Saturday, July 22, 2006

Price tag to rebuild Iraq rises by $50b - The Boston Globe

Price tag to rebuild Iraq rises by $50b - The Boston Globe: "WASHINGTON -- The new Iraqi government will need about $50 billion in additional aid to rebuild the country's oil facilities and electrical grids to prewar levels, the US government's top auditor told Congress yesterday. And he warned that the United States is likely to have to pay the vast majority of it."

The funds would be on top of the roughly $30 billion that the United States has already committed to rebuild the war-torn country since the March 2003 invasion -- most of which has been spent. The estimate is also in addition to the steadily rising cost of the American military deployment in Iraq, which has topped $300 billion, according to the latest government figures.

The estimate is the first full accounting of Iraqi reconstruction needs by US Comptroller General David M. Walker , the nation's top fiscal watchdog.

The Bush administration has not offered any recent estimates of Iraqi reconstruction expenses and had given no indication that costs could grow so significantly. The administration's last request for rebuilding dollars, approved in early June, was for $1.5 billion.

Before the war, administration officials said oil revenues would be sufficient for the Iraqi government to pay for the country's reconstruction. But later in 2003, the administration asked Congress for $18.6 billion in reconstruction money, most of it for Iraq, and has since received smaller installments from Congress. The administration has also funneled billions of dollars from the Defense and State departments' regular budgets to Iraqi reconstruction, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Nonetheless, ``additional funds will be needed to finance remaining reconstruction needs and to restore, sustain, and protect the infrastructure that has been built to date," Walker told the House Government Reform Committee. ``Iraqi needs are greater than originally anticipated."

In addition to the $50 billion for oil and electricity needs, he said, the Iraqi government is likely to need additional resources to meet other basics and to support the fledgling security forces .

Walker testified about the rising cost of the Iraq war and the war on terrorism. He appeared along with top Bush administration budget officials, who faced tough questions from Republicans and Democrats about the estimated $430 billion that has been spent on military operations and diplomatic efforts overseas since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Walker, who also runs the Government Accountability Office, said that while military costs -- currently about $1.5 billion a week -- are rising sharply, the US government is likely to have to foot almost all of the bill for the Iraqi government's future rebuilding needs as well.

According to GAO figures, the United States has already allocated about $10.5 billion since 2003 for restoring essential services in Iraq.

But key projects have yet to be completed because of security problems, management lapses, and corruption.

Citing figures compiled by the Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration, Walker estimated that at least $30 billion more will be needed to ``reach and sustain oil capacity of 5 million barrels per day." To sustain the necessary electricity output, ``they will need $20 billion through 2010," he reported, citing US government and industry specialists.

A variety of factors make Iraq unable to support its own infrastructure , according to Walker, even beyond the damaged state of its oil industry. ``Iraqi budget constraints and limited government managerial capacity limits its ability to contribute to future rebuilding efforts," he reported.

Rampant corruption in Iraqi government ministries is also partially to blame, according to a 19-page assessment Walker provided on the war costs to date.

``Reconstruction efforts have not taken the risk of corruption into account when assessing the costs of achieving US objectives in Iraq," the report said.

``The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, Japan, and the European Union officials cite corruption in the oil sector as a special problem. In addition, According to [State Department] officials and reporting documents, about 10 percent of refined fuels are diverted to the black market, and about 30 percent of imported fuels are smuggled out of Iraq and sold for profit."

The government will need ``significant help" in building the accountability systems to prevent corruption , Walker said.

Bryan Bender can be reached at

[bth: so lets sort this out. The Iraq economy is going to need an additional $50 billion on top of the $30 we've injected to date plus the $1.5 billion a week we pay for the privilege of fighting their civil war. We are being asked to fund the entire reconstruction and Iraqi government - paying the payroll for Sadr and Badr's militiamen who were pushed onto the payrolls from at least last January when the government stop accepting US trained police and the positions with untrained but loyal Shia militiamen.

The Iraq GDP is $29 billion of which $20 billion is government of whic 90% is from oil exports.

Iraqis have subsidized gasoline and don't pay for electricity and actually don't pay taxes on income. The only cash flow coming in is from oil exports namely out of Basra which is why the first act of the new government was to declare martial law in Basra.

Now our old buddy Wolfowitz who told us that the reconstruction would be self-funding from oil exports resigned and went to work for the World Bank. Now Iraq's government, probably with our help, will go to the World Bank and ask for a US guarantee loan. Now Iraq will get that loan and default in two years (after Bush is out of office) but they cost of that defaulted loan will be buried in the budget figures of the US taxpayers who ultimately foot the bill for this mess. Halliburton though will continue to find ways to make money as the biggest pig at the public trough. ... Good thing the Republicans are in office to keep tabs on this mess.]

'Boston Globe' Reveals: U.S. Payoffs to Families of Dead Iraqi Civilians Has 'Skyrocketed'

'Boston Globe' Reveals: U.S. Payoffs to Families of Dead Iraqi Civilians Has 'Skyrocketed': "NEW YORK The local custom is known as 'solatia' --it means families in Iraq receive financial compensation for physical damage or a loss of life. The practice has earned more attention in recent weeks, with news that the U.S. military paid about $2500 per victim to families in Haditha following the alleged massacre there last November.

But how common is the practice? And how many deaths do the numbers seem to suggest?

A chilling report from the Boston Globe on Thursday reveals that the amount of cash the U.S. military has paid to families of Iraqi civilians killed or badly injured operations involving American troops 'skyrocketed from just under $5 million in 2004 to almost $20 million last year, according to Pentagon financial data.' The payments can range from several hundred dollars for a severed limb to a standard of $2500 for loss of life.

There is no explanation on how that top figure was arrived at.

Globe reporter Bryan Bender observes: 'If each of the payments made in 2005 was the maximum $2,500 for an Iraqi death, it would amount to 8,000 fatalities. But it's unknown exactly how many payments were made or for what amount.'"...

[bth: does this mean that we killed 8000 in one year that we felt weren't combatants?]

U.S. bomb hunters warily eye Iraq roads

Kansas City Star 07/21/2006 U.S. bomb hunters warily eye Iraq roads: "The garage-door remote control has given way to direct wiring. The garbage piles are pass�.
And Donald Sisk, who knows everything about garbage trucks back in Shawnee, is cruising the Sunni triangle in a cat-and-mouse game with Iraqi insurgents who blow many U.S. vehicles to junk with their roadside bombs, the leading killer of U.S. troops in Iraq."

Most everything seems foreign and always-changing. Before Staff Sgt. Fisk and his Army National Guard unit left for Iraq late last year, the military’s latest training for bomb hunters in combat engineering outfits like Sisk’s warned chiefly about trash.

Watch out for debris piles, the trainers said. Somebody might have planted explosives under a heap of garbage and jury-rigged it all to detonate with the push of a remote from a garage-door opener.

But today American convoys typically travel with electronic jamming equipment that foils such setups. Both sides know it. So instead, Sisk said, the enemy uses another common household supply to rig the detonation. The military doesn’t want to make public what it’s finding, because it doesn’t want its adversaries to know how quickly it is learning about new tricks.

And trash heaps, while still always potentially lethal, are old school, too. Instead, the most popular place to stash a roadside booby trap is an existing bomb crater. In Iraq such blast holes are nearly as common as the garbage.

“They’re always changing on us,” said Sisk, a 50-year-old mechanic who lives in Kansas City and, when not at war, rebuilds engines and transmissions for Deffenbaugh Disposal Services. Now he’s working out of Balad, about 50 miles north of Baghdad. “We’re doing our best to keep up.”

So far, he said, his company has found 48 improvised explosive devices — IEDs, as the military calls them — before the insurgents could find a target.

But even as the U.S. military has found more success, the number of explosives being planted grows, along with resulting casualties. Indeed, throughout the military the dilemma has become an increasing priority. In Afghanistan, IEDs became a growing threat after Taliban forces there saw how deadly the homemade bombs proved in Iraq.

Civilians are casualties, too, although they more commonly are hit by car bombs and suicide bombers. Numbers on their deaths and injuries from IEDs are elusive.

In late 2003, the Army put together a task force specifically to combat the homemade bombs. By summer of 2004, it had grown to become the Joint IED Defeat Task Force. In 2004, about $150 million was spent to fight IEDs. Last year the funding rose to $1.35 billion. This year the government expects to spend $3.3 billion.

Some in Congress have complained that the military has put too much effort into looking for technological quick fixes and not enough into honing tactics and improving intelligence about the enemy — outwitting and hunting down the bomb makers.

The Pentagon concedes that buying hardware to protect troops can be expensive, but says that its approach puts much energy into training troops and understanding the threat.

“Nobody believes there’s a silver-bullet solution out there,” said Christine DeVries, a spokeswoman for what is now called the Joint IED Defeat Organization. “We’re taking a holistic approach.”

At Fort Irwin, Calif., troops headed to Iraq are hit with dummy IED blasts to prepare them and expose them to the Army’s latest know-how about insurgent techniques.

“You really see the effects in the faces of the veterans,” said Maj. John Clearwater, a base spokesman. “You can see it flip switches in their brains and they go back in their mind to those blasts in Iraq.”

To find ways to make those troops safer, the military has reached out to specialists like those at the University of Missouri-Rolla’s Rock Mechanics and Explosives Research Center.

For instance, with Defense Department grants issued since the Iraq war began, Rolla engineers have studied how well bulletproof windows can protect against bombs. They have learned such windows might not break, but if their frames aren’t sturdy enough the thick glass can break free in one piece and injure someone.

One factor in Iraq is the virtually endless supply of explosives. By far the most common heart of a roadside bomb is an artillery shell left from Saddam Hussein’s military.

“They’re not going to run out of those,” said John Pike, a defense analyst with “The joke is that before the war Iraq was an ammo dump with a government. After the war, Iraq became an ammo dump without a government.”

In Balad, talking by telephone, Sisk said anxiety produced by the bombs is constant.

Most days he heads out in caravans of four or five armored vehicles scanning supply routes for potential bombs. A Humvee might lead the way, but it is accompanied by a tractorlike device with metal detectors attached to arms that scan the shoulder of roads. Another “buffalo” vehicle with mechanical arms rumbles along. It can pull debris off the top of a suspected bomb.

When the crew finds something suspicious, it blocks off the road and calls in an ordnance disposal team. In the meantime, Sisk said, the soldiers typically alert the landowner and see what they can find out about who might have laid the trap. Discoveries of bombs make for tense times.

“My voice will go up a few octaves. The other guys will think I’m hollering at them when I’m not. I’ll get a cold sweat,” he said. “It gets better with time.”

•The military estimates it finds half of all IEDs before they can hit U.S. forces.

Less than 10 percent of IED detonations injure troops, half the rate of a year before.

•Of those troops injured by IEDs, more than 80 percent return to duty.

The White House says the number of tips from Iraqis about roadside bombs grew from 400 in March 2005 to more than 4,000 in December.

In January, the military counted 803 IED attacks on troops; in June, 1,481.

In January, the military counted 520 cases where the bombs were neutralized; in June, 903.

•The Pentagon puts IEDs into three categories — “package,” like those left on the roadside; “vehicle-borne” car bombs; and suicide bombs.

[bth: since most information started being classified to largely keep it out of the newspapers (insurgents know damned well what is working and what isn't) this article provides some information. It looks like insurgents are shifting from wireless activated devices to direct contact wires (pressure sensitive) and the household appliance they are mentioning is probably a tv remote which is light based and so can't be radio jammed. Roughly 84% of IEDs were in the same loctions as previous blasts, often in the same craters as insurgents seem to be lazy about digging up asphalt and hardpack. According to their numbers neutralized IEDs are up 73% from 520 in January 2006 to 903 and IED attacks are up 84% from 803 in January 2006 to a 1481 in June. Note that the percent neutralized versus attacks went from 64% (520/803) in January 2006 to 60% (903/1482) in June 2006. Also of interest is that less than 10% of IED detonations are injuring troops, whalf the rate of a year before and if memory serves in 2004 roughly 1/2 the detonations were causing casualties and on average there were around 2.4 casualties per vehicle when they occurred. This striking reduction is very likely due to ubiquitous armor on vehicles (even the crappier Level II stuff) and to electronic jammers which may be throwing off the timing of some detonations. As of last year radio activiated IEDs were still representing about 84% of blasts, though that figure is definitely changing now as detonation cord, pressure activated charges and light beams (door bells at Radio Shack and TV remotes) are having a turn.]

Hit by war costs, Army cuts back

Hit by war costs, Army cuts back �: "WASHINGTON � The Army, bearing most of the cost for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, says its money crunch has gotten so bad that it is clamping down on spending for travel, civilian hiring and other expenses not essential to the war mission.

Thursday's statement outlining the cutbacks did not say how much money the Army expects to save, but senior officials have said the cost of replacing worn equipment in Iraq and Afghanistan is rising at a quickening pace. "

Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, said last week that in 2004 it cost $4 billion to repair or replace war equipment, but now it has reached $12 billion to $13 billion.

"And in my view, we will continue to see this escalate," he said, adding that the Army is using up equipment at four times the rate for which it was designed

Schoomaker traced the problem's origin to entering the Iraq war in 2003 with a $56 billion shortfall in equipment. The Army managed the situation by rotating in fresh units while keeping the same equipment in Iraq. Over time, he said, the equipment has worn out without sufficient investment in replacements.

The Army chief said there is too little money available to keep up with equipment repairs. He added that the Army's five major repair depots are operating at only 50 percent of capacity, resulting in a backlog of 1,000 Humvee utility vehicles awaiting attention at the Red River Army Depot in Texas and 500 tanks at a depot in Alabama.

The Army's 2006 budget is $98.2 billion, and the 2007 budget request not yet approved by Congress seeks $111 billion for the Army. About 100,000 of the approximately 127,000 U.S. troops in Iraq are in the Army. Most of the rest are Marines.

When Congress took longer than the Pentagon expected to approve an emergency spending bill for war costs last spring, the Army imposed temporary spending cutbacks that it had expected to lift once the extra money was approved.

The Army said Thursday that it has decided to extend most of those cutbacks until Sept. 30, the end of the budget year.

The Army said it will limit its purchase of supplies to those that are deemed critical to war requirements; cancel or postpone all nonessential travel; stop the shipment of goods unless they are needed for deployed or deploying troops; freeze the hiring of civilians; restrict use of government credit cards; freeze all new contract awards, and release temporary employees and some service-contract workers.

[bth: Amazing. All this was predictable and was predicted by anyone objectively assessing the facts and funding over the last few years. You don't need to be a rocket scientist or a fortune teller, just someone honest enough to call it the way it is.

Equipment didn't start wearing out yesterday. It was in short supply before the war and got worse every day. That production plants have not and according to this article maintenance facilities still are not being tasked to capacity just goes to demonstrate that it was and has always been about the money - not the production ability of this economy. Why in God's name do we have 1000 humvees and 500 tanks waiting at depots for maintenance and then have those depots running at 1/2 capacity when equipment is in short supply?

Its about hiding the cost of war - deferring maintenance, using humvees when we should be using Bradleys.

Compare this with obvious equipment shortages in such areas as Florida National Guard units expected to respond to hurricates with less than 37% of their required equipment, and one concludes we have real problems going on here.

Yet, we will continue to fund ridiculously priced Future Combat Systems and aircraft we have not ability to economically purchase or field - yet front line troops are stretched to the breaking point for basic equipment and maintenance.

Stupid. Just murderously stupid.]
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U.S. doubts Israeli figures about damage of air war�-�Nation/Politics

U.S. doubts Israeli figures about damage of air war�-�Nation/Politics�-�The Washington Times, America's Newspaper: "Israel is overstating the damage its air war has inflicted on the Hezbollah militia, which hides its weapons in tunnels and civilian neighborhoods throughout Lebanon, Bush administration and intelligence officials said yesterday.

Israeli assessments are 'too large,' said one U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. But he added, 'We are not getting into numbers.'

Jerusalem military leaders have put out numbers such as '50 percent' and 'one-third' to assess the damage its combat jets have done to Hezbollah's arsenal of 13,000 rockets, and its mortars, launchers, vehicles and other military equipment.

Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Daniel Ayalon, told the Associated Press yesterday that bombing has destroyed more than 40 percent of Hezbollah's arms.

A second government source said the amount destroyed is less than one-third. "...

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The Mechanical Advantage Tourniquet (MAT)

gizmag Article: The Mechanical Advantage Tourniquet (MAT): "July 18, 2006 Recent geo-political and natural disaster events have shown that one of the primary threats to victim�s survival is blood loss. In particular, the global war on terror has demonstrated specific vulnerabilities in critical blood loss due to damaged limbs. In late 2003, American Special Operations Forces requested the urgent supply of a tourniquet with some special requirements including; operation by one-hand, application and occlusion in less than a minute, applicable to trapped limbs, no external power, quick release and reset, weighing less than 230 grams, and having a 10 year shelf-life. Within seven weeks, Cybertech Medical Product Development delivered the first prototype of the Mechanical Advantage Tourniquet (MAT) to the DoD that solved all of their desired requirements, and to-date is the only device to do so. It's unique modulated constriction makes the MAT safe to use in preventing tissue damage and loss of limb."

Three independent military medical tests conducted in 2005 have shown the MAT to be the fastest, easiest-to-use, most efficient and most preferred device in stopping critical blood loss and saving life and limbs. The MAT is the best performing tourniquet tested by the Army, Navy, and Marines.
The MAT has been selected as standard equipment by Homeland Security, and has been deployed to AFT, Border Patrol, military troops throughout the world, and is now used to protect the highest members of the US Government and other dignitaries. The MAT is now part of the Tactical Emergency Medical training courses of many police departments, and is being utilized by EMS services and ER departments.

The MAT won a Gold 2006 Industrial Design Excellence Award (IDEA Award). The Industrial Designers Society of America and BusinessWeek cosponsor the IDEA competition. BusinessWeek selected the MAT in their feature “Design for a Dangerous Planet” in the July 10 “Best Product Design of 2006” issue.

The MAT has been designed, developed and brought into production by Cybertech and Ewing Design Group.
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Scientific American: Eye Contact Triggers Threat Response in Autistic Children

Scientific American: Eye Contact Triggers Threat Response in Autistic Children: "Children suffering from autism pay very little attention to faces, even those of people close to them. Indeed, this characteristic can become apparent as early as the age of one, and is often used as a developmental sign of the disease. The results of a new study provide additional insight into why autistic children avoid eye contact: they perceive faces as an uncomfortable threat, even if they are familiar.

Kim M. Dalton of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her colleagues studied 27 autistic teenagers who looked at pictures of faces (see image) while a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine scanned their brains. The researchers also tracked the subjects' eye movements as they studied the images. 'This is the very first published study that assesses how individuals with autism look at faces while simultaneously monitoring which of their brain areas are active,' Dalton says. When the image included a direct gaze from a nonthreatening face, brain activity in the amygdala--a brain region associated with negative feelings--was much higher for autistic children than it was in members of the control group. 'Imagine walking through the world and interpreting every face that looks at you as a threat, even the face of your own mother,' remarks study co-author Richard Davidson, also at UW-Madison.

The results also indicate that a brain area associated with face perception, known as the fusiform region, is fundamentally normal in autistic children; it does exhibit decreased activity, however. Davidson notes that this could result because the over-aroused amygdala makes an autistic child want to look away from faces. In addition, he comments that it was surprising that "when subjects with autism averted their gaze away from the eye region of a face, they showed reduced activity in the amygdala, suggesting that the gaze aversion is serving a functional purpose." The findings are published today in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
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Lincoln Group Out of Military PR Contract

Lincoln Group Out of Military PR Contract: "The U.S. military has removed two firms from a psychological operations contract aimed at influencing international public opinion, including one District-based company that ran into controversy last year for planting pro-U.S. articles in Iraqi newspapers."

The firms, plus a third company that will retain the contract, spent the past year developing prototypes for radio and television spots intended for use in Iraq and in other nations where the United States is combating terrorism. Unlike the reports that the District-based Lincoln Group distributed to the Iraqi press -- which looked to be written by independent Iraqi journalists -- the commander in charge of the new spots said yesterday that he wants their origins made clear.

"Certainly we would intend to accept attribution for the spots," said Col. Jack Summe, commander of the Tampa-based Joint Psychological Operations Support Element. "We will not place things under someone else's name, trying to fool people into thinking it's a true news item."

But Summe said that the ultimate decision on how the spots will be attributed has still not been made pending the outcome of a policy review and that the military does not have a timetable for when they will air.

The contract for the TV and radio spots is separate from the deal under which the Lincoln Group distributed articles from the U.S. military to Iraqi newspapers. The newspaper contract was unaffected by the change to the TV and radio contract.

The TV and radio contract, originally worth up to $300 million over five years, had been held by three firms since last year: the Lincoln Group; San Diego-based Science Applications International Corp.; and Arlington-based SYColeman, a subsidiary of New York-based L-3 Communications Corp.

But officials with the military's Special Operations Command decided this spring that they would be better off with just one contractor. They exercised their option to continue SYColeman's contract but not the other two. Military officials say the decision had nothing to do with last year's controversy over the Lincoln Group.

"We learned that working with three companies increases expenditures in both time and money and does not provide best value to the government," said Lt. Col. David Farlow, spokesman for the military's psychological operations unit.

Lincoln Group spokesman Bill Dixon said in a statement yesterday that the firm "continues to win contracts in the American effort to engage audiences in transitional areas of the world because of its unique capabilities and proven record of accomplishing the objectives of its clients." He added, "Because confidentiality is vital to this work, the firm will not comment on the details of any contracts."

Dixon said the company believes the military's Special Operations Command needs more money "and clearer policy guidance in order to fight the 'War of Ideas,' a key component of the global War on Terrorism."

SAIC spokeswoman Connie Custer declined to comment.

SYColeman, which took over sole possession of the contract last month, referred calls yesterday to L-3. A spokeswoman there did not respond to a request for comment.

Summe said that even though SYColeman's contract is worth up to $20 million this year, he expects actual spending to be far less. Last year, he said, the military paid the three firms a total of just over $3 million under the contract.

The Lincoln Group was founded three years ago by a young former Marine and a recent Oxford University graduate to capitalize on business opportunities in post-invasion Iraq.

Company officials have defended their work for the government, saying that paying to have stories published is common in many Middle Eastern countries and that it was necessary to counter claims by insurgents.

[bth: I believe the problem was more fundamental - the groups were planting news that was being broadcast as fact back into the U.S. We were getting propaganda and fake news courtesy of the Defense Department's surrogates. That the Lincoln Group had no experience whatever other than being political hacks spawned under Rove's tutelage should be mentioned in the article. Last year, around November when the stories started breaking, english based websites supposedly coming from Iraq but seeming run on US servers started to disappear. Incredibly within a few weeks they were even off the cached files on Google. If memory serves, SYColeman was also managed by operatives and was run by retired Gen. Gardner? Well at least he wasn't stupid like the Lincoln Group's management.]
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American pullout leaves Iceland defenceless

Telegraph News American pullout leaves Iceland defenceless: "The people of Iceland are about to join one of the world's smallest clubs - those nations without armed forces on their territory to defend their borders.

The United States, which had assured Iceland's defence for decades, stunned the country in March when it announced that it would be closing its bases on the island, withdrawing its F-15 fighters and thousands of servicemen in the space of just six months. "

This bombshell was dropped in a single telephone call from an underling at the State Department, followed by a letter from the US ambassador.

Iceland, with just 300,000 people scattered over a landmass larger than Ireland, has never had a military of its own in modern times.

The country has fewer than 1,000 policemen, most of them unarmed, and two civilian coastguard ships.

The closest thing it has to a military is a civilian "crisis response unit", which performs peacekeeping duties overseas.

But that has just 50 men.

The United States is still legally pledged to defend Iceland from attack, but it now insists that it can do this from a distance.

Within the Icelandic government, the brutally swift American pullout has sparked a debate about whether their remote, wealthy little island needs defences.

To Geir Haarde, the prime minister, the answer is a clear "yes".

"We cannot allow ourselves just to sit back and think that nothing is ever going to happen here," he said.

But Iceland was not likely to build its own army, Mr Haarde argued.

"We have no military tradition, and I think it would be very difficult politically to get the public here interested in developing that kind of capability, and spending the required resources on it."

Mr Haarde remains focused on salvaging the best defence deal possible with the US.

The only time Iceland has been invaded in modern history was by British forces, in May 1940.

Locals woke to find that British troops had occupied the streets of the capital, rather that let the island fall to Germany.

A year later, Winston Churchill arranged for the US - which was then neutral - to step in and provide a protective garrison.

Apart from a brief gap after the Second World War, the Americans never left.

The island's strategic heyday came in the 1980s, as Soviet bombers, carrying nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, flew past on their way to train off the east coast of America, and Soviet submarines prowled in the icy waters below.

In 1985, fighters from the American naval air base at Keflavik intercepted 170 Soviet bombers. While a non-military nation, the Icelanders are hardly pacifists, being descendants of the Vikings.

During the two "cod wars" of the 1970s, when Iceland banned foreign trawlers from vast swaths of sea, the government sent its civilian coastguard to cut British fishermen's nets. Britain was forced to back down under American pressure.

Things are quieter now than in the Cold War, but in the wider region, senior figures have voiced concern that the Pentagon has missed strategic changes that are taking place in the High North, with Norway and Russia set to ship growing quantities of oil and gas to North America.

With the vital lifeline passing close to its shores, Iceland will soon stop being a security backwater.

"I do not think anyone is going to attack Iceland," said Espen Barth Eide, the Norwegian state secretary for defence.

"But there is an issue with the increasing importance of the High North when it comes to energy security."

Nato might need to get involved in co-operation on surveillance flights, radar stations and air defences, he says.
That is music to the ears of Iceland's leading defence hawk, Björn Bjarnason, the minister for justice and ecclesiastical affairs, who oversees the coastguard and police.

"I think we need to look at why the Norwegians are modernising their military," he said.

"You will soon have oil and gas tankers crossing the Atlantic to Canada and the United States from the Barents Sea - that will completely change the nature of the shipping in our area.

"I have been arguing for years that we need to think about having a military.

"We have the economic capability, and - even though we only have 300,000 people - we have the manpower.

"There is nothing inherent in Icelandic society that says we cannot do it."

The situation could one day require the "tactless" Americans to be invited back, Mr Bjarnason thinks.

"This is not a static situation in the north Atlantic, I think it is very short sighted if the Americans do not realise that," he said.

"And the manner in which they leave, politically, could affect the way they would be welcomed back."

[bth: what the hell is wrong with us? I'd like to say we should apologize or reprimand someone in the State or Defense Departments, but I know that won't happen. There is no accountability. Nothing ... If anyone from Iceland reads this, I just want to let you know that Americans appreciate your friendship and on behalf of our country, I would like to apologize for its rude behavior to you. Sincerely, bth.]
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Families Torn Apart and Travelers Uprooted, With No End in Sight - New York Times

Families Torn Apart and Travelers Uprooted, With No End in Sight - New York Times: "In the End, Numbers Become Names Again

For a few minutes on Friday, they became people again: Zahra Abdullah, formerly victim No. 7; her son Hadi, victim No. 10; and her daughter Myrna, No. 9.

For days they were among the nameless, corpses with numbers, lying in a refrigerator truck at this southern Lebanese town's morgue.

Health care workers took the bodies out of the trailer, placed them in simple coffins and buried them temporarily in a nearby field until they can be exhumed and given a more formal burial once the conflict, now in its 10th day, ends. "

For days they were among the nameless, corpses with numbers, lying in a refrigerator truck at this southern Lebanese town’s morgue.

Health care workers took the bodies out of the trailer, placed them in simple coffins and buried them temporarily in a nearby field until they can be exhumed and given a more formal burial once the conflict, now in its 10th day, ends.

In a daylong event that was not quite a funeral, not quite interment, but a brief goodbye for a few grieving families that could attend, hospital workers and volunteers worked furiously to assemble the coffins, remove bodies from the truck, spray them with formaldehyde and bury them in the mass grave a few blocks away. In all, they buried 82 people, including more than 24 children who died in the past week.

“I didn’t sleep the whole night trying to make this happen,” said Ali Faramat, a local carpenter who spent the entire night cutting planks of wood, which young men from the neighborhood then turned into boxes.

Then the men spray painted names on the coffins, and for a few moments the bodies became people again, loved ones, memories.

No. 37 became Sally Wahbi, a 7-year-old who died in an attack on the Civil Defense Building in Tyre on Sunday. No. 35, Alia Alaedeen, who suffered serious head injuries as she was escaping the town of Sarifa on Wednesday and died Thursday. And No. 73 became Mariam Abdullah, who along with Zahra, Hadi and Myrna was among the 23 people killed in an Israeli attack on a pickup truck escaping the town of Marwaheen last Saturday.

“God, you gave her to me — now take her to heaven,” Mariam Abdullah’s mother moaned. “Take her to Paradise, and protect the victims of evil.”

The scene continued for several hours as bodies in plastic bags, some of them soaked in blood, were photographed and placed into coffins, which were then nailed shut and lined up. The numbers on the wall corresponding to those on the coffins only went up to 74, but the men continued to place bodies into coffins.

“We need a small coffin,” one of the men shouted. The crowd went silent, and soon a body the size of a doll came out, what one doctor called a posthumous birth from a pregnant mother in the trailer. The men broke into chants of “God is great.”

Halfway through, there was a bang as a plane dropped leaflets over the crowd warning them to move at once. “Due to the terrorist acts against the state of Israel that came from your villages and your homes, the Israeli Army has been forced to respond immediately against these acts even within your villages, for your own security,” the note read in Arabic. “You are ordered to leave your villages and head immediately north of the Litani River.”

They talk about terrorism, but we see this as terrorism, too,” Mohammed Abdullah, 53, a retired army officer, observed quietly, bracing for bodies of his relatives to emerge. “But the United States is standing quiet, and that allows them to continue.

He last saw his family on July 9, when they drove from their home in Beirut to Marwaheen, where they planned to set up the family’s summer house. He intended to join them next week, but last Saturday they called and said they were evacuating the village with several relatives after the Israelis warned them to leave.

When he saw a television report about an attack on a convoy headed from Marwaheen to Tyre, he immediately realized the implications. Only 4 of the 27 passengers in the pickup survived, among them his daughter Marwa, 10.

He wished he could bury them in Marwaheen, he said, but it was impossible to do so with the roads bombed and the shelling continuing. So he relented and accepted having them temporarily buried Friday.

It took until the afternoon for all 82 coffins to be loaded onto two Lebanese Army trucks. The trucks pulled into a trench gouged by a tractor, and the men began unloading the coffins, placing them side by side, grouped by family name.

“If you speak the truth here you are called a traitor,” Mr. Abdullah said. “But we all know that this is a war between Iran and America. I am paying part of the price for it.” Then he suddenly grew pensive as he stood at the edge of the trench.

“That’s my daughter, No. 9,” he said, pointing at a coffin coming out of the truck as. “It’s a nice number, don’t you think? And No. 7, it’s a nice number, too. It’s my wife. And there’s No. 10. I hope they will be lucky.”

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Phelps' church, ACLU challenge Missouri protest ban

Wichita Eagle 07/21/2006 Phelps' church, ACLU challenge Missouri protest ban: "KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A Kansas church group that routinely protests at military funerals across the country filed a suit in federal court Friday, claiming the Missouri law banning such pickets infringed on the members' religious freedoms and right to free speech.

Missouri's law bans picketing and protests 'in front of or about' any church, cemetery or funeral establishment from an hour before a funeral begins until an hour after it ends. A number of other state laws and a federal law, signed in May by President Bush, bar such protests within a certain distance from a cemetery or funeral.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Jefferson City. It will test lawmakers' ability to target the Rev. Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church, constitutional scholars say."

"I told the nation as each state went after these laws that if the day came that they got in our way, that we would sue them," said Phelps' daughter, Shirley Phelps-Roper, the lead plaintiff and a spokeswoman for the Topeka-based church.

"At this hour, the wrath of God is pouring out on this country."

The church claims God is allowing soldiers, coal miners and others to be killed because the United States tolerates homosexuals. Westboro Baptist has outraged mourning communities across the U.S. by showing up at soldiers' funerals with signs that read "God Hates Fags."

In the lawsuit, the ACLU claims the wording of Missouri's ban, which restricts protests "about" any funeral establishment, seeks to limit the group's free speech based on the content of its message.

The plaintiffs ask the court to declare the ban unconstitutional and to issue an injunction to keep it from being enforced, which would allow the group to resume picketing.

The suit names as defendants Gov. Matt Blunt, Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon and Mark Goodwin, a prosecuting attorney for Carroll County.

A Nixon spokesman said the state would mount a major legal defense.

"We're not going to acquiesce to anything that they're asking for in this lawsuit," said Scott Holste. "We will aggressively defend Missouri's law against this challenge."

Missouri lawmakers were spurred to action after the church protested in St. Joseph last August, at the funeral of Army Spc. Edward Myers. The law makes violation a misdemeanor, with fines and possible jail time that increase for repeat offenders.

Phelps-Rogers' attorney said that though he disagreed with Westboro's message, the group had a right to spread it.

"This law really was made to silence a particular group, and I'm able to see that that's dangerous," said Anthony Rothert, ACLU legal director in St. Louis. "It may be a group that I disagree with that the government is trying to silence today, but it could be a group that I agree with tomorrow."

First Amendment scholars said the Missouri challenge could give pause to state legislators writing similar bills.

"Government has no interest in restricting protests that aren't disruptive and are peaceful," said David Greene, executive director of the First Amendment Project in Oakland, Calif. "I would guess this question will be tested in a few different forms."

Phelps-Roper, who is also an attorney, said the church would fight other laws which members felt restricted their free speech rights, and hoped to resume protesting in Missouri soon.

[bth: these pathetic low lifes drove all the way to Bedford, MA last year to protest outside our town's middle school because it was openly tolerant of homosexual sixth, seventh and eighth graders. Now what kind of hatred would drive a group of religious fundamentalists half way across the country? Where did Jesus speak with such hatred and condemnation? ... So this group thinks that John Hart and 2500 others like him died in Iraq because "God Hates Fags."...Don't you wonder how this group funds itself?]
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War and Piece: Irania

War and Piece:: "Here's the latest on the gathering of Iran pro democracy activists at the White House Thursday (see here for my original post). Michael Ledeen and Amir Abbas Fakhravar, a 30 year old Iranian student activist and former political prisoner, got shut out, because they were 15 minutes later coming from testifying at the Senate Homeland Security and Government Reform subcommittee on Iran's nuclear impasse. Richard Perle, who did attend the White House gathering hosted by the NSC's Elliot Abrams and State's Nicholas Burns, tried to help get them in but the Secret Service wouldn't budge. Also among those who attended, Bijan Kian, a Los-Angeles based Iranian American Republican activist who has sought a position on Iran policy in the Bush administration; Manda Zand Ervin, of the Alliance of Iranian Women; Sam Kermanian, a Los Angeles-based Iranian Jewish community leader and businessman; Rahim Shahbazi, an Iranian Azeri separatist who spoke at an event on Iran's ethnic minorities at AEI last year, causing a firestorm with his anti-Persian comments; and an Iranian Arab separatist. Several other Iranian pro-democracy activists, including Reza Pahlavi, the son of the former shah, and Akbar Ganji, a leading Iranian dissident and former political prisoner currently on a US tour, declined the White House invitation.
Kermanian summarized for the NY Sun the message from the US administration officials yesterday: 'The administration's line was that this was not the policy of the United States to engage in regime change in different countries, even if they did not like the policies of that country. They said they hoped the people of Iran would achieve their goal of a democratic Iran.'"

[bth: it blows my mind that Ledeen and Perle and the other howdy doody bunch from AEI are even allowed on the premises. Any Iranian democracy movement with these characters involved is doomed. At least the shah's son and Akbar Ganji had the good sense to stay away.]
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IRAN: SUICIDE BOMBERS JOINED HEZBOLLAH IN LEBANON, MILITANT SAYS: "Tehran, 20 July (AKI) - A spokesman for an Iranian militant group which claims to have 55,000 would-be suicide bombers among its members said on Thursday that 27 of its men have joined Hezbollah militias in Lebanon to fight against Israel. 'The first two groups of esteshhadioun (volunteers of martyrdom) have already reached Lebanon,' Mohammad Ali Samadi told Adnkronos International (AKI). Speaking on the phone from the organization's headquarters in Tehran, Samadi said the militants reached Lebanon through Syria.

The spokesman for the Headquarters for the Glory of Martyrs of the International Movement said its militants in Lebanon were '27 people selected from the 55,000 members who spoke fluent Arabic and have received adequate training to fight beside their Lebanese brothers against the Zionist enemy.'

The spokesman however said the militants would not engage in combat but would 'identify Zionist targets and then attack them with actions of martyrdom.'"
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PAKISTAN: BIN LADEN HIDING ON CHINA BORDER, REPORTS: "Islamabad, 21 July (AKI) - The Pakistani authorities on Thursday ordered the evacuation of a northern area of the country, near the border with China, of tourists and foreigners after receiving intelligence reports of the possible presence of Osama bin Laden in the area. According to Arab daily al-Hayat, the presence of the al-Qaeda leader was reported in the extreme north of Pakistan in an area that borders China and Afghanistan. For this reason hundreds of tourists - most of them European - were made to leave the Chalinji Pass and the Wakhan corridor and the security forces closed all access to the area.

The intelligence reports that had reached Islamabad indicated that bin Laden and his deputy Egyptian doctor Ayman al-Zawahiri - along with other leading figures of the al-Qaeda terror network - had decided to use the area bordering China as a secure refuge as it is not controlled by the US military.

Al-Hayat says the reports were confirmed by Western embassy sources in Islamabad, who indicated that the choice of sticking near the China border was because US military bombers would not attack that area for fear of hitting China."

[bth: hello.]
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Ottawa man built 30 detonators, U.K. terror trial hears

Ottawa man built 30 detonators, U.K. terror trial hears: "LONDON -- Days before his arrest by the RCMP, Ottawa's Momin Khawaja e-mailed a British man saying he was constructing 30 remote-controlled detonators that police allege were to be used to trigger terrorist bombs around London, a British trial heard Thursday.

The message allegedly capped months of work in Ottawa by Khawaja on a prototype detonator code-named 'the baby.'

'We finished designing the baby, now we just gotta put things together and test out next week or two,' he allegedly wrote in an earlier e-mail to Omar Khyam, leader of a suspected London terror cell police say was plotting to bomb public sites in and around the city in 2004.

Khyam allegedly replied: 'That's excellent news. I am in kuff (non-believer) land for now and waiting for your surprise.'"

The e-mails are among a series of messages security service officers in Britain and North America intercepted between Khawaja and Khyam. Others were retrieved from personal computers after their arrests.

Seven British Muslim men, including Khyam, are on trial in London for their parts in the alleged bomb conspiracy.

Targets included Europe's largest shopping mall, the Bluewater Shopping Centre east of London, and the city's popular Ministry of Sound nightclub, prosecutors have told the court.

The men have pleaded not guilty.

Khawaja is to stand trial in Ottawa in January under Canada's tough new Anti-Terrorism Act for his alleged role as the group's explosives detonation expert. Though the British have formally named the 27-year-old as a conspirator in the case for preparing "to cause explosions likely to endanger life," he has not been charged with any crime there. He denies involvement in the alleged plot.

Court previously heard that police seized 600 kilograms of ammonium nitrate fertilizer the group allegedly bought.

About the same amount was used in 1995 to destroy the Oklahoma City federal building, killing 168 people.

An RCMP explosives expert testified Thursday that the fertilizer, when mixed with aluminum powder, creates a lethal cocktail if properly detonated.

"It's very effective," said Sgt. Joseph Fiset, an expert in electronic detonators and improvised explosive devices.

Prosecutors Thursday said Khawaja began working on a prototype detonator in 2003 after allegedly returning from a terror training camp in Pakistan where he first met Khyam and some of the other defendants.

It was there, the prosecution says, that they learned to mix ammonium nitrate with aluminum powder to create a powerful explosive.

In January 2004, Khawaja allegedly e-mailed Khyam again.

"Praise the most high, we got the devices working. I am gonna try and get a booking asap to come over and see you."

In late February 2004, Khawaja travelled to London. Police say he was met at Heathrow airport by Khyam and his brother, who had recently been placed under surveillance by Britain's MI5 security service. The trio later went to a Internet cafe where Khawaja allegedly showed them photographs of a remote-controlled detonator with a range of up to two kilometres, court has heard.

When he returned to Canada a few days later, Khawaja was also placed under surveillance.

The trial continues.

[bth: you'd think these folks would be so pleased to live in Canada yet instead they evidently wanted to blow people up in it.]
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Common tragedy for Iraq refugees divided by sect

Common tragedy for Iraq refugees divided by sect��Top News�� "FALLUJA/DIWANIYA, Iraq (Reuters) - The cities of Falluja and Diwaniya are on opposite sides of Iraq's bloody sectarian divide but refugees who fled to them to escape death threats and violence tell the same horror stories.

Sunni Arab Khaled Salman fled Shi'ite Diwaniya for a tent camp in Falluja after Shi'ite militiamen killed his son Ahmed and two of his relatives, including an eight-year-old boy.

'God damn those who took my son away,' Salman's wife Um Ahmed said in the city, 50 km (30 miles) west of Baghdad.

Moving in the opposite direction, to Diwaniya in southern Iraq, Shi'ite Ali Kadhum decided to leave Falluja after gunmen abducted his 60-year-old father from outside his house and death threats kept coming.

'Gunmen threatened to burn the family's house down,' said Kadhum, who lost his legs after being wounded in a U.S. military offensive against Sunni insurgents in Falluja in 2004.

He and others have taken refuge in tents randomly pitched in Diwaniya, 180 km (115 miles) south of Baghdad.

Their stories of hardship and fear are becoming increasingly common as Iraq's refugee population swells."

Raging sectarian bloodshed has forced a sharp increase in the number of Iraqis fleeing their homes this month, the Migration Ministry said on Thursday, calling it a "dangerous" rise of about 32,000 refugees in three weeks to about 162,000.

The full figure for those who have fled their homes is certainly much higher because the ministry's statistics only cover registered refugees from the communal violence pushing Iraq toward all-out civil war. Many do not register or go abroad.

Those who stay face increasing pressure to leave their homes in a bloody campaign of killings and kidnappings carving up the country along sectarian lines and raising doubts that the U.S.- backed, Shi'ite-led government can hold the country together.

Minority Sunnis dominated Iraq for decades until the 2003 U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein empowered majority Shi'ites.

Sunni Abdullah Fayadh said he fled to Falluja after his son was killed and 26 Sunnis were kidnapped from a mostly Shi'ite area of Baghdad.

"The next day we found their bodies dumped on the side of the road with signs of torture by a drill," he said. When he and his family tried to escape the house where they have lived for 30 years gunmen prevented them from taking any belongings.

"Now we have only blankets and pillows given to us by the Iraqi Red Crescent," said the 55-year-old teacher.

Sectarian violence has been on the rise since the bombing of a Shi'ite shrine on February 22.

That's when Sunni lawyer Sami Humadi realised he would have to leave Sadr City, an eastern Baghdad stronghold of radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mehdi Army militiamen

He lost his two sons and faced one death threat after another in the capital, which many speak openly of being divided soon into western Sunni and eastern Shi'ite halves.

He eventually fled to Falluja: "Now I'm here in this tent. It is my share of the democracy brought by the Americans."

[bth: Americans didn't cause the Iraqis to kill one another along religious lines. This civil war is of their own design]
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Mosques bombed, tense Baghdad under curfew

Mosques bombed, tense Baghdad under curfew��Top News�� "BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Bombs killed two worshippers at mosques in Iraq during Friday prayers and the authorities extended a daytime curfew on Baghdad after one of the bloodiest weeks this year.

On the eve of a high-profile meeting intended to demonstrate reconciliation among sectarian and ethnic factions ahead of a White House visit by the prime minister, senior leaders admitted to despair about the chances of averting all-out civil war.

'Iraq as a political project is finished,' a top government official told Reuters -- anonymously because the coalition of Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki remains committed in public to a U.S.-sponsored constitution preserving Iraq's unity. "

"The parties have moved to Plan B," the official said, saying Sunni, ethnic Kurdish and majority Shi'ite blocs were looking at ways to divide power and resources and to solve the conundrum of Baghdad's mixed population of seven million.

"There is serious talk of Baghdad being divided into east and west," said the official, who has long been a proponent of the present government's objectives. "We are extremely worried."

Officials and delegates from a range of political, tribal, regional and religious groups will meet in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone government compound on Saturday for the inaugural meeting of the National Reconciliation Commission.

Maliki, who meets President Bush on Tuesday, has described a 24-point reconciliation plan outlined a month ago as a "last chance" for peace.

So far, however, it is unclear what substance it has beyond vague promises of amnesty for former rebels and a call for political parties' militias to disarm.

U.S. Republicans hope better news from Iraq will help the ruling party at congressional elections in November and maintain hopes that American soldiers can start coming home soon.


Bombs outside Sunni mosques in Khalis, north of the capital, and in the mainly Shi'ite east of Baghdad, each killed one man and wounded two during weekly prayers, police said.

There were also new clashes in Mahmudiya, a violent town just south of the city where nearly 60 people were killed in a mass assault by gunmen on Monday. Three police and three Iraqi soldiers were killed in Friday's fighting, police said.

U.S. troops killed two women and a three-year-old girl during a raid that, they said, also killed two suspected al Qaeda militants in violent Diyala province northwest of Baghdad.

State television announced a four-hour traffic ban in force in the city every Friday would be extended until 7 p.m. A nightly nine-hour curfew from 9 p.m. also remains in effect.

U.S. commanders see a looming fight to the finish in Baghdad between the two-month-old unity government and Sunni Arab rebels with links to al Qaeda and ousted president Saddam Hussein.

The U.S. ambassador has warned that a greater threat may be the mounting sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shi'ites.

That has brought a risk that millions of ordinary but almost universally armed Iraqis may be dragged into all-out civil war.

U.S., Iraqi and international leaders have sounded alarms this week as new data showed tens of thousands of people have fled their homes in fear of death squads and that some 6,000 civilians may have been killed in just two months.

U.S. data showed attacks on security forces in Baghdad averaged 34 a day over several days, compared to 24 in recent months. Baghdad morgue has taken in 1,000 bodies this month.

Describing the capital as a "must-win" for both the rebels and the government, U.S. military spokesman Major General William Caldwell conceded on Thursday that a month-old clampdown in Baghdad had achieved only a "slight downtick" in violence.
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Report: Approximately 30% of pregnant South African women were HIV positive in 2005

The Raw Story Report: Approximately 30% of pregnant South African women were HIV positive in 2005: "An estimated 30.2% of pregnant South African women were HIV positive in 2005, approximately 5.54 million in total, according to a report released by the Department of Health in South Africa, RAW STORY has found.

The report is based on an annual survey which sampled 16,510 women. The last report for 2004 indicated that 29.5% were HIV positive."...
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Friday, July 21, 2006

U.S. Speeds Up Bomb Delivery for the Israelis - New York Times

U.S. Speeds Up Bomb Delivery for the Israelis - New York Times: "WASHINGTON, July 21 � The Bush administration is rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel, which requested the expedited shipment last week after beginning its air campaign against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, American officials said Friday.

The decision to quickly ship the weapons to Israel was made with relatively little debate within the Bush administration, the officials said. Its disclosure threatens to anger Arab governments and others because of the appearance that the United States is actively aiding the Israeli bombing campaign in a way that could be compared to Iran's efforts to arm and resupply Hezbollah.

The munitions that the United States is sending to Israel are part of a multimillion-dollar arms sale package approved last year that Israel is able to draw on as needed, the officials said. But Israel�s request for expedited delivery of the satellite and laser-guided bombs was described as unusual by some military officers, and as an indication that Israel still had a long list of targets in Lebanon to strike.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday that she would head to Israel on Sunday at the beginning of a round of Middle Eastern diplomacy. The original plan was to include a stop to Cairo in her travels, but she did not announce any stops in Arab capitals. ...

British seize two key militants in Basra

British seize two key militants in Basra��Top News�� "BASRA, Iraq (Reuters) - British forces in the Iraqi city of Basra seized two 'significant' suspects wanted for killings, kidnappings and guerrilla attacks in separate overnight raids, a military spokesman said on Friday.

No shots were fired in the operations that were part of a campaign of arrests that would continue in the mainly Shi'ite southern city, Major Charlie Burbridge said.

He declined to identify those arrested but described them as less senior than a militant seized on Sunday in a raid in which a British soldier was killed.

That man was identified by Shi'ite militant sources as Sajad Abu Aya, the commander of the Mehdi Army Shi'ite militia in Basra province, where much of Iraq's oil wealth is concentrated."

British commanders say they are targeting elements of the Mehdi Army that they believe are out of the control of their nominal leader, radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose movement is a significant part of the national unity government.

Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has pledged to crack down on militias, even though many are linked to his own allies.

Sadr has made no protest over the arrest of several senior figures described by comrades as Mehdi Army commanders, lending credence to the view that some are not following his orders.

The Mehdi Army is accused by many minority Sunnis of running death squads, sometimes in collusion with the police.

Shi'ites also complain about local Islamic militants imposing new social strictures on them, such as making women wear veils

British capture Iraqi bombs mastermind

Telegraph News British capture Iraqi bombs mastermind: "British forces in Iraq have seized a two-ton cache of weapons - including rockets, grenades and bomb-making equipment - belonging to the gang responsible for the deaths of numerous servicemen."

The discovery, which military commanders believe is the most significant breakthrough since they arrived in Iraq in 2003, followed the arrest of the leader of the fundamentalist Shia group in Basra last weekend.

Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, told The Daily Telegraph: "We got a very important person, the leader of a very dangerous militia gang, which will lead to a very significant deterioration in their capability … This is a sign of significant progress."

Mr Browne said Sajjad Badr Adal Saeed, the Jamaa leader who ordered the killing of many British soldiers in roadside attacks, was taken from his home in Basra last Saturday night. Ordnance tactics handbooks, fake IDs and detonators were found.

"This man was a very significant leader," Mr Browne said. "He was a planner, but he also had technical abilities which were very valuable to the militia."

Three days later, British forces used intelligence gathered at the address to track down the weapons cache and bomb-making factory.

Ministry of Defence sources said more than 50 rockets, about 10 rocket-propelled grenades and 150 mortars were seized following a battle. Improvised explosive devices - the roadside bombs that have killed so many British soldiers - were also found, fully assembled, along with mines and other weapons.

One source said: "This is the largest cache we have found in two years." Saeed was "the most significant guy arrested in Iraq" by British forces.

Three militiamen were killed in the fire-fight when the cache was seized.

Although the operation began last weekend, details have not been disclosed until now because the family of Col John Crosby, who was killed during the raid, was still being contacted by the MoD.

Mr Browne said that the arrest of the militia gang leader and the discovery of the weapons had been conducted in conjunction with Iraqi security forces and was a sign of growing co-operation in Basra. "We got very important support from them, particularly in relation to intelligence," he said. "The situation in Basra is still difficult, but our ability to sustain political support allows us to do this sort of thing."
The development will add weight to suggestions of an early withdrawal of British troops.

Mr Browne admitted that Army recruitment could have been undermined by the deaths of British soldiers in Iraq. "If people say there's an Iraq factor, or a mother factor, I'm not in a position to contradict that," he said. "Of course, I can understand it."

[bth: do you think its significant that articles that mention shiite gangs don't seem to mention whether they are allied with Sadr or Badr Brigade?]

Portsmouth Herald Local News: Lone candidate backs Murtha on Iraq

Portsmouth Herald Local News: Lone candidate backs Murtha on Iraq: "MANCHESTER (AP) -- Carol Shea-Porter calls anti-war Congressman John Murtha 'a profile in courage,' but she stands all but alone among Democratic congressional hopefuls in the state. "

Murtha, a former Marine, Vietnam veteran and strong supporter of the military in Congress, shocked the country last fall when he said the U.S. could do no more in Iraq and should withdraw. The Pennsylvania congressman plans to speak to Democrats in Hampton on Sunday.

The New Hampshire Union Leader asked New Hampshire's congressional candidates whether they agree with Murtha's call for prompt withdrawal.

Shea-Porter, one of the Democrats hoping to unseat 1st District Republican Jeb Bradley, said she does agree with him.
"He has spent time in the Veterans Administration medical centers and talking to retired generals," she said. "His view is based on a lot of research."

Like Murtha, she believes the U.S. presence in Iraq "has inflamed terrorism. People are looking at us as occupiers."

"We're not in a war," added Shea-Porter, who is married to a veteran. "We're occupying Iraq. George Bush told us the war ended. We're fighting insurgency. I call that a civil war and I feel we need to leave."

Shea-Porter faces state Rep. James Craig of Manchester, David Jarvis of Londonderry and Gary Dodds of Rye in Sept. 12 Democratic primary for the 1st District seat held by Republican Jeb Bradley.

Craig said he is not privy to enough military expertise and inside information to say whether he agrees with Murtha or not. Until he learns more, "I'm not saying that I agree with (Murtha), but I'm not saying that I don't," he said.

Craig deplored how politicized the war has become and called for a bipartisan effort to determine the best way ahead.

Jarvis said setting a date to pull out would be a mistake.

"It was a mistake to invade Iraq," he said. "There were clearly no weapons of mass destruction, but we're there and made commitments to the Iraqi people. The stability of the region depends on fulfilling our mission there.

"We now need to make sure Iraq is stable," he said.

Dodds did not respond to the paper's request for an interview. But he says on his Web site that he supports U.S. Sen. Russell Feingold's call for withdrawing all U.S. troops by the end of this year, starting by pulling them back from the front lines.

Concord lawyer Paul Hodes is unopposed in the Democratic primary in the 2nd District, represented by Republican Charles Bass. Hodes said Congress should use its budget power to force the administration to come up with a plan for "strategic redeployment."

Congress "has not held the administration accountable for a smart, focused plan for Iraq and making the United States more secure in facing global terrorism. As a congressman, I will hold the administration accountable for what they need to do," Hodes said.

As for withdrawal, Hodes said, "I believe the American people want us to begin immediately on a process, but I want to see a reasonable approach that protects our troops, protects the American people and does what we can to make sure to prevent a failed state while making clear that we are not staying forever."

Bradley and his Republican colleague in the 2nd District, Charles Bass, agree with President Bush that progress is being made stabilizing Iraq and the United States should stay the course. Their challengers in the GOP primary agree.

Bradley said he opposes setting a timeline for U.S. withdrawal.
"It would serve well the insurgents and the terrorists who are killing American soldiers and innocent Iraqi citizens and be tremendously disruptive to the new Iraqi government," he said.

"I think we are moving closer to a time when the presence of American soldiers will not be as great," Bradley said. "Iraqis are taking over the day-to-day security, and their performance is improving.

"As that continues, there will be less need for American troops to be on the front lines. And I hope, in a reasonable time period and if conditions warrant, our troops will, first, be more in the background, and, secondly, be able to withdraw."

Bradley's GOP challenger, Michael Callis of Conway, said American troops "should be redeployed in areas where they wouldn't be as visible, such as on the border with Iran, but be mobile enough to go to the hot spots."

Bass also opposes quick withdrawal, which, he said, "would lead to the collapse or significant changes in the political situation in Iraq."

"We're making progress there," Bass said, "and the military commander will set the policy and the withdrawal time. For Congress and politicians to try back-seat driving is not a smart thing."

Bass' Republican challenger, Berlin Mayor Bob Danderson, said that with a son and a stepson in the Air Force, "I'm concerned about what's happening in Iraq, but I believe politicians should get out of the war game. We need to listen to our generals and believe they are making the right decisions."
"We in Berlin have lost a soldier in the war, and I'd hate to think that his death would be in vain," Danderson said. "It's very important that we accomplish our goal of having Iraq become a democracy."

Iraq "should not be an open-ended war," he said, "but to give an exact withdrawal date only encourages our enemies. The insurgents, which are terrorist, would be inspired by something like that. We should battle this with all our might."
On NBC's "Meet the Press" last month, Murtha made it clear he disagrees with those who advocate staying the course.

"We're fighting a war of ideals and ideas. It's no longer a military war. We have won the military war against their, their enemy. We toppled Saddam Hussein. The military's done everything that they can do. And so it's time for us to redeploy. And Iraqi(s) -- only Iraqis can settle this," he said.

He also disagreed with those saying the U.S. is making progress. He hopes Iraq becomes a democracy, he said, "but I don't see it happening."

Looking at statistics on violence, oil and electricity production, roadside bombs and other indicators, he said, "every single measurement that I use is either below pre-war level or is going backward."

As much as I like and respect Israel. I view this as fundamentally wrong. Posted by Picasa

Israeli children signing artillery? Posted by Picasa

Lebanon Posted by Picasa

No, this is not 'our war'

WorldNetDaily: No, this is not 'our war': "My country has been 'torn to shreds,' said Fouad Siniora, the prime minister of Lebanon, as the death toll among his people passed 300 civilian dead, 1,000 wounded, with half a million homeless.

Israel must pay for the 'barbaric destruction,' said Siniora.

To the contrary, says columnist Lawrence Kudlow, 'Israel is doing the Lord's work.' "

On American TV, former Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu says the ruination of Lebanon is Hezbollah's doing.

But is it Hezbollah that is using U.S.-built F-16s, with precision-guided bombs and 155-mm artillery pieces to wreak death and devastation on Lebanon?

No, Israel is doing this, with the blessing and without a peep of protest from President Bush. And we wonder why they hate us.

"Today, we are all Israelis!" brayed Ken Mehlman of the Republican National Committee to a gathering of Christians United for Israel.

One wonders if these Christians care about what is happening to our Christian brethren in Lebanon and Gaza, who have had all power cut off by Israeli airstrikes, an outlawed form of collective punishment, that has left them with no sanitation, rotting food, impure water and days without light or electricity in the horrible heat of July.

When summer power outrages occur in America, it means a rising rate of death among our sick and elderly, and women and infants. One can only imagine what a hell it must be today in Gaza City and Beirut.

But all this carnage and destruction has only piqued the blood lust of the hairy-chested warriors at the Weekly Standard. In a signed editorial, "It's Our War," William Kristol calls for America to play her rightful role in this war by "countering this act of aggression by Iran with a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. Why wait?"

"Why wait?" Well, one reason is that the United States has not been attacked. A second is a small thing called the Constitution. Where does George W. Bush get the authority to launch a war on Iran? When did Congress declare war or authorize a war on Iran?

Answer: It never did. But these neoconservatives care no more about the Constitution than they cared about the truth when they lied into war in Iraq.

"Why wait?" How about thinking of the fate of those 25,000 Americans in Lebanon if we launch an unprovoked war on Iran. How many would wind up dead or hostages of Hezbollah if Iran gave the order to retaliate for the slaughter of their citizens by U.S. bombs? What would happen to the 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, if Shiites and Iranian "volunteers" joined forces to exact revenge on our soldiers?

What about America? Richard Armitage, who did four tours in Nam and knows a bit about war, says that, in its ability to attack Western targets, al-Qaida is the B Team, Hezbollah the A Team. If Bush bombs Iran, what prevents Hezbollah from launching retaliatory attacks inside the United States?

None of this is written in defense of Hamas, Hezbollah or Iran.
But none of them has attacked our country, nor has Syria, whom Bush I made an ally in the Gulf War and to whom the most decorated soldier in Israeli history, Ehud Barak, offered 99 percent of the Golan Heights. If Nixon, Bush I and Clinton could deal with Hafez al-Assad, a tougher customer than son Bashar, what is the matter with George W. Bush?

The last superpower is impotent in this war because we have allowed Israel to dictate to whom we may and may not talk. Thus, Bush winds up cussing in frustration in St. Petersburg that somebody should tell the Syrians to stop it. Why not pick up the phone, Mr. President?

What is Kristol's moral and legal ground for a war on Iran? It is the "Iranian act of aggression" against Israel and that Iran is on the road to nuclear weapons – and we can't have that.

But there is no evidence Iran has any tighter control over Hezbollah than we have over Israel, whose response to the capture of two soldiers had all the spontaneity of the Schlieffen Plan. And, again, Hezbollah attacked Israel, not us. And there is no solid proof Iran is in violation of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which it has signed, but Israel refuses to sign.

If Iran's nuclear program justifies war, why cannot the neocons make that case in the constitutional way, instead of prodding Bush to launch a Pearl Harbor attack? Do they fear they have no credibility left after pushing Bush into this bloody quagmire in Iraq that has cost almost 2,600 dead and 18,000 wounded Americans?

No, Kenny boy, we are not "all Israelis." Some of us still think of ourselves as Americans, first, last and always
And, no, Mr. Kristol, this is not "our war." It's your war.

[bth: I detest being put in any situation by allies or enemies where I begin to see logic in Pat Buchanan's statements.]
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U.S., Japan to Start Deploying Missile Interceptors

U.S., Japan to Start Deploying Missile Interceptors: "TOKYO, July 20 -- The United States and Japan will begin deploying American-made anti-missile systems on Japanese soil next month amid growing concern about North Korean arms, officials announced Thursday."

In addition to the deployment of the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 system -- the ballistic missile interceptors known as PAC-3 -- the Pentagon will dispatch 600 specially trained troops from Fort Bliss, Tex., to a U.S. base in southern Japan.

The PAC-3 will initially be deployed on American military sites; Japanese officials said they would deploy it on their own Self-Defense Forces bases for the first time by March. A Defense Ministry official said the rollout would begin at Iruma Air Base just west of Tokyo, spreading to three other nearby bases by 2007. Japan intends to keep deploying the system at several more military installations throughout the country through 2010.

North Korea's most sophisticated missile -- a Taepodong-2 with an estimated range as far as the continental United States-- failed moments after liftoff during a test this month. The North Koreans successfully test-fired six short- and medium-range missiles, all of them capable of reaching any part of Japan, including U.S. bases here.

"In view of the development, deployment and proliferation of ballistic missiles in the region, and the clear and present threats such as the recent missile launches by North Korea in particular, the Government of Japan will continue to do its utmost to build up its ballistic missile defense capabilities in close cooperation with the United States," the Japanese Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

U.S. military officials said the Pentagon planned to relocate the Patriot-equipped Air Defense Artillery Battalion from Fort Bliss to the U.S. Kadena Air Base and the nearby munitions storage area on Okinawa island. Japanese officials said the system is scheduled to be at least partially operational by year's end.

Japanese officials said they were consulting with local authorities in Okinawa -- who have been highly critical of the U.S. military presence there -- about the additional U.S. troops required to operate the system. But the officials also said the plan would move ahead with or without local blessings.

The PAC-3 system is designed to intercept incoming ballistic missiles in their final phase and will form a key part of the broader missile defense shield being co-developed by the United States and Japan. Some experts have questioned the success rate of the PAC-3 system in testing, saying it still requires fine-tuning.

Additionally, the Japanese are to deploy the Standard Missile 3 interceptor missile, which will be based aboard Japanese Aegis-class destroyers.
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James Carroll Concludes the Pentagon Is Our Out-of-Control 'House of War'

James Carroll Concludes the Pentagon Is Our Out-of-Control 'House of War' BuzzFlash: "It isn't that the United States shouldn't exercise power in the world. It's that it only knows how to exercise one kind of power -- the hard brutal power of military force.

We've totally neglected the soft power of diplomacy. The State Department should be at the center of American government expenditure and energy. It isn't.
... And we neglect what really threatens us.

* * *

Author James Carroll is a winner of the National Book Award and an astute columnist for The Boston Globe. He talks here with BuzzFlash about his newest book, House of War: The Pentagon and the Disastrous Rise of American Power. He connects the dots, gets the big picture, and provides insights that can help us all grasp the reasons for war -- and see how we can find alternatives. "...

BuzzFlash: We might explain for the sake of non-partisanship and historical accuracy that JFK won the election of 1960 by a narrow margin, and part of his march to victory was the alleged missile gap with the Soviet Union.

James Carroll: That’s true, and I address that in some detail in House of War. The late 1950s was a time of American panic -- panic that the Soviet Union was coming. The old theme of the Cold War is: "The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming." It was actually the phrase that was on the lips of James Forrestal not long before he committed suicide in a fit of clinical paranoia. But the American political paranoia that Forrestal helped put in place would show up again and again in a fear that the Russians were coming with the massive ability to destroy us. After Sputnik, when the Russians were the first to put a satellite into outer space, demonstrating a mastery of very high-powered rocketry, the United States responded with a kind of panic, embodied in Kennedy’s warning about the so-called missile gap.

There was a missile gap, of course -- and it was hugely in our favor. But Kennedy himself participated in this paranoid mindset. As President later, he saw it the way Eisenhower saw it -- for what it was -- and began to try to do something about it, which is another important part of the Kennedy story.

BuzzFlash: But as a political strategy, it is accurate to say, and worthy of note, that we had a Democratic candidate who won his election in part because he outflanked the Republicans by accusing them of compromising our national security. His campaign created a nonexistent missile gap. He campaigned on the notion that Eisenhower and Nixon, who he was running against, had let the Russians advance beyond us.

James Carroll: Kennedy established a paradigm that the American political system is still at the mercy of, which is you can’t run for high office in this country without claiming the toughest piece of the landscape. You cannot be a candidate for high office while appearing soft, which is a curse that’s now bedeviling the Democrats as they try to figure out how to take a position on the war in Iraq.

The important thing about the dynamics inside the Pentagon as I track it in House of War is that this does transcend Republicans and Democrats both. When you look at the Kennedy administration, the Carter administration, right through the Clinton administration, they’re all at the mercy of this dynamic just as much as the Republicans are.

Carter came into office announcing that his central purpose was to stop the upward escalation of the arms race and begin the reduction of nuclear weapons. He left office having done the opposite. Clinton presided over the greatest opportunity in our history for significant change in altering this dynamic, and he did not succeed in altering it in any real way at all. He kept the American Cold War arsenal and mentality alive and in amber, ready to hand it on to George W. Bush, who has resuscitated it with a vengeance. So the lesson of House of War is that the Democrats and Republicans are equally at the mercy of the dynamic that is set loose in the Pentagon.

BuzzFlash: Let’s shift for a second to another issue which is a very key point, which is the industrial side of the military-industrial complex. We have a military budget of hundreds of billions of dollars every year. Much of this goes to military contractors -- Lockheed Martin, General Electric, Northrop Grumman. They’re getting billions of dollars in contracts to create weapons systems which may or may not work.

Sometimes, even after they don’t work, the projects continue. One of the biggest examples of this is the very controversial missile defense system, which has recently come back into news coverage because of the launching of missiles by North Korea.

What is the relationship there? We privatize the production of our military weapons systems that cost billions and billions of dollars. And the companies that are creating the weapons system are lobbying for the defense budget so they can get the contracts.

James Carroll: When Eisenhower warned of the military-industrial complex, he could easily have called it the military-industrial-Congressional-academic-labor-media-cultural complex, because all of the pins of American culture have been brought into this dynamic. What that means is that the nation itself has an interest in keeping the ethos of war going -- an economic interest, overwhelmingly. What this does is it makes us blind to real perceptions of national security. When there are so many rewards that follow on an extremely exaggerated notion of what threatens us from abroad -- when there are so many domestic rewards attached to the threat -- the worse the threat, the more money that flows to industry, the more money that flows to the campaign coffers of politicians, the more money that flows to the grants of professors in universities, the more jobs that flow to labor.

The worse the threat abroad, the more reward at home. And here’s the tragedy: When we build our entire economy, culture, and academia around perceived threats that start out as fanciful, the tragedy is the threats then can become real.
We see this at play today in relationship to Korea. Clearly the way to respond to what’s coming at us from Korea is through diplomacy, methods of economic interaction, bringing Korea into the culture of nations. That’s the way to deal with them. What we’re doing is the opposite. We’re isolating them by perceiving the threat in extreme terms, as if they can wipe out San Francisco tomorrow. What we do is we put in place a dynamic that gives them every incentive for going forward to create an enhanced nuclear arsenal -- we give Korea reasons to do the worst. We’re doing that because it rewards so many aspects of our culture to do it. The more that people become afraid of that Korean missile, the more money is going to flow into missile defense. You can see it coming already. Of course, the missile defense is a fanciful illusion. That won’t become real. But the Korean threat indeed will.

BuzzFlash: We build paradigms of national security -- and the Bush administration is masterful at this -- that somehow the only threat to our country is a missile from North Korea, and not the nuclear bomb that’s coming in in a suitcase.

James Carroll: Of course.

BuzzFlash: There’s no anti-ballistic missile system that can stop a bomb that’s going to come into New York and blow up New York that someone floats up the Hudson River. But somehow we create this notion that we’re only vulnerable through ICBMs.

James Carroll: Right.

BuzzFlash: And therefore we have to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on a missile defense system that doesn’t work.

James Carroll: And we neglect what really threatens us. How many tens of billions of dollars have we spent in Iraq in the last three years? Would American security not be far more enhanced if that money had gone to fund the creation of economic infrastructure in the West Bank and Gaza, showing the world, and especially the Arab and Muslim worlds, that the United States stands for human development for people who are impoverished and disenfranchised? Israel would be secure. The Arab world would have a reason to perceive us radically differently than it does today. And the clash of civilizations that bin Laden hoped to ignite would not have happened. Tens of billions of dollars would today be rescuing this desperately impoverished population of human beings who find themselves now at the edge of a literal as well as a moral abyss. The real security threats, in other words, are not being addressed by our military responses. They’re being made worse by them.

BuzzFlash: You combine a wonderful ability to research with a tremendous eloquence and threading the dots together -- also with extreme compassion, as you just outlined at least an attempt at a solution that’s much better than the one we’re currently seeing for the Middle East conflict. But let's go back to your point that it’s not just the companies that are profiting off of the military-industrial complex, but it’s academics, it’s Congress and it’s labor.

Let’s give one example and show how this might work. Let’s say there's a district where there’s a lot of defense industry, it could be anyplace -- like Massachusetts, where Raytheon is. Let’s say the Congress says we need to cut back on some programs. The Congressman goes up to Rumsfeld and says: look, I need this for my district. The union says we’ve got 3,000 people employed at that plant. We would have an economic catastrophe. The mayors in that district go to the Congressperson and say: We need to keep that plant open. Let’s say they’re producing a certain type of rocket, and that private defense contractor uses academic research. They fund research at a major university and that research helps them build this rocket, and create enhanced capabilities for it.

So there we have everything tied together that you said. The Congressperson goes to the Secretary of Defense and says we can’t afford to lose this in my district. Maybe they’re Republican, in this case, and if you want to keep the Republican majority, I need these things funded, and I need the President to sign them. Can you tell the Secretary of Defense to back off and not eliminate this project? The word goes out to the Secretary of Defense: We need those 3,000 jobs because we need this Congressional district, and it’s a close district. If that project is shut down, 3,000 jobs are going to be lost. Research funding is going to be lost. The unions are going to be upset. The mayors are going to be upset. The company’s going to be upset and they give a lot of campaign contributions to us.This is not an unforeseeable circumstance, really.

James Carroll: No. It happens all over the place.
BuzzFlash: We are perpetuating a program that may not work, purely for political purposes.

James Carroll: It’s a perfect summary of the problem. We keep contracts coming to Raytheon for the missile defense program, for example -- because there is a short-term economic or political benefit for such a thing -- but the long-term consequence is to keep alive in the world the ethos of the arms race. Even if the real justification for the American commitment to missile defense is domestic economic benefit, the real consequence is that China and Russia have no choice but to move to escalations of their offensive capability to counterbalance it.

In 1989 to 1991 in this country, there was a lot of talk about the transformation of the American military system into alternative uses. We have to go through the painful process of transforming our economy away from the preparation for war toward the remediation of those things that really threaten us.

What really threatens the security of the United States? The economic and cultural threat of environmental disaster is an obvious one. The threat to our national security of the increasing gulf between the rich and the poor is another one. What was Hurricane Katrina? It was a wake up call on the real cost of sixty years of neglect of American infrastructure.

Why was New Orleans vulnerable to that hurricane? Why were the vast population of underprivileged people most at risk? Because for two generations, we have neglected those serious security needs of ours as a people in favor of these spurious false security needs defined by the arms race. The end of the Cold War has given us -- and it’s still here -- a massive opportunity to change the system.

BuzzFlash: Let's consider the perpetuation of weapons systems even if they don’t work, or creating new weapons systems that might not be necessary. If you looked at the military as a company, it’s a huge workforce. You’ve got the Pentagon, and bases all over the world.

James Carroll: The national security establishment is probably America’s number-one industry.

BuzzFlash: So if we look at the Pentagon as an industry of national security -- you don’t advance and you don’t utilize those systems unless you have war.

James Carroll: Yes, it’s true. And let’s be clear on why we go to war. We don’t go to war because of authentic national security issues. We go to war to preserve this dynamic. After the Cold War, the war that saved the system was the Gulf War. The reason we went to war against Saddam Hussein in 1991 very clearly had much more to do with the preservation of the Cold War system in America than it had to do with the threat that was posed by Saddam Hussein....