Saturday, August 20, 2005

Police foil gas attack on Commons

"SCOTLAND YARD believes it has thwarted an Al-Qaeda gas attack aimed at ministers and MPs in parliament. The plot, hatched last year, is understood to have been discovered in coded e-mails on computers seized from terror suspects in Britain and Pakistan.

Police and MI5 then identified an Al-Qaeda cell that had carried out extensive research and video-recorded reconnaissance missions in preparation for the attack.

The encrypted e-mails are said to have been decoded with the help of an Al-Qaeda “supergrass”. By revealing the terrorists’ code he was also able to help MI5 and GCHQ, the government’s eavesdropping centre at Cheltenham, to crack several more plots.

The encrypted e-mails are said to have been decoded with the help of an Al-Qaeda �supergrass�. By revealing the terrorists� code he was also able to help MI5 and GCHQ, the government�s eavesdropping centre at Cheltenham, to crack several more plots. "

WWII Posted by Picasa

CIA Report on 9/11 Is Complete

"The CIA inspector general's report on the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks has finally been completed -- nearly two years after its congressionally set deadline -- but has yet to be sent to Capitol Hill because CIA Director Porter J. Goss is still deciding how to respond to its findings, according to administration and congressional sources..."

The Counterterrorism Blog: Signs that al Qaeda is Flush With Cash

"There is growing evidence in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond that al Qaeda and its allies are newly flush with cash, able to buy new weapons, more sophisticated communications equipment and deadlier and more complex explosives. This contradicts the more optimistic public assesments Bush administration officials, who continue to assert that the financial war on Islamic radicals is going well. For one of the best recent assessments of the situation, consistant with what my sources are telling me, can be found in recent Knight-Ridder reporting here. The reporting also outlines the growing links among radical Islamists in the two fronts of their war.

This expansion and procurement takes money, and is taking place against the backdrop of an insurgency in Iraq that has steadily grown more sophisticated in its manufacture of explosive devices and weapons used on the ground. This, too, takes money. Some in the military intelligence community believe there is serious cross-training going on among the combatants in Afghanistan and the Islamist mujahadeen in Iraq, and again this is a considerable cost. Finding the source of that money and slowing it down will be key to keeping the insurgencies in both countries from gaining more ground.

One of the most worrisome factors, according to sources working on the ground in Pakistan and Afghanistan, is the role played by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and his Hizb-e-Islami party in the protection and arming of the Taliban and al Qaeda. Hekmatyar fled to Iran when the Taliban took over, but returned after their defeat by coalition forces and, in fine Afghani style, allied himself with his erstwhile enemies. Hekmatyar poses a serious problem in addition to his wealth, power and sympathies to the most radical elements of al Qaeda. very close to the regime in Tehran that gave him asylum and now supplies him with weapons, intelligence and money. To continue reading, go here.

US concedes ground to Islamists on Iraqi law

"BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. diplomats have conceded ground to Islamists on the role of religion in Iraq, negotiators said on Saturday as they raced to meet a 48-hour deadline to draft a constitution under intense U.S. pressure.

U.S. diplomats, who have insisted the constitution must enshrine ideals of equal rights and democracy, declined comment.
Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish negotiators all said there was accord on a bigger role for Islamic law than Iraq had before.

But a secular Kurdish politician said Kurds opposed making Islam 'the', not 'a', main source of law -- changing current wording -- and subjecting all legislation to a religious test.

'We understand the Americans have sided with the Shi'ites,' he said. 'It's shocking. It doesn't fit American values. They have spent so much blood and money here, only to back the creation of an Islamist state ... I can't believe that's what the Americans really want or what the American people want.'"...

Sunni Arab negotiator Saleh al-Mutlak also said a deal was struck which would mean parliament could pass no legislation that "contradicted Islamic principles". A constitutional court would rule on any dispute on that, the Shi'ite official said.

"The Americans agreed, but on one condition -- that the principles of democracy should be respected," Mutlak said.

"We reject federalism," he repeated, underlining continued Sunni opposition to Hakim's demands. Hundreds demonstrated in the Sunni city of Ramadi on Saturday, echoing Mutlak's views....

The Kurdish negotiator rushed to make clear his outrage at a deal on Islam: "We don't want dictatorship of any kind, including any religious dictatorship.

"Perhaps the Americans are negotiating to get a deal at any cost, but we will not accept a constitution at any cost," he said, adding that he believed Shi'ite leaders had used the precedent of Afghanistan to win the ambassador's support...

Pakistan's pro-Musharraf parties score early wins

"ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan's government parties claimed early wins while opposition groups cried foul as unofficial results poured in on Saturday following the first round of Pakistan's local elections.

Political parties could not contest district council elections, but they openly showed which candidates were theirs even if colours and symbols were barred from campaigns.

At least 16 people were killed and hundreds injured in sporadic violence during Thursday's voting.

With general elections due in 2007, parties want district leaders in place who can influence voting for seats in provincial and national assemblies.

It matters for President Pervez Musharraf, one of the West's main allies in a global war on terrorism, as he will seek re-election by the assemblies and the Senate that emerges from the vote in two years' time....

The chief minister of Punjab reckoned the ruling Pakistan Moslem League (PML-Q), the party backed by Musharraf, had scored a landslide in the most populous of Pakistan's four provinces.

'Eighty percent of the winners are candidates supported by us. The PML has come out as a strong political force, and its impact would be visible in the 2007 general elections,' Punjab's Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi said."

Iran 'supplies infra-red bombs' that kill British troops in Iraq

"British soldiers in Iraq are being killed by advanced 'infra-red' bombs supplied by Iran that defeat jamming equipment, according to military intelligence officials.

The 'passive infra-red' devices, whose use in Iraq is revealed for the first time by The Sunday Telegraph, are detonated when the beam is broken, as when an intruder triggers a burglar alarm. They were used by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group against Israel in Lebanon from 1995."

A radio signal is used to arm the bomb as a target vehicle approaches. The next object to break the infra-red beam - the target vehicle - detonates the device.

Coalition officials see the disturbing development as a key part of an aggressive new campaign by Teheran to drive coalition forces out of Iraq so that an Islamic theocracy can be established.

American and British intelligence officials believe that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is training, supplying and funding part of Iraq's insurgent Shia network and that its activities have been stepped up since the spring.

Links between Shia and Sunni Muslim groups, usually via trading by criminal arms dealers, means that expertise quickly spreads across Iraq.

"These guys have picked up in two years what it took the IRA a quarter-century to learn," said an Army bomb disposal officer in Iraq....

Before the introduction of infra-red devices, bombs in Iraq were usually set off by an electronic remote control signal found in a mobile telephone, car locking device, garage door opener or even a child's toy.

They could be blocked by electronic countermeasures developed by the Army in Northern Ireland.

These are powerless, however, against infra-red beams, which can be modified from burglar alarm systems. Military commanders have briefed soldiers to be more cautious and avoid rushing into potential attacks. Patrol routes are varied so that no pattern is set.

Infra-red beams have been used by the IRA, and by the Red Army Faction to kill Alfred Herrhausen, the chairman of the Deutsche Bank, in 1989.

"There has always been cross fertilisation of terrorist technology across the terror diaspora," said a former Army bomb disposal officer. "Infra-red is virtually impossible to jam whereas radio control and cell phone systems are jammable."

Friday, August 19, 2005

Motassadeq jailed for seven years

"The only man convicted over the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States was on Friday jailed for seven years by German court for membership of a terrorist organisation following a retrial."...

Inspection and search Posted by Picasa

Bangladesh tipping point is feared

"Hundreds of bomb blasts across Bangladesh on Wednesday have triggered fresh concerns that one of the world's poorest countries is nearing a tipping point in the advance of militant Islamic fundamentalism into the mainstream of the nation's social and political life.

Around midday on Wednesday, more than 300 crude bombs exploded nationwide, officials said, targeting symbols of public life: government buildings, courthouses and press clubs for journalists. The attacks were fastidiously planned, with hundreds of strikes condensed into a half-hour and spread across 63 of the country's 64 districts.

But the attacks, attributed to Islamic militant groups, also appeared to be deliberately mild, killing 2 people and wounding about 100. That blend of adept execution and willful restraint is prompting some analysts to suggest that the culprits are not fringe actors seeking to maximize violence but Islamist fundamentalists making a political show of force.

A leaflet found at one bomb site, attributed to Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen, a banned militant group, argued for the use of Shariah, or Islamic law: 'It is time to implement Islamic law in Bangladesh. There is no future with manmade law.' On Thursday, the police told news agencies that they had detained dozens of suspected militants, including members of Jamaat.

As the world's third-largest Muslim-majority nation with a population that is 90 percent Muslim, Bangladesh casts itself as a moderate Muslim democracy. But it appears to be witnessing the rise and mainstreaming of an Islamist political movement, analysts say"...

U.S. 'Will Not Relent' in Iraq, Cheney Tells Veterans Group

"Vice President Cheney declared yesterday that the United States 'will not relent' in the war in Iraq and will hunt down insurgents there 'one at a time if necessary,' implicitly rebutting escalating pressure on the Bush administration to bring U.S. troops home.

Addressing a friendly audience of combat veterans a day after antiwar candlelight vigils were held around the nation, Cheney cast victory in Iraq as 'critical to the future security of the U.S.' and said the country should not lose its resolve to defeat the militants."...

In his speech, Cheney did not mention Sheehan but offered tribute to those killed in Iraq: "That loss is irreplaceable, and no one can take away the sorrow that has come to the families of the fallen."

Two months after declaring that the Iraqi insurgency was in its "last throes," Cheney painted a starker picture yesterday, acknowledging that "there is still tough fighting" to come. Rather than promising quick victory, he reminded Americans that after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks Bush warned that the broader struggle with terrorism would be "a lengthy campaign."

The vice president cited the darkest days of the American Revolution, when the war was going badly and ragtag rebels were ready to go home until George Washington rallied them. "They stayed in the fight, and America won the war," he said. "From that day to this, our country has always counted on the bravest among us to answer the call of duty."

[bth: Cheney needs to share some of the pain of sacrifice yet his draft dodging ass feels none.]

Armed with goodwill | The 48th goes to war

..."Poor quality of life can add to the frustration of Iraqis and lead to discontent with U.S. forces here.

"I really hope the Americans can help my village," said Khalid, a resident of Al Muzorfa, a majority Sunni village where Hicks'team is attempting to generate enough power to run four water pumps. He did not want to be fully identified because of possible reprisals against him or his family.

Khalid said he wanted the Americans to stay as long as they made life better for his family.

Capt. Jason Belknap of the 1st Armored Division's 4th Battalion, 1st Field Artillery Regiment, said it has been difficult to lure contractors into dangerous areas to complete projects.

"This area has done a 180 turnaround lately," Belknap said, crediting the U.S. security patrols and civil affairs missions. "But I still have contractors asking for huge amounts of money because of the risk." Reminders of that risk lurk everywhere.

Graffiti outside Camp Taji on the main highway refer to improvised explosive devices, one of the biggest killers of U.S. soldiers in Iraq. "IEDs-R-us," it reads.

As Hicks' convoy headed toward Jorfa al-Melleb, news crackled over the Humvee radio about another roadside bomb attack.

Hicks forged ahead with the task at hand. At every stop, Iraqi children swarmed the incoming Humvees. They surrounded the Georgia soldiers who stood guard, asking them for candy, toys or even the watches off their wrists and the pens in their pockets.

Thompson and his buddies handed out dolls and Beanie Babies. The wanting among children with dry, dirty faces and shoeless feet was incessant.

"The way I look at it, these kids are the ones who have to deal with my kids one day," Thompson said....

Explosion in Jordanian Port

"AMMAN, Jordan - An explosion was heard in Jordan's port of Aqaba (search) Thursday near a facility used by U.S. military vessels, an official and Arab satellite TV stations.

It wasn't immediately known what caused the blast or if it caused any damage.
Jordanian Interior Minister Awni Yirfas (search) told Al-Arabiya TV that there was an explosion but that its cause was unclear.

Dubai-based Al-Arabiya said a U.S. naval ship was in the vicinity of the blast.
Interior Ministry or U.S. officials were not immediately available for comment."

Biking Toward Nowhere - New York Times

..."This president is in a truly scary place in Iraq. Americans can't get out, or they risk turning the country into a terrorist haven that will make the old Afghanistan look like Cipriani's. Yet his war, which has not accomplished any of its purposes, swallows ever more American lives and inflames ever more Muslim hearts as W. reads a book about the history of salt and looks forward to his biking date with Lance Armstrong on Saturday.

The son wanted to go into Iraq to best his daddy in the history books, by finishing what Bush senior started. He swept aside the warnings of Brent Scowcroft and Colin Powell and didn't bother to ask his father's advice. Now he is caught in the very trap his father said he feared: that America would get bogged down as 'an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land,' facing a possibly 'barren' outcome.

It turns out that the people of Iraq have ethnic and religious identities, not a national identity. Shiites and Kurds want to suppress the Sunnis who once repressed them and break off into their own states, smashing the Bush model kitchen of democracy

At long last, a senior Bush official admits that administration officials can no longer cling to their own version of reality. 'We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we're in and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning,' the official told The Washington Post.

They had better start absorbing and shedding a lot faster, before many more American kids die to create a pawn of Iran. And they had better tell the Boy in the Bubble, who continues to dwell in delusion, hailing the fights and delays on the Iraqi constitution as 'a tribute to democracy.'

The president's pedaling as fast as he can, but he's going nowhere. "

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Soldier handling IED with remote arm from the comfort of a Buffalo bomb disposal vehicle. Aug. 12, 2005 Posted by Picasa

Reports on Missles, Iranian Nukes and Bunker Busters

"Missile Survey: Ballistic and Cruise Missiles of Selected Foreign Countries," updated July 26, 2005:

"Iran's Nuclear Program: Recent Developments," updated August 2,

"'Bunker Busters': Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator Issues, FY2005 and FY 2006," updated August 2, 2005:

UAV ROADMAP 2005-2030

The anticipated development of unmanned aerial vehicles and associated systems over the next twenty-five years is the subject of a new planning document released by the Pentagon this week.

"As the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) enters its fourth year, the contributions of unmanned aircraft (UA) in sorties, hours, and expanded roles continue to increase," the new report states.

"As of September 2004, some twenty types of coalition UA, large and small, have flown over 100,000 total flight hours in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Their once reconnaissance-only role is now shared with strike, force protection, and signals collection...."

"UA systems (UAS) continue to expand, encompassing a broad range of mission capabilities.... UA, and unmanned systems in general, are changing the conduct of military operations in the GWOT by providing unrelenting pursuit without offering the terrorist a high value target or a potential captive."

The term Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) has been superseded in the new report by the phrase Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) to encompass ground stations and other supporting infrastructure.

The UAS Roadmap was reported in Inside the Pentagon on August 11.

A copy of "Unmanned Aircraft Systems Roadmap 2005-2030," Office of the Secretary of Defense, August 2005, is available here (213 pages in a very large 9 MB PDF file):

Car bomb Posted by Picasa

When shooting stops, troops play detective

...."The decision to treat insurgents as criminals has forced soldiers to act as cops and has authorities scrambling to build cases against thousands of detainees in U.S.-run prisons. Some soldiers say running rebels through the courts places American forces at a disadvantage, burdening soldiers in a guerrilla war with peacetime rules.

"A lot of times, we'd catch a guy but didn't have enough evidence, so he gets released," says Staff Sgt. John Perdue, whose unit is hunting for car bomb factories in Baghdad. "Then you see him a few days later, same guy. It's frustrating."

The rules of conventional wars are simpler. Combatants have prisoner-of-war status and are released only at the end of the conflict. In guerrilla wars, by contrast, rebels are seen as somewhere between combatants and criminals."...

In Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, a bus carrying former detainees from Abu Ghraib prison arrives every month on average and drops off about 100 men who were released from detention because there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute them.

“The justice system is working but is not foolproof,” says Lt. Col. Eric Smith, 40, of Plano, Texas, commander of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment in Ramadi. “Clearly we are allowing criminals back on the street. This happens in the U.S. as well. When the (Iraqi) men to be released come back, we meet the bus and tell them that if they get picked up again, they will be right back in jail.”...

Nearly every Humvee in the division is stocked with an “evidence kit,” which includes blank sworn statements, a digital camera, plastic gloves and a spray that detects gunpowder residue, he says.

“The paperwork (needed) for convicting these guys is substantial,” says Capt. Bart Nagle, 35, of Richmond, Va., the intelligence chief for the Marine battalion in Ramadi. “The tendency is going to be, increasingly: ‘How do you know it is him?’ You have to become a police officer.”

The files they assemble can include informant information, diagrams, a summary written by each Marine involved in the case, a chain-of-custody report tracing the handling of evidence and photographs from the scene of an attack or capture....

Muthana Muhamed Samia, an appeals clerk at the Baghdad court, said that since the new government formed in April, Samia’s workload climbed from five cases a week to about 13, he says. “It increases all the time,” he says.

Already, 8,800 people have been released outright, either because there was not enough evidence to prosecute or because they were deemed innocent.

But more than 10,000 detainees remain in Abu Ghraib and the other U.S.-run facilities.

The courts have tried 641 defendants, says 1st Lt. Kristy Miller, a spokeswoman for U.S. detainee operations. The conviction rate is about 61 PERCENT. More than 3,300 detainees are awaiting trial.

The legal fate of the remaining 7,000 remains less clear. Authorities don’t have enough evidence to prosecute them now, but they are considered too dangerous to allow back on the streets....

’They’re learning’

The more clever insurgents are learning the system and taking advantage of it. Some suspected insurgents have learned to hide evidence in their homes, says Brig. Gen. Jaleel Khalaf, top commander of Iraqi army troops in Baghdad.

“They’re learning,” he says. “They know that if they don’t leave evidence around, in a few weeks, they’ll be back out on the street.”

In the case of the Ramadi ambush, Marines collected as much circumstantial evidence as they could. After that, the evidence was turned over to the court. Defendants are generally moved to Abu Ghraib while awaiting trial, though Mizbar’s status could not be learned.

Killed in the attack on the armored Humvee on June 15 were two corporals, Jesse Jaime, 22, of Henderson, Nev., and Tyler Trovillion, 23, of Richardson, Texas; and three lance corporals: Dion Whitley, 21, of Los Angeles; Chad Maynard, 19, of Montrose, Colo.; and Jonathan Flores, 18, of San Antonio.

Sgt. Fidel Alcoces, 29, also of San Antonio, was riding in a Humvee immediately behind the blast. “You see the vehicle just disintegrate like that - it was a horrible experience,” he says.

Marines say two artillery rounds buried in a dirt road were detonated by a cordless telephone signal from a few hundred feet away.

In the weeks after the bombing, the Marines received an unusually detailed informant tip naming Mizbar as the bomber, with a physical description of him and the location of his home....

Humvee wrecked by IED in Baghdad Posted by Picasa

Despite armor, more Iraq troops dying in Humvees

..."The vulnerability of the vehicle - used for transporting troops, protecting convoys, evacuating the wounded, and patrols - has been the focus of sustained criticism from Capitol Hill and family members of deployed troops.

The Pentagon has gone into overdrive to 'harden' the Humvees and now says every one of the vehicles that leaves the protection of U.S. bases or camps is equipped with enhanced armor. Even so, their protection is no match for the more powerful ordnance.

And the armored versions may inadvertently be contributing to an uptick in Humvee accidents. An increase in rollover mishaps, many of them fatal, has coincided with the increase in hardened Humvees hitting the street, leading to theories that the vehicles may be rendered less stable by the added weight.

That development only emphasizes the fact that Humvees are being shoehorned into a role they never were envisioned to play, Pike said. They were designed to provide transportation behind enemy lines; but there is no front line in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where guerrilla fighting prevails.

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers say the increase in the Humvee-related death toll is likely to accelerate the development of new vehicles more suited to combat transportation.

'I think it is clear now to the Army and the Marine Corps that we are going to have to develop a follow-on vehicle,' said Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee."

July 24, 2005 bombing of a police station in Iraq Posted by Picasa

Borrowing Hezbollah's tactics

..."Among the Hezbollah tactics being used by Iraqi insurgents, according to the officials:

Stacked mines. On Aug. 3, a huge explosion destroyed a 25-ton armored U.S. troop carrier as it drove in a convoy near the western Iraqi town of Haditha, killing all 14 Marines inside. The bomb consisted of three anti-tank mines stacked together. That technique of stacking mines was used often by Hezbollah to destroy armored Israeli vehicles.

Shaped charges. These are powerful explosives that have been used extensively against U.S. forces in recent months. The devices combine an explosive charge with a curved chunk of metal such as copper. The blast shapes the metal into a molten slug that can penetrate armor.

Swarming attacks. Iraqi insurgents blast several rocket-propelled grenades at a single lightly armored U.S. vehicle. The multiple rockets, usually fired one after the other, pierce the armor.

Hidden roadside bombs. Hezbollah refined the technique of concealing bombs so they would be more difficult to clear off the side of roads by Israeli bulldozers. For example, Hezbollah fighters placed explosives inside fake plastic rocks, which could be bought in Beirut garden stores for about $10. They also buried bombs under gravel or asphalt. Both methods are now being used against U.S. troops in Iraq.

U.S. commanders have seen Iraqi bomb tactics evolve in much the same way the Israelis saw Hezbollah advance its techniques. Soon after the American invasion of Iraq in March 2003, U.S. troops found explosives hidden in trash bins, buried along roadsides and even concealed under roadkill. So U.S. forces began clearing roadsides and cutting down trees. In response, the insurgents worked to make their bombs deadlier and far more difficult to detect.

"They're using low-technology methods to fight the most advanced military in the world," said one of the Iraqi officials. "They study each attack, and they learn from their mistakes."

There are some Hezbollah tactics that Iraqi insurgents have not yet replicated successfully. Hezbollah greatly increased the impact of its attacks by videotaping them through hidden cameramen and distributing the tapes to news agencies. The videos were often shown on the nightly TV news in Israel, and that contributed to public pressure on the Israeli government to withdraw its troops from Lebanon.

"Hezbollah used those videos to undermine the Israelis' morale," said the Lebanese official. "They fought a secondary battle in the media and they won it."

Iraqi insurgents have videotaped some attacks and posted the footage on Internet sites or sent it to Arabic TV stations. But the tapes are mostly blurred and grainy, and they rarely reach U.S. audiences.

The guerrilla war in southern Lebanon was much smaller in scale than the Iraqi insurgency. At any one time, according to Lebanese officials, Hezbollah maintained about 1,000 full-time fighters. Israel usually kept 1,500 troops in the south, backed up by a 2,500-member proxy militia, known as the South Lebanon Army. Over 18 years of fighting, Israel lost several hundred soldiers, while Hezbollah lost about 1,200 guerrillas.

By comparison, at least 1,843 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq since the invasion. There are no reliable figures of how many insurgents have been killed, but estimates range as high as several thousand.

There are an average of 70 attacks a day against U.S. forces in Iraq, Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote last month in a statement for a government court case. And with insurgents relying more heavily on roadside bombs than street battles in recent months, they have been able to cut down on their own casualties while inflicting greater damage on U.S. forces.

"Our assessments indicate that the lethality of the attacks is on average increasing," Myers wrote.

The most lethal attacks are those involving roadside bombs, which the U.S. military calls improvised explosive devices. The ratio of U.S. combat deaths blamed on these devices increased from 26 percent last year to 51 percent in June, according to a report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

In January, insurgent bombs packed with as much as 500 pounds of explosives destroyed two of the most heavily armored U.S. vehicles: an Abrams tank and a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. With bombs rising in power and sophistication, the Pentagon has created an IED Task Force to find technological solutions.

But the Lebanese official noted that insurgents will likely develop their own low-tech countermeasures. He recalled how Hezbollah fighters used to run farm animals across fields to thwart Israeli motion sensors.

"There's a major lesson of guerrilla war," he said. "The insurgents always adapt."

Larson: Investigate Body Armor Delays for Troops

"Congressman John B. Larson Tuesday called for an immediate Congressional investigation into the Pentagon's procurement system that has led to more than a year's delay in supplying improved body armor to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. As part of that investigation, Larson (CT-1) said that Pentagon officials, including Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, should be held liable for any findings of dereliction or wrongdoing.

"These delays are a disgrace," Larson said. "The administration has repeatedly lapsed in its duty to provide the men and women it sends into war the best equipment possible. After two years and with all the appropriate funding levels, an investigation needs to be done into why this hasn't been done. Our troops should not have to wait a day, let alone a year. Our men and women need all the protection we can offer them, and their families and the American people need to know that we're doing everything we can to protect them. If we can spend billions of dollars on the national missile defense program and the nuclear bunker buster program and tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, there's no reason for this to be happening."

Larson said that action should be taken against Pentagon officials if the investigations yield evidence of willful neglect or incompetence. If so, those officials should resign or be dismissed, he said.

That wait for upgraded armor is symptomatic of the Pentagon's failure since the war began to adequately outfit troops with body protection" Larson said. Despite complaints from troops, their family and Congress, the Administration has dragged in acquiring and distributing the armor, he added.

"The Administration has wanted to avoid talking about timetables, but giving our troops safer body armor is one timetable that cannot be put off. It is a top priority that needs to be acted on now. If those in charge aren’t standing up to that responsibility, then we need leaders who will. ”

A poorly-run procurement system has stalled the replacement of existing armor with thicker ceramic plates that could better protect military personnel from insurgent gunfire. Reports cited that gunfire has killed at least 325 troops, about half the number killed by bombs. ...

Army vehicle burns in Iraq. August 2005. Hit by IED in Sadr City. Posted by Picasa

Taylor: Troops short of armor

"BILOXI - U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor said Tuesday night in a town hall meeting that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has made it difficult to get armor for troops in Iraq.

Since the war began in 2003, he said he has been contacted by parents of military personnel about the lack of adequate body armor and he has seen through visits to Iraq that soldiers are armoring their vehicles themselves.

Taylor said the Department of Defense is using words to trick people about the degree to which vehicles are armored by saying they meet standards but, in reality, only six in 10 vehicles are armored.

'I can't tell you how frustrated I have been asking questions about it,' Taylor said.

He also said there were problems with the production of armor for vehicles. He said he visited the Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois and, in a defense factory equal to 'three Superdomes,' there were only four production workers at their stations at 2 on a Friday afternoon.

He also said there was not much information from the Defense Department given to the congressional delegation related to technology available to soldiers. He said he saw a device on a Humvee that was made to destroy the signal insurgents use to remotely detonate the improvised explosive devices that they use to attack convoys.

Taylor said Rumsfeld told him he could not say how many of the signal-jamming devices were being sent to Iraq because that information was classified, leaving Taylor to wonder if the government is doing an adequate job of protecting combat forces in Iraq."

[bth: Rep. Taylor has been on top of these issues for some time. He rightly pointed out for example last winter that the lack of jammers was a critical problem and he bitterly complained that the reason the numbers were kept from the public was to avoid letting them know what the insurgents already knew. We didn't have enough by a factor of perhaps 4. Further he rightly complained about a lack of dummy mock-ups of IED jammers for troops to train on in the US. He predicted injuries as a result and sure enough 4 soldiers in his district were blown up having never even seen a jammer in Iraq. He went through the roof at Rumsfeld.]

Afghan special forces at rest Aug. 11, 2005 Posted by Picasa

FALLUJAH, IRAQ - AUGUST 10: U.S. Marine Cpl. Ruben Rojas mans a machinegun as he provides security for a re-supply convoy

Freedom hope for Iraqi leader [Tariq Azia]

"THE lawyer of Tariq Aziz, the former Iraqi deputy prime minister, yesterday claimed his client was to be released from jail without being put on trial.

Aziz, a Christian, is jailed along with Saddam Hussein and other senior members of the Baath Party overthrown by United States forces in April 2003.

Badia Aref, who saw Aziz on Tuesday during a visit to the jail near Baghdad, said: 'I expect he will be set free soon, but not within days.'"


"...Our current policy in Iraq is a disaster that's virtually certain to fail - and Clinton, Biden, and Kerry know it. So why continue supporting it? The fact is that a timed withdrawal is probably good policy and good politics. On a substantive level it's the policy most likely to work, and on a political level it's the policy most likely to differentiate a future candidate from both the Bush administration and the gray hordes of the Democratic foreign policy establishment. It's also popular. Although only a third of Americans favor immediate withdrawal, nearly two-thirds want to see us withdraw within the next year.

Still, advocating a timed withdrawal would take some guts. But being the first to seriously propose such a solution would also carry some rewards: the anti-war left would finally have someone to rally around and the Bush administration would finally have some serious competition. Is there anyone out there willing to do it?"

[bth: this article is worth a full read.]

Video of IED attack on Convoy

Here is a link to a video clip of an IED attack on a convoy near Baquba, Iraq.

Women in Afghanistan cross a suspension bridge with water. Posted by Picasa

Australia says Jakarta to review prison remission

"CANBERRA/JAKARTA, Aug 18 (Reuters) - Australian Prime Minister John Howard on Thursday called a sentence reduction for militant Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir offensive and said Jakarta was reviewing an annual prisoner remission scheme.

Bashir was jailed for 30 months over his role in the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings that killed 88 Australians. The cleric had his sentence cut by 135 days on Wednesday, Indonesia's Independence Day, sparking anger from Australia and families of bombing victims.

'All Australians are outraged that this sentence has been reduced. I find it offensive and I think millions of Australians will find it offensive,' Howard told parliament.

The cleric was among more than 50,000 Indonesian prisoners who had their terms trimmed on Wednesday as part of a regular prisoner remission programme granted during Independence Day and on special religious holidays."...

"The remission to Abu Bakar Bashir is not a reflection on the individual per se rather than the application of the remission programme, which is applied in general," he said.

Indonesia also cut the terms of 19 others convicted over the Bali bombings, which killed 202 people in all.

Regular remissions are given to any Indonesian prisoner who displays good behaviour during incarceration. The length of cuts vary but most are around several months, depending on correction officials' discretion.

But the remissions do not apply to prisoners sentenced to death or life terms in jail, and will have no impact on the three men sentenced to death and two sentenced to life for the Bali bombings.

Sgt. David Coullard. Killed August 1, 2005 Posted by Picasa

U.S. Diplomat Is Named in Secrets Case

"WASHINGTON, Aug. 17 - The second-highest diplomat at the United States Embassy in Baghdad is one of the anonymous government officials cited in an Aug. 4 indictment as having provided classified information to an employee of a pro-Israel lobbying group, people who have been officially briefed on the case said Wednesday."

The diplomat, David M. Satterfield, was identified in the indictment as a United States government official, "USGO-2," the people briefed on the matter said. In early 2002, USGO-2 discussed secret national security matters in two meetings with Steven J. Rosen, who has since been dismissed as a top lobbyist for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, known as Aipac, who has been charged in the case. ...

[bth: I'm sure this will find its way to the frong page in Iraq and Iran.]

Damaged humvee Posted by Picasa

Afghanistan special forces unit in August 2005 Posted by Picasa

Dorine Kenney, mother of Fletcher, killed by IED in Nov. 03. Posted by Picasa

Bangladesh Hit by 300 Bombings; 1 Dead, 125 Wounded (Update4)

"Aug. 17 (Bloomberg) -- More than 300 bombs exploded in towns and cities across Bangladesh today, killing at least one person and wounding 125 others, a government official said.

Sixty-two of the country's 64 districts were hit between 10:45 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. local time, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zahirul Haque said in a telephone interview from the capital, Dhaka. Forty-five people were arrested in connection with the blasts, Haque said, adding that he had no further information. ..."

Pakistani security forces kill one, arrest seven in raid on madrassa

"ISLAMABAD - Pakistani security forces raided an Islamic school allegedly being used as a recruiting center for militants in a northwestern tribal region, killing one person in a shootout and arresting seven others, the military said on Wednesday.

Army and paramilitary troops raided the Madrassa Abu Shoaib school, near Miran Shah, the main town in North Waziristan province near the border with Afghanistan late on Tuesday, the military-run Inter Services Public Relations department said in a statement.

It said the school was being used "as a planning center for target killings, rocket attacks on military installations, recruiting and training camp for terrorist activity"

Security forces seized a large cache of arms, munition, booby traps, fuses and hand written notes on how to make explosive devices, it said.

One suspected militant, identified as Malang, was killed and seven others, including a foreigner, were arrested, the statement said. It did not provide the identity or nationality of the foreigner.

The foreigner was being questioned about other possible militant hideouts in the area, but does not appear to be a senior terrorist figure, an army official said on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to make media comments.

None of the other six suspects, all local tribesmen, was named in the statement and it did not say which group they may have links with."

INTEL DUMP - -LTC Shaffer posts at Intel Dump

... "Based on his comments on this blog, and further comments he's made elsewhere, this is where I see the controversy currently sitting:

1. Able Danger was a SOCOM operation. When Shaffer says 'Pentagon lawyers' tanked FBI cooperation, my understanding is that it was SOCOM lawyers and leaders (including staffers for current Army Chief of Staff and then-SOCOM commander, GEN Pete Schoomaker) who prevented FBI coordination. From Shaffer's statements, it appears that the concern was not necessarily the 'wall', but a fear that this support would lead to a 'Waco' style controversy. Remember that SOCOM units were involved in giving advice to FBI and BATF during the Waco siege, and that they took a lot of heat for their participation. It is reasonable that SOCOM would fear getting involved in another domestic incident, but Able Danger was not a threat (FBI terrorism cases in Brooklyn are apples compared to BATF in Waco oranges). My hunch is that what Shaffer is talking about is efforts by either he or Able Danger to talk to FBI directly. I also suspect that the Pentagon and DIA were not fully briefed on Able Danger and had no clue about its full mission until about 2 weeks ago. That would explain the current deer-in-the-headlights response we're getting from them.

2. That said, SOCOM is out of its league when dealing with counterterrorism investigations. It may have the mission and assets to hunt down and kill terrorists in the field, but it is not their mission to conduct CT at a strategic level or from a homeland security perspective. SOCOM attorneys may have felt that there were legal problems in coordinating with the FBI (ignorance of what EO 12333 authorizes, misreading of the 'wall', misapplication of Posse Comitatus), but that's because they don't normally coordinate with the FBI. ...

[bth: this is an interseting thread and worth a detailed read at Intel-Dump.]

Iraqis nearing consensus on oil revenue

"BAGHDAD (AFP) - Iraqi leaders, under intense U.S. pressure, have reached tentative agreement on oil wealth distribution, perhaps the most divisive issue for the country's disparate ethnic and religious groups.

Panelists finalizing Iraq's constitution said on Saturday a deal had been struck to share the world's second largest known oil reserves, which are concentrated in the Kurdish-controlled north and largely Shia south.

"An in principle agreement has been reached late yesterday that Iraq's oil revenues will be shared between the Shias, the Kurds and the Sunnis," Sunni panelist Saleh al Motlag said.

Many Sunnis fear that if Iraq adopts a federal structure, the country's oil wealth will be divided up between the Kurdish and Shia regions, leaving them with nothing.

But Motlag explained that while a percentage of oil revenue would go to the federal government, the rest would be distributed centrally to each governorate according to its population size.
"All the groups have agreed on this," said Motlag, one of the representatives on the 71-member constitution committee struggling to draw up a draft charter before Monday's deadline.

Some reports indicated the federal government of each oil-producing region would take a revenue share of about five per cent, with the rest going to Baghdad for nationwide distribution. A Kurdish member of the panel expressed caution over interpreting the apparent consensus as an end to problems over the division of Iraq's oil wealth."

[bth: the war may not have been about oil but the peace certainly will be.]

US soldier chronicles Iraq abuse [August 18, 2005]

"THE torture and humiliation of Iraqi prisoners by US troops was widespread and not limited to the high-profile cases at Abu Ghraib prison, according to a former soldier who participated in an interrogation that she said 'crossed a line'.

Kayla Williams, 28, a former sergeant with the US Army's 101st Airborne Division in Iraq and the author of a new book, said soldiers interrogating a naked Iraqi asked her to humiliate him. She also saw fellow soldiers throwing lit cigarettes at him and hitting him in the face."...

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Iraqi soldier Posted by Picasa

The Counterterrorism Blog: Spanish authorities ignored tip

"A few days ago Spanish newspaper El Mundo reported that more than a year before the deadly March 11, 2004, train bombings, Spanish police received detailed information about the plans of a group of Islamic fundamentalists to attack Madrid. On February 12, 2003, the wife of Muhannad Almallah entered a Madrid police station and told officers that her husband was planning a car bomb attack in Madrid and that the likely targets were the towers of Plaza de Castilla, a modern and imposing structure located on one of Madrid's busiest arteries. The woman told officers that her Madrid apartment was often visited by men who watched jihadi tapes and talked about carrying out attacks and identified many of them by name. Spanish authorities did not act.

13 months later they realized the mistake they made. Syrian national Muhannad Almallah, along with his brother Moutaz, is now considered one of the key organizers of the Madrid attacks. Spanish authorities acknowledge that without the 'recruiting, indoctrination and direction of the Almallah brothers, the March 11 attacks possibly would not have occurred.'

The other men identified by Mrs. Almallah are also key players in the 3/11 plot such as Serhane Abdelmajid Fakhet (the 'Tunisian,' believed to be one of the operational leaders of the cell) and Basel Ghalyoun (a Syrian accused of having materially put one of the bombs on a train on March 11). ...

Iraqi boy wounded in the head in front of a mosque Posted by Picasa

Fears of backlash kept pre-9/11 data from FBI

"Pentagon lawyers, fearing a public-relations 'blow back,' blocked a military intelligence unit from sharing information with the FBI that four suspected al Qaeda terrorists were in the country prior to the September 11 attacks, after determining they were here legally, a former Defense Department intelligence official says.

Members of an intelligence unit known as Able Danger were shut out of the September 11 commission investigation and final report, the official said, despite briefing commission staff members on two occasions about the Mohamed Atta-led terrorist cell and telling them of a lockdown of information between the Defense Department and the FBI.

The intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Pentagon lawyers 'were afraid of a blow back' -- similar to the public's response to the FBI-led assault on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, which left more than 70 people dead -- and decided to withhold the information from the FBI. "

The intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Pentagon lawyers "were afraid of a blow back" -- similar to the public's response to the FBI-led assault on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, which left more than 70 people dead -- and decided to withhold the information from the FBI. ...

IED activator Posted by Picasa

Arrest Made in Possible Terror Plot

"A Pakistani national has been arrested by authorities in connection with a far-reaching investigation of a possible terrorist plot targeting any of nearly two dozen locations in Southern California, including National Guard recruitment centers, law enforcement sources said Monday."

...Detectives discovered bulletproof vests and "jihadist" materials not readily available via the Internet, authorities said. Also found were the addresses of locations including the National Guard facilities, two synagogues, the Israeli Consulate and the El Al Israel Airlines ticket counter at Los Angeles International Airport.

Law enforcement sources say other recovered documents suggest that particular dates — including Sept. 11 — may have been selected for terrorist attacks.

Sources say they have found no links between the men arrested in Los Angeles and any overseas terrorism network. Samana was not known to have any criminal record or alleged ties to known terrorist groups.

But the documents allegedly recovered from Washington's apartment, sources say, strongly suggest the men may have been planning an attack that could have unfolded in a matter of weeks. Sources say authorities have been compiling evidence for possible federal charges....

Jean Charles deMenezes photographed by surveillance camera dead on the floor of a subway car in London. Posted by Picasa

London bombs terror attack The Times and Sunday Times Times Online

"The Brazilian electrician mistakenly killed by police in the aftermath of the second London bombings was being restrained by an officer before he was shot eight times as he was sitting on a Tube train, it emerged tonight.

Witness statements and photographs from an independent police investigation leaked to ITV News also show that Jean Charles de Menezes did not run away from police at Stockwell Tube station in South London and was wearing only a denim jacket before he was shot dead on July 22.

The evidence contradicts claims from the Metropolitan Police at the time that the Brazilian's 'clothing and his behaviour at the station added to their [officers'] suspicions', that he vaulted the ticket barrier and was wearing a heavy overcoat, which could have concealed a bomb."

It also emerged that one of the undercover team keeping Senhor de Menezes’s home under surveillance was relieving himself instead of filming the operation, so officers could not tell if they had tracked down one of the alleged bombers.

His advice was "it would be worth someone else having a look" to ensure they had the right man. No other officer apparently did take a picture of him even though he had to take a bus journey to the station.

Even so, Gold Command at the Yard which was running this operation, declared a "code red" and handed responsibility to CO19 - the firearms team. The armed team had been given photographs of the alleged bombers, yet no one realised that Senhor de Menezes bore no resemblance to any of those men.

The investigation report states that the firearms unit of the police had been told that "unusual tactics" may be required and if they "were deployed to intercept a subject and there was an opportunity to challenge, but if the subject was non compliant, a critical shot may be taken."

CCTV footage clearly shows that Senhor de Menezes was wearing a thin denim jacket so he could not be concealing a bomb and nor was he carrying any bag.

Far from running to avoid police who were tailing him, the electrician did not realise anyone was following him. He used his season ticket and did not vault the barrier. He only began to run when he saw a train pull into the station and as many commuters do he quickened his pace to catch it.

At this point a surveillance officer guided four armed police into the same carriage in which Senhor de Menezes took his seat.

A man sitting opposite him is quoted as saying: "Within a few seconds I saw a man coming into the double doors to my left. He was pointing a small black handgun towards a person sitting opposite me.

"He pointed the gun at the right hand side of the man's head. The gun was within 12 inches of the man's head when the first shot was fired

The report also reveals for the first time that a member of the surveillance team, who sat nearby, got involved and grabbed Senhor de Menezes before he was shot: "I heard shouting which included the word ‘police’ and turned to face the male in the denim jacket.

"He immediately stood up and advanced towards me and the CO19 officers …I grabbed the male in the denim jacket by wrapping both my arms around his torso, pinning his arms to his side.

"I then pushed him back onto the seat where he had been previously sitting … I then heard a gun shot very close to my left ear and was dragged away onto the floor of the carriage."

Photographs showed how Senhor de Menezes was shot at virtually point blank range as he was still in his seat. A coroner said he was shot seven times in the head and once in the shoulder.

Mark Oaten, Home Affairs Spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, said: "If true, these preliminary findings will create obvious concerns. It is in the best interests of the police and the community for the full report and any recommendations, to be published as quickly as possible."

WWII Posted by Picasa

Bali bomb-maker dies in shoot-out [August 16, 2005]

"ONE of the two terrorists who made the Bali bombs has been shot dead during a gun battle with soldiers near a militant stronghold in the southern Philippines.

The remains of Umar Patek, a member of Southeast Asian terror network Jemaah Islamiah, and those of an al-Qa'ida-linked Abu Sayyaf commander were recovered from a creek bed on August 5, three weeks after they were ambushed by special forces.

Security agencies formally identified Patek's remains yesterday, bringing an end to a three-year hunt to find one of the region's most dangerous bomb-makers.

Only three of the terrorists responsible for the Bali atrocities remain at large. They are master-bomber Azahari Hussein, his deputy Dulmatin and logistics man Noordin Mohammad Top. Patek had been responsible for mixing the chemicals used to make the 1-tonne potassium chlorate bomb that destroyed the Sari Club in Bali on October 12, 2002, claiming 202 lives, among them 88 Australians.

The Philippines Government had claimed for several months that Patek and JI cohort Dulmatin had been hiding with the Abu Sayyaf in the restive province of Mindinao, controlled by Filipino Muslim militants. ..."

Spanish troops die in Afghan crash - Aug 16, 2005

"MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- Spain confirmed the country's first troop fatalities in Afghanistan, saying that 17 troops died on Tuesday in what appeared to be an accidental helicopter crash, a spokesman in the Spanish prime minister's office told CNN."...

[bth: it will be interesting to see what the Spanish do.]

Monday, August 15, 2005

Lives Blown Apart

"Sema Olson was in the living room watching television when the phone rang. It was the Department of the Army calling. A voice asked if she'd heard from her son in the past 24 hours."

Ms. Olson tried to ward off the panic. "Is he still alive?" she asked.

After verifying her identity, the man on the phone assured her that her son, Bobby Rosendahl, who was stationed in Iraq, was still alive. But he'd been badly wounded.

With that Saturday night phone call, life as Ms. Olson had known it came to an end. Her family's long, long period of overwhelming sacrifice was under way.

Bobby Rosendahl, a 24-year-old Army corporal (and avid golfer) from Tacoma, Wash., was literally blown into the air last March 12 when an improvised explosive device detonated beneath his Stryker armored vehicle. He remembers landing on his back, with fuel spilling all around him and insurgents firing at him from the roof of a mosque.

Ms. Olson, during an interview in Washington, D.C., where Corporal Rosendahl is being treated at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, quietly cataloged her son's wounds:

"Both of his heels and ankles were crushed. He had a compound fracture of his femur in two places. Three-quarters of his kneecap was missing. His thigh was blown away. He had many, many open wounds, which all have closed except four right now."

She paused, sighed, then went on: "His left leg was amputated three weeks after he arrived here. He's not willing to give up his right leg. He's hoping to save it. All he wants to do is golf again. But we don't know. He's had 36 surgeries so far."

When you talk to close relatives of men and women who have been wounded in the war, it's impossible not to notice the strain that is always evident in their faces. Their immediate concern is with the wounded soldier or marine. But just behind that immediate concern, in most cases, is the frightening awareness that they have to try and rebuild a way of life that was also blown apart when their loved one was wounded.

Ms. Olson, who is 45 and divorced, gave up everything - her work, her rented townhouse, her car - and moved from Tacoma to a hotel on the grounds of Walter Reed to be with her son and assist in his recovery....

The Iraq war and the politics of grief

"LONDON - In America and Britain, the grief of parents who lost sons or daughters in Iraq has become a potent political weapon - much more so than in other recent wars.

In my view, these moms and dads have been badly let down by both sides of the war debate. The war's authors have offered little justification for the sacrifices made by loved sons and daughters in Iraq, which has allowed the families' raw grief to fester into public anger - and the war's opponents have sought cynically to exploit the families' sorrow for political ends."...

Today, doubt and uncertainty - and even shame - about the Iraq war from the top of society down has turned families' grief into bitterness, and even public rage. In the past, bereaved families took comfort in the belief that their son or daughter died for a greater cause; traditional notions of honor, patriotism, and duty would have given their loved one's death on the battlefield some meaning.

Now, families have few ways to make sense of the deaths in Iraq. The casus belli that their sons and daughters gave their lives for - the need to get rid of Saddam Hussein's deadly WMD - turned out to be false.

And how could such deaths be seen as a source of pride, as they might have been in earlier periods, when even our leaders seem embarrassed by the Iraqi debacle? The Pentagon ban on releasing photographs of returning military coffins suggested it is ashamed of the war dead, seeking to sneak them through the back door and hurry them into the earth without anybody noticing. (That policy was changed last week - more than two years after the war began - in a settlement of a Freedom of Information suit.) President Bush has been criticized for failing to attend the funerals of slain servicemen and women.

Ceremonies that in earlier times might have given meaning to death in a war zone were explicitly avoided this time around. Blair said the coalition's victory in Iraq would not be celebrated "in any spirit of elation, still less of triumphalism." There was no postwar victory parade in Britain, after everyone from the prime minister to the queen to even the chief of defense staff agreed that it might appear "arrogant or patronizing [toward] the Iraqi people."

What are families to make of this? When even our leaders seem uncertain about the war - when they turn shamefaced from the dead and refuse to recognize their sacrifices with any kind of parade - it is not surprising that the families feel bereft, confused, and angry. Without those old crutches of duty, victory, or pride, the death of their loved ones must seem as meaningless as if they'd died in a car accident or in a brawl outside a bar. That is why mothers such as Cindy Sheehan ask Bush a very simple question: "Well, why did my son die?"...

Iran's defence chief tied to Beirut bombing of U.S. Marines

"London, Aug. 14 - The nomination of a veteran commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as the new defence minister has been greeted with calls for an investigation into his possible ties to the suicide bombing of the U.S. Marines compound in Beirut airport in October 1983, which killed 241 Americans.

Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar, a senior commander in the Revolutionary Guards, was in command of the IRGC expeditionary force in Lebanon when on October 23, 1983, at 6:22 a.m., a suicide bomber drove a large water delivery truck to the Beirut International Airport where the Marine Barracks was located. The bomber and his accomplices had hijacked the original truck on its way to the airport and sent another one, loaded with explosives, in its place.

After turning onto an access road leading to the compound, the driver rushed through a barbed-wire fence, passed between two sentry posts, crashed through the gate, and slammed into the lobby of the barracks. The huge explosion crumbled the four-story building, crushing the soldiers to death while they were sleeping.

All the windows at the airport control tower, half a mile away, shattered. A crater eight feet deep was carved into the earth, and 15 feet of rubble was all that remained of the four-story Marine barracks."

The attack killed 241 U.S. service members. The Americans quickly withdrew their forces from Lebanon and the suicide operation became a turning point in the increasing use of terrorism by radical Islamic fundamentalists across the world.

Two years ago, a U.S. federal court order identified the suicide bomber as Ismail Ascari, an Iranian national.

In July 1987, Iran’s then-Minister of Revolutionary Guards, Mohsen Rafiqdoost, said, “Both the TNT and the ideology which in one blast sent to hell 400 officers, NCOs, and soldiers at the Marines headquarters were provided by Iran”.

Rafiqdoost’s comments were published in the Tehran daily Ressalat on July 20, 1987.

Iran’s hard-line newspapers continue to feature stories that commemorate the Beirut bombing and the country’s Headquarters for Commemoration of Martyrs of Global Islamic Movement held a memorial ceremony in Tehran’s Behesht-e Zahra Cemetery last December to “honour the man who carried out the largest martyrdom-seeking operation against Global Arrogance [the United States and its allies]…and was able to kill more than 300 occupiers of Lebanon with his courageous operation in 1983”.

A U.S. Defense Department report on the Beirut attack said the force of the explosion “ripped the building from its foundation. The building then imploded upon itself”.

The U.S. court order described the blast as "the largest non-nuclear explosion that had ever been detonated on the face of the Earth”. It was equal in force to between 15,000 and 21,000 pounds of TNT.

Now some terrorism experts want a thorough investigation by the U.S. or an international body to determine the role of Iran’s new defence minister in the attack.

“Those who are knowledgeable about the October 1983 terrorist attack in Beirut know that the Iranian regime was behind it”, said David Neil, a Middle East affairs analyst based in London. “Iran’s new defence minister was in command of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards force in Lebanon at the time. This is acknowledged in his official biography that was carried by Iran’s government-owned news agencies today”....

US confirms death of Zarqawi aide

"WASHINGTON (AFX) - A top aide to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, head of the Al-Qaeda operation in Iraq, who has played a key role in masterminding several high-profile suicide bombing in the country, has been killed by Iraqi security forces, defense officials confirmed Sunday.

Abu Zubair, also known as Mohammed Salah Sultan, was gunned down in the northern city of Mosul Friday, when he got caught in an ambush set up by Iraqi security forces, the officials said, confirming a report by Mosul police. ..."

Sunday, August 14, 2005

President Clinton's Approval-Disapproval Spread during his Second Term. Compare these numbers with those of President Bush in the graph below this one. Posted by Picasa

Bush Index: Approval-Disapproval Spread Since Oct 2001 Posted by Picasa

President Bush's Approval Rating on Specific Issues Posted by Picasa

President Bush's Approval Ratings Posted by Picasa

Captain MacLean near Karbala. Posted by Picasa

Dave Zweifel: Around U.S., Iraq mess finally sinks in

"It's about 10 months too late, but U.S. citizens - even in those fabled red states - are starting to realize that this war in Iraq wasn't a smart thing to undertake.

Last week the Associated Press-Ipsos poll showed that President Bush's approval rating had dropped to 42 percent, the lowest a president's rating has been since Tricky Dick Nixon got snagged in the Watergate mess. The AP poll's approval rating on the war was even lower - 38 percent.

Then this week USA Today/CNN's combined poll showed that 57 percent of Americans now believe that the war in Iraq has actually made the United States less safe from terrorism, not more, as Bush and his neocon cabal keep insisting is the case. Just 34 percent of those polled agreed that the country is safer today.

But that's what many people, some in positions of power and other just ordinary involved citizens - like all those here in Madison who put up 'War is not the answer' signs in their front lawns - tried to warn this administration about back in early 2003. And they weren't all liberal Democrats, as Karl Rove would have us believe. Many Republicans and independents were pointing out that invading Iraq risked the danger of producing a quagmire that would drain our resources and our resolve.

That, of course, is exactly what's happened."...

Third Battalion, 25th Marines HQ. Ohio Posted by Picasa

Someone Tell the President the War Is Over

"LIKE the Japanese soldier marooned on an island for years after V-J Day, President Bush may be the last person in the country to learn that for Americans, if not Iraqis, the war in Iraq is over. 'We will stay the course,' he insistently tells us from his Texas ranch. What do you mean we, white man? "

A president can't stay the course when his own citizens (let alone his own allies) won't stay with him. The approval rate for Mr. Bush's handling of Iraq plunged to 34 percent in last weekend's Newsweek poll - a match for the 32 percent that approved L.B.J.'s handling of Vietnam in early March 1968. (The two presidents' overall approval ratings have also converged: 41 percent for Johnson then, 42 percent for Bush now.) On March 31, 1968, as L.B.J.'s ratings plummeted further, he announced he wouldn't seek re-election, commencing our long extrication from that quagmire. ...

As if the right-wing pundit crackup isn't unsettling enough, Mr. Bush's top war strategists, starting with Mr. Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers, have of late tried to rebrand the war in Iraq as what the defense secretary calls "a global struggle against violent extremism." A struggle is what you have with your landlord. When the war's über-managers start using euphemisms for a conflict this lethal, it's a clear sign that the battle to keep the Iraq war afloat with the American public is lost.

That battle crashed past the tipping point this month in Ohio. There's historical symmetry in that. It was in Cincinnati on Oct. 7, 2002, that Mr. Bush gave the fateful address that sped Congressional ratification of the war just days later. The speech was a miasma of self-delusion, half-truths and hype. The president said that "we know that Iraq and Al Qaeda have had high-level contacts that go back a decade," an exaggeration based on evidence that the Senate Intelligence Committee would later find far from conclusive. He said that Saddam "could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year" were he able to secure "an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball." Our own National Intelligence Estimate of Oct. 1 quoted State Department findings that claims of Iraqi pursuit of uranium in Africa were "highly dubious."

It was on these false premises - that Iraq was both a collaborator on 9/11 and about to inflict mushroom clouds on America - that honorable and brave young Americans were sent off to fight. Among them were the 19 marine reservists from a single suburban Cleveland battalion slaughtered in just three days at the start of this month. As they perished, another Ohio marine reservist who had served in Iraq came close to winning a Congressional election in southern Ohio. Paul Hackett, a Democrat who called the president a "chicken hawk," received 48 percent of the vote in exactly the kind of bedrock conservative Ohio district that decided the 2004 election for Mr. Bush.

These are the tea leaves that all Republicans, not just Chuck Hagel, are reading now. Newt Gingrich called the Hackett near-victory "a wake-up call." The resolutely pro-war New York Post editorial page begged Mr. Bush (to no avail) to "show some leadership" by showing up in Ohio to salute the fallen and their families. A Bush loyalist, Senator George Allen of Virginia, instructed the president to meet with Cindy Sheehan, the mother camping out in Crawford, as "a matter of courtesy and decency." Or, to translate his Washingtonese, as a matter of politics. Only someone as adrift from reality as Mr. Bush would need to be told that a vacationing president can't win a standoff with a grief-stricken parent commandeering TV cameras and the blogosphere 24/7.

Such political imperatives are rapidly bringing about the war's end. That's inevitable for a war of choice, not necessity, that was conceived in politics from the start. Iraq was a Bush administration idée fixe before there was a 9/11. Within hours of that horrible trauma, according to Richard Clarke's "Against All Enemies," Mr. Rumsfeld was proposing Iraq as a battlefield, not because the enemy that attacked America was there, but because it offered "better targets" than the shadowy terrorist redoubts of Afghanistan. It was easier to take out Saddam - and burnish Mr. Bush's credentials as a slam-dunk "war president," suitable for a "Top Gun" victory jig - than to shut down Al Qaeda and smoke out its leader "dead or alive." ...

The endgame for American involvement in Iraq will be of a piece with the rest of this sorry history. "It makes no sense for the commander in chief to put out a timetable" for withdrawal, Mr. Bush declared on the same day that 14 of those Ohio troops were killed by a roadside bomb in Haditha. But even as he spoke, the war's actual commander, Gen. George Casey, had already publicly set a timetable for "some fairly substantial reductions" to start next spring. Officially this calendar is tied to the next round of Iraqi elections, but it's quite another election this administration has in mind. The priority now is less to save Jessica Lynch (or Iraqi democracy) than to save Rick Santorum and every other endangered Republican facing voters in November 2006.

Nothing that happens on the ground in Iraq can turn around the fate of this war in America: not a shotgun constitution rushed to meet an arbitrary deadline, not another Iraqi election, not higher terrorist body counts, not another battle for Falluja (where insurgents may again regroup, The Los Angeles Times reported last week). A citizenry that was asked to accept tax cuts, not sacrifice, at the war's inception is hardly in the mood to start sacrificing now. There will be neither the volunteers nor the money required to field the wholesale additional American troops that might bolster the security situation in Iraq.

WHAT lies ahead now in Iraq instead is not victory, which Mr. Bush has never clearly defined anyway, but an exit (or triage) strategy that may echo Johnson's March 1968 plan for retreat from Vietnam: some kind of negotiations (in this case, with Sunni elements of the insurgency), followed by more inflated claims about the readiness of the local troops-in-training, whom we'll then throw to the wolves. Such an outcome may lead to even greater disaster, but this administration long ago squandered the credibility needed to make the difficult case that more human and financial resources might prevent Iraq from continuing its descent into civil war and its devolution into jihad central.

Thus the president's claim on Thursday that "no decision has been made yet" about withdrawing troops from Iraq can be taken exactly as seriously as the vice president's preceding fantasy that the insurgency is in its "last throes." The country has already made the decision for Mr. Bush. We're outta there. Now comes the hard task of identifying the leaders who can pick up the pieces of the fiasco that has made us more vulnerable, not less, to the terrorists who struck us four years ago next month.

German Pope Posted by Picasa