Saturday, July 19, 2008

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Tiny Dog Has Been Barking Nonstop For 6 Years | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Tiny Dog Has Been Barking Nonstop For 6 Years | The Onion - America's Finest News Source: "
Tiny Dog Has Been Barking Nonstop For 6 Years"
Tiny Dog Has Been Barking Nonstop For 6 Years

Spending Bill Suggests Long Stay in Afghanistan -

Spending Bill Suggests Long Stay in Afghanistan - "Congress"has quietly used fiscal 2008 legislation on military construction to signal that it plans on a long-term military presence in Afghanistan

In the recently approved supplemental funding bill for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, legislators approved construction of a $62 million ammunition storage facility at Afghanistan's Bagram Air Base, where 12 planned "igloos" will support Army and Air Force needs.

"As a forward operating site, Bagram must be able to provide for a long term, steady state presence which is able to surge to meet theater contingency requirements," the Army said in requesting the money.

When he initially sought the funds last year, Adm. William J. Fallon, then commander of U.S. Central Command, described Bagram as "the centerpiece for the CENTCOM Master Plan for future access to and operations in Central Asia."

In another sign that U.S. troops will be there a long time, the Army requested, and Congress provided, $41 million for a 30-megawatt power plant at Bagram. It is capable of generating enough electricity for a town of more than 20,000 homes.

On the other hand, Congress eliminated the Army's request for $184 million to build power plants at five bases in Iraq. Those are to be among the final bases and support locations where troops, aircraft and equipment will be consolidated as the U.S. military presence is reduced.

In his testimony last year, Fallon said: "As smaller contingency operating sites are closed and forces are consolidated on contingency operations bases, the latter will need significantly more electricity." At present, the military uses diesel generators to power the bases.

But Congress "did not want to do anything in Iraq that seemed long-term, and the power plants would have taken up to two years to complete," said one Senate staff member familiar with the decision who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak for lawmakers.

The funding plan also shows preparations to shut down Iraqi military facilities. Money was approved to build landfills, at $880,000 apiece, at five forward operating bases scheduled to be closed, including ones at Fallujah and Ramadi.

"These landfills are required to ensure we meet environmental, base camp closure, and property disposal procedures," the Army said in asking for the money. ...

[bth: the shift is occurring,buried in the budget.]

YouTube - FireFight Konar Province Afghanistan

YouTube - FireFight Konar Province Afghanistan: ""

YouTube - Media Present Mortar attack on American Outpost in Kunar

YouTube - Media Present Mortar attack on American Outpost in Kunar: ""

Hard to imaging defending that space.

The New Role of Air Strike in Small Wars (SWJ Blog)

The New Role of Air Strike in Small Wars (SWJ Blog): .... "Large"occupation forces make good tactical sense, however, there are two serious problems with an outside power like the United States injecting tens of thousands of troops into a foreign country. First, foreign soldiers are often viewed with mistrust and their presence has a tendency to stir up nationalist hostility in the local population. The more visible the occupation forces, the easier it is for insurgents to use their presence to discredit the indigenous government. Thus, a large force can undermine the legitimacy of the government it is there to support. Second, large expeditionary armies are expensive and hard to maintain. As a rule, the larger the army, the shorter the period the United States can maintain it in the field. Thus, increasing the size of the force used in a counterinsurgency operation has a tendency to decrease the amount of time Congress will be willing to dedicate to the war.

There is no easy solution to these quandaries. In the Vietnam War and the British occupation of Mesopotamia, the major power occupier erred on the side of a large ground force—50 per 1000 population in South Vietnam and 60 per 1000 population in Mesopotamia. In each case, the population saw the foreigners as invaders and the major power could not kill or suppress insurgents fast enough to overcome enemy recruiting. In each of these cases the population of the occupying power tired of the war before the insurgents and withdrew its army.

The usual answer to this problem is to make the ground force more effective and less obtrusive using classical COIN techniques such as those described in the Small Wars Manual and FM 3-24. The idea is that troops using these techniques will be more effective at suppressing the enemy, because they have better relations with the local population, and more capable of helping the population build their own institutions.

The problem is that is that it is difficult to force a conventional army to adopt these methods. I have heard a number of senior U.S. Army leaders argue that in Iraq today between 5 and 15% of the Army is engaged in types of operations suggested by this approach. They point out that a large part of the U.S. force in Iraq is “tail” and that a large portion of that force is engaged in tasks that can be irritants to the indigenous population. Abu Ghraib, highly publicized rape trials, and reports of collateral damage are dramatic examples but the simple presence of large U.S. bases and heavily armed U.S. troops engaged in force protection are also problematic. While we are making progress in transforming our ground forces I have not encountered much optimism about transformation coming from Army leadership outside of the public press.

A second solution to the problem is to use airpower technology to make up for numbers. The idea is that technology might be able to allow the occupier to maintain stability with a smaller and less obtrusive force than would otherwise be necessary. This was tried by the U.S. in Vietnam, the U.S.S.R. in Afghanistan and the French in Algeria. In each case, airpower greatly increased the occupying force’s tactical capability and decreased the pressure to send more ground troops. However, far from making the force less obtrusive, the general view was that imprecise bombing was extremely obtrusive and acted to turn local opinion against the occupying force. In each of the above cases the negative effects of imprecise weapons and collateral damage appears to have more than counteracted the tactical advantages derived from greater battlefield effectiveness. These experiences form part of the basis for the truism that COIN is about boots on the ground and that airpower is counterproductive in COIN in a strike role.

When General Petraeus took command in Iraq, the new counterinsurgency doctrine he was presented with reflected these experiences and this history. The doctrine as a whole says nothing about airpower. A short appendix does, however, describe the utility of airpower in a non-kinetic role and, importantly, discourages its use in a strike role.

Then something changed. After a short time in Iraq, Petraeus began to increase air strikes. As the surge commenced, he increased the average daily weight of ordinance dropped by the Air Force by 1000% (at my request this number has been independently verified by several organizations). This increase in air strikes represents a sea change in tactics.

Why did General Petraeus defy doctrine and increasingly call on airpower in a kinetic role? The answer is that air and space technology have come a long way since Vietnam. New communication technology allows air and ground forces to work together much more effectively than in the past. The synergy that joint forces derive from this interaction vastly magnifies the power of the force. Soldiers and Marines’ situational awareness increases dramatically when married to airborne ISR and their firepower increases by orders of magnitude when combined with precision guided munitions.

The effect of this increased air-ground synergy has been to make the surge far more effective than the 20% increase in ground forces or even the increase in the number of forces employing COIN tactics would suggest. The actual tactical increase in the joint force’s ability to suppress insurgents has been enormous. Thus, although the media generally portray the surge as entirely about an increase in ground forces this characterization misses the bigger picture. One of the most important factors contributing to the success of the surge has been the integration of airpower technology into joint operations.

An effect of the increased use of airborne ISR has been to decrease collateral damage. The ability of ground troops to call on airborne ISR has increased their ability to find and track insurgents. This has the effect of making U.S. forces less conspicuous and more precise in their ability to engage the enemy without causing collateral damage. It has increased the ability of the joint force to follow the enemy back to their safe houses and to confront them at the time and place of our choosing rather than theirs. Rather than engaging them in populated city streets, we use eyes in the sky to follow them out to less populated areas and fight them there.

PGMs have had a similar effect. Unlike the imprecise bombs of the 1960s, modern bombs cause little unintentional damage. When linked with good human intelligence and eyes on the ground that can identify targets as hostile, they are a radically effective way of applying firepower without killing noncombatants or putting U.S. troops in harms way. Evidence of the unobtrusiveness of this form of military power is that the press has remained almost entirely ignorant of the tenfold increase in the amount of air launched ordinance used in the surge.

How effective is this new air-ground synergy? Since the surge began, the vast majority of enemy dead have been killed by air strikes. The vast majority of noncombatants killed have not been killed by air strikes. More importantly, insurgents have become increasingly reluctant to mass or to take action in the open. Put succinctly, the answer to why General Petraeus disregarded the new doctrine’s advice on the use of airpower in a strike role in COIN is that the doctrine got it wrong. Airpower technology has changed and General Petraeus recognized those changes and acted on them.

The new air-ground tactics have a number of strategic implications for U.S. policy toward Iraq. First, by weakening insurgent groups they are making it easier for indigenous troops to fight and win and, consequently, for the Iraqi government to get on its feet. Second, by reducing U.S. casualties they are providing the American population with strong evidence that the surge is working and reducing pressure for an early withdrawal. Together these outcomes are increasing the chances of victory in Iraq.

Until now, the new role of air strike in COIN has gone unheralded by the services and unrecognized by the media. Militaries are slow to accept change and too often inter-service rivalries interfere with mission analysis. This is a problem. Lesson that are not recognized and disseminated are often lost. Unless a lesson is ingrained in the public consciousness it may not survive till the next war. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates appears to agree and has increasingly cited ISR and air strike statistics in recent speeches....

[bth: of further note is that the sustained loitering time of air resources has been largely due to unmanned air vehicles - not big ticket air force projects that have no relevance to the wars we are in. Combining air and ground force joint effectiveness at a small tactical level can and will yield increasingly favorable results as the technologies needed to weave the two together improve. The air force needs to reshape itself or risk financial and strategic obsolescence.]

Iraqi PM backs Obama troop exit plan: report | Reuters

Iraqi PM backs Obama troop exit plan: report | Reuters: "BERLIN"(Reuters) - Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told a German magazine he supported prospective U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's proposal that U.S. troops should leave Iraq within 16 months.

In an interview with Der Spiegel released on Saturday, Maliki said he wanted U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq as soon as possible.

"U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes."

It is the first time he has backed the withdrawal timetable put forward by Obama, who is visiting Afghanistan and us set to go to Iraq as part of a tour of Europe and the Middle East.

Obama has called for a shift away from a "single-minded" focus on Iraq and wants to pull out troops within 16 months, instead adding U.S. soldiers to Afghanistan.

Asked if he supported Obama's ideas more than those of John McCain, Republican presidential hopeful, Maliki said he did not want to recommend who people should vote for.

"Whoever is thinking about the shorter term is closer to reality. Artificially extending the stay of U.S. troops would cause problems."...

[bth: so much for conditions on the ground. Its domestic politics - Iraqi and American - that define the parameters of success. Bush will announce a downsizing on cue just before the US conventions and before the Iraqi elections.]

Bomb Sniffing Scam Exposed | Danger Room from

Bomb Sniffing Scam Exposed | Danger Room from "A"purported bomb detecting device that military testers said didn't work any better than a Ouija board has finally been exposed as a stock market sham, reports ProPublica.

This news is not a surprise, but it is ironic since the very first post I ever wrote for DANGER ROOM was on this bogus bomb sniffing technology called Sniffex. Critics compared the device, which was supposed to detect explosives, to dowsing rods. Some 18 months later, the Securities and Exchange Commission has charged a number of people involved in Sniffex of using the company as a front for defrauding investors.

"The Commission's complaint filed in the Northern District of Texas alleges that from October 2004 through April 2006, defendants Mihaylov and Markov acquired control of Sniffex — and carried out a $32 million pump-and-dump fraud scheme in concert with the other defendants," the SEC says. "They acquired Sniffex in 2004 as a 'shell' company from defendant Lindberg who agreed to provide them 15 million shares of so-called 'free-trading' stock."

As ProPublica notes, the scheme worked for a while: "The stock rocketed from 80 cents a share to $6 a share in less than three months. While the stock price increased, the insiders sold. The stock plummeted and now trades at one tenth of a penny."

Acceptance of Gay People in Military Grows Dramatically

Acceptance of Gay People in Military Grows Dramatically: "Public"attitudes about gays in the military have shifted dramatically since President Bill Clinton unveiled what became his administration's "don't ask, don't tell" policy 15 years ago today.

Seventy-five percent of Americans in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll said gay people who are open about their sexual orientation should be allowed to serve in the U.S. military, up from 62 percent in early 2001 and 44 percent in 1993.

Majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents alike now believe it is acceptable for openly gay people to serve in the U.S. armed forces. Shortly after he took office in 1993, Clinton faced strong resistance to his campaign pledge to lift the military's ban on allowing gay people to enlist. At that time, 67 percent of Republicans and 75 percent of conservatives opposed the idea. A majority of independents, 56 percent, and 45 percent of Democrats also opposed changing the policy.

Today, Americans have become more supportive of allowing openly gay men and women to serve in the armed forces. Support from Republicans has doubled over the past 15 years, from 32 to 64 percent. More than eight in 10 Democrats and more than three-quarters of independents now support the idea, as did nearly two-thirds of self-described conservatives.

Changing attitudes on the issue parallel broader swings in public views about homosexuality. In their recent review of 20 years of polling data, the Pew Research Center reported "a major shift away from highly negative attitudes toward gays and support for punitive actions against gays." In the 2007 Pew data, for example, 28 percent said local school boards should have the right to fire teachers known to be gay; that was down sharply from the 51 percent who said so in 1987.

In the new Post-ABC poll, military veterans are less apt than others to say gay people should be allowed in the military. While 71 percent of veterans said gay people who do not declare themselves as such should be allowed to serve, that number drops sharply, to 50 percent, for those who are open about their sexuality. Non-veterans, by contrast, are as likely to support those who "tell" as those who do not.

Fifty-seven percent of white evangelical Protestants now support allowing openly gay service members in the military, compared with 82 percent of white Catholics and 80 percent of those with no declared religious affiliation. Three-quarters of both married and single people support the idea, both significantly higher than in 1993.

Across all three periodic Post-ABC surveys on the issue, women have been more apt than men to support gays in the military. Today, more than eight in 10 women support allowing openly gay soldiers, compared with nearly two-thirds of men. Fifteen years ago, half of women supported this stance; nearly two-thirds of men opposed it.

Furthermore, large majorities across age and education categories now support allowing openly gay individuals to serve in the military.

The Post-ABC poll was conducted by telephone July 10 to 13, among a random national sample of 1,119 adults. The results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points. Error margins are larger for subgroups

[bth: most of the western world including Israel allow declared homosexuals into their ranks. Open declarations of sexual preference in an open society prevents blackmail and other justifications that once were advanced. Also frankly I'd rather have hundreds of Arabic translators that are American and gay than not have translators. In a world where Muslims can justify killing homosexuals and often do in Iraq, I can't think of a more loyal group of people to endorse progressive change in the middle east.... now some reporter is going to ask Obama and McCain and the right wingers are going to have a homophobic field day before an election - a wedge issue as Rove calls it. Odd thing is, looking at these polling numbers, the public changed.]

600 U.S. Taliban? Editorials, Political Cartoons, and Polls from Investor's Business Daily -- 600 U.S. Taliban?: "War"On Terror: After 9/11, Pakistan promised to close its radical madrassas as part of anti-terror reforms. Now we learn they're not only still open, but also recruiting and brainwashing American boys.

All told, 600 American children are being indoctrinated into jihad in 22 madrassas across Pakistan. A U.S. filmmaker stumbled on them while tracing the path of the London suicide bombers. He discovered they attended the same radical Islamic schools. A congressional delegation has confirmed his findings.

One particularly radical school in Karachi freely displays a banner at its main gate urging Muslims to join the Taliban. At least 80 Americans are enrolled at Jamia Binoria, an international school. Many of its graduates joined the Taliban and became commanders.

Another jihadist seminary in Pakistan connected to Jamia Binoria brainwashed John Walker Lindh, the American Taliban now serving time for attacking U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.

The mullahs who run these terrorist hatcheries come to America to recruit boys, many of them from Lindh's home state of California. Jamia Binoria's headmaster, Mufti Mohammad Naeem, travels to the U.S. each year during Ramadan to meet with Muslim parents — like a college football coach recruiting prospects.

They hope Naeem will teach their kids to memorize the Quran, a high honor in Islam, so the whole family can get into Paradise. They also want them protected against "corrupting" Western influences.

The pupils, some as young as 8, spend years locked inside these cults reciting the Muslim holy book for hours on end. They learn "Islam, only Islam," the mufti says.

An English translation of his school's mission statement reveals its goal is to send Western students back to their home countries to spread extremism. "The outgoing scholars of the Jamia are fighting a crusade against infidels and pagans," Naeem states.

Astonishingly, the U.S. has the most enrollees at the nine madrassas run by Jamia Binoria of any country outside Pakistan.

The outrage raises a number of questions, including:

Why has Naeem's U.S. visa been renewed each year? For that matter, why isn't he on the no-fly list? Why aren't we demanding Islamabad stop renewing the visas of American students to his madrassas? What share, if any, of the billions in U.S. aid to Islamabad is used to support these madrassas? Who is monitoring these radicalized graduates as they return to America to preach or partake in jihad?

Pakistan's prime minister is visiting Washington on Monday. President Bush should raise these issues near the top of their meeting.

[bth:damned good question. What is going on here and why is't Naeem on a no fly list?]

Friday, July 18, 2008

No free ride for Europe, says top Barack Obama aide - Telegraph

No free ride for Europe, says top Barack Obama aide - Telegraph

Blog: Nukes & Spooks - Baghdad at Night

Blog: Nukes & Spooks: "Greetings"from Baghdad. Before I am became McClatchy’s Pentagon correspondent and honored member of the Nukes and Spooks trifecta, I was our Baghdad bureau chief. I was here at the height of the violence, when we woke up everyday to bombings, when we didn’t bat an eye at 70 bodies in the street, when a good week meant that none of our friends or sources had been killed.

It was an exhausting experience; everyday felt like a roll of the dice. And yet it came to define normal for us. Would the staff survive the illegal checkpoints, the ethnic cleansing of their streets or an unannounced raid by police forces with inscrutable motives? Everyday, I mentally prepared myself for news that one of our staffers had been killed on the way to work or out on a story. By the end of my tenure, I could not bring myself to send them anywhere, frightened to push the odds.

Once, after a particularly violent day, I thought to myself, “One day, I will look back at this time and think how crazy we all are to stay here.”

Today, that day came.

It happened as we drove around Baghdad to see how things changed. We went to neighborhoods I never thought I would see again, let alone at night. Street lights illuminated the shopping districts and bustling customers. People were hanging out of their cars to celebrate weddings. Couples were enjoying dinner, sitting next to windows, without the fear of a car bomb. It was so ordinary and yet almost magical.

Now, I don’t want to overstate where things are. Most of the city is silent and dark again by 9 p.m. and throughout there were blast walls and barriers to keep people from parking. And no one is sure how long this will last. But for the first time in years, Baghdad felt almost like a normal city to me.

Everywhere we went, I drove by places where two years ago, we had just missed an IED or car bomb or some other unspeakable violence, places where I almost didn’t make it, indeed where friends and sources didn't make it. Today those places are safe. I saw the madness we were once living under. Why did I stay? What was I thinking?

I think back then it was inconceivable that there would ever be any other reality. Had I know then that things could be like this, maybe I would have seen the insanity of what we were living more clearly.

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Congratulations on being alive.
Thank you for this short article.
In a real way this says more about then and now than a 3,000 word piece.

Funds sought for war memorial - Bedford, MA - Bedford Minuteman

Funds sought for war memorial - Bedford, MA - Bedford Minuteman: "Terry"Reed, John Hart and Travis Desiato may never walk the grounds at Bedford High School again, but the three former graduates, who died fighting for their country, will always be remembered for their heroic efforts.
To honor the three fallen soldiers, the Bedford High School Veterans Memorial Committee is currently trying to raise money to erect a memorial in front of the school. The goal is to garner enough funds by September to be able to hold a special ceremony on Bedford Day.

The memorial plaza, part of the ongoing BHS expansion and renovation, is planned for an area incorporating the current flagpole along the access road of the high school complex. The design will include individual tributes to Reed, Class of 1963, a casualty of the Vietnam Conflict; Hart, Class of 2002, and Desiato, Class of 2003, who both lost their lives in Iraq.

As captains of the football team and teammates of Desiato, Tim Brady and Greg Hughes are spearheading the fundraising.

“We are hoping to have this done in the fall, but right now we don’t have enough money,” said Brady. “This is a great thing to have for the town, friends, family and the school. Hopefully it will inspire more people to join the service and serve our country.”

So far, Brady and Hughes have raised $1,500 through “Facebook” on the Internet and got another $1,000 donated through the 2003 Class Fund. The two are hoping to raise $5,000, this along with the donations received by the committee, will require them to come up with $50,000 to $70,00 to make the project a success.

Brady and Hughes got the opportunity to play on both the gridiron and baseball diamond with Desiato.

“Travis was Bedford football 100 percent,” said Hughes. “He was always the first one to the field and the last one to leave. If anyone deserves a team behind him to make something like this possible, it is Travis. I just want to do anything I can to help make sure that he is remembered properly.”

If anyone is willing to help with this cause, donations may be made in any amount to the BHS Fallen Veterans Memorial, c/o Janet Brady, Bedford High School, 9 Mudge Way, Bedford, MA 01730.

“With all the construction being done, this is a nice time to put more of a personal touch on the building with something like this to remember these three heroes,” said Brady. “There will be a flagpole and memorial plaques around it. There will also be room for any other plaques if fellow Bedford High graduates pass away in the future fighting for their country.”
Minstrel Boy
SWJ Blog

Pakistani Bear Market Has Investors Raging in the Streets -

Pakistani Bear Market Has Investors Raging in the Streets - "ISLAMABAD", Pakistan — Angry investors stormed out of the Karachi Stock Exchange on Thursday, hurling stones and planters at the building in protest over slumping share prices.

The benchmark index fell for the 15th consecutive trading day, the worst losing run in at least 18 years. Angry investors also protested in Lahore and Islamabad, Pakistani newspapers reported.

“I have lost my life savings in the last 15 days, and no one in the government or regulators came to help us,” said Imran Inayat, 45, a protester and a former broker in Karachi, Bloomberg News reported. He said his loss was $4,175.

Much of the protesters’ anger was directed at the new government, which is perceived as unable to fix an ailing economy plagued by runaway inflation and large budget and trade deficits.

The benchmark index on the Karachi Stock Exchange, the nation’s biggest, declined by nearly 3 percent on Thursday. Investors demanded a temporary halt to trading. When the exchange management refused to stop trading, investors went on a rampage. The index has dropped by 36 percent since reaching a record high in April.

Some of the fury was also directed at the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, which this week removed a 1 percent daily limit on price declines. The restriction was aimed at halting a slide that has wiped out $30 billion in companies’ combined market value over three months.

“There has been some level of mismanagement by the authorities,” said Habib-ur-Rehman, a manager at Atlas Asset Management Ltd. in Karachi, according to Bloomberg. “This may be due to their misperception that they can prevent the market from falling. Investors have to learn to bear losses as they do gains.”

Volume at the stock exchange fell to the lowest in a decade. In response, regulators eased curbs on trading, including a ban on short-selling. Foreign investors have fled the exchange, according to data compiled by the central bank.

Much of the investor unease stems from the inability of the new civilian government, in power since late March, to stem the economic crisis.

Shortages of wheat, electricity and gasoline have affected all sectors of society. Blackouts have been a fixture of daily life for six months. Long lines are common at stores selling wheat, the staple food, at subsidized prices.

The government has been riven by rivalries between the leader of the major political party, Asif Ali Zardari, and the head of the coalition’s junior partner, Nawaz Sharif, over how to restore 60 judges dismissed last year by President Pervez Musharraf.

A survey of Pakistanis released Thursday by the International Republican Institute in Washington showed widespread discontent with the economy. The survey, in which 3,484 Pakistanis were interviewed between June 1 and 15, showed that 92 percent of respondents saw shortages of wheat, natural gas and electricity as a “serious problem.”

In addition, 71 percent of respondents said that inflation was a major issue, compared with only 55 percent in a similar survey in January. The survey’s margin of sampling error was plus or minus 1.7 percentage points.

[bth: hello. Further evidence of big problems in Pakistan.]

Electrical Risks at Bases in Iraq Worse Than Previously Said -

Electrical Risks at Bases in Iraq Worse Than Previously Said - "WASHINGTON"— Shoddy electrical work by private contractors on United States military bases in Iraq is widespread and dangerous, causing more deaths and injuries from fires and shocks than the Pentagon has acknowledged, according to internal Army documents

During just one six-month period — August 2006 through January 2007 — at least 283 electrical fires destroyed or damaged American military facilities in Iraq, including the military’s largest dining hall in the country, documents obtained by The New York Times show. Two soldiers died in an electrical fire at their base near Tikrit in 2006, the records note, while another was injured while jumping from a burning guard tower in May 2007.

And while the Pentagon has previously reported that 13 Americans have been electrocuted in Iraq, many more have been injured, some seriously, by shocks, according to the documents. A log compiled earlier this year at one building complex in Baghdad disclosed that soldiers complained of receiving electrical shocks in their living quarters on an almost daily basis.

Electrical problems were the most urgent noncombat safety hazard for soldiers in Iraq, according to an Army survey issued in February 2007. It noted “a safety threat theaterwide created by the poor-quality electrical fixtures procured and installed, sometimes incorrectly, thus resulting in a significant number of fires.”

The Army report said KBR, the Houston-based company that is responsible for providing basic services for American troops in Iraq, including housing, did its own study and found a “systemic problem” with electrical work.

But the Pentagon did little to address the issue until a Green Beret, Staff Sgt. Ryan D. Maseth, was electrocuted in January while showering. His death, caused by poor electrical grounding, drew the attention of lawmakers and Pentagon leaders after his family pushed for answers. Congress and the Pentagon’s inspector general have begun investigations, and this month senior Army officials ordered electrical inspections of all buildings in Iraq maintained by KBR.

“We consider this to be a very serious issue,” Chris Isleib, a Pentagon spokesman, said Thursday in an e-mail message, while declining to comment on the findings in the Army documents.

Heather Browne, a KBR spokeswoman, would not comment about a company safety study or the reports of electrical fires or shocks, but she said KBR had found no evidence of a link between its work and the electrocutions. She added, “KBR’s commitment to the safety of all employees and those the company serves remains unwavering.”

In public statements, Pentagon officials have not addressed the scope of the hazards, instead mostly focusing on the circumstances surrounding the death of Sergeant Maseth, who lived near Pittsburgh.

But the internal documents, including dozens of memos, e-mail messages and reports from the Army, the Defense Contract Management Agency and other agencies, show that electrical problems were widely recognized as a major safety threat among Pentagon contracting experts. It is impossible to determine the exact number of the resulting deaths and injuries because no single document tallies them up. (The records were compiled for Congressional and Pentagon investigators and obtained independently by The Times.)

The 2007 safety survey was ordered by the top official in Iraq for the Defense Contract Management Agency, which oversees contractors, after the October 2006 electrical fire that killed two soldiers near Tikrit. Paul Dickinson, a Pentagon safety specialist who wrote the report, confirmed its findings, but did not elaborate.

Senior Pentagon officials appear not to have responded to the survey until this May, after Congressional investigators had begun to ask questions. Then they argued that its findings were irrelevant to Sergeant Maseth’s electrocution.

In a memo dated May 26, 2008, a top official of the Defense Contract Management Agency stated that “there is no direct or causal connection” between the problems identified in the survey and those at the Baghdad compound where Sergeant Maseth died

But in a sworn statement, apparently prepared for an investigation of Sergeant Maseth’s death by the Army’s Criminal Investigative Division, a Pentagon contracting official described how both military and KBR officials were aware of the growing danger from poor electrical work....

[bth: no one will be held to account as usual. KBR and the army authorities that could have prevented these problems will skate. In fact the only reason the problem will be addressed at all is because Gold Star Families took action and got Congress to investigate the matter. Otherwise, it would all be pushed under the rug and the electricutions would continue. You know, we are 5 years into this war. There is no excuse for this kind of problem at this late date.] - Al Qaeda Recruits Foreign Jihadi Fighters for Afghan War - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News - Al Qaeda Recruits Foreign Jihadi Fighters for Afghan War - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News: "PESHAWAR"Pakistan — Afghanistan has been drawing a fresh influx of jihadi fighters from Turkey, Central Asia, Chechnya and the Middle East, one more sign that Al Qaeda is regrouping on what is fast becoming the most active front of the war on terror groups.

More foreigners are infiltrating Afghanistan because of a recruitment drive by Al Qaeda as well as a burgeoning insurgency that has made movement easier across the border from Pakistan, U.S. officials, militants and experts say. For the past two months, Afghanistan has overtaken Iraq in deaths of U.S. and allied troops, and nine American soldiers were killed at a remote base in Kunar province Sunday in the deadliest attack in years.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned during a visit to Kabul this month about an increase in foreign fighters crossing into Afghanistan from Pakistan, where a new government is trying to negotiate with militants.

Two U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information, told The Associated Press that the U.S. is closely monitoring the flow of foreign fighters into both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Jihadist Web sites from Chechnya to Turkey to the Arab world featured recruitment ads as early as 2007 calling on the "Lions of Islam" to fight in Afghanistan, said Brian Glyn Williams, associate professor of Islamic history at the University of Massachusetts. Williams has tracked the movement of jihadis for the U.S. military's Combating Terrorism Center at West Point....

Four Madrid bomb convicts cleared

BBC NEWS | Europe | Four Madrid bomb convicts cleared: "Spain's"Supreme Court has overturned the convictions of four people found guilty of involvement in the 2004 Madrid train bombings.

The four were among 21 people convicted last year over the attacks, which killed 191 people.

The court also upheld the acquittal of an Egyptian suspected of masterminding the attacks, because he had already been convicted of the offence in Italy.

However it convicted and jailed one of those originally found not guilty.

The Spanish man, who was sentenced to four years in prison, had earlier been cleared of helping to supply the explosives used in the Madrid attacks. ...

With findings already found, Obama's fact-finding trip can relax | Top of the Ticket | Los Angeles Times

With findings already found, Obama's fact-finding trip can relax | Top of the Ticket | Los Angeles Times: "A"couple of seemingly unrelated political developments struck the Ticket early this morning.

First of all, it was unusually thoughtful of Sen. Barack Obama to give his big foreign policy speech before his big foreign policy trip and announce the results of his findings in advance of the actual fact-finding junket to the Middle East and Europe.

There are a lot of things for average Americans to be doing in mid-summer in the United States. And worrying over exactly what the freshman senator heard from U.S., military commanders in Iraq about the actual situation on the ground should not be high on the list.

So now that we know he's going to stick to his 16-month end-the-war-no-matter-what pullout, not just the crowd but all of us can put on our own flip-flops and start focusing on the upcoming NFL roster cuts.

No, he's never been to Afghanistan, but Obama already knows it is the true central front in the war on al-Qaeda. Which is equally good.

And because the results of Obama's trip are already known and because Obama's staff has been practically begging them, all three network anchors are going to traipse along and seek three non-exclusive exclusive interviews along the route, as will top reporters for print media.

A whole planeload apparently. In marked contrast to the limited press coverage afforded the three foreign trips of Republican Sen. John McCain this year. But that probably has to do with something....

Think Progress » Ashcroft: Waterboarding ‘Consistently’ Seen As Legal, Refuses To Say Use On U.S. Troops Is ‘Unacceptable’

Think Progress » Ashcroft: Waterboarding ‘Consistently’ Seen As Legal, Refuses To Say Use On U.S. Troops Is ‘Unacceptable’: "During"a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee today, former Attorney General John Ashcroft falsely claimed that waterboarding has “consistently” been defined as “not torture” and refused to agree that the use of enhanced interrogation techniques — including waterboarding — on captured U.S. soldiers is “unacceptable” or “criminal.”

REP. MAXINE WATERS: Do you think that if these techniques were used on American soldiers that they would be totally unacceptable and even criminal? […]

ASHCROFT: My job, as Attorney General, was to try and elicit from the experts and the best people in the Department definitions that comported with the statues enacted by the Congress and the Constitution of the United States. And those statutes have consistently been interpreted so as to say, by the definitions that, waterboarding, as described in the CIA’s request, is not torture....

In fact, waterboarding “has been prosecuted in U.S. courts since the late 1800s and was regarded by every U.S. administration before this one as torture.”

Further, Ashcroft’s non-answer with regard to the torture of captured American service men and women is reminiscent of State Department Legal Adviser John Bellinger’s refusal to condemn “the use of water boarding on an American national by a foreign intelligence service.” His comments are also in line with the sentiments of Guantanamo Bay’s legal adviser, Brigadier General Thomas W. Hartmann, who refused to answer whether or not the use of waterboarding by Iranians on U.S. service men and women would constitute torture.

In the words of former JAG officer Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Williams, Ashcroft and his fellow travelers have “sold all the soldiers and sailors at risk of capture and subsequent torture down the river.”


WATERS: Based on all of that information, those descriptions, your understandings, and the conclusions, if in fact these pactices were applied to American soldiers do you think that conclusion would be a good one or do you think that if these techniques were used on American soldiers that they would be totally unacceptable and even criminal?

ASHCROFT: My subscription to the memos and my belief that the law provides the basis for these memos persisted even in the presence of my son serving two tours of duty overseas in the Gulf area as a member of our armed forces. I know that his training included a number of activities that I think would be very, very difficult for any of us to sustain, including having to deal with evil chemistry and the like.

But my job, as Attorney General, was to try and elicit from the experts and the best people in the Department definitions that comported with the statues enacted by the Congress and the Constitution of the United States. And those statutes have consistently been interpreted so as to say, by the definitions, that waterboarding, as described in the CIA’s request, is not torture.

Terrorism Funds May Let Brass Fly in Style -

Terrorism Funds May Let Brass Fly in Style - "The"Air Force's top leadership sought for three years to spend counterterrorism funds on "comfort capsules" to be installed on military planes that ferry senior officers and civilian leaders around the world, with at least four top generals involved in design details such as the color of the capsules' carpet and leather chairs, according to internal e-mails and budget documents.

Production of the first capsule -- consisting of two sealed rooms that can fit into the fuselage of a large military aircraft -- has already begun.

Air Force officials say the government needs the new capsules to ensure that leaders can talk, work and rest comfortably in the air. But the top brass's preoccupation with creating new luxury in wartime has alienated lower-ranking Air Force officers familiar with the effort, as well as congressional staff members and a nonprofit group that calls the program a waste of money.

Air Force documents spell out how each of the capsules is to be "aesthetically pleasing and furnished to reflect the rank of the senior leaders using the capsule," with beds, a couch, a table, a 37-inch flat-screen monitor with stereo speakers, and a full-length mirror.

The effort has been slowed, however, by congressional resistance to using counterterrorism funds for the project and by lengthy internal deliberations about a series of demands for modifications by Air Force generals. One request was that the color of the leather for the seats and seat belts in the mobile pallets be changed from brown to Air Force blue and that seat pockets be added; another was that the color of the table's wood be darkened.

Changing the seat color and pockets alone was estimated in a March 12 internal document to cost at least $68,240.

In all, for the past three years the service has asked to divert $16.2 million to the effort from what the military calls the GWOT, or global war on terrorism. Congress has twice told the service that it cannot, including an August 2007 letter from Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) to the Pentagon ordering that the money be spent on a "higher priority" need.

Officials say the Air Force nonetheless decided last year to take $331,000 from counterterrorism funds to cover a cost overrun, partly stemming from the design changes, although a senior officer said yesterday in response to inquiries that it will reverse that decision.

The internal Air Force e-mails, provided to The Washington Post by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), a nonprofit Washington group, and independently authenticated, make it clear that lower-ranking officers involved in the project have been pressured to create what one described as "world class" accommodations exceeding the standards of a regular business-class flight.

"I was asked by Gen. [Robert H.] McMahon what it would take to make the [capsule] . . . a 'world class' piece of equipment," an officer at the service's Air Mobility Command said in a March 2007 e-mail to a colleague, referring to the mobility command's top officer then. "He said he wanted an assurance . . . that we would be getting a world class item this week."

Air Force officials say the program dates from a 2006 decision by Air Force Gen. Duncan J. McNabb that existing seats on transport planes, including some that match those on commercial airliners, may be fine for airmen and troops but inadequate for the top brass. McNabb was then the Air Mobility commander; he is now the Air Force's vice chief of staff, and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates nominated him in June to become head of the military's Transportation Command.

In a letter of complaint sent yesterday to Gates, POGO asserted that the new capsules will provide no special communications or work capabilities beyond those already available for top officials on Air Force transport aircraft. It is "a gross misuse of millions of taxpayer dollars that could otherwise be used to train and equip soldiers," wrote Danielle Brian, the group's executive director.

She added that "in a time of war, it is critical for senior officials to visibly prioritize the needs of the men and women on the frontline." The Air Force program, she said, represents an "egregious failure of leadership."

A military officer familiar with the program, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about it, likewise said that its extravagance has provoked widespread contempt among lower-ranking Air Force personnel. "This whole program is an embarrassment," the officer said, particularly because transport seating for troops en route to the battlefield is in his view generally shoddy. ...

[bth: unbelievable. There is plenty of equipment that needs to be purchased that can save lives in the counter terrorism world. Better bomb suits would be one. Improved detection equipment another. This is indicative of why the Air Force is falling apart as a service. Its a leadership problem at the top.]

War and Piece: on Iran and a two track policy

War and Piece:: "A"colleague writes, "Everyone seems to have missed the obvious: The State Department's third man is going to [talk with] Iran to send oil prices down. I'm sure Paulson told Bush this was the only way to stop a panic." Almost certainly part of it. (And is it working?)

Indeed, a US official involved with Iran policy wrote me a couple weeks back that high oil prices had severely crimped their policy: "It’s clear that the two-track policy put in place a number of years ago (incentives vs. sanctions) has been overtaken somewhat by the unforeseeable and dramatic rise in oil prices. Iran’s GDP has doubled, and they are more isolated from the effects of economic sanctions. At the same time the Iranians have made significant progress on enrichment. There are many, many more economic sanctions in the quiver, but we have carefully resisted imposing economic sanctions, unilaterally or multilaterally, that would significantly affect the Iranian people. Our goal remains an Iran without nuclear weapons, and our strategy remains the two-track approach. In light of the rise in oil prices and Iran’s enrichment achievements, the interim objectives that the two-track strategy should be aiming to achieve is something everyone is looking at, and there is no question that there is a way forward. ..."

[bth: skyrocketing oil prices DOUBLED the Iranian GDP with sanctions in place. Are the sanctions really working in this environment? Their GDP doubled. What has ours done?]

Oil prices drop for third straight day to below $130 a barrel - Los Angeles Times

Oil prices drop for third straight day to below $130 a barrel - Los Angeles Times:... "The"psychology is changing," said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research, a Winchester, Mass.-based consulting firm. "What we're seeing right now is people starting to think that the weak economy is going to start overriding concerns about supply."

Consumption of gasoline and many other oil byproducts has subsided, putting inventories at unusually high levels for the middle of the U.S. driving season. That is now overriding worries about the worldwide tightness in oil supplies, new problems with Nigerian crude production and a host of geopolitical wild cards, Lynch and others said.

Some, however, warned that oil's slide was at least partly triggered by a wave of selling on the last day of trading for the August futures contract. They also noted that a hurricane or new bellicose talk between the U.S. and Iran could shove economic worries to the back burner and reignite oil's climb.

Light, sweet crude for August delivery fell $5.31, or 4%, to $129.29 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Thursday's close put the price of crude 12% lower -- or nearly $18 less -- than last week's record high of $147.27 a barrel and the lowest since June 5.

The downward dash also hit other energy futures, such as natural gas, which fell more than 7% after a government report showed a larger-than-expected increase in U.S. inventories. Oil stocks, which have generated hefty returns during the crude price surge, also tumbled Thursday, with an index of 13 major energy stocks falling about 1%....

[bth: for all the talk of shortages of supply, has anyone seen a single gas line like the 1970s? I haven't. This speculative bubble is likely to collapse, probably not to old levels but down substantially about the time of the Chinese olympics.]

Wednesday, July 16, 2008 Physician brings home lessons learned in battle - Wed, Jul 16, 2008 Physician brings home lessons learned in battle - Wed, Jul 16, 2008: "For"a while this month, Dr. Walter Franz III will don his stethoscope as a family physician at Rochester's Mayo Clinic, his 30th anniversary there.

He returned just a month ago from an Army Reserves deployment to Al Asad, Iraq.

"What we're learning on the battlefield, we're trying to bring back to the bedside to make things better," Franz told more than 100 civilian nurses and other health providers Tuesday during Nursing Practice Grand Rounds at the clinic.

Talking politics isn't allowed.

"So I'll leave it to you in November. You vote your conscience and your knowledge about your candidates and we'll follow suit," he said. Franz, a colonel, will soon return to Iraq in November in his role as a military doctor, this time as commander of the 945th Forward Surgical team.

"It'll be a great honor," Franz said. "It's basically a Minnesota unit."

In Iraq, all injured get treated, he said, including U.S. soldiers, insurgents and Iraqi civilians.

"Some Iraqis don't want us there. But we also have Iraqis who sacrifice everything to help us," he said.

Franz, who has served in Iraq twice, described what's been learned so far in one of the largest-ever scientific studies of battlefield trauma. In the old days, soldiers would grab whatever was nearby, such as a belt, for a tourniquet to stop bleeding.

"But what if you had to continue to fight and put a tourniquet on yourself?," Franz asked. Ninety percent of war injuries occur far from care.

So each soldier now carries a tourniquet that can be put on single-handed.

The percentage of soldiers killed in action has fallen from previous wars. One new technique uses a hemophilia medicine.

"It almost miraculously stops bleeding and it gains those miraculous minutes, that magic time, to get them into the operating room," Franz said.

In Iraq, the OR is kept at 108 degrees. Why? It prevents hypothermia, low body temperature that raises stress on the body. "If all of us sweat in the OR, it's for good reason," Franz said.

Many new things are being learned about pain control as well, he said.

Still, not everyone can be saved. The man who replaced him after his first tour of duty was killed in action.

Yet combat hospitals want to offer reassurance. One room has a U.S. flag for a ceiling. When injured soldiers awaken disoriented, they know it's friendly territory.

The same respect is given to soldiers killed in action. Franz had his audience stand to honor the dead as the image of a soldier's body draped in a flag crossed the screen. While the audience looked at the image, he silently saluted the fallen.

What can Americans do to help?

Talk to your state and federal representatives about the military surge, Franz said. Then ask, "How about looking at a humanitarian surge?," he said, suggesting a Marshall plan is needed for Iraq like the one designed to help Europe after World War II.

"My naive understanding of security is when people have something that they treasure, they protect it and they don't want it to go away," he said.

His wife Dinah said Americans can also help soldiers' family members by offering to visit.

"I've had people shovel my sidewalk that I have no idea who did it," she said. "Those kind of random acts of kindness are nice."

IAVA - Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America - Video: Update from Scott Winkler

NATO forces abandon Afghan outpost after deadly attack

The Raw Story | NATO forces abandon Afghan outpost after deadly attack: "NATO"said Wednesday it had abandoned an Afghan outpost days after it was stormed by militants who killed nine US soldiers.

The soldiers pulled out of the outpost in Wanat village in northeastern Kunar province on Tuesday, Afghan officials said.

"We are confirming that we have vacated our combat outpost at Wanat," NATO spokesman in Afghanistan, Mark Laity, told AFP.

"All these kinds of outposts are temporary. They serve a purpose and when we consider appropriate we will move them," he said.

The area has since been taken over by Taliban militants, an Afghan official said.

Fifteen US and four Afghan soldiers were wounded in Sunday's fighting, in which militants breached the outpost.

The attack was one of the deadliest involving international forces, who arrived in Afghanistan after a US-led invasion that drove the Al-Qaeda-linked Taliban from government in late 2001.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) sent troop reinforcements and war planes to the area to repel the attack. The defence ministry said 40 rebels were killed in the fighting, while another seven were slain in subsequent clashes.

Laity said ISAF would "be maintaining a strong presence in that area through patrolling and other means" after leaving the outpost.

He could not confirm claims by a government official that the withdrawal had caused Afghan police to lose control over the adjoining Waant-Waygal district in Nuristan province.

"When ISAF withdrew yesterday, we couldn't stand up against the Taliban," said Omar Sami Taza, secretary for the Nuristan governor.

"We pulled back and the district fell into the Taliban's hand. We will send more troops from the centre to recapture it."

The Taliban, waging an insurgency against the government of President Hamid Karzai, claimed to have control of the area.

The district police chief, Hazarat Ali, who was not in the area, could not say if the district had fallen to the Taliban.

Ali and the district chief were briefly detained on suspicion of assisting the rebels attack on Sunday.

Taliban-linked militants regularly try to capture remote districts in their bid to overthrow the government. They are said to control a few areas in the volatile south.

[bth: amazing. good men died for this position. was it ill chosen from the get-go or now simply not worth fighting for? I really feel for the family members of the 173rd on this. It all hits so close to home.]

CNN reporter criticizes TSA, finds self on terror watch list

The Raw Story | CNN reporter criticizes TSA, finds self on terror watch list: "The"post-9/11 airline watch list that is supposed to keep terrorists off of airplanes has swelled to more than 1 million names, including at least one investigative reporter who had been critical of the Transportation Security Agency, which maintains the watch list.

CNN's Drew Griffin reported on the bloating of the watch list, which an ACLU count pegged at 1,001,308 names Wednesday afternoon. Griffin's is one of those names, he says.

"Coincidentally, this all began in May, shortly after I began a series of investigative reports critical of the TSA. Eleven flights now since May 19. On different airlines, my name pops up forcing me to go to the counter, show my identification, sometimes the agent has to make a call before I get my ticket," Griffin reported. "What does the TSA say? Nothing, at least nothing on camera. Over the phone a public affairs worker told me again I'm not on the watch list, and don't even think that someone in the TSA or anyone else is trying to get even."

The TSA, which is a part of the Department of Homeland Security, said Griffin's name wasn't even on the watch list, and the agency blamed the airlines for the delays the reporter experienced. The airlines, on the other hand, said they were simply following a list provided by TSA.

While it wouldn't be much of a stretch for plenty of people to believe the TSA would exercise its revenge via watch-list meddling, an agency spokesman insists that just isn't the case.

"So if there's any thought or shadow of a thought that TSA somehow put you on a watch list because of your reporting," spokesman Christopher White said, "it is absolutely fabricated."...

Is NATO readying to strike northwest Pakistan?

Is NATO readying to strike northwest Pakistan?: "After"deploying troops across the Kurram Agency along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) has sent soldiers to the North Waziristan Agency (NWA), raising fears of a strike into the tribal areas in Pakistan's northwest.

Quoting official and tribal sources in NWA, The News said Wednesday that NATO troops started arriving near the border areas Monday night.

"Some of them had been brought in choppers and others by armoured personnel carriers. The troops had also shifted heavy arms and ammunition, including tanks, heavy machine guns and artillery to the border," Haji Yaqub, a resident of the border town of Ghulam Khan, said.

The NATO troops have been deployed near the border towns of Ghulam Khan, Saidgai, Shawal and Mir Safar.

"They started setting up bunkers very close to the border while gunship helicopters are continuously hovering over the border," said Roohullah, a resident of the border town of Saidgai.

He said he had never before seen such a large deployment of foreign troops near the border.

"For us, it's unusual as they are on the zero point," Roohullah said, adding that the foreign troops had not crossed the border thus far.

The News quoted its sources as saying NATO troops had dug trenches at Mughalgai near Zhawar, the training camp of Afghan Mujahideen commander Maulvi Jalaluddin Haqqani, in Khost near Pakistan's Saidgai town.

Another bunker was established at Gurbaz near Tarkhobi area of Khost, close to Pakistan's Ghulam Khan town. Trenches were also dug close to Mir Safar and Shawal towns of NWA.

NATO forces had planned to set up four new military camps along the border in the Taliban-dominated provinces of Khost and Paktika in Afghanistan, The News quoted its sources as saying.

"They planned establishing four new military camps along the border and this latest deployment of the foreign troops was first step of the future planning," the sources added.

Meanwhile, Pakistani Taliban spokesperson Maulvi Omar has said Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's recent statements had provided the US-led NATO forces with an opportunity to deploy near the tribal areas.

Omar said: "When a responsible person like the prime minister has himself said that foreign militants were hiding in Pakistani tribal areas and could cause another 9/11 like disaster, then who will stop American forces from invading the country?"vm/sh/mj

[bth: pay attention folks. things, they are a changing.]

Malaysia braced for riots after sodomy arrest of Anwar Ibrahim, opposition leader - Times Online

Malaysia braced for riots after sodomy arrest of Anwar Ibrahim, opposition leader - Times Online: "The"Malaysian authorities were braced for mass protests today after the arrest of Anwar Ibrahim, the opposition leader, for allegedly sodomising a male acquaintance – the same charge that provoked riots when it was first made ten years ago.

Road blocks were set up and water cannons and helicopters were mobilised around the police station in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, where Mr Anwar was taken after being arrested today.

A statement posted on a website run by his office said: “Anwar Ibrahim … calls upon his supporters and the people of Malaysia to remain calm and to reject any attempts at provocation, which will give a pretext for an emergency situation to be declared.”

A warrant for the arrest of Mr Anwar the leader of the People’s Justice Party (PKR), was issued yesterday, and he was making his way to the police station voluntarily when a convoy of vehicles seized him in front of his house.

As he entered the neighbourhood of his home, a contingent of ten police cars, half unmarked and half-patrol, forced the two cars in Anwar Ibrahim’s entourage to stop,” the New Straits Times newspaper reported on its website.

“There was a contingent of 20 balaclava-clad masked commandos who accosted him, reminiscent of the forces sent to arrest [him] at his home in September 1998.”

Three weeks ago, a 23-year-old aide to Mr Anwar filed a police report alleging that he had been forcibly sodomised by him in an apartment in Kuala Lumpur. Mr Anwar indignantly denied the claim, but briefly took refuge in the Turkish Embassy because of death threats which he reportedly received after news emerged of the allegations.

Homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia and, in 1999, Mr Anwar was sentenced to nine years in prison after being convicted of sex with his male driver. He always insisted that the charge was trumped up for political reasons by the ruling United Malay National Organisation (Umno), because of the challenge which Mr Anwar, the deputy prime minister, was planning against his boss, the then prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad.

In 2004, the conviction was overturned by Malaysia’s top court, although Mr Anwar, who was also convicted of corruption, was barred from standing for parliament until April this year. In March, however, the opposition coalition, of which he is de facto leader, achieved its greatest ever electoral success, coming close to toppling Umno and drastically undermining the leadership of the current prime minister, Abdullah Badawi.

Mr Anwar was negotiating with government supporters in the hope that they would change sides and claimed that the PK would be able to seize control of parliament in September.

Among his supporters, the latest charges will be regarded as a crude and transparent ploy to smear and foil once again Malaysia’s most brilliant leader in a generation. To his enemies, they will be further evidence of his unfitness for office in a Muslim majority country where homosexuality is regarded by many as abhorrent.

“There is no basis for this whole fabrication and malicious attacks,” Mr Anwar shortly said before his arrest. “It is just a repeat of the 1998 script. You can see the pattern.”

When Mr Anwar appeared at a Kuala Lumpur court in 1998 with bruises all over his face, public opinion around the world was outraged. Dr Mahathir claimed that Mr Anwar had inflicted the injuries on himself, but it turned out that he had been beaten up, while shackled and blindfolded, by Malaysia’s chief of police.

Mr Anwar has suffered chronic back problems since his incarceration, and has undergone extensive treatment abroad. “I feel apprehensive because my husband ... is not that well,” his wife, Wan Azizah, an opposition MP, said after his arrest. “He has a bad back, he's had surgery. And [during a] brief conversation, he said [the police] were not gentle. My concern is for my husband's safety and we want access to see him.”

Before his spectacular fall from power in 1998, Mr Anwar was regarded as one of the most promising Asian leaders, a moderate Muslim, but a deeply cultured man who was close to many western politicians and intellectuals. Gordon Brown has described him as a “good friend”.


RANGER AGAINST WAR: Dak To, Redux: "David"Ignatius proudly said in this Sunday's WaPo, this is an "Army that Learns."

"Rather than sulking about the Iraq mess, commanders made necessary changes. The Army developed a new doctrine for fighting a counterinsurgency . . ." On the same day, nine soldiers were killed and fifteen wounded in Afghanistan.

"This study illustrates what's most admirable about the Army. It has maintained a tradition of intellectual rigor and self-criticism. That's nurtured in the Army's unique program of midcareer education. It's not an accident but part of that Army tradition that the current commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, took a doctorate in international relations at Princeton, or that the former Centcom commander, Gen. John Abizaid, had a stint as commandant of West Point."

Not to be iconoclastic just for the hell of it, but would someone tell Ranger how Petraeus's doctorate or Abizaid's stint as commandant of West Point helped the nine soldiers killed or fifteen wounded this Sunday in Afghanistan? Ignatius may believe there is a learning curve, but the facts do not bear this out.

All the doctorates in the world will not change the fact that military leaders are just that. If the U.S. government needs doctorates in International Relations, let them employ them at the State Department. Army commanders fight our enemies and strategically employ our armed forces.

Invasions and COIN are not social events -- they are killing and destroying actions. We never admit that; it does not fly in polite society, so we call it "nation building." But the whole shooting match is based on destructive combat power.

Just like the Food Stamp Office is renamed "Department of Children and Families," because who could be against a kid or a family? And food stamps themselves are now a "Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)." In a SNAP, a wrap -- no more needy poor people.

"A multi-pronged militant assault on a small, remote U.S. base close to the Pakistan border killed nine American soldiers and wounded 15 Sunday in the deadliest attack on U.S. forces in Afghanistan in three years, officials said.

"The attack on the American troops began around 4:30 a.m. and lasted throughout the day. Militants fired machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars from homes and a mosque in the village of Wanat in the mountainous northeastern province of Kunar, NATO's International Security Assistance Force said in a statement (Nine Soldiers Killed in Afghanistan.)"

Here's a news flash: the battle killing nine in Afghanistan is the same battle that killed 19 in Murray's Medal of Honor action, and the Battle of Roberts Ridge.

These are battles of desperate, isolated units that lack mutually supporting elements and lack sufficient firepower to overcome the enemy. Add the following tragic element: Even though desperately fought, the outcomes did not, could not and would not affect the outcome of any strategic importance.

Whether U.S. arms were successful is totally immaterial. These are meaningless battles that have only one consequence: U.S. soldiers die for nothing, and are wounded for more of the same. Unless one wanted to take a particularly grim approach and say to give the hospital mega-industry more clientele.

Anybody attending Ranger, Special Forces or Infantry school in the 1960's knows that 0430 BMNT is the most dangerous time of day. This is when the enemy assaults isolated units stuck out on the periphery. Put a tasty morsel out there and the anti-coalition forces are gonna eat their shorts. I reckon they don't teach that to Doctors of International Relations because the word has not filtered down to troop level yet.

It is pointless to place small units in battle positions that cannot be rapidly relieved or covered by indirect massive volumes of protective artillery. If you don't believe this, ask the survivors of this battle their thoughts on the subject.

No one will ask because it is the accepted conventional wisdom to place outlying units acting as LP's/OP's, which is correct in a conventional war because these elements are always covered by fire. However, this U.S. element obviously did not come under higher protective shield.

Why would any commander stick a unit in a poorly defended arena? It did not work at Dak To, Dak Pek, Dak Seang, Lang Vei, Roberts Ridge or with any other isolated unit. The dead soldiers of these actions would cry from their grave to know the same needless sacrifices are being made today, sacrifices that will never lead to anything remotely associated with a military success.

Units must be mutually supporting with quick reinforcements available. Helicopters cannot efficiently achieve this and approaching by road march is not a viable option due to the ambush-like nature of the Afghan roads. What's the solution? Too bad Westmoreland's dead; maybe he'd have a clue, even without a PhD.

Hint: Military action is similar to political action -- it can only achieve the achievable.

Ranger entered Infantry Officer Basic Course in 1968 during the height of the Vietnam war and what tactical studies did we have from RVN? Exactly none! We only had classes on Search and Destroy. Does today's Officer Advanced Course , CGSC or War College examine the tactics of the NVA at Dak To or the anti-coalition forces in Afghanistan?

The tactics being used today vs. U.S. forces are the same as those used against the Russians, so what is the problem? All we have to do is get their historical reports.

Then read 'em and weep.

[bth: rinse, repeat]
Armchair Generalist
Armchair Generalist

Gates Warns of Militarized Policy -

Gates Warns of Militarized Policy - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates warned yesterday against the risk of a "creeping militarization" of U.S. foreign policy, saying the State Department should lead U.S. engagement with other countries, with the military playing a supporting role.

"We cannot kill or capture our way to victory" in the long-term campaign against terrorism, Gates said, arguing that military action should be subordinate to political and economic efforts to undermine extremism.

In a related development, the Pentagon yesterday released the list of Army officers nominated by President Bush for promotion to the rank of one-star general, marking a new generation of Army leaders. The list, resulting from a selection board led by Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, includes several officers skilled in the counterinsurgency doctrine that Petraeus helped write -- a doctrine that embraces a broader approach to winning conflicts centered on protecting and providing for local populations. ....

[bth: Gates has done a fantastic job. He has probably saved the Pentagon from itself.]

In a day of jockeying, Saddam's VP issues a call to arms

McClatchy Washington Bureau | 07/15/2008 | In a day of jockeying, Saddam's VP issues a call to arms: "BAGHDAD"— Throughout Iraq, legislators, armed factions and former members of Saddam Hussein's regime were electioneering Tuesday — some with bombs, others through vitriolic audio messages — in an effort to bolster themselves for the scheduled fall provincial elections

The government hasn't set an election date, but Iraqis of all persuasions think that the process could reshape the political landscape. Nearly every interest group has begun positioning itself.

In one day:

A key former member of Saddam's regime who's eluded capture purportedly released an audio message for the first time, demanding that his followers not be ignored.

Suspected members of the group al Qaida in Iraq set off two explosions targeting Iraqi army recruits in an effort to remind voters that their elected government can't protect them and they should therefore abandon the process.

In parliament, Kurdish legislators walked out of a session after rival sects suggested that a key northern province shouldn't vote this fall. ...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Big Dog’ Could Become A Marine’s Best Friend

Big Dog’ Could Become A Marine’s Best Friend: "BALTIMORE"— Dogs are said to be man’s best friend. Marine Corps officials hope that a new four-legged robot called “Big Dog” will be a Marine’s best friend.

The designers of the robot, which was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, believe that someday it could serve as a Marine’s pack mule. It would tote 200 pounds of gear that would otherwise be carried by Marines, said Maj. David Sadlier, who oversees the project at DARPA.

“The Marine Corps had an interest in it because it lightened the load,” he said in an interview.

Big Dog, which is the size of a large dog or small mule, can walk, run or climb on rough terrain while carrying large loads of equipment, according to manufacturer Boston Dynamics, a robotics and human simulations developer. It has an on-board computer that controls its legs, keeps it balanced to steer and navigate and manages a suite of sensors.

Marine Corps officials also like the robot because it can closely follow a unit and traverse terrain that is inaccessible to unmanned ground vehicles.

“I don’t think it is going to be that far in the future before we’re able to use something like this, send it off to meet the unit, send it away from the unit to go pick something up,” said Brig. Gen. Thomas Murray, commander of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory in Quantico, Va.

The Marine Corps Combat Development Command originally signed a memorandum of agreement with DARPA in March 2007 to jointly develop the technology. The agreement will come to an end this month with a final assessment at Quantico, said Sadlier. Big Dog will undergo three tests, including a five-mile hike when it will follow a Marine down a road, an obstacle course where it will demonstrate limited autonomous navigation and a final hike through a hilly trail. During the final portion, it will carry a mortar tube on its back, Sadlier said.

After the July test, DARPA will determine the next step.

[bth: I like robots but Big Dog is a bad idea. Why? Well it costs a lot and it basically does what a Kentucky Mule does, only it isn't as smart, costs perhaps a hundred times more and likely breaks down. For what? Why do this? Why not use pack mules in Afghanistan? Hell we used pack mules for centuries. This is just dumb.]

China 'is fuelling war in Darfur'

BBC NEWS | Africa | China 'is fuelling war in Darfur': "The"BBC has found the first evidence that China is currently helping Sudan's government militarily in Darfur.

The Panorama TV programme tracked down Chinese army lorries in the Sudanese province that came from a batch exported from China to Sudan in 2005.

The BBC was also told that China was training fighter pilots who fly Chinese A5 Fantan fighter jets in Darfur.

China's government has declined to comment on the BBC's findings, which contravene a UN arms embargo on Darfur.

The embargo requires foreign nations to take measures to ensure they do not militarily assist anyone in the conflict in Darfur, in which the UN estimates that about 300,000 people have died.

More than two million people are also believed to have fled their villages in Darfur, destroyed by pro-government Arab Janjaweed militia. ...



Report: Bush administration milked untruths about Tillman, Lynch during sour times

The Raw Story | Report: Bush administration milked untruths about Tillman, Lynch during sour times: "The"Bush administration willfully pushed fictional portrayals of Pat Tillman's death in Afghanistan and Jessica Lynch's capture in Iraq to create "compelling public narratives" at times when public opinion was starting to sour on the wars, Congressional investigators have found.

The House Oversight Committee on Monday released a draft report on the sagas of Tillman and Lynch. The public did not learn that friendly fire had killed Tillman, a former NFL player, until more than a month after his death, and an apocryphal tale of Lynch bravely battling her Iraqi captors circulated for more than two months before key aspects of it were revealed to be false.

"Our nation also has an inviolate obligation to share truthful information with a soldier’s family and the American people should injury or death occur.... That standard was not met in either Corporal Tillman’s or Private Lynch’s cases," the report says.

"Neither case involved an act of omission. The misinformation was not caused by overlooking or misunderstanding relevant facts. Instead, in both cases affirmative acts created new facts that were significantly different than what the soldiers in the field knew to be true. And in both cases the fictional accounts proved to be compelling public narratives at difficult times in the war."

The committee reviewed scores of e-mails and interviewed officials at all levels of the government. When their inquiry took them inside the White House though, it was stymied by a spate of faulty memories.

The Committee’s investigation adds many new details to the Tillman story. But on the key issue of what senior officials knew, the investigation was frustrated by a near universal lack of recall. The Committee interviewed several senior officials at the White House, including Communications Director Dan Bartlett, Press Secretary Scott McClellan, and chief speechwriter Michael Gerson. Not a single one could recall when he learned about the fratricide or what he did in response.

Similarly, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told the Committee: “I don’t recall when I was told and I don’t recall who told me.”

The highest-ranking official who could recall being informed about Corporal Tillman’s fratricide was former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers, who said, “I knew right at the end of April, that there was a possibility of fratricide in the Corporal Tillman death.” General Myers testified that it would have been “logical” for him to pass this information to Secretary Rumsfeld, but said “I just don't recall whether I did it or not.”
Regarding Tillman's death, which came toward the beginning of President Bush's re-election campaign, the report found the White House was eager to portray the former Arizona Cardinal who joined the Army Rangers as a hero.

The apparent desire within the White House was so strong that they did not bother to even verify Tillman's death with the Pentagon before commenting, nor did Bush administration officials recognize a standard 24-hour delay the military observes before commenting on a soldiers' death to give families time to grieve privately.

Bush/Cheney campaign advisers also were eager to help with the response, the committee found.

Several high-level staff members of President Bush’s reelection campaign contacted White House officials to suggest public responses to Corporal Tillman’s death. Matthew Dowd, the campaign’s chief strategist, sent an e-mail to Mr. Bartlett, writing, “You hear about pat tilman? Potus should call his family or go to Arizona or his hometown.”

Mark McKinnon, the campaign’s media advisor, also e-mailed Mr. Bartlett, saying: “Realize President really shouldn’t do anything that he hasn’t done for any other soldier killed in the military, but certainly think he could say something about he exemplifies the ultimate in humility, heroism and sacrifice.

[bth: there is this point where you realize that the Bush-Cheney leadership in the White House didn't care about truth, Tillman or Lynch as people or their families. They just don't care.]

American Civil Liberties Union : Terrorist Watch List Hits One Million Names

American Civil Liberties Union : Terrorist Watch List Hits One Million Names: "WASHINGTON" DC - The nation's terrorist watch list has hit one million names, according to a tally maintained by the American Civil Liberties Union based upon the government's own reported numbers for the size of the list.

"Members of Congress, nuns, war heroes and other 'suspicious characters,' with names like Robert Johnson and Gary Smith, have become trapped in the Kafkaesque clutches of this list, with little hope of escape," said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "Congress needs to fix it, the Terrorist Screening Center needs to fix it, or the next president needs to fix it, but it has to be done soon."

Fredrickson and Barry Steinhardt, director of the ACLU's Technology and Liberty Program, spoke today along with two victims of the watch list: Jim Robinson, former assistant attorney general for the Civil Division who flies frequently and is often delayed for hours despite possessing a governmental security clearance and Akif Rahman, an American citizen who has been detained and interrogated extensively at the U.S.-Canada border when traveling for business. ...

[bth: failure to fix this problem wastes scarce resouces and diverts our efforts. Foolish.]

Joint al Qaeda and Taliban force behind Kunar base attack - The Long War Journal

Joint al Qaeda and Taliban force behind Kunar base attack - The Long War Journal: "Yesterday's"deadly complex attack on a joint US and Afghan outpost in Kunar province was carried out by a large, mixed force of Taliban, al Qaeda, and allied extremist groups operating eastern Afghanistan.

Sunday's assault occurred just three days after 45 US soldiers, likely from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, and 25 Afghan troops established a new combat outpost in the town of Wanat. The troops had little time to learn the lay of the land, establish local contacts, and build an intelligence network. The fortifications were not fully completed, according to initial reports.

A complex attack

The assault was carried out in the early morning of July 13 after the extremist forces, numbering between 200 and 500 fighters, took over a neighboring village. "What they [the Taliban] did was they moved into an adjacent village - which was close to the combat outpost - they basically expelled the villagers and used their houses to attack us," an anonymous senior Afghan defense ministry official told Al Jazeera. Tribesmen in the town stayed behind "and helped the insurgents during the fight," General Mohammad Qasim Jangalbagh, the provincial police chief, told The Associated Press.

The Taliban force then conducted a complex attack, coordinating a ground assault with supporting fires. Approximately 100 enemy fighters were reported to have moved close to the base while under a heavy barrage of machinegun fire, rocket-propelled grenades, and mortars. The fighters advanced on the outpost from three sides.

Taliban fighters breached the outer perimeter of the outpost but were repelled. US troops called in artillery, helicopter, and air support to help beat back the attacking force. Casualties were heavy on both sides, with nine US soldiers and 40 Taliban fighters killed during the assault. Fifteen US and four Afghan soldiers were also wounded in the attack.....

Pakistani Taliban destroy paramilitary fort in Hangu - The Long War Journal

Pakistani Taliban destroy paramilitary fort in Hangu - The Long War Journal: "The"Taliban continue to rampage in the settled district of Hangu in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province. In the latest assault, a Taliban force overran a Frontier Constabulary fort, looted weapons, explosives, and ammunition, then destroyed the outpost.

An estimated 250 Taliban surrounded the fort in the Shinawarai region in Hangu on Monday night and ordered the paramilitary troops to leave. Dawn reported that the paramilitaries were granted "safe passage," but Geo TV reported 15 troops were killed and five set free. After the troops abandoned the fort, it was looted. The Taliban then set explosive charges and detonated after abandoning the post.

Monday's destruction of the Shinawarai fort is the latest in a series of Taliban strikes in Hangu over the past week. The fighting began on July 8, after a police force detained seven Taliban fighters after a clash in Hangu. Security forces found weapons and explosives as well as “poisonous injections.” Rafiuddin, a senior Taliban leader and a deputy of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, was captured during the raid. Rafiuddin’s group is based out of South Waziristan, which borders Hangu to the south.

The Taliban then launched a siege of the police stationwhere Rafiuddin and the other fighters were held. A force comprised of 400 Taliban fighters surrounded the police station, but dispersed after a Pakistani Army battalion was dispatched to lift the siege.

Before retreating, the Taliban kidnapped anywhere from 16 to 35 people in Hangu, including security officials, and then threatened to execute them if Rafiuddin were not released from custody. Mullah Omar, a spokesman for Baitullah Mehsud, said the executions would start on July 12, but there is no indication the Taliban followed through on the threat.....

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Main and Central

Iraq's Arms Purchases Not Shared With Kurdish Forces - Article

Iraq's Arms Purchases Not Shared With Kurdish Forces - Article: "Text"of article by Aland Mahwi entitled: "Iraq will not supply Kurdish Region's Protection Forces with weapons"; published by Iraqi privately-owned daily newspaper Rozhnama on 2 July

The Iraqi government has allocated over 2.5bn dollars to purchase arms and the American forces have granted 1,000 Humvee armoured vehicles to the Iraqi army. However, the region's protection forces have had no share at all in those weapons.

In a press conference on 17 April 2008, Lt-Gen Babakr Zebari, chief of staff of the Iraqi army, announced that more than 2.5bn dollars has been allocated for buying arms and military equipment for the Iraqi army.

Zebari said that with a view to providing the Iraqi army with advanced, modern arms, 2,600,000,000 dollars has been allocated for our army by the Iraqi government.

He also added: At the beginning, the amount of 595m dollars has been allocated for the coming six months; 78m [dollars] of this sum is allocated for the renovation of the military headquarters. Another 357m dollars is for purchasing arms and 120m dollars is for the improvement and maintenance of the equipment and the other 40m is for ammunition.

In another development, in a communique on 27 June 2008, the US forces in Iraq revealed that those forces have donated 1,000 military armoured Humvee vehicles to the Iraqi army in order to further consolidate that army.

It is mentioned in a communique issued by the US Army that - during a ceremony attended by the Iraqi national security adviser and the general commander of the US forces in Iraq, Maj-Gen David Petraeus, held at the US base in Taji (3 km north of Baghdad) - the US forces donated 1,000 armoured Humvees to the Iraqi army.

Meanwhile, it was announced on 14 March that the US army has prepared 8,500 armoured Humvees to be given to the Iraqi security forces. These 1,000 armoured vehicles may be part of those 8,500 armoured vehicles.

The purchase of arms and equipment for the Iraqi army is on the Iraqi national defence budget. According to the budget law for the two years of 2007 and 2008, the Kurdistan Region protection forces (peshmergas) should have a share in the Iraqi national defence budget.

Gen Jabar Yawar clarified that, to date, no agreement has been reached between Baghdad and Hawler on the budget which the budget law of 2007 and 2008 has allocated for the protection forces of the region. That is why we have no share in those arms and equipment that are purchased for the Iraqi army.

Yawar also mentioned that if the region's protection forces receive their own budget from Iraq's national defence budget, they will be able to use that budget to secure the needs of the region's protection forces in the way the federal law allows it.

Although the regional protection forces do not have any share in those military supplies and arms which the Iraqi Defence Ministry has purchased for the Iraqi army, this does not include the military divisions that are Kurdish and are linked to the Iraqi Ministry of Defence.

On the other hand, two months ago the New York Times revealed a secret contract worth 833m dollars between Iraq and Serbia for the purchase of miscellaneous arms. The paper mentioned that the minister of defence refuses to buy US weapons for the Iraqi army and he bought those weapons from Serbia without the knowledge of the senior officers of Iraq and the Iraqi commission for ratifying contracts. Rather, those arms were purchased by just an Iraqi delegation that comprised 22 officers.

The budget of the [Kurdistan] Region's Protection Forces (peshmergas) was one of the pivots which were put on the table and discussed in Baghdad on 24 June 2008 between the prime minister of the Kurdistan Region Government and the Iraqi prime minister, but they reached no agreement. That problem is still pending, along with the problem of oil and of Article 140.

Originally published by Rozhnama, Sulaymaniyah, in Sorani Kurdish 2 Jul 08 p3.