Saturday, July 01, 2006

Bin Laden warns US and Iraq's Shi'ites

Bin Laden warns US and Iraq's Shi'ites��Top News�� "DUBAI (Reuters) - A purported audio tape by Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden warned Iraq's Shi'ite majority on Saturday of retaliation over attacks on Sunni Arabs and that his group would fight the United States anywhere in the world.

Bin Laden, making his second Internet broadcast in two days, also warned the world community to stay out of Somalia, where Islamists have fought their way to power in Mogadishu.

'We will fight (U.S.) soldiers on the land of Somalia ... and we reserve the right to punish it on its land and anywhere possible,' said the speaker on the tape, sounding like the Saudi-born militant.

No immediate independent verification of the voice was immediately available but the tape was posted on an Internet site used by Islamists.

Bin Laden, a Sunni, said the Sunni Arab minority in Iraq was being annihilated.

'It is not possible that many of (the Shi'ites) violate, alongside America and its allies, (the Sunni cities of) Ramadi, Falluja, Mosul .... (and) that their areas would be safe from retaliation and harm,' he said.

Bin Laden said he endorsed Abu Hamza al-Muhajir as the new leader of al Qaeda in Iraq after the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in a U.S. air strike on June 7.

On Somalia, he said: 'We warn all of the countries in the world not to respond to America by sending international troops to Somalia.'"

[bth: looks like OBL is declaring victory in Somalia.]

Afghan Media Rail Against Censorship Plan

Afghan Media Rail Against Censorship Plan: "An attempt to introduce self-censorship backfires as Afghan journalists buck at restrictive rules.

By Hafizullah Gardesh and Wahidullah Amani in Kabul (ARR No. 220, 28-Jun-06)

The most surprising thing about a new set of draconian instructions telling Afghanistan�s journalists what they can and cannot say is the reaction - vocal accusations that the government is trying to curb media freedom.

The furore began on June 19, when the Afghan intelligence agency, the National Security Directorate, circulated a list of bans and restrictions on journalistic activities to local media outlets. "

The document contains no information about how the vaguely-defined proscriptions will be interpreted in practice, or what sanctions will be used to enforce them.

Nor is it clear how it is supposed to fit with the constitution’s free speech provisions or the liberal media law adopted late last year President Hamed Karzai appears to have sanctioned the instruction, although it bears no signature or official seal.

In a 24-point list, the media are told not to publish reports or interviews that are “against the government's foreign policy with regard to neighbouring countries” or “against the presence of the International Coalition Forces and ISAF [International Security Forces] in Afghanistan".

The statement also takes sides, banning contact with the Taleban and forbidding criticism of the forces now in government. It orders journalists not to interview or film commanders or combatants of “terrorist groups” – for which read the Taleban and their allies - or to relay "provocative statements” by such groups.

The term "warlord" is not to be used for leaders of the former mujahedin - the militia groups which fought first the Soviets, then each other and finally the Taleban.

Many of these leaders now sit in the Afghan government or parliament. Emigres who came back after the demise of Taleban rule in 2001 to take up posts in government must not be described as "westernised".

Finally, the directive says media reporting must not represent the Afghan National Army as weak, and should instead promote a "spirit of resistance and courage in the armed forces in the capital and provinces, and particularly in border areas".In a country where until four years ago, media rights had been restricted or non-existent for two decades, the response from journalists was robust.

Their first act of rebellion was to translate the document into English from the Dari original and circulate it widely. At a meeting at the Centre for International Journalism in Kabul, participants condemned the new regulations which they said amounted to a “censorship document” that sought to destroy freedom of speech.

The document’s contents ran contrary to the Afghan constitution and media law, and enjoyed no legal status, they said.Article 34 of the constitution stipulates, "Freedom of expression is inviolable. Every Afghan has the right to express his thoughts through speech, writing, illustration or other means…. Every Afghan has the right to print or publish material without submitting it in advance to the state authorities.”At a press conference on June 22, Karzai indirectly suggested that his office had been consulted about the letter, and urged the media bear in mind the current difficult security environment."

The directive presented to the media by our security authorities is about terrorism. For security and national interests to be maintained, certain principles need to be considered," he said. However, Karzai insisted that this was not an attack on liberty. "We have accepted freedom of speech, and we will continue to do so,” he said. “We defend press freedom because without it the country cannot develop. So you should be confident that there will be press freedom and that I will support it.

"In an interview for IWPR, Abdul Ghafoor Liwal, a political analyst who heads the Centre for Regional Studies, voiced support for the tougher rules, saying it was common practice in other countries to curtail some rights to uphold overriding national interests."Some media outlets and journalists work against security and the national interest, and they should be reined in," he said.

"All countries in the world, including America and Europe, that regard themselves as models of press freedom and democracy have some restrictions over the press in order to maintain security and national interests." But most journalists and analysts interviewed by IWPR were dead against any restriction on the ability of journalists to write what they feel is right."I

f Karzai really did agree to this action, it was a very big mistake, and he is to blame,” said Shukria Barakzai, a member of the Wolesi Jirga or lower house of parliament. “It will place Afghanistan’s status and reputation under question in the international community.

"Political analyst Mohammad Qasim Akhgar said, "The issuing of this letter is a warning to democracy and press freedom in this country.”He suggested that the regulations were the work of elements in the government which had never bought into the post-2001 administration’s commitment to democracy, free speech and human rights."

Karzai's government have accepted freedom of speech, press freedom and democracy in words – but not in their hearts," he said.Questions remain about how much Karzai’s office and the government as a whole knew about the security agency’s directive before it came out. Sayed Hussain Fazel Sancharaki, a former deputy minister for information and culture, said the president’s office definitely must have been aware of plans to muzzle criticism of the authorities.

"In my view, such a statement could not be issued without the agreement of the state leadership and the ministry of information and culture. In doing so, they are trying to cover up the government’s weak points," he said. "I think that the president's advisers, who are always making Karzai change his mind, may have got him to agree to this a directive by telling him the media creates a lot of problems for the country."

However, the Ministry of Information and Culture, the government department that deals with the press, has said it was left completely in the dark.Shah Zaman Weriz Stanikzai, the ministry’s head of publications, said it was not aware of the directive and did not accept it as a legal document now.

"Indeed, it is not a statement but a night letter,” he said, referring to the kind of leaflets that the Taleban circulate covertly. "This is a conspiracy by the National Security Directorate to defame the government and place freedom of speech under pressure," said Stanikzai.

Rahimullah Samandar, who heads the Independent Journalists’ Association, suggested the security agencies are hitting back because they were rattled by uncensored reporting on the rioting in Kabul last month, in which police were accused of standing by and doing little to halt the violence.

"The extensive media coverage of the May 29 riots in Kabul led to the interior minister and the head of the National Security Directorate being subjected to tough questioning by the Meshrano Jirga [upper house of parliament]. So the government has grown intolerant of press freedom and tried to create obstacles in the media’s path," he said.

"If the government has problems with the media, it should solve it through the ministry of information and culture, not through the security directorate.”

Hafizullah Gardesh is IWPR’s editor in Afghanistan. Wahidullah Amani is an IWPR staff reporter in Kabul.

Right-wing pundits in Internet ratings freefall

The Raw Story Right-wing pundits in Internet ratings freefall: "Many well-known right-wing media figures -- including Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and Bill O'Reilly -- are losing their Internet audiences, according to an analysis of Web site ratings by IPD Group and U.S. Politics Today.

On the other hand, traffic for has risen.

On Thursday, Shakespeare's Sister checked other sites from the right and left at the same tracking service,, used in the analysis.

According to the blogger, Free Republic, Hugh Hewitt, World Net Daily, and Pajamas Media have all suffered at least a 19 percent decline, while the traffic at Raw Story, Crooks and Liars, and Think Progress has risen.

A release issued by IPD Group reads: "...

[bth: the quality of left leaning blogging has gone way up. That doesn't explain the drop from the right however. Free Republic probably has seasonal fluctuations and when the war was starting they were a source of excellent international news and speculation about weapons and connections between al-Qaeda and Iraq - virtually all of which turned out to be untrue. Now its dominated by shouters and fanatics. World Net Daily is a propaganda rag out of Israel that just makes shit up. Raw Story, Crooks and Liars and Think Progress are frankly very good sources of news and analysis. Does it translate into votes? No. But is does show a change in what people are curious about and interested in.]

US could lose in Iraq due to negative media coverage: commander - Yahoo! News

US could lose in Iraq due to negative media coverage: commander - Yahoo! News: "WASHINGTON (AFP) - A US combat commander suggested the United States could lose the war in Iraq if public support for it at home is sapped by negative media coverage. "

My personal opinion is that the only way we will lose this war is if we pull out prematurely," said Colonel Jeffrey Snow, a brigade commander in Baghdad.

"I would hope we get the time and support we need to finish this mission," he said in a video conference from Iraq.

Snow, whose own troops have come under stepped-up insurgent attacks this month, criticized media coverage as too focused on insurgent roadside bombings, kidnappings and assassinations.

"Our soldiers may be in the crosshairs every day, but it is the American voter who is a real target, and it is the media that carries the message back each day across the airwaves," he said.

"So when the news is not balanced and it's always bad, that clearly leads to negative perceptions back home," he said.
Snow leads the 1st Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division, which is winding up a year-long tour in Iraq. He said it had made progress in training Iraqi troops to replace it.

He acknowledged insurgent attacks have gone up in his western Baghdad area of operations since the start of a city-wide security crackdown ordered by the new Iraqi government earlier this month.

Increased checkpoints and foot patrols in Baghdad had drawn an increase in insurgent attacks, he said.

"The way I would answer that is that attacks here recently are up in our area. However, the overall effectiveness are down," he said.

"So you may perceive that as double-speak. I don't have the precise numbers in front of me," he added.

[bth: I would have thought his concern would be that press coverage was almost nonexistent.]

Discontent over Iraq may cost Republicans control of Congress, poll says: South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Discontent over Iraq may cost Republicans control of Congress, poll says: South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "WASHINGTON � President Bush's job approval rating is up slightly, but discontent over the Iraq war, especially among women, is continuing to boost Democratic prospects in the struggle for control of Congress, a Times/Bloomberg poll has found.

Bush's job approval rating edged up to 41%, his highest since January in the poll. But Democrats held a formidable advantage, 49% to 35%, when registered voters were asked which party they intended to support in fall congressional elections."

The survey's results suggested that an old challenge — the gender gap — could pose a renewed threat to the Republican hold on Congress. Although men split about evenly when asked which party they planned to back for Congress in November, women preferred Democrats by nearly 2 to 1.Doubts about Iraq appeared to be a powerful contributor to that trend. In the survey, women were much less likely than men to say the war had been worth the cost."

As far as the war goes, we never should have gone in there without United Nations backing," said respondent Kathy Bocklage, a registered Republican from Wayland, N.Y., who said she was planning to support Democrats this fall. "Why [Bush] thought the U.S. could finance this alone — it's ludicrous."

However, beneath the large Democrat lead on the November ballot test, the poll offered potential warnings for the party.On a variety of questions — including satisfaction with Bush's handling of terrorism and the likelihood of progress in Iraq — it showed modest but perceptible movement in the president's direction since the last Times/Bloomberg survey, in April. Also, the share of Americans who viewed the Democratic Party favorably declined. And creating a check on Bush seemed more important than providing an opportunity for Democrats to many poll respondents who said they intended to back that party's candidates for Congress."It's not that I'm for the Democrats specifically," said Carol Shulman, a communications professor from Oxford, Ohio. "I'm for more of a balance of power."

The Times/Bloomberg poll, supervised by Times Polling Director Susan Pinkus, interviewed 1,321 adults (including 1,170 registered voters) from Saturday through Tuesday. It had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Even with the recent shifts, the poll documented widespread dissatisfaction with the nation's direction and the course Bush had set.

About three-fifths of those surveyed said the country was heading in the wrong direction. Although 29% said the country was better off because of Bush's policies and "should proceed in the direction he set out," 61% said the nation needed "to move in a new direction."

Bush's 41% job approval rating represented an increase within the poll's margin of error from his 39% showing in April. Similarly, 56% disapproved of his performance, virtually unchanged from 57% in April. And Bush still faces an intensity gap: The share of Americans who strongly disapproved of his performance (40%) remained more than double the share who strongly approved (18%).

Bocklage, who said she voted for Bush in 2004, practically seethed as she discussed his record. "He's just out of control," she said. "The economy is going down the toilet. Everything is being shipped out to other countries to be manufactured…. We have veterans who are homeless, we have old people on Social Security who are freezing every winter. And the gas prices!"

Such sentiments helped explain why Bush's approval rating for his handling of the economy had not improved since April. But the verdict on his handling of Iraq ticked up — albeit within the margin of error — from 37% then to 40% now.Americans were cautious in their expectations about the implications of the recent military strike in Iraq that killed Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab Zarqawi.

Half predicted it would not affect the Iraqi insurgency, 38% said it might increase the violence and 8% believed it would stop the attacks.

But against the backdrop of Zarqawi's death, 51% of those polled gave Bush positive marks for handling the war on terrorism — an increase of 8 percentage points since April and the first time in this year's Times polls that he received majority support on that question.

Nils Spurkeland, a student at Susquehanna University in Gettysburg, Pa., was among those impressed with Bush's handling of national security. "We shouldn't let our guard down, but overall I think the administration has done an excellent job, since there have been no major attacks since Sept. 11," he said.

Other results underscored continuing problems for Bush. Nine percent said his performance in office had improved their opinion of his credibility; 51% said their opinion had diminished, and 39% said it had not changed.

The results weren't as encouraging for Bush on a more contemporary question: 16% of voters said they would be more likely to support a congressional candidate he supported, whereas more than twice as many — 36% — said they would be less likely. The rest said his endorsement would not be a factor.

[bth: these incredible poll results explain why the Republicans are using wedge issues like flag burning and illegal aliens. They don't have a choice. They simply have got to get their core vote out and that core is shrinking and disheartened. ... The women's vote is really the telling one I think. ... But polls don't make a victory. Democrats had better field worthy candidates if they hope to have a prayer.]

66 killed in car bombing at Baghdad market

JS Online: News: "BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- A parked car bomb exploded at a popular market in a Shiite slum of Baghdad, killing 66 people and wounding 87, authorities said.

AP Television News footage showed a huge plume of gray smoke rising from the scene in the Sadr City neighborhood, and flames shooting through the windows of several scorched cars.

The explosion, which occurred at 10 a.m., devastated several shops in the sprawling district in eastern Baghdad, police Col. Hassan Jaloob said.

Rasoul Zaboun, an official from Imam Ali Hospital in Sadr City, said 66 people were killed and 87 wounded. He cited that as the final casualty figure after several conflicting reports from police."

Brits remember 1916 Battle of Somme - 90 years ago

Brits remember 1916 Battle of Somme - 90 years ago: "LONDON - A crude wooden sign carries an uneven scrawled epitaph: 'He died as he lived. Brave and fearless, a true British hero.'

In 1916, British soldiers erected the simple tribute to a singular British hero in the French town of Becordel-Becourt to mark the grave of artillery officer Alan Lloyd, one of 125,000 soldiers from Britain and the Commonwealth killed during one of the most vicious conflicts of World War I.

British war veterans were gathering near that memorial for the 90th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme on Saturday.
The Battle of the Somme raged across northern France from July 1, 1916. By its close on Nov. 18, tens of thousands were killed in a fight that marked a gruesome chapter in trench warfare. On July 1 alone, more than 20,000 British soldiers were killed and up to 40,000 were wounded, making it the bloodiest day in the history of the British army, which intended to end 18 months of deadlock with a decisive Allied victory over German forces.

'The Somme marks a turning point, not just in the war, but in the whole of British history,' said Nigel Steel, a historian at London's Imperial War Museum. Until the battle, he said, Britons believed they could beat the Germans easily.

'It was one of those moments when the collective psyche of Britain changed.' "...

Don't Know Much About History

Don't Know Much About History - New York Times: "Somewhere between the firing in 2002 of President Bush's first Treasury secretary, Paul O'Neill, and the Senate confirmation this week of his third Treasury chief, Henry Paulson, the administration changed its tune on budget deficits. In the early days, the line was, essentially, that deficits don't matter. Mr. O'Neill's ouster was due in part to his gall in suggesting otherwise. Now, officials dutifully declaim that deficits matter, but that Bush-era shortfalls are 'within historical norms.' "

Mr. Paulson apparently shares that view, having offered it repeatedly when asked about budget deficits during his confirmation hearing. That's a disappointment. It takes a narrow view of history to imply that the Bush-era deficits are "normal."

As a share of the economy, the Bush-era deficits have averaged 2.7 percent. That's the second worst record of any administration in the past 60 years, surpassed only by the deficits from the tenures of President Reagan and the first President Bush, which each averaged 4.3 percent. (Five years into the Clinton era, deficits averaged 1.2 percent of the economy, dropping to a mere 0.1 percent by the time Mr. Bush took over.) To imply that the current budget gap is comfortably within historical norms because it's not as bad as the worst deficits in modern memory is, to put it politely, a stretch.

Besides, size isn't everything when it comes to assessing the danger in budget deficits. Timing is also crucial.

The Reagan-era deficits occurred decades before the retirement of the baby boomers, when the post-World War II generation was in its peak earning — and taxpaying — years. The Bush deficits are uniquely alarming in that they're occurring on the eve of the baby boomers' retirement, leaving little time to recoup before the government has to meet large Medicare and Social Security obligations.

On top of that, and well outside the historical norm, is President Bush's insistence on continued tax cutting, despite the ongoing deficits and despite the fact that the economy has long since recovered from the last recession. From the end of World War II through the 1970's, various administrations hammered away at the nation's debt, reducing the burden from the wartime level of over 100 percent of the economy to about 25 percent. That effort was largely abandoned in the 1980's. But even Mr. Reagan backtracked on his budget-busting tax cuts of 1981 by raising taxes in 1982 and 1984. In 1990, a bipartisan deficit-reduction agreement raised taxes and cut spending, followed by another budget-tightening package passed by Democrats in 1993. In contrast, the Bush years have been marked by nonstop tax cutting, deepening debt, the abandonment of budget rules and increased spending, paid for by borrowing.

And not just any borrowing. The Bush-era deficits are also alarming in the extent to which they are foreign financed.

Since 2001, 73 percent of new government borrowing has been from abroad. In total, 43 percent of the United States' publicly held debt of $4.8 trillion is in foreign hands, compared with only 14 percent at the peak of the Reagan deficits in 1983 and 30 percent in 2001. Debt owed to bankers in Beijing, Tokyo and elsewhere could destabilize the dollar and from there, drive up interest rates and prices.

If Mr. Paulson and other administration officials were to say that today's deficits were dangerous, it would logically follow to recommend scaling back the Bush tax cuts. By implying that the deficits are not so worrisome, they can continue to insist that spending cuts alone could fix the problem, even though that would mean deep cuts in Social Security and Medicare — something they are not willing to advocate explicitly. One can only hope that in discussions with his new boss, Mr. Paulson has more to say about the budget deficit than he let on during his confirmation hearing.

When Do We Publish a Secret? - New York Times

When Do We Publish a Secret? - New York Times: "SINCE Sept. 11, 2001, newspaper editors have faced excruciating choices in covering the government's efforts to protect the country from terrorist agents. Each of us has, on a number of occasions, withheld information because we were convinced that publishing it could put lives at risk. On other occasions, each of us has decided to publish classified information over strong objections from our government. "

Last week our newspapers disclosed a secret Bush administration program to monitor international banking transactions. We did so after appeals from senior administration officials to hold the story. Our reports — like earlier press disclosures of secret measures to combat terrorism — revived an emotional national debate, featuring angry calls of "treason" and proposals that journalists be jailed along with much genuine concern and confusion about the role of the press in times like these.

We are rivals. Our newspapers compete on a hundred fronts every day. We apply the principles of journalism individually as editors of independent newspapers. We agree, however, on some basics about the immense responsibility the press has been given by the inventors of the country.

Make no mistake, journalists have a large and personal stake in the country's security. We live and work in cities that have been tragically marked as terrorist targets. Reporters and photographers from both our papers braved the collapsing towers to convey the horror to the world.

We have correspondents today alongside troops on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan. Others risk their lives in a quest to understand the terrorist threat; Daniel Pearl of The Wall Street Journal was murdered on such a mission. We, and the people who work for us, are not neutral in the struggle against terrorism.

But the virulent hatred espoused by terrorists, judging by their literature, is directed not just against our people and our buildings. It is also aimed at our values, at our freedoms and at our faith in the self-government of an informed electorate. If the freedom of the press makes some Americans uneasy, it is anathema to the ideologists of terror.

Thirty-five years ago yesterday, in the Supreme Court ruling that stopped the government from suppressing the secret Vietnam War history called the Pentagon Papers, Justice Hugo Black wrote: "The government's power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of the government and inform the people."

As that sliver of judicial history reminds us, the conflict between the government's passion for secrecy and the press's drive to reveal is not of recent origin. This did not begin with the Bush administration, although the polarization of the electorate and the daunting challenge of terrorism have made the tension between press and government as clamorous as at any time since Justice Black wrote.

Our job, especially in times like these, is to bring our readers information that will enable them to judge how well their elected leaders are fighting on their behalf, and at what price.

In recent years our papers have brought you a great deal of information the White House never intended for you to know — classified secrets about the questionable intelligence that led the country to war in Iraq, about the abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, about the transfer of suspects to countries that are not squeamish about using torture, about eavesdropping without warrants.

As Robert G. Kaiser, associate editor of The Washington Post, asked recently in the pages of that newspaper: "You may have been shocked by these revelations, or not at all disturbed by them, but would you have preferred not to know them at all? If a war is being waged in America's name, shouldn't Americans understand how it is being waged?"

Government officials, understandably, want it both ways.

They want us to protect their secrets, and they want us to trumpet their successes. A few days ago, Treasury Secretary John Snow said he was scandalized by our decision to report on the bank-monitoring program. But in September 2003 the same Secretary Snow invited a group of reporters from our papers, The Wall Street Journal and others to travel with him and his aides on a military aircraft for a six-day tour to show off the department's efforts to track terrorist financing. The secretary's team discussed many sensitive details of their monitoring efforts, hoping they would appear in print and demonstrate the administration's relentlessness against the terrorist threat.

How do we, as editors, reconcile the obligation to inform with the instinct to protect?

Sometimes the judgments are easy. Our reporters in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, take great care not to divulge operational intelligence in their news reports, knowing that in this wired age it could be seen and used by insurgents.

Often the judgments are painfully hard. In those cases, we cool our competitive jets and begin an intensive deliberative process.

The process begins with reporting. Sensitive stories do not fall into our hands. They may begin with a tip from a source who has a grievance or a guilty conscience, but those tips are just the beginning of long, painstaking work. Reporters operate without security clearances, without subpoena powers, without spy technology. They work, rather, with sources who may be scared, who may know only part of the story, who may have their own agendas that need to be discovered and taken into account. We double-check and triple-check. We seek out sources with different points of view. We challenge our sources when contradictory information emerges.

Then we listen. No article on a classified program gets published until the responsible officials have been given a fair opportunity to comment. And if they want to argue that publication represents a danger to national security, we put things on hold and give them a respectful hearing. Often, we agree to participate in off-the-record conversations with officials, so they can make their case without fear of spilling more secrets onto our front pages.

Finally, we weigh the merits of publishing against the risks of publishing. There is no magic formula, no neat metric for either the public's interest or the dangers of publishing sensitive information. We make our best judgment.
When we come down in favor of publishing, of course, everyone hears about it. Few people are aware when we decide to hold an article. But each of us, in the past few years, has had the experience of withholding or delaying articles when the administration convinced us that the risk of publication outweighed the benefits. Probably the most discussed instance was The New York Times's decision to hold its article on telephone eavesdropping for more than a year, until editors felt that further reporting had whittled away the administration's case for secrecy.

But there are other examples. The New York Times has held articles that, if published, might have jeopardized efforts to protect vulnerable stockpiles of nuclear material, and articles about highly sensitive counterterrorism initiatives that are still in operation. In April, The Los Angeles Times withheld information about American espionage and surveillance activities in Afghanistan discovered on computer drives purchased by reporters in an Afghan bazaar.

It is not always a matter of publishing an article or killing it.

Sometimes we deal with the security concerns by editing out gratuitous detail that lends little to public understanding but might be useful to the targets of surveillance.

The Washington Post, at the administration's request, agreed not to name the specific countries that had secret Central Intelligence Agency prisons, deeming that information not essential for American readers. The New York Times, in its article on National Security Agency eavesdropping, left out some technical details.

Even the banking articles, which the president and vice president have condemned, did not dwell on the operational or technical aspects of the program, but on its sweep, the questions about its legal basis and the issues of oversight.

We understand that honorable people may disagree with any of these choices — to publish or not to publish. But making those decisions is the responsibility that falls to editors, a corollary to the great gift of our independence. It is not a responsibility we take lightly. And it is not one we can surrender to the government.

— DEAN BAQUET, editor, The Los Angeles Times, and BILL KELLER, executive editor, The New York Times

Friday, June 30, 2006

Better-Armored Humvees Saving U.S. Lives

Better-Armored Humvees Saving U.S. Lives: "MUSA QALA, Afghanistan -- Spc. Rene Reyes recalls flying through the air, hoping he wouldn't break anything when he landed. Staff Sgt. Dennis Kirk remembers nothing _ the anti-tank mine that exploded under their Humvee knocked him out cold.

They are among an increasing number of U.S. soldiers surviving roadside bombings in Afghanistan thanks to thick armor plate and bulletproof glass windows that now encase Humvees. The front of their vehicle was shorn off, but the armored shell around them remained intact."

Kirk, 24, from Hopatcong, N.J., suffered a concussion and a hairline fracture in his right leg. Reyes, a 22-year-old from Oak Park, Ill., acting as gunner atop the Humvee, had only a cut on his wrist after being thrown nearly 100 feet. Three other soldiers also survived.

After the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, the military drew criticism for sending out troops in "soft-skin" Humvees that couldn't stand up to explosives, and the Defense Department struggled to upgrade its fleet.

Today, soldiers say the improved military vehicles are saving lives.

"We'd be dead right now if it wasn't for the armor," said Staff Sgt. Justin Larson, 24, of Othello, Wash., who helped splint Kirk's leg after the blast in late March hit their Humvee from the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division.

A military investigation team that surveyed the scene in eastern Paktika province said the Humvee was blown six feet into the air, said Cpl. Jose Cruz, a 22-year-old from Brooklyn who was riding in the back seat.

"We trust our lives with them," Cruz said. "They're damn good vehicles."

Militants have been using roadside bombs more than ever this year in Afghanistan, mimicking the tactics used by insurgents in Iraq. The military says it finds or detects about 60 percent of the bombs before they go off.

A roadside bomb in Nangarhar province this month killed two U.S. soldiers conducting a security patrol. On Monday, a suicide attacker detonated his car bomb near a U.S. coalition convoy outside the U.S. base in Bagram, wounding two Afghan boys riding past on a bicycle and damaging a coalition vehicle.

Lt. Col. Chris Toner, commander of a new American base outside Musa Qala in southern Helmand province, doesn't let his soldiers leave camp unless they are in a factory-made armored Humvee, shunning even the add-on armor that strengthens older vehicles.

"I have to look at the moms, dads, wives and kids (of soldiers) and tell them I'm doing everything I can to save lives," he said. "We're in the military and we do high-risk things, but as commanders we have to do everything we can to mitigate the risk."

Toner said that during his last tour here, which ended in April 2004, he didn't have all the armored Humvees needed. A roadside bomb killed one of his soldiers in a soft-skin vehicle.

But when he arrived for a second tour in February, his needs were met. Four roadside bombs have hit his Humvees since then, and none of his soldiers have been seriously injured or killed.

"I'm absolutely convinced that the way the Hummers are built today have contributed to saving the lives of my soldiers," Toner said. "The United States military and the Department of Defense have responded to the need."

In late April, Lt. Sean O'Brien was traveling in the front seat of a Humvee in southern Zabul province when he heard a bang and thought the vehicle hit a rock.

"Then all of a sudden, there was a huge explosion and everything went black," said O'Brien, an officer in the 5th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment, 10th Mountain Division.

As the Humvee drove into a dry riverbed, it hit an anti-tank mine triggered by the pressure of the tires. One of those tires was thrown 300 feet, said O'Brien, of Sanborn, Iowa.
But the four occupants suffered only minor injuries.

"The Hummer behind us thought they were going to pull out four dead bodies," O'Brien said. "Anti-tank mines can't (mess) these things up. It's wonderful."

Pfc. Harvey Paige, of Texarkana, Texas, who was riding in the gun turret of O'Brien's Humvee, credits the armor plate under the engine for saving his life.

Paige still has nightmares about the attack, and says he now values time on the phone with his wife and four children a lot more. The 28-year-old plans to visit the Humvee plant near his home at the northeastern corner of Texas when he gets back to the states.

"I'm going to go down there and say, 'Hey guys, thanks for that extra armor,'" he said. "That's what saved us."

Report: War-related costs will exceed $500 billion next year (6/27/06)

Report: War-related costs will exceed $500 billion next year (6/27/06): "The overall cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other global anti-terror operations since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks will top $500 billion next year, according to congressional estimates and expectations of future funding.

The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service said in a report that through the current fiscal year ending Sept. 30, the government will have spent $437 billion on overseas military and foreign aid funding. That includes the latest supplemental spending bill signed into law this month, which provided $69 billion for the war effort.

Add in roughly $1.5 billion in fiscal 2007 Foreign Operations funds for Iraq and Afghanistan; $50 billion in Pentagon 'bridge' funds for the first half of fiscal 2007, plus as-yet-undetermined supplemental funds for the remainder of the next fiscal year, and total war-related costs will easily soar over $500 billion one year from now. "

At least $37 billion or so will have gone to the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development for Iraq and Afghanistan reconstruction, embassy operations and other foreign aid programs. War costs alone are expected to be at least $450 billion, not including the expected supplemental request early next year.

Even assuming an eventual troop drawdown to 74,000 by fiscal 2010, war costs between fiscal 2007 and fiscal 2016 could total another $371 billion, the report said. Adding that to the $437 billion appropriated through the end of this fiscal year, total costs would reach $808 billion by fiscal 2016.

The overall costs for the military operations have risen sharply since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to the report. In fiscal 2006, Congress will appropriate about $115.8 billion to the military -- a 72 percent increase since fiscal 2004, CRS said.

The monthly "burn rate" of spending in Iraq and Afghanistan is expected to average $9.7 billion in fiscal 2006, an 18 percent jump from last year alone. That includes the monthly costs of military operations, as well as other related spending like intelligence, equipment investment and training and outfitting of Iraqi and Afghan police and security forces.

Congressional analysts are a bit mystified at the rapidly escalating costs. Most of the increases are due to operations and maintenance costs, which have jumped from $42.7 billion in fiscal 2004 to $60.9 billion in fiscal 2006, and a threefold increase in procurement funds, to $24.4 billion in fiscal 2006 from $7.2 billion, CRS said.

They said some of the operational increase is due to expected factors, such as fuel price hikes, body armor purchases, and training of Iraqi and Afghan security forces. "These factors, however, are not enough to explain a 50 percent increase of over $20 billion in operating costs," the report states.

Likewise, while increases were expected for force-protection equipment like armored humvees and night-vision goggles, as well as to replace damaged equipment, "These reasons are not sufficient, however, to explain the level of increases or predict whether these procurement levels are temporary or likely to rise still further," CRS argues.

DHB appoints new CFO

DHB appoints new CFO - "DHB Industries Inc., the troubled manufacturer of protective body armor for U.S. troops in Iraq whose stock has not traded in nearly a month, today said it has appointed a new chief financial officer and two others to top financial management positions.

The announcement was the first for the Westbury-based company since trading of its stock was halted on May 26 by the American Stock Exchange. DHB made no mention of the trading halt in an announcement before markets opened."

DHB said that it has appointed Lawrence Young, a managing partner with AlixPartners, as its CFO. He replaces Dawn Schlegel. DHB said that Young has "18 years of experience in crisis management and business reorganizations, and has assisted companies with financial restructuring, operational improvement plans and cash management.

"Young's past experience may indicate some dramatic changes ahead for DHB, as some of its top officers are under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Attorney's office. Those agencies are looking into possible stock fraud.

DHB said that Young had, for three years, served as chief executive officer, chief financial officer and chief restructuring officer for AT&T Latin America. Young has a master's degree in business administration from the Wharton School of Business of the University of Pennsylvania.

The company said it appointed Ryan Esko as senior vice president and corporate treasurer, and Mark Thorson as senior vice president and corporate controller. Both are also from AlixPartners.

Esko was corporate treasurer of Foster-Wheeler. Thorson was a vice president in the consumer products division of Zenith Electronics.

Some DHB shareholders are attempting to form a committee to see what action they can take to force the company, or government agencies, to disclose what is being done regarding the stock of the armor manufacturer. One shareholder helping organize the committee today said that about 60 DHB investors have indicted their willingness to take part. The shareholder said those 60 investors hold about 500,000 shares of DHB.DHB's stock was at $1.57 a share when trading was halted in May.

The company makes body armor for the U.S. military, the New York City police department and other law-enforcement agencies. Its manufacturing facilities are in southern Florida.

[bth: looks like the entire financial management of the company has been outsourced to a turnaround company. Incredibly the CEO Brooks remains in his job. DHB has got to have the most flacid board I've ever seen.]

Galloway: Congress stiffs military on fixing worn-out equipment

Salt Lake Tribune - Galloway: Congress stiffs military on fixing worn-out equipment: "WASHINGTON - The chiefs of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps this week begged Congress not to do what it's done for decades - force our military to rob Peter to pay Paul, even in wartime.

Army chief Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker and Marine Commandant Gen. Michael Hagee are clearly concerned by a budget process on Capitol Hill that, in essence, hangs their services out to dry when it comes to providing the money to fix or replace equipment that's worn out or destroyed by combat. "

With the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq dragging on for years already and, if we take President Bush at his word, probably for several more years, the Army and Marines are grinding down their vehicles and aircraft at a rate that's approaching $17 billion a year to repair or replace.

But Congress isn't coming up with all the money that's needed in anything like a timely fashion. This year's bill for what the military calls ''resetting'' the machinery of war includes nearly $5 billion that was carried over from last year because Congress didn't provide sufficient funds.

That's forced the military chiefs to begin dipping into other funds to pay for items that have an immediate impact on our military's readiness and combat capability. Toward the end of each fiscal year, that typically means tapping base maintenance funds, military housing accounts, the travel budget, and operations and maintenance budgets.

What this translates to, Gen. Schoomaker told lawmakers, is that when 9/11 came along, Army budget accounts in the preceding decade had been underfunded by about $100 billion, and half a million soldiers had been cut out of the Army. It meant that when we invaded Iraq in early 2003, the Army had $56 billion worth of equipment shortages.

Although the need to fix and replace the equipment that's being eaten up in Iraq and Afghanistan is growing more acute, congressional budget masters are already beginning to consider doing away with the supplemental appropriations bills that fund those wars outside the normal defense budget strictures. But money for fixing or replacing the equipment has come from those supplemental budgets.

One influential retired Army general warned this week that the end of the wars we're now fighting doesn't mean an end to funding for equipment eaten up by those wars. In fact, the two service chiefs told Congress that this money would be needed for two or three years after the end of combat operations so our military can be ready for its next mission, or for continuing the global war on terrorism. Schoomaker told the legislators he also was worried that any defense funding crunch would begin to eat away at the money that's needed for the Army's ambitious $160 billion Future Combat Systems program.

That fear was made very real by the Department of Defense's latest Quadrennial Defense Review, which looks out 20 years and sets priorities for big-ticket items such as weapons systems. Although Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had pledged to cut back or do away with huge and outmoded Cold War programs such as the F-22 fighter and nuclear submarines, he didn't.

The Army and the Marines, who've borne the brunt of the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, know all too well what that means. They even have an acronym for it: BOHICA, or Bend Over, Here It Comes Again!

Meanwhile, the harsh environments in which our soldiers and Marines are operating is consuming equipment such as Humvees, helicopters, heavy trucks, Bradley fighting vehicles and M1 Abrams tanks at a rate four times higher than normal. The need to combat improvised roadside bombs by adding heavy armor to the thin-skinned Humvees and the heavy trucks that supply the troops only accelerates the wear and tear.

However these wars end, it would be a crying shame if they leave our country - as most of our other wars have - with an exhausted and broken military that lacks the equipment and the ammunition needed to defend us in a world that's becoming more dangerous as Iran and North Korea pursue their nuclear ambitions.

Both Congress and the Bush administration have an obligation to ensure that the past is not prologue in this regard, but I wouldn't hold my breath hoping that things will change for the better. --- Joseph L. Galloway is former senior military correspondent for Knight Ridder Newspapers

Websites connecting Americans' generosity, servicemembers' needs - Websites connecting Americans' generosity, servicemembers' needs: "Americans are increasingly turning to high-tech methods to send gifts and supplies to U.S. troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Veterans say today's care packages are more numerous and creative -and get to servicemembers much faster -than those of the past. "

In previous wars, letters from home were sometimes accompanied by cigarettes or magazines. Today, several websites designed specifically for supporting the troops overseas allow anyone with a credit card to order cellphone minutes, snacks, books — even armor and sniper accessories.
Air Force Senior Airman Hollis Vernetti went through the website Any Soldier ( to request hair conditioner and other items for herself and 21 other women in her group while they were stationed in Afghanistan last year.

"Sometimes, the PX, they do the best they can, but the high-priority items, like laundry soap and coffee, go fast," says Vernetti, who is now stationed at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq. She says she was deeply moved by the messages people included with their gifts. "The letters and the cards, they made me cry."

Allison Barber, a deputy assistant secretary of Defense, says: "In today's environment, people like to customize everything they do. Back in the good old days you'd just write a letter to any servicemember. Now you have 225 choices." That's how many non-profit support organizations the Defense Department lists on the website of America Supports You (, a program created to spread the word about such efforts.

"There's definitely more support now than there ever was," says Judith Young, national president of American Gold Star Mothers, an organization of women who have had children die in military action. Young's son, Jeffrey, was a Marine who died in an attack on his barracks in Beirut in 1983.

"I think technology is the main difference," Young says. "These moms and the troops that are over there now, they get to talk to them every day. ... I was lucky if I talked to him once or twice a month."
Among websites offering support:

•Soldiers' Angels ( This site, started by the mother of an Iraq war veteran, takes donations for Kevlar blankets that can protect Humvee crews from roadside bombs and sniper fire. It also provides troops with "cool scarves" — fabric filled with polymer crystals that can provide up to 15 hours of relief from the heat after a 15-minute soaking in cold water.

•Operation Uplink ( This Veterans of Foreign Wars program solicits online donations to provide servicemembers with prepaid phone cards to call home.

• A group of police and military sharpshooters created the "Adopt a Sniper" program. Donors help provide supplies such as spotting scopes, holsters and ammunition wallets to snipers deployed in combat zones around the world.

•Freedom Calls Foundation ( This non-profit uses donations to provide free videoconferences between soldiers and their families. Marine Sgt. Mitch Selco, stationed in Fallujah, Iraq, got to see his daughter by teleconference after she was born in Denver. Another Marine in Iraq, Cpl. Terrence Lambert, saw his daughter's birth in Jacksonville, Ala., via satellite on Fathers Day.

•Operation Gratitude ( The program celebrated its 150,000th care-package delivery to servicemembers on Father's Day weekend.

Marty Horn, a Vietnam-era military policeman, founded Any Soldier in 2003 when his son, Brian, went to Afghanistan with the Army. Horn has 3,000 contacts in the military who post messages on his site about what their buddies need. Goods are distributed to 92,000 troops in 11 countries and at sea.

"These have to be the best-supported troops in history," Horn says.

Tom Clarkson, a Vietnam War veteran working in public relations for the Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq, says that what the troops receive now is "completely different" from the packages servicemembers received in Vietnam. Those care packages typically came from family members and contained items like Kool-Aid, socks and popcorn.
"I can't recall anyone getting boxes and boxes of stuff," Clarkson says.

Robert Houston, a civilian working at Fort Monroe in Virginia, says the only package he received during his time in Vietnam were some cookies from his mother. "They were stale and broken up by the time I received them," he says.

Horn says there can be problems associated with being able to send almost anything anywhere. He says many troops ask for synthetic Under Armour T-shirts because they're more comfortable than Army-issue cotton — even though the Marine Corps banned synthetic materials this spring for Marines outside their operating bases. A Marine was badly burned when his synthetic T-shirt melted on his skin in a roadside bomb attack near Ramadi in Iraq.

Sometimes technology cannot improve on the old ways. Sgt. Brian Horn, 26, who recently returned from leading a sniper team in Iraq and Afghanistan, said the thing that's most appreciated is still an old-fashioned letter. "(There are) always smiles and some disbelief, and some teared up a little bit," Horn says in describing how troops react to a letter.

"It's kind of hard to explain," he says. "You have to go out for a week and get shot at a bunch and not hear from anyone, from your family, and (you) come back and it's there — a letter from someone who's (in the USA) right now — and it's positive energy, it's 'thank you,' and it's real."

U.S. Soldiers Investigated for Killing Iraqi Family of Four - Iraq - U.S. Soldiers Investigated for Killing Iraqi Family of Four - Iraq: "BEIJI, Iraq � Five U.S. Army soldiers are being investigated for allegedly raping a young woman, then killing her and three members of her family in Iraq, a U.S. military official told The Associated Press on Friday.

The soldiers also allegedly burned the body of the woman they are accused of assaulting in the March incident, the official said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

Maj. Gen. James D. Thurman, commander of coalition troops in Baghdad, had ordered a criminal investigation into the alleged killing of a family of four in Mahmoudiyah, south of Baghdad, the U.S. command said. It did not elaborate."...

However, a U.S. official close to the investigation said at least one of the soldiers, all assigned to the 502nd Infantry Regiment, has admitted his role and has been arrested. Two soldiers from the same regiment were slain this month when they were kidnapped at a checkpoint near Youssifiyah.

The official said the accused soldiers were from the same platoon as the two slain soldiers, whose bodies were mutilated. He said the mutilation of the slain soldiers stirred feelings of guilt and led at least one of them to reveal the rape-slaying on June 22.

At least four other soldiers have had their weapons taken away and are confined to Forward Operating Base Mahmoudiyah south of Baghdad.

The official said the killings appear to be unrelated to the kidnappings. He said those involved were all below the rank of sergeant. Senior officers were aware of the family's death but believed it was due to sectarian violence, common in the religiously mixed town, he said.

The killings appeared to have been a "crime of opportunity," the official said. The soldiers had not been attacked by insurgents but had noticed the woman on previous patrols.

[bth: please don't let us discover that the kidnapping and mutilation of these two soldiers was related to the rape and murder of an Iraqi woman and her family by soldiers of the same platoon a few months before.]

Nation’s elite AWOL from military

The Daily News, Jacksonville NC: "By Joseph L. Galloway Knight Ridder Newspapers
A new book expands on a familiar subject: the absence of America's elite and its governing class -and their children -from the ranks of our nation's military.

The book is 'AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America's Upper Classes from Military Service - and How It Hurts Our Country.-Its authors, Kathy Roth-Douquet and Frank Schaeffer, didn't embrace the military ethos so much as it embraced them."

Roth-Douquet describes herself as a former agitator, feminist, Ivy Leaguer and Clintonite. She just happened to fall in love with a Marine pilot and married him, she told me, thinking that within a year she would “turn him around’’ and get him out of uniform.

Instead she found herself falling in love with the military life, so much so that this year, when her husband made the list for promotion to colonel, she was delighted because it meant they could have a few more years on active duty.

Schaeffer, a novelist, painter and filmmaker, saw his plans for his youngest son — “top college, good grades, smart jobs ...” — go awry when his son enlisted in the Marines after he finished high school.

It almost goes without saying that both authors swiftly discovered that in their circles, they alone had personal connections to today’s military.

As recently as 1956, 400 members of Princeton’s graduating class went on to serve in the military. In 2004, nine graduates did so. Harvard, Yale, Brown and other elite universities don’t even allow Reserve Officer Training Courses on their campuses.

In the years after World War II, virtually every member of Congress was a veteran of military service. By 1971, three-quarters of the members had worn the uniform. Today, only a third of the 535 members of the Senate and the House of Representatives have served.

During World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had sons serving in uniform. Today’s political leaders and the rest of the country’s elite don’t feel the same obligation to send their children to serve in harm’s way.

Military recruiting has suffered as a consequence. Parents in some better neighborhoods demand that recruiters not be allowed to visit the schools their children attend, and that they not be given their names and phone numbers.

It’s enough of a shame that less than 1 percent of the 300 million Americans are charged with protecting and defending all the rest of us. They and their families do all the fighting and dying and suffering and sacrificing for all of us.

Recruiters and their services are forced, as a consequence, to reach down rather than up, and to offer enlistment bonuses of as much as $40,000 to entice young men and women to accept the burdens of service.

The Army, in particular, has been forced to accept more recruits who score in the lowest quarter of the military’s aptitude testing and has set up programs to bring in high school dropouts. This at the same time that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is determined to “transform’’ the Army into a smaller force that relies more on high technology and speed.

Roth-Douquet and Schaeffer argue that there are three potentially dangerous consequences to this civil-military divide:

Not having veterans throughout the decision-making process damages the country’s ability to make sound decisions on the use of our military. Without them, the political leadership has less understanding of the true cost of war and who pays that price.

Any division between the military and the rest of us weakens the country and, the authors argue, increases the risk that the military “will be overused and under-led and that support will run out fast for any project that becomes a political liability.’’

Finally, “When those who benefit most from living in a country contribute the least to its defense and those who benefit least are asked to pay the ultimate price, something happens to the soul of that country

Both authors believe that the answer lies not in drafting America’s young people into service but in asking them to serve, challenging them to serve, asking them to take an ownership of freedom and democracy that, in the case of many of the elite, their parents weren’t willing to accept.
As Roth-Douquet told me: If the military life could turn around a dyed-in-the-wool East Coast liberal like her, there must be something there that makes all the sacrifices worthwhile.

(“AWOL’’ is published by Harper Collins at $24.95)
Joseph L. Galloway is former senior military correspondent for Knight Ridder Newspapers and co-author of the national best-seller “We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young.’’ Readers may write to him at: P.O. Box 399, Bayside, Texas 78340; e-mail:

[bth: this is balls on. It is just too easy to send another families son to war.]

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They're Back: A New, Vicious Taliban Take Shape in Afghanistan

: "KABUL, Afghanistan June 27, 2006 � - Coalition forces battling the Taliban across southern Afghanistan aren't fighting the same bearded extremists they toppled in October 2001.

It's as if the sequel to a horror film is being replayed across southern Afghanistan this summer.

Call it 'Taliban II.' They're back, reloaded, and more ruthless than ever.

They're Back "

Suicide attacks and roadside bombs -- once unheard of in this country -- are now almost a daily occurrence.

The Taliban seem unconcerned if they hit civilian or military targets. On Tuesday, a suicide bomber in northern Kunduz killed two and injured eight. A suicide attack near the Bagram Airbase on Monday wounded two children.

Soldiers with the U.S.-led coalition are currently battling the Taliban across four southern provinces: Kandahar, Helmand, Zabul and Uruzgan.

More than 1,100 -- most of them Taliban -- have died in the vicious fighting.

Reports vary but all involve violence such as Taliban soldiers gouging the eyes out of prisoners they capture in the South or burning down schools that offer co-ed classes.

Last week ABC News received a grisly video release. It pictured the Taliban's ruthless one-legged commander Mullah Dadullah beheading alleged spies for America.

Ahmed Rashid, author of the "Taliban," said the movement had gone through "many morphings," and argued that so-called moderates had defected or been purged by the current leadership now loyal to Osama bin Laden.

"They are particularly brutal," Rashid said, "and they are doing al Qaeda's bidding."

"Taliban II": No Stability, No Security

This is a marked change from the past. Then, despite their bizarre edicts that forced women to wear burqas, and banned kite-flying and beard-trimming, at least they brought a measure of stability to this long-troubled country.

"In the early days of the Taliban, they brought security, and they got credit for that," said Mirajuddhin Pathan, the governor of Khost province. "Now they have nothing to offer, and the people hate them."

The bedraggled force so easily toppled in 2001 has resurged with new tactics and surprising stamina.

Taliban units now attack in larger numbers -- sometimes with as many as 400 men, according to military experts and soldiers who have fought them.

They stand their ground longer, rather than engaging in the hit-and-run attacks that characterized the insurgency in recent years.

"The tactics of the Pakistan Taliban are developing similarities to the violence orchestrated in Iraq by insurgents and al Qaeda linked Sunni terrorists," said terrorism analyst MJ Gohel. "Afghanistan is becoming another killing field for the global jihad movement."

Many here in Afghanistan blame neighboring Pakistan for providing the Taliban sanctuary -- and even material support.
A U.S. military document obtained by ABC News lists the top tier of the new Taliban leadership, indicating that all of them operate from the western Pakistani city of Quetta.

The U.S. military declined to discuss specifics of the document and said that the story was based on old information.

Among the men on the U.S. hit list: Mullah Berader, the man many believed would succeed the elusive Taliban leader Mullah Omar, were he captured or killed; and, there's Mullah Obaidullah, the man the U.S. military intelligence believes is running the guns and ammunition to the troops fighting inside Afghanistan.

Self-Funding Army, Thanks to Opium

Before the Taliban were made up of mostly ethnic Pashtuns from southern Afghanistan. Now, experts say, fighting units are made up of a mix of Afghans, Pakistanis, Arabs, Chechens and Uzbeks.

"They are not Afghan. They're not Pakistani," according to a senior Afghan official. "They are transnational terrorists, and they are serious radicals."

Pakistan hotly denies supporting the Taliban, pointing out that it has seen heavy losses. Pakistan has nearly 80,000 troops along the Afghan border.

Experts agree that it may be possible that the Taliban are going it alone thanks to drug money.

It's impossible to know how much of Afghanistan's $3 billion opium trade ends up in terrorist coffers, but Helmand province -- a place where the Taliban have the deepest ties to the drug trade -- will produce about $1 billion of opium this year alone.

This is why the fighting going on in Afghanistan currently is so crucially important to the future stability of this region -- and to the world itself.

If this conflict continues to fester, Afghan heroin may well fund the next terrorist attacks.

Copyright © 2006 ABC News Internet Ventures

[bth: we simply cannot win in Afghanistan if we spread ourselves too thin and allow them safehaven in Cambodia - err Pakistan. Bush says Osama Bin Laden doesn't matter. Well he does matter because he stands as a living symbol that you can kill 3000 Americans and get away with it. It matters because to over a billion muslims he matters. We have got to kill him even if it means doing it in Pakistan.]
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A Victory for the Rule of Law

A Victory for the Rule of Law - New York Times: "The Supreme Court's decision striking down the military tribunals set up to try the detainees being held in Guantanamo Bay is far more than a narrow ruling on the issue of military courts. It is an important and welcome reaffirmation that even in times of war, the law is what the Constitution, the statute books and the Geneva Conventions say it is - not what the president wants it to be."...

The justices rejected the administration's constant refrain — made in everything from its "enemy combatant" policies to its defense of the National Security Agency's domestic spying — that the authority Congress granted the president to use force after Sept. 11, the exigencies of wartime, or simply the inherent powers of the presidency allow President Bush to trample on existing laws as he sees fit.

The key to the decision was the court's swing justice, Anthony Kennedy. He provided the fifth vote for the majority, and wrote a separate opinion that eloquently distilled the key principles: that "respect for laws" duly passed by Congress and signed into law by the president is particularly necessary in times of crisis, and that "the Constitution is best preserved by reliance on standards tested over time and insulated from the pressures of the moment."

This is the latest in a series of rebukes to the Bush administration. The court has already rejected its claim that the Guantánamo detainees have no right to be heard in American courts, and that an American citizen designated an enemy combatant can be held indefinitely without being brought before a judge.

The current conservative court is not hostile to law enforcement or presidential power. But it is proving to be admirably protective of individual freedom and the rule of law. Rather than continue having his policies struck down, President Bush should find a way to prosecute the war on terror within the bounds of the law.

[bth: Well said Justice Kennedy.]
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A Spat Over Iraq Revealed On Tape

A Spat Over Iraq Revealed On Tape: "MOSCOW, June 29 -- The official State Department version is that 'there was absolutely no friction whatsoever' between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during a meeting of foreign ministers in Moscow on Thursday.

But a recording of the ministers' private lunch, made when an audio link into the room was accidentally left on, showed that 'Condi' and 'Sergei' -- as they called each other -- had several long and testy exchanges over Iraq. The disputes concerned relatively minor wording changes in the five-page statement issued after the meeting, but grew out of basic differences between the two governments over how to proceed on Iraq."

The State Department's subsequent denial of tensions illustrates how officials manage the information that flows to the public from such closed-door meetings to create an image meant to advance foreign policy objectives. Reporters often have no independent account of such discussions....
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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Humvee details sought

Humvee details sought: "WASHINGTON Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, on Wednesday wrote to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asking for information on rollovers of up-armored Humvees."

A Dayton Daily News report this month found that, according to Army records, 60 soldiers have died in Humvee rollovers during the war in Iraq.

Army records also revealed that of the 337 injuries in Humvee crashes in Iraq, 149 occurred in rollovers.

The rollovers, according to the report, were frequently caused by thousands of pounds of armor that had been added to the vehicles to increase security.

According to Voinovich's letter, the Army's Office on Public Affairs countered the report by sending out a fact sheet noting that of 30,000 Humvees being used in the Iraq theater, only 71 were involved in rollovers.

Voinovich applauded an Army initiative to reduce rollovers by forming a partnership with General Motors to train combat zone soldiers to navigate slick conditions in which skidding might occur.

He said he remains concerned.

"I would like to make sure that I have all pertinent information on this matter to ensure that we are addressing this issue appropriately," Voinovich wrote.

He said he wanted Rumsfeld's response to the Dayton Daily News report as well as a "formal explanation" of actions being taken to reduce the risk of Humvee rollovers.

[bth: the data used in the original Dayton article was hopelessfly flawed I'm sorry to say. It used 2003 data in Iraq for rollovers but there were virtually no armored humvees in Iraq during that period. Further, training in 2005-2006 seems to have reduced rollover events on many vehicles. Third level II and Level I armor stats seem to be hopelessly interwoven in their analysis which makes it all but useless. Finally rollover risks compared to what?]

Bomber kills mourners at soldier's funeral - Jun 29, 2006 - Bomber kills mourners at soldier's funeral - Jun 29, 2006: "BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- A suicide car bomber struck the funeral of a Shiite soldier in the northern city of Kirkuk on Thursday, killing four people and wounding 27, authorities said.

The attacker drove his car into the tent where the funeral was being held.

Police Sgt. Mohammed Khoshit and hospital officials said four people were killed and 27 were wounded, lowering an earlier police report that as many as 17 people had died.

The oil-rich city of Kirkuk is 290 kilometers (180 miles) north of Baghdad."

[bth: sick bastards]
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Terrorist funds-tracking no secret, some say

Terrorist funds-tracking no secret, some say - The Boston Globe: "WASHINGTON -- News reports disclosing the Bush administration's use of a special bank surveillance program to track terrorist financing spurred outrage in the White House and on Capitol Hill, but some specialists pointed out yesterday that the government itself has publicly discussed its stepped-up efforts to monitor terrorist finances since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks."

On Monday, President Bush said it was ``disgraceful" that The New York Times and other media outlets reported last week that the US government was quietly monitoring international financial transactions handled by an industry-owned cooperative in Belgium called the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Communication, or SWIFT, which is controlled by nearly 8,000 institutions in 20 countries. The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and The Wall Street Journal also reported about the program.

The controversy continued to simmer yesterday when Senator Jim Bunning, a Republican of Kentucky, accused the Times of ``treason," telling reporters in a conference call that it ``scares the devil out of me" that the media would reveal such sensitive information. Senator Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, requested US intelligence agencies to assess whether the reports have damaged anti terrorism operations.

And Representative Peter King, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, has urged Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez to pursue ``possible criminal prosecution" of the Times, which has reported on other secret government surveillance programs. The New York Times Co. owns The Boston Globe.

But a search of public records -- government documents posted on the Internet, congressional testimony, guidelines for bank examiners, and even an executive order President Bush signed in September 2001 -- describe how US authorities have openly sought new tools to track terrorist financing since 2001. That includes getting access to information about terrorist-linked wire transfers and other transactions, including those that travel through SWIFT.

``There have been public references to SWIFT before," said Roger Cressey, a senior White House counterterrorism official until 2003. ``The White House is overreaching when they say [The New York Times committed] a crime against the war on terror. It has been in the public domain before."

Victor D. Comras , a former US diplomat who oversaw efforts at the United Nations to improve international measures to combat terror financing, said it was common knowledge that worldwide financial transactions were being closely monitored for links to terrorists. ``A lot of people were aware that this was going on," said Comras, one of a half-dozen financial experts UN Secretary General Kofi Annan recruited for the task.

``Unless they were pretty dumb, they had to assume" their transactions were being monitored, Comras said of terrorist groups. ``We have spent the last four years bragging how effective we have been in tracking terrorist financing...

[bth: this has more to do with vilifying and intimidating the press around election year politics than it does about national security.]
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Putin Orders to Find and Kill Iraqi Murderers of Russian Diplomats - NEWS - MOSNEWS.COM

Putin Orders to Find and Kill Iraqi Murderers of Russian Diplomats - NEWS - MOSNEWS.COM: "President Vladimir Putin has ordered Russian special services to find and kill the criminals who had kidnapped and executed several Russian embassy staff in Iraq earlier this month.

The ITAR-TASS news agency quoted a report by the Russian presidential pres service as reading that Vladimir Putin said this at the meeting with Saudi Prince Salman ben-Abdel Aziz al Saud.

"Russia will be grateful to our friends for sharing any information about the criminals who had killed our citizens in Iraq," Putin added.

Four Russian embassy workers were abducted June 3 after an attack on their car in Baghdad's Mansour neighborhood. A fifth Russian was killed in the incident. The captives include the embassy's third secretary, Fyodor Zaitsev, and three other staffers: Rinat Agliulin, Anatoly Smirnov and Oleg Fedoseyev"

On June 25 an Iraqi al-Qaida-linked group posted a Web video showing the killings of the hostages.Russian operations in other countries are wrapped in secrecy, but in 2004 a court in the Middle East state of Qatar convicted two Russian intelligence officers for killing Chechen terrorist leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev.

After serving some time in Qatar jail both men were handed over to Russia which claimed they will continue to serve their life sentences.

At the trial, the judge said the plot to assassinate Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev was carried out with the approval of the “Russian leadership” and coordinated between Moscow and the Russian Embassy in Qatar.

Russia has denied involvement in Yandarbiyev’s killing and has said the defendants, who have not been officially identified, were agents gathering intelligence about terrorism.
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Iraq Oil Output Highest Since Invasion -

Iraq Oil Output Highest Since Invasion - "BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq is producing an average of 2.5 million barrels of oil a day, its highest level since the war began in 2003, an oil ministry spokesman said Wednesday.

Assem Jihad said 1.6 million barrels are being exported daily from the southern port of Basra, while 300,000 are being pumped from the northern city of Kirkuk to the Turkish port of Ceyhan.

The other 600,000 barrels produced daily are for domestic use, he said.

Iraq, a founding member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, sits atop the world's third-highest proven reserves. Its estimated 115 billion barrels are exceeded in OPEC only by Saudi Arabia and Iran.

But oil production has plummeted since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 as the system faced repeated insurgent sabotage, attacks on maintenance crews, alleged corruption, theft and mismanagement. The nation was producing an average of just 2 million barrels a day in April."

Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani, a Shiite who assumed the post a month ago as part of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's new government, has promised to increase oil production and give all Iraqis a share.

Jihad also said new measures were being implemented and he was optimistic that the situation would improve.

"We hope to add 200,000 to 300,000 (barrels per day) before the end of this year," Jihad told The Associated Press, adding he also hoped to double the amount of oil pumped from Kirkuk to Ceyhan in that time period.

Iraq's oil industry has never regained even the reduced production levels that prevailed in the 1990s, when Iraq was under tough U.N. sanctions. In 1990, probably its peak production year, Iraq extracted about 3.5 million barrels a day.

Crude oil prices rose above $72 a barrel Wednesday on anticipated strong demand over the Fourth of July weekend in the United States and the dispute over Iran's uranium enrichment program.Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

[bth: this is good news but one should keep in mind it is largely due to seasonal factors which otherwise constrict exports to the north. Nevertheless this is a good sign and absolutely critical to forming a viable government in Iraq that otherwise has no taxing authority or source of cash.]
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Ultrasound to treat war wounds

BBC NEWS Science/Nature Ultrasound to treat war wounds: "The US military plans a portable device that uses focused sound waves to treat troops bleeding internally from wounds sustained on the battlefield.

Ultrasound can seal ruptured blood vessels deep within the body without the need for risky surgery.

The lightweight device has to be designed so that soldiers can operate it with minimal training.

Blood loss from wounds to the extremities is regarded as a major, preventable cause of battlefield death. "

The ability to treat soldiers with internal bleeding on the battlefield could prevent combat deaths and amputations, according to a US military presentation on the project.

These occur, it says, due to the delay involved in evacuating soldiers from the battlefield to a surgical facility.

The device would first use ultrasound imaging technology, in particular "Doppler ultrasound", to locate internal bleeding. This employs a physical phenomenon known as the Doppler effect to look for a characteristic signature of bleeding vessels.

It would then deliver a focused beam of high-powered ultrasound to those sites in order to cauterise the damaged vessels.

The Deep Bleeder Acoustic Coagulation (DBAC) programme is sponsored by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa).

Darpa envisages the device as a "cuff" containing an array of ultrasound transducers, different elements of which will detect bleeding and deliver focused, high-powered energy to the wound. This cuff would be flexible enough to be wrapped around the treatment area.

Competing teams - one headed by the multinational Philips, the other by Seattle-based AcousTx Corporation - have both been awarded contracts by Darpa to develop the technology.

'Serious effort'

The AcousTx team includes Siemens Corporate Research and medical ultrasound company Therus. The Philips team includes researchers at the University of Washington, Seattle, responsible for a number of early studies showing that ultrasound could halt bleeding.

Together, the contracts are worth a potential $51m (£28m) over four years.

"This is a pretty serious effort. These groups are working on making this an autonomous system that any soldier, or first responder, could use in an emergency," said Lawrence Crum, a member of the team headed by Philips and an engineering research professor at the University of Washington, Seattle.

Randy Serroels, general manager of AcousTx told the BBC News website: "High-intensity focused ultrasound is already used in a number of areas such as cancer treatment, fibroid treatment, and in breaking up kidney stones, so the technology is available today. The unique part is to combine that with imaging ultrasound and to automate the procedure."
Ultrasound stops bleeding partly by heating the damaged area and partly through mechanical effects.

The heating produced when this energy is absorbed prompts an insoluble protein called fibrin to precipitate from blood, forming a network of fibres that promotes clotting and plugs the wound. Heating also denatures the blood vessel's connective tissue (collagen) which helps form mechanical plugs and thermally "welds" tissue.

One mechanical effect is called streaming; the high intensity beam pushes blood away from the injury, either back into the vessel itself or to the sides.

In addition, the pressure changes induced by ultrasound lead to the formation of bubbles in the blood - an effect known as cavitation. This in turn may lead to the formation of free radicals - highly reactive charged molecules - which accelerate the clotting process.

Engineering challenge

While the science is reasonably well understood, it is the engineering that will determine success or failure.

Making the detection and treatment of bleeding an automatic process perhaps poses the biggest challenge of the project, according to Professor Crum.

"We've demonstrated in our laboratory that we can detect internal bleeding and that you can stop it using ultrasound. But you need a very intelligent, skilled administrator to do that," he told the BBC News website.

Describing the project as "high-risk, high-return", he explained: "It's a grand challenge but we're keen to have a go at it.

"If one of these big companies could make one of these it could be something like the [automated external] defibrillator. That was also a remarkable challenge, now everyone has one. They are even selling them for the home market."

In about a year-and-a-half, the prototype technologies will be put through their paces on a Stanford University testbed. This is expected to involve "blind "tests on lab tissue.
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'Sun-Sentinel' Corrects Controversial Murtha Article

'Sun-Sentinel' Corrects Controversial Murtha Article: "NEW YORK Conservative Web sites had a field day last weekend, citing a purported comment by Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa), the formerly hawkish but not antiwar congressman, that the U.S. was now the greatest threat to world peace. -- more than even Iran and North Korea. Murtha allegedly expressed this view in an article in the Sunday South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

After protests from Murtha and some readers, the Sun-Sentinel corrected the record today.

Murtha's office had gone so far as release a commetn from Melissa Sanchez of the Miami Herald, who also attended the speech, saying of Murtha's statement: �That was in reference to international polls. It was not so much his own conjecture, but a conclusion drawn from polls in various countries.�

But by then, Bill O'Reilly, Tucker Carlson and other pundits had strongly attacked Murtha, with Newt Gingrich caling for his 'censure' in Congress.

Here is the Sun-Sentinel's correction:

'An article in Sunday's editions misinterpreted a comment from U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., at a town hall meeting in North Miami on Saturday. In his speech, Murtha said U.S. credibility was suffering because of continued U.S. military presence in Iraq , and the perception that the U.S. is an occupying force. Murtha was citing a recent poll, by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, that indicates a greater percentage of people in 10 of 14 foreign countries consider the U.S. in Iraq a greater danger to world peace than any threats posed by Iran or North Korea. '"

[bth: Would a correction come from O'Reilly and Carlson? I doubt it.]
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SAS men caught Taleban chiefs ...t hen died in ambush

SAS men caught Taleban chiefs ...t hen died in ambush - World - Times Online: "THE two special forces soldiers killed during an hour-long gunfight in southern Afghanistan were part of a daring raid on a Taleban stronghold in which four key commanders on the "Most Wanted" list were seized. The details of the "snatch" operation emerged as the next of kin were told of their deaths. The men's names will not be released after a request from the families.

The SAS, the Royal Marines'Special Boat Service (SBS) and the newly formed Special Forces Support Group, consisting of troops from the 1st Battalion The Parachute Regiment, were all involved in the largest covert operation in the area since British troops were deployed there last month.

Defence sources said there had been intelligence that four key Taleban leaders were in a compound in the village of Sangin, north of Helmand province, where 3,300 British troops are based. The special forces were supported by two companies of about 100 paratroops from the 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment. The soldiers from 3 Para launched an attack on the compound, providing covering fire as the snatch squad moved in and grabbed the four. They were described as "high-value targets."

"At that stage there had been no British casualties and the mission appeared to have been a success.

The snatch squad with the soldiers from 3 Para were to withdraw rapidly in Land Rovers and rendezvous with a quick-reaction force, south of Sangin village. The force consisted of about thirty Gurkhas and other paratroops armed with 105mm light guns, the only artillery the British forces have taken to Afghanistan.

The sources said that as the two units were approaching each other in the pitch dark, they were ambushed by dozens of Taleban fighters who must have been contacted after the attack. Some reports suggested that there were at least seventy-five Taleban fighters, with rocket-propelled grenades, machineguns and AK47 Kalashnikov rifles.

The sources emphasised that the Taleban held the advantage as they were firing from well-concealed ambush positions.

A full-scale battle ensued, with troops coming under fire for more than a hour. One soldier said: “We stood and fought very hard.” During the battle, two of the seized Taleban escaped and the other two were killed. The sources said that the two dead men were probably hit by crossfire.

It was during the battle that the two special forces soldiers were also killed. One of them was believed to be part of the Special Forces Support Group set up last year to provide extra firepower for SAS and SBS operations. The SAS and SBS are operating together in southern Afghanistan.

The British troops called for airpower to attack the Taleban ambush positions, and the major assault ended only when an RAF Harrier GR7 from Kandahar and an Army Air Corps Apache attack helicopter arrived. Up to thirty Taleban were killed, sources said.

Brigadier Ed Butler, commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, said: “The two soldiers [who died] acted with great courage and outstanding personal bravery, given the odds they faced.”

Intelligence sources said that about 1,000 Taleban fighters had come into Helmand province from Pakistan in the past few weeks, which illustrates the scale of the challenge troops are now facing.

Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, who is in Afghanistan, said that America would not allow “ruthless” Taleban enemies to succeed. As she was in Kabul two suicide bombers killed themselves in the southern province of Zabul in what appeared to have been a botched attack on a US convoy.

[bth: its really a shame that acts of such heroism aren't being more widely circulated and publicized. Screw the Pentagons sorry attempt and propaganda - Rendon Group and Lincoln Associates - just publish what is happening - true and accurate accounts of bravery such as this. This article is out of the UK. Has it been picked up in the states?]