December 2006 Archives

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My avian flu challenge to the leftist bird-brained squawkers

By Michael Fumento

Flu cover

This month, the Weekly Standard published my article "The Chicken Littles Were Wrong: The Bird Flu Threat Flew the Coop." It was a follow-up to my cover piece from the year before, "Fuss and Feathers: Pandemic Panic over the Avian Flu."

After the blogger at Avian Flu Diary, whose expertise in the disease stems from being a former paramedic, declared me a fool on his website for writing that second article, he later made the mistake of making a prediction. Specifically, he said there was a "50%/50%" chance of such a pandemic in the next year. He didn't realize that one of the most important rules of alarmism is to never allow yourself to be pinned down by actual dates. You just say we're all doomed and leave the time frame open, allowing yourself a permanent escape hatch. In any case, I took advantage of Mr. Paramedic's oversight to bet him 10-1, with him picking the dollar amount, that there would be no such pandemic in the next 365 days. Odds of 2-1 would be even, so this is an offer you'd think he'd snap up. So far no reply. Now I'm extending the challenge to all bloggers who've ignored my flawless track record on disease scares dating back 20 years and who have said in no uncertain terms that I've been grossly irresponsible and a total idiot on the subject of pandemic flu. That includes Daily Kos, "Revere" at Effect Measure, ("I guess I'll have to bite the bullet and say something about this sleaze." Science as sleaze?) and Mike the Mad Biologist at Science Blogs ("What the piece shows is just how ignorant of public health Fumento really is.") Naturally it also includes Mr. Troll himself Tim Lambert at Deltoid.

Okay guys, put your bucks where your blogs are! Ten to one odds for each of you; each gets to pick the amount in question. I say the year 2008 will roll around and there will be plenty of terrible problems in the world, but pandemic avian flu won't be among them. Naturally some of these anti-scientists have insinuated that somebody must be paying me to say pandemic avian flu is a bunch of bird droppings -- that's also how the alarmist game is played; if you can't counter the facts, attack the messenger. Well this time I am going to make some money! Or at least try. If the year-long period sounds a bit short, keep in mind that it's our paramedic friend who suggested it and that I've been writing about pandemic avian flu alarmism since my "Chicken Little Gets the Flu" article in the Wall Street Journal in January of 1998 -- yes, nine years now. They've had their time. I'll let you know at my website if anybody has the courage of their alleged conviction to take me up on my generous offer. Of course, maybe they'll think this is "sleaze" too, since naturally I along with everybody else will have chirped my last chirp by then anyway.

December 29, 2006 11:28 AM  ·  Permalink  ·  Diseases (other than AIDS and cancer)

Erin Brockovich is again full of . . . um . . . it

By Michael Fumento

Erin Brockovich hasn't had much to laugh about this year

This hasn't been a good year for "America's Sweetheart." In one recent setback, in which she acted as plaintiff, she sued 31 hospitals she claimed were making unfair claims against Medicare. Her payoff would have been tremendous. But two separate judges tossed out all 31 cases, asserting that among other things Brockovich has no standing since she has no involvement in any way with Medicare nor was ever even treated by the hospitals in question. Any first-year law student could have told her that.

Far worse for Brockovich was the November 22 Los Angeles County Superior Court decision to reject the first 12 cases in litigation her firm of Masry & Vititoe began in 2003 against the city of Beverly Hills, the school district, and a slew of oil companies. The suit claims an oil rig on the campus of Beverly Hills High School caused extraordinary high rates of several types of cancer among the approximately 11,000 alumni who attended between 1975 and 1997. Yet the firm never proffered the least evidence that, while some alumni certainly have suffered from cancer, the rig had or even was capable of causing the diseases in question.

Now Brockovich is on the warpath against a proposed composting facility near the town that made her rich, Hinkley. She sides with those who insist that the material collected from municipal sewage systems would send harmful bacteria, viruses, or at the least nasty smells and flies towards the tiny California town. She's done radio shows on the subject, as always has gotten tons of media attention, and she even paid to bring in a bus load of activists.

But again, Brockovich is on the wrong side of reality.

The compost company, Nursery Products of Apple Valley, California, only takes in biomass from area sewage systems that has already gone through a four-step clean-up process. After it arrives at the composting facility, the biomass is mixed with wood fiber and heated to 131 degrees as mandated by the EPA to kill bacteria.

"The site without a doubt carries zero risk to public health and the environment," Alan Rubin, chief author of the EPA's regulation-setting standards on using and composting biosolids, told me. He's now a consultant to Nursery Products but worked at the EPA for 28 years. "There will be no impact to groundwater, no impact on surface water, and windblown pathogens wouldn't survive more than a few seconds" he said.

As to smells and flies, the closest edge of Hinkley to the facility would be eight miles away - plenty of space for odors and insects to dissipate. On the other hand, the town has a dairy farm right next to its school. Thus on a daily basis the dairy exposes kids to raw manure with accompanying bacteria, smells, and flies. Ah! But that's homegrown manure, bacteria, smells, and flies. Still, anything that embarrasses Brockovich and further reveals her as all breasts and no brains can't be all bad.

December 29, 2006 12:01 AM  ·  Permalink  ·  Diseases (other than AIDS and cancer)

Lt. Col. Paul J. Finken, XO of 1/506th, RIP

By Michael Fumento

It slipped under my radar but Lt. Col. Paul J. Finken, the former Executive Officer (2nd-in-command) of 1/506th, 101st Airborne, was killed by an IED in Baghdad on Nov. 2. Also killed were Lt. Col. Eric J. Kruger and Staff Sgt. Joseph A. Gage. Finken, 40, was assigned to 506th Regimental Headquarters as the MiTT Chief (Military Transition Team, a unit devoted to training the Iraqi Army) in July 2005. He was just two weeks away from redeploying back to the States with the rest of 1/506th. He was one of the highest-ranking Americans killed in Iraq. Unfortunately I never met him, since he spent his time in Baghdad while I was with most of 1/506th in Ramadi. But you can learn much about him at a website dedicated to him posthumously.

According to Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Ron Clark: "Paul's efforts as our XO contributed directly to the success of our battalion in combat and saved the lives of our Soldiers in Ramadi. Paul was an outstanding officer and an even better husband and father." Adds Clark:

He is survived by his wife Jackie and 3 young daughters who miss him dearly. Paul and I were close personal friends as well as comrades in arms. We also shared a common bond as USMA graduates (Paul graduated in the Class of 89, while I graduated in 1988 with Paul's twin brother Pete). Paul served the 506th Regimental Combat Team, our Army, and our nation with distinction. He was a tremendous leader and a warrior who took care of Soldiers and their families. His loss has been tremendously hard on the members of our battalion staff and he will be missed by all whom he touched.

He was laid to rest near his family in Earling, Iowa.

A memorial trust has been established for his three children.
Farmer's Trust & Savings Bank
c/o Paul Finken Memorial
PO Box 285
Earling, IA 51530-0285
Or Call (712) 747-2000

Currahee! Lt. Col. Finken

December 26, 2006 01:59 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Iraq ~ Military

Memorial fund for children of Capt. Travis Patriquin, KIA Ramadi

By Michael Fumento

111 W. MONROE ST. 111/1C

December 22, 2006 03:36 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Iraq ~ Military

Anti-terror group analyzes video I retrieved from Ramadi

By Michael Fumento

Photo by Michael Fumento
"The Ramadi Inn" as it looks today.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) has analyzed the video I brought back from Ramadi and posted (in part on my website, in full elsewhere) showing the jihadist attack on OP Hotel, now called "the Ramadi Inn." They claim it actually shows explosions from three different attacks, whereas I assumed it was all different angles from the same attack. On the other hand, they also claim the first attack was on a factory. A hotel is not a factory. That this was indeed an attack on OP Hotel has been confirmed by members of 2/69 Armor who were there. With this caveat in mind, you may find their analysis interesting.

This shows the value of anti-terror groups having employees in the field, rather than operating entirely out of Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, I have yet to convince any such group or think tank of this value and hence remain unemployed.

December 20, 2006 02:11 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Iraq

Funeral of Maj. Megan McClung, USMC

By Michael Fumento

Wreath by Maj.
McClung's grave
It's a busy time at Arlington Cemetery, not because of deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan but primarily those of WWII vets. Thus while first funerals are normally at 9 am, Maj. Megan McClung's was at 8:30. This was actually quite fitting, because she was a triathlete and to go running in Iraq in summer you have to get up early even for a Marine. Unfortunately I found out only at the service that the family had requested no photos of the funeral, but I did get this shot of the wreath next to her grave. At least 200 mourners were present, mostly Marines and Navy but with a large number of civilians as well. One public affairs officer (PAO) from the Canadian military came to express the solidarity of our neighbors to the north with the PAOs of the United States. Deaths among PAOs are quite rare and remarkable, he said, and he felt obligated to attend.

You don't need photos to picture the procession of white horses drawing the open wagon carrying the flag-covered casket; the removal of the casket and placement next to the grave, the moment of silence; taps; then the three-volley salute. Then came the expert withdrawal and folding of the flag that is then handed to the parents. The parents appeared quite shaken, as you would expect after a violent and sudden death which every military parent knows may happen but can never truly be prepared for. I cannot pretend to know how they felt. But they bravely kept their composure, even as many a handkerchief dotted the crowd. They also showed their courage in what Mrs. McClung told an LA Times reporter last week. "Please don't portray this as a tragedy," she said. "It is for us, but Megan died doing what she believed in, and that's a great gift . . . . She believed in the mission there -- that the Iraqi people should have freedom."

It was strange to be greeted by two officers in my hometown whom I met in al Anbar, one on my first trip and the other -- who worked with Maj. McClung -- on my second. Strange for me to see them in Dress Blues; strange for them to see me in civilian clothes. After the ceremony I approached the casket, laid my hand on it and thanked Megan McClung for all she'd done to help me. Then I stood back and saluted.

They don't come any more Irish-looking than she was, and I had kidded her about the inherent conflict between her Celtic skin and the Iraqi sun. So I find it fitting to conclude with an Irish funeral prayer.


Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow;
I am the diamond glints on the snow.
I am the sunlight that ripened grain;
I am the gentle autumn's rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush,
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft star that shines at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there; I did not die.

Semper Fidelis, Megan.

December 19, 2006 11:08 AM  ·  Permalink  ·  Iraq

Update on Oliver North and McClung et al.

By Michael Fumento

Oliver North
Oliver North

As it happens, in a syndicated column Oliver North did mention Maj. McClung although he couldn't use her name yet pending notification of kin. Remarkably, there is no mention that she was killed accompanying he and his crew.

"A proffered hot cup of coffee was gratefully accepted as the Major helped us load our backpacks, camera gear and satellite broadcast equipment aboard a dust-encrusted Humvee," he wrote in a Dec. 8 column. "Just hours later, this widely respected and much admired Marine officer and two brave U.S. Army soldiers were dead, killed by an IED -- an improvised explosive device -- the insidious weapon of choice for terrorists in Iraq."

She helped load his gear and later died. That's it.

In my case, when somebody risked his life because he thought I was hurt even though I had just hit the ground to avoid machine fire, I gave him full credit.

One brave soul, who proved to be Sgt. Falk, risks his hide by jumping from his relatively safe position along the wall to pull me in. "I'm just taking cover!" I yell. But he's determined to rescue me, even as my rolling [to a protective wall] and the lack of a handle on my body armor makes it impossible for him to grab me. That I wasn't actually hurt makes him no less a hero in my book.

That's the way it should be done. In this case, somebody did die trying to help North. Three somebodies. Oliver North should acknowledge that. So should Newsweek.

December 18, 2006 04:59 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Military

Confirmation (and commentary) on reporters escorted by McClung et al.

By Michael Fumento

According to Lt. Col. Bryan F. Salas, head of public affairs for Multi National Force -- West, "They [Maj. Megan McClung et al.] had dropped off FOX and were heading to another location with Newsweek." "FOX" means Lt. Col. Oliver North and his camera crew. I have yet to find any mention of the Dec. 6 IED explosion that killed their three escorts -- Maj. McClung, Capt. Travis Patriquin, and Spec. Vincent J. Pomante III -- in Newsweek (although I haven't seen today's print edition), by North in his broadcasts from Ramadi, or even by Fox News generally. This is an oversight that must be corrected. That said, according to this news story, Megan McClung's father "said he heard Oliver North may be planning some sort of memorial for Megan." Let us hope so.

I must say I'm rather upset about all of this and not just because I knew two of the deceased parties. In the blink of an eye, we lost the first female graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy [See correction below] and an utterly outstanding PAO; a hero of Operation Anaconda and a designer of the program to bring the citizens of Ramadi into the anti-terrorist fight; and a 22-year-old kid who was just shy of leaving the service and was probably in that Humvee only because they needed a turret gunner. Why? I went into the city of Ramadi on three occasions without PAO escort. I'll bet The New Republic's Larry Kaplan, who went in at about the same time as Fox and Newsweek, didn't get an escort. I don't know who made the decisions in this case -- save that even Newsweek and Ollie North can't order the military around. I do know that in Ramadi nobody goes outside the wire that absolutely doesn't have to. I went out on every occasion I could because that was my job; that's the only valid reason. I would like both the media and the Combined Press Information Center in Baghdad to rethink the rules of PAO escorts in especially dangerous areas.

Correction: Maj. McClung was the highest-ranked female officer to die in Iraq. She was not the first female graduate of Annapolis. Not by a long shot. My bad for trusting what I read without verifying it, especially when there's an AP story that's been picked up all over the place that says I first met McClung in Baghdad. I clearly told the guy it was Fallujah and urged him to read my short tribute to her, which said the same.

December 18, 2006 12:31 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Media

Burial details for Maj. Megan McClung

By Michael Fumento

Maj. Megan McClung will be interred on Tues. 19 Dec. at 0830 at Arlington Cemetery. If you wish to attend, be at the Administration Building at 0800.

Directions to the cemetery

Map showing parking and Administrative Building

Broader Interactive Map

I have no new information on Capt. Patriquin, who died alongside Maj. McClung, and assume he will be interred near his family in St. Charles, Missouri.

December 17, 2006 08:08 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Iraq

The avian flu chicken littles are still wrong

By Michael Fumento

Feathers flew in November of last year when the Weekly Standard ran as its cover piece my article, Fuss and Feathers: Pandemic Panic over the Avian Flu. My favorite question during a TV appearance: "Mr. Fumento, why are you the only one saying these things?" My answer: "I'm probably not; I'm just the only one you've bothered to bring onto your show." The current issue carries my follow-up, "The Chicken Littles Were Wrong: The Bird Flu Threat Flew the Coop. It explains that while the media hysteria has abated (for now), the effects linger on in the American psyche. A Harvard School of Public Health survey of adults who have children revealed that 44 percent think it "likely" or "somewhat likely" there will be "cases of bird flu among humans in the U.S. during the next 12 months." Less than a fifth of respondents considered it "not at all" likely. Further, an avian flu bureaucracy has become entrenched. Like all bureaucracies, it will fight to survive and thrive, egging on governments to provide ever more money.

The ensuing year not only has not brought the pandemic down upon us, it has brought to light considerably more evidence of why it's not an immediate threat and why whatever threat there is diminishes by the day. Health officials, the media, and their self-anointed experts (Definition of "media expert:" the more alarmist you are the greater your expertise) lied to us about AIDS, Ebola, SARS, and even avian flu back in 1997-98. Now we see they've lied again. We know there were people who knew better at the time because I exposed every one of these faux pandemics before the media got tired of them. So when are finally going to flip the channel on the panic-mongers and watch something more substantive -- like Paris Hilton's latest reality show?

December 17, 2006 06:35 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Media

Video memorial to Maj. Megan McClung, KIA Ramadi

By Michael Fumento

The Marines have put together a lovely and fitting 5-minute video tribute to Maj. Megan McClung, who died from an IED explosion in Ramadi on Dec. 6. There are also short clips of Capt. Travis Patriquin and Spec. Vincent Pomante, both of whom died with her.

Said one Marine of the long-distance runner and triathlete, "The ability to run was a metaphor for the way she lived her life."

December 14, 2006 09:51 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Iraq ~ Military

Details on burials of McClung, Patriquin and Pomante

By Michael Fumento

Maj. McClung at her last promotion ceremony

Maj. Megan McClung, killed in action in Ramadi on December 6, will be interred in Arlington Cemetery December 19th at 8:30 AM. I will publish the location when it becomes available.

Donations in lieu of flowers to Wounded Marines Fund Marine Corps League Foundation P.O. Box 3070 Merrifield, VA. 22116-3070 Please be sure to designate "Marines Helping Marines" in memory of Major Megan McClung on the "memo" line of your check. All donations will be gratefully

Killed with her was Capt. Travis Patriquin, whose funeral details are pending, and Spec. Vincent Pomante III who will be laid to rest on December 16th in his hometown of Westerville, Ohio.

Spec. Pomante
Spec. Vincent Pomante III

December 13, 2006 06:52 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Military

Navy narration of circumstances surrounding the death of SEAL Mike Monsoor

By Michael Fumento

Michael Monsoor with MK-48 medium machine gun at right

On 29 September, Monsoor was part of a sniper overwatch security position in eastern Ramadi, Iraq with three other SEALs and eight Iraqi soldiers. They were providing overwatch security while joint and combined forces were conducting missions in the area. Ramadi had been a violent and intense area for a very strong and aggressive insurgency for some time. All morning long the overwatch position received harassment fire that had become typical part of the day for the security team. Around midday, the exterior of the building was struck by a single rocket propelled grenade (RPG), but no injuries to any of the overwatch personnel were sustained. The overwatch couldn't tell where the RPG came from and didn't return fire.

A couple of hours later, an insurgency fighter closed on the overwatch position and threw a fragment grenade into the overwatch position which hit Monsoor in the chest before falling in front of him. Monsoor yelled "grenade" and dropped on top of the grenade prior to it exploding. Monsoor's body shielded the others from the brunt of the fragmentation blast and two other SEALs were only wounded by the remaining blast.

One of the key aspects of this incident was the way the overwatch position was structured. There was only one access point for entry or exit and Monsoor was the only one who could've saved himself from harm. Instead, knowing what the outcome could be, he fell on the grenade to save the others from harm. Monsoor and the two injured were evacuated to the combat outpost battalion aid station where Monsoor died approximately 30 minutes after the incident from injuries sustained by the grenade blast.

Monsoor is being submitted for an award that is appropriate for the level of his actions that has yet to be determined.

[Since then he has been submitted for the nation's highest award, the Congressional Medal of Honor.]

Digg this!

December 12, 2006 06:53 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Iraq ~ Military

Time Magazine on Ramadi, "The Most Dangerous Place in Iraq"

By Michael Fumento

U.S. and Iraqi Forces in Combat in the Industrial Zone
Photo by Todd Pitman/AP

Perhaps the MSM is catching on that in terms of combat, it's not Baghdad but Ramadi that's the fiercest city in the country. Featuring a photo by my AP colleague Todd Pitman from the April 22, 2006 firefight we were both in, Time magazine's December 11 online edition declares: "Tallies of the war dead from August to November show that more than two-thirds of the U.S. casualties in Iraq were outside Baghdad, with four in 10 of those deaths occurring in Anbar Province. Much of the killing happens in Ramadi, where insurgents and fighters from al-Qaeda in Iraq attack Marines, U.S. soldiers and Iraqi security forces almost daily."

Yet the writer, who appears to have spent most of his time in Camp Ramadi's hospital witnessing all manner of horrible wounds, in an audio feed, says conditions in the city do appear to be improving.

December 12, 2006 06:12 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Media

Maj. Megan McClung and Capt. Travis Patriquin, RIP

By Michael Fumento

Megan McClung
Megan McClung

I only heard Marine Major Megan McClung yell once, but it was righteous anger. If this were fiction, it might be considered foreshadowing. It was at Camp Ramadi headquarters outside of the city proper and away from the hostilities. The 34-year-old McClung, head Public Affairs Officer (PAO) for Al Anbar Province, was barking at a public affairs sergeant. "Ramadi is the most dangerous city in Iraq and you're going to get your men out there to cover it!"

This was in October and the previous spring I had been angry with McClung, though I'm glad I didn't tell her. She was a captain then with her headquarters at Camp Fallujah. I had made it clear I wanted to spend my entire embed in Ramadi because that's where the action was and because on my first Iraq trip a year earlier I had seen Fallujah but been denied Ramadi when I wound up "embedded" on a surgical bed in Baghdad. Yet when I returned this spring to Baghdad to renew my press credentials and expected to fly straight from there to Ramadi, I was dumbfounded that McClung had routed me right back to Fallujah and its environs. When I saw her in person, she explained that she wanted me to spend time with Military Transition Teams (MiTTs) in the area to see how well their training of the Iraqi Army was progressing.

It was a prescient move on her part, especially considering that a tremendous increase in MiTT teams embedded in indigenous units has become a major part of all plans to ultimately turn the war over to the Iraqis. In any case, the trip did end in Ramadi where during just a few short days I saw and reported on more combat, more courage, and more camaraderie than you might see elsewhere in Iraq in a year.

For my last embed, I was in Ramadi the whole time. But again McClung guided me so I saw what I needed to see rather than what I thought I needed to see. After each embed she diligently provided information that I'd been unable to gather in the field. I have two dozen emails from her on my computer, the last dated November 30. The lady I once begrudged I grew to have great respect for.

Capt. Travis Desk
Capt. Patriquin's famous desk

I also developed that respect for 32-year-old Captain Travis Patriquin of the Army's First Armored Division. (McClung was with the First Marine Division.) I photographed Patriquin's desk, which was covered with bumper stickers such as George Orwell's observation that "We sleep safely in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence upon those who would do us harm." When I published my photo set from the trip, that desk quickly became a blogosphere celebrity.

Patriquin was exactly the sort of officer we need in Iraq. He spoke at least five languages including fluent Arabic, and was a major player in getting Ramadi sheiks to start supporting Coalition operations by sending men into the Iraqi Police and urging civilians to expose al Qaeda terrorists. He fought in one of the fiercest battles of the Afghanistan war, Operation Anaconda, later receiving the Bronze Star. Patriquin also provided a terrific inbriefing, giving an overview of a city that seems slowly to be improving but is still too much like the local graffiti states: "The graveyard of the Americans." I quoted him at great length in my major article about the trip in the Nov. 27 Weekly Standard.

While most journalists heading into Ramadi require no PAO escort, for some reason on December 6 both McClung and Patriquin, plus 22-year-old Army Specialist Vincent J. Pomante III decided to jump into a Humvee to accompany Oliver North and his crew from Fox plus some journalists from Newsweek downtown. A tremendous blast from an improvised explosive device (IED) ripped apart their truck, killing all three. Mercifully, it appears all died instantly. I heard about Patriquin his cousin, then left a message for McClung asking for verification and offering her my condolences. Then I found out about her. McClung has the dubious honor of being the first female Marine officer and highest-ranked female officer overall killed in the war.

Patriquin head shot
Travis Patriquin

Why, people who have never been to war ask me, do I actually like being in a combat zone? Partly it's the feeling of being responsible for the lives of everyone else and they for you. Partly it's that you never feel more alive than when you know you're so close to death. You develop the bond that Shakespeare marvelously described as a "Band of Brothers." And when you leave the killing fields behind, that bond remains and is something that nobody who hasn't experienced it will ever appreciate. You accept that some brothers will die, but that doesn't make it easier when it happens.

Given the season, it seems appropriate to quote from Michael Marks's haunting poem, "A Soldier's Christmas:"

"But isn't there something I can do, at the least,
Give you money," I asked, "or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you've done,
For being away from your wife and your son."

Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
"Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us."

Note: This blog will be updated as more information becomes available. "A Soldier's Christmas is copyright 2000 by Michael Marks.

December 11, 2006 01:05 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Iraq ~ Military

The real Ramadi HAS stood up

By Michael Fumento

In a Nov. 29 blog, "Will the real Ramadi please stand up?" I observed that three articles on conditions in Ramadi and al Anbar Province had appeared within a week of each other giving entirely different points of view. Mine and one in the Times of London said we're winning the war in Ramadi; a Washington Post A1 story co-authored by "Fiasco" author Thomas Ricks claimed exactly the opposite. The difference, I said, could be explained simply. I and the Times writer reported from Ramadi. Ricks and his co-author have not only never been to Ramadi, they wrote their piece from Washington. Well now the WashPost has printed another article on the city, this time an upbeat one. What gives? You guessed it.The second one was reported from Ramadi. Case closed, thank you very much. Unfortunately, it's little solace knowing how few journalists ever leave their safe little hovels in Baghdad hotels or Washington, D.C.

December 10, 2006 07:59 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Iraq ~ Media

A SEAL Team 3 dad comments on Mike Monsoor and Ramadi

By Michael Fumento

Writer's son with M-79 on the left and Mike Monsoor on the right
SEAL with M-79 (not the writer's son) on left and Mike Monsoor
on right

Dear Mike,

My son was Mike Monsoor's roommate in Iraq. He was in the action where Mike died. Today, I telephoned him in Coronado [near San Diego] about the November 27th issue [of the Weekly Standard, containing my article Return to Ramadi] with Mike on the cover.

I personally appreciate seeing you honor Mike on the cover. He was a fine young man. He was humble and well mannered. A good observer might have spotted the fact that Mike was exceptionally fit, and guessed he was a professional athlete. From my daughter's comments, I know the young ladies thought Mike was exceptionally handsome, with "dreamy eyes." Whatever. Otherwise, Mikey looked like a lot of other American guys. There was a quality in Mike that could not have been guessed by his appearance.

I have a copy of the Weekly Standard in hand. I read your excellent article. I was able to spend some time with my boy after he returned from Iraq. He talked about his experience a little at first. As time goes on, he talks more. Recently, we sat down with Google Earth and brought up a satellite image of Ramadi. He briefed me on the different areas of the city and a bit about the situation in various parts of town.

I think the point you made about each soldier knowing only part of the elephant is a very good. This is where a good reporter or journalist like you can provide a great service to not only the public but the soldiers themselves. You gave facts about the progress our soldiers are making. I know my son will read it carefully. No one else has told the public as much about Ramadi as you have in this latest article. To tell the truth, if a reporter from my local New York Times owned newspaper called me up for an interview about my son, I would tell her or him to go fuck themselves. I literally despise the mainstream media because they want our soldiers to lose.

My boy was with a platoon of SEALs that spent most of their time in Mulaab. Actually, only four or five guys spent the whole deployment there. Mike Monsoor was one of them. They saw more combat action than SEALs have experienced since Vietnam. You were out with my son and took film of him a while back. [Here's the video though I blurred it at the request of the SEALs to protect their identities.] He was the guy who used the old style M-79 grenade launcher [Whom I photographed earlier this year with Monsoor during a Mulaab firefight.] He is an Alabama boy with lots of experience with guns, especially high powered rifles. He told me his instructors in the SEALs used exactly the same techniques for shooting I had taught him. So you are a good observer, when you said he was handy with a weapon.

He commented to me about the proficiency of the 1/506th. He has great respect for their commander and would serve with him anywhere any time. My boy and his platoon worked with the 1/506th quite a bit. One day a sergeant brought the SEALs some spades for their helmets. [The spade is the symbol of the 1/506th.] They will never take them off. My boy thinks the 1/506th is one group of bad dudes. He also had good things to say about other Army and Marine units, combat teams of all kinds. These are dudes who take on the bad guys eye to eye. They jump out the back of a Bradley [fighting vehicle] and go get them. My boy says they don't get the credit they deserve. He does not like the way the media sometimes glamorizes the SEALs when other American soldiers are doing the same work. I can tell you from experience that real SEALs do not talk about themselves. In civilian dress, these guys look like any other American. Most of them are very humble about their accomplishments. Like most everyone else, SEALs are in awe of good soldiers. According to my boy, some of the guys from the Pennsylvania National Guard were as good at soldiering as SEALs, Marines, or 1/506th. He said some of these National Guard guys were very bad news for the enemy. In fact, guys with families at home are very determined to get back to their wives and kids. They do not mess around with the enemy. They kill him quickly and with great determination because they are planning on going home.

You are right about our soldiers winning in Ramadi. You do a great service getting this truth out.

[Name, rank, and service omitted], retired (I have not used my son's name and would appreciate your withholding my last name from publication if you were to use any part of this email in your writing. Thanks.)

December 2, 2006 05:43 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Iraq ~ Military