Saturday, November 17, 2007

 
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Pro-Iraq ad buyers turn to lobbying

The Raw Story | Pro-Iraq ad buyers turn to lobbying: "Freedom's Watch, a pro-Iraq war interest group populated by prominent Republicans and former Bush administration officials, swept into the debate over the war this summer with a series of slickly produced, emotional TV ads.

Now the group wants to take its arguments straight to the Capitol Hill lawmakers who are debating how and whether to continue funding America's nearly five-year occupation of Iraq.

Freedom's Watch filed papers on Sept. 17 to lobby lawmakers, as noted this week by CQ Moneyline, a campaign fundraising and political advocacy tracking service. The group says it plans to reach out to members of both parties on a variety of issues, including troop funding and "winning the war on terror."

"We won't narrow our scope in terms of who we're going to be talking to," Matt David, a spokesman for the group, tells RAW STORY.

The lobbying disclosure form lists three Freedom's Watch officials, who are joining the pro-war lobbying effort, including Bradley Blakeman, a former deputy assistant to President Bush, and David, a former Bush-Cheney campaign aide.

Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer is a founding board member of Freedom's Watch, although he is not listed as a registered lobbyist. David says Fleischer won't be involved in the lobbying effort, and the group will not be coordinating its actions with the Bush administration.

"By law we're not allowed to coordinate with the White House, so we are following the law," he said in an interview Friday. "We are not coordinating with the White House."

As RAW STORY reported last month, Freedom's Watch appears to be part of a revolving door between the White House and outside public relations groups trying to bolster support for the unpopular occupation of Iraq.

David said Freedom's Watch plans to announce an expansion of its advocacy efforts to include issues beyond the war and hopes to become a force in Washington.

"This is an organization with the goal to be a perpetual operation for years and years to come," he said.

In August, Freedom's Watch began a $15 million ad campaign in 20 states urging members of Congress to stay the course in Iraq. Those ads, which aired just before Gen. David Petraeus's progress report on the "surge" in Iraq, conflated the Iraq invasion and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, despite the fact that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the plot to fell the World Trade Center. ...

[bth: here is the board and initial investors.

The board consists of Blakeman; Fleischer; Mel Sembler, a Florida Republican who was Bush’s ambassador to Italy; William P. Weidner, president and chief operating officer of the Las Vegas Sands Corp.; and Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

The donors include Sembler; Anthony Gioia, a Buffalo businessman who was Bush’s ambassador to Malta; Kevin Moley, who was Bush’s ambassador to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva; Howard Leach, a former Republican National Committee finance chairman who was Bush’s ambassador to France; Dr. John Templeton of Pennsylvania, chairman and president of the John Templeton Foundation; Ed Snider, chairman of Comcast Spectacor, the huge Philadelphia sports and entertainment firm; Sheldon Adelson, chairman of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. and ranked by Forbes magazine as the third-wealthiest American; and Richard Fox, who is chairman of the Jewish Policy Center and was Pennsylvania State Chairman of the Reagan/Bush campaign in 1980. ]

Darpa Urban Challenge video clip

War Is Boring

Most Turks back N.Iraq incursion, dislike US -poll

Most Turks back N.Iraq incursion, dislike US -poll | Reuters: "ANKARA Nov 16 (Reuters) - A large majority of Turks support a military incursion into northern Iraq to crush Kurdish rebels using the region as a base, according to an opinion poll published on Friday.

The survey, conducted in October by Pollmark, also showed a continued decline in Turkish support for joining the European Union and reconfirmed Turks' negative view of the United States, viewed here as the main threat to Middle East peace.

The number of people saying Turkey should conduct a cross-border military operation against militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) stood at 81 percent, up sharply from 46 percent in the last poll in July....

ANTI-AMERICAN, WARY OF EU

Despite U.S. offers of help for NATO ally Turkey in fighting the PKK, the poll showed the number of Turks with a negative view of the United States had risen to 86 percent from 49 percent in November 2003 after the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Many Turks fear U.S. policy is leading towards the creation of an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq, a move they believe could reignite separatism among Turkey's own large ethnic Kurdish population. Turks are also angry about U.S. failure to tackle the estimated 3,000 PKK rebels hiding in northern Iraq, close to the border with Turkey.

The survey showed support for Turkey's European Union membership bid had fallen to 51 percent from 52 percent in July, with 40 percent now opposed to joining. A few years ago, support for EU membership was above 70 percent.

Turks with higher education were most opposed to joining the bloc.

The EU's image has suffered greatly in Turkey after its failure to lift trade restrictions against Turkish Cypriots on the ethnically divided island of Cyprus and after calls by French and German leaders to deny Ankara full membership...
 
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Sic Semper Tyrannis 2007: Amatzia Baram on the big question in Iraq

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2007: Amatzia Baram on the big question in Iraq: "Between 1920 and 1924 the Shi'is of Iraq spilled a lot of blood in fighting the British. Their leading clerics under the leadership of Grand Ayat Allah Shirazi called for jihad and even after the collapse of the armed revolt in October 1920 they continued to object ferociously to any cooperation with the Brits. They were eventually exiled to India as a result. In June 1921 the Brits brought the Sunni Emir Faisal from the Hejaz and in August they anointed him as King of Iraq. They made up their minds: they turned to the Sunni community for cooperation. The latter, albeit with some exceptions, were pragmatic enough to accept the balance of power and act accordingly.

Iraq became Sunni dominated all the way to 2003. One of the ironies of history is that in the 1930s the Shi'i religious leadership turned a number of times to the Brits to protect them against the discrimination and oppression of the Sunni-led state. In the mid-1930s they even asked the Brits to abolish the formal independent status of Iraq and re-impose a fully-fledged British Mandate. But of no avail.

At least one Shi'i leader today is warning his community that the same scenario may be repeated if the Shi'i community does not know how to work with the US. But both the Shi'i leadership and grassroots are adamant on keeping the Sunnis out in the cold. At long last the US commanders found a common language with many Sunni tribal shaykhs and warlords and support them. It is quite possible to my mind that if the Shi'i leaders, between Maliki and Sistani, don't show more flexibility and civil courage and if Muqtada does not cease his marauding mischief the Shi'is will lose Iraq again. It may not become a Sunni-led centralized state as it was before 2003, but it will descend into chaos and the Shi'i parts (and maybe Baghdad too) will come under Iranian hegemony. This is something most Shi'i Arabs are far from enthusiastic about.

Amatzia Baram

Haifa University"

[bth: while I'm not convinced Iran controls (though it influences heavily) southern Iraq, I do not see any moves to compromise or share with the Sunnis.]
 
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Saudi minister warns of dollar collapse

Saudi minister warns of dollar collapse | Business News: "The dollar could collapse if Opec officially admits considering changing the pricing of oil into alternative currencies such as the euro, the Saudi Arabian foreign minister has warned.

Prince Saud Al-Faisal was overheard ruling out a proposal from Iran and Venezuela to discuss pricing crude in a private meeting at the oil cartel's conference.

In an embarrassing blunder at the meeting in Riyadh, ministers' microphones were not cut off during a key closed meeting, and Prince Al-Faisal was heard saying: "My feeling is that the mere mention that the Opec countries are studying the issue of the dollar is itself going to have an impact that endangers the interests of the countries. "There will be journalists who will seize on this point and we don't want the dollar to collapse instead of doing something good for Opec."

After around 40 minutes press officials cut off the feed, which had been accidentally broadcast to the press room.

Prince Al-Faisal added: "This is not new. We have done this in the past: decide to study something without putting down on paper that we are going to study it so that we avoid any implication that will bring adverse effects on our countries' finances."

Iran and Venezuela have argued that the meeting's final communique should voice concern about the level of the dollar, which has recently fallen to new record lows against the euro. They are pushing for oil to be denominated against a basket of currencies.

The greenback also weakened slightly against the pound, although sterling's own recent weakness has pushed it down from $2.10 to $2.0457 during the week.

Nigerian finance minister Shamsuddeen Usman said that Opec could declare in the communique that: "While underlining our concern for the continued depreciation of the dollar and its adverse impact on our revenues, we instruct our finance ministers to study the issue exhaustively and advise us on ways to safeguard the purchasing power of our revenues, of our members' revenues."

Chancellor Alistair Darling will today urge his fellow finance ministers at a major G20 summit to increase investment in oil production and refinement.
 
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Army Desertion Rate Up 80 Pct. Since '03

Army Desertion Rate Up 80 Pct. Since '03: "Soldiers strained by six years at war are deserting their posts at the highest rate since 1980, with the number of Army deserters this year showing an 80 percent increase since the United States invaded Iraq in 2003.


While the totals are still far lower than they were during the Vietnam War, when the draft was in effect, they show a steady increase over the past four years and a 42 percent jump since last year.


"We're asking a lot of soldiers these days," said Roy Wallace, director of plans and resources for Army personnel. "They're humans. They have all sorts of issues back home and other places like that. So, I'm sure it has to do with the stress of being a soldier."


The Army defines a deserter as someone who has been absent without leave for longer than 30 days. The soldier is then discharged as a deserter.


According to the Army, about nine in every 1,000 soldiers deserted in fiscal year 2007, which ended Sept. 30, compared to nearly seven per 1,000 a year earlier. Overall, 4,698 soldiers deserted this year, compared to 3,301 last year....

[bth: considering what is asked of them this is a ridiculously low desertion rate. A 42% jump is really only about 1300 people. We need to keep this in perspective especially given 15 month tours.]

Friday, November 16, 2007

The State of Jihadi Terrorism in Pakistan - International Terrorism Monitor---Paper No. 305

The State of Jihadi Terrorism in Pakistan - International Terrorism Monitor---Paper No. 305: "The State of Jihadi Terrorism in Pakistan - International Terrorism Monitor---Paper No. 305

By B. Raman

At the instance of Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, the new Vice Chief of the Army Staff who is expected to take over as the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) as and when Gen. Pervez Musharraf keeps his commitment to give up his second hat as the COAS, a background briefing on the state of jihadi terrorism in Pakistan was organised by the Directorate-General of Military Operations (DGMO) for a select group of Pakistani journalists at the General Headquarters at Rawalpindi on November 14, 2007. This was the first briefing of its kind held by the Pakistan Army since 9/11. It is believed that the Army officers, who conducted the briefing, were unusually free and frank in sharing their views and concerns with the invited journalists.

2. It is not clear whether Gen. Kiyani himself attended the briefing. According to reliable sources in the Pakistani media community, what came out clearly during the briefing was that Gen. Kiyani believes that the failure to deal effectively with jihadi terrorism in Pakistani territory was to some extent due to the over-militarisation of Pakistan's counter-terrorism strategy under American influence. Even before this briefing and weeks before Musharraf imposed a State of Emergency, non-Governmental analysts in Pakistan were pointing out that some of the problems being faced by Pakistan in the tribal areas could be attributed to what they perceived as Musharraf's amenability to US pressure in counter-terrorism.

3. A point often heard from non-Governmental analysts was: Would the US use the kind of military methods on its own citizens in its homeland that it has been forcing Musharraf to use on the tribal citizens of Pakistan? They were having in mind the repeated bombing of madrasas in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) allegedly under US pressure just because US intelligence agencies and military officers suspected that these madrasas were being used by Al Qaeda and the Neo Taliban as training centres for suicide terrorists. According to them, hundreds of innocent tribal children were killed in the bombings, thereby spreading anti-US and anti-Musharraf anger right across the tribal belt. After the bombings, it was allegedly found that the US-supplied intelligence, which led to the aerial bombing, was not correct.

4. Ayesha Haroon, of the "News", who was one of the journalists, who attended the briefing at the GHQ, has said in her detailed report published by her paper on November 15, 2007, as follows: "The journalists were told that the VCOAS stresses that "military solutions must be politically acceptable" and "only minimum use of force must be resorted to."

5. It has been my view that while constant US pressure on Musharraf to repeatedly use his Air Force against suspect madrasas and alleged Al Qaeda hide-outs in the tribal area has partly contributed to the jihadi upsurge, Musharraf cannot escape his own share of responsibility for the increase in the activities of Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda jihadi terrorists in Pakistani territory. His predecessors as military dictators had the good sense to realise that the Army alone cannot effectively govern the country and maintain law and order without the co-operation of the Police and other civilian bureaucracy.

6. The Police has an important role in counter--insurgency and counter-terrorism. They act as the eyes and ears of the Government even in the remotest of villages. They know the community better than the Army. Gen.Zia ul-Haq and other military dictators of the past tried to strengthen the self-pride and elan of the Police in order to secure their co-operation for the Army. Musharraf was the first military dictator, who sought to humiliate the Police right from the day he took over in October, 1999, and marginalise its role. He appointed junior and middle-level Army officers---some serving, some retired--- as monitors of the performance of senior police officers. There were shocking instances where senior Police officers, holding a position equivalent to the rank of a Maj. Gen. in the Army, were asked to report to army officers of the rank of Major or even Captain. These junior officers, who knew very little of the community, were asked to write the annual performance report of very senior police officers. Musharraf also started an exercise to militarise the Intelligence Bureau (IB) of the Ministry of the Interior, which, in the past, used to be largely, if not predominantly, staffed by Police and other civilian officers. The IB of Pakistan shared the same civilian traditions and work practices as its Indian counterpart. Musharraf sought to change this in order to give the Army a greater role in the IB. There was a similar mishandling of the non-police sections of the civilian bureaucracy.

7. The result: A drying-up of the flow of intelligence not only from the tribal areas, but also from other parts of the country as well. Police officers hardly investigated terrorism-related cases either because of their resentment with Musharraf or because of a fear of incurring the wrath of the terrorists." It serves the Army and Musharraf right" was their attitude. There was neither effective prevention nor successful investigation in most cases. Successful investigation and prosecution is an important deterrent to the spread of terrorism. This is hardly to be found in Pakistan.

8. Another blunder committed by Musharraf was the over-use of the Frontier Constabulary and the Frontier Corps in the operations against terrorists in the tribal areas. He wanted to avoid using the Punjabi-dominated Army for ground operations. While the Army is actively involved in the ground operations against the Baloch freedom-fighters in Balochistan, it was confining itself to the barracks in the FATA and in the Provincially-Administered Tribal Areas (PATA) of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). American officials and their counterparts in Pakistan often claim that Musharraf has deployed nearly 80,000 troops in the tribal areas. The Americans cite this as one of the reasons for their strong backing to the General despite his growing unpopularity.

9. What they do not mention is that many of these security personnel are the tribal members of the para-military forces, who come from that area, and not Pakistani military personnel recruited from other areas of the country. A large number of the Pakistani army personnel are used not for ground operations against the terrorists, but for providing physical security to American and other NATO military supplies to Afghanistan from the Karachi port after they are landed there. This has been creating resentment among the tribal personnel of the para-military forces, who feel that Musharraf, under US pressure, is making not only Muslims kill Muslims, but also Pashtuns kill Pashtuns, in the name of the so-called war on terrorism. The FM radio stations operated by pro-Al Qaeda jihadi leaders in the tribal areas have been repeatedly alleging in their broadcasts directed to the fellow-tribals in the para-military forces that innocent tribals are being killed in order to save American lives in the US homeland.

10. As a result of this, there has been a growing number of desertions of Pashtuns serving in the para-military forces. Only now, for the last few days, Musharraf has been using regular Army units to counter the supporters of Maulana Fazlullah in the Swat Valley, but afraid that the Pashtun soldiers of the Army too might start deserting their units like the Pashtun members of the para-military forces, he has been avoiding the use of the army in ground operations and has instead been relying increasingly on helicopter gunships. This has, on the one hand, resulted in an increase in the number of civilian casualties due to indiscriminate air-mounted actions and, on the other, further fuelled the resentment in the para-military forces, whose personnel are asking: Are the lives of the Army personnel more precious than those of the Frontier Constabulary and the Frontier Corps?

11. Musharraf has so far not told his people and the international community that Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda organisations in the tribal areas have been increasingly targeting Shias and Christians. Captured Shia members of the para-military forces are being treated with brutality and killed by beheading or by cutting their throats. Shia members of the civil society are also being targeted. The FM radio stations have been indulging in the most horrible anti-Shia broadcasts. Shias are being projected as American agents in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. They are alleging that the majority of the prostitutes in Pakistan are Shias and projecting the Shias as the sect of the prostitutes in the Ummah. A highly reputed school for poor tribal girls run in the FATA by a Christian missionary organisation was targeted and forced to close through intimidation. There are no Buddhists in the tribal areas, but many historical Buddhist heritage sites are there. These too are systematically being attacked. Al Qaeda is trying to replicate Iraq in Pakistan by exacerbating the already existing divide between the Shias and the Sunnis in the civil society as well as in the Army.

12. Musharraf has been totally helpless in dealing with the situation. There is an urgent need to encourage the emergence of a new leadership---political as well as military---which would be able to deal with the worsening jihadi terrorism with greater political sensitivity and operational effectiveness.

13. The text of the "News" report on the GHQ briefing is annexed.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com)

ANNEXURE (From the "News" of November 15, 2007)

‘No impact of emergency on militancy’
Army says elements freed by SC attacking security forces

By Ayesha Haroon

ISLAMABAD: Even as General Musharraf's 2007 emergency has had no impact on the ongoing counter-terrorism action by the military operations, Swat and Malakand are expecting a major Army operation to rid them of local Taliban leadership by the end of December.

In a background briefing to senior editors by the Directorate General of Military Operations, at the GHQ on Wednesday, about the VCOAS' concept of handling growing militancy in the country, especially in NWFP and Balochistan, it was told that the VCOAS wanted to create a balance between the military and political solutions.

Significantly, when asked how the imposition of emergency has improved the DGMO's work in quelling militancy, given that countering militancy was one of the main reasons given for General Musharraf's Emergency 2007, it was told that emergency has had "no impact" on the DGMO's work vis a vis terrorism.

"The journalists were told that the VCOAS stresses that "military solutions must be politically acceptable" and "only minimum use of force must be resorted to." Worryingly, the message from those involved in the military operations is that they see no political will to "get it over with". It was said that "neglect" of the intrinsic issues and the deep-seated political and development problems is continuing.

It was shared in the briefing that no willingness from the government functionaries was forthcoming to adequately administer the areas - even the "political agent of Waziristan sits in Peshawar".

"Improving the situation would need a wholesome approach which is not there, except in presentations," was a rather depressing assessment. The MO says it is trying to aim for a strong political administration and building up local institutions. "That is the end state we are looking for, but when we try to push the local administration to take the lead, they are hesitant."

Participants of the briefing were told that while the Government of Pakistan's Fata strategy included multiple prongs: military, political, and development; however, all three prongs did not work at the same pace; particularly development, which came to a halt due to the security situation.

It was said that the valley of Piochar, currently under the control of Mullah Fazalullah and his comrades, would be sanitised by the end of December and the local gang leaders, including Fazalullah, Qari Mushtaq, Ikramuddin, Cheenala, TOR Mullah, are the main targets.

Bedevilled by the poor intelligence, which earlier resulted in embarrassing captures of soldiers and members of law-enforcing agencies, the MO personnel leading the action have come to the conclusion that instead of the huge threat of thousands of local Taliban followers of Fazalullah, Swat is being terrorised by a group of 40-50 odd thugs. They are thugs masquerading as Taliban leaders, and they will soon be cleaned up, participants of the briefing were told.

Troops morale given the abductions and the seeming lack of central authority and the writ were the issues raised a number of times during the briefing. While the participants were reassured of the willingness by all those in the field to carry out the orders diligently, it was conceded that there appears no central agency in the affected areas.

"What can you do if the police or levies give up arms?" The local administration is too threatened to man the posts, exacerbating the already poor law and order situation. About the troops' surrender at Wana there was no excuse given. "It was shameful for us that people decided not to fight." It will take us a long time to come out of it, participants were told. Interestingly, the recently amended Army Act, that includes court martial of civilians, did not elicit much enthusiasm or confidence by the MO personnel.

Online adds: More than 600 security personnel and 1,300 civilians were killed in at least 28 suicide attacks after the Lal Masjid operation. The high-ups at GHQ admitted that the incidents of extremism and terrorism were on the rise after the operation. The extremists in North Waziristan have ended the peace agreement, the meeting was told.

The security personnel were ambushed for at least 192 times, 39 bomb blasts and 28 suicide attacks occurred in the country after the Lal Masjid operation. The military is strengthening its positions in the Swat valley. The top officials said that situation in North and South Waziristan was not satisfactory, and a priority of the security forces was to narrow the noose around Baitullah Mehsud.

From 2001 to date, at least 966 military men were martyred and 2,259 others were injured; 488 foreign extremists were killed, 24 others were arrested and 324 foreign extremists were injured, it was said. The military official said the elements released by the Supreme Court were attacking the security forces and targeting national installations. "We have irrefutable evidence those who were set free under the directives of Supreme Court are attacking the security forces, targeting national installations and worsening the situation.

"We will not allow extremism to spill into other parts of NWFP. However, more measures will be taken to crush it," they vowed. The Army has fortified its position in Swat and 100,000 troops are participating in war against extremism in Balochistan, tribal areas and other parts of NWFP," the officials said. "We are cooperating and coordinating with the international forces, engaged in operation in Afghanistan. Different targets in NWFP have been hit due to this cooperation."

[bth: interesting. I'm not sure I understand the full ramifications of this.]

Basra militants targeting women

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Basra militants targeting women: "The chief of police in the southern Iraqi city of Basra has warned of a campaign of violence against women carried out by religious extremists.
It has, Maj-Gen Abdul Jalil Khalaf said, included threats, intimidation and even murder.

Some victims were dressed in indecent clothes by their killers or had notices attached to them, he said.

Women interviewed by the BBC said they no longer dared venture on to Basra's streets without strict Islamic attire.

"There is a terrible repression against women in Basra," Maj-Gen Khalaf told the BBC.

"They kill women, leave a piece of paper on her or dress her in indecent clothes so as to justify their horrible crimes."

Forty-two women were killed between July and September this year, although the number dropped slightly in October, he said.

In one case, he added, a woman was killed in her home along with her six-year-old son, who was rumoured to have been conceived in an adulterous relationship.

Maj-Gen Khalaf, sent to Basra this year by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki to impose order in the city, said the police were often too scared to conduct proper investigations into the killings.

"The relatives are reluctant to report the crimes for fear of a scandal or because they despair of the police's ability to solve them," he added. ....

Waterboardin', USA Video

My Damn Channel » Waterboardin', USA Video: ""

YouTube - Is this the theory of everything?

YouTube - Is this the theory of everything?: ""

Kerry takes oilman Pickens up on $1 million Swift Boat challenge

Kerry takes oilman Pickens up on $1 million Swift Boat challenge - Boston.com: "BOSTON --Sen. John Kerry, whose 2004 presidential campaign was torpedoed by critics of his Vietnam War record, said Friday he has personally accepted Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens' offer of $1 million to anyone who can disprove even a single charge of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

more stories like thisIn a letter to Pickens, who provided $3 million to bankroll the group during Kerry's race against President Bush, the Massachusetts Democrat wrote: "While I am prepared to show they lied on allegation after allegation, you have generously offered to pay one million dollars for just one thing that can be proven false. I am prepared to prove the lie beyond any reasonable doubt."

Kerry, a Navy veteran and former prosecutor, said he was willing to present his case directly to Pickens and would donate any proceeds to the Paralyzed Veterans of America.

Pickens issued his challenge Nov. 6 in Washington, while serving as chairman of a 40th anniversary gala for American Spectator magazine, according to two Internet accounts of the gathering and Kerry, who said he spoke to people who were there.

"I would be more than happy to travel to Dallas to meet with you in a mutually agreed upon public forum, or would invite you to join me in Massachusetts for a public dialogue and then together we could visit the Paralyzed Veterans of America in Norwood and see firsthand how we can put your money to good work for our veterans," the senator wrote in a letter addressed to Pickens' Dallas home. A copy was provided to The Associated Press.

A Pickens' spokesman, Jay Rosser, asked to review the letter before offering comment....

[bth: well now, this is going to get very interesting.]

Early Morning Rain - The Kingston Trio

YouTube - Early Morning Rain - The Kingston Trio: ""

The Blotter: Lasers, Helmet Cams Ordered for U.S. Convoy Guards

The Blotter: Lasers, Helmet Cams Ordered for U.S. Convoy Guards: "The State Department plans to equip its motorcade security details in Iraq with lasers to "dazzle" suspect motorists and helmet cameras to record it all.

U.S. officials also say the State Department plans to double the number of its diplomatic security agents to 90 so that one of its agents can accompany every convoy guarded by Blackwater and other private security contractors.

Security experts say the lasers, emitting a green beam and already in use at some U.S. military checkpoints in Baghdad, overload the optic nerve but, if used from at least 10 feet away, will not cause any permanent eye damage.

Lasers designed to cause permanent blindness have been banned by international law since 1995....

[bth: about damned time. These things have been around a long time.]

Stand By Me Ben E King 1961

YouTube - Stand By Me Ben E King 1961: ""

Swedish Meatballs Confidential: Real Ticking Time Bombs - Two sides of the COIN

Swedish Meatballs Confidential: Real Ticking Time Bombs - Two sides of the COIN: "As CBS News presents some of the hitherto hidden American casualties of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Chicago Tribune's Paul Salopek presents a glimpse of the other side of our COIN:

MOGADISHU, Somalia — Abdulrahman Habeb was a man with problems, the most pressing of which involved a barrel of tranquilizer pills.

The barrel — containing 50,000 capsules of fluphenazine hydrochloride, a potent anti-psychotic drug ordered from America—was boosting his patients' appetites. This was not good. Patients at Habeb Public Mental Hospital were scaling the facility's mud walls to scavenge for food outside, in the war-pocked streets of Mogadishu. One had been shot.

"They don't stop when sentries say 'Halt!' " said Habeb, the director of the only mental health clinic in Somalia's capital. "How could they? They are mentally ill."

Hence, the next problem: Habeb chained some of his 47 patients to their cots. This harsh practice was regrettable, he conceded. But many of his charges weren't just famished, they were aggressive.

"They act out the violence of Somalia!" cried Habeb, an excitable man who called himself "doctor," but who really was a nurse—a nurse at the end of his tether. "I cure people's minds, and the war hurts them all over again. You cannot heal here!"

He took off his glasses. He doubled over and began to sob. A colleague in one of the cavelike wards rushed over to pat Habeb's shuddering back.

And herein lay perhaps the biggest problem of all: While Habeb and most of his patients could walk away from their wartime asylum, there was no avoiding the larger nightmare that is Somalia. Doctors and aid workers see troubling signs that untold numbers of Somalis, brutalized by 16 years of chaos and tormented by the suicide bombings and assassinations of a growing Islamist insurgency, are fending off the jolts of violence the only way they can, by retreating inward, into the fog of mental illness.

"Ninety-five percent of the triggering factors here are related to the war," a distraught Habeb said. "The fear and worry. Year after year. It is like a bomb."

Mention the term post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and what pops into most people's minds are vacant-eyed GIs grappling with the lingering psychic wounds of combat: anxiety attacks, phantom pains, depression, hyperaggression, sleeplessness and flashbacks.

Yet in an age when international terrorism gnaws at the minds of millions of ordinary people, and where millions more are battered by chronic violence in failed states, many doctors have begun to worry not just about the mental health of individual soldiers but of entire societies.
Interest in the globalization of war's invisible wounds, and PTSD in particular, has spawned a relatively new branch of medical science—traumatology. Popularized in the wake of atrocities such as the Rwanda genocide and the 9/11 terrorist attacks, its core focus involves treating war-haunted populations with mass counseling. Indeed, it even aspires to help end wars through therapy.

How?

High levels of paranoia, emotional withdrawal, irrational fear and other symptoms of PTSD tend to stifle reconciliation, conflict experts say. Traumatized populations are less apt to forgive. Moreover, a study to be published soon in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy suggests that war-traumatized families in hot spots such as Afghanistan internalize their pain, and plant the seeds of violence in the next generation through child abuse.

In effect, whether it involves armies or civilians, mental illness perpetuates states of war.

"The humanitarian response to conflicts has always focused on caring for the body," said Sandro Galea, a post-traumatic stress researcher at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health in Ann Arbor. "But what we're learning is that treating stress-related mental problems can actually help break the cycle of war."

Not all medical experts buy into that analysis.

In Kosovo—the first modern killing field where mental health was made a priority in the aid effort—psychiatrists treated thousands of dazed refugees and war-crimes survivors. The results proved ambiguous. Patient surveys showed that counselors concentrated so narrowly on post-traumatic stress that they overlooked deeper woes such as despair over poverty, the anxieties of displacement, surging drug addiction and the agonies of spousal abuse.

Some experts also question whether a Western concept such as PTSD can be applied across cultures. Human grief is handled differently across the globe, they say. And some skeptics go so far as to label mental health crusades in war zones a form of medical colonialism—force-feeding psychoanalysis and narrative therapy to minority cultures.

Still, few serious physicians deny that the basic symptoms of PTSD can be found everywhere. And in countries where the killing is ever-present, aimed at civilians and savagely personal—which is to say, in most current wars—its prevalence skyrockets.

A 2001 UN report on the state of the world's mental health estimates that 20 percent of all people exposed to low-intensity civil conflicts are scarred by serious behavioral disorders.

In some wars, the toll can be far higher. In Sri Lanka, home to one of the planet's oldest and most brutal insurgencies, 64 percent of the populace exhibits some type of mental trauma, a government survey shows. And in the reliably bloody Gaza Strip, a study conducted by the Gaza Community Mental Health Program revealed that only 2.5 percent of Palestinian children were free of PTSD symptoms. Eighty-three percent of local kids, the doctors found, had witnessed shootings.

More than 70 years ago, Ernest Hemingway wrote of the insanity of the Italian front during World War I, titling one of his bitterest short stories "A Way You'll Never Be."

Today's psychiatrists argue that whole cities and unstable regions are verging on a "way you'll never be"—whether it's in Baghdad, the bone fields of Darfur, the mountains of Afghanistan or one of the most anarchic capitals in the world, Mogadishu.

Vast, mostly lawless and plagued by clan feuds, Somalia hasn't seen an effective national government since 1991.

At present, the Ethiopian army and the treasury of the United States are propping up a weak transitional federal government that holds sway over the decayed capital, Mogadishu. The TFG, as it is called, ousted a radical Islamist movement late last year. But the fighting grinds on. And it's getting bloodier.

Wary citizens edge through Mogadishu on foot or in dented old buses, flinching whenever gunfire erupts nearby. They brave car bombs, insurgent ambushes, corrupt police and thundering Ethiopian artillery to reach their dusty food markets. Children flatten against classroom floors if the shooting gets too close.

More than 170,000 people have fled intensifying street battles in Mogadishu over the past two weeks, the UN says. Today the city, once home to 1 million to 2 million people, sprawls half-empty—a grim incubator of wartime trauma.

"Nobody knows the scope of the problems because it's too dangerous to work there," said Karin Fischer Liddle, a Somalia specialist with Doctors Without Borders, one of the few Western aid agencies still functioning in the metropolis.

Doctors Without Borders had hoped to carry out the city's first mental health survey this year but shelved the plan because of surging violence. "We just assume the needs are enormous," Fischer Liddle said.

As it is, Mogadishu's residents have only one option for mental health care: Habeb Public Mental Hospital.

Established in 2005, it sees new stress cases every day. Its 50 or so beds technically serve all of central and southern Somalia—a land of war-displaced nomads and farmers with a total population of perhaps 8 million to 12 million.

One recent afternoon, its patients sprawled on dingy mattresses in the dim, stifling wards, apparently heavily sedated. Some stared up, glazed-eyed and smiling. Seven were chained by their wrists and ankles to iron bedsteads. A half-naked man stood outside, giggling in purest ecstasy, shackled to a tree. Another's back was crisscrossed with bruises from village beatings.

"Somalis treat mentally ill people very cruelly," said Habeb, the shaggy-haired nurse who founded the clinic. "Look."

Habeb fired up his office computer. He clicked through photos of hyenas to illustrate the "hyena cure"—a village therapy that involves dropping a mentally impaired person into a pit with the wild predator. The animals are supposed to scare off djinns, or evil spirits, inhabiting the patient, Habeb explained. With a snicker, he ticked off other rustic coping mechanisms for mental illness—beatings, forced starvation, smoking donkey feces.

"We are modern here at the hospital," he said. "Mania, schizophrenia, epilepsy. We diagnose them all. We treat them all—scientifically."

Habeb's office was littered with jars and bottles of pharmaceuticals. Most of it was paid for by the $50-a-month fee he charges inpatients' families, who often begged the money from relatives in the Somali diaspora.The barrel of American tranquilizers occupied pride of place, the center of the floor.

"We don't get many ordinary depressives," he said. "Why? Withdrawal. Sadness. Lack of interest. Low psychomotor activity. In Somalia, all this is natural. These kinds of people just stay in their houses for two or three years."

Habeb described his mental health training: a 90-day course sponsored by the World Health Organization.

A few weeks before, aid workers had stopped by to see if they might help with funding. They left in a hurry. In their report, they noted that a toddler suffering from malaria had been misdiagnosed with "organic psychosis."

Experience literally reshapes the human brain. Memory rewires neurons. That fact has been known by psychologists for some time.

Thus, it comes as no surprise that war leaves its own distinctive, scorching thumbprint on the brain.

Research indicates that the left frontal region, a nexus of verbal communication, malfunctions—becomes disconnected—when people are exposed to continual, violent stress. A new brain-wave study of torture victims, carried out by scientists at the University of Konstanz in Germany, has borne that out. There's even a name for this wounded state of mind: speechless terror.

"Language-related centers become impaired in these cases," said Michael Odenwald, one of the study's authors. "There is a pattern of social withdrawal. This helps explain why reconciliation in traumatized populations becomes more difficult."

The war-injured mind exacts other strange costs.

Unexplained back pains, stomach cramps, chronic headaches—all are widely recognized as signs of mental trauma, even in Mogadishu's basic first-aid stations. Meanwhile, the links between serious physical diseases and PTSD have been long recognized by the medical community. A landmark study by The New York Academy of Medicine showed that Vietnam War veterans with PTSD were six times more likely to suffer heart disease than those without it.

Habeb knew this.

"I am a patient too," he confided, making the rounds in his clinic wards. "I am taking medication for heart problems and diabetes. It is the stress."

Habeb said he spent too much time at the clinic. His wife was divorcing him. The things that alarmed his patients were starting to trouble him as well. The knocks on doors that sounded like explosions. The steady buzzing in the sky above Mogadishu—purportedly CIA drones on spying missions—keeping him awake at night.

A few miles away, over the city's sandy streets, another Somali health worker commiserated.

Laila Mohammed Abdi was a shy intake clerk for a maternal health clinic. Two years ago, clan militiamen shot her husband because they wanted his cell phone. He bled to death in her arms. More recently, Mogadishu's police held a gun against her neck and stripped her naked in a market. They stole everything, including her dress. She couldn't take proper care of her children. She couldn't do her job.

"I have got some problem in the brain," she said. "It's getting worse, not better."

Abruptly, she began to cry. One of her colleagues, who was translating, turned his head away and started weeping as well. It seemed the most normal reaction in the world, in Mogadishu.

[bth: with apologies to Swede, I copied his post in full.]
 
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Saudi builds security force of 35,000 to guard oil

Saudi builds security force of 35,000 to guard oil | International | Reuters: "RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia is building up a special 35,000-strong rapid reaction force to protect its energy installations from attacks by militants targeting the world's largest oil exporter.

The kingdom started recruiting and training the industrial security force a year ago, after a failed al Qaeda attack on the world's largest oil processing plant at Abqaiq in February 2006.

The network's Saudi branch vowed more strikes on oil facilities after the attack, the first to directly target the kingdom's oil sector since militants began a campaign against the U.S.-allied Saudi royals in May 2003.

Al Qaeda's Saudi-born leader, Osama bin Laden, has called for it to take aim specifically at oil.

"There is a new threat to oil installations from terrorists that has to be confronted," Interior Ministry spokesman General Mansour al-Turki told Reuters.

"We can't just rely on a security system that was built some time ago for a different kind of risk."

Saudi Arabia pumps around 9 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil, over a tenth of global supplies, and severe damage to its infrastructure could have far-reaching effects.

The kingdom is keeper of most of the world's three million barrels per day (bpd) of spare oil capacity, a reserve crucial to the global energy system to deal with any surprise supply disruption.

The new force already has around 9,000 personnel either in training or already active, and will reach full strength of up to 35,000 in three to four years, Mansour said.

Companies from the United States and Britain were giving technical advice to the force, diplomatic sources said.

The new body will operate independently of other Saudi state security forces, allowing it to react more quickly to any threat, Turki said. The previous force of a few thousand was hamstrung by its reliance on cooperation from the police, the military or the Saudi national guard, he added....

[bth: First off despite thousands of miles of pipeline and hundreds of oil wells, there has only been one attack and multiple threats. Those threat I think are negotiation tactics for payoffs to al Qaeda. If al Qaeda had really wanted to disrupt cash flow for the Saudis they could have destroyed any of those thousands of miles of pipe or hundreds of wells. Instead they sent a couple of suicide bombers against a guard shack. Think about it. Its about the cash flow and the payoffs. OBL knows this as do his followers. That's why there are hundreds of attacks against infrastructure in Iraq and none against the Saudis next store..... More to the point, the 35,000 security personnel are almost certainly being set up to protect the oil from the Shea minority within Saudi Arabia. The fault lines between Sunnis and Shea are crossing borders and bisecting the region. Its about the oil and the cash it generates.]
 
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In Contempt - New York Times

In Contempt - New York Times: "White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten and Harriet Miers, the former White House counsel, showed their utter disregard for Congress, the Constitution and the American people when they defied Congressional subpoenas in the United States attorneys scandal. The House Judiciary Committee rightly voted to hold them in contempt, and now the matter goes to the full House.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi should schedule a vote quickly, the House should hold them in contempt and Attorney General Michael Mukasey should ensure that they are punished for their defiance of the nation’s law.

The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed Ms. Miers and Mr. Bolten in connection with its investigation of the purge of nine top federal prosecutors and other apparent malfeasance in the Justice Department. Invoking executive privilege, Ms. Miers refused to appear and Mr. Bolten refused to turn over critical documents.

They had no right to refuse. Congress has the legal power to call witnesses to testify, and presidential advisers are not exempt. Conservative lawyers like Bruce Fein agree that the administration’s claims of executive privilege are baseless. If the White House believes specific matters are privileged, it needs to make those limited claims.

Such defiance is not only illegal, it has seriously obstructed Congress’s ability to get to the bottom of the United States attorneys scandal. It now appears that the scandal reaches beyond the nine federal prosecutors who were fired for refusing to allow their offices to be politicized. It seems quite possible that others, including Georgia Thompson, a civil servant in Wisconsin, and Don Siegelman, a former governor of Alabama, were put in prison — and Mr. Siegelman remains there — to help Republicans win elections.

Just as important, by ignoring valid Congressional subpoenas, Ms. Miers and Mr. Bolten are dangerously challenging Congress’s power — and the careful system of checks and balances established by the founders.

The Judiciary Committee voted in favor of contempt in July and issued its final report 10 days ago. The full House should vote without further delay. If a majority supports a finding of contempt, as it should, the matter would go to the United States attorney for the District of Columbia. If Mr. Mukasey, the new attorney general, believes in the rule of law, he will see to it that Ms. Miers’s and Mr. Bolten’s cases are presented to a grand jury for criminal prosecution.

The Bush administration’s days are numbered. But the damage it has done to the balance of powers could be long-lasting. If Congress wants to maintain its Constitutional role, it needs to stand up for itself. A good place to start is by making clear that its legitimate investigative authority cannot be defied, and any who choose to do so will pay a heavy price.

[bth: the balance of power must be re-established.]
 
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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Disgraced CIA officer worked in Iraq

Disgraced CIA officer worked in Iraq - Nightly News with Brian Williams- msnbc.com: "There’s new information about the young Lebanese woman who pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges she lied about her background to get jobs at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Central Intelligence Agency.

Current and former intelligence officials tell NBC News that Nada Nadim Prouty had a much bigger role than officials at the FBI and CIA first acknowledged. In fact, Prouty was assigned to the CIA’s most sensitive post, Baghdad, and participated in the debriefings of high-ranking al-Qaida detainees.

A former colleague called Prouty “among the best and the brightest” CIA officers in Baghdad. She was so exceptional, agree officials of both agencies, the CIA recruited her from the FBI to work for the agency’s clandestine service at Langley, Va., in June 2003. She then went to Iraq for the agency to work with the U.S. military on the debriefings....

[bth: this article ends by saying that there is no reason to think she was a spy for Hezbollah, but she got her citizenship in a sham marriage, her brother is in Lebanon at Hezbollah fundraisers and he is a fugitive for assisting in the transfer of $20 million to Lebanon. It would appear to me that our entire Detroit network and likely more since she was stationed in Iraq was certainly compromised.]

U.S. finds a way to pacify Iraqi town — by using cash

McClatchy Washington Bureau | 11/13/2007 | U.S. finds a way to pacify Iraqi town — by using cash: "JURF AL SAKHR, Iraq — In this desolate tiny town in what was once called the Triangle of Death, signs of the violent past mix oddly with evidence of today's more tranquil life.

Large plots of land emptied by car bombs sit next to refurbished buildings. A new water treatment plant looks out to blast walls that haven’t been necessary for months. A newly opened clothes shop is next to one that's been shut for ages.

The U.S. calls this former al Qaida stronghold a paragon of post-surge Iraq. Violence has come to a near-standstill. Yet the government that's emerged is far from the democratic republic that the Bush administration once promised.

The town is run by deals among its anointed leaders, nearly all of them former Sunni Muslim insurgents. None was elected. No one pays any mind to what might be happening in Iraq’s Shiite-dominated parliament in Baghdad. In fact, residents assume that the elected central government will never help them.

Instead, the insurgents-turned-leaders depend on an influx of money from the U.S. or from the provincial government to keep Islamic extremists from dominating the town again. So far, the U.S. military has spent $1 million, the cost of one of the military’s newest armored vehicles, on reconstruction projects and salaries for residents to secure the town and its surrounding area — 30,000 people in all. If the U.S. plan works, the next million will come from the Shiite-led provincial government.

U.S. officials acknowledge that their approach is tenuous, but one that so far has produced a big drop in violence. No U.S. soldier has been attacked since June, and they can now walk in town with some assurance of safety.

Residents reopened more than 40 shops and are sending their children to school. Townspeople are no longer locked in their homes.

But everyone agrees that a major bombing, the assassination of a key figure or a sudden drought of money could break the deal. And it raises questions of what role the central government will have in Iraq. If residents reject that government, can Iraq stay together? Or will the state become a series of fiefdoms run by unelected leaders backed by the United States?

U.S. commanders hail the turnaround here, saying they approached it in an Iraqi way.

“This place is about all kinds of agreements,” said Lt. Col. Robert Balcavage, the commander of the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment based at Fort Richardson, Alaska. “The central government right now is too far removed. I mean, if these people were to rely on the central government, they don’t see any hope there. So what we are doing is bringing government from the ground up.”

This is no grassroots democracy, however.

Jurf al Sakhr is nearly entirely Sunni, populated by members of the Janabi tribe. Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had placed troops here for protection against the Shiites just a few miles away, and nearly all became unemployed overnight in 2003 when the U.S. occupation government disbanded the Iraqi army. Soon after, the town became a key Islamic militant stronghold, where residents earned a living by attacking U.S. troops.

Once the U.S. swept the area and reduced the militants' hold on the town early on in the troop surge, it turned to the tribal sheik of the Islamic Army, the secular Sunni insurgency, to run the town. His name is Sabah al Janabi.

Unlike the more homogenous Anbar province, Jurf al Sakhr is south of Baghdad and sits on the Shiite-Sunni fault line. For Sheik Sabah, as he's called, to be a legitimate leader, the nearest Shiite town, Musayyib, would have to approve.

Accompanied by Balcavage, Sheik Sabah traveled there to seek the approval of the local commander of the Mahdi Army militia, a Shiite group loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al Sadr; the head of the police; and the local Shiite tribal leader. They agreed. The sheik would be responsible for Jurf al Sakhr and its people, and he'd make sure that his Shiite neighbors no longer felt threatened.

Armed with that agreement, the sheik then went to the provincial government. Once approved, he received his mayoral salary from the province, his first legitimate pay since the fall of Saddam's regime.

With that, the U.S. reached its next deal. It agreed to employ Sheik Sabah’s fellow tribesmen and former insurgents as concerned local citizens, as the U.S. calls the local security forces it’s been creating.

The members of the new security force would earn $375 a month, and it would be up to Sheik Sabah to distribute the funds. Some of their salaries would go toward buying weapons; another part was presumed to go to Sheik Sabah. And it would be up to him to secure the town.

“What we are really trying to do is employ heads of household now so that they can participate in the local economy and have hope,” said Capt. Henry Moltz, of the A Company 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, who is in charge of the town.

When the money was doled out, the violence dropped immediately. The U.S. military had offered the residents a better deal than the Islamists had. The former insurgents were now paid to be the town’s guardians.

The U.S. then began rebuilding town services, installing a water treatment plant, starting adult education in this largely illiterate town and repainting schools and other buildings. Sheik Sabah played politician, reaching out to the Shiite provincial Babil government for some of its millions when the U.S. money runs out.

“We want to be equal with the Shiites,” Sabah said as he walked through town by Moltz’s side.

Sheik Sabah began inviting Shiite leaders to visit his town, giving them his word that they'd be safe. When they visited, he'd make his case for why the province should support him.

“There is an idea in the population that they need to be self-sufficient so that they can sustain themselves if they don’t see anything from the central government,” Moltz said.

As more residents earned paychecks, more shops opened, and Moltz said fewer people depended on the U.S. salaries. An economic system developed.

Reaching out to tribal sheiks, however wily, isn't new in Iraq. During its occupation in the 1920s, the British reached out to the sheiks almost immediately, building alliances. And Saddam regularly courted tribal leaders, especially at the weaker points in his tenure.

But not all the troops are happy. They see their leadership conceding too much to a group that can be bought too easily. They describe going to the homes of people who were launching attacks against them a few months ago. “Personally, I think we gave up too much. As soon as money goes away, this will all end,” said one soldier who has worked in Jurf al Sakhr.

And it isn't clear whether the Shiite provincial government will support the Sunni town.

U.S. commanders cannot say how long they'll continue pumping money into areas such as Jurf al Sakhr. Last week, Maj. Gen. Joseph Fil, the commanding general of the Multinational Division in Baghdad, as well as the Army's 1st Cavalry Division, could say only that the funding wouldn't continue for “years and years.”

Sheik Sabah said that if the U.S. support were to stop, “al Qaida would return.”

And while residents might not attack U.S. soldiers anymore, their disdain remains. As U.S. troops walked up to Sheik Sabah's office last week, his young son, Ahmad, sneered “Go away” in Arabic.

Moltz said he doesn’t care: “I don’t have anyone lying to me anymore. I don’t have anyone bombing me anymore.”

And he rejected suggestions that Sheik Sabah or his backers would turn and embrace their former insurgent lifestyle. “Why would they? They couldn’t walk through their streets then.”

McClatchy Newspapers 2007

[bth: I've come to greatly respect news from McClatchy especially Nancy Youssef who I first noted reporting on corruption and audit violations back about 2005. She is a good reporter in a dangerous land. ... So will the Shia government pick up the funding needs or not? My guess is no, they'll pocket the money and let Iraq break apart. They want power from cash flow, not to share it with what they view as their ancient oppressors. ... Let's also take a look at the math. This article says peace was bought for $375 per month to the head of the house hold. That means that if $375 were paid to say 1 in 4 Iraqis representing the heads of households and there are say 25 million living in Iraq then the cost per year would be $28 billion, roughly the GDP of Iraq. The cost of occupying Iraq is now about $200 billion. Even if $375 per month were paid to all 25 million then we'd still only be talking $112.5 billion per year. No matter how you cut it paying for jobs and bribes is cheaper than fighting. Somehow we've got to make that math work for peace with the Shia government. Do they want lead or silver?]

Hillsborough: Retrial denied in bribe case

Hillsborough: Retrial denied in bribe case: "TAMPA - A federal judge refused Wednesday to grant a new trial to a former Special Operations Command contractor convicted in 2006 of conspiracy.

In September, a federal appeals court upheld the 15-month prison sentence for Tom Spellissy, and his attorney filed a motion for a stay and a new trial based on new evidence.

But his fight isn't over yet, Spellissy said.

"We're disappointed in the order, but we're not giving up," he said. "There's a lot more to the story that we need out, which we will."

He said he expects to file another motion with the court in a few days.

"We're going to go back and give the judge further evidence," Spellissy said. "We're going to continue to educate the judge about my case."

U.S. District Judge James Whittemore sentenced Spellissy, a retired Army colonel, after the defense contractor was found guilty at trial of paying bribes to other SOCom private contractors.

In a request for a new trial, Spellissy's attorney argued that the defense had new evidence that a senior military officer persuaded or ordered a key witness not to honor a subpoena to appear at the trial, and that witness would have backed other defense testimony that "no bribery or conspiracy existed."

While accusing the government of witness tampering, Spellissy's attorney also pointed out that Spellissy passed a polygraph test, and a former co-defendant who testified in his trial was later found guilty of perjury.

"Defendants' arguments and submissions neither establish nor tend to show actual innocence," Whittemore wrote in his ruling. "The 'newly discovered' evidence defendants rely on is not new and could have been available to defendants before trial or is merely cumulative or impeaching evidence."

The judge ordered the Bureau of Prisons to set a date for Spellissy to begin serving his sentence.

[bth: stick a fork in it. It's done.]

Nicholas D. Kristof - Opinion - New York Times Blog

Nicholas D. Kristof - Opinion - New York Times Blog: "Kurt Campbell is an expert on Asia and security issues who is now chief executive of the Center for a New American Security. He served in the Pentagon in the Clinton administration, in charge of Asia/Pacific issues, and earlier taught at Harvard.

Kurt has written widely, for popular and academic audiences, about everything from Japan to nuclear policy.

Recently I was on a long flight with one of the Bush Administration’s key architects of the Iraq War who had just left public service to explore “challenging new horizons in the private sector.” Perhaps it is more accurate to describe this fellow as more of a general contractor than architect, given his perch at the Pentagon and deep engagement in the early conduct of the war.

Anyway, much to my surprise, he watched the movie (a rollicking “Transformers,” with giant militant robots that would have undoubtedly come in handy in the battle for Falluja), browsed the duty free and tried to cut the steak meal with the plastic knife, just like the rest of the passengers on board. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was certainly not this very clear display of public normalcy. Shouldn’t there be some subtle sign of contrition or regret? Perhaps a wistful look out the plane window after takeoff? I’m not sure what to look for, but I was somewhat unprepared for the sheer … normalcy of it all.

I am certainly not alone in my curiosity about how many of the recently departed Bush foreign policy team are handling life after making their contributions to our national security. I notice at policy dinners and academic conferences that other attendees watch these former members of the Bush high command surreptitiously for any sign or clue of how the recent travails have affected them.

The Financial Times recently carried a long account from a passenger who sat behind Paul Wolfowitz on a recent train trip. He recounted minute by minute what the former Deputy Secretary of Defense did throughout the trip – read the paper, conducted an animated cell phone conversation, enjoyed a snack — and his account also underscored just how (here comes that word again) normal the former Deputy Secretary’s daily routine was.

Perhaps part of the curiosity is because this current generation of war planners has conducted themselves so much differently than the Vietnam era Masters of the Universe. Many from the version 1.0 of the best and the brightest – those intrepid Cold Warriors who led the country to a slogging defeat in Vietnam – had to subsequently endure booing on college campuses, shunning from old friends and colleagues, brutal treatment from the commentariat of the time, and the kind of bitter despair that generally accompanies a thoroughgoing battlefield defeat.

As a post graduate fellow at Harvard, I can still recall the lonely, ghostlike figure of Robert McNamara striding around Cambridge, making presentations to a new generation of would-be strategists about how to learn from his mistakes of the past. Others, like Dean Rusk, simply quietly retreated from public view, perhaps hoping history would treat them more gently than some of their contemporaries.

The version 2.0 era of neoconservative advocates of military action to topple Saddam have behaved very differently in the midst of our current quagmire in Iraq. Almost all have generally tried to put on a brave public face and to remain on the intellectual offensive, pointing out the weaknesses and limitations of their critics and full of ideas for what the United States can do next in the world. On Iraq specifically, some have blamed the overall faulty execution of the entire United States government, or the stubbornness of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, or the lack of preparation of the Army to conduct irregular operations, or the ultimate failure of the president to make timely and badly needed course corrections along the way.

Yet, very few have publicly questioned themselves over their own culpability in the entire mess. And those who have had the courage to do so, like Frank Fukuyama, have been roundly attacked and criticized from within the neocon camp. Indeed, what’s particularly unique about this group of national security strategists is their sheer ability to keep moving forward and to remain in the game. No public fretting or loss of composure, no signs of a larger remorse for the terrible chain of events they helped set in motion, no sense that history is not going as planned.

Even after offering atrocious advice to President Bush during the 2000 campaign, most of them are back again advising one or more of the prospective Republican candidates, and many continue to offer sage assessments and quick denunciations on Fox news about the recent developments in Iraq. All say that history will redeem them, that democracy will triumph in Iraq, and that Harry Truman has suddenly become their second favorite president of all time (no one could beat out the Gipper).

Iran poses new opportunities for scheming and planning, and Islamofascism is on the march and must be vigorously opposed. For the Iraq architects – or Iraqitects — life goes on and there is very little in the way of public accountability or introspection. Everything remains, well, normal.

[bth: put simply it's not their kids. These neocons don't server and don't give a damn. I saw this with Wolfowitz at the Faces of the Fallen opening at Arlington in 2005. They are off to a cushy private sector contract or an office at AEI. They don't pay taxes for the war, nor do they fight it. They are not held to account and there is nothing we can really do about that. Congress doesn't function. The courts don't work and the White House is invulnerable. For the middle class, its just more of the same - death and taxes.]
 

John D. Hart and Alma Hart, Quebec City 2001
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Saudi punishes gang rape victim with 200 lashes

Saudi punishes gang rape victim with 200 lashes: "A court in the ultra-conservative kingdom of Saudi Arabia is punishing a female victim of gang rape with 200 lashes and six months in jail, a newspaper reported on Thursday.
The 19-year-old woman -- whose six armed attackers have been sentenced to jail terms -- was initially ordered to undergo 90 lashes for "being in the car of an unrelated male at the time of the rape," the Arab News reported.

But in a new verdict issued after Saudi Arabia's Higher Judicial Council ordered a retrial, the court in the eastern town of Al-Qatif more than doubled the number of lashes to 200.

A court source told the English-language Arab News that the judges had decided to punish the woman further for "her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media."

Saudi Arabia enforces a strict Islamic doctrine known as Wahhabism and forbids unrelated men and women from associating with each other, bans women from driving and forces them to cover head-to-toe in public.

Last year, the court sentenced six Saudi men to between one and five years in jail for the rape as well as ordering lashes for the victim, a member of the minority Shiite community.

But the woman's lawyer Abdul Rahman al-Lahem appealed, arguing that the punishments were too lenient in a country where the offence can carry the death penalty.

In the new verdict issued on Wednesday, the Al-Qatif court also toughened the sentences against the six men to between two and nine years in prison.

The case has angered members of Saudi Arabia's Shiite community. The convicted men are Sunni Muslims, the dominant community in the oil-rich Gulf state.

Lahem, also a human rights activist, told AFP on Wednesday that the court had banned him from handling the rape case and withdrew his licence to practise law because he challenged the verdict.

He said he has also been summoned by the ministry of justice to appear before a disciplinary committee in December.

Lahem said the move might be due to his criticism of some judicial institutions, and "contradicts King Abdullah's quest to introduce reform, especially in the justice system."

King Abdullah last month approved a new body of laws regulating the judicial system in Saudi Arabia, which rules on the basis of sharia, or Islamic law.

[bth: that just figures. How about beheading the assailants as an example? Oh wait, that's just for non-Sunnis, especially journalists and missionaries.... These are our allies? I can't believe this is going to sit well with the Shia population in Saudi Arabia.]

Minstrel Boy (Film Version)

YouTube - Minstrel Boy: ""

"Remember Us" by New England Cable News NECN

Earlier in 2007 we participated in the creation of "Remember Us" produced by NECN which aired on Veterans Day 2007. It was previewed by several hundred Gold Star family members from greater New England including us on the Friday before Veterans Day at Northeastern University. At times the audience sat in total silence for minutes on end, at others there were audible gasps. There were tears and in the end a standing ovation for Iris.

We agreed to participate because of our deep admiration for Exec. Editor Iris Adler. NECN has taken the time and spent the money to cover all service members killed in greater New England and I have appreciated the fact that they were willing to tell the story of these soldiers and marines - who they were, what they did and why. But most of all, we saw Iris Adler do a powerful and sensitive documentary on PTSD last year called "Hidden Wounds" which focused on the Lucey family among others. It was their story and Iris' ability to let it tell itself that convinced us to agree to participate.

For us it was showing a wound that will not heal. Also it was about wanting others to remember who PFC John D. Hart was and what he did so that he and others like Lance Corporal Travis Desiato his high school friend who died this day three years ago in Fallujah will not be forgotten. Our story is told in Section 8 of this 90 minute documentary.

"Remember Us" should be required viewing for high school juniors and seniors. They need to understand what those a year older than themselves are capable of achieving; what honor and duty mean in a world of lies and deceptions; what self sacrifice means. Those who see this documentary will remember and reaffirm what Veterans Day and Memorial Day means to us as a family and as a country.

A portion of our story, about John D. Hart, is told in a ten minute clip found on Section 8 of the video clips linked here. I encourage you to watch the entire 90 minute piece. You will remember because you cannot forget.

Leaving on a jet plane- peter, paul and mary

YouTube - Leaving on a jet plane- peter, paul and mary: "

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2007: The Big Question in Iraq

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2007: The Big Question in Iraq: "It is now clear that the tactic of weaning tribal and village support away from Sunni insurgent groups is working quite well. With a minimum of babble about the "freedom agenda" the armed forces are going about the business of using existing local leadership and group identity to pit traditionalist and secularist Sunni potential against takfiri jihadist groups in western and central Iraq. Money, a recognized status as part of a winning combination, a certain amount of protection from the rapacity of the Shia run police, all of those things contribute to the ability of US commanders to attract the willing cooperation of tribal sheikhs, village mukhtars and provincial politicians. In Iraq tribal identity is so pervasive in much of the country that the influence of these networks of real or fictive kinship can not be ignored. In some cases the Dulaimi relationships of the leaders are clearly a major factor. Tribal groups like the Shammar, who stand outside that grouping should not be ignored either.

Diyala, Salahuddin and the area just south of Baghdad are proving to be fertile ground for application of methods of influence and control as old as the tribes themselves. It continues to be ironic that many in the US government think that they have discovered something "new" in these methods.

In these stories from the LA Times, the process of "cat herding" is well depicted as well as the resulting generation of combat power in defense of village and small town life. "Concerned Local Citizens" must sound amusing in Arabic.

All of this is to the good, and such developments can be seen as setting the scene for a gradual but steady withdrawal of US ground forces down to the short term residual force I have written of before.

BUT, will the government that we Americans largely created (purple thumbs and all) prove equal to the task of re-integrating all these Sunni Arab "ralliers" into the national body politic? If the government can do that, then there is likely to be a future for a united Iraq. If not, what? An inevitable military coup? De facto partition? It is not yet clear what that future will be.. pl

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-tribes14nov14,0,5434110.story?coll=la-tot-world&track=ntothtml

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-iraq14nov14,0,296946.story?coll=la-tot-world&track=ntothtml

[bth: forgetting the politicians for a second, we need to figure out how to roughly equally partition out the oil revenues of Iraq on a per capita basis. This difficult if not impossible task is the matter at hand. The politicans will follow the cash flow. They have no other choice. We are spending 5 times the GDP of Iraq to occupy it. There must be a better way.]

Iraqis Wasting An Opportunity, U.S. Officers Say

Iraqis Wasting An Opportunity, U.S. Officers Say - washingtonpost.com: "CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq -- Senior military commanders here now portray the intransigence of Iraq's Shiite-dominated government as the key threat facing the U.S. effort in Iraq, rather than al-Qaeda terrorists, Sunni insurgents or Iranian-backed militias.

In more than a dozen interviews, U.S. military officials expressed growing concern over the Iraqi government's failure to capitalize on sharp declines in attacks against U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians. A window of opportunity has opened for the government to reach out to its former foes, said Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the commander of day-to-day U.S. military operations in Iraq, but "it's unclear how long that window is going to be open."

The lack of political progress calls into question the core rationale behind the troop buildup President Bush announced in January, which was premised on the notion that improved security would create space for Iraqis to arrive at new power-sharing arrangements. And what if there is no such breakthrough by next summer? "If that doesn't happen," Odierno said, "we're going to have to review our strategy."

Brig. Gen. John F. Campbell, deputy commanding general of the 1st Cavalry Division, complained last week that Iraqi politicians appear out of touch with everyday citizens. "The ministers, they don't get out," he said. "They don't know what the hell is going on on the ground." Campbell noted approvingly that Lt. Gen. Aboud Qanbar, the top Iraqi commander in the Baghdad security offensive, lately has begun escorting cabinet officials involved in health, housing, oil and other issues out of the Green Zone to show them, as Campbell put it, "Hey, I got the security, bring in the [expletive] essential services."

Indeed, some U.S. Army officers now talk more sympathetically about former insurgents than they do about their ostensible allies in the Shiite-led central government. "It is painful, very painful," dealing with the obstructionism of Iraqi officials, said Army Lt. Col. Mark Fetter. As for the Sunni fighters who for years bombed and shot U.S. soldiers and now want to join the police, Fetter shrugged. "They have got to eat," he said over lunch in the 1st Cavalry Division's mess hall here. "There are so many we've detained and interrogated, they did what they did for money."

The best promise for breaking the deadlock would be holding provincial elections, officers said -- though they recognize that elections could turn bloody and turbulent, undercutting the fragile stability they now see developing in Iraq.

"The tipping point that I've been looking for as an intel officer, we are there," said one Army officer here who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of his position. "The GOI [government of Iraq] and ISF [Iraqi security forces] are at the point where they can make it or break it."

The latest news of declining violence comes as the U.S. troop contingent in Iraq has reached an all-time high. This week, the U.S. troop number will hit 175,000 -- the largest presence so far in the 4 1/2 -year war -- as units that are rotating in and out overlap briefly. But those numbers are scheduled to come down rapidly over the next several months, which will place an increasing burden on Iraqi security forces and an Iraqi government that has yet to demonstrate it is up to the challenge, senior military officials said.

Indeed, after years of seizing on every positive development and complaining that the good news wasn't being adequately conveyed, American military officials now warn against excessive optimism. "It's never as bad as it was, and it's not as good as it's being reported now," said Army Maj. Gen. Michael Barbero, chief of strategic operations for U.S. forces in Iraq.

On the diplomatic side of the Iraq equation, U.S. officials said they realize time is short. "We've got six months because the military is leaving," said one official. But this official and others expressed irritation with the military's negativity toward the Iraqi government -- which they interpret as blaming the State Department for not speeding reconciliation.

"That's their out," the official said of the military. "It's convenient, and I know plenty of them have been helping that story around."

Diplomatic officials, none of whom were authorized to speak on the record, insisted that progress is being made, even if it lags behind military successes. They highlighted two key elements needed for political reconciliation in Iraq, one domestic and one external. Internally, sectarian politicians remain deadlocked on a range of issues. Shiite political groups are holding back as they vie for national power and control over resources, while the majority Shiite population fears that the Sunnis hope to recapture the dominance they held under Saddam Hussein.

In recent weeks, U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker has focused on external forces, hoping to persuade neighboring Sunni Arab governments to increase their official presence in Iraq -- no Arab government currently has an embassy in Baghdad -- to boost the confidence of Iraqi Sunnis.

Late last month, Crocker traveled to virtually every nearby Arab country except Syria and Saudi Arabia. His message, one official said, was "Look, you have got to get behind this because you've got to do everything you can to give all sides confidence."

The U.S. military approach in Iraq this year has focused on striking deals with Sunni insurgents, under which they stop fighting the Americans and instead protect their own neighborhoods. So far about 70,000 such volunteers have been enrolled -- a trend that makes the Shiite-led central government nervous, especially as the movement gets closer to Baghdad.

Indeed, all the U.S. military officials interviewed said their most pressing concern is that Sunnis will sour if the Iraqi government doesn't begin to reciprocate their peace overtures. "The Sunnis have shown great patience," said Campbell. "You don't want the Sunnis that are working with you . . . to go back to the dark side."

The Army officer who requested anonymity said that if the Iraqi government doesn't reach out, then for former Sunni insurgents "it's game on -- they're back to attacking again."

The year-long progress in fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq could carry a downside. Maj. Mark Brady, who works on reconciliation issues, noted that a Sunni leader told him: "As soon as we finish with al-Qaeda, we start with the Shiite extremists." Talk like that is sharply discouraged, Brady noted as he walked across the dusty ground of Camp Liberty, on the western fringes of Baghdad.

But not all agreed that the Sunnis would take up arms. "I don't think going back to violence is in the cards," said Barbero. Rather, he predicted that if they give up on reaching an accommodation, they will resort to new political actions. One possibility mentioned by other officials is a symbolic Sunni move to secede from Iraq.

Also, some outside experts contend that U.S. officials still don't grasp how their empowerment of militias under the bottom-up model of reconciliation is helping tear apart Iraq. Marc Lynch, a George Washington University expert on the Middle East, argued recently on his blog, Abu Aardvark, that partly because of U.S. political tactics in Iraq, the country is drifting "towards a warlord state, along a Basra model, with power devolved to local militias, gangs, tribes, and power-brokers, with a purely nominal central state."

Officials identified other potential problems flowing from reductions in violence. Military planners already worry that if security continues to improve, many of the 2 million Iraqis who fled the country will return. Those who left are overwhelmingly Sunni, and many of their old houses are occupied by Shiites. How would the Shiite-dominated Iraqi army and police handle the likely friction? "Displaced people is a major flashpoint" to worry about in 2008, said Fetter.

The answer to many of Iraq's problems, several military officials said, would be to hold provincial elections, which they said would inject new blood into Iraq's political life and also better link the Baghdad government to the people. The question under debate is whether to hold them sooner, while the U.S. military still has available its five "surge" brigades, or hold them later and let Iraqis enjoy their growing sense of safety -- even though a smaller U.S. military would have less flexibility. "Some areas, you need them right now, to get people into the government," said Campbell. "But the other side of me says, let it settle in, let security develop, let people see some services." Later rather than sooner is especially appealing because the election campaigns are expected to turn violent.

But the longer provincial balloting is put off, the more likely the current political stalemate will continue. Also, if elections are postponed until, say, the fall of next year, they will be held on the eve of a U.S. presidential vote in which the Iraq war promises to be a major issue, military planners here note.

So, how to force political change in Iraq without destabilizing the country further? "I pity the guy who has to reconcile that tension," said Lt. Col. Douglas Ollivant, the chief of planning for U.S. military operations in Baghdad, whose tour of duty ends next month.

Staff writer Karen DeYoung in Washington contributed to this report.

[bth: this is coming down to cash flow - oil exports - which accounts for around 90% of the economy and government spending. Sunnis and Shea-Arabs like Sadr want it, Shea-Iranians have it. Baghdad is effectively Shea and I don't see that changing. The existing government is not recognized by other Arab states. Were it not for the oil, or lack of it in western areas, the country could and probably should break apart. One step we might consider taking is drilling for natural gas around Fallujah where fields are reportedly in existence but undeveloped.]
 
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State Dept official's brother linked to Blackwater

State Dept official's brother linked to Blackwater | Reuters: "WASHINGTON Nov 14 (Reuters) - The State Department's top investigator recused himself on Wednesday from probes into the Blackwater security firm after discovering -- during a break in a congressional hearing -- that his brother was connected with the company.

Howard Krongard, who began a hearing of Rep. Henry Waxman's government oversight committee by denying the "ugly rumors" that his brother "Buzzy" was linked to Blackwater, returned after a recess to say he had just contacted his brother and learned he had attended a Blackwater advisory board meeting.

"I had not been aware of that. And I want to state on the record right now that I hereby recuse myself from any matters having to do with Blackwater," Krongard, who acts as an independent internal investigator for the State Department, told the panel.

Waxman's committee is examining allegations by current and former officials in Krongard's office that he thwarted probes into waste, fraud and abuse in Iraq, including alleged arms smuggling by Blackwater, which protects U.S. diplomats and other State Department officials in Iraq.

In September, the private security contractor denied it was involved in illegally shipping automatic weapons and military goods to Iraq after a report that federal officials were investigating.

The North Carolina firm is also under scrutiny after several violent incidents involving its contractors, including the shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians in a September incident. The New York Times reported on Wednesday that FBI agents found at least 14 of those shootings were unjustified.

Waxman, a California Democrat with a reputation for tenacity as an investigator, has charged Krongard with interfering in ongoing investigations to protect the State Department and White House from political embarrassment -- a charge Krongard flatly denied.

"I have never impeded any investigation," Krongard said, adding he had never worked in government before now, had no political ties and never met President George W. Bush.

Republicans belittled Waxman's investigation, saying the only thing he might pin on Krongard was an abrasive management style.

But they admitted surprise at Krongard's revelation his brother was in fact linked to Blackwater, after he started the hearing denying it.

"He has done you tremendous damage," said Rep. Christopher Shays, a Connecticut Republican.

Krongard seemed unfazed. "I'm not my brother's keeper, and we do not discuss our business with each other," he said.

A.B. "Buzzy" Krongard is a former executive director of the CIA. Howard Krongard is a former general counsel at Deloitte & Touche.

Krongard contacted his brother after Democratic lawmakers waved e-mails showing Blackwater had invited him to be on the company's advisory board and attend a meeting in Williamsburg, Virginia, this week.

Several current and former staffers from Krongard's office said he threatened investigators with retaliation if they cooperated with Waxman's probe. Krongard is also accused of telling the staff not to cooperate with the Justice Department, and impeding investigations into alleged arms smuggling by Blackwater and construction problems with a massive new U.S. embassy in Baghdad.

[bth: you can't make this stuff up.]