Saturday, December 29, 2007

Future Weapons: AT4 AST - Anti Structure Tandem

YouTube - Future Weapons: AT4 AST - Anti Structure Tandem: ""

Auto Assault 12 / AA12 / Combat Shotgun ||

YouTube - || Auto Assault 12 / AA12 / Combat Shotgun ||: ""

Named: the al-Qaeda chief who ‘masterminded murder’

Named: the al-Qaeda chief who ‘masterminded murder’ - Times Online: "A notorious al-Qaeda leader named Baitullah Mehsud was named by Pakistan’s Government last night as the mastermind behind Benazir Bhutto’s assassination.

The security services intercepted a call from Mehsud yesterday morning in which he “congratulated his people for carrying out this cowardly act,” Brigadier Javed Iqbal Cheema, the Interior Ministry’s spokesman, announced.

In a transcript of the call released by the Government an interlocutor named Maulvi Sahib tells Mehsud that three men were involved in the attack and two — Badarwala Bilal and Ikramullah — actually carried it out. Mehsud tells Maulvi Sahib not to tell the men’s families yet and adds: “It was a spectacular job. They were very brave boys who killed her.”

But Brigadier Cheema also deepened the confusion surrounding Ms Bhutto’s death by insisting that she had been killed not by her assassin’s bullets or by shrapnel from his suicide bomb, but from a fractured skull caused by her head smashing into the lever of her vehicle’s sunroof following the blast.

This directly contradicted accounts given by doctors and security officials on Thursday who said that she had died from bullet wounds to her head and spinal cord.

A senior Bhutto aide last night called the Government’s explanation a “pack of lies”. “Two bullets hit her, one in the abdomen and one in the head,” said Farook Naik, her top lawyer and a senior official in her Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

“Bhutto’s personal secretary, Naheed Khan, and party official Makhdoom Amin Fahim were in the car and they saw what happened. It is an irreparable loss and they are turning it into a joke with such claims. The country is heading towards civil war.”

Brigadier Cheema was speaking at a packed press conference in Islamabad that seemed designed to allay suspicion that the Government had colluded in the assassination, or failed to protect Ms Bhutto.

He argued that the PPP leader had ignored the Government’s security advice, and seemed to suggest that she would have survived had she followed it. The vehicle was bomb-proof and bullet-proof.

“If she had not come out of the vehicle she would have been unhurt, as all the other occupants of the vehicle did not receive any injuries,” he said, adding: “It pains me, I say with a lot of anguish, that we wish she had not come out of that vehicle to wave to the people.”

Mr Naik also questioned the Government’s claim that Mehsud ordered the assassination. “The Government is now claiming that Baitullah Mehsud is responsible. What is the evidence?” he asked.

Hillary Clinton, the US senator and Democratic presidential contender, waded into the row last night, calling for an independent, international investigation of Ms Bhutto's death.

“I don’t think the Pakistani Government at this time under President Musharraf has any credibility at all,” she said. “They have disbanded an independent judiciary, they oppressed a free press.”

The Interior Ministry released the transcript of its intelligence intercept, and said that there was “irrefutable evidence that al-Qaeda, its networks and cohorts are trying to destabilise Pakistan”.

Brigadier Cheema described Mehsud as an al-Qaeda leader who was also behind the attack on Ms Bhutto’s homecoming parade in Karachi on October 18, which killed 140 people, and claimed that he was “responsible for most of the attacks that have taken place in the country”. Other targets had included President Musharraf, senior government officials and army and intelligence officers.

Mehsud is thought to be based in the lawless tribal area of South Waziristan, near the Afghan border, where Pakistani troops have been fighting Islamist rebels for several years. He has ties to the Taleban as well as to al-Qaeda, and was quoted in a Pakistan newspaper last autumn as saying that he would greet Ms Bhutto’s return from exile with suicide bombers.

Not a lot else is known about the man. He reportedly has close ties to Mullar Omar, the Taleban leader in Afghanistan. He is said to run a “parallel government” with a private army of 20,000 that imposes strict Islamic law in Waziristan. Before he kills proGovernment tribal leaders he allegedly sends them a 1,000 rupee note, a thread and a needle with instructions that the recipient should buy himself a shroud.

Asked why Pakistan’s security services could intercept Mehsud’s calls but not track him down, Brigadier Cheema said that he moved fast and went to ground very quickly after contacting followers and was therefore hard to pick up.

The Interior Ministry released a grainy video taken of Ms Bhutto just moments before she was shot as she left a rally in a park in Rawalpindi on Thursday afternoon.

It shows her standing up through the sunroof of her stationary sports utility vehicle and confidently waving to supporters. The film ends abruptly as shots ring out. One, possibly two, guns can be seen above the heads of the crowd behind the vehicle. Given the crush around the vehicle it seems impossible that the assailant — or assailants — were on a motorbike as some early reports claimed.

Brigadier Cheema said that all three shots fired by the attacker missed Ms Bhutto. She was killed when she tried to duck back into the vehicle and shock waves from the suicide bomb rammed her head into a lever attached to the sunroof, he said.

“The lever struck near her right ear and fractured her skull . . . There was no bullet or metal shrapnel found in the injury.”

Brigadier Cheema said that Ms Bhutto’s husband had refused to permit a post-mortem examination on her body — Islam discourages desecration of dead bodies. But he said X-rays and an external investigation showed that “there was no bullet that hit her . . . there was no splinter that hit her”.

Pakistan’s Government is facing considerable public anger for failing to protect Ms Bhutto. Brigadier Cheema sought to deflect that anger by insisting the Government had done everything in its power to protect her.

He said that everybody at the rally in Rawalpindi had been searched, Ms Bhutto’s rostrum had been bullet-proof, and “all possible security arrangements were made within the resources of the Government of Pakistan”. He insisted that “no political leader in this country has been provided with as much security”.

Brigadier Cheema announced two inquiries into the assassination — one by a high court judge and the other by the security services. He also said that several other prominent Pakistani politicians were under threat from Islamic militants, and named Nawaz Sharif, leader of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League, as one of them.

The 20 other people who died in the assassination included Tauqee Akram, 35, the husband of a British woman and active member of Ms Bhutto’s PPP. His widow, Lubna Akram, lives in Halliwell, Bolton, and the couple have two children.


[bth: I haven't seen any actual video footage of the bombing itself, just the gun shots and the bombing aftermath. Further, I don't understand the reluctance of the Bhutto organization to accept that al-Qaeda or the Taliban could be involved in her assassination since they tried once before and seem to be declaring responsibility for the attack. That the government of Pakistan especially the ISI is complicit would not be a surprise to anyone, but why the almost blind denial that religious extremists weren't involved? Baffling.]

In Surprise Step, Bush Is Vetoing a Military Bill

In Surprise Step, Bush Is Vetoing a Military Bill - New York Times: "CRAWFORDCRAWFORD"Tex. — For months President Bush harangued Democrats in Congress for not moving quickly enough to support the troops and for bogging down military bills with unrelated issues.

And then on Friday, with no warning, a vacationing Mr. Bush announced that he was vetoing a sweeping military policy bill because of an obscure provision that could expose Iraq’s new government to billions of dollars in legal claims dating to Saddam Hussein’s rule.

The decision left the Bush administration scrambling to promise that it would work with Congress to quickly restore dozens of new military and veterans programs once Congress returns to work in January.

Those included an added pay raise for service members, which would have taken effect on Tuesday, and improvements in veterans’ health benefits, which few elected officials on either side want to be seen opposing.

Mr. Bush’s veto surprised and infuriated Democratic lawmakers and even some Republicans, who complained that the White House had failed to raise its concerns earlier.

And it gave Democrats a chance to wield Mr. Bush’s support-the-troops oratory against him, which they did with relish.

“Only George Bush could be for supporting the troops before he was against it,” Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, said in a statement, reworking a familiar Republican attack during his unsuccessful presidential campaign in 2004 that he supported the war in Iraq before he turned against it....

Friday, December 28, 2007

 

IED damaged leaf blower
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Industrial leaf blower mounted on humvee to reveal IEDs
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"Faux Pax Americana" by Phillip Carter

"Faux Pax Americana" by Phillip Carter: ..."Young Men in the Mud

...In many ways, the contrast between warfighting and nation-building resembles the difference between productivity in the manufacturing and service industries. Businessmen have long known that you can rather easily substitute capital and technology for labor in manufacturing. Until very recently, however, it's been far more difficult to do so for the service industries. A similar principle applies to military affairs. In warfighting, everything ultimately comes down to sending a projectile downrange. How you send the bullet (or bomb) makes a difference--you can use an infantryman with a rifle, or a B-52 launching a cruise missile. But the effect at the far end is the same--the delivery of kinetic or explosive energy. Over the last 50 years, American strategy has made increasing use of effective technology, substituting machines for men, both to reduce casualties and to outrange our enemies.

But this trading of capital for increased efficiency breaks down in the intensely human missions of peace enforcement and nation-building. American wealth can underwrite certain aspects of those missions: schools, roads, water purification plants, electric power. But it can't substitute machines or money in the human dimension--the need to place American soldiers (or police officers) on patrol to make the peace a reality.

On the shelf of nearly every Army officer, you'll find a book by retired Col. T.R. Fehrenbach on the Korean conflict titled This Kind of War. At the end of World War II, confronted by the military revolution brought on by the atomic bomb, America cut its military from a wartime high of 16 million down to a few hundred thousand. Bombs and airplanes--not soldiers--would now protect America's shores and cities. After fighting as a grunt in Korea, Fehrenbach thought otherwise. Transformation was great for the Air Force and Navy, but for the Army and Marine Corps, the essential nature of warfare remained unchanged.

"You may fly over a land forever; you may bomb it, atomize it, pulverize it and wipe it clean of life," wrote Fehrenbach. "But if you desire to defend it, protect it, and keep it for civilization, you must do this on the ground, the way the Roman legions did, by putting your young men into the mud." It's time Don Rumsfeld brushed up on his Fehrenbach. The book is on Gen. Shinseki's official reading list for the Army, so it's a good bet that one of his generals has a copy he can borrow

Decline in Iraq news may have boosted U.S. opinion

Decline in Iraq news may have boosted U.S. opinion | Reuters: "WASHINGTON Dec 19 (Reuters) - A recent decline in U.S. news coverage from Iraq coincides with improved public opinion about the war just as the 2008 presidential campaign heads to an early showdown, a study released on Wednesday said.

The study by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism said the volume of coverage from Iraq fell from 8 percent of all news stories in the first six months of 2007 to 5 percent between June and October due mainly to a decline in news accounts of daily attacks.

The falloff coincided with a 14 percentage point climb -- from 34 to 48 percent -- in the number of Americans who believe the U.S. military effort in Iraq is going either fairly or very well, according to Pew....

News coverage, particularly accounts of daily attacks, began declining as violence levels dropped in late summer and early autumn. Pew said Iraq news resurged in October but mainly because of the controversy surrounding the Blackwater security firm and its alleged role in the deaths of Iraqi civilians.

A later Pew analysis of November news stories found a renewed decline in volume and signs of a more promising tone as coverage focused on declining violence and the apparent success of Bush's so-called troop "surge."

"There are signs that November represented something of a turning point in coverage from Iraq. Whether it proves to be a temporary one will depend on the course of events," the study said.

Musharraf’s Political Future Appears Troubled - New York Times

Musharraf’s Political Future Appears Troubled - New York Times: "Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s death raises the specter of prolonged political conflict between Pakistan’s president, Pervez Musharraf, and the country’s opposition, according to Pakistani and American analysts. How he handles the next several days could determine whether nationwide antigovernment protests erupt.

“I see a lot more trouble for Musharraf in the near future,” said Hasan Askari Rizvi, a leading Pakistani political analyst.

Ms. Bhutto’s party, the largest in the country, is now leaderless, and many of its members already blame Mr. Musharraf’s government for her death.

Mr. Musharraf remains deeply unpopular after declaring a state of emergency in November and suppressing Ms. Bhutto and his other political opponents.

Meanwhile, Nawaz Sharif, the country’s other main opposition leader, is scrambling to reorganize his party after years in exile.

Ms. Bhutto’s death upends the political landscape in a country that has searched, often in vain, for political stability since it achieved independence 60 years ago. Pakistani observers pointed out on Thursday that Ms. Bhutto was shot a few yards from where the country’s first prime minister, Liaqat Ali Khan, was assassinated in 1951. Since then, military coups, fixed elections and bitter political battles have marred attempts to stabilize the country.

How events unfold in the coming days and weeks lies largely in the hands of Mr. Musharraf, Ms. Bhutto’s husband and Mr. Sharif, according to Pakistani analysts. But it is Mr. Musharraf who faces the largest potential threat.

Analysts said the assassination would hurt Mr. Musharraf politically and place him in one of the most difficult positions of his turbulent eight years in power. ...

Al Qaeda takes credit for Bhutto assassination

Al Qaeda takes credit for Bhutto assassination - The Long War Journal: "Al Qaeda's central command is taking credit for today's successful assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. A senior al Qaeda military leader in Afghanistan has contacted Syed Saleem Shahzad, a Pakistani journalist for the Asia Times and Adnkronos International with close connections to the Taliban and al Qaeda, and bragged about killing Bhutto.

"We terminated the most precious American asset which vowed to defeat [the] mujahadeen," Mustafa Abu al Yazid, al Qaeda's commander in Afghanistan, told Mr. Shahzad. The attack was reportedly ordered at the highest levels of al Qaeda.

"It is believed that the decision to kill Bhutto, who is the leader of the opposition Pakistan People's Party (PPP), was made by al-Qaeda No. 2, the Egyptian doctor, Ayman al-Zawahiri in October," Mr. Shahzad also reported. "Death squads were allegedly constituted for the mission and ultimately one cell comprising a defunct Lashkar-i-Jhangvi’s Punjabi volunteer succeeded in killing Bhutto."

Mustafa Abu al Yazid has long been the leader of al Qaeda in Afghanistan. In May, Yazid was officially appointed al Qaeda's military commander in Afghanistan.

The Lashkar-e-Jhangavi and other indigenous Pakistani terror groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammned and Lashkar-e-Taiba (which is now Jamaatud Dawa) essentially serve as muscle for al Qaeda in Pakistan.

Based on the sophistication of the Bhutto assassination, al Qaeda and the Taliban were very likely assisted by infiltrators and sympathizers in the Pakistani military and Inter Services Intelligence agency.

Expelled Western envoys fly out of Afghanistan - Telegraph

Expelled Western envoys fly out of Afghanistan - Telegraph: "Two Western officials have flown out of Kabul after the Afghan government expelled them for holding meetings with Taliban leaders

Mervyn Patterson, a British political adviser to the United Nations mission in Kabul, and Michael Semple, the Irish-born acting head of the European Union mission, left the country this morning, according to reports

The pair had been given 48 hours to leave after claims that meetings held in the troubled southern province of Helmand meant they posed a "serious threat" to national security. Two days of frantic talks failed to prevent their expulsion.

Several Afghan colleagues of the two men have also been arrested by the Afghan authorities.

Aleem Siddique, a UN spokesman, said that the expulsions were the result of a "misunderstanding" that arose after the two men visited the town of Musa Qala, which was recaptured recently after 10 months under Taliban control.

The two men - both experts who speak Afghan languages fluently - had been involved in "stabilisation" work after the military offensive, said Mr Siddique, and had been working in co-ordination with the Afghan government.

They had held talks in Musa Qala with a variety of people including some who are "perhaps undecided whether they are supportive of the government of Afghanistan", Mr Siddique said

But he rejected the charge that they had been negotiating with the Taliban. "We do not talk to the Taliban - full stop. That is not what we were in Helmand province to do," he said. "Efforts are ongoing in talks with the ministry of interior and ministry of foreign affairs so we can clarify what we are doing in Helmand province, so these people can stay here and do the important work they do."

Speaking on condition of anonymity, colleagues of the two men said that the allegations against them were coming from Assadullah Wafa, the governor of Helmand, who had "taken umbrage" at activities he felt circumvented his authority.

"This is a local-level issue involving Governor Wafa," said one.

The expulsion of the two men has not been linked to reports by The Daily Telegraph that British intelligence officers were negotiating with the Taliban in the build-up to the recent operation to retake Musa Qala.

It is understood that there were high hopes within the Special Intelligence Service before the town was retaken that a major tribal revolt against the Taliban was imminent in north Helmand.

That did not happen, but one Taliban commander, named Mullah Abdul Salaam, defected.

There is a growing conviction within the diplomatic community in Kabul that negotiation to split less ideologically driven elements from the Taliban represents the key to neutralising its potency.

President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly called on Taliban figures to enter into negotiation with the Afghan government; even calling directly on Mullah Omar, the Taliban spiritual leader, to contact him. Officially, the Afghan government offers amnesty to any Taliban figure who will lay down his arms and accept the Afghan constitution.

Earlier this year, the Taliban reportedly delivered a set of preconditions for peace talks which included guaranteed Cabinet positions in the government, control of a number of southern provinces and a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops. That offer was rejected out of hand.

Yesterday, Mr Karzai and Pervez Musharraf, the president of neighbouring Pakistan, vowed at a meeting in Islamabad to boost intelligence co-operation.

US signals support for Taliban talks

FT.com / In depth - US signals support for Taliban talks: "The US on Thursday signalled its support for holding secret talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan despite a long-held publicly stated policy of never negotiating with the Islamic militant group.

Speaking in Kabul as two top European diplomats were thrown out of Afghanistan amid claims they had held unauthorised meetings with the Taliban, a US official said there was a “place for this type of conversation” providing there was “Afghan buy-in”.

[bth: curious about face on this matter all the sudden]

List of suspects, but killers may never be found | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited

List of suspects, but killers may never be found | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited:...

"Islamic militants

The most obvious suspects must be religious militants. The very nature of the attack, death by shooting and a suicide bombing in a public place with many casualties, seems to point the finger. There were death threats before Bhutto touched down in Pakistan in mid-October. One Taliban commander threatened to send a squad of suicide bombers to kill her. Other militants made similar threats, saying she was a target because of her perceived close relationship with the west and with the US in particular.

After the suicide bombing in Karachi on the day of her return, which left 138 of her supporters dead and another 300 injured, Pakistani officials said they had intelligence reports warning that at least three groups connected with al-Qaida or the Taliban were plotting to kill her. But if the killers were militants, it does not mean that they had a direct connection to al-Qaida, or Osama bin Laden, or even the Taliban leadership.
A multi-headed militancy - a web of cells and informal networks - is well-established across Pakistan and some areas of Afghanistan, the ever-more violent blowback of the Afghan war against the Soviets in the 1980s and Pakistan's long conflict with India in Kashmir. Hundreds of Pakistanis have died this year in a long and brutal campaign by a revitalised militant movement desperate to challenge the authority of the government in Islamabad. They would have seen Bhutto, with her western links and her very public determination to crack down on religious extremism, as a threat to their existence.

The military

After the first assassination attempt in October, Bhutto spoke plainly about who she believed wanted her dead. "I know exactly who wants to kill me. They are dignitaries of General Zia's former regime who are behind extremism and fanaticism," she told the French magazine Paris-Match. Later she blamed "closet supporters" of the militants and spoke of her fear that retired military men wanted her dead. She pointed an accusing finger at the army's powerful intelligence arm, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency.

The military, and General Zia ul-Haq in particular, have long been her family's nemesis. Zia unseated her father in a coup in 1977 and hanged him two years later; for years there has been a bitter rivalry between Bhutto and the Pakistani military. While she was in exile, Pervez Musharraf, the general-turned-president, accused her of corruption and mismanagement. She in turn accused Musharraf of squeezing out democracy and last month described him as "contaminated". Yet she stopped short of accusing him directly of involvement in the assassination attempts against her.

Bhutto said that days before the October bombing she had sent Musharraf a letter warning of several different bomb plots against her, including names and telephone numbers of suspects. "I'm not accusing the government. I'm accusing certain people who abuse their powers," she said after that first attack. There certainly may be some within Pakistan's military or among retired officers who regarded Bhutto as a primary threat to their power and the stability of Pakistan, but without hard evidence of their involvement it will be difficult to make mere suspicions stick.
...

Thursday, December 27, 2007

If I had a hammer - peter paul and mary

YouTube - if i had a hammer - peter paul and mary: ""

Kohler Co. helps save lives in Iraq

JS Online: Kohler Co. helps save lives in Iraq: "Modified debris sweepers with Kohler engines are helping save the lives of U.S. troops in Iraq.

The machines, mounted at the front of military trucks and mine sweepers, blow away roadside debris to expose bombs planted by insurgents. Often they trigger the bombs and take the brunt of the explosion.

"But I would love to see plenty of engines taking the hits rather than soldiers getting killed," said Rich Koehl, director of marketing and quality at Kohler Co.'s engine division.

Insurgent attacks on vehicles have accounted for more than half of U.S. combat fatalities in Iraq, according to the military.

As the improvised explosive devices have become more deadly, the Army and Marines have stepped up efforts to get safer vehicles.

They're also using products such as Cyclone debris blowers made by Buffalo Turbine Co., of Springville, N.Y., with Wisconsin-made Kohler engines.

The Cyclone blows a broad, 180-mph jet of air to expose roadside explosives. The military has more than 100 of the machines in use in Iraq, with more on the way, said Paul Syracuse, general manager at Buffalo Turbine.

In the civilian world, the giant blowers are used to clean debris from streets, golf courses and race tracks. They've also been used at the last eight Super Bowls and in city parks.

"They're a rock-solid leaf blower," said Tom Tiernan, a Kohler distributor in Pennsylvania.

In Iraq, the blowers have been modified with armor plating and diesel engines. Mounted on the front of a vehicle, usually about 10 feet from the operator's cab, they blow away garbage and other debris used to hide roadside bombs.

Dozens of bombs found
The bombs are triggered a variety of ways, including electric eyes, infrared sensors and ordinary springs.

"Garbage is the main hiding place," Syracuse said. "The blowers either trigger the bombs or expose them."

No soldiers have been killed while using the debris blowers, according to Buffalo Turbine. In about two years of use, the machines have exposed or detonated dozens of roadside bombs.

The idea came from former U.S. troops working for an equipment contractor. Now, the machines are an important part of military convoys in Iraq.

"They cruise alongside the road, sometimes leading a convoy," Syracuse said.

The U.S. military uses thousands of Kohler portable generators in Iraq in addition to the engines used on debris blowers.

"I would call it the NASA effect. If the military finds a use for one of our civilian products, we will help them develop a special application for it," Koehl said.

Normally, it can take years for the military to develop and acquire field equipment.

But in 2002, the Army launched an effort to speed things up through a program aimed at identifying unmet needs of combat soldiers and satisfying those needs in 90 to 180 days.

The Army now buys small quantities of equipment and tests it in the field.

Other gadgets
One of the success stories was a remote-controlled robot that looks something like a radio-controlled toy car and is used for detecting roadside bombs. It has a video camera mounted on a retractable arm and headlights to see in the dark.

Another was the use of laser pointers like those used in classrooms as a nonlethal way of dissuading drivers from ignoring security checkpoints in Iraq.

In the past, the bright lights shone at drivers did little to stop erratic behavior. But the green laser pointers, about 50 times brighter than pointers used in classrooms, have proven to be startling and nearly blinding to drivers coming straight at them.

Unlike red laser pointers, the green ones can be seen in midair in the dark. And the unusual color makes them more noticeable.

Initially, at least, aggressive driving was reduced 60% to 80% when the laser pointers were used at checkpoints, according to the Army.

MotherJones Blog: Interview with Former U.S. Intelligence Official on Bhutto Assassination

MotherJones Blog: Interview with Former U.S. Intelligence Official on Bhutto Assassination: "I interviewed a former U.S. intelligence official knowledgeable about Pakistan about the assassination today in Rawalpindi of Pakistani opposition leader and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. While his comments make clear Bhutto was an inrreplaceable political figure in the country, and that her political party cannot exist in the same way without her, he also emphasized his belief that Pakistan and its institutions are far more resilient and disciplined than many people in the West may understand. Here is a summary of the interview:

Former U.S. Intelligence Official (FUSIO): Let us never forget that at least in my lifetime we had two presidents shot and one died, and a likely Democratic presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy killed and Martin Luther King Jr., all in rapid succession. Before we jump in and [scream that Pakistan is a failed nuclear state] and draw conclusions about collusion. If some guy has one hand on a lanyard and the other on a gun, and he’s willing to blow himself up, whether it’s in Washington or Rawalpindi, if he gets through, he can do his dirty job. It’s a conspiracy theorists’ dream. …

Mother Jones: There’s no doubt that it was some form of Al Qaida who was behind this?

FUSIO: I hate to use that word [because it’s not precise]. “Al Qaida” and the “Taliban” – everybody [in the West] can even spell them both. But it is that crowd - - militant Islamists.


The point is, Bhutto had two things against her: who she was, regardless of the claims that she could reach out to people better than anyone else. [Bhutto's father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was Pakistan's first popularly elected prime minister].

The other thing against her is that it is never good for a foreign leader to be perceived as the darling of the American government. I am talking about perception, not necessarily the reality. I’ve been back to Pakistan a couple times recently. The belief not just among the people on the streets, but among the elites, is that America was delivering Bhutto to Pakistan, to lead a coalition government. Whether it’s true or not, every time the plan hit a bump, [deputy secretary of state John] Negroponte was in Pakistan. In terms of perception, there are no coincidences in South Asia.

MJ: What now for Washington’s policy?

FUSIO: My sense is that the American government can send sympathy and condolences and condemn the assassination, and then should shut up.

The next big test is, do we have the election [Pakistani parliamentary elections were scheduled for January 8].

If I were [President Pervez] Musharraf, I would say, tough it out, have elections. People are saying, will he call martial law. If he picks up phone and calls his old “house,” Army house, and asks for martial law, they will tell him, “Thank you for your sentiments on this, I will get back to you.” Does Musharraf call martial law? Can he?

MJ: There is no opposition leader of that stature who can replace Bhutto?

FUSIO: There are no real political parties in Pakistan. Bhutto was the Pakistan People’s Party. If your daddy founds the party, he was made chairman of the party for life, he get killed. The daughter was made the leader of the PPP for life. If you ask anybody to describe party [the PPP], they answer with only one word: Bhutto.

Now, the question, is there a political party after tomorrow? If you jumped and shouted out Aitzaz [Ahsan] – he is the guy, the defender lawyer for the Supreme Court Justice [and a member of the PPP], if you shouted his name, people would say "huh?"

MJ: What now? Does this help Nawaz Sharif?

FUSIO: Nawaz’s return [from exile in Saudi Arabia] was not the biggest event that everyone thought it was.

Now it is highly unlikely that any of three political parties will be able to form a coalition government. Even absent this, it was unlikely that any … could achieve the majority required majority for governing. Now that this [assassination] is thrown into the mix, it is even more unlikely.

MJ: Does anyone benefit from this?

FUSIO: I won’t say who benefits because that implies guilt.
.
What we’ll get out of this probably, is there really a Pakistan People’s Party that can become a real party? There are no real parties in Pakistan. Except perhaps for the MMA (the coalition of Islamist groups.)

MJ: You don’t sound terribly alarmed.

FUSIO: I’m not. We can do without the media reports that scream that “Pakistan is a failed nuclear state.” I think there is a lot more resilience and discipline within [Pakistani] institutions than we like to believe.

Va. Firm's War Gear Includes Tourniquets - washingtonpost.com

Va. Firm's War Gear Includes Tourniquets - washingtonpost.com: "RICHMOND -- As an Army surgeon in the Middle East, Keith Rose watched a colleague bleed to death when a truck in his convoy was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade.

Rose could not get his comrade a tourniquet, which could have helped control the bleeding on his wounded leg. He sat along the mangled wreckage and talked with him as he took his last breath.

When he returned to the United States, Rose approached BlackHawk, a provider of military and law enforcement gear, with an idea to create clothes with built-in tourniquets.

The system being tested for use in military uniforms called Warrior Wear has eight tourniquets -- two in each sleeve and pant leg.

"No matter how good the tourniquet is, if you can't get it on the person at the right time, it doesn't work," said Rose, who does tactical medicine consultation and medical work overseas. "It's something that is so basic, so cost effective and so overwhelmingly life changing."

The company, based in Norfolk, said the clothing should be available for retail around the end of March. It is expected to sell for less than $200, but the cost to the military would depend on ...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

YouTube - Lisa Kelly (Celtic Woman) - May it be

YouTube - Lisa Kelly (Celtic Woman) - May it be: ""

Britain in secret talks with the Taliban

Britain in secret talks with the Taliban - Telegraph: "Agents from MI6 entered secret talks with Taliban leaders despite Gordon Brown's pledge that Britain would not negotiate with terrorists, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

Officers from the Secret Intelligence Service staged discussions, known as "jirgas", with senior insurgents on several occasions over the summer.

An intelligence source said: "The SIS officers were understood to have sought peace directly with the Taliban with them coming across as some sort of armed militia. The British would also provide 'mentoring' for the Taliban."

The disclosure comes only a fortnight after the Prime Minister told the House of Commons: "We will not enter into any negotiations with these people."

Opposition leaders said that Mr Brown had "some explaining to do".

The Government was apparently prepared to admit that the talks had taken place but Gordon Brown was thought to have "bottled out" just before Prime Minister's Questions on Dec 12, when he made his denial instead.

It is thought that the Americans were extremely unhappy with the news becoming public that an ally was negotiating with terrorists who supported the September 11 attackers.

The delicate balance in Afghanistan was underlined as it emerged that two diplomats had been ordered by the Kabul government to leave the country after allegations that they had met Taliban insurgents without the administration's knowledge.

The pair, a top European Union official and a United Nations staff member, were declared "persona non grata" and said to be "threatening national security".

They are both Afghan experts who have been working in the country since the 1980s. They are in their forties and cannot be named. One man works as a political adviser to the European Union while the other is employed as a political adviser to the UN mission in Kabul.

One of the men described the charges as "banal and preposterous" and said he hoped the Afghan government would quickly drop its threat to deport them.

MI6's meetings with the Taliban took place up to half a dozen times at houses on the outskirts of Lashkah Gah and in villages in the Upper Gereshk valley, to the north-east of Helmand's main town.

The compounds were surrounded by a force of British infantry providing a security cordon.

To maintain the stance that President Hamid Karzai's government was leading the negotiations the clandestine meetings took place in the presence of Afghan officials.

"These meetings were with up to a dozen Taliban or with Taliban who had only recently laid down their arms," an intelligence source said. "The impression was that these were important motivating figures inside the Taliban."

The Prime Minister had denied reports of talks with the Taliban under questioning from David Cameron, the Tory leader, in Parliament.

Liam Fox, the shadow defence secretary said: "If this turns out to be untrue the Prime Minister will have some explaining to do to the British public."

Britain has said it would support efforts by the Afghan government to negotiate with tribal fighters now supporting the Taliban - but only if they embraced democracy.

Senior Government sources have claimed that the only negotiations with the Taliban were attempts by President Karzai to persuade them to change sides.

[bth: What they are trying to accomplish?]

Northwest Pakistan Gun Market

SWJ Blog

INTEL DUMP - George Washington and the Counterinsurgent's Dilemma

INTEL DUMP - George Washington and the Counterinsurgent's Dilemma: "History professor Joseph Ellis writes in today's Washington Post about "what George Washington would do" with respect to the mess in Mesopotamia. It's a fascinating question, because Washington served both an insurgent (as commander of the Continental Army during the American Revolution) and a counterinsurgent (as an officer fighting Native Americans and the French during the Seven Years War). In fact, he probably ranks as one of history's most successful insurgents ever. After noting that it's impossible to divine the dead president's policy preferences for Iraq because of the passage of time, Ellis goes on to accurately (in my opinion) assess the state of the matter today:

[The question] is not "What would George Washington do about Iraq?" Rather, it is "How are your own views of Iraq affected by your study of Washington's experience leading a rebellion against a British military occupation?" The answer on this score is pretty clear. Washington eventually realized — and it took him three years to have this epiphany — that the only way he could lose the Revolutionary War was to try to win it. The British army and navy could win all the major battles, and with a few exceptions they did; but they faced the intractable problem of trying to establish control over a vast continent whose population resented and resisted military occupation. As the old counterinsurgency mantra goes, Washington won by not losing, and the British lost by not winning. Our dilemma in Iraq is analogous to the British dilemma in North America — and is likely to yield the same outcome.
This is popularly as the "counterinsurgent's dilemma," perhaps best written about by David Galula in his classic Counterinsurgency Warfare — Theory and Practice. Setting aside those insurgencies which ripen into open warfare, like Mao's famous three-phase model, the goal of the insurgent is not to "win" in any conventional sense. Rather, the goal is to "win" by not losing. Either the insurgent bleeds the counterinsurgent to the point where his will to fight is gone, or the insurgent wins politically by earning the support of the people and alienating the people from the counterinsurgent.

So do we have the political will to be a counterinsurgent? To be an empire? Prof. Ellis thinks not, based on his reading of the Founders and their imprint on American DNA:

Finally, and somewhat more problematically, an understanding of the founders' mentality complicates our view of our role as Britain's successor as the world's dominant power. The United States began with a conspicuously anti-imperial ethos, and we have had it imprinted on our political DNA from the very start. We were the first former colony to win a war for independence (against Britain, no less) and the first large-scale republic committed to the principle of government by consent rather than coercion.

In that sense, our primal values make us a very reluctant world power in the Roman or British mode. For good historical reasons, we lack the requisite imperial stamina of the British Empire in its "sun-never-sets" phase. Our origins are at odds with all previous versions of a world power. The Romans and British would have experienced no twinges of conscience in leaving a substantial military garrison in Iraq for an indefinite period. But we do, which is one reason why a healthy majority of U.S. citizens want us to leave Iraq as soon as possible. A republic, the world's first large-scale republic, simply cannot be an empire of the conventional European sort. This legacy of the founders complicates our status as the reigning world power.

One could counter with the claim that our anti-imperial origins were always more rhetorical than real. Just ask the Native Americans, or call attention to our apparently permanent military garrisons in Germany and South Korea. They certainly have the look and feel of old-style Roman and British imperialism, wholly compatible with the apparent current plan of the Bush administration to leave a garrison of about 50,000 troops in Iraq.

What would Washington do? Well, he did speak of a prospective American empire, though he was thinking primarily of our eventual domination of the North American continent, not the globe. On a few occasions, he seemed to suggest that if we played our cards right in the 19th century, the United States might replace Britain as the dominant power in the 20th. That indeed happened. But would he have endorsed a hegemonic U.S. foreign policy based on military power? Probably not. But that's my opinion, not necessarily Washington's.
What do you think?

[bth: interesting. We face financial attrition.]

YouTube - Celtic Woman / Chloe Agnew - ''O Holy Night''

YouTube - Celtic Woman / Chloe Agnew - ''O Holy Night'': ""

YouTube - Celtic Woman - Ave Maria

YouTube - Celtic Woman - Ave Maria: ""

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Japan Test Fires Its First Raytheon-Built Standard Missile-3

Japan Test Fires Its First Raytheon-Built Standard Missile-3: "The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force successfully flight tested its first Raytheon Company (NYSE: RTN)-built Standard Missile-3. The SM-3 Block IA missile engaged and destroyed a medium-range ballistic missile target more than 60 miles above the Pacific Ocean. Personnel at the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai launched the ballistic missile target while the crew of the Japanese destroyer JS KONGO (DDG-173) fired the intercepting missile.

"Today's intercept truly paves the way for Japan to deploy a sea-based ballistic missile defense system," said Ed Miyashiro, Raytheon Missile Systems vice president. "The U.S. has gained an important ally that can now defend itself against the threat of ballistic missiles."

During the test, the Japanese crew exchanged track information via satellite with U.S. naval assets, demonstrating missile defense interoperability between the two countries. This test was the 12th successful intercept for the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system's SM-3.

Japan is working with Raytheon and the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) to develop and deploy the next-generation SM-3 Block IIA missile, which will provide a larger area of defense against more sophisticated threats.

SM-3 is being developed as part of the MDA's sea-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System. The missiles will be deployed on Aegis cruisers and destroyers to defend against short-to-intermediate range ballistic missile threats in the midcourse phase of flight.
Armchair Generalist

Swedish Meatballs Confidential: Ho Ho Ho IO - Maritime Meatballs

Swedish Meatballs Confidential: Ho Ho Ho IO - Maritime Meatballs: ... "After World War II, a real hot war in Western Europe appeared increasingly unlikely. Power struggles in democratic countries found new forms at the lower end of the conflict spectrum. In defense of the Western system, the US began to operate submarines to simulate real enemy intrusions into the waters of allies and friends as an instrument to test their readiness and capability - but also to manipulate the mindset of local military forces, governments and populations, as was the case in Sweden.

Following the stranding of a Soviet Whiskey-class submarine in 1981 in a Swedish archipelago, a series of massive submarine intrusions took place within Swedish waters and were widely attributed to Soviet intrusions. Soon the kingdom of Sweden was on high alert for Spetznaz frogmen everywhere (Robert Boyd got it wrong here, save perhaps for his 'probably'). However, the evidence for these Soviet intrusions appears to have been manipulated or simply invented. Classified documents and interviews point to covert Western, rather than Soviet, activity.

Archival material and interviews with retired military officers point to US and to some extent UK PSYOPs. Former US Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger stated on Swedish TV that US/Western submarines operated regularly and frequently in Swedish waters after Swedish-US navy-to-navy consultations. However, the Swedish government or public was never informed. They believed the submarines were from the Soviet Union. These operations allowed the U.S. to shape the mindset of their targeted audience in order to control a state perceived to be wavering on its kinetic commitments.

As the United States and Britain ran a 'secret war' in Swedish waters, the number of Swedes perceiving the Soviet Union as a direct threat increased from 5-10 per cent in 1980 to 45 per cent in 1983. This Anglo-American 'secret war' aimed at exerting political influence over Sweden was a risky enterprise but perhaps one of the most successful covert operations of the entire Cold War....

Aviation Week : Pentagon Eyes High-Speed Missiles for Stealth Aircraft

Aviation Week : Pentagon Eyes High-Speed Missiles for Stealth Aircraft: "The"U.S. military is increasingly interested in developing a new generation of high-speed air-to-surface missiles that could be integrated into stealth aircraft to attack an enemy’s radar sites or fleeting targets.

U.S. Air Force planners are anxious about enhancements in air defense technology, worrying that as powerful computer processing becomes more ubiquitous and network cabling becomes cheaper, adversaries can link radar systems of different types to raise their chances of spotting and potentially shooting down even low-observable aircraft.

Although the military is putting much effort into using directed-energy and network attack tools to thwart such threats, the kinetic kill approach hasn’t fallen out of favor entirely. One reason is that the initial generation of directed-energy systems will still require aircraft to get comparatively close to a threat, while missiles can be launched at greater stand-off ranges. The missiles themselves could also be candidates for directed-energy warheads.

There has been frustration among weapon developers that the U.S. and Europe have not done more to push high-speed technology, with a few exceptions such as the European rocket/ramjet-powered Meteor air-to-air missile. Russia has ramjet-powered air-to-surface weapons in its inventory, and China and India are also pursuing this area aggressively, bemoans a European industry official.

But the situation may be changing. One emerging project, for instance, is a Raytheon initiative to design a ramjet-powered version of the AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM), according to a company official. Raytheon has been exploring various options for a ramjet motor, which would be paired with an enhanced HARM front end.

The ramjet concept now undergoing more detailed systems analysis at Raytheon would use an asymmetric intake configuration, with the two ducts on opposite sides of the missile body. The motor would be paired with a standard 10-in.-dia. missile frame, says a European industry official.

In addition to the anti-radar role, the weapon would be aimed to meet the Pentagon’s persistent requirement for higher-speed strike weapons to eliminate time-sensitive targets, which can move quickly and often prove elusive. A HARM coupled with the high-speed motor would likely feature guidance enhancements enabling it to strike coordinates even if a target is not emitting....

[bth: so get on with it already]

The Blotter: Meth Lab Cleanup Rules Written Into Law

The Blotter: Meth Lab Cleanup Rules Written Into Law: "The threat of deadly toxic residue from methamphetamine (meth) labs in homes and hotel rooms pushed the president to sign a law today mandating thorough cleanup after they are shut down by authorities.

"These toxic sites need to be cleaned properly to ensure the safety of future residents," said the bill's author, House Committee on Science and Technology Chairman Bart Gordon, D-Tenn.

The chemicals used in making this the drug are highly toxic and can infuse the walls, carpet and furniture of any house, apartment or hotel room in which the drug was made, according to public health officials.

ABC News reported earlier this year that a minor chemical spill in a hotel could be deadly not only for the meth "cook" but also for other guests staying in the hotel.

"Phosphine gas is just one of the many highly toxic gases that can escape during the manufacture of meth. The gases can be deadly," said Dr. Raymond Fowler of the CDC in Dallas.

The Drug Enforcement Administration reported seizing roughly 7,000 methamphetamine labs last year.

The new bill requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop model, voluntary, health-based clean-up guidelines for use by states and localities with the goal of making sure the sites of former meth labs are safe and livable.

The legislation also authorizes the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to initiate a research program to develop meth detection equipment for field use. Such equipment will help local law enforcement and first-responders detect active meth labs faster and assist in measuring contamination levels. The legislation also requires a study by the National Academy of Sciences on the long-term health impacts on children rescued from meth labs and on first-responders.

No let-up for Christmas for U.S. troops in Iraq

No let-up for Christmas for U.S. troops in Iraq - Yahoo! News: "BAGHDAD(Reuters) - Christmas Eve, late afternoon, and U.S. soldiers from 4th Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment piled into their Stryker armored vehicles for a patrol out on the streets of Baghdad.

This is the fifth Christmas that U.S. troops have been out in Iraq, and commanders say the best way to keep morale up is to keep moving.

There are special dinners, packages from home, religious services and decorations around camp, but no let-up in patrols.

"My personal goal would be to try to go ahead and keep the mission constant," said Ray Ramsey, who has spent 23 years in the army and his third Christmas in Iraq, looking after about 100 men as the first sergeant of a Stryker troop.

"We want to recognize it, go ahead and acknowledge it and wish everybody a Merry Christmas. But if you make too much of it you give them probably an opportunity to dwell on where they're not and what they're not having right now," he said.

Iraq has become far less violent in recent months, and the mood among troops is visibly lighter than in Christmases past.

So far in December, 17 U.S. servicemembers have died in Iraq, putting it on course to be the safest month for Americans since the war began, according to figures on Web site icasualties.org.

Forty U.S. servicemembers died in Iraq in November, compared with 131 in May.

The 4th Squadron received a flood of goodwill packages this Christmas from friends and family of a soldier who was killed.

The squadron chaplain, Captain Bryan Smith, was giving out the gifts by opening up a Christmas Eve "store" where everything is free. He said he had given out Xbox controllers and portable CD players as well as soft-drinks and snacks.

Presents from home keep soldiers' spirits up, he said.

"You get the blues around Christmas time," he said.

"When they get boxes from home like that, they say: 'Hey, my family is thinking about me' and it gives them that touch, just like they're at home still."

Specialist Corey Jones, 20, found a stuffed reindeer in one of the care packages and was wearing it perched on top of the soldier's cap on his head. It's his second Christmas in Baghdad.

"I'd rather be home with my family, but I get used to hanging around everybody here," he said.

"This is my buddy Moe Moose," he said of the reindeer. "I figured I like to keep him on my head because it's like a second buddy for Christmas, so now I can spend the holidays with him

[bth: the important thing to note is how little attention this Christmas is getting from the politicians. You don't see Bush holding up a big fake turkey or anything. The congress is home pretending they hadn't heard of the war. The troops are their for a fifth freaking Christmas. Ho, Ho, Ho.]

Burning burkas should be a Western responsibility

Burning burkas should be a Western responsibility | The Courier-Mail: "RECENTLY a gang-rape victim in Saudi Arabia was sentenced to jail and 200 lashes for being found in the company of a man who was not a close family member.

The Saudi King has now pardoned her, but we should express concern that the justice system allowed her to be charged for this "crime" in the first place.

We should also express concern that, in 2002, 13 Saudi schoolgirls perished in a fire after the religious police prevented them from leaving the building because they were "dressed inappropriately". And we should express concern that in countries such as Pakistan and Nigeria unmarried women who become pregnant, even by rape, are flogged or sentenced to death by stoning.

We do express concern. We gasp in astonishment at the news, we increase our donations to Amnesty International, we say a silent prayer of thanks that we were born in a country where we are respected as individuals, and we hope that something changes.

Nothing changes, though, and if people are expecting feminism to evolve in these nations as it did in liberal democracies they are kidding themselves.

Burning burkas and girl power bumper stickers will never be on the horizon while legal systems continue to be based on ancient religious principles and the diplomatic response of the West to the oppression of women overseas remains so pathetically weak.

In response to the Saudi rape victim's sentence, US President George W. Bush's spokesperson expressed "astonishment" but refused to explicitly condemn the decision.

Australian diplomats indicated that they would "raise concerns" in discussions with their Saudi counterparts, but that would be the limit of our action.

A call for action from our Government to protect the rights of women overseas is not one that lacks a realist perspective. We may be held hostage by our dependence on oil, by the strategic importance of these nations and by the understandable belief that national sovereignty is essential to maintaining some degree of international peace. But just because we are not necessarily able to force regime change, threaten military action or impose economic sanctions does not mean we should stifle our outrage. Surely there is something left to pull out of the diplomatic grab bag.

When nations behave in a way that so clearly violates individual human rights, and is an affront to the values of our own nation, we can and should do more than "raise concerns".

Western governments could explicitly condemn the nation's actions, impose diplomatic sanctions by restricting the travel of government members, or threaten expulsion from international organisations such as the World Trade Organisation. We could even draw on an old favourite from apartheid days and further undermine the nation's prestige by preventing them from taking part in international sporting events and major conferences.

Clearly there is more that can be done, so why do we so often settle for toothless expressions of concern? Is it because we fear fundamentalist reprisals? Just about everything we do or say adds fuel to the fundamentalist fire, so we might as well speak honestly.

Or is it because we fear being perceived as culturally imperialist?

Accusations of cultural relativism abound when we criticise the actions of other countries and cultures. "Just because it is different does not mean it is wrong", they say. What about when it really is wrong?

There is no doubt that Islam comes in for a lot of criticism, which is often unfair when so many people happily abide by both Islamic teachings and the democratic principles of their home countries. The two are certainly not mutually exclusive. The criticism is also unfair when we consider that Islam is not the only religion that can be accused of oppressing women. The Catholic Church maintains a stance on birth control that restricts women's choices to an end far more detrimental than a compulsory headscarf, and many Christian-based religions have antiquated expectations of the rights and roles of women.

The problem is not the religion itself. The problem occurs when ancient and outdated religious principles alone are upheld as the most important aspect of a justice system.

Secularism is not a panacea to the problems of the clash between religious beliefs and liberal democracy but it does acknowledge the importance of maintaining a distinction between "God's" rules for believers and society's rules for everyone.

Condemnations and diplomatic punishment may fail to make a substantive and immediate difference, but that does not mean we should simply do nothing.

Respect for other nations and the cultural and religious beliefs of individuals is important, but the violent oppression of women is not a cultural peculiarity. It is an insult to our own values, an injustice against innocent victims and it is not a culture that we should respect.

Erin O'Brien is a writer completing a PhD in Political Science at The University of Queensland

[bth: I think the west has to pick its fights carefully. The treatment of women is a fundamental fight that cuts to the core of many other issues. We're not talking about affirmative actions. We're talking about women treated as property, unable to drive, being raped and then flogged for being raped. This is a fundamental issue. For those that think things will never change, for the cowards over at NOW, for the Hillary's of this world that think its beneath her to fight this fight, I say good riddens. Look at what happened in our country over the long term. Women's rights were won, not granted and it wasn't but a century or two ago that our laws were almost as backwards.]

Next job for contractors in Iraq: 'Deprogramming' detainees

The Raw Story | Next job for contractors in Iraq: 'Deprogramming' detainees: "The Pentagon is looking for experts in psychology, religion and education to aid its efforts on "the battlefield of the mind," as the military struggles to reform roughly 25,000 Iraqi prisoners in custody across the country the US invaded nearly five years ago.

The Washington Post's Walter Pincus reports on a proposal from the Joint Contracting Command for a team of private contractors including "teachers, religious and behavioral science counselors" who will be charged with running a program that "effectively reintegrates detainees, particularly those disposed to violent, radical ideology."

The program will cost the Pentagon between $5 million and $210 million, Pincus reports.

"Part of the program will involve small detainee groups, possibly led by an Iraqi cleric and a behavioral scientist, 'undergoing enlightenment, deprogramming and de-radicalization sessions' for six weeks," Pincus reports.

Marine Maj. Gen. Douglas M. Stone oversees the Iraqi prison population. He announced last month that he is segregating extremists from the rest of Iraqi prisoners captured by US troops, and he has started voluntary educational, training and religion programs for detainees, Pincus reports.

Now the general is calling for backup from the private sector. The proposal he put out for bid earlier this month looks to create a private group of Americans, Iraqis and other foreigners to run and expand the program he's created...

Crisis may make 1929 look a 'walk in the park'

Crisis may make 1929 look a 'walk in the park' - Telegraph: "Twenty billion dollars here, $20bn there, and a lush half-trillion from the European Central Bank at give-away rates for Christmas. Buckets of liquidity are being splashed over the North Atlantic banking system, so far with meagre or fleeting effects.

As the credit paralysis stretches through its fifth month, a chorus of economists has begun to warn that the world's central banks are fighting the wrong war, and perhaps risk a policy error of epochal proportions.

"Liquidity doesn't do anything in this situation," says Anna Schwartz, the doyenne of US monetarism and life-time student (with Milton Friedman) of the Great Depression.

"It cannot deal with the underlying fear that lots of firms are going bankrupt. The banks and the hedge funds have not fully acknowledged who is in trouble. That is the critical issue," she adds.

Lenders are hoarding the cash, shunning peers as if all were sub-prime lepers. Spreads on three-month Euribor and Libor - the interbank rates used to price contracts and Club Med mortgages - are stuck at 80 basis points even after the latest blitz. The monetary screw has tightened by default.

York professor Peter Spencer, chief economist for the ITEM Club, says the global authorities have just weeks to get this right, or trigger disaster.

"The central banks are rapidly losing control. By not cutting interest rates nearly far enough or fast enough, they are allowing the money markets to dictate policy. We are long past worrying about moral hazard," he says.

"They still have another couple of months before this starts imploding. Things are very unstable and can move incredibly fast. I don't think the central banks are going to make a major policy error, but if they do, this could make 1929 look like a walk in the park," he adds.

The Bank of England knows the risk. Markets director Paul Tucker says the crisis has moved beyond the collapse of mortgage securities, and is now eating into the bedrock of banking capital. "We must try to avoid the vicious circle in which tighter liquidity conditions, lower asset values, impaired capital resources, reduced credit supply, and slower aggregate demand feed back on each other," he says.

New York's Federal Reserve chief Tim Geithner echoed the words, warning of an "adverse self-reinforcing dynamic", banker-speak for a downward spiral. The Fed has broken decades of practice by inviting all US depositary banks to its lending window, bringing dodgy mortgage securities as collateral.

Quietly, insiders are perusing an obscure paper by Fed staffers David Small and Jim Clouse. It explores what can be done under the Federal Reserve Act when all else fails.

Section 13 (3) allows the Fed to take emergency action when banks become "unwilling or very reluctant to provide credit". A vote by five governors can - in "exigent circumstances" - authorise the bank to lend money to anybody, and take upon itself the credit risk. This clause has not been evoked since the Slump.

Yet still the central banks shrink from seriously grasping the rate-cut nettle. Understandably so. They are caught between the Scylla of the debt crunch and the Charybdis of inflation. It is not yet certain which is the more powerful force.

America's headline CPI screamed to 4.3 per cent in November. This may be a rogue figure, the tail effects of an oil, commodity, and food price spike. If so, the Fed missed its chance months ago to prepare the markets for such a case. It is now stymied.

This has eerie echoes of Japan in late-1990, when inflation rose to 4 per cent on a mini price-surge across Asia. As the Bank of Japan fretted about an inflation scare, the country's financial system tipped into the abyss.

...Glance at the debt markets and you hear a different tale. Not a single junk bond has been issued in Europe since August. Every attempt failed.

Europe's corporate bond issuance fell 66pc in the third quarter to $396bn (BIS data). Emerging market bonds plummeted 75pc.

"The kind of upheaval observed in the international money markets over the past few months has never been witnessed in history," says Thomas Jordan, a Swiss central bank governor.

"The sub-prime mortgage crisis hit a vital nerve of the international financial system," he says.

The market for asset-backed commercial paper - where Europe's lenders from IKB to the German Doctors and Dentists borrowed through Irish-based "conduits" to play US housing debt - has shrunk for 18 weeks in a row. It has shed $404bn or 36pc. As lenders refuse to roll over credit, banks must take these wrecks back on their books. There lies the rub.

Professor Spencer says capital ratios have fallen far below the 8 per cent minimum under Basel rules. "If they can't raise capital, they will have to shrink balance sheets," he said.

Tim Congdon, a banking historian at the London School of Economics, said the rot had seeped through the foundations of British lending.

Average equity capital has fallen to 3.2 per cent (nearer 2.5 per cent sans "goodwill"), compared with 5 per cent seven years ago. "How on earth did the Financial Services Authority let this happen?" he asks.

Worse, changes pushed through by Gordon Brown in 1998 have caused the de facto cash and liquid assets ratio to collapse from post-war levels above 30 per cent to near zero. "Brown hadn't got a clue what he was doing," he says.

The risk for Britain - as property buckles - is a twin banking and fiscal squeeze. The UK budget deficit is already 3 per cent of GDP at the peak of the economic cycle, shockingly out of line with its peers. America looks frugal by comparison....

Goldman Sachs caused shock last month when it predicted that total crunch losses would reach $500bn, leading to a $2 trillion contraction in lending as bank multiples kick into reverse. This already seems humdrum.

"Our counterparties are telling us that losses may reach $700bn," says Rob McAdie, head of credit at Barclays Capital. Where will it end? The big banks face a further $200bn of defaults in commercial property. On it goes.

The International Monetary Fund still predicts blistering global growth of 5 per cent next year. If so, markets should roar back to life in January, as though the crunch were but a nightmare. There again, the credit soufflé may be hard to raise a second time


[bth: this may be a defining event for 2008. A classic credit crunch. I think fundamentally its that consumers are over extended with credit card debt, rising local taxes, and skyrocketing fuel bills. That that now matriculates to the greedy bastards that run hedge funds too large to fail is no surprise. Instead of helping home mortgage holders, the support will ultimately flow by the billions to the hedge funds. Bush and the fed protects their own. The middle class will get screwed over one more time.]

Monday, December 24, 2007

Rove’s Book Sold for Half of What He Expected - And Buyer Was Mary Matalin

Pensito Review » Rove’s Book Sold for Half of What He Expected - And Buyer Was Mary Matalin: "Karl Rove put his book project up for auction among the big publishing houses in New York in mid-November. According to Crain’s New York Business on Dec. 17, a month passed with no offers:

The auction for Karl Rove’s memoir drags on a month after the Republican strategist made the rounds of publishers with Washington power lawyer Robert Barnett at his side.

“It’s very, very slow,” says an executive at one of the few houses left in the bidding. Early reports had predicted a $3 million sale, but some insiders are wondering if Mr. Barnett has had trouble getting to that number. He declined to comment.

On Friday, a deal was finally announced, but there’s an interesting twist — the buyer is Rove’s former White House colleague, conservative strategist Mary Matalin:

GOP strategist Karl Rove has agreed to write about his years as an adviser to President Bush in a deal worth over $1.5 million with former colleague Mary Matalin’s conservative imprint at Simon & Schuster, officials said Friday.

Rove … signed the deal with Threshold Editions, the imprint’s publisher and executive vice president Louise Burke said.

“All of us at Threshold are thrilled to publish the book from the man who had the president’s ear for two terms,” Burke said.

Rove’s agent, attorney Robert Barnett, said Threshold was chosen over eight other bidding publishers. Threshold didn’t say how much Rove would be paid, but the bidding reached at least $1.5 million, two publishing officials familiar with the bidding told The Associated Press. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, a standard industry practice.

On Nov. 21, not long after the auction had begun, Rove went on Charlie Rose’s show to promote the book, and made this outrageous claim:

ROVE: One of the untold stories about the war is why did the United States Congress, the United States Senate vote on the war resolution in the fall of 2002?

CHARLIE ROSE, HOST: Why?

ROVE: This administration was opposed to it. I‘m going to talk about that in my book … The administration was opposed to voting on it in the fall of 2002 … [because] we didn‘t think it belonged within the confines of the election. There was an election coming up in a matter of weeks. We thought it made it too political. We wanted it outside the confines of it. It seemed to make things move too fast. There were things that needed to be done to bring along allies and potential allies abroad.

It would be comforting to think that this ham-fisted, too easily refuted lie depressed the auction price of the book — or even better that book publishers refused to do business with a traitor who betrayed a secret CIA operation in 2003 that monitored the terror weapons black market.

It’s more likely the marquee publishing houses passed because sales projections looked weak — which gives reason for hope, too.

[bth: rot in hell you betrayer of public trust.]

Philippines 'bomb plotter' Islamic envoy: Egypt cleric

Philippines 'bomb plotter' Islamic envoy: Egypt cleric - METimes.com: "CAIRO (AFP) An Egyptian man held in the Philippines for allegedly plotting a Christmas bomb attack is an envoy of Sunni Islam's highest seat of learning who was arrested by mistake, the insitution's grand imam said on Sunday.
Al-Azhar's Sheikh Mohammed Sayyid Tantawi told Egypt's official MENA news agency that he was personally following up the case of Sheikh Mohammed al-Sayyid Ahmed Mussa who was arrested by police in the Philippines on Tuesday.

Tantawi aide Sheikh Abdel Fattah Allam said he expected Sheikh Mussa to be released on bail "in the next few hours".

"The envoys of Al-Azhar abroad are chosen according to strict criteria to encourage moderation in Islam and the renunciation of violence and terrorism," he added.

The religious affairs ministry issued a statement saying that Sheikh Mussa was being well treated but that there were contacts at the highest level between the two governments to try to secure his release.

"Sheikh Mussa is a man of faith who represents a prestigious religious institution," the ministry said.

"There are 29 Al-Azhar envoys in the Philippines teaching Arabic language and Islamic religion in accordance with an agreement between Cairo and Manila," he added.

Mussa, identified by Philippine police as Mohamad Sayed, was arrested during a raid on a flat in the Majad Islamic School in the southern city of Cotabato.

An explosive device fashioned from a 60-millimetre mortar round and ball bearings attached to a timing device were recovered from his room.

Philippine police said the Egyptian was captured after surveillance and that intelligence reports suggested he planned to detonate the bomb at an undisclosed location in the city on Christmas Day.

Among the items they said were recovered from his room was a booklet on the organisation of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a rebel group that has been fighting to set up an Islamic state in the southern Philippines
.

Tantawi said he hoped Mussa would be released "within the coming couple of days" and that the arrest was a mistake.


[bth: I guess this so called moderate muslim accidentally picked up the wrong bag for his trip from Egypt to the Philippines. He picked up the one with the 60 millimetre mortar round and ball bearings attached to the timing device instead of his bowling bag. ... It could happen. I'm sure he will be let go soon in any event since he is from the moderate Majad Islamic School. Merry Christmas.]

U.S. Officials See Waste in Pakistan Aid

U.S. Officials See Waste in Pakistan Aid - New York Times: "ISLAMABAD Pakistan — After the United States has spent more than $5 billion in a largely failed effort to bolster the Pakistani military effort against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, some American officials now acknowledge that there were too few controls over the money. The strategy to improve the Pakistani military, they said, needs to be completely revamped.

In interviews in Islamabad and Washington, Bush administration and military officials said they believed that much of the American money was not making its way to frontline Pakistani units. Money has been diverted to help finance weapons systems designed to counter India, not Al Qaeda or the Taliban, the officials said, adding that the United States has paid tens of millions of dollars in inflated Pakistani reimbursement claims for fuel, ammunition and other costs.

“I personally believe there is exaggeration and inflation,” said a senior American military official who has reviewed the program, referring to Pakistani requests for reimbursement. “Then, I point back to the United States and say we didn’t have to give them money this way.”

Pakistani officials say they are incensed at what they see as American ingratitude for Pakistani counterterrorism efforts that have left about 1,000 Pakistani soldiers and police officers dead. They deny that any overcharging has occurred.

The $5 billion was provided through a program known as Coalition Support Funds, which reimburses Pakistan for conducting military operations to fight terrorism. Under a separate program, Pakistan receives $300 million per year in traditional American military financing that pays for equipment and training.

...For their part, Pakistani officials angrily accused the United States of refusing to sell Pakistan the advanced helicopters, reconnaissance aircraft, radios and night-vision equipment it needs.

“There have been many aspects of equipment that we’ve been keen on getting,” said Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad, the Pakistani military’s chief spokesman. “There have been many delays which have hampered this war against extremists.”

United States military officials said the American military was so overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan that it had no advanced helicopters to give to Pakistan. American law also restricts the export of sophisticated drones, night-vision goggles and other equipment for security reasons.

There is at least one area of agreement. Both sides say the reimbursements have failed substantially to increase the ability of Pakistani forces to mount comprehensive counterinsurgency operations.

Today, with several billion more in aid scheduled for the coming years, American officials estimate it will take at least three to five years to train and equip large numbers of army and Frontier Corps units, a paramilitary force now battling militants.

“I don’t forecast any noticeable impact,” a Defense Department official said. “It’s pretty bleak.”

The program’s failures appear to be a sweeping setback for the administration as it approaches its final year in office. American intelligence officials say they believe that Mr. Bush is likely to leave office in January 2009 with the Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden still at large.

We haven’t had a good lead on his exact whereabouts in two years,” another senior American military official lamented recently.

Al Qaeda More Active

This spring, American intelligence officials said the Qaeda leaders hiding in Pakistan’s tribal areas had reconstituted their command structure and become increasingly active. Backed by Al Qaeda, pro-Taliban militants have expanded their influence from the remote border regions into the more populated parts of Pakistan this year and mounted a record number of suicide bombings in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The Coalition Support Funds program was intended to prevent that from happening. Under the program, Pakistani military officials submit bills and are paid for supplies, wear and tear on equipment and other costs, as well as for the American use of three Pakistani air bases, according to American officials.

The United States since 2001 has deposited more than $5 billion in reimbursements into the Pakistani government’s general budget account, the largest single portion of some $10 billion in aid to Islamabad in that time. Also included in that larger amount is $1.9 billion in security assistance, which Pakistan has used in part to buy new radios for troops, night-vision goggles and refurbished Cobra attack helicopters.

Pakistani officials say the Coalition Support Funds money goes into the national treasury to repay the government for money already spent on 100,000 troops deployed in the tribal areas. But American military officials say the funds do not reach the men who need it. That is especially the case for helicopter maintenance and poorly equipped Frontier Corps units.

During a recent visit to the border, an American official found members of the Frontier Corps “standing there in the snow in sandals,” according to the official. Several were wearing World War I-era pith helmets and carrying barely functional Kalashnikov rifles with just 10 rounds of ammunition apiece.

It is not making its way, for certain, we know, to the broader part of the armed forces which is carrying out the brunt of their operations on the border,” the senior American military official said.

Members of Congress also express growing frustration with the Coalition Support Funds program.

The situation in the tribal areas seems to be getting worse, not better, and that’s despite a billion dollars in aid,” said Senator Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat on the Armed Services Committee who visited Pakistan in fall 2006. “Just pouring the money in and asking them to do this is not producing the results that we need.”

Complaints Over Support

The most glaring example of the Coalition Support Funds program’s failure is helicopter maintenance, according to both Pakistani and American officials. In an interview with The New York Times last month, Mr. Musharraf complained specifically that a lack of American spare parts and assistance had handicapped the country’s 20 refurbished Vietnam-era Cobra attack helicopters provided by the United States.

“Ten days back, of 20 Cobra helicopters, we have only one that was serviceable,” he said. “We need more support.”

In interviews, American military officials scoffed at the statement. They said the United States had provided $8 million worth of Cobra parts in the past six months and would provide $4 million to $6 million in parts next year.

In addition, Washington reimbursed Pakistan $55 million for helicopter operation and maintenance costs for an eight-month period in 2007, American officials said. The United States later found out that the army received only $25 million from the Pakistani government for operations and maintenance of their entire national helicopter fleet for the whole of 2007.

American officials said they suspected that Pakistan had been overcharging for helicopter maintenance. Yet at the same time, maintenance of Pakistani helicopters is not being performed.

Come March or April,” one official said, “I fully expect catastrophic failure of a large part of their helicopter fleet.


For years, how money from the Coalition Support Funds was disbursed to the Pakistani government was veiled in secrecy. The size and scope of the payments to Pakistan was held so closely that one senior American military officer in Afghanistan said that he did not know that the administration was spending $1 billion a year until he attended a meeting in Islamabad in 2006.

“I was astounded,” said the officer, who would not speak for attribution because he now holds another senior military post. “On one side of the border we were paying a billion to get very little done. On the other side of the border — the Afghan side — we were scrambling to find the funds to train an army that actually wanted to get something done.”

But by mid-2007, the $1 billion-a-year figure became public, largely because of the objections of some military officials and defense experts who said that during an ill-fated peace treaty between the military and militants in the tribal areas in 2005 and 2006, the money kept flowing. Pakistan continued to submit receipts for reimbursement, even though Pakistani troops had stopped fighting.

Even then, however, American officials said there was little effort to rethink the purposes of the aid, or impose stricter controls.

Defense Department officials in the United States Embassy in Islamabad check the claims and ensure the receipts are well substantiated, officials said. The Pentagon’s comptroller and State Department then also certify the claims.

Dov Zakheim, who served as the Pentagon’s top financial officer until 2004 and helped set up the program in late 2001, said in a telephone interview that while he was at the department, the military carefully checked whether Pakistan carried out the operations it claimed and typically approved only 80 to 90 percent of each invoice.

But by July 2006, the Pentagon comptroller and Central Command were concerned enough about insufficient accountability to dispatch a team to Pakistan to lay out new requirements for more detailed invoices, a Pentagon spokesman said.

And by that fall, senior military officials at the embassy in Islamabad were telling visiting American lawmakers that the support fund program needed to be revamped to pay for specific objectives.

Inflated Invoices

Today, American officials say they believe that some of the invoices are inflated by as much as 30 percent.

“The claims that they submit are probably in some cases exaggerated and the amounts inflated,” said the senior American military official who had reviewed the program. “When it comes to reimbursement for the cost of food, bunker material, barbed wire fences, those are much more susceptible to inflation.”

Even the efforts to send Pakistan the refurbished Cobra helicopters, for instance, have cost more than expected and have fallen behind schedule. Pakistani forces have received only 12 of the 20 aircraft promised, and have been dissatisfied with the quality of them, a senior Pentagon official said.

One retired Pakistani military official said the American system of paying reimbursements did not allow for any forward planning. He expressed irritation that the Americans offered help, but not advanced American attack helicopters and drones, which are vital for counterinsurgency in the inaccessible tribal areas.

Praising Pakistan’s new army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who took command after Mr. Musharraf resigned as the head of the army last month, American military officials called for a complete restructuring of American military aid to Pakistan. They said that the United States should supply the same amount of overall military assistance to Pakistan, but also require that it be supplied under traditional military aid programs with tighter controls.

But they fear that members of Congress will react to the troubled reimbursement program by slashing military aid to Pakistan.

“It’s not all or nothing,” the senior American military official said. “You need to regulate and manage it for more benefit both to Pakistan and the United States.”

David Rohde and Carlotta Gall reported from Islamabad, and Eric Schmitt and David E. Sanger from Washington.

[bth: An associate told me that you had to double international aid to Pakistan to pay for the graft. It looks like even that ratio isn't enough. Musharraf is going to end up in Saudi Arabia with a billion of this aid.]

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2007: A new "strategic partnership agreement"

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2007: A new "strategic partnership agreement": "In January, the United States will also invite the Iraqis to negotiate a new "strategic partnership agreement" to replace the existing U.N. mandate for U.S. troops, starting in 2009. David Satterfield, Rice's special coordinator for Iraq, will ask Baghdad to appoint a negotiating team that represents all the country's factions and ministries. This new agreement will be sensitive for both sides, since it will cover everything from imprisonment of Iraqi detainees to future U.S. basing rights to Special Forces operations against al-Qaeda terrorists. Explains a senior Bush administration official: "There will be new rules of the game. There have to be. It cannot be business as usual." Ignatius

--------------------------------------------------------------------

"" A new "strategic partnership agreement" " As I thought, they are going to be dumb enough to try to maintain themselves with troops in the heart of the Arab World.

I guess they just don't understand that there will not be a peaceful outcome for any of the parties to such an agreement. There will simply be more war.

There are those among them who should know better. Crocker and Satterfield are prime examples, but the siren call of ambition and the desire to maintain one's place seem to trump all, all. The master must be served. The master must be served. What will be amusing is the speed with which these grand functionaries will spin on a dime to take up the policy and values of the opposing party if the Democrats are elected.

I saw that once before in the time when Carter lost to Reagan. The State Department people with whom I was serving all became cowboy conservatives over night. Some of these were among them. pl

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/20/AR2007122001865.html?wpisrc=newsletter&wpisrc=newsletter&wpisrc=newsletter

[bth: interesting to match this article with the one below.]

YouTube - Iraq's resistance fighters

YouTube - Iraq's resistance fighters - 23 Dec 07: ""

Iraq Resistance Still In Operation

Al Jazeera English - News - Iraq Resistance Still In Operation: "Al Jazeera has obtained video footage that appears to show that Iraq's resistance movements are very much in operation, despite the US administration's claims.

The US has been pointing to the decreasing number of violent deaths in recent months as a sign the country is being brought under control.

The footage shows the inner workings of the Islamic Front for Iraqi Resistance, known as Jami.

Deeply nationalistic with a slight Islamic leaning, it appeals more to Iraqis than extreme groups involved in global jihad such as al-Qaeda.

Formed in 2004, the group's stated aim is to drive all foreign soldiers out of Iraq.

Dozens of attacks

It is not clear how many fighters the group has, but it claims to have been responsible for dozens of attacks on US forces in northern Baghdad....

[bth: so long as we occupy their territory, groups like this will have cause to fight us.]

Firm sues Brooks for failing to return company property

Firm sues Brooks for failing to return company property -- Newsday.com: "The company formerly known as DHB Industries Inc. of Westbury, a manufacturer of body armor for police agencies and troops in Iraq, has filed a civil suit against its founder and ex-chairman, alleging he has failed to return $750,000 worth of luxury cars, computers, flat-screen televisions, and home theater equipment.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, alleges that David H. Brooks ordered "agents" working for him to pick the locks of the company's doors in Westbury to break in and remove computers, proprietary and confidential information and other items.

Brooks was indicted in late October on federal charges of looting the company and investors of nearly $200 million.

Paul Shechtman of Manhattan, Brooks' attorney, declined to comment on the suit, which was filed earlier this month. Eric Rieder, an attorney for the company, also declined to comment.

DHB, one of the country's largest manufacturers of body armor for police agencies and troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, has since been renamed Point Blank Solutions Inc. and has re-located to Pompano Beach, Fla. Brooks was forced to resign as DHB's chairman and chief executive in July 2006.

The suit also said that Brooks, while he was still at DHB, received a $4 million advance to pay legal fees while allegations of stock fraud swirled about him. If Brooks is convicted of the federal charges, he is required to repay the money. The suit says Brooks has hindered his ability to repay by "engaging in a massive series of transfers of funds overseas, thus sheltering assets." The suit says the funds were sent to Switzerland and Senegal.

The suit says that in August of 2006, Brooks' "agents, acting under his direction" arrived at DHB's Westbury headquarters and, seeing that the locks on the doors has been changed, hired a locksmith, had the locks picked and entered the office. The suit says the agents removed some office equipment and company information.

Brooks, according to the suit, is in possession of three company cars -- an armored 2002 Ford Excursion; a 2004 Mercedes-Benz CLK 500, and a 2006 Bentley Continental Flying Spur. The suit says he also possesses company software, four desktop computers, eight Sony Vaio laptop computers, a sculpture by Arturo D'Modica, three Runco plasma flat screen television systems and certain other audio and home theater equipment.

The company has not stated any specific amount of money it seeks to regain from Brooks, saying only the amount should be "determined at trial."

[bth: while people died from faulty body armor this slug of a CEO looted his company, raped his shareholders and after being fired broke in and evidently stole substantial amounts of equipment.]