I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing intrepid independent journalist Michael Yon, back in the US after another tour of Iraq and a short stint in Afghanistan. I had hoped to catch Michael a couple of weeks ago, but the timing never worked out quite right — and we almost missed each other tonight by accident when we had some confusion due to time zone differences. Fortunately, we made our connection and we spoke for about a half-hour earlier this evening.
I’ve podcasted our interview in three parts. In section 1, Michael and I discuss his impressions of Afghanistan. Michael only spent about a fortnight in Afghanistan, operating completely on his own, without embedding among US or Western forces. He had little good news for us about his limited experience there. The nation still operates on a tribal basis, only now the poppy harvest has hit record numbers, which fuels a booming drug trade. Michael never got to talk to the central government, but from what he did see the Karzai government has a lot to chew. He also reports that the Western forces there are seriously undermanned but fighting magnificently, especially the Canadians at the moment.
Michael has a much more optimistic view about Iraq, which he discusses in section 2. He says that the Iraqi security forces have done a tremendous job in standing up, although he believes that the US will need to have some forces there for years. The death tolls are still very high among the Iraqis, but they appear much more cohesive as a nation than the Afghans. He feels that the nation has a chance to unify and establish a stable democracy in the Middle East, and that most of the remaining problem revolves around Baghdad and its environs.
However, Michael stands by his characterization of the situation as a civil war, which has led to problems with a few conservative media voices, a problem we discuss in section 3. He doesn’t spend his time worrying about it, however, preferring to focus on telling the story as he sees it and letting the chips fall where they may. We discuss the impact that blogging has had on the mainstream media, and we also mention Howard Kurtz as one of the most insightful media critics regarding the blogosphere.
Michael will go to work on a book which he hopes to finish soon, and after that may go back to doing what he does best. I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did conducting it.
The RSS feed for CQ podcasts can be found here.
Earlier this evening, I had a chance to chat with Dr. Peter Schramm, the director of the Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs and the center’s blog No Left Turns. I first met Peter last month at the Heritage Foundation Resource Bank meeting, but only got the chance to introduce myself as I was leaving the Broadmoor for the airport. Peter had just received the Henry Salvatori Prize for American Citizenship, and we heard the moving story of his declaration that he was born an American — just in the wrong place.
We had an engaging and (I believe) entertaining conversation regarding blogging, the upcoming elections, the inroads that the GOP hope to make in the African-American community, and most of all the Al-Qaeda documents that show the Zarqawi network in complete disarray. I believe the podcast will get hosted at this link when Peter has it ready for publication. I hope you enjoy it, and if No Left Turns hasn’t made it onto your blogroll, this is a good time to rectify that.
UPDATE: Rick at The Ugly American interviewed Juan Williams in a pretty entertaining chat of his own,
The NARN interview with Bll Gilles from CFACT is now on my podcast RSS feed and can be also downloaded from this link. Duane Patterson and Mitch Berg ask some great questions about the funding controversy at the University of Minnesota. You can also come up to speed on this issue at my two posts on the subject:
Does The University Of Minnesota Discriminate Against Conservatives?
UMTC Cuts Conservative Group Funding Even Further
Earlier this afternoon, I had an opportunity to interview Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ), who came to Congress during the heady days of the Contract With America and the rise of the Republican majority. Rep. Hayworth has written a new book that has just been released by Regnery, Whatever It Takes: Illegal Immigration, Border Security, and The War On Terror. The Congressman took an hour out of his day to talk to CQ about illegal immigration, the guest worker proposal, and how the open border in the south presents a clear and present danger to American security.
It’s fair to say that Hayworth has a front-row seat to the many issues that illegal immigration causes. He has lived most of his adult life in Arizona, one of the front-line states in the massive long-term invasion (as he sees it) across the Mexican border. The lack of action from the federal government, especially post-9/11 has continually frustrated him as it has a number of his colleagues in the Southwest. He sees that the time may have finally come for Washington to do something about stemming the flow, even if only for national-security purposes, but he believes tthat the current efforts towards a guest-worker program will not work.
I took the opportunity to speak with Hayworth at length about immigration, and found him to be a fascinating and well-schooled spokesman for the effort to close the southern gap in our defenses. We also talked at length about reform, lobbying, and the upcoming election for the Majority Leader’s office. He did not endorse any candidate, although he did say that John Shadegg, as his colleague from Arizona, has his attention. He wants to wait to see if the three contenders will agree to a debate, preferably public. Hayworth talked about the public nature of a process that normally would have taken place in quiet caucuses.
Hayworth also acknowledged that Jack Abramoff had contributed money to his campaign as well, and seemed pleased to be able to address the issue during our interview. Hayworth comes from a state that has a large Native American population that had long supported him, and his answers to my questions on reform and the Abramoff scandal are very interesting.
The interview ran to 57 minutes, and I have broken it up into four separate podcasts — the first podcasts for Captain’s Quarters, and hopefully the lead of a series of interviews for downloading by CQ readers, and listeners now as well. The links for the four parts are below:
For those who have CQ in their RSS feedreader, podcasts will show up in this URL when I post them.
UPDATE: I added the RSS feed to iTunes, but I don’t know when it will start showing up.
Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to talk at length with Mark Zaid, the attorney for Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, about the status of the Judiciary Committee hearings and other questions regarding the Able Danger story. Mark and I spoke for about an hour, and his outlook on the runaround he and Shaffer have received about talking with Congress forms the basis of my new column at the Daily Standard, “The Able Danger Foxtrot Continues”:
“We’re presumably waiting for them to reschedule,” Zaid said. “Officially, the Defense Department and the DIA are taking the position–at least with me–that Shaffer is not allowed to testify.” That gag order clearly has allowed the momentum of the story to slow in the last few weeks. When asked about the gag order’s origin, Shaffer’s attorney cannot tell for certain who ordered it. “These guys are talking out of both sides of their mouths,” he replied when asked to identify the agency responsible for blocking the testimony. “The first time around, when the hearing on the 21st was scheduled to happen,” he explained, “the Defense Department was calling the shots, and DIA was continually relaying messages from DIA to me.”
That seems to have changed since the cancellation of the first Judiciary hearing. After Zaid informed the DIA that Shaffer had invitations from other Congressional committees to deliver unclassified briefings, the DIA took charge of the clearance issue–and placed hurdle after hurdle in front of the career officer and his attorney, preventing them from sharing Able Danger’s details with the legislators. “The DIA is calling the shots . .
. First, I had Tony call that [a request for permission] in himself,” Zaid said, “and they refused to act on that. Then I submitted it to Congressional Affairs, and they refused to act on that. They say I’m not specific enough.”
“I said that House Judiciary wants to meet with him. Congressman Davis wants to meet with him. The House Committee on Government Reform wants to meet with him,” Zaid continued. “Somehow, it’s not specific enough because I didn’t list the individual staff members.” Zaid wonders why the DIA wants to know about the names of each staff member that may or may not be present during the presentation of an unclassified briefing. “They don’t want him meeting with certain staff members that might be hostile to them? Well, sorry, that’s not the way it works.”
Zaid tends to think that this reflects incompetence rather than a sophisticated attempt to keep testimony about Able Danger from the public. It sounds a bit more suspicious to me, however, especially when one considers which committees have not asked for a briefing on the program — a fact which CQ readers can discover in the column itself.
I will post an entire transcript of the interview later in the week when I get more time. Zaid and I discussed numerous details of the case, including the Atta timeline and other issues that Zaid clarifies during the conversation. In the meantime, if people want to see Shaffer and the other AD team members tell us how they identified the AQ cells a year before the 9/11 attacks and no one seemed to notice it, contact the Senators and Representatives involved to get Zaid some help in getting the DIA and DoD to start cooperating.