Saturday, May 31, 2008

YouTube - M113 Gavins + IronFist Active Protection = Tank Gun Proof

YouTube - M113 Gavins + IronFist Active Protection = Tank Gun Proof: ""

YouTube - FCS: Quick Kill APS

YouTube - FCS: Quick Kill APS: ""

U.S. Questions Pakistan Force's Allegiance, Funding - NYTimes.com

U.S. Questions Pakistan Force's Allegiance, Funding - NYTimes.com: "WASHINGTON"A U.S.-backed paramilitary force in Pakistan's lawless border area may be aiding Taliban fighters, according to American officials who say the support may cause Congress to freeze some security funds for Islamabad.

Signs that Pakistan's Frontier Corps is helping Taliban and al Qaeda-linked groups cross into Afghanistan only exacerbates U.S. frustration over Pakistan's plans to secure peace deals with fighters in that region, where Osama bin Laden is thought to hide.

"We cannot rely on Pakistan to stop the traffic of terrorists crossing that border despite the strong statements of its leaders," said Sen. Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who chairs the U.S. Senate's committee on armed forces.

Levin and some U.S. defense officials said Taliban fighters may also be getting assistance from Pakistan's army.

"If that's our intelligence assessment, then there's a real question as to whether or not we should be putting money into strengthening the Frontier Corps on the Pakistan side because if anything there's some evidence that the Pakistan army is providing support to the Taliban," Levin told reporters after visiting Afghanistan and Pakistan this week.

The United States set up a program last year to train and equip the paramilitary Frontier Corps, which is recruited from the tribal areas to counter Islamist militants.

Under the program, Washington planned to supply equipment like helmets and flak vests to the Frontier Corps, but would not provide weapons or ammunition, the Pentagon said last year.

U.S. Army trainers would instruct the paramilitary force and Washington allocated $52.6 million for the program last year.

A defense spending authorization bill for the 2009 fiscal year, which starts October 1, includes $75 million for Frontier Corps training, but Levin said questions about the force could lead him to reconsider those funds.

'STRATEGIC CHALLENGE'

Uncertainty about the Frontier Corps' allegiances and the security impact of peace deals Pakistan strikes with al Qaeda-linked groups in its tribal areas is raising worry among U.S. commanders and defense officials.

They say a permissive environment in that region, known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA, has a direct effect on the number of attacks against Afghan, NATO and U.S. forces across the border in Afghanistan.

Several Taliban fighters have been killed in recent weeks in a string of apparent airstrikes on safe-houses in Pakistan conducted, according to Taliban and Pakistani officials, by unmanned U.S. aircraft.

Publicly, however, Pakistan has refused to allow the U.S. military to conduct operations inside its territory....

ABC Exclusive: Pakistani Bomb Scientist Breaks Silence

ABC Exclusive: Pakistani Bomb Scientist Breaks Silence: "The"Pakistani scientist blamed for running a rogue network that sold nuclear secrets to North Korea, Iran and Libya has recanted his confession, telling ABC News the Pakistani government and President Perez Musharraf forced him to be a "scapegoat" for the "national interest."

"I don't stand by that," Dr. A.Q. Khan told ABC News in a 35-minute phone interview from his home in Islamabad, where he has been detained since "confessing" that he ran the nuclear network on his own, without the knowledge of the Pakistani government. The interview will be broadcast Friday on "World News With Charles Gibson."

It was his first interview with an American journalist in a series of telephone interviews he has granted this week, marking the 10th anniversary of Pakistan's first test of a nuclear bomb.

"People were asking a lot of questions, so I said, 'OK. Let me give an answer,'" Khan told ABC News early Friday, Pakistan time.

As to his widely publicized confession, Khan said he was told by Musharraf that it would get the United States "off our backs" and that he was promised he would be quickly pardoned. "Those people who were supposed to know knew it," Khan said about his activities.

If true, it would mean Pakistan lied to the U.S. and the international community about its role in providing nuclear weapons technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya.

A spokesman for the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington, D.C. said today the government there hasn't changed its views on Khan despite the claims he makes in the interview, "The government of Pakistan has adequately investigated allegations of nuclear proliferation and considers the AQK affair closed," said a statement from the embassy to ABC News.

A U.S. official said American investigators were also unconvinced of Khan's latest claims. "We have not changed our assessment that A.Q. Khan was a very major and dangerous proliferator. He sold sensitive nuclear equipment and know-how to some genuinely bad actors," the official said.

Khan admitted in the ABC News interview that he had twice traveled to North Korea but denied ever going to Iran or Libya.


Khan said the North Korean nuclear weapons program was "well-advanced" before he arrived, as part of an officially sanctioned trip by his government.

As to Iran, he said he believed it would be a "long time" before that country would be able to test a nuclear weapon.

Khan said it was ridiculous to suppose that al Qaeda or Osama bin Laden would be able to build or acquire nuclear weapons from Pakistan. "How can people who live in a cave hope to do that?" he said.

After his 2004 confession, Pakistani President Musharraf refused to allow U.S. or international experts to question Khan.

"It's none of their bloody business," said Khan, who insisted he would never discuss his past activities with any U.S. investigators.

Khan says he remains under guard and unable to leave his home, other than for medical reasons. "Health is not so good. I have been through a lot of difficulties. You know I had prostate cancer," Khan said.

[bth: what this means is that the Pakistani government or elements of it were involved in nuclear proliferation for money to Iran and Libya in cooperation with North Korea. Musharraf will soon leave Pakistan and go to Saudi Arabia to live in exile with a couple of stolen billions in US aid money.]

In An Iraq-Related Hole, McCain Keeps On Digging - Politics on The Huffington Post

In An Iraq-Related Hole, McCain Keeps On Digging - Politics on The Huffington Post: "In"politics, as in life, when one is in a hole, he or she should stop digging. This advice was not heeded by John McCain's campaign today. Both the Senator and his aides sought to brush away his factually inaccurate statement that American troops in Iraq were down to pre-surge levels. In the process, they made the hole even bigger.

Reminded that troops in Iraq currently number 155,000, well above the pre-surge level of 130,000, McCain refused to acknowledge on Friday that he had misspoke.

"I said we had drawn down," the Senator declared during a press conference (watch video). "I said we have drawn down and we have drawn down three of the five brigades. We have drawn down three of the five brigades. We have drawn down the marines. The rest will be home the end of July. That's just facts, the facts as I stated them."

But that isn't what he stated. On Thursday, in fact, he made a very specific measurement as to the extent of troop reductions.

"I can tell you that it [the mission in Iraq] is succeeding," said McCain. "I can look you in the eye and tell you it's succeeding. We have drawn down to pre-surge levels."

And that was just the beginning. McCain's gaffe had already been exacerbated during a conference call earlier in the day, when aides to the Arizona Republican insisted that he had not misspoke, even while McCain surrogate Sen. Jon Kyl acknowledged on the same call that he had: "What he said was not entirely accurate. OK. So what?"...

[bth: what the MSM is missing is that McCain is getting ahead of the preset script. The script is victory after victory over a nearly nonexistent al Qaeda in Iraq will be touted by flacks and a draw down is scheduled later this year in anticipation of the US elections - I'd particularly call your attention to the time frame around Labor Day. McCain just got ahead of the preset script. Instead of covering the bigger story, the press nitpicks on trivia. It would also be helpful is someone took a look at the gross understaffing occurring in Afghanistan.]

TPMCafe | Talking Points Memo | Who's Minding the Store at the Pentagon?#more

TPMCafe | Talking Points Memo | Who's Minding the Store at the Pentagon?#more: "If"you said nobody, you're exaggerating, but only slightly. A new report from the Pentagon's Inspector General's office, made public by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), indicates that even as military spending has more than doubled in the Bush years, there has been no increase in Pentagon auditors. The average auditor is now responsible for over $2 billion in contracts, compared to $600 million-plus at the outset of the Bush era. But that's not all.

A March report by the Government Accountability Office takes the issue one step further, noting that in over two-thirds of the Pentagon agencies it surveyed, there were more private contractors working in those officies than government employees. Contract employees were preparing budgets, evaluating other contractors' work, creating program requirements, and, according to GAO, involving themselves in "policy development."

To add insult to injury, contract employees are not subject to the conflict-of-interest statutes and regulations that are supposed to govern the behavior of government employees
. Nice work if you can get it . . .
Democrat Taylor Marsh Broadcasts Live Talk Radio and Blogs Politics

Intelligence Official Sees Little Progress Before Bush Exits - washingtonpost.com

Intelligence Official Sees Little Progress Before Bush Exits - washingtonpost.com: ..."A"regenerated al-Qaeda will remain the leading terrorism threat, Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence Donald M. Kerr said. Pakistan's "inward" political focus and failure to control the tribal territories where al-Qaeda maintains a haven, he said, is "the number one thing we worry about."

Kerr's analysis, in a speech Thursday evening that he posited as a presidential intelligence briefing delivered on Jan. 21, 2009, contrasted with more optimistic administration forecasts of rapprochement among Iraq's political forces and a possible Middle East peace agreement in the next eight months. It also seemed at odds with CIA Director Michael V. Hayden's judgment that al-Qaeda is now on the defensive throughout the world, including along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Senate intelligence committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) yesterday said Hayden's assessment, in an interview this week with The Washington Post, was inconsistent with recent intelligence reports to Capitol Hill. In a letter to Hayden, Rockefeller said that he was "surprised and troubled by your comments" and asked for "a full explanation of both the rationale for, and the substance of" the interview.

..."One of the concerns we have is that as Pakistan looks inward," the western tribal areas "will be more hospitable to those who would strike us and less hospitable to us in trying to root out that problem," Kerr said.

He said that the intelligence community has no reason to change its mid-2007 judgment that Iran had ceased work on designing a nuclear weapon in 2003. "But since the halted activities were part of an unannounced secret program that Iran attempted to hide," he said, "we do not know if it has been restarted." ...

[bth: the intel output being spun now in DC has little to do with reality and much to do with US presidential politics. For political reasons we are going to be promoting the idea that al Qaeda is being defeated and on the run so that by November we can have something to show the public for this war(s). Its about spin. Just keep that in mind as we approach the end of this year.]

Friday, May 30, 2008

Obama Practices Looking-Off-Into-Future Pose | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Obama Practices Looking-Off-Into-Future Pose | The Onion - America's Finest News Source: "CHICAGO"—As the 2008 presidential election draws closer, Democrat Barack Obama has reportedly been working tirelessly with his top political strategists to perfect his looking-off-into-the-future pose, which many believe is vital to the success of the Illinois senator's campaign.

When performed correctly, the pose involves Obama standing upright with his back arched and his chest thrust out, his shoulders positioned 1.3 feet apart and opened slightly at a 14-degree angle, and his eyes transfixed on a predetermined point between 500 and 600 yards away. Advisers say this creates the illusion that Obama is looking forward to a bright future, while the downturned corners of his lips indicate that he acknowledges the problems of the present....

[bth: video animation attached to original article is well worth a full read.]

Dean Kamen Creator of Segway Unveils New Invention: Tech Ticker, Yahoo! Finance

Dean Kamen Creator of Segway Unveils New Invention: Tech Ticker, Yahoo! Finance: ""

Blog: Nukes & Spooks - The story behind a Medal of Honor recipient

Blog: Nukes & Spooks: "I"like to think of myself as a hardened war correspondent, yet I have no shame in telling you I was truly touched by the words below written by a soldier’s family. And it seemed only fitting to share them with you as the nation celebrates Memorial Day.

First, a little background: On Friday, the White House announced that Army Pfc. Ross McGinnis of Knox, Pa. will be awarded the Medal of Honor, the military’s highest decoration.

As I began researching McGinnis story, I found both him and his family interesting. McGinnis, 19, was once a troublemaker in school, at one point expelled. Eventually, he found his way to the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, in Schweinfurt, Germany.

He was in the gunner’s hatch of a Humvee Dec. 4, 2006 when a grenade flew by and landed on the vehicle near four soldiers. At that moment, McGinnis made a choice. He jumped on top of the grenade so his body could shield the blast from the others. He died so that four of his comrades could live. Almost immediately, he was recommended as a Medal of Honor recipient.

With Friday’s announcement, McGinnis will be only the fourth Iraq War service member to receive the Medal of Honor posthumously. His family will accept the award on his behalf during a June 2 ceremony.

I came across a letter his father wrote shortly after his son’s death, which I have included below. I thought it was beautifully written. It made me think of soldiers like McGinnis that the world will never meet. And the anonymous families that sacrifice along side them.

Statement from parents of SPC Ross A. McGinnis, December 23, 2006
When the doorbell rang Monday evening December 4th, about 9:30, I wondered who would be visiting at this hour of the evening. But when I walked up to the door and saw two US Army officers standing on the patio at the bottom of the steps, I knew instantly what was happening. This is the only way the Army tells the next of kin that a soldier has died.

At that moment, I felt as if I had slipped off the edge of a cliff and there was nothing to grab onto; just a second beyond safety, falling into hell. If only my life could have ended just a moment before this so that I would not have to hear the words they were about to say. If only I could blink myself awake from this horrible dream. But it wasn't a dream.

As the officers made their way into our living room, I rushed back into our bedroom and told my wife Romayne to get up; we had company. And they were going to tell us that Ross is dead. I knew of no other way to say it.

We rushed back out to meet the officers, and then the appointed spokesperson recited the standard message that Private First Class Ross A. McGinnis had been killed in action in Baghdad, Iraq, that day. They could tell us nothing more except that Army regulations required that the family be notified within 4 hours of the event. They offered their sympathy and support, and the Chaplain prayed for our strength in the days to come, and then they left us alone in shock, grief and disbelief.

In the days that followed, we were informed of the details of his death. The entire world probably knows those details now, since there was so much excitement about his heroic deed. Hundreds of family, friends and acquaintances offered us their words of prayer and comfort. But only time will take the edge off the knives that have wedged into our hearts.

Ross did not become OUR hero by dying to save his fellow soldiers from a grenade. He was a hero to us long before he died, because he was willing to risk his life to protect the ideals of freedom and justice that America represents. He has been recommended for the Medal of Honor, and many think that he deserves to get it without the typical 2 years that Congress has required of late. We, his parents, are in no hurry to have our son bestowed with this medal. That is not why he gave his life. The lives of four men who were his Army brothers outweighed the value of his one life. It was just a matter of simple kindergarten arithmetic. Four means more than one.

It didn't matter to Ross that he could have escaped the situation without a scratch. Nobody would have questioned such a reflex reaction. What mattered to him were the four men placed in his care on a moment's notice. One moment he was responsible for defending the rear of the convoy from enemy fire; the next moment he held the lives of four of his friends in his hands.

The choice for Ross was simple, but simple does not mean easy. His straightforward answer to a simple but difficult choice should stand as a shining example for the rest of us. We all face simple choices, but how often do we choose to make a sacrifice to get the right answer? The right choice sometimes requires honor.

Our Bible tells us that God gave up his only son to die for us so that we may live. But Romayne and I are not gods. We can't see the future, and we didn't give our son to die, knowing that he will live again. We gave him to fight and win and come home to us and marry and grow old and have children and grandchildren. But die he did, and his mother, dad and sisters must face that fact and go on without him, believing that someday we will meet again. Heaven is beyond our imagination and so we must wait to see what it's like.

God bless everybody that has comforted us in our time of grief. But we must not forget the men and women who are still putting their lives on the line; we must keep them in our prayers and keep reminding them with gifts and letters that they are loved and that we want them to return safely to their families.

NATO Chief in Afghanistan Says Pakistan’s Tack on Militants Is Not as Expected - NYTimes.com

NATO Chief in Afghanistan Says Pakistan’s Tack on Militants Is Not as Expected - NYTimes.com: ..."We"have not seen the actions that we had expected late last year; we have seen a different approach,” he said before a news briefing in Kabul. “That is different from what most of us thought last year we were going to get.”

Militancy rose last year in Pakistan, where officials indicated that tougher measures against the militants were planned. Instead, the government has sued for peace, a policy tried in 2005 and 2006 that led directly to a rise in attacks across the border, as is happening now.

“Over time, when there has been dialogue, or peace deals, the incidents have gone up,” General McNeill told journalists in Kabul and others in Brussels listening via videoconferencing. “What you see right now is the effects of no pressure on the extremists and insurgents on the other side of the border.”...

[bth: so far as I can tell the Taliban operating out of Paki and al-Qaeda have never been safer than they are now in Pakistan. Some victory in the war on terror. We've got a real problem here and is going to manifest itself in some spectacular attack. While we've diverted resourced into Iraq, the US's main enemies remain entirely functional in Pakistan and parts of Afghanistan.]

In Iraq, a Surge in U.S. Airstrikes

In Iraq, a Surge in U.S. Airstrikes: ..."In"recent weeks, Katzenberger and other pilots have dramatically increased their use of helicopter-fired missiles against enemy fighters, often in densely populated areas. Since late March, the military has fired more than 200 Hellfire missiles in the capital, compared with just six missiles fired in the previous three months.

The military says the tactic has saved the lives of ground troops and prevented attacks, but the strikes have also killed and wounded civilians, provoking criticism from Iraqis....

Tomgram: Frida Berrigan, The Pentagon Takes Over

Tomgram: Frida Berrigan, The Pentagon Takes Over: ..."In"fact, according to the inspector general for the Defense Department, "the Pentagon cannot account for almost $15 billion worth of goods and services ranging from trucks, bottled water and mattresses to rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns that were bought from contractors in the Iraq reconstruction effort." An internal audit of $8 billion that the Pentagon paid out to U.S. and Iraqi private contractors found that "nearly every transaction failed to comply with federal laws or regulations aimed at preventing fraud, in some cases lacking even basic invoices explaining how the money was spent."

This is, admittedly, chump change for the Pentagon in the age of Bush. And even when "reform" is attempted, the medicine is often worse than the disease. Congressional critics and others have, for instance, accused the Houston-based private contractor KBR, formerly a division of Halliburton, of "wasteful spending and mismanagement and of exploiting its political ties to Vice President Dick Cheney" in fulfilling enormous contracts to support U.S. troops in Iraq. Now, the Pentagon is planning to make amends by dividing the latest contract for food, shelter, and basic services in Iraq between KBR and two other large contractors, Fluor Corporation and DynCorp International. According to the New York Times, "[T]he new three-company deal could actually result in higher costs for American taxpayers and weak oversight by the military."

These telling details rose last week from the subterranean depths of a bloated Bush-era Pentagon. As Frida Berrigan indicates in one of the more important pieces Tomdispatch has posted, the Pentagon's massive expansion on just about every front during George W. Bush's two terms in office may be the greatest story never told of our time. It might, in fact, be the most important American story of the new century and, while you can find many of its disparate parts in your daily papers, the mainstream media has yet to offer a significant overview of the Pentagon in our time. This suggests a great deal about what isn't being dealt with in our world. How, for instance, is it possible to have a presidential election campaign that goes on for years in which the size of the Pentagon never comes up as an issue (unless the candidates are all plunking for an expansion of American troop strength)?...

[bth: good article worth a read in full.]

U.S. troop deaths in May near lowest level of war - USATODAY.com

U.S. troop deaths in May near lowest level of war - USATODAY.com: "BAGHDAD"This May has been one of the least violent months of the Iraq war. The relative calm follows a cease-fire agreement by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his militia in the face of steady pressure from U.S. and Iraqi forces.
Eighteen U.S. servicemembers have been identified as having died in Iraq so far in May, according to the Pentagon. To date, the least deadly month of the five-year war was February 2004, when 21 U.S. troops were killed in a 29-day period. The number of wounded also has fallen.

Overall, militant attacks in Iraq have dropped to levels not seen since spring 2004, U.S. military spokesman Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll said this week. Attacks are down 70% since President Bush ordered a U.S. troop increase, or "surge," early last year.

Al-Sadr agreed to a truce earlier this month after two months of clashes with U.S.-backed Iraqi security forces. The fighting followed a decision by the Iraqi government to rein in al-Sadr's Mahdi Army and other Shiite militant groups. Iraqi forces have also intensified their offensive against Sunni militants, including al-Qaeda, in the northern city of Mosul.

"We're seeing progress because we're getting more capability out of the Iraqi security forces," said Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin III, the number two U.S. commander in Iraq.

The deal with al-Sadr could unravel at any time. His followers have issued statements on an almost daily basis threatening to resume fighting as they accuse the government of breaking promises.

Al-Qaeda militants have proven difficult to drive out of Mosul, their biggest remaining urban stronghold. A suicide bomber in Sinjar, 75 miles west of Mosul, killed 16 Iraqis crowded around a police recruiting station Thursday, the Associated Press reported.

The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, who has been guarded in making proclamations of success, said last week that al-Qaeda in Iraq has "never been closer to defeat than they are now."

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani also has sounded a surprisingly upbeat tone. Talabani criticized Iraqi Army Chief of Staff Babakir Zebari for saying his forces would not be ready to handle security on their own for four years. Instead, Talabani predicted last week that Iraqi forces would be able to maintain control of the country by year's end.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told a United Nations conference in Sweden on Thursday that "Iraq has achieved major success in the battle against terrorism."

The U.S. death toll so far in May marks a dramatic decline from 126 deaths in May 2007, when U.S. forces were battling for control of Baghdad in one of the deadliest months of the war.

Injuries among U.S. troops also are at their lowest level this year. Just 31 Americans were hurt in combat last week, with half returning to duty within three days, the Pentagon said. That's down from a recent peak of 130 in a single week in March, at the height of the fighting with Shiite militants.

Iraqi police, soldiers and civilians are benefiting from the lull in violence. Seventy-eight people died in bombings across Iraq in April, the lowest level since November 2004, when 75 died, according to the Brookings Institution, a Washington think-tank that tracks the data.

After five grim years, however, Iraqis are cautiously optimistic.

"The situation is better now, but we still have fears," Ayad Chathem Hanid, 33, a bank teller, said while shopping with his wife Thursday on Baghdad's Palestine Street. "We don't know if the situation is going to blow up again or not."

[bth: one might argue about the why's but one can hardly argue with this month's favorable results. Does a month make a permanent trend? I sure hope so.]

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Iraq War hits home during holiday cookout

The Chronicle-Telegram - Lorain county's leading news source: "Elyria"Police Chief Michael Medders was getting ready for a Memorial Day cookout with his family around noon when the phone rang.

On the phone was an Army official, informing him that his son, Michael Medders Jr., was hurt in a roadside explosion about 30 miles north of Baghdad.

After several moments of dread, Medders learned that his son was not seriously hurt.

“It was kind of spooky,” Medders said of the call coming on Memorial Day, the national holiday dedicated to those who have served in the military.

A few hours later, he heard from his son, a 26-year-old Army lieutenant assigned to an armored unit.

“He had a concussion but said he was fine,” said his father.

None of the four soldiers riding in the vehicle was seriously injured.

“He played football for Avon Lake and said it felt like he got hit by a 300-pound lineman. It brought back memories,” the police chief said.

Medders said his son and the other troops who were in the vehicle with him would be held for three days for medical observation before returning to active duty.

The younger Medders — who graduated from Avon Lake High School and Bowling Green State University, where he majored in business and communications — provided few details about the incident to his family.

“His vehicle was the only one that got hit, but other than that, he doesn’t talk about operations or the number of personnel or vehicles involved,” said his father, who credited the newer MRAPs, or Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, with minimizing injuries from the explosion caused by an improvised explosive device, or IED.

The homemade explosives are a staple of insurgent attacks in the war in Iraq.

“They just got these MRAP vehicles about 23 days ago,” Medders said. “They’re a brand-new vehicle replacing the Humvee.”

The 24-ton MRAPs offer improved armor plating over the much-criticized Humvees, which have received upgraded armor in efforts to counter deadly IEDs and attacks by the even more lethal EFPs — explosively formed penetrators — metal projectiles capable of shattering the steel of the more heavily armored Humvees, according to a February article in The Washington Post.

As of January, the Pentagon had ordered nearly 12,000 MRAPs for service in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to www.armytimes.com
.

“The design of the armor plating on the bottom acts to take away much of the impact of explosions,” said Medders, who has learned a lot recently about the vehicles.

Medders’ son has been in Iraq about nine months. Although he has been in combat before, this was the first time he was involved in an IED attack.

“He is assigned to a tank unit that usually works an area from Baquba about 30 miles north of Baghdad, up to Mosul,” about 250 miles northwest of Baghdad, said his father. “They cover a pretty big territory. He doesn’t talk too much about it.”

Michael Medders Jr., whose promotion to captain is in the works, is expected to return to the States this summer. He enlisted in the Army after graduating from college.

“Right after 9/11, he said, ‘I have to do something, I have to go in the military,’ ” his father said.

The family convinced him to stay in college and finish his degree first.

He received a football scholarship to Walsh University in Canton, then transferred to Bowling Green, where he graduated in 2003.

Colonel Says Speaking Out Cost a Medal - washingtonpost.com

Colonel Says Speaking Out Cost a Medal - washingtonpost.com: "The"former chief military prosecutor for terrorism trials at Guantanamo Bay thinks the Defense Department has punished him for testifying publicly that he faced political pressure to speed up the cases and to use evidence derived from torture.

Air Force Col. Morris Davis said he was denied a medal for his two years of work building military commissions cases against terrorism suspects because he resigned and later spoke out about problems in the Pentagon's Office of Military Commissions. Davis testified earlier this month at pretrial hearings for a suspected terrorist that the top legal adviser for military commissions had tampered with the prosecution and was using politics to drive critical legal issues.

Davis's dispute with Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Hartmann resulted in a military judge disqualifying Hartmann in the case of Salim Ahmed Hamdan -- an action that has led other military defense lawyers to file similar motions in cases against five men accused of taking part in the conspiracy surrounding the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. An e-mail Davis wrote to defense lawyers on Tuesday, in which he said he would not cooperate in future cases, was released as part of such a motion yesterday.

Davis wrote that Pentagon officials notified him that he did "not serve honorably" as top prosecutor and would be denied the medal. Davis said he fears other reprisals before his scheduled retirement this year, despite a military judge's order that no one who testified on the matter face adverse actions.

"I tell the truth, and I get labeled as having served dishonorably," Davis said in an interview yesterday. "I'm very concerned about the chilling effect . . . on the process
."

McClellan's Biggest Revelation? Bush Personally Authorized Leak Of CIA Agent's Identity - Politics on The Huffington Post

McClellan's Biggest Revelation? Bush Personally Authorized Leak Of CIA Agent's Identity - Politics on The Huffington Post: ..."During"the interview, Scottie revealed the two things that really pissed him off with the Bush Administration. First, being set up to lie by Karl Rove and Scooter Libby. And second, learning that Bush had--himself--authorized the selective leaking of the NIE.

Scottie McC: But the other defining moment was in early April 2006, when I learned that the President had secretly declassified the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq for the Vice President and Scooter Libby to anonymously disclose to reporters. And we had been out there talking about how seriously the President took the selective leaking of classified information. And here we were, learning that the President had authorized the very same thing we had criticized.

Viera: Did you talk to the President and say why are you doing this?

Scottie McC: Actually, I did. I talked about the conversation we had. I walked onto Air Force One, it was right after an event we had, it was down in the south, I believe it was North Carolina. And I walk onto Air Force One and a reporter had yelled a question to the President trying to ask him a question about this revelation that had come out during the legal proceedings. The revelation was that it was the President who had authorized, or, enable Scooter Libby to go out there and talk about this information. And I told the President that that's what the reporter was asking. He was saying that you, yourself, was the one that authorized the leaking of this information. And he said "yeah, I did." And I was kinda taken aback....

[bth: of course the big implication of this is that if it was declassified 'secretly' then they couldn't be prosecuted for leaking it. Curious yet convenient.]

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Iraq war vets run for Congress in greater numbers - USATODAY.com

Iraq war vets run for Congress in greater numbers - USATODAY.com: ..."At"least 10 Democratic and 20 Republican Iraq veterans are running for the House, and none for the Senate.

Key races include several open seats:

•Minneapolis suburbs: Democrat Ashwin Madia, a Marine, will take on GOP state Rep. Erik Paulsen, a former aide to retiring Rep. Jim Ramstad. Madia, a lawyer, worked with Iraqi officials to develop the country's justice system.

• Northeastern Ohio: Longtime GOP congressman Ralph Regula is retiring from a seat held by his party since 1950. Democratic state Sen. John Boccieri, who flew C-130 cargo planes in Iraq for the Air Force, will face state Sen. Kirk Schuring.

•Buffalo area: Republican Tom Reynolds is retiring. Former Army staff sergeant David Bellavia, who wrote a memoir about facing battle in Fallujah, is in the race on the GOP side. Jon Powers, an Army platoon leader in Iraq, is among the Democrats running.

•San Diego area: Three of the seven candidates seeking the seat being vacated by retiring GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter have Iraq combat experience. Hunter's Marine reservist son, Duncan D. Hunter, and retired Army colonel Rick Powell are among the Republicans. Former Navy SEAL commander Mike Lumpkin is among the Democrats. The primary is June 3.

•Maine: Democratic Rep. Tom Allen gave up his seat for a Senate bid. Democrat Adam Cote could come up against Republican Charlie Summers, whose wife campaigned for him while he was still deployed in Baghdad, after a June 10 primary.

"There are a lot that are actively pursuing political office, and more this year than last time, and that's because there are more veterans," says Jon Soltz, head of Vote Vets, a political action committee that supports Democratic candidates who are Iraq vets. They also want the United States to get out of Iraq and turn the military mission toward Afghanistan, he says.

"This isn't the people 40 years ago who came to Washington to protest. These are people who want to come to D.C. so we can take the fight to (Osama) bin Laden."

There are currently 35 combat veterans in Congress, down from 41 in 2001, according to figures from the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA). Only Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa., served in Iraq.

Overall, the number of veterans in Congress has declined sharply since its peak in 1977, when more than three-quarters of Congress had served in the military. Now only 24% have, MOAA figures show.

In 2006, about a dozen Iraq veterans ran for office, almost all of them Democrats. Murphy, the only successful candidate in 2006, faces a challenge this year from Republican Tom Manion, a Marine veteran whose son Travis was killed by sniper fire in Iraq last year.

As gas goes up, driving goes down - CNN.com

As gas goes up, driving goes down - CNN.com:... "The"Department of Transportation said figures from March show the steepest decrease in driving ever recorded.

Compared with March a year earlier, Americans drove an estimated 4.3 percent less -- that's 11 billion fewer miles, the DOT's Federal Highway Administration said Monday, calling it "the sharpest yearly drop for any month in FHWA history." Records have been kept since 1942....

Monday, May 26, 2008

Military Chief Warns Troops About Politics - NYTimes.com

Military Chief Warns Troops About Politics - NYTimes.com: "WASHINGTON"— The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has written an unusual open letter to all those in uniform, warning them to stay out of politics as the nation approaches a presidential election in which the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be a central, and certainly divisive, issue.

“The U.S. military must remain apolitical at all times and in all ways,” wrote the chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, the nation’s highest-ranking officer. “It is and must always be a neutral instrument of the state, no matter which party holds sway.”

Admiral Mullen’s essay appears in the coming issue of Joint Force Quarterly, an official military journal that is distributed widely among the officer corps.

The essay is the first Admiral Mullen has written for the journal as chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and veteran officers said they could not remember when a similar “all-hands” letter had been issued to remind military personnel to remain outside, if not above, contentious political debate.

The essay can be seen as a reflection of the deep concern among senior officers that the military, which is paying the highest price in carrying out national security policy, may be drawn into politicking this year.

The war in Iraq has already exceeded the length of World War II and is the nation’s longest conflict fought with an all-volunteer military since the Revolutionary War.

In particular, members of the Joint Chiefs have expressed worries this election year about the influence of retired officers who advise political campaigns, who have publicly called for a change in policy or who serve as television commentators on the war.

Among the most outspoken were those who joined the so-called generals’ revolt in 2006 demanding the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, as well as former officers who have written books attacking the Bush administration’s planning for and execution of the war in Iraq.

While retired officers have full rights to political activism, their colleagues still in uniform fear its effect on those trying to carry out the mission, especially more junior officers and enlisted personnel. Active-duty military personnel are prohibited from taking part in partisan politics.

“As the nation prepares to elect a new president,” Admiral Mullen wrote, “we would all do well to remember the promises we made: to obey civilian authority, to support and defend the Constitution and to do our duty at all times.”

“Keeping our politics private is a good first step,” he added. “The only things we should be wearing on our sleeves are our military insignia.”

Admiral Mullen said he was inspired to write the essay after receiving a constant stream of legitimate, if troubling, questions while visiting military personnel around the world. He said their questions included, “What if a Democrat wins?” and, “What will that do to the mission in Iraq?” and, “Do you think it’s better for one party or another to have the White House?”

“I am not suggesting that military professionals abandon all personal opinions about modern social or political issues,” Admiral Mullen wrote. “What I am suggesting — indeed, what the nation expects — is that military personnel will, in the execution of the mission assigned to them, put aside their partisan leanings. Political opinions have no place in cockpit or camp or conference room.”

He noted that “part of the deal we made when we joined up was to willingly subordinate our individual interests to the greater good of protecting vital national interests
.”

[bth: a prudent essay written by an Admiral that likely lost his job for his statements. Too bad this advice hasn't been adhered to for half a decade.]
Informed Comment

Idiot.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

YouTube - Michael Cimino's Masterwork "Deer Hunter"-- Ending

YouTube - Michael Cimino's Masterwork "Deer Hunter"-- Ending: ""

America | The National Catholic Weekly - ‘Dear Hearts Across the Seas’

America | The National Catholic Weekly - ‘Dear Hearts Across the Seas’: "For"14 hours yesterday, I was at work—teaching Christ to lift his cross by the numbers, and how to adjust his crown; and not to imagine he thirst until after the last halt. I attended his Supper to see that there were no complaints; and inspected his feet that they should be worthy of the nails. I see to it that he is dumb, and stands before his accusers. With a piece of silver I buy him every day, and with maps I make him familiar with the topography of Golgotha.”
Captain Wilfred Owen, The Manchesters
Killed in Action, Nov. 4, 1918


This famous quotation from the work of the soldier-poet Wilfred Owen sums up both the awfulness and the beauty of a combat soldier’s life. It is particularly meaningful to those who have been given the chance to train and lead men in war. I came to know Owen’s work a few years back through Paul Fussell’s The Great War and Modern Memory. Professor Fussell was badly wounded in World War II and is still filled with the righteous outrage that fills most combat men. God bless him.

Many will recoil in horror from the idea that there can be beauty in the life led by combat soldiers, the immortal “grunts” and Grognards who live in historic memory. It is all too easy to see nothing but the pain and the misery of loss, wounds and experience so horrible that it scars for life. Perhaps the worst is the memory of suffering necessarily inflicted on others whose motives are often no more base or lacking in what the Romans called pietas than our own. Not political enough for you? Go talk to a soldier and see if he agrees with you.

Comrades in Fear and Friendship
On the good side of the ledger there is the fact that there are no better friends than those with whom you have been deeply and comprehensively afraid. “Go tell my mother,” says Private Ryan in Spielberg’s exquisite film. “Go tell her that I will stay here, with the only brothers I have left.” This rings so true that it requires no explanation. Those ties bind unto death, until “the last jump,” as I have heard World War II paratroopers express it. The friendship and indeed love of comrades often long gone is, perhaps, the greatest “good” in war. It is often said that war brings out the best and the worst in people. This is profoundly true. Men who in civilian life would not have crossed the street to help a stranger often fall in the effort to help near strangers. There are many good things to be remembered. All of them have to do with comrades.

These days we are served by professionals and militia soldiers of the National Guard and reserve. These are men and women who bring to mind Lt. Col. Arthur Fremantle’s description of the infantry soldiers of Lee’s army at Gettysburg. Fremantle was a Coldstream Guards officer who had come to America to observe. He got a bellyfull of observing, but said of “Lee’s Miserables” that they were “simply beyond praise.” Our people are like that now. A friend’s son is now on his way back overseas for his fourth tour of duty in the Asian war against the jihadis. Soon, his experience will not be unusual. Forty-five years ago his father and I, looking down the barrel of another war, would never have believed that we would see this. We were short-sighted, blinded by the myopia of youth. What is the old saw from Plato? “Only the dead have seen the end of war....” Really? My word....

No Need for Boosterism
I sometimes receive letters from people who are filled with a great and high-minded attitude about war. “Well, that is why soldiers exist....” “Losses are worth their pain in a good cause....” “Our soldiers will prevail through their skill and the great weapons we buy them.” I would say to such people that the soldiers already know that. They do not need your boosterism to help them do their duty. They will do their duty to the last, as so many of our soldiers have done. Just let them get on with it without suffering the indignity of your remarks.

Just after the war in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, an Army chaplain said Mass one Memorial Day in the post chapel of the Presidio of Monterey. Since America is a Jesuit magazine, it is fitting to mention that he was a Jesuit, as so many other Army chaplains have been. He had served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. He had served with many infantry units. The infantry are the people who always do the serious, up-close killing and dying. The Army reckons that over 90 percent of all combat deaths happen in the infantry.

During his homily this priest looked out at the congregation, overwhelmingly populated with combat men and their families. He said that he wanted the people of God to remember their brothers asleep in the Lord’s embrace. He wanted them to remember how each man died alone, alone in fear, alone in misery, usually with no one to comfort him, often in the dark, with his life running out through mutilations that left little doubt of the outcome. He asked them to pray for their brothers, for the brothers who had died for us all as Jesus died for us all. The congregation sang. “In the beauty of the lilies/ Christ was born across the sea,/ with a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me./ As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free./ His truth is marching on.”

A Memorial Day Prayer
Nothing has changed. The wounds inflicted by improvised explosive devices are appalling. Go to Walter Reed or Bethesda and see for yourself. The troops are not complaining. They never complain, and so nobody has any right to be less committed to the eternal mission of the soldier than they are.

This Memorial Day, remember that the cemeteries and physical therapy wards are full of men and women who gave their all for you, and who in many cases ask nothing more than to be allowed to go back and do it again. Pray for them. Please.

“I have eaten your bread and salt.
I have drunk your water and wine.
The deaths ye died, I have watched beside,
And the lives ye led were mine.

Was there aught that I did not shareOne joy or woe that I did not know,
Dear hearts across the seas?

I have written the tale of our life
For a sheltered people’s mirth,
In jesting guise—but ye are wise,
And ye know what the jest is worth
.”

- Rudyard Kipling
“The Rifleman”

Patrick Lang, a retired Army colonel, served as chief Mideast analyst and head of human intelligence for the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency during the 1990’s.

Prediction - Al Qaeda declared defeated in Iraq Sept 08, New Surge in Afghanistan 09

Take a look at the three articles that trail this post and draw your own conclusions.

What is happening?

Well the Awakening, Iraqi Sunni tribes with bribes crushed imported Al Qaeda whack jobs from Saudi Arabia and North Africa. This probably happened last year and has become plainly evident now.

Ambassador Crocker declared this victory, but the Pentagon says not so fast. How come?

Well if you look at Petraeus' testimony in congress you can see he is holding his options open until September as to whether to increase or decrease troop levels. This has to do with the US election cycle and nothing to do with the conditions on the ground in Iraq.

In short, depending on how the US polls for President look after the two conventions, I believe Petreaus will declare victory over al Qaeda in Iraq and a troop de-escalation just as the US elections approach. It has been this way in 2006 and 2004 though August was preferred in some instances. Also usually the year after a national election the National Guard units are pushed forward. The regular forces are used during election years.

Also note that there are more publicity statements from the Pentagon about al Qaeda and Taliban forces being harbored in Pakistan and run across the border to attack US forces. Now this has been going on for years, but the statements from the Pentagon are increasing. Why? Well probably because Petraeus plans to decrease troop levels in Iraq (the level to depend on who wins in November) and shift some of those troops to Afghanistan where they likely should have been all along.

So there it is.

Victory is about to be declared in Iraq and a new surge into Afghanistan. All that's missing is the banner on the aircraft carrier.

Pentagon says growth of Al-Qaeda safe havens 'troubling'

The Raw Story | Pentagon says growth of Al-Qaeda safe havens 'troubling': "A"Pentagon report said Friday that the growth of Al-Qaeda safe havens in Pakistan's tribal areas is "troubling" and warned it may take Pakistan several years to turn around the situation.

The report to Congress by the US Department of Defense said Pakistan increased its troop levels in the border areas by 30,000 last year, and made "significant and costly" efforts to eliminate safe havens.

"It is troubling that despite these efforts, safe havens in the FATA have grown in recent years," the report said.

The report made no reference to an apparent change in strategy by the new Pakistani government favoring negotiations with militants in the federally administered tribal areas.

Under a peace agreement reached this week with pro-Taliban militants in the Swat Valley, the government agreed to gradually pull out its troops in return for a halt in attacks.

The Pentagon report noted that 700 Pakistanis have been killed in suicide attacks since July 2007.

It said "Al-Qaeda and other violent extremists continue to hide out in the FATA, where they are able to recruit, train, and target US and western interests, including plots against Europe and the US homeland."

Madrassas, or Islamic religious schools, "continue to promote jihad and martyrdom, and provide potential operatives for acts of violence in Afghanistan," it said.

"Despite successful attacks against some terrorist training facilities in the tribal areas, it is believed other camps remain active and safe havens have grown in recent years," it said.

The report described a six-year US program to help strengthen the Pakistani military and security forces' ability to secure the border with Pakistan, but cautioned that it will take time to implement.

"It may be several years before Pakistan's comprehensive strategy to render the remote tribal areas permanently inhospitable to terrorists, insurgents and other violent extremists can be measured for success," the report said.

The United States is helping Pakistan build new training facilities for the Frontier Corps, a poorly equipped tribal force responsible for guarding the border, and is also supporting special forces elements of the Pakistani army, the report said.

Frontier Corps instructors are supposed to be trained this fiscal year, to be followed next year by the training and equipping of a 700-member "wing" of the border force, according to the report.

The Pentagon has funded the program with 150 million dollars this year, and is seeking another 200 million dollars for it next year.

US military says al-Qaida in Iraq still lethal

The Raw Story | US military says al-Qaida in Iraq still lethal: "The"U.S. military distanced itself Sunday from remarks declaring al-Qaida in Iraq close to defeat, saying the terror network is "off-balance and on the run," but remains a very lethal threat.

However, Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll, a military spokesman, said violence has dropped some 70 percent since a U.S. troop buildup began nearly a year ago.

Underscoring the continuing dangers, a roadside bomb targeted a patrol of U.S.-allied Sunni Arab fighters near a mosque in northern Baghdad Sunday, killing one of the so-called Awakening Council members and wounding three others, a police official said.

Driscoll was responding to a question about comments made Saturday by U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, who said Iraqi forces have made important progress in confronting extremists.

"You are not going to hear me say that al-Qaida is defeated, but they've never been closer to defeat than they are now," Crocker said, speaking in Arabic to reporters during a visit to the Shiite holy city of Najaf.

Driscoll said the number of attacks in the past week had "decreased to the level not seen since March 2004," due to recent military operations against Shiite militias in Baghdad's Sadr City and the southern city of Basra, as well as Sunni insurgents in the northern city of Mosul.

But he warned al-Qaida in Iraq maintains the ability to stage suicide bombings and other deadly attacks.

"They certainly are off-balance and on the run," Driscoll said during a news conference in the U.S.-protected Green Zone in Baghdad. But, he added, the group "remains a very lethal threat."

The U.S. military has been cautious in touting recent security gains amid fears that al-Qaida and other insurgents are trying to regroup after suffering setbacks from military operations as well as a Sunni revolt against the terror network.

Sunni tribal leaders who have joined forces with the Americans have frequently been targeted by suspected insurgents trying to derail the movement that has been credited as a key reason for the sharp decline in violence over the past year.

The other factors include a troop buildup of some 30,000 additional American forces, which is currently being reduced, and a fragile cease-fire order by anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
...

US ambassador: Al-Qaida close to defeat in Iraq

The Raw Story | US ambassador: Al-Qaida close to defeat in Iraq: "The"U.S. ambassador to Iraq said Saturday that al-Qaida's network in the country has never been closer to defeat, and he praised Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for his moves to rein in Shiite and Sunni militant groups.

Ryan Crocker's comments came as Iraqi forces have been conducting crackdowns on al-Qaida militants in the northern city of Mosul and on Shiite militiamen in the southern city of Basra. Thousands of Iraqi forces also moved into the Shiite militia stronghold of Sadr City in Baghdad last week imposing control for the first time in years.

But truces with the powerful Mahdi Army militia that have calmed violence in Basra and paved the way for the Sadr City deployment have been strained in the past two days.

Supporters of anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who heads the Mahdi Army, accused al-Maliki on Saturday of seeking to eliminate their movement and warned that "dark clouds" hang over the truce.....

Jim Webb Speaks Out On Race, Addresses Grievances Of White America - Politics on The Huffington Post

Jim Webb Speaks Out On Race, Addresses Grievances Of White America - Politics on The Huffington Post

YouTube - Hootie And The Blowfish - Let Her Cry (Video)

YouTube - Hootie And The Blowfish - Let Her Cry (Video): ""