Saturday, June 23, 2007

CIA to Air Decades of Its Dirty Laundry

CIA to Air Decades of Its Dirty Laundry - "The CIA will declassify hundreds of pages of long-secret records detailing some of the intelligence agency's worst illegal abuses -- the so-called 'family jewels' documenting a quarter-century of overseas assassination attempts, domestic spying, kidnapping and infiltration of leftist groups from the 1950s to the 1970s, CIA Director Michael V. Hayden said yesterday."...

[bth: One must ask themselves, "why now?" One theory is that we are about to find out that the CIA and NSA spied on normal US civilians over the last few years without cause. By making this release, Hayden, can say, "oh look the modern CIA isn't nearly as bad as it was in prior decades." One must always ask, why now?]

Iraq genocide verdict against 'Chemical Ali' due Sunday

Iraq genocide verdict against 'Chemical Ali' due Sunday - Yahoo! News: "BAGHDAD (AFP) - The Iraqi High Tribunal is set to give its verdict on Sunday on six former aides of Saddam Hussein accused of slaughtering 182,000 Kurdish villagers during a 1988 military campaign in northern Iraq. "...

[bth: good.]

EOD team ambushed on mission

Note the probable use of the animal carcass simply as a decoy to attract the EOD team to the ambush site.

Video Showing Talon Robot Having Climbing Difficulties Against IED

This video shows a Foster-Miller Talon robot having difficulty climbing a curb to place an explosive charge next to an IED placed on a traffic island or median. Note that the robot arm collapses as well before the vehicle tips over. The chassis is simply too small for the mission required in this case.

M1A1 Tank hit by IED

This insurgent video was posted on YouTube in 2006 showing an underchassis attack on an M1A1 tank.

IED attack on armored vehicle

This video posted on YouTube out of Portugal shows an IED attack on an armored vehicle. Note the use of the panel in front of the vehicle to set off the ied early probably by crossing a passive IR beam. This would overcome our radio jammers but not an antitank mine to which we left several million unrecovered.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Iran's Hormuz fleet includes more than 1,000 heavily armed speedboats

World Tribune — Iran's Hormuz fleet includes more than 1,000 heavily armed speedboats: "WASHINGTON — Iran has expanded its naval presence in the Straits of Hormuz, the passage for an estimated 40 percent of global crude oil shipments. "

The U.S. Navy has determined that Iran has amassed a fleet of fast patrol boats in the 43-kilometer straits. Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, responsible for strategic programs, leads the effort.

At this point, officials said, IRGC has deployed more than 1,000 FPBs in and around the straits. The vessels, armed with cruise missiles, mines, torpedoes and rocket-propelled grenades, are up to 23 meters in long and can reach a speed of 100 kilometers per hour.

"This marks the implementation of Iran's swarm program, where dozens of armed speed boats attack much larger naval vessels from all sides," an official said.

In 2005, IRGC developed its swarm doctrine following Teheran's assessment that the United States was considering an air strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. Officials said the swarm doctrine was designed to exploit the slow pace of U.S. aircraft carriers and destroyers in the shallow waters of the Gulf.

"Iran still states that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps will employ swarming tactics in a conflict,'' U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence spokesman Robert Althage said.

IRGC swarming tactics envision a group of more than 100 speedboats attacking a target, such as a Western naval vessel or a commercial oil tanker. They said 20 or more speedboats would strike from each direction, making defense extremely difficult.

The Navy, with at least two carrier groups in the Gulf, has been developing counter-measures to an Iranian swarm attack. These include using minesweepers, unmanned aerial vehicles to monitor Iranian speedboats and the deployment of weapons that could blast Iranian speedboats at standoff range. Such exercises have been conducted over the past few months.

"We have devised various tactics and other ways of coping," U.S. commander Vice Adm. Kevin Cosgriff said. "You just don't get 1,000 or 500 or even 20 of anything under way and tightly orchestrated over a large body of water to create a specific effect at a specific time and specific place. They have their own challenges.''

[bth: while I could see this working to drop mines in front of a ship or in swarming and attacking a tanker, I am very suspicious that this would work with a destroyer or larger U.S. navy vessel. Coordination of attack would be quite challenging without radio intercepts. A wave of silkworm missiles might be more effective.]

Brother of 9/11 victim works to take legacy to Congress

Brother of 9/11 victim works to take legacy to Congress - "DRACUT, Massachusetts (CNN) -- Jim Ogonowski admits he has an uphill climb to persuade the voters of Massachusetts' 5th Congressional District to send a Republican to the House of Representatives for the first time in more than three decades."

But Ogonowski, who just retired as a lieutenant colonel after 28 years in the U.S. Air Force, also has an inspiring personal story that is gaining attention.

His brother, John Ogonowski, was an American Airlines pilot on Flight 11, the first plane to hit the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001....

Iran 'unable to take Australians'

BBC NEWS Middle East Iran 'unable to take Australians': "Iranian naval forces in the Gulf tried to capture an Australian Navy boarding team but were vigorously repelled, the BBC has learned. "

The incident took place before Iran successfully seized 15 British sailors and Marines in March.

The lessons from the earlier attempt do not appear to have been applied in time by British maritime patrols.

The 15 Britons were searching a cargo boat in the Gulf when they were captured over a boundary dispute.

'Having none of it'

When Iranian Revolutionary Guards captured the British sailors and Royal Marines in March, it was not exactly their first attempt.

It turns out that Iranian forces made an earlier concerted attempt to seize a boarding party from the Royal Australian Navy.

The Australians, though, to quote one military source, "were having none of it".

The BBC has been told the Australians re-boarded the vessel they had just searched, aimed their machine guns at the approaching Iranians and warned them to back off, using what was said to be "highly colourful language".

The Iranians withdrew, and the Australians were reportedly lifted off the ship by one of their own helicopters.

The circumstances for the Britons in March were slightly different in that they were caught so much by surprise that, had they attempted to repel the Iranians with their limited firepower, they would doubtless have taken very heavy casualties.

But military sources say that what is of concern is that the Royal Navy did not appear to have taken sufficient account of the lessons of the Australian encounter.

In an oblique reference to the threat from Iran, Britain's First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Jonathon Band, has recently admitted there was a need for greater strategic awareness in the northern Gulf.

Taliban 'to step up suicide bombings'

Taliban 'to step up suicide bombings' International News News Telegraph: "The Taliban promised yesterday to unleash a wave of suicide attacks on Kabul with the ultimate goal of expelling foreign forces."

The threat, which signalled a new phase of the Taliban's bloody campaign, came in the wake of a huge suicide bomb in the Afghan capital that killed 35 people, most of them police recruits, at the weekend.

Zabiullah Mujahed, a spokesman for the Taliban, said: "We have already started the focus of our attack on Kabul....

Iraq Deaths Don't Mean Failure, Pace Says

Iraq Deaths Don't Mean Failure, Pace Says - "The recent rise in U.S. troop deaths in Iraq is the 'wrong metric' to use in assessing the effectiveness of the new security strategy for Baghdad, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said yesterday in a news conference with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates."

Despite military reports to Congress that use numbers of attacks and overall levels of violence as an important gauge of Iraq's security status, Gates and Pace told reporters at the Pentagon yesterday that violence is not a useful measure of progress. Setting the stage for mandatory reports to Congress in September, both officials said violence could go up in the summer months as troops try to give the Iraqi government time to set the country on the right track.

"If you had zero violence and people were not feeling good about their future, where are you?" said Pace, emphasizing that the sentiment of the Iraqi people is a much better measurement than the number of attacks. "So it's not about levels of violence. It's about progress being made, in fact, in the minds of the Iraqi people, so that they have confidence in their government in the way forward."...

[bth: I love the double-speak. No doubt by September they will say we are making progress because casualties have [insert one 'gone up/gone down'], and look at the unmeasurable progress being made in the minds of the Iraqi people.]

Vanished terrorist suspect is seventh to go missing News - UK - Vanished terrorist suspect is seventh to go missing: "ANOTHER terror suspect has disappeared while on a control order, bringing the total who have fled to seven, the Home Office admitted yesterday. "

In a written statement to MPs, police minister Tony McNulty said the man - who cannot even be named for legal reasons - vanished on Monday night....

[bth: part of the catch and release program.]

‘34 killed in Tuesday’s missile strike in Miranshah’

Daily Times - Leading News Resource of Pakistan - ‘34 killed in Tuesday’s missile strike in Miranshah’: "MIRANSHAH: The caretaker of a madrassa near a site which was the target of an apparent airstrike on Tuesday has said that a total of 34 people were killed, and all of them were locals. "

Security officials said the airstrike was carried out by a US drone that fired two missiles at a suspected hideout for militants. Maulana Muhammad Amir, caretaker of Ziul Aloom madrassa in the Dattakhel area, said all those killed were local tribesmen, and the target was not a madrassa, as reported in the press, but “a tent on a hilltop”.

He said 11 of the 34 bodies recovered were charred beyond recognition.However, the political administration of North Waziristan said that 30 “terrorists” were killed and 18 of them were foreigners, including Chechens, Uzbeks and Arabs, APP reported.

An army spokesman has also denied that it was an airstrike, saying that the explosions were caused when militants preparing bombs accidentally set off some explosives.

Maulana Muhammad Alam, member of a peace committee monitoring implementation of the September 5 peace deal in North Wazrisitan, said the political administration “knows little about the airstrike and the military says nothing. We don’t know what happened.”Meanwhile, Taliban militants stopped journalists from visiting the site of the attack, warning that “harm may come to you if you go there”.

Pakistani official says border area blast was "foreign attack" - South Asia

Pakistani official says border area blast was "foreign attack" - South Asia: "Islamabad - The chief minister of Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province Thursday said the explosion in a border area with Afghanistan which killed 34 people was caused by a 'foreign attack.' "

The Tuesday blast at a small compound south of Dattakhel town in the semi-autonomous North Waziristan tribal agency was initially described by Pakistan as 'premature detonation' in a terrorist hideout.

'According to my information a foreign attack caused the deaths,' Minister Akram Durrani told reporters in the provincial capital Peshawar.

However, he did not mention which foreign country might have carried out the attack.

Earlier, the legislative assembly in the province condemned the explosion, which they claimed was caused by a US missile attack from Afghanistan.

The opposition members - mainly from religious parties - of the national parliament accused the US of an alleged missile attack before staging a token walkout from the house.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa Tuesday that they had no knowledge of the incident.

Meanwhile, local media reported Thursday that the target of the incident was not an Islamic seminary, as suggested earlier, but a cluster of open shelters in the mountains where locals retrieved 23 recognizable bodies and the burnt body parts of 11 more.

One person was injured while seven survived miraculously even though they were just a few yards from the target of the alleged attack, which has put the government's 2006 peace accords with local tribesmen in strain.

Under the agreement, the security forces ceased their operations in return for an end of local support to foreign militants, who have sought shelter in the area since US-led forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001.

US officials believe the peace deals have only turned the tribal areas into safe-havens for Islamic fighters who used these areas to launch attacks into Afghanistan.

Agency Is Target in Cheney Fight on Secrecy Data

Agency Is Target in Cheney Fight on Secrecy Data - New York Times: "For four years, Vice President Dick Cheney has resisted routine oversight of his office’s handling of classified information, and when the National Archives unit that monitors classification in the executive branch objected, the vice president’s office suggested abolishing the oversight unit, according to documents released yesterday by a Democratic congressman."....

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Video tape showing the destruction of MRAP class vehicles

ABC video clips from a 25 minute insurgent training video showing how to destroy our vehicles. This included video showing the destruction of all classis of new MRAP vehicles.

YouTube - Re: A Tank Junkpile II

YouTube - Re: A Tank Junkpile II: ""

This video was recently posted on YouTube. If you were a young arab male in say, Saudi Arabia, considering sneaking off to Iraq to make mischief, this video would certainly be an inspiration. Most of these pictures have been previously posted overseas but very few make it to normal media channels in the US. The US public and international audiences have an entirely different perspective as a result.

Thucydides: The Melian Debate

Thucydides: The Melian Debate:... "Well, then, we Athenians will use no fine words; we will not go out of our way to prove at length that we have a right to rule, because we overthrew the Persians; or that we attack you now because we are suffering any injury at your hands. We should not convince you if we did; nor must you expect to convince us by arguing that, although a colony of the Lacedaemonians, you have taken no part in their expeditions, or that you have never done us any wrong. But you and we should say what we really think, and aim only at what is possible, for we both alike know that in the discussion of human affairs the question of justice only enters where there is equal power to enforce it, and that the powerful exact what they can, and the weak grant what they must"...

Red States not doing so well on health care, wages and education

Red States not doing so well on health care, wages and education - AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth: "Three Democratic issues, and on each issue, the GOP states are at the bottom of the barrel. Yet they still vote Republican because stopping a gay couple from getting married matters more to them than keeping their children alive, getting them a good education, and then a good job. You deserve the government you get."

State of the Day: Painless, endless war

State of the Day: Painless, endless war: "In essence, the issue is whether we are a Department and a Service at war [...]' -- new US Ambassador to Iraq, and TalkingP Bot 2.0, Ryan C. Crocker, boiling down the essence of his embassy's ill qualified personnel woes."

Kevin Drum tackles the direct point of the embassy issue--disdain for competence and a love for cronyism and ideology when picking the initial Baghdad team--I, however, want to point just to the Crocker sentence above as the perfect analogy for the Bush administration's approach to war.

Let's play it again: "In essence, the issue is whether we are a Department and a Service at war."

Over the course of the last four years our Dear Leader, and his wingnut base, have preached to us that the United States is caught in a struggle of civilizations where our steadfastness is necessary and our weakness will be our demise as a nation. So, in essence, to analogize from Mr. Crocker, the issue is whether we are a country and a government at war.

We are told we are at war, yet we are encouraged to go shopping. We are told we are at war, yet tax cuts abound. We are told we are at war, yet profits continue to be made off the backs of our soldiers. We are told we are at war, yet the sacrifice is not shared.

It's time the Bush administration put their money where their rhetoric is. You want endless war? How about a draft--or at least send the twins. You want endless war? How about taking the profit motive out of the fight. You want endless war? How about a war tax to help pay for it.

Or maybe, just maybe, this struggle for our very existence is actually a bit of hyperbole meant to line the war machine's pockets with gold. Mission. Accomplished.

The Reaction -- by Michael J.W. Stickings: Fuck you and your snowflakes

The Reaction -- by Michael J.W. Stickings: Fuck you and your snowflakes: "You know, I failed to mention yesterday how fuckin' pissed off I am at Dear Leader for vetoing the stem cell bill, again. I knew it was coming, we all did, yet the level of pissed in my system is at an all time high over this one. A couple of fuckin' cells do not constitute an embryo or a life. The same cells that have the potential to save a life, or thousands, will just be thrown into a fuckin' dumpster. What a waste. "

And what a waste of a human being our president is.


Bush's approval rating plunges to new low

The Raw Story | Bush's approval rating plunges to new low: "US President George W. Bush's approval rating plunged to a new low of 26 percent, making him the least popular US president since Richard Nixon, a poll released on Thursday found."...
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No Deporting Missing Soldier's Wife

No Deporting Missing Soldier's Wife - News Story - WEWS Cleveland: "BOSTON -- The wife of a soldier missing in Iraq no longer faces deportation, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman said Wednesday."

Army Spec. Alex Jimenez, who has been missing since his unit was attacked by insurgents in Iraq on May 12, had petitioned for a green card for his wife, Yaderlin, whom he married in 2004, a Boston television station reported.

Their attorney, Matthew Kolken, said Yaderlin illegally entered the United States from the Dominican Republic in 2001. Her husband's request for a green card and legal residence status for her alerted authorities to her situation, Kolken said.

The attorney said his client would not be eligible for a green card under normal circumstances, but he is seeking a hardship waiver for her. If she were to have to leave the U.S., she would have to wait 10 years before reapplying.

"I can't imagine a bigger injustice than that, to be deporting someone's wife who is fighting and possibly dying for our country," Kolken told the station.

An immigration judge put a temporary stop to the proceedings since Alex Jimenez was reported missing. The soldier's wife is living with family members in Pennsylvania, the station reported.

On Wednesday, U.S. Sens. Edward Kennedy and John Kerry urged officials not to deport the soldier's wife.

The deportation case was closed in May 2006, and there are no plans to reopen it, said Jamie Zuieback, a DHS spokeswoman.

"There is no move to deport her," Zuieback said. "We, like all Americans, hope for Specialist Jimenez's safe return."

U.S. forces continue to search for Jimenez, 25, and a comrade, Pvt. Brian Fouty, 19, of Waterford, Mich...

[bth: finally some sensibility. Isn't it interesting that it takes both media exposure and congressional intervention to get something like this straightened out?]

Abused orphans found in Baghdad

Abused orphans found in Baghdad - Los Angeles Times: "BAGHDAD — One photograph shows a skin-and-bones boy lying on a bare floor, leashed like a dog to the pink bars of an unoccupied crib. Another shows boys curled naked on the ground, one of them smeared with human waste. "

The scenes were ghastly. But almost as jarring was the response of an Iraqi government minister called upon Wednesday to explain how a state-run orphanage in the capital could have kept two dozen children in such conditions.

Proving that not even orphans are off-limits to the political sniping that permeates life here, the minister of labor and social welfare accused U.S. troops and the media of exaggerating the situation and distributing the photographs for political gain.

"Are they really concerned about how well the children are treated in that shelter, or is it just propaganda for their alleged kindness?" Mahmoud Mohammed Jawad Radi said to reporters after the U.S. military released the photographs

A military statement said the pictures were taken June 10 after U.S. and Iraqi soldiers were tipped off about conditions at the orphanage in the Fajr neighborhood of west Baghdad.

Twenty-four boys, ages 3 to 15, were discovered. Most were emaciated and weak, and human waste covered the floors, the statement said. In a room of the orphanage, shelves of food and clean clothing lay untouched, to be hoarded and sold by adult employees, the military alleged....

[bth: explain to me again why this Iraqi government is worth fighting for?]
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IOTV: Interceptor's Incremental Improvement

IOTV: Interceptor's Incremental Improvement (defense acquisition, defence purchasing, military procurement): "The USA's Interceptor OTV (Outer Tactical Vest) Body Armor, and its SAPI/ESAPI ceramic plate inserts, offer a significant improvement over its 1990s predecessors in terms of both weight and protection"Dadullah has been quite busy since his release. He reportedly organized the deal to obtain his brother's dead body for burial in exchange for the release of four medical workers.

Dadullah also received a condolence letter from Osama bin Laden following the death of his brother.

Journalist Daniel Mastrogiacomo was kidnapped along with his interpreter and driver by Taliban fighters in early March.

A hostage trade was negotiated, in part by an Italian-run hospital organization, for his release in exchange for the release of five senior Taliban commanders that were in the custody of the Afghan federal government.

The deal was harshly criticized at the time, and protests took place in front of the Italian-run hospital.

Mastrogiacomo's driver and interpreter, who were not included in the exchange, were both beheaded....

[bth: this article goes on to itemize the improvements, most particularly the increase in surface area.]
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New Taliban Leader Had Been in Afghan Custody; Released in Hostage Deal

The Blotter: "The Taliban military commander who led the 'graduation ceremony' for 300 suicide bombers was one of five men released from an Afghanistan prison earlier this year in exchange for a kidnapped Italian journalist."

On the tape, Dadullah, whose notoriously brutal brother was killed by the U.S. last month, introduces and congratulates new teams of suicide bombers as he sends them off to conduct suicide missions in the U.S., Canada, Great Britain and Germany.

"These Americans, Canadians, British and Germans come here to Afghanistan from faraway places," Dadullah says on the tape. "Why shouldn't we go after them?"

Dadullah has been quite busy since his release. He reportedly organized the deal to obtain his brother's dead body for burial in exchange for the release of four medical workers.

Dadullah also received a condolence letter from Osama bin Laden following the death of his brother.

Journalist Daniel Mastrogiacomo was kidnapped along with his interpreter and driver by Taliban fighters in early March.

A hostage trade was negotiated, in part by an Italian-run hospital organization, for his release in exchange for the release of five senior Taliban commanders that were in the custody of the Afghan federal government.

The deal was harshly criticized at the time, and protests took place in front of the Italian-run hospital.

Mastrogiacomo's driver and interpreter, who were not included in the exchange, were both beheaded.

[bth: part of our catch and release policy?]
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Slim Chance Of Finding an Arabic Speaker at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad

The Blotter: "Of the 1,000 U.S. employees at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, only 10 have a working knowledge of Arabic, according to the State Department. "

That is still a slight improvement from last year when, according to the Iraq Study Group, six people in the embassy spoke Arabic.

A 2006 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report noted the shortage of speakers of Arabic, which the State Department classifies as "superhard," is acute at U.S. embassies in the Muslim world....

[bth: can we be more incompetent? Who'd a thunk it - that we might need fluent arabic speakers in the 21st century State Dept.]

U.S. Refuses to Free 5 Captured Iranians Until at Least October

U.S. Refuses to Free 5 Captured Iranians Until at Least October - "The United States will not release five Iranians detained in a U.S. military raid in northern Iraq until at least October, despite entreaties from the Iraqi government and pressure from Iran, U.S. officials said. The delay is as much due to a communication and procedural foul-up within the U.S. government as a policy decision, they added."...

[bth: it isn't clear to me what we are trying to accomplish by holdng these people indefinitely. Are we trying to trade something and the price being negotiated?]
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Spotlight on Special Forces and Intelligence

Secrecy News: "The structure of Army special operations forces, their capabilities and characteristic mission profiles, and the role of intelligence in supporting them are described in a newly disclosed U.S. Army field manual (pdf).The structure of Army special operations forces, their capabilities and characteristic mission profiles, and the role of intelligence in supporting them are described in a newly disclosed U.S. Army field manual (pdf)."

There are nine distinct missions for Army special forces, including: unconventional warfare, direct action, counterproliferation, foreign internal defense, psychological operations, and "special activities," which is the DoD euphemism for covert action.

"Special activities fall under Executive Order 12333, United States Intelligence Activities," according to the Army field manual. "They require a presidential finding and congressional oversight. ARSOF [Army Special Operations Forces] conduct them abroad in support of national foreign policy objectives, but in a manner that USG [US Government] participation is neither apparent nor publicly acknowledged."

The 200-page Army field manual, which remains in effect, was issued in 2001. A copy of the unclassified document was obtained by Secrecy News. See "Army Special Operations Forces Intelligence," Field Manual FM 3-05.102, July 2001.

The secrecy of DoD special operations has significantly impeded oversight and accountability, reported Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker this week. The Hersh article also said that the Bush Administration had "unilaterally determined after 9/11" that military intelligence operations could be conducted on presidential authority without congressional notification -- notwithstanding the contrary language of the Army field manual.

The "can do" attitude that characterizes Army and other special operations forces makes them attractive to policy makers, but it can also be a cause for concern, according to a congressional review (pdf) of the failed Army Ranger mission in Somalia in 1993 (cited in a 2006 paper [pdf] by David Tucker and Christopher J. Lamb of National Defense University).

"One of the weaknesses of a unit like Task Force Ranger, whose combat capabilities are unparalleled, is the belief by the unit members and its commanders that they can accomplish any mission."

"Because of the supreme confidence of special operations forces, the chain of command must provide more oversight to this type of unit than to conventional forces."

See "Review of the Circumstances Surrounding the Ranger Raid on October 3-4, 1993 in Mogadishu, Somalia," Senate Armed Services Committee, September 29, 1995.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

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Anti-Barzani campaign in Turkey frustrates the Kurds who remain silent

The New Anatolian: "A decision by a Turkish state prosecutor to open an investigation on Monday into Massoud Barzani, president of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, has dismayed Iraqi Kurdish authorities who they say they will not be pulled into a fruitless controversy and will remain silent. "...

Appalachian Spring

INTEL DUMP - "We have all that our country is going to provide"

INTEL DUMP - "We have all that our country is going to provide": "

Lots of Iraq news this weekend. Lots. But of all the stories, I think this dispatch may be the most significant, particularly the following passage:

Petraeus, who met with Defense Secretary Robert Gates at a morning breakfast, also said that he doesn't have all the American troops he might want, but he knows he's got all he's going to get"

"There's never been a military commander in history who wouldn't like to have more of something or other that characterizes all of us here," he told reporters traveling with Gates. "The fact is frankly that we have all that our country is going to provide us in terms of combat forces. That is really it right now." [emphasis added]He said the buildup of nearly 30,000 additional forces that has just been completed allowed him to launch the latest assault.

The move, he said, is allowing him to send operations for the first time into "a number of areas around Baghdad, in particular to go into areas that were sanctuaries in the past of al-Qaida."American and Iraqi forces have absolute control over only 40 percent of the capital, according to U.S. officials.He said: "Our job now, frankly, along with the job of our Iraqi counterparts ... is to do everything that we can with the additional forces that we have."

Is that true? All that we are going to provide? Note the careful phrasing from Gen. Petraeus: he's not saying all the nation can provide. Clearly, if America decided to reinstate conscription or purchase more military manpower, it could do so. Instead he's saying that he has all the country is going to provide. I suppose one could get all lawyerly and say that this statement all depends on what the definition of "is" is. But I'm not going to go there. Instead, I'll venture that Gen. Petraeus is stating explicitly a few of his key strategic assumptions: that the U.S. is tapped out; that there is no political will to send more forces to Iraq; and there is no political will to mobilize the nation to generate more forces for Iraq.

Which probably also means that Gen. Petraeus is pessimistic (or realistic) about how much time he's got left to make a difference.Is he right? What does that mean for the war effort?

[bth: pretty amazing statement.

Watch for a move to outsource to contractors all the convoy guards, then the security check points to private contractors. That will be the offset against an 18 month deployment of troops which is currently in the planning loop.]

INTEL DUMP - Faux Pax Americana

INTEL DUMP - Faux Pax Americana: "In today's Washington Post, Glenn Kessler reports on a blunt cable sent from Baghdad to Washington describing the anemic and inadequate state of the State Department workforce in Iraq. Amb. Ryan Crocker sent the communique to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, presumably with the intent of getting more (and better) people. Here's what he had to say:"

"Simply put, we cannot do the nation's most important work if we do not have the Department's best people," Crocker said in the memo.The unclassified cable underscores the State Department's struggle to find its role in the turmoil in Iraq. With a 2007 budget of more than $1 billion and a staff that has expanded to more than 1,000 Americans and 4,000 third-country nationals, the embassy has become the center of a bureaucratic battle between Crocker, who wants to strengthen the staff, and some members of Congress, who are increasingly skeptical about the diplomatic mission's rising costs."In essence, the issue is whether we are a Department and a Service at war," Crocker wrote. "If we are, we need to organize and prioritize in a way that reflects this, something we have not done thus far." In the memo, Crocker drew upon the recommendations of a management review he requested for the embassy shortly after arriving in Baghdad two months ago.* * *In the cable, Crocker said the State Department's human resources office "has made heroic efforts to staff the embassy, but to a large extent HR has been working alone." Referring to the floor where Rice and her top aides work, Crocker said there should be "a clear message from the Seventh floor . . . that staffing Iraq is an imperative."Apparently, someone asked a question today at a State Department press conference today about precisely how inadequate the U.S. diplomatic presence in Iraq is. The question: "How may Arabic speakers with 3/3 levels of proficiency are currently serving at Embassy Baghdad". The answer:

"We currently have ten Foreign Service Officers (including the Ambassador) at Embassy Baghdad at or above the 3 reading / 3 speaking level in Arabic. An additional five personnel at Embassy Baghdad have tested at or above the 3 level in speaking. A 3/3 indicates a general professional fluency level."15 Foreign Service Officers out of 1,000 Americans (not all FSOs) who can speak Arabic??? Four years after the invasion? In that time, we could've paid all-expenses TDY trips for half the diplomatic corps to spend a sabbatical in Qatar or Jordan or somewhere nearby to pick up the language, and then put them to work in Iraq. If there's one bright shining example of our inability as a nation to learn and adapt for this war, this is it. Sir Lawrence and Gertrude are likely spinning in their graves.

[bth: so we fired hundreds of proficient yet homosexual arabic translators? unbelievable.]

Darfur Oil Concession Blocks and the Call for Human Rights Intervention

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Walter Reed Guard Arrested for Firing Gun

An armed security guard at Walter Reed Army Medical Center unholstered his gun and began firing at another guard during an argument this morning, shocking employees who were driving through the busy main entrance on Georgia Avenue NW, D.C. police said.

No one appeared to have been injured during the dispute, which happened shortly after 8:30 a.m. The guard who did the shooting was taken into custody, said Cmdr. Hilton Burton of the Metropolitan Police Department's 4th District police station.

Burton said the guard fired between six and 10 shots from his service weapon, but the other guard -- who ran across Georgia Avenue and down nearby Dahlia Street -- was not hit.

The two guards are employed by Vance Security, a private firm headquartered in Oakton. Founded in 1984 by Charles Vance, ex-son-in-law of former President Gerald Ford, the firm is under contract to Walter Reed, an Army hospital in Northwest Washington that treats both veterans and active-duty military, many recently returned from the Iraq war.

Celebrities and top government officials -- including President Bush and members of Congress -- frequently visit soldiers recovering at the facility.

Walter Reed has come under scrutiny in recent months, following Washington Post investigations into the condition of its facilities and the quality of care.

[bth: I can't believe we outsource the guards too.]

Army Again Considers Longer Combat Tours

Army Again Considers Longer Combat Tours - The Huffington Post: "WASHINGTON — The Army is considering whether it will have to extend the combat tours of troops in Iraq if President Bush opts to maintain the recent buildup of forces through spring 2008."

Acting Army Secretary Pete Geren testified Tuesday that the service is reviewing other options, including relying more heavily on Army reservists or Navy and Air Force personnel, so as not to put more pressure on a stretched active-duty force.

Most soldiers spend 15 months in combat with a guaranteed 12 months home, a rotation plan that has infuriated Democrats because it exceeds the service's goal of giving troops equal time home as in combat.

In coming weeks, the Senate will vote on a proposal by Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., that would restrict deployments.

"It's too early to look into the next year, but for the Army we have to begin to plan," Geren told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "We have to look into our options."...

[bth: Murtha told me last month that they were going to be pushed to 18 month tours. That will destroy families already on the edge and push some into bankruptcy. If you are a self-employed National Guardsman and your income went from $80,000 as a construction contractor to $30,000 a a guardsman, no one will make up that difference for you. Your bills will remain essentially the same, but your income goes away for an extended period.]

Sen. John Kerry Intervenes on Behalf of Missing Soldier's Illegal Immigrant Wife - Local News | News Articles | National News | US News - Sen. John Kerry Intervenes on Behalf of Missing Soldier's Illegal Immigrant Wife - Local News News Articles National News US News: "WASHINGTON — Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., has asked the Department of Homeland Security not to deport the wife of an Army specialist who is missing in Iraq while the search continues for him, his office said Wednesday."

Army Spec. Alex Jimenez has been missing since May 12, when his unit was ambushed by insurgents.

His wife, Yaderlin, entered the country illegally in 2001, according to Kerry's office, and the two married in 2004. Procedures to deport Yaderlin Jimenez have begun, although an immigration judge has halted the proceedings while the search for her husband continues. The two live in Lawrence, Mass.

"Under no condition should our country ever deport the spouse of a soldier who is currently serving in uniform abroad," Kerry said, in a statement provided to

In the letter to Homeland Security Department Secretary Michael Chertoff, Kerry wrote: "I do not believe that Yaderlin should have her stress and grief compounded by additional worries about her own immigration status. I request that no further action be taken (in) Yaderlin's case while her husband is missing in action. As Yaderlin waits to hear what has happened to her husband I ask that she be allowed to stay in our country."

"I believe this is a very real test of our government's compassion for a military family which has already made enormous sacrifices for the United States," the letter continued.

Vincent Morris, a spokesman for Kerry, said the senator is also looking into whether this is a more widespread problem in the Army.

The matter is also on Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy's radar screen. Kennedy is the leading Democrat at the negotiating table for immigration reform measures being considered in the Senate.

"I'm very concerned about the situation facing Yaderlin Jimenez, and for millions of others, across the country. I've been in touch with the Department of Homeland Security on her behalf, and my office remains in touch with those assisting Ms. Jimenez and her family. I'm happy to assist her and Spec. Jimenez's family during this difficult time," Kennedy said in a prepared statement.

Kennedy spokeswoman Melissa Wagoner, asked if Kennedy had a position on Yaderlin Jimenez's deportation, or whether Kennedy believed this should be addressed in current reform proposals, responded by e-mail: "This is a good example of why the immigration system in this country needs to be fixed."

A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security did not return phone calls Wednesday seeking comment.

But it remains to be seen if efforts on the Jimenezes' behalf will be enough to prevent the deportation of Yaderlin Jimenez, whose maiden name is Hiraldo.

Jimenez family attorney Matthew Kolken, reached briefly at his Buffalo, N.Y., office, said Kerry's letter won't change his client's legal status, but "that letter is very good in that they (authorities) have it in their power to make a motion in her case" to reopen the proceedings.

Another immigration attorney said only an act of Congress would ensure the wife's legal status in the United States.

"Unless Congress passes a private bill on her behalf, she is subject to deportation," said Charles Kuck, an immigration lawyer and president-elect of the Washington, D.C.-based American Immigration Lawyers Association. The group has more than 10,000 members.

Morris said Kerry's office is "taking it one step at a time," and could consider other options including a private bill, although this letter seemed to be the fastest method available.

"The senator wanted to put up a bright red flag and say, 'hold on,' " Morris said.

Kuck, speaking with from his Atlanta office, said he suspects this is a widespread problem among military families. He said he believes that throughout the country, there are between 1 million and 3 million families where one spouse is not a legal resident.

"I get a call like this at least two to three times today: 'What can I do to help my spouse, but he came in illegally?' " Kuck said.

Boston television station WBZ-TV reported that Alex Jimenez, 25, had requested through U.S. immigration services a hardship waiver to gain legal status for his wife.

"I can't imagine a bigger injustice than that, to be deporting someone's wife who is fighting and possibly dying for our country," Kolken told the station.

Kuck said that immigration laws right now pose a Catch-22 for families like the Jimenezes. The process that they likely went through requires the spouse who needs the waiver to first leave the country, and then go to the U.S. consulate in his or her home country. In this case, the Dominican Republic.

The waivers are rare. Kuck said only a few thousand a year are issued, and they favor Mexicans because of the volume of applications. But because Yaderlin Jimenez had been in the country illegally for longer than one year, she would be forced to stay away from the United States for 10 years once she left the United States, Kuck said.

Kuck said he does not fault Immigration and Customs Services for enforcing the law, but this particular problem penalizes the legal U.S. citizen spouses of the illegal residents. He said the law should be changed so the waiver hearings can be held inside the United States.

"When you're deporting the spouses of U.S. soldiers, I think the law's harsh enough," Kuck said.
"Essentially we're punishing U.S. Citizens. That's why it's so essential to have comprehensive immigration reform."

Alex Jimenez and Pvt. Brian Fouty, 19, of Waterford, Mich., remain missing more than a month after the attack on their 10th Mountain Division unit. Their identification cards were found in an Al Qaeda safe house near Baghdad this weekend. A video posted earlier this month by a group affiliated with the terrorist group claimed the men had been killed, but did not provide specific proof of the claim.

The body of one soldier who was captured with Jimenez and Fouty has been found, and four other U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter were killed in the attack.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

[bth: I can't imagine what that family is going through. I can't imagine a greater injustice than deporting her under these circumstances. I'd suggest one option is to make her an citizen. This happened to a friend of mine who was German is the 50s and married to a soldier from Oklahoma.]
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Congressional Job Approval Dips Again This Month

Congressional Job Approval Dips Again This Month: "PRINCETON, NJ -- The honeymoon phase is over for the new Congress, as the public's ratings of Congress are down again this month. The latest congressional job approval rating (24%) is the lowest for the institution since Democrats took control of both houses in January, and is far below the 37% registered in February. The decline has been most evident among Democrats, whose ratings of Congress now match those of Republicans. Congressional job approval ratings are typically not positive, but ratings as low as the current one are uncommon. The poll also finds that only about one in four Americans say they are satisfied with the way things are going in this country, little changed since last month but still at its lowest point in over a decade....

[bth: Americans may be reaching a point where they decide to vote 'none of the above'. The prospect of third parties splintering off both parties is very high in my opinion]

Hillary Clinton Booed Again

The Corner on National Review Online: "Sen. Hillary Clinton was booed again this morning at the Take Back America conference, sponsored by the lefty activist group Campaign for America's Future here in Washington. At this same conference last year, Sen. Clinton was booed for her position on the war in Iraq. This morning, she was enthusiastically received as she bashed the Bush administration — "a stunning record of secrecy and corruption" — but the crowd became less friendly when, at the end of her speech, she turned to Iraq."We're going to end the war in Iraq and finally bring home the troops," she said as a number of Code Pink protesters stood up in the audience. When she declared, "The American military has done its job," boos began to be heard around the room. As the boos increased, Sen. Clinton raised her voice. "The American military has succeeded," she said, to more boos. "It is the Iraqi government that has failed to make the tough decisions." Still more boos.At that point, there was a round of cheers. "I love coming here every year," Clinton said. "I see the signs, 'Get Us Out of Iraq Now.' That's what we're trying to do."

UPDATE: Here's the video.

[bth: this correlates highly with a talk Sen. Kerry did in Natick this weekend that I witnessed. Very hostile crowds are showing up to the Democratic candidates' public presentations. Public impatience with the folks in Washington is palpable.]

Monday, June 18, 2007

Exclusive: Suicide Bomb Teams Sent to U.S., Europe

The Blotter: "Large teams of newly trained suicide bombers are being sent to the United States and Europe, according to evidence contained on a new videotape obtained by the Blotter on"...

Mexican army's soldiers fleeing for drug cartels

Mexican army's soldiers fleeing for drug cartels - Houston Chronicle: "MEXICO CITY — The most ruthless gang of drug-cartel hit men in Mexico are deserters from the army's elite. But the Zetas, as the ex-soldiers are known, may not be the only troops who abandoned their posts to work for the cartels."

In the eight years since the Zetas were organized, more than 120,000 Mexican soldiers have deserted the army, according to the government's records. Yet the country's defense officials have made little effort to track their whereabouts, security experts said, creating a potential pool of military-trained killers for the drug-trafficking gangs wreaking havoc in the country.

"Even if just 5 percent of those join the cartels, that's an army of hit men," said Georgina Sanchez, an independent security analyst in Mexico City.

High desertion rates within Mexico's armed forces, usually blamed on poor salaries and harsh living conditions, are nothing new. Until receiving a raise this year, rank-and-file soldiers made $330 a month, less than many police officers.

Soldiers are also routinely denied access to rights such as family and medical leave while they are forced to work horrendous hours and humiliated by their superiors, said former Gen. Jose Francisco Gallardo, a military scholar.

"Traditionally, the vast majority of desertions were due to mistreatment in the army," said Gallardo, who spent nine years in a military prison after publicly proposing the creation of an ombudsman to curb human rights abuses within the army.

Gallardo and other experts, however, say the problem of desertions has grown dramatically since the military was first deployed to battle the drug gangs in the late 1990s.

Prior to 1994, an average of 50,000 soldiers deserted during each six-year presidential administration, said Idalia Gomez, an investigative journalist who is writing a book on the drug war. That figure jumped to 114,000 during the 1994-2000 government of former President Ernesto Zedillo, according to Defense Secretariat records obtained through freedom of information laws...

In Polls, Clinton Loses to Republicans

In Polls, Clinton Loses to Republicans - June 18, 2007 - The New York Sun: "WASHINGTON — It is a paradox of the 2008 presidential race. By a wide margin, several polls show, voters want a Democrat to win — yet when offered head-to-head contests of leading announced candidates, many switch allegiance to the Republican."

In a Los Angeles Times-Bloomberg poll conducted earlier this month, this dynamic was most clearly evident with Senator Clinton.

When registered voters were asked which party they would like to win the White House, they preferred a Democrat over a Republican by 8%. But in a race pitting Mrs. Clinton against Mayor Giuliani, a Republican, the former New York mayor was favored by 10%.

Mrs. Clinton's showing against Mr. Giuliani was the starkest example of how the general Democratic edge sometimes narrows or vanishes when voters are given specific candidates to choose between.

The poll also showed Mrs. Clinton trailing when matched against two other Republicans — Senator McCain of Arizona and a former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney.

The deficits, however, were within the survey's margin of error of plus or minus 3%....

[bth: the Democrats are so certain that they have this in the bag, but I was at a forum for Kerry this weekend and the level of public anger over the Iraq situation and the poor showing by the Democrats in the Senate which people expected to confront the President indicates to me that this is going to be a jump ball election.]

Gen. Petraeus and Sen. McConnell at odds over surge

The Raw Story Gen. Petraeus and Sen. McConnell at odds over surge: "Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said on CBS's Face The Nation on Sunday that he expects the US 'surge' in Iraq to come to an end in September, a sentiment that deviates greatly from the official White House and military stance."

"I think that everybody anticipates that this is going to be a new strategy in the fall. I don't think we'll have the same level of troops, in all likelihood, that we have now," he said. "We're not [in Iraq] forever."

McConnell said he sees "growing support" among both Republicans and Democrats for implementing the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, which included a suggestion for a phased withdrawal of US troops.

Also this morning, appearing on Fox News Sunday US General David Petraeus said that the "surge" strategy would not be completed by September.

"I do not" think the job will be done by Semptember, said Petraeus. "I think that we have a lot of heavy lifting to do."

The White House expressed a similar sentiment in the daily press briefing on June 13th.

"It is humanly impossible to solve all this before September," said White House Press Secretary Tony Snow of the "surge."

The following video contains clips from Fox's Fox News Sunday and CBS's Face the Nation. Both clips were broadcast on June 17.

[bth: a friend of mine has been telling me since January that a deal was cut whereby the Republicans agreed to the surge in exchange for the reduction in September. This whole thing has nothing to do with the situation on the ground in Iraq and everything to do with elections in the US]

Sunday, June 17, 2007

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Market Value

The Belmont Club: Market Value: "Looters Raid Arafat's Home, Steal Nobel Peace Prize. The Jerusalem Post reports, 'They stole almost everything inside the house, including Arafat's Nobel Peace Prize medal .. they stole all the widow's clothes and shoes.' Israel Matzav asks, 'How much would you pay for a Nobel Peace Prize on E-Bay?'"

Sometimes humiliation isn't something other people do to you as much as something you do to yourself. This was foreshadowed by the looting of the multi-million dollar greenhouses bequeathed to the Palestinian people. It continued with the bombing of the Internet cafes, the attacks on hospitals, the burning of music stores. It goes on every time delighted gunmen fire their automatic rifles in the air and are surprised to find the bullets eventually come down and kill somebody. Every time a "militant" blows up a bridge, or a power pylon, an oil pipeline or a beautiful seaside resort, it is not a glorious event. That's just the fantasy of an over-wrought journalist. Plainly speaking, it's just another bullet in the foot.

Nothing follows.

Sky is Falling Advisory System of Fear

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Nineteen Eighty-Four


- Ministry of Truth, 1984
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Joint failure - The Boston Globe

Joint failure - The Boston Globe: "Responsibility for the disaster of Iraq lies not only with the President of the United States, but also with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The president needs expert and candid military counsel. Not yes-men in uniform."

By Andrew J. Bacevich | June 17, 2007

Washington was briefly abuzz last week with the news that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will not recommend the reappointment of General Peter Pace for a second two-year term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Gates is instead nominating Admiral Michael Mullen for the post. The political classes reacted first with surprise and then with approval. The New York Times editorial page declared Mullen a "good choice." Senate confirmation seems assured.

A better idea might be to abolish the position of JCS chairman altogether -- and the entire JCS system along with it.

History will render this judgment of Pace, who succeeded General Richard B Myers as chairman in September 2005: As U. S. forces became mired ever more deeply in an unwinnable war, Pace remained a passive bystander, a witness to a catastrophe that he was slow to comprehend and did little to forestall. If the position of JCS chair had simply remained vacant for the past two years, it is difficult to see how the American military would be in worse shape today.

Softening history's verdict will be this fact: Long before Pace arrived on the scene the JCS had established a well-deserved reputation as one of the most ineffective institutions in Washington. Dissatisfaction with the Joint Chiefs dates virtually from the moment in 1947 when Congress passed the legislation creating it. Trying to fix the JCS soon became a cottage industry. The widespread unhappiness with Pace's performance, culminating in his de facto firing, affirms that these various reforms have failed.

Expectations that a permanent mechanism for providing military advice could improve the quality of civilian decision-making inspired the creation of the Joint Chiefs in the first place. After all, this had seemingly been the case during World War II, when Franklin Roosevelt had created a precursor of the modern JCS whose members had collaborated effectively with FDR in successfully directing a massive global war.

The creation of a permanent JCS two years after the war was intended to replicate that success: drawing on the accumulated wisdom of their profession, the new Joint Chiefs would help the president and Congress maintain adequate but economical defenses, avoid unnecessary wars, and wage effectively those wars that proved unavoidable.

Measured by these criteria, over the course of six decades the Joint Chiefs of Staff have performed miserably. Attempts to fix the institution only introduced new varieties of dysfunction, culminating in the rise of General Colin Powell, the most talented -- and most problematic -- officer ever to preside over the JCS. After Powell, things would only get worse.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff inhabit the seam at which war, statecraft, and domestic politics intersect -- an environment saturated with political considerations. Charged with providing professional advice to civilian policymakers, they also represent the institutional interests of the armed services. In pursuit of those interests, the natural tendency of the chiefs is to encroach on territory ostensibly reserved for civilians. Likewise, the tendency of strong-willed civilians -- for example, defense secretaries in the mold of Robert McNamara or Donald Rumsfeld -- is to encroach on the territory claimed by the generals.

As a consequence, instead of military professionals offering disinterested advice to help policymakers render sound decisions, the history of this civilian-military relationship is one of conniving, double-dealing, and mutual manipulation. As generals increasingly played politics, they forfeited their identity as nonpartisan servants of the state. Presidents Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy, each for different reasons, came to see the members of the Joint Chiefs as uniformed political adversaries.

Although himself a five-star general, Eisenhower railed in private throughout his presidency about members of the Joint Chiefs conspiring to undermine his policies whenever they happened to collide with cherished interests of the military services. His Farewell Address, warning that the "military-industrial complex" could well "endanger our liberties or democratic processes," amounted to a tacit admission that as commander-in-chief he had lost control of his generals.

Kennedy, from the outset of his presidency, viewed the JCS with skepticism. After the Bay of Pigs, skepticism became unvarnished mistrust. "Those sons-of-bitches with all the fruit salad just sat there nodding, saying it would work," he complained. As Kennedy later remarked to a friendly journalist, "The first advice I'm going to give to my successor is to watch the generals and to avoid feeling that just because they were military men their opinions on military matters were worth a damn."

In his now-classic 1997 book, "Dereliction of Duty," Colonel H. R. McMaster, an active-duty army officer who has served in Iraq with considerable distinction, described how a civil-military relationship based on mutual dishonesty and suspicion reached its pre-Iraq low-point during the US intervention in Vietnam. In his blistering indictment, McMaster charged the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the early 1960s -- the "five silent men," he called them -- with complicity in the lies and deceptions that produced the debacle of that war.

Both before and after Vietnam critics blamed the Joint Chiefs' failures on rampant parochialism, as interservice rivalry either paralyzed the JCS or prevented the chiefs from rendering timely and effective counsel. To address this problem, advocates of reform first created the office of JCS Chairman in 1949, then steadily vested the position with more authority. A more powerful chairman, they believed, would cure the chronic dysfunction by rising above the parochial concerns of his own service, tending instead to the national interest.

In 1986, these efforts culminated in the passage of the Goldwater-Nichols Act, which designated the chairman (no longer the Joint Chiefs collectively) as principal military adviser to the president and the secretary of defense. In effect, Goldwater-Nichols demoted the service chiefs while greatly expanding the clout and standing of the chairman.

The result was Colin Powell. Appointed chairman in 1989, Powell proved himself in short order to be the savviest, most charismatic, and most influential officer ever to occupy that post. In some respects, he was enormously effective, seemingly fulfilling the expectations of the reformers who had devised Goldwater-Nichols. In the end, however, he overplayed his hand.

Politically, Powell posed a problem. As he skillfully exploited his superstar status to insert himself into a range of controversial issues, Powell demonstrated a capacity and willingness to preempt the politicians, limiting their options and investing his own policy preferences with an almost irresistible authority.

Powell proved that the JCS chairman could now in effect tie the president's hands. During Operation Desert Storm, he convinced President George H. W. Bush to end the ground war after just 100 hours; he insisted that U. S. forces after the Cold War retain the capability to fight two large-scale conventional wars simultaneously; he questioned the wisdom of humanitarian intervention in the Balkans and elsewhere; and he torpedoed President Bill Clinton's efforts to permit gays to serve openly in the military.

The ultimate testimony to Powell's influence lies in the "Powell Doctrine" -- the general himself defining the criteria for when and how the United States would fight its wars. By 1993, with the Clinton administration stumbling as it left the gate, the JCS chairman had established himself as perhaps the dominant figure in Washington, a situation that persisted until Powell's second two-year term expired that fall and he retired.

Having learned from Powell's tenure that a talented, high-powered JCS chairman can produce big-time political headaches, the administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have opted for officers who could be counted on not to make waves. They have done so by selecting anti-Powells to serve as JCS chairmen -- officers who, whatever their other admirable qualities, have possessed few of the attributes that made Powell so formidable. Since 1993, the position of JCS chairman has been filled by a succession of colorless, compliant generals -- honorable and good soldiers to the man, but none demonstrating anything approaching Powell's smarts, flair, and shrewdness. Mediocrity can be a cruel word, but as a description of those who have succeeded Colin Powell as the nation's top military officer, it is apt.

When Donald Rumsfeld served as defense secretary, silent assent became an absolute requirement, as army chief of staff Eric Shinseki learned, to his chagrin. When Shinseki testified, during the run-up to the Iraq invasion, that occupying the country might require many more troops than were available, Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz went out of their way to humiliate and discredit the general for having the temerity to venture an independent opinion. The message to the senior officer corps was clear: those interested in getting ahead were expected to toe the party line.

Pace exemplifies this breed. Only once during his time as chairman has Pace asserted himself -- and that, somewhat bizarrely, was to express his view that homosexuality is immoral. Apart from that uncharacteristic outburst, he has loyally accommodated himself to whatever the boss has wanted, even to calamitous policies that have done immeasurable harm not only to the country but to the armed services to which he has devoted his life.

Perhaps symbolic of that willingness to accommodate, even as Iraq continued to unravel, Pace found time to write a pre-sentencing letter on behalf of convicted perjurer Lewis "Scooter" Libby, assuring the trial judge that Libby is a selfless team player. Pace's involvement in an issue so tinged with partisan overtones was at the very least unseemly, and raises troubling questions about his priorities, if not about the hierarchy of his loyalties.

Let there be no mistake: primary responsibility for the failure of US policy in Iraq lies with civilian policymakers, beginning with the president. As Mr. Bush rightly insists, at the end of the day he remains "the decider." Yet senior military advisers like Pace cannot fully absolve themselves of responsibility for the disasters that have occurred on their watch. To charge Pace with something akin to "dereliction of duty" may go too far. He has, after all, served precisely as his civilian masters wished him to serve. And yet for precisely that reason, his dismissal is richly deserved.

The armed forces deserve top-notch professional leadership. Civilian policymakers need expert military counsel, offered clearly and candidly. Yet to charge one small group of senior officers with fulfilling both functions makes it unlikely that either will be adequately performed. The dismal saga of the Joint Chiefs has demonstrated this in spades. At the highest levels a line should exist between the senior officers who advise on matters of national security policy and those expected to implement policy decisions. One way to draw that line might be to select advisers from the ranks of retired generals and admirals, independent-minded "wise men" no longer involved in running their services.

Secretary Gates has described Pace's successor as an officer of "vision, strategic insight, and integrity." No doubt similar words were spoken when Pace himself was appointed chairman, perhaps with equal sincerity.

Yet whatever personal attributes Admiral Mullen may possess -- even if he ends up being more like a Powell than another Pace -- the real problem lies with the institution over which he will preside. Six decades of trying to fix the Joint Chiefs of Staff have produced little positive effect. Further tinkering will only waste more money and, alas, more lives.

The JCS lies beyond salvaging. Before you build a new house, you tear the old one down. For the Joint Chiefs of Staff, it's wrecking-ball time. A chairman possessing vision, strategic insight, and integrity ought to be the first to acknowledge that.

Andrew J. Bacevich, professor of history and international relations at Boston University, is editor of "The Long War: A New History of U.S. National Security Policy Since World War II," published this month by Columbia University Press.

[bth: perhaps I've missed it, but I don't see that Andrew has proposed an alternative to the Joint Chiefs. It strikes me that generals with moral courage and personal integrity that are willing to put their careers on the line late in life with the same vigor they were willing to put their lives on the line as younger officers is what is needed. What is missing is civic courage within the officers corp.]
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Perception Management and The Path To War

Swedish Meatballs Confidential: Perception Management and The Path To War: "From Jeffery St. Clair's How To Sell A War:"

The war on Iraq won't be remembered for how it was waged so much as for how it was sold. It was a propaganda war, a war of perception management, where loaded phrases, such as "weapons of mass destruction" and "rogue state" were hurled like precision weapons at the target audience: us.

To understand the Iraq war you don't need to consult generals, but the spin doctors and PR flacks who stage-managed the countdown to war from the murky corridors of Washington where politics, corporate spin and psy-ops spooks cohabit.

Consider the picaresque journey of Tony Blair's plagiarized dossier on Iraq, from a grad student's website to a cut-and-paste job in the prime minister's bombastic speech to the House of Commons. Blair, stubborn and verbose, paid a price for his grandiose puffery. Bush, who looted whole passages from Blair's speech for his own clumsy presentations, has skated freely through the tempest. Why?

Unlike Blair, the Bush team never wanted to present a legal case for war. They had no interest in making any of their allegations about Iraq hold up to a standard of proof. The real effort was aimed at amping up the mood for war by using the psychology of fear.

Facts were never important to the Bush team. They were disposable nuggets that could be discarded at will and replaced by whatever new rationale that played favorably with their polls and focus groups. The war was about weapons of mass destruction one week, al-Qaeda the next. When neither allegation could be substantiated on the ground, the fall back position became the mass graves (many from the Iran/Iraq war where the U.S.A. backed Iraq) proving that Saddam was an evil thug who deserved to be toppled. The motto of the Bush PR machine was: Move on. Don't explain. Say anything to conceal the perfidy behind the real motives for war. Never look back. Accuse the questioners of harboring unpatriotic sensibilities. Eventually, even the cagey Wolfowitz admitted that the official case for war was made mainly to make the invasion palatable, not to justify it.

The Bush claque of neocon hawks viewed the Iraq war as a product and, just like a new pair of Nikes, it required a roll-out campaign to soften up the consumers. The same techniques (and often the same PR gurus) that have been used to hawk cigarettes, SUVs and nuclear waste dumps were deployed to retail the Iraq war. To peddle the invasion, Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell and company recruited public relations gurus into top-level jobs at the Pentagon and the State Department. These spinmeisters soon had more say over how the rationale for war on Iraq should be presented than intelligence agencies and career diplomats. If the intelligence didn't fit the script, it was shaded, retooled or junked. ...

(John) Rendon and his circle represented a new kind of off-the-shelf PSYOPs , the privatization of official propaganda. "I am not a national security strategist or a military tactician," said Rendon. "I am a politician, and a person who uses communication to meet public policy or corporate policy objectives. In fact, I am an information warrior and a perception manager."

What exactly, is perception management? The Pentagon defines it this way: "actions to convey and/or deny selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives and objective reasoning." In other words, lying about the intentions of the U.S. government. In a rare display of public frankness, the Pentagon actually let slip its plan (developed by Rendon) to establish a high-level den inside the Department Defense for perception management. They called it the Office of Strategic Influence and among its many missions was to plant false stories in the press.

[bth: interestingly, the talk in Washington is about how we are losing the propaganda war to al-Qaida. Far from it. "we" i.e., the administration and its political operatives - foreign and domestic - got exactly what they wanted - a war with Iraq despite all logic and reason. The reason the 'American' message is no longer being heard or respected in the world is because it has lost is moral superiority and truthfulness. It isn't hard to understand - they don't trust us and we don't trust ourselves.]
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Israel Celebrates Hamas Victory

Swedish Meatballs Confidential: Israel Celebrates Hamas Victory: "There is, no doubt, a whole lot of celebrating going on today. For those more afraid of negotiations than of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, or any of that violent crew, a collapsing Palestinian Authority with Gaza in absolute chaos and with Mahmoud Abbas weakened almost to irrelevancy is a dream come true."

Gaza has fallen to Hamas. Abbas’ Fatah is on the run. Unless a United Nations force (like UNIFIL) steps in, a sliver of territory with a population of 1.4 million, a short drive from Tel Aviv, will become a dagger aimed at Israel's heart and perhaps even an Al Qaeda staging ground. A humanitarian crisis of horrific proportions is a near-certainty.

Whose fault is it? The Palestinians’, of course. But hardly theirs alone. As Nahum Barnea, Israel's finest journalist, puts it in today’s Yediot Ahronoth, “The US and Israel had a decisive contribution to this failure. The Americans, in their lack of understanding of the processes of Islamization in the territories, pressured [the Palestinians] to hold democratic elections and brought Hamas to power with their own hands…. Since the elections, Israel, like the US, declared over and over that ‘Abu Mazen must be strengthened,’ but in practice, zero was done for this to happen. The meetings with him turned into an Israeli political tool, and Olmert's kisses and backslapping turned Abbas into a collaborator and a source of jokes on the Palestinian street.”

The failures to which Barnea refers didn't start with the Palestinian elections either, not by a long shot. Back when Hamas was just a gleam in Sheik Ahmed Yassin's blind eye, Israeli right-ringers were implementing a strategy to eliminate the authority of Palestinian moderates by building up religious extremists. These Israelis (some very high in Likud governments) believed that only supplanting Arafat's Fatah with Islamic fundamentalists would prevent a situation under which Israel would be forced to negotiate with moderates.

It was in 1978 when the government of then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin indirectly assisted the start-up of a "humanitarian" organization known as the Islamic Association, or Mujama. The roots of this Islamist group were in the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is an offshoot, and it soon was flush with funding and political support. The right-wing strategists devised the theory of creating Hamas as an alternative to Fatah because they believed that Muslim Brotherhood types would devote themselves to charity and religious study and passively accept the occupation. They certainly would never put Israel on the spot by offering to negotiate.

Likud governments even deported Palestinian advocates of non-violent resistance (most notably, the Gandhian, Mubarak Awad) at the same time that they were doing everything they could to build the street cred of fanatics who, a few years later, would proclaim themselves Hamas, dedicated to Israel’s elimination.

The pro-Hamas tilt accelerated in 1988 when Yasir Arafat himself announced that he favored the two-state solution and that previous PLO demands that Israel be replaced by Palestine were, in his words “caduq” (inoperative).

An Arafat committed to two-states struck terror in the hearts of the settlers and their allies who were and are determined to hold on to the West Bank forever. Their worst fears were realized when Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres repudiated this craziness and decided to engage with the PLO in order to strengthen it vis a vis Hamas, which was, by the time Rabin came to office, exceedingly powerful thanks in large part to the Israeli right’s support.

We all know the rest of the story. A young rightist killed Rabin in the belief (a belief indoctrinated in him by rightwing rabbis) that stopping Rabin would stop the peace process. As President Clinton told me in 1997, assassin Yigal Amir was successful. Clinton said that unlike almost every other assassin in history, Amir achieved his goal, although not completely.....

[bth: this article is worth a read whether you agree with its conclusions or not. All radical factions seem dead set on crushing any moderate group, killing the peace-makers and taking any and all action to avoid a negotiated settlement.]
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Pakistan's soldiers 'huddling in their bases' in tribal regions |

Pakistan's soldiers 'huddling in their bases' in tribal regions | The Guardian | Guardian Unlimited: "The Pakistani army is paralysed by the growing Taliban threat and some retired officers are covertly aiding the militants, according to a former CIA officer."

Soldiers posted to Waziristan, a tribal area that hosts an estimated 2,000 al-Qaida fighters, are "huddling in their bases, doing nothing", said Art Keller, a CIA case officer who was posted to Pakistan last year.

"Their approach was to pretend that nothing was wrong because any other approach would reveal that they were unwilling and unable to do anything about Talibanisation," said Mr Keller, who has visited Waziristan.

The Pakistani military insists it is doing its best. President Pervez Musharraf has repeatedly referred to the 80,000 soldiers posted to the tribal areas, about 700 of whom have been killed in action.

But Mr Keller said that behind the scenes the fight was riven by divisions among the officers. "There are the moderates who fear Talibanisation, the professional jihadis who want to embrace the Taliban again, and the middle group who aren't too fond of the Taliban but resent doing anything under pressure from the US out of sheer bloody-minded stubbornness," he said. "Because of [that], the Pakistani military remains paralysed."

Mr Keller alleged that retired army officers, including the former spy chief Hamid Gul, were secretly supporting the Taliban. "To the degree that they aren't arrested or forced to cease and desist, they are tacitly tolerated," he said. Gen Gul, who has faced similar accusations before, said last night: "I morally support the movement to end the American occupation of Afghanistan. But there is no physical dimension to it, no hidden agenda."

Mr Keller's comments come at a sensitive time in US-Pakistani relations. Since 2001 Washington has given Pakistan $10bn (£5bn) in exchange for counter-terrorism cooperation. But although hundreds of al-Qaida figures have been arrested, Osama bin Laden remains at liberty and Taliban attacks on Afghanistan have soared.

On Thursday the US assistant secretary of state Richard Boucher visited Quetta, the capital of the western province of Baluchistan where Nato officials say the Taliban has a headquarters. The chief minister of Baluchistan, Jam Muhammad Yousaf, told him that "Mullah Omar or Osama bin Laden are not [here]", according to a government statement.

Uzbek, Arab, Chechen and Somali militants are sheltering in Waziristan, to the north of Baluchistan. The majority Uzbeks are concentrated around Mir Ali in north Waziristan, where they have allied with local fighters - self styled "Pakistani Taliban" - to coordinate attacks inside Afghanistan.

Gen Musharraf's efforts to stem the violence through a controversial peace deal with the militants have failed, and in recent months "Talibanisation" has spread north out of the tribal belt and into North-West Frontier Province, with attacks on music shops, barbers and government officials.

But Mr Keller said American efforts to catch the ringleaders were being thwarted by Pakistani rules restricting CIA agents to heavily guarded military camps. "Limited freedom of movement and limited freedom to directly engage locals were, and remain, the biggest obstacles to success," he said. Critics say the CIA has also inflamed the situation through secretive attacks by Predator aeroplanes on al-Qaida targets that have killed dozens of civilians.

Last year the CIA revived efforts to hunt bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al Zawahiri. Mr Keller doubted they were in Waziristan. "I don't think the two top guys are there but some roads leading to them run through there," he said.

Excessive pressure from Washington was also hampering the chase, he added. Spies needed peace and quiet to "spin webs and wait for the flies to come", he said. "Such a manhunt is chess, not checkers."
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Hamas bans masks for Gaza gunmen

Hamas bans masks for Gaza gunmen | Herald Sun: "IN their first order since seizing control of the Gaza Strip, Hamas Islamists banned gunmen from wearing masks - unless they are shooting at Israel."

The masks have become commonplace in the Gaza Strip during weeks of factional fighting between the ruling Hamas movement and President Mahmoud Abbas's secular Fatah faction.

Both sides wore the masks to hide their identities.

“A decision was taken last night to prevent (people from wearing) masks,” Khaled Abu Hilal, a spokesman for the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry, said.

Hamas made one exception, for militants carrying out cross-border attacks on Israel.

“Wearing masks should only be near the borders and in fighting the Zionist enemy, not in the streets and near people's homes,” Abu Hilal said.

[bth: hard to imagine any good coming from a government whose first act is to ban masks except when shooting Israelis.]