Saturday, June 14, 2008

YouTube - "Joe, American" Challenges the Presidential Candidates

YouTube - "Joe, American" Challenges the Presidential Candidates: - Soldier From East Brady Severely Injured In Suicide Bomb Attack In Jalabad - Soldier From East Brady Severely Injured In Suicide Bomb Attack In Jalabad: "EAST"BRADY (KDKA) ― A local soldier is now recovering in a Texas hospital after he was severely injured during a suicide bombing last month while deployed in Afghanistan.

Kevin Kammerdiener, 19, of East Brady, reportedly sustained major injuries in the May 31 attack.

According to the Butler Eagle, Kammerdiener, a private in the 173rd Airborne Brigade, was riding in a convoy in Jalabad when a suicide bomber drove into his Humvee.

Officials say the attack claimed the lives of two soldiers and injured another.

Kammerdiener reportedly suffered internal injuries, a brain injury, a broken ankle, burns over his body and remains in a coma, the Butler Eagle reports.

During her son's recovery, Kammerdiener's mother, Leslie, is updating her son's condition through her website, 'Mended Wings,' which she started before her son was injured.

Click the following link to get to Leslie's blog: Mended Wings [watch this video link]

[bth: so while national tv news drones on and on about Russet's untimely death, local journalism still functions with stories like this. A real hero, lies in a coma. It won't be reported on national news, yet it is news, or should be. Kammerdiener will give more at 19 to this country than Russet ever did. Lazy national journalists. Do something. Make a difference. Report things that matter. Report on real people like the Kammerdiener family. Tell their story.]

Militants attack Afghan prison, free inmates

The Raw Story | Militants attack Afghan prison, free inmates: "Militants"attacked the city's main prison with a suicide car bombing and rockets late Friday, killing police and setting hundreds of prisoners free, Afghan officials said.

"All the prisoners escaped. There is no one left," said Wali Karzai, president of Kandahar's provincial council and also the brother of President Hamid Karzai.

A suicide car bomber blew up his vehicle at the prison's gates in the southern Afghan city, Justice Minister Sarwar Danish said.

Danish said he did not have immediate details on how many prisoners might have escaped. But a prison official at the scene, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly, said most prisoners escaped.

The prison holds common criminals but also Taliban militants fighting NATO troops and the Afghan government.

Officials with NATO's International Security Assistance Force said they were aware of the attack but did not have any details yet.

Last month, some 200 Taliban suspects held at the Kandahar prison ended a weeklong hunger strike after a parliamentary delegation promised their cases would be reviewed.

Lawmaker Habibullah Jan said some of the hunger strikers had been held without trial for more than two years. Others were given lengthy prison sentences after short trials.

Jan said 47 of the prisoners had stitched their mouths shut during the hunger strike in May.

Kandahar — the Taliban's former stronghold and Afghanistan's second-largest city — has been the scene of fierce battles between NATO forces, primarily from Canada and the United States and Taliban fighters the last two years.

[bth: part of our on going terrorist catch and release program.... This is to be expected. There is precedent for mass al Qaeda prison breaks in the Philippines, Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan. Anticipate that we will find out a few weeks from now that it was an inside job.]

Rezko: Feds pushed for dirt on Obama - Kenneth P. Vogel -

Rezko: Feds pushed for dirt on Obama - Kenneth P. Vogel - "Imprisoned"Chicago businessman Antoin “Tony” Rezko has accused federal prosecutors of improperly pressuring him to implicate Barack Obama in a corruption case.

In a letter to the U.S. District judge who presided over his trial, Rezko, who was convicted this month of 16 corruption-related counts, including fraud and money laundering, called prosecutors “overzealous.” And he singled out what he said were their efforts to get him to turn on Obama, an Illinois senator and the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, and Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

“They are pressuring me to tell them the ‘wrong’ things that I supposedly know about Gov. Blagojevich and Sen. Obama,” Rezko wrote in an undated letter released by the court this week. “I have never been party to any wrongdoing that involved the governor or the senator. I will never fabricate lies about anyone else for selfish purposes. I will take what comes my way, but I will never hurt innocent people.” ...

VA Denies Vet’s Disability Claim–Cites Membership In VoteVets As Reason

Crooks and Liars » VA Denies Vet’s Disability Claim–Cites Membership In VoteVets As Reason: ..."The"VA rejected an Afghanistan veteran’s disability claim for PTSD last month, citing his membership in as a reason for the denial. ...

[bth: nuts]

Iran Official Arrested For Criticizing Clerics -

Iran Official Arrested For Criticizing Clerics - "TEHRAN" June 11 -- A mid-level government official supportive of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's political faction was arrested Wednesday for making public accusations of corruption against several top clerics, the Iranian Fars News Agency reported.

Iranian media accounts said Abbas Palizdar gave two speeches at universities in the Iranian cities of Hamadan and Shiraz in May in which he denounced several clerics, some of whom hold important political positions. ...

[bth: its long been known that the clerics have been parking the export oil revenue as cash in personal accounts in Switzerland and elsewhere. That is why re-investment in Iran has been so poor and why it imports is gasoline. The clerics took the money.]

The wife John McCain callously left behind | Mail Online

The wife John McCain callously left behind | Mail Online: "Now"that Hillary Clinton has at last formally withdrawn from the race for the White House, the eyes of America and the world will focus on Barack Obama and his Republican rival Senator John McCain.

While Obama will surely press his credentials as the embodiment of the American dream – a handsome, charismatic young black man who was raised on food stamps by a single mother and who represents his country’s future – McCain will present himself as a selfless, principled war hero whose campaign represents not so much a battle for the presidency of the United States, but a crusade to rescue the nation’s tarnished reputation.

McCain likes to illustrate his moral fibre by referring to his five years as a prisoner-of-war in Vietnam. And to demonstrate his commitment to family values, the 71-year-old former US Navy pilot pays warm tribute to his beautiful blonde wife, Cindy, with whom he has four children.

But there is another Mrs McCain who casts a ghostly shadow over the Senator’s presidential campaign. She is seldom seen and rarely written about, despite being mother to McCain’s three eldest children.

And yet, had events turned out differently, it would be she, rather than Cindy, who would be vying to be First Lady. She is McCain’s first wife, Carol, who was a famous beauty and a successful swimwear model when they married in 1965.

She was the woman McCain dreamed of during his long incarceration and torture in Vietnam’s infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ prison and the woman who faithfully stayed at home looking after the children and waiting anxiously for news.

But when McCain returned to America in 1973 to a fanfare of publicity and a handshake from Richard Nixon, he discovered his wife had been disfigured in a terrible car crash three years earlier. Her car had skidded on icy roads into a telegraph pole on Christmas Eve, 1969. Her pelvis and one arm were shattered by the impact and she suffered massive internal injuries.

When Carol was discharged from hospital after six months of life-saving surgery, the prognosis was bleak. In order to save her legs, surgeons

had been forced to cut away huge sections of shattered bone, taking with it her tall, willowy figure. She was confined to a wheelchair and was forced to use a catheter.

Through sheer hard work, Carol learned to walk again. But when John McCain came home from Vietnam, she had gained a lot of weight and bore little resemblance to her old self.

Today, she stands at just 5ft4in and still walks awkwardly, with a pronounced limp. Her body is held together by screws and metal plates and, at 70, her face is worn by wrinkles that speak of decades of silent suffering.

For nearly 30 years, Carol has maintained a dignified silence about the accident, McCain and their divorce. But last week at the bungalow where she now lives at Virginia Beach, a faded seaside resort 200 miles south of Washington, she told The Mail on Sunday how McCain divorced her in 1980 and married Cindy, 18 years his junior and the heir to an Arizona brewing fortune, just one month later.

Carol insists she remains on good terms with her ex-husband, who agreed as part of their divorce settlement to pay her medical costs for life. ‘I have no bitterness,’

she says. ‘My accident is well recorded. I had 23 operations, I am five inches shorter than I used to be and I was in hospital for six months. It was just awful, but it wasn’t the reason for my divorce.

‘My marriage ended because John McCain didn’t want to be 40, he wanted to be 25. You know that just does.’

Some of McCain’s acquaintances are less forgiving, however. They portray the politician as a self-centred womaniser who effectively abandoned his crippled wife to ‘play the field’. They accuse him of finally settling on Cindy, a former rodeo beauty queen, for financial reasons.

McCain was then earning little more than £25,000 a year as a naval officer, while his new father-in-law, Jim Hensley, was a multi-millionaire who had impeccable political connections.

He first met Carol in the Fifties while he was at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis. He was a privileged, but rebellious scion of one of America’s most distinguished military dynasties – his father and grandfather were both admirals.

But setting out to have a good time, the young McCain hung out with a group of young officers who called themselves the ‘Bad Bunch’.

His primary interest was women and his conquests ranged from a knife-wielding floozy nicknamed ‘Marie, the Flame of Florida’ to a tobacco heiress.

Carol fell into his fast-living world by accident. She escaped a poor upbringing in Philadelphia to become a successful model, married an Annapolis classmate of McCain’s and had two children – Douglas and Andrew – before renewing what one acquaintance calls ‘an old flirtation’ with McCain.

It seems clear she was bowled over by McCain’s attention at a time when he was becoming bored with his playboy lifestyle.

‘He was 28 and ready to settle down and he loved Carol’s children,’ recalled another Annapolis graduate, Robert Timberg, who wrote The Nightingale’s Song, a bestselling biography of McCain and four other graduates of the academy.

The couple married and McCain adopted Carol’s sons. Their daughter, Sidney, was born a year later, but domesticity was clearly beginning

to bore McCain – the couple were regarded as ‘fixtures on the party circuit’ before McCain requested combat duty in Vietnam at the end of 1966.

He was assigned as a bomber pilot on an aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Tonkin.

What follows is the stuff of the McCain legend. He was shot down over Hanoi in October 1967 on his 23rd mission over North Vietnam and was badly beaten by an angry mob when he was pulled, half-drowned from a lake.

Over the next five-and-a-half years in the notorious Hoa Loa Prison he was regularly tortured and mistreated.

It was in 1969 that Carol went to spend the Christmas holiday – her third without McCain – at her parents’ home. After dinner, she left to drop off some presents at a friend’s house.

It wasn’t until some hours later that she was discovered, alone and in terrible pain, next to the wreckage of her car. She had been hurled through the windscreen.

After her first series of life-saving operations, Carol was told she may never walk again, but when doctors said they would try to get word to McCain about her injuries, she refused, insisting: ‘He’s got enough problems, I don’t want to tell him.’

H. Ross Perot, a billionaire Texas businessman, future presidential candidate and advocate of prisoners of war, paid for her medical care.

When McCain – his hair turned prematurely white and his body reduced to little more than a skeleton – was released in March 1973, he told reporters he was overjoyed to see Carol again.

But friends say privately he was ‘appalled’ by the change in her appearance. At first, though, he was kind, assuring her: ‘I don’t look so good myself. It’s fine.’

He bought her a bungalow near the sea in Florida and another former PoW helped him to build a railing so she could pull herself over the dunes to the water.

‘I thought, of course, we would live happily ever after,’ says Carol. But as a war hero, McCain was moving in ever-more elevated circles.

Through Ross Perot, he met Ronald Reagan, then Governor of California. A sympathetic Nancy Reagan took Carol under her wing.

But already the McCains’ marriage had begun to fray. ‘John started carousing and running around with women,’ said Robert Timberg.

McCain has acknowledged that he had girlfriends during this time, without going into details. Some friends blame his dissatisfaction with Carol, but others give some credence to her theory of a mid-life crisis.

He was also fiercely ambitious, but it was clear he would never become an admiral like his illustrious father and grandfather and his thoughts were turning to politics.

In 1979 – while still married to Carol – he met Cindy at a cocktail party in Hawaii. Over the next six months he pursued her, flying around the country to see her. Then he began to push to end his marriage.

Carol and her children were devastated. ‘It was a complete surprise,’ says Nancy Reynolds, a former Reagan aide.

‘They never displayed any difficulties between themselves. I know the Reagans were quite shocked because they loved and respected both Carol and John.’

Another friend added: ‘Carol didn’t fight him. She felt her infirmity made her an impediment to him. She justified his actions because of all he had gone through. She used to say, “He just wants to make up for lost time.”’

Indeed, to many in their circle the saddest part of the break-up was Carol’s decision to resign herself to losing a man she says she still adores.

Friends confirm she has remained friends with McCain and backed him in all his campaigns. ‘He was very generous to her in the divorce but of course he could afford to be, since he was marrying Cindy,’ one observed.

McCain transferred the Florida beach house to Carol and gave her the right to live in their jointly-owned townhouse in the Washington suburb of Alexandria. He also agreed to pay her alimony and child support.

A former neighbour says she subsequently sold up in Florida and Washington and moved in 2003 to Virginia Beach. He said: ‘My impression was that she found the new place easier to manage as she still has some difficulties walking.’

Meanwhile McCain moved to Arizona with his new bride immediately after their 1980 marriage. There, his new father-in-law gave him a job and introduced him to local businessmen and political powerbrokers who would smooth his passage to Washington via the House of Representatives and Senate.

And yet despite his popularity as a politician, there are those who won’t forget his treatment of his first wife.

Ted Sampley, who fought with US Special Forces in Vietnam and is now a leading campaigner for veterans’ rights, said: ‘I have been following John McCain’s career for nearly 20 years. I know him personally. There is something wrong with this guy and let me tell you what it is – deceit.

‘When he came home and saw that Carol was not the beauty he left behind, he started running around on her almost right away. Everybody around him knew it.

Eventually he met Cindy and she was young and beautiful and very wealthy. At that point McCain just dumped Carol for something he thought was better.

‘This is a guy who makes such a big deal about his character. He has no character. He is a fake. If there was any character in that first marriage, it all belonged to Carol

One old friend of the McCains said: ‘Carol always insists she is not bitter, but I think that’s a defence mechanism. She also feels deeply in his debt because in return for her agreement to a divorce, he promised to pay for her medical care for the rest of her life.’

Carol remained resolutely loyal as McCain’s political star rose. She says she agreed to talk to The Mail on Sunday only because she wanted to publicise her support for the man who abandoned her.

Indeed, the old Mercedes that she uses to run errands displays both a disabled badge and a sticker encouraging people to vote for her ex-husband. ‘He’s a good guy,’ she assured us. ‘We are still good friends. He is the best man for president.’

But Ross Perot, who paid her medical bills all those years ago, now believes that both Carol McCain and the American people have been taken in by a man who is unusually slick and cruel – even by the standards of modern politics.

‘McCain is the classic opportunist. He’s always reaching for attention and glory,’ he said.

‘After he came home, Carol walked with a limp. So he threw her over for a poster girl with big money from Arizona. And the rest is history

[bth: Deceit is the word. I fear it is true for McCain - marriage, corruption, lobbyists, war and taxes. Conceit might be the other word of wonder.... Last, don't you find it fascinating that this important article is written by a British news source and not a US paper - not the NYT, WaPo or LA Times?]

MotherJones Blog: Report: Rove Talks "Fairly Regularly" With McCain Camp; Getting Six Figures From Freedom's Watch

MotherJones Blog: Report: Rove Talks "Fairly Regularly" With McCain Camp; Getting Six Figures From Freedom's Watch: "In"a new National Journal article (not available online), writer Peter Stone dives deep into the conservative establishment and gets campaign staffers, movement operatives, and the ubiquitous "strategists" and "consultants" to talk about Karl Rove's current role in presidential politics. The takeaway? Rove is back. In fact, he probably never left. The campaign that is trying to prove it's not a second coming of George W. Bush is using the President's former chief strategist on a regular basis.

Stone says not to be fooled by Rove's hesitance to be identified with John McCain publicly.

...away from the spotlight, Rove has been busy pitching in by giving informal advice to McCain’s team and spending a considerable amount of time as an outside adviser to Freedom’s Watch, the conservative political group that is expected to spend tens of millions of dollars to help elect House GOP candidates. William Weidner, a Freedom’s Watch board member, recently told National Journal that Rove has offered strategic advice to both the group and its major financial backer, Las Vegas casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson. Weidner, president of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., which Adelson chairs, called Rove "an invaluable asset" to the group....

While the top of McCain's campaign won't admit to extensive conversations with Rove, fearing that Rove is too closely associated with the Bush Administration and its worst scandals, some folks are willing to spill the beans off the record.

"Generally speaking, Rove's advice is action-oriented and useful," said another senior consultant to the McCain camp. "It's always well received." This McCain adviser noted that Rove talks periodically to Black and a few other top campaign aides on several key matters. "It can be policy ideas, messaging ideas, fundraising prospects, or people who need calls from someone in the campaign." Rove is "part of the information network that the campaign has," this adviser said, adding that Rove talks fairly regularly to such key people as Wayne Berman, a major fundraiser for McCain; Nicolle Wallace, a communications adviser; and Steve Schmidt, a senior aide.

And Rove is even more deeply involved with Freedom's Watch, the internally troubled right wing group that seeks to make trouble for Democrats throughout the campaign season.

[William] Weidner [a Freedom’s Watch board member] stressed that Rove has been "very generous with his time and ideas. He gives up his time for those things he believes in."
Two GOP strategists said they have heard that Rove has worked out a private consulting deal with Adelson; this arrangement, one strategist reported, pays Rove in the mid-six figures for giving speeches and providing assistance to Freedom’s Watch on labor union issues, a top priority of the group.

[bth: anything involving Rove and Sheldon Adelson has to be watched closely. Money, power and ill intent are their MO. They are involved in corruption and dirty politics in the US and Israel.]

CQ Politics | Agreement Could Pave Way for Surveillance Overhaul

CQ Politics | Agreement Could Pave Way for Surveillance Overhaul: "Congressional"leaders and the Bush administration have reached an agreement in principle on an overhaul of surveillance rules, sources familiar with negotiations said Friday.....

It was not immediately clear, however, what standard the court would use to determine whether retroactive legal immunity was justified. If that standard is too low, civil liberties advocates maintain, the law will have been written so that companies are almost assured of being granted immunity, and any claim of court scrutiny is a mirage. One source said the court would review whether there was “substantial evidence” that the companies had received assurances from the government that the administration’s program was legal.

Under the last version of the Bond proposal, the FISA court would get to review, in advance, the process by which the administration chooses foreign surveillance targets who may be communicating with people in the United States. No warrants would be needed in such cases, though, and the executive branch could begin its warrantless surveillance program before the FISA court review in “exigent,” or urgent circumstances....

[bth: my concern is that the matter has been shoved to this court so that the companies can be let off the hook quietly without political fall-out. That this is a politically convenient stunt for Dems and Reps and in the end the American people will have had their civil liberties abused without consequence.]

Friday, June 13, 2008

YouTube - How to Build a Segway Trasnporter - Robot

YouTube - How to Build a Segway Trasnporter - Robot: ""

Iraq's Sadr plans new armed group to fight US forces - Yahoo! News

Iraq's Sadr plans new armed group to fight US forces - Yahoo! News: "KUFA"Iraq (AFP) - Iraq's hardline Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr announced on Friday that he plans to form a new armed group to fight US forces in Iraq.

In a statement issued to his nearly 60,000 strong Mahdi Army militia, the anti-American cleric said the fight against US forces will now be waged only by the new group.

"The resistance will be carried out exclusively by a special group which I will announce later," Sadr said in a statement which was read out at a mosque in the holy Shiite town of Kufa.

"We will keep resisting the occupier until the liberation (of Iraq) or (our) martrydom."

Sadr said the group will direct its operations against US forces and will be banned from fighting Iraqis.

"This group will be professional and it will be the only group carrying arms which will be directed against the occupier. It will be banned from using arms against any Iraqis."

Sadr's Mahdi Army has regularly clashed with US forces since the March 2003 invasion that toppled the Sunni-led regime of Saddam Hussein.

In 2004, Sadr led two rebellions against American troops from the holy city of Najaf which saw hundreds of his militiamen killed.

Last year in August he suspended Mahdi Army activities after allegations his fighters were engaged in a bloody battle in the Shiite city of Karbala during a major festival.

Since then, the Sadr group maintains that the militia has not broken the ceasefire but his fighters were involved in battles against US and Iraqi troops that erupted in late March in Baghdad and other Shiite regions.

Hundreds of people were killed in the clashes which broke out after premier Nuri al-Maliki ordered a crackdown on Shiite militias.

The US military had repeately accused the Mahdi Army, which is mainly dominant in Baghdad's impoverished Sadr City district, of killing Sunni Arabs during Iraq's vicious sectarian conflict.

But since Sadr declared the ceasefire, the military has stopped accusing the militia directly.

It often claims that certain members of the militia who do not follow the cleric's orders continue to indulge in criminal activities.

The military also alleges that these fighters are being trained, armed and funded by Iranian groups, charges denied by Tehran

[bth: this is not good nor acceptable]

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Another US air attack on Waziristan | Pakistan | News | Newspaper | Daily | English | Online

Another US air attack on Waziristan | Pakistan | News | Newspaper | Daily | English | Online: "SOUTH"WAZIRISTAN -US aircrafts violated Pakistan air space and launched another air strike in the South Waziristan tribal region, witnesses said on Thursday. There was no casualty but the air raid at Angoor Ada near the Afghan border created panic among the people.

According to sources, the US planes on Wednesday night bombed Zeyub mountainous range, around 25 km west of Wana, the center of South Waziristan. The air strike uprooted trees and created deep caves in the mountainous region.

After the US air strike, more than 10 Mortar shells were fired from the Bermal area in Afghanistan, locals said. The shells landed at Angoor Adda, Bagar and Moosa Nika and caused huge explosions, they said.

An official said that the local administration had also received information about the air strike.

The air strike on Waziristan came a day after US planes bombed Mohmad Agency and killed 11 Pakistani soldiers and other people.

Sources said that the American spy planes were seen flying at low altitude in North Waziristan.

Future raid to be retaliated, says Mukhtar | Pakistan | News | Newspaper | Daily | English | Online

Future raid to be retaliated, says Mukhtar | Pakistan | News | Newspaper | Daily | English | Online: "KARACHI" Minister for Defence Ch Ahmed Mukhtar has denounced the attack on Pakistani soldiers by NATO forces, terming it quite unsuitable for America as Islamabad was a close ally in Washington's war against terrorism.

While talking to reporters here on Thursday, the Defence Minister on his visit to Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) sector in Karachi said that Pakistan played a frontline role in war against terrorism on behalf of America and current air attack on its forces from NATO forces "does not suit the American claims of joint efforts against terrorism".

Replying to a question, the minister vowed that any such attack in future would be retaliated, as the current attack was totally unfair.

Mukhtar said that NATO forces did not enter into Pakistani territory for attacking Mohmand Agency checkpost, but it was an airstrike.

Talking to reporters in Karachi on Thursday, the Federal Minister said Pakistan has protested to the US and coaliltion forces over the violation of its territory and the loss of security personnel. He said that compensation had also been demanded in this regard...

[bth: "unfair"?] - Robert Mugabe Militia Hacks, Burns Alive Opposition Leader's Wife - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News - Robert Mugabe Militia Hacks, Burns Alive Opposition Leader's Wife - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News: "The"men who pulled up in three white pickup trucks were looking for Patson Chipiro, head of the Zimbabwean opposition party in Mhondoro district. His wife, Dadirai, told them he was in Harare but would be back later in the day, and the men departed.

An hour later they were back. They grabbed Dadirai Chipiro and chopped off one of her hands and both her feet. Then they threw her into her hut, locked the door and threw a petrol bomb through the window.

The killing last Friday — one of the most grotesque atrocities committed by Robert Mugabe’s regime since independence in 1980 — was carried out on a wave of worsening brutality before the run-off presidential elections in just over two weeks. It echoed the activities of Foday Sankoh, the rebel leader in the Sierra Leone civil war that ended in 2002, whose trade-mark was to chop off hands and feet.

About 70 local supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change gathered Wednesday in Patson Chipiro’s small yard in Mhondoro to protect him.

Inside the hut where his wife of 29 years died, women sang softly to a subdued drum beat next to the cheap wooden coffin. The thatched roof had been destroyed in the fire so they sat under the open sky. The lid could not be closed because Dadirai Chipiro’s outstretched arm had burnt rigid. Her charred hand was found as women swept the hut....

Armchair Generalist - This is News? - Rand study on counterinsurgency in Afghanistan

Armchair Generalist: "RAND"Corporation is always putting out good reports on national security, but I have to wonder about this one just released: "Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan." Its recommendations seem... kind of self-evident. From the summary:

In the Afghan insurgency, the competence—and, in some areas, incompetence—of the indigenous government and its security forces have been critical factors. This analysis suggests that success in Afghanistan hinges on three factors.

First is the ability of the United States and other international actors to help build competent and legitimate Afghan security forces, especially police, which was not accomplished during the early stages of the counterinsurgency. ... Based on the low quality of Afghan police when the Taliban was overthrown in 2001, police reform in Afghanistan will take at least a decade.

Second, the United States and other international actors need to improve the quality of local governance, especially in rural areas of Afghanistan. ... The counterinsurgency in Afghanistan will be won or lost in the local communities of rural Afghanistan, not in urban centers such as Kabul. This means the counterinsurgency must find ways to reach these communities despite security concerns.

Third, the United States and other international actors need to eliminate the insurgents’ support base in Pakistan. The failure to do so will cripple long-term efforts to stabilize and rebuild Afghanistan.

The recommendations in Chapter Seven cover eight functional areas: police, border security, ground combat, air strike and air mobility, intelligence, command and control, information operations, and civil-military affairs. In some of these areas, such as civil affairs, the U.S. military should not be the lead agency and will need to coordinate closely with other states, international organizations, and NGOs. Indeed, the success of any counterinsurgency campaign over the long run ultimately requires a combination of military, political, economic, and other efforts.

The full report is more than 170 pages, chuck full of details, but again, I'm not seeing anything that isn't intuitive. There is a discussion about Afghanistan's drug trade on pages 80-83; again, nothing shocking here when the report notes that "UN data suggest that the drug trade remained one of Afghanistan's most serious challenges." The bar chart tracking opium poppy cultivation from 1986 to 2007 does clearly show how the poppy trade has more than tripled in volume since the U.S. government took over that country. We know what the solution is with respect to counterinsurgency; the challenge seems to be one of implementation rather than determining what works in counterinsurgency operations.

[bth: follow original link to Rand study. The full report can be downloaded.]

"friday-lunch-club": "..Lebanese intelligence said it has strong suspicions jihadis are coming to Lebanon with plans to take on Hizbullah.."

"friday-lunch-club": "..Lebanese intelligence said it has strong suspicions jihadis are coming to Lebanon with plans to take on Hizbullah..": "Thousands"of foreign fighters are streaming back from Iraq to places as far-flung as London and Lebanon. What happens when the jihadis come marching home?" Andrew Exum in Democracy, here

".........based in Beirut, who is convinced the country is about to become the focus of serious jihadi activity in the near future. Of course, returning jihadis have already made their presence felt last in Nahr el Bared camp. However, Londonstani's friend mentioned today that Lebanese intelligence has said it has strong suspicions jihadis are coming to Lebanon with plans to take on Hizbullah." (Abu Muqawama.. former lair of Andrew Exum..)

And in Al Balad, "Another attack on Lebanese Army units in Ain El Helweh... ", the 4th in less than two weeks...

[bth: reading between the lines does this say that Saudi directed Sunni surrogate fighters have are leaving Iraq, probably as a result of a deal between Iraq, the US and Saudi Arabia, and that the Saudi's are redirecting their exported surrogate Sunni fighters to Lebanon to counter Iran's surrogate Shia Hezbollah fighters there? Is Lebanon the new battle ground between the sects of Islam? If this theory is correct, we will see a continued improvement in conditions in Iraq and a civil war erupting in Lebanon.]

Iraqi police detain three Special Groups operative behind 2007 Karbala attack - The Long War Journal

Iraqi police detain three Special Groups operative behind 2007 Karbala attack - The Long War Journal: "Iraqi"police have captured three Iranian-backed Special Groups operatives behind the kidnapping and murder of five US soldiers at the Karbala Provincial Joint Coordination Center in January 2007. Meanwhile, US troops captured another Special Groups leader in the Al Kut region.

The Iraqi police captured the three "key criminals" behind the 2007 Karbala attack in Musayyib, just south of Baghdad, on June 5. The three Special Groups operatives are "suspected of trafficking and emplacing explosively formed projectiles." Explosively formed projectiles are the signature weapon of Shia terrorists with links to Iran.

The US military immediately suspected Iran's Qods Force, the elite external operations branch, of being behind the 2007 attack in Karbala. The raid was well planned and executed, as the attackers appeared to be Americans, spoke English, and used American equipment. One US soldier was killed and three wounded during the initial attack, and four soldiers were subsequently taken hostage. They were executed shortly afterward after Iraqi police and Coalition forces tracked their movement eastward towards Iran and went into pursuit. US satellite imagery specialists found a
mock-up of the Karbala Provincial Joint Coordination Center at an Iranian base in southern Iran.

The US military gained insight on the Karbala attack and Iran's involvement in operations in Baghdad and the South after stepping up pressure on the Iranian networks in late 2006 and throughout 2007. The US military killed or captured multiple high-level Iranian-trained agents and a Qods Force leader of one of the three subcommands inside Iraq.

Multinational Forces Iraq killed Azhar al Dulaimi, the leader of the Karbala attack, during a raid north of Baghdad in May 2007. Dulaimi is described as the mastermind and tactical commander of the Karbala attack, as well as other high-profile terror attacks in Iraq. Dulaimi was a senior leader in the Qazali network, which General David Petraeus noted was behind the planning, organization, and execution of the Karbala attack.

The Qazali Network was led by Qais Qazali, the former spokesman for Muqtada al Sadr, the leader of the Mahdi Army. US forces captured Qazali and his brother Layith in early 2007. Muqtada al Sadr has called for the release of Qazali in the past.

Coalition forces also captured Ali Mussa Daqduq, a senior Hezbollah operative, and Mahmud Farhadi, the Qods Force officer in charge of the Zafr Command, one of the three units subordinate to the Ramazan Corps, Iran's military command directing operations inside Iraq.

Senior Special Groups leader captured near Al Kut

Coalition special forces teams also captured a Special Groups leader in the town of Numaniyah near Al Kut in Wasit province. The operative is described as an "Iranian-trained improvised explosive device expert" who "traveled to Iran several times for explosives training. Intelligence sources also said the suspect has numerous Iranian contacts with whom he would meet when smuggling weapons and bomb-making materials into Iraq."

US and Iraqi forces detained four other senior Special Groups leaders in Wasit province since June 3.

Iraqi security forces have stepped up operations against the Mahdi Army Special Groups and the Iranian supply lines in Basrah, Dhi Qhar, Wasit, Kabala, and Najaf provinces over the past several weeks. Scores of Special Groups leaders have been captured or killed during operations to disrupt the terror networks.

McClatchy Washington Bureau | 06/11/2008 | Strike on Iran nuclear sites under discussion again

McClatchy Washington Bureau | 06/11/2008 | Strike on Iran nuclear sites under discussion again: "JERUSALEM"— Six months ago, after American intelligence agencies declared that Iran had shelved its nuclear-weapons program, the chances of a U.S. or Israeli military strike on Iran before President Bush left office seemed remote.

Now, thanks to persistent pressure from Israeli hawks and newly stated concerns by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the idea of a targeted strike meant to cripple Iran's nuclear program is getting a new hearing.

As Bush travels across Europe to gain support for possible new sanctions against Iran, Israeli leaders have been working to lay the psychological foundation for a possible military strike if diplomacy falters.

In public threats and private briefings with American decision-makers, Israeli officials have been making the case that a military strike may be the only way to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions.

"Temperatures are rising," said Emily Landau, an Iran specialist at the Institute for National Security Studies, an independent Israeli research center....

Intelligence analysts disagree over the likelihood of a military strike on Iran before Bush leaves office. But there's little disagreement about the possible repercussions, which could include missile strikes on Israel, an attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities, renewed attacks on Israel from Hezbollah fighters in southern Lebanon, a resurgence of Shiite Muslim resistance to U.S. forces in Iraq or an attack on oil shipping in the Persian Gulf, which could send crude oil prices well above $200 a barrel.

Some analysts view the latest Israeli threats as an attempt to put pressure on Iran to capitulate to Western demands. Other analysts see the Israeli campaign as intended to press the Bush administration to take the lead if the two nations decide to launch a military strike on Iran.

"The most likely scenario is that the Israelis will train and prepare as if they are very serious — and that's part of the bluff to get the U.S. engaged," said John McCreary, a retired intelligence analyst for the U.S. Department of Defense.

The key factor in any decision to launch a military strike is likely to be solid intelligence that Iran is rapidly advancing on its nuclear ambitions.

"I don't think there is that smoking gun that we can hold up and say that everyone should stand behind this," said Landau, who recently wrote an analysis titled "The Elusive Smoking Gun" for her think tank.

But Landau said the international debate had shifted in the weeks since the IAEA expressed "serious concerns" about Iran's nuclear ambitions and demanded more answers.

Israel already has demonstrated an ability to persuade reluctant Bush administration officials of the need to stage a pre-emptive strike. Before launching an airstrike on Syria last September, Israel provided the United States with intelligence suggesting that its Middle East neighbor was building a nuclear plant....

Every passing day the world acts, under the leadership of the United States, to achieve that goal that will prevent Iran's armament," Olmert said after meeting Bush.

On Wednesday, Olmert spokesman Mark Regev said that Iran must understand that it must give up its nuclear ambitions in order to receive international incentives.

"Only if they understand that there is a clear and stark choice, that there isn't wiggle room, only then can diplomacy succeed," Regev said. "I think in dealing with the Iranians it's important to have both carrots and sticks."

The Associated Press: Afghans uncover 260 tons of hashish in record bust

The Associated Press: Afghans uncover 260 tons of hashish in record bust: "KABUL"Afghan counternarcotics officials said Wednesday that they uncovered 260 tons of hashish hidden in 6-foot-deep trenches in southern Afghanistan in what one DEA official said appears to be the world's biggest drug bust.

The hashish, found in the southern province of Kandahar on Monday, was worth more than $400 million and would have netted the Taliban about $14 million in profits
, NATO's International Security Assistance Force said.

The hashish weighed as much as 30 double-decker London buses, ISAF said. The drugs were burned on site. Hashish is a concentrated form of marijuana.

"The Afghan National Police Special Task Force has made a huge step forward in proving its capability in curbing the tide of illegal drug trade in this country," U.S. Gen. David McKiernan, the commander of ISAF, said in a statement.

"With this single find, they have seriously crippled the Taliban's ability to purchase weapons that threaten the safety and security of the Afghan people and the region."

The spokesman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, Garrison Courtney, said the drug bust appears is the world's largest in terms of weight. He called the takedown "pretty huge."

"I can't think of any other time I've ever heard of that large of an amount in one hit," he said.

Afghanistan's biggest drug problem is not hashish but opium. The country produced 9,000 tons last year, enough to make over 880 tons of heroin — 93 percent of the world's supply.

But officials have increased warnings that farmers who no longer grow opium poppies because of successful eradication programs have turned their fields to cannabis, the plant used to produce hashish and marijuana, giving the country a second drug problem to contend with.

Deputy Interior Minister Lt. Gen. Abdul Hadi Khalid, who announced the bust Wednesday, said three men were arrested in the raid. He credited the international community for helping to train the Afghan special narcotics forces.

He said that 21 of the country's 36 provinces are now opium-free, but that efforts to eradicate in Kandahar, Helmand, Farah and Uruzgan provinces did not go well this year because of continuing violence there.

Forty-three members of the country's counternarcotics police were killed during eradication operations this spring, he said.

In a separate recent counternarcotics operation in nearby Helmand province, the Interior Ministry said police seized 11,250 pounds of opium and arrested 13 drug dealers.

[bth: if I read this right a pound of hash is worth $27 to the Taliban]

Multi-National Force - Iraq - Coalition forces detain suspected Special Groups IED expert near al-Kut

Multi-National Force - Iraq - Coalition forces detain suspected Special Groups IED expert near al-Kut: "BAGHDAD" Coalition forces captured a suspected Iranian-trained Special Groups explosives expert Wednesday in Numaniyah, about 180 km southeast of Baghdad near Al Kut.

Acting on intelligence information, Coalition forces targeted a suspected Iranian-trained improvised explosive device expert. Using information provided by Special Groups criminals already detained, the targeted criminal is believed to have traveled to Iran several times for explosives training. Intelligence sources also said the suspect has numerous Iranian contacts with whom he would meet when smuggling weapons and bomb-making materials into Iraq.

Coalition forces entered the suspected criminal’s residence and subdued him without firing any shots after the man made a move toward a weapon.

“Significance progress is being made, and Iraqi people are a big part of the operations to stop terrorists throughout Iraq,” said Navy Lt. Patrick Evans, MNF-I spokesperson.

24 suspects arrested south of Kirkuk

Aswat Aliraq: "Kirkuk"Jun 11, (VOI)- A total of 24 suspected gunmen were arrested on Wednesday during a security raid in south of Kirkuk, said a police source.

"Policemen waged a wide-scale searching operation in al-Nasr neighborhood, south of Kirkuk, where they arrested 24 suspected gunmen, including eight wanted men," the source told Aswat al-Iraq - Voices of Iraq (VOI) on condition of anonymity.
Brig. Sarhad Qader, Kirkuk's districts police chief, had said earlier that a total of 18 suspected gunmen, including 11 wanted men, were arrested during a security raid in eight villages in southwest Kirkuk.
Kirkuk is 250 km northeast of Baghdad.

[bth: I wonder if Taza is included in this list of villages. This is where my son was killed.]

Blog: Nukes & Spooks - Afghanistan violence redux

Blog: Nukes & Spooks: "Last"week we posted on a special report that tracked worsening violence this year in Afghanistan by John McCreary, a former senior Defense Intelligence Agency official who produces a deeply insightful daily analysis of international affairs called NightWatch.

The full Afghanistan report, drawn exclusively from open sources and showing May as the bloodiest month since the 2001 U.S. intervention, is now available and some of the details make chilling reading.

Among the most noteworthy is a finding that the capital, Kabul, and the surrounding provinces are among the areas that have been seeing some of the most intense Taliban violence.

"An increase in attacks in and around Kabul is particularly noteworthy because it indicates a physical and psychological worsening of the security situation," says the report. "For the second time in two years, in May Kabul was one of the regions under the greatest stress. Moreover, there is a slow increase in the number of attacks and area of fighting in the provinces directly bordering Kabul."

"Kabul is becoming slowly surrounded," it says.

[bth: go to the original link which in turn has links to some excellent analysis and the full report. The situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating, no doubt about it.]

Blog: Nukes & Spooks - The Army is operating paycheck to paycheck

Blog: Nukes & Spooks: "Last"month, we wrote about a looming budgetary crisis, which threatened to stop soldiers’ pay after June 15. It all stems from the emergency war supplemental funding bill, which Congress has refused to pass over key disagreements. The Pentagon calls it appalling that soldiers could not be paid because of politics. Back then, I thought that Congress and the Pentagon would posture until the last minute, and the crisis would be averted. As it turns it, this game will instead be prolonged.

Congress has now said the Pentagon can move money from Air Force and Navy personnel accounts over to the Army so that the paychecks could go out this week, which solves part of the problem. It will allow the military to pay the Army through the end of this month, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell announced today. He added though that the military still needs $102 billion. So right now, no one knows whether the military can pay next’s month salaries.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England sent a memo around the department asking for ideas in case it comes to that point, yet the military said it is confident it won’t come to this point.

For now, the U.S. Army carries on, paycheck to paycheck.

Pakistan Militants Execute Woman Accused of Being Prostitute, Spy for U.S. - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News - Pakistan Militants Execute Woman Accused of Being Prostitute, Spy for U.S. - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News: "Pakistani"militants executed a woman accused of being a spy for the United States and a prostitute, a government official told Reuters on Wednesday.

Though this is the first time a woman has been killed in northwest Pakistan for allegedly spying, the militants said others would face a similar fate. Many men have been executed after being accused of helping U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Reuters reported.

The unidentified woman’s body was found on a roadside near Khar, on the Afghan border, a hotbed for Al Qaeda supporters and Taliban militants. The body was found with a note, Reuters reported.

"She was killed because she was an American spy and a prostitute and those who [are] found doing such activities will face the same fate," the government official told Reuters, referring to the note.

A local villager said the woman had rope marks on her neck, suggesting she had been strangled.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

10 Pakistanis die in Afghan border clash

The Washington Times Official: 10 Pakistanis die in Afghan border clash: "Pakistani"military officials say at least 10 paramilitary troops died in a clash and airstrike at the Afghan border.

The clash broke out late Tuesday after Pakistani forces reportedly tried to stop security forces from Afghanistan setting up a mountaintop post in a disputed frontier region.

A military official says 10 Pakistani paramilitary troops in Mohmand tribal region died in the exchange of fire and air strike. A second military official says the airstrike was from a drone launched from Afghanistan.

It was not immediately clear who they were fighting.

Both officials requested anonymity because they were not authorized to comment to media before the military made a formal statement.

Pakistan's Geo TV reported at least 13 Pakistani troops had died

[bth: this is pretty significant. Note Paki paramilitary are shooting at Afghan troops and US drones are killing Paki troops or at least paramilitary forces.]

War and Piece: Weldon

War and Piece:: "WELDON" WSJ:

A former congressional aide admitted in court proceedings that his wife received unreported payments from an arms-control group with ties to top security officials in the Russian government, according to several people involved in an inquiry of a former congressman.

The aide worked as chief of staff for former Rep. Curt Weldon, a Pennsylvania Republican. Rep. Weldon had sought a federal grant for the Russian organization, known as International Exchange Group, according to the people familiar with the inquiry. Rep. Weldon's former aide, Russell Caso, pleaded guilty in December to failing to disclose payments made to his wife, but the origin of the funds wasn't identified.

Rep. Weldon is embroiled in a federal corruption probe that contributed to his loss in the 2006 election. The Weldon inquiry is significant in part because it is an element of a broader U.S. Justice Department probe into what officials suspect are efforts by Russian-backed firms to gain influence or gather information in Washington. Prosecutors also are looking into Mr. Weldon's involvement with a Russian-owned natural-gas company with alleged ties to organized crime.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey in April said the government has reconvened its long-dormant federal Organized Crime Council to combat what he called a new "hybrid criminal problem" involving alliances between foreign intelligence agencies and criminal groups. In a speech before the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on April 23, Mr. Mukasey said law-enforcement officials have "grave concern" about "so-called 'iron triangles' of corrupt business leaders, corrupt government officials and organized criminals."

Mr. Mukasey cited Russia and other Eurasian nations as places where "organized criminals control significant positions in the global energy and strategic-materials markets. They are expanding their holdings in those sectors, which corrupts the normal functioning of these markets and may have a destabilizing effect on U.S. geopolitical interests."

The rise of world commodity prices has magnified the Justice Department's concerns.

The criminal case against Mr. Caso grew out of the Weldon probe. Mr. Caso entered a guilty plea in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for failing to disclose payments to his wife from a Colorado firm with "a stated mission of helping American businesses operate in Russia," according to a statement filed with the court. Several people involved in the case said the company is International Exchange Group, which was incorporated in Colorado. The now-defunct nonprofit company is involved in promoting U.S.-Russia business exchange, including nonproliferation issues.

The firm paid Mr. Caso's wife $19,000 for editing work, much of which wasn't performed, Mr. Caso admitted in his court statement, and he failed to disclose the payments as required by law. Mr. Caso is cooperating with the investigation, court filings state. Attorneys for Mr. Caso and Mr. Weldon declined to comment on International Exchange.

International Exchange was founded by Vladimir Petrosyan, who claimed to have ties to the Kremlin, according to Louisiana lawyer Claude Kelly, who also was involved with the firm. Mr. Kelly said in an interview that Mr. Petrosyan introduced him to top Russian officials including Alexei Alexandrov, a member of the Russian Parliament. Mr. Petrosyan, who left the U.S. in 2006, couldn't be located for comment.

In his 20 years in Congress, Rep. Weldon, who speaks Russian and made many trips to Russia, often sought to strengthen relations between the U.S. and Eastern Bloc nations. One person who dealt with Mr. Petrosyan said he used a business card with the House of Representatives seal that identified him as an adviser to Mr. Weldon.

Mr. Weldon, who served on the Armed Services Committee, promoted International Exchange Group, describing it in a Sept. 22, 2004, House speech as "comprised of senior [Russian] military, intelligence and political officials." The group was "established by President Vladimir Putin's plenipotentiary representative to the Duma...[and] includes the key people who are personally friendly with Putin," including the deputy chief of the FSB, the successor agency to the KGB, Mr. Weldon told the House Committee on International Relations on March 9, 2005.

Mr. Petrosyan, who was the "general secretary" of the group, "met frequently and sought official action from" then-Rep. Weldon, the Caso plea statement alleges. Mr. Weldon directed Mr. Caso to seek U.S. government backing for projects involving biological and chemical weapons and he "made presentations to various executive branch agencies, including to high-level officials in the Departments of State and Energy and the National Security Council."

In addition to International Exchange Group, federal investigators are looking at Mr. Weldon's actions on behalf of a natural-gas company, Itera International Energy LLC, which has longstanding connections to alleged Russian organized-crime figures, according to U.S. law-enforcement officials.

Itera, which has offices in Jacksonville, Fla., has sought to cultivate relationships with others in Congress and official Washington. In 2002, Mr. Weldon sought to enlist former CIA Director James Woolsey to help burnish Itera's reputation, but Mr. Woolsey declined to join its board. ...

Priceless if Weldon gave the Kremlin (ahem) affiliated Petrosyan a staff affiliation at the House of Reprentatives. Weldon also had some unkosher other appointments up there on the Hill before the FBI started taking a closer look.

I've heard former US officials express concern about Weldon's behavior in Russia -- he was known to kick US embassy minders out of meetings with his Russian partners -- and actions he took which they thought made him vulnerable to recruitment, blackmail, corruption by Russian intel pros.

The Russians had Weldon's number. So did man of the hour Ghorbanifar.

Whatever the counterintelligence and international organized crime implications of the case turn out to be, the former congressman from Pennsylvania and his network do seem to be keeping the FBI and DOJ task force investigators busy.

Ex-colonel pleads to helping fix Iraq contract

Ex-colonel pleads to helping fix Iraq contract: "A"retired Army lieutenant colonel pleaded guilty Tuesday to steering a Pentagon contract for warehouses in Iraq to a contractor in return for $4,000 cash and a $5,000 trip to Thailand.

Levonda J. Selph pleaded guilty to bribery and conspiracy in U.S. District Court as part of a plea bargain with the government in which she agreed to cooperate with the investigation. The Virginia resident also agreed to pay the government $9,000 in restitution and serve a prison term.

She agreed to sentencing guidelines that could result in a prison term of up to two years and nine months. The length will be set by U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton on Oct. 14.

The government said that in 2005 Lt. Col. Selph of the Army National Guard served in Baghdad as head of a selection board that awarded an annual $12 million contract to build and operate Defense Department warehouses in Iraq. The winning contractor was not identified by name in the court documents.

Selph admitted she leaked confidential government information about the contract to the head of the winning contracting company and helped him submit phony bid packages on behalf of six separate companies he controlled "to create the appearance of competition, when, in fact, no competition existed." In return, she was paid $4,000 by the contractor and took a trip with his wife to Thailand during which he paid $5,000 for Selph's airfare and accommodations....

[bth: tip of iceberg. Note the name of the co-conspirators and contracting companies are not included. Curious.]

All British forces to be pulled out of Iraq within a year

All British forces to be pulled out of Iraq within a year: "All"British forces are set to be pulled out of Iraq within a year, it emerged today. Plans for a phased withdrawal are back on track after a reduction in violence in Basra over recent months. Whitehall officials are now working on a new timetable for the move....

[bth: kind of important news don't you think? Too bad I can't read it in any American paper or news show.]
Main and Central

"friday-lunch-club": "Liz Cheney is like an ideological cluster bomb that keeps exploding.. killing people, years after it has been dropped and fallen out of sight.."

"friday-lunch-club": "Liz Cheney is like an ideological cluster bomb that keeps exploding.. killing people, years after it has been dropped and fallen out of sight..": "Rami"Khouri, at Agence Global, here

"....What was striking about her (Liz Cheney) remarks was her capacity to continue out of office the same intensity and breadth of incompetence and failure that defined her years as principal deputy assistant secretary of state until early 2006.....Elizabeth Cheney is like an ideological cluster bomb that keeps exploding, and killing and injuring people, years after it has been dropped and fallen out of sight......

..........someone among her circle of friends should take her aside and quietly tell her that while she gets the accolades of the AIPAC audience, virtually the entire rest of the world reacts to this sort of performance with a combination of personal embarrassment for her, and deep political disdain for her capacity to insult us with this sort of blind buffoonery.....

It is precisely when the United States has been “bold, decisive and focused” that it has generated enormous resistance to its policies throughout the region, put its allies in more vulnerable situations, strengthened the forces of Islamist militancy, stoked the furnace of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and even given democracy a bad name.....

She is among the last of a dying breed, these few performers on a horror show stage that has been largely deserted by its public audience, and thankfully is soon to be shut down forever."

McClatchy blog: Inside Iraq - When will the real work start

McClatchy blog: Inside Iraq: "Im"not really a good Muslim and I dont really care about going to Friday prayers even if Im home. I even dont like to watch any religious programs on T.V but sometimes I have to watch the Friday prayers to write a report about what the Imam or the Sheikh talked about especially the political issues.

Yesterday I was doing some work in the office while my colleague Sahar was watching the prayers on T.V to write the report. The Imam of the Friday prayers in Najaf city south of Baghdad ended his speech with a refrence to one of the most important isses,the services and especially electricity. He blamed the official for their irresponsibility saying "we used to tell people that terror is the reason of the power failure and they used to believe that because there was real terror. Now the secuirty situation is much better but the services are so bad. Poeple need electricity in this hot summer and they need water". Then the man continued " we cant defend you any more because we dont have any more excuses to tell people. Why dont you try to feel the suffering of your people. You want federation system and you cant even provide people with their basic needs". I liked the words and I kept repeating the same question (when do our politician work for us? When did they and their big brother, the US government care about us? when are they going to apply the real meaning of prosperity, the word that they always tell us about but we couldnt until now see its in our daily life

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Maine troops face possible redeployment | NECN

Maine troops face possible redeployment | NECN

Red State Update

Red State Update

Business Feed Article | Business |

Business Feed Article | Business |: "The"ouster of the Air Force's top two officials may spur even more Pentagon spending on equipment for current wars and end production of pricey F-22 jets designed for potential conflicts with countries such as China.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates forced the resignations of Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley on Thursday after gaffes involving nuclear and missile security.

The Air Force's accidental shipping of ballistic-missile fuses to Taiwan may have been the last straw amid strains over acquisition priorities, remotely piloted vehicles and other friction about post-Iraq needs, experts on the military said.

Starting months ago, Gates had singled out the Air Force's top-of-the-line Lockheed Martin Corp F-22 Raptor fighter jet as a prime example of what he deemed misplaced military priorities.

"The reality is we are fighting two wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the F-22 has not performed a single mission in either theater," Gates told a Senate committee in February. He later urged all the services to send more remotely piloted planes, such as General Atomics' Predator, to the battlefield, a step that feeds surveillance video to troops in real time.

Under Wynne and Moseley, the Air Force had sought to buy 381 radar-evading F-22s -- more than twice as many as the 183 budgeted by the Defense Department. The F-22 costs more than $132 million apiece.

Dov Zakheim, who retired as the Pentagon's chief financial officer in 2004, said the Air Force shake-up would prompt the Army, Navy and Marine Corps to rethink their big-ticket acquisition plans as well to make sure they met Gates' goals.

"What just happened underscores the secretary's concern that the (Defense) department pursue programs that are most relevant to the kinds of wars that he expects the United States to continue to fight," Zakheim said in a telephone interview.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan already have begun to reshape Pentagon procurement in favor of such things as armored trucks and other land systems, a trend likely to grow as the Army and Marine Corps continue to add troops.

In fiscal 2007, for instance, Britain's BAE Systems Plc , a producer of armored vehicles among other advanced hardware, became the Pentagon's sixth-biggest supplier, up from No. 8 in 2006. One year ago, BAE bought Armor Holdings Inc, a maker of Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected trucks.

BAE's prime contracts shot up more than 87 percent during this period, to $9.8 billion from $4.7 billion, the biggest percentage increase of any of the Pentagon's top 10 suppliers.
Gains for the top three contractors were much smaller, according to William Hartung of the New America Foundation, a New York research group.

Lockheed Martin's Pentagon prime contracts rose 4.5 percent from $26.6 billion to $27.9 billion while Boeing Co awards grew 11.3 percent from $20.3 billion to $22.5 billion. Northrop Grumman Corp's contracts climbed 4.2 percent, from $16.6 billion to $16.8 billion, Hartung found.

Spurred by Gates' emphasis on equipping for today's wars, Hartung predicted multibillion-dollar programs like Lockheed Martin's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the Army's Future Combat Systems, co-managed by Boeing and SAIC Corp , would be cut back or stretched out.
Gates has argued that the F-22, the top U.S. dogfighter, is "principally for use against a near peer," Pentagon code words for China and Russia, potential threats he deems years away.

Gates' spending priorities have not always matched those of the Air Force, which had pushed for an average of $20 billion a year more than was budgeted over the next five years.
Air Force Gen. Bruce Carlson, who heads a command responsible for developing and testing new systems, said in February the Air Force would go on pushing for the coveted F-22s, optimized for knocking out advanced air defenses.

"Most people say in the future there will be a Chinese element to whatever we do," he told reporters on Feb. 13.

In Carlson's remarks, "Gates correctly detected a lack of willingness among Air Force leaders to follow his policies on F-22 fighters," said Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute, noted for his close ties to the Pentagon and industry.

Adding to the friction was a perception the Air Force was quietly lobbying Congress to extend the F-22 production line, a decision Gates has left to the next U.S. president who will be elected on Nov. 4.

The Pentagon, in its last major strategy review, in 2006, said China had the greatest potential "to compete militarily with the United States and field disruptive military technologies that could over time offset traditional U.S. military advantages absent U.S. counter strategies." (Reporting by Jim Wolf; editing by Carol Bishopric) Business

US Wants 58 Bases In Iraq, Shiite Lawmakers Say - Politics on The Huffington Post

US Wants 58 Bases In Iraq, Shiite Lawmakers Say - Politics on The Huffington Post: ..."A"leading Iraqi Shiite cleric said Monday the status of forces agreement between Washington and Baghdad could lead to an uprising in Iraq.

"It is not to the benefit of the U.S. as a major power to lessen the sovereignty of Iraq. This treaty is humiliating to the Iraqi people, and might cause an uprising against it and those who support it," Grand Ayatollah Mohammad al-Modarresi told the Iranian state-run English-language service, Press TV.

Modarresi said the strategic framework between Iraq and the United States needs a full understanding of the situation in Iraq before negotiations on the arrangement proceed. "It will surely fail if kept as it is," he said.

[bth: Hello!? We'd better get real about this. 53 bases? What the...? Have we simply gone insane? What are we trying to accomplish? Why in hell do we want to be an occupying army in Iraq? At this point, the best course of action would be for the Iraqi's to stall until the next president is elected.]

MotherJones Blog: The Fawlty Towers' Pipeline to the White House

MotherJones Blog: The Fawlty Towers' Pipeline to the White House: "The"AP reports on Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki's meeting today with Iran Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Who I believe Iran contra fabulist Manucher Ghorbanifar and Washington pals definitively declared dead over a year ago, based on Ghorbanifar's amazing insidery deep, high priced network of Iran intelligence sources. Eventually, they are bound to be right about that. In the meantime, these are the folks that former deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz and national security advisor Steve Hadley were turning to for Iran intelligence and operational advice? Can someone at the White House press briefing please ask spokeswoman Dana Perino to speak to Hadley's judgment on this?

As Dave Wagner and I reported this weekend, a new Senate Intelligence report (.pdf) documents how Hadley himself authorized Ghorbanifar's loyal Washington pal and fellow Iran contra alum to lead two Pentagon officials to Rome to meet supposed Iran agents. Has Hadley learned his lesson about the quality and reliability of information and related schemes his deputized freelance Iran intelligence sources brought to him? And whether the spigot is still open? On such objectively knowable issues as whether Khamenei is dead or alive? All the other nonsense they and Ghorbanifar's more recent Washignton helpers like Curt Weldon have spouted: that Osama bin Laden was in Tehran, as Ghorbanifar and Weldon insisted, or that for just a few million dollars - $10 million, $25 million -- they can provide such invaluable information and launch a coup in Iran, etc. It's still sobering to realize that the people spouting this comical nonsense - and it's not hard to find such people -- had been authorized by no less than the current White House national security advisor to advise them on Iran intelligence operations and coup plans. It's like something out of a John Cleese' Fawlty Towers skit. But this is the White House. Wouldn't a normal sane person even think twice about buying Mid East take out from people with such a track record?

Marines Go to an Afghan Village, Hoping to Use Iraq Lessons to Keep It -

Marines Go to an Afghan Village, Hoping to Use Iraq Lessons to Keep It - "HAZARJOFT" Afghanistan — United States marines pushed the Taliban out of this village and the surrounding district in southern Helmand Province so quickly in recent weeks that they called the operation a “catastrophic success.

Yet, NATO troops had conducted similar operations here in 2006 and 2007, and the Taliban had returned soon after they left. The marines, drawing on lessons from Iraq, say they know what to do to keep the Taliban at bay if they are given the time.

“There is definitely someone thinking out there,” said Capt. John Moder, commander of Company C of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, speaking of the Taliban. “That’s why we need these people to be at least neutral to us,” he said, gesturing to the farmers who have been slowly filtering back to harvest their fields.

Originally sent to Garmser District on a three-day operation to open a road, the marines have been here a month and are likely to stay longer. The extension of the operation reflects the evolving tactics of the counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan, building on the knowledge accumulated in recent years in Anbar Province in Iraq.

The district of Garmser, a fertile valley along the Helmand River, had been under control of the Taliban and members of Al Qaeda for most of the last two years and much of it had become a war zone, as the Taliban traded fire with British troops based in the district center. One of the largest poppy-growing areas in the country, Garmser District has been an important infiltration route for the insurgents, sending weapons and reinforcements to the north and drug shipments to the south to the border with Pakistan.

Previous operations by NATO forces to clear the area of Taliban had yielded short-lived successes, as the Taliban have re-established control each time, Afghans from the area said. It is a strategy the insurgents have employed all over Afghanistan, using roadside and suicide bombs as well as executions to terrorize the people and undermine the authority of foreign forces and fledgling local governments.

In Garmser those with the means gave up and fled to the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah. Interviewed there by telephone, they said they had been living as refugees for almost two years and were still afraid to return — and to be identified, for fear of retribution from the Taliban.

But Company C served in Anbar Province, once one of the most intractably violent areas of Iraq, which quieted last year under a new strategy of empowering local groups called Awakening Councils, which now provide security. The marines were confident they could put that experience to good use here.

Only when you win over a critical balance of the local population and empower them to stand up to the insurgents can you turn the situation around, several marines said

First Lt. Mark Matzke led a platoon for nine months last year in the Anbar city of Ramadi, where he said he got to know every character in a small neighborhood, both the troublemakers and the power brokers. But it was only when he sneaked in after dark and listened to people’s grievances in private that he was able to work out a strategy for protecting them from the insurgents.

“Through listening to their grievances, you could figure out that the people did not like the insurgents,” he said. But their biggest fear was that the marines would pull out, he said, leaving them at the mercy of insurgents who would treat them as collaborators.

As trust was built up, the people began to side with the marines and started to tip them off about who the insurgents were and where to find them. “You just need to give them confidence,” he said.

In this village, only the poorest laborers and farmers have started filtering back, Lieutenant Matzke said, adding, “These people are completely broken.” They refused all assistance at first, he said, but after talking for a couple of hours they admitted they could use the help, but were afraid to accept it for fear of the Taliban.

The people were glad when the Taliban were driven away, the marines said, and that is a sentiment they need to nurture. “We need to convince the people we are here to help, and to exploit the fact that we can help,” Captain Moder said.

As a first step, the marines promised to provide a strong security cordon so those villagers who had fled could return without fear to rebuild their homes and reopen the bazaar.

When on patrol, the marines carry a small gadget the size of an old Polaroid camera that takes fingerprints, photos and an iris scan of people they meet. It is used to build a database of the residents so they can easily spot strangers, the marines say. The Afghans accepted the imposition without protest.

Observation on the ground, information from the populace and control of key commerce and transportation routes are all ways to prevent the Taliban from seeping back into the area, Col. Peter Petronzio, commander of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, said in an interview.

“You need physically to be there,” he said. “You need to continue to move about the population, let your presence be known, but do it in a way so that you are not smothering and overwhelming. You have got to let life go on.”

But the villagers remain scared, uncertain how long the marines will stay and who will follow in their wake.

I don’t think I will go back until complete peace and security comes,” said one elder, who said he had heard his house had collapsed under bombardment. “This is not the first time we have suffered. Several times we have seen such operations against the Taliban, and after some time the forces leave the area and so the Taliban find a way to return.”

If NATO really wants to bring peace and make us free from harm from the Taliban,” he said, “they must make a plan for a long-term stay, secure the border area, install security checkpoints along the border area, deploy more Afghan National Army to secure the towns and villages, and then the people will be able to help them with security.”

[bth: all well and good but the author of this piece should ask the marines why we've had to take this same space in 2006, 2007 and 2008 respectively? Why has this position been abandoned so many times. Is it the simple fact that we have insufficient troops in Afghanistan? Shouldn't someone try to weave this important piece of information into the national presidential debate. More to the point, the Afghans and the marines know that they are on a six month rotation and will leave late this summer. So if you are a refugee hiding out as the article says for two years waiting for stabliity and in fear of the Taliban, what makes them think the situation will improve itself when the marines pack up and go?]

Monday, June 09, 2008

YouTube - 500 LB Bomb Marines Excited. Listen. Best Footage Ever

YouTube - 500 LB Bomb Marines Excited. Listen. Best Footage Ever: ""

Asia Times Online - What it means when the US goes to war

Asia Times Online :: Middle East News, Iraq, Iran current affairs: "Troops"when they battle insurgent forces, as in Iraq, or Gaza or Vietnam, are placed in "atrocity producing situations". Being surrounded by a hostile population makes simple acts, such as going to a store to buy a can of soda, dangerous. The fear and stress push troops to view everyone around them as the enemy. The hostility is compounded when the enemy, as in Iraq, is elusive, shadowy and hard to find. The rage soldiers feel after a roadside bomb explodes, killing or maiming their comrades, is one that is easily directed, over time, to innocent civilians who are seen to support the insurgents.

Civilians and combatants, in the eyes of the beleaguered troops, merge into one entity. These civilians, who rarely interact with soldiers or marines, are to most of the occupation troops in Iraq nameless, faceless and easily turned into abstractions of hate. They are dismissed as less than human. It is a short psychological leap, but a massive moral leap. It is a leap from killing - the shooting of someone who has the capacity to do you harm - to murder - the deadly assault against someone who cannot harm you.

The war in Iraq is now primarily about murder. There is very little killing. The savagery and brutality of the occupation is tearing apart those who have been deployed to Iraq. As news reports have just informed us, 115 American soldiers committed suicide in 2007. This is a 13% increase in suicides over 2006. And the suicides, as they did in the Vietnam War years, will only rise as distraught veterans come home, unwrap the self-protective layers of cotton wool that keep them from feeling, and face the awful reality of what they did to innocents in Iraq

American marines and soldiers have become socialized to atrocity. The killing project is not described in these terms to a distant public. The politicians still speak in the abstract terms of glory, honor and heroism, in the necessity of improving the world, in lofty phrases of political and spiritual renewal. Those who kill large numbers of people always claim it as a virtue. The campaign to rid the world of terror is expressed within the confines of this rhetoric, as if once all terrorists are destroyed evil itself will vanish.

The reality behind the myth, however, is very different. The reality and the ideal tragically clash when soldiers and marines return home. These combat veterans are often alienated from the world around them, a world that still believes in the myth of war and the virtues of the nation. They confront the grave, existential crisis of all who go through combat and understand that we have no monopoly on virtue, that in war we become as barbaric and savage as those we oppose.

This is a profound crisis of faith. It shatters the myths, national and religious, that these young men and women were fed before they left for Iraq. In short, they uncover the lie they have been told. Their relationship with the nation will never be the same. These veterans give us a true narrative of the war - one that exposes the vast enterprise of industrial slaughter unleashed in Iraq. They expose the lie.

War as betrayal
"This unit sets up this traffic control point, and this 18-year-old kid is on top of an armored Humvee with a .50-caliber machine gun," remembered Sergeant Geoffrey Millard, who served in Tikrit with the 42nd Infantry Division. "And this car speeds at him pretty quick and he makes a split-second decision that that's a suicide bomber, and he presses the butterfly trigger and puts 200 rounds in less than a minute into this vehicle. It killed the mother, a father and two kids. The boy was aged four and the daughter was aged three.

"And they briefed this to the general," Millard said, "and they briefed it gruesome. I mean, they had pictures. They briefed it to him. And this colonel turns around to this full division staff and says, 'If these f---ing hajis learned to drive, this shit wouldn't happen'."

Millard and tens of thousands of other veterans suffer not only delayed reactions to stress but this crisis of faith. The God they knew, or thought they knew, failed them. The church or the synagogue or the mosque, which promised redemption by serving God and country, did not prepare them for the awful betrayal of this civic religion, for the capacity we all have for human atrocity, for the stories of heroism used to mask the reality of war.

War is always about betrayal: betrayal of the young by the old, of idealists by cynics, and of troops by politicians. This bitter knowledge of betrayal has seeped into the ranks of America's Iraq War veterans. It has unleashed a new wave of disillusioned veterans not seen since the Vietnam War. It has made it possible for us to begin, again, to see war's death mask and understand our complicity in evil.

"And then, you know, my sort of sentiment of, 'What the f--- are we doing, that I felt that way in Iraq,'" said Sergeant Ben Flanders, who estimated that he ran hundreds of military convoys in Iraq. "It's the sort of insanity of it and the fact that it reduces it. Well, I think war does anyway, but I felt like there was this enormous reduction in my compassion for people. The only thing that wound up mattering is myself and the guys that I was with. And everybody else be damned, whether you are an Iraqi - I'm sorry, I'm sorry you live here, I'm sorry this is a terrible situation, and I'm sorry that you have to deal with all of, you know, army vehicles running around and shooting, and these insurgents and all this stuff."

The Hobbesian world of Iraq described by Flanders is one where the ethic is kill or be killed. All nuance and distinction vanished for him. He fell, like most of the occupation troops, into a binary world of us and them, the good and the bad, those worthy of life and those unworthy of life. The vast majority of Iraqi civilians, caught in the middle of the clash among militias, death squads, criminal gangs, foreign fighters, kidnapping rings, terrorists, and heavily armed occupation troops, were just one more impediment that, if they happened to get in the way, had to be eradicated. These Iraqis were no longer human. They were abstractions in human form.

"The first briefing you get when you get off the plane in Kuwait, and you get off the plane and you're holding a duffel bag in each hand," Millard remembered. "You've got your weapon slung. You've got a web sack on your back. You're dying of heat. You're tired. You're jet-lagged. Your mind is just full of goop. And then you're scared on top of that, because, you know, you're in Kuwait, you're not in the States anymore ... So fear sets in, too. And they sit you into this little briefing room and you get this briefing about how, you know, you can't trust any of these f---ing hajis, because all these f---king hajis are going to kill you. And 'haji' is always used as a term of disrespect and usually with the F-word in front of it."

The press coverage of the war in Iraq rarely exposes the twisted pathology of this war. We see the war from the perspective of the troops or from the equally skewed perspective of the foreign reporters, holed up in hotels, hemmed in by drivers and translators and official security and military escorts. There are moments when war's face appears to these voyeurs and professional killers, perhaps from the back seat of a car where a small child, her brains oozing out of her head, lies dying, but mostly it remains hidden. And all our knowledge of the war in Iraq has to be viewed as lacking the sweep and depth that will come one day, perhaps years from now, when a small Iraqi boy reaches adulthood and unfolds for us the sad and tragic story of the invasion and bloody occupation of his nation.

As the war sours, as it no longer fits into the mythical narrative of us as liberators and victors, it fades from view. The cable news shows that packaged and sold us the war have stopped covering it, trading the awful carnage of bomb blasts in Baghdad for the soap-opera sagas of Roger Clemens, Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears in her eternal meltdown. Average monthly coverage of the war in Iraq on the ABC, NBC and CBS newscasts combined has been cut in half, falling from 388 minutes in 2003, to 274 in 2004, to 166 in 2005. And newspapers, including papers like the Boston Globe, have shut down their Baghdad bureaus. Deprived of a clear, heroic narrative, restricted and hemmed in by security concerns, they have walked away.

Most reporters know that the invasion and the occupation have been a catastrophe. They know the Iraqis do not want us. They know about the cooked intelligence, spoon-fed to a compliant press by the Office of Special Plans and Lewis Libby's White House Iraq Group. They know about Curveball, the forged documents out of Niger, the outed Central Intelligence Agency operatives, and the bogus British intelligence dossiers that were taken from old magazine articles. They know the weapons of mass destruction were destroyed long before we arrived. They know that our military as well as our National Guard and reserve units are being degraded and decimated. They know this war is not about bringing democracy to Iraq, that all the cliches about staying the course and completing the mission are used to make sure the president and his allies do not pay a political price while in power for their blunders and their folly.

The press knows all this, and if reporters had bothered to look they could have known it a long time ago. But the press, or at least most of it, has lost the passion, the outrage, and the sense of mission that once drove reporters to defy authority and tell the truth.

The legions of the lost and damned
War is the pornography of violence. It has a dark beauty, filled with the monstrous and the grotesque. The Bible calls it "the lust of the eye" and warns believers against it. War allows us to engage in lusts and passions we keep hidden in the deepest, most private interiors of our fantasy lives. It allows us to destroy not only things and ideas but human beings.

In that moment of wholesale destruction, we wield the power of the divine, the power to revoke another person's charter to live on this Earth. The frenzy of this destruction - and when unit discipline breaks down, or when there was no unit discipline to begin with, "frenzy" is the right word - sees armed bands crazed by the poisonous elixir that our power to bring about the obliteration of others delivers. All things, including human beings, become objects - objects either to gratify or destroy, or both. Almost no one is immune. The contagion of the crowd sees to that.

Human beings are machine-gunned and bombed from the air, automatic grenade launchers pepper hovels and neighbors with high-powered explosive devices, and convoys race through Iraq like freight trains of death. These soldiers and marines have at their fingertips the heady ability to call in airstrikes and firepower that obliterate landscapes and villages in fiery infernos. They can instantly give or deprive human life, and with this power they become sick and demented. The moral universe is turned upside down. All human beings are used as objects. And no one walks away uninfected.

War thrusts us into a vortex of pain and fleeting ecstasy. It thrusts us into a world where law is of little consequence, human life is cheap, and the gratification of the moment becomes the overriding desire that must be satiated, even at the cost of another's dignity or life.

"A lot of guys really supported that whole concept that, you know, if they don't speak English and they have darker skin, they're not as human as us, so we can do what we want," said Specialist Josh Middleton, who served in the 82nd Airborne in Iraq. "And you know, 20-year-old kids are yelled at back and forth at Bragg, and we're picking up cigarette butts and getting yelled at every day for having a dirty weapon. But over here, it's like life and death. And 40-year-old Iraqi men look at us with fear and we can - do you know what I mean? - we have this power that you can't have. That's really liberating. Life is just knocked down to this primal level of, you know, you worry about where the next food's going to come from, the next sleep or the next patrol, and to stay alive.

"It's like, you feel like, I don't know, if you're a caveman," he added. "Do you know what I mean? Just, you know, I mean, this is how life is supposed to be. Life and death, essentially. No TV. None of that bullshit."

It takes little in wartime to turn ordinary men into killers. Most give themselves willingly to the seduction of unlimited power to destroy. All feel the peer pressure to conform. Few, once in battle, find the strength to resist. Physical courage is common on a battlefield. Moral courage, which these veterans have exhibited by telling us the truth about the war, is not.

Military machines and state bureaucracies, which seek to make us obey, seek also to silence those who return from war and speak to its reality. They push aside these witnesses to hide from a public eager for stories of war that fit the mythic narrative of glory and heroism the essence of war, which is death. War, as these veterans explain, exposes the capacity for evil that lurks just below the surface within all of us. This is the truth these veterans, often with great pain, have had to face.

American Historian Christopher Browning chronicled the willingness to kill in Ordinary Men, his study of Reserve Police Battalion 101 in Poland during World War II. On the morning of July 12, 1942, the battalion, made up of middle-aged recruits, was ordered to shoot 1,800 Jews in the village of Jozefow in a daylong action. The men in the unit had to round up the Jews, march them into the forest, and one by one order them to lie down in a row. The victims, including women, infants, children, and the elderly, were shot dead at close range.

Battalion members were offered the option to refuse, an option only about a dozen men took, although a few more asked to be relieved once the killing began. Those who did not want to continue, Browning says, were disgusted rather than plagued by conscience. When the men returned to the barracks they "were depressed, angered, embittered and shaken". They drank heavily. They were told not to talk about the event, "but they needed no encouragement in that direction".

Each generation responds to war as innocents. Each generation discovers its own disillusionment, often at a terrible personal price. And the war in Iraq has begun to produce legions of the lost and the damned, many of whom battle the emotional and physical trauma that comes from killing and exposure to violence.

Punishing the local population
Sergeant Camilo Mejia, who eventually applied while still on active duty to become a conscientious objector, said the ugly side of American racism and chauvinism appeared the moment his unit arrived in the Middle East. Fellow soldiers instantly ridiculed Arab-style toilets because they would be "shitting like dogs". The troops around him treated Iraqis, whose language they did not speak and whose culture was alien, little better than animals.

The word "haji" swiftly became a slur to refer to Iraqis, in much the same way "gook" was used to debase the Vietnamese and "raghead" is used to belittle those in Afghanistan. Soon those around him ridiculed "haji food", "haji homes", and "haji music". Bewildered prisoners, who were rounded up in useless and indiscriminate raids, were stripped naked and left to stand terrified for hours in the baking sun. They were subjected to a steady torrent of verbal and physical abuse. "I experienced horrible confusion," Mejia remembered, "not knowing whether I was more afraid for the detainees or for what would happen to me if I did anything to help them."

These scenes of abuse, which began immediately after the American invasion, were little more than collective acts of sadism. Mejia watched, not daring to intervene yet increasingly disgusted at the treatment of Iraqi civilians. He saw how the callous and unchecked abuse of power first led to alienation among Iraqis and spawned a raw hatred of the occupation forces. When army units raided homes, the soldiers burst in on frightened families, forced them to huddle in the corners at gunpoint, and helped themselves to food and items in the house.

"After we arrested drivers," he recalled, "we would choose whichever vehicles we liked, fuel them from confiscated jerry cans, and conduct undercover presence patrols in the impounded cars. But to this day I cannot find a single good answer as to why I stood by idly during the abuse of those prisoners except, of course, my own cowardice," he also noted.

Iraqi families were routinely fired on for getting too close to checkpoints, including an incident where an unarmed father driving a car was decapitated by a .50-caliber machine gun in front of his small son. Soldiers shot holes into cans of gasoline being sold alongside the road and then tossed incendiary grenades into the pools to set them ablaze. "It's fun to shoot shit up," a soldier said. Some opened fire on small children throwing rocks. And when improvised explosive devices (IEDS) went off, the troops fired wildly into densely populated neighborhoods, leaving behind innocent victims who became, in the callous language of war, "collateral damage".

"We would drive on the wrong side of the highway to reduce the risk of being hit by an IED," Mejia said of the deadly roadside bombs. "This forced oncoming vehicles to move to one side of the road and considerably slowed down the flow of traffic. In order to avoid being held up in traffic jams, where someone could roll a grenade under our trucks, we would simply drive up on sidewalks, running over garbage cans and even hitting civilian vehicles to push them out of the way. Many of the soldiers would laugh and shriek at these tactics."

At one point the unit was surrounded by an angry crowd protesting the occupation. Mejia and his squad opened fire on an Iraqi holding a grenade, riddling the man's body with bullets. Mejia checked his clip afterward and determined that he had fired 11 rounds into the young man. Units, he said, nonchalantly opened fire in crowded neighborhoods with heavy M-240 Bravo machine guns, AT-4 launchers and Mark 19s, a machine gun that spits out grenades.

"The frustration that resulted from our inability to get back at those who were attacking us," Mejia said, "led to tactics that seemed designed simply to punish the local population that was supporting them."

The algebra of occupation
It is the anonymity of the enemy that fuels the mounting rage. Comrades are maimed or die, and there is no one to lash back at, unless it is the hapless civilians who happen to live in the neighborhood where the explosion or ambush occurred. Soldiers and marines can do two or three tours in Iraq and never actually see the enemy, although their units come under attack and take numerous casualties. These troops, who entered Baghdad in triumph when Iraq was occupied, soon saw the decisive victory over Saddam Hussein's army evolve into a messy war of attrition.

The superior firepower and lightning victory was canceled out by what T E Lawrence once called the "algebra of occupation". Writing about the British occupation of Iraq following the Ottoman Empire's collapse in World War I, Lawrence, in lessons these veterans have had to learn on their own, highlighted what has always doomed conventional, foreign occupying powers.

"Rebellion must have an unassailable base ... it must have a sophisticated alien enemy, in the form of a disciplined army of occupation too small to dominate the whole area effectively from fortified posts," Lawrence wrote. "It must have a friendly population, not actively friendly, but sympathetic to the point of not betraying rebel movements to the enemy. Rebellions can be made by 2% active in a striking force, and 98% passive sympathy. Granted mobility, security ... time and doctrine ... victory will rest with the insurgents, for the algebraical factors are in the end decisive

The failure in Iraq is the same failure that bedeviled the French in Algeria; the United States in Vietnam; and the British, who for 800 years beat, imprisoned, transported, shot, and hanged hundreds of thousands of Irish patriots. Occupation, in each case, turned the occupiers into beasts and fed the insurrection. It created patterns where innocents, as in Iraq, were terrorized and killed. The campaign against a mostly invisible enemy, many veterans said, has given rise to a culture of terror and hatred among US forces, many of whom, losing ground, have in effect declared war on all Iraqis.

Mejia said, regarding the deaths of Iraqis at checkpoints, "This sort of killing of civilians has long ceased to arouse much interest or even comment."

Mejia also watched soldiers from his unit abuse the corpses of Iraqi dead. He related how, in one incident, soldiers laughed as an Iraqi corpse fell from the back of a truck. "Take a picture of me and this motherf---er," said one of the soldiers who had been in Mejia's squad in Third Platoon, putting his arm around the corpse.

The shroud fell away from the body, revealing a young man wearing only his pants. There was a bullet hole in his chest.

"Damn, they really f---ed you up, didn't they?" the soldier laughed.

The scene, Mejia noted, was witnessed by the dead man's brothers and cousins.

The senior officers, protected in heavily fortified compounds, rarely experienced combat. They sent their troops on futile missions in the quest to be awarded Combat Infantry Badges. This recognition, Mejia noted, "was essential to their further progress up the officer ranks."

This pattern meant that "very few high-ranking officers actually got out into the action, and lower-ranking officers were afraid to contradict them when they were wrong." When the badges - bearing an emblem of a musket with the hammer dropped, resting on top of an oak wreath - were finally awarded, the commanders brought in Iraqi tailors to sew the badges on the left breast pockets of their desert combat uniforms.

"This was one occasion when our leaders led from the front," Mejia noted bitterly. "They were among the first to visit the tailors to get their little patches of glory sewn next to their hearts."

War breeds gratuitous, senseless and repeated acts of atrocity and violence. Abuse of the powerless becomes a kind of perverted sport for the troops.

"I mean, if someone has a fan, they're a white-collar family," said Specialist Philip Chrystal, who carried out raids on Iraqi homes in Kirkuk. "So we get started on this day, this one, in particular. And it starts with the psy-ops [psychological operations] vehicles out there, you know, with the big speakers playing a message in Arabic or Farsi or Kurdish or whatever they happen to be saying, basically, saying put your weapons, if you have them, next to the front door in your house. Please come outside, blah, blah, blah, blah. And we had Apaches flying over for security, if they're needed, and it's also a good show of force. And we were running around, and we'd done a few houses by this point, and I was with my platoon leader, my squad leader, and maybe a couple other people, but I don't really remember.

"And we were approaching this one house, and this farming area; they're, like, built up into little courtyards," he said. "So they have like the main house, common area. They have like a kitchen and then they have like a storage-shed-type deal. And we were approaching, and they had a family dog. And it was barking ferociously, because it was doing its job. And my squad leader, just out of nowhere, just shoots it. ... the motherf---er ... he shot it, and it went in the jaw and exited out.

"So I see this dog - and I'm a huge animal lover. I love animals - and this dog has like these eyes on it, and he's running around spraying blood all over the place. And the family is sitting right there, with three little children and a mom and a dad horrified. And I'm at a loss for words. And so I yell at him. I'm like, 'What the f--- are you doing?' And so the dog's yelping. It's crying out without a jaw. And I'm looking at the family, and they're just scared. And so I told them, I was like, 'F---ing shoot it,' you know. 'At least kill it, because that can't be fixed. It's suffering.' And I actually get tears from just saying this right now, but - and I had tears then, too - and I'm looking at the kids and they are so scared. So I got the interpreter over with me and I get my wallet out and I gave them 20 bucks, because that's what I had. And, you know, I had him give it to them and told them that I'm so sorry that asshole did that. Which was very common.

"Was a report ever filed about it?" he asked. "Was anything ever done? Any punishment ever dished out? No, absolutely not."

The plaster saints of war
The vanquished know war. They see through the empty jingoism of those who use the abstract words of "glory", "honor" and "patriotism" to mask the cries of the wounded, the brutal killing, war profiteering, and chest-pounding grief. They know the lies the victors often do not acknowledge, the lies covered up in stately war memorials and mythic war narratives, filled with stories of courage and comradeship. They know the lies that permeate the thick, self-important memoirs by amoral statesmen who make wars but do not know war.

The vanquished know the essence of war - death. They grasp that war is necrophilia. They see that war is a state of almost pure sin, with its goals of hatred and destruction. They know how war fosters alienation, leads inevitably to nihilism, and is a turning away from the sanctity and preservation of life. All other narratives about war too easily fall prey to the allure and seductiveness of violence as well as the attraction of the godlike power that comes with the license to kill with impunit

But the words of the vanquished come later, sometimes long after the war, when grown men and women unpack the suffering they endured as children: what it was like to see their mother or father killed or taken away, or what it was like to lose their homes, their community, their security, and to be discarded as human refuse. But by then few listen. The truth about war comes out, but usually too late. We are assured by the war-makers that these stories have no bearing on the glorious violent enterprise the nation is about to inaugurate. And, lapping up the myth of war and its sense of empowerment, we prefer not to look.

We are trapped in a doomed war of attrition in Iraq. We have blundered into a nation we know little about, caught in bitter rivalries between competing ethnic and religious groups. Iraq was a cesspool for the British in 1917 when they occupied it. It will be a cesspool for us as well. We have embarked on an occupation that is as damaging to our souls as to our prestige and power and security. We have become tyrants to others weaker than ourselves. And we believe, falsely, that because we have the capacity to wage war we have the right to wage war.

We make our heroes out of clay. We laud their gallant deeds and give them uniforms with colored ribbons on their chests for the acts of violence they committed or endured. They are our false repositories of glory and honor, of power, of self-righteousness, of patriotism and self-worship, all that we want to believe about ourselves. They are our plaster saints of war, the icons we cheer to defend us and make us and our nation great. They are the props of our civic religion, our love of power and force, our belief in our right as a chosen nation to wield this force against the weak, and rule. This is our nation's idolatry of itself. And this idolatry has corrupted religious institutions, not only here but in most nations, making it impossible for us to separate the will of God from the will of the state.

Prophets are not those who speak of piety and duty from pulpits - few people in pulpits have much worth listening to - but are the battered wrecks of men and women who return from Iraq and speak the halting words we do not want to hear, words that we must listen to and heed to know ourselves. They tell us war is a soulless void. They have seen and tasted how war plunges us into perversion, trauma, and an unchecked orgy of death. And it is their testimonies that have the redemptive power to save us from ourselves.

Chris Hedges is the former Middle East Bureau Chief of the New York Times, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and a senior fellow at the Nation Institute. He is the author of several books including War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. This piece has been adapted from the introduction to the just-published, Collateral Damage: America's War Against Iraqi Civilians (Nation Books), which he has co-authored with Laila al-Arian.

(Copyright 2008 Chris Hedges.)

[bth: stunning. What else can be said. Thank you Mr. Hedges.]