Saturday, October 01, 2005

Marine unit near Syrian border of Iraq. Posted by Picasa

Generals Conclude U.S. Troops Exacerbate Iraq Campaign

"WASHINGTON -- The U.S. generals running the war in Iraq presented a new assessment of the military situation in public comments and sworn testimony this week: The 149,000 U.S. troops in Iraq are increasingly part of the problem.

During a trip to Washington, the generals said the presence of U.S. forces was fueling the insurgency, fostering an undesirable dependency on American troops among the nascent Iraqi military, and energizing terrorists across the Middle East."

For all these reasons, they said, a gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops is imperative

U.S. officials months ago dialed back their expectations of what the U.S. military can achieve in Iraq. But the comments this week showed that commanders believe a large U.S. force in Iraq might in fact be creating problems as well as solutions.

"This has been hinted at before, but its a big shift for them to be saying that publicly," said Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution in Washington. "It means they recognize that there is a cost to staying just as there is a benefit to staying. And this has not really been factored in as a central part of the strategy before

The generals' comments reflect an evolving outlook that senior military officials and even Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld have articulated in recent months: The battle against Iraqi insurgents will not be won by the U.S. military, and that the insurgency will go on long after U.S. troops have left Iraq.

"If (the insurgency) does go on for four, eight, 10, 12, 15 years, whatever ... it is going to be a problem for the people of Iraq," Rumsfeld said in June. "They're going to have to cope with that insurgency over time. They are ultimately going to be the ones who win over that insurgency

The generals' words also represent a definition of military success in Iraq less ambitious than President Bush has given in recent statements.

At his ranch last month in Crawford, Texas, Bush said that, "When the mission of defeating the terrorists in Iraq is complete, our troops will come home."

More recently, Bush has offered a more modest definition of success, emphasizing the importance of training Iraqi troops as part of the U.S. mission to defeat the insurgents.

...During his congressional testimony, Army Gen. George W. Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said that troop reductions were required to "take away one of the elements that fuels the insurgency, that of the coalition forces as an occupying force."

A smaller U.S. presence could deflate some of the anger feeding the insurgency, Casey suggested.

The same approach might have value across the Middle East, commanders said. Gen. John P. Abizaid of Central Command, who supervises all U.S. troops in the region, said that the broader fight against Islamic extremism requires the United States to "reduce our military footprint" across the region, and to push governments in the Middle East to fight the extremists themselves.

While Abizaid advocates a troop reduction, he does not favor a total withdrawal. He envisions the withdrawal preceded by the establishment of stable governments in Iraq and Afghanistan, and accompanied by an assured flow of oil and enhanced regional security networks.

Fewer U.S. troops also would encourage Iraqi forces to rely more on themselves in the face of an insurgency that could last a decade or more. A reduction in American forces is essential to push more Iraqi troops onto the front lines, Casey said.

"This is about dependency," he said.

Among Americans, support for the war continues to dwindle, while growing numbers conclude that troops should be withdrawn partially or completely. Only 32 percent of people surveyed for a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll released last week approved of Bush's handling of Iraq, compared with 40 percent last month and 50 percent earlier this year.

The survey also showed that 59 percent now consider it a mistake to have sent U.S. forces to Iraq, up from less than half earlier this summer. And 63 percent believe troops should be withdrawn partially or completely, up 10 points from August. Just 21 percent of those surveyed believed U.S. forces would win the war, while 34 percent said it they consider the war unwinnable.

Military officials and others familiar with Casey's strategy in Iraq say that the United States plans a phased withdrawal, first pulling U.S. troops out of the 14 provinces that commanders believe are most secure. Initially, their presence would continue in the predominantly Sunni provinces of central Iraq, where most of the violence is taking place and the U.S. military suffers most of its casualties.

"Withdrawing from the secure areas would be a good signal to the rest of Iraqis that this is coming for them eventually," said an adviser to U.S. Central Command who has traveled frequently to Iraq, and who requested anonymity because he was speaking about a classified strategy.

While the adviser said that there was a concern among U.S. commanders that Iraqi troops do not become too dependent on the American presence, there are no plans for a hasty pullout in the violent provinces before the Iraqi troops are up to the job

"There's a line between what constitutes casual dependence, and what constitutes not being ready to fight," he said. For the most part, (Iraqi troops) are not ready to do the job. And stepping back is just going to leave them vulnerable to a battle tested army of insurgents."

Retired general: Iraq invasion was 'strategic disaster'

"WASHINGTON -- The invasion of Iraq was the "greatest strategic disaster in United States history," a retired Army general said yesterday, strengthening an effort in Congress to force an American withdrawal beginning next year., Retired Army Lt. Gen. William Odom, a Vietnam veteran, said the invasion of Iraq alienated America's Middle East allies, making it harder to prosecute a war against terrorists.

The U.S. should withdraw from Iraq, he said, and reposition its military forces along the Afghan-Pakistani border to capture Osama bin Laden and crush al Qaeda cells.

"The invasion of Iraq I believe will turn out to be the greatest strategic disaster in U.S. history," said Odom, now a scholar with the Hudson Institute.

Homeward Bound, a bipartisan resolution with 60 House co-sponsors, including Lowell Rep. Marty Meehan, requests President Bush to announce plans for a draw-down by December, and begin withdrawing troops by October 2006.

The measure has not been voted on, nor has the House Republican leadership scheduled hearings. But supporters were encouraged yesterday, pointing to growing support among moderate conservatives and the public's rising dissatisfaction with the war.

Meehan, one of the first to propose a tiered exit strategy in January, when few of his Democratic colleagues dared wade into the controversial debate, pointed to "enormous progress."

"Talking about this issue, having hearings on this issue, getting more Americans to focus on it will result in a change of policy," Meehan told The Sun. "The generals and commanders on the field in Iraq overwhelmingly are saying we need less in terms of occupation and more Iraqis up front, and that's the only strategy I think that will result in getting American troops back home. "

Katrina Posted by Picasa

Bush threatens defense bill veto, warning on prisoners

"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House on Friday threatened to veto a $440.2 billion defense spending bill in the Senate because it wasn't enough money for the Pentagon and also warned lawmakers not to add any amendments to regulate the treatment of detainees or set up a commission to probe abuse.

Last summer, Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and John Warner of Virginia and others sought legislation banning cruel and degrading treatment of prisoners."...

US Soldier buried in Puerto Rico Posted by Picasa

New York City: Anguished Imam resigns as FDNY chaplain

"Expressing anguish that his public doubts about who was behind the Sept. 11 terror attacks 'had opened wounds for people,' the Fire Department's new Muslim chaplain resigned Friday, shortly before he was to be officially sworn in.

'It was the right thing to do for the department,' said Imam Intikab Habib, 30, of Ozone Park, who quit the $18,000-a-year post after meeting with fire officials. In that meeting, he confirmed remarks made to Newsday Thursday expressing doubts that Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida were responsible for the attacks.

Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta announced Habib's resignation at a news conference an hour before the swearing-in.

'It became clear to him that he would have difficulty functioning as a Fire Department chaplain,' Scoppetta said. 'And then I understand the head of the Islamic Society of the Fire Department ... told him they were withdrawing their support.'

In an interview Thursday, Habib, who moved to New York in 2000 to teach at an Islamic school in Ozone Park, said he didn't know who was responsible for the downing of the Twin Towers.

'There are so many conflicting reports about it,' said the Guyana native, who studied Saudi Arabia. 'I don't believe it was 19 ... hijackers who did those attacks

'I've heard professionals say that nowhere ever in history did a steel building come down with fire alone. It takes two or three weeks to demolish a building like that. But it was pulled down in a couple of hours. Was it 19 hijackers who brought it down, or was it a conspiracy?'

Scoppetta said it was disturbing that anyone would harbor such views given the evidence about the attack. 'I especially have difficulty reconciling those views "

The remarks provoked fury among firefighters at a swearing-in for new officers.

"He has no place in the New York Fire Department," said retired firefighter Jack Duggan of Rockland County. "I lost too many friends that day to listen to that rubbish."

"For a supposedly educated man, that's an incredibly ignorant statement," said George Baade of Ladder 14 in East Harlem. "His loyalty obviously doesn't lie with us, or with the United States

..."We spoke with him and none of us thought those were his ideas of Sept. 11," said retired Fire Marshal Kevin James, a past president of the group. "He is entitled to his views, but it would not be appropriate for him to be a chaplain for the FDNY."

...For his part, Habib said Friday that he had answered questions put to him by a reporter honestly, never imagining that his answers would cause pain.

"I didn't know this could open wounds for people or that anyone would think I was insensitive," he said.

Habib also said that as a devout Muslim, it was easier for him to entertain doubts about the identities of those behind the carnage. "Me not knowing who did it saved my guilt," he said....

[bth: Besides thinking the guy is an idiot I don't understand his comment, "Me not knowing who did it saved my guilt"?]

August 19 2005 in Afghanistan Posted by Picasa

11 soldiers, 30 militants killed in North Waziristan

"PESHAWAR: Federal Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao on Friday conceded the loss of 11 soldiers in two days of fighting in North Waziristan as helicopter gunships again bombed villages to flush out militants who have been offering stiff resistance to Pakistan Army troops.

The intense fighting has caused casualties on both sides and forced hundreds of villagers to evacuate to safer places. The village of Khattay Killay, scene of most of the fighting, has reportedly been emptied of the population due to the intense exchange of fire in the area and the constant threat to life and property."...

The minister estimated that 25 to 30 militants were also killed in the fighting.

However, Sherpao did not say anything about reports that 20 soldiers had gone missing after being deployed in the Khattay Killay area....

Requesting anonymity, they said the general wanted recovery of his men and delivery of militants to the military before any agreement on ceasefire....

Official sources said the troops were keen to lay hands on Maulana Sadiq Noor, who belongs to Khattay Killay where he runs a Madrassa and is accused of harbouring militants. He and other important figures among the tribal militants had reportedly escaped from Khattay Killay.

Earlier, tribal militants from all over North Waziristan were reported to have rushed to Khattay Killay to join the fighting and resist the military....

Assassination in Baghdad earlier this year. Posted by Picasa

Suspected Taliban Commander Arrested

"KABUL, Afghanistan - U.S. and Afghan forces arrested a Taliban commander suspected in bomb attacks against coalition forces during a raid on central Afghanistan home, where he tried to conceal his identity by dressing as a woman, police said Saturday. ..."

Lance corporal Richard Tack of Rock Hill, Souith Carolina drives the humvee to the mission near the border.
After sunset Thursday, Marines from the 1st Mobile Assault Platoon, Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment set up mortars near the Syria-Iraq border.
San Francisco Chronicle Photo by Kim Komenich
9/29/05 Posted by Picasa

U.S. Postpones Action Over Saudi Arabia Religion Restrictions

"WASHINGTON - The Bush administration has postponed punishing Saudi Arabia (search) for restricting religious freedom, giving the U.S. ally six more months to show it has made progress in its treatment of religious minorities.

One year ago, the State Department (search) declared that religious freedom was absent in the Arab kingdom. Under U.S. law, the Bush administration could have imposed sanctions such as trade restrictions - as it has done with some other countries.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (search) notified Congress last week that she had authorized a 180-day waiver of action against Saudi Arabia 'in order to allow additional time for the continuation of discussions leading to progress on important religious freedom issues.'

Rice raised the issue last week in a meeting in Washington with the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, and stressed the importance of continuing to work on this issue, State Department spokesman Kurtis Cooper said."...

The religious freedom commission, in a statement, said real progress was absent in Saudi Arabia on religious conditions and that the U.S. government should use the 180 days to achieve real progress.

Otherwise, the commission said licenses should not be issued for exports to Saudi Arabia of technology that could be used in military programs and Saudi officials responsible for religious freedom violations should not be permitted to visit the United States.

"Freedom of religion does not exist," the State Department said last year in summing up the situation in Saudi Arabia in a report that covered religious freedom in 191 countries.

Those who do not adhere to the officially sanctioned strain of Sunni Islam practiced in the country can face "severe repercussions" from religious police, the report said.

It also cited instances in which government-paid mosque preachers "used violent anti-Jewish and anti-Christian language in their sermons."

[bth: We continue to bow and scrape.]

Gen. Musharraf 's Lies

"PAKISTANI President Pervez Musharraf complains that his country is unfairly portrayed as a place where rape and other violence against women are rampant and frequently condoned. In fact, it deserves such a reputation. According to Pakistani human rights groups, thousands of attacks are reported every year, including gang rapes and 'honor killings' of women who are accused of having affairs or who refuse an arranged marriage. Most of these attacks go unpunished. So retrograde are Pakistan's laws that there are more than 1,500 women in prison as a result of rapes -- they were prosecuted for adultery -- while arrests of men occur in only about 15 percent of reported cases.

Gen. Musharraf, too, deserves the reputation he is earning as a ruler who cares more about how he is perceived in the West than in implementing the policies he claims to espouse, or even in speaking the truth. The general, who seized power in a coup six years ago, has reneged on promises to retire from the army or restore democracy. He has not carried out the reform of Islamic religious schools that he promised in 2001. He has allowed the extremist Afghan Taliban movement to base itself in Pakistan's western provinces with virtual impunity. He has repeatedly insisted, almost certainly falsely, that Osama bin Laden is not in Pakistan. All the while he has gone on collecting hundreds of millions of dollars in aid each year from the Bush administration, which accepts his words and ignores most of his actions."

Gen. Musharraf claims to champion a "moderate Islam" that respects the rights of women. But when Mukhtar Mai, a victim of a gang rape whose attackers have not been punished, tried to visit the United States earlier this year, the president barred her from leaving the country. In an interview with The Post last month, he claimed that he had relented. But then he said this: "You must understand the environment in Pakistan. This has become a money-making concern. A lot of people say if you want to go abroad and get a visa for Canada or citizenship and be a millionaire, get yourself raped." This statement was, as Pakistani activists and the Canadian government soon pointed out, an outrageous lie. There is only one known case of a rape victim moving to Canada, a doctor who was assaulted by a military officer. A far more common outcome for rape victims is to be ostracized by their communities or jailed.

When Gen. Musharraf's statement provoked an uproar, he responded with another lie: He claimed that he had never made it. In fact, a recording of him speaking is available on The Post's Web site, His words are quite clear. "These are not my words, and I would go to the extent of saying I am not so silly and stupid to make comments of this sort," the general said. Well, yes, he is.

USS South Carolina. WWI post card. Posted by Picasa

U.S. Launches Offensive in Iraqi Village

"About 1,000 U.S. troops, backed by attack helicopters, swarmed into a tiny Iraqi village near the Syrian border Saturday in an offensive aimed at rooting out fighters from al-Qaida in Iraq, the country's most feared militant group, the military said."...

The force - made up mostly of Marines, but also with soldiers and Navy sailors - rolled into the village in the morning and gunfire was heard, said a correspondent for CNN embedded with the troops. Helicopters fired on three suspicious vehicles along the way, two of which turned out to be carrying suicide bombers and the third was being loaded with weapons, CNN reported....

Troops Wait for Body Armor Reimbursements

"WASHINGTON (Sept. 29) - Nearly a year after Congress demanded action, the Pentagon has still failed to figure out a way to reimburse soldiers for body armor and equipment they purchased to better protect themselves while serving in Iraq."

Soldiers and their parents are still spending hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars for armor they say the military won't provide. One U.S. senator said Wednesday he will try again to force the Pentagon to obey the reimbursement law it opposed from the outset and has so far not implemented.

Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., said he will offer amendments to the defense appropriations bill working its way through Congress, to take the funding issue out of the hands of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and give control to military unit commanders in the field.

"Rumsfeld is violating the law," Dodd said in an interview with The Associated Press. "It's been sitting on the books for over a year. They were opposed to it. It was insulting to them. I'm sorry that's how they felt."

Pentagon spokeswoman Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke said the department "is in the final stages of putting a reimbursement program together, and it is expected to be operating soon." But defense officials would not discuss the reason for the delay....

"Your expectation is that when you are sent to war, that our government does everything they can do to protect the lives of our people, and anything less than that is not good enough," said a former Marine who spent nearly $1,000 two weeks ago to buy lower-body armor for his son, a Marine serving in Fallujah.

The father asked that he be identified only by his first name - Gordon - because he is afraid of retribution against his son.

"I wouldn't have cared if it cost us $10,000 to protect our son, I would do it," said Gordon. "But I think the U.S. has an obligation to make sure they have this equipment and to reimburse for it. I just don't support Donald Rumsfeld's idea of going to war with what you have, not what you want. You go to war prepared, and you don't go to war until you are prepared."

Under the law passed by Congress last October, the Defense Department had until Feb. 25 to develop regulations for the reimbursement, which is limited to $1,100 per item. Pentagon officials opposed the reimbursement idea, calling it "an unmanageable precedent that will saddle the DOD with an open-ended financial burden."

In a letter to Dodd in late April, David Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel, said his office was developing regulations to implement the reimbursement, and would be done in about 60 days.

Soldiers and their families have reported buying everything from higher-quality protective gear to armor for their Humvees, medical supplies and even global positioning devices.

"The bottom line is that Donald Rumsfeld and the Defense Department are failing soldiers again," said Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Operation Truth, an advocacy group for Iraq veterans.

"It just became an accepted part of the culture. If you were National Guard or Reserve, or NCOs, noncommissioned officers, you were going to spend a lot of money out of your pocket," said Rieckhoff, who was a platoon leader with the 3rd Infantry Division and served in Iraq from the invasion in March 2003 to spring 2004. ...

Dodd said he is worried the Pentagon will reject most requests for reimbursement. Turning the decision over to the troop commanders will prevent that, he said, because the commanders know what their soldiers need and will make better decisions about what to reimburse.

Dodd also said he wants to eliminate the deadline included in the original law, which allowed soldiers to seek reimbursement for items bought between September 2001 and July 2004. Now, he said, he wants it to be open-ended.

"I'm tired of this, obviously they're not getting the job done," said Dodd. "If you have to go out and buy equipment to protect yourself, you're going to get reimbursed."

Friday, September 30, 2005

1917. Small memorial in Paris to Americans of the Escadrille Lafayette. I had an ancient professor of business whose father flew in this unit and incredibly survived. Posted by Picasa

By Joseph Galloway: Military higher-ups get to the bottom of abuse scandals

"WASHINGTON - Well, they finally got to the bottom of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal this week. An Army court martial convicted Pfc. Lynndie England and sentenced her to three years in prison and a dishonorable discharge for holding that leash, pointing with scorn and other offenses.

They've gotten to the bottom, all right. With Pfc. England's conviction, that wraps up the cases against nine enlisted soldiers who starred in those terrible digital photos in late 2003.

So that's it, huh? Not exactly. We still haven't gotten to the top of this scandal, the Guantanamo problems and the questions that were raised last week by an Army captain from the 82nd Airborne Division who is troubled by, of all things, a conscience.

Capt. Ian Fishback, a West Point graduate, was a lieutenant in both Afghanistan and Iraq when he became troubled by what he was seeing: American soldiers beating Iraqi detainees until their arms and legs were broken. Death threats. Extreme forced physical exertion.

Sleep deprivation. Exposure to the elements.

He began a 17-month journey, or attempted journey, up the chain of command, asking, then pleading for simple guidance on whether American troops in Iraq were bound by terms of the Geneva Conventions. He wrote a letter to the two top Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee, John Warner, R-Va., and John McCain, R-Ariz.

'This is a tragedy,' he wrote. 'I can remember, as a cadet at West Point, resolving to ensure that my men would never commit a dishonorable act; that I would protect them from that type of burden.'

What did this honorable American officer ask that was so hard? "Give (our soldiers) a clear standard that is in accordance with the bedrock principles of our nation."

Capt. Fishback added: "Some argue that since our actions are not as horrifying as al-Qaeda's we should not be concerned. When did al-Qaeda become any type of standard by which we measure the morality of the United States?"

Nobody in his chain of command showed the slightest concern about what the captain reported and what he sought. Nobody showed any interest until Human Rights Watch revealed details of his case last week.

Then the Army got very interested. Orders went down to interrogate the captain and demand that he identify two sergeants who also witnessed some of the abuse. Once again, the powers-that-be were eager to get to the bottom of the issue. Find some enlisted men or non-coms and hang them out to dry

Shame on them.

And unless the good senators are ready at last to step up to the plate and hold independent hearings on the question of how the Unites States treats prisoners or detainees who end up in American custody anywhere in the world, shame on them, too.

We've been treated to the spectacle of a Republican-controlled House and Senate abdicating their constitutional responsibility to conduct rigorous oversight of actions and failings of the executive branch of government. This has gone on for the four-plus years that George W. Bush has occupied the White House, and it looks as if we'll get more of the same for three more years and a bit.

There have been 17 separate investigations of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and other prisoner abuse scandals. All have gone straight to the bottom of every case. All have consistently claimed that no one higher up the chain of command, including the civilian leadership in the Pentagon, bears any responsibility for any of this.

Hogwash. BS. Nonsense.

If the lowest private fails, then others have failed in training, leading and directing that private. The chain runs from sergeant to lieutenant to captain to lieutenant colonel to colonel to one, two, three and four stars, on to the longest serving, most arrogant secretary of defense in our history, Donald H. Rumsfeld, and beyond him to the commander in chief, President Bush.

It's long past time for responsibility to begin flowing uphill in this administration. It's time for our leaders to take responsibility for what's being done in all our names and under our proud flag. It's time for Congress to do its job if the administration won't do its job.

The Teflon is wearing off this administration in a hurry. It's past time for an end to strutting, victory laps, crowing to the skies and boasting "Bring 'em on!" Now is the time to provide the leadership our troops deserve. Now is the time to state plainly and unequivocally that we are Americans, and we live by a rule of law that protects everyone, even the worst terrorist who ever fell into our hands. Maybe especially the worst terrorist who ever fell into our hands



Joseph L. Galloway is the senior military correspondent for Knight Ridder Newspapers and co-author of the national best-seller "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young." Readers may write to him at

[bth: Mr. Joseph Galloway and Captain Ian Fishback, I applaud your integrity and honor your courage.]

The Apotheosis of St. Judy Miller of NY Times. Posted by Picasa

Bennett: Black Abortions Would Lower Crime

... "Bennett, on his radio show, 'Morning in America,' was answering a caller's question when he took issue with the hypothesis put forth in a recent book that one reason crime is down is that abortion is up.

'But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could, if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down,' said Bennett, author of 'The Book of Virtues.'

He went on to call that 'an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky.' "...

[bth: stupid idiot.]

Bombers in WWI Posted by Picasa

The left nips at Hillary after her move to the right

..."The antiwar movement represents a real menace to Hillary's ability to win the nomination in 2008 and might even represent a sufficient threat to give her a primary in her pursuit of the Democratic nomination for Senate from New York in 2006. These folks, from Cindy Sheehan to the followers of Howard Dean, are not to be trifled with."...

Antiwar sentiment will increase with each week’s casualty lists. Bush is not going to give in, and the terrorists won’t stop trying to create mayhem. If the Iraqi forces are ever able to replace U.S. troops, it will take quite a while for it to happen. (There is, after all, a reason that the minority Sunnis were able to impose their dictator on the rest of the country.)

And politics abhors a vacuum. One can easily see a latter-day McCarthy challenging Hillary for the Democratic nomination and upending her in the early going. Who will it be? Will Dean step into the space, as he did in 2004? Or Al Gore? Or Joe Biden? Or some certifiably liberal senator? Or will someone from the movement itself — a Sheehan — come forth.

In any event, Hillary is caught in a dilemma. If she moves to the left, she risks running afoul of the stereotype that a woman cannot be an effective wartime leader. She moves away from a Thatcher-esque image, which she will need to win the 2008 election. But if she leaves the left vacant, someone else will occupy the turf she has vacated and will give her fits in 2008, if not in her renomination run in 2006.

Tough times at Chappaqua.

 Posted by Picasa

Terrorist act prevented in Chechen capital

"GROZNY, September 29 (Itar-Tass) - A major terrorist act with the use of suicide bomber was prevented in Chechen capital Grozny on Wednesday, sources from the Federal Security Service's department in Chechnya told Itar-Tass on Thursday.

The terrorist act was aimed at destabilizing the situation in the region, they said. According to the sources, two cars were stopped in Grozny on Wednesday. Their passengers opened fire when asked to stop. One of the vehicles was abandoned in a clash with police. Police searched the vehicle and found a self-made explosive device equivalent to about 80 kilograms of TNT. The explosive device was to have been triggered by a suicide bomber. "...

Expatica's French news in English: Islamist detainee confirms planned attacks in Paris

... "Plans for various attacks in Paris, from the French intelligence headquarters to the metro and Orly airport, have been confirmed by one of the suspected Islamist militants detained this week in an anti-terror raid, a source close to the investigation said Thursday.

The proposed attacks first surfaced during the questioning by Algerian authorities of an 34-year-old man, M'Hamed Benyamina, in Algeria earlier this month. The cell could have carried out the attacks 'very quickly,' the source said.
The information passed on to the French authorities led to the round-up of nine people on Monday in the Paris suburbs and in Normandy, authorized by France's anti-terror judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere.
Six of the suspects remained in detention Thursday and three have been released, including Benyamina's wife, the source said.

At least one of the people detained has confirmed to investigators that the group planned to carry out one or several attacks in Paris.

Orly Airport was a potential target as well as the metro and headquarters of the French intelligence service (DST), where security was beefed up in mid-month based on the information from Algeria."...

The Counterterrorism Blog: Whitewashing Saudi Arabia time and again

..."the recent deal the US negotiated with Saudi Arabia regarding this country�s access to the WTO did not include two major clauses:

- Saudi Arabia would accept to stop the boycott of Israel

- Saudi Arabia would implement additionnal measures to fight terrorism and would stop all financial support to terrorism.

So, there you have it, Saudi Arabia got a free pass to continue its support of terrorism through its diverse charities. For instance, it is no coincidence that the hardliner Abdullah bin Saleh al-Obaid, ex-head of the Muslim World League, the largest Saudi quasi-governmental "charity" organization, was appointed Minister of Education back in February."...

Belgian child soldier in Flanders 1917 Posted by Picasa

Israelis urge U.S. to stop Iran's nuke goals

"The United States and its allies must act to stop Iran's nuclear programs -- by force if necessary -- because conventional diplomacy will not work, three senior Israeli lawmakers from across the political spectrum warned yesterday.

As a last resort, they said, Israel itself would act unilaterally to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear arms.

Iran will not be deterred 'by anything short of a threat of force,' said Arieh Eldad, a member of Israel's right-wing National Union Party, part of a delegation of Knesset members visiting Washington this week.

'They won't be stopped unless they are convinced their programs will be destroyed if they continue,' he said.

Yuval Steinitz, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said the best hope was for the United States and other major powers to make it clear to Iranian leaders now there was 'no chance they will ever see the fruits of a nuclear program.'

'Threats of sanctions and isolation alone will not do it,' said Mr. Steinitz.

Yosef Lapid, head of the centrist opposition Shinui Party in the Knesset, added that Israel 'will not live under the threat of an Iranian nuclear bomb.'

'We feel we are obliged to warn our friends that Israel should not be pushed into a situation where we see no other solution but to act unilaterally' against Iran, he said.

Mr. Steinitz, a member of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's ruling Likud Party, stopped just short of a direct threat to bomb suspect Iranian nuclear sites. ...

The Bush administration has led the diplomatic campaign to pressure Iran, claiming the Islamic regime for two decades has secretly pursued a nuclear arsenal. The board of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency in Vienna over the weekend concluded Iran had violated international pledges on its nuclear programs and said the matter could be referred to the U.N. Security Council.

Iranian officials harshly condemned the resolution and insist the country has the right to pursue a peaceful nuclear program to meet its energy needs.

Israel has acted unilaterally before to halt a nuclear program by a hostile neighbor, bombing Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981. Widely condemned at the time, the surprise raid is now credited with dealing a major setback to Saddam Hussein's nuclear ambitions.

Mr. Eldad said Israelis across the political spectrum see Iran as the country's most serious threat and one that cannot be ignored.

But he added that unilateral action by Israel was the "worst possible scenario," likely to inflame opinion throughout the Muslim world.

"If we have to do it, we'll do it," he said with a shrug. "If the United States and the world community do it, there is a chance the issue can be contained. If Israel has to do it alone, there is no chance the conflict can be contained."

Mr. Lapid said he was sensitive to criticism that Israel was trying to push Washington into a potentially armed conflict with Iran that many Americans now oppose.

"Our mission is to point out the dangers we see, to ourselves and to our friends," he said. "Avoiding speaking the truth does not mean you can then avoid facing the consequences of those facts," he said.

The lawmakers met with their U.S. counterparts, as well as with senior administration officials, saying they highlighted the Iranian danger in all their meetings.

Asked if he thought the message got through, Mr. Steinitz said, "I did not get the feeling we were talking to the walls."

[bth: this blunt statement of intent by Likud Party members should be viewed in context with the Franklin plea bargain and the tainting of US intelligence regarding Iran and Iraq. So here we are in Iraq on numerous false premises due to tainted (probably by Israel and others) and incompetent US intel. We have an active Israeli-spy situation going on over in the Pentagon that the media barely discusses. We have the US overextended in Iraq with Osama Bin Laden running around Pakistan unfettered and with his family in Iran. There seems no doubt that Iran can make things even worse for us in Iraq, continue to consume our resources there, and has every reason to do so, as resources in Iraq mean resources that cannot be committed against Iran. Iran's leadership has made its hostile position plain during the recent UN visit. There is no goodwill with the Iranian leadership toward the US. What may exist with the Iranian populations is a different matter. Likud doesn't seem to recognize that Bush's credibility is blown with the American public. While Iran may be a clear and present danger, Bush's statements as such are viewed as exaggerated and probably untrue. That leaves us with Plan B - Israel attacking Iran's nuclear facilities directly - once the dance music stops at the U.N. We gave Israel the bunker busting bombs required to do the job last year and there is little discussion of the submarine cruise missile capabilities Israel now possess. Likud politicians believe Israel has no choice but to stop or hinder Iran's nuclear program at any cost. What I don't understand is why Israel thinks a US action against Iran would have containable consequences while an Israeli attack on Iran would have uncontainable repercussions in the Muslim world? If there were an Israeli attack against Iranian nuclear facilities next summer, what would be the political fallout in the 2006 Congressional elections? This is a calculation Likud and Bush must be making. In any event I can't see anything happening before 2006 because of Iraq's elections.]

Buffalo bomb disposal vehicle damaged by IED explosion on Sept. 29, 2005. Posted by Picasa

Stuffing Iraq's ballot boxes

"WASHINGTON - If the referendum on Iraq's draft constitution next month is conducted fairly, it now appears very likely that the document will be defeated by a two-thirds majority in the three Sunni-dominated provinces of Anbar, Salahadeen and Nineveh, plunging Iraq into a new political crisis.

However, one way such a defeat could be averted is by massive vote fraud in the key province of Nineveh. According to an account provided by the US liaison with the local election commission, supported by physical evidence collected by the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI), Kurdish officials in Nineveh province tried to carry out just such a ballot-stuffing scheme in last January's election.

The Sunni Arab majority of about 1.7 million in Nineveh - including Sunni insurgent organizations - appears to be united behind a "no" vote on the constitution. Kurds number only about 200,000 and non-Kurdish, non-Arab minorities another 500,000 to 600,000.
The non-Arab, non-Kurdish minorities - Assyrian Christians, Shabaks, Yezidis and Turkmen - which hold the balance in the province, are overwhelmingly opposed to the constitution.

Heavy-handed control by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of non-Kurdish towns, exercised through Kurdish militia and intelligence presence in non-Kurdish areas, has alienated all four groups. They fear the draft constitution would legitimize Kurdish plans to absorb into Kurdistan the areas of Nineveh where they are the majority, eliminating the limited recognition of status and rights as minorities they now have.

In the January election, the Kurds dealt with the problem of being a relatively small minority in the province by stuffing the ballot boxes, as recounted by Major Anthony Cruz, an US Army reserve civil affairs officer assigned to work with the province's electoral commission.

Cruz, now back in Los Angeles, provided a detailed account of the election in Nineveh to IPS in interviews. ...Cruz remembers joking about the "500% voter-participation rate" in Sinjar. Nevertheless, the Stryker Brigade Combat Team complied with the request for the ballots.

Later, the province's Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI) forwarded 38 ballot boxes, 174 plastic sacks and 14 cardboard cartons of ballots that had obviously been tampered with to the national IECI. In some boxes, reams of ballot papers that had not even been folded were visible. In others, boxes had been resealed with red and green duct tape.

When Cruz asked the local IECI director how many of the fraudulent ballots had come from Sinjar, he was told, "all of them". ...

[bth: the article goes into great detail about how the election frauds were carried out by the Kurds with specific and eye-witness accounts. If this is the third province needed to vote the constitution down, which it appears to be, then one can safely say that it will be approved overwhelmingly with a '500%' voter participation rate.]

A WWI era German post card. Posted by Picasa

French soldier in WWI shows burns from exposure to mustard gas. 1915. The effects were kept secret from the public. This was a photo used for medical training. Posted by Picasa

Blast in Najaf came from house suspected of being used for making bombs

"BAGHDAD, Sept 29 (KUNA) -- The blast caused by an explosive device on Wednesday in the city of Najaf came from inside a house suspected of being used for making bombs, said the Iraqi Army on Thursday.

A statement issued by the army said that the explosion claimed the lives of two people and wounded eight others in the house.

News sources had quoted Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr's aide Saheb Al-Ameeri as saying that the house belonged to one of Al-Sadr's bodyguards.

Meanwhile, the statement said that ten suspected terrorists were arrested near the Abu Haneefa Mosque in the Athamiya district, western Baghdad.

It added that those arrested were found in possession of grenades, Kalashnikovs, protection masks, binoculars, communication equipment and material used in the making of bombs.

Small town America. Children wait for a parade. Bedford, MA Sept. 2005 Posted by Picasa

Bedford Town flag in front of the town common and a war memorial. Posted by Picasa

Ex-army officers attack 'chaos' of Iraqi regime

"It was meant to be a moment of reconciliation between the old regime and the new, a gathering of nearly 1,000 former Iraqi army officers and tribal leaders in Baghdad to voice their concerns over today's Iraq. But it did not go as planned.

General after general rose to his feet and raised his voice to shout at the way Iraq was being run and to express his fear of escalating war. 'They were fools to break up our great army and form an army of thieves and criminals,' said one senior officer. 'They are traitors,' added another.

The sense of hatred felt by these influential men, mostly Sunni Arabs, towards the new order installed by the US since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 is palpable and it bodes ill for Iraq. The country is entering a critical political period that will see a deeply divisive referendum on the constitution on 15 October, the trial of Saddam four days later and an election for the National Assembly on 15 December. The Sunnis fear the constitution means the break up of Iraq and their own marginalisation."...

Everybody at the meeting said there must be no distinction between Sunni, Shia and Kurd. But as they spoke it became evident that the officers are frightened of being persecuted as Sunni. One said there were random arrests in Adhamiyah, a Sunni strong-hold. Another asked why all the talk was about Zarqawi when people were being killed by the Badr Brigade, a powerful Shia militia.

Sheikh Ahmed al-Sammarai, the imam of the Sunni mosque of the Umm al-Qura, the headquarters of the powerful Muslim Scholars Association, first called for Sunni and Shia solidarity. But he added that he had just spoken to a Sunni from Ramadi who was arrested by the police and tortured. The imam claimed the police had said: "For every Shia killed in Fallujah or Ramadi, a Sunni would be killed in Baghdad."

General Sammarai concluded: "All the officers are against the American occupation. But when they come to my office they say that if the Americans leave there will be civil war."

[bth: Carl Levin made the observation this summer that Iraqi's were no longer asking for immediate US withdrawal. Note the last sentence in the article. ... We can't let ourselves be put into the position of fighting Iraq's civil war.]

Camouflaged Road to Menin. WWI Posted by Picasa

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Ex-Pentagon Analyst Is Said to Agree to a Guilty Plea

"WASHINGTON, Sept. 29 - Lawrence A. Franklin, the former Defense Department analyst charged in a far-ranging national security inquiry with passing classified military information to pro-Israel lobbyists, has agreed to a guilty plea, officials said Thursday....

But the unexpected development suggests that Mr. Franklin has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in exchange for possible leniency and may now become the star witness against the two remaining defendants, Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman. Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman were dismissed last spring, amid the investigation, as senior officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or Aipac....

Mr. Franklin had been scheduled to go on trial in January, along with Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman, on charges that they conspired to gather national security information and disclose it to journalists and a foreign power, which government officials have identified as Israel."...

This photo was entitled "picnic" by its maker, a British officer. Posted by Picasa

Faces on parade Posted by Picasa

Officials Fear Chaos if Iraqis Vote Down the Constitution

"WASHINGTON, Sept. 29 - Senior American officials say they are confident that Iraq's draft constitution will be approved in the referendum to be held Oct. 15, even though Sunni Arabs in Iraq are mobilizing in large numbers to defeat it."

In testimony before Congress on Thursday, the senior American military commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr. of the Army, said the most recent analysis of intelligence from across the country supported the Bush administration's optimistic predictions that the referendum would pass.

...In regions dominated by Sunni Arabs, opinion polls have shown sentiment running just about two to one against it. ...

But no matter how the vote goes, several officials said in interviews, the violence in Iraq is likely to increase significantly.

...Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, asked General Casey in a pointed exchange during the hearing on Thursday, "If there's a strong majority of Sunnis, which is very possible, that vote against that constitution, could that not possibly lead to a worsening political situation rather than a better one?"

"I think that's entirely possible," the general replied. "I mean, as we've looked at this, we've looked for the constitution to be a national compact, and the perception now is that it's not, particularly among the Sunnis."

Officials say that if the constitution is defeated, insurgents will most likely believe that they have won a significant victory and be encouraged to fight on. Conversely, it is said, the insurgency will grow stronger if the voters approve the constitution, because that will anger Sunnis who opposed it and empower Sunni insurgents who can claim that their views were ignored.

"A vote for the constitution doesn't mean we're headed for peace and prosperity," Gen. John P. Abizaid, head of the Central Command, said in an interview this month. "Iraq is going to be a pretty difficult security environment for a while

A senior official said the Bush administration believed that the insurgency was likely to continue for years and would start to decline only "when Iraq's political and economic system begins to consolidate." Sunni Arabs, who held power when Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq, boycotted the election in January. But now, American officials and officers of private organizations working in Iraq say Sunnis are registering to vote in record numbers that exceed 80 percent in many areas.

...Senior Pentagon and military officials who have been closely monitoring reports from Iraq predict that the referendum will fail by the two-thirds majority in the Sunni-dominated - and violence-plagued - Anbar Province in western Iraq. But intelligence reports indicate that only one other province at most will vote no by two-thirds.

"Nobody will be surprised to lose Anbar, and maybe one other province," one Pentagon official said. "We're not going to lose three."...

[bth: Things just aren't adding up. Anbar is voting no. The other province hasn't been named in any article I've read. Al-Sadr had spoken against it as the revenue splits would starve Sadr City and Baghdad of cash while enriching the more rural provinces, then a week later the Badr brigade goes after Sadr's group down south and a bomb blows up in front of his bodyguards house (Tuesday) and US troops arrest several of his deputies, then Sadr goes neutral on the constitution instead of agaist it. So that might tip the third province back to voting for the constitition if Sadr's 2 million constituents don't vote in mass. Another contradition and perhaps most to the point is who is eligible to vote and who is counting the ballots. If Iraqi reports show 1 million new voters since January and only 50,000 of them in Anbar, one can assume that while Sunnis may be registering in order to vote no, Shiites are also registering. Most importantly, the Shia are likely to be ballot counters and as Stalin said, it isn't who votes, but who counts that really matters..... Abizaid's point should be noted, there is no social compact emerging from this constitutional vote. If it passes, then the Sunnis will claim election fraud. If it doesn't then the country still splits along religious and regional lines. No matter how you add it up, the social compact needed for a functioning democracy does not exist nationally in Iraq. The election will not remedy that problem in the face of civil war.]

Robot on exhibit. Turret has rangefinders, cameras and acoustic modules. Posted by Picasa

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British hand over control of Basra

"British forces have handed over their main base in the city of Basra to the Iraqi military to allow it to take over the main security duties there.

In Baghdad, US forces raided the homes of two officials from a prominent Sunni Arab organisation, arresting bodyguards and confiscating weapons, Sunni officials said."...

British troops moved to a base 18 miles outside Basra to be able to intervene in a crisis.

It was the third southern city to be handed over to Iraqi forces in the space of a month following the US transfer of security control in the cities of Karbala and Najaf.

Adnan al-Dulaimi, secretary-general of the Conference for Iraq's People, said US soldiers in tanks and Humvees, with two helicopters circling overhead, broke into his home earlier, put him and his family in a guest room and searched the house.

"It was if they were attacking a castle, not the home of a normal person who advises Iraq's interim government and has called for reconciliation and renounced sectarianism," al-Dulaimi told a news conference after the raid in western Baghdad.

The other raid took place at the Baghdad home of Harith al-Obeidi, another senior official in the organisation, said Iraq's largest Sunni political party, the Iraqi Islamic Party....

Germans in Flanders 1917 Posted by Picasa

Iraq's relentless tide of murder

"SAAD RASHID is just another statistic in Iraq's war. The farmer and father of seven was driving through Baghdad when two cars filled with gunmen raked his vehicle with bullets.

Badly wounded, he dragged himself from his car and tried to run. His attackers shot him in the legs, then walked up and finished him off. It was 11am in a crowded street.

"I collected him from the mortuary. He had 12 bullets in him and they had shot him through the mouth," Akram Hussein, 28, his nephew, said.

"He had no obvious enemies, but he was a Shia from the Amiri tribe, and that was reason enough for him to be attacked."...

“Hundreds of Iraqis have died like this in the past eight to nine months,” said John Pace, head of the UN Human Rights Office for Iraq. “The number has increased exponentially in the past five months and remarkably in the last three. The pattern is regular; it’s systematic and we must presume there is a sophisticated form to these attacks.”

The reasons behind the daily tit-for-tat murders are many, with sectarianism just one. Mr Rashid’s family are sure that he was targeted as part of a vicious Shia-Sunni turf war.

The head of the Amiri tribe, Hadi al-Amiri, leads the Badr organisation, the militia wing of the dominant Shia political party. Hated and feared by Sunnis, Badr members and their extended families are seen as legitimate targets by Sunni death squads. This year an al-Amiri wedding was hit by a suicide bomber and 22 family members were killed. Since then other relatives have been abducted and murdered.

They are believed to be victims of the Umar Brigade, a special unit established in Iraq three months ago by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Qaeda’s commander in Iraq, specifically to trace and kill Badr members and their relatives. So far the Shia have born the brunt of the onslaught. ...

[bth: I fail to see how the Oct and December elections will stop this killing. The deterioration in readiness of Iraqi battalions also adds uncertainty to the situation.]

British Soldier near Baghdad Posted by Picasa