Saturday, August 12, 2006

Hansen: Besides 'luggage war,' home front remains untouched "On my trip to the Des Moines airport Thursday morning, a woman on the radio was giving her version of how war is hell.

She was about to board a flight to wherever. She'd just bought a bottle of vodka when somebody told her she'd have to remove it from her carry-on bag and put it in her check-in luggage.

The woman was put out. She sounded as if somebody had asked her to leave the Green Zone without body armor and a Humvee."

She did it, though, because she's a patriot, and sacrifice is what makes this country great. That and she'd be stuck in Newark if she didn't.

The unhappy radio woman, I'm happy to report, was the exception. Most of the air travelers were good sports about the inconvenience.

On the day the London police thwarted a scary new terrorist plot, peace and tranquility reigned at the Des Moines airport. Lines were short, delays few and the mood positive.

The sign at the top of the escalator said, "Security Alert!! No liquids, gels, toothpaste, creams, shampoo permitted through the security checkout."Security alert - no toothpaste?

As sacrifice goes, it isn't exactly World War II, with citizens organizing scrap drives and rationing food, clothing and gas. It isn't Rosie the Riveter heading off to the munitions plant every morning while her man fights Hitler overseas.

But if giving up personal hygiene products is what it takes to keep us safe in 2006 - we'll do what we can.

There was still some uncertainty Thursday, even in insulated Des Moines. Did over-the-counter eye-drops count as one of the forbidden items? Or does Visine qualify as medicine? And what about breast milk?

I don't mean to make light of a potential catastrophe. A terrorist plot is no situation comedy.

But five years after Sept. 11, when everything supposedly changed forever, it's looking more and more like hardly anything changed at all.

Some of us worried we'd be like Israel, under constant attack. Every few days there goes another bus, train, cafe or nightclub.

Five years ago, everyone knew it was a matter of time before they hit us again. And the next time would be far worse.

Instead of 3,500 dead, there might be 35,000. Or more.

But here we are, still untouched on the home front.Are we safer than five years ago? The president says yes. His detractors say no.

Who knows for sure? How do you measure such a thing?

This much is certain: We've been really lucky.

Not all of us. Three thousand of our young men and women have died on the other side of the world. Tens of thousands of Iraqis are gone.

We rely on a volunteer military to do the dirty work. We aren't sure why anyone would sign up for the job, but thank God they do.

They're so close to the blood. We're so far removed. They deal with life and death. We fight the carry-on luggage war.

Five years ago, when you approached the parking garage at the Des Moines airport, you stopped at the gate while somebody checked your trunk for weapons and explosives.

When did they stop doing that? I can't remember.

Five years ago, nobody knew a Sunni from a Shiite. About all we know now is they don't play nice and probably never will.Half of us still think Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was responsible for 9/11.

Most of us, including the president, still think the bad guys hate us for our freedom, our values and our way of life. Academics and think-tankers keep saying the real goal is "liberating" every inch of land that ever belonged to Islam.Still others say we would have been better off saving our bullets and bombs for Iran. Iran, Iraq ... the important thing is taking the fight there so the terrorists won't bring it here.

It sounds good, but was that really the objective in the old "mission accomplished" days? It happened so long ago, I don't recall. The fog of war takes many forms.
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U.S. Ambassador Says Iran Is Inciting Attacks

U.S. Ambassador Says Iran Is Inciting Attacks - New York Times: "BAGHDAD, Iraq, Aug. 11 - Iran is pressing Shiite militias here to step up attacks against the American-led forces in retaliation for the Israeli assault on Lebanon, the American ambassador to Iraq said Friday. Iran may foment even more violence as it faces off with the United States and United Nations over its nuclear program in the coming weeks, he added.

The Iranian incitement has led to a surge in mortar and rocket attacks on the fortified Green Zone, said the ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad.

The four-square-mile Green Zone, protected by layers of concrete blast walls and concertina wire on the west bank of the Tigris River here, encloses baroque palaces built by Saddam Hussein that now house the seat of the Iraqi government and the American Embassy.

The Shiite guerrillas behind the recent attacks are members of splinter groups of the Mahdi Army, the powerful militia created by the radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, Mr. Khalilzad said.

The splinter groups have ties to Iran, which is governed by Shiite Persians, and to Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shiite Arab militia in Lebanon that has been battling Israel for a month, the ambassador added."

There is evidence that Iran is pushing for more attacks, he said, without offering any specifics. But he acknowledged that there was no proof that Iran was directing any particular operations by militias here.

Iran is seeking to put more pressure, encourage more pressure on the coalition from the forces that they are allied with here, and the same is maybe true of Hezbollah,” Mr. Khalilzad said in an interview Friday in his home inside the Green Zone.

His remarks are the first public statements by a senior Bush administration official directly linking violence in Iraq to American support of Israel’s military campaign in Lebanon, and to growing pressure by the United States over Iran’s nuclear program. Until now, American officials have not publicly drawn a direct connection between Shiite militant groups here and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Mr. Khalilzad’s comments also reinforce the observations of some analysts that the rise of the majority Shiites in Iraq, long oppressed by Sunni Arab rulers, is fueling the creation of a “Shiite crescent” across the Middle East, with groups in Iraq, Iran and Lebanon working together against common enemies, whether they be the United States, Israel or Sunni Arab nations.

Despite the recent attacks by the splinter groups, Mr. Khalilzad insisted that the most powerful Shiite leaders in Iraq had not yet pushed for more violence against the Americans, even though Iran would like them to. That includes Mr. Sadr, he said.

Generally the Shia leadership here have behaved more as Iraqi patriots and have not reacted in the way that perhaps the Iranians and Hezbollah might want them to,” Mr. Khalilzad said.

Iran and Hezbollah want the Iraqi Shiite leaders “to behave by mobilizing against the coalition or taking actions against the coalition,” he added.

In their public addresses, the top Shiite leaders in Iraq have forcefully condemned the Israeli assault on Lebanon, much more so than senior officials in Sunni Arab countries.

Denunciations have come from Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most revered Shiite cleric here, from Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and from Parliament, which called the Israeli airstrikes “criminal aggression.”

When Mr. Maliki visited Washington last month, Congressional leaders pressed him to denounce Hezbollah as a terrorist group, but he dodged the request.

The mercurial Mr. Sadr has come closest of the Shiite leaders in hinting that Iraqis might take up arms in support of Hezbollah. He said in late July that Iraqis would not “sit by with folded hands” while Lebanon burned, and on Aug. 4 he summoned up to 100,000 followers to an anti-Israeli and anti-American rally in Baghdad.

Most of those who showed up were angry young men, many swathed in white cloths symbolizing funeral shrouds and some toting Kalashnikov rifles.

On Friday a senior cleric in Mr. Sadr’s movement, Sheik Asad al-Nasiri, told worshipers at Mr. Sadr’s main mosque in Kufa that “the Zionist entity’s power has been broken and has been weakened in the battle.” He asserted that “the resistance has given the best examples of bravery and sacrifice.”

Sympathy with Hezbollah is not limited to the radical fringe. As images of the destruction in Lebanon continue flickering across the Arab television networks, many ordinary Iraqis say they would join what they call a holy war against American-backed Israel.

Mr. Khalilzad said Iran could stoke more violence among the Shiite militias as the end of the month draws nearer. That is expected to be a time of high tension between Iran and the United States, because a United Nations Security Council resolution gives Iran until Aug. 31 to suspend its uranium enrichment activities or face the threat of economic and diplomatic sanctions. Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has insisted that Iran will pursue its nuclear program.

Mr. Khalilzad said, “The concern that we have is that Iran and Hezbollah would use those contacts that they have with groups and the situation here, use those to cause more difficulties or cause difficulties for the coalition.”

If the United Nations adopts another resolution against Iran after the Aug. 31 deadline, he said, that “could increase the pressure on Iran,” and “Iran could respond to it by further pressing its supporters or people that it has ties with, or people that it controls, to increase the pressure on the coalition, not only in Iraq but elsewhere as well.”

Some military analysts cast the Israel-Hezbollah war as a proxy struggle between the United States and Iran, and prominent conservatives in Washington have called for American military action against Iran.

William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, said on Fox News last month that the Bush administration had been “coddling” Iran and that the war in Lebanon and Israel represented “a great opportunity to begin resuming the offensive against” militant Islamists.

Here in Iraq, the Iranian-backed Mahdi Army rose up twice against the Americans in 2004, and American and British forces have stepped up operations recently against elements of it, raiding hideouts and engaging in pitched battles in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad and in the area around Basra, the southern port city.

On Monday, American forces called in an air attack during a raid in Sadr City. Prime Minister Maliki, who depends on Mr. Sadr for political support against rival Shiites, denounced the raid, saying he had never approved it and that the Americans had used “excessive force.”

American military officials have given few details about ties between Shiite militias here and Iran or Hezbollah, except to say they believe that Iran has given technology for lethal shaped-charge explosives to Iraqi militias. Iran may have passed on the technology via Hezbollah, some officials have said.

Western security advisers confirmed Friday that there had been a recent spate of mortar and rocket attacks on the Green Zone, known to some as the International Zone. It is unclear whether anyone was wounded or killed by the strikes.

A spokesman for the American military, Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, declined to give details.

We aren’t interested in discussing attacks on the International Zone, their effectiveness or who may be responsible,” he said in an e-mail message.

Leaders in the Sadr Organization say parts of the Mahdi Army are not under their control. Those rogue elements, they say, carry out attacks without guidance from Mr. Sadr or his top commanders.

Abdul Razzaq al-Saiedi contributed reportingfor this article.

[bth: virtually all news coming out of Iraq from embedded reporters is now highly censored. Not even photos of combat damaged vehicles are allowed. ....

Think about the implications of this - the American public is completely in the dark now and they haven't even caught on. Amazing. ....

The neocons still want the US to go to war with Iran. Iran clearly wants to stir up the Shia in Iraq and Lebanon to draw off pressure of US attacks against them especially next month when the UN puts the hammer down on Iran. ...

There is a great deal of misinformation about these shaped charges and Irans involvement largely perpetuated by folks over at the American Enterprise Institute, AIPAC and selective unattributed commentary occassionally coming out of the Pentagon and paid talking heads. The best I can tell is that the improvised shaped charges became effectively used in South Africa in the 1980s and that technology was written into manuals and further refined with improved detonators by Hezbollah against Israeli armor in southern Lebanon in the 80s and 90s.

This technology is not very difficult to make - virtually any equipped machine shop could do it. Hezbollah used its connections with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard to produce and sell shaped charges in limited quantity -probably from one machine shop according to forensic evidence on the charges (machine grooves) - which were made from a machine shop in Iran and sold to friendly Shia that wanted to attack British forces near Basra. Gradually the knowledge of contruction of shaped charges and the refinement of them into cleverly disguised IEDs (buried in fake styrofoam curbs) spread in Iraq (Shia and Sunni neither of which are dumb). ... This is Radio Shack and machine shop level technology, just focused on our armor. ...

So to address the problem, the Sec. of the Navy simply classified all information on this topic including photos of damaged vehicles in June of this year. That took the issue out of the press and off the political radar of Americans. Unfortunately it didn't solve the problem.

In fact IED attacks are up markedly now and their effectiveness has increased. But the American public doesn't know and so far as I can tell, they don't care to know either.

This is how we will lose this war - with a yawn.]
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Israel's Wounded Describe Surprisingly Fierce, Well-Organized and Elusive Enemy - New York Times

Israel�s Wounded Describe Surprisingly Fierce, Well-Organized and Elusive Enemy - New York Times: "...There are dozens of wounded soldiers here in northern Israel's main hospital, and all seem to have stories of unexpectedly fierce ground battles with Hezbollah. They describe Hezbollah as heavily armed, well organized and maddeningly elusive. The fighters, well concealed in bunkers and tunnels, emerge to fire automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and antitank rockets, they say, and then quickly disappear again.
In Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon -which led to the birth of Hezbollah -Israeli troops stormed north and reached the outskirts of the capital, Beirut, within two weeks. The goal this time is limited to driving Hezbollah out of rocket range, yet it has proved far more difficult.

After a month of fighting, some 10,000 Israeli soldiers are still waging daily firefights in towns and villages that are five miles or less from the border. In fact, the fighting has sometimes been visible from the Israeli side of the frontier.

Of the more than 80 Israeli soldiers killed in the fighting, 45 have died in the past week as the ground campaign has intensified.

Now that the Israeli government has approved an expanded offensive, the recovering soldiers say they remain confident Israel can drive Hezbollah back from the border, but acknowledge it will involve tough fighting that could last weeks, in contrast to the swift and decisive victory many of them expected when the fighting began."...

Why al-Qaeda's real power may be all in the mind

Why al-Qaeda's real power may be all in the mind - Britain - Times Online: "THE more detail we discover about the carnage that was planned to be unleashed, the more it echoes the attacks of September 11, five years ago, in scale and grotesque showmanship.

Never mind that the London Tube bombings and the Madrid attacks exposed the vulnerability of any rail network, which no security measures can overcome. These terrorists had returned to the prototype: the near-simultaneous destruction, in mid-air, of fully loaded jumbo jets belonging to US airlines by a large team of knowing, well-rehearsed suicide bombers."

The immediate question is whether these would-be bombers, like those on September 11, 2001, were part of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda. But that is almost irrelevant. The better question is whether al-Qaeda is now more of an inspiration than an organisation, more powerful in its ability to recruit sympathisers and prompt them to devise their own assaults, than in its ability to plan every detail of the operation and pull the trigger.

There is an air of overreaching competition about the planning of this latest stunt. To blow up a US embassy in Africa is no longer enough. As the terrorists craft their plots, they are aiming for a stunned gasp around the world, for images so horrific that they lock their hold on the world’s television screens for days. And, of course, they are aiming for terror: for the abrupt termination of ordinary life and for the pervasive fear that it may never return.

Even though their plot failed, they achieved that most banal result. The overhead shots of Heathrow, paralysed, echoed the days after September 11, when the world’s most powerful country was entirely cut off.

If they had been content to aim just for a car bomb here and there, as the IRA did, not even requiring the bombers to sacrifice their own lives, they would have achieved this disruption and perpetuated this fear with far less chance of being caught. But to them, it seems, that would not be spectacular enough. They had to aim, in the words of John Reid, the Home Secretary, for the loss of civilian life on an unprecedented scale.

So we had a planned macabre dress-rehearsal, choreographed with the meticulousness of the assassin in The Day of the Jackal, except that it was on a far larger scale.

There lay its weakness. The more complex the plan, the more delayed its operation, the more people who are involved, then the more likely that there will be a leak. That seems to have happened, and the leak may have lain in the links in Pakistan.

Because this group was large and organised, with ties to Pakistan, does that mean that it was formally part of al-Qaeda? Not at all. True, alQaeda has worked hard to claim credit for operations since September 11, notably Madrid. It claimed that it alone had blasted Spain away from President Bush’s side and out of the Iraq war when those bombings brought a change of government and policy.

Yet what is al-Qaeda these days? The taped messages smuggled out from Osama bin Laden and his lieutenant Ayman al-Zawahiri are carefully scripted to spit defiance at the West and to encourage their followers. But they suggest impotence more strongly.

True, neither man has been caught, to make the point thrown at Bush and Tony Blair at the start of every press conference, but there is every sign that their network, such as it was, has been badly damaged.Their own ability to move around is limited to the craggy valleys of the Pakistan-Afghan border.

Their communications are reduced to runners and written (or taped) messages, Western intelligence officials believe. The steady capture of senior al-Qaeda members, many in Pakistan, has removed their ability to move money around, although that is the hardest facility to curb.

Those al-Qaeda captives, who have disappeared off into the dark neverland where the CIA keeps its “high-value” prisoners, have not yielded great stores of information about al-Qaeda, US military officers say. But their removal still appears to have had a real impact.

It was clear in Iraq that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the so-called head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, was well beyond the control of bin Laden or Zawahiri. Intercepted messages to him, which US officials consider authentic, had a distinctly respectful tone, appreciative of his project of igniting civil war in Iraq, but not giving orders (beyond the tentative suggestion that cutting off hostages’ heads on camera was bad for public support).

Iraq has clearly acted as a magnet and an inspiration for “foreign fighters”, many of whom appear to be young Arab men from neighbouring countries, easily rallied to the call of jihad. But there is no sign that for the past couple of years they were under bin Laden’s control, simply his inspiration.

The same goes for the latest alleged terrorists. Their links with Pakistan suggest possible contact with al-Qaeda militants who have woven themselves through that country. But, even more likely, they were inspired by the great, sloshing pool of disaffected young men and teenagers, Pakistani by nationality, often Pashtun by ethnicity, who swill around the Pakistan’s western cities, and for whom 9/11 was the defining inspiration of their adolescence.

For decades such young men, Arab or Pakistani, have found justification for anger, if they sought it, in the Israeli- Palestinian struggle. But their countries’ population booms, combined with the sudden spread of television, has made that anger more combustible by the spark of a shocking image on the overhead television of a street cafĂ©.

Now al-Qaeda has a rival in Hezbollah, taking on Israel in Lebanon, and through it the US, and remaining undefeated. For al-Qaeda, preaching an austere form of Sunni Islam, this challenge by the upstart Shia rival threatens to throw it off the television screens. For several days the British plot has succeeded, but in this global competition to inspire the next band of willing terrorists, al-Qaeda could still lose out to Lebanon.

[bth: does this say that in the battle of hearts and minds, it is a battle between Sunni extremists and Shia rivals to show the world who hates the west more and who can get headlines for hurting it more? Maybe the Isrealis have it right - there is no peace with those who think like this. Still one wonders if there is a better way - an eye for an eye has produced a world of blind men.]

Bush Aides Foresee Gains on Eavesdropping and Guant�namo - New York Times

Bush Aides Foresee Gains on Eavesdropping and Guant�namo - New York Times: "CRAWFORD, Tex., Aug. 11 � White House officials said Friday that the fallout from the discovery of the British bombing plot could help the administration advance its agenda in Congress. The officials cited in particular battles over supervising the program of eavesdropping without warrants and how to try detainees held at Guantnamo Bay, Cuba"

Taking the White House’s lead, Republicans throughout the country used the arrests of terror suspects in Britain to go on the offensive against Democrats for the second day in a row.

They accused Democrats of failing to understand the nature of the terrorist threat facing the nation.

Aides to House Republican leaders said they believed that the arrests would help them make their case on other issues that will allow them to keep the focus on national security, including the call for tighter control of the border with Mexico.
Democrats promised to engage strongly in the newly energized debate on national security, saying they would not cede that ground.

They said they would argue that the White House and the Republican-led Congress had failed to provide the money necessary to protect Americans fully from the threat of terrorism and that President Bush had pursued a foreign policy, especially through the war in Iraq, that has fueled Islamic radicals and created more potential terrorists....

[bth: if torturing prisoners was productive, after five years, don't you think we'd have Osama Bin Laden's head on a pike? This agenda on wiretapping and prisoner torture is about presidential power and erosion of civil liberties by our own government - terrorism is the excuse. Torture and violation of the 4th amendment hasn't produced crap against real terrorists. Straight forward police work in Britain and Pakistan and old fashioned human intelligence produced the results. ...

we are on the verge of losing this war for the world's hearts and minds and we don't even realize it.]

Longtime Hezbollah member provides glimpse into group

McClatchy Washington Bureau 08/11/2006 Longtime Hezbollah member provides glimpse into group: "SIDON, Lebanon - Abu Ali sold food and dairy products wholesale in southern Lebanon a little over a month ago. Now he only works for what he calls the resistance, heading Hezbollah on the outskirts of the southern port city of Sidon.

A tall man with a rugged tanned face, Abu Ali sleeps every night in a different place and never uses a cell phone to contact his men. Instead, he carries a two-way radio and whispers in code. At night, his men, about 25 of them, patrol the streets searching for spies. When things turn suspicious, they pull out their weapons and call Abu Ali to investigate the suspects.

As long as Israel is in Lebanon and continues to attack Lebanese land, Hezbollah will fight, Abu Ali said in an interview on a balcony in Sidon. He spoke at a time when diplomats at the United Nations were scrambling to negotiate a cease-fire resolution that might stop the war. "

Abu Ali said he was confident that Hezbollah, which provoked the latest conflict by kidnapping two Israeli soldiers and firing rockets into Israel, could fight for a long time. The militia has been preparing for battle for six years, since Israel pulled out of southern Lebanon in 2000. Rocket launchers were put in place. Supplies were stored.

Israel's bombing of Lebanon's bridges, roads and apartment buildings in the past month hasn't destroyed Hezbollah's arsenal, he said.

Although Hezbollah is a militant Shiite Muslim group, its fighters come from across Lebanon, and some are of different creeds, including Christian. But most are Shiites and southerners who know the ins and outs of the land.

"From the moment I was born, I was Shiite and I was raised Shiite," Abu Ali said. "The Shiites in Lebanon are in danger. ... We have no problem with the Americans except through the Israelis."

Many people are ready to fight, he added. Guerrilla fighters in the south number in the thousands, he claimed, and those ready to help them are in the tens of thousands.

As for the Israel Defense Forces: "How long can they last here?" Abu Ali asked.

Abu Ali is his nickname, meaning the father of Ali, the name of his oldest son. Some nights he returns home to his four children and wife, prays at about 4:30 a.m. and then sleeps for two or three hours before his day begins. Other nights he can't be with them for his safety and theirs.

"I'm not throwing myself to death," Abu Ali said. "But there is no fear when you die for the right cause."

He was a Hezbollah guerrilla fighter in the south for 17 years until Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon. He's among the men who were celebrated in what was seen as a national victory in 2000. Now, at 42, he's taken on new responsibilities. Most of Hezbollah's guerrilla fighters are between 18 and 35 years old, he said.

"The politics hasn't done anything," Abu Ali said, sipping a small cup of strong Arabic coffee and dragging on a cigarette.

"They (Israelis) are here. ... I'm upset for the people. The Israelis can't leave the people to live in peace."

He said he became a guerrilla fighter after watching Israel invade, take land and bomb villages. He dropped out of college and asked to fight. This is not terrorism, he said. This is resistance.

"I saw this life we lived in the south," he said. "This is our land. They (the Israelis) came to it. We did not come to them."

He went through rigorous training both inside and outside Lebanon.

During the conversation he was interrupted by his English-speaking wife, who offered soda and coffee. His daughter, in a green sleeveless top and pants, wandered in to say hello to his guests.

During the day, he helps the displaced get food, supplies and a place to stay. At night, he keeps the neighborhoods here on the outskirts of Sidon safe, he said.

Sidon is a mostly Sunni city. It's the hometown of a well-known Sunni, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated last year. Even so, Shiite Hezbollah is also here.

Abu Ali's men move stealthily through the city, masking themselves in the dark of night, ready to surprise suspected Israeli spies who may be sending signals to Israeli aircraft.

With four children under the age of 14, Abu Ali worries about their safety in this time of death and destruction. He has in mind a secret place for them to go. But Sidon will always have Abu Ali protecting it, he said.

"I'm a soldier," he said. "Across the entire world what Israel is doing is forbidden."

[bth: take a look at Lind's article posted below regarding the ratio of targets, civilians and military casualties. Also compare the ratio of military casualties between Israel and Hezbollah. Hezbollah is not defeated, not by a long shot. What can Israel target for air attack in this situation?]

On War #178: Collapse of the Flanks

: "In Iraq and Afghanistan, the "coalitions" defeats continue slowly to unroll. In Lebanon, it appears Hezbollah may win not only at the moral and mental, strategic and operational levels, but, astonishingly, at the physical and tactical levels as well. That outcome remains uncertain, but the fact that it is possible portends a revolutionary reassessment of what Fourth Generation forces can accomplish. If it actually happens, the walls of the temple that is the state system will be shaken world-wide."

One pointer to a shift in the tactical balance is the comparative casualty counts. According to the Associated Press, as of this writing Lebanese dead total at least 642, of whom 558 are civilians, 29 Lebanese soldiers (who, at least officially, are not in the fight) and only 55 Hezbollah fighters.

So Israel, with its American-style hi-tech “precision weaponry,” has killed ten times as many innocents as enemies. In contrast, of 97 Israeli dead, 61 are soldiers and only 36 civilians, despite the fact that Hezbollah’s rockets are anything but precise (think Congreves). Israel can hit anything it can target, but against a Fourth Generation enemy, it can target very little. The result not only points to a battlefield change of some significance, it also raises the question of who is the real “terrorist.” Terror bombing by aircraft is still terror.

Understandably, these events keep Americans focused on the places where the fighting is taking place. But more important developments may be occurring on the flanks, largely unnoticed. An analysis piece in the Sunday Cleveland Plain Dealer by Sally Buzbee of AP notes:

Anger toward America is high, extremists are on the upswing, and hopes for democracy in the Middle East lie dashed...

“America, we hate you more than ever,” Ammar Ali Hassan wrote in the independent Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm, in the kind of visceral, slap-in-the-face rhetoric boiling across the region...”

Even many Arab reformers now believe the United States cares more about supporting Israel than anything else, including democracy.

Egypt is one of the three centers of gravity of America’s position in the Middle East, the others being Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. An article by Michael Slackman in the Sunday New York Times suggests that Egyptians’ anger is turning on their own government:

For decades, the Arab-Israeli conflict provided presidents, kings, emirs and dictators of the region with a safety valve for public frustration...

That valve no longer appears to be working in Egypt...

“The regular man on the street is beginning to connect everything together, said Mr. (Kamal) Khalil, the director of the Center for Socialist Studies in Cairo. “The regime impairing his livelihood is the same regime that is oppressing his freedom and the same regime that is colluding with Zionism and American hegemony.”

Today, in an interview with the BBC, Jordan’s King Abdullah warned that the map of the Middle East is becoming unrecognizable and its future appears “dim.”

Washington, which in its hubris ignores both its friends and its enemies, refusing to talk to the latter or listen to the former, does not grasp that if the flanks collapse, it is the end of our adventures in both Iraq and Afghanistan. It is also, in a slightly longer time frame, the end of Israel. No Crusader state survives forever, and in the long term Israel’s existence depends on arriving at some sort of modus vivendi with the region. The replacement of Mubarak, King Abdullah and the House of Saud with the Moslem Brotherhood would make that possibility fade.

To the region, America’s apparently unconditional and unbounded support for Israel and its occupation of Iraq are part of the same picture. For a military historian, the question arises: will history see Iraq as America’s Stalingrad? If we kick the analogy up a couple of levels, to the strategic and grand strategic, there are parallels. Both the German and the American armies were able largely to take, but not hold, the objective. Both had too few troops. Both Berlin and Washington underestimated their enemy’s ability to counter-attack. Both committed resources they needed elsewhere and could not replace to a strategically unimportant objective.

Finally, both entrusted their flanks to weak allies—and to luck.

Let us hope that, unlike von Paulus, our commanders know when to get out, regardless of orders from a leader who will not recognize reality.

Douglas Farah: It is Not Social Isolation that Drives Radicalization, But the Mosques

Douglas Farah: It is Not Social Isolation that Drives Radicalization, But the Mosques: "As the Western world again debates the roots of Islamist attacks on Britain and the United States, the question often posed is "Why do they hate us?" The conventional wisdom is that alienated youth, suffering prejudice and unemployment, migrate to suicide bombings to help redress the grievious injuries suffered by uncaring European societies that offer them no way out. Also mentioned are the broader political issues of Palestine, Iraq and recently, Hezbollah.

But the real answer is not so simple or so trite. There are certainly push factors: undoubtedly Northern Africans, Pakistanis and others suffer prejudice and social isolation. Many are angry at geopolitical issues. "

The quetions is why the isolation, and that leads to the pull factors, which are just as strong and perhaps more important.

The primary pull factor resides in a small number of easily identifiable and identified mosques. Most of the religious institutions are part of the Muslim Brotherhood network. For a more formal look at this, see my paper for the International Strategy and Assessment Center.

What is taught in these mosques, to young people already feeling aggrieved, is not new. They are told that assimilation is wrong and that the more alienated one feels, the closer one is to Allah. Western civilization is degenerate, filthy and full of sin. Rejection of the non-Muslim society in which one lives is a duty, and alienation and hatred a sign of favor from Allah.
Those who are open to this teaching are often then offered special classes and other teaching and opportunities to expand on this concept.

Much of the social isolation surrounding those in these mosques, particularly the UK and the Netherlands, is self imposed. Why integrate or seek to accomodate yourself to the world you live in when alienation is a mark of piety and devotion? How far of a step is it from that to the next logical conclusion? True piety is demonstrated by attacking the oppressive infidel who persecutes Muslims worldwide.

It is time to stop seeing suicide bombers as somehow innocent victims driven by acts of injustice to seek retribution in societies where they are abused. Every society has the stain of prejudice, and it is never right or pretty. But few who feel that way are told that their alienation is Allah’s will and that destroying the societies that may have wronged them is the divinely-approved solution.

This teaching is part of a strategy, outlined by the Brotherhood in its own writings, with the aim of establishing the Muslim caliphate across Europe and the rest of the world.

This ideology and theology of hatred and alienation is not taught by a few isolated and repudiated imams. It is the core teaching of a major component of political Islam, and shared by wahhabi Islamists and Salafists.

Listening to commentators on cable television since the UK plot was uncovered, it is striking how little the pull factors are discussed, rather than solely the easy to identify push factors that make the killers appear to be victims. The enemy has a pretty clear plan and a solid message. We cannot even define who the enemy is.

Pakistan nabs 17 in airplane terror plot - Yahoo! News

Pakistan nabs 17 in airplane terror plot - Yahoo! News: "ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistani intelligence agents have arrested as many as 17 people, some of them British nationals and at least one with alleged ties to al-Qaida, in the plot to blow up jetliners flying from Britain to the United States. "...

[bth: this is in addition to the 24 announced earlier in Britain.]

Friday, August 11, 2006

Bush staff wanted bomb-detect cash moved

Bush staff wanted bomb-detect cash moved - Yahoo! News: "WASHINGTON - While the British terror suspects were hatching their plot, the Bush administration was quietly seeking permission to divert $6 million that was supposed to be spent this year developing new homeland explosives detection technology. "

Congressional leaders rejected the idea, the latest in a series of steps by the Homeland Security Department that has left lawmakers and some of the department's own experts questioning the commitment to create better anti-terror technologies.

Homeland Security's research arm, called the Sciences & Technology Directorate, is a "rudderless ship without a clear way to get back on course," Republican and Democratic senators on the Appropriations Committee declared recently.

"The committee is extremely disappointed with the manner in which S&T is being managed within the Department of Homeland Security," the panel wrote June 29 in a bipartisan report accompanying the agency's 2007 budget.

Rep. Martin Sabo, D-Minn., who joined Republicans to block the administration's recent diversion of explosives detection money, said research and development is crucial to thwarting future attacks and there is bipartisan agreement that Homeland Security has fallen short.

"They clearly have been given lots of resources that they haven't been using," Sabo said.

Homeland Security said Friday its research arm has just gotten a new leader, former Navy research chief Rear Adm. Jay Cohen, and there is strong optimism for developing new detection technologies in the future.

"I don't have any criticisms of anyone," said Kip Hawley, the assistant secretary for transportation security. "I have great hope for the future. There is tremendous intensity on this issue among the senior management of this department to make this area a strength."

Lawmakers and recently retired Homeland Security officials say they are concerned the department's research and development effort is bogged down by bureaucracy, lack of strategic planning and failure to use money wisely.

The department failed to spend $200 million in research and development money from past years, forcing lawmakers to rescind the money this summer.

The administration also was slow to start testing a new liquid explosives detector that the Japanese government provided to the United States earlier this year.

The British plot to blow up as many as 10 American airlines on trans-Atlantic flights was to involve liquid explosives.

Hawley said Homeland Security now is going to test the detector in six American airports. "It is very promising technology and we are extremely interested in it to help us operationally in the next several years," he said.

Japan has been using the liquid explosive detectors in its Narita International Airport in Tokyo and demonstrated the technology to U.S. officials at a conference in January, the Japanese Embassy in Washington said.

Homeland Security is spending a total of $732 million this year on various explosives deterrents and has tested several commercial liquid explosive detectors over the past few years but hasn't been satisfied enough with the results to deploy them.

Hawley said current liquid detectors that can scan only individual containers aren't suitable for wide deployment because they would bring security check lines to a crawl.

For more than four years, officials inside Homeland Security also have debated whether to deploy smaller trace explosive detectors — already in most American airports — to foreign airports to help stop any bomb chemicals or devices from making it onto U.S.-destined flights.

A 2002 Homeland report recommended "immediate deployment" of the trace units to key European airports, highlighting their low cost, $40,000 per unit, and their detection capabilities. The report said one such unit was able, 25 days later, to detect explosives residue inside the airplane where convicted shoe bomber Richard Reid was foiled in his attack in December 2001.

A 2005 report to Congress similarly urged that the trace detectors be used more aggressively, and strongly warned the continuing failure to distribute such detectors to foreign airports "may be an invitation to terrorist to ply their trade, using techniques that they have already used on a number of occasions."

Tony Fainberg, who formerly oversaw Homeland Security's explosive and radiation detection research with the national labs, said he strongly urged deployment of the detectors overseas but was rebuffed.

"It is not that expensive," said Fainberg, who retired recently.

"There was no resistance from any country that I was aware of, and yet we didn't deploy it."

Fainberg said research efforts were often frustrated inside Homeland Security by "bureaucratic games," a lack of strategic goals and months-long delays in distributing money Congress had already approved.

"There has not been a focused and coherent strategic plan for defining what we need ... and then matching the research and development plans to that overall strategy," he said.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (news, bio, voting record) of Oregon, a senior Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee, said he urged the administration three years ago to buy electron scanners, like the ones used at London's airport to detect plastics that might be hidden beneath passenger clothes.

"It's been an ongoing frustration about their resistance to purchase off-the-shelf, state-of-the-art equipment that can meet these threats," he said.

The administration's most recent budget request also mystified lawmakers. It asked to take $6 million from Homeland S&T's 2006 budget that was supposed to be used to develop explosives detection technology and instead divert it to cover a budget shortfall in the Federal Protective Service, which provides security around government buildings.

Sens. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., and Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., the top two lawmakers for Senate homeland appropriations, rejected the idea shortly after it arrived late last month, Senate leadership officials said.

Their House counterparts, Reps. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., and Sabo, likewise rejected the request in recent days, Appropriations Committee spokeswoman Kirsten Brost said. Homeland said Friday it won't divert the money.

Reutersgate strikes other news outlets | Jerusalem Post

Reutersgate strikes other news outlets Jerusalem Post: "At first everyone thought they were just blowing smoke, but the debunking of a Reuters photograph by a group of Web sites has launched a fiery online war in which bloggers have taken on the mainstream media.

Bloggers, or writers on web logs, were the first to reveal that a Reuters photograph depicting plumes of black smoke rising over Beirut was doctored to enhance smoke above the city. The Web site is credited with first revealing the scandal, which has been dubbed Reutersgate, but the affair has spread far wider than the Reuters News Agency and into several of the most esteemed media outlets. "

More than a dozen accusations of staged or doctored photographs have made their way through various Web sites in the past several weeks. None has been treated by the news outlets as seriously as the original Reuters incident, which saw the photographer Adnin Hajj fired and over 900 of his photos removed from the Reuters wire list. But numerous other outlets - including the BBC, The New York Times and AP - have been forced to recall photos or change captions following inaccuracies pointed out in online forums.

The fact that the online community rather than fellow mainstream media has become a watchdog of accuracy has surprised many who originally derided blogs as being "devoid of accuracy."

"In a blog you don't have to be accurate to anyone but yourself and your readers," said Laya Millman from the blog. "There is a great deal of accountability because, if you get anything wrong, the readers will quickly, very quickly, point it out."

As was demonstrated in the case with the Reuters photograph, blogs come with their own teams of investigators: the thousands of readers who stream through the site. Within hours of Charles Johnson's posting on Little Green Footballs, readers of the Web site had gone to work uncovering an array of damning evidence against Hajj, the most serious of which - a second doctored photograph, an Israeli plane altered to make it look as though it was dropping a series of bombs - may have pushed Reuters to fire Hajj after initially announcing that the freelance photographer would be suspended. That photograph, which was discovered by blogger Rusty Shackleford of The Jawa Report, included an illustrated account of how the photos had been doctored.

Photographs whose veracity has been questioned by blogs in the past few weeks since Reutersgate began include:

Two pictures used by The Associated Press and Reuters, in which the same woman appeared to be crying over the destruction of her Beirut home. Distinguished by a red-checkered scarf and scar on her right cheek, the woman was pictured crying in front of two different locations two weeks apart.

Several photographs of a bombed bridge in Beirut which appear on Reuters and AFP with the different captions stating that the bridge had been bombed on July 18, July 24 and August 5. Bloggers claim that the striking image was photographed to look like several different bombings in order to make destruction in Beirut appear more severe.

In The New York Times photo essay "Attack on Tyre," a photograph of a man who appears dead is accompanied with the caption reading "bodies were still buried under the rubble." However, in a later photograph in the same series, the same man appears to be walking in the foreground of a photo. The Times issued a correction for the first photograph, stating that the man was injured.

Some claim that the online controversy over the photos has gotten out of hand, with many blogs now launching investigations and hurling accusations at a variety of news sources.

"These accusations can be very damning, and need to be handled with care and not thrown out by any angry blogger," said one anonymous poster on Little Green Footballs.

In the meantime, however, Little Green Footballs - along with many other online forums - has been flooded with investigations into mainstream media, with the entire army of its hundreds of thousands of readers eagerly at hand.

[bth: propaganda wars are going full blast. This Jerusalem Post article fails to mention that Little Green Footballs and webservices like Debka and World Net Daily seem to be able and willing to plant Likud endorsed stories from time to time. Debka is trash but LGF is actually a good site if you are guarded about what you read. As a example, an interesting and probably planted story was the anonymous source yesterday saying Iranian Republican Guards were found among the dead. True? Not true? In any regard, its good that someone points out frauds when they turn up. These Reuters photos are classics.]

Note that the aluminum frame melted. See puddles of aluminum at lower left Posted by Picasa

13 tanks blasted in a day

The Sun Online - News: 13 tanks blasted in a day: "THIRTEEN Israeli tanks were yesterday destroyed during a daring new ground offensive, Hezbollah claimed.

Its TV station said guerillas attacked advancing Israeli troops in Lebanon's Khiam plain, about five miles across the border.

At least seven tanks were said to have been destroyed there.
The other six tanks were reported to have been hit in the villages of Marjayoun and Ainata, both close to the border.

Hezbollah has been supplied by Iran with hi-tech anti-tank missiles.

Israeli officials confirmed that on Wednesday it suffered its worst one-day loss when 15 soldiers died."...

Unarmored humvee Posted by Picasa

Paying the price

Paying the price Jerusalem Post: "Wednesday is day 29 of the second Lebanon war. In the first phase of the war, our military and civilian leadership seemed to believe that Hizbullah could quickly be defeated almost completely by air power. In the second phase, ground operations were extended first to a narrow strip along the border, and then to the roughly 10-km.-wide security zone Israel had left in 2000. "

By six days ago, it was evidently clear to Defense Minister Amir Peretz that these first two phases were not degrading Hizbullah sufficiently, and he ordered plans for a third phase: pushing north on the ground to a line roughly defined by the Litani River.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that the reason this operation had not previously been approved was that the IDF had not presented it to him. It may be the case that the IDF in recent days both sensed that Peretz and Olmert were waiting to see if the UN Security Council acted and also was not interested in taking control of more territory.

On Monday, a high-ranking Military Intelligence officer told The Jerusalem Post's Yaakov Katz that Hizbullah still retained the "diplomatic power" to thwart the deployment of Lebanese or foreign forces in southern Lebanon. Hizbullah, he noted, still maintained command and control capabilities, and its logistical centers have managed to continue to smuggle weaponry in from Syria. "Hizbullah has not been sufficiently weakened... there may be no choice but to expand the ground operation to the Litani River to achieve that goal," he said.

All this raises the urgent question, what has Israel been waiting for?

If the Lebanese had not been so foolhardy as to reject the proposed Security Council resolution, the option of a wider land offensive would have been closed. But they did, and so Israel has been given a second chance to avoid defeat.

None of this is to say that the decision to send in many more thousands of ground troops and move deeper into a land we desperately want nothing to do with is an easy one. No one, except perhaps Hizbullah, wants Israel to be stuck in Lebanon again. We can expect that more ground forces will probably mean more casualties among our soldiers, even if such an operation succeeds in significantly reducing the barrages of short-range missiles that are terrorizing the north.

On balance, however, the price Israel will have to pay to degrade Hizbullah further will be considerably lower than the one it will pay in the future if it ends this war now. As things stand at present, Hizbullah is politically triumphant and militarily capable of living to fight another day, with its strategy of indiscriminate rocket fire into Israel, from behind the human shield of Lebanon's citizenry, largely unanswered.

The prospect that in the end Israel will be handing over this territory to an ineffective international force may heighten fears of the IDF's getting stuck in Lebanon, but it even more strengthens the case that Israel dare not rely on anyone but itself to defeat Hizbullah.

It is in the supreme interest of the free nations of the world to ensure that Hizbullah is completely disarmed and never allowed to be rebuilt again. That said, it is a fantasy to believe that any international force that ultimately deploys will, regardless of its mandate, go house to house and root out whatever remains of a force that Israel does not succeed in eliminating. The most that can be expected of such a force is that it, together with the Lebanese army, will make it more difficult for Hizbullah to rebuild and, by reporting such efforts, keep the pressure on Lebanon to complete Hizbullah's disarmament, as required by UN Resolution 1559.

Now Lebanon has promised to send its forces south to the border, as Israel and the international community have long demanded. Olmert yesterday called this proposal "interesting." What seems most interesting about it, however, is that Hizbullah is supporting it.

Hizbullah knows that what matters is not promises made now about the south, but whether it is will be a heavyweight political player and a military force in Lebanon after the war.

This is the real measure of victory or defeat. Israel must do what it takes to win, and Israel is not there yet.

[bth: amazing how inexpensive it has been for Hezbullah to instigate the war - it costs $20 per warhead pound to lob rockets into Israel - and it will cost Israel much much more to fight then occupy southern Lebanon once again. The economics of modern warfare have shifted toward the insurgencies.]
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Computerised weaponry and high morale

Guardian Unlimited Special reports Computerised weaponry and high morale: "Israeli forces have been astonished at the discovery of networks of bunkers and computerised weapons in Hizbullah positions, according to officials.

Troops have found air-conditioned bunkers 40 metres (125ft) below the ground and anti-tank weapons that originate in France, the US and Russia in southern Lebanon.

Many of the tactics and weapons employed by Hizbullah have neutralised Israel's military superiority and made a complete victory difficult to achieve."

Hizbullah's use of rockets to attack Israel was not unexpected but the Israeli armed forces have been repeatedly surprised since they went on the offensive a month ago.

The first major shock was when Hizbullah narrowly missed sinking an Israeli destroyer with a Chinese shore-to-sea missile. Four were killed in the attack.

"There were some weapons we did not know about," said General Ido Nehushtan. "There were others such as the unmanned aerial vehicles which we had detected before."

The revelations have increased since Israeli ground forces invaded southern Lebanon. "The main threat is the use of sophisticated anti-tank weapons against our armoured vehicles. One of the most effective is the Kornet which was supplied by Russia to Iran and then to Hizbullah," said Lieutenant Colonel Olivier Rafowicz.

"We have been very surprised by the quantity of weapons and the building that has been carried out in the last six years. We knew they were preparing for war but we did not realise to what extent."

Soldiers have discovered bunkers with listening and observation devices working in tandem with computers.
The bunkers meant that Hizbullah fighters could shelter from Israeli air and artillery bombardment and then surprise advancing Israeli forces. Often the bunkers were so well hidden that fighters could wait until the soldiers had passed and then attack them from behind.

Israel has so far lost more than 80 soldiers in combat. Its highly mobile armour and air support is less effective against guerilla fighters, and its armour has been neutralised by Hizbullah's acquisition of state of the art weapons.

Hizbullah's older anti-tank weapons have been effective against armoured personnel carriers and buildings used by soldiers for shelters. Its newer weapons such as the Russian Kornet and US TOW missiles have been highly effective succeeded in piercing the armour of Israel's main battle tank,
the Merkava, reputedly one of the best-defended tanks in the world.

One member of an Israeli tank crew who had just left Lebanon told the Guardian: "It's terrible. You do not fight anti-tank teams with tanks. You use infantry supported by artillery and helicopters. Wide valleys without shelter are the wrong place to use tanks."

Although he said Hizbullah's weapons had been supplied by Iran, Lt Col Rafowicz admitted the militants' prowess also stemmed from its morale and organisation. They are very keen to engage our forces. They are not wearing suicide bomb belts but they are not afraid to die, which makes deterrence very difficult."

Gen Nehushtan said: "We have to recognise that we will be dealing with new definitions of victory. There will be no white flags being raised on this battlefield," he said.

[bth: the face of modern warfare is changing before our eyes. Classifying the problem as the Americans have done with IEDs since June will not solve the problem or bring victory - just hide it from the public for a few more months until after the election.]
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Foiled Plot Swings Voter Attention to Terror War - Foiled Plot Swings Voter Attention to Terror War: "WASHINGTON -- The foiled British bombing plot is likely to benefit President Bush and the Republican Party, at least in the short term, by reminding voters of national-security concerns and the war on terror -- two areas where the president and his party have earned high marks from U.S. citizens.

News of the plot also may help moderate, more-hawkish Democrats, who have been losing ground to their party's liberal wing. However, the re-emergence of threats to U.S. air travel hinders the Democratic Party's broad efforts to score points off Republicans by spotlighting the U.S.'s struggles in Iraq."

Two days after Connecticut Democrats dealt a stinging rebuke to Sen. Joseph Lieberman over his support for the Iraq war, the plot served as a reminder of how quickly political fortunes can shift when tied to fast-moving events around the world. Yesterday, hawks were seizing the moment.

President Bush, in a televised statement from Green Bay, Wis., where he traveled to speak about the economy and attend a congressional fund-raiser, said the arrests "are a stark reminder that this nation is at war with Islamic fascists....It is a mistake to believe that there is no threat to the United States of America." In a line likely to be repeated often before Election Day, the president also said that America is safer than before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

For his part, Sen. Lieberman, back on the campaign trail as an independent candidate, compared the plotters to Nazis and made a pitch for bipartisan unity in the war on terrorism. "How the heck can we be in a battle in which we are fighting as Democrats and Republicans against each other, when these terrorists certainly don't distinguish based on party affiliation?" he said. "They want to kill any and all of us."

The foiled plot takes some of the wind out of the sails of the Democratic Party's resurgent liberal wing, said Michael O'Hanlon, a military analyst at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. Moderate Democrats who oppose a quick pullout from Iraq "probably feel a little more like the news is back on our side of the argument," he said.

Businessman Ned Lamont, who defeated Sen. Lieberman in Connecticut's Democratic primary, wasn't giving any ground. "We are not stronger and safer because of Iraq; just the opposite is unfortunately true," he said in a statement yesterday about the lack of progress in Iraq. "We need to change course, and that means standing up to this administration and fighting for our security in a rational, serious way rather than being bogged down in a war [that] is harmful to our security."
Yesterday, a senior White House official took the unusual step of speaking on background to reporters aboard Air Force One about the politics of the war on terror. The official said that the results in Connecticut showed that voters were coming around to the administration's view that the global war on terror must be won despite the high costs.

Mr. Lamont's margin "went from 13 to six to four in the last 10 days of the campaign," the official said. "And I think that's in part because at the end of the day, people look at the consequences of failure and the consequences of victory....So, if you have Lamont Democrats who say, 'Bring 'em home, turn away, and it will all be over,' the American people say, 'You're kidding yourself. We're in a war, and the only way you walk away from a war is as a victor, defeating the enemy.' "

Political observers cautioned that the benefit for Mr. Bush and his allies could prove short-lived, noting that last year's London subway bombing provided little noticeable long-term benefit to the president.

Yesterday, many other Democrats kept the focus squarely on Iraq, hopeful that, over time, the problems there will outweigh any short-term benefit to Republicans from the foiled terror attack.

This latest plot demonstrates the need for the Bush administration and the Congress to change course in Iraq and ensure that we are taking all the steps necessary to protect Americans at home and across the world," said Sen. Harry Reid (D., Nev.), the party's leader in the Senate.

As they have in recent weeks, many Democrats urged moving U.S. troops out of Iraq to beef up overall global security. The Democrats' Senate campaign committee released a fact sheet, titled "The Bush Record of Homeland and Global Insecurity," that focused on the stress Iraq has placed on the U.S. military.

The contrasting reactions to the United Kingdom plot reflected the different ways the two parties are trying to frame the security issue heading into the fall campaign.

Democrats believe that the more they can keep the spotlight on the deteriorating situation in Iraq, the better they fare.

Republicans think they have the advantage if they can keep the focus on the war on terror -- and link Iraq as much as possible with that broader cause.

In the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll6 in July, respondents ranked the Iraq war as the government's top priority, with 29% choosing it first, compared with 22% a month earlier. Terrorism came in a distant second in July, at 14%. The foiled U.K. bombing plot is likely to move terrorism higher up the list, at least for a time.

A spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee, Karen Finney, noted that several recent polls have showed voters favoring Democrats on the war on terror, as well as the war in Iraq. DNC Chairman Howard Dean called in a statement for a "new direction in our national-defense policies that's tough and smart."

Democrats face a risk that Republicans will be able to use the U.K. plot to recapture the advantage among voters on national security that they once enjoyed. U.S. voters' conflicted attitudes about the war in Iraq were reflected in the Journal poll when 55% said the Bush administration has taken the right course of action in its treatment of suspected terrorists.

Some Republican leaders have appeared to focus more on the broader war against terrorism than on Iraq.

Republicans have been intensifying their attacks on Democrats over national security -- by releasing a Web video Wednesday titled "Weak and Wrong: Meet the Defeat-o-crats." Yesterday, Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman cranked up more attacks on Democratic senators for their efforts to block the Patriot Act renewal and end terrorist-surveillance programs, as well as their calls for an Iraq pullout.

A spokesman for one of the senators, John Kerry, responded in kind. "Americans are sick and tired of Ken Mehlman, Karl Rove, and the masters of misdirection who got us bogged down in Iraq with no end in sight, and who have failed to kill Osama bin Laden," spokesman David Wade said. "If these Republicans were half as good at fighting the war on terror as they are at misleading the American public, we'd be a lot safer than we are today."

Democrats chided Republicans for an RNC fund-raising letter sent out yesterday over former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's name that invoked the war on terror. Republicans said the letter had been drafted several days ago and was in the pipeline before the arrests were announced. They acknowledged it was a mistake to send it yesterday, and said they stopped sending it around noon.

The terror arrests promise to heighten the debate between the parties over the significance of two coming anniversaries.

On Aug. 29, the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Democrats are sure to hit the Bush administration's competency in handling crises. And on Sept. 11, the five-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, Republicans are likely to highlight the failure of terrorists to hit the U.S. again -- and remind voters of the continuing risks of attack, such as the foiled U.K. bomb plot.

Write to John D. McKinnon at john.mckinnon@wsj.com7

[bth: the real losers in all this have been the American people. Its a failure of leadership. Putting the partys' interests over the people's]
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An End To Militias

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2006: An End To Militias: "We have tended to think of Hizbullah in terms of mobs of men marching around Beirut in odd looking uniforms carrying yellow flags. We are now learning that reality is more like this fellow on the left. The big war in the south of Lebanon is not over yet. We have yet to see a really serious Israeli ground effort there, but based on what has happened so far, I think we have to rate the Hizbullah army as a serious ground force. It is said that the Hizbullah army was trained by the Iranians but, I think that in a more profound sense they were trained by the Israel Defense Force. Clausewitz maintained that the best school of war is war itself. This is a variant of the old saw that claims that 'whatever does not kill you makes you stronger.' The Hizbullah army fought the IDF for many years. Throughout that time the Hizbullahis (or Hizbalians according to POTUS) observed the methods and 'style' of the IDF. Israeli soldiers returned from Lebanon express surprise that the guerrillas look and dress like them. They should not be surprised. It is a kind of compliment."

On the other hand you have these guys, seen here observing a demonstration. The Lebanese Army is a force of "asphalt soldiers." They have never really fought anyone and their governments have carefully avoided putting them to that test. They are a mixed group in confessional terms, although the command of the force has always been entrusted to a Maronite Christian under the terms of the National Accord.
Israel has said that it is one of its war aims to have this force move to the south where it would occupy the border country and "control" the Hizbullah army after disarming it with the "assistance" of an international or possibly interplanetary force from outside Lebanon.

The Lebanese government has now offered to send 15,000 of these perhaps fierce, but certainly untested, tigers to accomplish this stated Israeli desideratum in return for Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon. The Israelis no longer seem as charmed by the prospect.


1- The Hizbullah army command does not seem concerned at the prospect of 15,000 Lebanese Army troops in their area.
2- What will be the re-action of these 15,000 soldiers when confronted with the idea of actually fighting their own countrymen who are in arms against a common foe?

3- The most frequently heard suggestion for consolidating armed force under the Lebanese government has been the incorporation of the militias (read Hizbullah) into the Lebanese Army. The Lebanese Army has nicer uniforms, and the survivors of the fights in Bint J'bail and Aita al-Sha''b will look good in them.

That will take care of the Israelis' problems?
Pat Lang

Note this marine retrofit kit failed entirely for those in the forward compartment. Its criminal that this vehicle was let out of the gate Posted by Picasa

Polling Data from Lebanon

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2006: Polling Data from Lebanon: "A new poll from Lebanon. I have just received from Abdu Sa`d, director of the Beirut Center for Research and Data, the results of a new public opinion poll that was conducted between 6th and 7th of August in Lebanon (and it included refugees from South Lebanon). The survey had one question: 'Should Lebanon consent to international resolutions that are in conflict with the seven points that were adopted by the Lebanese government'? 88% of the Lebanese people said no. Shi`ites had the largest percentage of rejection (96.6%); followed by Sunnis (91.4%); followed by Christians (80.4%), and then Druzes (79.4%)."

Think Progress - Mehlman Attacks Murtha With Report Retracted Six Weeks Ago

Think Progress � Mehlman Attacks Murtha With Report Retracted Six Weeks Ago: "White House officials and surrogates have fanned out in a coordinated Rovian campaign to smear their opponents as "defeatists" and "cut-and-runners" In a mass email yesterday, former Rove deputy Ken Mehlman turned his guns on Rep. John Murtha:

The message from Connecticut is clear, and Ned Lamont isn't alone. He is joined by Rep. John Murtha...who claims America is more dangerous than Iran and North Korea.

Mehlman is referencing a 6/25/06 story in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, which reported that Murtha said he believed the "American presence in Iraq is more dangerous to world peace than nuclear threats from North Korea or Iran"

Three days later, the paper retracted the report. Murtha was actually citing an international public opinion poll, not expressing his own views. But why let facts get in the way of a perfectly good smear?"

[bth: This is part of a protracted and extensive smear campaign. Swiftboater wantabees are up in Johnstown. This type of propaganda push has Rove fingerprints all over it - use of surrogate smearing without evident sources of funding yet seems to have media access and capital from unknown sources. See it for what it is. Listen to what Murtha says, not what people say about him. If possible get the full transcript, not the soundbyte from the news.]
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ANALYSIS: IDF still not in control of strip along Lebanon's border - Haaretz - Israel News

ANALYSIS: IDF still not in control of strip along Lebanon's border - Haaretz - Israel News: "The large number and the location of the casualties that the Israel Defense Forces sustained Wednesday indicate that the army does not yet control the narrow strip along the border, although this stage of the ground operation was supposed to have been completed already.

The two battles also reveal a great deal about Hezbollah's method of fighting. They took place in two relatively small communities, Ayta al-Shab and Debel, close to the international border, on territory that until May 2000 was in Israel's Security Zone.

The ground operation, dubbed 'Change of Direction 8,' was intended to conquer this border strip. First it was to be a two- to three-kilometer strip. Then it was expanded to five to six kilometers, including numerous Lebanese villages and towns. The mission was to blow up all Hezbollah's outposts in this strip and drive its forces out."

What happened in Bint Jbail recurred in Ayta al-Shab. Although it seemed that the town had been conquered, it transpired again and again that there were still Hezbollah men in it. Once again, clashes and battles took place, and again, the IDF suffered dead and wounded.Although the army had conquered the town, Hezbollah men were hiding in underground bunkers well camouflaged from the outside.

The bunkers had been stocked with large quantities of food, enough to last for weeks, and ammunition, including antitank missiles and, in several cases, short-range rockets.

The bunkers are connected to electricity and, according to one report, are air conditioned. When the fighting dies down, Hezbollah fighters emerge from the bunkers and set up ambushes for IDF soldiers and armored vehicles.

That is why soldiers are hit repeatedly in the same places.On several occasions, there have been difficulties evacuating wounded soldiers under fire.

At times, Hezbollah fighters have fired rockets at Israel from areas close to the border that the IDF had supposedly conquered already. The means available to flush the guerrillas out of their underground shelters are not always employed.Senior officers have suggested, inter alia, that the army bombard these towns heavily and even destroy them.

But in any case, a decision has been made not to reenter them at this stage. The IDF could forge ahead, as it has done in the last two days in the Marjayoun area. But even after such an incursion, Hezbollah fighters who remain in the bunkers could continue launching rockets. In other words, they could fire toward Israel from behind the lines of IDF forces that have progressed deep into Lebanon.

It is clear that the Hezbollah men who stayed behind are equipped with two-way radios and receive information from scouts hiding near the border. This explains the difficulties in managing the fighting in south Lebanon, which the IDF has not encountered before.
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On the spot: battle rages at Metulla

On the spot: battle rages at Metulla - World - Times Online: "Stephen Farrell, The Times Middle East correspondent, today witnessed fierce fighting on a battlefront only yards from the Israeli border town of Metulla. View pictures of the firefight:

THE Hezbollah anti-tank missiles screamed in from above the low haze-covered hills surrounding southern Lebanon's El Marj valley, crippling the Israeli battle tank only a few hundred metres from the border.

From a hilltop in the Israeli town of Metulla the Merkava tank's crew could be seen sprinting for safety to another tank nearby, as one vehicle laid down clouds of smoke to cover their movements."

Another Hezbollah anti-tank missile, and sparks flew up feet from another Israeli tank as a fierce battle raged less than a mile into Lebanon even as the Israeli government prepared to push tens of thousands more troops 20 miles into the country.

The renewed attacks came after 15 Israeli soldiers were killed on Wednesday —mostly by anti-tank missiles — amid the first sign of serious doubts in the Israeli media about whether Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government can accomplish its objectives, or if Israel will get sucked back into the mire of Lebanon from which it withdrew with ignominy in May 2000.

One newspaper front page called for the "Long and Hard Final Movement" envisaged by the security Cabinet which backed plans for a forthcoming major push to the Litani River. But elsewhere, another leading analyst cautioned that "we are getting lost in pursuit of a victory that is not there," under the headline "Olmert, Cut and Run".

Certainly this morning it was clear that, even within sight of Israel's red-roofed kibbutzes small numbers of Hezbollah fighters were able to tie down columns of Israeli armour and support infantry in the shallow plain of the El Marj, which forms a natural amphitheatre encircled by low hills topped by the Lebanese villages of Khiam, Marjaoun, Taibeh and Kafr Kila.

Overnight the battle had been clearly audible inside Israel, from where the red streaks of nightime surface-to-surface missiles screamed across the invisible border line towards Hezbollah's hilltop positions.

When day broke the Shia group's fighters continued their bombardment of Israeli armour with sophisticated shoulder-launched missiles.

One tank was crippled, and we later saw it being towed across the plain by a sister tank, while others pumped out smoke to cover their movements.

At times half a dozen Israeli tanks were moving slowly across the exposed frontier, either to evacuate back into Israel or, perhaps to draw Hezbollah fire for forward artillery spotters to identify the guerrillas' shooting positions.

As the tanks pulled out of the valley all went quiet. Then shortly afterwards Israel's Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) batteries opened up from just behind the border, lacerating the sky with smoke trails as the blazing rockets arced towards Lebanese villages, sending up clouds of debris.
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Tactics that have kept the Middle East's most powerful army at bay

Tactics that have kept the Middle East's most powerful army at bay - World - Times Online: "FOR four weeks Hezbollah's fighters have defied the might of the Israeli military.

A guerrilla force that was supposed to be crushed in days has prevented Israeli troops capturing more than a handful of villages in southern Lebanon, killed more than 100 Israeli soldiers and civilians and is still raining missiles on northern Israel. In the eyes of Arabs and Muslims Hezbollah has already "won"the month-long war simply because it has not been defeated by the Middle East's most powerful army.

Hezbollah has made good use of the six years since Israel withdrew its troops from southern Lebanon. With help from Syria and Iran it has amassed large arsenals, laid traps, built an intricate system of bunkers and tunnels, studied Israeli military tactics and developed a well-trained force of highly motivated fighters. "

Israeli soldiers have been shaken by the fighters’ skill and commitment, describing them as an army, not a rabble. “Even I have been surprised at the tenacity of these groups fighting in the villages,” Timur Goksel, who served with UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon from 1979 to 2003, said.

“They have fought far beyond my expectations and they haven’t even committed all their fully experienced troops yet.”

Here are the keys to Hezbollah’s success:


Small teams of trained fighters have used advanced missiles to knock out the formidable Merkava tank, and older versions to punch through the walls of houses sheltering Israeli soldiers.

Most are Saggers, an outdated Soviet wire-guided missile first used in the 1960s. In the late 1990s Hezbollah began firing more accurate wire-guided TOW anti-tank missiles. In this war, Hezbollah has for the first time used the Russian Metis-M, which has a range of a mile and can be fitted with an anti-armour warhead or a fuel-air explosive warhead to use against troops or bunkers. Hezbollah may also be using the laser-guided Kornet-E anti-tank missile, which has a range of about 3½ miles.

Individual Hezbollah fighters carry the shoulder-fired RPG29, a more advanced version of the RPG7 beloved of guerrilla groups since the 1960s. It has a dual-purpose warhead. “The first punches through the armour and the second is aimed at the personnel,” Elias Hanna, a retired Lebanese general, said.
Hezbollah’s ability to knock out Merkava tanks has frustrated the traditional Israeli military doctrine of rapid armoured thrusts deep into enemy territory.


Hezbollah is thought to have no more than 1,000 elite frontline fighters, with perhaps 3,000 in reserve. They will be drawn from the villages where they are fighting, using their intimate knowledge of the local terrain. They communicate by walkie-talkie, constantly changing the frequency and using a code that draws on their personal knowledge of each other and the surrounding area. Some reportedly used souped-up off-road motorbikes to launch hit-and-run attacks then escape along obscure tracks. Hezbollah also has drones to spy on Israeli movements.


From 2000, Hezbollah developed a secret military infrastructure in southern Lebanon, consisting of tunnels, expanded natural caves and underground bunkers where weapons were stored and fighters could live. Much of this construction work was carried out at night in remote stretches of the border.

Israeli troops have talked of finding bunkers housing command-and-control centres and advanced eavesdropping and surveillance equipment and monitoring cameras. The Israelis speak of battle-hardened Hezbollah fighters constantly popping up from unknown hiding places, firing, and then vanishing again.


Israeli officers regard Hezbollah fighters, many trained in Iran, as highly motivated but not careless of their lives in the manner of Palestinian militants often intent on glory through death. Mr Goksel said: “Hezbollah is not afraid of the Israelis. After 18 years fighting Israeli troops, they see them as vulnerable human beings who make mistakes and are afraid like anyone else.”


Hezbollah marksmen equipped with high-powered rifles lie undercover for days at a time, picking off Israeli soldiers when the opportunity arises. Their marksmanship is impressive. In July 2004 a Hezbollah sniper shot dead two Israeli soldiers from a range of 500 yards.


Israeli commanders claim to have destroyed many of Hezbollah’s long-range rocket launchers, including the 600mm Zelzal that can reach Tel Aviv. But the standard 122mm Katyushas can be fired more easily by mobile teams without the need for launchers visible to spotter drones or surveillance planes. These rockets are generally fired from multibarrelled launchers on the back of flat-bed trucks, but they can also be fired singly, even from a simple mounting of crossed sticks that is all but invisible to Israeli drones when hidden inside an olive grove. Last week Israeli commandos staged a pre-dawn raid on an apartment block in Tyre housing Hezbollah militants who had been firing long-range rockets into Israel. Two Hezbollah militants were killed, but rockets were being fired from the same location hours later.


These killed more Israeli soldiers in southern Lebanon in the 1990s than any other weapon, and the technology is now much more sophisticated. Early versions consisted of home-made claymore-style explosive charges that spray hundreds of ball bearings, and were detonated by a command wire or remote radio control.

Hezbollah bombs today include shaped-charge warheads that concentrate the blast in a single direction to punch through the walls of armoured vehicles. They are detonated by infra-red beam.

Military observers believe that Hezbollah long ago planted huge mines under all the roads crossing the border. Israeli tanks have therefore avoided the border roads.


Instead of stockpiling its munitions in a handful of arsenals, Hezbollah dispersed them in private homes, garages, basements, bunkers and caves, giving ready access to small Hezbollah units. The group is also thought to have night-vision goggles and a stash of Israeli military fatigues for ambushes.
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Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Blotter- The Anatomy of the Foiled Plot in London

The Blotter: "The world learned of a terrorist plot Thursday that would have caused mass death and destruction aboard a number of passenger jets had British authorities not aggressively investigated and arrested many of the plotters.

More than 20 suspected terrorists were arrested in England by early Thursday morning, in an operation that involved British intelligence, Scotland Yard and assistance by a number of other law enforcement and intelligence agencies, including those in Pakistan. "

ABC News has learned that two "significant arrests" in Pakistan in recent days may have significantly accelerated the pace of the investigation.

Many of the alleged terror plotters appeared to be of Pakistani descent. It appears that they were probably "homegrown" terrorists with strong links to al Qaeda and Pakistani operatives. This new generation of terrorists have figured significantly in plots in the U.S., London and Canada in recent months.

In this case, the plotters apparently intended to assemble small but powerful bombs in flight and use them to take down flights from England to the United States.

Airport security was tight in both nations. A "red alert" -- the highest alert level -- was issued in the U.S., and a "critical" state was issued in England. Passengers are undergoing intense scrutiny -- carry-on baggage of almost all kinds has been eliminated in Britain and delays abound at London's Heathrow, the world's busiest airport.

According to a Department of Homeland Security briefing to the aviation sector, the terrorists appear to have planned to use multiple persons aboard each flight to assemble peroxide-based liquid or gel high explosives. The bomb-making materials could easily be concealed in small containers -- water bottles, tooth paste tubes, juice boxes and any of the other numerous person items passengers traditionally take into the passenger compartment of commercial flights.

At least nine transcontinental flights from American, United and Continental airlines were targeted in the plot. ABC News has learned that terrorists planned to attack the planes three at a time, waiting an hour between each attack.

According to federal authorities, two or three bombers would each carry a separate portion of the bomb onto the plane to avoid detection. Once onboard the bomb would be assembled and then detonated by using heat or friction.

British authorities had been tracking some of the suspects for several weeks but stepped in to round up the plotters when they began to book flight reservations.

British authorities have shared parts of the investigation with the FBI, and out of concern for leaks, only the barest details were shared with regional authorities as late as last night.

Now there is a continued concern that other members of the cell remain on the loose and may remain a present danger to intercontinental air traffic as well as air traffic in Europe.

Raids were expected to continue in England throughout the day, and authorities were said to be seeking the "factories" where the bomb parts were prepared.

U.S. authorities, meanwhile, were running down leads to ensure no plotters or associates were within U.S. borders and intent on causing harm.

[bth: note that this plot has been developing for several months. Its not clear why the trap was sprung today. One has to be wary of timed government announcements.]