Saturday, July 16, 2005

Prayer for Soldiers

"Lord, hold our troops in your loving hands.. Protect them as they
protect us. Bless them and their families for the selfless acts they
perform for us in our time of need. I ask this in the name of Jesus, our
Lord and Savior. Amen."

Suicide bomb kills 60 in fireball south of Baghdad

"HILLA, Iraq (AFP) - A suicide bomber killed at least 60 people and wounded 85 in a massive fireball when he blew himself up next to a liquefied gas tanker outside a Shiite mosque south of Baghdad, an interior ministry official said. ..."

Pakistani men vent anger over US counter-attack

"MIRANSHAH, Pakistan (Reuters) - Thousands of Pakistani tribesmen shouted anti-U.S. slogans on Saturday as they buried three of 24 suspected Islamist militants killed inside Pakistan by U.S. forces operating out of Afghanistan.

Mourners chanted 'Down with infidel America' and 'Long Live Islam' at the funeral held in two villages in the North Waziristan tribal region, 300 km (180 miles) southwest of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

'These 24 people are martyrs and our entire Waziristan region is ready for jihad (holy war),' Maulana Abdur Rehman, a local prayer leader said at the funeral of two suspects.

Pakistan's tribal belt is overwhelmingly Pashtun and most people are deeply conservative Muslims, sharing common religious and ethnic roots with Taliban fighters trying to oust U.S.-led forces from Afghanistan.

Tension has been building for months in Pakistan's North Waziristan since the army completed a series of offensives against al Qaeda militants in neighboring South Waziristan.

On Thursday, a senior U.S. administration official in Washington said the United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan needed to squeeze insurgents along the rugged border where al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden might be hiding.

The same day, Major-General Akram Sahi, commander of Pakistani troops in North Waziristan warned tribesmen of an imminent offensive unless they handed over foreign militants.

Pakistan military officials said the militants killed on Thursday night near Lowara Mandi, a border village, included Taliban and their al Qaeda allies."

"Hear my voice, O'Lord, in my prayers. Preserve my life from fear of the enemy." Posted by Picasa

Anger Burns on the Fringe of Britain's Muslims - New York Times

Anger Burns on the Fringe of Britain's Muslims - New York Times: "LEEDS, England, July 15 - At Beeston's Cross Flats Park, in the center of this now embattled town, Sanjay Dutt and his friends grappled Friday with why their friend Kakey, better known to the world as Shehzad Tanweer, had decided to become a suicide bomber. "...

A recent poll commissioned by The Guardian found that 84 percent of Muslims surveyed were against the use of violence for political means, but only 33 percent of Muslims said they wanted more integration into mainstream British culture. Almost half of those surveyed said their Muslim leadership did not represent their views.

The grievances of the boys of Cross Flats Parks have not propelled them toward political action. But Dr. Waheed, a practicing psychiatrist, and Mr. Khan, a documentary filmmaker, are acting on their alienation.

Both men, eloquent, better educated and better off than most in their community, are also among the more politically motivated. They have embraced one of the more conservative, if not militant, Islamic movements in Britain today - Hizb ut-Tahrir, or Party of Liberation.

The party's stated goal is to rebuild the Caliphate - the Muslim state dissolved with the fall of the Ottoman Empire - to displace corrupt dictators in the Muslim world, and to instill Islamic mores and Islamicize almost every aspect of daily life.

The group has drawn about 10,000 members to its recent annual meetings, its members say, and includes chapters abroad in places like Uzbekistan. It is a controversial movement, even among British Muslims, and its members have become emblematic of the shift of Muslims born in Britain to more conservative and outspoken expressions of their faith. ...

"I could see the logic," he said. "It was the situation in the Muslim world in terms of killings, massacres and the realities of what our governments are doing to them."

Like the militant socialist movements of the 1960's, the group promises action, change and a well-packaged set of ideals. It provides a team and a sense of belonging. It publishes books with recommendations on how to live a better Muslim life. It actively proselytizes within the Muslim community.

Officially, the party is against the use of violence. It calls on members to use their minds to argue their stands, Dr. Waheed says. But its talk often comes perilously close to incitement, say mainstream Muslim leaders, who say they ultimately bear the brunt of the group's attacks.

In previous years, the members have taken to crashing other Muslim community meetings and drowning out speakers. They have taken imams to task and debated politicians in the media. Some Muslims accuse them of harassment, death threats and instilling fear of retribution in their communities.

In recent days, politicians have called for curbs on the movement's activities. Such efforts, Dr. Waheed said, are a "clear attempt to blur the margins between political Islam and violence."

"They want to say that Hizb ut-Tahrir is violent," he said. "We are not underground and we're not looking to recruit people. We're just looking for awareness."

He acknowledged the group's ways were more "controversial" a decade ago, but added that much has changed since. "Maybe some of the means and styles at those times could have turned people away, but we have moved on significantly," he said.

Even in Leeds, where Muslims have struggled to co-exist with white Britons, Hizb ut-Tahrir's activists have vied for control of some mosques, community leaders say. They are not always welcome, and the group has not enjoyed much success here, despite the grievances of young men like Mr. Dutt and his friends.

"They're too far over the top," Mr. Dutt said. "They talk about the Caliphate, when we have our own problems here."

[bth: an interesting article worth a full read. Its hard to see how western democracy can be compatible with this line of thinking. Something has to change or someone has to go. Ultimately the battle for minds will occur within the hheads of 'moderate' muslims; do they wish to live with other cultures and enjoy western freedoms or do they want to join their more extreme brothers in that great caliphate in the sky. An intelligent foreign policy for the US and Britain would use this situation to drive a wedge between moderate muslims and the terrorists. Unfortunately we rarely do what is intelligent and opt for what is politically expedient.]

British keep out of Basra's lethal Islamic take-over

"The bodies of young women began to appear in Basra six weeks ago.

First there was a group of three, then two, and last week the corpses of six were found, each victim riddled by gunshots and left on the street to die in pools of blood."

The Iraqi police say they have no strong leads. But it is an open secret in the port city why they died.

They worked as prostitutes and their killers are widely believed to be one of the city's armed militias. In recent months they have become increasingly violent in their campaign to enforce a strict interpretation of the social code of Islam.

The district where the latest victims were discovered is one of the city's poorest. Sewage runs beside the pavement and through the holes in the walls of buildings can be seen thin mattresses and battered pots and pans....

No one wanted to talk about the details of the murders. "I do not want to be killed," one man said.

But another told how he had been in a house of "belly dancers" recently in order to drink alcohol - an illicit activity in Basra - when a dozen masked men broke down the front door.

"They started hitting the girls and shooting against the walls and breaking the furniture," he said.

"They bought boxes of vodka and beer outside to smash them. One of the girls ran outside and she had stones thrown at her.

"Everyone in the place was too frightened to help."

For years Basra opposed Saddam Hussein and suffered massacres under his dictatorship. It welcomed liberation by the British two years ago.

...In January's historic Iraq election a majority of religion-inspired leaders were elected in Basra, but they have struck a deal with the militias which have been influential since 2003 and effectively have free rein in the city.

The militias help impose order and warn of any Sunni infiltrators but only while working to transform the city into a miniature theocracy reminiscent of that found across the Shatt al Arab waterway in Iran.

Pictures of Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of the 1979 Iranian revolution, have become a common sight on street corners. Shops selling musical instruments have been bombed after warnings that musicians were the "servants of Satan".

Stores selling DVDs report that groups of men inspect their wares to ensure it contains no items considered too provocative.

Women are approached on the streets and criticised by strangers if they do not wear a headscarf, while parents who allow their daughters to play sports have received envelopes with bullets in them.

The British, who are responsible for the security of the sector, have refused to intervene, saying that it is a domestic matter of political and law and order issues. Political parties have been largely silent.
The city's 41-seat political authority is dominated by the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri).

This has close links to the Iranian government, and those loyal to Ayatollah Muhammad Yacoubi, a radical cleric friendly with Moqtada al-Sadr whose Mahdi army staged two uprisings last summer.

The local Sciri leader, Furat al-Shara, said last month that there was no need to enshrine Islamic law in the country's legal code because this was already being done "culturally"....

The police do little. In some cases because of fear, but in others because officers are themselves members of the same militias.

Gen Hassan al-Sade, the chief of police, recently admitted that he had lost control of the majority of his officers because of penetration of the force by members of the militias.

In a blunt assessment of where real power lies, he said: "I trust 25 per cent of my force, no more."

Large explosion. Posted by Picasa

Objective of the London Bombing

The speculation over the intended goals of the London suicide attackers continues to rage. Unfortunately, the bulk of this speculation inserts a larger context into the debate that is irrelevant to the analysis of this specific attack. These contextual references include:
Moral war. Destroy our way of life.

Political war. Withdraw troops from the Middle East and central Asia.
Economic war. Disrupt the UK's economy.

While the above may have been considerations for the group doing the attacks, they are well beyond the scope of this individual engagement. The real value of the attack is that it:
Reinforces the plausible premise of al Qaeda's open source war through a demonstration that a successful attack can be made on the US and its key allies.

Remember, the plausible premise of al Qaeda's open source war (a model of warfare were participation is ad hoc, the network is loose/flat, and the innovation is accomplished at the edges) on the West is:

The US and its allies can be attacked successfully.

The US and its allies are at war with Islam.

New groups can gain favor with al Qaeda through successful operations.
The attack was successful in that it demonstrated that despite expensive and extensive counter-terrorism efforts, the US and its allies are still as vulnerable to an attack as they were on 9/11. All that was needed to prove this was a single attack. That was accomplished on July 7th.

Further, the attack will likely cause the UK's government to crack down on domestic Muslims. This, in combination with a smattering of hate crimes already in progress, will reinforce a second part of the plausible premise. All that is left is the final element: for al Qaeda�s leadership to embrace the attacks.

Al Qaeda's plausible premise provides the glue that holds this disparate community together. As long as the main tenets of the plausible premise remain intact, this open source war will continue.

Brian Chontosh awarded the Navy Cross Posted by Picasa

Widows in Afghanistan Posted by Picasa

Iraqis accused of wasting millions on faulty weapons

"BAGHDAD, Iraq - The Iraqi Defense Ministry has squandered more than $300 million buying faulty and outdated military equipment in what appears to be a massive web of corruption that flourished for a year or longer under American-appointed supervisors, U.S. and Iraqi military officials said this week.

Vendors are suspected of vastly overcharging for substandard equipment - including helicopters, machine guns and armored vehicles - and kicking back money to Iraqi Defense Ministry buyers.
Officials of Iraq's recently elected government have fired the main suspects in the scandal, and several former defense overseers are under investigation for possible criminal charges, Iraqi Defense Minister Saadoun al Duleimi said.

"I view corruption as an incubator for terrorism"said Duleimi, who took office in May. "If you can't defend against corruption, you can�t defend against terrorism"

The suspected fraud slowed progress in training and equipping Iraqi forces, whose performance against deadly insurgents is the key gauge for when the U.S. military can begin withdrawing its 135,000 troops."...

However, Americans still ran the show behind the scenes, said several Iraqi bureaucrats involved with the ministry at the time.In one case, Iraqi defense inspectors traveled to Poland to check on what they understood to be a fleet of refurbished transport helicopters that cost the government more than $100 million.

What the inspectors found were 24 Soviet-era helicopters — each about 30 years old and past their prime. Disgusted, the Iraqi team refused the aircraft and returned to Baghdad without helicopters or the money paid — up front — for them.

Other purchases include a shipment of sleek MP5 machine guns, costing about $3,500 apiece, now thought to be Egyptian-made knockoffs worth $200 each on the street, according to American and Iraqi officials familiar with the contracts under scrutiny.

Many deals were brokered by former Iraqi exile Ziad Tareq Cattan, who was hired by the CPA in 2004 and quickly rose from district councilman to be the Iraqi defense ministry’s chief weapons buyer.

Cattan, who oversaw the ministry’s acquisitions, logistics and infrastructure portfolio, was known as a man who flew around the world spending millions in government cash with little accountability.

Defense officials said he sometimes submitted scraps of paper as receipts for multimillion-dollar weapons deals and was notorious for charging a 10 percent “finder’s fee” for the contracts he negotiated.

“There is no doubt he took advantage of opportunities,” said John Noble, senior Western adviser to Iraq’s defense ministry. “Certainly millions, possibly even hundreds of millions” of dollars were lost through Cattan’s business ventures, Noble said.

Cattan was fired in June. U.S. military officials said he had tried to flee the country, but was stopped...

France 'to expel radical imams'

"French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has vowed to deport any Muslim cleric preaching violence.

Speaking after meeting his Spanish counterpart in Madrid, Mr Sarkozy said he would seek the expulsion of imams in France 'whose sermons are radical'. ..."

Iraqis not ready for security duty

"BAGHDAD -- You see them everywhere in the Iraqi capital -- careening down city streets in white Toyota pickup trucks with mounted machine guns; guarding checkpoints to foil suicide bombers. These are the new Iraqi security forces."...

The sobering news is that the new Iraqi security forces are far from ready to replace U.S. troops....

The consequences of a swift U.S. withdrawal would be grim. "It will lead to disaster," says Laith Kubba, spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari. "There will be a bloodbath."

I heard that forecast not only from Iraqi Shiites, who fear Saddam Hussein's Baath Party will make a comeback, but also from Iraqi Sunnis who held power under Saddam. Most of the insurgents are Sunnis. Sunnis worry a swift U.S. exit would free Shiites to take revenge against them. Iraqis also fear a U.S. departure would draw even more radical Arab Islamists into their country.

"We are not thinking about a timetable (for a U.S. exit)," Prime Minister Jaafari told me in an interview inside the heavily protected Green Zone. "When we reach the ability to depend on ourselves for security, then the Americans can leave."...

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's claim, early last year, that 200,000 Iraqis were providing security proved bogus. When the Pentagon sent Gen. David Petraeus in June 2004 to retrain Iraqi forces, he had to rebuild the military almost from scratch.

Today, there are more than 100 military and police commando battalions, totaling 169,000 Iraqis. But of the 80 military battalions, only three -- at most -- are fully capable of planning and carrying out counterinsurgency operations on their own. The number may be smaller.

A sizable number of battalions can carry out operations with coalition support. But the remaining battalions are far less capable. A tour of Iraqi bases also makes it clear that numbers alone won't determine how well Iraqis will fight.

Motivation is the key. The Iraqi army needs to know for whom and for what it is fighting. In Iraq, such clarity is hard to find....

It all comes down to skill and will," I was told by a senior U.S. officer. "Training can develop the skill, but the will must really be inspired by Iraqi leaders.

"In many respects," the officer continued, "the whole endeavor will increasingly rest on the ability of Iraqi leaders in the security forces and government to foster cooperation among factions. It will rest on their ability to convince as many Iraqis as possible -- especially Sunni Arabs -- to support the new Iraq and oppose the insurgents."...

Friday, July 15, 2005

Radian enters commercial market with $20 million deal - 2005-07-15

"Radian has been reinforcing Army trucks against roadside bombs, and now it's expanding that work to the private sector. The company expects to close on a $20 million deal with a private contractor to reinforce commercial tractor trailers used to ship goods around Iraq."

The deal, expected to close this month, would mark Radian's first sale of kits designed for non-military vehicles.

The Alexandria-based company in August will complete a contract worth more than $50 million to provide the Army with 1,049 up-armor kits. Radian says private contractors also need to protect their vehicles against explosive devices.

"Those contractors that are operating commercial trucks are also asking for armored kits and that's where the work is leading us," says Rich Sackett, Radian's business development director.

The company says it plans to sell to other government contractors and to vehicle manufacturers who want to strengthen the commercial vehicles they sell for use in dangerous areas.

US forces kill 24 militants in Pakistan

"PESHAWAR: United States-led coalition forces killed 24 Taliban fighters two hundred metres inside Pakistan's North Waziristan Agency, a military spokesman said on Friday.

The bodies of the 24 fighters, most of them Afghans, were found 200 metres inside Pakistani near Lawara Mandi in North Waziristan early on Friday, military spokesman Maj Gen Shaukat Sultan told Daily Times. The Taliban attacked a US military base in Paktia province late on Thursday evening, a source in Miranshah told Daily Times. "The Taliban attacked the base with rockets and killed and wounded Americans"said the source. Sultan said that the US informed Pakistan and "we deployed troops to prevent the Taliban from crossing into our area." He said the Taliban were killed by the US forces inside Pakistan.

The military spokesman did not say that Pakistan protested the US violation of the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Sultan said that the US side had informed Pakistan before opening fire on the fleeing militants. "There will still be a check to see whether there had been any violation of Pakistani territory or airspace"

He said the authorities had not ascertained the nationalities of all the killed Talibans yet. "Most of them appear to be Afghans" he said. But he did not rule out the involvement of local tribesmen in the Paktia attack.

He said no local civilian was killed or wounded in the US attack. "All killed were militants" he said. He said that two twin cabin vehicles were hit in the attack. It was not clear whether the US forces killed the Taliban with missiles or chased them with helicopters. A witness said he saw US helicopters engaged in the attack, while a local TV channel said the fighters were killed by missile.

Shaukat Sultan said seven local tribesmen were arrested in the search operation in Lawara Mandai’s three villages on Friday.

IEDs Posted by Picasa

Chemist Sought in London Blasts Caught

"LONDON - A man suspected of being the bomb-maker in last week's London attacks was apprehended in Cairo, the British Embassy confirmed to FOX on Friday.

Sky News reported Scotland Yard was not confirming the identity of the suspect, who is thought to be Magdy Asi el-Nashar (search).

The 33-year-old chemist, who is a former North Carolina State University graduate student, had been sought as the possible bomb-maker in the attacks, which killed 54 and wounded more than 700.

El-Nashar was arrested early Friday, the Egyptian official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because an official announcement of the information had not yet been made. El-Nashar, who studied at North Carolina State and Leeds University (search), was being interrogated by Egyptian authorities, the official said."...

July 6 Fallujah and IED explodes up the road from a marine unit. Posted by Picasa

Electronic 'IED' jammers roll out to stymie bombers

"...Utilizing a new law that allows the military to bypass its lengthy procurement process, the U.S. Navy and a private electronics firm in Northern California have, in less than 60 days, produced a hand-held device said to jam the signal sent from improvised detonators such as garage-door openers and cell phones.

The first few hundred of these so-called 'IED jammers' rolled off the assembly-line last week, the first example of what U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-El Cajon, called 'a new spirit of patriotic production.'

'IEDs are killing more Americans than any other warfighter apparatus in the two theaters' of Iraq and Afghanistan, said Hunter, who heads the powerful House Armed Services Committee.

'We face an enemy who adapts quickly,' he said, before touring the Tyco Electronics plant Thursday where the first tested models of the 'Warlock Blue' jammer were being boxed up and put on pallets for shipment. 'We have to be that quick in getting what our men and women in uniform need on the battlefield.'

Company officials told Hunter that it took them 33 days from the time the military first ordered the jammers to having the first pallets ready for shipment.

Hunter said the $10 million contract with Tyco was the first time the new purchasing authority has been used.

'Before, we would have walked out and put this thing on the three-year (procurement) train,' Hunter said Wednesday after observing the production line at the facility, the location of which military officials asked to be kept a secret.

'Now we can get it like that,' he said, clicking his fingers and bringing smiles to the room full of nodding company officials."

Warlock Blue

Insurgents have buried homemade bombs under Iraq's roads, hidden them in trash and tied them to poles and overpasses to kill American troops since the early summer of 2003, when military officials first started reporting the deadly problem in the aftermath of the invasion.

A simple click of a remote car-door opener or call from a cell phone is often all it takes to kill.

Just as a Humvee full of Marines or soldiers cruises cautiously down an Iraqi roadway, or as troops on a foot patrol guardedly walk through a trash-strewn street, a hidden bomb explodes, triggered by an unseen enemy.

Mostly crafted from leftover artillery shells and other munitions that U.S. forces failed to find or secure after the invasion, the improvised bombs have evolved in sophistication and deadliness, going from crude booby traps set off by timers and wires to more advanced and powerful weapons that are detonated from a distance with catastrophic results and minimal risk to the trigger man.

Military reports show that cell phones, garage-door openers and the "pods" used to control vehicle doors and alarm systems are among the insurgents' favorite triggers.

While U.S. forces have for at least a year used jammers to prevent the explosions and countermeasures to pre-detonate them, they were heavy, expensive devices mounted to vehicles and designed to protect whole convoys.

The new "Warlock Blue" model, officials say, is the first of its kind; a portable and reprogrammable device that can be carried by individual troops to protect a small unit or vehicle.

While they are secretive about how it works, and insisted that it not be physically described or photographed, officials involved in the project said the jammer is designed to counter the insurgency's latest triggering devices. So as not to tip off the enemy, military officials would not discuss how far the Warlock Blue jammer's protective umbrella would spread.

"What this is about is saving lives," said James Fallon, a Tyco engineer who worked on the project.

Emergency acquisitions

The jammers were part of a promise that Hunter and other members of the House Armed Services Committee made to U.S. troops in May, when they said they'd have the next generation of jammers sent to Iraq within 45 to 60 days.

As the first units rolled off the assembly line and were boxed and put on pallets for shipment Wednesday ---- day 33, officials were quick to point out ---- it appeared they were on the way to keeping their promise.

"It's unlike the up-armoring that took so long and had so many bureaucratic hang-ups," Fallon said, referring to the sad chronology of government and military bumbling that continues to leave American troops without enough body armor, armored Humvees and other equipment in Iraq.

"This was done quickly, efficiently and we've got pallets ready to ship," he said.

The key to the speed was the new provision in the 2005 defense spending bill that allowed for the secretary of defense to waive all previous acquisitions requirements on specific projects as long as the equipment is deemed "urgently needed to eliminate a combat capability deficiency that has resulted in combat fatalities."

The new law permits Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to "waive any provision of law, policy, directive, or regulation" regarding the testing, development, solicitation or actual awarding of the contract. The stated goal is to have a contract within 15 days and production started as soon as possible.

The Pentagon is limited to spending $100 million under the rapid acquisition legislation each fiscal year. The Tyco contract accounts for at least $10 million of that, officials said.

"The Rapid Acquisitions Authority allows the (Defense Department) to suspend some of the acquisitions rules in order to get something procured very rapidly," said Maj. Mark Phillips, the Army officer who served as the Pentagon's point man on the jammer project.

Tyco ramps up

Phillips said Tyco got the contract when it was determined that the company originally chosen to build the jammers in the 60-day window could not handle the job.

From the time it received the jammer design from Navy engineers, Tyco ramped up for production, yanking personnel off of other projects to assemble a team and redesign its production line and equipment.

They started buying parts even before they were awarded the contract, said Robert Tavares, vice president of Tyco's aerospace and defense sector, who said employees regarded their mobilization as a "call to arms."

Workers wear dog tags around the plant to remind them of the grim importance of their product.

"We understand the urgency with this," Tavares said, calling their mind-set a "1941 mentality."

"We understand the gravity of the situation in Iraq," he said.

Tavares said the company applied all the same tools it would apply to get electronic products to the fast-moving commercial market, placing emergency orders for hard-to-get parts from suppliers in Germany, France, Mexico and across the United States.

They enlisted the help of several manufactures in Central and Northern California, and contracted a firm in the same industrial park to build the circuit boards and do final assembly on the Warlock Blue.

"Normally something like this would probably take, say, six to nine months," said Maj. Phillips, the Pentagon official. "This is going to happen in two (months). I've been in the acquisitions business for seven yeas and I've never seen anything happen so fast."

..."It's a production ethic," he said. "This is the ethic that allowed us to build Liberty Ships in World War II, and in San Diego build a bomber an hour. It's an ethic we've lost, unfortunately."

He urged the employees to get back to work, and promised to take their story to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to "let him know what he signed."

"Instead of putting it on the slow-boat-to-China ---- the massive bureaucracy, we'll-have-it-in 18-months, home of the $600 hammer ---- system, we have a license to waive all acquisitions laws if we're taking casualties on the battlefield," Hunter said.

"You're the model," Hunter told the people at Tyco on Wednesday. "Every second, every minute, every hour is important.

"The survivability of our men and women in uniform... is largely predicated on our ability to put these things out."

Analysts cautious of new rules

While agreeing that the bomb jammers are probably vital to the beleaguered troops in Iraq, defense analysts cautioned that the military's infamous procurement process became that way to save the taxpayer from costly lemons and to protect service members from being stuck with faulty weapons or equipment on the battlefield.

Marcus Corbin, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Center for Defense Information, said he is skeptical of such a blanket waiver for the military, just as he said he has been wary of incremental attacks on the system of checks and balances since the early 1990s.

"It's a good idea ---- to cut the red tape to get equipment to the troops in the field," Corbin said in a telephone interview Friday. "But any of these rollbacks can be abused."

Corbin said that some of the layers of bureaucracy that could now be skipped were established so that troops do not wind up with dangerous gear. He referred to the original model of the M-16 service rifle, which frequently jammed or misfired during combat in Vietnam.

"That's an appalling story about how the Army rammed that through," he said.

"I have deep reservations and view these kinds of exceptions to rules with deep caution," he said. "They seem to be part of a long-running program to gut oversight. They have been abused."

Hunter, it should be said, is a favorite of the defense industry.

According to Political Money Line, a database that tracks money in U.S. politics, 24 percent of the contributions Hunter has received from political action committees in his 12-term career as a U.S. representative have come from the defense industry.

Wartime standards

John Pike, the director of, a Virginia-based think tank specializing in military issues, said the risks of abuse are real but are justified by the war.

"We have to be very careful with it, but there is a war on," Pike said in a telephone interview Thursday.

"It's a question of balancing risks," Pike said.

"I'd prefer to deal with waste, fraud and abuse than with the risks they're facing on the battlefield," he said.

"There are peacetime standards and there are wartime standards," he said. "The peacetime procurement process, in some cases, just takes too long. We're fighting a war."

Hunter said the proof that the risks were worth taking will be when "we flood the theater" in Iraq with the jammers and other equipment that will allow American troops to adapt as fast as the insurgency can.

As he wrapped up his tour of the production line Wednesday, Hunter praised the Tyco team for their spirit and commitment to the troops.

"Personal accountability is taking the place of reams of paper work," he said of the expeditious production process. "That's what's happening on the battlefield. That's what needs to happen at home."

[bth: there are several very important announcements and innovations here. First the Warlock Blue appears to be programmable, portable and perhaps cheaper than Warlock Red or Green. Second the procurement waiver of normal standards will allow fast acceleration of production of critical non-spec non-bid items. This law would have saved hundreds of lives if it had been implemented earlier for body armor, tourniquets, vehicular armor and so on. The fact that it is now avialable and actually used, thanks to Duncan Hunter's pushing and prodding of the miiltary and the Sec. of Defense is to his credit and a good thing for this country. Excellent News.]

Freedom in darkness Posted by Picasa

The Nation | Article | The Big Chill | Laura Rozen

"A chill has taken hold lately among both government officials and the US media. It comes in the wake of a US district court's decision to jail a New York Times reporter for refusing to reveal to a grand jury her sources in the Bush Administration and the FBI investigation of a Pentagon Iran analyst for leaking classified information to former officials with the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC. As a result, those who engage in what have long been standard Washington practices--reporters ferreting out information from government sources, those sources confiding in policy associates, lobbyists and reporters--have become increasingly inhibited in carrying out their jobs.... "

While the Franklin/AIPAC investigation is often described as a counterintelligence case, it too is really about government leaks, and the Bush Administration's determination to plug them....

Most recently, the investigation has led to the federal grand jury indictment, unsealed last month, of Pentagon Iran desk officer Larry Franklin on charges involving conspiracy to disclose classified national defense information to unauthorized recipients. It is expected to lead to indictments, under the Espionage Act, of two recently dismissed employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee for engaging in a conspiracy to receive and pass on to other unauthorized recipients what they knew to be classified information. They are AIPAC's former director of foreign policy research, Steve Rosen, and his deputy, Iran specialist Keith Weissman. Among those the FBI reportedly wants to interview as a potential witness in its investigation is a Washington Post journalist who was allegedly briefed on some of the classified information by the former AIPAC officials--information those officials had allegedly received from Franklin in an FBI-arranged sting. In addition, Franklin, Rosen and Weissman are all alleged to have relayed classified national defense information to an Israeli Embassy official. It is this latter connection that has raised talk of espionage. ...

Rosen's "entire goal was to shift the organization away from a heavy reliance on Democrats and switch it to Republicans," says M.J. Rosenberg, director of the Washington office of the Israel Policy Forum and the former editor of an AIPAC weekly newsletter who overlapped with Rosen at the organization in the early 1980s. "Why? Because he thought, maybe correctly, that the wave of the future was the right wing of the Republican Party..."

"From...when Rabin came in, Steve's mandate has been to go after Iran, largely because Rabin didn't want him messing around with the peace process," says one veteran lobbyist who requested anonymity. "Steve took it and ran with it beyond anyone's expectations. So what comes out of it is that you have a [US] Iran policy that AIPAC is driving. And this went well into the last [Clinton] Administration.

"Then along comes a new Administration that is made up of the same neocons that were promoting the [hawkish] Iran policy," the veteran lobbyist continued, "but this Administration was divided down the center.... On the one hand, you have the neocons...on the other side, you have Powell and Richard Armitage and the State department [and the CIA], who want to try to open up a dialogue. One is for confrontation, and one is for dialogue.... So the neocons, the Iran hawks, know that they have got a natural other think tanks around town who feel the same way they do.... They also have AIPAC, which has made [Iran] its number-one issue.... My guess is that they went to AIPAC and the others with the same message: 'You have friends we don't have. Help us to persuade them to see it our way.'"

Persuading political heavyweights to see things his way was what Rosen was all about. Sources tell The Nation that Rosen has a long history of cultivating executive branch sources [see Rozen, "Hall of Mirrors," posted here in May], milking them for information, boasting about his access to AIPAC's funders and leadership, and engaging in strategic press leaks as a regular part of his efforts to influence policy and engage in bureaucratic warfare.

Indeed, the unsealed twenty-page Franklin indictment offers a fascinating peek into the government's view of the Pentagon analyst and the AIPAC officials cultivating one another, presumably attempting to tip the Bush Administration toward a harder line against Iran....

The most interesting and surprising part of the indictment describes fourteen meetings between Franklin and an "FO" (foreign officer), widely reported to be Israeli Embassy political officer Naor Gilon. They met in the open, at the Pentagon Officers' Athletic Club and Washington-area coffee shops and restaurants, between 2002 and 2004. The last part of the indictment asserts that at some point Franklin disclosed to Gilon "classified United States government information relating to a weapons test conducted by a Middle Eastern country," presumably Iran. It is hard to discount such an unauthorized disclosure to a foreign government official as an ordinary leak.

Another intriguing issue: The indictment describes Franklin's returning from one of his meetings with Gilon in May 2003 and drafting an "Action Memo to his supervisors, incorporating suggestions made by the FO during the meeting." This suggests the FBI may be interested not only in alleged leaks from Franklin to unauthorized recipients but in the possibility of Franklin's feeding information from those officials back into the system, in an effort to influence US policy toward Iran. This raises the question of whether the government thinks the nature of the conspiracy was not only a matter of unauthorized leaks but also a coordinated effort by Franklin and perhaps his alleged co-conspirators to shape the US policy environment in a kind of agent-of-influence scenario. The US Attorney's office declined to comment on the case. ...

[it looks to me like intel and the interpretation of that intelligence data was being influenced at several levels. This isn't a surprise - more like a deep disappointment. My understanding is that Rosen and Franklin's liason with the Israeli government already left the country. I suspect Rosen has enough dirt on powerful politicians in Washington that he will never spend a day in jail but will retire in Israel instead.]

Green zone Posted by Picasa

Mysterious break-in at Oslo mosque

"An Oslo mosque was ransacked three days after the terrorist attacks in London last week. The only things taken, however, were some videotapes, including one from a meeting at the mosque on Sunday"...

U.S. says wants more pressure on Afghan insurgents

"'...In terms of that border area, obviously the Afghans need to do more, we need to do more and the Pakistanis need to do more and we need to do it in a coordinated way,' the official said.

'The Pakistanis need to put pressure on their side of the border at the same time we and the Afghans are putting pressure on the Afghan side of the border and hopefully you catch some bad guys in the middle.'

For almost four years, Washington has been on the hunt for bin Laden, the architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. A month later, the U.S. military invaded Afghanistan and overthrew the Taliban who had supported bin Laden and given him safe haven.

The official said it was important to help the Afghans stay on track for parliamentary elections in September. U.S. and Afghan officials welcomed last year's presidential election in Afghanistan as a sign that the Taliban and remnants of al Qaeda were finished, but violence has flared anew in recent months...."

[bth: It isn't because the Paki's are incompetent that coordination hasn't occurred. It hasn't occurred because they find it in their interest for it not to occur. They still have political interests in Afghanistan which requires tribal cooperation. The Paki government also received monetary and political rewards for their 'war on terror' from the U.S. that otherwise would not be there. Occassionally, usually it seems just before a high profile meeting with American leaders able to grant political or military concessions, a al-Qaeda terrorist of middle rank and on the outs with the mainstream al-Qaeda gets caught and turned over to the U.S. Its a game and we are played very well.]

Empire State Building under construction 1931 Posted by Picasa

Pakistani Area Seeks to Police Morals

"PESHAWAR, Pakistan - Hard-line lawmakers in a Pakistani provincial assembly on Thursday pushed through a Taliban-like law to establish a morality police aimed at enforcing 'Islamic correctness' in public places."...

The provincial government has banned music on public buses, barred male doctors from treating female patients and restricted men from watching or coaching female athletes.

Pakistani Province Legislators Approve 'Taliban' Law

"The Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal, a six-party Islamic coalition that dominates the provincial assembly, introduced the bill.

It passed by a vote of 68 to 34, but the provincial governor still must sign it.

The law, called the Accountability Act, proposes, among other things, that a religious watchdog be appointed to ensure observance of Islamic values in public places and that a religious ombudsman supervise the media under the control of the provincial government to ensure that publications are 'useful for the promotion of Islamic values.'

Lawmakers opposed to the bill said it resembled the kind of laws Afghanistan's Taliban imposed. "

The True War: Within, and for, Islam

..."By destroying our trust in each other -- at individual and national levels -- bin Laden would presume to bankrupt Europe and the United States morally and financially. This 'strategy,' laid out in bin Laden's noxious declarations, envisions episodic terror attacks over a long period without there ever being climactic battles in a 'war.'

But his ultimate aim is to encircle and dominate the Muslims who do not submit to the Salafist ideology of the Sunni extremists. Muslim moderates, Shiites of all political persuasions and other 'nonbelievers' -- especially Jews -- are the physical targets of destruction, not Western freedoms or armies. The long-term struggle is within Islam, for Islam, and will be won or lost by Muslims -- with crucial outside support.

The war in Iraq cannot at this point be solely or even largely about fighting terrorists there so that we don't have to fight them here, as Bush continues to repeat on every occasion. It has to be about empowering a responsible, tolerant government of Muslims to overcome murderous subversives who want power there.
Iraq must in fact be increasingly detached from the war on terrorism, at least in the terms that Bush has been using. In any event, the war against terrorism must be converted into a long-term struggle for something -- a struggle for tolerance in which ideas, resources and inclusion rank in importance with U.S. military bases in Central Asia...."

U.S. Arrests Insurgent Tied To Egyptian Envoy's Killing

"BAGHDAD, July 14 -- The U.S. military said Thursday that it had arrested a member of the group known as al Qaeda in Iraq who was involved in the recent kidnapping and execution of an Egyptian diplomat.

Khamis Farhan Khalaf Abdul Fahdawi, known as Abu Seba, was captured Saturday in Ramadi, 60 miles west of Baghdad, the military said in a statement. Described in the statement as a member of al Qaeda in Iraq's leadership cell, Abdul Fahdawi was allegedly involved in the abduction of Ihab Sherif, Egypt's top diplomat in Iraq, in Baghdad on July 2 and Sherif's subsequent killing. He also played a role in attacks on diplomats from Bahrain and Pakistan on July 5, the statement said...."

Karl Rove's America - New York Times

..."What Mr. Rove understood, long before the rest of us, is that we're not living in the America of the past, where even partisans sometimes changed their views when faced with the facts. Instead, we're living in a country in which there is no longer such a thing as nonpolitical truth. In particular, there are now few, if any, limits to what conservative politicians can get away with: the faithful will follow the twists and turns of the party line with a loyalty that would have pleased the Comintern. ..."

But Mr. Rove understood that the facts were irrelevant. ...

Mr. Rove also understands, better than anyone else in American politics, the power of smear tactics. Attacks on someone who contradicts the official line don't have to be true, or even plausible, to undermine that person's effectiveness. All they have to do is get a lot of media play, and they'll create the sense that there must be something wrong with the guy.

And now we know just how far he was willing to go with these smear tactics: as part of the effort to discredit Joseph Wilson IV, Mr. Rove leaked the fact that Mr. Wilson's wife worked for the C.I.A. I don't know whether Mr. Rove can be convicted of a crime, but there's no question that he damaged national security for partisan advantage. If a Democrat had done that, Republicans would call it treason.

But what we're getting, instead, is yet another impressive demonstration that these days, truth is political. One after another, prominent Republicans and conservative pundits have declared their allegiance to the party line. ...

Ultimately, this isn't just about Mr. Rove. It's also about Mr. Bush, who has always known that his trusted political adviser - a disciple of the late Lee Atwater, whose smear tactics helped President Bush's father win the 1988 election - is a thug, and obviously made no attempt to find out if he was the leaker.

Most of all, it's about what has happened to America. How did our political system get to this point?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Not my kids Posted by Picasa

Senator Carl Levin: News Release

"WASHINGTON -- Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., today issued a report detailing his three-day trip to Iraq and Jordan last week. During the visit, Levin met with Iraqi President Talabani, Iraqi Prime Minister Jaafari, leaders of the Sunni Arab community, senior U.S. military and civilian officials, and troops from Michigan.

In his report, Levin concludes that he heard surprising optimism for meeting the August 15th deadline for adopting a draft constitution, but that there is great uncertainty that the insurgency will be eliminated or lessened in the near term even if that timetable is met. Levin believes that we need to develop a plan for drawing down coalition forces, which will assure the American public that U.S. forces will not be in Iraq indefinitely. ..."

[bth: this report is well worth reading in full. It provides the best outline of a strategy for the US in Iraq that I have seen in many months.]

Armed men burned down her school for girls in Afghanistan on June 23, 2005 Posted by Picasa

How Osama bin Laden is being kept hidden

..."'That is a question that goes far deeper than you know,' Goss began. 'We have some weak links' that make it impossible for now to get bin Laden, he explained, pointing to 'the very difficult question of dealing with sanctuaries in sovereign states.'

Sounds like you know where he is, the interviewer pressed. 'I have an excellent idea of where he is,' Goss responded.

The CIA boss was delivering a clear message to the 'weak link' - Pakistan and its military ruler, Gen. Pervez Musharraf. "...

As he did two weeks ago in Australia, Musharraf claims to have al-Qaida "on the run" in Pakistan, his forces having chased them out of cities into the mountains and then "occupied their sanctuaries."

That rhetoric draws derision inside the CIA. According to sources familiar with the intelligence community discussion on this issue, there is mounting evidence that the Pakistani military — and its intelligence wing, the ISI — are nurturing their deep ties to Islamic extremists, including those who are sheltering the al-Qaida leadership and leaders of the Afghan Taliban.

Recently retired CIA officer Gary Schoen, who served for 20 years in that area, has just published a memoir of the war on terror in Afghanistan. In an interview with Pakistan's Daily Times, Schoen was even more explicit about bin Laden.

"He's hiding in Pakistan in the northern tribal areas above Peshawer. ... The U.S. government and the U.S. military are not authorized by the Musharraf government to enter there unilaterally," he said. Schoen speculated that some ISI officers know exactly where bin Laden is hiding.

The White House and the State Department know this but are keeping a debate over how to handle the Pakistan Problem behind closed doors. They argue that too much pressure could topple the relatively moderate Musharraf and bring Islamic extremists to power in a nuclear-armed Pakistan. ...

Preparing for the mission. Posted by Picasa

Muslim Support for Bin Laden Falls, Poll Says

"WASHINGTON -People in several heavily Muslim countries have lost some of their enthusiasm for Usama bin Laden (search) and for violent acts like terror bombings, especially in countries where there have been recent terrorist acts, international polling found."...

In Lebanon (search), the number of people who think the use of bombings and other forms of violence is justified in defense of Islam (search) has dropped from 73 percent in the summer of 2002 to 39 percent now. A decrease in this number also was seen in Morocco, which fell from 40 percent a year ago to 13 percent now, and in Pakistan and Indonesia. In Jordan, the number of people who feel such violence is justified has grown slightly; the number in Turkey remains very low.

Since March 2004, the sentiment for bombings against Americans and their allies in Iraq dropped from 70 percent to 49 percent in Jordan, which neighbors Iraq, and dropped by smaller margins in Pakistan, Turkey and Morocco.

The polling was done before the terrorist bombings in London last week.

...The surveys found that public acceptance is growing in some majority-Muslim countries that democracy is not strictly a Western way of doing things but could work in their countries. In Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco and Indonesia, increasing numbers of people feel that democracy can work there.

The Pew survey found some conflicting feelings about Islam in majority-Muslim countries.

In all of those countries except Jordan, people were more likely to say Islam is playing a greater role in their countries than it did a few years ago. The increasing role of Islam was overwhelmingly seen as a positive development in all those countries except Turkey. Respondents said growing immorality, government corruption and concerns about Western influence were among their reasons for turning to Islam....

A bomb to bust the deepest bunkers

"Traditional 'bunker busters' are streamlined bombs that rely on sheer weight to force their way through soil, rock or concrete. But the new design has a blunt nose that forces the earth ahead of it out to the sides, creating a cavity the bomb can easily slide through, allowing it to reach much deeper buried structures than conventional bunker busters.

New Scientist has learned that the novel warhead is being developed for the Pentagon's Defence Threat Reduction Agency by Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control of Dallas, Texas, in conjunction with the US navy's Surface Warfare Center at Indian Head, Maryland. The DTRA wants the warhead to carry an incendiary payload for incinerating chemical or biological agents.... "

Lockheed Martin hopes the supercavitating missile will reach 10 times the depth of the current air force record holder, the huge BLU-113 bunker buster, which can break through 7 metres of concrete or 30 metres of earth. ...

Subject: Staying Alive

"SUMMIT POINT, W.Va. - Until last month, Cheryl D. Lewis had never fired a gun. A civilian worker with the Department of Defense, she didn't even know how to hold one.

Even so, Lewis found herself squeezing off bursts from a Colt submachine gun at a firing range in the rolling West Virginia countryside. She also blasted targets with an AK-47 assault rifle, a Remington pump shotgun and a Sig Sauer 9-millimeter pistol."

Lewis, a communications specialist, has volunteered for Iraq, the world's most dangerous foreign assignment for federal workers, contractors and diplomats. Like every employee assigned to the massive U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, she was required to take an eight-day course on the uniquely treacherous and unpredictable conditions in Iraq....

Soldiers on a Room by Room Search Posted by Picasa

A Reality Check from Iraq - Center for American Progress

..."My personal experiences in Iraq confirm statements made by numerous officers there, including General John Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command - that the insurgency shows no signs of weakening, and its numbers continue to grow. The Bush administration must first recognize this serious problem in order to rectify it. Denial is not the path to success."...

As we realized in Ramadi, winning in Iraq requires much more than building schools and health clinics. However, without trained personnel to staff them and equipment to supply them, these are simply empty buildings. Without social and civil infrastructure, such as parent-teacher associations and public health campaigns, to institutionalize their benefits, these efforts remain disjointed with minimal total impact. We struggled to involve USAID, the National Endowment for Democracy, the Red Cross, and a myriad of other non-governmental organizations with expertise in crucial issues required to establish stability. However, none of these organizations could establish a presence in Ramadi, or most of the Sunni Triangle, because of pervasive violence.

Iraqi troops will not be able to provide security for a long time, despite President Bush's assertions. President Bush has argued that the Iraqi Security Forces will soon be capable of providing security for Iraq. However, his assertion that "Iraq has more than 160,000 security forces trained and equipped for a variety of missions," is misleading. President Bush's 160,000 includes Iraqi forces that: 1) have no uniforms or weapons; 2) don't show up for work regularly; 3) have no more than three weeks of training; and 4) are actually working for or with the insurgents.

Most Americans in Iraq have had personal experience with one or more of these problems. In fact, one of my unit's convoys was attacked with machine gun fire from an Iraqi police station. One Iraqi National Guard colonel told me personally that he works well with the insurgents.

...But reminiscent of Vietnam, each time we returned to base we lost the ground we had gained and had to repeat the same operations in the same areas, a few weeks later. In our absence those suspected of "collaborating" were punished, often turning up headless in the street with a note pinned to their chest as a warning to others. Consequently, Iraqis have been too terrified to work with us.

After seven months patrolling Ramadi, I know that most Iraqis are ambivalent towards the American presence in Iraq. They are happy we removed Hussein, but frustrated we are still there. They are also angry that we haven't provided them everything we promised: peace and safety, or even water and electricity. Fortunately, while they don't trust our government, they trust the insurgents even less.

My experiences in Ramadi tell me that we need to find ways to dramatically increase the boots on the ground—whether American or troops from other countries—to increase security. Without basic law and order, Iraq will see no progress. Nevertheless, President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld have consistently resisted calls for increasing troop levels. In his speech President Bush said that "our commanders tell [him] they have the number of troops they need." Virtually every Marine and soldier I met in Iraq complained that more troops were needed to win.

Until President Bush speaks candidly regarding Iraq and admits we have made mistakes, we cannot solve the problem. Ultimately, the United States must decide whether winning the war is our priority and if we therefore will allocate the resources and troops necessary to win.

Jonathan Morgenstein was a Marine Corps civil affairs officer in Ramadi, Iraq, and received a master's degree in international policy from Stanford University.

IED explosives Posted by Picasa

Militants Flee to Pakistan From Mountains Where U.S. Suffered Deadliest Blow, Governor Says

"KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Militants in Afghan mountains where a Navy SEAL team was ambushed and a special forces helicopter shot down have fled into neighboring Pakistan and regrouped, a provincial governor said Thursday.

However, U.S. military spokesman Col. James Yonts said while 'some of the enemy may have been able to escape' into Pakistan, many rebels remained in the mountains, surrounded by U.S. and Afghan forces.

U.S. forces lost three Navy SEALs in an ambush and another 16 troops when their chopper was downed on June 28 in Kunar province. Since then, about 300 U.S. troops backed up by attack aircraft and Afghan forces, have been hunting militants in the area.

But the Kunar province governor, Asadullah Wafa, said there had been little fighting in the area for several days.

'It's been peaceful because the militants escaped across the border to Pakistan and are now sheltering about 10 kilometers (six miles) on the other side,' he told The Associated Press. 'They may launch quick guerrilla raids across the border and then run back into Pakistan.'... "

[bth: We are going to have to cross the border into Pakistan. Until the border tribes in Pakistan start to share the pain, they will be happy to accept Saudi money for sanctuary. At a minimum we ought to make the price of that sanctuary in Pakistan go up significantly for the Paki people and their tribal governments along the border. Fact is, this so called War on Terror won't end until that happens.]

London Bombers Tied to Al Qaeda Plot in Pakistan

"At least two men who have connections to last week's London bombings are alive and still at large.

The first is a man, who was seen on surveillance tapes at Luton station, located outside of London, as he bid farewell to the four bombers the morning of the attacks. The other is Magdy El Nashar, an Egyptian chemist, who attended and received training at North Carolina State University. "

British police think El Nashar may have helped the London group build their bombs before leaving England two weeks before the attacks. They have since issued a worldwide alert for him.

The picture shows Hasib Hussain, 18, at the Luton train station at 7:20 a.m., one week ago today. Two-and-a-half hours later, his backpack full of explosives was detonated. It killed him and 13 others on a crowded double-decker bus.

Now police are on the search for answers to how such a plot was carried out. "Who supported them? Who financed them?" asked Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, head of the Anti-Terrorist Branch of the Metropolitan Police. "Who trained them? Who encouraged them?"

Connection to Al Qaeda Plot in Pakistan

Officials tell ABC News the London bombers have been connected to an al Qaeda plot planned two years ago in the Pakistani city of Lahore.

The laptop computer of Naeem Noor Khan, a captured al Qaeda leader, contained plans for a coordinated series of attacks on the London subway system, as well as on financial buildings in both New York and Washington.

"There's absolutely no doubt he was part of an al Qaeda operation aimed at not only the United States but Great Britain," explained Alexis Debat, a former official in the French Defense Ministry who is now a senior terrorism consultant for ABC News. ...

Hit, June 29, 2005 Posted by Picasa

Pentagon hawk admits Iraq doubts

"The outgoing Pentagon number three has admitted holding doubts over key areas of US military policy in Iraq.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Douglas Feith said too few troops may have been deployed to invade Iraq.

The US had also delayed the transfer of power to Iraqi officials, and had missed the chance to train Iraqi exiles before the war to help the US, he said.

Mr Feith's resignation was announced in January. Seen as a hawk, he has been a driving force behind US policy in Iraq.

'Pros and cons'

Speaking to the Washington Post, Mr Feith expressed doubts over whether the right balance was struck on the size of the invasion force in Iraq.

He said: 'I am not asserting to you that I know that the answer is, we did it right. What I am saying is it's an extremely complex judgement to know whether the course that we chose with its pros and cons was more sensible.'

The US military has faced criticism that its current 135,000-strong force in Iraq is too small to curb the insurgency.

Mr Feith said 'course corrections' also had to be made because of policy misjudgements.


One was the reluctance of some US officials to transfer power early on to Iraqi officials, and to dismantle the Coalition Provisional Authority. Control was handed over in June 2004.

Mr Feith said some US officials had not wanted to rely on 'externals', or Iraqi exiles, to run the government.

'My views were generally in favour of transferring responsibility to the Iraqis earlier. I thought there were ways of getting the 'internals' involved earlier,' he said.

He also believed the US should have done more before the invasion to train Iraqis in exile to assist the US military.

The Pentagon said in January that Mr Feith, who oversaw the Office of Special Plans, was stepping down for personal reasons. Critics claim his office misrepresented intelligence on Iraq before the war.

[bth: this man is one of the principal reasons we went to Iraq on bogus intelligence. The damage he has caused the country and this administration can't be calculated. His ass should have been fired a long time ago. Now he is going to leave, join his lobbying friends, and leave the rest of the country to clean up the mess. Bad and deceptively manipulated intelligence, piss poor planning of the 'peace', gross manipulation by Chalabi and other Iraqi dissidents and fraudsters, evident spying and manipulation of intel via Israel (Franklin), all within this man's domain. The American trust betrayed. Its just sad, really sad.]

Children receiving school supplies in Iraq from US soldiers. Posted by Picasa

Bush 'honesty' figures sag in poll

"For the first time since he became president, a major poll shows a plurality of U.S. respondents negative on President Bush in regards to honesty.

A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released Thursday said 45 percent of those asked give Bush low marks for being 'honest and straightforward,' compared to 41 percent who said he is being honest. The Journal said the poll marked the first time that the president's negatives in this category were larger than his positives.

In addition, poll data showed 52 percent of respondents believe the United States is 'off on the wrong track,' the Journal said. Thirty-four percent said the country is headed in the right direction.

The negative feelings were not limited to the president. By a 27-point margin -- 55 percent to 28 percent -- respondents disapproved of the job being done in Congress.

The poll of 1,009 adults in the United States was conducted July 8-11 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. "

Civilian casualties shown by region. Posted by Picasa

Iran's new dark side/Op-Ed

"Officially, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the incoming Iranian 'elected' president, will assume his post next month -but his presence is already felt in the political circles and the streets of Tehran. Since his election, under the banner of a renewed Islamic revolution, the clerical regime hanged six people and sentenced another to death in the past week alone.

The elections, no doubt, were a sham and the controversy about election irregularities is far from settled. It was no less than the outgoing President "...

Far from being a "populist" son of a blacksmith who is hoisting the flag of class warfare against the "wretched rich and corrupt," Mr. Ahmadinejad's win can be attributed to his unquestioned loyalty to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the full support of the Islamic Republic Revolutionary Guards Corps' top brass.

A former commander of the Qods (Jerusalem) Force in the Guard Corps — tasked with planning and execution of terrorist plots and assassination abroad — Mr. Ahmadinejad was catapulted to presidency by the ultra conservative faction. His presidency was backed by Mr. Khamenei and engineered by the IRGC.

Indeed, the real story of this election is the full metamorphosis of the Guards Corps from an ideological army to an omnipresent political military powerhouse. With Mr. Ahamadinejad's win, the IRGC is now able to spread it wings over all key centers of power in Iran. This may account for the most major power realignment within the ruling theocracy since Mr. Khamenei's death in 1989. ...

Currently, the IRGC has full control over Tehran's terror network and has won the admiration of Mr. Khamenei for "running effective intelligence and diplomatic operations" in Iraq. Mr. Khamenei has also placed Iran's nuclear development under the IRGC's full command. Further, active or former commanders of the IRGC maintain control over many of the principal dailies, the municipal councils and the Supreme National Security Council.

In the aftermath of Mr. Ahmadinejad's win — and in the absence of any feasible alternative for engagement or military action that will neutralize the clear and present threats posed by Tehran — other alternatives must be considered in the complex Euro-American Tehran policy equation.

A housewife in Tehran recently expressed hope that an Ahmadinejad presidency would hasten the regime's collapse. She told Reuters that "This is the best result...The moment of real change has just got much closer." She seems to have well captured one of the strategic implications of Mr. Ahmadinejad's presidency for the success of democracy movement in Iran.

And this is where the American policy toward Iran needs to gravitate. It is a security and policy imperative since only a fundamental change in Tehran would ultimately rid Iran and the region of the ayatollahs' menace and the pending nuclear weapon that may soon be at its service.

[bth: the author of this op-ed piece does not describe what the change agent is; is it revolution or military attack from the US? My belief is that internal revolution is the only real way to have permanent change in Iran for the better, a country of 70 million. Why aren't we actively and perhaps covertly supporting the elements of change in Iran?]

Afghanistan, the first day of spring 2005 Posted by Picasa


"THREE years ago Muhammed Yusuf was approached by two strangers who tried to recruit him as a suicide bomber.
The 18-year-old has already informed anti-terrorist police about his encounter with the hardliners at a North London mosque. Here he tells MATT ROPER what happened:

THEIR words, spoken with calm and conviction, were powerful and persuasive. But as I realised they wanted me to become a martyr for the cause of Islam I felt sick to the stomach.

'You'll go instantly to heaven,' they repeated. 'All the problems and pain in your life will go away. You'll be rewarded for all eternity.'"...

[bth: interesting read on the psychology of recruitment. I wonder how many clinically depressed people in Saudi Arabia and Yemen are befriended and betrayed by religious leaders in this manner; sent to die in Iraq blowing up Americans and children collecting candy as happened yesterday in Iraq?]

Year of Decision Posted by Picasa

Then and now, evil always wants more

..."Enlightened opinion ranging from Amnesty International to Dick Durbin joins in this moral relativism by suggesting that the United States has become no better than its enemies through the actions it has taken to prevent terrorism. Just as 1940s pacifists could see no difference between Nazi concentration camps and British wartime curtailments of civil liberties, so today's doppelgangers equate the abuses of renegade guards at Abu Ghraib with the mass murder carried out by Stalin or Pol Pot.

There is also an enduring tendency to blame the victim. George Galloway, Saddam Hussein's favorite member of Britain's Parliament, suggests that Londoners 'paid the price' for their government's 'attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq.' The implication is that Al Qaeda has reasonable grievances and if only we could satisfy them -by, for instance, exiting Iraq -we would have peace. The same thing was said about Hitler, who complained that Germany had been wronged by the Treaty of Versailles.

The problem was that Hitler's stated demands were a pretext for his maniacal ambitions. He was unappeasable. So is Osama bin Laden, who wants to avenge centuries of humiliation supposedly suffered by Muslims at Christian hands and who dreams of establishing a Taliban-style caliphate over all the lands once dominated by Muslims, from western China to southern Spain. Pulling out of Iraq would only whet his insatiable appetite for destruction, just as giving up the Sudetenland encouraged Hitler to seek more.

Orwell's words, written in October 1941, ring true today: 'The notion that you can somehow defeat violence by submitting to it is simply a flight from fact. As I have said, it is only possible to people who have money and guns between themselve"

Starlight 1965 Posted by Picasa

Data Shows Faster-Rising Death Toll Among Iraqi Civilians - New York Times

"BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi civilians and police officers died at a rate of more than 800 a month between August and May, according to figures released in June by the Interior Ministry. "

In response to questions from The New York Times, the ministry said that 8,175 Iraqis were killed by insurgents in the 10 months that ended May 31. The ministry did not give detailed figures for the months before August 2004, nor did it provide a breakdown of the figures, which do not include either Iraqi soldiers or civilians killed during American military operations.

While the figures were not broken down month by month, it has been clear since the government of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari took over after the Jan. 30 election that the insurgency is taking an increasing toll, killing Iraqi civilians and security workers at a faster rate.

In June the interior minister, Bayan Jabr, told reporters that insurgents had killed about 12,000 Iraqis since the start of the American occupation - a figure officials have emphasized is approximate - an average monthly toll of about 500.

The issue of civilian deaths in Iraqi has been a delicate one, with some contending that the Bush administration and the Pentagon have deliberately avoided body counts to deprive their critics of a potent argument against the war. Estimates have ranged from the 12,000 offered by Mr. Jabr to as many as 100,000 in a widely reported study last year. The new figures are likely to add to that debate...

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Kabul. June 22, 2005 Posted by Picasa

INTEL DUMP - -Relearning old lessons the hard way

"In the July/August issue of the Washington Monthly, you can find my review of Sean Naylor's brilliant book 'Not a Good Day to Die' - a chronicle of Operation Anaconda, the largest battle fought thus far by U.S. forces in Afghanistan. As I say in the review, I think the book is a damn good read. If you're interested in military affairs or national security policy, this book belongs on your bookshelf. But there's a lot more here than a breathtaking story about combat in a foreboding place - there are also many lessons to be learned (or relearned) about warfare against a tenacious foe:

In the weeks leading up to Anaconda, intelligence officers thought they had learned everything they could about the Shahikot Valley from satellite and other aerial surveillance. But disturbing rumors persisted that there might be more. One source picked up by the military said that the enemy was not in the valley but actually, Naylor writes, 'living up on the ridgelines and coming into the villages to get supplies.' Satellite photography caught one RPG, which, warned one officer, probably meant there were more, but no one knew just how many. A thousand enemy fighters were estimated to be in the valley. As it turned out, there may have been 10 times as many, and they weren't just in the valley but on the tactically crucial high ground above.

But U.S. commanders refused to change their plan. It was, according to the 10th Mountain Division's chief of operations Lt. Col. David Gray, 'unreasonable to expect wholesale changes based on a single source.' But, writes Naylor, '[chief planner Maj. Paul Wilie] acknowledged that writing the plan had been such a painful process of compromise and negotiation that nobody could face the prospect of tearing it up'simply because the enemy might not be whwhere they were supposed to be."

Perhaps the biggest problem was the Rube Goldberg command structure created by Gen. Franks. The war was run from Tampa, Fla., 7,000 miles and 10 time zones away by video teleconferencing. Decisions were made by committee and on Eastern Standard Time, often with an eye towards how the decisions would be briefed to the press at the Pentagon. Naylor quotes a deputy commanding general's priceless description of the SecDef's daily press briefing:

"When SecDef started having a [press] briefing every day, it meant that for hours of that day you could not talk to the CENTCOM staff… . For hours of the day you were unable to get to a senior person to make a decision at CENTCOM because they were tied up prepping themselves for the SecDef's briefing. The SecDef called CENTCOM every morning. They had a morning telephone call and I believe they had an afternoon telephone call. And, for a couple of hours before that telephone call, you could not get [Gen. Franks's directors of operations or intelligence] and therefore you couldn't get a decision. … Numbers became so important that if the SecDef went to a briefing and we had reported that we had captured 14 Al Qaeda and it really turned out to be 12 or 16, then it would be easier to let two go or go back and capture two more rather than to try to change the OSD [Office of the Secretary of Defense] number."

At least some of the failures might have been averted had Franks and his team tapped the right field commander. Naylor clearly thinks that choice should have been someone like Delta Force Lt. Col. Pete Blaber, whose elite teams reconnoitering the area provided the first hints that enemy forces might be larger than estimated. Instead, the Pentagon chose Air Force Brig. Gen. Gregory Trebon, who had never before commanded a ground operation, with Navy Lt. Cmdr. Vic Hyder as his deputy. Though the military has worked hard at what it calls "jointness," trying to get services working in tandem with one another, there was not much evidence of it under Trebon and Hyder. Hyder went so far as to communicate with his subordinates using a radio frequency he knew Blaber would not be monitoring. Trebon and Hyder were convinced that satellite feeds from Predator drones delivered to Navy and Air Force bases hundreds of miles away would be sufficient to run things. "The battle would," in Naylor's withering words, "be 'controlled' by officers watching video screens on a desert island and 'commanded' by a man who had made his name flying transport aircraft."

Two years after Anaconda, military analysts are still debating why those choppers on Takur Ghar never got close air support, and whether the Air Force provided enough firepower for the conventional infantry that followed the commandos. The Air Force, according to Army Special Forces troops, had promised to "soften" enemy targets with a 55-minute aerial bombardment while Air Force officers at Bagram Air Force base say they were aware of no such plans. Having left their artillery at home, the Army's conventional infantry depended on aircraft for heavy firepower. As often happens in combat, the best-laid plans went awry, leaving hundreds of infantrymen to fight with only the weapons they had carried in on their backs.

Al Qaeda, of course, fought with no such bureaucratic limits on their organization; intelligence moved among the enemy as fast as a cell phone call. Having seized the high ground, al Qaeda fighters were able to rain mortar rounds and rifle fire down on the Army's conventional infantry virtually at will, subject to occasional harassment from the limited number of aircraft that made it into the fight.

When I wrote that last paragraph, I had one of Martin Sheen's monologues as CPT Willard in Apocalypse Now in mind:

Charley didn't get much USO. He was dug in too deep or moving too fast. His idea of great R&R was cold rice and a little rat meat. He had only two ways home: death, or victory.

Likewise, today's adversaries in Afghanistan are skilled and tenacious fighters; they also see death or victory as their only exit strategies. They may not fight with unmanned aerial vehicles or cruise missiles, but they have a spectacular capacity to improvise, adapt and overcome. Al Qaeda's tactical intelligence moves as fast as their social networks and cell phones can move it, and that's pretty damn fast. They don't worry about parochial chains of command or the long-term budgetary impact of giving the mission to a certain unit from a certain branch of service; they just fight.
We have come a long way from Anaconda, but not nearly far enough. Our conventional forces must continue to evolve if they are to win. The U.S. military must continue to work at "jointness"; to work at dissolving parochial boundaries between services, branches and units; to work at becoming a truly agile force. To quote some experts from RAND and the 4GW community, it takes a network to fight a network. "

Girls school burned by Taliban supporters Posted by Picasa

Shiites bring rigid piety to Iraq's south |

"BASRA, IRAQ - In Basra these days, it's not uncommon to see armed men from Shiite religious groups standing at the gates of Basra University, scrutinizing female students to make sure their dresses are the right length and their makeup properly modest.

Any woman violating their standards of Muslim dignity, relates Henan, a psychology student, is ordered home. 'These religious militiamen tell us how to dress, and prevent us from listening to music in public or interacting with male students,' she says. 'It makes me burn inside.'"

Henan is not the only Basran furious at the extremist Shiite Muslims who now dominate this southern Iraqi port city bordering Iran. Especially among the middle and intellectual classes, an increasing drumbeat of resentment is rising about what many see as a distortion of Basra's traditionally easygoing, tolerant attitudes toward life.

"No alcohol, no music CDs, woman forced to wear hijab, people murdered in the streets - this is not the city I remember," says Samir, an editor of one of Basra's largest newspapers. (His name, and others, have been changed for security reasons.) "In the past, Basra revolted against attempts to make it too Islamic."

One woman living in Basra says, "Before, we had Saddam; now we have religious parties and militias. To them, a woman's smile is a crime."

With the fall of Saddam Hussein in April 2003, Shiite organizations, many with close associations with Iran, seized political control of the south. The Jan. 30 elections solidified their power, especially in Basra, where 35 out of the 41 members of the province's Governing Council (GC) belong to such groups as Dawa Islamiyya or the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). And despite some minor doctrinal differences, their vision of this city is clear.

"Today, our society is changing, becoming more religious," says provincial governor Mohammad al-Waali, who belongs to the Fadhallah (Virtue) Party. "We must reflect that Basra is becoming a purely Islamic city."...

Cpl. Daniels Posted by Picasa

Bomber Kills Dozens in Iraq, Including GI, Kids

"BAGHDAD, Iraq - A car bomber sped up to American soldiers distributing candy to children and detonated his explosives Wednesday, killing up to 27 other people, U.S. and Iraqi officials said. One U.S. soldier and about a dozen children were among the dead.

At least 21 others, including three U.S. soldiers, were injured in the attack, the second major homicide bombing in Baghdad this week. A bomber killed 25 people Sunday at an Iraqi army recruiting center.

The fireball from Wednesday's blast also set a nearby house ablaze, the U.S. military said. The attack stunned the impoverished east Baghdad neighborhood of mostly Shiite Muslims and Christians. An elderly woman dressed in traditional black beat her chest in front of her house in grief.
'There were some American troops blocking the highway when a U.S. Humvee (search) came near a gathering of children, and U.S. soldiers began to hand them candies,' said Karim Shukir, 42. 'Then suddenly, a speeding car bomb showed up and struck both the Humvee and the children.'..."

Physical rehab for war amputees.
Note the predominance of right leg amputees.
There is a weakness in the Humvee armor around the accelerator in the floorboard. Posted by Picasa

200 more Brit terrorists

"TONY Blair has been warned that 200 more home-grown terrorists trained to carry out suicide attacks are living in Britain.
Intelligence chiefs told the Prime Minister that as many as 50 of the fanatics are ready to act NOW.

Many of the British citizens have been trained in Osama Bin Laden's terror camps in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria.
And most worryingly of all, they are virtually impossible to identify and round up.

Confirmation that last Thursday's attacks were Britain's first suicide bombings will terrify the nation.

Mr Blair has been personally warned about the extent of the 'sleeping'enemy.
A source said last night that the Prime Minister reacted 'cooly and calmly' when confirmation of the suicide attacks came through.

He said: 'The PM knows now is the time for cool heads. It's crucial we take the right steps'

Around 200 fanatics are known to have trained in Osama Bin Laden's camps. They are all British-born or British passport holders.
Most have been schooled in suicide bombing but only 50 are ready to carry out atrocities now...."

Unexploded car bomb ordnance. Posted by Picasa