to emotionally upset the American people who only catch the short sound-bite news coverage.

For example, it was easy to lament the unaccountable huge sums of money that have been spent on projects. Yes, there was some waste and abuse. More important, though, is that those operations are happening in Arab culture, Iraqi society, where Wall Street accounting just doesn't happen. This doesn't mean all that money was lost and wasted, but just that it was spent differently. This is what happens in war zones, in foreign lands, in places where things have been bad and corrupt.

I sat next to the press corps table and watched as they laughed, snickered, and got excited with every little challenge that was thrown at the PMCs. One reporter said, "I'm just here to see Haliburton get nailed." I glared, but then realized this is just the process that has been unleashed by such hearings as this.

There is no way we are being served well by Congress with hearings like this. The members of Congress gave really bizarre speeches at the beginning that had nothing to do with the real issues. Instead, they were just speaking to impress viewers and readers of the news with short attention spans. Then, after they gave their speeches, only four-or-so remained for the rest of the hours of the hearings. They didn't care about the issues, the PMCs, what is really involved. All they wanted to do was to perform so as to manipulate and fool the American people into thinking there is all sorts of Bush Administration scandal with the PMCs.

I was intrigued how the Democrats harped on the PMCs as being a Bush scandal. The reality is that PMCs became a vital part of our military after the Cold War, DURING the Clinton Administration because of the damaging downsizing that happened in the 1990s. In fact, Haliburton's contract that they are operating on in Iraq was negotiated by the Clinton Administration in 1998.

Rather than all this vulture-like scandal-mongering, I wish someone on the Committee would just say, "Thank you for having a Can-Do attitude and getting the job done!" This is all Patton, Bradley, McArthur or any of our past military leaders did. This nitpicking by Congress against the PMCs could do our military great harm in the future if this Committee fools too many people.

I want to suggest a book to read for those interested in a balanced and clear view of PMCs in Iraq. It is called A Bloody Business: America's War Zone Contractors and the Occupation of Iraq. I'm sorry that the title and cover picture aren't good to have around children, but it is a good book to read.

Joe

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:22 AM

Monday, January 08, 2007

Bush's War in Africa

With his usual impeccable timing, Joe Roche has an op-ed in the Lexington Herald-Leader on U.S. actions to combat al Qaeda in Africa just as the U.S. announces air strikes against al Qaeda in Somalia.

Joe's op-ed says, in part:
...After 9/11, President Bush launched a series of twilight wars to reverse Africa's suffering caused by terrorists. The offensive couldn't be launched outright because of the focus on Afghanistan and Iraq. So it was engineered by special forces and excellent military contractors, and occasionally aided by initiatives threatening more direct U.S. and allied action. The results have been amazing.

Taylor's regime was toppled. Sanko was captured and killed. Gadhafi turned tail in fear that the United States would come after him. Insurgencies abated in Niger, Mali and Senegal.

The ripple effect of these transformations has had a similar dramatic impact on Uganda's suffering and in undermining repressive regimes in other countries. Initially al-Qaida nodes reacted with vengeance in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, but that has been increasingly brought under control.

"Thanks to President Bush, whose strong resolve, public condemnation and appropriate action forced our tyrant into exile," Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf, the first woman leader of an African nation, said last spring.

Somalia was the latest major challenge. Jihadists allied with al-Qaida almost established themselves there. Ethiopia took the lead to support the U.N.-appointed government of Somalia and throw out the jihadists, closing a terrorist training camp outside the capital in Jowhar.

Millions of Africans have renewed hope for better lives. Relief and aid agencies are pouring in on the coattails of U.S. victories. Children are escaping the horrors of war...
Read it all here.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 9:03 PM

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

"The Thing I Am Most Proud of In My Life is Having Served in Iraq"

Many of our long-time blog readers recall the 2004 blog entry "A Soldier Assures Us: Our Progress is Amazing," by my old friend Joe Roche, then on active duty with the U.S. Army's 1st Armored Division in Baghdad.

For those who don't recall or weren't readers back then, Joe's essay was published by over two dozen newspapers across the U.S. (one of which was linked to by Matt Drudge), read aloud on the radio by Rush Limbaugh, Michael Reagan and others, was linked to by 150 blogs, was quoted by President Bush in his Acceptance Speech at the Republican National Convention in 2004, and quoted in a Smithsonian Institution exhibit. Among other things.

Joe's essay, and others (you can read a collection here) ultimately were cited or republished by at least 286 blogs (I quit counting). His words led to the collection of care packages for the 1st AD, a call publicized by numerous bloggers and talk show hosts. A standout among the latter was Kirby Wilbur on Seattle's KVI, who so inspired his listeners that three businesses in the Seattle area set up week-long "drop-offs" where Seattle residents could drop off gifts for the troops, to be packaged and mailed to Iraq at the businesses' expense. Another notable reaction came from a major U.S. food manufacturer, which shipped many hundreds of pounds of cookies and powdered drink mix (prized because soldiers in full gear must drink a gallon or more of liquid per day) to the troops, despite logistical challenges.

Joe wrote me again today after hearing Senator John Kerry's controversial comments ("Education, if you make the most of it, you study hard and do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq."). He gave me permission to share his thoughts:
I can't believe that Democratic Senator John Kerry said that Americans without education get stuck in Iraq. I graduated from college, did well and even was invited into and attended graduate-level pro-seminars. My bachelor's degree is in three subjects: history, international relations and political science. I was also active in many college activities and groups.

I specifically joined the US Army at age 34, leaving behind a very comfortable life and job in Minneapolis, because I wanted to serve in Iraq. I left my fiancee' behind and took a huge pay cut in doing this. Further, I turned down the option of becoming an officer specifically because that would have kept me from going to Iraq right away. (I am a combat engineer, and an officer's first year of duty in that field is in Korea.) I made clear throughout my enlistment that I wanted to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Further, I was surrounded by well-educated soldiers in Iraq. One was so expert in history, politics and international relations that we often would engage in long discussions about deep issues while on patrol in Baghdad.

I wonder if Sen. Kerry even realizes that there are all those West Point graduates serving in Iraq.

Now that I'm completing my active duty military service, I have to tell you that the thing I am most proud of in my life is having served in Iraq. Were I younger and more fit, I would do it again.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:46 AM

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Supply and Demand

A note from Joe Roche, which I am posting with permission:
Amy,

I am watching War Stories w/ Oliver North, talking about some of the secret intercepts and messages passed around during WWII. ...And it bothers me...

I don't have the exact details, but it was something like tens of thousands of American soldiers and intelligence people KNEW and WORKED with the Deep Purple and Ultra secret intercepts of Japanese and German communications during the war. I've heard various accounts that claim that as low as Corporals knew of these intercepts. I can't remember the exact details, but I know it was a vast number of thousands. YET, it was kept secret until 1975!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

...And here we are today hearing about how impossible AND UNDERSTANDABLE it is, we are told in the press, that the NSA terrorist spying program is not being kept a secret today. Why? Well, as we are told, there are ...hundreds -- hundreds -- of people here in DC who know about it. So we are told that Bush & Co. are being silly to think such an intercept program could be kept secret.

Doesn't this just make you sick to think that we're the ones who inherited the blessings bestowed to us by the incredible sacrifices of the WWII generation?!

Joe
As I told Joe, back in the "olden days," even if a government official had leaked something like that, the press would not print it. Now they would in a flash, and pat themselves on the back for doing so. It isn't just the leakers, but the market for the leaks.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:45 AM

Friday, March 03, 2006

Joe Roche on the UAE

Joe Roche, who spent a year as a volunteer in Israel assisting the Israeli military before joining the U.S. Army after 9/11, has some thoughts he wanted to share on the UAE port deal:
When I heard the sale of the ports' deal was going to a company owned by the United Arab Emirates, I was impressed. The UAE is a solid ally in the War On Terror, and will prove to be critically important in the years ahead. I've traveled around the Persian Gulf and have many friends who live there, and the UAE has always impressed me as an important country on the side of the United States.

The first time I became familiar with the UAE was during my college studies. Iran was waging the much forgotten Tanker War with the U.S., and losing badly. There were many fronts of conflict with Iran, including massive support for international terrorism and a very ominous military build-up aimed at challenging the Carter Doctrine.

President Carter announced this doctrine in 1980 against the Soviet threat, which has grounded our policies in the Persian Gulf ever since. It is based on free and open commerce, protection of law, safe shipping, and most importantly no domination of the Strait of Hormuz by any single power, especially a hostile power to the U.S. This strait is the narrow opening to the Persian Gulf from the Indian Ocean that is flanked by Iran and the UAE.

The UAE was and is the single most important country to the U.S. doctrine. Our military has built up strong, extensive and vital relationships with the UAE, establishing one of the most important presences there that we have overseas.

President Reagan exercised this power in the Tanker War. Iran engaged in multiple acts of aggression against international shipping, threatened the strait and thereby challenged the Carter Doctrine. Iranian ships tried to attack our ships but were destroyed 100% of the time. They laid mines that struck several ships, including our naval vessels. Reagan unleashed Operation Earnest Will in July, 1987, which included Navy SEAL commandos blowing up an Iranian oil platform, capturing an Iranian minelayer ship, firing over 1,000 artillery rounds destroying two Iranian armed facilities, and more. Most of this went unreported and is therefore largely forgotten.

The central issue that confronts the UAE and U.S. today is Iran's military occupation of three little islands, Abu Musa and the Tunbs, in the strait that are actually UAE territory. They are in the middle of the shipping lanes, and with recent Iranian military buildups on them, present a grave threat should Iran decide to challenge shipping in the Gulf. This is a complex issue that illustrates past weakness in U.S. policies, with implications that cause confusion today.

Specifically, in 1971, Iran was an ally of the U.S. while the Arab Gulf states were weak (before the oil boom) and under stress from Marxism. Therefore, when Iran began its takeover of the islands, Nixon, Ford and Carter basically looked the other way, thinking that Iran was going to be the stable pro-US power in the region for the future. This was crushing to the UAE. The status of these islands took a very ominous turn for the worse in 1992 when Iran aggressively moved missiles in and ended the UAE's past attempts at negotiated deals. This escaped U.S. censure because we were focused on the post-Desert Storm issues liberating Kuwait from Iraq, and our ally Egypt had invaded and occupied the small Halaib area of Sudan. If you feel confused by this, imagine how complex this appeared to the first Bush Administration. Better to look the other way, it was decided.

The UAE had to swallow this. During the following years under Clinton, the UAE witnessed contradictory U.S. policies. While Iran engaged in acts of terrorism, the Clinton White House blocked CIA and FBI pursuit of Iranian links. And though people are making an issue of the UAE's recognition of the Taliban, Clinton didn't do anything to stop the extensive U.S. oil companies talks with Taliban leaders.

Thus, what seems like simple black-and-white issues to us today really were very confused and muddied in that region, largely because of past U.S. weakness and inconsistencies. Since 9/11, however, we have focused with clarity and simplicity on our interests. In this, the UAE has been very welcoming and extremely supporting. Our military has extensive facilities in that country that have been central in the current War On Terror. The UAE has been an excellent ally working to crush Al Qaeda.

I don't think enough people realize just how important the UAE is to our country. The biggest issue in that region is the emerging conflict with Iran that is going to dominate for years. In this, the UAE is going to be an absolutely vital ally to the U.S. We both are committed to each other in many ways, which include Abu Musa and the Tunbs.

I should add that the ports' issue has been very misreported. Major Garret on Brit Hume's Special Report on Fox News has done an excellent job in clarifying this with reports from Baltimore and elsewhere specifically about the ports in question. This isn't an issue changing our security or jobs. The ports in question are already operated by a foreign firm from Britain, which I don't think is safer and more trustworthy than the UAE firm. The UAE firm runs ports for our military in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea which are far more secure than the domestic ports in question.

I'm a supporter of Israel and I have been deployed to the Persian Gulf. Yes, I'm offended at the UAE's funding of Hamas and the solidarity it has shown in league with the Arab boycott of Israel, but I also don't believe the UAE is in a position to buck the regional Arab obsession on these issues. If the concerns expressed here in Washington and our press were accurate, I would be the first to oppose the sale. They aren't. I think this is a knee-jerk reaction exploiting the lack of knowledge by the American people about the UAE, the issues involved, and the substance of the ports' issue. I'm glad that the UAE company has decided to delay its deal so as to open the way for "investigation," but I hope that this deal will go through. The UAE is a good U.S. ally and one that can be counted on.
Joe also wanted me to recommend this link "for anyone interested in a good explanation of this specific issue."

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:29 PM

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Katrina Aftermath: Recriminations, Rancor and Racial Divisions Don't Help Us Learn from Our Mistakes

Annelie O'Neal Roche, who sent dispatches to this blog while working in New Orleans with her National Guard unit during the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (see here, here, here and here), has some thoughts about the Katrina "blame game" currently being conducted in Washington,

Says Lili:
A Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs inquiry into the handling of Hurricane Katrina in recent weeks has reignited the political recriminations over the response to Hurricane Katrina's destruction of New Orleans. As a soldier who was deployed there for a month, and with family members and church friends who have made contributions to help the victims, I feel especially pained at the way this issue is being debated.

I understand this is an election year, and that our President is in his sixth year, second term, meaning he is not running for office again. It is therefore only natural that partisan debate and demagoguery will be at a fever pitch. Nonetheless, in the interest of understanding what happened and how this relates to the future, especially as regards the next natural disaster, I fear this debate is bulldozing over some important realities.

First is that the media and many politicians falsely exaggerated the scope of the disaster. I remember when Randal Robinson reported that "black hurricane victims in New Orleans have begun eating corpses to survive." Most of these totally outrageous statements, after being circulated extensively nationwide and globally, were retracted with apologies. Nonetheless, as we saw in the Congressional testimony, there has been serious damage done to the social fiber of our country. Many people continue to believe such things happened.

Second is that racial divisions have been manipulated and exploited in cruel and destructive ways. I saw in New Orleans that the damage and loss of life was about even racially, also in terms of income and class status. Voluminous reporting, however, has consistently manufactured the illusion that this wasn't the case. I don't see how inflaming racial tensions helps New Orleans or enables us to learn from the mistakes. Further, lost in all this is the much larger destruction that occurred in Mississippi and Alabama.

Third are the Hollywood-ish distortions of what actually occurred. New Orleans suffered damage in some areas, but other areas went almost unscathed. Yes the destruction in those areas worst hit was horrifying and tragic, but the portrayal that everything was destroyed down there just isn't accurate. Rather, such portrayals should be made about Mississippi and Alabama, but, strangely, those two states are largely ignored.

Fourth is the bizarre notion that anyone could be held responsible for a natural disaster hitting a city built below sea level. There is so much finger-pointing, mostly partisan, and harsh attacks on various leaders here and there. Lost in all this is the fact that this was a storm, Mother Nature, that struck a city that was settled centuries ago in a dangerous place.

Fifth is the forgetfulness over the responsibilities of the City of New Orleans. No one seems to remember that the New Orleans Office of Emergency Preparedness in its Emergency Guide for Citizens stated clearly that "we coordinate all city departments and allied state and federal agencies. All requests for disaster assistance and federal funding subsequent to disaster declarations are also made through this office." When flying over the city, I saw buses everywhere sitting idle in the water. Yet those buses were to be used for evacuation according to the city's own plans. Had that happened, we would be having none of today's angry debate.

Sixth, I don't understand how the President was supposed to take over all this and make everything happen against the local leaderships' own desires. The acute timelines everyone is focusing on about who-knew-what-when seems to overlook these fundamental sovereignty and jurisdiction issues. And as a soldier whose unit is tasked for Washington D.C., I can tell you that had the President gone into the streets to "lead" the response, that would have been a security nightmare complicating and impeding our rescue missions terribly.

I could go on, but the rest get into the partisan political debate. Having lived overseas, I respect and value our political and 1st Amendment freedoms to debate everything imaginable. I do fear that much of the debate, however, is divorced from reality. This concerns me because there were mistakes made and there are lessens to be learned. The recriminations, rancor and especially the racial targeting of the issues just doesn't help.

As I said at the top, I understand that this is an election year, so such issues are going to be hot and tense. I hope, though, that AFTER the election we will have a sober and thoughtful assessment made of what went wrong and what to learn from it all.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:09 AM

Saturday, December 24, 2005

A Soldier's Holiday Essay

Joe Roche writes:
It is Christmas time, Hanukah, and the New Year is just around the corner. I ask you to think of our soldiers and how our Republic gives us such virtue in serving our nation. I have spent this time of year deployed in Baghdad and I can tell you that though there will be huge efforts made to make the soldiers feel holiday cheer, nothing can really ease the personal sacrifice involved. Except, that is, to behold anew what it is we endeavor to achieve as Americans, soldiers and civilians alike.

Ours is the most noble and righteous country the world has ever seen. We are slow to go to war, perhaps too slow when enemies of the peace prepare to attack. This is because we do not seek war. Our history is full of times when America did not respond to conflict, did not participate in an on-going war, and did not quash a tyrant when threats were made. This is because ours is a democracy, based on the rule of law, grounded upon a brilliant constitution that preserves the ultimate checks on the abuse of power, while always celebrating the time-honored changes of leadership by elections.

Struggling to create this great republic, Thomas Paine wrote, "man is not the enemy of man, but through the medium of a false system of government." Therefore, the Founding Fathers, recognizing that there is a higher divine authority not of this earth, laid the foundations of justice, legislation and leadership upon a system of checks and balances, augmented by the separation of powers.

Into this troubled world where repression and tyranny have been the norm, America has given hope to billions. Now, as President George W. Bush said after the attacks of September 11th, 2001, "the commitment of our fathers is the calling of our time." This is because the 21st century is seeing the rise of very dangerous regimes and terrorist organizations seeking weapons of mass destruction.

We can no longer wait for threats to become imminent. Human civilization depends upon our victory in the War on Terror. Yet, as agonizing as the political debate has become over Iraq and all that is involved, I believe we have reason to be confident, positive and very hopeful. We are, after all, doing the right thing as Americans.

The American Revolution created a republic of laws built upon respect for the liberty of the individual. This foundation has survived through tragedies such as the divisive bloodshed of the Civil War and the humiliating end of the Vietnam War. And because this country continues to be an expression of individual liberty, America, in essence, represents the human spirit among the affairs of nations. Thus, we have a duty, unlike any other nation at any other time, to stand for what is just and right. Ronald Reagan challenged us on this "rendezvous with history": "We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope for man on earth."

This is a time of immense challenge. I'm not talking about soldiering overseas, but rather about the challenges we face here at home in America to hold our resolve and our virtues.

"Enduring peace cannot be bought at the cost of other people's freedom," as Franklin Roosevelt recognized during the peak of Japan and Germany's aggression. He emphasized that America must be ready to act as "an arsenal" for people struggling against tyranny. With this principle in mind, Roosevelt concluded, "we will not be intimidated by the threats of dictators (against) our aid to the democracies which dare to resist their aggression."

We are in such a time again, and we can't avoid it no matter how much we may wish it to be over. "No peace can last, or ought to last," Woodrow Wilson stressed, "which does not recognize and accept the principle that governments derive all their just powers from the consent of the governed." Wilson, who was a pacifist, hated war, and desperately wanted to avoid it at all costs, belatedly understood America's moral role in combating injustice declaring that "right is more precious than peace."

Perhaps in the past we could wait until threats hit our shores. No longer. The terrorist threat is upon us, fed by large swaths of the planet in the trauma of tyranny, depredations and false ideologies. Some suggest peace can be had by turning our backs and not being provocative. It only needs to be pointed out that on September 11th, 2001, we weren't in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the U.S. under Bill Clinton had pushed hard to achieve peace in the Middle East for years while that atrocity was being planned.

Thus we have a choice. It truly is between victory or defeat, because our enemies seek the destruction of our very way of life, and if you listen to what they say, our annihilation.

Teddy Roosevelt gave us guidance: "A milk-and-water righteousness unbacked by force is to the full as wicked as and even more mischievous than force divorced from righteousness." Our military missions are absolutely critical to our own security as well as the prosperity and hopes for millions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Our goals to bring democracy to those parts of the world must go hand-in-hand. It isn't vengeance, but virtue that we are all about.

America did not conquer and take parts of Europe and Japan after World War II. Instead, we liberated them, returned their nations to them, and gave them hope and prosperity such as they had never seen before. From this, we gained our own security and peace with them. "True security does not come from empire and domination," explained George H.W. Bush. "True security can only be found in the growing trust of free peoples."

Our values and security overlap with people's basic search for happiness in every corner of the globe. America's role as moral leader is a revolutionary ideal for the world. Throughout history, no such power has found contentment in the peaceful prospering of others to the same extent as does the United States. For this, we can be supremely proud. As Americans, we have a natural obligation as world leaders.

We must seize the moment of our brief lifetimes and stand up for what is right in the world. This we are doing today. The full burden of this, of course, falls mostly on our soldiers at this time of war. Those deployed are missing their families and homes. They know, though, that theirs is a vital mission, very real to our own security, and critical to the future well-being of civilization.

President Bush last Sunday asked us not to despair and lose hope. This would be, I think, a silly thing to do. While the news is so negative from Iraq, bear in mind that the realities on the ground there are actually far better and more hopeful. Polls taken of the Iraqi people found seventy percent feeling hopeful for their future and positive toward the U.S. mission there. Unemployment is down fifty percent from a couple years ago under Saddam's tyranny, average income is up thirty percent, and nearly all of the violence is occurring in just four of Iraq's eighteen provinces. It is wrong to lose hope. Instead, there is tremendous reason to be proud.

My wife and I periodically visit wounded soldiers at Walter Reed. Let me close by sharing another quote from Teddy Roosevelt that is popular there among the soldiers and speaks directly to all of us as we struggle with the political debates:
It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:36 AM

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Peace Movement's Moderate Face

As Cindy Sheehan is once again protesting in Crawford, Texas, I thought it a good time to share some pictures that show -- as the mainstream media often does not -- the message of the anti-war protesters.

These photos, of another anti-war rally in which Cindy Sheehan participated, were taken by Joe Roche.

Said Joe about the day he took these pictures:
I wiped myself out by walking in the opposite direction all day through the marches taking pictures of lots of stuff.

The reason I did this was because of an exchange I had with some soldiers after the Sept 11th Freedom Walk earlier this month. There was a counter-protest for that that shocked most of the soldiers. They held up signs that were extremely militant and provacative. The soldiers asked me afterwards if those were Americans. They were shocked, incredulous, when I said yes. Amy & David, there are many people in America who have no idea how radical and militant the Left really is. I think it would shock people to see how bad they really are at events like this weekend's.

Of course, we know this. The same thing happened in 1983 against Reagan, many times against Contra Aid, against the 1991 Gulf War, etc. The thing that infuriates me is how the press/media protect these protests by NOT showing the real militant and radical sides of it. NOTHING like that exists in our pro-US/pro-military rallies, but it ALWAYS is there for the anti-military stuff.

...Every time they hold these protests, the media only shows the sides of things that look normal and nice for America. It is as if they go out of their way to protect the message from the radicals to only show the most mellow side, so that the whole thing comes off acceptable to the "moderates."
Notice this photo gallery of Cindy Sheehan's protests this week (Hat tip: League of Extraordinary Conservative Gentlemen). All flags, hugs and crosses. Yet the photos below show another face of the "peace"movement -- one that is not "moderate' at all.



















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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:59 AM

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Katrina Rescues: Ft. Belvoir Soldiers in New Orleans

The Fort Belvoir (VA) Eagle has an article today about the work of the D.C. National Guard rescuing Katrina victims.

This is the unit whose activities have been chronicled in blog posts by Joe Roche here, here, here and here.

By the way, the "Spc. Annelie Roche" quoted in the article is the "Lili" of the blog posts -- Joe's wife.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 9:29 PM

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Katrina Rescues: Dedicated Soldiers of the National Guard

Joe Roche has sent another email relating the experiences of his wife, Lili, who (as a member of the DC National Guard) is part of National Guard rescue operations in Louisiana:
The soldiers are showing amazing motivation and endurance. You and everyone should be extremely proud of our military women and men who have put on such an incredible and great effort to turn around the disaster situation in New Orleans and the rest of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Someday, when the politicization and debate of the issues are forgotten and old, I think history will record this whole operation by the military as amazingly fast, effective and life-saving.

And specifically of the Louisiana National Guard soldiers she has met and befriended, she says, "these people irregardless are holding their head high and moving forward even when their future is completely obscured by the world around them."

Kellogg, Brown & Root, better known as Halliburton, is doing amazing stuff at Naval Air Station New Orleans. Just like in Kosovo, Baghdad, Khandahar and everywhere else our soldiers deploy to harsh conditions, KBR (as we call them in the military) has rushed in and set up huge dining facilities, brought in comforts and standard-of-living improvements, and made life on base in New Orleans far more better than it otherwise would be with the huge arrivals. One facility they set up is "like hundreds of tents long, huge!" She said they have good food and a lot of variety. They have also set up and facilitated the arrival and assembly of many many other things that are improving conditions there for the soldiers.

Soldiers and other military-related units are continuing to arrive at a very fast and large pace. She said that a couple nights ago, a huge convoy of flat-bed trucks pulled in late, and the soldiers had to initially sleep on the flat-beds because of the size and logistics of their arrival. Nonetheless, there are areas that are "tent cities" on base for housing the soldiers.

There are also some nice New Orleans eateries setting up on base. Biker Bob's is apparently one of the favorites. They have set up and are now feeding soldiers, the contractors, and everyone else on base at a huge rate every day all day long. I think their place was wiped out in the hurricane's aftermath, and so they have set up ad hoc on base to help and support the rescue and relief efforts of our soldiers.

The New Orleans' SportsBar near the base has also set up on base a place to feed and entertain them.

Wal-Mart is also on base giving away free stuff that she said is helping a lot.

These are nice things because the heat and humidity returned last week with a vengeance. Lili said that when she walks to the DFAC, her uniform is soaked and dripping with sweat. Her unit and others have also had to do an increasing number of Medivac missions for military contractors who get sick from the infections, viruses and toxins in the city.

She said, however, that life there is getting into patterns and routines that are important and good for the soldiers. This all helps bring peace-of-mind, keeping morale up, and aiding in personal recovery in between missions, and all this goes to facilitating better and better performance.

The water was being drained out of the flooded parts at an amazingly fast rate. Something like a billion gallons of water an hour, I think she estimated? One machine is pumping something around 21,000 gallons a second! I have to admit that this is beyond my ability to comprehend.

She did say that when she and the other soldiers go running, their lungs feel like they have been in a smoking room because there are so many pesticides, sprays and maybe even a few toxins in the air.

She told of a wild account when a C-130 flew just 150 feet in the air over the city spraying stuff around. Her unit's helicopters were tasked with following and monitoring its mission.

She has done some neat side-missions too, such as last week when she drove up to Baton Rouge in a convoy to drop off the vehicles her unit had taken to deploy down to New Orleans. She and the others picked up dinner from some of the good places in Baton Rouge, then flew back in the Hueys to New Orleans and fed the others.

With routine and relaxation coming to the base for the soldiers, she said that despite the huge pace of operations and arrivals, it feels quieter there. They are bracing themselves for the anticipated mayhem from when the residents of the city start returning in droves. Right now there are some New Orleans residents and, of course, Louisiana National Guard living on base with them who she talks with and befriends. She said, "everyone, it seems, is tired of hearing about the hurricane but they seem willing to tell me their personal stories."

The LA NG have some of the most heart-wrenching stories because many of them are from the most stricken parts of the city and Louisiana, and they have next to nothing left. These soldiers ran from their houses with just the bare essentials to get to their units, and have deployed all this time not knowing what is going on with their homes, families and belongings. One commander told her it took two weeks for him to locate his grandson who had been left at a hospital in New Orleans. Many of the LA NG have traumatic family and home situations going on that they are nonetheless coping with as they continue to do missions and perform for their military units. I find this inspiring and amazing.

Another one whose extended family has lost their houses, jobs and everything else, is solely taking care of them because as a LA NG, he is the only one with a job. Despite all this that would probably overwhelm anyone else, he did many vital things to facilitate and do his part for his unit at the start of the operation. Now, however, because of a bad heart, his unit has had to let him go. In despair, he told her, "New Orleans is dead, it will never be a great city again...at least in my lifetime." ...In an email from Lili, she describes this soldier's plight in more detail, which I'll forward after this.

Another LA NG commander described how "some of the young people in his unit had just gotten married and were finally just now getting their feet on the ground in a difficult city and moving out of their poverty only to lose everything" because of the storm and flooding.

Nonetheless, the military missions continue, setting up what is emerging as one massive gargantuan enterprise that is going to do amazing things over the coming weeks and months. Again quoting her about the LA NG she is with, "these people irregardless are holding their head high and moving forward even when their future is completely obscured by the world around them."

With humility, Lili is fails to say this about her unit too. (I/we will point out!)

That is all.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:12 AM

Monday, September 05, 2005

Katrina Rescues: A Military Perspective

I'm posting a letter from Joe Roche, whose wife is doing helicopter rescue missions in hurricane-affected areas, "24/7, very tired, sometimes being shot at, facing intense heat and humidity, having spartan-to-bare sleeping conditions, with sickness and disease spreading."
Amy,

I want you to know that over the past days, our soldiers of the National Guard have quickly and readily made big sacrifices so they can get down to the Hurricane Katrina rescue mission. My wife, as you know, is with National Guard. I watched last week as they worked feverishly, being called in from their other jobs and away from their families, to get everything ready to go.

Tens of thousands of National Guard soldiers have mobilized all over the country like this. I know you have felt grief over the disaster and the issue some people have made of it. I want you to take heart and lift your spirits at what has happened with our military.

There is now a MASSIVE military response under way. It is moving very fast, in fact. So fast that it quickly and frequently overwhelmed the capacity to put it all in place and get it launched.

I understand the frustration, fear and sadness being felt, but it takes time to get such a thing going. Remember that it took many months for our military operations to get under way overseas when the decisions were made to do so. In fact, I think there was some controversy about that in both of the wars over Iraq, when it took from August to January to launch Operation Desert Storm, and even longer to get Operation Iraqi Freedom going. I well remember even having to assure people that we were going to respond after September 11th when some started worrying that weeks had passed and nothing had happened.

I believe that such comparisons actually will show that the military response to Hurricane Katrina's destruction is going at breath-taking fast speed.

Lt. Gen. Russell Honore, the commanding General of the Army National Guard, said that the thing to realize is that the rescuers who were there on the first day were also victims of the storm.

It takes time to organize the massive operation now under way. I watched my wife and her unit prepare to go, and I felt worried that they would become victims too if they didn't properly prepare. The vital thing the soldiers have to make sure of is that they are the solution to the problem, and not part of the problem. Therefore, what has happened is that a vast, truly amazing and powerfully inspiration-driven massive team of professionals has quickly and effectively set up a huge series of staging areas from which rescue operations can begin.

It is a fact that with the destruction of the storm, there were very few open and secure areas in which to set up huge military operations. Well, defying all the challenges, your National Guard soldiers have done that brilliantly!

Now we are seeing this massive military response making it's impact. Tens of thousands have been rescued, moving entire refugee populations hundreds of miles. I don't believe others ever have been able to do this, such as the Europeans in the Balkans. No, such massive population moves are normally the work of war and crime that last years. This time, bigger and faster than most in history, your National Guard has moved in, set up, and begun one of the largest rescue operations in history.

The thing that has affected me most, however, are the soldiers doing this. I have seen police officers, Vietnam Veterans, and other professionals from all sorts of jobs, dropping everything last week and getting airborne to get down there. And Amy, it is scary too.

My wife is my best friend and the best person I have ever met. Now she is doing helicopter rescue missions, 24/7, very tired, sometimes being shot at, facing intense heat and humidity, having spartan-to-bare sleeping conditions, with sickness and disease spreading. There are thousands of rescue operations to do, and there are dozens of air units and even more ground units working hard and sometimes bumping into each other. It is more dangerous than I think people realize.

Yet, amazingly and very inspiringly, I watched as these National Guard soldiers cancelled plans for college, jobs, their kids' plans for next week, basically everything that you can imagine, and instead jumped eagerly and with great determination to get ready and deploy to Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Some of them are veterans, soldiers who have served for years in many of our wars and missions, civilian professionals who have jobs and lives and families, and all of them have set everything aside to go. Many are taking big financial hits, and their families have to make big adjustments. But you know what? They are all highly motivated and eager to get down there and do their jobs.

I know that for the victims of this storm, their suffering and tragedy is terrible and cannot be erased. I do hope we all realize, though, that the military is making a massively huge effort to rescue and help them that also involves National Guard soldiers making countless personal sacrifices.

We should have found inspiration from the determination of the people of New Orleans and the rest of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama to survive the long series of nightmares they have endured as a result of the hurricane. I also believe that we should now find inspiration in our great military, primarily the Army National Guard, for how they have jumped full steam ahead into this.

Be proud of your soldiers, keep your spirits and hopes high. There are some very sad and gruesome days and weeks ahead for our nation as we learn of the full scope of the disaster. Face it with the resolve, focus and determination that our military is showing us now, and we'll get through this to make a more safe future for such events and rebuild what has been lost.

Joe

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:46 AM

Friday, August 26, 2005

Joe Roche: Antidote to Defeatism

Joe Roche has a must-read article in today's Washington Times:
I'm very proud to be a soldier of the U.S. Army because of the war on terror and our missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. I'm not alone either. I'm surrounded by soldiers who are re-enlisting and volunteering to go to units that are deploying. In fact, despite all the negative news and protests, I see everyday that our military is actually doing very well.

This is quite obvious, except for the fact that most of the media seems asphyxiated with defeatism. The message from most journalists would lead you to believe that we soldiers are getting out, that no one is joining anew and that we want to stop fighting. This simply isn't true.

Yes, recruitment is lower, but the caliber of those who are signing up and the rates of re-enlistment are both extremely high. All 10 of our major combat divisions are ahead of expectations for retention of soldiers. In my unit, there are soldiers who specifically went active duty from the reserves because they want to go to Iraq or Afghanistan.

Before September 11, a lot of soldiers were happy to just enjoy the benefits. Since that day, those soldiers have left. That is fine and not the disaster that defeatist reports are making it seem. Such soldiers were never the types to want to go on long deployments and face combat. Yes, they were heroes for signing up and being in a job that could go that direction, but they had other priorities that made their service contingent on enjoying the benefits rather than serving in war.

That changed on September 11. Now, just as we are told to expect when joining, we are going to combat and many soldiers are getting injured and killed. This is our job, and it is what we know can happen. I don't know why the media insists on trumpeting the idea that all of us are tired and worn out and just want to stop fighting. I don't, and I am not alone.

The fact is that we are not experiencing casualty rates anywhere near past conflicts, nor for that matter as bad as during peacetime. There were weeks in Vietnam when 350-400 Americans died, and in other wars thousands would die in single battles. Nothing like that is happening now.

From 1983 to 1996, more than 18,000 soldiers died. That averages to more than 1,300 a year, far more than have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan each year. Yes, that was mostly from accidents, drunk driving and other mishaps. Yet, while protesters in Crawford, Texas and elsewhere would have you think that our military can't survive with the low casualty rates of this war, I wonder why they were willing to accept the much higher peacetime casualty rates of the past? We lost around 3,000 innocent people on September 11, and with four years of war and the toppling of two regimes, we haven't lost that many in combat.

Injuries are high, but they are nothing compared to past conflicts. And most striking is how many are recovering well. I have been to both of the major military hospitals involved in this war, Landstuhl in Germany and Walter Reed in Washington, and I can tell you that there are many soldiers who have lost limbs in Iraq and Afghanistan and who want to return to their units and get redeployed.

Like I said earlier, though, the striking fact I see every day is that the soldiers who are joining now are of much higher caliber than those who joined before September 11. The senior commandant of the Marines recently testified before Congress that the same is happening with them. There maybe fewer than before, but those that do show up are willing and dedicated to being deployed and going to combat. These are also the types who are re-enlisting more than ever before. In fact, re-enlistment is up to 130 percent of expectations in some divisions.

My wife is in the National Guard. Theirs is an interesting experience right now in that there have been more casualties by accidents and reckless behavior off-duty than in Iraq and Afghanistan. Why are protesters not upset about that? Sadly it appears that much of the media are obsessed with defeatism. Even the message of the protesters - contradictory, false and confused as ever - is made front-page headline news every day. The few people they can exploit to push this defeatist agenda are made to appear to speak for all of us. That just isn't true.

Contrary to all the bad news, I see everyday that our soldiers are motivated and eager to contribute and participate in our nation's military missions. This is a very proud and important time to be serving. Considering that out of a population of 285 million, less than one-tenth of one percent are going to war right now, and considering the huge impact we are having on the world, this is a wonderful time to be a soldier in the U.S. Army.

-Sgt. Joe Roche is with the 12th Aviation Battalion and stationed at Fort Belvoir.
Long-time blog readers will recognize Joe's writings, some of which are archived here.

Joe made a particular splash last year with this piece. I counted later and found that it was reprinted, quoted or linked to by at least 286 blogs, read on the air by many talk show hosts (including Rush Limbaugh and Kirby Wilbur), quoted by President Bush in his acceptance speech at the 2004 Republican National Convention, and included in a display at the Smithsonian Institution. (I really need to post a photo of the Smithsonian display in this blog.)

Most important, Joe's writings, combined with the support of talk hosts, bloggers, businesses and what we call ordinary Americans (as if any American were "ordinary"!), resulted in many care packages being sent to soldiers and Marines fighting abroad.

Anybody who thinks one man can't make a difference never met Joe Roche.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:37 PM

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Medicare's Troubling Limitations

Thanks to Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit for a link over the weekend to a post here by Joe Roche (a post which also was published in short form as an op-ed in the Sunday Washington Times).

Speaking of Instapundit, Glenn's regular readers will recall his recent posts about his wife Helen's hospitalization for implantation of an implantable pacemaker/cardioverter.

Said Glenn of the device: "The good news is that those things are available..."

He's right. But for Medicare patients, that good news is nothing to take for granted. Many of them simply haven't been able to get the device.

As our Ed Haislmaier reports for us, Medicare patients haven't had the same access to these devices as Americans with private health insurance have had. Says Ed:
[In]1985, the FDA approved the first implantable defibrillator and by 1989 the first cardioverter-defibrillator that could deliver a multi-stage shock therapy to correct heart rhythms. Since then, device companies have continued to innovate, simultaneously making ICDs more sophisticated and less costly.

But the story involving Medicare isn't so positive. Medicare first agreed to pay for ICDs for a limited number of patients in 1986. But it was not until 1991, and then again in 1999, that Medicare further expanded its definition of 'medical necessity' to cover ICDs for more Medicare beneficiaries.

In the spring of 2002, armed with new clinical trial data from the New England Journal of Medicine, ICD makers asked Medicare to further expand coverage. A year later, Medicare's Coverage Advisory Committee unanimously endorsed the expansion. By that time, private insurers were already paying for ICDs for patients with the same characteristics and the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology had already revised their treatment guidelines.

But not until June of 2003 did Medicare agree to a further coverage expansion, and then only to one-third of the recommended patient population. Only now is Medicare finally agreeing to the full ICD coverage criteria the private sector adopted two and a half years ago.

In announcing plans to expand coverage for IDCs, Medicare touted that it expects 25,000 more patients will receive IDCs in 2005, "potentially saving up to 2,500 lives." Thus, we may infer that Medicare's foot-dragging, bureaucratic coverage process probably resulted in the avoidable deaths of between 5,000 and 10,000 Medicare patients over the past two and a half years.

A big reason for Medicare's foot-dragging on IDCs is cost...

The hard truth is that, like national health systems abroad, Medicare saves money by limiting the availability of life-saving care...
Read Ed's entire piece here.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:10 AM

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