A lesson for America – and an inspiration

Some institutions still work in America.  They should inspire us, and their example copied.  As seen in this excerpt from “A Tragedy of Errors, and an Accounting”, Peggy Noonan, op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, 6 March 2009.  No nation is finished when it has institutions that operate like this, with senior people taking responsibility for its actions.

It’s Dec. 8, 2008, 11:11 a.m., and a young Marine pilot takes off from an aircraft carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln, on a routine training flight. The carrier is maybe 90 miles southwest of San Diego. Lt. Dan Neubauer is flying an F/A-18 Hornet. Minutes into the flight, he notices low oil pressure in one of the two engines. He shuts it down. Then the light shows low fuel for the other engine. He’s talking to air traffic control and given options and suggestions on where to make an emergency landing. He can go to the naval air station at North Island, the route to which takes him over San Diego Bay, or he can go to the Marine air station at Miramar, with which he is more familiar, but which takes him over heavily populated land. He goes for Miramar. The second engine flames out. About three miles from the runway, the electrical system dies. Lt. Neubauer tries to aim the jet toward a canyon, and ejects at what all seem to agree is the last possible moment.

The jet crashed nose down in the University City neighborhood of San Diego, hitting two homes and damaging three. Four people, all members of a Korean immigrant family, were killed-36-year-old Youngmi Lee; her daughters, Grace, 15 months, and Rachel, 2 months, and her 60-year-old mother, Seokim Kim.

Lee’s husband, a grocer named Dong Yun Yoon, was at work. The day after he’d lost his family, he humbled and awed San Diego by publicly forgiving the pilot – “I know he did everything he could” – and speaking of his faith-“I know God is taking care of my family.”

His grace and generosity were staggering, but there was growing local anger at the military. Why was the disabled plane over land? The Marines launched an investigation-of themselves. This Wednesday the results were announced.

They could not have been tougher, or more damning. The crash, said Maj. Gen. Randolph Alles, the assistant wing commander for the Third Marine Aircraft Wing, was “clearly avoidable,” the result of “a chain of wrong decisions.” Mechanics had known since July of a glitch in the jet’s fuel-transfer system; the Hornet should have been removed from service and fixed, and was not. The young pilot failed to read the safety checklist. He relied on guidance from Marines at Miramar who did not have complete knowledge or understanding of his situation. He should have been ordered to land at North Island. He took an unusual approach to Miramar, taking a long left loop instead of a shorter turn to the right, which ate up time and fuel.

Twelve Marines were disciplined; four senior officers, including the squadron commander, were removed from duty. Their military careers are, essentially, over. The pilot is grounded while a board reviews his future.

… This wasn’t damage control, it was taking honest responsibility. And as such, in any modern American institution, it was stunning.

Additional information about this incident

  1. Letter of apology from Major General Michael Lehnert to the residents of University City, 4 March 2009
  2. Poor maintenance, critical errors caused jet crash, report says“, Los Angeles Times, 4 March 2009
  3. Marines to overhaul repair, air-safety rules“, San Diego Union-Tribune, 5 March 2009


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To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar.  Of esp interest these days:

Posts on the FM site about America: 

Some good news (one of the more important posts on this blog), 21 December 2007 –  I do not believe we need fear the future, despite the tough times coming soon.  This remains a great nation, not because of our past but because of us and our polity.  We differ from almost every other nation.  The difference consists of our commitment to our political order, of which our Constitution is the foundation.  In this we are like Athens more than our neighbors …

An important thing to remember as we start a New Year, 29 December 2007 — As we start a New Year I find it useful to review my core beliefs. It is easy to lose sight of those amidst the clatter of daily events. Here is my list…

Is America’s decline inevitable? No.. 21 January 2008 – Why be an American if one has no faith in the American people?  How can you believe in democracy without that faith? 

Let us light a candle while we walk, lest we fear what lies ahead, 10 February 2008 — Many people look to the future with fear. We see this fear throughout the web. Right-wing sites describe the imminent end of America: overrun by foreigners, victim of cultural and financial collapse. Left-wing sites describe “die-off” scenarios due to Peak Oil, climate change, and ecological collapse – as the American dream dies from takeover by theocrats and fascists.  Most of this is nonsense, but not the prospect of massive changes in our world. But need we fear the future?

Fears of flying into the future, 25 February 2008 — Reasons we need not fear the future.

Experts, with wrinkled brows, warn about the future, 2 May 2008 — Experts often see the future with alarm, seeing the dangers but not benefits. That gets attention, from both the media and an increasingly fearful public. Both sides feed this process. It need not be so, as most trends contain the seeds of good and bad futures. This post considers two examples.

Good news about the 21st century, a counterbalance to the doomsters, 9 May 2008

30 thoughts on “A lesson for America – and an inspiration”

  1. Yes, this is in vivid contrast with the six years of evasion, lies and white-washing practiced by the DoD in Iraq. Particularly noteworthy was the failure to hold any officers responsible for the abuses at Abu Ghraib, while scapegoating poor souls like Lindey England.

  2. I was thinking more of the contrast with the current ultra narcissist in the White House and his perpetual circus of evasion, obfuscation, dishonesty, and incompetence. What a disaster. The military may be the only branch of government currently functional. Under this clown, that may not be true for much longer.
    Fabius Maximus replies: You are drawing big conclusions from someone in office for only 2 months. That’s like declaring Lincoln a failure in May 1861.

    As for the effect of the new Administration on the US Maine Corps, they (and the military in general) have proven resistent to changes in the political winds for many generations. I’ll bet for that record to continue.

  3. Homer Simpson’s “Three phrases every man needs to know”.
    1. It was like that when I got here.
    2. Cover for me.
    3. Good Idea, Boss.

    I don’t think Homer Simpson would last long in SAC, or piloting Navy jets. He’d be fine in the Senate though, and the House.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Sad but true.

  4. There is a reason that amongst the public the military ranks highest in confidence. This is good and bad. With civilian politicians ranking so low it makes one wonder when the people may choose a military leader to “fix” things. If things continue to get worse it may be sooner than we expect.
    Fabius Maximus replies: If only we had longer histories for this data. What was public opinion in 1928? 1938?

  5. Go to this link and have a look at some of the Massacre at Mazar footage in a post titled as “Boycott War Criminals”. American soldiers helped kills more than 3000 surrendered soldiers in Afghanistan. These unarmed prisoners were massacred in a style reminding you of the Holocaust Pogrom. Fabius, stop trying to fool people into thinking that the United States Marine corps is something that’s worthy of respect.
    The Marines are the most bloodthirsty criminals known so far to mankind.The main reason the Marines have mental problems when they come back from campaigns is their own cruelty on their foreign assignments. Torturing innocent civilians and murdering foreigners’ children leaves its mark.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Always nice to hear from the Gamma Quadrent. Given your history of inaccurate comments on this site, you will understand if I don’t take this seriously without additional context. While I enjoy a good bit of propaganda as much as the next guy, do you have a transcript (I don’t watch vids) and perhaps some links to supporting analysis?

    “The Marines are the most bloodthirsty criminals known so far to mankind”
    No post from Indian Investor is complete without a really bizarre statement. First, the opening of this film mentions US special forces — not Marines. Second, there are groups in history who would consider kiling 3,000 prisoners as light training for trainees. Nor torture? No sacrafice of key body parts to the Gods? No capture, rape, and enslavement of their women and children?

  6. Indian Investor, I visited the link you provided and saw nothing there to distinguish this website from the many others propounding various conspiracy theories, UFO sightings, evidence that the U.S. government brought down the WTC Towers, and other assorted nonsense. If you wish to accuse the U.S. Marines, an elite organzation whose lineage of valor and accomplishment is unsurpassed, you’d better meet a higher standard of proof. Otherwise, you are simply being a cheap sensationalist and a rumor-monger. Is this to say that Marines have never committed crimes or atrocities? No, but then war is chaotic, and those of us who sit safely behind the lines have a duty to criticize responsibly, wouldn’t you say? So – where is your evidence, other than a site whose content could have been faked by a jihadist (or other seeking to defame the Marines) with a decent knowledge of computer code?

    Your post says “The Marines are the most bloodthristy criminals known so far to mankind.” Really? By whose reckoning? Your comment reveals more about you than about the Marines; why are so hostile to them? What is your agenda? I would not recommend making such a charge face-to-face to a Marine, by the way, unless you are looking for a fight.

    FM, thanks for the story about senior leaders taking responsibility for that tragic crash in San Diego. It is very good indeed to see an institution that lives its values, and does not merely talk about them. Perhaps other agencies of our government, and some of our senior executives will take note. One can always hope.

  7. Mr. Pete, Please have a look once again. There is a series of 5 video clips at that blog page.Here’s some text that appears just ahead of the film.

    {snip — this is hijacking the tread, and it is unrelated to the subject of the post. Hence in violation of the comment policy. Being a nice guy, I allowed your original comment. Post your agitprop at your own site.}

  8. Mr. Pete, I was looking for that particular video; it was on youtube earlier and I found it again on this site that I linked. I must admit haven’t read the rest of the material on that site.
    The US Marines, beginning when they join in their teens; are turned into beasts of prey, mentally indoctrinated to a separate code of their own, and trained to kill ruthlessly. In a campaign, they invent their own separate language to hide from themselves the horrors they inflict on their victims. Their modified value system operates when they are in their buddyhood, and, gripped by the Devil, they cannibalize the helpless subject population in what you might be describing as “valor and accomplishment”.
    Despite the Pentagon’s best efforts, these people return closer to a natural human state when they are back in a more homely environment, and away from their Cannibal Cult. That’s when they become gripped by guilt, and frequently in their imagination, they themselves undergo the same horrors they inflicted on their helpless victims. Their agony and isolation increases manifold when you look at the kind of thoughts and expectations their own community has about them (read the above article). There isn’t anything new in this; the Schutzstaffel’s Einsatzgruppen, and their euphemisms like “Special Treatment” to describe gassing to death can be compared to the modern “collateral damage”. But “valor and accomplishment”, referring to the inhuman tortures of the Marine Expeditionary Brigades, is definitely new to me. (248 words)

  9. Oh, a video? That could not possibly be fake!!! Computer technology has decades-nay CENTURIES-to go before that is possible!! It’s not like anyone with an Apple laptop could do that, is it!!!

    There’s a sucker born every second, nowadays.

  10. Let’s hope it’s just a false video, created by some propagandists. But in any case I don’t buy the argument that firing the lower level technicians and squadron commanders amounts to taking responsibility.
    They need to go the whole hog and break up the weapons contracting conglomerates into smaller competing pieces. There shouldn’t be any more Lockheed Martins and Northrup Grummans; those are just too big to exist.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Your logic is bizarre. Those were appropriate actions in response to the crash. Changing the contracting system is an unrelated issue. Stay on topic or I’ll moderate your comments. Every topic is not an opportunity for you to insert your political views.

  11. “Indian Investor” writes: “The US Marines, beginning when they join in their teens; are turned into beasts of prey, mentally indoctrinated to a separate code of their own, and trained to kill ruthlessly.”

    True. That is why they usually win. And my son is one.

    “II” also writes: “gripped by the Devil, they cannibalize the helpless subject population…” and more ludicrous idiocy.

    War is itself an atrocity, and there is a difference only in degree between those that are intentional and those that are accidental when it comes to specific atrocities. Even before my son was in the military, and despite being staunchly anti-Vietnam and anti-Iraq in terms of specific wars, I have long felt that individual soldiers and NCOs should be treated with sympathy when they do cross certain lines, given how they have been trained and what enemies have done to and around them. There but for grace go both I and “Indian Investor” and having not paced a trail in those people’s moccasins, and being absolutely unable to guarantee that I would behave any better under the circumstances, I am loath to be too harsh on individual soldiers and NCOs.

    Given the chain of command, though, I think the original point of our host’s post is well taken… the higher up and the more knowledgable, the more subject to harsh and definitive judgment. As this standard was applied in this plane-crash incident, so should it have been in the case of Abu Ghraib, as “seneca” correctly notes, and indeed to all of the Bush Administration from the run-up to war to torture to domestic spying to corruption involving the Israel lobby and Blackwater, and the rest of the sad legacy of the Bush era, so aptly described by “Rainmaker” as “circus of evasion, obfuscation, dishonesty, and incompetence;” albeit grossly misattributed to the current Administration.

  12. It is amazing what some will fall for. After the Panama invasion, a short documentary about a massacre by American soldiers and mass graves won an academy award. Problem was there was not one bit of footage from Panama in it!! It was nothing more than anti-American propaganda. Being a former army officer and having had some training with the Marines, the videos are a load of horse pucky!

  13. FM note: What’s so sad about mclaren’s comments is that even when he’s right he’s often wrong. This comment is totally false on several levels, as described in my reply at the end.
    Once again, thorough dishonesty from Fabius Maximus — once again, an avoidance of the real lesson in a tragedy like this, and a conclusion starkly contrary to the proven facts.

    The actual reality, as opposed to FM’s fairytale? The Dec 08 crash of the F/A-18 hornet was due to the aging of America’s jet fighters. And who is responsible for that aging? The corrupt incompetent self-interested me-first careerism of the senior officers in the Pentagon, whose careers are driven by weapons procurement of fragile defective-by-design Buck Rogers superweapons like the F/A-18 Hornet, and the continual re-use of these plannet obsolescent white elephants long after they prove a danger to the soldiers and airmen who use them, and the civilians over whom they fly.

    Not one single general officer whose corrupt incompetence green-lighted a fragile hunk ‘o junk like the F/A-18 hornet, and then kept it in service long after it had started to fall apart and become a danger to soldiers and civilians alike, will ever be prosecuted, let alone receive the blame he so richly deserves. Once again, the elite military officers truly reponsible will get away scot free, while the little guys on the ground get savagely punished. My Lai is calling — they want their scandal back. Let’s courts martial another Lieutenant Calley, shall we? Sure, end the careers of the flight officers and the grease monkeys who serviced that F/A-18, then convict and imprison the guy who flew it…but never, never, ever the general officers who inept corrupt decisions led to that overstressed aging F/A-18 being designed and built as a weapons system too complex to keep in good repair, and whose cronyism and greed led to the F/A-18 being kept in service far too long after it started to fall apart.

    Of course Chuck Spinney and Chalmers Johnson and William S. Lind and have talked about the increasingly counterproduce worthelssness of the increasingly expensive and increasingly fragile superweapons the Pentagon’s broken procurement process buys at an ever more insane cost, then finds itself forced to keep those weapons in service long after they fall apart because they can’t afford the even more expensive replacements, so naturally FM will ridicule me as well as Van Creveld and Lind in the process of denying the obvious facts. Meanwhile, our overcomplex too-fragile uselessly feature-riddled aircraft and tanks and frigates will continue to age and fall apart, killing soliders and civilians when they fail, and as usual the guys driving the planes and tanks and ships will get the blame — not the Pentagon brass who are really responsible.

    Keep up the lies, FM, you’re discrediting yourself so far we’re starting to hear sonic booms.
    Fabuis Maximus replies: By the numbers, as usually when cutting thru mclaren’s nonsense.

    His comment about the aging of US militiary airfleet is of course correct as a contributing factor to this accident. It was not solely due to this, as the Marine’s description of the string of bad operational decisions clearly shows. Like an auto accident, we cannot ignore the decisions on the spot that caused the accident.

    Mclaren’s critique of this site is bizarre.

    First, this site is a spin-off of Defense and the National Interest (DNI), created by Chuck Spinny — and which holds most of his online articles (archive). Also, DNI has most of Lind’s publications (archive) and all of mine — until this site was started in 2007 (archvie).

    Second, I strongly agree with the Spinny-Johnson-Lind critique, and have so written many times. See the thirty articles listed on the FM reference page America’s national defence strategy and machinery.

    All 3 of these guys have had their work posted — approvingly — here. See here and here for links to Spinney’s articles in the FM weekend reading recommenations, here for one to Chalmers Johnson. References here to Lind’s work are too numerous to count.

    More generally, this topic has been extensively discussed on this site. Here are a few of those posts:
    * The primary recent work in this field is “America’s Defense meltdown”, by the Center for Defense Information. Here is a brief description of that important book published here on 31 October 2008.
    * Another cycle down the Defense Death Spiral, 30 January 2008
    * “What’s wrong with the US military?”, an interview with Winslow Wheeler, 10 December 2008
    * The economic Death Spiral of the Pentagon, 7 February 2009

    Will Mclaren post a correction? Or like his other errors (to cite just one of many, here), will he just walk away? If no response, I will moderate his future comments. There is no reason to put up with someone posting gross lies and personal insults (example here) about me on my own site. I have responded to each of them, but life is short. At this point I draw the line.

  14. Indian Investor has no direct knowledge of the US Marines, unlike myself and several others here. That is why his comments ring so false to anyone who has direct experience with the Corps.

    Muslim terrorists, on the other hand, film themselves in the act of beheading civilians and boast among themselves over acts of bestial brutality. Is Indian Investor perhaps a Muslim who supports madrasas the holy jihad of conquest? That might explain a bit.

  15. While I applaud the Marines for standing up and doing the right thing THIS TIME, that’s not always the case, especially in foreign countries.

    I recall an incident with a plane and a ski gondola….

  16. With all due respect, Alice, your second paragraph is off base. At most, jihadist terrorists are a few thousand people out of a billion. There is nothing in the Koran that supports or encourages, let us say, things like grown men throwing acid in the faces of young women. Also, I think it is pertinent and worthy of discussion that it has been less than 1400 years since the beginning of Islam. Consider how Christians behaved towards one another in Europe, and towards indigenous peoples worldwide, from 1400-1945. More recently we have McVeigh and the IRA as two examples. Serious pot and kettle issue there, for sure.

  17. @Alice Finkel: I don’t support Muslims, and you’re right to think that I don’t have direct experience with Marines. I started out on discounted cash flows; reached their limitations; then learnt more about global capital flows; reached their limitations. Finally I started to think deeper and analyze the reserve currency status of the USD. That took me into the petroleum trade; and to the financial stakeholders in the oil, banking and weapons conglomerates. Add oligarchies such as the Russian, Icelandic and Venezuelan ones. Control over oil, food, and money is behind all the wars; with no side having a genuine moral superiority. Afghanistan is about building oil and natural gas pipelines through it.
    War isn’t an independent atrocity that occurs as a natural phenomenon. Nor is it caused by that profiteering that emerges after it starts. War itself is profiteering.
    The response to the plane crash doesn’t show inspirationally that the US military is a well-functioning institution. On the contrary, it shows the real, underlying, cancerous problem of the weapons conglomerates. They have infiltrated the military and managed to leave the soldiers with substandard and unreliable equipment, siphoning out from the world’s most magnanimous budgets. Firing the low level technicians also shows you how a band aid has been passed off as a cure for cancer, without serious challenge. (219 words)

  18. Responsibility: That’s a very rare word these days. Good to see an organization holding some of its members accountable.

  19. All in all a good outcome with responsibility and repercussions landing hard, fast but where they should.

    The part about their careers being over bears looking at. Many of our best leaders screwed up royally a few times in there careers before they got to be well known. As I remember it Spruance grounded a destroyer.

    Today, that gets you some serious consequences and usually ends your career. Back in his day, the people in charge understood that if you want people to show actual leadership and take calculated risks your going to have to accept that things won’t always work out. That demanding perfection is unreasonable. That doesn’t mean there isn’t accountability, correction and punishment. Consequences are in order. But you can’t kill off the risk takers and then expect the risk adverse compliment left to move out, take charge and show real leadership.

    Going that way you end up with a CYA culture where sucking up, elitist ring knocking, and cronyism are how you advance. Where risk avoidance and indecision are the order of the day.

    Yes, there have to be consequences but consequences for simple mistakes should be designed to improve the person and, in time, all them to continue on their career. A spotless career can be a sign of a person untested, of responsibility avoidance, and a lack of initiative.

    As for why congress is not so gifted with judgment, honesty, consequences and correction? Mostly it is the American people who made it this way. Legislators are rewarded for feel-good policies and handing out money. Carter, for all his bad points, tried to point out that we were spending beyond out means. He was slaughtered politically for his honesty. The American people since after WW2 have been fed a steady diet of myth that tells them they can have it all, have it now. Cheap. Our entire economy has been structured around this lie. The W administration decided it could create its own reality. Both methods are ways of avoiding consequences and accountability. When price is no object, no decisions necessary because you can buy one of each, and reality itself is subject to redefinition, no need to pay attention, there can be no accountability.

    The American people, for the last 50 years, wanted freedom from accountability, responsibility and hard decisions. They want boundless horizons and an ever improving standard of living. They removed any politician uncouth enough to suggest there were limits, or consequences, or ugly choices to make.

    Accountability is good. But fear of accountability shouldn’t eliminate learning from mistakes and, consequently, taking calculated risks. Warfare, in particular, demands having some talent and experience with handling risk. Talent you can’t cultivate and experience you can’t gain if your kicked out or crippled in your career the first time you make a mistake. If you want the lawmakers to be responsible we are going to have to get comfortable hearing that we are not special or immune to the laws of finance and physics.

  20. Thanks, good story, Fabius. I agree that this is a case when one of our institutions did the right thing—but I also have to say that I’d like it even more if the military came down this hard on malfeasance when someone above the rank of lieutenant is involved. Abu Ghraib has been mentioned…and continues to stand as a lamentable instance of moral failure, and an enduring stain on the honor of the U.S. Army. Yes, I know a real estate agent was given a letter of reprimand (reserve General Karpinski), and that Donald Rumsfeld said “I take full responsibility”—words that should never be said without the sequitur “and therefore resign”. Is it too late to deal with Abu Ghraib? Or, on a smaller scale, how about a re-investigation of the Pat Tillman friendly fire death? Culpable decisions were made, and no consequences ensued. You’d only have to retire a captain to fix that one.

  21. Several issues . First, admitting responsibility -good .The weather or a mysterious terrorist group were not blamed ; the existance of the crash was not denied .
    Secondly , with whom does the buck stop ? The person at the top of the unit should have ensured his pilot would always do the safety drill and would know how to prioritise risk ; should have ensured his mechanics would always report faults ; etc , etc . But this need not be the end of his career . The shame/remorse would be enough for one character , demotion neccessary for another ; they would have learnt a hard lesson , and could use it to teach others .
    Thirdly , I’m sure many on this list will have read books such as ” Sources of Power ” that offer a view of decision making , often using examples . This pilot made a series of decisions that appear to have been flawed . Presumably he is not a total idiot , drunk or drugged , so those decisions made sense to him or members of his team , at that time , in the hot seat . Uncovering the cues and personal experiences that led to those decisions , surely cant be done in a couple of weeks . Fourthly , There is an accepted difference in my line of work between an error of judgement ( regretable ) and negligence ( inexcusable ) . A decision in an emergency to take route 4 rather than route 3 is likely to be an error of judgement . I doubt if instructions had been given that in event of sequential engine failure over the pointy rock northwest of Firtree Corner on a windy afternoon , the pilot must always turn right .If there had been such instructions and the pilot had not read them , that would be negligence .

  22. Sorry, FM, the incident was not a couple of weeks ago as I thought but back in December: “Navy fighter pilot apparently headed to wrong landing field“, San Diego Union-Tribune, 29 February 2009 —
    On 24 FEB ’09 a plane from Nimitz , south of San Diego , pulled out of a landing at Miramar and circled to try again ( North Isle not in use due to broken cloud ) ; was running low on fuel . Pilot started towards Montgomery airfield in error , swung round to Miramar , buzzing houses and scaring residents as he did so .Landed at Miramar. Nice to see lessons learnt and action taken — not.

  23. Re Mr. McLaren’s comment, I’d like to thank him because I didn’t know about Spinney, Johnson and Lind before and got to know about them from his comment. Fabius Maximus’ blog actually makes a very favorable impression on me. I suspect it will on most foreigners, because it attempts to make an objective assessment of the global dominance strategy and tries to find ways to extricate the United States Sovereign; presumably without causing a lot of problems for the common people in the United States, other than just having to work harder on some different industrial sectors than before.
    The United States’ “soft power” has little or nothing to do with the Department of State, though the Department of State is making desperate attempts to improve its own credibility by piggy backing on the common American people’s inherent nature. The Americans are so popular in most of the rest of the world because of their unbeatable sense of humor, their well known culture of simplicity in social relations and hard work. The (Poison) Ivy League, the Pentagon Generals and the Department of State spin doctors are excluded from the above reference to “common Americans”.

  24. gpanfile, you wrote:

    “With all due respect, Alice, your second paragraph is off base. At most, jihadist terrorists are a few thousand people out of a billion. There is nothing in the Koran that supports or encourages, let us say, things like grown men throwing acid in the faces of young women.”

    Out of respect for the etiquette of this site, I will not get drawn into a lengthy debate about what Koran says or does not say, nor the Hadith, or any of the other sources of Islamic jurispudence. Suffice it to say that there is considerable, shall we say, “disagreement” over your assertion that the Koran promotes only peace and understanding, and not the killing and conquest of all infidels. This is not a settled issue, far from it, and to claim otherwise is disingenuous, if not intellectually dishonest.

    You also assert that jihadists comprise only a few thousand people out of a billion. On what basis can you possibly make such a statement? Anyone who claims to know with certainty the number of jihadists in the world clearly has an agenda other than the scholarly objectivity.
    For one, define a “jihadist” – obviously how one defines them affects how they are counted. Second, the number – even if it could be accurately estimated – would not remain stable over time, and would increase/decrease constantly. Third, statistical methods do not permit certainty in determining such a figure. They rely upon assumptions about the population being surveyed, and its characteristics, and are inevitably subject to bias of various kinds. There is yet another problem, that of jihadists versus active supporters versus silent sympathizers. The absolute number of jihadists – say for argument those who actually mount violent attacks, or are suicide bombers – may be a certain percentage of Muslims, but if one factors in active supporters, those who finance the militants but do not pull the trigger themselves, then the number goes up. It goes up yet again if one includes those Muslims who are non-participants, but silently support violent jihad.

    In sum, even with the best statistical analysis, you’d be fortunate to get within an order of magnitude of the “correct” figure given that there are over a billion Muslims in the world. Thus, your assertion of the number of jihadists is more-or-less meaningless.

    It is a cliche, but Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) was at least partway onto something with his quote about “lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

  25. Abu Ghraib? Yes, Donald Rumsfeld and Janice Karpinski spend all their vacations there, torturing women, old men, and children who never even knew a terrorist, much less joined them. Tens of millions of innocent Iraqis have been killed by Americans at Abu Ghraib last year alone. It is a national disgrace that will never be lived down, because it is still happening!!!! Hillary Clinton stopped by Abu Ghraib on a recent trip to the middle east, just to torture a few innocent Iraqis.

    Nothing has changed!!!

  26. Fabius Maximus – I must again give you props for your continued candid assessments of the state of America. On the matter of the jet crash, I must say that I am proud that my Marine Corps was so candid in its judgments. I only hope that the spirit of the truth that was manifested in this matter inspires other Marines to be disciplined with the truth, and to remember that we serve the American people by defending our Constitution.

    Indian Investor-I am a Marine Captain, and I can confirm that everything you say about the United States Marines is absolutely true. There is a reason why history has granted us the title of Devil Dog.

    Have you heard that we are ordered to kill our own mothers? It’s true!

  27. General Alles is a stand-up guy. I would have expected nothing less from him. For those of you so inclined, pray that he rises to the highest levels of our military and government.

  28. Indian Investor ..on Monsters ..
    I suppose if you join the military you have to be willing to kill on command , even babies ( dont worry , you wont have to look into her little eyes as you do it ) . So you must be ok personally with breaking Thou Shalt Not Kill , Asinov’s first Law of Robotics , etc.
    Now I’d have done the safety checks on the plane because I wouldnt want to accidently kill anyone ; and I’d not have accepted orders to fly it despite a fuel problem , because I just hate getting orders . The pilot , to be a military pilot , presumably had the opposite mindset .
    Most of us have a point at which we would kill ; at what point do we become monsters ? If we are just brief sparks in the blackness of eternity , it doesnt matter ; if we are religious , the prophets are not always clear about God’s will .
    In the discussions on 4GW on DNI , there is the idea of the small group leader who may act independently , does not have to slavishly wait for or follow orders , uses his own judgment , can express opinions . The problem I havent seen dealt with , is how he then stays under control . He perhaps dreads the revenge of Palestinians , so he kills as many of them as he can , in Gaza ;or he sees no logical or ideological reason to invade Iraq ,so when he gets there he stays on base watching movies .

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