Thursday, December 04, 2008

n The Know: How Can We Make The Iraq War More Handicap Accessible?

Iran arrests 49 of its citizens for wearing 'satanic' Western-style clothes and haircuts

Police in Iran have arrested 49 people this week in a crackdown on 'satanic' Western-style clothes and haircuts.

It
is part of a nation-wide campaign to stop the spread of Western
cultural influence in the Islamic republic, where strict dress codes
are enforced.

'Police confronted rascals and thugs who appeared
in public wearing satanic fashions and unsuitable clothing,' said
Qaemshahr city police commander Mahmoud Rahmani.

He added that five barber shops were shut and 20 more warned for 'promoting Western hairstyles'....

Application for the Federal Bail Out Program

Check out this EZ form for the Federal Bail Out Program produced by Vanity Fair.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Gunmen Used Technology as A Tactical Tool

NEW DELHI, Dec. 2 -- The heavily armed attackers who set out for Mumbai
by sea last week navigated with Global Positioning System equipment,
according to Indian investigators and police. They carried BlackBerrys, CDs holding high-resolution satellite images like those used for Google Earth
maps, and multiple cellphones with switchable SIM cards that would be
hard to track. They spoke by satellite telephone. And as television
channels broadcast live coverage of the young men carrying out the
terrorist attack, TV sets were turned on in the hotel rooms occupied by
the gunmen, eyewitnesses recalled....


When the gunmen communicated with their leaders, they used satellite
telephones and called voice-over-Internet-protocol phone numbers,
making them harder to trace, Swami said. Then, once on the scene, they
snatched cellphones from hostages and used those to stay in contact
with one another.



At every point, Swami said, the gunmen used technology to gain a tactical advantage.


"This was technologically a pretty sophisticated group. They
navigated their way to Mumbai using a state-of-the-art GPS system. Most
of their rehearsals to familiarize themselves with Mumbai were done on
high-resolution satellite maps, so they would have a good feel for the
city's streets and buildings where they were going," Swami said, adding
that the CDs containing maps and videos were found in some of the hotel
rooms the gunmen had occupied during the siege.


The lone captured gunman, Azam Amir Kasab, told police that he was
shown video footage of the targets and the satellite images before the
attacks, said Deven Bharti, a deputy commissioner in the crime branch
of the Mumbai police.



Mumbai police chief Hassan Gafoor, offering the first official details
of how the siege was conducted, said at a news conference Tuesday:
"Technology is advancing every day. We try to keep pace with it."


But several Indian analysts pointed out that the country's police
are still equipped with World War II-era rifles, lagging behind the
technology curve when it comes to cyber-criminals and Internet-savvy
gunmen. And although there are closed-circuit TVs in the luxury hotels,
some office buildings, banks, airports and rail stations, they are not
nearly as pervasive as in the United States. There has been criticism
that, like metal detectors, many closed-circuit cameras don't work or
go unmonitored. ...


"Where in the rule book does it say that terrorists are not allowed to
use technology that is readily available to almost anyone?" said Ajay
Sahni, executive director of New Delhi's Institute for Conflict
Management. "The only people out of the loop seem to be the Indian
security forces. They are a generation behind in understanding the
technology that the terrorists used."


The security forces on the ground, including the country's elite
special forces unit popularly known as the Black Cats, had little
access to night-vision goggles or thermal-imaging capability to help
pinpoint where people were located in the two hotels under siege, he
said. The elite 7,400-member National Security Guard -- whose commandos
arrived in Mumbai at least eight hours after the attackers struck to
dislodge them from the hotels -- does not have its own aircraft, Sahni
said.



"When they finally got there, they had no floor layouts of the hotel, let alone high-tech devices," he added...

[bth: considerable disparity in the use of technology.  Interestingly, most of this technology doesn't cost very much.  Its more about creatively applying it to the situation.]





Spy Agencies Gather Intel on LeT After Mumbai Attacks

...

LeT became active in Iraq in 2004 and
attracted notice when U.S. forces arrested a Pakistani nationa
l,
Dilshad Ahmad, a long-time LeT operative from the province of Punjab
who had led terror bombings against India for four years.

Through
interrogations, U.S. officials have established that LeT had moved its
operations to the theater of Iraq. LeT had been named a terrorist
organization by the U.S. State Department in 2001 following the Sept.
11, 2001 attacks. Until then they had fought mainly in Kashmir, India,
and Chechnya.

U.S. officials said that LeT was involved in the July 7, 2005 terrorist attacks against the London Underground.

The
Mumbai attacks were unusual in that they specifically targeted
foreigners such as British, Americans and Israelis, and for the first
time, took hostages, U.S. officials said.

FBI officials at
home and CIA and other intelligence agencies overseas are stepping up
scrutiny of the activities of LeT, U.S. officials tell the Middle East
Times.

Perhaps most startling is the fact that LeT
executed a dry run of the operation in 2007 to test the reliability of
the sea method of attacks, U.S. officials said
.

The use of
mother ships to transport terrorists had long been part of the method
of operation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, U.S. officials
said
.

According to The Hindu Times, LeT had sent an
eight-man squad to Mumbai by fishing boat in 2007 in a dry run of the
attack to test the reliability of the sea route
.

The
paper also quoted Jammu and Kashmir police investigators as saying the
men in groups of two traveled by road from Bait-ul-Mujahidee, LeT's
headquarters in Muzaffarabad to Rawalpindi before heading south to
Karachi by train. There they sat in separate compartments for the
Rawalpindi to Karachi journey.

After waiting for a week, they were allowed to start their dry run for Mumbai.

Arriving
late at night the raiders hid in a safe house near the Bahhabna
Research Center. Many of India's nuclear installations are close to the
sea
.

Once disembarked the squad traveled north to Jammu and Kashmir, the newspaper said.

After
four days at sea, their commercial fishing boat was intercepted by the
Indian Coast Guard. After the Coast Guard captain was bribed, the LeT
vessel was allowed to proceed but, unknown to the terrorists, the Coast
Guard had planted a tracking device aboard, which led police to arrest
them in Jammu.

One of the prisoners, Abul Majid Araiyan
told interrogators that he had taken religious classes in a Pakistani
madrassa, and in 2003, only days after Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf banned Let, had received an advanced 40-day advanced course in guerrilla warfare. Araiyan officially joined LeT in 2005.

[bth: the use of sea landings creates a number of difficulties for law enforcement around the world.]

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

One Man’s Military-Industrial-Media Complex

....Access like this does not come cheap, but it was an opportunity potentially worth billions in sales, and Defense Solutions soon found its man. The company signed Barry R. McCaffrey, a retired four-star Army general and military analyst for NBC News, to a consulting contract starting June 15, 2007.

Four days later the general swung into action. He sent a personal note and 15-page briefing packet to David H. Petraeus,
the commanding general in Iraq, strongly recommending Defense Solutions
and its offer to supply Iraq with 5,000 armored vehicles from Eastern
Europe. “No other proposal is quicker, less costly, or more
certain to succeed,” he said.

Thus, within days of hiring
General McCaffrey, the Defense Solutions sales pitch was in the hands
of the American commander with the greatest influence over Iraq’s
expanding military.

“That’s what I pay him for,” Timothy D. Ringgold, chief executive of Defense Solutions, said in an interview.

General
McCaffrey did not mention his new contract with Defense Solutions in
his letter to General Petraeus. Nor did he disclose it when he went on
CNBC that same week and praised the commander Defense Solutions was now
counting on for help — “He’s got the heart of a
lion” — or when he told Congress the next month that it
should immediately supply Iraq with large numbers of armored vehicles
and other equipment.

He had made similar arguments before he
was hired by Defense Solutions, but this time he went further. In his
testimony to Congress, General McCaffrey criticized a Pentagon plan to
supply Iraq with several hundred armored vehicles made in the United
States by a competitor of Defense Solutions. He called the plan
“not in the right ballpark” and urged Congress to instead
equip Iraq with 5,000 armored vehicles.

“We’ve got
Iraqi army battalions driving around in Toyota trucks,” he said,
echoing an argument made to General Petraeus in the Defense Solutions
briefing packet....

[bth: this is an article worth reading in full about Gen. McCaffrey.  One can quickly see why we are led like sheep in the media with pundits like this and why our military procurement system had become incompetent and third world corrupt.]

Clock is ticking on Iraqi army

MUHALLADIYA, Iraq — At this dusty combat outpost 4 miles west of
Mosul, Iraqi soldiers complain that they haven't been paid in four
months, even though the nation's coffers are bulging with tens of
billions of petro-dollars
.



Stationed along a key highway used by insurgents, the soldiers live in
old shipping containers without water or electricity. Their only
furniture is a few mattresses flung on the floor
....

A case in point could be seen a few miles west of Muhalladiya, where
two Iraqi soldiers guarded a checkpoint that officials say insurgents
use to move munitions and other supplies from Syria into Mosul.



The two soldiers checked vehicles leaving Mosul, opening trunks and
peering into back seats, but waved through a truck and other vehicles
heading into the city without an inspection.



"There could be 13 IEDs in that blue truck," said a frustrated U.S.
Capt. Charles Reese, referring to a roadside bomb used by the
insurgents. "The terrorists are coming from Syria into the city. You
won't find anything coming out of the city. That's why the American
Army has to train them."



Beyond that, the biggest problems facing the Iraqi forces remain
endemic corruption and inefficiency, which have left troops with
critical shortages of military equipment
.



Tawfiq, who heads a new battalion with the 2nd Iraqi Army Division,
said his 600 troops do not have a single Humvee or armored vehicle.
They conduct combat operations in Ford F-350 pickup trucks
.



"It's very dangerous with the IEDs," he said

[bth: as Mosul goes, so goes northern Iraq]

Obama vows 'new mission' to end Iraq war

CHICAGO (AFP) –
US president-elect Barack Obama on Monday said he would give Defense Secretary Robert Gates a "new mission" to end the Iraq war and hand over control of the country to the Iraqis.






"I will be giving Secretary Gates and our military a new mission as soon as I take office, responsibly ending the war in Iraq through a successful transition to Iraqi control," said Obama, who is to be inaugurated January 20.





Speaking at a press conference at which he announced Gates would carry on as defense chief and former first lady Hillary Clinton would be secretary of state, Obama pledged to turn attention to the fight against Al-Qaeda and insurgents in Afghanistan.





"We will also ensure that we have the strategy and resources to succeed against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban," Obama said.





"As Bob (Gates) said not too long ago, Afghanistan is where the war on terror
began, and it is where it must end. And going forward, we will continue
to make the investments necessary to strengthen our military and
increase our ground forces to defeat the threats of the 21st century.

[bth: this appears to me to be a pretty unambiguous statement by Obama. We're getting out of Iraq.  We are going to focus on Afghanistan and alQaeda.]

Gates's Top Deputies May Leave

Although President-elect Barack Obama's decision to keep Robert M. Gates at the helm of the Pentagon
will provide a measure of continuity for a military fighting two wars,
many of Gates's top deputies are expected to depart their jobs,
according


Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England,
Gates's right-hand man in running the Pentagon day to day, is widely
expected to leave his post, said the officials, one of whom noted that
England's speechwriter is reportedly taking another job.



Leading candidates to replace England include Obama campaign adviser Richard J. Danzig,
who could eventually replace Gates; Pentagon transition review team
co-leader Michèle A. Flournoy; and possibly former Pentagon
comptroller William J. Lynn, said Obama transition officials and
sources close to the transition.


The anticipated turnover of many key positions suggests that
although Gates will help provide some continuity, the status quo will
not necessarily endure at the Pentagon.


Continuity is likely to come in the form of Gates and military
commanders leading the war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan, while a new
deputy and team of undersecretaries would manage the Pentagon and focus
on longer-range issues such as "the budget, the Quadrennial Defense
Review, missile defense, relations with allies and preparation for the
next crisis," said Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.



The four undersecretaries of defense are also expected to leave,
Pentagon and transition officials said. These include Undersecretary
for Policy Eric S. Edelman,
who has announced that he will depart by Jan. 20, with Flournoy also a
candidate to replace him. John J. Young Jr., undersecretary for
acquisition, technology and logistics, is "without question" leaving, a
source close to the transition said, noting that Gates has publicly
criticized the Pentagon's unwieldy acquisition process as shortchanging
U.S. troops in the field.

to senior defense and transition officials....

[bth: While Gates has turned out to be surprisingly good and worth keeping, the second and third tier appointments need to be completely replaced.  The level of incompetence and corruption in acquisitions for example has been unprecedented. Virtually the entire upper eschalon of the Air Force has been thrown out due to corruption and incompetence. The treatment of personnel and policies associated with the current military has been deplorable for another.  The militarization of intelligence gathering and the placement of 20,000 troops for 'homeland security' threatens the very core of our democracy and the relationship of the people with the military.  These are highly, highly dangerous and important issues.  ...There are both philosophical and pragmatic reasons these positions must be filled by competent individuals.  If ever there was a department in need of a 'throw the bums out' philosphy it is this DOD.]

Credit-card industry may cut $2 trillion lines: analyst

(Reuters) - The U.S. credit-card industry may pull back well over $2
trillion of lines over the next 18 months due to risk aversion and
regulatory changes, leading to sharp declines in consumer spending,
prominent banking analyst Meredith Whitney said.




The credit card is the second key source of consumer liquidity, the first being jobs, the Oppenheimer & Co analyst noted.




"In other words, we expect available consumer liquidity in the form of credit-card lines to decline by 45 percent."




Bank of America Corp (BAC.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), Citigroup Inc (C.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz)
represent over half of the estimated U.S. card outstandings as of
September 30, and each company has discussed reducing card exposure or
slowing growth, Whitney said.




Closing millions of accounts, cutting credit lines and raising
interest rates are just some of the moves credit card issuers are using
to try to inoculate themselves from a tsunami of expected consumer
defaults....

[bth: usury laws should be revisited with credit card rates.]

Monday, December 01, 2008

Pentagon to Detail Troops to Bolster Domestic Security


The U.S. military
expects to have 20,000 uniformed troops inside the United States by
2011 trained to help state and local officials respond to a nuclear
terrorist attack or other domestic catastrophe, according to Pentagon
officials.




The long-planned shift in the Defense Department's
role in homeland security was recently backed with funding and troop
commitments after years of prodding by Congress and outside experts,
defense analysts said.


There are critics of the change, in the military and among civil
liberties groups and libertarians who express concern that the new
homeland emphasis threatens to strain the military and possibly
undermine the Posse Comitatus Act, a 130-year-old federal law
restricting the military's role in domestic law enforcement.


But the Bush administration and some in Congress have pushed for a
heightened homeland military role since the middle of this decade,
saying the greatest domestic threat is terrorists exploiting the
proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.


Before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, dedicating 20,000
troops to domestic response -- a nearly sevenfold increase in five
years -- "would have been extraordinary to the point of unbelievable,"
Paul McHale, assistant defense secretary for homeland defense, said in
remarks last month at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
But the realization that civilian authorities may be overwhelmed in a
catastrophe prompted "a fundamental change in military culture," he
said....

[bth: this is an unbelievably bad idea more suited to the national guard, coast guard or border patrol.  The bad so out weighs the good.]

Indian security chief resigns over Mumbai attacks

MUMBAI (Reuters) - The fallout from a three-day rampage that killed nearly 200 people in Mumbai threatened on Sunday to unravel India's improving ties with Pakistan and prompted the resignation of India's security minister.

New Delhi said it was raising security to a "war level" and had no doubt of a Pakistani link to the attacks, which unleashed anger at home over the intelligence failure and the delayed response to the violence that paralyzed India's financial capital.

Officials in Islamabad have warned any escalation would force it to divert troops to the Indian border and away from a U.S.-led anti-militant campaign on the Afghan frontier.....

[bth: looks like the muslim terrorists accomplished their missions - disrupt improving ties between Pakistan and India and take pressure off the NW frontier.]

Sunday, November 30, 2008

...‘But come 5am, we were fairly confident the police were going
to get us out, so I marched over to the bar and found a bottle of
vintage Cristal champagne and opened it and began pouring it into
glasses.

‘Then the head waiter came rushing across to me
and said, “No, no, you can’t do that!” and I said,
'Well we’re going to' and he said, 'No sir, those are the wrong
type of glasses. I shall find you champagne flutes.'

'And he did. The service was immaculate.’

Attacks Imperil Delicate U.S. Role Between Rivals

...Some in the Bush administration, as well as outside experts, agree
that an Indian military response is not a foregone conclusion. Mr.
Singh’s government has long believed that the instability caused
by a conflict with Pakistan would act as a brake on the rapid economic
growth India has enjoyed. Mr. Singh has also seen Pakistan’s new
civilian government as a hopeful departure from the militarism of
President Pervez Musharraf’s government.

Washington
could use Mr. Singh’s past hopes for better relations to try to
shape a modulated Indian response. Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at
Georgetown University,
said one possibility was that the Indian government could decide to
strike Kashmiri militant training facilities in Pakistan’s
Federally Administered Tribal Areas, rather than facilities in the
heart of the disputed territory of Kashmir, where Pakistan’s
government has a greater presence.

Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani
author whose work has been studied by the Obama team, said that any
hint of a military mobilization by the Indians will give the Pakistani
military the excuse it wants to shift forces away from its western
border areas and back to its eastern border. If that happens, he said,
it could cause a repeat of 2002, when a standoff between the nations
forced the United States to turn at least some of its attention away
from fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda to work to avoid war between
Pakistan and India.

That time, the impetus was an assault on the
Indian Parliament in December 2001 that India said was the work of
Kashmiri militants....

[bth: its pretty interesting how this horrible raid positions the major players.  If India attacks bases in Pakistan, the Pakistani government will shift resources away from the tribal areas toward the Indian border.  This strengthens the ISI, the Pak military and takes pressure off of Taliban types along the Afghan border.  It also fuels hatred between the hindu and muslim populations thus strengthening extremists.  In many regards, the religious extremists benefit from this raid at the expense of virtually everyone else.  So what did it cost them?  Some bullets, explosives, some stolen boats and a year of planning?  The calculus of this shameful attack may very well benefit the extremists afterall regardless of the response. A difficult decision to make on how to respond.]

US military defines Mahdi Army as "militia insurgency group"

....But US and Iraqi forces continued to press the Mahdi Army, using the "Special Groups" and "rogue elements" narrative to methodically pursue the Mahdi Army in southern and central Iraq during the late spring and summer of 2008. Iraqi forces obtained the warrants and thousands of
Mahdi Army fighters were captured.

The US military and Iraqi government succeeded in fracturing the

Mahdi Army. Sadr effectively lost control of his militia as he remained
in Iran, far from the fighting. Several offshoot groups, such as the
Army of the Righteous, the Imam Ali Brigades, and the Hezbollah
Brigades were formed by Mahdi Army commanders.

Sadr's political power also began to wane. He ordered the disbanding

of the Mahdi Army over the summer, and withdrawal of the Sadrist
political bloc from the upcoming provincial elections.

The Sadrist strongly opposed the US-Iraq status of forces agreement,

but failed to rally opposition against it in either the parliament or
with the public. His weekly protests drew thousands of Sadrists but had
no effect n the general public. Of the 199 votes cast, 149 voted for
the agreement, 35 voted against, and 15 abstained. Thirty-two of the
votes against the agreement came from the Sadrist bloc.

By identifying the Mahdi Army as "a militia insurgency group," the US
military may be signaling it no longer views the group as a serious
threat. And labeling the group part of the insurgency will drop the
pretence the Mahdi Army is a legitimate entity in Iraqi society.

[bth: this article is informative and probably should be read in full. It shows how the descriptions of Sadr and his militia are used to manipulate news both here and in Iraq. Given recent efforts to merge psyops units in the US military with public affairs, one begins to see how the news is manipulated. I wish journalists and their news services were more discriminating in their use of catch phrases to describe groups and perpetrators of violence or dissent. This is classic framing and propaganda and not surprisingly, given how lazy the media is, it works.]

US training Iraqis to defeat deadly roadside bombs

...The security situation has improved dramatically in Iraq since last year. A Web site that tracks military casualties in Iraq, icasualty.org, says American deaths from roadside bombs plummeted from 432 in 2006 to 130 so far this year.

The brunt of roadside bomb attacks fall now on Iraqi security forces and civilians.

"Insurgents can't fight the Iraqi army face-to-face, so they use IEDs to hit the
people," Col. Abbas Fadhil, an Iraqi commander at the base, said during
a lunch of rice, grilled fish and mutton.

The lessons the U.S. has picked up — along with some key pieces of high-tech equipment — are being passed on to the Iraqis.

The training at Besmaya includes a 12-week bomb disposal course that teaches soldiers the basics of identifying explosives and detonating them. The students can then enroll in a seven-week advanced roadside bomb disposal course that provides soldiers the tools and skills to defuse IEDs.

The Iraqi military runs the courses, while U.S. personnel act as advisers.

Key pieces of technology include the Badger light armored vehicle, an eight-person vehicle with a long arm topped with two spikes used to unearth hidden roadside bombs; the Mini Andros II robot to defuse bombs, and Symphony electronic frequency-jamming technology to block signals that remotely trigger the explosives.

Some 1,200 Iraqis have completed the basic course, and 220 of those have graduated from the advanced roadside bomb class.

U.S. officials said they hope to have an engineer battalion for every Iraqi army division to clear roadside bombs by the end of next year.

Brig. Gen. Steven Salazar, a deputy commanding general of MNSTC-I's advisory team, said the Iraqis had made strides.

"I could put Iraqis in American gear and have them go through a drill like today's, and you'd think they were American soldiers," he said. "They're that good."