Saturday, April 12, 2008

Berkeley law school dean won't fire 'torture memo' author

The Raw Story | Berkeley law school dean won't fire 'torture memo' author: "The"dean of Berkeley's law school says he is "substantively" troubled by former Justice Department lawyer John Yoo's legal memos, which critics say authorize torture, but he does not believe Yoo's conduct while working for the Bush administration justifies his dismissal from the law school where he has taught for a decade.

As a tenured professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Law School, Yoo has a guarantee of employment that can only be removed in the most extreme circumstances, writes Dean Christopher Ederly, Jr., in a statement posted to the school's Web site.

"My sense is that the vast majority of legal academics with a view of the matter disagree with substantial portions of Professor Yoo’s analyses, including a great many of his colleagues at Berkeley," Ederly writes. "If, however, this strong consensus were enough to fire or sanction someone, then academic freedom would be meaningless."...

[bth: so rich. the rule of law is undermined, torture is legalized, tenure is protected.]

Exclusive: Cops and Former Secret Service Agents Ran Black Ops on Green Groups

Exclusive: Cops and Former Secret Service Agents Ran Black Ops on Green Groups: "A"private security company organized and managed by former Secret Service officers spied on Greenpeace and other environmental organizations from the late 1990s through at least 2000, pilfering documents from trash bins, attempting to plant undercover operatives within groups, casing offices, collecting phone records of activists, and penetrating confidential meetings. According to company documents provided to Mother Jones by a former investor in the firm, this security outfit collected confidential internal records—donor lists, detailed financial statements, the Social Security numbers of staff members, strategy memos—from these organizations and produced intelligence reports for public relations firms and major corporations involved in environmental controversies.

In addition to focusing on environmentalists, the firm, Beckett Brown International (later called S2i), provided a range of services to a host of clients. According to its billing records, BBI engaged in "intelligence collection" for Allied Waste; it conducted background checks and performed due diligence for the Carlyle Group, the Washington-based investment firm; it provided "protective services" for the National Rifle Association; it handled "crisis management" for the Gallo wine company and for Pirelli; it made sure that the Louis Dreyfus Group, the commodities firm, was not being bugged; it engaged in "information collection" for Wal-Mart; it conducted background checks for Patricia Duff, a Democratic Party fundraiser then involved in a divorce with billionaire Ronald Perelman; and for Mary Kay, BBI mounted "surveillance," and vetted Gayle Gaston, a top executive at the cosmetics company (and mother of actress Robin Wright Penn), retaining an expert to conduct a psychological assessment of her. Also listed as clients in BBI records: Halliburton and Monsanto.

BBI, which was headquartered in Easton, Maryland, on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay, worked extensively, according to billing records, for public-relations companies, including Ketchum, Nichols-Dezenhall Communications, and Mongoven, Biscoe & Duchin. At the time, these PR outfits were servicing corporate clients fighting environmental organizations opposed to their products or actions. Ketchum, for example, was working for Dow Chemical and Kraft Foods; Nichols-Dezenhall, according to BBI records, was working with Condea Vista, a chemical manufacturing firm that in 1994 leaked up to 47 million pounds of ethylene dichloride, a suspected carcinogen, into the Calcasieu River in Louisiana.

Like other firms specializing in snooping, Beckett Brown turned to garbage swiping as a key tactic. BBI officials and contractors routinely conducted what the firm referred to as "D-line" operations, in which its operatives would seek access to the trash of a target, with the hope of finding useful documents. One midnight raid targeted Greenpeace. One BBI document lists the addresses of several other environmental groups as "possible sites" for operations: the National Environmental Trust, the Center for Food Safety, Environmental Media Services, the Environmental Working Group, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, and the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, an organization run by Lois Gibbs, famous for exposing the toxic dangers of New York's Love Canal. For its rubbish-rifling operations, BBI employed a police officer in the District of Columbia and a former member of the Maryland state police....

Friday, April 11, 2008

Battlefield kits stop the bleeding

Battlefield kits stop the bleeding: "Two years ago, the founders of startup TraumaCure of Bethesda drove to Richmond, Va., to see a new wound-healing technique. They liked what they saw.

Today the company says it is prepared to equip every U.S. soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan with WoundStat, a product that’s 100 percent effective at stopping high-pressure bleeding in severe wounds, according to military experts.
Last month the Army Institute of Surgical Research announced that WoundStat was the most effective wound treatment available to stop severe bleeding. The product is a granular mix that comes in a lightweight pouch.

So far, TraumaCure has only a small sales order for WoundStat for special operations units — frontline fighting forces — in the U.S. military.

But the company has raised $5 million in private equity and has already spent most of it developing WoundStat, getting federal approval for it and manufacturing the 200,000 units now in its warehouse, said Chairman Jack McDonnell. ‘‘We could put one unit in the hands of every soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan right now if they want to buy it.”

TraumaCure executives expect the company to finish producing another 200,000 units within three months.

McDonnell said Pentagon officials are currently deciding whether to place a large order.

‘‘They are in the procurement cycle right now,” he said. ‘‘They are studying the results of the report and other data. ”

Retired Lt. Gen. Ronald Blanck, a former surgeon general of the Army, has only praise for the product.

‘‘WoundStat’s value goes beyond the battlefield,” Blanck said in a statement. ‘‘It will provide a life-saving tool in everyday civilian emergency situations as well as where advanced medical care is not immediately available, such as accidents in remote terrain and on the high seas, or in unexpected disasters such as earthquakes or explosions.”

McDonnell, a lawyer and banker, has helped launch several companies, including biopharma GenVec Inc. and Yurie Systems Inc., a telecommunications-electronics company founded by Jeong H. Kim of Potomac and later sold to Lucent Technologies for $1 billion in 1998.

TraumaCure, though, is the most fascinating of all of his enterprises, McDonnell said. Protecting soldiers in the battlefield is emotionally uplifting. ‘‘It is terrifically gratifying,” he said. ‘‘We and our investors will do very well by doing good.”

Wow factor at VCU

Two years ago, Devinder S. Bawa, now CEO of TraumaCure, asked McDonnell and McDonnell’s business partner, Ronda Friedman, to check out a wound bandage product developed and patented by Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

McDonnell and Friedman — now president and COO of TraumaCure — watched a video of the product stopping the bleeding on a lab animal whose femoral artery had been severed.

‘‘We were wowed,” he said.

The VCU technology transfer office challenged the visitors to put together an investment team for licensing the product.

The company incorporated in March 2006 as TraumaCure, raised $1 million to start, then signed a licensing agreement with VCU in May of that year. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved WoundStat within 40 days after TraumaCure submitted its new product application last July.

McDonnell said he didn’t know if the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were factors in the speedy federal approval, but ‘‘you have to think that’s so without being told it is so and historically it is so, that they saw a need, an ability to save lives quickly.”

‘‘The FDA’s speedy approval of WoundStat means that we can get it more quickly into the hands of those who need it most today — our war fighters in harm’s way around the world,” Bawa said. ‘‘The product’s effectiveness is particularly important with core body wounds that a tourniquet can’t reach. We believe that WoundStat has the potential to provide the military with another important tool to minimize battlefield deaths caused by hemorrhaging.”

The FDA deemed the core ingredients of WoundStat to be safe. The company, which says the ingredients are a trade secret, is also developing gauze versions of WoundStat that it hopes to finish this year. Whereas the granular mix works on large, gaping wounds, the gauze versions are designed for lighter cuts. They can later be adapted to other surgical applications, McDonnell said.

Biotech entrepreneur John Holaday, who once asked McDonnell to be a director of HarVest Bank of Maryland in Rockville, where Holaday is a director and former chairman, said his former colleague is most excited about the new company.

‘‘TraumaCure has a bandage that instantly stops bleeding, with great applications in battlefield wound care, and they have put up the capital (without government assistance) to develop the product for saving lives on the battlefield and in EMS situations,” Holaday wrote in an e-mail. Holaday said he has not invested in TraumaCure.

McDonnell said the company shunned government grants ‘‘because, frankly, that would have taken too long.”

[bth: superb. Note how they bypassed the normal grants and procurement cycle to get this done.]

YouTube - faces of meth

YouTube - faces of meth: ""

Fight for Sadr City a Proving Ground for Iraq Military

Fight for Sadr City a Proving Ground for Iraq Military - New York Times: ..."Before"the I.A. came up here this entire area was ridiculously dangerous,” he said. But alleys remain a problem.

“Typically, they have not cleared it because they don’t have enough troops,” Lieutenant Bowen said. “They don’t feel secure as they move down these alleyways. I think a lot of that is because they might be new. I think a lot of it is them being green. That is what we are trying to overcome by bringing an American presence up here, giving them suggestions, giving them a helpful shove.”

As the Americans and Iraqis pondered how to silence the sniper, the Iraqi lieutenant explained that their enemy appeared to be firing from a small hole in a wall at the end of the alley, which informants had said was rigged with bombs.

The American troops set up a position to observe the alley soon after they arrived. They told the Iraqis they should take it over before the platoon pulled back. The Iraqis were anxious about doing so. An earlier observation point had been pummeled with rocket-propelled grenades.

The lesson, the Americans said, was to be less obvious about the vigilance, not to abandon it altogether. Sgt. George Lewis, the platoon sergeant, said he would personally lead the Iraqis to the American position.

After some gentle persuasion, the Iraqis agreed to go along, but not until they wolfed down a quick lunch of bread and rice.

Sergeant Lewis said the performance of the Iraqi troops had improved noticeably during the Sadr City fight, but added that they also had a long way to go.

“They have their experienced guys,” he said. “But there are more new guys than experienced guys. The experienced guys are the ones in the higher ranks, the officers and senior enlisted guys. Down at the lower levels, like squad leader, platoon leader or team leader, there are not very many experienced guys to lead them in the right direction. That is where the problem lies right there.”

MLK - I HAVE A DREAM

Scholars and Rogues

Scholars and Rogues » How to win the Iraq war debate against your dumb friends

Scholars and Rogues » How to win the Iraq war debate against your dumb friends: "Recently"I was arguing with one of my dumber friends about the Iraq war. He loves Bush and thinks bigger bombs is the answer in Iraq. I wasn’t gaining any ground in the argument until I used a simple analogy. I said, “Your solution is like shattering an expensive vase and then saying, ‘We need to keep smashing it until it’s fixed.’”

I stumped him. He was silent. So here’s a brief list of other analogies you can use on your dumb friends. And the truth is, I’ve seen similar ones work on some of the smartest political pundits.

1) The country of Iraq has essentially been demolished. The right-wingers keep saying the answer is continued large-scale military action. That’s like if someone got into a car accident, went into a coma, and the doctors believed the patient could be healed by more car accidents. So they just keep putting him into cars and sending him off cliffs.

2) I’ve heard people say that being against Bush or Petraeus or the war in Iraq is equivalent to being against the troops. That’s like if I knew someone who repeatedly sent brave puppies out into traffic. I called that person an asshole for abusing the puppies and abusing their power. Then you accused me of being anti-puppy.

3) The administration talks about the success of the surge because violence has decreased, but we’re in fact paying the militias not to kill each other or our soldiers. It’s like if you were treading water, two sharks approach and begin biting you, you give each one a small piece of fish to distract them. While they take a moment to eat the fish, you sit there treading water and yelling, “Problem solved!”

4) At the Petraeus hearings, he refused to give any sort of definition for “victory” in Iraq. That’s like running a foot race, you’ve gone 30 miles, you’re exhausted, and when you ask your coach driving along next to you how much farther, he just keeps saying “You’ll know it when you get there.” He keeps saying that until you collapse and die.

5) We claim to be “fighting the terrorists” in Iraq, but in fact our presence is helping to create more terrorists. The disaster in Iraq serves as a great training and recruiting tool for an entire generation of terrorists. It’s like trying to kill a gremlin by dousing him in water.

6) KBR, Halliburton, Blackwater and other companies have huge pull in our government (such as the vice presidency). So essentially they decide when the war is over. They also happen to be making millions upon millions of dollars from the war. So asking them to decide when the war is over, is like asking an ugly guy cast in a threesome porn movie to decide when the scene is over. Chances are the scene would go on for months, if not years. The entire crew would be standing around asking, “It’s not over yet? When will we know when it’s time to end it?” And the ugly guy would respond, “Um, it’s a bad idea to set timetables. Just trust me on this.”

7) Lastly, President Bush is like a colorblind child with a Rubik’s Cube.

Over the past four years Lee Camp has performed stand-up comedy at over 300 colleges nationwide, but we don’t hold that against him. He was called one of the best New Faces at the Montreal Comedy Festival, and he’s been featured on Comedy Central. He has also performed countless shows with Laughing Liberally, and writes and produces comedic activism videos. He recently went on Fox News’s morning show and called them a “parade of propaganda and a festival of ignorance.” The clip was viewed over half a million times online. An unmarked black SUV now follows him everywhere he goes.

Gates withdraws Iraq prediction

The Raw Story | Gates withdraws Iraq prediction: "Defense"Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday he has abandoned hope that troop levels in Iraq will drop to 100,000 by the end of the year.

Instead, he told a Senate panel that he expects that Gen. David Petraeus, the top military commander in the war, will be able to make an assessment of further drawdowns by mid-September.

Last fall, the secretary said he held out hope that troop levels in Iraq could continue to drop through this year. While he would not put a specific number troop levels, he agreed at the time that a consistent reduction would have left about 10 brigades — or roughly 100,000 troops — by the end of the year.

When asked by Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, if that remains his hope, Gates responded: "No sir."...

[bth: troops be damned. Bush is just riding this one out so he can pass the buck, 15 month rotations and all, to the next President.]

Making Perfunctory Preparations for Combat in Anti-American Cleric’s Stronghold - New York Times

Making Perfunctory Preparations for Combat in Anti-American Cleric’s Stronghold - New York Times: "The"two Mahdi Army fighters shuffled across the sidewalk, dragging two heavy artillery shells that they laid horizontally in the middle of the Sadr City highway, placing them tip to end like rusting batteries in a pocket flashlight.

A trench, 4 feet long and 2 feet deep, had been dug in advance, taking up half the width of the main street.

It was halfheartedly concealed by an advertising sandwich board, although none of the hundreds of shoppers and passing drivers paid any attention to the two unmasked, casually dressed militiamen carrying out what is a relatively mundane activity for Sadr City, the Baghdad neighborhood that has been the focus of fighting between government forces and the Mahdi Army.

A few hundred yards along the road another roadside bomb was being laid, also in broad daylight. Again nobody blinked, and there were no government or American troops anywhere nearby to hinder the militia’s leisurely preparations.

This was the scene here on Thursday in the center of Moktada al-Sadr’s east Baghdad stronghold, where the Mahdi Army, led by Mr. Sadr, an anti-American cleric, remains in control of much of the district. In other areas there was heavy fighting with American and Iraqi forces, which continued into Thursday night.

Hundreds of portraits of Mr. Sadr and his white-bearded father adorn streetlights and are plastered on walls every 25 yards in some areas.

Iraqi government forces have closed many of the main roads into Sadr City, creating a snarl of traffic at roadblocks near the city center, where one flak-jacketed Iraqi soldier fired live ammunition into the air to direct traffic.

Deep in Sadr City, a few minutes’ drive past the final government checkpoints, Mahdi fighters in recent days had been openly laying electrical command wires across streets and sitting guard on street corners beside caches of assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

However, Iraqis who knew the back routes were able to get in and out, easily eluding the government cordon. On Thursday afternoon a steady stream of cars, trucks, donkey carts and shepherds leading their garbage-munching flocks slipped through gaps in the cordon after taking circuitous routes around the government checkpoints whose soldiers were either unaware of, unwilling to or not under orders to enforce a total closing.....

[bth: it isn't commonly known that no US forces leave base in Baghdad without being in a Bradley, an Abrams, a Stryker or an MRAP. Think about it. We can't drive down the streets without being in armored vehicles.]

More Americans Want to End Iraq War Next Year: Angus Reid Global Monitor

More Americans Want to End Iraq War Next Year: Angus Reid Global Monitor: "Two-in-five adults in the United States believe the coalition effort should be over in 2009, according to a poll by Rasmussen Reports. 39 per cent of respondents think the United States should bring all troops home from Iraq within a year, up two points since February.

In addition, 26 per cent of respondents would withdraw all soldiers immediately, and 31 per cent want them to remain in Iraq until the mission is complete. ...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Part 4: Saddam's airline hijacking school - Chalabi Excerpts

Part 4: Saddam's airline hijacking school - Chalabi Excerpts- msnbc.com: ..."It"was Francis Brooke (Chalabi's loyal American aide) who got the message out to Aras Kareem Habib and others right after 9/11: “Get me a terrorist and some WMDs, because that’s what the Bush administration wants!” He tells the story in various ways: “If you’ve got it, bring it on, because now’s the time” is the phrase he used in another conversation. Whatever Brooke’s specific instructions were, the INC campaign had two themes: to find Iraqi defectors who were prepared to make allegations about Saddam’s WMDs on the one hand and defectors who’d make allegations about Saddam’s links to terror on the other. All in all Chalabi’s people — defectors and sources — produced four major story lines about Saddam, all of them false, but all with worldwide media coverage.

(The) story in the Times broke on November 8, 2001 — the headline was gripping, coming in those months after 9/11: “Defectors Cite Iraqi Training for Terrorists” — and it linked (Iraqi defector Sabah) Khodada’s and (fellow defector) Abu Zainab’s yarns together for the first time. “Two defectors from Iraqi intelligence,” wrote (reporter Chris) Hedges, “said yesterday that they had worked for several years at a secret Iraqi government camp that had trained Islamic terrorists in rotations of five or six months since 1995.” The story cited both Khodada and Abu Zainab, whom it called a “former lieutenant general.” Abu Zainab was evocative in his descriptions, calling the Islamists at the camp “a scruffy lot” who had trained in Iraq how to take over airplanes. “We were training these people to attack installations important to the United States,” Abu Zainab said in the article. “The gulf war never ended for Saddam Hussein. He is at war with the United States. We were repeatedly told this.” The New York Times article pointed out that the allegations were “likely to fuel one side of an intense debate in Washington over whether to extend the war against Osama bin Laden and the Taliban government of Afghanistan to include Iraq.” ...

[bth: these damned liars cost our family and country dearly. No one is held to account.]

Veterans Department Creates Roadblocks to Voter Registration for Injured Vets

Veterans Department Creates Roadblocks to Voter Registration for Injured Vets | AlterNet: "On"the same day the Pentagon's commander in Iraq told the Senate that new troop withdrawals could not considered for months, Secretary of Veterans Affairs James B. Peake told two Democratic senators that his department will not help injured veterans at VA facilities to register to vote before the 2008 election.

"VA remains opposed to becoming a voter registration agency pursuant to the National Voter Registration Act, as this designation would divert substantial resources from our primary mission," Peake said in an April 8th letter to Sens. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and John Kerry (D-MA). He was referring to a 1993 federal law that allows government agencies to host voter registration efforts.

Both Sens. Feinstein and Kerry said they were frustrated with Peake's position.

"The Department of Veterans Affairs should provide voter materials to veterans," Feinstein said. "I believe the cost of providing these voter materials is minimal. It's a small price to pay for the sacrifice these men and women have made in fighting for our nation's freedom. I am disappointed."

"You'd think that when so many people give speeches about keeping faith with our veterans, the least the government would do is protect their right to vote, after they volunteered to go thousands of miles from home to fight and give that right to others," Kerry said. "And yet we've seen the government itself block veterans from registering to vote in VA facilities, without any legal basis or rational explanation....

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Police probe 'new KGB poison attack' as defector Gordievsky is found unconscious in Surrey home

Police probe 'new KGB poison attack' as defector Gordievsky is found unconscious in Surrey home | the Daily Mail: "Special"Branch is investigating an alleged attempt to murder Oleg Gordievsky, the KGB double-agent who spied on Russia for British intelligence at the height of the Cold War.

The former Soviet colonel, who escaped to Britain in 1985, says he was poisoned by a Russian assassin who visited him at his secret safe-house in Surrey.

He fears he is the latest victim of revenge attacks by Russian intelligence on high-profile defectors.

Alexander Litvinenko, another former Russian spy, was murdered in London in 2006. ...

YouTube - polish police robot

YouTube - polish police robot: ""

The REAL McCain: Why won't McCain Sign the GI Bill?

The REAL McCain: Why won't McCain Sign the GI Bill?

[bth: it blows my mind that McCain will not sponsor this bill. I'm told by Paul Reichoff over at IAVA that McCain says that making college education paid for to the level of a state college will cause soldier not to re-enlist. Does McCain really care about soldiers? 15 months in, less than 12 months back. No GI Bill?]

Red State Update's Tribute to Charlton Heston

Petraeus Urges Halt in Weighing New Cut in Force

Petraeus Urges Halt in Weighing New Cut in Force - New York Times: "Telling"Congress that progress in Iraq was “fragile and reversible,” the top American commander recommended Tuesday that consideration of any new withdrawals of American troops be delayed until the fall, making it likely that little would change before Election Day.

The commander, Gen. David H. Petraeus, refused under persistent questioning from Senate Democrats to say under what conditions he would favor new troop reductions, adding that he would not take the matter up until 45 days after a current drawdown is complete in July. His recommendation would leave just under 140,000 American troops in Iraq well into the fall.

The hearings lacked the suspense of last September’s debate, when the focus was on measurable benchmarks and heightened expectations of speedy troop withdrawals.

But they thrust the war to the center of the presidential campaign, as General Petraeus faced questioning from the two Democrats and one Republican still vying for the White House. He told them that progress in Iraq had been “significant and uneven.”

The general’s tone was notably sober, and despite an intensified American military campaign over the past 15 months, he acknowledged: “We haven’t turned any corners. We haven’t seen any lights at the end of the tunnel.”

At the peak of the buildup, more than 160,000 troops were committed to the war.

The increased troop commitment sharply reduced insurgent attacks across much of Iraq last year, but the stretch of relative calm was broken last month when Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki ordered an assault on Shiite militias in Basra, setting off renewed violence there and around Baghdad.

At times, Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, the Democratic candidates, and Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, seemed to be talking about two different wars.

“We’re no longer staring into the abyss of defeat, and we can now look ahead to the genuine prospect of success,” Mr. McCain said.

Mrs. Clinton, sitting just a few feet away as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, cited Iraq’s sluggish political progress and a questionable recent Iraqi military campaign in Basra as evidence not of success, but rather failure. “It might well be irresponsible to continue the policy that has not produced the results that have been promised time and time again,” she said.

Mr. Obama restated his view that the war in Iraq had been a “massive strategic blunder.” During a hearing of the Foreign Relations Committee, he said his efforts to end the war would include a timetable for withdrawing troops and an intensified diplomatic effort that would include talks with Iran.

President Bush, who has repeatedly said he will act based on General Petraeus’s recommendations, did not address the issue on Tuesday. He appeared at the White House to present the Medal of Honor to the family of Petty Officer Second Class Michael A. Monsoor, a member of a Navy Seal team who was killed in 2006 after throwing himself on a grenade to protect his comrades.

Mr. Bush is scheduled to outline his policy for the months ahead at the White House on Thursday, and despite relentless questioning on the cost and conduct of the war, Democrats appeared to lack support to force a significant change in his approach.

As the two days of hearings opened on Tuesday morning, General Petraeus and Ryan C. Crocker, the American ambassador to Baghdad, described what they characterized as notable progress toward both security and political stability. But they referred only infrequently to the political benchmarks that served as a framework for their testimony last fall, but which the Iraqi government for the most part had been unable to achieve....

[bth: so lets size things up. Petraeus was sent to testify on the 5th anniversary that Baghdad fell. He actually was scheduled last month but the administration changed the date. The President gave a Congressional Medal of Honor today. Something he rarely does and so the timing is of note. Today a ceremony with very strong pro war overtones is being held in section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery where my son is buried. One should not use Section 60 to promote Bush's war especially since over 95% of those killed in this war that are buried in that section were buried after Bush declared Victory in 2003. Further more note that if conflicts in Iraq increase, then that is justification for the surge - per last September - if violence decreases as it just did - that is justification for the surge. In short, Petraeus and McCain and Bush have no intention of changing the situation before the November elections even if it means 15 month tours, no pressure on Maliki to reform or distribute his oil wealth and if it means that we are over 10,000 troops short of what is necessary to stabilize southern Afghanistan. All this and the tap are to be passed onto the next President and Petraeus will receive a new assignment before the troop level decrease next Fall. ... one should ask McCain what if current troops levels were essential, he did not approve them for 5 years when we obviously had too few in An Bar province alone from 2005 to 2007. No. No. Senators aren't held to account.... What a no account system.]

French Bomb Squads Clean Up | Danger Room from Wired.com

French Bomb Squads Clean Up | Danger Room from Wired.com: "French"bomb squads in Afghanistan destroy 50 tons of unexploded ordnance per year, according to Robert Wall over at Ares. Check out the post for sweet pics of French bomb-disposal action.

Good on ya, France. But before we pop the Champagne in celebration, bear in mind: in 1999 -- before the current war -- a U.N. official estimated it would take 100 years to clear all of Afghanistan's unexploded munitions. All those coalition troops have sped up bomb-clearing, sure, but they've also accelerated the rate at which new explosives get scattered across the countryside.

Over the long term, Afghans will take on some of the bomb-clearance burden. Late last year a U.S. contractor graduated the first Afghan security forces EOD troops. Their job security's looking good.

"A Tale of Three Lawyers" by Scott Horton (Harper's Magazine)

"A Tale of Three Lawyers" by Scott Horton (Harper's Magazine): "On"Thursday in the National Press Club in Washington, a crowd gathered to witness the presentation of the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling to Lieutenant Commander Matthew Diaz. The story of Matthew Diaz was chronicled in this space repeatedly (also here and here). It is a story of courage, fortitude, conviction and suffering. Joe Margulies introduced the honoree with clarity:

no one can think it is fun when you sit in a courtroom as an accused, and a United States prosecutor points an accusatory finger at your chest and calls you a criminal and tells you that you have betrayed your oath and you have betrayed your country, and you have endangered the safety of the men and women that you swore to share your burdens with. And no one can think it is fun when you have to sit with your heart pounding in your chest as the jury files back into the room with a piece of paper folded in its hands, and that piece of paper holds your fate. And no one can think it is fun when that jury, your peers, pronounces you guilty. And no one can think it is fun when you have to face that same jury that will sentence you for what may be many years; many years that you will be away from your family, your life in tatters, your career ruined.

Matthew Diaz served his country as a staff judge advocate at Guantánamo. He watched a shameless assault on America’s Constitution and commitment to the rule of law carried out by the Bush Administration. He watched the introduction of a system of cruel torture and abuse. He watched the shaming of the nation’s uniformed services, with their proud traditions that formed the very basis of the standards of humanitarian law, now torn asunder through the lawless acts of the Executive. Matthew Diaz found himself in a precarious position—as a uniformed officer, he was bound to follow his command. As a licensed and qualified attorney, he was bound to uphold the law. And these things were indubitably at odds.

Diaz resolved to do something about it. He knew the Supreme Court twice ruled the Guantánamo regime, which he was under orders to uphold, was unlawful. In the Hamdan decision, the Court went a step further. In powerful and extraordinary words, Justice Kennedy reminded the Administration that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions was binding upon them, and that a violation could constitute a criminal act. One senior member of the Bush legal team, informed of the decision over lunch, was reported to have turned “white as a sheet” and to have immediately excused himself. For the following months, Bush Administration lawyers entered into a frenzied discussion of how to protect themselves from criminal prosecution.

One of the crimes the Administration committed was withholding from the Red Cross a list of the detainees at Guantánamo, effectively making them into secret detainees
. Before the arrival of the Bush Administration, the United States had taken the axiomatic position that holding persons in secret detention for prolonged periods outside the rule of law (a practice known as “disappearing”) was not merely unlawful, but in fact a rarified “crime against humanity.” Now the United States was engaged in the active practice of this crime.

The decision to withhold the information had been taken, in defiance of law, by senior political figures in the Bush Administration. Diaz was aware of it, and he knew it was unlawful. He printed out a copy of the names and sent them to a civil rights lawyer who had requested them in federal court proceedings.

Diaz was aware when he did this that he was violating regulations and that he could and would, if caught, be subjected to severe sanction
. What he did was a violation of law, even as it was an effort to cure a more severe act of lawlessness by the Government. Diaz violated the law in precisely the same sense as Martin Luther King reminds us, in the Letter from Birmingham Jail, that his arrest was based on a violation of law. That everything the Nazis did in Germany was lawful. And that every act of the Hungarian freedom fighters was a crime. In terms of the moral law, however, Diaz was on the side of right, and the Bush Administration and the Pentagon had, by engaging in the conduct that the Supreme Court condemned, placed themselves on the side of lawlessness, corruption and dishonor.

Diaz was charged, tried and convicted for disclosing “secrets.” For the Bush Administration, any information which would be politically embarrassing or harmful to it is routinely classified “secret.” In this fashion the Administration believes it can use criminal sanctions against those who disclose information it believes will be politically damaging. The list of detainees at Guantánamo, which by law was required to be disclosed, was classified as “secret.”

Diaz spent six months in prison and left it bankrupt and without a job. In addition to his sentence, the Pentagon is working aggressively to have Diaz stripped of his law license so he will not be able to practice his profession. The Bush Administration has sought to criminalize, humiliate and destroy Diaz. Its motivation could not be clearer: Diaz struck a blow for the rule of law. And nothing could be more threatening to the Bush Administration than this.

In the week in which Diaz received the Ridenhour Prize, another Pentagon “secret” was disclosed. This “secret” was a memorandum made to order for William J. Haynes II, Rumsfeld’s General Counsel, and the man at the apex of the Pentagon’s military justice system that tried, convicted and sentenced Diaz. The memo was authored by John Yoo. This memorandum was designed to authorize the introduction of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading interrogation techniques to be used upon prisoners held at Guantánamo, and ultimately also used in Afghanistan and Iraq. The memorandum authorized waterboarding, long-time standing, hypothermia, the administration of psychotropic drugs and sleep deprivation in excess of two days in addition to a number of other techniques. Each of these techniques is long established as torture as a matter of American and international law. The application and implementation of these techniques was and is a crime.

The exact circumstances surrounding the dealings between Haynes and Yoo that led to the development of this memorandum are unclear. However, it is clear that Haynes had previously authorized the use of the torture techniques, and had secured an order from Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld authorizing them.

Following the implementation of these techniques, more than 108 detainees died in detention. In a large number of these cases, the deaths have been ruled a homicide and connected to torture. These homicides were a forseeable consequence of the advice that Haynes and Yoo gave.

The introduction of torture techniques destroyed America’s reputation around the world, dramatically eroded a system of alliances that generations of Americans fought and labored to sustain and build, and provided the basis for a dramatic recruitment campaign for terrorist groups who are the nation’s principal adversaries in the war on terror. Yoo’s and Haynes’s conduct dramatically undercut the security and safety of every American. And equally, Yoo and Haynes demonstrated by their conduct contempt for the rule of law and the principles for which hundreds of thousands of Americans shed their blood in prior conflicts.

Yoo is currently a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, the author of a number of widely featured books, and a widely followed media figure whose works are routinely published in the Wall Street Journal and other publications. He remains a member of the bar in Pennsylvania and California.

Haynes recently left the position of General Counsel at the Department of Defense to become General Counsel–Corporate at Chevron Inc. He remains a member of the bar in North Carolina, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

A system that punishes and shames Matthew Diaz, yet obstructs any investigation into the misconduct of John Yoo and Jim Haynes, and particularly their focal rule in the introduction of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, is corrupt. Indeed, it persecutes the innocent and rewards the guilty. A bar association that disbars Matthew Diaz and leaves Yoo and Haynes free to practice is fundamentally corrupt. In essence, this choice reflects a legal profession that puts upholding the will of the Executive, even when it commands the most egregious and unlawful conduct, over the Rule of Law. It reflects the abnegation of the bedrock principles of the profession and the principles of the American Constitution and the Revolution which gave rise to it.

Lieutenant Commander Diaz reminds us of the powerful words of Justice Brandeis:

Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole of the people by its example. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for the law and invites every man to become a law unto itself. It breeds anarchy. To declare that the end justifies the means would bring terrible retribution.

In a day when the legal profession is disgraced repeatedly by the performance of lawyers in the service of their government, Matthew Diaz is emerging as a hero to many, and as a symbol that for some lawyers devotion to truth, integrity and justice still matters. Indeed, that dedication and willingness to shoulder the burden it can bring, is and will likely be seen by future generations of Americans as the higher form of patriotism.

Monday, April 07, 2008

YouTube - Evanescence

YouTube - Evanescence: ""

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2008: Inquisitors

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2008: Inquisitors: "Oct"23, 2001 An Office of Legal Counsel memo titled "Re Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activities Within the United States" states that domestic military operations involving terrorism are not regulated by the Constitution's Fourth Amendment, which bars unreasonable searches and seizures on U.S. soil.

Jan. 25, 2002 An Office of Legal Counsel memo concludes that the War Crimes Act and the Geneva Conventions do not apply to the treatment and interrogation of al-Qaeda prisoners."

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I thought that I had known some tough, ruthless "customers" over the decades, but now I see that they were mostly "wusses." All those Special Forces soldiers and intelligence people, they just did not "measure up" as tough guys compared to Washington lawyers like the ones cited in this article.

Modern day "Torquemadas" in single needle suits and hand made English shoes.

One must wonder if was mere ambition or a conviction of the rectitude of illegal search and seizure inflicted on American citizens that appealed more to these lawyers in writing these papers. Maybe it was the fees. Ah. No. These were government types, at least for the season.

I suspect that it was ambition.

To make all this even more bitter, the plan clearly was to use American soldiers to do much of this. (Irony Alert) How grand an idea! In this way American soldiers could be trained to think that such behavior is appropriate. pl

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/05/AR2008040502140.html

Andrew Sullivan: Bush Administration Officials Will Be 'Indicted For War Crimes' - Politics on The Huffington Post

Andrew Sullivan: Bush Administration Officials Will Be 'Indicted For War Crimes' - Politics on The Huffington Post: ..."SULLIVAN"The latest revelations on the torture front show the memo from John Yoo...means that Don Rumsfeld, David Addington and John Yoo should not leave the United States any time soon. They will be, at some point, indicted for war crimes.....

Here are the number of times, according to NEXIS, that various topics have been mentioned in the media over the past thirty days:

"Yoo and torture" - 102

"Mukasey and 9/11" -- 73

"Yoo and Fourth Amendment" -- 16

"Obama and bowling" -- 1,043

"Obama and Wright" -- More than 3,000 (too many to be counted)

"Obama and patriotism" - 1,607

"Clinton and Lewinsky" -- 1,079

Iraq's Shiite power vacuum | csmonitor.com

Iraq's Shiite power vacuum | csmonitor.com: "As"Iraqi troops battled Shiite militias last month in the southern city of Basra, Iraq's most revered Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani was remarkably quiet. This is bad news for Iraq and for the United States.

Mr. Sistani's absence at a critical time for the Shiite community highlights how far he has withdrawn from public life and the potential for a dangerous power vacuum in religious leadership as Shiite factions violently compete for influence in Iraq. The US and Iraqi governments can no longer depend on Sistani as a stabilizing force in the Shiite heartland of southern Iraq.

Compare Sistani's recent performance with his actions in August 2004, when he brokered a cease-fire between the Iraqi government and the militia of renegade cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. That deal averted a US attack on Shiism's holiest shrine in the city of Najaf and paved the way for Mr. Sadr to join the political process a year later. It was an extraordinary feat by Sistani, who negotiated the deal within two days of returning to Iraq from a hospital in London. For a cleric who eschews the limelight and politics in general, Sistani affirmed his position as the most important player in Iraq's stability.

But today Sistani is sitting on the sidelines, and the longer he stays quiet, the more his influence will wane. Press reports from Iraq suggest that Sistani has slowed down because of his health. Some aides say that he has handed over many duties to his son, Mohammed Redha, who is a junior cleric.

The United States and its Iraqi allies must begin planning for a post-Sistani era and for ways to avoid a larger power struggle among Shiite factions. Right now, there is no clear successor to Sistani. In Najaf, there are three other grand ayatollahs who could replace him as the highest marja al-taqlid – source of emulation – for Iraqi Shiites. But none of them has a wide following or has shown the same political deftness that Sistani has displayed since the US invasion in 2003.

Sistani's diminishing clout – and the absence of an apparent successor – will ultimately bolster Sadr, the enfant terrible of Najaf who is working to burnish his religious credentials. In December, Sadr's aides announced that he is studying to become an ayatollah and is on track to attain that status within two years. That would be a remarkable fast-tracking of the normally rigid system of Shiite scholarship. Once he's an ayatollah, Sadr can issue his own religious rulings and he will no longer have to defer to senior clerics.
...

Iraq: Sadr Party Faces Rising Isolation

The Associated Press: Iraq: Sadr Party Faces Rising Isolation: "Iraq's major Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish parties have closed ranks to force anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to disband his Mahdi Army militia or leave politics, lawmakers and officials involved in the effort said Sunday.

Such a bold move risks a violent backlash by al-Sadr's Shiite militia. But if it succeeds it could cause a major realignment of Iraq's political landscape.

The first step will be adding language to a draft election bill banning parties that operate militias from fielding candidates in provincial balloting this fall, the officials and lawmakers said. The government intends to send the draft to parliament within days and hopes to win approval within weeks.

"We, the Sadrists, are in a predicament," lawmaker Hassan al-Rubaie said Sunday. "Even the blocs that had in the past supported us are now against us and we cannot stop them from taking action against us in parliament."

Al-Sadr controls 30 of the 275 parliament seats, a substantial figure but not enough to block legislation....

Sunday, April 06, 2008

YouTube - Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen) - Allison Crowe live performance

YouTube - Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen) - Allison Crowe live performance: ""

Electric Politics | For God's Sake, Don't Mention the War!

Electric Politics | For God's Sake, Don't Mention the War!: "It has long since come to universal notice that Time and Newsweek, the Coke and Pepsi of weekly print journalism, have slid to the level of what were once considered lowbrow publications like People and Entertainment Weekly. Needless to say, these latter two journals threaten to assume the Darwinian niche previously occupied by the lamented Weekly World News. So where does a reader of more elevated tastes seek enlightenment?

Many people who aspire at least to a middling rung in the American establishment would instantly reach for The Economist. No doubt its editorial line would soothe the prejudices of the ruling class, both senior and apprentice, for its hectoring monomania about free trade suffuses every leader, article, and book review the magazine has ever published. It is also British, a real plus for our Anglophile proconsuls in training. Its only failing is that it lacks an insider's knowledge of the workings of the American governmental machinery.

That deficiency is corrected by two publications that are little known outside the Capitol Beltway: the staid, magisterial Congressional Quarterly and its slightly breezier cousin, National Journal. [1] Aficionados of how the government sausage gets made — from conference committee reports to OMB circulars to federal acquisition regulations — grit their teeth and pay the stiff subscription fee for the wisdom they impart. They give the kind of in-depth political coverage lacking in their more down-market journalistic counterparts. But they also share a characteristic with Time, Newsweek, and all the rest of the conventional-wisdom brigade: a propensity to frame issues in a manner that reinforces the status quo.

A salient example of this reflex is the 15 March, 2008 National Journal cover story, "Burned Out". [2] It posits as an emergent "crisis" something everyone with the remotest knowledge of U.S. military programs has known for years: that the Air Force's inventory of fighter aircraft has been falling in number and rising in age, to a current fleet average of over 20 years.

The reason is self-evident: in the 1990s, the Air Force bet the farm on the F-22 and the Joint Strike Fighter (now the F-35) and, instead of spending money on brand new F-15s or F-16s, plowed the money into the exorbitantly expensive research and development effort to obtain the next-generation aircraft. The service deliberately burned its bridges behind itself in the tacit assumption that regardless of the complications inherent in the new generation of aircraft, the taxpayer would come to the rescue. In other words, the Air Force front-loaded its outyear budgets with a couple of programs whose costs were vastly understated and whose schedules were grossly optimistic.

But "optimistic" may not convey the actual motivation of Air Force budget programmers. Some officers in the World's Most Expensive Flying Club may have genuinely deluded themselves about the technological issues inherent in developing third-generation stealth aircraft. But more likely, the cause was a pervasive cynicism that the taxpayer would always be there to bail out the program, and that by eliminating an insurance policy, the Air Force could truthfully tell Congress "there is no alternative." [3]

The National Journal glides over this history in considerably more delicate fashion: "The Air Force, by contrast [to the Navy], bet all of its chips on stealth. Disappointed by the handling and maintenance problems of its F-117 stealth fighter and B-2 stealth bomber, the service invested heavily in a 'third generation' of stealth that would combine radar-evasion with high-agility aerodynamics, supersonic speed, and manageable maintenance."

But the author never unpacks the hidden arguments and assumptions in that bland narrative. If the Air Force was "disappointed" by the handling and maintenance problems in its previous stealth aircraft, where was the analysis to show that these problems could be solved at an affordable cost in a third generation of stealth aircraft?

Second, the figures the author blithely accepts as the so-called "flyaway" (procurement) costs of the F-22 and the F-35 — $122 million and $51 million each, respectively — are ludicrous. According to the Government Accountability Office in a current report [4], the average procurement price for the F-35 is calculated at $104 million each — more than double the unit procurement price claimed by National Journal. And the F-22's flyaway cost is more plausibly represented by a Congressional Research Service estimate of $185 million each. Thus, the Air Force's cost problem is in aggregate nearly twice as bad as claimed in a magazine read and believed by Beltway insiders.

The only way one could remotely posit such low flyaway costs as posted by the National Journal is by assuming those would be the ideal unit costs that might be achieved at some utopian level of "efficient" production that would be impossible in practice to achieve. Or perhaps the Air Force now perversely defines flayaway cost as a euphemism meaning "without engines or cockpit instruments."

But beyond that — and deeper than that — the National Journal article accepts as a given that the Air Force needs advanced fighter aircraft, and the question inevitably devolves into how many, on what schedule, at what cost, and what do the mandarins in the Air Force staff, Capitol Hill, and the think tanks opine about it?

Absent is any discussion of Fourth Generation Warfare — the kind of warfare that any plausible adversary is highly likely to engage in if faced with fighting the U.S. military; a mode of warfare that this country faces now in two significant conflicts. In Fourth Generation Warfare, the adversary avoids the staggeringly expensive stair-step of radar/electronic countermeasures/stealth/counterstealth by simply declining to play the game, and for a convincing reason: he is usually broke and doesn't have an air force, anyway. But a $50 road-side bomb or a sufficiently well-motivated suicide bomber can deliver ordnance every bit as accurately as a $380-million F-22. ($380 million is the unit acquisition cost: a far better measure of what the taxpayer actually pays for each aircraft, since it includes a pro-rata share of sizable research and development expenses).

Another factor in the Air Force's "crisis" that the National Journal neglects to mention is the fact that the service is exacerbating its aging and maintenance problem by having to fight two wars of a type it would prefer not to engage in. Rather than grappling in the central blue with a more worthy foe (one with a combat air arm, and one which would obligingly pit its weakness against our strength), the Air Force is reduced to the pedestrian if relatively safe business of hauling loads of ordnance to undefended Third World targets while supporting ground forces. Helicopters may face measurable risks from ground fire in Iraq and Afghanistan, but that risk is close to negligible for any tactical combat aircraft, be it a paid-for F-16 or an F-22 that costs more than what J.P. Morgan paid for Bear Sterns. [5]

By not purchasing good-enough aircraft, and instead mortgaging the country to the mirage of affordable stealth, the Air Force set the pattern for a procurement train wreck. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have merely accelerated the arrival of that problem by requiring intensified flight time (in more rugged in-theater conditions) on a declining inventory of aircraft.

One would think that the dubious suitability of pie-in-the-sky stealth aircraft for the real-world wars the U.S. government actually chooses to indulge in, and the accelerated depreciation of Air Force assets as a result of those wars, would be key topics in any discussion about future fighter procurement. Yet the article in the authoritative National Journal does not mention the words "Iraq" or "Afghanistan" once.

It is almost as if the media gatekeepers took the advice of John Cleese's comic character, Basil Fawlty: "for God's sake, don't mention the war!" The service procurement staffs certainly would rather not mention it. The Army would rather get on undisturbed with its $160-billion Future Combat Systems — although one is constrained to ask, what does FCS prime contractor Boeing know about building tanks? The Navy would prefer to get away from this silly brown water nonsense in the Shatt-al-Arab and get back to re-fighting the Battle of the Philippine Sea with its $5 billion-a-piece DD-1000 destroyer (does anyone remember when destroyers were called tin cans?). And, as we have seen, the Air Force is still planning to sweep the skies of MiGs above the Fulda Gap.

And so it goes with the rest of the establishment. At the good, gray Brookings Institution, the great budgetary minds of Washington are assembling at the end of this month for a conference about the federal government's long-term deficit problem. The notice for this event, titled "Taking Back our Fiscal Future," [6] warns about the fiscal time bomb of "Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid–the major drivers of escalating deficits . . ." [emphasis added].

Do any of the eminentos at this conference — who include three former directors of the Congressional Budget Office — know or care that military spending has grown at a higher rate than Social Security since 2001, and is now at a higher absolute level than that social insurance program? Ah, but only if you count the war. And for God's sake, you must not mention the war.


* Werther is the pen name of a Northern Virginia-based defense analyst.


[1] I am focusing here on publications which report on newsworthy happenings across the U.S. government, not the hundreds of special-interest publications which cover only narrow aspects of it.

[2] http://news.nationaljournal.com/articles/080314nj2.htm

[3] If that sounds vaguely like extortion, the F-22 actually played a central role in a real case of extortion. The only time the aircraft faced a serious challenge from Congress was in 2000, when the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee boldly zeroed F-22 procurement in its annual funding bill. Eventually, the funding was restored, and most observers chalked it up to the usual log-rolling, combined with Congress's deep-seated fear of actually canceling a major weapon system. In reality, Jerry Lewis (R-CA), the chairman of the subcommittee, zeroed the F-22 at the behest of his buddy, Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Incarcerated), so as to pressure the Air Force to grant Cunningham's briber, Brent Wilkes, a $10-million contract increase. The F-22 funding was quickly restored once Wilkes got his money.

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Jerry_Lewis

[4] http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d08569t.pdf

[5] The risk might not be negligible if the mission were ground strafing, in which case the pilot would want to be protected by armor and inherent air frame ruggedness. The only aircraft in the service inventory that meets those criteria is the A-10, a cheap, subsonic, 30-year old design the Air Force has been trying to get rid of for almost two decades.

[6] http://www.brookings.edu/events/2008/0331_fiscalfuture.aspx


[bth: you read this and just want to slit your wrists. This is where the air force leadership has led us? A dead end? Extorted into funding a bankrupting fighter program because all other options were destroyed by these very same leaders? This explains quite simply why unmanned air vehicles will prevail and proliferate - they don't cost a lot and all the other manned air frames have been trashed by the air force or driven into financial impossibility. What is it about these leaders that commands respect?]

YouTube - Ali G FBI interview

YouTube - Ali G FBI interview: ""

Electric Politics | The God-Damned Infantry

Electric Politics | The God-Damned Infantry: "A friend of mine, a long time critic of the Iraq War, recently asked a young junior officer now stationed in Iraq for his opinion of the situation. He shared the officer's response with me, which is worth reading. It is a little naive about our intention to leave but that probably reflects what the junior officer is told by his seniors — army leaders may well be touting this line for reasons of "morale". (Slightly edited for spelling, punctuation, and content.)

"The war was a strategic mistake. The way I see it, Saddam Hussein was a secular leader and therefore a huge stumbling block to the spread of Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East. Yes, he was an evil person and he was our enemy (since Gulf War I) but he was also an enemy of Bin Laden and the Shia extremists, etc. If he did have WMDs, he would have used them for regional influence. He never, however, would have given them up to terrorists or risked provoking the US by using them against us. Now, with Saddam gone we have a vacuum that can only be filled by Shia extremists who are more of a terrorist threat than Saddam.

"As far as things on the ground, the outlook isn't much better. In my opinion, what everyone fails to realize is that this is not a counterinsurgency. If we wanted to stay in Iraq, then it would be a counterinsurgency. But it is clear that our goal is to turn over power and pull out. So, in building our strategic endstate, it's pointless to set goals that relate to our presence in Iraq. If the "insurgency" is a function of our being there, then it is not an insurgency in terms of our endstate. For example, if one of our goals is to stop IED attacks on US forces, that is pointless. When we leave, there will be no more IED attacks on us forces. So our endstate needs to be different. We need to ask "if we left tomorrow, what would happen in Iraq?" and from there, we need to determine which of those anticipated results are unacceptable to us. Then we must aim our efforts on making sure those unacceptable results do not occur.

"When I look at the problem that way, it becomes almost impossible to find a purpose in what we do. Regardless of what we do, the Shia are going to take control. They have completely infiltrated all the security forces. The only kind of leader who could keep them in check was a tyrant like Saddam. And when the Shia take control, as soon as we leave, they are going to be as brutal as they like against the Sunni and there will be little we can do about it. That is what will happen whether we leave tomorrow or in ten years.

"As far as the foreign fighters, they will leave Iraq when we do. So what are we trying to accomplish here? Train the Iraqi forces? History shows that training forces in the Middle East can backfire. Any training we offer these people will find its way to our terrorist enemies.

"Things are heating up as well. The Shia are getting more aggressive. We lost a man the other day and another was seriously wounded a week or so later. We're facing a high risk with little potential payoff.

"We are able to make a difference at the local level. Some of the people are very kind and appreciate our help. That is the only positive thing I can see coming out of this."

Very Respectfully,
Junior Officer "X"

YouTube - J.S. Bach - Air on the G String, Sarah Chang

YouTube - J.S. Bach - Air on the G String, Sarah Chang: ""

Iran helped end Iraq fighting - Iraq party adviser

Iran helped end Iraq fighting - Iraq party adviser | Reuters: "Iran"helped end last week's fighting between Iraqi government troops and a Shi'ite militia in Iraq's oil-rich south, an adviser to a leading Iraqi Shi'ite politician was quoted as saying on Friday.

The comments by Mohsen Hakim, whose father Abdul Aziz al-Hakim heads the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, underlined Shi'ite Iran's growing influence in Iraq after the U.S.-led overthrow of Sunni Arab strongman Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Washington accuses Iran of stoking violence in its neighbour by funding, training and equipping Iraqi militants. Iran denies this and blames the presence of U.S. troops for the bloodshed.

Mohsen Hakim told Iran's Mehr News Agency an Iraqi delegation led by a prominent Shi'ite lawmaker held talks with Iranian officials during a visit to Iran last Friday.

Two days later, fiery anti-U.S. Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr announced a truce to end six days of clashes with Iraqi and U.S. troops in the southern city of Basra that spread through southern Iraq and Baghdad.

U.S. officials say Sadr is currently in Iran.

"Tehran, by using its positive influence on the Iraqi nation, paved the way for the return of peace to Iraq and the new situation is the result of Iran's efforts," Hakim was quoted as saying, without giving further details.

Members of the Iraqi delegation have confirmed to Reuters they went to Iran just before Sadr announced the ceasefire but have declined to give details on any role Iran played.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's crackdown on militias in Basra exposed a deep rift among Iraq's majority Shi'ites.

The Supreme Council is a key backer of Maliki but a bitter rival of Sadr's movement. The two groups are competing for power in Shi'ite southern Iraq, home to most of Iraq's oil reserves.

The Sadrists, who helped install Maliki in power in 2006 but broke with the government last year, have accused Supreme Council followers of infiltrating the security forces and attacking them.

The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, told foreign reporters on Thursday he was not aware of what role, if any, Iran had played in Sadr's decision.

He drew attention instead to the hail of rockets and mortars fired at the Green Zone government and diplomatic compound in Baghdad during the crisis that he said were made in Iran.

"Let's start with the Iranian involvement not in ending it, but maybe in beginning it," he said.

U.S. officials say rogue members of Sadr's militia get support and weapons from Iran.

"We got the tail fins of what was dropping on us ... This was quite literally made in Iran. All of this stuff was out of Iran and a lot of it manufactured in 2007," Crocker added.

Last week's fighting, in which several hundred people were killed in southern Iraq and Baghdad, served as a reminder of the instability in Iraq after months of security improvements. (Reporting by Zahra Hosseinian in Tehran and Dean Yates in Baghdad; Writing by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Giles Elgood)

Listen to the General on Iraq (No, not Petraeus!)

Listen to the General on Iraq (No, not Petraeus!): "In"a couple days, Americans will be deluged with effusive, praise-filled stories in what passes for news organizations, print and electronic, in the US, quoting Gen. David Petraeus on the glories of his and President Bush’s brilliant so-called "surge" strategy in Iraq.

There will be little critical comment on his report, which will claim that the surge is working but that Iraqi’s “need to do more” to take advantage of the surge in stability to create a stable government in Baghdad.

He will claim, and the media will help him here, that the collapse of President Nouri al-Maliki’s “defining moment” attack on the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr in Basra, with 1000 of his crack troops and two leading officers defecting to the other side, and Maliki himself having to be rescued by American troops, was a minor event. He will claim that the rise in violence in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq back to pre-surge levels is of no significance—a statistical aberration.

And President Bush will ask for another $102 billion from Congress to continue funding his catastrophic war in Iraq.

Just to keep our sanity and clarity, it would be good to listen to another general, Lt. General (ret.) William E. Odom, who on April 2 testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Gen. Odom told the committee that the last time he had testified about Iraq was in January of 2007. He had been asked about the “surge”. He said, “Today you are asking if it has worked. Last year I rejected the claim that it was a new strategy. Rather, I said, it is a new tactic used to achieve the same old strategic aim, political stability. And I foresaw no serious prospects for success. I see no reason to change my judgment now. The surge is prolonging instability, not creating the conditions for unity as the president claims.”

Gen. Odom said, “Violence has been temporarily reduced but today there is credible evidence that the political situation is far more fragmented. And currently we see violence surge in Baghdad and Basra. In fact, it has also remained sporadic and significant in several other parts of Iraq over the past year, notwithstanding the notable drop in Baghdad and Anbar Province. More disturbing, Prime Minister Maliki has initiated military action and then dragged in US forces to help his own troops destroy his Shiite competitors. This is a political setback, not a political solution. Such is the result of the surge tactic."

Odom went on to say, “No less disturbing has been the steady violence in the Mosul area, and the tensions in Kirkuk between Kurds, Arabs, and Turkomen. A showdown over control of the oil fields there surely awaits us. And the idea that some kind of a federal solution can cut this Gordian knot strikes me as a wild fantasy, wholly out of touch with Kurdish realities.”

As for the Bush claim that Sunni Muslims in western Iraq and Fallujah were now siding with the US (the government never mentions that they are being handsomely paid to do so), Odom said,
“Their break with al Qaeda should give us little comfort. The Sunnis welcomed anyone who would help them kill Americans, including al Qaeda. The concern we hear the president and his aides express about a residual base left for al Qaeda if we withdraw is utter nonsense. The Sunnis will soon destroy al Qaeda if we leave Iraq. The Kurds do not allow them in their region, and the Shiites, like the Iranians, detest al Qaeda. To understand why, one need only take note of the al Qaeda public diplomacy campaign over the past year or so on internet blogs. They implore the United States to bomb and invade Iran and destroy this apostate Shiite regime.”

Odom said America was buying Sunni backing in just one region for $250,000 a day, and he warned, “we don’t own these people, we rent them.”

Then Odom let fly a real bomb. “As an aside,” he told the committee, in a statement that you won’t read in your daily paper or hear on the TV news, “it gives me pause to learn that our vice president and some members of the Senate are aligned with al Qaeda on spreading the war to Iran.”

Saying the Bush administration’s argument that it could build a stable democratic government by working with local strongmen in Iraq, he challenged the senators to “Ask them to name a single historical case where power has been aggregated successfully from local strong men to a central government except through bloody violence leading to a single winner, most often a dictator. “

The general’s conclusion: “We face a deteriorating political situation with an over-extended army. When the administration's witnesses appear before you, you should make them clarify how long the army and marines can sustain this band-aid strategy.”

Odom instead called for immediate withdrawal, “rapidly but in good order.” He said, “Only that step can break the paralysis now gripping US strategy in the region. The next step is to choose a new aim, regional stability, not a meaningless victory in Iraq.”

He said if Bush and Cheney would simply stop threatening “regime change” by force as a policy, and in specific if it stopped threatening Iran, it would lead Iran to reduce its support of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and to change its policy toward Iraq, too. The US “needs to make Iran feel more secure,” he said.

Odom took the occasion to debunk arguments against early and rapid withdrawal. To those who say the US needs to continue to train Iraqi forces, he said, “Training foreign forces before they have a consolidated political authority to command their loyalty is a windmill tilt. Finally, Iraq is not short on military skills.

To those who warn of chaos following a US withdrawal, he recalled the warnings of a “domino” effect if the US left Vietnam, he said, “the path to political stability will be bloody regardless of whether we withdraw or not.” He added, “The real moral question is whether to risk the lives of more Americans. Unlike preventing chaos, we have the physical means to stop sending more troops where many will be killed or wounded. That is the moral responsibility to our country which no American leaders seems willing to assume.”

Finally to those oppose withdrawal warning it would create regional instability, he countered, “ This confuses cause with effect. Our forces in Iraq and our threat to change Iran's regime are making the region unstable. Those who link instability with a US withdrawal have it exactly backwards."

Odom concluded, “I implore you to reject these fallacious excuses for prolonging the commitment of US forces to war in Iraq.”

Congress--and the two candidates seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, both of whom are hedging their way towards a continued military presence for years in Iraq--should listen to this general, and not to the one whom the recently resigned (or sacked) Central Commander, Admiral William Fallon, called an “ass-licking little chickenshit,” Gen. Petraeus.

___________________

DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is "The Case for Impeachment" (St. Martin's Press, 2006 and now available in paperback edition). His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net

89 Percent of Americans See War in Iraq as Drain on U.S. Economy

89 Percent of Americans See War in Iraq as Drain on U.S. Economy:... "The"American people understand the enormous cost of the war in Iraq - to our troops, our military readiness, and to our struggling economy.

In a New York Times/CBS poll released today, 89 percent of those surveyed believe the cost of the war has contributed "a lot" or "some" to U.S. economic problems.

From what you know, how much do you think the cost of the war in Iraq has contributed to the U.S. economic problems - a lot, some, not much or not at all?...

[bth: this is the way to drive the war in Iraq home in the election is through the pocketbook. More Ameicans are touched by the economics than by the casualties.]

A battle for land in northern Iraq - Los Angeles Times

A battle for land in northern Iraq - Los Angeles Times: "MOSUL" IRAQ -- Far from the volatile Shiite rivalries that have shaken Baghdad and Basra, this city has been devastated by an epic struggle for land and power between Sunni Arabs and Kurds that has shattered the social fabric and could very well shape the future boundaries of northern Iraq.

Kurds say that they have been driven out of the city by Sunni Arab militants and criminal gangs, who have set off car bombs and kidnapped and killed members of their ethnic group. In turn, Kurdish forces have been accused of carrying out assassinations in Mosul and torturing Arab detainees elsewhere in the campaign to annex territory to the semiautonomous Kurdistan region.

The Iraqi government and U.S. military spokesmen blame the chaos on Al Qaeda in Iraq, a loosely organized Sunni Arab insurgent group, which desires to create a new base in the north. But the problems date to 2003, when the Kurds first sent fighters into Mosul, and the status of the city's Arab elite was diminished.

"Mosul became a real battlefield between Sunni Arab insurgents and peshmerga [Kurdish fighters] before Al Qaeda in Iraq really became much of a factor up there," said Wayne White, head of the U.S. State Department's Iraq intelligence team from 2003 to 2005.

"The Sunni Arab population up there knows the Kurds have designs on areas well beyond their current area of control in Nineveh [province], and are doubtless determined to push back," he said.

The Kurds believe Mosul's northern and eastern suburbs were wrongfully appropriated by Saddam Hussein's Sunni Arab regime. They also contend that they are the rightful owners of the Sinjar region in the western part of the province. The sought-after territories are believed to contain oil reserves.

Since late 2004, Kurdish security forces have seized de facto control of the disputed lands. The Kurdistan regional government's flag, a tricolor with a yellow starburst, flutters across northern Nineveh, and soldiers from neighboring Kurdistan are posted at dozens of sentry posts on roads.

Arabs rarely venture into northern Nineveh these days, even if they have Kurdish friends who fled Mosul, the provincial capital.

"It's easier for Arabs to go to Syria and Jordan," said Juneid Fakhr, a retired archaeologist.

The Kurds want a referendum, called for under Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution, to formally annex the disputed areas to Kurdistan. The referendum, postponed last year after the Iraqi government failed to conduct a census in the contested north, would also determine the status of the city of Kirkuk and other areas along the border of Kurdistan. A vote could prove to be the trigger for greater Arab-Kurdish bloodshed or a bridge to conciliation and prosperity.

"If it is a good solution that is packaged properly and people understand the ramifications of their voting, it could all be much to do about little," said Brig. Gen. Tony Thomas, the No. 2 U.S. commander in northern Iraq. "If it's poorly packaged and there is a run on the bank in any regard and there are loopholes, Article 140 could cause more friction and aggression than had existed here before."

The Kurds argue that the referendum would be the remedy to the competition in Nineveh and throughout the north.

"After Article 140, there will be no Arab-Kurdish problem," said Nineveh's deputy governor, Khasro Goran, a Kurd who is viewed as the most powerful political leader in the province.

Both sides portray themselves as the sufferer. Goran, who has survived seven assassination attempts, charges that the Kurdish ambitions have provoked a systematic campaign against his people.

"The Kurds have been the victim. More than 3,000 Kurds have been killed since November 2004 in Mosul, and 60,000 have fled Mosul," he said. "These attacks are to scare people not to support the Kurdistan regional government in case of a referendum."

In turn, Sunni Arabs argue that the Kurds' domination of the provincial government and military has played into the hands of radical Sunni militant groups.

"The majority of people in Mosul believe that the Kurds want to take over Mosul," said Sunni provincial council member Hassan Thanoun Alaf, who is with the Iraqi Islamic Party. "When Arabs and Kurds are on good terms, then Al Qaeda will not find support [in Nineveh] -- especially among the tribes."

Alaf hopes that provincial elections, tentatively scheduled for Oct. 1, will give the Arabs real power in the government. Kurds dominate the province's government because of a Sunni Arab boycott of Iraq's first post-Hussein elections in January 2005.

Although the Americans downplay the chances of civil war in Nineveh, they recognize that the Kurds are on a mission to expand Kurdistan's borders after centuries at the mercy of various Arab, Turkish and Iranian regimes.

"They never had any geographic boundaries, so right now it's still going to play out," Brig. Gen. Thomas said. "They are one of these irrepressible forces," going after what they think is their God-given right. "We should stay out of the middle because we will be played one way or the other."


Despite such wishes, U.S. officials recognize that their dependence on the Kurds may have tipped the balance of power in favor of their longtime ally. The Americans relied on Kurdish forces to stop Sunni fighters from seizing Mosul in November 2004, and the influx of Kurdish fighters allowed Kurdistan to cement its grip on Mosul's northern and eastern outer rings. Veterans of the Kurdish security forces also form the backbone of the main Iraqi army division in Mosul.

"The hard part for us and what we are trying to sort through is the battle space of '05 and '06, when Mosul fell the first time," Thomas said. "The Kurds came down in a big way. We pretty much supported that because there wasn't anyone else to go to

Such tactics helped push Sunni Arab's who had been Iraqi military officers to join insurgent groups. Senior security officers in Nineveh acknowledge that their former army colleagues, dismissed by the Americans in 2003, are the ones fighting them. Even the Arab-dominated police force has struggled with infiltration.

"These things happen in Iraq," said Wathiq Hamdani, until recently the acting provincial police chief. "My friend is now my enemy."

The U.S. Army has led a new drive to recruit former Arab officers to join the post-Hussein Iraqi army, but the city's bloodshed has not abated.

The friction between Kurds and Arabs is on full display in Mosul's police jail. Abdullah, a balding man dressed in a black shirt and pants, spent more than two years at Akre prison in Kurdistan before being transferred back to Mosul last summer. Kurdish security forces raided his house in January 2005 in the Mosul suburb of Zamur, one of the contested territories that the Kurds hope to annex.

At Akre, he says, he was shocked with electricity and sodomized with a broken bottle. Abdullah is unsure what he will do if he is freed. He doesn't believe he can return to Zamur. "Where I live now, Kurds control everything," he said.

His brother, who still lives in the town, agreed that the Kurds dominate life there, particularly the Kurdistan Democratic Party, or KDP.

"The KDP controls security and government offices. Anyone who wants to get employed needs a recommendation from the party," Abdullah's brother, who asked that his name not be used for fear of harassment, said by phone. "Yes, they prefer Kurds over Arabs."

Publicly, the Americans say they are not aware of any abuses committed by the Kurds against Arabs, but one U.S. official who formerly worked in Iraq acknowledged that the Kurds carried out targeted killings in Mosul against suspected fighters terrorizing their community.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, pointed to the assassinations as proof of the Kurds' military discipline, comparing Kurdish fighters favorably to Shiite security forces in Baghdad who have been accused of indiscriminately killing and arresting Sunni Arabs.

"When Kurds get killed in Mosul, Kurdish special operations/intelligence units surgically go after that person" who did the killing, the former official said. "It's not collective punishment, but they will go and kill that individual. . . . The Kurds are very responsible about it."

If actions of the Kurdish security force provoke Arabs, they make Kurds feel safe.

Ibrahim Faris Aziz fled Mosul for the suburb of Bashiqa in mid-2004 after his son was killed by a car bomb and a gunman shot a fellow mechanic. He keeps in touch with a few favorite Arab customers through friends who still venture into Mosul, but mainly his feelings are negative. "Three-quarters of Arabs are bad," he said.

He hopes Kurdistan annexes Bashiqa.

"They are protecting democracy. The terrorists won't come here as long as the peshmerga are here," he said. "Security is the most important thing."

ned.parker@latimes.com

[bth: Mosul is the bell weather of northern Iraq. We had better be paying close attention. This article perhaps foretells the split up of Iraq if these forces are irreconcilable.]

Taleban seeking missiles to attack Nato helicopters

Taleban seeking missiles to attack Nato helicopters - Scotsman.com News: "TALEBAN"warlords are using cash from Afghanistan's bumper opium poppy crop to try to buy shoulder-launched ground-to-air missiles, the country's anti- narcotics tsar has warned.

The surface-to-air missiles played a key role in driving out Soviet troops in the 1980s because they let mujahideen fighters shoot down Russian helicopters. Military commanders fear that such attacks could paralyse current Nato operations.

Afghanistan's counter-narcotics minister, General Khodaidad, said the Taleban was busily scouring illegal arms markets for better anti-aircraft weapons.

He said: "They are trying to get weapons to shoot down helicopters. They are trying to get ground-to-air missiles and they are trying to get anti-aircraft guns....

[bth: surprise surprise. Also note that the man making these statements is head of the anti-narcotics program. Should we allow Taliban friendly tribes to grow opium? Should we allow any tribes? Should we defoliate our enemies patch and give a real and tangible reason for local Afghans to support us - because we let them grow opium if they don't back the Taliban?]

Army Worried by Rising Stress of Return Tours to Iraq -

Army Worried by Rising Stress of Return Tours to Iraq - New York Times: "WASHINGTON"— Army leaders are expressing increased alarm about the mental health of soldiers who would be sent back to the front again and again under plans that call for troop numbers to be sustained at high levels in Iraq for this year and beyond.

Among combat troops sent to Iraq for the third or fourth time, more than one in four show signs of anxiety, depression or acute stress, according to an official Army survey of soldiers’ mental health.

The stress of long and multiple deployments to Iraq is just one of the concerns being voiced by senior military officers in Washington as Gen. David H. Petraeus, the senior Iraq commander, prepares to tell Congress this week that he is not ready to endorse any drawdowns beyond those already scheduled through July.

President Bush has signaled that he will endorse General Petraeus’s recommendation, a decision that will leave close to 140,000 American troops in Iraq at least through the summer. But in a meeting with Mr. Bush late last month in advance of General Petraeus’s testimony, the Joint Chiefs of Staff expressed deep concern about stress on the force, senior Defense Department and military officials said.

Among the 513,000 active-duty soldiers who have served in Iraq since the invasion of 2003, more than 197,000 have deployed more than once, and more than 53,000 have deployed three or more times, according to a separate set of statistics provided this week by Army personnel officers. The percentage of troops sent back to Iraq for repeat deployments would have to increase in the months ahead.

The Army study of mental health showed that 27 percent of noncommissioned officers — a critically important group — on their third or fourth tour exhibited symptoms commonly referred to as post-traumatic stress disorders. That figure is far higher than the roughly 12 percent who exhibit those symptoms after one tour and the 18.5 percent who develop the disorders after a second deployment, according to the study, which was conducted by the Army surgeon general’s Mental Health Advisory Team.

The Army and the rest of the service chiefs have endorsed General Petraeus’s recommendations for continued high troop levels in Iraq. But Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the Army chief of staff, and their top deputies also have warned that the war in Iraq should not be permitted to inflict an unacceptable toll on the military as a whole. “Our readiness is being consumed as fast as we build it,” Gen. Richard A. Cody, the Army vice chief of staff, said in stark comments delivered to Congress last week. “Lengthy and repeated deployments with insufficient recovery time have placed incredible stress on our soldiers and our families, testing the resolve of our all-volunteer force like never before.”

Beyond the Army, members of the Joint Chiefs have also told the president that the continued troop commitment to Iraq means that there is a significant level of risk should another crisis erupt elsewhere in the world. Any mission could be carried out successfully, the chiefs believe, but the operation would be slower, longer and costlier in lives and equipment than if the armed forces were not so strained.

Under the drawdown already planned, the departure of five combat brigades from Iraq by July should allow the Army to announce that tours will be shortened to 12 months from 15 by the end of summer.

Even so, senior officers warn that time at home must be increased from the current 12 months between combat tours. Otherwise, they say, the ground forces risk an unacceptable level of retirements of sergeants — the key leaders of the small-unit operations — and of experienced captains, who represent the future of the Army’s officer corps.

The mental health study conducted by the Army was carried out in Iraq last October and November, and does not represent a purely scientific sampling of deployed troops, because that is difficult to accomplish in a combat environment, the authors of the study have said. Instead, the study was based on 2,295 anonymous surveys and additional interviews from members of frontline units in combat brigades, and not from those assigned primarily to safer operating bases. Since the study was distributed last month, it has become a central topic of high-level internal discussions within the Army, and its findings have been accepted by Army leaders, senior Pentagon and military officials say.

The survey found that the proportion of soldiers serving in Iraq who had encountered mental health problems was about the same as found in previous studies — about 18 percent of deployed soldiers. But in analyzing the effect of the war on those with previous duty in Iraq, the study found that “soldiers on multiple deployments report low morale, more mental health problems and more stress-related work problems.”

By the time they are on their third or fourth deployments, soldiers “are at particular risk of reporting mental health problems,” the study found.

The range of symptoms reported by soldiers varies widely, from sleeplessness and anxiety to more severe depression and stress. To assist soldiers facing problems, the Army has begun to hire more civilian mental health professionals while directing Army counselors to spend more time with frontline units.

Senior officers at the Pentagon have tried to avoid shrill warnings about the health of the force, cognizant that such comments might embolden potential adversaries, and they continue to hope that troop levels in Iraq can be reduced next year. Still, none deny the level of stress on the force from current deployments.

Admiral Mullen spoke broadly to those concerns last week, saying at a Pentagon news conference that the military would have already assigned forces to missions elsewhere in the world were it not for what he called “the pressure that’s on our forces right now.”

He added that the military would “continue to be there until, should conditions allow, we start to be able to reduce our force levels in Iraq.”

One example of the pressure has come in Afghanistan, where the Pentagon has been unable to meet all of the commanders’ requests for more forces, in particular for several thousand military trainers.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told reporters on Friday that he expected that the United States would be able to add significantly to its deployments in Afghanistan in 2009. But to do that — and to increase time at home for soldiers between deployments — probably would require further reductions in troop levels in Iraq, Pentagon planners said.

Members of the Joint Chiefs also acknowledge that the deployments to Iraq, with the emphasis on counterinsurgency warfare, have left the ground forces no time to train for the full range of missions required to defend American interests.

[bth: in Vietnam the families broke up in divorce on the 3rd rotation. We're there folks. Pay attention. Shipping them to Afghanistan instead of Iraq doesn't solve the family problem or the reenlistment problems. We are operating at an unsustainable level without a draft or reallocation of resources between branches of the service.]

Taleban accuse Sarkozy of U-turn

BBC NEWS | World | South Asia | Taleban accuse Sarkozy of U-turn: "The"Taleban have accused French President Nicolas Sarkozy of reneging on an election promise with his pledge to send more troops to Afghanistan.

The Afghan militant movement said they had freed two French aid workers last year because Mr Sarkozy had pledged to pull French forces out of Afghanistan.

He had said during last year's campaign that the long-term presence of French troops in Afghanistan was not assured.

Earlier this week, France offered 700 more troops for Nato's Afghan mission.

"The Nato-member countries are not only making baseless promises to Afghans but they do so to their respective nations," a Taleban spokesman told AFP.

"A good example is current French President Sarkozy," the spokesman said.

During his electoral campaign, he promised to focus on withdrawing French troops from Afghanistan."

The extra troops raised at this week's Nato summit in the Romanian capital, Bucharest, would not defeat the insurgents, the spokesman said.

"With the blessing of God, the occupiers will be defeated as others have been defeated in the past," he said.

The US says the French pledge will free up some of its troops to move to southern Afghanistan, where Canada had demanded Nato reinforcements be sent.

Nato currently has about 47,000 troops stationed in Afghanistan.

[bth: so the Taleban is upset that France didn't keep its word to kidnappers? Please.]