Saturday, August 04, 2007

Army Agrees to M4 Sand Test Shoot-Off

...Army Agrees to M4 Sand Test Shoot-Off: "In April, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) insisted in a letter to then-acting Army Secretary Pete Geren that better weapons technology is available that can guard against stoppages stemming from dust and sand interfering with the firing mechanism of the M4. "...

The Army's carbine uses a gas system that evidence shows is susceptible to stoppages unless it is frequently cleaned.

The shoot off will test the capabilities of the M4/M16 operating system against three other rifles: the Heckler and Koch-built HK416, the FNH USA-designed Mk16 SOCOM Combat Assault Rifle and the previously-shelved, H&K-manufactured XM8 carbine.

All three competitors use a gas-piston operating system that requires less maintenance and has demonstrated in some tests that it can fire accurately even if completely fouled with sand, dust and mud.

"Considering the long standing reliability and lethality problems with the M16 design, of which the M4 is based, I am afraid that our troops in combat might not have the best weapon," Coburn wrote in April. "A number of manufacturers have researched, tested and fielded weapons which, by all accounts, appear to provide significantly improved reliability."

A December 2005 Center for Naval Analyses study commissioned by the Army indicated the M4 - when properly cleaned - exhibited few stoppages. But 20 percent of those who had complications with their M4s said they experienced bad enough jams that they had to pull out of the fight.

Many special operations units favor the HK416, due in part to its increased reliability. This month, Special Operations Command began operational tests on the Mk16 and the heavier-caliber Mk17 to eventually replace its M4 and HK416 stocks.

The sand tests will include 10 samples of each weapon through which engineers will fire 6,000 rounds. Each weapon and loaded magazine will be exposed to "extreme dust" for 30 minutes then test fired with 120 rounds, Chyma said.

"Each weapon will be wiped down and lubricated every 600 rounds with a full cleaning every 1,200 rounds," Chyma added. "The firing, collection of data and analysis of data is expected to take approximately five months."

Coburn said in his April letter to Geren that even though the M4 works, better weapons exist. He was so insistent that the Army compete new M4 contracts to outfit its expanded brigade combat teams that he placed a hold on the Geren nomination to become Army secretary until the service relented, a Coburn staffer confirmed.

The Army's willingness to hold the limited "sandstorm shoot-off" released the nomination, and Geren was confirmed by the Senate July 13....

[bth: amazing what's required to get the Army to do the right thing. Well done Coburn!]

Top US general says he's received plan for complete Iraq withdrawal

The Raw Story | Top US general says he's received plan for complete Iraq withdrawal: "MSNBC's Hardball reported Wednesday that Defense Secretary Robert Gates was recently 'in Kuwait, scoping out what will at some point be a critical staging ground for a US exit plan from Iraq.'"

According to correspondent Jim Miklaszewski, "Military officials in Kuwait suggest that they could easily handle the 160,000 troops in a matter of months. But that would be extremely risky, because a hasty retreat would increase the troops' vulnerability to attack. And then there's all that equipment – one million tons – that would have to be driven out of Iraq and shipped out of Kuwait by sea. ... It could take two years for a complete withdrawal."

"Tonight, a top US general here in Kuwait said, from a logistics standpoint, he's already got the plan, and he's ready to go," concluded Miklaszewski. "All he needs is the president's orders."

The unnamed general's willingness to discuss withdrawal plans is in contrast with the attitude of Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman, who recently made headlines when he cited fears of 'reinforc[ing] enemy propaganda' in rejecting Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton's request for a briefing on troop-withdrawal contingency plans. Vice President Dick Cheney supported his former aide, saying that contingency plans "should remain unseen by lawmakers" until ready to be executed.

The following video is from MSNBC's Hardball, broadcast on August 1.

Swedish Meatballs Confidential: Russian Cyber Gunslingers For Hire

Swedish Meatballs Confidential: Russian Cyber Gunslingers For Hire: "

A [Russian] publication called Chacker recently published -- with no legal consequences -- precise instructions on how to hack into the Web sites of foreign governments. Sergei Pokrovsky, the publication's editor-in-chief, readily admits to having planted anti-NATO slogans on the organization's computers in Washington and Brussels in 1999. It was at a time when the Western defense alliance had just stopped Yugoslav dictator Slobodan Milosevic, a friend of Moscow's, from continuing his ethnic cleansing activities in Kosovo by bombing the Yugoslav capital Belgrade. 'I was simply overcome by emotion,' says Pokrovsky. 'We knew that we wouldn't be punished for it.'"

DDoS attacks have become common practice in Russia. In the wild 1990s, shady businesspeople would hire thugs or even contract killers to intimidate their competitors. Nowadays they increasingly use the services of cyber vandals to accomplish the same objective. Hackers are especially fond of targeting companies like Infobox, which earn their money directly on or using the Internet. Attackers shut down the systems of OSMP, a Moscow provider of online payment services, for five hours in June, causing damage upwards of $150,000. ...

Perhaps the Wild East would be a more apt description. Russian-speaking hackers, in particular, offer their criminal services online in return for payment, posing a threat to companies worldwide, including in the West. As far back as the mid-1990s, Vladimir Levin, a mathematician from St. Petersburg, hacked into the main computer of US banking giant Citibank and diverted over $10 million to the accounts of his friends.

In August 2005, hackers, presumably from Eastern Europe, demanded that German online gambling site Fluxx pay them €40,000 in the form of a Western Union wire transfer, in return for their stopping DDoS attacks on the company. The Germans refused to pay. British and other online casinos and gambling sites were not as resolute -- they paid a total of $4 million in ransom money to a gang of Russian hackers.

Cyber warriors have also targeted political Web sites. This spring they launched multiple attacks on the Web site of former world chess champion Garry Kasparov's Other Russia movement (more...). Each attack happened shortly before the group had planned to stage demonstrations against Russian President Vladimir Putin. It was a heavy blow to the opposition movement. Because the Kremlin controls Russian television and large parts of the press, opposition groups depend on the Internet to call their supporters to action.

The country's few independent media outlets have also faced DDoS attacks. One of them is Echo Moscow, a radio station critical of the government. In early May the station's Web site crashed in response to a powerful hacker attack. Although Echo Moscow continued to broadcast, its popular Web site was out of commission for four days.

"The attack was big, well-planned and clearly ordered by someone," says Alexei Venediktov, the station's editor-in-chief, who has turned Echo Moscow into one of Russia's most prominent media outlets. Venediktov sees the attacks as "a new tool in the fight against rebellious editorial departments. This was a trial run for the coming elections."

A new parliament will be elected in December, and the presidential election is set for next March. "My clients," says one hacker named Sergei, "also include political structures."

Sergei reveals that an attack of the kind that was directed at Echo Moscow's site would cost no more than $400 per day. It's a small price to pay for silencing the Internet voice of the Kremlin's most prominent critic. "I can do everything," Sergei brags, "but everything has its price."

But in late April Sergei went into battle without being paid anything at all. When the conflict between Russia and Estonia over an Estonian plan to move a Soviet war memorial (more...) began to escalate, Sergei had his cyber zombies attack the neighboring country.

Like many nationalistic Russian hackers, he felt offended by the Estonians. "Of course I participated," says Sergei, "out of idealism."

[bth: We pay $100 million to those Karl Rove wannabes over at the Lincoln Group and the Russians pay $400 per day. We ought to hire Russian thugs. Better yet why not list sites run by al-Qaeda's buddies the US government would like US and S. Korean teenagers to mess with. Talk about enthusiasm - college computer nerds could test all their Fall back to school computer viruses on real bad guys instead of their friends and families.]

Arms and influence: The future of counterinsurgency

Arms and influence: The future of counterinsurgency: "Looking beyond Iraq and Afghanistan, how prepared will the US military be for the next counterinsurgency war? Here are the warning signs that military professionals aren't going to be any readier than, say, they were for the Iraq War:"



Officers mouth the right words, but they don't embrace the ideas behind counterinsurgency. That's exactly what the US military did during the early 1960s, when the Pentagon felt that it could avoid President Kennedy's pressures to take counterinsurgency by adopting the language, without changing doctrine or organization.
Military leaders start focusing on something else. In the waning days of the Vietnam War, American military professionals had already stopped paying attention to counterinsurgency, preferring to invest their time and dwindling resources on conventional and nuclear warfare between the superpowers.
A few enthusiasts continue to champion counterinsurgency, but little changes. In other words, the war colleges might have several counterinsurgency "true believers" on staff, but the rest of the military's overall TO&E and doctrine remain the same. After the Vietnam War, some in the Defense Department did try to ensure that the United States would be prepared for the next Vietnam. Unfortunately, these individuals were largely isolated, facing not only resistance from generals and admirals who refused to believe that another Vietnam would ever happen, but severe penalties in their personal careers if they continued crusading for counterinsurgency.
The third warning sign is the hardest to discern, since you need to sift through the details of budgets, assignments, and promotions to track what happens to the counterinsurgency experts. The first two warning signs are easier to discern, since you can find them in military journals, the proceedings of Defense Department conferences, and other highly public materials.

The summer issue of Parameters, the Army War College journal, points towards a more optimistic future for counterinsurgency warfare, even as the news from Iraq remains grim. I often cite Parameters on this blog because it gives some insight into what the leaders of the US Army are thinking and discussing. The summer issue includes a "social networks" view of counterinsurgency, a review of the Marines' new counterinsurgency manual, a "think piece" about defining victory in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency, and book reviews on these and related topics.

It's clear that the authors of these articles aren't merely paying lip service to counterinsurgency principles. No one says, as many American officers did during the Vietnam era, that any good army can defeat guerrillas.

Why do the prospects for counterinsurgency after Iraq seem better than the same situation after Vietnam? I'm sure that military professionals know that the American electorate understands the level of challenge that Iraq and Afghanistan posed, and the necessity of meeting that challenge. It also helps that there isn't a superpower conflict to justify ignoring counterinsurgency for other forms of potential conflict.

After Vietnam, many observers warned that, like it or not, Americans would face another counterinsurgency war. The same principle applies when US involvement in Iraq comes to an end. Let's be better prepared, this time.

[bth: this war isn't a freaking do-over. Our military thinks we can just forget this one, like Vietnam, and get back to beating the Soviet Union. The Pentagon just doesn't get it. Congress doesn't get it. There is too much money in making missiles and submarines and shit we'll never use and not enough translators, civil affairs officers and counter insurgency training.]

Arms and influence: The information war comes to YouTube

Arms and influence: The information war comes to YouTube: "I have mixed feelings about the posting of insurgent videos on YouTube. I definitely don't think it's a cut-and-dried issue, as Muninn over at Quoth the Raven implies. Here are the statements of fact and principle that amount to my own viewpoint:"

Iraqi insurgent groups are using the Internet to recruit. Videos such as this one are one tool among many, which include web sites, forums, chat, and other forms of Internet communication.

YouTube is both a commercial entity and a public space. As such, it has some responsibility for the content on the site. Copyrighted material is definitely a no-no; by choice, YouTube has also decided to delete any pornography on the site.

Americans can handle graphic depictions of violence. Hell, go down to your local movie multiplex, and you'll see at least one movie that revels in carnage. If the shock value is higher when you know that you're looking at a real death, instead of a simulated one, so be it.
Americans need to see the real face of war. Not only can they handle it, they should be handling it. In other words, we should see the consequences of our decisions, instead of having them pushed off-screen by anyone from military censors to network news executives worried about "offending" the audience.

American officials need to be good at the information war. I've been worried from the beginning of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq about the US government's amateurism in this critical part of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism. The result? Clumsy efforts at putting a happy face on disturbing facts, when a more honest appraisal would have won public support. The laughable "shiny, happy Muslim-Americans" video. For years, flawed efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan at fighting the information war.

The argument that, "If terrorists can post pictures and videos of carnage, the terrorists win," is false. If Americans are that easily intimidated, the US shouldn't try being a superpower. If US officials can't put images of violence in context, they're in the wrong jobs.

In a free society, you have to err on the side of openness.
Where do these bullet points lead? To at least a couple of conclusions:

If YouTube can police pornography, its employees can track the posting of insurgent videos.
These videos should be taken down when they are clearly, overtly designed to be recruitment tools for organizations currently fighting US troops.

Video of real violence is not inherently offensive. Therefore, it's entirely possible that the same scenes of sniper and IED attacks could be posted, as long as they're not tied to insurgent recruitment efforts.

Six years into the Iraq war, American officials need to win the information war without falling back on censorship. The US government can only win the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq by formulating coherent, convincing arguments, not squelching the enemy's communications.

I invite you to ponder that last point for a while, particularly as the debates about Iraq and Afghanistan focus on how many troops we should deploy, or how respectful we should be of Pakistan's territory.

[bth: I only have 3 comments. First the US doesn't have an exclusive on technology, insurgents will post this stuff with or without US censorship. Second, we've got 160,000 troops in Iraq and around 20,000 in Afghanistan, many have video cameras, local content and skills. Letting them post their own videos would be vastly more impressive and interesting that some public affairs garbage or some planted news story. If we can trust these soldiers with a machine gun, we ought to be willing to trust them with a video camera and internet connections. Third, its about trust. If the military has lost the public trust then the rest doesn't matter.]

U.N. set to take heavy hand in Iraq 

U.N. set to take heavy hand in Iraq -- The Washington Times, America's Newspaper: "NEW YORK — The United Nations is poised to take on a greatly expanded role in Iraq and soon will be charged with aggressively pursuing agreements between key political and religious parties while improving relations with neighboring countries."...

[bth: so the UN robbed the Iraqis then abandoned them. Refugees, healthcare, training police and judges are just a few thoughts that come to mind.]

YouTube - Sniper Shot Iraq

YouTube - Sniper Shot Iraq: ""

[bth: this video shows that simple bullet proof glass will do wonders. You've got to wonder why the military balked so hard at the concept for almost 2 years.]

The Newshoggers: Pakistani Politicians Warn Of Civil War

The Newshoggers: Pakistani Politicians Warn Of Civil War: "The Guardian yesterday had a long must-read examination of the current state of political play in Pakistan. It isn't healthy."

President Pervez Musharraf's rule has been "catastrophic" but his regime could yet "turn really nasty" said Stephen Cohen of the Brookings Institution in Washington and author of The Idea of Pakistan. "The country hasn't had a crisis of this magnitude since the 1970s when East Pakistan split off and became Bangladesh. But in this case it's an Islamist movement that wants to transform the country from within."

Nerves are on edge. "We are very scared," said Enver Baig, a senator with the opposition Pakistan People's party, who says his wife calls him several times a day to check he is still alive. "If we don't mend our ways, it could spell the end of the country. The Islamists have sleeper cells in every city. We could have a civil war."
The pressure for change is two-fold, from Islamist extremists

The gravest threat comes from the tribal belt, where pro-Taliban militants have already declared war on the state. Since July 3 - the first day of the Red Mosque siege - suicide bombers have killed more than 200 people, mostly tribal policemen and soldiers. Al-Qaida is also involved. Yesterday a Libyan commander who escaped a US military prison in 2005 urged Pakistanis to overthrow Gen Musharraf. "Destroy the fortification of his weak army and the nest of his filthy intelligence agency and the core of his infidel rule," Abu Yahia al-Libi said in a video statement.

The fighting is most intense in Waziristan, a mountainous area along the Afghan border where US intelligence says al-Qaida is regrouping. There, Islamabad has lost control. Pakistani soldiers are largely confined to base and travel by helicopter - much like Nato soldiers fighting the Taliban on the far side of the border. When they venture out, they are attacked. A firefight near Miran Shah on Tuesday left 15 militants dead, according to unconfirmed army figures.
and a secular pro-democracy movement revitallized by the recent furore over the Chief Justice.

An explosion of private television channels has revolutionised Pakistani politics. Previously coverage was censored; today channels zing with lively debate. Live coverage of riots in Karachi in early May, when armed government supporters killed dozens of rivals, was a turning point for Gen Musharraf.

The civilian revolt reached its climax 10 days ago when, against all expectations, the supreme court threw out Gen Musharraf's case against the chief justice. Never before had a civilian taken on a military leader and won. Gen Musharraf was silent, and US and British policies excusing the military dictatorship went up in smoke. "It shows that while Pakistanis may be at times incapable of operating a democracy, they want one," said Dr Cohen.
But as far as the latter is concerned, there are signs of a possibly fatal split which will weaken any democratic ressurgence.

After years of casually disdaining his rubber-stamp parliament, Gen Musharraf now needs it to shore up his rule. He wants the chaotic national assembly - the product of a rigged vote in 2002 - to return him as president for another five years later this year. For this he needs a deal with Ms Bhutto, and has reportedly promised to lift long-standing corruption charges against her. The US and Britain are behind him, apparently convinced Gen Musharraf is still their best bet.

But the plot could easily come unstuck. The supreme court could shoot it down. And it is an especially high-stakes game for Ms Bhutto, whose father was hanged by a general and who sneered at Gen Musharraf as a vile dictator during her nine-year exile. Now she risks a revolt from supporters who consider Gen Musharraf to be political poison.

"This is very demoralising and could undermine the whole process," said Talat Masood, a retired army general and liberal commentator. "Benazir has bracketed herself among the opportunists. Her support will dip, and it will be taken up by the religious right."

The cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan called it a "fatal mistake" that could drive Pakistan into the hands of extremists. "She's completely out of touch. I fear that Pakistan could become another Algeria. We need someone who believes in talking, not guns," he said.
The situation in Pakistan has become a US hot campaign issue, with Barrack Obama in particular being criticized for recent pronouncements. But the idea that the US should unilatreally attack terrorist positions inside Pakistan is one which has the backing of Bush administration advisors too. "We must be clear with Gen Musharraf that if Pakistan won't take out al-Qaida, the United States will," Lee Hamilton, a member of President George Bush's homeland security advisory council, wrote on Monday. And should Islamist extremists with ties to the Taliban and Al Qaeda win out in Pakistan's struggle for power, how many hawks, either Republican or Democrat, would balk at the notion of a pre-emptive first strike with nuclear weapons to deprive such a regime of its own nuclear arsenal?

After all, many such hawks were quietly approving of calls to do exactly that to the old Soviet Union at the height of Cold War confrontation, and the Soviets had far more retaliatory capability. It's a convenient issue to bash Obama for his "naivety" right now, but watch later how many hawks conveniently forget their mock-horror at a later date.

Update AFP has a statement from the Pakistani government that says Bush personally phoned Musharaff to contradict his own officials' pronouncements on unilateral attacks on Pakistani territory:

US President George Bush telephoned Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf Friday to reassure him after US threats of unilateral action against Al-Qaeda on the Islamic republic's soil, a statement said.

The call from Bush to his embattled ally in the "war on terror" comes after recent statements from US officials, and Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama, warning of possible US strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas.

"President Bush stated that the United States fully respected Pakistans sovereignty and appreciated Pakistans resolve in fighting Al-Qaeda and other terrorist elements," the Pakistani foreign ministry statement said.

"He said that such statements were unsavoury and often prompted by political considerations in an environment of electioneering. He agreed that such statements did not serve the interests of either country," it added.

...Senior US State Department troubleshooter Nicholas Burns said last week that Washington would retain the option of targeting Al-Qaeda in the Pakistani-Afghan border areas in some circumstances.

A few days earlier the White House's top counter-terrorism official Frances Townsend caused a stir by refusing to rule out a similar military incursion.

The comments have been alarming for a close ally that has received billions of dollars in US military aid since abandoning support for Afghanistan's Taliban movement after the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

The foreign office statement said Musharraf also raised the issue of recent legislation on funding for Pakistan adopted by the US Congress on the implementation of the 9/11 commissions recommendations.

He "expressed concern over elements that reflected negatively on the Pakistan-US bilateral cooperation and relations."
Bush the dove does away with the Bush Doctrine? Do you think rightwing hawks like Captain Ed will even mention it? Me neither.

[bth: the original article has working links and I recommend checking it and the referenced texts out. This is a very worrisome situation and I don't know what we can effectively do about it.]

In mock 'interview,' Jay Leno, Dick Cheney discuss meeting with the Devil

The Raw Story In mock 'interview,' Jay Leno, Dick Cheney discuss meeting with the Devil




This is a must watch

Gingrich says war on terror 'phony'

Gingrich says war on terror 'phony' ajc.com: "Washington — Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Thursday the Bush administration is waging a 'phony war' on terrorism, warning that the country is losing ground against the kind of Islamic radicals who attacked the country on Sept. 11, 2001"

A more effective approach, said Gingrich, would begin with a national energy strategy aimed at weaning the country from its reliance on imported oil and some of the regimes that petro-dollars support.

"None of you should believe we are winning this war. There is no evidence that we are winning this war," the ex-Georgian told a group of about 300 students attending a conference for collegiate conservatives.

Gingrich, who led the so-called Republican Revolution that won the GOP control of both houses of Congress in 1994 midterm elections, said more must be done to marshal national resources to combat Islamic militants at home and abroad and to prepare the country for future attack. He was unstinting in his criticism of his fellow Republicans, in the White House and on Capitol Hill.

"We were in charge for six years," he said, referring to the period between 2001 and early 2007, when the GOP controlled the White House and both houses of Congress. "I don't think you can look and say that was a great success."

Thursday's National Conservative Student Conference was sponsored by the Young America's Foundation, a Herndon, Va.-based group founded in the 1960s as a political counterpoint to the left-leaning activists who coalesced around the civil rights movement and opposition to the Vietnam War.

Gingrich retains strong support among conservatives and ranked fifth among possible Republican nominees behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, with the backing of 7 percent of those queried in a ABC News/Washington Post poll taken last week. The poll surveyed 403 Republicans and Republican-leaning adults nationwide and has a 5 percentage-point margin of error.

"I believe we need to find leaders who are prepared to tell the truth ... about the failures of the performance of Republicans ... failed bureaucracies ... about how dangerous the world is," he said when asked what kind of Republican he would back for president.

Gingrich has been promoting a weekly political newsletter he calls "Winning the Future." It's available free to those who leave their e-mail addresses at
www.winningthefuture

.net, one of several Web sites he is connected with or operating. Gingrich began writing the newsletter in April 2006, and it now goes out to 311,000 readers each week, said Gingrich spokesman Rick Tyler.
Political salon

At another Web site — www.americansolutions

.com — Gingrich is running a virtual political salon, with video clips, organizational information and contacts revolving around his conservative vision for the country's future. It asks supporters to join in an Internet "Solutions Day" on Sept. 27, the anniversary of Gingrich's so-called Contract With America, a slate of conservative policies he led through Congress as speaker of the House a decade and a half ago.

"What I'm trying to start is a new dialogue that is evidence-based," Gingrich said Thursday. "It doesn't start from the right wing, it doesn't start from the left wing," he said, but is an effort to get politicians and voters to "look honestly at the evidence of what isn't working and tell us how to change it."...

[bth: I think he's running for President or VP]

Friday, August 03, 2007

The Iran Attack That Wasn't | The American Prospect

The Iran Attack That Wasn't The American Prospect: "

How reporters trumped up a story about Iranians killing Americans in Iraq.

Gareth Porter August 2, 2007


On July 2 and 3, The New York Times and the Associated Press, among other media outlets, came out with sensational stories saying that either Iranians or Iranian agents had played an important role in planning the operation in Karbala, Iraq last January that resulted in the deaths of five American soldiers.

Michael R. Gordon and John F. Burns of The New York Times wrote that "agents of Iran" had been identified by the military spokesman as having "helped plan a January raid in the Shiite holy city of Karbala in Iraq in which five American soldiers were killed by Islamic militants …"

Lee Keath of the Associated Press wrote an even more lurid lead, asserting that U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner had accused "Iran's elite Quds force" of having "helped militants carry out a January attack in Karbala that killed five Americans."

The story was a big break for the war-with-Iran faction in Washington. Within hours, Sen. Joe Lieberman issued a press release saying that the Iranian government "has declared war on us." That set the stage for the unanimous passage the following week of his amendment stating that "the murder of members of the United States Armed Forces by a foreign government or its agents is an intolerable act of hostility against the United States," and demanding the government of Iran "take immediate action" to end all forms of support it is providing to Iraqi militias and insurgents.

No one questioned the authenticity of the story at the time. But the official source -- Brig. Gen. Bergner -- offered no real evidence of Iranian involvement in planning the January attack in his press briefing on July 2. Even more remarkably, Bergner never even explicitly claimed such direct Iranian involvement in the planning. Instead, he used carefully ambiguous language that implied but did not state such an Iranian role.

It was not Bergner, in fact, but New York Times military reporter Michael Gordon who articulated the narrative of an Iranian-inspired attack on Americans. Gordon, readers may recall, played a key role, along with Judith Miller, in legitimizing a major theme of the Bush administration's Iraq propaganda -- the infamous aluminum tubes argument -- as the White House Iraq Group kicked off its campaign to prepare public opinion for war in September 2002. And in February 2007, Gordon enthusiastically embraced the administration's charge of official Iranian arms exports to Iraq in his coverage of that issue, despite a notable lack of evidence for the charge.

But at the Bergner press briefing on July 2, Gordon went even further in playing the role of transmission belt for the Bush administration line. The transcript of that briefing, obtained from the U.S. military command press desk in Baghdad, shows that when Bergner failed to claim a direct Iranian involvement -- or even through a Hezbollah operative in Iraq -- in the planning of the January raid in Karbala, Gordon pushed him to state clearly that the Iranians not only helped plan but actually "directed" the attack on Americans.

What Bergner said in his prepared statement was that both Hezbollah operative Ali Musa Daqduq, who was in liaison with the militia group which carried out the attack, and Kais Khazali, the Iraqi said to have been in charge of the group -- both of whom had been captured on March 22 -- "state that senior leadership within the Qods Force knew of and supported planning for the eventual Karbala attack …"

Using such indirect language -- "knew of and supported planning" -- is a far cry from claiming actual participation or assistance in planning the attack. Bergner gave no indication of when or how the Iranian Qods Force might have learned about the attack plans, for example, or how much they might have known about them. That vagueness implied that the prisoners had not implicated Iran in the planning of the operation.

Bergner also said Daqduq "contends that the Iraqi special groups could not have conducted this complex operation without the support and direction of the Qods Force." That statement was ambiguous: it could be interpreted as referring to support and direction of the Karbala operation, but if Bergner meant to flatly state that there was such "direction" of the operation from Iran, why would he have attributed such indirect language to the same prisoner?

These statements seem to be a deliberate tease by Bergner, who provided neither complete transcripts of the interrogations nor quotations from the prisoners.

Although Bergner provided a number of details in the briefing about Hezbollah training of Shiite militia groups in Iran, including the number of sites, their location, and the number of militiamen trained at any given time, he did not claim that the specific group in question had been trained by Hezbollah, either in Iran or anywhere else. And he stated that the attack was authorized not by the Hezbollah cadre or by the Qods Force, but by the group's Iraqi chief, Kais Khazali.

Bergner's failure to refer explicitly to an Iranian or Hezbollah role in the actual planning of the attack prompted Gordon to help formulate the story for the spokesman. "What's new here, as I understand it," said Gordon during the briefing, "is that you're asserting the Qods Force and the Iranians had specific knowledge of this attack in advance and helped guide and support it, not merely train the force." He then prodded Bergner to say that the purpose of Iranians was to try to "capture these American soldiers in the hope of trading them for the detained Iraqi officials."

Bergner refrained from addressing Gordon's restatement of the story as Iranian help and guidance of the January attack. Instead he responded to Gordon's thesis about the objective of the Karbala operation, saying, "The specific motivations behind these operations that I described, we're still learning more about that."

Frustrated by Bergner's unwillingness to be specific, Gordon pushed him once again. "But you're asserting essentially that the Qods Force directed and helped plan this attack in Karbala," he insisted.
Bergner responded, "That is what we learned from [K]ais Khazali," and said nothing more on the subject.

If Bergner’s earlier failure to use such precise language had been due merely to incompetence, one might have expected him to take advantage of Gordon’s prompting to state the story more forcefully and even elaborate on it. But his use of the indefinite "that" and his failure to volunteer anything further indicate that Bergner was not prepared to be quoted as making an explicit allegation of direct Iranian -- or Hezbollah -- involvement in planning the Karbala raid – even though he did not discourage reporters from writing the story that way.

Another indication that the command had no evidence of Iranian involvement in the attack was the statements of the top commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, on the issue in an April 26 press briefing.

Petraeus had referred to a 22-page memorandum captured with the Shiite prisoners that he said "detailed the planning, preparation, approval process and conduct of the operation that resulted in five of our soldiers being killed in Karbala." But he did not claim that either the document or the interrogation of Khazali had suggested any Iranian or Hezbollah participation in, much less direction of the planning of the Karbala assault.

Later in that briefing, a reporter asked whether Petraeus was "saying that there was evidence of Iranian involvement in that [Karbala] operation?" Petraeus responded, "No. No. No. That -- first of all, that was the operation that you mentioned, and we do not have a direct link to Iranian involvement in that particular case."

At the time Petraeus made this statement, Khazali, the chief of the militia group that had carried out the attack, had been in U.S. custody for more than a month. Despite nearly five weeks of intensive interrogation of Khazali, Petraeus's comments would indicate that U.S. officials had not learned anything that implicated Iran or Hezbollah in the planning or execution of the Karbala attack
The raid on the Karbala Provincial Joint Coordination Center on Jan. 20 was a serious embarrassment for the Bush administration. Some 30 gunmen traveled in a convoy of at least seven SUVs with tinted windows, just like those driven by top U.S. military officials, wearing uniforms similar to those worn by the U.S. military. By flashing fake identification cards, they gained access to the compound through three different checkpoints without a security screening.

Soon after the attack, U.S. officials speculated that it had been carried out by Iranians or "Iranian-trained operatives," arguing that it was "beyond what we have seen militias or foreign fighters do."

Officials suggested that the raid -- coming a little over a week after Iranian officials had been seized by U.S. forces in Iraq -- was aimed at exchanging American prisoners for those Iranians. But it was also reported that some officials had concluded that it was an "inside job," which could not have been undertaken without help from someone working within the camp.

The revival of the charge of Iranian involvement in the Karbala attack, despite the earlier Petraeus denial, has the all the hallmarks of a White House decision. The alleged Iranian export of arms to Iraqi Shiites, on which the U.S. command briefed the media in Baghdad in February, reflected the administration's decisions in the preceding months to hold Iran responsible for the killing of U.S. troops in Iraq with armor-piercing explosives. After the replacement of the top commander in Iraq with a general who had pledged to carry out the surge strategy chosen by the White House, and the June arrival of a new U.S. command spokesman in Baghdad -- Gen. Bergner -- who had been special assistant to the president and senior director for Iraq, the command’s briefings were tied more closely to the White House propaganda machine than ever before.

But the success of this media operation also depended on journalists who would fill in the blanks cleverly left open by Bergner with their own imagination. As the transcript of the briefing shows, Michael Gordon was not just a passively recording the line presented by the administration. He was actively pushing the sensational -- and unsubstantiated and highly suspect -- story of "Iranians killing Americans" that would then become a mantra of the war-with-Iran crowd.

Gareth Porter, a historian and journalist, writes regularly on U.S. policy in Iran and Iraq for Inter Press Service. His most recent book is Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam (University of California Press, 2005).

[bth: I link this story in full because it lays out how Michael Gordon and Gen. Bergner seem to work in tandem with a wink and a nod to talk the US into a war with Iran. I've been watching Gordon closely as he was in league with Judith Miller to sex up the case for war with Iran. Why the New York Times editors keep him around just speaks volumes.

Its like that scene in the Three Days of the Condor.]

WMD Insights - Chlorine

WMD Insights: "In recent months, insurgents in Iraq have begunusing chlorine gas attacks against Iraqi security forces and civilians, as well as coalition troops. This development has generated fears that the insurgents plan to conduct a sustained chemical warfare campaign in Iraq. Although the attacks have killed fewer people than conventional suicide bombs, the use of chlorine cylinders in improvised explosive devices (IEDs) marks a new phase in the insurgency. In addition, the escalation in Iraq has increased concerns that non-state actors will use chemical weapons (CW) in other countries. "...


The first recorded chlorine attack by Iraqi insurgents occurred on January 28, 2007. Suicide bombers killed 16 people by detonating a truck laden with explosives and a chlorine tank in the town of Ramadi in the al-Anbar province. Since then, insurgents have employed approximately a dozen vehicle-borne IEDs containing chlorine. Besides detonating the chlorine tanker trucks, the insurgents have also used dump trucks, pickup trucks, and standard-size automobiles rigged with conventional explosives and chlorine canisters varying in capacity from dozens to hundreds of gallons. [4] As demonstrated by their shifting tactics against coalition helicopters and armored vehicles, the Iraqi insurgents’ chemical attacks illustrate their repeated ability to adopt tactical innovations for broader use once they have proven successful. [5]...


Although most of these instances have occurred in the Sunni-stronghold of al-Anbar province, the insurgents have also used chlorine bombs elsewhere. On February 20, they detonated chlorine IEDs in the northern part of Baghdad and near Taji, a town about 20 miles to the north of the capital. These attacks killed nine people and wounded 148 civilians, many of them children. The most extensive chlorine attack occurred on March 16, when suicide bombers detonated mixtures of chlorine and conventional explosives at three separate locations in al-Anbar. The independent Iraqi news channel al-Sharqiyya gave extensive coverage to the day’s carnage. The first attack occurred in the afternoon, when insurgents detonated a pickup truck at a security checkpoint near Ramadi. The only casualties were the security personnel stationed there. The second attack near Falluja occurred when the insurgents detonated a dump truck. The attack killed only two police officers, but induced sickness among almost a hundred civilians present in the area. A third suicide explosion occurred when insurgents exploded another dump truck, with a 200-gallon chlorine tank, in a town controlled by the Albu ‘Issa tribe, whose leaders had recently begun cooperating with Iraqi security forces against al-Qaeda. [6] The device sickened 250 local civilians....

According to Lieutenant General Ray Odierno, the Commander of the Multinational Corps-Iraq,insurgents in Iraq have been trying for several years to incorporate different types of harmful chemicals into vehicular-borne IEDs. [10] In September 2006, the alleged new leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Hamza Al-Muhajir, called on scientists to help the insurgents develop and employ unconventional weapons against U.S. military facilities in Iraq. [11] On January 10, 2007, the Salahaldin Al-Ayoubi Brigades, the military wing of the insurgent group Islamic Front of the Iraqi Resistance, released a video that purportedly depicted the use of rockets armed with a “chemical substance” in an attack on an American base near the Iraqi city of Samarra. [12] Brigadier General Qasim Atta al-Musawi, the Iraqi military spokesman, attributed the incident to “takfiri terrorists.” The term “takfiri,” which literally means “those who condemn others as ‘unbelievers,’” usually refers to members of the al-Qaeda Organization in Iraq or, more generally, to foreign Muslim volunteers who came to Iraq to combat Coalition and Iraqi government forces. The al-Qaeda Organization in Iraq, however, has not claimed responsibility for the January 10 attack on any of its websites....

Many Iraqi and foreign experts interpreted the attacks as al-Qaeda’s retaliation for the tribal cooperation with the government. According to Major General Michael Barbero, Deputy Director for Regional Operations at the Joint Staff (J-3), in al-Anbar province, the insurgents’ “murder and intimidation campaign has backfired. So maybe they’re trying a different tactic in order to achieve their end.” [14] There is evidence, however, that this tactic also may have, at least partly, backfired. An independent Sunni insurgent group, the Islamic Army, has turned on al-Qaeda in Iraq after accusing it of “killing innocent people with gases like chlorine.” [15]Sources of SupplyThe widespread availability of chlorine in Iraq probably explains why the chemical has become an attractive weapon for some insurgents. Explosive expert Ali Assaadi said that there are many venues through which chlorine can be obtained; for example, from former Iraqi army warehouses, many of which have been looted. [16] He also pointed to the possibility that some scientists who worked for the former regime may be behind the manufacturing of the chlorine. A third option is that the chlorine is supplied to the insurgents by a foreign country. [17] Iraqis commonly use chlorine for purifying water and as a general disinfectant. [18] Qasem al Mussawi, the spokesperson of “Operation Imposing Law” said that water treatment stations are the main source of chlorine for the terrorists. [19] Insurgents have raided nearby water purification plants to steal the chemical. [20] Iraqi General al-Musawi stated that chlorine from water purification plants was being smuggled to the armed groups. [21] Besides these domestic sources of supply, reports indicate foreign sources may be supplying the material as well. On March 29, the independent online news service Alrafidayn said that reports had surfaced about middlemen securing a chlorine supply in Jordan. [22] The website wrote, “These suppliers provide the terrorists in Iraq with it [chlorine] to carry out attacks.” It added, “There are middlemensteadfastly working on securing chlorine gas, nitric acid, and phosphorus components for other Iraqi suppliers on very short notice.” [23] The same publication quoted eyewitnesses as saying that large quantities of these products were unloaded in the port of Aqaba in Jordan. These shipments were alleged to exceed the needs of the Jordanian market by a wide margin.

The pro-Shiite news service Alnajafnews appeared to confirm these reports, writing that these chemical substances, some of which are produced in Jordan, were exported to Iraq and delivered in the provinces of al-Anbar and Salaheddine. The shipments, it claimed, are sent to Iraq using official documentation and are not usually inspected at the Iraq-Jordan border since they are considered to be commercial goods. [24] In April 2007, the Iraqi Interior Ministry similarly stated that Iraq’s intelligence services had
identified foreign traders, based outside of Iraq, who had been smuggling chlorine to terrorist groups.

[25] Intercepting convoys on the dangerous roads of Iraq is another way for terrorists to secure a chlorine supply. The moderate London-based daily Asharqalawsat quoted Iraqi officials at the Ministry of Public Works saying that, “An armed group stole 160 tons of chlorine when they attacked a convoy of trucks coming from Syria in the Sunni province of al-Anbar.” [26]Iraqi Government Countermeasures

In response, Iraqi government officials have begun organizing armed guards for truck convoys transporting chlorine. [27] On April 16, Alnajafnews wrote that Iraqi customs officers had stopped 12 trucks transporting the gas at the Iraqi-Jordanian Tareebeel border check point to ensure that the chemical substance could be escorted and safely transported to its intended recipients in Baghdad. [28] In addition, in response to the leaflets threatening chemical attacks, the authorities in Tal Afar have imposed bans on vehicular traffic. [29]...

Equally worrisome, the discovery of other chemicals in the insurgents’ possession suggests they might be seeking to use other toxic substances in the hope of increasing the lethality of their attacks, especially against American troops whose gas masks and other chemical weapons defenses provide them with considerable protection against chlorine. [36]

The Iraqi security services have received intelligence that insurgent groups have sought to develop even more lethal chemical substances from materials manufactured in glass and phosphate plants in al-Anbar province. [37]In a February 20 raid, U.S. troops discovered a complex in al-Anbar province that contained propane tanks, chlorine cylinders, and vehicles being prepared as car bombs. [38]

More worrisome, Army Major General William B. Caldwell IV, the chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said in an interview on CNN that the cache of weapons included “all kinds of ordinary chemicals” besides chlorine. [39] In the assessment of Major General Barbero, the insurgents’ use of chlorine weapons “should not be dismissed merely as a new tactic or a trend.” He continued that the insurgents’ employment of poison gas shows that “they’ll resort to anything.” [40]

On April 8, during a joint press conference given by Iraqi General al-Musawi and U.S. General Caldwell, the former described another raid which seized chemical substances: “In the al-‘Azamiyya area 104 canisters containing toxic chlorine and 52 kilograms of ammonium nitrate were seized, in the al-Mansur area five kilograms of phosphorous were seized, and in the al-Rashid East area fifty kilograms of toxic chlorine were seized.” [41]

Al-Musawi said that the canisters were found in locations believed to be used by the “takfiri” or al-Qaeda in Iraq. On April 12, U.S. forces found 3,000 gallons of nitric acid concealed in a downtown Baghdad warehouse. [42] Although the acid can be used to manufacture fertilizer or conventional explosives, it can cause severe burns if it comes into direct contact with human skin....

[bth: we're not going to take this threat seriously until it is used in the US. Note that buried in the article is the observation that 160 tons of chlorine were hijacked in Iraq. Its hard to believe that the insurgents aren't going to use it. I had missed the timing connection between the chlorine attacks and Chemical Ali's trial. One wonders what will happen when he is hung like the rat bastard he is?]

Armchair Generalist: Outsourcing in Iraq

Armchair Generalist: Outsourcing in Iraq: "The Miami Herald talks about a new trend in U.S. private military contractors - where do you go when you don't have enough ex-professional military applicants? Where do you go to look for combat-hardened, experienced, ruthless purveyors of death? Why, Latin America, of course. "

The Latin Americans typically served in the military back home -- many fought leftist guerrillas in places like El Salvador and Colombia -- and were taught by U.S. instructors, making it easier for them to use U.S. weapons and work under American security procedures.

But after leaving their armed forces, these soldiers found themselves in low-paying jobs. So they agreed to risk injury or death in Iraq for $1,000 to $1,500 a month -- $5 to $7 an hour -- a good wage for them, but far below the $10,000 to $15,000 monthly pay for American contract employees.

Peruvians guard the outer perimeter of a U.S. installation in Basra. Chileans protect the governmental Green Zone in Baghdad. Hondurans have provided security within the terminal at Baghdad International Airport. Salvadorans once protected the Green Zone in Baghdad, but they and some Ecuadoreans reportedly have left the jobs after media in their home countries labeled them "mercenaries.''

Yet, as a growing number of Americans clamor to bring their troops home, many Latin Americans are willing to head to Iraq.

''A lot of Peruvians would like to go because of the salaries,'' said Felix Almeida, 45, who fought against the Shining Path guerrillas 15 years ago in Peru and has applied to work in Iraq. "I'd be a mercenary. I don't have a problem being called that.''

I'm renting the series "Rome" through Netflix right now. I watch how the Romans have their Eastern mercenaries in their scout units, and I wonder, are we that much different than the Roman legions then?

Rifle Toting Robots See Action in Iraq

Rifle Toting Robots See Action in Iraq: "The U.S. Army quietly entered a new era earlier this summer when it sent the first armed ground robots into action in Iraq."

So far, the robot army's entrance into the war has been a trickle rather than an invasion.

Only three of the special weapons observation remote reconnaissance direct action system (SWORDS) have been deployed so far.

The Army has authorized the purchase of 80 more robots -- which are being touted as a potentially life-saving technology -- but acquisition officials have not come forth with the funding.

"As [soldiers] use them and like them, I’ve heard positive feedback, they want 20 more immediately.

It’s a shame we can’t get them to them," Michael Zecca, SWORDS program manager, told National Defense.

The three robots, which tote M249 rifles and are remotely controlled by a soldier through a terminal, have been in Iraq since April and are with the 3rd Infantry Division, 3rd Brigade.

After three years of development at the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., the robots were formally approved for combat use in June. Their exact whereabouts and missions are classified, but Zecca could confirm that they have been used in reconnaissance tasks and street patrols.

He did not know of any incidents of the weapon being fired so far.

SWORDS is designed to take on “high risk combat missions,” according to an Army statement. A specialist controlling the robot could send it into a potentially dangerous situation, such as a narrow street infested with snipers, seek targets and take them out before a foot patrol follows.

“Anytime you utilize technology to take a U.S. service member out of harm’s way, it is worth every penny,” said John Saitta, a consultant with Smart Business Advisory and Consulting and a major in the Marine Corps reserves, who has been trained as a weapons and tactic instructor.

“These armed robots can be used as a force multiplier to augment an already significant force in the battle space,” he added.

The 80 robots approved under an urgent materiel release, a mechanism designed to speed potentially life-saving technologies to the battlefield, are being held up “due to limited funding in fiscal years 2006-2007,” said Lt. Col. William Wiggins, a spokesman for the office of the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology.

“While SWORDS is currently not a program of record, the Army has initiated a memorandum of agreement between ARDEC and Robotic System-Joint Project Office to expedite establishing a funded program to meet Army needs," Wiggins said in a written statement.

Additional details about the SWORDS program and the future of robots in the battlefield will appear in the September 2007 issue of National Defense Magazine.
Please email your comments to SMagnuson@ndia.org

[bth: it tips over a lot with that weapon on it]

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Growler Program - How bad military contracting kills troops and how journalists can expose it.

Steve Wilson at WXYZ in Detroit has the biggest stones I’ve ever seen on an investigative journalist. Like pornography, you know an honest to God investigative journalist when you meet one. It’s not that pretty face on Fox News that reads Pentagon press releases like Moses’ tablets and it’s not the bubble headed bleach blondes that are easy on the eyes and simple to the mind. Steve Wilson has got guts. If there were more reporters like him I doubt we’d have gone to Iraq in the first place.

Through his doggedness the GAO announced on Friday, most likely at the urging of Sen. Carl Levin, that it is looking into the Growler program once again. Whether anything comes of it I don’t know, but there is always hope someone in the marines command structure has courage too. It’s a program that in any third world country would be gutted. This absolute dog of a program has wasted close to a billion dollars on a piece of gear that couldn’t leave the confines of a base in Iraq today because under current and sensible rules in theater, it doesn’t have a lick of armor or protection. That the contract itself was released under what appears to be a rigged contract to a marine colonel crony leaves one wondering who in hell is looking after the lance corporals and privates that depend on honest and aggressive marine and army officials to get them the best equipment reasonably possible? Kids are dying over this corruption.

Please watch the following news pieces, drop the glass and drink directly from the bottle when it’s over.

PS. For best effect watch the video clips on the right of each of the linked articles.

WILSON INVESTIGATION: Soldiers at Risk

Chief Investigator Steve Wilson is getting the attention of some members of Congress after exposing a Marine combat vehicle that could put American lives at risk….

WXYZ News Piece Number 1

http://www.wxyz.com/content/news/investigators/story.aspx?content_id=c7b452c9-3bf0-41f0-af32-6c6bc08e8a4b


Soldiers at Risk: Wilson Demands Answers

Anchor Lead: Members of Congress tonight are asking for an official investigation into why the Marines are spending millions on a new second-rate combat vehicle said to leave troops inadequately protected on the battlefield. It’s an issue our chief investigative reporter Steve Wilson first revealed right here and Steve joins us tonight with the latest details…Steve? …

WXYZ News Piece Number 2

http://www.wxyz.com/content/news/investigators/story.aspx?content_id=394d51e2-1fca-4e67-8a74-be88b82e8e2e

LiveLeak.com - US and Iraqi soldiers fighting insurgents from a rooftop in Baqubah, Iraq 2007.

LiveLeak.com - US and Iraqi soldiers fighting insurgents from a rooftop in Baqubah, Iraq 2007.: ""

LiveLeak.com - Security Camera Footage Catches Bridge Collapse

LiveLeak.com - Security Camera Footage Catches Bridge Collapse: ""

Sunni bloc bolts Iraqi Cabinet - Los Angeles Times

Sunni bloc bolts Iraqi Cabinet - Los Angeles Times: "BAGHDAD — Iraq's main Sunni Arab political bloc withdrew from the government Wednesday, blaming Shiite Muslim leaders for not addressing sectarian issues, as explosions in the streets killed at least 70 people around Baghdad."

Six Cabinet members with the Iraqi Accordance Front, Tawafiq in Arabic, had suspended participation in the government in June and threatened last week to pull out permanently. The Sunni bloc took the action after its demands that Sunni detainees be released and that Shiite militias be addressed were not met.

The pullout reduces Iraq's Shiite-dominated government to little more than caretaker status. Barring a major political realignment, it also makes it less likely that Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's regime will be able to reach significant compromises on legislative benchmarks sought by the Bush administration to help quell sectarian strife.

Tawafiq member Tariq Hashimi retains his post as one of Iraq's vice presidents.

The bloc's pullout cast the gravest challenge yet to Maliki's tenure as prime minister. His government has been burdened for months by talk of conspiracies, most prominently featuring former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

Scenarios included tapping Maliki's immediate predecessor, Ibrahim Jafari, also with the Shiite fundamentalist Islamic Dawa Party. Jafari recently traveled to Iraqi Kurdistan in an apparent attempt to curry favor there.

A Kurdish official told The Times last month that Jafari was now preferable to Maliki, despite the fact that Jafari had been vetoed for a second term last year after failing to win the backing of any of the main sectarian or ethnic blocs
.

The prospect of Iraq's other vice president, Shiite Adel Abdul Mehdi, being tapped for Maliki's job also has surfaced. At least one plan for an alternative government to Maliki's has been submitted to the U.S. Embassy by Iraqi political leaders.

"The bottom line is the country is on the brink right now," a Sunni official in the government told The Times on condition of anonymity.

The pullout marked an end to the rocky cohabitation that began more than a year ago with the unveiling of the U.S.-brokered national unity government of Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. After a flurry of early activity, including a reconciliation plan announced in the government's second month, Maliki's Cabinet lost momentum.

The government made little progress in promoting stability, as Sunni and Shiite militant groups battled for Baghdad in 2006, displacing tens of thousands of residents.

The arrival of additional U.S. troops in February of this year at the start of an offensive to end the capital's soaring chaos has mitigated the violence in some areas, but has had little apparent effect on the political process.

Despite some efforts by the government to improve the security situation, relations between Maliki and Hashimi have seemed to only deteriorate since winter. An argument erupted between the two leaders in which Maliki said he could not work with his vice president. Days later, Tawafiq issued its ultimatum, Haidar Abadi, a lawmaker and advisor to Maliki told The Times.

Abadi said Tawafiq was trying to provoke a crisis to impose a new power-sharing arrangement, in which Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds would be equal partners in the decision-making process.

"We have to respect the interests of everybody, but the country cannot be run as a troika," he said.

The Sunni bloc said it would continue negotiating with the majority Shiite bloc, the United Iraqi Alliance, to try to resolve the crisis and retain its 44 seats in parliament, which recessed Monday without taking action on key legislation.

"The Front will still be active in the political process and wishes to rehabilitate it and to correct its way to get rid of sectarian and ethnic divisions," Tawafiq said in a statement.

Maliki and President Bush held a 45-minute closed videoconference in which both emphasized the progress that had been made in Iraq despite the government's struggles, officials said. The prime minister issued his own statement in which he pledged to keep talking to Tawafiq to resolve the disputes.

The seeds of the crisis were planted in June when Maliki's government issued a warrant for the arrest of Culture Minister Asad Kamal Hashimi, a Sunni, in connection with an assassination attempt against an independent Sunni parliament member in which his two sons were killed.

Sunnis said that the warrant was a sectarian tactic and noted that no similar warrants were being issued for Shiite officials, some of whom have been implicated in death squads that have preyed on the Sunni population.

Conversations with U.S. diplomats in Iraq have painted a bleak picture of the situation. U.S. Embassy spokesman Philip Reeker said the situation was "frustrating."

Another U.S. official, not authorized to speak for attribution, questioned whether Iraq's leaders could ever transcend their sectarian ways. And an additional official marveled at the "treachery" and lack of trust marking Iraqi politics, in which some advisors around Maliki accuse the Iraqi Islamic Party, the largest faction in Tawafiq, of being aligned with terrorists.

Publicly, Sunni officials pledged to carry on a dialogue with the United Iraqi Alliance.

Meanwhile, Hadi Amri, the head of the Badr Organization, a Shiite militia, said his faction was ready to pressure Maliki to make compromises.

"We as the UIA will exert pressure on the prime minister and even on the government to fulfill these issues," Amri told Al Arabiya television.

Maliki's Cabinet now lacks 12 of its 37 full-time ministers. Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr's bloc quit the Cabinet in the spring....

[bth: the Iraqi government now no longer functions. It is going to break apart.]

Pentagon announces 20,000 troop rotation for Iraq

Pentagon announces 20,000 troop rotation for Iraq - US: "WASHINGTON - The U.S. Defense Department said on Tuesday another 20,000 Army soldiers and Marines will be sent to Iraq for rotation duty, with some tours scheduled to extend into early 2009."

The new deployment of 17,000 Marines and 3,000 Army soldiers is part of a routine troop rotation separate from U.S. President George W. Bush's surge strategy to stabilize Baghdad with extra forces, said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman.

Bush's surge boosted the U.S. force level in Iraq to 20 combat brigades in June. But Whitman said the new deployment of three Marine units and one Army unit would maintain an underlying base of 15 brigades that existed before the surge.

All told, the surge has temporarily added 30,000 U.S. troops and brought total U.S. forces to about 159,000.

'These rotations ... are not in any way associated with the current surge,' Whitman told reporters.

'These forces have been identified to replace units and forces that would be coming out of Iraq,' he said.

The latest deployment calls for two Marine Corps regimental combat teams from Camp Pendleton, California, to arrive in Iraq for a 12-month tour in December, the Pentagon said.

The Army's 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division from Fort Hood, Texas, would also arrive in December but for a 15-month tour of duty.

A First Marine Expeditionary Force headquarters unit from Camp Pendleton would then deploy to Iraq early next year for 12 months.

The current deployment schedule would keep the Army brigade and First Marine Expeditionary Force unit in Iraq into 2009.

Whitman said defense officials hope to reduce Army deployments from 15 months to 12 months beginning early next year
.

[bth: note the marines are now going to 12 months. I am very skeptical that the army will be reduced. I believe this extension is the way the troop levels will be maintained. The army is likely to go to 18 months]

As explosives in Iraq get deadlier, makers of armored vehicles alter plans - USATODAY.com

As explosives in Iraq get deadlier, makers of armored vehicles alter plans - USATODAY.com: "WASHINGTON — On a sunny October morning in 2004, a 13-ton, desert-tan military truck rumbled by the police barriers that guard Capitol Hill and pulled up between two buildings where lawmakers have their offices."

The heavily armored Cougar, sitting nearly 4 feet off the ground atop a V-shaped hull, was a novelty even to Washington's most seasoned military experts. But officials with Force Protection Inc., the truck's fledgling manufacturer, held it up as an answer to a familiar problem. This vehicle, they said, could protect against the improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, that had become the top killer of U.S. troops in Iraq.

Dozens of congressional staffers crawled over the truck; many got rides. But no member of Congress showed up. When the year ended, Cougar sales to the U.S. military were unchanged: just a few dozen vehicles for specialty use by explosives disposal teams.

Three years later, the Cougar leads a booming market for a new family of military trucks known as Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs. Force Protection's climb from struggling start-up to big-time defense contractor has shown how even the smallest of companies can strike gold by providing an answer to the evolving IED threat in Iraq.

As U.S. troop deaths from IEDs have soared to more than 1,500, defense officials who had shown little interest in MRAPs as recently as last fall have made the vehicles their top purchasing priority. The Pentagon has ordered about 6,400 MRAPs this year at $500,000 or more apiece and vows to buy thousands more to replace the less heavily armored Humvees as its all-purpose vehicle in Iraq.

Some of the nation's biggest truck makers have jumped into the market with their own MRAP versions to compete with Force Protection. This week, the Pentagon invited 14 more companies, including some major foreign manufacturers, to take a shot at designing a second generation of MRAPs that can better protect against a new type of IED that has become especially deadly for U.S. troops.

Yet Force Protection, which a few years ago barely sold enough vehicles to stay alive, now has sold more MRAP-type trucks to the military than any other maker, hauling in $1.3 billion in contracts to build 2,200 vehicles. Competitors, however, are rapidly catching up.

The company has thrived despite fines and criticism from the Pentagon's inspector general for failing to deliver vehicles on time as it struggled to boost its production. That's because Force Protection was the first U.S. manufacturer to supply a vehicle that military commanders in Iraq had requested repeatedly since the first Cougars began trickling into the country in 2004.

The Pentagon under then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld did not endorse large orders of the trucks. But Force Protection hung on until a new Defense secretary, Robert Gates, demanded that the vehicles be ordered in larger numbers after the Marines reported that no troops had died in more than 300 IED attacks on Cougars.

The South Carolina-based company, which turned its first annual profit last year, locked up many of the first MRAP contracts "because they had a hot production line; we wanted to take advantage of that," says Brig. Gen. Michael Brogan, who heads the Marine Corps Systems Command and helps oversee the Pentagon's MRAP contracting.

Brogan acknowledges that Force Protection "stumbled a little bit in their start-up (and) some of those deliveries were late." But he defends the Pentagon's reliance on the company as "a good choice."

Still, it hasn't been a smooth ride. Not for the Defense Department, and not for Force Protection, either.

'We were really scrambling'

Since Force Protection got its first small MRAP contracts in 2004 and 2005, it sometimes has struggled to deliver vehicles on schedule. Operating out of a former General Electric engine plant near Charleston, S.C., the company had only a dozen people on its early production line. It once took five weeks to build one Cougar.

The Defense Department fined Force Protection more than $1.5 million for delivery delays in 2005. The company avoided additional penalties by agreeing to provide spare parts and technicians to help service the vehicles in Iraq. At the time the Pentagon still had not committed to mass purchases of the trucks, but it was impressed enough with the vehicles to spend more than $6 million to help expand manufacturing lines at the company's plant.

Delays continued, but orders kept creeping in — and investors began to take notice. By the time Defense officials finally endorsed MRAPs for widespread combat use, Force Protection was at the front of the supply line and its stock was soaring. Shares that sold for cents just a few years ago broke $30 earlier this year as Force Protection landed big orders.

The stock price has dropped sharply since then: It was trading at just under $18 Wednesday, amid lingering questions about the company's ability to meet demand and to compete with the bigger companies now in the MRAP business, including International Military and Government, a division of Navistar; BAE Systems; and Armor Holdings.

In 2003 and 2004, "we were really scrambling to get people interested … and we got our eyes blackened pretty good on those first (orders) because of our late deliveries," says Michael Aldrich, Force Protection's vice president. But now, he adds, "we've got the only proven vehicle out there."

Force Protection's manufacturing workforce has grown to more than 1,000. And last month, the company bought an additional, 430,000-square-foot plant in Roxboro, N.C.

Force Protection also has partnered with defense contracting giant General Dynamics to fill the latest MRAP contracts. In the first quarter of this year, Force Protection delivered 182 Cougars. With the General Dynamics partnership, Aldrich says, Cougar production should hit 200 vehicles a month by year's end, and double that by mid-2008. That output mirrors what bigger competitors promise.

Concerns remain about Force Protection's ability to deliver on time, however. In February, the company won a $67 million military contract to deliver 125 Cougars by the end of June, but the last dozen or so weren't finished until early July. A June report by the Pentagon's inspector general also said the company "did not perform as a responsible contractor" by missing previous contract deadlines.

As the Pentagon has sped up MRAP purchases in recent months, it's placed big orders with several of Force Protection's competitors. Force Protection has won about a third of the new contracts, but the inroads by other manufacturers has been a factor in driving down the company's stock, analysts say.

"There was a period when the expectation was that Force Protection was going to win a much larger share of these orders than what it has (gotten), and as those expectations have changed, so, too, has the stock price," says James McIlree, a managing director with C.E. Unterberg, Towbin, a New York investment bank. McIlree believes the stock will get back to $30. "There are still are well over 1,000 vehicles to be purchased (this year), and Force Protection should be in a position to win a share."

Started as speed boat maker

When U.S. forces stormed into Iraq in March 2003, the people at Force Protection had more experience selling boats than military trucks.

The company traces its roots to Sonic Jet Performance, Inc., a California speed boat company founded in 1997. When the boat business hit tough times after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, company officials began looking for a new product, says Madhava Rao Mankal, then Sonic Jet's chief financial officer.

They had just gotten a $25,000 investment from Frank Kavanaugh, a principal with the equity investment firm Ashford Capital, and he'd committed to raise far more. In return, he got a 20% stake in the business.

Around that time, Mankal heard about Garth Barrett, a former Rhodesian military officer who had a company, Technical Solutions, that was building a new type of mine-resistant vehicle.

The heavily armored trucks featured a V-hull design that deflected underbody blasts away from the passenger compartment, and Barrett had seen them save lives in Africa's bush wars. He'd licensed the rights from the South African manufacturer to produce two U.S. models: the Buffalo, a huge, mine-clearing truck, and the Cougar, which was smaller and more versatile.

"Their company was struggling, so we … took it over," Mankal recalls. "The world was in chaos, there was terrorism, and we felt there was a big market for that product."

The takeover came in June 2002 and, not long after, Kavanaugh and Mankal decided to focus exclusively on the V-hulled trucks. They also took a new name, drawn from the address for Technical Solutions' website: www.forceprotection.net.

Small orders began trickling in from the Pentagon: 11 Buffalos first, then 27 Cougars.

"We really limped through that first 27 Cougars — I promise, we lost money on every one," says Aldrich, 56, a West Point graduate and former Army captain.

Meanwhile, the IED threat in Iraq was increasing. By the end of 2004, the devices had killed at least 315 U.S. troops, and a Pentagon task force saw a need for a vehicle that would protect U.S. troops from the increasingly sophisticated explosives insurgents were burying under roads. When it came time to buy, the Marines say, only one product fit the bill: the Cougar. In May 2005, they ordered 122; a year later, another 79.

The early Force Protection contracts were "sole-source," because the Marines, the contracting agent, determined that no other U.S. company could immediately produce the vehicles they needed. But the inspector general's June report criticized that decision. Force Protection lacked the capacity to deliver on the contract, the report concluded, and the Marines should have sought other sources.

"Contracting with a company that has not demonstrated acceptable performance and responsibility may not be in the best interest of the government," the report said, and "late delivery … may hinder the war fighters' ability to execute mission requirements and increase risk to soldiers' lives
."

Nevertheless, the inspector general was impressed with the vehicles, noting that they "performed well and saved lives."

The Marines insist the sole-source contracts were justified.

"I don't believe it was a mistake," Brogan, the Marine general, said at a briefing last month. At the time, the Marines needed a "commercial, off-the-shelf" vehicle that could be produced immediately, and Force Protection was the only U.S. company building one, he said.

Second-generation MRAPs

Today, the old GE plant where Force Protection builds vehicles still has a small-business feel. Workers zip around the sprawling building on bicycles. And there's a collective sense of urgency in meeting the latest MRAP orders. "It's an adrenaline rush to get these things out as fast as you can," says Steve Schmitt, 31, a welder. "This job helps people come home from Iraq."

Force Protection's early executives, many of whom got a stake in the company, have enjoyed huge returns. Kavanaugh, who ultimately raised $250 million to keep the company running, cashed in more than $60 million in stock before retiring from the board in June, and current CEO Gordon McGilton has sold nearly $20 million in stock this year. Both also held on to large numbers of shares — Kavanaugh still has more than 800,000.

In Iraq, the IED threat continues to evolve. Insurgents increasingly use new devices that fire molten slugs, known as explosively formed projectiles, or EFPs, that can penetrate not only MRAPs but even heavily armored tanks.

When the Pentagon invited manufacturers this week to design a second generation of MRAPs, it specified that the new vehicles must offer more protection against EFPs. The challenge facing Force Protection and other MRAP makers is how quickly and effectively they can upgrade their vehicles to better repel the deadly devices.

Force Protection already has developed an add-on armor kit for the Cougar that it touts as being able to withstand EFP blasts. Aldrich says the kit also can be used on non-MRAP vehicles in the U.S. military fleet, and it's relatively light — an advantage in keeping vehicles maneuverable
.

Force Protection's competitors are moving quickly, too.

Oshkosh Trucks announced last week that it was partnering with Ceradyne, a Costa Mesa, Calif., company that produces ceramic body armor for the troops, to produce a new MRAP called the Bull, specially built "to withstand the increasingly prevalent and higher EFP threats now faced by the U.S. military."

Melissa Davis, a stock watcher with TheStreet.com, noted in a recent column that Ceradyne's early focus on EFP protection could help the Bull "charge forward and lead the pack" as the Pentagon lets contracts for what it calls "MRAP II."

Many of Force Protection's rivals bring a lot of political and production muscle to the game, and some follow the company's playbook.

Just last week, another hulking, desert-tan armored truck lumbered past the security barriers on Capitol Hill. This time it was a MaxxPro, the new MRAP being built by International. Several members of Congress milled about as company officials reminded visitors that their company produces 160,000 trucks a year. And, says Archie Massicotte, who heads the company, "we've never delivered late on a (military) order."

Since January, the Pentagon has ordered more than 1,900 MaxxPros at a cost of $1 billion, making the company second only to Force Protection in total MRAP orders.

"Imitation is the highest form of flattery," Force Protection's Aldrich says. He notes that none of the new MRAPs still in production has been battlefield tested in Iraq. The Cougar is still "the gold standard of protection," Aldrich adds, and "we don't think we'll have any problem selling more vehicles."

Contributing: Tom Vanden Brook


[bth: the other contractors might not have delivered late on a contract, they just didn't deliver the contract or the vehicles. IEDs and now EFPs are known threats but these big defense contractors simply will not invest their own money even to wash their hands. We are in the 4th year of a very long war. This type of R&D and procurement mentality works great in the Cold War but its a perfect way to lose a hot one. Aggressive international licensing and purchasing may be one of the few ways of getting these US defense contractors off their fat asses. I have to hand it to Force Protection.]

Taliban say they killed four judges

Taliban say they killed four judges - World - smh.com.au: "GHAZNI, Afghanistan: The Taliban warned yesterday that more of the 21 South Korean hostages could be killed at 'any time' after a deadline expired with apparently no breakthrough in talks with the Afghan Government."

Earlier, the Taliban had claimed responsibility for murdering four Afghan judges whose bodies were found yesterday in the same province where Taliban militants are holding the South Koreans.

"We killed them [the judges from the neighbouring province of Paktika] because they worked for the Government," a Taliban spokesman, Yousuf Ahmadi, said
.

But amid appeals by South Korea and relatives of the kidnapped Koreans to the US for help, Afghanistan said for the first time that it would not release insurgent prisoners - the Taliban's key demand to free the captives.

In South Korea, relatives and a civic group pleaded for more US involvement, and the President's office used more diplomatic language to prod the Americans.

"The Government is well aware of how the international community deals with these kinds of abduction cases,"a spokesman for the President, Roh Moo-hyun, said, an apparent reference to the US policy of not negotiating with terrorists. "But it also believes that it would be worthwhile to use flexibility in the cause of saving the precious lives of those still in captivity."

A spokesman for the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, said officials were doing everything possible to secure the hostages' release, but that freeing militant prisoners was not an option. "As a principle, we shouldn't encourage kidnapping by accepting their demands," he said.

The deadline for the exchange of the South Koreans was the latest in a series imposed by the Taliban since 23 hostages were seized two weeks ago.

"After the deadline passed, one or more hostages could be killed any time," Ahmadi said.

The Taliban have killed two of their captives - one late on Monday after two other deadlines had expired.

Afghan authorities have been trying to persuade the Taliban to allow a South Korean delegation to meet some of the hostages.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

I don't know how much more progress we can stand

TBogg - "...a somewhat popular blogger": "Playing with numbers"

Playing with numbers

For the record, July casualties in Iraq since the war began:

2003 - 48
2004 - 54
2005 - 54
2006 - 43
2007 - 74 now 78


We saw the lightning and that was the guns and then we heard the thunder and that was the big guns; and then we heard the rain falling and that was the blood falling; and when we came to get in the crops, it was dead men that we reaped. ~Harriet Tubman


posted by tbogg

[bth: its been interesting to see how this figure has been spun. July was down relative to recent monthly highs was I heard today therefore the surge is working. Then I find out July is always lower than previous and future months because of the heat - the insurgents like to stay in the shade and stare at a powerless air conditioner while the infidels roam the streets in the sun. Then you find out that Iraqi civilian casualties were exceedingly high - not quite a record for the year but a strong contender. ... What I find fascinating is how these stats are spun for effect and not for truth. The folks at the Pentagon don't want us to have the truth because they think we can't handle it, that we might actually start thinking for ourselves instead of believing them with absolute faith like that Pat Tillman fiasco. Imagine Rumsfeld saying to Congress today that he wouldn't have ever been a part of that nor the people he worked with. Just amazing what the public will put up with.]

Sunni Arab Bloc Quits Iraqi Government

Sunni Arab Bloc Quits Iraqi Government | World Latest | Guardian Unlimited: "BAGHDAD (AP) - Iraq's largest Sunni Arab political bloc announced its withdrawal from the government Wednesday, undermining Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's efforts to seek reconciliation among the country's rival factions. "

Violence continued unabated, with 17 civilians killed in a car bomb in central Baghdad and the U.S. military announcing the deaths of three American soldiers killed by a sophisticated, armor-piercing bomb.

Rafaa al-Issawi, a leading member of the Front, said at a news conference in the capital that the bloc's six Cabinet ministers would submit their resignations later in the day.

Al-Issawi said the decision to pull out from the government followed what he called al-Maliki's failure to respond to a set of demands put forward by the Accordance Front last week, when it gave the prime minister seven days to meet its demands.

Among the demands: a pardon for security detainees not charged with specific crimes, the disbanding of militias and the participation of all groups represented in the government in dealing with security issues.

``The government is continuing with its arrogance, refusing to change its stand and has slammed shut the door to any meaningful reform,'' al-Issawi said. ``We had hoped that the government would respond to these demands or acknowledge its failures. But its stand did not surprise us at all.''

The Accordance Front has 44 of parliament's 275 seats. Its withdrawal from the 14-month-old government is the second such action by a faction of al-Maliki's ``national unity'' coalition.

Five Cabinet ministers loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr quit the government in April to protest al-Maliki's reluctance to announce a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.

Meanwhile, a parked car bomb killed 17 civilians and left a gaping crater in a busy square in central Baghdad, police said. Another 32 people were wounded by the blast, a police officer said on condition of anonymity out of security concerns.

An Associated Press reporter at the scene said the explosion ripped a hole more than 3 feet deep and nearly 5 feet wide in the asphalt. Three minibuses and six cars were damaged by flames and flying debris. Blood pooled in the street.

A gas station and a nearby restaurant, which was closed at the time of the blast, also suffered damage.

The explosives had been planted in a vehicle in al-Hurriyah square in the mostly Shiite Karradah neighborhood, and detonated around 10:15 a.m., the police officer said.

Thamir Sami, 33, was carrying clothes from his menswear shop out to his car when the explosion shook the area.

``Women and children were lining up near the gas station to get fuel ... I saw burnt bodies. Other motorists and I helped evacuate the wounded before the ambulances came,'' he said.

The bombing occurred nearly a week after a cluster of explosions, including one from a massive truck bomb, hit the same neighborhood. Karradah had previously been thought to be one of central Baghdad's safest areas. Last Thursday's blasts killed more than 60 people.

The U.S. military on Wednesday announced the deaths of three more soldiers, killed by a sophisticated, armor-piercing bomb in eastern Baghdad.

An explosively-formed penetrator, or EFP, detonated near the soldiers' patrol during combat operations on Tuesday, the military said.

Six other soldiers were wounded. The victims' names were withheld pending family notification.

That brought to 76 the July toll of U.S. deaths in Iraq. It was the lowest monthly count in eight months, as the U.S. military said it was gaining control of former militant strongholds.

Still, it was the deadliest July for U.S. troops since the war began. For the previous three years, the month of July saw a relatively low death toll. In July 2006, 43 U.S. troops were killed in Iraq, and 54 died in each of the previous two Julys.

By contrast, July was the second-deadliest month for Iraqis so far this year, according to an Associated Press tally
.

[bth: the Iraqi government is falling apart over the vacation month. The Kurds are focusing on cash flow and their Kirkuk oil fields and pipelines. The sunnis just resigned from the government if I understand this correctly. Besides the US funding the sunni militias, it isn't clear to me how the sunnis plan to finance their areas short of crime and corruption. If the downside for Maliki is that the government breaks up, he controls Basra (a questionable assumption) needed for oil exports=cash, then perhaps he doesn't mind seeing Iraq break up. Won't that just add up to more gold=oil for his shea constituents?]

The Blotter: Bounty Hunter Disrupts Possible Terror Plot

The Blotter: Bounty Hunter Disrupts Possible Terror Plot: "A terrorist attack on U.S. soil may have been averted, thanks to the efforts of a Florida bounty hunter"

William "Cobra" Staubs claims to have captured more than 8,000 fugitives in his long career hunting bail-jumpers. But his latest nab got the attention of federal terrorism investigators: a self-described ex-soldier allegedly harboring a cache of military-grade explosives, functional pipe bombs and other weapons -- and a deep grudge against the U.S. military.

"It's not some hillybilly saying, 'Hey Mama, how you doing?' This was real," Cobra told ABC News.

After a month-long chase through three states, Cobra caught 38-year-old Christopher Riendeau holed up in a motel near the Fort Campbell, Ky. U.S. Army base. Riendeau, a purported 17-year Army veteran, had skipped out on a $100,000 bond after being arrested on drug charges.

Once Riendeau was behind bars, he agreed to a proposal from Cobra to sell off his motorcycle and other items from a Georgia storage shed he rented, to cover his court expenses.

In the shed, Cobra discovered more: 16 loaded and fully functional pipe bombs, two pounds of C-4 military explosives, grenade fuses and an arsenal of 60 firearms and ammunition.

"There are real bombs. We dare not pull the pin on them," Cobra said as he walked through the shed on a videotape obtained by ABC News. "We're going to be calling the bomb squad in a few minutes."

Cobra also found a cleaned and pressed U.S. military uniform and an array of Nazi paraphernalia.

Cobra says Riendeau told him he had a grudge against the military because he had been unfairly discharged from the Army. Riendeau's lawyer, Jerry Berry, declined to comment for this story.

"Every place he stayed was near a military base," Cobra told ABC News. "This guy had a problem with the military. This guy had guns, more than he could shoot in any one time...and a lot of ammunition and bombs."

The bombs were seized by law enforcement and destroyed. The FBI is currently investigating whether Riendeau was possibly planning a revenge attack on a U.S. military base, as what the FBI calls a "lone-wolf" terrorist -- a terrorist with no connection to a larger group.

"You definitely have to take this kind of thing seriously," said Brad Garrett, a celebrated former FBI special agent who worked numerous terrorism investigations and now an ABC News consultant. "There's not enough time taken, in my view, looking for these types of people."

Riendeau is now being held without bail while a federal grand jury investigates.

Swedish Meatballs Confidential: "And they would thank me for my service at the end of it..."

Swedish Meatballs Confidential: "And they would thank me for my service at the end of it...": "Josh Rushing, a former USMC Captain who was a CENTCOM PAO during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, delivers his judgment on the embarrassingly transparent and dangerously amateurish spectacle of the invasion-period war coverage:"




When I would go out and give reasons why we were going to invade Iraq, having been given the messages from a Republican operative that was my boss, he would give me the theme of the day. Sometimes it would be "WMD," others it would be "regime change" and others it would be "ties to terrorism." I would go out to a Fox reporter and they would say "Are there any messages you want to get across before we get to the live interview?" And we would script the interview around the government messaging, and they would thank me for my service at the end of it. And out of fairness, that wasn't just Fox. There were a number of American networks who did it. The reporters were in a position where there was no way their editorial leadership or their audience for that matter, wanted to see them be critical of a young troop in uniform.

But the devious part of that, is that the administration knew that and understood that and used young troops in uniform to sell the war in a way it knew couldn't be questioned or criticized. If you look at MSNBC, they packaged their coverage with a banner that said "Our Hearts Are With You." So when that banner is under my face and I'm giving the reasons why we need to go to war, is anyone going to ask me a critical question? Of course not, their hearts are with me. And there’s a danger in that.

The media's purpose in a democracy is to be professionally skeptical of anything that anyone in a position of authority or power says. If they’re not, who is? Nobody, and then the people in authority and power can say and do anything they want. So I was disappointed in that.

There are other examples, with Fox in particular. Fox likes personalities, and Geraldo Rivera covered the war on my TV and was giving away future troop movements by drawing a map in the sand.

There was another case where a Fox reporter was reporting live from in front of an Abrams tank that was on fire. The conventional wisdom was that Abrams tanks were impervious to the technology that the fedayeen had, small arms. But it turns out that if you did hit an Abrams tank in a certain spot with a rocket-propelled grenade, you could stop it and destroy it. So the Fox correspondent is reporting that, live on television: where the weak spot is and how this must have happened. Anyone watching that stuff, Iraqi intelligence officials, fedayeen soldiers – and we know they were watching it – would be like 'great, next time I see an Abrams, I'm gonna save my shot until I see the money shot and aim for the vulnerable spot I saw on TV. Thank you, Fox News.' Or anyone being watching the live report from Geraldo – where he's drawing the map in the sand – could say 'great, I know where coming and they're bringing Geraldo with them.' There's a danger in that.

And the thing is, Fox likes to see themselves as so pro-military and patriotic and they like to share their knowledge, like they're one of the guys. It's also interesting to note now how little Fox covers the war. MSNBC covered the war three times as much as Fox, I think in June. You've got to be kidding me. The number one cheerleader for this war is now just leaving it behind?


The embedding of journalists during OIF is generally considered to have been a success in that operational security was not compromised (the Geraldo incident and the broadcast vulnerability of the Abrams notwithstanding) while the perceptions of the American people were properly managed.

The reporting of the embedded media worked also to counter Iraq's propaganda claims of battlefield accomplishments, and by doing so, reinforced the rest of the U.S. PSYOP themes (don't use WMD, surrender to the "coalition", civilians stay indoors, etc.) in the minds of Saddam's military and the Iraqi people.

There was a smattering of reporters who chafed at the restrictions that were placed upon the embeds during the invasion, and wanted to venture out unaccompanied (as if they were going to cover an Officers' Wives Club luncheon). But, by and large, the embedded press corps was eager to disseminate to the viewers and readers their "soda straw" perspective of the beginning hours and days of the war.

However splendid their early performance operationally, the press played an unusually insidious role in selling the idea of this war of choice to the American people. Their refusal to ask the hard questions that would have exposed the administration's spurious basis for going into Iraq is inexcusable. "Just because we can" -- the remaining motive after the bones of all their other justifications were picked clean -- is not a good enough reason. A war of choice by necessity needs a compliant press corps. The same need applies to dealing with a complete disaster created as a result of heedless national leadership.

The nation hasn't soured on the war as a result of the reporting of the media. It is the natural common sense of the American people that is now informing their negative opinion of the war. Much of the U.S. media is still doing the bidding of their paymasters.

As Josh Rushing is fond of saying, there is a danger in that.

What is past is prologue.