Saturday, June 10, 2006

Speculation on my part but 15-30K troop reductions will be announced for Aug-Sept. 06 in synch with election year needs. It will have little or nothing to do with the needs of the soldiers or the Iraqis'. Posted by Picasa
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Iraq's Attorneys Practicing in a State of Fear

Iraq's Attorneys Practicing in a State of Fear: "BAGHDAD -- 'We are living in terror,' Kamal Hamdoun, the head of Iraq's lawyers' union, said as he sat in a shadowy, cavernous office redolent of better days.

As usual, there was no electricity in Hamdoun's second-floor office in Baghdad's Mansour neighborhood. Sunlight slanted in through vertical blinds, shining on ornate chairs painted gold and a huge desk piled with legal folders."

For example, I'm unable to move around freely," Hamdoun continued. "And there's a gun in my drawer."

He slid open a drawer of his desk, revealing a cocked Browning pistol.

"The control of the jungle is for those who have claws and fangs," he explained.

Such is the life of a lawyer in a nearly lawless society. Iraq's legal system, once one of the most secular in the Middle East, is a shambles. If a "Law and Order" spinoff were set in Baghdad, it would feature police who are afraid to investigate sectarian murders (or are complicit in them, many say), lawyers afraid to take either side of a case and risk the wrath of powerful militias or well-armed gangs, judges assassinated for the decisions they have handed down, and the occasional car bombing at the courthouse.

Two such bombings killed at least 17 people in May alone.

Iraq was hardly an example of blind justice before the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, who ensured that nearly all lawyers and judges were in thrall to his Baath Party.

But for routine trials, Iraq's legal system, designed in the 1920s to resemble the Egyptian and French models, generally meted out fair justice guided by well-trained lawyers and judges...

"The occupation adopted the law of power and not the power of law," Hamdoun said. "The lawyer's job is that of civilization."

Cherif Bassiouni, a law professor at DePaul University and president of the International Human Rights Law Institute, said the authority's biggest mistake was not having a comprehensive plan for legal reform or the commitment of resources needed to restore the physical and intellectual capital lost soon after the invasion.

"When the U.S. military came in, they basically destroyed the entire infrastructure of the state," Bassiouni said. "Not willingly. But by allowing the looting of all the public buildings, by firing everyone who was a member of the Baath Party, basically the state was destroyed."

One of the authority's first acts was to dismiss many of the country's most experienced jurists on the grounds that they had ties to Hussein's Baath Party. Many did: Hamdoun, for example, served 12 years in the Iraqi parliament under Hussein.

Abou El Fadl said the decision to dismiss the judges was a mistake. "We dismissed a very large number of them on ideological grounds," he said. "We have not been very sympathetic to claims that 'I had no choice but to be a member of the Baath Party to accomplish anything in life.' In doing so, we lost a great asset and a reservoir of legal minds."
The decision still rankles Abbas Hasan al-Anabaki, who said he was among those purged.

"I used to be a first-degree judge in Baghdad, and politically independent, and we were never linked to Saddam or others," he said. "The Iraqi lawyers are totally confident in the American judicial system. They just hoped that the reform would have been done by the American judicial system, not the army and intelligence service."

Now, the lawyers said, nearly every part of the criminal justice system is tainted, from the moment police arrest someone to the trial, the judgment and the corrections system.

"The whole system has collapsed," Bassiouni said. "This has become a lawless country. It's a little bit like the days of the Far West in America. In the early 1800s, you may occasionally have the sheriff who can get people to hand in their six-shooters at the entrance of the town, but basically it's a free-for-all."

Anabaki, who has become a defense lawyer since he lost his judgeship, said police have left his clients in jail for up to a year before even reaching the courthouse, rather than presenting them to an investigative judge within 24 hours.

"Justice lacks all credibility and meaning," Anabaki said. "There is pressure from the political parties and the tribal leaders and the mafia gangs and the American forces."....

[bth: what's missing from this lawyer's discussion is courage. You want freedom, you are going to have to stand and fight for it.

Shame on the Americans for being so disorganized and unprepared that we didn't even have a plan to restore or rebuild the Iraqi judicial system. For all the talk about American imperialism, we sure do a poor job of it. We didn't even have a plan.

Damn this administration and the Pentagon leadership that let this country down.

But in the same breadth, where do these Iraqis get off hiding behind Saddams skirt when they were judges, throwing trials or avoiding political cases and now whining in their dark little offices about not having the balls to stand up and re-secure the justice they so espouse.

Are they willing to fight for a better Iraq? For truth or the rule of law? Here is their chance. Take it or leave it, but don't whine about it.

Americans have done a terrible job of setting up the Iraqi government, but Iraqis' have to take responsibility for themselves as well.

If not now, when?]
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U.S. moves to stop Zarqawi network in Iraq

U.S. moves to stop Zarqawi network in Iraq - Yahoo! News: "...U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said 39 raids were conducted across Iraq late Thursday and early Friday, including some directly related to the information they obtained from the strike against al-Zarqawi. Those were in addition to 17 raids carried out immediately after the terror leader was killed.

Caldwell displayed digital photographs of recovered items that he said included a suicide belt, a flak vest, passports and identification cards, vehicle license plates, ammunition belts, rifles and other guns and a night-vision device. He said they were found under the floorboards of a building; he did not identify the location, except to say it was in and around Baghdad.

He said at least 24 people had been detained and one person killed in the raids.

In Ghalbiyah, near where al-Zarqawi was killed, five civilians were killed and three were wounded in a firefight. The circumstances of their deaths were unclear."...
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Terrorists target civilians in Iraq

Khaleej Times Online - Terrorists target civilians in Iraq: "ABU DHABI � The US troops in Iraq do not carry out target killing of civilians in the war-torn country, Hoshyar Zebari, Iraqi Foreign Minister, has asserted.

"The US forces do not kill civilians. Yes, civilians got killed in Haditha and other places but it is the terrorists who target civilians in Iraq," said Zebari, to a question posed by Khaleej Times on measures adopted by his government to protect civilians.

Zebari was taking part in the first pan-Arab Broadcast Forum held in Abu Dhabi recently.

"More than 40 to 50 Iraqis are killed daily at markets, places of worship and gatherings due to suicidal terrorist bombings. This is the solid truth which journalists cannot beat us on,' he added. Cases of killings of civilians in Iraq, have raised worldwide concern over US conduct in the war-torn country.

A case in point is a recent report filed by Iraqi police which accused US troops of rounding up and deliberately shooting 11 people in a house, including five children and four women, before blowing up the building.

Regarding video footages shown by some TV channels on American soldiers breaking into houses and killing civilians, Zebari said: "There are daily military operations but there are also videos that show scattered corpses that is more worthy to be displayed."

On the political situation in Iraq, the minister said: "We have managed to complete the period of transition concerning the political process over the past three years, and now have a constitutional government and an elected parliament."

"It is now up to us Iraqis to make the difference to lead the country," he said lauding the coalition forces. "

[bth: He is right of course. The insurgents and terrorists regularly murder dozens of civilians. He is also right that the Americans do not deliberately kill civilians. Nonetheless, America is responsible for the actions of our military and when an errant group murders civilians in revenge and outside the rules of engagement, it is our responsibility to take action. One will note that the children still seem to be running up to the US vehicles. It is a telling sign of who they fear and who they do not.]
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Email to Brown claims Bush was happy former FEMA head was taking heat for Katrina response

The Raw Story Email to Brown claims Bush was happy former FEMA head was taking heat for Katrina response: "An 'embarrasing email' leaked by former FEMA head Michael Brown to CNN quotes President Bush as saying at a Cabinet meeting held shortly after Katrina that he was pleased that Brown was taking most of the heat for the federal government's roundly criticized response to the hurricane.

'I'd rather they beat up on him than me or Chertoff,' President Bush allegedly said at the meeting, referring to the head of the Department of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff. The sender also thanked Brown for 'diverting hostile fire away from the leader.'"...

[bth: Brownie took one for the team.]
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Report: Abramoff ex-partner knew of slaying

Report: Abramoff ex-partner knew of slaying - Yahoo! News: "FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A man who purchased SunCruz Casinos with lobbyist Jack Abramoff in 2000 has told authorities he knows who killed the casino's founder the following year, according to a report published Friday. "

Adam Kidan told authorities in a 2 1/2-hour interview last month that John Gurino, who was later killed by a business partner, shot SunCruz founder Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis in 2001, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported. The paper did not say how it obtained the taped interview.

Kidan and Abramoff had previously insisted, through their attorneys, that they knew nothing about Boulis' killing. Three other men are charged with murder in the case....
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Friday, June 09, 2006

Army meets recruiting goal again

Print Story: Army meets recruiting goal again on Yahoo! News: "The Army said Friday it surpassed its recruiting goal for May, marking the 12th consecutive month of meeting or exceeding its target.

Before it began the streak in June 2005, the active Army had missed its target four consecutive months. And even though results improved during the summer months, it missed its full-year target for the first time since 1999. The Army National Guard and Army Reserve also fell short of their 2005 goals but are doing better now.

The regular Army signed up 5,806 new recruits last month, compared with its target of 5,400, and the Army National Guard and Army Reserve also exceeded their May goals, according to statistics released by the Pentagon.

Nonetheless, eight months into its budget year, the active Army is barely beyond the halfway mark of recruiting its goal of 80,000 new soldiers. Through May it had signed up 42,859, meaning that in the final four months of the period it will have to enlist an average of nearly 9,300 per month to reach the 80,000 target.

Last year, the only month the active Army came close to signing up 9,300 in a single month was August, when it got 9,452.

The Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps also met their May recruiting goals, the Pentagon said.

[bth: so understand what happened. The army missed its recruiting goal last year - well put it this way, it revised its recruiting goal down so that it could meet its recruiting goal. This year its back end loading its recruiting goal so that it had 8 months of good news and now it will 'fall short' in the last quarter of the year. Of course it will miss by a large margin. Also keep in mind that the congress wants the army to be 30,000 larger than it is today, but that isn't going to happen either. Its really a great tribute to the men and women of the armed services that they are reenlisting, but the pentagon is playing a numbers game on the public and back end loading keeps negative publicity down but it doesn't add to the ranks. The probability of a troop reduction in Iraq by 15000 to 30000 is very good during the fourth quarter, which will surprisingly be about the level of recruiting shortfalls anticipated.]
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Iraq war bill deletes US military base prohibition

Iraq war bill deletes US military base prohibition�� "WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Congressional Republicans killed a provision in an Iraq war funding bill that would have put the United States on record against the permanent basing of U.S. military facilities in that country, a lawmaker and congressional aides said on Friday.

The $94.5 billion emergency spending bill, which includes $65.8 billion to continue waging wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is expected to be approved by Congress next week and sent to President George W. Bush for signing into law.

As originally passed by the House of Representatives, the Pentagon would have been prohibited from spending any of the funds for entering into a military basing rights agreement with Iraq.

A similar amendment passed by the Senate said the Pentagon could not use the next round of war funding to 'establish permanent United States military bases in Iraq, or to exercise United States control over the oil infrastructure or oil resources of Iraq.'"......
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NZ deports man with links to 9/11

NZ deports man with links to 9/11: "linked with a September 11 hijack pilot has been deported from the country because he was a security threat.

The man spent four months in New Zealand before being expelled as a national security risk, the Weekend Herald reports.

The paper said the American-qualified pilot, Rayed Mohammed Abdullah Ali, 28, came into New Zealand in February on a student visa, saying his dream was to become a commercial airline pilot and he needed an English language qualification to assist.

Police and immigration officials raided the man's Palmerston North home on May 29 and he was deported."

He had moved from Auckland and was flying at the Manawatu Aero Club.

The government is expected to release a statement confirming the man was deported because he "posed a threat to national security".

The Herald said the government had said Ali had lived and trained in Phoenix, Arizona, with fellow Saudi Hani Hanjour for several months before Hanjour is believed to have piloted American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon.

Immigration Minister David Cunliffe said Ali was considered a threat to national security because of his direct association with those responsible for the 2001 terrorist attacks, the nature of his activities in America before then and the nature of his activities in New Zealand.

The Weekend Herald said Ali spent most of his time in Auckland, where he took an English language course but moved early last month to Palmerston North, where he planned to enrol in another English course and increase his flying hours.

[bth: who in their right mind would help train this guy as a pilot and on his english skills?]

Modified pick up used by contractors in Iraq. Note tail lights are virtually blacked out, door panels are armored and the tow line off the back. Hard to miss the dual machine gun position on the turret - ideal for LA traffic. Posted by Picasa

Pentagon sets its sights on social networking websites

New Scientist Technology - Pentagon sets its sights on social networking websites: "I AM continually shocked and appalled at the details people voluntarily post online about themselves.' So says Jon Callas, chief security officer at PGP, a Silicon Valley-based maker of encryption software. He is far from alone in noticing that fast-growing social networking websites such as MySpace and Friendster are a snoop's dream.

New Scientist has discovered that Pentagon's National Security Agency, which specialises in eavesdropping and code-breaking, is funding research into the mass harvesting of the information that people post about themselves on social networks. And it could harness advances in internet technology - specifically the forthcoming 'semantic web' championed by the web standards organisation W3C - to combine data from social networking websites with details such as banking, retail and property records, allowing the NSA to build extensive, all-embracing personal profiles of individuals."....
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Zarqawi was alive after bombing: US general

Zarqawi was alive after bombing: US general�� "WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was alive and made a move to escape when U.S. troops reached the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, mortally wounded in an American bombing raid, a U.S. general said on Friday.

'We were not aware yesterday that in fact, Zarqawi was alive when U.S. forces arrived on the site,' Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, the spokesman for the U.S. military in Baghdad, told Fox News.

Iraqi police had arrived on the scene of Wednesday's bomb attack first and put Zarqawi on a stretcher, Caldwell said. The U.S. forces arrived later and identified Zarqawi, who died shortly after.

'He was conscious initially according to the U.S. forces that physically saw him. He obviously had some kind of visual recognition of who they were because he attempted to roll off the stretcher, as I am told, and get away, realizing it was U.S. military,' Caldwell said."
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The War They Wanted, The Lies They Needed

VANITY FAIR : FEATURES : CONTENT The Bush administration invaded Iraq claiming Saddam Hussein had tried to buy yellowcake uranium in Niger. As much of Washington knew, and the world soon learned, the charge was false. Worse, it appears to have been the cornerstone of a highly successful "black propaganda" campaign with links to the White House...

For more than two years it has been widely reported that the U.S. invaded Iraq because of intelligence failures. But in fact it is far more likely that the Iraq war started because of an extraordinary intelligence success—specifically, an astoundingly effective campaign of disinformation, or black propaganda, which led the White House, the Pentagon, Britain's M.I.6 intelligence service, and thousands of outlets in the American media to promote the falsehood that Saddam Hussein's nuclear-weapons program posed a grave risk to the United States.

The Bush administration made other false charges about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (W.M.D.)—that Iraq had acquired aluminum tubes suitable for centrifuges, that Saddam was in league with al-Qaeda, that he had mobile weapons labs, and so forth. But the Niger claim, unlike other allegations, can't be dismissed as an innocent error or blamed on ambiguous data. "This wasn't an accident," says Milt Bearden, a 30-year C.I.A. veteran who was a station chief in Pakistan, Sudan, Nigeria, and Germany, and the head of the Soviet–East European division. "This wasn't 15 monkeys in a room with typewriters."

In recent months, it has emerged that the forged Niger documents went through the hands of the Italian military intelligence service, SISMI (Servizio per le Informazioni e la Sicurezza Militare), or operatives close to it, and that neoconservative policymakers helped bring them to the attention of the White House. Even after information in the Niger documents was repeatedly rejected by the C.I.A. and the State Department, hawkish neocons managed to circumvent seasoned intelligence analysts and insert the Niger claims into Bush's State of the Union address.

By the time the U.S. invaded Iraq, in March 2003, this apparent black-propaganda operation had helped convince more than 90 percent of the American people that a brutal dictator was developing W.M.D.—and had led us into war....

To trace the path of the documents from their fabrication to their inclusion in Bush's infamous speech, Vanity Fair has interviewed a number of former intelligence and military analysts who have served in the C.I.A., the State Department, the Defense Intelligence Agency (D.I.A.), and the Pentagon. Some of them refer to the Niger documents as "a disinformation operation," others as "black propaganda," "black ops," or "a classic psy-ops [psychological-operations] campaign." But whatever term they use, at least nine of these officials believe that the Niger documents were part of a covert operation to deliberately mislead the American public.

The officials are Bearden; Colonel W. Patrick Lang, who served as the D.I.A.'s defense intelligence officer for the Middle East, South Asia, and terrorism; Colonel Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell; Melvin Goodman, a former division chief and senior analyst at the C.I.A. and the State Department; Ray McGovern, a C.I.A. analyst for 27 years; Lieutenant Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, who served in the Pentagon's Near East and South Asia division in 2002 and 2003; Larry C. Johnson, a former C.I.A. officer who was deputy director of the State Department Office of Counterterrorism from 1989 to 1993; former C.I.A. official Philip Giraldi; and Vincent Cannistraro, the former chief of operations of the C.I.A.'s Counterterrorism Center.

In addition, Vanity Fair has found at least 14 instances prior to the 2003 State of the Union in which analysts at the C.I.A., the State Department, or other government agencies who had examined the Niger documents or reports about them raised serious doubts about their legitimacy—only to be rebuffed by Bush-administration officials who wanted to use the material.

"They were just relentless," says Wilkerson, who later prepared Colin Powell's presentation before the United Nations General Assembly. "You would take it out and they would stick it back in. That was their favorite bureaucratic technique—ruthless relentlessness."

All of which flies in the face of a campaign by senior Republicans including Senator Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, to blame the C.I.A. for the faulty pre-war intelligence on W.M.D. Indeed, the accounts put forth by Wilkerson and his colleagues strongly suggest that the C.I.A. is under siege not because it was wrong but because it was right. Agency analysts were not serving the White House's agenda.

What followed was not just the catastrophic foreign-policy blunder in Iraq but also an ongoing battle for the future of U.S. intelligence....

ichael Ledeen waves an unlit cigar as he welcomes me into his 11th-floor office at the American Enterprise Institute, in Washington. Home to Irving Kristol, Lynne Cheney, Richard Perle, and countless other stars in the neocon firmament, the A.E.I. is one of the most powerful think tanks in the country. It has sent more than two dozen of its alumni to the Bush administration.

After 17 years at the A.E.I., Ledeen is the institute's Freedom Scholar and rates a corner office decorated with prints of the Colosseum in Rome, the Duomo in Florence, and other mementos of his days in Italy. Having served as a consultant at the Pentagon and the State Department and on the National Security Council, Ledeen relishes playing the role of the intriguer. In the Iran-contra scandal, Ledeen won notoriety for introducing Oliver North to his friend the Iranian arms dealer and con man Manucher Ghorbanifar, who was labeled "an intelligence fabricator" by the C.I.A. Ledeen has made his share of enemies along the way, especially at the C.I.A. According to Larry Johnson, "The C.I.A. viewed Ledeen as a meddlesome troublemaker who usually got it wrong and was allied with people who were dangerous to the U.S., such as Ghorbanifar."

Apprised of such views, Ledeen, no fan of the C.I.A., responds, "Oh, that's a shock. Ghorbanifar over the years has been one of the most accurate sources of understanding what is going on in Iran. … I have always thought the C.I.A. made a big mistake."

Bearded and balding, the 65-year-old Ledeen makes for an unlikely 007. On the one hand, he can be self-deprecating, describing himself as "powerless … and, well, schlumpy." On the other, one of his bios grandiosely proclaims that he has executed "the most sensitive and dangerous missions in recent American history."

Ledeen props his feet up on his desk next to an icon of villainy—a mask of Darth Vader. "I'm tired of being described as someone who likes Fascism and is a warmonger," he says. "I've said it over and over again. I'm not the person you think you are looking for. … I think it's obvious I have no clout in the administration. I haven't had a role. I don't have a role."

He barely knows Karl Rove, he says. He has "very occasionally" had discussions with Cheney's office. And he denies reports that he was a consultant for Douglas Feith's Office of Special Plans, the division of the Pentagon that was famous for cherry-picking and "stovepiping" intelligence that suited its policy of invading Iraq. "I have had no professional relationship with any agency of the federal government during the Bush Administration," Ledeen later clarifies via e-mail. "That includes the Pentagon."

However, there is considerable evidence that Ledeen has had far more access than he lets on to the highest levels of the Bush administration. Even before Bush took office, Rove asked Ledeen to funnel ideas to the White House. According to The Washington Post, some of Ledeen's ideas became "official policy or rhetoric." As for Ledeen's role in the Office of Special Plans, Karen Kwiatkowski, who worked in the Pentagon during the run-up to the Iraq war, has described Ledeen as Feith's collaborator and said in an e-mail that he "was in and out of there (OSP) all the time."

Through his ties to Rove and Deputy National-Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, Michael Ledeen was also wired into the White House Iraq Group, which was charged with marketing an invasion of Iraq.

Ledeen claims, as he told the Web site Raw Story, that he had strongly advised against the plan, saying that the invasion of Iraq was the "wrong war, wrong time, wrong way, wrong place." But the truth is somewhat more complicated. Ledeen had urged regime change in Iraq since 1998, and just four hours after the 9/11 attacks he posted an article on the National Review Web site urging Bush to take "the fight directly to Saddam on his own territory."

But to Ledeen, Iraq was just one part of a larger war. As he later told a seminar, "All this talk about first we are going to do Afghanistan, then we will do Iraq … that is entirely the wrong way to go about it." He urged Americans not to try to "piece together clever diplomatic solutions to this thing, but just wage a total war against these tyrants."

In January 2003, two months before the war started, he wrote, "If we were serious about waging this war, we would, at an absolute minimum, support the Iranian people's brave campaign against their tyrants … and recognize an Iraqi government in exile in the 'no fly' zones we control. … If we don't, we may well find ourselves facing a far bigger problem than Saddam alone."

Ledeen repeatedly urged war or destabilization not just in Iraq but also in Iran, Syria, Lebanon, even Saudi Arabia. "One can only hope that we turn the region into a cauldron, and faster, please," he wrote. "Faster, please" became his mantra, repeated incessantly in his National Review columns.

Rhapsodizing about war week after week, Ledeen became chief rhetorician for neoconservative visionaries who wanted to remake the Middle East. "Creative destruction is our middle name, both within our own society and abroad," he wrote after the attacks. "We must destroy [our enemies] to advance our historic mission."

The U.S. must be "imperious, ruthless, and relentless," he argued, until there has been "total surrender" by the Muslim world. "We must keep our fangs bared," he wrote, "we must remind them daily that we Americans are in a rage, and we will not rest until we have avenged our dead, we will not be sated until we have had the blood of every miserable little tyrant in the Middle East, until every leader of every cell of the terror network is dead or locked securely away, and every last drooling anti-Semitic and anti-American mullah, imam, sheikh, and ayatollah is either singing the praises of the United States of America, or pumping gasoline, for a dime a gallon, on an American military base near the Arctic Circle."

"An Old Friend of Italy"

s 2001 drew to a close, such positions seemed decidedly outside the mainstream. Career military and intelligence professionals saw the relatively moderate Colin Powell and George Tenet, a Clinton appointee, reassuringly ensconced as secretary of state and director of central intelligence, respectively. "George Tenet had been there for a number of years," says Larry Wilkerson. "He knew what he was doing. He was a professional. What did he have to do with Douglas Feith? It didn't seem possible that someone like Douglas Feith could exercise such influence." But a schism was growing between the cautious realism of analysts in the C.I.A. and the State Department, on one side, and the hawkish ambitions of Dick Cheney and the Pentagon, on the other.

As for Ledeen, how much clout he carried with the administration is a matter of debate. But one measure of his influence may be a series of secret meetings he set up—with Hadley's approval, he claims—in Rome in the second week of December 2001. During these meetings, Ghorbanifar introduced American officials to other Iranians who passed on information about their government's plans to target U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Among those in attendance were Harold Rhode and Larry Franklin of the Office of Special Plans. (In a separate matter, Franklin has since pleaded guilty to passing secrets to Israel and been sentenced to 12 years in prison.) "That information saved American lives in Afghanistan," Ledeen asserts.

But other accounts suggest that Ledeen may have used his time in Italy to reactivate old friendships that played a role in the Niger affair.

According to La Repubblica, Nicolò Pollari had become frustrated by the C.I.A.'s refusal to let SISMI deliver a smoking gun that would justify an invasion of Iraq. At an unspecified date, he discussed the issue with Ledeen's longtime friend Minister of Defense Antonio Martino. Martino, the paper reported, told Pollari to expect a visit from "an old friend of Italy," namely Ledeen. Soon afterward, according to La Repubblica, Pollari allegedly took up the Niger matter with Ledeen when he was in Rome. Ledeen denies having had any such conversations. Pollari declined to be interviewed by Vanity Fair, and has denied playing any role in the Niger affair. Martino has declined to comment.

By early 2002, career military and intelligence professionals had seen the Niger reports repeatedly discredited, and assumed that the issue was dead. But that was not the case.

"These guys in the Office of Special Plans delighted in telling people, 'You don't understand your own data,'" says Patrick Lang. "'We know that Saddam is evil and deceptive, and if you see this piece of data, to say just because it is not well supported it's not true is to be politically naïve.'"

Not everybody in the C.I.A. was of one mind with regard to the alleged Niger deal. As the Senate Intelligence Committee report points out, some analysts at the C.I.A. and other agencies considered the Niger deal to be "possible." In the fall of 2002, the C.I.A. approved language referring to the Niger deal in one speech by the president but vetoed it in another.

And in December 2002, analysts at WINPAC, the C.I.A.'s center for Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control, produced a paper that chided Iraq for not acknowledging its "efforts to procure uranium from Niger."

Nevertheless, the C.I.A. had enough doubts about the Niger claims to initially leave them out of the President's Daily Brief (P.D.B.), the intelligence updates given each morning to President Bush. On February 5, 2002, however, for reasons that remain unclear, the C.I.A. issued a new report on the alleged Niger deal, one that provided significantly more detail, including what was said to be "verbatim text" of the accord between Niger and Iraq. In the State Department, analysts were still suspicious of the reports. But in the Pentagon, the Vulcans pounced on the new material. On February 12, the D.I.A. issued "a finished intelligence product," titled "Niamey Signed an Agreement to Sell 500 Tons of Uranium a Year to Baghdad," and passed it to the office of Vice President Dick Cheney.

Cheney gave the Niger claims new life....

The Marketing Campaign

ntil this point, the American people had been largely oblivious to the Bush administration's emerging policy toward Iraq. But in August 2002, just as Douglas Feith's Office of Special Plans formally set up shop in the Pentagon, White House chief of staff Andrew Card launched the White House Iraq Group to sell the war through the media. The plan was to open a full-fledged marketing campaign after Labor Day, featuring images of nuclear devastation and threats of biological and chemical weapons. A key piece of the evidence was the Niger dossier.

Test-marketing began in August, with Cheney and his surrogates asserting repeatedly that "many of us are convinced that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon." Making Cheney seem moderate by comparison, a piece by Ledeen appeared in The Wall Street Journal on September 4, suggesting that, in addition to Iraq, the governments of Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia should be overthrown.

But the real push was delayed until the second week of September. As Card famously put it, "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August." The first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks was perfect.

The opening salvo was fired on Sunday, September 8, 2002, when National-Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice told CNN, "There will always be some uncertainty about how quickly [Saddam] can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

The smoking-gun-mushroom-cloud catchphrase was such a hit that Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld all picked it up in one form or another, sending it out repeatedly to the entire country.

Meanwhile, the C.I.A. had finally penetrated Saddam's inner sanctum by "turning" Foreign Minister Naji Sabri. Tenet delivered the news personally to Bush, Cheney, and other top officials in September 2002. Initially, the White House was ecstatic about this coup.

But, according to Tyler Drumheller, the C.I.A.'s chief of operations in Europe until he retired last year, that reaction changed dramatically when they heard what Sabri had to say. "He told us that they had no active weapons-of-mass-destruction program," Drumheller told 60 Minutes. "The [White House] group that was dealing with the preparation for the Iraq war came back and said they were no longer interested. And we said, 'Well, what about the intel?' And they said, 'Well, this isn't about intel anymore. This is about regime change.'"

At roughly the same time, highly placed White House sources such as Scooter Libby leaked exclusive "scoops" to credulous reporters as part of the campaign to make Saddam's nuclear threat seem real. On the same day the "mushroom cloud" slogan made its debut, The New York Times printed a front-page story by Michael Gordon and Judith Miller citing administration officials who said that Saddam had "embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb." Specifically, the article contended that Iraq "has sought to buy thousands of specially designed aluminum tubes, which American officials believe were intended as components of centrifuges to enrich uranium."

The next day, September 9, the White House received a visitor who should have known exactly what the tubes were for—Nicolò Pollari. As it happens, the Italians used the same tubes Iraq was seeking in their Medusa air-to-ground missile systems, so Pollari presumably knew that Iraq was not trying to enrich uranium but merely attempting to reproduce weaponry dating back to an era of military trade between Rome and Baghdad. As La Repubblica pointed out, however, he did not set the record straight.

Pollari met with Stephen Hadley, an understated but resolute hawk who has since replaced Condoleezza Rice as national-security adviser. Hadley has confirmed that he met Pollari, but declined to say what was discussed. "It was a courtesy call," Hadley told reporters. "Nobody participating in that meeting or asked about that meeting has any recollection of a discussion of natural uranium, or any recollection of any documents being passed."

But there was no need to pass documents. It was significant enough for Pollari to have met with Hadley, a White House official allied with Cheney's hard-liners, rather than with Pollari's American counterpart, George Tenet. "It is completely out of protocol for the head of a foreign intelligence service to circumvent the C.I.A.," says former C.I.A. officer Philip Giraldi. "It is uniquely unusual. In spite of lots of people having seen these documents, and having said they were not right, they went around them."

"To me there is no benign interpretation of this," says Melvin Goodman, the former C.I.A. and State Department analyst. "At the highest level it was known the documents were forgeries. Stephen Hadley knew it. Condi Rice knew it.

Everyone at the highest level knew." Both Rice and Hadley have declined to comment.

Michael Ledeen, who had access to both Pollari and Hadley, categorically denies setting up the meeting: "I had nothing to do with it." A former senior intelligence official close to Tenet says that the former C.I.A. chief had no information suggesting that Pollari or elements of SISMI may have been trying to circumvent the C.I.A. and go directly to the White House.

But the Niger documents had been resurrected once again.

Two days later, on September 11, 2002, the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks, Hadley's office asked the C.I.A. to clear language so that President Bush could issue a statement saying, "Within the past few years, Iraq has resumed efforts to purchase large quantities of a type of uranium oxide known as yellowcake. … The regime was caught trying to purchase 500 metric tons of this material. It takes about 10 tons to produce enough enriched uranium for a single nuclear weapon."

In addition, in a new paper that month, the D.I.A. issued an assessment claiming that "Iraq has been vigorously trying to procure uranium ore and yellowcake."

Later that month, the British published a 50-page, 14-point report on Iraq's pursuit of weapons that said, "There is intelligence that Iraq has sought the supply of significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

"When you are playing a disinformation operation," says Milt Bearden, "you're like a conductor who can single out one note in the symphony and say, 'Let the Brits have that.'"

On September 24, Prime Minister Tony Blair cited that "dossier of death" and asserted again that Iraq had tried to acquire uranium from Africa. "The reports in [the Niger file] were going around the world, and Bush and Blair were talking about the documents without actually mentioning them," Rocco Martino told Milan's Il Giornale. "I turned the television on and I did not believe my ears."

ow it was time for the international media to chime in with independent corroboration. In early October 2002, Martino approached Elisabetta Burba, a journalist at Panorama, the Milan-based newsmagazine. Burba and Martino had worked together in the past, but there may have been other reasons he went to her again. Owned by Silvio Berlusconi, Panorama was edited by Carlo Rossella, a close ally of the prime minister's. It also counted among its contributors Michael Ledeen.....

Regardless of who fabricated the Niger documents, it is difficult to overstate the impact of the war they helped ignite. By May 18, 2006, the number of American fatalities was 2,448, while various methods of tracking American casualties put the number of wounded at between 18,000 and 48,000. At least 35,000 Iraqis have been killed. A new study by Columbia University economist Joseph E. Stiglitz, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2001, and Harvard lecturer Linda Bilmes concludes that the total costs of the Iraq war could top $2 trillion. That figure includes the long-term health-care costs for injured soldiers, the cost of higher oil prices, and a bigger U.S. budget deficit.

But the most important consequence of the Iraq war is its destabilization of the Middle East. If neoconservatives such as Ledeen and their critics agree on anything, it is that so far there has been only one real winner in the Iraq conflict: the fundamentalist mullahs in Iran. For decades, the two big threats in the Middle East—Iran and Iraq—had counterbalanced each other in a standoff that neutralized both. Yet the Bush administration, despite having declared Iran a member of the Axis of Evil, proceeded to attack its two biggest enemies, Afghanistan and Iraq. "Iran is unquestionably the biggest beneficiary of the war in Iraq," says Milt Bearden.

Perhaps it is not surprising that the Bush administration is now rattling its sabers against Iran, which has been flexing its muscles with a new nuclear program. As a result, according to a Zogby poll in May, 66 percent of Americans now see Iran as a threat to the U.S. Zbigniew Brzezinski, national-security adviser to President Carter, has argued that starting the Iraq war was a catastrophic strategic blunder, and that taking military action against Iran may be an even bigger mistake. "I think of war with Iran as the ending of America's present role in the world," he told Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. "Iraq may have been a preview of that, but it's still redeemable if we get out fast. In a war with Iran, we'll get dragged down for 20 or 30 years. The world will condemn us. We will lose our position in the world."

To Michael Ledeen, however, Iran's ascendancy is just one more reason to expand the Iraq war to the "terror masters" of the Middle East. "I keep saying it over and over again to the point where I myself am bored," he says. "I have been screaming 'Iran, Iran, Iran, Iran' for five years. [Those in the Bush administration] don't have an Iran policy. Still don't have one. They haven't done fuck-all."

This is Craig Unger's third article for Vanity Fair. He is currently working on a book based on his article "American Rapture," which appeared in the December 2005 issue.

[bth: this lengthy article is worth reading in full.]
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Dave Lindorff: the Case of the Missing $21 Billion

Dave Lindorff: the Case of the Missing $21 Billion: "During the days of the Nixon Watergate scandal investigation, reporter Bob Woodword was famously advised by his mysterious source, Deep Throat, to 'follow the money' as a way of cracking the story.

Well, there is a lot of money to follow in the current scandal that can be best described as the Bush/Cheney administration, and so far, nobody's doing it.

My bet for the place that needs the most following is the more than $9 billion that has gone missing without a trace in Iraq--as well as $12 billion in cash that the Pentagon flew into Iraq straight from Federal Reserve vaults via military transports, and for which there has been little or no accounting.

When word of the missing money first surfaced in 2004, Congress passed legislation creating an office of Special Inspector General, assuming that this new agency would root out the problem and figure why all that taxpayer money had disappeared, and why only minimal reconstruction was going on in destroyed Iraq, instead of a massive rebuilding program as intended."

The new inspector general, an affable attorney named Stuart Bowen, went to work and came up with a report in early 2006 that sounded scathing enough. Bowen found cases of double billing by contractors, of payments for work that was never done, and other scandals. But he never came up with more than $1 billion or so worth of problems.

Now we know why.

It turns out that Bowen was never really looking very hard.

When the Boston Globe, this past April, broke the story that President Bush has been quietly setting aside over 750 acts passed by Congress, claiming he has the authority as "unitary executive" and as commander in chief to ignore such laws, it turned out that one of the laws the president chose to ignore was the one establishing the special inspector general post for Iraq. What the president did was write a so-called "signing statement" on the side (unpublicized of course), saying that the new inspector general would have no authority to investigate any contracts or corruption issues involving the Pentagon.

Well, since most of the missing money has been going to the military in Iraq, that pretty much meant nothing of consequence would be discovered by the inspector general.

You might think that the inspector general himself would have complained about such a restriction on his authority to do the job that Congress had intended, but Bush took care of that. In his role as Chief Executive, he appointed Bowen to the post, a man who has a long history of working as a loyal manservant to the president. Bowen was a deputy general counsel for Governor Bush (meaning he was an assistant to the ever solicitous solicitor Alberto Gonzales). He did yeoman service to Bush as a member of the term that handled the famous vote count atrocity in Florida in the November 2000 election, and then worked under Gonzales again in the White House during Bush's first term, before returning briefly to private practice.

Bowen simply never mentioned to anyone that, courtesy of a secretive and unconstitutional order from the president, he was not doing the job that Congress had intended.

The deception was far-reaching. When Thomas Gimble, the acting inspector general of the Pentagon, was asked in 2005 during a congressional hearing by Christopher Shays (R-CT), chair of the House government reform subcommittee, why the Pentagon had no audit team in Iraq to look for fraud, Gimble facilely replied that such a team was "not needed" because Congress had set up the special inspector general unit to do that. He didn't mention that the president had barred the special inspector general from investigating Pentagon scandals....

[bth: how do these people sleep at night? Massive and unprecedented fraud premitted if not condoned by the President.]
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Poll: U.S. backing for troops steadfast

Poll: U.S. backing for troops steadfast - Yahoo! News: "WASHINGTON - The latest Associated Press-Ipsos poll found that many Americans perceive the alleged atrocities against Iraqi civilians by U.S. forces as isolated incidents while saying the U.S.-led invasion was a mistake, an unusual disconnect that sets this conflict apart from Vietnam"

The survey of 1,003 adults was completed Wednesday, shortly before the announcement that U.S. airstrikes had killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al-Qaida leader in
Iraq' , and the Iraqi parliament's approval of candidates for ministers in charge of the army and police.

It remains to be seen how those events could affect opinion, especially among a public paying close attention to war dispatches.

Some 76 percent of those questioned said they were following reports about allegations that U.S. troops killed unarmed Iraqi civilians.

The military is investigating reports that a small number of Marines murdered 24 Iraqi civilians — including unarmed women and children — in the town of Haditha on Nov. 19. It also is conducting a probe of an incident in Hamdaniya following allegations that Marines pulled an unarmed Iraqi man from his home on April 26 and shot him to death without provocation.

Regardless of whether the allegations turn out to be true, 63 percent of those surveyed said they thought the killings of civilians were isolated incidents. That view was especially true among Americans over 35, whites and those living in the South, where the military has a strong presence.

"I think they're doing everything possible to avoid such things," said Christine Berchelmann, a retired nurse and Republican-leaning independent from San Antonio. "The people they are seeking out, they are in dwellings right in the middle of all these civilians. There are always going to be casualties."

Sixty-one percent in the survey said the military is doing all it can to avoid killing Iraqi civilians.

While the AP poll found that most Americans are willing to give U.S. troops the benefit of the doubt, their misgivings about the war and the prospect of Iraq establishing a stable, democratic government are growing.

Fifty-nine percent said the United States made a mistake in going to war, a new high and a significant jump from the 34 percent in December 2004.

"The biggest mistake was going into Iraq," said David Smith, 38, a salesman from Springfield, Mo., and Democrat who leans independent. "If hindsight was 20-20, they should have thought about the repercussions."

Despite President Bush' pronouncements about Iraq setting up a viable government, only 44 percent of those polled said it was likely they would see a stable government in Baghdad. It was a new low in the survey.

"I think this is the first time in recorded history where the American people wholeheartedly support the troops and support for the mission is waning," said Rep. Ike Skelton (news, bio, voting record) of Missouri, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.

The 15-term lawmaker cited the greater involvement of the National Guard and Reserves in the war. Some 25,000 members of the Guard and Reserve are in Iraq among the 132,000 U.S. troops.

"People have a neighbor or a cousin," Skelton said.

During Vietnam, growing opposition to the war paralleled disenchantment with American forces, many of whom had been drafted to serve. The conflict dragged on more than a decade, more than 50,000 Americans were killed and the U.S. departed Saigon in April 1975 as the communists prevailed.
Capturing the public consciousness during Vietnam was the My Lai massacre, in which U.S. soldiers killed hundreds of innocent civilians in 1968.

In Iraq, the military has relied on an all-volunteer force of trained professionals.

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, said it is possible to oppose the war but "nonetheless see the military as divorced from that. The military is our sons and daughters and, of course, we wouldn't systematically engage in something that defiles American values."

Rep. John Kline (news, bio, voting record), R-Minn., said he was not surprised "that the American people believe in the fundamental goodness of the American soldiers." Kline, a member of the Armed Services Committee, described the current troops as the "best we've ever had."

The survey also found that the war continues to take a toll on the public's view of Bush. Approval of the president was at 35 percent, essentially unchanged from his rating of 33 percent last month based on the poll's margin of error of 3 percentage points.

His handling of Iraq and foreign policy and the fight against terrorism hit new lows: Just 33 percent approved of his actions on Iraq and 39 percent on the commander in chief's fight against terrorism.

People had an even lower opinion of the Republican-controlled Congress. Only 24 percent approved of the way it's doing its job, essentially unchanged from last month but still a new low.

Fifty-two percent want Democrats to capture control of Congress in November, about the same as last month's poll.

[bth: this poll hits the nail on the head. The President has lost the trust of the American people. The Congress is viewed as no-nothings and the Pentagon is viewed with distrust, but the American people have a fundamental trust in the goodness of their neighbors, their kids and the American Soldier who has shown on balance incredible restraint given an impossible situation.

It is a tribute to this country that the average American is able to discern the difference - a wise and fundamental observation.

So long as that bond of trust exists between the American public and the average soldier in the field, this country will hold together. If that trust is broken by a loss of fire control in the field, by breaking rational rules of engagement or by a lying and manipulative public affairs section of the Pentagon then all bets are off.

Through it all you've got to hand it to the basic goodness of the American people and to the professional discipline of the average American soldier.]
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The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) Blog: Hunter's Titan Ties

The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) Blog: Hunter's Titan Ties: "While Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) tops the news in the unfolding earmarks-for-bribes investigations, also under scrutiny is House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-CA). For the most part, interest has been focused on companies led by defense contractors Brent Wilkes and Mitchell Wade.

But as the investigations have expanded, questions are increasingly being raised about the relationships between other defense contractors and legislators.

Perhaps worth a look: the actions of Hunter vis-�-vis San Diego's Titan Corporation.

In recent years, Titan has also continued to enjoy a generous flow of Pentagon money--in part thanks to Duncan Hunter and the 'queen of earmarks' Letitia White. Between 2003 and 2005, Titan retained White to look after its interests as the FY 04, 05, and 06 armed services and intelligence authorization and appropriations bills were crafted. (Titan has also been a top contributor to White's former boss Rep. Jerry Lewis.)

Included in some bills, for example, are earmarks beyond what the Pentagon requested for two Navy projects, the experimental Sea Fighter LCS(X) craft and the Affordable Weapons System (AWS). Both projects have been championed by Hunter, and are contracted by Titan.

Both projects, however, have not been met with universal acclaim within the Navy. "...

[bth: worth a read.]
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First female Iowan killed in Iraq "An Iowa Falls sailor is the first female Iowan to die in the war in Iraq.

Seabee Reservist Jaime Jaenke, 29, was killed in a roadside bomb attack Monday. She is the forty-second Iowan to die in Iraq and Afghanistan since March 2003.

Jaenke, 29, a Petty Officer 2nd Class, and an Illinois sailor were killed when the bomb exploded near their Humvee in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, U.S. Navy spokesman Lt. J.G. Carlos Kirby said."

Thursday, June 08, 2006

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Is Faulty Ammo Failing Troops?, Field Report, Government Tests Raise Questions About Bullet For M-16 Rifle - CBS News

Is Faulty Ammo Failing Troops?, Field Report, Government Tests Raise Questions About Bullet For M-16 Rifle - CBS News: "(CBS) As American troop casualties in Iraq continue to mount, concern is growing they may be outgunned. That includes new questions about the stopping power of the ammunition that is used by the standard-issue M-16 rifle.

Shortly after the U.N. headquarters was bombed in Baghdad in August 2003, a Special Forces unit went to Ramadi to capture those responsible.

In a fierce exchange of gunfire, one insurgent was hit seven times by 5.56 mm bullets, reports CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian. It took a shot to the head with a pistol to finally bring him down. But before he died, he killed two U.S. soldiers and wounded seven more. "

The lack of the lethality of that bullet has caused United States soldiers to die," says Maj. Anthony Milavic. Milavic is a retired Marine major who saw three tours of duty in Vietnam.

He says the small-caliber 5.56, essentially a .22-caliber civilian bullet, is far better suited for shooting squirrels than the enemy, and contends that urban warfare in Iraq demands a bigger bullet. "A bullet that knocks the man down with one shot," he says. "And keeps him down."

Milavic is not alone. In a confidential report to Congress last year, active Marine commanders complained that: "5.56 was the most worthless round," "we were shooting them five times or so," and "torso shots were not lethal." In last week's Marine Corps Times, a squad leader said his Marines carried and used "found" enemy AK-47s because that weapon's 7.62 mm bullets packed "more stopping power." Bruce Jones is a mechanical engineer who helped design artillery, rifles and pistols for the Marines. "I saw the tests that clearly showed how miserable the bullets really were in performance," he says. "But that's what we're arming our troops with. It's horrible, you know, it's unconscionable." To demonstrate to CBS News, Jones fired the larger-caliber 7.62 bullet fired by AK-47s used by insurgents in Iraq into a block of glycerin.

The hole cavity is 50 percent or more larger than that of the 5.56. "You can't just go out and, you know, rig up a little block of Jello and shoot at it and prove anything," says Pierre Sprey, a former Pentagon weapons expert. Since the early days of the Vietnam War, Sprey has been a champion of the 5.56, and believes it both lethal and light. "The brilliant thing about that bullet is that it allowed the infantrymen to easily carry 300 rounds," Sprey says. "Whereas the old sharpshooter's heavy, slow round — he could only carry 100." In the chaos of war, the more bullets the better, he says, because bursts of automatic fire beat one big bullet at a time.

"There is no such thing as a well-aimed shot in combat, because combat is fought by scared 18-year-olds who haven't been trained enough and are in a place they've never seen before," Sprey says. Here at the Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey, the government's own engineers have done the most extensive testing on the 5.56 since 1990 and issued two draft reports. In the first, dated 2004, the 5.56 ranked last in lethality out of three bullets tested. A second draft, dated last month, confirmed that rating, ranking the 5.56 dead last in close-quarter combat. The army issued a final report last week that concludes in essence that those test results are wrong and misleading. It argues the 5.56 has the "same potential effectiveness" of the 7.62 during the heat of battle.

Either way, there's no questions that if the Pentagon did have any questions about this bullet, it would face some very expensive modifications to the M-16.©MMVI, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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U.S. military acknowledges Iraq anti-gay killings

Washington Blade Online: "The U.S. military is aware of a rash of anti-gay killings in Iraq during the past eight months and is taking steps to curtail sectarian violence against all Iraqis, including gays, according to a spokesperson for the U.S.-led multinational forces in Iraq."...

Breasseale's comments came in response to questions about how the U.S. was responding to a decision last October by a powerful Islamic leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, to issue a fatwa calling for the killing of gays in Iraq. Bush administration officials have cited al-Sistani as a moderate voice among Iraqi Shiites.

Islam considers homosexuality sinful. A website published in the Iranian city of Qom in the name of Sistani, says: "Those who commit sodomy must be killed in the harshest way," according to BBC news reports. The statement appeared in an Arabic section of the website dealing with questions of morality, but not in the English-language equivalent.

A network of gay Iraqi exiles in Europe reported that the fatwa triggered a flurry of assassinations, kidnappings and death threats against Iraqi gays. ...

For the women of Iraq, the war is just beginning

Independent Online Edition > Middle East: "The women of Basra have disappeared. Three years after the US-led invasion of Iraq, women's secular freedoms - once the envy of women across the Middle East - have been snatched away because militant Islam is rising across the country.

Across Iraq, a bloody and relentless oppression of women has taken hold. Many women had their heads shaved for refusing to wear a scarf or have been stoned in the street for wearing make-up. Others have been kidnapped and murdered for crimes that are being labelled simply as 'inappropriate behaviour'. The insurrection against the fragile and barely functioning state has left the country prey to extremists whose notion of freedom does not extend to women.

In the British-occupied south, where Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army retains a stranglehold, women insist the situation is at its worst. Here they are forced to live behind closed doors only to emerge, concealed behind scarves, hidden behind husbands and fathers. Even wearing a pair of trousers is considered an act of defiance, punishable by death."...

Behind the wave of insurgent attacks, the violence against women who dare to challenge the Islamic orthodoxy is growing. Fatwas banning women from driving or being seen out alone are regularly issued....

Infiltrated by militia, the police are unwilling or unable to crack down on the fundamentalists.

Ms Alebadi said: "After the fall of the regime, the religious extremist parties came out on to the streets and threatened women. Although the extremists are in the minority, they control powerful positions, so they control Basra."

To venture on the streets today without a male relative is to risk attack, humiliation or kidnap.

A journalist, Shatta Kareem, said: "I was driving my car one day when someone just crashed into me and drove me off the road. If a woman is seen driving these days it is considered a violation of men's rights."

There is a fear that Islamic law will become enshrined in the new legislation. Ms Aziz said: "In the Muslim religion, if a man dies his money goes to a male member of the family. After the Iran-Iraq war, there were so many widows that Saddam changed the law so it would go to the women and children. Now it has been changed back."

Mrs Alebadi estimated that as many as 70 per cent of women in Basra had been widowed by the constant conflicts. "You see widows on the streets begging at the intersections."

Optimists say the very fact that 25 per cent of Iraq's Provincial Council is composed of women proves women have been empowered since the invasion. But the people of Basra say it is a smokescreen. Any woman who becomes a part of the system, they say, is incapable of engineering any change for the better. Posters around the city promoting the constitution graphically illustrate that view. The faces of the women candidates have been blacked out, the accompanying slogan, "No women in politics," a stark reminder of the opposition they face.

Ms Aziz said: "Women members of the Provincial Council had many dreams but they were told 'With respect, you don't know anything. This is a world of men. Your view is good but not better.' More and more they just agreed to sign whatever they were told. We have got women in power, who are powerless."

Many of the British officers in Basra say they feel "uncomfortable" with the situation but a spokesman for the Foreign Office would only say: "As part of the new government's programme, they do say in their top 10 items to be looked at that women constitute half of society and are nurturers of the other half and, therefore, must take an active role in building the society and the state. Their rights should be respected in all fields."

In the villages around Basra, the shy women who peer round doorways are uncomplaining. For one Marsh Arab, Makir Jafar, the fact she has been given enough education to help her 10-year-old son with his homework is enough. "Life is nice. There is the river. I do not want for anything," she said.

There is a growing fear among educated women, however, that the extreme dangers of daily life will allow the issue of women's oppression to remain unchallenged. In Mrs Kareem's words: "Men have been given a voice. But women will not get their part in building this country."
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Social Network Chart on Canadian Terrorists

This pdf link will take you to an excellent chart showing the network of social connections linking the 17 Canadian terrorists. Also it has a chart showing the criminal charges made against each man.

In his hometown, relatives pray for 1,000 Zarqawis

In his hometown, relatives pray for 1,000 Zarqawis�� "ZARQA, Jordan (Reuters) - In the bleak Jordanian city where Abu Musab al-Zarqawi grew up, shocked relatives mourned the al Qaeda leader's death as a loss to Islam and prayed for 1,000 'Zarqawis' to fight the Americans in his place.

'This is a tragedy. We are all sad here,' said Zarqawi's uncle, Yazm Khalayleh, 64.

'We have to be sad because he was fighting the infidels. Anyone who says he is not sad is lying; people believe he is a martyr. We do not want to believe that he is dead.'

Zarqawi, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, was killed in a U.S. air raid there, Iraqi and U.S. officials said on Thursday.

The Jordanian, who masterminded hundreds of suicide bombings in Iraq and was blamed for the videotaped beheadings of foreign hostages, had come to symbolise the radical Islamic insurgency against U.S.-led forces occupying Iraq.

Relatives and neighbors hailed Zarqawi as a hero of Islam and hoped his death would not impede the insurgency in Iraq.
'God willing there will be 1,000 Zarqawis to fight the Americans,' another relative, Ahmed Khalayleh, told Reuters."...

[bth: hard to understand how people can see the world from this twisted perspective.]
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Airstrike kills terror leader al-Zarqawi in Iraq - Jun 8, 2006 - Airstrike kills terror leader al-Zarqawi in Iraq - Jun 8, 2006: "BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the most wanted terrorist in Iraq, was killed in a coalition airstrike near Baquba, jubilant U.S. and Iraqi authorities announced Thursday.

Al-Zarqawi's killing is a major coup for the embattled coalition forces.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, Gen. George Casey, the highest-ranking U.S. commander in Iraq, and U.S.

Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad announced the development at a news conference.

'Today, Zarqawi has been killed,' al-Maliki said. The announcement was greeted by cheers and applause.

Khalilzad -- who called al-Zarqawi 'the godfather of sectarian killing and terror in Iraq' -- said the death 'marks a great success for Iraq and the global war on terror' and calls it a 'good omen' for the new Iraqi government.

'His organization has been responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians in Iraq and abroad.'"

Casey provided details about the incident
He said al-Zarqawi and a key lieutenant, spiritual advisor Sheik Abd-Al-Rahman, were at an isolated safe house at 6:15 p.m. on Wednesday.

"Tips and intelligence from Iraqi senior leaders from his network led forces to al-Zarqawi and some of his associates who were conducting a meeting approximately eight kilometers north of Baquba when the airstrike was launched.

Baquba is a volatile area northeast of Baghdad in Diyala province, a mixed Shiite-Sunni jurisdiction. There have been many roadside bombings and shootings throughout the province and within the week, severed heads were found in fruit boxes there.

"Iraqi police were first on the scene after the air strike, and elements of Multi-National Division North, arrived shortly thereafter. We have been able to identify al-Zarqawi by fingerprint verification, facial recognition and known scars."

Al-Maliki indicated that the strike on al-Zarqawi was the "result of cooperation" with the citizenry, saying that authorities many times have asked the citizenry to provide information.

"This is a message to all those who take violence as a path."

Khalilzad said the demise of al-Zarqawi won't end the violence in Iraq, but it is "an important step in the right direction." He said "there will be difficult days ahead" but said that "today is a good day."

CNN's Jamie McIntyre contributed to this report.

[bth: confirmed. EXCELLENT!]
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US student charged with supporting Al Qaeda

New Zealand's source for World News on US student charged with supporting Al Qaeda: "NEW YORK: An American student suspected of helping supply Islamic militants fighting US forces in Afghanistan was indicted by a federal grand jury on terrorism charges, officials said.

Syed Hashmi, 26, a US citizen studying and living in London, was arrested at Heathrow airport on Tuesday when he was about to board a plane to Pakistan, FBI spokesman James Margolin said.
A grand jury in Manhattan federal court indicted Hashmi on four counts including conspiracy and supporting al Qaeda by providing military gear to unnamed co-conspirators with links to militants fighting US forces in Afghanistan.
Originally from the New York City borough of Queens, Hashmi appeared in London's Bow Street magistrates court and was ordered to remain in custody pending extradition to New York, said Megan Gaffney, a spokeswoman for the US Attorney's office in Manhattan.

Hashmi, also known as Fahad, and others provided unspecified military gear to unnamed people who transported it to al Qaeda associates in South Waziristan, Pakistan, between January 2004 and May 2006, according to the indictment.

One of Hashmi's suspected co-conspirators had already been arrested in New York, the indictment said.

Officials did not provide details of that suspect.

If convicted of all four counts, Hashmi faces up to 54 years in prison. "

Condolence payments to Iraqis soar

Condolence payments to Iraqis soar - The Boston Globe: "WASHINGTON -- The amount of cash the US military has paid to families of Iraqi civilians killed or maimed in operations involving American troops skyrocketed from just under $5 million in 2004 to almost $20 million last year, according to Pentagon financial data."...
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SOMALIA: THE SHEIK WHO LED THE ISLAMIST CONQUEST OF MOGADISHU - PROFILE: "Mogadishu, 7 June (AKI) - Very little seems to be known about the man who led Somali Islamist militants to win on Monday the decisive battle against the coalition of the so-called warlords for the control of the Somali capital, Mogadishu. His name is Sherif Sheik Ahmad Sheik Mahmoud, often shortened to Ahmad Sherif, and he is the leader of the forces of the Islamic Courts Union, which many suspect is the Somali branch of Al-Qaeda. Some initial information about the man now running Mogadishu was recently published by websites close to al-Qaeda.

Ahmad Sherif was born in the Somali southern region of al-Mahadi in 1964. Young Ahmad Sharif was initiated to the study of sharia - Islamic law - by his father, Sheik Mahmoud, who was the leader of the Somali Islamic movement al-Idrisia.

In 1992 he left al-Mahadi for Sudan, where he studied literature and education at Kardafan university. Afterwards Ahmad Sharif moved to Libya, where he was awarded a degree in law at al-Maftuha university.

During the long period he spent studying abroad he was appointed secretary general of the association of Somali people abroad.

Once he returned home, he was firstly elected chairman of a Somali cultural organisation and in 2002, appointed judge at the Islamic Court of Shabelle, in central Somalia.

A number of Islamic courts originated through the country during the period of anarchy which began over ten years ago, and in 2004 Ahmad Sherif was elected leader of the Islamic Courts Union.

He seems just short of his goal, to become the first leader of the new Islamic emirate which many say is currently emerging in Mogadishu."
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Terror leader al-Zarqawi dead, Iraqi officials say - Jun 8, 2006 - Terror leader al-Zarqawi dead, Iraqi officials say - Jun 8, 2006: "BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the most wanted insurgent in Iraq, is dead, according to an aide to Iraq's prime minister.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was expected to make a public announcement of the death, the details of which are unclear.
Two Pentagon officials told CNN that the government is awaiting al-Maliki's announcement in Baghdad before commenting on the report officially.

One official says the Pentagon is not sure of how the death was confirmed and that there might need to be 'additional forensics' done before they can be fully confident the terrorist leader is dead.

Officials could provide no further details at this time."...

[bth: let's get confirmation.]

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

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Iraqi army takes over in Anbar

Iraqi army takes over in Anbar The Australian: "AN Iraqi army division has taken over from US forces in patrolling an area in Anbar province, the US military said today, the first transfer on that level in the western heartland of the Sunni Arab insurgency.

The 1st Iraqi Army Division officially assumed control of territory near the town of Habbaniya on June 2, between the towns of Ramadi and Fallujah, it said in a statement.

A US military spokesman declined to give the precise number of troops involved. A division is a group of brigades usually commanded by a major-general.

The desert province, a stronghold of Saddam Hussein's once-dominant Sunni minority, is the scene of frequent and deadly insurgent attacks against the US forces who invaded three years ago to overthrow the Iraqi strongman.

The United States is training Iraq's armed forces so that they can take charge of security and allow its 133,000 force to return home.

'The Iraqi unit is now responsible for planning and executing their own operations in Habbaniya,' the statement said, without specifying the size of the area.

But US-led forces would continue to help with medical evacuation and fire support, it said.

It was the first division-level transfer of territory in Anbar, the statement said, adding that four Iraqi brigades and nine Iraqi battalions are also assigned territory there.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said after he took office on May 20 that his army and police, now numbering about 255,000, could take over security across the country by the end of next year.

But security experts have voiced doubt about their ability to take full control in the near future and say the United States is likely to retain a military presence for years.

The transfer comes after the US military last week said al-Qaeda militants had gained ground in Ramadi and that 1500 extra US troops brought to Iraq would be used to try to break their grip on the town.
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