May 2007 Archives

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Is the MSM to blame for blocking good news from the wars?

By Michael Fumento

I personally have repeatedly scored the MSM for wanting to write about nothing but The Car Bomb of the Day and ignoring hearts-and-minds projects. Now I realize that while the MSM still deserve scorn, perhaps things aren't quite as black and white as I thought. In preparing my article on my recent embed that will be appearing in next week's Weekly Standard I sought to get information on such projects in the Zabul Region of Afghanistan directly from the Provincial Reconstruction Team or PRT. Zabul's PRT is run by the Air Force. Here's what transpired:

Mike,

Can you send me a few questions and the angle you're leaning toward for your story? From there, I can set up an interview with the PRT commander or our lead civil affairs person. Thanks!

Bob

Capt. Bob Everdeen
Commander's Exec
PRT Qalat, Afghanistan

I did so, then said the responses could be by e-mail or phone, whichever was easiest for them. I calculated it would take 20 minutes or less for them to provide a response by either means. Days went by. Now here's the rest of the correspondence:

Bob,

I've learned what I can about PRT Zabul from the Internet, but it would be a lot better to get the highlights from your people. That said, with or without I've got to turn this piece in tomorrow.

Best,
Mike

Mike,

Sorry about the delayed response; unfortunately, I will not be able to get you information this time. Thank you.

Bob

Dear Cpt. Everdeen:

So much for military complaints that the media only focus on explosions and
killings while ignoring hearts and minds projects. It appears the mainstream
media aren't as blameworthy in this regard as I thought. Unconventional wars
are won or lost as much in the media as on the battlefield; it's unfortunate
that the Air Force apparently doesn't realize that. As someone who sees
this war as something to be won, I will be writing about this.

Sincerely,
Michael Fumento

And so I have.

May 30, 2007 06:53 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Afghanistan

Update on the Avian Flu Pandemic Panic

By Michael Fumento

As the months go by the chances of an avian flu pandemic diminish, as does the potential severity if there is such a pandemic. Among recent developments:

1. The FDA has approved the Sanofi-Aventis H5N1 avian flu vaccine. It is not as effective as seasonal flu vaccines; moreover, two injections are required with about a month in-between. Nevertheless, this is an obvious milestone. The U.S. has stockpiled enough for 6.5 million people, namely first responders, but could order more if need be. Meanwhile the U.S. government is funding six different companies to come up with superior vaccines while in all at least 12 companies and 17 governments are developing H5N1 influenza vaccines in 28 different clinical trials. Incidentally, this is notwithstanding Mark Helprin's rebuttal to my response to his utterly ignorant pandemic panic piece in the Spring issue of The Claremont Review of Books. In the current issue he states: "It is possible that continuing research will extend the hopeful progress to date, and that the newly emerging pathogens will be (almost) neutralized by antiviral vaccines. But these vaccines are not available now." I recently read his novel "A Soldier of the Great War" and thoroughly enjoyed it. But he needs to stick to what he knows, rather than stringing together headlines from the MSM.

2. Roche, the maker of Tamiflu, shown effective against H5N1, has announced it has filled all orders from all countries. It is now in position to quickly fill any new orders if the need arises.

3. Meanwhile, new WHO data show an incredibly low resistance rate of around 0.3 percent to Tamiflu.

4. Researchers have just discovered they can successfully inoculate mice with antibodies from persons exposed to H5N1. In other words, those exposed to the disease are living vaccine machines. This is not a surprise insofar as such inoculations were used way back during the 1918-1919 pandemic.

5. WHO figures through May 30 show that after three years of increases, cases of H5N1 are coming in at a slightly slower pace than last year. Since cases don't distribute themselves evenly through the year and the first four months of the year are especially large contributors, this figure is even better than it looks. Many of the pandemic panic purveyors last year, including Robert Webster of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital specifically cited the annual increases in H5N1 cases as cause for alarm. What's a decrease cause for? Yup, they'll find a way for that to be alarming as well.

May 30, 2007 02:10 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Diseases (other than AIDS and cancer)

Negotiating with the Taliban Is Nuts (My NY Post Commentary)

By Michael Fumento

Is it time to negotiate with the Taliban? Pakistani strongman Pervez Musharraf cut a deal with the Afghan extremists last fall, allowing them to flourish safely in his nation's Waziristan province. Then-Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist said in October that we must "assimilate" them into the Afghan government. Now, in apparent reaction to civilian deaths caused by the Taliban strategy of hiding among regular Afghanis, Afghanistan's upper house of legislature has voted for an immediate cease-fire and talks followed by withdrawal of NATO forces.

But as I write in my NY Post commentary, the futility of talks is obvious from Taliban beliefs and history, with the latest example being Musharraf's deal. They got action from him; he got a broken promise from them. To put it bluntly, anybody who calls for such negotiations is an idiot - or is named Mullah Omar.

May 21, 2007 07:28 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Military

Embryonic stem cells to the rescue! But when?

By Michael Fumento

Christopher Reeve supported ESC research because he thought it would help him, not future generations. Likewise for such influential advocates as Michael J. Fox and Michael Kinsley. But while there are over 70 treatments or cures with adult stem cells and about 1,300 clinical trials there has yet to be a single clinical trial with ESCs and none are planned for the near future. Much more common are claims by people like USC's Hans Keirstead, who says he'll begin clinical trials "next year." It must be true because he's been saying it since 2002. ESC lobbyists have their excuses lined up as to why progress is so slow but they don't wash. ESCs are simply incredibly difficult to work with . Says who? How about James Thomson, whose lab initiated the first human ESC cell line back in 1998. He also puts the kibosh on claims that all the wonderful ESC miracles are just ten years away. He uses the term "decades," meaning 20 years minimum and a maximum of . . . ? Read about it in my article in the May issue of The American Spectator.

May 6, 2007 09:41 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Stem Cells

Awesome tattoo tribute to deceased SEAL Mike Monsoor

By Michael Fumento

As a rule I find tattoos and body-piercing (ears on women aside) to be ugly. But this is pretty darned impressive.

Click image for larger view.
Incidentally "This was the guy that Michael saved - the one he received a medal for, I think it was about a year ago," Mike's aunt and godmother Patty wrote me. "Anyway, he said when Michael picked him up after he was shot and lying in the middle of gun fire this is the vision he saw and looked to find a tattoo artist to copy his vision and get the wings perfect. He had this tattoo on his body as a tribute to Michael saving his life and the guarding angel he felt was there with them."

This had nothing to do with the incident that took Monsoor's life and made him a candidate for the Medal of Honor, when he threw himself on a grenade to save three more lives.

May 2, 2007 09:51 AM  ·  Permalink  ·  Military

Exhausted but Home

By Michael Fumento

My route back was tortuous to say the least. I grabbed a helo from FOB Mizan to FOB Lagman, whereupon a few hours later the same helo comes back and takes me south to Kandahar Air Force Base. For some reason it seems you can fly into Kandahar from Kuwait's Ali Al Salem Air Base but you can't go in the reverse direction.

Heading home! Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
So I take a flight up north to Bagram. This turns out to be quite a surprise because nobody -- not the PAO officer at Kandahar or the people you sign up for flights with at Kandahar told me it wasn't non-stop to Bagram.

The C-130 flew a few hours then as it was landing banked as hard as I've ever felt a C-130 do so, first right then left. Then it sort of just plopped down like a flipped egg on a grill, in the hardest landing I've ever had. The other passengers, all military, expressed surprise.

This is the kind of landing wimp reporters like Time Magazine Bureau Chief Aparisim Ghosh complain they undergo at Baghdad International but don't. We all piled off, along with the cargo of two Toyota flatbeds. It was pitch dark so naturally I didn't recognize anything. Only when I got to a building where I could call my Bagram PAO contacts did I find out they couldn't pick me up for the night because -- surprise! -- I was far away at FOB Salarno, which hugs the Pakistani border.

I'll never know if the plane really continued on to Bagram, but if so I would have been the only passenger. As to Salarno, it regularly takes rocket fire and hence the pilot's combat landing.

The door gunner. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
I then find out that while those great big C-130s with lots of seats will land at Salarno, they don't seem to fly out. I think they stack them up somewhere. What does fly out is tiny six-seater short takeoff and landing (STOL) aircraft, and you're damned lucky if you can be one of those six passengers to Bagram.

So I spend the night in the transient tent listening to one gunship after another zipping just overhead, get up at 0500, and actually manage to catch the second of the three mosquito planes to Bagram. There I got a jet C-17 to Ali Al Salem, spend the night there, grab the hour-long shuttle to the commercial airport, and fly out at 0130 the next morning.

Tough, but I'm homeward bound now right? Wrong.

The five-hour flight into Frankfurt is uneventful and I left myself plenty of time for the incredible shaking down you get at security when you take a flight from that airport to the U.S. But the flight leaves on time and I'm only eight hours from home -- or so I think. Three and a half hours out, somewhere over the Atlantic, they announce they're turning the plane around "for safety reasons."

There's a problem with the hydraulic system. But if it had been for safety reasons, they would have been required to land at the nearest airport and many were nearer than Frankfurt. We land uneventfully and it turns out the "safety" problem is merely that after landing the wheels won't allow proper steering into the gate and we have to be towed in. In other words, we could readily have gone onto to Washington Dulles except that Lufthansa's repair facility is at Frankfurt and didn't want to pay somebody else to fix their planes elsewhere no matter how much it inconveniences their passengers and how much fuel they needlessly burn. Gotta love Big Airline.

"Take that, Lufthansa!" Click image for larger view.
So we switch planes and head back out and what is supposed to be an eight-hour flight is now 14. Add the flight from Kuwait City and it's 20. Add the layover and it's 23 hours. Add the time from when I left FOB Mizan and it takes three days to get back home.

I've said it before; transportation is the worst part of any embed for a citizen embed. If you're with the MSM, they pay for you to just fly in and out of Kabul via Bahrain or Delhi. But I had to rely on my chief PAO for Afghanistan, Capt. Peter Katzfey, the one who wrongly told me my embed was in Kandahar when I later discovered on my own it was in Zabul. He also wrongly told me I needed an Afghan visa that cost $70 and two trips to the embassy.

In the final insult, he told me he would plot my route out of the country when my embed was complete. Although I e-mailed him twice while I was in-country about doing so, he did not.

The more I get to know Army PAOs, whether in Iraq or Afghanistan, the less respect I have for them. They always seem to have something better to do than their jobs. I'm told the Marines take this business much more seriously and in fact the best PAO I had was Marine Maj. Megan McClung. But she's dead.

I strongly suspect (actually I know), that if I worked for the MSM -- the folks the soldiers are always complaining about to me, including on this trip -- I wouldn't receive such shabby treatment. But you have to have priorities. If you're dealing with a reporter whose organization makes a point of portraying the troops as a bunch of thugs and the Iraq war as hopeless, you give him first class treatment. Thank goodness the government of Iraq banned Al Jazeera, else the Army's PAO staff would be absorbed in kissing their feet.

If you're dealing with somebody paying out of his own pocket because of his conviction that the American people deserve the truth and aren't getting it and that the soldiers deserve an even break and aren't getting it -- you dump on him. You give him crummy assignments, such as when Lt. Col. Garver and his Combined Press Information Center tried to foist 12 days of ho-hum Tikrit on me, and then when he needs to go home you make plot his own way out of a country he's never been in that's on the wrong side of the planet.

One of many men I photographed, along with his wife. Click image for larger view.
It helps explain why there are so few citizen embeds still going to the two wars. We thought the bad guys comprised insurgents and terrorists and those in the MSM who provide them aid and comfort. We did not think it would be our own military public affairs.

Michael Fumento has paid for this trip entirely out of pocket, including roundtrip airfare to Kuwait, war insurance, and virtually all his gear. Please support him via PayPal Donate or Amazon Honor System via the logos below.


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May 1, 2007 07:30 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Military