Saturday, March 18, 2006

CIA Contractor Freed From Jail, Rearrested

Guardian Unlimited World Latest CIA Contractor Freed From Jail, Rearrested: "RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - A former CIA contractor charged with beating an Afghan man who later died was released from jail Friday to help prepare his defense and was promptly arrested on charges of assaulting his former girlfriend.

David Passaro, 39, had been in jail since June, but a federal judge Tuesday agreed to release the former Army special operations soldier while he awaits trial.

He was immediately arrested on charges of domestic assault and other offenses.

Passaro's attorney Clint Rudisill said the new charges were ``totally unfounded.''

In Afghanistan, Passaro helped the U.S. military hunt terrorists, gather intelligence and train armed forces.

Authorities said he kicked and beat an Afghan suspect for two days before the prisoner died. Passaro has denied any role in the 2003 death. He is charged with assault and could get 40 years in prison. No trial date has been set. "
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Iraq: A Marine's Experience of Brain Injury - Newsweek The War on Iraq - MSNBC.com

Iraq: A Marine�s Experience of Brain Injury - Newsweek The War on Iraq - MSNBC.com: "....Like more than 1,700 military personnel wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years, Marine Cpl. Samuel Reyes Jr. is suffering from traumatic brain injury, known in military jargon as TBI, which leaves survivors unable to perform the most basic cognitive functions. According to officials at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, TBI affects more than 25 percent of bomb-blast survivors like Sam Reyes, making it the signature injury of the Iraq war. In fact, military officials say that were it not for advances in body armor, helmets and drastically improved battlefield medicine, the majority of survivors being treated for TBI would not have even survived their injuries as recently as the first gulf war 15 years ago. The increasing number of TBI survivors and the vexing limitations they face has become an enormous challenge for both military medicine and for the Department of Veterans Affairs, which will treat these survivors for life. 'In the military, the question is 'are you battle ready?'' says Dr. Harriet Zeiner, a clinical neuropsychologist for the VA in Palo Alto, Calif., where Reyes is being treated. 'Our criteria at the VA [are], are you going to be able to hold down a job, sustain a relationship, get married, have kids or do you have something that's going to impair you?'"....
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The Anniston Star - Paying a price for ignoring the truth

The Anniston Star - Paying a price for ignoring the truth: "This administration, from President George W. Bush to Vice President Dick Cheney to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, has sowed the seeds of a bitter harvest in the Middle East that Americans will reap for decades, if not generations.

That harvest includes but isn't limited to a war bill that's approaching $400 billion and growing by $100 billion a year, an American military ground down by unceasing combat deployments and a casualty count that doesn't include thousands of troops who are coming home with psychological problems."

We can never know how many of the 2,298 dead soldiers and 16,906 wounded might have been saved by better body armor, more and better armored vehicles and, above all, an honest assessment of the enemy they were sent to fight.

The invasion and occupation of Iraq that was going to be over by the summer of 2003 is entering its fourth year. The violence is unabated. The numbers of Americans and Iraqis dying daily haven’t dropped.

It’s not as if the triumvirate wasn’t warned, though they would like you to believe that. It’s that they chose to believe their own rose-colored vision of what was happening in Iraq and what wasn’t, reinforced by the likes of Ahmad Chalabi.

As Iraq now trembles on the brink of all-out civil war, my Knight Ridder colleagues Jonathan S. Landay and Warren P. Strobel reported this week that a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) requested by the U.S. Central Command was delivered in October 2003. It warned that the real danger we faced in Iraq was homegrown Sunni insurgents, not just the foreign terrorists and Baath Party dead-enders that the White House and the Pentagon kept holding up as the bogey-men.

By twisting or ignoring the warnings of senior intelligence analysts at the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, the nation’s civilian leaders allowed a small Sunni insurgency to grow like cancer.

The authors of that NIE sounded the warning but offered hope of improvement, saying that the insurgency could be tamped down if Iraq’s economic condition improved. Other civilian and military officials sought increases in the number of American troops in Iraq, as well as some role for the Sunni minority in any new government.

The NIE’s authors were dismissed as “nay-sayers” and “not team players” by the administration. The vice president was so out of touch with reality that as recently as May of 2005 he was declaring that the Iraq insurgency was “in the last throes.”

So what we now know is this: The administration was told again and again what was wrong and what ought to be done, and the principals chose to ignore the truth.

I keep coming back to the failure to properly arm and protect our soldiers, and to send enough of them in the beginning to get the job done and keep the lid on a huge, fractious country with 25 million people with even more old hatreds. When a soldier in Kuwait challenged him on the issue of vehicle protection, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld replied: “You have to go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you want.”
At the time, Rumsfeld was sending American divisions to Iraq without their Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles, and sending their crews out to patrol the most dangerous roads in the world in light Humvees.

Some 60 percent of our casualties in Iraq have been from the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that any idiot can plant beside or beneath a highway or road or city street and then hit the call button on a cell phone when an American convoy drives into the kill zone.

Three years into the war, the Pentagon only now has named a retired four-star general to head a search for technical solutions to the enemy’s prime weapon.

History is going to judge these men harshly for what they did, and also for what they did not do, when the lives of American soldiers and the future of Americans yet unborn were in their hands.

To paraphrase Mr. Rumsfeld: You must fight the war you have, not the one you want; and you must fight it with the leadership you have, not the leadership you want.

Joe Galloway is the senior military correspondent for Knight Ridder.
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The Intellectual Activist- "The Escaped Prisoner"

The Intellectual Activist: "Wafa Sultan's Forward Strategy of Intellectual Freedom

Robert Tracinski is the editor of TIADaily.com and The Intellectual Activist.

On March 1, TIA Daily linked to a MEMRI TV video of Arab-American psychologist Wafa Sultan on al-Jazeera television, in which she denounced Islam as the source of the warfare and oppression in the Middle East and declared:

The clash we are witnessing around the world is not a clash of religions, or a clash of civilizations. It is a clash between two opposites, between two eras. It is a clash between a mentality that belongs to the Middle Ages and another mentality that belongs to the 21st century. It is a clash between civilization and backwardness, between the civilized and the primitive, between barbarity and rationality.

This was, I thought at the time, a statement that ought to set off a revolution. And that is precisely what it is doing. Dr. Sultan's remarks set off a wave of reaction in the Muslim world, and thanks to the efforts of MEMRI, she has been profiled by several major newspapers over the weekend.
What Wafa Sultan has to say is crucially important. How she says it is inspiring. "...

[bth: this is an excellent even inspiring piece on Dr. Wafa Sultan who has my deep admiration and I wish I had learned about her sooner. I recommend reading it in full. There may yet be hope of a better world with courageous people like Dr. Sultan.]
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Transcript: Interview with Wafa Sultan

Cox & Forkum Editorial Cartoons: "Wafa Sultan: The clash we are witnessing around the world is not a clash of religions, or a clash of civilizations. It is a clash between two opposites, between two eras. It is a clash between a mentality that belongs to the Middle Ages and another mentality that belongs to the 21st century. It is a clash between civilization and backwardness, between the civilized and the primitive, between barbarity and rationality. It is a clash between freedom and oppression, between democracy and dictatorship. It is a clash between human rights, on the one hand, and the violation of these rights, on other hand. It is a clash between those who treat women like beasts, and those who treat them like human beings. What we see today is not a clash of civilizations. Civilizations do not clash, but compete. ...
[...] I am not a Christian, a Muslim, or a Jew. I am a secular human being. I do not believe in the supernatural, but I respect others' right to believe in it.

Dr. Ibrahim Al-Khouli: Are you a heretic?
Wafa Sultan: You can say whatever you like. I am a secular human being who does not believe in the supernatural...

Dr. Ibrahim Al-Khouli: If you are a heretic, there is no point in rebuking you, since you have blasphemed against Islam, the Prophet, and the Koran...

Wafa Sultan: These are personal matters that do not concern you. [...] Brother, you can believe in stones, as long as you don't throw them at me."

[bth: stunning words well said.]
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Nir Rosen: On The Ground in Iraq

Nir Rosen: On The Ground in Iraq: "The Americans came for Sabah one Friday night in September. His house in Radwaniya, on the western outskirts of Baghdad, stood in a dry, yellow field surrounded by brick walls. Three cars were parked in front the day I came to visit, two weeks after Americans had shot him. It was the month of Ramadan, and our mouths were as dry as his yard. The resistance was active in Radwaniya, and we drove through fields and dry canals to avoid any checkpoints that might reveal to locals that I was a foreigner. Journalists were targets now too. ....

[bth: this is a fascinating article by an unembedded reporter. It is worth a full and total read. At the end one can only conclude that a civil war is occurring or on the verge of occurring - the battle lines are being drawn. It is very disturbing as it appears that is the only logical outcome to this conflict. Baghdad will be the next Beirut.]
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Back to Iraq 3.0: Operation Overblown

Back to Iraq 3.0: Operation Overblown: ..."Operation Swarmer" is really a media show. It was designed to show off the new Iraqi Army -although there was no enemy for them to fight. Every American official I've heard has emphasized the role of the Iraqi forces just days before the third anniversary of the start of the war. That said, one Iraqi role the military will start highlighting in the next few days, I imagine, is that of Iraqi intelligence. It was intel from the Iraqi military intelligence and interior ministry that the U.S. says prompted this Potemkin operation. And it will be the Iraqi intel that provides the cover for American military commanders to throw up their hands and say, "well, we thought bad guys were there."

It's hard to blame the military, however. Stations like Fox and CNN have really taken this and ran with it, with fancy graphics and theme music, thanks to a relatively slow news day. The generals here also are under tremendous pressure to show off some functioning Iraqi troops before the third anniversary, and I won't fault them for going into a region loaded for bear. After all, the Iraqi intelligence might have been right.

But Operation Overblown should raise serious questions about how good Iraqi intelligence is. I can't tell you how many times I've been told by earnest lieutenants that the Iraqis are valiant and necessary partners, "because they know the area, the people and the customs." But when I spoke to grunts and NCOs, however, they usually gave me blunter -and more colorful -reasons why the Iraqi intelligence was often, shall we say, useless. Tribal rivalries and personal feuds are still a major reason why Iraqis drop a dime on their neighbors.

So I guess it’s fitting that on the eve of the third anniversary of a war launched on — oh, let’s be generous — “faulty” intelligence, a major operation is hyped and then turns out to be less than what it appeared because of … faulty intelligence.

[bth: so its looking more like Operation Swarmer was a Pentagon propaganda show on the third anniversary of the war with little or not military value. Sad. Another strike against the confidence and credibility of the Pentagon with the American public.]
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John Mearsheimerand Stephen Walt : The Israel Lobby

LRB John Mearsheimerand Stephen Walt : The Israel Lobby: "...For the past several decades, and especially since the Six-Day War in 1967, the centrepiece of US Middle Eastern policy has been its relationship with Israel. The combination of unwavering support for Israel and the related effort to spread "democracy" throughout the region has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardised not only US security but that of much of the rest of the world. This situation has no equal in American political history. Why has the US been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of another state? One might assume that the bond between the two countries was based on shared strategic interests or compelling moral imperatives, but neither explanation can account for the remarkable level of material and diplomatic support that the US provides.

Instead, the thrust of US policy in the region derives almost entirely from domestic politics, and especially the activities of the "Israel Lobby". Other special-interest groups have managed to skew foreign policy, but no lobby has managed to divert it as far from what the national interest would suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that US interests and those of the other country -in this case, Israel -are essentially identical."....

[bth: a brave and thorough article on a delicate subject.]

Pentagon hired contractor to advise on collecting information on churches, mosques, other U.S. sites

KR Washington Bureau 03/17/2006 Pentagon hired contractor to advise on collecting information on churches, mosques, other U.S. sites: "WASHINGTON - A Pentagon intelligence agency that kept files on American anti-war activists hired one of the contractors who bribed former Rep. Randy 'Duke' Cunningham, R-Calif., to help it collect data on houses of worship, schools, power plants and other locations in the United States. "...

[bth: MZM was run by political hacks and cronies of Bush. It's been caught in the Cunningham bribery cases so it seems likely it was conducting domestic spying which political overtones on the Pentagon's nickel. Amazing.]
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Materials to make bombs get through screeners at 21 US airports

BREITBART.COM - Materials to make bombs get through screeners at 21 US airports: "'...The fact that government investigators were able to pass through TSA's (Transportation Security Administration) screening at 21 major airports with bomb-making material is frightening,' representative Bennie Thompson, a member of the Committee on Homeland Security, said in a statement. "

It's like the story of the Trojan Horse," he added. "TSA has spent so much time telling people to take off their shoes and belts, that they have missed the bomb-making materials." ...

Democratic Representative Edward Markey, another member of the Committee on Homeland Security, said the report was proof that the administration of President George W. Bush had not taken effective measures to protect key facilities.

"The administration acts like the homeowner who posts a 'Beware of Dog' sign without getting a dog," Markey said in a statement. "It might fool some of the public, but terrorists know what is real and what is not.

"This administration's approach is all bark and no bite, and the United States is left with gaping loopholes in our national security."
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Bush Adviser Says Iran Bluffing on Iraq

BREITBART.COM - Bush Adviser Says Iran Bluffing on Iraq: "...The Bush administration views Tehran's acceptance of an American offer to talk about Iraq, made months ago, as an indication that Iran is feeling the international heat, national security adviser Steven J. Hadley said.

'What is interesting is that the Iranians would choose now, at this moment, in such a very public way, to embrace this idea and try to expand it to a negotiation about a broader set of issues,' Hadley said.

'The concern, therefore, is that it is simply a device by the Iranians to try and divert pressure that they're feeling in New York, to try and drive a wedge between the United States and the other countries with which we are working on the nuclear issue and, if you will, divert pressure and divert attention.'
Hadley added: 'Obviously, this is something that we and those who are working with us on these issues will not let happen.' "...

[bth: Hadley isn't going to be happy until he pushes the US to war with Iran. I fail to see how some dialogue with Iran would be harmful where as I can see how having none whatever could be catastrophic.]
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Friday, March 17, 2006

TIME.com: On Scene: How Operation Swarmer Fizzled -- Page 1

TIME.com: On Scene: How Operation Swarmer Fizzled -- Page 1: "Not a shot was fired, or a leader nabbed, in a major offensive that failed to live up to its advance billing "

Four Black Hawk helicopters landed in a wheat field and dropped off a television crew, three photographers, three print reporters and three Iraqi government officials right into the middle of Operation Swarmer. Iraqi soldiers in newly painted humvees, green and red Iraqi flags stenciled on the tailgates, had just finished searching the farm populated by a half-dozen skinny cows and a woman kneading freshly risen dough and slapping it to the walls of a mud oven.

The press, flown in from Baghdad to this agricultural gridiron northeast of Samarra, huddled around the Iraqi officials and U.S. Army commanders who explained that the "largest air assault since 2003" in Iraq using over 50 helicopters to put 1500 Iraqi and U.S. troops on the ground had netted 48 suspected insurgents, 17 of which had already been cleared and released. The area, explained the officials, has long been suspected of being used as a base for insurgents operating in and around Samarra, the city north of Baghdad where the bombing of a sacred shrine recently sparked a wave of sectarian violence.

But contrary to what many many television networks erroneously reported, the operation was by no means the largest use of airpower since the start of the war. ("Air Assault" is a military term that refers specifically to transporting troops into an area.) In fact, there were no airstrikes and no leading insurgents were nabbed in an operation that some skeptical military analysts described as little more than a photo op. What’s more, there were no shots fired at all and the units had met no resistance, said the U.S. and Iraqi commanders.

The operation, which doubled the population of the flat farmland in one single airlift, was initiated by intelligence from Iraq security forces, says Lt Col Skip Johnson commander of the 187 Battallion, 3rd Combat Brigade of the 101st Airborne.
"They have the lead," he said to reporters at the second stop of the tour. But by Friday afternoon, the major targets seemed to have slipped through their fingers. Iraqi Army General Abdul Jabar says that Samarra-based insurgent leader Hamad el Taki of Mohammad’s Army was thought to be in the area, and Iraqi intelligence officers were still working to compare known voice recordings and photographs with the prisoners in custody.

With the Interior Ministry's Samarra commando battalion, the soldiers had found some 300 individual pieces of weaponry like mortars, rockets and plastic explosives in six different locations inside the sparsely populated farming community of over 50 square miles and about 1,500 residents. The raids also uncovered high-powered cordless telephones used as detonators in homemade bombs, medical supplies and insurgent training manuals.

Before loading up into the helicopters for a return trip to Baghdad, Iraqi and American soldiers and some reporters helped themselves to the woman’s freshly baked bread, tearing bits off and chewing it as they wandered among the cows. For most of them, it was the only thing worthwhile they’d found all day

[bth: looks like it was faked or a photo op right down to the tracers being fired from helicopters into the night. One really clear point I noticed was a statement made when the mission was first announced saying that the White House was not informed of the mission or its scope. I thought this a strange statement - why say it? The last time we heard that the White House was not informed was when Bush ranted on Air Force One about the need to do the port deal then to hear that he "wasn't aware of it" just couldn't be true. It sounded like his family made contact with him on the port deal and the Pentagon didn't want to helicopter assault to look like third anniversary grand standing which it evidently was. Sad really. I had hoped to hear that the Christian Science Monitor reporter was being rescued or that al-Qaeda ringleader was cornered. Next thing to watch is a near end of month statement that al-Qaeda's previously unheralded number 3 was killed - being number three is like being the fourth man on the Star Trek landing party.]
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Famous Words from Wolfowitz

The Huffington Post: "'I think the idea that [the cost of the war] is going to be eclipsed by these monstrous future costs ignores the nature of the country we're dealing with. It's got already, I believe, on the order of $15 billion to $20 billion a year in oil exports... There's a lot of money there, and to assume that we're going to pay for it is just wrong.' -- Paul Wolfowitz, 2/27/03 (three weeks before invasion)

Total U.S. expenditures on Iraq war (three years after invasion): $320 billion -- Los Angeles Times, 3/17/06"
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Who were those guys?

The Sun Herald 03/17/2006 Who were those guys?: "There was a whirlwind of activity in the days prior to President Bush's arrival at a home on the beach in Gautier last week, with government officials and Secret Service scouting a location and checking the neighborhood where Bush would stop.

The reason for all the fuss was kept a secret even from the family that received Bush. They didn't know it was prelude to a presidential visit until the day Bush arrived.But one part of the preparation for the President's arrival involved two government agents posing as journalists.Recounting the pre-visit days for WLOX and the Sun Herald, Jerry Akins, who received Bush, mentioned that on the Friday before Bush arrived, two men approached him identifying themselves as members of the media.

He said the men told him they were with Fox News out of Houston, Texas, and were on a 'scouting mission' for a story on new construction. They took pictures inside Akins' house, which is under construction and looked up and down the road in the neighborhood.

Akins said he didn't think anything more about them partly because visits from strangers increased exponentially as government agents and Secret Service arrived that Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday before the March 8 visit.

But after the president left Akins' home, the two men again approached Akins and let him know they were not media after all, but were with the governmental entourage."...
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Gen. Cites Plans to Increase Iraqi Control

Guardian Unlimited | World Latest | Gen. Cites Plans to Increase Iraqi Control: "WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. military's goal is to have Iraqi security forces in control of 75 percent of the country's territory by this summer, the second-ranking U.S. commander in Baghdad said Friday.

That is more ambitious than President Bush's statement on Monday that his aim was to have Iraqis control more territory than the U.S.-led coalition by the end of 2006 - a process that Bush said would free up more American troops to focus on training the Iraqi forces and hunting down the chief terrorists inside Iraq. "....
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Speech by Brian T. Hart Delivered Senate Democratic Policy Committee March 15, 2006

Speech by Brian T. Hart
Delivered at Senate Democratic Policy Committee Press Conference with Sen. Harry Reid and Sen. Debbie Stabenow
U.S. Senate Building
March 15, 2006



Gold Star Families have earned the right to speak candidly without fear of reprisal – rights most Americans took for granted until recently.

A President can never afford to lose the public trust as he has today.
The trust has been broken through persistent dishevelment of truth and must be restored.

Trust begins with truth – and the courage to say it.

For the Administration to say that Iraq is worth sending your son to war, but not worth raising a rich man’s taxes is fundamentally wrong.

This unshared sacrifice betrays the common good.

It is too easy to send another man’s son to war.

A small percentage of the country bears the cost of this war – young soldiers on third rotations; broken families in quiet desperation; and over 16,000 wounded hidden from pubic view. Planes land at Dover with flag draped coffins, but photos of the dignified ceremony are prohibited.
The Administration is hiding the cost of war.

This nation’s priorities are consequently skewed by unshared sacrifice. We manufacture plenty of yellow humvees but not enough armored ones.

The Administration plans to cut the VA budget 5% in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 as part of its deficit reduction plan – If that is not a betrayal of veterans what is?

Moreover incompetence taints this Administration -- shattering our confidence in ourselves and in our government.

People debate the size of government but all want it to work!

Military procurement has failed repeatedly – body armor, vehicular armor, jammers, truck armor, blood clotting agents, tourniquets, even bullets were mismanaged. The procurement system is broken and no one is fixing it.

Too Little, Too Late” is not the battle cry of freedom.

Two years after IEDs became the number one killer of Americans in Iraq the President finally acknowledges them.

Incompetence costs lives – our soldiers’ lives –yet no one is held to account.

After five years, where is Osama Bin Laden? Bringing him and his lieutenants to justice will not end this war, but it is a critical milestone toward victory. He is seldom mentioned by the President. He most certainly isn’t in Iraq.

To leave our subways, trains and ports unprotected is negligence awaiting disaster.

We would have lost World War Two with this Administration.

To encourage then cover up torture undermines our moral standing in the world. It betrays the honor and fidelity of over 1.3 million Americans that have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The President wonders why he has lost the public trust. Trust must be earned and it starts with truth.

Gold Star Families across America live in fear that the Iraq war might all be for naught.

We wait to see senior Administration officials show up at funerals but none come – not Bush, not Cheney, not Rice, not Rumsfeld. They are afraid to acknowledge the cost of war.

We want some lasting good to come from our sacrifice but we are afraid that there is no plan to obtain it, so don’t invoke our children’s names to justify sending more soldiers to battle, without a credible plan for victory.

Saying these things invites reprisal.

Even our constitutional rights to free speech and protection from unwarranted search seem jeopardized. Necessity was always the excuse of tyrants. What is the Republican Party’s excuse for placing Party politics above their obligation to protect our freedom with checks and balances?

We must not surrender freedom to a man in a cave or a man in the White House.

We must reaffirm our common purpose with the world -- regain their trust and in turn trust in ourselves.
· Re-assert our commitment to basic human rights.
· Don’t condone torture from our enemies or ourselves.
· Do not fight Iraq’s civil war nor turn our back on innocents in danger.
· Let us discuss the possibility Iraq may break-up
· Let us commit resources to peace as we have to war.
· Let us leave Iraq as best we can because liberators leave and occupiers stay.
· Finally, fight Osama Bin Laden wherever he is and label anyone who supports him our enemy.

Only action carries meaning when the trust is broken.

Can America handle the truth? We can.

Can the Democratic Party restore our faith in good government? It must.
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The Washington Monthly- PORT SECURITY

The Washington Monthly: "PORT SECURITY....We have been told by conservative hawks that Iran is actively building a nuclear weapon and that we should do everything we can to stop this, up to and including a military assault on suspected nuclear sites. Since Iran is incapable of delivering a nuclear weapon 7,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean, the primary doomsday scenario they've offered up is that Iran (or a terrorist group working with Iran) will ship a completed nuke through an American port and then threaten to detonate it in a large city.

Now, if you were truly concerned about this possibility -really, truly concerned -you would support more than preemptive action against Iran. You would also support funding to increase security at American ports. In particular, you would support funding to install radiation monitors at all U.S. ports of entry.

On the other hand, if a nuked-up Iran were not a genuine national security concern, but merely a convenient way to keep people scared and voting for Republicans, you would continue screeching about the mullahs but would oppose spending actual money on increased port security. In particular, you would not want to waste half a billion dollars on radiation monitors for a threat you don't really believe in.

Today, House Republicans voted almost unanimously against an amendment to beef up port security and install radiation monitors at all U.S. ports of entry. They also blocked consideration of an amendment to require 100% scanning of shipping containers entering the United States. I think this tells you just how seriously they take the actual threat of a nuclear Iran.

NOTE TO REPORTERS: The next time a Republican politician tells you that a nuclear Iran is intolerable, the first question you should ask is whether said politician supports funding for serious port security. If the answer is anything other than a firm and passionate "yes, dear God, yes," you should end the interview and walk away. You are talking to a partisan shill, not someone genuinely concerned about national security.
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Airline screeners fail government bomb tests - Lisa Myers & the NBC Investigative Unit - MSNBC.com

Airline screeners fail government bomb tests - Lisa Myers & the NBC Investigative Unit - MSNBC.com: "WASHINGTON - Imagine an explosion strong enough to blow a car's trunk apart, caused by a bomb inside a passenger plane. Government sources tell NBC News that federal investigators recently were able to carry materials needed to make a similar homemade bomb through security screening at 21 airports."

In all 21 airports tested, no machine, no swab, no screener anywhere stopped the bomb materials from getting through. Even when investigators deliberately triggered extra screening of bags, no one discovered the materials.
NBC News briefed former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean, chairman of the 9/11 commission, on the results. ...
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Brzezinski calls for Iraq pull out

United Press International - Security & Terrorism - Brzezinski calls for Iraq pull out: "WASHINGTON, March 16 (UPI) -- One of America's most respected elder national security statesmen called for a full pull-out from Iraq Thursday.

Delivering the keynote address at the Center for American Progress' 'Iraq; Next Steps for U.S. Policy,' Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former National Security advisor for President Jimmy Carter, said that 'within a year we should be able to complete a course of disengagement' and withdraw from Iraq.
Brzezinski cited several reasons for withdrawal, among them the 'prohibitively expensive' cost of the war and the fact that American leadership and legitimacy has been severely undermined by the insurgency and damaged credibility.

'We have to make a really cold judgement,' said Brzezinski. 'Would the consequence of civil war be more devastating than the consequences of staying the course?'

Iraqi Shiites and Kurds might prevail in a civil war, Brzezinski said.

'The U.S. umbrella that is designed to prevent these wars is so porous it ends up feeding them,' he said.

It would take a U.S. commitment of half a million troops to make a significant difference in fighting the Iraqi insurgency, Brzezinski said. But, 'We are not in a position to do this,' he said. "

Brzezinski also called for a new U.S. nuclear dialogue with Iran. A precedent for one already existed in the Bush administration's multi-lateral talks with North Korea on nuclear proliferation, he said.

"Surely it cannot be our deliberate intention to fuse Iranian nationalism with Iranian fundamentalism?" he said.

Brzezinski said that however long the U.S. military occupation of Iraq lasted, it was doomed to failure.

"In a war of attrition," he said, "a foreign occupier is always at a disadvantage. This is a failed occupation."

Brzezinski said Iraq had not yet collapsed into a full-scale civil war. Far from preventing such a war from breaking out, he said, the continued U.S. military occupation made one far more likely.

"This is not yet a civil war, in the sense that it is not yet a comprehensive, nation-wide collision between Shiites and Sunnis but we are unintentionally feeding it," he said.

Brzezinski suggested that the United States "ask Iraqi leaders to ask us to leave" and suggested that those Iraqi politicians who have expressed a desire for American forces to continue the occupation are exercising poor leadership.

"We are acting as though the Iraqis are our colonial wards," he said. "We are teaching them about democracy by arresting them, bombing them, by humiliating them and also helping them. It is an ambivalent course in democracy."

Brzezinski also said the president had failed to provide any serious national leadership to back up his commitment to the Iraq war and had failed to call the American people to the spirit of duty and sacrifice needed to win any real war.

"What bothers me is the packaging," Brzezinski said. He said that if the United States were truly engaged in war, then there would need to for a national mobilization involving a tax on the rich, an overall war tax and a draft. "These actions," he said, "are the basic consequences of serious engagement."

Brzezinski also hit out at President George W. Bush's newly released National Security Strategy. He called it "an erroneous version of reality."

Brzezinski urged Bush to widen his circle of advisors. "Words have consequences," he said. "The deliberate misuse of words can be dangerous and a fundamentally altered version of reality can lead to a fear-driven nation."

Other speakers at the CAP meeting called the bombing of a Shiite mosque in Samara "a turning point for Iraq" and recommended a shift in U.S. priorities from institution-building to a peace process similar to the Dayton accords which sought a resolution for the Bosnia conflict in the nineteen-nineties.

Jonathan Morrow, a lawyer who worked to rebuild legal institutions in the country after the U.S. invasion said "Iraq was dealt with as a post-conflict crisis, which is quite ironic actually because the conflict was just beginning."

"The Iraqi Constitution -- for all its flaws -- is an authentic version of what Iraqis want," he said. "Iraq looks like a lot less of a disaster if you accept that there will be a loosely central government and if you focus on peace-building rather than nation-building or institution-building."

"The model is not difficult," Morrow said, "to bring all the players to the table, to build a consensus version of what peace should look like in Iraq. One of the key questions is to find someone who authentically speaks for the Sunni Arabs."

Jonathan Finer, Baghdad Correspondent for the Washington Post, said the influence of Iran in Iraq was hard to overstate, particularly in the case of Iranian Shiite clerics whose voice he called "a significant force" in Iraqi politics.

Iraq without involving the regional players - and that means involving Iran. You cannot pursue conflicting policies. But there do have to be priorities and that doesn't necessarily mean sacrificing security interests."
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Pak bomb blasts disrupt power supply- The Times of India

Pak bomb blasts disrupt power supply- The Times of India: "QUETTA: Seven homemade bombs toppled two giant high-power electricity transmission towers in southwestern Pakistan and disrupted power to thousands of homes for several hours, officials said.

No one was wounded in the attacks that happened before dawn in a mountainous area about 40 kilometres southeast of Quetta, the capital of southwestern Baluchistan province, said local government official Mahmood Marri.

The blasts disrupted electricity to thousands of homes, agricultural and industrial consumers in Quetta and three nearby districts before being restored through alternate lines and a local generator seven hours later, Marri said. The towers are expected to be back in use within two days.

No one claimed responsibility but Marri blamed local tribesmen for the attack.

Ethnic Baluch tribesmen have been blamed for firing rockets at railroads, gas fields and security forces and launching small-scale bombings in Baluchistan in recent years to seek a greater share of wealth from resources extracted in their areas. Yesterday, another bomb blast wounded eight people near a Quetta shop. "
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Democrats Fumble Feingold's Grenade

RealClearPolitics - Articles - Democrats Fumble Feingold's Grenade: "Russ Feingold tossed a political grenade at President Bush this week, but it fell into the middle of the Senate Democratic Caucus. Many Democratic senators ran away.

The grenade was the Wisconsin senator's proposal to censure the president for violating the law by ordering electronic surveillance on Americans without explicit congressional or court authorization. While the episode says more about Bush's political frailty than the first-blush accounts have suggested, it also underscored the frictions and tensions between passionate Democratic activists and their cautious leaders.

The president has lost so much support and credibility that Republicans were simply grateful Feingold briefly changed the political subject from the Dubai ports controversy, the mess in Iraq and Bush's anemic poll ratings."...

[bth: this article goes on to make a series of interesting points, the sum of which are that Democrats can't get their act together.]
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FOXNews.com - U.S. & World News - Report: Halliburton Didn't Protect Troops' Water

FOXNews.com - U.S. & World News - Report: Halliburton Didn't Protect Troops' Water: "WASHINGTON -Halliburton Co. failed to protect the water supply it is paid to purify for U.S. soldiers throughout Iraq, in one instance missing contamination that could have caused 'mass sickness or death,' an internal company report concluded.

The report, obtained by The Associated Press, said the company failed to assemble and use its own water purification equipment, allowing contaminated water directly from the Euphrates River to be used for washing and laundry at Camp Ar Ramadi in Ramadi, Iraq.

The problems discovered last year at that site -poor training, miscommunication and lax record keeping -occurred at Halliburton's other operations throughout Iraq, the report said"....
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IRAQ: AL-SADR FORMS SHADOW GOVERNMENT IN BAGHDAD STRONGHOLD

IRAQ: AL-SADR FORMS SHADOW GOVERNMENT IN BAGHDAD STRONGHOLD: "Erbil, 16 March (AKI) - A Kurdish source in Baghdad has told a Kurdish national daily that the Mahdi Army, the militia of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, ' has set up a shadow government in Sadr City in the centre of Baghdad'. The source told the Aso daily: 'this group was tasked with carrying out the affairs of the city in the place of the Iraqi government and institutions.' The source explained that the Mahdi Army, accused of kidnappings and sectarian killings, has transformed the rundown Sadr city into an independent district with its security forces and its own courts which do not only judge local residents but also Shiites from other areas of the capital.

The source alleged that 'the health and transport ministers, which both are headed by minsiters from the Sadr faction, have been completely monopolised by followers of this movement' adding that 'in Sadr City the police forces, for example the local police, take their orders from Moqtada al-Sadr and not from the interior ministry.' "...

[bth: one of the early indications that an alternative government orgnization was really being formed outside of the Kurdish areas. Further this would confirm another article recently written by another news source that said Iraqi police and army units no longer patroled in Sadr City.]

Thursday, March 16, 2006


In memory of SFC John D. Morton, KIA 12-15-05, Afghanistan. Posted by Picasa

Website for SFC John D. Morton

The attached link is to a Morton family website in memory of SFC John D. Morton, KIA December 15, 2005. I have attached a permanent link to his site on the right border of Minstrelboy in his memory. The video linked to his site is quite moving. Godspeed John Morton and our best to his family.

Signed Brian & Alma Hart
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Ordinary Iraqi families getting ready to fight / They're stockpiling weapons, food and fuel

Ordinary Iraqi families getting ready to fight / They're stockpiling weapons, food and fuel: "Baghdad -- Om Hussein, wrapped in her black abaya, lists the contents of the family's walk-in storage closet: three 175-pound cases of rice, two 33-pound cases of cooking fat, six cases of canned tomatoes, three crates of assorted legumes, a one-month supply of drinking water, frozen chicken livers in the freezer. And in the garage, jerry cans filled with fuel are piled floor to ceiling.

Om Hussein, who was reluctant to give her full name, and her Shiite family are preparing for war. They've stocked up on food. They bought a Kalashnikov rifle and a second car -- so that there is space for all 13 members of their extended family should they need to flee in a hurry.

'We are afraid of what will happen in the coming days,' she says. 'Maybe there will be a monthlong curfew, or maybe fighting in the streets will force my family to stay in the house for days at a time.'

In the past week, President Bush has tried to assure Americans that Iraq has stepped back from the brink of civil war. 'Iraqis have shown the world they want a future of freedom and peace,' he told the Foundation for Defense of Democracies on Monday.

Few Iraqis, however, share Bush's view that the crisis has been averted. They are readying themselves for the worst, fleeing likely flash points, stockpiling weapons and basic foodstuffs, barricading their neighborhoods, and drawing lines in the sand delineating Sunni and Shiite territory.

Since the golden dome of a revered Shiite shrine in Samarra was reduced to rubble last month, the country's long-simmering sectarian feud has flared into the open with unprecedented brutality. "....

"Anyone who says this war has a solution is wrong," says Abdallah, his family's recent ordeal etched in sunken, blood shot eyes. "This is truly a civil war now. There is only hatred, envy and a blood-thirst for revenge."

The migration to safer neighborhoods and provinces has upended property values across Iraq. Real estate prices in Baghdad have plummeted, while rents in onetime backwaters such as Nasiriya have skyrocketed. For many Shiites, that relatively calm southern city has become a sought-after haven from the sectarian bloodshed roiling Baghdad and central Iraq.

"You could buy a house in Nasiriya for $1,500 before the war," says Hussein Ali, a real estate broker in Baghdad. "That same house today is worth between $50,000 and $60,000 because now, especially after the Samarra bombings, people are desperate to live someplace safe."

Meanwhile, Iraqis are stockpiling arms, preparing to defend themselves in the event of a full-scale civil war. Arms dealers say that the supplies of guns for sale -- once as common as date trees and kebab stands -- have largely dried up.

"After the Samarra bombings, the demand for guns went way up, and the supply became very low," says a gun dealer in Baya, speaking anonymously out of fear for his safety.

Weapons prices have skyrocketed. A used Kalashnikov that sold for $100 before the Samarra bombing now sells for $150. The price for a 9mm Browning handgun has gone up from $800 to $1,200.

The hobbling arms dealer stands behind the counter of his gun repair shop polishing the barrel of a Russian-made Makarov pistol. His succinct appraisal of the Iraqi weapons market suggests what may lie ahead:

"This is not the time to sell guns, only to buy guns."

[bth: these are all absolute and clear cut indications that the average Iraqi's are preparing for a protracted internal war.]
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