Saturday, November 12, 2005

If disaster strikes don't turn to God, evangelist tells town

"THE US 'televangelist' Pat Robertson warned residents of a rural Pennsylvania town not to be surprised if disaster strikes them because 'you just voted God out of your city' by ousting school board members who favoured teaching the doctrine of 'intelligent design'.

'I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city,' Robertson said on Thursday, on the Christian Broadcasting Network's The 700 Club. "

Robertson, a former presidential candidate and leading evangelical Christian, has frequently come under criticism for his admonitions and recommendations. He made headlines this summer when, during his daily show, he called for the assassination of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, who had espoused anti-US policies.

In October 2003, during an interview with an author of a book critical of the US State Department, Robertson suggested the agency's headquarters be blown up with a nuclear device. He has also said feminism encourages women to "kill their children, practise witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians".

Robertson's infamy in Scotland is enduring. During 1999, when the Bank of Scotland was trying to set up a direct consumer banking deal with the preacher, he came under fire for his views on gays, liberals, Hindus and Muslims.

He responded in a televised outburst in which he said: "[In] Scotland you can't believe how strong the homosexuals are." He added that the country was far different from its heroic past and could fall "right back to the darkness very easily" if it did not mend its ways.

The deal subsequently fell through. ....

But his latest remarks come after all eight school board members in Dover up for re-election were defeated on Tuesday after trying to introduce "intelligent design" - the belief that the universe is so complex it must have been created by a higher power - as an alternative to the theory of evolution.

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Pirates attack more ships: official

"NAIROBI (Reuters) - Somali pirates attacked five more ships this week after a failed attempt to seize a luxury liner, in a sharp rise of banditry apparently directed by a mysterious 'mother ship' prowling the Indian Ocean.

Most vessels escaped, but one was commandeered, bringing to nine the number of vessels being held captive along with their crews by pirates working the lawless southern section of the failed state's coastline, Africa's longest.

'Insecurity off the Somali coast has escalated sharply,' Andrew Mwangura, program coordinator at the Kenyan Seafarers' Association, told Reuters. 'It is very worrying.'

He said five vessels were attacked this week following Saturday's attempt to board the Bahamas-registered Seabourn Spirit, which was carrying 151 Western tourists.

Rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles were fired at the U.S.-owned Spirit by gunmen in two small speedboats, but the ship's captain managed to change course and speed away"

At the center of the wave of recent attacks is a mysterious, so-called mother ship that has been spotted three times since late July drifting off the northeast coast of Somalia.

"We understand that this is the vessel that is launching the speedboats that go to attack the victims," Mwangura said.

"We are still trying to discover the name of this ship, its owner, its nationality and the identity of the crew on board."

After the failed raid on the Spirit, Mwangura said the pirates apparently raced back to the "mother ship", which then set off in an unsuccessful bid to catch the fleeing cruise ship.

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said this week the situation was completely out of control and very dangerous.

After two years of relative calm, IMB said 32 pirate attacks had been recorded since mid-March, including raids on ships carrying supplies for the U.N. World Food Program.

Mwangura said nine ships were being held hostage by pirates, including vessels registered in Thailand, Taiwan, Malta and Ukraine. More than 100 crew members were being held for ransom.

Somalia has been ruled by rival warlords since dictator Mohammed Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991. Many of the warlords are believed to run gangs who smuggle drugs, weapons and people by road, sea and air around the region.

Piracy is a lucrative and growing offshoot of this trade.

On Wednesday the UN Security Council scolded Somalia's squabbling government and urged rival factions to come together to confront the chaos and piracy plaguing the lawless nation.

The council expressed "serious concern" about the recent wave of pirate attacks off the coast, and called on regional powers and international bodies to address the problem urgently.

Lou Bragaw put up a cross for John at Westminster yesterday Posted by Picasa

Paul Rieckhoff: Iraq Veterans Need More Than a Parade on Veterans Day


As the head of the nation's first and largest organization for Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Operation Truth, I released the following response to the President's speech today:

"On Veterans'Day, the President spoke a lot about the reasons for the war in Iraq, but very little about how he plans to take care of the people fighting that war, and what the future holds for them."

“Those of us who fought in Iraq deserve to know why we became Veterans in the first place. On today of all days there should be consensus on the need to rise above partisan bickering over who said what in Washington and begin real investigations into prewar intelligence. It’s unfortunate that the President doesn’t think he owes that to the people who have been unwavering in their bravery while carrying out his plans.”

The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans that make up Operation Truth salute those who have fought alongside us, those that fought before us, and pray for the safety of those who are currently on the battlefield.

But Veterans' Day is more than just a day to give Veterans a parade and a thank you. Veterans Day is about honoring those who have fought in service to this nation. The best way to honor our sacrifice is to take care of our needs and answer the questions we have. To date, all we have gotten from most people in Washington is a bunch of lip service and requests to be window dressing for advantageous politicians.

We hope that every politician -- from the President on down -- will finally tell us:

Why is there no mandatory baseline funding of the Department of Veterans Affairs? You say you support the Troops, but year after year, the VA is woefully underfunded because funding is at the discretion of Congress and the President. The result has been the agency charged with Veteran care has been continually underfunded by as much as 13-14%, according to the agency's own Undersecretary. The agency does not have enough centers and personnel to properly screen for and treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or provide adequate and timely health care. Some Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans are already homeless. There is no system set up to help them.

Why has no one been fired for underestimating the VA's funding need by billions? A wave of new Veterans is coming and the VA is not ready. Earlier this year, Secretary Jim Nicholson crawled to Congress with his tail between his legs to admit the agency miscalculated its need by almost $3 billion for the next two years. Who has been held accountable for this foul-up? Has the agency kept a closer eye on the developing need to make sure they aren't caught unprepared, as our Troops return from war?

Why did we become Veterans in the first place? On behalf of the Veterans of Iraq, I ask that the question is finally answered: Were we misled into war? We deserve to know.

Does anyone have a real plan for Iraq? Many of us who served in Iraq feel there was never a well thought out plan for after the invasion. We never felt there was a clear mission with attainable goals. We are told by many of our friends still over there that there is still no clear mission. Is there an exit strategy that is responsible and practical? Neither Democrats nor Republicans have offered anything on that front.

We Veterans do appreciate the accolades and honors we will get today from people across America, and we thank you. But what we really want is to be listened to, and get some answers. Help us make our voices heard. That is the best way to support the Troops on Veterans Day.
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Facing Their Memories

..."Attention also was paid at the Vietnam Women's Memorial, which was dedicated 12 years ago. Someone left a pack of Marlboro Reds at its base, with a message written in pen: 'Thanks Liz, for my life. Trapper.' About a dozen women stood at a microphone nearby, sharing their stories.

Among those listening were some who said they had to learn how important it is to talk about it, to remember.

'For years, I didn't talk about it. I blocked it out of my life. It was something I wanted to forget,' said Joan Muller, 57, who was a nurse in Vietnam in 1970 and now lives in Bethesda. 'But I guess I can't. Because, lately, it all keeps coming back.'

Each year, she and a wartime friend, another nurse also named Joan, come to the women's memorial and tell stories.

'It took a long time -- years -- for them to remember us,' said her friend Joan Garvert, 58, who travels from Springfield, Ill., every year to mark Veterans Day.

'You don't always think about the girls. When you think of veterans, you usually think of men,' said Dennis DuPuis, 56, of Eastover, S.C., who was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam.

Annie Cunningham, 61, spoke into the microphone about mortar fire and bodies, as well as the moment in 1967 that she realized that she could die in Vietnam.

'When I got back to the States, I wouldn't talk to my folks. I couldn't talk about it. They were expecting the little kid they sent to Vietnam. She was gone forever,' said Cunningham, of Charlottesville. 'It took me about 15 years before I could talk about this.'

Garvert and Muller listened to Cunningham and empathized with how hard it is to talk about the horrors they experienced. 'Maybe, someday, I'll be able to tell my story up there,' Muller said. "Not yet, though.

Photo taken yesterday by our friend in town, Lou Bragaw who is presently in London. This is the Queen at Westminster Abbey for Armistice Day. Compare and contrast this solumn event which includes an entire country coming to a stop for two minutes of silence, to the Bush political affront during Veterans Day in the U.S. ... The woman behind the Queen according to Lou had her husband killed in the Falklands War and he received the Victoria Cross. Posted by Picasa

Britain falls silent to mark Armistice Day

"Millions of people across Britain have marked Armistice Day with a Two Minute Silence to remember all those who have died in war."

The Two Minute Silence at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month represents the moment when the guns fell silent in November 1918 at the end of the First World War.

As Big Ben chimed at 11am, around 45 million people stopped what they were doing to honour those who have fought and perished for this country.

Towns and cities came to a standstill while businesses and schools paused to reflect....

Stuart Gendall, from The Royal British Legion, said: "The two minute silence is the single biggest annual demonstration of public support for any cause in the country.

"This small yet significant individual and collective act is a rare moment when the nation can stand together and reflect upon the price of freedom."...
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Bush Forcefully Attacks Iraq Critics

"TOBYHANNA, Pa. (AP) - President Bush strongly rebuked congressional critics of his Iraq war policy Friday, accusing them of being 'deeply irresponsible' and sending the wrong signal both to America's enemy and to U.S. troops.

'The stakes in the global war on terror are too high, and the national interest is too important, for politicians to throw out false charges,' Bush said in his most combative defense yet of his rationale for invading Iraq in March 2003."...

[bth: Veterans Day should be about honoring the vets, not partisan politics.]

Thursday, November 10, 2005

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GM to Restate Earnings as SEC Investigates

"General Motors Corp. said yesterday it plans to restate earnings for 2001, and possibly for the past five years, over an issue related to one of multiple investigations into the automaker's accounting by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In an SEC filing released after the close of financial markets, GM said it estimates that its 2001 profit was overstated by $300 million to $400 million, or 25 percent to 35 percent. The automaker said it has not determined the final restatement amount for that year or subsequent years. A spokesman for GM would not comment on the filing or other SEC investigations."

Earlier yesterday, GM's credit rating was lowered another two notches by Fitch Ratings, which indicated that the automaker may incur costs related to the bankruptcy of parts maker Delphi Corp.

The credit-rating news sent GM's shares tumbling to their lowest level since 1992, closing at $24.63 on the New York Stock Exchange....

Under terms of the separation agreement, GM pledged to take on certain retiree pension costs if Delphi were to go bankrupt. Delphi filed for Chapter 11 protection last month. Within days of the bankruptcy filing, GM disclosed that its pension liability for Delphi workers could be as high as $11 billion. In October, GM reported that the SEC has issued subpoenas for information relating to pensions and transactions with Delphi.

This year, Delphi restated earnings for the past five years, ending a 10-month internal accounting probe that led to the ouster of five executives. The company reduced 2001 retained earnings by $265 million and 2002 profit by $24 million and narrowed its 2003 loss by $46 million. Delphi also said its 2004 loss widened to $4.8 billion from the $36 million it had reported.

In a separate SEC filing yesterday, GM revised its financial results for the second quarter of this year to record a much wider loss of $1.07 billion, nearly four times the $286 million loss it had previously reported. The results were adjusted to reflect a decline in the value of GM's 20 percent stake in the Japanese company Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., which builds Subarus in the United States and Japan. GM said last month that it plans to sell that stake.

General Motors's financial condition has been steadily deteriorating this year. GM's core North American division is deep in the red. GM has been hit particularly hard by the collapse of the once-booming market for large sport-utility vehicles, a major source of profit for the company. Company executives are busy trying to pull off a turnaround plan, which includes pay and benefit concessions from plant workers. GM is also looking to sell part of its profitable GMAC loan-financing business.

[bth: GM will likely sell its GMAC loan portfolio and portions of its foriegn subsidiaries (though not its Chinese subsidiary) then it will put its North American subsidiary in bankruptcy. This will eventually lead to a massive re-negotiation of its health and labor contracts and allow it to attempt to pass its pension burden over to the federal government (you the taxpayer). I predict this will happen in 2006 just before the November elections, say around September, when the politicians will be scrambling.]

Grozny Posted by Picasa

Chirac, Lover of Spotlight, Avoids Glare of France's Fires

"But in the face of the most serious social crisis of his 10-year presidency, the 72-year-old French leader has become the invisible man.

Even his declaration of a nationwide state of emergency on Tuesday was presented not in a sober, televised presidential speech in prime time, but read aloud to journalists by the government spokesman after Tuesday's cabinet meeting.

'Chirac seems completely out of the loop,' said Bernard Kouchner, a Socialist former health minister and one of the most popular political figures in France. 'It's all very strange. As a doctor, I can't say whether he's in bad physical shape. But as a citizen, I can say he looks weaker and weaker.'

The absence of a man who seizes - even creates - opportunities to plunge into crowds, kiss babies and caress cows has prompted criticism that the president has no plan to ease the unrest that has gripped the country's slums for the past 13 days. It has also created an opening for rivals of Mr. Chirac's center-right party, already weakened by the public's rejection of a constitution for Europe - which was interpreted as a sweeping rejection of the French government - and humiliated when Paris lost the bid for the 2012 Olympics to London last July.

The civil unrest is seen as serious because it shakes the foundation of the French republican ideal, which envisions a uniform French identity that ignores ethnic and religious origin as the best guarantor of national unity. Initiatives proposed for the suburbs have been widely dismissed as inadequate to create educational opportunities and jobs for the young and security in ghettos plagued by drug-dealing and petty criminality.

We live in a political system designed and created in the 1950's, and that system is dying," said Xavier Raufer, a leading French criminologist, in a telephone interview. "What is really frightening is that the people who run our country have no idea that the new measures they are proposing are miserable, absolutely hollow. If I were a young person living in a suburb I would laugh."...

Russia - 60 Islamic extremist organizations fund terrorists in Russia - FSB

"VIENNA, November 8 (RIA Novosti, Taras Lariokhin) - A total of 60 Islamic extremist organizations, about 100 firms operating outside Russia, and 10 banking groups finance terrorism in Russia, an official of the Federal Security Service (FSB) said in the Austrian capital Tuesday. "...


"The Bush administration has acknowledged that Saudi
Arabia has renewed funding to Palestinian insurgency groups.

Officials said the Treasury Department has determined that after a lull of more than a year Riyad has relayed millions of dollars to Palestinian insurgency groups.

They said most of the money was said to have been sent to Hamas...."
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Rumsfeld can authorize exceptions to new "humane" interrogation directive

"WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld can authorize exceptions to a new Defense Department policy on military interrogations that bars torture and calls for 'humane' treatment of detainees, a spokesman said. "

The new directive lays out broad policy governing interrogations of detainees in Defense Department custody, but leaves the definition of "humane" to a separate, yet to be released directive that is still being debated within the administration.

A little noticed loophole in the directive, which was made public Tuesday, gives the secretary of defense or his deputy authority to override the policy....

Taleban behead two civilians; kill seven Afghan police

"KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Militants loyal to Afghanistan's Taleban regime killed seven Afghan police and beheaded two civilians in the country's insurgency-hit south, a provincial governor said on Thursday."...

[bth: so where is the muslim outrage at these killings and beheadings? Is it worse to behead a live person than to burn a dead body? The hypocracy is probably not lost on the American troops fighting in Afghanistan. Why is it lost on the clerics of that region? One wonders if we really have any friends in that region of the world.]

Chemical owner 'tipped off police'

"THE owner of a chemical supply company in southwest Sydney tipped off police about a series of unusual purchases before authorities carried out early morning raids on Tuesday.

Police followed up the call to the terrorist hotline two weeks ago, shortly before Prime Minister John Howard revealed intelligence had been received about a home-grown terrorist plot.

The owner of the business, which was not named at the request of Australian Federal Police, said he sold chemicals for cash to between 20 and 30 Muslim men, including small amounts of hydrochloric acid.

Suspicious purchases from three other southwest Sydney businesses were also investigated by anti-terror squad officers."

Their search warrants detailed a list of what to look for, including the high-flash explosive Triacetone triperoxide, detonators and terrorist manuals, when they performed 13 raids across eight Sydney suburbs.

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Mastermind had '30 bombs'

"THIRTY bombs, primed and ready to explode, have been found in the house where terror suspect Azahari Husin blew himself up, Indonesian police said today.

Indonesia's top policeman said fingerprints confirmed that fugitive Malaysian bombmaker Azahari died during the shootout in East Java.

'The identification by fingerprinting, it is higher in accuracy than before. There were two comparative (sets) and both are identical,' National Police Chief General Sutanto told reporters."...

North Korea Rushes To Finish Reactor

"North Korea has said it plans to finish building a 50-megawatt nuclear reactor in as little as two years, allowing it to produce enough weapons-grade plutonium for 10 weapons annually, according to the first public report of an unofficial U.S. delegation that visited Pyongyang in August.

The new reactor would represent a tenfold leap in North Korea's ability to produce fuel for nuclear weapons, which could give it significant leverage in talks aimed at dismantling its nuclear programs. North Korea tentatively agreed in September to 'abandon' its programs, but the talks -- which resume today in Beijing -- must still resolve how quickly Pyongyang gives up its weapons and what types of incentives it will receive."

North Korea is "moving full speed ahead with its nuclear weapons programs," said Siegfried S. Hecker, a former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, during a presentation at a conference sponsored by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

North Korea currently possesses a working five-megawatt reactor, which it restarted in 2003 after the collapse of a 1994 agreement to freeze its programs. The reactor currently produces five to seven kilograms of plutonium a year. North Korean officials told Hecker the reactor's fuel rods were unloaded in April of this year to extract plutonium; operations resumed in June.

Outside analysts and U.S. officials believe North Korea currently has as much as 53 kilograms of plutonium, enough to produce about 10 or more weapons. Before North Korea restarted its reactor in 2003, the United States believed North Korea possessed enough plutonium for only one or two weapons.

As North Korea's stockpile of plutonium increases, analysts said, Pyongyang can more easily threaten its neighbors and might even be tempted to sell some of it. In 2004, Vice President Cheney warned that an increasingly cash-strapped North Korea might seek to peddle its nuclear technology or fissile material -- including, Cheney said, to terrorist groups...

[bth: so for all the get tough talk we spewed, the net result is that they have enough plutonium for 10 or more weapons instead of one or two.]
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Iraqi insurgents find killing prowess in technology-fueled bombs

"DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- U.S. and British troops are being killed in Iraq by increasingly sophisticated insurgent bombs, including a new type triggered when a vehicle crosses an infrared beam and is blasted by armor-piercing projectiles.

The technology, which emerged during guerrilla wars in Lebanon and Northern Ireland, has been used in recent roadside bombings that have killed dozens of Americans and at least eight British soldiers.

The alarming efficiency has led many British and a few U.S. officials to argue that rogue groups in Iran and perhaps Lebanon are giving expertise to Iraq's insurgents. But others caution against that idea, saying the technology is available to those who know where to look.

Either way, the Pentagon is scrambling to find countermeasures, says Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, a senior U.S. military officer in Iraq.

'We're studying very hard where this technology is coming from and what we can do to combat that technology,' Lynch said in a briefing in Baghdad last week.

The deadly munitions mark a steady improvement in the roadside bombs that debuted in 2003 in Iraq, often as simple as a single artillery shell wrapped with detonator cord linked to a battery.

The new bombs are a deadly marriage of stealthy camouflage, shaped explosives that propel metal projectiles through four inches of armor and infrared motion-detector triggers that can't be blocked by electronic jammers.

'It works like a burglar alarm, a beam that goes across a doorway. Once the beam is broken it triggers the bomb
,' said Amyas Godfrey, a former British army intelligence officer who left Iraq in October 2004 after serving two tours.

British officials and, to a lesser extent, their American counterparts have suggested Iraqi insurgents are getting advice and perhaps components from Iran or Lebanon's Hezbollah militia.

In the 1990s, Hezbollah's Iranian-backed Shiite fighters used infrared-triggered penetrator bombs with great success against Israeli armored vehicles in southern Lebanon.

..."There's no evidence that these are supplied by Iran," he said. "A lot of this is just technology that is leaked into an informal network. What works in one country gets known elsewhere."

Last month, the London-based Independent newspaper quoted a British intelligence official as saying the Irish Republican Army was first to use infrared triggers in bombs aimed at British troops 15 years ago....Infrared triggers are easily obtained, said Godfrey, the former British intelligence officer. He said they are identical to motion sensors used to open elevator doors or set off burglar alarms.

The new bombs also contain simple radio-controlled receivers that allow insurgents to arm them by radio or cell phone ahead of an approaching military convoy.

"Usually they'll place an array of explosives locked to a single infrared sensor," Cordesman said. "What you get is an array of shaped charges, so you're not going to get hit with just one."

He said the clustered projectiles are accurate -- and effective -- against armored Humvees and light armored vehicles at up to 50 feet. Heavily armored Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles are better able to withstand the blasts, although some have been destroyed.

...Perhaps most worrisome for the Pentagon is that infrared triggers cannot be blocked by electronic countermeasures, such as devices that emit a radio beam to jam signals from cell phones, garage-door openers and other remote-control devices used to detonate bombs....

[bth: we are fighting a war agaist cell phones, garage door openers and the infrared security beams used by every elevator.]

Police fear that terror suspects arrested in Denmark are linked to a British plot to attack the US White House

"A British police dragnet has raised suspicion that nine terrorist suspects arrested in Denmark and Bosnia are linked to a plan to attack the White House and other strategic targets in the United States.

British police became interested in one of the suspects after they arrested three men in London and found they had had email correspondence with a man living in Bosnia. The man living in Bosnia had been suspected of running a network that sought to draw alienated youths to the rebellion in Iraq.

Seven 16-20-year-olds are currently under arrest in Denmark along with two 18-year-old men in Sarajevo, one of Danish-Turkish heritage and the other from Sweden, in connection with the find of cache of weapons and explosives in Sarajevo.

Two days after the two were arrested in Sarajevo, British police arrested three people in Great Britain on suspicion of planning a terror attack on The White House.

The three men had apparently been in email correspondence with someone in Sarajevo who used the codename 'Maximus'."

Chalabi was meeting with this man last week. Posted by Picasa

Iraqi politician denies giving false prewar intelligence to U.S.

"WASHINGTON - Controversial Iraqi politician Ahmad Chalabi refused to apologize Wednesday for providing the U.S. government with false information on Saddam Hussein's weapons and ties to terrorists, calling charges that he did so an 'urban myth.'

Chalabi, now a deputy Iraqi prime minister with a chance to become the country's next leader, is the former exile whose group lobbied vigorously for a U.S. invasion of Iraq. The group, the Iraqi National Congress, provided intelligence agencies and reporters with defectors whose accounts of bioweapons factories and terror training sites proved to be bogus.

Chalabi is visiting Washington to try to mend ties with the Bush administration, which were publicly strained over allegations last year that he or one of his aides told Iran that the U.S. government had broken its secret codes.

An FBI investigation of the matter has barely progressed, according to a U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because it's an active law enforcement issue

Answering questions after a speech at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, Chalabi denied the Iran allegation and said that relations with the White House are improving.

'I think confidence is being built now,' he said. "

Chalabi met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and national security adviser Stephen Hadley on Wednesday, although neither would be photographed with him. He's to meet with Vice President Dick Cheney, a longtime patron, next week.

Chalabi's presence poses a dilemma for President Bush and his aides: It comes at a time when questions over the administration's case for a pre-emptive war against Iraq are being raised anew. But Chalabi could play a major role in Iraq's future, making him hard to ignore. ...

But Chalabi's organization provided the Bush administration and some news organizations with other alleged Iraqi defectors who claimed that Saddam had hidden nuclear, chemical and biological warfare programs and was training Islamic extremists in assassinations, hijackings and bombings.

For instance, an INC-produced defector named Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri said in December 2001 that he had visited 20 nuclear, chemical and biological warfare sites. But he showed deception in a CIA-administered lie detector test and intelligence officials dismissed him as unreliable.

Nevertheless, the White House gave his claim prominence in a background paper that was published in conjunction with a speech that Bush delivered to the U.N. General Assembly eight months later. His account first appeared in The New York Times, which the White House cited in the paper.

Saeed was unable to identify a single illicit arms facility to U.S. weapons inspectors when he was brought back to Iraq in 2004.

The defectors' claims appeared in the Bush administration's main public background paper laying out its case against Saddam, in the key prewar U.S. intelligence assessment on Iraq's banned weapons programs and in a February 2003 speech to the U.N. Security Council by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell.

The INC reported in a June 2002 letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee that it fed information to some of the world's most influential English-language newspapers and magazines.

On Capitol Hill, Democratic lawmakers called for Chalabi to answer questions about his role in the war.

Several Senate Democrats, including Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., demanded that he cooperate with the long-delayed second phase of a Senate Intelligence Committee probe into prewar intelligence.

Chalabi said he'd offered in May 2004 to answer lawmakers' questions and said he remains ready to do so.

"I am prepared to go to the Senate and respond to questions," he said.

Chalabi, along with allies inside and outside the U.S. government, also vigorously championed the idea that Saddam could be ousted quickly if the United States provided only a small number of ground troops and massive air power to support a rebellion by Iraqi opposition forces. He also insisted that most Iraqis would greet American troops as liberators.

The Bush administration's failure to deploy sufficient numbers of troops, contrary to the advice of many senior officers, is blamed for the onset of the conflict, which has claimed the lives of more than 2,000 U.S. troops and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians.

In February 2004, after no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, Chalabi was quoted by the Telegraph, a London newspaper, as saying, "We are heroes in error."

On Wednesday, he denied making the comment, but expressed sympathy for U.S. casualties.

"We are sorry for every American life that is lost in Iraq," he said.

Chalabi, who gave a generally upbeat assessment of progress in Iraq, has shifted political alliances in Baghdad.

A secular Shiite, he recently broke with a coalition of Shiite Islamist groups and announced plans to run on a secular platform in December parliamentary elections.

Asked whether he has ambitions to be prime minister, he replied with a smile: "That's for me to know, and you to find out."

[bth: Chalabi's group fed the US bad intel, evidently gave US secrets to Iran, has allied recently with al-Sadr who fought the US hard in 2004 in which thousands died, and was involved in rampant corruption in 2004 and early 2005. So here we are, he is meeting most of the US administration but isn't being photographed with them. How nice. And what by the way is the American Enterprise Institute doing inviting this guy to speak as if he were our newfound and most loyal friend?]

Chalabi Offers to Be Questioned by Senate

"Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi offered Wednesday to be questioned by the Senate on his role in prewar Iraq but refused to apologize for fueling allegations that Saddam Hussein had hidden caches of weapons of mass destruction.

Accorded a warm reception by the Bush administration, Chalabi lined up Vice President Dick Cheney and five Cabinet officers, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, for meetings this week and next.

Chalabi, whose reputation in Washington has soared, fallen and now revived, was welcomed by administration officials whom he briefed on Iraq's reconstruction efforts, particularly on energy and financial issues.

But on Capitol Hill, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., urged the Senate and House intelligence committees to subpoena Chalabi regarding allegations that he provided false information about Saddam's weapons and leaked U.S. secrets to Iran.

Sens. Durbin, Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., and Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., told Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales that Chalabi should be sitting down with FBI investigators rather than meeting with Cabinet secretaries.

'Will the FBI interview Mr. Chalabi during his visit to the United States?' the senators asked in a letter. 'If not, why not?'".....

[bth: Its hard to underestimate the damage to the US this man has caused, yet he is treated as if he were visiting royalty. What has happened to our country that black is white? This fellow was just in Iran being praised by one of the most disgusting regimes on earth. We cut off financial aid to his party and raided his offices in 2004 when his intelligence chief reportedly fed intelligence to Iran that we had broken its codes. Is this forgotten? And when we sent our soldiers to war on fraudulent intelligence this man fed to us and we said "thank you sir may we have another?" our administration pretends it didn't happen!]

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

World Trade Center Posted by Picasa

Tehran Supports Nominating Al Chalabi for Heading the Coming Iraqi Government

"London - Ahmed Al Chalabi, the Iraqi deputy prime minister and head of the Iraqi National Conference party has received the conditioned support of the Iranian government for entering the elections as independent from the Shiite Iraqi United Coalition."

The top officials in Tehran have expressed their support to Al Chalabi to occupy the position of Prime Minister after the Iraqi elections, which are supposed to be conducted by the middle of next month, in case he obtained sufficient seats in the parliament that enable him to compete with the potential major candidates; the former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, the current Prime Minister Dr. Ibrahim Al Ja'fari, and Adel Abdel Mahdi, the prominent leader in the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution and Vice-President.

A high-ranking source in the office of the Iranian guide Ali Khamenei disclosed to Al Sharq Al Awsat that the supreme leadership in Iran is currently very worried about the great political gains of Dr. Iyad Allawi after his success in creating a broad slate including key national parties and figures and after the issue of indications on behalf of the Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani that express his resentment and frustration regarding the fertile performance of Dr. Ibrahim Al Ja'fari's government, on the one hand, and the failure of the deputies, who are supposed to be loyal to the Supreme Council, Al Da'wa Party and the other Shiite parties, in achieving the promises that they launched, in addition to the collapse of the United Iraqi Coalition Slate, on the other hand.

This source referred to information stating that Ayatollah Al Sistani has not only refrained from opposing the return of Allawi to head the government, but there are also indications that Al Sistani considers Allawi as the sole Shiite politician, who can end the interference of the Iranian intelligence and revolutionary guards in the Iraqi interior affairs.

The Iranian source pointed out that Al Chalabi managed to convince the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadi Najad and his powerful senior consultant, Hashemi Shamra, that he is the only one capable of scheduling the American –British withdrawal from Iraq and that he enjoys the confidence and respect on behalf of Washington, in addition to the fact that his presence on top of the Iraqi government would noticeable shrink Washington's worries against the expansion of the Iranian influence. Meanwhile, Tehran knows quite well that Al Chalabi would not turn into an enemy as his relations with the Iranian regime are strong, old and shall not be affected with any political storms or changes in the current alliances in Iraq.

Al Sharq Al Awsat has been informed that a former security consultant of Al Chalabi's has previously fled to Iran after being accused on behalf of the American military intelligence in Iraq of providing the Iranian revolutionary guards with confidential information on the American military and security presence in Iraq and the relations of Iraqi officials with the former American civil governor of Iraq Paul Bremer. He has also played a significant role in arranging Al Chalabi's visit to Tehran and his meetings with the top officials, including the Republic President and the foreign affairs minister Menushahr Mutaqi, in addition to high-ranking officials in Khamenei's office, the intelligence authorities and the revolutionary guards.

[bth: Hard to believe that after giving the US false intelligence that we went to war on and then alerting Iranians that we had broken one of their codes, that the Iranians endorse him for Iraqi President and the American Enterprise Institute would invite him to the US to speak and then he will meet with the US Administration. I can't even believe we are offering him a visa to enter the country.]

Explosions Hit Three Hotels in Jordan

"AMMAN, Jordan - Three explosions hit hotels in Jordan's capital Wednesday night, killing at least 18 people and wounding 120 others in an apparent coordinated terrorist attack, police said.

FOX News producers in Amman at the time of the first blast said the apparent attack was aimed at a 'triangle' of three hotels in the city. A FOX producer was inside the Grand Hyatt when it was hit. He reported feeling the shockwaves from the blast, and said he and everyone else in the hotel were quickly evacuated.

FOX producers said the next two explosions occurred at the Radisson SAS and the Days Inn, which are near the Hyatt."...

Iraqi shows an American soldier the scars left by Saddams torturers. Let us collectively remember who we are and why we fight. Posted by Picasa

Central Torture Agency? Exempting the CIA From the McCain Amendment Sends the Wrong Signal to Our Officers

"Americans do not join the CIA to commit torture. Yet that could be the result if a proposal advanced by Vice President Cheney becomes law.

When the abuses by U.S. servicemen and intelligence officers at Abu Ghraib surfaced last year, there was understandable outrage in this country and abroad. Internal investigations and congressional hearings revealed several causes of the abuse. One of the most important was confusion in the military and intelligence agencies as to what rules governed interrogations. A root cause of the confusion was the belief at the highest levels of the administration that the Geneva Conventions, which had governed our conduct for 60 years, were outmoded and should not constrain our treatment of prisoners. Regrettably, the career lawyers in the armed forces and the State Department who have guided our compliance with the Geneva Conventions for decades were cut out of these discussions."

In response, Sen. John McCain, himself a victim of brutal torture by the North Vietnamese, introduced an amendment to the 2006 Defense Appropriations Act that would, in essence, require all agencies of the U.S. government to comply with the Geneva Conventions and international law, which prohibit torture. Over strong administration objection, McCain's amendment passed 90 to 9. It will soon be considered by a conference committee with the House, which has no similar provision in its version of the bill. Enter the vice president.

Cheney and Porter Goss, director of the CIA, have proposed a modification of the McCain amendment that would permit the president to exempt the CIA from its strictures. McCain wisely rejected that proposal. So should the conferees.

If the administration's proposal passed, what would be the consequences? Why should we adhere to the Geneva Conventions when our terrorist enemies do not?

The answers are simple. First, we have long championed the Geneva Conventions because we want our citizens treated humanely when they are captured. Second, morally it is the right thing to do. If this amendment passes, what weight will our complaints have when other governments use their intelligence services to torture Americans?

There are also practical considerations that argue against the administration's proposal. It would sow even further confusion in the field, where decisions must be made by young officers who act under enormous stress and often in fear for their lives. Those officers demand, and we must provide, clear guidance with respect to what they may and may not do. The CIA and the military operate cheek-by-jowl, often in small teams far from command structures and lawyers. If those teams operate with two sets of rules, confusion will reign and abuses will occur.

On Monday the president weighed in, saying that "we do not torture." Regrettably, because his administration has endorsed interrogation techniques that border on torture (anything short of "organ failure"), we cannot be certain of what the president means by torture. That confusion could be eliminated by clear congressional action requiring adherence to a single standard for the whole government, as McCain suggested.

Lawyers and policymakers in Washington who sleep between clean sheets and get three hot meals a day can draft complex rules that make fine distinctions between military and CIA rules for interrogation. Those same officials ask our young officers in the field to take great risks. Risks are necessary to protect us. And war is not bingo. But the officers in the field are mindful that their colleagues are being investigated and may be prosecuted for prisoner abuses. If the Cheney proposal is adopted, what signal will it send to those officers? If the Geneva Conventions don't apply, what are the limits on interrogation? Will officers in the field have confidence that they will be backed up by senior officers in Washington, or will they be prosecuted?

There may be an argument for exempting the CIA from the McCain amendment. If so, the president and vice president should publicly make the case. They should say why they believe treatment of prisoners outside the Geneva Conventions would provide vital intelligence to protect us. They should give examples of how such treatment has produced valuable intelligence. If the choice is between the McCain amendment as modified by Cheney and nothing, we are better off with doing nothing and leaving the law where it is. Sooner or later this nation will come to its senses and remember how important international law and the Geneva Conventions are to our standing in the world and the protection of our citizens.

The Post reported on Oct. 27 that John Negroponte, director of national intelligence, has directed intelligence agencies to "bolster the growth of democracy" and support the rule of law in other nations. Those are noble causes that will be embraced by all intelligence officers. But if the vice president's proposal is adopted, the CIA will presumably be free to bolster democracy by torturing anyone who does not embrace it with sufficient enthusiasm. Some democracy.

The writer is a former general counsel of the CIA.

This Vietnam era gun truck would not look out of place in Iraq Posted by Picasa

Report Warned on C.I.A.'s Tactics in Interrogation

"WASHINGTON, Nov. 8 - A classified report issued last year by the Central Intelligence Agency's inspector general warned that interrogation procedures approved by the C.I.A. after the Sept. 11 attacks might violate some provisions of the international Convention Against Torture, current and former intelligence officials say.

The previously undisclosed findings from the report, which was completed in the spring of 2004, reflected deep unease within the C.I.A. about the interrogation procedures, the officials said. A list of 10 techniques authorized early in 2002 for use against terror suspects included one known as waterboarding, and went well beyond those authorized by the military for use on prisoners of war.

The convention, which was drafted by the United Nations, bans torture, which is defined as the infliction of 'severe' physical or mental pain or suffering, and prohibits lesser abuses that fall short of torture if they are 'cruel, inhuman or degrading.' The United States is a signatory, but with some reservations set when it was ratified by the Senate in 1994. "...

[bth: How in God's name did we go from a victim of 9-11 and a liberator of Iraq to the sorry state we are in today? -- Occupiers and no longer liberators through piss poor planning (or lack of) in Washington; operators of CIA gulags in Eastern Europe reminescent of the Soviet Evil Empire and advocates of legalized torture? ... Would a compassionate Christian conservative please stand up and lead this country back into the light?]

1-508th. Iraq, Oct. 2003. Crappy equipment cost men's lives. Posted by Picasa

Soldiers for the Truth -- William Lind -- On War #138: Exit Strategy

"One day late in the Vietnam war, a Senator called his defense staffer into his office. Like too many Senators (though neither of the two I worked for), the distinguished legislator depended entirely upon his staff but treated them like peons. Although the end of the day had come and gone, the Senator snarled at his hapless staffer, 'I want to give a speech on the Floor tomorrow morning on the Vietnam war. You can stay here tonight and write it.'"

The next morning, the Senator found the text of his speech on his desk, neatly typed and bound. Without bothering to look it over, he took it to the Floor of the Senate where, with the voice if not the mind of Cicero, he shared it with the world. About half way through, he read a page that concluded with the words, "I will now offer my five-point plan for ending the Vietnam war." Turning the page, he found an unexpected message from his despised staffer: "You're on your own now, you SOB. I quit."

Like the Senator, I think it is time I offered my own exit strategy for Iraq. Everyone in Washington except those in the Bushbunker knows we need an exit strategy; few have offered one. While I have had a bit more time to consider my proposal than did the Senator in the story (which was current during my early days on Senate staff), I am sure my proposal will have holes in it. Nonetheless, it may help move the discussion along, from whether to get out of Iraq to how to get out.

Please note that I am not talking about how to win the Iraq war. The war was lost from before the first bomb fell, because the strategic objectives were never attainable no matter what we did. Further blunders, from de-Baathification and sending the Iraqi Army home through mistreating the civilian population, have moved us from mere failure to incipient disaster. The question, rather, is how we might get out without our defeat being so obvious as to be undeniable.

So here is my proposal:

First, announce that we will leave Iraq soon, and completely. Not one American base or soldier will remain on Iraqi soil. The spin should be, "We came only to remove Saddam from power, and we have accomplished that mission. Iraq now has a constitution and an elected government; we have no reason to remain."

Second, open negotiations to set a date by which we will be gone. The formal negotiations will be with the Iraqi government. Behind the scenes, we will have to set a deadline for achieving an agreement, failing which we will announce a withdrawal unilaterally. Governments established by foreign powers may be reluctant to see foreign troops leave.

The critical (and secret) negotiations, however, will not be with Iraq's puppet government, but with the Sunnis. Here, what we need is what is sometimes called a "diplomatic revolution." Instead of siding with the Kurds and Shiites against the Sunnis, we need to offer the Sunnis an alliance. The terms would be roughly these:

1) We will set and adhere to a date for complete withdrawal;

2) We will cease all attacks on the Sunni resistance, as part of a mutual cease-fire; and

3) We will use such political influence as we retain with Iraq's Shiite-Kurdish condominium to protect and advance the Sunnis' interests.

In return, the Sunnis will:

1) Enforce a cease-fire in the Sunni provinces, and

2) Clean up al Qaeda in Iraq. If they need and want our help to do that, we will help. I doubt they will need any assistance from us, beyond stopping our attacks in Sunni areas, and I doubt even more they will want it, since it would de-legitimize them.

Third, while we will cease our useless "sweeps" and other clearly offensive actions, we will also quietly institute the "ink-blot strategy" in some mixed Sunni-Shiite-Kurdish areas. While the ink-blot strategy (like the CAP program in Vietnam) represents a strategic offensive, which allows us to keep pressure on the Sunnis to make a deal, it requires de-escalation on the tactical level, so as not to alienate the local population. That should help reduce both Sunni and American casualties while negotiations proceed.

As I have noted in previous columns, a problem in Fourth Generation conflicts is finding someone with whom to negotiate, someone who can deliver once a deal is made. Here, events in Iraq may have given us an opportunity. According to the October 27 Christian Science Monitor, Iraq's key Sunni political parties have formed a new coalition. That coalition is, to quote the Monitor, "Islamist, vehemently anti-American, opposed to foreign troops, and discreetly pro-insurgency." I think it is safe to add that it is closely tied to the Baathist elements of the insurgency, which are both a large part of the resistance and strongly opposed to al Qaeda.

All those characteristics make it a credible negotiating partner. Negotiations with Sunni Quislings serve no purpose, because the Quislings can't deliver what we need, a quieting down of the fighting while we get out. There is good reason to think the new Sunni coalition could deliver that. In turn, we could deliver what they need, which is political support vis-à-vis the Shiites and Kurds.

Could it work? Maybe; in such business, there are no guarantees. Would the new Sunni coalition talk with us about a deal along these lines? It's worth a try. Would the Bush administration make such an attempt? Aye, there's the rub. The Bushbunker may be so detached from reality that it still thinks we can win this war militarily.

If that is the case, then it is time for America's senior military leaders, the Chief and Members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to have a little talk with the President. Another Vietnam war story, a true one, is how the JCS failed to give President Johnson the advice he needed though did not want, namely that the military had done all that it could and it was time to seek a political solution.

So that's my exit strategy. If someone else comes up with a better one, I will be happy to defer to it. But the time is past for arguing whether we need an exit strategy; the discussion should be about what that strategy might be. "Staying the course" in a lost war is not a strategy at all; it is merely a recipe for disaster.

Contributing Editor William S. Lind, a veteran defense policy analyst, is Director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism at the Free Congress Foundation. The views expressed in this article are those of Mr. Lind writing in his personal capacity. He can be reached through the foundation's mailform. Please send Looking Out on Hostile

... "For the Americans charged with maintaining order in this roiling, ruined city in western Iraq, it's too late to make friends. One year ago, the Marines launched an assault to take back Fallujah from insurgents, including some loyal to al-Qaeda leader Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi, who had overrun the city and used it as a base for spreading mayhem throughout Iraq. A week of house-by-house fighting left hundreds of insurgents dead--and saddled U.S. forces and the Iraqi government with the task of rebuilding a battered city and persuading 210,000 uneasy locals to return home. Some military analysts hoped Fallujah would be where the U.S. could apply the 'oil spot' strategy of counterinsurgency, with the aim to spread stability by clearing and securing individual cities and improving the lives of their citizens.

But like much else about the war in Iraq, Fallujah hasn't turned out as the U.S. had hoped. In many respects, the city reflects less the progress of the U.S. enterprise than its troubles"...

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

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Sadr emerging as Iraq's political kingmaker

"Moqtada al-Sadr, whose followers are blamed for the recent killings of British troops in Basra, has emerged as the political kingmaker expected to shape the country's government for the next four years after the election on Dec 15.
In recent days a procession of Iraq's most powerful political leaders has paid homage to the 31-year-old cleric."...

Sadr, who has more than three million supporters, is likely to hold the balance of power in the new parliament....

Poll: Libby Indictment Important to Nation

WASHINGTON (AP) - The recent indictment of Vice President Cheney's top aide has struck a nerve with the American public. Four in five, 79 percent, said the indictment of former Cheney aide I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby on perjury and other charges is important to the nation, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. Pew noted that in September 1998, 65 percent said President Clinton's lies under oath were important. Clinton was impeached over his handling of an affair with Monica Lewinsky, but was acquitted by the Senate on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice."...
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Ship blasted pirates with sonic weapon

"The crew of a luxury cruise ship used a sonic weapon that blasts earsplitting noise in a directed beam while being attacked by a gang of pirates off Africa this weekend, the cruise line said Monday."

The Seabourn Spirit had a Long Range Acoustic Device, or LRAD, installed as a part of its defense systems, said Bruce Good, a spokesman for Miami-based Seabourn Cruise Line. The Spirit was about 100 miles off Somalia when pirates fired rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns as they tried to get onboard....
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Official Reveals Budget for U.S. Intelligence

"WASHINGTON, Nov. 7 - In an apparent slip, a top American intelligence official has revealed at a public conference what has long been secret: the amount of money the United States spends on its spy agencies.

At an intelligence conference in San Antonio last week, Mary Margaret Graham, a 27-year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency and now the deputy director of national intelligence for collection, said the annual intelligence budget was $44 billion.

The number was reported Monday in U.S. News and World Report, whose national security reporter, Kevin Whitelaw, was among the hundreds of people in attendance during Ms. Graham's talk.

'I thought, 'I can't believe she said that,' ' Mr. Whitelaw said on Monday. 'The government has spent so much time and energy arguing that it needs to remain classified.'

The figure itself comes as no great shock; most news reports in the last couple of years have estimated the budget at $40 billion. But the fact that Ms. Graham would say it in public is a surprise, because the government has repeatedly gone to court to keep the current intelligence budget and even past budgets as far back as the 1940's from being disclosed."...
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Middle class filling up military, study says

"Middle-class youths, not the poor, are providing the bulk of wartime recruits to the armed forces, according to a new study by a conservative think tank.

The Heritage Foundation research paper found that a higher percentage of middle-class and upper-middle-class families have been providing enlistees for the war on Islamic militants since the September 11 attacks on the United States.

Researchers matched the ZIP codes of recruits over the past five years with federal government estimates of household incomes in those neighborhoods. Contrary to complaints from some liberal lawmakers and pundits, the data show that the poor are not shouldering the bulk of the military's need for new soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines.

The poorest neighborhoods provided 18 percent of recruits in prewar 1999 and 14.6 percent in 2003. By contrast, areas where household incomes ranged from $30,000 to $200,000 provided more than 85 percent.

'We found that recruits tend to come from middle-class areas, with disproportionately fewer from low-income areas,' said the report, prepared by Tim Kane, an Air Force Academy graduate and economics scholar. 'Overall, the income distribution of military enlistees is more similar to than different from the income distribution of the general population.' "...

The Heritage report states that median household income for all enlisted recruits in 1999 was $41,141, compared with the national median of $41,994. By 2003, the recruit household income reached $42,822, when adjusted for inflation.

"In other words, on average, recruits in 2003 were from wealthier neighborhoods than were recruits in 1999," said the report, titled, "Who Bears the Burden? Demographic Characteristics of U.S. Military Recruits Before and After 9/11."

Mr. Kane said overall evidence "is at odds with the image, painted by some supporters of the draft, that the military exploits poor, ignorant young Americans by using slick advertising that promises technical careers in the military to dupe them into trading their feeble opportunities in the private sector for a meager role as cannon fodder."

About 98 percent of all enlistees from 1999 to 2003 had a high school diploma, compared with 75 percent of nonrecruits nationwide. ....
"In an education context, rather than attracting underprivileged young Americans, the military seems to be attracting above-average Americans," Mr. Kane wrote.

Iraqi President to Italy: Don't Pull Troops

"ROME - Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said a premature withdrawal of Italian troops from his country would be catastrophic and that the presence of multinational forces in Iraq was vital.

Talabani arrived in Rome on Monday for a visit that includes talks with Italy's top officials and a meeting at the Vatican with Pope Benedict XVI.

'Those who think terrorism in Iraq is the result of the presence of multinational forces are wrong,' Talabani said in comments published in Monday's editions of La Stampa daily.

Saddam Hussein loyalists and al-Qaida terrorists 'cannot bear a democracy in the heart of the Middle East,' he said. 'That's why the continuous presence of multinational forces is absolutely vital to us.'

Talabani met with Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi on Monday afternoon, but no details were released.

The Iraqi official was to hold talks with Premier Silvio Berlusconi and Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini on Tuesday.

Berlusconi, who supported the United States in its war in Iraq despite strong domestic opposition, sent about 3,000 troops to the country after the ouster of Saddam in 2003. Italy is now gradually pulling out its contingent."...

Italy Warned U.S. Iraq Uranium Dossier a Fake

"ROME - Italian secret services warned the United States months before it invaded Iraq that a dossier about a purported Saddam Hussein effort to buy uranium (search) in Africa was fake, a lawmaker said Thursday after a briefing by the nation's intelligence chief.

'At about the same time as the State of the Union address, they [Italy's SISMI (search) secret services] said that the dossier doesn't correspond to the truth,' Sen. Massimo Brutti (search) told journalists after the parliamentary commission was briefed.

Brutti said the warning was given in January 2003, but he did not know whether it was made before or after President Bush's speech."...
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Few signs of progress into Chalabi leak of intelligence to Iran

..."More than 17 months after then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice publicly promised a full criminal inquiry, the Federal Bureau of Investigation hasn't interviewed Mr. Chalabi himself or many current and former U.S. government officials thought likely to have information related to the matter, according to lawyers for several of these individuals and others close to the case.

The investigation of Mr. Chalabi, who had been a confidant of senior Defense Department officials before the war in Iraq, remains in the hands of the FBI, with little active interest from local federal prosecutors or the Justice Department, these people said. There also has been no grand-jury involvement in the case."

The investigation centers on allegations that one or more U.S. officials in early 2004 leaked intelligence to Mr. Chalabi, including the fact that the U.S. had broken a crucial Iranian code, and that Mr. Chalabi in turn had passed the information to the Baghdad station chief of Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security. The assertions about Mr. Chalabi's involvement came after U.S. intelligence agencies intercepted a cable from the station chief back home to Iran, detailing what the chief claimed was a conversation with Mr. Chalabi about the broken code.

Former intelligence officials said such a leak could have caused serious damage to U.S. national security. The broken code had enabled U.S. intelligence agencies to monitor covert cable traffic among Iranian operatives around the world. The encrypted cable traffic was a main source of information on Iranian operations inside Iraq. The leak also threatened U.S. efforts to monitor any Iranian steps to develop nuclear weapons. And there was concern that the disclosure could prompt other countries to upgrade their encryption, making it more difficult for the U.S. to spy on them.

Bush Defends CIA's Clandestine Prisons

"PANAMA CITY, Nov. 7 -- President Bush, defending a clandestine U.S. prison system abroad for terrorism suspects, said Monday that his administration would continue to aggressively battle terrorism in sometimes unconventional but always lawful ways.

Brushing aside international criticism of the CIA-run prisons set up in eight countries, Bush said that the nation is at war with an enemy 'that lurks and plots and plans and wants to hurt America again. And so, you bet, we'll aggressively pursue them, but we'll do so under the law.' Bush, who spoke to reporters during a brief visit to the capital of Panama, also asserted, 'We do not torture.'"

His comments followed efforts by Vice President Cheney to lobby lawmakers to exempt the CIA from an amendment that would ban torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners. The exemption would cover the secret prisons....

General calls use of 152nd 'inexcusable'

"Maj. Gen. John 'Bill' Libby, freshly returned from visiting his Maine Army National Guard troops in Iraq, called it 'inexcusable' that the 152nd Maintenance Company is being used primarily as a security force.

'Three years in . . . it's inexcusable to have brought a maintenance company over there to do anything but maintenance,' Libby said. 'It's particularly galling to me when I strip myself of full-time mechanics and they get there and they're in a tower.'

Libby, speaking with reporters Thursday, said switching assignments on the unit hurts his ability to recruit and retain soldiers for the Guard.

'They were frustrated by not being able to be mechanics . . . and I'll have a tough time convincing them to re-enlist,' he said. That creates problems in an area that is already a challenge for the National Guard and regular army."...

With the latest deployment, about 80 percent of the Maine National Guard will have been deployed during the current conflict. Those soldiers cannot be made to return under current rules that limit to 24 months guardsmen's active-duty obligation, he said.

"The Maine National Guard is just about out of the fight, as the overall National Guard is," he said. That poses a problem for the long-term presence of the Army in Iraq, he said. The National Guard and Reserve make up almost half of the 133,000 troops now in the country.

"Two years from now, where is that 133,000 going to come from? We're flat out of troops in the National Guard," Libby said.

He said there are signs of how the U.S. presence is likely to change in the future. He visited a base in southern Iraq that will expand from 6,000 to 16,000 soldiers, drawing them from northern parts of the country. He expects U.S. forces will consolidate in two or three major, well-protected bases, with Iraqi troops eventually taking over operations in the rest of the country.

The Iraqis he spoke to there were grateful for the opportunity for self-governance, but eager for Americans to leave, viewing them as an occupying force, he said.

However, Libby said he does not believe the Iraqi Army is ready to take control. If the U.S. left prematurely, it would do a disservice to the majority of Iraqis and to the servicemen and women who have died during the war, he said.

"I believe it will be smaller in the not-too-distant future," he said of the U.S. presence there, "but I think we'll be there for a long time." ...
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Army Translator Suspected of Spying

"NEW YORK -- An Arabic translator for the Army may have secretly helped Iraqi insurgents by taking classified documents home from Iraq to Brooklyn, where he made a series of calls to numbers linked to the insurgency, a federal prosecutor said Monday.

The man was charged last month with falsifying his identity over many years, beginning when he entered the United States seeking political asylum sometime between 1978 and 1989. His alleged ties to the insurgency were revealed for the first time at a bail hearing Monday in federal court in Brooklyn. "...

Australia mounts new raids, says major terror attack foiled

"SYDNEY (AFP) - Australian police launched fresh raids late after officials said they had foiled a 'catastrophic act of terrorism' inspired by a radical Islamic cleric with the arrest of 17 suspects earlier in the day. "...

Monday, November 07, 2005

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What Are We Holding Together?

"By Peter W. Galbraith

Although it was certainly not his intention, George W. Bush broke up Iraq when he ordered the invasion in 2003. The United States not only removed Saddam Hussein, but it also smashed, and later dissolved, the institutions that enabled Iraq's Sunni Arab minority to rule the country: the army, the security services and the Baath Party. Kurdistan, free from Hussein's rule since 1991, moved to consolidate its de facto independence. Iraq's Shiites, suppressed since the founding of the Iraqi state, have created a theocracy in southern Iraq and have no intention of allowing a central government in Baghdad to roll it back. Iraq's new constitution merely ratifies this result.

There is no reason to mourn the passing of the unified Iraqi state. For Iraq's 80-year history, Sunni Arab dictators held the country together -- and kept themselves in power -- with brutal force that culminated in Hussein's genocide against the Kurds and mass killings of Shiites. As a moral matter, Iraq's Kurds are no less entitled to independence than are Lithuanians, Croatians or Palestinians. And if Iraq's Shiites want to run their own affairs, or even have their own state, on what democratic principle should they be denied? If the price of a unified Iraq is another dictatorship, it is too high a price to pay.

Iraq's Kurds, Shiites and Sunni Arabs do not share the common values and aspirations that are essential to building a unified state. The country's Kurds are avowedly secular and among the most pro-American people in the world. Almost unanimously they want nothing to do with Iraq. Iraq's Shiites, whether we like it or not, have voted overwhelmingly for pro-Iranian religious parties. Iraq's Sunni Arabs, through their own choice, boycotted the constitutional assembly. Some of the leaders who claim to speak for the Sunnis say they want a unified state, though it seems their real concern is that they no longer rule Iraq. Even if it had been done competently, American-led nation-building could not overcome these divisions.

The constitution accommodates all three groups. Each can have its own region. Except for a few matters in the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government, regional law prevails. Thus Kurdistan can continue to be secular while the Shiites can create an Islamic state in southern Iraq if their constituents so choose. Regions can have their own militaries and control part of their water and oil resources.

Logic would suggest that once they come to terms with the fact that they no longer rule Iraq, the Sunni Arabs will realize that the constitutional framework actually protects them from domination by the Shiite majority. It does not leave the Sunni Arabs penniless as some fear; they get a proportionate share of Iraq's oil revenue. But Kurdistan and the Shiite south will manage new oil fields in their own regions. When the Sunni Arabs were in charge, they used Iraq's oil to finance their own development -- and the destruction of Kurdistan and the south. The Kurds and Shiites will not let this happen again.

The United States should focus now not on preserving the unity of Iraq but on avoiding a spreading civil war. The constitution resolves the issues of oil, territory and control of the central government that might intensify conflict. Engaged diplomacy will be required to make these provisions work, especially with regard to the territorial dispute between Kurdistan and Arab Iraq over the ethnically mixed province of Kirkuk. A referendum will decide its status by Dec. 31, 2007. Meanwhile, the United States should promote a special regime for Kirkuk with entrenched power-sharing for all communities, so as to make the referendum's outcome as painless as possible for the losers.

Iraq's political settlement can pave the way for a coalition exit. Foreign forces have no security role in Kurdistan and only a minimal one in the south. In the Sunni areas, the focus should be on developing a regional army that is aligned with moderate political elements. While the Bush administration pretends there is an Iraqi army today, it actually consists of homogenous Kurdish, Shiite or Sunni Arab battalions loyal not to the civilian authorities in Baghdad but to their respective communities.

It is hard to win hearts and minds in the Sunni Arab areas when the Iraqi troops fighting there are seen not as fellow citizens but as alien Kurds and Shiites. There are tribes and other Sunni Arabs willing to fight the terrorists, but not as collaborators. The coalition could base its forces in Kurdistan, where the population would welcome them and where they can be ready to move in case the Sunni Arab military proves unable or unwilling to take on the terrorists.

As Iraq divides, the problem of Baghdad becomes central. Religiously and ethnically mixed, Baghdad is already the front line of the sectarian war between Sunnis and Shiites. Kurdistan's departure from Iraq -- which seems inevitable in the not-too-distant future -- will not greatly affect the city, but the separation of Sunni Arabs and Shiites into independent states would cause havoc. Fortunately, this is much less likely, especially if federal arrangements work.

As Yugoslavia broke up in 1991, the first Bush administration put all its diplomatic muscle into a doomed effort to hold the country together, and it did nothing to stop the coming war. We should not repeat that mistake in Iraq.

The writer, a former U.S. ambassador to Croatia, is senior diplomatic fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. He has advised Kurdish leaders.

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Newly Released Data Undercut Prewar Claims

"In February 2002, the Defense Intelligence Agency questioned the reliability of a captured top al Qaeda operative whose allegations became the basis of Bush administration claims that terrorists had been trained in the use of chemical and biological weapons in Iraq, according to declassified material released by Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.).

Referring to the first interrogation report on al Qaeda senior military trainer Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, the DIA took note that the Libyan terrorist could not name any Iraqis involved, any chemical or biological material used or where the training occurred. As a result, 'it is more likely this individual is intentionally misleading the debriefers,' a DIA report concluded."

In fact, in January 2004 al-Libi recanted his claims, and in February 2004 the CIA withdrew all intelligence reports based on his information. By then, the United States and its coalition partners had invaded Iraq.

Levin, ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he arranged for the material to be declassified by the DIA last month. At the same time that the administration was linking Baghdad to al Qaeda, he said, the DIA and other intelligence agencies were privately raising questions about the sources underlying the claims.

Since then, Levin said in an interview Friday, almost all government intelligence on whether Iraq pursued or possessed weapons of mass destruction has proved faulty. In addition to the allegation of training terrorists loyal to Osama bin Laden, there were government claims that then-Iraq President Saddam Hussein had stocks of chemical and biological weapons, that he had reconstituted his nuclear weapons programs, and that unmanned airborne vehicles posed a threat, Levin said.

He said that he could not be certain that White House officials read the DIA report, but his "presumption" was that someone at the National Security Council saw it because it was sent there....

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