Saturday, April 09, 2005

Reflecting on the Faces of the Fallen

Since visiting Arlington National Cemetery for the opening of the Faces of the Fallen Exhibit in March [see my March archives for pictures], I felt something was amiss; like when I've forgotten something but can't remember what.

Alma and I arrived just before dusk. The cemetery grounds were near closing. We made the hard decision not to visit John's grave along with the others from Iraq and Afghanistan and to instead join the families from across the country that had gathered for the opening of the exhibit.

The exhibit hall was horseshoe shaped and at the entrance to the cemetery. Inside were nearly 2000 people in various states of emotion. They looked at 1300 small paintings of loved-ones who stared unblinking back at them from around the hall. The artistic quality varied greatly. Rank carried privilege in the selection of artists. We looked at our Private First Class. The Faces of the Fallen captured 1300 of the more than 1500 dead. They stopped collecting images after Veterans Day 2004. Our friend Travis Desiato was killed 4 days later. His family did not attend as there was nothing for them there. There weren't enough artists, or interest, or time.

The next day an art critic for the Washington Post would pan the exhibit droning on about Plato, art and irrelevancies. The faces he should have studied were those of the living milling about the hall, families, friends, crying, laughing, hugging others they had met in happier times or by letter. For them, it mattered less about the quality of the art than the fact that someone had taken the time to volunteer to paint a portrait and remember their sons, daughters, wives, or husbands. With that, most families overlooked the imperfections.

At sunset, the families, gathered around a fountain to hear speeches. Annette Polan who organized the project spoke eloquently about volunteerism and patriotism as this was not government sponsored.

Wolfowitz got his picture taken in front of the photos before the speeches, but he said nothing to the crowd. The administration barely acknowledges the dead and to my knowledge he is the only administration official to attend a funeral; not Rumsfeld, Powell, Rice, Cheney or Bush. I commented to a photographer that at least he had the balls to show up. The photographer looked at me with alarm and a man with an earpiece 3 feet away took a keen interest in my movements, so I walked away back into the tearful crowd.

Senator Warner, the keynote speaker, arrived late to the assembly of about 1500 people. He said he drove by the Iwo Jima memorial and thought of all the brave men who died there, and how few had died in Iraq or Afghanistan. He told us that the President was committed to continuing to get the troops what they needed. I am not sure what point he was trying to make to the hundreds of families in attendance who had lost their loved ones. These families, from all walks of life, know the meaning of sacrifice and the consequence of poor planning in Washington.

When General Myers walked forward to the podium he passed between me and Mrs. Shea, whose son is buried near John. He made no eye contact with the hundreds he passed. I glared at him as he passed. Mrs. Shea glared too and caught my eye and my expression. No words were said. We understood each other. Gen. Myers gave his speech; an unmemorable blather.
The only line I remember was him saying he was convinced, "this was the right war at the right time". Well I guess he cleared that pearl with public affairs first. I once thought highly of him, but after I heard him say at a Senate hearing "that's above my pay grade" I viewed him more as a lap dog than a leader.

And that's the whole point. The missing ingredient. Its leadership. National leadership.

Addressing several thousand relatives of fallen warriors is not a new phenomenon. It is only new for this group of government officials (I decline to call them leaders) because they failed in all regards to exhibit the integrity and honesty leadership requires.

These officials had an opportunity to make a profound statement of gratitude, of meaning, but they failed to rise to the occasion. They received the tepid applause from the assembled Gold Star Families they deserved.

I submit in contrast, this humble speech delivered by a humble president on a battlefield cemetery that consumed thousands of Americans the summer before. To the families and friends of the fallen, Abraham Lincoln gave this simple speech. One of the greatest in the English language.


The Gettysburg Address

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

November 19, 1863


Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.


Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.


But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Independent: British Intelligence officials say Iraq claims were untrue

"The intelligence officials who produced Tony Blair's Iraq weapons dossier - the justification for war - have admitted that some of the main claims made in it were untrue.

The Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), which produced the dossier under its chairman John Scarlett, was forced to carry out a review after the failure to find Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction after the occupation,.

The committee admits that a whole array of allegations - from Iraq's supposed chemical, biological and nuclear capabilites to its ballistic missiles -- were either 'wrong' or 'unsubstantiated'.

The JIC review, carried out in December 2004, was revealed by the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee, which oversees the work of the intelligence agencies, in its annual report. The MPs said: 'We are concerned at the amount of intelligence on Iraqi WMD that has now had to be withdrawn ...'"

US unready for rising threat of 'moles'

"WASHINGTON - Amid all the criticism of the US's faulty intelligence-gathering, a new concern is surfacing about America's premier national-security agencies - their vulnerability to counterespionage.

Because the US has reached such lone, superpower status, government officials say, at least 90 countries - in addition to Al Qaeda - are attempting to steal some of the nation's most sacred secrets.

It's not only foes, like members of terror groups or nations that are adversaries of the US, but friends as well. The top five countries trying to snoop on US plans and cutting-edge technology, according to an official who works closely with the FBI on this issue, are China, Russia, Israel, France, and North Korea. Others running close behind: Cuba, Pakistan, and India"

...The CIA, according to a recruiter at the conference, has already flagged about 40 applicants who they think may have tried to be double agents. This would fit Al Qaeda's pattern, according to Michael Scheuer, a former top CIA counterterrorism official. Al Qaeda operatives, he says, have already penetrated several security agencies in Middle Eastern countries.

...The Silberman-Robb report called for more aggressive tactics, too. "Even as our adversaries - and many of our 'friends' - ramp up their intelligence activities against the United States, our counterintelligence efforts remain fractured, myopic, and marginally effective," the report states. "Our counterintelligence philosophy and practices need dramatic change, starting with centralizing counterintelligence leadership ... and taking our counterintelligence fight overseas to adversaries currently safe from scrutiny."

The Daily Star - Scores dead as Yemeni Army seizes rebel outposts

"Followers of a slain rebel preacher went on a shooting spree in a Yemeni town Friday after more than 70 comrades were killed in two days of fierce clashes with government forces, residents and tribal sources said.

The fighting on Wednesday and Thursday, which ended with government forces taking control of rebel outposts in northwestern Saada Province, also left more than 30 soldiers and police dead or wounded, pro-government tribal sources said."

..."More than 70 [Huthi] followers were killed in the fighting which went on throughout Wednesday and until Thursday night" in Saada Province, where the two sides have been locked in combat since March 28, one tribal source said.

"Their bodies were found in the mountain hideouts from which they had been resisting authorities," he said.

The source said government forces suffered most of their casualties when counter-terrorism units parachuted onto mountain tops overlooking the rebels' strongholds in Razamat and Wadi Nushur (Nushur Valley) on Thursday.

... Apart from the undetermined number of government forces which fell in the clashes of the past two days, more than 190 people have now been reported killed in the fighting since it began 10 days ago. ...

The uprising, near the border with Saudi Arabia, triggered clashes which left more than 400 people dead.

S Korea robots 'to patrol border'

"South Korea's defence ministry is considering deploying robots armed with guns along its border with North Korea.

The robots are designed to strengthen surveillance, ministry spokesman Shin Hyun-don told reporters. ... Hundreds of thousands of troops patrol the frontier, which has been closed since the Korean War ended in 1953.

The defence ministry said on Friday that it would complete a feasibility study of the planned system by the end of 2005, and the robots could be in operation as early as 2011. 'If the surveillance system by robots is effective, we may withdraw part of our troops away from the border,' a ministry official told the Associated Press news agency.

N Korea has 1.1 million man army along the border. S Korea and US forces total more than 700,000

According to officials quoted in the Korea Times newspaper, the cost of the project could run to $1.9bn. "

Projects in Iraq to Be Reevaluated - LA Times

"The State Department has ordered a major reevaluation of the troubled $18.4-billion Iraq reconstruction effort, blaming problems on early decisions to hire U.S. firms for major infrastructure projects.

In a report to Congress this week, the department says rebuilding officials will cancel several planned water and electricity plants and shift $832 million to focus on immediate job creation and training for Iraqis.

The new approach will also place a strong emphasis on spending remaining funds to contract with Iraqi companies, which have experienced fewer problems with insurgents and have lower overhead than U.S. multinational firms. "

... The report lists problems with the performance of some firms, including Houston-based Halliburton Co. The report reveals that the U.S. issued a warning to KBR, a Halliburton subsidiary, in January, threatening possible termination on its $1.2-billion oil industry reconstruction contract.

... remaining funds would increasingly be focused on "systems" rather than individual projects. Iraqis have been frustrated, for instance, that new water treatment plants have been built without new water lines, resulting in millions of gallons of clean water that has no way to reach homes.

...The draft says the Pentagon failed to account in its planning for four key factors that have contributed to the slow pace of the reconstruction: insurgent violence, an infrastructure system near the point of collapse from a decade of sanctions, the use of "restrictive" U.S. contracting laws and so-called cost-plus contracts.

Under such contracts, U.S. firms are reimbursed for all costs incurred in construction and guaranteed an additional percentage in profit depending on performance.

One of the problems, Taylor said, is that the U.S. has been forced to pay contractors even when, for security reasons, they do not work.

All told, more than $1.3 billion is being devoted to costs stemming from contractor delays, higher security demands and the reconstruction of battle zones such as Najaf and Fallouja, the report says.

The shifting of money also will help cover an estimated $5-billion shortfall in the Iraqi national budget. Insurgent attacks and the failure of reconstruction efforts in the oil sector have resulted in lower than anticipated oil revenues, making it impossible for Iraq to maintain and operate U.S.-funded reconstruction efforts.

The need for such funds explicitly contradicts a prediction then-Defense Deputy Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz made before Congress in 2003.

... the number of reconstruction projects underway had increased from 200 to more than 2,000 over the last year. Of those, about 600 have been completed.

"The trend lines on progress in Iraq are up, and Iraq and the coalition are on track with work to rebuild the country," the spokesman said.

Reconstruction experts said a new approach was a long time coming.

"The plan for reconstruction was never a plan," said Steven L. Schooner, director of the Government Procurement Law Program at George Washington University. "It was unrealistic expectations and haste rather than rational decisions."

One of the firms singled out was Halliburton, which holds billions of dollars' worth of contracts in Iraq. The company formerly headed by Vice President Dick Cheney has been criticized by Democrats and auditors over alleged overcharges.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Mike Waggle, the contract officer, said Friday that KBR, formerly known as Kellogg, Brown & Root, had repeatedly failed to control costs under its oil services contract.

In one case, he said, the company showed $436 million in cost overruns. The government later determined that the company had exceeded its budget by no more than $40 million. In another case, Waggle said, the company paid $436,000 in services for a subcontract limited to a maximum expenditure of $100,000.

Waggle said that the company had since taken steps to correct its estimates and that it had reassigned at least three top employees. He said he did not expect the government to terminate the contract, though a decision had not been made.

"We could never make the costs add up," Waggle said. "It was a continued process from the inception of contract."

KBR said it was working to ease the government's concerns.

"KBR has made adjustments to its [oil contract] management team in southern Iraq and is working closely with the client to expeditiously resolve the outstanding cost reporting issues," spokeswoman Stephanie Price said.

Kashmiris from India and Pakistan walk towards each other and American and Chinese admirals take note. | csmonitor.com

"For military planners around the globe, the significance of any long-term easing of tensions between Pakistan and India lies in allowing India to shift a greater proportion of its defense budget to the pursuit of a more assertive maritime strategy, says Express India ....

Given that Chinese and American fleets have begun seriously taking the measure of each other as the The New York Times notes, it is little wonder that signs of an increased Indian naval presence on the seas surrounding Asia, echoed from the Straits of Formosa, to the Sea of Japan, all the way to Pearl Harbor. ..."

Arab militia accused of new Darfur rampage

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Over 350 Arab militia fighters mounted on horses and camels have rampaged through avillage in southern Darfur this week, killing, burning and destroying everything in their paths, the African Union and the UnitedNations says.

"We condemn this senseless and premeditated savage attack" which destroyed everything in the rebel-held village of KhorAbeche but the mosque and the school, the organizations said in a joint statement, vowing to refer the militia commander'sname to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions. ...

More than 180,000 people have died in Darfur from hunger and disease over the past year and a half and more than 2million have fled their homes to makeshift camps in the remote, western desert region, according to U.N. estimates.

The crisis was triggered in February 2003 when pastoral rebel groups took up arms against the government in a struggleover power and scarce resources. Khartoum retaliated by arming nomadic Arab militia which are accused of a campaign ofmurder, rape and arson against villagers that the United States has called genocide.


BTH Comments: When ancient Sicilians needed aid to fight off the invading Athenians, the Spartans sent one general instead of the army the Sicilians expected. He re-organized the Sicilians who then defeated the invaders.

One wonders what a special forces team with some CIA agents, a C-130 gunship and few fighter planes could do to bring this conflict to at least a negotiated truce. The matter is one of will. Our will.

This region has black people instead of black crude. No crude, no crude interest from 'civiliazed' countries
.

CIA, senators trade barbs over 'Curveball' - Apr 6, 2005

"WASHINGTON (AP) -- The CIA and members of Congress said they want to know how a presidential commission unearthed details on intelligence failures about Iraq's pre-war weapons programs that previous investigations missed.

Of particular interest is information that emerged in last week's report about how doubts were handled regarding a leading source on Saddam Hussein's alleged mobile biological weapons labs -- an Iraqi scientist who defected to Germany, codenamed 'Curveball.'

Porter Goss, who became CIA director last September, has instructed officials to determine what happened and why the details did not come to light earlier, said his spokeswoman, Jennifer Millerwise.

'It was an unhappy surprise to the director that his first understanding of this issue was when he first read' the commission's report, Millerwise said Wednesday. ..."

BTH: It's an unhappy surprise for us too.

Journalists and terrorism - Washington Times: /OP-ED - April 08, 2005

"How close should journalists get to thugs and murderers to get the facts? It's a question that has troubled editors for a long time, but a question that isn't asked nearly often enough. The question takes on new significance in an age of terrorism. We revisit it now that Columbia University has awarded a Pulitzer Prize to an anonymous Associated Press photographer whose connections to terrorists yielded an extraordinary scoop.

By the rules, the AP did nothing wrong. But in a heated exchange with critics who saw the photographs as complicity with terror, an AP spokesman explained that the photographer was 'not 'embedded' ' with terrorists and did 'not have to swear allegiance' to them. This is not very persuasive, but it says something important about the journalistic rules. "

The article goes on to explain how an Iraqi photographer was encouraged to be at a time and place and happened to then witness the execution of Iraqi election workers.

"...Newspaper reporters and photographers regularly deal with unsavory characters to get the story or the photograph; this was a case where the photographer went after the photograph and turned up a horror. Did he go fishing for it? There's no evidence of that.

The terrorists who murder election workers know how the Western media works. They know that a local stringer could be used to convey a gruesome message to the world. They also know that the stringer can be trusted not to reveal sensitive information.

Maybe that implies something unsavory about the journalistic rules. We would find it unacceptable if the Associated Press, a cooperative of which this newspaper is a member, were to cultivate ties to al Qaeda like those Al Jazeera cultivates with terrorists. The difference is one of degree (but an important degree). Should bearers of the openness and the free exchange of information that enable free societies to stay that way consort with people who would destroy those societies? If not, then should we change the rules in the age of terrorism? These are questions worth thinking about.

[bth comments: At the heart of terrorism is fear. Fear must be spread for terrorism to work. The media is a critical component for spreading fear. Its amazing how effective the islamic terrorists and insurgents are at using western laws and institutions to conduct its business: destroying those societies.]

Dept. of Defense Budget Authority, FY 1945 - FY 2005

This link will take you to a chart showing Department of Defense Budget Authority for the last fifty years in constant dollars. As you can see, we are at peak levels with the exception of 3 years during the end of WWII and part of the Korean War.

Slate: How Many Government Agencies Does It Take To Teach Soldiers Arabic?

A pathetic case of Pentagon incompetence.

I've just read one of the funniest and saddest government documents I've run across in years. Published by the Pentagon (the source of most such things) under the title "Defense Language Transformation Roadmap," it details the official plan for improving foreign-language skills among U.S. military personnel. The plan is meant to fill an urgent need. It was ordered by the deputy secretary of defense, administered by the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, and coordinated with the service secretaries, combat commanders, and Joint Chiefs of Staff. And to read it is to see, with your own increasingly widening eyes, the Pentagon's (or is it the federal government's?) sheer inability to get anything done on time.

The document—only 19 pages, so take a look—traces, all too clearly, the project's shameful chronology. It got under way in November 2002—over a year after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks—when the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness was directed to have the military departments review their requirements for language professionals (interpreters, translators, area specialists, and so forth). This review was a bust—or, in the document's more delicate language, it "resulted in narrowly scoped requirements based on current manning authorizations instead of … projected needs."

... So, by the end of last summer, it had taken 21 months simply to draw up a 19-page plan. It gets worse. ... [it goes on to explain how this will take until September 2008]

And keep in mind: All of these tasks are simply to set up a management system for improving the military's language skills—not actually to begin improving the skills. ... As for the goals that are scheduled to be accomplished in the next year or two, it's hard to believe a small group of smart people couldn't get them done in a month or a week or, in some cases, a few hours. ...

Now, three and a half years after Islamic fundamentalists flew airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Department of Defense is three months away from publishing an official "instruction" providing "guidance for language program management." It's pathetic.

For the Record: MPs Outgunned but Win

Editor’s Note: This is an After Action Report on the combat incident on March 20, 2005 near Salman Pak, Iraq, between a squad of ten soldiers from the 617th Military Police Co. (Kentucky Army National Guard) assigned to the 18th MP Brigade, and a group of between 40-50 armed Iraqi fighters. The report was written by the brigade intelligence officer. Names of the troops involve have been deleted, and the text has been slightly edited for clarity.

AFTER ACTION REPORT: Raven 42 Action in Salman Pak ...

Nuclear plants warned of terrorist fire hazard

Power plants must do more to protect their radioactive waste from possible terrorist attacks, according to a committee of the National Academy of Sciences, the leading US scientific society.The danger, according to the report, is that terrorists might start a fire in a power plant's spent-fuel pool, where radioactive waste is stored after it is removed from the reactor. "Under certain conditions a substantial amount of fission products can be released in a pool fire," says Carl Alexander, a materials scientist at Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio, and a member of the committee.

Power plants around the world use swimming-pool-like structures to store used fuel rods while they 'cool', or lose their radioactive potency. The water in the pool shields the outside world from radiation produced by the rods, as well as genuinely cooling the rods, which are physically hot when they come out of the reactor.

The panel decided that a terrorist strike on such a pool, using explosives or an aircraft, might drain the water, triggering a fire in the spent fuel rods, which are clad in radioactively stable, but flammable, zirconium metal. Although it would be difficult to attack such facilities, the panel admits, it argues that attacks "by knowledgeable terrorists with access to appropriate technical means" are a real possibility. ... [the article goes on to explain preventative steps we can take now to prevent this. By all means we ought to get on with this.]

Two Failed Terrorism Trials Raise Worry in Europe

BERLIN (Reuters) - Failed terrorism prosecutions in Germany and the Netherlands this week have highlighted Europe's patchy record in securing convictions and prompted some to ask if laws need to be tightened.

Ihsan Garnaoui, a 34-year-old Tunisian, was acquitted in Berlin Wednesday of trying to form a terrorist group, even though judges considered it proven that he had planned to carry out at least one bomb attack in Germany at the start of the Iraq war in March 2003.

The same day, Dutch teen-ager Samir Azzouz was cleared of planning attacks on Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, a nuclear reactor and government offices.

He had been found in possession of machinegun cartridges, mock explosive devices, electrical circuitry, maps and sketches of prominent buildings and chemicals prosecutors said could be bomb ingredients.

Legal experts and security analysts said such cases raise a difficult question: in the absence of an actual attack, how close must a suspect be to detonating a bomb before prosecutors can demonstrate guilt? ...

The article goes on to explain a series of releases and failed convictions. It is clear that laws in western countries have not kept up with the threat of international terrorism. It lives in the gray world between war which must be fought ruthlessly and criminal behavior were the criminal is guaranteed rights.

Hidden Valor

Should photos of fallen marines be posted? I debated. Pictures of fallen Americans are taboo in the States. This war is rated PG by the networks; nobody bleeds, nobody dies on TV. We hear about death in war, or used to, yet we rarely see it. Alternately, I had seen these images posted on an Arabic website' as proof that American marines were mortal; an important fact for a religious fanatic working up the courage to face them and then Allah.

In the end, I posted the pictures in honor of these brave marines. Their families understand. They do not want their sons or their heroism forgotten. I've grown tired of hiding the cost of war. I've grow tired of propaganda on TV. I grow tired of lies. The hidden costs.

There is an honesty within these photos: hidden valor.

We sent these men to war. We owe it to them to look them in the eye. To see them brave and broken. To bind their wounds. To watch over their families when they cannot. To acknowledge their bravery and self-sacrifice. Yet we are an ungrateful nation, infatuated with our own retirement, our tax cuts and self pity.

Pulitzer prizes for photography went to Iraqi stringers working for western wire services. The usual photographers are too afraid to go into the streets by themselves and too biased to go embedded. These photos will never see a prize, but they capture a moment of truth and valor.

I do not know their names. I cannot see their faces. Marines.

Semper Fidelis.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005


A marine is shot and under fire. Posted by Hello

Other marines tried to rescue the wounded marine under fire. Posted by Hello

The marine on the left was shot while attempting to rescue the downed marine. Posted by Hello

The marine on the left who tried to rescue the other died. The marine on the right lived. Posted by Hello

New York Daily News - Al-Zarqawi not Osama fave: report

"WASHINGTON - Terror kingpin Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was not Osama Bin Laden's first choice to lead the most brutal faction of the Iraq insurgency, it was reported yesterday.

Instead, the Al Qaeda overlord wanted a longtime associate, Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi, to take charge of fighting the American occupiers, Newsweek reported, quoting a Taliban official.

But al-Iraqi's visits to al-Zarqawi did resolve a rift between Bin Laden and the Jordanian-born Palestinian thug, who was eventually tabbed as his 'emir' in Iraq."

... Then, last fall, al-Zarqawi told a London-based Arabic language newspaper, "I have not sworn allegiance to the sheik and I am not working within the framework of his organization."

But after returning from the war zone, al-Iraqi told Bin Laden, "There is no doubt [al-Zarqawi] is the best man to lead foreign and Iraqi insurgents in Iraq."

In October, with al-Iraqi's encouragement, al-Zarqawi finally pledged fealty to Bin Laden and renamed his group "Al Qaeda in Iraq."

Despite prewar White House claims that al-Zarqawi's presence in Iraq proved dictator Saddam Hussein's link to Al Qaeda, counterterrorism officials have told the Daily News they doubt even the mutual backslapping by the two terror leaders means al-Zarqawi is obeying Bin Laden. But, notably, al-Zarqawi's beheadings on video have ceased since the terrorists' accord.

Now Bin Laden enjoys "a new mentality and is more healthy," al-Iraqi told the Talib.

And he asked al-Zarqawi to "expand our attacks on the enemy outside Iraq," al-Iraqi said.

Metrics help guide Pentagon - The Washington Times: -

"The Pentagon is judging success or failure in Iraq by more than daily casualty and attack statistics.

It recently set up an 'Iraq Room' where officers study and measure a long stream of data, to produce what the Pentagon calls 'metrics' that tell Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld whether the Iraq campaign is headed in the right direction.

'The secretary is big on metrics,' said a senior Pentagon official. 'He's a metrics kind of guy. He believes you cannot tell how you are doing unless you are taking measurements.' "

... The numbers for March show the U.S. campaign may be going in the right direction. U.S. service member deaths, at 35, were the lowest in a year. The number of daily attacks is drifting below 40, and many of those attacks are ineffective, military officials say.

News about Infantry at StrategyPage.com's How to Make War.

"April 4, 2005: American infantry are beginning to fear that the U.S. Air Force will take away their UAVs. And therein lies a very curious situation.

After half a century of losing out to the U.S. Air Force in the competition for budget dollars, the American Army is making a major comeback. Ironically, it's all about technology. The air force has always touted its mastery of high tech as a reason to get more money than the army. But the cheap and abundant technology has created new devices, namely smart bombs, UAVs and "smart binoculars," that are putting a lot of airmen out of business.

... And just to add insult to injury, the army is arming some of its larger UAVs with Hellfire (and other) missiles. This has got the air force thinking about trying to invoke “The Key West Treaty” (a 1950s agreement by the army not to fly anything with wings, if the air force would supply all the air support the army needed.) The air force is reluctant to try that, as all those infantry officers would not let go of their UAVs without a big fight. And at the moment, those army combat officers are the heroes.

So where does this leave the air force? In trouble, but not without a plan to turn it all around. The air force now proposes to take control of all UAV development. This means that the army and marines will pay a lot more, and wait a lot longer, to get UAVs that don’t do the job as well as the ones they are currently scrounging up on their own. A major bureaucratic fight is underway. It’s not much reported on, but it’s a matter of life and death for army combat troops. At the moment, it's even odds as to which side will win."

BTH: so this puts in perspective the comment in an earlier post by the air force (see NYTs article) about the need to 'coordinate' UAV development under a common umbrella. So if I read this right, the Air Force sees the F-22 piloted program in jeopardy. It sees the UAV program exploding in success and diversity. Hence the Air Force sees a threat which it must control. It is hard to see how the country would benefit by that approach at this time.

BBC NEWS -- Iraq general kidnapped in Baghdad

"An Iraqi general who commands a special armoured unit has been kidnapped by gunmen in Baghdad, Iraqi police say.
Brig Gen Mohammad Jalal Saleh was pulled from his car along with his bodyguards in the west of the city.

The kidnapping came after two powerful car bombs exploded in Baghdad, killing at least one civilian and a US soldier.

Gen Saleh commands a 1,600-strong interior ministry unit formed to deal with insurgents and criminal gangs, the French news agency AFP reports.

It was one of the first armoured units to be reassembled after the war and the dissolution of the army."

Sandy Berger's crime - The Washington Times: Editorials/OP-ED - April 05, 2005

"Martha Stewart went to jail for lying to federal investigators. But for lying after stealing highly classified documents from the National Archives -- in an apparent attempt to alter the historical record on terrorism, no less -- former Clinton national security adviser and Kerry campaign adviser Sandy Berger will get a small fine and slap on the wrist. He will pay $10,000 and get no jail time. His security clearance will be suspended until around the end of the Bush administration -- meaningless for a career Democrat like Mr. Berger. It makes us wonder who at the Department of Justice is responsible for letting such a serious offense go virtually unpunished. "

"... Meanwhile, his associates from the Clinton years are silent, perhaps hoping the scandal will blow over so Mr. Berger can remain a don of the Democratic foreign-policy establishment.
We can only speculate as to why the Department of Justice would agree to such lenient terms for the offense. Perhaps career employees or holdovers with ties to Democrats are responsible. Perhaps the Bush administration went soft. Whatever the reason, we can be reasonably sure it wasn't done for reasons of national security, justice or truth.

Nine militants killed as Saudi clashes rage on

"At least nine Islamist gunmen including two most-wanted Al-Qaeda leaders have been killed in fierce fighting with security forces that raged on in the kingdom for a third day, officials and media reports said."

This is an update on an earlier article reporting that the battle had ended. Obviously as it moves into a third day, its still ongoing.

"A campaign of bombings and shootings blamed on Al-Qaeda has killed 90 civilians in Saudi Arabia since May 2003, according to official figures. Thirty-nine members of the security forces and 99 militants have also been killed, including the seven in the latest battle according to the official toll."

I note with some interest that not a single oil well, refinery or foot of pipeline among thousands of miles of potential targets, have been attacked in Saudi Arabia itself. Those attacks seem reserved for Iraq's infrastructure.

"If the deaths of Otaibi and Mojati are confirmed, only four of Saudi Arabia's 26 most-wanted Islamic militants remain on the run. The others have been killed or arrested."



HoustonChronicle.com - Kuwaiti investigators say Halliburton unhelpful

Associated Press: "Lawmakers investigating claims a Kuwaiti supplier to a Halliburton subsidiary charged too much for fuel deliveries to Iraq are complaining about the lack of support the U.S. military and the American company have provided. ..."

"Legislators claim Kuwaiti oil supplier Altanmia Marketing Co. made $759,567 a day in net profits from providing KBR with 1,500 tons of fuel a day. State-owned Kuwait Petroleum Corp., the seller, made $386,910 a day from the contract, the legislators have said."

BTH: Incredibly it seems that the Kuwaiti government is leading an investigation and accusing Halliburton of not cooperating in it. "Al-Rashed, the lawmaker, said lawmakers believe the Kuwait Petroleum Corp. "harmed" public money by not negotiating a better contract with the U.S. military directly. He also said the U.S. military has refused to testify before his committee as a witness and KBR would only respond to written questions. He said he hopes the situation changes before the panel delivers its final report to Parliament, scheduled for April 30.

"... U.S. Department of Defense auditors have found KBR may have overcharged the American military $61 million for deliveries of gasoline from Kuwait to Iraq from May through September of 2003. They also found Altanmia has charged more than twice what Turkish oil suppliers did."

BTH: I think Halliburton's KBR will be brought up on fraud charges before this is over.




The New York Times: U.S. Drones Crowding the Skies to Fight Insurgents in Iraq

This links you to a good overview article of Unmanned Aircraft Vehicle activity in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev., March 30 - In the skies over Iraq, the number of remotely piloted aircraft - increasingly crucial tools in tracking insurgents, foiling roadside bombings, protecting convoys and launching missile attacks - has shot up to more than 700 now from just a handful four years ago, military officials say. ..."

Monday, April 04, 2005


Mosul April 3, 2005. A Stryker disabled following an IED attack. The IED attack was filmed by insurgents and posted on the internet within hours of the attack. The attack video can been seen on the post just below this entry. The insurgents have clearly developed the use of the internet as a communications tool for their violent cause. Posted by Hello

Securing the scene of a damaged Stryker hit on April 4, 2005 in Mosul. Also filmed and posted on internet. See posted video of the attack below. Posted by Hello

Global Terror Alert -- Videos of Recent Al-Qaida Attacks in Central Iraq

Here is a post from Globalterroralert.com showing videos recently posted by al-Qaeda of attacks on Americans over the last 5 days. As mentioned previously the use of the internet to communicate with others interested in their cause is critical. Note in particular, the last video is of an attack on a Stryker on Sunday, April 3, 2005. By 1:44 AM ET on Monday, it had been posted on the internet, noted and then clipped by Global Terror Alert.

This means that terrorists are able to blow up a Stryker in Mosul, edit a video of the attack, and then post the video on the internet within hours of the incident.

Now this means that who ever is doing this has access to production and broadband transmission to a known website. Why can't our CIA track these culprits down?


Globalterroralert.com (4/3/05): [*UPDATED*] Al-Qaida's Jihad Committee in Mesopotamia--led by wanted Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi--has released several new video clips featuring footage from roadside bombing attacks on U.S. troops in Al-Saqlawiya (near Fallujah) and Mosul, and from a mortar attack on an American base in Baqubah. The group also took credit for numerous other recent insurgent operations across Sunni central Iraq, including a string of car bombings in Samarra, Ramadi, and Mosul aimed at both passing American military patrols and Iraqi security personnel.

- Mar. 30 video of Al-Qaida bomb attack on U.S. Humvee
- Apr. 1 video of Al-Qaida mortar attack on base in Baqubah
- Apr. 3 video of Al-Qaida bomb attack on Stryker in Mosul

Medical Evacuation Helicopter April 4, 2005 Posted by Hello

The Counterterrorism Blog: KEEPING SCORE ON INTELLIGENCE ACCOUNTABILITY

Larry Johnson writes an interesting piece on intelligence errors and accountability, or lack thereof. His article is worth the read if you are interested in why we went to war on bad intelligence and why the problem hasn't been fixed. Specifically he looks at who gave bad intel and whether or not they've been held accountable? The short answer is no.

With regard to Tenet he notes that he is out, but "got the medal of freedom for his "excellent" work. Message to analysts, if you screw up but are a loyal team player you will be rewarded."

Then Johnson shifts to the four members of the National Intelligence Council that so egregiously erred in their "analysis." "It is astonishing at this juncture that there has not been a major shake up at the NIC. In fact, those reponsible for the sections with the most errors are still on the job and, in one instance, given more authority."

After reviewing the three that were so wrong and held to no account, he shifts to Paul Pillar the only one of the key four that was in fact accurate." .."Of the four, the one who got it right in the estimate was Paul Pillar. Yet, both President Bush and Vice President Cheney have continued to insist that Pillar's judgments on terrorism were wrong. ... He has been called disloyal for the simple act of providing an assessment of what was happening in Iraq that did not square with the wishful thinking and rosy scenarios emanating from the West Wing of the White House. Message to analysts, be careful about telling the truth to the President because you will be accused of being disloyal.

The President, ... needs an intelligence community that will tell him or her uncomfortable truths. If President Bush is serious about fixing the problems in the intelligence community he needs to start with a house cleaning at the NIC. .... At this point, however, no one of any consequence has been called on the carpet.

I am afraid, however, that those guys will skate and that Paul Pillar will be fingered for blame. Firing Pillar would send the wrong message, namely, if you tell the President truths that go against the Administration's policy goals you will be punished. Analysts still on the job are watching carefully how this plays out. Fixing the problems at throughout the intelligence community starts with insisting officers be held accountable and that accountability starts at the top.




Searching a house near Abu Ghraib Posted by Hello

MSNBC - Did Bolton Try to Intimidate Spies?

"Bush critics in the Senate are hunting for evidence to derail or delay confirmation of State Department official John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Foreign Relations Committee staffers are looking into charges that Bolton attempted to intimidate or victimize two career intelligence officials for what he viewed as their insufficiently alarmist analyses of intel on purported Cuban biological weapons. ... Accusations that Bolton pressured intel specialists on Cuba have circulated since at least 2003, when congressional intelligence committees looked into allegations that intel analysts were urged to issue alarming reports about Saddam Hussein's unconventional weapons." The articles goes on to describe two incidents where he tried to have analysts fired.

August 2004. I thought this was a good photo to match with Wesley Clark's conference call with key bloggers. Posted by Hello

Informed Comment -- Wesley Clark Conference Call

Looks like Wesley Clark is suiting up to run for President in 2008 and is making connections with influential bloggers.

"Wesley Clark held a conference call on the situation in Iraq with some bloggers Monday afternoon, in advance of testifying in Washington on the situation.

He began by pointing out that the US military made an assessment in September of 2002 that it could hold Iraq with 70,000 troops. ..."

Excalibur attack UAV prototype. Posted by Hello

Defense Industry Daily - Excalibur [Attack] UAV Still in Development [until 2010]

Excalibur is the first UAV designed soley for attacking ground targets.

"With all the attention being paid to the projected increases in the MQ-1 Predator fleet and tests of the MQ-9 Predator B, other Umanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) may not get much attention. Recently, small business qualifier Aurora Flight Sciences of Manassas, VA received a sole-source delivery order amount of $5 million as part of a $20 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for development of the Excalibur Tactical UAV.

Excalibur will be a dedicated attack UAV, compatible with Hellfire, Joint Common Missile, Viper Strike and other small, precision-guided munitions recently developed by the Department of Defense. Aurora is under contract to design a 1,000 pound Excalibur technology demonstrator aircraft, which is scheduled for flight in 2007. ..."

Diagram from Islamic website discussing shooting down an airliner over JFK with a Stinger. Posted by Hello

Lt. Nathan White of Abilene Texas was killed in April 2003 by a Patriot Missile battery that mistook his navy fighter for an incoming ballistic missile. He is buried at Arlington National Cemtery in Section 60. His father is trying to get the Army to fix a series of technical and operating deficiencies that caused Nathan White's death. Good luck Dennis on the upcoming hearings at Ft. Bliss. I'm with you all the way. Posted by Hello

The Daily Star - Seven militants killed in marathon Saudi gunbattle

"RIYADH: Seven suspected Al-Qaeda militants were killed in a marathon gunbattle with Saudi security forces which has raged for one-and-a-half days in the north of the kingdom, the Interior Ministry said Monday. Seven members of 'the deviant group' - official terminology for Al-Qaeda suspects - were killed, and an eighth was critically wounded, in the clash in Al-Rass in the Al-Qassim region, some 320 kilometers north of Riyadh, the ministry said in a statement. ..."

Two Dates to Watch

April 9 -- Sadr is planning large Shia demonstrations. My guess is that all sectarian parties in Iraq will start flexing their muscles as matters unfold to form an Iraqi government.

April 16 -- Sen. McCain is holding hearings on Boeing and the air force procurement process. Note that last week the Sec. of Defense's office took over procurement of 22 major projects from the air force. This is not good and bodes ill for scandals to come. So stay tuned.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

NYT Op-Ed: The Art of Intelligence

This is a simple article worth a read. The main points as I read them are:
-- Reshuffling bureaucratic flow charts will not produce better intelligence results.
-- The author contends 40 years of bad intel comes down to a purge of old fossils that thought and analyzed like liberal arts majors. They were purged in the 60s and replaced with quantified systematic analysis and analysts. As an example he compares recently declassified comparative analysis of Chinese leaders in the late 60s and found that analysts relying on a deep understanding of Chinese history and society made more accurate predictions; "novelistic judgments about the Chinese leadership's hopes and fears. He imagined how we must appear to the Chinese, and how different American moves would be interpreted."
-- He states clearly "the problem isn't bureaucratic. It's epistemological. Individuals are good at using intuition and imagination to understand other humans. ... When you try to analyze human affairs using a process that is systematic, codified and bureaucratic, as the CIA does, you anesthetize all of these tools. You don't produce reason - you produce what Irving Kristol called the elephantiasis of reason."
-- He concludes "I'll believe the system has been reformed when policy makers are presented with competing reports, signed by individual thinkers, and are no longer presented with anonymous, bureaucratically homogenized, bulleted points that pretend to be the product of scientific consensus."
-- Put simply, "individuals think better than groups."

Predator B. Posted by Hello

USS Roosevelt Posted by Hello

Britain to pull out 5,500 troops from Iraq and increase forces in Afghanistan

"Britain plans to reduce the size of its military force in Iraq from 9,000 to 3,500 soldiers within a year and increase its troops in Afghanistan in a renewed bid to hunt down Osama bin Laden and other senior Al-Qaeda figures reportedly hiding close to the country's border with Pakistan, a leading London newspaper said on Sunday."

This is a plan that actually makes sense. I wish the US had a similar plan.

Join Now Posted by Hello

Enlist Today Posted by Hello

CBC News: Canada willing to help Iran, despite Kazemi row

CBC News: Canada willing to help Iran, despite Kazemi rowWhile publicly denouncing the killing of Zahra Kazemi in July 2003, Canadian officials were also quietly allowing an Iranian government official to visit Canada, according to documents obtained by CBC Radio.

Iran had requested that one of its officials, Seyed Abu Talib Najafi, be briefed on the workings of Canada's new Advance Passenger Information database, designed to identify potential threats to civil aircraft before they board.

Just eight days previously, the Department of Foreign Affairs had recalled Canada's ambassador to Iran because it had refused Canadian inquiries about the Zahra Kazemi case. Kazemi, a Montreal-based photojournalist, was beaten to death after being arrested for photographing a Tehran prison riot. Iran maintains her death was accidental.

Foreign Affairs told Customs officials its only concern was "whether [Najafi] will be able to get his visa in time."

In dozens of e-mails, there is no mention of Kazemi, and no one questions why Canada would help Iran, considered by some to be a brutal police state.

As well, no one asks why a government with a known track record of sponsoring terrorist attacks might want information about a new passenger security screening procedure.

Add to it this report from Reuters titled, "Iran Rejects Fresh Testimony About Dead Reporter," dated April 2, 2005.

"TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian officials rejected on Saturday the testimony of a defector who said Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi was tortured and possibly raped before her death in Tehran in July 2003.

They said they had no record of Shahram Azam working as doctor in the hospital where he said he saw evidence of flogging in addition to battered feet, extracted nails and a broken nose. A nurse saw possible evidence of rape, Azam said.

Azam's account of Kazemi's injuries, given in Ottawa on Thursday, differed sharply from that of the Iranian authorities who insist Kazemi fainted and struck her head. "

BTH: One wonders how with a head injury, she could have managed to flog herself on her back and feet, extract her own finger nails, much less explain the rape.

One concludes that the Canadian government appeases Iran and worse allows Iran to inspect a passenger security system designed to thwart the very terrorists likely sponsored by Iran.

Oh Canada. It is hard to believe this is the same country that fought so bravely in the First and Second World Wars.


Army Woes: Apathy, Hostility and a Healthy Economy Part I

"It is easier to go to Iraq and take a bullet than it is to try and recruit young men and women for the U.S. Army, according to recruiters charged with filling the combat boots needed so desperately on the ground all over the world.

The Army's All-Volunteer Force is taking casualties it hasn't even recruited yet as more and more young people dismiss military service as an option after high school. The Army recruited 27 percent fewer soldiers than it needed last month and the trend continues downward as the no-exit war on terror drags on, according to the service's own statistics." ...

The Scotsman - Darfur slaughter on the increase

The Scotsman - International - Darfur slaughter on the increase: "A CEASEFIRE monitor who spent six months in Darfur has lifted the lid on the continuing slaughter of civilians by Sudanese government-backed militia - and warned that the death toll is set to rise dramatically.

Captain Brian Steidle, a former US marine, described how African Union (AU) troops could only stand and watch as scenes of carnage unfolded in front of them. He said he had personally witnessed Sudanese government gunships strafing villages, setting them alight, and found the bodies of torture victims with ears cut off and eyes plucked out.

And he warned that, with the security situation deteriorating and aid agencies unable to reach large parts of the region, the death toll from illness and disease - currently running at about 10,000 people a month - was likely to rise by as much as 50 per cent to 15,000 a month." ...

But according to Capt Steidle, the UN is dragging its feet instead of intervening to stop the killing, which has continued unabated since the security council started to pay attention to Darfur last year.

He described how on his first day in south Darfur his team were called to a refugee camp where the government-backed Janjaweed militia had killed 10 people, and said that every day after that they would receive up to five reports of fresh attacks.

Tipped off by rebel groups, they often arrived to find attacks in progress, he said.

"There was evidence of torture, people with ears cut off, eyes plucked out. We would see the burning in progress and the helicopters were making their runs across the village," he said.

Capt Steidle said he had seen the Sudanese government’s Antonov planes make bombing runs over the villages. And he added his team had gathered evidence of a concerted campaign of rape waged against the women in the black African villages by the mainly Arab militias. "In every village we came to there were women who had been raped. They told us that the men who did it had said it was so that they would have a lighter-skinned child." ...

He said they had filed dozens of reports on the incidents they witnessed, which were meant to be passed to donor governments involved in the mission, but he was not aware whether any of the reports had been received. ...

[BTH comments: So why don't we put special forces in there an start shooting down these helicopters? Why does the US and the UN let this continue month after month? Why do the Islamic countries of the world allow the perpetuation of genocide and slavery if it is indeed a religion of peace?]





UN Report: The Worst of the Worst on Human Rights

Here is a link to a newly released Special Report to the 61st Session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights titled, "The Worst of the Worst -- The World's Most Repressive Societies, 2005."

The list is long, but the Worst of the Worst are led by Burma, Cuba, Libya, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria and Turkmenistan. Honorable mention goes to Checknya and Tibet.

If You Build It, They Will Kill

This extensive article/editorial by Mother Jones goes into detail about the wide range of weapons coming on line and the current state of the military industrial complex. I think its is interesting that Mother Jones, a magazine I haven't seen in years, is doing extensive investigational research reports on the defense and the DoD, probably not seen in its pages since the 1970s.

SITE Institute: SITE Publications - Explosions via Wireless Detonation

"On March 30, 2005, a posting on an al-Qaeda affiliated message board provided instructions for acquiring materials for and the wireless detonation of explosive chargers. This board, in particular, is used for the dissemination of military advice to the mujahideen." It does on to recommend buying wireless car door openers to keep costs down.

CNN.com - FBI finds explosives in Nichols' home

CNN.com - FBI finds explosives in�Nichols home - Apr 1, 2005: "WASHINGTON (AP) -- Tipped they may have missed evidence a decade ago, FBI agents searched the former home of convicted Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols and found blasting caps and other explosive materials apparently related to the 1995 attack, officials said Friday.

FBI officials said the material was found buried in a crawl space of the house in Herington, Kansas, which wasn't checked by agents during the numerous searches of the property during the original investigation of Nichols and Timothy McVeigh. 'The information so far indicates the items have been there since prior to the Oklahoma City bombing,' Agent Gary Johnson said in a telephone interview from Oklahoma City."

The article doesn't ask the obvious question, "why after all these years, did the FBI suddenly dig under a foot of rubble in a crawl space under his house?" Then at the very end of the article it says something about implicating white supremist bank robbers. Come again? And by the way aren't we coming up on an anniversary date on this?

FOXNews- U.S. Forces May Have Beaten Iraqi General

FOXNews.com - U.S. & World - U.S. Forces May Have Beaten Iraqi General: "Previously secret court testimony indicates an Iraqi general imprisoned by U.S. forces was badly bruised and may have been severely beaten two days before he died of suffocation during interrogation. "

He died of suffocation with a bag over his head and men standing on him. As usual enlisted men are being accused with no officers though the transcript is heavily redacted. They are denying wrong doing and say commanders sanctioned their actions.

General warns of cutbacks in S. Korea

"Campbell, who also commands the 8th Army here, held a quickly scheduled news conference Friday to say the South Korean government is not giving the United States enough money this year to maintain the current level of services provided by U.S. military forces. The "shortfall" could force USFK to "alter the amount and composition of combat equipment currently planned," Campbell told reporters at USFK headquarters on Yongsan Garrison. "We are analyzing additional measures we may be forced to take to meet our operations and readiness requirements.""

The article discussing the various perspectives. My opinion is that S. Korea is able to support its own defense and should.

SANDY BERGER: I LIED, I DELIBERATELY DESTROYED DOCUMENTS ON TERRORISM POLICY

The Kerry Spot on National Review OnlineHere is a little more on the Sandy Burglar confession. It looks like he was systematically destroying multiple copies of a specific counter-terrorism document that would indicate that the Clinton administration did not address the Osama Bin Laden threat. He was given a slap on the wrist by the judge. This whole situation is shameful and the Democratic Party is evidently silent on the matter. Again shameful.

Justice: Iraq Fraud Can Be Tried in U.S.

Justice: Iraq Fraud Can Be Tried in U.S.: "Contractors for the former Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq can be sued in U.S. courts under an anti-war-profiteering law, the Justice Department contended in a federal case Friday." The case involves a whistle blower fraud case against a U.S. company called Custer Battles which is acused of bilking $50 million from the CPA. The judge in the case will hear additional arguments on April 15.

INTEL DUMP - - Cooking The Early Bird

INTEL DUMP - -This discussion from Intel-Dump is about the increasing politicialization of major news and information sources used inside the Department of Defense, specifically "The Early Bird" and "Inside the Pentagon." He discusses the trends and how this has been happening to disparage or underplay dissenting commentary and replace it with internal press releases and feel-good commentary. "I have been disturbed and disappointed by the department's willingness to mutate one of its best intellectual resources, one that many people have come to rely on as the "one stop shop" for news on military and foreign affairs." When information sources are being manipulated, it is not a good thing, especially considering that we just went to war on the basis of faulty intelligence and manipulated analysis of that intel.

The Counterterrorism Blog: THE SENATOR ROBB, JUDGE SILBERMANN WHITEWASH

The blog post by The Counterterrorism Blog linked here gets to central issues of the failed intelligence process in the U.S. with a couple of pointed comments. I'd recommend a detailed read but here are some key points:

"... But for all of the massive detail provided in the 600 plus page report, Robb and Silbermann fail to answer the most basic question: Was there any intelligence analysis from the CIA that indicated Iraq's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction had reached the point that if we did not act Saddam would? The answer is no. Yet, Robb and Silbermann want Americans to accept the nonsense that politics played no role in the intelligence analysis. They ask America to accept the sorry picture of a President and legislators who apparently were willing idiots being spoon fed wrong information by incompetent analysts. If we accept this fairy tale we will have learned nothing from the fiasco in Iraq. "

--"I am not saying the CIA is free of blame. There were major mistakes of leadership. For example, the man who led the drafting of the October 2002 estimate surrounded himself with true believers who shared the view of Bush Administration policymakers at the NSC and Department of Defense that military action in Iraq was required. This National Intelligence Officer created obstacles to dissident voices within the CIA and other parts of the intelligence community from being heard. But to pretend that the flaws in the intelligence explains why President Bush took us to war requires that we ignore a host of other uncomfortable facts."

-- CIA analysts got it right on the lack of operational relationship between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. Yet, President Bush and Vice President Cheney have continued to insist that there was such a relationship. In their words, the war in Iraq was an extension of the war on terrorism.

-- Analysts also got it right on the alleged link between Iraq and Niger on the question of uranium. Yet, the White House wanted to run with it. In fact, Don Rumsfeld and his minions were briefing TV and newspaper pundits just two weeks before the President's 2003 State of the Union address that Iraq was trying to acquire uranium in Niger.

-- There was a failure of leadership at CIA. Analysts were undermined by their immediate boss, George Tenet. ... Worse still, he failed in his duty to tell the President truths he did not want to hear. ... When an analyst reports intelligence about a newly acquire biological weapons capability in Iraq it is incumbent on those running the Agency to ask one simple question, "What is the source of this info?". During my time as an analyst I had to justify conclusions by providing an assessment of sources. My bosses, especially a DCI, could call the Directorate of Operations and get a clear read on a questionable source. In the case of Iraq, however, top CIA managers decided to go along with policymakers in trumping up the case for war rather than insisting on the integrity of the intelligence.

-- Here is the bottomline. There is no such thing as perfect intelligence or perfect analysis. However, we do not serve the security of this country by perpetuating the myth that we went to war in Iraq because a couple of analysts believed Saddam's acquisition of aluminum tubes was part of a secret program to build a nuke. Going to war was and remains a political decision.

BTH Comments: For my part, I am not going to replace one fairy tale (Saddam is linked to al-Qaeda and represents a threat to the U.S.), with another fairy tale (we went to war soley because of bad intelligence and not bad leadership).










Tech Central Station - Robotic Death from Above

HEee is part of a longer post by Tech Central Station concerning UAVs being introduced over the next five years. When you compare the phenominal performance of UAVs versus the Raptor F22 program, one wonders where this is all heading.

"The handwriting was on the wall -- or in the sky as it were -- when an unmanned Predator aircraft destroyed a Taliban target in late 2001 with a Hellfire missile. We're now ushering in an era of fighter-bombers that will strike targets with deadly efficiency while putting no American pilots in harm's way.

Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles (UCAV) will make today's piloted planes seem like flying bricks by comparison, with advantages too long to list here. For starters though, no pilot means a lighter, smaller, and cheaper aircraft. Large canopies, pilot displays, and environmental control systems will disappear.

'The UCAV offers new design freedoms that can be exploited to produce a smaller, simpler aircraft, about half the size of a conventional fighter aircraft,' according to the Federation of American Scientists. It would weigh only about one-third to one-fourth as much as a manned plane. Costs will also be slashed. Boeing's X-45 UCAV will probably be a third the price of the forthcoming manned F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, according to the defense policy website GlobalSecurity.org.

Moreover, typically 80 percent of the useful life of today's combat aircraft is devoted to pilot training and proficiency flying. Therefore a UCAV would require a fraction of the maintenance time and spare parts of a manned vehicle." ... [the article goes on to itemize some of the specific aircraft and their features.