Saturday, July 05, 2008

YouTube - Creedence Clearwater Revival - Fortunate Son - Music Video

YouTube - Creedence Clearwater Revival - Fortunate Son - Music Video: ""

Mullah Abdul Salaam blames Pakistanis and Iranians for attacks on British - Times Online

Mullah Abdul Salaam blames Pakistanis and Iranians for attacks on British - Times Online: "The"Governor of Musa Qala, Mullah Abdul Salaam, gave warning yesterday that infiltrators from Pakistan and Iran were deliberately attempting to escalate the conflict in Afghanistan.

The Governor, who was formerly a Taleban commander, said that the insurgency attacks against coalition forces, which have accounted for the worst coalition casualty figures in a single month since the war began, were now principally the work of outsiders rather than the Taleban.

“They come from Pakistan, they come from Iran,” Mullah Salaam said in an interview with The Times and two other newspapers. “They are doing their action in Afghanistan against their enemy.”

He claimed that it was Pakistanis and Iranians who were responsible for planting improvised explosive devices, the crude but deadly homemade bombs, of which intelligence sources estimate there are 500 in the Musa Qala district alone...

[bth: very hard to divine the truth of the situation.]

Acoustics Expert: Cavemen Must Have Loved to Sing - Acoustics Expert: Cavemen Must Have Loved to Sing - Science News | Science & Technology | Technology News: "Ancient"hunters painted the sections of their cave dwellings where singing, humming and music sounded best, a new study suggests.

Analyzing the famous, ochre-splashed cave walls of southwestern France, the most densely painted areas were also those with the best acoustics, the scientists found.

Humming into some bends in the wall even produced sounds mimicking the animals painted there....

[bth: fascinating]

The Swamp: Polls: Obama leads by 100

The Swamp: Polls: Obama leads by 100: "We're"inside four months from the Nov. 4 presidential election, and state-by-state polling suggests a big lead for Sen. Barack Obama over Sen. John McCain.

State polling numbers compiled by show the Democrat from Illinois winning 26 states for a total of 320 electoral votes. That's a 102-electoral-vote margin over the Arizona Republican. It includes seven states Democrat John Kerry lost to President Bush in 2004: Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, Montana and New Mexico.

Speaking of Kerry, here's a huge caveat for Obama fans: The Web site's numbers on this date four years ago predicted a Kerry win in the electoral college.

Here's another: Obama's lead in several states, including Ohio and Pennsylvania, is narrow. A shift of a few percentage points across the Rust Belt would tip 52 electoral votes to McCain and give him the 270 he needs for the White House.

The numbers suggest that whoever wins will have a Democratic Congress to deal with. They predict a 55-45 Democratic margin in the Senate after Elecction Day, due to GOP seats flipping in Virginia, Colorado, New Mexico and New Hampshire....

YouTube - Aaron Copland - Fanfare for the Common Man

YouTube - Aaron Copland - Fanfare for the Common Man: ""

GOP Anger: Bush Is Being "Reduced To Child's Play"

GOP Anger: Bush Is Being "Reduced To Child's Play" - Politics on The Huffington Post: ..."There"is growing concern among Bush allies that the Democrats will effectively portray the President and GOP candidate John McCain as out of touch. Some GOP insiders now predict that the Republicans will lose at least five seats in the Senate and 15 to 20 in the House, and it could get worse if gasoline prices continue to soar and the public remains in a disgruntled mood.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Disgraced Scientist Says North Korea Received Centrifuges From Pakistan With Musharraf's Consent - Disgraced Scientist Says North Korea Received Centrifuges From Pakistan With Musharraf's Consent - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News: "ISLAMABAD"Pakistan — North Korea received centrifuges from Pakistan in a 2000 shipment supervised by the army during the rule of President Pervez Musharraf, disgraced nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan said Friday.

Khan told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that the uranium enrichment equipment was sent from Pakistan in a North Korean plane which was loaded under the supervision of Pakistani security officials.

His claims contradict his 2004 confession that he was solely responsible for spreading nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya — and Pakistan's repeated denials its army or government knew about Khan's nuclear proliferation activities.

Khan said the army had "complete knowledge" of the shipment of used P-1 centrifuges to North Korea and that it must have been sent with the consent of Musharraf, the then-army chief who took power in a 1999 coup.

"It was a North Korean plane, and the army had complete knowledge about it and the equipment," Khan said. "It must have gone with his (Musharraf's) consent."

Khan's allegations, reported earlier Friday by the Japanese news agency, Kyodo, are his most controversial yet and could prove deeply embarrassing for both the army and Musharraf, a key ally in the U.S.-led war on terror.

Army and Foreign Ministry spokesmen declined to give immediate comment Friday. Musharraf's spokesman said he would respond to Khan's allegations after speaking to the president.

Khan is regarded as a hero by many in Pakistan for his key role in the program that gave it the Islamic world's first nuclear bomb in 1998, seen as a deterrent against historic archrival India.

After his 2004 confession and televised statement of contrition, Khan was pardoned by Musharraf but has been kept under virtual house arrest at his spacious villa in Islamabad.

Since a new civilian government took power after February elections, eclipsing Musharraf, the retired scientist has increasingly spoken out in the media.

Asked why he had taken sole responsibility for the nuclear proliferation, Khan said he had been persuaded that it was in the national interest by friends including Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, a key figure in the-then ruling party.

Khan said that in return he had been promised complete freedom, but "those promises were not honored."

Hussain could not immediately be reached for comment.

Khan also said that he had traveled to North Korea in 1999 with a Pakistan army general to buy shoulder-launched missiles from Pyongyang.

Khan's wife this week said she was challenging her husband's detention in court. The Khans have appointed an attorney to petition the Islamabad High Court for an end to the restrictions on his movements and for his freedom to speak to the media.

On Friday, a lawyer for Khan alleged that listening devices had been planted in the scientist's tightly guarded home.

Pakistan says it has taken extra steps to tighten its control of its nuclear assets since Khan's network was uncovered in late 2003. It says a foolproof command and control system is in place so its nuclear assets cannot get into the wrong hands.

But Khan's bald accusation that the military establishment was in the know adds to widespread skepticism that he could have exported nuclear technology under the radar of Pakistan's pervasive security apparatus.

"No flight, no equipment could go outside without the clearance from the ISI and SPD and they used to be at the airport, not me," Khan said, referring to the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency and the Strategic Planning Division that manages Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.

Political and military analyst Talat Masood said it made sense that the effort was coordinated by more than one person.

"If the requirement of an aircraft was there, the requirement of dealing with another country was there, it's not just one man who could have done it," Masood said. "Whether they were doing it individually or collectively or as a state policy or informally — that needs to be determined."

Pakistan has refused to allow outsiders to question Khan, including from the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency, but says it has shared the findings of its own questioning of Khan.

Khan said he had visited North Korea twice, in 1994, and then in 1999, when he was sent to procure missiles during the so-called Kargil conflict when Pakistan clashed with India in disputed Kashmir.

Khan told Kyodo that the missiles were shoulder-fired SA 15 missiles.

Khan told AP that Musharraf had requested him to make the second trip and he did so accompanied on a special plane by an army general, Iftikhar Hussain Shah.

"Since I had good relations with them (North Korea) and they respected me, they gave us 200 missiles after getting them from their army and those missiles were loaded in the same plane," Khan said.

He said after the Kargil conflict ended, Pakistan's government tried to return the missiles to North Korea to avoid paying for them but following his intervention, paid for and kept the weapons

Khan was bitter in his criticism of Musharraf and confident in his own high standing among Pakistanis despite his 2004 confession.

"People still respect me, and if any one has any doubts and thinks himself more popular, he should go with me to Aabpara or Raja Bazar (two markets in Islamabad and nearby Rawalpindi)," he said.

Comparing the reception he would get to that which would be accorded Musharraf, Khan said: "You can cut my nose if his (Musharraf's) clothes remained untorn."

[bth: one wonders why Pakistan isn't part of the axis of evil. Considering the difficulties we've had with them one wonders. Next we will find out Pakistan sold a nuke to Saudi Arabia. We'll hear about this about the time Musharraf takes to exile in Saudi Arabia with a billion or so of US aid money.]

Is Osama bin Laden Dying ... Again? - TIME

Is Osama bin Laden Dying ... Again? - TIME: "Which"is closer to dying: Osama bin Laden or the CIA's effort to catch him? Nothing has characterized the fruitlessness of the hunt for the al-Qaeda leader so much as the recurrent — and mostly inaccurate — reports that he is seriously ailing, or even at death's door. In 2002, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said bin Laden had kidney disease, and that he had required a dialysis machine when he lived in Afghanistan. That same year, the FBI's top counterterrorism official, Dale Watson, said, "I personally think he is probably not with us anymore." Since then, of course, bin Laden has appeared on multiple videos looking healthier than ever.

Now the CIA has produced a report saying that bin Laden has long-term kidney disease and may have only months to live, two U.S. officials familiar with the report told TIME. The agency ostensibly managed to get the names of some of the medications bin Laden is taking. One U.S. official familiar with the report, which came out between six and nine months ago, says it concluded, "Based on his current pharmaceutical intake, [we] would expect that he has no more than six to 18 months to live and impending kidney failure."

That prognosis, along with some on-the-ground intelligence and a well-aimed Hellfire missile, will get you a dead terrorist leader. Close watchers of the al-Qaeda terror network find such reports inherently unreliable. "It's trying to make a diagnosis from thousands of miles away with only fragments of the medical chart," says Paul Pillar, former top analyst and deputy director of the CIA's counterterrorism center, who now teaches at Georgetown University. Says Frances Fragos Townsend, who stepped down last November as chief of President George W. Bush's Homeland Security Council, "I've read all the same conflicting reports [on bin Laden's health] that people have talked to you about. I never found one set of reporting more persuasive than another."

The CIA, for its part, is disavowing the claims attributed to the report. "I have found no one here familiar with this alleged report or the analytic line it supposedly conveys," says Paul Gimigliano, a CIA spokesman. "The fact that anonymous sources attribute views to the CIA is not, by itself, reason to believe the agency actually holds those views," he says.

If bin Laden really is dying, the news would doubtless be greeted with some ambivalence. On the one hand, his demise is what the U.S. government has been fervently trying to hasten — since before 9/11. But death by kidney disease is not exactly what it had in mind. "Wouldn't that be a tragic situation if, with all this effort, bin Laden died without it happening at the hands of coalition forces?" says one current senior counterterrorism official. Given the reliability of past long-distance diagnoses, however, and the continuing threat al-Qaeda poses around the world, that may be the least of America's worries.

Laden on death bed, claim CIA officials

Laden on death bed, claim CIA officials: "Washington"July 2 (ANI): Two officials of the US' intelligence agency CIA have claimed that Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was on death bed as he suffered from a terminal kidney disease, and may live only for a few months.

The intelligence agency also managed to get the names of some of the medications Bin Laden was taking.

One of the two CIA officials familiar with the report that came out six-nine months ago, quoted it as saying, "Based on his current pharmaceutical intake we would expect that he has no more than 6-18 months to live and impending kidney failure."

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf was the first person to claim that Laden suffered from kidney disease and was on dialysis.

"It's trying to make a diagnosis from thousands of miles away with only fragments of the medical chart," the Time magazine quoted Paul Pillar, the former top analyst and deputy director of the CIA's counter-terrorism centre, as saying.

Frances Fragos Townsend, who was chief of the White House Homeland Security Council said, "I've read all the same conflicting reports that people have talked to you about. I never found one set of reporting more persuasive than another." (ANI)

Rise of Awakening Groups Sets Off A Struggle for Power Among Sunnis -

Rise of Awakening Groups Sets Off A Struggle for Power Among Sunnis - "RAMADI" Iraq -- After inspecting a prison, police chief Tariq Yousef al-Asaal returned to his spacious office, where U.S. military officers and Iraq's power brokers have sought his advice. A week earlier, the governing council, the ruling body here in this dust-swept capital of Anbar province, had fired him.

But on this June morning Asaal gave no indication of his dismissal. As he entered his office, his men saluted and visitors rose to greet him. Asaal slipped behind his big wooden desk and flashed a defiant smile. "The governing council had no right to dismiss me," he said.

Asaal's determination to stay in his job is a manifestation of a new political movement emerging in Sunni Muslim enclaves across Iraq. It is an outgrowth of the Awakening Councils -- launched by tribal leaders and backed by the United States -- that have fought extremists and become a key to stability in many areas.

Awakening leaders are planning to compete as a political force in provincial elections scheduled for the fall, when Iraqis will choose governing councils in Iraq's 18 provinces. The leaders likely will challenge established Sunni groups, including the Iraqi Islamic Party, the largest Sunni political party, which is led by non-tribal Sunnis who mainly lived in exile during the rule of Saddam Hussein.

At stake is the leadership of a rudderless Sunni community still struggling for a political foothold in the new Iraq. If the Awakening leaders prevail, they would inject nationalist, clan-based and secular values into a sectarian political system dominated by Shiite religious parties.

The Iraqi Islamic Party effectively runs the Anbar governing council. The Awakening controls the police. Asaal is one of the movement's founders. ...

[bth: this article is worth reading in full. I see no reason we should not throw our support behind the Awakening councils and let the Iraqi government cut their shady deals with the Iraqi Islamic Party, a corrupt and religiously oriented group that hasn't done anything for the Sunni constituents to represent after a 2% vote turnout. Bottom line, the political order in Iraq among Sunnis has permanently changed.]

Bush Tours America To Survey Damage Caused By His Disastrous Presidency | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Bush Tours America To Survey Damage Caused By His Disastrous Presidency | The Onion - America's Finest News Source: "
Bush Tours America To Survey Damage Caused By His Disastrous Presidency"
Bush Tours America To Survey Damage Caused By His Disastrous Presidency
Naval Open Source INTelligence
Naval Open Source INTelligence

MGLRS Rocket

Naval Open Source INTelligence

Lockheed Martin GMLRS Rocket Increases Standoff Range in Recent Test

Lockheed Martin GMLRS Rocket Increases Standoff Range in Recent Test: "The"U.S. Army recently established a new distance record for the Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System rocket, destroying a target 85 kilometers from the launch site during a flawless system demonstration at White Sands Missile Range, NM. The previous maximum range for GMLRS was 70 kilometers.

The U.S. Army’s decision to test the Global Positioning System (GPS)-guided GMLRS rocket to 85 kilometers was based on the system’s demonstrated accuracy and minimal collateral damage during more than 750 successful engagements in the theater of operations.

"Additional range for GMLRS represents greater safety for Soldiers" said Scott Arnold, vice president for Precision Fires and Combat Maneuver Systems at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. "Greater standoff distances allow Warfighters to operate further away from hostile areas, travel shorter distances to launch their weapons, and ensures rapid fire support" ...

[bth: I wonder if these are the rockets we used to take down apartment buildings in Sadr City a month or two ago during a sand storm]

Bush: Dangerous Gitmo Detainees Could Walk US Streets After Supreme Ruling - Politics on The Huffington Post

Bush: Dangerous Gitmo Detainees Could Walk US Streets After Supreme Ruling - Politics on The Huffington Post: "WASHINGTON"— The White House said Thursday that dangerous detainees at Guantanamo Bay could end up walking Main Street U.S.A. as a result of last month's Supreme Court ruling about detainees' legal rights. Federal appeals courts, however, have indicated they have no intention of letting that happen.

The high court ruling, which gave all detainees the right to petition federal judges for immediate release, has intensified discussions within the Bush administration about what to do with the roughly 270 detainees held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"I'm sure that none of us want Khalid Sheikh Mohammed walking around our neighborhoods," White House press secretary Dana Perino said about al-Qaida's former third in command....

[bth: keeping the scare up since 2001]

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Santa Rosa soldier's body returns | | The Press Democrat | Santa Rosa, CA

Santa Rosa soldier's body returns | | The Press Democrat | Santa Rosa, CA: "A"motorcycle procession led the body of Army Sgt. Ryan J. Connolly back to Santa Rosa today.

The motorcade started at Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport at about 11:15 a.m. It passed the new downtown monument honoring the county's war dead on its way to Daniels Chapel of the Roses in Santa Rosa. Some 150 well-wishers were gathered at the corner of Sonoma and Santa Rosa avenues near the memorial .

A plane carrying Connolly's casket arrived at the airport shortly before 11 a.m..

A mass and military funeral are scheduled Monday for the 24-year-old paratrooper, who was killed June 24 when his vehicle was hit by an explosive in Khogyani, Afghanistan.

Connolly grew up in Santa Rosa. He had just been promoted to sergeant and had 14 days left in his tour when he was killed.

His procession was led by an American Legion motorcycle team, the Patriot Guard Riders and police and fire escorts, along with some of Connolly’s friends on motorcycles.

Connolly loved fixing up classic cars and riding motorcycles, said his father, Jim.

The route went from Airport Boulevard to Old Redwood Highway and then south, continuing on Mendocino Avenue to Sonoma Avenue.

On Monday, Connolly’s name was added to the Veterans’ Memorial Monument at Santa Rosa City Hall. The five granite columns bear the names of the 449 Sonoma County veterans who have died in seven wars.

A mass for Connolly is scheduled at 10 a.m. Monday at St. Rose Parish Center, 398 10th St. A military funeral and burial will be held at 11:30 a.m. at Santa Rosa Memorial Park, followed by a reception at Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Hall, 1351 Maple Avenue.

Donations can be made to the Ryan Connolly Trust Fund, c/o Washington Mutual Bank, 835 Fourth St., Santa Rosa 95404.

His family said all proceeds will go to his year-old daughter, Kayla, who is arriving today in San Francisco with her mother, Stefanie, on a military flight from Germany.

Connolly, a Piner High School graduate, joined the Army in December 2005. He was assigned to the 173rd Special Troops Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, based in Germany.

A dozen North Coast soldiers and Marines have died since 2002 in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Santa Rosa soldier's body returns | | The Press Democrat | Santa Rosa, CA

Santa Rosa soldier's body returns | | The Press Democrat | Santa Rosa, CA

Attrition: Magic Powder and The Gauze of Life

Attrition: Magic Powder and The Gauze of Life: "June"17, 2008: Three years ago, the U.S. military received their first clotting bandage (to stop heavy bleeding). This was a major medical advance to come out of the war effort. But, competition being what it is, there are now three such clotting products, all operating a little differently.

The most popular bandage was the Chitosan Hemostatic Dressing (more commonly called HemCon), which was made by taking a freeze dried substance, that causes clotting of blood, and incorporating it into what otherwise looks like a typical battlefield bandage. But these dressings greatly reduced bleeding (which is the most common cause of death among wounded American troops.) This device was a major breakthrough in bandage technology. Soon, troops didn't go out into bandit country without at least one per man, and more for medical personnel.

Over 95 percent of the time, the HemCon bandages stop bleeding, especially in areas where a tourniquet could not be applied. Now there are two new products, WoundStat (a granular substance that is poured into a wound) and QuikClot (a gauze bandage similar to HemCon, that was actually available in 2003, but had some problems). While medics, and troops, prefer the bandage type device, there are situations where the fine granular substance (WoundStat) is a better solution (especially in the hands of a medic). All three are now available for use.

In the past, troops would often die from loss of blood before a surgeon could get in there to stop the bleeding. In the first two years of use, over 250,000 HemCon bandages were obtained for military needs. This was to make sure everyone in a combat zone had one at all times. While there are not a lot of casualties in base areas, the occasional rocket or mortar shell is likely to cause the kinds of wounds where HemCon can be a lifesaver. So it was a morale boost if everyone could carry a HemCon around (a small first aid kit is a standard part of combat equipment).

These clotting devices are also popular with civilian emergency medical services, and the manufacturers are still trying to catch up with worldwide demand. Inside the Taliban jailbreak Inside the Taliban jailbreak: "KANDAHAR"AFGHANISTAN — The prison cells that once held Taliban sit almost empty, with little remaining except rubbish: plates of rice ready for meals never eaten, and sandals discarded by fugitives who ran away in bare feet. Some of the debris inside Sarpoza prison offer hints about what happened amid the chaos last month when the Taliban accomplished one of the largest jailbreaks in modern history, freeing at least 800 prisoners and rampaging into Kandahar without facing any serious resistance from Canadian troops or the other forces assigned to protect the city.

A chunk of metal the size of a picnic table sits 125 metres away from the site where a truck bomb hit the gate, testifying to the force of the explosion. In a room where prison officials believe the inmates planned their escape, bullet casings on the floor suggest the prisoners had smuggled at least one handgun into the cells.

With those scattered bits of evidence, and a dozen interviews with witnesses, a picture emerges of the way security collapsed in the largest city in southern Afghanistan on the evening of Friday, June 13. Details of the attack show not only why the city defences fell apart; they also illustrate how the notorious problems of the Afghan mission – corruption, poor intelligence, a distrustful population, weak Afghan security forces, a lack of foreign troops – made the ingredients of a disaster.

The Canadian military has not escaped blame. In a private session two days after the attack, Kandahar's provincial council strongly criticized the foreign troops for arriving at Sarpoza roughly two hours after the jailbreak started. They demanded to know why Canadian soldiers watched the prisoners run away and failed to chase them. Witnesses say that hundreds of inmates spent their first night of freedom camping in the fields only a few kilometres south of the prison, within easy reach of the Canadian soldiers sent to investigate.

Brigadier-General Denis Thompson, the top Canadian commander in Kandahar, confirmed that NATO surveillance tracked the fugitives as they fled. But he said it's not Canada's job as part of the International Security Assistance Force to hunt down escaped prisoners.

“You can ask yourself the rhetorical question, what if we find 100 fugitives in the fields?” Gen. Thompson said. “What is ISAF's duty in that circumstance? Is it to go arrest people

The commander continued: “We're not policing this country, right? It's not our role to police this country. Our role is to stand behind our Afghan partners and assist them.”

But the Afghan forces stationed nearby did not consider themselves capable of standing up to the Taliban that evening, as police in three outposts around the prison hunkered down behind their fortifications and refused to intervene.

Local and foreign intelligence agencies also failed to understand glaring signs of trouble at the jail in the weeks before the attack, including a mass poisoning of prison guards just eight days beforehand. Taliban fighters warned local shopkeepers about an impending battle in the hours before they struck, but nobody passed the warning to the correct authorities.

Corruption likely helped the Taliban that night, too, as some indications have implicated a senior Afghan official in the jailbreak planning.

Sifting through the rubble at Sarpoza prison, it's obvious that the attack was not just a successful Taliban operation. It was a failure of the institutions that protect Kandahar city, despite the Canadian money and lives expended to build a zone of security here in the past two years.

Three of the city's top Afghan security officials have been fired in the aftermath of the jailbreak, and the prison director has been arrested. A review by Afghanistan's intelligence service concluded that the prison needed more guards, better weapons and stronger fortifications. But the lessons of Sarpoza may prove more fundamental, pointing to the fragility of the international efforts in Afghanistan.

The last time residents of Kandahar city heard rumours about a possible jailbreak was two years ago, in the summer of 2006. Insurgents had been digging trenches and establishing bases in the village of Pashmul, 15 kilometres west of the city limits. The whispers among insurgents suggested plans for a Taliban inmate to fake an illness, allowing an ambulance full of gunmen to slip through the heavy black gates of the prison compound. With the insurgents already operating so close to the edge of the city, the threat seemed credible.

But the attack never happened, possibly because Canadian troops and their allies smashed the Taliban's bases in Pashmul with a massive offensive in September of 2006.

Two years later, however, the Taliban had again established a foothold 15 kilometres outside the city, this time directly south of the prison in a cluster of villages known as the Nakhonay triangle. Canadian troops had known for months that insurgents were massing in Nakhonay, with Taliban reportedly enforcing their own laws and using the area as a staging ground for operations. But the Canadians lacked the troops necessary to set up permanent security in those villages. The Taliban would exploit the security vacuum in the Nakhonay area on June 13, entering and leaving through the farmland south of the prison

But the Canadians could not be accused of neglecting the prison itself. One of the key tenets of “clear, hold, and build,” as a method of counterinsurgency is the idea that investing money and improving the lives in a particular spot will make the locals more likely to deliver useful intelligence. By that measure, the guards and prisoners at Sarpoza should have been excellent sources for the Canadians, who had been pouring money into the jail.

In the year before the prison break, the Canadians paid for new septic systems, solar-powered lighting, new doors and windows, an infirmary, landscaping, guard towers and washroom facilities, among other improvements. Painted walls replaced the rough stone surfaces; where chunks of masonry used to fall on prisoners as they slept, the ceilings now arched smoothly.

The current budget for all prison upgrades stands at $4-million, and Canadian officials visited the jail regularly to check on the progress.

Despite the Canadians' focus on the prison, however, they failed to understand the trouble brewing inside.

A report by the U.S. magazine Newsweek claimed that the planning started when a disgruntled prisoner telephoned insurgent leader Mullah Berader and complained about prison conditions, but that story was dismissed by Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi.

“The Taliban in jail were always calling us, asking us to release them,” Mr. Ahmadi said. “Especially our commanders who were sentenced to 20 years or execution.”

Several sources say the planning started in earnest after accused Taliban prisoners launched a hunger strike in May, trying to obtain sentences in cases that remained undecided. Some suspected insurgents had languished in the prison for years without a conviction, and they described themselves as frustrated with a justice process that they claimed was designed to keep them in jail indefinitely.

They struck a committee of seven Taliban prisoners, who gathered every day inside one of the nicest cells of the national-security wing, a sunny room on the north side with a view of a garden.

They posted a sign on their door, saying: “No interruptions from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.”

Prison officials say a few members of the prisoners' committee also held regular meetings, in private, with prison director Colonel Abdul Qadir. It's not known what they discussed; one of the prison officials who helped arrange the meetings was shot in the head during the jailbreak, and Col. Qadir was arrested soon afterward.

An insurgent who escaped, a 28-year-old father of two children who didn't want his name published, said the Taliban planners were helped by jail officials.

“Important officials from the jail helped us bring in pistols and mobile phones, and we also bought some explosives for the bombing,” the fugitive said.

The same cell where prison officials believe the Taliban held their afternoon planning meetings contained an Arabic phrase recently painted on the wall: “ Jihad is mandatory.” The accused Taliban in that cell sometimes imposed their religious fervour on fellow inmates, giving long speeches about Islam in the evenings, refusing to allow any disrespect toward Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammed Omar and enforcing early wake-up times for morning prayers.

Their room also had a view of the jail's central guard tower, and prison officials say they used at least one smuggled handgun to open fire on the tower during the jailbreak. Brass casings remain on the cell floor. None of the guards in the tower were killed or injured, but the gunfire coming from that corner of the prison may have resulted in the initial false reports that Taliban had breached the prison's north wall.

No matter how suspicious the behaviour of the Taliban inmates at the time, Gen. Thompson said it would have been difficult for the Canadians to notice.

“If there are Taliban holding little meetings and they've struck some kind of agreement with the warden, if that was in fact the case, I don't think we'd be aware of it unless the warden saw fit to share it with us,” he said.

The Canadian commander said he was also unaware, until informed by The Globe and Mail, that most of the prison staff had been poisoned in the week before the attack.

Rahim Bibi, 40, superintendent of the women's section, said one bite of the mutton stew was enough to tell her something was wrong when she sat down with other guards and a few prisoners for an evening meal on June 5. The meat tasted bitter, like tobacco. Soon at least 25 people at the dinner were vomiting. Some bled from the nose and mouth, and fell unconscious. Many were hospitalized and the rest staggered home, leaving only a few guards on duty that evening.

It's unclear why the poisoning happened, and prison officials say it was never properly investigated. Like the other staff, Ms. Bibi recovered from the poisoning and returned to work. She didn't notice anything else unusual, she said, until she had a puzzling conversation with the prison director on the day of the attack. She passed him outside his office, she said, and he smiled at her.

“He told me, ‘Something might happen tonight,' ” Ms. Bibi said. “He said, ‘If any of the prisoners owes you money, collect it. If you owe them money, pay it.' ” In the hours before the bombing, others in the neighbourhood also received warnings. Insurgents visited shops and a gas pump near the prison, telling people to evacuate the area because of an impending attack. The tactic was effective: Only one civilian, who worked at a bakery, was confirmed killed in the subsequent bombing. Apparently nobody passed the warning to police, or the information was never acted on

“Why didn't the people call the government? Because the people are afraid of the government,” said Haji Ehsan, a provincial council member.

The first explosions and gunfire erupted around 9:10 p.m., witnesses say, as insurgents attacked the Dand Chowk police checkpoint about 600 metres east of the prison and the Gendama police barracks about 2,200 metres to the west, hitting the two nearest positions held by Afghan forces and keeping them away from the prison for the next hour.

Sardar Mohammed, the police captain responsible for the eight officers at Dand Chowk, said his men were pinned down behind their sandbags for half an hour, and even after reinforcements arrived, they only managed to take up positions a dozen metres further toward the prison.

“Mostly we fired our rifles in the dark,” he said.

At the same time as the two checkpoint attacks, a fuel tanker rolled up to Sarpoza's main gate. The driver appeared nervous, and he ran away. Guards fired in the direction of the fleeing insurgent, but he escaped; the Taliban later claimed the suicide bomb had a defective switch.

Moments later, at about 9:18 or 9:19 p.m., two rocket-propelled grenades whistled out of the darkness. The first shot missed the tanker but the second ignited a massive explosion. Witnesses describe a shock wave so powerful that it knocked out windows a kilometre away, and a large ball of white light rose momentarily over the west side of Kandahar city. Four guards in the gate towers were killed instantly.

The remaining guards offered little resistance as the Taliban charged through the haze of dust and falling debris. Gunfire came from only one of five guard towers. A guard was blasted into pieces by a rocket-propelled grenade as he took cover underneath a water tower.

Three more were shot to death along the corridor that leads into the heart of the prison. The Taliban went straight for the national-security wing, shooting the locks off the prison gates with a belt-fed machine gun at close range.

A few insurgents went a short distance along the rows of Taliban cells and distributed weapons to comrades, shouting at them to escape quickly. Cell doors in the wing are required to be locked by nightfall, but the Taliban timed their strike just minutes before the guards made their evening rounds; one escaped insurgent said a group of ringleaders hiding in the bathroom had given precise timing to the jailbreakers using smuggled cellphones.

More contraband cellphones appeared in the hands of inmates after the first moments of the attack, witnesses said, describing a chorus of men shouting into their handsets: “God is great!”

An insurgent who participated in the jailbreak said the Taliban leaders had a short argument after opening the national-security wing, because they disagreed about whether to set free the jail's criminals, but eventually decided to open all the locks.

Meanwhile, outside the jail, other insurgents were distracting the security forces with several small gun battles inside the city. At one point, a Western observer counted six simultaneous gun battles in the downtown.

“They kept us busy,” said Dost Mohammed, 23, a policeman. “We could hear shooting in many places in town, and we were afraid.”

The confusion was equally frightening for most of the prisoners. Bashir Ahmad, 19, said he followed the Taliban's orders to get out of the prison, and was confronted by an insurgent commander near the gate who wore a pakool hat and spoke with an accent that suggested he was not native to Kandahar. The commander had a scarf wrapped around his entire head, he said, with only his left eye showing.

“He gave us a choice: Fight along with the Taliban, or go home,” Mr. Ahmad said. “Many of us wanted to go home, so they divided us into groups of 100 or 200. They appointed a Taliban commander for each group, and each group had a few Taliban guards.”

The insurgents shepherded the groups of escapees down narrow alleyways, through vineyards, and across streams. When they heard aircraft, they took cover under trees or lay down in fields of wheat.

Mr. Ahmad's group spent the night camped in a village about 12 kilometres south of the prison, but others didn't go as far, flopping down to sleep one or two kilometres away from the scene of the jailbreak.

Many of them expected the government or foreign troops to chase them, and expressed amazement at the lack of pursuers. Canada's Quick Reaction Force, deployed from Camp Nathan Smith about six kilometres away, was seen by one Western observer arriving at Sarpoza around 11 p.m., after the shooting had stopped.

Roughly 400 Taliban escaped the national-security wing, and only three were recaptured.

“I thought that there would be big fighting, aerial bombardments, and many Taliban would be killed some arrested,” said a Taliban fighter, now enjoying freedom with his family in Kandahar city. “But when we reached our safe houses we were surprised, because there was no fighting, nothing.”

He added: “I didn't think we would succeed like we did

[bth: Unbelievable. This Canadian General must be a moron or something to be quoted like that. “You can ask yourself the rhetorical question, what if we find 100 fugitives in the fields?” Gen. Thompson said. “What is ISAF's duty in that circumstance? Is it to go arrest people?" You'd think if he was that stupid he would have learned from a long military career just to keep his mouth shut. So around 400 Taliban are now back on the streets. All part of our ongoing catch and release program.]
Minstrel Boy

YouTube - Eric Clapton: Tears in Heaven

YouTube - Eric Clapton: Tears in Heaven: ""

The Federal Marriage Amendment is back — with Vitter’s and Craig’s support - The Carpetbagger Report

The Federal Marriage Amendment is back — with Vitter’s and Craig’s support - The Carpetbagger Report: "Just"this week, a group of Republican senators re-introduced the Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution, which, as we know, would ban gay marriage.

And once again, the language is pretty straightforward:

Section 1. This article may be cited as the `Marriage Protection Amendment’.

Section 2. Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.’.

This isn’t especially surprising. Republicans are looking at the political landscape, and they’re feeling awfully discouraged. The polls look bad, the base looks depressed, and fundraising looks iffy. Rallying the far-right troops with an anti-gay amendment to the Constitution — even though it has no chance at even getting so much as a hearing — might be helpful to the conservative movement.

But the funny part is looking over the list of the 10 original sponsors. Most of the names are predictable — Brownback and Inhofe, for example — but there are two others whose names stand out: Sens. David Vitter (R-La.) and Larry Craig (R-Idaho).

Yes, two of the principal sponsors of a constitutional amendment to “protect” marriage include one far-right Republican who hired prostitutes and another far-right Republican who was arrested for soliciting gay sex an airport men’s room.

As my friend Kyle put it, these two are “not exactly the poster boys of the family values crowd or particularly upstanding examples of the supposed sanctity of the ‘union of a man and a woman.”‘

Lawyers, Guns and Money: Everyone Hates Joe

Lawyers, Guns and Money: Everyone Hates Joe: "The"new Q-Poll has Obama has crushing McCain 56 to 35 in Connecticut. No real surprise there. The same poll also finds that even if McCain were to pick native son Joe Lieberman as his runningmate, only 14 percent of Connecticut voters say they'd be more likely to vote for McCain, while 32 percent say they'd be less likely to do. In other words, adding Lieberman to the ticket would cost McCain votes in Connecticut.

Counterterrorism Blog: Why Mugabe Won

Counterterrorism Blog: Why Mugabe Won: "The"tragic failure of the African Union to take any steps to sanction the fraudulent and violent regime of Robert Mugabe was a given as soon as the despot sat at the table. Because Mugabe knew his audience, or what was to be his jury.

Mugabe, correctly, told many other leaders that "their claims to power were no more legitimate than his," and chastised other for holding even worse elections than he did.

The tragedy for Africa is that Mugabe is right. And because he is right, Africa, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, remains an open wound, hospitable to radical Islamist groups (Somalia, Kenya, South Africa etc. for al Qaeda. The west coast, from Sierra Leone to Cameroon, for Hezbollah, and the Congo as a free for all, for criminals, terrorists and rogue states) and rapacious militias (the Lord's Resistance Army) and countless criminal gangs (Nigeria being the prime example.)

It didn't help that host Egypt and main mover Libya have such wretched histories of their own in terms of elections.

In addition to Mubarak and Gadaffi, here is a partial list of those sitting in judgement of Mugabe and his thuggish regime, as I wrote about for the Washington Post My full blog is here.

Counterterrorism Blog: Indonesian Police Raids in Sumatra Yield Suspects, Bombs

Counterterrorism Blog: Indonesian Police Raids in Sumatra Yield Suspects, Bombs: "Over"the past three days, the Indonesian police counter-terrorist formation, Detachment 88, has conducted a series of raids in and around the city of Palembang in South Sumatra province. On 28 June, a Singaporean national named Alim (alias Omar, alias Taslim, alias Abu Hazam) was the first to be detained. According to the Indonesian media, Alim is a bomb-making expert who was trained in Afghanistan prior to 2001 and met Osama bin Laden on several occasions. Alim is said to have received further bomb-making instructions from Dr. Azhari Husein, the Jemaah Islamiyah bomber who was killed in a police shoot-out in East Java in October 2005.

On 1 July, eight (possibly nine) Indonesian nationals at three locations--all said to be members of Jemaah Islamiyah--were arrested. At one of these three locations, twenty assembled bombs and several kilos of explosives were found. The police are still not sure what target(s) were being contemplated by this cell.

[bth: hello. I wonder what's going on here.]

Pentagon’s Inspector General Resigns - Brief -

National Briefing - Washington - Pentagon’s Inspector General Resigns - Brief - "The"Pentagon’s inspector general, Claude M. Kicklighter, is resigning after just over a year in the job. Mr. Kicklighter, 74, who retired from the Army in 1991 after a 35-year career, was viewed as a solid choice when the military budget was nearing $600 billion a year and procurement fraud cases in Iraq and Afghanistan were on the rise. His successor will be Gordon S. Heddell, the Labor Department’s inspector general since January 2001

[bth: this position effectively ceased to function some time ago at the Pentagon]

As Obese Population Rises, More Candidates Courting The Fat Vote | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

As Obese Population Rises, More Candidates Courting The Fat Vote | The Onion - America's Finest News Source: "
As Obese Population Rises, More Candidates Courting The Fat Vote"
As Obese Population Rises, More Candidates Courting The Fat Vote

Elite Sadr unit hopes to vanquish US - The National Newspaper

Elite Sadr unit hopes to vanquish US - The National Newspaper: "NASARIYAH"IRAQ // Commanders of the Mahdi Army are still finalising plans for an elite resistance unit that will target US troops in Iraq.

The leader of the Sadr movement, Muqtada al Sadr, announced more than two weeks ago that a specialised armed group would be set up to carry out guerrilla attacks on American troops. The rest of the movement’s Mahdi Army militia – thought to number about 100,000 – were to put down their weapons and concentrate on political and spiritual resistance to the US presence in Iraq, he said.

Little is known about the force and it will remain highly secretive so that its fighters can evade capture by either the American military or Iraqi government forces.

But Aaos al Khafagy, the general commander of the Mahdi Army in Nasariyah, a city 370km south-east of Baghdad, told The National the group was likely to contain “thousands” of men highly skilled in guerrilla warfare.

“We are still in the process of deciding the exact framework and the final decisions are up to Muqtada al Sadr,” he said. “The groups will work in every Iraqi city and we expect to need thousands, not hundreds, of fighters to do that.”

The militia commander said Sadr would personally oversee who was selected for membership and would chose only the most capable, most loyal of his followers.

Thousands of Mahdi Army fighters are believed to have been trained in advanced guerrilla tactics either in Iran or Lebanon, according to intelligence and news reports....

Ex-Agent Says CIA Ignored Iran Facts -

Ex-Agent Says CIA Ignored Iran Facts - "A"former CIA operative who says he tried to warn the agency about faulty intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs now contends that CIA officials also ignored evidence that Iran had suspended work on a nuclear bomb.

The onetime undercover agent, who has been barred by the CIA from using his real name, filed a motion in federal court late Friday asking the government to declassify legal documents describing what he says was a deliberate suppression of findings on Iran that were contrary to agency views at the time.

The former operative alleged in a 2004 lawsuit that the CIA fired him after he repeatedly clashed with senior managers over his attempts to file reports that challenged the conventional wisdom about weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. Key details of his claim have not been made public because they describe events the CIA deems secret.

The consensus view on Iran's nuclear program shifted dramatically last December with the release of a landmark intelligence report that concluded that Iran halted work on nuclear weapons design in 2003. The publication of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran undermined the CIA's rationale for censoring the former officer's lawsuit, said his attorney, Roy Krieger.

"On five occasions he was ordered to either falsify his reporting on WMD in the Near East, or not to file his reports at all," Krieger said in an interview.

In court documents and in statements by his attorney, the former officer contends that his 22-year CIA career collapsed after he questioned CIA doctrine about the nuclear programs of Iraq and Iran. As a native of the Middle East and a fluent speaker of both Farsi and Arabic, he had been assigned undercover work in the Persian Gulf region, where he successfully recruited an informant with access to sensitive information about Iran's nuclear program, Krieger said.

The informant provided secret evidence that Tehran had halted its research into designing and building a nuclear weapon. Yet, when the operative sought to file reports on the findings, his attempts were "thwarted by CIA employees," according to court papers. Later he was told to "remove himself from any further handling" of the informant, the documents say.

In the months after the conflict, the operative became the target of two internal investigations, one of them alleging an improper sexual relationship with a female informant, and the other alleging financial improprieties. Krieger said his client cooperated with investigators in both cases and the allegations of wrongdoing were never substantiated. Krieger contends in court documents that the investigations were a "pretext to discredit."

Krieger maintains that his client is being further punished by the agency's decision prohibiting him from fully regaining his identity. "He is not even allowed to attend court hearings about his own case," Krieger said.

CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano declined to comment on the specifics of the case but flatly rejected the allegation that the agency had suppressed reports. "It would be wrong to suggest that agency managers direct their officers to falsify the intelligence they collect or to suppress it for political reasons," he said. "That's not our policy. That's not what we're about."

[bth: the evidence for impeachment may lay in the declassification of these documents]

Bush vows to bolster forces in Afghanistan - The Boston Globe

Bush vows to bolster forces in Afghanistan - The Boston Globe: "WASHINGTON" Grappling with a record death toll in an overshadowed war, President Bush promised yesterday to send more US troops into Afghanistan by year's end. He conceded that June was a "tough month" in the nearly seven-year-old war.

In fact, it was the deadliest month for US troops in Afghanistan since the conflict began.

"One reason why there have been more deaths is because our troops are taking the fight to a tough enemy, an enemy who doesn't like our presence there because they don't like the idea of America denying safe haven" to terrorists, Bush told reporters. "Of course there's going to be resistance."

Bush said it was a tough month, too, for the Taliban. But the ousted Islamist regime in Afghanistan has now rebounded with deadly force.

More US and NATO troops have died in the past two months in Afghanistan than in Iraq, a place with triple the number of US and coalition forces.

Last month, 28 US troops died in Afghanistan. That was the highest monthly total of the entire war, which began in October 2001. For the full US-led coalition in Afghanistan, the death toll was 46, also the highest of the war.

Bush confronted the grim direction of the Afghanistan conflict during a sun-splashed Rose Garden appearance. The president used the event to tout his agenda for an upcoming Group of Eight meeting in Japan with world leaders, then addressed Iran, climate change, and gasoline prices in a short session with reporters.

The Pentagon predicts that the pace of attacks in Afghanistan by a resurgent Taliban is likely to rise this year, despite US-led efforts to capture key leaders.

"We're going to increase troops by 2009," Bush said, without offering details about exactly when or how many.

He said coalition forces have doubled in size over two years, and pledged that the twin strategy of fighting extremists and supporting Afghanistan's civil development "is going to work

Waxman: White House Knew Of Iraqi Oil Deal, By Ryan Grim - CBS News

Waxman: White House Knew Of Iraqi Oil Deal, By Ryan Grim - CBS News: "In"September 2007, the Kurdish Regional Government, which runs the semi-autonomous region of Northern Iraq, announced that it had entered into an oil contract with U.S.-based Hunt Oil. The deal complicated negotiations over a revenue-sharing agreement and the Bush administration declared itself shocked at the news. “I know nothing about the deal,” said President Bush.

Documents uncovered by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform indicate that the White House probably shouldn’t have been so surprised. Among the many pieces of evidence that the administration knew and approved of the deal:

-- A Commerce Department official wished Hunt Oil officials “a fruitful visit to Kurdistan.”

-- A Hunt Oil general manager said he met with nine State Department officials and none expressed opposition.

-- Five days after the announcement of the deal, a State Department official told Hunt officials about another “good opportunity in Iraq.”...

[bth: you can't believe a word Bush says]

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Bush to Close Guantanamo?

Legalities: "President"Bush will soon decide whether to close Guantanamo Bay as a prison for al-Qaeda suspects, sources tell ABC News. High-level discussions among top advisers have escalated in the past week, with the most senior administration officials in continuous talks about the future of the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay--and how it will be dramatically changed and/or closed in the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling that gave detainees there access to federal courts.

Sources have confirmed that President Bush is expected to be briefed on these pressing GTMO issues--and may reach a decision on the future of the naval base as a prison for al Qaeda suspects--before he leaves for the G8 on Saturday. An announcement, however, is not expected before he leaves the country.

High-level administration officials say the Court's decision dramatically changes the legal landscape--and raises questions about whether the government has solid evidence to present to federal judges to justify ongoing detentions.

That evidence, much of it classified and obtained by military and CIA personnel on the battlefield, is not the standard kind of proof judges are accustomed to seeing in regular criminal cases here, administration officials say. The documents do not contain the kind of detail—or include sources of that information—that’s typical in criminal cases, sources say.

Late last month for example, a federal appeals court in Washington said the government failed to prove its case with one detainee from China. The administration fears that's a sign of things to come—in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling giving other detainees even broader habeas corpus rights to challenge their detentions in court, sources tell ABC News.

Of course, there is generally wide agreement--from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and even Bush himself--that GTMO should eventually be closed. But the Court ruling could well hasten that move, since it undercuts the main reason to keep the detainees there. A key reason for imprisoning the detainees at GTMO in the first place was the belief that they would not have access to the courts, since they were not on U.S. soil

The recent discussions---which have involved numerous meetings with the most senior advisers to the President--the Principals--are about how to handle the some 260 detainees still imprisoned at GTMO. Should they be brought to the United States, and where, of course, to put them if they are to be imprisoned in this country?

Bush has not decided whether he will announce that GTMO should be closed, sources say. But at the very least, sources say, he will soon announce a host of these legal and policy changes that will force Congress to come up with a solution--including where to imprison those detainees if GTMO does, in fact, shut its doors.

[bth: since he's lost this key legal battle, it will eventually be closed and what's more it will quickly come out that the evidence is scant or obtained via torture. See earlier posts this week where Taliban told Canadian news that those that didn't obey ISI in Pakistan were turned over to the Americans for reward money. I think Bush will announce a closure before the US election but not in time for the cases to be heard before the election. That way McCain and the Republicans can blame the 'liberals' in Congress for letting terrorists loose on the streets. It will help keep the scare up and allow Bush to pass this mess to someone else to clean up.]

Believe Me, It's Torture: Politics & Power:

Believe Me, It's Torture: Politics & Power: "What"more can be added to the debate over U.S. interrogation methods, and whether waterboarding is torture? Try firsthand experience. The author undergoes the controversial drowning technique, at the hands of men who once trained American soldiers to resist—not inflict—it....

[bth: this article and the attached video is worth reviewing in full. Conclusion. Water boarding is torture. Water boarding will get you any information which causes it to stop. That information is probably worthless.]

Iran must avoid 'provocative' nuclear talk: Khamaenei aide - Middle East Times

Iran must avoid 'provocative' nuclear talk: Khamaenei aide - Middle East Times: "TEHRAN"(AFP) A top advisor to Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned on Tuesday against "provocative" remarks on Tehran's nuclear crisis which tend to be associated with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
"The officials and the political experts need to avoid provocative and illogical declarations and slogans," Ali Akbar Velayati told the hardline Jomhouri Eslami newspaper in an interview.

He did not mention Ahmadinejad by name but the controversial president has caused alarm both inside and outside Iran with his provocative comments on the nuclear drive...

Iraq undercuts Republican support among military

The Raw Story | Iraq undercuts Republican support among military:... "I"think now you're going to see -- not that it's going to be overwhelming -- but a back away from the Republican Party ... At least (the military vote will) be split this year rather than overwhelmingly Republican," said Korb, a deputy defense secretary under president Ronald Reagan.

He predicted that McCain, the 71-year-old Republican senator for Arizona, will get "at most half of the military votes," instead of the three-to-one ratio that Republican President George W. Bush won in 2004.

The main reason for the defection is the Iraq war, where 4,113 US troops have died since the 2003 invasion and for which the US government has come under fire even from the military, despite recent security improvements.

Voting intentions are difficult to assess because of the view among military personnel that they are apolitical, but available data suggests a steady erosion in support for the policies of the Bush administration.

A Los Angeles Times survey of 1,467 people, including 631 soldiers, veterans and their families, in late 2007 found that 57 percent of military respondents believed the Iraq war was not worth fighting -- nearly the same as the overall population (60 percent).

Asked which party they trusted most to handle important issues, the military families chose Democrats over Republicans 39-35 percent, compared to a 39-31 percent ratio among the general population.

In its annual reader surveys, the Military Times specialist news group found Bush's approval rate among the military had plummeted from 60 percent in 2005 to just 48 percent in 2007.

It remains to be seen whether Obama, 47, will be able to cash in on this discontent given his lack of military experience and the perception of Democrats as "soft" on defense, and in the face of McCain's Vietnam war record.

"One of Obama's challenges is that soldiers who served in Iraq want to win in Iraq so that the sacrifices they and others have made is worthy," said Peter Feaver, a political science professor at Duke University and former Bush advisor....

[bth: A big sea change. I would suggest that Obama's campaign has yet to focus on an important consituency that he can win - the national guard, the reserves and their families. This group is older, wiser and abused by the current administration in areas of deployment, payment, training, equipment, you name it. Is Obama's campaign smart enough to address this? I don't think so. Not from what I've seen so far.]

New Iraq report: 15 of 18 benchmarks satisfactory

New Iraq report: 15 of 18 benchmarks satisfactory: ..."The"White House sees the progress in a particularly positive light, declaring in a new assessment to Congress that Iraq's efforts on 15 of 18 benchmarks are "satisfactory"—almost twice of what it determined to be the case a year ago. The May 2008 report card, obtained by the Associated Press, determines that only two of the benchmarks—enacting and implementing laws to disarm militias and distribute oil revenues—are unsatisfactory. ...

[bth: while there has been indisputable progress in the last year, one could have written this report a year ago when the White House sent Berger over to Iraq to write the report for them. Its a politically massaged document detached from reality designed to show progress come Labor Day. What, you will also see is an announced troop reduction (already in the works) announced about the same time. The timeline is the US election, not progress on the ground in Iraq - real or imagined.]

Merrill says GM bankruptcy "not impossible"

Merrill says GM bankruptcy "not impossible": Financial News - Yahoo! Finance: "DETROIT"(Reuters) - General Motors Corp (NYSE:GM - News) will need to raise as much as $15 billion in cash to shore up liquidity and bankruptcy is "not impossible" if the U.S. auto market continues to slump, Merrill Lynch said on Wednesday.

Although other analysts have suggested GM needs to raise funds to ride out the downturn in the U.S. auto market through 2009, Merrill's estimate of GM's financing needs was the highest yet. It also carried the most stark warning of the bankruptcy risk for the largest U.S. automaker.

Shares of GM, which have lost more than half of their value over the past two months, fell more than 7 percent to $10.88 in early trading....

[bth: I suspect with Michigan being a swing state in this election and the bleak situation within the auto industry there, GM may try to bankrupt its North American (not worldwide) operations to shovel off its (US) pension and health care liabilities over to the federal government. Politically its leverage will be high after Labor Day and before the election. With the prospect of a sympathetic president in 2009, I think the temptation within the boardroom will be irresistible.]

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

YouTube - Army Lasers Zap Bikers in Afghanistan

YouTube - Army Lasers Zap Bikers in Afghanistan: ""

YouTube - Simple Gifts from Appalachian Spring

YouTube - Simple Gifts from Appalachian Spring: ""

ABC News: Pentagon Warns of Israeli Attack on Iran

ABC News: Pentagon Warns of Israeli Attack on Iran: "Senior"Pentagon officials are concerned that Israel could carry out an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities before the end of the year, an action that would have enormous security and economic repercussions for the United States and the rest of the world

A senior defense official told ABC News there is an "increasing likelihood" that Israel will carry out such an attack, a move that likely would prompt Iranian retaliation against, not just Israel, but against the United States as well.

[bth: note how the 'senior defense official' is not named...]

War drums becoming deafening

War drums becoming deafening: "THE THE"Americans and the Israelis are acting in concert vis-à-vis Iran. The unmistakable message they are putting out loud and clear is that an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities is on the cards in the event Tehran doesn’t cave into their demands. Are they bluffing as part of an arm-twisting strategy or are they seriously planning to transform this region into an inferno?

Pundits have been analyzing the probability of a US or Israeli attack on Iran for several years now. Some have even come up with likely dates but most of those have come and gone eroding the analysts’ credibility and dulling fears. There’s been so much chatter on the subject that we may reach the point when a “will they or won’t they?” discussion will turn into nothing more than an academic exercise on the basis it hasn’t happened so, therefore, it probably never will. The danger is Iran and the region could easily be lured into letting down its guard. Certainly, members of the Iranian leadership have indicated they don’t take the threat very seriously even though they are planning for every contingency and threatening to set the Middle East aflame if attacked.

In recent weeks, since the Israelis launched a supposed dry run in the eastern Mediterranean using 100 fighter planes and aerial tankers, the chatter has reached a crescendo. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has vowed, “Iran will not be nuclear”. Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz has termed a strike on Iran “unavoidable”.

Retired Mossad chief Shabtai Shavit warned that if Israel doesn’t destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities within a year, Israel would be vulnerable to nuclear incineration. He says that even if Israel doesn’t receive a green light from the US, it should be prepared to go it alone. Shavit believes there is a window of opportunity before the upcoming US election when the deed should be done in case of a win by Barack Obama, who has advocated jaw-jaw before war-war.

ARCH neoconservative and former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton says he believes Israel is poised to strike in November once the ballot has taken place.

Knesset member and retired Maj. Gen. Dani Yotom, who isn’t known for his hawkish views, says sanctions against Iran aren’t working and so “a military operation is needed”. Even the normally moderate Israeli historian Benny Morris recently said, “If the issue is whether Israel or Iran should perish, then Iran should perish”.

Suspicions that an attack might be in the pipeline were heightened after leaks supposedly forced the Israeli prime minister to admit he had secretly met with Aviam Sela, a brilliant military tactician said to be the architect of Israel’s 1981 strike on Iraq’s Osirak reactor. It is believed that Sela was asked to give his opinion on the feasibility of similarly putting Iran’s nuclear facilities out of action.

There is no doubt that Israelis genuinely fear a nuclear-armed Iran, which they believe would constitute an existential threat, but why are Israelis being so upfront about their intentions when history tells us they normally strike first and answer questions later?

Given that Iran is not Iraq circa the 1980s as far as airpower, weaponry, technology and sophisticated communications go and in light of the fact Iran’s main nuclear facilities are buried under layers of steel and concrete as much as 100 feet underground, eradicating Tehran’s nuclear capability would be challenging for any military unless it was prepared to unleash nuclear bunker-busters. Moreover, unlike the Osirak surprise strike, an attack on Iran would trigger serious military repercussions that could involve Syria, Hezbollah and pro-Iranian Shiite Iraqi groups. Such a pre-emptive move would probably result in a massive loss of life on all sides and would have a devastating effect on the global economy with oil prices reaching hitherto unimaginable heights.

Further, since neither Israel nor the US are in any position to launch a ground invasion without the complicity of anti-government Iranian surrogates, strikes on Iranian nuclear plants would probably result in Tehran not only reconstructing but setting their sights on developing nuclear weapons even if they’ve no plans to do so now. It’s worth mentioning that the Osirak reactor was for peaceful purposes and it was only after it was hit that Saddam Hussein actively sought a bomb....

[bth: because of those speaking in recent articles - former Mas sad, Bolton and other neocons - and the news sources releasing this information - the Telegraph, Der Spiegel - my guess is that the current wave of scare news on Iran is a coordinated psychological warfare operation against Iran and a test of American public reaction by Israel. That doesn't mean that an attack isn't planned or being planned, it just means that this is part of the play - Act 1. So everybody just take a breath. ... As to this article talking about how hard it will be to hit these buried targets, just keep in mind that about two years ago we expedited delivery of deep penetrating aerial bombs to Israel and they have developed cruise missile launch capabilities from their subs. This means that it may be possible to incapacitate the suspected sites and associated air defenses. Israel is probably understating its military capability. Much more to the point, Israel wants the US to fight or engage Iran for them. They do not want us to disengage from Iraq. Continued US military engagement is Israel's cheapest defense ... and the Saudi's too for that matter. ... instead of threatening Iran, perhaps the US should go and get OBL in Pakistan. Look at the rising battle stats out of Afghanistan and the destabilization occurring in Pakistan.]

U.S. Inspecting Iraq Wiring After 13 Die -

U.S. Inspecting Iraq Wiring After 13 Die - "WASHINGTON"— The Pentagon has ordered electrical inspections of all buildings in Iraq maintained by KBR, a major military contractor, after the electrocutions of several United States service members.

Gen. David H. Petraeus, the American commander in Iraq, told Congress of the new inspections while also disclosing that at least 13 Americans had been electrocuted in Iraq since the war began. Previously, the Pentagon said that 12 had been electrocuted. In addition to those killed, many more service members have received painful shocks, Army officials say.

General Petraeus’s written statement was made public on Monday afternoon by Senator Bob Casey, Democrat of Pennsylvania. The statement said that of the 13 Americans electrocuted, 10 were in the Army, 1 in the Marines, and 2 were contractors.

Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, a Green Beret from Pennsylvania, died Jan. 2 when he stepped into a shower and was electrocuted at his base in Baghdad. His death prompted investigations this spring by Congress and the Pentagon’s inspector general into evidence that poor electrical work at facilities used by American personnel had led to other electrocutions.

Officials now acknowledge that Army experts warned as early as 2004 that poor electrical work by contractors was creating dangerous conditions for American soldiers. But those warnings were largely ignored.

Since the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, tens of thousands of American troops have been housed in older Iraqi buildings. KBR and other companies have been paid millions of dollars to repair and upgrade the buildings, including their electrical systems.

In February 2007, nearly a year before Sergeant Maseth was killed, KBR issued a technical report to the Defense Contract Management Agency citing safety concerns about the grounding and wiring in the building in the Radwaniya Palace complex in Baghdad being used as housing for Sergeant Maseth’s unit in the Army’s Fifth Special Forces Group.

For the next year, neither KBR nor the Pentagon made repairs.

Sergeant Maseth’s family has filed a wrongful death suit against KBR. Last week the family filed a motion in Federal District Court in Pittsburgh that included a new statement from another Green Beret, Sgt. Justin Hummer of the 10th Special Forces Group, saying that he suffered electrical shocks four or five times in 2007 in the same shower where Sergeant Maseth died.

Another soldier, Specialist Stephan Michael Pabst, of the 19th Special Forces Group, has also provided a statement in the case stating that he suffered electrical shocks while living in the same complex late last year. He said he had issued a repair order to KBR, but the contractor never adequately fixed the problem, and he continued to suffer shocks in his shower.

“The Pentagon has a compelling obligation to tell the American people what happened with these deaths, and what they are doing to prevent this from happening again,” Senator Casey said Monday in an interview.

[bth: amazing that this negligence has to make its way to congress before someone in the military actually holds KBR (Cheney's old company) to account and then only to fix the problems that are killing our soldiers. Total bullshit.]

White House refuses to greenlight plan for al Qaeda hunt in Pakistan

The Raw Story | White House refuses to greenlight plan for al Qaeda hunt in Pakistan: "Since"2005, al Qaeda forces have been regrouping in the mountains of Pakistan along the Afghan border, and the Bush administration has done little to go after them.

A report in Monday's New York Times reveals that late last year the administration developed a secret plan for Special Operations forces to enter Pakistani tribal areas and seek to capture or kill al Qaeda leaders.

However, after six months the plan has not yet received a go-ahead, and according to ABC News White House correspondent Martha Raddatz, "The [Times] report says the White House has refused to give commanders the green light to execute the plan and says turf wars and bitter disagreements between the White House and intelligence agencies are to blame."

The Bush administration has appeared reluctant to take decisive action in Pakistan, both because the war in Iraq has had first claim on personnel and resources and out of a desire to accommodate Pakistani President Musharraf, whose government fears a tribal uprising if it acts too aggressively against the militants or allows American forces to enter the tribal areas.

In 2005, when the departure of Colin Powell and Richard Armitage left no one in the Bush administration who had a personal relationship with Musharraf, officials arranged to have President Bush raise the al Qaeda issue with Musharraf directly. However, according to the Times, "The conversations backfired. Two former United States government officials say they were surprised and frustrated when instead of demanding action from Mr. Musharraf, Mr. Bush repeatedly thanked him for his contributions to the war on terrorism."

Since then, the Pakistani government has pursued cease-fire agreements with the militants instead of combating them, helping make possible the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

According to veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, rather than focusing on Pakistan during its final months in office, the Bush administration has undertaken a major escalation of covert operations against Iran in hopes of destabilizing that country's government....

[bth: its as if OBL was given a free pass.]

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2008: Andrew Card - A dangerous Boy Scout

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2008: Andrew Card - A dangerous Boy Scout: "Remember"this man? He was White House Chief of Staff. He was an Eagle Scout. He was head of the White House "Iraq Group," the collection of courtiers, party hacks, and sycophants who were put in charge of selling the idea of war with Iraq to the American people. By fair means or foul, they proceeded to do that, driving the propaganda machine forward with relentless zeal, clearing human obstacles away like brush on Caesar's "ranch." The only truth that mattered for them was the pathetic, ignorant, simplistic drivel that Bush, Cheney and Rice spouted continuously to the servile media.

Today on the MSNBC "Morning Joe" show, Card was asked by Pat Buchanan if the American people did not have the right to be informed in advance of deliberations that might lead to a new war.

Card's reply was that the citizenry have a right to be informed only if that does not limit the president's freedom of action in deciding how to defend us (America.)

There you have it. The man was the president's chief of staff and he thinks of the presidency as a nearly unlimited monarchy. pl

[bth: until one of these sycophants is actually held to account, this nonsense will continue.]

Evidence Faulted in Detainee Case -

Evidence Faulted in Detainee Case - "In"the first case to review the government’s secret evidence for holding a detainee at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a federal appeals court found that accusations against a Muslim from western China held for more than six years were based on bare and unverifiable claims. The unclassified parts of the decision were released on Monday.

With some derision for the Bush administration’s arguments, a three-judge panel said the government contended that its accusations against the detainee should be accepted as true because they had been repeated in at least three secret documents.

The court compared that to the absurd declaration of a character in the Lewis Carroll poem “The Hunting of the Snark”: “I have said it thrice: What I tell you three times is true.”

This comes perilously close to suggesting that whatever the government says must be treated as true,” said the panel of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The unanimous panel overturned as invalid a Pentagon determination that the detainee, Huzaifa Parhat, a member of the ethnic Uighur Muslim minority in western China, was properly held as an enemy combatant.

The panel included one of the court’s most conservative members, the chief judge, David B. Sentelle.

The release on Monday of the unclassified parts of the decision followed a brief court notice last week. The notice said a classified decision had directed the government to release Mr. Parhat, transfer him to another country or conduct a new military hearing at Guantánamo to determine if he had been properly classified as an enemy combatant.

The Justice Department declined to comment on the ruling. ...

[bth: so I wonder how much of the cases against the captives is pure bull crap?]

Sunday, June 29, 2008

YouTube - Bill2 destroying a tank

YouTube - Bill2 destroying a tank: ""

Commie Rats

Babalu Blog

The rise and fall of a Sons of Iraq warrior - Los Angeles Times

The rise and fall of a Sons of Iraq warrior - Los Angeles Times: "AMMAN"JORDAN -- A year ago, Sunni Arab fighter Abu Abed led an improbable revolt against Al Qaeda in Iraq. As he killed its leaders and burned down hide-outs, he became a symbol of a new group called the Sons of Iraq -- the man who dared to stand up to the extremists in Baghdad when it still ranked as a suicidal act.

Today, Abu Abed is chain-smoking cigarettes in Amman, betrayed by his best friend, on the run from a murder investigation in his homeland. He once walked the streets of Baghdad wearing wraparound sunglasses and surrounded by a posse of men in matching fatigues like something out of "Reservoir Dogs," but now he shouts futilely for speeding taxis to halt, a slight figure in jeans and a button-down short-sleeve shirt

Abu Abed's rise and fall encapsulates the complexities of the U.S.-funded Sons of Iraq program. Although the Shiite-led Iraqi government has regarded the Sons of Iraq as little more than a front for insurgent groups, the Sunni fighters' war helped end the cycle of car bombings and reprisal killings by Shiite militias that had sent Baghdad headlong into civil war. America's new friends also helped bring down the death rate of U.S. forces in Iraq.

The Defense Department's report to Congress last week emphasized the vital nature of the program, saying, "The emergence of the Sons of Iraq to help secure local communities has been one of the most significant developments in the past 18 months in Iraq."

Abu Abed's flight into exile shines a light on a violent power struggle pitting upstart leaders like him against Iraq's entrenched Sunni political elite and its Shiite-dominated government. The frictions could easily shatter the Sons of Iraq -- and open the door to Al Qaeda in Iraq's resurgence.

Perhaps even more significantly, the charges against him belie the notion of an Iraqi government moving toward reconciliation among its Sunni and Shiite populations.

The man who served as Abu Abed's U.S. advisor until January expressed complete confidence in the fighter. "Many times he had the opportunity to do the wrong thing and never did," said Eric Cosper, a retired U.S. Army captain. "I have absolute faith in him."....

[bth: read this article along with the one posted below regarding the hand off difficulties in Anbar province.]

YouTube - A Country Boy Can Survive

YouTube - A Country Boy Can Survive: ""

Annals of National Security: Preparing the Battlefield: Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker

Annals of National Security: Preparing the Battlefield: Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker: "L"ate last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership. The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations. They also include gathering intelligence about Iran’s suspected nuclear-weapons program.

Clandestine operations against Iran are not new. United States Special Operations Forces have been conducting cross-border operations from southern Iraq, with Presidential authorization, since last year. These have included seizing members of Al Quds, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and taking them to Iraq for interrogation, and the pursuit of “high-value targets” in the President’s war on terror, who may be captured or killed. But the scale and the scope of the operations in Iran, which involve the Central Intelligence Agency and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), have now been significantly expanded, according to the current and former officials. Many of these activities are not specified in the new Finding, and some congressional leaders have had serious questions about their nature.

Under federal law, a Presidential Finding, which is highly classified, must be issued when a covert intelligence operation gets under way and, at a minimum, must be made known to Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and the Senate and to the ranking members of their respective intelligence committees—the so-called Gang of Eight. Money for the operation can then be reprogrammed from previous appropriations, as needed, by the relevant congressional committees, which also can be briefed.

“The Finding was focussed on undermining Iran’s nuclear ambitions and trying to undermine the government through regime change,” a person familiar with its contents said, and involved “working with opposition groups and passing money.” The Finding provided for a whole new range of activities in southern Iran and in the areas, in the east, where Baluchi political opposition is strong, he said.

Although some legislators were troubled by aspects of the Finding, and “there was a significant amount of high-level discussion” about it, according to the source familiar with it, the funding for the escalation was approved. In other words, some members of the Democratic leadership—Congress has been under Democratic control since the 2006 elections—were willing, in secret, to go along with the Administration in expanding covert activities directed at Iran, while the Party’s presumptive candidate for President, Barack Obama, has said that he favors direct talks and diplomacy.

The request for funding came in the same period in which the Administration was coming to terms with a National Intelligence Estimate, released in December, that concluded that Iran had halted its work on nuclear weapons in 2003. The Administration downplayed the significance of the N.I.E., and, while saying that it was committed to diplomacy, continued to emphasize that urgent action was essential to counter the Iranian nuclear threat. President Bush questioned the N.I.E.’s conclusions, and senior national-security officials, including Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, made similar statements. (So did Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee.) Meanwhile, the Administration also revived charges that the Iranian leadership has been involved in the killing of American soldiers in Iraq: both directly, by dispatching commando units into Iraq, and indirectly, by supplying materials used for roadside bombs and other lethal goods. (There have been questions about the accuracy of the claims; the Times, among others, has reported that “significant uncertainties remain about the extent of that involvement.”)

Military and civilian leaders in the Pentagon share the White House’s concern about Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but there is disagreement about whether a military strike is the right solution. Some Pentagon officials believe, as they have let Congress and the media know, that bombing Iran is not a viable response to the nuclear-proliferation issue, and that more diplomacy is necessary.

A Democratic senator told me that, late last year, in an off-the-record lunch meeting, Secretary of Defense Gates met with the Democratic caucus in the Senate. (Such meetings are held regularly.) Gates warned of the consequences if the Bush Administration staged a preëmptive strike on Iran, saying, as the senator recalled, “We’ll create generations of jihadists, and our grandchildren will be battling our enemies here in America.” Gates’s comments stunned the Democrats at the lunch, and another senator asked whether Gates was speaking for Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney. Gates’s answer, the senator told me, was “Let’s just say that I’m here speaking for myself.” (A spokesman for Gates confirmed that he discussed the consequences of a strike at the meeting, but would not address what he said, other than to dispute the senator’s characterization.)

The Joint Chiefs of Staff, whose chairman is Admiral Mike Mullen, were “pushing back very hard” against White House pressure to undertake a military strike against Iran, the person familiar with the Finding told me. Similarly, a Pentagon consultant who is involved in the war on terror said that “at least ten senior flag and general officers, including combatant commanders”—the four-star officers who direct military operations around the world—“have weighed in on that issue.”

The most outspoken of those officers is Admiral William Fallon, who until recently was the head of U.S. Central Command, and thus in charge of American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. In March, Fallon resigned under pressure, after giving a series of interviews stating his reservations about an armed attack on Iran. For example, late last year he told the Financial Times that the “real objective” of U.S. policy was to change the Iranians’ behavior, and that “attacking them as a means to get to that spot strikes me as being not the first choice.” ...

[bth: this is a must read in full article.]