Saturday, June 28, 2008

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2008: Madison, Federalist # 46 and gun rights

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2008: Madison, Federalist # 46 and gun rights: "Besides"the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms. And it is not certain, that with this aid alone they would not be able to shake off their yokes. But were the people to possess the additional advantages of local governments chosen by themselves, who could collect the national will and direct the national force, and of officers appointed out of the militia, by these governments, and attached both to them and to the militia, it may be affirmed with the greatest assurance, that the throne of every tyranny in Europe would be speedily overturned in spite of the legions which surround it."

James Madison (Publius) in Federalist Paper #46
arguing for the ratification of the present Constitution including the Second amendment.


To "sweeten" the medicine of an insistence on individual gun rights in the US, it is usually claimed now that Americans want guns for; hunting, target shooting, home defense, collecting...

In fact "Publius" argues here that the possession of firearms by the citizens and the potential for resistance to tyranny implicit in that possession is necessary as part of the system of checks and balances that holds tyranny at bay.

As one of the three authors of the Federalist Papers Madison is engaged in trying to persuade the states to ratify the present constitution. Without such assurances as this one, it is quite possible that the constitution might never have been ratified. In fact, two states, North Carolina and Rhode Island had voted against ratification by the time that Virginia voted in favor by the slimmest of margins thus establishing a majority.

NB that the private possession of weapons is mentioned by Madison BEFORE he mentions the similar effect of armed militias belonging to the states. It is stated as an absolute good. This explains the structure of the clauses in the second amendment. The militia clause is intended to stand as an example of what in Madison's view was an absolute right of the citizens.

For those who would reply that an armed citizenry could have no effect against a modern army, it is only necessary to direct their attention to the history of the last years.

To those on the left or right who think an unarmed citizenry is a good idea, consider your true thoughts regarding the scruples of government servants and possible future regimes. pl

YouTube - RvD2: Ryan vs. Dorkman 2

YouTube - RvD2: Ryan vs. Dorkman 2: ""

Canada: Ex-Taliban fighter tells of training from Pakistani military

CANOE -- CNEWS - Canada: Ex-Taliban fighter tells of training from Pakistani military: "KANDAHAR"Afghanistan - A former Taliban fighter has provided a gripping first-hand account of being secretly trained by members of the Pakistani military, paid $500 a month and ordered to kill foreigners in Afghanistan.

Mullah Mohammed Zaher offered a vivid description of a bomb-making apprenticeship at a Pakistani army compound where he says he learned to blow up NATO convoys.

He's one of three former Taliban fighters introduced to The Canadian Press by an Afghan government agency that works at getting rebels to renounce the insurgency.

Zaher insists he was neither forced to go public with his story nor coached by Afghan officials, whose routine response to terrorism on their soil is to blame neighbouring Pakistan.

Pakistan officially sides with the West against the insurgents and vigorously denies mounting accusations that it is a two-faced participant in the war on terror.

A report produced for the Pentagon and released this month by the Rand Corp., a U.S. think-tank, claims individuals in the Pakistani government are involved in helping the insurgents

An illiterate, career warrior, Zaher has not seen the 177-page report. But he made a series of claims in a 90-minute interview that supported its broad conclusions - and offered a deluge of new details.

He described how men in khaki army fatigues housed, fed, paid and finally threatened insurgents into carrying out attacks on foreign troops.

Perhaps most startling of all was his description of the repeated warning from Pakistani soldiers about where trainees would be sent if they refused to fight: Guantanamo Bay

He said there was an inside joke among insurgents whenever the Pakistanis turned over a high-profile rebel to the Americans for detention at the U.S.-run prison camp in Cuba.

"Whenever we heard on the news that Pakistan caught a Taliban commander, we used to say: 'He stopped obeying them'," Zaher said through a Pashto-language interpreter

Two other former insurgents interviewed by The Canadian Press said they were aware of colleagues being trained in Pakistan, but said such fighters were part of an elite minority.

Mullah Janan said he heard that some of his Taliban comrades had received training in Pakistan, with many more receiving shelter or medical treatment across the border.

When infighting broke out between Taliban factions, Janan said, mediators from Pakistan even came across the border to help settle the dispute.

Zaher said he was among the elite.

He said he arrived in 2003 for his first of several training sessions at a walled military compound in the Nawakilli area outside Quetta, Pakistan.

He said he was greeted warmly by men in military fatigues, introduced to his fellow trainees and taken to a single-storey white building where for the next 20 days he would eat, sleep and learn the finer points of waging jihad.

On his first day there he quietly sipped tea and gobbled down a hearty meal of chicken curry, and said he was brought to a classroom the next morning.

He said he remembers only the last name of the man in the khaki uniform, Khattak, who presided over the orientation session.

The man told his pupils their homeland had been invaded again by non-Muslims, just as it had been by the Soviets in the 20th century and the British in the 19th.

Zaher said the group was told that the infidels had been stopped before and they must be stopped again.

"You are supposed to get good training here - and you are supposed to go and kill them there," Zaher recalled being told.

"We have to kick their asses out of Afghanistan and send them back to their own country ... We have to fix mines for them, destroy them and get them out of Afghanistan

Zaher said he learned to produce a variety of explosives. They ranged from a crude bomb with wiring and fertilizer stuffed into a plastic jug, to more sophisticated remote-contolled devices.

"I can even make a bomb by buying stuff at the bazaar - for $10."

Zaher said he attended three sessions at the compound, lasting from 20 days to two months.

A half-dozen trainees would sleep on the floor in a common dormitory in the single-storey white building, he said.

On a typical day, they had breakfast at 10 a.m., lunch at 2 p.m., and spent every other waking hour learning how to kill foreigners.

Zaher said he doesn't know how many soldiers died from the bombs he planted on roads in Zhari, Panjwaii, Khakrez and Maywand districts of Kandahar province. And he said he has no idea whether the vehicles he blew up were Canadian, American or British.

He showed no remorse.

On the contrary, his dark eyes softened, his smile sparkled and his nasally voice quivered with excitement as he listed the places where he had ended enemies' lives.

"Sure, I've killed many foreigners," he said. "I was very happy when I killed people. That was supposed to be my task - and it made me very happy."

Zaher said he doesn't know much about Canada except that it's a foreign country.

The Canadian military began moving operations from Kabul to Kandahar in August 2005, initially establishing a provincial reconstruction team. By February 2006, some 2,000 Canadian troops had arrived and taken charge of security in Kandahar province.

Zaher said he left the insurgency about two-and-a-half years ago - around the time the Canadians entered Kandahar in force.

He wanted to come back home.

Upon being offered amnesty under the Afghan government's reconciliation program, he crammed his family and a few possessions into their Mazda minivan, rolled out of Pakistan in the middle of the night and moved into Kandahar city's District Six.

Zaher has since trimmed his once-bountiful beard and turfed his turban in favour of a white skull cap.

But he eagerly showed off old pictures of himself holding rocket launchers, AK-47 assault rifles and dressed in trademark Taliban garb.

Zaher said he was a district commander outside the capital under the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan. After the Taliban were ousted by U.S.-led forces in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, he returned to Kandahar and struggled to adapt to the changed life.

He said he grew tired of being harassed, threatened and extorted by corrupt officials in the new Afghan government.

Like many of his friends, he fled to Pakistan in 2003.

Almost immediately upon arriving in Quetta, he said he received phone calls from his old allies offering him a lucrative opportunity to work with the Pakistanis.

He called them generous employers.

They gave him a motorbike and later upgraded it to the minivan. He said he lived in a rent-free house in Quetta big enough to accommodate him, his wife and their 10 children.

And he said he could ask anytime for an advance of up to three months on his salary.

Because he was illiterate, Zaher said the soldier who handed over the cash accepted an ink thumbprint as proof of payment.

But the generosity came with strings attached.

He was expected to spend about half the year fighting in Afghanistan.

If he wanted to see his family in Pakistan, he had to find someone to replace him in Afghanistan. It was like shift work. "He would come from Pakistan, replace me, and I would go home to Quetta. It was very important for me to find a replacement."

There was another catch.

Each time he received his payment, and every time he went for training, soldiers would remind him about what happened to trainees who refused to fight in Afghanistan.

"'If you don't go there, you will go to Guantanamo'," Zaher said.

"People who were saying they didn't want to do the training ... they were sent to Guantanamo. They were accused of being Talibs and they're getting punished over there."

The Pakistani government has strongly denied allegations that hardline Islamist factions within its security forces have been helping the Taliban.

How could the army possibly be aiding the insurgency, Pakistani officials argue, when pro-Taliban rebels have killed far more soldiers from Pakistan than any other country?

The Rand Corp. report offered several possible reasons why certain elements in the Pakistani government would support the Taliban.

Islamic militancy is only one of those factors, wrote Seth Jones, the report's author.

His report said Pakistanis want to continue exerting more influence in Afghanistan than their arch-nemesis, India - an emerging economic superpower that has helped bankroll a number of construction projects including Afghanistan's new parliament building.

Jones suggested some people in Pakistan may want to hedge their bets in Afghanistan in case of a NATO defeat, maintaining close ties to the rebels as a backup plan.

Finally, Jones said they want to keep Pakistan's Pashtun population loyal - an unstable Afghanistan next door will solidify their sense of belonging to Pakistan

Among former insurgents, Pakistan's involvement is described as a matter of fact.

Mullah Mirza Akhun said he met some of his old friends two months ago when he travelled to Quetta to get medical treatment for his mother.

"I met some Taliban there - and they offered me a job," said the Kandahar resident, a self-described former Taliban commander.

"I was told by some of my friends that the Pakistani government can give you training to destroy Afghanistan."

"But I refused."


A.R. Khan, a Kandahar-based journalist, did additional reporting and provided translation during the interviews.

Face value « Kings of War

Face value « Kings of War: "What"do you get when you cross a mafia boss with a hostile religious militant?

A facial makeover, according to the New York Times:

‘One of the first targets of the Taliban are usually criminals with whom they often fashion a symbiotic relationship, officials here said. Often the Taliban attack criminals and in that way increase their social standing with local people.

And then to win favor with the Taliban, the criminals grow their hair and their beards, and join forces with the militants, they said. In this way, the criminals get protection from the militants for the money they give to the Taliban from their extortion rackets.’

Organized crime is a very large part of the complex wars we face today. But our knowledge of criminal networks is often discussed separately from our analysis of the enemy’s strategic culture.

This is a gap that needs more work. One of the difficulties with cultural analysis is the need to separate material context from what people claim about themselves.

When we talk about the importance of religious concepts and tribal lore, are we sometimes falling prey to the propaganda of canny crime lords, rebranding themselves and adapting to a new and deadly environment?

Of course, the distinction is often a bit false. AQI are fighting other Iraqis in the Sunni triangle over crime fiefdoms and banditry markets, while there are probably crime lords who think of themselves as devout believers.

But there are also opportunists, ready to grow their beards and nod to the rhetoric of jihad. Its good for business.

[bth: put heroin into the equation and things do get interesting]

The Dogs of War | Britannica Blog

The Dogs of War | Britannica Blog: "Brian"Dennis, a Marine fighter pilot stationed in Anbar province in Iraq, took immediately to the 60-pound German shepherd–border collie mix he found one day while on patrol. The dog had been stabbed with a screwdriver or an awl and had had his ears cut off, the latter apparently in the belief that doing so would make Nubs, as Dennis dubbed him, more alert.

Dennis had Nubs treated for his injuries and then had to leave him behind when he was reassigned to a base 70 miles away. Nubs set off after Dennis and somehow found him. His tour of duty in Iraq over, Dennis spent $3,500 to send Nubs to Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in California, where the two are now living.

Special Forces Sergeant Major William Gillette happened upon three men beating a German shepherd at a checkpoint on the border of Iraq and Jordan. Brandishing his rifle, he rescued the dog, whom he named Yo-ge. At a cost of thousands of dollars, he took Yo-ge home with him to Clarksville, Tennessee.

Staff Sergeant Jason Cowart found an emaciated puppy under a garbage container at his command post and nursed the dog, which he called Ratchet, back to health. Ratchet sat beside him as he patrolled the streets in a Humvee. When it came time for Cowart to return to Fort Hood, Texas, he wrote to the World Society for the Protection of Animals to ask for help. The Massachusetts-based organization connected him with a Samaritan who paid the costs of shipping Ratchet halfway across the world.

Dogs and soldiers have always forged strong bonds, and the war in Iraq has afforded many opportunities for them to do so. The present conflict, though, has seen unusual efforts on the part of soldiers and civilians to take those dogs back to the United States—efforts that sometimes come up against military regulations. One is the standard rule that military equipment, Ratchet’s ride notwithstanding, may not be used to transport nonmilitary animals. Pets are eligible for transportation, but only when a soldier is being permanently assigned to a new post; posts in Iraq and Afghanistan are considered temporary tours of duty, so pets acquired there are ineligible.

Furthermore, it is against regulations for individual soldiers to keep “mascots,” as they are called. Many commanders overlook that point, reasoning that the boost in morale is reason enough to do so. Others do not, though, and put official obstacles in the way of soldiers determined to take their friends home despite the red tape and high costs. To get around the injunction against mascots, Sergeant Peter Neesley built a doghouse just outside his base in Baghdad to house a stray Labrador mix and her pup, whom he named Mama and Boris. Neesley died, and his family worked with a Utah-based animal rescue group to transport the dogs to their home in Michigan. An executive at a private airline volunteered to ship them home, and local government officials helped maneuver Mama and Boris through the military and civilian bureaucracies.

Bonds form officially too. The U.S. Army, for instance, had 578 dog teams in the field in July 2007 when 20-year-old Corporal Kory D. Wiens was killed by an explosive device along with his dog, Cooper, who had been trained to sniff out weapons caches. The two were buried together in Wiens’s Oregon hometown. The military also maintains “official” dogs whose task it is to simply keep soldiers company as a means of reducing combat-related stress. Said one soldier, Sergeant Brenda Rich, of a dog assigned to her unit, “I felt more relaxed after being able spend some time with her. For a few minutes it was just me and the dog, and nothing in this environment seemed to matter.”

In previous wars, military dogs were usually killed at the end of their working lives. Today, however, many of them return home and are adopted by former handlers, police departments, and, as in a few well-publicized cases, the families of handlers killed in action. Such was the case with Lex, a German shepherd whose trainer, 20-year-old Marine Corporal Dustin Lee, died in a mortar attack in Falluja in 2007. Lex, who had played with and slept alongside Lee throughout their service, was also injured in the attack; the dog at first refused to leave his side and had to be pulled away. Lee’s family lobbied extensively for the Marines to retire Lex before the customary age of 10, and Lex is now living with the Lees at their home in rural Mississippi.

An Iraq-based blogger working in the reconstruction program observes that it often seems that dogs adopt soldiers, not the other way around. “Maybe the dogs just like to be around people. Maybe it is a mutual protection racket. … We are conditioned to support and reward the dogs, just as the dogs are conditioned to guard us. It is primeval. Something in our Pleistocene genes compels the partnership.”

And so it is that the bonds of friendship in war extend across species lines. Yet, even after having successfully skirted the regulations that forbid that friendship, many soldiers simply cannot afford the cost—typically $3,000 to $3,500 per dog—of bringing their partners home. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals International reports that at any given time there are a dozen or so dogs awaiting rescue from Iraq and Afghanistan, their passage hindered only by lack of funds. Another organization, Vet Dogs, an offshoot of the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc., is active in training service dogs to work with injured veterans; it too is in constant need of funds to support its efforts.

Since it seems that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will go on and on, those bonds will continue. And so too will the need for public support for the dogs and soldiers caught up in those conflicts.

Somber ceremony honors soldier killed in Afghanistan - The Boston Globe

Somber ceremony honors soldier killed in Afghanistan - The Boston Globe: "REVERE"- Standing in front of their fire station on Broadway, under a flag waving at half-staff, about 10 firefighters snapped to attention as they watched the solemn homecoming of Sergeant Nelson Rodriguez Ramirez.

Rodriguez Ramirez, a 22-year-old father of two, was killed Sunday in Afghanistan along with three other soldiers when the truck they were riding in was struck by a roadside bomb. Yesterday, under a gray sky, his body was returned to the community where he spent his teenage years.

"He was a young man in the service of his country. He gave his life," said Fire Captain David Rossetti. "It's a small way to honor him."

Others also took a moment from their daily tasks to pay their respects as police escorted the hearse carrying Rodriguez Ramirez's flag-draped casket from Logan International Airport through the city to Vazza's Funeral Home. Some stood quietly with their hands clasped behind their backs, while others saluted as the casket passed.

George Copello stood a few yards from the firefighters with his toddler and newborn, his baseball cap in his hands.

"They're over there fighting for us. They're brave men and women," said Copello, 26, of East Boston. "I don't think I'd have the courage, especially now that I have a family. He was too young to die like that."

As the casket approached the firefighters, a loud horn sounded from the fire station. A girl waved an American flag.

Charles DiSciscio, an Army veteran who served in the Korean War, read about Rodriguez Ramirez in the newspaper and waited about an hour for the hearse to come by.

"You got to respect him - a young boy. He's a veteran. He's our hero," said DiSciscio, 79, of Revere, who wore a navy blue cap that said "Korea Veteran." "I had a brother his age who died in World War II. . . . My heart goes out to his family."

Rodriguez Ramirez moved to New York when he was 18 and enlisted in the Army National Guard.

His body was received at the airport by his closest friends and family, including his wife and two daughters from New York, relatives said.

"It was one of the greatest pains because now we have his body with us," said his father, Nelson Rodriguez of Revere, adding that it was "a moment of anguish and pain."...

[bth: the human face of the war has all but disappeared from national news. You have to look locally to see it. Since most people don't care to see, they do not look. Mass media knows this, so does the government. Out of sight, out of mind. My heart felt regards for the Ramirez family and the terrible loss of your son, husband and father. We will see you soon. My deepest regards.]

Iraqi officials outraged by U.S. raid in prime minister's hometown

McClatchy Washington Bureau | 06/27/2008 | Iraqi officials outraged by U.S. raid in prime minister's hometown: "Outraged"Iraqi officials demanded an investigation into an early morning U.S. military raid Friday near the birthplace of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, saying the operation violated the terms of the handover of Karbala province to Iraqi security forces.

Karbala Gov. Oqeil al Khazaali said U.S. forces killed an unarmed civilian and arrested at least one person in the raid in the southern town of Janaja. The governor's brother, Hassanein al Khazaali, said late Friday that the Iraqi killed in the operation was a relative of the U.S.-backed prime minister.

The U.S. military command in Baghdad had no comment. Two senior aides to Maliki weren't available for comment; one was still in a meeting with the prime minister after midnight. The governor is said to belong to the prime minister's Dawa Party.

Iraqi officials in Karbala said the operation began at dawn Friday, when U.S. aircraft delivered dozens of American troops to the rural Shiite Muslim town of Janaja, which is populated mostly by members of the Maliki tribe.

Raed Shakir Jowdet, the Iraqi military commander of Karbala operations, said that four Apache helicopters and a jet fighter soared over the area. About 60 U.S. soldiers then stormed the town, "terrifying the families," he said.

Jowdet said that an unarmed civilian named Ali Abdulhussein was killed in his home. He added that the man detained in the operation, Hussein Nima, was visiting the area and didn't reside in Karbala.

"Not one Iraqi soldier took part in the airdrop, and the operation was not coordinated with any Iraqi authority," he said. "We are still looking for an answer as to why this has taken place, and we still have no logical explanation from the American forces."

Khazaali, the U.S.-allied governor, denounced the operation at a news conference, saying the U.S. military hadn't coordinated in advance with Iraqi forces, who assumed control of Karbala security in October 2007. The governor said the raid set "a dangerous precedent" for areas ostensibly under full Iraqi control....

[bth: there will be negative consequence to this especially as we negotiate an agreement with Maliki since we killed his relative evidently by mistake. If I recall when the Blackwater guys shot up the place last year, one of his relatives was killed then too. There are consequences.]

Main and Central: Bad Weather?

Main and Central: Bad Weather?: "Let"me set the stage...

US military to hand back Sunni bastion of Anbar to Iraq
4 days ago
BAGHDAD (AFP) — The US military is to hand over security control of the former Sunni insurgent bastion of Anbar province to Iraqi forces in the next 10 days, a US military spokesman announced on Monday.

"The handover of Anbar is expected to take place in the next 10 days," Lieutenant David Russell told AFP, declining to provide an exact date.

It was scheduled to take place tomorrow. The MNF-I web site still has this cite from the NYT prominently featured in the news section: "Iraqi forces to take over Anbar province." Funny thing though when you click on the link you are directed to this NYT article: "Weather Delays U.S. Handover Of Iraqi Province." Yeah right, as if...! Blame it on the weather!

Of course this would have nothing to do with it...

Two insurgent bomb blasts struck Thursday at pro-American Iraqi targets in Anbar Province just west of Baghdad and in the northern city of Mosul. The police said more than 30 Iraqis were killed and 80 wounded.
An American military spokesman and Iraqi police officials said that three American marines were killed in the Anbar attack and that two interpreters were also among the dead. The American military command was preparing to hand control of the province, once considered the hotbed of the insurgency, to Iraqi forces.

The bombings extended a pattern of multiple-casualty attacks in recent days that are clearly intended to kill local Iraqi leaders, in particular those who are believed to have collaborated with American forces against insurgents. Thursday’s attacks were among a string of deadly episodes in the past week that broke the previous several weeks’ lull in violence.

Nor this...

One civilian on Thursday was wounded by a car bomb explosion targeting a U.S. patrol in Mosul, a Ninewa police source said. This incident was the third in a fresh wave of attacks in the northern city of Mosul, bringing the casualties' toll to 17 killed and 66 wounded.
Who's being blamed for this sudden rash of violence? AQI, but of course! It couldn't possibly be disgruntled Sunni 'Awakening' members or Sons of Iraq. Or could it...?

Fatehoon correspondents in Adhamiya, Taji, Tikrit, Baaquba, Ramadi, and Hilla report that a large number of Awakening members have been in contact in recent days with armed Iraqi factions that are still at war with the Americans and the government forces in those areas where they [the Awakening people] were active, asking them for forgiveness and for the acceptance of their return to the ranks of the fighting factions, including those [factions] that have a strong relationship with the AlQaeda organization. And some of our correspondents have learned that there was a welcome, in more than one location, for their return once again to the fight.
Hmmm... The NYT article elaborates further...

Most of the episodes have occurred in Sunni or mixed Sunni-Shiite areas where there has been mounting frustration over the lack of a political deal giving power to all of Iraq’s factions. Some were in small neighborhoods like Abu Dshir on the southern edge of Baghdad, and Madaen, which lies just to its southeast. There was also an attack on Tuesday on the Sadr City neighborhood council which killed six Iraqis, four Americans and an Iraqi-Italian interpreter.

Both of Thursday’s attacks raised questions about assertions by the United States military that Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and other Sunni extremist groups had been largely vanquished. . . .

In Baghdad and in Anbar Province, there have been substantial American and Iraqi military campaigns to root out the insurgency. In those areas and in Diyala Province, where there was a suicide bombing a week ago, the Shiite-led government in Baghdad has frustrated the efforts of Sunni leaders to find government security jobs for Sunni tribal figures and former insurgents.

Although many of these people joined the Awakening movement and were paid by the Americans to help fight Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, few have been put on the government’s payroll.

“The government didn’t support the Awakening Councils enough,” said Omar Abdul Sattar, a member of Parliament from Ramadi who belongs to the Iraqi Islamic Party, a leading Sunni group.

Interestingly, Gen. Betrayus's mouthpiece Baghdad Bergner had to chime in...

Right on schedule, and almost as if to promote this process of re-confrontation between ex-Awakenings and the US forces, AlHayat reports interview remarks by Bergner of the US forces to the effect that there is no longer a need for some of the Awakenings, and adding that there will now have to be a difficult process of directing them to other spheres of activity.
Dr.iRack sums it up...

Apparently, there is escalating anger over the slow pace of ISF integration and Iraqi government outreach (all in the context of increasing intra-Sunni competition in the lead up to provincial elections). Will we see rising attacks by "former" Awakening members who turn back to AQI because they are frustrated at the lack of accommodation by the Iraqi government?
Dr.iRack doesn't know, but it is something to watch in the coming weeks.

Definitely, something to keep an eye on...!

[bth: original source and its links worth examining. So here we go. We're trying to hand over Anbar and the Iraqi government, its Shia and Kurdish troops and the Awakening which probably isn't getting its bribe money from the Americans anymore, nor is it getting jobs in the new government as expected. So the fight will begin anew more as a civil war or guerrilla war. Terror bombings, assassinations, weapons hording. Besides an increase in bombings and assassinations we will likely see a marked decline in the number of weapons caches discovered. And so it goes. I'm not opposed to the handover of Anbar. In fact I think its an inevitable, a step we have to take.]

Taliban attack US base in Afghanistan from Pakistan - The Long War Journal

Taliban attack US base in Afghanistan from Pakistan - The Long War Journal: "The"Taliban has launched yet another attack on a US outpost in Afghanistan from inside Pakistan. A Taliban rocket teams fired at a US outpost in Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan from two sites early this morning from two sites: one within Afghanistan and another about 400 meters across the border in Pakistan. Four rockets struck near the military base, but no casualties were reported.

The military responded by attacking the two sites and notifying the Pakistani military of the attack. US forces lobbed artillery rounds at the launch sites in Pakistan and hit the site inside Afghanistan with fire from aircraft. No Taliban casualties were reported.

Today’s rocket attack is the second such strike launched from inside Pakistan reported this week. The Taliban fired rockets at a US base in Paktika on June 21. One Afghan woman and three children were killed in the attack..

The Taliban have launched a series of attacks against district centers and Afghan and Coalition forces in Paktika and neighboring Paktia province over the past week as part of an attempt to destabilize the eastern region and overrun Afghan government centers. ...

[bth: Vietnam/Cambodia redux. And by the way, where the hell did those 1000 escaped prisoners head off to? Note how it has completely disappeared from the media. The way to propagandize in a modern society is to ignore - no government statements. The media is on such a budget that they won't send an investigative reporter, so the story just disappears. Out of sight, out of mind.]

Navy Saves Millions in Fuel Costs

Navy Saves Millions in Fuel Costs: "The" rewards reaped from the Navy's Energy Conservation (ENCON) Program save millions in fuel costs, while keeping ships at sea to support the nation's Maritime Strategy.

ENCON includes two major energy conservation and management programs spearheaded by Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) in Washington, D.C. One is the Incentivized Energy Conservation (i-ENCON) Program; the other is the Fleet Readiness, Research and Development Program (FRR&DP).

According to i-ENCON Program Manager Hasan Pehlivan, the programs are projected to save more than 1.14 million barrels of oil in 2008, enough to fill four million 12-gallon car gas tanks, resulting in a record cost avoidance of more than $157 million.

"Like the average consumer, the Navy's budget today is challenged by increasing fuel costs," FRR&DP Program Manager Petter Kristiansen said. "These programs are designed to help the fleet conserve fuel now through changed operating procedures and to find long-term fuel reduction solutions that enable us to meet mission requirements even when fuel prices go through the roof."

The i-ENCON program is a hands-on, "meet the fleet" initiative that routinely meets with ship operators to review specific fuel-saving operational procedures and recommends quarterly awards for ships with the most fuel-efficient operations. In the late 1990s implemented several initiatives that have reduced fuel consumption for almost two decades.

The second program, FRR&DP, kicked off in October 2007. The program examines new technologies available today that offer reduced fuel consumption and significant return on investment (ROI) but must be tested and validated before implemented throughout the fleet.

The i-ENCON Program created a $104 million cost avoidance in 2007 and a then-record $125 million savings in 2006. In 2002, the i-ENCON Program Managers won the prestigious White House Presidential Award for Outstanding Federal Energy Management.

Committed to reducing ships' energy consumption by 10 percent each year, i-ENCON provides ships' commanding officers and chief engineers energy-saving strategies and techniques along with consumption-reducing procedures and operations modifications. The i-ENCON team's training and awareness programs includes videos, packet books and specialized software.

The i-ENCON training focuses on "smart steaming," engineering procedures and guidelines that ensure maximum fuel efficiency for ships without impairing mission objectives. These procedures include running only those systems and power plants needed to support the mission. "Ship loading," the proper placement of ship's cargo and ballast to ensure balanced weight distribution, is another smart steaming procedure.

According to Pehlivan, i-ENCON distributes quarterly fuel usage reports based on the Navy Energy Usage Reporting Systems (NEURS) which detail the energy consumption of surface ships. The leading fuel conservers among underway surface ships receive special recognition and cash incentives upwards of $90,000. Pehlivan said -- on average -- 100 ships qualify for cash awards each quarter.

The award money goes to commanding officers' discretionary funds, which are often used to buy items like damage control gear or to augment the ships' welfare and recreation programs.

"The incentives are very important to i-ENCON's success," Pehlivan added. "It's a volunteer program that requires real commitment from ships' commanding officers, chief engineers and main propulsion assistants.

"I receive calls and emails from ships everyday wanting to know how they can participate and improve their fuel performance."

FRR&DP initiatives project more than $19 million in annual cost avoidance when implemented, primarily in fuel savings, according to Kristiansen. The projected annual fuel savings equate to more than 134,000 barrels, enough to fill tanks in 469,000 cars.

"Among FRR&DP's five initiatives, the stern flaps for dock landing ships (LSDs) and the stern flaps for multi-purpose assault ships (LHDs) initiatives should yield annual cost avoidance of around $6.3 million," Kristiansen said.

The initiatives propose installing stern flaps on LSDs and LHDs, making the ships more hydrodynamic and thereby reducing the energy required to propel them. He cited earlier initiatives in which stern flaps were installed on destroyers (DDGs), cruisers (CGs) and frigates (FFGs), generating annual cost avoidance of $365,000 to $450,000 per ship, based on $96 per barrel of oil.

Another promising FRR&DP initiative, the Combustion Trim Loop, will replace obsolete boiler control system components on general purpose assault ships (LHAs) and LHDs. The new components will allow system operators to adjust boiler inputs for maximum efficiency. This offers a potential avoidance of more than $3.6 million annually in fuel savings when implemented.

FRR&DP initiatives under consideration for next year include underwater hull anti-fouling coatings, solid state lighting and other energy-saving technologies that offer more efficient operations.

[bth: excellent inititiative by the Navy. Well done.]

Friday, June 27, 2008

'Gays Too Precious To Risk In Combat,' Says General | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

'Gays Too Precious To Risk In Combat,' Says General | The Onion - America's Finest News Source: "
'Gays Too Precious To Risk In Combat,' Says General"

Nightwatch report excerpt on Pakistan-Afghanistan

..."Pakistan": Security. Militants in Swat District of North West Frontier Province burned down a hotel in the country's only ski resort, police said today. The overnight attack follows intermittent clashes this week between militants and security forces and arson attacks on several girls' schools.

"The area is not under our control, it's under the militants' control and no one can go there," Swat's police chief, Waqif Khan, told Reuters. Militants in the area have denied they were responsible for the attack.

Swat District is considered the “Switzerland of Pakistan” because it is the only region that has good snow for skiing. The ski resort shut down last August when militants took over Swat. It also is the region where the new government supposedly has a peace agreement with the militants. It is supposed to be the government’s showcase for its strategy for dealing with the tribes.

In South Waziristan, Pakistani Taliban extremists executed 28 members of a peace committee. Two other members are still missing. According to Pakistani press sources, the militants kidnapped 30 members of the peace committee on Tuesday after the fighting in Jandola. The bodies of 28 committee members were recovered from Kariwam, an area adjoining Jandola yesterday. The deceased belonged to the Bhattni tribe near Jandola. The attackers are believed to be Mahsuds from outside the immediate area.

The government is basing its strategy for controlling the tribal agencies on the intervention of the tribal elders. The strategy has some flaws. The elders no longer have the respect of the men with the guns. Wisdom from age, religious training and knowledge of weapons technology are the historic but competitive paths to tribal power in the Pashtun nation. See Louis Dupree.

Weapons and religion now appear to be more prominent than wisdom and age, indicating socio-cultural changes in the tribal structure that are normal in periods of strife. What that means is that a strategy relying on the cultural power of the elders cannot work.

Politics. Today Pakistanis voted in by-elections for five seats in the National Assembly and 25 seats in Provincial Assemblies. The coalition partners swept the by-elections. Limited violence occurred resulting in 26 injured but the voters were not deterred.

Afghanistan: In the West a little noticed event occurred in Paktia Province, bordering Pakistan. Agence France-Presse reported NATO aircraft “killed 22 militants who were attacking two towns in eastern Afghanistan…The U.S.-led coalition said Afghan police called for help when insurgents armed with rockets and guns attacked government offices in the Sarobi and Gomal districts of Paktika province on Tuesday night…When coalition air support arrived, the 22 militants who attacked the district centers were positively identified and killed," a Coalition statement said.

What was reported by Afghan media but omitted from the AFP account is that the 22 men attempted to overrun the district headquarters in Sarobi and Gomal. They attacked from Pakistan. They have all been identified as Pakistani, according to Pajhwok news service, and the survivors fled back to Pakistan, according to the Governor of Paktia Province. If the Governor’s press statement is accurate, then Pakistani militants are replacing Afghans in some of the border fights. They still are no match for Allied air power, at least not yet.

June is proving to be the most violent month in the history of the Afghanistan conflict. Thirty-nine NATO soldiers have been killed thus far, the highest number of deaths in any month since the Taliban overthrown. The number of roadside bombs is so high that the Taliban must have a steady source of supply for the components. If US forces have solved the IED problem in Iraq, as was claimed this month, then the know-how is urgently needed in Afghanistan because almost all the NATO deaths have come from roadside and suicide bombs....
Armchair Generalist

White House won’t admit that Bush met with military analysts

The Raw Story » White House won’t admit that Bush met with military analysts: "At"Wednesday’s White House press briefing, Press Secretary Dana Perino claimed that she doesn’t know whether President Bush ever met with TV military analysts who participated in the Pentagon’s secret propaganda program that was suspended earlier this year after its existence was revealed in a NY Times story by David Barstow.

When I first questioned Ms. Perino about the program on April 30, she denied White House knowledge of the program, but as Salon’s Glenn Greenwald pointed out last month, Pentagon emails dating from March 2006 reveal that Pentagon officials communicated with Karl Rove about setting up meetings between the military analysts and both President Bush and his National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley....

[bth: it seems if the answer were 'no' that the press secretary would be pretty quick to give it.]

YouTube - Stanley Myers "Cavatina"

YouTube - Stanley Myers "Cavatina": ""

Mexican Police Official Assassinated As Drug War Escalates - The Huffington Post

Mexican Police Official Assassinated As Drug War Escalates - The Huffington Post: "MEXICO"CITY — Gunmen killed a top federal police official and his bodyguard Thursday as they ate lunch in Mexico City, the latest attack against authorities waging a nationwide battle against drug cartels.

Igor Labastida was director of the federal police division monitoring trafficking and contraband, said a Mexico City security official who was not authorized to give his name. Federal police refused to comment.

Labastida's second bodyguard and a woman were injured.

The motive for the attack was unclear and police officials had made no arrests.

The assault was the latest against Mexican officials involved in the nationwide fight against drugs and organized crime.

Edgar Millan Gomez, Mexico's acting federal police chief, was killed in May outside his Mexico City apartment. Police blamed the Sinaloa drug cartel.

President Felipe Calderon has sent more than 20,000 troops across Mexico to take back territory controlled by some of the world's most powerful drug gangs.

The cartels have responded with unprecedented violence, killing more than 4,000 people since Calderon took office in December 2006.

The homicides also have become more gruesome, with hit men beheading their enemies and leaving threatening messages with the victims' bodies

[bth: Hello!? 4,000 dead in Mexico in two years? Mr. Bush? Congress? MSM? Anybody home? When do drug cartels become terror organizations? Isn't a war brewing in our southern neighbor worth a little attention?]

YouTube - David Addington: 'al Qaeda May Watch C-SPAN'

YouTube - David Addington: 'al Qaeda May Watch C-SPAN': ""
Well Mr. Addington we finally see you. Hard to believe this little shit of a man could have done this country so wrong. It is hard to underestimate the damage to the prestige and moral position of this country in the eyes of the world that this little bureaucrat has caused.

High-Tech Combat Equipment Expedited for Use in Iraq -

High-Tech Combat Equipment Expedited for Use in Iraq - "The"Army will deliver some key technologies to ground forces in war zones three years ahead of schedule as part of its $160 billion combat modernization program led by Boeing and SAIC.

Senior Army officials said Thursday that changes to the Future Combat Systems program will expedite the use of high-tech equipment, including unmanned sensors and robotics, to infantry brigades fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan by 2011.

Portions of the program were expected to be used by armored units by 2014, but Army officials say the technology is needed for the current war effort.

Lt. Gen. Michael A. Vane, director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center, said accelerating FCS and other complementary programs will help fill in gaps created by huge demands on the infantry brigades while increasing the effectiveness and safety of U.S. soldiers.

Army officials maintain that although costs might rise in the short term from the new schedule, they will balance out in future years and will not raise FCS's overall price tag, which lawmakers have criticized.

Lead contractors Boeing and SAIC said the Army's decision to accelerate the combat system technologies shows confidence in the program's progress. FCS includes 14 manned and unmanned systems linked through a secure communications network.

On Wednesday, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. briefed Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on plans to restructure the program. Gates, who backed the shift, told reporters at a briefing Thursday that FCS "deserves support."

Dan Goure, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute, said it appears that the Army "didn't want to repeat the same mistake" as the Air Force, which battled Gates publicly over F-22 jets made by Lockheed Martin. Gates had previously raised doubts about FCS.

"Clearly, this shows that Gates is in command in a way few secretaries have been of the services," Goure said. ...

[bth: a politically astute move by the Army (unlike the Air Force) that might in fact benefit troops in the field in a small and expensive way. Future Combat System is not a good program concept in my opinion. These few tokens - small unmanned and air vehicles and unattended sensors - are just about all that is really working from the program. The big UGVs just are badly planned, overpriced and probably useless in any combat scenario this country will face in the next decade or two.]

Congress approves Iraq war financing | | The Tennessean

Congress approves Iraq war financing | | The Tennessean: "The"Senate passed a $162 billion war spending plan Thursday, sending to President Bush legislation that will pay for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan until the next president takes office.

The bill, approved 92-6, includes a historic boost in college aid for troops, plus a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits and $2.7 billion in emergency flood relief for the Midwest....

The Pentagon's merchants of war

Asia Times Online :: Middle East News, Iraq, Iran current affairs: "The"top Pentagon contractors, like death and taxes, almost never change. In 2002, the massive arms dealers Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman ranked one, two and three among Department of Defense (DoD) contractors, taking in US$17 billion, $16.6 billion and $8.7 billion.

Lockheed, Boeing and Northrop Grumman did it again in 2003 ($21.9 billion, $17.3 billion and $11.1 billion); 2004 ($20.7 billion, $17.1 billion and $11.9 billion); 2005 ($19.4 billion, $18.3 billion and $13.5 billion); 2006 ($26.6 billion, $20.3 billion and $16.6 billion); and, not surprisingly, 2007 as well ($27.8 billion $22.5 billion and $14.6 billion).

Other regulars receiving mega-tax-funded payouts in a similarlyclockwork-like manner include defense giants General Dynamics, Raytheon, the British weapons maker BAE Systems and former Halliburton subsidiary KBR, as well as BP, Shell and other power players from the military-petroleum complex.

With the basic Pentagon budget now clocking in at roughly $541 billion per year - before "supplemental" war funding for Iraq, Afghanistan and President George W Bush's "war on terror", as well as national security spending by other agencies, are factored in - even Lockheed's hefty $28 billion take is a small percentage of the massive total. Obviously, significant sums of money are headed to other companies. However, most of them, including some of the largest, are all but unknown even to Pentagon-watchers and antiwar critics with a good grasp of the military industrial complex.

Last year, in a piece headlined "Washington's $8 billion shadow", Vanity Fair published an expose of one of the better-known large stealth contractors, SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation). SAIC, however, is just one of tens of thousands of Pentagon contractors. Many of these firms receive only tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Pentagon every year. Some take home millions, tens of millions or even hundreds of millions of dollars.

Then there's a select group that are masters of the universe in the ever-expanding military-corporate complex, regularly scoring more than a billion tax dollars a year from the DoD. Unlike Lockheed, Boeing and Northrop Grumman, however, most of these billion-dollar babies manage to fly beneath the radar of media (not to mention public) attention. If appearing at all, they generally do so innocuously in the business pages of newspapers. When it comes to their support for the Pentagon's wars and occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq, they are, in media terms, missing in action.

So, who are some of these mystery defense contractors you've probably never heard of? Here are snapshot portraits, culled largely from their own corporate documents, of five of the Pentagon's secret billion-dollar babies: ...

[bth: worth reading in full. Makes you wonder if war is a corporate scam.]

Iraqi military unable to hold Mosul - Middle East Times

Iraqi military unable to hold Mosul - Middle East Times: "MOSUL" Iraq, June 26 (UPI) -- Iraqi security forces are unable to maintain order following operations targeting al-Qaida fighters in the northern city of Mosul, officials said Thursday.
U.S. and Iraqi authorities view Mosul, the provincial capital of Ninawa, as one of the last remaining al-Qaida strongholds in Iraq. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered a military crackdown in the northern city in May.

The gains from these operations, however, have disintegrated as militant groups re-entered the city and gunmen reportedly are roaming the streets in force, the Iraqi daily Azzaman reported.

Ninawa officials said there was an insufficient number of Iraqi troops to maintain security following operations in May.

"Residents are hopeless once again after shortly enjoying the faint light at the end of the tunnel," officials said on condition of anonymity.

Officials said they are also concerned about the presence of the Kurdish Peshmerga force, which guards their political districts in the largely Arab city.

At least 18 people died and nearly 80 were wounded in a car bomb attack in Mosul Thursday that targeted the offices of Ninawa Provincial Governor Duraid Kashmula.

{bth: this assessment was referenced by Juan Cole who is usually balls on, but it seems overly pessimistic to me. What does bother me is that it appears we do not have enough troops in Mosul and that the Iraqi troops there are Kurdish and that may not be going over well with the locals. It also doesn't help when a man goes out with a gun to chase away burglars and the next thing he knows the Americans have dropped a bomb on him killing his entire family as just happened. So much for hearts and minds. ... well this deserves scrutiny because Mosul is the bell weather for the north. Mosul matters.]

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Today Now!: How To Pretend You Give A Shit About The Election | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Today Now!: How To Pretend You Give A Shit About The Election | The Onion - America's Finest News Source: "
Today Now!: How To Pretend You Give A Shit About The Election"

Taleban 'siege' of Peshawar threatens Pakistan's grip - Times Online

Taleban 'siege' of Peshawar threatens Pakistan's grip - Times Online: "Pakistan’s"battle against the Taleban threatened to spiral out of control yesterday after Islamic militants extended their grip in the lawless North West Frontier region.

Emboldened by an increasingly weakened and demoralised security force, Taleban fighters moved in to the outskirts of the provincial capital. Peshawar, surrounding the city and placing it virtually under siege.

Army troops have increased patrols in the garrison areas and paramilitary soldiers carrying machineguns are posted at government buildings. But senior security officials said that militants, who now control the region’s main arterial roads, were in a position to cut off communications at will.

Police on the city’s outskirts have long given up patrolling at night for fear of attacks by militants, who are organised under the banner of Tehrik-e-Taleban, the group led by the notorious commander Baitullah Mehsud. Several officers have been killed in rocket attacks on police posts in recent months. “It is a highly alarming situation,” said a senior provincial government official.

The Taleban raided the main government hospital in the heart of the city last week, kidnapping 16 Christians and taking them to the Khyber Agency tribal region outside Peshawar. Although they were freed after a few hours, the incident heightened fears among non-Muslims.

The Khyber Agency, the supply route for Nato forces in Afghanistan, has emerged as the new centre of Taleban activity. Ambushes on convoys have become more frequent.

Yesterday security forces said that they had found the bodies of 22 men who were captured by militants this week and executed after summary trial. Taleban fighters also abducted and killed six thieves and kidnappers in the Orakzai area near Peshawar.

On Sunday militants kidnapped 15 paramilitary soldiers after raiding a checkpoint in the tribal belt only a few miles from the city. The attack occurred hours after security forces in the area foiled a suicide attack involving a teenager.

Tehrik-e-Taleban has virtually established control not only in the tribal areas, but also in several key cities of the North West Frontier Province.

Mr Mehsud, the Tehrik-e-Taleban leader described by Western intelligence agencies as one of the world’s most dangerous terrorists, has been blamed by Pakistan for masterminding most of the country’s suicide attacks last year.

The commander, accused of orchestrating the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, operates from the South Waziristan tribal region, believed to be a main base for al-Qaeda. Analysts said that government policy had exacerbated instability in the region, blaming a lack of co-ordination among the military and political agencies. “The management of the province is not possible if large pockets of militancy continued to develop,” said a senior government official.

The Taleban has also been emboldened by the Government’s attempts to reach peace deals with them. The authorities have been trying to negotiate a controversial agreement with Mr Mehsud’s fellow tribesmen aimed at containing militants within the region. Last month the provincial government, which is led by the Awami National Party, a Pashtun nationalist group, signed a peace deal with militants in Swat valley — a key battleground for the past 18 months.

Under the agreement, the Government released Maulana Sufi Mohammed, a commander who was in jail for taking thousands of his fighters to Afghanistan to fight US forces.

The Government claimed that the accord would bring peace to the area, but it appears only to have strengthened the militants. On Tuesday soldiers and nine rebels were killed in clashes in Swat, and five schoolgirls were set on fire. Yesterday more than 120 armed men seized control of a primary school in Bela Gud village, about five miles from Mingora, the main town in Swat.

Last year thousands of militants took control of much of Swat, prompting a Pakistani military operation that eventually drove out the insurgents. They are now back, despite the accord.

Month of violence

Yesterday Authorities find the bullet-riddled bodies of 22 pro-government tribesmen slain by militants. More than 100 armed men take control of a government primary school in Bela Gud, five miles from Mingora, the main town of Swat. No students were inside

Monday Militants loyal to Baitullah Mehsud seize Jandola, on the main road into the South Waziristan ethnic Pashtun tribal region on the Afghan border

June 16 Bomb explodes in a Shia mosque in Dera, killing four people. Authorities blame militants in neighbouring South Waziristan

June 10 Eleven Pakistani soldiers die in US airstrike on a border

post at Gora Pai, near the border with the Afghanistan Kunar province, where coalition forces have been fighting the Taleban insurgents

June 9 Militants kill four policemen near Peshawar

June 7 Five people, including three police officers, are killed by a remote-controlled bomb, planted on a bicycle and detonated in the town of Dera Ismail Khan

June 5 Police raid suspected militant hideout in Nowshera, 50km east of Peshawar, triggering a shoot-out that wounds one police driver and one militant. Several militants manage to flee

June 3 Bomb at a video shop in the town of Kohat, 75km south of Peshawar, kills three and wounds three

[bth: while we are patting ourselves on the back in Iraq we are about to lose Pakistan. Isn't anyone in Washington paying attention? This report is from the UK. The situation in Pakistan is barely being reported in the US.]
Informed Comment

The Real FISA Vote Passes 80 to 15 With the Presidential Nominees Passing

Firedoglake » The Real FISA Vote Passes 80 to 15 With the Presidential Nominees Passing: "They"who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. - Benjamin Franklin

The FISA Cloture vote just passed. The Senate will now consider the motion to proceed with the bill, then they'll head to the bill itself (corrected procedural details, h/t and thanks to CBolt). Various motions will be put forward to strip immunity, odds are they will fail. Then a number of the 80 who voted to restrict debate will vote against FISA so they can say they were against the bill. However this was the real vote, and the rest is almost certainly nothing but kabuki for the rubes.

Obama and McCain were both absent, as was Clinton. Unimpressive, but unsurprising, though I suppose I'm disappointed by Clinton (Obama has made it clear he didn't intend to try and stop the bill.) Clinton and Obama will claim there was no point since it wasn't close. But, with their leadership, it might well have gone the other way.

The folks who actually voted for the Bill of Rights are listed below. Remember, after the debate there'll be a larger number of people who vote against this bill, but this was the real vote, and those Senators are just playing the rubes.

Vote tally here on the motion to end debate (couresty of Peterr)

Voting against Cloture

Biden (D-DE)
Boxer (D-CA)
Brown (D-OH)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Dodd (D-CT)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Harkin (D-IA)
Kerry (D-MA)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Leahy (D-VT)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Sanders (I-VT)
Schumer (D-NY)
Wyden (D-OR)

Not Voting:

Byrd (D-WV)
Clinton (D-NY)
Kennedy (D-MA)
McCain (R-AZ)
Obama (D-IL)

*I do want to give a nod to Feingold and Dodd for being consistently on the right side of this issue. The 15 who voted against deserve to be remembered for doing so. 80 voting for means that the leadership was pushing hard, we lost significant numbers of votes from last time.

As for Obama, well, here's what he had to say:

"The bill has changed. So I don't think the security threats have changed, I think the security threats are similar. My view on FISA has always been that the issue of the phone companies per se is not one that overrides the security interests of the American people."

Regular readers of FDL and EmptyWheel will know that this is security theater and that there is no reason to believe that gutting the 4th amendment will make Americans safer, even if Obama is willing to ignore his oath to uphold the Constitution. This is a sad day, especially for those of us who believed Obama when he said he would support a filibuster against retroactive immunity.

[bth: so 15 votes for the Bill of Rights. I had hoped for better. So much for the Fourth Amendment. It was nice knowing you. Now the Supreme Court will look at the Second Amendment. Now this will be interesting, watching the Senators realign. Senators of all people should know that protecting our rights means all rights for all people. We cannot pick and choose because we don't like someone. But here we are in this sorry state. Not only are we not fighting for the rights of others, we are giving our rights away out of fear of a man in a cave. We should be fearing the man in the White House. The Bill of Rights was about protecting us from our own goverment.]

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....

All about oil: No-bid contracts for Western energy giants reinforce cynicism about the motives for invading Iraq | - Houston Chronicle

All about oil: No-bid contracts for Western energy giants reinforce cynicism about the motives for invading Iraq | - Houston Chronicle: ... "The"latest developments in Iraq provide more ammunition for cynics. As the United States pushes to wrap up a security agreement with the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki before Bush leaves office, the U.S. proposals reportedly include the right to maintain dozens of military bases.

At the same time, Iraqi and oil company sources confirm pending no-bid service contracts that would bring back four Western oil giants, Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP, to modernize the oil fields the government nationalized 36 years ago. The one- to two-year contracts are small by industry standards but are viewed as a foot in the door for much larger pacts to develop untapped Iraqi fields. The companies would be paid in oil for their work, a financial boon if petroleum maintains its lofty price levels.

U.S. officials deny they had a role in the contracts. But the administration has close ties with big oil, and U.S. advisers played key roles in the revamped Iraqi oil ministry. An Iraqi spokesman said the companies were chosen because they had already been serving as unpaid consultants to the government. Yet a Russian company, Lukoil, performed a similar role in southern Iraq, but was not offered a contract.

A case can be made that the U.S. government deserves compensation in Iraqi oil for the lives and treasure spent to oust Saddam and to set up an elected government representing the majority of Iraqis. That isn't what is happening now, with billions of oil dollars at stake and Western corporations positioning themselves to tap into the flow.

Unlike the vanishing WMDs, there's plenty of evidence that petroleum has been a consideration of U.S. policymakers from the invasion's planning stages. If nothing else, they feared Saddam would use his massive oil revenues to menace his neighbors and promote terrorism in the West.

If the war wasn't about oil from the start, it is taking center stage now.

[bth: note this editorial is from the Houston Chronicle.]

Saudi Arabia Arrests 701 Al Qaeda-Linked Militants Plotting 'Oil Attacks' - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News - Saudi Arabia Arrests 701 Al Qaeda-Linked Militants Plotting 'Oil Attacks' - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News: "The"701 militants from various countries were arrested in multiple waves, but 181 were later released because there was no proof linking them to the terror network, according to a ministry statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency. The remaining 520 are still in custody, it added.

Security forces "carried out several operations against followers of the deviant ideology and arrested a total of 701 people of various nationalities," a ministry spokesperson was quoted by the Saudi Press Agency.

References in the statement to "deviant group" and "deviant ideology" are Saudi euphemisms for Al Qaeda and its sympathizers.

Riyadh has in the past reported arrests of large numbers of militants, including those linked to Al Qaeda, but the figure released Wednesday was the highest to date.

Al Qaeda has called for attacks against the Saudi government in the past, criticizing its alliance with the U.S. and hoping to disrupt the flow of oil to the West. The group has also labeled the Saudi government un-Islamic, even though the kingdom follows an austere strain of Islam known as Wahhabism....

[bth: with announcements like this from the Saudis, one must always ask, 'why now?' What did the Saudi government gain by making this announcements over two years after the last attack? What message is the Saudi government trying to send?]

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Al Jazeera English - CENTRAL/S. ASIA - Abducted Pakistani elders 'killed'

Al Jazeera English - CENTRAL/S. ASIA - Abducted Pakistani elders 'killed': "The"bodies of 22 tribal elders have been found in Pakistan's northwestern tribal region a day after they were captured by pro-Taliban fighters.

The bodies were found on Wednesday near Jandola, a town adjoining the South Waziristan tribal district where loyalists of Baitullah Mehsud, commander of the Pakistani Taliban, have fought pro-government tribesmen.

"According to our information 22 bodies of peace committee members have been found in Kiriwam village," Barkatullah Marwat, a district administration official, said.

A peace committee is a body of tribal elders and tribesmen working with the government to tackle pro-Taliban sentiment in the regions bordering Afghanistan.

"Some of the dead were shot and some had their throats slit," Marwat said.

During clashes earlier this week in Jandola, Taliban fighters captured about 27 people belonging to the peace committee and local tribal elders, he said.

Security officials said that the men's hands were tied behind their backs and the corpses left in a drain by a roadside.

'Reign of terror'

A spokesman for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan controlled by Mehsud, told the AFP news agency that it had carried out the killings and would soon decide the fate of another eight men.

"The men we killed were involved in thefts and robbery and had unleashed a reign of terror on the people. They were being patronised by the government," Maulvi Omar said.

"The government should not intervene in the current situation, otherwise peace talks would be seriously undermined."

Fighting between supporters of a pro-government tribal elder, called Tukistan Bitani, and fighters belonging to Mehsud's tribe broke out on Monday after rockets were fired at the home of a peace committee member.

Kamal Hyder, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Islamabad, said: "The [dead] men were members of the Bitani tribe, which has already had trouble with the Mehsuds
. There are some allegations that Mehsud's men are behind their killing.

"If this is true it would further complicate the situation in South Waziristan, where the Pakistani military has taken heavy casualties."

Pro-Taliban gains

He said the attacks came as pro-Taliban forces continue to tighten their grip in the region, espcially in the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP).

"A lot of analysts believe that Peshawar is being surrounded by pro-Taliban factions. That is why the interior minister went there and warned people that the government could launch an operation in the Northwest Frontier Province."

Pakistan's military put the overall death toll from the violence at nine, and said that the Taliban fighters had withdrawn from Jandola.

"There is absolutely nothing now in Jandola. A total of nine people have been killed in fighting between tribes," Major General Athar Abbas, Pakistan's chief military spokesman, said.

But residents told the AFP news agency that the situation in Jandola was still tense and armed fighters were still present. All shops were closed down and roads were deserted, they said.

Pakistan's government began peace talks with Mehsud, who is based in the South Waziristan tribal region, after defeating supporters of Pervez Musharraf, the president, in elections in February.

Pakistan's border regions have been the scene of fighting between troops and pro-Taliban fighters since the fall of the movement in neighbouring Afghanistan in 2001.

There have also been several outbreaks of violence between the area's Pashtun tribes.

[bth: Hello?! 22 'peace' elders had their throats slit. Paki government tries appeasement - aren't they getting the message? ... Taliban terrorizes locals. News at 11? ... So first why isn't this news in the US? Second, how can we not recruit spies and gain useful intel about Omar and OBL in an environment like this? Revenge is still a motive !- can't the CIA use it to get us some useful intel? There are 22 extended families that just had their elder's throat slit. Hello?]

Pajhwok Afghan News - US concedes 40% increase in Taliban's attacks

Pajhwok Afghan News: "NEW"YORK (PAN): A senior US commander stationed in Afghanistan said Tuesday that there has been a 40 percent increase in attacks from the Taliban between January and May this year....

[bth: so what is on the news about this? Well CNN showed me a video clip of EOD teams in Iraq playing basketball out of boredom. ... So while Afghanistan slips away and out of sight, the propagandists and the lazy mass media journalists mention Iraq if they mention anything at all - 2 minutes a week on nighly news. No wonder troops feel forgotten. They are. Afghanistan is slipping away.]

Al Jazeera English - Americas - Chomsky: US public irrelevant

Al Jazeera English - Americas - Chomsky: US public irrelevant: "Noam"Chomsky, the renowned US academic, author and political activist, speaks to Avi Lewis on Al Jazeera's Inside USA.

They discuss whether the US election this year will bring real change, the ongoing conflict in Iraq and why Americans should look to their Southern American counterparts for political inspiration....

[bth: so remember when Hughes and then Ms. Cheney took over US propaganda to the middle east? Well take a look at this article which is on Al Jazeera. It's interviewing that fool Chomsky as if he gave a shit about America and was some 'renowned US academic'. What crap. Have we conceded the news to this fool out of default? Why aren't US diplomats making themselves available for regular interviews on Al Jazeera? Or humanitarian groups or religious scholars, etc.? You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see that the US government could greatly improve our nation's image in the world if it just got its act together and started getting a responsible word out or two - it doesn't have to be propaganda but it does have to be out there. We are losing the war of hearts and minds by default. I want that $100 million we paid the Lincoln Group or the Rendon Group back. I want a refund.]

American Envoy Is Linked to Arms Deal Cover-Up -

American Envoy Is Linked to Arms Deal Cover-Up - "An"American ambassador helped cover up the illegal Chinese origins of ammunition that a Pentagon contractor bought to supply Afghan security forces, according to testimony gathered by Congressional investigators.

A military attaché has told the investigators that the United States ambassador to Albania endorsed a plan by the Albanian defense minister to hide several boxes of Chinese ammunition from a visiting reporter. The ammunition was being repackaged to disguise its origins and shipped from Albania to Afghanistan by a Miami Beach arms-dealing company.

The ambassador, John L. Withers II, met with the defense minister, Fatmir Mediu, hours before a reporter for The New York Times was to visit the American contractor’s operations in Tirana, the Albanian capital, according to the testimony. The company, under an Army contract, bought the ammunition to supply Afghan security forces although American law prohibits trading in Chinese arms.

The attaché, Maj. Larry D. Harrison II of the Army, was one of the aides attending the late-night meeting, on Nov. 19, 2007. He told House investigators that Mr. Mediu asked Ambassador Withers for help, saying he was concerned that the reporter would reveal that he had been accused of profiting from selling arms. The minister said that because he had gone out of his way to help the United States, a close ally, “the U.S. owed him something,” according to Major Harrison.

Mr. Mediu ordered the commanding general of Albania’s armed forces to remove all boxes of Chinese ammunition from a site the reporter was to visit, and “the ambassador agreed that this would alleviate the suspicion of wrongdoing,” Major Harrison said, according to his testimony.

Investigators interviewed Major Harrison by telephone on June 9, and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee made excerpts of the transcript public on Monday.

At the time of the meeting, the company, AEY Inc., was under investigation for illegal arms trafficking involving Chinese ammunition.

On Friday, the president of the company, Efraim E. Diveroli, 22, and three others were charged with selling prohibited Chinese ammunition to the Pentagon that they said was made in Albania.

On March 27, The New York Times published an article that said Albanian documents showed that the Miami company had bought more than 100 million Chinese cartridges that were stored for decades in former cold war stockpiles.

Mr. Diveroli arranged to have them repacked in cardboard boxes, many of which split or decomposed after shipment to the war zones, according to the article. Different lots or types of ammunition were mixed. In some cases the ammunition was dirty, corroded or covered with a film.

The repackaging operation, carried out by an AEY subcontractor at the Rinas Airport in Tirana, has become the focus of the Congressional investigation.

According to the transcript excerpts released by the committee, Major Harrison told investigators that he did not agree with the decision to hide the boxes from the reporter, and said that he felt “very uncomfortable” during the meeting.

Major Harrison, who as the chief of the embassy’s office of defense cooperation was responsible for helping American efforts to train, equip and modernize Albania’s military, said that his suggestion to bar the reporter from visiting the Albania base was rejected...

[bth: so the major wanted the reporter banned from the Albanian base which was his solution. He evidently didn't have a problem with the illegal nature of the transactions. ... Further note that in other news articles Tom Ridge is apparently implicated as a $40K per month unregistered lobbyist for the Albanians. Also that relatives of the Albanian President were also implicated in the deal which essentially came down to selling old stockpiled Chinese ammunition to the US from corrupt Albanian government officials. .... Oh and by the way, what about selling faulty ammunition to our allies we sent into combat? People die over this shit. No mention of that in the article. This is an absolutely corrupt procurement process with corrupt Pentagon officers, contractors and State Dept. officials. The major knows this. He's just in CYA mode at this point.]

Seizing Laptops and Cameras Without Cause

Seizing Laptops and Cameras Without Cause - US News and World Report: "Returning"from a brief vacation to Germany in February, Bill Hogan was selected for additional screening by customs officials at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C. Agents searched Hogan's luggage and then popped an unexpected question: Was he carrying any digital media cards or drives in his pockets? "Then they told me that they were impounding my laptop," says Hogan, a freelance investigative reporter whose recent stories have ranged from the origins of the Iraq war to the impact of money in presidential politics.

Shaken by the encounter, Hogan says he left the airport and examined his bags, finding that the agents had also removed and inspected the memory card from his digital camera. "It was fortunate that I didn't use that machine for work or I would have had to call up all my sources and tell them that the government had just seized their information," he said. When customs offered to return the machine nearly two weeks later, Hogan told them to ship it to his lawyer.

The extent of the program to confiscate electronics at customs points is unclear. A hearing Wednesday before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary's Subcommittee on the Constitution hopes to learn more about the extent of the program and safeguards to traveler's privacy. Lawsuits have also been filed, challenging how the program selects travelers for inspection. Citing those lawsuits, Customs and Border Protection, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, refuses to say exactly how common the practice is, how many computers, portable storage drives, and BlackBerries have been inspected and confiscated, or what happens to the devices once they are seized. Congressional investigators and plaintiffs involved in lawsuits believe that digital copies—so-called "mirror images" of drives—are sometimes made of materials after they are seized by customs.

A ruling this year by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (.pdf) found that DHS does indeed have the authority to search electronic devices without suspicion in the same way that it would inspect a briefcase. The lawsuit that prompted the ruling was the result of more than 20 cases, most of which involved laptops, cellphones, or other electronics seized at airports. In those cases, nearly all of the individuals were of Muslim, Middle Eastern, or South Asian background.

Travelers who have their computers seized face real headaches. "It immediately deprives an executive or company of the very data—and revenue—a business trip was intended to create," says Susan Gurley, head of the Association of Corporate Travel Executives, which is asking DHS for greater transparency and oversight to protect copied data. "As a businessperson returning to the U.S., you may find yourself effectively locked out of your electronic office indefinitely." While Hogan had his computer returned after only a few days, others say they have had theirs held for months at a time. As a result, some companies have instituted policies that require employees to travel with clean machines: free of corporate data.

The security value of the program is unclear, critics say, while the threats to business and privacy are substantial. If drives are being copied, customs officials are potentially duplicating corporate secrets, legal records, financial data, medical files, and personal E-mails and photographs as well as stored passwords for accounts from Netflix to Bank of America. DHS contends that travelers' computers can also contain child pornography, intellectual property offenses, or terrorist secrets...

Less than 3 minutes of Iraq news weekly

Informed Comment

Fred Hiatt - Toehold in Tehran? -

Fred Hiatt - Toehold in Tehran? - "A"smart idea to shake up U.S. policy and reach out to the Iranian people is being debated in Washington, but the debate isn't taking place within or between the presidential campaigns. It's going on inside the Bush administration.

Senior officials at the State Department and beyond are mulling a proposal to open an interest section in Tehran, similar to the one the United States has operated in Havana since 1977. This would fall short of full diplomatic recognition, but it would open a channel to the Iranian people and, maybe, eventually, to the regime as well.

The idea has been under discussion for close to two years and could be adopted within weeks -- though officials continue to worry about how to package such a proposal without having it appear, one said, "as a sign of weakness." They worry about the effect of such a signal on Iran, on U.S. negotiating partners in Europe and on domestic politics, given the clash between Barack Obama and John McCain about the wisdom of negotiating with Iranian leaders. ...

[bth: interesting that the article doesn't discuss the security of the facility especially given that our last embassy there was sacked and our diplomats taken hostage.]

Can Syria avoid sanctions with a U.N. nuclear inspection? |

Can Syria avoid sanctions with a U.N. nuclear inspection? | "International"nuclear detectives are at work in the Syrian sands following American allegations of covert nuclear activity, in a trip that could well determine Syria's international fate.

In Damascus, the inquiry has been met with both a sense of foreboding and cautious optimism. While the country fears Iran-like isolation, it hopes that by opening its doors to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) it can prevent any global sanctions.

"What's driving Syria right now is an anxiety about becoming a pariah," says Joshua Landis, a Syria expert at the University of Oklahoma.

According to the US government, the remote desert site in northeastern Syria, which was bombed by Israeli planes last September, was a nuclear facility being built with North Korean assistance. The IAEA placed Syria on its proliferation watch list in April following US photographic evidence showing the construction of an alleged reactor. Syria has granted inspectors access to the area, but it razed the site after it was bombed.

On Sunday, Der Spiegel, a German news weekly, reported that Syria, North Korea, and Iran were jointly developing a nuclear reactor to build weapons-grade plutonium at the location.

The allegations have been fervently denied by Syria – a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty – which says the site was a military location with no nuclear activity. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said the evidence was "fabricated 100 percent."

Nonetheless, the IAEA visit comes at a precarious time for Syria and risks undermining recent diplomatic gains after a long period of international condemnation.

Following the Doha agreement in May that temporarily settled Lebanon's internal political disputes, the resumption of Turkish-mediated peace talks with Israel, and most recently the Hamas-Israeli cease-fire, which Syria says it helped broker using influence over Damascus-based Hamas leaders, Syria is slowly breaking out of isolation.

Most significantly, France resumed diplomatic ties and has invited Mr. Assad to Paris in July to attend a Euro-Mediterranean conference and Bastille Day celebrations.

With claims of illicit nuclear activity continuing to swirl over Syria's head however, Syrians are concerned that it could yet become a pariah state like Iran. An editorial in Syria's Al-Watan newspaper Monday said America's nuclear claim is a "sword hanging over Syria ... in what resembles a blackmail policy that might later turn into direct targeting."

It is these fears that prompted Syria, against all expectations, to cooperate with the IAEA, say analysts....

[bth: all the sudden lots going on here. Note in seperate news the US is proposing to take N. Korea off the nuke terror list. Why all the motion on nukes now?]

Attacks in east Afghanistan up 40 percent, U.S. says | International | Reuters

Attacks in east Afghanistan up 40 percent, U.S. says | International | Reuters: "WASHINGTON"(Reuters) - Insurgent attacks in eastern Afghanistan rose by 40 percent in the first five months of this year over the same period a year ago, the U.S. commander of NATO forces in the region said on Tuesday.

While insisting NATO was making progress in establishing stability, Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser said he was "nowhere near" being able to state those efforts had achieved irreversible momentum.

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon by videolink from Afghanistan, Schloesser also said attacks by Taliban and other insurgents were becoming increasingly complex and targeted sites such as schools to disrupt economic development.

Schloesser's comments came against a backdrop of increasing concern in Washington and other Western capitals about the war in Afghanistan and instability in border areas of Pakistan, where U.S. officials say Taliban fighters enjoy safe haven.

Schloesser said success in Afghanistan would ultimately come not through military operations but when Afghans "sitting on the fence" concluded their government offered a better quality of life and decided to oppose insurgent groups."I can't predict how long it's going to take. I can say that I believe we're making progress," he said.

Schloesser said the rise in violence was not unexpected as attacks had increased every year since 2002, the year after U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban from power following the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

Eastern and southern Afghanistan have been the scenes of the heaviest insurgent violence. But U.S. officials had touted the east as a success story last year, saying the area had become much more stable.

Schloesser said one reason for the rise in attacks this year was that international and Afghan forces had gone into areas where they had not operated before to hunt insurgents.

"We are actually hunting down the enemy of the Afghan people and trying to rout them," he said. "We're giving them four options -- they can flee, get out of their country, they can reconcile or they can be captured or killed."

He did not provide the raw numbers behind the percentage increase he cited.

Schloesser commands the U.S-led eastern sector of Afghanistan for NATO's 53,000-strong International Security Assistance Force. He is also in charge of a separate U.S. counter-terrorism mission.

He said success in Afghanistan would require much work from the international community and patience from Americans.

"We're clearly not done and I am nowhere near yet able to say that we have reached irreversible momentum," he said.

US, Afghan forces kill 16 Taliban in eastern Afghanistan

US, Afghan forces kill 16 Taliban in eastern Afghanistan - The Long War Journal: "Afghan"police backed by US air support held off a Taliban attempt to overrun a district center in eastern Afghanistan. At least 16 Taliban were reported killed after US air support was called in.

A large Taliban force made up of Afghan, Arab, and Chechen fighters attacked the Sayad Karam District Center in Paktia province in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday morning. Afghan police assigned to protect the outpost held off the initial Taliban assault, and called for US assistance for US reinforcements.

US troops arrived and immediately called in air support. "Approximately a dozen extremists" were killed, said Combined Joint Task Force - 101. Afghan defense officials put the number at 16 Taliban killed.

Paktia province borders the Pakistani tribal agency of Kurram, where the Lashkar-e-Jhangavi, a Deobandi group funded by Saudi Wahabis, preys upon Shia living in the region. Lashkar-e-Jhangavi has merged with al Qaeda and serves as the group's muscle in Pakistan. ...

Monday, June 23, 2008

YouTube - Seven Words

YouTube - Seven Words: ""
Main and Central

Roadside bombs decline in Iraq -

Roadside bombs decline in Iraq - "WASHINGTON"— Roadside bomb attacks and fatalities in Iraq are down by almost 90% over the last year, according to Pentagon records and interviews with military leaders.
In May, 11 U.S. troops were killed by blasts from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) compared with 92 in May 2007, records show. That's an 88% decrease.

Military leaders cite several factors for the drop in attacks and deaths. They include:

• New vehicles. Almost 7,000 heavily armored Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles have been rushed to Iraq in the last year. "They've taken hits, many, many hits that would have killed soldiers and marines in uparmored Humvees," Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a recent interview.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates made obtaining at least 15,000 MRAPs his top priority last year.

FIND MORE STORIES IN: California | Baghdad | Pentagon | Joint Chiefs of Staff | Center for Strategic | Humvees | MRAPs | Budgetary Assessments | Mullen | Twentynine Palms | Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch | Mine Resistant Ambush Protected | Sons of Iraq | Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center | Dakota Wood
• Iraqi assistance. Ad hoc local security forces, known as the Sons of Iraq, have provided on-the-ground intelligence to U.S. forces looking for IEDs, said Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, who commanded a division in Baghdad from February 2007 until May.

Each member of the security forces earns about $8 per day. Lynch has hired about 36,000 of them to man checkpoints and provide intelligence on the insurgency. He said about 60% had been insurgents.

• Improved surveillance. Lynch said his troops used new security cameras that could see bomb builders up to 5 miles away. "If they're out there planting an IED, we can go whack them before they finish," he said.

Also, Lynch said, the 14-ton MRAPs have forced insurgents to build bigger bombs to knock out the vehicles. Those bombs take more time to build and hide, which gives U.S. forces a better chance of catching the insurgents in the act and then attacking them.

Among the new U.S. tactics, paying the Sons of Iraq is a particularly good investment, said Dakota Wood, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. Whether the money is viewed as "buying off" insurgents is less important than the lull in violence it creates, Wood said. It's almost impossible to rebuild infrastructure, foster commerce and set up elections when streets are unsafe, he said. "Any effort that creates a window of opportunity in which other stabilization actions can take root is a good thing."

Iraqi insurgents, however, are changing their tactics. During a visit to the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, Calif., Marines showed Mullen the latest trend in IEDs: Fake curbs fashioned from metal, filled with ball bearings and explosives. Virtually indistinguishable from concrete rubble, the new bombs require a trained eye to spot.

Insurgents are also using pressure-detonated IEDs, including those with 15 pounds of explosives that blow the tires off an MRAP and allow insurgents to attack it, Mullen said.

"The whole issue of IEDs — vehicle borne, suicide, you name it — is going to be the weapon of choice and I think it's going to be around a long, long time," he said.

[bth: it would be very helpful to know what the actual trend line is for IEDs and for casualties per IED attack. In other words are the total attacks down or have our MRAPs and jammers finally found their stride? It probably is both based on the Brookings Index on Iraq, but still, a little causality analysis would be helpful.]